The Peking Pug
The Charmed Life of Miss Austin
And, oh, Edith! While you're in Peking won't you get me one of those darling Peking Pugs--a blue and white one? You can give it to me when we meet at Yokohama. Probably I could buy one in New York, but it would never be the same. I want to know that mine actually came from the wonderful old city--and direct to me! You just can't imagine how I envy you that part of your tour. I think it was perfectly dear of your uncle and aunt to take you there! But aren't you just a teeny bit afraid, with everybody saying the revolution may break out yet--any second? . . .
Mrs. Wilberly, who was on the couch with one of her nervous headaches, dropped the letter to her lap, saying: "What on earth does Harriet mean by a Peking pug, Edith?"
Miss Austin turned toward her aunt a girlish face that exhibited no trace of whatever adventurous desires may have been stirring behind it. The well modeled mouth, the broad, low forehead, the straight nose, the firmly pointed chin, the healthy coloring, that was softened by a trace of ocean tan, combined to make it an extremely pretty face. The hazel eyes were wide and demure. Though she had been lounging in her room all this rather tiresome afternoon, her fluffy brown hair was in place to the last strand, her shirtwaist was immaculate, her perfect-fitting cloth skirt was as trim as if it had just been ironed to her figure.
"Oh, you know," she replied, rather absently--tiny sleeve dog, with long hair and cunning little eyes."
"But who ever heard of a blue and white dog? Chinaware, porcelain--yes. But a dog!"
"There are queerer things than that in China," replied Miss Austin sagely, opening the door to the adjoining room, then lingering a moment to ask: "Uncle Frank hasn't sent any word, has he?"
"No; he's still out with those Belgian engineers. He says there will be a fortune here in coal and iron after the revolution."
An expression that might have meant great inner impatience flitted across Miss Austin's face. But she composed herself instantly, and gazed with meditative eyes toward the window. "I was just thinking," she mused, "that it might not be too late yet to go out somewhere and buy the dog." She lingered a moment longer, then suddenly turned and entered her own room.
"Be careful about going out alone!" called her aunt, in a voice that rose nervously.
But the door had closed.
Mrs. Wilberly sank back among the cushions and sighed: "Girls," she reflected, "are becoming utterly unmanageable--what with all the ideas of emancipation and independence they pick up nowadays." That this very hotel, here in the Legation Quarter of Peking, sheltered at the moment a horridly fascinating assemblage of adventurers and adventuresses from every corner of the earth appeared rather to please Edith than otherwise; that, until the lull of the past few weeks, foreign troops had been arriving by every train, and panicky Manchus and Chinese residents had been heaping into carts their gold and silver, their bronzes, ivories, porcelains, c1oisonnés, silks, jades, and carvings, and streaming frantically out through every gate of the Tartar City, seemed merely to stir the girl to a romantic impatience for the event.
Mrs. Wilberly pressed her hands to her throbbing temples, and reflected on the burden he bears who assumes responsibility for another life.
Miss Austin came slowly down the broad stairway into the main hall of the hotel, pausing on the lowest step for a glance at the gay, exotic scene before her.
The walls of the passage blazed with the Mandarin coats, skirts, and squares of embroidery that privileged venders were offering for sale. Moving about, chatting quietly, sipping tea or whisky-and-soda with richly gowned women, were officers in the uniforms of many nations, nearly all with the blurred eyes of the hard drinker, yet all vigorous of body. Cynical gentlemen from various legations were in evidence here and there. Almost at her elbow, two Russians, a Norwegian, and a Chinese Mandarin were talking together in French. "It is like a little pasteboard Paris set down out here," she thought.
Her breath came more quickly, and a barely perceptible heightening of color intensified the beauty of her girlishly immobile face. She was aware, moving slowly through the queerly mixed little gathering, that she ought to resent the really alarming glances of these fascinating officers; but no resentment could stand against the rising sense of sheer adventurous delight that had set her nerves tingling. She had to pick her way around the wizened old native conjuror who was sitting on his heels in the midst of his glass bowls and lacquered flower-pots and mysterious lumpy objects under colored cloths. And as she stepped out on the porch there was a faint, happy smile dancing in her eyes and hovering about her mouth--a smile that died suddenly when she found herself face to face with Captain Waters and the girl gambler.
