― 177 ―

The Woman Who did not Care

OUTSIDE in the courtyard, in the brilliant sunshine of Northern China, a hen was cackling loudly, cheerfully proclaiming to the world that she had done her duty by her owners; but Lin was emphatic, and he raised his hand in appropriate gesticulation.

“Chicken he bad bird, missie,” he declared. “Tell one lie!”

Anne Slade turned away angrily.

“It'll be curried chicken, then, for tiffin as usual. Go away, Lin. How I hate, hate, hate China! How I hate—”

The door opened, and there came in quickly a tall young fellow without a collar, and his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

“What do you hate, Anne?” he asked, with a little trace of anxiety in his voice; and the tall young woman with the red hair and the humorous mouth turned on him promptly.

“You,” she said, “for one thing! You took the risk, you know, Tom, and I told you I should if I found myself bored. Bored? Good gracious! Do you think I'm only bored? And then you come in with your sleeves rolled up looking—like—keeping shop, I suppose.”

For a second Tom Slade's face fell. He wanted to please his wife, but he was beginning to know that the last way to do that was to give in to her. He suspected

  ― 178 ―
he ought to take her by the shoulders when she was in one of these moods, and shake her, but he was not quite prepared to do that yet.

“It keeps them clean when I do lean over the counter, anyhow,” he said; “and it's cool.”

She turned away, and he resisted a temptation to put his hands on her shoulders and draw her towards him.

“Anne,” he said, with a little hesitation, because when you are desperately anxious, and desperately anxious to please at the same time, the situation becomes a little difficult, “I'm not liking the look of things at all in the town. I think I'll send you in to Peking.”

She whisked round, with a flirt of her skirts, the scanty short white skirts of 1913, and made a little laughing face at him.

“How are you going to do that, I'd like to know? With Mrs Paterson?”

The laughter in her eyes comforted him a little. He felt nearer to her when she laughed in friendly fashion; perhaps she did not quite mean all she said.

“The Rev. Paterson is sending his wife, and he was saying to me—”

“The campaigns of the most righteous missions against the British American Tobacco Company will now cease!” proclaimed Anne, dancing across the stone floor on the tips of her toes, and just touching his shoulder as she passed. “Hostilities will be resumed when the most enlightened and illustrious Republic of China— What can the most enlightened Republic do, Tommy? Burn the illustrious mission?”

“If they burn the mission the B.A.T. will go, too,” said Slade gloomily, brought back to his first anxiety; and he seated himself on the edge of the table, and caught his wife's hand, and held her—held her gently but firmly. “Listen, little girl. They say there's going to be trouble, and if there's trouble Si No Fu is no place for a woman.”

  ― 179 ―

Anne took his shirt between her fingers, and considered the pattern thoughtfully.

“If there's no place for me in Si No Fu— Oh, Tommy, I did not think it would be you who would be tired!”

For the moment Slade forgot the expression of his feelings towards her in the deeper thought of her possible danger and his desperate anxiety. He pushed her aside as if he had forgotten her existence, and marched up and down the stone-paved floor. The big room was very empty. It contained only a table, a couple of easy-chairs, four ordinary wooden chairs, and a plain Chinese-made sideboard, but it looked comfortable, and it felt homelike. Anne saw to that. She had an eye to the eternal fitness of things, and the quaintly coloured china on the sideboard toned with the heavy beams that supported the roof.

She watched her husband a moment.

“Tom,” she said, “you're worried. Don't be worried. Thank Heaven for anything that takes your thoughts away from the eternal selling of Rooster and Peacock cigarettes, and the consideration of where the next poster is to be, and whether it had not better be upside down to attract attention. I like you like this, and I'm not going away with Mrs Paterson!”

“I'm not at all sure that Mrs Paterson is going to get away,” said Slade, passing over the compliment that at another time he would have welcomed. “Now undoubtedly the mission compound would be easier of defence than this.”

“They have not even a popgun!” said Anne, with a little laugh that showed her white teeth.

“The blithering idiots! What the —”—Slade used language that at another time his wife would have told him was inexcusable—“did they come here for?”

“For exactly the same reason as you came, my dear boy, to earn an honest livelihood, and for the sake of the Chinese soul; but as they don't seem to have any converts—even their No. I boy is a heathen—

  ― 180 ―
I should think they were beginning to be a bit doubtful as to the Chinese soul. If we go down to the mission compound, Tommy, do you think we can hold it?” Her eyes were dancing. Blue they were—or green?—he could never tell which; but here she was, instead of being afraid, simply excited and interested. “Oh, Tommy, fancy Mrs Paterson handing out cartridges! She'll waddle, poor dear, and she'll—”

Outside in the roadway, which was just beyond the wall of the dining-room, a blank wall, in which there was no window, came the tramp of marching men, a bugle called shrilly; and then there rose on the air the sound of a Chinese war song. The woman listened a moment, listened curiously, and her husband noticed that on her fair face was only curiosity—no sign of fear.

“Mrs Paterson says that song does not sound true. I think it does. What do you think?”

“It sounds barbaric,” said Slade, with a shudder; and she knew that he did not fear for himself.

“Tom,” she said, with a little laugh, “you are improving. Barbaric just expresses it.”

He turned on her then.

“Aren't you afraid? Don't you understand the meaning of this?”

She looked at him, and made a little face.

“Oh, Tom, Tom, really and truly, is there any danger? You don't mean it? Shall we have to fight? No such luck!”

“What I'm afraid of—” said Slade; and suddenly he realised, as we all do sometimes, that the very voicing of the fear that had been growing all the week had brought it appreciably nearer. This that he dreaded was not some hazy, indefinable thing that might possibly happen; it was a concrete fact to be faced now. “Good God, Anne! You've got to get down to Peking quick!”

“With Mrs Paterson?” The war song swelled loud. It was as if the singers had stopped just outside in the roadway and sang with meaning. The girl held

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up her finger. “Hark! Does that sound as if they were going to let Mrs Paterson and me down to Peking? Silly old boy.” She put up her long, thin, artistic fingers, and of her free will touched his cheek. “Let's be thankful for anything, anything that will break up this deadly dullness. Now we are going to live.”

