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Because I drew the B - I have honor to commence this Class book. For once English A comes not at the head, for our Artist, (whoever is she?) can at the first do nothing.
It all began thus: The first of last semester in the English class Each, most horribly read. Miss Sterling, (our Adored Teacher), play with rings and shake head and say, "Girls, why do you all mispronounce that word, B-O-U-G-H-? It is pronounced - Bow - like this." She arise and make grand Kow-Tow, "Or like this," she shake head until little yellow curls all up and down dance and say, "Bow-wow! Bow-wow! Bow-wow!" The door open and Miss Powers, (our Honored President), come in. She say nothing, but Look! Ging Muoi giggle. Miss Sterling grow all white and pink like Chinese lady. Then Miss Powers speak much dignified:
"We are here to teach these young ladies the art of deportment; can it be that you were demonstrating a lesson on manners, Miss Sterling?"
Miss Sterling opens lips; no sound come out and her blue eyes with tears fill up. Most times so timid I cannot tell or act out what I most long to do, but I love Miss' Sterling.
"Miss Powers," I say, afraid forgetting, "May I have speech?"
Miss Powers smile with corners of mouth only and say, "Yes, Bing Ding, proceed."
"You know what kind girls we are, Miss Powers, of such a stupidness that we cannot of the English to learn. We only are to blame, not Miss Sterling," I say, then afraid remember and sit down.
"It is true that our language is very difficult for you," say Miss Powers most graciously. "And in order that you may learn to construct and pronounce it correctly, I propose that this last semester of your College course, you play a game that we may call 'English Notes.' Have any of you ever heard of it?" When we told her we had not so heard, she smile with chin also, and hold to view small package all of a whiteness.
"These are sealed envelopes," she say. "Each one contains one of the first seven letters of the English Alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, a letter for each girl. Miss Sterling, will you be kind enough to give them to the young ladies?"
It seemed of a purpose that to me came Miss Sterling last. Afterward, when I so state privately to her, she smile all about and say, "It is most fortunate that your envelope contains the B, Bing Ding, for being a Eurasion, you can write the English more fluently than the others." But that is of Biography unimportant, so I return to where I stop.
Fuku start to open envelope, Miss Powers hold out hand and say, "Wait, Fuku, and I will tell you about the game. It is played thus:"
"For the next five months, every Saturday each girl must deposit in my office letter-box an unsigned, written paper of not less than two hundred English words, on a topic corresponding to the word represented by the letter found in her envelope. For example: A stands for the Artist of the class. B - for the Biographer. C - Correspondent. D - Diarist. E - Essayist. F - Folklorist. G - Genius, to her goes my heartfelt sympathy." Miss Powers look at Miss Sterling and draw down corners of mouth and take on sadness. All Chinese girls grow solemnity, but Miss Sterling laugh, and we know it is of American funniness, and are much relieved.
"Bing Ding will distribute this writing paper which I wish you to use in preparing your articles," say Miss Powers, and again hold to view a package, this time of much largeness and most blue. "Six of you will begin playing the game this week. A, cannot play until next week; her name, alone, I must know that I may send her the papers to illustrate after they are typed."
"On next Monday afternoon and on all the following Mondays, I shall expect you to come to my study at Two of the clock, to drink tea and play your game. That is all now, Young Ladies, except that each girl must keep the secret of her letter; that is for her alone. Good after noon," and Miss Powers disappear with much graceful carriage, of which all Chinese girls admire but cannot to imitate.
Miss Powers great lady; of a tallness and much commanding, with snow hair and bright eyes - at times of a hardness like steel - of them we have much fear. For Miss Powers we have admiration greatly but our love we cannot show out to her; only can we show that to Miss Sterling who is of great dearness, with heart of so great bigness that for her we take the name of "Mother Heart." Each, to her gather and wish of her that she may play the new foreign game with us, but she make explanation that of the letters there are but seven, and soon all Chinese girl go to herself alone and open her envelope. As I have before spoken, B, was in mine. A Biographer I have now become. I shall at once at the Dictionary of the Centuries arrive and study to show forth the meaning of my word.
When we went forth on the first Monday afternoon to play our game and drink the tea of our Honored President, the Chrysanthemums were of great beauty. For many days the gardener had present pots of Chrysanthemums of great choiceness, so that the walks of the Compound and the steps leading to Miss Powers' study were of a two times border; inside part show tiny yellow and white hemispheres, outside part show much large yellow globes. When I behold Chrysanthemums to me alone I say, "Can it be English flower-book is of a rightness? 'That a heart to desolation is now left?' Perhaps the foreign game we cannot play." and I enter much afraid.
