Saturday, March 17, 2012

The War Tiger, by Wiliam Dalton - Full Text









The Escape from the Pagoda.


As free use is made in the following story of the names of personages who played important parts in and during the last Tartar Conquest of China, the Author believes that a slight sketch of that turbulent epoch may not be uninteresting to his readers.
Twenty-two dynasties have given some two hundred and forty Emperors to the Celestial Kingdom; of these, two were Tartars, who obtained the throne by conquest and bloodshed. In the course of time, however, the first Tartar family, with the whole of their race, were either massacred or driven from the land by a Chinese leader, who, by mounting the throne, founded the celebrated family of the Mings.
The last of the Ming Emperors, Wey-t-song, had not been many years upon the throne, when, from a wise and energetic man, he became so indolent, and regardless of all but his pleasures, that the people became oppressed by the magistrates; indeed, to use a Chinese phrase, to such an extent did the "big fish eat all the little ones," that a famine grew in the land, which caused the starving people to arise in rebellion throughout the empire.
Taking advantage of this disorder, several ambitious lords collected together bands of vagabonds, set themselves up as petty kings, and plundered and oppressed the innocent people, till the land grew damp with their tears.
At the same time, the chief, or king, of the Mantchou Tartars, learning that China was like a house divided against itself, rode with a large army upon the frontier of Pe-tche-Lee, the capital province.
The appearance, however, of this great enemy aroused what little nationality remained, and three great lords came to the Emperor's assistance. The first was Woo-san-Kwei, who, at the head of an army, kept the Tartars at bay; the other two, Li-Kong and Chang, were sent into different provinces, where, although bad men, being good generals, they succeeded in crushing all other rogues but themselves. The last-named generals, however, on their return, becoming enraged at the Emperor's ingratitude, took up arms against him, and, finding no great difficulty in subduing a people who preferred any other Chinese to their Emperor, seized upon two of the richest provinces, and established themselves as independent royalets, or petty kings.
Now, as in the great revolutions of England, America, and France, so in China, anarchy brought forth its great men; but foremost among them all stood Chin-Chi-Loong—a kind of Paul Jones, a pirate in the eyes of his enemies, a patriot in those of his friends.
Found starving when a boy, by the Portuguese priests at Macao, they took him under their care, taught him Christianity, and baptized him by the name of Nicholas Gaspard. While quite a youth, he took service on board a trading ship, in which humble position, the strength of his intellect and will so soon exhibited itself, that at an early age he became second in command, and his captain dying soon after, left him sole owner and commander of the vessel and its rich cargo.
Then it was that his true character began to develop itself; he sought to accumulate great wealth; for this purpose he traded with Japan, Siam, and the Europeans, so assiduously, that at the outbreak of the rebellion, he had become the richest merchant in an empire of rich merchants; but what to him was of far greater importance, a powerful sea-chief—for he then commanded and owned the greatest fleet that ever sailed in the Chinese seas, and as he had taken care to arm every ship, he became the terror of the three great contending parties; namely, the Emperor, the rebels, and the Tartars, who, all in turn, at times, offered great rewards for his head, and at others, for his services.
Remarkable, however, as were the fortunes of this sea-chief, they were less so than those of his distinguished son, the hero of this story.
The Author will only add, that, although many of the adventures here set down may not be found in the pages of Chinese history, if, entwining information with amusement, they bring vividly before the mind's eye of his young reader, the manners, laws, legends, superstitions, history, or character of that great, though quaint people in whom more than a thousand years have failed to make any material change, his satisfaction will be the greater that he has again deserved well of those to whom his gratitude is due for the kind, thorough, and hearty reception they gave to the Adventures of "The Wolf-Boy of China."




