To return to the Biography page, click here
To return to the Main Page, click here
Editor's note and apology: The following text was
produced by Optical Character Recognition from the PDF version
of The Annals.
While OCR is one of the marvels of modern technology, it does not produce a perfect text, and editorial work is necessary
for a smooth text of the original. Your editor set out to do a thorough job on the OCRed text, but along the way
realized it was going to take him more time than he had available, so he settled for a minimal editorial job.
As a result, part of the text below requires some imagination on the part of the reader to make it read smoothly.
If any of you want to take on the challenge of doing a smoother edit, he/she will have my blessing and full cooperation.
Meanwhile, here is a rough text-only version of The Annals of the House of An.
The Annals of the House of An
Colena M. Anderson
The year of our Lord
Nineteen Hundred Sixty
A NEW RELEASE OF
“THE ANNALS OF THE HOUSE OF AN”
The original issue of" “The Annals of the House of AN" included the original typewritten manuscript and three carbon copies that were given by Colena as her "Gift of the Spirit" for Christmas 1960 to her heirs, Frances and Clarence Gulick, Victor and Anne Anderson, and Elam and Jean Anderson. In 1999 I was inspired to reproduce that book for distribution to Colena's grandchildren and great grandchildren as a partial record of their heritage.
Elam and Jean, who are living In the McMinnville house that was Colena's, located the original typewritten manuscript and sent it to me In Alpine, California. The manuscript was scanned through an optical character reading program as a first cut at converting it into a computer text file. The resulting text was proofed against the original by our daughter, Judy and her husband Tom. Judy, a graphic designer, helped format the new release of "Annals". Elam and Jean sent Colena's original photos to me and from those we selected the photos to add to the new version. The maps of China and Shanghai are courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.
That cover is a reproduction of the original cover of our copy of the "Annals" with added text. The line art of the separator pages is from the original. We have added background to the separator pages, and typeset the original typewriter text of the separator pages.
Victor C. Anderson
This copy of the " ...Annals ... “ was replicated by the Anderson Charitable Trust in appreciation of a donation to the Trust's project for support of the Elam and Colena Andtrson Scholarship Fund at Linfield College.
© 1960, Colena M. Anderson
© 2000, Victor C. Anderson
The Annals of the House of An
Warm Wind Blowing
On the campus of Cornell University that first day of the fall term of 1913, Indian Summer was holding squatters rights. All morning it had sprawled, golden and languid, on the quad. At noon it wandered over to the library and, after circling the building, loafed awhile on the stone bench overlooking the valley and the western hills. From there it strolled past the lilac tree near Morrell Hall and out to the swinging bridge that spanned the gorge at the north end of the campus, where it loitered, suspended between earth and heaven, until the chimes struck the third quarter hour past twelve, when it sauntered back to the quad and leisurely settled down on the steps of Goldwin Smith Hall. There I met it as I was hurrying to my afternoon seminar. Indian Summer in all its ripe, warm beauty! What professor could compete with it? What class could rival its charms?
Certainly, not the Adolescent Psychology Seminar to which I was going. I hadn't wanted to register for this one o'clock class; it was mainly for graduate students and I was only a senior. But in making out my schedule I had the choice of this class, Education 8, or a Speech class, Oratory 10, and I knew, without a doubt, that I did not want oratory.
Coming from the warm, yellow sunshine of out-of-doors, I found the room on the second floor cold and gloomy, and as I eased myself into one of the chairs around the long seminar table, I shivered.
Professor Whipple began calling the roll. Methodically, he went through the names from the A's to the L's. Then -
"Present," I answered in a timid voice, wishing now that I had chosen Oratory.
Just as the roll call was finished, a young man appeared in the doorway- tall, slim, grey-eyed, friendly-looking.
"May I come in?"
"Indeed, yes," Professor Whipple said. "I've been wondering where you were. Your card hasn't come to me yet, but I recall our interview of yesterday. Class, this is Mr. Anderson - Elam J., instructor in the Department of Public Speaking. Oratory 10, I believe. Now let me see how well I can remember your names."
As our names were called, the late-comer gave each of us a cordial smile. When his gaze met mine, my heart surged forward. Never before had I been so impelled toward any man. The brashness of my feeling made me ashamed. When, in the same instant, the complete thought came, A man as friendly as he looks is, no doubt, already married, consternation mingled with my shame. It was not my habit to wonder about the marital status of a young man so newly introduced. What had happened to me? To redeem myself in my own sight I lamely tagged a postscript to my initial surmise, Lucky girl! I'd like to meet her. But my heart was not in the wish.
After class the instructor of Oratory 10 fell in step with me. Walking down the long hall, he made easy conversation, telling me he'd just come from the wilds of Wyoming, was a graduate of Drake University, and was finding the East quite different from the West.
Back in my room at Sage, I revised my initial surmise and speculated instead, Perhaps, after all, he isn't married.
Weeks went by and he made no advances and no retreats - always, but only, the friendly smile and the walk down the hall after class. Then one night, just before Thanksgiving, the telephone rang.
"Phone for you, Colena. A man," the girl on telephone duty called.
The man was Elam J. Would I go with him to church on Sunday evening?
The next week it was, "Will you go with me to the Dramatic Club production?"
"Yes, thank you."
And after that with increasing regularity he would saunter into the library a few minutes before closing time, pick up my books, and walk me back to Sage.
One night in early December, as we were walking from the library, he set forth a problem and asked for my advice. He was planning to be a foreign missionary and back horne in the West there were two girls - Which one?
In its own secret closet my heart whimpered, I knew it. I knew it. I knew it.
Hushing the whimper, I resolutely listened, dutifully pondered, and finally named the one who, in my opinion, would make the best helpmate for a missionary. At the same time I indulged my heart and let it have its say, I hope I never meet her.
At Christmastime he went to the Student Volunteer Convention at Kansas City. I went home to Buffalo. From Kansas City he sent a card wishing me a Merry Christmas. When we met in class after the holidays, I thanked him for it.
In mid-January he took me to a Young Peoples Rally. It was a crisp winters evening with the snow glistening in full circle under every street light and the sidewalk down the hill one long icy slide. He had to hold my arm to keep me from falling, and hold it firmly he did.
Inside me questions churned- Whom had he seen? Which of the two? What had she said? churned, but none passed my lips.
He must have read my thoughts, for turning the corner at the bottom of the hill, he volunteered, with a sidelong glance at me, "I saw both the girls."
I looked straight ahead and murmured, "So?''
"I- I- P" For an instructor in Speech he was stammering badly. "I didn't take your advice."
"You chose the other?" My voice sounded weak.
"I chose neither." His voice was firm and strong.
Then he halted me in the midst of a circle of light from a nearby street lamp and bent to look straight into my eyes.
"Surely, you didn't think I was serious when I asked your advice. You were playing the game with me, weren't you?"
"I was not. I thought you were in earnest."
He waited a long minute, still looking into my face; then holding my arm even more closely, he led me towards our destination.
Silence lay between us and all around was snow and ice and winter cold, but in my heart I heard "a thousand blended notes" of spring and felt a warm wind blowing.
The Stone Bench
Those thousand blended notes were not only notes without words, but also notes without a clear melody, until one night in early May. We had gone to a picnic near Triphammer Falls. As always with our group, the picnic had ended with singing around the fire. No one enjoyed this singing more than Elam. On the way back he continued to hum some of the melodies.
Two by two the couples passed us. "Take your time," called one. "Don't hurry," called another. Taking their advice, we soon found ourselves the only ones walking across Triphammer Bridge.
Then, for the first time in our acquaintance, Elam took my hand and held it. Startled, I drew it away.
"Why do that? You needn't be afraid of me."
Again he took my hand. No one had ever held my hand like this. Now I did not withdraw it.
His humming changed to words, sung very low:
I love you truly, truly, dear.
Life with its sorrows, life with its fears,
Fades into dreams when I feel you are near,
For I love you truly, truly, dear.
It was the song of the season. Everybody was singing it. We'd sung it around the campfire. But as he sang it now, the song moved from the impersonal into the personal. It became something more than a popular tune. By the pressure of his hand I knew it meant more to Elam too.
Now it was as though a gossamer web had been thrown around us, isolating us from the world about and gently drawing us closer together. I felt my pulse quicken.
Then shyness prompted me to tear the web.
"By the way - "
"What way?" Elam teased.
"I-," What could I talk about? Then I remembered. "Oh," I hurried on, "have I told you I'm invited to a dinner at Andrew D. White's for next Thursday? The invitation came this afternoon."
"You are? Who's going with you?"
"Then I am."
"But you can't." I freed my hand.
"Because the invitation was for me alone, not for an escort too."
"Oh, but here in the East you're expected to have an escort for a formal dinner, aren't you?"
"Not at this dinner. We'll go as individuals. It's for initiates of the honoraries and for winners of the prizes."
"Then you're invited on two scores- Phi Beta Kappa and Barnes Shakespeare Prize."
"In that case it'll be a double honor to be your escort."
"Elam, you are not going with me." I all but stomped my foot. Not a shred of the gossamer remained.
"And I say I am."
"Oh," I wailed. "You can' t. Maybe you do things like this out in those wilds of Wyoming that you're always talking about, but here -"
At that he laughed heartily, while I bit back my tears.
Silence fell between us, this time, at least for me, chill and cold. I was glad we were near the entrance to Sage. In a few minutes I could say, Good-night to this boorish fellow. Maybe I ought
to make it Goodbye. Lucky the song was only a song. Otherwise, what commitment might I not now be regretting?
When we came to the dormitory, I held out my hand in a formal gesture. "Thank you," I said politely and coldly.
All laughter gone now, Elam took my hand in both of his. "Forgive me, Colena. I shouldn't have teased you so. I should have told you that I, too, have an invitation. All on the staffs of the English and Public Speaking departments are invited. Now, may I be your escort?"
"Oh!" It was a long drawn out "Oh." "Yes. Yes, indeed. And thank you again."
"The pleasure was all mine." It was his stock answer to all my Thank yous.
"No, not all yours, Elam. Not tonight."
Before the web could enmesh us again, I hurried inside. Up in my room, though, once more I felt its clinging softness, and he who was outside seemed still to be at my side.
The dinner was the most sumptuous I had yet known. If Elam had not been there, I should have felt lost indeed. His geniality melted the frost of formality and brought within a warm circle a group of students from foreign lands.
Among them was Hu Shih, also of the class of 1914. Within a very few years, the world was to know and laud him as the Father of the Chinese Literary Renaissance and a few years after that as the Chinese ambassador to the United States. At the dinner he was praised as the winner of the Corson Browning prize. In future years, Elam and I dated our friendship with that great man as of that night.
Three days after the dinner I was sent to the infirmary. Scarcely was I registered when a box of white roses came from Elam, and shortly thereafter a note saying, "I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I found you gone. My lovely plans for Sunday night shattered - "
What lovely plans? I would have to get well in a hurry to find out.
Wednesday afternoon I telephoned to tell him I was back in the dorm and feeling very well.
Wonderful! Would I be at the library tonight? I would. Would I sign out for late leave? I would.
For the occasion, I chose the rose crepe dress that Mother had made for me. Outside the library, instead of going south toward Sage, he led me north. Passing Morrell Hall, he picked a white lilac from the bush growing near the building and gave it to me. With scarcely a word he took me on toward the gorge, across the swinging bridge, where we stopped to look down into the deep shadows at the bottom of the gorge, then out Cayuga Heights to a place where a few lights from the shore reflected in the lake. The stars shone bright and from a nearby tree a night bird called.
There he told me that he loved me and there he kissed me.
Still bound by reticence, I shyly drew his head down and kissed him on the forehead. As I did so I had the strange sensation that I was kneeling at a shrine. God was very near.
The days that followed were busy, exciting, tumultuous days. Commencement was less than a month away. Preparation for finals competed with our new-found joy. We had so little time to be together and we had so much to tell each other.
The stone bench behind the library was a convenient and homely place for sharing the things that went before, certainly, a place much more conducive to confidences than the open guest rooms at Sage. From it we had a view of the valley and the lake and the distant hills.
Seldom did we come to this bench without first pausing to read again the inscription carved on its backrest:
To those who shall sit here rejoicing,
To those who shall sit here mourning,
Sympathy and greeting:
So have we done in our time.
Sitting there, we poured out our hearts to each other. There I learned that out of his twenty-three birthdays he remembered his fourteenth as the most dismal. It was the year his sister Esther was married. She had chosen the twenty-eighth of February for her wedding day and no one remembered that it was his birthday. There was no cake for him.
"I take, then, that it's not a birthday without a cake."
"You're right. Preferably a white cake with thick caramel frosting, not just on top, but all around- the kind I used to have for lunch with a glass of milk when I worked on Saturdays in a grocery store. The storekeeper was very kind, always gave me a whole quarter of a cake."
Caramel frosting all over and thick. I made a mental note.
He learned that out of my twenty-two birthdays I remembered my fifth as the most gala.
"Mother bought a whole box of cookies, a big wooden box full, and served raspberry punch and home-made ice cream. I've tried for years to find punch like that but never have found it. Father hired a bus drawn by two big horses and took us, the whole kindergarten class, to the zoo.
The horses had flags stuck in their harnesses and each of us children carried an American flagand waved it and sang songs all the way. People on the street cheered us; they must have thought we were the lost battalion of the parade."
"Memorial Day parade."
"Good! Now I won't have to be one of those husbands who can never remember birthdays.
Memorial Day! And that comes on the 31st. I'll always remember."
"And I'll always remember to give you a nudge on the 30th." I turned my face to hide my smile.
Sitting there on the stone bench, I came to know his family from afar. I heard of his mother and father, born in Sweden, emigrated to America and settled in Chicago, where Elam was born. Now they were on a homestead in Wyoming with Reuben and Delight, the two youngest children. Laurence, two years younger than Elam, was soon be married. Two older sisters, Ruth in Chicago and Esther in Seattle, were already married.
Sitting there on the stone bench, Elam learned to know my family from afar. too, with the assurance that he would soon meet them in person when they came to my commencement. He heard that my father was born on a farm in Hamburg, New York, that my mother was born in Buffalo, New York, and that all four of my grandparents had emigrated from Germany. He heard much of my three-year-old sister, Marguerite, for I was devoted to her.
"It's as though my parents had two only daughters. You see I was an only child for twenty years, and now, while I've been away, Sister has been an only child."
"Only child! Hmm." Elam became reflective. "There may be times when I'll have to remind myself of that fact, just as there will be times when you'll have to remember that I was not an only child."
"What difference does that make?"
"Difference! You had no one to scrap with. I did."
All kinds of seemingly irrelevant things were shared with each other; our hunger to know each other was insatiable. Only now and then did a few items move together to reveal an immediately interlocking significance, as, for instance, when I told of my parents' early moving from the country to the city because my mother was homesick for her parents.
The interlocking significance came as once again we touched upon the thorn in my joy- the long absence and great distance from my parents and sister that being foreign missionaries would mean. Not that I was unsympathetic to the missionary aspect. Before I'd settled upon majoring in English, I myself had thought of doing social work and that was a kind of missionary endeavor, but always close to home.
"How can I ever go so far away?" I all but cried. "It has been hard enough being 150 miles away at college. And that has been for only a few months at a time. What would 3500 miles and seven years mean?"
"Maybe your homesickness is congenital," Elam suggested. "Remember how it was with your mother and how your father moved back to the city for her sake."
"Maybe." We both laughed a bit. "If so, then it's the hardest kind to combat. But that, Elam, will be my problem, not yours."
"I'm not so sure. It was your father's problem. It will also be mine."
The enormity of the conflict struck me. My tears were now out in the open.
"But you, Elam, you dare never yield to me. You have already made your commitment. My father had no such pledge to fulfill."
"Yes, I know." Elam sat with his head bowed and held in his hands.
"With or without me, you must go. Of that I am certain."
His shoulders shook, and I heard something close to a sob.
What was this I had said? Go without me! But how could I ever voluntarily separate myself from him?
And so it was in those days that, as we sat on the stone bench, we came to know what was meant by the double dedication, "To those ... rejoicing and to those ... mourning." My dread of being far removed from home was not, I knew, the mourning meant, but in a way it was a degree of sorrow; something in me had to be sacrificed; the cross of homesickness had to be endured.
I came closer to real mourning the day after Elam did his record sprint. He had told some of his friends of a certain race that he had won.
"You're from Wyoming, Andy," they had said, "but we're from Missouri. You'll have to show us. We'll pace you with our car."
That afternoon, Tuesday, they took him out to the country and paced him. I had planned a picnic supper for Wednesday to eat on the hillside overlooking the lake.
On Wednesday afternoon Elam telephoned, "I'm coming early. Could we have a walk before the picnic?"
When he came, I saw that his faced was flushed.
"Terribly sorry," he said, "we'll have to postpone the supper. Let's get off the campus and I'll tell you why."
Under the canopy of trees shading Goldwin Smith Walk, he told me. He'd just been to see the doctor, who had ordered him to go to the infirmary.
"Nothing to worry about, Co lena. All I need is a little rest. You see, the fellows speeded up the car, but I kept up with them. I should thank them for helping me beat my own record."
"Thank them nothing!" I stormed. "Haven't they ever heard of heart strain?"
After he left me, I went to the stone bench and, alone, watched the sunset. How quickly plans could change! How many times in the future would outside forces divert the direction of our dreams?
Here I was for the first time alone at our place of rendezvous, separated from Elam by no more than a mile and at best no more than a week. But someday- How would it be then when one or the other of us should sit here alone separated by death?
I turned and with my forefinger traced the words, "To those who shall sit here mourning."
Four nights later, with Elam again at my side, I asked him the question that burned in my
heart, "How will it be - then?"
"Then?" He put his arm about me. "Oh, my dear, always remember that death is only an incident in continuing life, and whenever you sit here, I am at your side."
Part One: Spring
The anxiety over finals was dispelled when all but one of my professors gave me exempts. The only final I had to take was in Dramatic Structure. So busy with my own drama, I thought, I must have missed the essence of drama in theory, for, certainly, the remaining days ofwunderschone Monat Mai and the first rare days of June provided all the love plot and conflict I could handle. On the one hand, the bright shining of our love dimmed that between the covers of any book; on the other hand, the shadow of the break with my girlhood home, involving a long, far separation, cast a gloom deeper than any gloom created by greater tragedies recorded in actors' lines.
Mother and Father and Sister came to Ithaca a week before Commencement to stay with friends. It was their first long trip in the new Ford that Father had bought before Easter. Although this was the first meeting between them and Elam, they were not strangers to each other. What I had told Elam of them was matched by what I had written them of him. Only two facts I had withheld: that our friendship had grown into love and that he and I had agreed to wait until fall before becoming formally engaged.
"What if we're only in love with love?" I had asked, and Elam had said, "The summer of separation will let us know whether we have gold or not."
In the days following that certain night in May, I had tried to write the news home, but all my words failed to convey the message as I wanted to convey. Always I would hear my mother crying, "But how can I have you go so far away?" And then I would tear up the sheets.
Mother had made my academic robe herself, painstakingly putting in the intricate folds by hand. It was a piece of exquisite workmanship. Everyone who saw it exclaimed over it, but their compliments now fell upon deaf ears. The flame of gladness and joy in creation that had glowed for her as she worked on the gown, the brightness of which I had seen at Easter vacation when she began the arduous project, was now quite blown out. There were only ashes left.
Bypassing my statement that we weren't yet really engaged, Mother's first greeting to Elam was, "How can I let you take her so far away?"
"Don't feel so bad, Frankie," Father said. "You didn't expect her to stay single all her life, did you?"
"No, of course not. It's only the going so far, so far away."
My father put his arm about her. "There, there, don't take it so hard. It must be God's plan for Colena to go out as a missionary. Remember how you didn't want her to go to that small denominational college?"
"Yes, I do. I've been thinking about that all the time."
"Because you were afraid she'd meet a missionary. So we sent her to Cornell."
"No missionaries there, I thought." Mother smiled wryly.
"And see what she found." Father put his arm over Elam's shoulder, and I saw the two men I loved most in all the world accepting each other as father and son even before one of them and I had sealed our troth or ever that one had formally asked the other for his consent.
But Mother was not so spontaneous in her acceptance. That night she asked me, "If you hadn't fallen in love with Elam, would you have gone out alone?"
"No. I might have shifted from teaching English to doing home mission work. I've always been drawn to that, you know, but I'm sure I never would have ventured overseas alone."
"Then, how now?"
"Oh, Mother, can't you see? If he feels so strongly called, isn't it logical that if l marry him I should go where he goes? Believe me, we've prayed about this."
"I do believe that. Maybe I haven't."
When next Elam and I held rendezvous on the stone bench, he said, "I'm sorry to have your mother feeling so bad. And I the cause. What kind of man am I? And the way she feels about the distance is what you feel too. I know. Oh, my dear -"
My heart went out to him. Suddenly I felt a whole generation older. In that moment I was both a daughter and a mother, a composite being standing on the threshold between two generations, feeling the rending of apron strings in both directions. "No crown without a cross" could apply here too; without the cross of separation there could be no crown of a new family, far or near. And the cross had to be borne by someone, mainly the woman, I thought.
"How can the call of God cause one's dear ones such pain?'' Elam was sitting bent forward, his head in both hands. His question was not directed to me, so low I could hardly hear it, but I answered.
"It has always been so and will always be so." Then without fully realizing the import I added, "This experience we must remember when our children-"
Our children? What had I said? Why, we weren't yet truly engaged? I put my hand to my mouth as though to push back the words.
Elam straightened and caught my hand and holding me close said almost fiercely, "Now I know why I sang on my way home last night, even after that hard time."
"What did you sing?"
So low no one but I could hear, he hummed:
I love a lassie, a bonnie, bonnie lassie.
She's as sweet as the lilies in the dell.
She's as sweet as the heather, the bonnie, purple heather.
She's my own, my own -
"Oh, my dear," he broke off, "how am I going to stand the
separation of the summer?"
"Now you too!" The turm of the tables made me laugh. Then soberly I faced him, "But it's good to hear you say this. If now you foresee that three months of separation will be a trial, maybe you can sympathize with my mother and understand what the years away may sometimes mean for me.
"I'll always understand." He held me close. "I promise that I'll understand."
Commencement Day came, the Mecca of my dreams and of my parents'. It was here and they were here, but I was numb and my mother was sad. At the exercises I stood when we were asked to stand; I turned the tassel of my cap from right to left; I sat down. I might as well have been a robot.
Then the band struck up the Alma Mater. We stood again, the friends of the past four years and I like one body. We sang. The tears ran down my cheeks.
And after the Alma Mater, the chimes began to play. For four years they had measured off my days and nights in quarter hours. The last quarter was spent. Under cover of old familiar melodies classmates bade each other farewell.
The next day we were all back in Buffalo. Elam had come with us to spend a day before he went West to take two summer pastorates in Wyoming. We paused outside the house to admire the new lawn that Father had planted. It was green and lush and ready for the first cutting.
Later in the day Father asked Elam whether he'd like to drive the Ford.
"Simple. You crank it this way. Watch how you hold your thumb. Here are the shifts -low, second, high, reverse. Here are the brakes, regular and safety. Come on. I'll take you around the park to show you."
When they returned, Elam was beaming from the driver's seat. Gallantly he got out, opened the rear door, and said, "Pile in. I'll take you all for a ride."
Mother, Sister, and I got in. Father sat in front, and away we went through the park, out Seneca Street and on to Ebenezer at the exhilarating speed of 15 mph. Father had a road map and read the directions aloud even though he knew every mile of the way in the dark: "Tum right at the red bam. Go through the covered bridge. Pass the iron pump at right, and two miles before you get to the school house tum left."
"What's that?" Elam stalled the car. "Two miles before- that's impossible." Then he, heard Father chuckling and had his first initiation to my father's fondness for a joke. As Elam cranked the car, I heard him laughing too.
We made the trip out and back without a mishap, but as Elam turned into our driveway, instead of going straight towards the bam, the car swerved right, plowed through the new lawn, and came to a stop directly at the front steps.
"Now, that's what I call service," Father said, slapping Elam on the back. "Safe delivery right at the front door."
For the next hour the men teamed up with shovel and rake and hoe to repair the damage while we three women folk watched from the porch and gave unsolicited advice.
With Elam leaving that night the summer's test began. What would happen to our feelings once we were apart?
Train service was slow between Buffalo, New York and Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, but the beating of our hearts and the working of our minds were not slow, nor the moving of our pens. Letter after letter came and went.
In Buffalo three-year-old Marguerite pulled her chair close to my desk, asked for paper and pencil to draw pictures and write "lekkers" to Elam too. In Pine Bluffs, ten-year-old Delight spoke accusingly, "You like Colena better than you like any of us," and sixteen-year-old Reuben taunted, "Oh, we mustn't disturb Elam; he's got to write his daily letter- or is it two?"
From Wyoming Elam wrote of his parents. His mother said, "So much depends upon the wife. If she cooperates, you'll succeed; if not, you'll only exist." His father said, "If you love her, marry her within a year."
He wrote of the members of his churches. One asked, "Is she Swedish?" When he answered, "No. She's of German descent," the consolation came, "Oh, well, it might be worse. She might have been French or English."
He wrote of the moonlight night when he stood alone at the pasture gate and, filled with longing to have me there to share the mystic beauty, he found himself singing
Oft do I sadly think of thee
When I am far away, far away.
At home Mother continued to agonize over the prospects of the long separation. Seeing how pained she was, I began to question my duty and my loyalty. One lovely summer evening we walked together to Seneca Street to mail my letter. While I went into a store, Mother held the letter. When I came out, I saw a new light in her eyes.
"I've been standing here praying," she said. " - praying God to take the bitterness from my heart. I don't know what happened, but I do feel lighter inside. It's like a miracle. Now I know I have a weapon to fight loneliness."
Benedictions come in many forms; this was one of the most precious that ever came to me. June dragged into July and July seemed never to end, but at long last August came, and with it the news of Germany's perfidy in Belgium. The day the news broke in Buffalo I was on my way to a reunion with high school friends. The buildings along Main Street were draped in black. At the transfer comer I bought a paper. For a moment I stared at the huge headlines, unable to take in their full import.
Then I turned to an inside page and in very small print I found what I had been searching the newspapers for for the past week: the announcement of the appointments of new high school teachers. There I found my name and my assignment to Hutchinson-Central, the new school that was taking the place of my Alma Mater, old Central. Standing with my back against a store front, I was torn in my attempt to respond to the two experiences - deep sorrow for the afflicted in Belgium and great gladness for the realization of my long-time dream to teach. How could one person at the same time experience such dichotomy? And why should I be so happy in the thought of teaching? If just the ant!cipation of it brought this joy, how much greater would my joy be when the actual teaching began? How would it be when I stopped teaching to get married?
Married? Did I really want to get married? Did I love Elam enough to give up this new excitement of the heart? Elam? After all, who was he? A stranger whom I met less than a year ago. Go with him across the ocean? How could I? Separate myself in space and time from the security of home?
A lake wind worried the black buntings and set them to flapping about me like crows about to take flight but unable to do so because they were chained. In much the same manner, black thoughts thrashed about in my mind.
That night I could not sleep. Finally, I got up and went to the window. Looking out, I saw a cross of light against the screen. A symbol? How foolish to think so! Why, it was nothing more than the beams of light from the streetlamp breaking against the screen, a simple demonstration of certain laws of physics. Yet the image haunted me. Night after night I looked at it before going to bed and then, as news from Europe grew darker and darker, I became ashamed of ever having thought of it as a symbol of my own personal skirmishes, so small when viewed through the battle smoke of war. The cross became then an altar before which I prayed for all war sufferer's and for a speedy peace.