“It may be,” said Slade fiercely, “that we are going to die.”

“Oh, all right,” said Anne cheerfully; “don't make a fuss about it. Let's die, then. How'll they kill us? I hope they'll finish Mrs Paterson decently, because she's a good soul, really. What's that, Tom?”

There came a sharp knocking at the gate of the courtyard, and then the sound of leather-shod feet along the cobbled stone path that led up to the veranda.

“Mr Slade.… Mr Slade.…”

“It's Mr McLeod, Tom,” whispered the girl, and she was trembling with excitement, pleasurable excitement. He realised that, and asked himself was he glad—did he want her to be afraid? “The last time the Chinese expressed themselves on the subject of missions they took one of his eyes, and he wasn't any beauty before. This makes him look awfully lopsided. Tom, if you lose an eye or a nose, I'll never speak to you again.”

“Mr Slade.”

He was at the door and his voice was insistent.

“Come in, Mr McLeod,” said Slade, and the door was pushed open and there entered a long, lean man with the face of an ascetic marred by the loss of an eye. He thrust forward his little scrubby grey beard.

“It is weel we hae mair to rely on than our ainsels,” he said. “The wurrd has come by telegraph for us all to come in, an' Mrs Paterson thinks—”

Once more the war song burst out loud and insistent, drowning his voice, and Anne held out her hand.

  ― 182 ―

“Think of something else, Mr McLeod. We're not getting down to Peking quite so easily as all that.”

“The Lord has delivered me fra' one risin',” said McLeod solemnly, “an' A'm no minded—”

“They won't let the B.A.T. Company off as easily as they did the missionaries,” she interrupted. “I've just been explaining to my husband, Mr McLeod, that if he loses his nose I'll consider it just cause for a divorce.”

“It pleases ye to be fleepant,” said McLeod sourly, “an' there is a time for a' things. This is no the time for lightmindedness.”

“Gracious!” said Anne. “We'd better take it smiling. There'll be plenty of time for the other thing. What are we to do?”

“Get down to the mission station,” said Slade. “It'll be easier defended.”

“We canna' defend it. We ha' no the means.”

“Damn,” said Slade, and he lifted his rifle from the wall, and from a drawer in the table produced a revolver. Anne laid her fingers on the revolver, and then she spoke very gently, for she admired her husband's skill with his weapons as she admired all power, and she felt that the fates were against him. What could one armed man, though he were a crack shot, do against those shouting fiends outside? He would be overwhelmed by mere numbers.

“I'm sure Tom could account for ten men, but what then? There are two thousand soldiers alone in this town.” And Slade looked at her gratefully.

“It hasna' come to that yet,” said the missionary, drawing his fingers thoughtfully through his beard, and Anne looked at the round-faced clock hanging on the wall. It was not a quarter of an hour since Lin had taken away the character of the hen, since she had been discontented at the thought of her tiffin, and now tiffin was of no account. Tom had come in in the ordinary way, just a little anxious. But things were happening, decidedly things were happening.

  ― 183 ―
She knew those two men were wondering whether it would be possible to get down to the mission house. Nothing apparently had changed, and yet that was the question in their minds—was it possible to get down to the missionary compound?”

“At least,” said Slade, looking at his wife with undisguised anxiety in his eyes, “we'd be nearer the wall, and if we could slip over and get down to the company's next station—”

“It may be burnt,” said Anne, and she felt her first thrill of horror.

“No, no, this is only a local thing, and it will pass. I shall send Lin with a note to Grainger, and if he can help us— Anne, you'll get a scratch tiffin to-day.”

“The matter o' food,” said the Scots missionary, looking at Anné dourly out of his one eye, “is a small matter. We maun pray heaven—”

“Oh dear!” said Anne. “I'm sure heaven will appreciate us all the better if we put the wits given us by that same heaven to some good account.”

“Ye'll juist come awa' doun to the mission hoose,” said the Scotsman. “If we ha' to dee 'tis company-like to dee togethir, but we'll maybe no dee. They're queer folk, and they bark a long bit afore they bite. Pit on your hat at once, Mrs Slade, an' come awa'.”

Anne looked at her husband, his hand still on his rifle, looked at the first home she had come to, remembered how she had wearied of it, regretted many things, and felt with a sharp and curious little pain that the time had gone by for regrets. They were living now, or dying, and no fear, only a sense of wonder and strangeness, was on her. She put on her hat, a soft straw with a scarf twisted round it, and her husband followed her into the bedroom, his revolver in his hand.

He put his arm round her.

“Anne,” he said, “if this should be—” And then she flung away from him with a little laugh.

“Oh, Tommy, all this sentiment about a walk with

  ― 184 ―
the Scots meenister. I presume we'll come back tomorrow morning, and the soldiers will go on singing war songs that mean nothing, and you'll go on selling Rooster cigarettes till the end of the chapter.”

“I wish to God, my darling—”

“Oh, for goodness gracious' sake don't let's be sentimental. We're ready, Mr McLeod,” and she gathered up a bundle of things for the night, stuffed them into a little bag, and was in the dining-room again. “Don't say the woman kept you waiting.”

Slade had put a cartridge belt full of cartridges round his body; he put on a coat to cover it, slipped the revolver into one pocket, and filled the other up with cartridges for it.

His wife looked impatient and tapped her foot on the floor, but the older man merely smiled.

“If there's mischief brewing,” said he, “they airms are worse than useless. Speak to the boys an' say ye're tiffinin' at the mission, an' maybe ye'll no be back till the morn.”

Out in the street Anne found herself between the two men, carrying her own little bundle, because the missionary never thought to relieve her of it, and her husband's hands were full. It vexed her to carry that bundle, and the street seemed strangely full of people strangely quiet.

The street was narrow, with blank walls on either side, with an ornamental doorway here and there. But the doors were closed, and it seemed to her that the little seated, conventional stone lions that guarded each side of them had taken on a strangely sinister look. It was summer time, and it had rained the night before, so that she was obliged to pick her way among the mud and filth. And all the people seemed looking at them.

