Chapter XVI. To the Flowery Land. Sing hey, sing ho, for the Land of Flowers.--LA MOTTE FOUQUEE.
THE parting was over. Edward Bryant was suddenly summoned at last to meet Archdeacon Goodrich in London, make the final preparations there, and start with him, and two other clergy for the Chinese mission. There was too much hurry at the last for a quarter of the things that each had to say. His mother cried bitterly, and said she should never see him again, and that he would be murdered by the Chinese for a "foreign devil"; and when he said such attacks were over, but that if such a thing did happen, it would be martyrdom, she cried the more. Mr. Cobbold tried to console her by saying the "young chap" was much more likely to make his fortune out of John Chinaman, "if he were not a fool." Many of your missionaries did, and took care "to live on the fat of the land"; and perhaps the boy [176/177] would be wiser when he got out there. And he was to take care to tell in his letters the prices of tea of different kinds on the spot, to be compared with those in England.
Mabel was full of transport at the realization of all her dreams. Edward really going out, and Aline likely to follow--it was too delightful. She had possessed herself of a Chinese Bible, and had tried to identify and illuminate some texts; but only one was ready, which Edward promised to keep carefully and preciously, though he abstained from promising to put it up till he should ascertain from some competent Chinese scholar whether it were really correct and suitable.
Edward's old friend Andrews was thriving in his own department, and doing his duty there. He was quite willing to respect and admire his friend's devotion and enterprise, though he did not feel called on to join in it personally; but he gave a subscription, large for his means, to the branch of the mission, and desired to know if there were any way in which he could help, or, perhaps, any comforts he could procure and send out. He even promised, on the receipt of a telegram, to come to Southampton and see Bryant off.
 Mrs. Millar gave a precious little book of MS. prayers and hymns, her own favorites. She also gave a mother's kiss and blessing; but she said the less as Aline's holidays had just ended, and she would go up to London at the same time with Edward.
Yet, this privilege did not amount to much, for the carriage was full, and they could only sit next to each other and feel each other's presence; and they arrived in a scramble, where Miss Millar was instantly claimed by some of the other teachers at her school, and swept off by them with scarcely a word; while Archdeacon Goodrich, disembarking also, and seeing Edward, pounced on him to introduce him to another of the party.
But after all, what could conscious last words be, when much had already passed without extra emotion? Each turned away from the other into the whirl of practical life, but with resolute hearts, fixed upon present duty and trusting to be made patient and strong to wait either in the field or beside the tent.
And strong resolute attention kept Aline to the little lessons and training sports of the children; through the days when she knew that Edward [178/179] was joining in a parting service at Canterbury, and when he was embarking at Southampton. Mr. Andrews came to tell her how he had seen the party off, and she was very thankful for his account. He ended it with: "It almost made me wish I was going too."
"Doing one's duty at home is an acceptable thing," said Aline; making an effort not to utter comparisons.
It was a time of waiting, indeed, though cheered from the first, by the letters that in these days make separation so much less complete and painful than formerly. Mrs. Millar and her daughters knew when Edward passed Gibraltar, and how he had borne the voyage and liked his companions, feeling one with them; and, by-and-by, when he arrived at Hong gong, and the beings with pig-tails, long petticoats, and narrow eyes began to come upon him as realities, while bewildering pigeon-English sounded in his ears. He was a good letter writer, and his descriptions were a delight, more especially when, after landing at Shanghai and being introduced to the mission staff, the party arrived at Pekin, with the wonderful walls, forty feet wide at the top, and [179/180] apparently bristling with cannon, all of which turned out to be merely painted likenesses.
It was all a bewilderment, (he wrote,) the central street so wide and roomy, but crowded with carts, camels, donkeys, and passengers, who looked, to unaccustomed eyes, like a peep show, with a causeway in the middle, and mudholes on either side causing horrible smells, while the borders were brilliant shops and stalls, their fronts most elaborately carved, and kept by owners in rich brocaded silks, looking plump and contented, and bargaining in a leisurely, though intensely shrewd, manner.
Horrors there were in the background, acres of hovels utterly wretched and miserable, yet crowded to the last degree, and filthy, as indeed dirt and foulness spread everywhere, even to the more ornamental parts of the city; and walking, to a European, was a difficult matter where every dry place was thronged with the interminable swarms of people. Carts went round in the morning, not of scavengers, but to collect the bodies of infants too young for honorable sepulture.
The ancient hatred and distrust of foreigners, [180/181] had, however, been at that time much mitigated in Pekin, and there was little or no fear of violence to strangers, as there was familiarity from the presence of the British Legation, and considerable profit to be reaped from travellers.
Moreover, there were not only English services at the Legation, but a settlement of clergy, with schools for the boys and girls, who were more easily won among the poor than among the wealthy. There was a hospital too, under the care of a lady, and an orphanage; a really impressed Chinese congregation, and a staff of clergy and nurses, very insufficient, but still making a resting-place.
Tientsin, near a harbor, was, however, the chief nucleus of the mission, and here Edward Bryant was to be placed to assist in the schools as far as he could, while getting conversant with the language of the Northern Province. He had already learned a good deal of the written language, which is fortunately the same all over the Celestial Empire; but every province differs widely from the next in speech, so that the spoken tongue has to be separately acquired. Aline and Mabel actually discovered the meaning of some [181/182] of Edward's widely marked hieroglyphics before they looked at the key sent with them; but he added that he was told that to speak them as he had been taught in Hong gong would be incomprehensible at Tientsin.