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Title: Mr. and Mrs. Sên
Author: Miln, Louise Jordan
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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                             MR. & MRS. SÊN

                         By LOUISE JORDAN MILN

                               Author of

                “Mr. Wu,” “The Feast of Lanterns,” “The
                          Green Goddess,” etc.

            “The heyday of a great spirit knows no passing.”

                           A. L. BURT COMPANY

                        Publishers      New York

       Published by arrangement with Frederick A. Stokes Company

                          Printed in U. S. A.



                         _Copyright, 1923, by_
                       Fredrick A. Stokes Company
                 *        *        *        *        *
                         _All rights reserved_



               _Printed in the United States of America_



                                   TO
                          MALCOLM MURREE MILN
                                  FROM
                               HIS MOTHER



                            MR. AND MRS. SÊN



                               CHAPTER I


In this day of kaleidoscopic changes, of brand-new ultra “smartness,” of
emancipations so tremendous, so upheaving, so incalculably far-reaching
that to some they almost seem to forecast the end of all things, still
there are old bulwarks of customs, of character, of individualities and
of life itself that neither change nor are changed. The Townsends of
Virginia are today just what they were long before 1776.

There is only one of them left—Miss Julia—but she is they—the
Townsends of Virginia; gracious, unapproachable, deft in a small,
delicate way with her harpsichord, accomplished at her jellies, proud of
her naperies, tyrannous and over-indulgent to her darkies, a fine judge
of horseflesh, sure of herself, doubtful of you—unless your forebears
of the same “first-families” caste as hers, had been born, had wived and
begotten and borne, as hers invariably had, in Virginia—a stanch
Episcopalian, refined to the _n_th degree, intolerant, sentimental—but
too proud, and of too good form, to own or to show it—exclusive,
generous—except of her acquaintance and in her opinions—a writer of
feeble verses, brilliant along her own selected and approved lines, dull
and ill-informed on all others, autocratic and secretly supersensitive,
a _gourmet_ who ate very little, an expert judge of good wines who
rarely drank them—buttermilk was her one creature weakness—charitable
(although she was poorly enough off—had to count her dimes, and
couldn’t count with even pretense at accuracy)—charitable to every
“good work” she approved of or hungry creature that came to her back
door, relentlessly uncharitable to any cause she did not sympathize with
and to any “beggar” who presumed at her front door.

Rosehill, the home she lived in, had more and finer magnolias than it
had roses, but a great many and very beautiful roses grew at Rosehill.
And in August you could smell the musk and the heliotrope right across
the Potomac.

The exterior of the old red-brick “mansion” was beautiful only because
so many had loved it, because birth, bridal and death so often had
hallowed it, and because so many beautiful things grew about it, some of
them nailed up on its mellowed red walls, some climbing there needing no
nailing, for their young tendrils loved every tiny chink that time had
furrowed in those old bricks.

Rosehill was on the river-edge of Virginia, only a pleasant jaunt from
Washington, but it _was_ Virginia. In the core of the old virgin state
itself the Civil War had ruined or wrenched from them every holding the
Townsends ever had had. But Rosehill remained to the Southern general’s
widow, and here she had come with the two children the war had left her,
and lived in it bitterly enough to the hour of her death, but had kept
her Virginian state as far as she could with an altered purse in an
altered country, and modifying in nothing her Virginian ways or manner
of life. And here Julia Townsend had grown up and lived serenely enough,
for she had been in her cradle when Lee faced Appomattox, and she
remembered no other home. She inherited and kept all her mother’s
prejudices, but little of her mother’s bitterness. She even pitied all
Northerners more than she disliked them. She never by any chance broke
Northern bread, but now and then she permitted some distinguished few of
them to break her bread—a little “below the salt,” but graciously. But
no denizen of the White House could win through her gates, and she’d
have eaten crusts in a thieves’ kitchen, or, if it comes to that,
brimstone in a place and company she was too refined ever to mention,
far more willingly and with far less sense of degradation, than she
would have eaten or drunk at the White House, or soiled the sole of her
shoe on its carpets.

Her purse, such thin thing as it was, had freely been at the service of
Grover Cleveland’s election war-chest—but she never had received him.
The successor in Union office of Abraham Lincoln could not visit Julia
Townsend. But, beyond the stigma of “Union” the chief executive of these
United States was sunk even lower in the proud, unwavering estimate of
Julia Calhoun Townsend: on some days of his administration the President
of the United States received—he had to—_any_ citizen who chose and
made it convenient to file past him, had to receive and shake by the
hand. President Cleveland might have no escape from shaking hands with
his own negro coachman! True—Julia Townsend had lived and thrived for
nine months at the breast of a negro woman, rather darker of skin, as it
chanced, than Mr. Cleveland’s colored coachman—but that was different.
It was _done_ in Virginia, and though Mrs. Townsend had cried her heart
(and her rage) out on the same faithful black breast, she never had
shaken hands with her; neither she nor any other Townsend had ever done
such a thing—or could have done. You might (in her creed of caste)
caress a negro, you could not greet one on such show of social parity as
the shaking of hands implied; you might befriend them—clearly that was
your duty, and no Townsend ever shirked a duty; you could accept their
service to the last strain of their muscle, the last drop of red in
their veins; even, if you were a man, you might mingle the blood in your
blue veins with their blood—but you did not drink tea with them, or
shake their hands. This last branch of the subject—perhaps most
conveniently called the mulatto-quadroon-and-such branch, was one upon
which Miss Townsend never spoke and preferred not to think; but she was
quite familiar with it, and accepted it with a caste-complaisance that
completely and permanently anesthetized, even if it had not killed, as
probably it had, any moral revulsion, or, less than revulsion,
criticism. She accepted it easily and naturally as she did all else that
the “first families” had done since Raleigh named Virginia after
Elizabeth until now, long after War’s terrible arbitrament had made the
proud virgin state a desolation and a memory. At the thought that
President Cleveland might have had to shake a negro “citizen” by the
hand, her nostril quivered, her spleen rose, and her old soul stiffened.
She pitied Mr. Cleveland—a man she respected for much—but the dire
possible official necessity had made it forever impossible that Grover
Cleveland’s hand should ever touch the hand of Julia Calhoun Townsend.

During one administration, a Republican administration, the unspeakable
thing actually happened. And the mistress of Rosehill chuckled. She was
glad. The President’s wife, as determined a creature in her way as ever
her soldier had been in his, and far quicker of temper, one morning for
his impertinence summarily discharged her colored coachman, and that
same afternoon the dismissed negro turned up in the line of citizens
that filed past the President in the Blue Room, and held out a hand that
the President had to clasp—and did—probably did with an inward chuckle
of his own, for he himself had sometimes something to endure from his
wife’s metal. _She_ was furious. The story wild-fired through
Washington, it crossed the Potomac long before sunset, reached Miss
Townsend in her rose-and-magnolia-bound fastness, and gave her more
pleasure than she often had known. Ulysses Grant may live longer and
stronger in history than Grover Cleveland. But Grant was a Republican,
had fought Lee, and had presumed to defeat him. Julia Townsend chuckled
wickedly, and drank wine, quite a small glassful of a priceless vintage,
at her solitary supper that night.

She had been but a girl still during the Cleveland and Grant
administrations, but a girl with all a woman’s venom in her hot Southern
heart. And she had come into her heritage—such as the War had left
it—in her motherless girlhood; for the mother had not lived many years
after the defeat of the Confederacy. Hate killed her. The men of the
South forgave. The women could not—some of them have not even yet.

If Rosehill was but on the edge of Virginia, and a little discounted by
its too-nearness to the disloyal capital from which only the river saved
it and to which Long Bridge linked it, and lay not far from Arlington,
where the “blue” slept as well as the sainted “gray” and many civilians
stanchly Northerners, it was no alien or unsuitable residence for a
Townsend. Townsends had owned it for more than a century. A Townsend had
built the house. Only Townsends ever had lived in it. Miss Julia had
inherited it from her mother, for the mother had been born a Townsend
and had married a second cousin. Julia Townsend had a double right to
all the Townsend traits and possessions. Those possessions, great once,
had dwindled now to Rosehill and a narrow (even for one) income, but the
traits flourished and were strong, and Julia had her full double share
of them. The dwindled and still dwindling income scarcely sufficed for
the decent upkeeping of the simple old place, and the quiet old
gentlewoman; but they managed—Rosehill, Miss Julia Townsend and her
negroes: Rosehill flaunted its flowers, the darkies obeyed their
imperious, kindly ole’ missus, and Julia Townsend wore her poverty as a
duchess is supposed to wear her own ermine and her husband’s strawberry
leaves—and usually doesn’t.

Social Washington courted Miss Townsend—partly because she was well
worth courting, partly because she rather despised it, not a little
because, when she did offer hospitality, her “parties” were the
pleasantest functions that ever came the capital’s way.

You couldn’t “drop in” on Miss Julia—no matter who you were or why you
came. Her kitchen door was always on the latch. Her front door was
guarded stiffly. Into no function of hers could you penetrate casually.
You were hopelessly debarred unless she had sent you “a card” of
invitation—which was a card only in name. She invariably wrote the
“cards” herself, in her fine spidery hand, on sheets of cream-smooth,
velvet-thick paper, scorning the modernity of engraved invitations. If
she consented to receive you at all, she paid you the compliment of
telling you so in her own handwriting, which not only saved the expense
of engraving, and seemed to her more befitting her dignity, but filled
considerable time for her with an occupation she much enjoyed. Her
hair-line handwriting was peculiarly beautiful, and she delighted both
in producing it and in displaying it. Julia Townsend had many vanities.
But they all were innocent ones, and womanly. And, if her avoidance of
engraved “At Home” cards was one of her many economies, it was (and her
others were not) an accidental one. And her note-paper was a proud
extravagance. Only the best paper was good enough, she thought, to
record the honor of an invitation accorded from Rosehill, or to be
embellished with such beautiful writing as hers.

On “Second Thursdays,” as her visiting cards indicated in the lower
left-hand corner—her visiting cards were engraved—Miss Townsend was
“At Home,” but it was for no one to venture to call unless Miss Townsend
had “left cards” upon you. She called on no one; but once a month,
unless it was Lent, “Uncle Lysander,” dressed in his speckless best,
crossed the river and, with much ceremony and many bows, left a card of
his mistress’s upon those in the capital whom she cared to honor with
her acquaintance. And if such favor had not been shown you, you might be
very sure that you could induce Uncle Lysander neither to announce you
to Miss Townsend’s presence, nor to admit you inside her front door on a
second Thursday, or at any other time. A woman of very high Washington
social rank once had brought with her to a garden party at Rosehill,
without permission or invitation, an English Countess who was staying
with her. Miss Townsend had received Lady Haverhill graciously, had
chanced to like, and approve, her cordially, had sent cards to her—by
Lysander—and, when the Englishwoman had moved into quarters of her own
at Willard’s, had invited her to dinner. But Mrs. Wentworth never again
received a card of Miss Julia Townsend’s or admission to Rosehill. You
had to be very careful indeed with Miss Julia—if you wished to retain
her acquaintance. Even to men she indicated her willingness to receive
them by means of a card and Uncle Lysander. Women in Washington did not,
as a rule, leave visiting cards for their men friends. Miss Townsend saw
fit to: that was sufficient.

Except for her servants she lived quite alone in the old red-brick
house. At the close of the war they had been three—the mother and two
daughters. But Mrs. Townsend had died and Clara, the elder girl, had
done something very much worse.

Clara had been twenty when the guns had spit at Fort Sumter. Julia had
been born on the day of the first Battle of Bull Run. Of their four
brothers two—the twins—had been a little older than Clara, the other
two, one a year, one two years younger. Naturally all four had fought
for the Southern Cause. Three had fallen, as their father had, in
battle; Rupert, the youngest, had died in a Northern prison. If Ruth
Townsend had been without reasonableness in her hatred of the North, she
had not been without cause.

But it was Clara Townsend—who lived even now, though whether she did or
not her sister did not know and did not perhaps care—who had killed
their mother. The death of a man, in battle, with his face to the foe
and his breast set square to the guns, rarely kills a woman who loves
him. Clara had married a man who had worn not a gray but a blue uniform
in the terrible fratricidal war—a runaway marriage, of course. None
other had been possible. The mother never had mentioned her name again;
even the darkies who had adored her never whispered her name among
themselves—not even the “mammy” who had suckled her—they were far too
ashamed of her. And Julia, a baby still at the close of the war, soon
after which it had happened, had no memory of her sister.

Almost from her birth Miss Julia had lived a solitary life. She kept her
life aired, even somewhat sunned, but she shared it, or her self, with
none. Every one in Washington knew her, or tried to; and she knew every
one whom she considered worth knowing, or deserving it—rather different
things sometimes—but she had no intimates. She lived apart.

The three persons who came nearest to intimacy with Miss Julia Townsend,
so near it indeed that she had accorded them all permission to “come and
see me whenever you like,” were about the last people in Washington
society—needless to say they were in it—whom one might have expected
her to accept, let alone welcome.

They, as it happened, as yet were unacquainted, each with the others.

Miss Julia’s most nearly intimate friends, and the three she best liked,
were: a woman physician who, though of high Southern birth, had, like
the not-to-be-named sister Clara, disgraced herself by becoming the wife
of a Northern man; an English girl of no social position, beyond that of
a nursery governess who chanced to be a relative of her titled
employers; and a young man, in a minor and rather hazy position at one
of the legations—a Chinese.



                               CHAPTER II


Miss Townsend was “At Home”—and so were the roses, the strawberries,
all the delicate eggshell china and the old heavy silver. She was giving
her annual garden-party. And that she might entertain her guests
delicately and amply—as a Southern woman should—it had been shortened
commons at Rosehill for many a week. Not the servants—they had fared as
they always did, and so had the beggars who had gone to the kitchen
door—but the mistress of Rosehill had discontinued the late-dinner
meal—which she called “supper,” and which she liked—and had gone to
bed each night at dusk, and had refrained from lighting a candle when
sleep would not come. That had been a veritable sacrifice on the
function-altar of hospitality. Next to drinking buttermilk the thing
that Miss Julia most enjoyed was reading novels in bed—by the soft,
clear light of four or five wax candles. And she, complete hostess that,
true to her blood, she was, had imposed on herself other personal
curtailments and economies that cost her less but saved her purse more.
She had not gone to a concert or seen a play during her “retreat” of
economy. But, as it chanced, there had been no play that she much wished
to see at a Washington theater just then. She was an inveterate
theater-goer and she rarely denied herself a matinée that called her.
She always went alone, but she always sat in the best seats, and Uncle
Lysander, his dear black face shining with importance and his great
splay hands encased in snow-white gloves, always waited outside to
escort his mistress home, whether the matinée ended in the dusk and dark
of winter or in the clear light of summer—if so side-by-side a word as
“escort” can be used of his attendance close behind Miss Julia. And a
“good” concert she missed very rarely indeed. Miss Julia did not care
for classical music, but she liked to think that she did, and she and
her best bonnet, and her rose-point-lace collar, fastened carefully (not
to injure the priceless mesh) by a gold and cameo breast-pin that had
belonged to Martha Washington, were as sure to enrich the parquet seats
as Brahms or Grieg or Haydn or Liszt were to appear in the program. In
winter she wore gray or dun-colored velvet (first made in Paris for a
Mrs. Townsend before Robert Edward Lee was born); in summer
thin-textured silver or lilac silk. In winter she wore a costly Cashmere
shawl, in summer one of heavily embroidered white Canton silk. The
Cashmere shawl had a skimp, narrow, parti-colored fringe; the Chinese
one had a sumptuous, knotted fringe of its own time-deepened ivory silk.
But she always wore the gold and cameo breast-pin and the deep collar of
rose-point; she always wore gloves of delicate kid, made by a famous
French manufacturer, and exactly matching her gowns; in winter her black
velvet bonnet (always the same bonnet) nodded an ostrich feather that
matched her gown of the occasion as perfectly as did her gloves; in
summer, her bonnet of white chip paid the hue of her dress the same
ostrich feather compliment. And winter or summer, she wore
uncompromisingly thick, stout leather boots—but they were well cut and
with heels as high as a fashionable girl’s. She always took her program
home with her. She had volumes and volumes bound in limp morocco. She
often spoke of them—and sometimes she sent Lysander to purchase a piano
score of some “morceau” that had charmed her, or that she thought had.
But, to her credit, she never attempted their execution on her own
yellow-keyed harpsichord. She “liked to have them, to think them over.”
Her own greatly favorite musical compositions were “The Maiden’s Prayer”
and “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still.” She played them both
tenderly—if not too brilliantly. And “Dixie” was her anthem.

The day was perfect. The Potomac ran a “changeable-silk” glitter of blue
and gold. The sky, as blue as the river, was soft and fluffed with
billows of snowy clouds. The grass was almost as smooth and green as a
well-kept English lawn, and the old red house was a-nod with roses, its
very bricks fragrant from the magnolias nailed there. Great beds of
mignonette cut great swathes of gray through the green of the grass, and
lay like soft, thick rugs at the edge of the house.

Miss Julia, wearing a befrilled cream organdie delicately printed with
pink wild-roses and forget-me-nots more turquoise-tinted than growing
forget-me-nots ever are, stood under the giant juniper tree receiving
her bidden guests. The frills of her full gown were narrowly edged with
lace, and she wore Madame Washington’s brooch, pinning her befrilled
organdie fichu; but the collar and heirloom of super rose-point was laid
away in its tissue and lavender. To-day she wore brightly beaded bronze
slippers, very high-heeled, pointed-toed. At home she never wore boots;
beyond her gates she never wore anything else. A pair of shoes she did
not own, and never had. She wore many valuable rings and black lace
mitts on her fine white hands, and held in her right hand a valuable
lace handkerchief, which nothing would have induced her to use for the
purpose for which handkerchiefs are supposed to be made and bought. It
had been “in the family” for six generations, and it had never been
_used_. In her other hand she carried a tortoise-shell lorgnette which
she never used either, for she had no need to—her sight still was
perfectly good—and Julia Townsend was about the last woman in the world
to affect an infirmity that did not afflict her. She had considerable
manner, but no affectations. Her manner, always elegant, sometimes more
than a little starched, was not a pose. Her manner was she, and belonged
to her as legitimately as did the many good clothes she had inherited,
as she had it, with birthright from several generations of Virginia
ancestors. She also carried in her left hand an exceptionally fine,
long-stemmed, very fragrant rose, which she sniffed frequently. If she
shook hands with a guest, the lace handkerchief went for the moment to
keep company with the handsome lorgnette and the big red rose. She did
not shake hands with every guest that she welcomed, but to all her
welcome was gracious, and she did shake hands with each guest that bade
her adieu, and contrived to convey with the lingering touch of her old,
maidenly fingers how much she regretted the departure.

Every one she had privileged to do so had come. Almost always it was so.
Few ever missed an opportunity to visit Miss Julia at Rosehill. There
was a perfume and repose both about the woman and her home that were
strongly inviting, and that every one found strangely refreshing, and
that some also found surprisingly stimulating. And her invitations were
too scrupulously limited to be lightly disregarded. Miss Julia was
old-fashioned, and every one knew she was poor. (Indeed, she boasted of
it indirectly—too highly-bred to boast openly of anything—frankly
proud of her poverty, since it was part and piece of General Lee’s
defeat.) To be reported in the _Star_ as having been among Miss Julia
Townsend’s guests gave a social cachet which nothing in the capital
itself could give.

Every one who could be was at Rosehill today. And in several ways the
gathering was more catholic than a superficial intelligence might have
expected. It was natural enough that a poor public school teacher should
rub shoulders here with a California millionaire, and the well-known
actress seemed a not inappropriate guest, since her personal character
was as unsmirched as her complexion was natural, and the South always
has honored all the great arts. But a Jewish banker and his beautiful
daughter, a Punjabi prince and the Siamese Minister might have seemed to
some a little unaccountable.

Miss Townsend was a stanch Episcopalian, but she had no theological
narrowness. She respected Jews—if they were orthodox; she’d little
tolerance for any apostasy—“character” was the human quality she most
valued, and her love of beauty—especially the beauty of women—was
almost inordinate. That accounted for Moses Strauss and his lovely
daughter, Esther. The Siamese Minister and the Punjabi prince were not
beautiful, and neither had been in Washington long enough yet to have
established, or, on the other hand, to have lost, any great reputation
for personal or intellectual character. It was the fashion just then to
“know” all the Orientals one could—but that was no sesame to the door
of Rosehill. Miss Julia drew a very wide distinction between Africa and
Asia, and she liked to show that she did.

Four girls sat chatting idly a little way from the small
linen-and-lace-covered table they had impoverished of its cakes and
ice-creams and bonbons.

Molly Wheeler—her father was an Oregon Senator—Lucille Smith—hers was
on the supreme bench—and Mary Withrow, the daughter of the minister of
Washington’s most exclusive church—of course, an Episcopalian
church—were all dressed expensively in glistening white, as was almost
every woman here on this very hot day, and each wore a pretty and costly
hat. The fourth girl was hatless and her simpler gown was a soft but
vivid green.

“You look as if you’d grown here, Ivy,” Mary Withrow exclaimed not
unreasonably. For the English girl’s gown was just the color of the
young live-oak leaves that so interlaced above them where they sat,
great lush ferns growing thickly against the trees’ silver trunks, that
a sort of brilliant green twilight seemed all about them, although it
was scarcely a quarter past four yet.

“I wish I had,” the girl in green replied. “At least, I wish I lived
here.”

“Don’t you like Washington?” Lucille demanded sharply. The jurist’s
daughter was stanchly _and sharply_ loyal to Washington—grateful to it,
too, perhaps, for the Smiths had come to it _via_ several less pleasant
localities.

“I hate teaching kiddies,” Ivy said with an impatient shrug.

“But your own cousins are such dear little things,” Mary remonstrated
gently.

“I suppose they are,” Ivy Gilbert conceded, “dear little things, and
they certainly are my cousins—but a long way off. It isn’t the children
I object to—it’s having to teach them. I like Blanche fairly well, and
I’m fond of Dick—sometimes—and I daresay I’d be quite fond of them, if
I didn’t see them often, and never _had_ to.”

“You don’t like teaching?” Mary said, incredulously. “Oh, I’d love to,
more than anything else, if only I knew enough! And you don’t like to
teach? Truly?”

“I loathe it. You don’t know whether you’d like it or not—until you’ve
tried it. You’d know then. But you don’t have to ‘know enough’ or to
know much of anything. Education’s a very minor asset—at least for a
nursery governess, and I suspect for any other sort of teacher. There’s
only one thing you need: patience, patience, patience—and then
patience! Eternal patience! Cow-like, door-mat patience. Oh, I loathe
the whole show! Emma’s kind enough. Charley’s a dear. But I loathe it
all. I feel stuck in a ditch! And I want to move and to _be_. I want to
_taste_ life, and make some of it. But there, let’s talk about something
else!” The young, passionate voice broke off impatiently, and the girl
clutched a great fern from its root and began fanning herself with it
slowly. And the scarlet peppers she wore dangling at her breast, a
splendid splash of Oriental color on the exquisite jade of her linen
gown, shook passionately as she moved.

The other girls wore flowers—tea-roses and violets—as girls should.
But Ivy had robbed Miss Julia’s kitchen-garden of a handful of red, red
peppers, and fastened them in her gown. And odd as the garniture was, no
one had commented on it. Ivy Gilbert always was doing something “queer,”
and no one had exclaimed at her wearing of “vegetables.” And certainly
the scarlet peppers suited her. Her passionate, brunette face, with its
soft, mutinous, gold-brown eyes, its vivid, curved lips, its crown of
dark, curling hair, and its accentuation of darker eyebrows and
up-curling long lashes, looked more Spanish than English, as she sat
there in the bright green “twilight,” in her jade-green gown, and the
brilliant red peppers jolting each other at her breast.

Lucille hastened to change the subject.

“Why didn’t you come to Mrs. Trull’s breakfast?” she asked.

Ivy shrugged again.

“You don’t like Maggie Trull, do you?” Molly asked. “I do, so much; why
ever don’t you?”

“She kisses me!” Ivy said angrily, just as two men came through the
gleaming trees. “I hate to be kissed! It’s a loathsome, indecent thing.
I never can forgive any one who kisses me!”

The men had heard. The white-haired elder smiled a little under his
white mustache. But his younger companion gravely regarded the girl who
had spoken, and approval lit in his black, inscrutable eyes.

He, the younger man, too, looked a little Spanish, but less so than Ivy
Gilbert did. He was not tall, but fully of medium height: a very
handsome man, dark, beautifully built, scrupulously dressed, wearing his
good garments indifferently, the flower in his coat as red as the girl’s
scarlet peppers, his glance direct, noncommittal, a repose about him
which only many centuries of culture can give. His passive face was
clear-cut and strong and scarcely more brunette than Ivy’s own.

It was not the girl herself that arrested him first. It was what she
said—for it struck a century-old note in his being, and it answered
with a throb. He was twenty-seven, a citizen of the world. But he, too,
thought kissing an impertinence and a nastiness—and he never had
offered it, or suffered it.

Evidently a foreigner—he might have passed to many for an Italian, a
Rumanian, a Greek, a Spaniard, or a Russian—of birth. The birth was
indubitable, whatever the birthplace.

But one who had traveled far, and watched, would have recognized him as
what he was, Chinese.



                              CHAPTER III


The men lifted their hats, and passed on. General Cordez knew Lucille
and had met the Senator’s daughter, but he felt no necessity to join the
group of girls on the grass, and no impulse. And the younger man,
knowing none of them except for a very slight “bowing acquaintance” with
Miss Smith, showed no impulse—if he felt any.

“That was Sên King-lo,” Lucille said, almost excitedly, when the men
were out of earshot. “I wish General Cordez had stopped and introduced
him to you. He’s all the rage. I did just meet him once. But he never
gives me a chance to push it a mite.”

“What is he—what’s his nationality?” Ivy asked.

“Chinese.”

Ivy’s lip curled. “What queer cards Miss Julia knows,” she said.

“Yes, doesn’t she? And the last woman in the world you’d think would,”
Mary Withrow agreed. “Papa wouldn’t like me to know some of the people
Miss Townsend does.”

Their talk debouched then to fashions and clothes. Ivy followed it with
listless inattention. The others tossed and tore it eagerly and hotly.
None of them, not even Lucille, who “had heaps of her things from
Paris—and paid heaps for them, if you want to know”—cared quite as
much for pretty and becoming hats and gowns as the English girl did. But
she had so little money to spend on what she wore that talk of it always
rather stuck in her throat.

The well-born and the well-clothed, the traveled and the noted, strolled
about the festival grounds, admiring the flowers, sat in groups at the
exquisitely laid little tables that dotted and white-starred the shady
nooks, an attendant white-clad darky, important and cordial at each,
keeping the flies off with long white-handled brushes of peacocks’
feathers, and replenishing the dishes and baskets of ice-cream,
charlotte russe and fruit, the cups of tea and coffee, the jugs of
butter-thick cream, and the cold-beaded glasses of cup—delicate cup of
claret or moselle or cider for the “ladies,” mint juleps in strong
perfection and very tall glasses for the men guests. No one could better
Uncle Lysander at mixing juleps—he wore white cotton gloves when he
pulled the mint from the kitchen brook-side—and few could equal Julia
Townsend, of the Townsends of Virginia, at the concocting of cup.

Towards sunset, all the burnished hour’s splendor of colors glowing and
melting over the blue and silver Potomac, a tinkle of banjos came from
behind the tomatoes and asparagus beds. Miss Julia never permitted her
blacks to obtrude jarringly their gift of ripple and rhythm, but always
banjos in the distance played her garden party guests out of her gates.
And as “Dearest May” signaled softly Miss Julia moved slowly gatewards.

           “Now darkies come and listen, a story I’ll relate;
           It happened in de valley ob de ole Ca’lina State.”

The Italian Minister bent over Miss Julia Townsend’s hand.

           “Down in de cornfield whar I used to rake de hay—”

Lady Giffard had had “such a perfect afternoon.”

    “I worked a great deal harder when I thought of you, dear May.”

A great diva paused a moment to listen, as she held her hostess’ hand.

            “O May, dearest May, you are loblier dan de day,
            Your eyes so bright dey shine at night
            When de moon am gone away.”

The diva’s eyes filled with tears. “_They_ are the sweetest singers,”
she said softly, and went quickly. Miss Julia flushed delicately. She
ruled her negroes with no lax hand—but she loved them. She knew their
faults, blackberry thick! She knew their virtues, their worth and
loyalty. And she never heard their music, the blackbird music that
flutes up from their ebon throats, the music that tripped from between
their broad finger tips and their banjo-strings, without an affectionate
throbbing in her own heart.

           “My massa gabe me holiday, I wish he’d gib me mo—”

Miss Julia went a step beyond the gate with Miss Ellen Hunter—for Miss
Hunter was older than herself, and very poor.

       “I t’anked him berry kindly as I pushed my boat from sho—”

Miss Julia gave a Chicago banker her finger tips; the Jewish financier a
fuller clasp.

         “And started for my dear one I longed so for to see—”

The sunset was fainting on the river’s breast. The banjos thrummed more
softly, the sugared, golden voices sank almost in a whisper. Servants
were hanging here and there a lantern on a low-branched tree—long,
iron-ringed, glass, plantation lanterns. That, too, was a signal—not a
signal to go; a signal to stay. It meant that there would be supper
presently for a favored few—youngsters probably. Julia Townsend loved
to gather “boys and girls” about her for a more intimate hour when her
statelier hospitalitied had been banjo-dismissed, and already she had
told one here, one there, “I hope you can stay until ten.” And they knew
there’d be fried chicken and quivering icy jellies, and _perhaps_ a
little dancing on the lawn—and a punctilious, if pompous, darky servant
to see you home, if you were a girl whose chaperon had been delicately
and tunefully sent home.

 “And ’twas from Aunt Dinah’s quilting party I was seeing Nellie home.”

Lena Blackburn looked at Miss Julia longingly. Miss Julia wished her
good-by very kindly. Mr. Sên saw the tiny comedy, and so did Ivy
Gilbert. Their eyes met—just that.

     “On my arm her light hand rested, rested light as ocean foam.”

The last sent-home had gone, and Miss Townsend turned back towards the
house.

                       “I want to be in Dixie——”

Julia Townsend stood at attention—and so did the remaining guests
gathered near her. Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Sheridan must have done
that in the presence of Julia Townsend listening to “Dixie”—and the
soldier who rode a breathless twenty miles from Winchester to Cedar
Creek would have done it with the sunny sweetness of a prince—like the
prince he was. The South had its Barbara Frietchies—the North had its
Stonewall Jacksons.

                       “I want to be in Dixie——”

The brown English eyes and the black Chinese eyes met again. Something
nearly a smile touched the girl’s lips. And she noticed that the
Chinese—Senn, she thought Lucille had said his name was—held his hat
in his hand.

Was _he_ staying to supper then—a Chinese? Surely not.

But, as it proved, he was. He not only stayed, but he sat on Miss
Gilbert’s left hand. She was not over-pleased.

Of course it was for Miss Julia to select her own guests. That was
understood and accepted. But the nursery governess did a little resent
the supper seating arrangements. Miss Julia herself made them.

Ivy Gilbert was too thoroughly English to draw the social color-line as
white Americans drew it. She had seen Hindoos and Japanese on a
perfect—or so it seemed—parity with the other undergraduates at Oxford
and Cambridge. A duchess, who was an acquaintance of Lady Snow’s, had,
to Ivy’s knowledge, made straining and costly efforts to secure as her
guest a Persian prince not many seasons ago, and on doing it had been
both congratulated and envied. She had seen her own Royal Family in
cordial conversation with a turbaned Maharajah, even the royal lady who
was reputed most exclusive and proud. And, though her own small
experience of social functions at home had been rather of Balham and
West Kensington than of Mayfair, she would have been not only interested
but flattered to know well any Indian—of sufficient rank and European
or Europeanized education . . . but a Chinese—well, really!

However, the fault was far more Miss Julia’s than his—he couldn’t help
being Chinese, of course—and since he was here, Miss Julia’s invited
guest, it was for her, another guest, not to be impolite. So, perhaps
feeling that a more brilliant remark would be a _faux pas_, too unfair a
strain on Chinese _savoir faire_, she turned towards Sên King-lo
slightly and asked him pleasantly, “How do you like America?”

A smile flickered across the man’s mouth.

“Very much as the curate liked his egg, Miss Gilbert,” he told her
gravely, then added with a franker smile, “which is how I like most
countries, I think.”

“Ah! You are homesick!” But having said it, the girl blushed
angrily—angry with herself for having said what she felt, as soon as
she’d said it, to have been far from in good taste.

“Terribly,” Sên said gravely—“sometimes.”

“I’m sorry I said that,” she said quickly. “I ought not,” she added with
a little guilty sigh.

“But,” he disputed her courteously, “I am glad to answer any question
you are good enough to ask. And, if there is _one_ thing of which no man
should be ashamed, it is being homesick, surely. And you made me no risk
of criticizing your country—since you are not American—but English.”

“How do you know?”

“You told me.”

“I? We never have spoken to each other until now.”

“But you told me yourself, Miss Gilbert. I heard you speak as General
Cordez and I were walking together. I heard you say several words. If I
had heard you speak but one, I’d have known that you were English. An
English voice in English speech is one of the few things that cannot be
mistaken.”

The girl flushed again—delicately this time, and with pleasure.

“We Chinese,” he continued, “have a proverb, ‘If one word misses the
mark, a thousand will do the same.’ And, if one English word spoken by
an educated English voice does not proclaim nationality as nothing else
can, it is because it falls on very dull or quite deaf ears.”

“Have you many proverbs in your language?” she asked, fishing about a
little desperately for her next thing to say.

“Millions,” he said decidedly. “And we all know them all, and all say
them at once. Probably at this moment, in China, four hundred millions
of people are saying, ‘He that grasps, loses,’ or ‘The knowing ones are
not hard, the hard ones are not knowing,’ or ‘The serpent knows his own
hole,’ or ‘Those who know how to do a thing do not find it difficult;
those who find it difficult know not how to do it,’ or ‘Even the tiger
has his naps.’ No, though, I am wrong. It is both night-time and
day-time in China now—my country sprawls so wide from East to West—but
I have no doubt that at home, easily a hundred million Chinese are
quoting time-honored adages and proverbs at this moment.”

“How perfectly terrible!” she laughed.

Sên King-lo laughed back with her. There was no familiarity in his
laughter, but a good deal of deferential good-fellowship.

“I have never heard Chinese spoken,” Miss Gilbert told him. “It is a
terribly difficult language to learn—for a foreigner, I mean, isn’t
it?”

“No,” Sên said stoutly. “That is always said—has been said ever since
Marco Polo’s time. But it is not true. Chinese is very easy to learn
really.”

“I have never heard it,” she repeated.

“Would you care to? Shall I?”

“Please.” She scarce could make any other answer.

He said something in a low, clear voice. It ought to have reached her
alone under the hum of the general table talk. But at Miss Julia’s board
no one spoke shrilly, and, whatever happened in China, in the
dining-room of Rosehill all did _not_ speak at once. And the inevitable
rise and fall of intonation—which is nine-tenths of the Chinese
vocabulary—rang it through to others. Two or three people stopped
talking, and half a dozen pricked up questioning ears.

Miss Julia challenged her guest frankly. “What are you saying?” she
demanded.

Sên King-lo bowed his head towards his hostess, and answered:

“Something that Confucius said a long time ago, Madame. This: ‘Our
greatest glory is, not in never falling, but in rising every time we
fall.’ ”

“True and admirable!” Miss Julia said proudly. Her old eyes flashed. She
was thinking of Appomattox—of a cause that she never would yield as
permanently lost. And Sên King-lo, a far-off look in his dark, masked
eyes, was thinking of Shantung. The East and the West do meet sometimes
in the selfsameness of human emotions.



                               CHAPTER IV


The supper was long. It might have been called a little heavy, if the
food had not been so very good. It is not of the South to offer a guest
a simple meal. Miss Julia gave her guests more than fried chicken and
quivering ice-cold jellies. She gave them scalloped oysters, she gave
them corn-oysters (an entirely vegetable but very “filling” dish). She
gave them gumbo, and pickles made out of water-melon rinds. She gave
them several salads. The oysters were not the sole shellfish, and the
sweets—Miss Julia called them all “the dessert,” and Uncle Lysander
called them all “puddin’ ”—covered the shining tops of two great
priceless sideboards, and their overflow covered one of the long, narrow
side-tables. They sat a long time at supper. The oysters had given place
to lemon sherbet as Sên King-lo had quoted Confucius, and after the
sherbet he turned and talked for a time to his left-hand neighbor, and
the English girl chatted to the New Orleans man on her right. But after
a course and another, they spoke together again—the merest social
decency, since their hostess had put the girl on his right hand.

“It _sounded_ hard—very nearly impossible to learn,” Ivy said, taking
up their chat just where Miss Julia had torn it.

“Will you try?” Sên asked lightly. “I’d like to teach you—Chinese.”

“I don’t think you would,” the girl retorted. “I’d not like to teach any
one anything. I teach for my living.”

“You!” the Chinese exclaimed—frank and honest admiration in tone and
glance. “How young you are to know enough to follow that great career.
The greatest of all careers, we think.”

“I don’t know anything at all,” Ivy assured him. “I only teach
C-A-T—cat; B-A-T—bat; and wash their faces—my cousins Dick and
Blanche—when they’ll hold their faces still long enough. And when they
don’t their mother scolds me. I hate it all—and so do they. But I have
to—to earn my living.”

Sên King-lo looked more approval than sympathy. Poverty is no social
bar-sinister in China, scarcely a handicap in what, until the Manchus
fell, was the soundest and truest democracy in human history—not a
rabble democracy, but a democracy of dignity, justice, fair play and
spiritual equal chance.

“Yes, I should like teaching you Chinese,” he insisted.

“Why ever, why?” the girl demanded discouragingly.

“To pay a debt,” he replied with a smile. “We Chinese must be free of
debt on our New Year, and that would just about give me time. And you—I
know what you think—you think you’d find my language dull, and that you
never would have any use for it. But you may go to China one day, and
then you’d find it very useful.”

“I go to China? No such luck! Jersey City perhaps, or even Margate,
after we get home again. But I shall never see your country, Mr. Sên—or
Calcutta, or Damascus, or Venice, or Madrid. I shall travel in narrow
gray ways always. It is written.”

Sên shook his head. “We never can tell,” he reminded her.

“I can,” she said briefly.

He laughed at her again. Then—“Well, but, let me get out of debt then.”

“What is the debt?”

“May I tell you? I wonder. You, I fear, Miss Gilbert, will not like it.
It will not seem to you a compliment. But it _is_ one—from me. I’d like
to tell you. Shall I?”

The girl nodded—a little indifferently, a little coldly.

“I thought,” Sên answered gravely, “when I saw you there in the live-oak
trees this afternoon, that you looked something like a Chinese girl.”

Ivy Gilbert stiffened, her eyes grew icy. Sên King-lo had been right.
She did not like it at all.

But Sên King-lo went steadily on. “Forgive me, if you dislike it, resent
it so much. To me—it was a sip of cold water in a parching land, on a
parching day. Perhaps I was wrong. Probably I was—for I never have seen
a Chinese girl.”

Miss Gilbert’s resentment receded before her surprise.

“You never—have seen—a Chinese girl!” she said blankly.

“Not a lady,” he told her. “One sees coolie girls, of
course—everywhere. But I have been from home a great many years now.
When I was a boy Chinese ladies were not seen outside their own
homes—as so many of them are now, I understand. And I had no sisters.
My mother was only a girl when she left us, but I do not remember my
mother. I was very young, a baby, when she went. I know a Chinese lady
here and there: here in Washington, two; several in Europe—but they all
are married ladies—and, too, they often seem to me a little un-Chinese,
because they wear English clothes and eat with a fork—as, for the very
same reasons, I, no doubt, seem not quite Chinese to them.”

Miss Gilbert glanced down involuntarily at his hand—he was lifting food
with his fork, quite accustomedly—and she looked up again, a question
she would not have asked for worlds in her eyes.

“Yes, indeed,” Sên told her, “I can use chop-sticks. I can eat ice-cream
even with chop-sticks—if it is not very feeble—melted. But I like your
forks much better.”

The girl colored slightly in her surprise. She had yet to learn that
many Chinese can read thoughts almost as easily as they can read printed
words.

“I never have known a Chinese woman at all well. Miss Townsend is my
closest woman friend. Odd that, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she agreed.

“And I never have seen a Chinese girl of our own caste.”

Did he mean his own caste, or his and hers? Again the man had startled
her. It was a rather weird thought that in his opinion (in her opinion
it was an impossibility) she and any Chinese might have caste in
common—caste or any other social bond.

“I knew you were English before I saw you, because I had heard your
voice first. But when I looked to where the voice had sounded, it seemed
to me—just for a moment—that China was not the long way off that it
has been for years. You were wearing some material the color of much of
our rarest jade. Almost all the ladies here were wearing white. It often
looks to Chinese eyes as if every woman in the West went into mourning
as soon as summer comes. That always jars a little. We love summer—the
sun, the flowers, the heat, all that it stands for, and promises. Even
our terrible Yellow Sorrow laughs and is happy when summer comes.”

Ivy Gilbert had no idea what he meant. She never had heard of the
Yangtse-kiang. She scarcely knew whether China had a river. But Sên
King-lo, though he had had considerable gage of how dense the West’s ken
of the East was, did not suspect her ignorance. Perhaps—because of the
jade-green dress, Sên King-lo was forgetting himself a little. Even a
Chinese man does that—under certain provocation—at twenty-seven.

“White is our ‘black’ you know.”

Yes, she had heard that—though it isn’t quite true; for the hemp
garments of Chinese bereavement are nearer a dun drab than they are to
the white that snow and lilies wear.

“Your gown struck a note of Chinese color, those scarlet peppers”—she
was wearing them still—“struck another: their vividness and their
dangling. Every Chinese woman wears something that dangles.”

“How do you know?” she interrupted him. “How do you know what Chinese
_girls_ wear?”

Sên King-lo laughed—his eyes even more than his mouth. Chinese
gentlepeople have the most beautiful teeth in the world.

“No, no,” he protested. “That was well-bowled. But you have not caught
me out, leg before wicket. I have seen pictures of Chinese girls, Miss
Gilbert. And I can read Chinese. Stickpins and girdle ornaments dangle
in half the pages of Chinese romances. You _did_ remind me of my
home—for the moment. Even the fern you were fanning yourself with added
to the impression. You fanned yourself a little as we do—with a Chinese
turn of your wrist. I am in your debt.”

The girl made no reply beyond a chill, perfunctory smile. She was
slightly amused, still more slightly interested, and not a little
offended.

She turned and, finding a chance, spoke with the man on her other side.

After that the table talk became more general—as Miss Julia best liked
it.

Much of it was talk well over Ivy Gilbert’s head. She had heard of the
League of Nations and she knew—superficially—what Bolshevism was, but
she never had heard of Lombroso, or of the cave-temples of Ajanta. She
did not know who Akbar and Barbur were. She did not know who “John Doe”
was. Nor what Pragmatism meant. She never had heard of Knut Hamsun. She
listened, not greatly interested, and she contributed nothing. And she
was vexed that the only two men of any special note or maturity there
directed a great deal of their conversation to Mr. Sên King-lo, and that
the part he bore in all that was said seemed not only the least mean and
quite the ablest, most interesting, but also the quickest and easiest.
Certainly his use of English was the supplest there. A _Chinese_ turn of
her wrist indeed! She wondered if the odd, tan-colored creature was able
to _think_ in English? He spoke the language—hers and
Shakespeare’s—almost as if he must think in it. And he must have been
speaking it for a good many years—his r’s were not l’s. There was more
a something Eastern in the timbre of his voice than anything distinctly
a foreigner’s in his accent. He spoke her own tongue more as she did,
more as she’d usually heard it at home—though perhaps not invariably in
Balham—as she always heard it in Washington, or heard it at Harvard or
under the elms of New Haven, when she’d been there last summer for a few
vivid international days.

There was no dancing after supper. There was chit-chat and music—out on
the porch. They sang “Annie Laurie” and “Oft in the Stilly Night” and a
fairly long program dictated by Miss Julia. Then she commanded Mr. Sên
to play—and to sing that little song she’d liked so much the other
night. But he had not brought an instrument—neither a lute nor his
guitar. Ivy Gilbert’s lip curled a little. So, he was a troubadour, too!
He ought to have worn his lute, or a gilded, inlaid harp, to the garden
party, slung over his shoulder on a ribbon. She wondered if he could use
his fists! Those delicate, graceful hands did not look as if they’d be
much good at fisticuffs!

“You are not to come without it again,” Miss Julia told him.

“When I call on Sunday mornings, or meet you at the Wardman Park Inn for
lunch, Madame?”

“You know what and when I mean,” Miss Julia told him severely. “Go and
get a banjo—or something.”

Sên King-lo rose instantly. “ ‘In all my best I shall obey you, Madame,’
” he said with a low and humble bow, and went off towards the “quarters”
beyond the kitchen-garden.

Did Miss Townsend lunch with a Chinese at the Wardman? Ivy wondered. Did
many women do so?

How—how extraordinary! But it was rather sporting of Miss Julia.

Sên came back presently from beyond the tomatoes and the cucumbers,
walking briskly, tuning a banjo as he came.

He sat down on the veranda steps, at Miss Julia’s feet, and began
thrumming an old camp-meeting song. Ivy Gilbert thought the words
preposterous, but the lilt was very pretty—and Miss Julia beat time
softly on the porch railing with her tortoise-shell lorgnette—and Miss
Julia joined in the chorus. Every one did—except Ivy Gilbert. He sang
“My Old Dutch”—Ivy knew that; and he sang a darky love-song. How could
_he_ do that? Then he started Harry Lauder’s London latest. And the
English girl, who never had heard of China’s Yellow Sorrow or of Omi or
of Marco Polo, had heard of Harry Lauder.

Miss Julia hinted deftly at “goodnight” with, “And now the best for the
last. One of your own!”

Sên King-lo made the borrowed banjo wail like a soft wind that grieved
and trembled in the moonlight—and then drifted words into the
accompaniment that the girl fancied he was improvising.

           “There is some one of whom I keep a-thinking;
           There is some one whom I visit in my dreams,
           Though a hundred hills stand sentinel between us,
           And the dark rage of a hundred sunless streams.
           For the same bright moon is kind to us.
           And the same untrammeled wind to us.
           Daring a hundred hills,
           Whispers the word that thrills.
           And the dust of my heart, laid bare,
           Shows the lilies that linger there,”

he sang.

And then the good-bys were said. And Miss Julia and Ivy Gilbert were
left alone.

Sên King-lo lingered over Miss Townsend’s hand. Ivy feared he was going
to offer to touch hers. But he did not, he merely bowed, and without
speaking.

The girl was grateful for that.

She stood a moment at her window, looking at the roses in the moonlight,
before she drew her curtain and began to undress. And, as she stood
looking out across the garden, she drew the scarlet peppers from her
bodice and threw them, testily, out into the night.



                               CHAPTER V


As they sat at breakfast—Miss Julia and the girl—Lysander brought his
mistress, and proffered on a great silver salver, a florist’s
ribbon-bound box. There were carnations in it, great dusky, imperial,
wine-deep carnations, ruby red ones, flaming scarlet, blush pink and
lemon, and a handful just the color of tomatoes. Julia Townsend gathered
them up in her hands with a murmur of delight—as many of them as her
hands could hold, and hung her pleased face over their sumptuous
fragrance.

“I never give a friend’s gift away—or any part of it,” she said, “or
you should have half of these. They belong to youth,” she added a little
sadly—but quite bravely. “But you shall smell them.”

The girl could not help smelling them. They scented the room.

Miss Julia took the visiting-card from the box as if she knew whose it
would prove, read it with a smile, and passed it—as if proud of it—to
Ivy.

Beneath his engraved name, on the bit of social pasteboard, as correct
in Western convention as his coat, Sên King-lo had written, “With
gratitude for rice, and always to you, Madame, with my homage.”

Ivy Gilbert looked at the card, passed it back—scarcely touching
it—looked at the flowers, then looked at Miss Julia, trying to think of
some pleasant and satisfactory comment to make—she thought one was
expected—failed, and so “Thank you,” lamely, was all she said.

Miss Townsend was simple in the best and finest sense of simplicity, but
what she knew she knew rather thoroughly, and she was not inexperienced
in girls.

“Why do you not like Mr. Sên?” she asked.

“I’ve not said so.” Ivy flushed a little.

“I say so,” Miss Julia retorted with gentle decision.

“But,” the girl demurred, “I’m not sure that I don’t.”

“You are not sure that you do,” the woman insinuated with a smile.

“That is perfectly true,” the girl owned. “I don’t know whether I like
or dislike him. I hope I did neither. I’d not care to believe that I
either liked or disliked him.”

“Why not, girl?”

“I’m not sure I can explain. I—yes, that is it; I resented him.”

“Resented him?” Miss Julia spoke warmly. “Why?”

“His color, I suppose,” Ivy said hesitatingly. “For I can’t think of any
other reason. I don’t feel as you do, Miss Townsend, about colored
people and all that—we don’t in England. But still—I don’t quite take
it lying down, I suppose, when I see one of them, not only evidently
thinking himself as good as we are, but assuming that we think so too.”

“Sên King-lo is very much better than most of _us_,” Miss Townsend said
quietly, “and far too intelligent not to know it.”

The girl stared in astonishment. She was wordless.

The woman laughed. “Don’t be a goose, Ivy,” she advised good-humoredly.
“And don’t talk about ‘colored people’ as if Mr. Sên were one. He is
nothing of the sort.”

“He is blacker than I am,” Ivy laughed.

“Well, how would you like to be called a ‘colored person’?”

“But I’m not. And calling me so wouldn’t make me one.”

“And he is not one. And calling him so doesn’t make him one.”

“He’s Chinese,” Ivy persisted.

“Who said he wasn’t?” Miss Julia persisted too. “And—if I get at your
meaning, and I think I do—you think it inappropriate that you should
associate with a Chinese gentleman on just the same terms as with a
French or Spanish gentleman. Isn’t that it?”

“There is a difference,” Ivy urged.

“Humph!” said Miss Julia.

“I don’t think Uncle Lysander liked waiting on him,” the girl ventured.

“Indeed?” Miss Townsend spoke crisply. “I give my blacks their orders. I
am not concerned with their race-prejudices, or disturbed by their likes
or dislikes—so long as they do not display them. And it never has
occurred to me to consult Lysander as to what guests I should or should
not receive.”

“Don’t be angry with me, please,” Ivy pleaded. “I only said what I did
because you asked me.”

“That’s true,” the hostess admitted promptly. “And I daresay you are not
the only one that is surprised and not too approving of my friendship
with Sên King-lo.”

“Oh, I hope I didn’t even hint that!”

“You didn’t mean to, I’m sure. But you felt it. And,” she added dryly,
“you did rather hint that my Chinese guest was not good enough for Uncle
Lysander.”

“Oh—” Ivy began—and broke off lamely with, “I wish I’d held my
tongue.”

“I don’t,” Miss Julia told her. “We may as well get it clear. There are
two parts to it: the very different attitude of my mind to the darkies
and to Asiatics, and my personal regard for Mr. Sên individually. I love
my negroes, just as I love my dogs and all horses. In a certain way, or
rather in certain ways, I respect them—sometimes, some of them. I
respect their loyalty, when they are loyal. (Mine have to be, or go.)
But the best of them are a cross between babies and useful domestic
animals. The negro race has no past, and will have no future. It has
certain knacks of mind, but no intellect. It is of peasant breed through
and through. Lysander and Peter probably would be eating each other, or
breakfasting off Dinah this very day, and doing it stark naked somewhere
in Africa, if their ancestors had not been captured, carried over here,
and sold as slaves to my ancestors. The nigger rose to his highest place
and development under the rule of the Southern master. What’s going to
happen to him now? One of three things. Either he’ll die out, starved to
death by his own laziness and exterminated by consumption; or he’ll
deteriorate into a despised and despicable, contemptibly employed
pariah, crushed and wretched, his hand against every one of us, and most
of all against himself; or he’ll ruin this country and exterminate _us_.
He can teach us nothing and the North-fangled teaching is going to
corrupt him and corrupt him very far and very fast. It isn’t a matter of
skin, I tell you, it isn’t a matter of color; it is a matter of
character, of mind and of social fitness—the difference between the
negroes and the Asian. Asia can teach us a great deal. And some of us
are just beginning to suspect it. Sên King-lo’s ancestors were
_gentlemen_, and were scholars and statesmen and artists when yours and
_mine_ were living in a tadpole state of human existence. We have
risen—you and I. The darkies can’t rise—not an inch higher than they
have. We never—if we’ve got a sane hair on our head—can treat the
negroes as our equals; for the reason that they never by any possibility
or miracle can rise to or approach equality. They can go down, in my
opinion they will—but they never, never can go up—any farther. Many
Asiatic peoples had ‘gone up’ very far when we were still wallowing. Not
many of us Americans know this—or are willing to realize it. I happen
to. They are _different_ from us. They are _not_ inferior. Now, about
Mr. Sên—individually about him. When he first came here the present
running after yellow officials had not begun. It is only a smart-set
fad—like the tango and indecently short skirts, or a dash of rum in
tea—to spoil it—we had that a few years ago, or eating asparagus with
your fingers. It’s only froth—and not the creditable thing it looks. No
one ran after him then, or asked him to dinner. I had to. To be fair, I
didn’t like it. But I was in debt to him, and, of course, I had to pay.”

Ivy was interested now—and looked it.

“His grandfather saved my great-uncle Julian’s life. Yes!”—for the
girl’s amazement showed her almost incredulous. “In Pekin. What my
great-uncle was doing there I don’t remember—something about some sort
of concession somebody wanted about something or other—opium, I
daresay, or tea, or tea-pots, or ivories, or hemp—anyway, he was there.
And you English were there too—and not popular—and the Chinese didn’t
see any more difference between a nice simon pure American like my
great-uncle Julian and an Englishman than some people can see between a
woolly negro house-servant and a Chinese gentleman. Two of the English
got themselves into a bad scrape of some sort; the Chinese locked them
up in a cage, and fed them through the bars, and didn’t feed them
particularly well or particularly much—two Englishmen named—let me
see—Lord? No—Lock—Lock and Parkes—yes, that’s it; at least I think
one was named Lock, and I know the other man’s name was Parkes. Well,
the Chinese were going to do the same to my great-uncle, and to cut off
his head into the bargain. I’m sure I don’t remember why, if I ever
heard. And they very nearly did. But a Chinese man—you needn’t ask me
why, for I’ve no idea, helped Uncle Julian to escape, and sent him home
to Virginia. His name was Sên—Sên Ch’ang Tso, and his memory has been
kept green by all of us—we Townsends—ever since. And when I saw in the
_Post_ that a Mr. Sên had come over as a secretary or something to the
Chinese Minister here I went and called. They were not going to let me
in—but they did. The boy—Sên King-lo, was surprised at my visit. Well,
that didn’t matter. He was polite—they always are—and I sat down and
asked him if he had had a relative in Pekin in 1860, a relative named
Sên Ch’ang Tso, and he said, ‘Yes, my grandfather.’ And then I told him
about my great-uncle Julian. He never had heard of that. But he said he
was pleased to have met me—and I think he was—afterwards. And we have
been friends ever since. I asked him here, because I felt I ought
to—but now I ask him because I want him. He had no other
friend—outside of his own people—in Washington then. Now he has more
than he can do with. But he never forgets me. He never lets many days go
by without showing me one of the small, pretty attentions that mean so
much to women, and mean most to old, unmarried women who can’t be said
to get the lion’s share of carnations and chocolate creams.” She sniffed
at the flowers again, and nodded at Ivy across them.

“Thank you—for telling me,” the girl said.

“Well, what is it? You are thinking something you don’t like to say. Out
with it, my dear.”

“I was wondering,” Ivy said slowly, “that Mr. Sên cared to sing darky
songs, and wondering if he quite liked borrowing one of the negroes’
banjos, and playing on it?”

Miss Julia laughed. “That color question again! Don’t let how that
affects Sên King-lo trouble you. It does not affect him at all. He may
or may not realize that a good many people class him and all his
countrymen with the blacks—probably he does. He can see through a
church door when it is open. But, if he does, he leaves it for what it
is worth. Sên King-lo knows what he _is_.”



                               CHAPTER VI


And Ivy tried to look convinced, and to do it cordially. She loved Miss
Julia. She was not convinced, not even greatly impressed or interested.
The ramifications of the color-question—if it had any, that seemed to
obsess so much of worried American thought, and monopolized so much of
American conversation, did not grip her. The color-question shadowed
Europe but lightly as yet. And Ivy Gilbert was self-centered, and did
not have a profound mind. At home she rarely read the _Times_, and never
the _Spectator_, _Outlook_ or _National Review_. And what if, some time
long ago, in the far-off outlandish place where cherry-stones grow
outside of the fruit, and even the King—or was he the Emperor?—or the
Lama?—dined off puppies and mice, and drowned his wives in hot oil if
they displeased him, a man named Sên _had_ saved the life of one of the
Townsends?—_if he had_, how did it credit the Sên now in Washington?
She could not see that it, even if true, put the Chinese man she’d met
at Miss Julia’s on her own plane, or on one at all approaching it—or
that anything ever could or should. But she loved Miss Julia and would
not hurt or vex her for a great deal. So she did her girlish best to
look what she did not feel.

