In commemoration of the 308th anniversary of the founding of Yuan Ming Yuan, 1709-2017

French chivalry in Peking?

Page 3

I gave free vent to my wrath.

"I am the secretary of the general in chief, and if you move an inch, or if you touch one of these women with the end of your finger, I will break your head! If you are not satisfied I will begin now. Clear out!"

"You ought to have told me at once that you were the General's secretary," replied the sergeant, leaping from the royal carriage.

That trooper had a pleasant mien, a blue eye, light hair, well-trimmed head, an air of discipline, and was not ugly in his bearing.

My title of secretary to the general in chief had produced a magical effect. I regretted having threatened him with it, and stretched out my hand to him, saying:

"I beg your pardon, comrade, but you know I have instructions. Orders! Orders!"

"I understand perfectly," he said, with the air of a man who does not understand anything. "We are to save these individuals."

"They are the wives of the Emperor," said I, raising my hands with an appropriate expression.

"The devil! Can I be of any asistance to you?"

"Yes; help me to get them out of this park."

"Where shall we take them to?"

As I had absolutely no plan, I answered peremptorily, "We shall see."

"I was about to propose, if you please, that we should take them to a Christian, who lives near by at Haitien. I got acquainted with him this morning, because he came to see the paymaster, who is my friend and countryman, and we went together to take tea with him. He is a fine fellow."

"Let us go to your Christian, my friend, but Orders! Orders!"

"All right."

On our left, near the carriage house, a park gate opened into the country. There we led the women. They hobbled along on their little mulilated feet like birds from which the large feathers of their wings had been clipped. Most of them had covered their brilliant toilets with long, loose wrappers, so as to look like peasant women, but through the slits of the gowns escaped the billows of silk, and little slippers of red satin peeped out like doves' bills from these sumptuous parcels. It was charming, on the green grass they seemed to me like a cluster of living flowers.

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To the Summer Palace



From the Gardener, Louis Chor. Canada, June 2000. Updated September 2016