Puslapio vaizdai

to pieces wi' breakin' thro' th' winderglass."

It drew the crowd to their side of the building in a minute's time-rushing round with new cries and wilder frenzy shouting to the desperate imprisoned creatures at the window-yelling to the firemen and growing almost mad with excite"Play on the room," they cried insanely. "Bring the ladders! That's Janet Ayres's voice! Aye, an' by God! that's th' Quaker wench's! Lasses, it's Phillis Denham an' Jenny Ayres. Whar's the new overseer?"


They called for the overseer, for from the first outbreak of the flames he had been the coolest and most active among them. He seemed to know what to do when every one else had lost presence of mind.

"We can't save the place," he had said, "let us save the lives," and he had worked amid fire and smoke almost like a man with a charmed life.

The news of the discovery flew to him at once, and the next minute he was forcing his way through the crowd-a tall fellow, with blue eyes and uncovered tawny hair.

"Stand back!" he shouted. "What is this about these women?” And then his eye was caught by the frantic hands, and he broke off with an exclamation of horror.

"Bring those ladders," he cried-and then, to the crowd, "Who are they?"

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]


"See," said the unhappy creature, “see thee heer. Theer is na a moment—he will be heer-he canna tak' two-th' ladder will not bear it-and th' one as stays. behind-." She broke off with a shudder. But she began again, “I mun be th' one as stays behind," she said. "He mun tak' thee."

"Nay," cried Phillis, a passionate pity and a passionate heroism rising within her. "Never that. God forgive me for the hard words I have spoken to thee; I will stay."

The woman, crouching on her knees, wrung her hands together. Was she tempted by an agonizing thought of her own sin, and the purity of this unstained creature whose soul was so much safer than her own.

"Theer is na a minnet," she said, "he is here now," and so he was-beating in the window frame.

"It is thee he mun tak'-fur th' child's sake-I've gi'en her up. Happen it'll gi' me a chance-I dunnot know-but I want a chance-fur the child's sake. I've axed fur one in my way-an' happen this is it. He mun tak' thee.'

And then the man was in the room, black with smoke, scorched with fire, almost blinded and staggering, but it was Phillis his blinded eyes saw-not her rival.

[ocr errors]

"Phillis," he cried, Phillis-come with me. You can forgive me for a minute's time. I have come to save you."

But Phillis drew back.

"I forgive you," she said. "God forgive me that I have been so hard; but there is another-Janet Ayres."

Not a second's pause, but Janet Ayres rose up and confronted him, with misery in her eyes.

"Tak' th' woman tha loves best," she said.

"Phillis," he cried, "for God's sake." "I will not go," she said, and slipped fainting upon the floor.

That moment Janet Ayres advanced towards her.

"Tha will go," she said. "Theer is na a moment, an' I will na gi' my life fur nowt. Tak' her in thy arms, Will Henders."

He had her in his arms already. He had her through the window upon the ladder, and the people were shrieking below. Janet Ayres stood at the window looking down.

"I will come back," he shouted.

But she did not seem to hear him. She was saying over something-saying it with blanching lips and dilated eyes-saying it to herself in a whisper:

"Fur th' child's sake-fur th' child's sake."

He had thought he might return, but the watching crowd knew he would not. Fire and smoke pouring out at the windows fought against him on his dangerous downward way. Twice he nearly slipped. More than once his burden was almost too much for him, and the frail support he clung to tottered beneath his tread, and when he touched the ground the fire had reached the third floor room, and the ladder fell with a crash.

"Let me go back," he shrieked, when they tried to hold him, and he was man enough to mean what he said. But they held him fast, and one, more thoughtful than the rest, forced him away with his back to the building.

The woman at the window stood still. The people below watched her breathlessly, or hid their faces in horror. The room grew hotter and hotter; there were rising tongues of flame here and there. The heat scorched her flesh, and she had to press close against the window for a breath. Oh, God! how safe they were below! Then there was a crash; the flooring shook.

"Fur th' child's sake," she cried, "Jenny! Happen this is the chance, Christ!" and so went down into the abyss with her arms flung wildly upwards.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

"The Lord have mercy upon her," she said. "The Lord have mercy upon her," and closed her eyes again, her lips moving after her voice had dropped.

But Will Henders, despite his awe and pain, was Will Henders still-he could not wait-he had something to say, so he bent over her, and touched her hands with impetuous tenderness.

"Phillis," he said, "Phillis."

The tears slipped from under her lashes and fell upon the pillow, but she did not speak, and at sight of these tears Henders turned pale and trembled.

"Phillis," he said, in a broken voice, "it shall be as you say I will go or stay, as you decide; but I will say what I came to say before I go-if I must go. You were led astray with lies, Phillis-they told you lies. I was false to myself, but never to you. The only wrong I did you was in keeping that wretched story secret. have been a villain, but not to you. swear to you that this is true. God forgive me for my sin.”

She opened her eyes.


"God forgive us both!" she cried, "Whose sin has been greater than mine? Why should I dare harden my heart against the world, when I was so full of wrong myself?

He snatched at her hand, and knelt down, kissing it in the old appealing way she knew so well.