She had met the Captain a number of times since he had proved useful to her uncle in arranging one or two rather important introductions. He was a man of nearly middle age, with a close-cropped mustache, a flushed face with minute but observable purple veins over the cheekbones and on the nose, watery blue eyes with a network of criss-cross lines under each, and magnificent shoulders. Edith had lately made a point of avoiding him.
The girl gambler, on the other hand, was easily the most interesting person in the hotel. Apparently she lived there alone. In the dining-room she always had a table to herself. Except in the evenings, she invariably wore a simple blue middy blouse and a short blue skirt; and her black hair hung loose on her collar, gathered in a bow at the neck. "She makes up for sixteen," thought Edith, "looks twenty, and is probably all of twenty-five."
The girl's eyes were a strange, pale green, the palest eyes Edith had ever seen. In figure she was slim. Her thin face was cold, verging on the ascetic, and appeared always to be under perfect control. A strange, silent person, who appeared to have no friends and no emotions, yet was inexplicably attractive. The one definitely known fact regarding her was that she was to be found any evening in the year presiding over a gambling "club" just outside the Quarter and not so far from the Italian glacis.
The two moved squarely into the doorway as Edith came out--there was no escaping them. The. Captain was saying something in a low, passionate voice--something that had to be broken off short in the middle of a word.
Embarrassed, Miss Austin looked away from the Captain to the girl. And the girl returned the gaze with a rather pleasing directness.
Meantime Captain Waters' alcoholic flush had deepened to a rich red. "Miss Austin," he finally got out--"Miss Carmichael."
The two girls smiled as they bowed; and with that smile went an unexpected wordless flash of understanding.
"You were going out--alone?" asked the Captain, after a moment.
Miss Austin nodded briskly. "Why not?"
It occurred to her that it is precisely loose, fast men of the Captain's type who hold most desperately to the old notions of seclusion, protection, and rigid propriety for their women-folk.
"Well--it will be dark within the hour, Miss Austin."
Edith repressed an impulse to say: "I am perfectly able to take care of myself, thank you!" Instead she merely inquired: "Isn't there a native market near by where one can buy dogs?"
The Captain looked densely at her without replying; but Miss Carmichael nodded. "Not so near, though," she said. "It's quite a way up the Hatamen Street."
"My dear girl," the Captain put in, genuinely shocked, "you weren't thinking of going clean out of the Quarter--by yourself!"
Edith nodded, with smiling eyes but compressed lips.
"Then you must surely let me go with you."
He was insistent. Edith shrank from the prospect. "But, after all," she thought, "perhaps it would be safer with him than without him, especially as I don't know where the market is. And, of course, he won't insult me; he'll have to behave." At this thought she was almost regretful. "You go about by yourself, and shock everybody, and nothing ever happens. Nobody ever bothered me but once; and that turned out to be just interesting."
The Captain hurried in for his coat. Miss Carmichael's eyes followed him; then she turned and looked thoughtfully at Miss Austin. "You won't like my saying it," she remarked quietly; "but why don't you wait until morning and go with your own folks?"
Miss Austin bristled, and was pointedly silent.
The girl gambler gave a little shrug. "I know him," she said. "He's the wrong sort'"
Miss Austin pursed her lips and turned away. Then the Captain was with them again, and was struggling into his coat. He quite unnecessarily took Edith's arm as they started down the steps. She withdrew it and moved away from him, chatting with perfect composure as she walked along. And Miss Carmichael stood looking after them, closely, until they had passed out through the courtyard, stepped into separate 'rickshaws, and whirled away. For a moment longer she stood there--thinking of this ungoverned, desperate life of the Coast through which little Miss Austin was moving with utter innocence but with an adventurous question in her demure eyes. She wondered what that aunt was thinking of. Was she insane? Did she suppose you can feed a male brute on whisky, gin, and the Coast ladies for five years, and then expect him to know adventurous innocence when he sees it? . . . Miss Carmichael started slowly down the steps; hesitated; came back to the porch; hesitated again; and finally stood motionless, her pale eyes turned toward the street and the line of waiting 'rickshaws.
