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to om: starting-point and disembarked.
This time the princesses and ladies left
the barge first and stood to receive the
Empress Dowager when she landed. When
she had dined she asked us to dine with
the young Empress and ladies at her table
in her throne-room, after which we made
our adieus and returned to our own palace,
without the precincts.



The young Empress, the first lady of the
court after her Majesty the Empress
Dowager, was to me a charming char-
acter. She is the daughter of the Duke
Chow, general of one of the Manchu
Banner Corps and a brother of the reign-
ing Empress Dowager. She is thus a first
cousin of the Emperor, and is his senior
by three years. Her mother, a lady of high
birth, ancient lineage, and great distinction,
brought her up with much care. She also
had the advantage of being a great deal
at the court with her augtist aunt, and' is
highly accomplished, according to Chinese
standards. She was affianced at an early
age to the Emperor, but, as the custom
is, their marriage did not take place for
several years later. It was celebrated with
great pomp at the Winter Palace in Feb-
ruary, 1889, the week before the young
Emperor himself took in hand the reins of
government, held up to that time by the
Empress Dowager, when he became Em-
peror in reality.

The young Empress has the erect car-
riage and light, swift walk of the Empress
Dowager. She is small, not quite five feet
tall, with exquisitely dainty hands and feet,
of most patrician type. She has a narrow,
high-bred face, with a thin, high nose. Her
eyes are more of the Chinese type, as we
conceive it, than either the Emperor's or the
Empress Dowager's. Her chin is long and
of the type generally called strong. Her

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mouth is large and extremely sensitive.
Her eyes have so kindly a look, her face
shines with so sweet an expression, criti-
cism is disarmed, and she seems beautiful.
She has a sweet dignity, charming man-
ners, and a lovable nature; but there is
sometimes in her eyes a look of patient res-
ignation that is almost pathetic. I should
not say she possessed any great executive
ability, though full of tact ; but while the
Empress Dowager was in retirement and
she was the first lady at court, she is said
to have shown great capability in her con-
duct of affairs. Her dignity, perfect breed-
I'rr and natural kindness of heart would

..•• .' ih -' ' " '. \v :■' '» the

Emperor, biic ij.i.i:.l \o ■ • .1 ex-
tremely beautiful at the time she was
chosen as his second wife by the Empress
Dowager. She belongs to an excellent
family, being the daughter of a viceroy;
but Uiough only twenty-eight years old
when I knew her, she was already very
stout, and there were visible few remains
of great beauty. She has very large, full-
orbed, brown eyes, and still has a beauti-
fully clear complexion ; but her nose is flat,
her mouth large and weak ; the contour of
her face is marred by layers of flesh, her
forehead does not indicate much intelli-
gence, and she has very little distinction
in appearance. She seems good-natured,
but is neither very clever nor tactful. She
is not a favorite among the ladies gen-
erally, and is not nearly so interesting in
any way as the young Empress. She is,
however, treated with the most kindly con-
sideration by the young Empress and has
precedence over all the other ladies, and
her position at court is second only to
that of the young Empress. Whenever I
mention the young Empress, it may be
understood that the secondary wife fol-
lowed immediately after her, coming be-
fore the princesses or any other of the
ladies forming the court of the Empress
Dowager. I have often seen references
made to the " imperial harem " ; there is
no such thing as an imperial harem at the
court of his Majesty the Emperor Kwang-
Hsu. He has only these two wives.

Her Majesty's ladies-in-waiting are
principally princesses of the blood or the
widows of imperial princes. Her first lady,
Sih-Gerga (fourth princess), daughter of

Prince Ching, the prime minister, is a
widow of twenty-four. She married, at
the age of sixteen, a son of a high Man-
chu official (then viceroy of Tientsin), and
was left a widow a few months later. She
is a beautiful young woman, with face a
perfect oval, large brown eyes, and a clear,
magnoha-leaf complexion of exquisite
textiu-e. She would be called beautiful,
judged by any standard. She has no chil-
dren of her own, but, like most ladies of
position who are widows or childless, has
an adopted son.

Adopted children in China are much
closer in relationship than is a child by
adoption with us. In many instances their
own parents are still living when they are
adopted, and even these parents speak
of their child as the son of the adopted
mother or parent, and bow to her wishes
in bringing up the child.

