DO you remember that
Even the little girl can work on the silk farm; and you will realize that when you see what a silk farm is.
Here are rows and rows of low, bushy mulberry trees; and every morning, while the leaves are fresh with dew, the two little girls and their mother go out with their baskets to gather them. We will follow, and see what they do next. We carry our baskets to a bamboo house with curtained windows, standing cool and quiet at the farther side of the field. Kang-hy is there before us, and when he sees our fresh leaves he opens the door a little way and says, "Go in carefully; don't disturb them"; and then he quickly shuts the door, for fear of letting in too much light.
Do you think there is a baby asleep in
there, that we must be so quiet? Look
about you; there is no baby to be seen.
But little trays, something like sieves, are
I am sure you have all seen the pretty chrysalids that caterpillars make in the autumn. My children know them well enough, for we had a whole box full last year, and they peopled a butterfly house in the spring. Sometimes the chrysalids are dry and horny, but once in a while you see a silky one. That is the kind this worm will make—a silky chrysalis of a pale gold color; and then Pen-se will help to gather them up, and her mother will wind off the silk in beautiful, soft, flossy skeins, and take it to market to sell.
Pen-se likes this work even better than rowing the tanka boat on the river. She grows fond of the little worms. She is careful to clean out their trays neatly every morning, and give them the best and freshest leaves, and she longs to be old enough to wind off the silk herself. She is tempted to try it, but her mother says: "No, not yet." And I am glad to say that in China little girls do not tease or fret. So Pen-se waits, and in a few days a delightful opportunity comes to her. It is this: out in the woods, half a mile from the house, she finds some wild silkworms spinning their webs on a mulberry tree, and she marks the place and promises herself that in a few days, when the chrysalids are ready, she will come back and take them. So one day, a week later, she runs to her mother with her little bamboo basket full of wild cocoons, and tells her story of finding them in the woods, and timidly asks, since they are her own, whether she may try to wind them. Her mother is willing; and oh, what a proud, happy little girl she is when she has a skein of silk of her own winding! Not so fine and even as her mother's, to be sure—but wild silk is never the best—and yet it is strong and useful for some coarser weaving; and when she has a pound, she may carry it to market and sell it.
Do you wish you lived in a country where you could find wild silk in the woods?
Pen-se is only a little girl, but she has a great deal of hard work to do, especially now that her father cannot have much help from her brother Lin; for Lin is going to school. Can't Pen-se go to school, too? No, I am sorry to say that in her country nobody thinks it best for little girls to learn even reading and writing; and, when you think of it, don't you remember that neither Agoonack, Manenko, nor Gemila ever went to school? But Lin is a boy, and boys must all learn at least reading and writing, if nothing more.
Do you remember the first day you ever went to school? If you do, you will like to hear about Lin's first schoolday.
His father looked in the almanac to see what would be a lucky day for a little boy to begin going to school, and when he found in the long list of lucky days, "June 8 is a good day for beginning school," he decided upon that, and early in the morning he provided the child with all that he will need for school.
Do you think he will have a slate and pencil and a book?
Oh, no! He carries two little candles, some perfumed sticks, and some little papers of make-believe money—that is all. Walking beside his father, he goes up to the village where the schoolhouse is, and, finding the teacher at the door, Kang-hy makes a low bow and presents his son. He does not tell the teacher Lin's name, for today the boy will have a new name given him, which will be called his book name, and we shall have to leave off calling him Lin, and begin to call him Li-hoo instead. Isn't that funny?
Now, what will he do with the things he has brought? Do you think they are a present for the teacher? No, for the teacher leads the little boy to a table, where he places the candles and lights them, and then shows the child how to burn his perfumed sticks and his mock money; and all that is done in honor of a great and wise teacher who taught in that country thousands of years ago. As the little boy is to study from the books of that teacher, it is thought right to perform this service of respect to his memory. And if to you and me it seems like nonsense, we will not laugh at it, but only say: "If he thinks it will please the wise and good teacher, let him do it."
And now the real studying is to begin. Do you know how many letters there are in the alphabet?
"There are twenty-six," says little Georgie.
And do you want to know how many letters there are for this little Chinese boy to learn in his alphabet? Poor child! I pity him, for there are thirty thousand. But long before he has learned them all he will be able to read common words and stories, for most of the letters are really whole words, not spelled out as ours are, but a sort of picture writing. And soon he learns that this letter (O) means the sun; and that if it is made just above a straight line, so (O), it means the early morning, for the sun is just above the horizon. This (M) is a mountain. And some of the others are just as simple and easy to learn, but there are many almost too difficult to think of trying.