This transfer did not, however, banish my own inner confusion. As the time for Elam's return drew near, I blew hot and then cold. It was one thing to sit on the stone bench on a soft spring night and speak of love; it was quite another thing to know that when he came he would, or would not, have his question and I must have my answer. The magnitude of the decision frightened me.
The turmoil continued well into the day of his arrival so that, when he finally came, a strangeness lay between us. For me, it was as though the night in May had happened on some other planet.
That evening Elam sat down to our square piano and began to play, extempore, now a folk tune, now a hymn, now an aria from some opera. Sister sat on Father's lap and after a while both began to doze.
Seeing them so, Mother went over and touched Father and said, "Come. It's time to go to bed. Good-night, Colena. Good-night, Elam."
He rose to say Good-night and then returned to playing.
I kissed the three of them and wanted to call out, "Let me go with you. Please, please, don't leave me."
But they were gone. I could hear them moving about upstairs. Elam continued playing. After awhile there were no sounds from upstairs.
In all the world now only Elam and I. He remained at the piano and I in the Morris chair across he room behind him. All my heart and mind gathered into one plea, "Lord, lead us. Let us know Thy will." Elam could not have heard my prayer, for it was made in silence, yet now he began weaving into his music the chorus of"He Leadeth Me." After that he went immediately into the opening measure of Grieg's Ich Liebe Dich and, so low that none but I could hear, he sang
Du. Mein Gedanke. du mein Sein und Werden!
Du meines Herzens erste Seligkeit!
Ich liebe dich also nichts auf dieser Erden
Ich liebe dich. ich liebe dich.
Ich liebe dich in Zeit und Ewigkeit!
When he finished, he turned and for a
long minute looked steadily at me. Then he stood and came toward me, his arms outstretched.
Gladly, freely, I went to him. In that moment my heart sang out its own knowledge: I was his
too for time and for eternity.
Part One: Spring
Through the next two school years, Elarn continued to teach at Cornell and to work for his Master's degree while I taught English and Zoology at the high school.
In July, 1916, we were married at my home. Mother had made my wedding dress - white satin with a train and a long veil and on the veil the wax orange blossoms that had been my father's wedding boutonniere. Sister was one of the flower girls. Marcella, the young daughter of my life-time friend Mary Bush, played the wedding march. Father gave me away, but later he said, "Gave you away! Nothing of the sort. The giving was done by you; you brought us a son."
That summer out in Wyoming I learned to know my in-laws, whom I chose to call "in-loves" because, even before ever I met Elarn, my mother had said to me, "When you are married, never think of your in-laws without love. Never fear that I shall be jealous. It's hard when a mother is jealous of herdaughter's mother-in-law. I know." They looked upon me, too, I felt with love and made me one of their own on that night when, kneeling at our chairs for evening prayers, as was their custom, Elam' s father said, "And tonight Colena will lead us."
I learned to know the people of Elam's summer churches. The woman who had said, "She might have been French or English" drew me aside after I had twice admitted that I was not Swedish and in confidence admonished, "Now, Mrs. Herr Pastor Anderson, don't you go telling people you ent Swedish. If you don't tell them, they can't tell the difference."
One night, after all the others had gone to bed, Elam took me to the far pasture gate where he had paused on that moonlight night two years before. Tonight the moon was full again, casting a silvery sheen on everything. For a long time we remained silent, arms entwined, drinking in the beauty. Then he sang softly:
Deep as the sea, soft as the night,
Thus is my love for thee,
My love, my love for thee.
Deep as the sea! I had never seen a sea or an ocean, and he had had only a glimpse of the Pacific during a short visit in Seattle, but that night we entered into the essence of its depth and of its wide expanse. Nearby, the windmill creaked, and in the distance a coyote gave forth with his nightly call, but we were only dimly aware of these familiar sounds, for we were standing on the shore of our new life together and, louder than the audible sounds, was now the intimation of waves breaking on the shores of the new seas ahead.
Early in September we both enrolled at the University of Chicago and set up our first housekeeping in a third-floor-front, walk-up apartment across the Midway from the quad. Elam had not been drafted and his commitment to foreign missionary service stood in the way of his volunteering, unless it be as a chaplain. But, although by Baptist practice he was licensed to preach, he was not yet ordained.
Instead, then, he charted a course towards a doctorate in Education to be completed during our first furlough while I rode the waves towards a masters degree in Religious Education to be completed in June. Between classes we sallied forth to buy food or some kitchen utensil that had somehow evaded the "showers."
In that third-floor-front we launched upon our sea of hospitality. We had both come from homes where the doors always swung wide. There was, therefore, nothing new about this sea except that it was our own. That part of our furniture was made from orange crates was no deterrent to our enthusiasm for guests. Hardly a week went by without other feet than our own under our table.
We were scarcely settled when Elam came home with the news that Dr. Hagstrom, president of Bethel Seminary, where Elam had studied for a term, was in town. Could we have him for dinner?
"Of course. When?"
"Only thing I'm nervous about, Elam, is the coffee. I just can't make clear coffee the Swedish way."
"Nothing to worry about, my dear. We'll splurge. We'll get thick cream and all you have to do is pour in the cream before you pour the coffee."
Meat loaf, baked potatoes, peas, biscuits, salad, white cake with thick caramel frosting.
Nothing fancy, but with wedding silver and wedding linen and the roses Elam had brought as a surprise, everything was going well. Now came the crucial moment.
With the cream pitcher poised above our thinnest cup, I asked, "Cream and sugar, Dr. Hagstrom?"
"Sugar only, thank you. I like to see the bottom of the cup."
Before the twinkle in Elam's eye could turn to open laughter I hurried to say, "Sorry, in this cup you will see no bottom."
Not only did we break the sea of hospitality at the giving end, we broke it also at the receiving end. The members the Evanston Swedish Baptist Church where Elam served as interim pastor from September to January and of the Austin Swedish Baptist Church where he served from January to June were lavish with their entertainment of us. In Austin we had the added rich experience of a weekly visit with Elam' s sister Ruth and her family. In all those months, except for three Sundays, both of us left our apartment early every Sunday morning to take the long ride on the El and returned late at night, weary, happy, replete.
We became circuit diners who were treated to a great variety of special Swedish dishes, Arter med Fläsk (Pea Soup with Pork), Inlagd Sill (Picked Salt Herring), Hel Fisk i Kapprock (Stuffed Fish), Kottbullar (Meatballs), Slottsstek (Royal Pot Roast), Kalvkotlett ala Oscar (Veal Cutlet a la Oscar), Plommonspäckad Flaskkarre (Loin of Pork with Prunes), Kaldolma (Stuffed CabbageLaves), Hasselbackspotatis (Roasted Potatoes), Helstekt lök (Whole Fried Onions), Kokt Rodkal (Spiced Red Cabbage), Gurksallad (Molded Cucumber Salad), Äppelkaka med vaniljsas (old fashioned Swedish Apple Cake with Vanilla Sauce), Citronfromage (Lemon Chiffon Pudding), Hallonkräm (Raspberry Cream), Jordgubbsparfait (Strawberry Parfait), Blandad Fruktsoppa (Mixed Fruit Soup) - the list was long.
And everywhere cups of coffee so amber clear that I vowed I could see not only the bottom of the cup but the tablecloth beneath. Early in our circuiting I realized that for me "Thou shalt not covet thy hostess' skill in coffee-making" was much more pertinent than "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's servant." Only one of our friends had a servant, and that one was just for the day, but all seemed to possess the skill that evaded me.
And so, between university and church with all the duties and pleasures appertaining thereto, the first year of our married life came almost full circle. Before our first anniversary, though, there was another commencement. This one brought me a white tassel and a Master's hood but no excitement of the heart, for none of my own folk could come and Elam had been called East to meet the Board.
There he discovered that, though he had early set his heart on going to China, the Board had assigned us to Jorhat, Assam. Elam's training and the need at that particular station matched better than any other opening at the time.
We were booked to sail in September, but in 1917 Assam was still under English jurisdiction, and back in the mid-1800's all of my grandparents had come from Germany and later in that century Elam's parents had come from Sweden. From the union of these facts now issued the complication of getting a landing permit.
All other papers were in order, our trunks were packed, every bridge burned behind us, the difficult farewells in Buffalo and Pine Bluff had been survived, and now we were in Seattle, as close to the Pacific as we could get, waiting day after day for the permits.
What we would have done without Esther and Helmer I do not know. They opened their home and their hearts to us. Helmer equalled Elam in a passion for music and excelled him in performance in singing but not in playing. While Esther and I crocheted or knit, the men folk filled the house with song. Of all their songs my favorite was Frances Allitsen's "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation."
One Saturday, land-locked though we were, a new sea came into our ken. I lay on an operating table while Elam, properly scrubbed and gowned, stood at my side, his hands on mine. Breathing the ether, I moved into a land of light and swiftly went from one part into another, each part becoming larger and the light ever increasing in intensity. It was as though I were passing through many mansions on my way straight to the abode of the Most High. And all the time, inside myself, a trumpet was playing, "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation."
When I awoke late Saturday afternoon, I heard my own voice booming out the words over and over again. Even after I was quite conscious and quiet, their echo came bounding back from all the walls.
When Esther and Helmer called, I asked, "Did he get off in time?'' My eyes weren't focusing well yet, but I knew what I was asking. I wanted to know whether Elam had caught the train that was to take him to his out-of-town preaching engagement for today, Sunday. "Made it by the skin of his teeth," Helmer answered, and Esther added, "He stayed with you as long as he could but you slept on."
After they left, I continued to sleep on.
Sometime in the night, I awoke and saw, looming above me, an inverted flask with a rubber tube through which fluid was dripping into a vein in my left arm. Treatment for shock! And here I was a continent away from my own home folk, miles from Esther, and how far from Elam, I could not tell. Tears of self-pity welled and I began to sob.
Instantly a nurse came from the shadows and groped for my pulse. What a comfort to have her! But I longed for Elam. Why did he have to leave me at such a
critical time? Couldn't he have cancelled the date? Didn't he love me any more? When he came I wouldn't kiss him. What - what if I died before he came?
The nurse let go my wrist. "I'm going out to get you a cup of tea. You're coming along just fine."
Then I wasn't going to die! The Lord- The Lord? In my rising wrath I'd forgotten about the Lord, but He had not forgotten me. Under ether I could loudly proclaim Him as my Light and my Salvation, but under a saline flask- "Oh, Lord, forgive. Forgive."
Elam came early in the morning. He kissed me and I did not tum my head away. Instead, I drew his head to my pillow.
"My darling," he moaned, "it tore my heart to leave you."
"Then why did you?"
He moved his head slowly from side to side. "I- I don't know, except that I'd promised and it was too late to get someone else. Oh, my dear, if you had-"
"Hush," I said putting my hand to his mouth. "The nurse says I'm doing just fine."
He raised his head and searched my face as once before on that snowy night. I searched his too and saw there such lines of weariness as I had never seen before.
Then he took both my hands in his and prayed, and when he finished he laid his head on the coverlet and promptly fell asleep.
How could I have questioned his love? Why should I have allowed the black thoughts to come? Selfish, that's what I was, thinking only of my wants when I should have been projecting myself into his dilemma. After all, an appendectomy was getting to be almost as common as a cold. Why should he have stayed? If one's soul grows through repentance, mine grew tall in the next few minutes.
The conviction that I had postulated on the stone bench about Elam, first loyalty belonging to his pledge, that he would have to go where duty called even if he had to go without me, had just been put to the test and, in a way, I had recanted. Now I re-affirmed. That first statement had been given intuitively; now I had a rationale. Elam might not know why he left me, but I knew. In a conflict between a call to duty and an expression of love, Elam would yield - must yield to the call to duty. He and all good men were made to do so. And when he did, it would be my part, as a good wife, to understand and carry the burden of aloneness without complaint.
I laid my hand on Elam's head as gently as one touches a sleeping child after he has been hurt. Then on the shore of my new sea - this one not of light, but of enlightenment - my spirit knelt and prayed while Elam slept.
Early in December word came from the Board that there was an emergency at the University of Shanghai. One of the short-term single missionaries was being sent home on sick leave, and Elam was assigned to take his place for the coming term. China was at least an ocean nearerAssam and we could serve there while we waited for the landing permit.
Four days before Christmas we stood on the upper deck of the S.S. China holding the colored paper streamers that formed our last tenuous tie with Esther and Helmer and the boys and with the homeland. When the streamers broke, tears filled our eyes. We waved to our own as long as we could see them.
Then we went to the prow to watch the boat plow its way through the waves. And standing there, Elam repeated John Oxenham' s poem
WE BREAK NEW SEAS TODAY
We break new seas today -
Our eager keels quest unaccustomed waters,
And, from the vast uncharted waste in front,
The mystic circles leap
To greet our prows with mightiest possibilities:
Bringing to us- what?
Dread shoals and shifting banks?
And calms and storms?
And clouds and biting gales?
And wreck and loss?
And valiant fighting times?
And maybe Death! -and so, the larger Life!
And maybe Life - Life on a bounding tide,
And chance of glorious deed:
Of help swift-borne to drowning mariners;
Of cheer to ships dismasted in the gale;
Of succor given unasked and joyfully;
Of mighty service to all needy souls.
And maybe Golden Days,
Full freighted with delight!
And wide, free seas of unimagined bliss,
And Treasure Isles, and Kingdoms to be won,
And Undiscovered Countries, and New Kin.
Part One: Spring
The Making of a Scribe
New seas, new countries, new kin; indeed, everything was new except the old ache in the heart to be nearer my home folk. Much of the time, though, I was able to submerge that ache through the realization that on the steamer with us were other young couples going out from their home folk too and through the excitement of sharing the new experiences with Elam.
On the second day out at sea, fearful lest I might forget the fresh strangeness of some of these experiences, I started my own log of our trip. Elam had brought along his Hammond typewriter with the special type, but I had never learned to type, so now every day I laboriously wrote the original and two carbon copies in long hand, one for each of our home families and one for ourselves.
In those pages I tried to preserve the experience of walking on decks that rose and fell and slanted now to the left and now to the right; conquering the corkscrew roll we called it. I shared with the home folk our unbelief at the greenish pallor on the faces of some of the passengers and of our smug settling back in our steamer chairs as we saw first one and then another of our missionary group seek the rail. And then I had to confess that on Christmas Eve, just as the flaming plum pudding was being brought to the table, both of us with one accord made a precipitate exit and headed for the upper deck. "Just want a little fresh air," Elam gasped. "Me, too," I echoed. And we both spoke the truth, for on that trip and on all subsequent trips all we ever needed was a little fresh air to change our green pallor back to normal.
One day, when the ocean was like glass, we had our first life-boat drill. Looking at each other blown up to twice our size in the bulky life preservers, we indulged in gales of laughter, but a few days later when a whole gale sent waves cascading over the deck and down the staircase into the dining room, laughter turned to fear, and I made Elam promise he would make me learn to swim before we crossed the Pacific again.
In Honolulu we watched the surfboard riders at Waikiki. We indulged in pineapple fritters. We bought seed necklaces and postcards by the dozen. We walked through liquid sunshine and marveled at the exotic beauty all around us. We drove to Pali and saw the world spread before us.
On the Sunday between Christmas Day and New Years Day, still in Honolulu, we had difficulty concentrating on the sermon for the singing of the birds and nodding of the mammoth poinsettia blooms outside the open windows. A New Year's sermon with windows open and flowers and birds in abundance! At home there was snow, but also the dear ones.
Elam bought me a lei. Always careful not to show affection in public, he, nevertheless, managed to make the lei secure with a kiss and later, as we stood at the rail of the steamer, watching Pal! fade in the distance, he drew my arm through his and closed his hands over mine.
"The last of the homeland," I said, "a very remote part of the homeland."
At that he held my hand closer and bent his head to touch mine.
That night, once again at sea, writing up our log, I attempted a few simple line drawings and experimented with illuminating the initial letters of each paragraph.
"You know, Elam," I said, bent over the pages, "if I believed in transmigration, I'd say that in some previous incarnation I must have been a monk, one of those medieval friars who copied manuscripts."
"A monk!" Elam looked up from the book he was reading. "I didn't know there were lady monks."
"Maybe there weren' t, but anyway a scribe of sorts." To myself I thought, Strange how I can lose myself writing these pages, forget time and place making scrolls and flowers around a "T."
If Hawaii was remote from home, Japan was much more remote. Even before we set foot on shore we knew we were far, far from home. At home we had never seen such a flutter of colored kimonos. "Like butterflies" we both said in the same breath. At home we had never seen such chilblained hands nor such chap-cheeked children, nor such dripping noses. I had a wild wish for dozens of handkerchiefs to scatter broadcast. When we found the stores, we knew again that we were far from home; never in any store at home had we seen such a collection ofwoodprints, lacquers, silk brocades, and porcelains.
With money for wedding china still unspent, we knew our pattern as soon as we saw it: snow-capped Fujiyama rising out of stippled white cherry blossoms against a soft grey-blue background, and over all a full moon.
The excitement we had had in opening wedding gifts was revived.
"No one would think we were a staid married couple, would they?" I whispered to Elam.
"We aren't and never will be, I hope. Not s-t-a-i-d, just s-t-a-y-e-d married."
There, in that foreign shop with other buyers and clerks milling around, all he could do was to catch my gaze and hold it, but I was learning that the freshets of love find many channels . .This holding my gaze somewhat overlong was one of Elam's expressions of affection, as real as any physical caress. I'd met it in its infancy under a street lamp on a winter's night.
Some days later, in mid-January, we landed in Shanghai.
"So now we' re Shanghaied to Shanghai," Elam quipped as we stepped off the gangplank.
Missionaries whom we had never seen before, but who by nightfall were well on their way to being close friends, came to pilot us through customs and to take us out along the Hwangpoo to Shanghai College. With amazing skill the Chinese chauffeur wove his way down the left side of the street in and out among rickshas; creaking wheelbarrows; squeaking carts; tired, moth-eaten horses pulling phaeton-topped carriages; and chanting men carrying loads slung over their shoulders. And he maimed no single one.
Everywhere we looked there were people - men and women and children, and all their garments were blue or black. Gone were the kimonos of red and pink, green and purple, that had fluttered about us in Japan leaving us with the veneer impression of gayety and light-heartedness. Here was a plodding people, a down-to-earth people. Our hearts went out to them.
Once I had heard a returned missionary say, "All China is one huge graveyard." Now, driving through the crowded streets, I wondered how anyone could say that. Later, when we came to open country beyond Yangtzepoo and saw the fields dotted with small brick structures, my puzzlement grew.
"How is it, Dr. White, that people as poor as I've heard the Chinese peasants to be can have so many well-built dog houses?"
"Dog houses? Where?"
"There. All over."
"Those," said Dr. White, "are not dog kennels. They are graves."
"Oh," I murmured, submerged in a sea of humility.
That night, comfortably settled as boarders for the coming term with Mary and Ernest Kelhofer, I felt like a divided person, a schizophrene. Part of me was devoutly thankful for our safe arrival and warm welcome; that part joined Elam in a prayer of thanksgiving. The other part was desperately homesick. The whole Pacific Ocean was crowding that part until it was about to break. Elam held me close and stroked my head and let me cry.
In the crisp, cold, winter sunshine ofthe next morning I resolved never again to give way to homesickness with such vehemence. There must be other outlets besides tears. Searching, I remembered how lost to time and place I had become on the boat while writing our log. Now, before even unpacking the suitcases, I took the pages from the briefcase, read over the last few and set about adding more to bring the account up-to-date. Then I made three covers and bound the copies, and found solace in the realization that for me writing could be a modus operandi through times of tension.
The next day, on his way to town to register with the American consul, Elam took the two bulky envelopes and mailed one to his family and one to mine. He brought back the incredulous news that he had been able to mail them with U.S. stamps at U.S. local rates.
"But how? And where?"
"At the U.S. post office on Broadway near the Astor House. I felt as though I were committing a misdemeanor."
So did I. All our previous intellectual reactions to the "unequal treaties" suddenly moved into a climate of warm emotionalism.
That night Dr. and Mrs. Chen- C.C., a Ph.D. from Brown University and Tsoo Tsing, a national leader of the Y.W.C.A.- invited us to dinner. While we were struggling with chopsticks, C.C. said, "You've got to have a Chinese surname. Now, let's see, what shall it be? It could be -" He laid down his chopsticks and with the index finger of his right hand he made swift strokes in the palm of his left hand. "It could be An for 'saddle.' How would you like to be called Mr. and Mrs. Saddle? Or An for ' quail. ' No. Mr. and Mrs. Quail wouldn't be too good. Or An for 'table' or An for 'shore'-"
"Come now," Tsoo Tsing interrupted, "You're joking. You know what An they should have." Then she drew a Chinese character in her left palm, only she drew it more slowly than he had drawn his and she explained it as she drew: "See, first a roof, hand then a woman under the roof, And that's 'peace.' Mr. and Mrs. Peace. How do you like that?"
"A lovely name," said I.
"A good name to live up to," said Elam. Then turning to me, "And I hereby dub Colena its scribe - Scribe of the House of An. How do you like that for a title, my dear?"
Chinese New Year to Christmas
House of An! We liked the name. We liked the meaning. But, young as we were in China, we knew that here one man and one woman did not make a House. House with a capital H needed children. Well, the Lord must certainly know that we wanted a family we'd - prayed about it enough; yet here we were, married for eighteen months, and we were still only two.
For all of that, though, life was not to stand still. In God's own good time the family would come, and when it did we'd take each member as a gift straight from heaven, though even then we weren't fooling ourselves into believing that they'd be angels. And while God took His time, we'd try to improve ours.
Right now there was plenty to keep us occupied and interested for it was Chinese New Year. On every side long strings of firecrackers were exploding to the delight of both old and young. In every village temporary bamboo towers held swinging lanterns, which at night looked like huge Christmas trees ablaze with lights. In every home - scholar's, official's, merchant's, peasant's - there was feasting.
Quickly we became gourmets of Chinese food. Birds' nest soup, sweet-sour pork, shark fins with shredded chicken and green vegetables, spring roll, eight precious food pudding - we found all them delectable. The only dish I could not bring myself to taste was the dish of fried slugs, but Elam tasted them and found them, if not supremely good, at least not wholly bad. Learning to eat with chop-sticks and to crack watermelon seeds with our front teeth and to sip hot tea from handleless cups with just the right degree of sibilant appreciation were exercises that took much practice but brought the reward of a sense of belonging once we had partially mastered the techniques.
Making a list of topsy-turvy items became an indoor sport and a special hobby. Calling the last name first, reading from right to left and from the top to the bottom of the page, shaking one's own hand instead of the other's- these were the most obvious items and headed the list. But when we thought of China's brilliant dynasties- the ancient, well-organized Chou, antedating by many centuries the civilizations of our forefathers; the cosmopolitan Han, straddling the beginning of our own era with its infant steps about 200 B.C. and its tottering steps about 200 A.D.; the artistic T'ang (600-900 A.D.) with its outstanding works in literature, art, religion and philosophy, receiving to itself "strangers from afar"- when we thought of these, we wondered whether it was not rather we of the West who were the topsy-turvy-ites.
Then suddenly the feasts were over, the fairyland towers with their twinkling lights were gone, and the sound of firecrackers was stilled; overnight New Year had exchanged its holiday garments for the work-a-day garb of blue. Students were back and classes for the. spring term were openmg.
When we left the States, we had thought that only Elam was to teach during the coming term, but Dr. White had other plans. He wanted me to teach English and Biology.
"What texts?" I asked.
"There's one for English, but none so far for Biology. You'll have to make up your own as you go along. Just keep the vocabulary simple. Back in 1912 the students here asked that instruction in all classes except those in Chinese Language and Literature, of course, be given in English. That's why we can use both of you now before Language School," he said with a twinkle in his eyes. "You may find it hard-going at first, but you'll also find the students willing to work hard. And, by the way, be sure to wear warm clothes. The class rooms are not heated."
Thus forewarned, Elam and I bundled ourselves in long underwear, our warmest suits, sweaters and overcoats and thought ourselves well-armed against the cold. The next day, though, we added overshoes, mittens, and caps with ear muffs. Writing on the board with chalk held in a mittened hand produced a calligraphy somewhat resembling the Chinese, but none of the students found any meaning in it, and when we looked at it the next day we could scarcely decipher it ourselves.
"Keep the vocabulary simple." This admonition became a real challenge as I attempted to simplify "dicotyledons," "endosperm," "gametophyte," "photosynthesis," and as Elam struggled with "environment," "schizophrenia," "apperception." Nowhere in all the world is it more clearly demonstrated than in China that "the individual developes by incorporating within his own experiences the summarized achievements of the race," but try to put that in simple terms. And then add to it the statement: "Social progress is secured through the modification and slight increment which the individual may furnish to tradition," and do it without the benefit of a translation medium. No wonder that in his classes in Education Elam found pedagese a slippery antagonist.
If at times Biology sat down on its haunches, English always moved along, although frequently it limped badly. Take, for instance, the paraphrases of Browning's "Incident of a French Camp." The poem was in the text close to Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells." We tackled both.
Remembering the perfect English of Hu Shih, my classmate at Cornell, I was poorly prepared for statements like these:
Napoleon, with pushing out neck, wide legs and arms at his back, stood on a hill.
Napoleon out thrust
his neck and his head in backwards. He faced the ground, put his feet distantly, fastened his hands on
and thought about his planning.
At that time Napoleon wided his legs, pushed forward his neck and linked his hands together after his body.
However awkward their expressions were, there was nothing awkward in their comprehension of the underlying meaning. Tennyson's "Wild Bells" was not mere words for them. They heard bells ringing and knew exactly what those bells should ring out in China: the feuding war lords; corruption in high places; "squeeze" in low; ignorance; disease - cholera, typhus, beri-beri, tuberculoses; famine - and the foreigners. Foreigners, yes, all but the Americans. "Americans very good," they said. "America our friend, but English-" They spat the Englishmen out of their mouths.
If we taught the students anything that first term, they taught us much more. We wanted to take at face value their kindly spoken affection for all Americans, but the vehemence of their feelings against non-Americans made us examine our own "goodness" and wonder how long before we also might be proscribed.
The barrier of language was a source of constant irritation for us. Even though instruction was always to be in English, we needed to know Chinese. Both of us were forced day after day to wait long minutes for the students to thumb through their dog-eared bi-lingual dictionaries in search of some clearer meaning to a word than we could give without benefit of Chinese. Their zeal for learning the English language seemed incongruous when placed beside their dislike of the English people. Was it that these students were going to take a page from the current history of India where the educated were using the language of the British raj to berate the raj, or was it that these Chinese students felt that English was the "Open Sesame" to the hidden treasures of the West? Whatever their reason, we could only hope we'd have as much zeal for their language.
Soon after we arrived in Shanghai, Elam joined the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. Once a week he and Victor Hanson, a missionary colleague, went to the city for drill and rifle practice. When ricksha riots and market riots threatened the safety of the city dwellers, the Shanghai Volunteer Corps was called for special duty.
"I may be late coming back," Elam said one afternoon in April as he kissed me Goodbye.
And he was. The clock struck twelve and then one and two and three before I heard him open the door and go into the kitchen. Slipping on my robe, I started downstairs. He met me at the foot of the stairs. "Better go back to bed. I brought in a ricksha runner. Making him a cup of tea. He hurt his foot. He' ll stay with the gatekeeper all night and see the doctor here in the morning."
"And what have you been doing? You're all out of breath."
"Nothing. Just a little tired. Go now, I'll be up in a minute."