There were soldiers in unfinished khaki, with their queues cut off and their black hair standing out untidily under their flat German uniform caps. There were men in blue with bamboos across their shoulders, and their baskets and burdens slung from them.

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There were women with flowers in their hair, and feet like tiny hoofs, leaning up against the wall. The man they bought their fruit from was giving his birds an airing; one was perched on a stick, and the other was in its cage with the cover rolled up. He looked at Anne furtively, and looked away as she passed.

Down at the end of the street she could see the grey mass of the city wall, and the green of the bushes that grew on its top. The sun poured down with the fierce heat that comes after rain, and tells how the rain is coming again, and she felt there was something uncanny in the air.

“It's just the same as ever,” she said; “quieter, if anything.”

“A'm thinking,” said the missionary, “it's too quiet. You are waitin'.”

Anne quickened her pace; her husband drew close beside her, and the people fell away as they passed. They reached the wall, but there was no gate just here, and they were perforce obliged to walk along beside it still in a narrow, muddy way, and still among the people who lifted up their hands and pointed with their long, unclean forefingers. They said something, something that she could not understand.

She looked at her husband, and his face was set, and the old feeling of vexation was uppermost in her mind. He proposed to live among these people all his life, and he would not trouble to learn the language. Then she looked at the missionary, but his blind side was towards her, and it told her nothing.

“What are they saying?” she asked impatiently.

“They say we gang to our death,” said he, and he said it as if he took a certain grim satisfaction in frightening her.

A couple of mangy wonks, the scavenger dogs of all Chinese cities, lay right in her path, and on either side pressed the people.

“It is not far to the mission now,” she said.

“Run for it, Anne, if there's a row; it'll make my mind easier,” said Slade, and they were right upon

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the dogs that lay in the way. Slade kicked one, just stirred it with his toe, and as if it were the signal, the people were upon them. There was a shout and a savage yell the like of which she had never heard before from human throats. She felt her husband drag her back against the wall, and then she saw that he had his rifle at his shoulder, and the missionary on the other side had the revolver in his hand.

“Mon,” he said, and the old Adam was uppermost, “shoot up the street. Clear the way for your woman.” And suiting the action to the word he let fly with the revolver. Some of the plaster chipped from a house on the other side of the road, and that side of the street cleared as if by magic.

“Rin awa', Mrs Slade!” cried McLeod.

“And leave you?” she said.

“Be damned to you,” he said; “will ye no rin?” And he caught her hand, and, pulling her after him, began running along the narrow way between the walls of the houses and the city wall. She heard the report of her husband's rifle, and then his quick footsteps running to catch them up.

“Two men down,” he said, and his voice came pantingly, as if he had been running a long way, and were out of breath. “Once inside the mission compound—”

“We're in the Lord's hands,” said McLeod, and she felt his words the more convincing because he had sworn a moment before. They were not a hundred feet away now, and then out of a narrow, filthy alley-way just opposite the missionary compound gates came swarming another crowd.

The missionary caught her by the arm, and as if it were a signal, Slade turned, and with his rifle faced the people.

“Let me stay,” she gasped, with a feeling that he was facing them alone. But the missionary had a strong right arm, and he swept her on right up to the door of the compound. It opened, and another pair of arms came out and dragged her in; but looking

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over her shoulder she saw that between her and her husband the crowd had surged.

“Zip, zip, zip!” went the rifle bullets, and then they ceased suddenly, and a wild howl rose on the air.

“Tom, Tom!” she called, but McLeod had shut and barred the gate, and he turned on her, still with that grim satisfaction in his tones.

“He is beyond our aid. No use letting they folk in till we maun.”

“We can't desert him!” cried Anne angrily, and stepped towards the door, but a little fat woman ran out and flung her arms round her.

“Oh, my poor dear, my poor dear! It is out of our hands. We are powerless to help. He is your dearest, I know—”

Anne pushed her off angrily.

“To leave him outside! We might have helped. He might have got in!” And she ran to the gate.

The hubbub and noise seemed receding, and McLeod calmly stood in front of the door.

“Mrs Slade, ye'll juist bide quiet. Yer mon trusted ye to me. I dinna ken hoo he fares, but I do ken it's death sure to open that gate. Ye'll bide quiet wi' Mrs Paterson, an' I'll keep the gate. 'Tis the way Mr Slade would have it.”

“I've never done what he wanted in my life,” fumed Anne.

“Ye'll mind him the noo, then,” said the missionary. “I'll hae no heesitation in tyin' ye wi' rope. Go to Mrs Paterson!”

Anne stood still for a moment. Was this man threatening her with indignity? Were they all facing death? A lump rose in her throat. For Tom or herself she could not have told, only she knew she was trembling, and this man must see it.

“Go ye in to Mrs Paterson,” said he, and she obeyed him, because it was cheap to quarrel. And Tom was dead! Dead! Dead! She kept saying it over to herself, but the words meant nothing to her. They were only words. He couldn't be dead, and it

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was mean to hide behind the stone walls when he was overwhelmed by numbers. Tom was equal to ten Chinamen, she was sure of that, only it was mean to leave him; and if it hadn't been for that foolish missionary— She walked very slowly into the big, bare dining-room, and her eyes caught the texts on the wall. Somebody had run riot in green and gold, perhaps they were Mrs Paterson's favourite colours; very likely she thought them most effective.

Mrs Paterson was kneeling on the floor against the table, her fair cheek buried in her arms. She was just moaning softly to herself, “Oh, oh, oh, and Reuben is ten to-day, and he was such a sweet little baby! Willie!” She lifted her head as Anne came in, and then dropped it again. Anne was nothing to her. “My little boy! My little boy!”

And her boy was down at Chefoo, safe at school, thought Anne, in spite of herself. For she did not want to think of Mrs Paterson's boy; she wanted to think what she, Anne, ought to do. It was, of course, absurd to think that anything had happened to Tom. How could it? Of course it could not. But she could not sit still, and she walked up and down the room like a caged beast, and wondered what the texts meant. It was easier to wonder what the texts meant than to think of anything else.

