Abbildungen der Seite

The audience question was just reaching the hopeful and enlightened stage when the coup d'état unsettled things. There have been no social relations between the diplomatic corps and the court circle, no meeting or mingling save for the formal presentation of credentials, the dreary New Year's audiences in the palace inclosure, the ladies' audience in 1898, and the formal exchange of visits with the members of the Board of the Yamun, and, in general, none know less of Chinese character and life than those officially acquainted with the Emperor of China. No Chinese official dares maintain intimate social relations with the legations, even those who have appreciated and keenly enjoyed the social lite and official hospitalities of London, Faris, Tokio, and Washington, relapsing into strange conservatism and churlishness, the usual contemptuous attitude of the Manchu officials, when they return to Peking. Even then they are denounced to the throne for "intimacy with foreigners," black-balled and cold-shouldered at their clubs, and persecuted into retirement by jealous ones, who consider association with foreigners a sure sign of disloyalty. Even the needy literati, who teach Chinese at the different legations, would scorn to recognize their foreign pupils on the street or in the presence of any other Chinese, and the contempt of grandees and petty button-folk as they pass one on the streets of Peking is something to remember in one's hour of pride.

During recent years, Peking has been such a hot-bed of intrigue, secret conventions, and concession-seeking, of high-handed and underhanded proceedings, that a diplomat's life has not been a happy one, nor his position a sinecure. With coup d'états before breakfast, executions over night, rioting soldiers at the railway-station, mobs stoning legation carts and chairs

at will, and telegraphic communication broken whenever the soldiers could reach the wires, the legations called for guards of their own marines in the autumn of 1898. Thirty or forty guards were sent to different European legations, but the Russian legation required seventy men-at-arms and Cossacks to protect it. Last to arrive were nine marines to defend the modest premises rented to the great republic: of the United States of America, the want of actual roof-area to shelter more guards obliging the American minister to ask that the other marines. should remain at Tientsin, eighty miles away. By renting a Chinese house, eighteen marines were finally quartered near the legation. This would have Leen farcical and laughable, humiliating to American pride only, if there lad not

been real danger and need for guards for the litthe community of foreign diplomats, shut like rats in a trap in a double-walled city of an estimated million three hundred thousand fanatic, foreign-bating Chinese, with a more hostile and lawless army of sixty thousand vicious Chinese soldiers without the walls and scattered over the country toward Tientsin.

[blocks in formation]

Every servant in a foreign establishment in Peking is a spy and informer of some degree; espionage is a regular business; and the table-talk, visitinglist, card-tray, and scrap-basket, with full accounts of all comings and goings, sayings and doings of any envoy or foreigner in Peking, are regularly offered for purchase by recognized purveyors of such news. One often catches a glimpse of concentrated attention on the face of the turbaned servants standing behind dining-room chairs, that convinces one of this feature of capital life. Diplomatic secrets are fairly impossible in such an atmosphere. Every secret convention and conces

sion is soon blazoned abroad. Every piece of written paper has passed, and word the British minister uttered at what has gone on at each legation in the Tsung-li Yamun was reported to Peking and each consulate at Tientsin. the Russian legation with almost elec- Every legation keyhole, crack, and tric promptness, until the envoy threat- chink has its eye and ear at critical ened to suspend negotiations and with- times, and by a multiplication in iindraw. Wily concessionaries know each agination one arrives at an idea of night where their rivals are dining and what the palace may be like. what they have said; whether any


“Les pa

One memorable night during that same autumn season our village was startled by a fearful cry. triotes! Les patriotes!” and “Liberté!" rang through the streets and set the echoes trembling. The tramp of many feet and the shouts of frenzied voices filled the air. Torches flashed, displaying loathsome and angry faces; and people awoke from their peaceful slumber to know that for them the day of terror was come. The wild multitudes bore down upon noble dwellings, seized and sacked all that fell in their way. It was as if a flood of vultures had swooped upon our innocent village.

The Chevalier de la Brête had been sitting at his oriel window, the one beneath the gray gable yonder. His eyes bad found no sleep that night, and he was steeped in a strange, fearful reverie when the cry roused him. He leaned out to listen, and immediately a horrible sight rose before his eyes. The seigniory was surrounded by a furious mob, inhuman yells were threatening it, a black cloud of smoke curled round its base and enveloped it. Now it burst into scarlet flames, rising higher and higher, and the noble edifice towered white and terrified above the

ghastly spectacle. The south and east walls were soon ablaze. One casement after another burst open, emitting a flood of fire, and the vandals bad gathered around it to witness with fiendish glee the birth of their holocaust to freedom.