And Miss Julia appreciated it. She was not deceived. But she was pleased
at the girl’s loyal docility and deference. And what did it matter what
the raw, not-much-traveled young thing thought of Sên King-lo? Nothing
at all. So Miss Julia smiled affectionately at her girl-guest, as she
pushed back her chair and said,

“And now, child, if you won’t have just one more pop-over, we’ll go and
cut the roses—after I’ve put these beauties in water.”

And two hours later, Ivy Gilbert, her arms full of roses, went back to
Washington and her nursery-governess duties in her cousin’s—Lady
Snow’s—house in Massachusetts Avenue, and Miss Julia was left alone to
put all the fat, heavily-embossed silver, the pearl-handled knives, the
precious heirloom glass, and the very thin china back in their wrappings
of chamois-leather and lavender.

It was Friday. The garden party at Rosehill had been on a Thursday. On
Saturday morning a small thing befell that had not often happened to Ivy
Gilbert, and very rarely indeed since she had left England: a man sent
her flowers.

Ivy was surprised when a maid brought her the box, dubious even—and she
scrutinized the name and address very carefully. But there was no
loophole of blunder in either. So she untied the silk cord, and lifted
the lid. Violets smiled up at her shyly and fragrantly—and whoever had
sent them had had the taste to send them with an abundance of their own
leaves—and nothing else—but perhaps that good taste had been the
florist’s.

She picked up the card with them and looked at it with curiosity. Then
dropped it back with a little sound of disappointment.

The card was Mr. Sên King-lo’s. But nothing was written on it—nothing
beyond the engraved name.

She was not a little incensed. She felt that he had taken an
unpardonable liberty. It would be taking too much notice of him and of
his insufferable Chinese cheek, to send the violets back. But she would
not have them!

She’d give them to Emily, the under-housemaid. It was Emily’s night out,
and no doubt Emily’d be well-pleased to wear them. Then—she thought of
Miss Julia. Miss Julia valued the man, had said she was fond of him! And
she had met him at Miss Julia’s. No, she mustn’t do that, much as she’d
like to. And they were beautiful violets—dewy and sweet. Well, they
should have a drink for their own sake—the fault wasn’t theirs—and for
dear, foolish Miss Julia’s.

The card and the tissue paper went into the wastepaper basket, but the
presumptuously sent violets went into a bowl of fresh water. And Ivy
carried it up to her own room and left them there, for fear one of her
cousins should ask her who sent them. She’d have been ashamed to tell.
So the violets were more or less tucked away in an inconspicuous corner
of the English girl’s room. And before lunch she had forgotten all about
them in the rush of the day. Saturday always was her busiest day. Lady
Snow made shopping rounds on Saturday mornings, and social rounds on
Saturday afternoons, almost invariably, and household responsibilities
devolved on Ivy, in her cousin’s absence, that the British matron never
deputed when she was at home.

But today Ivy had visitors who would not be denied, but refused to be
barred out by the man-servant’s “Not at home”—and when Ivy couldn’t
come down, insisted upon going up to her. And Ivy alone in the
schoolroom at the top of the house was almost as little pleased to see
them as she had been to see “that Chinaman’s” violets—but not so
surprised. Lucille Smith had a habit of “popping in” at unusual and
inconvenient hours, and never on earth had been known to take “No” for
an answer. And Molly Wheeler had “come along” with the Judge’s daughter.

“I’ll have to go on working,” Ivy told them. “I can’t go to church in
the morning unless I get this blouse finished. I’ve nothing else I can
possibly wear with my new coat and skirt—and no other gown fit to wear.
And I must go to church with the children. It’s one of my charming
duties. They wriggle and whisper all the time. So I must get this done,
and it will take me all my time. So don’t expect me to entertain you.”

“That’s all right,” Miss Smith assured her. “Where are the treasures!”
she asked anxiously, looking about the small room apprehensively.

It was evident that they had not come to call upon either Dick or
Blanche, and it was quite as evident that both the girls were greatly
excited. Perhaps Lucille was going to marry George Hitchock after all,
then.

“Gone to dancing-school with Justine, thank fortune,” their governess
answered, “or I never _should_ get this finished. I’ll have to sew half
the night as it is. Thank goodness they won’t be back for another hour
or more.”

“Thank the Lord!” Lucille Smith cried fervently. “Ivy! Is it _true_?”

“True? What?”

“Did Sên King-lo send you flowers?”

Miss Gilbert in her surprise nearly let the new delicate blouse fall
upon the schoolroom floor.

“Who ever told you that?” she demanded.

“Nobody. I heard him myself, heard him order them. I’m almost sure it
was your name he gave, you he told the man to send them to. Tom went to
talk up Belle’s wedding bouquet—she’s got such a temper, you know,
there’d be the devil to pay—right in the church, perhaps—if it wasn’t
just exactly as she told Tom to have it made, so he didn’t dare order it
over the ’phone or by writing, and he was no end embarrassed, plumb
afraid to go alone—so I had to tag along. Well, when Sên King-lo came
in, I was mighty glad I had. Say! he knew what he wanted, just how many,
just which sort, and about the leaves, and the box; he picked out the
box, just a plain white one, ‘nothing fancy,’ and no ribbons. I hoped
he’d stop and talk a bit, but he only took off his hat and kept it
off—My! isn’t his hair smooth—and Tom was so fidgety I couldn’t make
the running myself. If I hadn’t held on to his coat, he’d have bolted
and cut out of the store. But I did hear Sên King-lo order violets, and
I’ll believe to my dying day it was _you_ he told the clerk to send them
to. Was it? Ivy Gilbert, did Sên King-lo send you violets? Tell us this
minute!”

“Is that what brought you here?” asked Ivy.

“You bet it is!” Lucille exclaimed. And Molly added, “And you can bet
big!”

“Did he?” Lucille begged. “Ivy, did he?”

“Yes, he did,” Ivy said chillingly.

“Oh!” Lucille cried. “Ivy—how perfectly scrumptious! How heavenly!”

And the Senator’s daughter said chokingly, “You lucky, lucky girl!”

Ivy regarded them gravely. “I think it rather an insult,” she said
smoothly.

“Oh!” both the other girls cried. And Lucille Smith added, “Say, Ivy
Gilbert, are you insane? Sên King-lo never sent flowers before! Violets
from Sên King-lo! And you—” words failed.

Miss Gilbert smiled superiorly. “You are very much mistaken, Lucille. He
often sends flowers to Miss Julia. He sent her a huge armful yesterday
morning. I was there when they came. Mine are just a handful.”

“Miss Julia!” Molly retorted. “Of course he does. We knew that. She
always tells you when she has flowers he’s sent in the parlor, and
everybody knows he adores Miss Julia, and that she thinks no end of him.
Why, she discovered him, and mothered him too, a year or more before he
became the rage. Miss Julia don’t count. And I think he often sends
flowers to married women after he’s been to dinner or a dance—he is no
end polite—Sên King-lo. But he never, never sent any to a girl before!
Ivy, you are the very first. My—don’t I wish it was me!”

“There isn’t a girl in Washington who wouldn’t,” Lucille added.

Ivy Gilbert snapped off her thread, and laid down her needlework for a
moment. “Lucille,” she asked quietly, “would you marry Mr. Sên?”

Lucille giggled. “I’d like to—just to see Papa’s face. But I don’t say
as I would, not exactly. You don’t have to marry every man that sends
you _marrons glacés_, or orchids, or I’d have as many husbands as the
late Brigham Young had wives.”

“Lucille Smith!” Miss Wheeler assumed a shockedness she did not feel.

“Well—isn’t it true? And wouldn’t most of us!”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Molly owned, dimpling happily.

“I don’t say I would,” Lucille repeated. “But goodness only knows what
I’d say if he asked me. My, what a lark it would be! But I needn’t
worry. He won’t ask me. He won’t ask any of us. But, Ivy Gilbert, I
don’t believe but half the girls in Washington would jump at the
chance.”

Ivy’s lip curled. She took up her blouse and re-threaded her needle.

“I don’t believe I would really. But it would be supremely exciting to
have him ask me. And I’d give my eyes to have a flirtation with Sên
King-lo. No girl ever has—and a good few dozens have tried.”

Ivy sewed on in silence.

“Show them to us, do, Ivy,” Molly broke in.

“Too much fag,” the girl replied. “I haven’t the time.”

“Was there a note with them?” Lucille Smith questioned.

“There was not.”

“Ivy,” Molly begged, “tell us. . . . What did you say when you thanked
him?”

“I have not seen him.”

“But when you wrote?”

“I haven’t.”

“Oh! Oh!” Molly bleated it.

“Ivy Gilbert!” Lucille’s was a cry of reproach.

“You must!” one of them told her.

“You awful goose!” the other told her.

“Did he send his card?”

Ivy nodded.

“Let’s see it!” Miss Smith demanded.

“I haven’t got it.”

“Whatever!”

“Ivy!”

“Why should I keep it? I didn’t want it. And our wastepaper baskets are
emptied twice a day. It’s one of the things Emma’s most particular
about.”

Lucille gasped. Molly Wheeler looked on the point of weeping. “Weren’t
you glad to get the violets?” she wailed.

“I certainly was not. I was displeased,” the sewing girl said coldly.

“You idiot! Come on, Molly; she’s hopeless. Let’s get on to Kate’s.”

“Yes, do,” Ivy said cheerfully. “I _must_ get this done. And I simply
can’t while you girls chatter, and sigh, and ‘Oh!’ and ‘Ah!’ ”

“You might let us see them first,” was Lucille’s final shot.

Ivy made no reply. She sewed on quietly and busily when they really had
gone. But on the whole she felt less affronted by Mr. Sên than she had.
And she wondered if she ought not, in common politeness, to send him a
line of thanks—formal thanks.

The girls had envied her: that was clear.

If further acquaintance was Sên King-lo’s desire, Miss Smith and Miss
Wheeler had done more to accomplish his wish than Miss Julia had.



                              CHAPTER VII


If Sên King-lo had such a desire, he was scarcely aware of it. And a
Chinese usually knows perfectly what all his own wishes are. There is
very little that floats; most is securely fixed in Chinese mentality and
character.

He had liked her at Miss Julia’s supper table, and on the porch after
supper, better than she had liked him, but she had interested him less
than he had interested her. In the garden, under the live-oaks she had
arrested his attention intensely. At the supper table probing, not
impertinently or even intentionally, but just as we must probe any
stranger with whom we speak for the first time—unless character and
personality mean nothing to us, and to Sên King-lo they meant a very
great deal—he had found little to hold him; nothing but pleasant
girlhood and a touch of bitterness that, while he pitied it, did not
attract him. In the garden she had charmed him and simply and solely
because, as he had told her, she for a moment had looked to him less
un-Chinese, or, to coin a fitter word, less dis-Chinese than any not
Oriental woman had before, or than he’d have credited that any could.
She, the tilt of her head, her coloring, a look in her eyes, the
movement of her fine, blue-veined wrist, the jade-green of her
straight-cut gown, the scarlet peppers dangling charm-like at her
breast, the fan-used fern-frond, had made a sudden picture of home to
him. And Sên King-lo was homesick—sometimes very homesick. And if she
had looked to him a little Chinese-like, and he had been grateful to her
for that, what he’d by chance heard her say had quickened his admiration
as no mere beauty of person could have done—and Sên King-lo worshiped
beauty. In that he was true to type. Chinese religions are somewhat a
farce, a convention and not a force, but the Chinese strictly speaking
religionless, are intensely and vitally religious, and they worship but
two gods: ancestors and beauty. The technical gods of China are among
its servants—hewers of wood, drawers of water—engaged often by the
year or the day, treated and paid accordingly, punished when
recalcitrant or slothful, dismissed without a character if too
unsatisfactory. All of which the gods take lying down, and far more like
unto lambs than Chinese servants do, who often make the welkin ring with
their wailing and cursing.

When Ivy Gilbert had inveighed against kissing and being kissed she had
spoken straight to the soul (and the taste) of China, and the Chinese
soul of Sên King-lo had sprung to her in response. Sên King-lo was no
yellow-tinted “plaster saint.” But our Western habit of kissing,
meaninglessly and otherwise, revolted him as much today as it had when
his astonishment and disgust first had observed it. And he had avoided
it—always. Girls, and here and there a wife, here in America, across
the Atlantic, in several capitals—well, Sên King-lo knew that he might
have kissed, if he would. A girl who stayed away from a presumably
pleasant gaiety rather than receive a young hostess’ friendly kiss had
intrigued him. And that charm and approval held when he had found less
than he’d hoped in the girl at supper, and still held. But if she had
interested him less than he her, she had not altogether failed to
interest him, and he had liked her.

He had sent his violets (they’d cost a fraction of what Miss Julia’s
carnations had) with far less thought of further acquaintance than of
gratitude for the picture she’d made—she and her gown and peppers and
fan of fern. For that and for one other reason. Because of the picture
she’d made, and because her name was “Ivy.” He’d heard her called
so—and it had made an oddly strong appeal to him—a Chinese appeal.

He had bought and sent the little offering of fragrant flowers not from
any light or sudden impulse—Sên King-lo very rarely acted on
impulse—but in quiet acknowledgment of a debt; and because her name was
Ivy! Not very usual reasons for the sending of flowers—but then Sên
King-lo was Chinese.

In one thing Lucille had gossiped truly enough. Sên King-lo never had
sent flowers to a girl before. And he had done it this time without
either intention or any flicker of warmth. Just possibly the call of her
youth to his had sent its young, quick message through more than he
realized. Twenty-seven is not omniscient—not even twenty-seven of the
quicker sense and Chinese born. He had known no “girls” of his own race.
The many he’d known of the American and, but more slightly, half a dozen
European races, had sent no message along the nerve wires of his
personality, partly because they had both looked and seemed to him so
utterly foreign, and because they had not seemed to him altogether
girl-like. Miss Gilbert had had a hint of familiar look to him; she had
said a Chinese-like thing—the first thing he’d heard her say—and if
afterwards, she had not whipped his mind into foam and excitement, he
had thought her maidenly.

He had thought and sensed her maidenly. He was twenty-seven. And he was
a man.

And perhaps for this—certainly for something else—his face warmed when
the English girl’s note of thanks—the merest, meaningless line—came to
him on Monday.

Before he read it he saw how much he liked this girl’s writing. No other
people take handwriting so seriously as the Chinese do—put so much into
it, read so much from it. This was round, clear writing, individual and
decided; nothing Spencerian about it—as refreshing as a cup of cold
well-water on a very hot day—in a country where almost all handwritings
were disconcertingly, monotonously alike. It was an attractive
handwriting, and he thought it looked like its writer. It pleased him.
But it was something else that brought a soft flush to his face, a new
look in his eyes.

She had signed it in full:

                                                    “Sincerely,
                                                “Ivy Ruby Gilbert.”

“Ivy _Ruby_! How strange!” he said under his breath. And he stood for a
time at the window looking out at the opposite house, and not seeing it.
Seeing a homestead in China where the hollyhocks and persimmons that
crowded about it were almost as gay as the roof of his birthplace, where
the flamingoes filched coolness from the tiny streamlet where the trout
were pinkest and sweetest—perhaps because of the tang of the citron and
lemon trees that hung over it, and the musk and mint and verbena that
clothed its banks, and the violets his mother had loved best of all
flowers grew in their delicate millions—his girl-mother whom he had
never seen, his mother, at whose grave his father had worshiped until
he’d gone to her “on high,” his mother who had died that his life might
come: a service of motherhood that gives a saintship of its own in
China, where mothers not so set apart are loved by sons as mothers are
nowhere else—a service that lays on a Chinese son a double duty and
joy—and, too, sorrow—of worship and remembrance. His mother had been
fifteen at his birth and her death. And her “milk-name,” the name her
husband always had called her, and called her in his sleep till he went
to her, was “Ruby.”



                              CHAPTER VIII


Ivy Gilbert had a far happier lot than a nursery governess can count on.
But even so she was not quite as happy as it’s good for a girl to be,
and not nearly as happy as she’d have wished to be. There were two
things she greatly craved: personal happiness and travel—travel actual
and social, to go far off the beaten paths, to see new, out-of-the-way
places, to have new, uncommon experiences. She longed for both all the
more and the more persistently because she thought there was very little
chance that either ever would come to her.

She was actively unhappy, when she was, because she had so little to
spend on clothes—it sounds raw and rough put so, but it is put
truly—because she had fewer “good times” than most of the girls she
knew, and (perhaps most of all) because she loathed the, in itself easy,
work she had to do. No work is easy that we both dislike and must do.
Ivy Gilbert was a very inefficient and a very discontented nursery
governess.

In that good-natured society neither her comparative poverty nor her
wage-earning in any way debarred her from such social place and power as
a girl may have. And in America a girl may have much of both.

Washington is an _omnium gatherum_. All conditions of men and women, of
all ages and of most sorts and most races circle about the White House.
But it has its select set—the word “select” is its own, and need not be
analyzed too closely. Ivy had its _entrée_. To the superficial few in
it, who cared for and gaged such things in the wrong way, her undoubted
relation to the British peerage “cut far more ice” than did the fact
that she worked—or was assumed to—for her living; and that she lived
with Sir Charles and Lady Snow and called them “Charlie” and “Emma”
threw a very becoming garniture of ermine over her simple and not always
very new gowns.

To do the girl’s own common sense and practical intelligence but scant
justice, it was not the fact that she worked for a wage that was, she
thought, her cramping detriment, but the shabby fact that she could not
dress on anything approaching a parity with the girls who were her
companions and friends. It was that that galled her. And she did feel
that there was some ignominy in the small drudgery-way in which she
earned her living. A people who boasted Emma Eames and cringed to Hetty
Green could not consistently look too coldly on a girl who earned her
living in a superior, if small, way; especially when every one knew that
Lady Snow’s cousin, Miss Gilbert, could be presented at the Court of St.
James any time she liked, if she were in England and had the price (of
credit) of the train and feathers. And Ivy knew it. But she despised her
own line of thrift—if others did not—perhaps a little because she
followed it so lamely and sourly. Discontent often breeds shame. The
English girl had been kindly treated by kindly Washington—handsomely
treated, even, but she always had felt an outsider.

At home—in London—her own birth and environment had perched her more
or less on a social fence. And in Washington her dress-skimp kept her
so—at least in her own opinion.

Ivy’s maternal grandmother had been the daughter of an earl’s younger
son. Ivy’s father had been a not too successful tutor at one of the
great public schools. An uncle of hers was a bishop—Canterbury itself
not too remote a possibility—another uncle was a wealthy cheesemonger;
a third a briefless barrister. A cousin of her father’s was a bank
manager in Surrey, a cousin of her mother’s owned and ran a rural inn,
and his son a fashionable seaside hotel. She had a score of aristocratic
living kindred, and others that belonged to the lowest middle-class, a
few that were frankly “trade”—and retail trade at that. Her childhood
had been radiant, her girlhood anxious. Mrs. Gilbert had been a woman of
extraordinary ability, as had her elder sister, Mrs. Snow. While Ivy’s
mother lived the wolf that yapped now and then not far from their door
never got nose or paw in. Cora Gilbert could make a delectable _entrée_
out of a bone and a bunch of herbs, a chic hat out of a yard or two of
re-dyed ribbon and a card of safety pins; and she ruled her husband and
ruled him well—and always she had a laugh, a smile and a gay, tender
word for her man and child, and a handsome serviceable umbrella ready
and waiting for the rainy day. But the mother died when the only child
was scarcely fourteen; and then slowly but surely the wolf pushed in.
George Gilbert was devoted and industrious, a rarely delightful
companion—but he lacked the sense of proportion, was devoid of
executive ability, had no mastery of detail, and he had one crass
selfishness, one incurable vice. He lusted for books as its victim lusts
for dope. There was not a second-hand bookshop in Westminster or
Bloomsbury that did not know and welcome him. And before Ivy was sixteen
more than one pawnbroker knew him well. He never borrowed, he never
begged, above all he never grumbled or cringed. But he would buy books,
new books and old books, big books and little, cheap and dear. And not
with one would he ever part. They crowded the little home from
half-basement to attic—and at his death, when Ivy was twenty, their
sale at a shilling-a-volume average brought her more than nine-tenths of
her heritage and the first really good gown she’d bought in six years.
And though she had loved her father both tenderly and ardently, so
aggrievedly had the girl resented the absence of joints and frocks for
which their cost might have paid, that she grudged the sale of none of
them and had kept for remembrance only three or four that he had prized
most; and she had kept even them altogether out of a sense of filial
duty and not in the least because she had cared to keep them.

In England she had never lacked for invitations and cordial welcome. But
what’s the pleasure in that to a dress-fond girl who has next to nothing
to wear? And Ivy Gilbert found more rasp than joy in favors and
entertainment she could in no way return. Her rich and aristocratic
relatives one and all liked her, courted her even. Her charming, dainty
ways; her quick, if not deep wit; her radiant face; her exquisite voice,
more than paid her way—if only she could have realized it—but she did
not. Several of her richer kinswomen banded together to give the girl a
good time—two of them offered her gifts of gowns and ornaments—and one
of them, her godmother, and a spinster, gladly would have “dressed” and
“presented” her. The good times she accepted now and then, but the gifts
she would not have. Riding lessons, a very good saddle-horse and its
keep, she could not resist when her godmother presented them on her
fifteenth birthday; but that was the only breach that generous,
affectionate Lady Kate ever was able to make in the girl’s pride. Pin
money and chiffons, old or new, Ivy would have none. She had inherited
her father’s adamant honesty. She loathed going without, but she would
not sponge.

Friends and relatives of lesser purse and rank reached out towards her
kindness and welcome as ready and cordial. But their simpler lives and
homes attracted her weakly. From some old-time ancestor—perhaps one
whose name she had never heard—Ivy had inherited an inordinate pride of
race, an affinity with luxury and ease. Mayfair seemed to her home;
Balham and West Kensington did not. Her own equivocal social place, the
mixture of gentle and nobody in her veins, tried her sadly. She thought
of herself bitterly as a sort of social mongrel. And she blamed and
despised the grandmother who had refused a duke and married an architect
of minor ability, less success and humble birth. The little leasehold
home in which her father had died—safely settled on his wife at his
wife’s own provident suggestion—became Ivy’s absolute property. She
sold it at once. It little more than sufficed to pay outstanding and
funeral accounts. Fifty odd pounds, a handful of trinkets, a shabby
assortment of clothes she disliked, and her father’s absurd assortment
of books, were all that she had in the world.

But she had no lack of friends—sincere and eager-to-prove-it friends.
Several homes were offered her, and, incidentally, two not quite
desperately ineligible husbands. She refused them all, and set her wits
to work as to how they and she were to earn their living and hers. And
Charles Snow—her mother’s sister’s son—and Emma his wife put their
heads together to outwit Ivy’s. And where others, as ready but less
skilful to befriend, failed the Snows succeeded—measurably.

They offered her a three years’ (and probably more) engagement in
Washington and two hundred pounds a year. Ivy mocked and accepted. But
she insisted upon naming her own wage—and from that determination
nothing would budge her. “You shall pay me one hundred a year,” she told
her cousin Charles, “and that is about three hundred more than I’ll be
worth. I can’t dress, as a member of Emma’s family must be dressed, on a
penny less; so you shall give me five fivers four times a year. I shan’t
teach the children anything, of course—but they’ll be none the worse
for that for a year or two. But I can mend and make for them—all but
their smartest things, see that their faces are washed, keep them from
falling into the fire or out of the windows, and, just perhaps, be
useful to Emma now and then, and give you the pleasure of keeping me out
of the wind and the rain. It’s good of you, Charles, and it’s more than
good of Emma. And I won’t slap them—though I shall want to every day of
my life. When do we start?”

They sailed in less than a month. The three years were more than half
gone now, but none of them considered it a possibility that she ever
would leave them except to go to a home of her own. Lady Snow hoped and
planned that Ivy would marry, and Ivy herself frankly hoped so also. But
as yet it had not been indicated to whom. She did her best to earn her
hundred a year, and she had succeeded better than she knew: for both
husband and wife had found her presence a help and a pleasure. She did
indeed teach Blanche and Dick very little, and good-natured Emma rarely
would let her do any needlework for them; but she kept them English, and
she did both her cousins the hundred services that a younger sister
might have done. She loved them both and she earned the love they both
gave her. She shared Lady Snow’s pleasures, as far as a dress allowance
of a hundred pounds a year enabled her to do without too stinging a
flaunt of poverty. But five hundred dollars and an inherited deftness of
eyes, fingers and taste did not go far towards adequate dressing in
Washington’s smartest set. And she felt herself a godmotherless,
pumpkinless Cinderella; and she loathed it by day—and dreamed by night
of—glass slippers.

Lady Snow would have “loved” to dress her young cousin; but did not dare
even suggest it.

Miss Townsend’s warm friendship had been both a personal boon and a
social asset to the not-too-contented English girl. It stood for a great
deal in Washington. The half-aristocrat in the girl thrilled and was
grateful to the entire aristocrat of the old Southern woman.

But it was not enough. She envied other girls—not what they were, but
what they had—and, because of what they had, where they might
untrammeled go, what they might untrammeled do. She realized how
generously and gladly good her cousins were to her. But she felt that a
degrading smirch of “service” clung to her, as the smirch of restricted
means clung to her garments. “I Serve” was not Ivy Gilbert’s motto,
and—because of the plebeian strain in her veins—she had no sense that
of all mottoes it is the highest and proudest. She felt her life dull.
She was ripe for adventure.

Sên King-lo’s violets had done more to reëstablish her in her own raw
esteem than all Miss Julia Townsend’s warm friendship. From resenting
those innocent violets, she abruptly came to value them _because_ two
feather-headed girls with great purses at their service had so envied
her them. Sên King-lo—a _Chinese_—had put her on her feet. Her
attitude to him was not altered, not modified. But she was girlishly, if
cheaply, elated to have what other girls wished for and schemed for and
couldn’t get. She did not place the violets more conspicuously in her
room when she went down to it, it never occurred to her to tuck a few of
them in her belt when she changed for dinner. But she threw them a
kindlier glance as she tidied her hair. Perhaps she ought to say some
sort of “thank you.” And the next day, after church, she did. She wrote
Mr. Sên a note. She wrote merely:

    Dear Mr. Sên King-lo:

    How kind of you to remember—with such violets—our meeting at
    Miss Townsend’s. Thank you for them.

                                                 Yours sincerely,
                                                     I. R. Gilbert.

It looked wrong, she thought, as she scanned it. And after a little
consideration she rewrote it—leaving out the word “Yours,” and writing
her Christian names in full. The initials had looked curt. One didn’t
say “Thank you” curtly—if one said it at all.

She posted the note herself when she took Blanche and Dick for their
Sunday afternoon stroll.

She wondered if he’d reply to her note, and ask if he might call. She
hoped not. But she’d not mind Lucille and Molly knowing it—if he did.

Sên King-lo did neither. She met him again at the Ludlows’. He did not
ask her to dance—though he danced several times. She was sincerely
grateful that he did not. But he sought her out, thanked her for her
kindness in writing—and in accepting—his posy, and chatted on until a
partner claimed her.

She noticed that Mr. Sên danced exceedingly well and that his evening
clothes suited him.



                               CHAPTER IX


“Charlie,” Lady Snow said to her husband, almost a month later at
dinner, “I made a new acquaintance today at Mrs. Ransome’s, and—I don’t
know what you’ll say—I asked him to call.”

“You usually do, don’t you?” Sir Charles commented. “Why should I waste
words over so invariable a habit, my dear?”

“I certainly like to know people—what else is there for me to do with
you shut up all day over your silly papers?”

“I do not doubt you would find them so,” Sir Charles admitted dryly.

“We both were lunching there. I found him interesting—different somehow
from any one I know. My new acquaintance is a man, did I say?”

“Quite unnecessary—but you did.”

Emma Snow laughed. She plumed herself on her “affairs,” and lived in
desperate hope that some day one of them would attract her husband’s
attention sufficiently to wean him a little from his dense absorption in
the “silly business” his country paid him to attend to—and incidentally
had knighted him that he might do it the more effectively in a country
that proclaimed its scorn of all such fictitious honors, but at the same
time received them with very marked favor and attention.

Sir Charles went stolidly and attentively on with his very good dinner.
His wife raised her eyebrows—and led trumps—at least she hoped that it
would prove she had.

“A perfectly charming Chinaman, Charlie.”

But Sir Charles neither dropped his knife nor spilled his claret.

“Most of them are,” he told her. “This canvas-back is a great
improvement on those we had last week. But the sauce needs a dash more
cayenne and more than a dash more lemon.”

“Do you like the Chinese?” Ivy asked him quickly.

“Very much,” he replied. “Every one does who _knows_ them. They’re the
salt of the Eastern earth.”

“Have you known many Chinamen—well?” Reginald Hamilton asked his host a
little superciliously.

“I lived ten years among them,” Snow replied curtly. “I was sent to
Pekin when they first let me pass my Civil Service Exam. And I wish
they’d left me there. But after ten years—for my sins—they promoted
me—to Geneva! Yes, I have known many Chinese—some of them fairly well.
The more you know them, the better you like them: bound to. By the way,
Emma, ‘Chinese’ is a better word, more descriptive, I think, and better
taste than ‘Chinaman.’ There is one Chinese in Washington I very much
want to get on easy terms with.”

“To Scotland Yard special-branch him?” his wife quizzed him.

“Never mind that part,” her husband retorted.

“Mr. Sên told me—” Lady Snow began, but she never finished her
sentence.

“Was it Sên King-lo you met at Judge Ransome’s?” her husband demanded,
putting his glass down untasted. Emma Snow had aroused her husband’s
attention at last—very much so.

“Yes—it was,” she announced importantly, “Mr. Sên King-lo. I asked him
to call.”

“Good!” said Sir Charles heartily. “I hope he does.”

“Sure to. He promised,” Emma Snow said confidently. Charles had not
taken her small news as she’d intended him to, and had hoped that he
would. But she was gratified at the mild excitement she’d caused. She’d
hoped Charles would be annoyed—but, since he was not, it was the next
best thing that he was pleased. It was his indifference that
rankled—and indifference was his constant everyday wear.

“He’ll leave his card—some day when he knows you’re out,” their guest
observed. “It is one of his affectations. He’s a bit of a jackanapes, if
you ask me.” No one had, or had thought of doing so. “And he usually
does. It has gone to his chink head the way he’s run after in
Washington, D. C.”

Sir Charles Snow crumbled his bread viciously, but he took no other
notice, for Reginald de Courcy Seymour Hamilton _was_ their
guest—though what possessed Emma to tolerate the fellow, let alone
invite him, was more than he could understand.

Lady Snow had her reasons. They were not ungenerous ones—and they were
distinctly feminine.

“By the way, Ivy,” she said, “you met Mr. Sên at Miss Townsend’s, he
told me.”

“How did you like him, Miss Gilbert?” Hamilton spoke before the girl
could answer her cousin.

“Miss Townsend likes him immensely,” Ivy replied. “I have only met him
twice—very casually.”

“Cracked, isn’t she?” Hamilton said pleasantly. “Haven’t met her,
though, myself.”

“And are never likely to,” Sir Charles and his cousin said promptly—to
themselves.

“But, by George, he sent you flowers though, didn’t he? I heard so. I’d
forgotten that. Perhaps he will call when you are at home after all,
Lady Snow. I’d live in hopes,” Hamilton said in a tone that made Sir
Charles Snow’s right foot tingle. But Emma Snow had little attention to
waste on any one but Ivy now.

“Sent you flowers, Ivy?” she cried excitedly. “You never told me. When?”

“I don’t put _every_ nothing in my diary,” Ivy said indifferently, not
troubling to lift her eyes from her plate.

“But did he?” Emma Snow insisted.

Her cousin smiled coldly. She was furious at Reginald Hamilton; she
didn’t know why.

“Did Mr. Sên send you flowers, Ivy?” Sir Charles asked.

The girl looked up then, looked at him in surprise. The question was
unlike Charles Snow.

She had ignored Emma—had been on the point of saying, “Why not get any
details you’d like from Mr. Hamilton? He seems particularly well
informed.” But she would not put her cousin Charles off, or answer him
flippantly—she liked him far too well.

“Yes,” she told Sir Charles, quietly. “Mr. Sên sent me a handful of
violets one day. They were beautiful violets.”

“I wish I’d known that!” was Snow’s astonishing comment.

“Whyever why?” his wife cried.

“Have you, as well as Japan, designs on Shantung, Charlie?” Ivy
demanded, with a laugh into his eyes.

“Heaven help us!” the knight retorted. “Who’d have thought you’d ever
heard of Shantung. I wouldn’t for one. That _is_ a development! Are you
thinking of standing for Parliament, Ivy, when we go home? Or of
investing in a Cook’s ticket to the grave of Confucius?”

Sir Charles meant nothing by that, and Ivy Gilbert took nothing personal
from it. Indeed, she did not know where Confucius was buried. A number
of people in Christendom do not. And yet few bits of earth so small have
wrought more of human history, human letters, human thought. And the
centuries to come and the peoples of the future yet may veer and swing
to that pivot, a crystal-tree-guarded grave in Kuifu.

Reginald Hamilton certainly did not know where the bones of the old Sage
took their long rest. But he shot a look of impudent question at the
English girl. She did not see it, fortunately; nor did Sir Charles. But
Lady Snow did. And she wished they’d change the subject.

“I am not,” Ivy told her cousin. “Neither. I teach your children
geography!” she reminded him with nipping coldness.

“_Do you?_” he shot back at her. “You surprise me more and more. Emma,”
he turned to his wife and said, not jokingly, “I think, if I were you,
I’d write Sên King-lo a note—see that you get his name right—I’ll show
you how to write it—and ask him to dinner. I wish you would.”

“Of course I will, dear.” The wife was delighted. Charlie did not often
back up her social activities, or much care who came to dinner or who
did not, so long as his dinner was good and he was not expected to
interrupt it with too much small talk, though he certainly preferred the
did-nots to the dids. Lady Snow was very pleased.

Ivy Gilbert was not.

“I think,” she said clearly, “I’d wait first, and see if Mr. Sên did
call, Emma.”

Husband and wife looked at her in blank surprise, and they crossed a
question to each other’s eyes. Never before had any one heard Ivy
Gilbert veto any wish or command of her cousin Charles.

“He promised to call,” Emma Snow said haltingly.

“Then he will call!” Sir Charles pronounced. “A Chinese word is the best
bond on earth. I’d take it before A-1 at Lloyd’s any day of the week.”

Reginald Hamilton said nothing—though his big black-brown eyes sulked,
and, to Lady Snow’s relief, the subject did drop then.

Reginald de Courcy Seymour Hamilton sounds an English (not to say
aristocratic) name—but it wasn’t. At least its supporter was neither.
He did not even hail from Boston or—to drop down the social and
intellectual ladder very far—not even from New York. San Francisco
could not claim him, and New Orleans would not have owned him. He had
been born in Chicago and still ornamented that village-city of
inordinate mixtures when he was at home. What he was doing in Washington
nobody knew, unless he did, which was improbable—for no one had ever
known him to do anything anywhere except to take the very greatest care
of his person and clothes, and to spend as much money as he could
contrive to wrench from relatives—and others. He was very handsome; a
little too plump, a little too smiling; but undeniably handsome, and his
clothes were many, costly and very beautiful. He spoke with what he
flattered himself (or perhaps one should say flattered it) was an
English accent—when he remembered to do so—which was a matter of fits
and starts, that made the prettiest patchwork of his speech. A sentence
that started off with the broadest of _a’s_ often ended off with a few
pronounced as the alphabet’s first letter is in _rain_ and in _bank_. No
one had ever seen him without a flower in his coat—except at
funerals—and oftenest it was an orchid. There was little harm in the
fellow—unless intense love and over-valuation of self be evil. The
worst thing about him was his parents. That is true of many of us. He
hadn’t a penny capital—of his own—but he had a sybarite income (though
it fluctuated) and large prospects.

His father was a sensational Baptist clergyman who had made, and
contrived to hold, a meteoric “hit” in Chicago. Chicago likes
character—even pseudo-character. Of the latter the Rev. Joseph Hamilton
had and to spare. There were Chicagoans who thought him an abomination,
some who held him both a fraud and a nuisance, many who thought him a
joke—and Chicago loves its joke. But his congregation adored him—more
than perhaps men should a man—a congregation of shrewd business
folk—wealthy, most of them, many of them with heads as hard as the
shell of their adamant creed. To catch and _to keep_ the affection and
the respect of such men would seem an accomplishment of nothing less
than genius. If that is true, Mr. Joseph Hamilton had a touch of
genius—of a sort. He was as thin as Reginald de Courcy Seymour promised
to be plump. His voice was as sharp and hard as Reggie’s was soft and
creamy. His delivery was wonderful—more “dramatic” than would have been
tolerated on the Surrey side of the London stage. He fancied his
sermons. And those who carped at their quality could not gainsay their
quantity. He fancied his “letters” even more. His people gloated over
both. Old men who had burned and shivered over night at his diatribes,
went downstairs in their pyjamas (or more old-fashioned sleeping
raiment) on Monday morning to snatch the _Times_, _Inter-Ocean_ or
_Tribune_ before any one else could, and to reread the wonderful
discourse before they shaved and descended to cornbeef hash or
fish-cakes or spareribs and buckwheat cakes and maple syrup. He had been
convicted of plagiarism more than once. His congregation didn’t accept
the proven fact. Gage him, sum him up any way you will, he must have had
magnetism—a magnetism that only some felt—others it repelled. The wife
of his bosom (the word is but a figure of speech—they both were more
than flat-chested, each was concave-breasted—Mrs. Hamilton the more so.
She scooped in alarmingly, for her hips were wide and her bones were
big, and she did not pad. She was far too proud and far too moral to do
that) was less popular than her husband—even in their own church.
Beyond it she was little known and less courted than known.

Mr. Hamilton earned—that is, received—a very large salary, and earned
almost as much more with his pen, or, as some nastily said, the pens of
others, and not a little by lecturing and publication in book form of
both sermons and lectures. Mrs. Hamilton had a very rich and not
ungenerous bachelor brother, a Chicago publisher, a straightforward,
sterling man who _had_ ability, if you like, for his country
school-going had been brief and scant, and from a business start as
clerk at two dollars a week in a Peoria bookstore he now was secure in a
fortune of seven figures. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton had two
children—Reginald and Emmeline—and no one made any doubt—unless the
millionaire publisher did—that Reginald and Emmeline Hamilton would
prove their uncle’s sole heirs. Certainly it never occurred to his
sister that her brother might rob them by leaving anything to her over
their dear heads. The Hamiltons were devoted to their children and
admired them intensely. To be fair, both Emmeline and Reggie loved their
parents very much, and were proud of their father.

Reginald Hamilton did not intend to “hang about waiting” for his uncle’s
fortune. He intended to amass any number of solid gold flecks of it as
he went along, but he had no mind to wait for dead men’s shoes. From
very youthful days he had determined to marry (and manage) a great deal
of money. The lady must be beautiful, accomplished, highly
connected—that above all—but she also should be really wealthy.

And that was what the younger Hamilton was doing in Washington. An
English girl with a courtesy title he rather fancied, or a Countess, or
Princess of one of the old Greek or Latin families. “Mr. Reginald de
Courcy Seymour and Lady Edith Hamilton,” that would stir Chicago, he
thought. And so it certainly would! Reggie was no renegade—he liked
Washington, he liked to twinkle in the capital, he intended to “do”
Europe, and to do it in luxury and elegance, but he had no other thought
than to shine permanently in Chicago. His determination to select—he
had only to select—a rich and aristocratic wife never wavered or
slacked until he fell in love with a penniless nursery governess, whose
own family tree was as variegated as a Cheyenne dance-hall.

That he had fallen in love with Ivy Gilbert he as yet only half
suspected. But Emma Snow knew it perfectly, she knew all about his rich
uncle Silas, and in her British innocence she supposed that Reginald had
a solid bank account of his own. And hence her welcoming and more of
young Hamilton that had so puzzled her, in some things, dense-pated
husband.



                               CHAPTER X


Sên King-lo called upon Lady Snow, called when she was at home, two days
after the night that Reginald Hamilton had caused Sir Charles’ right
foot to tingle and twitch under the dinner table.

And a week later Sên King-lo dined with the Snows. Again they, at
dinner, were a cosy party of four. Lady Snow had wished to make the
occasion a function, but Sir Charles had asked her to do nothing of the
sort. And he had asked Ivy to make a point of dining at home that night.
Neither woman thought of refusing to do as he asked. They both loved him
too well—and his requests were too infrequent to be resented or
callously disregarded. And Ivy was unaffectedly indifferent whether she
dined at home that night or not. If she had dined almost tête-à-tête
with Mr. Sên King-lo at Rosehill, she could do so at Emma’s. And that
Charles had spoken as he had of the Chinese had made more impression on
her than Miss Julia’s warm laudation of Mr. Sên had. Charles was a man.
He had lived in China. He reasoned and thought. Miss Julia was only a
woman, and felt more than she reasoned—“guessed” more than she knew.

“I shall make a ‘grand toilet,’ even if Charlie won’t let me make it a
grand dinner party,” Emma Snow told her cousin, as she gouged her spoon
into her breakfast grapefruit. “You can dress as much or as little as
you like, Ivy. Mr. Sên will scarcely expect an unmarried girl to be
gorgeous.”

“After several Washington seasons!” Sir Charles said dryly. “Dress as
much or as little as you like—both you girls—so long as you don’t
undress too much. That always puts a Chinese off—even one who knows
that with us it merely is virtue unabashed.”

“Don’t _you_ be indecent,” his wife cried sharply. “I’m sure my gowns
never are.”

“I don’t see that yellow thing you wore on Tuesday taking a prize at a
Quaker meeting-house,” her husband retorted quietly.

Emma dimpled. So Charlie had noticed a gown of hers for once!

“Wear something friendly looking, something home-like, as fine as you
like, but nothing of the fireworks order, to put a man off his food. And
_be_ friendly. That’s all I ask.”

The two women stared in surprise.

“Perhaps you’d like to look through my rags, and tell Justine which to
lay out for tonight?”

“It might not be a bad idea,” Snow replied.

“Well!” Lady Snow gasped. “Would you like me to have a few Chinese flags
in the drawing-room?” she demanded. “And the table decorated with red
fire-crackers?”

“I would not!” she was told. “For the love of Mike, be good tonight,
Em!”

“I wish I knew why you care so much,” she pouted.

“My dear,” he assured her, “you wouldn’t understand a word, if I told
you all about it. But I have my reasons, of course. I want Sên King-lo
to feel at home here. And I want him to come again.”

“Silly old politics!” the wife said scornfully. But her eyes danced.
Probably Charlie would let it be a big dinner-party next time.

“Precisely!” Sir Charles confirmed. “Silly old politics.”

It took Ivy Gilbert longer than usual to dress for dinner that night.
She had so few evening gowns that it took quite a time to decide which
she would wear. The white, she thought at first, because the
self-satisfied Asiatic had said how little he cared to see women wear
white. But no, that would pay him too much attention; and, after all,
she was not dressing for Sên King-lo, she was dressing for Charlie. The
green georgette was out of the question. It was very much the color of
that linen thing she’d worn at Miss Julia’s, and to repeat the color
he’d proclaimed Chinese might indeed seem to pay him too much attention.
It would have to be the gray or the red then. The gray was prettiest.
The red suited her best and was freshest.

She hurried her hair, and glanced at the clock. Heavens! how late it
was! That decided it. It would have to be the red. The gray took at
least fifteen minutes and the loan of Justine to get into properly. She
could dash into the red in no time at all—just over your head and it
went on by itself. She dashed into the red, caught up an ornament or two
that suited it—a couple of garnet bangles the children had given her on
her last birthday—and two inexpensive but picturesque hair ornaments,
and ran down the stairs, wishing she’d thought to find out what Emma had
decided to wear—not pink, she devoutly hoped. Emma wore pink oftener
than she did anything else, and this red thing of hers and any one of
Emma’s half-dozen pinks simply would squeal at each other—ran down the
stairs, and almost ran into the arms of Sên King-lo: a small social
catastrophe his presence of mind courteously avoided. But it had been a
very near thing.

They went into the drawing-room together; he quite at ease; a small
flame in each of her cheeks, brought there by an odd smile that had
crossed his face as he saw her in the well-lit hall.

The English girl did not know that the vivid red of her new evening gown
was the exact shade that every Chinese bride wears. And it was some
months later that Sên King-lo told her so.



                               CHAPTER XI


When changing for dinner Ivy—a little cross from an unusually hot
schoolroom friction—had thought to herself, “It will be a sort of
lantern lecture on China—a lantern lecture with the slides left out, I
suppose. I wish Charles hadn’t made a point of my dining. Lucille would
have jumped at coming, and Emmeline Hamilton would have groveled to Emma
for the chance.”

But China was not mentioned at dinner. And long before the sweets Miss
Gilbert had forgotten that her cousin’s guest was not as European as
they three. His quiet repose was more English than Reginald Hamilton’s
broad vowels—and so were his manners. And she began to realize why Miss
Julia so liked Mr. Sên, and why Sir Charles had so welcomed him. He was
a sunny, considerate companion, as free from “side” as he was from
servility. He talked most to Lady Snow, of course, but he glanced
oftener and longer at her cousin; and his hostess saw that he did.

Sên King-lo thought the girl friendlier and more interesting than she
had been before, and he thought that tonight she looked almost more
Chinese than she had done at Rosehill. The rings of garnet and enamel
that dangled in her dark hair, and moved with her head, had more than a
look of stick-pins, and her dark eyes almost were almond-shaped. He
liked that stick-pin look, and the gentle constant movement in the
girl’s dark hair. But he made no mistake. He knew it as accidental as
the bride-red dress she wore tonight, or the jade-green and the dangling
pepper baubles had been. Of a race that sees little of women who are not
belongings, or detrimentals, or peasants, yet Sên made few misjudgments
of women. He knew why Miss Hamilton wore peacock feathers and dragon
embroideries and Japanese jewelry that she believed Chinese, and—like
half the girls in Washington just now—clattered as she walked, with the
noise of bangles she believed to be jade. But he sensed that this girl
was virginal, had dignity, and thought her own the super-race; all three
qualities which he liked. He did not agree with her as to which was the
super-race. But he liked her for her own conviction; he thought it a
womanliness.

The table-talk was general, of course—only the four at the small round
table—and it was most of it impersonal. But it was interesting talk,
Ivy thought, and she rose a little reluctantly when Lady Snow rose. Ivy
was sorry that dinner was over.

Sir Charles Snow was not. “Don’t expect us in the drawing-room quite as
soon as is best politeness,” he told his wife. “I particularly want to
pick Mr. Sên King-lo’s brains, and a secret or two, if it can be done.”

Sên King-lo’s eyes sparkled good-humoredly. “I shall try to be picked
very swiftly,” he said to the girl as she followed Lady Snow through the
door he held. “To Hecuba, Sir Charles,” he bade his host as they
reseated themselves. “My brains are at your service, and my secrets too,
if I’ve any that are mine only—but I’m afraid I haven’t.”

“I lived in China a number of years,” Snow said, pouring the port, “as
you probably did not know.”

Sên laughed. “But, of course, I did. We have a list—a fairly accurate
list, I fancy—at the ‘shop’ of every official, and of every one else
worth watching, in Washington now, who has been in our country, or has
interests there.”

“To be sure! I might have known that. But, I don’t suppose you know
anything about what I did in China—it wasn’t much, and you were the
merest child then, still smelling of your mother’s milk.”

The Chinese face quickened at the other’s use of a Chinese saying. Then
it grew graver, and Sên said a little sadly:

“We have to grow old rapidly now, we Chinese who love our country, and
wish to serve her. I know what year you landed in China, what boat you
took there, how long you stayed, much of what you did, where you lived
and went most of the time, who many of your Chinese friends were. And
that was one reason—only one—why I was so particularly pleased when I
received Lady Snow’s note, kindly saying that I might dine with her and
make your acquaintance—for I don’t suppose we count as acquaintance the
few k’o-tow nods we’ve exchanged at your ‘shop’ and mine.”

“No—precisely,” Snow agreed. “Well—as you know then, I must try not to
feel too flattered by what is purely a bit of detail work of a
painstaking patriotism, you know that I have lived in China all told
quite a lump of moons——”

“A year and seven weeks longer than I have myself—all told.”

“By Jove! You have been exiled as much as that?”

“Yes,” the Chinese said gravely.

“Well, Mr. Sên, a man knows his own country better—certainly more
naturally—than any foreigner can. But you and I know that the old myth
that no European can know anything very vital about China, or the
Chinese, or understand either at all, is untrue.”

Sên King-lo nodded and smiled across the cigarette he was lighting.
“Tommy-rot,” he said.

“Parkes knew China—quite a good deal about you—and Hart did, and
Macartney.”

Sên King-lo nodded again.

“And there have been others.”

“And there have been others,” Sên King-lo said. “And there are now—a
few. We need more.”

“I hope you’ll get them,” the host said cordially. “But if you don’t, I
expect you’ll make shift without them.”

“I hope so,” Sên replied. “But it will take longer to accomplish what we
must.”

“Much longer,” Snow added. “Next to my own country and people, I like
and admire _and trust_ yours, Mr. Sên.”

The Chinese lifted his glass. “And next to my own country and my own
countrymen, I like and admire and trust yours, sir,” he said, and drank.

“When the Manchu fell,” Snow began when he, too, had tasted his
port,—“frankly I wish they had not——”

Sên King-lo smiled. “We all regret—some more, some less—that they had
to, all of us who love self less and China more, I think. But it had to
come.”

“Possibly,” the other conceded. “I don’t own that I see it. But we need
not quarrel over that.”

“_We_ shall not quarrel over anything,” Sên said simply.

“No, I don’t think we shall. Well—I hope that the Manchu may come
back.”

“Why?” Sên King-lo asked.

“Best dynasty you ever had. And I don’t like republics. Don’t believe in
them. And for an Oriental people—well, in my opinion they smell to
heaven.”

Sên King-lo laughed. “Do you think the Manchu was a good dynasty in its
last reigns?” he questioned.

“I do,” Snow said stoutly. “It gave you the two finest rulers any
country ever had—any country, bar none.”

“You mean K’ang-hi and K’ien-lung.”

“I do.”

Sên King-lo smiled again, but he drained the glass Sir Charles had
refilled.

“Twenty Sun-Yat-sens would not out-balance either K’ang-hi or
K’ien-lung. And I hope the Manchu will come back. And I don’t like
dethronements.”

“We’ve had a good many in China.”

“Not exactly. Conquering princes and warriors have mounted, usurped, if
you like, the throne of the Emperor they’ve unseated—but that’s a very
different thing from a people voluntarily dismissing their ruler. And
when they do it at foreign instigation and chicanery—to my mind it is
without excuse.”

“Mencius taught ‘Killing a bad monarch is no murder,’ ” Sên remarked.

“Then Mencius was, to my thinking, a bit of a Bolshevik,” Snow retorted.

Sên King-lo laughed pleasantly. That he did—at such hot derision of the
Sage, showed how tight Young China had gripped him, how far Old China
had lost him.

“I hate to see China a republic,” Snow insisted. “And I stand by the
Manchu. You will dislike my saying that——”

“And that is why you say it.”

“Exactly. I want to start fair.”

“So I thought, Sir Charles. But I do not dislike your saying it, or even
your feeling so. I think you are wrong,” Sên King-lo inclined his head
courteously towards the older and host, “but if a man himself is
thoroughly sound, I don’t think that it matters very desperately what
views he holds. I believe that neither an incorruptible man, nor any
views he has, will do himself or any one else much harm. For our weal or
our woe, the Manchu _has_ gone—for a time, or for ever—and we, we
Chinese, must do the best we can for our country, with things as they
are. And we can’t very well import an Emperor made in Germany.”

“God forbid! But you could choose one of your _own_.”

“Would you have us crown Sun-Yat-sen?”

“That’s the last thing I’d have you do,” Snow retorted grimly. “But
there are _men_—good men, in China.”

“Yes,” Sên King-lo agreed, noncommittally. “You have started splendidly
fair,” he added with a pleasant grin, “and now you wish to ask me
something?”

“Yes; that was why I wouldn’t let my wife have half Washington here
tonight. I wanted a chance to talk with you alone—to find out several
things from you, if I could. You won’t tell me, of course. Your Minister
won’t, and you, of course, cannot and should not; but I might gather
something from the way your reticence shaped—I’m an old hand, you
know.”

The young Chinese laughed gleefully. He liked this Englishman.

“Shantung?” he asked, gravely.

“No—not Shantung. I know what you and every decent Chinese wish and
plan and hope concerning the sacred province. I wish it too, Sên
King-lo.”

“Thank you,” Sên said quietly.

“I’d like to know, if I might, how you—you individually—believe that
China’s regeneration may best be brought about. You’ll pardon me the
word?”

“I use it myself,” Sên said gravely. “I believe that the foundation of
China’s new strength and health must be financial. Her greatest and
sharpest peril is financial—most specifically from her use of foreign
money, and from foreign financiers’ misdealings with her. That is why I
am keeping so long an exile, Sir Charles. I am studying European and
American banking methods.”

“May I ask to what end?” Snow’s face was aglow.

“We—many who think as I do—are earnestly anxious to see every bank in
China entirely in Chinese hands; entirely, adequately, exclusively
capitalized by Chinese money and securities.”

“By God!” The table rang under the blow of the Englishman’s hand.
“You’ve got the right end of the stick. By the holy Harry, you have!
Accomplish that, and you’ll accomplish everything.”

“So we think.”

The two men smoked in silence for several moments. Then Sir Charles
spoke quietly.

“I wonder if you know what my Chinese holdings are?”

“Almost to a yen, I fancy. I certainly know that you are a rich man in
China. And, too, that you never have parted with a Chinese security,
except to buy another, even in our country’s darkest hours.”

“I never have. I never shall. Yes, I’ve a good deal salted down in
China—a great deal more than I’d like Lady Snow to know. She has a rare
taste in diamonds and no mean liking for lace and other chiffons.”

Sên’s eyes twinkled. “I’ll betray no yâmen secrets, Sir Charles,” he
promised.

Snow waved that aside. He knew that. Nor did he think it worth while to
remark that no confidence of Sên King-lo’s would ever be even impinged
on by him. He was right; it was not necessary. They understood each
other.

“You want only Chinese capital in the banks of China, and no control
that is not Chinese.”

“None; neither a yen nor a man; Chinese capital and Chinese shareholders
only, and Chinese management and service, from the managers to the
‘boys’ at the doors and the coolies who clean.”

“Precisely—but I daresay you’ll accept foreign depositors well
accredited and sifted, and foreign customers?”

“Of course. Every civilized banker accepts any good account that is not
an enemy account, and buys and sells to any who can pay his charges.
We’ve no scheme to run freak banks. The heyday of the freak is waning.”

“I hope so,” Snow said—but with a touch of dubiousness.

“But we—we’ll accept foreign accounts, not court them. It is Chinese
money, Chinese-owned, that we shall aim to attract.”

“Such a Rome will not be built in a day,” the Englishman told him.

“Nor in too few years,” Sên agreed.

“I’d like to be among your first depositors,” Snow said slowly. “I’ll
tell you what I am going to do, Sên King-lo; I’m going to hold all I
have in China at your disposal. I’ll throw it in as securities—I’ll
float it into cash, and deposit it _en bloc_, when your national banks
are ready—and I’ll deposit as well the interest you pay me—we’ll
_call_ it a ninety days’ deposit—say until Dick, my youngster, is
thirty; that gives you a fairly good run, if you get your shutters up
pretty soon—and I’ll bind myself and my estate to make no withdrawal,
little or big, after that, without giving you very long notice, and, as
well, I’ll hedge you well about against my doing so—or my heirs—at any
time of special inconvenience to the bank. All I’ve got will be just a
drop in the bank bucket, of course, but even drops come in handy in
times of drought. My Chinese holdings are at China’s service. And the
execution of a good, all-Chinese banking scheme would be the best
service of China I can think of. I’ll do a bit more than that: I will
sell you—your bankers or your nominee or nominees—any or all holdings
of mine in your country, and sell at a minimum price, whenever you feel
that you are strong enough to stand alone—and see us get out. I’d like
to be one of the first to get in—into your banks, and I’d like to be
the last European to get out. But I’ll hold myself pledged to go when
you say, ‘Go.’ ”

“I wish you owned Shantung,” Sên King-lo said tersely.

“I wish I did!” Snow replied. “In the meantime,” he continued, “if you
care to avail yourself of a little foreign capital, during the expensive
and more or less experimental preliminary months or years, I’d be glad
to have you use mine. It’s at your service.”

The Chinese are said to be unemotional. It is not true. The upper
classes—at least the men—carry self-control to an obsession, and have
made it a fine art; but high or low, there are no stolid Chinese. To a
man their emotions are quick and extreme.

Sên King-lo made no reply. He looked both imperturbable and nonchalant,
sitting easily there in his perfect Western attire, carelessly turning a
cigarette in his fine yellow fingers, his eyes on the tiny cylinder with
which he toyed. His face did not change in any way. But he did not look
up—because his eyes were a trifle humid.

“You offer to take a large risk,” he said at last, “a very unusual risk.
You know nothing of me. And what if the Manchu, or some other dynasty,
did come back? We are scheming and looking towards a republican national
bank. Had you thought of that?”

“Of course I had,” Snow asserted. “It is up to China to decide her own
affairs. I’d like to see the Manchu back, but I’m not in any way out for
it. If you enjoy your Republic—well, it’s up to you. On the other hand,
if the Manchu _should_ come back, they’d destroy no good thing that you
or any one else had done for their country. It isn’t their way. They
might make you grow a few queues—but their revenge wouldn’t go much
further than that, I’m thinking. And, as for my not knowing you, don’t
be too sure. We have an Intelligence Department also, however pigmy it
may be compared to yours. But, frankly, no, I do not know much of you.
You are a youngster. Whitehall has not got its eye on you—yet. May
never have. I do not know you. But I claim to know your race and your
caste.”

