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ported to be in immediate peril crat who had ruled the Empire of death, that the political for over forty years was nearsignificance of.. bis end was ing her end, many idle tongues practically nil. But next day, were loosened, and those who hot-foot upon the news of his had cause to hate or fear the decease, the city was filled Yehonala Clan told grim tales with rumours of an impending of a dark deed done at midcatastrophe that might well night in the pavilion of Ocean give the coup-de-grâce to the Terrace Palace. The wretched shattered fortunes of the Emperor, they declared, had Dragon Throne. The Old been despatched in advance to Buddha herself, they said, had the Nine Springs by order of been seized of a mortal sick- the old Dowager, so soon as ness, and was likely to follow she realised that her own sickher nephew to the Halls of ness was mortal. Hades before the day was done.
story. AnOthers denied the story, point- other, equally widespread, said ing out that only the day that the Emperor had been before her Sacred Majesty had done to death by Li, the Chief presided at a meeting of the Eunuch, but that his death Grand Council, and issued her had been avenged by means orders with all the wonted of poison put by his favourite vigour of her indomitable spirit. concubine into a dish of crabShe had been unwell, it was apples and cream, prepared for true, but the Dalai Lama had the Dowager's midday meal. cured her by means of a miracle- Swiftly to every quarter of the working image of Buddha. city these rumours spread, This report gained credence growing with every hour-dark from the fact that the Grand tales of plottings, stratagems, Council had been convened at and treasons in high places, daybreak in the palace, and whereat timid citizens made that an edict had been issued haste to fasten their doors and that very morning in the name shutters and hide their valuof the Empress. But at mid- ables in secret places. On all day came a fresh crop of ru- sides were portents and foremours, and the city heard that bodings of the truth that, with Tzu Hsi had been smitten with the great Tzu Hsi, the glory a sudden fainting fit, and lay of the Dragon Throne must at the very point of death. surely pass and the mandate
Faint at first, as if terrified of Heaven be taken from the of their own tidings, all the Manchu dynasty. whisperings of flurried eunuchs, MʻQuigg and I had been out nervous officials, and anxious that morning duck-shooting in money-changers gradually took the marshes of the Nan Hai on form and substance of au- Tzu, so that when we returned thority. By sunset, as rumour towards sunset we knew nothgave place to the certainty ing of these critical events, the that the formidable old auto
of which was already blocking the telegraph wires M'Quigg, ever alert to the with official messages and carry moods and tenses of the Chiing consternation to the far- nese, drew my attention to thest frontiers of the Empire. these things. That the Emperor was dead "I wonder what's up," he we knew, of course, but saw said. “By the pricking of my no reason to expect that his thumbs, something unpleasant passing from the scene of his has either happened or is going humiliation would disturb the to happen. Except that they established order. It would pay no attention to us, there merely mean a new Regency is something in the air, somecontrolled, as of old, by the thing in the way these people Old Buddha. But as we made are behaving, which reminds our way through the dense me of the day when Von Ketteler traffic of the Chien Men (the was killed by the Boxers and great gate used by China's the siege of the Legations rulers in passing from the began.” Imperial City to the Temple "May be," I suggested, “it of Heaven), we became gradu- is because of the Emperor's ally aware of something omin- death." ous afoot, of an unusual under- "Not a pawnshop-keeper will current of haste and silence sleep any the less soundly for in the streams of people making that. Since the old lady stepped their way through the battle- up on to the dais in '98 and mented gate to and from the relegated him to the back Chinese city.
There was a premises, the poor devil of an vague yet unmistakable ex- Emperor has never been more pression of a common emotion than an empty name—a dein the faces and gestures of fenceless pawn in the Old the crowd, the exposition of Buddha's masterful and ruth
race - mind accustomed to less game. His death will not associate dark deeds in palaces disturb either the Viceroy of with disaster for the “stupid Chihli or the hawker of perpeople.” Amidst the hurrying simmons at the Yamen Gate. pedestrians there were the usual No, I suspect that something droves of coal-laden camels from much more serious has hapthe western hills, the usual pened. You know, Prince creaking water-carts and ram- Ch'ing came back from the shackle jinrickshas, but the Eastern tombs last night in a familiar raucous cries of their devil of a hurry. Anyhow, drivers and coolies were hushed whatever it is, old Kuan will as if in recognition of a common surely know something about calamity. Even the shrill it.” clamour of the fruit-vendors “Shall I look in at the and fortune-tellers, which gene- American Legation and ask rally rises above the turmoil of Colts whether they've heard traffic in the enceinte of the anything startling from the gate,
noticeably less. Waiwupu ?"
"No, don't bother. Colts for the proprieties and little is at the Club by this time, given to familiarity with the playing his everlasting bridge. outdoor staff. Come in and dine to-night and “Well, Kuan," said M'Quigg, you'll hear all the news, and speaking in Chinese, “what more besides. I've got a rare news to-day ! As we passed bird coming - Penting, the through the Chien Men there American Senator, an earnest was much coming and going, globe-trotting uplifter, deter- but very little talk.” mined to discover and pro- Before answering, Kuan called claim the whole truth about to the house coolie to come the East, so long as it agrees and take his master's cartridgewith his own ideas and the bag and the game. Then, current doctrines of the standing to attention in the Y.M.C.A. As a counter-irri- Chinese manner, his hands covtant, we'll have friend Cante- ered by long sleeves hanging gril, who by this time has loose, he looked at
us and probably wired everything smiled. It was the smile which that's worth wiring to Paris. Chinese traditions of stoicism Trust a banker to ferret out prescribe as becoming to the anything that may affect the Superior Man struggling with Bourse. You know his com- adversity, a mask of cheerfulprador is in with Chang Chih- ness, assumed in deference to tung's hungry crowd, besides the principle that
our misbeing pretty thick with the fortunes are own affair. Yokohama Bank people, who Your humblest coolie knows probably know
about that it is his duty to smile Peking politics than any one even when asking for leave to else. We ought to have quite bury his father. Kuan's smile a nice little symposium and was obviously of this order. do the Senator a lot of good. The news since this mornBut come in now and have a ing is bad, tajen,” he said. cup of tea.