Nearly midway between Formosa and the most southern point of the Chinese province of Fokien are the Pescadores, a cluster of small islands, which are so barren that their few inhabitants are put to the trouble of procuring food, and even fuel, from the main land.
These islands, however, have a value of their own in the shape of a capacious harbor and safe anchorage, that was readily seen by the Dutch, the first civilized people who established themselves upon the neighboring island of Formosa, which, although a beautiful and fertile land, has not a sufficient depth of water for vessels of great draught.
It was in this harbor that a large fleet of trading vessels, laden with pearls, red copper, sabre-blades, fan-paper, porcelain, and many other articles of commerce purchased at Japan, and on its way to the large trading cities further south, sought shelter from one of the violent tempests so common to the China seas.
One of these vessels was anchored in the direction of Formosa, some distance in advance. Larger than the others, she was also of European build, and mounted with ten guns. A horde of wild half-naked men swarmed about the rigging, and decks, interspersed here and there with an officer garbed in the wide-sleeved robe common to the Chinese prior to the Mantchou Tartar conquest.
The afterpart of the deck was taken up with a tent formed of poles and matting of bamboo, the interior of which was luxuriously fitted with chairs, tables, and sofas, tastefully wrought from the wood of roses or, as it is termed in this country, rose-wood. The walls, highly painted and glittering with japan, were hung with Chinese pictures in gilded and japanned frames. Between these were long strips of satin up on which, imprinted in colors and gold, were some of the choicest moral maxims from the books of the philosopher Confucius.
The panes of the windows, four in number, were formed of stained transparent paper. In the piers between, supported by glittering branches, were painted lanterns, and from the ceiling, which shone with colors and carvings of celestial blue and burnished gold, was suspended a gong of pure silver. So far there could be no doubt that it was the floating habitation of a wealthy Chinese, but then, curiously, there was a total absence of those idols, altars, and burning incense, which to this day are to be found in all Chinese vessels. The truth was, that although a Chinese, the owner was a Christian, as was evinced by a niche at one end of the room, in which stood a handsome Priè Dieu, surmounted by a fine painting of Christ upon the cross.
At this altar, with his hands clasped, knelt a boy of seventeen, whose high cheek bones, dark eyes, and long black hair, declared his Chinese origin. His head and neck were bare, and his ample robe of green silk, which reached nearly to his close fitting leather boots, was confined in the middle by a crimson girdle, fastened by a clasp of agate stone. From the girdle hung a short straight sword. Although a Chinese, the youth was a Christian; one, indeed, of those whose faith had been gathered from the teachings of the early European missionaries, whose indefatigable exertions and untiring patience amidst much persecution, contumely, and even martyrdom, will forever keep their names green in the memories of the Chinese.
As the youth arose from his kneeling position, the report of a gun rang through the air, so snatching up his cap of sable, he went on deck to welcome the arrival of his father, who ascended the side of the vessel followed by some half-dozen officers, attired like himself in loose robes of thick brown silk, oiled to withstand the weather and without one warlike vestment, except the short swords which hung from their girdles.
Standing with his head bent forward and his arms straight by his sides, the attitude of respect, the youth waited for his father to salute him, after which he followed him through the rank of officers to the cabin, when observing the gloomy aspect of the chief's countenance, he said "Has my honored father, the great chief, not prospered with the barbarian Hollanders?"
"To the full, my son, for like the greedy wolves they have purchased the whole of my merchandise, and I have more than sufficient wealth to destroy the vermin enemies who are turning the children of the Son of Heaven from those habits of peace which have so long rendered them the greatest and most prosperous of the world's people."
"Of what enemies does my honorable father speak? Surely there are none but the savage Tartars."
"Of three, my son,—the Tartars, who are now within a few leagues of the palace of Ten Thousand Years himself; the European savages, who under pretence of commerce have obtained a footing, that, if not soon rooted out, will last forever; and worse, by far worse,—for internal rebellion is as destructive to an empire as to an household,—the rebel mandarins who are now at open war with their holy sovereign."
"Is this treble sore fresh, that it should now so rankle the heart and cloud the brow of my venerable parent?"
"Truly so, my son, for although long festering it has but now reached a head," replied the chief, adding, "To the days of my great-grandsire the empire had been free from the profane feet of barbarians.
"Then the different governments passed into the hands of cowardly mandarins, whose weakness became the advantage of the pirate Li-Lao, who ravaged the whole coast with fire and sword, and to get rid of whom the puny officials sought the aid of the Portugals, who traded at one of the outer ports. These barbarians, however, were brave; they sought, fought, and killed the pirate, and destroyed his ships and, as a reward, were permitted to settle at Macao."
