« AnkstesnisTęsti »
is not the language in which amused myself by meeting his a European can hope to express truculent scowl with a cheery strong feelings.) When, with a good-day. Gradually I develsalvo of Rhineland oaths, Bes- oped a sneaking regard, almost senthal came to an ignominious a liking, for the obstinate old end, he found old Kao quietly heathen. There was a certain gazing at him with an expres- charm-call it the charm of sion of placid amusement. variety in the frankness of Looking out over the irate his malevolent attitude. It foreigner's shoulder, he called was refreshing to find a Pekinese to the mafoo who was holding freelyexpressing hostility which, Bessenthal's pony in the street. in a greater or less degree, they “Come here," he shouted," and all feel towards the foreigner tell me what your Hsien-sheng who has forced his unwelcome is talking about. I do not way to the heart of the Celesunderstand his foreign tongue." tial Kingdom.
Sheepishly, as natives talk Even to this day, gentle to each other in the presence reader, it is still the unpleasant of foreigners, the mafoo ex- truth that every Chinaman, from plained about the fire-cracker, Cabinet Minister to coolie, either while Bessenthal looked on, hates or despises us—often he inwardly raging at the Tower does both,-and, honestly, I of Babel and certain ordinances don't see how we can blame of the German Legation which him. From his point of view forbade the summary chastise- our manners are unspeakable ment of natives. Then Kao and our morals doubtful. He spoke again,
might overlook these, and regard “Tell your master," he said, us with the friendly tolerance that I am a busy man and which is in his nature, were it have no leisure to watch all not for the fact that all efforts the children that pass by. to educate him to our concepThere is a school near here, tion of civilisation have ended and this being a festival, some in his despoilment and humiliaof the little ones fire crackers tion. Therefore, in addition on their way home. As for to the usual instinctive sense those of my household, they of superiority, which every are all indoors. They have healthy nation displays towards nothing to do with the matter.” its neighbours, the Chinese as
So Bessenthal remounted and a nation feel for the white we rode on, all conscious of our race the kind of dull resentloss of face; and next day I ment which they manifest in noticed that Kao's children regard to plague, pestilence, had new toys.
famine, and all other inscrutThereafter, when passing by able and irresistible visitations the Sign of the Laughing Gods, of Providence. There is thus I always kept an eye open no real friendliness between for the dealer in deities, and them and 18, diplomatic speeches and missionary re- things day after day, you must ports to the contrary notwith- either cultivate an intelligent standing ; but the Northern interest in the life of the Chinese, as a rule, dissembles natives or take to drink; which his feelings better than his may account for the consumpbrethren of the south. In a tion of whisky at the lesser clumsy way he endeavours to Treaty ports. make you believe that he en- In the natural order of things joys your society-partly from I might have gone on for ever a desire to avoid trouble (which fussing at the secret behind by force of habit he associates Kao's black looks. I knew with the foreign devil), and that any attempt to conciliate partly on the offchance of him would be worse than usemaking something out of it. less, for when a European If he thus conceals his real (either Government or indifeelings, it is also because of vidual) makes friendly overthe memory of certain forcible tures to hostile Orientals, it object - lessons, and because amounts to asking for trouble, nature and the race-mind have and even where harmonious made him a pacifist philosopher. relations are established it is
Therefore the undisguised hard for us to get to know scowl on Kao's ugly face ap- much about the inner thoughts pealed to me as the shade of of the Chinese. Time and much the tree of truth in a desert patience are needed to bridge of make-believe. The very the gulf which divides their fact that he stood out as an philosophy of life from ours. unusual specimen of his race So I had to content myself made me desire his better with chaffing the cantankerous acquaintance. From one of fellow, and lashing at his yapthe curio-dealers I learned that ping dogs whenever a chance he was not a pukka Pekinese offered. by birth, though he had spent But at the time of the heavy most of his life in the city, rains Fate intervened, and put and that in some matter con- me in the way of laying the nected with foreigners he had idol-maker under a heavy oblionce" eaten much bitterness"; gation, probably the only one but as to the nature of that that he would ever have acancient grudge I could learn knowledged. His younger son, nothing. It may seem strange a lad of about six, while flying that I should have troubled a kite in th street of Filial my head about the surly fellow; Piety, stepped backwards into but in China, when you have the open drain. He had fallen lived through half the rainy upon a bad day, for the drain, season seeing the same half- usually a dry ditch, was so dozen white faces, discussing swollen by the rains that it the same threadbare topics, held a swift current. It would and doing the same unprofitable speedily have carried him towards the main street, where day learn how and why he had the drain becomes a brick “eaten bitterness "at the hands tunnel, had I not chanced to of white men. be riding that way. Luckily, I After that eventful day Kao was just in time to save the made an honourable exception boy. A crowd collected, of in my favour in the matter of course, in the twinkling of an incivility. His two sons were eye, and a woman told me the taught to smile at me as I half-drowned youngster was the passed instead of shouting son of Kao Shih-lan. I carried Yang Kuei-tzu " from behind him into his father's shop. the gate-screen, and sometimes
Considering the procreative on my way home I used to stop capacity of the race, and its and smoke a pipe in his courtconsequently appalling infant yard. He liked to talk about mortality, it would seem as if his trade, and told me curious one atom of Chinese infancy tales about the little ways of more or less should not matter the keepers of some of the very much ; broadly speaking, shrines for which he made his of course, it doesn't. But this ridiculous gods. Personally, he particular child, happening to was not much of a believer in be the only son of his mother his own wares ; indeed, his (Kao's second wife), was a knowledge of the attributes of person of considerable import- the various Buddhist deities was ance in his own circle. It curiously vague, but he was was interesting to see Kao very skilful in fashioning Budstruggling with his mixed feel- dhas, Kuan-yins, and the lesser ings; gratitude won the day, gods, either of brass or laebut his surliness towards Euro- quered wood. He used to let peans was a fixed habit not me watch him at his work, easily discarded at a moment's and after a while, when the notice. He could not help weather grew cold, he would thanking his gods that a for- invite me to take a cup of tea eigner had witnessed the acci- in his inner room. dent, knowing that his own Thus it came about, one people are not given to inter- winter's afternoon some six fering with Providence in cases months later, that he told me of drowning. His rugged hon- the reason of his hatred of foresty was compelled to give us eigners in general, and Englishcredit for a virtue that had men in particular. We were touched him so nearly, so that sitting on the mat - covered before I could make my way kang, and he was busy applythrough the crowd of women- ing the first coating of goldfolk he had said several pleasant leaf to a Lohan, destined to and courteous things. I went find its way to the British home, wondering whether his Legation, by way of the Lama scowl would come back, and if Temple. He had been telling not, whether I might some me that his father had lived
at Hai-Tien, some miles to the repairs at the family burialnorth of the city, and I had ground, a walled enclosure westasked him how he and his ward from Hai-Tien towards people had fared when the the hills. Like every one else, British and French troops were they had heard all sorts of in that neighbourhood in 1860, alarming rumours about the when the Summer Palace and ferocity of the invulnerable the pleasure domes of Yuen- foreign devils, who had routed Ming-Yuen were looted and all the armies of the Son of destroyed.