There was one in Old-English letters in gold over a pea-green lake with purple rushes in it, and a golden saucer behind; and then there were some in Chinese characters with a green river meandering among them. Up and down, up and down she walked. And outside it seemed that the tumult died down to a subdued roar. How still it was! Her footsteps on the stone floor echoed loudly, and she seemed to hear every rustle of the kneeling woman's dress. There grew up in her a certain anger that she should be so foolish as to wear wide cotton skirts and to have them stiffly starched. How could any woman look even pathetic in a voluminous skirt that billowed round her like an enormous speckled pincushion? And she thought she

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was going to die, and that she, Anne, was going to die, and that—

No, no! She was thinking of little Reuben at school. Anne had seen Reuben, and she did not like him, but this woman was thinking about him. Up and down marched Anne, up and down. Outside there was no longer even an angry murmur. There was silence, and it was getting dark. She looked out of the window over the little compound wherein grew a solitary acacia tree, and through its feathery branches she could see the sky black and lowering. Then there came a flash of lightning, and almost upon it a deep crash of thunder. Mrs Paterson sat down on the floor like a little startled animal.

“Oh, that was close!” she said, with more than a hint of fear in her voice, and Anne laughed aloud. The laugh seemed to echo in the silence that followed the crash, and there came a sigh through the air. Outside in the courtyard stood the two men. She could see them through a window looking up at the black sky—the dour, tall Scotsman, capable and efficient—she had to acknowledge that—and the little, round, tubby Englishman with the pursed-up mouth and the red in his cheeks that made her think of an innocent boy. She hated them—she hated them both! What did they intend to do? They couldn't leave Tom outside. And then down came the rain, torrential rain, blurring the outlines of the veranda opposite, and making the acacia one smudge of vivid green.

The two men came in, Paterson rubbing his hands together, and behind them came a mission servant clad in stripped galatea, with a crumpled tablecloth under his arm. They were actually going to have tiffin.

“Get up, Evangeline,” said her husband, and the woman on the floor meekly obeyed, rubbing her hand across her eyes like a little child. “The best thing that could happen,” he went on; “the very best thing. Till this rain stops we are safe. And if, as you say, McLeod, Mr Slade sent for Mr Grainger—”

“Did he?” Anne heard herself asking. Oh, if

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Mr Grainger from Nan Po would come and do something! If only these people would do something! The rushing rain was a relief, but she felt if they did not let her out she would tear the tablecloth from the table and scream aloud.

“He gied a wee line to your boy,” said McLeod, still looking at her with suspicion out of his deep-set eye, “but I couldna say it would be delivered.”

“We don't want any tiffin! We can't eat any tiffin!” stormed Anne ineffectively.

And nobody paid the least attention to her. The stolid Chinaman in the striped galatea jumper, with his black hair cut like a bottle-brush because the missionary's wife thought servants were cleaner without their queues, went on laying the table in a casual sort of way; Mrs Paterson kept putting the knives and forks straight as he laid them down; Mr Paterson, who wore a yellow waistcoat and no coat, hitched his thumbs in the armholes, and looked at her furtively; and McLeod—she felt he was the more honest— marched up and down, openly avoiding her eye.

“We must do something! We must do something!” she heard her own voice saying.

“Ma wuman,” came McLeod's voice, “we canna do aught but wait.”

“We can pray,” said Mrs Paterson, and she spoke very reverently and quietly, very sympathetically.

But Anne turned away. Pray! She wanted to do something. She did not want to think what might have happened behind that howling mob when the rifle stopped speaking.

“I'll go now,” said Anne.

“No,” said McLeod, and he meant it.

“At least I can go to my room.”

Mrs Paterson looked at her husband, and then led the way along the veranda. Anne gathered dimly that she was apologising for the bareness of the room, saying something about sheets and towels, but she paid no attention. What did a bare room matter so long as she was alone and could think? Then the

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little, fair woman, whom she could look down upon, said something about tiffin, and Anne turned upon her.

“I always did hate tiffin! Oh, if you won't do something, why won't you leave me alone?”

And then she was alone, and it wasn't any better, because she found she was still thinking of that howling mob and Tom behind it. Of course, it was Tom's own fault. He was always clumsy. Any other man with a rifle in his hand and a wall handy could have established himself against an unarmed mob. And she drove away the uncomfortable thought that he had not made for the wall because he was covering her retreat. That was nonsense, of course. He ought to have been able to hold his own. All the men she had ever heard of would have done better than that. She looked out into the courtyard, into the blur of rain. What were they doing?

Praying, of course. And then the long, narrow room that was her bedroom grew stifling. She could not breathe, and she was out on the veranda looking into the dining-room windows. Yes, her intuitions had been right. They were all three on their knees. Mrs Paterson's face was on her husband's shoulder. and his head was on hers, and the speckled dress rose up in fat waves, enveloping them both, while McLeod knelt upright and grim, his one eye closed and his hands uplifted in passionate supplication. They were praying for—for themselves! No; instinctively she knew they were putting her husband, the man whose trade they abhorred from the bottom of their souls, first. And even as she thought, she knew the opportunity had come, and she ran lightly across the courtyard, the pouring rain drowning her footsteps, and as she arrived at the gate she knew another of her intuitions was true—the gatekeeper had taken advantage of the rain to desert his post.

She did not know what she hoped, or why she so ardently desired to be outside, but in a second she had opened the door and was out in the street, with the

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rain that was her protection beating down upon her defenceless head.

And the street was empty, or nearly so. There were two sodden, blue-clad figures lying out in the mud and filth, and there were half-a-dozen yellow dogs sitting upon their haunches watching them.

