Why did Captain Howard abandon his ship and the girl he was to wed? The answer took Patience Cole on a quest the East still marvels at
JAMES FRANCIS DWYER
THE LETTER With its extraordinary enclosure reached Newburyport on a spring morning. It was brought from Shanghai by Captain Forbes of the clipper ship, Sweet Roundelay. The captain, the moment he had docked his ship, carried the big envelope up State Street to the home of David Howland, brother of Captain Martin Howland who commanded the Dreamlighl.
In the sitting room of the Howland house Captain Forbes presented the missive to David and his wife. A sailor with fine manners was the captain. Bowing from the waist he said :
“Sir and madam. I hope I see you well. I have been commissioned by the Shanghai agent of your brother’s ship to present this letter in person to you. I now do so.”
Mrs. Howland blanched, but David Howland took the envelope with a lirm hand and waved the captain to a chair. David split the seal, opened the envelope, read the letter in silence; then studied the enclosure, a large sheet of thin rice paper, one half of which was covered with Chinese characters.
“Is it is it bad news?” whispered Mrs. Howland.
David Howland did not answer. He walked to the open
window and called John Ainstey, a boy of thirteen, first cousin of Patience Cole, the fiancée of Captain Martin 1 lowland.
“John,” said David Howland, "get Patience and her mother down here as soon as you can. Run quick. It’s very important.”
The boy raced away; David Howland sat himself down, the letter and the enclosure in his hand. Mrs. Howland moistened her li|>s and waited. She knew it was useless to
put another question to her husband. Captain Forbes, a little uneasy, remarked that he had never seen Newburyport looking better. 'The remark brought no comment from David.
Mrs. Cole and her daughter, Patience, came hurrying down State Street, followed closely by Mrs. Andrew Cole, sister-in-law to Patience, and the boy, John Ainstey. The four came up the steps of the Howland house and entered the parlor.
David Howland and Captain Forbes rose and bowed to the women, then David spoke:
"We have received a letter from the Shanghai agent of the Dreamlighl,” he said. “It tells us that my brother has thrown up the command. The agent does not know what prompted Martin to do this, but lie encloses a letter from a Chinaman who was a sort of personal servant and friend of my brother. This” he tapped the sheet of rice paper— “is the Chinaman’s letter. It is written in Chinese, but the agent has kindly made a translation alongside the characters. I will read it aloud.”
David cleared his throat and read the letter in a toneless voice. The letter ran:
“The Honorable Buffalo is angry. He catch no-good letter from Missie in America. He swear. He jump up and down. He tear letter in small pieces and throw ring in the Whangpoo. He say ‘Quong, 1 no go back to America. I go up the Yangtze. You come?’ 1 say. yes. Now we sit down at Chin-Kiang. The Honorable Buffalo is still angry.’’
A silence that had the quality of a fixative fell upon the room. By a seeming effort six of the listeners released themselves from it and turned their eyes upon Patience Cole.
The eyes demanded information. What had Patience written to Captain Martin Howland, and what ring had he thrown into the Whangpoo?
Patience Cole, white-faced and trembling, drew her left hand from beneath her right. She held it up so that all could see. Upon the tapering third finger was a single stone ring that flashed in the sunlight; the ring that Captain Howland had given her six months previously.
“And 1 haven’t written him!” cried the girl. “Not to Shanghai. He told me not to write.”
The silence came back, more glue-like than ever. It throttled the sounds that came in from State Street. It objected to the rustling of the sheet of rice paper.
What explanation could be given of the incident recited by the Chinaman?
Surely Cap,tain Martin Howland had no other sweetheart! No other girl to whom he had given a ring! But there were the translated words of Quong Lee’s note: “He catch no-good letter from Missie in America. . . throw ring in the Whangpoo.”
Captain Forbes straightened his necktie and spoke. “I might say,” he remarked, and he tried hard to pin down his sea-going voice to suit the small parlor, "that this story is known in Shanghai. I am sorry to say that it is generally believed. I, myself, heard a version of it from a sailor who saw Captain Howland tear up a letter and throw some object into the river.”
David Howland was a religious man, a pillar of the Old South Church. To the amazement of Captain Forbes he slid gently from his hickory rocker to his knees, and in simple words he begged the Almighty to guide his brother.
But the prayer was interrupted. Patience Cole lurched forward in a faint, her mother and her sister-in-law rushed to her side, and, in the general confusion. Captain Forbes, a hard-swearing commander, beat a retreat.
