Tuen, Slave and Empress
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Title: Tuen, Slave and Empress
Author: Kathleen Gray Nelson
Release Date: November 28, 2018 [eBook #58369]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
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TUEN, SLAVE and EMPRESS
KATHLEEN GRAY NELSON
Illustrations by William M. Cary
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
31 West Twenty-third Street
This story is founded upon facts in the life of the Empress-dowager ofChina, the mother of the present Emperor.
She was sold as a slave by her father to a renowned government official,who after a few years adopted her as his daughter, and afterwardspresented her to the Emperor.
The Emperor was altogether charmed with the gift. In a few years theslave girl became the wife of the Emperor, second in rank only to theEmpress. From this time she was a power at the Imperial Court. Heradministrative ability in governmental affairs became invaluable to theEmperor.
After the death of the Empress, and the death of the Emperor and eldestson, she became Empress-dowager of China, and reigned as regent duringthe minority of her son, who is the present Emperor of China, now abouttwenty-four years of age.
Bishop Galloway tells us this wonderful woman's sixtieth birthday,celebrated last year, "was to have been the greatest event in Chinesehistory for a century or more." The war, however, prevented thisdisplay. He says, too: "It is significant that in this country, in whichwomen are at a discount, are secluded and kept in ignorance, areprotested against at birth, and regarded as a calamity in youth, theruling spirit in all national affairs is a woman."
|NIU TSANG AND FAMILY||2|
|THE VICEROY AND NIU TSANG||24|
|TUEN AND WANG||43|
|TUEN AT WORK ON THE TUNIC (on title-page)||65|
|"I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN TO READ"||78|
|THE SAIL UP THE RIVER||159|
|THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT (frontispiece)||190|
The sun had set in the land where the dragon reigns, and darkness andsilence and rest and sleep, the ministers of the night, waited to cometo their own. But their presence was not needed in the eastern portionof the province of Hunan, for a wonderful stillness hung over all thebarren landscape, and there was no sign of life. On the banks of thestreams the patient buffalo no longer went his ceaseless rounds, workingthe pumps that sent water over the thirsty earth; the shrill cries ofthe boatmen that were wont to echo on the river were hushed; not even[Pg 2] abird crossed the quiet sky; and where the waving rice-fields had oncestretched out proud and green under the summer sun, was now but a lonelywaste that gave no hope of harvest, for man and beast had eitherperished or fled. The great Tai-ping rebellion had stirred this peacefulcountry to its very centre, and war and war's grim follower, famine, hadswept through this once fertile province, and naught was left to tell ofwhat had been, save a few scattered ruins.
Suddenly, against the purplish shadows of the distant mountains, alittle group could be seen moving slowly along, the only living thingsin all this vast solitude. On they came over the parched levels, but theman who was leading the way walked with bowed head, as one that saw not,but only went forward because he must. He was small in stature, and thinand lithe, while his complexion showed through its dark, the pallor ofthe student.[Pg 3] His face was of the Oriental type peculiar to the ChineseEmpire, and his carefully braided cue also indicated his nationality. Hehad dark, sloping eyes that you might have thought sleepy if you had notseen them light up as he talked, his forehead was low and broad, hismouth large, and most amiable in its expression, and when the longsleeves of his tunic fell back, they disclosed soft, delicate hands,unused to toil. His costume consisted of an outer tunic of worn andfaded silk, girded at the waist with a sash, from which hung a bagcontaining flint and steel for lighting his pipe, a soiled pouch thathad once held tobacco, but was now empty, another bag for his pipe, anda satin case shaped like the sheath for a short sword, from whichprotruded nothing more formidable, however, than the handle of a fan.His loose pantaloons, dust-stained and frayed, were met below the kneesby cloth stockings, once white, but now dyed[Pg 4] with mud, and his shoes ofembroidered felt, the toes of which curled up in a curious fashion,showed many gaping holes. Upon his head he wore a cone-shaped hat ofbamboo, the peak at the top adorned with a blue button from which fell ablue silk fringe, and his tunic being cut low at the neck and buttoneddiagonally across his breast, left exposed his slender bronzed neck.
He was followed by a woman whose dress was similar to his own, and alsomuch the worse for wear, who led by the hand a little boy about fouryears old, while on her other side was a daughter, now almost as tall asher mother.
But as the father walked slowly, even majestically, at the head of hislittle family, bearing on a pole thrown across his shoulders, all hisworldly goods, there was an independence in his carriage, a pride in hismien, that told of better days not yet forgotten, and made the evident[Pg 5]poverty of his appearance seem of but little moment.
A learned man once advanced the theory that in the olden days thechildren of Abraham and Keturah, driven forth by unkind kinsmen,wandered on until they reached the flowery Kingdom, and there the familyof the old patriarch multiplied as the stars of heaven, as the sand uponthe sea-shore, and became a mighty nation. But the centuries came andwent in silence, and man kept no record of their flight; and of theearly settlers of this, one of the first countries inhabited by humanbeings, history can tell us nothing. The sons of Han have lived theirlives calmly, borrowing nothing from other nations, asking nothing ofthe outside world, caring naught for what lay beyond their vast borders,and change has been an unknown word in their shut-in kingdom. Progress,the daring child of modern times, has not found entrance[Pg 6] there, and theNiu Tsang of to-day, leading his family through the forsaken country,was but a repetition of his long dead forefathers. That was the reasonwhy, even now, as he toiled wearily along, his mind left the scenes ofthe present, so full of sorrow and suffering, and dwelt in placidcontemplation on the events of the past. He was musing on the wisdom ofthe sages, on the maxims of Confucius, when, chancing to raise his head,he saw in the distance the dim outlines of a building.
"It is the temple of Buddha," he cried, joyfully, turning to his wife."There we shall find food and shelter for the night."
She made a gesture of assent, but her pale lips framed no word, and theypressed hurriedly forward. When they came nearer the temple, he noticedthe traces of many footsteps, as if a great throng had entered there,but the same mysterious silence reigned everywhere. There[Pg 7] was no murmurof voices raised in chants of praise, no priests waiting at theentrance, no din of gongs and drums, not even a sound from theconsecrated animals that had once waited within the enclosure inpampered stupidity for release from their beastly forms. Bewildered,oppressed by a nameless fear, Niu Tsang ran past the open portal, andthere he stopped, dismayed at the scene before him, for the rebels,drunk with success, had in their wild zeal turned against the dumb godsof the land, and wrought havoc in the temple. Gilded and paintedfragments of helpless idols strewed the floor, the great stone altar,carved in writhing dragons, had been broken into many pieces, andincense vases of priceless porcelain, candlesticks of richest cloisonné,tables of carved ebony, stands of polished jade, and rosaries