CHAPTER V. THE YEN-PING REBELLION
There was little use in wasting time over these men who long ago had passed beyond need of our help, and we went on rapidly down the alley to the main thoroughfare. Guided by a small boy, we hurried over the rough stones for fifteen minutes, and suddenly came to a man lying at the side of the street, his head propped on a wooden block. An umbrella once had partly covered him but had fallen away, leaving him unprotected in the broiling sun. His face and a terrible wound in his head were a solid mass of flies, and thousands of insects were crawling over the blood clots on the stones beside him. At first we thought he was dead but soon saw his abdomen move and realized that he was breathing. It did not seem possible that a human being could live under such conditions; and yet the bystanders told us that he had been lying there for thirty hours - he had been shot early the previous morning and it was now three o'clock of the next afternoon.
The man was a poor water-carrier who lived with his wife in the most utter poverty. He had been peering over the city wall when the firing began Sunday morning and was one of the first innocent bystanders to pay the penalty of his curiosity. I asked why he had not been taken to the hospital, and the answer was that his wife was too poor to hire anyone to carry him and he had no friends. So there he lay in the burning sun, gazed at by hundreds of passers-by, without one hand being lifted to help him.
Our hospital attendants brushed away the flies, placed him in the stretcher and started up the long hill, followed by the haggard, weeping wife and a curious crowd. On every hand were questions: "Why are these men taking him away?" "What are they going to do with him?" But several educated natives who understood said, "Ing-ai-gidaiie " (A work of love). They got right there a lesson in Christianity which they will not soon forget. It is seldom that Chinese try to help an injured man, for ever present in their minds is the possibility that he may die and that they will be responsible for his burial expenses.
We left the stretcher bearers at the corner of the main street with orders to return as soon as they had deposited the man in the hospital and, under the guidance of a boy, hurried toward the east gate where it was said seven or eight men had been shot. Our guide took us first to a brigand who had been wounded and left to die beside the gutter. The corpse was a horrible sight and with a feeling of deathly nausea we made a hurried examination and walked to the gate at the end of the street.
A dozen soldiers were on guard. We learned from the officer that there were no wounded in the pile of dead just beyond the entrance, so we turned toward the river bank and rapidly patrolled the alleys leading to the tao-tai's yamen (official residence) where the firing had been heaviest. The yamen was crowded with soldiers, and we were informed that the dead had all been removed and that there were no wounded - a grim statement which told its own story.
The yamen is but a short distance from the hospital so we climbed the hill to the compound. The sun was simply blazing and I realized then what the wounded men must have suffered lying in the heat without shelter. We returned to the house and were resting on the upper porch when suddenly, far down the river, we saw the glint of rifle barrels in the sunlight, and with field glasses made out a long line of khaki-clad men winding along the shore trail. At the same time two huge boats filled with soldiers came into view heading for the water gate of the city. These were undoubtedly the Northern troops from Foochow who were expected Monday night.
Even as we looked there came a sudden roar of musketry and a cloud of smoke drifted up from the barracks right below us - then a rattling fusillade of shots. We could see soldiers running along the walls firing at men below and often in our direction. Bullets hummed in the air like angry bees and we rushed for cover, but in a few moments the firing ceased as suddenly as it began.
We were at a loss to know what it all meant and why the troops were firing upon the Northern soldiers whom they wished to placate. It was still a mystery when we sat down to dinner at half past seven, but a few minutes later Mr. Bankhardt rushed in saying that he had just received a note from the tao-tai. The mandarin's personal servant had brought word that the Northern soldiers, who had just entered the city, were going to kill him and he begged the missionaries for assistance. Bankhardt also told us of the latest developments in the situation. It seems that the city soldiers supposed the Northern troops to be brigands and had fired upon them and killed several before they discovered their mistake. A very delicate situation had thus been precipitated, for the Northern commander believed that it was treachery and intended to attack the barracks in the morning and kill every man whom he found with a rifle, as well as all the city officials.
The story of the way in which the missionaries acted as peacemakers, saved the tao-tai, and prevented the slaughter which surely would have taken place in the morning, is too long to be told here, for it was accomplished only after hours of the talk and "face saving" so dear to the heart of the Oriental. Suffice it to say that through the exercise of great tact and a thorough understanding of the Chinese character they were able to settle the matter without bloodshed.