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Title: A Wind from the Wilderness
Author: Mary Gaunt
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: A Wind from the Wilderness
Author: Mary Gaunt

*


A Wind from the Wilderness

by

MARY GAUNT


Author of "The Uncounted Cost," etc.


LONDON T. WERNER LAURIE, LTD. 
30 Newbridge Street, Blackfriars, E.C. 4.
1919.


==================================

AUTHOR'S NOTE

I HAVE to thank my friend Mrs. Lang for her severe criticism and her
helpful suggestions. She has made ruthless use of the blue pencil, and
her dictum that certain chapters were bad has stimulated me to fresh
efforts. I gratefully acknowledge her help. MARY GAUNT.

MARY HAVEN, NEW ELTHAM.

===================================

CONTENTS:

CHAPTER

I......ROSALIE'S STORY--A KANSU CLINIC

II.....MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--HIS UNPROFITABLE REFLECTIONS

III....ROSALIE'S STORY--NOON PRAYER

IV.....ROSALIE'S STORY--ENTER CHUNG

V......ROSALIE'S STORY--THE FLIGHT TO THE HILLS

VI.....ROSALIE'S STORY--THE BREAKING UP OF THE MISSION

VII....MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--THE LOSING OF MACTAVISH

VIII ...SILAS CHAPMAN'S STORY--ORGANIZING A TOUR

IX.....ROSALIE'S STORY--THE SETTING OUT ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE

X......MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--THE GODDESS OF MERCY

XI.....ROSALIE'S STORY--THE UNEXPLAINED TERROR

XII....MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--THE CASTING OF LOTS

XIII ...ROSALIE'S STORY--THE MAN WHO WAS LEFT

XIV....MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--THE PASSING OF MRS. WRIGHT

XV.....A FEW REFLECTIONS FROM STELLA CHAPMAN--TWO WOMEN AND A MAN

XVI....ROSALIE'S STORY--CHUNG GIVES IT BEST

XVII ...ROSALIE'S STORY--THE GATHERING OF THE LAMAS

XVIII..A FEW MORE REFLECTIONS FROM STELLA--A BUTTERFLY IN THE DESERT

XIX....ROSALIE'S STORY--A FRIEND INDEED

XX.....MARTIN CONANT'S REFLECTIONS--AN ARTIC WILDERNESS

XXI....ROSALIE'S STORY--OVERWHELMED

XXII ...ROSALIE'S STORY--ANOTHER DOCTOR

XXIII..ROSALIE'S STORY--THE SORROW OF THE WORLD

XXIV ...MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--LONG DRAWN OUT

XXV....STELLA CHAPMAN'S STORY--THE LAST OF KOKO NOR

XXVI ...ROSALIE'S STORY--THE EURASIAN

XXVII..ROSALIE'S STORY--THE POWER OF LING

XXVIII.MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--UN MARIAGE DE CONVENANCE

XXIX ...ROSALIE'S STORY--VANISHED

XXX....ROSALIE'S STORY--THE TEMPLE OF EVERLASTING PEACE

XXXI ...MARTIN CONANT'S STORY--PHI LANG

XXXII..STELLA'S STORY--HER JUSTIFICATIONS

XXXIII.ROSALIE'S STORY--RAGGED ENDS


==================================

A WIND FROM THE WILDERNESS




CHAPTER I.--ROSALIE'S STORY

A KANSU CLINIC


"Seek Love in the pity of others' woes,
In the gentle relief of another's care,
In the darkness of night and the winter's snows,
With the naked and outcast--seek Love there."


"DEAR sir, i get the sower i by from yu for gods sake how the hell
you twis weel. My man he cuss like devil to me how can sew wen weel
he no twis. He holler like one clok becos sower he bruk. purty soon i
send him back becos no can sew. i going to send peking for sewer quite
proper.

"goodby

your truly

Hop Sing,

p.s.--sin i rite yu the weel he twis rite.

p.s.s.--sin i rite you Pai Lang have burn dam sewer. wat the hell i
going to do."


I felt it was unfortunate for Hop Sing. We had just negotiated the
sale of the Mission's old sewing-machine to my friend Hop Sing because
the mission had a new one, and an American mission is nothing if not
practical. He wanted it to set up a tailor in Shou Yang, a little town
thirty miles away, for Hop Sing is a man of wealth and enterprise.

He has travelled too, which is extraordinary for a Kansu man, and has
been in San Francisco, and that explains why he prefers to write to me
instead of to the minister. The minister, the Rev. Septimus Wright,
would naturally expect a Chinaman to write to him in Chinese, and oh
tell it not in Gath, but I don't believe my friend Hop Sing knows the
Chinese characters any better than I do. Anyhow like a true Chinaman he
saves his face.

But talk about a woman's letter having all the news in the postscript!
Pai Lang in Kansu! What nonsense! The last time we heard of White Wolf
he was in Hunan over 1,500 miles away. The ways of Chinamen are beyond
me. Always will be I expect. That letter came in the middle of my
morning clinic--the last clinic----

The fact of the matter is I want to put things down exactly as they
happen and I find it mighty difficult. If you come to think of it it
is always difficult to know exactly where a story does begin. I might
begin in the middle of my morning clinic, but again I expect I might
quite as reasonably go back to my great-grandparents. So many things
want explaining. However----Before Hop Sing's letter was Martin Conant.
But I'll never be able to explain Martin Conant. He's beyond me. What's
wrong with him? Something I suppose.

He appears to have been at Oxford, to have taken a good degree, to
have spent a year at Heidelberg to learn German, to have been in the
Artillery, and yet here he is at seven and twenty a member of a little
American Mission, not an Episcopal Mission by any means, a little
one-horse mission run by a narrow little sect calling themselves
The Brethren whose religion is the very worst thing about them. It
is--I can't help saying it--the very devil. How on earth did such a
conception of God ever originate in any kindly mind, for these people
are tender-hearted, they are overflowing with love and pity, yet they
believe in a God Who having created four hundred million people has
condemned them to eternal pain--think of it, eternal, save for the
sixty or seventy odd years they live upon this earth.

I know no Chinaman is ever converted. Oh yes, they are baptised and
profess the faith. If I were as poor as a church mouse struggling to
keep a wife and family on six dollars a year, and the average peasant
in Kansu doesn't make six dollars a year, and someone offered me a nice
easy billet as a Bible reader or a laundry man or something of that
sort, why I'd believe in any God you chose to offer. It would only
be sound business. And the Chinaman is a decent fellow too. Having
taken up the Christian religion he acts up to it. But why, oh why are
the missionaries, at least my particular brand of missionary, not
only total abstainers but non-smokers as well? Think of the hard life
the Chinese lead with so few pleasures, and this new God objects to
smoking--makes a crime of it. Hang it all! why the lives of all the
women and many of the men are a martyrdom already.

And this man, this strapping broad-shouldered fellow, the beau ideal of
a soldier, has come out to be a missionary! And he does not believe,
I know he does not. He has looked at me in a deprecating sort of way
more than once when we have gone down on our knees and I've been prayed
over. I don't like being prayed over. It is such shocking bad form. It
makes me wince. Martin Conant gets prayed over too in his turn, and the
Lord knows what he thinks about it. He takes it coolly enough. He's
always rather silent, not the silence that has nothing to say but the
silence that is taking in everything. He's dark, with keen grey eyes
set rather deeply in his head, and when he listens to you he listens
in such fashion that you end by believing you are brilliant. Again and
again I've been taken in and had to pull myself together and remember
that he has yet to explain himself. I, who know something of the world,
cannot receive him at his own valuation as the missionaries do. Mrs.
Wright says he "is not far from the Lord," but then Mrs. Wright is
optimistic, she says that of me, and, goodness gracious me, no one in
all this world, not even the Chinese women she preaches to, could be
farther away, I hope, from her Lord than I am.

Then again I see my presence wants explaining in a mission station. I
am Rosalie Grahame, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and
I came to the little mission in Yang Cheng because Aunt Matty's nurse
belonged to the Brethren--she's Mrs. Wright's sister, and she was
always talking about the needs of the unfortunate Chinese women. They
wanted medical attention, she said, and I thought it would be a good
way to get some invaluable practice in surgery and also a chance to
indulge that insatiable craving for adventurous travel which a small
patrimony rather restricts.

At least--here I'm telling the truth--the real reason I came was
because Randolph Lawson jilted me, chucked me over calmly after our
wedding day had been fixed, and everybody knew and pitied me. It was
awful. I'd have gone on any forlorn hope to get away, and I suppose
my friends all thought the little one-horse mission at Yang Cheng
something in the nature of a very forlorn hope indeed and pitied me all
the more, but then I wasn't there to see their pity, so that was one
score for me. The awful thing is--I lie awake at night and think of
it, and I should die of shame if anyone knew--this is the second time
I have been jilted. I thought I loved Willie Miller, I thought there
was no one in the world like him, and I didn't mind a bit he was a
duffer and never opened a book if he could help himself, and so we were
secretly engaged. I'm afraid I was a little ass. I had led such a dull
life in Aunt Matty's maiden household that when Willie came whispering
all sorts of pretty things I swallowed them, and when he had got me
to say there was no one in the world like him, he calmly cooled off,
and for very shame I let him go. No one knew, at least I don't think
that anyone knew, Virginia Clayton was suspiciously kind--but no, she
couldn't have known. Randolph Lawson was her cousin. I met him first
at her house, and I kept him at a distance for four years. All that
time he courted me more or less, and it was lovely to find someone who
read the same books as I did, who loved to discuss them as I did, who
had the same religion--or perhaps I should say the same no religion--I
felt how gorgeous it would be to go through life with so many interests
in common. Virginia always said he was a little worm, but he was
interesting, and--there--what's the good of writing about it? My life
is finished at twenty-six. At that age I ought to be able to hope for
a man's love, to have children to nestle in my arms, but how can I? No
woman could possibly love three times, no decent woman. It's rather
awful to have done it twice, but three times, I go hot all over when I
think of such a thing! And anyhow, no one is going to fool me again. I
shall treat all men as they deserve to be treated. One sees something
of the way the average man treats the average woman here in China. Here
the poorest peasant woman, whose life goodness knows is hard enough,
has to undergo excruciating torture for at least four or five years, is
always crippled, maimed and in pain, because--unless she so suffers no
man will marry her.

Well, anyhow, thank God I'm spared that; I'm whole in body and mind,
and I've got to make the best of things. Still, it is strange. Even
old Aunt Matty, forty-one, and the dourest old maid ever anyone saw,
actually found a man to love her, and it's because of that, because
Phyllis appeared upon the scene, and had to have a nurse, that I am
here in a Kansu clinic.

I'll never forget that morning. MacTavish was restless. MacTavish is
my little black and white Japanese pug, the dearest, prettiest little
man. I couldn't give him a Japanese name, so I called him by a Scottish
one, as, though he is pretty nearly perfect, he lacks one thing, he has
no sense of humour. Many dogs have a sense of humour, you know, but
MacTavish is not one of them. He thinks too much of himself.

He loves me as no one in the world loves me, or ever has loved me.
Perhaps my mother loved me, but she died when I was three months old,
and I know my father cared precious little about me. I don't remember
seeing him half a dozen times, but thank goodness he left me $1,000 a
year, which is something to be grateful for. If your wants are not very
great you can get along quite nicely on $1,000 a year, and, of course,
presently I shall make a good deal more.

Well, MacTavish was restless, and kept coming off his black satin
cushion in the corner, and I had to be very stern with him, and
threaten him with the direst penalties if he didn't stay where he was
put. The sun was streaming through the southern windows in all the
blaze of glory that characterizes a North China winter. Outside it was
bitter biting cold, with the thermometer away down below zero, but here
inside the large room where I always saw the out-patients there was a
soft warmth more in keeping with the brilliant sunshine, for labour,
thank goodness--no, not thank goodness, I think it's bad--is cheap
enough, and so it would have been a sin not to have such a comfort as
central heating.

China ever since I arrived here has always presented itself to me as
one huge sore aggravated by disease in all its most disgusting forms.
The women and children waiting for me to attend to them were sitting
all along one side of the room and the sunshine showed up all their
dingy misery. Young girls hiding their eyes from the light, suffering
all the tortures of ingrowing eyelashes; here in Yang Cheng they were
so numerous I operated every Thursday; old women gasping with asthma;
puling babies holding to life by the veriest thread; and sores, sores,
sores, everywhere, such sores as I never saw in the West even among
the poorest. They all wore quilted cotton garments, mostly old and
dirty and torn; all the women who were not quite young were old, for
life ages a Chinese woman quickly, and forty-five might easily pass
for seventy in more favoured lands. Poor things! Poor, poor things!
And I could do so little for them! All the conditions of life were
against them, and yet they all tried to smile cheerfully. I believe
most of them did it without an effort, for by nature they are cheerful,
contented souls; and here was warmth, and I expect they hoped healing.
I hoped so, too.

MacTavish, on sufferance in the corner, because I hated to leave the
little chap alone, lifted up his pug nose and sniffed delicately. I
was examining a woman whose mouth was closed by a huge sore, and who
perforce lived by suction, and I quite agreed with MacTavish, and I
told him so. It was a relief to talk to him; besides, he was the only
person there who understood English.

"It is a tall smell, only it's my belief you rather like it!"

MacTavish intimated that he found life dull, and therefore it had
its points, and I patted the old woman's shoulder in case she should
think I was talking about her; besides, it's awful to have a mouth
closed by a sore. Like the rest of them, the poor old thing had on an
evil-smelling coat of quilted blue cotton, faded to dirt colour. Dirty
wadding protruded here and there in patches; the top buttons were gone,
and the coat open at the throat showed the unwashed neck, wrinkled and
disgusting. Ah! it was horrible! But I saw such sights all day long.
The old lady, poor old thing, in her anxiety, put out a claw-like hand
armed with long and dirty talons, and laid it on my hand, and I caught
a whiff of her foul breath, but there was desperate pleading in the
little rheumy eyes--a pleading that would have gone straight to the
most flinty heart. My Chinese is very colloquial at best, and sometimes
I fear it is rather sketchy. I don't want to read their literature. I
only want to make myself understood. I patted her shoulder, and said,
"Poor old lady!" I'm sure she liked to be a Lao T'ai T'ai; "I will make
you a new mouth." But to make quite sure I called up the trim little
nurse beside me. "Tell her I will heal her sore, and she will have a
new mouth, but she must come into the hospital for treatment."

There were three nurses, all with black hair neatly drawn back from
their clean, rosy faces. I never think a woman looks really graceful
without petticoats, but their dress was Chinese at its best, clean,
bright, blue cotton smocks and trousers drawn tidily in at the ankle,
with black satin bands, showing their neat little feet in white
cotton stockings and black shoes. I don't suppose for one moment this
collection of cripples leaning against the wall thought their feet were
neat, for almost without exception those women, the poorest of the
poor, had their feet bound in accordance with Chinese custom, and many
of those feet were not more than four inches long. No wonder the room
was crowded with broken bodies.

Kwang Su with an enamel ironware basin of warm water and a lump of
wadding in her shapely little hand mopped softly the old woman's face,
and taking her cue from me talked soothingly, but in a superior manner,
which I hope isn't a copy of mine, of the delights that awaited her in
the hospital, till the old woman turned and tottered back to her seat
against the wall, nodding her bald head emphatically as if she were not
unpleased at the prospect.

MacTavish called my attention to her but I could not agree with him.
He mentioned that I ought to be pleased she was so happy, but I could
only say, "I'm thankful, MacTavish, I'm not a Chinawoman. They all seem
to go bald sooner or later. It's probably a sanitary measure on the
part of the Almighty, though they don't take proper advantage of it.
Still," and I had to beckon forward another nurse to wash my hands, "I
shouldn't like to look forward to losing my hair." MacTavish is a very
sympathetic listener. He understands lots of things that I could never
dream of saying to the Chinese nurses or even to the missionaries. He
certainly has been a godsend to me. He has taught me to be pitiful to
all helpless things, even ugly old Chinese women. I know I was awfully
hard before I had MacTavish.

But you've got to work while you talk in a Chinese clinic, and I sent
the nurses bustling to look for the worst cases of bad feet. Bad feet
in a clinic visited by Chinese women are the standing dish, and are
always to be counted on. When I could spare time I made it my business
to watch the nurses unwind the bandages of those presented, for I
found that having abjured bound feet themselves they were apt to be a
little harsh and rough with the unfortunates who suffered the pains and
penalties that were the result of the binding. I have seen many feet,
but one that came in this morning was as horrible as any, and that is
saying a great deal. It was loathsome, disgusting. The woman, a strong
young woman of five and twenty, already beginning to go bald, had her
eyes screwed up in an endeavour to suppress all signs of pain, the
dirty bandages, yards of them, lay on the floor, and the nurse held up
for my inspection a maimed stump with the big toe protruding, the other
toes were bent backwards on the sole, the heel was pressed forward to
meet them, and the distance between the end of the big toe and the
outside edge of the heel was barely four inches, for the sole had been
pressed upwards against the instep, the bones had been crushed, the
arch of the foot had been broken, and all underneath was a festering
sore that smelt abominably and was one mass of pus and dirt. I didn't
wonder that the patient screwed up her eyes and held her breath. I put
my fingers on the thin white marble leg just below the knee. It did
not pit as ordinary flesh would have done; it was, as it looked, hard
as stone. Of course I was accustomed to the sight, every day feet like
that came to the clinic; but the pity of it! the pity of it! Is it any
wonder the Chinese seem to have paused on their path in the march of
nations when they condemn their women to agony like this? Again and
again I have seen it. The other foot was just as bad, and yet that
woman had crawled to the hospital, and, did I allow it, would make
shift to crawl back again.

"Why do they do it, Kwang Su? Why do they do it?" I asked the nurse,
though it was foolishness, and I had asked her many times before.

"Before born," she said, "the men desire not a wife whose feet are
unbound. The tiny feet walk into the heart."

"Damn! Damn! Damn!" I don't care if it is vulgar and unwomanly to
swear. When I hear things like that I don't want to be womanly, I don't
care if no man ever looks at me again. Men it seems were put into the
world to make women suffer for their pleasure. Well, they've never made
me suffer physically anyhow! But what's the good of thinking about all
the wrongs in the world when you can't right them, can't help in the
very smallest degree. All that is best--Oh damn!

I'm afraid I did not realise I was talking loudly and impressively. I
felt exactly that way.

"My dear!" said a voice softly remonstrant beside me, and I looked
round to see that MacTavish had again forsaken his corner and was
standing on his hind legs to greet Mrs. Wright, the minister's wife.

I pointed to the crippled foot. "Isn't it enough to make anybody say
'damn.' As if there wasn't enough unpreventable misery in the world
without people doing terrible things like that just to please some men,
some unknown man if you please, who will only treat her as a slave.
It makes me wild. Oh, wild is a poor tame mild word to express what I
feel."

"Your pretty brown eyes," said Mrs. Wright, "are just flashing fire."

Well, I'm human and I like my eyes to be admired, but for once I wasn't
feeling that way, so I could only tell the nurses to unwind the other
foot and bring the kerosene tins. What a godsend are kerosene tins!
I never valued them at their full worth till I worked in a Chinese
hospital. We filled the tins with hot water and soaked the poor feet
well. Of course nothing could be done till they were clean. Poor
things! Poor things! To know that this case and many thousands like it
are past all human help!

"My dear," said the minister's wife, "your eyes look quite soft and
they're full of tears."

"You said they were flashing just now," I reminded her, turning away.
Who could help tears before so much patient misery?

"That was when you were swearing," she went on in her gentle level
voice--no wonder her sister made a good nurse. "You should not swear.
Your own soul----"

"Oh never mind my soul. I want to kill when I look at man's
handiwork in this hospital. As if there wasn't enough for these poor
women to bear without adding such a cross as this. And I can do
nothing--nothing."

"Come to noon-day prayer," she suggested, still fondling MacTavish and
speaking with a gentle detached air.

"And what possible good will that do these women?"

"Who knows the power of prayer?" she said gently.

"You know I don't believe as you do." I hate to sail under false
colours; also, as I suppose is only natural, I hate to stand aside and
not do as others do. It's so uncomfortable but as I invariably after
protest went to midday prayer I was always afraid they might think they
had really converted me. And yet I had tried to make it clear from the
very beginning to these people at Yang Cheng that I was not of them and
never would be. I gave them my services because I wanted to improve my
knowledge of surgery, I was not amongst them from any religious motive,
or from any motive of kindness. Of course I would do a kindness, I
hope, if it came in my way, but really it was not kindness that moved
me. I was always determined about that, more determined than ever since
Martin Conant, unexplained, has come amongst us.

He does not belong to the farmer and small tradesman class from which
the rest of the missionaries are drawn. Not that he ever says anything,
but anyone who knows anything at all can hear Oxford in his leisurely
speech, every action bespeaks not only a cultivated mind but the fact
that he is drawn from the ruling class in England, a class that has
never had necessity to make shift in any way. He has always had comfort
and plenty, but he hardly seems to recognise that he is as far apart
from the other members of the mission as are the wide prairies of the
middle West from a little orchard farm in Kent. And, indeed, in a way
his kindliness does bridge the distance.

I don't know why my mind went wandering to Martin Conant while I was
watching those miserable feet being washed.

Mrs. Wright had MacTavish in her arms and he was bestowing an
appreciative lick upon her chin. I like him to like her, but not too
much. But I was not afraid of being cut out. He came scrambling gladly
into my arms when I turned round.

"Come, my dear," she went on in her gentle voice, "come to prayers.
You desire quite as much as anyone that all should be well in this
compound. Is there any harm in saying so?"

Put that way, of course, I knew there wasn't, and I patted her withered
cheek gently.

"I'll come, then. Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. Was it
Felix or Festus said that? You see I had a Biblical education once."

"You are better than you think yourself," she murmured. She always
persisted in treating me as if I were an angel from heaven, and when
I fell away from grace, and even indulged in strong language, anybody
who lived in the same compound with Sister Luella would sooner or
later indulge in strong language--mine was mild to what it might have
been--she always found excuses for me. Of course, I went to noon-day
prayers. I'd have done anything I could for her. So when I had given my
last orders to the nurses couched in very colloquial Chinese we turned
to the door.




CHAPTER II.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY

HIS UNPROFITABLE REFLECTIONS


"My thoughts hold mortal strife:
I do detest my life."


NOTHING is ever gained by haste. Of course, on occasion a decision must
be made quickly, but in that case past experience comes to one's aid,
and nine times out of ten all goes well.

That is what I have thought since I can remember giving such things
thought at all. And I began rather young. I remember the Gov'nor
asking me if I would like to go into the Navy because Tom was going
into the Artillery, and he would like to have a son in both services.
I must have reached the mature age of eleven, and I wanted to go
to sea, but I took a week to think about it, and to his disgust I
said "No." That was mother's fault. How she, the daughter of one New
England missionary and the sister of another, came to marry an English
soldier, heaven only knows. It is only a little less extraordinary
than the fact that she made that soldier a devoted wife. And yet she
hated war in all its forms, and always, with her tender goodness, her
pleasant, kindly, laughing ways, she taught that everything may be
dealt with without force. She was sure of it. An unkind word was never
heard in our household; I had almost said an unkind thought was never
conceived. Such is the influence of a good woman. She wanted me to be a
missionary, to follow in the footsteps of her brother, my uncle Irwin.
In her eyes and in mine, too, he was martyr and hero. I was never
tired of hearing the story of his death in a Chinese rising; he showed
the people his pistol and that he could use it, and then tossed it
amongst them and let them bind him and lead him away, and on his way to
death they met a man badly bleeding from a wound in his thigh, and he
prevailed on his captors to allow him to bind it up.

I wanted to go into the Navy, but sailors must fight when occasion
arises--my father said angrily that is what they were for, to guard
England--and that settled it. I would not be a sailor. Those days will
stand out clear in my mind all my life. Never before had I seen the
peace of our household disturbed, but that day my father was furious
and my mother sad. And the storm did not blow over. Not till she
died, I think, when the Gov'nor was heart-broken. It took him months
to recover, and afterwards all that my mother had wished was law to
him. I believe he would even have made a missionary of Tom. But Tom
was not willing, and reminded him that it had always been arranged he
should go into the Army, and mother had acquiesced. She had. But she
had said it was because she thought the time was come when there would
be no more wars, and discipline was good. The Gov'nor agreed I should
be a missionary and intended I should take Orders. I intended to, too,
until I was about to take my Arts degree. Then I couldn't. There must
be dozens of men who start with the intention of being ordained, who
before they have taken their degree see a hundred reasons why they
should not.

When I broke it to the Gov'nor that I did not intend to enter the
Church I expected him to be angry, and he surpassed my expectations. So
I stayed for a little with Cherry, my only sister.

Cherry has married a soldier, a veritable fire-eater, but such a
good fellow that almost before I knew where I was I had taken the
opportunity my Oxford training gave me, and was a soldier, too. It was
the line of least resistance; a man must have a career, and all my
people were pleased.

For a little this carried me on, and I honestly tried to find interest
and purpose in the life.

But I wasn't content. My companions and I had nothing in common. I
thought them empty-headed, and they thought me an arrogant young prig.
Perhaps I was. Howell, Cherry's husband, would have felt the same
probably if it hadn't been for his wife. Cherry is as sweet and lovable
as her mother was before her. I discussed the matter at length with
her and she agreed with me--never could force and violence mend the
misery of the world, but she added she liked a fight because--there she
stopped. She could not tell why she liked it; any more than I could
tell what I wanted for a career. I was at a loss when it came into my
head that I would go and investigate the missionary life for myself. I
thought I wanted to right the wrongs of the world. Young fool! What I
wanted was to feel myself of some importance. I made up my mind that I
would go out to China and join one of the little American missions to
which my uncle had belonged. All my family objected, even Cherry, who
said it was pure waste, while the Gov'nor and Tom were furious. War
threatened, but I could not believe England and Germany would fight; if
they did, I preferred to be out of it.

I was wrong, but it took time to make me realise it, and with a heavy
heart I defied them, went across to America and gradually made my way
to Yang Cheng. This occupied a year, and all the time I have been
awfully worried. With my convictions, ought I to have joined up! I
ask myself the question every night. I wake in the morning asking the
same question. I had answered it by coming away, and I am by no means
satisfied with the answer. It has brought me no peace.

After I had been at Yang Cheng three months I asked myself what the
missionaries are doing. This faith that they preach--well, I can
no more accept it than I could accept the doctrines of the Church
of England. On the contrary, there is a dignity about the Church
of England that this faith lacks. Not that they are not good and
earnest and self-sacrificing. Every one of these people at Yang
Cheng, not excepting Henry Maitland, who is aggressively smug, are
of the very best. It is the faith they preach that disillusioned me.
They are so much better than their faith. Dr. Rosalie Grahame is as
self-sacrificing, and she says she has no faith at all, she only came
to improve her knowledge of medicine. That makes me smile. Exactly
as Sister Luella spends herself for the souls of the people to whom
she ministers, so does Rosalie Grahame spend herself for their broken
bodies. She has a little stand-off air that is wondrously fetching. She
is tall and slender, with her head gracefully set on her shoulders,
she has pretty wavy brown hair and brown eyes that always seem to be
saying, "Find out a way to make me nice to you. It will be good for
both of us." Her complexion is of a clear pallor and her cheeks look
whiter than they really are in contrast with her vivid red lips.

But perhaps her greatest charm is her radiant smile. It lights up her
whole face. When I found what a wealth of love she expends on her
little dog I knew she must be very lonely. I told her so and she only
laughed at me mockingly.

"I am not lonely," she said, "only I've learned the value of other
affections."

I said something, I forget what, and she turned on me sharply as if she
felt it her duty to tell me.

"I was engaged once," and she said it without the ghost of a smile as
if it were a matter of the most desperate importance.

"And you chucked him," I said. "Poor beggar!"

She did not smile.

"I beg your pardon. He chucked me!"

"By Jove! No! I don't believe it!"

She went crimson all over. Even her white neck showing at the "V" of
her sailor collar was red.

"It is true," she said defiantly, and then why she went on I don't
know. "What is more, I have been engaged twice. And each time it was
the man who--who--oh, why am I such a fool as to tell you this?" and
she made off towards the door. For a wonder we happened to be alone in
the Wrights' sitting-room and I managed to stop her.

"No, don't run away, don't, don't. Let's investigate this. Really, Dr.
Grahame, really Miss Rosalie, I'm not humbugging. I would have sworn a
man would have been your devoted slave for ever and a day once he had
kissed----"

She looked at me furiously.

"I hate----" she began, and then she thought better of it, flung
herself out of the room and banged the door behind her, and I saw her
walking across the compound to the hospital with MacTavish in her arms,
and she evidently got some comfort out of kissing the top of his lucky
little head.

But that's an amazing story. Twice engaged and each time the man failed
her. And she is one of the most attractive women I have ever met--bar
none. And yet I'm not in the least in love with her. I'm not the sort
of man who falls in love easily. I'm critical and I'm therefore a good
judge.

No sooner had she gone out than in came the funny Chinese postman in
his funny livery of blue and white, very faded blue and very dirty
white, and all, including the peaked cap, about three sizes too large
for him. His wildest dreams could never have given him any hope of
filling it. I wonder who designed the Chinese postal uniform. It is
such a travesty of things European. He brought me a letter from the
Gov'nor, and that letter--stung. I felt I must go home. I was mad to go
home.

And these good kind people engaged in noon-day prayer!




CHAPTER III.--ROSALIE'S STORY

NOON PRAYER


"Wherever you are
Work for your soul's sake,
That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you
May yield to the fire of you."


ONE thing never ceases to astonish me, and that is the amazing
tolerance of these Chinese we are for ever striving to convert to our
own petty little cramped ways. Can you imagine the mayor of a town in
New England, for instance, presenting to a foreign and alien faith
a large piece of ground for their occupation, with leave to preach
the faith which he himself looked upon with mild contempt? I must
confess I can't, and yet that is exactly what the elders of the little
city of Yang Cheng had done to the American mission which wished to
establish itself in their midst. A dozen years before I came upon the
scene they had presented to Mr. Wright, for whom they had a great
respect, a goodly piece of ground, and the missionaries have erected
half a dozen houses, a boys' school, a girls' school, a hospital and
a church. The compound has been nicely planted with trees, and on
this winter's day the sunshine turned it into fairyland. Through the
night there had been heavy snow, but with the dawn had come a fall in
the temperature, and now at noontide overhead was a cloudless blue
sky, the crisp dry air crackled with frost, and the avenue of water
chestnuts, which ran the whole length of the compound from one side of
the encircling wall of grey brick to the other, sparkled in a dress of
white and silver. Nowhere in the world I should think is winter more
glorious than in Northern China. The brilliant sun streaming through
the leafless branches caught the frost blossoms, and every little twig
was laden with diamonds that reflected light from a thousand facets. On
the pure white ground the interlaced branches cast intricate shadows
only a little blurred by the faint mist that hung like a halo round
each tree. It was entrancing beyond words. Even MacTavish came under
the spell and he raced along ahead of us two muffled women, and every
now and then flung himself joyfully into the heaped dry snow that
the careful gardener had swept up along the borders of the bricked
pathways, and however unsatisfactory I found the world, I couldn't help
taking pleasure in his pleasure. However sorry I am for other people's
troubles I cannot help enjoying myself when the means for enjoyment
comes along. I haven't decided whether it's callousness or a merciful
provision of providence. It's the same with my own troubles. Twice
you'd think I'd been crushed to the ground, and yet whenever it got the
chance there was something in me popping up and forgetting all about
the slights and enjoying itself thoroughly. It does sound hard. There
are those poor women suffering the agonies of the damned, millions of
them, though I can only think of the few hundreds who have come my way,
and yet here I was, as usual, forgetting all about them and enjoying
the lovely day. Well, I'd done the best I could for them and I suppose
the lovely day was meant to be enjoyed.

I can't understand--Oh hang! Those wretched women! And even the good
looks that they set such store by don't last long. They're most of them
bald, and the poor unfortunates try and disguise it with a black muslin
patch fitted into the horn into which the scanty hairs are gathered, or
worse still, by painting the bald surface with some sticky shiny black
substance, for all the world like black enamel.

"And yet they like abundant hair, though they do pluck the bride's
forehead," I found myself saying aloud, for I wanted to talk to Mrs.
Wright, and she never by any chance originated a conversation.

"Opening the face," said the minister, joining us; "there you've gotten
the reason for the baldness, if that's what's worritin' you. The rest
of the hair kinder gets discouraged and gives it up as a bad job."

The other members of the mission trooped into prayers. There was Miss
Lodham, a sensible middle-aged woman, Sister Luella Lawson, who had
had charge of the hospital before I came on the scene; there was that
promising evangelist, the widow of Luella's brother, and her little
daughter Sadie. Henry Maitland, the men's evangelist and the teacher
in the boys' school, was away the other side of the city, and I was
thankful. Henry Maitland I never can stand. There is something unctuous
about him that displeases me. Sister Luella and Sister Ednah are a
bit trying. They are both so perturbed about the souls of the heathen
around, that the needs, the very crying needs of this life are in great
danger of being entirely overlooked. Sister Luella is a trained nurse
and a very good trained nurse when her extraordinary religion does not
clash with her duties, which unluckily it very often does. How can she
expect a wretched woman suffering not only the pain of bound feet but
the pain of all the other physical ills it brings in its train, to be
happy, because Sister Luella tells her God loves her, loves her so much
that, according to Sister Luella, if she does not love Him in return
He will condemn her to everlasting punishment. Oh! it's a sweet faith!
So rational and reasonable! When Sister Luella is a nurse, pure and
simple, I love her for her efficiency; but when she is on the religious
tack--oh, Lord!

How can Martin Conant associate himself with these people? How can he?
And he has been here quite a long time. I should have thought the first
week would have disillusioned him.

To-day the minute I entered the sitting-room I saw that something was
the matter with him. He isn't generally occupied with himself. That
isn't his trouble. He is given to thinking about others, about me
sometimes, though it is in a detached impersonal way. In passing I put
it on record I believe I like men not to be so impersonal.

He was disturbed. As we three entered the room he came forward holding
a letter in his hand, and it was evident he was deeply moved.

"Mr. Wright! I must go back! At once! To-night! Where can I get
pack-mules?"

"Pack-mules," repeated the minister, who has not always been a
minister, but found religion late in life, after a career which seems
to have embraced many walks in life, from captain of a Yankee sealing
schooner in the Behring Sea to an omnibus driver in Piccadilly; "what
the howling hyenas are you spouting about?" Only occasionally when he
remembers his high office does he seek words that he considers suitable
to his position.

"I must go--go," repeated Mr. Conant. "Good God! I've been here too
long."

Of course he has. If it were my country that was fighting, right or
wrong, and Britain is certainly right, do you think I would have come
away and buried myself in a Chinese mission station? No, indeed! He
has taken a long while to discover where his duty lies. Listening to
his troubled words we gathered that he has had a letter from Colonel
Conant, his father, and the letter was written in sorrow and shame.

"I must go," he said, and to my great surprise he brought his hand down
upon the table and swore aloud. I looked at him. Oh, yes, I know I
swear myself, but I don't belong to the missionary trade; a missionary,
especially one like Martin Conant, hasn't a right to swear.

"Oh, choke off the hot air," said the minister serenely. "What's the
hurry?"

"I must go to the war. I want to join up!"

"You sorter passed up that chance I guess," said Mr. Wright, still
unmoved, "when you come up here."

We were all looking at him, and I'm afraid I was laughing a little.

"You are a man of peace," Sister Luella reminded him solemnly, and I
began to feel more sympathetic; "what have you to do with wars and
rumours of wars? You have laid hold of the skirt of----"

Mr. Conant interrupted her. He knew what was coming, and he didn't like
it.

"I tell you I must go," he said doggedly, and he addressed the
minister, because I was sure he felt that if he looked at Sister
Luella he would never be able to resist taking her by the shoulders
and shaking her. I've felt the same way myself towards Henry Maitland.
"I--must--go--to-night." And he emphasized every word.

"Bless you, don't worry," said the gentleman addressed, calmly; "if
it's a scrimmage you're hankering after, you'll get it here if you hang
on long enough. I've come through two risin's and three robber bands,
an' the revolution, an' thinkin' on 'em sorter comforts me when I'm
threatened with the Willies. Eh, Momma, don't it strike you that way?"

Mrs. Wright's little boy had died ten years ago, but she was still
Momma to her husband. It used to irritate me at first. Afterwards when
MacTavish had come into my possession, and I had learned to love him,
I saw the pathos of it. That's the value of a little dog. Her answer
was a foregone conclusion, because she always smiled gently and kindly
under all circumstances, and never committed herself to words if they
could be done without. She smiled now.

"But I tell you," went on Mr. Conant desperately, and he was gnawing
his black moustache, and his level eyebrows met across his forehead,
"it's a matter of patriotism. Every Englishman in the Empire has joined
up, and I'm a shirker. I'll be branded a coward and a skulker."

"He was despised and rejected," began Sister Luella, and I could see
Martin Conant prepared to abjure the Founder of the Faith as presented
to him by one of His most ardent servants.

"Let's have midday prayers and talk it over afterwards," said Miss
Lodham, with her sound common sense, and down she went on her knees.

"Gee whiz! I guess we'd better," said the minister. "I'm apt to lay
myself open to be jolted on to a side track. We'll make it a matter of
prayer. Sister Luella will open," and he, too, went down upon his knees.

I wanted to laugh. It was unkind I know, but I really did. Fancy having
your martial ardour quenched in that way! I couldn't imagine any mind
less attuned to midday prayer than that young man's at that moment. I
expected to see him march out of the room and bang the door. But not a
bit of it. By the time I was kneeling, there he was beside me, and we
were both opposite the long French door looking out over the compound
beautiful in its winter dress. I was wondering if he dreaded being
prayed over as much as I do. It always seemed to me he must because
such a procedure was so foreign to his entire upbringing.

Sister Luella began instructing the Almighty in the needs of the Tsai
family. Tsai Ling, aged fifteen, had renounced her heathen name and
been baptized Rosalie because I had made her eyelashes grow outwards in
the way they were intended to and not inwards into her poor eyes, and
now it appeared according to Luella she was troubled about the soul of
her great-grandmother, Tsai Ling the elder, who is blind, and of course
lame.

"Lord, Thou knowest the blindness of Thy humble servant," went on
Luella earnestly. "Thou knowest the hold the heathen superstition----"

I admit the meeting of all workers for noontide prayer is a beautiful
idea, but in most communities it must interfere dreadfully with the
work on hand. It interfered badly with mine many a time. It was
interfering now. Mr. Conant was fidgeting restlessly, and Sister Luella
was dictating to the Almighty and had no intention of finishing till
she had called the Deity's attention to the fact that she had done all
that she could, and it was now up to Him to take a hand. I watched
Martin Conant a little maliciously.

MacTavish whimpered, and I put out a restraining hand. He whimpered
again, and as I drew him towards me I caught Mr. Conant's sombre eyes.
But MacTavish wasn't easily quenched. He fluffed up his pretty little
ears, tore himself away, put a little questioning white paw on the
glass of the French window and ran back to me eagerly. The little dog
was right.

Something unusual was happening at the main gate of the compound. The
gatekeeper came into view, an old man in horn spectacles, and a long
blue gown; then there was the jangling of mule bells, and through the
archway came a gaily caparisoned white mule with bells round his neck
and a big red tassel hanging down between his ears. He was in the
shafts of a litter, and the arch of its wagon-like tilt just fitted
under the archway of the gate. No one in the room moved save MacTavish,
who made a wild dash round, and then with pretty black and white head
held very high looked ostentatiously out of the window again with an
air that said that he at least was on the alert and doing his duty. He
took a good look as if to be sure that he was justified in his action,
his front paws were wide apart and his little tip-tilted black nose
was very emphatic. He was justified. And though like all Japanese pugs
he is a silent dog as a rule, he rounded his little mouth and gave one
full deep bark like a prolonged "O--o--o--oh!"

In came the whole litter, a big brown mule in the shafts behind, a
Mongolian pony followed, and on it was a man who was manifestly a
European from the crown of his grey wolf-skin cap to his riding breeches
and spurred heels. Five pack-mules followed him, a small donkey and
five Chinese attendants, and the whole company moved slowly along the
brick pathway that ran under the fairy-like avenue, and as each animal
wore a collar of bells, the jingling rang clear and loud on the frosty
air.

And Luella prayed on oblivious and her voice rang in impassioned
appeal. MacTavish turned to the company and gave another long-drawn
protest, and Miss Lodham rose to her feet.

"Look here," she said, "if you people can pay attention to the
spiritual needs of the Tsai family, I can't. I've always thought myself
it was soap and water they needed most. Why! Good Heavens! Foreigners!"

MacTavish felt himself backed up and went round the company, some
kneeling, some standing, with wild yelps expressive of the joy a
Japanese pug always feels in the prospect of some change from the
ordinary routine. Luella stopped dead and dropped her face in her
hands, her sister-in-law looked at her thoughtfully, and then curiosity
got the better of all other feelings and they both rose to their feet
and joined the rest of us. We stood a second looking out of the window.
Then I opened the door, much to MacTavish's relief, and all seizing
wraps as we went, for the thermometer was far below zero, we swarmed
out to meet the strangers.

The litter came to a full stop as if the white mule had made up his
mind he would go no further, and a woman's head muffled to the eyes
was thrust out. The foreigner--all white men in China are foreigners,
irrespective of their nationality--came forward. He was big and
bearded, with a fur cap like a Russian's drawn low on his forehead and
a long coat of grey wolf-skin reached almost to his feet. He held out
his hand in a knitted woollen glove.

"Good morning," said he, "this is the American mission at Yang Cheng?"

"Sure," said the minister coming forward with simple courtesy, "an' I'm
boss." He always speaks hastily but occasionally tries to improve his
language as he goes along. "I mean," he said, "I'm the Rev. Septimus
Wright in charge. You are welcome. Come right in."

"Hold on a minute," said the newcomer, who looked a hard man, hard as
nails, "you mayn't ante up when you realise who I am. I've been running
the B.A.T. at Hein Chou. Pai Lang, White Wolf, you know, came down on
the place and we've had the devil of a time getting away."

Now the Mission speak of smoking as if it were one of the seven deadly
sins. As I have said, their unfortunate converts have to refrain from
it and the British American Tobacco Company is their mortal enemy. Mr.
Wright is not a tolerant man but he spoke simply and graciously.

"You bet your life," said he, "we'll help you if we can. But Chinese
robbers are the cussedest--I mean," he added hastily, "I don't know
that there is accommodation in the compound for your muleteers, but
there's a very good inn just across the graveyard outside there, and
for your personal servants and your wife--is it?"

"Thanks be," said the newcomer, "Mrs. Chapman. I'm Silas Chapman at
your service;" and just for a moment he removed his cap showing a thick
thatch of iron grey hair. He stepped up to the litter and lifted out a
little bundle of furs. A pair of arms went round his neck and he stood
for a moment with the woman in his arms.

"Inside," said Miss Lodham, "no good to get her feet cold," and he
strode in through the open window and put her down in the nearest
arm-chair.

The rest of us came crowding in after them, Mr. Conant last as if he
could not tear his mind from his own affairs. He shut the door with a
snap. We stood round that chair wondering, and the little figure lying
back in it pushed the furs from her head, flung them open in front,
showing a dress of white flowered voile, really a very unsuitable
costume for travelling, held out a pair of little hands, such a pretty
little pair of daintily kept hands, and burst into tears.

"Oh! Oh," she sobbed, "the relief! the relief! Three days and I thought
it would never end! Oh it was hard! I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Forgive me. I
know it's silly but I just can't help it."

She is very pretty. I have not seen anything so dainty since I came to
the mission, and really she is a joy to look at. Even if she is only
for ornament, what does it matter? I've come to the conclusion that too
much of the utilitarian is almost, not quite, but almost as bad as too
much of the ornamental. The four women who made up the mission are good
and dear, you couldn't find better women anywhere, and Miss Lodham must
have been very pretty when she was young, but not one of them gives
the least attention to their personal appearance. I declare I am the
only woman in the compound who tries to do her hair becomingly. They
think it useless vanity, and when I looked at those women with their
hair dragged straight back from their foreheads, and their shoulders
enveloped in crocheted woollen shawls, pink and blue and grey and
scarlet, bending over the dainty little person in unsuitable voile, I
really felt that one way of worshipping the Almighty is by making the
best of the looks He has given. A white voile was unsuitable for the
occasion, but taken altogether Mrs. Chapman made the sweetest picture
of femininity, and my heart went out to her. I understand what old
women mean by saying a sight is good for sore eyes.

She is pink and white, with golden hair, with big blue eyes, dewy red
lips and pearly white teeth, and there is a little quiver in her voice
that goes straight to my heart. I daresay she is rather helpless, but,
after all, in these modern times we are a bit overdoing the capable
woman. I for one am glad occasionally to meet a woman one doesn't
expect to do anything except look pretty. Martin Conant, in spite of
his pre-occupation, was attracted, too. He came a little closer, and
as he bent over the girl I could not help thinking what a splendid
couple they made. I looked so long that that jealous little person,
MacTavish, who seems to spend all his time watching his mistress,
became aggrieved, and I had to take him up and fondle and soothe him.
Strangely enough, the newcomer's husband, the very type of man I should
have thought would have been held by such frail and delicate beauty,
paid little attention to her. He is a dour, silent man, and once he had
got her inside he seemed well content to leave her to others. Just like
a man, wasn't it?

Miss Lodham looked at her and turned to the man. Miss Lodham loves
beauty, but she always feels she must not waste time pandering to her
own fancies. You can't but respect Miss Lodham, even though she does
feel it her bounden duty to rule out of this life, in her enthusiasm
for the life to come, much that goes to make the world delightful.
Again and again she has made me furious because I feel it is so silly,
and then she does something so kind and helpful I can't help loving
her. After all, she is much harder on herself than on anyone else. She
does try and make life good for those girls. And I wonder if anyone
ever tried to make life pleasant for a Chinese girl in Yang Cheng
before.

"Had any trouble?" she asked Mr. Chapman, who was shedding his furs.

"Pai Lang," he said tersely, and took off a cardigan jacket.

"Sufferin' scarecrows," said the minister, "Pai Lang ain't in these
parts."

"Made us get a hustle on us last night," said Mr. Chapman as calmly as
if he were not dropping a bomb in our midst.

"Comin' this way?" asked the minister.

"Eventually I should say so," said the newcomer, as if there was no
more to be said.

"Well, I dunno if rescuin' missions is your strong suit," said the
minister, "but you might let us know where the soldiers are."

"Given it up and gone East," was the cool answer.

Then I remembered my friend Hop Sing's letter, the letter I had paid so
little attention to.

"He's got so far as Shou Yang," I said. "Hop Sing told me so, and I
didn't believe him," and as Mrs. Chapman lay back with closed eyes I
took her round little wrist in my hand and laid my finger on her pulse.

She looked up with such a wistful appeal in her pretty blue eyes. I
didn't wonder that Martin Conant--detached Martin Conant--seemed for
the moment to have forgotten his own particular trouble, but I was
surprised that her husband was so casual. It must have been terribly
trying fleeing in the depths of a Northern China winter before a
Chinese robber. But MacTavish being put down on his own little legs
again, promptly became frantically jealous and tried to take part in
the proceedings by putting a gentle questioning paw on her skirts, and
since that produced no result, he gathered some folds in his mouth and
stood looking up defiantly.

The new young woman screamed, a delicate scream that somehow escaped
being vulgar--I have always thought screaming so horrid--and kicked at
the poor little chap with a neatly shod foot. MacTavish, who was always
a welcome addition to any company on the mission compound, dropped the
dress and barked at her in utter astonishment.

"Oh!" she cried, springing from her chair and making a little run
towards Martin Conant, "it'll bite me! I know it'll bite me!"

There was a time before I had my little dog when I didn't like dogs
myself, and I thought women who fussed over them were fools, so I had
to forgive her. It was rather silly, of course, but her husband needn't
have been so rough.

"Don't be an ass, Stella," was his contribution to her soothing.

"Stella." I have always thought of Stella as dark and rather regal, not
a cuddlesome little thing, but I'll have to readjust my ideas. Anyhow,
it's a pretty name.

"Oh, MacTavish!" I said. "Bad dog! How can you be so naughty? No,
indeed, he won't bite you. He's really a good little dog. Come here,
MacTavish, and make friends," and I picked him up and carried him
towards her. Mr. Conant was putting her back in her chair again.

Her clinging hands let go of him reluctantly, and she looked anxiously
at me and the little black and white dog. He was smiling amiably, for
he is always at peace with the world when he is in my arms. I held him
out to make friends. I didn't think anyone could resist MacTavish, but
she shrank back.

"It's no good," she said apologetically. "I just can't help it. A dog
gives me the shivers."

"Don't be an ass, Stella," said her husband again.

"I can't help it," she repeated. "I'm so afraid of hydrophobia in this
country, and my nerves are all on edge after the awful time we've had,"
and she looked so attractively ashamed of herself that I had to forgive
her slighting my treasure dog and trust to time to straighten things
out.

"Stella," said her husband, "you let up on that yellow cur streak."

It sounded coarse, and I don't wonder that she wilted before him. He
made me feel uncomfortable.

"It's all right," I said, "we'll soon show her that MacTavish is a good
little dog. Did you have a very bad time?"

He answered quickly, as if he wanted to get his story in first.

"No," he said curtly, "normal."

"We did," asseverated his wife; "everything frozen hard, air cutting
you like a knife if you lifted your face from your furs; inns with
rooms like freezing chambers, and full of cold smoke from the k'ang
fire--do you know how abominable cold smoke can be? the k'ang too hot
to sit on, and the filth----"

Indeed I did know. I have been present at the undressing of many
Chinese women, and I have often seen the Lawsons when they come back
from an evangelistic tour among the people, and they slip out of their
clothes hastily and comb their long hair carefully with a fine tooth
comb. And they are sustained by the thought of their holy mission.
It was hard for this girl to be subjected to such trials without the
uplifting that comes to the Lawsons.

"Don't think about it any more," I advised. "What you want is rest."

"Ought to have freighted you back to 'Frisco," growled her husband
unsympathetically.

Poor little thing, no wonder she looks wistful. Wasn't it just like a
man? Tired of her already, I suppose.

"I told you Kansu was no place for a woman in winter, or in summer
either for that matter," he went on. That is what she gets for loving
her husband and sticking to him. He looked round the little company as
if defying the women he saw before him to challenge his statement. We
none of us did. I didn't think it was worth while and not one of the
rest of them probably did consider the climate of China suitable for
either man or woman. They all, with the exception of Martin Conant,
belonged to the class which sees no beauty in a climate different from
that in which it has been born and bred. The climate is nothing to
them. They have come to China for a certain purpose--a purpose that
they set before all else, and every discomfort or even every luxury is
of no account weighed in the balance beside that purpose. I who don't
believe in any missions save medical ones give these people all honour.

Mr. Conant seemed to have almost forgotten his own troubles in looking
at the newcomer. It was natural enough. And the young woman knows she
is attractive, she means to be attractive.

"Stella," said Mr. Chapman, "between the blankets is your place."

"Oh no," she begged, "when I do come in contact with some of my own
kind and can exchange an idea it's too bad to send me to bed even if I
am foolish and do cry more than I ought."

"Nevertheless," I said, "for exhausted nerves there is nothing like
rest."

"It seems to me," said Mr. Conant, "that we're taking the matter of Pai
Lang very calmly. I must get back to England and I'd like to know----"

"You bet your boots you ain't goin' to vamoose if that interestin'
product Pai Lang's shakin' a leg," said the minister with conviction.