The Chevalier looked aghast, but only for the hundredth part of a second. Quick he leaped from his chair-by what miracle he found strength heaven alone , knows-and rushed out of his dwelling. The next instant old Jacques was beside him.

In God's name, monsieur, whither?" he cried, laying hold of his master.

“Stay me not, but do thou follow me. A woman and a child are at the farthermost window of the north wing, and beckoning here for help. Dost thou hear?"

His eyes were luminous with a sudden rush of life. His every nerve quivered and his lips were set, as he made his perilous way to the one unattacked angle of the chateau.

Jacques, meanwhile, beguiled some half-drunken stragglers out of his path with promises of copious draughts of something better than the scorched blood of aristocrats.

When the Chevalier reached the spot, the woman's face had disappeared from the window, but the child's golden

• From Tales of an Old Chateau. By Marguerite Bouvet. Copyright 1899

by C. McClurg & Co. Price $1.25.

head was resting upon the stone njul- and sought no further mischief to do lion, its white lids opening and droop- in the name of sweet liberty. Yet we ing by turns between sleep and wonder, were in a very net of fretfulness the its cheeks and brow tinted a roseate while, not knowing who might be pinhue with the reflection caught from the ioned next. burning midnight sky. The height was But the child Madeleine, unconscious: steep. There was no stepping-stone or of all the strife, dwelt with the Chevafoothold in the wall. What then? The lier. Her inquiries and perplexities. Chevalier cast about him almost in

concerning the great change that had despair. Suddenly he caught sight of so suddenly come into her young life a sturdy vine that sprang from the foot were answered and soothed with words of a neighboring tower. It had been but little short of a parent's tenderness. growing higher and higher, even to the Between her and the good Chevalier embrasure of the fatal window, thrust- there sprang, like a flower in the night, ing its wiry tentacles deeper and deeper the sympathy that comes of a commor into the stone and wood for centuries. heart-grief. Out of that sympathy Its trunk was like a goodly tree. Its there grew a still more beauteous flowbranches knotted and intertwined like er, the love betwixt a little child and a a tangled net of iron. He gripped it noble man, than which there is nothing with his slender fingers, and essayed purer or more sacred. its strength. It yielded not. Then, Some days later the vanguards of with heaven-born power, he swung public safety, once more athirst for the himself aloft, and rose, clutching his blood of innocence with which to lave way among the green foliage as fear- their own guilt, betook themselves to lessly and surely as upon the stoutest the precincts of Les Tourelles. There ladder. In a moment more he had were, perhaps, not more than a dozen reached the casement and gently lifted of them, but these were among the the child upon his shoulder. Her soft most rabid. They scaled the walls and arms were wound about his neck, she would have broken into the little châlet, cooed and gurgled in contentment at even as a wolf might into a sheepfold, finding herself in the embrace of a if some invisible hand had not stayed protector. Lightly as he had mounted them. I have already told you how he descended with his tender burden, the very air of that kindly dwelling and when he reached the earth once breathed of peace and piety. I think more, old Jacques was there waiting that even those crazed, misguided to bear them both away.

wretches must have felt something of The old vine bad yearly been growing it in their wicked hearts. For, ere stronger, and the Chevalier had been they had gone many steps they halted wasting day by day, that, through the in their mad pursuit, arrested by a inscrutable ways of Providence this sight that would have melted a heart thing might be accomplished.

of bronze. At daybreak the seigniory was in In the dusk of early evening a little ruins, and Monsieur du Marais and his group knelt around an altar in a quiet family had been captured and made chamber-the child, her baby hands prisoners. None but the mother knew clasped and her eyes turned heaventhat the little one lay at that hour ward; on one side of her the young asleep beneath the Chevalier's humbler Chevalier, with a look of earnest enroof.

treaty on bis delicate, saintly counteAnd now the ruffians were satiated nance, and on the other side old Jacques, of their ghoulish revelry for a time, with silvery head bowed in prayer.


Thus they had gathered at the close of brighter and sinless world? It comes each day to beseech the grace of heav- to us all, soon or late. And may thou en for the safety of their beloved ones. and thy fellows meet it as calmly when They rose as the men entered the room, your own hour is near. We were but and the little one clung to the Chevalier this moment commending our souls to as she met the grim stare of the in- God, and are prepared. Little one,” he vaders.

said, bending over to her, “thou wilt “What manner of game have we follow me gladly to Paradise, wilt thou here?" cried one of the leaders in a not?" surly voice; but he laid not hand upon The child nestled to him and covered any one. He seemed to shrink like a his face with caresses. snail within its shell as the Chevalier “Thou art my La Brête; I will go de la Brête turned upon him.

with thee everywhere," she said, not "But poor game, indeed," responded comprehending the meaning of his he, "for such as you, who value your words. prey according to the feathers of the His spiritual strength at length victims. We are but humble people yielded to his bodily weakness. He with just this roof over our heads, and fell into his chair. The light of the no power on earth save that which God half-burnt tapers shed a flickering glow gives us to succor one another."

upon the frail reclining figure, with its "Ha, ha, thou art a fine! a fine! I white transparent face, and upon the know thee by thy white hands and thy rosy healthful child bending over him sleek tongue!" shouted several angry and still holding him close. There fell voices.

a deep silence for an instant. Then "A fine, if thou wilt have it so," re- a stifled sob from the heart of old joined the Chevalier; "we are not here Jacques broke it. to deny you.