Edith Austin breathed deep and looked about with joy in her heart. For two days she had been cooped up in the hotel; now she could again fill her healthy young lungs with the crisp November air. All along Legation Street were soldiers--meek, machine-like Germans, snappy little Japanese, slouching American marines, brigandish Italians, loose-breeched French--walking and loafing by twos and threes. There were extra sentries at the gate-houses of each legation compound. Long heaps of reserve sand-bags were piled along the curbs like paving material. From somewhere--nowhere--floated the magic notes of a bugle.
Lifting her eyes, she could see the top of the fifty-foot Tartar wall that backs and dominates the Legation Quarter. There were sentries up there, too--toy soldiers silhouetted against the radiant sky. Just beyond either end of the confines of the Quarter, more than a mile apart, loomed the great pagodas over the Chien and Hata gates. She knew that these, like the wall, were occupied now--the Hatamen by German troops, the Chienmen by American--in order that the perils of 1900 might not be invited again.
The hotel might be a pasteboard Paris; this, this was Peking--Peking the swarming, Peking the ramshackle, Peking the barbaric, Peking the enchanting. She wished, for the moment, that the scattered mutterings of revolution might really gather and break. Then perhaps the royal Manchu family would flee again through the sacred gates, as in 1900; perhaps beautiful, painted harem girls would seek refuge here in the Quarter; perhaps wonderful old eunuchs, right out of Marco Polo and the "Arabian Nights," would come flying in terror from within the secret walls that had hidden the intrigues of an empire.
For a moment the two 'rickshaws ran side by side. Captain Waters looked across at the glowing face beside him; then, with speeding pulse, dropped his eyes.
A German sentry stopped them at the East Gate, marked the Captain's uniform, saluted, and stood aside. They swung across the flat glacis to the wide and populous Hatamen Street. As they turned north, the Captain showed his teeth and pointed ahead. The light was fading fast, but she could make out a long string of laden camels approaching, swaying and dipping and winding above the traffic of the street like an endless brown serpent.
"You see," he called across "the danger is past now. Traffic is going on again. You can trust John Chinaman's instinct."
Edith looked about. Hundreds of yellow-skinned ones were passing: coolies in tatters or bare of back and leg, merchants in long blue gabardines and black skullcaps with red buttons. A few young men caught her eye, fell in and ran behind her, shouted Oriental insults, and swelled to a crowd.
The 'rickshaws were close. "Are you sure it is safe?" asked Edith.
The Captain scattered them with a look and a word. "Perfectly," he replied then. "They would do this any time. There's always some anti-foreign feeling, you know."
The Captain shouted at the 'rickshaw men. They turned off, picked a way through the crowd, and entered a narrow side street. It was nearly dark here. The Captain stepped down and came to her side.
"We'll leave the 'rickshaws here," he said, "and have a look-see on foot."
He reached up to take her hand, but she eluded him and leaped to the pavement like a boy. As she did so she was uncomfortably aware that his eyes were intent on the free movements of her slim body. Then he took her arm and guided her along the crowded footway, up the dim little street.
They stopped before a row of barred and shuttered buildings.
"That's what I was afraid of," said the Captain easily. "We're too late. Not much doing here after nightfall, you know. They haven't learned yet all that artificial light will do for them. I guess it's a case of go back to the hotel--that is, if you feel you must hurry." He consulted his watch. "It's early--not much after five. We might walk along the big street and see the sights."
Miss Austin looked squarely at him and shook her head. "No," she said; "we'll go back."
There was something in the quality of her voice that caused him to relax his hold on her arm. A puzzled expression flitted into his eyes and out again.
"See," he observed in a casual voice, as they turned; "if you are still thinking of any possible danger, look at that."
Wheeling into the narrow way from the Hatamen Street came an imposing procession of mule-litters and carts, preceded by a huge, gaudily decorated sedan-chair with eight bearers and as many outrunners.
"It's some rich Chinaman," the Captain went on, "coming back with his wives and his treasures. A fortnight ago they were all flying to the sea-coast for foreign protection. This tells the story. If there was the slightest danger you'd never see that outfit turning into this street. John, I tell you, is a wise person--the wisest on earth."
The natives were crowding against the buildings to make way for the great man. Miss Austin stood on tiptoe and looked over a blue shoulder.