Not until in the Wintertime of the House did I learn why Elam was so out of breath. Then a friend of a friend of mine over in Europe met a Chinese official who in 1918 had been a student at Shanghai University. "Dr. Anderson" he said. "You mean Elam Anderson? Oh, I've never forgotten what he did during some of those early riots. A ricksha coolie told the gateman and the gateman told some of us students, 'An-hsien-sheng, he was coming back to the college when the ricksha coolie stumbled and hurt his foot. Then An-hsien-sheng got out of the huang-pao-ch'e and made the coolie sit in it while he, the teacher, took the shafts and brought the coolie to his house and cared for him.'"
In May the Board wrote saying there was no hope in the foreseeable future for us to get landing permits for Assam and, therefore, they were asking us to take a permanent assignment to Shanghai College. We were happy to do so, for by now the campus had become familiar territory and bonds of affection were growing closer every day. Our hopes to go to language school in the fall were, however, shattered when Dr. White said, "We'll need both of you here for another year. After that, language study."
In June, 1918, we went to Mokanshan, the summer resort in the mountains, although the missionaries who had been in Kuling laughed and said, "You mean up in the hills." For weeks the newspaper had carried an advertisement of a launch that would take passengers from the railroad at Hangchow to the foot of the mountain where chair bearers could be hired for the trip up the mountain. Food and water for one day's trip was all that we needed. Since the day was exceedingly warm, long before we reached Hangchow all our thermos bottles of cold water were emptied and we had resorted in the train to ordering hot tea served in glasses. One thing we knew - we must not drink unboiled water.
At the wharf we found the launch was not yet running. It would run next week. A houseboat? Ah, yes. If any houseboats were left. So many travelers had already come.
We managed to find a houseboat, a small one, too small for our party of five, but we squeezed into it and were on our way. The journey would take the rest of the afternoon, all night and until noon of the next day. And we without water!
There was, of course, the water of the canal in which our houseboat was slowly moving. But after seeing what was being poured into the canal our stomachs turned.
"If we boil the water for ten minutes, it would be safe for making tea, if we had some tea leaves," the veteran in the party suggested.
"I'd rather die than drink that water even if it was boiled for an hour," I said.
But those were light words; I'd never faced thirst before. In the end I drank with the other four tea that was made from the boiled canal water and the few tea leaves the boatman had. With each successive brewing the tea grew weaker and weaker until in the end I just closed my eyes, held my nose, and drank plain boiled canal water.
Never in all my life did cold water taste so sweet as did the water from the "safe" spring at the tennis court at Mokanshan. Living water, indeed! The metaphor took on new meaning, and an intensified vitality.
That summer Elam fulfilled his promise made during the storm at sea. What the physical education directors at both Cornell University and the University of Chicago had not been able to teach me, Elam taught me in the little swimming pool at that inland Chinese mountain resort.
In late August we returned to the campus and settled into our own home, one half of the long, narrow building close to the college gate that was no longer needed for married seminary students. There was no electricity, no running water, no plumbing. All our water was brought from the river by coolies who poured wooden bucketful after wooden bucketful into a great stone jar at our back door and then stirred in alum to settle the mud. After that all the water for internal use was boiled and filtered and when the children were very young all their bath water was boiled, too.
"But I've got to have a shower," Elam said, "even if l have to make it myself."
With the help of, and at times in spite of the hindrance of, a village tinsmith, Elam got his shower. The tank was made of two five-gallon Standard Oil tins soldered together. The faucet was a crude sprinkler top with no shut-off valve. The tray was a four-foot square piece of galvanized tin turned up at the edges and set in a wooden frame. The run-off was through a pipe leading from the tray through the wall and down into an open ditch at the side of the house. The procedure was to get two five-gallon tins of water the desired temperature (Elam preferred one hot and one cold), soap yourself well, pour the water into the tank and then hurry to stand under the spray.
"Ah, now," Elam would say, drying himself vigorously and listening to the water gurgling down the drain, "This is the life!"
By early October, 1918, we were well settled. In the living room half of the long narrow front room was white wicker furniture on a brown and blue camel's hair rug. In the dining room half were a table and chairs painted white with mahogany stained top and seats, all made by a local carpenter. Under the table was a washable reed rug. At the windows were white cheesecloth curtains, crisply starched. Even before the furniture was in, these curtains were up. In all our moves Elam's one request was to have curtains be the first things up and the last things down. "Makes the room look cozy," he would say.
Part One: Spring -- Chapter 6
All that we lacked now for winter comfort was the coal heater, and that was to be supplied by the college and set up within the coming week. But before that week came, the weather suddenly took a tum and there we were chattering with cold, finding no warmth whatever in the daily promises of the Chinese servant who kept saying, "Ming t'ien (Tomorrow.)" As a stop-gap we borrowed an oil heater that turned out to be somewhat decrepit.
On Friday, Elam handed me a letter. "From an old friend," he said, pursing his lips. "She'll be passing through port tomorrow. Wants to know whether we'll be home. Will we or won't we?"
"Of course, we will," I was quick to answer.
"You know who she is?" His face was a study in restrained laughter.
"How could I forget? She's the one I advised you to marry." I kept to myself the thought "And the one I hoped I'd never see."
But that hope must have been made under a lucky star, for it almost came to pass.
Elam went to meet her at the dock. I stayed home to make everything bright and shining. An hour before I expected them back, I started the oil heater downstairs and then went upstairs to see that all was in order there. They came home sooner than I had thought they could so that I was still busy upstairs when I heard the college car stop at our door. I rushed downstairs and simultaneously flung open the front door and the door into the living room. Immediately out of that living room there billowed forth a cloud of sooty smoke. It settled on all three of us and surrounded us like the darkness of an eclipse so that in truth I did have difficulty seeing her. For days after she left, little balls of soot were still playing tag with each other in all the corners.
But now it was November. The last of the soot was gone. The curtains were again freshly laundered. The coal heater was up and behaving as well as the coal heater I knew in my childhood days. This one, a continent, an ocean and two decades away from that one, had the same kind of isinglass windows through which I could see the flames. Sometimes when I was alone I would sit by the stove and watch the flames and remember and long and wonder and get out my last letters from home and re-read them.
I was reading like that one morning when the chapel bell rang. It was an odd hour for that bell to be ringing. Could there be a fire? I rushed to the window, but there was no sign of a fire anywhere. Then my neighbor came out of the other half of the duplex and motioned me to join her and together we hurried to the other end of the campus and up the stairs to the chapel in Yates Hall.
There I met Elam and there we heard the news of the Armistice. We were all standing, and while the students shouted "Hao. Ding Hao. (Good. Very good.) Chieh Kuo (Finished) Teh Kuo (Germany)," we drew close together and with other Americans unashamedly let the tears run down our cheeks.
That afternoon students came around distributing the flyers of the victory, on the upper half of a pink sheet was the picture of a boot labeled "Allies" kicking out a bemedaled, German officer. On the lower half of the page were eight columns of Chinese characters. Looking at them we yearned to see in them something more than "hen tracks"; we chafed at the thought of having to wait another year before going to Nanking. But the next day, back in our classes, impatience ebbed away and we were glad for the work and the opportunity set before us.
By now Elam had started a Glee Club and was already planning for a pioneer tour: The students were as excited as he over the idea. They drew close to him and he felt a real affection for them.
Late on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving, he decided that he'd like to have them in for Sunday supper.
"But, Elam, there's not time or way to get food now."
"We don't need to go out to buy. We'll use what we have."
"But we don't have enough for twenty guests."
"We do if we set up a kind of smorgasbord, a little of this and a little of that, just a dish of everything we have. You'll be surprised."
I was. By the time he had pulled out all our canned goods and foraged in the cooler and I had baked a cake and some cookies and made a batch of fudge, we had quite an array: rice, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, plain crackers, graham crackers, bread, butter, jam, noodles, scrambled eggs with bacon, deviled eggs, salmon, sardines, cheese, pork and beans, soy beans, spinach with vermicelii (Chinese fashion), beets (Harvard style), Chinese cabbage, foreign cabbage, sliced canned me?t, sesame seed candy, cake (white with caramel frosting), dried prunes, raisins, hard candy, apples, mandarin oranges, fudge.
"See," Elam gloated. "I told you. Twenty-nine dishes and watch them disappear."
I watched and saw all but the butter and cheese go. One of the less inhibited students explained, "We Chinese don't like butter. And frankly, I don't like the way your house smells."
"Smell!" I was startled and began to sniff. What offensive odor had escaped my sensitive nostrils? And who was this Son of Han who would speak so bluntly and tactlessly to the wife of his professor? Was something happening to this younger generation that had not yet been recorded in the history and reference books that we had read?
"Yes," he continued. "Smells of milk. Ay-yoh, how can you foreigners drink that stuff? Or eat cheese?" By his facial expression I could tell that for him cheese was beyond limbo.
Inquiring around, I found that others, in less blunt ways, expressed their aversions to lactic products, and within a week I was to learn that even mice in China eschew cheese.
The conversation on that Sunday evening before Thanksgiving, 1918, ranged from cheese to war lords, from Glee Club Tour to the Twenty-one Demands.
"I find it hard to believe that Japan ever really made all of those original demands." Elam said. "There must have been some error. No country as civilized as Japan in these days of fading colonization and growing democracy would be so medieval. It just can't be."
"Can't be!" The one Korean in our midst bent forward in his excitement. "But it already comes in our country. None of you know yet how hard to have steps followed, to be full of afraid all the days. You do not know how life is squeezed when outside rulers come in with ' blessings of progress' !" His tone of bitterness cradled the last phrase in quotes. "But wait, your day will come. And," turning to Elam and me, "America's too. All of you shall see that Hideyoshi's dream of empire breathes still in Japan. Modem Japan still thinks what he thought in 1578 that the conquest of China with Korea as a base of operation can be made 'as easily as a man rolls up a piece of matting and carries it under his arm."' This last sentence was delivered in faultless English as though it were a lesson learned from a book. "But excuse me please. I should not so speak with such heat at a party." He smoothed his white garb over his knees and sat in silence.
So did the rest of us. His fervid prophecy had gone deep.
Elam broke the silence by going to the piano. "What shall we sing?" he asked.
With one accord the answer came, "Bullfrog on the Bank."
In unison, in parts, in at improvised round, he led the group until cheer was once again abroad. Then he changed to "Shanghai Will Shine Tonight" and warned the group to watch carefully not to sing off key. But as soon as they were all singing lustily, he shifted keys.
The group floundered badly, but after awhile they were again singing in harmony. Then Elam shifted keys again and once more they floundered. But this time they laughed and called, "Encore!"
So began that favorite musical game which Elam used on many occasions with different groups. He could always count on it to bring any group, no matter how diverse its parts, into a period of goodly fellowship.
Listening to the confusion of tones at the time of the shifting, I was always reminded of the Tower of Babel. So must that mixture of tongues have sounded. And closer home I was conscious of its symbolism of the frightening frontier that the Korean student had held up to our gaze. If in play, one slight shift could so quickly change a pleasing chordal structure into chaos, how much more quickly might not a political or social shift made in earnest change the tenuous harmony of nations into war?
When such a change was made, could harmony be as quickly retrieved? I knew the answer was "No" and in the shadow of that answer I always shivered even when the fire burned brightly behind the isinglass.
Having set out a smorgasbord of sorts on the spur of the moment on that Sunday before Thanksgiving, I was eager to see what could be done with a Christmas Eve smorgasbord in true Scandinavian tradition when there was time for planning and shopping. Elam discovered a store in Shanghai that sold smoked salmon from Seattle, anchovies from Moscow and knackebrod from Stockholm, Lutfisk, too, but he wasn't sure how to prepare it and in that era of B.A. (Before airmail) there was no time to get back an answer from the folks in Wyoming or Seattle. I made limpa brod from a recipe I found in a current magazine and kottbullar (meat balls) from the memory of their taste. With the help ofElam's memory and the dried apples sent from my folks we concocted fruktsoppa. Yul grot was not too difficult. "Just keep on adding milk to the rice and boil it a long time in a double boiler," Elam said.
As we went on joyfully planning the menu, another plan came to mind. Thinking of the guests we'd invite, we realized that we would have several nationalities represented: English, German, Swedish, Chinese, and Korean. Here was the nucleus for an International Christmas Eve. Here under our roof would be guests who could read the Christmas story in different languages.
And so it was that on Christmas Eve, 1918, the House of An began a tradition that has remained unbroken through the years. From year to year faces and languages change, but the story remains unchanged, and in the presence of a lighted Christmas tree and our Symbol of Heaven we read around the circle, always making certain that we have at least German and Swedish and Chinese to add to the English:
And it came to pass in those days ....
Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit ... .
Och det begaf Sich i de dagarna ... .
Tang na shih hou
From Two to Three
Once again it was Chinese New Year. Looking back, we wondered where the months had gone since last we saw the frail bamboo towers with their swinging lanterns dotting the landscape. I saw them now, through the windows, a pleasant sight to behold, as from time to time I rested that evening from packing the suitcases for our first trip to the mission stations ofNingpo and Shaoshing.
The next morning Elam went to town to make final arrangements. I was to follow later by ricksha to the end of the tram line and then by tram to the Chocolate Shop where we were to meet.
It was a cold, windy day. The ricksha runner called my attention to the freshly oiled yellow curtain that would shield me from the wind. Then he set out on a jog down the road beside the Huangpoo. From time to time he turned his head to inquire, Hao, puh-hao? (Good, not good?) And I answered, Hao. Ding hao. (Good. Very good), stretching the truth a bit, for the pungent odor of oil from the curtain and the strong odor of garlic from his breath were making me feel somewhat squeamish. Apart from that, however, all was very good. I was on my way to meet Elam and we were going on a holiday!
On the road near the college there was little traffic, but as soon as we entered the Yangtzepoo mill district, the traffic grew momentarily greater and more and more confusing.
Suddenly, in the midst of this teeming traffic I was shocked into a startling awareness. The announcement of the angel in the temple to Zechariah of old that his wife Elizabeth was to bear a son could not have been more clearly heard by that aged man than was the inner announcement that came to me on that crowded street in Shanghai. The news was being relayed to every fibre of my nervous system. For very wonder and joy I held my breath, and then in recompense I pulled aside the yellow curtain and filled my lungs with the cold air. Once again I was to find how strong my constitution was, for although that air smote me with the added odors of open-air kitchens and factories and human toil, nothing untoward happened. All I needed was a little air.
The ricksha runner stopped short and was all for putting back the curtain, but I refused to have it up again and waved him on. And while he wove his precarious way among automobiles, bicycles, wheelbarrows, carriages, trucks, man-borne loads, pedestrians, and other rickshas, my soul magnified the Lord.
Not until I'd seen Dr. Barlow in Shaoshing could we be certain that what I took as an announcement was in fact the truth. That night, in the privacy of our room, we knelt while Elam prayed. Great events and great decisions always called for special prayers - and on our knees. In the days that followed I had to remind him often that I was not made of Dresden china and ask him please not to be so obviously solicitous. After all, a woman who needs only a little fresh air likes to keep her precious secret to herself for a little while.
The trip to Ninpo took only overnight and was made in a comfortable river steamer. The return trip from Shaoshing took twenty-three hours in five different vehicles: a houseboat that crawled at snail's pace down the canal; sedan chairs carried by bearers who walked barefooted in the snow; a ferry boat that tacked across the wide river; a train that hurried from Hangchow to Shanghai; and then the college car that took us home.
On the snowy plain, whenever bearers met going in opposite directions, those who first called, Walla-walla (Move over; give right of way) won the right to keep the path while the slower ones were forced to trudge in the deeper snow. After a few times of hearing this call, Elam joined the bearers and sang out "Walla-walla, Washington." The bearers thought the addition of "Washington" a great joke, and immediately adopted it, calling it lustily and laughing heartily. Approaching bearers adopted it too, so that long after they had passed we could hear them shouting "Walla-walla, Wallyton." One of them added, "The foreign devil says it so."
Yang kwei-tzu (Foreign devil). We heard the term first from the children in the villages around the college. Now we were hearing it from grown men in the interior. When Elam called back Chung-kuo jen (man from China) the bearers laughed and interspersed their chanties with both names. Elam always took the term lightly, but to me it had something sinister about it.
In the very month, January, 1919, that the personal announcement was made to me, another announcement, was being made half a globe away. Newspapers around the world carried the news: "Gathered at Paris, representatives of the Allied and Associated Powers have assembled to draft terms of peace." Although at that time China was divided at home with one government in Peking and another in Canton, she arranged to have a delegation that should speak officially for both governments. This delegation asked in no uncertain terms that the German properties in Shantung be turned back to China and that the Chino-Japanese treaties of 1915, issuing from the Twenty-one Demands (which by this time Elam had sadly to admit were real), and of 1918 be abrogated.
The news of the Paris decision did not reach China until May 2. Under Articles 156-158 of the Treaty ofVersailles, although nominally Shantung had been given back to China, Japan was to retain the railway, mines and submarine cables with the rights, privileges, and properties attaching thereto.
The next day the People's Determination Society in Peking suggested a boycott of all Japanese goods. The flame of resentment kindled in the north capital spread like a crown fire in a tinder-dry forest. In Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai, Hankow, Canton and points between and beyond, the flame shot high. Everywhere students organized themselves into unions "to save the country." They enlisted the patriotism, voluntary or involuntary, of the merchants, and with evangelical zeal they want to hamlets and larger villages to "illuminate" the peasants by interpreting to them the terms of the Paris decisions.
On May 7 the students of Shanghai College held a mass meeting in remembrance of the fourth anniversary of Japan's 1915 Demands. With feelings running hot and high, they proclaimed a city-wide boycott against Japan. The next day our campus was bedlam. All day long the students hauled things from their rooms to the river bank in preparation for a mammoth bonfire that night. Books, papers, pens, chairs, tables, bowls, chopsticks, clothing, games, food - anything that looked, tasted, smelled, felt, sounded as though it had originated in Jih-pen was brought to make the flames leap high.
The servants in the homes of the missionaries caught the fever. What furniture, books, scrolls, lacquer, porcelain did we have to add to the flames? Would we give them up for this good cause? "Will you, An sz-moo, give me your Japanese dishes?" Yung-ho, our house-boy asked. I would not. For the rest of the day he sulked.
That very day the Swansons, missionary friends on their way back to India, arrived unannounced in the late afternoon just as we were about to sit down to our supper of creamed salmon, baked potatoes, peas, salad, pie and tea.
"Whatever is all the hub-bub about?" Mr. Swanson asked.
"Another student demonstration," Elam said. "Want to go out to see all the Japanese goods that will be burned tonight?"
"I'll go too," said Mrs. Swanson. "This will be something to write home about."
"Quick," I said to Yung-ho. "Re-set the table. Use these dishes." I pointed to the cupboard in the butler's pantry.
With the alacrity mentioned in his letters of recommendation, but with no joy, he cleared the table entirely, spread out best embroidered cloth and took down the Fujiama dinner plates. Halfway to the table he deliberately lifted his fingers from the two lower plates and let them drop to the floor. I saw him do it.
"Yung-ho!" I cried. But what did he know of that time in the shop when Elam and I had bought the cherished set?
"Jih-pen!" he stormed, the flame of hatred flashing in his eye.
Elam and the guests were at the door.
"Quick. Quick. Sweep up these pieces," I ordered. "And leave the other dishes alone. Don't you dare touch them. I'll finish setting the table myself." If he didn't understand all my words, he understood my tone and he did as I said.
But his resentment was not yet burned out. Back in the kitchen he spilled the coffee - coffee, not tea, for Swedish friends, of course - grounds and all, into the creamed salmon, so that I had to make another panful of the salmon and another pot of coffee. And when, noticing how wet Mrs. Swanson's shoes were from the early dew, I asked him to put them near the new oil stove to dry, he Yc..me-ho put them on top of the oil stove, where they soon scorched beyond repair.
Going to the kitchen to investigate the queer odor, I heard him muttering Jih-pen and saw on his face such an expression of anger that I grew frightened.
As calmly as I could, I said, "You may go. I'll finish the rest myself."
On his way out he brushed the shoes to one side and again muttered Jih-pen. Only then did I realize that he thought the shoes, bought at Marshall Field in Chicago, had also come from Japan.
Through that disturbed spring term, I had a series of Sunday afternoon teas for the village girls who worked at the silk mills in Yangtzepoo. The girls, all in their early teens, worked on twelve-hour shifts with every other Sunday free. At first they were very shy, but successive visits wore away their shyness. Seldom now did we hear their younger brothers and sisters call Yang-kwei-tz. In the wintertime I had seen hands red and rough and cracked and festering from chilblains; now in the springtime I saw hands red and rough and sore from having been parboiled in the hot water used to unreel the cocoons.
While these Sunday afternoons helped our roots to sink deeper into the soil of our now adopted land, our Sunday evenings, with our students, when they gathered in our home and we talked and sang and laughed and prayed together, made the land less alien.
Once on our first furlough a friend asked, "Do you live close to the Chinese? Do you have them all around you?"
"Oh, no," I promptly answered. "We don't -" Then I stopped. "But we do. We do have them all around. In fact, except for the few missionaries, we have nothing else of but!" That ungrammatical statement bore weighty evidence that for me - and Elam could have said the same - the barrier of color and race was down. We lived not among Chinese, but among students, neighbors, friends.
At the two baptismal services of that spring term of 1919 some of the students who had met with us on Sunday evenings were among the thirty-eight who declared their faith and claimed Jesus as their Saviour. A great deal of work was done among the non-Christian students by the Christian students themselves. Without urging from the missionaries, they organized prayer groups by themselves, sometimes getting up two or three hours earlier than usual to pray for those who were having great difficulties.
Many of them had difficulties so great that we who had grown up in Christian homes could not appreciate them. To be persecuted by one's own family, to be shunned by one's friends, to be jeered at as "the running dog of the foreign devils," and yet to remain true to one's faith and love those who persecute you was the test that the majority of our young converts went through.
In June we again went to Mokanshan, this time by doctor's orders. Elam was having a bout with malaria and I was wilting under the summer's heat.
When we arrived Dr. Barlow ordered Elam to bed and prescribed a heavy dose of quinine.
"But, Claude," I protested. "Not that many pills all at once!"
"Nothing else can help now. It's this or - "
Elam heard and dutifully swallowed pill after pill, chilling so hard that between swallows I held his jaws for fear his teeth would break. The treatment was drastic but effective. He never again had malaria.
That summer, rain or shine, every morning before breakfast we walked around T'ai Shan, our highest mountain peak. In the sky of a clear early dawn I saw blue for a boy and pink for a girl and wondered which it would be. In the soft white clouds that clung sleepily to near-by ranges, I saw white blankets on a crib. In the wind among the bamboos I heard a lullaby. One morning I shared my fancies with Elam.
"Pretty thoughts," he said. Then he halted me and looked into my eyes and asked, "And what do you think I see?"
"You." And with that he put his arms about me and kissed me. There was no one around to see or to hear but the birds in the air and the lizard on the path.
"But, Elam," I said when once again we stood apart, "aren't you-"
"Glad?" He took the word from me. "Of course, I'm glad. It's just that- well, I guess most men don't get as excited as women over a baby that isn't here yet."
He at my side not being able to enter into the thrill of anticipation that was mine! Poor man. Poor men. What recompensing excitement was theirs that woman could not share
The summer, for the most part, passed in quietness and joy and refreshing fellowship. Elam made progress with his book on Music Appreciation. His church choir added greatly to the Sunday services and the Summer Concert that he directed brought showers of compliments. My Campfire girls were a joy to me and the pageant, "A Cloud of Witnesses" that I wrote came off better than I thought it would.
But for all our mountain-top peace, we were ever conscious of the rumblings from the plains. Down in the cities the students continued periodic mass meetings and picketing of Japanese factories. It seemed that in vacation days their patriotic zeal grew. Where would it all end? Only in short jail sentences for the student leaders? Or would the time come when foreign police would lose their patience with the demonstrators? And then what? We dared not follow the thought through to its logical conclusion.
Concerning the boycotts, we were glad that at Mokanshan there was no pressure. Here the Chinese peddlers still had plenty things genuinely Chinese to sell, which they were ever eager to bring them to us, and we ever eager to buy. As though they had never head of Shantung and Versailles (as, who knows, they might not have) these peddlers would bring their wares tied up insquares of cloth, bow themselves into our presence, squat before us, untie the knots, and then spread out before us many a rich treasure. If we did not know the full value then, we do now, for some of those purchases have turned into museum pieces: the Eight Taoist Immortals carved from the root of a boxwood tree, a porcelain coiled dragon tile from a temple in Peking, a Sung bowl, a carved ivory fan, a jade Circle of Heaven, and linens so exquisitely embroidered and so inexpensive that once I said, "I hope that the time will soon come when we can no longer buy work like this for such ridiculously low prices." That time did come, has long since been here, but it is not the price alone that changed. No longer is such meticulous workmanship offered at any price.
June gave way to July, July to August, and August to September, and now it was time to leave. We were among the last to depart, for we waited to join the boat caravan of one of the doctors who had come late in the season. That first week of October, the Mecca of the past months, was too near for me to be without medical help on the way.
When at last we were ready to go, I was borne like a queen in a sedan chair with four bearers. On the way they sang many a spontaneous chanty that had for a chorus the familiar Hey-ho. Hey-ho. Hey-e-a-ho. I wished I could understand the verses that made the bearers laugh, and yet I knew it was better that I didn' t.
Our destination now was Nanking. At
last we were to go to Language School, Elam to begin this fall term and I in the winter
term. But there were trunks with personal belongings that had to be brought from Shanghai, so at
Soochow we parted company, he to go to Shanghai and I to stay with a friend in Soochow until he
returned and then both of us would go to Nanking.
This friend had five children of her own. With her I felt perfectly safe. Even though the baby should come before Elam returned to take me to Nanking, where arrangements had already been made for the hospital and the doctor, or even if the baby should come before a Soochow doctor could reach us, I'd have this friend. With her five-fold experience of birth she'd know what to do.
It was with amazement, then, that I heard her greet Elam upon his arrival, "Am I ever glad to see you! I haven't slept a wink at night. I'm nervous as a witch. Here, she's yours now. Take her."
In Nanking, Dr. and Mrs. Keen, director of the Language School and his wife, invited me to stay with them while Elam did the initial settling of the home of Dr. and Mrs. Price, Presbyterian missionaries home on furlough, which had been sublet to us. Gau-mah, our own cook-amah, who was replacing Yung-ho, was there to help, and also Lao-ding, a converted opium-smoker, who for years had been the gardener and handyman of the Price's and whom we were now retaining.
Mrs. Keen took me to a large, pleasant
corner room with windows on both sides. From one of these I saw Purple Mountain as a great
mass of uncut amethyst lightly shrouded in a scarf of soft grey gauze and resting in a jewel case
ofrose quartz, topaz, and gold inlaid with bits of ebony. I could scarcely believe the ebony
pieces were only crows and the gold and quartz but the shifting colors of sunset. When I turned from
the scene, I noticed that Mrs. Keen had drawn the curtains across the window on the
other side. "Don't look out ofthat window tonight," she said. "I'll tell you why some other
time." When that other time came, months later, she told me that from that window on that night I
would have seen human heads raised on spikes, testimony of the punishments still meted out to
malefactors in Nanking in the year 1919, A.D.
The next Sunday afternoon, October 5, Elam and I took a long walk around the seminary grounds and out beyond. At 11 p.m. a second announcement was made to me. I knew that my time was near, but I wasn't going to the hospital yet. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn' t. At 2:45 I shook Elam. "Sorry to wake you, but I think we better go now."