But think not that we "To the cart with them!” cried one of shrink from paying the penalty of be the hardened wretches. ing born with an escutcheon. Noblesse “Hold thy tongue, thou infernal!" oblige."

commanded the chief among them. This “Art thou not, then, afraid of death?" man, who had been a leader in so many asked the Jacobin, marvelling at his se- brutal deeds, felt a cold pressure about renity.

his heart. For one short second a “Wherefore should we fear? Behold gleam of celestial light penetrated his these three lives. This," and he laid soul, and he was moved to human comhis hand on the fair head at his side, Dassion. “hath scarce had time to learn the full "Turn your ways from this place," value of it. And yonder gray head hath he said; "it is the abode of a saint. And well-nigh run its course. Mine, hang- the wrath of heaven be upon us if but ing by so slender a thread, is hardly a hair of his head perish!" worth the living. Hast thou not And they departed in silence from the thought, man, that to souls free from home of the Chevalier. perjury death is but the gateway to a


Josiah served in one or another of the Vermont regiments until the end of the war, and was retired from the service with the rank of captain. He bought a right of land under a Vermont charter in the then almost uninhabited township of Danvis, and again began pioneer life in the heart of the wilder


Again the quick resonant strokes of his axe were echoed from side to side of a widening clearing. He rejoiced in the conquest of the forest giants, ven(rable patriarchs, concerning whose fate he felt no sentimental emotion. He let a flood of sunlight down upon fresh acres of virgin soil, and out of their roughness moulded grainfield and meadow. He reared the log walls of a new home, soon made truly a home by the presence of his wife.

Josiah was again an owner of oxen, also of cows and a horse, and a flock of long-legged, bare-bellied sheep that ranged the woods as untamed as deer except when fear of wolves and bears became more terrible than fear of man, or deep snow and starvation made shed, fold, and fodder more desirable than freedom. The sheep and the young cattle were turned out to range the pudding and blossoming woods, and their owner was out one day with his rifle to look after their welfare, when be heard the scared bleating of the flock, mingled with the spasmodic jan. gle of the leader's bell. As they came tearing down the mountain path, close upon the heels of the hindermost, the cause of their flight, a gaunt she-bear, galloped at top speed, her faded, ragged coat fluttering like the tatters of a beggar. The sheep swerved aside to pass

Josiah when they saw him, but she held straight on, and when he fired, inflicting a slight wound in her head, she charged furiously upon him. He swung the gun aloft and brought it down with all his might. By good luck that he was truly thankful for he struck the beast a blow on the skull that checked her onslaught. Another brought her down quite stunned, so that he had no trouble to dispatch her, but it was the last service of the rifle. The barrel was bent, the stock broken past mending, so that it was only a question of a new gun of some sort.

Arguing the question with himself, his wife the audience, he said: "If I got tu be sech a blunderin' ol' numbskull I can't git a bead on a bear's head three rod off, I better git me su’thin' I can sboot buckshot in-a' ol' Queen's arm or a 'pateraro', mebby. By the Lord Harry, she wa'n't three rod, an' a-comin' stret at me! But she was a-bobbin' up an' down, ju' loke a sawmill gate. It don't signify, though. I'd ort tu ha' fetched her. Fact on't is, I guess I can't shoot a rifle no moredon't practyce none. Guess I'll git me a smooth-bore-it'll be handy for pigins, an’ shoot a ball well 'nough for what bear an' deer an' varmints I run on tu naowerdays. If the' was any sech thing as fixin' up ol' 'Sartin Death' I wouldn't think o' nothin' else, but she's past prayin' for," he sighed ruefully, regarding the bent barrel, the broken lock, and splintered stock.

The result was that after fully setting forth the case of each weapon, he made a pilgrimage to the shop of Thomas Hill in Charlotte, the most famous gunsmith of the region; and after long consultation with that cunning craftsman, he ordered the building of a sixteen-gauge smooth-bore, with four

• From A Danvis Pioneer. By Rowland E. Robinson. Copyright, 1900, by Houghton, Mimin & Co. Price $1.25.

« ZurückWeiter »