Behind the glass front of the red chair some object was moving. It was a face, doubtless the face of the great man. She looked past it to the row of three, four, five litters. Was there a wife--or a concubine--shut away in each? How would it seem to be one of a man's several wives? That was certainly what you had to submit to in China. Perhaps--she was thinking of the man at her side with the big shoulders and the watery blue eyes--perhaps the experience was not wholly unknown to the secret-most hearts of patient women in Western lands. She wished she hadn't come with him--even moved half a step away from him, almost against a staring yellow man. If the man only knew how she hated, hated to be touched!
A dark figure appeared on a roof farther down the street, nearly where the red chair was passing. He wore baggy trousers and leggings, a carbine slung across his back, a small turban on his head, and on his left wrist a falcon. By this token she knew him for a Manchu. The man slowly raised his right hand, poised it for an instant, then threw something that might have been a piece of pipe, and that circled slowly, end over end, into the shadows of the street.
She heard the word; then, before her mind could compass the situation, Captain Waters lifted her off the ground and almost threw her back into a recessed doorway.
There was an explosion that flattened her against the wood as if it meant to drive her through, that tore at her ear-drums, that rocked the ground under her feet, that hurled sprawling figures against her. For a moment she was unconscious. She must have fallen into the Captain's arms. Certainly, when her brain cleared, he was gripping her close in his iron left arm, and his right hand was in the act of lowering an automatic pistol. She wondered if he had been shooting.
Her eyes opened wider, and she made an effort to free herself. It must have been a weak effort, for he paid not the slightest attention to it. He was staring out into the little street, that was now a smoking litter of wreckage. He raised his revolver again, hesitated, then lowered it.
The red chair had disappeared entirely; indeed, what appeared to be a piece of it was lying almost at her feet. Where it had been when the bomb fell, the street was choked with a confused tangle of bricks, boards, mules, and human bodies.
The Captain suddenly turned and looked straight down at her. The expression in his eyes first frightened, then angered her. She tried again to push him away, but realized, with a sinking of the heart, that she was weak and faint. In her confusion of mind, it did not occur to her that she had been resting there in his arm for a moment. There was something horribly direct about that look in his eyes.
"It's strange--strange," he was saying, "how things happen. It took this thing to throw us together. Cost some lives, too." Her head sank, and she pushed weakly against his chest with her elbow. His lips brushed her ear. "Cost some lives, but here we are. Queer world--eh, what! Oh, you beauty--you raving little beauty, you! Set me wild when I first saw you--been crazy for you--and here we are! . . . But let's get out of here! You make me forget everything. Quick--keep close to me--this way, along the wall!"
Couldn't the man understand? Couldn't he see that she had fainted, that she--was, going to--faint again? . . . She jerked her head back and drew in a quick breath of the choking air. At least, he had relaxed the grip of that awful arm. There he was now, moving sidewise, back to the wall, looking out ahead, but groping for her with his free hand. She caught his sleeve and followed. To this extent he was right; he must at least get her safely to the main road.
"Look out, here!" shouted the Captain. "Step up!"
She obeyed; and stepped on, then over, a human body.
Moaning sounds came from the dark tangle in the street. A mule was waving his hoofs and scrambling; while she watched, the animal got to its feet and staggered out of the dark, cluttered impasse into the Hatamen Street.
A man stumbled blindly against her, and groaned. She had to shoulder him off as she moved slowly forward. Frantic natives were now running from the more or less wrecked shops and dwellings, waving their hands and wailing in falsetto. Children were crying. Two young girls came slowly out of a house from which the front wall had been almost entirely removed. For a moment they blocked the way, looking on with dazed, blank eyes. Their foreheads, noses, and chins were white with powder; their straight, slanting eyebrows were heavily blackened; their cheeks glistened with red paint; and the mouth of each was a perfect Cupid's bow of bright carmine. Their shining black hair was built up into elaborate coiffures, Their dress was the embroidered short coat and trousers of the Chinese gentlewoman who is supposed never to appear in public. And they were beautiful, with a haunting Oriental beauty.