Later, Patience, sobbing softly, was led away by the two women. John Ainstey followed them. With difficulty John restrained his tears. Martin Howland w'as one of the boy’s special heroes.
THE ASTOUNDING news spread rapidly. It ran along the waterfront, flashed through Currier’s shipyard, through Jackman’s, where the Dreamlight had been designed and built to the order of Bush and Comstock of Boston. Whipped by hot tongues, it started up and down the coast. To Portsmouth. Medford. Salem and Boston. “Buffalo” Ilowdand had thrown up his command! Left the Dreamlight and beat it up a river in Chink-land! Y’oungest captain out of New England had gone and ruined himself!
And Patience Cole? queried the gossips. Why, Patience Cole still had her engagement ring and swore that she never wrote a letter to reach Martin in Shanghai ! Why, said the tongues, he must have been carrying on with someone else. Some Boston hussy perhaps. One of the painted dolls on Tremont Street. Of course a fellow like "Buffalo” Howland would get the eye of any woman. Handsome devil who had a way with him. Y’ou couldn’t trust men, especially seagoing men.
Mr. Spinks, first officer of the Dreamlight, a Medford man, brought the ship back to Boston. Mr. Spinks paid a visit to David Howland at New'buryport. He could give no solution to the mystery of Captain Howland’s disappearance. He, Mr. Spinks, hadn’t seen the captain after the latter had received the letter and the ring. The Chinaman, Quong Lee, was a very honest fellow and was well known in the city by the Whangpoo. Chin-Kiang, from which town Quong had written to the agent, was 166 miles from Shanghai. So much for Mr. Spinks.
Patience Cole took her engagement ring from her finger, strung it on a piece of ribbon and wore it round her neck, hidden from view. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Andrew Cole, a sharp-tongued woman, remarked that this was not the proper thing to do. Mrs. Andrew urged the girl to hand the ring to Mrs. David Howland, but Patience refused. She clung to the little emblem of Martin’s love. It comforted her. Each night she held it in her clasped hands as she prayed. Prayed for Martin. For “The Honorable Buffalo” who had become angry over something that no one could explain.
The wave of gossip flowed up and down the coast. It rolled back and forth on the route of the clipper ships. It provided talk in hongs and tea houses, then it died down into an occasional question born of inquisitiveness and boredom. “Wonder where Buffalo Howland is?"
Patience Cole, brave under her great sorrow, secured a position as school teacher. A very charming school inarm was the girl The strange disappearance of her sweetheart had brought to her face a wist fulness that made her beauty
more apparent than ever. A dozen young bucks of Newburyport would have given much for an approving smile from her, but Patience was faithful to the memory of “The I lonorable Buffalo."
Her consistency annoyed her sister-in-law. “It’s so stupid of you going on like this,” snapped Mrs. Andrew Cole. “There are lots of nice fellows that would love to take you to picnics and dances.”
“1 would rather not.” Patience answered.
"I think you’re a little fool.” the disapproving relative cried. “Even person in Newburyport thinks you are mad.” "Perhaps I am." Patience murmured.
John Ainstey, the boy cousin, who had run to call the girl on the morning when the sad news came to the mouth of the Merrimac, was the only other person who had laith. John had begged from David Howland the letter written by Quong Lee and he had brought it to Patience On occasions they would sit together and stare at the Chinese ideographs. The delicacy of the brush strokes thrilled them. The boy and the girl held a secret belief that the translation was, in a way, inadequate; that the writer, by the very artistry with which he formed the characters, had tried to express more than the meaning attached to them by the Shanghai agent of the Dreamlight.
This belief prompted John Ainstey to spend his pocket money on a trip to Boston. He carried the letter to a Chinese shopkeeper on Meridian Street and begged for a translation. The Chinaman could lind very little to complain of in the version supplied by the agent, but he thought the character which the agent translated as “angry” might be better expressed as “velly much upset.”
Patience was thankful to the boy. He supported her in her belief. The belief that something—something that might be easily explained -had turned the footsteps of Martin Howland and sent him wandering in strange places.
John Ainstey had the same idea. "He’ll come home one of these days,” he would cry. “I’ve dreamed a dozen times that I saw him walking up from the wharf all dressed up and smiling.” Patience Cole would choke as the boy told of his dreams.
John questioned every ship captain that came rolling home from the Orient. Had they heard anything of Captain Martin Howland?