“We have no castes in China.”

“Nonsense; there is caste everywhere—from Patagonia to Greenland.
And—I know your family. I knew your father slightly. I knew one of his
brothers better. I knew Sên Wang Yat very well indeed—your father’s
second cousin, wasn’t he? I do not need to know you. I know the Sêns.”

“Thank you,” the guest said quietly. But he looked up now, and his face
was not expressionless. “But—it is extraordinary—what you offer. I
wonder why!”

“And you’d like to know! I believe in China’s future. I believe your
bank idea is sound—the soundest! I am fond of China. I like your
people. Those are four of my reasons. I have one other—a sentimental
reason. Some day—just possibly—” He broke off and struck a match.

Sên showed neither surprise nor curiosity. He felt neither. That a
diplomat and, as he knew, also a keen politician, should prove to be,
too, an idealist, was not very common, but as he knew as well, it was
not particularly rare.

He liked Snow none the less for it. All Chinese are idealists.

That this man “wanted something” in return never entered Sên’s mind. He
was not a bad judge of men.

“I was anxious to have you here, rather _en famille_, because I wished
to learn, if I could—even a hint or two—several things that I’ve no
doubt you know. Well, I am not going to pump you tonight, but I hope
you’ll come and see us as often and as informally—just drop in, you
know—as often as it does not bore you. I hope it, no matter how
completely I fail to make the pump work.”

“It will not bore me,” Sên told him. “It will delight me, if Lady
Snow—and Miss Gilbert—will allow me.”

“Oh, that’s all right—shall we go to them now? You’re a great success
with the ladies, I’ve heard it whispered.”

Sên King-lo made a merry and contemptuous shrug as he rose. “Yes,” he
said, as he opened the door for his host—Old China had not lost him
quite!—“Yes—I am quite the fashion.”

“I was almost asleep,” Lady Snow asserted with a pretty combination of
yawn and grumble, as the two men came in. “Come, wake me thoroughly up,
Mr. Sên.”

“With pleasure,” he told her.

She made a pretty picture, her husband thought, in her draperies of
peacock-blue and apple-green—how much had _they_ cost? he wondered
indulgently—and a discreet swarm of about half her second best
diamonds—he knew perfectly well what they had cost. And Sên King-lo
proceeded to amuse her gaily and devotedly. But she saw his eyes sweep
the room.

“Where’s Ivy?” Snow demanded.

“Coming back,” his wife told him. “She said so.”

Some time passed before Ivy did. She had a book in her hand then, and
she carried it to Sên King-lo.

“Will you write in my confession book, Mr. Sên?” she asked.

“May I?” he said as he rose to take it.

Charles threw his cousin a cordial glance. She was a good girl. She’d
thought of that to please him he was sure.

And Sên King-lo thought so too.

They were right—but more wrong than right. For herself Ivy Gilbert had
no wish that Sên King-lo should write in her confession book. But she
knew how it would excite Lucille and Molly, and how they’d enjoy it and
chatter about it. And that chiefly was why she’d trudged upstairs and
down to get the vellum-bound volume.

“Shall I write in English or in Chinese?” Sên asked her.

“In both, please—use two places.”

“I shall obey,” he promised. “May I take it away with me? One needs
preparation and prayer for a supreme literary effort.”

“Of course,” the girl nodded.

“Is your own in it?” Sên asked her.

“One has to set the ball rolling,” she answered.

“May I look?” He turned to the first page, as she nodded.

“What perfectly soul-scouring queries!” he jibed. “No, I shall not study
your revelations of your utmost self until later,” he announced, closing
the toy. But the quick Chinese eyes must have caught one question and
answer, for he said, “So riding is your favorite pastime, Miss Gilbert.
Do you often ride here?”

“Almost never; Sir Charles hasn’t often the time to take me. Lady Snow’s
lazy, she hates riding, and I hate riding alone—with only a groom to
follow.”

“I wonder,” Sên replied, “if—after we are older friends, Lady Snow
would allow me to ride with you some day, Miss Gilbert? And I very much
wonder, if you’d let me? Miss Julia Townsend says she’d ride with me, if
she were younger, and I have driven her several times in my dog-cart,
without a groom.”

“I’ve no doubt Miss Julia would ride with you in a balloon—if you
wished it,” Miss Gilbert said severely.

“Happy thought!” Sên retorted. “Shall I ask her?”

“Let me be there when you ask her,” Emma Snow giggled.

“Let me be there when you go up,” was Sir Charles’ request. “She’d go
all right, I’ve no doubt of that. She’s a splendid sport.”

“She’s a delightful, wonderful woman,” Sên King-lo added. “Will you let
me take you, Miss Gilbert—if Lady Snow will allow me?”

“In a balloon?”

“Not for worlds,” Sên declined; “on a horse. I have one that would carry
a lady perfectly, Lady Snow.”

“The chaperon’s as dead as Queen Anne,” the young matron said. “And Miss
Gilbert is one of the new dispensations.” She spoke lightly, cordially
even—but her husband shot her a puzzled look. He knew—he knew every
tone and tint of her voice so well—that for some odd reason Emma was
not pleased.

“I am not!” Ivy asserted coldly. “I despise them.”

“Will you—ride—some day?” Sên persisted.

Ivy flushed. “I am teaching most of the time, Mr. Sên, or trying to,”
she told him.

“Nonsense! And untrue!” Lady Snow cried. “Don’t dare to pretend you are
not at your own perfect liberty all the time. My cousin helps me—when
she wishes—with my kiddies. You must see them, at lunch, some day soon.
They are dears. But Ivy is as free to junket as I am—freer—and she’s a
little cat to pretend she isn’t. It’s one of her affectations—just to
tease me. And you need not lend her a mount—we have quite a decent one,
she and I, between us, just eating his head off—a groom has to give it
enough exercise to keep it on its legs. I never ride except when my
husband takes me and makes me, because it’s one of the things I do not
care for at all. And Ivy won’t—because she’s contrary. But Wolf carries
her perfectly. So——”

“So—perhaps—some day—Miss Gilbert will give me the pleasure,” Sên
King-lo said, and dismissed it. For he saw that Miss Gilbert had no wish
to ride with him—and he himself cared very little either way. He turned
to Sir Charles to speak of something quite else, but Lady Snow spoke
before he could.

“Do you ride much?” she asked.

“Fairly often,” he told her.

“Have you ridden with Mrs. Gunter? I think no one here rides as well as
she does—no one I’ve seen.”

“No,” Sên said. “I have ridden to hounds in England, but, except for
that, I never have ridden with any lady. Here I have a quick canter by
myself, sometimes at daybreak.”

“How perfectly awful!” his hostess groaned—quite sincerely. “At
daybreak! Mr. Sên, how can you?”

“We are all early risers—we Chinese,” he told her.

The sudden red pulsed into Ivy’s face. She was angry that it did—but
she turned to Sên King-lo, and said impulsively, “When will you take me
for our ride, Mr. Sên?”

“Whenever you will let me,” he answered quietly, with a slight, grave
bow. He showed no surprise. But he was surprised, as her cousins were.
They both were gazing at her in almost open blank amazement. Ivy rarely
changed her mind.

Again Sên King-lo made no mistake. He could not imagine the cause of her
_volte face_, but he was perfectly sure that it was not that she wished
to ride with him. And because she did not wish to, he regretted that he
had suggested it—or she consented.

“Next Thursday?” Ivy persisted. “But you won’t ask me to be ready at
daybreak?”

“Next Thursday. Thank you so much,” he replied. “The hour you prefer
will give me the greatest pleasure.”

“Ten, then; before it is hot,” Ivy decided. Lucille often rode at ten.

“Come to breakfast, Mr. Sên,” Lady Snow said cordially. “We breakfast at
nine.”

“You are very kind, Lady Snow,” Sên replied. “I will not be late.” But
the invitation had pleased the Chinese man as little as it had the
English girl.

“Play to us, Ivy,” Sir Charles asked presently, not because talk was
flagging—it wasn’t—but because he particularly liked his young
cousin’s music. But Ivy would neither play nor sing.

“You’ll have to put up with mine,” his wife told him. “When Ivy says she
won’t, she won’t,” and went to the open piano. Emma Snow played
brilliantly, far better than their cousin, if not so sweetly as Ivy did.
Dress was not Lady Snow’s only talent. She had several, veiling them
serenely under a radiant frou-frou of chiffons—that she did so, not,
perhaps, the least of her talents.

“Your turn,” she bade Sên as she rose. “I know you do. You do
everything, don’t you, Mr. Sên?”

“Not nearly,” he assured her. “Is Beethoven your favorite composer?” She
had played the Moonlight Sonata. “Or what shall I play for you?”

“No,” she answered. “I just happened to play Beethoven—at random. Play
something you like best.”

He chose Grieg.

Ivy wondered if he had seen her favorite composer, as well as her
favorite pastime. One was just above the other in the confession-book.
She wished she’d never brought it downstairs.

He had not. Sên King-lo had as little inclination to initiate a
flirtation with Miss Gilbert as she had to with him—even, possibly, a
little less. He deemed flirtations even more vulgar than she did—and he
had no ambition to excite jealousy in Lucille, or in any one else, and
no sore, young desire to prove himself, in spite of poverty and
schoolroom bondage, no social failure.

If he had seen, or known, that Grieg was Miss Gilbert’s favorite
composer, he would not have played any music of Grieg’s.

Grieg was Sên King-lo’s favorite composer.

Soon after that he told them goodnight. He bowed to his hostess without
offering to shake hands. But Lady Snow held out her hand to him, and
then Miss Gilbert could but do the same.

Sên King-lo took her hand in his deferentially, but more lightly, less
lingering than she was accustomed to have men do. Yet—as he did—from
some indefinable thing in his touch—it flashed across her thought that
that slim Chinese hand might not after all give a feeble account of
itself at fisticuffs.

Sir Charles Snow went to the outer door with Sên.

“The celestial dragon, smoothly as a swan, carry your honorable person
on high!” Snow said.

“May lotus flowers grow from the honorable bones of your distinguished
ancestors!” Sên King-lo replied. “And may your honorable grave be soaked
with the tears of an hundred sons.”

“Heaven forbid!” Snow exclaimed.

Then they both laughed and shook hands, and bade each other an English
goodnight.

“Well—cheerio. So glad you could come.”

“Jolly glad I could. Thanks awfully. Cheerio.”

The East and the West get within hailing distance, at least now and
then.



                              CHAPTER XII


It was not late the next morning when Mr. Sên’s orchids came—to Lady
Snow, of course. He sent nothing to Miss Gilbert—but she could scarcely
expect her confession-book back so soon. One wrote in confession-books
at one’s leisure, and when in the mood. That was understood.

“I wonder if he’ll pay his dinner-call today?” Emma said to her husband,
when at lunch he’d remarked on the splendid blooms on the table, and
she’d mentioned who had sent them.

“I don’t suppose he’s going to live here,” Ivy Gilbert remarked rather
unnecessarily.

“I don’t suppose he is,” Lady Snow said cheerfully, “but he’s sure to
call promptly—Charlie said so.”

“I?” the knight she’d quoted demanded.

“You said the Chinese were punctiliously polite. It amounts to the same
thing.”

“Bless my soul!” Sir Charles muttered.

“I think I’ll go out calling tomorrow instead of today. I’d be vexed to
miss him.”

“Do you like Mr. Sên?” Ivy asked indifferently.

“I don’t dislike him. I thought he was good fun. Do you, Ivy?”

“Which?”

“Both.”

“He is not my idea of fun.”

“Nor mine,” Sir Charles added.

“But he doesn’t bore me—if that’s what you mean,” the girl owned
lazily. “As for liking him—I don’t know him. I’ve met him three or four
times. What does that amount to? And, you know, my likes are few. They
don’t stretch to China.”

“Nor your knowledge,” her cousin Charles reminded her.

Ivy nodded contentedly. She was not interested in China or in the
Chinese; and she was not going to pretend that she was, even to please
dear old Charlie. She’d be polite—for him—but surely that was enough.
“Wouldn’t you better put your orchids in the drawing-room, Em?” she
said, with a laugh.

“I intend to,” Lady Snow retorted. “There is a big vase full there
already. I brought these in here for Charlie to enjoy.”

“Thank you, my dear.” He might have added—but did not—that he did not
care for orchids, except when they were growing.

“But I shall only have them in here at meals.”

“The peripatetic orchids,” Ivy said gaily. “Well, you and the orchids
will have to entertain Mr. Sên all alone, Emma, if he comes. I’m off to
Miss Julia’s.”

“I rather think I’ll have plenty of visitors today—though it isn’t my
day,” Lady Snow returned. “It is in the _Post_, and it’s sure to be
copied in the _Evening Star_, that Mr. Sên King-lo dined here last
night.”

“Great Scott!” was her husband’s comment.

Ivy giggled.

“Yes,” Emma told her, “I did. Justine knows a reporter. I never have any
difficulty getting my nice bits in.”

“I wouldn’t do that, dear,” Snow said uncomfortably.

“Of course you wouldn’t. You’re a man. I shall. I like them in. Marion
Lawson will be green. He never dined there _en famille_.”

“You didn’t put that in!” her cousin cried. And Sir Charles looked
distinctly disturbed.

“No,” Lady Snow owned. “But I shall tell Marion.”

“I’m sure you will,” Ivy laughed, and the man retired philosophically to
his ice-pudding.

“You’d have looked nice if he hadn’t turned up after all,” the girl
remarked.

“Well—” the other confessed, “I almost was in a wee panic. But I felt
pretty safe. He’d accepted, and Charlie says their word is as good as
another man’s bond.”

This time her husband did not expostulate or contradict.

They were dining out that evening, and Ivy hurried back in time to
dress.

“Well,” she asked, as they drove away towards Fifteen-and-one-half
Street, “did Mr. Sên call, Emma?”

“No,” Lady Snow admitted, “he didn’t. But half the girls in Washington
did. Emmeline Hamilton called, of course. She came early and stayed
late. I thought she’d never go. She stole an orchid. And when she saw
that I’d seen her sneak it into her vanity bag, she simpered and
sighed—like this——”

Ivy giggled.

Sir Charles told her, “You giggle just like a Chinese girl, Ivy.”

She frowned with vexation. It was too much! Her own cousin!

“Oh—” he had seen the frown—it was still light—“you needn’t frown.
Chinese girls have the prettiest giggles imaginable—not a scrap like
our women giggle—for all the world like the tinkle of ivory bells. So
is yours. I say, giggle again. Can you?”

Ivy gave him a dagger look.

“By Jove!” he exclaimed, “I’m blowed if you don’t look a bit Chinese too
sometimes. Your eyes—or something. And you do tonight in that gown, and
with those stick-pin things in your hair.”

The girl bit her lip sharply. She was wearing her new red dress
again—she never had many gowns to choose from—and the garnet rings
dangled in her hair. Charlie had seen what the Chinese man had claimed
to see. It was intolerable!

When Ivy Gilbert followed Lady Snow into the drawing-room the girl’s
eyes were still stormy.

That was on Tuesday.

Sên King-lo called on Lady Snow the next afternoon. She was out, and her
cousin was with her. Mr. Sên left three cards.

On Thursday he came duly to breakfast—five minutes before the hour.

To his surprise, and then amusement, and not a little to Ivy’s dismay,
Sên King-lo and Miss Gilbert had breakfast alone.

The children, who as a rule shared and excited that meal with their
parents, were closely interned in their schoolroom quarters, because of
unattractive colds that might, their mother thought, develop into
whooping-cough. A cable from Downing Street had sent Sir Charles in hot
haste and breakfastless to the British Embassy an hour ago. His wife had
danced a slight but painful sprain into her left ankle the night before,
and was obliged to breakfast in bed.

Miss Gilbert explained and apologized, and led the way to the
breakfast-room.

Sên had the tact not to offer to defer his breakfast visit. It would
have been an enormity, of course, but for some puzzle of a reason Ivy
had half expected it. And it had crossed Lady Snow’s mind that he
might—but she had not said so.

Miss Gilbert was annoyed, and still more annoyed that she was. But her
annoyance wore off quickly. Sên King-lo saw to that as deftly as
unobtrusively. He greatly regretted missing Sir Charles. But he accepted
the small situation quite as the very small thing it was, and set
himself to dispel the displeasure that he clearly saw, though Miss
Gilbert felt sure that she hid it completely.

He thought that this girl with the intangible but haunting something of
China about her, disliked him. He did not resent it in the least. He
himself disliked a good many acquaintances. He was sorry for her that
the three small family accidents had driven her into a tête-à-tête meal
that he saw jarred. It didn’t enchant him. He preferred looking at Miss
Gilbert to talking to her. But he scarcely could gaze at her in silence
from melon to preserved ginger—so he addressed himself to chat away her
ill-ease and displeasure. Why she had elected to ride with him at all
still puzzled him. He was sorry she had, and vexed with himself that he
had troubled her with the invitation. He’d make it up to her as well as
he could. She should enjoy that ride if he could contrive it.

Why she so minded breakfasting alone with Sên King-lo was a question the
girl herself could have answered but lamely. She often had lunched alone
with a man friend, and as often had given tea in Emma’s absence to a man
she knew even more slightly than she did Mr. Sên. If she could ride with
this man, it was no great odds to break her cousin’s bread with him.
Uncle Lysander’s smoldering disapproval at her elbow might have
disconcerted her a little perhaps—for, while it angered her, she must
have somewhat sympathized with it. It is not pleasant, unless one is
very self-sure indeed, to feel that the servant who offers you cutlets
and omelette considers you bad form. But the Snow servants—except
Justine—were all English, and it was evident that neither Dawson nor
William saw any indignity in bending over Mr. Sên’s chair. She did not
know why she disliked this breakfast so—but she did. Unreasonable,
perhaps. But the fact stood.

For all his intelligence Sên King-lo was at fault in his explanation of
the displeasure he recognized. It did not occur to him that this English
girl did not object to breakfasting alone with _him_, but with _a
Chinese_. He put it all down to a personal dislike of him personally. It
did not vex him in the least. Had he believed that she thought him
beneath her—which he did not—it would not have vexed him. Had he
realized that it was the Chinese race that she looked down upon and
considered socially unfit, it would have vexed him as little. Sên
King-lo, the sash-wearer, was even more sure, far more sure, of his race
than he was of himself. His estimate of self was humble. His estimate of
China was very proud. He was proud and joyous to be Chinese.

They breakfasted briefly, but before he moved back her chair, Ivy had
confessed to herself that the West had done this stranger within its far
gates well—for, if Mr. Sên never had seen a Chinese girl, he
exquisitely knew how to treat an English girl, and how to care for her
tiniest comforts. And she complimented Western sojourn and example for
what centuries of Chinese breeding had given—as nothing else can.

They went to their waiting horses, outwardly cordial, but inwardly each
was a little perturbed. Ivy very much doubted if he could ride—what she
called ride. He dressed the part without fault, which she always had
thought that only a British man could do—but, after all, it was much a
matter of tailor and boot-maker; no doubt Mr. Sên had a London tailor.
Sên wondered how well his companion could ride. He loved to _go_. Never
mind—he reproached himself—this was _her_ ride, and, if she couldn’t
ride, they’d walk. And she should enjoy herself—this girl with his
mother’s name—who was starting off, he knew, so reluctantly. Why, he
wondered again, was she going at all?

She could mount—that was his first discovery. She rose a feather-weight
from his hand. Her discovery was that her unusual escort could mount her
at all. That he did it expertly was a pleasant surprise. And she
realized that his slender hand had been rock-firm under her foot. It was
a good beginning at least. In the pleasure of even that small relief she
smiled down at him graciously as he straightened her habit.

“Why, Mr. Sên,” she laughed, “you must have mounted many girls. I
thought from what you said the other night that you scarcely had ridden
with one.”

He laughed back at her, lingering a moment at her bridle. “I never have
ridden with one, Miss Gilbert—never with any girl. But I have mounted a
great number of ladies—one any number of times—no less a personage
than a duchess—the Duchess of Westershire. So, you see, I’ve had
distinguished practice.”

“Never!” the English girl cried. “The Duchess of Westershire must weigh
fourteen stone, if she weighs an ounce.”

“Nearer forty, I’d wager.”

“You needn’t tell me she can ride.”

“She can mount,” Sên insisted.

“Didn’t she crack your hand in two?”

“Went up like down.”

“Did she ride to hounds?”

“She rode towards them,” Sên stated guardedly.

Ivy chuckled. And Sên King-lo swung up into his saddle.

It was a better beginning than Miss Gilbert realized. Make a Chinese
laugh, or help him to laugh, and his world is yours—at least for the
moment.

They eyed each other’s horsemanship guilefully. There was nothing for
either to cavil at yet. The girl’s seat was perfect. Sên’s was no less.

Still he was cautious. The groom behind heard them laugh more than
once—but it was she who suggested, as they turned into Dupont Circle,
“A little faster?”

Still Sên King-lo set but a moderately quickened pace. They still were
keeping it so when they met Miss Smith face to face. But he had no doubt
now that this girl could ride, and her English eyes, almost as quick to
horsemanship as his were to most things, knew that Sên King-lo rode as
well as a Derby jockey.

And, if he rode today to please a girl who—he thought—disliked him,
Sên King-lo rode to win.

They rode far, and after the banks of Rock Creek they pushed on into the
country, and rode faster and faster.

“How joyous!” she called to him once, in a camaraderie that knew no race
distinctions.

“Glorious, isn’t it!” Sên answered.

“You ride better than Charles does even,” she told him blithely; “and
you ride our English fashion. You rise in your saddle.”

“I learned to ride in England when I was a boy at school,” he explained.
“But I usually ride American fashion when I jog off by myself.”

“Why?” she asked quickly.

“I enjoy it more.”

“Oh,” the girl said, a little disdainfully.

“You ought to try it,” he ventured. “Don’t you think it prettier?”

But the English girl would not own that. “Our way is the kinder,” she
insisted.

“To the nags? Yes,” Sên agreed, “it certainly seems so. But your
cavalrymen did not rise in their stirrups until recently. You should try
it—sometimes.”

She shook her head.

“I don’t like learning new ways, Mr. Sên.”

“Or languages?”

“You don’t call Chinese a new language, do you?”

“It would be to you,” he retorted. “By the way, there are a great many
distinct Chinese languages, nearly sixty. I wonder which you’d
admire—least.”

“Horrors!” the girl cried. But she laughed softly—because he had said
“least” when she’d thought he was going to say “most.”

And he laughed back at her, because the speed they’d gone was tingling
in his blood.

“Thank you, Mr. Sên,” she said, as they stood waiting for Dawson or
William to open the door. “I have so enjoyed it.”

“Truly?” He asked it gravely.

“I’ve loved it,” she told him.

“I wonder then,” Dawson heard him say, “if you’ll let me take you again
some day?”

“I’d love it,” she answered.

The Chinese man gave her a grateful look. It was sincere. He was
grateful that a girl who disliked him, had had—as he knew she had—a
good time. And he was gratified that he had done what he had tried to
do. Sên King-lo was very human.

That afternoon he sent Lady Snow a wealth of flowers—a note of
condolence for her accident, all fragrant with their perfume.

And this time Ivy too had her tribute, tea-roses, and on the card he
sent with them Sên King-lo had written a word: “Thanks.”

Again Miss Gilbert took her blossoms to her own room. There were flowers
enough in the drawing- and sitting-rooms, and Emma’s room looked like a
flower-show. Ivy put her roses in water—one bud she tucked in her gown.
She was fond of tea-roses.



                              CHAPTER XIII


As he walked his horse slowly back to his rooms, Sên King-lo, thinking
the morning over, concluded that he liked the girl he had just ridden
with very much indeed. And he began to suspect that she was more
interesting than he had thought her. They had not said a great deal to
each other this morning—and none of it even remotely profound. He had
had to make all the conversational running at breakfast; and on
horseback, when the pace is swift, as most of their long ride had been,
is not provocative or well calculated for profound or subtle
conversation. But a thought-straw or two from the chaff of her small
talk had pointed, he thought, to a mental equipment less ordinary than
he had suspected. And she had seemed even younger today—looked younger
too, in the searching early light, though less Chinese in her
businesslike English riding gear than she had to him before—and she had
seemed to him intrinsically young each time they had met—as untraveled
twenty-two usually does to traveled twenty-seven. Youth appealed to Sên
King-lo. Being Chinese, deeply and typically so, he sincerely reverenced
age, felt for it unaffected affection; but it did not lure him—and he
was in no way un-Chinese in this. Her youth appealed to his. Next to
beauty, what lured him most, as they most lure all of his race, were
loyalty, breeding and pluck—probably the first and the last because
they tune and key with the loyalty that is deep-grained in most Chinese,
and with the pluck that is innate in them all. Her reserve had seemed to
him from the first a trait of breeding, in no way a trait of shyness. In
truth, Ivy Gilbert had less claim to the title of “sash-wearer” than he
had—and less than he thought she showed. Her birth was far less
aristocratic than his, not so much because his ancestors had been noble
and distinguished for untarnished centuries when hers were wading
wode-clad or wodeless in the unreclaimed marshlands of Thorney, as
because many a plebeian ancestor had contributed to her being, and not
one to his. So far back that she barely knew it, and thought of it as
the long-off, hazy thing it was, there had been strawberry-leaves in Ivy
Gilbert’s ancestry, but both they and their bar sinister smelt strongly
of fish now—not the salt, fishy tang of scaled giants caught with peril
and prowess, but the staler smell of fish in shrouds of parsley and ice
on tradesmen’s marble slabs.

Ivy’s ancestry was as weird a patchwork as was ever a New England quilt.
Sên King-lo’s was one almost royal blue. And it had no bar sinister.
There are few bar sinisters in China. Perhaps the Chinese manage man’s
wide-flung proclivities more wisely than we do. It could be argued.
Certainly they punish little children for prenatal happenings less than
we do. They suffer them all to come welcomed and desired into life,
suffer them all to wear with untainted right their father’s name—and,
not less a boon and a gladness, to love their mothers and be loved by
their mothers unashamed. The twenty little flags of British preference
and prejudice she’d fluttered out, scarcely with cause, each time they’d
met, he took for a young and feminine display of a loyalty that was both
sound and sweet. He liked her for it. Her open affection and pride for
her cousin Charles, he liked her for, even more. Chinese loyalty has
been for its thousands of years far more a thing of family and clan than
of country or race—and Young China has had scant time to alter that
yet; and it was not altered in Sên King-lo. Her good-natured and sunny
treatment of him—so disliking him—he was very sure she disliked
him—seemed to him both good-breeding and pluck.

To a point he was right. It had been both—at first. For some quirk or
reason—he, try as he would, could not yet fathom what it was—she had
ridden with him sorely against her inclination, and having done it of
her own untrammeled determination—or freak—she had paid the small
social debt it obligated in sunny, good humored companionship; too
socially honest, too well-bred to default. Sên King-lo liked her for
that. Her honesty appealed to him—true son that he was of a race that
must, to a man, pay _all_ its debts in full at least once a year. Of how
many peoples can that be said? And again, Sên was right, up to a point.
The girl was too well-bred, too socially honest, having gone with him
voluntarily, to treat him sourly or over-stiffly, and not to do so _had_
taken pluck—at first. And he liked her for riding so well, as any man
who was horse-fond must have done.

Yes—he liked her. He liked her, of the women he knew here, next to Miss
Julia Townsend, perhaps. And he certainly liked her very much more than
he did even the least unlikeable of the unmarried girls and matrons who
banded together to “run after” him—a free, if not easy, inter-racial
attention that Sên King-lo valued the tawdry freak thing it was. It both
had amused and had bored him. But it never had flattered him. For the
quality of her liking, her friendship, her kindness, King-lo loved Miss
Julia. But for no one else in Christendom had he ever felt any
affection, until something of that feeling suddenly had sprung in him as
he sat alone in the dining-room with Sir Charles Snow.

This young Chinese was as little given to sudden likings as the
slow-to-decide Englishman was. But there are affinities of manliness and
of tastes that brook no delay, that defy barriers. And the quick and
sure Chinese intuition of the younger man had leapt to Snow’s worth and
congeniality almost on the instant.

Now and then, across the stretch of East and West, there are hands that
touch, and having touched, clasp.

Sên King-lo did not like Miss Gilbert—the girl with the Chinese-like
flower names—the less because she was Charles Snow’s cousin, or that
the cousinly bond between them so evidently was strong and close.

One thing, at least, Sên disliked in his new girl-acquaintance: the
little she seemed to care for her small cousins. He had not seen her
with them—or seen them at all—and he hoped her indifference to them
was merely a verbal barrage to screen and defend from a stranger, a
sentiment too exquisite to be shown to a passing acquaintance, above all
not to one whom she disliked. He hoped that—for the sake of his new
ride-born liking of her—but he rather doubted it. He thought her pluck
was more than her artifice; her indifference had rung true enough. And
to his Chinese thinking even the slight ailment that kept her little
cousins prisoners in their own rooms would have been sufficient excuse
for the kinswoman, who had an almost maternal office over them, to have
denied herself to him altogether this morning, and have sent him and his
horse away from the door. They might be suffering, the poor little
tender things—and yet she had laughed and galloped, and her color had
deepened joyously, and her brown eyes sparkled care-free and happy. Was
she callous?

All Chinese adore all children. Nothing else in our West so repels them
as that there are among us some that do not.

He hoped he was wrong—she had seemed fond of her horse.

When he had tubbed again, Sên had his lunch-chop and hock alone.
Washington is as “dry” now as an autumn leaf in drought-time, of course;
and was then. But there still are cellars in Washington. In his own
house a man, and his guests, may do as he likes with his own. It seems
unlikely to be so long, but it is measurably so now. And the Chinese
Legation had its cellar—a very good cellar, though rarely broached
except on “guest-nights”; and Sên had its freedom. He would not have
bought hock now, imported since 1914. He did not relish Colonial wines.
But the hock that had been bought and paid for—he feared it had been
paid for—before the War, he drank and enjoyed.

It was no new thing for Sên to eat alone. For so popular and courted a
man, he spent a great deal of time in his own nook—his oak
well-sported. And for so busy a man, he seemed to have, or to make
himself, a great deal of leisure.

To be alone, and to be at leisure rather frequently, was a necessity of
his Chinese being. He spoke three European tongues idiomatically, and
almost without accent. He spoke English so well that when he did, he
thought in English. A very rare and delicate feat that! He could do most
things that Englishmen could do, and some of them he did better than
many Englishmen could. His Western on-growths were genuine and vigorous.
But they all were graftings. No sap of them had permeated backwards into
the trunk or core of his nature. In all of them some Chinese sap flowed
and tinged. Sên King-lo was thoroughly Chinese—as essentially Chinese
as if he never had left the Ho-nan home of his birth. It is in solitude,
communing with self, communing more with Nature, that every Chinese
takes his spiritual ease, has his spiritual growth, leads his intensest,
truest life. It is then that he lives—even more than when he sits with
his hand on his mother’s girdle, or his children’s hands on his skirt.
Except the most toil-stunted of the working-class, every Chinese must be
alone sometimes, or perish. And even the work-driven coolie, who labors
and toils and reeks in his sweat almost from dawn to dawn, snatches a
soul-breather now and then, alone with his pipe, or a growing flower, a
bamboo clump, a rushing river’s bank, a bird on a bough. He must.

A Chinese criminal on his way to the indescribable execution ground,
will lag a moment to buy a flower, and sniff at it joyously, as he
trudges on to his hideous death. Give any Chinese child its choice
between a toy and a graceful spray of sweet-scented honeysuckle,
invariably it takes the blossoms.

And every Chinese—young or old, rich or poor—knows how to be alone,
makes solitude a dignity, and gives it charm, and reaps from it—much.

Sên King-lo did not go out again that day or evening.

When he had lunched—he had called at the florist’s on his way home, and
had written his note to Lady Snow at his club, before he went to New
Hampshire Avenue—he curled up on a divan with a book—poems that
Po-Chii-i had written eleven hundred years ago. He read slowly and
steadily—pausing to dream now and then—reading many verses over and
over—while the pleasant noises of Washington droned unheeded in at his
wide-open window, and he did not lay Po-Chii-i’s old singing aside till
Kow Li brought in his tea: true Chinese tea that can be bought in no
Western shop. But Sên made no ceremony of his tea-drinking, though it
cost him neither cream nor sugar. And he munched a toasted, buttered
muffin and two plump éclairs to the last crumb.

When Kow Li had cleared away the small tea-service, Sên sat, until it
was time to change for dinner, almost without moving in his
easy-chair—and thought. It’s a Chinese habit—the breath of the Chinese
mind. A Chinese must meditate—or die. Even the babies, and the
shrill-tongued babbling women, meditate in China.

“Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Though he was dining alone in his own sitting-room, Sên dressed for
dinner as scrupulously as if he’d been an English subaltern alone in a
remote dâk bungalow about to dine off half-roasted but wholly grown goat
and undergrown plantains, washed down by criminal and luke-warm beer.
There was not a little of the English gentleman in Sên King-lo, not a
few English characteristics, habits and traits that in no way clashed
with Chinese—or that were Chinese as well. And there were a number of
Western superficialities that he preferred to their Eastern substitutes.
He not only liked silver forks better than he did ivory chop-sticks, and
glass finger-bowls better than a steaming wet towel, and preferred
mattress, blankets, sheets and soft pillows, to a mat and a hard
cylinder pillow—though in England, and when well dog-tired after a
hunting day, he more than once had sat up all night, in protest against
the feather-bed his hostess had assigned to him—but he had grown so
accustomed to English clothes that he no longer realized how much more
comfortable, and in most ways preferable, were the men’s garments of old
Pekin.

With his after-dinner cigarette, Sên remembered the confession he’d
promised to make—in a book. Where was it? Kow would know, and when Sên
rang, Kow did.

Sên made himself very comfortable in his biggest arm-chair, and
leisurely studied the book. In a way, it proved better worth the trouble
than confession-books often do. Ivy had passed it about with
discrimination. A number of distinguished men, and one or two such
women, had written in it; notables whose acquaintance she had owed, no
doubt, to Sir Charles. As he read and studied, Sên grew really
interested. His “mea culpa” was going into uncommonly good-fellowship.
There was not a nobody there! Unless Miss Gilbert herself was “no one.”
Certainly Julia Calhoun Townsend was not even remotely a nobody. And
almost every other name signatured there was known and reputed beyond
both the width and the length of the Potomac.

He smiled reverently at Miss Julia’s spidery tellings—and read them
twice for their perfume of a sweet and aromatic personality. Ivy’s own
“confession” was naïve and girlish—written several years ago on the
birthday the book had been given her. But it surprised even more than it
interested him. It interested him even more than he knew. His browsing
of it outlasted an entire cigarette; and Sên smoked slowly. Yes, the
girl was interesting, and very much more intelligent than he had
supposed. He wondered if many English girls of sixteen—the book told
him that she’d been sixteen when she received it six years ago—were so
intelligent and so out of the ruts. He looked at the date her
“confession” gave, and he made a mental note of it. Then he thought
better of that, and penciled a note on his cuff. But what surprised him
most—and it amused him—was that several of her answers were identical
with those he’d write in a few moments—if he wrote quite truly. So
Grieg was her favorite composer as well as his own. There were several
pastimes that he cared for even more than he did riding. But Velasquez
and Turner were his favorite painters—of Western ones. Miss Gilbert
could not be expected to have heard of Ma Yuen—much less to have seen
even one of his silks. And he too preferred Thackeray to Dickens.
Lemon-yellow was the color that too pleased him most. The harp was also
his favorite instrument. Spain was not the country he most wished to
see—for he had seen Spain, had spent almost a year there. What she most
disliked was vulgarity and disloyalty. That was true of him. He thought
best of the living reigning monarch of whom she did. Really—the thing
was a little ridiculous. She liked prose better than she did
poetry—well, that was one escape. And there were other safety-valves.

He rose with a light laugh, and carried the telltale volume to his
writing-table—a table of hybrid impedimenta; for Sên King-lo usually
brushed the letters he wrote to China; and he had no intention of
forgetting to write his own language in the old Chinese way in which Tu
Fu and Li T’ai Po and his own father had written it.

He found his vacant pages; a pair that followed a pair, and dipped his
brush in the ink. And when he also had written in English and the last
page was dry, he closed the book, and strolled to the still-open window.
He’d send Kow Li with the book tomorrow. He had kept it long enough.

“What a woman wants, she wants quickly. Only men have the strength to
wait.” Which of the philosophers had said that? Odd, he’d forgotten—but
he had. Kow should carry the book back tomorrow, and ask for news of
Lady Snow’s hurt, and of her children’s colds. He wished he had not sent
those tea-roses today. Lilies-of-the-valley were her favorite flowers—a
flower she never had seen was his. He’d like to send her valley lilies
with her book. But you couldn’t send tea-roses one day and
lilies-of-the-valley the next. Bother those roses!

He wondered if Miss Gilbert would ride with him again. He hoped so. But
the next time, if there was one, should be fully as much her doing as
his. That was only fair to her. Sên King-lo had neither wish nor
willingness to push any woman’s inclination—not even Miss Julia’s,
whose proved warm friendship gave him some license—least of all that of
a girl who had no great liking for him or his company. But he wondered
if she would pave the way for him to ask if they might go again. He
hoped so. And a very slight and delicate pavement would do.

He strolled back from the window, and sat up till nearly daylight
puzzling over a game of chess he was playing with a friend in Siangtan.
But first he copied the date on his cuff into a notebook.

Kow Li did not go to Massachusetts Avenue the next day.

More ciphered cables come to Washington than those that are sent from
Downing Street and Whitehall or Threadneedle and Lombard Streets. A
disquieting cable came from Pekin to Sên King-lo as he breakfasted, and
he forgot all about Miss Gilbert’s confession-book.



                              CHAPTER XIV


From East and from West the sea-covered wires ran with alarm and twanged
with suspense for a week or more. Something like international crises
threatened, and quivered the diplomatic air. Officials were suspiciously
polite to those of other countries, and spoke to those of their own in
crisp, bothered sentences. And the press in a dozen countries girded its
loins, strained its ears, sharpened its imaginations, and looked
carefully to its ink-wells.

Then the small “affair” passed—as happily sometimes it does—and
Washington shook itself good-humoredly as after some spring drizzle that
had had more notice than it deserved, but had done no particular harm;
and got back to play—cotillions, tennis and moonlit river picnics.

And Sên found time to call on Lady Snow, and found her alone.

She was glad to see him, and said so.

“I am fortunate to find you at home this tempting day,” he returned.
“You are quite well again?”

“Perfectly, thanks. It was nice of you to send twice to ask. You are
about the only man who has troubled whether we were dead or alive—my
ankle and me—these last ten days. I’ve scarcely seen a soul; and Sir
Charles has about lived at the silly old Embassy—and not heard what
I’ve said half the time when he has been here. And I suppose you have
too; it was nice of you to think to send to ask after the kiddies and
me.”

“But I could not forget to do that.”

“Couldn’t you? Several—that we’ve known longer than we have you—could.
You’ve been desperately busy and excited, of course?”

“I’m a very small fish in the international sea—calm or troubled,” her
guest insisted. “I wonder if you will let me——”

“Please, no!” his hostess cried, dramatically, her hands over her ears.
“I know that you and Japan, and poor little Korea—you ought to be well
ashamed of yourselves, both of you, for the way you’ve played battledore
and shuttlecock with Korea—have been hoping to cut each other’s
throats—but you cut lower down than throats, don’t you?”

“On occasions,” Sên admitted.

She gave him no time to say more, but caught her breath up where it had
failed her—“and Germany planning to murder us all in our beds again,
and Switzerland having the army photographed——”

“Miniatured, I should think,” he interjected.

“—and all the rest of it. But I decline to hear any details. I hate the
lot of you. Why can’t you sit still, and be good, this terrifically hot
weather? I’m desperately tired of State secrets.”

A white line gleamed between Sên’s lips. He had no intention of pressing
Legation or Consulate secrets on Lady Snow, and he did not believe that
Sir Charles surfeited her with State secrets.

“I should not have presumed to make that appalling blunder,” he said. “I
was going to say that I wondered if you would let me see your children,
Lady Snow. May I?”

He saw the flippancy fall from her face as snow fades in a sudden deluge
of sunshine.

“You would like to see Dick and Blanche? Truly? I like you, Mr. Sên. Of
course, you shall see them! And the dear little monkeys are worth seeing
and knowing. I’m very proud of my babies; and I’ve a right to be. But
not today. They’re gone to Rosehill with my cousin. Charlie’s at the
Embassy, of course. He half promised to get home for tea—but he won’t!
Just look at that clock. Do ring! We’ll have ours now. Dawson ought to
have brought it ages ago. But probably I told them not to, until I
rang—Sir Charles said he might come.”

Sên King-lo lingered a courteous length of time, after his second cup of
tea. He took sugar and cream in it here. Lady Snow paid nearly two
dollars a pound for her tea, but Sên King-lo thought that all such tea
needed all the sugar and cream it could get.

Sir Charles did not come. Sên left a greeting for him, reminded Lady
Snow of his wish to meet her children, repeated his pleasure at having
seen her again, and went away.

He did not go home, or to his club. He crossed the Potomac. He had not
seen Miss Townsend for several days; and not only she allowed him to
call at any odd hour; but he knew that she liked him to do that. So,
late as it was, and far afield, he went from Massachusetts Avenue to
Rosehill.

“Yes, sar,” Uncle Lysander told him, his mistress was at home and
certain sure he could go in—Lysander knew his standing orders, and knew
better than to disobey them. But Dr. Elenore Ray caught a sultry tone in
the old black’s voice as he announced at the open drawing-room door that
“Mr. Swing”—an impertinence of mispronunciation in which he indulged
himself now and then—“has done come to see you, Miss Julia, ma’am.”

“Have you lost your watch, or come to supper?” Miss Julia demanded
bitingly. But her bright old eyes welled with welcome.

“Both!” Sên instantly lied.

“I suppose I shall have to give you your supper, then,” she
complained—Miss Julia was in highest good humor. “I’m not sorry to see
you,” she added. “I want you to know Dr. Elenore Prescott Ray. Elenore,
may I present my friend, Mr. Sên King-lo?”

And Sên, having bowed, looked down at the face of the woman seated near
Miss Townsend—a wonderful face, he thought; the finest, sweetest, and
strongest face he ever had seen.

It was.

“We have been having a delightful afternoon, Mr. Sên,” Dr. Ray told him.
“A children’s party. It has just gone home. I wasn’t invited. It was in
full swing when I chanced to call. You have only just missed it.”

The telephone bell rang in the hall, and Miss Julia rose and left them.
She was not in the telephone book. She looked coldly on telephones, as
on a number of other and even more modern inventions, but she found hers
useful in speaking to Washington tradesmen; and usually she answered and
used it herself—Uncle Lysander was sickly afeared of the ’phone, and
Dinah, her next most trusted servant, at the ’phone could do nothing but
giggle into the receiver.

Her other guest turned to Sên with a pleasant smile that lit up her
face, almost without moving it—chiefly a smile in her fine clear eyes.

“I have known Miss Townsend since we were very small girls, but I saw a
new side of my old friend today. It was very charming to hear her
telling stories to the mites who were here. She did it delightfully. I
can’t tell you how they loved it. And how she loved doing it! It was
touching.”

“Very,” said Sên gently.

Elenore Ray gave him a scanning look, and, at something she read there,
he had made her his friend. But she only said quietly—for she, too, was
a sash-wearer—“They were nice children—the tots that were here.”

“_Very_ nice children,” Miss Julia emphasized, catching the last words
as she came—it had been a wrong-number call—“they do their mother and
their governess great credit. Well-behaved children are a true
refreshment in these mad days.”

“I,” the physician laughed, “find naughty children a tonic.”

“I do not,” Miss Julia said sadly.

“I do!” her friend repeated. “And I make more money out of them. You
see, I am an avaricious doctor, Mr. Sên.”

Sên laughed. “Was it a large party, Madame?” he asked.

“Quality and not quantity,” Miss Julia answered. “I wish you had come
earlier.”

“I wish I had,” Sên King-lo replied.

“You’d have made us the even half-dozen. We were an odd number—five.”

“Why count me?” Dr. Ray asked. “I was but a looker-on in Venice.”

“Only two children—but such nice little things,” Miss Julia told Sên.
“The Snows’ boy and girl. Their cousin brought them to spend the day
with me. You remember her, don’t you? Miss Gilbert? She stayed the night
of the garden party.”

“Oh, yes, I remember Miss Gilbert.”

“Didn’t you like her?” Miss Townsend demanded abruptly. She had caught
the reserve in his tone; so had Dr. Ray and had interpreted it
differently.

“Could I say so?” he asked gaily. “But I do like Miss Gilbert—very
much.”

His hostess looked at him a little regretfully. She liked those she
liked to like each other—and she had mistrusted his tone. But Dr. Ray
threw him a shrewder glance. She, too, mistrusted his tone, and her
mistrust took a different trend. Able in all her craft, diagnosis was
her forte. She rarely erred in it. It was a great physician, the slender
patrician that almost lounged, so assured and easy her sitting, in Miss
Townsend’s great-grandfather’s favorite chair, a long history of sorrow
and service carved on the face in which time and life had cut many, but
only beautiful lines. Soft waves of snow covered a graceful,
queenly-held head, and the long, thin hands, lying loosely on the great
chair’s big arm-knobs, were as masterful as they were lovely—the
polished finger-nails as rosy and mooned as a girl’s. She was a great
physician, adding distinction to the profession it had cost her a hard,
bitter fight—and sometimes a tortured one—to enter. But the physician
armed with a genius for absolute diagnosis should not find professional
greatness too far or too difficult a cry. She gave Sên King-lo a long
steady look.

“You don’t know the Snows, do you?” Miss Julia asked him—more to
retreat from a _cul-de-sac_ she felt a trifle rasped than because she
cared to know.

“Yes, Madame, I do—Sir Charles and his wife. I have not had the
pleasure of meeting the small ones yet.”

“Oh—yes—I suppose you diplomatic-staff people all know each other,
more or less, whether you care to or not.”

“We are apt to meet.”

“And I daresay you know every one in Washington now,” Julia remarked,
rather purringly. She was proud of the place her once cold-shouldered
protége had gained in the capital’s society that she herself rather
scorned.

“I know a good many.” And this time Dr. Ray thought that there was
nothing forced in the indifference of his tone.

“Do you like _them_—the Snows?” Miss Julia questioned again. It was her
habit, and Sên’s delight, that she always questioned him as she liked.

“Very much,” he told her cordially.

“I like him,” Miss Townsend said, with no uncertain emphasis on the
pronoun.

Sên King-lo sprang to the defense of an absent woman on whose face he
but now had seen maternity’s beautiful blazon. “I like Lady Snow,
Madame,” he remarked. “I am sure there is a great deal more in her than
the _chic_ prettiness that one sees and the gay banter one hears.”

“Do you?” From any one else the slight but patrician sniff would have
sounded a rudeness. “I,” she continued, “_know_ that there is very much
more in Ivy Gilbert than shows on the surface. I am very fond of Ivy. I
wish she had a gayer time. Girls should be gay. You liked Ivy, Elenore,
didn’t you?”

“Yes, I liked her,” the other said promptly. “And I like her face.”

“I like all of her,” loyal Miss Julia insisted. “I shall ask the
children here again. You must come, too, Mr. Sên.”

“Gladly. I asked Lady Snow today to let me see them. But, of course, she
could not.”

“Because they were here. And that is why you came so late—when you knew
they’d be gone! You must be anxious to meet them! So—you know Lady Snow
well enough to call!”

“I was not sure they would be gone, Madame,” Sên said a little lamely.

“Humph!” Miss Julia commented.

Dr. Ray smiled at the carpet.

“I wish—yes, Lysander, we are coming,” for Lysander was bowing and
grinning in the doorway, “I wish Ivy had a gayer time,” Miss Julia
repeated as she led the way to the dining-room. “Every girl has a right
to have a good time. As nice a girl as Ivy Gilbert has a right to a
great deal of fun and gay good times. They need it,” she sighed softly,
and Sên thought she looked sadly across her garden as they passed the
hall’s wide windows. Her own girlhood had been defrauded of its
gaiety-right—robbed by war’s seared and shriveled aftermath.

No pleasanter meal-time passed in Washington that night than passed at
Miss Julia’s supper-table. The odd trio proved as congenial as it was
odd. Of the two Southern women, one since babyhood had passed all her
life here and a stone’s throw from here, and had lived all of it as her
foremothers had lived in the old regnant Virginia days. The other was
traveled, experienced, steeped in life’s up-and-downs, scarred and made
taut by its jolts, chiseled fine by its jars, broadened and perfumed by
the sacrifices it had called upon her for, and by the unfailing dignity
and soul-loyalty, the supreme personal courage with which she never
failed to make the sacrificial payment. Both the women wore time’s
diadem of soft snow above their clear, clean foreheads, and God’s love
in their hearts, God’s fellowship in their souls—one with the mind of a
man and the heart of a woman, a woman of the world, chastened and
puissant, a creature of dignity and of enormous force and charm; the
other changed in little—in little that counts—from her earliest
girlhood, a child still in much, as full of prejudice as she was of
goodness and sweetness. Both caught now the slow music his scythe made
as the Reaper garnered the human grain down by the cold, dark river. The
man—an alien Chinese, far from the home he loved, was at ease here, as
everywhere, but never at home, never to be at home save in the home of
the wild white rose—still in his youth, ginger hot in his mouth, the
cup as yet but just to his lip, his fight to come, his spurs to win, his
soul girded but still very young, vowed to a cause some thought already
lost—well, they too had seen their cause lost, their flag torn—never
soiled—in defeat. He was seeking and striving for victory’s crown; one
of them knew—for she had won and wore it—that defeat has the greater
crown.

Dr. Ray was much interested to meet Sên King-lo, and to see and consider
him in this easy, intimate way. She had known many Chinese—but not
before a Chinese gentleman.

Almost greedy still, in her splendid, beautiful ageing, for new
experiences, more and still more knowledge, she welcomed this experience
and made her most of it.

Dr. Elenore Ray liked Sên King-lo. She liked his simplicity; a woman,
she more than liked his deference; she liked his pleasant dignity, his
unaffected repose, his good-humored reserve, and her quick, brilliant
mind caught and rejoiced at the brilliance and quickness of his.

They talked more than they ate, at the well-spread and tempting
table—they talked long and late on the porch afterwards.

Once Sên consulted the watch he had claimed to have lost, and turned to
Dr. Ray and mentioned the hour. “May I serve you?” he asked.

“Not by seeing her home,” Julia answered. “She’s staying the night. I
don’t see her so often that I let her go soon when she does come. And
you need not go yet.”

But when she thought it was time for Sên King-lo to go, she said so; and
he went.

“A very interesting man,” was Dr. Ray’s comment, as they heard the front
door close. “I am very glad to have met him.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Sên King-lo called today,” Lady Snow told her husband at dinner that
night. “He left regards and all that for you, Charlie, and he was
perfectly sweet about the children. I think he came specially to see
them—and he’s coming again. He was so disappointed that they were out.
But, Ivy, he did not ask after you. I thought it so odd. Did you treat
him badly the other day?”

“What day?”

“When you rode together.”

“Oh—then! No, I don’t suppose I did. For I had an exceptionally
pleasant time, and I mean him to take me again.”

“Which, in my opinion, he will not, if you snub him,” Emma said sagely.

“Oh,” Ivy laughed, “I sha’n’t trouble to do that again. It isn’t worth
it, and he rides too well.”

“He does most things well,” Sir Charles observed.



                               CHAPTER XV


The next day but one Sên sent back Miss Gilbert’s “confession-book,” and
with it a boxful of lilies-of-the-valley. He sent no message, no note,
not even a card. But the flowers and the book were under one cord-tied
cover.

They came in the early morning, and Ivy wondered what florist’s he’d
found open so early—until she glanced at her clock, and saw that it
lacked little of ten. She had danced until three, and had breakfasted in
bed—the children being excused from “school” today.

She heaped the lilies out on the coverlid beside her, and opened the
book. How queer the Chinese writing looked! Heathenish—but
picturesque—beautiful, even, she finally decided. Then she turned the
leaf and read and reread the English translation. One question that he
had answered in Chinese, he had left unanswered in English: “What is
your favorite woman’s name?” But, of course, his favorite woman’s name
was a Chinese name—and could not be translated into English. She turned
back and studied the Chinese character. It was exquisitely made, she
thought—almost as if the man’s hand and his brush had lingered tenderly
over it. Was it a sweetheart’s name? No—it couldn’t be, for he never
had so much as seen a Chinese girl—he’d said so that first night at
Miss Julia’s—and it had stuck in her memory because it had struck her
Western mind as at once the most absurd and the most preposterous thing
she had ever heard.

She wondered what this name he most liked sounded like. She’d ask
Charles to read it aloud to her. Probably Charlie didn’t pronounce
Chinese with impeccable Chinese accent, but she knew that he spoke that
language—or had spoken it some years ago—and no doubt he could read it
a little. She’d like to hear how that funny looking little name sounded.
It must be a short name—with just one character—that was what they
called them, she thought—in its writing: a chubby little name, if its
“character” at all depicted it—but neither unpretty nor ungraceful, for
delicate curves—almost hair-lines one or two—crossed and jutted out
daintily from its fat thicker sweeps of the brush. How unlike English
writing this Chinese writing was! Strange that inked makeshifts for
spoken words, so unlike as these that Mr. Sên had written in Chinese and
those he’d written in English were, could stand for the same things,
convey the same meanings! But did they? Were Chinese thoughts and
English—hearts, minds, emotions—in anyway one? The man she had ridden
with the other day had seemed so little un-English to her! And he had
found her a little Chinese—that first night at Miss Julia’s. Could
hands of the West and hands of the East meet now and then, after all, in
grip not altogether Eurasian and flabby? How interesting it all was! And
she’d never given it a thought before! How full of wonderful things the
world was—and life!

She stretched comfortably up on her pillows, and gathered a mass of the
exquisite flowers up to her face. Her soft hair lay loose about her,
clouding the cambric and torchon of her pretty nightgown, perfuming her
hair and her dimpled chin. Like all women who care for clothes in the
nicest way, care for the sense of soft fabric on soft skin, for the
beauty of texture and tint and line, for the clothes for the sake of the
reflection they give of a personal daintiness and taste, and not for
what they “show,” Ivy, obliged to skimp, skimped on outer garments that
others saw, rather than on those that only she and her mirror ever saw,
those that touched her intimately. Being young and raw she often was
ashamed of coat and skirt, or of dance frock less fresh and good than
were those of other girls, but she would have felt a grosser shame to
put coarse, roughly-trimmed calico against her skin, which being
sensible and not blind, she knew deserved its first sheath of covering
to be as nearly delicate as loom and needle could contrive. It was a
very pretty nightgown.

The bedclothes were both costly and beautiful. Emma Snow was
house-proud. And she was too nice a woman, and too proud in the best
sense, to house her husband’s girl cousin less well than she did
herself. This—the girl’s own room—less crowded than Emma’s luxurious
own, was not less well furnished or carefully appointed.

It was a pretty picture—the room and the girl in the bed.

She yawned happily and cuddled her lilies against her face. One spray
slipped from her hand, and lay inside the lace of her gown. The morning
sun came in rose through the window. And the rose in the girl’s brunette
face answered it, coming and going at her musing thoughts, with the
trick of rose ebb and flow that was so constant on her face, and was
half its charm—rarely a blush, but always a beauty. Her soft, dark
hair, all perfumed by the lilies’ sweetness, rippled over her pillows,
and shadowed her throat. One hand nursed lilies-of-the-valley, and so
did her cheek—one hand lay on the open confession-book, her filbert
nails lying pink on a page of Chinese characters.

Ivy Gilbert was a very pretty girl—more than pretty—face and body had
considerable loveliness, but her hands were her paramount beauty, as
hands always are, in every race, in the woman whose loveliness is
Nature’s deliberate achievement, and not just happily accidental.

Did lilies-of-the-valley grow too in China—the flowers she loved most?
And their perfume was always an intoxicant to her. Did they grow in
China? She’d ask Charles—or Mr. Sên. Mr. Sên who had not asked after
her the day before yesterday. Why should he? How silly Emma was!
“King-lo”—what a “given” name!

“Lo,” she said aloud—not very loud—and giggled softly at the sound, so
much less like a man’s given name than “Tom” or “Roger” or “Rupert.”
“Lo!” And yet—and yet—what about “Llewellyn” and “Silas” and “Jonas”?
She knew a charming man here in Washington whose name was “Silas.” She
rather thought that she’d prefer to call her brother—if she had
one—“Lo” to calling him “Silas” or “Llewellyn” or “Jonas.” And
“Heinrich”! Yes—she certainly’d rather own to a brother “Lo” than to a
brother “Heinrich.” “Sên”—“Sên” wasn’t so bad, really it wasn’t. She
thought it a far nicer name than “Watkins” or “Snider” or “Green” or
“Pink” or “Higginbotham.” “Lo.” “Jo.” “Jo”—she was rather fond of
“Jo”—much as she disliked “Joseph.” There were quite a lot of English
names she disliked. There was not much difference between “Lo” and
“Jo”—very little difference indeed. “Jo” was the nicer, of course—it
sounded more masculine, and it looked so. But—after all——

She drew the book nearer, and turned a page. How well this new Chinese
acquaintance—whom Charlie liked so much—wrote English. _And_ you could
read it! It was a “’varsity hand”—but perfectly legible, which so many
’varsity handwritings were not. It had all their hall-marks—the Greek
_e’s_, the quickness and smallness, the nice absence of flourish. But it
had individuality, and such courteous clearness! How English it was! It
seemed almost impossible that the man who wrote it was not English. She
turned back a page, and looked hard and long at the Chinese
signature—giggling again at the ridiculousness it looked to her.
Charlie said her giggle was like a Chinese girl’s! Well—what if it was?
Probably many Chinese girls were very nice—and were charming. She liked
Mr. Sên. The girls here in Washington were silly about him—and odious.
But she liked him in a sensible, straightforward way—as a sensible,
straightforward, and very interesting acquaintance. It seemed funny for
a man to have such small and delicate hands, but when he had swung her
up to her saddle she had felt his hand rock-sure and steel-strong under
her foot and her weight. How beautiful her lilies were—and how sweet!