"Pooh!" said Miss Lodham hugging her grey shawl a little closer, "if we
got unduly agitated over every rumour of unrest in China we might just
as well make up our minds to quit right away."

"Pai Lang and his braves are darned solid fact," said Mr. Chapman. Mr.
Conant interrupted him.

"Surely the missionaries," he began, and then to my dismay I caught his
eye and he stopped short just as if I had said, "Do you call yourself
a missionary?"--which is exactly what I thought--only I wouldn't for
the world have said it to him at that moment, and the other man went on
calmly. He was determined we should face it.

"Tobacco selling has its little difficulties," said he. "Not all
confined to the missionary trade, but you get a pretty clear conception
of your surroundings, and on the whole you hold the balance fair.
White Wolf has stirred up the Society of the Elder Brethren and that
means Anti-Foreign and Anti-Christian feeling in the country, and that
means----"

"The President," began the minister, "banks on Christianity----"

The other looked at him.

"In Peking," said he. "Pai Lang's top dog here."

"We missionaries when we come out," said the minister simply, "go nap
on it. We aren't supposed to go duckin' an' dodgin' an' side steppin'
to save our miserable skins."

"It's a bit rough on you," said the trader. "Got a telegraph?"

"At Lan Chou. Six days away."

"About as useful as if it were in London. Thank you. Let's think of
something else."

I couldn't help watching the new young woman. She said nothing, but
one couldn't help feeling she was still in the middle of the picture.
Every action seemed to proclaim, "Think of me. Do something for me.
I am worth thinking about." That is the effect she has on me and I
think on Mr. Conant too. You have to take her into consideration. She
is such a helpless little thing to face all the horrors of a Chinese
rebellion, and for me it does not take away her charm that she is quite
aware of it. There is no doubt you get tired of women who are content
to efface themselves eternally and put first some impersonal Lord whom
you don't in the least realise. There is just the faintest touch of
selfishness, a pleasant selfishness, about Stella Chapman which is
quite refreshing. I should have thought that to every man she would
have been irresistible, and yet her husband was looking at her with
something like distaste. Before she was married Aunt Matty declared
all men tired of a woman who belonged to them, and here was a case in
point, for she is sweet and attractive and you'd have thought that at
this time in especial he would have been tender. It is very evident he
does not value the thing he has won.

The minister took his wife's hand and patted it.

"I thought the Lord was playing it mighty low down on us," he said,
"when he took our little Jimmy, but it's a dead cert He allus romps in
a winner."

I did want to smile. I had to remind myself that Septimus Wright does
a good and helpful work among the Chinese, but I couldn't help looking
at Mr. Conant. I'm quite sure he at least must have been feeling there
is a good deal to be said for the dignified reserve of the Episcopal
Church. They say every man has the God he deserves, so I suppose every
man serves the Church that appeals to him most. This Church always
makes me squirm.

"Nevertheless," said Miss Lodham, with her sound common sense, "I see
no reason for not having dinner. I've been twice as near to robber
bands at least ten times in the last fifteen years, and the bands never
eventuated."

"This band," said Mr. Chapman, and he spoke as if stating a fact,
"is going to eventuate. The elders at Hsin Chou have fled West and
everybody's taking a hand at looting----"

"I know," said the minister, "reg'ler festive splurge."

Mr. Chapman nodded. "Too hot for me. At Ba Chuang my wife saw two dead
men. I saw ten and we got out."

"Lightning conductor tour," suggested the minister, and again he nodded.

"All the more reason," said Miss Lodham, "that we should have dinner.
I've run away before now and regretted the dinner I might have had."

Stella Chapman wrung her hands.

"How can you? How can you? Who could possibly eat?"

"Oh for God's sake, Stella," said her husband roughly, "Shut up."

Brutal of him.

"You must eat, you know," I said, "we can't afford to spoil that pretty
complexion. It's a rarity in China. See, here's MacTavish asking you to
cheer up. We're not going to let anything harm you if we can help it."

"You come to your room, my dear, and wash," said Mrs. Wright kindly.

"I'm frightened," she said shrinking up against me. "I'm frightened.
You don't know what it's like on those roads."

"Now, my girl," said her husband, "you ought to be content. You've
shaken up the mission."

She looked at him, rose up and put two trembling hands on my shoulders.
I'm not very fond of being touched but I put my arm round her.

"She wants a little care," I said very distinctly, looking her husband
straight in the face. He is rather good-looking, and strange to say the
eyes he turned on me were certainly kind.

"Don't let her impose on you," he said in quite a friendly fashion.
"You see I'm up to these little stunts. Now then, Stella, get it off
your chest. What is it you want?"




CHAPTER IV.--ROSALIE'S STORY.

ENTER CHUNG.


"Who hath known the pain, the old pain of earth,
Or all the travail of the sea,
The many ways and waves, the birth
Fruitless, the labour nothing worth?
Who hath known, who knoweth, O gods? not we."


STELLA CHAPMAN dropped her head on to my shoulder, and, though I do
detest public embraces, I couldn't repulse her. She had just come off
a long journey in a litter, but she was so soft and warm and she smelt
of violets, and she came to me so confidingly, as if she knew I would
help her, that I wondered still more what made her husband so harsh
with her. I suppose Aunt Matty was right, though she recanted quite
angrily after she had married the professor; men do get tired of the
most adorable woman. Well, it will be no hardship to stand alone.

"I want Chung," said Mrs. Chapman in a whisper, still with her head on
my shoulder. Phyllis always asked for candy that way.

"Have you any objection?" said Mr. Chapman looking round. "Chung can
always find all the things my wife has lost."

She lifted up her head then. Her hair on my shoulder was like spun silk.

"I haven't anything to lose," she protested with a pout.

He said nothing, only looked at her scornfully.

"But where is Chung?" I asked. He was much more civil to me. I couldn't
help liking him when he turned to me, and yet on principle I hate a man
who can't be civil to his wife.

"Sent him into the city," he said, and then, as if reluctant as he was
to open his mouth, he felt that some explanation was due, he added, "He
might find out how the land lies."

"If Chung's even an ordinary sort of a cuss," said the minister, "he
could run round a little one-horse place like this in two shakes of a
donkey's tail, an' if he ain't likin' what he's piped off I guess he's
now makin' preparations----"

As he spoke, the door that led into the kitchen opened and Chung
himself stepped into the room. He had divested himself of his outdoor
wraps--in fact, he was very much indoor, for his head was freshly
shaven, his pigtail was newly oiled, a neat little fringe stood up on
end like a minute halo just where the hair and the newly shaved part
met, and in front of his long, clean blue gown--a tribute to the warm
house--was stuck a little fan of yellow paper. He took it out as he
entered, and with his head on one side delicately fluttered it. The
mission servants are dull, stolid peasants. This man looked as if he
had stepped out of comic opera.

"Chung," said his mistress, raising her head, "wanchee shoe."

"By em by," said Chung serenely, "in bottom side litter," and by way of
showing how truly amiably inclined he was, he stooped and picked one of
MacTavish's white hairs from the front of my dress.

I couldn't help smiling.

"Never mind the dog's hairs," I said.

"Fezzers," he said emphatically and picked off another.

"I think not," I said. He was so extremely solemn about it. "My little
dog's hairs."

"Fezzers," he said again, with a little flicker of his fan. "Missee
have hairs, dogs and cats has fezzers."

"Oh, never mind whether they have hairs or feathers," said his mistress
impatiently, "wanchee shoe, wanchee brush, wanchee clean dress."

"Bottom side mule litter," murmured Chung indifferently. "What the hell
you stop here for? Pai Lang loot eastern suburb."

"No," said the minister, and "No," said Mr. Chapman, while the rest of
us looked at one another.

"Mr. Maitland friend of yours?" asked Chung casually.

"Sure," said the minister, "but how does Henry Maitland butt in?"

"Oh, he no butt in," said Chung, throwing back his head and swinging
his long pigtail from one shoulder to the other while he fanned himself
delicately. "He dead." Clearly a foreigner more or less was nothing to
him.

Awful things come to one, I find, so quietly, so unexpectedly. This man
spoke exactly, and with quite as little emotion as if he had announced
that he had broken a plate, and for the moment I hardly realised what
had happened. Something inside me kept repeating "Henry Maitland is
dead. Henry Maitland is dead, and you always thought him unctuous and
horrid."

"He can't know anything about it," said Mr. Conant, and you can't think
what a relief it was to hear him. "He's only just come."

Mr. Chapman lifted his hand quietly and I felt as if my heart had
stopped beating. He thought Chung was right then.

"You bet," said that gentleman answering for himself, and he fluttered
his fan at the company. "He dead. Got no head."

And we said nothing. Involuntarily we drew closer together, and
then Stella Chapman who had stood forward for a moment turned round
and clutched me again. A man had died. I could not have shown any
emotion to save my life, but I think it was a relief that she did. I
wonder if my medical training has made me a little callous. Under no
circumstances can I fancy myself making a fuss, and yet I was glad she
was paying this tribute to a man she had never seen. There was danger,
too.

Her husband turned on her almost savagely.

"You keep that low bred yellow-livered cur streak in check," he said.

She shrank against me and I could only hold her closer and look at him.
Would he be angry with her if danger threatened? I hated him for being
angry, and yet it gave me confidence. Poor little MacTavish was jealous
because someone had taken his place, and he began scraping my dress
with his little white paw in order to draw my attention to the fact
that I was forgetting him. It was foolish for two strong young women to
stand clinging together, so I put Stella Chapman gently down into the
easy chair and picked him up.

"There, there, dear," I was saying, exactly as if she had been little
Phyllis. "We'll take care of you, I must take up my poor little
MacTavish. I shouldn't like him to think his mistress neglected him
now."

It was the simple truth.

"How can you? A dog!" and she spoke quite reproachfully.

Well, I suppose she did not understand. There was a time when I would
have laughed at the idea of anyone finding comfort in a little dog or
considering the dog had any feelings at all. But were we really facing
death? I had never thought it would be like this.

"I've heard bluffs like that before," said the minister, putting his
hand on Chung's shoulder, "Are you sure Henry's got the call?"

"He dead--bet your life--dead as skinned cat--got no head--shaved off
one clean cut," and he returned the minister's familiarity by making a
ghastly motion with his hands under his chin. It was graphic, horrible.

Something cold seemed applied to my back; my hands were like ice, and
I was glad to hold my little dog close. The minister was holding his
wife's hand. Sister Ednah was clasping her child in her arms, but
Mr. Chapman made no motion to come near his wife, and she, evidently
desperately in need of some strong arm to lean upon, clutched piteously
at my skirts. I managed to free one arm and put it round her shoulders.
I'd rather have kept it round MacTavish, but I was sorry for her.

"Don't be frightened," I said. But it seemed there was a good deal of
which to be frightened.

"Oh, buck up, Stella," said her husband, and there was a contemptuous
ring in his voice. "If this young lady can be so plucky----"

Me! Plucky! Well, I was glad it struck him that way.

"If poor Henry Maitland is gone," began Miss Lodham, and I remembered
she was the one amongst us who had refused to believe in danger.

"Damn sure thing," asserted Chung with conviction.

"The fifty school girls are----"

"Damn good invite," again remarked the same gentleman, not with
meaning, but just as if he were stating a fact that must be plain to
all of us.

Poor Miss Lodham! She had done so much for that school! All her waking
hours were filled with thoughts of it. Now she just stared at him and
then dropped to a seat with her arms straight down beside her and her
hands hanging palms upwards. It was a simple confession of failure. Mr.
Conant stepped across and laid a hand on her shoulder. He looked as
if he were about to speak, but he did not. They were all taking it so
quietly. And we were over a thousand miles from Peking, and there was
no help nearer.

"What can we do?" asked Sister Luella. "Lord! what can we do?"

Tragedy was walking in our midst, and yet I kept saying to myself, "So
far have I come, and what next? What next?"

Mrs. Wright answered me.

"We can pray to the good God," she said simply.

I managed to shake off the curious numbness that had settled upon me
and said, "I think we'd better pray while we work then. If Pai Lang is
in the eastern suburb there isn't much time. We'd better make for the
hills. In a farm-house or a cave----"

"I lift up mine eyes to the hills," said the minister, "whence cometh
my help." I think the quotation comforted him.

"In December," said Mr. Chapman, and the two words meant a great deal.
Perhaps he felt it himself, for he added hastily, "I haven't got a
better offer. Pai Lang holds a full house as far as I'm concerned."

"What about ponies?" asked Martin Conant, with his hand still on Miss
Lodham's shoulder, and he shot an encouraging look at me.

"Nary a one between here and Mongolia," said the minister. "It's
shanks' mare for us, you bet."

"But," protested Mrs. Chapman, and there was shrinking in her tones, "I
simply can't walk."

He flicked his fingers just as if it were all one to him, and Miss
Lodham sat up, her hands on the table, and spoke deliberately.

"There are twenty girls at least here I can't send to their people even
if I can arrange for the safety of the others. We can't take twenty
girls into the hills."

If you only knew Chinese schoolgirls! A more irresponsible crowd it
would be impossible to imagine. The maddest, naughtiest schoolgirl in
America is staid and solemn and reliable beside the best of them. Even
under the circumstances I couldn't help smiling. There is no sense in a
Chinese schoolgirl, at least, not in far west Kansu. Nobody else said
anything, so I did.

"We certainly can't," I said.

"Then, of course," said the schoolmistress, "I shall stay. I can't very
well leave these girls."

"But how on earth can your staying help them?" asked Mr Conant.

Our only salvation seemed to lie in getting away.

"I undertook their care," said Miss Lodham, and she spoke quite simply,
and something of peace came into her troubled face. "No, I can't go. I
guess I've gotten my place."

Martin Conant looked round as if questioning each person in turn.

"Sally," said the minister, "I take it we ain't doin' a get away
leavin' Chrissie Lodham to hustle for herself."

His wife smiled and clasped his arm. "God is good," she said, and it
seemed to be answer enough for him and Miss Lodham; though making every
allowance I don't see how it applied.

"Oh, you go," she urged, "you go. But you see I must stay."

"No. I guess we'll stop. We can't have the congregation chantin' 'O ye
of little faith'!"

"Out of the depths! Oh Lord! Out of the depths!" cried Luella Lawson.
"Shall we put from our lips the cup He has set us to drink?"

Sister Ednah paused a moment. I remembered, as we do remember things,
as if two things were going on at once in my mind, that once she had
said to me, that whenever she looked at little Sadie she said to
herself, "How could the martyrs rejoice!" I suppose she was saying
it now and thinking how wicked she was.

"My little girl! My Sadie!" she cried pitifully, and her poor plain
face was all white and strained. And then she made up her mind, "Amen!
Amen!" she said soberly. "And Lang Hsu needs me," she added practically.

That was the worst of it. Lang Hsu needed me a great deal more. Sister
Ednah was thinking about her soul. I don't know if she had a soul;
it really, when you knew Lang Hsu, seemed improbable, but her poor
broken body certainly needed the attention I could give it. She would
suffer agony if she were not attended to every few hours, but it made
me shiver all over to think of staying. Martin Conant looked at me
and then his eyes wandered to Stella Chapman, who was leaning forward
moaning a little.

Of my own free will I had come to look after the women in the hospital.
I had promised Lang Hsu and another woman if they would let me operate,
I would look after them and care for them, and if I deserted them when
they needed me most---- Those two would certainly die if I left them
now. I hadn't ever promised to risk my life--but if those two women
died in agony because I--and then I heard my own voice just pitched a
little high saying:

"Since you're all so faithful, I'll stay, too. I haven't your religion,
but Lang Hsu and that other woman must be attended to or they'll die,
and I shouldn't like to have their deaths on my conscience. It might be
worse than dying myself."

They all looked at me so gravely that I went on perhaps a little
flippantly, "Without troubling at all about the Lord, we'll stick to
our job, won't we, MacTavish," and MacTavish turned his pretty little
head and looked round the company and then back at his missis as if
saying that whatever she chose to do had his heartiest approval.

Suddenly Mrs. Wright left her husband and crossing to me kissed me. It
took me by surprise, for Mrs. Wright is undemonstrative.

"A wind from the wilderness," she said. "My dear, you are only blind.
The Lord is walking close beside you. If you only lean you will feel
His sheltering arm."

Goodness knows never did I need sheltering more.

"It's a simple matter of decency," I said, a little uncomfortably. "If
you can look after your jobs I can surely look after mine."

"By gum!" said Chung, with a flourish of his fan.

"Get your guns," said Mr. Chapman tersely.

"There isn't even a popgun," said Martin Conant.

"If Pai Lang blows in here," said the minister, "I guess we'll be
directed how to deal with him"--I rather thought it was he who would
deal with us--"but ours is a peace stunt, an' it's just as well. If we
had guns I'd be some worried keepin' my claws off 'em."

"Then," said Mr. Chapman thoughtfully, "it's scoot. And no litter."

"Crikey, Jim!" said Chung, with feeling. "Missie go for die for sure.
He mighty beastly cold in hills."

I heard a sob and saw Stella Chapman looking up at me with pitiful eyes.

"Why can't we keep the litter?" she asked as a child might have done.

The litter was there in the snow, its tilt a little rakishly on one
side.

"Because," said her husband quite coolly, "those muleteers only
undertook to bring us to Ba Chuang, and it was only at the point
of the pistol I made them come on here. Now they're being absorbed
inconspicuously into the population. I don't know that I blame them."

"Oh, but you'll come with us," she said, and I don't know whether she
was appealing to Mr. Conant or me. She was certainly not thinking of
Silas Chapman.

"Dear," I said, "I can't possibly come with you. You must see I can't
leave these women."

"I don't see why not," she said with wide open innocent eyes. "They're
only Chinese and they're among their own people. Oh, you must come. And
you'll come," and she turned beseechingly to Mr. Conant, "then we'll be
all right."

He looked at her and then at me and then round at the others as if he
were debating where his duty lay. Only a quarter of an hour ago--it
seemed years and years, ages--he had been keen to set out for England.

"If the others are staying my place is here; but I can help you a
little on your way."

"By gum!" said Chung, again fluttering his fan, and it was as if he
were weighing us up, and was a little surprised. I wonder what he had
thought we would do.

I looked at the woman sitting all crouched up in the chair in which I
had put her. So did her husband.

"Scoot, Stella," said he. "Scoot's the word. You'll have to do it on
your own little flat feet."

She looked forlorn enough, but she rose obediently. She made me feel
capable. A little of the benumbing fear slipped from me. You haven't
time to be afraid when you're busy.

"Come along," I said as cheerfully as I could, "and I'll help you.
MacTavish and I'll go across to the dispensary and put up a few trifles
that may be useful," and I helped her to her feet.

She came reluctantly. Evidently she didn't like trusting herself to a
woman.

"I can't walk," she complained. "I feel as if weights were hanging on
my feet. Chung! Chung!"

Chung pranced forward, head on one side, fluttering his fan.

"No good, Missie, no good for my! My makee die in hills," and having
expressed his opinion thus tersely on the hopelessness of the
situation, like a true Chinaman, he went backwards, only he danced
where an ordinary servant would have walked till he reached the door.
It was opened from behind by unseen hands, and with his head still on
one side insinuatingly and his little yellow fan still fluttering, he
was swallowed up, and the door softly closed behind him.

Mrs. Chapman looked on in dismay.

"And I've always heard Chinese servants are so faithful," she said, and
there was real surprise in her tones.

"My girl," said her husband, "Chung's had experience of you with a
litter, and he funks it without. I can hardly blame him. Now, young
lady," he turned to me, "if you can help us----" and his voice was
pleasant and kindly.

Why on earth couldn't he speak to his wife as he spoke to me?




CHAPTER V.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE FLIGHT TO THE HILLS


"Far are those tranquil hills
Dyed with fair evening's rose
On urgent secret errand bent
A traveller goes."


MR. CONANT and I helped a couple of the mission servants to carry
the Chapmans' things to the hills, but, of course, we could not take
a quarter of what they had on the mules. Mrs. Chapman prepared for
the road was sweet. Her hood of white Mongolian cat-skin suited her
pretty blue eyes and her rosebud mouth with the gleam of pearly teeth.
She evidently thought more of Mr. Conant's power to help her than of
mine. Her attitude towards the rest of us was that of a child to its
guardians. She spoke as if because of our greater strength the same
danger did not threaten us, as if she only needed pity.

"I've been telling Silas," said she with a little watery smile, "I
won't be any more trouble than I can possibly help, but I'm not
accustomed to walking on rough roads like this."

The roads are certainly terrible. We came through the western suburb
of the town, and the little street was mud-trampled and trodden and
churned by the passing of men and beasts bearing burdens, and when
it had become thoroughly impassable it had frozen hard. It was weary
walking even for me in a pair of stout leather boots which reached
to the bottom of my utilitarian skirts half-way to my knee. Mrs.
Chapman's skirts were fairly short, but she had on thin silk stockings
and high-heeled shoes with paste buckles, very dainty and pretty, but
extremely unsuitable for the work in hand.

"This arduous life is not at all suited to your style, is it?" said Mr.
Conant, and his voice, to my surprise, was unsympathetic.

Her husband did not take the faintest notice of her, so we each gave
her an arm and trudged her along through the frost-bound streets with
the houses on either hand hermetically sealed and apparently empty.

But those houses were not empty. I knew they were full of people
withdrawing themselves from contact with the foreigner and all his
ways. I have spent close on two years in the country, and it is not
likely this sinister development would be lost upon us. Ordinarily they
would all run out to lay their ailments before me and see if they could
not get a little cheap advice. True it only cost them one cash at the
hospital, and not that if they took the trouble to prove they had not
got it, but still in Kansu a cash is a cash, and if they thought they
could get advice for nothing on the spot they had always tried for it.
Therefore this drawing away was suspicious, and I had to set my teeth
and try to act up to the advice I was so free with for the benefit of
Stella Chapman. MacTavish trotted along cheerfully ahead as if the
whole expedition had been got up for his benefit, and Stella stumbled
along between us until she gave a sharp cry, and if we hadn't held her
would have fallen. Her husband went stolidly on, but to be sure his
hands were full.

Luckily it was a contingency I had foreseen, and I dropped the bundle I
was carrying, and putting my hand on her shoulder managed to seat her
on the snowy step of a shut-up house, a high stone step with two little
carved lions standing up on each side of it. She looked as if she were
going to resent my masterfulness, and I must admit, though I was sorry
for her, I wanted to shake her, for time was precious. I drew from my
pocket my trump card, a stout pair of woollen stockings and a pair
of quilted slippers, such as are worn by the Chinese women who have
unbound their feet.

But my trump card, I regret to say, was not appreciated, though how she
would have got on without it heaven only knows.

Even at that moment she made a wry face.

"Stella, don't be a damned ass," said her husband harshly, and I melted
before his wrath. "Take off those silly shoes."

An abominable way to address a wife, even though it was senseless waste
of time discussing different sorts of shoes in the midst of those
silent, sinister watching houses. And Mr. Conant was actually smiling
as if he held the key to this man's conduct. I could have smacked all
three with joy.

"I know you're kind," said she plaintively, as I hastily pulled on the
stout stockings, "very kind. I know it's silly to have such aggravating
flesh, but that wool, even through the silk----"

"March!" said Mr. Conant. It was his only contribution towards the
situation. I scrambled to my feet and picked up her bundle, and she,
too, got up and slipped a coaxing hand under my arm.

"You're not cross, are you?" she said.

I know I don't make allowances enough. A woman once told me, and she
was fond of me, too, that I was hard, that I would be kind enough in a
real trouble, but had no sympathy for fancies. I don't believe I have.
It does seem so stupid to make trouble.

We who had eyes to see saw enough to worry us on that road.

On either side were now stalls with merchandise upon them, the mean
little stalls of a poor little suburb of a small town, but such as
they were they were the sole possessions of the people. Every stall
we passed was mysteriously empty, though in the distance we had seen
the owner and his men busy about it. And they were canny, those small
Eastern shopkeepers. They did not leave the stalls bare, they just left
a little of the poorest of the stock spread out as advantageously as
possible. A bundle of the thinnest cotton of a rich dark blue shade
artistically draped a stall given over to the sale of cottons, as if
the owner were making the very best of his wares, thirty cents' worth
of coarsest household crockery was displayed ostentatiously on another
stall; the butcher had the well-picked backbone of a mule hung from
the rafters, and the leg of a very lean dog on his boards; but the
money-changer had the best of it, for where thirteen hundred cash go to
the Mexican dollar, quite a big show can be made with the coin of the
country in neat little piles, though the aggregate does not reach half
a dollar in value.

But for once there was no desire on the part of perhaps the poorest
population in the world to earn a little money. No one came near us.
Mr. Conant commented on it.

"I thought we'd certainly get someone to help with the loads here," he
said, as a rickety door closed in the back of a money-changer's stall,
leaving at least a dollar's worth of cash entirely at our mercy.

"Bad," said Mr. Chapman beneath his breath, and he thought I did not
hear.

"What can we----" began Mr. Conant, but the other man threw up his head
and said "Damn!" as if the matter were beyond discussion.

When we had passed through the western suburb I looked back. The walls
of the town stood up grey and square against the eastern skyline. At
the north and south the neatly rounded corners were topped by little
turrets with roofs with curled-up eaves, and in the very centre stood
the many-roofed gatehouse and the westering sun caught a glint of
gorgeous gold and red in it. The ground fell away from where we stood
and then rose again towards the city, so that all that was graceful
and picturesque and beautiful showed up in the afternoon light, while
the mean little suburb lay half-hidden in the hollow between, but even
it and all the fields round were covered by the glittering white snow.
All the shabbiness of the miserable hovels by which we had passed were
mercifully veiled in this soft and tender mantle. Not that we had any
time for looking back; ahead of us were the hills, and here, just where
the pathway passed by the last humble dwelling-place, the couple of
mission servants who had been carrying some of the Chapmans' things had
laid down their burdens.

They turned to me as the one who would understand them best, and they
said very humbly, but with a note of determination in their voices,
that their work needed them at the mission station and they could not
go on. MacTavish sat down in the snow and contemplated them and gave an
emphatic little whimper as if to accent the matter.

"But they must go on," urged Stella Chapman. "We have no one to carry
our things. They must go on."

Her husband looked at her contemptuously. I believe jeering at her
relieved the tension for him, and when I felt like being angry with
her, for she was foolish, I had only to listen to him and my wrath
vanished.

"Scoot's the order of the day, my dear," he said, with a scornful
little laugh, as he watched the stubborn backs of the two servants
trudging stolidly back on their tracks empty-handed!

"But if we can't get anyone to carry our things," she said; "if we
can't, Silas."

He merely threw back his head. I could have hit him, and I would if he
had been my husband, but she merely mourned,

"Silas, we can't carry them, we can't. I can hardly walk myself. Oh,
Silas, if I wasn't so weak. I can't help it, can I?" and her wistful
voice quivered off into a sob.

We were close now to the range of steep and rugged hills that lay to
the north-west of the town. And they were steep, so steep that in
many places, in spite of the heavy fall of snow of the night before,
much of their slope was bare earth and rock. In that direction there
was not a house in sight. There were no trees, no farms, nothing but
the forbidding inhospitable hills, all rocks and snow and ice. The
thermometer was below zero, the sun was drawing to the west, and when
night fell the cold would be gripping. It seemed madness to go on. I
turned to Mr. Chapman.

"You had better come back with us."

"My girl," he said simply, and when he spoke so I liked him, "you can
tell what I think of your chances when I tell you I'm going on. If
anybody's going to change it had better be you."

We had thrashed that out before, and I had made up my mind. So I
laughed. Not because I saw any mirth in the situation, for his words
made the cold hand grip at my heart again, but because, I suspect,
that, at bottom, our emotions were the same, and what made Stella
Chapman cry forced me in desperation to laugh. She did not see it at
all in the same light.

She stopped crying and looked at me reproachfully.

"How can you! How can you!"

"I hate to hustle you," I heard myself saying, "but I'm so afraid of
them shutting the gates before I can get back."

"Then we'll keep you," she said, stretching out her hands.

"Stella!" her husband cut her short sharply.

But I could stop to listen no longer. I snatched up the biggest bundle
I could manage, and with MacTavish trotting gaily along ahead I ran
into the hills. Before I had found the little turning Mr. Chapman was
beside me.

"It's good of you to help us," he said. "Don't think I'm ungrateful."
And it seemed impossible to connect him with the man who spoke so
harshly to his wife.

"This way," I said. "Come along. But where's your wife? How will
she----"

"My dear young lady," he interrupted, "if she doesn't get over that
young man to carry her, she'll worry it out on her own."

It was harshly spoken, but before we had done I found he could be kind
enough. We turned round a cliff and came into a little hollow of the
hills, snow-clad and open to the sky. But it was going to be a fine
night, and on all sides the rocks rose round and kept off the wind.

I quickly set about arranging the rugs we had brought to make a warm
couch, and MacTavish setting himself to help me, I trod on his poor
little paw, and Mr. Chapman, the man who, it seemed, could never speak
kindly to his wife, picked him up and petted him.

"He isn't hurt," he said, "only his feelings got a knock." Then we
heard the others coming, and we leaned over, and there below was Mr.
Conant staggering along under a heavy burden with Mrs. Chapman clinging
to him.

Without waiting to turn the corner and come up the long way he dropped
his bundle, picked up the lady in his arms and handed her up to her
husband, who with little ceremony dragged her over the top of the
cliff. The bundle followed, and Mr. Conant came scrambling up after
just as Stella settled herself down on the couch I had made and began
quietly crying. She had shed quite a lot of tears since we had made her
acquaintance.

But I could not do anything more for her.

"You'll have to try and look upon it as a picnic," I said, but the
suggestion fell flat.

She turned on me reproachful eyes swimming in tears, and then looked at
Mr. Conant.

"I am so sorry I've been such a trouble," she said.

We discussed the matter as we two and MacTavish sped back to the city
gates.

"That little woman's going to make things hard for herself," said he.
"If she would only exercise a little common sense."

"With Pai Lang at your heels," I said, "there doesn't seem much chance
of exercising any sense at all."

He laughed. "It's just as bad for you, and you're taking it coolly
enough."

I wasn't taking it coolly inside, but I liked him for thinking of me.

"You see, I haven't a husband reminding me every two minutes I'm a
silly ass."

And again he laughed a little queerly.

"It's wonderful the difference in women," he said.

"Yes. I know that Luella Lawson and her sister are just as much to be
pitied, poor dears."

"They certainly don't appeal to the aesthetic side," said he
whimsically.

"If only they weren't on such intimate terms with the Lord!"

"It's a matter for thankfulness to me," he said, "to think they find
comfort and consolation----"

"Where you do not look for it yourself." I don't know what on earth
made me say that. I suppose because I felt the need of comfort and
consolation. I picked up MacTavish because I do not like him to walk
where there is danger of his being bitten by wonks, and always when I
felt lonely his little warm body pressing against me gave me comfort.

Martin Conant did not answer. He paused a moment and the last rays of
the setting sun fell full on the western gate towards which we were
making, and it was a glory of crimson and gold.

"Do you know," he said, "I'm afraid it's only of late I have given true
thought to religion. I accepted my mother's teaching, which was very
sweet and lovable, but I have never gone beyond the thoughts of a boy
of fourteen."

"And yet you came out here?"

"Of course," he smiled, "don't you think it is exactly what a boy of
fourteen would do?"

"But you were not fourteen."

"About as unstable."

"When did you grow up?" I asked wonderingly.

"When I came here."

"Oh come!" I couldn't help laughing.

"If you only think, you'll see I'm right," he said. "Don't you see that
human nature is steadily advancing, each generation wants something
better, wider, broader than the one that went before it. My mother had
advanced beyond the hard Calvinism in which she was brought up and had
evolved for herself a very tender faith, a God in Heaven Who loves all
the earth, and there--"he paused and went on, "she was right. There
must be some Power for good behind all. And when I came here----"

"Now don't tell me," I had to say it and yet I am very fond of the
missionaries among whom I have lived so long, "that the people here
have converted you."

"But," he said, "that is exactly what they have done. And yet their
faith's the worst part of them. As they preach it, it is rigid and
hard and cruel, and they in the kindness of their hearts are trying
to impose it upon a kindly honest people who want, not religion, but
someone to take them in hand and give them a chance of living more
comfortably in this world."

"Indeed they do, poor things," I could agree with him there most
heartily, "if you only saw the sights I see."

"I know," he said. "The suffering is the part I can't explain away in
that Power over all."

"And yet, a world without pain--if we always had fair weather----" but
I stopped because I had reached the crucial point where we all stop.

"Perhaps," he said, "it is well we should not see too clearly. But,"
we were close below the frowning gates now and could see in the dusty
entrance the two upright white stones that marked the width of the
axle that could pass along the narrow streets of the city, "do you
understand we are up against things now?"

I could only hug MacTavish a little closer.

"I can't believe it."

"You know the people better than I do--that man behind there in the
hills didn't seem to think----" He stopped.

"He thought there was a mighty poor chance in the hills," I said, "and
yet he wanted us to stay. Why didn't you stay? You're not a missionary."

"And you're not a missionary."

We were walking through the streets of the town now and there was no
one visible. The houses were silent, sinister, watching as they had
been in the suburb. Only in the distance could we see any sign of life.

"It's like walking in the shadow of death," I said.

"They'll be glad enough to see you at the hospital," he comforted.

When we reached the mission compound the minister met us at the gate.
It was evident he was troubled.

"They've made a clean bolt of it," said he. "There's not a solitary
galoot left in the hospital."

I stood still. It is disconcerting, to say the least of it, to have
your self-sacrifice tossed back in your face.

"Lang Hsu," I faltered, for I knew that Lang Hsu would be in agony if
she were not attended to every few hours, and it was the thought of the
woman's suffering that had made me stay.

"They've cut and run," said the minister as if he sought but could not
find some way to break the matter to me more gently, "didn't the cook
tell you? I sent him to say you had better stay with those people--it
wasn't worth while coming back."

"We've not seen him," said Martin Conant looking round as if perchance
we might have overlooked such a trifle as the tall cook. "Missed us, I
expect. Suppose we all go back."

"Too late," said the Rev. Septimus, "already they're shutting the city
gates. We'll have to wait and see what the day brings forth."




CHAPTER VI.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE BREAKING UP OF THE MISSION


"All the bright lights of heaven
Thou hast made dark over us;
One night has been as seven,
That its skirt might cover us;
Thou hast sent on our strong men a sword,
On our remnant a rod;
We know that Thou are the Lord,
O Lord our God."


IT is always difficult to wait. Henry Maitland did not return and it
seemed he must be dead. The servants had all fled, and the Prefect, who
was friendly, sent an old-fashioned soldier in a quilted blue cotton
coat that made his arms stand out stiffly like an automaton's to tell
us on no account to leave the compound. There was nothing to do but
wait. Luella Lawson cooked us a meal and we all gathered together in
the minister's house and tried to eat it, but it was only a pretence.
Little Sadie Lawson sang her grace.

"Every day, every day," the sweet little voice sang happily, "we bless
Thee, we bless Thee, we praise Thee, we praise Thee, for ever and for
ever."

She was very sure God was going to take care of her, but whether the
others were quite as happy in their faith I do not know. Except for
Sadie Luella's nice biscuit was wasted. The evening dragged on, and at
last at the minister's suggestion we went to bed. They managed some
sort of shake-down for Mr. Conant and the Lawsons, but Miss Lodham went
back to be among her girls, and I went to my own room.

We always slept outside even in the winter. I'm a great believer in
fresh air, and luckily the minister backed me up. There was no roof to
my little porch and I lay and looked up at the bright stars--the stars
in Northern China in winter are like newly washed silver--and tired
though I was I could not go to sleep. I tossed and turned. Ordinarily
I let MacTavish sleep by himself in the warm bedroom because my little
camp-bed was narrow, but I couldn't part with him to-night. I was
afraid lest if anything happened I wouldn't be able to get to him in
time.

As the dawn came I dozed, and I was awakened by Mr. Conant standing
over me.

"They are coming," he said. "The others are in the dining-room."

"Singing hymns," I said, and it made me feel cross, "I wish they
wouldn't. I'll be with you in a minute."

And I had not reached them before the mob were battering at the gates.

The minister snatched up a stool and whirled it round his head.

"Gee!" he said, "Chrissie! Come, Momma!" and as if it had been a
signal, we all ran towards the courtyard, where Miss Lodham was among
her girls, MacTavish in a state of wild delight as if the whole thing
had been arranged for his amusement, but Mrs. Wright stopped.

"Poppa," she said, "I'd as lief stop at home. You bring Chrissie!" and
she and the Lawsons turned back, but MacTavish was ahead and I ran on
with Mr. Conant and the minister. We reached the gate of the little
courtyard just as a wild burst of raucous yells broke over the wall.

"Sha! Sha! Kill! Kill!" came the voice of the mob, a Chinese mob,
decadent, ruthless, merciless, and above the sounds of the mob came the
shrill sweet sound of children singing.

In the night I had pictured this coming of the mob, and I had thought
how terribly afraid I would be. Instead, I was thinking bitterly that
if it had not been for those women--poor wretches, how they must have
suffered--we should have been safe in the hills. I hated the Chinese.
How could they sing hymns!

"Well, Chrissie is a cucumber!" said the minister admiringly, and even
as he spoke the gate gave, and the assaulters came tumbling into the
compound. In the clear bright daylight we saw them, a ragged filthy
mob, the dregs and sediment of the population. There were about fifty
of them in quilted blue cotton, with little round caps on their heads,
and they all wore pigtails--unkempt, untidy, deplorable pigtails. I
couldn't help thinking of Mrs. Chapman's late servant, Chung, and his
neat well-oiled queue. Why should one think of such things at such a
moment? They were armed with long knives and choppers and the hoes
they used for tilling the fields, and they spread out a blot on the
immaculate snow of the compound. Filthy they were! Filthy! To have
death come in such a form!

"Pai Lang's braves," said Martin Conant, and he put his hand on my arm.
He will never know how his kind touch helped me!

"No," said the minister, "the riff-raff of the city on the bust, and
they mean cold straight business. God help us!"

And then the mob saw us and swept down upon us. We gave before it, of
course--mortal man could do no less--and the next few minutes I pieced
out afterwards. After all I was not as afraid as I thought I should be.
It is the waiting for things to happen that is hard. Mr. Conant pushed
me behind him. The minister whirled the stool threateningly above his
head, then, true to his stern faith of non-resistance, dropped it. Mr.
Conant swore an angry oath, and in a flash I had that stool and thrust
it into his hands.

"Good girl," he said, getting in front of me again, and he parried a
blow with a knife and hit his assailant across the face. I saw the
blood start and the man fall back. The minister was under a pile of
struggling men, and I could see Miss Lodham leaning up against a wall
with half a dozen terrified schoolgirls clinging round her, and all
about them were the mob, shouting, yelling, tearing down the woodwork,
feeding a fire already begun with tables, desks, papers, books, while
others darted into rooms and came out bearing piles of bedding, for
the girls had straw mattresses on their k'angs. It was only afterwards
I realised I had been so intensely interested I actually forgot to be
afraid.

They were a leaderless mob, and tore from one thing to another with no
settled plan, but they were bent on destruction.

"Now," said Mr. Conant, and his voice sounded quite cheerful and
triumphant, "the gate's clear. Hang on to me like a good girl and we'll
make for it."

But I had seen Miss Lodham. She and the girls were between the brick
wall and the flames, and the schoolmistress's face was all bloody,
and her grey fair hair, usually so neat, was all tumbled about her
shoulders.

"They're going to burn her," I cried, and I actually dropped MacTavish
and catching up the leg of a broken chair made a dash for her.

But Mr. Conant was ahead of me, and he brought down his weapon upon the
head of a filthy brute from a butcher's shop who was flinging a great
armful of straw upon the fire.

The minister got his head free and sat up for a moment, and I saw his
poor white strained face, and then to my surprise he made a remark in
Chinese, and though I could not catch it in the din it was evidently
funny, it made his assailants laugh, and they took him by the arms and
ran him out of the courtyard. Another man came at us with frothing lips
and clutching hands, and my guardian went for him, using the heavy
stool as a flail, and swept right and left with strong, capable hands.
I remembered then that he had rowed on the Thames and won renown at
footer at Oxford. I managed to keep my place beside him, and I felt
gladly I was doing my share dealing shrewd blows with the leg of the
chair. Afraid! I was too desperately excited! I forgot to think! I just
lived for the moment! Even when the point of a knife struck my arm
and the blood spouted I looked at it in surprise. It never hurt me! I
was only troubled because I could not reach Miss Lodham, and because
MacTavish at my feet was yelping and crying, for the burning straw
stung his poor little paws.

"Can't we help Miss Lodham?" I said. "She's trying to help the girls
who've had their feet unbound. They can't walk."

"My dear," he said--it sounded so natural somehow--"we can't help
ourselves," and he raised his stool for another blow, when, to the
surprise of both of us, the man he threatened looked up at him and
distinctly winked.

Mr. Conant stopped, stool in mid-air.

He was a very ragged man, but his cap had fallen off and his neat
pigtail was tidily wound round his head.

"Why the hell you no go down?" he said in English, and suiting the
action to the word he dropped on his knees and grabbed Mr. Conant's
leg. The snow was frozen hard and slippery as a schoolboy's slide, and
to my dismay he came down with a shock that for the moment knocked his
senses out of him. Miss Lodham was being carried out, her hands and
feet tied together like a pig slung from a pole.

The man who had pulled my companion down looked up at me with a grin.

"Oppugnation dam foolishness," he said, and before I could resist
he had me on my knees beside Mr. Conant. I bent forward to rescue
MacTavish, who was whining and licking his sore paws, but the Chinaman
was between us, and before I could reach him to my great surprise he
was gathered up and thrust into my arms. It was one of the moments of
my life. God knows what I was bracing myself to bear, and here I was
hugging MacTavish. Mr. Conant stirred dizzily, and I bent over him and
pushed him down again. It seemed best not to attract attention.

"Lie still," I cried, "lie still. He gave me back MacTavish. I believe
this man's a friend."

"Sure thing," croaked our assailant, "you treat me rite."

But Mr. Conant was still dazed. Evidently he didn't know what was
happening. I felt we had found a friend, a strange friend truly.

The mob was all around us still; but apparently they were intent on
gathering up the schoolgirls. Perhaps they would have no time for us
unless their attention was directly called to us. This man had abused
me vilely--in Chinese--but he had saved the little whimpering dog. He
tossed his head, and, his pigtail coming down, he swung it from one
shoulder to the other.

"Why, it's Chung!" I said, and I was so surprised I spoke in a whisper.

"Lie still," he said, "mus' lie still. No be long now."

Indeed the wretched courtyard was clearing. I saw the last man
carrying out of it one of the girls whose feet had been unbound only
the day before. Evidently she was his share of the booty. She made no
resistance, and I couldn't help noticing it even at that moment had an
air of virtuous self-consciousness that would have done credit to an
early Victorian bride. I suppose if you have never spoken to any man
in your life but the old school coolie, one-eyed, bent and lame, any
stalwart individual would be much the same to you.

And then I saw with a great rush of thankfulness Mr. Conant was coming
round.

"Be quiet," I said, bending over him, "be quiet," and it was all I
could do to keep from bursting out crying. But he wasn't sensible
enough to understand.

All the little rooms round the courtyard were gutted, everything
that was movable had been thrown outside and broken up or burnt,
smoke from smouldering fires came out of the doorways, and in some
places the carved artistic woodwork of the windows was still burning,
all the paper was long ago torn up or burnt and pieces of women's
clothing mingled with broken crockery, books and kitchen utensils
were distributed over the place. There had not been much to loot, but
everything had been smashed or rendered useless by the blind fury of
the reckless mob. But because it had been a leaderless mob it had no
method, had had no intention apparently beyond blind destruction,
and having destroyed the spate had passed on, leaving behind in the
dismantled courtyard only us two and our captor.

Mr. Conant was rubbing his eyes and sat up bewildered.

"What? Where?" he asked.

Sitting back on his heels Chung passed his hand over his shaven head as
if to feel if the neat little fringe of coarse black hair, his halo,
was still in place. Then he relaxed after his desperate exertions.
Even though he had an evil-looking knife slung at his waist he did
not look the fierce bandit. He picked up a cap that was lying on the
ground--his, I suppose--and tossed it on the point of his knife to
MacTavish's openly expressed delight, and he remarked amiably,

"Mus' get hills."

And then Mr. Conant's senses came back with a rush. He swept out his
arms, and poor Chung was lying prostrate, and he was standing over him.

"It's Chung!" I cried. "It's Chung!" and he stepped back and looked at
me in bewilderment.

"Miss Lodham! I must go----" he made a half step across the yard--but I
was at his side--and Chung took the opportunity to scramble to his feet.

"Don't, don't," I said. "They may be safer working it out by
themselves."

"But I must fight," he said, and I felt myself laughing and crying at
once, his conversion was so sincere and he was so unconscious of it,
"we've got to help them."

"Oh, we can't," I said desperately. "You can't do anything. They're too
many."

"But? What? Where? I don't understand."

"Neither do I. We'll have to get Chung to help us."

Chung, having picked himself up, was feeling himself over carefully.
Apparently he was satisfied with the investigation, and he bore no
malice, for he remarked again,

"Mus' get hills!"

Get to the hills! Out of this courtyard! I could have laughed, and this
was the man who only yesterday had carefully explained how forlorn a
refuge he thought the hills!

"Can pay monies?" he asked us shrewdly. Mr. Conant still seemed
uncertain whether he ought not to rush to Miss Lodham's rescue, and
then he saw the blood on my wrist, and taking out his handkerchief
began to bind it up, and while he was doing it I tried to bring my two
years' knowledge of the Chinese to bear upon the situation. But Mr.
Conant was struck with Chung as a rescuer.

"I knew," said he, "and God forgive me, I forgot that there are brave
and kindly men in all countries and among all faiths."

He seemed so satisfied with his own penetration that I could not help
laughing.

"I do hate," I said, "to shatter such a beautiful theory if you are
applying it to Mr. Chung."

"Velly good," said the gentleman, airily swinging his pigtail and
rocking himself backwards and forwards.

I didn't want to take away from any virtue that might be his, and truly
he had come to our help cleverly enough, but it was only common sense
to recognise the fact that his trade was that of a foreigner's servant.
He had got adrift in the west here, and the only comfortable livelihood
for a man of his class was to be found with foreigners. His salvation
lay in sticking to us. Why he had given up the Chapmans, who had plenty
of money, I could not imagine.

I tried to make this plain to Mr. Conant, who stared at me, and Chung
nodded his head amiably as if I had hit the nail exactly on the head.

"Mus' pay some monies," he repeated with emphasis, and then there
broke on the air once more the sound of a missionary hymn. There was
no mistaking it, it was a very favourite hymn and I had heard it on
all sorts of occasions, but never, I think, on one less appropriate
than this. Really those dear good people have no sense of humour.
Early in the morning, late at night that overworked hymn rang out, and
now after all the racket and storm and stress it burst on the air and
Sadie Lawson's sweet little childish treble rang clear above the other
voices, above the shouting of the mob, and the distant hum of sound
that came from the seething city beyond the compound walls.


"All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above,
Then praise the Lord, then praise the Lord, for all His love.


Saved! Could they possibly be saved? We scrambled to our feet and still
clutching MacTavish I ran alongside Mr. Conant to the gates of the
school courtyard. Most of them had gone to feed the fire in the centre,
only a splintered post or two remained, but before we had reached the
opening Chung was before us pushing us back. He evidently understood
more clearly than we did the ways of the mission people. He knew they
would rejoice long before they had any material victory that outside
eyes could discover.

"White Wolf's men give you a hell of a time," he remarked explanatorily.

But leaning over his shoulder and sheltering as much as I could behind
the little wall I saw that the mob had reached the minister's house and
taken the women hiding there. The two Lawsons were walking one on each
side of Mrs. Wright, surrounded by at least twenty or thirty people, a
filthy ragged crowd, odoriferous and disgusting, who were yelling and
shouting abusive epithets, but on the face of the captives was a rapt
look as if they had forgotten their surroundings and were absorbed in
the song of praise. Even the mother who had feared so for her little
child--and I knew how she had feared--was calm, and that little child
was being carried by a stalwart Chinaman nearly six feet high, unclean
and ragged, but his face was not unkindly. The little girl had one arm
round his neck, while with a little red gloved hand she beat the time
of her paean of praise upon his grimy cheek.

"Well I'm----" Mr. Conant used an expression that, however
unobjectionable it may have been at Oxford, was no more suitable to a
would-be missionary than the mob's behaviour came up to my expectations
of what an out-of-hand Chinese mob would do. Then MacTavish,
unfortunately for himself, put his little black and white head up to
see what was going on, and not quite approving, said so in a loud voice
and so called attention to his presence.

He is very good-looking, and on his round forehead is the "V" shaped
mark that makes him valuable. Once or twice he had been stolen from the
compound, and brought back after rewards varying in value from 1,000 to
10,000 cash had been offered by his distracted mistress. I was never
anxious to call attention to his perfections, and I quenched his ardour
by suddenly popping his head under my arm and withdrawing into the
courtyard.

Too late. The triumphant singing passed on, but a man stepped out from
the following mob and came running to the courtyard to investigate.

Then there was a torrent of Chinese both from Chung and the newcomer,
and I turned shivering with my face to the wall and hid my little dog
in my arms.

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Conant, for his Chinese was not equal to
the babble that was pouring out round him.

The man wanted MacTavish. He said it was only fair. Evidently we were
to be ransomed, and he seemed to think I might be worth 30 dollars,
while MacTavish was certainly worth 15,000 cash, and he knew of a
purchaser, a Lao T'ai T'ai, the other side of the city. Oh, my little
treasure dog! I tried to explain to Mr. Conant.

"Our lives are surely cheap," he began. I think he was going to say at
the cost of a dog, but he stopped, and I suppose he saw that I loved
MacTavish. I do. I just felt as if I could not give him up. Too well
I know how the Chinese treat dogs. I have had some bad moments in my
life. And that was one of them.




CHAPTER VII.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY

THE LOSING OF MACTAVISH.


"From all thy lovers that love thee
I, God, will sunder thee;
I will make darkness above thee,
And thick darkness under thee.

Before me goeth a light,
Behind me a sword,
Shall a remnant find grace in my sight?
I am the Lord."


OF all the plucky women--if ever I'm in a tight place again I hope I
have a woman like Rosalie Grahame by my side. I wonder if there is
another like her. But no, Providence doesn't make two women of her
sort. The way she aided and abetted in the fight in the courtyard.

It was beastly luck just when we were beginning to think we were out
of the wood that wretched little dog should have called attention to
himself. I was beginning to think that Dr. Grahame was her old self
again. There was a very mocking little devil in those bright eyes
of hers when she pointed out to me that Chung's salvation lay in
identifying himself with us, and then it went out with a flash and
there was shrinking and dread when that coolie reached across and
demanded her dog.

"Oh my little dog!" she said, "I can't part with him! To a Chinese! My
little dog! He'll be miserable!" and she held him passionately against
her.

Chung, the polite Chung, bent over and snatched him from her. He held
him up by the neck and the little chap whined piteously.

"It is a matter for argument," said Chung sententiously, in Chinese.
"The division is fair. The gown to me, the cap and shoes to thee," and
he handed the little dog to the claimant.

"Oh!" cried the girl, "Oh, my little dog!" and MacTavish heard the
loved voice and promptly bit the hands that held him, and being
promptly dropped raced over to the mistress he knew would defend him.
She gathered him in her arms, but Chung turned on her reproachfully.

"You don't treat me rite," he said, and stretched out a hand to
recapture him. But MacTavish evidently understood the situation, and
showed his sharp little teeth. He did not like the Chinese at any time.