“Bless you, no, boy!” the skippers would answer. "Out in China they think Buffalo Howland has gone up the Yangtze and been eaten by yellow devils somewhere near Tibet. There’s not a word from him since he left. If a man goes away from the coast in China he’s lost. The place is like a great swamp with millions and millions of the dirty scum milling round you so that you can’t breathe. P'or a seaman that likes fresh air it would mean death. Poor Buffalo Howland has been smothered by them, I’ll wager."
ÎT WAS the fifth springtime since the morning when Captain Forbes of the Sweet Roundelay had delivered the letter telling of the strange action of Captain Martin Howland in leaving his ship. The “ancient sea-blown city at the mouth of the Merrimac” was once again bathed in soft sunshine. The soothing sounds of hammer and saw came from the shipyards. Planks were being cut and planed for clipper ships that were, at the moment, but finely-tinted dreams in the brains of their designers.
A whisper ran along High Street. Old Sam Chivers, the watchmaker, was dying. Young George Chivers had come hurriedly up from Jackman’s yards and was with his father. Doctor Birch said that Old Sam couldn’t last out the day.
Near nightfall George Chivers came out of his father’s shop and started at a run for the Cole house at the other end of the street. Arrived there he asked for Patience, and when the girl came to the door he stammered out the reason for his call. “Father is dying !” cried George Chivers. “He wants to talk to you before he goes. Please. Please. Hurry, he’s near the end !”
Patience Cole was ushered into the darkened bedroom in which old Sam Chivers lay. The watchmaker ordered his wife and son to leave the room. He asked Patience to
sit beside him, his lean lingers groped for her right hand. She was a little frightened.
"Got something to tell you.” croaked Sam Chivers. "Got to tell before I go to God. Not nice, Patience, but I’ve got to get it off my chest. Listen. It’s about Buffalo Howland. Did you ever suspicion?”
"Suspicion what?” gasped the girl.
"Me!” cried old Sam. “No? Well, I’ll tell you. Ten years ago Buffalo I lowland gave my son George a hiding. An awful hiding. Might have been George’s fault; might not. 1 don’t know. But I swore if I ever had a chance to jerk Buffalo Howland’s head back I’d do it.” Sam Chivers was halted by lack of breath.
“Y’es?” whispered Patience. “Yes? I’m listening.” She thought something had crept into the room, something that thrust the black spear of terror into her little heart, but, at the same Lime, ordered her to stay and listen to the whispered words of the dying man.
"You remember your ring was a little loose,” came the words of the old man. “You wanted it tightened up. I said 1V! do it quick ’cause you wanted to wear it over to Haverhill. Remember? Then it rained, an’ you—an’ you thought I’d be hurryin’ for nothing, so you sent me a little note. Do you know what you wrote? You said: ‘I’ve changed my mind. I don’t leant the ring today.’ That’s what you said, an’ you signed it.”
Death was hovering above Sam Chivers. His voice now was a dry whisper, rasping and unpleasant. “The devil talked to me when I got that note.” he went on. "The old devil came right to my bench an’ said, ‘Sam, here’s your chance to jolt Buffalo Howland’s head back.’ Unner’stand? 1 made a ring to match yours. Worked all night at it. An’ I rubbedI rubbed out that word today that was in your note. There was a fast clipper, the Red Dolphin, leavin’ for Shanghai, an’ I sent that ring an’ your note to Buffalo Howland. Damn him! He leathered hell out of my boy, George, an’ if Howland didn’t come back George’d have a chance to get you an’—-an’—”
There came a frightful rattle from the throat of Sam Olivers. Patience Cole sprang away from the bed and shrieked for his family. Wide-eyed, she tied the house. Her note, written by her own hand, had sent Captain Martin Howland stumbling angrily into the wilds of China! Her note used by a revengeful old man in an effort to settle his debt of hate !
CHINA! China. 14.000 miles away from the mouth of the Merrimac! China, huge, terrifying, a name with which to frighten children. At Newburyport there was peace and quiet, but in China red murder ran through the narrow streets and men disappeared without a clue. China at the end of the world., At the farthest outposts, a horrible unclean land on the rim of space.
The day after Sam Chivers was buried. Patience Cole and young John Ainstey climbed the gangplank of the Flower o’ Cathay lying at Harbottle’s Wharf. They were shown into the cabin of Captain Shedd. who commanded the clipper. Patience Cole wished a passage to Shanghai.