He dressed in a hurry, lit the lantern, picked up the suitcase and piloted me down the steps. At the bottom I remembered the bootees l had begun a few days before "Please get them, Elam. They're on top of the dresser. I'll knit on them while I wait."
He gave me a queer look, but hurried upstairs and brought them. "I'll keep them in my pocket until we get there," he said.
When the gateman answered Elam's call, K'ai men. K'ai men (Open the gate) and saw me standing there, his eyes popped wide and the key shook in his hand.
The hospital was not more than a five-minutes ' walk across a field and up a small hill. occasionally, even in these early years of the Republic, little bundles of humanity were found in this field. Only yesterday Gau-mah had told me of such a discovery made not long ago. Lao-ding had told her. Who had told him she had not asked. Walking on the path at the edge of the field on my joyous way to give birth, I shuddered at the thought of anyone abandoning a baby and thought that if ever another was discovered I would ask to have it.
At the door of the hospital Nature sent me another message, this one so urgent and tumultuous that for the rest of that night and all the next day I never again thought about abandoned babies - or about unfinished bootees.
In the twenty-one hours that followed, both Elam and I learned much of pain and patience, and in the twenty-second hour much of trust and faith, for it was then that Dr. Hutchinson said, "We'll have to use instruments."
Hospital orderlies came with a stretcher, When I'd been lifted upon it, th e doctor bent over me and said a short prayer. Elam stayed at my side and held my hand while I breathed in the sweetish stuff of heavenly release and floated out of a limbo of pain into a paradise of light.
At the end of the return trip I heard a baby's cry coming from the pink and white receiving blanket that I had brought in the suitcase. At the same time I was conscious of the fact that Elam was still at my side, still holding my hand.
"Ours?" I asked in a voice that seemed not to have caught up with the rest of me.
He nodded and I felt him press my hand closer. His face looked distorted. Effect of ether, I thought hazily. It always makes things out of focus.
Then he did something that even in my groggy state startled me. In the presence of the doctor and the nurses he lifted my hand to his lips, and when I looked up I saw his eyes were tightly closed and I felt a tear drop upon my hand.
We named the baby Frances Delight after my mother and Elam's sister. At Language School Elam was initiated into the Fraternity of Fathers and given as his pledge badge a horse-blanket safety pin. When he brought it to show me, Frances was lying at my side, asleep. He pulled a chair close to the bed and sat there looking at her.
"Little darling," he whispered, gently touching her hand.
Frances awoke and instinctively clutched his finger.
"What a grasp she has!" he exclaimed. And when the nurse came a few minutes later to take Baby back to the nursery, he said, "May I hold her? I haven't held her yet."
"Of course. Hold her as long as you wish."
Watching him, I wondered why artists never painted a father with his first-born, and I thought, Men do have their thrills of parenthood; just give them time.
It was many years later that I came across Witter Bynner's translation of Saying Number 42 in Laotzu's Way of Life:
Life, when it came to be,
Bore one, then two, then three,
Not yet knowing it, I said in that October twilight, "Now we've grown from two to three," and Elam said, "Now we can truly call ourselves the House of An."
Wo-men che hsieh jen. Tu shih wai-kuo jen.
Wo-men tu shih hsueh-sheng. Ts'ung wai-kuo ch'u
tao Chung-kuo lai-ti. Ti i-chien shih yao nien
Chung-kuo shu. Wei-shen-mo- yin-wei-
We are these people. All are foreign people.
We all are students. From outside to China have come.
The first business is to study Chinese books. Why? Because
when we lived in the foreign country, we had no Chinese
friends. Now that we have come to China we have Chinese
friends. Therefore, we want to read Chinese books,
want to write Chinese characters.
As Elam read the first lesson in the Language School Text over and over again, it sounded like a Buddhist priest's chant. Soon I was able to chant it with him, but not read it.
"These characters all look like hen-tracks," I said in despair. "I'll never learn to read them."
"Oh, yes, you will." he encouraged me. "Just wait until you're in class next term. You'll learn in self-defense. The Chinese teachers aren't allowed to speak one word of English. But don't go borrowing trouble. Right now you're not to worry about anything. Remember what the doctor said?"
Of course, I remembered. Easy orders, but not so easy to follow. This matter of being responsible for a little life was proving tremendous. During the day I kept checking to see that she was still in her bassinet. At night I only half-slept, fearful that she might choke in her sleep or kick off the blankets and catch cold or- a thousand ills crowded in to rob me of my sleep.
There were other worries too. There was Gau-mah. Here in Nanking she, a Ningponese, was almost as mach of a wai-kuo jen (a foreigner) as we were. China might not have a caste system, but it certainly had a town-province system. When she was unhappy a cloud settled over the household.
And there was the milkman who delivered water-buffalo milk. This milk was supposed to be richer in cream than cow's milk, and the dairy from which it came was recommended as sanitary.
For several days I'd been noticing how watery blue the milk looked in the bottle and also that the milk was always shaken so that there was no collar of cream at top. Yesterday Elam had bought a milk tester and this morning when I plunged it into the bottle and showed the milk-man the low level of cream, he had said, "My, my, there's a mistake. This bottle belongs to another missy. I get yours chop-chop." My neighbor's approach was more subtle- but so was the provocation. A similar complaint produced the explanation, "Sorry, the rain it soaks through the buffalo's hide and"- a shrug- "who can control the rain?" The neighbor listened gravely, asked the milkman to bring the water buffalo itself. Then next morning he held a large black umbrella over the beast, and the milk regained its cream on the spot and henceforth.
And there was the recurrence of homesickness, a two-fold affliction, for along with the missing of the home folk in the States there was now a missing of the old friends on the campus in Shanghai. I longed for all of them to see our baby. Every letter was burdened with the wish, as though she could not be wholly ours until the others had seen her.
But, graver than any of these worries was the haunting memory of that night soon after I had returned from the hospital with Frances. Elam came home from an evening social held for the Language School students and almost immediately became violently ill. "Ptomaine poisoning from the second freezer of ice-cream," the doctor said, "All who ate from it are ill. Give him this medicine and call me if he gets worse." Worse! How could he get any worse than he was now?
It was poor comfort for me to know the cause when Elam gasped, "Now, listen, Colena. Don't get alarmed, but- one never knows. If I should die, remember the valuable papers are in the green tin box, and - and you and Baby go back to America."
He did not die, but a part of me did - that foolish confidence in the strength and impregnability of youth that I suppose belongs to all young couples until Death brushes one or the other with its black wing. It was one thing to hear Elam say as he sat at my side on the stone bench and held my hand in his, "Death is only an incident in continuing life." It was quite another thing to hear him gasp, "If I should die." Quite different, for now we were one and there was a child to rear. Life hereafter - yes, but I needed Elam in this life and would need him for a long, long time. Nobody- doctor nor husband nor God Himself- could wipe from my memory "If I should die."
The routine of our days in Nanking was rigid. There was the schedule at the school: Review period, new character period, conversation period, writing character period, another conversation period and lectures on the history and culture of China. For me the schedule at home was equally rigid: Feeding times for Baby, bathing times, sleeping times, buggy times.
Twice a morning I bicycled to the school a mile away, and twice back to Frances.
One day a little Chinese girl ran directly into my path. Not being able to avoid a collision, I tumbled into the ditch with her. On my return trip, an hour later, I brought her a bag of candy and peanuts as a peace offering. When next I rode that way a swarm of little ones obstructed my passage. All of them wanted to be tumbled into the ditch and receive the offering: in fact, some were already there!
Once I came suddenly upon a Chinese wedding procession. Pausing at the side of the narrow cobblestone street I was so close to the Boys' Middle School Brass Band, that headed the procession, and to the wedding chair and to the carts that followed filled with dowry that I could have raised the curtain on the chair, touched the silk bedding rolls, and stroked the backs of the two white ducks in the red tub. That I did not is no credit to my decorum. Before that layer of civilization could function, I was shocked into immobility by the loud blare of the trumpeter followed by a jazz version ofW. H. Doane's musical arrangement for Fanny Crosby's hymn "Pass Me Not, 0 Gentle Saviour."
And another time, a funeral procession moved past, silver paper money for expenditures in heaven gleaming in the sun, with a similar brass band blaring, "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now."
So tied to routine were we that year that we had little time for outings and excursions. Doubly precious, then, was that Saturday afternoon at the Ming Tombs and later the excursion to the old Examination Halls. At the Ming Tombs I tested the oracle by aiming a pebble at the back of one of the huge stone elephants guarding the approach to the tombs. Had the stone landed on the stone back, our next child would be a boy. It missed.
At the Examination Halls, or at what remained of them, for they were being razed, there was no such oracle. Here for centuries, every three years twenty thousand students had gathered to compete for the degree that could be granted to only one hundred and forty. We saw the cells, just big enough for two boards, one for a table and one for a chair, where students remained for days until they finished their examinations and where sometimes they died from the strain.
Through the weeks we struggled with the strange characters, strange tongue. "Buds of Promise" was the name given to us beginners. "Buds" maybe, but, at least in my case, "promise" was doubtful, or so I thought that first week. Then, suddenly, one day the characters lost their hen-tracky appearances and fell into a rational pattern. My joy was akin to that of one who, blind for months, sees again. For days after that I did very little other reading but the lessons; the excitement of adventuresome learning was at its crest.
One of the lessons that Elam had already had but that I was just now studying told us, "Summer follows Spring. Winter follows Fall. And so Time passes." How true! For now bridal wreath, forsythia, and wistaria were gone. Roses were in full bloom, and it was time to leave Nanking.
As soon as I set foot on the campus of Shanghai College, I knew I was home again. Feeling the warm rush of joy I accused myself of being a traitor. This bigness of the heart belonged only to my home in the States.
That night, before I fell asleep, I teased the strands of confusion apart and, looking objectively at the experience, I was forced to say to myself, "Of course this is as it must be. This is life as it was planned to be." For the first time I saw another meaning to that cherished verse in the gospel of John, "In my Father's house are many mansions." Hitherto I had taken that as a reference only to life after death. Now I saw it as something more. Our heavenly Father provided "mansions" - "rooms" of many kinds. They began before birth. A womb, a cradle, a playpen, a house where Mother and Father and Sister made my first family, an apartment in Chicago, a sublet in Nanking, a duplex in Shanghai- one mansion after the other.
The pattern was set in my very chromosomes; it floated free in my sub-conscious whenever I went under ether: that sensation of growing expansiveness, of moving from one sphere of light or call it one room into another, each one growing larger and brighter and all directly leading straight to the heart of God.
At home, Mother and Father and Sister had also deeply felt the pangs of separation. In the lines of their letters and between the lines I read of their continuing longing to see me and of the tears my sister still shed because of my absence.
Then, as though in swift response to this new "at-homeness" born in me, there came within that month of our return treasured letters from Mother. She too had found new "rooms." She wrote how day after day she had gone about in a deep cloud. Everything seemed to be laughing at her, the flowers, the trees, the birds, the sunshine. And people- she didn't want to meet people anymore. When they'd say how wonderful it was to have a daughter doing mission work, she'd snap back, "Easy for you to say this. Your daughter is near you." When they'd feel sorry for her and try to comfort her, she'd become defensive. "My daughter loves me and I love her more than some daughers and mothers who live in the same house." And then she'd go upstairs and cry until Father was beside himself and would beg her to stop and, he'd try to divert her attention and she'd say, "Go away," and Marguerite would come up and say, "Don't cry, Mama. Don't cry." and Mother would send her out to play.
"Well, yesterday," Mother wrote, "I came to the place where I knew I couldn't go on
like that, and I went upstairs and got down on my knees beside the bed and I prayed God
to take away this terrible feeling. 'I'm not able to help myself, and nobody else seems
able. Now God, I'm coming to you. Please, God, set me right.' And a strange thing
happened. When I got up from my knees, the blackness was gone. I felt like a new
person. I looked out of the window and I saw the trees were not laughing at me. The
birds weren't laughing either. Things were normal. The bitterness in my heart was
washed away. The way it was once before. Remember?"
When we read that letter it was Elam's turn and mine to get down on our knees and we did. And again when we read of the other experience.
One day Mother read in the Buffalo Courier about a young Chinese woman student from Columbia University who was working for the summer at Sloan's Drug Store on Main Street. She immediately telephoned Mr. Sloan, found out her name, and invited Nellie Wong to come out that week end. Now Nellie was settled for the summer in my old room. It was better all around for her to be in a home, Mother said, than alone in a room at the Y.W.C.A., no matter how friendly and kind the people there were. Nellie was most happy; she was really like a daughter in the house. "Not that she can ever take your place, Colena, but we do love her and I think she loves us." Nellie had promised to come back for her Christmas vacation, and Mother was planning to send her boxes the way she used to send me boxes when I was at Cornell. Mother was going to make her graduation dress too.
A few letters later we heard of Mr. Ch'en, a young Chinese chemist working at Schoelkopp's Chemical Works. My Father met him in a street car, struck up an easy conversation with him, and now he was coming out for noodles on the following Sunday.
In the weeks that followed, letter after letter told us of Sunday dinners, picnics, excursions, weekend visits, not only of Mr. Ch'en, but of other Chinese students as well. "Our daughter and son and grand-daughter are in your country," my Father said, "and your people are friends with them. Now we want to be friends with you." As I read Father's letter, I thought of our first reading lesson at the Language School: "In our foreign country we had no Chinese friends .... " If ever my folks came to China that lesson would have to be revised.
While the summer days in Buffalo, New York, passed in pleasant fellowship with foreign Chinese friends and native Americans, our summer in Shanghai passed in equally pleasant days with native Chinese and foreign Americans, with the Chens, the Los, the Fong Sees, the Kelhofers, Hansons, Johnsons, Mabees, Websters, Henrietta McKeen, Huizingas, Kulps, Whites, J. B. Hipps. Rich living indeed.
And now all of us were standing on the dock one day in late August welcoming back Annie May and J. B. Westbrook. Six years ago, after only two years of service, they had been forced to return to the States because Annie May had contracted tuberculosis. For the past six years there had been only one goal for both of them: Their return to China. Now they were here. The very day itself rejoiced. To see Annie May was to love her - never such a blithe spirit in our midst and by nightfall I thought of her as an old friend and, compared with all the other friends that the Westbrooks had, Elam and I felt that we were most favored, because Annie May and J. B. were to stay under the same roof with us, their bedroom adjoining ours, until all of us could be settled into more permanent quarters.
Two weeks from the glad day of Annie May's arrival, we stood beside her grave. Three days before, very early in the morning, we had heard her moaning in pain. When the doctor came he pronounced, "Cholera." Dr. Webster and little Esther and Ch'en Yu-p'ing, assistant to the President, were also stricken. Then the ambulance came, and now we were hearing the words, "Dust to dust." the same that we had heard yesterday at the grave ofCh'en Yu-p'ing. The wild red lycoris lilies were in full bloom, those lilies whose blossoms appear only after the crown of leaves lies dead. With their symbol of resurrection before us, we sang
0 Cross that Liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Death touch once again that year. In January a cable brought us word of the home-going of Elam's mother. Not until a month later did we receive Lawrence's letter giving us the details. In that era of pre-airmail these were long, long days of waiting. Elam wrote to Mother in Buffalo:
I can't call you "Other Mother" now because you are the only mother left to me in the
land of the living. There is sorrow and bitter disappointment to me in the thought that
never again on earth shall I see my Mother's face ... You have a son now more than ever
before. How I still love her, but I'll be writing letters to you now instead of to her. ..
And so he did all through his life.
That fall Elam was made Director of Middle Schools for the East China Baptist Mission, covering the inland towns ofNingpo, Shaoshing, Hangchow, Soochow, Lanchi, Kinhwa. At the University, teaching and Glee Club filled the days and weeks.
That fall, we welcomed our first women students. In 1920, only about one-tenth of one percent of the women in China could read or write, and there were only two colleges open for women and in these the enrollment was small. The women students brought with them their own amahs. At first these faithful servants, some of them nurses from the girl's baby days, walked to classes with the girls, carrying their books, but very soon the girls found other occupations for their amahs, and within a few weeks we were rubbing our eyes at the sight of the "daughters of Confucius" walking side by side with the "sons of Han" who appeared to be taking delight in carrying their double burden of books.
Before we could realize it, the term was well established. In May there had been another student strike, but by November the students had grown somewhat lethargic in their patriotic fervor and were again applying themselves diligently to their studies. When they did go out to the villagers it was more often to sing for them and give them Health Talks than to stir them up with political or international discontent. Every Saturday night and many Sunday afternoons some members of Elam's Glee Club went on one of these deputation trips to village threshing floors, tea houses, or to the Model Community house at the Gate. They carried a Victrola swung on a pole between two carriers and they took with them charts on which diagrams and pictures were drawn large and clear. They took a Bible too from which to read a portion of scripture for which one of the seminary students would then give the exegesis. The charts never failed to interest the villagers. Once, after looking for a long time at an exceptionally detailed and enormous enlargement of a fly, one old woman said, "Ah, well, if our flies were as big as that I'd be afraid of them too."
In November we went - the three of us - to visit the East China Mission middle schools, again by houseboat but this time in more comfort than our trip to Mokanshan. The weather put on its finest front. The candleberry trees along the river were flaming scarlet. Their great fat clusters of waxy, white berries glowed like moonlight jade. At places where the river was too shallow, we would wade ashore to walk along the bank under the crimson canopy while the boatmen poled the boat across the gravel.
The visits in Lanchi and Kinhwa opened new vistas of interior China and of the interior of Chinese Christian hearts. Here, where houses and shops and streets and dress and food and dialect were, of all the places we had been so far in China, the least touched by the West so that we'd gone thinking we would find ourselves strangers in a strange land, the opposite obtained. The Chinese Christians greeted us warmly and with genuine joy. There was not the slightest shadow of a wall of separation. Blest indeed was the tie that bound our hearts in Christian love and made kindred our minds.
At this time famine began to sweep the North, bringing starvation and death for many, and flight for those who could struggle south. By December Shanghai was flooded with refugees; pitiful, miserable creatures with meager belongings, and hunger-hollowed eyes. From the oldest to the youngest on the campus, natives and foreigners alike, we turned our Christmas "exchange" gifts to refugee needs. At Christmas the platform in the chapel was white with gifts of food and clothes for the refugees near Shanghai. For those still in the North we heaped the baskets with coins, heartsore and heartsick for their plight and for the magnitude of the misery, so far beyond our mitigation.
The Christmas that brushed our souls with the vastness of man's human sorrows, also brushed our hearts with the sweet surcease of memory. That year, as director of the Shanghai Community Chorus, Elam enrolled a score of his Glee Club members to sing in the Christmas Festival Concert. As a kind of lark he planned to combine the last rehearsal with the nearest likeness to a hayride that could be arranged. A truck with wooden benches for seats and rice straw for hay made a good substitute.
On the way home the boys sang songs, Chinese and foreign, although it seemed to me that they sang the foreign ones more lustily than their own. "Sweet Adeline" took me back to the picnic at Triphammer Falls, and when some one started up "I Love You Truly" and I felt Elam' s gaze compelling mine, I was no longer in crowded Y angtzepoo, but alone with him on the bridge that spanned the gorge at the north end of Cornell campus. When the singing changed to Christmas carols, stirred by imagination, I looked up and saw the brightest star in the sky grow even brighter; looked down and saw the rice straw at our feet filling a trough in a far-away stable.
New friends stirred our hearts, new tasks stirred our souls. New life stirred within me, and winter quickened into spring in anticipation of our second child.
The child was born on the last day of
March, at home, with our mission doctor, Dr. Huntley, and his wife in charge. An hour later,
so I was told by others, Elam roared through the campus on his motorcycle, shouting out, to the
utter and everlasting discredit of the oracle at the Ming Tombs, "It's a boy! It's a boy! It's a
Nights and Days
The Chinese nurse who came to care for us was just out of training and this was her first case; more than that, this was the first time she had ever been in a foreign home. Knowing what homesickness was, I could sympathize with her, but my sympathy only increased her mao-ping (illness).
Victor, having been born with his own particular time-piece within his ten-and-a-quarter pounds of husky baby-body, added to her malady. He came mid-morning and promptly after his first protesting wail went to sleep and slept until nightfall. Then he began to cry and continued crying all night. For five days and five nights the pattern repeated itself. During the daytime he would scarcely stay awake long enough to eat. By the sixth day he had exhausted all of us, even our friends at the other end of the campus.
On the sixth night chaos reigned. He wakened Frances and together they treated us to a cacophonic duet. Amah came upstairs to quiet Frances. The nurse went to Victor. She gave him warm water, burped him, turned him, changed him, rubbed him, patted him. To no avail.
Elam took Holt's Care and Feeding of Children, written in Catechism form, question and answer, from the night stand and sitting in a chair beside me turned to the section on "Crying."
"'How much crying is normal for a very young baby?' The answer: 'From fifteen to thirty minutes a day is not too much.' Hm, he's been at it for over an hour. It must be abnormal. See, here's the question, 'When is crying abnormal?' Answer: 'When it is too long or too frequent.' Certainly too long, but hardly too frequent when it's continuous. I never heard a baby cry like this. Now listen to this, 'What are the main causes of such crying?' Answer: 'pain, illness, hunger, temper, and habit.' Temper, habit?"
"He's too young," I defended my offspring. "And he can't be hungry."
"Then he's in pain. He's ill. I'm going to dress and go get Dr. Huntley."
"Not yet." Then, feeling like a general, I gave my orders, "Bring the baby to me. He's going to sleep with me tonight. And all of you go back to bed."
"Not so, not so, An-sz-moo," the nurse protested. "The baby must sleep in his own bed. At school-"
"School's out," I cut her protest
short. "Bring me the baby." The tone of my request was the tone of Othello's "Fetch me the
handkerchief," but the result of my demand was in no way tragic.
The peace that descended upon our household that night I accepted as a gift from heaven and in the days that immediately followed, when Victor so quickly adjusted his time-piece to agree with ours, I accepted him as a gift, not from the ordinary heaven, but from the empyreal. A large, solid gift he was with the surprise feature of black curly hair that made him, at six days, look more like a six-months old child. Frances had come petite, fair, and bald. By now, of course, she was no longer bald; her hair was flaxen with a glint of gold- "Rithtig Svensk," Elam wrote to his father, "but Victor- He is our dark Swede." Our dark Swede- and our expensive Swede!
When he was born the doctor wanted me to take more chloroform. How well I remember the appliance, one I had to squeeze myself. "Take more," Dr. Huntley urged.
Drugged though I already was, I still protested, "Oh no. The Board can't afford it!"
Under the ruling of the Board current at that time, medical bills up to $100.00 were cared for by the individual; medical bills over that amount went to the Board. When the final reckoning of medicine, payment to nurse, and bills at Mokanshan was made, Victor cost us exactly $98.50. A few more whiffs of chloroform might have brought the bill over $100.00.
Looking at the amount now, I say that $98.50 was a bargain rate. At the time, though, it did make a dent in our budget. But then, of course, Victor as our second dependent would be adding something to our yearly salary. We had started on a base pay of$1,100.00. Frances had added $110.00. Now her brother would be adding another small increase. I wonder now how we managed, but at the time neither Elam nor I thought of ourselves as poor. Not rich either, of course, but with no rent to pay for the house we considered ourselves as comfortably middle-class.
That estimate, though, did not remain static. When we compared ourselves with the villagers, we knew that in their eyes we were wealthy beyond anything they could ever hope to be, and comparing our brown camel-hair rug with their brown earthen floors, we saw ourselves as they saw us. Then we were stretched on the rack of self-condemnation and asked ourselves why we didn't forego our comforts and go live as they did. Wouldn't we be better witnesses? But if we did, what chance would we have to keep our health? And the children? No, we couldn't go native. In the midst of our comfort there was then always this discomfort.
That was one side. On the other side, there were our students. It was to them that we had come as educational missionaries. Most of them came from well-to-do homes. Only a few from poorer homes. Compared with the mansion of the banker's son, our home must have seemed to him very humble indeed. But wealthy or middle-class, the students expected the faculty to live in homes that showed an advance over the standard of living of the villagers. In fact, the separate homes that each family of us maintained became the model and ideal for the students.
In their admiration of the privacy of our lives and in the economic changes already in operation, we foresaw the breakdown of their old family system, and having seen some advantages of that system over ours, we were not completely confidant that in China the Change would work the greatest good for the greatest number. The orphans, the halt, the lame, the blind, the aged- where would they be housed when China's youths settled themselves in one-family homes? Orphanages were run by missionaries and could take only the direst of cases; homes for the aged were non-existent. Where then could they go? We have the answer now in Red China Communes. But in the early 1920's, when Elam and I were asking the question, ideas of such communal living could only have been in the blueprint stage of the most radical of revolutionists, if indeed they had gotten that far. It took the long hard trek through the hinterland to breed a generation that could countenance mass living on such an impersonal scale as communes demand, and that trek had not yet been made.
Wherever there are great discrepancies in standards of living, it is some comfort to be suspended midway. Looking at those of high estates I once thought, in comparison with them, in the matter of earthly goods, we are to them as those of lesser estates are to us. In this world there is bound to be economic inequality, so let us put by our futile uneasiness, do what we can for those with less, envy not those with more, and so follow Saint Paul's example, in whatever state, therein to be content.Upon one unforgettable occasion Dick Vanderburgh took us to the home of a friend to see a notable collection of ivories. I had passed the walled-in residence site many times, but this was the first time I had entered the gate. The house, set in the midst of a garden that took up a whole city block, was truly a mansion.
After introductions and preliminary courtesies, which included Tea sumptuously served, our host ushered us into a room where all the walls were paneled in ebony and all the lights were ingeniously sunken out of sight. In 1922, hidden lighting had not yet filtered into the decor of our missionary homes, so no wonder, as I sat in an ebony chair, hushed by the eerie atmosphere, that I feared we had been tricked into coming to some esoteric seance. Ivories! Where were they?
Our host must have been a master at mind reading; certainly he was an expert at timing. How it happened I do not know, whether he pressed a button or whispered to some genie, "Open Sesame," but at that moment the walls slowly turned themselves inside out and in an intensified glow from the hidden sources of light, there now glistened and glowed before us and all around us shelf above shelf of ivories such as I had never seen or ever expect to see again. Confucius with his disciples, the eight Taoist Immortals, dozens of Buddhas in different postures, elephants and tigers, junks and rickshas, houses and bridges, farmers and scholars, fishermen and priests - all exquisitely carved. And on one long shelf a special exhibit of the spheres within spheres, those series of balls carved from one solid piece of ivory, each encased within another and yet independent of each other, able to rotate separately.
At the end of the hour Elam said, "If only people in America could see this, the word 'Chink' might die and our American self-conceit give way to humility. We should exchange traveling museums of art."
"And what would the States send to China as the best of their civilization?" our host asked.
"Tractors and trucks, movies and improved artillery?" And then like a velvet glove on a mailed fist he appended, "But these ivories are poor indeed compared with those of my Chinese friend. I hope you may someday see his collection. He has rare treasures worth a great fortune."
Now he pushed a button; this time I observed his motion. The walls swung shut as slowly as they had opened. When we were all out of the room, he dimmed the lights and double locked the door.
One morning within that month Frances was healthy, happy, gay. The next she was unconscious. "In coma," Dr. Huntley said. "A case of amoebic dysentery." He brought her out of the coma and came several times a day to see her. Friends came to spell us with the watchful care. One day Doctor said, "Tomorrow, if there is no improvement, I shall call a doctor from Shanghai for consultation." By the pressure of the handclasp we knew how serious Dr. Huntley considered this case.