"Lend me your knife," Rosalie Grahame turned to Chung. "He shan't
suffer. I'll kill him."

Her face was strained.

"I'll do it," I said, "if it's necessary. But the little dog is
valuable. They'll treat him well. Besides," and it was a consideration,
"we can't afford to offend these people."

"You needn't tell me," she snapped, holding him fast. "I know how
Chinese treat dogs, fondled and over-fed one day, starved for a week,
kicked out to die when they are ill and old. My little dog! I'd rather
he was dead. I'd rather die myself."

"We have no choice, I'm afraid," I said reluctantly, and then I had a
bright idea.

"Tell him," I said to Chung, "Missie will give 30,000 cash for him by
and by."

She looked at me, and, upon my word, sparkling, mocking brown eyes can
express gratitude far better than blue ones.

"Not thilty dollar one time," warned Chung, "take it tief her again."
There's a good deal of nous about our Chung.

"Tell him not to sell to the Lao T'ai T'ai," I said. "Tell him to keep
him and when the country's quiet he shall have thirty dollars if the
dog's well and fat."

"He couldn't afford to keep a dog," muttered Dr. Grahame. "They are so
poor. MacTavish is a rich man's dog."

But Chung tossed his head knowingly.

"Sell her to Lao T'ai T'ai," was his solution of the difficulty. "Allee
same, Missee shall have. Can tief her. Missie give thilty dollar," he
asked insinuatingly.

Poor girl. She clasped more closely the little quivering creature that
nestled against her and watched as if he knew his fate was in the
balance. I saw "More, more," trembling on her white lips. And her lips
were so red usually. But my thrifty New England ancestry got the better
of me.

"Thirty dollars," I said definitely. "Missie no can give more. Can get
plenty like him ten dollar. By and bye she remember." And she looked at
me as if there could not possibly be another dog like MacTavish. But
there was nothing to be gained by putting an absurd price upon him.
Thirty dollars is a lot to these people. And the argument had weight
with Chung. He gauged Missie's love for the little dog at about thirty
dollars. But more--I really don't believe Chung thought that anyone
would give more for a dog.

"All litee," he said, and stretched out his hand for the dog.

The little thing looked up in his mistress's face, as if asking if she
would really give him up, and she put her face down against his cold
little nose and rubbed his ears against her cheek. He hates and fears
the Chinese.

"My little dog! My little dog!" and she turned holding him loosely so
that the man might take him if he wanted to. He made a snatch, and the
little chap growled, so she put him into his arms and said in Chinese,
with a little quiver in her pretty voice,

"Kindness should be practised and he will reward with great love."

But the dog whimpered and struggled at the sound of her voice, and the
man cuffed him as he turned away, and she covered her face, but I knew
she was biting her lips to keep back the tears.

"I don't think you need worry," I exhorted her. "They will keep him
safe for the promise of thirty dollars."

"Sure thing," said Chung, snapping his fingers. "Tief her by em by,"
and he squatted down on his heels again and spread his hands out
soothingly over the snow.

"Missie," he said solemnly, "wantchee go for hills?" He looked up at
her a little knowingly, and yet with the proper amount of respect she
might expect from a Chinese servant, "want boy, wantchee velly good
boy?"

The tears were still on her cheeks. She shot a glance at me.

China is a strange place. Tragedy is always mixed up with what may be
called comic relief. Many a time has the missionary found the men who
have avowedly come to kill him end by playing dolls with his children,
and yet the sentence of death is not annulled. It may be carried out
later on. Somewhat to my surprise, Dr. Grahame played up to the man on
the ground.

"You no go Missie Chapman?" she asked.

Chung puffed out his cheeks and let his breath come out in a slow and
thoughtful whistle.

"Missie Chapman," he said spreading out his hands and patting the snow
again, "not wantchee velly good boy," and he looked up under his
eyelids with a comical air of taking her into his confidence. There
were certain things he seemed to say were understood between intimates
and need not be put into words. I am by no means given to rushing
things, but this leisurely way of going on was a little too much for
me. We had only just escaped death, and here we were discussing whether
Dr. Grahame wanted a servant. At any moment the mob might come back.

"We ought to be making preparations for getting away," I said.

"We are," said Dr. Grahame, coolly and she was evidently herself again.
Unselfish too, though I did not realise at first what she was driving
at.

"No monies got," said she with a little air as if that disposed of the
matter; but her tone said there was still room for a suggestion.

"Plenty monies got at T'ai Yuan Fu?" asked Chung insinuatingly.

"Poor woman," announced Dr. Grahame, and I could not help wondering
how she could play so calmly with her chances of life. "My brother,"
and she indicated me much to my surprise, and I found I was not quite
pleased with the relationship, "poor man. Missionaries no have got much
monies!"

I couldn't make out why she was bargaining like this. We were neither
of us rich, but we were rolling in wealth as wealth goes in Kansu. A
hundred Mexican dollars or so could make no difference to us. I would
have said so, but with a quick look she silenced me.

"Got little monies," insinuated Chung, "velly good boy tweny dollar
a mont'."

She fell back against the wall. The rejection was complete. Chung
picked up the snow in little bits with his bare hands, and she sighed
just a little but with ostentation.

"Sleventeen dollar," said Chung still insinuatingly, but the girl put
her hand before her face, and through her fingers I saw a pair of eyes
that sternly bade me restrain myself and have patience. Her attitude
still indicated despair, and Chung came down.

"Flifteen dollar."

There was an air of finality about him this time.

Dr. Grahame took her hand from her face.

"Missionary very poor," she reiterated.

"Flifteen dollar," asseverated Chung stonily and yet with perfect
courtesy. He might still be taken as a servant for his manners were all
that could be wished.

Then she turned to me and her eyes implored me to follow her lead.

"Missionaries are so poor," she said with emphasis, "can we manage
fifteen dollars a month? It is just as important, you know," and this I
recognised was for Chung's benefit, "for Chung to have a good place as
for us to have a good servant. If we are dead we can't help Chung."

"Flifteen dollar," repeated Chung with stolid respect.

"Mrs. Wright get cook--good cook, eight dollar," and then I tumbled to
it. If it was a question of ransom she did not want the missionaries to
have to pay too heavily. If the people got the idea they had plenty of
money they might even put them to torture to get it. A brave woman and
a thoughtful woman is Rosalie Grahame. I should have let them in.

"We have an uncle not a missionary," I said, entering into the game
with zest. I didn't believe Chung would come down any more. "We could
pay when we reach Peking. Yes, sure when we reach Peking."

"Sure thing," said Chung, relaxing with an air of relief. I doubt if of
late his lines had lain in pleasant places.

I looked at Dr. Grahame and read acquiescence in her face.

"Sure thing," I said taking upon myself the relationship to which I
objected, "Chung Missie boy, fifteen dollar a month. Pay at Peking."

Chung danced his hands about cheerily and tossed his head till his
pigtail fell first on one shoulder and then on the other, and then he
accepted the situation, and like a good servant began enumerating our
needs upon his taper fingers.

"Mus' get clo," said he, "Mus' get chow," and we two looked at one
another. There were tears in the brave brown eyes.

"My tink more better go minister," said Chung.

He surprised me, and Dr. Grahame gave a little cry that told me what
she thought.

"The minister dead," I said.

"My tink not," said Chung gently reproving me. "Makee laugh." And then
he went on to state his reasons for his belief. Even a Chinese mob,
merciless and reckless, has trading instincts, and once the first fury
of the attack was passed, Chung was of opinion that the minister, if
he had been spared by his captors, would be traded to well-wishers for
value received. About the women he was not so sure. He was distinctly
sceptical about the value of Mrs. Wright and the two Lawsons. Miss
Lodham, being a teacher, might have a chance, but the others were only
so many mouths to feed. Henry Maitland had been killed, but Henry
Maitland from what he had heard could not "makee laugh."

I looked at Dr. Grahame. There was nothing to be done but to drift with
the tide.

"We shall be all right, I think," she said. "But, oh, my poor little
dog!" and the pinched look came into her face again. "He will think
I've given him to the Chinese!"

I put my hand on her shoulder.

"Cheer up! I believe he'll be all right too!"




CHAPTER VIII.--SILAS CHAPMAN'S STORY

ORGANIZING A TOUR.


"I have seen the desire of mine eyes.
The beginning of love,
The season of kisses and sighs
And the end thereof."


THESE young people think I am a dour unfeeling sort of chap, but after
all a man can't be for ever explaining himself. The young fellow is
honest, tho' God only knows why he is a missionary. The girl is a good
one, one of your thoroughbreds, and I admit I got a jolt when she
looked as if she were shocked at the way I treated my wife. The fact of
the matter is, Stella is one of those that, once you see through, your
affection for them dissolves away like sugar in a glass of water. Not
even a kindly feeling is left behind. Perhaps it's the way I'm built;
can't sort of make allowances. And now her beauty gets me in the neck,
and her little ways--damn it all. On the whole it's lucky I'm a silent
man.

Here we were stuck down in this hollow, and any ordinary woman would
have known that the wisest thing to do was to slip away quietly and
quickly. But do you think I could stir Stella? Passive resistance was
her lay. She stopped me by the simple method of lying quite still. I
have always got her what she wants because it saves trouble in the end,
and I suppose she reckoned if she held on long enough I'd evolve mules
out of nothingness. I couldn't--so I curled up in the rugs and watched
her brush her hair. She led me by that beautiful hair once, and, faith,
she deliberately threw me away. She thinks more of a strand of that
yellow hair than of my whole body. Now she was brushing it and groaning
because it's a hefty job to brush long thick hair in a heavy fur coat,
and she only did it because she firmly believed if she neglected it in
this dry air she'd soon be as bald as a newly laid egg.

"It's enough to kill me," she said, and she looked up into the bright
blue sky and down into the white snow-covered hollow. I kept an eye
upon her, because I am never quite sure what foolishness she'll be
up to next. She is cunning; she hadn't started on it till she was
convinced it was too late for us to take the road. I was reconciled to
stopping, because it was a pretty forlorn hope anyway. I might just as
well stay and if any of the missionaries got through they would join
us. Stella kept speculating as to what had become of them, so I told
her they were probably dead. Then she told me I was a brute, and I
forgot my promise to myself to stand her provoking way and cursed her
for a fool, and that gave her something to think about, and took her
thoughts off the situation. I followed it up by telling her I thought
I'd leave her there, and she was by no means sure I wasn't capable
of carrying out my threat, so she sat down and cried quietly, and it
gave me a chance to steal up to a little vantage point and look over
the road occasionally. I could see it winding among the graves and
fields down through the ramshackle suburb and up again to the walls of
the city, but on the road came nothing and no one save some lads with
small donkeys evidently seeking fuel. Early in the morning those little
beasts go out into the hills, and towards evening back they come,
bundles of fagots hiding everything but four staggering legs. Other
wants the town apparently had none, and the farming folk round must
have heard how things were and were lying low. Beyond those bundles
of fuel not a living thing stirred on that rough frozen road. It was
bitter cold, and the day stretched out; there were hundreds of square
miles of that day and seemingly never an end to them, but at last the
shadows lengthened.

"Oh, the sun is setting," sobbed Stella, as if she saw her last friend
disappearing. "As long as the sun was up I could bear it."

He was. He pays no attention to the desires of pretty women, but shines
or ceases to shine on the pretty and plain with an equitableness which
she certainly had not often found imitated in mere man. The cold took
an edge on it when he went.

I tucked Stella up, and maybe I was a bit grim. It was the only way to
stop her grousing. So she lay still and sobbed silently. I was glad
that young doctor was not there to hear her; but, anyhow, she did lie
still, and I crept up every now and then and listened over the road. If
any of these sky pilots had got away I thought in all probability they
would come along about now. And I wouldn't put it past some of them to
get away. You never know where you are with the Chinese.

At last, somewhere about nine o'clock there was a distinct sound of
some one clambering up the hillside.

And then that little fool let go.

"Oh!" she shrieked, "they're coming to kill me!" Never anybody but
herself.

I couldn't have that. Suppose it wasn't the sky pilots. I got my hand
over her mouth. But I thought I heard shod feet.

"That you, Conant?"

"Yes," came the answer, and Stella let out a squeal fit to rouse the
city, but she only got one in. I strangled the other at birth, only
there was a choked gurgle that gave me away, and as I let her go she
ran forward and flung herself into the pretty young doctor's arms,
doing the welcoming trick to perfection. I guessed I knew what that
girl was thinking of me.

"Oh, my dear, my dear. I'm thankful to see you again. I couldn't sleep
for thinking of you all night long," and the doctor was kissed again
and again. The little liar. She'd snuggled down and slept the night
through, all the better because of the exercise she'd had. Much she'd
trouble about anybody else so long as she was comfortable. I wonder if
that young doctor reckons she's got a genuine pal or if she guesses
just how much she's expected to carry. Of course, the young man will
get the glad eye. Only these two and a Chinaman behind 'em. The doctor
was sensible. I thought she would be.

Stella was half laughing and half crying, and behaving altogether
abominably.

"Sit down," said the other young woman. She spoke kindly, but if I know
anything about it, that won't last, "It won't do to get too excited."

"My missus," I told her, "wants a firm hand. And--hallo, Chung!"

I never thought Chung would have come back. I thought Stella had
settled him. There was no moon, but the stars in a winter night in
Northern China count. Their light reflected from the white snow showed
up the newcomers, and there was Mr. Chung trying to make himself small
behind the young doctor. I was mighty pleased to see him again.

"Loved us so much you couldn't keep away?" I asked, but the pleasure
was evidently not reciprocal.

"Ga Taifu wantchee velly good boy," he said, and wheeling round with
his thumb over his shoulder he pointed at Dr. Grahame, and that was the
way he intimated that he no longer served the Chapman family.

Well, I don't know that I blamed Chung. Dr. Grahame tried to explain,
but what did it matter? We were throwing in our lots together, and
if my missus don't get all she wants I don't know her, that's all.
Chung'll earn double wages and I guess he won't complain.

I'd got enough whiskey to give 'em a tot apiece. I guess it was the
first Dr. Grahame had ever had, and it was a mighty long day since
young Conant had had any either. The whiskey loosened their tongues
and they couldn't get over the fact that they were both alive, and
apparently the only man who had really suffered was the man whose death
had set us all on the go.

Chinese have their own little ways, easy enough to understand 'em once
you've got the right end of the stick.

"This morning a raging mob was apparently thirsting for our blood,"
said young Conant. "The hospital had walked itself away in terror, the
school was distributed among the mob. I thought I was fighting for our
lives, and finally I was captured by this peaceable-looking person who
was your servant Chung," and he seemed quite cut up about it.

"Allee same," said Chung, who was stage-managing this bit of business,
"put up plenty good fight."

"But how did you get away? How did you get away?" asked Stella at
her very best. The charming interested friend stop turned on now.

Well it was an anti-climax, of course. They just walked away, went
along to some people who were themselves hiding from White Wolf, spent
the day in the solid, can't-cut-it-with-a-knife atmosphere of a Chinese
house, and when night came walked out over a gap in the wall where the
rain had got in last summer and the bricks had fallen out.

"It was not comfortable but it was quite easy," said Dr. Grahame, and
she gave a sad little laugh. Evidently she wanted cheering up.

"Don't you worry," I told her. "There are difficulties ahead still."

Of course Stella shrieked--I knew she would--but Dr. Grahame was
thinking about the others.

"They're not dead," she said, "except for Henry Maitland they're all
right, and Chung seems to think they can be bought."

"Sure thing," said that gentleman. The Chinese are a commercial people,
thank goodness, and there's no doubt they're not tumbling over each
other quite so eager to murder the foreigner as they were in 1900.
They got a lesson then. And well, of course, the B.A.T.'s been at work
a good few years, now. Missionaries--don't tell me. The Chinaman's
looking out for a business proposition and the B.A.T. sinks in on that
lay. He soon sees there's a lot of good and never a scrap of harm in
the foreigner, and once you get that well rammed in, the victory's
there all along the lines. The Chinaman understands a bargain. But
it wasn't any good telling these sky pilots that. I just mentioned
to Conant that there might even be a chance of his taking up the
missionary business again, but he smiled gently and wasn't taking any.

"I've done with it," he said. "I see the good, of course, but I can't
help feeling there's a lot of power wasted."

Power wasted! That's the conclusion he'd come to! I wonder what he is
concluding to do with that power now he's got it in hand.

But evidently he struck a chord in the doctor's mind.

"If I hadn't gone back to help those women," she mourned, and she
spoke half to herself, "I should have brought my little MacTavish here
safely."

Then Chung took a hand.

"Wantchee small dog," said he, swaying himself backward and forward on
his haunches, and even in that dim light I reckoned he was avoiding
my missus's eagle eye. After all, a small dog was neither here nor
there--what we really wanted was some loose cash. Loose cash is always
handy, but the situation was crying out for it now. Of course none
of us foreigners could go into the city. It would be too disturbed,
but all the more on that account I reckoned if one of the bankers or
merchants could be got hold of they'd be glad enough to lend hard cash
to the B.A.T. Return it with good interest, say 7% in six months--I
began to buck up and I laid the case before the others, and that young
doctor--give me a sensible woman with a trained mind--she tumbled to it
at once.

"Hop Sing," said she, and began explaining to Chung where the
particular thief she knew by that name hung out.

"Can do," said that gentleman swinging his pigtail around from front to
back and back again, "can do," and then she got up and stood over him.
Give me a practical woman any day of the week.

"Now, Chung," said she, "you bring Hop Sing chop-chop."

Well, to make a long story short, not only was Hop Sing brought in a
couple of hours, but before morning the minister and his wife, a frail,
tired, sick-looking woman, were safe in the little hollow in the hills.

There was another woman with them--a long-waisted, giraffe-necked young
person the others called Luella Lawson.

"I," she said, "am a messenger from Miss Lodham. She is one of the
Lord's anointed."

The young doctor took her up quick.

"I hope," said she, "she's not going to take up her position on the
staff at once."

In the dim light Sister Luella peered at her and she repented. She is
that sort. She wouldn't be funny if it hurt anyone's feelings.

"I mean, I hope she isn't going to die," she said. "Shall I come back
and look after her?"

"No," said the other, evidently that wasn't her trouble. She'd get it
off her chest in time, I knew, if they gave her rope enough. "Her legs
and arms are strained, but she says herself she's all right, and the
Tsai family are lovely to her, just lovely. She sent me to say she
can't travel, she couldn't walk as far as here, and she takes it as a
sign that the Lord has need of her."

When the Lord wants me to stop along in one particular place I do trust
he won't need to sling me on a pole like a Chinese pig to bring the
fact home to me. Giraffe-neck didn't see anything to snigger at. "The
way will be made clear for her," said she. "Ednah and I and Sadie will
stay with her."

"I allus knew Chrissie had an eighteen-carat heart on her," said the
minister with fervour. "I'd stop myself----"

"The Society of the Elder Brethren," said his wife quickly--and
evidently she was one of your silent ones, for the others all looked at
her surprised to hear her speak--"have made a proclamation against the
foreigner. It's pasted up in the streets----"

"It is," said the minister. "You're about right, Ma. It's a dippy move
on their part. 'No foreign man to be in the city.' Don't say anything
about the women. I guess they think they don't count."

"P'raps I ought to stay," mused Mrs. Wright, stealing a trembling hand
out to her husband's coat sleeve. "Septimus----"

It always fetches me when I see husband and wife on those sort of
terms. I always hoped--but there--Stella isn't the sort. I ought to
have known that when I married her.

"You're right where you are, Ma," said her husband cheerily. "I'm
almighty obligated to you, gentlemen. I understand from my friend, Hop
Sing, you Mr. Chapman; and you Martin Conant, advanced money to buy me
out."

Of course we had. I'd have pledged the B.A.T. to that, only young
Conant waltzed in and said he'd do his share, and then came the doctor
clamouring to help. After all it must be a bit humiliating to work at
the missionary job for twelve long years and finally be bought out,
wife and all, for 50,000 cash! Twenty-five dollars! Poor old chap! I
think he rather felt going so cheap.

"I guess," said he, "it got you some worried trying to get the dollars.
The mission's bust up."

"The credit of the B.A.T.," I said, "still appears to be excellent,"
and he wilted, poor chap.

"Gee!" said he, picking up a bit. "The wicked shall flourish like a
green bay tree," and I hadn't the heart to point out to him it was
lucky for him we were flourishing, if by the wicked he meant the B.A.T.
"What's to become of a floater like me," he went on, "if the mission's
bust up?"

"I reckon," I said, "you'd better come along with us. We're collecting
the touring party now. There's me and my wife, the original members,
and Dr. Grahame and Mr. Conant here, new recruits, and you and your
missus and Miss--er--Miss----"

Giraffe-neck looked up gravely. She was in Chinese dress, with many
furs and swathings round her head.

"You can count me out," she said. "I'm going back. The Lord's work is
still to do in the city."

"Now, Luelly," said the minister, "I guess after a trying day you
didn't come cavortin' out here in the night to tell us that."

"Thank the Lord," said Luelly, "I can go back to the Tsai cousin's
house in the northern suburb."

"G'wan," said the minister, "an' I reckon you didn't come along to
spring that on us either."

"Miss Lodham," hesitated Luella, and she put her hand to her face, "I
told her we ought to trust in the Lord," said she, "and," she added
with conviction, "I guess I've got to go back and tell her so again."

"I guess, Luelly," said the minister, "Chrissy was putting it that if
there was a little currency about loose, her price 'ud come in mighty
handy for oiling the wheels. I reckon a real slap-up school marm with a
buddin' doctor an' a full-blown evangelist in goin' order chucked in,
ought to make a stagger at it on 20 dollars. Gentlemen----" he looked
up wistfully at the monied men who could borrow money--"I haven't a red
cent, but our mission's mighty generous. I know once I get a chance to
put it to our folks at home I could raise 20 dollars for them, and it's
mighty hard to live entirely on charity in a Chinese family. Not that
they ain't generous, but the Christians among us----"

"But, of course, we'll give them enough," said the young doctor.

"Hold hard a moment," I said. "I don't want to check your generous
impulses, but let's get a working basis to go upon. Our friend, Hop
Sing, seems to think all ways to the east and Peking are cut off, so we
must go west or north, and as we can only raise 1,000 Mexican dollars
I'm afraid it won't take us very far. Now in justice to the rest of us
I really don't see we dare leave those ladies more than 100 dollars."

"If they can borrow more tell them I will pay," cried that impulsive
young woman eagerly, "and if they would make enquiries about
MacTavish----"

"The Lord will bless you," burst out Sister Luella fervently. And I
saw young Conant and the doctor look at one another. They weren't
full-blown missionaries, and there was a sort of bond between 'em
anyway, though I don't believe they knew it themselves. And now each of
them put a friendly hand on Sister Luelly's shoulder to show their good
will, aye, and I guess their admiration, too, for you bet she would
have gone back and faced a Chinese winter without a penny.

The minister wiped his eyes.

"It seems some as if I was quittin' my post," said he.

"Go on," said I, "your post's quitted you. You buck up. It isn't free
soup and salvation we'll find in the wilderness. Where's Chung? He
ought to be getting a move on him about breakfast."

It was broad daylight now, but no Chung was to be seen. He had vanished
after escorting Hop Sing to the hollow.

"Stay a minute," said the doctor feverishly, her arm through Luelly's,
"I know Chung knows where MacTavish is." She evidently sets great store
by the little dog. Well, the ways of women are beyond me. And she is a
good plucked one, too. "If you could get the little chap, or be kind to
him sometimes----" but her voice trailed away.

It was a broken reed she was leaning on. Luelly is not the sort to
waste her time over little dogs when there are Chinese souls to be
roped in, I reckon--no, no. I could see the doctor knew it was no go.
She got another idea then. She is fond of that lucky little beast.

"I wonder," she said, "if I went back. There doesn't seem to be any
danger for a woman."

I don't know but what she would have gone, but Stella interrupted. She
had an eye to her breakfast.

"There's Chung," said she. And Chung came into the hollow, a bland
smile on his imperturbable face.

He held something hidden under his quilted cotton coat, and presently
there was a small eruption and a blamed whirlwind was let loose amongst
us. My missus gave a shriek--trust her to make a fuss, and a very
ratty-looking little blue dog with a long thin ropy tail tore round and
round and flung himself upon the doctor with yelps of joy.

"Mad dog! Mad dog!" shrieked Stella. Her opportunity had arrived. It
wasn't going to be the glad eye this time. She was going to give a nice
young man a chance to protect a beautiful lady, and she flew behind
Conant and seized both his arms. But the doctor gave a cry, a cry that
had more gratitude in it than all Sister Luella's "praise the Lords!"
and dropped down on the snow.

"MacTavish! MacTavish! My little dog! My little, little dog!" and her
voice broke as she caught the joyous little cuss in her arms.

Chung rocked himself on his heels, flinging his pigtail from one
shoulder to the other, and snorted like a porker mighty pleased with
himself.

"Velly good boy," said he. "Missie say velly good boy!"

"Very good boy," declared the doctor, and the tears were on her cheeks.

"But," said the minister, "that animal ain't MacTavish. That's a
foreign variety that ain't listed frequent, cos there ain't no demand."

"It's MacTavish! MacTavish!" said his mistress. "They've shaved him,"
and she gathered him under her fur coat.

"Tief her from Lao T'ai T'ai," declared Chung, with smug
self-satisfaction. "Cut off fezzers an' put her in dye pot so no can
tell."

"And they put him in a blue pot," said the doctor half-laughing. And
she pressed her own face to the funny little face poking out from among
her furs.

And then, of course, my missus took a hand. It didn't strike her the
way it did the rest of us. It wouldn't. She thought the doctor was a
fool, and very nearly said so.

"But it's so ugly now," said she. "You're never going to bring an ugly
little beast like that along with us."

"But he's my MacTavish," said the doctor, and she was so overjoyed she
forgot to think the other was rude. "He'll be pretty again presently.
And even if he isn't, he's my own little dog. I can stand anything now.
I know I can walk through Tibet."

"And I wouldn't put it past us. We may have to do that yet," I said.

She smiled and her eyes looked straight into mine. Well, of one thing
I can take my oath, if that journey is in any way manageable, Rosalie
Grahame, M.D., is the woman to go through with it.




CHAPTER IX.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE SETTING OUT ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE


"Call now if there be any that will answer thee;
and to which of the saints will thou turn?"


IT is wonderful how things settle themselves.

"The Lord's guiding hand," said the minister.

Perhaps after all we do mean the same, the minister and I, when he
talks about the "dear Lord," and I of the "Power that is behind all,"
only mine's the more dignified way of putting it. I couldn't talk out
loud like they did at Yang Cheng, but I prayed all the time "Oh God,
give me back MacTavish, or if you can't give him back make it easy for
the poor little man."

And I've got him and I'm grateful. But exuberant parade of gratitude
is in some way unseemly. God, if there is a God, will understand. I
remember a kind old Catholic priest talking to me about God once, and I
said I didn't like to think of God always with His eye upon me.

"My dear girl," said he, "God is a gentleman!"

Now that hits it. These people are dear and good, but their God is not
a gentleman.

How I slept once MacTavish was brought back to me. I felt as if nothing
would keep my eyes open, and as for being afraid, there didn't seem
anything to be afraid of. Whatever the city was doing, White Wolf or
the Society of the Elder Brethren, or whoever was arranging the little
row that upset us, was well satisfied with what had been accomplished
and was not looking round for stray foreigners. As for my friend, Hop
Sing, he was only too thankful to lend money on good security, the
sewing machine, it appeared, was gone beyond repair, and his idea was
to get as much money as possible out of the way till the country had
settled down again. We were a godsend to Hop Sing. The question of
supplies simplified itself. He was glad enough to sell us a couple of
mules--all he had--he'd have sold us forty if he'd had them--a large
bag of puffed rice, tea, sugar, flour, and enough fur coats and padded
cotton quilts to keep out the bitter cold, and then he suggested we
should borrow again the money we'd paid for them.

That suggestion comforted me. He evidently thought we'd come through,
and I have a great opinion of my friend Hop Sing's wisdom. Of course he
said it was taking risks, but he was taking risks anyway with Pai Lang
on the war path. The poor minister's feelings were terribly hurt by
finding he actually put more faith in the B.A.T. than in the friends of
the missionaries. Hop Sing explained that he had often tried the B.A.T.
and found them trustworthy, faithfully carrying out the agreements of
their servants, whereas he was not quite sure of the unknown God in
whom the minister put his trust. And the more he explained that he
meant no disrespect, only that he did not know, the more the unlucky
man felt that he had failed in his mission.

All the next day when I could keep my eyes open, we discussed the
question of which way we should go. It was a most important question,
and at any other time I think I should have been awfully dismayed at
finding we were cut off from Lan Chou, which is the capital of Kansu,
and the town which lies on the high road to Peking. As it was I had
had so much excitement, we had come through so much, that our future
route seemed of minor importance. Yang Cheng is almost on the borders
of Tibet, a compact little city in a valley west of Sining and not very
far from the grass country. The country here was a series of hills and
valleys stretching down from the great plateau, the beginning of the
great mountain system that stretches right across the heart of Asia.
That is the big way of talking about it. What we saw was a series of
hills and dales, and roughly if we went west we got into the grass
country and the hills of Tibet where there were robber tribes who might
be worse than Pai Lang, while to go east led us into the valley of the
Hoang Ho. But Lan Chou, the great city of that valley, was held by Pai
Lang.

The thing was then to get to the river east of Lan Chou and then drift
down it through Mongolia till it entered China again as the boundary
between Shansi and Shensi. There were missionary stations in Northern
Shansi where we should be quite safe could we reach them. The thing was
to strike the river beyond Pai Lang. To do that we must take a journey
of at least a couple of hundred miles.

They were discussing the matter when I went to sleep in the early
morning, the long day wore away, and when I wakened from the most
delightful sleep I have ever had in my life with MacTavish nestling
close beside me they were still at it.

"We'll be guided, we'll be guided," said the minister.

"I've always found," said Mr. Chapman coolly, "that making up one's
mind assists the guiding considerably. There's nothing for it that I
see but that tramp, and with these helpless women----" he stopped and
looked at me thoughtfully.

"Now what have I done," I said, "to be called helpless?"

"I've eyes," said he quite kindly, and indeed he was right. I believe
I could get along as well almost as one of the men, for I always hold
that the average woman, young and strong, can endure hardship quite
as well, or even better than the average man, but neither Mrs. Wright
nor his wife were normal. Stella Chapman would have been all right
if she could have got over her early Victorian training. Unluckily I
believe she thought helplessness added to her charm. As for poor Mrs.
Wright that was a different matter. She is old, I daresay she may be
forty-seven or forty-eight, she was always frail and sick, and now she
is terribly shaken. She looked up with a faint smile.

"I reckon I'll be helped," said she. "Many a time I've wickedly wearied
an' lost faith, but the help has always come."

"It's the Mongols I'm thinking about," said the minister.

"Good-natured," said Mr. Chapman--he never wasted words--"and awful
cowards."

"Mebbe," said the minister, "but when the Mongol's top dog I hear he
goes nap as a bouncer. He's the chestiest, cockiest rooster----"

"We've sampled the Chinaman," said Mr. Chapman--"we're between the
devil and the deep sea."

And that settled it.

It was two hours after sunset that the great adventure began. We
scrambled down from our hiding place into the road that led up the
valley a little north. Hop Sing had been as good as his word, and two
mules in charge of a muleteer and all the things we had ordered came
up as we slipped down. The muleteer was frightened, a Chinaman hates
travelling by night, and Chung took him in hand with soothing words
and presently the loads were rearranged so that on one was a pile of
bedding and a place where one person might ride. It was very clear only
one could ride, and it was equally clear that one must be Mrs. Wright.

"You put her up, Mr. Conant," I said, for the minister was only a
little man. Then in the darkness, for we only had the light of the
stars, I heard a sob beside me, and I found that Stella Chapman was
crying. What on earth was she crying about? I couldn't imagine.
Everything was going so smoothly.

"Why, my dear!" I said, rather sharply I'm afraid. "What's the matter?"
I was tingling all over with the excitement of the thing, exhilarated,
but it evidently didn't take her that way. It was bitter cold, and the
air was crackling with frost, but luckily there was no wind. If we'd
ordered the night it couldn't have been better.

"I'm trying to be brave," came her quivering voice. "Oh, I'm trying to
be brave."

Possibly she was afraid of her husband.

"I'm sure you are," I said. "But I don't think there's anything to be
afraid of yet."

"You see, I can't walk," she sobbed, "and it will be so lonely to be
left alone. It will be a long time before one can die."

"But my goodness!" I said, "who's talking about leaving you? We're
going very slowly, just as slowly as you like. Cheer up!"

Then she explained.

"Oh, I know you're kind, but I'm not expecting you to stay for me. Of
course I shouldn't think of such a thing."

"For God's sake don't be a fool, Stella!" said her husband roughly.

Thank goodness I haven't a husband.

She took it much more nicely than I should have done.

"I'm not complaining, Silas," she said. "It isn't my fault if I'm weak
and helpless. It's only just saying good-bye is a little hard," and she
drooped her head.

I think Stella is inclined to overdo the pathetic note. I felt rather
inclined to try what a good shaking would do.

"Don't be silly," I said. "Come along. You never know what you can do
till you try. Mr. Conant and your husband will give you a hand." And I
couldn't help feeling it would add considerably to our difficulties if
at every awkward corner Mrs. Chapman was going to be on the verge of
collapse.

She might have read my thoughts.

"I don't want to be a burden to anybody," she said.

We were all silent for a minute. Then Mrs. Wright spoke.

"My dear," she said, "I never could abide a mule. I'm thinking if I can
ketch holt of Septimus' arm I can manage right well, an' it ain't fair
for me an' Septimus to butt in an' take the mule."

But that was more than I could agree to.

"Can't we get another mule?" I asked Mr. Chapman.

"Not the tail of a donkey," he said angrily, "and we can't stand
barneying here. Buck up, Stella, you little fool!"

It certainly didn't encourage her.

"I know I can't walk," she asserted patiently. "Leave me some bedding
and I'll go back to the hollow."

And then to my dismay Mrs. Wright settled it. She slipped her hand
under her husband's arm and turned down the rough road. I knew he was
smiling fondly by the sound of his voice.

"Sallie and me," said he, "reckon we're comin' out strong in the
toddlin' line. We ain't purfessionals, but we sorter reckon we can hold
our own end up. We'd be kind of annoyed if we couldn't make good," and
without another word the pair set out and vanished in the gloom of the
overhanging hills. Mr. Conant picked up Stella Chapman and lifted her
on to the pack saddle.

"I'd rather stay behind," she sobbed. "I hate to take the mule."

"I wish you'd try to walk," I couldn't help saying. "Mrs. Wright is
ill. I'm not sure she isn't very ill."

"I will stay behind," she protested, but she made no movement to get
down, and Mr. Chapman began stuffing quilted "comforts" round her to
keep out the cold.

I could have cried, but it seemed likely Stella Chapman would provide
the company with plenty of tears.

"Don't you worry," said Mr. Conant. "You see things will settle down as
we go on. Besides, we're sure to raise another mule."

The first night was certainly trying. We crawled on slowly, our pace
made by Mrs. Wright, and it was lucky indeed it was mostly down hill.
When the minister and his wife sat down we all halted and rested by the
wayside for a couple of hours. Mrs. Chapman still rode. She seemed to
take it as a matter of course. Not that she was very comfortable. She
was perched up on the bedding with her feet hanging down each side of
the animal's neck. She had nothing to hold on to except the bedding,
no means of guiding the mule, and whenever he stumbled, which he did
very often, for the road was rough and full of holes, she shrieked.
Her husband walked alongside to see that she did not fall, I presume,
and whenever she shrieked he cursed her openly for a fool. I picked up
MacTavish because now he was all one dark colour in the gloom I could
not see him, and Mr. Conant protested.

"You've enough to carry without the extra weight," for we each carried
some of our possessions hung round us, and it was so cold the heavy
clothing we were obliged to wear was in itself a load.

"I suppose it does seem silly to you," I said, "but it's such a comfort
to feel him in my arms."

"No, it doesn't seem silly," he said. "I sometimes wonder," he went on,
"if I haven't missed something. I don't believe I have ever felt as
badly about anything as you did about MacTavish the other day."

I wondered. It was very pleasant having Mr. Conant talk to me like a
good comrade. I said:

"You spoil things when you love too much."

Dimly in the darkness I saw him looking at me curiously.

"Have you loved too much?" he asked.

I remembered that I had been engaged twice--twice--but now I came to
think of it, I don't believe I had loved at all. I certainly never
loved either of those men as I love MacTavish.

"No, I certainly haven't loved too much," I said, and I found I wasn't
even bitter any more.

"And I----" began Mr. Conant.

Stella Chapman's voice interrupted him.

"I can't stand it any longer. I'm just aching all over."

"After all, you're better off than Mrs. Wright," I said.

"It can't be far to the next village," said Mr. Conant, "but perhaps
we'd better halt till daylight."

It was rather a miserable little company that crouched against the
steep cliff side waiting for the dawn. Stella Chapman nestled against
me. She was half afraid lest I should be cross with her for taking the
mule.

"I know it was mean of me," she said, "but I wasn't brave enough to
stop behind. If you're going to hate me I shall wish I had. You're my
only comfort."

I soothed her, and with the bedding we made a place where she and Mrs.
Wright could lie down on the ground, and the rest of us sat down round
them. Luckily the nights are not long even in December south of 38,
and by half-past six the stars began to pale and the jagged tops of the
purple mountains to the east were outlined against a rosy sky. It was
lovely, and it was still more lovely when beneath the rose came a band
of gold that stretched from mountain top to mountain top, and then long
streamers of gold, rays from the sun god himself, streamed upwards to
the zenith.

"If we only had some tea," sighed Stella.

We all looked at Chung, who squatting on his haunches, with his eyes
fixed on the sunrise, was slowly tipping himself first on to his toes
and then back to his heels again.

"No can," he said without the ghost of a smile, "Missie no have sat
on," and he went to the mule load and produced a bottle which he held
out to Mr. Conant.

"Have floze," said he.

"No wonder I was wretched," said Stella indignantly. "Where is this
village?"

"The village isn't far," said Mr. Conant. "The minister has been there
and he says they were lovely to him."

You'd have thought he didn't know the minister when he drew comfort
from that statement. However the village proved to be only three miles
off and if the people weren't exactly what I should call "lovely," at
least they were not unfriendly. It was only a small mountain village
with hills on either side, and the people were interested to see so
many foreigners together, and they clustered round and escorted us to
the only inn in the place.




CHAPTER X.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY.

THE GODDESS OF MERCY


"Look thy last on all things lovely
Every hour: let no night
Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
Till to delight
Thou have paid thy utmost blessing,
Since that all things thou wouldst praise
Beauty took from those who loved them
In other days."


SINCE Chapman and I were the only fighting members of the party we were
relieved to find that Chinese village not particularly anti-foreign.
The men who were feeding the mules and donkeys in the inn yard left
their job to come and stare as the cobble-stones rang to our shod feet.
We had to walk warily for where there was any liquid it was solid
sheets of mighty slippery ice.

"Luckily," remarked Dr. Grahame, and I saw what she meant, it was
sewage pure and simple.

The stalls for the mules open in front were ranged round one side of
the yard, and opposite the entrance was the inn proper, a building of
stones and mud, and when the door was opened and three or four ragged
dirty men muffled to the eyes from the cold of the early morning
tumbled out they brought with them such a reek of human occupancy that
even Rosalie Grahame stood back.

"We can't," wailed Stella genuinely disgusted, "we can't."

"We certainly can't," said Dr. Grahame, and then looked round to see
what offered. "We'll have to make the best of a mule stall," she said.
"Luckily we're all used to the open. It won't be bad. We can make the
stalls quite comfortable with plenty of straw."

"We can't live in a mule stall," Stella protested, "I want to wash--I
want----" she looked across at me.

"I tell you, Stella, you'll have to lump it," said her husband harshly.
"There's no washing for us this side of the Hoang Ho," and he seemed to
find satisfaction in the thought.

The minister spoke to the landlord, a friendly gentleman in a fur cap
with a dirty smile face, who hawked and expectorated, and finally
agreed for forty cash--roughly something under a penny--to put kaoliang
straw in two of the stalls, and for eighty cash more to supply us
with enough warm water to do a little elementary washing. In such
circumstances as ours it was somewhat difficult to preserve what we
are accustomed to consider the decencies of life, and I could not help
being struck with the different way in which the two girls took the
situation. The young doctor accepted it as the most natural thing in
the world. There would have been no awkwardness but for Stella Chapman.
Her false modesty many a time brought a hot blush to the other girl's
cheek.

"I feel sometimes," she told me one day, "as if I could strangle the
people who brought up Stella Chapman."

I don't know that any upbringing would have improved Stella Chapman.
She is rotten at the core. And yet she manages to be alluring.

Mrs. Wright accepted a bed of kaoliang straw in a mule stall as if it
had been a room in a palace, and sank back in her rugs with a sigh of
deep thankfulness.

"Now you must lie there," I heard Dr. Grahame say, "and I'll bring you
some tea. Chung has gone to see if he can't buy a couple of chickens
for breakfast."

"My dear, you're lovely to me," said the weary woman, looking up with
a world of gratitude in her faded eyes. "It's real good to be here and
I'm so tired I can't keep my eyes open."

"She's lucky to be able to sleep," commented Stella enviously. "I'm
aching in every bone."

The village was the poorest of the poor. They all came to stare, and
the wretched women with their bound feet and many ailments moved the
young doctor to compassion.

"I could help some of them," she said. "I've a few medical comforts
here----" and she looked at the minister.

"It's takin' on too big a contract," he said, shaking his head. "If
you didn't cure 'em slick they'd blame the bally lot of us an' we'd
have to face the music." And then he seemed to think he might have been
unfaithful to his trust for he added, "Ma an' I are right willin', of
course, if you feel like reskin' it----"

But Stella Chapman interrupted him emphatically. She disliked the
Chinese and is not likely to heed anyone else's suffering.

"No," she said, "no. Don't let's risk anything. Let us get away from
these horrible, horrible people. We have enough to bear as it is.
There, don't look as if you thought I was a brute, Rosalie darling, but
I can't feel they're human. I feel as if they were beasts, disgusting
beasts."

Dr. Grahame hugged her dog.

"Treasure dog," she said, "we mustn't do it, and here's my skill going
to waste. I abhor waste."

"It would be waste if we were all killed now," said Stella, and that
was truth enough.

It was amusing to see the way Dr. Grahame put her foot down next
morning. She was determined that Mrs. Wright should not walk a step.
Stella looked at her and then at me and accepted the situation with a
gay little laugh.

"You'll all have to help me," she said, and before we were out of the
village I found her soft little hand thrust through my reluctant arm
and her pretty little face looking up into mine while Rosalie was
wholly occupied with Mrs. Wright.

In the clear bright sparkling cold of the early morning we went on
our way. The ground was frozen hard, the hills all round were covered
with snow, and the cold was bitter, but the sun was turning the little
icicles that hung from the eaves of the houses into scintillating
diamonds. The sky above us was a matchless blue. It was a delightful
morning and half the village accompanied us on our way to the east gate.

Outside was a shrine of the goddess of mercy. It stands at most city
gates in China. And when I think how deadly poor the people are, how
ready they always are to help each other, I think that on the whole,
however shabby those little shrines may appear, the great goddess is
not neglected.

This was a very poor little shrine and the image was old and dusty, and
in the pot of sand that stood on her altar were no incense sticks. A
priest, or at any rate a servitor of the sanctuary, stood bowing to us
as we passed and he held out a handful of those sticks. The minister
waved them aside with a get-thee-behind-me-Satan motion, and the old
man looked pleadingly at the rest of us. Stella shrank up to me.

"Oh," she said, "isn't he horrid?"

But Rosalie Grahame saw him in another light. She gave him a mou,
ten go to a Mexican dollar, but it was worth more than a hundred cash,
and I believe the old man had only hoped she might be good for a cash.
Anyhow, he bowed himself to the ground and made loud exclamations of
thanks and joy.

"Missie pay too much," said Chung reproachfully, but she didn't mind
Chung. The minister was another matter. He was ahead walking beside
the mule on which his wife was riding, and he turned round and saw her
with the incense sticks in her hand just about to put them in the jar
before the goddess. To me it seemed a pretty little act of recognition
of kindness received.

"Rosalie Grahame!" thundered the minister, and the distress in his
tones sent the colour flying to forehead and chin, and the smile she
had turned on the old servitor died away, "you shall not deny the dear
Lord! You shall not peril your soul in idolatrous practices!"

She looked from the one man to the other, pleasure on one face, pain on
the other. Evidently she made up her mind.

"The town has been good to us," she said, with a note of decision in
her voice.

Chapman was looking on with a smile, and his wife was clinging to my
arm.

"What are they all bothering about?" said she.

"I don't want to deny my colour," said Dr. Grahame, "but the village
has been good to us. Why shouldn't I make an offering to their goddess
of mercy. I like the idea," and she got a match from Chung, who
was enjoying himself, and lighting the sticks placed them with all
reverence in the jar of sand on the altar before the goddess.

"Got plenties monies," said Chung preening himself.

"You are denying Christ," said the minister with quivering lips.

"No," said Dr. Grahame, "no. As far as this is concerned, Christ and
the goddess of mercy are one. I am offering thanks for the kindness of
the village in the only way they will understand."

He turned away to overtake his wife. There was a crushed look about him.

"Anyhow," said Dr. Grahame, "the people are pleased. And it does seem
so impossible to please everybody. You're not shocked."

"It's bending the knee in the house of Rimmon," said Stella, and it was
the first and only time she hinted that she ever read anything.

"Ever since I came to China," I said truly enough, "I've had a longing
to burn incense to the goddess of mercy."

"And you are going to be a missionary."

"I don't understand what we're making such a fuss about," said Stella.
"What on earth is the good of bothering about their silly old idols?"

That was the way she put a stopper on our quest after higher things.

She is pretty in a Dresden china way, but I could no more talk to her
about the faiths or the needs of the world than I could have shaken
that clinging little trusting hand from my arm.

"You needn't laugh at me," Rosalie said as we resumed our march, "but
ever since I have known the Chinese I have felt that the goddess of
mercy is the goddess they worship in spirit and truth."

"The goddess of mercy!" Stella's voice rose to a little shriek, and she
shrank closer to me, "and they were going to kill us!"

"Oh, that was by the way," said Dr. Grahame. "No nation is always
consistent."

"She is silly," said Stella confidentially to me, and Chapman was grim.

"So now you see, Dr. Grahame," said he, "you've offended all round, for
I reckon he," and he nodded at the man who was walking ahead with bent
back, walking sorrowfully as one could see, "won't forgive you."

"He will," said Dr. Grahame, "he's a good sort, and I know he will.
Unfortunately I know also he'll make it a matter of prayer, of public
prayer, and when that happens I always squirm. Don't I, MacTavish?"

But before many days had passed over our heads the bitter irony of that
offering was brought forcibly home to us.




CHAPTER XI.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE UNEXPLAINED TERROR


"I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover
the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.

All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set
darkness upon thy land."


THE day we reached the temple of the Eleven Hot Springs I was
congratulating myself that we were getting along wonderfully, when Mr.
Conant suddenly dropped Stella Chapman's arm and calmly joined the
minister as if there were no one in the world he more desired to speak
with. Stella sat down in the snow, and said she could not walk a step
further. Mr. Chapman was sarcastic, and said she might stay behind,
and Mr. Conant looked round on the landscape as if it really were no
business of his. Superior cat!

I was in despair when Chung came to the rescue and pointed out a
wretched little hovel tucked away on the hillside in a place that would
be an orchard probably when the summer came.

It was dirty, small, and hardly fit for a dog. Indeed, I shouldn't
like to leave MacTavish in such a hole, but Chung had the audacity to
suggest that Stella should go and stay there till we should reach some
mission station in Shansi and could send back for her! Mr. Chapman
said he thought he could manage to carry her that far, and then she
scrambled to her feet and said we were wicked and cruel and she'd try
again.

She got along fairly well, but Mr. Conant declined to have any dealings
with her. Her most pleading looks were lost upon him.

Hitherto we had had still glorious weather, and now suddenly puffs of
wind came to us across the snowy fields that stretched away on either
side. They were the merest little sighs, but they were icy, and as
they cut my cheek I turned anxiously to Mr. Chapman, who was the most
weather-wise.

He looked up at the sky. It was intensely blue, but he pointed to the
north-west where a heavy, dense black cloud hung low on the horizon.

"That little caboose," he said, and stopped as if that reference to the
hut we had left behind us should be sufficient.

Clearly if there was a storm coming we could not stay out in it, but
to retrace our steps to such a forlorn place of refuge---- Another icy
puff of wind was like sharp needles in my face, and I saw the black
cloud spreading upwards, spreading quickly. All the hills were covered
with snow; there was a clump of trees stretching bare arms to the sky
to the right, and farther on ahead was a darker clump of what might be
pines apparently climbing up a cleft in the hillside. The bare trees
to the right were a graveyard that offered no shelter, but those on
ahead--Mr. Conant pointed.

"They look like pines," he said. The minister shook his head over
them, for a clump of trees in China, when it isn't a graveyard, and
a graveyard isn't likely to climb up a hillside, generally means a
temple. The Temple of Eleven Hot Springs, Chung said was hereabout.

"More better go," said he, also looking at the threatening sky, and
then he added, "Can vash."

Hot springs and a wash! It did sound tempting, and we could reach it
before sundown. I gladly turned out of our path and went straight for
it, I was so pleased I even forgave Stella, and we both of us revelled
in the thoughts of a nice warm bath. We felt ourselves well beyond Pai
Lang by now, and the priests in all the temples that I had ever seen
were unwashed but civil.

A paved way that led up to the temple gates was bordered on either
side by tall and densely growing dark pines. They met overhead forming
a series of arches, but the sun was low and streamed in between
each pair, flooding a patch of pavement with sunshine. The branches
sprang from the very roots, so that looking up the avenue it was
quite regular, a broad band of dark shadow, cut by a narrow band of
brilliant sunshine as far as the eye could reach. We could not see
the gates, they were more than a mile away. We were looking up hill,
and the pathway fell again when we reached the crown. It was rather a
fine vista, the avenue of pines, the brilliant sunshine, and the snow
sparkling on either side. The way itself had evidently been swept.

But as we stepped under the first pair of trees there came a burst of
icy wind that tossed their branches wildly, and at one swoop the light
and colour went out of the landscape as though a heavy curtain had been
drawn across the sun.

It was eerie. I was suddenly afraid. Those archways we had to pass
under seemed menacing. Our furs were like so much tissue paper in that
cutting wind. Still it reminded me how urgent it was that Mrs. Wright
at least should be sheltered.

We reached the top of the little rise, and as we looked ahead I
stopped with a gasp. Around us the night had come suddenly, but ahead
at the end of the gloomy avenue was one long gleam of sunlight that
fell upon four colossal figures making them stand out with startling
distinctness. At first I thought they were alive, but presently I saw
my error. They were more than twice life-size, figures of warriors of
bronze, and their arms held threateningly above their heads grasped
weapons, a sword, a spear, an axe and a club. So life-like was their
poise that I should not have been surprised had that spear come
hurtling towards us.

"Search me!" said the minister in surprised tones.

It was a relief.

"Reg'lar rough on rats carnival," he went on, "blamed if I didn't think
they pirates was the slap up real thing! Goshety Gosh! Idols! Dear
Lord! Idols!"