Dead? Dead? Is that what Tom had done? She shuddered, and then there came over her a sense of triumph. He looked well in shirt and trousers with his rifle over his arm. He was her man, and, of course, these cowardly Chinese could not hurt him. How empty the street was, and how muddy! Ugh! She stepped daintily, and yet swiftly, for she feared lest McLeod should open that piercing eye and discover she had gone, and there was not a living thing in the whole street save those dogs with slavering jaws. At them she would not look as she ran along by the wall, angry because she could not help splashing her white skirts. She did not ask herself where she was going. She knew. She was going back to her own house, the premises of the B.A.T. Company. If they had been looted— But she would not think of that. Of course, Tom would make his way there.

She turned the corner into the street, and there was no one visible in the pouring rain but a man with long, unkempt hair, and for all clothes a piece of sacking huddled round him. His dirty bare legs stuck out below it, and he came towards her, prostrating himself and whining. She could not understand what he said, but she knew what he wanted; and she spurned him, as she had always spurned the beggars. She was angry that he was there, because before him she could not run as she wanted to do. But she walked fast, and he followed, whining, just as if she were not utterly alone, and those blue-clad figures did not lie out stark in the next street. She came at last to the sight she always had scorned, the gorgeous peacock spreading his tail, and stood before the fast-closed door of her own house knocking loudly. She had never thought of this. How was she to get in, supposing Tom did

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not hear? She knocked more impatiently, and the beggar in the mud dropped down to his haunches, and held out his hand and bowed his head. She was at his mercy. She was at his mercy. Why did he not take? But his attitude gave her courage, and she knocked again assertively, angrily. Then she heard shuffling footsteps, the steps of the old gatekeeper—the man she had always said was too old for his duties. He said something in Chinese she could not understand.

“Open! Open, Wong!” she cried angrily; and the door opened in a narrow crack, and the beggar at her feet became more imploring. She felt in her pockets. She had no money; she never had.

“Give him ten cash, Wong!” she cried as she stepped inside.

The gatekeeper stared at her, but obeyed, and the beggar grubbed in the mud for the money, and beat his head on the ground in gratitude.

“Fasten the door! Where master?” And for a moment her heart stood still as she listened for the answer.

“He go out,” said Wong, fastening the gate, and a wave of anger swept over Anne.

How dare Tom frighten her? It was so like him to be out when she particularly wanted him, when she had been softened by unnecessary fears. If he had been in, there was no knowing what might have happened; but now he was out, and after her experience at the mission house— She walked into the dining-room, and Lin was counting the spoons.

“Lin,” she cried, to be sure, “where master?”

“No savvy,” said Lin, putting the tablespoons very neatly in one heap and beginning on the dessertspoons.

“He come home?”

“No,” said Lin, “he not home.”

Something started beating in Anne's head again, something that the thought of Tom's being there had stilled.

“Where is he?”

“No savvy,” said Lin, stooping over the spoons

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and forks the directors of the B.A.T. Company denominated silver.

“Lin, he send you letter!” she said angrily, remembering what McLeod had said.

How still was the house! Outside was the rush and roar of the rain; but inside, here in the dining-room, she could hear the subdued sounds of spoon and fork touching one another.

Lin just flickered an eyelid, but otherwise his face remained impassive; and presently she was wondering if that flicker was not all her imagination. Was there danger, or was there not? If there was danger, why was not the house looted? And since the house was not looted, where was Tom?

She went into her own room. Everything was exactly as she had left it. Tom's pyjamas were on the floor, where they had fallen when she had stuffed her own nightgown into her little bag. She came back to the dining-room, and Lin was transferring the spoons and forks to the sideboard drawer.

“Lin, you tell master I want him.”

“No can,” said Lin serenely.

She went into the office. The Chinese clerks and interpreters were not there. Had Tom sent them out, or were they staying away till they saw what was going to happen? The majority of Chinamen were, according to Tom, trimmers, waiting to see which way the cat would jump. In the light of Tom's talk she saw what had happened. The mob had got out of hand for a moment; then the rain had calmed them, as it always does in China, and everybody was waiting to see what would happen next. If the balance of public opinion were in favour of looting and killing the foreigner, then they would be looted and killed; but if public opinion inclined to take their money and regard them as fools, to be exploited for the benefit of the sons of Han, then they would receive all outward courtesy and many apologies for the disturbance. But meanwhile nothing would happen while this rain lasted, this torrential August rain. It beat on the roof,

  ― 195 ―
it overflowed the gutters, the courtyard was flooded, it was the only sound that broke the intolerable silence. She could not stand the silence. Inaction was becoming unbearable. There was soda-water and whisky in the sideboard, and she made Lin give her some. And then she heard a beating at the gate, and someone being admitted.

Tom? No. McLeod, grimmer than ever.

“I wash my hands o' ye,” he said. “While the rain lasts ye're safe, bit after— I canna leave the mission hoose.”

“I did not ask you to leave the mission house,” she said. And then, anxiety getting the better of her. “Mr McLeod, where do you think Tom is?”

“They have ta'en him an' haud him fast somewhere.”

“But they'll let him go now the rain has come?”

“Did ye no see the corpses forby there?” he asked sternly. “Ye canna undo yon. I tell ye he knows them, an' they daurna loose him.”

“If we could find out where he is, if we could get word to Mr Grainger—” And she put an appeal into her voice that made the dour old Scotsman look at her again.

“Weel,” he said, “I'll go an' inquire. Will ye go back to Mrs Paterson for company?”

“Mrs Paterson is not company,” said Anne disdainfully.

“Bide ye here, then,” said he. “Ye're safe while it rains. After that, the Lord alone kens.” And he was gone.

“Lin,” she asked the stolid Chinaman again, “you can find master? I give you”—she hesitated, and the irrepressible humour asserted itself even now. How much did she assess her husband at?—“twenty dollars, suppose you can find master.”

“No can,” said he again.

But there was not the definite finality about the last assertion there had been about the first.

“Suppose cook can find or Wong,” she said

  ― 196 ―
emphatically. “My pay he twenty dollar if have found him before rain stop.”

Lin hesitated, and swept the feather duster round the table legs, peeped into the sideboard drawer, as if perchance the silver might have taken to itself legs since last he looked.