“To Shanghai?” cried Captain Shedd. “Why. missie?” “I wish to find someone.” said Patience Cole. “Someone who has been deceived.”
Captain Shedd argued with the giri. "Chiny.” said the captain, “is an awful big place. An’ it’s full o’ folks that’d stick a knife in you if they thought you had ten cents in your pocket. Ay. or a nickel! Those Chinks are nasty fellers. An’ there's smells an’ stinks that are downright awful. 1 wouldn’t go if 1 was you. Miss Patience."
"I'm going.” said Patience Cole quietly. “I've made up my mind. My mot her and my sister-in-law disapprove, but I'm going whether you take me or not.”
Captain Shedd nibbed his sun-tanned face. "Those Chinks are not the sort of folk for a girl to deal with.” he said. "I tell you. Miss Patience, they’d cut your throat to get a broken shoelace. If someone was goin’ with you now it would ”
"I’ll go with Patience.” said young John Ainstey. "1
have my fare. If—if anyone tries to fool with Patience I’ll brain him.” John Ainstey was eighteen at the time; a clean-cut youngster with a frank open face.
All Newburyport came to see them off. Newburyport excited beyond all measure. A little awed by the courage and determination of Patience Cole. Going out to China to seek a lover who had been lost to her for five years.
Old sailormen who knew the Orient shook their heads. What might have happened to Martin Howland in five years? A long stretch of time to spend in the East. The insidious, poisonous East. They thought of their own visits to Chinese ports. Days at Canton in the little tea shops along the Chu-Kiang. “Sailorman. sailorman. likee Chinee girl.”
Queen's Road at Hong Kong. Long lazy afternoons with the warm wind blowing over Pagoda Anchorage below the sleepy city of Foo-Chow. Nice snares for the feet of sea rovers. “Sing-song girl teachem sailorman how hold chopsticks. Velly good, chopsticks. Eatem much rice.”
Memories of those days made them smack their tobaccostained lips. Ho. ho, ho! Buffalo Howland was a goodlooking fellow. Handsomest captain out of New England. Probably taken up with a yellow hussy. Awful cunning those Chink girls with their long eyes and theff hair plastered down on their heads. Awful cute.
The old men reminisced in whispers as the mate of the Flower o' Cathay roared orders to his crew. “D'ye remember Big Lil’s place at the foot of the Hundred Steps?”
“Do I? An’ the Golden Tea House! She’ll never find him. Chiny is the sink of the world."
But Newburyport cheered the slim girl who stood on the poop waving her little handkerchief as the Flower o' Cathay with topsails, topgallants, royals and skysails swung off on the long, long route to China.
"A Yankee ship came down the river.
Ha, ha. rolling John !
Oh. what do you think that ship had in her?
Ha. ha. rolling John !
A lovely girl who sought her lover,
Ha. ha. rolling John!”
YES, MISS, that's Chiny off the port bow. There’s the mouth of the Yangtze, the biggest, raginest river in the whole world. We go up it for a bit an' swing into the Whangpoo. an’ Shanghai will be right in front of us. Made by the devil an’ his fallen angels.”
The East slapped the faces of* Patience Cole and John Ainstey. Prying breezes that asked innumerable questions. Why had she come? To seek a man? How silly ! There were millions and millions of men. “Memories are the starving dogs that roam the streets of the heart,” says the Book of Sun Hstti.
The agent of the Dream light was kind. He had heard nothing of Martin Howland, but he had heard a vague rumor that Quong Lee had wandered back to his old haunts. The agent thought that the Chinaman might be found in his native city.
The pursuit was on. Up and down the narrow stinking streets of Poo-tung. searching for Quong Lee. John had brought the letter which Quong had written. He waved it in the yellow faces of a thousand Chinamen. Did they know the writer?
Then, on a day when the smells of Shanghai rose and choked Patience Cole they located Quong Lee. John held the letter before a spectacled Chinaman sit ting in Szechuen Road and a miracle happened.
The expressionless face was suddenly wreathed in smiles.
A torrent of words poured from the thin lips. Who could have written it but he? There was his name! Who could have known about the Honorable Buffalo but himself, Quong Lee?
Shuffling Chinamen paused and listened to the story told by Quong Lee. A letter he had written five years before had gone to America and had now come back to Shanghai. Marvel of marvels! Szechuen Road was blocked by the
crowd of Celestials who wished to hear the story and touch the sheet of rice paper that had visited the country of the white devils and had come back safe to the Flowery Land.