I don't think they were exactly idols. I suppose they were some
manifestation of power. They certainly were uncanny, and I think if it
hadn't been for the storm coming up and the desolate country all round
I would have suggested going back along that avenue and pushing on
for the next village, giving up all thoughts of a plentiful supply of
hot water, since it was only to be attained by crossing that sinister
threshold. We drew close together in silence as we approached them.
There was no gate. The light from above fell directly on the figures
and showed us they were raised on a platform as high as the wall on
either side in the place where the gate should be. A steep ramp of
carved stone, on which were entwined chiselled serpents, led up to the
figures, the only means of entrance, and it was worn a little by the
passing of many feet. Clearly it stood out in that solitary ray of
brilliant light, which showed us, too, behind the tossing branches of
other pine trees, the curved corners of many tiled roofs, red and green
and burnished gold. The sound of the bells that hung from every eave
came to our ears with a harsh clang, quite unlike the silver sound of
most temple bells.

Then suddenly the wind died, and as if it had been a signal, the single
ray of light went, too, and the ramp and the guardian figures were only
dark masses against the pines amid a stillness.

But by the time we had climbed that steep ramp the storm was upon us
again. The pine branches bending before each furious blast were moaning
and creaking in time to the wailing of the wind, and looking back, the
long avenue up which we had come was blotted out in a white whirl of
flakes dancing madly in the darkness to the sound of the clanging bells.

Down the other side of the ramp we were sheltered from the gusts of
wind, but we could hear it raging in the pine branches overhead. A
ruddy light streaming through the carved lattice of a paper window fell
on a patch of snow, and every now and then a branch of pine swung into
the light and every needle stood out distinctly.

It was rather a large courtyard, like all temple enclosures, with
several buildings in it, and towards the largest we made our way, the
muleteer making a sort of yodel that opened a door for us and showed
us an interior bare and desolate, but lighted up by a brazier of live
coals. There were about twenty monks with shaven heads and long red
robes crouching round it, and as the door opened twenty pairs of cold
and indifferent eyes met ours. We stepped across the threshold and
again there came a hush in the storm, and we stood there in utter
stillness held motionless ourselves by some indefinable menace.

And then there rang on the air a piercing shriek.

Such a shriek, as long as I live it will ring in my ears. In it there
was something more than terror, but not a muscle of those impassive
faces moved. Martin Conant made a step forward, but Mr. Chapman laid a
detaining hand on his shoulder.

"Steady," he said, "these blighters hold the trump cards."

"That was a woman," said the minister in Chinese.

And with one accord the men answered:

"There is no woman here."

From all sides were collecting red-robed monks, impassive, inscrutable,
the firelight gleaming on their hairless heads. There must have been
a couple of hundred of them. Then one who appeared to be in authority
asked calmly, as if there had been nothing to disquiet us:

"The Before Born need lodging."

But Mr. Conant turned to the other men.

"We must do something," he said emphatically.

"Are we ghost hearin'," said the minister, "or have we got a shingle
loose by any chance in our upper storeys?"

"If a couple of hundred people on their own ground declare there is
nothing," said Mr. Chapman, "what can we do?"

And we had to leave it at that in spite of all Mr. Conant's urging.

"The sooner we vamoose the better," said the minister.

But the fierce raging of the storm overhead told us plainer than words
that move before morning we could not. There was nothing else for it;
we had to follow the monk who led the way into a little paved courtyard
with a couple of rooms in it. Even under the circumstances these rooms
looked havens of rest to us accustomed to the discomfort of Chinese
inns. They were stone floored, but that allowed of a brazier of glowing
coals. There were carved black wood tables with high Chinese chairs,
cupboards bound in brass and k'angs into the fireplaces, of which a
monk put a little firing to warm them. The rooms were swept and cleaner
far than anything we had seen since we left the mission station.

"Oh!" sighed Stella, "if I weren't afraid!" and for once she voiced my
feelings exactly.

Chung beamed. Strange sounds didn't worry him. He came in fairly
purring to explain that there was a hot spring quite close in the next
courtyard. It fell into a pool that had been carefully enclosed, so as
to ensure privacy and "Missie can have barf."

One needs to have been tramping through the disgusting winter dust of
Chinese roads for days on end to appreciate the delight we found in
that announcement.

I went with Stella, and Mr. Conant said,

"I'll stand outside till you've done," and we were certainly glad to
have him near. That awful shriek, the sudden silence and the impassive
monks made us almost afraid to move.

It was warm in the little chamber where the hot spring bubbled up.

There was an iron bar in the stone wall and from it Chung hung a round
Chinese lantern on which black dragons had been painted so that their
curious shadows greatly enlarged fell on the walls. It was a very dim
light, dimmer still by reason of those dragons, but it served to show
us the square chamber with dark shadows in the far corners where the
light did not reach and where the steam seemed to linger. The spring
burst out of a rock in the corner farthest away from the door and
flowed into a great circular basin cut with much labour in the living
rock. It must have been boiling where it came out, judging by the
steam, but at the side nearest the door where it ran out with a curious
gurgling sound that we heard even above the raging of the storm, it was
just pleasantly warm.

"Now don't be afraid," said Mr. Conant as he shut the door, "I'll be
here."

"I am afraid," said Stella as she shed her furs. So was I. But here
was a luxury we had not had for many a long day and might not have
again--till--well perhaps till we reached Peking.

"There's nothing to be afraid of here," I said, but Stella pointed with
trembling finger to the threatening darkness of the far corner.

"I don't like that heap," she said.

"Only rags," I said, "let's get in quickly."

The water was about three feet deep, warm, soft, luxurious. There came
to us the pleasant feeling of cleansing. I even dipped MacTavish, and
as I put him on the stone bank that ran all round he danced about with
joy. He hated being washed, but was wild with excitement when it was
all over. He felt so good.

For a moment as we dried ourselves Stella and I felt a little better.

"I'll go in again, I think," she said, "who knows when we'll get another
chance."

"But Mr. Conant's waiting in the cold," I reminded her.

"Oh he'll--Oh look at your dog!"

He'd run round the basin when I'd put him down, and as he came back
into the light of the lantern I saw that his little head was all wet
with some dark sticky substance.

I caught him and it came off on my hands--a sinister dark stain.

"Blood!" shrieked Stella, grabbing her clothes.

His head and front paws were covered with it, and I was horrified and
dipped him in the water again. Then as I let him go he ran back and I
saw him worrying into what I had thought a heap of rags. In a moment
I was after him and snatching him up found him all wet and sticky and
stained again. Once more I dipped him in the water, and as I held him
there with one hand I touched gingerly the heap among which he had
nosed--and--by the dim light of the lantern I saw--and for a moment my
heart stood still with horror. I heard Stella's voice asking, "What is
it?" But no words would come to answer her for I remembered the shriek
and here was a woman's underclothing, a foreign woman's underclothing,
not stained with blood but simply soaked in it. The poor plain muslin
garments trimmed with simple frilling such as Mrs. Wright and Sister
Luella wore. I felt sick with horror, my legs shook under me, I thought
I would have fallen into the basin, but I huddled on the rest of my
clothes and wrapping MacTavish in my towels made for the door with
Stella still crying,

"What is it? Oh what is it? I thought it was blood!"

"It is blood!" I heard myself saying.

And the awful part is we cannot explain it.

We told Mr. Conant, and when he had brought us back to our room, he and
Mr. Chapman went together to the spring, but except for a dark smear on
the rock where I had seen the heap they found nothing.

We looked at one another in fear and dismay. It deepened the mystery.
The bloodstained clothes had evidently been taken away in that brief
space of time. The men might have doubted my word, but Stella was
emphatic.

"You think we're foolish women. But it's true, I tell you, it's true!
Why MacTavish was all covered with blood! Do you think we could have
imagined that!"

Unseen eyes must have been upon us. We could do nothing, We all huddled
together and kept the brazier going, and the men decided that they
would take it in turns to watch. And at first the only person who slept
was MacTavish. About midnight Stella went to sleep and I heard the
others tossing and turning, I listened to the wailing of the storm and
the clanging of the bells, and I watched the glowing brazier till at
last I too fell asleep.

The next day we wakened to a still quiet world, the sun shone brightly
and the faintest breath of air occasionally moved a bell that gave out
a soft tinkle; the snow was piled up in the courtyard, and in the pine
branches soft dry powdery snow slipped down occasionally with a sighing
sound.

Chung served out breakfast and the muleteer turned up as if nothing in
the world had happened.

I think Mr. Conant voiced our feelings when he said it seemed as if
we could not go away leaving that awful shriek and the bloodstained
clothes unexplained, but Mr. Chapman shook his head and said we were no
knight errants and had to think of our own skins.

"We're not out of the wood yet," said he. "I'm no coward, but I tell
you I'd a deal rather postpone enquiries till we can do it safely in
Peking. The monks are none too friendly and they outnumber us--well I
reckon there 're two hundred if there's one."

"Goshety gosh!" said the minister--"the heathen ain't on the
advertisin' lay, but I reckon if they wanted to collect us--still,"
he added hastily, as if we might accuse him of selfishness, "if you
feel like roustin' round on the enquirin' lay I guess Momma an' me's
willin'."

No the enquiring lay was foolishness. Even Mr. Conant saw that, and we
went away out of that sinister courtyard across the ramp between the
menacing bronze figures along the avenue of pines where the sun was
barring the pavement again. It was clean swept the whole mile length
of it, though once we left the courtyard we saw nobody, and this
exhibition of quiet power terrified us. As we stepped off the pavement
out of the shadow of the pines into the dust of the so-called road,
Chung put the situation in a nutshell,

"My tink monk velly clever mans."

They were. And we were caught in this country. Every day we were deeper
in the toils. If we could only have wiped out that awful visit to the
temple.

We saw plenty of people as we marched along the hard frozen road, often
sunk a little below the surrounding country, peasants gathering manure,
small-footed, gaily dressed women mounted on donkeys, long caravans of
camels and mules, and through these people we got news occasionally of
Pai Lang. He was ravaging the country to the south, and most of the
caravans were hesitating whether they dared go through Shensi.

On the evening of the sixth day out we crossed a frozen river by a
prettily arched bridge. On the other side was a small village, like
all other villages, a long street of mud-coloured houses packed close
together. By the time we were settled in the usual mule stalls, it
was evident Mrs. Wright was very ill indeed. Of course, she didn't
complain. She always smiles sweetly, poor dear, and is quite sure
everything is for the best. She lay on her bedding now, and the waning
light showed her poor white face thin and transparent. Her eyes were
shut with very weariness, but they were not quite closed, and there
were pathetic lines reaching down from her nose to her mouth.

Next day she was no better, and I told the others she could not be
moved. Whether we liked it or not we were bound to stay here.

Stella looked up from her breakfast of millet porridge and devilled
chicken, and said calmly:

"What are we going to do, then? We can't all be sacrificed for one
person."

No one said anything, and she seemed rather surprised.

"No matter how weary I am," she went on, "I struggle on, and now you
want to stay in this awful hole. The only thing that makes things
bearable is the thought that we are getting on."

I was afraid she would tell Mrs. Wright, and make her feel she was
keeping us back, and then I had an idea.

"It's a good place for Mr. Chapman and Mr. Conant to look round for
another mule. Then you know you could ride."

Chung serving breakfast was listening with interest. Of course, he
isn't exactly happy. He is a true Chinaman, and life in these rough
places on the roads is not to his taste. It is too strenuous. He has
mentioned it several times, but no one took any notice, for no one had
anything better to offer. Now he was in complete agreement with his
late mistress. He wanted to get on, and he thought Mrs. Wright ought to
be left behind.

"How far Shansi?" he asked with interest.

"Two months," I said at a venture.

Chung sat down in the ground and rocked himself backwards and forwards,
the very picture of despair, and MacTavish much agitated ran round
and round him letting out short, sharp barks. He still looked rather
shaven, though his hair was beginning to grow, and he was assuming a
piebald appearance.

"Stepped out of a nightmare," said Mr. Wright, who didn't realise how
very ill his wife was.

But MacTavish's scorn was the last straw and Chung wept tears.

"Go for die," he mourned. "No lice got for far."

"Can buy," said Mr. Conant tersely.

"No can buy," asseverated Chung solemnly, and he lifted up his face to
the sunshine and the tears trickled down his yellow cheeks.

"There," said Stella, "even Chung's afraid. We must go on."

"Pai Lang have Lan Chou Fu," sobbed Chung, and he rose up and went away
into the middle of the courtyard. The air was crackling with frost.
The rough courtyard of the inn was iron-bound, and round the edges of
a hide bucket that stood by the well the water hung in icicles. The
landlord of the inn inspecting it as if he had never seen such a thing
before was captured by the mournful Chung, and presently was dragged by
that worthy over to us. He wore an evil-smelling goatskin coat, with
the hair inside, and his brown and wrinkled face, grimed with many
years of dirt, peeped out from a fringe of fur that lined his cap.

"Can do one piecey mule," said Chung, solemnly, and with the air of a
man who had retrieved the company from disaster.

But on investigation the matter wasn't so simple. What the landlord
meant, he declared, was that twenty li away was a big Mongolian
encampment where they would sell plenty of horses and mules.

"But are we all going to walk seven miles out into the desert to
interview a Mongolian encampment," asked Stella.

"No, no," said Mr. Conant, "I should think your husband and I might
take the mules with the innkeeper for an interpreter."

"It's a pretty batty proposition," said the minister, "interviewing the
gentle Mongol."

"I can't let you go," wailed Stella, clutching at her husband's arm.

He shook her off roughly, and she turned her wet eyes on Martin Conant,
who smiled at her as if a bad-tempered husband were all in the day's
work.

Chung looked round on everybody benevolently, and beckoned up the
muleteer and the two mules. He was going to hasten things if he could.
But he had a word of warning.

"Mongols," said he, "velly bad mans. If master go die----"




CHAPTER XII.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY

THE CASTING OF LOTS


"He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the
clouds shall not reap."


You make up your mind quickly on an expedition like ours. A chance
of extra mules was not to be lightly thrown away. We finished our
breakfast without further discussion, and then both the women came to
see us off. Chung attended them and gave another word of warning.

"The tiger," said he in solemn Chinese, "even when he plays has claws."

He could never divest himself of the idea that he was running the show.
Heaven knows we'd have done mighty poorly without him. I wouldn't for
the world be little Chung.

Chapman drew his automatic pistol. It was the only weapon we had
amongst us.

"Mine," said he, "are sharper," and Chung, who had a wholesome dread
of firearms, fled, his pigtail streaming behind him. He forgot he was
there to protect his mistress. We bade the two women farewell, and
passed through some mounds of brickwork that had once been a gateway
and tower in the Great Wall, and Chapman, silent man as he was, gave
his opinion of things as we rode along.

"The minister's wife," he said, "is going to get her crown of glory."

"A rest," I said, "may do wonders."

He shook his head.

"Our uncommonly capable young doctor thinks she's going to pass in her
checks."

He was right, I knew.

The desert stretched away before us brown and desolate, flecked here
and there with patches of white snow. Overhead was the deep blue sky,
without a sign of a cloud, but the brilliant sunshine was bitter cold.
I have felt cold many a time, but the remembrance of the cold of the
Mongolian plateau that day remains with me as the worst I have ever
felt. In the distance were rugged hills, their jagged tops outlined
against the sky. Presently I saw a couple of black specks against a
white snow bank. They were lost against the brown earth, but they came
on, and at last, shading my eyes, I saw they were mounted men. Mongols
probably. Chapman was shortsighted, and they were close upon us before
he could see them, mounted men in long belted gowns, high boots and
little peaked fur caps, from beneath which strands of greasy matted
black hair fell down over their turned-up collars.

As they rode up the innkeeper became frantic with excitement, and too
vehement in his remarks for me to understand him.

"We've been handed out the wrong crowd," Chapman explained. "They're
not from our man's encampment, but belong to a great robber chief who's
best let alone."

The men were riding a couple of clever-looking, unkempt, piebald
ponies, and it was very evident that with our baggage mules we stood
precious little chance if they wanted to be nasty.

Chapman stooped down and grabbed the reluctant innkeeper by his
pigtail, for that gentleman was giving unmistakable signs that he
considered discretion the better part of valour.

"We can't do without our interpreter," he said.

The desert men hesitated, came forward, hesitated, and then came
forward again till they were within hailing distance.

"Tell them," said he to the trembling innkeeper, "that we have more
rifles than gold," and I saw the slit eyes of the men upon his pistol.

"Ask them," went on Chapman, "if they have ponies for sale?"

When the answer was translated into Chinese I understood that they had
ponies for sale at their yurts, many ponies, and the yurts were
only three li, about a mile, away.

"Recollect," said Chapman, "the proverb about the tiger from the
Eastern Hills, and the tiger from the Western Hills."

There is a good deal in it.

"Meaning," I said, "that you think there's not much difference between
these and the gentlemen we shall meet at Wang's?"

"Meaning also that if they don't like our little game they could quite
easily collect us before we reach Wang's."

Pleasant reflection truly.

"Then we haven't much choice. If anything happens to us--those helpless
women."

Chapman turned and looked me straight in the face.

"That young doctor," said he, "is dead earnest and awful clever at
planning out things, and the minister's a pretty good man of business
when the Lord doesn't interfere. His missus is going to peg out, and
mine's a dead weight, but on the whole I don't know that we're so
necessary to the plan of existence as you seem to think," and he took
a turn with the unfortunate innkeeper's pigtail round his hand. "Look
out," he cried, "the muleteer's going to bolt."

I hadn't paid any attention to that odoriferous individual because
I thought he would stick by his mules, but as Chapman spoke he sped
back on the back track as hard as his legs could carry him. He scented
danger evidently as he left his sole means of livelihood behind him.

"Encouraging," said Chapman, and he waved to the newcomers to lead and
we would follow.

They said something to the innkeeper, and presently Chapman was telling
me that the greatest chief of all the chiefs was at the yurts we
were approaching.

"Our friend," he added on his own, "does not seem to be getting any
real comfort out of the fact."

I was a little amused at the shivering terrified Chinaman. We hadn't
anything worth taking, and it should be worth the while of these people
to open up trade with the foreigner.

"The risk's worth the ponies anyhow," I said, "and I don't see why we
shouldn't win out."

I felt pretty sure all would go well. But I wished--and with that
fervent wish I abjured my uncle Irwin and all his works--we were more
heavily armed.

We were close to the felt tents now and the people were crowding
outside them to look at the strangers. The men were dressed like the
two horsemen who had brought us and the women wore unbelted gowns and
high head-dresses ornamented with turquoises and rubies, and the little
dark-faced children were mere bundles of fur and dirty rags.

There must have been at least forty men, and they all had matchlocks
slung across their shoulders. Every man in the desert carries a weapon,
and they were not arms of accuracy.

However it appeared weapons were not to count, for Chapman stood
forward and flung down his pistol.

"It isn't the thing in polite Mongol society," said he, "to enter tents
armed," and he flung out his empty hands and motioned me to do likewise.

Out from a black felt tent stepped the very great chief.

There was nothing to distinguish him from his people. His face was
burnt nearly black from the reflection of the sun on the snow, his dark
cat-skin robe was dirty and torn, but he was evidently the very great
chief. His followers gave him all deference, and their deference to him
seemed to do us honour.

I felt a good half-way to our goal.

"Now for the ponies," I said. "Do you think that innkeeper can
interpret properly?"

"He wants," said Chapman a little grimly, "to scratch his entry. He's
scared out of his seven senses."

But he interpreted nevertheless.

"He asks," came the question in his broad Kansu dialect, "if the Master
is a very great chief."

"Shall we get better ponies?" I asked, "if we are big chiefs, or shall
we pay less if we are humble folks?"

"An Asiatic," said Chapman, "thinks small beans of a little man. We're
very great chiefs. It's lucky we left the outfit behind. Tell him I am
a very great chief."

"And the other master?"

"Ringing you in," said Chapman. "The other master is a very great chief
too. We're sinking your connection with the missionary trade," he
added. "Missionaries, I reckon, won't carry weight up here."

"But which is the greatest chief?"

"Now," said Chapman, "that is a poser. I'm willing to share my throne,
and anyhow I'm the weightier man." He squared his shoulders. "Tell him
I am the mightiest chief."

"And they don't seem quite happy in their minds, even now," he added.

Though learning a little German seems to have used up all my power
in foreign tongues I understood the answer that was translated into
Chinese.

"The great chief is glad to meet a great foreign chief. He has long
wanted one in his power."

There was no mistaking it! That is exactly what the trembling innkeeper
said.

"The devil!" said Chapman turning swiftly round and looking at me, "the
minister would say we've gotten a wart hog in the greased pig class!"

The Mongols didn't waste time. Before I had realised that the danger
that I had thought negligible was more than threatening, a couple of
men had laid their hands on my shoulders. I went for them with my
fists--I would have killed the crowd if I could without compunction.
But hands like iron grasped my arms, the smell of unwashed humanity and
unclean clothes was in my nostrils, and I might have been a baby for
all the strength I had. And Chapman with strange oaths was fighting
just as helplessly.

Presently we were standing bound side by side, and it seemed as if the
story had moved on with a jerk. Our terrified Chinaman was standing
between a couple of Mongols, but he was not bound. I looked up at the
blue sky. I had never before realised how fresh, how invigorating was
the air.

"What is the Chief going to do to us now?" I asked.

"It appears his job is to show his people how big a chief he is,"
Chapman answered.

"But how! Why we rode straight into his camp!" I felt very angry.

"By killing a great foreign chief," said Chapman grimly. "Now keep a
straight face on you, man. One of us is going to die, and the other----"

"The other----" I repeated stupidly. How bright the sunlight was! The
air was like champagne! The snow----

His clear cool voice cut across my thoughts like a whip lash.

"The other goes to tell the foreign peoples and the Chinese how great a
chief is the blighter who dares this thing."

And then we looked at one another. One of us was to die!

I looked round and every man was unslinging his matchlock in silence.
There was on all the faces turned towards us an eager expectant look.
And on the clear air rang the joyous laugh of a little child. One of us
was to die!

"Which?" I asked mechanically.

"That's the beauty of it," said Chapman. "They can't decide which of us
is the greatest chief."

"The innkeeper?"

"Oh, the gentleman's only too willing to oblige. He went nap on you."

So I was to die in the sunshine. It was a queer feeling.

"But he straightened things out," went on the cold even voice, "by
giving me a look in."

"I suppose they will kill us both," I heard myself say.

"That idea was mooted, I gather," said Chapman calmly, "but its
drawback is it leaves no one to tell the tale."

"Then in God's name," I said, "what are they going to do?"

"Shoot one of us, and give the other a piebald pony because it isn't
becoming a great chief should bestraddle a mule. Oh Lord, if they could
only see our outfit!"

"If they only could! To think it is all a mistake!"

It is no easy thing to face death, sudden, unexpected, unnecessary. To
wish that I might live was to wish him dead, and I felt the sweat cold
on my forehead and salt on my lips. And he proceeded to explain that
there would be two rifles and one would be loaded and the other empty,
but the men behind those rifles would not know which was which.

"Will they give us time to write a note, to send a message?"

"The transaction is spot cash," said Chapman, and I saw a couple of
rifles being handed to the two men who had brought us, while the rest
of the people moved away from us. Then he spoke again.

"If you come through give a hand to my wife. She's pretty helpless,
poor little cuss."

I was obsessed with the thought that time was short, that I had much to
think of, many messages to send, and I would never get them said.

"So long, old chap," said Chapman's voice, softened as I had never
heard it before.

We stood there alone, hands and feet bound, and opposite us, quite
close, hardly a rifle's length away, stood the two nomads we had met
so hopefully half an hour ago. They were putting their rifles to their
shoulders----

"That's right, smile," said Chapman, "mustn't let the beggars think we
funk it."

God knows I had no idea I was smiling. I remembered how the minister
had calmed an angry Chinese mob by making them laugh, but these men
were not going to be done out of their prey so lightly.

What a long time they took to arrange things! And yet I kept thinking
if I only had a little more time, a little more time. Chapman was
looking grimly ahead down the barrels of two rifles.

There was a quick sharp crack. I shut my eyes involuntarily and opened
them again.

And the world was exactly the same! There were the jagged hills in the
distance cutting into the clear blue sky. There were the patches of
snow on the brown earth. There were the clustering, interested, eager
people in front of us. I heard the sound of their voices as in a dream.
I drew a deep long breath of the invigorating air. I was alive! I was
alive! For a moment I thought of nothing else. And Chapman stood beside
me.

"Old man," I said, and I felt as if I spoke with difficulty. Aeons had
passed since last I spoke to him. He turned and swayed towards me.

"Tell them I died game," he said. "And my accounts are fairly correct,"
and the blood gushed from his mouth as he fell forward on his face.

And a man ran forward with a knife and cut my bonds.




CHAPTER XIII.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE ONE WHO WAS LEFT


"Something there is
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection),
Something there is more immortal even than the stars."


THERE is a certain sort of woman--I have always envied them--from whose
flesh and hair and clothes there always seems to emanate a sort of
subtle fragrance, and even here after all our rough journeying, Stella
had that charm. Now as she walked along leaning heavily on my arm after
we had seen the men off, she sighed once or twice and then looked up at
me,

"Oh Rosalie, you don't think me awfully wicked, do you?"

"You?" I said. I don't know that I exactly thought her a saint, but I
was very sure she did not consider herself a sinner. "Why?"

She hesitated, and then said in a half whisper, "About Martin Conant,
of course. Indeed it isn't my fault."

"Martin Conant?" I tried to speak naturally, but her words came like a
little sharp sting.

"Don't you see?" she said. "I thought you would--I mean a woman can't
help it if a man falls in love with her, can she?" and she lifted her
caressing eyes to mine.

I don't know what I should have answered, but just at that moment the
minister called me to his wife and I had to give her all my attention.
Indeed she was very ill and I thought she was gone. But all the while
I was attending to her I was thinking about what Stella Chapman had
told me. Martin Conant was in love with her. Of course it was more
than likely. She was just the sort with whom a man would fall in love.
Of course a man oughtn't to fall in love with a married woman, and
oughtn't to tell her so if he does, but they do, and why should I
suppose Martin Conant was any better than the majority? I had just been
thinking myself how attractive she was--Mr. Conant would feel it more
deeply. I was sure of that.

Yes, probably Martin Conant did love her. A man would never notice
that she was selfish, unless he swung over to the other side like her
husband. But Martin Conant--my comrade and friend, Martin Conant! Till
this minute I believe I had only thought of him as a good comrade--why
should I mind if he was in love with Stella Chapman? I've been half
in love with her myself. He could be a good comrade still--and I want
nothing else--still--still--damn--damn--damn----

The minister was with his wife, Stella Chapman was curled up in the
other mule stall asleep, and MacTavish was sitting beside me, every now
and again stroking my dress with his little white paw. It was his way
of saying

"You're forgetting your little dog."

Suddenly he leaped on my lap, and looking up I saw Chung with the tears
streaming down his face. It didn't take much to move Chung to tears so
I wasn't much alarmed.

"Missie," he said solemnly, "all go for die."

"Nonsense, Chung," I thought a little opposition would cheer him, "I
have no intention of dying just yet."

"Missie," his hands were playing nervously with the bit of dark blue
cord at the end of his long pigtail, "one piecey man have come back."

Then I was on my feet in a moment.

"Who? The innkeeper?" I was frightened now. Why should the innkeeper
come back alone?

"One piecey muleteer," sobbed Chung. "Missie go for Lan Chou. Mongols
velly bad mans!" and his voice rose to a shriek.

"Hush!" I said, "hush!" It was no good rousing Stella till it was
absolutely necessary. She could not help in any way. I should like
to have had the minister's advice, but Mrs. Wright was very ill. I
couldn't very well take him away from her.

So MacTavish and I went out through the courtyard into the street,
where I saw the muleteer crying and wringing his hands, and as far as
I could make out, declaring that the Mongols had stolen his mules,
and I must pay. What had happened to the men on the mules apparently
he didn't know and didn't care. I was sick with fright, and I was
helpless. It didn't even seem funny to me that these two men grown to
man's estate should stand in front of me with the tears running down
their yellow cheeks, one reiterating in Chinese that his mules were
stolen, and the other sobbing in broken English, "Missie mus' hide.
Missie mus' go for Lan Chou!"

While we stood there another Chinaman came running in. If the muleteer
was excited there are no words in the English language to express this
man's terror. His eyes were starting out of his head, his pigtail was
flying out behind him, and his breath was coming in gasps. He had
evidently run for his life. I did not recognise him for the moment, but
Chung and the muleteer did. It was the innkeeper who had gone out with
Mr. Conant and Mr. Chapman to act as interpreter. Apparently he didn't
see the others as he rushed along in his headlong flight, but they
caught him and there was a very babel of tongues.

Of course I knew the language, I knew it quite well, but a sort of sick
feeling came over me, there was a darkness before my eyes, and what
they were saying reached my ears as meaningless sound. MacTavish stood
on his hind legs against me and signified that he was afraid for a wonk
was coming after him, and I picked him up mechanically. It seemed as if
I were saying to myself, "Martin Conant! Martin Conant! Martin!" Then
Chung broke in in English,

"Mongol velly bad mans! Have makee master die!"

I understood his Pigeon English. Oh, it was plain enough. I could see
everything clearly, the rutty frozen road that led away to the village
gate, the walls on either side, the archway that led into the inn yard;
overhead the sky was blue and the sun shone brightly, while in the air
was a sting. I wanted to ask him which master, but my voice wouldn't
come. I wasn't in the least afraid. I never thought about the rest
of us or what might happen in the future. I could only think of Mr.
Conant's kind grey eyes under his heavy brows looking back at me--at
us--as he rode out of the village gates and on through the wall. I was
afraid to put into words my fears, lest the very naming of them should
make them true. MacTavish stretched up his little face as if asking me
what was the matter, and then another man came running--but this man
was not afraid--and he caught hold of Chung. In a moment--the relief of
that moment--Chung's face straightened out, his air of self-importance
descended upon him, and it seemed to me as if a load had been lifted
from my heart. They were wrong, these messengers of disaster, or Chung
would never have looked like that. He pranced forward in his old
cheerful, important manner. The tears were not dry upon his cheeks, but
he had forgotten all about them.

"Master wantchee minister," said he as airily as if he had not been
explaining to me two minutes before that "Master makee die," and he
turned to go into the inn yard--for like all Chinamen he did not think
much of a woman when a man was in question.

But I spoke to him so sharply that he remembered that he was my boy
originally, and a Chinaman always keeps to his bargain.

"Minister no can come," I explained. "Mrs. Wright plenty sick."

Chung knew that as well as I did. He put his head on one side
ingratiatingly, "Master say, fetch minister."

"Missie will go," I said. "Chung come with Missie," and I thrust
MacTavish into his arms. Both MacTavish and Chung objected, but I knew
it would keep Chung close behind me.

It was only a step or two to the gate, and but a little way beyond was
the gap in the Wall through which the two had gone so gaily so short
a time before. There were some people there, a handful of Chinese in
quilted blue coats and furs, two mules and a skewbald pony, and--my
heart stood still and then went on again beating furiously--there
was Martin Conant. I heard Chung making little purring sounds of
satisfaction as if he had arranged it all, and I slowed down for a
moment to collect my wits. I could not meet them with a heart beating
like mad, and then Mr. Conant turned his face towards me and I could
hardly help crying out. The light and life seemed to have been ruled
out of it. It was white, and his eyes were sunken in his head. I
thought of all the tales of torture I had heard, and ran forward
pushing aside the Chinese who were clustering round.

"Martin Conant! What is the matter?"

It seemed as if his lips could hardly form the words.

"I wanted the minister," he said, "but nobody can do any good."

"The minister can't come. I never even told him. He has his own job,
poor man. And if you're ill I'm worth much more than the minister."

I saw it was no good mincing matters. He was ill and wanted looking
after.

For a moment his face lighted up.

"You're a doctor, of course, perhaps----" and he drew aside and I saw
on the mule its load. The dead body of Silas Chapman.

Perhaps--no, there was no perhaps about it. Silas Chapman was dead. It
took me but a few moments to ascertain that, and then I turned to the
man who was looking at me with miserable eyes.

For the first time since I had known him, Martin Conant seemed
incapable of thought or action. Evidently he had had a shock. There was
nothing else for it. I must take the conduct of affairs into my own
hands. The muleteer, with glad surprised cries, was rejoicing over the
return of his animals, and I called to him to lay the body down there,
and taking MacTavish from Chung set him to watch it while I led Mr.
Conant back to the inn. In the little temple of the goddess of mercy I
made him rest for a moment, and by buying a few incense sticks paid for
a seat on a stone, and got him a little tea.

The people went away. Possibly they thought the muleteer and the
innkeeper would be more communicative. Mr. Conant sat there with his
head in his hands. I brought him the tea.

"Drink it," I said. He lifted up his face as if he did not understand.

"Drink this tea," I said, "rest a little, and then we'll go back to the
others."

"I feel as if I can never face them again," he said. "Why was he taken
and I left?"

He was so obviously wretched that I ventured to put my hand on his
shoulder and gently touch his cheek. Perhaps a little human sympathy
might help him.

"Tell me all about it," I said. He dropped his head down till it
rested against my skirts and I took off his hat and smoothed his hair.
MacTavish was frantic with jealousy, but for once I was not thinking of
MacTavish.

And then in disjointed words he told me all about it. MacTavish sat on
a stone a little way off looking at us with a disdainful air, "You've
forgotten your little dog. Well he doesn't care," and once Martin
Conant had found words the story flowed.

I had been so desperately anxious when the muleteer and the innkeeper
had been talking that I thought I had not understood them, but now
as Martin Conant told his story I knew I had heard it all before in
Chinese, except what he and Mr. Chapman had said to one another.

The telling of the story brought him a measure of calmness, and he
raised his face and looked at me with sad eyes.

"What could I have done?" said.

"You could not have done anything," I said. "You seem to have forgotten
that it is the merest chance that it is you who are sitting here and
telling me the story and not Mr. Chapman. Come back to the inn now and
rest."

The incense sticks were burnt out now, only their sensuous fragrance
lingered on the sharp cold air. The goddess of mercy looked at us with
unseeing eyes. We rose up to go. Mr. Conant thrust his arm through mine
as if he were afraid to be alone, and MacTavish trotted over and asked
to be picked up.

"I'm your own little dog," he said in the soft murmurs of a Japanese
pug, "and when you think about it you'll remember you've treated me
very badly."

"And how am I to tell his wife?" asked Martin Conant. "How in God's
name am I to tell his wife?"

Then I remembered disagreeably what Stella had told me this morning.




CHAPTER XIV.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY

THE PASSING OF MRS. WRIGHT


"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
Though a man should give all the substance of his house for love, yet
it would utterly be contemned."


I COULD never afterwards remember how I got back to the little village
where I had left the others. But the Mongols hindered me in no way.
Rather did they help. They supplied me with a skewbald pony for my own
riding, they strapped the body of the dead man upon one of the mules,
and they escorted us half-way back to the gap in the Great Wall whence
they had come. Thence with good-tempered laughing gestures they turned
back, and I went on with my burden.

And this is where Rosalie Grahame comes in.

I hardly knew what I was doing or saying, but she took charge of
everything in the most natural and capable manner in the world. God
bless her for the very best of women. Lucky the man with whom she
elects to throw in her lot. She engineered me into the temple of the
goddess of mercy, got me some tea--it was nectar that tea--and made me
tell the whole story. Why the telling should have soothed me I don't
know, but it did; perhaps the kind and sympathetic touch of that gentle
hand did more. Presently she said,

"Now you'll leave everything to me. I'll get another stall cleared out
for you and I'm going to give you a draught that'll make you sleep."

"But I have to tell----"

"No, you will leave that to the minister and me."

So coward that I am, I left it to her, and when I awakened again the
worst was over.

I think the telling of Stella was a bad job. She shrieked and wailed
and cursed me till even Mrs. Wright, a frail ghost, sat up and tried to
comfort her. But she wouldn't be comforted. Rosalie Grahame arranged
with the muleteer that the dead body of poor Chapman should be guarded
from wonks and wolves and should not be brought into the village, but
should be buried there in the open.

"I know he'd like it better," said she. "I should. It is sweet and
fresh by the Wall."

When I waked from a very refreshing sleep Stella was still wailing. She
added greatly to my shame somehow. Of course I know his death was no
fault of mine, but if I had never looked into her eyes I should have
felt less guilty.

I had to see her. That was inevitable. She burst out crying afresh.
Perhaps that too was natural.

"I promised your husband," I said, "that if I were the one to come
through I'd take care of you."

"Tea have got," said Chung's correct voice. I believe Rosalie
Grahame had arranged the interview so that it should be immediately
interrupted; Chung, when he wasn't in fear of his life, was quite sure
that nothing should interfere with our sacred meals.

"As if I could look at afternoon tea and poor dear Silas not in his
grave," sobbed Stella. She was meretricious to the core. I wondered
that I had ever been attracted by her.

"But you must have some," said the other woman's pretty voice. Have I
said that Rosalie Grahame, in addition to a radiant smile, has a very
pretty voice? It is like the chiming of silver bells. "It will do you
good."

"I can't face it," wailed Stella, "I can't face it," and there was an
air about her as if there was some particular virtue in not being able
to face it.

Mrs. Wright did not come to tea. Neither did her husband, and
afterwards Dr. Grahame said, "I'll try and persuade Mr. Wright to have
some now. I'll stay with his wife."

"What's the matter with her?" I asked.

With a little catch in her breath she answered,

"She's dying."

Stella cried out, "Rosalie! Rosalie!" but Dr. Grahame never looked at
her. She turned towards the mule stall and we followed. Mrs. Wright was
lying back in the rugs and blankets, and her husband sat beside her
holding tenderly her poor thin hand.

"There is no one to hold my hand now," sobbed Stella, oblivious of the
fact that since we had known her she and her husband had quarrelled
steadily and openly. I couldn't very well laugh but I did wonder what
the other young woman who had a keen sense of humour was thinking.

Stella had the hardihood to address the minister.

"We're afraid of the Mongols," she said, and dropped on her knees in
the straw.

He looked up quickly.

"The Mongols ain't got any grouch against us," said he simply, "an'
Sallie's real right down wore out. Ain't you, Momma?" and he looked at
her tenderly.

She put out a thin hand and laid it on his wrist. It was little more
than a skeleton with skin like paper drawn tightly over it. Her husband
covered it with loving fingers.

"You didn't ought to take off your mitts, Sallie," said he, and his
voice was a caress. Dr. Grahame picked up the little dog for ever at
her feet and hid her face in his soft coat.

"Doc," said the minister with painful flippancy, "I guess Momma's
finding the victuals in this food parlour a bit tryin'." There was an
earnestness in his voice which emphasized the words.

"She cannot take much beyond chicken broth," said the doctor, and it
was evident she was keeping her voice steady with an effort, "and when
it comes to travelling on it----" her voice trailed away and she looked
across at me appealingly.

But how could I tell him?

He was losing all that went to make life worth living. And he must see
it for himself presently.

"This little bubble tour that we're takin'," he began hesitatingly as
if he would blind himself to the truth as long as he could, "is a bit
rough on the amatoor, an' it's sort of rammed in on me that what Sallie
wants is rest, jest plain rest!"

"Oh, but we can't stay here," wailed Stella. "We must start to-morrow.
I can't bear it," and the minister looked at me and then back at the
doctor with an anxious question in his eyes.

The passionate prayer there went straight to her heart. She forgot her
professional manner, and with her face hidden against her little dog,
who looked on with great contentment, she answered only with a sob.

He understood then.

He said nothing, but his wife spoke.

"Tell him Rosalie, dear, I'm goin' home."

"No," he cried, "no," and his voice rang sharp with pain. It was as if
a sword had struck him. "Lord! Lord! The world is empty without her!"

The young doctor stood just outside the mule stall in the cold
sunshine. Her hood had dropped off and the light caught the bright
gleams in her waving hair. The mocking little scornful look that
gave piquancy to her face had gone, and in its place was an infinite
tenderness. She was seeking words of comfort and Stella's crying
evidently worried her.

"You would like her to rest," she said. "She is keeping up for you."

He bent over then and took the slender little body in his arms. Dr.
Grahame indicated Stella still kneeling on the straw with the tears on
her cheeks.

"Take her away," she said, and there was nothing for it--I must put my
arms round her and lift her out on to the rough cobble stones of the
yard.

"Sallie, Sallie," said the minister, and in the clear air, though he
spoke low, we could hear every word, "I've been hard on ye, Sallie."

There came no answer, but the frail hand stole softly to his face.
There was no need of words. Not one of us but knew that her husband had
been the desire of her heart, the light of her eyes, and if she had
loved so had he. The world would be empty for him when she was gone.

Even Stella Chapman stilled her lamentations before the minister's
silent sorrow. She was dying here among the desolate mountains in a
mule stall in a miserable little Chinese inn, but her head was pillowed
on her husband's breast, and I reckon she cared for little else. She
had craved rest--I expect none of us guessed how she had craved for
rest--and she was resting at last. Every movement for the last six days
had been an effort, and now there was no need to move any more.

Dr. Grahame moved a little away and I followed her with Stella clinging
to my arm. She was sobbing loudly, but I did not feel that I could do
anything. The air was cutting and we went into the next mule stall, and
to us came Chung.

"Wantchee supper," said he. It was his business to provide for the
wants of the party, whether we lived or died was no concern of his. He
had ascertained from me that the death of Silas Chapman would make no
difference to his remuneration, so he had gone about his business and
had collected dried dung--argols they called them--and on his little
fire in the open between three stones he had heated soup, and since we
did not come to the little low k'ang table he had laid out, he came
towards us bearing three basins on a large plate.

And sometimes the everyday duties are a relief. Rosalie Grahame looked
as if she could not stand the tension much longer. I felt pretty bad
myself, and I really think Stella Chapman needed consideration less
than any of us. But I was bound to consider her, if only because I
had once looked at her with eyes of desire, and Rosalie Grahame would
certainly waste herself upon her. The only person who ignored her, and
he did it with the utmost courtesy, was her late servant, Chung.

"I can't drink," she cried, "I can't drink! How can you offer me soup,
Mr. Conant?" I wasn't doing anything of the sort. "Poor Silas is dead
and Mrs. Wright is dying--how can we be so unfeeling as to have soup?"

Dr. Grahame was hugging MacTavish as usual. But her common sense was
refreshing.

"Fuel is scarce," she said, "and food is scarce, and we all need
something. Take it, Stella, take it. Oh don't you see we must make the
best of things."

I backed her to the best of my ability.

"I'll look after Mrs. Chapman," I said, "you see if you can help Mrs.
Wright."

But no one could help Mrs. Wright. She was done with this world, and as
the next cold bright winter's day drew to a close she gently dropped
asleep on her husband's breast, and so slight had been her hold upon
life that Dr. Grahame, who was watching, could hardly say when she
ceased to breathe.

And the man who held her in his arms looked down upon her as if he
could not let her go. I did not see it, but Rosalie Grahame told me
afterwards with tears in her eyes.

"She is gone," said the young doctor gently.

He had held his precious burden as if he feared by a movement to
disturb her, and now he clutched her to him passionately.

"Sallie! Sallie!" he cried, "you wouldn't leave me to face it alone.
You wouldn't go back on me."

But he knew. Those hands had never before been unresponsive when he
caressed, those lips had always smiled at a word from him, those eyes
must be closed for ever when they failed to look love and trust into
his own. And he cried on his God and laid her down and flung himself
down beside her and put his face on her breast, and Rosalie Grahame
came for me, and again together we looked upon death.

The sky was flushed red with a rosy sunset and we were all bathed
in the glorious light. The King of Terrors had come very gently to
the worn-out woman, he had taken the man suddenly in the pride of
his manhood, but to the woman he had come with a gentle smile as a
comforter. On her face was an infinite peace. The tired lines were
smoothing out fast.

And that had a message for the lonely man beside her.

"Sallie! Sallie!" he moaned, "I was hard on ye."

"She would be the first to tell you," said Rosalie Grahame, "that the
very look on your face or the touch of your hand was enough to make her
happy." And she added, "You two have made me lonely to look at you."

I wonder if it was true. Anyhow God bless her.

"Oh Lord!" cried the minister, getting to his knees, "I thank Thee."

And the splendour in the western sky deepened. MacTavish came trotting
along and put up his little white paws against his mistress, and as she
stooped to gather him up her clear-cut face with the little scornful
upper lip was bathed in the glowing light. All the sky was radiant with
crimson and gold. It made a glory in that poor little inn yard. The
girl drew a long breath as she looked round, and though I had felt the
faith of my mother slipping from me since I had been at the mission
station, I could not but feel that here indeed we were in a holy place.
The mysteries of Life and Death are beyond me, but the Power that set
that glorious sunset in the sky is mighty.

Dr. Grahame must have felt the same.

"It is a glory," she breathed.

I stooped and touched the minister on the shoulder.

"Look up, look up at the sky!"

And Septimus Wright raised his face.

"Behold," he said, "the Lord is in His heaven and He heareth the cry of
the afflicted," and as he dropped his face in his hands again I think
we both realised that for him the worst had passed. He remembered once
more the God Who doeth all things well. He was no longer quite alone in
an empty world.

And then came Chung the materialist. He lived in the present.
Such supper as he could get together--and it was not a bad supper
considering all things, curried chicken and rice and scones steamed,
biscuits these Americans called them, instead of baked--this supper was
ready and he mentioned the fact. Mrs. Wright was dead. She had never
meant anything to him. Mr. Chapman was gone. Weighed in the balance as
a good master he did not counteract his wife as a bad mistress, and
as his wages were sure he dismissed the subject from his mind. I and
Rosalie Grahame were apparently in his estimation the important members
of the party, not forgetting MacTavish, for was he not worth 50 dollars?

"Supper, leady," he said in his matter of fact sing-song. "Allee lice
finish."

And the glory in the sky faded. The sun was gone and the night came
down bitter, cold, grey and pitiless. Only where the tiny fire of
argols burned was there any warmth, and that was like a fiery eye that
threatened.




CHAPTER XV.--A FEW REFLECTIONS FROM STELLA CHAPMAN.

TWO WOMEN AND A MAN


"One's self I sing, a simple, separate Person."


I REALLY have been most unfortunate. In the very beginning it was
unfortunate. Of course I loved poor dear Silas, but still I could have
wished him different sometimes, and it really was cruel of him to bring
me to China. How on earth could a young girl--I was only twenty-five
when I married, and that is young for nowadays--who had only lived in
hotels in London and Matlock Bath and Hunstanton know what it would
be like in the interior of China? Of course, I wanted to go because
I loved Silas, and I thought rich merchants in China had pearls and
furs and rich silks and satins and plenty of servants; but he did know
what it was like, and I'm quite sure he oughtn't to have taken me. It
was cruel. Fancy being set down in the heart of China in a horrid cold
Chinese house with Chinese servants, who made me shudder and absolutely
no one to entertain! There wasn't even anyone to speak to. What on
earth was the good of all my pretty clothes? And there was no place
to go, nothing to do from morning to night. I cried, and Silas was
sarcastic--I'm sure one hundred per cent. of women so situated would
have cried. But then, men are cruel. Mother was hard on me, but I could
get away from mother, and there were other people; and here there was
nobody but Silas. You can't manage a man properly when there's nobody
to play off against him.

That was what the good Pai Lang did for me. It was awful running away
and living anyhow and going in fear of your life, but it did bring
along Martin Conant. And Martin Conant is good-looking, and at first I
thought he was going to be quite an acquisition. He was always queer,
though. Sometimes when we were together, and he was helping me along,
he used to bend over me quite nicely, just as if he thought I was a
dear little thing and would be awfully good to kiss, and then all of a
sudden he would drop me and go off as if he were vexed or something. Of
course, I should have got along better without another woman.

There is no doubt a pretty woman alone is often at a disadvantage. She
wants another. Dr. Grahame would answer, only she is too pretty. At
least, prettiness would not matter, but there is an air of distinction
about her which I certainly shouldn't have chosen for the woman I want
as a foil. She is able to do all sorts of things, and yet she never
looks foolish or common. Of course, the missionaries are common, but
she isn't. She is slim and graceful, more graceful than I am, and so
it is aggravating to see her doing fifteen miles a day declaring she
likes it! Likes it! What nonsense! Of course, a doctor's training must
wear off some of the charm of a woman. It's bound to. Rosalie has a
great deal to thank her personal appearance for. If I had her looks
what couldn't I do. It makes me horribly envious sometimes. A woman
is a fool if she doesn't know how to make the best of herself, and I
flatter myself I do know my own faults. Of course, I'm not the type
to go in for athletic exercises. I want a beautiful drawing-room to
set me off, and if I go out I want a car and plenty of rich furs. Then
I'm delightful. A man told me once that in my furs I was a delicate,
just-opened, fragrant rose with the dew on it, and I think he was
right, but when one is the rose type one has to be careful not to be
overblown. Mother kept me on thorns fearing I should be like her;
besides, one doesn't want people who are admiring one to see what one's
mother has developed into. That really made me thankful to go right
away to China.

But it was a mistake. I see now it was a great mistake. And now poor
dear Silas is dead. Of course, I'm most awfully grieved, but if we can
only get away I'll be able to start again.

Rosalie Grahame pretends to be so careful about me, but she can be
horrid on occasion. The day I took a little of her hazeline cream and
powder, the stuff she had in her medical case--she was just horrid. She
said I had plenty of stuffs that she had put up for me herself, and,
of course, I had, but this dry cold makes your face and hands so sore
you can use any amount of cream on them, and I thought I'd like to try
hers. She puts that powder of hers on any dirty old woman's sores, and
she grudges me a little for my nice sweet clean arms and neck. She said
quite angrily that it was stealing--stealing to take that!

And she never would have known if it hadn't been for that interfering
Chung. I thought she was safe out of the way, and he actually went and
told her I wanted her!

It is all very well to have a foil, but you don't want your foil to be
always on hand. She was getting to think she was welcome always, so I
dropped her a hint that Martin Conant admires me.

She's silly in many ways though she is so clever. Look at the fuss she
makes over that ridiculous little dog. I'm very fond of dogs in their
proper place, and a Japanese pug is quite the correct sort of dog to
keep. It looks very well in a car, but you want someone to see it is
properly cared for and the idea of taking a little dog dyed blue and
shaven and hideous along is too ridiculous. It's an absolute danger
in a country like this, where every second dog has hydrophobia. But
men are silly over a pretty woman. Both Silas and Martin Conant seemed
to think Rosalie's devotion to her dog rather charming. On the whole
though I'm glad she is silly, for while she is looking after MacTavish
she can't be talking to Martin Conant. And though I honestly believe
he thinks I'm the more attractive, he likes talking to her best. He's
rather dull to talk to and I shouldn't mind Rosalie taking him off my
hands only that when they get interested in some dull old subject, the
religion of the Chinese or something, they generally end by forgetting
all about me. Oh, this is a miserable life for a woman. I'd give
anything to get out of it, and our position seems to get worse and
worse.

Always the muleteers tell us, "There is unrest, there is unrest." We
can't go north, we can't go south, we've tried to go east, so we seem
to be gradually edging west I ride a pony nearly all day, and drop off
half-dead, and there's nowhere to sleep but a mule stall, with a cupful
of warm water to wash in. Oh, it's awful! And I'm cheerful! I do think
I deserve a medal--but nobody says one word of praise. If you come to
think of it, it is sad, a pretty young widow going along bravely day
after day bearing up and smiling under all hardships and never uttering
one word of complaint. It is pathetic. But nobody says anything.

Well, anyhow, I'm glad I dropped that word of warning about Martin
Conant to Rosalie Grahame. I hope the death of poor dear Silas won't
have put it out of her head. I don't think it has. He always walks at
my pony's head. I'm afraid by myself, and I'm sure he likes doing that
for me, and she never comes near him.