"You were too pure to understand—” he said.

"I was too hard," she said, "too cold and proud, and God has shown me when my little child died-"

"Your child?" he said. "My girl-my poor, poor girl!" and he drew her into his arms.

She did not try to move, but lay upon his breast.

"It died," she said, weeping, "perhaps through its mother's angry sin―it did not live a day."

He held her close, weeping himself as he caressed her.

"I have searched for you every hour of my life since I came home that day and found that you had gone," he said. "And at last it was Janet Ayres who made her way to the old place and told me where you were. She did not know that you had gone away believing a lie; she fancied your anger was all roused by hearing the truth; but something you had done for her had touched her heart. I knew now

what that something was, and she told me that I could find you here. Phillis, must I go or stay?"

She clung to him, trembling all over. "Take me home," she answered. "Let "Let us take her child, and try to make its life all

its mother's might have been. She gave her life for mine-let me give mine to this little one. And if thou canst forgive me, Will, the time may come when I can forgive myself."


IN that old summer can you still recall

The pomp with which the strong sun rose and set,
How bright the moon shone on the shining fields,
What wild, sweet blossoms with the dew were wet?

Can you still hear the merry robins sing,

And see the brave red lilies gleam and glow,
The waiting wealth of bloom, the reckless bees

That woo their wild-flower loves, and sting, and go?

Canst hear the waves that round the happy shore
Broke in soft joy, and told delusive tales-
We go, but we return; love comes and goes;
And eyes that watch see homeward-faring sails.
"'Twas thus in other seasons?" Ah, may be !
But I forgot them, and remembered this-
A brief, warm season, and a fond, brief love,

And cold, white winter after bloom and bliss.



IN the course of a life devoted to such commercial pursuits as gave me an acquaintance with many lands and men, it was my lot to see, in a way that no one else has probably had the chance to see, that littleknown corner of South-eastern Asia called Cambodia. Travelers come, but they cannot penetrate palace walls; they publish the records of their journeys, but the jealous Oriental, or the interested foreigner laughs in his sleeve at the story of veneering which the author took for true wood; only the unusual position in which I was placed, as chief of the legal opium agency in the country, allowed me to

gain an insight into the realities of Cambodia.

It is not generally known that a sort of protectorate is exercised by France, through the Governor of French Cochin-China, over this marvelously rich land-a protectorate which, at no very distant day, may have an important political result. That I, forming with the King a third power, should come into conflict with its representative was unfortunately, as things stood, unavoidable; but the alluring riches of the agency or "farm" were the means of giving me some interesting, though dreadful, experiences with the pirates, whose ferocity

has been known and feared since the early days of Dutch and Portuguese discovery. In the following pages the reader will find a faithful account of some of these experiences.


To get a general idea of Cambodia it is enough to say that Pnoum-Peinh, the capital, owing to its position at the intersection of four branches of the alluvial river Mekong, is in contact, by the usual oriental highways, with Siam and Laos on the north and Annam and Cochin-China on the east and south. The actual population of Cambodia is reckoned at about one million souls, of whom over eight-tenths are native Cambodians, 60,000 are Annamites, 40,000 Siamese and Laosians, 40,000 Chinese, and the remainder, say 15,000, are Xongs, Lavas, Malays and Malabars.

Nōrōdom, the King of this mixed population, had farmed out to a wealthy Chinaman of Saigon, the monopoly of the opium trade throughout his dominions, and in return the latter paid into the royal treasury an annual rental of 300,000 Mexican dollars.

Now a ball of opium,-it is sold in the shape of a Dutch cheese, while it costs only fifteen or sixteen dollars at Singapore, Shanghai or Hong Kong, was sold in Cambodia at twenty-five or thirty dollars, and in addition to this profit the farm had the sole right to sell, through small retailers and smoking-shops of its own, the liquid or hot opium for the consumption of the public. The chief privileges accorded the farm by the King were to employ as many men as the farmer thought advisable; to own arms, boats and junks, and to establish on the river and the arroyos as many customposts as the needs of the monopoly demanded. The farm, moreover, had its own flag, and was, in a word, the prime power of the land beneath the King.

The latter alone had the right to use his own opium. Woe to any other found in possession of the drug, unless it had passed the farm! The wares were confiscated to the latter, a suit was then entered, and a fine of ten times the value of the seized goods was levied by the courts of the country, and divided—a third to the King, a third to the princes and mandarins, and a third equally between the farm and the chief agent. The close proximity of Laos

was a great temptation to smugglers, since the ball of opium had there an intrinsic value of one hundred dollars, and for all commercial purposes this merchandise was the most profitable to handle. Watch was, therefore, more closely kept in that direction, and on certain occasions the agents of the farm engaged in armed fights with the natives and the pirates, who at that time infested the river and the arroyos. These bandits were the last remnant of the rebel bands of Phou Kambō, who died the year before, and who for three consecutive years, had waged a bitter war for the throne against his elder brother Nōrodōm. For this reason the forces of the opiumfarm were some five thousand Chinese of Wangtai's (Shangai) congregation, he being their chief in Cochin-China as well as in Cambodia, all well-armed and, strange to say, well-drilled. Their commander was, therefore, an important personage, in view of the impossibility of the King raising so great a force in so short a time.