John Ainstey managed to halt the never-ending recital. He pushed Quong into a small native restaurant and explained the reason for the presence of Patience Cole and himself in Shanghai. There had been a mistake, a terrible mistake. The Honorable Missie hadn’t returned the ring to the Honorable Buffalo. Did Quong see it on her finger? The Honorable Buffalo had been tricked by a bad man. and now he must be found and told the story.
Quong Lee had to tell the crowd. They had to know. They made queer sounds as he chattered to them. A fine mimic was Quong Lee. He straightened himself and showed Buffalo Howland tearing the false letter into small pieces, throwing the ring into the Whangpoo. then pridefully walking off with his heart crushed by the message. Patience Cole, pushed and hustled by the crowd that wished to hear the wonder tale, wept bitterly.
Quong Lee was stirred like an old reptile suddenly dragged from a damp cave into the warm sunshine. Would he help in the hunt for the Honorable Buffalo? Of course he would help! What wage did he desire? No wage at all. Not the smallest cash. His rice, yes, but no more. They would comb the Yangtze from the point where he had left Martin Howland back to the borders of Tibet where the great waterway is, called the
Continued on page 41
Continued from pafle 9-
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Chin-sha-kiang. or River of Golden Sand. 1 le. Quong Lee, would be guide and counsellor in the great search.
HTREMENDOUS, the Yangtze. Huge, A impressive, terrifying. Storming down to the Yellow Sea from its upper reaches in the provinces of Yunnan and Szechwan. Roaring by mud villages, by century-old towns, by walled cities at which the trade knuckles of the Western world battered for years before they became treaty ports.
Murderous, thuglike, lethal. Boiling through rocky gorges with their rapids and uncountable whirlpools. Snatching at the coolies that drag the loaded junks upstream. throttling them in the yellow flood, burying them in the black slime of its wide bed. Waters of death.
A saga this voyage of Patience Cole of Newburyport. For it was her voyage. She the leader who sprang upon fears and doubts and throttled them. She the one who fought the horror inspired by the Yangtze. For Quong Lee became, under her will, an automaton that did her bidding—a yellow robot that had no mind of his own.
Unfortunately John Ainstey had to retire early from the great hunt. John, at Nanking, 200 miles from Shanghai, stepping clumsily from the junk to a rotten stringpiece, fell and broke his leg.
Patience had the youth carried to the house of an American missionary, a mild, low-voiced man from Wilmington, Delaware. She informed the clergyman that she would pick up John on the way back, and before the man could recover from his surprise she and Quong Lee were on the next leg of the river in the direction of Ta-tung.
Dreadful days of suffering and discomfort for the girl. The Yangtze, a slippery, eel-like devil that slapped the side of the junk with gurgling waves that ridiculed her search. How foolish her task. Her little store of dollars earned by teaching school at Newburyport matched against the mightiest waterway in the world.
A devil the Yangtze, A killer. The Chinese say that its bed is floored with corpses. Junkmen and trackers, laid end to end and side to side, faces turned upward, eyes open, so that a watcher looking down on the nights of the “Large Moon” (Ta-yuehHang) can see the whites of a million eyes. Dead eyes. . .
The junk was small. It had an arched covering of split bamboos at the stern. It was handled by three men, assisted by Quong Lee. And it drove on and on in its pathetic quest.
Quong Lee had a poetic soul. He made a chant which he sang to himself through the long hours. It ran:
"Catchee Honorable Buffalo soon,
Quong Lee see luck in golden moon,
No catchee Nanking, catchee p’laps Tai-ping,
Me catchee Honorable Buffalo soon.”
The chant rode into the breast of ; Patience. It attuned itself to the beats of her little heart. It bred faith.
No Honorable Buffalo at Nanking nor at Tai-ping. No way disheartening to Quong Lee. He merely altered the names \ of the towns in his song. Plenty of towns for loose rhyming along the Yangtze, j Kiu-Kiang, farther upstream, rhymed roughly with Hwang-shih-kang farther still. The chant went on with new points where the Honorable Buffalo would”be found.
At Hankow there filtered a tiny beam of light into the gloom that surrounded Patience Cole. Quong Lee. canvassing the fleet of junks moored in the mouth of the Han-shui, a tributary of the big stream, found a junk owner who had met Captain Martin Howland. By cunning he brought the fellow to see Patience.
