Adeline M. (Adeline Margaret) Teskey.

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A Story of the East and the West



Author of "Where the Sugar Maple
Grows," etc.

[Illustration: Logo]

Hodder and Stoughton
New York
George H. Doran Company

Copyright, 1911,
By George H. Doran Company

[Illustration: Frontispiece]




_March 1st, 1 - - _

Here I am in this strange country about which I have learned in the
geography and history, and about which I heard my father talk. The
daughter of an American man and a Chinese woman, I suppose I am what is
called a mongrel. My father was a Commissioner of Customs in China, and
living for years in that country he fell in love with my mother and
married her - as was natural. Who could help falling in love with my
dear, yellow, winsome, little mother? My name is Margaret, called after
my father's mother; my father said that the word Margaret means a pearl,
so he gave me the pet name "Pearl." Dear father!

"It was a monstrous thing for Brother George to marry away there," I
overheard my Aunt Gwendolin remark a short time after my arrival. "Why
could he not have come back home to his own country and found a
wife? - And above all to have married a heathen Chinese!"

"Not a heathen," said my grandmother, reproachfully, "she had previously
embraced the faith of Europeans; so my dear George wrote me from that
far-away country."

"Oh, they are all heathens in my estimation," cried my Aunt Gwendolin,
scornfully; "what faith they embrace does not change the fact that they
belong to the yellow people."

My mother died while I was yet a child, and my father has died and left
me alone in the world within the last year. Grandmother, my father's
mother, when she learned about her son's death, sent at once for me.

"I cannot leave a granddaughter of mine in that country, and among that
heathen, if not barbarous, people," she wrote to the American consul,
"and I ask your services to assist her to come to my home in America."

The consul, absent-minded, gave me my grandmother's letter to read, and
thus I learned her feeling about my mother's people and country. I never
would have come to this horrible America if I could have helped myself;
but I am scarcely of age, and by my father's will grandmother is
appointed my guardian.

The result of it all is, that having crossed the intervening waters, I
am here in the home of my grandmother, my Aunt Gwendolin and my Uncle
Theodore Morgan.

When I arrived this morning I was ushered into the sitting-room by a
maid, and the first one I beheld was my grandmother, sitting in a
rocking-chair. She called me to her, and crossing the room, I kotowed to
her, that is I went down on my hands and knees and touched my forehead
to the floor, as my Chinese nurse had taught me when I was yet a baby
that I should always do when I came into the presence of an elderly
woman, a mother of children.

"My _dear_ grandchild!" cried my grandmother, "_do_ get up. All you
should do is to kiss me - your grandmother!" And she put out her hand and
assisted me from the floor.

Grandmother is the dearest, prettiest little woman I ever saw, with
white hair and the brightest of eyes, and I have to love her, although I
had made up my mind to hate everything in America. A moment after she
had lifted me from the floor, my Aunt Gwendolin came in. She is tall and
thin, not nearly so beautiful a woman as my Chinese mother. She wears
skirts that drag on the floor, and her hair is built up into a sort of a
mountain on top of her head. I am reminded every time I look at her of a
certain peak in the Thian Shan mountains. I very much prefer little
women, like my own dear mother, like the women of my own country.

My Uncle Theodore is long-armed, long-legged, long-bodied. He looks a
little like my father, and for that reason I hate him a little less than
my Aunt Gwendolin.

After my mother's death, my father brought into our home a French
governess, daughter of a French consul, to teach me. Father seemed to
be lost in his business, or his grief at the loss of my mother, and paid
very little heed to me after the arrival of the governess.

"She is an educated woman," he told me when he had engaged her, "and I
want her to teach you all you could learn in a first-class girls' school
in Europe or America."

After that the French governess spent hours with me every day, and I saw
my father only at intervals. How much we talked about, that French lady
and I! Everything, almost, except religion; _that_ my father vetoed, as
her faith was not the one he wished me to embrace. "I'll take you over
to your grandmother by and by," he used to say, "to get the proper
religious instruction."