After his reading and writing are finished for the day, he learns to repeat this sentence from the book of the wise teacher who lived so long ago:
"The portrait of a father is a book which teaches a son his duties."
I think I understand that, for I know some little children who love to play in the room where the portrait of their grandfather hangs, and his pleasant face smiles down upon them, helping them to be good and patient in their little trials, and helpful to each other. Perhaps that is what Li-hoo feels when he has learned his sentence and stands back to the schoolmaster (for that position is considered only proper and polite) and repeats it slowly and carefully, word for word.
Now school is over for the day, and Li-hoo turns into Lin again, and runs home to tell his wondering little sister what new things he has learned.
I cannot say whether Pen-se wishes that she, too, could go to school. If she does, she says nothing about it, for she has never heard of such a thing as girls going to school, and doesn't suppose it possible. But you and I would welcome her to our school, if she came here, wouldn't we?
One day at the end of the summer her brother comes home very happy; he has, for the first time, read a story for himself, and at night he repeats it to Pen-se. I will repeat it for you, that you may see what kind of stories the Chinese children read.
Here it is:
"There was a boy whose father was so poor that he could not afford to send him to school, but was obliged to make him work all day in the fields to help maintain the family. The lad was so anxious to learn that he wished to give up a part of the night to study, but his mother had not the means of supplying him with a lamp for that purpose. So he brought home every evening a glowworm, which, being wrapped in a thin piece of gauze and applied to the lines of a book, gave sufficient light to enable him to read; and thus he acquired so much knowledge that in course of time he became a minister of state, and supported his parents with ease and comfort in their old age." Lin is so fond of going to school that he almost believes he shall be like the boy in this story, and he hopes, at any rate, to take good care of his father and mother in their old age. That is what every child in China means to do, and I hope every child in our own country, too.
But we will leave Lin hard at work on his studies, and see what the rest of the family are doing.
Do you know about the wax makers?
I think I can hear Edith answer: "Oh, yes, the bees!" But I must say: "Oh, no; I mean the tiny brown wax insects that cover themselves, and the tree on which they feed, with fine white wax."
While the women and children have been busy with silkworms, Kang-hy has gone every day to help another man collect the wax from the wax trees, and now the time has come for the little wax insects to lay their very tiny eggs. These are carefully gathered and packed in leaves, and must be carried to the hatching trees, which are miles and miles away in quite another part of the country. For some curious reason, these little creatures thrive best during their babyhood in one country, and when their wax-working days begin, they want to be carried to another. So the men, having collected a great many packages of eggs, start on a two weeks' journey to the hatching trees. If they should travel in the daytime, the heat of the sun would hatch the eggs before their time. On that account the men have chosen to make the journey at a time when the moon is large, and they can see to travel in the night; and for a whole fortnight they sleep by day and walk by night. And pleasant walks they are, too, through the beautiful green woods, where the wild azaleas and camellias lift their fair white faces in the moonlight, and the great lantern flies flash among the dark foliage.
Kang-hy is a very industrious man, and just now he is earning all the money he possibly can for two reasons—very important reasons, both of them, as you will see.
The first is, that a little new baby boy has been born, and the father who has four children must work harder and earn more than the father who has only three.
Now I must tell you about this little baby and how he was welcomed—welcomed with the greatest rejoicings, because he was a boy, and in China they are more glad to have boys than girls.
When he is a few days old the father invites all his friends to a feast, and, taking the baby in his arms, holds him up before them all and gives him a name. At first he thought of calling this child Number Four, for a number is considered as good as a name; but finally he decides upon Chang-fou, and this becomes the baby's pet name, or baby name, which will last him until he has his school name, just as Lin had his a few months ago. Then the mother ties his wrists together with a little red string; that is thought to be the way to make him good and obedient. And when he grows big enough to understand, if ever he is naughty somebody will say to him "Why, why! did your mother forget to bind your wrists?" Isn't that a funny thing to do?
And now you can imagine how our little Pen-se will spend all her spare minutes in playing with the baby, and carrying him out to see the beautiful gold and silver pheasants, and the gay ricebirds, and the half-dozen pretty little puppies that she feeds every day with rice, and watches and tends so carefully.
Do you know what she will do with the puppies when they are very plump and fat? Don't you remember that there were fat puppies for sale in the market of the great city by the river where Pen-se used to live? She is really fattening them to sell, for she too, little as she is, must earn money and help her father.
Now I must tell you the second reason why Kang-hy wants to earn all he can. He has heard of a wonderful country far away over the sea—a country where the hills and the rivers are full of gold, and where white men and women, such as he sees in the American ships at Canton, have their homes. I am afraid that some of the things he has heard are not wholly true, but at least it is quite certain that a man or boy can earn ten times as much money in that distant California as he can in the rice fields or the silk farms of China.