The girl and her flowers made a pretty picture, as she lounged
there—even Chinese eyes must have thought so, could they have seen her
all rumpled, but dainty, as she lay there in her bed, thinking thoughts
she little knew, one hand holding the sweet flowers to her face—the
blue eiderdown heaped with them and their long green leaves—one hand
resting on a Chinese confession.



                              CHAPTER XVI


From then they were thrown together almost constantly—not by others,
but by circumstances and social accidents. And both to her surprise and
to his—more to his than to hers—their acquaintance rapidly grew into
friendship. It was nothing freakish, it was comradeship direct and
unsilly. They met often, and knew that they liked each other, and liked
to be together. They soon knew that they liked each other, but had no
realization of how much. Sên King-lo suspected it first. Their
divergences were a zest. And they had much in common, and that made
between them a bond. Each was lonely—Ivy sometimes, King-lo almost
always. Each was an alien, apart in an alien place. Each was at once
homesick and homeless. Each found refreshment and tonic in the other.
There were English traits and Chinese surprises in Sên, and personality
that attracted her strongly. They had a score of English experiences in
common. They were a boon to the homesick girl. The girl was virginal,
and that attracted greatly the man of a people who cherish and reverence
only one quality—maternity—more intensely than they do virginity. He
knew that her friendliness had in it nothing mawkish. And in the
wholesomeness of their friendship, and the wholesomeness and manliness
of the man, Ivy quite forgot her first cheap desire to pique the girls
who “ran after” him not too nicely. She was glad that Charles and Miss
Julia valued Sên so highly, and she gave no more care or thought to what
any one else thought or said of her new camaraderie. Not greatly
educated, the English girl was beautifully intelligent: that attracted
Sên King-lo even more than it at first surprised him. They liked and
disliked many of the same things. They shared many prejudices. He was
grateful to her for being beautiful, and for a hint of his own race now
and then in eyes, gesture and voice. She was grateful to him for being
always deferential, and often amusing, always companionable and
interesting, and for his dependability to know whether Eton or Harrow
had won at Lords, whether Surrey or Middlesex was at the top of the
cricket average, and all about every stroke Oxford and Cambridge had
made from Putney start to Mortlake finish.

The girl found the keener interest, the man stumbled into the stronger
liking. But while she found no fault in him, he found a terrible fault
in her, and it rankled his quickening and strengthening liking sorely;
her indifference to all children, even to her own little cousins. The
opal owes its loveliness and its lure to its flaw. The Chinese soul of
Sên King-lo could see nothing but deformity and disease in the slightest
flaw that even specked a girl’s womanliness. It grieved him that a girl
who, he knew, attracted him more each time they met did not care for
little children. He held it an enormity; it rankled and it bit.

Inside another month, all Washington—the “four hundred”—knew that Mr.
Sên and Miss Gilbert had become—to put it nicely—“great friends.” A
few were disgusted, most were amused, and not a few were jealous:
Reginald Hamilton and a few dozen women.

In all the antipathetical bewildering psychology of East and West there
is nothing more baffling than the lure of European women to Asiatic men.
Know the East longest, search it most tirelessly, grow most in sympathy
with it, and still you can see but darkly and not far into that
inter-racial puzzle and secret of human nature.

The average and the typical men of the Orient are excellent
husbands—polygamous?—granted. But what of their women? The “rights”
the men denied their wives for centuries of centuries those wives would
have resented as insult, spurned as outrage and burden. It is not facile
to enfranchise a race, a caste or a sex that will have none of it. Even
in Earth’s “freest” country you may coax, or lead or prod a woman to the
polling-booth, but you can’t make her vote. Not yet. And in this new day
of our greatest enlightenments when enfranchisement is peeping
seductively over the shoulders of Oriental women, it is those women who
hang back and hesitate, not their husbands and masters who hold them
back or coerce them. The Oriental husband is not a tyrant. His wives
rule and coerce him oftener than he does one of them. He locks them up
in some places, and in some castes. They’d berate and punish him if he
did not. The most ruthless ruler Afghanistan ever has had could not
control or direct his favorite wife. She over-sat, she over-ate, and she
over-smoked very badly indeed. Her physicians protested and warned. The
Amir was thoroughly frightened, greatly distressed. He cajoled, he
pleaded, he bribed with the moving bribery of pearls and jeweled tissues
and thick perfumes, and it is reported that at least twice he wept. But
the result was nothing. His wife laughed and pouted and scoffed and
defied and calmly and obstinately lolled, ate sweetmeats, and smoked
herself to obesity and death.

The Chinese man who launders undergarments and table linen or barters
_chop suey_ in Chicago or St. Louis, living in a dearth of Chinese
women, marries an American wife and makes her an admirable and a
generous husband. The Chinese merchant in the Straits Settlements
chooses a wife from any one of a score of non-Chinese races, and they
jog on together most comfortably, and he lets her rule such of their
life and hours as are mutual far more than he, although in intelligence,
education and principles she is his inferior, and he knows it. Chinese
men of education, of some natural taste and refinement, and with ideals
and sterling personal worth sometimes “take in washing” for a
profession, but American women of commensurate qualities do not marry
them. The Eastern man is proud of his woman, admires her and is
satisfied with her and her ways. He guards and he pampers her more often
than not—unless he’s a Japanese—the Parsi, the Sikh, the Chinese, the
Burmese (_he has_ to), the Cingalese, the Hindoo, yes, and the strict
Mohammedan too! And every Eastern man regards the “white” races as
inferior to his own, is convinced that they are, and looks down upon
them. He does not find Westerners companionable, he does not find them
handsome or beautiful. He dislikes their customs, abhors their dress,
and despises their creeds. And he loathes their food. Why, then, the
desire of the Oriental for a European (and the blonder the better)
mistress or wife? It seems inexplicable. But it _is_. The fact remains.
More than one ruler of an “independent” Indian State has married a
European of rougher birth, less education, more inferior mind, uncouther
manners than his own, and imperiled his throne and succession, even his
life in doing it—and knowing that he did.

But in the attraction that Sên King-lo felt in this English girl there
was no abnormality—unless the friendly touch of yellow and white hands
is in itself abnormality. He had been educated in her country and in its
ways. In much he _was_ English. He not only could read, write and speak
her language, but he could think in it—and often did. He had read more
English books than she had, knew more English facts than she did—and
knew far more of the deeds, the years, and the thought that have made
England. And between the typical English and the typical Chinese the
difference is surprisingly small—and is mostly superficial: a matter of
skin-tints and of bone-formation. There _is_ a spiritual difference—we
in England have not learned to repose on Nature, to merge in her as the
Chinese do, and we reverence ancestry and old age less, guard childhood
less loyally, less tenderly. But England grows—as America does—in all
this. And if the race of Shakespeare and Shelley and Newman lives up
less to its ideals, grasps them less and less generally than does the
race of Han, the ideals of the two—at best—are the same.
We—Anglo-Saxons and Celts—have less vision than the Chinese and its
interknit and absorbed races have, but a gleam glows in the sky of the
Occident—it peeps through the blanket of our dark. We are less insular
than we were—some of us at least. The Oriental lectures—than which
nothing in London is more worth having—at the School of Oriental
Studies in Finsbury Circus are sparsely attended, but some of us do go,
and come away grateful. The East always will be East—in spite of
intermittent, ape-like freaks. Probably the crasser West always will be
West. But the two may meet yet, concordant parts of one splendid whole.

The attraction of the Western woman for the Eastern man _in the West_ is
a simpler and a more normal thing than her attraction of him in the
East. Debarred from the womanhood of his own race in London or New York,
because there are no such women there, an Oriental’s leaning towards an
East-and-West marriage or intimacy has something of the humdrum quality
of poor Hobson’s narrowed choice.

Sên King-lo never had seen a Chinese girl!

Ivy Gilbert’s attraction of Sên first and last was a matter of
personality and of person.

Probably its next strength was a matter of caste. She seemed to him
wholly and charmingly patrician. Sên King-lo—as many young Chinese have
done ever since Wang-Ah Shih made an Empire and an Emperor
ridiculous—believed himself to be “republican”; but he was not. He
could not be. He saw in Ivy Gilbert the caste of his mothers—the
ancestral women he worshiped. He saw in Ivy—a slip of English
girlhood—the imperial feminine of a great, puissant, imperial people.

Republic, commonwealth, kingdom, democracy, empire—take your choice.
There are things to be said of them all—they all have their points. You
may not be able to choose an empire, if you’re too long about it—so
they say—well, we shall see, or our children’s children will.
Prophecy’s a thankless, perilous pastime. And even the writing on the
wall blunders sometimes. But this much is true; our old shifting Earth
has but two empires left her now—China’s and England’s. Japan doesn’t
count—yet. It mixes and meddles, but in the ultimate soul bigness _it
does not count_. And China’s a republic you say? China is not—never has
been and never can be, except in the fevered dreaming of a day of
midsummer madness, the demented throes of a short nightmare; there are
intrinsic qualities of peoples as of individual characters which no
label can change. Under another name China may not be so comfortable a
place to live in, but it is an empire still, disfigured, demented, but
neither shattered nor lost—but not less than empire while the soul of
the Sages, whom she wombed and who too begat her, breathes through the
soul of her people, the poppies and bamboos hang at the edge of the
Yellow Sorrow, and the silkworms gorge on the mulberry leaves and
empurple the looms. And while those twin empires stand—in so much
alike, so much unalike—a something will show in many faces of two
races’ women which shows in no others. It is not distinction—though it
often includes it; it is not courage—though it never lacks it; it is
not flare or flame; it is not beauty; though never unfeminine it is not
femininity; it is not dignity, though it never is cheap, it never
asserts itself—it has no need to; it is not self-conscious; it is
neither humble nor proud and yet it is both; it is neither virtue nor
individuality; still less is it cant; it is empire—racial empire and
personal empire: a part and a whole. A thing to admire? That’s as you
think. But while the wild white rose perfumes the graves of Li’s
ancestors, and the Augean goats browse by the graves of English boys in
Gallipoli, that something will show in the faces of one type—the best
type—of Chinese and English women. Ts’z-hi had it, and Ivy Gilbert,
whatever medley her ancestry, undeniably had it, and the eyes of a
Chinese man, who had been a sash-wearer for thousands of years, saw it
and gloated. She wore it here in Washington; in the nursery schoolroom,
in the ballroom or at Rosehill, as Ts’z-hi had worn it in the Vermilion
Palace.

That Sên King-lo was attracted by Ivy Gilbert was not odd. That he
attracted her, would be longer to explain, if one could—more intricate
and difficult to trace. But he did. And her liking and friendliness
turned to him in the good old hackneyed way that sunflowers have turned
to the sun ever since Adam made the meanest and truest excuse in human
history.

She tempted him—though he didn’t know it yet.

Youth called to youth. Loneliness answered to loneliness. Sex called to
sex.



                              CHAPTER XVII


Emma Snow took alarm first.

“Do you want Ivy to marry Sên King-lo?” she suddenly asked her husband
one morning.

“Damn! Hell!” the phlegmatic Englishman cried hotly. He was shaving, and
he’d cut himself rather badly. (He had a dressing-room of his own, and
used it but rarely.) He sopped off the blood as well as he could, then
flung about on his wife more angry and ruder than she ever had seen him.

“Don’t be disgusting!” he snapped.

“I see what I see,” she retorted smoothly.

“I decline to listen to preposterous, lying, nauseating vulgarity,” Snow
growled, his mouth twitching angrily. “Such a hideous idea never
entered, or could, any head but yours.”

“I see what I see,” she repeated good-humoredly. She was sorry for
Charlie.

“Blow what you see!” Rage, and perhaps a subconscious sick fear,
obsessed him, made him forget himself in their torturing grip.

“Use your eyes!” his wife advised him more coldly. And, not unjustly
incensed, she finished her own toilet in silence, and went down to the
breakfast-room without a glance or a word more.

Dr. Ray saw it next.

The physician was still in Washington. Independent now of her large
Chicago practice, she took more and more time each year for the travel
and study she loved; and few years passed in which she did not make at
least one stay of weeks, if not months, in Washington.

“Do you want pretty Miss Gilbert to marry Sên King-lo?” she asked Miss
Julia as they sat one morning at breakfast.

Miss Julia was furious. Her old hands trembled so that she dropped the
cup she was lifting. It had been in the Townsends’ possession only
goodness and the gods of the South knew how long; and she didn’t give it
a look as it crashed in fragments on the floor, nor a glance to the
pools of hot coffee staining the breakfast damask and her crisp
morning-gown. She didn’t say “Damn,” and she didn’t say “Hell”; but for
all that, she answered her friend very much as Sir Charles Snow had
answered his wife.

The physician took it in perfect good part. But she stood her ground.

“I can’t help thinking that this is just what it is shaping towards,
Julia.”

“You are horrible,” Miss Townsend moaned sickly. “It couldn’t be.”

“Why not?” Dr. Ray demanded gently.

Julia Townsend shrank back in her chair—speechless. She could not have
been more surprised, dismayed, disappointed if Jefferson Davis had
proved a traitor or Robert E. Lee disgraced his uniform—not half so
much so if Mexico’s gulf had submerged her beloved South. She felt
soiled by the tongue of a friend.

“Why not?” Dr. Ray insinuated.

“Why not! Because the bare suggestion is abominable,” Miss Julia
exclaimed. “I’d _kill_ Sên King-lo if I believed that he even could
harbor the vile thought—which I know he could not.”

“I do not believe that he has thought of it yet,” Dr. Ray said, helping
herself to the omelette Miss Julia made no motion to offer. “I am sure
they have not thought of it yet—either of them. People usually marry
first, and think after, I’ve noticed. And I believe they will do
it—marry each other.”

Miss Julia, with a thin old hand that shook violently under its burden
of gems, pushed a silver dish of fast-cooling sweetbreads farther
afield, as if she feared the other might take food she’d grudge her. She
did it automatically.

“They might do worse—perhaps,” the guest said musingly. “But I know you
wouldn’t like it.”

“My God!” Julia Townsend moaned. “And you—you a Southern woman! A
_Southern_ woman—and my friend! You used to be my friend!”

“I do not like it either,” Dr. Ray said quietly—too true a physician to
be incensed at nerves. “But, Julia, the world moves. We can’t shut our
eyes to that. At least, I can’t.”

Poor Miss Julia shuddered, a green shadow lay on her trembling mouth.
She was nauseated, soul and body. But the physician went on, “cruel to
be kind,” as such physicians do:

“I know a very nice girl in Chicago who has married a Chinaman—several
years ago it was. They are perfectly happy. He is kind and generous to
her. He has a sort of delicatessen shop and curio shop mixed—food on
one side, dishes and vases and Joss-sticks and Jacob’s-ladders on the
other. He works from dawn to dusk, and must be worth a good deal by
this—but he never lets her do a hand’s turn, and her silks and furs and
rings—good rings—are a scandal. And their baby——”

“Hush!” Miss Julia ordered in a terrible voice. Her eyes were ablaze.

“But they both are peasants—at least she certainly is—and I often have
wondered how such a marriage would result between husband and wife, both
of gentle birth. It would be very interesting——”

But Julia Townsend could bear no more. She covered her face in her
coffee-sodden napkin and broke into sobs.

Elenore Ray shook her head sadly. If Julia took the uncorroborated hint
like this, how would she take the accomplished fact—if it eventuated?

                 *        *        *        *        *

Emma Snow had warned Sir Charles; Dr. Ray had warned Miss Julia. Except
that each had angered and disgusted, neither had made the slightest
impression.

Sên King-lo came and went at the Massachusetts Avenue house and at
Rosehill as before, and both Snow and Miss Julia scorned to notice how,
or how often, he and Ivy spoke to each other. Dr. Ray held her peace and
so did Lady Snow.

But that was more than Washington did. Would it be a match? Men made
bets at the clubs, and women “Oh”-ed and “Ah”-ed and “My dear”-ed over
tea-cups and cocktails—in Turkish Baths, and even in whispers at
church. Had Sên King-lo been caught at last? Was he going to marry Ivy
Gilbert? What did the Chinese Minister think about it?

That, the Chinese Minister did not state.

Washington is a gossipy place—it gossips in many languages, and from
several angles. There is even more talk in Washington than there is in
Simla. But Washington rarely had a more diverting theme than this. “Ivy
Gilbert and Sên King-lo” were on every tongue. But, oddly enough, not a
word of it had reached either. No thought of marriage, not even of
“love,” had occurred most remotely to the Chinese man or to the English
girl.

But she wore his perfumed lily-bells now—and they came more and more
often. And Emma Snow knew what the florist himself could have told her,
if she had not, that to no other woman, not even to Miss Julia, did Sên
King-lo ever send lilies-of-the-valley. And the florist could have
confirmed Lady Snow’s belief that to no other girl did Sên King-lo ever
send a flower. But the florist kept lips as close as the Chinese
Minister’s own. But while others guessed and wondered, the florist had
not the slightest doubt of how it would end.

The friendship begun by a common aversion to kissing, a jade-green
frock, and a bunch of dangling crimson peppers grew—and more than once
it pulsed.



                             CHAPTER XVIII


Emmeline Hamilton lay on a pile of cushions heaped on the floor, one
hand under her head, her knees hunched up in what she thought a Chinese
attitude, a cigarette she tried to imagine was opium in her mouth, a
purple kimono, embroidered with blue chrysanthemums and red and gold
dragons and beetles and smaller bugs, flopped loosely about her. She
flattered the garment that it was ultra-Chinese, but it was merely an
atrocious libel on the women of Japan. It revealed an appalling stretch
of her amazingly thin legs and not only all her neck, but much that lies
below necks. But that was less exposure than it sounds—for Emmeline was
built as chastely flat as her mother: except for her nose and ears there
scarcely was a jut on Emmeline. She caved in here and there thinly, but
she nowhere bulged. A Chinese woman, even one whose profession was
frailty, would sooner have strangled or starved herself or have perished
by slow suffering inches than have exposed any part of her neck. But
Emmeline didn’t know that. Her mawkish but intense and tigerish
infatuation for Sên King-lo was no greater than her ignorance of his
people and their customs. Her furniture, which had cost enough to be
good, was a poor imitation of inlaid teak-wood. The room was thick and
sneeze-provoking with the smoke of joss-sticks that by chance _were_
Chinese, which the prints and _kakemonos_ on the walls were not, but the
prints were good of their sort, and the costumes they showed were the
garb of an older China—for Japan took her dress, as she’s taken most
she has that is best—from China centuries ago. The great gong that
stood conspicuously and inconveniently in the middle of the room hailed
from the Tottenham Court Road and had been made not far from that street
of “Horse-Shoe” and furniture for cash or time-payment. A porcelain bowl
of sweet-meats lay on the floor beside her, a pair of chop-sticks she
simply could not learn to manipulate crossed above the chocolates and
glacé fruits. She wore an oleander flower over one ear and a tiny
orange-colored fan over the other. She was well hung with jade—such as
it was—and the foot from which she had kicked its heelless sandal
showed that she wore white stockings made like mittens, with separate
compartments provided for flat great toes.

She had taken her flat for a year; and had furnished it, as she believed
(and said), in an absolutely Chinese way. And she lived here alone with
a maid old enough to be a duenna—but far too shrewd to attempt it.

Her brother sulked on a very uncomfortable stool—too high for
feet—very much too low for one’s legs to be conveniently or painlessly
disposed of. Emmeline had been crying; her eyes were redder than her
lightly rouged cheeks. Reginald looked thunderous. Each had close at
hand a cocktail—larger than cocktails usually are made. The
Reginald’s—he liked to be called so—was served in a champagne glass;
Emmeline’s in a small bowl which she called a Chinese wine cup—but Li
Po himself never drank wine out of any vessel half so ample, for it was
almost as large as a small afternoon tea-cup.

“I tell you it’s true!” the girl sobbed, between a whiff and a sip.

“I’ll not believe it!” Reginald liked the suggestion almost as little as
Miss Julia had—and by it his personal vanity was stung, which Miss
Julia Townsend’s had not been. “That low Chink——”

Emmeline threw out a dramatic hand, scattering ash into the embossed
scales of the purple kimono’s handsomest dragon. “Not here!” she hissed.
“No one that speaks with less than the deepest respect for Sên King-lo
shall dare speak it here. He is Celestial!” and she sank back with an
adoring moan on her prickly cushions—a stork’s leg rasped her
cheek—but she was too highly or abjectly Chinese to wince.

“Rot!” Reginald replied.

He turned to his cocktail; she pulled broken-heartedly at her cigarette.
She had a pretty collection of tiny pipes—Chinese and otherwise—but,
like the chop-sticks, they had mastered her, not she them. She
industriously kept them conspicuous, but she couldn’t manage to use
them.

“Reggie,” she said presently, “can’t we help each other, you and I?
Let’s.”

“How?” He spoke gloomily.

“We must think.”

Reginald acquiesced—if he did—by discreet silence, and waited for his
sister to do the thinking; a process more in her line than in his—as
they both knew, though Reginald rarely referred to the fact. He had but
two gifts, beauty of person and splendor of raiment. Emmeline Hamilton
was versatile and not without brains. Her silliness was a pose—his a
reality and an emptiness. She affected asceticism and languor. He
affected nothing but his surprising English accent. Even it he found no
small strain and fatigue. If she had been born a boy, she might have
attained to as successful and profitable a mountebankry as their
father’s. Success, except in an almost floral display of haberdashery,
was not for Reginald de Courcy Hamilton.

“You want to marry her?”

“Yep.” He rarely wasted his English _en famille_.

“You are determined? Perfectly? She hasn’t a cent.”

“I’m nothing of the sort. She won’t have me.”

“You’ve asked her?”

He nodded. No use not giving her the whole lay of the land, if she was
to work her wits on it to advantage. But he wasn’t going to dwell on
that part of it.

“When?”

“What’s that to do with it?”

“Probably everything. You answer; I’ll do the asking. When?”

“Plenty of times,” he muttered viciously.

“Since she’s seen so much of Sên King-lo?”

“Sên King-lo be blowed! I tell you he has nothing to do with it.”

“I tell you he has. Did you propose, the first time, since the last
Rosehill garden party? It was there they met. Mary Withrow told me so.
Was it after that that you proposed to Ivy Gilbert the first time?”

Reginald growled and nodded. His vanity was writhing. But as far as it
was in him to care for any one but himself, he cared for Ivy
Gilbert—and cared for her somewhat surprisingly for one of his type and
of his selfishness, since he wished to marry a penniless girl—which was
precisely what he always had purposed never to do. He wanted Ivy. And,
if Emmeline could help him to it, she’d have to have questions answered.
He saw that.

Emmeline lit a fresh cigarette and lay with her pale eyes darkly fixed
on the ceiling—hatching her plan.

“I have it! We must make him believe that she has jilted you.”

“Thank you!” Gratitude could not have sounded more thankless.

“If she could be made to believe that I was engaged to him, or had
been——”

“Look here, Em,” her brother broke in hotly, “I won’t listen to such
disgusting rot. You engaged, even in fun, to a Chink! Don’t you dare say
such a thing again, even to me!”

Emmeline laughed thinly. There was little she did not dare do—Reg was
the weaker vessel, quite without influence on the sister who, under a
trailing, floppy affectation of languor, was an intensely vital young
woman; and they both knew it. Their parents both consulted Emmeline
frequently and usually followed her advice when they sought it. More
than once she had had a strong finger in a sermon-pie of her father’s.

“If I were engaged to Sên King-lo it wouldn’t be in fun,” she remarked
with a hungry sigh.

“Stop it, I tell you!”

Miss Hamilton paid no attention to her brother’s rising wrath—a nearer
manliness than he often reached—and very little and cool attention to
his words.

“I’d bring a breach-of-promise suit against him,” she went on, “if I had
one iota to go on. But I haven’t. I haven’t a scratch of his pen. I’ve
written him notes about all sorts of things, but he telephoned the
skimpiest, formal answers—and rung off before I could get in three
words. Sên King-lo has never danced with me,” her words trailed off in a
smothered wail.

Reginald Hamilton was too disgusted to speak. He stood up roughly and
turned towards the door.

Emmeline rolled over on her big prickly cushions, face down on them, but
head held up, chin on folded arms; and she fixed her brother with an
imperious look from light, narrowed eyes.

“Sit down,” she commanded. “I’ve got it! Sit down.”

But for once Reginald Hamilton faced his manlier sister squarely. “I
won’t have you mixed up in it, Em. Anything else you like—but not your
name mixed up with that Chink’s.”

Perhaps Emmeline recognized the affection that lay in his brotherly
rage; for she said with another but not ill-natured sigh. “That’s all
right, old bean. It wouldn’t work; so it isn’t our game. But, I’ve got
it! Sit down.”

Reginald sat down.



                              CHAPTER XIX


An ominous silence reigned in the schoolroom, and Ivy—just home from a
fashionable wedding at St. Aloysius—looked cautiously in, to see what
mischief the children were doing.

Sên King-lo sat on the floor, Blanche standing behind him, her chubby
arms pinion-tight about his neck, her small fat hands clutched on his
face. Dick sprawled at his knees, one of Dick’s feet beating an ecstatic
tattoo on the man’s suffering trousers, not to mention the possible pain
to Sên’s leg. All three were beaming with happiness. An array of toys,
such as Ivy never had seen, strewed the floor, and Sên King-lo was
making a procession of them as well as he could, pinioned and manacled
by the excited youngsters: grotesque Chinese toys—animals that must
have startled Darwin and Hudson—and a gorgeous sprinkling of dolls. The
little clay animals bore a remarkable family resemblance, all were
bright orange, handsomely embellished with generous circles of black,
and the dragon looked as much like a tiger as it did like a dragon, the
tiger as much like a dragon as it did like a tiger, the peacock—an
orange and jet-black peacock—the cormorant and the duck looked
triplets, the lion and ape and horse were fulsomely flattering
imitations of each other. There were several imitation dwarf-trees, an
ivory pagoda, a coolie-manned junk, a mandarin under his best umbrella,
a toy-theater, all its actors complete, a peasant’s mat hut, a buffalo
working a water-wheel, a party of pig-tailed merchants playing dice, and
drinking _samshu_, a lady with very small feet and a very large simper,
quite a _créche_ of babies—one on its _amah’s_ back—a monk and a
be-fanned and parasoled warrior, a litter of picture-books, and a number
of other playthings to which the astonished governess could fit no
names.

The three on the floor looked up as Miss Gilbert stood in the door, and
the two children frowned at the interruption. Sên rose with a smile,
Blanche pendant on his back, strangling his neck, Dick clutched on one
arm, a gigantic top in Sên’s left hand. He held out his other hand to
Miss Gilbert.

But she drew back a little. “Not with that menagerie at close quarters,”
she laughed. “I know what those two do to best dresses. Get down,
children, get down at once. Mr. Sên is not a pony.”

But the children stayed where they were, clinging to Sên King-lo but the
tighter.

“Me love ’im, and ’im love me,” Blanche announced.

“See what topping things he’s brought us—from Pekin!” Dick bade his
cousin.

Ivy raised her eyebrows at Sên King-lo. “You made a quick journey to
Pekin and back, Mr. Sên,” she said.

“Yes, didn’t I? A record journey. I promised these imps some real
Chinese toys—weeks ago—and I wired a friend to send them to me. They
came this morning. Do come and play with us. We are having a splendid
time.”

“Do you really enjoy it?” the girl asked incredulously.

“I love it,” Sên told her.

Ivy shook her head sadly. “I don’t understand you.” And her eyes were
cold and unfriendly, Sên thought. But he tried once more. “Won’t you?”
he asked with an effort. The zest had gone out of his voice, and its
tone was flat and perfunctory.

“Sit on the floor, and pretend I’m three? No, thank you. Whatever are
those?” she demanded—disapprovingly, Sên thought.

“Chinese kites,” he told her dully.

Almost a dozen were stacked in one corner—balloon-shaped bodies with
bat-shaped wings.

“Practising for next Easter?” she queried a little superciliously.
“Where are your eggs?”

“Oh—we’ll get the eggs; dozens and dozens of eggs,” Sên assured her.

Blanche gave a gurgle of delight and assaulted Sên’s ear with a damp
rosebud kiss. Ivy saw him wince.

“It’s your own fault,” she told him. “Well, I’m off.”

“Tum back to tea,” Blanche said generously.

“Yes, cousin Ive—you must,” Dick added. “Mr. Sên is having his with
us.”

“You’ll have to excuse me, Dick,” Ivy refused. “Mr. Sên will pour
beautifully, I’m sure.”

“Dere’s doin’ to be muffens,” Blanche announced proudly.

But Ivy stood firm. “Not even for crumpets! Ba. You are a hero, Mr.
Sên.” And she left them.

Sên bowed gravely and returned to the floor, and as she crossed the hall
she heard the great top spin.

The children squealed with delight, but Sên King-lo smothered a sigh.

How desirable she’d looked there in the doorway—though even in his mind
he did not consciously word it like that—the girl in her silvery
steel-trimmed gown, violets at her breast, and in the picture hat that
shaded her brunette face and was tied with violet ribbons under her
dimpled, mutinous chin. He had never desired her more—and never had he
desired her less—though it never yet had occurred to him that he,
intensely Chinese, desired her at all: the girl who had no affection for
children, no share in their fresh little pleasures, no tenderness for
the baby-lives that were of her own near kindred.

And Emma Snow, who noticed most things, and chattered and laughed over
many, noticed—and said nothing about it—that for many days Sên King-lo
sent no lilies-of-the-valley to Ivy.



                               CHAPTER XX


Emmeline Hamilton was silly—decadent even but she was far from stupid.
She made her move at once now, but she made it deftly and unbiased or
hampered by anything that Reginald had said or that he felt.

Rumor began to scratch and tear at Sên King-lo, and it did not leave Ivy
Gilbert quite unscotched—though, for a time, it left her unsmirched.

It was winter now, and November winds rattled leafless branches at
Arlington and on the hillside woods above old Fort Totten’s star-shaped
embankments and cherished parapets. The Potomac crawled gray and sullen
between ice-scummed shores. If gossip and scandal are rampant in the
capital’s summer-time, in winter they flourish like upas trees and leap
to maturity and detail like the Indian conjurer’s mango tree. Gossip
likes the fireside glow, and scandal’s a greedy drinker of afternoon
tea—likes its feet on the fender, and congenial cronies with light
heads and easy chairs close drawn.

Sên King-lo was a roué. There was a Chinese girl close-kept in a high-up
flat over a laundry, its front curtains never open night or day—and
there were others! He was the real proprietor of a select
gambling-place. He trafficked in opium—oh dear, yes. He got tipsy at
the Club—no one knew where he got the stuff, but he did. It had been
hushed up—though it wouldn’t have been for an American citizen—but
when it came to a heathen Chinaman! He had tried to marry Miss Hamilton,
but she wouldn’t look at him. The Snows ought to be more careful of
their young cousin, really they should. Of course, Sir Charles was a
busy man. But Lady Snow, one might think, might see what was up. Marry
Ivy Gilbert? Of course not. There were other endings than that to such
affairs, more lurid endings, my dear. They were together half the time
now, _and at all hours_. They went off together on horseback, miles and
miles. A groom behind them—an English groom? Oh dear, no—not always.
And what if he was? The tea-cups clacked on their saucers, and the
tongues clacked too—not all of them feminine tongues. Who had passed
that counterfeit bill at the Metropolitan Club? Why was it hushed up?
Who had hushed it, and how? Sên King-lo cheated at cards. But, dear old
bean, all Chinamen did that. Early in December the Chinese girl who
lived in the close-curtained flat over the laundry—no one seemed too
sure quite where—died. No doctor—no anything. The poor thing’s body
was taken out in the dead of night. All bumpty-bump in a box down the
laundry back stairs. Scandalous! Taken across the river in a rowboat.
What were the police about? And buried, or disposed of
somehow—somewhere—goodness only knows where! Isn’t it horrible? And
that very same night Sên King-lo had gone to the ball at General
Howard’s—the Howards of all people—who thought half the nicest people
in Washington not good enough to know their girls—and Lady Egerton had
danced with him—and so had Lucy Howard—and he’d danced with Lady Snow,
and he had danced twice with the Gilbert girl. There could be only one
end to it! Of course!

The rumors trickled, then swelled, and no one knew—or cared—who was
their source. And Sên King-lo was more talked of than ever and not run
after any the less. And Ivy was cold-shouldered a little—when Lady Snow
was not looking. You couldn’t slight _Lady_ Snow’s cousin when Lady Snow
was looking.

Every one heard it all—every one but Lady Snow herself and Ivy and Sên
King-lo. Lady Snow heard none of it. Ivy heard a good deal, but none of
the gossip that linked her name with Sên’s. All that was worst of it
reached Sên King-lo, but only the slightest whisper of what was said of
his acquaintance with Miss Gilbert.

Sên took no notice—except that he watched the English girl’s face with
speculative, careful eyes.

Their acquaintance still waxed—though still in his mind a flaw lingered
and rankled: Ivy’s unwomanly dislike of children.

Dr. Ray heard the unclean talk at her hotel and in several
drawing-rooms; heard it and invited Mr. Sên to dinner. Miss Townsend
heard it in her Rosehill fastness and crossed the purveyor off her
visiting list—and, after doing that two or three times, heard it no
more. Sir Charles Snow heard it all and urged Sên King-lo the oftener to
his board and encouraged him even more cordially to Blanche and Dick’s
nursery. Toys were costing Sên King-lo almost as much now as
lilies-of-the-valley in December were. Snow and Sên never spoke to each
other of the crawling gossip. But each knew that the other knew that
they both knew; and they smiled into each other’s eyes now and then—but
no plainer allusion passed between them, and Sên King-lo accepted
Charles Snow’s loyalty and faith as a matter of course, and quite
simply.

The Chinese Minister heard of all that was said. It was he that told
Sên; no other man could have dared—unless Snow had cared to or thought
it worth while. The Chinese Minister told it in all its ugly
grimness—but did not speak of Miss Gilbert—but his old eyes danced and
his sides shook with mirth.

Sên heard him gravely and made no comment beyond a cold smile and a
slight indifferent gesture.

As for Ivy she showed Mr. Sên a warmer, franker friendliness than she
had before; and Sên understood and was grateful and was only able to
refrain from telling her so because it was impossible to speak of such
things to a girl.

Then Emmeline Hamilton reloaded her dice and threw them again. She did
it twice.

A morning paper—not one of the best reputed—announced the engagement
of Sên King-lo and Miss Hamilton. No names were mentioned, but the
descriptions of “a prominent Chicago clergyman’s daughter and a socially
conspicuous young Chinese diplomat” were too well and accurately done to
be mistakable.

Washington tittered. And the Chinese Minister’s sides shook again.

So Sên King-lo had been playing with Miss Gilbert all the time—and
Emmeline Hamilton had won! For she herself had advertised her
infatuation too vividly and widely for any one at all _au fait_ with the
capital’s social swimmers not to know of it—no matter what they had
said a month ago. That was how most of the breakfast tables summed it
up. But =a handful= of other individuals did not accept the situation
so. Dr. Ray smiled sagely when her attention was called to the
paragraph—the journal was not one which she herself read—and then the
physician’s face grew grave.

“Poor girl,” she said to herself—not referring to Ivy. The erudite
Latin of an uncomfortable malady had crossed her thought. And she had
heard Joseph Hamilton preach—once. She had not called it “preach”; she
had called it “perform.”

Sên King-lo—like all of his race, always an early riser—chanced in at
the Club soon after breakfast, picked up the first sheet he saw, and
caught, not his own name but the clearly pointed lines. It was not a
journal taken in at the Chinese Legation.

Sên too smiled, even more coldly than Dr. Ray had, purloined the page
and went leisurely off towards Judiciary Square, and, his business there
done, walked a little more briskly to Massachusetts Avenue. He asked
neither for Lady Snow nor for Sir Charles, but for Miss Gilbert.

Would she ride? he asked, when she came down.

She shook her head. “I wish I could. But it’s the verb ‘to be’ and the
boundaries of the Sea of Marmora for me today.”

“Turn them over, lock, stock and barrel—verb, sea, children and all—to
Justine. It’s a perfect day, and I very much wish you’d come,” he urged.

“It is a tempting day,” Ivy owned.

“Do come.”

“Oh—well,” she yielded, “they learn as much when I don’t teach them as
when I do; and Justine shall hear them slaughter the verb ‘to be’ in
French. Marmora can wait a day.”

“It will wait, on all its four boundaries, for many a day, if I’m any
judge of Dick and Ba,” Sên asserted.

Ivy nodded and laughed. “Ring and order Wolf then, while I put on my
habit, will you?”

“Thank you,” Sên told her, as he opened the door.

Usually Sên King-lo asked her where they should ride, but today he took
the way. And Ivy wondered why he chose the streets he did, keeping some
time to the residential streets and circles before he turned towards the
country.

“What are we doing, Mr. Sên?” she demanded, as they passed by the
Sheridan house for the second time. “And why are we walking? Are you
trying to see some one?”

“No one, whom I do not see,” he answered lightly. “But one likes to be
seen sometimes.”

“You are going up and down the same streets,” she grumbled.

“I am taking a short cut,” Sên told her gravely. And then he laughed.

But after that the girl got her canter, and they lunched with Miss
Julia—Dr. Ray chanced to be lunching also—and rode back in the crisp
of the early sunset.

They had no groom with them today, as now they sometimes did not.

Miss Townsend scarcely approved of that—but she made no remark. It was
Lady Snow’s business, not hers. And Miss Julia was no poacher.

The two women stood at the door to see them go, and Elenore Ray noticed
that they were unattended—and smiled. Girls often rode so in Chicago.
But that was not why the Chicago physician smiled.

And she had smiled too at lunch, when Ivy had twitted Sên upon the slow
passing and repassing up and down the Washington streets he’d inflicted
upon them before he’d let them take the long over-river roads for which
she and their horses had longed. And again she demanded why.

But Sên King-lo only had laughed.



                              CHAPTER XXI


Abraham Kelly was as shrewd and polished as he was hard: a lawyer such
as only New England can produce. He liked the Chinese Minister, and his
Chinese Excellency liked and trusted Kelly.

Miss Hamilton never had met him, but she knew of him—every one did, for
he was a national asset—and she knew him by sight; for the stern and
upright old man was an inveterate theater-goer, and rarely missed a
first night, sitting through tragedy and comedy with equal grimness, and
insisting, at the fall of every curtain, that there never had been and
never would be but one playhouse of merit: the Boston Museum—never an
artist to compare with Annie Clarke and Baron and Warren and Mrs.
Vincent, and never a play to equal “The Angel of Midnight.”

Emmeline was puzzled when his card was brought to her, but after a
moment she said, “Yes—I’ll see him.”

Perhaps Uncle Silas had died and had left her most of his money—most
sensible of him, if he had, for she’d make better use of it than ever
Reg would. Perhaps Uncle Silas had, and Mr. Kelly had come to tell her
of her legacy. She’d wear deep mourning for her uncle, of course, if
he’d left her a lot—half or more. She loved white, and white was
Chinese mourning she knew. For, if Miss Hamilton knew less than nothing
of China, it was not because she had not read feverishly a large number
of books telling of that country and its people.

But surely her father or mother would have telegraphed, if old Uncle
Silas was dead. No—she was afraid it couldn’t be that. Well, she’d said
he could come up—and she might as well see him, no matter what it was.

She went to the window and arranged herself there in an Oriental
languorous attitude.

She thought that the light from the window and the background of purple,
dragon-embroidered curtains, with a candle-lantern of jangling glass
beads hanging between them, suited her well.

And Emmeline was looking her best today. Excitement was tinging her thin
face with almost a girlish and pretty rose, and her pale eyes were
sparkling. She was hoping so much from the paragraph in the paper of
which several copies—blue penciled—lay about the room conspicuously.
The paragraph was in just as she’d wished. And out of one copy of the
paper she’d cut it, and she was wearing it now in the jade locket over
her heart! She was hoping everything from Sên King-lo’s chivalry! The
Chinese were so chivalrous—all the best authorities said so, and a man
who had spent a week in Shanghai had told her once that it was perfectly
true, and even a Presbyterian missionary friend of her father’s to whom
she had repeated it had made no reply.

At the sound of hoofs she turned her face to the window, to see, who was
riding by; she didn’t ride herself, she thought it too mannish, and she
didn’t enjoy it—but she always liked to watch men who rode. And though
she never yet had seen him pass her window, there was always a chance
that it might be. . . .

It was. And a bitter look rushed into her eyes. For Sên King-lo was
speaking to Ivy Gilbert, and Ivy was laughing back at him—neither
paying any undue attention to the horses they rode.

Emmeline watched them out of sight—neither looked up at her window—and
she turned back with a paler face as Kelly came into the room. He bowed,
and then he coughed. The clouds of smoke from the many clustering
joss-sticks had smote him, throat and nose.

Emmeline motioned to him languorously. “Pray be seated, Mr. Kelly.”

The lawyer threw a searching glance across the remarkable room and bowed
his thanks. The inlaid stool did not attract him, and there was nothing
else to sit on—if it was intended for seating purposes. That the
cushions on the floor were so intended did not cross his mind—a shrewd
and versatile mind, but adamantly New-Englandish.

“I shall detain you but a moment, Madam,” he said, still standing. “My
client, Mr. Sên King-lo——”

“Oh, but you must sit down.” Emmeline rushed at him, and caught his arm
in almost caressing fingers.

Abraham Kelly bowed and backed and extracted his broadcloth dexterously.

“Mr. Sên King-lo has seen with great distress and grave indignation the
paragraph which you, I observe, also have seen.” He pointed a lean
fore-finger at the blue-marked sheet on the nearest cocktail table. “He
has instructed me to express to you his deepest concern that you, a lady
whom he scarcely knows, should have been libeled so scurrilously in the
intolerable journalistic falsehood.” Emmeline sighed sentimentally. “The
base and unfounded insinuation will be withdrawn, contradicted and
apologized for in tomorrow’s issue. I already have seen the editor and
the proprietor and myself dictated the contradiction and the apology.
But my client wishes me to express to you his indignation and regret. If
we can find the original culprit, I am instructed to push the case to
the severest limit our laws provide, unless—_unless_ you, Madam, would
prefer, for obvious reasons, that the matter be dropped and we all rest
satisfied with the withdrawal and apology. It is for you to decide.”

“I should like to see Mr. Sên himself about it first,” Emmeline said
sentimentally.

“That I fear will be impossible now,” the lawyer replied regretfully.
“Having put the matter in my hands, my client cannot speak on the matter
except through me. We lawyers are sticklers, you know, and the Chinese
are punctilious—and none more so than Mr. Sên King-lo.”

“Nonsense!” Emmeline snapped. “I insist upon seeing Mr. Sên about it.”

“Impossible,” the lawyer told her tersely.

“I shall write to him,” Miss Hamilton insisted sulkily. “Mr. Sên himself
and I will decide what we are going to do about it. I had a right to be
consulted _before_ you went to the paper—not after. It’s as much my
affair as Mr. Sên’s. And I don’t propose to be left out of it. I shall
telephone the newspaper at once.”

Kelly bowed.

“And I shall write to King-lo,” she repeated hysterically.

“And he will hand your note to me to answer,” the lawyer told her
smoothly.

“Show a woman’s letter—her personal letter—to _you_! He couldn’t!”

“Pardon me; he would have to. And I have seen many women’s personal
letters.” He smiled a little.

“I shall mark it ‘Private,’ ” the girl almost hissed.

The lawyer bowed. But hard as he was—all buckram and broadcloth and
relentless procedure—he was sorry for the unstrung pallid creature
facing him. He had diagnosed her as Dr. Ray had—as quickly and
convincedly. Lawyers see as much, perhaps, of that complex as physicians
do—even in New England.

“You will let me know—when you have considered it—your decision as to
whether we are to ferret out, as we undoubtedly can, the originator of
the false and abominable falsehood, or to let that part of it drop. Our
only wish is to spare you further annoyance.”

“I’ll let Mr. Sên know,” Miss Hamilton answered haughtily. “You are not
my lawyer. I’ll choose my own lawyer, if I want one.”

Kelly bowed.

“I insist—” she began hotly; but Abraham Kelly had bowed himself out.

Emmeline stood for several moments where he’d left her, limp with rage,
her thin breast heaving painfully, her clenched hands raised above her
head.

As his footsteps died away, she threw herself face downwards on her
cushions, and broke into hard, tearless sobs, her nervous fingers
picking convulsively at the pillows’ silks and tinsels.

Sên King-lo’s chivalry had failed her. And he was riding with Ivy
Gilbert!

But she scorned her defeat. She was not through yet, and she’d throw her
dice again.



                              CHAPTER XXII


Ivy Gilbert heard of the paragraph of course; every one did. She heard
of it that evening, but she gave it even less thought than Sir Charles
did; for he wondered idly who had inspired it and why, but Ivy did not
even do that. She heard of it, but she did not trouble to read it, and
Emma, watching, wondered if she’d been mistaken in believing that Ivy
had come to take more than a friendly interest in Mr. Sên. If she did,
she gave no sign now.

Of the ugly stories that were clouding Sên’s name more persistently
every day, no word ever had been spoken by Lady Snow as yet. Emma Snow
had no wish to mention them to her cousin, and had she wished, which she
did not, to speak of them to Sir Charles, would not have dared do it.

A few days after the morning journal had eaten its yesterday’s words,
Lady Snow’s drawing-room was very full even for her “at home” day.

Emmeline Hamilton came very early, and finding a moment and a corner
alone with Ivy, said suddenly, “Do you care for King-lo?”

Ivy stiffened. “Do I what, Miss Hamilton?”

“You know that my brother cares for you.”

“We will not discuss that,” Ivy cut her short.

“And Sên King-lo is all the world to me.”

“Oh—hush,” Ivy cried, ashamed to her core that any girl could be so
brazen—for such she considered the other’s avowal of feeling for a man
with whom, as Ivy knew, her acquaintance was very slight. It did not
shock her at all that Miss Hamilton had come to care for a Chinese—for
she, Ivy herself, had ceased to think of Sên King-lo as of a race apart
and debarred and even unconsciously thought of him as of one far less
alien to her than most of the men she met here.

“He is,” Emmeline went desperately on, “and I don’t care who knows
it——”

“That is evident,” Ivy Gilbert thought. But she said nothing.

“—and he’d have been engaged to me now, if it wasn’t for you.”

“That is preposterous,” Ivy interrupted indignantly.

“It _is_ preposterous,” Emmeline agreed quickly; “for he does not care
for you really, and I don’t believe that you care for him. If you do
care for him, say so—” Ivy’s lip curled—“and then it will be a fair
fight between you and me. But, if you don’t, won’t you give him back to
me? I want him. Do you?”

“I think you must be mad, and I know you are disgusting,” Ivy rather
panted, looking at Emmeline with horror-widened eyes, and moving to go.

But Emmeline caught at her wrist with vise-like thin fingers; and short
of making a scene in Emma’s drawing-room, where already a few other
guests were trickling in, there was no escape. So she sat down again.
You must humor lunatics; she had always heard that. Well—she hoped
she’d not meet another lunatic soon.

“Answer me! You shall! Do you care for King-lo?”

“I like Mr. Sên—as I think every one does,” Ivy said coldly.

“Only that?”

Ivy bent her head, with a look of contempt straight into Emmeline’s
eyes.

“Oh—he is perfect!” Emmeline bleated. “Will you give him back to me?”

“I cannot give what is not mine. And I will not listen to any more
insult—not if I have to appeal to my cousin.”

“Is he coming here today?” Emmeline pleaded abjectly, a sudden change in
tone and manner. Dr. Ray would have read it apprehensively; but Ivy was
merely blankly amazed.

“I do not know,” she answered truthfully.

“Did he give you those flowers you are wearing?”

But that was too much—scene or no scene. Miss Gilbert rose again, and
this time the other made no attempt to stay her but called after her, “I
know he did,” in an overstrained voice that made heads turn and eyebrows
raise.

Guests came and went, but Emmeline Hamilton stayed. Lady Snow looked at
her curiously more than once. Ivy kept out of her way.

It was growing late, but half a dozen tardy comers lingered over the
blazing logs and tinkling tea-cups, and Emmeline pushed into the group,
shivering a little, and drawing about her thin, lightly clad shoulders
the long-drooping fur that she had not left in the hall. Her mood had
changed again.

“You were speaking of Sên King-lo,” she said—but no one had mentioned
him there. “Every one is. It is odious that he should be tolerated among
us. He ought to be horsewhipped out of the place.” And in spite of Lady
Snow’s imperative gesture, she plunged into all the recent scandal—even
into noisome details. And Sên King-lo came into the room as she shrilly
told one nauseous item. “Had you heard all this?” she demanded pointedly
of Ivy.

“Yes—all, though worded less uncomfortably, I’m glad to say, than you
have,” Miss Gilbert said clearly, rising and crossing the room to Sên
King-lo, who stood in the doorway with Sir Charles Snow beside him.
“Good afternoon Mr. Sên,”—it was then that the other women turned and
saw him,—“I was wishing you’d come. I want you to ride with me
tomorrow. Will you take me?”

“You know how glad I always am,” he replied, as she gave him her hand.
His face had not changed as he had unavoidably heard Emmeline’s last
sentences. But his eyes flashed into Ivy’s as he held her fingers, and
then he turned and went to his hostess, cool and quiet as he always was.

But Ivy spoke to him again as soon as Emma had greeted him.

“Thank you for my lilies,” she said with a glance down at them, and a
smile into his eyes: “they are lovelier than ever today, I think.”

Before Sên could reply—and he never was slow—Miss Hamilton rose from
her chair dramatically; but before she could speak, Sir Charles Snow
gave her his arm and led her courteously from the room. Sên King-lo went
to the door and opened and held it.

The others went almost at once, and Lady Snow went into the hall with
the last to go and did not come back. But she said to Sên as she passed
him, “Do stay and dine—we’ll none of us dress.”

“Shall I stay?” Sên asked Ivy, as the closed door left them alone.

“I want you to,” she answered. “And thank you again for my lilies. Won’t
you have a few sprays—they’ll dress you for dinner—as they do me,” and
she held out the sprays she’d pulled from her dress as she spoke.

“So they will,” Sên said, as he bowed over the tiny white bells of
perfume and the fingers that gave them. “Thank you.”



                             CHAPTER XXIII


They rode the next day, and Ivy suggested “a Washington ride,” but Sên
laughed and turned Sinbad towards the Potomac, across the bridge, into
the icicled country roads.

No mention was made, of course, as none had been made the evening
before, of the cancerous rumors with which society’s amiable chit-chat
had been teeming for weeks, and the ugliest detail of which Emmeline had
retailed shrilly yesterday as Sên stood within unavoidable earshot in
Lady Snow’s drawing-room. But they felt a deeper companionship today
than they had before; a more basic and secured good-fellowship,
absolutely devoid of sentimentality, as little fettered or fed by sex as
waxing comradeships between a man and a girl, congenial and heart-free,
can be; a good-fellowship not unlike the friendship of Sên and Charles
Snow, wholesomely and strongly rooted in a mutual respect which both
felt could neither be destroyed nor damaged.

In spite of the cold, they rode slowly now and then. For the
winter-kissed waysides were indescribably lovely, and Sên King-lo could
not pass that loveliness quickly by. To him it was as if God had painted
in silver and white and black the long out-rolled picture of the
inimitable landscape’s scroll; painted and limned it, and breathed His
high living message into it more supremely, more beautifully, than ever
even the master-brush of great Ma Yuen had. They spoke to Sên King-lo
and tingled his Chinese soul: the long sweeps of glorious panoramic
beauty, with each tiniest black leafless twig softened by cuddling
little drift-patches of spotless snow and sparkling with diamond
dew-drops of ice. To the English girl it looked just fairyland,
exquisitely beautiful, quite unreal—and she heard no message. Such the
difference of her Western spirit and eyes and his of the East. She saw
it a wonderful spectacle and was glad she’d come; he merged in it, and
forgot self—and was silent. And from his silence, the far-look in his
eyes, the slight flush on his face, she caught something of his mood,
too, perhaps, _just_ a something of his spirit. They never before had
been so close—or so far. She echoed his pleasure, but could not share
his absorption; she alien here, in the white Virginia woods, with snow
and thin gleams of ice where ice and snow come but rarely, the white
passion of December rapturously calling Earth its bride. Sên King-lo
felt at home; for the hour, no longer afar from China. Not once in many
years does winter show so in England. In his Chinese home Sên had seen
winter so a thousand times.

They lingered—but as the sun sank, backing the black and gray
tree-trunks with royal colors, they turned back towards the city. As
they neared it the girl turned her head at the quick clatter of hoofs
behind them—gaining upon them, almost, she thought, as if in pursuit.

Again today no groom was with them.

She saw who it was and turned her head back with an impatient frown on
her face but said nothing.

Sên King-lo did not see Reginald Hamilton until Hamilton drew his horse
neck and neck with Sên’s.

Hamilton did not lift his hat, and King-lo’s slim fingers tightened
slightly on his riding-crop.

Reginald was winded, a little. He was no great horseman, and he had been
drinking—though not to excess. It was physical inconvenience and
personal emotion that quivered and belched him far more than bourbon and
bitters.

“I’ll deal with you later, you yellow, opium-sodden chimpanzee,” he
cried thickly, with an insulting motion of his whip. “Be off with you
now! I’ll not allow you to ride with this lady. Don’t let me catch you
so much as speaking to her again, you vermin-fed laundry whelp!
Understand?”

Sên smiled slightly, his eyes perfectly quiet, and turned to the girl
beside him.

“Please ride on a little, Miss Gilbert,” he asked easily. “I won’t be a
moment.”

“No,” Ivy told him. “I stay with you. Are you going to kill him?”

“In _your_ presence? No, not even whip him—merely set him on his feet.
Please go. I’ll be with you almost at once.”

Ivy did not answer him. She had grown very white—but not with fear, not
even with nervousness, Sên knew. She sat perfectly still, and she did
not move or speak again.

Reginald raised his whip, a little unsteadily.

The Chinese man leisurely threw his reins over one arm, the loop of his
crop over one finger, leaned lightly a little from his saddle, caught
Reginald Hamilton by the arms, and swung him down to the ground—not
roughly—setting him square on his feet.

Sên gave the riderless horse an imperative but friendly tap on its flank
with his crop, and it started off at a slow trot.

Reginald stood stock-still; purple, spluttering, wordless.

“I hope it’ll find its stable,” Sên said to Ivy lightly. “I daresay it
will; they usually do. Shall we walk our horses on, Miss Gilbert?”

They went on in silence, and after a few moments, because he saw how
white and cold the girl’s face looked, Sên set a faster pace, and they
kept it until, as they passed the Louise Home, Ivy slackened her reins
and looked at him with a tinkle and gurgle of girlish laughter, which
Sên King-lo, as Sir Charles did, always thought had a sound of China.

He looked at her with a question in his smile.

“I was thinking,” she told him—“I don’t think you’ll mind, we are good
friends——”

“The best of friends,” Sên King-lo said gravely, holding his hat in his
hand as he spoke.

“I was thinking of your hands, Mr. Sên, and of a silly thing I thought
the first time we met—in the summer—at Miss Julia’s——”

“I have not forgotten where I first saw you,” Sên said, with no hint or
sound of hidden meaning.

“Your hands—they are different—you know”—Ivy hesitated a little.

“Chinese,” Sên said.

“Yes,” the girl nodded, “and not very thick, and I wondered—that night
at Miss Julia’s—how much use they’d be at fisticuffs. I know now, Mr.
Sên.”

She let the chamois loop on her riding-crop just fleck the hand on his
horse’s bridle as she spoke, her eyes freemason friendly on him.

Sên lay his hand on her pommel for a moment. “Chinese hands,” he told
her, “that always will serve to take care of you when you allow me to be
your escort.”

“I know that,” the girl said quietly.



                              CHAPTER XXIV


The story of Reginald Hamilton’s last ride in Washington never got out.
His horse found its way back to its stable, quite uninjured, and that,
plus a check for a bill never before too promptly paid, satisfied the
liveryman who owned it. Unlike Washington society, he was not curious.
And neither Ivy nor Sên King-lo told any one—for some weeks not even
Sir Charles. Had Hamilton stayed on in Washington, probably both his
cousin and their friend would have felt that Snow must be told—that he,
the only man in America who had a right to do it, might stand between
the girl and any further advances of the Reginald. But a week after his
descent to the snow-thick road, Reginald and his sister, together,
though not on speaking terms, betook them to Chicago.

Reginald Hamilton had been away from Washington for a few days when
Emmeline had achieved her newspaper _coup_; and on his return, after the
ill-fated paragraph’s contradiction, she had managed to prevent him from
attempting a tardy intervention. But he had heard all about it, of
course; and, though not quite dull enough to doubt that the invention
had been Emmeline’s, with intention and hope behind it, it had
humiliated as well as enraged him; and this, added to his thwarted and
growing passion for Ivy, had swung him quite off his balance of mind and
breeding, never very secure. And his outrageous and, because futile,
absurd behavior had been, at least in part, a demented blow struck in
his sister’s defense. He, craven though he was, would have slain
Emmeline himself before he’d have seen her married to a Chinese; but he
was infuriated that Chinese Sên King-lo had scorned the hint which, as
Hamilton (and all Washington) knew, Emmeline more than once had given.