The governess said that I inherited more from my father's side of the
house than my mother's; that although I was born in China, I was more
of an Occidental than an Oriental; more than once she said that my
American mannerisms and tricks of speech were really remarkable, and
that I was a living example of the power of heredity. But I am never
going back on my mother's people, _never_, my dear little oval-faced
mother whose grave is under a spreading camphor tree at the heart of the

Does it not mean something that China is at the centre of the world - the

"The girl is not bad to look at, in fact I think she is a beauty - a face
filled with the indescribable dash of the Orient," said my Uncle
Theodore, when they were talking me over in the sitting-room after I had
retired to my chamber upstairs. Evidently they had forgotten the
opening in the floor which had been left by the workmen while making
some changes in the plumbing. And they did not know my extraordinary
keenness of hearing, which my governess said was an Oriental trait.

It seemed to give my governess some pleasure to talk about that keen
sense of the Orientals, and to speculate as to how they had acquired it.
"They have lived in a country where it is necessary, for
self-protection, to hear all that is being plotted and planned," she
said, "a country of conspiracies and intrigues, of plots and
counterplots. Centuries of this have developed abnormal hearing."

"She has a superb figure," said my uncle, continuing to talk about me,
"and that oval face of hers, with her creamy complexion, is really

"Yellow! you mean, _yellow_!" interrupted my Aunt Gwendolin; "she's
entirely too yellow for beauty. I'm terribly afraid that some of our set
will discover her nationality. That's _one_ thing you must remember,
Theodore, nobody on this continent is ever to learn anything about her
Chinese blood. They are so despised here as a race. She is our brother's
daughter, with some foreign strain inherited from her mother; that
is enough; never, _never_, let us acknowledge the Chinese. The
Italians and Spanish are yellowish too, - I have it!" she exclaimed,
"_Spanish!_ - Spanish will do! - Some of those are _our_ people now, you
know! It will be quite interesting to have her a native of one of our
Dependencies - a descendant of some old Spanish family!"

"Do not be foolish, Gwendolin," said my grandmother.

"I could not endure the thought of introducing a Celestial," continued
my aunt. "None must know that we have introduced the Yellow Peril into
the country!"

"Why, Gwendolin, how you do talk," said my grandmother; "the child's
father was an American, and she was admitted into this country as an

"You must talk with the girl to-morrow, Theodore," continued my aunt,
ignoring my grandmother's remark, "and tell her to keep sacred her
progenitors. She speaks such perfect English no one would suspect that
there was much foreign about her."

"She has a striking, unusual air that would attract a second glance
from most people," said my uncle. "If you can keep her nationality from
Professor Ballington you will do better than I think you can; he is a
great ethnologist; it is his life-work to make discoveries in that

"Well it _must_ be kept, no matter what means we resort to," returned my
Aunt Gwendolin, with a ring of determination in her voice.

"Poor child," said my dear old grandmother, "she is my granddaughter,
and I love her already, my George's child. She looks beautiful to me
whether yellow or no."

I had gone down to dinner on this first evening in a soft yellow silk,
with long flowing sleeves trimmed with dragons, I know I looked well in
it. Governess always said I did. It was partly Chinese and partly
European in design. Governess planned it herself, and she said the
French were born with a knowledge how to dress artistically; she boasted
that she made it to suit my peculiar style.

"Did you notice that China silk she had on at dinner?" said Aunt
Gwendolin; "there must be an end to all that; a ban must be put on
everything Chinese."

"It was rather becoming I thought," said Uncle Theodore, "in harmony
with the clear yellow of her skin. Let her dress alone, she seems to
know how to put it. That is a born gift with some women, and if it is
not, they never seem to acquire it. There is great elegance in the
straight lines of the Oriental dress."

"Let her alone," said Aunt Gwendolin scornfully, "and let the whole city
know we have introduced the Yellow Per - - "

"Gwendolin, dear," interrupted grandmother, "do not speak so."

"Those Chinese silks, of which she seems to have gowns galore - I was at
the unpacking of her trunks - must be tabooed," said my aunt. "Her father
has evidently intended her to dress like an European or American; she
has _some_ waist line, and does not wear the sacque the women wear in
China; but her sleeves are _years_ old."

"The dear child may object to having her attire changed at once," said
my grandmother. "She is used to those soft clinging silks, and may not
want to give them up. And sleeves are of little consequence. Let her
alone for awhile."