So that's all right.

If only I could think we were getting out of this.

Anyhow, when one's husband is killed in this sort of way, I don't think
one need wait so long as a year before marrying again. Or if one did
wait for a year there is nothing to stop one being engaged.

Silas and Martin Conant went away together--and--I wonder--of course it
would suit him so well that Silas should be out of the way. At least,
oh no, of course not. There were the muleteer and the innkeeper--of
course Martin Conant has money. But, oh no, of course not. It was just
one of those accidents. Poor dear Silas!




CHAPTER XVI.--ROSALIE'S STORY

CHUNG GIVES IT BEST


"The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass
through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land."


MRS. WRIGHT is dead and Silas Chapman is dead, and they are buried
there under the Great Wall with the stones and rubble heaped over them
because the ground is too hard to dig a grave.

Mr. Wright takes things hardly. The light and life seemed to have gone
out of his twinkling little eyes, but when Stella cried and said she
could eat no supper he lifted up his hands and said,

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His Holy
Name!"

I could see that Stella thought this bad form. It was in a way, but the
minister is so earnest.

"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction," he went on, "Who crowneth
thee with loving kindness and tender mercies. Who satisfies thy mouth
with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."

"Don't, Mr. Wright," said Stella. She could see nothing in our plight
to be thankful for, and even I felt he was straining things a little.

"In my sorrow," he said simply, "it's borne in on me that I'm
forgetting the dear Lord's many mercies. If I go on with you I'm
turnin' my back on Him. He got me here among the heathen, an' now
He's taken Sallie to himself I reckon it's a sign I'm to be about His
business."

"But surely," began Mr. Conant, "those last days in Yang Cheng----"

"I'm turnin' my back on Him with my face set east. Yang Cheng is my
place," and he turned valiantly to the setting sun.

"There is an edict," began Martin Conant, but the other threw out his
hands as if sweeping away all such vain imaginings.

"The Good Tidings 'ud never have been carried to the heathen," said he,
"if the disciples had been galoots as considered their skins first."

Then Chung took a hand. But there was nothing spiritual about him. He
had been enquiring, as was the duty of a good servant, as to provisions
to be got in the next village along the route towards the river, and
the information he had acquired was by no means comforting. He came now
with a solemn little prance swinging his pigtail from one shoulder to
the other as if he were in deep thought.

"No lice got," he said lugubriously, shutting his eyes, and there were
tears in his voice. "No chuckie got. No can buy," and he opened them
again to see the effect of this announcement. Chung was always a joy.
He was worth his wages for the cheering effect he had upon me and
Martin Conant alone.

"Oh nonsense, Chung," I said, "can do next village."

"No can do next village," and Chung drew a long breath and shut up his
eyes again very tight. "No can do this side libber," and his voice
trailed away in a mournful wail.

"I suppose Chung knows what he's talking about," said Martin Conant to
the minister who was too much occupied with his duties and his manifold
blessings to consider such trifling matters as provisions for the next
fortnight.

"You bet," said Chung opening his eyes and beginning to take an
interest in things around again, and MacTavish gave a little
encouraging whimper.

Well, we discussed the situation from all points of view and the result
was we had to turn back. There was nothing else for it. We decided
that Mr. Conant, Stella Chapman and I should try and reach the China
Inland Mission at Urumchi in Sinkiang, two months away at least, but it
was better than trusting to the tender mercies of the Mongols on the
Hoang Ho. There was a missionary station at Sining, but that was rather
far west, and we could hardly hope to get more than advice from the
missionaries there. As for the minister he was going back to Yang Cheng.

And a week later the dear old man left us. It was a very forlorn little
figure that, with bowed head, turned into a track that led south, and
went bravely about his Father's business.

It was after that we found ourselves at Dresar, that is the business
part of the great monastery of Kama Miao. We stayed outside the town in
a little inn on the ridge that divides the temples and houses of the
lamas from the town.

Things were very bad. We did not dare tell Stella how seething with
unrest the country was. The muleteer was shivering and crying and
saying that he would be killed, and Chung was going about with a face
as long as a wet week.

It was a beautiful view up the hillside. Up and up and up climbed the
temples, and their roofs were red and green, and the gold roof of
the greatest of them flashed in the winter sunlight. There was snow
on the ground, and against the white background the red robes of the
lamas stood out splashes of gay colour. The place was humming like a
hive of bees. There were great open-air staircases leading up from one
building to another, and up and down them passed the red-robed figures,
there was the blare of trumpets and the hum of prayer wheels, and
woven through all like a silver strand came the sweet chiming of the
bells that hung, hundreds and thousands of them, from the eaves of the
temples.

It was most fascinating, and at any other time I could have stood and
drunk it all in with joy. It seemed to me as if it had been spread
there waiting all these hundred years for me to see. That I suppose is
what Stella calls my colossal conceit. It seems to irritate her when I
speak like this. Nothing fashioned by Chinese hands pleases her. She
said she couldn't admire the embroidery till she was safe in a London
hotel. How I shall dream of this scene when I am at home!

Chung was still in a state of desperate depression when he brought us
our supper that night. He had a little k'ang table he had borrowed, as
usual, from the people of the inn, and he set it down in the middle of
the mule stall, where Stella and I proposed to spend the night. Its
coat of grease was hidden under a blue tablecloth of the cotton of the
country. We bought a clean one occasionally for a few cash. It was a
little luxury we did allow ourselves.

Chung sighed heavily as he set down our scanty supply of cups and
plates, and just as the sunlight gave way to the mournful grey light
of the winter night he tumbled a few scones on to a plate and set down
beside them an unusual luxury, a lump of yellow butter.

"No chuckie can get," said he.

"Oh, butter!" said Mr. Conant, "never mind, we've got butter!"

"No piggie can get," went on the mournful monologue.

Considering the disgusting pigs we had seen in the villages I cannot
think that was any deprivation.

"No baa lamb, no sheeps," went on the dreary voice, and when a cheerful
Chinaman feels bad he descends into the very depth of woe, "no
nannygoat, no wonk." At that we laughed. We were not going to grieve
over the absence of scavenger dog!

"To-mollow flour be all finish," proclaimed Chung sepulchrally.

"I see there's nothing for it," said I, "but to send Chung to Sining to
see what the missionaries would advise."

So close were we to Sining now he could be back by next morning, and I
thought that would settle Mr. Chung.

"I'm afraid," said Mr. Conant, "that is impossible. He couldn't get
into a walled city with the robbers all about."

That little stretch of country between Kama Miao and Sining was
extremely unsafe and we certainly never dreamt of daring it, but Chung
straightened himself up, swung his pigtail joyfully from shoulder to
shoulder, snapped his fingers and pranced forward cheerfully.

"Can do," said he gaily, "can do. Mus' go chop-chop. So can get back
to-mollow chop-chop. Missie," his voice became very wheedling, "can pay
small small monies?"

"Get us another cook," suggested Mr. Conant, remembering that in the
Treaty ports a servant never goes till he has found someone to take his
place.

But Chung shrivelled before the suggestion.

"Here am strange place," said he mournfully, "no can. But," cheering
up, "come back chop-chop. Missie giving chit?"

"We can't let him go," wailed Stella. But Mr. Conant and I decided
he must go. Our only hope was that the missionaries might have some
suggestions to make.

Chung was cheerful again. He brought all his pots and pans and all our
slender stores to the mule stall--"so Missie can mind." He also called
my attention to the fact that he had made all the remaining flour into
scones enough to last us all the next day, and he suggested that the
muleteer could make the fire of argols for us, for that is an art in
itself, and he also suggested he could warm the puffed rice and make
the tea. Remembering the muleteer's unwashen hands I rather thought
that if he lighted the fire I'd perform the other little offices
myself, and then Chung came a little closer and spoke in a confidential
whisper.

"Put on Tibet coat, can take Missie to Sining."

It was a great idea.

"Why, we'll take the whole outfit, Chung," I said.

"All Lite," said Chung cheerfully. "No can take Missie Chapman. He stop
Kama Miao at inn," and he let off a whole series of winks, confidential
but perfectly respectful winks.

I looked across to where Stella was talking to Martin Conant. The
sharp cold and frost had roughened her cheeks a little in spite of all
the grease she was for ever rubbing into them, but her face looked
wonderfully dainty and delicate peering out of her white cat-skin hood.
Her teeth were, perhaps, a little too pointed, occasionally it made
her face look cruel, and yet it was an essentially feminine face, and
as she looked up at Mr. Conant it was very enticing. I am afraid I do
not like Stella as much as I did, probably it is jealousy on my part if
I were to be quite frank. But her beauty evidently had no weight with
Chung. He was determined to leave her behind.

"But, Chung," I said, "we can't leave Missie."

"Missie Chapman no can hide in Tibet coat," said he with a little note
of scorn in his voice. "Can take Missie. Missie can do," and I've no
doubt he would have seen me safe into the mission compound.

"No can leave Missie," I said. "Chung come back chop-chop."

"Chop-chop," said he with conviction. The next morning he left us. And
that night the muleteer took his mules to have the harness mended, so
he said. And that was the last we saw of him. We were reduced to the
skewbald pony on which the Mongols had sent Mr. Conant back.




CHAPTER XVII.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE GATHERING OF THE LAMAS


"Within it opens into a world,
And a little lovely, moony night."


ON the night of the day on which Chung had departed the moment Stella
was asleep, MacTavish and I stole out of the stall we shared with
her, and went out into the courtyard that sloped so much to the
west that I could see over the wall. The moon was at the full, and
the light fell on the great pile of buildings that climbing up the
hillside made up the great sanctuary of Kama Miao. The buildings were
oblong--square--piles of massive masonry indeterminate in shape--broken
here and there by chortens. Clear cut they were against the night
sky, and in the brilliant moonlight, more brilliant by reason of the
snow, we could see the staircases and the lamas moving upon them.
The faintest breath of air, sharp, and clean, and cold, brought to
our ears the rumbling of the prayer wheels, thousands of them, the
silvery sound of the temple bells, and the cadence of rich young voices
chanting psalm and prayer. On the roofs of some of the buildings they
had lighted little fires of juniper boughs which gave out an exquisite
aromatic scent. Such a glorious night!

Out of another stall came Martin Conant, and we stood side by side
looking at the moonlight on the snow-clad hills that were so still
and silent, at the temple that was teeming with life, listening to
the chanting and the soft murmur of the bells. Everything unsightly
or unclean was hidden away, and the monastery stood out in wondrous
beauty. Oh, it was good to be there with Martin Conant. I stood there
drinking it all in, content--more, glad, happy, thinking neither of the
past nor the future, and then Stella's complaining voice brought me up
sharply.

"What on earth are you two doing out there on this bitter cold night?"
she asked.

"I'd forgotten. It is cold, isn't it?" said Mr. Conant. "Do go to bed.
I don't think we've anything to fear just yet."

But next day we changed our minds. There was a tremendous tumult in the
monastery and the lamas were collecting. Everywhere we could see their
red robes pouring out. They mounted and came riding over the ridge past
the little inn, and on their heads were turbans of raw silk dyed red,
and the winter sunlight was flashing on guns and spears and swords.
They had banners fluttering yellow and red, and I felt for the moment
as if I had stepped back hundreds of years and was looking at the Asia
that had faced the Crusaders: They were a company of at least 2,000
strong, and the air was full of the sound of their horns and of their
voices shouting.

"Sha sa! Sha sa!" they yelled in a sort of chorus, now high, now low,
and the hills caught it and echoed it, and re-echoed it. It was the war
cry of the lamas, "Eat meat! Eat meat!" was the literal translation,
and it marked the dire necessity that made them throw off their usual
habits. The faint breeze that flaunted their banners bore on its breath
as a minor accompaniment to this warlike array the silver sound of
the temple bells, that told of the peace of winter and of the eternal
hills. For a moment it would dominate, and then above it would sound
the clash of arms, the blare of the long trumpets and the shouts of the
fighting men.

It was wonderful! Something to be remembered! There was just that sense
of danger that made me clutch MacTavish and hide him beneath my furs,
but also that gave so much zest that I forgot to be afraid.

"I gather from the innkeeper," said Mr. Conant, "they are going to
fight White Wolf."

In the clear blue sky to the east we could see clouds of smoke arising,
villages burning. I raised my hand and pointed, and Martin Conant
nodded silently. Stella caught his hand and stood up close to him
sobbing. She was terrified. All around us the villagers were crying and
wailing--poor things caught between the upper and the nether millstone.
Each one was turning a prayer wheel. Last night the Buddhist faith
had showed itself to me in all its beauty, this morning the click of
the prayer wheel seemed a childish thing. It reminded me of a baby's
rattle, and against the danger that threatened was about as much use as
a baby's rattle.

"Chung has failed us again," moaned Stella, still clutching Mr.
Conant's hand. I always was something of a Radical and Stella deepened
that feeling. Why should Chung be faithful to her? What had she ever
done to demand sacrifice from him? I turned away for a moment to try
and re-arrange my temper.

A very dilapidated coolie, dressed in a quilted cotton jacket with the
dirty wadding sticking out through the breaks in the stuff, high Tibet
boots, a wisp of dirty rag hiding one eye, and an exceedingly unkempt
pigtail, managed to attract my attention. He had a dirty scrap of paper
in his hand, and he whined a request that the Lao T'ai T'ai would
give him something for the letter he had brought. It always takes my
breath away to be addressed as the Lao T'ai T'ai--after all I'm not old
yet--but there was something about the man that was familiar.

There was only half his nose and one eye to be seen, while his chin was
sunk in the collar of his jacket, but I don't forget faces easily, and
there was something about this man--and then I knew, and my heart stood
still. It was Chung!

For a moment I was on the point of addressing him by name, and calling
Martin Conant.

But Chung was probably stretching a point to come even so far, and I
held out my hand for the letter and offered him some cash. He pleaded
for wu chen, that is half a Mexican dollar. For a moment I hesitated.

"Is it worth it?" I asked in Chinese.

"The Lao T'ai T'ai," he said earnestly, "buys safety with half a
dollar, and this poor worm has come sixty li through fire and death
from Chung Li, the faithful servant, to bear the good tidings. Is it
not worth the half dollar?"

Whether it was or not he got it, and with a wink and a toss of his
head that was truly Chung, he was gone before I could ask him another
question.

Martin Conant came up and Stella followed.

"Who's your friend?" he began.

"Chung," I said, and Stella stared.

"But why on earth?" said Mr. Conant.

"I'm afraid he does not think much of our chances." I unfolded the
letter, which was written with a blunt pencil on rice paper, and so was
punctuated with holes.

"Honoured Missie," it began, and each letter was a printed capital of
a different size, and the whole had evidently cost much labour, "Yor
servant Chung Sick no can do rod it be far to much wat Hell can do in
hil by blu se--" so far it ran smoothly, though I failed to make sense
of it, but here was a word that had been altered and crossed out and
re-written, and finally emerged as "mulican," and the letter went on,
"allee same missie why the hel yu no go?" and it ended triumphantly,
"your Lovin Chung."

As a specimen it was perhaps cheap at half a dollar, but I utterly
failed to make head or tail of it till Mr. Conant took it and read it
aloud, and then we saw it was to be treated phonetically.

Evidently he wished us to understand he was sick and could not
travel--"rod" was certainly "road."

"His racy remarks are plain enough," said Mr. Conant, "but what they
apply to I fail to see."

"Oh I hate--hate--hate the Chinese," moaned Stella, but as hatred of
the Chinese was about all she ever did contribute towards helping out
difficult situations, we neither of us paid any attention.

The yelling and shouting outside was dying away in the distance, but
the sound of the turning prayer wheels still mingled with the sweet
chiming of the bells. Clearly we ought to be out of this before the
lamas returned. Whether they were victorious or not they might be a
danger to us.

"In hill by blue sea," read on Mr. Conant in puzzled tones, but it
sounded all right to us who were listening.

"Of course," I said, "In the hills by the Blue Sea--the Chinese call
Koko Nor the Blue Sea. We're only three or four days from it, you know."

"You're a wonder, Dr. Rosalie Grahame," said Martin Conant. "You think
he's advising us to go to Koko Nor. Well, I always wanted to see it,
but not under these circumstances. No wonder he felt it called for
forcible language. Now comes a poser. 'Mulican allee same Missee.'"

"Another American woman doctor," said Stella, with just that peculiar
intonation with which she always spoke of a woman doctor. Sometimes it
irritated me. Now I didn't care!

"Good gracious! Stella! You're right!" What did it matter if she did
despise us. "An American doctor there! Mr. Conant!"

"You're presuming we can put faith in your loving Chung," said he with
a whimsical smile. "You can't think how I hate to damp your ardour, but
I feel bound to remind you that according to you the gentleman, while
recommending us to go, has left an excellent service and high wages
rather than risk it himself. Also I have heard that Koko Nor----" and
then he stopped.

"Go on," I said. "There's nothing gained by not facing the worst."

"Well, I have heard that Koko Nor, besides being nearly 10,000 feet
above sea level, is th--over two hundred miles round."

He had meant to say three, but thought better of it.

"We are the unluckiest people," sighed Stella. But neither Mr. Conant
nor I looked very cast down. We had been wandering so long without
any definite object that to hear we had a chance of reaching somebody
of our own colour, who presumably knew the country, was distinctly
comforting.

There was no question about it. We had to find that American doctor.

And there and then we loaded up the horse and paid the innkeeper--his
bill was 100 cash, not quite 5 cents--and we made ready to start.

Stella stood still and protested she couldn't possibly walk.

And then I remembered Mr. Chapman, and how hardly I had judged him.
Martin Conant, at the horse's head, looked at me hopelessly.

"Then," I said, "we'll have to make arrangements to leave you with the
innkeeper. He looks rather as if he were going to run away himself,
still----" and I picked up MacTavish and marched ahead.

"Cheer up," said Mr. Conant, "it's lovely weather for walking," and a
forlorn little company we set out on surely the forlornest quest since
the historic days when someone went hunting for a needle in a bundle of
hay.




CHAPTER XVIII.--A FEW MORE REFLECTIONS FROM STELLA

A BUTTERFLY IN THE DESERT


"Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds.
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds."


IT was awful, simply awful, and of all the selfish women give me the
woman who thinks she is just the kindest thing in the world. Rosalie
Grahame is for ever holding herself up to Martin Conant as the kindest,
most thoughtful, most self-sacrificing woman that ever was made. Not
that she says so in so many words. Trust her for that. Of course
she does do things that look as if they were kind, but that is only
because he is looking on, and if he's only eyes, only a man's always
blind, he'd see she spoils it all by being so selfish over that little
brute of a dog. I hate him. Of course I can't say so. People are so
unreasonable. They'd think me a beast.

We walked and walked and walked after we left Kama Miao. Goodness knows
it had been bad enough in China, but here things got worse and worse.
Always we were tramping up and down those wearisome roads, up one hill
and down another, and the other two each carried a bag and a stick, and
made quite a joke of collecting their horrid fuel. It was all very well
for a man, but I wonder Mr. Conant didn't see it was disgusting for a
woman. It showed such a lack of refinement. Of course a man will laugh
over that sort of thing when he gets the chance, but I do think he
might have remembered occasionally how miserable it all made me.

We met a certain amount of people and a certain amount of camels and
mules and donkeys and horses--one always does meet them in China. Every
Chinaman is horrid and these Tibetans in skin coats, with pointed
hats lined with lambskin, matchlocks on their shoulders, spears in
their hands, and knives in their girdles, were terrible people to come
across. That is at first. We got accustomed to them very soon. Their
brown faces were grimed with dirt, and their wild hair stood out all
round their heads, unkempt and disordered, and once when they came
too close I screamed. I really couldn't help it, it was most natural.
Everybody hasn't got nerves of steel like Rosalie--she took me by the
shoulders and shook me hard and said I was risking all their lives. As
if I was.

It was hard too because I saw such lots of things I should have simply
loved to possess. They had lovely furs, some of them, and I got Mr.
Conant to buy one or two because the cold was bitter, and they were
ever so useful, and then Rosalie Grahame must needs put her oar in and
say we had enough for an Arctic winter, and we should need the money
for something else before we were done, and we shouldn't be able to
trade the furs. I do hate a woman who pretends to be practical just
when she sees another woman wants a thing badly.

And then the ornaments the women had! Beautiful turquoises and coral,
brooches and hairpins and necklaces, and even rings, and not one single
one would that woman allow us to buy. I could easily have managed Mr.
Conant. But she declared we hadn't a cent to spare. Such a pity too
when we could have bought them at a tenth what they would have cost in
England, and I am sure we could have managed all right.

But no, my lady was on the high horse, and we mustn't buy anything but
tea, horrid brick tea, all stalks, and barley meal, vile stuff they
called tsamba, and butter which was often filthy with hairs sticking
in it and marks of the dirty fingers that had scooped it out of some
filthy skin. I saw it once or twice, though Rosalie had generally
scraped it clean before she set it before us, but the thought of it
made me sick, only, of course, one had to eat something. We were right
out beyond the villages, and it was snow everywhere, unless some of the
hillsides were too steep for the snow to lie, and there weren't any
more houses. We were actually sleeping now at night out in the open!
Think of it! With the thermometer away down below zero, and nothing but
the sky above us! And all around was a dreary waste of hills and dales
covered with deep snow. It wasn't so hard for the others. Martin Conant
is a man, and a man can always bear things more easily than a woman,
though he generally makes more fuss if his little finger aches--it
takes a woman to suffer in silence. And Rosalie Grahame is just like a
man. She can't feel the things as I do. I did suffer a lot in silence,
and then I found I might suffer, they went on as if I liked it. Liked
it! And all the fire we had to keep us warm at night was the remains of
the argols put into little copper Chinese hand-warmers, and when there
was only enough for one they gave it to me, and such a fuss as they
made about it you'd have thought they were offering me the luxuries of
the Ritz or the Savoy at least. It really is hard when you've always
got to be eternally thanking people for wretched little favours that in
any other place you'd much rather not have. Fancy anyone having to be
grateful for a horrid little smelly hand-warmer, and fancy having to
say "I know you're so kind." I do really think I had the hardest part,
and yet the other two were going on all day long as if they were saving
me.

I could have managed Martin Conant all right. It was having a woman
doctor, young and good-looking too, made it extra hard. Oh, why
couldn't she have gone on with the minister to Miss Lodham, or Sister
Ednah, or whoever they were. It would have made all the difference to
me. It was the hardest luck she should have elected to come in where
she wasn't wanted. If I could only have had Martin Conant alone.

We marched for four days into the hills, and got to the shores of Koko
Nor, and then I thought we were really going to have a minor stroke of
luck and lose MacTavish.

We were camping against a great rock and I was doing my best to keep
warm--we really hadn't any too many furs--while Martin Conant attended
to the horse and Rosalie Grahame was warming the last--the very
last--of our puffed rice in the frying pan over a fire of argols. There
were some tents sprawled out over the snow a couple of miles away,
and Rosalie had bought butter and tsamba from them, filthy stuff--if
anybody thinks I didn't suffer I'd like them to have to live on tea
and tsamba, and that butter with the thermometer away down below zero.
It was just getting dark, really rather picturesque, with Rosalie,
tall and slim and graceful, bending over the red fire. If only I could
have been whisked away to a comfortable hotel in London--it was the
sort of thing I could admire on the stage, but to be taking part in
it--o--o--oh!

Then I saw a great white Tibetan dog come creeping up. If I'd thought
he was going to attack Rosalie I should have cried out, but I knew he
wouldn't dare touch her, and before you could say anything he had made
a snap at MacTavish, who was sitting down beside his mistress waiting
for his share of the rice.

It was done in a flash, and I thought for a moment, with quite a throb
of thankfulness, that the little brute was gone for good and all. But
as the big dog shook him like a little rat he gave a despairing yelp
and Rosalie turning shrieked aloud. And then actually, because she had
no other weapon handy she seized the frying pan, sent the rice, the
very last puffed rice we had, flying, and hit the dog over the head. He
dropped MacTavish who made for his mistress's feet, and Mr. Conant came
running up. He had the revolver in his hand, but Rosalie said,

"Don't shoot, for goodness' sake don't shoot. He belongs to those tents
over there, and we can't afford to put them against us." Then she
ran at the dog again with the frying pan--he was a handsome-looking
dog--and he slunk away with his tail between his legs.

She turned back and picked up MacTavish, and he cried and licked her
fingers, and she let him.

"I'm afraid he's badly hurt," she said, and you'd have thought it was a
child she was speaking about as she knelt down by the fire to inspect
him. I felt I had better call her attention to the waste. Where were we
to get more rice?

"It's our very last rice," I said mournfully, looking at it scattered
on the ground.

"Pick it up," said she, still giving all her attention to the dog. He
moaned a little. "The ground is hard."

Of course she never thought about anything but her own affairs, but Mr.
Conant picked it up for me.

"Is he hurt?" he asked.

"I'm afraid so," said Rosalie, and actually her voice was nearly
breaking.

Mr. Conant bent over the little brute and patted his head. The silly
idiots making such a ridiculous fuss!

"Poor old chap!" he said. "Cheer up, Missus. Why the skin is not even
broken. I've seen dogs recover in the most wonderful manner."

"He's had a bad squeeze," she said. "A day or two will show whether he
will pull through."

And she went to bed that night hugging him in her arms.

But I don't think he'll pull through, and that will be one burden less,
for really the fuss Rosalie makes over that arrogant little wretch
irritates me.




CHAPTER XIX.--ROSALIE'S STORY

A FRIEND INDEED


"I knew it was Love, and I felt it was glory."


HOW I would have wondered once at the idea of being filled with anxiety
about a dog when it might well be we had enough to worry about on
our own account. We lived from day to day--still, thank God, we did
live--and every day brought us nearer the spring and the warm weather.

The surroundings were Arctic. We'd been four days marching into the
hills, and the road had reached its highest point. We sheltered under
a rock, and looking back the country stretched away a mass of softly
rounded hills covered with snow. The jutting rock hid the view to the
north, and looking round we saw a wonderful sight, a great sea of
ice, the lake of dreams, the Blue Lake, Koko Nor. Truly had it been
so named, for frozen into its midwinter stillness when the sun was
on it it looked blue, a great sheet of bluish, semi-transparent ice,
stretching away to the far horizon, with the blue and cloudless sky
above it. It was really wonderful, wonderful, all the vast expanse of
blue and white glistening and glittering in the sunshine, an Arctic
world, like the world to which the Snow Queen took little Kay in Hans
Andersen's story. But when the sun went the glory was gone. The stars
came out like gleaming points of silver, and the moon was a sickle of
silver newly washed, but the frozen lake looked grey and threatening,
and the hills were eerie and weird. The biting cold only emphasized the
desolation, and the little fire of argols was hardly sufficient to boil
our tea.

I felt down-hearted enough as I sat in the rugs beside Stella, with
MacTavish in my lap. I would have left him there as he seemed fairly
easy when he was lying still, only I didn't trust Stella. I was afraid
she might torment the little sick dog when my eye was not on her. So I
just sat where I was and nursed him and let Mr. Conant get the supper
as best he could.

When Stella was asleep he and I discussed the situation, and he was
optimistic. We must meet the American doctor sooner or later. Every day
we came across encampments of cloth tents spread out like huge spiders
on the snowy ground, and indeed, if it hadn't been for them and the
provisions they sold us we should certainly have perished; but they
weren't exactly friendly. Fodder was getting scarce and terribly dear
as our means went, and I had been wondering whether we had not better
try and trade off the horse at some of the encampments, only goodness
knows how we'd have carried our things without him.

And MacTavish was sick. He lay in my lap and licked my hand gratefully
every now and then with his little hot tongue. All night I lay with
him in my arms, and the slightest movement made him moan. We were
all huddled up close together for warmth--there was nothing else for
it--and it's extraordinary how quietly one slips into things when the
necessity really arises. Stella was in the middle, and once turning
over and throwing out her arm she jostled the poor little dog badly,
and I could have hit her, I felt so furious. I wasn't nearly so close
to hating her then though as I was next morning. It was manifest the
poor little chap was very ill indeed.

We had to eat our food cold in the morning, and parched barley and
butter mixed with tea is about the limit, but lighting a fire was such
a business we never could do it except at night, and as we were having
our breakfast Stella looked at the little dog lying covered with my gay
Italian silk rug.

"Poor little thing," she said, "I do hate to leave it."

Actually she would have left him sick and suffering to perish there of
cold and hunger!

"Who's going to leave him?" I asked, and I wonder if my voice expressed
all I felt.

"Are you going to ask Mr. Conant to put him out of his misery?" she
asked sweetly. How could I ever have thought she was charming? "Perhaps
that would be best."

"I don't know what you mean," I said, and gave MacTavish a little
reassuring pat. I felt as if he might understand what she was saying,
and it seemed so dreadful when he was so ill.

"Well, what are you going to do with a sick dog?"

"I'm going to carry him, of course." He knew we were talking about him
and raised his pretty little butterfly ears and watched me anxiously as
I gathered together my particular load. It seemed to me that the poor
little thing who had always been so gay realised that he was incapable
now of walking, and was wondering what would be his fate. It gave me a
sharp pain to think he might not be sure I would protect him.

"Darling little ducksey dog," I whispered in his ear, "I'm going to
carry you."

"You can't burden yourself with a dog," said Stella all at once very
considerate for my comfort, "You know he's overgrown for a Japanese. He
must weigh at least ten pounds."

Then I turned on her. "I'd rather stay behind myself," I said, "than
leave my dog. So there!"

Then Mr. Conant came to the rescue.

"And I can help you," he said cheerily. "We can't afford to lose our
jolly little friend. Why he's better. That's right, old chap! Lift up
that funny little nose of yours. He'll be trotting along as well as
ever presently."

And he looked at me and smiled, and I knew I loved him.

That evening as we crawled slowly along looking for some place where we
could camp for the night, two Tibetans came galloping up to us. Their
matchlocks were slung on their backs, but they carried their spears
threateningly. I spoke to them in Chinese, but they shook their head.
They knew no Chinese. Evidently they were out for robbery for one of
them made a grab at the gay rug I had wrapped round MacTavish. It
was the only thing out of the common we had about us. The little dog
whimpered as his rug was tugged at, and Mr. Conant promptly stepped
forward and threatened with his pistol. The man let go and they both
laughed, and urging their horses rode on down the mountain track we
were following.

"Oh, you ought to have let him have it," cried Stella, "we've got to
keep on the right side of these dreadful men. Why one had his face
painted red and yellow."

But I said, "No, I think you were right. It would never do to let them
think we were afraid of them." And as I spoke I knew I was desperately
afraid.

And then how it happened I don't know, I slipped on the stony slippery
path, and trying not to jar the little dog I slipped still more, and
presently I was sitting down in the middle of the path with MacTavish
in my lap and the agonizing knowledge slowly crystallising in my brain
that even if my life were at stake--and very likely it was--I could not
crawl from that spot.

Mr. Conant bent over me.

"You're not hurt?" And looking up into his troubled face I would have
given worlds to say it was nothing. But I couldn't. I could only put
down my hands and grasp my ankle and say with difficulty,

"I don't think any bones are broken."

"That's good. Just rest a bit. Hold the noble Persimmon a minute, Mrs.
Chapman."

But Stella drew back.

"Oh, you're frightened. He's much more frightened of you, I assure you.
He'll stand, I think. Here, let me," and he got me with my back to a
big rock and then kneeling on the ground began unlacing my boot.

I tried to keep my voice from shaking, and I said, "It's a bad job. I'm
afraid it's sprained."

"We must rest for the night," he said, and he actually managed to speak
cheerfully. "Anyhow I think it's just as well to let these men get
ahead of us. We'll find a little camping place in the hills here. I'll
look round. Cheer up. You're not afraid to hold Persimmon, are you?"

If Persimmon had been anything but the mildest of beasts I should
have had to let him go, but it made me feel I was of some use still
when I held him, and before he went Mr. Conant had arranged MacTavish
comfortably in my lap. Bless him. Stella cried, of course. She always
did cry in an emergency. I wondered dully what on earth she was crying
about. It wasn't her ankle that had given out, but I didn't try and
comfort her. I felt I had bottomed. My nerves were all on edge. I
wanted to get up and shriek. I felt desperate.

But it is curious how little things affect one. MacTavish gave a little
whimper, and I forgot my woes for the minute. I patted his little head
and Stella wailed aloud.

"You're only thinking about your little dog!" she sobbed, "and I know
we're going to die here in these awful, awful hills."

It was too much. In spite of everything I laughed.

"Well, for goodness' sake die if you want to," I said, "but I'm not
going to die just at present, neither is MacTavish."

Just for the moment my own words cheered me, and back came Martin
Conant saying he had found a little hollow in the hills where there
was a fireplace made of stones, plenty of fuel round and quite a
comfortable little cave to sleep in. It might have been the Biltmore,
at least, and he made a joke of getting me there, and setting me to
blow up the fire, for it is a business to make a fire of argols.

But when we lay down my courage oozed out. All night I looked out at
the hard bright stars and the moon, which was past the full, but still
bright, and cold--oh so cold. And my ankle throbbed and I held my
little dog close, and I think I was the most miserable woman in all the
wide world. Oh, I was miserable! And the night was long and yet it was
not long enough for I knew there was only one thing I could do. It was
all very well to scorn Stella for a coward, but I had no right to keep
the other two back. It was my bounden duty to persuade them to go on
and look for the American doctor. They could come back for me--if I was
alive--but, of course, I mustn't say that. I could not allow them to
stay here and wait till I got well.

And then there was MacTavish, my little MacTavish, who was so sick. I
thought about him till I had to bite my lips to keep from bursting out
sobbing. He snuggled up closer to me, as if he knew all about it, and
licked my hand softly and that made it all the harder. The night seemed
so long, as if it would never end, and yet I was afraid of the end. Oh,
that awful night! I can never again have such an awful night.

And then came the soft pink of the dawn stealing slowly over the white
snow, and the sun himself, bright and cold. The thermometer must have
been far below zero, but the light was brilliant, and when the other
two waked, and Mr. Conant went away to look after Persimmon I summoned
all my courage and tried the scheme on Stella.

She was extremely cheerful about it and my heart sank. I wonder if I
had really thought she would say "No," or offer to stay with me while
Mr. Conant went on to look for the American doctor.

"We can make you a nice little fire and pile plenty of fuel up round so
you can get it quite easily," she said as if it were the jolliest plan
in the world, "and we'll come back, of course, the minute we find the
doctor, and take you and MacTavish."

"But I want you to take MacTavish," I said. "He's sure to be all right
in a day or two if you let him ride on Persimmon for a little."

"Oh, I think he's better with you," said Stella airily. "Won't
MacTavish be better with Rosalie, Mr. Conant?" she asked as he came
back.

"What's that you're saying?" said he.

I looked at him. Somehow the words would not come. But Stella spoke up
more cheerfully than she had done for a long time.

"Rosalie says she'd rather stay here and we can send back for her when
we find the American doctor," she said. I hadn't put it that way, and
it sounded as if I really wished to stay behind. "She says we're to
take MacTavish, but I am sure he'd be better with her. A sick dog can't
ride a horse, you know, can he? and he doesn't like me."

Mr. Conant looked from her to me and back again. Then to my utter
surprise he dropped down on his knees beside me and put one arm round
my shoulder.

"My dear girl," he said, "my dear girl." He said nothing more for a
minute, but with his other hand began patting my cheek, "Do you think
we'd part you and MacTavish, and do you think we could leave you
behind? Why we'd never be able to get up a fire, and would perish with
cold," and he laughed a little and patted my cheek again.

I couldn't say anything. It seemed as if some terrible burden had been
lifted. I looked at him for a minute, and his eyes were full of pity,
the pity that is tenderness and kindness and sympathy.

"Why, we could never leave you," he said.

"We can take you on the horse and leave you at the next Tibetan
encampment we come to," said Stella, and her voice sounded shrill and
as if she were disappointed.

I remembered once we had threatened to leave her in a Chinese hut, and
I was ashamed. Oh it would be awful to be left. Mr. Conant drew me a
little closer to him. I tried to say something, but no words would
come, only strangled foolish sobs.

"We're going to stick together," he said, and the kind hand went on
stroking my cheek. "I know what we'll do. Mrs. Chapman is dead sick of
walking. We'll carry you on Persimmon to a little sunnier spot and make
a sort of permanent camp there, and you women can stay at home and you
can blow up the fire and I can go ranging out every day----"

Then Stella's voice cut in sharply and angrily.

"Don't pet her. It's the very worst thing for hysterics."

I made an effort to stop then.

"If you only knew what it is like to find you so kind when--when all
night----"

"You were making up your mind to send us away with the treasure dog,"
said he with a little laugh, "you ought to have known me better than
that. Now there's such a lot of fuel here we're going to have hot tea
for breakfast, to say nothing of porridge, and there's still a spark in
the fire if you think you can blow the bellows," and he stooped down
and undid the rug in which I had wrapped MacTavish. It gave me a queer
pang to think how my heart had ached as I had wound the rug round him.
The little chap raised his ears and stretched out his little white paws.

"Why, he's better," said Mr. Conant, gently lifting him to his feet.
"There's a bit of good luck for us. He's distinctly better."




CHAPTER XX.--MARTIN CONANT'S REFLECTIONS

AN ARCTIC WILDERNESS


"Sleep were no sweeter than her face to me.
Sleep of cold sea bloom under the cold sea."

"She played at half a love with half a lover."


I'VE a pretty strong imagination, but I certainly never anticipated
being adrift in a howling Arctic wilderness alone with two good-looking
young women. I sometimes felt as we marched along as if I were
between the embodiments of good and evil, the attractive good and the
attractive evil.

Rosalie Grahame is a good woman, there is no doubt about that. She has
high ideals and tries to live up to them. She is hot-tempered, but
that adds a spice to life, and she is very good-looking. When first I
came to the mission station I was mightily attracted by her, but she
kept me at a distance. On this journey the aloofness has slipped away
imperceptibly, and I see what a thorough good comrade she is, sound all
through. If it weren't for Stella Chapman----

That woman is a little devil, an attractive little devil, pretty, and
soft, and clinging--as selfish as they make them. Without uttering a
single word she says twenty times a day, "Let's enjoy ourselves. We're
both young. Nobody would know and we could have such a good time. We
shall never get such a chance again."

She would hold up her hands in horror if she knew that was the crude
way in which I put her appeal to me, but, nevertheless, boiled down to
the essentials, that is exactly what she is saying the livelong day.

She is certainly attractive, but not half so good-looking as Rosalie
Grahame. Rosalie is worth a dozen of her--a dozen--a hundred--a
thousand!

Hang it all! The idea of analysing like this when the Lord knows
whether we shall be alive this day week. I'm hanged if I know how
we're going to get out of this. And poor Rosalie has twisted her
ankle--nothing in a civilized land, but here pretty near fatal. Poor
girl! The brave lips quivered a little as she suggested we should take
MacTavish. I very nearly broke down, and if I hadn't put my arm round
her and hugged her, upon my word I believe I should have howled or
throttled Stella. The little devil would have left her here, would have
got rid of her and her dog and cared not a cuss whether they died or
not. She would have been pathetically sorry about poor dear Rosalie and
her little dog, and that would have been the end of it. And Rosalie--I
have never seen anything like the relief in those brown eyes of hers as
she looked at me--the gladness--and then they were drowned in tears.
She ought to have known that any man with a glimmering of imagination
would have realised that to leave her here would be abandoning her to
her death. She knew it. Hang it all, why couldn't she give me a little
credit for common decency? Things don't look very promising, but anyhow
we're going to face it together, unless Stella likes to make a little
excursion on her own, and I don't think that's likely. She can go if
she wants to.

After we'd had breakfast--such a breakfast--only it was warm for once,
I got Rosalie on to the old nag--she couldn't put her foot to the
ground--put the little dog in her arms, and then leaving our gear, led
the horse while we went to look for a camping ground with a little more
sun about it, and a wider outlook where we might rest for two or three
days. Resting is a beautiful word, and we might just as well call it
that as anything else.

We didn't go far. We couldn't afford to be parted from our belongings.
I found a good camping ground on a hillside that was sheltered, and
from which we could see over quite a goodly range of country. Koko Nor
was to the north of us, and on a rock in it we could see the curved
roofs of a monastery, and about twelve miles away, but still plainly
to be seen against the snow, a little to the right of the monastery
and the lake, were some spots of black. An encampment, of course.
Plenty of folk in the wilderness evidently. The question was to whom
should we apply for aid? Help we'd got to have from somebody soon. We
had good reason for distrusting monks, and those in Tibet are often
truculent, and the encampments--oh, well, I thought I'd give my mind
to considering it later on, or perhaps discuss the matter with Rosalie
when she was rested.

I dumped the women down in the sun and went back quickly for our gear.
Rosalie, with her little dog in her lap, sat down contentedly enough
with her back to the hillside. Stella looked as if she were considering
coming back with me, but I nipped that desire in the bud by setting off
at a pace that would have taxed all her powers. I didn't want Stella at
this juncture.

For one thing the weather was threatening. It looked as if a storm were
coming up. We had only been able to travel at such a low temperature
because the air was still--if it began to blow I knew it behoved us to
be snugly tucked up till it was all over.

I got back in about an hour and a half. Then I piled up stones roughly
against one side of the hill, and over it I stretched a piece of
American Army canvas, that hitherto we had used as a ground sheet,
fastened it down with heavy stones and filled up all the chinks with
snow. I brought it, Stella pretended to, and Rosalie though she had
to stay in one spot, worked like a nigger, so that we had really a
substantial resting place before the first puffs of wind began to blow.
I collected fuel and put it ready to our hands just outside, and inside
the shelter we piled up our furs and thanked God we had so many.

"And you didn't want me to buy them," said Stella reproachfully to
Rosalie.

The young doctor was as gay as a child building a doll's house.

"I'm glad now," she said. "I'm thankful. Oh, we shall be all right.
Oh, supposing I had been alone," and her eyes wandered over the lake
where the heavy clouds were gathering, and her hand stole down to pat
MacTavish nestling among the furs.

"You ought to know," I said, perhaps a little roughly, "you never would
have been alone."

She turned round with one of her old imperious looks, and then there
came into her eyes a softness and she bent over the little dog.

"We know, MacTavish," she said, "we know and we won't ever forget."

I had not realised it before but hers isn't mere prettiness. It is
something better than that. I had always thought she was nearly
beautiful, and there and then I took away the qualifying phrase.

However, the Lord knows this wasn't a time to think of women's beauty.
I built a fire of argols, thrust the bellows into her hands and bade
her keep it going while the horse and I ranged the country round for
more. I got a goodly pile before nightfall, and I saw some tents not
three miles away, and made up my mind that presently we would appeal to
them. It would be better to go to an encampment than to the monastery,
and better to go to one three miles away than ten. Suppose these people
could put us in touch with the American doctor.

Rosalie and I talked about it that night as I ate the porridge of
parched barley she had ready for me, and so hungry was I it tasted
quite good. Stella cried because the wind was beginning to blow,
driving little wreaths of snow before it, and I wondered where I should
have been if there had been no Rosalie to prepare that supper. One
thing is quite certain, Stella would not have done it.

Rosalie was amazing. She was cheerful and happy, and even pitiful with
Stella, who was crying like a fretful child.

"Don't cry, dear," she said, "don't cry. Only think how nice and warm
we shall be to-night, however much it storms. And oh, just look at
MacTavish! He's getting well!" For MacTavish had crawled out of his gay
rug, and staggering along on shaking legs, was inspecting our abode and
giving it his gracious approval.

"I'm so unhappy," wailed Stella, "I'm so unhappy," and she wrapped
herself in the best of the furs and came creeping along to crouch down
beside Rosalie, "I'm so uncomfortable," and she fidgeted about as if
she could not get herself settled in the confined space. Rosalie laid
down the bellows and tried to help her.

"There, that's better," she said. "No? Oh! There's a lump here."

"It's nothing," said Stella hastily, and her tone changed.

"Nothing! Why, of course you're uncomfortable, sitting on awkward
corners like that. Let me--Why? Stella!" and she drew out a little
parcel and looked at it curiously. Stella too looked at it half
shamefacedly, half defiantly. I couldn't see what it was, but the dull
fire of the argols caught and sparkled on something bright.

"Stella!" cried Rosalie again, half laughing.

"Well, why shouldn't I?" she said. "Those buckles alone cost two
guineas in Bond Street, and the shoes are not worn."

"But to bring them along! I thought we'd left those shoes outside Yang
Cheng!"

"As if I could," said Stella, with so much feeling in her tones that we
both laughed outright and she joined us. It cleared the air somehow and
put us all on a better footing.

"Still I'm worried about poor old Persimmon," said Rosalie looking up
and wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. The wind came shrieking
down and tore at the little shelter, and went wailing away into the
hills. Good Lord, how it did blow! It bore on its icy breath snow like
little lumps of sharp ice, and soon the air was so full of whirling
flakes it was impossible to see a yard ahead. We had got our shelter
just in time, no human being could have survived such a storm in the
open. The wild wind made the fire of argols glow redly. Of course we
had to abandon the horse to his fate, but I had found him shelter, tied
him with a long line, given him a good feed of parched barley, and I
could only hope he would justify the name we had given him and pull
through.

There was nothing to do but attend to the fire and sleep. The storm
roared and wailed overhead, the air was full of the whirling flakes,
and that little shelter, and the red eye of the argol fire made our
world.

"It's the coldest fire," said Rosalie, as every now and again she rose
and blew it up with the Tibetan bellows.

"I was just thinking," I said, "that it made all the difference. Why,
this place is quite cosy."

"I'm glad you like it," said Stella sarcastically.




CHAPTER XXI.--ROSALIE'S STORY

OVERWHELMED


"He hath laid my vine waste and barked my figtree; he hath made it
clean-bare and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white."


"WELL," said Martin Conant, as we snuggled down together, "you may look
upon yourself as a public benefactor after all," and in the dull glow
of the argols I was blowing up I saw that tender little smile not only
on his lips but in his deep grey eyes. Who could help loving Martin
Conant?

We were up rather high under the lee of a cliff. He had piled up stones
on one side and built in our ground sheet carefully, so as to form a
shelter. Naturally it was very small and very crowded, and just in the
opening we had made a fire of argols that the storm served to keep
alight. We were sheltered from the wild blizzard that raged outside,
luckily. Just above the fire and below the curtain overhead, we could
see the snow driven before the wind in one great slanting white sheet
of dancing particles, and stepping outside for a moment you needed to
keep your wits about you, for but one turn would have blotted out the
fire, the shelter, every vestige of the camp, and you would have been
lost and frozen to death in a white wilderness. We went out no more
than we could help, and we abandoned the poor old horse to take his
chance. We had to.

Stella lying there in the furs we huddled round us complained bitterly
of the cramped quarters, but I--I was happy. Who would have thought I
could have been happy in a little make-shift shelter on a hillside on
the Tibetan Marches?

And yet I was. I had feared so terribly the night before. No wonder the
howling storm sang in my ears as a paean of thankfulness, and Stella's
moans but emphasized the comforts that were ours. And MacTavish was
getting well. He staggered out of his wrappings more than once and held
up his pretty little head, and asked us with what Stella called his
arrogant air what on earth we were doing in such a place. And I laughed
and hugged him, I was so ridiculously happy. And yet the shrieking and
the howling of the storm drowned all other notes.

Never have I seen such a storm, but it wore itself away in thirty
hours, and before the sun set on the second day, the sky was a
cloudless, wind-swept blue that looked down on a white world. Even
the lake was gone, and where there had been a vast expanse of blue
ice was now one stretch of snow, of undulating snow worked into hills
and valleys, like shifting sand, by the fierce wind. I could not have
believed it was a lake. It was lucky we had come upon it a couple of
days earlier, or else we should have gone marching on right into the
heart of it, never realising we were on the lake itself.

It took us nearly till sunset to clear things round about us, and to
feed Persimmon, who had survived. Goodness knows we had not much left,
and Martin Conant and I looked at each other when we saw how scanty was
our store of tsamba and curds and tea. Still we managed something for
the poor beast, and we knew there were tents not far away. Mr. Conant
had seen them when he was collecting material for our shelter, and we
had discussed the propriety of appealing to them for help. But Tibetans
are not inviting. We put off communication with them as long as we
could.

"But I've got to look them up to-morrow," said Mr. Conant. "Can we
hold out till to-morrow?" he asked, when I had given him a feed for
Persimmon. Persimmon had the same as we did nowadays.

Till the day after, I told him. MacTavish was solemnly trying all his
little legs out in the sunshine, and he looked so much better that I
was confirmed in my faith that all was well. I watched the gorgeous
sunset over the hills of unknown Tibet, and that night I slept a
dreamless sleep without a care, and when the fresh clear, cold, sunny,
morning dawned I awoke refreshed, better, very sure that this was the
best of all worlds.

We had our minute breakfast, and then just a little tiny feeling of
discomfort began to creep into my heart, I didn't like Mr. Conant
going to those unknown Tibetans. I suggested he should ride, but he
pooh-poohed the idea. Evidently he did not think the horse was up to
it. I looked across to where, before the storm, perhaps ten or twelve
miles away, had been the black tents of another encampment.

"Go there," I said, reluctant to let him go out of our sight, "and we
can watch you all the way."

He laughed.

"Why, my dear girl, I shouldn't be back to-night. Wouldn't you rather I
came back in a couple of hours than watch me flounder through the snow
for six?"

"Well, take the pistol."

But he wouldn't do that. "I guess I'm safe with this stout stick,"
he said, "and I like to think you women have something to protect
yourselves with in case of necessity. But I'm sure you'll be all right,
and I won't be long." He stood up, walked a little way, turned round
and looked at us.

"Don't worry. I'll be back soon," and he snapped his fingers at
MacTavish, waved his hand to us, turned the corner into a fold of the
hills and--vanished.

We set to work and tidied up. You can understand there are difficulties
for a woman in the life we were leading. But Mr. Conant was very
thoughtful, and, as we all wore furs, rich furs, we did not look so
unkempt as we otherwise might have done. Stella and I always kept our
hair well brushed. We both of us had plenty, and did not mind letting
it down and combing it vigorously, and now that we were certain Mr.
Conant could not come back for three hours at the very least we cleaned
out our cooking pot, filled it with snow, and got enough warm water to
have a thorough good wash, which refreshed us considerably.

When that was done we sat down in the sun in the snow and talked. Not
that we had anything to say. Of course there was lots to occupy our
minds, but nothing that demanded immediate attention. Stella was cross
and discontented, aggrieved with me, though what I could have done to
injure her I'm sure I don't know. I felt how thankful I would be when
Mr. Conant came back. He always made light of difficulties, and created
an atmosphere of cheerfulness. Stella evidently missed him too. After
two hours had passed and the sun was creeping up to the zenith she
became quite tearful.

"He ought to be here now. It's cruel of him to leave us alone so long."

I could only repeat, "He hasn't been long. It would take him at least
an hour to get there and an hour to get back."

He would come as soon as he could, but oh how I longed to see him
turning that corner.

Three hours passed and I too grew restless.

He would never spend an hour in the camp of the dirty Tibetans.

"He's cruel, cruel," wailed Stella. "He's left us because we're
helpless and we keep him back."

I could hardly believe my ears. At last I understood stern hard Silas
Chapman. Was this the sort of woman he had to live with, one who the
moment a friend was out of sight imagined all manner of evil about him?

I made an effort to speak reasonably.

"How can you be so wicked, Stella? Has he ever been anything but good
and considerate to us?"

"Oh!" said Stella, "that's just it. You can't expect a man to go on
being good and self-sacrificing for ever. He's bound to get tired of
it, and your accident was just the last straw."

She took away my breath. It was such cold callous reasoning.