By mid-January the rumors that had smirched Sên’s name had died away and
made room for others about some one else. Washington society has too
many sensations to dawdle long over one—and too many great interests to
quite lose its head over things that are in truth as uninteresting as
they are vicious and petty.

Sên still rode and walked with Ivy, had long Anglo-Chinese conferences
with Snow, still played with Dick and Blanche, sometimes carrying them
off to have several hours of high-jinks in his own rooms. Sir Charles
went there sometimes, and Emma Snow had had tea there with Sên King-lo
twice and had lunched there once with Sên and Miss Julia: a very great
and unmerited honor for Sên, Uncle Lysander thought. Kow Li had a
different opinion which he kept to himself.

Ivy had not been invited. Mary Withrow and Lucille Smith wondered why.
Emma Snow and Dr. Ray, who still was in Washington, thought they knew,
but, like Kow Li, each kept her opinion strictly to herself.

A great English statesman was the lion of the January hour. His name was
world-known, and he had married a minor royalty. He was staying with the
Snows, and Lady Snow’s big drawing-room was insufficient for her
callers.

Sir Charles and his wife had gone with the Duke to the White House an
hour ago, and Sên King-lo and Ivy were looking at the confession her
cousin’s guest had written just before dinner; the first contribution of
that sort she had asked for since Sên’s.

“That reminds me,” she said, as he closed the book, and she took it from
him and opened it again, turning the pages until she found his, “I’ve
always meant to ask you or Charlie and always forgotten to do it—I’ve
such a sieve of a head.” She laid her finger below the character that
stood for a woman’s name. “Will you pronounce it for me?”

Sên spoke the Chinese word.

She made him repeat it and tried to say it after him.

“Oh, it would take me years! What an appalling language!” She laughed at
him. “But I like your favorite name, Mr. Sên. I like its sound when you
say it. I think it is beautiful.”

“The most beautiful word in the world to me,” Sên said—“the most
beautiful name in the world. We Chinese are said to crave only sons. But
as long as I can remember, my heart’s desire has been to have a daughter
whose mother would let me give her that name.”

He spoke quite simply, for all his English training, too Chinese to feel
any mawkish hesitancy in speaking to a friend, a girl he respected, of
life’s best realities. Something that hurt a little, something new and
strange, pricked at Ivy Gilbert’s heart.

Sên King-lo’s wife! His Chinese wife! She had never thought of her. She
always had thought of him as just Sên King-lo—the Sên King-lo she knew
and liked and talked with and rode with—unmarried, here in Washington
to stay. More often than not she forgot that he was not English, more
alien than she was, alien very differently from her. Of course he’d go
back to China—and marry there—some day. Why not? How silly she was!
_All_ Chinese married. She didn’t know much about them, but she knew
that much. Had his ancestors worn pig-tails? Even his own father,
perhaps! It was a horrid thought. She looked up from the Chinese page of
her book to the Chinese man on the other side of the small, low table
between them, a sudden fear, a revulsion, in her young English eyes—and
looked down again very quickly.

“Of course you couldn’t write it in English,” she spoke a little
breathlessly; “you had to leave the space blank. There isn’t any English
name for the Chinese name, of course. You couldn’t translate it.”

“No,” he told her, “that was not the reason. There is an English
translation for many Chinese names—and this is one. I have written it
in English—once or twice,” he added with a smile that neither he nor
she understood.

“Then why—” she began.

“It was my girl-mother’s name, Miss Gilbert, and I love it for that,
even far more than I do for the music it makes—it _is_ music in _my_
language and in yours. It was the last word my father ever spoke.”

“I beg your pardon,” Ivy told him shyly. “I’m so sorry. Of course, you
wouldn’t write it in my confession-book.”

“But I did. I wrote it in Chinese. I’ll write it now in English, if
you’ll let me. I didn’t when I wrote the English pages, because I could
not take that liberty with _your_ name.”

“My——”

Sên King-lo’s eyes kindled into hers. “My mother’s name”—his lips
seemed to caress it as he spoke it—“was Ruby.”

_And then the girl knew._



                              CHAPTER XXV


Sên King-lo did not know—yet. But Ivy knew.

Almost always the woman knows first—no matter how inexperienced she is,
or how experienced he.

Ivy knew. And because she reeled a little under the shock—and all that
it meant—she blundered into words that were the last she’d have spoken,
if she and her tongue had known what they were doing.

“How odd! Your mother’s name was Ruby Sên.”

She knew what she’d said the moment she’d said it, and she flushed, face
and neck, almost as crimson as a Chinese’s bride’s veil.

Even then the man did not know—neither his secret nor hers. But the
first far-off glimmering of his own came to him then—like the
shimmering scent of distant flowers or the tremble of music a long way
away.

He saw Ivy’s confusion, the red on her face, and that her lips and hands
trembled a little. But he mistook it to be only her vexation for a _faux
pas_ that the sensitive taste of so nice a girl exaggerated out of all
proportion to the small thing it was.

“But no,” he reminded her with a light laugh, “it was not—it was Sên
Ruby.”

Ivy laughed too then. But the odd inverted sound of it hurt her—“Sên
Ruby”—reminding her, admonishing her, of the bar eternally set, the
race-bar that decency—or was it prejudice?—set between East and West.
_She_ never could leap that bar, and she knew that he never would.
“English-Chinese!”

She was glad when Sên King-lo went to the piano. (Was it tact or because
he felt like playing? she wondered. It was both.) And she was still more
glad when Emma came in with Sir Charles and the Duke. And as soon as she
decently could she said goodnight and left them.

She was very weary as she trudged up the easy stairs—and her young soul
was bitter. Other girls kept their dreams—at least for a time—but she
might not keep hers for an hour—not for one heart-beat of time.

Chinese!

She lay awake a long time wishing the day would come, dreading its
coming. She did not hear the front door close, but she heard Sên’s step
as it passed under her window, and she smothered her ears in her pillow.

It was almost morning when at last she slept, and she dreamed of Sên
King-lo’s wife—his Chinese wife and hated her. She dreamed of Sên
King-lo in Chinese dress—skirts, hair, and all—and loathed herself.
She mocked herself, and his eyes mocked her.

She woke to a rush of thought—the thought that her name was “Ruby” and
that she was more glad of that than she ever had been of anything else.
Charles called her “Ruby” almost as often as he did “Ivy.” What a pale
insipid name “Ivy” was—a silly name. Why hadn’t they called her only
“Ruby”?

Oh, the shame and the pain of it all! To have given her love unasked,
unsought, unwanted! And to a man of a debarred race! But why? Why was it
debarred? Did he know? Did he suspect it? Had she told him? She shivered
down in her warm bed and closed her miserable eyes—ashamed to have even
the daylight see her. How was she to face Emma and Charlie—_and_ Sên
King-lo? He must never know. Whatever he believed now, led to by her,
she must convince him that he had made an absurd mistake. She would.

At breakfast Sir Charles smiled affectionately at her, glad to see her
so happy and full of fun, and the Duke chuckled more than once. Marie
should ask her to stay with them when the Snows came home, and if Rupert
fell in love with her—who cared? Not Rupert’s father. Not he! But Emma,
watching and listening, grew grave at heart, and her eyes were anxious
though her lips smiled. How Charlie would hate it! Her poor Charlie! If
only they’d left Ivy at home in England!

For Lady Snow knew what neither Ivy nor Sên King-lo did and had little
doubt of how it would end. But she feared that in the meantime Ivy was
going to be very ill. The girl was drinking too much coffee, and she was
forcing herself to eat.

All day Ivy listened for a voice and a footstep. She longed not to see
Sên King-lo again. But her pride told her she must; and, more than she
wished not to face him again, she longed to do so and get it well over.
She’d carry her head high to the last. And she’d find an excuse to go
back to England after Easter. She never had promised to stay with Emma
and Charles forever. Whatever she’d do there, however she’d contrive to
live there, she did not know. But that did not matter.

Sên King-lo did not come that day. But he sent flowers in his
stead—although he had sent her some only yesterday.

Today—for the first time since he _had_ sent them—he sent her no
lilies. When Ivy opened the florist’s box it held only
roses—deep-scented, red roses the color of rubies.

Ivy tucked two or three in her belt; it would look less strange,
perhaps, to Sên, if he came, than if she did not, she thought.

She and Lady Snow lunched alone that day, and Emma wondered who had sent
those roses—but didn’t ask or look at them particularly. But at dinner
the Duke had no such scruple.

“You have changed your flowers,” he remarked. “I thought you always wore
lilies-of-the-valley.”

“Not always. A friend gives me lilies sometimes.”

“Rather often,” the Duke observed slyly.

“I bought my red roses,” Ivy continued, “and I paid dear for them.”

“Flowers are a scandalous price in winter,” the Duke agreed.

“These were!” Ivy laughed.

Lady Snow shot her a covert glance. Why had Ivy told that lie? There was
no need for her to have said anything. She had not bought those roses.
The house was full of flowers always, and Ivy always was free of them
all. Ivy’s money went, almost to a dollar, on clothes. How had they cost
her dear? That much had sounded true to Emma Snow’s quick ears.

“By the way,” Sir Charles asked presently, “what was Blanche crying so
hard over this afternoon?”

Ivy flushed and answered. “She was in a temper because I would not give
her one of my roses.”

The two men looked surprised. How unlike Ivy, Sir Charles thought, and
was puzzled.

Lady Snow crumbled her bread. She was not puzzled. She knew now. Sên
King-lo had sent those roses. But how had Ivy paid dear for them—the
flowers of which she would not spare Blanche even one? Had she refused
Sên King-lo last night? She—Emma—feared not.



                              CHAPTER XXVI


Two more days passed, and then Sên came.

Ivy met him gaily, bearing herself so naturally, her gaiety so
unexaggerated, that she almost deceived herself and must have deceived
him completely, if it ever had entered his head that she cared for him
at all beyond friendliness—which it never had. He knew the signs of
open and almost-open infatuation; these signs had been hurled at him too
hard and too persistently not to have driven their flagrant message in.
But the signs of a rapprochement that gave no sign and offered or asked
no approach were hidden from his sharp eyes. And the warming inclination
of an essentially modest girl, who also was both proud and self-in-hand,
showed not at all to Sên, who not only was not vain, but even was
modest.

Their camaraderie went on as it had. Ivy was too proud to check it at
all, and after a little, even to her shocked sensitiveness, much of the
gnawing bitterness wore away, and all the pleasure and sweetness stayed.

Her disgust and self-revulsion because she had turned in personal
affection—emotion even—to a man so set from her by race quite slipped
away, and only her shame at loving unloved and unsought remained.

Again she found it hard to remember that Sên was Chinese—less of her
own race than a Spaniard or Russian was. It was _he_, his personality
that appealed to and pleased her, and she did not realize that his race
was a strong and essential part of both, and that in both he was
intensely Chinese. To her he was merely the man, because so much _the_
man.

And when she did think about it—that he was Chinese, she English—it
gradually grew to her a lesser and almost negligible thing. Chinese and
English of gentle birth did not marry. But _was_ it a sound decency or
only a cheap and sorry prejudice that barred the way? Inherited reason
said “decency,” but her heart and her own estimate of Sên, her own
satisfaction and ease in his companionship, leaned to the other answer.
She ceased to feel any shame that she had given her love—for she was
relentlessly frank with herself as to that—to an Asian. But that she
had let herself care for a man who gave her no thought of that sort in
return shamed her cruelly. And she guarded her secret well—now that she
knew it herself. Her ignorance had been her danger-time. It was past.
She guarded it so well that she deceived eyes sharper to the thing she
hid than were the eyes of unsuspecting Sên King-lo. And he had no need
to guard. It is easy enough to hide what does not exist. Even Lady Snow
began to think that her alarm had barked up a phantom tree, and laughed
at herself—and was glad. And Sir Charles laughed up his sleeve at his
fanciful wife, and Miss Julia laughed scornfully up hers at Elenore Ray.
And only Dr. Ray was not deceived—and said nothing. She saw it all—saw
even what neither Ivy nor Sên did. And things went on between Sên
King-lo and the English girl as they had—but they went; they did not
stand quite stock still. Things are not apt to do that between a man and
a maid in springtime. He told her more and more of China than he had,
and she learned how to write her second name in Chinese, and one day—it
was almost May—Sên King-lo filled the blank he had left in the
confession-book. And Ivy locked the book away—not to be written in
again, she intended. But she took it out and looked in it sometimes.

In April the spring was coming. Soft sticky things showed on the
leaf-bare trees, if you looked close enough. The grass was reasserting
itself. Poor people slacked their fires. Fruit from “down South” was
cheaper. Stuffs in the drygoods shops were thinner and paler. The skies
gave a promise of summer. The moon laughed again, and some days at
noontide the Potomac laughed back at the sun. The magnolia on Miss
Julia’s sunniest wall hinted of buds, and then the buds began to swell,
and Lysander and Dinah sorted out turkey-wings and long-handled brooms
of peacocks’ feathers against the coming of flies, and spoke of “them
ornery niggah’s summer cloes,” and dreamed at night of big watermelons
and green peas.

Ivy just glanced at the house on the other side of the street as she and
Sên passed it as they were walking together one late April day. She knew
from the number that he lived over there and, from what Emma had said,
which were his sitting-room windows, but she never had happened to pass
it on foot and in day-time. She had sent notes to him there, but she was
not a girl who would go to look where a man friend lived. She made no
remark about it now, and neither did he.

“I think you are wrong,” he was saying. “As I read it, Ruskin meant——”

Ivy caught his arm and gave a cry.

Two small spotted ponies had dashed madly around the corner from M
Street, not quite missing the sharp curb; ponies she usually drove
herself when the children _would_ go and Watkins could not be spared. A
very small groom with a very white face was seesawing wildly at the
reins, just the one thing to infuriate the already crazily maddened
ponies. Who had trusted Buttons to drive? Where was Charlie? Was Emma
mad? Justine should go for this. Blanche was sobbing and screaming
betimes. Dick seemed in scarcely manlier shape, and just as Sên dashed
towards the ponies and caught their bridles as in a vise, Dick screamed,
and jumped. Buttons gave a superhuman wrench at the reins—one rein
broke—and the low phaeton lurched over. Both the children were pinioned
under its wreck.

The maddened ponies squealed with fear and rage. They were trembling
violently, but they moved on not an inch more. Sên King-lo was holding
them. He dared not leave their heads, but Ivy, steeling herself to go to
him, saw the agony on his face as he looked at the turned-over trap
under which the children lay. The boy driver sat on the sidewalk crying
weakly.

“Can you pull the whip out from under there—it is under the wheel—and
give him a cut?” Sên asked.

“Perhaps he is hurt,” Ivy murmured shakily.

“I don’t care if he is dead,” Sên snapped. “You and he must lift it off
those babies. Be quick! But first put your hand in my pocket—trouser
pocket—this left one—get my knife—open it. Can you cut the traces? Be
quick!”

She fumbled with the knife, but—though she ripped her light glove and
tore her nail—she could not open the blade. The ponies were plunging
wildly, and they were strong little beasts—only the man holding them
now ever would know how strong.

Sên called sharply to the boy squat on the curb; but Buttons sat still
and continued to blubber.

“Hold it up to my mouth—but look out for their hoofs!” Sên told her.

Ivy obeyed, but as his teeth tugged at the blade—perhaps her hands
trembled a little in spite of her, for a moan of pain came from under
the overturned phaeton—the blade slipped and a trickle of blood went
from Sên’s lip to his stern-set chin.

“Now cut the traces. You must!”

Ivy tried.

“Saw—saw like hell!”

The moments seemed like hours. Sên knew that the sinews of his left arms
were perilously strained—that was nothing, if only their strength
held—and Ivy thought that she was only scratching the strong leather
she tried to cut.

Oddly so at this hour, the street seemed deserted—no other help in
sight or call.

One trace gave a little—then snapped.

“The other!” Sên commanded. “Don’t get too near when you go round. Keep
clear of their legs. Be as quick as you can!”

She thought her strength was failing; she knew her legs shook; but she
made the attempt and reached the other side and feebly attacked the
second trace. Sên’s task was harder now, because of the one severed
trace which, light as the little carriage was, had served in the
entanglement as some slight cheek on the plunging, straining ponies.

A window went up, a colored woman looked out and screamed. A
perambulator jolted round the corner. Small beginnings and not helpful
ones; but the inevitable crowd was coming at last, and just as the knife
slipped from Ivy’s unnerved fingers, a very fat, deliberate policeman
sauntered into sight. But he was worthy his uniform, for he instantly
saw his need and filled it; ran to Sên’s side, blowing his whistle as he
ran, and caught at the near pony’s bit.

“I can hold them,” Sên said. “Get the trap off—carefully—there are
children under it.”

“There would be!” the policeman grumbled. But again he lost no time, and
as men and women, sundry children and dogs, and a cautious sprinkling of
cats thickened the street into a crowd, and more heads showed at
windows, and people on steps, he, unaided, lifted the wreck off, clear
from the little bodies beneath.

There was blood. Dick lay badly still. Blanche was moaning.

Help had come to Sên in abundance now—another policeman, a handsome
young Jew—who didn’t need to be told, but did it; a maiden lady who
wore a green beige veil over a New England bombazine bonnet and
steel-rimmed spectacles on her high-bridged nose; a Jesuit priest and a
Salvation corporal. The men were enough to hold the still struggling
runaways as securely as Sên had done alone; and the ponies already were
growing quieter under the hand and the voice of the old New England
woman, speaking to them companionably, as she fearlessly stroked and
patted them. So Sên King-lo, with questioning torture in his eyes, Saxon
pallor on his tawny face, and sickening pain in his shoulders, left the
newcomers in charge there, and went to Ivy just in time to see her kneel
down and gather Blanche up in her arms. He saw how gently she did it,
saw the look on her face, the tears in her eyes, and that she would not
let them fall, and he saw the welcoming gladness on the welcoming baby
face as Ivy lifted Blanche up and nested the child’s bleeding face
against her girlish breast.

Sên lifted motionless Dick and bent his ear to the boy’s face. Dick was
breathing.

They carried the children up to Sên’s rooms—the constables protesting
and suggesting the ambulance. But they accepted Ivy’s, “I am their
cousin,” Sên King-lo’s more imperative, “’Phone for their father —Sir
Charles Snow—British Embassy;—Massachusetts Avenue, if he’s gone home.
I am taking them to my rooms.” And the policeman who had seen Sên
holding the demented ponies even put his finger up to his helmet.



                             CHAPTER XXVII


Dick, more frightened than hurt, was carried home that same night; but
wee Blanche was badly hurt, and the doctor would not allow them to move
her. The wound on her head was a bad one, her little arm was broken, one
baby leg crushed, and most of all the doctors, who came and went hourly,
feared internal injuries they could not gage and dare not probe yet. For
two weeks the child lay swathed and drugged in Sên King-lo’s bed. And
Ivy never left her. Even in her drugged stupor—she was too weak for
them to drug her heavily—she stirred and whimpered if her cousin went
from her. Two nurses were installed, but only from Ivy would the
stricken mite take mixture or suffer touch. She looked at her father
with hard, hurt eyes; she scarcely noticed her mother; she turned her
face from the kindly doctors; hated the nurses, and said so; and it must
have gone hard with Ivy for a snatch of food and rest, had Blanche not
taken a sudden fancy to Kow Li. She screamed if Ivy moved from her side,
unless Kow Li took the cousin’s place. She even fretted after a short
half-hour and called for Ivy; and when she did, the girl always came.
But, thanks to Kow Li, Miss Gilbert did get half-hour snatches of rest
in the next room: Sên King-lo’s living room, his Chinese books about it,
traces of him everywhere, and as much an atmosphere of China as if it
had been in Pekin. Why that was so would be hard to say, but it was.
Almost all the sparse furnishing was Western: easy-chairs and
chesterfield, many books, and water-colors mostly English. There were no
bamboos, pictured or real—not a dragon nor a joss-stick. But the room
breathed China, and a girl’s sensitiveness caught it, as only one
visitor had before: Sir Charles. And he had lived in China.

After the first frightened hour’s absorption she had realized poignantly
that these were Mr. Sên’s rooms—the intimate place of his being and
keeping, as true of him and as redolent of him as Rosehill was of Miss
Julia.

Miss Julia slept on a large and very elaborate bed; Sên King-lo slept on
one that could not comfortably have been narrower, so narrow that even
wee, ill Blanche was not lost in it, and so Spartan-plain that its new
occupant considered it “horrid shabby,” and said so the first day she
was well enough to take the slightest interest in anything but her own
aching body. Miss Julia’s bedroom walls were covered with portraits, all
but one of dead and gone Townsends, many as babies, two in their
coffins: daguerreotypes, pastels, oils, water-colors, photographs, plain
and colored; the one other, the largest and most handsomely framed, a
portrait of Robert E. Lee in Confederate uniform. Only one picture hung
on Sên King-lo’s bedroom walls—Kwan Yin-ko. And, under the doctors and
Ivy herself, that Chinese Holy Mother of Mercy wrought the loving
miracle of the English baby’s recovery. For Kwan Yin-ko caught the
child’s roving eye almost at once and riveted it. The nurses thought it
a horrible picture, and the night nurse, who had been scrupulously well
brought up in Bangor, Maine, disliked being in the room with the ugly
heathenish thing. But Blanche pronounced it a most beautiful lady, and
Kow Li owed half his firm place in the small invalid’s heart to the
skilful stories he told her of Kwan Yin-ko—and a weird jumble of
mythology, fairy-tales and pure lie he made them! But they gave the
English child infinite delight, and Ivy Gilbert many a refreshing
half-hour of sleep out in the next room on Sên King-lo’s sofa.

Sên himself slept now at his own Legation and at the Snows’. Sir Charles
and his wife came and went, and so did Sên King-lo; but Ivy lived in
Sên’s rooms—while Blanche stayed there. Emma Snow had begged to share
Ivy’s care of the child; but her grief and anxiety made her too tearful
for medical approval, and the doctors limited her comings, and the
nurses speeded her departures, while Blanche, with baby ruthlessness,
made it clear that it was “mine own Nivy” she wanted.

The nurses had a sinecure. Miss Gilbert and yellow Kow Li usurped their
office. In less than a week the night nurse and the Chinese Goddess
parted company, and the day nurse went out more and more and knew well
enough that she was there for a social reason, and as a fall-back-on,
should the need occur, but that Ivy was in charge. And being a sensible
girl, born and bred in New York and well paid, the day nurse did not
care in the least.

Their small encounter with half-tipsy Reginald Hamilton had marked an
advance in the comradeship of the Chinese man and the English girl. It
had so impelled Ivy more than it did Sên—naturally. The accident to the
children drew both to a stronger liking, and Sên to a new understanding.

He had saved the two little lives, there was no question of
that—Charles and Emma knew it and said it, and so did two physicians
and three policemen, and the newspapers underlined it. And Ivy had seen
him do it. He had had to wear his left arm in a sling for a day or two.

She had seen his strength again—no doubt now about those delicate hands
of his—but she had seen something of that before, and his courage and
cool-headed resource had not surprised her. To her it had seemed as much
a matter of course that he had proved brave and clear-witted as it had
to him to swing tipsy insolence down to the snowy roadway.

But _he_ had seen a new woman, a new womanliness. He had seen the love
as well as the pain on her face as she had bent down to the mangled baby
out there under his window, and had gathered it up into her arms.

They two had been alone with the injured children a long quarter of an
hour that had seemed longer, before the doctor had come, or even Kow Li,
who had gone on an errand. Both had some skill at “first aid”—he much
more than her—and he had seen the grit with which she had held the
broken arm in place while he did the little he could for the crushed
little leg; had seen the tenderness and strength with which she had
soothed and controlled the pain-and-fright-broken mite; and had known
that Ivy Gilbert’s “flaw” had been the unjust creation of his own crass
stupidity.

Chinese omniscience has its human limits. Sên King-lo had learned that a
woman is not necessarily unwomanly, or unloving of little children
because she has little flair for blindman’s-buff and leap-frog, and even
less for “I am, thou art, he is” and “three times three is nine.”



                             CHAPTER XXVIII


Sên let himself in quietly; the doctors forbade knocking or
ringing—Blanche _might_ be asleep. His sitting-room door was open, and
he glanced in cautiously as he stood in the hall, a little shyly—in
case a girl dozed or lay on the chesterfield. Lady Snow had asked him to
call here for her at three, and it was just on three.

No one was in the sitting-room. There was not a sound in the place.

So Lady Snow had succeeded in taking Miss Gilbert out for an hour, as
she’d told him she was going to try to do. And only Kow Li was in there
with Blanche, who must be sleeping, because she wasn’t talking and
neither was Kow Li.

The door into the bedroom, his own room—but Blanche’s now—also was
wide open. Sên tiptoed to it. He’d take a peep at the sleeping baby and
beckon Kow Li out, if she hadn’t clutch-hold of his hands or his sleeve
as she so often had. Sên rather thought he’d have to give Kow Li to
Blanche next Christmas.

Sên King-lo paused at the sill of his bedroom door, rooted there by a
force he never had felt before.

He _knew_.

Baby Blanche was fast asleep.

But Ivy was not.

She knelt by the bed, all the sweetness of girlhood unspoiled, all the
motherhood-love in the face she bent over the child that slept in her
cradling arms, baby head on maiden breast. And Kwan Yin-ko up on the
wall, was guarding them both.

_And Sên King-lo knew._

A great light came into his eyes. A sudden beat under his ribs made a
vein on his forehead swell and throb, quivered his lips; and all his
being rushed to the kneeling girl.

As quietly as he had come in, he turned and went, and went from the
house, an up-to-date Washington flat that was a sanctuary now.

He knew his own secret now, knew it as completely and as surely as he
had learned it suddenly.

Nature had torn a veil aside, and a man had looked in.

He had seen his own soul, and he knew that if ever life gave him a
child—a girl-child, perhaps, to bear his mother’s name—he but now had
seen its mother—an English girl kneeling beside his bed.

                 *        *        *        *        *

He walked away from the city, taking his course to the woods across the
river.

He knew the bar—the impossibilities—the disaster and petty, sore frets
that passionate disobedience must bring. He knew and believed all this
as no untraveled girl could. To call a halt to her heart Ivy had only
instinct and a convention for which she had lost respect—had lost it
because of what she had found in him. He had conviction, China,
thousands of years. The bar that she had come to think but inconvenience
and problem, a drawbridge of race that _might_—were the motive
enough—be lowered or raised, was to him an impenetrable, unsurmountable
wall—the Greater Wall of China, with never a breach or loophole in its
everlasting imperial masonry.

If ever his puissant, virile manhood—the wholesomeness and sweetness of
his being—the heritage his fathers had given—pulsed to manhood’s
gravest sacrament, life’s perfect fulfilment, he had seen today—there
in his room, the mate of his being, the core of his soul, his children’s
mother.

_And she was forbidden._

Did she suspect?

Could he have taught her to care? English Ruby! _English!_

_What_ was he going to do about it?

Elenore Ray could have told him.



                              CHAPTER XXIX


Sên King-lo gave a cry; a thousand words could not have said more.

Ivy and he had lunched at Miss Julia’s—blind Miss Julia—and were
walking home through the woods, at least as far as the river. They might
find a cab near the bridge, or, if not, they could take a street-car
there.

Here in the quiet old wood where two months ago he had brought his new
revelation, to be alone with it, to creep into Nature’s rest, to lift
his eyes to the sky and the darkling hills, to cool his burn and still
his soul amid the trees where now buds swelled and hidden sap lifted, to
wash and clean his hands and his spirit in the crisp air that whispered
of summer—they loitered a time because it was so beautiful here, and
because they were together.

June flowers grew in the grass; a beryl and cinnabar sky crowned and
mantled the world. The trees were heavy and big with leaf, grave and gay
with a score of greens. Bees hummed to the wild roses. An old
apple-tree, late but lusty of blossoms, buffeted and bent by a thousand
gales—but its good roots held—lay prone on the ground. Its flowers lay
a perfumed white and rose veil heaped on ferns and hare-bells. A baby
squirrel sat bolt up on the prostrate gnarled trunk, industriously
washing his baby face. The summer air had a score of scents and bore on
its fragrant warmth one message. And married birds were teaching their
babies to fly.

They ought not to have come here—the man and the girl who had grappled
their wills to renouncement—not here to this perfumed place of
fulfilment.

It was here that Sên King-lo had brought his new joy and sorrow one late
afternoon in April—had sat an hour where the cleanly squirrel sat now,
and had fought his first round in his battle with self.

He had made up mind and purpose then in the only way he could. Marriage
between him—Chinese—and an English girl, even if he could win her to
it, which he believed he could not—must not be; should not. And from
that he never had wavered, did not waver now. He had thought it all out
bit by bit and had made his paramount resolve, and little by little the
plan of his nearer days. Since he might not ask what he most craved, he
would hold but the faster, while he might, to what he already had:
friendship and sweet welling companionship. He never could marry; it was
written; and because it was, he would garner every dear memory he could
to comfort his years. But again and again the dream came of an English
Ruby sitting in firelight and garden—_his_ firelight, _his_
garden—while his eyes played with her hair. He knew it a dream. He
would not, if he could, have it a fact. But he knew he would keep it
forever and dream it again and again while his years lasted. Take it
home with him some day and dream it again when he sat a childless old
man on the banks of the Yellow Sorrow.

They ought not to have come here or lingered.

Sên King-lo knew his own strength; but, Chinese though he was, he did
not know Nature’s.

“What a ripping old hero,” he said, pointing down to the prostrate tree,
“game to the last.” He gathered her a spray of the rosy apple-blossoms
and buds and filched for his coat another. “We must come here—in
September. The apples that grow on so brave a tree should be good—full
of tang, like wine. We’ll eat them in September. It’s a bargain?”

“But I am going home in August,” she told him and added lightly, though
her lips felt stiff, “Didn’t you know?”

Sên King-lo gave a cry.

Their eyes met.

There was neither China nor England—nor Virginia. There was only a man
and a girl—and Nature: in all the world nothing else.

“You must not go—from me,” he said. “I cannot live without you. You are
my life.” He held his arms out to her with a gesture that pleaded—but
claimed.

Ivy took a step towards him.

Sên King-lo did the rest. He wrapped his arms and his love about her. He
laid his face on her face.

Presently he whispered words in her ear—Chinese words. She knew none of
them—but she did not hear them as strange.

He cupped her face in his hands and put it from him a little, that he
might learn it again, that his eyes might speak his love to her eyes.

And her eyes did not falter. They took what he gave.

“Will you come _home_—with me—some day—to China?”

“To the end of the world,” she told him. She had not spoken before.

And he took her back into love’s tender, reverent crushing, his face
against her face.

There was neither England nor China, nor Virginia: there was only
Heaven.

A gray cloud darkened the beryl and cinnabar sky. The Potomac ran
colder.



                              CHAPTER XXX


Washington was delighted; so were the papers—and proclaimed it. Things
were a little dull in newspaperdom just now, and the Anglo-Chinese
engagement was a savory tit-bit capable of being served up in a number
of ways, and was. Dick and Blanche were in an ecstasy, and girls Ivy
scarcely knew touted shamelessly to be her bridesmaids. Every one was
surprised, which made it all the more exciting. Every one, with only
three exceptions: Lady Snow, Dr. Ray and Kow Li. Even Emma Snow was a
little surprised, but not so the Chicago physician and Sên’s Chinese
manservant.

It had been expected long ago; but it had hung fire so long that
Washington society had quite made up its mind that there was nothing in
it beyond a friendship too long-drawn-out and too serene to have even
the zest of flirtation, and Lady Snow herself had come to lean to that
opinion now and then. Until a June day and an old apple-tree had rent
the veil, Sên and Ivy had kept their mutual secret so well from each
other that it was scarcely surprising that they had balked others of it.

Not many in Washington approved, but most were pleased—a very different
thing—and the papers were honestly grateful.

It came with all the toothsome surprise of an unforeseen sensation. And
the wedding would be great fun. Would they be married at the Church of
the Ascension? Was Sên King-lo a Christian? Nobody seemed to know. Or
would they take Convention Hall or the Lafayette Square Opera House and
be married on the stage with Chinese rites by Chinese priests, with
posture girls at the back and tom-toms in the orchestra, and
fire-crackers for confetti? What fun!

Truck-loads of Chinese junk, real and imitation, poured in on Ivy from
mere acquaintances, and from a number whom she had not met, but was
going to meet now—if _they_ could contrive it. Lucille Smith sat on the
doorstep, and for days Ivy had to stay indoors to avoid reporters and
camera men—even the back-door and the tradesmen’s gate were
“watched”—and Sên King-lo was photographed every time he came to see
his fiancée, which was often.

But if the four hundred and the outer thousand were pleased and
palate-tickled, a handful of others, and they more nearly interested,
were not.

Julia Calhoun Townsend was ill with rage and disgust. Charles Snow was
anxious and bitterly anxious too. The Chinese Minister didn’t like it,
but told no one so. Kow Li didn’t like it at all, but only told an opium
pipe—a very harmless opium-pipe. Uncle Lysander was enormously shocked
and disgusted, and he lost no time and spared no pains in noising it
abroad that he was. Elenore Ray and Emma Snow stood by Ivy, and the
little they said to outsiders was in approval; but at heart neither
approved, and each was sorry, Lady Snow the more so and the more
acutely. With Elenore Ray an eager scientific and psychological interest
somewhat dulled her personal and friendly anxiety.

Julia Townsend writhed. She closed her doors to Sên King-lo and to Miss
Gilbert and told them so in frigidly phrased notes written in the third
person. A week later she sent for them both—separately—and pleaded and
argued. She stormed and wept at Sên King-lo. Ivy came in for most of the
pleading, though Sên had his share, and it was to Ivy that she said the
hardest and the more questionable things, for she could not quite break
the reticence of generations in speaking of intimate things to any man.

Miss Julia quarreled with Dr. Ray because Elenore Ray would not
altogether condemn or at all ostracize, and Sir Charles Snow very nearly
quarreled with his wife—and that he did not quite do so was Emma’s
fault, not his. He was wretchedly unhappy about it.

Miss Julia hurt Ivy a little and angered her bitterly—but accomplished
nothing, lost a friendship and didn’t score a point. Sên King-lo she did
not anger at all; venomous speech is a Chinese privilege of old age and
of women—and Sên King-lo valued her words, not for what they said, but
for the kindness that he knew had forced her to speak them; he
remembered all her gracious motherliness of years to him, the exquisite,
pathetic motherliness of child-deprived and aging spinsterhood. He was
neither hurt nor angered, and his gratitude and his affection held. But
some of her words and the truth they spoke troubled him. He could not
brush them aside, and he could not forget them. Sên King-lo knew the
risk he was taking—far better than Miss Julia could. She guessed it a
little, spurred by prejudice to state it sourly. He knew it; both his
intelligence and his honesty acknowledged it; his courage accepted it.
He accepted it, gladly even, now for himself. But—for Ivy? Was the risk
he was going to let her take too cruel, too close a risk? Such a
marriage would have its pricks, and sometimes its scourge. He had no
doubt of that. Could he keep every prick and scourge for him alone, keep
them _all_ from her? He said “Goodbye” to Miss Julia as affectionately
as she would permit, more sadly than he would show. And his heart had a
heavy ache as the door of Rosehill closed behind him forever, and he
went through Rosehill’s gate for the last time.

_Every_ goodbye has its tinge of sadness. We know the ills we have; not
the ills to come. The released prisoner throws a long last look at his
gaol as the warder locks him _out_. To say goodbye to old friendship,
old kindness, old welcome is hard and sad indeed. It cuts.

Sir Charles took it harder than Julia Townsend did but attacked it more
gravely and kindly, more gently. But he did his utmost.

To Emma his wife he showed his rancor and a little his tingling spleen.
He went among his colleagues grimly. But to Sên King-lo he showed only
his sorrow and anxiety and his friendship, and even more considerately
to Ivy.

But he spoke.

He spoke to her with his hand on hers; but for all his cousinly kindness
and all his diplomatic care, he angered her even more than he hurt—and
he hurt. And he failed. He had expected to fail.

But he hoped not to fail with Sên King-lo.



                              CHAPTER XXXI


They argued it long and carefully—not once hotly—not once either
failing in courtesy or affection. That was impossible because their
mutual respect and affection was too well founded and seasoned—too deep
and sincere. But no hint of rancor or unfairness on one part, or
suspicion of it on the other, made Snow’s position and arguments the
stronger and perhaps did not weaken either Sên’s attitude or his reply.

There was no “quarrel-scene” about it, only regret on both sides, by
both frankly acknowledged.

“I dislike it,” Sir Charles began, passing his cigarettes—tobacco marks
conference, not dispute—“I dread it utterly, and I ask you to consider
it searchingly.”

“I believe I have done that, Sir Charles.”

“When!”

Sên smiled.

“_Since_, I’ll be bound,” Snow continued, “for I’m convinced that you’d
not have done it—spoken. I mean—if you had thought it out beforehand.
It came on impulse, I suspect.”

“Quite on impulse,” the other owned.

“It usually does,” Sir Charles Snow smiled as he sighed.

“But I had considered it from every angle, I think, _before_, as I also
have since.”

“And you did not mean to speak?”

“I meant not to speak.”

“But you did; and now?”

“I certainly did,” Sên assented. “It was no speaking of Miss Gilbert’s.”

Both men smiled.

“And now, Sên?”

“I dislike it too,” Sên said quietly, “in some of its aspects.”

“Ah?”

“Because I dread it a little for her.”

“You have more cause to dread it for yourself,” the other said sharply.
“Given considerable luck Ivy may go through it practically scot free.
But for you, as I see it, it can be nothing but disaster. She _may_ get
through it comfortably enough—if she never goes East—” Sên winced a
little and his eyes were grave—“but if you persist in it, you are
running your head very tightly into a very rough noose.”

“I’ll risk that,” Sên’s eyes were smiling again, “and because I believe
I can keep it from being sometimes an inconvenience to her, I do persist
in it, Sir Charles.”

“Is it fair to her to persist in what you own you dislike?”

“Some of its possible rasps—probable rasps—only, and between which and
her I believe that I can always stand. I intend to. And I like it,” Sên
added, “incomparably more than I dislike—know and admit that I should
dislike—one or two of its quite possible consequences.”

“Quite possible,” Snow repeated with quiet significance.

“I like it immensely, Sir,” Sên said with a boyish laugh but a man’s
steady purpose and pride in his eyes.

“But you fear it.”

“No, scarcely fear it.”

“Fear it,” Snow insisted. “Take the way out. I beg you to—for both your
sakes.”

“There is no way out,” Sên King-lo declared, “none that I can take, or
will. If your cousin—you have spoken to her, of course, or will——”

“I have spoken to Ivy,” Snow told him grimly, “and made matters worse,
if I did anything. She’ll not budge an inch. But you—you are
reasonable. You will listen to what I have to say?”

“To every word of it and as long as you like.”

Snow plunged into his arguments—most of them the old ones that every
student of “East and West” has heard again and again, and that dozens of
pens have twisted and turned into well-grimed shreds. And, quite without
offensiveness, he cut very much deeper into physical things—revulsions,
apparent, if not actual, abnormality, and so on—than often a pen has
dared to do.

In some points, Sên agreed; most he rejected or claimed to be
outweighed.

“I saw it as you do, on the whole—until—the other day,” he admitted;
“but I see it differently now.”

“You would,” Sir Charles said with a smile that was grim but patient and
not unkind.

“I did not know—not until a short time ago—how it was with me. It took
me quite by surprise.”

“It frequently does.”

“I was a dunce, of course, not to know where I was drifting.”

“We always are——”

“But when I found out and looked it in the face—I did do that—I firmly
determined to——”

“Cut it out?”

“Yes, just that! And then—the other day——”

“It ran you out.”

Sên nodded. “And now,” he added, his face radiant, “I cannot give Ruby
up!”

“Or think you can’t,” Snow insinuated. “So you call her Ruby! I like it
best, and it suits her too. There is not much of the clinging vine about
her, I think, and I assure you there was none at all yesterday when I
attempted to say to her less than a tenth of what I have said to you.”

Sên laughed—rather proudly. Sir Charles Snow’s affectionate smile was
grimmer.

“I’m afraid I’ve filched your own name for her,” Sên King-lo said. “I
too think it suits her the better, and it’s the name I’ve always cared
for most—it was my mother’s name.”

“By Jove!” Snow murmured, and added under his breath, “I’d forgotten
that.”

Sên King-lo looked up in amazement from the match he was striking, and
his eyes were not pleased. How came this Englishman to have heard that?
A Chinese gentleman does not name his wife to another man—and in China
her children may not speak it.

They smoked on in silence. Sir Charles was musing.

“Are you a Christian?” he asked suddenly.

“No,” the Chinese told him, “though I was confirmed at Public
School—they made it part of the ‘course,’ as they did cricket and
footer—and I took it all as part of the ‘English’ I was there to
learn.” He added, but with absolute courtesy, “Are you?”

“I believe in God,” Snow said stoutly.

“So do I.”

“But not in our God, not in hers!”

“I think I do,” Sên King-lo assented. “I believe that there is only one
God—many gods, but only one God. Does it matter what we call him? I
think not. Or matter how we reach him? I can’t believe it. And, on my
soul, I don’t believe that there is much difference between any two
religions that are both sincere and devout.”

“Would you say that in China?” Snow demanded quietly.

“I hope so,” Sên King-lo replied, “if I had any reason to do so, to any
one who had the right to ask. There still are parts of China, of course,
in which it wouldn’t be altogether safe to whisper it even—not for a
Chinese to do so—and in them I should not go out of my way to megaphone
it. We have not, as it happens, spoken together about religion—Miss
Gilbert and I; but I shall not try to convert her to any one of our old
Chinese religions. I can promise you that. And they are crumbling fast.
Christianity’s the coming religion of China.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“I do,” Sên persisted. “And why not? It is an Oriental faith—as every
great faith has been and is—from Zoroastrianism to Christian
Science—Spiritualism thrown in, if you like, and the faith of the
Friends.”

“Admitted. Well, I won’t pretend to think that religious difference is
the principal bar. But tell me this, Sên: had your mother been living,
would you have asked my cousin to be your wife?”

“No,” the other answered promptly. “I would not hurt my mother or
deceive her.”

“Would you take an English wife to China?”

“No—I’ve thought that out, and I would not—not yet at least. The time
is not ripe—but it’s coming.”

“I doubt it.”

“I intended to live my life out in China. Even the other day, I asked
her if she would let me take her there.”

“You needn’t tell me what she answered. I know.”

“Of course.”

“She’d go like a shot and be infernally miserable after she had. The
East is paradise for European women, unless they are married to Eastern
men, and then it is hell.”

“Precisely. And that is why I shall not go back to China.”

“You always have wished to?”

“Intensely. But everything is changed now. A man’s work must go on, of
course——”

“It should,” Snow interjected.

“And I may need to make flying visits now and then—sure to, I
think—but she shall not come. England shall be our home.”

“That will be a sacrifice,” Sir Charles began.

“Yes. But I shall be glad to make it. I intend to make them all. And
they’ll not cost me much—for that matter. They can’t, for—she is all
the world to me.”

Charles Snow knew better than that. But he knew that Sên King-lo meant
it, and he let it pass.

“Have you thought of your children? Yours and hers?”

“Desperately hard,” Sên answered, gravely. Snow had drawn blood at last.

“It will be worse for them than for her or for you,” he urged.

“It would be, in China,” Sên agreed sadly.

“Damnable!”

“Our children shall be English.”

“Half-English,” the other reminded him, “_Eurasians!_”

Sên King-lo flushed a little. His Chinese soul winced at that word. Snow
had meant that it should. But he was sorry to thrust so at Sên King-lo,
here in the room—Snow’s own room—where they had smoked so many
“peace-pipes” and held such intimate and cordial conference.

Charles Snow saw that the other’s face was troubled now, but he saw no
receding.

After a moment he rose and unlocked a drawer in a tall cabinet—the only
Chinese thing in the room—and came back with a small oval thing in his
hand. “No one but I ever has looked at it,” he said with one hand on Sên
King-lo’s shoulder, “since the day it was given to me.” And he laid the
miniature down at Sên’s hand.

Sên King-lo saw the face of a very beautiful Chinese girl painted on the
oval of ivory, and painful color crimsoned his face.

“My mother,” he said huskily. For an instant his eyes were enraged.

“No,” the Englishman replied quietly, going back to his chair, leaving
the miniature on the smoking-table between them. “Your mother’s sister.
Her milk-name was ‘Lotus.’ ”

“The nun!”

“She was not a nun when I knew her,” Charles Snow said.

“I have seen your mother, too, Sên King-lo,” he added presently, “both
as a girl in her father’s home and as a wife in her husband’s.”

“I never saw her!” Sên Ruby’s son said sadly.

“They were very alike—the sisters.”

“Very,” Sên agreed. “I have a miniature of my mother, here in my rooms,
that might almost be this. My father gave it to me, from his robe, as he
died.”

“They were painted by the same brush,” Snow told him. “I have seen
_your_ miniature, Sên King-lo. Their father trusted me, and so did
yours.”

Sên gave his English friend a filial look.

“I am going to tell you the story. I thought it was shut away in my own
keeping forever, but I am going to tell it to you—now.”

“If you’d rather not——”

“I’d much rather not. But I must. I am going to tell you what I’d far
rather keep an old locked sweetness—a far away thing, but my own—going
to tell it in my final attempt to save you and my cousin from the
hideous mistake and life-long misery from which your grandfather saved
me and his daughter years ago.”

The two children’s voices in happy clamor rang out in the hall, and
their mother’s voice joined in, laughing.

“I have loved but two women, desired but two, in all my life, Sên
King-lo.”

“I, only one,” the Chinese said gravely.

“You are young,” the older man told him, gently, a kindly twinkle in his
blue eyes. “I love my wife very dearly, Sên——”

“I know that, sir.” And he knew also that, whatever this unexpected
story which Charles Snow was about to entrust to him, there was no
discredit in it—a perfumed breath of the long-ago, no slightest stench
of any time or place.

Sir Charles Snow told it slowly—pausing again and again—striking a
match, drawing a whiff of smoke from his cigarette. It is not easy for
Englishmen to tell such stories at all.

“The second year I was in China, I spent two months in a monastery that
lay on the edge of your grandfather’s place—a friend or two with me for
part of the time, for the rest alone. The monks had an excellent
cook—or one of them was—and a good bottle or two. They, good men, were
no sour zealots.”

Sên King-lo smiled.

“I came and went as I would and did as I liked. It was liberty-hall for
me, that old monk-kept inn, in the pines on the hill. There were no
other guests. It was rest and peace and relaxation—perfect that—until
I held a Chinese girl in my arms. Yes, King-lo, I have held a Chinese
nun in my arms—and,” a queer, tender smile in his grave eyes, “your
mother, too.”

But Sên King-lo only smiled back with a tranquil face.

“One afternoon I was squatted with a book at the edge of the pines,
nearer your grandfather’s house than I was to the monastery, reading a
little, doing nothing most of the time—_being_, not doing at all. The
sun was setting—I can see it now. Looking up from a page—it was Han
Yu, by the way—I saw a plume of flame lick up from the low, widespread,
red-roofed house, and then—the day was very still—I heard a girl cry.
You know what things of old wood most Chinese houses are, and how they
burn if once they start.”

Sên nodded. He knew. All China knows.

“I ran, of course—no ceremony then between me and the devil-guards on a
Chinese man’s forbidden gate. I pelted in and I carried two Chinese
girls out—they didn’t weigh much, the pair of them. They were very like
their pictures. . . . The servants ran about like tipsy rabbits and were
of no possible use.”

Sên nodded again. He found that easy to believe.

“It turned out that all the men of the family were miles away—hunting.
And my idea of what was best to do with those two little things in my
arms was—well, hazy. I didn’t speak Chinese then quite as well as I did
afterwards, and the gibbering servants knew no Mandarin. At least, if
they did, they didn’t trot it out then, and their language was
completely new to me. I didn’t quite know what to do with those girls.
One giggled—your mother—” Sên smiled—“the other cried. Ivy’s laugh
has reminded me of your mother’s sometimes.”

Sên looked at him curiously, but Snow did not bite his lip—propaganda
forgotten—for he and his cigarette were far away, living again an old
love-story. A song of Grieg’s came from the drawing-room. It was Ivy’s
touch, Sên King-lo knew, but Charles Snow did not hear.

“So—I took them to the monastery. There was a small consternation, but
the top monk cleared out of his cell, heaped it with the best things in
the place—rugs and cushions and things—and there they slept. Their
women were with them, and some score of the men servants and coolies
jabbering and smoking outside, while I did sentry-go outside the cell
door, and the fraternity told their rosaries and chanted their prayers
half through the night.

“We lived there for four or five weeks—all of us, your grandfather and
his four sons—a runner found them the next day, and they came
hot-haste. The service I’d done wasn’t much, just carrying two little
things kitten-light, and not much more than kitten-big, from under a
roof that was blazing to one that wasn’t—nothing but that and keeping
my head while a gang of ‘the babies,’ as your people call their
retainers, completely lost theirs; but the father made a mountain of it
Omi-high. Chinese gratitude is gigantic—always. We lived there together
as one family, I as free of the two girls as their brothers were, and
when a new house was run up near where the other had been—your
grandfather made ‘the babies’ work like Egyptian slaves—he made me
welcome there, and I was as free to go into the ‘flowery’ courtyard and
garden as their own brothers were; and I did so very much oftener than
they did. He could not have allowed any Chinese man what he allowed me.
He held that the race-bar put me as much out of personal bounds—as far
as his daughters were concerned—as if I’d been the man in the moon.
They might have married a vase or a man dead and cremated; but they
could not marry an Englishman, and the thought of such a thing could
never arise. He was right, and he was wrong. So I stayed at the
mandarin’s home rather more than I did at the monastery—sat in the
courtyard with the tulips and musk while Lotus tweaked her lute and Ruby
sorted her silks and ‘pulled the flowers up’ in the silk on her loom.
They were very alike—so alike that some of the servants, and the
brother who saw them least often, could not always tell them apart; but
I always could. The lady Ruby had the prettier laugh—a tinkle of silver
bells—carried her head the prouder; Lotus had the softer eyes, her
hands were a shade the tinier, her mouth had the longer bow—and I had
touched her hand by chance, as it lay on my coat the time of the fire,
and once again when we’d reached on one impulse to gather narcissus that
grew by the brook where the monks caught their breakfast trout. I
learned more Chinese in those four weeks than I’d learned in two
years. . . . The usual thing happened—to both of us. It was a dream—a
courtyard madness. But I planned to keep it. And one day, by the
lily-pond, I touched her hand again and told her. And her eyes answered
me until they fell from mine, and then their lids answered me—they were
trembling, and her fingers fluttered and answered me too. I knew that I
should never return to England but stay always in China. . . . When I
told her father—I went and found him and told him then, leaving her
alone there by the lily-pool. . . . I never saw her again. When I told
him, his amazement was terrible. He was kind—very kind. But he
convinced me. He shattered my dream. He showed me the thing I
contemplated as the monstrous impossibility it was. In my reason, I
think, I thanked him even then. He saved two lives from misery and
lasting regrets. I know it now. And I never look on my children or hear
them at play that I do not thank him. I left Pechilli that same day. And
I never have been there again. Two years later when she ‘took the
veil’—I forget what it’s called in China—she wrote me a letter—her
last day at home—out in the courtyard—a little red letter. Your
grandfather gave it to me in Pekin. I have it still. I have not looked
at it for years, but I have kept it. I do not know if she lives——”

“Yes,” King-lo said softly—there were tears in his eyes—“an abbess,
happy and loved. I saw my aunt the last time I was at home.”

“Thank you. I am glad to know. . . . And your grandfather gave me that
miniature. A great portrait-painter—the greatest of that day—a
woman—had painted it and one of her sister for him, and they were among
the few things that were not burned. An old blind servant had had the
wit to snatch them, as he ran, knowing how his master valued them. This
is the one your grandfather gave me. The other you have—I have no doubt
it is it. Your father showed it to me. After your mother’s marriage,
being in Ho-nan, I called on your father—your grandfather had asked me
to do it. Sên Wo T’ring made me very welcome, and took me at once to
your mother where she sat in her courtyard, working flowers on a tiny
coat—her women about her. She sent them away and presently he left
us—alone. I was there for an hour, and she gave me her hand and a rose
for my coat—I’m afraid I haven’t it now—when your father went with me
to the outer gate. He was a very gracious gentleman, your father, Sên
King-lo. But he would not have taken me into his wife’s courtyard if I
had been Chinese—or your mother have given me her hand and a flower.
You were born, the next week. I never saw Sên Ruby again. But Sên Wo
T’ring I saw often. Because of what your grandfather had told him,
because I had carried your mother from a house that was burning, and, I
think, because Sên Ruby had asked it, he held me his friend. And I held
him mine and valued it greatly. . . . I want to stand his friend today,
and hers, and yours. Sên King-lo, for the love of the dead, for the sake
of the unborn, and in pity of them—give it up!”

“I am sorry,” Sên King-lo said earnestly; but his face was set firm, and
Sir Charles Snow knew that he had failed.

“Shall we ask Lady Snow to give us some tea now?” was all he said.

“Not today, thanks very much,” was Sên’s answer. And they parted then
with a grip of their hands.

Sir Charles Snow sat for a long time with the old miniature in his hand.
Then he locked it away and went to romp with his children and chat with
his wife until the dressing-bell rang.



                             CHAPTER XXXII


Sir Charles had meant well, and so had Miss Julia; but the result of
their united effort was that they hastened it on. It has happened
before.

It was Ivy herself who, though she did not directly say it, showed Sên
clearly that she wished it so.

She was unhappy at her cousin’s. Emma Snow was all that was kindest. But
Sir Charles could not hide his displeasure and the something too of
shame that he felt. He did not blame Sên King-lo as much as he felt that
he ought. He saw great excuse for Sên King-lo—for his impulse, if not
for his stubborn persistence. Men loved. It came and it went. But it had
to come. Shut off from his own people, debarred from the women of his
race, it was inevitable that his manhood should turn to some one of the
women among whom he lived. And Sir Charles appreciated what Ivy’s appeal
and lure had been—appreciated it all. Desdemona, on the stage, usually
is golden-haired and tea-rose faced. A finer art would show her Venetian
dark. Sir Charles heard the Chinese note in Ivy’s laugh and knew that
the colors she oftenest wore and the dangling things she instinctively
thrust in dress and hair had a Chinese touch—and how that must be in
Sên King-lo’s eyes. Although she did not know a _taotai_ from a
_compradore_, a _hong_ from a _pai’fang_ or a _k’o-tang_, a _tong_ from
a _yamên_, yet he now and then heard a Chinese sentiment from her
English lips, caught a Chinese trend and bias in her mind. Her
sensitiveness was as Chinese as it was girlish. Her love of flowers and
that she liked one or two or a spray far more than she did a mass of
them, her fondness for stringed-instruments—the harp was more to her
than the piano or organ—her interest in handwritings, and a dozen
traits, small enough singly, were not unlike those of the Chinese. Her
horror of debt—he never had known her to owe a farthing—her pride and
her quick sense of humor were more general in China than they were in
England. He could understand Sên’s madness, even while he steeled his
soul not to condone it.

But he saw no excuse for Ivy. To him she seemed the victim of wilful and
headstrong infatuation. Sên King-lo was a rich man, and Snow partly
realized how the girl loathed her poverty. But he was just enough to
know that in this she had given dollars and cents no thought. And there
were rich men and to spare here in Washington and at home in
England—and Ivy had beauty, personality and charm. Of course she
wished—whether she knew so or not—to marry. Every nice girl did—and
should. But an English girl as nice as he had believed his cousin to be
would have lived forever unwedded and childless, rather than marry an
Oriental. He had not forgotten Lotus; but he had been a boy then, and
she not much more than a child who never had seen a man of her caste but
not of her blood—until she had looked up from his arms into his face.
And, too, that had been very different—love’s young dream in a
lotus-garden, the dream that all Nature and strange circumstances had
conspired to make it. And he had had the sound sense and the stern
British good taste to renounce it. And it had been a long time ago.

Ivy had lost caste with her cousin. And, in spite of himself, he showed
it. And the girl, sensitive, proud and dependent, felt it intensely.
They had been close friends, particular chums until now, and now they
were merely a disgusted kinsman and an outraged kins-girl.

Then, too, money was pinching her: the need and lack of it. Lessons were
a thing of the past now. Emma Snow good-humoredly had insisted upon that
and then regretted that she had, for Ivy flatly refused even a dime of
Charles’ money that she had not so much as pretended to earn. Her purse
was empty, and she needed new gloves. Emma missed seeing a ring and a
brooch of Ivy’s and suspected that she had sold them.

And most of all now the girl longed to get away from the house in which
even her cousin’s bread tasted bitter. She refused the dishes she liked
best, stole many bits of needlework from Justine, and mutilated almost
her last ten dollars to buy stuff she made into a little frock that
Blanche didn’t need, and counted how many of the meals she unwillingly
ate its shop value would have paid for. She burned her electric light
sparingly, bought her own stamps and used as few of them as she could,
and walked to save street-car fares.

They were married in August—Sên King-lo was eagerly glad to have it
so—and Washington society had no wedding-day treat.

There were neither bridesmaids nor cake. And they left Washington in an
hour after. Sên King-lo had had no difficulty in arranging for an
official transfer to London; for the semidiplomatic position he held
under China’s new Republic was elastic, a roaming brief when he chose,
and its itinerary very much at his own discretion.

