Mrs. Spring Fragrance by Edith Maude Eaton
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
Tian Shan's Kindred Spirit
Had Tian Shan been an American and China to him a forbidden country, his daring exploits and thrilling adventures would have furnished inspiration for many a newspaper and magazine article, novel, and short story. As a hero, he would certainly have far outshone Dewey, Peary, or Cook. Being, however, a Chinese, and the forbidden country America, he was simply recorded by the American press as "a wily Oriental, who, 'by ways that are dark and tricks that are vain,' is eluding the vigilance of our brave customs officers." As to his experiences, the only one who took any particular interest in them was Fin Fan.
Fin Fan was Tian Shan's kindred spirit. She was the daughter of a Canadian Chinese storekeeper and the object of much concern to both Protestant fission ladies and good Catholic sisters.
"I like learn talk and dress like you," she would respond to attempts to bring her into the folds, "but I not want think like you. Too much discuss." And when it was urged upon her that her father was a convert — the Mission ladies declaring, to the Protestant faith, and. the nuns, to the Catholic — she would calmly answer: "That so? Well, I not my father. Beside I think my father just say he Catholic (or Protestant) for sake of be amiable to you. He good-natured man and want to please you."
This independent and original stand led Fin Fan to live, as it were, in an atmosphere of outlawry even amongst her own country-women, for all proper Chinese females in Canada and America, unless their husbands are men of influence in their own country, conform upon request to the religion of the women of the white race.
Fin Fan sat on her father's doorstep amusing herself with a ball of yarn and a kitten. She was a pretty girl, with the delicate features, long slanting eyes, and pouting mouth of the women of Soo Chow, to which province her dead mother had belonged.
Tian Shan came along.
"Will you come for a walk around the mountain?" asked he.
"I don't know," answered Fin Fan.
"Do!" he urged.
The walk around the mountain is enjoyable at all seasons, but particularly so in the fall?! of the year when the leaves on the trees are turning all colors, making the mount itself look like one big posy.
The air was fresh, sweet, and piny. As Tian Shan and Fin Fan walked, they chatted gaily — not so much of Tian Shan or Fin Fan as of the brilliant landscape, the sun shining through a grove of black-trunked trees with golden leaves, the squirrels that whisked past them, the birds twittering and soliloquizing over their vanishing homes, and many other objects of nature. Tian Shan's roving life had made him quite a woodsman, and Fin Fan — well, Fin Fan was his kindred spirit.
A large oak, looking like a smouldering pyre, invited them to a seat under its boughs.
After happily munching half a dozen acorns, Fin Fan requested to be told all about Tian Shan's last adventure. Every time he crossed the border, he was obliged to devise some new scheme by which to accomplish his object, and as he usually succeeded, there was always a new story to tell whenever he returned to Canada.
This time he had run across the river a mile above the Lachine Rapids in an Indian war canoe, and landed in a cove surrounded by reefs, where pursuit was impossible. It had been a perilous undertaking, for he had had to make his way right through the swift current of the St. Lawrence, the turbulent rapids so near that it seemed as if indeed he must yield life to the raging cataract. But with indomitable courage he had forged ahead, the canoe, with every plunge of his paddles, rising on the swells and cutting through the whitecaps, until at last he reached the shore for which he had risked so much.
Fin Fan was thoughtful for a few moments after listening to his narration.
"Why," she queried at last, "when you can make so much more money in the States than in Canada, do you come so often to this side and endanger your life as you do when returning?"
Tian Shan was puzzled himself. He was not accustomed to analyzing the motives for his actions.
Seeing that he remained silent, Fin Fan went on:
"I think," said she, "that it is very foolish of you to keep running backwards and forwards from one country to another, wasting your time and accomplishing nothing."
Tian Shan dug up some soft, black earth with the heels of his boots.
"Perhaps it is," he observed.
That night Tian Shan's relish for his Supper was less keen than usual, and when he laid his head upon his pillow, instead of sleeping, he could only think of Fin Fan. Fin Fan! Fin Fan! Her face was before him, her voice in his ears. The clock ticked Fin Fan; the cat purred it; a little mouse squeaked it; a night-bird sang it. He tossed about, striving to think what ailed him. With the first glimmer of morning came knowledge of his condition. He loved Fin Fan, even as the American man loves the girl he would make his wife.
Now Tian Shan, unlike most Chinese, had never saved money and, therefore, had no home to offer Fin Fan. He knew, also, that her father had his eye upon a young merchant in Montreal, who would make a very desirable son-in-law.
In the early light of the morning Tian Shan arose and wrote a letter. In this letter, which was written with a pointed brush on long yellow sheets of paper, he told Fin Fan that, as she thought it was foolish, he was going to relinquish the pleasure of running backwards and forwards across the border, for some time at least. He was possessed of a desire to save money so that he. could have a wife and a home. In a year, perhaps, he would see her again.
Lee Ping could hardly believe that his daughter was seriously opposed to becoming the wife of such a good-looking, prosperous young merchant as Wong Ling, He tried to bring her to reason, but instead of yielding her will to the parental, she declared that she would take a place as a domestic to some Canadian lady with whom she had become acquainted at the Mission sooner than wed the man her father had chosen.
"Is not Wong Ling a proper man?" inquired the amazed parent.
"Whether he is proper or improper makes no difference to me," returned Fin Fan. "I will not marry him, and the law in this country is so that you cannot compel me to wed against my will."