"Surely, my father should be grateful to these Portugals, whose priests first shed upon his eyes and heart the light of Christianity," said the boy bowing reverently.
"They taught me for their own ends, and I would not trust the rats."
"But the red-haired barbarians of Formosa, from whom my father has just returned, are they of the same race?"
"Not so, my son, these Dutch dogs are from a distant country called Holland, where the people are so miserably poor they cannot afford even a king."
"Then why, O my father, were such pauper barbarians permitted to place the soles of their feet on the land of Formosa?"
"By fraud and artifice the rogues obtained their hold. During a tempest one of their vessels was driven upon the coast: the crew finding the island to be well situated to their wants, partly by presents, partly by force, persuaded the simple inhabitants to give them only as much land as could be encompassed by the hide of an ox, when the rogues cut the hide into thousands of narrow slips, tied them end to end and therewith measured the earth, to the great surprise and indignation of the inhabitants, who, however, were too powerless to offer resistance. In a short time they were joined by multitudes of their country men and erected yonder fort, which they call the Castle of Zealand."
"Surely the fleet of my father can exterminate these wasps?" said the boy, whom I shall for the future call by his Christian name of Nicholas.
But as at that moment an officer entered the cabin and reported the approach of a strange ship, father and son went on deck, prepared to give either a salute to a friend or a broadside to a foe.
The vessel proving to be a war junk and carrying the dragon flag of the Emperor, they fired a salute of respect, when a signal was made from the junk that she had on board the Mandarin, or Deputy-Governor of Amoy, with a secret communication for the illustrious merchant Chin-Chi-Loong, whereupon the chief bowed respectfully at the name of so great a personage, and prepared to receive him with all the customary tedious formalities.
This visit from so important a personage very much puzzled Nicholas, who stood the whole time the mandarin was closeted with his father, leaning against a gun, in deep thought. When the mandarin had finished and the official had taken his departure, Nicholas returned to the cabin, where he found the chief sitting thoughtfully with his hand upon the satin wrapper of a letter, which from the great seals affixed and the characters Hong Fong (guarded and sealed), he knew must be of great importance and from some high personage.
"My information is truthful," said the chief; "there is treason among the lords of the court, and the dogs believing Chin-Chi-Loong to be as vile as themselves, have offered him the title of king and the island of Formosa, if he will aid them with his ships, wealth, and men."
"What answer made my honorable father?" said Nicholas.
"A promise to consent, that the traitors may be caught like rats in a trap."
"Surely this is not well, for why need the brave stoop to such villainy?" replied the youth boldly.
Not noticing this reply, the chief became pensive for a few minutes, then exclaimed, "Would that I could place a letter in the hands of the Son of Heaven himself!"
"Surely that cannot be a difficulty," said Nicholas.
"Alas! my son, Wey-t-song is so resigned to his pleasures and the company of the vile bonzes, that the audience-denying tablet is for ever suspended at the gates of the inner palace."
"Truly it is a maxim that nothing is impossible to the brave. Let my father place the letter in the hands of his son, and it shall reach the imperial eyes!"
For a minute the chief gazed proudly at the boy, then passing his hand across his eyes, as if to chase away some sad thought, said, "It shall be so, but for nothing less than the safety of his Emperor would Chin-Chi-Loong risk the life of his only son; but haste, and assume the dress of a traveling merchant, while I prepare these important characters."
Without another word Nicholas left the cabin, returning, however, shortly afterward, dressed in a plain robe of coarse brown silk, with a girdle of the same color, a couple of short swords beneath his garment, and thick staff of bamboo.
"This promptness is good and bespeaks success," said the chief, laying his hand on a letter which was enclosed in three wrappers of satin, the outer being sealed in many places, adding, "Secure this packet beneath thy inner robe, for upon its safety may depend the fate of the empire. I know not by what means thou mayest reach the Emperor, therefore, when in Pekin it would be well to seek the merchant Yang, in the great square, who will aid the son of the great merchant of the south." Then taking another letter from the table, he added, "As you pass through the city of Hang-tcheou, seek out Father Adam, the chief priest of the Christians, and place this in his hands; but guard it well, for the contents are such that were they to meet the eyeballs of the bonzes it might prove thy destruction."
Then placing a valuable ring on the boy's finger and telling him to take what silver he might require, till he reached the merchant of Pekin, who would supply him with more, he bid farewell to Nicholas, who, signalling one of the consort ships, went on board, and was soon landed at the port of Amoy.

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