Earlier than social Washington often stirred from its beds, Sên and Ivy
were married in a small quiet church in a small quiet tree-shaded
street. And before Washington knew of the ceremony Mr. and Mrs. Sên were
on the Atlantic.

Sên King-lo had wished intensely that Sir Charles Snow should give his
cousin away and had urged it, jealous for her that she should come to
her husband as English girls were accustomed to do. But Snow _could_
not, and Ivy would not have allowed it.

So Abraham Kelly, wearing a flopping gray frock-coat and feeling as if
his maiden aunt had caught him at a game of draw-poker in a churchyard,
gave Ivy away, while the Chinese Minister looked on with a beam on his
face and rage in his heart.

No girl-friend was there. Only Emma Snow and Dr. Ray stood beside her,
and, except the clergyman, no one else was there. There was no music.
But for the ruby-red bud in Sên King-lo’s lounge coat, there was not a
flower, unless the red peppers he himself had bought at dawn at the
market—and that Ivy wore in the little gray frock that Elenore Ray had
given her—counted for flowers.

There were more old clothes than new in Ivy Gilbert’s trousseau, and
those that were new were Dr. Ray’s gift.

From Emma the girl would take nothing, for Emma too had been a penniless
bride, and Ivy would accept nothing for which Charles Snow’s money had
paid. Lady Snow was greatly hurt, but she understood and forgave.

It sounds a sad wedding and a drear one. But the man and the girl that
stood at the altar were radiant-eyed. Neither had a doubt now.

They said goodbye in the vestry—the two women holding Sên King-lo’s
wife in their arms lingeringly—and she and he breakfasted alone in his
rooms, to be dismantled now. Then Mr. and Mrs. Sên caught the next train
for New York.

They dined alone. Ivy still wore her peppers dangling in a gown they
matched, a red dress which—he had told her so now—he had thought like
the wedding-dress of a Chinese bride, the night she had given him her
confession-book.

Three days later they sailed for Liverpool. Mrs. Sên was glad to go;
_she_ was going home, and New York had not been entirely comfortable.
Washington necessarily is cosmopolitan and race-seasoned. No one had
looked at her askance when she had walked its streets beside a Chinese
friend or lingered with him in the Corcoran Gallery—unless the darkies
who met them did. New York was different. Ivy thought that the man who
served their meals was curious, and she had a tingling sense that the
shop-discipline deferential courtesy of the clerk at Tiffany’s was all
for Sên’s purse—less than none of it for their companionship. She
thought that several passersby on Fifth Avenue looked at them odiously;
twice she saw a lip curl, and once a woman laughed.

She did not regret Washington. But she was glad to leave New York.

The voyage was smooth, and her cabin was sweet with lilies that kept
their waxen freshness and their intoxicating perfume well past-midocean.



                             CHAPTER XXXIII


Three years had passed.

All had gone well with Mr. and Mrs. Sên. There had been tiny rasps, of
course; but they had been very tiny and had gone almost as soon as they
had come. And neither the man nor his wife had had a regret. Sên had
been busy, prosperous and content—keen on his “job,” proud of his wife,
desperately fond of her still. And, if China had called to him now and
then, he had kept it to himself. Ivy had had three years of happiness
and good times, and she had enjoyed every hour of it. Her husband had
proved the best of long-distance companions, and his intimate charm had
even increased with their days. London society, the grave and best, as
well as the gay, had given them both cordial welcome, with never a shrug
or the breath of a slur. Sên King-lo had a very long purse now, and he
took a still boyish delight in having his beautiful wife dip into it.
There was no question now of needed new gloves or homemade blouses and
jumpers for young Mrs. Sên. They met great folk on a parity. Ruben,
their baby, had his father’s sunny temper and strong self-control, and
though he had his mother’s dark gold-brown eyes, straight-set, was
almost a blonde: an Anglo-Saxon baby, deliciously and ridiculously fat,
great pals with his father and very much in love with his mother.

They had a rambling old house, discreetly modernised, delightfully
furnished, a skilfully “old-world” garden about it, Kensington High
Street not much more than a stone’s throw away, and a tiny rose-covered
crib on the river. Their love had held and had grown, and their
congeniality and mutual confidence were entire. Mrs. Sên had left almost
her last annoyance on Fifth Avenue and at Tiffany’s—and only two had
come to her since, both so small that they scarcely are worth
mentioning, even if straws do have a reputed significance.

When the first bewitchery wore off, she discovered that she disliked her
new name—and that it embarrassed her. And, believing her slightest wish
her man’s sacred law, she suggested modifying and (as she thought,
though she didn’t say it) “civilizing” Sên into “Senn.” She even went so
far on that road as to have visiting cards engraved “Mrs. K. L. Senn”
and handed one to King-lo as he sat reading in her room after tea.

“Who is she?” he asked with a smile. “A new acquaintance or an old one
who has found you again?”

His wife made him a very low bow. “Behold her!” she said.

He understood on the instant—and he sensed a chasm ahead, a yawning
rent in their future.

But his face did not change.

He drew his wife down on to his knee, and, with his face on hers, told
her that she might not rename herself “Mrs. K. L. Senn,” nor anything
else. How her wish to do it had cut him, he did not tell her, and she
never suspected it even. She yielded, but she was vexed and
disappointed. But she put the alias-cards in the fire and soon forgot
all about it, disappointment and all. But Sên King-lo’s hurt stayed.

And when she saw her name, as he and thousands of Chinese years had
given it to her, engraved on the cards she ordered the next day, she
decided that Sên had a _chic_ of its own. (The venerable name, the
honorable name of Sên, _chic_!) She grew fond of writing her name and
took special pleasure and pains in making the tent-like accent and
perching it as carefully and daintily over its “e” as she did a new
toque on her beautifully dressed hair. And she found that its very
unusualness made it a social asset—if a cheap one—in avid London; and
revalued it for this. Her handwriting was as individual and almost as
pretty as she was—and many more than her husband thought so—and her
name as she wrote it looked particularly well. She always signed herself
“Ruby Sên.” And Sên King-lo never asked her to write it “Sên Ruby.” But
he wished it.

The other small cloud was a name-cloud, too, and more permanent.

Mrs. Sên did not know what to call her husband. “King-lo” she did not
care for—she thought it had a heathenish sound, and smacked of
Limehouse laundries—though she had the sweet good taste never to tell
Sên so. “King” by itself she particularly disliked. “It would be too
silly to call you ‘King’ all over the place when you’re only a Mister.
And I won’t call you ‘Sên,’ for you are not a peer.” She tried to invent
a name of her own for him but couldn’t find one. Finally she called him
“Lo” thinking it funny and short and belittling at first. But she soon
forgot that she had, and Sên thought its sound from her lips the
sweetest sound he’d ever heard.

And beyond these two Ivy had never felt a shadow since she sailed from
New York City in a jade-colored green dress that she had worn once at a
Rosehill garden party.

The baby could not write its name yet—some five-months-old babies
cannot—and no question had arisen as yet as to whether that important
signature would be “Ruben Sên” or “Sên Ruben.” Sên King-lo had named
their firstborn, rather insisting on “Ruben” in place of the “Ruby” he
had wished. But he realized that even a Chinese man—very probably a
future great President—could not appropriately go through life and
international preëminence under the winsome name of Ruby. But the father
liked the sound of “Ruben” better than the mother did.

Ruby—the young mother—enjoyed her social popularity keenly, and
neither she nor Sên suspected that it had grown even more from the
estimate in which several eminent people held him than from the
undeniable charm of her personality and easy adaptability. She loved her
home, especially the rose-covered crib with only room for two. She
enjoyed her husband’s “vogue” and his cordial welcome in high places.
But most of all she loved her husband and child—and King-lo the dearer
of the two.

No one looked at them with unpleasant surprise. London has an easy grace
of the darker strangers within her imperial gates. And Mrs. Sên soon
realized that in Mayfair there was more distinction than disgrace in
being the English wife of Sên King-lo. And, whatever they thought or
felt about it there, they were very kind to Mrs. Sên at Portland Place
where the five-colors flag flew. She made his Chinese friends welcome
and was sweetly cordial to them, and most of them liked her. The Chinese
in London grow in numbers, and there are many of a birth and class that
do not affiliate with Limehouse. But their home and home-life were
English. Kwan Yin-ko hung beside their bed, and an old Chinese miniature
of an older “Ruby” was locked away in Sên King-lo’s own “den.” But there
was nothing else Chinese in the house. Few smart houses in Hampstead,
Mayfair, Chelsea or Kensington but had more Chinese curios than the
Sêns’ had. It was both kind and wise of Mr. Sên, many sage folk said.
But they misjudged him there. It _was_ Sên’s doing, not his English
wife’s; but it was a selfishness—almost his sole one. He did not wish
too many material reminders about him of the homeland he had forsaken.
England was his home now, and he did not intend ever again to be
homesick for China, and he cut the risks of it as close as he could. But
he still read his own classics, when he sat alone in his den, and the
love-songs of Li-Po. A man cannot forgo the books that were the mother’s
milk of his soul.

And Sên King-lo still brushed many a letter to friends in Chinese—not
all of them business letters. And he still sometimes played a game of
chess with an opponent in Shansi, and he often heard the Yellow Sorrow
surge and creak—in his dreams as he slept.

But most of his nights were untroubled and dreamless, and whatever his
sleep, he woke each day to a deeper and more tender love of the girl who
lay beside him.

King-lo always woke the earlier. For centuries his people had waked at
dawn, and the old race-habit stayed.

When King-lo woke he scarcely stirred lest he disturb her. Sometimes he
drew a book from his bedside table and kept himself quiet with the
volume’s pages till she moved and he turned to greet her waking. But
oftener Sên King-lo lifted his chin on an elbow-supported hand and
watched and worshiped the girlish loveliness of the delicate face asleep
on its pillow. He thought of the girl on whose face he had laid his face
as they stood by an old fallen apple-tree, the girl he had taken to wife
one early morning in a crumbling, dreary church, on an old-fashioned
street—a church that had not been any god-place of his churchless
people—in the crown-city of an alien people, the Queen City of the
Potomac. Though he’d loved the girl well, and had dared to risk for her
the convictions of his being and the future of all his years, in
defiance of the instincts of centuries and the laws of his fathers, she
had not been loved as he loved his wife resting beside him, sleeping
safe and secure in his love and in the keeping of his manhood. Day after
day Sên King-lo’s soul kept a sacred tryst with the woman who slept
happily there while the sun came back from China, going its way to
China, rose over New York City, throwing splashes of gold over
skyscrapers, Central Park, boat-busy river, “Flat Iron” and ocean.

They had had many a golden jaunt together—a month in Venice, wonderful
weeks in Spain, again and again a week in Paris—these married lovers
and best of friends, before Ruben had come to call a halt to their
journeying and make their London life more of a permanency than it had
been. They had learned North Wales together and watched Windermere. No
reasonable wife could have seriously asked more of marriage and husband
than Sên King-lo had given her. And riant Mrs. Sên was a very reasonable
and entirely contented woman.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV


It had worked so well that, when the Snows had come home a year ago,
even Sir Charles had wondered if Sên King-lo might not prove to have
been wiser than he—if only they stayed in England. He wondered often
now what Sên thought of so English-looking a son, what he planned for
Ruben’s future; but he himself—Sir Charles—saw some simplification of
a vexatious problem, a sore racial complex, in the baby boy’s
Anglo-Saxon fairness and features.

There was little that Charles Snow would not have given or done to have
prevented the Sên marriage, and he still winced at it—English prejudice
and preconceptions are sturdy moral weeds—but as soon as it was sealed
he wished it only well, bent his strength to its support, and did all he
knew to regain the old footing between his cousin and himself. He wrote
to Ivy the day after her marriage as unforced a letter as he could, and
he wrote several longer, easier letters after she had reached Europe.
But she answered none of them, and she made no response to any message
he sent in Emma’s friendly and cousinly letters.

He and Sên King-lo exchanged letters, not very frequently, but always
cordially, though not with the verbal ardor of women. And when he and
Lady Snow had come back to live in London and in the old place in Kent
in which his mother and Ivy’s had been born, and he walked into his
cousin’s drawing-room quite as if he knew she’d expect and wish him to,
and simply would not be snubbed, she found it impossible to greet him as
coldly as she thought he deserved. And after a first touch of frigid
hauteur which he in perfectly good humor ignored, she took up their old
friendliness, if not quite their oldtime friendship, again. And she soon
found it easy enough to forgive him, almost to forget. It’s a mean
victor who cherishes venom, and Ivy Sên was the least mean of women. She
and Lo had made good. Dear old Charlie had written himself down a goose.
Who could be too hard on a goose? Not the happiest, proudest woman in
England. And when she saw the look in the two men’s eyes as they met,
and saw the affectionate grip of their honest hands, her own eyes
melted.

The four cousins had dined together at the Sêns’, and the two women were
discussing chiffons and babies and the sins of chauffeurs over a
drawing-room fire—there were two fires in Ivy’s long drawing-room—and
the men were discussing tobacco, matters of international import, and a
little whiskey in Sên’s den.

As King-lo leaned over the narrow table to refill the other’s tumbler,
he said:

“It has come.”

“Has it? That’s enough soda. What has come?” But he knew before Sên told
him, and Sên told him at once.

“The message from China. They want me at once. By rights, I should go
next week. I haven’t told her yet. I don’t know how she’ll take it.”

“Thoroughbred,” Snow replied in a word.

“Superbly. But she won’t like being left.”

“You won’t take her?”

“Of course not. The time isn’t quite ripe, I think——”

Sir Charles Snow was sure that it was not even ripening and never would
be, but he smoked on in silence.

“But,” King-lo added hurriedly, “I may be wrong there. But we couldn’t
possibly take the young Lord Ruben home with us yet. _Two_ messages came
by the same post—this morning’s early one. It isn’t only that the bank
needs me over there for a bit; but my grandmother tells me to come to
her——”

“The devil she does,” thought Sir Charles Snow. He knew those Chinese
grandmothers—he knew what their suzerainty was and the ruthless way
they asserted and enforced it. China might be a republic, but twenty
republics couldn’t clip the wings of one old hobble-gaited grand-dame
who lived, shrill and impregnable, far off from the tourist-beaten
paths.

“I _might_ do the work at the banks by proxy, important as it is. But
Sên Ya Tin must be obeyed.”

Snow nodded. He knew that.

“And I couldn’t think of taking the baby _that_ journey. You know where
we live. I don’t see my son on that trip! The Yangtze in flood as like
as not, local troubles in at least two of the provinces between Hongkong
and home, shotguns in full action, and not a cow for miles. No, Sên
junior cannot accompany Sên. I must leave them here.”

He might or might not leave Sên Ruben, but her cousin felt sure that he
was not destined to leave Mrs. Sên. But again he kept his opinion to
himself. He had “looked in” on Ivy’s matrimonial affairs for the last
time. It caused friction, and it availed nothing.

“I wish Ivy would come to us then,” was what he did say.

“I wish she would,” Sên replied. “It would be jolly for her in Kent with
you. And splendid for the boy. But I don’t believe she will. I think
she’ll wish to stay here in our own home and in the cottage.”

“Shall you be gone long?”

“Hard to say. Five or six months, if not longer, I’m afraid. I must give
things a thorough overhauling at Hongkong. We have a number of
ramifications now, you know—in six of the provinces, and I ought to go
myself to the end of them all. Then it will take some time to get home
and come back from there. And my grandmother does not say for how long
she will keep me with her—a day or two, perhaps, or it might be
longer—weeks perhaps. I can’t tell.”

Sir Charles Snow wondered. It might be months perhaps! The venerable
Madame Sên could tell, he knew; and he knew that she would.

“I suppose you’ll tell Ivy as soon as Emma and I have gone?”

“No—in the morning,” Sên replied. “She won’t like it. I’d hate her to.
And I don’t like it myself.”

“But you’ll be glad to see China again—to be in China again?”

A light grew in Sên King-lo’s face.

“Yes,” he said, “I shall be glad to be in China again—for a time. It
hurts to go from this, even for a time. Ruben will cut a tooth—learn to
crawl, perhaps to stand. And I shall not be here to see it. And—it
means a good deal to me to leave my wife—more than it will to her—and
she won’t like it. But she’ll have the boy. But I shall be glad to be in
China again. I am glad that I am going back to China, to hear my own
tongue spoken everywhere once more—once I’m well away from the polyglot
treaty ports—to see the birds I used to know at their breakfast, to eat
the old foods in the old way. I haven’t snapped a melon-seed between my
teeth for years, or seen a mango that _was_ a mango, or a lychee that
wasn’t a petrified mummy—do you remember how the lychees taste when the
wine of their ripeness is in them still?”

Snow nodded.

“And the mangosteens?”

“Only too well!”

“To see only Chinese faces once more—to be among my countrymen! Oh,
I’ve been in exile, and sometimes I’ve found it bitter—often—until one
day Miss Julia ‘gave a party’—and Ruby was there——”

Sir Charles’ face was very grave. He saw writing on the wall.

Sên King-lo went on with his home-going. “To see the silk-worms gorging
on the mulberry-trees, to see the red poppies growing—not much use for
opium, but you remember the sea of color they make, lakes and oceans of
it—and the fire-weed—to hear the sound the mallets make when they
strike the bells—the gongs too—in the old temple courtyards that used
to be my playground when I was a boy—” He broke off and passed the
decanter.



                              CHAPTER XXXV


Sên King-lo did not sleep that night, torn between two vibrant
emotions—sorrow at the impending separation from his wife and joy to go
home again.

Perhaps Ruby Sên caught in her sleep something of his double strain, for
she woke as the first light filtered through their loose-drawn curtains;
and her waking was sharp and instant, wide-eyed at once, which it rarely
was. Usually she stirred and dozed, coming back very gradually to the
life of brazened day, as the convolvulus sleepily unfurls its twisted
spiral to the dawn. She was fast asleep—then, wide awake.

Sên King-lo turned and took her in his arms, and told her where he was
going, when and why.

Her dark eyes sparkled with quick pleasure. But she exclaimed chidingly,
“And that was what was in those two letters you had from China by the
first post yesterday! And you’ve only told me now! A whole day wasted,
and with all the packing to do in no time at all! Lo, you are simply
wicked.”

“Since when have you done my packing, Mrs. Sên? And I seem to remember
that I not unfrequently have done yours. My mistake no doubt.”

Ivy giggled and tried to shake him. There was an interlude.

“I shall not take much luggage,” Lo told her.

“_Your_ luggage!” his wife retorted contemptuously. “Two handkerchiefs
and a razor and a book of poems—I know _your_ luggage. But you don’t
imagine that I _and_ Baby _and_ Nurse are going half-way across the
world with only one suitcase between us, do you?”

“Dear,” her husband said very gently, “we couldn’t take Baby. It’s too
far, the way too hard, whole weeks of discomfort, if not worse—for you
and him, I mean. I shall enjoy every rod of it, with my goat-legs—and
home at the end of the journey. I never am ill, and, if I were, the
smell of Ho-nan would be all the medicine I needed. But we can’t take
our frogling off of the doctors’ beats.”

“No!” the frogling’s mother instantly agreed. “Oh—Lo—I shan’t like
leaving him behind. But—of course—for his own sake—but, oh! Lo—how
shall we do it!”

“Of course not,” he answered her quickly, with a hand on her hair, “so
you’ll have to stay with him, mother-girl.”

Ruby Sên slipped from her husband’s arms, thrust them gently but firmly
away, and sat up on the pillows, eying her husband.

“I am going with you, Lo,” she told him quietly.

“No,” he said, a little tensely, “not this time. I can’t take _you_ to
China _now_, heart of my heart.”

“Why?”

“The time isn’t ripe. You wouldn’t be comfortable.”

“I should be with you.”

Sên King-lo thanked her with his eyes and with the touch of his hands.
They were lovers still, these two who had ventured the perilous
marriage.

But he persisted, “I cannot take you, dear. I’d rather give it up than
do that.”

“You want to go, don’t you?” she asked quietly. “And you think that you
ought?”

“I know that I ought. And I want to go more than I could tell you.”

“But not to have me with you?”

“Always that. But not to _take_ you with me. I must not.”

Ruby studied the yellow flowers on the blue eiderdown a moment and then
turned her eyes again to her husband’s and searched his face, laying her
hand, and keeping it there, on his hand that lay on the lace below her
throat. She said, “Are you _ashamed_ to take me to China, Lo? Ashamed to
have me there with you?”

Sudden color flooded the face of the Chinese man; but he answered her
truthfully and fairly, as he always had and always would do.

In every marriage there must be something of sacrifice—and always it
must be so, because the bonds that fetter human souls one from the other
are eternal set—always have been and always must be—till we cross the
River; and it is in the higher wedlock, the happiest union, most nearly
perfected, that that sacramental sacrifice is the greatest and
costliest. In the sacrifices to come it might be laid upon him to keep
from her unsaid some of the thoughts that welled to his heart and vexed
his mind—indeed already he had done so once or twice, eagerly willing
to bear tenfold any trouble alone rather than to share it with her. But
he never had lied to his wife in small things or great, and it did not
occur to him to do it now in this hour of their intimate mutual testing.
And though he would instantly, ungrudgingly, have sacrificed to her his
life and things far dearer than life, he could not sacrifice even to her
his word—and truth was a very part of his loyalty. There were
white-skinned women in London—a few—who pitied Mrs. Sên, even while
they sought her and made much of her—pitied her because she was the
wife of an Eastern—but there were sadly few who might not have envied
her had they known the quality of her husband’s loyalty—exquisite and
absolute.

“Ashamed!” he repeated. “Never that! Need you ask?”

“What is it then?”

“Afraid. Afraid for you, dearest.”

“Of what?” She would not let him off.

And he went on simply and bravely and left no blank in this confession.
“Afraid of slights and slurs. They might not come, but they might.”

“Need we care?” she demanded, pressing a little the fingers under hers.
“ ‘Where MacGregor sits _is_ the head of the table.’ ”

Sên King-lo made no reply.

“Slights from whom, Lo?”

“From my own people, perhaps.”

She bent over him then, and something as a mother might. “ ‘Thy people
shall be my people,’ ” she crooned, “ ‘and whither thou goest there also
will I go.’ ”

Sên King-lo gathered his wife down to his breast and held her there.
Neither spoke. The room was very quiet.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI


But Sên King-lo had no intention of yielding. And for several days they
pitted their wills against each other, while Mrs. Sên went quietly on
with her packing.

His Chinese will and her English will met and interlocked, and, because
her will was a woman’s, Ruby won.

Ruben went into the keeping of Lady Snow, “perfectly delighted to have
another baby without any of the preliminary unpleasantness,” the
overwatching care of his cousin Charles, with Dick and Blanche for
special and voluble bodyguard; and the roses bloomed alone and unpruned
on the tiny cottage, and Kwan Yin-ko lived alone in the Kensington
house.

“Would you not like to live in China?” Mrs. Sên had asked her husband
one day before they left London. “Make it our home, I mean? I have been
thinking about it a good deal these last few days. You have been like a
boy since you’ve known you were going back to China.”

“Transplant my English flowers to the wilds of China!” Sên laughed.

“Ruben is only half-English,” she reminded him, “and I am your wife.”

“Ruben looks rather more English than you do,” he retorted.

“That’s no answer, Lo. Listen—” she put her hands on his shoulders and
held them there. “I have been very happy here. It has been splendid.
I’ve loved the fun of London and all the interest. But the one thing I
_care_ for is to be with you and the boy. Truly, Lo. I meant every word
I said to you the other morning: every bit of me did. I don’t care where
we live. On my soul, I don’t. Let us live in China—most of your
business is there. Take me to your own home, Lo, and make me a Chinese
woman.”

He took her face in his hands. It was the only answer he made her.

“Wouldn’t you like to stay in China?” she persisted. “We could come here
for nice long visits sometimes. Shall we?”

Sên King-lo laughed oddly. “We’ll try a trial trip first,” was all he
said.

It was left at that.

Baby Ruben was taken to Kent, the old room Ivy Gilbert’s mother had been
born in made his day nursery, with Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep and all
her sheep, the Cow with the crumpled horn and the Old Woman who lived in
a shoe and found it crowded, newly papered on the walls. Old Father
Thames, in very bright blue, meandered tranquilly beside them, with
golden stars for Oxford and Maple Durham, for Windsor and Eton, and one
very big star with two extra points for London town. Sên King-lo and
Ruby his wife crossed the world together.



                             CHAPTER XXXVII


Mrs. Sên clapped her hands and the “boy”—a wrinkled-faced Chinese of
sixty—brought in the teapot and the crumpets.

She had seen Lo’s chair as the bearers carried it up the path, and she
was sure he’d want his tea as soon as he could get it, after being
coolie-jolted all the way from the Bund to the top of the Peak, this
broiling, brazen day. She knew she wanted hers.

She frowned a trifle impatiently as she rearranged her tea-table a
little. To Sung had forgotten the sugar again. Lo didn’t take sugar
here—but she did. Well, she’d not take sugar today, for Lo would be
here in a moment now and, if she called the servant back to bring it,
probably Lo would hear and see; and she didn’t want her husband to know
that To Sung had forgotten her sugar again—if he had forgotten it. It
had infuriated Sên King-lo when it had happened once before. His face
had blazed and he had hurled some terrible words at old To Sung, and
Ruby had seen a Chinese side of her husband that she never had seen
before. To Sung had listened with an expressionless face to the torrid
abuse and had gone for the sugar basin when Sên had ended. But only Mrs.
Sên’s insistence had saved him dismissal. “I thought you had to be
deferential to every old person,” she said as she sugared her half-cold
tea. “Every rule has its exception, even in China,” Sên had told her,
“and I’ll have no servant of ours forget the slightest service to you.”

She did not dare, for poor old To’s sake, to have Lo know that he had
forgotten, or neglected, to bring her sugar again.

They were wonderful servants, these Chinese house-servants of hers, and
the bungalow on the Peak ran on even smoother and more noiseless wheels
than her admirable London ménage had: more tempting dinners even more
perfectly cooked—service swifter and surer. But now and then some
personal English need of her own was overlooked. And for all the
expertness and well-nigh perfection, Mrs. Sên felt that it was a
chillier service than that her London servants had given her. She
ignored it, tried to believe that she did not know why it was, brooded
over it rather, and hid it from Lo whenever she could.

It was the one small blemish in her delight in her new life in a new
place, though she began now to wonder how soon people would begin to
call.

“Young China” has done some remarkable things to Hongkong, if it has
done nothing else. Sên King-lo found Victoria less to his liking than it
had been. But Ruby, who was seeing her first of the Orient now, was
entranced with Hongkong. It was all so unexpected, so unlike anything
she ever had seen or imagined, that its every oddity and burlesque had a
charm and seemed a picture. She never really tired of the bizarre
kaleidoscope of the Hongkong streets, but when she was a little satiated
with the incredible medley and cram of the odd human mêlée and the
narrow, sign-hung streets, she had only to rest her eyes on the
boat-flecked water, or lift them for refreshment and delight that never
failed to the Peak and its slopes; and always she had the home-haven of
the bungalow and its hillside garden.

Sên saw it differently. Whatever his country had gained in freedom and
in international grip, he had an appalling feeling that it had lost in
beauty and in manners. And once or twice he felt that the soul of China
was tarnished, and his taste, if not his reason, veered more and more to
Sir Charles’ attitude: “Would that the Manchu were back on the
dragon-throne.” It seemed to him that the new Chinese Democracy was
overblown and that it was underbred. His countrywomen, that he saw
everywhere in the city streets, hurt him almost intolerably. Chinese
girls, no longer girlish, “walked out with their ‘young men,’ ” girls so
preposterously clad that conjecture often might leave their sex a
toss-up, figures so absurd and meaningless that no comic paper in Europe
would have reproduced them, or known what to call them if it had.
Chinese women wearing spats and rakishly tilted fur caps, thin
peek-a-boo blouses and scant tweed skirts cut half-knee high and
violently patterned with checks so big that neither a “darky” woman nor
a “nigger minstrel” would have worn them in St. Louis or Chicago, stood
in strident groups on thoroughfare corners, discussing in shrill,
unabashed voices diseases and “causes” of which the courtyard-sheltered
woman never had heard. He saw one making a “book” at Happy Valley, he
heard another call her escort “old bean,” and when he heard two young
Chinese girls placidly discussing abnormalities, sex, and grimmer things
with men not much older than they, and saw an undoubtedly respectable
matron at a restaurant wearing a monocle and reading through it a French
novel of which he would not have allowed Ruby to touch the cover, Sên
King-lo felt that Ts’z-hi had died too soon, and all the sweetness and
soundness of Chinese womanhood with her.

But he reflected that Hongkong always had been a drag-net for flotsam
and jetsam, and he hoped and _prayed_ that when he had journeyed on into
the interior he should find his country less “advanced” and changed, the
waters still clear and tranquil in the lily-tanks, the tulips and
violets still at ease in the gardens, the wild roses by the bamboo-edged
waysides still white and sweet. The emancipation of his traveled mind
failed him a little, and his soul revolted hotly that East no longer
_was_ East.

His countrymen struck him as less changed in appearance, and less
unmannered, than his countrywomen did; but he missed the costume he
himself had not worn for many years. He missed old ceremonial greetings,
old suavities, old detachment, and even the down-hanging queue and the
tight braids of hair closely bound about half-shaven heads. Many a man
with whom he had business offered him a whiskey and soda or a big cigar
who yesterday would have given him a tiny bowl of tea or a long-stemmed,
small-bowled, betasseled pipe. Sên King-lo was as homesick for China in
Hongkong as he ever had been in Washington and was homesick in a sorrier
way.

He always was glad to get back to the bungalow on the Peak which he had
taken and furnished for Ruby through a cablegram sent from Vancouver.
Sên King-lo had not cared to take his English wife to a Hongkong hotel.

They had been in Hongkong several months now, during which time he had
been away more than once on the bank’s business, once with Ruby, twice
without her. He did not intend to take her with him again when he went
on a business journey. There had been a hint of unpleasantness for
them—not between them—more than once on that one journey, hints that
had reached him more clearly than they had her. He understood the
language and the people; she did not.

She had amused herself comfortably enough on his two brief absences, and
he would have been glad to hope that he might persuade her to remain in
Hongkong when he went to Ho-nan to see his grandmother at his old home.
Ruby had certain social assets here that could not be ignored or too
ruthlessly discounted. The Governor was a lifelong friend of Sir Charles
Snow’s; his wife a distant relative of Lady Snow’s; and in London Ruby
and he had dined with them and they with the Sêns. It had not been
possible for Mr. and Mrs. Sên to be excluded from Government House. And
that gave her a chance of amusement which might, he thought, be a little
more cordial if he himself were away. But Sên knew so well that his wife
would not be persuaded to remain behind when he went to Ho-nan that,
much as he wished it, he scarcely urged it. What was the use?

Sên King-lo began to see, faint but growing clearer, the same writing on
the wall that Sir Charles had seen, and been aghast but not surprised to
see, at Kensington.

Eagerly determined that this holiday and homecoming of his should be all
Lo’s, filled to the brim with all that would make it happiest for him
and pleasant to remember, Mrs. Sên cared very little how many Europeans
called on her or how many did not; but she was keenly anxious to know
and “make friends” with Chinese women, that she and Lo might come and go
among his Chinese friends, seeing them in their homes and in the Sên
home. Sên had hoped to gratify her in this, believing that it would be
easy enough under the change in woman’s position in China. To an extent
he had, but it hadn’t worked.

Chinese ladies had called on Mrs. Sên—a few; two had invited her to
lunch; and one, more emancipated perhaps, or perhaps more good-natured,
or it even might have been under a husband’s control, had gone so far as
to bring her daughters with her the second time she called. She had
dined once at the Sêns’ bungalow and had once invited them both to dine
with her husband and herself—on which occasion neither of her daughters
had been present.

But all this visiting had been as barren to Ivy as Sên realized it to be
perfunctory, if not, as he suspected, actually enforced. Ivy knew no
Chinese. Only one of the Chinese ladies who had called upon her knew a
few words of English. Great international issues may be reconciled and
solved _via_ interpreters, but feminine intercourse cannot be. The day
Mrs. Sên lunched with Mrs. Eng-Hung, the English lady was provided with
English cutlery; but its newness was assertive—almost a protest—and
the hostess ate with chopsticks. When Mrs. Sên offered to shake hands
with her Chinese women visitors, the palms that met her outstretched
hand were instant and courteous but limp and irresponsive. And the
husband of every Chinese woman that called even once either was under
some large business obligation to Sên King-lo, or aimed to be. Several
Chinese ladies whom, through their husbands, Sên had asked to call upon
his wife, did not do so. Sên had little doubt that Mrs. Ma T’en-k’ai had
made her sudden journey to their country home rather than do so; and Ma
T’en-k’ai was deeply in debt to Sên for financial advancement. Yen
F’eng-hui, who owed more to Sên King-lo’s influence than any other man
in Hongkong did, frankly told King-lo that he would not permit Mrs. Yen
to know an Englishwoman who had married a Chinese. He did not blame Mrs.
Sên for being English, that would be absurd, since we all had be to born
where the gods decree. There were English ladies in Hongkong whom he
would not forbid his wife to meet, though he had no wish that she
should; but he held strong and unalterable views concerning such
inter-racial marriages. He hoped that his honorable friend would pardon
him. Sên King-lo did more than that: he liked Yen for his upright
frankness, and courage—it takes courage to defy your banker—and Sên
King-lo could not condemn Yen, who had never been out of their
birthland, for feeling and saying stoutly what he himself had felt as
strongly scarcely four years ago, he who had traveled far and wide, from
whom long foreign sojourn and alien associations inevitably had rubbed
off many natural angles.

So he did all he could to fill his wife’s Hongkong hours pleasantly, to
keep a sour thing from her. He knew that he would be glad when they were
once more on the Pacific, with their steamer’s prow turned towards the
east.

Lo did not notice the absence of the little sugar-basin, and he drank
his Chinese tea and ate his English crumpets in high contentment.

“They can’t have done you very well at the Club today at lunch,” Ivy
said severely, as he passed his cup for its second refilling and helped
himself to a fourth macaroon.

“I had an excellent lunch,” her husband asserted, “but not at the Club.
I lunched and wined at the hotel with a lady.”

“And she gave you the flower in your coat!”

“She did.”

Mrs. Sên giggled. “You took Mrs. Yen out to lunch on the sly! Did you
have a private room?”

“I did not,” Lo said sadly, “take Mrs. Yen out to lunch. It would not
have been permitted.”

Ivy wanted a second cup of tea, but she would not take it for fear that
Sên would miss the sugar-basin. She always took three lumps, and she
knew that he always watched her hands. So she munched a sandwich instead
and quenched her thirst with a mango.

“I lunched with a lady, though.”

His wife knew that he wanted her to say: “Who was she?” and because she
knew it, she said nothing.

And because she would not ask, he would not tell her—yet. They often
played that game, and Sên usually won. If an English woman could wait,
so could a Chinese man.

“Is the home mail in, Lo?”

“No, not even signaled yet, dear.”

Sên looked about the pretty room as he lit her cigarette. They had
finished their tea.

“Ruby,” he said, as he gave it to her, well and truly lit, “I believe
you’d make home out of a soap-box and an old coffee sack.”

“I’d try for you, Lo,” she told him.

“I’ll match this against any room on the island,” he added.

“But you furnished it,” his wife reminded him.

“Yes—by wire. But I didn’t _make_ it. You did that. I didn’t rearrange
it. I didn’t put those flowers in that vase or Ruben’s picture in its
lacquer frame—” Sên broke off, silenced by a sudden grinding thought.
He had seen and understood the look in Chinese eyes when they first had
seen that photograph, had seen and quickly looked away. Ah well——

“But,” he added, “I did bring the one perfect thing in the room, and put
it here.”

Mrs. Sên looked about her drawing-room in surprise. What had Lo actually
chosen and bought that was here! Not the cabinet, not the screen, not
the quaint and costly teapot with a writhing dragon for handle and a
slender snake curled up asleep on its top, not the lovely cups with
butterflies poised on the delicate rims and a dear little red “ladybird”
inside each fragile cup. What—then she understood and giggled again—a
pretty sound from her, if not a pretty word, and shook her clasped hands
at him in the pretty Chinese way he’d taught her.

But not even for such a compliment (and they’d been married almost five
years now!) would she ask the question he was waiting for her to ask.

“I lunched, all alone, with a lady,” he said at last, “and she is coming
to lunch with you tomorrow.”

Still Mrs. Sên waited.

“You used to know her.”

“Oh—some one turned up from London.”

“No, from Washington.”

Ivy threw him a mock-horrified look. “Sên King-lo, you have been
lunching with Emmeline Hamilton! She’ll sue you for breach of promise.
What fun for Hongkong! Lady Montsurat’s face will be a picture.”

Sên laughed. Then he drew the carnation from his coat and leaned towards
her and tucked it in Ruby’s frock.

Then she knew that it was some one she had cared for, cared for very
much. And she cared for so few people—for so very few women.

“Lo,” she whispered, “it isn’t—it isn’t——”

“Yes, it _is_. Dr. Ray is in Hongkong, and Miss Julia is with her!”



                            CHAPTER XXXVIII


Ivy Sên laid her hand on her husband’s knee. She was speechless.

“It’s true,” he assured her, “though I scarcely believe it myself yet.
Dr. Ray in Hongkong or in any other interesting place seems explicable
and natural enough, but Miss Julia Townsend is stark impossibility. But
here she is.”

“You have seen her?”

Sên King-lo smiled affectionately and a little grimly, “No. She would
not see me. But she is here.”

“But, Lo, she couldn’t possibly afford it! All that way—Washington to
San Francisco—hotels—the boat! She couldn’t ever do it. You have no
idea how poor she was really! She dressed like an old-fashioned queen,
and she had literally dozens and dozens of old chests—big ones made of
cedar wood—crammed with the costliest things, a hundred years old, some
of them, and yards and yards of lace older than that; but I never knew
her to buy anything new to wear except gloves and boots and slippers. I
don’t think she bought even stockings. She had dozens and dozens of
pairs of silk ones—the loveliest silk ones—some thin like cobwebs and
some thick as flannel; but she never wore anything else, winter or
summer. And besides all those she used to knit others, and so did Dinah
and Lucinda—she’d taught them herself. She used to make her own
handkerchiefs, hemstitch them and monogram them and all. She almost
lived off the place. But she never sold a thing—not so much as one thin
old silver spoon, not a tomato, or one of those funny turkey-wings
Lysander used for a crumb-brush. She _can’t_ have sold Rosehill or
anything in it. She’d as soon have sold her mother’s grave, or her
portrait of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate flag that had been in battle
with Stonewall Jackson, or Jefferson Davis’ autograph letters to her
father. And she never, never has let Dr. Ray pay _for_ her. She wouldn’t
do that! She _couldn’t_: not a five-cent street-car fare. How has she
found the money? Oh—and she always did so long to travel—above all to
see China. She has told me so time after time. And she had never been
out of Virginia farther than Washington, in all her life, and never
expected to be! Lo,” his wife cried with a broken giggle that sounded
full of tears, “she must have sold Lysander and Dinah!”

“Have you ever heard her speak,” Sên asked, “of a second or third cousin
of hers, Theodore Lee?”

“No.” Ivy had not.

“Neither have I. But Dr. Ray, who is several years older than Miss
Townsend, you know, though she looks much the younger of the
two—another case of work keeping us fresher than rust does—Dr. Ray
remembers him perfectly. He, too, was quite a few years older than Miss
Townsend. He served under General Lee in the Civil War—the youngest
officer in the Confederate Army, Dr. Ray says. He lost an arm at Ball’s
Bluff and a foot in the Battle of the Wilderness. The war left him
penniless, as it did so many, and his father and older brothers were
killed.”

“It was a holocaust,” Ruby murmured sadly.

“The most terrible holocaust in history until the World War,” King-lo
added.

“But slavery _had_ to be stamped out, Lo!”

“It usually dies a natural death,” the husband insisted, “as it has in
your own British Empire, and a far pleasanter death for all concerned,
the slaves included. We have seen a pleasant and beneficent side of
slavery in China, as I believe the South did——”

“Miss Townsend has poisoned your mind!” his wife told him.

“Not at all,” he denied. “Facts are facts—that’s all. And the war
between the North and the South had nothing to do with slavery. That was
an after-thought, dragged in for political purposes, necessary, perhaps,
and certainly good strong propaganda.”

“Sên King-lo! I don’t believe it!”

Sên laughed. “You didn’t specialize in American history during your
earnest scholastic career, did you? However, as your own uncrowned
laureate has said several times, that’s another story.”

“Yes—do get on about Miss Julia.”

“Lee—young Theodore Lee—worked his way to South America somehow. He
had but little luck there, but he saved enough to come home on a visit
after some years, and he spent a month at Rosehill when Miss Julia was
about sixteen.”

“Who told you all that?” Ruby interrupted him again.

“Dr. Ray—today at lunch. He went back to Brazil and had failure after
failure there—just managed to live for year after year. But he stuck to
it, one thing after another. He doesn’t seem to have had much of a
business head, but he must have had plenty of grit. And his luck turned
at last, nothing much, but it must have seemed a fortune to him. He
struck oil about a year ago—alfalfa and rose-wood and ipecacuanha, I
think.”

“What a mixture!”

“A good many fortunes are mixed,” Sên observed. “He turned his little
pile into money and sailed from Buenos Ayres almost at once—presumably,
as the sequel shows, to repeat his visit to Rosehill. But he died on the
voyage. He was buried at sea. That is the story. He left Miss Julia all
he had: nearly twenty thousand dollars, Dr. Ray says. She has bought new
clothes now, Ivy!”

“Black crêpe ones?” the girl said softly.

Sên King-lo nodded. “And the rest,” he added, “or most of it, she’s
spending in seeing the world.”

Ruby Sên’s eyes filled with tears. “And the rest?”

“A check to the Louise Home, flowers for Confederate graves. She didn’t
do it impulsively, Dr. Ray tells me. They talked it over thirty or forty
times. Then one night suddenly, as they sat on the porch, Miss Julia
exclaimed: ‘I’m going to do it. It’s what I’ve longed to do as long as I
can remember, and I’m going to now. I’ll put one thousand dollars in the
bank, to make things a trifle easier after I’m back, and to pay for my
funeral. My funeral has troubled me rather—especially if I should
happen to die soon after one of the garden-parties: I’m sometimes a
little short of ready money then. My shroud is all ready, and the lot in
the cemetery was paid for long ago, of course; but there are always
extra expenses, and a Townsend must be decently buried, and buried with
Townsend money.’ ”

“I don’t see Miss Julia on the rates,” Mrs. Sên said shakenly.

“No!” Sên King-lo said proudly. “ ‘I’ll put one thousand dollars away,
and I’ll spend every cent of the rest and see China and Spain and the
Bridge of Sighs and Westminster Abbey at last,’ and here she is in the
best rooms of the best hotel!”

“I can’t think of Washington without Miss Julia across the river at
Rosehill,” Ruby said musingly.

“Nor I,” Sên King-lo agreed. “It’s like a harp with its sweetest string
gone.”

“And how those poor darkies will miss her! And what a time they’ll have!
Dinah and Uncle Lysander must feel like orphans.”

“Lysander and Dinah are here with Miss Julia,” Sên chuckled.

Mrs. Sên gave a little gasping laugh. “Great Scott!” she cried.



                             CHAPTER XXXIX


Dr. Ray came soon after breakfast the next morning, and she stayed all
day.

“Here is your bridesmaid,” she told Ivy gaily, as she took Mrs. Sên in
her arms, then put her away a little to search the younger face with
shrewd, beautiful eyes that hid the anxiety they felt. “I’m having the
time of my life. Nothing but slang will express it. Between Julia
Calhoun and this marvel of a place and the hotel bills, I’m quite off my
head. How are you, my child! But you needn’t tell me; I only asked for
manners. I can see how you are!”

Ivy laughed happily. “How is Miss Julia?” she asked gently.

“More so than ever,” Dr. Ray replied. “How I ever am to get her home
again, I don’t know. I thought I’d never get her away from Honolulu. I
must not say that she went surf-riding, for she didn’t; but I know she
wanted to.”

“Scandal!” Sên King-lo rebuked their guest with a quiet laugh.

“Not a bit of it,” Dr. Ray protested. “The scandal is coming. But she
watched the surf-riding and loved it. She bought a Hawaiian phrase-book
and climbed up Diamond Head road to the peak on a pony. She wore a
_lei_! She went to a moonlight picnic at Weiniea, and she saw a hula
dance.”

Sên King-lo’s face broke into ripples of fun, as only a Chinese face
can, and then the room moaned with his laughter.

“But,” Ivy expostulated, “Dr. Ray! How could you let her do it!”

“Let her! Have you never seen Julia Townsend with the bit between her
teeth? I have. Let her, indeed! I assure you, this is _her_ trip, and
she runs no risk of my forgetting it. She asserts herself.”

“She always did,” Sên said, with a tender smile on his handsome mouth.

“Yes,” his wife agreed, “in her quiet, beautiful way.”

“Oh, Julia is quiet still. But there is a sort of wonderful, hushed
splendor about her. I believe she has grown an inch since we left
Washington.”

“In width?” Mrs. Sên asked smoothly. And they both knew that she meant
not “width” but “breadth.”

The physician shook her head. “But I wish you could see the way she
carries her head, the history of all the Townsends in her face, a
child’s unspoilt joy in her eyes, and the Star-Spangled Banner waving
over her.”

“The Star-Spangled Banner?” Sên reminded.

“It was her fathers’ flag for nearly a hundred years, Mr. Sên. At home
she is a Southern woman first and last. ‘Dixie’ is her anthem, Lincoln
and Grant anathema. But here she is just an American woman, proud of
every state in the Union.”

“Then she _has_ broadened—very much,” Mrs. Sên exclaimed.

“No,” Sên objected. “I fancy it’s merely a matter of breeding; ‘company
manners’ abroad.”

“Precisely,” Dr. Ray agreed, “a sort of traveling cloak that she
considers it good taste to wear. But, by the way, Ivy, I did not ‘let’
Miss Julia attend the hula dance. I was not there and did not even know
anything of her going until several days later. I was away in Molokai.
This is a pleasure jaunt for Julia, but I came for a different purpose.
There are several diseases that I have wished for years to see at short
range in their native lairs. And when I found that Miss Townsend really
was making this trip—the wisest thing she ever had done, I thought at
the time, and now I know that it was—I almost instantly decided to link
my travel up with Julia’s, and that’s how I come to be here now. Oh! Is
that Ruben?” She left the chair that Sên had placed for her where the
shaded breeze came in from the garden and took up the photograph in the
lacquered frame and studied it minutely, with wise, kind eyes that again
told very little of the thoughts behind them. “Very, very charming!” was
her comment as she replaced it.

“He doesn’t favor my side of the house, does he!” Sên King-lo demanded
with a laugh. “Our son is very English.”

“Very, and very handsome!” Dr. Ray answered cordially. But to herself
the physician added: “And more interesting than handsome. He is your
_first-born_: a throw-back, of course, to some blonde ancestor of your
wife’s. Baby number two may be as Chinese as baby number one is Saxon.
What then?”

“What did Miss Julia think of the _hula_ dance?” Sên King-lo asked
slyly, as they sat at lunch.

“That,” Elenore Ray replied, “I have not been told. She has never
referred to it; but I gathered from Dinah that her mistress spent the
next day in bed, with the blinds down. Uncle Lysander was certain sure
powerful scandalized. He claims to have blushed all over and to have
been nuffin but a jelly.”

“What do Lysander and Dinah think of China?” Sên persisted.

“Lysander is as frightened as if he were alone in a churchyard at
midnight,” Dr. Ray told them cheerfully, “and Dinah giggles more than
ever. I have to give her ‘drops’ every night to calm her—and I make
them bitter. Dinah does not add to the dignity of our party. Now it is
my turn to ask questions.” And she turned the talk into more impersonal
channels.

As she and Ivy sat alone for an hour in the garden after lunch, they
spoke only of Washington. The visitor felt no impulse to question young
Mrs. Sên. Her trained eyes had seen with their first glance in the
drawing-room that all was well with Sên King-lo’s English wife. There
was not a cloud the size of a baby’s palm in Ivy Sên’s horizon—or, if
there were, Ivy had neither seen nor sensed it. Their friend too had
seen, clearly enough, that the affection and confidence between husband
and wife had endured and grown. But she had caught a look once or twice
in Sên’s Chinese eyes that she had not liked. And when Ivy in her turn
left Dr. Ray and King-lo alone for half an hour—not in neglect of a
guest but because the English letters had come and because she knew how
well they two would entertain and satisfy each other—the physician
turned to Sên presently and asked him, as the quality of their mutual
friendship and respect licensed her to, “Tell me, my friend, how has it
worked?”

“Can’t you see?” Sên King-lo questioned for question.

“I see that your wife is perfectly happy. I see that you are beautifully
satisfied in each other and that, if you and she could shut the world
out and keep it shut out, all would be very well indeed with you both.
But that is just what none of us can do—and perhaps have no right to
attempt to do. Most of our troubles come to us from outside, I think. I
believe that the vital germs of every one of them—always—are in
ourselves, either in some quality of ours or in some conduct, but that
it usually is the friction of cross-currents that develops them.
Something troubles you, Mr. Sên. May I know? Can I help? It is the
friend that asks, but it just might be possible for the doctor to
help—to see the way out.”

“May I smoke?” King-lo asked her, and lit his cigarette slowly. Through
its slender smoke he sat and watched the bungalow garden, its bamboos
and tulips and fern-trees, and Hongkong down below the twisting roadway,
with its blur and huddle of Chinese homes and shops and markets, and the
gaunter, though prouder, assertion of Europe’s overlordship, and the
turquoise sea beyond it.

“It has worked perfectly,” he said after a time. “We have had no
regret—neither of us. Ruby, I think, has not had an anxiety. I, when
Ruben was coming, had my bad half-hours. A Chinese baby would have been
a complication, even in London, the kindest, least censorious place on
earth and the most sincerely cosmopolitan. You see a greater and a more
obvious mingling—or, at least, mixture of races in many other places;
Constantinople, Venice, San Francisco, and twenty others. But it is only
in London—only in London of all the world—that there is genuine
welcome for the strangers within the gates. But in London itself there
would have been no place for a Chinese child _of ours_. And also, I
wondered how the sight of a Chinese baby in her arms—at her
breast—would affect Ruby. I have the type of Chinese face—that we
Chinese have now and then—that does not bear country stamped on it too
strongly. I might pass as any one of several races, two or three of them
not Oriental or only remotely so, but it’s not a family trait. Every
other Sên I ever saw and every other Pei-fu—my mother was a Pei-fu
before her marriage—has been unmistakably, strikingly Chinese in
appearance. And Ruby was used to me. She scarcely remembered, except in
a hazy, detached way, that I was not English. But Nature plays many
tricks, but will brook none played on her. The Mongolian is a persistent
type; and such mixed marriages as ours, through some inscrutable law of
Nature, seem almost sure to perpetuate, and even to emphasize, one
racial type and to ignore the other.”

“Yes,” the physician murmured.

“I knew that our child might be born more Chinese than the Chinese—and
I wondered if I might not see my wife shrink, even a little, from the
child our love had given us. I was hideously anxious for her. And I
dared not say one word, give one hint, to prepare her; help her, as that
perhaps might have done, to resist an almost inevitable revulsion—to
destroy it before it existed. But Nature spared us!”

“This time,” the physician thought to herself.

“When I saw how lily-fair our babe was——”

“So you quite forgave him for looking so little like your own people? I
wondered, if you had, if you _could_, when I saw his picture just now.”

“I worshiped him for what he had spared his mother,” Sên King-lo said
simply.

“He certainly looks a changeling, even for a child of Ivy’s,” Elenore
Ray said musingly. “Atavism is intensely interesting—and very
baffling.” She added, “What is it that is troubling you, nagging you,
then!—if I may know?”

“You have used the one right word, Dr. Ray, ‘nagging.’ When the
messages—there were two—came that called me to China, I tried to come
alone; but my wife would not let me.”

“No, of course,” the woman said regretfully. “Must you be here long—in
China?”

So she knew, had divined, what his trouble was, understood half of his
dual trouble—for Sên King-lo was carrying two, and they were quite
distinct—knew without any need of being told! But because she had asked
him, and because it was a relief to speak to one he so trusted and
liked, of what he could not have spoken to any one else, unless perhaps
to Charles Snow, Sên King-lo went on.

“As short a time as I can make it,” he replied. “She wanted to bring our
boy with us, of course; but there I would not yield, and our physician
backed me up.”

“Wonderful people, doctors!” the physician remarked, “and beautifully
helpful.”

Sên smiled his agreement. “But I ought not to have brought her,” he
added gravely. “It was a terrible risk, an unpardonable mistake, and I
do not see how I am to save her from finding it out. No one avoided us
in London. No one resented our marriage, or dared to misunderstand it.
She was too fine, too unmistakable—and a little because I was so
seemingly cosmopolitan, and because London is London—at once
indifferent and wholesome. But here it is not so.”

“Has Mrs. Sên been ostracized here?”

“Something like that. The Europeans have been
supercilious—salacious-minded and evil-tongued amongst themselves and
behind our backs, I have little doubt. And my own people have been hard,
unbending. The English sneer, more or less openly, and the Chinese have
tabooed my wife. An Englishman, a married man who also has a Chinese
ménage and children in it, called here one day when I was out, and Ruby
gave him tea; but I happen to know that he has forbidden his wife, an
Englishwoman, to call on mine.”

“But you are going soon,” Dr. Ray said more cheerfully than she felt.
“Get her away. That is the only thing to do. And you are going soon now,
Ruby said.”

“Farther into China. To my own family. That will be worse, I fear.”

“Oh! I hope not. She wouldn’t stay with me, I suppose, while you went
and came back for her? We could take a little trip—to Japan
perhaps—she and I. I will part ways with Julia Townsend, for a time, or
bring her to reason.”

“I’d give a great deal if she would,” Sên replied. “But she will not. It
isn’t even worth trying. Don’t think me ungrateful.”

“I know that you are not that,” Dr. Ray said emphatically.

Mrs. Sên came to them from the drawing-room then, her home letters read,
Emma’s cried over a little—for it had told her of Ruben’s first tooth
and of a pair of tiny new red shoes he preferred to suck rather than
wear—and nothing more of analysis or of confession passed.

It was late when Dr. Ray went back to her hotel down in the city, and
Sên walked beside her with his hand on the edge of her chair.

Even in high daylight (day is never garish in Hongkong) the apish
incongruities and misfitments of Young China ways and clothes cannot rob
Hongkong of its unequaled beauty. The bamboos’ luxuriant, sword-shaped,
fern-like beauty still edges with gray-green lace the twisting footpath
between Victoria City and the blue-topped Peak. Red Chinese roofs still
up-turn here and there among the persimmons and oleanders. Junks and
sampans still huddle in the harbor, and the water still croons blue and
green and limpid about them. At night Young China seems almost a myth,
an unloveliness almost forgotten and quite negligible; the moon and the
stars keep their old state up in an imperial sky; lights still shimmer
like fireflies and flash like friendly arrows of flame from bush and
vine-entangled homesteads and from long pendant lanterns swinging in
coolie hands, and down in the great craft-huddled harbor, lights twinkle
and proclaim in every color that man-made light can show; queer,
passionate Chinese music still throbs now and then through the darkness,
and English pianos tinkle long after London’s bedtime; Chinese voices
rise and fall in velvet guttural across the night-time stillness, and
the laugh of a young English voice pierces it over there behind the
thicket of moon-drenched roses; a nightingale sings in an old
cherry-tree; and night moths wing their filmy flight from the
passion-flowers.

As they turned one of the steep, narrow pathway’s sudden curves, they
almost collided with a singing quintet of young Chinese—two girls and
three men, swinging along all arm in arm and quite spanning the narrow
yellow path. They were singing an English music-hall song stridently,
the men dressed in European clothes that _were_ European—Bayswater or
Battersea—the two young women in “English” raiment that was _not_
English. One girl swayed a little as she walked, because her golden
lilies, disfigured now in sensible English boots, had not “unbound”
successfully. They drew aside to let Dr. Ray’s chair pass, backing
against the bamboos at the road’s edge, still linking arms, still
singing, but much more softly, just keeping it up: “My mother-in-law
ain’t no jellyfish.” And they looked, as they were, perfectly
respectable and self-respecting.

When the descending chair had passed on, they swung back athwart the
path and went on again in step and singing again in louder tones: “My
mother-in-law ain’t no lamb, and she ain’t no Venus neither”—crashing
it out to the Chinese night, where the moon above showered the yellow
path and the gray-green bamboos with a rain of opals, and the
nightingale broke off its fragrant song in the old cherry-tree.

Elenore Ray smiled, kindly, a little sadly, as she saw Sên King-lo’s
hand clench on the frame of her chair.

“You are disappointed,” she told him gently.

“In Young China?” he replied frankly. “In some of its surface
tricks—candidly yes. Yes, Dr. Ray, I carry two anxieties now.”

“So I thought.”

“But,” he added stoutly, “every new movement has its scum, and scum
always rises to the top.”

“Always,” she agreed. “But fulfilled dreams are sorry things often. I
sometimes have wondered what George Washington would think of the
Chicago Board of Trade when it’s busy, and of the stock-yards.”

“But the cause for which he lived and fought and worked was supremely
right,” Sên reminded her.

“We Americans like to think so,” the woman told him; “but right gets
terribly twisted in human hands again and again. And the longer I live,
the deeper I probe, the more convinced I grow that ‘causes’ count for
strangely little, individual lives for almost everything—everything
that really matters.”

