The first time I ever met poor Chung was at one of Mrs. Bouverie
Barton's Thursday evening receptions in Eaton Place. Of course you know
Mrs. Bouverie Barton, the cleverest literary hostess at this moment
living in London. Herself a well-known novelist, she collects around her
all the people worth knowing, at her delightful At Homes; and whenever
you go there you are sure to meet somebody whose acquaintance is a
e and an acquisition for your whole after life.
Well, it so happened on one of those enjoyable Thursday evenings that I
was sitting on the circular ottoman in the little back room with Miss
Amelia Hogg, the famous woman's-rights advocate. Now, if there is a
subject on earth which infinitely bores me, that subject is woman's
rights; and if there is a person on earth who can make it absolutely
unendurable, that person is Miss Amelia Hogg. So I let her speak on
placidly in her own interminable manner about the fortunes of the
Bill--she always talks as though her own pet Bill were the only Bill now
existing on this sublunary planet--and while I interposed an occasional
"Indeed" or "Quite so" for form's sake, I gave myself up in reality to
digesting the conversation of two intelligent people who sat back to
back with us on the other side of the round ottoman.
"Yes," said one of the speakers, in a peculiarly soft silvery voice
which contrasted oddly with Miss Hogg's querulous treble, "his loss is a
very severe one to contemporary philosophy. His book on the "Physiology
of Perception" is one of the most masterly pieces of analytic work I
have ever met with in the whole course of my psychological reading. It
was to me, I confess, who approached it fresh from the school of
Schelling and Hegel, a perfect revelation of a posteriori thinking. I
shall never cease to regret that he did not live long enough to complete
the second volume."
Just at this point Miss Hogg had come to a pause in her explanation of
the seventy-first clause of the Bill, and I stole a look round the
corner to see who my philosophic neighbour might happen to be. An Oxford
don, no doubt, I said to myself, or a young Cambridge professor, freshly
crammed to the throat with all the learning of the Moral Science Tripos.
Imagine my surprise when, on glancing casually at the silvery-voiced
speaker, I discovered him to be a full-blown Chinaman! Yes, a
yellow-skinned, almond-eyed, Mongolian-featured Chinaman, with a long
pigtail hanging down his back, and attired in the official amber silk
robe and purple slippers of a mandarin of the third grade, and the
silver button. My curiosity was so fully aroused by this strange
discovery that I determined to learn something more about so curious a
product of an alien civilization; and therefore, after a few minutes, I
managed to give Miss Amelia Hogg the slip by drawing in young Harry
Farquhar the artist at the hundred-and-twentieth section, and making my
way quietly across the room to Mrs. Bouverie Barton.
"The name of that young Chinaman?" our hostess said in answer to my
question. "Oh, certainly; he is Mr. Chung, of the Chinese Legation. A
most intelligent and well-educated young man, with a great deal of taste
for European literature. Introduce you?--of course, this minute." And
she led the way back to where my Oriental phenomenon was still sitting,
deep as ever in philosophical problems with Professor Woolstock, a
spectacled old gentleman of German aspect, who was evidently pumping him
thoroughly with a view to the materials for Volume Forty of his
forthcoming great work on "Ethnical Psychology."
I sat by Mr. Chung for the greater part of what was left of that
evening. From the very first he exercised a sort of indescribable
fascination over me. His English had hardly a trace of foreign accent,
and his voice was one of the sweetest and most exquisitely modulated
that I have ever heard. When he looked at you, his deep calm eyes
bespoke at once the very essence of transparent sincerity. Before the
evening was over, he had told me the whole history of his education and
his past life. The son of a well-to-do Pekin mandarin, of distinctly
European tastes, he had early passed all his examinations in China, and
had been selected by the Celestial Government as one of the first batch
of students sent to Europe to acquire the tongues and the sciences of
the Western barbarians. Chung's billet was to England; and here, or in
France, he had lived with a few intervals ever since he first came to
man's estate. He had picked up our language quickly; had taken a degree
at London University; and had made himself thoroughly at home in English
literature. In fact, he was practically an Englishman in everything but
face and clothing. His naturally fine intellect had assimilated European
thought and European feeling with extraordinary ease, and it was often
almost impossible in talking with him to remember that he was not one of
ourselves. If you shut your eyes and listened, you heard a pleasant,
cultivated, intelligent young Englishman; when you opened them again, it
was always a fresh surprise to find yourself conversing with a genuine
yellow-faced pig-tailed Chinaman, in the full costume of the peacock's
"You could never go back to live in China?" I said to him inquiringly
after a time. "You could never endure life among your own people after
so long a residence in civilized Europe?"
