« ZurückWeiter »
inviolate, and a dinner at barbarian mandarin, the SenM'Quigg's was a thing to be ator (Cantegril and I being of treated with respect, regard- the elect), he had composed a less of all political crises. His menu calculated to convince epicurean soul was sorely vexed, any intelligent stranger of the not so much by the Senator's superior civilisation of China, opinions, as by his inability and the magnificence of to subordinate them to grateful M'Quigg. Rare and delicate appreciation of a menu in were his dishes-caviare and which Kuan had certainly sur sturgeon from the Sungari, a passed himself. At his own riz de veau aux cèpes, sandtable, Cantegril insisted on the grouse from Mongolia, and a Lucullan principle that, in the sweetmeat of his own invenearlier stages at least of a good tion, made of honied dates, dinner, conversation should be walnuts, and cream, together general and cheerful-a lively with Berncastler chilled, and thing of gossip, quips and Rabe- Clos Vougeot warmed, to perlaisian persiflage,-avoiding pol- fection. But it was chiefly in itics, religion, and everything the little details that one perthat might tend to secrete bileceived the hand and mind of and thus disturb the delect- one who knew that for wise able process of digestion. And men a dinner means something this dinner of M'Quigg's, both more than food and drink. On in its mise-en-8cène and in the table, glorious chrysanthegredients, was of a kind to mums of tawny gold in a deserve the undivided atten- silver bowl; on the sideboard tion of a connoisseur, The a pyramid of quinces and room itself was a rich symphony Buddha's fingers, filling the in carved redwood, sang-de- room with the subtle fragrance beuf, and curtains of old gold beloved of Chinese scholars and brocade, softly lighted with poets; at dessert, in each filalanterns of red lacquer. Kuan gree finger-bowl, a tiny waterand his “No. 2,” in long robes lily, and goldfish with filmy of plum-coloured silk with sil- tails that waved like pale ver girdles and tasselled offi- flames. All of which Orient cial hats, moved softly and display was of Kuan's own with dignified precision; and devising, for the greater glory the dinner was a triumph of of M'Quigg and the preservathe majordomo's inventive tion of his own face. faculty of nice selection. I But as far as the Senator am sure that a recherché meal, was concerned, it was all love's served à point, afforded just labour lost; Kuan might just as much satisfaction to him as as well have given us pork and it did to those who ate it, and beans on tin plates. From to épater le bourgeois the old soup to cigar he took everyfellow would take as much thing just as it came, entirely trouble as Cantegril himself. unimpressed, and wholly abFor the edification of that sorbed in expounding his views
on the political and moral of the Senator's premises and regeneration of China, to be to deny all his conclusions. achieved by the infusion of At this point I perceived American ideas. For a while the dawn of a twinkle in we endeavoured to divert the M'Quigg's eye. Until now he conversation to lighter topics ; had paid his eloquent guest the but Penting, accustomed to courteous tribute of an appahold the floor by stonewall rently rapt attention. persistence, stuck to his theme Once roused, Cantegril was like a poultice; and eventually out for blood. With Gallic Cantegril, inwardly fuming, was élan, he carried the war straightstirred to contentious argument. way into the enemy's camp, An astute exponent of inter- giving it as his deliberate national finance, with wide ex., opinion that, as regards public perience of Chinese affairs, his and private morality and inpolitical opinions were always tellectual culture, China's civilof a shrewdly practical order. isation had produced a type A typical méridional was Cante- of human being, and a state gril, addicted in his hours of of society, infinitely preferable ease to genial gasconade and to anything that America could Gargantuan laughter, a bon- ever hope to produce. He devivant with a keen palate for nounced American civilisation good wine and a quick eye for as the result of a system of a pretty woman; but in his democracy which despises, when serious moments hard-headed, it does not ignore, philosophy. rigidly logical, and keenly alive The Senator had suspended to the main chance. His in- his sonorous periods, and was terest in the fortunes of the roughly dismembering his sandManchu dynasty and the Chin- grouse, when Cantegril's whirlese people was based not on wind onslaught came upon him sentiment, but on the facts of out of the silent void.
