Tales of Chinese Children
Children of Peace
 

I

They were two young people with heads hot enough and hearts true enough to believe that the world was well lost for love, and they were Chinese.

They sat beneath the shade of a cluster of tall young pines forming a perfect bower of greenness and coolness on the slope of Strawberry hill. Their eyes were looking ocean-wards, following a ship nearing the misty horizon. Very serious were their faces and voices. That ship, sailing from west to east, carried from each a message to his and her kin — a message which humbly but firmly set forth that they were resolved to act upon their belief and to establish a home in the new country, where they would ever pray for blessings upon the heads of those who could not see as they could see, nor hear as they could hear.

"My mother will weep when she reads," sighed the girl.

"Pau Tsu," the young man asked, "do you repent?"

"No," she replied, "but —"

She drew from her sleeve a letter written on silk paper.

The young man ran his eye over the closely penciled characters.

"'Tis very much in its tenor like what my father wrote to me," he commented.

"Not that."

Pau Tsu indicated with the tip of her pink forefinger a paragraph which read:

Are you not ashamed' to confess that you love a youth who is not Vet your husband? Such dis- graceful boldness will surely bring upon your head the punishment you deserve. Before twelve moons go by you will be an Autumn Fan.

The young man folded the missive and returned it to the girl, whose face was averted from his.

"Our parents," said he, "knew not love in its springing and growing, its bud and blossom. Let us, therefore, respectfully read their angry letters, but heed them not. Shall I not love you dearer and more faithfully because you became mine at my own request and not at my father's? And Pau Tsu, be not ashamed."

The girl lifted radiant eyes.

"Listen," said she. "When you, during vacation,, went on that long journey to New York, to beguile the time I wrote a play. My heroine is very sad, for the one she loves is far away and she is much tormented by enemies. They would make her ashamed of her love. But this is what she replies to one cruel taunt:

	"When Memory sees his face and hears his voice, 
	The Bird of Love within my heart sings sweetly, 
	So sweetly, and so clear and jubilant, 
	That my little Home Bird, Sorrow, 
	Hides its head under its wing, 
	And appeareth as if dead.
	Shame I Ah, speak not that word to one who loves!
	For loving, all my noblest, tenderest feelings are awakened, 
	And I become too great to be ashamed."

"You do love me then, eh, Pau Tsu?" queried the young man.

"If it is not love, what is it?" softly answered the girl.

Happily chatting they descended the green hill. Their holiday was over. A little later Liu Venti was on the ferry-boat which leaves every half hour for the Western shore, bound for the Berkeley Hills opposite the Golden Gate, and Pau Tsu was in her room at the San Francisco Seminary, where her father's ambition to make her the equal in learning of the son of Liu Jusong had placed her.

II

The last little scholar of Pau Tsu's free class for children was pattering out of the front door when Liu Venti softly entered the schoolroom. Pau Tsu was leaning against her desk, looking rather weary. She did not hear her husband's footstep, and when he approached her and placed his hand upon her shoulder she gave a nervous start. "

"You are tired, dear one," said he, leading her towards the door where a seat was placed.

"Teacher, the leaves of a flower you gave me are withering, and mother says that is a bad omen."

The little scholar had turned back to tell her this.

"Nay," said Pau Tsu gently. "There are no bad omens. It is time for the flower to wither and die. It cannot live always."

"Poor flower!" compassionated the child.

"Not so poor!" smiled Pau Tsu. "The flower has seed from which other flowers will spring, more beautiful than itself!"

"Ah, I will tell my mother!"

The little child ran off, her queue dangling and flopping as she loped along. The teachers watched her join a group of youngsters playing on the curb in front of the quarters of the Six Companies. One of the Chiefs in passing had thrown a handful of firecrackers amongst the children, and the result was a small bon- fire and great glee.

It was seven years since Liu Venti and Pau Tsu had begun their work in San Francisco's Chinatown; seven years of struggle and hardship, working and waiting, living, learning, fighting, failing, loving — and conquering. The victory, to an onlooker, might have seemed small; just a modest school for adult pupils of their own race, a few white night pupils, and a free school for children. But the latter was in itself evidence that Liu Venti and Pau Tsu had not only sailed safely through the waters of poverty, but had reached a haven from which they could enjoy the blessedness of stretching out helping hands to others.

During the third year of their marriage twin sons had been born to them, and the children, long looked for and eagerly desired, were welcomed with joy and pride. But mingled with this joy and pride was much serious thought. Must their beloved sons ever remain exiles from the land of their ancestors? For their little ones Liu Venti and Pau Tsu were much more worldly than they had ever been themselves, and they could not altogether stifle a yearning to be able to bestow upon them the brightest and best that the world has to offer. Then, too, memories of childhood came thronging with their children, and filial affection reawakened. Both Liu Venti and Pau Tsu had been only children; both had been beloved and had received all the advantages which wealth in their own land could obtain; both had been the joy and pride of their homes. They might, they sometimes sadly mused, have been a little less assured in their declarations to the old folk; a little kinder, a little more considerate. It was a higher light and a stronger motive than had ever before influenced their lives which had led them to break the ties which had bound them; yet those from whom they had cut away were ignorant of such forces; at least, unable, by reason of education and environment, to comprehend them. There were days when everything seemed to taste bitter to Pau Tsu because she could not see her father and mother. And Liu's blood would tingle and his heart swell in his chest in the effort to banish from his mind the shadows of those who had cared for him before ever he had seen Pau Tsu.

