The months which elapsed between this act of treachery and the spring of 1916, were filled with innumerable outrages. Many townships were completely devastated, either by the bandits or the Chinese soldiers. Little will ever be known of what actually took place under the guise of settling brigandage, behind the mountains which separate Yuchi from the outer world. It is well that it should not be known.
During the spring of 1916 a missionary visited Yuchi. Business called him outside the city wall and just beyond the west gate he saw the bodies of ten persons who had that day been executed. Among these were two children, brothers, the sons of a man who was reported to have “sold rice to the brigands.” The smaller child had wept and pleaded to be permitted to kneel beside his older brother further up in the row. He was too small to realize what it all meant but he wanted to die beside his brother.
In the middle of the field lay a man whose head was partly severed from his body and who had been shot through and through by the soldiers. He was lying upon his back in the broiling sun pleading for a cup of tea or for someone to put him out of his misery. The missionary learned the man’s story. It appeared that years ago a law suit in which his father had been concerned had been decided in his favor. In order to square the score between the clans, the son of the man who had lost the suit had reported that he had seen this man carrying rice to the brigands. He had been arrested by the soldiers, partially killed, and left to lie in the glaring sun from nine o’clock in the morning until dark suffering the agonies of crucifixion. Not one of those who heard his moans dared to moisten the parched lips with tea lest he too be executed for having administered to a brigand.
The missionary returned to the city that night vowing that he would make a recurrence of such a thing impossible or he would leave China. He took up the matter with the authorities in Peking in a quiet way and later with the military governor in Foochow. He was well known to the brigands by reputation and visited several of the chiefs in their strongholds. They declared that they had confidence in him but none in the government—or its representatives. It was only after assuming full responsibility for any treachery that the brigands agreed to discuss terms.
Upon invitation to accompany him to the 24th Township, the missionary was escorted out to civilization by twenty-five picked men to whom the chief had entrusted an important charge. As the group neared the township the missionary sent word ahead to the commander of the northern soldiers to prepare to receive the brigands.
[Illustration: SEAL OF A PARDONED BRIGAND.]
As the twenty-five bandits appeared upon the summit of a hill overlooking the city, soldiers could be seen forming into squads outside the barracks. Instantly the brigands halted, snapped back the bolts of their rifles, and threw in shells. The missionary realized that they suspected treachery and turning about he said, “I am the guarantee for your lives. If a shot is fired kill me first.”