Lee Ping's good-natured face became almost pitiful as he regarded his daughter. Only hen who has hatched a duckling and sees it take to the water for the first time could have worn such an expression.
Fin Fan's heart softened. She was as fond of her father as he of her. Sidling up to him, she began stroking his sleeve in a coaxing, fashion.
"For a little while longer I wish only to stay with you," said she.
Lee Ping shook his head, but gave in.
"You must persuade her yourself," said he to Wong Ling that evening. "We are in a country where the sacred laws and customs of China are as naught."
So Wong Ling pressed his own suit. He was not a bad-looking fellow, and knew well also how to honey his speech. Moreover, he believed in paving his way with offerings of flowers, trinkets, sweetmeats.
Fin Fan looked, listened, and accepted. Every gift that could be kept was carefully put by in a trunk which she hoped some day to take to New York. "They will help to furnish Tian Shan's home," said she.
Twelve moons had gone by since Tian Shan had begun to think of saving and once again he was writing to Fin Fan.
"I have made and I have saved," wrote- he. "Shall I come for you?"
And by return mail came an answer which was not "No."
Of course, Fin Fan's heart beat high with happiness when Tian Shan walked into her father's store; but to gratify some indescribable feminine instinct she simply nodded coolly in his direction, and continued what might be called a flirtation with Wong Ling who had that morning presented her with the first Chinese lily of the season and a box of the best preserved ginger.
Tian Shan sat himself down on a box of dried mushrooms and glowered at his would-be rival, who, unconscious of the fact that he was making a third when there was needed but a two, chattered on like a running stream. Thoughtlessly and kittenishly Fin Fan tossed a word, first to this one, and next to that; and whilst loving with all her heart one man, showed much more favor to the other.
Finally Tian Shan arose from the mushrooms and marched over to the counter.
"These yours?" he inquired of Wong Ling, indicating the lily and the box of ginger.
"Miss Fin Fan has done me the honor of accepting them," blandly replied Wong Ling.
"Very good," commented Tian Shan. He picked up the gifts and hurled them into the street.
A scene of wild disorder followed. In the midst of it the father of Fin Fan, who had been downtown, appeared at the door.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.
"Oh, father, father, they are killing one another! Separate them, oh, separate them!" pleaded Fin Fan.
But her father's interference was not needed. Wong Ling swerved to one side, and falling, struck the iron foot of the stove. Tian Shan, seeing his rival unconscious, rushed out of the store.
The moon hung in the sky like a great yellow pearl and the night was beautiful and serene. But Fin Fan, miserable and unhappy, could not rest.
"All your fault! All your fault!" declared the voice of conscience.
"Fin Fan," spake a voice near to her.
Could it be? Yes, it surely was Tian Shan.
She could hot refrain from a little scream.
"Sh! Sh!" Bade Tian Shan. "Is he dead?"
"No," replied Fin Fan, "he is very sick but he will recover."
"I might have been a murderer," mused Tian Shan. "As it is I am liable to arrest and imprisonment for years."
"I am the cause of all the trouble," wept Fin Fan."
Tian Shan patted her shoulder in an attempt at consolation, but a sudden footfall caused her to start away from him.
"They are hunting you!" she cried. "Go! Go!"
And Tian Shan, casting upon her one long farewell look, strode with rapid steps away.
Poor Fin Fan! She had indeed lost every one, and added to that shame; was the secret sorrow and remorse of her own heart. All the hopes and the dreams which had filled the year that was gone were now as naught, and he, around whom they had been woven, was, because of her, a fugitive from justice, even in Canada.
One day she picked up an American newspaper which a customer had left on the counter, and, more as a habit than for any other reason, began spelling out the paragraphs.
A Chinese, who has been unlawfully breathing United States air for several years, was captured last night crossing the border, a feat which he is said to have successfully accomplished more than a dozen times during the last few years. His name is Tian Shan, and there is no doubt whatever that he will be deported to China as soon as the necessary papers can be made out.
Fin Fan lifted her head. Fresh air and light had come into her soul. Her eyes sparkled.
In the closet behind her hung a suit of her father's clothes. Fin Fan was a tall and well-developed young woman.
"You are to have company," said the guard, pausing in front of Tian Shan's cage. "A boy without certificate was caught this morning by two of our men this side of Rouse's Point. He has been unable to give an account of himself, so we are putting him in here with you. You will probably take the trip to China together."
Tian Shan continued reading a Chinese paper which he had been allowed to retain. He was not at all interested in the companion thrust upon him. He would have preferred to be left alone. The face of the absent one is so much easier conjured in silence and solitude. It was a foregone conclusion with Tian Shan that he would never again behold Fin Fan, and with true Chinese philosophy he had begun to reject realities and accept dreams as the stuff upon which to live. Life itself was hard, bitter, and disappointing. Only dreams are joyous and smiling.
One star after another had appeared until the heavens were patterned with twinkling lights. Through his prison bars Tian Shan gazed solemnly upon the firmament.
Some one touched his elbow. It was his fellow-prisoner.
So far the boy had not intruded himself, having curled himself up in a corner of the cell and slept soundly apparently, ever since his advent.
"What do you want?" asked Tian Shan not unkindly.
"To go to China with you and to be your wife," was the softly surprising reply.
"Fin Fan!" exclaimed Tian Shan." "Fin Fan!"
The boy pulled off his cap.
"Aye," said he. "'Tis Fin Fan!'