Miss Powers meet us on balcony and invite us in and to take seat; we have hesitation for Chinese must not at once sit down, but Miss Powers command, "Be seated, it is the American way." Then she wave hand to tray on table and say, "Young Ladies, here are your notes; I have had them put into type that you may not know whose notes you are reading. Go forward, Cui Ai, and select one to read aloud."
We watch with carefulness Cui Ai open paper and read of Folk-lore. I look about, but girls' faces all most composed and to me I think, "That paper is of Cui Ai's own make," when I see Fuku all of a shakiness and am full of doubt.
Miss Powers ask of each girl to read in turn until there is but one remainder, Fuku, who seems much offended that she comes at the last. She take paper, open, throw on floor with great noise. First time like little squeak of mouse, second time like Chinese Tom-Tom, and all time kick at paper on floor with much strength of purpose. We at once arise and when the foot of Fuku is high in air Da Hua make rescue of paper. Miss Powers say, "Be seated, Young Ladies," and we sit down with stillness; but Fuku keep most noisy. Miss Powers sit at telephone and by and by Dr. Ewing come and try to introduce Fuku into next-door room but she cry, "No, No, it is not my will to go! I shall of the paper now read." Then she again squeak and Tom-Tom, and Dr. Ewing draw up arm and put big slap in Fuku's nose centre. Fuku at once come to self and say, "Where am I?" When she look see us - six Chinese girls in a row sitting - she put up thumbs to cover face and it seem as if she would cry to death, and all time she whisper, "Take me away! Take me away! I belong not to the land! I am of the boat people!"
We look at Each, full of dumbness. A boat child! Born of a people without a foundation, whom the Gods had command to live all the many moons to come on the water and never again upon the land! Impossible! But Miss Powers put finger to lips and nod head, and we know that it is of a truth that Fuku has spoken.
By and by Fuku go with Dr. Ewing and Miss Powers say one half to ownself, one half to ourself, "Poor little girl," and look about at Each, most earnestly.
"Young Ladies, you have much to give thankfulness for," she say. "It is good to be well born. I shall tell you of Fuku that you may help her to overcome these unfortunate attacks. It is as she said, she is of the boats. When a little child playing on the deck of her boat-home, the rope fastened about her waist, parted, and she fell into the water. She struck her head as she went down, which I think partly accounts for these attacks; when she came up, an American who happened to be passing that point in a sampan, caught her by her long hair and tried to give her back to her parents, but they said, 'Return her to the water. The Water Gods have claimed her; she is theirs, not ours. We will not take her back.' So he brought her to me. Here she has grown up and from here, God willing, she will go forth into the world a noble woman!"
Then Miss Powers make a little prayer of Fuku and we drink of the tea and eat of the cakes of much sweetness. The clock strike five times before we leave the home of our Honored President.
When we arrive at her balcony a strange happening come to view. The Chrysanthemum pots were all departed. In their place were our lilies of China, nodding tiny heads in greeting as we pass over the walks to our dormitory. I go most quickly that I may arrive at the English Flower-book, for I know not the meaning of our lilies.
For five moons we play at game with greatest pleasure and much gaining of English. All read aloud with more understanding and our Honored President say we also write better. No Chinese girl know what other Chinese girl have written, so we talk of papers most freely and with great funniness.
One afternoon when we had complete our Readings and were drinking the tea of our Honored President, she say, "Do you realize, Young Ladies, that we shall meet together but once more, then our game is finished?"
When we told her that we had not so realized and were full of sorrow, she say, "I, too, am sorry for I have enjoyed the play." Then she look all about and of a suddenness request - "How many girls wish to commemorate our game?" We look at Each. Commemorate is an Americanism uncommon; we not the meaning know, but Miss Powers' bright eyes most kind and at once we hold up hands. She nod head and say, "I thought so! All of you! Each week I have marked the papers which you voted 'best.' If your Biographer will select and arrange them I will have them printed in book form that each girl may possess a Class book." We have haste to assure her that such a possession will be most pleasurable, and Eng Muoi jump on feet and say out loudly, "Our Honored President must also possess Class book." Fear comes at sound of voice and at once she sit down. Miss Powers smile most graciously and say, "Thank you, Eng Muoi, I would like one, but there is one condition, it is necessary that I shall know which girl has the B - not in her bonnet," she laugh, and we join with laughter, for we also have knowledge of the bonnet - B.