"He might get tired," I said, "but he wouldn't go away and leave us to
die."

"No one would ever know," Stella's voice trailed away miserably, "our
bones will lie here for the hawks and vultures."

I was right down angry then.

"How can you think so badly of a man who has been so good to you?" I
said. But she kept on.

"He went away with Silas, a big strong man, and came back with Silas
dead. How do we know the story he told was true?"

It was horrible. I found it disgusting to be near her. I wanted to
snatch up MacTavish and walk away into the snow. And then I remembered
that Stella always said the first thing that occurred to her. She was
no more responsible for her words than a silly child who had lived
among low-class minds.

"You must remember," I said sharply, "your husband was a great
loss to us all, and to Mr. Conant in particular. It doubled his
responsibilities."

"He was my husband," said Stella wiping her eyes, and even in that
moment she spoke with that bridling air of satisfaction that a certain
type of woman always uses when she thinks her charms have been
irresistible.

It was the very last straw. I don't know whether I looked as disgusted
as I felt, but I held my tongue, and suddenly she was down on her knees
with her arms round my waist.

"Don't be cross with me. Of course I never meant that exactly. Only you
see men do like me--and think me pretty, and----"

I shook her off. Hateful little beast! I could find no other word to
describe her. And yet here we were, two utterly helpless women, alone
on a Tibetan hillside, and it would be folly to quarrel. I walked away
a little and after waiting another half-hour MacTavish and I began
limping towards the corner where Mr. Conant had turned into the hills.

Stella came after us weeping and crying that I was cruel and she was a
most unfortunate woman, and that now we were as good as dead. At last
we got to the turning in the hillside. My heart beat as we turned that
corner. There was quite an extensive view of snow-clad hill and dale,
but there was no sign of a tent, not a sign of human habitation! We
were alone in a desolate white world. Mr. Conant had said he could see
quite plainly tents from here and the men and women outside them.

"I told you so. I told you so," said Stella. "There are no tents there.
There never were any tents there. He's left us."

What was the good of defending him from the atrocious accusation?
What did it matter what a bad woman thought? We were alone, close
to starvation, and Mr. Conant might be injured or dying among those
snow-clad desolate hills. Unless the tent dwellers had held him
prisoner or killed him nothing would have kept him from us. My knees
were trembling so I had to sit down in the snow and MacTavish scrambled
on my lap and licked my chin to show his sympathy.

If Martin Conant were dead it seemed to me the world would be
absolutely empty, and I might just as well sit there and die too. But
supposing he were injured and helpless--that thought wrung me, for I
was so helpless myself. Stella wrung her hands and sobbed, and then
subsided on the snow beside me, but I had done with trying to comfort
Stella.

I believe I should have just sat there till I died if it hadn't been
for MacTavish's little warm tongue licking my face. It reminded me the
little dog had a right to his life anyhow. I struggled to my feet and
remembered that the poor horse was tethered, and I determined I'd let
him loose and give him a chance for his life.

"Where are you going?" asked Stella. But I said nothing.

When we got back to the little shack the western sun was low in the
heavens, but we could see quite a long way round and the light on the
snow was blinding. It hurt my eyes, and as I was turning away something
black caught them. There were the tents on the hillside to which I had
wanted Mr. Conant to go because we would have been able to see all the
way he went. And then like a flash it came to me, if we could get there
perhaps the people might help us.

It was such a forlorn hope! But we had nothing else. I limped into the
shelter and got hold of the tsamba bag. There wasn't much, but we would
have to share with poor old Persimmon.

"Are you going to get supper?" asked Stella in a conciliatory tone.

"I'm going to give the horse something," I said, "and MacTavish and I
are going to wait here till to-morrow morning, and if Mr. Conant is not
back by then I'm going to try and get across to those tents over there.
Perhaps they can help us to find him."

It was awful that night. I had never before faced danger alone, for
Stella did not count. Here in the dark stillness I heard a thousand
terrible threatening sounds that could not be explained. I lay awake
and thought of Martin Conant, and prayed he might not be suffering. I
thought how easily we might be overcome did anyone come to the camp in
the night. We were two women alone, and very, very helpless, and even
those black tents I intended to make for might not hold out a helping
hand. Even if you believe there isn't anything worth living for you
still feel a shudder at the thought of being at the mercy of a horrible
filthy man clad in dirty furs and dirtier rags, and crawling with
vermin.

Stella cried and said she should not close an eye, and then I heard her
regular heavy breathing. I thought I might consider us safe as long as
MacTavish slept, but when he sat up and listened intently I listened
too, and the night was full of crunchings and snappings and long-drawn
sighs. The little dog growled angrily, and I felt cold down my spine.
He snuggled back again and I felt faint with relief. I lay and watched
the stars, keen and bright, through the opening under the ground sheet,
the planets were like glorious jewels, and I must have dozed and
slipped a little so that my waking eyes looked up at the ground sheet
and I started up wide awake in horror, thinking the doorway was filled
up.

But the dawn came at last and everything was as we had left it the
night before, not a living creature had been near us.

It was a business getting off for I could only just hobble, and those
tents were certainly ten, possibly twelve, miles away. We had to load
our things on Persimmon, and it took me all I knew to do it.

"We can take turns in riding him," said Stella sweetly, "though I don't
know how you're going to get up now Mr. Conant has deserted us."

I looked at her.

"I'm not at all sure Persimmon can carry our goods, and he certainly
can't carry you or me," I said.

I gave him the last of the tsamba mixed with tea, poor beast, and he
ate it gratefully. He had got over his prejudice against white people
and used to nuzzle his poor old nose into my hand for something to eat.
Luckily most of our baggage consisted of furs, and I made a little nest
among them for MacTavish, and he sat there looking out, bless him, as
if it were his proper place and he was sure everything was going all
right.

That was an awful journey. My foot was so bad, swollen and hot and
black to the knee, and painful, when I put it to the ground, that I
could only hop along, guiding Persimmon by clinging to the ropes. Every
few yards I had to sit down and rest. One thing it didn't give me time
to think, every effort was given to crawling along. Mostly the snow
was frozen into a hard stony surface so that there was no sinking,
but occasionally--for what reason I don't know--it would be soft, and
then both the horse and I would find ourselves plunging hopelessly in
a drift that scared me lest we should be overwhelmed and never get out
again. It was a cruel struggle. We had started soon after sunrise, but
by midday the tents seemed no nearer, just little black spots on the
surrounding whiteness. I ached in every limb, and my ankle throbbed so
that I think that at another time I should have sat down and wept with
the pain--now I was beyond all tears. It was like a ghastly nightmare.
I felt that darkness might fall on us, and find us still struggling
along on this great snowfield, and I had no doubt about what the end
would be if it did. We ate all the curds I had left, and let the horse
lick up the remains, and I wondered if we had eaten our last meal.
Stella didn't say much. I think she was too tired even to complain,
only when I lifted MacTavish down and gave the little chap some of my
share of the curds she said,

"I can't think how you can bother yourself about the dog now. Just
as if we hadn't enough on our minds. And you know the dogs at the
encampment'll probably finish him." And she looked across the waste of
snow.

She didn't intend her speech to comfort me. But it did. It evidently
hadn't occurred to her as it had to me that we might never reach that
encampment, that it was little bigger than it was five hours ago.

"We've got to get on as quickly as we can," I said. "It will never do
to be caught by the darkness."

"I really think we have got on wonderfully," said she with an air as if
she thought I might have praised her. And again I drew courage from her
words. The sun got lower and lower, and I could have screamed if I had
had any breath left to waste on such an effort as I saw that still the
tents were a great distance away. But we could see plainly that they
were tents. Stella sat down and said that she could go no further, and
for a moment I was tempted. It would have been such a relief to take
the furs off the horse and roll myself up and rest there in the snow,
but I knew what that would mean, and if Martin Conant wanted help, who
would help him. I felt as if I daren't stop. I could hardly turn my
head.

"If--I--can----" and I heard my own words coming very slowly, and with
gasps in between--"I'll--send--those--people at--the--tents back--for
you."

It sounded very forlorn, and hopeless, and presently she was stumbling
along clutching my arm and gasping and crying that she was done. I
couldn't help her. If she had fallen I could have done nothing. The sun
went slowly down flooding the scene with a light more brilliant than
ever, and dropping behind the hills left the world cold and grey, and
with his going came the gripping cold fiercer than ever--to breathe the
air was like drawing down swords into your lungs.

I thought it was the finish. We could see the tents now, four large
tents, we could even see people moving outside them, and I wondered
they didn't see us. Perhaps they did and were not interested. With the
fading of the light they seemed to vanish. How could we go on if we had
no point towards which to steer? I tried to say something to Stella but
I didn't seem to have any voice. In my heart I kept crying, "Martin
Conant! Martin Conant!" and I stumbled and fell on my face for about
the twentieth time. And then I heard Stella sobbing, "They've lighted,
a fire!"

At that I struggled up again and saw the fire, a glowing fire of
argols, a point of red light in the gleaming snow.

How on earth we got over those remaining miles--there were two at
least--I shall never know.

Stella might have gone on, but she explained afterwards she was afraid
to face the Tibetans alone. If they had been unfriendly I don't know
what we should have done. I was not even equal to taking thought for
MacTavish beyond being thankful he was secure in his cosy little nest,
for the dogs came rushing out. In a dim, confused way I was glad of
the barking dogs. They proclaimed our arrival. Stella clung to me and
shrieked,

"They'll kill us! They'll tear us to pieces!" Out of one tent came
a man and beat them off, and the curtain of the biggest tent was
thrust aside and there stood a woman in Tibetan costume, with a little
round cap on her head, but the hair that fell in long braids beneath
it showed up pale yellow in the light of a lamp, the dull firelight
gleamed on a pair of glasses, and the eyes behind those glasses were
blue. This was no Asiatic!

Surely it was the American doctor we had been hunting for the last
week! Was it a week? It was more like a thousand years.

She was a little woman with a pale set face, and she stood and blinked
at us behind her glasses.

She said something at first in a tongue I did not understand, then in
Chinese she asked, "Who are you?" and then she repeated it in English,
and there was a surprise in her voice as she stepped forward and laid
her hand on my arm.

I found words then----

"Thank God," I said, "Oh, thank God!"




CHAPTER XXII.--ROSALIE'S STORY

ANOTHER DOCTOR


"'Secrets,' sighs the nightwind,
'Vacancy is all I find;
Every keyhole I have made
Wail a summons, faint and sad.
No voice answers me,
Only vacancy.'"


I WAS so utterly done I saw nothing as the little doctor drew me into
the tent. Vaguely I was glad because I knew we had reached the goal we
had set before us ever since we had left Kama Miao, and that thought
filled me with such satisfaction and thankfulness that in my utterly
worn out state I could think of nothing else. It was done, and I
staggered across the warm and cosy tent and sank on a pile of furs. I
forgot the horse, I forgot Stella, I even forgot MacTavish till I felt
him snuggling up against me--someone had brought him in, I was in a
sort of torpor and I only felt dimly my boots being taken off and my
swollen ankle being bathed.

"My!" said a high nasal voice, "you've been havin' a dandy time!"

Then so great was the relief I dropped asleep, and when I wakened I lay
for a moment looking out at my surroundings, not knowing where I was.
It was a fairly big tent, dimly lighted by a small lamp on a folding
table. I had looked so long on the vast whiteness outside the dark
Tibetan cloth walls and carpet were a relief to the eyes. Beside the
divan of furs, a bed, a table and a couple of boxes, the only other
furniture the tent contained was a folding chair in which was sitting
our hostess reading a book. She was a little woman with a pointed nose
and sharp features. She had rather an aggressive face, and no teeth,
and her mouth falling in gave her a quaint look of primness. Her only
beauty was her hair, and that she had done her best to disguise, for
the Tibetan cap hid her head, and all I could see were two thick plaits
like yellow ropes lying on her shoulders. She was the only thing in the
tent that did not look restful. I thought thankfully how cosy it all
was--and then I remembered, and threw out my arms with such suddenness
that Stella, who was beside me, stirred. "Martin Conant!" I said.

Our hostess laid down her book--I think she was picking out texts in
the Bible--and looked at me.

"Now ain't that real nice," said she. "You'd better have some supper."

But I was gathering together my scattered faculties, and I murmured
foolishly, "He's lost."

"Lost, is he?" said she. "Well, I guess you're a bit rocky as to your
own whereabouts." She spoke as if she had no curiosity, and as if it
didn't very much matter. I struggled up into a sitting posture then,
though Stella protested.

"We must save him," I said. "If we crawl after him we must save him."

"You ain't up to ten yards," she said in the most matter of fact way,
looking at me as if she didn't see me, "Who is Martin Conant anyway?
Your husband?"

"He isn't my husband. He----" and I tried to explain what had happened.
To my dismay she didn't appear to be listening, and Stella cut in,

"He's all right. He just didn't want to be bothered with two women.
If he'd known we were so near here, I expect----" she went on with a
hateful smile I saw clearly enough in the dim lamplight.

"When did you say you--um--um--like a roarin' lion----" she held a
piece of paper between her lips and fluttered violently the leaves of
the book she held, "no, that ain't exactly to the point--Sodom and
Gomorrah--um, that's the ticket--their sins--you was sayin'----"

"He went out yesterday morning"--I tried to be patient and explicit
"--we expected him back in a couple of hours, three at the most,
and----"

"Only yesterday morning! Lawks!" She fluttered over the leaves again.
Her Bible was accustomed to it, the leaves were quite limp "--jubilee
shall that fiftieth year be unto you--um--the grapes undressed--seems
to me sort of wasteful, but who am I to judge?"

"But you see I must find him," I said, "I'm bound to."

"What's the trouble?" said she. Stella was asleep again. "He's stopped
along o' the Tibetans. There ain't no sayin' what a man'll do. I'm
trying to get my lesson fixed up for to-morrow, and I tell you it comes
hard, for the Tibetans ain't an agricultural people, flocks is all
right, but when it comes to grapes----"

"He wouldn't stop with the Tibetans," I said desperately, "unless they
made him."

"Wal, supposin' they did. He'll get back all right. Thirty-six
hours--where'd I be if I started worryin' in thirty-six hours! Why I
ain't seen Lemuel Petersen a fortnight come Saturday, an'--now I've got
it. It ought to be something simple--set me down in the midst of the
valley which was full of bones."

I grew frantic.

"I'm afraid he's hurt."

"Wal, supposin' he is. Not likely though." I felt cheered "--an' lo
they were very dry. Anyhow you can't go rampin' an' ragin' round the
country this weather."

She took a pencil and began rapidly scribbling, murmuring just above
her breath, and it was evident that I and my troubles had gone quite
out of her head.

I rose up then, and with MacTavish at my heels staggered across to the
table.

"Look here," I said, "I've got to do something--if I go out doing it on
my own."

She came back to my affairs with an effort.

"A nice missionary you'd make," she said, "not a mite of trust in the
Lord!"

"But I'm not a missionary," I said angrily. "I'm a physician and I've
got to find Martin Conant."

Her thoughts had gone wandering again.

"Sure," said she, "you're very welcome to anything I can give you
even if you're not a missionary. The mission always enjoins on us
hospitality. I guess I'll give you a sleeping draught. Look at your
sister."

It was maddening. "Oh do pay attention for a moment," I begged. "I'll
give your mission fifty dollars if you find Martin Conant alive. Tell
me someone I can go to."

"But you can't tell what a man'll do," she declared, only half
interested even at the prospect of money for the mission. "Lemuel
always says--says----"

"Where is Lemuel?"

She was deep in her book again.

"I tell you it's some work preparin' this lesson. It's gotten to be
translated--Oh, Lemuel--well if he's back any time these three months
I'm content. The longer he's away the more souls he'll rope in."

"I don't want to rope in souls. I don't care for anything if only
you'll tell me how I can set about looking for Martin Conant."

"Hush!" she said. "Hush! It's a privilege for these benighted people,
and if you----"

"Would they do Mr. Conant any harm?"

"Well the Tangut robbers are some bad," she said dubiously. "If they
got frightened they might--but we don't come out into the desert to go
a wearying after what might happen."

"This time I know something has happened. Is there anybody who has any
influence with these people?"

She was deep in her Bible again, much taken up with Ezekiel's bones,
but seeing I was so desperately in earnest she tore her mind away for a
moment.

"There's Mr. Ling," she said. "The word of the Lord"--she was writing
busily. "Mr. Ling's gone up to the monastery--um-- m--m--thine hand--I
don't like to have any dealings with the monastery--um--um--m--m--
Judah--tabernacle--or with him, though I hear his mother was one of the
Lord's chosen--and----"

"How can I get hold of Mr. Ling?" I put my hand on her shoulder.

"Abbas--it isn't his real name, but it's the nearest I can get my
tongue to it--Abbas shall go up the first thing to-morrow morning."

To-morrow morning! And already it seemed ages since Mr. Conant had gone
round that hillside. I looked at this woman, and she looked at me, and
apparently we came to different conclusions.

"You're petered out," she said, not unkindly. "You're going to have
some supper and a draught and then you'll be able to see your blessings
more plainly. Look here, I'll call Abbas."

Abbas was called, and apparently instructed, and went out again. Then
she gave me a supper of bread and butter and curds and dried apricots
and tea, the nicest supper I had had since Chung left us, and though
she didn't take any interest in MacTavish--she'd have liked me better
if I been a Tibetan--she didn't object when I gave him some bread and
milk with a lump of butter in it.

Then still in her masterful way she insisted on my having a sleeping
draught. I suppose her calm manner of taking things did have a soothing
effect upon me. Surely she could never have been so casual if a man's
life were at stake even if she had never seen him. Anyhow I had set in
motion the beginnings of something to help Martin Conant.

I must have been very tired when such a very small beginning comforted
me. I suppose it was the feeling that I could do no more. I dropped on
to the divan again, and with MacTavish snuggling up against me fell
into a sound sleep.

How long I slept I do not know. I only wakened when someone pulled
aside the curtain over the door, letting in the icy outside air and the
brilliant daylight, and then I started up wondering where I was. There
was Stella standing full in the light saying querulously,

"How much longer are you going to sleep?"




CHAPTER XXIII.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE SORROW OF THE WORLD


"The burden of dead faces. Out of sight
And out of love, beyond the reach of hands,
Changed in the changing of the dark and light,
They walk and weep about the barren lands
Where no seed is nor any garner stands,
Where in short breaths the doubtful days respire,
And Time's turned glass lets through the sighing sands."


I HAD slept heavily and long, and it was late. Almost before I was
awake the thought that I must make up for lost time and help Martin
Conant was uppermost in my mind.

Dr. Caroline Petersen was serenely going about her business. As I came
out of her tent I saw the tail of her gown whisking into the one next
it. She came out sternly propelling before her a dark, flat faced
Tibetan woman with turquoise and coral weighing down her greasy black
hair behind. Dr. Petersen was earnestly impressing something upon her
unwilling ears, and the woman was listening in sullen silence. To what
I did not gather, and did not care. My mind was set upon one end.

"Oh, pardon me," I said, "but last night you were good enough to say
you would send a messenger to the monastery."

She looked at me through her spectacles abstractedly.

"The monastery," she repeated vaguely. "Well, p'raps it is better than
having three husbands! And one a trial sometimes! Five months I have
wrestled with this woman, and now she tells me without turning a hair
she's got three husbands!"

"You remember," I went on patiently, "it was most important. Martin
Conant--hurt perhaps----"

I had to be spasmodic for I wanted to get it all in and impress it upon
her. But it was like trying to stop a hole with quicksilver. She had
one idea--the Tibetans. Nothing else mattered.

Still she was hospitable.

"Didn't Anna give you some breakfast? Here, Anna! Anna!" something
unintelligible, and Dr. Petersen was gone into another tent and Anna
had placed before me tsamba, and tea, and cream. Delicious, if my mind
had been at ease.

Dr. Petersen came back again carrying a fat and dirty child in her
arms, with the mother hovering over him anxiously.

I tried her again.

"If you sent to that monastery," I began.

"Oh, do be quiet," said Stella, "Mr. Conant will be all right."

"I'm determined that this child at least shall have a fair start,"
said Dr. Petersen, and she flicked a look at me for a moment as if she
expected sympathy. "Brought up in darkness and the shadow of death, to
say nothing of no proper ewer or wash bowl--um--um--right away down to
his little shirt and pants."

"Oh, but I must go to that monastery," I cried desperately. "I must see
your Mr. Ling."

"He isn't my Mr. Ling, thanks be," said she. "I don't hold with these
marriages. Still, of course, the Scriptures----"

"Did Abbas go to the monastery?"

Stella was smiling.

"Abbas," repeated Dr. Petersen, "of course if I told him--Why, what's
this?"

What on earth it was I don't know. I didn't want to know. An idea had
suddenly struck me. There was the monastery, its red and gold curved
roofs peeping out of the snow. In the clear air it looked quite close,
surely not three miles away!

I pointed to it.

"I'm going there," I said to Stella. Dr. Petersen was off again. It was
no good expecting help from her.

"Don't be a fool," said Stella.

But there was nothing else to be done and there and then MacTavish
and I started off. It was a good omen to see him dancing about in the
bright sunshine, happy and almost well.

It was hard going over the snow, and it took me a long while because my
ankle was still painful and weak.

At last I drew near enough to see the open-air staircases built up
on archways, and the gateway, a great square arch, opening on to
a courtyard filled with snow. The heavy iron-studded gates were
wide open, but there was not a sign of a living being, only on the
stillness, growing, growing, as I came nearer, was a sound monotonous,
and yet strangely weirdly tuneful, like a great volume of voices rising
and falling--in long cadences. I listened, and suddenly there was a
great blare of trumpets that cut the air, harsh, resonant. It came
again and died down, and as I stood in the gateway in dead silence I
could hear the snow slip, slipping softly from where it had lodged on
the roofs, and the sound of MacTavish's little restless feet as he
pattered over the white ground.

There were pine trees in the courtyard, and a little snow still
lingered in their branches, gleaming white against the dark
pine-needles, there was snow on the pavement, and piled up against
great China jars, in which were tall plants bound into neat pyramids
with straw, snow-covered now. Facing the gateway with the sun streaming
right upon it was a seated statue of the Buddha, and on his shoulders
and in his lap, in the turned-over leaves of the bronze lotus flower
in which he sat, and as a crown on his head, was the soft white snow,
while in a long line on either side of him were a row of prayer wheels,
but they were still and silent, and in that courtyard was no living
human being. Only on the air was a low murmur.

I picked up MacTavish and stood still in the gateway and looked at the
face of the Buddha. It was so calm, so far away, far above all the wear
and tear of this earth. It spoke of a high order of civilization. The
men who took pride and pleasure in looking upon it could not be rough
and rude savages. They might be cold and impassive like the far-away
dreaming face or like the deserted hills around. My nerves steadied.
The scent of incense stole upon the air and the murmur of unseen voices
rose and rose till it was loud and ringing, and again there was the red
blare of the trumpets.

It was awe-inspiring this appeal to the Father of all. I felt small,
impotent, yet burning in me was fear for the man I loved.

I was desperate. I made a step forward, only to be again arrested, for
standing in the shadow by one of the prayer wheels, having apparently
come up softly from behind them, was a tall Chinaman bundled up in
the richest furs. My heart gave a bound: here was someone who could
understand me. But it sank again for this man was evil-looking. He had
the white puffy fat look of a man who leads a sedentary indoor life,
who lives on rich greasy foods such as a Chinaman loves. But it was not
that that repelled me. It was something sinister and evil in his face,
something secret. I felt he had been watching me long before I had seen
him.

He stepped forward and spoke to me in English, quite good English, but
pronounced with a careful precision that he could have learned in no
English or American school. He spoke pompously, and he took my breath
away by his first words.

"A pearl! A lotus flower!"

To add to the weirdness of the situation out blared those trumpets
again, accompanied by another sound, deeper, louder, a sound made by
the blowing of conch shells.

For a moment I stood speechless, and then like a flash it came to me in
dismay--I had found the man I was seeking. This was Mr. Ling. And he
was my only hope!

"Are you Mr. Ling?" I asked in a half whisper.

Our voices were pitched in quite a different key from the chanting, and
I could hear, and he heard quite plainly.

The big Chinaman put up a hand, clothed in a sealskin glove with a
knitted red mitten over it, and made as if he would raise his cap, but
it was tied under his chin, so he touched it and fell back into the
Chinese fashion of shaking his own hands.

"This unworthy person is Mr. Ling, madam, Arthur Ling, Ling Cheong, at
your service."

He stepped forward and pointed to the gateway, and slowly I fell back
towards it.

"I want help," I found myself saying, "I must have help for an
Englishman."

Still he pointed to the gateway and I went back.

"They pray for the illustrious souls of the mighty dead," he said in
his fat solemn voice, "the souls of the million dead."

Back, back I went, beyond the snow-laden pine trees, by the great china
vases that stood at either side of the gate, outside into the snow
where the sunshine seemed more brilliant in the wide space under the
great empty sky.

"The souls of the dead," I repeated.

"A thousand times ten thousand," he said, sweeping his hand round, "and
the abbot and the monks pray for their souls."

"Where?"

"Over in barbarian Europe, where they fight," and I stood dumb before
him. These people I had disdained were praying for the souls of the men
dying in the great European war, men unknown to them, bound to them
only by the ties of a common humanity. Overhead the sun blazed in the
cloudless heavens, the glare from the white snow almost blinded me,
and from the monastery rose and fell the deep chanting of hundreds of
voices--praying----and the scent of the incense enwrapped me. Here, in
Tibet, they were praying for the souls of the dead and dying in Europe.
And as the trumpets blared again I could only bow my head and add my
silent, wordless inarticulate prayer to the volume of sound that was
going up to the Almighty. Here, on this frozen lake, in the heart of
Asia I realized the world tragedy.

I came back to my trouble with a start. The evil-looking Chinaman was
pointing towards Dr. Petersen's tents, little black blotches in a world
of whiteness.

"If this insignificant one may suggest the lotus flower has been
afflicted with the loss of her most precious guardian."

I wished he would use a little simpler language, but when I tried to
explain he waved my words aside as if they were of no account.

"It would indeed be a difficult and hazardous conjecture to make,"
he said, stretching out his hands and patting the air patronizingly,
"but the Heaven-sent messenger this morning brought news of the
unprepossessing circumstances and the glad tidings of the arrival of
two pearls and a donkey."

Poor old Persimmon!

"An intelligent and discriminating individual," he went on, "will
perceive the utmost need for much reward in cash," and he looked at me
shrewdly out of his slit eyes.

But however absurd his language he was my only hope.

And there and then I made the best arrangements I could. He said in
very flowery language that he could find out what had become of Mr.
Conant because he had many dealings with the Tibetans, and they trusted
him. It was more than I did, but I promised to pay double what he asked
if he brought Martin Conant back alive.

Then there was nothing for me to do but to go back across the snow the
way I had come.




CHAPTER XXIV.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY

LONG DRAWN OUT


"When I looked for good then evil came upon me; and when I waited for
light, there came darkness...... I went mourning without the sun......I
am a brother to dragons and a companion to owls. My harp also is turned
to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep."


THE finishing touch was always being put to my missionary career. Not
that the Tibetans don't want some sort of reforming. But that I or
twenty thousand men like me could ever influence them in the smallest
degree I very much doubt. The visit to those tents swept away the last
remnant of my faith in my own powers.

There were only two tents and I felt I ought to be able to manage their
occupants. I put a bold face upon it for these people despise the
humble and meek, and I advanced swinging the big stick I carried as a
protection against the innumerable dogs that hang round these camps.

But they came on baying and growling menacingly, and their vociferous
remarks fetched out three unsavoury-looking ruffians clad in sheepskin.
Their appearance was not inviting, but they made no effort to use the
old-fashioned matchlocks which were slung across their shoulders.
The dogs came at me with open mouths and slavering jaws, and I laid
about me with my heavy stick. I called out in Chinese too, but I don't
think they understood. My actions probably spoke for themselves. The
dogs, four fierce beasts, kept out of range, and the men advanced with
broad smiles on their dirty countenances. So far so well I thought,
especially as the tallest produced a whip and proceeded to lay about
him with a will. I made a step forward, and then--there was a blank.
I never saw the man who shot me, never even heard the sound of the
shot. It came upon me suddenly as if for a brief space I had been
annihilated, and when I came back to this world again, dazed and sick,
and feeling curiously angry and indignant I found myself lying on the
snow surrounded by three men backed by four growling dogs.

For the moment I thought I was not hurt, then I felt that half my face
was blown away, and a sickening pain in my side made me, in spite
of myself, sink back upon the snow. The men standing over me were
apparently quarrelling, and the dogs crept a little closer to inspect
me. I wondered if I were going to die. It was pretty disgusting going
out like that with my life all in ragged ends, and I thought with a
pang of those women I had left on the hillside. One of the men bent
over me, weights were holding down my arms, there was no power in
my hands. I was looking up into a flat-faced Mongolian countenance
burnt nearly black by the sun on the snow, and before I had a chance
to try my halting Chinese again the pig eyes and matted black locks
were swaying up and down, mixing themselves up with the blue skies and
the white hillsides, and again I forgot my troubles in the depths of
unconsciousness.

I must have been insensible for some time, for when I came to I found
I had been flung across a horse that was stumbling along. The glare of
the sun on the snow hurt my eyes, hurt my head, the pain in my face
and in my side was excruciating, but the thought of the women I could
not help hurt me most. We went on and on. Sometimes I was unconscious,
but mostly I was acutely, painfully clear-headed, piecing together the
consequences of my action, and the probable fate of those women.

After what seemed hours I was lifted inside a stuffy tent that smelt
to high heaven, and some clumsy person was going through my clothes.
Evidently I was an object of great interest, for about half a dozen
other people, men, women, and children were punctuating the performance
with shrill cries that might be admiration or astonishment.

I could not make myself understood. They laughed and mocked at my
efforts, and I lay there on the filthy vermin-infested ground through
interminable nights; and long, long hopeless days, haunted like an
intolerable nightmare by the thought of those helpless women. Sometimes
I wondered why I did not seize one of those long knives that were
raised at me threateningly, when occasionally I made shift to crawl
outside, or one of the matchlocks, and put an end to it all.

A thousand times in those dreary tortured days and nights I longed for
death to put an end to my thoughts, to ease the maddening throbbing of
my face, which extended now to my whole body. I felt I was fetid and
horrible, and always I craved for something to drink.

Sometimes my hosts gave me a sort of barley water, but often I gathered
lumps of snow outside and crammed it in my mouth to take away the
burning fever, and the pain that was in my whole body.

After ages and aeons of suffering I came back to find a Chinaman, a
clean-looking fat Chinaman, looking down at me, and I summoned with an
effort my Chinese to ask him to help me.

But I thought I was still in a dream, when he bent over me and said in
English--

"O, most illustrious, this mean one has followed in your footsteps
to beg permission to relieve you in your necessitous and ill-starred
situation, and we together, armed with a just cause, shall quit the
abode of----"

I don't remember any more. The torment of the nightmare descended upon
me again, and I seemed to be going, going, going, always in intolerable
pain, feeling I must rescue those women, till suddenly I felt cool
clean water on my face, and opening my eyes I saw bending over me,
Rosalie Grahame--Rosalie Grahame in the flesh, and well, Rosalie
Grahame, who had perished a thousand times in my thoughts on the
hillside.

I pushed her hands down with my own, and she smiled.

"It's all right. You're safe at last."

I strove to understand, to regain my full senses, and then I heard
another voice, a voice I also knew well, a little petulant, a little
querulous.

"My goodness gracious me," it said, "well, I'm glad you think he's all
right. He's horrible. If he dies it will be just----"

But the voice stopped suddenly, and I tried to think to whom it
belonged. And then I went away into peaceful forgetfulness.




CHAPTER XXV.--STELLA CHAPMAN'S STORY

THE LAST OF KOKO NOR


"If women could be fair......
But when I see how frail these are,
I muse that men forget themselves so far."


BEASTLY, there's no other word for it. How on earth I ever endured to
tell the tale I don't know. My sufferings--but nobody ever seems to
think of my sufferings. Rosalie is for ever prating about the clear
air and the healthfulness of the bitter cold, and the wonderful effect
it has in healing her patient. Thinks Tibet'll be a health resort some
day! Ugh! All because of Martin Conant. She mends his broken face and
damaged lungs--thinks of nothing but him. And he thinks of nothing but
the fact that he is in love with her, and isn't fit to have her now. He
doesn't like her seeing his helplessness, and his--well that wound on
his face--festering and horrible--ugh----

So he turns to me, no thought as to whether I should like to play
second fiddle. Pleasantly exciting for me, isn't it? They are a silly
couple.

I don't mention Dr. Petersen or her husband because they simply aren't
worth mentioning. People who are foolish enough to condemn themselves
to life among the Tibetans had better be allowed to enjoy themselves in
their own way. Far be it from me to interfere.

But everything is so dull that a boredom beyond words is added to other
miseries.

The man who really counts in the situation is the Eurasian, Ling
Cheong. And whenever--I mean, of course, when one's desperate,
desperate measures are not only to be excused but are an absolute
necessity. Where would the rest of them be, I should like to know, if
I hadn't had my head screwed on the right way? You've got to look a
little ahead.

First Ling said he thought he could get us a servant--my suggestion--he
knew a Chinese who had been left behind by some missionaries fleeing
from Pai Lang, and the next time he came up he brought us of all
people in the world, Chung--Chung, prancing along as usual, tossing
his pigtail from one shoulder to the other, beaming in his hateful
self-sufficient manner, but still Chung, an excellent servant. Left
behind indeed! I should have thought the boot was on the other foot.
However, there he was, and I was exceedingly glad to see him, though of
course I didn't say so. It never does to admit you are dependent for
comfort upon a Chinese servant. Martin Conant did. I think he found
it pretty humiliating to be helpless in the hands of those two women
doctors. You couldn't count Dr. Petersen's husband. He was never with
us for more than two days together. No wonder Martin Conant was glad to
have a servant of his own again.

He isn't my servant. He always makes that clear. I can't think why.
I suppose because he thinks I have not as much money as the others.
Chinese are so mercenary.

It is a cruel situation for a pretty young woman. I want so little.
Given the proper surroundings, I can make a wonderful show on almost
nothing at all. But, of course, I must have something to go upon.
Naturally my thoughts turned to Ling, and I had the forethought to
cultivate him.

Luckily he is easily flattered. Men who think a woman an inferior being
always are. You can't move a man like Martin Conant, who persists in
putting woman with a capital "W" on a pedestal, but give me a man who
thinks a woman was made for his particular pleasure when I want to get
something out of him. I hadn't seen Ling three times before he had
brought me as a present the sweetest set of pale blue silk garments,
Chinese, of course, but of the richest silk of the most delicate shade,
and simply divinely embroidered. It was ages since I'd seen anything
so pretty, and I could quite sincerely be sweet to Ling even though
Rosalie has a way of looking down her nose when she finds me talking to
him. But I wonder where she and her lover would be if I didn't arrange
things--tell me that?

I put it to him wasn't it possible to get down to China?

It seems it is quite possible. White Wolf is still on the prowl, but
Ling said he thought he could probably hire some of his braves to guard
us--it was only a question of money.

What I want, what we all want for that matter is to get away, and I
soon saw I must stick at nothing if I am to succeed. And Rosalie was
determined Mr. Conant should not be moved too soon.

It was the end of February before Chung joined us. And at the end of
April we still lingered in that hateful hole. I had it all settled up
in my own mind and was just debating how I should spring things on the
rest of them when Chung took the matter in hand. He doesn't like Tibet
any more than I do. Of course he is horribly selfish, but sometimes
selfishness is useful.

One day we were all sitting out in the sunshine, Rosalie nursing
that beast for which she had been ready to risk all our lives, and
Mr. Conant shading his scarred face with his hand. He will never be
handsome any more, but Rosalie has done wonders, I will say that for
her. That disgusting festering sore that made me sick when I caught a
glimpse of it once, is now reduced to a deep red scar, ugly to look
at but perfectly clean and with nothing nasty about it. I suppose he
thinks it worse than it really is, because he often covers it with his
hand.

Well, we were all sitting there in the sunshine, our party I mean--you
never knew where the Petersens were--and I was thinking how boring it
all was. Rosalie and Martin Conant were talking some drivelling bosh
about the lovely view instead of considering how we were to get away.
If they'd even gone in for courting I could have forgiven them, but
to moon their time away talking about the skies and the lake and the
flowers--Goodness! It was lucky for them they had me along with them!

"Spring," said Martin Conant, touching the flowers she had brought him
almost as if he loved them. He always was a bit of a fool, "and I can
hardly crawl from my bed to my chair."

Then she comforted him. That's the sort of drivel they called
conversation. I was thankful to see Ling arriving, if it was only to
put a stop to this aggravating twaddle, and while Ling was giving
himself up to prolonged greetings, Chung appeared on the scene.

Chung always went straight to the point.

"Missie go China," said he, "my go China, small dog go China?"

Mr. Ling nodded solemnly. He wore European clothes, his hands were
tucked in the narrow sleeves of his Norfolk jacket Chinese-fashion, and
I saw he missed his petticoats.

"Go to China!" said Mr. Conant as if the thought came as an immense
surprise to him. How truly foolish some men are!

Then Mr. Ling spoke in his picturesque, Oriental way.

"If it is the wish of this illustriously endowed gathering," said
he, "to move towards the Flowery Kingdom, this mean worm can
conscientiously assure them of his far-reaching protection."

Mr. Conant rose up as if someone had hit him.

"If we could get to China I could get to Europe. And the war? What
about the war?"

But nobody took any notice of him. Apparently Mr. Ling didn't know
anything about the war, besides the great thing was to get away from
Koko Nor. I felt mad with joy at the thought that there might be a
hope, and Rosalie hugged the wretched little beast on her knee.

"Oh MacTavish!" she said, "MacTavish!"

Chung gave a little satisfied prance.

"My can makee nice," said he, "in Chinatown."

So we settled it there and then. Ling didn't say anything about the
guard of robbers, and, of course, I held my tongue. It is well not to
be too wise, and in three days we were saying good-bye to Dr. Petersen.




CHAPTER XXVI.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE EURASIAN


"A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick
darkness as the morning spread upon the mountains........A fire
devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth, the land is as
the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness."


DR. PETERSEN'S husband, the Lemuel she mentioned occasionally, turned
out to be a nice gentle kindly man with haunted eyes. He was not a
missionary, but a physician, and a clever one. He helped me a great
deal with Martin Conant's face at first, but he never stayed long
at the tents. He said he was interested in the people, and he used
to go wandering off, and only appeared at irregular intervals. I am
sure he helped wherever he was, but I doubt very much whether he was
engaged in roping in souls as his wife fondly imagined. It was Ling
who came more into our lives. We could never have got Martin Conant
away from those tents if it had not been for his help, and yet--he
fills me with dread. I like no half-castes, but Ling Cheong is a
loathsome beast. I might have liked his father, who was probably a
fat and pursy Chinaman, and pitied his mother, who belonged to one
of those curious little one-horse American sects who often feel it
their bounden duty to seal their sacrifice by marrying one of the
people they have come to convert. And the result was Ling, the very
personification of evil, some cruel, secret, unmentionable evil of the
East. He too was fat and pursy and middle-aged, and when first we met
him, or perhaps I should say he met us, he was dressed as a Chinaman,
which was at least suitable. Then one day he appeared in European
clothes, a Norfolk jacket, out of which he was bursting, his chest had
slipped considerably, and the little skirts of the jacket stood out
horizontally in front; below, instead of his dignified skirts, he wore
a pair of very tight and very short black evening trousers; round his
neck, instead of a collar, was a woman's knitted scarf, but on his feet
were still the comfortable Chinese shoes and white socks, and on his
head the little round black satin cap with a red button on top that so
many Chinamen wear. An oiled paper umbrella completed his turn-out,
and instead of looking a figure of fun he contrived to look sinister.
And he is powerful. He is rich, that is evident, and he is willing to
lend us money till we can get back to Peking, so we can do nothing but
suffer him.

We were wild to get away, and yet we might have been in a worse place.
Above us stretched the beautiful blue sky with an infinity of depth
in it, sometimes cloudless, and sometimes with great clouds piled up
on which the sun shone, turning them into snowy mountains with blue
crevasses and hollows that caught and held the golden sunshine. And
the frost gone, the lake below was indeed a great sea, the Blue Lake,
a wonderful blue lake stretching away to a shore that was beyond the
farthest horizon. On it, crowned with the broken roofs of temples, were
three white islands sparkling and bright, like the clouds that floated
overhead. On them we knew were shut away for the summer the Buddhist
monks who dwelt in the monasteries there, and whose stern faith did not
allow of even a small boat that would connect them with each other and
with the mainland. Dr. Petersen used to weep over those monks, but if
I had done so it would have been for a different reason. They had what
they wanted, of that I was sure, but they stood to me for the mystery
of the East. They seemed to hold in their hands the threads of the
skein that held us entangled in its meshes. I feared the monks. It was
for myself I could have wept.

And now the grass was springing in every sheltered corner, and in all
the little nooks of the hills around the May flowers were coming out
shyly. MacTavish and I had gathered sweetly scented violets growing on
a bank where a little stream went brawling over the stones as if it
were rejoicing to be free of the ice and hastening to join the great
lake.

But the flowers and the lake and the wide view were my only solace. We
seemed to be caught in a coil and must drift with the stream under the
guidance of this half-caste who fills me with a fear I cannot throw
off, and yet that must be disguised under an outward semblance of
friendliness. Stella does not seem to feel it. She displays for this
Chinaman, got up in a travesty of European clothes, all the seductive
ways that she had once used towards Martin Conant, and he looks at
her, it seemed to me, as a snake might look at a playful rabbit that
presently he intends to swallow whole. And the worst of it is I daren't
even hint at my fear to Martin Conant. He is still so frail that I
desire above all things to keep his mind from worry.

Li Hsien, the little Chinese town, where Ling has a house, was three
days' march away, and on that march down I realized that my instinctive
fear of Ling had reason in it. They had three litters, Stella, Ling,
and Mr. Conant, to his disgust, but I chose to ride poor old Persimmon
and carry MacTavish, even though by so doing I lowered myself in
the estimation of Ling and his following. He had a wonderful large
following, a ragged array of men, some on foot, some on donkeys and
mules, and all armed after a fashion, looking very much like the filthy
mob that had attacked and wrecked the mission station. They made
me shudder, and Chung when he passed me the first evening after we
left the Tibetan highland looked at me for a minute with a wink, and
remarked sotto voce,

"Lobbers! Missie mus' stayin' close to litters."

Adrift in the heart of China with a band of Chinese robbers! Ling had
gone back into Chinese dress, rich Chinese dress, and it was very
evident that he was a power and we were entirely at his mercy. It
seemed to me there was significance in his fat sleek smile as he looked
at us that evening out of the corners of his long slit eyes.

The next day we came to the country that had been ravaged by Pai Lang's
braves; we passed several farm-houses, poor little mud cabins along the
wayside, whose thatch roofs had been burned. In the doorway of one a
tiny child lay dressed in a little soiled green coat and pink drawers,
evidently the precious son of some family, and when I dismounted and
turned him over I saw that he was dead and the wonks had gnawed his
face! The poor little helpless thing! And as I turned away I saw Mr.
Ling looking at me, and smiling secretly.

And next day it was worse. We passed many burnt farm-houses, and the
wonks were busy with the dead who lay among the ruins, and as we went
on we came upon the trail of the brigands in all its desolation and
horror. We passed no less than three walled towns, the walls of which
were an empty mockery, for inside the houses had been burnt and sacked,
only here and there had one escaped, and thin and gaunt shadows stole
out, but directly they caught sight of us they scuttled away in abject
terror. I longed to feed them, but I could only help through Ling, and
he merely smiled as if these people were so many ants to be crushed
without a thought. It was horrible. Stella sank back in her litter and
covered her face, I looked round for Mr. Conant, but I could only see
his litter stopped far behind. I guessed what had happened, he was
helping some unfortunates there. It encouraged me and I got a handful
of small coins from Chung and flung them out to the starving wretches.
And then an awful thing happened. A miserable woman with bound feet
gathered up about twenty cash in her claw-like hands and began hobbling
towards a tumbledown hovel. One of our ragged following went after
her, and though I called out in my best Chinese that the money was for
the woman, he paid no attention, but caught her by the shoulders. She
held on to the money and shrieked and screamed, and the brute drew his
knife, and before I could stop him he had cut off her hand and she had
dropped forward on the ground, the brass cash, about a cent's worth,
all dabbed with blood, scattering around her. I stood too horrified for
words, and then came Ling's voice, calm, smooth, odiously courteous.

He had been ahead as the most important person in the party, but he had
come back.

"The condition of affairs is indeed offensively unbearable for the
illustrious pearl," said he.

"If that brute's your servant," I cried, "he deserves hanging." I
would have jumped from old Persimmon, but Chung pressed MacTavish back
against me.

"Missie go chop-chop," he said, and his desperate earnestness made
me hesitate just a moment. But it was fatal. Ling made some little
careless motion, and before my very eyes the ruffian stuck the woman in
the throat. She looked at me with reproachful dying eyes.

"Chop-chop," cried Chung. And still I hesitated. I saw another woman's
face starved and worn peering round the ruins.

"Mr. Ling! Call that brute off! We must help them!"

He stretched out his hands.

"If the pearl will condescend to bestow the light of her presence upon
the immeasurably inferior----"

I interrupted again.

"We must help," I said in a shaking voice.

He moved his hands backwards and forwards smoothing the air. It gave
me a feeling of absolute helplessness. I looked round. Mr. Conant's
litter was still far in the distance--besides what could he do? We were
entirely in this man's power. Chung struck Persimmon on the flank, and
I made no further protest and rode on, though that woman's dying eyes
haunted me.

Now that the spring was upon us, with its warmth at midday, the smell
of death and decay that hung over these towns poisoned every mouthful
we ate and made me turn from even a drink with disgust and horror.

Mr. Conant's indignant protests--and there was much to protest at
during the next day or two--were met with the same inscrutable smile,
the same impassive demeanour. There was no doubt this man on whom we
were dependent countenanced these frightful things. To say we were
thankful when on the fourth day we arrived at a farm-house outside Li
Hsien is to put it mildly. Ling ushered us into the courtyard, and
standing there with his hands in his sleeves, bowing solemnly, said,

"If the exalted ones will condescend to direct their venerable
footsteps into this uninviting and degraded hovel, this mean worm will
have his senses gladdened by their distinguished confidence and they
will overwhelm him with gratified confusion."

Ling's extraordinary inflated language ought to have made us laugh. It
didn't. It was sinister. Doubly it made me fear him. To be absolutely
in the power of such a man!

"This humble person's slaves," he went on, "will outdo themselves
day and night in assuring the illustrious ones they may close their
distinguished and virtuous eyes in peace. Doubtless the exalted ones
do not need riches, but nothing could confer more pleasure upon this
humble person than an opportunity of offering his despised and sordid
wealth upon this gratifying occasion."

I looked at Ling. Both Martin Conant and I fully understood that his
despised and sordid wealth would only be at our service just so long
as he was convinced that we could pay a proper percentage. Indeed we
would have used it on no other terms. We would not have been under an
obligation to him if we could have helped ourselves.

He stood there smiling that secret smile that I had learned to dread,
and he looked at me Chinese-fashion under his eyelids. With a cold
shudder of foreboding I entered our new resting place.




CHAPTER XXVII.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE POWER OF LING


"We may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea
and sell the refuse of the wheat."


A FARM in China does not bring before the eyes the rural surroundings
of one in Europe or America. The farm in which Ling installed us was
not unlike an inn, the rooms, all of one storey, opened into a fairly
large courtyard where the sun penetrated every corner. There was
rather a high wall round, and I could well believe it had been built
for defence. In the centre of the courtyard were three large peach
trees covered with pink blossom. Outside the walls were lines of fruit
trees, peaches, plums and apricots, lovely in their pink and white
spring dress, and the land around waking from its long winter sleep
was carpeted with green, the blades of wheat just bursting through the
ground.

If it hadn't been for Mr. Ling I could have been almost happy. Martin
Conant was so much better, wanted so little of my attention, that I was
able to establish a sort of little clinic for the women and children in
a corner of the farm-yard, and hither came from all the country round,
and even from the town itself, three miles away, the halt and the
maimed and the sick for advice and treatment. Sometimes boys would come
creeping in with bad eyes and terrible sores, and even the men, and
how could I send them away? My medicines were reduced to a rudimentary
basis. My principal drug was clean boiled water.

Still it was good to think I was helping ever so little, and it took my
thoughts off Ling and our very uncertain future. Ling did not come to
see us very often. He professed himself perfectly willing to lend us
money until we could get away, and as Martin Conant and I were quite
rich according to Chinese notions, we agreed to keep Stella between us.
She thanked us both prettily, but I'm sure she thinks it is the least
we can do. It is.

It seems to me that whoever reads my story will complain it is too
full of ghastly horrors. But China after a rising is full of horrors.
Human life is of no account, and cruelty--well, perhaps you could not
expect a nation that inflicts a long drawn out torture upon its women
to consider anyone's sufferings. It flings out blind unwanted puppy
dogs to die of starvation, heedlessly torments domestic animals and
criminals, and those it fears when caught are tortured without mercy.

One day Ling came to me smiling his secret smile. It made me shiver,
but I could only smile back at him defiantly. It always made me
remember that as a last resource I could die. But he was perfectly
courteous after his own fashion.

"In the matter of detail," said he, "it may be objected that this
penurious one is inefficiently incapable of expressing himself
mellifluously. But the representation of the marvellous cures of the
healing pearl----"

"Oh, what do you want?" I asked. It always tired me to try and find the
meaning in his long-winded lucubrations.

"A devout and unassuming person," he said, "has heard of the
heaven-sent cures, and she, seeing greater endurances have not been
neglected, might be worthy of the favourable consideration of the
healing pearl."

"If you mean there's a sick woman wants to see me," I said, "why, of
course, I'll do what I can for her," and I picked up MacTavish so as to
occupy my hands and have an excuse for not looking at him. I have no
words to say how I dislike to look at Ling, or to feel his eyes upon me.

"Alas," he said, "this ill-destined one dwells at a farm ten li away,
and though without delay she would set herself to the arduous and
laborious task of crawling to the feet of the pearl among miracle
workers----"

"If she's too ill to come to me, of course I'll go to her," I said.

He smoothed the air softly with his hands outstretched after his usual
fashion.

"Since the miracle-working pearl consents," said he, "this unworthy
person will make arrangements to amiably conduct her to the abode of
the necessitous one."

Well, that was fairly to the point. The only thing I wanted to make
sure of was that he would not take me himself. At first I feared that
was his intention, but finally I gathered that the sick woman should be
told I was coming next morning, and that he would send a man to guide
me to the farm.

Then came Martin Conant. "Is it safe, do you think?"

Again Ling stretched out his hands and smoothed the air.

"The glorious miracle-worker," said he, "is in the care of this
wormlike person. If the honourable healer wrapped up in the inception
and manner of operation of this versatile scheme will deign to accept
the unalterable assurance----"

"Oh!" said Stella fervently, "we trust you entirely, Mr. Ling."

She said it. I could not have done so, but thank goodness it cut short
the interview.