“And you believe,” Sên King-lo questioned slowly—thinking as he spoke
of a Chinese Emperor of whom Dr. Ray never had heard—“that in his
record of personal character, Washington left his nation a greater
heritage than he did in the victory of the War of Independence and in
all the great national foundation he and Hamilton built after Yorktown?”

“Just that,” was the quiet reply. “In mental equipment and achievement,
I incline to believe that Alexander Hamilton was the greatest genius in
history, and certainly the greatest of our country. But George
Washington was the greater man—because he was the more entirely
_good_.”

“Do you hold,” Sên asked with a slight smile, “that all who are good are
great?”

“I do—the _greatest_.”

The five harmless revelers were near them again, for the hillside road
had swung round on itself, and the singers were not far away and
directly overhead; and the Leicester Square doggerel belched stridently
down: “My mother-in-law she’s got a walk like a crab and a tongue like a
toad.”

“This is not China!” Sên King-lo said, in sudden unleashed passion.

“Tell me something—” the woman laid a motherly hand on his hand that
lay on her chair, and her eyes that were very kind also were twinkling.
“Do you hate and despise the Manchus as much as you did?”

“No,” the Chinese man said quickly, “I do not. I am older. And I see
what I see.” He smiled back at her as he spoke, but his eyes and his
voice were sad.

The chair coolies came to a quiet halt, as they often do at some point
of special beauty.

Elenore Ray gazed about her with a sigh of great content.

“I wish you could have seen Hongkong as it was but a few years ago,” Sên
King-lo said, as they moved on again.

“This is supremely beautiful,” Dr. Ray insisted. “But,” she added
musingly, “I begin to suspect that the missionary and the gunboat have a
great deal to answer for.”

“The Chinese who have taken a wrong turning—if they have—will have a
great deal more to answer for,” Sên King-lo said bitterly.



                               CHAPTER XL


Ruby had not noticed that her husband had avoided going out with her in
Hongkong and was avoiding it more and more; but it was so. He was
imperatively busy now, crowding into days the work of business drive and
finesse that might well have over-crowded weeks, if not months, for a
less capable man. He could not well take his wife to _hong_ and to
counting-house, to long bank conferences that more often than not ran
with a strong political under-current—the very life-blood of young
China, if not of China itself—or to more secret and smaller conclaves
which took place behind well-barred doors, when only two or three
Chinese gathered to speak together in slow, hushed tones and anxious
quiet words. But this was not the reason why Mr. and Mrs. Sên so rarely
were seen together in Hongkong. The reason lay close and well-guarded in
Sên King-lo’s breast: a tiny coiled serpent that lifted its narrow
hooded head now and then, meeting Sên’s eyes with sly, cold, wicked
eyes, and sometimes at night hissing softly in his ear. There were
functions to which he might have taken her, long rambles which invited
and beckoned, water-side strolls, leisurely peak-side climbs. And there
was Happy Valley, the incessantly recurring Derby Day of all the
Anglo-Chinese world and his wife, and there was Church Parade, as smart
a function, if more narrowed, as London’s own, and far more picturesque.
But Sên avoided and evaded them all whenever he could. Every hour that
he could spend with Ruby at the bungalow he did, and he filled them all
so full of intimate charm and gay comradeship that they fed her all the
happiness and content that even she—greedy of both—could crave or
assimilate. And sometimes she chid herself sharply that she could be so
happy so far from Ruben. But Sên King-lo had no doubt of her
motherliness for he saw the look in her eyes as they turned to the
harbor on “home mail” day.

Sên King-lo was doing his utmost, and his English wife did not
suspect—not yet, at least—the cancerous price that a Chinese soul
already was paying for a bunch of red peppers an English girl had tucked
in a jade-green dress once in Virginia.

A few days after Dr. Ray had visited them Mrs. Sên insisted that her
husband should go with her to a shop in Victoria City at which she had
been tempted the day before by some ivories and a Satsuma gift-jar she
did not feel competent to buy without Lo’s endorsement of their value.
She knew she admired them and _wanted_ them. Lo would know whether they
were admirable or not, and worth half the stiff prices the Chinese curio
merchant asked for them. She insisted that King-lo should go with her
and decide. He had no way of escape, unless he took the drastic one of
telling her frankly why he wished not to go shopping with her in
Victoria City. The risk of some discourteous glance or half-smothered
word that she might or might not catch or interpret seemed to him less
than the risk of making to her the intolerable explanation. So he
yielded and went.

At the door of the curio-shop, a famous shop which rich globe-trotters
had made a veritable Mecca of the extravagant, Mr. and Mrs. Sên drew a
little back to let a woman, or rather a group of three, all
parcel-laden, pass out.

Miss Julia Townsend came first, her arms very full—she never carried a
parcel less worthy a place in her hands than a prayerbook, a lace-edged
handkerchief or a vinaigrette, in Virginia. But the curio-hunter’s fever
was on her now, and she came from No Wink’s shop hugging as many bulky
and shapeless paper-wrapped burdens as she could clasp in both arms and
hands, her long crêpe gown trailing behind her as never a skirt of hers
had dragged in the dust the plebeian populace trod, before. Dinah and
Lysander came just behind her, each carrying a pack-horse load of
bundles and boxes and brown-paper knobs. Lysander looked mulish, and his
ebon was a sable pallid. Dinah grimaced as she waddled, throwing
friendly, fat, kittenish glances to all and sundry as she came. Miss
Julia moved, as she always did, at a queenly pace, with a queenly mien;
but her old face glowed with the art-lover’s victory-look. She thought
she had found treasure of great price in the curio shop of No Wink.

The doorway was narrow. Sên King-lo drew back and uncovered, as he would
to any woman for whom he made way. His wife waited at his elbow
noncommittal, neither offering recognition nor advance, nor hinting
retreat. Miss Julia neither hurried nor slowed. She looked at Mrs. Sên
with unacquainted eyes, then turned them on Sên King-lo and went
leisurely on, with a slight inclination of her proud old head, an
inclination paid to the small courtesy their drawing aside had been but
in no way an inclination to either of them.

Her servants followed after her. Uncle Lysander gave Sên King-lo a
vicious glare that would have been insolence had it been less absurd.
But Dinah gave them both a caressing giggle, and a wide look of
friendship and fealty out of her surprised faithful eyes.

Ivy passed on into the shop, with a proud little laugh that was not
cattish. And Sên King-lo stood and watched his old friend until she was
out of sight, his hat in his hand, love and respect and regret in his
beautiful Chinese eyes.

Then he turned and joined his wife and addressed himself to the wares
and the price-list of old No Wink.

The curio-seller was courteous. He knew of Sên King-lo’s wealth, but his
courtesy was frigid and unbending. And Sên King-lo, who had laughed in
his generous soul at black Uncle Lysander, could have throttled No Wink.

Much as he had loved her, tenderly as he always had shown it, Sên
King-lo showed his wife an added affection, a warmer tenderness, a
deeper deference that night. But Sên King-lo’s eyes were sad even when
they laughed at her. And To Sung began to believe that his master was
crazy.

They never saw Miss Julia again, rarely spoke of her again to each
other, and she never again to any one mentioned either of them.

The next day Sên King-lo went again, and alone, to No’s curio-shop.

At lunch her husband gave Ruby Sên a string of pearls. She already had
more pearls than she often wore; but she cried out in wonder at the
burnished pigeon-breast tints gleaming softly on these and examined
curiously the odd clasp of beaten and twisted lead that fastened them.

That same afternoon Miss Townsend received from No Wink, the
curio-dealer, a cube-shaped, red crêpe-lined box of camphor-wood and an
obsequious note. He begged his distinguished and generous patron’s
acceptance of the unworthy and nearly valueless curio he ventured to
offer her and explained that it was an old and honored Chinese custom to
make some humility gift of appreciation to noble and liberal customers.

Miss Julia Calhoun Townsend did not relish accepting a gift, no matter
how small, from a shop-keeper and said so to Dr. Ray, but she liked even
less to resent as an over-familiarity what so evidently was an act of
respect, and a Townsend always held old customs sacrosanct. So she kept
the “trifle,” and before she left Hongkong, made a point of going again
to the curio-shop and spending there a sum which she made no doubt was
many times the value of the crinkled cup in the camphor-wood box.

But Elenore Ray, who had given some study to ceramics, though she had no
idea that this bit of Satsuma was one of the rarest pieces, the gem of
No’s collection, and had been, hundreds of years ago, the rouge cup of
an Imperial bride, knew that the brownish Satsuma handleless cup was
good and very old; and she had no doubt who had paid for it and sent it
as a loving-cup, brimming with golden drops of “kindness yet.” But, only
seeing that it was carefully packed and well guarded, she said nothing
of what she “guessed”—a Southern woman’s fineness of soul perhaps,
perhaps a physician’s deep-rooted habit of silence.



                              CHAPTER XLI


Ruby, the wife of Sên King-lo, journeyed like a queen when her husband
took her from Hongkong to the home of his fathers.

They went a short way unromantically enough on the new railroad. Then
they made their long slower progress across China in palanquins and by
junks.

The second night they camped in a wayside inn’s nondescript garden. Sên
would not take his wife into the comfortless, unspeakable native
hostelry. He had no wish to go there himself.

After they’d eaten, they sat a long time beside the great sweet cone
fire their coolies had lighted outside Ruby’s tent; for as night neared,
a cool tang came in the evening air.

A young crescent moon cut with its sickle the silver and cinnabar sky,
and a thousand stars pricked it with emerald and sapphire and the red of
Mars’ and of Saturn’s ring. The atmosphere indescribably clear, the
fireweed still showed a crimson glow at the edge of the gorge its lush
growth fenced and hid, and the perfumed smell of wild white roses and
the heavier scent of forests of honeysuckles was everywhere; but the
violets looked now swathes of white on the grass about them, and the
death of the sunlight had stolen their green from the bamboos thicketed
behind the squalid inn, leaving the graceful, soft swaying but silent
bamboos a mistier, ghostlier gray, and their jointed stems a duller
bisque.

Voices chanted on the distant pathway, for it was springtime, the
unmatched spring of China, and there as in Chaucer’s England when spring
comes with its up-moving sap and its tender crinkling leaves “then
longen folk to gon on pilgrimages.” A band of crickets chirruped to the
moon, bathing their horned flanks in the dew on the ferns. And Sên
King-lo knew that the hour had come to say what he dreaded to say: the
first positive, personal dread that ever had thwarted his comfort and
ease in her presence, with her hand in his, a fold of her dress on his
knee—for they sat on the fern-bushed grass.

He would say it now, but still he waited a little for his words.

A temple bell in the distance answered its mallet.

Sên King-lo had been eager to quit Hongkong, more eager than glad; for
fear had clutched cold on his heart as they had turned from the island,
off into China.

But even as they newly journeyed his soul had quickened and throbbed to
his country. All that Europe had wrapped about him as an intimate
garment fell from him as ash falls from a cigar. He was Chinese again,
only Chinese, wholly Chinese, and _at home_. Westminster, Oxford, New
York and Virginia were farther from him and more alien than Mars and
Orion. Men he had known and liked, broken bread and thought with, in
London and Washington were as gone from him, as nothing, as children’s
names that the inexorable pulse of the great tide has washed and ironed
from the seashore sands. The West was scarcely a dream, less than a
wraith or a sun-sucked mist that’s forgotten in the yellow throb of an
August day. Of all the West, only one thing stayed with him now: the
woman he loved and their child—that, too, was exquisitely, sacredly
she—part of her body as of his, part of his soul as of hers—the
physical and spiritual fruit of the spiritual and physical love of man
and woman who were one—the tangible signature of life’s greatest
impulse.

He thought of Ruby, leaning beside him here, contented and confident, as
of some white human rose he had gathered and grafted into his being and
keeping here in the dear homeland that was hers as much as his, hers,
because his, and, because his, even more hers than his own: his by
inalienable birthright, hers by a greater title-deed; more sacramented
hers—doubly, trebly hers, because it had given her Chinese wifehood and
Chinese motherhood, the supreme, imperial motherhood to which all other
earthly motherhoods are small and weak. And he thought of his child as
of a bud that the sun of a Chinese love had warmed into Chinese life.

Every tiniest flower that grew by the wayside—commonest flowers of Kent
and Virginia many of them—every bird that swung and fluted on a tree
that shaded their path, welcomed him home; and his soul denied, his
senses disavowed, that close-kindred flowers, birds so feathered and
throated, grew in any alien mileage of Earth.

The waterfalls that surged and flung, the tiny brooks that tinkled over
the pebbles and romped with the baby trout that played in their happy
iridescent bosoms, were _real_, real water, real beauty, real message,
only because they were Chinese—Chinese cascade, Chinese brook, Chinese
water. There were _no_ others. All places beyond China were one dun,
lifeless No Man’s Land between Earth and Heaven, between Time and
Eternity, as bleak, fruitless, unbellied as a far gray stretch of flat
polar ice, as barren and lifeless and hopeless as the Turanian desert at
night. There was _nothing_ but China, lovely, laughing, forever
imperial, his Mother! And Sên Ruby was the white rose of China, twined
in his heart, soul of his soul, pulse of his day, dream and crown of his
night, who had perfumed his manhood and borne him a son.

Sên King-lo forgot Europe, the playing-fields of Eton, the rush of hoofs
at Goodwood, the books he had read at Bloomsbury and at the Bodleian,
geranium-hung houseboats on the Thames, Big Ben’s luminous signal of
time, the clasp of Englishmen’s hands. He only remembered the woman
beside him because his manhood and loyalty could not swerve even a
hair’s-breadth from what she had been to him, given him, trusted,
consummated.

But he moved beside her now, a Chinese man with his Chinese mate. Once
or twice he had spoken to her in Chinese, and only the English lilt of
her good-natured laughing at him had reminded him—jerked him back, even
with the music of its ripple, to the valley of actuality with a
bi-national quicksand under the tomato-red of the succulent, toothsome
love-apples.

Sên King-lo never thought in English now, and when he spoke to his wife
as they journeyed on and on into China, and still on and on, he had to
translate the word symbols of his thoughts before he spoke them.

Translation is a thief. Always!

If the Chinese who never have left the land of their birth, the
centuried home of their race, love China as no other country is loved,
the Chinese who have left her, lost her a little in exile, as exiles
must, and have found her again, washing their homesick eyes in her
beauty and joy, laving their souls in her soul, must love China even
more. Comparison is the acid test. China stands it.

And _so_ Sên King-lo loved China now.

He did not love his woman less. But he loved his country the more.

And now there was something he must say—the time had come—something
the kindness of which he did not question, could not question, but the
seeming-kindness of which he doubted. How would it seem to her?
Even—how would she take it—she, he remembered it now with a sudden
sickness, who even in honeymoon’s _sans souci_ and complacent time had
desired and bought visiting cards engraved “Mrs. K. L. Senn?”

He had meant to suggest it before they left Hongkong—but occasions had
slipped, or been crowded out. And, too, in Hongkong, he had assumed that
she took, as he did, its advisability and convenience for granted. But
he realized now that Ruby had not. And in Hongkong he himself had not
realized it as the necessity he saw it now.

She had been scrupulously tended and served as they journeyed, but small
danger signals had pricked his quick and subtle intelligence, as broken
twigs and twisted vines or scattered grain, a feather caught on a thorn,
a bead dropped by a cactus, are messages of warning to a Sioux. He had
seen a look that was scarcely a look—more a veneered masking crust than
a look—on coolie faces and the faces of pilgrims they’d met and
passed—nothing much—and yet—he kept his pistol well loaded and lay at
night across the curtain-door of her tent, and his thoughts busied his
mind as the silk-wrapped shuttle busies the rapid loom.

In London she’d said to him: “Make me a Chinese woman!” She had meant
it. Would she say it now? Could she mean it now? He thought not.

She had liked Hongkong—in spite of its social coldness—as a child
likes a ribbon-tied box of sweetmeats, and had nibbled at it much as the
child nibbles and likes its chocolates and nougats. But she had not
warmed to the realer China as they had passed through it. She had
exclaimed at its picture and beauty, laughed at its “quaintness,” but he
sensed that it had not touched her, and that not once had she prostrated
herself before it. This soul-pilgrimage of his was a picnic to her:
gaily colored, well-provisioned, inimitably stage-managed—a delightful
kaleidoscopic interlude.

Few tricks of custom, manner or words had crept in to her use during her
Washington years, and no traits of personality or thought. But the
American vocabulary is too apposite, it catches too neatly and firmly,
not to have irresistible appeal to all word-quick ears, and no English
girl—princess or housemaid—could listen as often and as long as Ivy
Gilbert had to voluble Lucille Smiths and Mary Withrows without adopting
a syllable or so of a fresh young vernacular so limpid and forceful that
it needs no dictionary and grows a classic.

A hillside homestead, a small husbandman’s that clung like a rosy fungus
on the mountainous steepness, morning-glories and long columbine ropes
matting the overtopping lemon-trees that flanked and perfumed it, had
lumped King-lo’s throat and quivered his lips as they came into sight of
it; Ruby had clapped her hands at it when she saw it, and called it
“cute.”

A bird on a cypress-tree twittered some sudden domestic anxiety to her
absent mate, and Sên King-lo turned to his wife and said in a slow,
quiet voice: “Ruby, I am sure that it would make our going through these
untraveled places easier and more simple if we wore what Chinese
gentlefolk wear—clothes not unlike all those that the Chinese who meet
us ever have seen. And it would be a kindness to the old, untraveled
grandmother who is waiting for us in Ho-nan. Would you mind? Would you
mind too much, dearest?”

His wife turned clear laughing eyes to his anxious eyes.

“I’d love it,” she told him.

Sên King-lo drew a long breath. And his heart blessed her.

“But how can we manage?” his wife reminded. “I haven’t spied a shop
since we left the railway.”

“No,” Sên laughed, “and you’ll spy none again until we return to the
railroad, unless a heap of mangos and plantains here and there, with a
more than half-naked boy squatted beside them keeping the dragon-flies
and the white ants off, with a few coins in a wooden bowl beside him for
change, will pass muster for ‘shop.’ And if it would, there’d be no
chiffons or picture-hats or peek-a-boo blouses for sale there. But I had
thought of that. And I have brought you all you’d need.”

“Did Mrs. Yen select my Chinese frocks?” Ruby teased him.

“She did not! Your husband selected and bought them. Will you wear them,
if you don’t dislike the feel and look of them when you’ve put them on?”

“Of course I will,” Mrs. Sên cried gaily. “And I _promise_ to like them,
my venerable lord!”

Sên took her face in his hands and brushed her cheek with his lips.

Very rarely had he done that. But he had divined long ago that his
English wife, little as she liked or even could tolerate kissing, would
lack and miss something of love’s legitimate sweetness, if he never paid
her the token that every loved wife in the West received.

Once in a great while Sên King-lo kissed his wife lightly—her face or
her palm—and when he did Ruby Sên always laughed softly.

Their lips had never met. And Ruby knew that he never had kissed Ruben.
She did not often do it herself—and then only a bath-fresh dimpled hip,
or the “sugar-spot” on the back of the baby neck.



                              CHAPTER XLII


At daylight Sên Ruby came out from her tent, clad for the first time as
Sên ladies had been since the older garbs of China (Japan, imitative in
all things, wears them now) had been discarded.

She was laughing as she came, delighted with her new masquerade; it made
her feel she had dressed for a big charity function of dance and fun at
Albert Hall—highly pleased with herself and her fine new quaint
clothes. Lo had chosen them well. He had chosen every “prettiest”
garment she had had since her marriage. Her hair had been the most
bothersome. She’d puffed it out and screwed it up; but it wouldn’t stay
stiff, and its slight but established curliness would not “keep put”: it
didn’t look right, and it felt horribly wobbly. Never mind, she’d try
again after they’d breakfasted, and Lo should get her flowers and
dangling buds to stick in it at rakish celestial angles! What fun! She
wondered if Lo had brought his camera along. She hoped so!

A Chinese man came to meet her, a gentleman far more bravely clad than
their servitors—more expensively clad, she thought, than she’d seen any
man before; for Sên’s Chinese friends in Hongkong she had seen in
Western dress only. How curious his clothes were! She didn’t like them.
Chinese women’s clothes were picturesque and comfortable—the best of
all clothes for fancy “dress up.” But these Chinese masculine garments
that she saw now almost for the first time, she did not like; she
thought them fantastic, absurd, unmanly—only fit for a comic opera. Who
was he, she wondered, and how did he come to be here in this wild
countryside—no dwelling for miles, but the tumbled-down inn with fat
pigs and thin hens strolling in and out of it—this richly dressed man
in a fur-edged under-coat of turquoise cashmere, a top coat of violet
silk, and a skirt of gentian-blue-embroidered bright green? A man in
petticoats! But she gave the stranger a courteous glance—Lo could not
be far away. Then she smothered a giggle. Did the bedizened and skirted
stranger think she was Chinese, she wondered.

And then she saw.

Repulsion disfigured her face, and she shrank back as she involuntarily
screamed.

It _was_ King-lo!

And she was his wife—the wife of a man in a petticoat!

She had screamed softly—scarcely a scream, but it had cut Sên King-lo
as a sharp, poison-steeped sword.

His wife made her amends at once, laughed at her own silliness,
pretended it had only been that he’d startled her. He’d said—she
remembered it now—“if _we_ wore;” but she hadn’t thought of it, hadn’t
thought of anything but her own fine new things—they were lovely,
perfectly sweet.

But they both knew that it was not surprise, but horror and revulsion,
that had wrung that half-scream cry from her whitening lips.

They made the best of it—passed it by—both too well bred, too brave,
and too kind to do less.

But it stayed.

And shyness—that slowly grew almost to strangeness—crept between Sên
King-lo and his wife.



                             CHAPTER XLIII


In the miserable days that followed that day, Sên King-lo’s loyalty
never swerved, but his love reeled. He still loved his wife—love does
not die in an hour; only slow torture and persistent mal-usage can kill
love—but his contentment in her was maimed. But his loyalty held, for
he clung to it fast, and loyalty won.

He wooed her again, with no show of passion, but taxing every resource
of his splendid nature and subtle mind to draw her back to her old
confidence and contentment. His contentment was bruised and marred, but
his soul resolved that her contentment and ease should return. There
were men in England and America who ranked Sên King-lo high, as high in
ability and skill as in character—and they all were big men and wise,
and skilled in their weighing and gaging of manhood. But never before
had he been so nearly great as he was now, or so fine in method and
difficult achievement. He demanded nothing, pressed nothing, labored
nothing; but he heaped her comforts about her, anticipated her needs and
created them. And presently his charm reached her again (even through
the Chinese motley it wore) and steeped her again in warmth and
satisfaction. He wooed her again for himself and succeeded in his suit.
He wooed her, too, for China and failed, failed in the pictured
loveliness all about them, as he knew he perhaps was destined to fail
again in the teeming home of many people and old customs to which he was
taking her now.

She spoke of the beauty about them, its delicacy and majesty; tiny
flowers in the brookside moss, rivers of white light, torrents of shadow
on great crags and mountain forests—but she never _saw_ it. And Sên
King-lo knew; but he tended her gently and waited.

At night, when dusk and darkness curtained, he came to her tent, or
threw himself down by her side on the ferns gaily, wearing once more his
light English tweeds and carrying an English book in his hand, an
English jest on his lips, or gossip of cricket and golf. He longed to
read Yuan Mei (China’s garden genius of happiness, of thought, and of
singing) to her here where the world was steeped in all that had moved
Yuan Mei to song: longed to give her (because she was his, and he hers)
what Yuan Mei, Tu Fu, and Ou-Yang Hsin had given him, what China gave
him; but he bottled his longing up and read “Daniel Deronda,” or,
instead, a novel from Mudie’s, a _Morning Post_ leader, or verses from
_Punch_.

His heart ached, but his nerve never failed or his vigilance slacked.
And all the time China was calling him, claiming him, possessing him
wholly, as a child in the womb of his mother.

The child leapt.

But the man stood to his ploughshare, held to his bond.

And the fear in a woman’s eyes died.

The coolies sniffed at the verdure about them, as they shouldered the
chairs and boxes and trudged gaily on; for Chinese spring was turning to
Chinese summer.

They came on the edge of his home suddenly at noontide, a day of riotous
color and warmth. The half-mile from the outer gate to the wide-flung,
tulip-tinted dwelling looked but an easy breadth in the clear, ambient
radiance: a long, leisurely house, that looked a series of houses,
sprawled among persimmon trees and violet walks, the under-lip of each
up-curled roof elaborately carved, a house so much lower than the trees
beyond it that it looked, here from the hillside above it, like a
clumped growth of red and pinkish mushrooms crowding close together in a
nest of white and yellow lilies and ferns—for some of the roofs had
been newly painted and varnished or glazed, and blazed red in the
sunshine, and some were faded and blinked palely pink. A forest of
oak-trees stretched in the distance. A _pai-fang_ with markings of gold
and silver on its crimson lacquer stood spruce, graceful, and speckless
in a garden of tulips scarcely a stone’s throw from a small shabby
temple. Peasants—scantily clad, and clad too alike to show of what sex
at a distance—squelched in a great paddy field and chattered, so it
seemed—Ivy could not hear them so far—under their great sun hats as
they bent to their wet, oozing work. An old woman was carrying on her
back a bundle of faggots, larger than she, into a kiln-shaped outhouse;
an urchin who wore very little but ropes of marigolds—one on his head,
one on his hips, three round his neck—was perched impudently on a
great, patient buffalo, driving it round and round a dripping
water-wheel and thrashing it sternly with a long, harmless branch of
young, pliant willow. Peacocks promenaded the terrace. Ducks quacked
thirstily in a clovered meadow. A beautiful mare nuzzled the colt that
was nursing her and washed its back with a fondling tongue. A cow called
to her calf. A spinning-wheel hummed in a near mat-hut. Two graybeards
were playing backgammon under a mulberry-tree. Children were at play on
a far hillslope, for kites rose from it like a school of excited (if not
scandalously tipsy) butterflies. Dozens of tiny dogs scampered and
yapped on a mignonette field, and others slept in the sun. A cat was
chained to a sundial. And roses clotted everywhere; more roses and more
kinds of roses than ever grew in Virginia.

All the homestead place bristled and sang with human life; anvils rang,
chisels scratched, saws rasped, grain ran like noisy sand in the
man-made chutes and conduits; frail, busy smoke curled slowly up from
dozens of twisted chimneys; an employed, thriving, bustling world, the
home-hold of the Sêns. Beyond its low, stonewalled boundaries all was
wild and silent—a great active hive of human affluence, set in an
untouched wilderness of Nature’s holding.

Sên King-lo caught his breath, and his eyes filled with tears.

Ruby Sên’s eyes did not kindle. She smiled a little—and involuntarily a
word came in her alien thought: “Caravanserai.”

A servant came running, others ran at his heels. The high doorlike gate
was unchained, unbarred, and opened, and the guard-devils—or perhaps
they were gods—painted on it drew apart and aside, as if making
obsequious way for the Sên who had come home.

And Sên King-lo with his hand on his wife’s litter walked slowly on to
the house in which another Sên Ruby had borne him and died.

Sên King-lo’s soul flamed; but he leaned down to his wife as they
went—between prostrate retainers now—and spoke to her with as light
unconcern as he might have done at the Eastbourne or Windermere end of a
long day’s journey.



                              CHAPTER XLIV


Mrs. Sên knew before they left Hongkong (for Sên King-lo had told her,
explaining it all as well as he could) that she would find odd customs,
some, at least, of them unwelcome and irksome, to which she’d have to
conform at the home of Sên Ya Tin. In Hongkong she had accepted and
assented cheerfully, gaily even—thinking them all part of the fun and,
too, sincerely holding them part of the nothing-price to pay for the
pleasure of going with him and for the great adventure of making a long
Chinese journey in a Chinese way, of seeing his childhood home and
sharing it with him, and feeling radiantly and deeply sure that any
personal, discomfort, embarrassment even, of hers would be a joyful
contribution to make to his happiness. But she found it hard to feel so
now, even at first; and as the days passed and the newness a little lost
color, and the dullness and out-of-placeness deepened, she found people
in fantastic clothes with grotesque manners and it impossible.

They gave her great greeting—these funny Chinese ways, who thronged the
old homestead—and they gave her ceremonial and elaborate attendance and
entertainment that also was heartily kind. But it all both bothered and
bored her, and it repelled her.

She had expected immediate and affectionate grandmotherly greeting from
a touched and grateful old lady to a young mother and wife who had come
so far to visit her—and had left her baby across the world and its seas
to be able to do so. She did not see Sên Ya Tin for more than two days.
And when she did old Ya Tin did not come to greet her but sent for her
grandson’s wife to come to her presence, inclined a head to her proudly,
scanned her with calm, slow eyes and very sharp ones, gave her three
small sweetmeats, and dismissed her with a thimbleful of pale, boiling
tea—and then apparently forgot her for days.

She had planned to go everywhere hand-in-hand with Lo, he showing her
where he’d flown his first kite, spun his first top, stolen his first
bird’s eggs; giving his childhood to her as he found it again for
himself. It seemed to her that she scarcely saw King-lo.

That was not true; but he and she were together far less than they ever
had been, even when he was busiest, since their marriage. His
grandmother commanded and engrossed him; his kinsmen—there were
thirty-six of them here at the homestead—surrounded him, and tore him
away. And when he came to her, even his consummate adroitness was not
enough to hide from her that his truer being was off with his
kindred—in the _k’o-tang_ with his grandmother or out in the far open
with the men of his blood. Sên Ya Tin was _everything_ here—all others
but her satellites and chattels. Ivy never had felt so “small” before.
Even the nursery governess at Washington had had more freedom and been
of far more consequence. Chinese etiquette and customs hedged her about,
and she felt that they throttled and insulted her; most of all they
bored her very much.

On her arrival she had been taken at once to the harem quarters and,
unavoidably, Sên King-lo had not. Even in her smothered rebellion she
could not fail to see and think that the harem rooms and courtyards were
very beautiful, but a eunuch stood or lay at each entrance! And her
British gorge rose at her close proximity to Sên C’hian Fan’s three
wives, who pressed about her all at once, felt her face with their
hands, as if to see what it was made of, giggled and screamed at her
feet, pulled down her hair with pitying squeals, and summoned a
tire-woman (who was a concubine also and made no secret of it) to put it
up “right.”

She was not imprisoned, but she felt so. She passed in and out of the
“flowery” quarters as she would, and no eunuch ever gestured or glanced
to stay her. For Sên King-lo had made his request, and Sên Ya Tin had
given her orders. She roamed the great domain as she chose, but when she
returned the concubines whispered together apart and looked at her in a
way that told plainly that they regarded her as abandoned, lacking in
self-respect—if not worse. And in England she had a vote!—Or had,
unless alien marriage had lost her it—while here——

Even the babies saw her as “strange,” and only the most complacent of
the plump little crawlers and toddlers would suffer her hands or her
friendship. But those of them that would were her safety valve and
alleviation. Even so, they hurt her; for they made her sharply homesick
and panged her with an added knife-like ache for Ruben. It had not been
easy for Mrs. Sên to leave her baby in England. She had done it because
she _could_ not let Sên leave her; but it had hurt almost intolerably,
and the sight and sound of the Sên babies here—they were Ruben’s
kindred, and twelve of them were babies in arms—rubbed her sore
mother-hurt raw.

They gave her a chamber of her own and a courtyard of her very own, too,
but even the fear of Sên Ya Tin could not keep the other women out. They
were all over her—chattering, laughing, tweaking queer little
instruments, scolding servants who scolded back, handling her most
intimate belongings, handling her. The “flowery” was a beehive of women,
and sometimes Ivy’s indignation called it a monkey-house of them.

They were the kindliest, merriest things on earth. They were curious, of
course, childishly curious, to gaze on the human curio she was to
them—not one of them ever had seen a European before—but their close
pressing and constant attentions, that she so abhorred, were at least
nine-tenths sheer womanly kindness. Even the concubines were sorry for
her—so far from her own home and so uncouth and untaught—she hadn’t
even a painted face, poor thing—and they all were heartily anxious to
sister her and make her at home. And they went to work at it with one
united will. They gave her their baubles; they tried to teach her
blind-man’s buff—and failed as Blanche and Dick had failed before them;
they tried to lend her their prettiest clothes, their pipes, and their
face paints. They implored her, in words she could not understand, and
in gesture and clutches she could, to gamble with them; and Mrs. Sên,
who had bought her platinum and diamond wrist-watch with bridge
winnings, was disgusted. And they never left her alone.

The prettiest woman there—and even Ruby saw how pretty she was—was the
youngest concubine, and her baby was the prettiest baby of all the fat,
dimpled lot. The girl had a tender heart and an unspoiled soul. Her eyes
filled with tears sometimes when she saw Sên King-lo’s foreign wife sit
silent and listless apart. One night La-yuên cried on her mat because
she was so sorry for Sên Ruby, and the next day she brought her tiny
baby and laid him in Ruby’s lap. And the baby, after one startled look,
laughed and held up his wee hand and clutched at Ruby’s beads. And Ruby
caught him closer and held him to her face—snuggling and loving him in
spite of his sad, smirched birth; forgetting, not sensing, that the sins
of the East are not the sins of the West.

They were all sorry for her, and sorriest because it was whispered that
the lord King-lo, even in the terrible land where they lived, had not
even one concubine; and they all were very kind to her.

Nowhere else are social barriers at once so high and so negligible as
they are in China. A Chinese lady chums with her maid—between the
whiles she cuffs and beats her—eats with her, consults with her,
gossips with her. And this disconcerted and revolted English Ivy even
more, if the truth must out, than the ever present and patent
concubinage did.

Sên King-lo came to his wife as often as he could. At Sên Ya Tin’s
decree, startling but not to be questioned, rules of social sex decorum
were scandalously relaxed. Sên King-lo had access to his wife at all
times, of course, and because—that she never need lack friendly faces
and voices about her—she was quartered so unisolated from her new
kinswomen, in going and coming to her King-lo came more in touch with
the haremed ladies of his kinsmen than was Chinesely decent, and far
more than old Madame Sên would have cared to have it whispered abroad.
And he saw several Chinese girls now—unmarried daughters of the house,
but he thought little about any of them, and neither the wives nor the
maidens seemed to resent it—unless giggling is a protest. Ruby still
wore her Chinese dress invariably, but he came now and then in his
English clothes. The first time he did there was a harem riot, for one
of the women had spied him, or a eunuch or a slave girl had seen him and
told; and the little painted ladies tore pell-mell into Ivy’s room,
pushing and jostling each other in their mad rush to see and to touch,
and women who never had left their own precincts or seen a forbidden
man, much less let one see them, nearly ripped Sên King-lo’s coat off
his back.

And one tripped and fell—fell thump across King-lo’s knees, and Sên
King-lo chuckled and chortled with glee, and so did the tumbled one’s
husband who came in then to see what all the noise—excessive even in a
Chinese “flowery”—was about. He’d no business there of course, in Sên
Ruby’s apartment; but she went freely among his kinsmen, so that did not
so much matter; but that he was here with his kinsmen’s unveiled Chinese
women was an enormity. But no one seemed to mind in the least, and the
fun ran fast and shrill. Sên Po-Fang caught his wife up by her girdle
and shook her, and she slapped his face, and they both giggled—and so
did every one else except Mrs. Sên King-lo.

They devised many a rout and festive function for foreign Sên
Ruby—games, temple picnics, fireworks, peacock-races, kite contests,
juggling, wrestling, a play enacted by performers sent for from many
miles away—and when the monthly festival came they kept it with even
unwonted observance and noise—for Sên Ruby. All that China was they
tried to give her, all that China had to show they showed her—because
she was a stranger come within their god-guarded gates, and because the
lord King-lo had held the cup of hot marriage wine to her maiden lips
and drunk it with her.

But Ruby thought it all absurd, uncivilized; found it tame and paltry.

Miss Julia would have revelled in it, would have found and greeted the
soul in it all and threaded out its meaning, learned its histories,
loved its pictures. In a slighter way, Ruby would have done so too, had
she come upon it merely in privileged travel, had she not been the
English wife of a Chinese man—the English mother of a half-Chinese
child.

But Ruby Sên hated it all.

She liked the food; _no one_ could help liking the best food on earth.
But she found meal-times abominable, except when Sên King-lo came, which
he did whenever he could, to take his rice with her. When he did not she
ate alone as often as she could; but even then the women crowded
in—there was neither a door nor a key in all the place—to watch her
eat, greatly excited at her plying of forks and knives, for Sên King-lo
had brought those from Hongkong.

Ruby hated it all, and most of all she disliked Sên Ya Tin.

But Sên Ya Tin liked Sên Ruby.



                              CHAPTER XLV


When King-lo left his wife at the fragrant apartment’s outer entrance,
he had gone to the outer gate again and waited there until Sên Ya Tin
should summon him.

She sent for him soon.

She sat immovable on the great carved and inlaid chair on the
red-covered daïs at the far end of the great _k’o-tang_, as Sên King-lo
came through the opened panel and k’o-towed thrice to the floor. A slave
in the outer room closed the panel again, and they two were alone in the
great carved room.

Sên Ya Tin was not old as Western women count years now. But she looked
very old, for life and her own flaming spirit had scorched and burnt
her. Her face was as brown and crinkled as an autumn leaf that the
lightest touch will flay into dust. Her black eyes—time had not dimmed
_them_—glittered diamond-cold and hard, under her snow-white eyebrows
which tweezers had shaped and torn into almost the sharp shape of the
accent that crowned the proud name of Sên—narrow, almost thread-like
eyebrows that were so silken that they glistened on the brown parchment
of her wrinkled forehead like sun sparkled snow streaking a rough brown
rock. Her hair was as white and as glistening as they, fantastically
dressed, and bristling with costly stickpins. Her tiny brown hands—more
claw-like than human with no look of age’s exquisite softness about
them—were arrogantly wide-spread on her robe, every finger and one
thumb covered from joint to knuckle with blazing gems, seven of the
eight fingers tipped with heavy jeweled nail-protectors more than finger
long.

It was a very tiny figure that sat bold upright in the huge chair. Her
blunted scraps of feet just peeped arrogantly beneath the fur hem of her
turquoise-tinted trousers, just resting on a cushioned teak-wood stool
that was higher than most such footstools, or else the tiny woman’s tiny
feet could not have reached it. Stripped of her heavy robes Ruby Sên
might have lifted and carried her. But her embroidered robe of yellow
brocade must have weighed as much as she. It was not the sacred imperial
yellow, of course; but it _was_ yellow, which it had no business to be.
There is no sacred color in China now, alas, and perhaps not too much
else that is sacred in the old imperial way. Alas, and alas! But that
was not why Sên Ya Tin sat with jeweled yards of satin brocade about
her. The lady Sên took little notice and no “stock” of Young China. She
held with old ways, waited serenely for them to return, and kept them
here as she always had. This was a learned woman. She could both read
and write. The blind scribe that squatted by his low bamboo table in the
fragrant courtyards and wrote for the wives of her sons, when those
letterless ladies wished to write to the homes that had been theirs
before marriage or purchase, never did personal service for Sên Ya Tin.
She knew, too, her country’s history. She knew that, though individual
insanity had been unknown until European intrusion had bred it there,
China had suffered civic and national insanity before, and more than
once—before the birth, nine centuries ago, of Wang Ah-shih, the poet
father of Chinese socialism, and after that erratic Prime-Minister of
the easy-going Emperor Shen Tsung had gone on high. But always the
convulsion had been short. Socialism and peasant-franchise had strutted
but a day. Then China had shaken the distemper off and returned to her
state. Sên Ya Tin looked for China to do it again. The new Republic
troubled Madame Sên as little as it concerned her, but she always had
hugged a personal vein of wickedness of her personal own. And because
she had no right to wear even a tinge of yellow, she often did, and
often had since widowhood had made her supreme in the house of the Sêns.
No one outside her gates would know, for no one within her gates would
presume or dare to report.

A vase of almost inestimable value, a porcelain saucer of melon seeds,
with a tiny-bowled, long-stemmed silver pipe, a tinder and a
gold-lacquer box of fine tobacco and a tiny queenly fan lying near it,
stood on a small, octagonal, carved teak-wood table beside her; a small,
tight bouquet of mint and sage and musk lay on her lap; a tiny tame
monkey, tethered by a silver chain, perched on the top of the tall,
throne-like chair; and about her neck Sên Ya Tin wore, as she always
did, the long mandarin chain of cornelian beads of her dead
husband’s—as the widow of a British officer often wears his regimental
badge.

She sat with her face square to the panel that had slid open for King-lo
and slid close again behind him, and her unmoved face was a wrinkled,
lifeless mask.

Three times Sên King-lo k’o-towed to the floor, then stood with downcast
eyes and hands meek within his wide sleeves and waited for her to
command.

She let him wait, neither pleasure nor love nor welcome in her adamant
eyes.

The water-clock dripped a long minute away.

Sên King-lo did not lift his eyes. Sên Ya Tin did not move hers. She
watched him stiffly through unwavering narrow lids—and so did the
mouse-sized monkey, too.

“Approach!” she said in a cold, relentless voice.

Sên King-lo neared her by three slow steps; his padded Chinese shoes
made no sound as he moved; his hands were still hid in his sleeves; his
eyes were still on the floor. And then he k’o-towed again, and again
three times, then stood and waited as before.

Again she let him wait—but not so long.

“Nearer!”

Three steps more he went, three more obeisances he made, and as he stood
again erect he lifted his eyes to the face of his father’s mother. And
Sên Ya Tin sent her eyes to his, steady old eyes, harder than age, that
looked but told nothing, gave no hint or sign.

It was nearly twenty years since his eyes and hers had met; for she had
been ill with smallpox when he had been in China last, and she had
forbidden him—as her will and self-control had forbidden the smallpox
to disfigure her. And boy and pox had obeyed.

She looked at him long, coldly. And he waited for her to signal or
speak; to beckon or dismiss.

His eyes were the eyes of her father. A silver nail-protector studded
with diamonds clattered a little against a pearl-studded one of gold.
His mouth was the mouth of her favorite and first-born son. The
cornelian beads moved a little on her bosom.

Slowly, very slowly Sên Ya Tin rose from her seat, came from the daïs,
spurning the high footstool from her way, tottered across the glass-like
mahogany floor on her tiny, tuber-like, satin-shod feet. Still Sên
King-lo did not move. Her face broke up a little. His eyes leapt to her
then. A cry that was only a whisper of sound breathed from her lips that
scarcely moved. Sên King-lo took a step—another—two more, and she hid
her working face on his coat. Her grandson’s arms were about her. They
held her close, his head bent low to hers. Her hands fondled his
sleeves. She was quivering now. He heard her heart beat under all its
harness of silk and satin, embroidery and jewels, and she heard his. She
was sobbing now.

Yam-Sin, the monkey, pounced on the porcelain saucer and gorged himself
on melon seeds that snapped briskly between his strong, tiny teeth, his
silver chain clank-clanking against the high chair’s inlaid wood; the
tiny pipe of an august lady clattered to the floor; and the fine, silken
tobacco streamed after it, raining down from an upset lacquer box.



                              CHAPTER XLVI


The Chinese doyenne and autocrat of the Sêns and the young English wife
of the house met two days later.

If the meeting was not awkward, it was badly circumscribed. Ya Tin knew
not a word of the other’s tongue, and Sên Ruby scarcely a score of Ya
Tin’s.

Their meeting was only decently ceremonial, and Madame Sên had made no
elaborate and hampering toilet today. She was a sensible old creature
and did the little she could to give the younger and so foreign woman a
friendly and unembarrassing welcome. Since she had consented to receive
Sên Ruby at all and in doing so acknowledge and condone a marriage she
strongly deplored—and she had consented in reply to a letter King-lo
had sent her from London, her answer reaching them in Hongkong—she,
having consented, intended to show Sên Ruby all not too inappropriate
kindnesses. But the language barrier was insurmountable. Sên King-lo
acted as interpreter, but conversation so spoken cools in the process
and grows increasingly difficult. And Sên Ya Tin was by nature and habit
unbending and had no knack of assuming an easy congeniality that she
never had felt. She had few affections; the few that she had were
veritable passions. But between them and icy indifference and vitriolic
hate Sên Ya Tin was almost devoid of creature feeling. She was critical
and self-indulgent to a degree. She was brutally, and sometimes
coarsely, frank. But she had high principles, and she never relaxed in
her personal adherence to them—no matter what the cost to her own
inclination and convenience. It was largely from this grandmother that
Sên King-lo had inherited the uprightness of character and relentless
habit of self-analysis that underlay and dominated all his suavity and
sunny good nature. He had inherited also from her no little of his
manliness, but he had inherited from Ya Tin few of his tastes. Indeed,
she had few, and, unlike most women of her years and power, she had no
foibles. Her sometimes wearing yellow was not a foible, it was an
assertion. China until recently was an empire of innumerable
kingdoms—and queendoms—and in her own Sên Ya Tin would brook little
control, and still less dictation.

For a Chinese woman she was very untalkative. Nothing escaped her
narrow, bead-like eyes; little came free to her tongue. But she always
spoke the truth—almost un-Chinese in this, and, too, it must be owned,
a little unfeminine. She was capable of almost incredible indifference,
but also, though far more rarely, of exquisite sympathy. She was almost
devoid of a sense of humor—almost denying her Chinese blood in that.
Few had heard her laugh, and no one, but three men who were dead, ever
had seen her smile. She cared for few amusements—unless her pipe was
one—and she was not industrious. She was intellectual, but read few
books—cared little to whet her mind on the minds of others. Argument
vexed her. Conference and conversation bored her. The music that King-lo
so loved was nothing to her, and the poetry that fed him as the river
feeds the verdure and cereals on its banks never nourished and rarely
pleased her. She took flowers for granted, but she liked and understood
fine stuffs. Ivories interested her, and lacquers enchanted. She liked
all animals, and they liked her. She regarded children as belongings and
possibilities. She was ruthless to servants. She ate but little and paid
little heed to what she ate, or when. She was without religion, except
for her personal creed and observance of uprightness and her belief in
China and her loyalty to it. Her nepotism was broad but easy-going, more
her one milk of human kindness than a cult. She loved the stars and
gloried in them and was no mean astronomer. She had few superstitions
and no cheap ones. She was not prejudiced. She had a fine and very
mathematical mind, though she cared more for color than for form. She
had little imagination but great intuition. She was neither a man’s
woman nor a woman’s woman. She thought most women dolls or harpies and
most men gullible and weak. She liked or disliked, if she did either, at
first sight, and she never changed her mind.

During the scant half-hour of their initial visit, Sên Ya Tin repelled
Ruby, who thought her ugly, sour, and mediocre. But Sên King-lo saw that
Ya Tin liked, and in some odd, strong way approved of, his English wife,
and his heart leapt and his courage quickened that she did. He had not
expected it, and it seemed to brace and stamp the self-respect of what
he had done and the un-Chinese choice he had made.

He wondered why his grandmother did. She could have told him. She, too,
had caught a something Chinese in this alien granddaughter-in-law. She
liked Ruby’s uncringing manner—to which she was unused in the women her
sons and her sons’ sons had married. And she thought the younger woman
rather brave than foolish to have made both the marriage and the journey
she had. There was nothing that Sên Ya Tin admired more than she did
courage.

Sên Ya Tin questioned.

Sên King-lo translated.

Mrs. Sên answered.

Sên King-lo translated.

Over and over again—that and only that.

Then the small bowls of green, smoking tea and the scant sweetmeats came
and were given and taken without a word.

Then Sên Ya Tin dismissed them.



                             CHAPTER XLVII


It rained all the next day, and King-lo sat with his wife and read to
her and talked with her of England and of Ruben. And they wrote letters
home—letters that would be long in going; for runners must take them to
a distant, but the nearest, treaty-port, before they could make any
positive postal start.

Towards evening Sên Ya Tin sent for her grandson.

Ruby scarcely expected to see her husband for hours; but almost at once,
as she sat crocheting, he came back, eager of pace and of face—and a
soberly dressed man followed him to her side and bowed, crossed his
hands, and stolidly waited, not looking at Mrs. Sên but carefully eyeing
the silk jumper she was making.

Deft-fingered always, Ruby practically had discarded needlework—even
its pretty playtime offshoots—since her marriage, no longer in need of
her own industry to be always well-dressed. She had liked to sew well
enough, partly, no doubt, because she did it so well; but she had hated
the necessity, and she always had taken more pleasure in shopping than
in making or mending.

But in Hongkong King-lo had warned her, “You may be dull some days—just
at first—at the homestead, while it is all strange. Take along
something to do, something you like doing.”

Mrs. Sên had laughed it to scorn, the suggestion that she could be dull,
even for an hour, alone with him in China, with him in the wonderful
place he’d called home as a boy. But he had repeated his words, even
appealing to her, and to please him she had laid in a great store of
ivory needles and silks. And already she was finding the advice she had
laughed at good, for already she had found the life in the women’s
quarters monotonous and deadly. She could quite understand why the
painted and jewel-hung prisoners smoked so incessantly. She herself was
smoking more cigarettes in a day here than she ever had smoked in London
or Washington in a fortnight. One must do something, drug the discomfort
of personal stagnation with some sedative motion, if only of one’s
hands. One couldn’t smoke all the time—at least, she could not, so she
had begun an elaborate jumper that she didn’t need and could not wear in
Ho-nan over a stiffly embroidered Chinese coatee.

She looked up at King-lo with questioning eyes.

“He’s one of the tailors,” Lo told her. “Sên Ya Tin’s best one. She has
sent him to you.”

“To me! What ever for?”

“To make you a habit.”

“A habit—what sort of habit?” Did she need more Chinese clothes, she
thought rebelliously. Did they think she was going to stay here forever?
Lo had promised to take her home. Didn’t they know that? Ruben was in
England! Didn’t they care?

“A riding-habit,” King-lo told her.

“A Chinese riding-habit! I didn’t suppose there were any. Why must I
wear it? When must I wear it?”

“No,” Sên said gently, “there are no Chinese riding-habits. An English
riding-habit.”

“He couldn’t make one,” Mrs. Sên retorted with an unappreciative glance
at the motionless tailor.

“He can make most things,” Sên laughed.

“Has he ever seen an English habit?” his wife demanded. She was not in
the least convinced.

“Surely not,” King-lo owned, “nor any other sort of riding-habit, nor
even any sort of a picture of one, I dare swear. But he’s a genius.”

“He doesn’t look it,” Mrs. Sên remarked crisply.

“Granted,” her husband agreed good-naturedly, “but you know the classic
adage, ‘Things are not always what they seem’—not even Chinese things.
‘Skim milk’—you know the poem. This chap can do as he’s told.”

“But who’s to tell him?”

“You and I.”

Ruby giggled—she had not often done that of late. “You’re crazy, Lo,”
she asserted. “I couldn’t tell him how to make one, and I’m sure you
can’t.”

“Don’t be too sure,” King-lo advised her. “Ah, here come the stuffs for
you to choose.”

Several half-grown Chinese boys had padded in as he spoke, each carrying
a paper-wrapped roll of material—sober-eyed lads with far shaven
foreheads and silk-tasseled queues hanging almost to the hems of their
sober robes, the crest-badge of the Sêns on each blue-clad back.

“Master-artist Worth’s apprentices,” Sên pronounced them.

“Tell them to apprentice off then,” his wife commanded. “They look more
like dummies than apprentices,” she added. “Tell them to go, Lo. I don’t
want a habit—here—what should I do with it? We couldn’t even ride in
Hongkong. Send them away.”

“Just a minute,” Sên King-lo begged. “The grandmother will be
disappointed. She has planned it to give you pleasure. Two of the grooms
are trying out a horse for you now, a splendid, gentle creature that my
cousin Wang’s son often rides. The venerable one has commandeered it for
you. It has never had a woman on its back, or a side-saddle, but it has
a side-saddle now: the saddlers were up all last night, making it by
candle-light. Sên Wo P’ing has seen Englishwomen ride in Shanghai on the
Bubbling Well road, and he was with them all night—it was the
grandmother’s command—directing them as they worked by candle and torch
and lantern light. And they’ll be doing it again tonight. Ka’-ka’ is
careering about now in the storm with a side-saddle on her back, but it
is only a half-finished one. One groom is clutching and dancing at her
bit, hanging there for grim life, the other is side-saddled on her back
and looks like to break his neck—but he won’t do it. They all three are
having the time of their lives, as we used to say in Washington. But
tomorrow or the next day Ka’-ka’ ’ll be as tame as any rabbit. The old
heart is set on it, and so is mine. Won’t you have her kindness,
wifeling?”

Ruby Sên rose slowly, the silken jumper falling to the floor.

“She is very, very kind, your grandmother,” she said softly, and King-lo
saw a mist in her eyes. “I shall love to ride here with you. Come, help
me choose,” she bade him as she moved towards the stolid waiting
urchins.

Sên King-lo’s face glowed. He was grateful to Sên Ya Tin, and he was
grateful to Sên Ruby.

And, seeing them engrossed with soft cashmeres and stout tussores, the
master tailor dropped on a surreptitious knee, then squatted squarely on
the floor with his feet tucked in beneath him, and studied the fallen
jumper eagerly.

“What is it, dear?” Sên asked her presently, when he saw a new
perplexity a little wrinkling her forehead.

“Won’t my riding-skirt drive the mare crazy, Lo? You say she has never
carried a lady?”

“Nor has she, but,” Sên chuckled, “you forget—Ka’-ka’ has carried many
skirts—quite as long ones as the one you wear in the Row.”

His wife turned a sudden painful crimson. She _had_ forgotten for a
moment. Was she to ride with her husband riding beside her wearing
petticoats?

Lo saw and understood. But he gave no sign and moved quietly to his
wife’s writing-table, sat down and found a brush and dipped it.

“What are you going to do?” Mrs. Sên asked as she followed him.

“Make your riding-habit,” King-lo told her.

“Lo, you are wonderful!” she exclaimed, as the habit grew quickly on the
pad, a habit perfect in every detail.

She had found a new talent in her Chinese man, and she leaned and
watched him proudly with her hand upon his shoulder.

The tailor slipped up without a sound and came and watched the rapid
brush-work too. And when it was finished, he drew a long tape from his
sleeve and nodded without speaking.

“He says, ‘Can do,’ ” Sên told her, with a laugh.

And it was true, whether the man had said it or not. The new habit
completed would have disgraced neither Rotten Row nor Bond Street.

Sên Ya Tin stood and watched them as they started for their first ride
together in China, an odd, but not unkind, look in her sharp, agate-hard
eyes. She smiled a little, grimly—she who had not smiled since this
Sên’s father had died—smiled when King-lo held his hand under Ruby’s
boot and mounted her so. And Ya Tin stood and watched them till they
were out of sight, lost in the verdure of the far-off hillside; for the
day was very clear, and Sên Ya Tin’s ageing eyes were very sharp.

When Lo had come to tell her that the horses were ready at the house
door, Ruby had started a little and then had flushed; for King-lo’s
riding clothes were as British as her own.

How would Madame Sên like this, Ruby wondered—if Madame chanced to
know.

But, if Sên Ya Tin was surprised, she scorned to show it, and Ruby
wondered if she’d already known and consented, for she knew that no
innovation intruded into the queendom of Sên Ya Tin that did not come
licensed by imperious Ya Tin.

It was the first of many rides, and they were the best and the most
wholesome pleasures of Ruby Sên’s sojourn in the homestead of the father
of her child.

When they galloped side by side through the quivering bamboos on the
hillslopes, along the mossy banks of a rushing river, through avenues of
vermilion roses, under fragrant, wax-flowered lemon-trees that met and
roofed above them, some of the old springtime ecstasy and comradeship
came back to her, and the charm of her man found and wrapped her again.

Her escort was as devoted and as careful of her as he’d been on the
Potomac, his eyes as kind, his laugh as ready. But it was his breeding,
the breeding of his race, the man’s loyalty to the woman who had trusted
him and given her life into his keeping, the personal loyalty of his
manhood and his being that laughed and chatted with her as they rode;
for Sên King-lo was not _with_ the English wife who rode beside him, Sên
King-lo was back in China, his soul meshed in China’s, his heart torn,
every nerve an ache, with the thought that again he must go, go from the
flowers and skies of China, from her rainbowed loveliness and her barren
rocky places and her wild and rushing torrents, from the customs of his
people, the tombs of his ancestors, and the dingy, disregarded temples
of their gods.

And when he drew his bridle, and slacked their pace, and pointed with
his slender amber whip to some special bit or stretch of beauty, and
called her attention to it in a quiet voice that almost trembled and
that throbbed in his throat, Ruby scarcely _saw_, caught no message;
because this was China, and China would forever leave her cold.

It is human blood and story that makes country, not architecture or
flora, neither bleating polar cold nor seething equatorial heat.



                             CHAPTER XLVIII


“Thou wilt cleave to her then, my son?” Ya Tin asked gravely, as they
sat alone at midnight conference.

“While I live,” Sên King-lo answered.

“Yet it tortures thee to go.”

“It tortures me,” he said.

“When do you wish to go?” Ya Tin asked calmly.

“Soon,” King-lo pleaded. “Dismiss me soon, O Mother, I entreat thee. The
lingering is hard.”

“And if I will _not_ dismiss thee—will not dismiss thee ever, Sên
King-lo, or release thee from the obedience and fealty thy ancestors
have sworn of thee? But chain thee to my side, and to thy place of
heritage where thou belongest, where thy spirit will be, no matter where
or how thy bones will go? What then?”

Sên King-lo held her eyes with his, but he made no other answer, neither
spoke nor moved.

They sat so while the water-clock dripped slowly in their silence.

At last the Chinese grandam laughed, leaning a little towards him,
mocking him with her eyes; a grim, gray crackle of laughing.