"Let her alone!" again retorted Aunt Gwendolin, "and let Professor
Ballington see her? He'd know her nationality at once in that yellow
silk covered with sprawling dragons, as almost anybody might. I cannot
have anything so mortifying occur when the girl is calling me 'aunt'!"

"Ballington is a curious kind of a chap, and values people on their own
merits; _he'd_ think none the less of the girl because she has some
Chinese blood in her," returned Uncle Theodore.

"I'll take her out to-morrow," continued my aunt, "and buy her some
taffeta silks and French muslins, and dress her up as a Christian
_should_ be dressed."

Grandmother said no more. The mother is not the head of the house in
America as she is in dear old China. I suppose it is the daughter who
rules in this country.

I am so sleepy I cannot listen any longer, even to talk about myself. My
governess has taught me that eavesdropping is not honourable, but I
cannot avoid hearing so long as I stay in my room, and I have nowhere
else to go. I will turn out the electric light, throw myself on the bed,
yellow silk and all, and cry myself asleep. I wonder is that an American
or a Chinese act? My governess was continually tracing my actions to one
or other of the nations.

_March 2, 1 - - _

It happened this morning! That man Aunt Gwendolin thought would be so
sure to know that I was the Yellow Pearl, came to the house, and was
ushered into my uncle's den by the maid, a few moments after I had been
sent in there to have the "talk" with him which was spoken about the
night before.

"He is a tall man, very, very white," were my thoughts regarding him,
as he bowed politely before me, when my uncle introduced us; and I
suppose his thoughts regarding me were: "She is a short woman, very,
very, yellow."

He left after a few moments' conversation with my uncle; and turning to
me the latter said, "That gentleman who has just gone is professor of
ethnology in the State University. He knows all about the peculiarities
of all the peoples and tribes that ever have graced or disgraced the
face of this planet we call the world - - Has your aunt told you that
she thinks it better that you should say nothing about your Chinese
ancestry?" he added hastily and awkwardly.

"Have the Chinese done anything disgraceful?" I asked him.

"No, no, I don't suppose they really have," he answered with an air of
annoyance. "A girl like you cannot understand; you had better simply
follow instructions. I hope it will not be necessary to mention this
subject again," he added meaningly.

I could not mistake him; I must not _dare_ tell Professor Ballington or
any one else in this great country that my mother was a Chinese woman.

In the afternoon Aunt Gwendolin took me down into the shops of the city,
"to select an outfit," she said.

We stood for hours, it seemed to me, over counters laden with silks and
muslins of every colour in the rainbow. Aunt Gwendolin held the various
shades up against my face to see which best became my "Spanish
complexion." This was said, I suppose, for the ears of the sales-people,
and the fashionable customers standing around.

When selections were made among the goods, I was taken to the
establishment of a "Parisienne modiste," where I was pinched, puckered,
and pulled until I was nearly numb. A sort of a steel waist was put on
me, which my aunt and the modiste called a "corset," and was so tightly
pulled I could scarcely breathe.

"I can't stand it, Aunt Gwendolin," I whisperingly gasped.

"Yes, you _can_!" she returned peremptorily, "you'll get used to it;
that's nothing like as tight as the girls all wear them in this

"I can't breathe," I gasped again, when the modiste had turned her back;
(Aunt Gwendolin had signed to me the first time not to let her hear me).

"Hush!" said my aunt; "for pity sake do not let the modiste know that
you never had a corset on before."

"I'd rather have my feet bound like the women do in Chi - - "

Aunt Gwendolin placed her jewelled fingers over my mouth before I had
finished the sentence.

Just as I was through being "fitted," one of Aunt Gwendolin's
fashionable friends came in. "Arabella," my aunt called her, but the
modiste called her Mrs. Delaney. I was not noticed, and slipped off into
a corner, and this newcomer and my relative fell into a deep and
absorbing talk about the new style of sleeve. I saw my opportunity and
slipped unnoticed out the front door, which fortunately was behind them.