It is beginning to be hot in the daytime now, but the mornings are
gorgeous. The sun rose on a clean new world. The trees are in full
leaf, and outside the farm-house, far as the eye can see, right up to
the grey crenellated wall of the little town extends a sea of green
waving corn fields, broken here and there by the lines of fruit trees
heavy with their promise for the autumn. Overhead is the clear deep
blue sky, with here and there great clouds like heaped snow mountains.
The intense dryness of the Chinese winter has gone, and in the air is
a soft languorous feeling, the scent of the tuberoses I have placed in
pots outside our windows is heavy in the air, and from every blade of
grass, from every ear of corn hung a crystal dew-drop sparkling like a
diamond in the early morning sunshine. A gorgeous morning! We had the
courtyard to ourselves, and the dainty green hoopoes with their crested
heads, all in their bridal array, danced to each other among the grass
growing up between the cobble stones. A sweet and lovely morning! I did
not feel there could be much wrong in the world on such a morning.

We always breakfast early, though Stella never fails to protest, but
now she sat in her wrapper and drew in long breaths of the scented air.

"I have a good mind to come with you," said she, "it might be good for
me."

She has a secret fear of growing fat. Very probably she will, for she
is a lazy little toad.

"Yes, do," I said. Mr. Conant wanted to come too but someone had to
remain at the clinic, and he had been a great help there latterly with
the men and boys, and I left MacTavish in his care.

Chung informed us that a guide had come. He was a ragged and forlorn
individual, whose face brightened when I promised him a mou if he
returned us safely to the compound, and having had our breakfast we set
out. Martin Conant insisted upon our taking Chung, though what good
Chung was likely to be in case of danger I failed to see.

"Anyhow," I said, as we started, Chung very lugubrious for he didn't
like walking, "he can be trusted to bring you prompt news of our
decease."

But Martin Conant shook his head. "Don't joke," he said. And he was
right. Life in China is dead serious.

However it was a most enjoyable walk in the freshness of the early
morning, and if Stella grumbled at the roughness of the road it was
only to be expected. Our destination was one of the better sort of
farm-houses, but the living-room was filthily dirty, and in the next
room, which had had no fresh air since the summer before, an old
woman lay huddled in furs coughing her life out in the last stages of
phthisis. The case was hopeless. She might last a week, she would quite
likely die before the sun went down. I should like to have torn down
the paper windows and let in the fresh air in the interests of others,
or have made a beginning with a pail of warm water and a cake of soap,
but this was a very important old lady, and I had to walk warily. I
made my adieux with the grave formality which the better class Chinese
expect, and went outside again to draw deep breaths of the fresh air.

Stella was standing in the courtyard in the sunshine, and our guide was
sitting on the ground in front of her, while Chung was leaning against
the wall.

"O--o--oh!" said Stella, "I thought you were never coming."

"I haven't been long."

"But listen to that."

There was a strange sound like a long-drawn moan in the air, and then
laughter, coarse, brutal laughter. I remembered I had been conscious of
it when we arrived, but my mind had hardly taken it in, I was too full
of my unseen patient. It was a curiously disquieting sound.

"Let's go back quickly," said Stella.

"Chop-chop," said Chung with a whisk of his pigtail and a prance.
"Missie not knowing, bes' not knowing," he asseverated earnestly. Chung
always endeavoured to live up to his duties. But once my attention had
been called to that sound it had to be investigated, though Chung,
I have no doubt, is right, and there are many things in China best
unsifted. The laughter and chatter almost drowned the moaning. It came
from behind a large building the other side of the farm. I made for the
entrance to the courtyard with Stella clinging to my arm and Chung and
our guide close behind.

But when outside, instead of turning to the right, I went in the
direction of the sound under some lime trees in full flower, and a
chorus of wails in different keys came from my three companions.

"You can go back, Stella," I said, but she clung to my arm a heavy
weight.

I paid no attention to the other remonstrances and went on round the
farm-yard wall, dragging her with me. The others followed. There was a
graveyard, the air was heavy with the delicious scent of lime blossoms,
and on all the little pointed mounds the fresh green grass was growing.
A young man with a bird in a cage sat there peacefully contemplating
the little singer. He looked up at us with lazy indifferent eyes.
Beyond the bare ground was dabbled with some whitish substance, and
there was a crowd of dirty, unkempt people all looking one way. For a
moment they did not see us, then someone pointed us out and they turned
curious eyes upon us. And those eyes were not indifferent. They were
stormy, cruel--I flinched before them. There was a silence as they
turned towards us, and the moaning rose again on the air. A pitiful
hopeless moaning.

I had to see what it was. I might be able to help.

"Stay there," I said to Stella, and before I could think I had made a
step forward into that horrible crowd. They parted before me, and then
I saw--I saw that at which they had all been looking--jeering. It was
all that was left of a man, buried naked to his middle in a lime pit,
the earth stamped down well round him. His nose had been cut off and
the hollows where his eyes had been were filled with white lime. His
mouth was open and from it came the piteous heart-broken moan that kept
ringing in our ears and exciting the merriment of the cruel Chinese
labourers.

The utter horror of it turned me to stone. It was a relief to feel
Stella's clutching hands on my shoulders, and hear shriek after shriek
rending the air. As I stood still, stupefied, the crowd again parted,
dwindled away, and I saw Ling standing serenely looking at the awful
sight.

"Help him!" I cried, "for God's sake!"

And he looked at me and smiled.

"It is much to be regretted," said he, "that the sight of this
narrow-minded and incompetent insect should offend the eyes of the
God-given pearl," and he calmly walked up to the unfortunate and drew
a pistol. He looked at-me, salaamed, put his pistol against the man's
temple and shot, and the man fell forward. The Eurasian bent over him
and turned to me again.

"It is with a hopeless sense of illness of ease," said he, "that this
unworthy one definitely understands that the eyes of the heaven-sent
pearls have been affronted with this degraded and unpresentable object."

And then I remembered that he had sent me here for his own purposes.
Suddenly something else caught my eye and I felt myself suffocating.
The hair on that head that lay there on the ground all dabbled in blood
was brown and curly--no eastern man has curly hair. The earth began to
go up and down, and far away I heard Chung's voice,

"Missie coming back chop-chop."

"The misguided one," went on Ling's urbane voice, "may thank the
miracle-working pearl for a symmetrical and luxurious death. He
placed insuperable obstacles in the way of munificent guiding by
this poor worm. He was leagued with evil forces, and the illustrious
and energetic workers of the district are ever suspicious of those
who doubt the spirit of their ancestors. Will the gracious pearls be
pleased to make use of the litter of this unworthy person?"

Stella, still shaking with sobs, accepted eagerly, but I could only
stammer dully that I was going back with Chung.

Of how I did get back I haven't the slightest recollection.




CHAPTER XXVIII.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY.

UN MARIAGE DE CONVENANCE


"I had no hope but of some evil thing.. .. ..
She walked between the blossom and the grass.
I knew the beauty of her, what she was,
The beauty of her body and her sin."


STELLA announced it to us at breakfast. Breakfast at seven o'clock on
a June morning in the shade of the peach trees, when the sunshine was
golden and just warm enough to perfume the air with the scent of the
tuberoses and the single peonies, was a delightful meal, and Stella
in a delicate blue Chinese wrapper was very pretty. Rosalie wore a
grey silk Chinese coat and skirt, which she said was suitable to her
profession. She looked very well in it, but this morning she was pale
from the shock of yesterday. We had thought of nothing else since.

Ling had professed entire ignorance of the man to whom he had put an
end in contemptuous pity. He had declared his intention of informing
the prefect, and there the matter ended. But Chung had informed us he
was a Scandinavian wandering preacher, who moved by religious fervour
had thought to convert the Chinese and had wandered up country. He had
succeeded in stirring the people, already harried by robber bands, to
frenzy, and Rosalie had seen the result. There was no doubt Ling could
have protected him if he had liked, for Ling is all-powerful. How
powerful Stella showed us.

"I am going to marry Mr. Ling," she said in a small voice, crumbling
her scone beside her plate.

"Stella!" cried Rosalie in disgusted horror, and I heard myself saying
in much the same tones,

"Mrs. Chapman!"

"I know poor Silas hasn't been dead a year," she said, and Rosalie
interrupted her angrily.

"A man like that! A Chinaman! A brute! A devil!"

"It's the only way to get back to England," said Stella virtuously. "Do
you think I want to stay here for the remainder of my natural life? You
can't get away," and she looked at me in a way that was intended to
make me feel humble and meek.

I had nothing to offer. That was certain.

"Can't you see that we shall all be killed just like that man yesterday
unless we make sure of Ling? He's our only hope," went on Mrs. Chapman,
"and I can't stand it any longer. I'm desperate. Ling has promised to
take me to America, and I'm going to marry him. Besides it's all very
well for you people, you've got money. I haven't. Ling is rich," and
her voice changed. Now that she had got the unpleasant announcement
over she was prepared to show us the bright side.

For a moment there was silence, and then Rosalie's voice in its
coldest, most cutting tones remarked,

"His wealth won't do you any good."

Then indeed a smile of pleasure lighted up the other woman's face, and
her blue eyes danced. She put her hand inside her wrapper.

"There you are wrong," said she. She drew out a long string of pearls
and flung them on the breakfast table, "They're worth a king's ransom.
Whatever happens I shall be rich. He gave them to me yesterday as soon
as I said I'd marry him. They're my very own."

"I should feel they were soaked in that poor missionary's blood," said
Rosalie severely.

"You're unkind, you're always cruel to me," sobbed the other, pushing
away her chair and making for her own room, but she did not neglect
to take the string of pearls with her. MacTavish gave a little bark
and raced round and round at full speed as if he were rejoiced at
the prospect of getting rid of someone he had always distrusted, and
Rosalie looked at me.

"She can't possibly do such an awful thing," but that was only an
expression of her own feelings. We both knew that Stella had every
intention of doing it. She had been thoroughly scared. It seemed to her
the only way out, and the money was an extra inducement.

Before we had finished drinking our last cup of tea came two men with a
couple of donkeys bearing presents for the expectant bride, consisting
principally of rich silks and magnificent embroideries enclosed in
perfumed boxes, carved and inlaid with mother of pearl and ivory. The
Eurasian in eastern fashion was doing honour to the woman he desired.
She was being bought and not cheaply.

"But he has wives already--I know he has," said Rosalie in disgust,
"and she knows it."

But evidently she did not think that Chinese wives counted.

Rosalie stamped her foot. "It's too horrible and disgusting for words,"
said she. "I'd rather--I'd rather----"

But no amount of discussion could alter the fact that Stella intended
to marry this man.

In due course Chung was announcing Ling Cheong. I received him
graciously, for we were certainly in his power, and sat him down in a
high chair under the shade of the peach trees, and motioned to Chung to
place a stool for his feet. He sat there solemnly. His dark blue silk
skirts hung down in straight folds, showing the tips of his round-toed,
thick-soled Chinese shoes, his long sleeves close together hid his
folded hands, and his pawky face, solemn under his little round Chinese
cap, had in it all the mystery, all the secret, undiscovered sin of the
East. From the little round red button in the middle of his cap to the
black satin bands that held in his white stockinged ankles, and the
thick paper soles of his shoes, he exhaled that intangible something
which separates by so great a gulf the East from the West.

He had come to ask for Stella Chapman in marriage, or rather to
announce his intention of taking her. Since the lady was willing,
anxious, how could we interfere?

I said emphatically that Mrs. Chapman's future must be safeguarded, and
he spread out his hands and smoothed the air and said,

"The occasion is one which undoubtedly calls for gravity in an
exaggerated degree," I cannot describe his smugness, "but this humble
person is an unworthy member of an enlightened people who outdo
themselves in endeavouring to keep the exceptional cares of huddled
life from the gazelle-like shoulders of the lotus flowers who trust
them. The sorrows of existence shall be but as the finest grains of Foo
Choo sand to the rocks of the mountains to the dovelike one."

He meant to say that the Chinese care for their women.

They do! As we care for our cattle or our dogs! Some pet and spoil
them! Some neglect them, some just keep on the right side of public
opinion. But for the woman as for the dog there is no redress.

In my missionary career I had learned something of the way in which
the Chinese care for their women! Mr. Wright used to say that Chinese
family life was enough to bring on nervous prostration in a brazen
statue. But what was the good of talking? Stella knows as well as I do
what she is letting herself in for.

I wanted to throttle him, but that would have been madness. We can only
let things take their course.

Evidently the compound had been aware of what was coming, for presently
I saw Chung peering out of his kitchen with a distinct question written
on his expressive countenance. I made a sign and a small table covered
with a blue cotton cloth was brought and a little feast was spread.
There was tea, the very best that Li Hsien could produce, there were
cakes made with sugar and lard, and sesame seeds and almonds, and there
was ginger and dried fruits of all sorts. It was a very solemn feast,
Chung in his best gown, with his head newly shaven, his pigtail down
his back waiting upon us. And every now and then in the intervals of
serving us he found time to take out the little yellow fan tucked in
the front of his silk coat and flutter it delicately, his hand well
held above his head.

Rosalie took nothing. She told me afterwards that Ling seemed to her
like a great loathsome, spider slowly spinning his toils around us.

Only when the feast was drawing towards its end did Ling speak the
words which clinched the bargain. Of course we had known they were
coming.

"On the auspicious and well-chosen day at the new moon at the rising of
the sun this humble person will swiftly and eagerly despatch his broken
and inefficient litter for the moonfaced and accomplished lotus flower
who stoops to bestow upon him the light of her amiable countenance. In
his unworthy abode he will await her joyful coming with ill-restrained
impatience."

This self-depreciation is merely a manner of speech--we have heard
it so often that we simply listen in order to sift the verbiage and
understand what the beggar is driving at. Anyhow he proposed to take
Stella away. If she had wished, we would have risked everything to save
her, but she had made up her mind, and nothing would move her.

At the appointed time in the cool of the early morning there arrived
a gaily decorated litter covered with red and gold, borne by two
handsome brown mules, half hidden with red and gold trappings, with
bells slung at every corner and followed by other litters. What was in
them I don't know, possibly they were only for show like the bodyguard
of men on horseback. These were a queer collection, for the Chinaman
of the rich loose country does not exactly shine as a horseman, and
they were a scratch lot, some only coolies in their ordinary blue coat
and trousers, with scraps of red about them, mounted on a scratch mob
of horses, mules and donkeys, also decorated with red tassels and red
streamers, for bridal good luck I suppose.

We tried one more protest.

"Oh Stella! for God's sake think what you're doing!" pleaded Rosalie.

"Don't go," I said.

She was dressed in red satin, and she looked picturesque enough. I
suppose her appearance gave her confidence.

"You sillies," she said, "don't you see it's the only thing to be done?
When I get you out of this horrid hole you'll thank me."

"I want nothing from Ling that I can't pay for in gold," Rosalie said
emphatically.

"Silly," said Stella again, "don't you know there are a great many
things can't be bought with gold. Wait till I help you, dears," and
she kissed us both quite fervently, and then she, who had consistently
wept and wailed and been an obstruction ever since we had started
on our travels, entered the litter smiling and gave herself over to
that ragged crew, apparently without a qualm. The attendants drew
the curtains, she put a white hand through and waved it in farewell,
MacTavish barked, they put the litter on the mules, and it went swaying
out of the courtyard.

Rosalie drew a long sigh and put her hands before her face.

"Oh!" she said, "Oh! if you had seen that man in the lime pit! And she
has gone to that----"




CHAPTER XXIX.--ROSALIE'S STORY

VANISHED!


"All his gold garment had
Pale stains of dust and rust."


I THOUGHT that when Stella had gone with her querulous discontent and
uncomfortable insinuations, peace and comparative happiness would reign
in our little compound, but I found as a matter of fact that I couldn't
shake off Stella so easily. Morning, noon and night I found myself
worrying over her fate. It was obvious that Martin Conant felt the same
uneasiness, although he did his best to keep it from me. We seemed to
live in a fever of painful expectation, and I grew so nervous at last
that any sudden sound made me jump.

And yet the days passed away without anything to confirm our
forebodings.

June passed and July came in hot and stormy. My work grew. I was
desperately busy. Providence must have been considering the suffering
people of Li Hsien for this anxiety about Stella took from me all
desire to get away. Talking it over with Martin Conant we did not see
how we could leave her. We both felt that we were waiting on from day
to day, hoping, fearing, we knew not what. Our release depended upon
Stella, and Stella----

Occasionally she came to see us. She was very self-conscious and
mysterious at first, but every time I saw her I thought with a sinking
heart her confidence lessened. And I waited anxiously for what, I
did not know. She always wore the pearls and appeared to derive
satisfaction from looking at them, and calculating what they would
bring her when she found herself in a position to discard Ling. Then
she did not come. We waited. Still there was no word of her, and at
last it seemed so long since we had seen her that I persuaded Mr.
Conant to go and find out why she did not come.

He came back escorted by Ho Ting, Ling's business manager, who said the
country was unsafe, and implored us to stay in the compound. Mr. Conant
himself was surprised and uneasy. He had been refused admission. As far
as he could make out the attendants had informed him that it was not
seemly a man should be admitted to the women's quarters! Ling was to
all intents and purposes a Chinaman. This was bad enough, but it was
followed by a piteous little note from Stella herself, imploring me to
go and see her. There was nothing for it. I could not pay any attention
to Ho Ting's warnings. I felt I had to go. I had vowed to Stella I
would never enter Ling's house, but I was too uneasy to think of that
now.

Ten minutes after I had received that note I had taken Chung and set
off.

It was a hateful house. A house full of stealthy steps, strange
whisperings and subdued murmurs. It was stuffy and close with the heat
of a Kansu July day, and the mingled scents of eastern perfume, of
sandalwood, of oily cooking and of dirt were strong. I left Chung in
the outer courtyard, was shown into an empty room, and was kept waiting
a long time until Mr. Ling, to my dismay, shaking hands with himself
and smiling his secret smile, conducted me through one dark room to
another across little courtyards, and down little narrow passages, till
at last we reached a room where, reclining on a k'ang, Chinese fashion,
with a cushion behind her shoulders, and another for her arm to rest
upon, lay Stella. She was dressed in the thinnest of blue silk, but
her pretty hair was limp and dank and all the colour had gone from her
face, which was strained and anxious. The long string of pearls was
round her neck, and she was playing with them languidly.

Her face lighted up when I came in as I had never before seen it light
up at sight of me, and by that I gauged the depth of her misery. She
rose up and flung herself on me, and I caught a whisper, "He won't go
away, and I can't talk to you," and then she leaned back again on her
cushions and pointed to others arranged on the other side of the k'ang
for me.

But I couldn't lean against stuffy cushions on such a day. The room
looked into a little courtyard where was a Chinese garden, a bridge
of stone, a pool of water and some trees in pots, all on a miniature
scale, and Stella had had the sense to tear the paper from the fretwood
window so that all the air that could get into that confined little
courtyard came into the confined little room. I leaned up against the
window, and a woman with small feet, a woman who had to work too,
evidently a slave of the household, brought in a high Chinese chair
and placed it down beside the k'ang. On it Ling took his seat and sat
there with true Chinese gravity and I searched my mind for something
comforting to say to Stella. And I could find nothing. Only with an
effort I talked to Ling, discussing the conditions of the country, and
he warned me with a meaning in his suave tones that made me shiver,
that this expedition must not be repeated. It was dangerous for me
to leave the compound without an escort. Pai Lang, according to him,
was ravaging the country to the south and east, and to the north the
Mohammedans were threatening to rise. He smiled, and I felt as he
dilated on the unrest that he was gloating over the fact that he had us
in his power. He terrified me more than I can say, and I had to keep
repeating to myself that we must be safe, Martin Conant and I owed him
a considerable sum of money, and it was to his interest to keep us
safe. And yet when I looked at his hands spread out on his knees, with
their disgusting long nails, I knew that we were in the heart of China
and almost anything might happen.

Stella said nothing, only shivered occasionally as if she were ill. But
she was not exactly ill, though there was something strange about her
which intensified my fear.

Tea and cakes were brought in and Mr. Ling served me with ceremony. It
was a great honour considering I was a woman. I ate and drank and tried
my hardest to help Stella.

"Stella had better consult me," I said, "as a doctor." And Ling smiled
secretly as if he could go one better than that.

"O adorable and discreet pearl of ravishing loveliness," he asked, "no
rapacious and evilly inspired distemper has seized upon you," and he
bent forward anxiously.

I don't know whether he always used this flowery form of speech in
the bosom of his family, but its effect upon Stella was distinctly
disquieting. I saw that she was far more afraid than ever I had been.

"Oh no," she said hastily, "no. If I can go to the farm some day
soon--to-morrow----"

"A convenient, expedient and commodious day shall be diligently
sought," he said, smoothing down his knees and casting down his eyes,
and quick as thought Stella lifted her eyes to mine and shook her head.
Ling had made her take things quietly.

After that I dare do nothing. I could only declare definitely that we
would expect her at the farm early to-morrow, and then take my leave,
still escorted--closely watched, I might have said--by Ling.

Chung was not forthcoming, and Ling smiled.

"The humble followers of this low-minded person," he said, "dispense
degraded hospitality to the exalted one's elegant slave."

If he meant me by the exalted one he was about as much out as when he
described Chung as an elegant slave.

That gentleman merely smiled when I rated him for keeping me waiting,
and truth to tell I paid little attention to him, for Stella's pale
face haunted me. Why had she sent for me? Whatever the reason, she had
not dared tell me, and I had very little hope of her coming to the
farm. Martin Conant and I talked the thing over in all its aspects, and
we were still talking it over when next day Mr. Ling came hurriedly to
the compound, and bursting in on us without being announced, demanded
Stella.

We stared at him dumbfounded.

He was furiously angry. He seemed to have lost all control of himself,
and he shouted at us in a curious mixture of Chinese and English that
had lost some of its pomposity and did not even pretend to be polite.
He said he knew she was here because last night we had sent one of our
servants for her.

The news came like a thunderclap and I plucked up courage to defy him.

"What nonsense! We have only Chung! And we certainly didn't send Chung
for her."

"Misfortune comes to all men and to most women," he stormed, "and when
the fled fair one was alone her shadow filled her with a complicated
emotion."

If he meant she was afraid of her own shadow he was right. But where
was she?

Chung was engaged at a small stove in the open air. He was busily
preparing bread for our tiffin. His neatly plaited pigtail hung down
his back, and his working clothes were of spotless blue cotton. He
never even looked in our direction.

"Evil dragons and thunderbolts!" mouthed Ling, "that insatiable person
came!" and he pointed a hand, long nailed and disgusting at Chung.

And I was very sure Chung at any rate would not have crossed the road
for Stella.

I beckoned Chung over and he came reluctantly.

"Missie mus' be quick," he announced to all whom it might concern,
"else bread spoil," and he gave his pigtail an energetic flick, and
taking out the fan he always wore tucked in the front of his coat,
looked us all over without meeting our eyes.

Mr. Ling burst out at him in a torrent of Chinese, and Chung fluttered
his fan deferentially.

"Not understanding this fashion talk," said he. "Master mus' speak
slow."

Master didn't speak slow. He completely forgot that he aimed at a high
standard of civilization and he threatened Chung with all the penalties
of an outraged Chinese master. I was afraid, but Martin Conant tapped
him on the shoulder.

"Really, Mr. Ling," he said, "you mustn't threaten the man. I saw him
in his quarters last night, rolled up, sound asleep."

"Beyond a doubt you called the contemptible slave," said Mr. Ling
angrily.

"I did not," said Martin Conant. "He was sleeping soundly so I did
without him. But I saw him rolled up on the k'ang."

"The illustrious one," said Ling, struggling for this politeness, "will
pardon this person for suggesting he was mistaken."

Mr. Conant shrugged his shoulders. "I don't think so. Besides Chung
always refused to serve Mrs. Chapman."

Ling considered the matter a little more calmly. Mr. Conant's attitude
had its effect. Still he repeated once more,

"The exalted ones have hidden the fair flower."

"Look for yourself," said Mr. Conant. "Chung take Master round the
compound."

"Blead spoil," said Chung succinctly.

"Chung!" And at the angry voice Chung flew to do his bidding.

It was a most thorough search that Chung conducted while we two looked
at one another uncertain whether to rejoice at her escape or to fear
for the consequences. Heaven knows we could hardly have hidden a mouse,
let alone a young woman like Stella, and when they came back to us Ling
apparently was on the best of terms with his conductor.

"My tink," said that wily gentleman, "Missie have gone back to
minister."

"Oh no," I said involuntarily, "how could she get so far?"

"One piecey caravan with straw hat have gone," suggested Chung, and
then added briskly, "can do? Can go bread? Else spoil."

Certainly there was a very appetizing odour of newly baked bread,
perhaps getting a little over-done, and Chung, having received
permission, skipped away hurriedly.

But there was a certain complacency in that skip that strangely enough
cheered me. I was in the mood to catch at straws. Whatever had happened
between Mr. Ling and our servant, Chung considered he had had the best
of it. He was the only serene person in the compound.

Ling seemed unable to make up his mind that his search was vain. He
kept on insisting that Stella must be here. It was nonsense to think
she would go away with a caravan--his caravan.

"Something dreadful has happened to her," I said, and I looked at Ling.
What had I not seen him do? What had not been done under his orders?

Only if he had hurt her why should he even trouble to mention her to
us. Why this pretence of looking for her? It gave me a little hope.

"Nothing has happened to the misguided one," he said. He spoke more
simply than usual, but he was in deadly earnest. "Undoubtedly she has
run away, and when they of this person's household run away----" He did
not finish the sentence. He did not even trouble to indulge in the long
Chinese farewells. Only as he flung himself into his litter he looked
back and tossed us a word of warning.

"If the exalted ones go beyond the sheltering farm," he said, and he
looked round as if he could have killed somebody, "the rapacious braves
of Pai Lang are like starving wolves in the snow, and the contemptible
cash this person has expended will be expended in vain."

Looking out we saw the litter going at full speed towards the city with
the muleteer running panting along behind it in an endeavour to keep up.




CHAPTER XXX.--ROSALIE'S STORY

THE TEMPLE OF EVERLASTING PEACE


"We whom the world loved well,
Laying silver and gold on us,
The kingdom of death and of hell
Riseth up to take hold on us;
Our gold is turned to a token,
Our staff to a rod."


SO it had happened, that indefinable something we seemed to have been
waiting for ever since Stella had gone to Ling's. At Ling's departure
we looked at each other hopelessly, for what could we do? Stella might
need help, need it terribly. But how were we even to begin to look for
her. The seclusion of a Chinese household faced us at every turn. Chung
told us Ling was searching secretly up and down the town and making
preparations to go to Yang Cheng, and at last in spite of his sinister
injunction I decided to go to his house.

Mr. Conant insisted on accompanying me. First we went to Ling's
business establishment, for if trouble were brewing it would be well
to have as much money as we could. His manager was sitting before
an open stall on which were ranged little piles of brass coins of
inferior value for the use of the poorer people. Ho Ting was a suave
fat Chinaman of the old school, with a pigtail, and a chest that
had slipped even more than Ling's, and he told us that Mr. Ling was
making preparations for a journey to the west. We asked for a couple
of hundred dollars. He protested, but by offering a little higher
interest we got it. He seemed extremely anxious we should go back to
the farm. Indeed he wanted to escort us back, but though he hummed and
hawed, we insisted on going to Ling's, and I left him still protesting
with Martin Conant in the outer courtyard, while I went to the women's
quarters and asked for Ling T'ai T'ai.

My arrival created a sensation, and an old woman came forward. She
looked at me with a sly secret smile, and when I asked for Ling T'ai
T'ai showed me into the room where I had seen Stella, and there on
the k'ang, leaning against the cushions by the open window sat a
middle-aged Chinese woman elaborately dressed in a pale blue coat, much
embroidered, and pink trousers. Her feet were of the tiniest, her face
was worn, but it was impassive under its paint and powder, and her
thin hair was drawn back under an embroidered satin band fastened on
her head with gold pins. There were two other women, both elaborately
dressed and both with tiny feet, seated on the k'ang, and each of them
held in her arms a child, while two more played beside them. I could
not doubt I was looking at Mr. Ling's harem. And Mr. Ling's harem was
secretly hostile and secretly triumphant. They received me with perfect
courtesy--that is Chinese courtesy.

Yes, this was Kuei T'ai T'ai, the wife of Ling Cheong. These were her
children, and she had, she counted on her fingers, fouteen more. I tore
my thoughts from Stella's plight to remember that the children of the
secondary wives and concubines are always counted the children of the
first wife. I praised them, said how beautiful they were, for however
desperate one's anxiety, you may not hurry a Chinese interview. Kuei
T'ai T'ai said the house was contemptible, and the children were ugly
and sickly, and her sisters were hardly worth my notice, but I had
honoured them all by coming here. She trusted that I had beautiful
children.

I disclaimed the children, as hastily as politeness would allow. No,
I was not married. And then in spite of my own pre-occupation I saw
that a little wonder did creep into her voice, a wonder she instantly
suppressed, but her calm superiority had been broken for a moment by
that emotion, and I got a chance to ask about Stella.

In a moment she was herself again. Yes. It was true there had been
a foreign woman here for a short time. What would you? You cannot
interfere with men's fancies. But she was only a passing fancy. She
had gone to rejoin her own people and--Kuei T'ai T'ai spoke with the
calm nonchalance of a woman who thoroughly understands her rights,
and is going to allow no outsider to interfere with them. I was
shaken with a fear that grew and grew as, with elaborate courtesy,
the slightly arrogant courtesy with which we are accustomed to
treat the half-civilized, she swept all mention of Stella away, and
ostentatiously set herself to do the honours of her house. The other
women were inclined, I realised dimly, at the back of my mind, to show
a little natural curiosity concerning my unmarried state, but she
checked it with an air of serene condescension that was perfect in its
way, and beckoned the innumerable servants who were peeping in to bring
me cakes and tea. Her whole attitude went to show she had got her right
position back again, and the incident was closed. If I had been afraid
when I entered the house, my anxiety was doubled when at last I cut
short the interminable Chinese farewells, and got back to the outer
courtyard and Martin Conant and a very agitated Ho Ting again.

And at the city gates Ho Ting dismissed us with another warning to stay
within the bounds of the farm compound, and as we went back I noticed
an undue number of armed men, ragged armed men such as had escorted
us down from the Great Lake, and more than once they looked at us and
laughed.

There was evidently trouble brewing. It was no time for foreigners,
unarmed foreigners, to be wandering about the country.

"I think," said Martin Conant, "you ought to go back to your clinic,
and I'll see what can be done about Stella."

And then the growing terror clutched at my heart. We two were the last
left of the little company that had set out from the mission station at
Yang Cheng. Two we had seen die, the minister might be all right, but
Stella----

The moment we were in the safety of the farm and MacTavish was going
mad with delight at seeing me again, for I had left him behind, I put
both my hands on Martin Conant's shoulders and said,

"I can't be left. I daren't be left. We must look for Stella together.
Promise, promise you won't leave me. Promise, promise."

He looked at me a moment. Then he put up his hands and took mine in his.

"My dear," he said, "we'll stick together. You're thinking about all
the dangers we've come through. Remember we have come through them,"
and he sat me gently down in a seat and called to Chung to bring tiffin.

But if there were danger for us we hardly heeded it in our anxiety
as to what had become of Stella. Had Ling T'ai T'ai--I had no doubt
she was Ling T'ai T'ai--taken measures to get rid of her? Such things
might be I knew in a Chinese household. Had Ling himself killed her in
a moment of anger? In that house anything might have happened. What
were we to do? How were we to begin to search? We took Chung into our
confidence, and he was all for waiting.

"Master--Missie--waiting one piecey farm and Missie all ri'--Missie
surely all ri'," and he fanned himself emphatically, while Martin
Conant marched impatiently up and down, and asked, "How do you know?
How can you know?" But Chung only smiled mysteriously.

The evening came, and we had heard nothing, and the next day in
desperation we went again to Ho Ting, but all we got out of him was
outspread hands and Chinese politeness and a reminder that we had been
requested to stay in our compound.

He made us feel that danger threatened, for six armed men escorted us
back, and made a little encampment outside the gates.

We were now virtually prisoners in our little compound. It was awful to
think of what Stella might be suffering, and we were helpless. There
was only one hopeful sign. The people still came to my clinic, though
they came creeping. I dressed gunshot wounds and frightful sword cuts,
and they said there was war in the land, that the Elder Brethren and
the foreign lord were fighting. Did they regard White Wolf as a foreign
lord, we wondered?

The day passed, and the next day was only made bearable by hard work,
for the cases at the clinic were exceptionally heavy. Every ailment for
miles round had been brought apparently for treatment, and when I made
enquiries as to this unwonted rush, a ragged bald-headed, toothless, old
lady with a chronic sore obliterating one eye, calmly informed me that
they heard we should soon be killed, and so she had come while there
was yet time, otherwise it would have been more convenient to wait till
after the harvest.

I told Martin Conant as we sat at supper in the pleasant warmth under
the peach trees where the fragrant fruit was rapidly ripening. Overhead
the clear blue sky peeped through the green leaves, and all the
farm-yard was bathed in the golden light of the sun sinking towards the
west. We had made a few improvements since we had come--there was no
dirt and no litter. Roses and peonies and oleanders, pink and white,
and golden marigolds, were in pots outside our rooms, a cricket was
shrilling loudly in a small straw cage outside the kitchen wall, and
another answered him from outside. The air was heavy with the scent of
the last of the peonies, but I was too anxious to enjoy anything or
do justice to the excellent supper Chung had set before us. MacTavish
had his and retired to the kitchen to nose round for tit-bits. I had
forgotten all about him, and Martin Conant who had gone to the gate
came back smiling.

"One good sign," said he, "our guard has gone."

I jumped up. "Are you sure?"

"I am quite sure. They are making for the city."

He was interrupted by MacTavish, who came tearing across the compound
lugging along something half wrapped up in paper. Chung was in pursuit,
but MacTavish was pretty sure of my sympathy for his peccadilloes and
made straight for me.

"Bad dog," I said stooping over him and taking from him a pigeon
wrapped up in a piece of paper.

"Small dog," said Chung outraged and angry, "tief 'em one piecey pigeon
for cully, small dog----"

I was going to hand over to him the messy parcel when I was startled by
seeing on it English handwriting. I held it back and Chung rudely made
a snatch. Martin Conant standing by caught him by the collar, shook
him, and swung him backwards, and he stood there looking rueful and
apologetic.

"Missie, Missie," he begged abjectly.

"What is it?" I had unwrapped the dead bird and saw that the paper was
covered with writing that was thick and blotted as if it had been done
with a Chinese brush.

"Missie, Missie," pleaded Chung, "no good now, no good now."

"Get back to your kitchen," said Mr. Conant, but Chung picked up the
bird I had let fall, and crouched there on the ground sobbing. I paid
no attention to him.

"What is it?" asked Martin Conant, and MacTavish began scratching
at my dress begging for forgiveness, but for once I had no time for
MacTavish. For it was part of a letter.

"Chit coming too late," wailed Chung.

As I looked at the dirty smeary piece of Chinese paper in the corner I
saw a signature, "Stella."

Stella! Stella! A letter from Stella and Chung had hidden it. I felt
as if the world were going up and down with me. Martin Conant took it
gently from my hands and pushing me into a chair spread it out on the
table.

The top was gone. Either Chung or MacTavish had disposed of it, and all
we could read of the first line was "Englishman" and "emple of".. ..
"lasting peace." Then it went on quite easily to be read in spite of
the blots that writing with a brush made plentiful. "Please, please,
by all you hold sacred, don't tell him about me. I have written him
a letter saying there are foreigners here. I told him I was staying
with Ling's sister. I will meet you on the road, but don't tell him
because----" and the rest, but for the signature, was illegible. But
the signature was undoubtedly Stella's. And Chung had had this precious
letter, which would have relieved all our anxieties, and seemed to open
out undreamed of hopes, and had used it to wrap up our dinner. But for
MacTavish we might never have seen it. I was dumb before such a heinous
crime, but Martin Conant swooped down and dragged the culprit to his
feet demanding where he got the letter.

Chung sobbed woe-begonely, the tears trickled down his fat cheeks, and
he smeared them away, like a child, with his sleeve.

"Where did you get that letter?" reiterated Martin Conant.

Chung went limp. His head and arms and pigtail hung loose and wobbled
as if he were a rag doll. And Mr. Conant shook him again.

"Chit coming late too much," he sighed.

Mr. Conant let him go, and he fell all of a heap exactly as if he had
been stuffed with sawdust. MacTavish stood off and barked at him, and
he opened an eye and fixed it on me piteously.

"Have been one piecey velly good boy," he mourned.

"Chung," I said severely, "where did you get Missie's letter?"

"Late too much," he murmured again.

I tried once more.

"Where is Missie?"

A little stiffening came into Chung's back. He raised his head.

"Missie have gone Peking."

"Nonsense, Chung!"

"Missie have," he reiterated. "Maybe tufeis catch him," he added
thoughtfully.

"The foreign master at----" began Martin Conant.

Chung finished the sentence for him. "The foreign master at Temple of
Everlasting Peace," said he. "Missie say wantchee go. But no can," he
added sorrowfully, and there was conviction in his tones.

I was mad with excitement. A foreigner at the Temple of Everlasting
Peace! And Stella had seen him! He had helped her to escape! I
distractedly put two and two together, and my hopes, because I had been
in the depths of despair, soared wildly. A foreigner in Li Hsien! But
suppose he had gone while we had been waiting here wasting time!

Martin Conant dragged the limp Chung to his feet again.

"Is there a foreigner in Li Hsien?"

"Pai Lang have got her one time," Chung said, as if Mr. Conant had
jerked it out of him.

"Is it any good paying attention to a boy who uses important
correspondence to wrap up the dinner?" asked Martin Conant. He spoke as
if half our troubles were over. Indeed I felt they were. But the sun
was sinking fast. In a little over half an hour the city gates would be
closed and we would have to wait till next morning to find out whether
this thing were true or not. The thought of waiting was intolerable.

"Let us go to the Temple of Everlasting Peace," I said catching up
MacTavish.

Chung shrieked and yelled as only a Chinaman can.

"No, no, Missie, no, Missie. Missie staying farm, Master staying farm.
Pai Lang----"

We looked in each other's faces and read the same decision. We would
go at once and seek out this Englishman. Of course we could not get
back to-night, the gates would be shut presently, but there would be no
hardship anyhow in spending the night in the temple.

I hastily gathered together a few necessaries, and Chung followed me
sobbing, "Missie, Missie, Pai Lang have catch foleign Master. Missie!
Missie!" but I paid no attention to him.

"Come on, come on," said Martin Conant gaily, "never mind Chung. It'll
do him good to think we've left him. I suppose the beggar wanted to
prolong the job. I think we shall do it. Here, I'll carry MacTavish. If
he's going to find anything interesting among the graves he'll delay
us."

We raced across the ground that lay between us and the city gates,
laughingly speculating as to the meaning of Chung's conduct.

When we were close up to the gate and saw it was not yet shut I paused
a moment.

"Chung's conduct was queer," I said. "What did he say about Pai Lang?"

"We've been threatened with Pai Lang for the last six months," said
Martin Conant. "After all if there isn't an Englishman in the temple we
can spend the night there. The people have been talking about a foreign
lord!"

The great door, heavily studded with iron, moved outwards a little,
hesitated, and a face peered round it. The sun was set and the
guardians of the city were taking a last look round before shutting the
gates for the night. It was intolerable to think of having to wait ten
hours.

Martin Conant took my arm and we ran forward. The guardian of the gate
grinned at me in friendly fashion. I recognised him. His little son,
his only son, had been sick, and I had set him on his feet again. He
put out a grimy hand and patted MacTavish.

"A good omen," I said as the gates clanged ominously behind us and we
were in the darkening city for the night.

"The Temple of Everlasting Peace!" Martin cried, "where is the Temple
of Everlasting Peace?"

A grubby hand pointed the way, and I asked,

"Is there a foreign lord there?"

"O mighty healer!" said the man, "there is a great lord there. But," he
hesitated, "if the healer desires, the gate shall be opened again."

"No, no, no," and we ran along the dirty narrow street leading to the
temple that stood enclosed behind red walls in a great open space on
rising ground in the heart of the city.

My companion caught my arm with one hand, while the other held
MacTavish. It was darker inside the walls than it had been outside in
the open, and here and there a light showed dimly through paper, but
there are few windows in a Chinese street. My heart was beating to
suffocation. Were we at the end of all our troubles? Stella evidently
thought we would be when we reached the Englishman. Why had she not
waited? But what was the use of foolish speculation? Presently our
questions would be answered.

Darker it grew, and darker, and narrower the streets. Then I saw at the
end of one of them the silvery white light of the moon nearly at the
full and just topping the city wall. Only in the narrow streets because
of the walls her rays could not fall. But where the street widened, a
broad irregular dusty place opposite a high wall with a heavy door in
it lay flooded in the white light.

"Now for it," said Martin Conant, and his voice had a cheery ring in it.

I was glad he seemed so certain for I did not like the look of the
dozen or so of men who were lounging about the open space. They
reminded me too much of the men who had guarded us as we came down from
the Great Lake. Only half of the temple door was open, and an unkempt
sort of soldier lay sprawling across. The man sprang up as I asked for
the foreign lord in Chinese.

He looked us up and down, grunted, called another man, and presently we
were thrust rather rudely into the inner courtyard.

"We'll have to speak to the foreign lord," began Mr. Conant, "about the
manners of--Oh!" he broke off, "the Temple of Everlasting Peace!"

He softly thrust MacTavish into my arms and the faintest breath of wind
perfumed with the scent of incense shook the bells on the eaves till
they gave forth the ghost of a chime.

The moon was coming up. Outlined against the clear sky were the
curved irregular tiled roofs of the temple, and from the gnarled and
spreading branches of dark-foliaged cypress trees hung great round
Chinese lanterns in colourless oiled paper, shining silvery white,
like the moon herself. The courtyard was all soft white light and
deep dark shadow, and there was nothing to mark where moonlight ended
and lantern light began. There were china jars, white and rich royal
blue with oleander bushes in them, and long pathways wound among the
trees, pathways paved with small pebbles worked in patterns such as the
Chinese love.

We stood and drank it all in, and for a moment my anxieties, my hopes,
my fears even, were stilled. The Temple of Everlasting Peace! And then
like a crashing discord broke on the air the shrieking falsetto of
a Chinese singing girl, and the twanging of her lute. The spell was
broken, and we looked at each other and laughed.

"He's got a queer taste in music that foreign lord," said Martin Conant.

"Come," said the man who had brought us in impatiently, almost rudely,
motioning us towards one of the pathways where the light fell dappled
through the foliage overhead.

It was only half a dozen steps, and there came a turn in the pathway,
there were more lanterns, and the light, still soft and cool but bright
as day, fell on the front of the temple raised a little above the
ground. There was a high tiled roof, supported by dark red pillars, up
which twined golden dragons, and behind was the interior, a dimly seen
vista of scarlet and gold, mysterious and wonderful. But the figures
in the foreground of the picture riveted our attention, a singing girl
in gay silk coat with painted impassive face, and reclining among
cushions, a large k'ang table between them, two Chinese in silken
robes, and my heart sank like lead, for one of them, portly, suave,
sinister, was unmistakably Ling Cheong!

Martin Conant drew my arm through his, and then I was conscious that
the ragged armed bodyguard I had seen outside had clustered behind us,
cutting off our escape.

"O illustrious ones," said Ling rising and shaking hands with himself,
"how fortunate indeed is this long hoped for and much procrastinated
meeting. This humble person has been fortunate enough to extend his
beneficent protection over the mighty ones, waiting for a convenient
season when it would be possible to commemorate this honourable meeting
with music and other forms of delight," and he spread out his hands
softly patting the air and yet indicating the man who lay opposite
among the cushions, his heavy eyelids opening and closing lazily.

"We came to meet the foreign lord," said Martin Conant sternly.

Ling salaamed first to the other Chinaman, and then to us.

"This," said he, "is a matter which has been pressing upon this
person's mind for some time, and this unworthy one is immeasurably
and unaccountably relieved of compelling anxiety by the gracious
presence of the exalted ones. There is now no possibility of ingenious
misunderstandings unexpectedly arising. The exalted ones will
undoubtedly be enraptured to exchange the protection of this unworthy
and humble person for the all-embracing care and much-to-be-desired
tenderness of the illustrious and beneficent Pai Lang!" And again with
his hand he made a motion towards the man on the other side of the
table.

Pai Lang! Pai Lang! After all our wanderings, all our struggles we were
at the mercy of the great Chinese robber at last.




CHAPTER XXXI.--MARTIN CONANT'S STORY

PAI LANG


"Yet shalt Thou bind them up that were broken,
O Lord our God."


GOOD Lord! Pai Lang! Pai Lang! After all! I laughed, though God knows
it was no laughing matter, and I saw Rosalie looking at me wonderingly.
If it hadn't been for her I should have emptied the barrels of my
automatic pistol and ridded the world of a pair of blackguards, run for
it and taken my chance. I'd have felt my account was square anyhow.

But I was bound to consider Rosalie. Ling Cheong seemed to have much
satisfaction in pointing out to us the great robber chief.

He was a tall man not yet thirty years of age, clad in the silken
robes of a high-class well-to-do Chinaman, but even as he lay there
indolently there was about him a suggestion of force, which is foreign
to the average Chinese. Instead of wearing a queue his head was covered
with a short growth of hair that stood on end. It looked as if someone
had gone over it with a blunt razor, and only succeeded in getting off
two hairs in every three. For a moment I was puzzled, then he opened
his lips and I understood. He addressed me in German.

"Swine of an Englishman!" he said.

I put a hand on Rosalie's shoulder and felt with the other for my
pistol. I said nothing. "Keep your last cartridge for yourself," is an
injunction one always remembers in China. Well, I must keep two, for
the girl beside me depended on me and I must not fail her.

"Barbarian!" said the man on the cushions struggling up and
gesticulating with vile oaths and truly German precision--he there
and then told me what he would do to me and the woman beside me. He
had perfect command of the German language, and though he and I were
the only two who understood what he said--luckily--he seemed to take
a fierce joy in going into details--in enlarging on the subject. I
fixed my eyes on his distorted angry face, and the passion in it had
the effect of making me calm. The ragged bodyguard were close; their
numbers gave me a certain confidence because there could be no question
what I must do. I owed it to the good comrade who had stood by me at
every turn, to the woman I loved. Every ghastly detail the fiend before
me was pouring out in guttural German but stiffened my resolution. The
man mouthed on, desecrating the perfect summer night, but the faint
temple bells, the whispering breeze in the cypress branches had another
message for me too. With that automatic pistol in my hand I was not
helpless. We had been adventurers for the last six months--now we would
start on another adventure, the greatest of all--together. He should
not have his victims.

She stood there, leaning close against me, clasping her little dog,
afraid certainly, but still, I think, vaguely comforted because the man
was speaking in a European tongue.

"Why you are smiling!" she said.

I had not known I was smiling, but after all why not?

"We will do him," I said. "Don't be afraid." And she too smiled.

I think it angered those two men looking on, playing with us as a cat
plays with a mouse.

"Damned English swine!" cried the Chinaman, "I will make you afraid!"
and he changed to Chinese and Rosalie started, looked at me and
understood. Her face hardly changed, but I felt her hand pressing my
arm.

"There are many subjects for elegant conversation," said Ling suavely,
"and doubtless the illustrious ones will understand what will be a just
and enlightened conclusion of this affair."

I looked at him, soft and pawky--him I could deal with as he deserved.
No, nothing that I could do would give him his deserts. But, at least,
never again should he oppress the wretched. Not if I could help it.

It was strange how quiet I felt now that all uncertainty was over, now
that there was really no choice. It was such a simple thing that I was
going to do. I did not explain, did not ask her pardon. I felt so sure
that Rosalie would understand. I had the pistol hidden in the wide
sleeve of the Chinese coat I wore, and I moved it so that she might see
it and smiled, and she smiled back at me, God bless her. If I think
about that moment now, the sweat is cold on my forehead and salt on my
lips, but then--thank God, it only seemed natural to be glad I had the
means of outwitting those blackguards.

Oh, the Temple of Everlasting Peace had a message for me after all. The
bells rang softly and the scented breeze caressed our faces.

And as if in answer to my thought, the German Chinaman rose to his feet
in his anger, casting off his indolence, and flinging out his hands he
came towards us mouthing his words and shouting in Chinese, but what
he said I could only guess by the pressure of Rosalie's fingers. Her
face hardly changed, only grew whiter in the moonlight. I thrust her a
little behind me. When he was dead would be time enough----

And then a strange thing happened. As he came on I raised my pistol,
but before I fired--I wanted to make quite sure--a cloud seemed to fall
over his face and all expression died out of it. He hesitated a moment.
I had him covered. Then his eyes closed, the long slit almond eyes of a
Chinaman, and he staggered backwards and fell among his cushions again
with his eyes half open, a look of serene content upon his face, and he
settled himself there as if he needed rest and were about to take it.

For a moment, a second, I stood surprised and dumbfounded, then as Ling
bent over him I saw my advantage.

"Mr. Ling," I said, "you move off those people of yours or you're a
dead man. Quick! I give you two minutes! Look sharp now!"

He straightened himself up and looked as if he were about to defy me,
and found himself looking right down the barrel of an automatic pistol.
The surprise and dismay on Ling Cheong's expressive countenance were
good to see.

"This unworthy person----" he began.

"Quick! Your orders! One minute gone!" I knew now we could die. It
was quite simple, so simple I could dare almost anything. I had six
cartridges. I would have used one on him without a tremor.

I heard a clatter behind me and I guessed the men behind were thinking
about using the old blunderbusses they carried, but the bright white
light also showed me fear in Ling's self-satisfied face, and he was
chattering and shrieking, and gesticulating in a manner that was really
unbecoming in a gentleman of his ample proportions.

I still held him covered.

"You move at your peril," I warned him, and I asked Rosalie, "Are they
going?"

"Yes," she said, "yes." And then she took a hand. "Stand out of the
moonlight. You can keep him covered just as well."

I must admit I was beginning to wonder what the dickens the next move
was to be. I rather thought I'd better truss up the famous robber
and make Ling carry him. Of course there were disadvantages--I was
beginning to feel a bit light-headed at the unexpected turn of events,
and Ling Cheong was recovering his equanimity to a certain extent.

"The just and insatiable Pai Lang," he began, "being moderately
overcome by the devouring fumes of the beneficent poppy it remains for
this unworthy person to recount to the distinguished gathering a matter
which merits the favourable consideration----"

"You be----"

There was a sound outside, a sound of rushing feet. Ling turned to
listen, and I reminded him that my pistol held something for him.

"There's a knocking at the gate," said Rosalie's voice with the first
shade of anxiety in it I had heard since we had come into the moonlit
garden. Ling Cheong was listening too, the ragged following had
vanished at his bidding, among the shaded scented aisles, only Pai Lang
was peacefully resting in a semi-conscious dream, and the singing girl
sat staring ahead with the fixed simper on her vacant face. She had
been engaged for the evening and her time was not up yet.

I kept Ling where he was. He at least was safe, and if the worst came
to the worst, I could kill him, and----

I thought I heard a word I understood. In the medley of sounds it
seemed to me--could I be dreaming?--a calm voice said, "Break down the
gate!" and spoke in clear precise English!

The tumult was growing. Someone was battering against the gate
furiously.

"Do you hear?" I said to Ling at a venture, "the foreign lord comes to
our help."

"There will be no necessity then," stammered Ling, who was, I could
see mortally afraid the pistol would go off, "for this unassuming
person to undertake any further acts of benevolence, but the
exalted ones remembering acts which merit pleasing and satisfactory
consideration----"

The gate gave and there came along the pathway where the lanterns
and the moonlight made it light as day twenty Chinamen, well-set-up
drilled men, and leading them was a tall man in a Norfolk jacket and
knickerbockers, Englishman written all over him. He carried a pistol
in one hand, a cane in the other, and the moonlight fell full upon his
bare head and his neat torpedo beard.