The junk owner related nervously how he and five friends had a discussion with Captain Howland. Quong gave a free translation. “He mean, missie, that him an’ his flens try to rob the Honorable Buffalo. Honorable Buffalo no likem been rob.”
Haltingly the junkman told of the combat that ensued. The man power was with ! the Chinese but the indignation of the American outweighed it. The five Chinamen were thrown bodily into the river, and two of their number were drowned in the yellow waters.
The raconteur looked at the wicked river and spoke in a whisper. Quong switched the words into pidgin. “He say Honorable Buffalo no man. He thinkem one big white devil stlength ten mens.”
Patience thanked the junk man and gave him a few small coins. The story thrilled her. In fancy she saw her angry sweetheart of long ago dealing with the robbers.
PAST filthy, smelly towns strung along the banks. Habitational ulcers that | craved the blessed lavage of the river. ! Ulcers that bubbled with microscopical life. Sin-ti, Tsen-ling-fow, Yo-chow, Huping-tao. Vice and corruption, disease and death.
“Missie better wear trousers,” said Quong Lee. “People watchem too much.” Patience Cole of Newburyport made no objection. Nothing mattered but the finding of a lover who had been tricked by the hate of an old man. She got into trousers of blue cotton and blue padded jacket.
“Rubbem face bit yeller,” cautioned Quong. “Much like Chinese then.”
Patience obeyed. The reptilian river produced a strange hypnotic state that made her oblivious to the daily horrors. She could look at frightful sights without qualms. Nothing frightened her. One day a corpse brushed against the junk, another ; followed: a third, moving faster than the j first two as if anxious to catch up with its j dead mates.
The junk men looked and grunted. They knew that the Yangtze had struck. Grabbed at a junk in the rapids above I-Chang. Carrying the bodies of the three on its tossing tide till it; found a dear space on the slimy bed to lay them down, side by side, their eyes staring upward. “The faces of the dead drowned in rivers are washed for ever,” says the Book of Sun Hsui.
Paws of death are the rapids above 1-Chang. Here the Yangtze lifts her head like a giant cobra and strikes at man. Corseted by huge cliffs, she foams down Hie gigantic spillway and smashes the fragile junks on rocks that she has ground to fine points with her hurrying waters.
Here are the rapids and the whirlpools to fight the up-paddling junks. Here are the army of trackers that haul the vessels through the boiling waters. Cables of plaited bamboo a third of a mile in length. Two hundred, three hundred, four hundred men on the bucking, plunging rope attached to the junk.
The Yangtze for ever ready to fight the toiling coolies. All together, pull! The battle is on. Scream at the straining army. Curse them. Flog them. The whip on their bare backs. The junk must be saved !
Slippery the spume-wet rocks along which the trackers crawl. One man in the river. Another and another. No matter. Pull, you yellow devils, pull! Three trackers are nothing. The junk owner has the money. He is paying for the army. If the junk goes down, there go the silver taels. Silver taels that buy food and women and wine and the juice of the black poppy. . . Pull, you yellow swine, pull!
Above Hwang-lin-pu. in the treacherous Hsin-tan Pass, there is a tooth of granite called “The Foreign Woman’s Rock.” There a white woman clung to the rock and supported a Chinaman who had lost consciousness through being buffeted by the flood. The white woman was Patience Cole of Newbury port; the Chinaman was Quong Lee.
A frightful moment for Patience. One arm around the jagged point of granite, the other clinging to the jacket of Quong. The junk and the three polers had been carried away by the torrent. . ,
Shouting like fiends, the crew of a big junk slewed their craft in close to the rock. Snaky, skinny arms reached out and dragged the girl and the man to their swaying craft. The long bamboo hawser bucked and thrashed the boiling waters; the crawling trackers on the bank leaned to their task.
“Velly bad feller this ribber,” moaned the half-drowned Quong. “Him hide Honorable Buffalo but we catchee.” Fine courage had Quong. Courage that thrilled the angels in heaven.
In the bamboo coop of the junk. Patience Cole tore off her frozen garments. No privacy on the rocking craft. Slit ted eyes looked through the broken slats in spite of the curses of Quong. The girl covered her nakedness with filthy garments loaned by the junk owner, but the crew had seen. She had a white skin! Pai se fu nu! A foreign woman ! Screaming and cursing they demanded money. They had robbed the Yangtze, and the Yangtze was angry with them. The river wanted the white woman. More, more, more! “A big squeeze!”