Hurrying down a few blocks I reached a bookseller's window. With one
glance I had noticed, when my aunt and I were passing the window on the
way to the establishment of the Parisienne modiste, the word China on
the cover of a book. "I'll buy that book," I had said to myself, "and
learn what there is about China that makes Americans despise her

Entering the store, I found a number of books about China and the
Chinese: "One of China's Scholars," "How the Chinese Think," "The
Greatest Novels of China," "Chinese Life." I paid for them all and
ordered them sent to my grandmother's house.

The bookseller looked at me very curiously for several moments, and then
ventured, "You speak English very well."

"Of course I do," I said, tossing my head and trying to act saucily, as
my governess had told me the American girls did. I would not have dared
to treat a man that way in China.

He did not venture to speak again. It is funny to be able in this
America to frighten a man! Confucius says that women should "be always
modest and respectful in demeanour, and prefer others to themselves";
but I have not to mind Confucius any longer; I am now in the "sweet land
of liberty," as they sing in their national anthem. I heard my father
say once that the gentleness and modesty of Oriental women was really
beautiful; but it would not be beautiful in America.

I hurried back to the establishment of the Parisienne modiste, and found
my aunt and her friend still talking about sleeves. They had never
noticed my absence. How very important sleeves are in America! I never
heard them talked about in China.

The talkers had evidently forgotten me, so I slipped out again, and
walked several blocks, watching the manners, and catching snatches of
the conversation of Americans.

"I'm going to have mine eighteen gores - - "

"Pleating down the front, frills at the side - - "

"Pocahontas hat, and Prince Chap suit - - "

"Front panel, and revers turned - - "

"Frills and pipings all around - - "

"Gored, or cut in one piece - - "

"Oh, pompadour, by all means, with - - "

These were the snatches of conversation which I caught from the women as
they passed me. The men were mostly silent and glum.

This curious country, that Aunt Gwendolin says has gone away ahead of
the rest of the world, why do its women talk more about dress than
anything else? And why have its men such pushing, hurrying,
knock-you-down-if-you-stand-in-my-way faces?

When I got back to the establishment of the Parisienne modiste I found
my aunt ready to take me to the milliner's to be "outfitted with hats."

Walking a block or two we entered a much-decorated room, and at my
aunt's request an attendant brought several hats for our
inspection - curious-looking things like straw bee-hives, or huge wasps'
nests, covered over largely with wings and the heads of poor little dead
birds, ends and loops of ribbon, roses and leaves, looking as if they
were only half sewed on and liable to tumble off if touched, and long
feathers, buckles, and pins. My aunt selected several, fitted them on
my head, and declared they were very becoming to my Spanish style of
beauty. I, almost in tears, whispered into her ear, so the attendant
would not hear me, "I shall not have to wear them where any one can see
me, shall I?" Aunt Gwendolin smiled (the attendant was looking) and
replied sweetly, "Yes, they are very pretty, indeed."

We in China could never kill our birds and wear them on our heads - the
breasts of our beautiful mandarin ducks, the wings of our gold and
silver pheasants, the heads of our pretty parrakeets - we never could do
it - we would feel like murderers. Our majestic-looking wild geese, that
fly over our heads in flocks sometimes thirty miles in length, going
south in the autumn and north in the spring, we never molest them. The
Buddhists believe that all geese perform an aerial pilgrimage to the
holiest of the lakes in the mountains every year, transporting the sins
of the neighbourhood, returning to the valley with a new stock of
inspiration for the people in the locality where they choose to alight.
Here in this civilised country - I have been reading in one of their
magazines that grandmother loaned me - they catch the beautiful
water-fowls, kill them, and hack off their downy breasts to make ladies'
hats. And the little young birds starve in the nest, because the mother
never returns to feed them. Ugh! Civilised countries are dreadful!

When the hats were selected my aunt conducted me to the furrier's.

"The cold weather is not over yet," she said, "and while we are about it
I shall select some necessary furs."

I had noticed as we were passing through the streets that the ladies
had curious looking things around their necks and shoulders, capes
trimmed with heads of animals, and tails and paws of the same. I
wondered the dogs did not bark at them. They looked like some hunters
who had been out shooting and had thrown their dead game over their

The furrier whose shop we had entered seemed to know my aunt, and as
soon as she said, "I want you to show me some of your best fur garments
suitable for a young lady," he brought down from some shelves the
greatest quantity of fur articles, ermine, mink, seal, sable, all
covered with heads, tails, paws, claws, eyes, mouths, teeth, whiskers. I
shuddered and drew back when my aunt went to place one around my neck.