“Maybe cook can,” said he at last, and was gone.

And then she sat and waited, and listened to the rain, and the minutes dragged themselves into hours. She tried to read, but how could she read? The letters looked an unmeaning jumble, or the pounding rain set itself to the swing of the verse, and drowned it. She could not sit, she could not walk about, to lie down was out of the question, to look out into the empty courtyard with the asparagus fern and the sodden tuberoses and glossy-leaved camelias was distracting. Two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock. They were only midway through the summer afternoon, and Lin came in to lay the afternoon tea.

She could have shrieked aloud. She had dreamed of the excitement of a rising, of the clash of battle, the tense feeling while life hung in the balance, but this—this—this waiting—it was beyond conception, beyond all bearing; she could have beaten her hands, and screamed aloud. And Lin laid the table as carefully as usual. He brought in the tea, and hot little scones, well buttered, and a pot of melon jam from Australia. She drank the tea feverishly, she even ate a scone, though it tasted like sawdust, and she asked:

“Can find master, Lin?”

But Lin was cautious.

“Maybe cook can find master, night-time. He say must take care. Chinaman have caught master.”

In a moment she was on her feet.

“Take me to him! You must take me to him!”

“No can,” said Lin, relapsing into stolidity. “Cook know.” He looked at her furtively. “Maybe cook can take note.”

She flew to her room and her writing-table, and as the blank paper stared up at her her hand was paralysed.

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What should one write to one's husband—a prisoner among the Chinese? She would know what to say to him, but what to put on paper—

She was back in the dining-room again.

“Cook no can bring master?”

Lin shook his head.

“Cook must take missie to master.”

Again Lin shook his head.

“Suppose Mr Grainger come.”

In a moment she was alive and keen again. Mr Grainger and all the men from the company's big place at Nan Po, with any other Europeans they could muster. Why, that meant—

“Lin, you take note to Mr Grainger?”

“No take to Mr Grainger,” asserted Lin.

“Master send word to Mr Grainger?”

“Suppose Mr Grainger he get note, suppose he no get note,” said Lin. “Suppose he come allee same?”

Oh, suppose he came all the same. And Tom was all right. Only—only she must see Tom.

“I give cook fifty dollars he take me to master,” she said.

“No can,” said Lin, apparently on principle, and went out; but he came in again a moment or two later.

He fidgeted round the room for a minute or two, applied a feather duster energetically to the sideboard, settled three chairs that were not out of line, and then finally approached the subject.

“Missie give cook twenty-five dollars now, twenty-five dollars to-morrow morning can do.”

Anne considered. She had not twenty-five dollars, and had not the least idea where she could get them.

“What time cook take me? Now?”

Lin shook his head.

“More better night-time. So no man can see.”

“When dark I give cook note for twenty-five dollars.”

Lin hesitated a moment; then nodded.

The hours dragged. Never in her life, it seemed to Anne, had hours so dragged. She raged against her

  ― 198 ―
foolishness in coming to such a place, in marrying such a man, against the fate which had turned a rising which promised some excitement into something that made life more burdensome than before. She raved against Tom, and cried, and condemned McLeod to the nethermost hell, and nothing seemed to happen; no one was one whit the worse, and there was no one to pay the least attention. She, Anne Slade, who was always the centre of attraction, was apparently alone and forgotten.

It grew dark, and still it rained; and then Lin came in, and began stolidly laying the table for dinner.

“Lin,” she said, “what time cook take me to master?”

“By-'em-by,” said Lin. “Chicken, stewed peaches for dinner.”

She turned away angrily; this life was stifling her. And then McLeod came back. The water trickled off his raincoat on to the stone floor, and lay in little pools, his boots were splashed with mud, and when he took off his forlorn straw hat his lank hair was wet with perspiration. It stood in great drops on his forehead, and trickled down his cheek into his stubbly beard.

He looked at the dinner preparations sarcastically.

“Ye're wise to mak' yerself comfortable, Mrs Slade.”

“I have nothing to do with it!” she stormed. “If this is a rising, why have I my dinner as usual? And if it isn't, where is Tom?”

“Ye'er husband,” he said slowly, weighing his words as if he would see what effect they would have upon her, and sparing her nothing, “is in a little house in Shan Chiang quarter. I hear that they ha' pitted out his e'en.”

All the room went whirling round with Anne, and she caught hold of the table, but the man before her was merciless.

“Why didn't you bring him with you?” she panted. And the thought of Tom rose up before her. Tom

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strong and agile, Tom in white shirt and trousers, with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows.

“The Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and bound him with fetters of brass, and he did grind in the prison house.” Blind Samson! In all the world where could blind Samson find happiness? She had spent a long, dreary, objectless day, and all Tom's days would be objectless.

“Ye'll come awa doon to the mission hoose.”

“I'll do no such thing!”

“Then bide whaur ye are for a mannerless lassie!” And he turned on his heel.

She was after him like a flash.

“Mr McLeod, Mr McLeod, we must do something!”

“We canna do aught. Come ye doon to the mission.”

“I will not!”

“Bide ye here, then!” And he was gone.

And then she ran into her room, and flung herself down on the bed. She buried her face in the pillows to see what it would be like to be in the dark. She rose up, and put the thought behind her, and brushed her hair, and changed her dress, and picked out the daintiest lace collar she had, and put it on and surveyed herself in the glass. It was not true what they said about Tom. Of course he was all right.

Lin came, announcing dinner, and she took a little soup and some stewed peaches, and sent the rest away. Then wrote out a note, in which she promised to pay Wu Meng, cook, twenty-five dollars, and demanded of Lin that at once she should be taken to her husband.

What did she care for the rain? This suspense was not to be borne. It was characteristic of her that she did not ask Lin whether the missionary was right; she was determined he should not be right.

She put on a stitched tweed hat and a long grey waterproof, and then presently she was in the street in the pouring rain with a little Chinaman clad in yellow oiled paper, and the darkness enfolded them. The rain was coming down as hard as ever, and the street

  ― 200 ―
was half mud and half water and wholly offensive. But for once she did not mind. She could have shouted for joy. At last she was doing something.