Next morning I have honor to walk from Chapel with Miss Powers (our Honored President) and tell to her of my troubles. By the Dictionary of the Centuries, a Biographer speaks of one human in one book. How then can I be a Biographer of correctness?
"But a Class book is different," Miss Powers say most polite. "It is a chronicle of College life, Bing Ding." I am much puzzled. On steamer days Cui Ai present Miss Sterling with American newspaper and say, "Here is Chronicle!" Is newspaper in America all the same as book? Miss Powers tell, in Class book must be something written by, and about Each; also something about Residence and Doings. I will therefore now make picture of our Adorable College. It is situate on hills of Island grown from the shining bosom of river Ping. At left hand the Monastery of Dreams stands of a whiteness of snow, from the tall mountain - Kushan. At right hand, if eyes follow glistening trail many Li (miles) by and by see blue of ocean of an unexplainable vastness. And all time - of gold with shining of Sun - of silver with Moonbeams play, sleeps the great, beautiful river Ping.
The seven buildings of our adorable College are of a brick and stand quite at the top of hill. From their feet green lawns run away down to hide their greennesses in shadow of wall which about the Compound encircles. This wall, of a ten-foot height, from grey stone is made. At top of stones, not too often, posts stand of a color like lawn, and upon posts looking at sky, sits the balustrade made of stone of a redness to be seen afar. When the wistaria is full of bloom many times have I wish to sit upon balustrade that I might make rain of wistaria blossoms upon Honorable Strangers making entrance through door in wall, but Sedia (the keeper of the gate) is of much strength and bigness and I do not dare.
Today when from Chapel we arrive, on breeze of morning come sound of Tom-Tom from without the Compound wall. All Chinese girl run down to gate. Miss Sterling enter in and Sedia at once close gate but not too quickly. In opening I view Chinese all about box in street-centre standing. On box, man; he make movement to turn face, and to me alone I cry, "It is He of the Bridge of the Ten Thousand Ages!" My soul is in darkness and my feet have wings. I fly far away. When I wish no more to fly I cannot cease, but go onward. At last I fall to earth and know no more.
When I awake it is in a place of strangeness - a room full of sunshine, making entrance through windows of much number. The walls and carpets are of the blue of the sky; the chairs, dressing-table and couch upon which I lie are all of a whiteness; the Mieng about me is again blue. I shut my eyes in wonderment; all is of beauty extraordinary! A hand comes to my miserable forehead and Mother Heart (Miss Sterling) give of sympathy to her unhappy child.
The memory of being like Fuku - not well born - smites my heart and bids my tongue be still. I speak not. By and by Miss Sterling whisper, "Why did you run away from the gate, Bing Ding?" I whisper return: "It was He of the Bridge of the Ten Thousand Ages. Of his power I have greatest fear. If He find, He will sell me to be a slave, for to him do I owe my most miserable existence." Miss Sterling's eyes flash of fire and she say, "No! No! I will have care."
Comfort to my heart creeps in, and I have speech with her of the Story Teller of the Streets. How, seventeen years past by, He was telling tales from box as now happen, and to Chinese all about standing, He say, "Do good deeds! Be of unselfishness! Have of others care!" One Chinese laugh and make large fun of Story Teller and say, "Why, O Wise Man, dost thou not perform goodnesses, thyself? Just now I pass over the Bridge of the Ten Thousand Ages and beside the stones of bridge I view babe of new birth. Go, thou, and take of it all care." To save his face the Story Teller went upon the bridge and took the babe unto his arms and house; but having children of much number, that night when all was dark that none could see, he went again upon his way and with him went the babe. I could no more speak.
Miss Sterling press my unworthy hand and say, "I know the rest, Bing Ding. He took you to an orphanage where we found you and brought you here that you might be educated. Have no fear; I will take care of you." I cry out of joy now, so happy to be of safety in Miss Sterling's heart.
Our I last game is played. Next week we graduate. The separation as of one family is upon us. We have been most happy in our Adorable College and are full of sadness that Each, alone her way must go. Some Chinese girls to be married, other Chinese girls, teachers to become. I, with Mother Heart to America, am going.
Times of much number have I been to the study of our Honored President to make arrangements of our Class book. With Miss Powers' assistance I have honor to select of the papers those that of our Adorable College make pictures of clearness. That when Each, goes by self, one reading in Class book will bring forth memories and together we will all be sitting, playing our game and drinking the tea of our Honored President. When so sitting, will please Each, give thought of kindliness to most humble Biographer, is the wish of your most unworthy.
Woman's Anglo-Chinese College,
Neuchang, China, June 15th.
"It Was He Of The Bridge Of The Ten Thousand Ages"