Of course Kang-hy cannot go himself and leave his family behind, but Lin is now almost fourteen years old, and he might be sent, if only enough money could be earned to pay his passage across the wide ocean. It is for that that his father works, and Pen-se saves her silk money and her puppy money, and the mother makes little wax candles colored red with vermilion, and carries them to market to sell.
At last they have all together accumulated about ten dollars, and with this they go to the mandarin of the village, and ask him to make arrangements for sending Lin to America. And the mandarin goes to the captain of the American ship and shows him the money and the boy, and says: "Can do? No can do?" And the captain answers, "No can do," and poor Lin turns away disappointed. But he is to go, after all, for there is in the city a company of merchants that has engaged a ship to take seven hundred men and boys who want to go to this new country, and they promise to give Lin a place if he will pay the ten dollars now and thirty dollars more after he has earned it; and it seems very easy to earn thirty dollars in a country where he will be paid half a dollar a day. At home he received only a few cents.
But there is one thing more to be attended to; his father must write a promise that, if the boy does not succeed in paying the thirty dollars, he will do it himself. That is a hard promise for Kang-hy to give. It has been so difficult to earn ten dollars, how can he ever earn thirty? But nevertheless he makes the promise, and says: "I will rather sell my other children to pay it, than not keep my promise, now that it is made."
And so little Lin will leave his father, mother, and sisters, and baby brother, and go alone to a strange country, where the people speak a different language, do not eat with chopsticks, nor wear braided tails of hair; where the school children do not recite with their backs to the teacher, and, more surprising than all, where little girls, as well as boys, learn to read and write, and a great deal more besides.
I have said, "where the people speak a different language," but already Lin has learned a little of that strange language in the odd talk called pigeon English, which he hears the American sailors talking to the Chinamen of Canton. They seem to think that to put ey on the end of a word will make it more easily understood, and when they speak to a Chinaman they say findey instead of find, and piecey instead of piece, and catchey instead of catch. They have other funny words, to which they give meanings of their own; and since they succeed in understanding each other, perhaps it is very well. But what would you think to hear your papa say, "Catchey some chow-chow, chop-chop," when he meant only to ask Bridget to bring him some breakfast quickly?
This kind of talk may do in Canton, but I don't believe Lin will find it very useful in San Francisco, where he will land in a few weeks.
I can't tell you about the voyage to San Francisco; I am afraid it was very uncomfortable. The boys were crowded together, and they felt homesick and seasick. But such troubles end at last; and so, in time, comes the sunny morning when they sail into the beautiful harbor called the Golden Gate. The little boy looks out at the long, low hills, with their light-houses, and the beautiful city lying before him in the sunlight, and he wonders at seeing no tanka boats, and no people living in duck boats, as there are in his own country. And then he has no time to wonder any more, for he finds himself on land, and is hurried along with the crowd to the company's houses, where he will stay until work is found for him.
"What kind of work?" do you ask? There are many kinds of work from which to choose. There is digging at the gold mines, but that is too hard for a boy so young, and the work on the new railroad is also too heavy for him. He can go to the great laundry to do washing, or, if he prefers, he can go out to service with some family. Poor boy! He is so homesick that the thought of a family seems almost like a home, and he timidly suggests that he should like that best; so he is sent to the house of Mr. Leighton, who came yesterday to the laundry to look for a boy. When Mrs. Leighton looks at him she says: "Oh, you are too little! You are not strong enough to do the work." To which poor Lin, only half understanding her, answers, "Me muchey workey, me wash dish"; and then catching sight of the baby, who lay crowing and kicking on the floor, he added, thinking of his own little baby brother at home, "Me playey baby, me jumpey he."
So the mother's heart softens towards him, and she says that he may come and try. And pretty soon it happens that little baby Margie begins to delight in Lin more than in any other member of the household. He lets her play with his pigtail, and sings her little Chinese songs, and talks to her in the funny language which she thinks a perpetual joke. And at last one day when her mamma is trying to have her photograph taken, to send to her far-away aunties, nobody can keep her still until Lin, all dressed in his best suit, stands up and holds her in his arms; and it is their picture which you see at the beginning of this story.
Lin was delighted when he saw his own picture with the "Melican baby," and Mr. Leighton gave him one of them to send home to his father and mother. So he sat down that evening after his work was done and wrote the following letter to send to China by the very neat mail. I will turn it into our own language for you, as the interpreter did for the white man in Manenko's land.