It the situation, fairly faced : caught him one, so to say, in and transcending all these facts the solar plexus, and left him were the interests of the Al- silent while men might count satian Bank and those of its a score. He gave Cantegril a worthy representative. At any look of pained surprise, such other time and place, the Sen- as one sees upon the face of a ator's preposterous schemes for wayfarer whose unsuspecting creating a new heaven and a foot has met a fragment of new earth in the East would banana peel. Then he looked have been dismissed with a at M'Quigg, but found no guidlaugh and a shrug. But as ance in his unspeculative eye. that turgid tide of eloquence So he turned to the foe. flowed on, the feeling that there “I'm afraid I don't quite was no escape finally produced get you,” he said. “Do you in him a secretion of wrath- mean to say that you, a bank matter which, as I have said, manager, really believe we prompted him to dispute many ought not to try and bring
these people into line with Mr M'Quigg," he said, "that Western civilisation, and give it would be a good thing for them the benefits of our scien- this great country to scrap all tific knowledge and progressive its old Manchu junk and get institutions ?"
into line with the spirit of " What I believe as a bank democracy ! And don't you manager," replied Cantegril, think we ought to help them " has nothing to do with moral to do it?" philosophy nor with my private “It's a big problem," replied opinion as to China's best M'Quigg,“ with several sides means of seeking the ultimate to it, and none of them easy happiness of her people. As to deal with on textbook lines. a banker I happen to be identi. It would be best, I think, if fied with a phase of Western the Chinese could work out progress which consists in sell- their own salvation in their ing Chinese bonds to the foreign own way, without interference. investor, but I do not pretend Now that the old Empress is that in the long - run these gone, I admit that it looks like transactions are likely to prove trouble ahead; but, after all, either profitable or beneficial a good many dynasties have to China. I console my philo- disappeared without disturbing sophic soul with the reflection China's social system." that, like missionaries and
But Cantegril, not to be machine-guns and other ad- diverted from his prey, rejuncts of your “Open Door," turned to the attack. they are inevitable. But I do “Yes, Monsieur le Sénateur, not attempt to delude myself he exclaimed, “it is a big probor others with the absurd be- lem ; but permit me to observe lief that these things mean that the welfare of the Chinese progress.”
people is not a question of The Senator's expression sug- monarchy or republic, but simgested the feelings of one who, ply a matter of economics and jauntily moving through pleas- justice. Give them a strong ant pastures, suddenly finds government which can keep himself floundering in a treacher- order and administer the law, ous morass. His mental equip- and they will be satisfied, no ment obviously contained noth- matter where it comes from, ing calculated to serve him in or by what name you call it. debate with an adversary armed I am speaking, bien entendu, of at all points with arguments the Chinese nation, not of the based local knowledge. handful of bois-brulés, the inAvoiding the encounter, he pro- tellectual nondescripts whose fessed to cover his retreat by stock-in-trade is a potpourri of a dignified flank movement in foreign ideas and catchwords. a direction where he might hope I, like yourself, monsieur, am to find support.
the citizen of a republic ; but “Don't you agree with me, surely you have only to look VOL. CCXV.-NO. MCCXCIX.
across your borders to Mexico nothing to do with this story, and South America to perceive Sun Yat-sen was Cantegril's that many republics would smell bête noire ; his very name was as sweet by any other name. enough to provoke the whips I agree with M'Quigg that and scorpions of the banker's China is in for trouble, but it wrath. So, feeling it in my seems to me that the blame for bones that he would seize upon most of it must lie with the the Senator's reference to that Western nations, who have dis- grandiloquent gas-bag as ground located the country's finances for another fierce assault upon and filled the heads of the ris- the base uses of sham democing generation with a lot of racy, I thought it best to interpoisonous nonsense. Franche- vene. ment, all this talk about the Who knows?” I said ; magic virtue of democracy and “the Regency may turn out the spirit of progress, what is better than we think. After it but a smoke-screen of words all, it isn't so much Peking to cover our several policies and the Court that matter of encroachment and exploita- nowadays as the quality of the tion?"