"My dear sir," he answered with a slight shudder of horror, "you do not
reflect what my position actually is. My Government may recall me any
day. I am simply at their mercy, and I must do as I am bidden."
"But you would not like China," I put in.
"Like it!" he exclaimed with a gesture which for a Chinaman I suppose
one must call violent. "I should abhor it. It would be a living death.
You who have never been in China can have no idea of what an awful
misfortune it would be for a man who has acquired civilized habits and
modes of thought to live among such a set of more than mediaeval
barbarians as my countrymen still remain at the present day. Oh no; God
grant I may never have to return there permanently, for it would be more
than I could endure. Even a short visit to Pekin is bad enough; the
place reeks of cruelty, jobbery, and superstition from end to end; and I
always breathe more freely when I have once more got back on to the deck
of a European steamer that flies the familiar British flag."
"Then you are not patriotic," I ventured to say.
"Patriotic!" he replied with a slight curl of the lip; "how can a man be
patriotic to such a mass of corruption and abomination as our Chinese
Government? I can understand a patriotic Russian, a patriotic Egyptian,
nay, even a patriotic Turk; but a patriotic Chinaman--why, the very
notion is palpably absurd. Listen, my dear sir; you ask me if I could
live in China. No, I couldn't; and for the best of all possible
reasons--they wouldn't let me. You don't know what the furious prejudice
and blind superstition of that awful country really is. Before I had
been there three months they would accuse me either of foreign
practices or, what comes to much the same thing, of witchcraft; and
they would put me to death by one of their most horrible torturing
punishments--atrocities which I could not even mention in an English
drawing-room. That is the sort of Damocles' sword that is always hanging
over the head of every Europeanized Chinaman who returns against his own
free will to his native land."
I was startled and surprised. It seemed so natural and simple to be
talking under Mrs. Bouverie Barton's big chandelier with this
interesting young man, and yet so impossible for a moment to connect him
in thought with all the terrible things that one had read in books about
the prisons and penal laws of China. That a graduate of London
University, a philosopher learned in all the political wisdom of
Ricardo, Mill, and Herbert Spencer, should really be subject to that
barbaric code of abominable tortures, was more than one could positively
realize. I hesitated a moment, and then I said, "But of course they will
never recall you."
"I trust not," he said quietly; "I pray not. Very likely they will let
me stop here all my lifetime. I am an assistant interpreter to the
Embassy, in which capacity I am useful to Pekin; whereas in any home
appointment I would of course be an utter failure, a manifest
impossibility. But there is really no accounting for the wild vagaries
and caprices of the Vermilion Pencil. For aught I know to the contrary,
I might even be recalled to-morrow. If once they suspect a man of
European sympathies, their first idea is to cut off his head. They
regard it as you would regard the first plague-spot of cholera or
small-pox in a great city."
"Heaven forbid that they should ever recall you," I said earnestly; for
already I had taken a strong fancy to his strange phenomenon of Western
education grafted on an immemorial Eastern stock; and I had read enough
of China to know that what he said about his probable fate if he
returned there permanently was nothing more than the literal truth. The
bare idea of such a catastrophe was too horrible to be realized for a
moment in Eaton Place.
As we drove home in our little one-horse brougham that evening, my wife
and Effie were very anxious to learn what manner of man my Chinese
acquaintance might really be; and when I told them what a charming
person I had found him, they were both inclined rather to laugh at me
for my enthusiastic description. Effie, in particular, jeered much at
the notion of an intelligent and earnest-minded Chinaman. "You know,
Uncle darling," she said in her bewitching way, "all your geese are
always swans. Every woman you meet is absolutely beautiful, and every
man is perfectly delightful--till Auntie and I have seen them."