We'll hear what “They say that before the old Kuan has to say."
day is done the Old Buddha As we passed into M'Quigg's will have put on her robes of compound, Kuan emerged from State and been borne by the the gateman's lodge. In the Dragon on high. A cloud of dim light of that narrow den misfortune has darkened the I caught a glimpse of several sun. It is a day of evil omen elderly men, all grave of mien for Peking, and for the people and earnestly engaged in talk, of the Middle Kingdom.” one of whom I recognised as I realised as he spoke someKuan's relative, the gateman thing of the depth of reverence, of the Japanese Legation. combined with personal affecKuan's presence in the gate- tion, which the people of North house meant that something China felt for the imperious out of the common must bave but kind-hearted old woman happened, he being a stickler who had ruled them so firmly,
yet on the whole so wisely, for good thing for Peking if the nearly half a century.
Regent were to make a clean “But,” said M'Quigg, “who sweep of these eunuchs. Meanknows that these rumours are while, let us have tea." true ! The Old Buddha has With a whispered word to weathered many bad storms. the gateman, old Kuan passed Have there been any edicts to his pantry. As we went
through the courtyard there “I do not know. The Japan- met us a savour of sandalwood ese Legation have received noth- and myrrh, and I observed, in ing officially. But the news
But the news front of the Goddess of Mercy which I have heard is trust, which stood by the study door, worthy, and it means trouble.” one of M'Quigg's sacrificial
“ What have you heard ? bronzes in which three sticks
“ There is great fear among of the Dalai Lama's special those eunuchs who are the Old Tibetan incense were slowly Buddha's eyes and ears in the burning. palace—the rats and foxes,' whom so many have good When next, at dinner-time, cause to envy and to hate. I I passed MʻQuigg's gate lodge, have a cousin who manages all Peking had learned that one of the Chief Eunuch's the Empress Dowager was dead. many pawnshops : he tells us I had looked in at the Club, that old Cobbler's Wax 1 has where the news had created a had men out all day collecting flutter of excitement sufficient his squeezes, and that he is to suspend for nearly half an sending a lot of pearls and gold hour the inevitable game of bars for safe custody to the bridge, at which their ExcelRussian Bank at Tientsin. Also lencies were wont to mix with I know that two of the phy- the vulgar, and pontifically sicians specially summoned to trump each others' best cards attend on her Majesty came amidst a babel of polyglot and from the palace in haste shortly superheated argument. after noon, and have already Amongst the journalists and taken train for the South. the working bees (as distinct The porter of the Wagons-lits from the butterflies) of the saw their luggage on the plat- Diplomatic Body, the political form. Tajen, the great tree effect of the Regency was being has fallen, and the birds are discussed over cocktails in a seeking shelter elsewhere." manner calculated to impress
“It certainly looks like it,” the uninitiated with a sense of said M'Quigg. “Well, every profound mysteries discreetly tree must fall ; even Old Bud- revealed and cautiously received. dhas must die. It would be a Mudlam of the 'Daily Mega
1 The common nickname of Li Lien-Ying, Tzu Hsi's Chief Eunuch and confidential retainer.
phone' was giving to an admir- Treaty Ports, he was convinced ing audience at the bar his that the time had come to exclusive description of the persuade the Chinese to adopt deathbed scenes in the palace, the Republican form of governwhich he had just cabled, a ment, with Christianity as its vivid mixture of local colour State religion. His was the and fertile imagination, par- not uncommon type of mind ticularly effective as a scoop,” which, having achieved success inasmuch as Morton of the by native audacity and astute'Thunderer' happened to be ness in its own narrow field, away in Tientsin. On the emerges to confront a world whole, the effects produced wherein all its most sacred upon this cosmopolitan gather- symbols and values, even all ing by the death of the great its sonorous eloquence, are nothruler, whose existence we had ing worth, and therefore reso long taken for granted, solves that the said world must seemed curiously irrelevant. be remoulded in accordance Cathcart of the Customs, who with the standards of Zenith walked home with me, ex- City or Little Bethel. To make pressed something of this feel. China like America-happy, viring in one sentence. “Why tuous, and free-nothing more should we argue," he said, “as was required, from his point of to how or when they died, or view, than the application of whether either of them killed American ideas to the improvethe other? What matters to ment of China's morals, and us now, and to China, is whether of American machinery to the the Manchus can produce a development of her material ruler strong enough to hold the needs. Why not pension off monarchy together, and if not, the Manchus at once, and let what next ?"
Sun Yat-sen and his friends At M‘Quigg's dinner, con- carry out their programme of versation turned naturally to making China a Christian Rethe momentous events of the public ? He had seen Sun at day. At the outset it was less Canton, and thought him a a feast of reason than a flow mighty smart man. of soul, for our friend the Under the Senator's flow of Senator, a very prosperous eloquence, Cantegril showed word-merchant, was determined signs of impatience. Like most to improve the occasion . by of his countrymen, the genial holding forth on the effeteness agent of the Alsatian Bank of monarchies, the impropriety possessed a sound native taste, of polygamy and eunuchs, and and a good deal of acquired the mediæval foolishness of knowledge, in the science and China's religious superstitions. art of gastronomy. In his As the result of interviews philosophy, Emperors might with Wu Ting-fang and Tang perish and dynasties totter to Shao-yi, and rapid visits to their doom, but the serious several Y.M.C.A. centres at the business of dining should be