After he left Elam and I fell to our knees. "Fell" is the exact word; we had no strength to stand. And there on our knees we prayed, silently alone and then audibly together, and one of us said, "Father, let the cup pass, but if not - " And then, as though raised by some power outside ourselves, we stood and simultaneously said, "Something strange has happened."
We turned to Frances' crib and heard her whisper, "Water."
The next morning Dr. Huntley came early. "The crisis is passed!" he exclaimed. "There is no need for consultation."
As he was le~ving, Tsoo Sing Chen came in. She heard the good news. "Thank God," she said, "Our prayers are answered. Last night we turned our Faculty Prayer Meeting into a season of prayer for all of you. We asked God for Frances' life, but if not, then that strength be given you two to stand whatever comes."
Elam and I looked at each other, sharing again in retrospect that strange feeling of incoming strength that had flooded our weakness at the very hour of the meeting.
Then, swiftly in the wake of the new joy in our home, the remembrance of another home nearby, another crisis, another mother, father, and their child. Last spring one of the women at our Industrial School - by this time a few women were sewing with the girls - was expecting her baby about the same time that I was expecting our second. Mary Kelhofer, a nurse, and I had gained from her and her husband a promise that he would call us when his wife's time came. I was still confined when one midnight the man came urgently to Mary.
As soon as she entered the mud-floored home, Mary knew she could do nothing. The woman had been in labor for three days. On the second day the village midwife had tied a rope about the woman's waist to prevent an unnatural birth through the mouth, a superstitious fear held in cases of delayed birth, and yesterday had ordered a potion of burned spirit money and wine. Today the midwife had attempted crude surgery. Mary saw the rusty knife on the floor. The woman and the baby were both dead.
"But why, why did you not call me earlier?" Mary cried.
"My mother would not let me," the husband said.
Swiftly, the nights and days and months and years ran their course and furlough- Homing was before us! In our case the customary term of seven years had been lessened to five and a half to accommodate the schedule of furloughs for the other members of the faculty.
For the woman of the house the months preceding furloughs are chock-a-block. In her planning she packs and re-packs the suitcases to make sure she will have all she needs wherever she is before trunks can be delivered. In her shopping she overbuys so that she has to purchase more suitcases and wicker baskets. In her concern for her missionary responsibilities and privileges she crowds the hours with extra meetings and constantly seeks for some "last word" from a Chinese friend, when as Thoreau so well knew, she had not yet had her first word.
Over a cup of tea I plied Tsoo Sing Chen with questions. "What this? What that?" And finally, "What greeting shall I take to the women in the churches from you?"
"Tell them we want their friendship, their understanding, their thinking of us as- how shall I put it?"
''Not to think of you as strangers but as friends, is that it?'' I asked.
"Yes, yes. That is it, although more bluntly you might use Jesus' own words, 'No longer do I call you servants but friends."'
Elam found his days chock-a-block too. With his teaching and supervising, his speaking and writing, his playing at Rotary lntentational, his planning for the Spring Glee Club Tour, and his gathering of data for his thesis, he was always on the go, busy, busy, busy.
One evening we deliberately sat down to check our activities and desires against our time.
"Elam, if we don't have the Fong Sees out before we leave, I'll be unhappy."
"So will I. A great man, Fong Sec. And so modest. No one ever hears from him how much of the Commercial Press is due to his vision and administration. If you think you can manage, Colena, let's have the whole family out next week."
Manage? I'd stay up all night for the privilege of having that family under our roof again. AsI thought of them, I thought of them projected against that great establishment, known around the world. Founded in 1896, the Commercial Press, had had a phenomenal growth. From a couple of presses it had expanded into something more like an institution covering twenty acres. It now had a number of divisions: editorial, research, letter press, photography and engraving, machine shop, educational supply division, and an Oriental library of international fame. Besides this work in Shanghai, it had two branch printing houses, one in Peking, the other in Hong Kong over 35 branch offices, and more than 1000 agencies throughout China and Chinese colonies abroad.
The Oriental Library, open to the public, was one of the best equipped reference libraries in China. It contained a highly valued collection of rare Chinese books besides more than 200,000 volumes in Chinese and 100,000 in other languages. The Correspondence Schools maintained by the Press had more than 32,000 graduates.
Just to have Fong Sec in our home always left us with the feeling that we had had a cultural blessing.
The day before they were to come, Elam came home for lunch, happy as a lark, bursting, as I could see, with news.
"What ship came in today?" I asked, scooping up an armful of Frances' playthings to make a path for him. "And what did it bring?"
"Two things. First you're going to Peking." He put his arms around me and held me as close as the blocks and stuffed animals in my own arms would allow. "You're going with the Language School Tour during the Easter vacation."
"Me to Peking? When I'm getting ready to go to America? Elam, you're c-"
"Don't say it." He put his finger to my lips. I was tempted to bite it, but refrained. "Because
I'm not crazy and you are going. Here's the ticket." He pulled the ticket from his pocket. "I ordered it last week. And now the second - "
The second! I wasn't over the shock of the first yet.
"Yes, the second. I told you the ship brought in two things. Well - " Here he cooled down a bit. "Well, maybe you won't think the idea as good as I did when I first heard it."
"Come on. Out with it." I was still holding the toys in my arms and must have presented a very dramatic figure as I demanded his full confession.
"Dr. White says now that plans for the Kulp's occupancy have changed. We may move into the new house if we want to."
"Move! At this time! Now, Elam, you are talking like a man out of his wits."
"Not so fast, Colena. It isn't such an absurd idea. Really it isn't. There's that brand new house standing empty at the other end of the campus. Why shouldn't we enjoy a new house after these years in an old, remodeled dormitory?"
"And just when do you propose we move?" I thought I was being sarcastic, but Elam missed the sarcasm and answered in all seriousness. "Tomorrow."
"Tomorrow! With the Fong Sec family coming for dinner!" I dropped in the nearest chair, my feet stretched out before me, my arms hanging limp, the toys scattered about me.
"That's why. We'll be in a new house, all fresh and unmarred. Don't you see?"
I couldn't see it then, but I did see it the next evening at six o' clock when Elam and I stood at the door of the brand new home and welcomed Dr. Fong Sec, his wife and their children. In the living room and dining room the curtains were up; the carpets were down; the chairs, tables, book cases and piano were freshly polished and in place. Out in the most modem kitchen on the campus, beef stew was piping hot in our home-made fireless cooker, canned peas were heating on the oil stove, a cake fresh from the oven was being frosted by Amah, and in the icebox was a crisp salad made of "safe" vegetables grown in the Kelhofer' s garden. The table in the dining room was set for a cafeteria meal. And there was a fire in the fireplace.
Dr. Fong Sec expressed surprise at not having found us at the old place. "How long have you lived here?" he asked.
"Oh," said Elam, "Quite a while - since about four o'clock this afternoon."
In his reply I detected a note of braggadocio but I forgave him that, for it was due to his organization and directing of the crew of movers, made up of campus servants and village men, that the small miracle had been performed.
It was not until late the next day, when I was putting bureau drawers in place, that I missed the gold chain and my Phi Beta Kappa key. To lose only two items in such a move was nothing, so Dr. Chen said. "As for the chain and key, you might as well kiss them Good-bye." I wondered at his idiom and then I remembered that he had learned his English at Brown University.
Kiss them Good-bye. But the wife of old Li wouldn't let me kiss them Good-bye.
Some of her men folk had been among the movers, and the suspicion of Amah and others was centering upon them. We could prove nothing, but old Li's woman could and did. According to old Chinese custom she used circuitous tactics so that all faces were saved. On Chinese New Year's day, when no rickshas were running and all grandmothers should have been at home, she walked on bound feet through the rain to the tram and back from the tram and how far she walked in the city I was never to know, but at the end of the day she returned, soaked through and through and so utterly exhausted that her hands trembled as she held the cup of hot tea I offered her. She did not have the articles with her but day after tomorrow a soothsayer would bring them - that is, would bring one of them, for k'o-hsi (too bad) the chain was lost. The pin, though, that would be brought. And it was brought just as she said.
When I asked her why she had eaten so much bitterness to get the pin back, she said, "It was nothing in repayment for what you have done for me. You took my little not-bright granddaughter into the school. Everybody in the village says, 'Put her with the pigs, An-sz-moo,' but, you let her stay in the class room and you give her some little handwork to do and when she finishes it you give her two dimes. You are kind to her."
And then- Peking! Beautiful, fabulous Peking! There I saw the Forbidden City. I stood within the Temple of Heaven and touched the great tall columns that held up the blue porcelain dome, columns made of Douglas fir felled in Oregon. I stood by the white marble Altar of Heaven gleaming in the moonlight and felt tears start to my eyes for the sheer beauty of the structure and for the magnificence of its conception: no roof worthy of the altar but heaven itself. How could a group of students from the States ever have been so insensitive as to stage a dance on that altar?
Some miles from Peking I walked on the Great Wall where I met a young Chinese boy who asked if l was Christian and did I know any stories of the Teacher. There, on top of the wall built hundreds of years ago to keep out foreigners, I told something of Him who is our peace and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.
In the museum I hung over the glass cases, bewitched by the celadons, the ox-bloods, the jades; hypnotized out of the present into the far past by the bronze ceremonial vessels, loveliest of all the K'u and by the ju-i sceptres, those gifts of imperial favor; and by the symbols of heaven. Fabulous, beautiful Peking!
The week before we were to sail, we went to Dick's photo shop to get more colored slides. We'd taken Frances with us, for later I was to take her to a birthday party in the city. Mother had made and sent what Frances called her Red Riding Hood cape and bonnet, and there she was like a busy redbird moving in and out between the cases, first at Elam's side and then at mine.
When we were ready to leave, she was nowhere around. We went outside. She was not in sight. Elam went in one direction, I in the other; then we came back and looked blankly at each other, our startled eyes saying the word our lips refused to speak, "Lost!"
Dick got his bicycle. "I'll find her," he called over his shoulder. "You two stay here." We watched him part the crowd, heard him call, "A little foreign girl dressed in red. Have you seen her?" And then he was lost too as he turned into one of the many alleys. A few minutes later he came out again, Frances sitting on the bar. "I wasn't lost, Daddy," she greeted us. "I just followed the man with a monkey."
Suddenly it was the Day itself. On June 16, Elam and I slipped away from the Commencement exercises, stopped at the house to pick up Frances and Victor and the luggage, and were driven to the wharf where the tender took us to the "Empress of Russia" anchored beyond the river.
How long I had looked forward to this hour of our weighing anchor for America! The time now came and I found myself sitting on the floor of the cabin - the chairs and bunks full of hand baggage and parting gifts- with one arm around Victor and one around Frances. She was crying,
"This is Grandpa's house, I know, but where are the cows and the chickens and the horses?" Victor had tears in his eyes. He was hungry, but he made no open complaint. And I? I was in tears too, for I had just discovered that the thermos bottle of milk which was to have sustained the children through the confusion of starting and which I had so carefully packed in the valise, was in a thousand pieces.
When Elam came from checking with the purser, he found us like this, a tearful trio. To his anxious questioning of the cause, I answered irrelevantly, "Is this the happy day I've looked forward to for years?"
Part One: Spring
While memory lasts, I'll never forget the smell of the firs, fresh and spicy, that came to us in the darkness of the night before our landing while yet we were far from share. Even before our eyes could see it, Home was coming out to welcome us! And in the morning, when Elam woke me and called me to the porthole and together we saw, clear and distinct and very near, a red schoolhouse on the hill set among towering evergreens, it was as though Paradise itself had opened to me. I thought my heart would burst.
At the hotel in Victoria I gave the children their first "American" bath. While Frances was in the midst of hers, she asked for a drink. Quite naturally - for was I not at home again?- I filled the tumbler from the bath faucet. In amazement, our three-going-on-fouryear-old exclaimed, "0, Mummy, am I taking a bath in drinking water!"
The images, of the gong outside our kitchen door filled with muddy river water being settled with alum, of our brass kettle with steam coming from its spout, of the brown crockery cooler, and of the expensive Berkshire filter rose before me. With one swoop I felled all of them. The sound of their crashing sang obligato to my words:
"Yes, my dear, in good, clear, pure, unboiled drinking water."
Home Again was a suitable title for these and kindred experiences, but not for all. Without Elam's mother the homestead in Wyoming was not the home it used to be. Father, Delight, Reuben, Lawrence, and Esther, his wife, had had time to make their own separate adjustments, but ours had not yet caught up with theirs. Memories of Mother as we had seen her last kept crowding us at every turn. We listened for her greeting in the morning. We waited for her voice calling down the register to the, men folk discussing in the room below, "Come now. You've talked enough. It's time for bed." We yearned to see and to hear her pleasure in her grandchildren. We seemed not to be able to accept the fact that her voice was forever stilled.
And over in the East, the home of my father and mother and sister was no longer in Buffalo at 92 Cazenovia. Instead, it was in the village of Colden, twenty-five miles from Buffalo. The house had eleven large rooms and was surrounded by an extensive lawn, in the center of which was a great maple tree, where Father had hung a tire swing for the children. At one side the land sloped gently towards a shallow brook, where in the summer crayfish shot in reverse from stone to stone in the clear water, and in the winter the children slid from bank to bank on solid ice. Up on the hill behind the house was the vegetable garden, my father's joy and pride. Already in late July Mother had dozens of cans of peas from that garden stored in the basement, and as the season moved towards fall there was so much more produce than we could eat or put into cans that near-by neighbors and city friends were also well supplied. It was a beautiful place at the edge of the village, guarded by the"sunkissed hills of Colden," but for me it was not home. When we arrived all the neighbors were strangers.
I longed for the familiar surroundings of the Cazenovia Street home with the old friends. When I'd visit the Bushes, whose house was three doors from 92, I'd slip out and walk by that house and look up at the windows in the room that used to be mine and wonder whether anyone there saw the light from the street lamp forming a cross on the screen. I'd look across the street to the path in the park that stretched the full length of the long block and feel my sister tugging at me and hear her begging, "Take a walk. Take a walk."
For all my fine philosophizing back in 1920 about the many mansions -many rooms - in my heavenly Father's house, now three years later I was allowing myself to be engulfed in a nostalgia for one certain room that could never again be mine. Would I never grow up? Never come to a sane, steady emotional maturity? Where now was that spiritual balance based upon "in whatever state I find myself therein to be content"? And where was my thankfulness for once again being with my kin? An ingrate, that's what I was.
Yet even as I scourged myself with the term, I'd go back and over a cup of coffee with Mary Bush reminisce like an octogenarian. And she only in her early 40's and I just turned 33. She and I had much to remember, for she was my oldest friend. Before I was born, she had come with her mother and sister to live two doors from my mother. She was like an older sister to me; I loved her dearly, Now her daughter Marcella was a grown-up young lady about to graduate from the Lake Forest Conservatory of Music.
Time had moved fast. Now my children were begging Sister to take them for a walk. One day in early fall, from the bay window of the Colden house, I watched them come skipping back from the post office laughing as they came. Great elms bordered the road, and formed an archway overhead. The leaves had turned a brilliant yellow and already a goodly number had fallen to the ground, so that it was as though the trio were coming through a tunnel of mosaic gold. Frances was wearing her Red Riding Hood cape, and Victor was wearing the woolen suit Mother had made for him, hunter's green with a red vest. Marguerite's plaid skirt echoed both colors. The picture was too vibrant and lovely to enjoy by myself. I turned to call Elam to come to share it with me.
He was not there; he was miles away at the University of Chicago working on his doctoral thesis, "Teaching English Efficiency in China." For a second I had forgotten that the House of An was now housed under two roofs. But, I resolutely thought, forcing back a wave of longing, I must remember that both roofs are in my heavenly Father's house. At times the remembrance wore thin.
My full acceptance of the Colden house as home came two weeks later when I discovered that I was with child again. A baby to be born while I was here with Mother and Father and Sister! A baby of ours for them to hold as they had not been able to hold Frances and Victor in their babyhoods. How good to be at home! My folks were as excited as I. Mother began planning the layette. When we went to Buffalo for a talk I gave on "China 'Cross the Bay," we bought soft muslin and fine white yam. This time I'd start the bootees early. Elam wrote, "Good news. Take care of yourself."
The anticipation was short-lived. In early November there was a miscarriage, a death to meas real as though the child had been born and named and long cradled in my arms. Now the Colden home became both sanitarium and sanctuary. With three to care for the children I had long hours to myself in an upstairs comer room, large and light and very comfortable, for resting, reading, meditating, writing, praying.
The first snowfall fascinated the children. Only once in Shanghai had they seen a thin sheet of the white stuff. Here it was drifts deep with always more coming down. We bundled them up well and let them go out to play. Unaccustomed to the coldness, they soon came back. Warmed, they clamored to go out again. After their third mushing, I said, "That's enough. Grandpa has more to do than put on and take off overshoes every few minutes."
My father lowered his glasses and looked at me over the rim. "Listen, Colena, I've waited years for this. Don't take the joy from me now." And so, all through that winter dozens of times a day, he patiently put on overshoes and took them off; helped with overcoats, on and off; hung wet mittens over the furnace register; kept track of the alternate dry ones to replace the wet ones.
Elam came for Christmas. By that time I had regained a goodly measure of the oil of joy for my mourning and a garment of praise for my spirit of heaviness. When he found me so he held me close and said, "This is your gift to me."
I hid my smile, for I had another gift that I knew would be a greater surprise. Sometime in November a letter had come from Phi Beta Kappa Headquarters addressed to me, but when I opened it I found it was an order blank, for a key, not for Mrs., but for Mr. Elam J. Anderson. I'd already heard that Drake University, from which Elam had been graduated, had been granted a chapter and now I knew they were giving memberships retroactively. Strange that Elam hadn't told me. But maybe he was keeping it for a surprise. Well, I'd keep this too. So I sent back the order with a check and when the key came, I wrapped it and the receipted bill in a fancy gift box and enclosed that in several others.
On Christmas morning along with a lovely six piece dresser set and a Parker duofold from Elam was an envelope containing the notice of his election and with it was a note to me, "Now we'll each be wearing a key - that is, when mine comes." Dolefully he said, "I'd hoped to have it by now, but the order blank must have been delayed." That was my cue to give him a House of An version of the "gift ofthe Magi."
Christmas that year was one to remember always. We went to the woods to cut our own tree and gather greens for decorations, all but Mother. She stayed home to bake pfeffemiisse, and when we came back, the kitchen was filled with a spicy fragrance and the large yellow bowl was heaped with fresh warm cookies. There and then we emptied it. We went crunching over the snow to the village church, small, white and spired, that stood in the center of the village, where we heard the children say their pieces and where we chuckled with Santa as he gave out the presents that each had thoughtfully brought from home lest Santa's supply be too soon depleted. We sang carols in the church and at home. We visited friends in Buffalo and they visited us. We exchanged Christmas goodies with our neighbors. To me now they were no longer strangers, but friends, the Colbums and Partridges especially. On Christmas Eve we went out to see the stars. Away from the glaring lights ofthe city, they looked like brilliant-cut zircons, and the one that was the brightest the children called the Star of Bethlehem. We read the Christmas story inEnglish and German and Chinese, Elam reading the Chinese, for - and this was the only flaw in that Christmas of joy- we had no Chinese friends with us. Nellie Wong had gone back to China and the others whom my folks had known in Buffalo had moved away from the city. In our hearts, though, and in our prayers, we held them and all we knew across the waters close within our little circle.
In June Elam received his Doctor of Philosophy degree "with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto" from the University of Chicago. In the years to come he received honorary degrees from other institutions, but this was an earned degree. He had worked hard for it, and I was proud of him.
After his commencement we all drove to Ithaca for my tenth reunion. There we found that, although the years had brought some changes to our friends, they had brought none to the library or the stone bench or the swinging bridge. Nor to the chimes; they rang out the same joyful initial melody and old familiar tunes. Only on Cayuga Heights, where we sought for the spot from which we had seen the light reflected in the lake and where we had heard a night bird sing, did we find a great change; there the trees had grown so tall not a glimpse of the lake was visible.
Upon our return to Colden, we steadfastly set our minds and hands to the preparation for our trip back to Ch ina. The farewell dinner at the Pauls' drew together the oldest friends. For many years the combination of Bush-Paul-Velentine-Michael had met at least once a month. Through the past year the House of An had mingled with them like blood-brothers. Now all but the Bushes had arrived. At the last minute, Mr. Bush called saying Mary had a headache and didn't feel able to come. We knew it was no ordinary headache, for Mary never complained.
We left for Colden at ten o'clock and all the way home we kept thinking of her, wondering how she was, planning when we'd go to say Goodbye to her.
We went and said Goodbye, but not as we planned. At ten o'clock that night, the very hour of our leaving, Mary was dying.
Knowing that we should not draw the children into the shadow of our sorrow, we planned for them a display of fireworks on the evening ofthe Fourth. The night was soft and dark and warm and the children sat on the steps of the back porch of the now dearly familiar Colden home, hugging their knees in excited anticipation. The flares soared high beyond the elms and the great sugar maple making of the leaves a lacy imprint against the brilliant light. For safety's sake Elam would allow no one to touch the Roman candles but himself. Now as he began twirling them and running in a circle around the maple, the children jumped up and down and shouted,"Oh, look! Look! Look at that one!" And well they might shout, for these were the choice pieces, the ones with extra multiple exploding stars. Then suddenly all the stars were gone, and Elam was standing motionless beneath the maple, holding his hand in silent agony. One candle had burst a full galaxy within his grasp.
The nation was still grieving with President and Mrs. Coolidge over the death of their son from an infected blister on his heel. The smallest of blisters now rang bells of alarm and the blister on Elam's hand was not small. For the first ten days of our trip, our route westward was charted through the different doctors' offices where we stopped for examinations and fresh bandaging when necessary
At La Porte we relaxed in the country with Ruth and Oscar and their family and left refreshed in spirit. At Chicago we met old friends and heard our first radio broadcast over a crystal set. To us it was a miracle. At Evanston we renewed acquaintance with members of the first post-marriage parish.
At the Summer Assembly Camp at Iowa Falls, Victor, wearing dark glasses because of a slight ulcer on the retina, strayed from our tent. When I could not find him in any of the children's haunts, I called Elam from his conference, and immediately a general search was on. As the men made ready to drag the nearby river, my heart stood still as once before it had on that crowded street in Shanghai when Frances was lost. At that moment, the camp cook came to the door of the dining hall.
"What's the commotion?" he called.
"Victor, our little boy, he's lost!"
"You mean the one with the dark glasses?"
"Come." He motioned me to him. Then he stepped aside for me to enter the building.
There sat Victor, paper napkin tucked under his chin, very carefully dipping a cookie into a glass of milk.
"Poor little chap," the jovial cook said, "he came in, sat down, folded his hands, bowed his head, and then picked up the napkin and waited. What could I do but serve him? Sorry you had any worry."
Heaven is found in many locales. To my roster I added that day a camp building made of rough-hewn lumber, filled with long tables set for lunch and having at the time three occupants - the cook, a small boy, and a guardian angel.
The next Monday, at the Earl Clinic, at Mound, Minnesota, both children had tonsilectomies. Elam's Aunt and the Dahls helped us through the first hard days.
Then on Thursday we started for Wyoming. There the children rode horseback; rode in the car with whoever went out for the cows in the far pasture; sailed paper boats in the watering trough filled by the creaky windmill; and in the cool of the evening drank warm milk fresh from the cows.
Earlier in the year Delight and Lawrence and his family had gone to San Diego, and now that Reuben was married and he and Ruth were caring for the homestead, Elam thought his father might like to go with us to San Diego. "Yes," Dad said, "that would be nice, but - " We could get no definite promise from him until the morning of our departure. Then, with suitcase packed, he came out and casually said, "Do you have room for me?"
Room? Of course we had room.
That next Sunday afternoon, driving miles across the treeless boulder-strewn plains, we had nine punctures and not one within the shadow of a rock.
When evening came, Elam, weary from his tusseling with the tires, said, "Well, Dad, I suppose you'd say we had all those punctures because we traveled on Sunday. A business trip on Sunday."
·"Naturally, A-lam." (He always gave the Swedish pronunciation.) "What else could you expect?"
And he may have been right, for on not one of the week-days of the long drive to The Dalles, where we met Esther and Helmer and the boys for two days of happy companionship, and over the scenic Columbia Gorge Route and down the coast highway, were we plagued with nine punctures in one afternoon. Kingsburg, San Gabriel, San Diego, Mission Beach - "0 Time too swift! 0 Swiftness never ending!" Before we could fully realize it, we were at San Pedro hanging over the rail of the S.S. President Taft, watching our Dodge being slung up in a huge net like a plaything and lowered into the hold. Good old car, we thought, waving it farewell until we should see it in Shanghai. It had brought us over 6000 miles in two months and a week and its only misbehavior was due to our impiety, a circumstance wholly beyond its control.
Soon after that, still standing at the rail, we saw the wide expanse of water between us and the shore grow ever wider. When we were well past the breakwater, we took the children to the prow of the boat and while they, holding tight to our hands, peered between the guard rails down upon the parting waters, Elam and I stood, our free hands clasped, facing China and the future.
By September (the year was 1924) we were back on the Shanghai College campus. As we walked the cinder paths, we realized how firmly we had grown into this place, realized, indeed, that we were "Home Again." Even after the absence of over a year, our feet still remembered every curve in the paths, and our eyes recognized old acquaintances in shrubs and trees. The spiraeas and forsythias, the privets and the pittisporums, the roses and the wisterias - how they had all grown!
And the trees - the candleberries; the Himalaya cedars; the false ash, better known as the Wedding Tree because of weddings performed in its shade; the ginkos - how much they had added to height and girth.
But it was "The Camphor" that caused us to marvel most. There were several camphors on the campus, but when anyone said "The Camphor" everybody knew the reference was to the landmark tree that grew near Dr. White's at the curve of the road. At its planting in 1909, it was only three feet tall and less than one inch in diameter. So remarkable had been its growth that within a decade it had won for itself the title "The." To the children of the campus it soon became a playhouse, a clubhouse, a shade from the sun and a shelter from the rain. We paused before it now and felt somewhat awed.
As I stood there I thought, if ever this tree should die or be felled, the mourners would be legion. But who would ever dare lay an axe to it? Or uproot it? To do so would be committing murder.
Frances made straight for it. She climbed into it and sat on one of the low-growing branches. Then she stroked the smooth bark and gently crushed one of the shining leaves and lifted it to her face to breathe deep of its fragrance. Victor, who was too young when we left to know this tree, watched her for a moment and then he ran over and scrambled up beside her and imitated her every motion. Within minutes, Wei Mei and Iu-Chen Chen and Mary Ellen and Arthur Kelhofer were there with them. Seeing Victor in their midst, I said to myself, Now he, too, is initiated into the Order of the Camphorites. When it's time for Tea, I'll know where to find him.
Part One: Spring
One Season Ends
Life swung back into orbit; day by day its pace accelerated. The time for Glee Club practice was from 11:30 to 12:30. Since Elam had a class at one o' clock, lunch had always to be prompt. I set Frances to watch at the window and when she saw him rounding the curve by The Camphor, she would call to me, "Daddy's coming," and I would call to Amah, "K'ai fan" (Open the rice). Then the next minute- or so it seemed to me- he would be off to his afternoon classes. After those classes there were other academic and extra-curricular responsibilities and always more and more meetings that he had to attend in the city.
When I joined the Shanghai Short Story Club, I felt a prick of conscience. Here I was worrying about his over-crowded schedule and yet adding extra trips.
"Don't be silly," he said. "I want you to keep up your interest in writing. Besides, I enjoy the meetings. And look at me. Do I look worn out?"
I had to admit that he did not. "But still, you're going too fast," I said.