The next two ladies of the court are
two duchesses, also widows. Widows in
China never remarry, or, if they do, they
lose caste and reputation. They are not
sacrificed on the funeral pyres of their
departed husbands, as in India; but a
voluntary suicide on the part of a widow-
in China is still looked upon as a noble
act. A widow who remains faithful to the
memory of her husband during a long life
is rewarded by the greatest respect and con-
sideration during her life and is honored
after death.

If a girl prefers to remain unmarried,
if a widow remains faithful to the memory
of her husband, she is honored after her
death with much pomp and ceremony,
and great memorial arches are erected in
her memory. AD over China one is con-
stantly coming upon these arches to widows
and virgins. If the family is not sufificiently
wealthy to raise these monuments them-
selves, public subscriptions are taken, all
the relatives contribute, and often the in-
habitants of the village or the country
where the heroine lived beg to be allowed
to have their part in raising a monument
to her memory. These arches, of stone or
wood, are elaborately carved, sometimes
with remarkable sculptures of fabulous ani-
mals, flowers, and thousands of birds of
every kind (these latter showing the im-
mortality the soul has acquired). Across
the entablature of the arch, cut deep into
the stone or wood, and gilded or painted
in glowing vermilion, shines the name of

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the virgin or widow to whom it is erected,
and on the sides of the arch is inscribed
an account of her virtuous acts.

A girl is sometimes affianced at the
early age of from six to eight years, and
the affianced is from that time spoken of
as her husband. Should he die before
they marry, which is never earlier than
sixteen for the bride, she is considered a
"widow," and must henceforth live the
life of a recluse. She can never marry
any one else. She may adopt a son, who
will call her " mother " ; but she may never
hope for the joys of family life of her own,
without calling down upon her head the
obloquy of all whose respect she desires.
She wears deep mourning the first three
years after his death, and then second
mourning; and she can never again put
on the festive red, joyous green, or any
other color except blue or violet — second

The northern Chinese and the Manchu
ladies use a great deal of paint and powder
on their faces ; but a widow can never add
one artificial iota to the rose of her cheek,
to the cherry of her lips, or the lily of her
brow. She can nevermore use paint or
powder. In most instances the Chinese
ladies are but the prettier for this, for they
have beautiful skins, and the use of pow-
der and paint is carried to such an excess
as to be quite unnatural.

There are only eight of her Majesty's
ladies who live always in the palace, but
this number is increased about four times
on festive occasions. The Princess Im-
perial, the Empress Dowager's adopted
daughter, is the first of the princesses at
court, and, when she comes to the palace,
ranks next to the Empress and secondary
wife of the Emperor.

One evening, at dinner in the throne-
room, Sih-Gerga undertook to tell me the
relationships of the different princesses to
one another and to the young F^mpress.
Incidentally, this made them related to the
Emperor and the Empress Dowager, but
neither of their Majesties' names was men-
tioned in this connection, for such would
have been a great piece of presumption,
amounting almost to sacrilege. They might
be related, but no princess would dare
mention such a thing. It would be against
all the laws of Chinese propriety. I
found, after this explanation of Sih- ( i erga 's,
that the ladies were all related by consan-

guinity or marriage to one another and to
the young Empress.

There are a number of tiring- women and
maids in the palace who are called by out-
siders " slaves " ; but they are not slaves,
or, if they are so, it is only for a time, a
space of ten years. Every spring the
daughters of the lowest of the Manchu
families, the Seventh and Eighth Banners,
are brought into the palace to be chosen
from, by the Empress and Empress Dow-
ager, for maids and tiring-women. One
day, on going to the palace, I saw a
number of ordinary carts near one of the
postern gates, and I learned that they had
brought crowds of these girls of the fami-
lies of the Eighth Banner. They are first
passed in review by the chief eunuch, and
he selects from them those he thinks may
please her Majesty. These pass before
her, and she tells the chief eunuch which
ones are to remain in the palace. They
are brought to the palace from the ages
of ten to sixteen years. They remain in
service for ten years, after which time they
are allowed to return to their families;
and in case they have been satisfactory and
have pleased their Majesties, they are given
a comfortable dot and are provided with
a handsome marriage outfit, which causes
them to make much better marriages than
they would otherwise do. During their
so-called ten years' slavery in the palace
they live upon the fat of the land, and have
beautiful clothes and many advantages.
They wear, while in her Majesty's service,
blue gowns, with their hair plainly parted
at the side and braided in a single long
braid (tied with red silk cords) which
hangs down the back. They wear a bunch
of flowers over each ear. The young Em-
press and the secondary wife, as well as
each of the princesses, have their own
maids and tiring-women, who remain in
the private quarters of these ladies.

