moment in peking - Chapter 1 It was the morning of the...

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Chapter 1 It was the morning of the twentieth of July, 1900. A party of mule carts were lined up at the western entrance of the Matajen Hutung, a street in the East of City of Peking, part of the mules and carts extending to the alley running north and south along the pink walls of the Big Buddha Temple. The cart drivers were early; they had come there at dawn, and there was quite a hubbub in that early morning, as was always the case with these noisy drivers. Lota, an old man of about fifty and head servant of the family that had engaged the carts for a long journey, was smoking a pipe and watching the drivers feeding the mules; and the drivers were joking and quarreling with each other. When they could not joke about each other’s animals and the animals’ ancestors, they joked about themselves. “In such times,” said one, “who can tell whether one comes back dead or alive after this journey?” “You are well paid for it, aren’t you?” said Lota. “You can buy a farm with a hundred taels of silver.” “What is the use of silver when you are dead?” replied the driver. “Those bullets from foreign rifles doesn’t recognize persons. Peng-teng! It goes through your brain- cap and you are already a corpse with a crooked queue. Look at the belly of this mule! Can flesh stay bullets? But what can you do? One has to earn a living.” “It’s difficult to say,” rejoined another. “Once the foreign soldiers come into the city, Peking won’t be such a good place to live in, either. For myself, I’m glad to get away. .” The sun rose from the east shone upon the entrance to the house, making the leaves of the big colanut tree glisten with the dew. This was the Yao house. It was not an imposing entrance – a small black door with a red disc in the center. The colanut tree cast its shade over the entrance, and a driver was sitting on a low stone tablet sunk into the ground. The morning was delightful, and yet it promised to be a hot day with a clear sky. A medium-sized earthen jar was standing near the tree, which provided tea in hot summer days for thirsty wayfarers. But it was still empty. Noticing the jar, a driver remarked, “Your master does good deeds.” Lota replied there was no better man on earth than their master. He pointed to a slip of red paper pasted near the doorpost, which the driver could not read; but Lota explained to him that it said that medicines against cholera, colic, and dysentery would be given free to anybody. “That’s something important,” said the driver. “You’d better give us some of that medicine for journey.” “Why should you worry about medicine when you are traveling with our master?” said Lota. “Isn’t it the same whether you carry it or our master carries it?”
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The drivers tried to pry out of Lota information about the family. Lota merely told them that his master was an owner of medicine shops. Soon the master appeared to see that all was in order. He was a man of about forty,
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moment in peking - Chapter 1 It was the morning of the...

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