The King had conferred on me the title of Mitop, that is, General, at the end of a six month's residence at Pnoum-Peinh. For Wangtai had returned, after my installation, to Saigon, where more important affairs claimed his attention, leaving to me the entire responsibility of his venture. While previous farmers of the drug had been ruined, my first year brought us thirty thousand dollars profit; an energetic watch was not wanting, and I was well supported. Law-suits rained upon the smugglers who let themselves be caught, and many were the plots exposed.

The King, as well as his mandarins, was deeply interested in the matter, and my daily relations with them brought me into the presence of his Majesty, who, having taken a liking to my character, often asked me to pass a few hours of an evening with him; the first invitation which I received impressed me so forcibly that it is worth telling.

One evening Nōrōdōm sent thirty of his slaves with torches, and eight bearing a palanquin, to get me. Entering this novel chair, the escort took up its march by the grand avenue, parallel to the river, towards the palace, about three miles from my dwelling; on our way all the natives whom we met threw themselves on the ground We passed the sālās, or large rooms thatched with palm leaves, but open to every wind, and where the country courts are held; they were five in number, and sur

rounded the palace entirely, save where the façade looks out on the river, and on a steamer of western build, bought a few years before from the Governor of French Cochin-China, and encircled by many royal piroques, of strange and graceful curves and variegated colors. These formed the Cambodian fleet.

Crossing various small streets of charming little wooden buildings, all alike, and raised above the ground because of the periodical overflows of the stream,—the dwellings, as I found, of the women of the Royal Harem,—we stopped before a large octagonal brick edifice, newly built, containing the apartments of the King, as well as the rooms of the favorites. The stair, of good proportions, was composed of seven granite steps, procured from the ruins of a once celebrated pagoda, built some centuries before on a little hill not far away. By a circular balcony of carved and gilded wood, I passed, under guidance of a page, through one of the glass doors into a room whose black wood floor showed, in admirable workmanship, a group of curious animals from the Hindoo mythology. The wainscot seemed to be carved likewise, but the dimness of the light from an European lamp hung from the middle of the ceiling prevented me from examining it. Lances leaning here and there against the walls, fans of peacock tails, tails of yaks from Thibet wound about peculiar twisted spears with handles of bamboo root encrusted with gold-a sign of high dignity-these with the pages were the only furniture of the room. One of the latter, crouched in Hindoo fashion in a corner, struck several beats on a tom-tom hung on the right of the door. Another slave appearing, I crossed a second large room darker than the first, and in so doing stumbled against a pile of arms. The noise of falling weapons brought back the page who led me safely by the hand from what I perceived was a military museum. Just as sounds of music fell agreeably on my ear, a flood of light burst into the hall and showed me an assemblage of strange and wonderful arms. It was the slave announcing to his Majesty the arrival of the Mitop of the Farm. In a moment the curtain was raised and a sign was made to me to enter.

Behold a large hall, perfectly lighted, and to the right, at the end, luxuriously stretched upon a high couch, the King; his head resting on a rich cushion of yellow

silk worked with gold, his body on mats of a most delicate texture. His Majesty is clothed in the phàa of brown silk woven with gold, drawn to the figure by a goldthread girdle and a massive buckle of the same metal set with precious stones. His head and breast are nude; he raises himself a little and makes me a sign to approach. In trying to comply I am forced to walk softly and with circumspection, because all about him a great number of women are bowed on their knees; it is only when quite near to the King, who is laughing immoderately, that I perceive the dismay my arrival has produced. Evidently my ladies had not been forewarned of the visit of a European. Shaking hands, the King seats me beside him on a stool covered with some Thibetan stuff. His wives are clad in the national phàa of variously colored silks, rose, blue, red, green and violet, which blend together agreeably and produce the most charming effect imaginable. A long, folded, brown silk scarf, carelessly thrown about the nude bosom, which it does not conceal, completes the costume. As ornament they wear engraved gold bracelets on their legs. and arms, with rings on their fingers.

The stare of so many frightened, gazellelike eyes, the perfumes penetrating the air, and the novelty of the sight throw me into more confusion than the greatest dangers I have heretofore encountered. This agitation does not escape the King, who says laughingly:

"I see, Mitop, that you are not used to this kind of spectacle.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'No, your Majesty."

"Well, you perceive then that it's a very great favor I am doing you [I bow] and you must be a great friend for me to invite you, a foreigner, into my home. You are the second who has been here; the first was the Commandant Lagrée, and then all my wives, who, as to-day, I had not forewarned, rushed away in terror. had the greatest trouble in the world to make them come back. I see your presence causes them only some curiosity, mixed with a little fear because of your size."


"I am sincerely obliged to your Majesty for the honor done me [again I bow]. By calling me 'friend' the king has made me proud and happy and your Majesty may rest assured that I shall do everything in my power to please you; as to these ladies [once more I incline myself] I

« AnkstesnisTęsti »