Besides these young maids, there are in
the palace a number of old women, ser-
vants of her Majesty, who have been mar-
ried and have children ; these overlook
the younger women, direct the work of
the lower eunuchs, and are in a position
somewhat similar to housekeepers with us.
Among these is a Chinese woman who
nursed her Majesty through a long illness
about twenty-five years since and saved
her life by giving her mother's milk to
drink. The Empress Dowager, who never

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forgets a favor, has always kept this woman
in the palace. Being a Chinese, she had
bound feet. Her Majesty, who cannot bear
even to see them, had her feet unbound and
carefully treated, until now she can walk

maids are bought when they and their mis-
tresses are children, they grow up together,
and though the maid never forgets the
respect due her mistress, they are on a
much more friendly footing than mistress

Front sketches by Katharine A. Cari

comfortably. Her Majesty has educated
the son, who was an infant at the time of
her illness, and whose natural nourishment
she partook of. This young man is already
a secretary in a good yamen (government

No Chinese lady of position ever dresses
herself or combs her own hair, and she
generally has three or four personal maids.
These are, in many instances, bought out-
right from their parents, and might be
considered really slaves; but they are
treated with great consideration and even
friendliness by their mistresses, and have
in most instances a happy lot. As these

and maid could ever be in Europe in such

The first of a lady's maids stands behind
her at table, no matter how many servitors
there may be, goes out with her, sits with
her, sleeps either in her room or at her
door, and is almost her constant com-
panion. When the time comes for them
to marry, they are given a comfortable
outfit by their mistresses, and are cared
for to the third and fourth generation ; but
the children of the so-called slaves are
free, unless the mother or parents decide,
of their own free will, to sell them, as they
have been sold, to some good family.

(To be continued)

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"V^OU do not understand me," stam-
X mered the interpreter from Cairo.

" Yes, 1 do, wretch," shrilled the widow.
"You said that—*'

"Hush, my dear Eirene; the mourners
will hear us through the door," he en-
treated, nervously fumbling the wisp of
clay-colored hair lately acquired to con-
ceal his small chin.

"It is not the widow's place to hush at
this time," she retorted, catching fast-
falling tears in her thumb-bottle. ** And I
will tell everybody how you have insulted
me before his body is entirely cold."

" Peste ! Confound it ! 1 was your hus-
band's closest friend, and, as is the way of
oiu* clan, he bequeathed you to me."

"What! You little hyena! Well, if he
said so, he was n't in his right mind. He
was in the Valley of Wanderings, strug-
gling between the clutch of Satan and
Saint Michael. At any rate, you have no
sense of shame."

"My dear Eirene, don't talk so loud. I
merely feared that somebody else might
speak first — "

" Oh, these heirs are keen on bequests.
Word-parrot! this is a free country, and 1
sha'n't be bequeathed to anybody except
myself. I know you. You want my cats."

" Not so, not so," protested the inter-

preter, wiping his receding brow with the
red mourning-handkerchief. " I don't like
cats. 1 never thought of your cats."

** Then you are no honest Egyptian. I
would n't trust a man that did n't like
cats. Evil follows malice to cats. Last
week he kicked Thoth, son of Ra, and
to-day he worries on the Sacred Scales."