Heaven, but no word bad “ Tajen," he said, stopping reached them of any sign of in his work and filling a pipe, the invaders near Hai-Tien ; “I am a Chinese and you are and in any case Kao's father from the outside countries, but had decided that the hardyou have saved the life of my ships and perils of flight outson, and are to me as an elder weighed the risks of sticking brother. I have never spoken to his home. They were thereto you of those days, although fore terror-stricken when at they are always in my heart, sunset, just as they were leavbut since you ask me I will telling off work, a small body of you of the evil which they Sikh cavalry (“ big men with brought to me and to my house. black faces and long lances,' When you have heard, you will was Kao's description) sudunderstand why I do not love denly came round a bend of your people."
the road, making straight toThe story of that old-time wards them. There was no grudge of his was a long one, cover anywhere except amongst and needed several cups , of the fir-trees of the graveyard, so tea in the telling. It dated there they crouched. But, as back to the days when the luck would have it, the squadron Allied armies of England and was looking for a good place France were camped in the to pitch camp for the night, Anting Plain. I shall not and chose the burial-ground, attempt to tell the whole tale 80 Kao and his father were disas he told it, but will set forth covered. Having no weapons, the main facts, at the outset they were not ill-treated, beobserving that, in order to yond being tied, with their realise Kao’s conception of the queues together, to a tree, and seriousness of the outrage com- losing their portable property mitted, one must remember the at the hands of the Cantonese sacrosanctity of ancestors in camp-follower who acted as the eyes of the Chinese. interpreter.
when On the day after the appear- the men had seen to their ance of the Allied forces before horses and sentries had been the northern wall of Peking, posted, the white officer in Kao Shih-lan and his father command ordered them to be were busy completing certain untied. They were given some
food, and told that next morn- hoary tradition and superstiing they would be allowed to tions of the Chinese concerning return to Hai-Tien. So far, their dead, to realise that it they had been agreeably sur- would be useless to attempt to prised at their treatment, for console the maker of graven the rumour had been widely images with any philosophical put about that the Indian reflections on the futility of soldiery were cannibals.
endeavouring to preserve intact But when the black men our mortal coil, or to make came to prepare their food a him realise that the ultimate terrible thing happened. For end of all skulls, whether in the cook, to save himself the their graves or out of them, is trouble of making an oven, the dust-heap. Nothing that opened up the brick tomb of I could say would alter the Kao's grandfather (an expectant fact that, with this ancient Prefect of some fifty years' people, a dead rogue bath decay); moreover, he used the more honour than a living hard-wood coffin of that de- paragon. As he unfolded the ceased worthy as a receptacle tale of his undying grudge, I for garbage and the coffin-lid realised how deeply he must as fuel. The bones of the have felt the desecration of departed were unceremoniously that burial-ground, and could strewn about. Kao's father sympathise with his consequent implored the Cantonese to in- hatred for all foreign devils, teroede for him with the white black and white. officer and prevent the sacri- But when he came to the lege, but the scoundrel only end of the story and the purlaughed in his face. To crown loining of his grandfather's all, another white man, who skull, suddenly I perceived the appeared upon the scene some long arm of coincidence puthours later and remained chat- ting its miraculous girdle round ting a while with the officer the earth. In a flash my mind in command, noticed the skull went back to a room in a of the expectant Prefect on house amongst the heather and the ground, picked it up, and, pines of the West Cliff at having tied it to his saddle, Bournemouth, a man's snugrode off with it into the night. gery, all hung about with Therefore, as Kao put it, his trophies of war and shikar in grandfather's ghost was con- many lands. The room, to be demned to wander miserably precise, belonged to a Colonel by the Yellow Springs of Hades Widdicombe, an uncle of mine, for ten thousand years, while who as a subaltern in Deshe himself was for ever shamed borough's battery had taken a in the presence of the ancestral hand in the shelling of the tablets.
Summer Palace. And in that Even in those early days I snuggery, as plainly as when had learned enough about the first I discovered them in their