Captain Waters thrust them roughly aside and pressed forward, dragging Miss Austin with him. The two were past the thickest of the wreckage and perhaps half way out of the street when the Captain again pressed her into a doorway. Edith peered out around his bulky person. The street blazed with light now, for one of the shops was in flames. She could see a number of brown-faced men in blue turbans running in from the Hatamen Street. They had knives at their belts, and carried heavy, naked swords that glittered with damascene work and inlaid silver. They were silent, and weirdly businesslike. Those in advance stopped at the first bodies and swiftly looked them over; picked off rings, ear and hair ornaments, purses, and jeweled girdles.
Captain Waters drew a second pistol from his pocket and thrust it into her hand.
"Can you use it?" he asked.
"It's the Manchus. Looks as if they're pulling off the mutiny, after all. Listen!"
Over the moaning and wailing and chattering, over the crackling of a fire that was now roaring out through heavily tiled roofs, came to their ears a faint boom--another--a sudden series. Then, somewhere nearer at hand, a sharp, sputtering rattle. "That's a machine-gun!" cried the Captain.
More of the Manchu soldiers were now pouring into the street. Here and there groups of them were fighting over the loot. Three men with carbines on their backs and old-fashioned revolvers in their hands crowded up to the doorway in which Miss Austin and the Captain were sheltered. The foremost raised his weapon, peered over it at their white faces and at the Captain's uniform; then, to her astonishment, smiled and bowed. Captain Waters returned the bow stiffly. There was a brief exchange of words in an unintelligible singsong. The Captain made way, and drew her aside with him. The soldiers bowed again, with perfect Oriental suavity; then threw their weight against the door, bore it from its hinges, and plunged in over it.
"Better take our chance on getting out of this," said Captain Waters. "He insists that they're not touching foreigners. Anyhow, we'd soon be cooked in here."
They moved slowly along toward the highway. It was better now, and the looters were working with desperate speed. One of them, a giant Tartar with a split lip, had carried the body of a woman from a wrecked litter to a doorstep and propped it up. The dead girl, young and slender, clad in a long robe of red silk with embroidery in gold thread on the shoulders and sleeves, looked almost alive as she half lay, half sat, with her head supported by the door-frame. One arm was doubled stiffly across her chest, as if clasping some precious object. The crouching soldier glanced around from his prize as Miss Austin and her escort approached, saw the pistol in Edith's hand, and smiled up at her admiringly; then turned back to tear a ruby ornament from the ear of the dead girl.
They had got nearly to the Hatamen Street when the Captain again stopped and held her close to the wall.
"We'll go slow here," he said. "There may be trouble outside. Keep ready with that pistol."
There was again something disturbing in his nearness to her. His voice had become hoarse and unsteady, and he seemed to be trying not to look at her. The veins stood out sharply on his flushed temple. Not knowing what to say or do, she raised the pistol and showed him that her finger was caressing the trigger.
Suddenly he turned and looked deep into her eyes.
"Maybe I was too--well, too rough back there," he began, a note of excitement rising in his voice as he went on. Edith felt herself growing cold and shrinking back against the wall. "Maybe I took too much for granted--perhaps you didn't mean it. God, how do I know what you mean! But feeling you there by me--in my arms--your face so near --"
Again his arms were about her shoulders, holding her close to him. A blaze of hot anger rushed up within her. She wrested her right arm free and waved the pistol unsteadily.
"My God, girl!" he cried. "You don't mean --!" Then he caught her wrist.
Suddenly Miss Austin's tense body relaxed. Her face lighted with a shock of surprise that ran swiftly off into relief. For, picking her way coolly up the narrow street, her long blanket-coat thrown back exposing the blue middy blouse, a boy's plaid cap on her head, a matter-of-fact expression on her thin face, came Miss Carmichael.
Captain Waters caught the expression on Miss Austin's face, and was puzzled. Then he turned.
"Hello," said Miss Carmichael coolly. "I followed you up. Thought I'd like one of those dogs myself." She was quietly looking them over as she spoke. "The row's 'most finished, I guess. The police are running all over the place. They'll be in here before long, cutting off heads. Better get out before they begin--it's so spattery."
The Captain was biting upward at his mustache. "Think we'll have trouble getting back?"
"We might--a little. But it's unnecessary. There's a mission within five minutes of here--American, too. Let's get her over there. . . . Say, Miss Austin, there's some one trying to talk to you back there. Friend of yours?"