"Perfectly true, Effie," I answered; "it is an amiable weakness of mine,
However, before the week was out Effie and Marian between them would
have it that I must call upon Chung and ask him to dine with us at
Kensington Park Terrace. Their curiosity was piqued, for one thing; and
for another thing, they thought it rather the cheese in these days of
expansive cosmopolitanism to be on speaking terms with a Chinese
attache. "Japanese are cheap," said Effie, "horribly cheap of late
years--a perfect drug in the market; but a Chinaman is still, thank
Heaven, at a social premium." Now, though I am an obedient enough
husband, as husbands go, I don't always accede to Marian's wishes in
these matters; but everybody takes it for granted that Effie's will is
law. Effie, I may mention parenthetically, is more than a daughter to
us, for she is poor Tom's only child; and of course everybody connected
with dear Tom is doubly precious to us now, as you may easily imagine.
So when Effie had made up her mind that Chung was to dine with us, the
thing was settled; and I called at his rooms and duly invited him, to
the general satisfaction of everybody concerned.
The dinner was a very pleasant one, and, for a wonder, Effie and Marian
both coincided entirely in my hastily formed opinion of Mr. Chung. His
mellow silvery voice, his frank truthful manner, his perfect freedom
from self-consciousness, all pleased and impressed those stern critics,
and by the end of the evening they were both quite as much taken with
his delightful personality as I myself had originally been. One link
leads on to another; and the end of it all was that when we went down
for our summer villeggiatura to Abbot's Norbury, nothing would please
Marian but that Mr. Chung must be invited down as one of our party. He
came willingly enough, and for five or six weeks we had as pleasant a
time together as any four people over spent. Chung was a perfect
encyclopaedia of information, while his good humour and good spirits
never for a moment failed him under any circumstances whatsoever.
One day we had made up a little private picnic to Norbury Edge, and were
sitting together after luncheon under the shade of the big ash tree,
when the conversation happened to turn by accident on the small feet of
Chinese ladies. I had often noticed that Chung was very reticent about
China; he did not like talking about his native country; and he was most
pleased and most at home when we treated him most like a European born.
Evidently he hated the provincialism of the Flowery Land, and loved to
lose his identity in the wider culture of a Western civilization.
"How funny it will be," said Effie, "to see Mrs. Chung's tiny feet when
you bring her to London. I suppose one of these days, on one of your
flying visits to Pekin, you will take to yourself a wife in your
"No," Chung answered, with quiet dignity; "I shall never marry--that I
have quite decided in my own mind."
"Oh, don't say that," Marian put in quickly; "I hate to hear men say
they'll never marry. It is such a terrible mistake. They become so
selfish, and frumpish, and old-bachelorish." Dear Marian has a high
idea of the services she has rendered to society in saving her own
fortunate husband from this miserable and deplorable condition.
"Perhaps so," Chung replied quietly. "No doubt what you say is true as a
rule. But, for my own part, I could never marry a Chinawoman; I am too
thoroughly Europeanized for that; we should have absolutely no tastes or
sympathies in common. You don't know what my countrywomen are like, Mrs.
"Ah, no," said my wife contemplatively; "I suppose your people are all
heathens. Why, goodness gracious, Mr. Chung, if it comes to that, I
suppose really you are a heathen yourself!"
Chung parried the question gracefully. "Don't you know," said he, "what
Lord Chesterfield answered to the lady who asked him what religion he
professed? 'Madam, the religion to which all wise men belong.' 'And what
is that?' said she. 'Madam, no wise man ever says.'"
"Never mind Lord Chesterfield," said Effie, smiling, "but let us come
back to the future Mrs. Chung. I'm quite disappointed you won't marry a
Chinawoman; but at any rate I suppose you'll marry somebody?"
"Well, not a European, of course," Marian put in.
"Oh, of course not," Chung echoed with true Oriental imperturbability.
"Why of course?" Effie asked half unconsciously; and yet the very
unconsciousness with which she asked the question showed in itself that
she instinctively felt the gulf as much as any of us. If Chung had been
a white man instead of a yellow one, she would hardly have discussed the
question at issue with so much simplicity and obvious innocence.