"I was a little fellow of just about that age when my mother first taught me to kotow to my father and run to greet him when he came into the house," said he, pointing to Little Waking Eyes, who came straggling after them, a kitten in his chubby arms.

"Oh, Liu Venti," replied Pau Tsu, "you are thinking of home — even as I. This morning I thought I heard my mother's voice, calling to me as I have so often heard her on sunny mornings in the Province of the Happy River. She would flutter her fan at me in a way that was peculiarly her own. And my father! Oh, my dear father!"

"Aye," responded Liu Venti. " Our parents loved us, and the love of parents is a good thing. Here, we live in exile, and though we are happy in each other, in our children, and in the friendships which the new light has made possible for us, yet I would that our sons could be brought up in our own country and not in an American Chinatown."

He glanced comprehensively up the street as he said this. A motley throng, made up, not only of his own countrymen, but of all nationalities, was scuffling along. Two little children were eating rice out of a tin dish on a near-by door-step. The singsong voices of girls were calling to one another from high balconies up a shadowy alley. A boy, balancing a wooden tray of viands on his head, was crossing the street. The fat barber was laughing hilariously at a drunken white man who had fallen into a gutter. A withered old fellow, carrying a bird in a cage, stood at a corner entreating passers-by to pause and have a good fortune told. A vender of dried fish and bunches of sausages held noisy possession of the corner opposite.

Liu Venti's glance travelled back to the children eating rice on the doorstep, then rested on the head of his own young son.

"And our fathers' mansions," said he, "are empty of the voices of little ones."

"Let us go home," said Pau Tsu suddenly. Liu Venti started. Pau Tsu's words echoed the wish of his own heart. But he was not as bold as she.

"How dare we?" he asked. "Have not our fathers sworn that they will never forgive us?"

"The light within me this evening," replied Pau Tsu, "reveals that our parents sorrow because they have this sworn. Oh, Liu Venti, ought we not to make our parents happy, even if we have to do so against their will?"

"I would that we could," replied Liu Venti. "But before we can approach them, there is to be overcome your father's hatred for my father and my father's hatred for thine."

A shadow crossed Pau Tsu's face. But not for long. It lifted as she softly said: "Love is stronger than hate."

Little Waking Eyes clambered upon his father's knee.

"Me too," cried Little Sleeping Eyes, following him. With chubby fists he pushed his brother to one side and mounted his father also.

Pau Tsu looked across at her husband and sons. "Oh, Liu Venti," she said, "for the sake of our children; for the sake of our parents; for the sake of a broader field of work for ourselves, we are called upon to make a sacrifice!"

Three months later, Liu Venti and Pau Tsu, with mingled sorrow and hope in their hearts, bade goodbye to their little sons and sent them across the sea, offerings of love to parents of whom both son and daughter remembered nothing but love and kindness, yet from whom that son and daughter were estranged by a poisonous thing called Hate.

III

Two little boys were playing together on a beach. One gazed across the sea with wondering eyes. A thought had come — a memory.

"Where are father and mother?" he asked, turning to his brother.

The other little boy gazed bewilderedly back at him and echoed :

"Where are father and mother?"

Then the two little fellows sat down in the sand and began to talk to one another in a queer little old-fashioned way of their own.

"Grandfathers and grandmothers are very good," said Little Waking Eyes.

"Very good," repeated Little Sleeping Eyes.

"They give us lots of nice things."

"Lots of nice things!"

"Balls and balloons and puff puffs and kitties."

"Balls and balloons and puff puffs and kitties."

"The puppet show is very beautiful!"

"Very beautiful!"

"And grandfathers fly kites and puff fire flowers!"

"Fly kites and puff fire flowers!"

"And grandmothers have cakes and sweeties."

"Cakes and sweeties!"

"But where are father and mother?"

Little Waking Eyes and Little Sleeping Eyes again searched each other's faces; but neither could answer the other's question. Their little mouths drooped pathetically; they propped their chubby little faces in their hands and heaved queer little sighs.

There were father and mother one time — always, always; father and mother and Sung Sung. Then there was the big ship and Sung Sung only, and the big water. After, the big water, grandfathers and grandmothers; and Little Waking Eyes had gone to live with one grandfather and grandmother, and Little Sleeping Eyes had gone to live with another grandfather and grandmother. And the old Sung Sung had gone away and two new Sung Sungs had come. And Little Waking Eyes and Little Sleeping Eyes had been good and had not cried at all. Had not father and mother said that grandfathers and grandmothers were just the same as fathers and mothers?