I heard Rosalie give a sob, Ling stood like a statue because he dared
not move, the singing girl still sat impassive and the great robber
lay wrapped in his opium dream. But for these three we had the moonlit
garden and the deep shadows and the cypress trees all to ourselves. The
Englishman came towards us.

"My look see foleign lord," said a self-satisfied voice we knew, and
Chung appeared beside the newcomer, who marched straight up to us.

"All here," said he.

"Good Lord!" I said, "you're just in time."

The Englishman looked at the man among the cushions.

"Pai Lang," I said.

"We can't shoot an insensible man," said he--"besides the Chinese must
settle their own little difficulties. And this gentleman?"

Ling Cheong, with an anxious eye on me, made an elaborate obeisance.

"He ought to be shot," said I, "but I owe him a lot of money."

"Then that settles it," said the newcomer, and I lowered my pistol, and
Ling Cheong making deep obeisances backed himself into the gloom of the
temple behind.

"You will pardon haste, madam," said our deliverer turning to Rosalie,
"but discretion is the better part of valour. If you will allow me to
suggest----"

But Rosalie was sobbing passionately, and I could only put my arm round
her, and surrounded by the little band, lead her out of the Temple of
Everlasting Peace.




CHAPTER XXXII.--STELLA'S STORY

HER JUSTIFICATION


"Blossom of broom will never make bread,
Red rose leaves will never make wine."


IT is no good supposing the others will ever understand. Rosalie
Grahame has her own views of right and wrong, and when you live in
accordance with them you may bask in the sunshine of her approval, but
if you deviate one little step from the line of conduct she has laid
down you may as well walk in outer darkness. Your slip will not be
forgiven you. As for talking to her about worldly wisdom--these young
American professional women are just silly. I shall say nothing, but at
the back of my mind is always the knowledge that at the cost of great
discomfort and suffering to myself I saved their lives.

For, oh, the life in Ling's house! The long, long days when there was
nothing to do, absolutely nothing, nothing to look forward to, nothing
to hope for, nothing to amuse one, not even a book to read, not even a
bath to be had! When I got up in the morning a slave brought me a basin
with a little warm water in the bottom of it, and that was a great
concession, for I verily believe the rest of the household all gave
themselves a smear from the one basin with the same dingy rag.

There were heaps of women about, Mr. Ling's three sisters, and all
the various slave-women Chinese ladies have to attend upon them. The
sisters had bound feet and only spoke Chinese, which just shows how
completely Ling's mother had gone over to her husband's people, and
most of the others had bound feet too, but not quite so bad. They, the
sisters, and the slaves too, for that matter, had children, though
I never saw their husbands. I suppose it would have been bad taste,
though I don't know why. One Chinese more or less couldn't have made
any difference to me, man or woman. I hated them all equally except Mr.
Ling, and him, once I realised how wickedly he had deceived me, I hated
and feared more than all the rest put together. I couldn't talk to the
women--I didn't want to--and there was not a creature I could exchange
a word with. I was expected to sit on the k'ang where I slept the
livelong day, unless I went and lay in the garden. A blind story-teller
came and amused the women and sometimes sang songs in a high queer
falsetto, and naturally that didn't amuse me. All my meals were served
on a tray on the k'ang table. I was supposed to eat them lying down,
and all the food was in little basins to be eaten with chop sticks or a
china spoon. It wasn't bad--Chinese, the rich ones do live well--but I
soon grew to hate it, and every day seemed to stretch itself out into
a year. After a week I felt I had lived there for a hundred dreary
monotonous years. No one can possibly guess what an awful time I had.
And yet if it hadn't been for me and my self-sacrifice the others
would--well, I suppose they would have been dead.

I shall always maintain that the only thing to do is to forget
all about those awful days at Li Hsien, to forget all about China
altogether if possible.

Well, after all the sacrifice I made it would be the worst possible
taste for anyone to talk about China to me.

After I found out how deceived I'd been I felt I would have done much
better to stay at that horrid farm. As a rule I am cheerful and make
the best of things. Now I felt that all the good had gone out of life.
It did not seem as if I were ever to have a chance to get away.

Then a curious thing happened.

Ling's eldest sister and the old doorkeeper came tottering in one
day, and making signs to me to be quiet, they led me along a narrow
passage--it was a rabbit warren of a place--till at last we came to a
little dark dirty room. Just as I was going to protest, I heard, oh, I
heard two people talking, and they spoke English!

How it was I didn't shriek out I don't know. One was Ling, but the
other had a soft pleasant cultivated Englishman's voice! Except for
Martin Conant I hadn't heard an Englishman speak--for--oh it seemed
like years! The women crept up softly and looked through a crack in the
wall, and beckoned to me to do the same. Naturally I did. And there,
seated at a high Chinese table on which was tea and fruit, was my--Mr.
Ling and a tall, good-looking middle-aged man, very thin, with long
thin fingers and a neatly cut grey beard. His hair was grey too. But
what I noticed about him was that he sat there as if he were master
of the situation. Ling Cheong was bowing down before him and treating
him as if he were somebody of great importance. He looked as if he
were. What would I not have given to rush to him and throw myself upon
his protection. I leaned up against that dirty wall with my heart
beating, and it took all my strength to prevent my calling out to him.
He looked so certain of himself, so safe--I think I should have risked
everything, but I heard him say quite distinctly,

"Well, I'm at the Temple of Everlasting Peace, and I shall be there for
a few days, so if you do hear anything you might let me know."

At the Temple of Everlasting Peace! It seemed to me that if he were
stopping in this little city I might get away and throw myself on his
protection quietly. It would be so much better than making a scene.

"This person," said Ling Cheong, in his very best manner, "has
acquaintance with the pleasing fact that the much enquired for
Heaven-sent ones have taken their departure from this excessively evil
and ill-regulated district. This unworthy one has been the beneficent
means of supplying the exalted ones with a plentiful supply of
despicable and contemptible cash."

"Well, if you did----" said the pleasant voice, evidently trying to cut
short his periods. But you couldn't do that with Ling.

"They were insatiably and intensely desiring to journey forth," went on
Ling, "they skedaddled with unpresentable efforts in order to realise
their anticipations."

"Did they indeed?" said the quiet voice. "Then I presume----"

"This unworthy person," insisted Ling, in the most respectful and
engaging manner, "ventures to suggest to the great Lord, that he should
follow the valuable suggestion of the lowly Ho Ting and shake off the
dust of this most unworthy city from the soles of his venerable feet."

"And why?" asked the other coolly.

"The valorous Pai Lang," came the answer, "is about to visit this
city, and it is his pleasing and inalienable custom to torment with
firebrands and----"

The Englishman smiled slowly.

"I don't think I have much to fear. My men are drilled soldiers by now,
and when it comes to tackling a robber band----"

Ling waved his hands in that way he has which has got on my nerves.

"This person is overwhelmed with confusion," said he, "in unworthily
reminding the great Lord that it is an unfortunate coincidence that
while passing along the roads at this season many inconsiderate and
unthinking bowmen are apt----"

"The road due east along which I came and along which I shall go back
presently," interrupted the Englishman, "is likely to be safe enough. A
child might go that way for a week," and he spoke with confidence. "You
see they know I am coming."

"The words of the great Lord gladden the heart of this individual,"
said Ling with his oily smile, "and raise from it an unbearable load.
The heaven-sent ones unfortunately travel in mean garments, and
unattended, but by one elegant slave. After listening to the dignified
narrative of the mighty Lord this person will anxiously await news of
the polite meeting with the lonely ones fleeing from avaricious persons
along the--but," he broke off, "I cannot conceal from myself I am
becoming intolerably tiresome with my commonplace talk."

The Englishman only muttered something in reply, and I stepped softly
away, evidently to the great disappointment of the women who had
brought me. But it would not have been wise--no, I knew it would
not have been wise to rush in then. The thing would be to get into
communication privately with this Englishman. It made me hot and cold
all over just to look at him. Oh if only I could get to him--could get
away from this awful place!

But, of course, there were many things to be considered. If I let
Martin Conant and Rosalie know, they would give this man their version
of how I came to be where I was. There is no saying what Rosalie was
capable of blurting out. I could not bear--no, as I looked at that nice
handsome clean-cut face I felt I must have a fair start with him. It
would be too cruel if he should get things wrong. Oh it was a difficult
situation.

I got the women to bring me pen and paper--Chinese pen and paper--and
they nodded and smiled, but still I couldn't make up my mind what to
write or whom to write to, and I was simply sick with the anxiety of
it when Rosalie came to see me. I debated whether I'd tell her, but
Ling was there, and even if I could have managed it I couldn't trust
Rosalie. She has no gumption. She is one of your frank open young
women, who prides herself on speaking straight out. She thinks she has
nothing to conceal unless it is the fact that she is desperately in
love with Martin Conant. Still when she was gone I flung myself back on
the cushions in despair.

And just as I was in the depths of misery, in through the door again
came Mr. Ling's eldest sister, and the old woman doorkeeper hustling
in, of all people in the world, Chung! That old sister thought a great
deal of herself, and yet here she was behaving like a common coolie. I
always disliked Chung, but still he was a straw. Evidently he had been
brought in while Ling was going through those silly Chinese farewells
at the gate. So that whatever I had to say must be said at once.

And it made me mad to think that Rosalie might meet that nice
Englishman before I could arrange things.

"Mus' makee haste," said Chung. "My run 'way Missie ni' time?"

I nodded, though of course I didn't want to run away with Chung. But
the thing was to get away.

"Have got monies," he said, and I was nearly frantic. Of course I
hadn't any money. My heart sank down when suddenly Ling's eldest sister
bent over me rudely and held up the string of pearls I wore round
my neck. They represented money. I saw Chung's eyes glisten, and I
wondered if I was safe to trust him. I really am a brave woman.

"Can do one, two three pearls," I said. After all I would have given
him the half if it got me away.

"Can do," said Chung. "Missie go ni' chop-chop."

I nodded again and in a moment the sister was pouring out a rapid flood
of Chinese, evidently arranging with Chung, and before I had time to
say anything more he was gone.

My feelings may be imagined.

Well, the night came before I had made up my mind what to do. By the
light of a horrid smelly kerosene lamp came those two women again, and
made me strip and change into the ragged dirty coat and trousers of a
coolie woman. Awful! I could have screamed but for one thing that gave
me a gleam of hope. They thrust the string of pearls into my hand. They
wanted to get rid of me and this was a sort of bribe. They twisted up
my hair tight round my head and tied a strip of blue cotton rag over
everything, and then Ling's sister with some words which I felt sure
were an insult, handed me over to the old doorkeeper, and she took me
along by a winding passage to the courtyard before the main gate of
the house. And there was Ling standing in the doorway talking to the
handsome Englishman. I caught the words "heaven-sent ones," and guessed
they were talking about us. Badly I should like to have listened, and
I could have done so quite easily for neither of them would have paid
the least attention to two women-slaves, but the old woman pushed me
roughly outside, and the gatekeeper slammed the gate in my face.

It was horrible, but Chung was there, and I felt the pearls, and my
courage returned. I am a brave woman. There and then in that filthy
narrow dark street I made up my mind what I would do. Of course I
didn't know whether I could trust Chung, but I'd got to. First I
must get some decent clothes. It was madness to think of meeting the
Englishman in filthy rags, and then I would make Chung get me a cart
and I would go along the road and let the Englishman overtake me. I
would write a letter to Rosalie telling her about him, but I would tell
Chung not to give it to her for a day at least, because it would be so
much better they should not know anything about me when Ling went there
to look for me. Of course he would go there for me, and--why, goodness
me--they might think I ought to go back!

Anyhow, there, in that horrid dirty, smelly street, all in the
darkness, I managed to tell Chung what I wanted. I told him I was going
along the road to Peking and the Englishman who was with Ling would
overtake me, but I didn't want to see him till I had decent clothes.
He was going to meet me. I said that because I was afraid Chung might
intend to murder me for my pearls. Chung was to get me a cart, and the
clothes, and I would give him a letter to Missie Grahame, but he was
not to give it to her till the day after to-morrow. Then they could
join the Englishman as he was starting. I gave him five pearls there
and then, and I must say, much as I hate them, Chinese servants are
clever. He understood at once.

"Missie come my," said he, "start to-morrow chop-chop."

And then we walked miles. He took me up the wall by a steep ramp by the
gate, and we walked along one side until we came to a break where the
water had pushed out the bricks. Don't ask me how I got down it, but
I did. I slipped and slipped, but I held my tongue when I hurt myself
for Chung declared the guards would kill me if they discovered us,
and at last we arrived at the rotten little suburb opposite the farm.
Of course I only found this out next morning, and Rosalie and Martin
Conant must have got their breakfast late, for Chung was busy getting
me a cart, an old woman to sit in front and some clothes. They were
only coolie clothes, but they were new and I hoped it was only for a
few days. It was a wonderful plan for a woman.

Of course I never should have dared it if I hadn't heard the Englishman
say the road was safe. Safe--it was about all it was. Anyone who knows
China can imagine my awful sufferings during the next two days. Chung
took me to a horrid little hole of a house built against the wall. I
wrote my letter and changed my clothes there, and then I went off in
the cart. Awful! There's no other word for it. Pretty early that day
we were overtaken by a company of men, and my carter without saying
anything to me went along with them. I didn't dare look out, I just sat
in that cart, most utterly miserable, wishing I'd gone straight to the
Englishman, wishing I'd waited for an answer from Rosalie, wishing all
manner of things. I wasn't even sure I was on the road to Peking, and
for all I knew these men all round us might be robbers.

Oh, I put in a cruel time, a terrible time, and then on the third day,
to my utter surprise, peering through a crack in the tilt of my vile
Peking cart, I saw the Englishman riding along!

Well, it only took a minute. I was outside that cart waving and calling
to him. I was awfully ashamed of my dress, of course, but I think my
hair flowing all over my shoulders in a great cascade of gold made up
for it. I told him afterwards I'd just been brushing my hair when I
caught sight of him, and of course I couldn't wait. I drew half over my
shoulder and began plaiting it as we talked.

He was surprised. I didn't want him to ask questions, so I asked
them.

"But where is Rosalie Grahame? And Martin Conant? Oh, where are they?
They were so anxious to get away."

"My dear lady," said Sir Charles Marston--of course he told me who he
was afterwards--"who are you talking about? The lost missionaries? Ling
Cheong assured me they were on the road ahead."

"He's a bad man," I said. "He wants to keep them and get more money
out of them. He never said you were in Li Hsien. Only I went to
see his sister"--I thought I'd better put it that way--"and I saw
you--and--and--I didn't dare speak to you because his sister was so
frightened, and I promised--I promised--and I wrote to Rosalie and told
her you were there. Didn't they come to you?"

"No," he said, "I heard about them, but when I enquired of Ling he
assured me they'd gone away a week ago."

"It wasn't true," I said, and then I told him how thankful I was to
meet him, and how White Wolf had broken up the mission, and the Mongols
had killed my husband, and Martin Conant had been nearly killed by the
Tibetans, and all that we had suffered, and how I couldn't come to him
and couldn't go to the farm-house because I was so terrified of Ling,
who wanted to marry me, and I couldn't bear he should even know where I
was, and I know it was all dreadfully confused, but that didn't really
matter. A woman who hasn't been in touch with the outside world for
such an eternity may be excused if she is a little confused, and really
Sir Charles didn't seem to mind. Oh he was nice and deferential and
charming. I suggested he should send back some of his men for Martin
and Rosalie, but he shook his head and said he'd have to go with his
whole force because he had heard White Wolf was coming down on the town.

I cried then--I just cried hopelessly. Anyone will admit I'd had enough
to bear, and the thought of going back was too much for me. Sir Charles
was really tender. I suppose I did look forlorn and helpless, and
after all beautiful golden hair helpless and in trouble is much more
interesting than the woman he probably expected to meet, your average
missionary, with her drab locks dragged back in a tight little knot
behind.

Of course I had to go along with them. I couldn't be left, and
Sir Charles was awfully good to me because I was so tired and so
frightened, and he promised faithfully he would take care not to let
Ling know I was with him, or that he had ever seen me. It was the best
I could do, and my sufferings can be imagined as we went back. Sir
Charles told me not to be afraid. He said he had come to China to get
coolies to work behind the lines in the great war in Europe, and as the
coolies were going by sea and he could go across Russia, he had thought
it might be useful to see into the state of the country, and as he had
to have a certain number of servants he had drilled them like soldiers.

"It's quite simple," said he, and he spoke quite tenderly, "I'd like to
see the robber band that would stand up to my fellows."

Of course it wasn't the robber bands I was exactly afraid of, but I let
it go at that.

Well, I could only hope it would be all right if I didn't show my face,
and we arrived at the farm exactly four days after that old woman had
pushed me out of Ling's house. I stayed in my litter, of course, and
presently back came Sir Charles in a great state of mind with Chung.

"They went into the city," he said, "just before the gates closed."

"Chung pay master missie's chit?" I asked.

I didn't like it, of course, there's no good saying I did, but I had to
put a bold face upon it.

Luckily, oh luckily things were all right. I never can be thankful
enough. And it just shows one ought to do the right thing, and
everything will be well in the end.

Chung fiddled and twisted and pranced from one leg to the other, and
tossed his pigtail about, and finally out it came.

"No hab pay piecey chit. Pai Lang in Temple an' six piecey soldier at
gate. So no hab pay."

My heart sank. Unless I directed Rosalie and Martin what to say there
was no knowing what they might blurt out. Still, of course, if Pai Lang
had got hold of them, they might be dead. I looked at Sir Charles.

"Oh, they've never got my note," I said. "Why didn't I go myself?"

Chung smiled blandly.

"Small dog catch chit," said he. "Missie catch chit, master missie go
look see temple one time."

Sir Charles looked at me puzzled. He didn't know anything about that
little beast MacTavish, and I laughed--I was so relieved. They had the
letter then, and probably they wouldn't say anything.

"Gone to the Temple of Everlasting Peace!" cried Sir Charles, "and Pai
Lang in the city!"

"Chung knows a way in," I said.

They owe their lives to me. They'll never realise it, but they do.

And I waited there alone for hours. Sir Charles says I'm the bravest
woman he knows.




CHAPTER XXXIII.--ROSALIE'S STORY

RAGGED ENDS


"Oh, roses for the flush of youth,
And laurel for the perfect prime,
But pluck an ivy branch for me,
Grown old before my time.

Oh, violets for the grave of youth,
And bay for those dead in their prime;
Give me the withered leaves I chose
Before in the old time."


IT seemed as if the story that began in the clinic with Hop Sing's
letter would end when Sir Charles Marston came to our rescue so
opportunely.

We left Pai Lang lying like a log in front of the temple, with the
singing girl staring at him vacantly; Sir Charles said he could
not kill an unconscious man no matter how much he had deserved it,
and he had not the time to mix himself up in the country's private
dissensions. At least that's what I understood afterwards. At first I
was too shaken to do anything but follow blindly. With twenty drilled
men there was no difficulty in making the guards open the gate, and we
went on for ten miles before we had rest and refreshment. I remember
Martin Conant saying something about Stella, and Sir Charles answering
with his grave precision,

"Ah, the brave little missionary who sent me here! She is quite safe
and awaits you with impatience. We owe your lives to her."

We did. We owed our lives to Stella, and when we met she flung herself
into my arms and kissed and cried over me, and begged me to get us out
of China as quickly as I could and forget it all.

But I am never likely to forget the Temple of Everlasting Peace, and
Martin Conant standing between me and a fate too awful to contemplate.

But if it hadn't been for Sir Charles Marston we might have been in
Kansu yet, if we escaped at all, and I am extremely grateful to him
quite apart from the gratitude Stella thinks I ought to extend to her.
When I was a little girl we always thought of an Englishman as rather
a solemn prig, a man who expressed no emotion, and calmly went his
own way as if the rest of the world did not matter. I used to hate
that Britisher, but my typical Englishman materialized was kindness
itself. It might seem ridiculous to apologise for the absence of wine
at our first supper together, when I at least was still quivering in
every nerve, for the use of tinned milk with the coffee. I would have
accepted rice and hot water and been thankful. Everything tasted like
ambrosia, or was it sawdust?

But his attitude did more to restore us to the normal than any amount
of excited sympathy could possibly have done. You'd have thought that
picking up a pretty lady wandering around China and rescuing two people
from imminent death was part of the day's work, and nothing to make a
fuss about.

He told us about the war, and why he had come to China. He mentioned
that he was a widower and that his only son had been killed at Mons,
and took it for granted that Martin Conant would join up directly he
reached England. Mr. Conant said something about making good, and Sir
Charles looked at me and smiled in his quiet superior way and said,

"You will make good. I have no doubt of that," and Martin Conant
flushed a little, and I knew I liked my typical Englishman immensely.

It took us a month to reach Peking. We had an escort of twenty well
drilled men, and a gang of servants that kept up Sir Charles' dignity
as a very great lord in the eyes of the Chinese. There really couldn't
have been better propaganda for the Allied cause in China, if Pai
Lang's ragged hordes, and I suppose they did, represented the Germans.

I really think the only thing that troubled me were the relations of
Stella and Sir Charles Marston. And Martin Conant shared my discomfort.
Of course if Sir Charles were going to marry her, and, long before we
reached Peking it looked as if he were, I would be thankful, but I
doubted very much whether he would if he knew about Ling. And he ought
to be told. But who was to tell him? I suggested to Martin Conant that
he should, and he asked if I couldn't persuade Stella to tell him
herself. It would come so much better from her. It would, of course. I
put it to her one evening, and to my immense surprise she said she had.
She had told him soon after she had met him, and they had agreed never
to mention the subject again.

I was surprised and said so, and Stella began to cry. I tried to soothe
her, for I saw Sir Charles coming to call us to dinner. We had dinner
in the evening now, and all sorts of luxuries that we had not been
accustomed to for many a long day. We were sitting in the courtyard
of a little temple, and Stella wiped away her tears and smiled up at
Sir Charles, then to my dismay broke down again, as if she were trying
to stop and couldn't. Sir Charles looked very uncomfortable but very
pitiful.

"My dear lady, my dear child," he began.

"Rosalie won't understand I can't bear that awful time at Li Hsien
to be mentioned," she sobbed, "she will drag it up. I told her I had
told you about that horrible man Ling--and that I was so ashamed--so
disgusted--" more passionate sobbing--"and that you had promised
never--never," and she went on crying again hopelessly, "but she
will--she will--insist----"

Sir Charles looked at me and I felt a culprit. If he knew, of course he
would rather----

"We needn't go back to it," insisted Stella, looking up at him with
streaming eyes, and she did look pretty. I remembered the days when she
had won me.

"Certainly not," he said, looking at her and then at me. "We'll never
mention Li Hsien or Ling again, Dr. Grahame. We must all do our best
to make this poor little woman forget she has ever been in China. Poor
brave little woman! Come to dinner," and he made me feel an unfeeling
brute.

And so we went east to Peking, and in the train at the Chien Men bade
farewell to Chung.

Chung, like Stella, was quite sure he had been instrumental in saving
our lives. He took occasion to point out to me that he had led Sir
Charles and the soldiers across the gap in the wall, and now that we
were safe there seemed no point in reminding him, or Stella either
for that matter, of the days of anxiety their secret machinations had
caused us.

He came to see us off, carrying my new handbag and MacTavish, much to
the latter's disgust. But Chung was so anxious to make himself useful
that I sacrificed my little dog's feelings for this occasion only.

"My lich man," proclaimed Chung prancing along and tapping his chest
with the unwilling MacTavish, then insinuatingly, as he placed him on
my knee,

"Missie getting mallied?"

"I have never thought of it, Chung," I said untruly.

Having placed my bag and cushion in their proper place Chung produced
a fan and was himself again. He bent forward, shielding MacTavish from
the eyes of the officials on the platform and spoke in a whisper. He
wished to have a hand in guiding me to the last.

"My tink," said he, "more better put small dog in blasket so no pay
monies."

"But I have paid, Chung," I said, and he stood back, fanning himself
wildly and reproachfully at the thought of such extravagance.

It was a last proof of devotion, and as the train steamed away from
under the piled masonry of the great Tartar Wall my last view of Chung
was of that immaculate servant running along the platform, his pigtail
flying behind, fanning himself vigorously and crying,

"Missee coming back he wantchee velly good boy!"

"Thank goodness," said Stella as the platform vanished, but I shall
always remember that I owe a great deal to our Chinese servant.

And then we went all across Asia and Europe, and Stella completed the
conquest of Sir Charles--no, that is wrong. I believe she was right,
the conquest was complete when she stepped from her cart with her
golden hair over her shoulders, and flung herself on his protection,
but at least the two of them were absorbed in one another, and Martin
Conant and I--well we were happy too.

And after awhile Stella and Martin Conant and I, and of course
MacTavish, found ourselves at Archangel on board a collier, the
"Elizabeth Victoria"--her captain explained she was called after two
great queens---bound for Cardiff in Wales. It was the only way I could
take MacTavish, as dogs from Russia were not allowed to enter Sweden.

Stella had offered at once to come with me.

"Don't you fret, Rosalie," she said. "I'll keep you company and you can
land that beast you're so fond of without going to Sweden at all."

And Martin Conant, after discussing the matter with Sir Charles, had
decided to come too. Sir Charles regretted, he said in his courtly
manner, not being able to come himself, it went to his heart to break
up such a pleasant little party, but he had stretched his time to the
utmost, he was absolutely obliged to return within the week.

And Stella did not mind leaving him.

"My dear," she said confidentially to me, "you needn't thank me because
it really will look much better if he meets me. Of course I shall miss
him"--she was most becomingly sentimental--"but think how delightful
it will be when he meets me on the wharf. MacTavish, you're a very
ungrateful little dog. We're doing it for you, and you don't like me
the least little bit in the world."

She amazed me with her confidence and her happiness. "A wind from the
wilderness" had blown over Stella, but it might have been a softly
scented breeze. Those long anxious weeks, those dreary months, seemed
to have been blotted out of her life altogether. I might have thought
she had forgotten them, but that she always cleverly changed the
subject when Martin Conant and I mentioned them.

Once when we were on the collier Martin said something about the farm
at Li Hsien, and Stella at once became violently interested in a queer
metal thing that hung in a rack in the saloon.

"Dinna touch yon," came the skipper's voice, "yon's a grenade and gin
ye get they pin oot it'll blow ye to kingdom come."

"O--o--oh!" Stella sat down in horror, but she was quite pleased to
forget about Li Hsien, "but what have you got it for?"

Officers and crew both treated Stella as if she were a dainty denizen
of another world, and she, with Sir Charles in the background, was
sweetly gracious to them. Oh, life went on oiled wheels those days,
those days that I look back upon with tender remembrance!

"Ah! little leddy!" said he with a laugh, "my nevvey gie'd it
me--brought it back fra France, an' telled me if A cud pit they wee
ballie in a German boat there'd be a pretty muckin' up."

"Oh, but surely," began Stella.

"Deed yes, little leddy, A'm hopin' there'll be no need to theenk on
such. Dod A'm no sure----"

Martin Conant went up and inspected the little metal thing, and the
skipper showed him how it was used, but when I asked him if he could
really use it against a submarine he laughed and said no, he thought a
depth charge would be more useful, but he had kept the grenade because
his nephew, of whom he appeared to think a great deal as a sound
fighting man, had given it to him.

"An' A'm thinkin'," said he, "the young beggar had no right to the
disposin' of it. Anyhow he thocht o' me and there it is."

They were kindly men those merchant sailors, and the first days on
board were very pleasant, a pause before Martin Conant and I should be
obliged to take up the world's work again.

In a measure Stella must have felt the same. The weather was strangely
calm.

"Eerie," said she with a little shrug of her shoulders, "after all the
turmoil, to come into this."

"Restful," I said, but I think her word described it best.

It was eerie. We were off the west coast of Norway, steaming south. The
sea was curiously calm, so calm it was like a mirror. Here and there
were streaks across it like the marks on watered silk, grey watered
silk, for everything was grey, still and grey, overhead a wide sky
stretching far to an horizon where sea and sky met without a ripple,
and not a thing in sight save the disc of the sun, strangely broadened
and pale, like some great uncanny moon that we could look at with ease.
I suppose there must have been a mist in front of it, but it did not
seem so. It made the strangest picture I have ever seen, the vast still
grey sea broken here and there by those streaks which were not waves
but simply marks upon its still flat surface, marks that showed us how
vast was the space in which we found ourselves. A great wide silent
empty world, with a ladder of silvery rays stretching across it from
the little black collier to the faded sun that hung in the heaven above.

We were the only blot on the still grey seascape, and Martin Conant and
I hanging over the side hushed our voices as we spoke. Martin Conant
and I were always together these times. I felt he was very near to me.

"Do you remember," said he, "the scent of the juniper fires at Kama
Miao?"

Did I not remember it? We had stood side by side on the glorious winter
night and looked at the temple across the moonlit snow.

He looked away over the sea.

"When we smelt the juniper wood," he said, "I was beginning to think
you might like me."

"I do like you," I said. And I felt as if a faint breath were touching
my happiness.

"Oh, my dear," he said, and gladness came to me again, "do you think I
don't understand. It has been growing upon me ever since Sir Charles
showed me what a terrible thing this war has grown into. You always
thought I was wrong until out of the kindness of your heart you forgave
my shortcomings in remembering I tried to do my best for you."

"Oh but----" I began, and he silenced me by turning and laying his hand
on mine.

"If I'd been worth it," he began.

But privacy is very difficult in a little ship, and at that moment
the captain came up. I wanted to tell Martin how much I thought he
was worth, how a friendship and comradeship between man and woman
when something more is added is the mightiest thing in the world, and
I think my eyes must have told him something for his face lighted up
and the mark on his cheek that I had tended so carefully burned redly.
But I did not mind the skipper's interrupting us for I think sometimes
when a woman is prepared to surrender everything she is a little afraid
and is glad of any excuse to put off the desired moment. I can't say
why this should be, only I know my heart was singing, and I was glad,
and yet I could turn to the old man and greet him with a smile. My
amiability was not well received.

"It's all very well," said he, "for you passengers. I suppose you're
admirin' yon."

"Well," I said, and I wondered there was not something written upon my
face, "even if it's bad it's well it has one good quality, for it is
beautiful."

"Eh, I thocht ye'd say so," said he, "ye that 're tucked in saft an'
warrm in your bunk ilka nicht. The next thing 'll be fog and whaur'll
we be then?"

Martin looked at me, and looked away again at the wide still grey sea.

"I suppose we shall be here, only going slowly," I said, and all the
while I was thinking of the man beside me.

"'Going slow,' says she," went on the skipper, "crawlin' more like, an'
no bunk for me inside o' a week maybe, an' if I soun' the horn it'll
fetch up a damn U-boat hand over fist, and if I dinna some beastly old
hooker 'll come buttin' into us, an' how'll you like this pretty grey
sea for a permanent abiding place, my pretty lassie?--tell me that noo."

"I'm rather in love with life," I said, and I was glad because it
sounded like a message to Martin. The old man looked at me under his
bushy grey eyebrows, and he looked sternly and pityingly.

"Ah ye that now?" said he, and his voice rang kindly. "It's a fair
temptin' o' Providence to say so. Well we're safer in thick weather an'
gin the fog rises----"

"If the fog rises," said Martin, turning round, and his face looked
happy and hopeful and confident--my dear! my dear! "you set that old
fog horn of yours going, and if a German does turn up, send me on board
to interview him, I speak the lingo, you know, and with that hand
grenade of yours, and my automatic pistol----"

"An' what'll become of ye?" asked the skipper dourly.

"I'll swim off to you," he answered lightly, "the sea's calm enough,"
and the skipper shrugged his shoulders and went back to the bridge.

"He thinks you're fooling," I said, "and this is too serious a matter
for jesting."

"But you don't think I'm jesting, my dear, my dear," he said, turning
round and suddenly taking both my hands in his. "You understand that if
I could redeem myself--make up for--for----"

"Oh, but I couldn't bear it," I said, and when we turned and looked
at the sea he pressed both my hands against his breast. My love, my
sweetheart, in all the years to come, can I ever forget the joy of
that hour we stood together looking over the ship's side saying all
the things we had left unsaid in these months we had been together,
and when we said nothing aloud we understood each other just as well,
standing silent watching the grey fog close down upon us.

It was like veils of soft grey chiffon, oh something finer, more
impalpable than chiffon, and moment by moment the veils fell till the
sun faded to a point of light, and even that died out and the width of
sea grew smaller and smaller, and the movements on board ship seemed to
grow muffled, the voice of the skipper calling orders and the responses
of his officers and men were muted, and a hush and silence hung over
all, broken only, now and again, by the dragging of the rudder chains
on deck. Most often only the clanking of those chains broke the
stillness. The ship went slower and slower, feeling her way in the
dense obscurity. Then the fore part vanished, swallowed up in the fog,
the little house over the hatchway vanished--we could not even see
the sea below the rail over which we leaned, we two were alone on the
little ship on which I had thought there was no privacy, and he took
me in his arms and there was no need of words between us, my comrade
and my friend was my lover, and surely in this world woman can have
no greater joy. Surely on those Tibetan Marches we had forged a bond
that would hold all our lives--our lives in this world and in the world
beyond.

Stewards and cooks, as I have said before, go on just the same
whatever happens, and presently the tea bell rang, muffled but most
certainly the tea bell. It was not exactly dark, it would not have been
dark anyhow this summer weather, but the fog made a cold and clammy
obscurity, and Martin said with a little lilt in his voice,

"Are we to go down to tea?"

"I suppose the world will go on just the same," I said, and somehow the
world seemed to have changed so for me I wondered if anything could
ever be the same again. It never has, no, it never has.

"Things must go on, my darling," he said. "You remember I must join up."

"Oh Martin! Martin!" But I knew he must. I should not have loved him if
he had not wanted to. How can such things be? And yet they are, and I
can write about them--and bear them.

"And remember," he said, "perhaps you will have the hardest part!"

But I did not feel that and I said so.

"You must remember healing is my job, and whatever is your job is never
quite so hard as it seems to other people."

"You must remember that too, sweetheart," he said in his old whimsical
way, "when I am a Tommy in the trenches."

And then the tea bell rang again more insistently than ever, and we
went below into the little saloon, and there sat Stella and the second
mate. The second mate was a huge Shetlander, and he adored her, and she
held the teapot in her hand and looked over at us archly and meaningly,
and strangely, oh strangely I didn't even resent her looks. All the
world was bliss at that moment. I loved that little stuffy saloon with
a lamp burning dimly and the fog making its way between the tightly
closed doors and ports. A rack hung across the table, with glasses
stuck in it, and the light gleamed upon them and upon the skipper's
little hand grenade.

"You two," said Stella, "are driving the steward frantic. Everybody's
temper's spoiled by the fog. Now don't tell me you've forgotten
MacTavish!"

I had! I actually had! We had shut the door and MacTavish, unaccustomed
to such conduct on the part of his mistress, was scratching furiously
at the panels and telling me in unmistakable tones what he thought of
me.

"Oh MacTavish," I cried hastily.

But Stella waited for no more. She set down that teapot and flung
herself into my arms.

"Oh you silly dears! You've done it at last," she said, and promptly
kissed us both.

       *       *       *       *       *

We crawled through that fog, and it lasted forty-eight hours,
forty-eight blissful hours, when Martin and I said to each other all
the things we had left unsaid ever since we had met at the mission
station. Always I shall remember those days of the fog when the skipper
paced up and down the bridge in the obscurity, with his temper on hair
springs, when the damp clung to my hair in drops and made my new serge
frock a limp rag. But I was happy, oh I was happy, it seemed to me
nothing could go wrong in such a beautiful world. The thought of Martin
beside me set my heart beating, and all the terrible days in China were
well worth while because they had led to this.

Oh life was well worth living. We even laughed at the skipper's fears,
and we laughed at MacTavish, who has no sense of humour and cannot see
a joke against himself, till he scratched wildly at my skirts with his
little white paws and demanded to be taken in my arms and assured of my
unaltered affection.

Then there were the moments on deck in the obscurity of the fog--oh
it was a glorious happy time! I felt young, young, I remembered it
afterwards, I was young. I am for that matter, I suppose, nobody seems
to think seven and twenty very old, but I think that was the first time
in my life I felt thoroughly irresponsible and care-free. I just lived
for the moment and so did Martin. We would not look forward--not yet,
there was no need for perhaps a week, and for the past it was good to
go over it again together. We even talked about my two engagements, and
we laughed over them, and I wondered I had been miserable or minded
in the least the defection of those two shadows. How happy I was! How
happy!

"Eh, ma lassie," said the skipper looking over the screens at us as we
sheltered abaft the bridge outside his cabin.

"You ask him, MacTavish," I said, "why we shouldn't be happy?"

He stamped up and down the bridge, up and down, and every time he came
to our side he leaned over and shook his head, but he was a kindly old
man, and I think was sympathetic. I liked to see his crumpled old face
peering at us through the fog.

The fog had lasted forty-seven hours before anything out of the common
happened. It was weird on deck; and merry party as we were in the cabin
the laugh died on our lips when we stood there leaning out into the
dense obscurity. The silence could almost be felt. I could hear the
clank, clank of the rudder chains, the tramp stamp of the skipper's
never ending march, and then strangely harsh and grating a laugh rang
out.

"It was someone on board," I said hardly above my breath. But I knew it
was no one on board.

And now indeed was the world's war being brought home to us. We did not
know where that laugh came from. We ran the risk of being run down as
we crept slowly through the fog, but we heard no engines, the U-boat
could hear the steamer coming through his microphone, and he was lying
on the surface with his engines stopped. So said the mate, and the
skipper swore bitterly.

Stella came creeping up to me and clung to me, and I, holding MacTavish
close, was thankful to feel Martin's hand on my shoulder.

"Oh, surely, surely," moaned Stella in sudden terror, "nothing could
happen now! Oh, my God! it would be too cruel!"

Yes, too cruel! But Fate is like that.

But no hail went up from our ship in answer. The laugh in which
there was no mirth was like an ill-omened portent dashing across our
happiness. I wanted the spell broken by some commonplace happenings.
But nothing happened. There was the clammy moist obscurity, that hung
on our hair and eyelashes in drops, and made MacTavish rub his funny
little nose against my shoulder, and strain our ears as we would we
could hear nothing more. Then we two sat ourselves down behind the
house and forgot everything in our own concerns till perhaps an hour
later, when I raised my eyes and looking up saw the fog hanging, torn
and dishevelled in rags, and a spot of sparkling blue where the sun was
touching the sea.

"Why, the fog is going!"

There was just the very faintest breeze, and presently we saw again
in more places than one the sunlight on the sea, and the sea was no
longer still and grey and calm--oh, but I shall always remember with
tenderness that still grey sea--it was deep dark blue, and where the
sunlight caught it it danced and sparkled, and the sun himself showing
through the rags of fog was no longer the faded old sickly pale yellow
orb we had bade farewell to the day before yesterday, but he had
renewed his strength, he was young and strong in a new-born world. That
shifting of the fog was glorious, the sunbeams, the golden sunbeams,
were tearing it to ribbons, and we wondered what we should see when it
was gone. I had loved the fog, but it was good to see it go. We kept
drawing into our lungs great draughts of fresh pure air, and we looked
at one another in the sunlight as if we were beginning a new life
together.

There was a hail from the look-out man,

"Something broad on the starboard bow, sir."

"Aye, aye," came the response from the officer of the watch.

"About four points."

We came out then and joined the others on the deck, and there directly
in the sun's rays right in the middle of one of the pathways of
sparkling blue water that ran directly up to that new young gay sun
that seemed to symbolize my life, was something--something long and
grey, going very slowly along, leaving a very slight oily wake slightly
parallel with us, and a murmur of dismay ran through the ship's company.

You who read must remember that I write as a woman. I know nothing
of sea terms or sea ways, I can only tell the story as I think it
happened, and God knows it seems as if every moment were written on my
eyeballs, graven on my brain, and I could never forget.

With his glasses the skipper could, of course, see much better than we
could, and he looked at his mate.

"Eh, Mister," he said, "they set the crew of the Pretty Prissy
adrift in the North Sea in a leaky boat."

Then the fog closed down and everything was blotted out, and a great
sigh went up from the company. I heard the engine room telegraph bells
and we were speeding away through the fog.

"If they dommed fog'll only hold," said the skipper.

If it would hold--if it would only hold. Could we lose ourselves in
this thick darkness? No, it was going, and the next minute we were
looking down a long lane where the sunlight was pouring. Behind us was
the long grey----

There came a whirr and a crash, the timbers of the bridge were
splintered, the railing smashed, and a man sank down on the deck in
a pool of red that spread and spread. I went to him, but he was past
all human aid, and when I looked round again the bridge was deserted
and the skipper was bending over the skylight talking down into the
engine-room. He looked round and spoke to the mate.

"We maun stop, Mister, we maun stop," he said, and I saw the misery in
his old eyes. "They can blaw us oot o' the water."

The breeze freshened behind us and the fog rolled up before it like a
blind or a curtain drawn by a string. Before us--around us--was a waste
of blue water sparkling in the golden sunshine, and quite plainly to
be seen was the long slate-coloured thing with a periscope--clear it
was in the brilliant sunshine--the pirate of modern times, the mean
marauder from whom no mercy could be expected.

"Run him down," cried Martin.

But the skipper shook his head,

"He'd sweep oor decks before we reached him. Puir Tamson's gone."

So we were to be adrift on the sparkling sea. You know how in moments
of danger all your body seems to creep together and cold water trickles
down your spine while you try to keep a calm face and speak as if it
were all in the day's work. It seemed so hard, so hard just when we
were reaching safety. Stella shrieked, and I could hardly find it in my
heart to stop her. I could have shrieked too if I had felt it would be
any good.

And the submarine came quite near.

"Ram her," Martin kept urging, "ram her."

"Dom you for a fule," said the skipper and there came a voice from the
U-boat, a guttural voice hailing us. He hailed us in German, and of
course the captain did not understand. Neither did I for that matter.
Martin turned to the skipper.

"He says you're to lower a boat and go on board him."

We were all clustered round the engine room skylights, and the skipper
threw up his hands in despair. Martin seized the situation.

"You don't know any German," said he, "let me go."

The old man looked at him doubtfully.

"Look here, make as much fuss as you can," said Martin, "let 'em see
you getting ready to abandon ship. Make out you're in a blue funk."

"A am thot," said the skipper.

"What's the good of going on board when you can't speak the tongue,"
went on Martin. "Here----" he jammed on the skipper's cap. It was the
only sign of uniform he ever wore, "I'll go as the skipper."

He raced down below and was back again in a moment, I saw the pistol he
was hiding, while the skipper was giving orders to lower a boat. The
U-boat had passed quite close on our beam, and I could see the green
weed on her as she rolled slightly floating out on the water, and drawn
back again close against her sides.

"She's a bonny target," said the skipper mournfully, shaking his head,
"an A'd like weel to avenge puir Tamson."

"Then----"

"Mon, ye're a born fule."

There came a shout from the U-boat. We could see the men on the little
deck at the gun.

Martin turned and shouted something in German. As he leaned over the
side the sunlight gleamed on the gold lace on the skipper's cap.
There were two men in the boat and some of the crew were at the falls
clearing it away.

"If I make confusion will you ram?" asked Martin preparing to get into
the boat.

"An what'll become o' ye?" asked the skipper.

"I can swim," said Martin emphatically. "Mind, I'm a good swimmer." It
was the second time I had heard him suggest this to the skipper, and I
could see it made an impression on the old man.

Then there was a moment's hesitation, and an impatient voice from the
U-boat.

Martin waved his hand, turned to the skipper again and took my hand.
Oh, my dear! my dear! It was comforting to feel his strong firm grip.
We had come through so much. We had been in a worse place in the Temple
of Everlasting Peace. After all I felt it might be all right, and I
looked up at him and smiled.

"My brave girl!" he said. He turned to the skipper.

What he said I don't know. My mind didn't seem able to think properly,
but afterwards the skipper said he was exhorting him not to take to the
boats till he was absolutely obliged, but to make believe they were
getting ready so as to keep the U-boat quiet. The last words I heard
were, "When you see your chance, ram him." Then he drew me towards him
before them all and kissed me.

"My love, my dearest, my own," he whispered, "God bless you."

He let me go, sprang to a rope, swung himself over, and was in the
little boat alongside the couple of men who were at the oars. It was so
quickly done, and it seemed to me it would only be for a short while.
Presently he would be back again and we would be adrift on this blue
sea, and my mind seemed to be full of many things, but chiefly I think
was the feeling of loss, I wanted him beside me again, I longed to
feel his strong arm round me and I was seized with a sudden terror of
loneliness. All the golden sunshine, all the pure fresh air had lost
its charm, all the wide sea was empty, I could think of nothing but him
and the dangers he might be facing. All the rest of the ship's company,
all the danger and suffering that might be coming for them, were
nothing to me if only my man were safe.

I held MacTavish close in my arms as I leant over the side, and as his
little warm tongue found my cheek, Martin looked up at me and sent a
message of tenderness with his eyes, but his tongue said, "I've got the
grenade. Now remember, ram him!"

The skipper cursed, and then he nodded, "Ou aye, if ye do yon, I'll do
my pairt. But ye ken that gun's trainit on oor deck."

Then he called orders thick and fast. Stella was shrieking, and only
afterwards I realised it, it suited the skipper she should shriek,
every time the mate passed the ship's bell he gave it a tug, and it
went tolling out over the sea weirdly, the crew were clattering about
the deck rushing madly from one boat to another letting go the falls,
and the skipper and mate were shouting all sorts of orders. Apparently
panic reigned supreme.

It seemed to me at first they must have gone mad till the skipper
turned to me and spoke quietly enough,

"Lay ye doon on deck, lassie, an' watch oot through the freeing port,
ye'll see better. An' see here, ye'll call to me directly the water
shows we're using they propeller."

So there was method in it after all, and for a little a curious cold
calm possessed me. I lay down flat on the deck and I felt MacTavish
snuggle down close beside me as if this were some new sort of game
it behoved him to look into. I put my hand on him and I saw that the
skipper was quietly enough giving orders to the engine-room through the
skylight. I looked through the square port that carried off the water
from the deck and I saw the skipper was right. I could see the U-boat
much better from there. At first it seemed to me she was moving slowly
ahead of us and then I saw that it was the "Elizabeth Victoria" that
was turning with just a hardly perceptible stroke of her propeller at a
time, and her head was gradually swinging towards the submarine.

"Canna ye screech, lassie," said the captain looking approvingly at
Stella, who was making the air ring, and I was so surprised that
inadvertently I squeezed MacTavish too hard and he gave vent to his
feelings in an agonized and indignant yelp.

I could see the boat alongside the submarine now. Martin was on board
and the boat was lying off. They were so close we could see everything,
and I could hear the skipper keeping up a running commentary.

"God! God! It's a mad scheme. The de'il's in it! The lad's talkin' to
yon limmer."

"I can see the white water," I said and my own voice sounded so strange.

"Ay," nodded the old man, "a guid lassie, a wee bit slower, Mac. Odds!
Keep her so! It's reet, it's reet! A'm fearin'----"

Clang went the bell again, and a boat swung madly out and swung inboard
again, while the mate swore aloud and every man of the crew seemed to
be yelling something different. Stella gave another shriek, and I saw
Martin climbing up to the top of the conning tower. He was talking
to the German officer, and then I saw him raise his arm and fling
something down into the submarine. The next moment we heard the faint
sound of an explosion, the German officer half fell out of the conning
tower, apparently killed, and quick as thought Martin had jumped behind
the conning tower and had started firing round it at the 4-in gun's
crew on the after-deck of the U-boat.

"He's dune it! God! mon! he's dune it!" yelled the skipper, and it
seemed as if everyone else on board the Elizabeth Victoria was
yelling the same.

"Full ahead, Mac, full ahead and hard-a-port," yelled the skipper,
scrambling for the bridge, and I too rose and ran to the bridge, for it
seemed that from there I could see best. My eyes were glued to the man
behind the conning tower, who was shooting at the gun's crew, keeping
them off their gun.

"'Ane mon dune," cried the mate exulting. "The de'il but he's a nailer!
They daurna get at they gun! Anither! Losh! The auld mon'll ram her
after all!"

It seemed to me the U-boat was going ahead, but presently I saw it was
the ship coming round. The U-boat lay like a log on the water with the
German officer's body half hanging out of the conning tower. Why didn't
Martin jump now? My heart stood still.

"Losh!" cried the mate again. "Her worrks is derangit! Come you aft,
leddy. The auld man's----"

Crash! Smash! The Elizabeth Victoria had hit the submarine amidships
and gone right over her. There was a tremendous swirl as the U-boat
turned over, and then an explosion which shook the ship from stem to
stern. I heard the skipper,

"Her depth chairges is gone off."

It was all over in a second. One moment my eyes had seen the man behind
the conning tower in the unaccustomed uniform cap with the little
puffs of smoke from the automatic pistol. I saw him give a quick
glance our way, put up his hands for a long dive, and then the ships
touched, and when the explosion came all seemed to go dark before my
eyes. I had dropped on my knees, clasping MacTavish close, and the
yelling and shouting of all the ship's crew was in my ears, triumphant
shouting, and when I looked again there was the calm sea, and first
a bubbling and then huge patches of black oil on the blue sea,
spreading--spreading----

Again there was a wild burst of triumph from the men round me. A babel
of voices shouting about the reward and the Navy men. The skipper had
his hands on my shoulders,

"See yon, my lassie, see yon. Ah, it's guid evidence for the Admiralty.
The Navy men'll want to know."

"Hurroo! yon's evidence enough!" yelled the mate.

The little boat was going slowly over the place, and I shut my eyes
and--oh, if passionate longing is a prayer, surely my prayer should
have counted. I looked again and I saw two men being hauled aboard and
my mouth was dry and there was a singing in my ears. The captain's hand
was on my shoulder. I felt it trembling like a leaf. The triumphant
gladness had died out of his face. There were tears in his eyes and a
sob in his voice, but I managed to ask quietly enough.

"Mr. Conant? They've got him? They couldn't have saved the Germans
and----"

It was only such a few minutes since his arm had been round me, since I
had felt his lips on my face. I wanted him, my lover, my husband, all
the world was empty without him.

"A rare capable mon," went on the skipper's voice monotonously. What
was he saying? Such a good shot--so steady--he had given his life for
the ship's company.

If only there had not been such a drumming in my ears that I might have
heard what the skipper was saying. And at last, far, far away muffled
and muted like their voices had been in the fog, I heard him.

"Till the sea shall gie up her deid."

And MacTavish's little hot tongue licked my cheek and the last veils
of the fog drifted away, and before us was the wide empty sea. Like my
life, empty.

       *       *       *       *       *

November 11th, 1918. Peace at last!

I know now that Mrs. Wright had got hold of the truth though she may
not have expressed it in a way that appealed to me. There is something
far, far higher than the merely material, and when my lover yielded
up his life for his country he achieved it. It is not always given to
us to understand and realise in the first great shock. But nothing in
this life is ever attained without effort, and I am sure that the best
in the life to come is bought at a mighty price. I went down into the
depths of despair because I was so desperately lonely without him. Then
I worked because I must. I went to France and saw brave men suffer and
die, and I know that hundreds of thousands of women are crying in their
grief even as I did: "Why? Why? To what end?"

The Wind from the Wilderness has blown through the world. A devastating
wind, but a healing wind too. It has purged away all that is false and
untrue. It has left many of us mourning--for a time--I know it is only
for a time.

We two loved each other deeply, and love like ours is not lightly
snapped asunder. It was sealed by the great sacrifice he made, and it
is my constant hope and prayer that I may so order my life here that we
two may go hand in hand joyfully in the life that is to come.

THE END


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