"Well, I will tell you why," Chung answered. "Because, even supposing
any European lady were to consent to become my wife--which is in the
first place eminently improbable--I could never think of putting her in
the terribly false position that she would have to occupy under
existing circumstances. To begin with, her place in English society
would be a peculiar and a trying one. But that is not all. You must
remember that I am still a subject of the Chinese Empire, and a member
of the Chinese Civil Service. I may any day be recalled to China, and of
course--I say 'of course' this time advisedly--it would be absolutely
impossible for me to take an English wife to Pekin with me. So I am
placed in this awkward dilemma. I would never care to marry anybody
except a European lady; and to marry a European lady would be an act of
injustice to her which I could never dream of committing. But
considering the justifiable contempt which all Europeans rightly feel
for us poor John Chinamen, I don't think it probable in any case that
the temptation is at all likely to arise. And so, if you please, as the
newspapers always put it, 'the subject then dropped.'"
We all saw that Chung was in earnest as to his wish that no more should
be said about the matter, and we respected his feelings accordingly; but
that evening, as we sat smoking in the arbour after the ladies had
retired, I said to him quietly, "Tell me, Chung, if you really dislike
China so very much, and are so anxious not to return there, why don't
you throw off your allegiance altogether, become a British subject, and
settle down among us for good and all?"
"My dear fellow," he said, smiling, "you don't think of the
difficulties, I may say the impossibilities, in the way of any such plan
as you propose. It is easy enough for a European to throw off his
nationality whenever he chooses; it is a very different thing for an
Asiatic to do so. Moreover, I am a member of a Legation. My Government
would never willingly let me become a naturalized Englishman; and if I
tried to manage it against their will they would demand my extradition,
and would carry their point, too, as a matter of international courtesy,
for one nation could never interfere with the accredited representative
of another, or with any of his suite. Even if I were to abscond and get
rid of my personality altogether, what would be the use of it? Nobody in
England could find any employment for a Chinaman. I have no property of
my own; I depend entirely upon my salary for support; my position is
therefore quite hopeless. I must simply let things go their own way, and
trust to chance not to be recalled to Pekin."
During all the rest of Chung's visit we let him roam pretty much as he
liked about the place, and Effie and I generally went with him. Of
course we never for a moment fancied it possible that Effie could
conceivably take a fancy to a yellow man like him; the very notion was
too preposterously absurd. And yet, just towards the end of his stay
with us, it began to strike me uneasily that after all even a Chinaman
is human. And when a Chinaman happens to have perfect manners, noble
ideas, delicate sensibility, and a chivalrous respect for English
ladies, it is perhaps just within the bounds of conceivability that at
some odd moments an English girl might for a second partially forget his
oblique eyelids and his yellow skin. I was sometimes half afraid that it
might be so with Effie; and though I don't think she would ever herself
have dreamed of marrying such a man--the physical barrier between the
races is far too profound for that--I fancy she occasionally pitied poor
Chung's loneliness with that womanly pity which so easily glides into a
deeper and closer sentiment. Certainly she felt his isolation greatly,
and often hoped he would never really be obliged to go back for ever to
that hateful China.
One lovely summer evening, a few days before Chung's holiday was to end,
and his chief at the Embassy expected him back again, Marian and I had
gone out for a stroll together, and in coming home happened to walk
above the little arbour in the shrubbery by the upper path. A seat let
into the hedge bank overhung the summer-house, and here we both sat down
silently to rest after our walking. As we did so, we heard Chung's voice
in the arbour close below, so near and so clear that every word was
quite distinctly audible.
"For the last time in England," he was saying, with a softly regretful
cadence in his tone, as we came upon him.
"The last time, Mr. Chung!" The other voice was Effie's. "What on
earth do you mean by that?"
"What I say, Miss Walters. I am recalled to China; I got the letters of
recall the day before yesterday."
"The day before yesterday, and you never told us! Why didn't you let us
"I did not know you would interest yourselves in my private affairs."
"Mr. Chung!" There was a deep air of reproach in Effie's tone.