"Just the same as fathers and mothers," repeated Little Waking Eyes to Little Sleeping Eyes, and Little Sleeping Eyes nodded his head and solemnly repeated: "Just the same as fathers and mothers."

Then all of a sudden Little Waking Eyes Stood up, rubbed his fists into his eyes and shouted: "I want my father and mother; I want my father and mother!" And Little Sleeping Eyes also stood up and echoed strong and bold: "I want my father and mother; I Want my father and mother."

It was the day of rebellion of the sons of Liu Venti and Pau Tsu.

When the two new Sung Sungs who had been having their fortunes told by an itinerant fortune-teller whom they had met some distance down the beach, returned to where they had left their young charges, and found them not, they were greatly perturbed and rent the air with their cries. Where could the children have gone? The beach was a lonely one, several miles from the seaport city where lived the grandparents of the children. Behind the beach, the bare land. rose for a little way back up the sides and across hills to meet a forest dark and dense.

Said one Sung Sung to another, looking towards this forest: "One might as well search for a pin at the bottom of the ocean as search for the children there. Besides, it is haunted with evil spirits."

"A-ya, A-ya, A-ya!" cried the other, "Oh, what will my master and mistress say if I return home without Little Sleeping Eyes, who is the golden plum of their hearts?"

"And what will my master and mistress do to me if I enter their, presence without Little, Waking Eyes? I verily believe that the sun shines for them only when he is around."

For over an hour the two distracted servants walked up and down the beach, calling the names of their little charges; but there was no response.

IV

Thy grandson — the beloved of my heart, is lost, is lost! Go forth, old man, and find him."

Liu Jusong, who had just returned from the Hall, where from morn till eve he adjusted the scales of justice, stared speechlessly at the old lady who had thus accosted him. The loss of his grandson he scarcely realized; but that his humble spouse had suddenly become his superior officer, surprised him out of his dignity.

"What meaneth thy manner?" he bewilderedly inquired.

"It meaneth," returned the old lady, "that I have borne all I can bear. Thy grandson is lost through thy fault. Go, find him!"

"How my fault? Surely, thou art demented!"

"Hadst thou not hated Li Wang, Little Waking Eyes and Little Sleeping Eyes could have played together in our own grounds or within the compound of Li Wang. But this is no time to discourse on spilt plums. Go, follow Li Wang in the search for thy grand-sons. I hear that he has already left for the place where the stupid thorns who had them in charge, declare they disappeared."

The old lady broke down.

"Oh, my little Bright Eyes! Where art thou wandering?" she wailed.

Liu Jusong regarded her sternly. "If my enemy," said he, "searcheth for my grandsons, then will not I."

With dignified step he passed out of the room. But in the hall was a child's plaything. His glance fell upon it and his expression softened. Following the servants despatched by his wife, the old mandarin joined in the search for Little Waking Eyes and Little Sleeping Eyes.

Under the quiet stars they met — the two old men who had quarrelled in student days and who ever since had cultivated hate for each other. The cause of their quarrel had long been forgotten; but in the fertile soil of minds irrigated with the belief that the superior man hates well and long, the seed of hate had germinated and flourished. Was it not because of that hate that their children were exiles from the homes of their fathers — those children who had met in a foreign land, and in spite of their fathers' hatred, had linked themselves in love.

They spread their fans before their faces, each pretending not to see the other, while their servants inquired: "What news of the honorable little ones?"

"No news," came the answer from each side.

The old men pondered sternly. Finally Liu Jusong said to his servants: "I will search in the forest."

"So also will I," announced Li Wang.

Liu Jusong lowered his fan. For the first time in many years he allowed his eyes to rest on the countenance of his quondam friend, and that quondam friend returned his glance. But the servant men shuddered.

"It is the haunted forest," they cried. "Oh, honorable masters, venture not amongst evil spirits!"

But Li Wang laughed them to scorn, as also did Liu Jusong.

"Give me a lantern," bade Li Wang. "I will search alone since you are afraid."

He spake to his servants; but it was not his servants who answered: "Nay, not alone. Thy grandson is my grandson and mine is thine!"

 

"Oh, grandfather," cried Little Waking Eyes, clasping his arms around Liu Jusong's neck, "where are father and mother?"

And Little Sleeping Eyes murmured in Li Wang's ear, "I want my father and mother!"

Liu Jusong and Li Wang looked at each other. "Let us send for our children," said they.

V

How many moons, Liu Venti, since our little ones went from us?" asked ii Pau Tsu.

She was very pale, and there was a yearning expression in her eyes.

"Nearly five," returned Liu Venti, himself stifling a sigh.

"Sometimes," said Pau Tsu, "I feel I cannot any longer bear their absence."

She drew from her bosom two little shoes, one red, one blue.

"Their first," said she. "Oh, my sons, my little sons!"

A messenger boy approached, handed Liu Venti a message, and slipped away.

Liu Venti read:

May the bamboo ever wave. Son and daughter, return to your parents and your children.

Liu Jusong, Li Wang.

"The answer to our prayer,", breathed Pau Tsu. "Oh Liu Venti, love is indeed stronger than hate!"