The Tartar of the split lip, still squatting by the body in the red and gold robe, was beckoning and smiling eagerly. He pointed to his prize, and beckoned again.
"He certainly thinks he's got a joke there," said Miss Carmichael. "Watch him."
The soldier, still laughing heartily, raised the arm that was clasped across the dead girl's breast, and prodded at the embroidered sleeve. Out crawled the smallest dog Edith had ever seen--a jet-black, almost blue-black, silky-haired, pug-nosed little creature with one white ear. The hair of his back and sides hung almost to his feet. His beady eyes peered out through a black and white jungle. If he had not been so absurdly small--surely no more than seven or eight inches in length--he might almos thave passed for a cocker spaniel. As it was, there was no mistaking him.
"A Peking pug!" cried Miss Austin. All the inner torment of the past ten minutes dropped from her like a discarded cloak. Her eyes danced. Her pistol clattered to the pavement and was forgotten; she did not even know that the Captain, with a queer, dense expression of face, picked it up and without a word put it in his pocket. Nor was she aware that the pale eyes of Miss Carmichael were studying them both out of a cool, expressionless face.
The soldier gathered up the dog in one hand, shook it playfully, and held it out. Miss Austin ran back and took it.
"Is it really for me?" she cried, wholly unconscious that she was speaking in English to a Manchu. "Oh, how nice of you! Thank you ever, ever so much!"
The soldier rose and bowed, clasping his hands before his breast. Edith had never seen a man bow with such utter grace; she suddenly felt crude, as if she were the barbarian. Then, still smiling as with a pleasing memory, the Tartar knelt by the body of the dead girl and swiftly, one after another, tore the gold-mounted rubies from her fingers.
The big white man and the two girlish figures walked northward in silence.
"Are you all right?" whispered Miss Carmichael, when the two had fallen a little behind. "Was he very ugly?"
Miss Austin was cuddling the dog close to her face, like a muff. At the question she puckered her brows as if trying to remember something, and a look of pain came into her pretty eyes.
"Oh--it hardly matters now," she said. And then, as if realizing the inadequacy of her reply, added: "But it was good of you to come."
Miss Carmichael fell silent. But when the Captain started to turn in toward the gate of the mission compound, she rested a light hand on his arm and whispered something. Then she herself rang the bell; and, when a Chinese servant answered, pressed back against the wall and kept the Captain by her.
"Go in," she called to Miss Austin--"go in. Good night. Don't forget that your dog's a delicate little mite; don't give him meat without chopping it very fine. Good night."
"Why--" faltered Miss Austin--"aren't you coming too?"
"No--not in there. You're best alone. It's safe enough for us, now that the row's over." And, slipping her arm through the Captain's, she hurried him away.
Well around the corner, she stopped short, clasped her two hands about the Captain's big forearm, and looked up into his face, which was baffled and sullen . "What's the matter, Jim?" she whispered.
"Never you mind," he growled.
"You were roughing it with that girl. I saw it. I didn't think you were a dirty coward, Jim; but I guess you are. You're like the rest--one of the worst, really. They've kept you on the Coast too long. It's got you, the way it gets all of them sooner or later. Sometimes--I even think it's got--me."
"Didn't think anything would ever get you," muttered the Captain.
"Never mind that now. What about this girl? Haven't you got any brains left? Can't you see she doesn't talk our language? Can't you see she's decent, Jim?"
Captain Waters chewed his lip. "How was I to help it! She had me going--I was crazy. I can't--now see; I've got to go back to that hotel and talk to her uncle and try to remember I'm an officer. An officer--oh, God! . . . Guess you're right, Elsie. The Coast's got me. It's got me, all right. But talking this way don't help. I'd like to know what I'm to do. I've got to go back to that hotel--"
"Shut up, Jim," said Miss Carmichael. Still clasping his arm, she leaned back against the wall. Her face looked white and delicate in the faint light. Her usually hard mouth had softened. "There's a few things I ain't, Jim," she breathed. "I'm a gambler, yes. I work for big Tex Connor of Shanghai, yes. But there's a few things I ain't. There's no man ever made love to me in Peking--not in Peking. . . . Jim, you leave that girl alone. Do you get me? They'll only be here a week or two. I guess there's a little plain manhood left in you somewhere." She caught her breath. Her pale eyes were luminous. Something that might have been either a sob or a bitter little laugh escaped her. Under pretense of brushing back a straying lock of hair, she covered her face for a moment with her hand. Then her head drooped and sank against his breast. His arm slid about her shoulders.
