« AnkstesnisTęsti »
liberate elderly men, whose the associations of shingling. ancestors were probably bur- Against this quiet richness every ghers when the town-levy had here and there stuck out some to help man the walls. Very piece of yellow wallflower, and few of the important buildings brought the note of spring across gave me any special pleasure : the buildings as clearly as the but the tiled roofs were a joy green buds called it among all of these two sunny days: rugged trunks. whether you looked on a mass Outside the walls, where slipof them, huddled inconceivably ping earth gave shrubs a footclose where the old town ran hold on the rampart, sloe-blosdown to the waterway (a por- som was a delicate mist of tion which the restricted wall white: and on the eastward of 1542 left outside its ring), or face, where a little watercourse saw them singly, each by itself, runs in the valley, there was a a sheet of rich mottled colour hazel thicket. Here I heard for which I tried many com- the deep chuckle of a nightparisons. Where the old tiles ingale, trying his throat, and had been patched and cemented after dark I walked the ramtogether with repointing, the parts, hoping for the full song ; effect was like that of some but it was too cold or too very old Persian rug, low in early : an owl screeched, and tone: and it was curious to down below a strong-lunged observe how even new roofs frog croaked like a water-bird. were being graded down by Up there in the dark one got the weather in that moist air amazingly the sense of separainto a sober harmony with the tion. To the left, narrow lanes rest. But chance showed me ran into the town, with lam
much closer resemblance. pions here and there, and Outside the citadel some of lighted windows, all safe and the great elms which grow on snug: to the right, two hunthe ramparts had been felled, dred feet below, misty and and the trunks lay there in the dark, was the unwalled and sun, the rough bark crevassed unenclosed that which the with innumerable fissures, and town walls had to guard against. the dull white where the An officer passing alone on the branches had been lopped mak- ramparts, and later, a soldier ing patches already subdued the only two persons I met, in tone by the exuding sap. -increased the feeling that To run your eye from these one was still in a defended up to the old roofs beyond fortress. them was to carry it through Another time, perhaps, I a series of gradations, in which may go back to Montreuil and colour and texture alike were explore in detail : but for that of a piece. It was as if this little holiday, sunlight and the town, once all woodwork, had pervading strangeness sufficed never wholly got away from me. I never basked more
pleasantly than on its ram- full of sunlight : you could dip parts in the sun ; I never ate a pail into it.
France gave in surroundings more to my me sunlight to drink that liking than in the inn's dining- Easter-time. room, on the sanded floor, And though the hotel rooms looking into the courtyard. were full of English guests, it Vines on the walls were trained was not tourist - ridden. A over the whole court in a net, Frenchman could come in withand the buds on the hard cor- out feeling that he intruded. dage shone in the sunlight, They came indeed very conand brought the spring's quick- stantly, for the place is at a ening in among those walls. great road junction: the Route Nothing is knottier or more Nationale from Arras meets gnarled than the vine trunk: here the Route Nationale from incredible that from it should Paris to Boulogne. But your issue what in all vegetable motorist is always in a hurry. nature is most delicate, most Let him scorch ahead and leave tender, and most precious- to quiet unhurried people the the sun-warmed grape. The enjoyment of quiet unhurried Frenoh peasant stock is like places like Montreuil-sur-Mer. that-here in Picardy, at its Such folk, when they have had roughest and toughest : yet their fill and depart satisfied, what fruit it yields ! Even in can observe from a leisurely Picardy they have what makes train how a tapestry of cultithe vital difference between vated fields and willows and Northern France and Southern poplar-trees masked from them, England—just the extra share as they came, the flatness of of sun. The volets everywhere the old sea-floor, where the on the houses tell of it: 80 tideway, now silted up, carried does the burnished patine on the Vikings and their ships to the roofs. As I sat and drank sack the monastery of Saint my coffee there, a high roof Saulve some thirteen centuries with two rows of mansard ago. Even in these times, high windows faced me, all spark- springs force the water up the ling in the spring air: every- Canche till they stop the little thing was so clear, so clean, mills working, and remind Mon80 sharp : the court between treuil that it once was on the its four sides was a little well sea.
AT THE SIGN OF THE LAUGHING GODS.
BY J. 0. P. BLAND.
THERE are two morals to past, there lurks an involuntary this story. One, that the long subtle complacency, something arm of coincidence can easily like unsophisticated pride in a put a girdle about this little personal achievement, in the planet of ours; two, that in reflection that
that we ourselves China dead men's bones often still survive and have our count for more than the limbs being, still fill our little place of the living.
in the sun. I know that as I The story itself, which had rode that day down the Kou-lan lain submerged for thirty years hutung, that narrow street bein some hidden backwater of tween mysterious high-walled memory's wayward tide, came dwellings which I came to back to me, all unexpectedly, know by heart in the old days as such things do, one after- of the Customs Students' Mess, noon during a recent visit to something of this feeling rose Peking. I was riding by myself unbidden to the surface of a that day, rambling without stream of crowded memories. any definite purpose among the I thought of all the paroxysms quiet narrow streets which lie and perils of change through between the Hatamen Ta-chieh which Peking had passed since and the eastern wall of the first I saw it, in the yellow Tartar city; and my mood haze of autumn dustwas of the sentimental reminis- storm, thirty-six years before. cent kind, which endeavours to I thought of all the Redrecapture something of the frag- buttoned mighty ones, of whom rance and glamour of bygone our Chinese teachers used to happy days.
speak with such awe, princes Those who in middle age and viceroys and governors, revisit the glimpses of joyous whose names are now as swiftly suns which shone upon their fading shadows on a ruined primrose paths of youth and wall. With these tumultuous wanderlust, usually find some- years, all the might, majesty, thing bitter-sweet in the savour and dominion of the Great Pure produced by the sights and dynasty had been swept away, sounds of old familiar places, its forbidden sanctuaries inby the whispering ghosts of vaded, and its high altars devanished years, that gather at filed ; and yet here was I, an every turn of half-forgotten insignificant spectator of that roads. Mingled with a wistful drama, tranquilly revisiting the melancholy of retrospection and glory that once was China's heart-stirring memories of the capital-a comfortable pilgrim, VOL, CCXV.-NO, MCCCIV.