" Maskee ! " cried the interpreter with a
Portuguese shrug. " What ze devil ! You 're
a nice Coptic Christian. Still hankering
after the goddess Bast et les petites super-

" Enough ! " sobbed the widow. " Wait
— wait until I speak out at the grave! "

She opened the parlor door that gave
on the alley and left the discomfited man
to gaze on a j)rospect of clothes-lines in
back yards and to catch the vague, dolor-
ous mewing of threescore cats immured
in the cellar, with an occasional glimpse
of kitten faces at the little wire-screened

W^ithin the parlor many mourners were
assembled to honor the de])arted merchant.
The women were gaily dressed in Ameri-
can style, but their hair was disheveled
and their faces were smeared with indigo
and kohl. They shrieked and wrung their
hands. The men, on the contrary, sat
shabbily indifferent on the couches about

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the room, smoking narghiles and drinking
coffee. They talked leisurely of business
and the weather, finishing out sentences
interrupted by the overloud feminine
lament. The coffin was laid on a couch
in the center of the room, and newcomers
were assured that its occupant's flaxen
robe had been steeped in the river Jordan
—the only garment of this virtue in the
colony. Moreover, the deceased held in
his hand a splinter of wood from his native
place, Shebin, where Noah's ark landed
after the flood.

" It is unfortunate, neighbor Siamon,"
remarked Hanno the scribe, " that we have
no more authentic records of Noah's pere-

"Oh, it is perfectly clear," replied the
bow-legged bird-trainer, cheerfully. " Did
not Noah utter the word Shai-bayen when
he landed— and the bird he sent forth to
bear witness ? "

The widow, entering at this juncture,
consulted a small mirror on the wall. It
made her weep afresh to see the lines of
grief in her dusky features, the redness of
hazel eyes that squinted to narrow shts
under bushy eyebrows, the quivering of
her nose, and the palpitation of her fuzz-
covered upper lip— a face that resembled
one of her beloved pussies. Lifting the
mirror in her short, thick hands, she shat-
tered it on the floor and wildly asked why
it had not been broken like the rest, know-
ing well she had given orders to have
fresh mirrors put up. Next she snatched
a rug from the floor and turned it upside
down, dabbed some indigo on her cheek,
and turned several pictures on the wall
bottom side up.

" O-o-o-o-o, my husband ! " she wailed,
dropping on her knees before the coffin.
** Here is my ear ; speak to me I Thou wast
a prince among men. Oh, how we did love
each other! How fond thou wast of the

" She told us herself that he kicked one
last week," muttered Amina the lace-
maker, a spiteful old woman.

" O-o-o-o-o, my husband ! see how I
mourn ! I have made myself ugly for thee.
My ear-rings are twisted and my sandals
worn heel foremost. I have broken all the

** Not half as many as they smashed at
the funeral last week," whispered the lace-

The widow rose, glowered at Amina,
and uttered the same warning she had
given the interpreter : " Wait until I speak
at the grave."

There was a lull in the mourning noises,
which permitted the mewing and snarling
of sixty cats to ascend from the regions

"I must feed the poor darlings," ex-
claimed the widow, hurrying from the

" She thinks more of them than of her
husband," was Amina's parting shot. ** I
am sorry for his successor."

" Oh, the interpreter is a learned man,"
said Hanno, gravely, fondling his white
beard, but with an amused glint in his eye.

In the afternoon the priest came, and
putting on his brocaded vestments, he
lighted many candles and performed the
ceremony of " calming." The women be-
came quiet, adjusted their clothes, and
washed their faces. The pictures and rugs
were restored to their proper positions.

The next morning a very large delega-
tion from the colony rode in hacks to the
suburban cemetery, hopeful that Eirene
would justify her reputation of sharp wit
on this one occasion when a Coptic woman
has liberty of speech. Every one impa-
tiently awaited the conclusion of the cere-
monies at the grave, which was flanked
with roses of Sharon and a feathery-plumed
cypress. The lute-players and the singers
made doleful music, while the mourners
stood in a broken circle with hands bent
downward at the wrist. Some oven-baked
dust was tossed on the coffin and the earth
shoveled after.

" Now, Eirene," said the priest, motion-
ing back the others, " thou art entitled to
the last talk with thy husband. Thou hast
privilege to say on without being answered.
Unburden thyself, and hereafter hold thy

The interpreter, standing under a weep-
ing willow, shuddered and wiped his fore-
head. Amina and some other women who
had a reason were likewise affected by
nervous chills.