How still it was! She listened hard, and the only sound above the rain was their footsteps squelching through the mud; then a child cried in a house somewhere near, and it was as if someone promptly stifled it. There were no lights, no signs of people, no signs of life. Everyone was effacing themselves to see what would happen. They turned into another alley and still there was nothing but the darkness, the silence and the rain—no crack or crevice revealed a light. It might have been a city of the dead.

She was mud and filth above her ankles, and Wu Meng was going very slowly, and then suddenly out on the stillness and the rain came cutting another sound—the tramp of shod feet, half-a-dozen men at least moving rapidly. Soldiers? Instinctively she came nearer and caught the cook by the shoulder.

“Take me to master, quick, then you can go.” And the sound of the marching men was coming closer.

The cook was shivering with terror. He stood opposite a blank mud wall that apparently was dissolving into the filth of the road. There was no door, and her heart sank. What was the good of bringing her to a mud wall which was slowly returning to its original elements.

“You pay back that note!” she said angrily.

“Missie wait,” said Wu Meng, and thrust the stick he carried into the wall before him, and the whole thing, as if it had been waiting but for that, collapsed into a heap of mud and water. There was a breach through which, by making herself very dirty, she could crawl.

“Master wait,” said Wu Meng sententiously, and Anne waded knee-deep in unspeakable filth and stooped under the broken thatch of the roof.

When Tom Slade saw the mob rushing from the alley

  ― 201 ―
for one second he gave over all for lost. His wife, his wife, in the hands of these fiends! The awful thought lent strength to his arm, and without thought for himself, only with the desire to shelter her as long as possible, he faced the oncoming mob, and the rifle took toll. What execution he did he never knew; he was seeing red, and he was prepared to kill remorselessly. Not for one moment did he remember that his back was exposed. In front he could hold them.

“Zip, zip!” went the rifle bullets. He missed, and cursed himself. The bullet found its billet, and he rejoiced and stepped a little backward, and then someone hit him over the head. He half turned, but a dozen arms were holding him fast, and blows were raining down on his head and shoulders. He did not shout. What was the good of shouting? There was no one to help.

Something with a stinging, sickening pain caught him in the eye, and he thought that his wife's career in China was ended. If she came out of this alive she could go back to England, and his life insurance!

The thoughts crowded even as he fought, and he could not fight against so many. For all his struggles they had got his rifle; they had tied his hands behind his back so tightly that the circulation was stopped, and they dragged him on through the muddy street.

The blood was running down his face from his left eye. The pain was intolerable, but he was glad he was spared one thing. Anne could not see him. Anne could not scorn him. She would have a chance for her life.

He was sure they had reached the mission house, and then—if Grainger came! If—if—! The agony of it! There was no good worrying about himself. His life was ended.

They dragged him on through the street, and they yelled at him, and the cords at his wrists cut into his flesh, and the pain in his eye was biting. They thrust him into a sort of outhouse with a mud floor, and they flung him down and bound his ankles, bringing the

  ― 202 ―
rope up and fastening it to the beam above his head, and then they went out and shut a crazy door and left him—left him to his own thoughts—to die. It must be to die, but how long?

Again and again he asked himself the question—how long?

He was in a small square mud outhouse. It was absolutely empty. There was no window, only a rough board door, and the sunlight came creeping underneath it, and for all there was no furniture the place was rank and foul with the smell of human occupancy. He was fast bound. The cramp was in all his limbs, and one side of his face felt like a huge swollen, throbbing ball. And Anne had said that if he lost an eye she would consider it just cause for a divorce. Well, she wouldn't have to divorce him because he was going to die.

It was a good thing he was going to die because he would never be presentable again. His arms and feet would rot off, one side of his face—!

If he could have ended things there and then he would have done so.

The sunlight under the door vanished; it came again; he watched it even as his thoughts ran riot. Of course it was going to rain, and for one moment his heart gave a leap of gratitude, for if it rained the mission would be safe till Grainger could come, and Anne— his Anne, who could look sweet and tender, who was always piquant and fascinating—would be safe. But if it rained no one would come near him, and how could he bear the long agonising hours? A groan of unutterable anguish broke from his lips. How? How? He had nothing to hope for but death.

Grainger must come too late for him, for how could he wish to live maimed and disfigured when all his love was given to a woman who set such store by beauty of form and face. If he died, she would be sorry, he knew; she would see him at his best, but if he lived—! No good thinking about living because he was not going to live; the only question was how

  ― 203 ―
soon he could escape from this misery, this physical and mental pain.

He heard the crash of the thunder, and the beating of the rain on the thatched roof and against the mud walls kept time to the throb of his agony, the beat of his blood against his bonds, the aching and swelling of the side of his face. If he could only have touched it! He flung himself to one side, but the rope across the beam never gave, and the wrench but made the pain more intolerable.

If the minutes were hours to Anne they were age-long days to her husband, and, look what way he would, he had nothing to pray for but that she might be safe, and he might know it and die—die quickly.

Once or twice it seemed to him he sank into unconsciousness, but always the pain brought him back to unbearable life again, and the rain rained on till the thatch was sodden and the mud floor on which he was lying was slimy. The walls were slimy, too, and the thought came to him that if they had not bound him so tightly he might have made his way out through such frail barriers! Oh, but they were wily devils; they knew that as well as he did.

It was dark now—dark, after ages of suffering, and still the rain was coming down steadily. The mob would be quiet, and if Grainger had got his message! Had he worded it strongly enough?

It set itself to the pain in his ankles and wrists, to the cramp in his arms and legs, to the throbbing in his eye. His eye was a great capital letter that spread itself out of all proportion, and Anne loved proportion. But what matter? He would never see Anne again. She would be safe, because of the rain; but he— He wondered what he would give to know she was safe; he wondered why he loved her so madly. He was dying—painfully dying. He wanted to know she was safe, and then to die quickly. He was, of course, better dead; common sense told him that—far better dead.…

“Better dead—better dead!” The words ran in

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his swollen veins, and then they set themselves fiery red against the mud walls—the mud walls that were slowly dissolving away, and would leave him presently exposed in his helplessness and humiliation in the mocking street.