"What about yourself? You didn't get to bed until two o'clock last night. I looked at the clock."
He was correct. I was writing a play, "And So This Is Christmas," for my Sunday School class of Chinese co-eds, and when the muse was with me, how could I desert her?
The practices were going along very well until the dress rehearsal. Then, suddenly, the girl who had the lead petulantly and flatly refused to go on. I reasoned with her, "There is no understudy." I appealed to her loyalty to the college, "This play is the main part of the program tomorrow night." Finally I pleaded with her to do it for my sake. Nothing moved her.
I called for a recess and, while the players left the room, I consulted with Esther Sing, the most level-headed among the group.
"Mu-yu fa-tzu (No way out of the difficulty)," she said. "I know her. When she gets a p'i ch'i (streak of perversity) like this, no one can do anything with her."
No one? There is always One. I'm not given to bothering the Lord over trifles or with what I can do for myself, but this was a case where I had done all I could and I did not consider the play a trifle. There was only a moment for prayer and it had to be done unobtrusively, in fact, while I was walking forward to call the cast together. It was so done and with urgency. I gave the word to begin. The recalcitrant one took her position grudgingly, but took it.
When it was time for her to go to speak to the play-character she had wronged, she crossed the stage and spoke her lines. The play went on.
May 30, 1925, Elam and the children woke me with their "Happy Birthday" song. Around my plate was a garland of flowers and tucked among the flowers coins to help me remember how old I was.
That a day with such a happy beginning should have such a tragic ending! Late that afternoon while Elam was preparing to take the college orchestra to the Native City for a benefit concert, one of the students came rushing into the house greatly agitated.
"Fourteen students shot in Shanghai by the police!" he shouted.
"No, no." Elam tried to quiet him. "That must be just a rumor!"
"Pu ts'o. Pu ts'o (Not wrong) ! Chen-di, chen-di (True)! The British police did it."
And it was true. The following day the headlines of the paper stood large and stark. The Nanking Road Tragedy was no rumor. when the accusations and counter-accusations settled down, we found that the ostensible cause was a memorial service by the students for a Chinese worker shot in a Japanese factory by a Japanese employer. This memorial was staged in the International Settlement where such meetings by the Chinese were unlawful. The students went ahead anyway in order to arouse public opinion. They succeeded. A riot followed in which unarmed students moved against a police station where fellow students arrested in the early hours of the rioting were jailed. The police, British, opened fire and killed a dozen or so students and by-standers.
Why, oh, why didn't the police use water hoses or shoot above the heads? Didn't they know the position that students still held in the land? For foreigners to kill any Chinese would raise a storm of protest, but to kill students was to raise a catastrophic whirlwind. Students themselves might be debunking Confucius, the great teacher, for the measurements he gave for a man's night gown and for the fact that after hearing a certain piece of music he could not eat meat for some time thereafter, but the scholar, the student- and the lay Chinese made no distinction between them - still stood high in the social scale and in a way was sacrosanct.
In the days that followed there was some stoning of foreigners and there were a few more clashes between the police and crowds of laborers, but when sailors and marines were landed from warships order was restored. Order, that is, on the surface and in our immediate vicinity, but resentment continued to seethe and in the interior, wherever there were Japanese or British removed from the protection of their military, disturbances and acts of violence furnished copy for Second Coming type headlines in American papers. All that happened at the college was that there was no commencement exercises.
Throughout the summer, letters kept coming from our families and friends expressing grave concern for our welfare and asking when we were coming home. We replied:
Everything is quiet and peaceful here on the campus. Please take
newspaper reports with a grain of salt. Granted there is trouble in other
places of China, but we are safe.
We're concerned over the California earthquake. Talk about safety!
I think we're as safe as, if not safer than, we'd be in many places in America.
"Everything is so quiet here!" was the theme of our summer-time in Shanghai in 1925. Letters home were filled with items far removed from violence:
We've planted our window boxes with asters that Mary Kelhofer gave
us. Now there's a riot of color under each window, the only riot around unless
you care to call the noise of eighteen "campus kids" all under Frances' age a riot.
Leontine Dahl has just come back from furlough. She brings weird tales
of very, very short skirts and pretty garters. And bobbed hair! Now, almost
everybody here is bobbing too. No. I haven't. Lucia Hanson had a braid as thick
as your arm and down to her knees. I wanted to weep when she cut it off.
And every letter bulged with the doings and the sayings of the children:
Victor said, "I wish we could burn the gee-toes and frow the fire out the window."
Victor said, "Dat dam dood." No, I did not wash out his mouth with soap. All he meant was that the jam was good.
Victor spilled water on a clean scarf and came to me and said, "Oh, Mama I billed dome watta, but Mama, I guse you."
Victor, trying to dress his bunny, gave up, brought the toy to me andsaid, "Oo dess it. It alias wiggles so."
At that Frances put her hand to her mouth and gave me a most companionable, understanding smile.
Victor refused to add to his prayer,
"And make me a good boy." When Elam said, God likes to hear you say that," Victor replied, "Her Won't care. Her' ll make me dood anyway."
And items about Frances:
Frances, tired from a shopping trip for shoes, said, "I don't feel well. I feel like a bottle of castor oil."
Frances said, "I wish I was God. Then I'd a been there when I made myself
and I'd seen how I did it."
Frances' ambition is to have her new teeth grow in in a hurry so she can pull them out and get false teeth.
To my fervent hope that that may never happen, she exclaimed, "Why, don't you want me to have false teeth?"
Frances picked up a magazine and looked at it for a time. Then she put it down and said, "That word I don't know." The word was "immutable." (My fault. I hadn't included that word in her kindergarten vocabulary last year.)
Frances and Victor quarrel.ed with each other today when Elam and I were away having a vegetarian dinner at a Buddhist temple in Shanghai. Indirectly, I found out about it from Amah. Directly, I let Frances know I was not pleased. Tonight she prayed: "Dear Lord, help Victor and me to always, always be nice and lovely and quiet. Not to cry and howl around the house and wah, wah, wah. "She shouted the wah's so loud I jumped. Then in a whisper she added, "Help us to keep peaceful."
Frances said - Victor said - Frances did - Victor did - Of such homely inconsequentials was our heaven of tenuous peace in those summer days while all around us the storm clouds muttered and the rolling of their thunder from Soochow to Canton mingled with rolling presses at home, but the storm had not yet broken over our heads.
At that time Mao Tse-tung was on his way to heading, if not already heading, the Propaganda Bureau of the Kuomintang. Chiang Kai-shek was saying that China's alliance "with the world revolution, with the Soviet Union, was an alliance with the revolutionary parties which are fighting in common against the world imperialists to carry through a world revolution." And again he was saying:
The Nationalist revolution cannot rule without Dr. Sun's three principles, nor can the
revolution neglect Communism ... Knowing that we cannot separate the Chinese
revolution from the world revolution, why should there be any quarrel amongst us about
the three peoples' principles and the Communists?
But for that which had not yet come and whose coming we had no power to prevent, we refused to barter the peace of that summer. We went the even tenor of our way, entertaining and being entertained or sharing in the "covered dish" suppers where each family brought one dish and after the meal was over each provided a special stunt for the pleasure of all. Elam' s contribution was the song of Figaro.
We had a daily swim in the swimming pool that was built by the Alumni to honor Dr. White on his 50th birthday. The pool was fed by two artesian wells, which were now also providing us with safe drinking water and the luxury of flush toilets, bath tubs, and showers. We swam in the late afternoon, when the pool was in the shade, and when we left the pool twilight would be coming on and with it the mosquitoes. Then after supper we would flit ourselves against the pests and walk in the coolness of the evening to find the place where the tuberoses filled the air with fragrance so sweet that for a time the acrid odor of our preventive was quite forgotten. On moonlight nights we would lift our eyes to the skies and think how the same moon had, within hours, shone on our homefolk and would shine again and know as surely as David did that our help came from the Lord who neither slumbered nor slept.
Nor was this awesome wonder experienced alone by Elam and me. Frances too, young as she was, only five, was caught up in it. One night in September when she was undressing she said, "I have a little poem about the moon. Would you like to hear it?"
Would I like to hear it! The first touch of the Muse on my daughter? "Yes, indeed. I'll even
write it down for you." So there in her rose sprigged muslin gown sat Frances, hugging her knees
and dictating her first poem:
There are your children up in the high blue air.
In the night they twinkle,
But when I go to bed
And in the morning when I wake up
And look out the window,
There is no moon and you aren't there.
There is just a beautiful sunny sun
And blue clouds in the blue air.
And lovely green trees
And flowers opened up.
As they sleep in the night time,
They close their tired eyes
To sleep awhile in comfort
In the cuddly grass
Hours after hours,
I think under the sun
About the starry skies
And that little verse like this about
"To sleep beneath the starry skies."
And everyland -
China, America, Ningpo -
Everyland that people live,
No matter if they're strangers,
They go to sleep
And make their bed in comfort.
And birdies in the nest,
They go to sleep
And in the morning
And sing their morning songs.
And now I must go to bed.
I've written it all.
Were I to attempt a graphic picture of our small enclave of peace there on the campus in the summer of 1925, I could find no better words to frame it than "We went to sleep and made our beds in comfort."
And now it was November. Classes were well established. Elam was busier than ever with his teaching and supervising, his speaking and his directing of musical groups, the latest addition to which was the choir of the American Community Church in Shanghai. I'd given up the classes at the college to begin regular school work with Mary Ellen and Frances.
The chrysanthemums that we'd slipped in the spring were in full bloom, making a brave show of color, white and pink, yellow and bronze, all around the house. During recess one day I told the girls to put on their coats - the day was sparkling clear but quite nippy - and go out to cut a bouquet. Important little first-graders they were, and I as their teacher was finding as great a challenge in teaching them as in teaching the college students. Wei Mei Chen came from her own study of Chinese at home and joined them. The picture made by this trio of friends there among the flowers charged me with a full feeling of well-being. Strange, how little beauty and peace it takes to make that feeling!
Before the recess period was over, the college mailman came down the path.
"Only one letter today," he called, holding up a single envelope," and it's for the hsiao hai-tzu (children). Frances, lai, lai (Come. Come.)"
"For me?" Frances' face was aglow as she came running to take the letter.
"For you and Didi (little brother)," he said. "Then must I wait 'til Victor comes home?'' The glow left her face.
When Victor came from his kindergarten class that Mary Kelhofer was having for him and Arthur, he and Frances opened the letter together. I was as eager as they to see who would be writing to then from Canton. Frances attempted to read it but soon gave up, saying, "You read it, Mother. It's in Chinese."
It was not in Chinese. It was in English and quite legible, but in an unfamiliar script. It was from Hwang Ding Sing, the student who had worked for us before we went on furlough. He was the only student at the college who had ever worked at manual labor in a foreigner's home, or for that matter, in anyone's home. He'd come from a very poor family. When we told him about students in America working their way through college, the idea took fire. He was eager to be a pioneer. He swept the walks, brought in the wood, carried the coal, helped in the garden. We had thought about him often but had lost contact with him. It was good to have a letter from him.
With Frances leaning against me on one
side and Victor on the other, I read the letter aloud.
Whampoa Military Academy
Dear Francise and Victor,
Are you well? Are your father and mother well? Tell your parent excuse me that I
didn't write them for a long time, because we are so busy in our national revolutionary
work to clear the counter-revolutionary force in Kwangtung, But I never forget you all
even in one day. See that trees whistle in the autumn wind. The leaves fall to the ground
and change yellow. How fierce the cold wind is!
"Hwang, father wants you to chop more woods. Hwang, mother wants you to
carry some coal upstairs .... " Are these not your words that I always heard in my dreams?
Thank God, the dreams usually bring me to see you almost every night.
Good-bye! Francise and Victor, I will go to Moscow soon during this month for I
have passed the entrance examination of the Sun Wan University of Moscow in our
military school. Fifteen cadets of our school are qualified to be sent to Moscow, Russia.
It is said that about three hundred students including us at Canton will be sent by the
National Revolutionary Government. I am very busy now to prepare for the journey.
"What means 'revolutionary'?" Frances asked.
"He say Good-bye. Where he go?"asked Victor.
The day was still sparkling clear, but for me it was as though a cloud had darkened the sun. The letter had the same effect on Elam. We felt the revolution now was at our very doorstep, and more than that, we had a conviction that its close tie with Russia boded no good. Strange how little it takes - no more than a half-ounce letter- to steal away hearts ease!
That night we went to sleep, but our beds were not made in comfort. Nor were they, so long as we lived in China, ever again completely so made; for that matter, whether in China or America, never again wholly in comfort. Through Hwang's letter, the last we were ever to hear from him, we were drawn into China's revolution, and, hot or cold, war has plagued our comfort ever since.
There were other discomforts, too, impending. The strong undercurrent of political movement, of intellectual ferment, of violent emotion also penetrated the foundations of the missionary movement and the relationships of its participants. The same stirrings of nationalism which fanned the revolutions of a dozen countries were also bringing into focus the issue of the place and future of foreign missions. The far-reaching Layman's Inquiry into Foreign Missions, Rethinking Missions: A Layman's Inquiry after One Hundred Years, by the Commission of Appraisal, William Ernest Hocking, Chairman (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1932) 349 pp., was still six years ahead, but the questions and the pressures which brought it and its profound appraisal into being were already alive on the campus of Shanghai College. For several years the word "indigenous" had been a kind of abracadabra. Everyone was talking about making missions "indigenous," but few educational missionaries were doing anything about it. They were all sitting tight in their professorial chairs. Elam saw no way of increasing the ratio of Chinese on the faculty except by decreasing the number of foreign missionaries. Let them be advisers, but as soon as possible put Chinese on the staff, except, say, in the Department of English language and Literature. It was the foreign missions' task, we felt, to plant the seed, but the full growth must be from native stock in native soil before even our own mission could be fulfilled.
Unexpectedly, a new call came. One day in the spring of 1926, the Board of Managers of the Shanghai American School, a combination day and boarding school for some 500 American children from kindergarten age through high school, met to choose a new principal. "How would you like to live in Shanghai?" Elam's question came out ofthe blue.
"You mean 'do,' don't you? How do I like to live in Shanghai? I'm in Shanghai. I like it."
"No, I mean 'would.' In the International Settlement?"
"If that's what you mean, then my answer is 'I wouldn' t.' I don't like the city. I'm perfectly - but why do you ask? You aren't thinking of-"
"Well, not unless you're willing, but the Board of S.A.S. is thinking. This afternoon they asked me to be principal of the school."
"And move to Avenue Petain in French Town?"
"Leave this house!"
He nodded again, his eyes now reflecting his hurt at my dismay.
"Colena," he said earnestly, "We've talked for months, for years, about our own mission here - to bring the Gospel through these institutions, to lay a foundation of Christian education, to train those who will carry on the task so that it becomes not foreign, but theirs - not foreign Christians but Chinese Christians. How can Chinese Christians replace us on the faculty unless some of us move out and make way for them? We can't just talk about it; if we really are sincere, we must move on and make room. Here is a call. I think the College is ready for the change. I think the time to begin the transition is here. I'm ready for it. Are you?"
I saw his logic and I knew he was right. The spirit was willing - but, oh, the flesh was weak! Nothing could take away my innate dislike of moving. I become almost physically ill when I have to move. Just the thought of packing made my whole being cringe, my heart rise up and ache in my throat. But more than that: the college was home. I loved the friends. My roots were as deep here as those of The Camphor. And the children- how hard for them to leave the place!
But a far greater pain was yet to come and in that hurt I lost my selfish objections. In it I suffered with Elam, and through it we grew closer together. When Elam submitted his resignation with his reasons and his deep convictions on the inevitability of and the necessity for transition to native Chinese Christian teaching and leadership, not just one, but several among the missionaries, our closest friends, accused him of disloyalty, of being, indeed, a traitor to the ranks, a traitor to the cause of foreign missions itself. We suffered together and the suffering swallowed up the pain of moving once again. I knew that I, too, was ready now to move along to make room for those who alone could make Christianity indigenous.
In early July we marked our tenth wedding anniversay. Five days later, on July 8, 1926, our third child, Elam Jonathan, Junior, was born.
When Elam saw his namesake, he rejoiced greatly.
Later, sitting by my side and holding my hand, he smiled and said, "Nobody can accuse us of being unpatriotic."
"How so?" I asked. "This isn't the Fourth."
"No, but we already have Frances with snow-blond hair, Victor with blue - well, maybe we' ll have to call it blue-black, and now Junwr with red. Red, white, and blue? Don't you see?"
The birth of Elam, Junior, made us a
family of five. The Spring season of the House of An came to an end. Planting time was
over; growing time was ahead.
Spring began in the month of September, 1913, on the campus ofCornell University and ended thirteen years later on the campus of Shanghai College, half a world away. Summer began on the campus of Shanghai American School in September, 1926, and ended six years later on the campus of Linfield College, Oregon, once again half a world removed from its beginning.
All through July and August of 1926 I kept complaining, "This is the hottest weather I've
ever known." There was small comfort in Elam's words, "It's really not the heat it's the-"
"Yes," I'd interrupt. "I know. It's the-" and then wait for him to join me in the cliche,"- the
humidity." Most of the times I could laugh at our little duet, but there were times when to laugh
took more energy ·than I could muster; then my smile was vapid.
Frances and Victor, too, felt the heat more than before. The recent siege of whopping cough
had taken a heavy toll of their young bodies. Their appetites were slow in returning and they tired
quickly at their play. Among the children, only Elam, Junior, thrived on the heat. He ate and slept
and grew fat, and became the focus for our hearts' deepest affection.
On the warmest day of
September we moved from the
college to the Shanghai American
School. The house in which we
were to make our home for four of
the next six years was located at 75
A venue Petain, directly across from
the school compound and twelve
miles from the college.
Midway between school and
college were the Bund and the
shopping district of international
Shanghai. In the daytime this was
a bustling, teeming business section,
a maze of traffic, but on the
evenings when we would be
returning from visits to the college, .At +-lome, Sha"'ghai .Amel"ica"' School 1928
the children thought the Bund and
Nanking Road a fairyland, made so by the thousands of lights that outlined Wing On's and
Sincere's, the two great department stores, and that festooned the entrances to lesser shops and
restaurants and places of amusement.
I, too, found pleasure in the lights and let my imagination play with the children's fancy until
that time when, shopping alone one evening, I saw three rough Chinese men on the street near
Wing On's bargaining with a stout, noisy madam for a shy girl- she couldn't have been more
than twelve - whom the madam was urging forward. My heart sickened and I looked for a
policeman, but by the time I found a husky Sikh, the men had turned down an alley and all I
could hear was the crying of the girl, and for that the policeman would do nothing. To express
the true nature of the case I had no adequate vocabulary in Chinese and certainly none at all in
whatever lingua franca the Sikh used. As I stood there stammering before him and gathering a
crowd about us, I knew that even if I had a vocabulary in which to register a coherent complaint,
he would have done nothing about it.
In many respects the house at the American School was in notable contrast to the house
at the college. That one was a two-and-a-half-storied, low-ceilinged, no-basement cottage
that made me think of a brooding hen sheltering her chicks. This one in the city was a full
three-storied, high-ceilinged building with a basement-above-the-ground, in truth making it
four-storied. This house made me think of a stiff- necked giraffe. No longer could the children
run out-of-doors directly into a large compound with a wire fence so far removed that to locate it
was to take a small expedition and to walk around it from the place where one end began on the
down river bank to the other end quite a distance up river was to have a real excursion. Here in
the city they had first to walk down a long flight of stairs before they could be in our small
triangular garden bounded on two sides by a high bamboo fence separating us from a soy bean
field and on the third by a white picket fence separating us from the cinder sidewalk in front. And
when they did reach our garden, there was only one small willow tree that cast a shade so slim
Elam immediately converted one of the large packing boxes into a playhouse to give some
measure of shade.
True, there was the large school compound across the street, but it bore little resemblance to
the college campus. Out at the college there were many trees that gave shade and fragrance and
above all there was The Camphor. On the American School compound the trees were few and
far between and most of them still so young that they had to have wire guards about them to
protect them from climbers. Out at the college there was the broad river with tidal flats where,
day after day, ships of many nations plied the rippling waters, their flags floating bravely in
the breeze and their banners of smoke trailing behind or flowing ahead, depending upon the
direction of the wind, like skiers' scarves. Here in the city we had the broad street where, day and
night, cars of many makes raced back and forth, the only ripples being those made on very warm
days in the heat-softened asphalt by the heavier cars and trucks.
In only two respects did the new house resemble the old. It, too, was surrounded by graves
and it furnished the outer shell for the inner spirit of Home. In the field behind our bamboo fence
and about halfway to the next street, was a huge grass-grown mound, which the children named
The Hill. A small boy herder occasionally brought his water buffalo to graze there. Whether the
mound sheltered many graves or only one we could not tell, but from its triple gables we could
tell that there were three distinct graves in the low brick structure standing so close to the fence
that the children could touch it with a stick poked through the wattle. Over on the school
compound, at the comer of Avenue Petain and DuFour, there were other graves. When the school
purchased the land, there was a stipulation that the graves on that certain small plot of ground
should be kept fenced off from the rest ofthe acreage and never razed. No one came to care for
these graves, and one grave had become so weathered and fallen apart that the children, peering
through the fence, would say in sepulchral tones, "I see bones. Real ones."
The other resemblance of"75" to the house at the college was that, in common with it and
the other four houses in which we had lived, "75" was one other earthly mansion of the quota
prepared for us in our Father's house. It is highly improbable that anyone but ourselves ever saw
anything majestic or imposing about the giraffe building, unless, perhaps, country friends of
Amah, whose "mansions" were one-storied, bamboo-thatched, mud-floored huts. Certainly, the
visible brick walls, broken by narrow windows, did not warrant that appelation. But the invisible
walls did. In times of quiet meditation, Elarn and I saw the glow of jasper and sardonyx deeply
imbedded in these walls and in times of ecstasy, the sparkle of sapphire and amethyst.
As for furnishings, what matter that the round table with the heavy chairs bought from the
former owner needed refinishing when, at that table, Frances and Victor began to eat again with
zest so that, week by week, Elarn and I could note their steady gain in weight and hear their
returning energy as they stomped up and down the several flights of stairs? Or what matter that
the table stood on an inexpensive reed rug when, upon that rug, stood also the baby's buggy and
in that buggy, while Elarn and I lingered over a late dinner, our youngest, replete and on a
schedule convenient to all, would lie and watch the beaded fringe of the lamp shade that hung
low over the table as that fringe moved in the breeze corning from the west porch? At such times,
seeing how the light was making stars of his eyes and spun-gold of his curls and being grateful
for the health and dearness of the children asleep upstairs, I thought I was in a comer of heaven
and I knew that our House was rightly named the House of Peace.
Even the typhoon that carne early that fall could not touch our peace. Elarn and I were reading
in the living room when the worst onslaught carne. We had already closed the windows on the
upper porch where the three children were asleep. Now the howling wind tore off the bamboo
shades on the lower porch and the rain carne slashing through the screens. Then over all the other
noises carne the clatter of falling bricks.
"Our chimney!" I raised my voice above the storm.
Elarn shook his head. "No, something farther away."
When nothing more clattered we went on with our reading.
Early the next morning Victor discovered the cause. From his bed, where he could see over
the bamboo fence, he called excitedly, "Oh, Sister, look at the three pigs' houses!"
From her bed and from the tower of her knowledge, Frances replied, "I keep telling you,
Victor, they're not pig houses. They're- oh, Mother, Daddy! come see the grave. The roofs
And so it was. The three ridgepoles were down and with them the bricks that made the triple
gabled, connected roof. Stark and bare to the elements were three coffins, their head pieces
revealing how stout and thick was the wood from which they were made. Two days later, when
the storm had abated, a Chinese man, looking every inch of his long dark grey silk gown a
gentleman of rank and wealth, carne with a mason, and after the mason had repaired the damage,
the gentleman burned spirit money and left three bowls of rice on top of the new roof. Elarn and
I knew when the spirits would eat the rice; a college student had told us: "When American
ancestors carne to smell the flowers that their descendants put on a grave."
"But why three graves so close?'' I asked Amah.
"Graves of a rich man and his two wives, number one wife on one side, number two on the
other. The man was the eldest son. It is his duty to keep the graves in good shape."
I pondered the two wives and remembered what Dr. Polk, the doctor who delivered Junior,
had told me of the wealthy Chinese with four wives all living congenially together: "They just
about keep me in a living. I can count on at least one child in the family every year." And I
thought again about the college student whose father, after becoming a Christian, had to house
his number two wife, the mother of his nine children, in a separate establishment and have no
more relations with her, while he and his number one wife with the nine children, now all grown
and transferred to the big house, lived as a monogamous couple.
This particular conflict came into sharp focus in December, 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek
took Mei-ling Soong for his wedded wife. Because ofElam's position in the community we
were included among the guests invited to the wedding reception. (Our only personal
acquaintance with the famous couple was my quite casual one with Miss Soong through the
American University Women's Club and that, certainly, would not have brought us the royal
invitation.) Strange, we thought, that the reception should be held in the Majestic Hotel safe
within the foreign concession when, at that time, the favorite slogan of the Kuomintang was
"Away with concessions!" As I looked at the lovely bride, my mind wandered to those other
wives of the bridegroom whom he had been obliged to set aside and pay off so that this marriage
could be purely monogamous.
On our way home a great gratitude filled me for the uncomplicated singleness ofElam's love
New Flag Flying
The Chiang-Soong wedding was solemnized at the end of 1927, a much more convenient
time for the Generalissimo than the beginning of the year would have been, for then he
was mang t~-h~n (very busy) with his northward advance; a more relaxed time, too, for the
guests, for now the tensions and apprehensions and trials of that hard spring were past history.
Gone in time but not from memory. It would take months before we could forget the sandbag
forts set up about the city and the barbed wire barricades at the border of Siccawei, just a mile
down A venue Petain from our house. Nor would we soon forget how in that spring of 1927 the
consul had ordered women and children from the interior, even from the college, so that our
house was filled with refugees; nor how each family had to keep a suitcase packed for departure
at a moment's notice. One suitcase for five and one of the five a baby of six months - this took
maneuvering for me.
Those days were full of special strain for Elam. There were more than four hundred boarders
at the school for whom he felt as responsible as he did for his own three children. Then, too, the
American School was designated as the concentration point for all Americans in French Town.
From there we would all be taken to the gunboats. I saw the lines deepen in his face and knew
the weight of his concern as together we prayed for strength and wisdom and courage for
whatever lay ahead.
No wonder that we welcomed every bit of news that brought some easement to the strain.
One such bit came from Hankow, that city up the Yangtze where the Chinese Revolution had had
its premature birth on the double tenth of 1911 and where now the Left wing of the Kuomintang
was in control. Reuter's reported that the nuns and priests of that city had formed a union and
were parading through the streets with banners announcing that the price of prayers was raised.
The opportuneness of this strike brought a smile; Chinese New Year, the season of greatest
praying, was just around next week's comer.
Again there came a breath of relief when, after reading of the "terrific fighting" in Hangchow,
Ed Clayton, coming from that city, brought us an eye-witness report: Not three hundred
casualties but thirty-two; noise of battle not all from machine guns, but from the exploded
firecrackers that now lay thick on the field; cartridges not all triggered in guns, but at least forty
of them stuck in mud to form a Chinese character.