"Oh, my dear husband," began the
widow in purring Arabic as she crouched
at the grave-side, " dost thou know what I
have done to secure thy happiness? Is
this abode pleasing to thy sight? Lo, I
have ordered a full-sized wax image of
thee to be sent to thy native town and

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buried with thy kin, so that at the last
trump one or the other body may arise
glorified. As for myself, thank God, the
business is in a good condition and the
pets of Basta are thriving. There is no

duct of my wretched neighbors. There is
an old wrinkled lace -maker who accepts
my hospitality and utters jealous lies be-
hind my back. She is uglier than my one-
eyed \Iadras he-cat. Then there is that

Half-tune plate cii^r<iTeU by (.i. M. Lewis


malignant or cheating relative whom I
may accuse."

The interpreter breathed a sigh of relief.
Amina and the other women visibly ex-
pressed their satisfaction.

" No relative, it is true," went on the
widow in a shriller tone, " but, f)h, my be-
loved, 1 am worried to death by the con-

stingy thing whose husband toils at the
buried cities, and who commits sacrilege
by keeping a dog in the house, refusing a
kitten that I offered very cheap. More-
over, the neighbor who borrowed two cups
of flour a week ago."

As the widow pursued this vein, de-
nouncing all her women neighbors, the

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interpreter felt convinced that he was to

" The worst is yet to tell, dear husband,"
shrieked Eirene, clawing the earth. "I
have been outraged and insulted before thy
body was cold. A fellow who gads about
without any means of support asked me
to marry him. The scamp pretended that
you had bequeathed me. And why such
indecent haste? He was afraid another
might get my money that I have made
breeding the cats. Oh, the rascal ! Heaven
knows how many wives he has already in
Cairo, Stamboul, and New York. Of
course you know the person I mean — him
who posed as your friend, a man hitherto
esteemed in the colony, though his blood
is pale with a foreign strain. He is that
ugly little interpreter with the small chin.
As if one could improve one's featiu'es
with three white hairs. May the cats
scratch his eyes out ! "

It was said afterward that this was
merely the widow's introduction. But
the interpreter, misjudging her rhetorical
abihty, beUeved that she had covered the
subject, and he drifted away through the
screening foliage of linden-trees and bronze

After this it was natural for him to vow
the banishment of rehcts from the sphere
of fancy ; he kept himself secluded, know-
ing that he was the butt of prodigious
ridicule throughout the colony. By no
means a sensitive man, he nevertheless
could not ignore the sly jests and gibes that
assailed him on every side. When he met
patriarchs like Hanno and Siamon, he was
seriously reprimanded and advised. They
spoke of righting some wrong. If he had
insulted some one he ought to apologize
by the homeopathic method. Once when
he tried to change the subject by complain-
ing of insomnia and bad dreams, Siamon
rephed earnestly:

" That 's it, my friend. Every man has
a wife, either spiritual or in the flesh. You
are a bachelor and evade your duty. Your
afrit-wife kneels on your chest every night
and tears away your breath."

The interpreter paled, but attempted an
incredulous smile.

"At least," said Hanno, "I hope you
did not leave Egypt to escape the bache-

" Let me tell you, friend," resumed
Siamon, "the worst kind of ghost-wife.

which I had once myself, is the kind that
vanishes gradually. First a hand and then
an arm, until there is left only eyes and a
red tongue wagging at you out of darkness.
Ya salam ! Have you had that yet ? "

" She is named Eirene, which betokens
Peace," said the scribe, "and her inner
nature must correspond. The nettle does
not sting a swift hand."

" Have you had the vanishing specter
yet ? " persisted Siamon.

" Bah ! What zilly nonzense ! " muttered
the interpreter, twisting the wisp at his
chin. " Zese are old wives' fabliaux ; yez."

It came to pass, however, after a few
such conversations that he paid a visit to
the widow's house under pretense of set-
tling the estate of her husband.

She was sitting in the kitchen with three
choice kittens on her lap drinking milk out
of a nursing-bottle. Two tortoise-shell cats
fed themselves from a saucer at her feet.
Above her head, in a cage, a gray Nile
cat was whirling frenziedly within a wheel
—a blur of glaring eyes, white teeth, and

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 101 of 120)