"Well, Miss Walters, that is not quite true. I ought not to have said it
to friends so kind as you have all shown yourselves to be. No; my real
reason was that I did not wish to grieve you unnecessarily, and even now
I would not have done so, only----"
At this moment I for my part felt we had heard too much. I blushed up to
my eyes at the thought that we should have unwittingly played the spy
upon these two innocent young people. I was just going to call out and
rush down the little path to them; but as I made a slight movement
forward, Marian held my wrist with an imploring gesture, and earnestly
put her finger on my lips. I was overborne, and I regret to say I
stopped and listened. Marian did not utter a word, but speaking rapidly
on her fingers, as we all had learnt to do for poor Tom, she said
impressively, "For God's sake, not a sound. This is serious. We must and
ought to hear it out." Marian is a very clever woman in these matters;
and when she thinks anything a point of duty to poor Tom's girl, I
always give way to her implicitly. But I confess I didn't like it.
"Only----?" Effie had said.
"Only I felt compelled to now. I could not leave without telling you how
deeply I had appreciated all your kindness."
"But, Mr. Chung, tell me one thing," she asked earnestly; "why have they
recalled you to Pekin?"
"I had rather not tell you."
"Because they are displeased with my foreign tastes and habits, which
have been reported to them by some of my fellow-attaches."
"But, Mr. Chung, Uncle says there is no knowing what they will do to
you. They may kill you on some absurd charge or other of witchcraft or
something equally meaningless."
"I am afraid," he answered imperturbably, "that may be the case. I don't
mind at all on my own account--we Chinese are an apathetic race, you
know--but I should be sorry to be a cause of grief to any of the dear
friends I have made in England."
"Mr. Chung!" This time the tone was one of unspeakable horror.
"Don't speak like that," Chung said quickly. "There is no use in taking
trouble at interest. I may come to no harm; at any rate, it will not
matter much to any one but myself. Now let us go back to the house. I
ought not to have stopped here with you so long, and it is nearly dinner
"No," said Effie firmly; "we will not go back. I must understand more
about this. There is plenty of time before dinner: and if not, dinner
"But, Miss Walters, I don't think I ought to have brought you out here,
and I am quite sure I ought not to stay any longer. Do return. Your Aunt
will be annoyed."
"Bother Aunt! She is the best woman in the world, but I must hear all
about this. Mr. Chung, why don't you say you won't go, and stay in
England in spite of them?"
Nobody ever disobeys Effie, and so Chung wavered visibly. "I will tell
you why," he answered slowly; "because I cannot. I am a servant of the
Chinese Government, and if they choose to recall me, I must go."
"But they couldn't enforce their demand."
"Yes, they could. Your Government would give me up."
"But Mr. Chung, couldn't you run away and hide for a while, and then
come out again, and live like an Englishman?"
"No," he answered quietly; "it is quite impossible. A Chinaman couldn't
get work in England as a clerk or anything of that sort, and I have
nothing of my own to live upon."
There was a silence of a few minutes. Both were evidently thinking it
out. Effie broke the silence first.
"Oh, Mr Chung, do you think they will really put you to death?"
"I don't think it; I know it."
"You know it?"
Again a silence, and this time Chung broke it first. "Miss Effie," he
said, "one Chinaman more or less in the world does not matter much, and
I shall never forgive myself for having been led to grieve you for a
moment, even though this is the last time I snail be able to speak to
you. But I see you are sorry for me, and now--Chinaman as I am, I must
speak out--I can't leave you without having told you all I feel. I am
going to a terrible end, and I know it--so you will forgive me. We shall
never meet again, so what I am going to say need never cause you any
embarrassment in future. That I am recalled does not much trouble me;
that I am going to die does not much trouble me; but that I can never,
could never possibly have called you my wife, troubles me and cuts me to
the very quick. It is the deepest drop in my cup of humiliation."
"I knew it," said Effie, with wonderful composure.
"You knew it?"
"Yes, I knew it. I saw it from the second week you were here; and I
liked you for it. But of course it was impossible, so there is nothing
more to be said about it."
"Of course," said Chung. "Ah, that terrible of course! I feel it; you
feel it; we all feel it; and yet what a horrible thing it is. I am so
human in everything else, but there is that one impassable barrier
between us, and I myself cannot fail to recognize it. I could not even
wish you to feel that you could marry a Chinaman."
At that moment--for a moment only--I almost felt as if I could have said
to Effie, "Take him!" but the thing was too impossible--a something
within us rises against it--and I said nothing.