But first you will be interested to see how Lin is writing his letter. When you write a letter you begin at the left side of your paper, but he begins at the right and writes in columns, as you do sometimes in your writing books. It would puzzle you and me, but his father will know how to read it, and that is the most important thing, isn't it?
My Dear and Honored Father and Mother, —
May the light shine upon you.
You will see a picture of your son Lin, holding in his arms a Melican baby. She is a pretty baby, like little Chang-fou; but in the Melican country they do not bind the babies' wrists, so she is sometimes disobedient.
I work every day, wash the dishes, sweep, take care of the baby, and I earn much money. Already I pay ten dollars to the company man. I will be very industrious. You shall not have to pay.
Last month we celebrated the New Year. Three thousand Chinamen walked in a procession to the Joss-house; and we had feasts, and fireworks, and New-Year's cards. I send my cards to you. (Here were enclosed two slips of red paper printed with strange black Chinese letters, which neither you nor I can read.)
We had a New-Year's week, not a month as at home. And I went for two days, but no more; for I must do my work.
We did not have the new almanacs, as we do at home; but I thought about it, and wondered if the Great Emperor had received his, with its covers of yellow satin in its beautiful golden case, and whether you had bought yours, and were looking into it to see what would be the lucky day for writing me a letter.
My master he asked me one day if I would have my hair cut; but I told him no, not for twenty dollars. Yet I should very much like the twenty dollars.
When I have paid the company, I shall have money to send to you.
When this letter reaches you, I think it must be very near little Chang-fou's birthday.
I wish I could see you all. When I have earned plenty of Melican money, I shall come home to you again, and I will always be your dutiful and obedient son,
This was Lin's letter; and now we will see how it was received in his home.
It was a pleasant spring day in the Hoo-chow country, and the first mulberry leaves were coming out. Pen-se and her mother were at work, as we have seen them before, but the little girl was complaining because her winter dress made her so warm.
"Tut, tut!" said her mother, "don't complain; you can't change it, you know, until the emperor's decree comes for putting on spring clothes."
And the little girl, knowing that to be
true, tries to think of something else and
forget her discomfort. And there is a pleasant
subject to think about; for
It was very kind for the grandmother to send the cap and shoes, wasn't it? But I must tell you something quite curious about this present. It wasn't only because she wanted to, that she sent the cap and shoes, but because in China it is thought quite necessary that a grandmother should always give just this present, and no other, on the little grandson's first birthday. Now if she had wanted to bring him a rattle and a jumping-jack instead of a cap and shoes, she couldn't have done it; everybody would have cried out that it wasn't the proper thing; and if she ventured to ask, "Why?" they would all say: "It must be so, because it always has been so." You and I don't think that is a very good reason, do we? But it is the only answer we shall get in China to many and many of our questions. If you ask, "Why does the great general wear an embroidered tiger on his beautiful silk dress? why does the writer of books wear one of his finger nails two inches long? and why do the princes have their almanacs covered with red satin and silver, while the emperor's are bound in yellow satin and gold?" to each and every question the Chinese will answer: "It always was so, and therefore it will always be so."
But we must return to the silk farm and the baby's birthday.
All the friends have assembled, and little Chang-fou is brought in, dressed in new clothes. His mother carries him, and Pen-se walks behind, carrying a round sieve in which lie various things. There are writing materials—the four precious materials, Kang-hy calls them—there are little money scales, books, fruits, pieces of gold and silver, a skein of silk, and some little twigs from a tea plant.
Don't you wonder what is to be done with them all? See, the sieve is placed on the table, and the laughing baby is seated in it among all the things of which I have just told you. Everybody watches the little fellow to see what he will do, for they think that what business he is to engage in when he grows up, is to be decided now by whichever of all these things he first grasps in his little fat hand.
His father would best like to have him a wise man and a writer, but the yellow gloss of the silk attracts him first, and, stretching out his hands for it, he lisps, in his own funny language, "Pretty, pretty," and everybody declares that he will be a silk grower, like his uncle.
And now the bowls of rice are brought in, and the guests sit around the table with their chopsticks, and sip their little cups of perfumed rice wine; and in the midst of all the festivity the postman enters with Lin's letter.
Kang-hy is a proud and happy man when he reads it, and the picture of Lin with the "Melican baby" in his arms is passed from hand to hand and admired by every one; and one neighbor says to another: "It will be well that we send our sons to this great and rich country over the seas."
Then they all leave the table and go out with firecrackers, to finish the entertainment with such a display as we only expect on Fourth of July.
Pen-se doesn't care much for the firecrackers, for she has heard and seen them almost every day since she was born; but she has stolen away into a corner and laid her cheek against the pretty face of the "Melican baby." She thinks she should love that little stranger. Perhaps she is a little sister, too.