On February 20 in the native city of Shanghai twenty-five Nationalist sympathizers or
suspects were decapitated. That part of the city was thrown into a state of panic and for a time in
a lesser degree the International Settlement too. For days thereafter we stayed in our own back
yards. Periodically announcements came that the Cantonese Army was about to take the native
city from the War Lord, but each time the report proved false. By the middle of March we
greeted each announcement with "Wolf, wolf1"
On the morning of the twenty-first I decided to go to town. I hadn't been away from our
immediate block for days - weeks, come to count them. School, home, church next door - the
circuit had indeed been restricted. There were things I needed to buy. Our refugee guests werebusy about their own affairs. I'd be back by noon; no need, then, to bother telling Elam at the
office. Amah could care for the house.
Riding in the ricksha to the bus line, I felt a fine exhilaration which stayed with me on the bus
all the way to town. Once in Sincere's, I took my time walking up and down the aisles and made
my purchases with unusual deliberation. The atmosphere of the store that day was pleasantly
hushed. At other times it was like a noisy bee hive, but today customers spoke in lower tones and
even walked with a lighter tread.
Suddenly I came upon the flags, a whole counterful of them. Not the Chinese flag that I was
accustomed to, the five-color red, yellow, blue, white black-striped flags, but a new flag, red with
a white sun in a comer field of blue. The flag of the Kuomintang Party! A large one was draped
over the picture of Sun Y at Sen hanging on the wall. But why should these flags be on sale? The
Kuomintang had not yet come to Shanghai.
Pointing to the flags, I asked a clerk, "Why these flags? Why not the flags of the Republic?"
Raising his thumb in the gesture of highest praise, he answered, "Kuomintang ding hao!"
The Kuomintang very good! Then the Revolution had come! But when? No news last night
or this morning. And how? No gun fire for days. Was the firing still to come? Or was this truly a
bloodless revolution? Even if it was, incidents attendant upon all revolutions might break out at
Hurrying out of the store, I hailed a taxi and gave the order, "Avenue Petain, number 75.
K'uai k'uai-ti (Quickly)!"
All along the road I saw the new flags flying, or being newly raised to catch the breeze.
People must have had them in waiting. Riding with me now was no longer the gay companion of
exhilaration, but the grim partner of apprehension. The very quietness of the tum-over seemed
When I reached home Elam came rushing down the front steps to meet me. "Where have you
"I've been to London to visit-" I tried to speak airily.
"This is no light matter," Elam interrupted me. "You had me worried."
"Worried? Why? I just went downtown to make a few purchases. Am I Christopher
Robinson's mother who can't go down to the end of the town unless I go down with you?"
By this time he had piloted me up the stairs and there on our front steps he put his arm around
me and held me close.
"Please," he begged. "An hour ago I had word from the Consul to have everyone stay at home
today. They expect the city to be taken over and there may be trouble."
I stopped and faced him. "To be taken? My dear, your tense is wrong." Now I did speak
airily. "It is already taken. I've seen the new flag flying."
Two days later Nanking was taken, and there one section of the Army went berserk. The
Consul and his family and some others sought refuge in Socony Hall on Socony Hill, the new
name for Purple Mountain. Elsewhere in the city other foreigners were seeking refuge. Dr. John
E. Williams, Vice-Chancellor of Nanking University, was shot and killed on the street. The
homes of the foreigners were looted and burned; foreign women were raped. Mission schools
were raided all but Ginling College. That was untouched. The sister of one of the officers was a
student there and this officer took his detachment to safeguard that school. The people - but the
story is too well known to be repeated here. Nowhere is it more vividly told than in Pearl Buck's
My Several Worlds.
In the dark hour when Elam and I first heard the news, we went apart and prayed, and later,
alone, out in the open, with my face turned towards the besieged city, I sent such a fervent prayer
and felt myself so drawn into the presence of the Most High that to this day I see the spot where I
stood as a circle of light and were I Jacob I would call it Peniel.
When news came telling how the group had been rescued by the artillery barrage laid down
by the gunboats, we accepted it as a miracle somewhat akin to the crossing of the Red Sea
and gathered with others at the Community Church next door to us to give thanks for the
Among the accounts that filtered through, came word of Lao Ding, our old servant in
Nanking. When the soldiers captured Dr. Price and demanded that he take them to his friends to
collect ransom on the spot, Lao Ding went along; no threats of the soldiers could force him back.
Once around, twice around, three times, and the friends had to cry out, "we have no more to give.
Spare Dr. Price. He is a good man." But the soldiers were deaf to their cries. They ordered Dr.
Price to kneel in the street that they might behead him. At that moment Lao Ding threw his frail
form over the tall frame of the missionary and cried, "First my head!" In the hearts of those
soldiers there must have been some quality of mercy, for both Dr. Price and Lao Ding were
The riot in Nanking put fear into all of us. Would the Left Wing come to Shanghai? It soon
appeared it would not. Business men and bankers paid rather handsomely for protection by the
Kuomintang troops that had so quietly taken Shanghai. Chiang Kai Shek condemned the radical
perpetrators of the atrocities and freed the Right Wing from blame. On all sides now we heard,
"Kuomintang ding hao" and everywhere we saw the new flags flying.
It wasn't long before the Communist advisers were sent home. Then the moderates in the new
party took up headquarters in Nanking and the extremists in Hankow. By the end of June the
inland refugees in Shanghai had thinned out, many of them going to Japan. Those from the
college were allowed to go back there.
With the war centering around Peking now, we felt quite eventless in Shanghai. Some of the
barbedwire barricades were taken down and the sand bag forts were growing grass. True, the
Cold Stream Guard was still in town along with a contingent ofU.S. marines and sailors. We
enjoyed having some of them as guests. The marines who were with us on Mother's Day
centered their attention on the children, as did the Captain who came a few Sundays later, but he
especially on Junior. His wife was in California waiting for their first baby. As soon as she and
the baby could travel they'd be coming to Shanghai.
"Be sure to let us know when they arrive," I said.
"We' ll certainly want to meet them."
"It' ll be some months yet," he answered, "But I'll remember. With red hair in my family, my
wife's hoping the baby will have it too." He tousled Junior's curls. "Children grow up fast,
"Sometimes I think too fast."
And yet we wouldn't have had it any other way. Here was Victor, not yet six, watching every
move of the school electrician when he came to repair a lamp and saying to me the next time I
started to call the man, "Don't need to. I can fix it." And he did.
And Frances struggling with problems and questions that thinkers throughout all ages have
sought to answer. No longer would she say the "Now I lay me" prayer of her childhood. Now all
her prayers were of her own making. When I asked her why she had stopped, she answered, "I
can say that prayer fast and never think of a word. And what's the use of that? And what's the
use of Victor and me saying 'Make me good?' Even though we say it every night, the next day
we aren't good all day long. It sounds as though we're just tacking it on to make our prayers
longer. We really don't mean it." When I pointed out to her that yesterday she had made
progress, she was quick with her explanation: "That was mostly you. You said in the morning,
"Now today we're going to work on getting back into the habit of coming right away when
you're called and not say, 'In a minute,' all the time." Thoughts about immortality, too, were
in the round of her mind.
One morning at breakfast Victor said, "I want to die so I can go to heaven and see how it
Turning to Elam, he asked, "I will go to heaven when I die, won't I?"
"If you're good." Elam's gaze caught mine across the table. I was certain that he was
remembering, as I was, Victor's earlier confidence, "Her'll make me good anyway."
Then up spoke Frances. "But, Daddy, if Victor had died when he was born, he'd have gone
to heaven, and that time he wasn't good or bad. He couldn't be because he didn't have time to do
And young Victor sagely nodded.
Theology served at our breakfast table and by an eight-year old? And her younger brother
revealing by the nod of his head that what she was saying made good sense to him. Ah, yes, in
these early months of the summertime of the House of An they grew like beansprouts, inside
That same day Junior reached a new plateau too. For sometime he had been walking
independent of aids and scorning all assistance in getting up when he fell. That day he crawled
under the bed. Hearing much manouvering and baby lingo, I bent to see what he was doing.
There I saw him trying to stand upright. After awhile he crawled out, tugged at me and, pointing
under the springs and trying at the same time to stand tiptoe, he shook his head in a most serious
manner and said, "Mama, no, no." Into those four syllables he crowded both a statement and an
admonition. I heard both quite distinctly: "You can't stand upright under a bed spring, Mama.
Don't ever try it."
By the summer of '27 I was quite expert in juggling the exchange of big money and small
money. One day the Valet Service, the shop that promised "prompt, reliable and courtesy"
service, presented a bill for $.90 big money. I handed the collector one Yuan shih-kai dollar.
(Ten cent big money paper notes were still scarce and the new Sun Yat-sen dollar, hot from the
mint, hadn't reached us yet.) The collector gave me $.20 small money. I gave him 18 coppers
Five and ea .. at the Shanehai +-lome (Ft'ont steps t'ieht, Ch~t'ch left)
because at the current rate of exchange $.20 small money was worth 42 coppers and $.10 big
money was 24 coppers, give or take a few cash, but cash were no longer to be bothered with.
So proud was I that when Elam came home I greeted him with, "I'm thinking of applying for a
job in WalrStreet."
These money transactions were good mental gymnastics. What I enjoyed far more, though,
were the two courses given at the Language School, housed for the summer at the American
School. Chinese Philosophy by a Chinese professor and Present-day Religious Ideas in China
taught by Dr. Rawlinson, not only renewed my youth and oiled the rusty hinges of my brain, but
also revealed how deep was my thirst for knowledge and my love of books and study.
Elam's knowledge was increasing too. He was corning to know the mind of American youth
in China. "It's strange," he said after Comencement, "how much a high school graduate thinks
he knows. One senior girl said to me 'I'm amazed to discover how little more my parents know
than I on most problems facing us today. ' And one ofthe boys said, 'I doubt that our elders can
contribute much more than we to the solution oftoday's problems. ' A wise lot. They look so
sweet and young, but feel so old and sophisticated. But I do believe that these young people here
have a broader outlook on life and really think more thoroughly on many of the world problems
than most adults in America. They're a very wide-awake group."
That first year Elam was pulled in many directions. He was principal and business manager,
concert manager, advisor to students, supervisor of teachers, preacher to students, leader of the
church choir, professor of a graduate class at the college, and teacher of Music Appreciation.
Conscious of these strains, I decided, willy nilly, he must have a vacation. Mokanshan was
still out of bounds. Japan was too expensive. So I started talking about going out to the college
for a couple of weeks. There the children could play with their old playmates and we could have
unhurried fellowship with old friends. Frances and Victor could climb trees and know once more
the security of The Camphor. There we could swim and have picnics by the riverbank.
There Amah, too, could find refreshment with her old friends. Poor woman, she had had
trials aplenty with the city servants and business agents who came to our door. The one who
raised her p'i ch'i (disposition) to its highest degree was the laundryman. "Someday" she'd
mutter after he'd leave, "someday he's going to make me sheng-ch'i (to be angry) and then
"See what?" I'd ask. But she would never tell.
That very week I was to find out. When he came for the laundry, there was the usual
wrangling, only this time it mounted to such a high pitch I felt constrained to intervene.
"Now, now, what's the trouble?" I called as I descended the stairs. "Quiet. You' ll wake
But there was no quietness in either of them. It took minutes before I could cool them off
enough to determine the issue, which proved to be my new applique counterpane.
"He hasn't brought it back," Amah charged.
"She never gave it to me," he countercharged.
"I had it in the bundle that I counted last week," I said.
"Before her, not me," he stormed.
"I gave the bundle exactly as you tied it, An-sz-moo." Tears of anger stood in Amah's eyes.
"But when I opened it at home, no counterpl'p)e was there.'' The sweat of anger was on the
laundry man's face.
"Enough, now," I said. "You go your way, and, Amah, you go, tend to Junior. I hear him
"No wonder," she grumbled, "with all that loud talk from that rascal. That turtle!"
"Amah! '? My voice was sharp. "You're not to say that. You know I've warned you."
"Pardon, An-sz-moo. I know I shouldn't, but I can think it." And up the stairs she stomped
and in a minute· I heard her talking softly to the baby.
This small tempest happened on Wednesday. Saturday afternoon Amah asked if she could go
see her old friends at the college and at Y angtzepoo and stay overnight. I told her we were all
going to the college next week. But still she had to go on Saturday. She had much business to do
there now. When she returned late Sunday night she had a smug expression and acted heady.
Wednesday, when the laundryman came, I saw to it that I was there to meet him. I'd told
Amah to stay away. No, he had not found the counterpane. He was sure- At that Amah
appeared. In the most aloof manner she invited him to have tea with her at the Siccawei
Teahouse on the following Tuesday.
I was dumfounded. Amah inviting the rascal to have tea!
"But we'll be at the college," I interrupted for want of a better deterrent.
"Yes, I know." At that moment, Amah might have been proxy for the Empress Dowager.
"I am sure An-sz-moo will excuse me for that day. I have important business, very important
business." She leveled her glance at the laundryman whose face turned livid as he answered,
"And I too. At three o'clock at the Siccawei Teahouse."
We went to the college that weekend and all that I had thought the change would mean to us,
came as I had thought. Frances and Victor held rendezvous with The Camphor and took Junior to
sit on the lowest branch. There he crowed like a cock, but when I took him away he kicked like a
steer. "See, he likes it too," Frances said, coming to him and holding a handful of crushed leaves
to his nose. "Just to smell, Junie, not to eat."
On Tuesday Amah set out for Siccawei, with her went a host of friends from the village,
mostly women but some men. Some of the women hobbled on bound feet. Others, I'd gleaned,
would swell the crowd at Yangtzepoo. But what would they all do at Siccawei? That Amah
would not reveal.
It was late Tuesday night when she came back. I held my curiosity overnight. In the morning
I learned what a loyal servant does when rascally laundrymen accuse her of cony- catching her
mistress' best counterpane. She invites the accuser to have tea at a public teahouse. Then she
gathers as many of her friends as she can to go drink tea with her at the same hour she has set for
him. And as he comes in with the friends he has invited she and her friends begin to talk in very
loud voices - yes, very loud - about the strange case of the lost counterpane. And as his friends
also begin to discuss the same case, she and her friends raise their voices -
"And so, you see, we just outtalked him." Amah beamed. "I had more women on my side."
"But my counterpane?" I timidly interjected. "Did you get that back, Amah?"
"Your counterpane?" For a moment I feared she had forgotten the casus belli. "No, the
counterpane was not returned. But-" she paused to let me have the full force of her victory.
"But he lost face. Plenty face. He'll never bother me again."
Now it was September and another term of school had begun. Frances, advanced to third
grade, wrote a homesick letter to Miss Prentice, her second grade teacher. Victor came home
bursting with pride because he could write his own name and proceeded to write it in many
One day, coming upon him just after he had written his name in crayon on the front steps,
I said, "Oh, Victor, I wouldn't do that ifl were you."
"But, Mother," he promptly replied, "how couldn't you not if you were truly me? I did."
At that Elam laughed aloud. "Next time, Colena, you better say, 'If you were I, Victor, you
wouldn't do that,' but then that wouldn't have much point, would it?"
Early in November the captain who had promised to let us know when his wife and child
arrived called to tell us they were to come on the next boat. I set a date for them a week hence,
but when the date came his wife was down with a cold, so I said, "Then next week." But the next
week the baby was ill. "Then, surely, next week," I said. But the next week the baby was dead,
The captain phoned to ask Elam to conduct the funeral. I answered the phone.
"I'd come in person to make this request," the captain said, "but the baby died of smallpox,
and we're not yet cleared by the health office."
"Smallpox?" I had not yet accepted the news of the death. Now this extra tragedy. "But
wasn't the baby vaccinated?"
"No," His voice broke and I wished with all my heart I had not asked. "No, the doctor in the
States thought him too young."
"But-" No. I would not ask.
"The amah I'd hired brought a little red satin suit to welcome the baby," the captain answered
as though I'd completed my question. "He looked so darling in it my wife put it on him several
times. After he became ill we found out that the suit had been worn by the amah's little nephew
who died last month of smallpox."
A month later the captain and his wife came for dinner. I made certain that the children were
all upstairs before the guests arrived, and I cautioned Frances and Victor not to come traipsing
downstairs as they sometimes did.
Almost immediately, though, upon arrival, the captain asked whether Junior was awake and,
if he was, could they see him. When Elam brought him down, he was just on the borderland of
sleep, his hair slightly damp and very curly. The captain's wife held out her arms for him. Then
she buried her face in his hair and when she lifted her face again and said, "I think our's would
have had hair like this," I thought my heart would break.
Christmas seemed but a week away from Thanksgiving. Frances took her part in the reading
of the Christmas story and Victor joined us in the Gloria. By this time the tradition of the
reading was well established and to the Swedish and German and Chinese we now were able to
add Russian and French read by the White Russian gentlewoman who while refugeing at the
school was also teaching French.
That year the House of An began another tradition. For the first time we sent out our own
Christmas card. Down at Siccawei, a native stationer cut out our character ~ (An) from gold
foil paper and pasted it upon the cover of a white card. Inside, he printed our message in gold:
"AN" for PEACE
A woman ( ~ ) under a roof (h)!
Above a stable roof a Star;
Beneath the roof a Mother
A Newborn Babe;
To shepherds abiding in the field
A gladsome Song
Peace . ..
Do you follow our minds and
hearts as we searched for a special
greeting for you this year?
In the light of the Star of
Bethlehem our own Chinese name takes
on a new meaning and seems to gather
unto itself so much that is precious.
That is why we share it with you.
In the spring months that came tumbling upon us it was good to have the many toys that had
· been showered upon the children, for now they were quarantined with measles. Frances came
down first and on the last day of her illness, Victor came down and on the last of his, Junior
broke out. For more than six weeks they and I were house prisoners. Frances, who had been
wearing glasses for more than a year, was warned against reading. Victor needed no such
warning; he had not yet met The Iliad. Trying to devise amusement for them stretched my
And while the two older ones were broken out, how was I to keep Junior happy? He loved to
be cuddled, and I must confess I had not denied him nor myself that pleasure. But now-
Elam solved the problem by moving our Edison record player upstairs into Junior's room
and showing him how to put on the records and start the machine. "Thank goodness, the records
are unbreakable," Elam said, bringing up a rackful.
Junior soon chose his favorite, the Largo Al Factotum. He came to know to a hairline groove
just where the "Figaro" call began. Standing in his crib, he would back up the needle to repeat
over and over again that one portion.
One day Victor said, "Daddy always brags about those Edison records and says it wouldn't
break even ifhe'd throw one across the room. I'd like to see him do it. I betcha it'd break."
"Well, I'll just prove it," Elam said and picked up a record and flung it into a comer.
Crash! The record lay in a hundred pieces.
Frances and Victor, shocked into silence, stared with eyes wide open and when Elam gave
forth with his one and only oath, "I'll be homswaggled!" they clapped their hands over their
mouths and for a minute looked like frozen images. Then breaking into laughter, they flopped
about on their beds like porpoises, chanting, "It broke. It broke. It broke. And Daddy said it
During a wild gyration, Victor fell against the radiator. At the sight of blood from the cut on
his head, Frances abruptly stopped her laughter. Victor himself, always brave, made no outcry.
The only sound now was the cry of the Seville barber, "Fi-i-garo. Figaro, Figaro. Figaro come,
Figaro go ... " from the other room.
I bathed the wound, saw that it was not deep, and sent Elam for a bandage. After we had the
gash well bound, I sat down on the bed and laughed and laughed. I couldn't stop laughing.
Frances cried out, "I think you're a mean mother to laugh when your little boy hurts himself."
Elam hushed her and gently led me upstairs to our large guest room on the top floor and bade
me lie down. "I'll send Amah up with tea," he said, "and later with supper. You stay here. I'm
taking over for the rest of the day and tonight."
After the hot tea I lay relaxed and dozed and waked and dozed again. Late in the evening, it
must have been about nine o'clock, Elam himself brought supper on a tray, his and mine.
"The children?" I inquired.
"All fed and bedded down for the night."
"You talk as though they were little animals," I protested.
"Basically, they still are. But the milk of human kindness is beginning to stir in them. Here,
they sent you these and of their own accord." As lightly as though fireflies had brushed my
cheeks, he laid down the burden of the children's kisses.
After supper he sat by my side and read one of my old favorites, David Grayson's "The Open
Road." I must have fallen asleep before he'd finished, for when I woke in the middle of the night
I remembered that we'd gotten only as far as the tamarack swamp; I hadn't heard the yokels
calling "Coo-ee, coo' ee" to the gray ewes coming over the hill.
There I lay in the darkness, alone and in a strange room in my own house. Through the
window I saw the stars blinking in the sky. Now and then the swish of a car speeding down the
avenue came to me, muted somewhat by the added distance from the street, but from the floor
below not a sound. Confident that all was well, I dozed again only to be wakened by the eerie
call of some bereaved Chinese crying out for the spirit of a newly departed to return. I got up
and, standing by the window I saw the lantern light weaving in and out among the bean fields
down the road near the village partway to Siccawei. The mourner himself was too far away to be
seen, but his lamenting cry carried on the night air and, as such cries always did, it sent a chill
Quietly I crept downstairs, tiptoed to each sleeping child and listened to each one's breathing,
and then I slipped into my own accustomed place and, secure in the midst of my living, let my
heart go out in sympathy for those who were mourning, without hope, for their dead.
By Eastertime the children were all well. The services at the Community Church were food
for our souls. The significance of bread and wine as a memorial broke afresh upon my spirit.
I could not rest until I had tried to put my feeling into words. I wrote:
No monument of stone,
But homely bread and wine -
These common things alone
Our Master chose to own
For His commemoration.
No trumpets sounding loud
Demanded as a sign,
But spirits, contrite, bowed -
The tokens He allowed
I was sitting at my desk, musing over what I had on paper when Victor came to me.
"What you doing?" he asked, leaning over my shoulder.
"Trying to write a few verses."
"Is it hard to write a verse?"
"Sometimes. It's like - well, like making anything. Sometimes things go right; sometimes
they go wrong."
"Like when I made Daddy's wooden boat."
"Exactly. You worked hard on that."
"I know. But I wanted it to be good, 'cause his silver ship that was stolen was so good. Mine
didn't come out like I wanted it to, but next year, when I'm seven, I'll fix it up better."
"Oh, but Daddy liked it. Even better than the silver one."
"I know." Victor hitched his left shoulder up in the shy gesture that was his alone. "He told
With that he left the room, but in a minute he was back again, saying, "Someday I'm going to
make a verse for you."
The next morning I found his offering in an open notebook left upon my dresser:
Onece upon a time there was a famley. One was
Juior. One was Frances And one was Victor. But
Juior was the funyest he host the wHole famley.
And the puss crold under arms of peopel. or scrched
it furr agenst the woll.
Onee again we smelled the pungency of fir trees through the dark and in the morning we
saw the trees on the shores, right and left. But nowhere could we see a red schoolhouse,
for now we were steaming up Admiralty Inlet to dock at Seattle. In the distance were the
snow-capped Olympics, and in the water below us were the frolicking porpoises. The children
lowered their eyes to these while Elam and I lifted ours to the hills.
We needed all their steadying strength for our meeting with Esther and the boys. There they
were, waiting for us, only the three of them. The news of Helmer's death had come to us long
since, but today in our acute awareness of his absence, we had to make our own final terms with
that fact. We dared not weep, for now Esther, Gene and Gordon, too, like the folks in Wyoming
six years before, had had time to make their adjustments, and we must not bring back fresh grief.
Mary, Annie May, Elam's mother, and now Helmer- one by one those we loved were
gathering on the other shore. "The bourne from which no traveler returns"? I wondered. For
there were times when Helmer's presence seemed as palpable as Esther's or the boys, so vivid I
half expected to hear his rich baritone voice assuring us again that the Lord was our light and our
In Colden, within the past two years, Mother and Father and Sister had had an automobile
accident and Father had had a stroke, but all were quite recovered now except Father who had to
avoid over-exertion. Apprehensive about the emotional strain incident to our arrival, we were
dismayed at eight o'clock, the hour set for our arrival, to find ourselves, still some sixty miles
from Colden, out on a lonely road with our gas gauge registering empty. Somewhere along the
way we must have made the wrong turn. The car coughed, jerked ahead a few feet, coughed
again, and stopped. Far down the road one lone, light shone in the darkness. By the time Elam
came back with gasoline and started the motor another half hour was added to our lateness. Not
until the following morning when Father reported he had slept well and was harnessing Uno to
pull the wagon for Junior did I relax and let myself sink into the comforts of home.
In September, Sister went to Cornell to begin her freshman year, Elam went to New York to
begin his year of fund-raising for the Shanghai American School, and Frances and Victor went to
Orchard Park, eight miles away, to have their first experience in a consolidated rural school. Bob
Boehlecke, a high school senior, who later married Sister, drove them back and forth in our car.
Mother, Father, Junior, Uno, and I stayed at home in Colden.
And so, as it was six years ago, the House of An was again divided in its body, this time by
the width of New York state. Ever conscious of the distances that death had created for those we
loved, I sometimes wondered whether the smaller separations that came to us who still moved on
one shore were perhaps preparations for that other separation that cut off this world from the
next. Did this separation between Elam and me provide us with the prescience that love would
bridge death, even as now it bridged measurable distances? And did the joy of our occasional
reunions give us a preview of the joy of reunions on that other shore?
Certainly, the ecstasy we tasted in our two reunions that fall was not of the earth earthy.
From somewhere beyond the few miles of smoke-filled atmosphere another element was added.
This conviction crystalized on a certain day in 1929 as I sat elbow-deep in Christmas cards in a
top-floor hotel room in New York, while Elam was at a conference.
When the maid knocked, I called, "Come in" without looking up.
For a moment she stood motionless. Then she said, "What a sight for sore eyes! You're the
only happy person in this whole place."
"What do you mean?'' Now I did look up and saw how tense she was.
"Haven't you read the latest Extra?"
"No. What's in it?"
"Suicides. All over town. Men shooting themselves and jumping out ofhotel windows."
"The bottom's out of Wall Street."
And there I'd been writing, "Joy to the world"!
Elam brought an Extra with him. His weariness frightened me. Long after he was asleep I
continued meditating on the separation of our family. In the morning I had my purpose well in
At breakfast I said, "How would you like Frances and Victor and me to come to New York?
Mother and Father'd be glad to keep Junior in Colden."
"You mean you'd come here?''
"Oh, my dear, that would be wonderful"
By late January we were settled in a sublet opposite Barnard College, the children enrolled at
Horace Mann School, and I at Teachers' College.
Frances kept yearning for the flesh pots of goodly fellowship at Orchard Park; Victor for the
good earth of Colden. "I walk blocks to school and blocks back, and nowhere can I put my feet in
The next day we had him join the Cub Scouts. After his first hike down by the river, he
returned beaming, mud halfway to his knees, in his hair, on his face, and on his shirt. But not
on his new leather coat; that he had carefully taken off"to keep it from getting muddy" and
promptly lost it.
In April my father had a heart attack. "Not serious," Mother wrote. "I'll let you know if you
should come home."
The first Sunday of May, a warm spring day, Elam took us to Sleepy Hollow. The quiet,
peaceful countryside was so much like Colden I said, "Colden's just around the comer, isn't it?"
"No farther," Elam replied. "Want to go?"
His words dispelled my daydream. "Oh, but we couldn't."
"Of course we could. We could start right now and get there by midnight."
"But the children. They have to go to school tomorrow."
"Just the same, if you say the word, we'll go. We'd come back on Tuesday."
"Oh, Elam- but no, no we can't go. Still, thank you, thank you for the thought."
Back at the apartment I wrote a letter home telling of our temptation to come. I enclosed a
theme I'd written two days before on the anniversary of my grandfather's death. That day I'd
come across Thomas Bailey Aldrich's poem "Memory," and prompted by a line, sat down to
The letter reached Colden on Tuesday, the day that the doctor said Father was much better.