The crew screamed the information to junks riding the river downward. A white woman! She was in the bamboo shelter. They had seen her skin. White like rice grains. White like the lotus flower.
ANEW JUNK, A new crew. Passing the “Twelve Peaks of Wu-shan.” Quong Lee showed anxiety. The gossip of the junk men had rushed ahead of them.
“Chinamens velly bad here.” observed Quong, "Makem big row all time.” Patience understood. “Are you afraid?” she asked.
“Me old man, no matter if dead." said Quong. “Missie young. Bad thing Chinamen hurt her.”
“Would they would they kill foreigners?” whispered the girl.
Quong Lee squirmed. He didn’t like to blacken the reputation of his countrymen but he liad to protect Patience, “Think kill plenty,” he muttered. “Velly bad Chinamens here.”
Hours later he talked more freely. Junks slithering downstream shouted news. Death was in the air. Murder rode the waters of the Yangtze. There were cruel killings. Folk of the outer world were making for the coast.
“P’laps Honorable Buffalo run Shanghai.” murmured Quong.
Patience Cole shook her head. She knew Martin Howland. Stubborn was Martin, if excited Chinks wanted to run him out of town he would dig his heels in and stay. Quong was glum.
That evening in the “Little Dark” they came to Wan-hsien. From the river bank came screams and shouts and the noise of exploding guns, Knots of men formed and broke apart, others ran in quick-shifting formations along the muddy shore. Alarmed, fearful of death, Quong Lee nosed the junk silently into the anchored fleet.
Quong climbed from one craft to another till he reached the shore. He hung for some minutes on the outskirts of a group, then hurried back to the girl. There was fierce rioting on the shore. Terrified of the danger that he sensed, lie suggested that they move farther upstream.
A girl of thirteen or so, with a maimed left foot, crept over the junks with a small basket of nuts. Silently she appeared before Patience Cole. A pathetic, starving mite clothed in dirty rags.
Around her throat was a string on which were a few small coins. These attracted the attention of one of the coolies. He wished to examine them, but the wearer protested. In the struggle the string broke and the coins were scattered.
Patience Cole tried to soothe the shrieking child. She gathered up the coins and tried to fix the broken string. Threading them upon the cord, she paused and stared with wide eyes at the piece she held. A small silver coin through the centre of which a hole had been neatly drilled. For a moment she could not believe her eyes. She ivas looking at a worn dime. A United States dime minted the year before Martin Howland flung up his command !
She cried out to Quong to come and question the child as to where she had come into possession of the coin, but the frightened girl snatched the dime from the hand of Patience and fled shrieking over the huddled junks.
Patience Cole stood looking at the dark shore. A great weariness was upon her. A weariness that was like death itself. She wondered if it were death. [It seemed as if she had lost all personality, that she who had a name, a mind, a history, had suddenly merged with the vast world around her.
Fear came with the strange sensation that she was adrift. A fear that the physical force that was leaving her might not return, and that the search for Martin Howland would fail.
She prayed. Standing up in the junk, unaware of the watching coolies and the startled Quong, she prayed. The words went out into the dark of the river. They were a cry from the depths of her soul. A cry to God.
Quong Lee, hands clasped, horror crouching in his slitted eyes, stared at the girl. She was asking a question of the Great Joss of the Foreign People. Terror clutched the Chinaman. Would there come a direct answer from the heavens, an answer that might blast him, a heathen, from the junk?
The noise of the rioting ceased. There was a silence on the river. A strange silence that to the mind of Quong Lee seemed to come out from the girl he watched. It, so he thought, was produced by the very intensity of her prayers. He made little gurgling noises as his throat dried under the clutch of a great fear.
Patience Cole, without speaking, moved out across the bridge of junks that separated her vessel from the shore. Moved
out like a person in a trance. Stepping quietly but surely from one junk to another, her eyes on the dark shore. Quiet now, as the rioters returned to their wretched dwellings.
The three coolies muttered among themselves. The movements of the girl suggested something of the supernatural. Quong Lee fought the terror that was upon him and shuffled after the girl. Quong had a belief that she was bewitched, but he had made a vow to serve her, and although the devils of terror lashed him he followed.
“Missie!” he gasped. “Missie!”
T)ATIENCE COLE seemed not to hear
him. Looking straight ahead, she went from junk to junk till she reached the muddy shore. For a moment she paused, like a person seeking a route, then with the same unhurried movement she plunged into a dark street leading up from the river. A street that rose by worn and slippery steps from the foreshore.