"Oh, auntie!" I cried, "don't touch it to me!"

"Ha, ha, ha," softly and politely laughed the shopkeeper, "the young
lady has not become acquainted with the newest thing in furs, so
beautiful and realistic - so charming!"

Aunt Gwendolin frowned. She evidently did not like my display of nerves,
and resolutely fastened around my throat an ermine scarf with seven or
eight heads, and twice as many tails. "There!" she said, "that will do
nicely, it is very becoming to her creamy Spanish."

"It could not be better," said the polite shopkeeper.

A muff was then chosen to match the scarf, with just as many horrible
grinning heads, and little snaky tails; and paying for them, my aunt
ordered them sent home.

On my return home I dropped a silver coin into the housemaid's hand,
and told her when the parcel of books arrived she was to carry it up to
my room and say nothing about it. She seemed to understand, and asked no

An hour later she came to my door with the books in her arms, and found
me examining my new set of furs.

"Betty," I cried, throwing wide the door of my room, "come in and tell
me all about my furs - how the man that sells them gets all those little
heads and tails. Where do they get them? And how do they catch them? I
want to know it all."

"Oh, miss," said Betty, stepping briskly into the room, nothing loath to
accept the invitation to examine the new furs, "they lives out in the
wild woods - these little critters, an' men poisons 'em, an' traps 'em.
An' when they is dead, they skins 'em, tans the skins, an' makes 'em up
into muffs, an' boas, an' tippets, an' fur coats, an' so forth, an' so

"Poison and trap them!" I cried, "doesn't that make the little creatures

"You bet!" said Betty.

"How cruel!" I added.

"Yes, miss, ain't it awful?" returned Betty, making a wry face. "They's
a book just been throwed in at the door to-day telling all as to how it
is done. The American Humane Association has wrote the book - _they_
don't approve of killin' things. I'll bring it up an' let you read it."

Suiting the action to the thought Betty rushed away down to the kitchen
for the book.

She returned in a few moments with a small pamphlet, and thrust it
hastily into my hand - my aunt was calling her - and hastened away.

I glanced down at a picture on the front page - a hare caught by the hind
leg in a trap. A most agonised expression was on the little animal's
face. Below the picture was the title of the story, "_The Cost of a
Skin_." I dropped into a rocking-chair and read the story:

"Furs are luxuries, and it cannot be said in apology for the wrongs
done in obtaining them that they are essential to human life. Skins
and dead birds are not half so beautiful as flowers, or ribbons, or
velvets, or mohair. They are popular because they are barbaric.
They appeal to the vulgarians. Our ideas of art, like our
impulses, and like human psychology generally, are still largely in
the savage state of evolution. No one but a vulgarian would attempt
to adorn herself by putting the dead bodies of birds on her head,
or muffling her shoulders in grinning weasels, and dangling
mink-tails. Indeed, to one who sees things as they are, in the full
light of adult understanding, a woman rigged out in such cemeterial
appurtenances is repulsive. She is a concourse of unnecessary
funerals; she is about as fascinating, about as choice and
ingenious in her decorations, as she would be, embellished with a
necklace of human scalps. She should excite pity and contempt. She
is a pathetic example of a being trying to add to her charms by
high crimes and misdemeanours, and succeeding only in advertising
her indifference to feeling.

"Of all the accessories gathered from every quarter of the earth to
garnish human vanity, furs are the most expensive; for in no way
does man show such complete indifference to the feelings of his
victims as he does in the fur trade.

"The most of the skins used for furs are obtained by catching their
owners in traps, and death in such cases comes usually at the close
of hours, or even days, of the most intense suffering and terror.
The principal device used by professional trappers is the
steel-trap, the most villanous instrument of arrest that was ever
invented by the human mind. It is not an uncommon thing for the
savage jaws of this monstrous instrument to bite off the leg of

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Online LibraryAdeline M. (Adeline Margaret) TeskeyThe Yellow Pearl → online text (page 1 of 7)