“Thou wilt disobey me, if I forbid thee go! And I am Sên Ya Tin, and
thou art Sên King-lo!”

Still he neither spoke nor moved. But his soul gave her soul answer, and
her stern soul met his and hailed it.

Still a time she let the water-clock drip and the silence keep between
them as they sat with nothing else between them but the tiny, low table
of her pipes’ lacquered tray.

“Enough!” she spoke at last. “Go! And go in peace, Sên King-lo,
first-born of my first-born. I have other sons of our race. But thou
shalt go richer than thou camest. Much of thy heritage shall go with
thee. Nay!”—as his lips moved to frame a word, his hand gestured
towards protest—“it is my will. I will not brook it otherwise; for thou
art the son of the dearest thing I ever suckled or quietened in my arms,
and it is punishment enough for thee that thou must go, must go from
China.”

Sên’s face quivered.

“But,” she added quickly, “thou art right to go, King-lo, and I would
not have it otherwise. I am shamed that thou must lie in the barbarian
land, shamed that thou mayst not dwell _here_, as thou shouldst, with
thy Chinese wives about thee and thy small-footed concubines and thy
scores of slave-girls. My honorable lord had many—more than he could
count, or cared to—but I counted them all, and I ruled them well. All
the province knew what a Number-one I was, and they heard it and spoke
of it in the Vermilion Palace at Pekin. My lord, thy father’s father,
boy, took no heed: he cared more for the stickpins in my hair than for
all the painted roses on his under-women’s faces; but I took great heed
of all his women and their children and of all that was his. And I burn
in flame that no such state as he kept thou shalt keep—in thy celestial
native land. But thou art right. I applaud. Did I forbid, thou wouldst
disobey,”—again the crackled chuckle—“and it pridens me that thou
wouldst. A Sên must pay his score at the inn of life. Thou hast made a
marriage-bargain with a foreign woman and made it in her own barbarian
way. It was thy weakness and thy sin. But now the tally-hour has come,
and thou must pay. The man who cheats a woman, or mocks her with a
payment in coin she does not value, is lower than the vermin that feeds
on putrid shellfish, fattens on the slime-bellied scavengers of the
ocean. Go—when thou wilt. And I will raise a _pai-fang_ for thy pardon
of our gods; I will build a great temple on the hill where the peach
trees cram the melons on its slope and the cypresses wear the winter
snow on its crest; and I will make the old temple, where thou madest thy
young play as a child, a riot of blooming flowers, a hymn of running
water. The nightingale and the kingfisher shall join in its song, and I
will cram the temple hall with jades and yellow roses. That shall be thy
penance here in China, as loneliness and longing shall be thy penance in
England—the England of thy wife; and perchance the gods will accept my
bounty and thy pain, and thou shalt come again to thy people in the
garden of on high. We will not often send message or courier to each
other, I and thou, for it is ill to scald a sore; but thou shalt think
of me, and I shall think of thee, across the oceans and the years. I
shall hold my pride in thee for the sacrifice thou makest and the troth
thou keepest even to the end; for it proves thee worthy of the milk I
gave thy father, O, babe of my babe. Greatness is built on sacrifice,
always it is so. I bless thee, and I bless thy sacrifice, Sên King-lo.”

He rose, unsteadily, and then k’o-towed before her slowly; once, again,
and then again. Then he slipped to her feet and laid his hand upon her
girdle and his face against her knees. And Sên Ya Tin laid her palms on
his hair and smoothed it softly.

At last she sent him to his rest, for the day was breaking, and as he
moved to go, she held his sleeve a moment, and said, “I like thy woman,
the girl with thy mother’s milk-name. She is a woman of the barbarians,
but she is a sash-wearer, Sên King-lo; I like thy English woman. And she
too shall have a taper and a crimson slip of silk-paper prayer in the
temple I will build, and another in the hall of the old temple over
yonder beyond the oak-trees where thou used to make thy playing in the
courtyard. And her name shall not be taboo or coarsely spoken in the
harem-courtyards of thy kindred. For she has worn a girdle of thorns
under her inner garments here, Sên King-lo, and she has borne it quietly
and bravely like the sash-wearer that she is. She has neither scratched
nor whimpered. If she bears thee a girl-child, I charge thee then to
send me word, for it shall have my stomacher of diamonds and my
gold-lacquered tobacco-box with the lizard of rubies on its lid.”

Then he left her, and she sat alone while the old water-clock dripped
the morning hours away.

And Sên King-lo lay a little on his mat, in the room that he’d used so
as a boy—lay down on his mat because Sên Ya Tin had commanded him.

Soon he rose, and when he had bathed and perfumed his hands, he lit a
taper before the ancestral tablet in the _ko’tang_ and went out through
the courtyard and the twisting yellow paths, till he stood alone beneath
the cypress-trees on the eastern hill.



                              CHAPTER XLIX


June flowers grew in the grass, a beryl and cinnabar sky crowned and
mantled the world. The trees were heavy and big with leaf, grave and gay
with a score of greens. Bees hummed in the wild roses; an old
apple-tree, late but lusty of blossom, buffeted and bent by a thousand
gales—but its good roots held—lay prone on the ground, its flowers lay
a perfumed white and rose veil heaped on ferns and blue harebells; a
baby squirrel sat bolt up on the prostrate gnarled trunk, industriously
washing his baby face. The summer air had a score of scents and bore on
its fragrant warmth one message. And married birds were teaching their
babies to fly.

The flowers that had bloomed in the wood at the Potomac’s edge were
blooming here. The same butterflies swam above them.

They were wonderful old apple-trees—the prone one here and the prone
one there. But when the apples of this one ripened they’d be insipid and
tasteless, as almost all Chinese apples are, more ornamental than
eatable, but deliciously scented and valued for that; and the fruit of
the other tree had ripened at Ivy’s wedding-day as crisp of flesh and
full of sour-sweet wine as the apples that grow in Albemarle County.

Ruby sat on the ground, as she had been sitting for almost an hour. She
crouched there in misery, so motionless and still that the little
squirrel had not scampered away when he’d come, and scarcely was eyeing
her now, as he completed his toilet and preened and plumed his
feathered, furry tail. He would have whisked off squirrel-quickest at
the farthest sight of a dog; but he had been born fearless of human
creatures, as fearless as he was of the patient, friendly buffaloes on
whose humped backs he often rode, for Chinese are never cruel to such
soft, small, woodland things, and never kill them but at need. Rats, and
even puppy dogs, if of valueless breeds, have quick despatch in China
often; but wild little things of softer, longer fur and swifter speed
are rarely molested and never teased, and so are scarcely wild at all.
But this wee squirrelling would have kept his greater distance and
washed his face in greater seclusion had the woman there on the grass
been less stock-still.

Her brooding eyes were fixed and hard, staring bitterly at the lovely,
laughing landscape before her. It was prison bars to her, all of it, and
the site of her shame.

For it had come to that: Ivy Sên was ashamed, not of King-lo, never
that! but ashamed of her own displacement and not unashamed now of the
birth of her child.

But she was sickening for the sight of Ruben, the song of his
inarticulate baby voice, the feel of his fat, naked, pink and white foot
in her gloating hand, the precious down of his head against her cheek,
the intimacy of his fearless eyes, the baby claim of his imperious
little hand on her bosom. It had been stingingly hard to leave him,
cruelly so too, because the day of her leaving him had been also the day
of his weaning; but the wrench of that parting had been less than the
dull ache of her waxing missing of him. She wanted her baby, and every
hour she wanted him more.

If King-lo did not take her back to Ruben soon. . . .

Six months ago!

How had she stood it?

How much longer could she stand it?

She had been so proudly glad when she first had known that a babe was
soon to lie in her arms, so exultant when it had come!

But now her inmost being shivered and cringed, because she knew that
again a new-born child would lie in her arms. But not here! Not here in
this horrible China! That should not be. It had come to her in China,
this poor little unborn one, but she would not bear it in China: they
must go home, she and it.

She had not told Lo. She could not tell him here. He must not know! No
one must know or think of it here.

Why had she come? Had her cousin Charles no love of her left that he had
not warned her of what life would be to her here?

For all her torture—and it had been just that—at leaving baby Ruben
behind her, she had come with radiant gladness—impatiently eager to
reach the country of her husband and to make it hers, without losing for
an instant her own. Lo had done so much, perfect citizen of the world
that he was! Why should his wife be less splendidly adaptable—more
crassly insular? She had fretted, almost fumed, for the ship to go
faster, reach China sooner, feeling it a laggard, and feeling,

                     “—so tedious is this day,
               As is the night before some festival
               To an impatient child that hath new robes,
                   And may not wear them.”

And yet she could have danced for joy and anticipation every waking hour
of the way on the boats that had brought them.

If the impulse of all love is to create, its even greater, more
constant, longer, finer impulse is to share. She had loved Sên King-lo
well, and she had staked her soul to give him all that was she or hers,
to have for her very own all that was he or his. _That_ was why she had
insisted upon leaving her child and crossing the world with her husband,
crossing the world into China. She would give and she would take _all_.
And he should set the key and choose and make the frame of their mutual
being: marriage meant that, as her soul and the feminine instinct of her
womanhood sensed and gaged it—and craved it. His people should be her
people, his God her God. It had not been lust for adventure, or
wilfulness, or freak. It had been loyalty, womanliness, and wifehood. A
splendid, sacred trinity!

And they had failed her; she had failed them.

Whose was the fault?

Not Sên King-lo’s. _He_ had not failed her. Her English fairness, her
heritage of centuries, knew it and said it. Never had man failed woman
less, or mate mate. He never had failed her once, not for a breath, not
by the width of a hair.

Nor had her heart failed him. She did not love him less than she had.
His quality appealed to her not less but more as they passed hand in
hand through the long glade of days. Her husband’s quality was her
highest and firmest pride. He never had grated on her once nor affronted
her taste, and she knew how rarely even the happiest wives could say
that. His charm, that perfume and weapon of personality that cannot be
defined or expressed, held her almost increasingly; it gripped her
securely and close. And she knew that, be the years however long, let
them bring whatever they might, stretch wherever they might, she should
love her man to the end.

She knew how generous he had been to her—how he had warded off from her
every ill thing, great or petty, that he could. He had been tender of
her every failure, her miserable little shames, her worthless shrinkings
and had covered and condoned them—had covered them gently as a hen its
chicks under its wing. And what it must have cost him to see her shrink
and “turn”! Would a Chinese woman have failed an English husband as she
had failed her Chinese husband? She believed not. Was China’s then the
better part? China that she disliked and was ashamed of! She had made no
sacrifice in marrying Sên King-lo, but she knew now that he had made a
sacrifice in taking her to wife, and could but have known that he did.
For he had known both his country and hers, his people and hers, had
known both well, and she had known only her own. He had known all the
spiritual barrier, the fundamental prohibition. He must have realized
her disqualifications! And when pay-day had come, how gaily he had paid
the price, how ungrudgingly! Paid for both. For she knew that his tally
had been tenfold hers. If it had vexed her to be here, to suffer the
repugnance of odd and uncongenial ways, what must it not have been to
him?—and _she_—his _wife_—knew that the texture and nerves of his
soul were as fine and sensitive as those of his strong sensitive hands.
(She had seen him balance by its stem a long peacock feather on the tip
of his finger until it ceased to seesaw or move at all, and she had seen
him lift Reginald Hamilton, bulky and heavily clothed, up off his saddle
and swing him lightly down to the ground.) What must it not have been to
Sên King-lo to see her scarce-smothered dislike of his home and kindred,
of all that meant _all_ to him; what must it not have cost him to bring
her here, knowing, as he must have known, how poor a thing, unfitted and
unpolished, she would seem to Sên Ya Tin, to all his kinsmen, to the
women of the domain, to the very coolies?

She had meant so well and so bravely, and she had done so ill and so
cowardly!

She had been happy in Hongkong. And Hongkong’s scorn and innuendo had
reached her. (In that one thing she had been cleverer than he.) And she
had not cared. She had been unaffectedly indifferent to it all, because
Sên King-lo was “MacGregor,” and she sat on his right hand.

But here, where it had mattered most, here where she had garnered up her
dream of infinite and exquisite sharing with him, here where he had been
at her woman’s mercy, his English wife’s mercy, her happiness had
sickened, her comradeship and pluck had crumpled.

The little furry thing had finished his toilet, and he scampered away.
The woman never moved.

Oh—to see Ruben! Oh—to be in England! Her husband’s people were not
_her_ people, his home was _not_ her home!

Ruben’s baby voice called her. England called her. The shabbiest,
grimiest taxi in the Strand was more to her than all the pagodas and
lacquers and peonies in China!

She hated peonies now. She always should. She hated all of _this_. The
bamboos that bent over there in the breeze mocked her. She had been
pilloried here in Ho-nan. To live and be with thickly painted,
chattering women who tittered all the time; who never had the dignity of
a sorrow, or the blessing of a care; who had no responsibility—hadn’t
even the grit or tang of jealousy—but tottered about, because their
feet were deformed; who were vain of their hideous deformity; and who
gorged on sickly sweetmeats and scandal! She couldn’t understand a word
they spoke or whispered, but she knew Mayfair and Washington too well
and too shrewdly not to know the sound of scandal when she heard it! To
eat with a posse of giggling chattering women, young and old, or to eat
alone, half her meals, while a dancing bear reared above her shoulder
and growled for tit-bits! To see cats chained and tethered like
house-dogs and hear them wailing how they liked it! Sên Ya Tin was
addicted to cats, and on one moonlight night the screech and yowl of
twenty tethered and outraged cats had well-nigh crazed Ruby Sên. Lo had
not been there to slake her nervous fury, for he had been in an
all-night attendance on Sên Ya Tin in the _ko’-tang_ or hawking in the
moonlight with his kinsmen.

China! Oh—to go! Oh—never to have come! She _would_ escape the place.
They could not keep her—they should not! But could she ever escape the
memory?

Would she love her child—her second baby? She did not love it now.
Could she ever love it—would she when she heard its cry—a child
begotten in this China! She loved Ruben, second to his father; she loved
Ruben, her fair-haired, Saxon-seeming baby son. She was dearly proud of
Ruben. A young queen-mother might envy her Ruben. But this unborn child
of hers—would she live to hate the flesh and blood that were bud of her
own? Might she live to be ashamed of her own baby? What if China marked
it!



                               CHAPTER L


Old women’s ignorant, unscientific tales, silly peasant chatter—English
tales, English chatter—ribaldry lurched threateningly to her
recollection. Laughed at, turned from in disgust, when she had heard
them, they half distracted her now—and she had been near enough
distraction without their sudden menace. What if . . .

Trembling violently, she crouched still lower on the ground and hid her
face on the old tree’s trunk.

King-lo, coming to find her, heard her wild sobbing long before he saw
her.

He quickened his pace; but he came very quietly, and when he reached her
he knelt down and laid his hand upon her shoulder and left it there
without a word.

And as he waited for the rougher paroxysm of her grieving to wear itself
a little out, he saw that it was an old apple-tree that lay upon the
ground, an apple-tree struck down by some raging storm of China, in one
of those fury times when the Yellow Sorrow lashed and churned its low
banks into wide, endless miles of hideous flooded wreckage and of
seaweed thick with stark and twisted floating human bodies, and when
angry winds mowed peasant homes and huts of mat and reeds as sickles mow
the ripened grass; but that, so stricken, the tree still lived and grew
and bore, its good roots still holding securely in the earth. His face,
already tender for his stricken woman, took an added softness and an
added strength. So, he thought, a man knocked to the ground might hold
with steadfast fibers to the foundations and nourishment of being, still
grow and give.

He knew the old tree well. He had climbed it and rifled it of its
tasteless, rosy, scented apples often when a boy.

He saw the veil of white and pink its blossoms scarfed upon the grass.
He saw the little wild flowers blowing near it—the June wild flowers of
Virginia, and he remembered. He saw love’s confession and its shyness
come in a girl’s dark English eyes. He held her surrender and her
dearness in his arms.

He knew that he would remember this old apple-tree, its courage and its
beauty, this _one_, selfsame apple-tree, in China and Virginia, with its
rosy, hopeful, perfumed signal on the ground, its sturdy triumph of
endurance and persistence in prostration, its dual message and its dual
memory, the little wild flowers smiling at the ferns beside it; he saw
in it a token and a commandment, and he knew that it would live with him
while he lived and that living it would link—in his spirit—East and
West.

He laid his hand upon his wife’s.

Ruby stirred to the touch and let him lift her to his arms.

“It’s my head,” she told him, choking back her sobs. “It has ached all
day”—as indeed it had. “I wish you hadn’t found me while I was so
foolish.”

“I am very glad I did,” he answered.

“The pain made me cry,” she whispered brokenly. “I won’t cry any more.”

Sên King-lo had never seen her cry before. But he only said quietly, as
he soothed her hair, “Cry it out, dear.”

But she was made a little of his own metal, and she laughed through her
dwindling sobbing and dried her face upon his sleeve.

He held her close, and she seemed glad to nest so. And they stayed
together in the quiet, while a squirrel bounced softly back and looked
them up and down.

“It will be better soon now,” Ruby said presently. “It is better
already.”

“We must try to cure it soon, Ivy.” He had never called her that before.
“Rest a little longer, sweetheart, then let me take you back and bathe
it while you try to sleep. I cannot take a sick girl the long trail that
is waiting for us, and I had hoped that we might start tomorrow.”

“Start—” She dared not say the rest, but he felt the pulse leap in her
wrist.

“—for home, dear,” he finished for her. “It is time we went.”

She made no answer. She could not trust her voice, and she was trying
desperately to keep some of the joy from her face.

“Are you not rested a little?” Lo asked her before long. “Shall we go,
slowly, now?”

“Quite rested—and very much ashamed,” Ruby told him.

Sên lifted her and led her beside him, with his arm about her shoulder.

When they saw the red roofs in the distance, the red up-curling roofs of
his birthplace, Ruby drew away from him and faced him.

“Lo,” she asked, “are you sure that you are ready? Is there any hurry?
Lo—tell me—do you want to go?”

“Want to go!” Sên mocked her, laughing down at her, and his eyes laughed
with his lips, “want to go _home_—and to Ruben!”

And his wife believed him.

It was the first lie Sên King-lo had ever told her.



                               CHAPTER LI


If they had given her courteous welcome, they gave her kindliest
parting. They gave her many words, and she understood the kindness of
their tones. And they gave her many gifts. Sên Ya Tin gave her jewels
and a jeweled lute, a silver box of sweetmeats, her own face, painted
before King-lo had been born, and a cape of peacocks’ feathers. The
women gave her silks and embroidered crêpes and opal-tinseled gauze. Her
husband’s kinsmen gave her ivories and jades, and the toddlers gave her
flowers and splint-baskets of persimmons and lychees, and one gave her
its favorite doll.

Sên Ya Tin gave them pleasant, tranquil speeding—at the outer door this
time—and there was no hardness in her eyes.

And Sên King-lo went as he had come, with his hand on his wife’s litter,
smiling lips and cheerful, happy eyes.

The red roofs of the homestead were dimming in the distance when a
veiled and shrouded woman slipped from among the trees, and held out a
tiny yellow hand to stay them.

At a gesture from lord Sên King-lo the bearers waited, and La-yuên came
closer, throwing off her dark merino veiling as she did so. She held out
to Mrs. Sên a long and slender parcel and another that was cube-shaped
and not large, each swathed in rice paper that glistened silky in the
daylight and each tied criss-cross and securely by thin, red
cord-string.

Ruby took what La-yuên offered; but before she could frame words of
thanks, or King-lo improvise them for her, the girl had shaken her
clasped hands at Sên Ruby, made the k’o-tow of subservience to the lord
Sên King-lo, and darted like a tottering lap-wing back towards the
homestead through the shelter of the forest. But they both had seen that
as she turned and sped away her eyes had filled with tears.

For the concubine had loved Sên Ruby and was loath to have her go.

“Ought she to have come?” his wife asked anxiously. “Will she get in
trouble for having left the courtyard?”

“Undoubtedly,” Sên smiled as he said it, “if a eunuch sees her, or her
baby cries before she gets back, and they hear and miss her. She’ll get
a furious wigging—but not much more for this ‘first offense.’ She’ll
not be beaten, have her stickpins taken away until the new moon, or get
less soy with her evening rice, perhaps. She’ll not be lowered to the
grade of the handmaidens. Po-Fang is very fond of La-yuên, and so is his
Number-one. But I dare say she’ll worm back in as snugly as she wormed
out. It’s a ‘capital offense,’ but I dare say she knows her wicked
ropes—many of the concubines do—though I have heard the grandmother
say that this girl was the most obedient of all the flowery quarter. It
will be all right if her baby does not cry.”

“No—it is his nap-time now,” Ruby said more contentedly. “He is not apt
to wake, and if he should, he’s got a stick of barley-sugar in his
hand.”

“Sweet dreams!” Lo laughed. “You needn’t fret, dear. It will be all
right, then, if the frog has got his suck-stick.”

“But if a eunuch does see her going back and your grandmother is told?”

“She will only shrug her shoulders, I think—today—and send the fellow
about some other business; but she’ll not hear it, I am sure. It would
be reported first to Po-Fang or to his Number-one. She has the right to
hear it first, and she would only laugh and say she herself had sent the
girl on an errand, and Sên Po-Fang would only wink at the eunuch and
toss him a coin. Don’t you worry,” King-lo repeated as he motioned the
bearers to move on.

It was very wrong of the lord Sên King-lo to be footing it across China
while his woman rode in a padded, cushioned palanquin. But he had come
much of the way so, he had entered and left the homestead of his people,
on foot, with his hand on his English wife’s chair, and he was going as
he’d come.

At dusk-fall they halted, and while their servants made their camp
King-lo and Ruby feasted on the grass.

“Now,” she said, as she gave him her empty coffee cup, and nodded to him
for a cigarette, “open the parcels La-yuên gave me. I want to see.”

“No.” Sên shook his head, as he struck her match. “You must not look at
your last parting gift, given you after you had left the protection of
the devil-screen. It will bring you bad luck for eleven moons, if you so
much as peep, until your journey is over, until you are safe behind your
own devil-screen of your own house door.”

“A devil-screen, in Kensington!” she tossed at him scornfully. “We
haven’t got a devil-screen at our front door.”

“Oh—yes, we have.”

“What?” Ruby demanded.

“Love,” her husband told her.

“Yes,” she answered softly, “and we’ll trust it, outside as well as in.
Cut those strings at once.”

When the rice-paper was pulled off it left a striped box of flat,
gaily-colored straw, a box of tiny drawers which, when Ruby drew them
out, showed each a saucer and a wee soft brush. Sên King-lo chuckled as
he leaned over her shoulder. It was a paint-face outfit—white, carmine,
rose and black, and a number of soft chamois “sop-rags” and “smooth-off
cloths” all complete, that his cousin’s concubine had given his wife.

“There’s a hint,” he chaffed her.

“And here’s a poem!” Ruby exclaimed, pouncing on a slip of crimson paper
lying unfolded on the little piles of chamois.

La-yuên could neither read nor write—the blind courtyard scribe must
have made the characters of her message—but she knew that it was sin to
deface, or even crease by folding, a printed, cut, or brushed word.

“Poem! More like a sermon!” Lo laughed as he took it from her.

“Read it to me,” Mrs. Sên commanded.

“ ‘Make thy face a garden of roses and lilies and find favor in thy
honorable lord’s eyes,’ ” Lo translated carefully. “Now you know!”

Ivy took the crimson letter from him with a quiet smile and put it back.
“Open the other one,” she ordered.

“You are a fearless woman,” Sên King-lo asserted as he obeyed. Then he
shouted joyfully. La-yuên had sent his English wife a Chinese
“back-scratcher,” but not such as you can buy any day in State Street in
Chicago, or in Museum and Hart Streets in London: “scratchers” quite
genuine in their not patrician way and useful enough, if you chance to
need them; but sometimes their tiny hands are imitation ivory, and their
long black handle-stems made of painted wood.

This tiny palm was of perfect, finest ivory as exquisitely molded and as
perfect as Ruby’s own hand; each wee knuckle flashed an embedded jewel,
very small but very good; and the sharpness of the minute finger-nails
was considerately smooth. The long handle was of “green-moonlight” jade:
an exquisite, costly toy, despite the raw suggestion of its useful
purpose: an implement of self-indulgence fit to rasp discomfort even
from the person of a red-button mandarin. And from the “chop” carved in
the jade of the long handle, King-lo made little doubt that in other
days it had done so; but he kept that surmise to himself.



                              CHAPTER LII


Ruby smiled in her sleep that night, lying in her tent, dreaming
pleasantly and kindly of a Chinese concubine who had been loath to say
“goodbye.”

At dawn King-lo left her still sleeping happily and went quietly out of
their tent.

He turned back on their route and retraced his own steps of the day
before. On a hillock not far from the tent his wife was in but standing
back on their road of travel, nearer, if only a few rods nearer, to the
homestead he had left—forever—he stood and looked back towards where
the red roofs lay that he could not see—that he would not see again.
His face was very calm, but its gaiety had gone. No need to wear a mask
now!

This was his last turning back.

He knew that he would not turn back again. This should be his last
self-indulgence, his last lingering alone with self. He was going into
exile—exile self-made, self-inflicted. He would not falter in his
courage, or, while they lived, fail Sên Ruby, the mother of his son. He
had sown—and he would reap. He would reap a golden harvest and lay its
rich, ripened sheaves at her feet—and she should never know. She could
not be of his people; to his utmost he would be of hers. His inner soul,
his spiritual core of being, was his own, an ownership no man could
renounce. His soul was his and China’s for all time; but his heart
should beat for the wife he had chosen and taken, and his daily doings
should be as her country’s.

He dismissed it then—and stood alone with China; a proud flush dyed his
cheeks; tears filled his eyes.

Sên King-lo lifted his hands and held them out with a gesture of
farewell and of endless fealty and longing towards the dominion of the
Sêns, the queendom of Ya Tin.

He gave a greeting, and he took one.

Then he turned—again—towards his tents.

                 *        *        *        *        *

When Mrs. Sên lifted the curtain of her sleeping-tent and came through
it, King-lo was directing the servants who were spreading the breakfast
meal. He was humming “Annie Laurie,” and he was clad in English clothes.

Why had he done that so soon? she wondered. When she spoke the question
later, Sên replied, “Oh, we may as well now. The country here is quiet
again. I was needlessly concerned before, I’m sure, and the coolies know
us better now and understand.”

And that was true. He _had_ been needlessly doubtful of his coolies and
the servants, whose menace had been one of social dislike and spiritual
disapproval, not of physical attack. The coolies and servants were
good-natured on all the return journeying. Many of them lived in
Hongkong, and several of them had left their wives and children in the
narrow, crowded streets of Victoria City.

As soon as their morning meal was over, they pushed on—towards Hongkong
and the West. Mrs. Sên would not delay the restart to change then. But
when they halted again to dine, and for the night (they had not camped
at noon, and lunch had been but a picnic) she laid aside silk trousers
and tinseled satin coat—to her surprise a little regretfully. They were
pretty, if odd, those costly Chinese garments that Lo had chosen and
given her. They would make wonderful finery for Albert Hall charity
gatherings or for some ducal function of masquerade, but Sên King-lo’s
wife could not wear Chinese costume for “fancy dress.”

Lo was giving her deft aid over a dinner frock that “did up” in twenty
places, most of them beyond her reach, when she put the troubled
question to him in their tent.

“That’s up to you, dear,” he answered with a laugh, as he snapped a
final “popper” behind a puff of _ninon_, for they were dining in some
state tonight, al fresco in the wilderness. “They have served their
purpose. You might make cushions and tea-cosies and those vanity-bag
things you women like to swing out of them, I’d think, and take them
home for presents,” he added. Then he gave the puff of silvery, smokey
_ninon_ another careful tweak and bent and kissed a dimpled shoulder.

“You are very good to me,” Ruby whispered with her hands upon his coat.
“Lo, tell me, does it hurt you very much—to leave China?”

“Very much,” he told her, “but it would hurt me more to stay. I have
loved being here as only Easterners love such things, I think; but I am
ready to go home now, Ruby. I take my treasure with me, and we go back
to the treasure we have left. My wife is my happiness and my
contentment. I would not give her for a world ‘made of one entire and
perfect chrysolite’!”

                 *        *        *        *        *

No one called on Mrs. Sên in Hongkong—few knew that they were back.
King-lo scarcely left the bungalow, the few days they waited for a boat.

Men came to see him, and he completed with them the business things he
had planned and come to do.

The day before they sailed, by the man who took a message and a greeting
to Sên Ya Tin, his wife sent a letter and an offering to the venerable
lady and a horde of costly Chinese garments to the concubine La-yuên.
Perchance something of China’s quiet, whispered message had reached Sên
Ruby after all!

She kept one of the lovely native costumes, to treasure it for memory.
She kept all her stickpins and every Chinese bauble that Sên King-lo had
given her, and with them a flower that he had gathered her in the
forest, and one that he had fastened at her breast, in their bungalow
garden, late the night before. It was then that she had told him—shared
with him—what was coming in the English winter. And for answer he had
put his hands about her face and kissed her slowly on her lips.

They stood together on the deck, as the great ship moved slowly from
Hongkong.

Presently his wife made an excuse of something she wanted in the
cabin—no, she’d rather find it herself—and left Sên King-lo to take
his last look, say his last goodbye to China—alone.

Hongkong grew a blur. Sên King-lo’s face was very pale as he took his
last look at his country; but his eyes were calm and steadfast, though
his heart ached with a pain passing the pain of woman. And he thought
that the gods of China made mouths at him.



                              CHAPTER LIII


The rural social strongholds in England are far less complacent and
easy-going than London is. London is something of a jade and unbends to
any fun. The “county” is a prude, respectable to a degree. “County”
never bends. London’s the more human and undoubtedly has the better
time. If “county” has a finer art of living, London has the prettier
knack, and the gayer, more amusing.

“Give me the county for my funeral,” Emma told Sir Charles, “but let me
live in London every time.” But Lady Snow was frivolous and meant to
stay so.

And even Sir Charles, who saw through most things, could not see why the
Sêns had moved to Surrey in October, almost on their return from China.
London could be trusted to keep its welcome of Mr. and Mrs. Sên warm,
but he doubted considerably whether the semi-county of Brent-on-Wold
would welcome them at all.

Sên King-lo had his reasons, of course, and probably they were good
ones; but Sir Charles could not think what they were.

It was Sên’s doing, not Ivy’s, Snow was sure.

Ruby had been quite willing to make the home-move that her husband had
suggested, but not glad. London was her Mecca and always would be; but
she was content to live wherever Lo wished, if it might be with him and
not in China. She knew that she would not be prisoned in Surrey, or
forbidden long drinks of London’s wine. King-lo was no wing-clipper,
least of all of hers. If he longed for country life, or chose it for
some other reason, she was more than willing to have it so. It was his
turn to have his way, she felt sincerely. And what did it matter, if
they were together, with Ruben, bonnier than ever, toddling at their
feet, clutching at her skirts? Sên King-lo had no entire monopoly of
loyalty and sunny niceness, or of fineness and bigness.

Sên King-lo had not suggested their moving because of any longing he
felt for flowers and trees, open spaces, and running water. All such
things were one to him now. London meant a great deal to Sên. And his
opportunities for the big Anglo-Chinese work he still meant to do, and
to do with his might, opportunities for the personal touch and mutual
yeasting of friendly minds and foemen’s, which are so much of all
international work’s success, were in London tenfold what they could be
in any other spot in Europe. But he knew that he was very tired, and
that unless he rested certain mental and personal forces of his that had
suddenly worn thin, his hand might lax hopelessly and fall away from its
helm. There was work to do that needed him for its best doing. Ruby
needed him, and would need him more and more as Ruben grew older. For
Sên King-lo already knew what no one else suspected, not even Charles
Snow, that Ruben’s Saxon body was but the sheath of a mind and spirit
and inclination intensely Chinese. Sên saw a coming day when it might be
for him to stand between Ruby and their boy; to curb Ruben, to comfort
Ruby, to spare her all he could, to save Ruben from mistakes that were
the heritage of the father’s son. And the child that was coming in
December—how might it not need him, how might not Ruby need him because
of it?

It was because of all this that Sên King-lo had turned from the vivid
rush and inexorable pull of London life to the haven-quiet of the place
he found and bought in Surrey.

Winter was mild that year in England. The drooping weeping-ash trees
were naked of their leaves, fires were comfort as well as “company,” of
course; but the grass still kept a hint of greenness; the holly was
scantily berried; here and there a tiny flower-face peeped up from the
rock garden; an heroic, insensitive, old rose-vine was erratic enough to
put forth a shivered, puny bud; a japonica-tree at the sunniest stretch
of the south wall frankly threatened to flower. There was no demand at
all for skates, but there was some for racquets by young and
enthusiastic players.

The Snows were staying with Sên and Ruby, and the cook took her orders
from Lady Snow, for a time. There was a trained nurse in the house, and
the local doctor whom Mrs. Sên had chosen “dropped in” at tea-time
fairly often, at Sên King-lo’s request.

Today Ruby had not come down to breakfast, Emma had left the cook to her
own devices, and Sir Charles thought that the doctor was upstairs now
and had been there a deuce of a time.

Sir Charles Snow was smoking strenuously, not in the big drawing-room,
but in the pink-and-white absurdity which the servants called “the
downstairs boudoir”—the big drawing-room’s near neighbor, almost
annex—and that was worse, for the “boudoir’s” dainty, expensive
fripperies were perfect caches for smoke-smell and smudge. But a man, at
least an English man, has a right to do what he likes when a whole house
is at sevens and sixes, every woman in it looking important, meals late,
fires neglected, and men ignored or snubbed.

“It is too damned still,” Snow grumbled irritably to his third cigar.

Suddenly the big man jumped like a nerve-ridden woman—at least his
heart did—at a sudden sound.

But it was only a sympathetic tail thumping ingratiatingly at his feet.

“Hello yourself!” Snow replied, glad even of a terrier to speak to.
“_You’ve_ no business in here. Wait till my lady wife sees you—only, if
you take my advice, Bimbles, you won’t, old boy.”

Bimbles yapped a pleased reply.

“Oh, all right,” Sir Charles retorted; “if you don’t care, I don’t.”

Even a dog’s company was better than none.

The door opened, and Emma hurried in—but before his wife had closed the
door again, Snow had heard a tiny cry.

“Well?” he demanded anxiously. Emma looked “bad,” he thought. And that
wasn’t her way!

His wife made no reply, except to sob and throw herself, almost
vixenishly, in a chair.

“Tell me,” he begged her brusquely.

“Oh, Charlie, it is too terrible,” Emma wailed angrily.

“Ivy?”

Lady Snow shook her head. “All of us. It’s a Chinese baby.”

Charles Snow looked at her with gloomy eyes.

“The ugliest baby I ever saw. It isn’t like a baby. It’s like a hideous
little Chinese god, and it looks ten thousand years old.”

“Then it mustn’t,” Sir Charles remarked grimly; “only an emperor may
look ten thousand years old.”

“Well, then,” his wife retorted, “it looks twenty thousand. It hasn’t
any eyes—just up-and-down wrinkled slits. It’s all cheek-bones and
_yellow_—cheek-bones right up to its awful little eyebrows. It hasn’t
any nose, and what it has is wider than its mouth, and those horrid
up-and-down slits that I suppose are its eyes, if it _has_ any eyes,
keep waggle-waggling all the time, blink, blink, blink.”

Snow sighed, a smothered, dreary sigh. Emma’s description sounded
Chinese enough.

“Looks like Sên, then?” he said.

“It does nothing of the kind!” Lady Snow stormed. “I tell you it is the
most hideous, living thing I ever saw—and more Chinese-looking than any
Chinaman I ever saw. It looks like Low Tease, or whatever you call him,
when he was nine hundred years old, in those awful illustrated Chinese
books of yours, and it looks twice as Chinese as Low Tease does.”

“Lao Tze was a mere boy of two or three hundred when he died, dear,” Sir
Charles murmured gently.

“I don’t care!” Lady Snow snapped through her angry weeping. “It looks a
disgrace! So there!”

“Are you sure? Sure that Ivy’s baby looks so _very_ Chinese?”

“Sure? Of course I’m sure! I’ve seen it, haven’t I? I tell you, it _is_
Chinese. Nothing on earth would make me believe that it was Ivy’s child
at all—if I didn’t know.”

“Has she seen it—seen it as you have?”

“She’s seen it, and I suppose she _saw_ it. She saw a speck of fluff or
something on his coat when King-lo gave her a drink, and laughed at him
for being untidy, and flicked it off.”

“Did she seem to mind?” Snow asked.

“Mind? Mind a speck of fluff? Oh, the baby! Mind the awful Chinese look
of it? She didn’t seem to, but she must. And she’ll hate it! How she’ll
hate it!”

“I hope not,” Charles Snow said gently.

“Of course she’ll hate it. I hate it now! And King-lo ‘minded’!”

“How do you know?” Snow asked quickly.

“Oh, I don’t know—but he did. How can I explain every single thing to
you? You ought to know by yourself. I’m too upset to go on talking
forever. He minded terribly, I tell you. He went to the window and stood
looking for ages—at nothing. Even his back minded. He never stirred
until Ivy called him back to her. He minds. I nearly dropped. Don’t
_you_ mind, Charles?”

“I’m not glad,” Sir Charles said gravely.

“Well,” his wife conceded bitterly, “that’s something. Not glad! Wait
till you see it, Charles Snow! ‘Finest race on earth!’ Well, perhaps
they are, but—” She finished the sentence and began another, but the
rest of her words were quite inarticulate through the thick smother of
fresh sobbing.

“Boy or girl?”

The commonplace and very usual question seemed to steady her.

“That’s the worst of it,” she answered desperately but clearly. “It’s a
girl.”



                              CHAPTER LIV


Ruby Sên did not hate her Chinese baby. And because she did not King-lo
loved her with an added love.

Ruby loved her baby. It was _hers_—and Lo’s!

Ruby Sên had a valiant soul, and something of Sên King-lo’s valor and
sweetness had crept into hers.

Mrs. Sên loved her wee daughter very much.

Sên King-lo loved his baby girl almost as tenderly as he loved the
mother he had never seen. Once, in the demanding day of early wifehood
when Ruby had asked him, as wives foolishly will, pathetically must, if
his love of her was his great love, he had told her simply, bravely, “No
Chinese loves any one else as he does his mother.”

They all grew to love her—except Emma Snow—she never did.

They named their daughter “Ivy.” Sên King-lo would have it so. But her
signature was written on her face—a Chinese signature. Lady Snow had
been right in _that_. Little Sên Ivy was unmistakably Chinese. Both Sên
himself and Sir Charles Snow knew that they never had seen a being that
looked more typically or more intensely Chinese. She had not a trace of
Europe on her; but almost from the first Sên King-lo suspected that she
had almost no trait of China in her, that—except for that outer sheath
of Chinese beauty—she was all a Western.

Luckily for both the babies, Ruben was delighted with his sister and
vastly proud of her—though he called her, as soon as he could talk,
“funny Ivy!”

But in one thing Emma Snow was wrong. Baby Ivy was very lovely, in her
vivid, flower-like Eastern way: a lovely, laughing, pomegranate child.
She was lovely from the first. New-born babies are not often beautiful,
unless to mother eyes. Most of them have a smudged, unfinished look, and
they come red-raw and wrinkled into life. But Baby Ivy’s loveliness came
with her, and it grew as she grew. Sir Charles Snow sometimes thought
that, had she lived in China in the old imperial days, her face might
have gained her the yellow chair of an Emperor’s first wife and the
throbbing desire of any countryman that ever saw her. The Trojan war was
not fought for a woman; but wars have been fought so in Asia, and Snow
smiled grimly, more than once, thinking that her Surrey birthplace had
perhaps spared Asia bloodshed.

Soon after Christmas the Snows left Brent-on-Wold. Emma was due in Devon
where their children had been holidaying with her mother, and Sir
Charles was wanted at the Foreign Office. M. P.s and Barristers and even
mere peers may take and make themselves long and frequent holidays, but
woe betide us all if the Foreign Office took a breather! That Whitehall
bulwark of Empire must, like Tennyson’s brook, go on forever—though not
often so tranquilly.

They stayed for the christening, and then the Sêns were left alone in
their new home.

The baby throve, and Ruby was vigorous and active again. And Lo promised
that she should ride with him soon.

Both secretly wondered if the local gentry was going to call, and,
except for the other, neither cared.

The gentry was wondering the same thing and was both more interested and
exercised about it than were Mr. and Mrs. Sên.

Several ladies, younger ones, wished to call; several others, older
ones, preferred to avoid the necessity. But that had nothing to do with
it. None of them would dare to call, or to receive Mrs. Sên, unless Lady
Margaret Saunders did; and, if Lady Margaret did, no other matron of
Brent-on-Wold’s upper-circle would presume not to do so.

Lady Margaret Saunders ruled Brent-on-Wold and its adjacent small
estates, as completely and autocratically as Sên Ya Tin ruled in a coign
of Ho-nan, and she ruled far less amiably, far more erratically. Sên Ya
Tin was tyrannical but easy-going. There was nothing easy-going about
Lady Margaret Saunders. She hectored the village shopkeepers, of whom
her patronage was small; she alternately cajoled and abused the rector
and almost invariably prescribed his texts; she had driven two curates
away and sent one to the milder rule of the county asylum. She
controlled the relieving officer, the cottage hospital, and the tennis
club—although she’d never had a racquet in her hand. She directed the
procedure of the cricket and football clubs and dictated the number of
the buns and the strength of the tea with which they regaled visiting
teams, though she had neither sons nor grandsons to bowl or to kick the
national balls. She _was_ the local flower-show, though the glass at
“the big house” was not much and the grounds were more occupied with
broccoli and potatoes than with roses and carnations. She had “early
closing” changed from Wednesdays to Thursdays. And not even the cottage
women who “went out to oblige” ever defied her.

No one defied Lady Margaret Saunders. She was not pleasing to look at
and less pleasing to converse with. She had a German face, which was a
libel on her ancestors, and an enormous Jewish nose, which was a crueler
libel on the Hebrew people. All her forebears were Yorkshire. She
sniffed in public and nagged in private. No one liked her. No one
disputed or challenged her acid authority. She ruled.

Why? Because it was her nature to rule. Dominance was her being, and her
dominance was as direct and relentless as Niagara. Her force was
Titanic, and her bad manners were irresistible.

But she was not only obeyed, she was courted. And Lady Margaret was not
only courted, but reverenced.

The “gentry” was her creature, disliked her to a woman, and feared her
to a man.

Lady Brewster was the woman most nearly admitted to her intimacy.

General Saunders had left a leg in the Kyber, and his other leg’s foot
as well. He spent his days now in a wheel chair. His wife called him
“Polly,” and paid very little attention to him—in public.

They were childless.

Lady Margaret Saunders called on Mrs. Sên, and then the “gentry” rushed
to do the same.

The gentry of Brent-on-Wold was two doctors, the rector, a scattering of
army officers—many of them retired, others still on the “List,” and
serving at Aldershot, Farnborough, Camberly and the War Office—a
well-to-do musician who could neither play nor compose, a retired
architect (who wished he hadn’t), a novelist who did write but didn’t
seem to publish, and a veritable millionaire who had wandered in from
Leadenhall Street (and escaped from Bayswater) in a Rolls Royce and a
sable coat, with a chef, a maître d’hôtel and three footmen in his wake.
Then there were a dozen others, neither rich nor poor, who owned their
own homes and each paid a cook and parlor-maid, did nothing for a
living, and dressed for dinner—with, of course, their families.

Sên King-lo had not chosen the locality of their new home for its
society. He had chosen it for its roses and the beauty of its hills and
vistas. Nightingales had a leafy stronghold in the woods and gardens of
Brent-on-Wold. The house suited them rather more than moderately. It was
not too far from London for people who had as good a car as theirs was.
Sên King-lo did not in any way intend that Ruby should be cut off from
London or from London friends, or that he should even stay permanently
in the countryside, if she should prove to dislike it. For himself he
craved a little rest, or, rather, he felt that he must have it. It was
rest, not rust, he craved and thought he needed: not to slack his
industriousness but to slake it in a hill-set garden. He liked
“Ashacres”; Ruby liked it when he took her to see it; and, almost best
of all, its purchase and occupation were immediately available. So he
bought it, and they furnished it and moved in in less than a fortnight
from the day that Ruby first saw it. Money in sufficiency can speed up
most human sloths—even lawyers and furniture dealers.

But they did not dismantle their Kensington house, or even close it, for
Ruby should have her old home ready and waiting whenever she chose to go
there.

Lady Margaret Saunders had not intended to call on Mrs. Sên, and Lady
Margaret was almost as little given to changing her mind as Sên Ya Tin
was. But she had a nephew at the Foreign Office whom she loved better
than she liked him, and when she heard that Sir Charles and Lady Snow
were staying at “Ashacres” and that the influential diplomat was Mrs.
Sên’s cousin, she thought she’d think it over. Then Lady Brewster had
the presumption to assume that Lady Margaret Saunders would not call on
Mrs. Sên, and that settled it.

Lady Margaret called at once. She liked young Mrs. Sên, and she liked
Chinese Mr. Sên, a perfect gentleman, and intelligent, very much indeed,
and she said so steadily for several days.

Mr. and Mrs. Sên were as pleasantly established in Brent-on-Wold as
they’d been in London.



                               CHAPTER LV


It had been an unflawed year of renewal and achievement. They had ridden
a great deal—always gay and happy and near to each other when they rode
together—with something of the surprise and enjoyment of their first
ride together always recurrent and fresh in their last. Sên King-lo
danced as willingly as ever and as well. He still made music for his
wife whenever she bade him. Their congeniality held, and he was still
her lover.

The “gentry” had proved far less dull than it had seemed at first.
King-lo found and made many interests here, and Ruby found several
amusements.

Sên King-lo became a sort of lord of the manor, unofficial but
acknowledged and accredited, as respected as the official one who,
through no fault of his own, was very deaf, a trifle gouty, and more
than a trifle parsimonious. Mr. Sên was the more popular and the more
consulted of the two. Half the children in the village brought their
troubles to him, and so did the postmaster, the rector, the
constables,—there were three there and thereabouts—and the sidesman;
and more than once so did Lady Margaret Saunders.

Brent-on-Wold was a happier and a kindlier place, and a more awake and
alive one, because a Chinese man had come to live there.

Ruby was entirely contented now, and she often chatted frankly, almost
affectionately, of her days in China. Released from it, Ho-nan grew a
very pleasant and interesting place in her memory and in her talk. She
sometimes spoke of her bungalow on the Peak with a regret that was
perfectly unaffected and sincere. Her husband was Chinese, and so was
their name; but she did not mind in the least, because Lo was so
thoroughly English.

If Sên King-lo had trod a ploughshare, he had trod it to good purpose;
and, if he had, no one in England suspected it, unless Charles Snow did.

Snow caught a hint of terror in the younger man’s eyes now and then—or
thought he did; for he was never quite sure.

Next to her husband, Ruby Sên loved her children, and even King-lo did
not know that she sometimes wished that Ivy might, as she grew, grow a
little more English in appearance.

“I don’t know how ever Ivy will bring herself to present little Ivy when
she’s old enough,” Emma Snow had said to Sir Charles more than once. “I
know I couldn’t.”

Sir Charles made no reply.

Debonair always, interested in everything that his wife cared for,
boyishly ready to play tennis with her, to ride or sing with her, to
help her entertain or be entertained, yet Sên King-lo found time to be
alone sometimes and to spend a great deal of time with his children.
Baby Ivy spent hours on her father’s knee—in some quiet garden nook
when the day was warm enough.

The bond between the two was very close. Ruben’s chief love was for his
mother.

Ivy—little Ivy—was a child of many moods, and she had a vein of
quarrelsomeness. The two nurses found her a handful. Ruben gave no one
any trouble ever; but he was an odd little fellow. He liked to be alone
and would lie for hours on his stomach by the brookside, watching one
flower, or flat on his sturdy back, gazing raptly at the changing
clouds. His color came and went at the odor of a rose; his eyes would
fill at the singing of a bird.

Ruben had a “temperament”; Ivy had a temper.

But it only broke out angrily upon her father once.

They were sitting in the garden, the baby and the man. His arms were
close about her, and she was playing with his watch. The day was very
still; they were quite alone. A linnet called to its mate. At the sound
King-lo raised his face to the sycamore tree above him and quoted softly
but aloud a Chinese line that Li Po had made for Kublai Khan’s daughter
twelve hundred years ago. At the sound of the strange tongue she’d never
heard before, the baby’s Chinese face was convulsed with sudden fury,
and she tore her tiny hand from the bright yellow timepiece and struck
her father in the face with all her angry might.

                 *        *        *        *        *

When Sên King-lo was alone now he was very quiet. Neither book nor work
occupied him. He sat almost motionless, with his eyes on the trees or
turned with a brooding hungry look towards the East. A man might have
sat and seemed so who kept tryst with memories and with a self that had
gone far away. And when he kept alone so, and the bell in the old
village church chanced to ring, a strange wistful smile flickered slowly
on his face.

                 *        *        *        *        *

It was May again. The snowballs were out, and the golden laburnum and
the bluebells, and the early peas were hinting thinly in their pods. Sên
King-lo knew what no one else suspected. He knew that his exile was
nearly ended—unless indeed the angry gods of China would debar his very
spirit from the East.

He feared it—but he hoped.

His bones would lie forever in the quiet churchyard here—for he had
willed it so—until his ashes lived again in the petals of the flowers
growing on his grave; but he knew that his soul would take its flight
towards the East even while the English church-bells tolled his body’s
passing to its English grave. But he thought, he dared to hope and
think, that some time, after centuries of homeless wanderings,
perchance, though forever banished from his kindred “on high,” the gods
would give his spirit—at the Feast-of-Lanterns time, perhaps—leave to
mingle with the spirits of his ancestors and be with them in Ho-nan, and
look upon the living children of the Sêns as they came from the
red-roofed homestead to the high hillside, to watch the long processions
of the lanterns swaying, wending.

                 *        *        *        *        *

June had come. Sên King-lo was dying. He was dying as he had lived. He
was dying in the garden, sitting easy in his cushioned wicker chair, a
red rose on his knee, his eyes smiling into Ruby’s, his hand upon her
hair.

So quietly had his release come to him that until a week ago no one had
seen or heard it coming—no one but he.

A sudden spasm—here, too, in their garden—one afternoon had turned
Ruby’s happy chatter to a cry of terror.

The clutching, grinding pain had gone almost as it came, but she had
summoned doctors and wired to her cousin.

The doctors spoke of indigestion, and one who was a grandfather had
patted Mrs. Sên upon her shoulder and told her that it was “quite all
right.”

But Ruby Sên had seen the attack which the doctors had not, and her
alarm did not pass. And King-lo bent his will and his love to comfort
her alarm rather than to disabuse it.

Before Snow reached them, or the great man from Harley Street that Ruby
had ’phoned for, the local doctors could make nothing of the case, and
the London physician told Sir Charles frankly that he could make no
more.

No other attack of pain came; but each day Sên moved a little more
slowly, and his gray pallor deepened.

He took no farewells. He gave no last directions, made no last requests.
He neither kept his bed nor moped. He was ready, and all that he could
do for those he was leaving was in readiness.

He kept his wife’s hand in his and was her lover to the last, because he
loved her and because he knew that to have him that to the utmost moment
of their comradeship would be the dearest, proudest memory he could give
her.

But to Sir Charles, the day after Snow came, Sên King-lo lifted a corner
of his curtain.

“I know,” Sên said as they sat together for an hour—the only hour that
Ruby left him till he died—“that you will do all you can for
Ruby—always.”

Her kinsman nodded.

“But there is something I am anxious to say to you. I cannot lay the
burden on Ruby, and I cannot lay it down. I must pass it on.”

Snow held out his hand.

“Keep Ruben and Ivy in England—always—if you can. Build up to that.
Life will go hard with them. They must pay the price I owe! But I
believe that it will be a lighter price, and less galling, if they never
know my people or my country. I wish that I might hope that neither my
boy nor girl would marry.”

That was the strangest wish a Chinese father ever framed.

But Charles Snow understood, and again he merely nodded.

“ ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set
on edge,’ ” Sên King-lo quoted sadly. Then he said, “I fear least for
Ruben, but I fear—terribly—for them both. Ruben is Chinese. He looks
English, but he is thoroughly Chinese. If he marries, he should marry a
woman of our people, a Chinese girl whose parents live here, just
possibly. That will be so more and more, I believe. But I wish earnestly
that he may not marry—or Ivy either. You know why. Teach Ruben to
worship his mother, to garner his heart upon her, to live for her. It
will not be difficult, I am sure, since his instincts are so intensely
Chinese.”

Snow wondered if his cousin herself might not marry and hated himself
for letting the thought come to him here and now. She was still so young
and so full of life and of beauty.

But Sên King-lo knew that Ruby would be Sên Ruby while she lived. He
_knew_.

“It is for Ivy,” King-lo went on, “that I fear most. Mere baby that she
is, I know she is English. Yes, I am right. She is as English as Ruben
is Chinese, more so perhaps. The mixture of race bloods has modified
nothing racial for either of our children—fomented and intensified
rather. Ivy is wholly English. I can see it every day. Sometimes when I
have been alone, not often but sometimes, I have said something in
Chinese—just to hear the Chinese words, just to taste them on my lips.
I did, not long ago, when I was nursing her. She didn’t like it. She
loathed it.”

That sounded fantastic—but Sir Charles did not think so. He had lived
too long in China!

“An English girl with a Chinese face, an English soul and mind in a
Chinese body! What she’ll probably have to live through! I beseech the
gods that she may never marry!”

Sir Charles Snow noticed the plural.

“An English girl in a Chinese body!” Sên’s voice broke as he said it.
And he said no more.

“I will do my best,” Snow told him.

It was enough.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The specialist came again from London the next day, and again he spoke
alone with Snow after he had seen Sên King-lo.

“I am completely in the dark,” the great man said bitterly. “Mr. Sên is
dying—I can’t say how soon—but dying, if I know anything at all about
my business. We doctors have to doubt that now and then, unless we are
complete asses. I know that Mr. Sên is dying, or I think I do, because I
can see that there is no grip on life left in him; but I have not the
remotest idea what is killing him, and that’s flat. There’s been a touch
of heart trouble—no indigestion about it—but I suppose those fellows
here had to call it something, and no wonder they barked up the wrong
tree. I’ve been puzzled before—a doctor lives in one big maze of
puzzle—but I never ran up against a puzzle like this before. Never!
There has been a touch of heart trouble, but not enough to kill any
man—scarcely enough to kill a mouse. I’d give a limb to know what is
killing Mr. Sên.”

“Then I’ll tell you,” Snow said quietly, “if you will regard it as
professional confidence.”

“Of course, of course. But—you know? Out with it, for Heaven’s sake,
man!” But the physician’s eager voice was more skeptical than eager.

“Homesickness,” Snow told him.

“By Jove, you don’t believe that!” Dr. Foster was openly contemptuous.
But, even so, he was interested. “Go on,” he commanded. “How do you make
that out?”

“I know Sên King-lo well, and I know his race,” Snow replied.

“Well—well,” the physician said after a pause. “I wonder—we might have
tried it—strange things turn out true ones sometimes—I wonder—we
might have tried it—sending him back to China—but, I’m afraid it’s too
late now. By Jove, I wish I’d been on the track of this case six months
ago!”

“No,” Sir Charles Snow told him, “you might not have tried it. He would
not go.”

“Tut! tut! A sick man must do what he’s told, to get well.”

Snow made no reply.

“I’d give a good deal to have been called in sooner—six months ago or
more,” the physician repeated.

“You’d need to have been called in nearly five years ago,” Snow
retorted, “and then you would have failed. I was on the case five years
ago,” he added bitterly, “and I failed.”

“Indeed,” Dr. Foster remarked limply. Harley Street does not over-value
or over-esteem lay practitioners.



                              CHAPTER LVI


They were alone in the garden at sunset.

They had been sitting here, on the broad garden bench, hand in hand,
since tea, but saying little. King-lo had left her a few moments ago and
had gathered the rose that she was wearing at her breast, where he had
pinned it.

“The sweetpeas need thinning over there,” Lo said, pointing. Then he
drew his hand across her face. “Ruby!” His eyes smiled into hers, and
then, like a tired child, he laid his head on her shoulder.

And when she understood—it was some time—before her tears came—his
wife bent and kissed him on the lips.

                 *        *        *        *        *

When the bell began to toll there was scarcely a window in the village
at which a hand did not draw down a blind.

                 *        *        *        *        *

When Sir Charles Snow’s letter reached Ho-nan, Sên Ya Tin proclaimed a
year of mourning. Every lute was put away. Every woman laid aside her
gay rich garments, her stickpins, and her face paints. All the
Sêns—women, men and children, and all their people—were clad in hempen
sackcloth, and their rice was plainly cooked and scanted.

They gave Sên King-lo his funeral, the funeral of his rank, in the
homestead of his fathers.

Sên Ya Tin walked behind a costly empty coffin, weeping, wailing,
moaning, tearing her white disheveled hair, and she staggered as she
walked.

And all his kindred followed her, and all their priests, servants and
peasantry.

On his tomb, when the stone was sealed down above the empty coffin, they
spread a princely feast: chicken, soy, lychees, melon, curd, and yellow
wine in costly tiny cups—food for the spirit of lord Sên King-lo.

And Sên Ya Tin fasted till she fainted.

But in her heart Sên Ya Tin did not grieve. For she thought that it was
better so.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The berries are red upon the holly. There is snow upon the graves. It is
quiet in the churchyard.

                                THE END



                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been fixed.

Inconsistency in hyphenation has been retained.





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