Quong, the shadow at her heels. Quong, fear-stricken and sick at heart, but nerving himself for the task. All the terrible ageold beliefs of China fluttered through the head of Quong.
Patience Cole was aware of her position. She found to her own mild astonishment that she was not afraid. Fear had left her. She was, so her conscious brain informed her, in no danger. She was on a pilgrimage suggested by the soul that had, through the fatigue of the physical body, taken charge.
Up the dark street. Whispers came from behind barred doors, whispers that made the heart of Quong Lee turn to water. Eyes peered out from slit ted observation holes, glittering murderous eyes, but the girl went on. Pariah dogs snarled and snapped as she passed, but she took no notice of them.
The street broadened. Here was a circular place into which the light of a wan moon came fearfully. There were sprawled figures on the worn flagstones, patches of darkness that repelled the moon rays.
Quong called out a warning. “Missie! Missie! Do not look, Missie ! Vellybad!”
But Patience Cole looked. Patience saw. This was a place of death. Llere the rioting had culminated in bloodshed. For a minute she stood and stared at the horror, then moved on.
Narrower and darker the streets. Slippery with the filth of the ages. They came to another and wider place. Patience Cole paused. She turned a puzzled face toward the Chinaman, and as the girl and Quong stood looking at each other there came a clamor from one of the dark lanes running back from the little square. The noise grew louder. Into the dull roar came shouts and cries, the poisonous full points of revolver fire.
Quong’s fingers plucked at the sleeve of the girl. He wished to draw her back into the inky shadows, but she refused to move. A beam of moonlight fell upon her. showing her clearly as the makers of the uproar approached the square.
They broke from the inky gloom into the grey wash of the moonlight. A compact mass of eight men, seemingly closely attached to a central figure who stood head and shoulders above the rest.
This central figure glanced in the direc¡ tion of Patience Cole. The compact mass seemed to have stumbled collectively as if an invisible rope had suddenly jerked them backward. From the tall figure in the centre came a cry of surprise that turned into a roar of rage.
The mass was thrust outward by a surprising central force. A force so unexpected and terrible that three Chinamen were thrown to the ground. A swinging right took another under the ear and dropped him as if he had been shot. A left hand, moving with the speed of an airplane, drove into the stomach of another. The three remaining guards flung themselves at the disturber, but their efforts were useless. One was lifted off his feet and was tossed across the square, falling with a great splash in a pool of filthy water.
Patience Cole was at the side of the tall man. She gasped out words. Crazy words.
A thousand times she had planned how she would tell Martin of the trick that Sam drivers had played, but all those j dreams of softly whispered explanations were swept away now. He had her in his | arms, his great strong arms. The ring, the ring that he had given her in the long ago, found his lips, and he cried out words of joy that rode over her gasped-out phrases.
Quong Lee roused them. “No muchee time.” cried the Chinaman. "Plentee time talkee on junk. Honorable Buffalo an’ Missie come quick.”
RIDING the Yangtze seaward. To !
-Shanghai! Captain Martin Howland ; in charge.
Through the “Tiger-Teeth Rapid,” through the Hei-sz-hsia gorge. The Honorable Buffalo holding the craft on the racing river and shouting defiance to its rocks and whirlpools. Singing as they fled by mud villages and walled towns.
“A Y'ankee ship came down the river.
Ha, ha, rolling John !
Oh, what do you think that ship had in her?
Ha, ha. rolling John !
A lovely girl who found her lover,
Ha. ha, rolling John !
At the Woo-sung anchorage was the Sweet Roundelay, the clipper ship whose captain had brought the startling news to Newburyport in the long ago. And in the cabin of that same Captain Forbes, a sailorman with fine manners, Martin Howland and Patience Cole were made one. John Ainstev, whom they had collected at Nanking on the way down, gave the bride away, and Quong Lee was best man.
Quong Lee made a little speech after the ceremony. “The Honorable Buffalo stlong man,” said Quong. “Stlonger than lion. ! but Missie stlong heart. All hellee no stop j Missie. Quong drinkem health.”
The shouts of a bucko mate came down to them. “Now then, my bullies, step lively. Aloft there and shake out her royals! Move along, you sons of crimson gentlemen ! Rum for all hands to toast the handsomest couple in the Orient. Pul! away, boys! There’s a bride aboard and we’re on the route for home.”