2 K 2
hoping to feel once again some nose gratefully acknowledged. thing of the tingling vividness as of old, the fragrance of of sensation, the throbbing joie sandalwood and pine emanating de vivre, indissolubly associ- from the Wang Chia timber. ated in my mind with every yard, which stands opposite to early memory of Peking. the Sign of the Laughing Gods.
And in this narrow street, It was the sight of this old where no swift tide of traffic sign-board, a weather-beaten has ever run, the sights and thing of black and gold lacquer, sounds that met me on my way which suddenly recalled to my all contributed to a pleasing mind the story of its owner, sense of stability, to the illu- Kao Shih-lan, maker of Lohan, sion of a little oasis of ancient Buddhas, and other graven ways inviolate in a wilderness images, who, when first I knew of change. At the red-lacquered him, was the bête noire of the gateway of a Bannerman's an- Students' Mess, and the uncestral home stood one of the disguised foe of every “foreign old springless carts with a great devil ” who passed his door. Szechnen mule between the Later, when by the grace of shafts; within the doorway, his own gods we had estabsquatting on their hams, its lished relations of friendship driver and the gatekeeper were as nearly intimate as they can chatting over their long pipes. ever be between East and West, To the tinkling of brass cym. I came to learn the cause of his bals, a pedlar of sweetmeats grudge against Europeans, and was making his leisurely round, held him justified. Now, reand chubby children snatched membering his story, and many a fearful joy as they gambled an hour of good talk passed for sugar-plums with the “lucky with him in those far-distant bamboos" of his jingling-box. days, I stopped my pony at Overhead, a flock of blue-grey the door of the timber-yard, pigeons was swiftly circling, desiring to find out from them, and the soft crescendo of their before knocking at Kao's door, tiny bamboo pipes, as they into whose hands his business came up into the wind, sounded, had passed. As he was a as of old, like the sighing of middle-aged man when I had unhappy household gods. To last seen him in 1890, I reckthe outward eye hardly a land- oned that by now he must mark of the old days was either have been gathered to changed. Beneath the sign of his fathers, or at all events the “Prospering Winds” two have given up work. lads were mixing coal - dust The timber-yard people told with yellow clay, just as two me that he had died in 1900– other lads had done thirty the year of the Boxer rising years before ; and at the end and that the business had then of the hutung, where it joins passed to his second son, the the street of Filial Piety, my elder having also lost his life
during that time of trouble. own leisurely way, I rode on I wondered whether the old towards the East Gate, but man and his first-born had my thoughts remained in the heard the call of the wild and little inner room at the Sign taken a hand in the siege of of the Laughing Gods, where, the Legations, but it was best after the incident of the open to ask no questions. Kao drain, I had smoked many a Shih-lan was dead, and al- pipe of peace with the maker though, but for me, that second of graven images. It was there son would not have lived to that he told me the story which worship at his grave, I felt no accounted for his hostility to inclination to introduce myself foreigners. Very vividly, as I to him, or to evoke the mani- rode, came moving pictures of festations of gratitude and filial those half-forgotten days. piety which the occasion would Amongst these, one of the have required. To tell the most distinct is that of my truth, although I could not first meeting with Kao Shihhave expected to find old Kao lan. I had often seen him alive, to learn that he had before, of course, scowling at been dead for twenty years us students as we rode past his lent a distasteful flavour of door ; but though we all longed Old Mortality to my tranquil for a casus belli, none of us cud of meditation. The news had ever had speech with him. induced a Rip Van Winkle One afternoon, however, sevfeeling, intensified by the ap- eral of us were going on a parent immutability of the picnic to the Princess's Tomb scene in which he had always it was the holiday of the been associated in my mind Feast of Lanterns, -and just as a conspicuous figure. There as we passed Kao's door a firewas the old sign-board, swinging cracker exploded right in front in the wind; behind the gate- of Bessenthal, our German colscreen, a glimpse of the little league, bringing about the sudcourtyard with its slumbering den separation which invariably dogs, and of the shop, with its followed when his mount shied. front of cunning lattice-work Muddy and wrathful, Bessenand windows, half paper and thal burst in upon Kao with half glass-everything just as none of the sangfroid essential it was when first I saw it. in bringing a Chinaman to And there across the way, pesti- book, and his subsequent moral ferous as ever, was the open collapse was painful to witness. drain, in which the present Beginning in voluble Chinese, owner of the shop so nearly his command of the language came to an untimely end. All rapidly gave out, and what this immutability of inanimate had been intended for an elothings gave one an uncanny quent fulmination tailed off feeling.
into senseless sound and fury. Letting my pony choose his (At the best of times Chinese