"So now," Chung continued, "I must go. We must both go back to the
house. I have said more than I ought to have said, and I am ashamed of
myself for having done so. Yet, in spite of the measureless gulf that
parts us, I felt I could not return to China without having told you.
Will you forgive me?"
"I am glad you did," said Effie; "it will relieve you."
She stood a minute irresolute, and then she began again: "Mr. Chung, I
am too horrified to know what I ought to do. I can't grasp it and take
it all in so quickly. If you had money of your own, would you be able to
run away and live somehow?"
"I might possibly," Chung answered, "but not probably. A Chinaman, even
if he wears European clothing, is too marked a person ever to escape.
The only chance would be by going to Mauritius or California, where I
might get lost in the crowd."
"But, Mr. Chung, I have money of my own. What can I do? Help me, tell
me. I can't let a fellow-creature die for a mere prejudice of race and
colour. If I were your wife it would be yours. Isn't it my duty?"
"No," said Chung. "It is more sacrifice than any woman ought to make for
any man. You like me, but that is all."
"If I shut my eyes and only heard you, I think I could love you."
"Miss Effie," said Chung suddenly, "this is wrong, very wrong of me. I
have let my weakness overcome me. I won't stop any longer. I have done
what I ought not to have done, and I shall go this minute. Just once,
before I go, shut your eyes and let me kiss the tips of your fingers.
Thank you. No, I will not stop," and without another word he was gone.
Marian and I stared at one another in blank horror. What on earth was to
be done? All solutions were equally impossible. Even to meet Chung at
dinner was terrible. We both knew in our heart of hearts that if Chung
had been an Englishman, remaining in heart and soul the very self-same
man he was, we would willingly have chosen him for Effie's husband. But
a Chinaman! Reason about the prejudice as you like, there it is, a thing
not to be got over, and at bottom so real that even the very notion of
getting over it is terribly repugnant to our natural instincts. On the
other hand, was poor Chung, with his fine delicate feelings, his
courteous manners, his cultivated intellect, his English chivalry, to go
back among the savage semi-barbarians of Pekin, and to be put to death
in Heaven knows what inhuman manner for the atrocious crime of having
outstripped his race and nation? The thing was too awful to contemplate
We walked home together without a word. Chung had taken the lower path;
we took the upper one and followed him at a distance. Effie remained
behind for a while in the summer-house. I don't know how we managed to
dress for dinner, but we did somehow; and when we went down into the
little drawing-room at eight o'clock, we were not surprised to hear that
Miss Effie had a headache and did not want any dinner that evening. I
was more surprised, however, when, shortly before the gong sounded, one
of the servants brought me a little twisted note from Chung, written
hurriedly in pencil, and sent, she said, by a porter from the railway
station. It ran thus:--
"DEAR MR. WALTERS,
"Excuse great haste. Compelled to return to town immediately. Shall
write more fully to-morrow. Just in time to catch up express.
Evidently, instead of returning to the house, he had gone straight to
the station. After all, Chung had the true feelings of a gentleman. He
could not meet Effie again after what had passed, and he cut the Gordian
knot in the only way possible.
Effie said nothing to us, and we said nothing to Effie, except to show
her Chung's note next morning in a casual, off-hand fashion. Two days
later a note came for us from the Embassy in Chung's pretty incisive
handwriting. It contained copious excuses for his hasty departure, and a
few lines to say that he was ordered back to China by the next mail,
which started two days later. Marian and I talked it all over, but we
could think of nothing that could be of any use; and after all, we said
to one another, poor Chung might be mistaken about the probable fate
that was in store for him.
"I don't think," Effie said, when we showed her the letter, "I ever met
such a nice man as Mr. Chung. I believe he is really a hero." We
pretended not to understand what she could mean by it.
The days went by, and we went back again to the dull round of London
society. We heard nothing more of Chung for many weeks; till at last one
morning I found a letter on the table bearing the Hong Kong postmark. I
opened it hastily. As I supposed, it was a note from Chung. It was
written in a very small hand on a tiny square of rice-paper, and it ran
"Thien-Shan Prison, Pekin, Dec. 8.