"Let that child alone. Jim," she murmured. "I--I'll help you, Jim, if--if it's hard." The thin shoulders shook. "Let her alone, that's all!"
Captain Waters, between density, surprise, and weakness, looked down at the dark head against his coat. "You're acting as if you cared about her!" he muttered.
Then he kissed her.
A khaki-clad sergeant of marines (on special duty) held conference with four grave missionaries in the big house at the head of the compound. Five minutes later a rocket swished and soared in a slow curve high above the roofs of the Tartar City, north, by the great Hatamen Street. Twenty minutes more and a long colurnn of troops--slouching fellows in gray campaign hats--came shuffling up on the double quick, whistling, to a man. "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" as an accelerant to the step.
While the beardless captain, leaving his Kentucky horse at the gate, entered the compound, two sergeants conversed by the long line of fighting men in the road. One stood on his two legs and grinned unreservedly. The other leaned on a new-model Springfield and softly tapped his fixed bayonet.
"How many men did ye bring on th' dangerous mission, Pete?" inquired the one.
"A full comp'ny--hundred an' six."
"Th' last-mentioned six would 'a' done, Pete."
"Then why in the name iv --"
"Tut, tut, me boy. 'Tis holy ground ye're all but standin' on. 'Twas a little. matter iv th' tellyphone wires bein' down. An' th' exercise ull be fine f'r th' boys. Not to say there ain't a bit o' class to th' young lady that thinks mebbe she'd like to go back to th' hotel--an' er dog."
So it came about that forty men in khaki with fixed bayonets marched in rigid fours before the 'rickshaw of Miss Austin, and sixty-six men arched as rigidly by fours behind. To the beardless captain who rode beside her thinking up common acquaintances she confided impulsively:
"I never realized before that our own soldiers were so good-looking. Why, it's just like being with a lot of the boys at home."
To which the beardless one replied:
"Well, of course, in the Marine Corps--have to be picked men, in a way--you see, the work we do." . . . And inasmuch as his baritone voice had been found pleasing by the ladies of many ports, he hummed blithely:
"From the halls of Montezumas to the shores of Tripolee
We fight our country's battles on the land and on the sea."
When they reached the hotel he said good night and then shook hands twice.
Miss Austin smuggled the morsel of a dog under her coat and went directly to her own room. Here her first task was to make Wing Tee Wee--which was his new name; as was fitting, for did it not stand that "Wing Tee Wee was a sweet Chinee"?--to make Wing as comfortable as possible exactly in the middle of the broad white bed.
Then she confronted the mirror, and, momentarily depressed by the wan, pallid face that stared out at her, slapped her cheeks and rubbed her temples and forehead to bring the color back. After which she rearranged her some-what tousled hair and dressed for dinner.
Looking only a little less than her usual brisk self, she sat on the edge of the bed and examined little Wing with great care.
"Yes," she said, holding him up to the light and playing with his one white ear, "you may not be quite the same sort of blue and white as the dishes and vases, but that wonderful hair of yours is certainly about as near blue as black can be."
There was a knock at the door, and Mrs. Wilberly, still to negligée and drowsy of eye, came in from the adjoining room.
"I've had quite a nap," she observed. Then--"Oh, you got that dog!"
Her niece nodded brightly, and held him up for inspection.
"He is cunning," mused Mrs. Wilberly. "But--oh, yes! It wasn't a dog Harriet wanted. Wait a minute--I can show you on the letter. We read it wrong. It isn't a P at all. It's meant for an R. But the pen points spread out on the last down stroke, and the ink didn't run. If you look closely--there! You can see the little scratches. It's a rug she wants, not a pug--a Peking Rug."
"Oh, I see," replied Miss Austin demurely. "It was a natural enough mistake, though. And it's just as well, because now I can keep Wing for myself . . . . Look at him, Aunt! Did you ever in your life see anything so perfectly darling?"