mandarins they put into the What with the disturbance of chief Viceroy jobs—Tientsin, his gastronomic sense of fitness Hankow, and Canton. If Li and his Gascon impetuosity Hung-chang and Liu K’un-yi in argument, our friend was were alive, China might have evidently near to forgetting his an easier time of it. Unfortumanners, and MʻQuigg began nately, of all the old great men to look uncomfortable. For- there's only Chang Chih-tung tunately the Senator, despite left, and there don't seem to his Middle Western rush of be any big new ones coming on. righteousness to the head, pos- If the Emperor had not sessed certain saving graces of died ... good temper and dry humour. “Things wouldn't have been
“ Wal,” he observed to the any better," said MʻQuigg. table in general, “assuming “ Ten years ago it was difthat all they need is a govern- ferent; he had a soul of his ment that'll handle things as own then, some honestly pathey've been handled since the triotic ideas of reform, and a days of Noah, and give them fair amount of courage. If the the sort of justice they're used coup had succeeded which he to, what are their chances of planned, and which Yuan begetting from these old Manchus trayed, in the autumn of '98, anything that will hold together I believe that China might now that the old Empress is have got a fairly decent Gov
I gather they're a ernment under the constitupretty poor bunch, and if that's tional system he had devised. so, why not let Sun and his But the ten years which he friends take a hand ?"
lived at the Old Buddha's Now, for reasons that have mercy, prisoner in the
“Ocean Terrace" pavilion, plots and counter-plots in the took all the heart out of him, palace, vaguely heavy under and reduced him to a miser- the shadow of coming events. able nervous wreck, afraid of Also, from the social point of his own shadow."
view, there were special attracHe paused for a moment, tions that afternoon, very welwith a deprecating eye on come in our little world, where Cantegril, who was lighting a new faces and new ideas are cigarette.
rare-a party of ladies, guests “And that reminds me, Sena- of the American Legation, and tor," he went on, "of a rather a full-blown British Admiral interesting incident connected of the jolly old sea-dog type, with the Emperor's plot, a globe-trotting in order to acstory that has never been told, quire first-hand knowledge of because it was safer to forget the Far Eastern problem. it as long as the Old Buddha “I was there that afterwas alive—she was inclined to noon,” said Cantegril. “I rebe rather vindictive
vindictive about member the band played 'Pinaeverything connected with fore' and the Death of NelKang Yu - wei's conspiracy son ’in honour of the Admiral.” against her sacred person.
Quite so," said M'Quigg, has no particular bearing upon “and I remember talking to the present situation, but if several more or less eminent you would care to hear it ..." diplomats and thinking to my
Why, sure," said Penting ; self that some of us in Tientsin go right along."
(old Gustav, for instance) were So far as I was concerned, in closer touch with the realities the story began at one of Hart's of the situation than the beauty Wednesday garden - parties at and fashion of Peking—the the end of August '98. I had 'I. G.' always excepted, and come up from Tientsin on busi- he kept his ideas to himself. ness, and was stopping
was stopping at It was just the same, you Chamot's Hotel. I remember know, before the Boxer trouble that garden-party as distinctly began : the Chanceries talked as if it were yesterday. It was airily of domestic squabbles in a broiling hot day, but in spite the palace, and scoffed at the of the weather the number of idea of any trouble likely to guests gathered about the tea- affect foreigners. However, to table on the dusty lawn, or return to the Admiral. I was strolling round the grounds, introduced to him by the priwas larger than usual in the vate secretary, and he began dog-days. It was a moment chatting at once, in his breezy when such society as remained way, about the Emperor's proin the Legations was glad of gressive ideas, and especially any and every opportunity to about the great review of troops hear and discuss the latest to be held at Tientsin in Octonews. Since June the air had ber, when, for the first time in been filled with rumours of history, the Court was to leave