"MY DEAR FRIEND,
"Immediately on my return here I was arrested on a charge of
witchcraft, and of complicity with the Foreign Devils to introduce
the Western barbarism into China. I have now been in a loathsome
prison in Pekin for three weeks, in the midst of sights and sounds
which I dare not describe to you. Already I have suffered more than
I can tell; and I have very little doubt that I shall be brought to
trial and executed within a few weeks. I write now begging you not
to let Miss Effie hear of this, and if my name happens to be
mentioned in the English papers, to keep my fate a secret from her
as far as possible. I trust to chance for the opportunity of
getting this letter forwarded to Hong Kong, and I have had to write
it secretly, for I am not allowed pen, ink, or paper. Thank you
much for your very great kindness to me. I am not sorry to die, for
it is a mistake for a man to have lived outside the life of his own
people, and there was no place left for me on earth. Good-bye.
"Ever yours gratefully,
The letter almost drove me wild with ineffectual remorse and regret. Why
had I not tried to persuade Chung to remain in England? Why had I not
managed to smuggle him out of the way, and to find him some kind of
light employment, such as even a Chinaman might easily have performed?
But it was no use regretting now. The impassable gulf was fixed between
us; and it was hardly possible even then to realize that this amiable
young student, versed in all the science and philosophy of the
nineteenth century, had been handed over alive to the tender mercies of
a worse than mediaeval barbarism and superstition. My heart sank within
me, and I did not venture to show the letter even to Marian.
For some weeks the days passed heavily indeed. I could not get Chung out
of my mind, and I saw that Effie could not either. We never mentioned
his name; but I noticed that Effie had got from Mudie's all the books
about China that she could hear of, and that she was reading up with a
sort of awful interest all the chapters that related to Chinese law and
Chinese criminal punishments. Poor child, the subject evidently
enthralled her with a terrible fascination; and I feared that the
excitement she was in might bring on a brain fever.
One morning, early in April, we were all seated in the little
breakfast-room about ten o'clock, and Effie had taken up the outside
sheet of the Times, while I was engaged in looking over the telegrams
on the central pages. Suddenly she gave a cry of horror, flung down the
paper with a gesture of awful repugnance, and fell from her chair as
stiff and white as a corpse. I knew instinctively what had happened, and
I took her up in my arms and carried her to her room. After the doctor
had come, and Effie had recovered a little from the first shock, I took
up the paper from the ground where it lay and read the curt little
paragraph which contained the news that seemed to us so terrible:--
"The numerous persons who made the acquaintance of Chung Fo Tsiou, late
assistant interpreter to the Chinese Embassy in London, will learn with
regret that this unfortunate member of the Civil Service has been
accused of witchcraft and executed at Pekin by the frightful Chinese
method known as the Heavy Death. Chung Fo Tsiou was well known in London
and Paris, where he spent many years of his official life, and attracted
some attention by his natural inclination to European society and
Poor Chung! His end was too horrible for an English reader even to hear
of it. But Effie knew it all, and I did not wonder that the news should
have affected her so deeply.
Effie was some weeks ill, and at first we almost feared her mind would
give way under the pressure. Not that she had more than merely liked
poor Chung, but the sense of horror was too great for her easily to cast
it off. Even I myself did not sleep lightly for many and many a day
after I heard the terrible truth. But while Effie was still ill, a
second letter reached us, written this time in blood with a piece of
stick, apparently on a scrap of coarse English paper, such as that which
is used for wrapping up tobacco. It was no more than this:--
"Execution to-day. Keep it from Miss Effie. Cannot forgive myself
for having spoken to her. Will you forgive me? It was the weakness
of a moment: but even Chinamen have hearts. I could not die without
I showed Effie the scrap afterwards--it had come without a line of
explanation from Shanghao--and she has kept it ever since locked up in
her little desk as a sacred memento. I don't doubt that some of these
days Effie will marry; but as long as she lives she will bear the
impress of what she has suffered about poor Chung. An English girl could
not conceivably marry a Chinaman; but now that Chung is dead, Effie
cannot help admiring the steadfastness, the bravery, and the noble
qualities of her Chinese lover. It is an awful state of things which
sometimes brings the nineteenth century and primitive barbarism into
such close and horrible juxtaposition.