In the late afternoon my mother read aloud to my father:
The hour I recall is not the "last blue moon in May," but the first golden morning in
that month twenty-six years ago today. In the pre-dawn I was running away from what
had happened in our house. There, a few moments before, my beloved grandfather had
Midway in my flight I was stopped as though someone had blocked my path. Stunned,
I looked around for my assailant. None was there. But as I stood staring about,
I became aware of the exquisite beauty of the morning. Never had I seen the world so
alive, so lovely. The young willow leaves and the grass spears were emeralds; the sky was
lapis lazuli; the song of the birds was a heavenly choir.
All the world alive and so beautiful, but my dear one dead! Never again to see him
smile or to hear him call me "Darling!" How could God mock me so?
Grief engulfed me. I closed my eyes and, backing away from the beauty, I pressed
myself tight against the rough boards of the shed and let the tears fall.
Awhile later, just as the sun was coming up over the horizon, I felt someone touch
me. I opened my eyes but saw no one. Yet my grandfather's presence was there and
I heard him say, not in my ears but in my heart, "My darling, I am not dead. I'm closer
now than I've ever been."
In that moment was born my assurance of immortality.
Tuesday night a few minutes before ten o'clock Father said to Mother, "I won't need my
medicine tonight; I feel so well." At ten o'clock he died.
By two o'clock on Wednesday morning Elam was driving the children and me to Colden. In
the moonlight we passed orchard after orchard of blossoming trees. Again my heart cried, How
can God mock me like this? Against the loveliness I closed my eyes and while the children stept I
let grief have its way, and not once did Elam say, "Don't cry."
When I opened my eyes the sun was up, washing the sky and earth with light. Then the
miracle of twenty-six years before happened again. I felt my Father's presence and in my heart
I heard him say, "I am not dead."
Part Two: Summer
On August 3, 1931 , we once again weighed anchor for China, knowing this time that our
stay would be for only one year. In late May Elam had been asked to become president
of Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon, but before he could take over the new
responsibility, he had unfinished business to complete at S.A.S. Mother went with us. Sister
stayed at Cornell, in Ithaca where we had spent the last year.
We landed in Shanghai, deluged by a typhoon. Now our giraffe house stood us in good stead.
The basement and yard were under water, but the first floor stood high and dry and from our
front steps we watched the neighborhood boys rowing home-made rafts up and down the avenue.
When the water had somewhat receded, the children went wading in the young lake that had
formed over the tennis courts between the Community church and our house. Frances came back
with a thrilling tale of waves up to her knees and seaweed tangling about her feet.
Solemnly shaking his head, Victor said, "Just long grasses and the water's only three inches
deep. I measured it with my hand." A budding scientist, he was -although at six he had had
only one ambition- "I'm going to be a father."
While we were still struggling with high water in Shanghai, up in Manchuria on the outskirts
of Mukden on the night of September 18, World War II began. There, in the Three Eastern
Provinces tinderbox, in retaliation for the blowing up of part of the South Manchurian railway,
which the Japanese militarists alleged had been done by the Chinese, the Kwantung Army
opened fire and imediately marched its troops into Mukden to take over the government
buildings, the arsenal, and the wireless station. This indeed was a "shot heard round the world."
Its echoes reverberated for fourteen years.
Once again the Chinese struck back with their "invisible weapon," an anti-Japanese boycott,
their ninth since 1908. The eighth, begun in 1927, in protest to the landing of troops at Tsingtao
and Tsinan had lasted for two years and cost the Japanese G,$39,325,000. What this one would
cost them no one could yet tell. Its vortex was in Shanghai, and we who lived there were
subjected to the strains and tensions attendant upon all boycotts. At times we thought that this
one might be made of softer metal than the others, for here and there we heard a few Chinese
saying, "What if the Japanese do have Manchuria? They can't be any worse rulers than Chang
Tso Ling and his shiftless son Chang Hatieh Liang. Maybe now there'll be order up there. The
Kuomintang still has enough to do south of the Great Wall." These few, however, were not the
many, nor of the government, and the boycott continued.
In the midst of the unrest and sporadic disorders, we attempted to put our own house in order.
Once again we were a 100% school-going family as we had been the year before in Ithaca. Here
Elam was principal; the children, students; and I, teacher of Junior English. Mother was both
student and teacher, studying Chinese and teaching English to two private ricksha runners who
brought young boys to the school and waited there all day to take them home. In addition, she
went to the Shung Teh Girls' School once a week to train a chorus.
One day in January Helen Poteat, who was driving the college children back and forth to
S.A.S. from the college, took Mother partway to Shung Teh and gave her full instructions how to
go on from there. Plagued with the feeling "Now I'm turned around," Mother promptly lost her
way, and when the ricksha runner went around the same block three times and no Shung Teh
School materialized between rounds, she insisted upon getting out of the ricksha to go to a Sikh
police for help. She held out the money Helen said would be the fare, but the runner refused
to accept it, setting up a vociferous objection. Immediately from all directions fellow ricksha
runners came to "look-see." The shafts of their rickshas made a formidable stockade.Thoroughly
frightened, Mother called "Help! Help!" fully expecting the Sikh to leave his sentry box and
come to her aid. All he did was to give one glance and turn away.
Two young school girls came instead- Japanese. They elbowed their way through the crowd.
Then taking the money from Mother's hand, they threw it on the ground at the feet of the runner,
and while all the curious ones scrambled for the coins, the girls put Mother between them and reelbowed
their way out of the crowd and personally escorted Mother to the school.
There she found there was to be no chorus that day; the American teacher had sent all the
girls home. The situation was too tense: five hundred Japanese bluejackets were landed in
Yangtzepoo with more in Kure to follow. Hadn't Mother gotten the phone call not to come?
No, she hadn't, but if things were like that she better go straight home.
"Not alone," the American missionary said. "Dr. Anderson will come for you, will he not?"
"Yes, of course, if he's home, but I doubt that. I heard him say he was going to play golf this
"Well, I'll phone and if he's not there I'll find someone at this end."
Elam was at home. He had just come home, mach earlier than he had ever come from golf.
When he came in, I exclaimed, "What! Home so soon? What happened?"
He waited a long minute before he said, "When I was teeing off for the second hole, a plane
came overhead and circled over the course. It came so low I could see the pilot.
"A Japanese bomber over the International Settlement! Oh, Elam!"
At that moment the telephone rang and Elam hurried to get Mother.
Five days later at 4 p.m. the Shanghai Municipal Council and the French Concession
authorities declared a State of Emergency. At 11:45 p.m. Japanese troops attacked Tientungan
Station and the Shanghai-Woosung Railway. The next day the Japanese planes launched an
aerial attack on Chapei, about three and a half miles as the crow flies, from our home. Incendiary
bombs started fires in the Commercial Press and in the days that followed repeated attacks utterly
destroyed that great plant. That center of culture with its press, its editorial offices, its research
department, its great Oriental library, that place into which our good friend Dr. Fong Sec had
poured his life- all, all of it in ashes! And the North Station bombed. And who could yet tell
how many homes? The purported provocation was the boycott.
What that ninth boycott cost Japan I do not know. The six most serious previous ones had
totaled for the Japanese less than $25,000,000. Within a few weeks we were to discover that the
retaliation for the current boycott brought the total of losses sustained by the Chinese and
foreigners in the War Zone, in the Chinese territory outside the War Zone, and in the
International and French Concessions to approximately $1,500,000,000. But the greater loss
was in lives: persons killed, 6,080; persons wounded, 2,000; persons missing, 10,400.
Compared with subsequent figures coming from the full-fledged World War II, these figures
seem minute. At the time they appeared colossal, especially for a holocaust never once referred
to as a real war, but only as an "Undeclared War," an "Incident."
As soon as the State of Emergency was declared, the city again took on a martial appearance
as it had in 1927. Sand bags and barbedwire barricades were erected; strict curfew was enforced;
marching soldiers of several nations were back with us. Once more a packed suitcase in our
hallway and gunboats in the harbor stood ready for a speedy evacuation.
Now refugees began pouring into the city. Hundreds a day passed our house. We dared not
assist any of them, or all traffic would be stopped and we ourselves inundated. The normal
population of the International Settlement, approximately a million, was doubled by another
million refugges. They made a pitiable, heart-breaking sight: old women on wheelbarrows or
riding rickshas piled with all the family 's goods that could be taken and always with one or more
pao-bei (precious) children in their laps; old men limping along on tattered sandals or barefooted;
pregnant women, weeping children, bewildered young men. All of them seeking food and
And what shelters they found! The largest was a half-finished cement office building without
windows or doors or running water or plumbing. Here hundreds of fear-ridden human beings
squatted or lay on straw sparsely strewn over the cold cement and gratefully received the two
meals a day provided by Red Cross, Missions, and other agencies and individuals. A few times'
Mother went to help dish out the rice and always she returned lamenting , "Oh, those poor, poor
From our front porch we could see the planes letting down their bombs over Chapei. They'd
fly low, then quickly rise and soar away, and almost immediately up would come the cloud of
smoke and afterwards a faint sound of the detonation. At night the sky was red with the reflection
of the fires. When the big guns were trained on Woosung, even though that was farther away
than Chapei, our windows shook.
During one of the worst bombings, Mother said, I'm glad I'm here. Ifl were at home, I'd be
sick with worry."
I remembered the great surge of joy that went through Elam and me when, a few years before,
we had read the Kellogg Peace Pact. Then we had thought, Never again will War stalk across a
Noman's Land, or innocent people be made homeless, or little children be bereft of parents or
lost from them, never again a reign of fear and terror. And yet here we were, day after day
hearing the booming of big guns and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns, and night after night seeing
the skies red with the reflection of the fires raging in Chapei and Kiangwan.
When the Pact was signed we'd said, "Thank God our children will never have to experience
or even read about the horrors of War." Yet here was our nine-year-old Victor coming in to
announce, "I just saw a plane shot down. It sort of staggered and then it nose-dived and never
came up like the bombers do ." That night the paper reported, "Chinese shoot their first Japanese
One Sunday morning shortly before church, a number of Japanese planes flew overhead, so
close that as we were gathered outside before the service, we could clearly see their lethal loads.
All during the service they circled and roared above us. What the preacher was saying we could
only guess from the topic of his sermon printed in the bulletin. That was a time that tried our
faith. With potential death so close, could we still feel the everlasting arms bearing us up? We
could - and we did. That morning our offertory hymn was not just lip service, it was heart
There is a place of quiet rest
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
Oh, Jesus, blessed Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.
Again our house became a haven for refugees from the college. While the men remained on
the campus to protect it from possible looting, the women and children came to the city, some
to stay with us, others elsewhere. After a bomb exploded in front of the Chen's house, it was
thought best that their whole family leave the campus. We counted ourselves privileged to have
them with us.
As in 1927, we had to have two servings, the earlier one for the children,the later one for
the adults. It became the custom for the children to get ready for bed and then, while we adults
were still at the table, for them to come down, parade around the table and say their several
One evening, when the noise of the big guns was loudest, Gi-chen, the youngest of the Chen
children, paused at Tsoo-Sing's side to ask, "Mother, how shall I pray tonight? That the 19th
Route Army win the war?"
His mother answered, "You forget about the fighting tonight. Put a pillow over your ears to
shut out the sound of the guns, and when you pray, pray for the little Japanese children whose
fathers have already been killed in this war."
Nor was compassion absent on the other side. There was the story of a Japanese soldier
detailed to shoot a Chinese prisoner. When the Chinese, stripped of his gown for the execution,
fell to his knees to pray, the Japanese asked, "You Christian?" The Chinese answered, "Yes."
Then the Japanese said, "I, too. Get up. Go to the gate." And with that he kicked the Chinese. At
the gate, though, he quickly picked up a Chinese gown from the pile of clothing there, clothing
from the executed, and gave it to the Chinese, saying, "Quick. Go, before the others see what I
have done. I kicked you only that they might think I was taking you outside to shoot you."
Soon after the Incident started, Elam helped draft a letter "To the World" registering a protest
against the action of Japan. Mother and I joined him and over a hundred other Americans in
signing the letter. This protest against the wanton destruction of Chapei District, the barbarous
burning ofthe Commercial Press with its valuable Oriental Library, and the killing of hundreds
of innocent women and children was sent to the civilized world through Reuters. The letter
ended with an appeal:
... to all Christians and to the conscience of the world to condemn this madness and
cruelty of war and urge our own and every peace-loving nation, including the friendly
Japanese people themselves, to insist that their government dissociate themselves from
the action of the Japanese armed forces, take every possible measure calculated to end
the fighting and make use of available instruments for a peaceful settlement.
At the same time a protest was also sent to Geneva. The letters bore the year date of 1932, but
when we read of atrocities we thought the more correct date would have been 452, the year when
Attila plundered Aquileia.
Americans were not the only ones who protested. A Japanese liberal, a woman, wrote:
Ever since September 18, 1931, when Japan began her military operations in
Manchuria she has been looked upon with suspicion by the rest of the world. When she
launched her sudden attack on Shanghai, she became a target for world criticism.
Although we admit that much of the criticism is justifiable, we hope friends of Japan will
realize the responsibility for the present grave situation rests upon the shoulders of the
militarists alone, and should not be attributed to her people who are kept in ignorance
from the facts ... And China? She has suffered unspeakably. Her loss is tremendous, but
her future is brighter than that of Japan. She has already won a "moral victory," and
she has gained the sympathy and goodwill of the whole world. May China evade the
present error ofher sister country, Japan, and work to attain her goal of national unity and
The League Council, other than the Chinese and Japanese representatives ended their lengthy
appeal to Japan with these words:
The twelve members of the Council appeal to Japan's high sense of honor to
recognize the obligations of her special position and the confidence which the nations
have placed in her as a partner in the organization and maintenance of peace.
On February 23, 1932, Secretary Stimson who already in early January had projected the
Stimson Doctrine, wrote a public letter to the chairmen of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the
Senate of the United States. If read aright the letter should have warned Japan, encouraged China
and awakened Great Britain and the League of Nations to their responsibilities.
On the 15th of March, Members ofthe Committee of Inquiry of the League ofNations,
headed by Lord Lytton arrived in Shanghai. Six days later they visited Chapei, Kiangwan, and
Shanghai war zones.
Soon thereafter permits were issued by the Japanese military for civilians to visit these zones
too. Elam secured permits for us adults- and for Dr. and Mrs. Chen. It was a bitter experience to
have to ask permission from a Japanese for a Chinese to visit parts of his own native country, but
we had to do it if we wanted to see what had happened in Chapei and out at Woosung.
The sights were sad. They sickened our hearts. Whole villages were in rubble. In a blockwide
area only one structure stood, the framework of a door at the top of which was a blue and
white enamel number plate bearing the number 13. Unlucky 13, indeed. Around the framework
lay the grey bricks that had once made
shelter for some family. On top of the pile
lay the brick that had been above the
doorway. It had the old Chinese figure of
the endless knot symbolizing long life. I
picked it up and brought it home.
Whenever I show it now and tell its story
and people say, "Unlucky 13 was the
better prophet; the old Chinese symbol
was repudiated,"! think, No. So long as I
have this brick, its meaning remains;
those who lived in that house, though
unknown to me, are kept alive in my
thoughts and sympathy and, therefore, at
least while my memory lasts, they have a
segment of endless life. R~Aihs at Chapei
More poignant was the sight of used
rice bowls and chopsticks on a table top lying among the ruins, its sturdy legs shattered, evidence
that the family had been surprised while eating - that and the slipper of a small child, so easy to
think of as having been lost in sudden flight. Where had that family gone: Where were they now?
Among the refugees or with great numbers of others in one of the mass burial graves that were so
speedily made during the cleaning up in preparation for the visit of the Committee of Inquiry?
On March 2, 1932, for strategic reasons, the Chinese troops retreated on all fronts.
Resistance henceforth would be from second defense lines. The worst was over. Gradually living
lost its strains. Curfew was lifted, and again as in 1927, sandbags began to sprout with grass and
barbedwire barricades about the native city and outlying districts were pulled away for easy
access to and fro. Social life, cramped and restricted for what seemed ages spread its wings like a
Luna moth coming out of its cocoon. Taut nerves relaxed. Windows no longer shook in their
frames and the only red seen in the sky was the blush of dawn or the scarves of sunset.
And, as though it were a direct word from God Himself that all was well, Spring was with us.
Soft, warm, fragrant Spring! We opened the windows and doors and let it flow through the
house. The warm breeze set the bead fringe on the dining room lamp above the table to swaying
gently. Now only our own family sat at that table; all our refugeeing friends had gone home.
Mother, Elam and I were lingering over dessert - ice cream and white cake with caramel
frosting all around it. Peace was within our walls - and without, where the children were playing
a little while in the yard before their bedtime. Their happy voices added to our feeling of
Then, like a clap ofthunder from a blue, cloudless sky, the sound of machine guns tore into
our peace. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. Quick, sharp, continuous, and not more than half a mile away. We
ran into the yard and gathered the children. Where could we hide them? Where could we hide
ourselves? Where could we run? The firing now sounded only a quarter of a mile away.
A man leapt over our fence, not pausing to open the gate, and burst into the house shouting,
"The Japanese are coming back. The children! The children at the school! What will we do with
Elam met him head on in our hallway as he himself was starting over to the school, having
just called to me, "I've got to do something for the boarders and the staff. You- you lock all the
Mother and Amah and I each sheltering one child, were frozen in our places. I think never in
the lives of any ofus were we so taken with such sudden, paralyzing fright. Lock the doors! But
I couldn't move. And all the time the terrible sound was coming nearer and nearer. Surely now
the soldiers were just around the comer on A venue Dufour.
With a stupendous effort of will I moved toward the front door to lock it as Elam had
directed, taking Frances with me. There I all but collapsed. "Oh, no," I cried. "It can't be.
But- but it is! Firecrackers! I smell them. The air outside is full oftheir odor. Firecrackers!
Not machine guns!"
And so they were. The next day the streets were littered with exploded firecrackers. Never in
all our years in China had we seen streets so littered. The bamboo baskets on telegraph poles
provided for gathering paper- a hao-shih (meritorious act)- were filled to capacity. Chinese
New Year, the time when firecrackers traditionally should have been the order ofthe day, came
during the Undeclared War and were then proscribed. The people, however, had bought them and
hoarded them, and although the ban was still on, some one family could no longer resist the
temptation to fire off a few. Those few started a chain reaction that swiftly ran through the city,
celebrating a war, not ended, but for the time dispersed.
Indeed, not ended until a dozen years had passed, not ended until mighty thunderbolts struck
and mushroomed into lethal clouds over two cities in Japan.
Part Two: Summer
The Chinese have a cordial way of saying good-bye. At the departure of a guest, the host
goes along to the gate or even beyond, saying "Man-man Tsou (go slowly)," to which the
guest replies, "Pu sung. Pu sung (Do not escort)." Now we felt China itself saying to us
"Go slowly," but we did not feel like saying to it "Pu sung"; we wanted all of China to go along
with us forever.
After the fall typhoon, months before the planes came and the bombs fell, we were already
storing up memories. Whenever we could, we attended the concerts of the Shanghai Symphony
Orchestra, one ofthe finest we'd ever heard. Elam lost himself in the music and when we
returned home, he put on records of the pieces we had heard and, to the delight of the children,
directed them as though he were Maestro Paci or Conductor Foa, with all the twirls of the baton
and bows included.
Once, while Indian summer loitered in Shanghai as it used to at Cornell, we took the children
to J essfield Park to see the swans and to sail their boats in the pond, but beautiful though the park
was we were not wholly comfortable there. On our first trip to Jessfield, a few years before, even
the children had sensed the inequity in the sign at the entrance: Chinese and dogs not allowed.
"Why can't Chinese come?'' Frances asked. "This is China. It belongs to the Chinese."
And Victor said, "Chinese and dogs! That doesn't sound nice."
True. Neither white superiority nor segregation ever sounds "nice."
Then there was Miss Henderson's orphanage. Hers was, in truth, a faith mission.
Single-handed, this saint of a woman cared for over a hundred Chinese orphans in small
buildings that looked as though they, too, were held together by faith. Years ago when she first
began her good work, she herself gathered the children from the side of the road or took them
from the opening in the wall where others had placed them, but for years now the babies had
been brought to her. People had learned to trust her. One day I gave her $5.00 sent from a friend
in America, which at that time exchanged into $20. Mex. (Chinese currency), and the sainted ·
woman said, "I knew someone would bring us money today. I just paid out the last copper for
ten piculs of rice."
At Chinese New Year time, even though the State of Emergency existed and curfew was
strict, we saw at last the burning of a kitchen god. In all our years in China we had not yet
witnessed that particular ceremony, although we had read about it in many books. Our Chinese
Christian friends had no kitchen gods. One evening, then, we set forth. Surely, some nonChristian
Chinese home or shop close by would be sending its kitchen god to report the good
deeds of that family to the registrar in heaven. Up one street and down another we walked until at
last in a small open kerosene oil shop bearing the name "Socony," we saw the preparations being
made and asked permission to observe.
There, draped over a chair, at the head of a feast-laden table crowded in next to the counter
where oil was sold by the dipperful, was the limp kitchen god, limp because he was only a
picture on a sheet of paper. The host spread syrup on the mouth ofthe picture, folded it, took it to
the sidewalk, placed it on a bed of straw (the symbol for a horse), poured a small dipper of
kerosene oil on it, than touched it with a lighted match. Poof! Up went the sweet-mouthed god,
well-mounted on his steed, to report only good things of the house and its people. And, for a few
days, until a new god was installed, the family could indulge itself.
Here now, I thought, is Old China. A touch of the new in the kerosene, of course, but the rest
old, very old. We shall keep this hour as one of our museum memories.
Then tuuning to go home, I stumbled over a bicycle rack outside the shop next door. The
rack bore a sign in English: Ice cream sold here, made in Seattle.
In March, Tsoo-Sing Chen took me to see the Taoist Temple of the Birthday Gods.
On the way we passed a Buddhist temple, newly painted. From inside came the sound of
children's voices singing a Buddhist hymn to the tune of"Jesus Loves Me." To my lifted
eyebrows Tsoo-Sing nodded, saying, "Yes, they're taking melodies from our Christian hymnals
now and they're copying our Sunday Schools and their priests are preaching sermons. A kind of
revival among the Buddhists."
At the Temple of the Hundred Birthday Gods, we saw a mother arranging with the yellowrobed
priest for her young son to worship the god of his year. The boy was dressed in a fine new
embroidered birthday jacket of red silk and wore a bright hat ornamented with tiny metal bas
reliefs ofthe eight Taoist imortals. The mother handed the priest some coins. The priest handed
the lad a lighted stick of incense and placed a red cushion in front of one of the idols. The lad set
the incense stick in a sand-filled jar, knelt, kow-towed three times, and then got up and ran to his
mother and shyly clung to her skirt. As they turned to leave, the priest, who had gone back to
peer at the number assigned to the idol, excitedly called them back. After a short conference, the
ritual was repeated, every item the same from coins to genuflections, except that this time the
cushion was placed in front of the neighboring idol.
Tsoo-Sing explained: "The priest made an error. At first he placed the boy before the idol for
the six-year-olds, but then he remembered the boy is really only five."
During Holy Week, a Russian lad whose mother sent him as a day student to S.A.S. because
she liked the school's "clean atmosphere," took Mother, Elam and me to a service at one of the
three Russian Orthodox churches in Shanghai, attended by the White Russian refugees now
exiles in shanghai. There were no pews, no organ, but many icons and much chanting and tall,
slender, white tapers burning in front of a life-sized painting of the crucifixion, draped in black.
From time to time a choir of young boys sang a cappella. We stood first on one foot and then on
the other while at our right a woman with deep lines of sorrow in her face knelt and prayed aloud,
oblivious to all around, and at our left, another woman stood facing an icon and bowing and
crossing herself over and over again. Where the picture of the crucifixion shone in the
candlelight, a young woman, swathed in black, impulsively moved forward, knelt and kissed the
feet nailed to the cross.
In that moment, the painting melted away; in its place I stood at the cross on Calvary, and the
woman's name was Mary.
Early in May we went to visit the friends at the college. Victor and Junior took along their
put-put boats to launch them in the "fountain." "Fountain" was a strange name for the cement
well that stood three feet above the ground and held a shaft of water more than ten feet deep and
several feet in diameter, but that was what the students out there called it. Its surface made a
perfect small pond for the racing of the put-puts. While Elam visited with the men, Mother and
I stayed with the boys, periodically pulling them back from their leaning too far over the rim.
Finally I said, "you've played here long enough. Grandma and I want some fun too. We want
time to visit. Come on. Climb a tree. I'd rather have you break an arm than drown."
Whatever made me say that I don't know, but all my life I shall know that Victor obediently
climbed a tree and that within a quarter of an hour he lay beneath it with, not one arm, but both
arms broken. It was a camphor tree, but not The Camphor. That friend, I'm sure, would have
One day Mother, the children, and I went to Soochow for an ail-day visit. Knowing that it
was to be a long hard day, I planned to have Junior stay at home with Amah, but the night before
the trip he begged so earnestly that I reconsidered and said he could go if he'd be good.
"I will, I will," he promised. "I won't cry a tear."
Very early the next morning he wakened me. He had dressed himself in his best, washed his
face and hands and ears, slicked back his hair with water so that not a wave showed, and there he
stood with a smile as wide as his chubby cheeks would permit.
At breakfast, though, his temper frayed and he began to cry.
"That settles it," I said. "You can't go. You're crying already."
He squeezed his eyes shut, rubbed away the tears with his fists, and then forcing a smile,
defended himself with the classic statement: "But I ha- n't gone yet!"
He went, and all that long sightseeing day, ending at midnight with Chinese soldiers
crowding around him to exclaim over his curly hung-ti (red) hair, he never once cried.
In the afternoon at the Confucian temple where the courtyard was neatly kept and where
tablets took the place of idols, he saw a priest striking a large bell, that looked very much like
the Liberty Bell, with a wooden mallet. "Oh, come," he cried excitedly, "come, see the bell
that cracked on my birthday." Our five-year-old, a whole year, and a world away, was still
remembering that bell that cracked on a certain July 8th, long before the 8th on which he
So, one by one, we stored up intangible treasures to add to the tangible ones: the four
paneled-carved screen, the water buffalo that Elam bought for bronze but that turned out to be
heavy porcelain, the Peking rugs. And later, when moths ate into the rugs and the frame of the
screen needed to be reglued, we had no doubt whatever about which treasures were the more
Elam came back from a Peking trip the day after we came back from Soochow, and now we
turned full face to the chaos of packing. Box after box was nailed shut for freight. When all were
done we counted 44. Bag after bag was packed to take as hand baggage. When all were packed
we counted 44. The numbers were purely coincidental.
Finally after the weary days in the desert of packing and the refreshing times at the oases of
farewell parties, there remained only a few bits of business, among them closing out our bank
accounts. One bank book was of special interest. It bore my name. In 1922, Elam had arranged
to have $250 of the money I had earned by my occasional writings exchanged into Chinese
currency and put on a ten-year, fixed deposit at ten percent compound interest. At that time
exchange was 2 to 1 so that gold $250 turned into Mex. $500. In ten years I was to have double
the amount. Now in 1932 I had it- a draft for $1000 Mex.
But, in 1932, exchange, instead ofbeing 2 to 1, was 4 to 1, and so at the end ofthe ten years
I had exactly what I had in the beginning: gold $250.
Now the day of our departure was at hand. It was not easy to say good-bye. Tears streamed
down Amah's cheeks and our own eyes were not dry. She and the school servants stood at the