But he would not know! Oh, luckily, he would not know! Already there was a buzzing and a roaring in his ears; then the wall had given, and there was a rush of rain-washed air that was infinitely refreshing, even though it was only the air of a filthy alley in a cramped little Chinese city. And then—then he knew he had lost his senses; this must be the beginning of the end.

Someone stumbled over him, and Anne's hands were on his face.

“Oh, Tommy, Tommy!” Her voice had a queer little break in it. When death comes one fancies things, and he might have thought she was glad to say his name again. “Tommy, do you like lying in all this filth? There isn't much excitement about this sort of rising, is there?”

It was Anne. She was speaking in hurried gasps, and in the darkness her soft fingers were feeling all down him—down to his feet, over his face; cool and gentle they felt against the throbbing flesh.

“I'm going to die, Anne!” he heard himself saying, in a hoarse, dry voice. “It was good of you to come; but run, dear, run back to the mission! You'll be all right while this rain lasts—and Grainger!”

“Oh, Tommy”—there was a little laughing impatience in the voice—” this is the silliest rising! All mud and dirty water and waiting. I really prefer you selling Rooster cigarettes. Now, what awful ropes! It's lucky I'm a woman of forethought, and put your pocket-knife in my pocket!”

It was Anne! It was Anne! He tried to gather together his failing senses, moved his head—the only part of him he was capable of moving—and felt her soft cheek against his.

“Goose, goose!” Her hands were fumbling with

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his bonds. “I really think it's very hard to have a husband who has such a mighty poor opinion of his wife. Oh, what a disgusting mess! How I do hate China! Your hands—Tommy, your hands are simply horrid!”

And with her own soft palms she was trying to restore the circulation.

“Anne, Anne”—and he did not want her to see his face; he had no control over his own voice, and he was afraid of breaking down—“loose my feet and run back to the mission!”

She was cutting the ropes at his feet, and he lay back helpless, though the beating blood in his arms was such exquisite agony he could have cried aloud.

“There!” Anne's voice was triumphant, even though it was subdued. “Now, can you stand up in a minute, Tommy?”

He could not even feel he had feet, but he lied—lied as he had lied many a time to her.

“Yes, in a minute, when the circulation comes back. Run now—run down to the mission, and I'll overtake you. If we can get away before this rain stops—”

He had reached his limit; he could not speak another word. When she was gone—

But she was not gone. She came to his head, and lifted it on to her knee; and he knew it must be all congealed blood and filth. How cool her fingers were! And what was his face like? Had they smashed his eye?—he wondered whether it was still there. It felt like fire.

She had come—that was heaven! She had been almost tender now, if she would go before she showed him she loathed him.

“Tommy, what have you let them do to your face?”

Her handkerchief was cool and clean, and had a fresh scent of lavender about it.

“Go, Anne!” he said hoarsely, because there was a lump in his throat that would not let him speak.

“Really, I have never met a husband who cared so little for the society of his wife! And she even dared

  ― 206 ―
to defy the McLeod for him!” And she laughed. “Tommy—”

There was another sound in the street now. It had been growing louder, but they had been so occupied they had paid no attention; the sound of men marching up the street. Tramp, tramp! They were quite close. There was the clash of arms, and an unmistakable English voice speaking.

“If we don't find him, I'll burn down the rotten little city! Somebody shall pay!”

“It will be hereaboots!” came McLeod's voice.

“Grainger!” cried Slade; and his voice broke.

“Mr McLeod!” cried Anne; and hers was triumphant.

And then they came wading in through mud and filth—six armed men and the missionary, waving a smoky little lantern.

The light fell on Anne. The tweed hat, pushed back, formed a frame for her red hair; her sparkling eyes and her white face alight with excitement. Slade saw her. Thank God—thank God, it was all right! Grainger would see she was safe, whatever happened; and then, because he had endured all he could and the strength was gone out of him, he put his arm up and hid his face. He set his teeth and drew a long breath. He was going to live, and he was disfigured.

“Mrs Slade! How did you get here? My lord, Slade, you're a lucky beggar!”

“Of all the misbegotten lassies!” said McLeod, the unforgiving.

“Here, let's look at you!” said Grainger, stooping over him and lifting up his arm.

McLeod threw the lantern light over his face, and his head was on her lap. She would see—she must see every hideous detail!

“Sure, they've mussed you up some, I guess!” said a long lean American. “We'll take it out of the Tutuh's hide! What do you say, Grainger?”

“Ye've pit the fear o' the Lord in him a'ready,”

  ― 207 ―
said McLeod. “Get this lad awa' doon to the mission, an' we're a' richt till the next risin'!”

They slung him between them on a rough litter made out of their belts and his own bonds, and presently they were at the mission house, and McLeod had attended to his wounds; and, for all his desperate anxiety, he had not dared put into words his fears. He was going to live, and he was disfigured. He was alone with Anne. She had washed and put on clean things, and was bending over him. He dared not look at her.

“You got more excitement out of it, I think, Tommy, than any one of us,” she said.

Half his face was enveloped in bandages, and he was painfully conscious of it. The bandages alone would have made him unhappy, and when he remembered what they hid—

He looked straight up at her as she stood there, tall, fair, and good to look upon.

“It isn't my fault I'm alive!” he said, with passionate bitterness. “I know you'll loathe— I'm going farther into the interior, and you can take half my pay and go back home to England, and—”

For a moment the fair face above him looked astonished; then it crumpled up, and the next moment she was on her knees by the bedside, and her arms had drawn his head against her breast. Very, very tender was their clasp.

“Tommy, Tommy, all this fuss about a wounded eye! Mr McLeod says that a little careful nursing will do away with all necessity for—divorce proceedings!” And it was her voice that broke, her tears that were raining down upon his face. “My dear, my dear!” And her wet cheek was pressed against his; her soft lips met his and lingered there.