Everybody thought that the loss of a few heads and other Chinese trivialities was to end this little flutter of the people. But not so. The whole of the family who had promoted this fictitious claim to the throne—father, mother, brothers, sisters—were all put to death, most of them in front of the eyes of the poor little fellow who was the victim of their idle pretext. The military returned, reporting that everything was now quiet, and a few days later, guarded by twenty soldiers, came this young pretender, encaged in one of the prison boxes, breaking his heart with grief. And it was he who was now conducted to meet the foreigner. He has been confined within the prison since he arrived at the capital, and the object seems to be to keep him there, training and teaching him until he shall have arrived at an age when he can be taught a trade. The tiny fellow is small for his eight years, and his little wizened face, sallow and delicate, has a plausible tale to tell. He is always fretting and grieving for those whose heads were shown to him after decapitation. However, he is being cared for, and it is doubtful whether the authorities—or even the emperor himself—will mete out punishment to him when he grows older. He did nothing; he knew nothing. At the present time he is going through a class-book which teaches him the language to be used in audience with the Son of Heaven—he will probably be taken before the emperor when he is old enough. But now he is not living the life of a boy—no playmates, no toys, no romps and frolics. He, like Topsy, merely grows—in surroundings which only a dark prison life can give him.
This was the first time I had even been in prison in China. This remark rather tickled the governor, and on taking my departure he assured me that it was an honor to him, which the Chinese language was too poor to express, that I should have allowed my honorable and dignified person to visit his mean and contemptible abode. He commenced this compliment to me as he was showing me the well-equipped hospital in connection with the prison—containing eight separate wards in charge of a Chinese doctor.
I smiled in return a smile of deepest gratitude, and waving a fond farewell, left him in a happy mood.
One would scarce dream of a university for the province of Yuen-nan. Yet such is the case.
In former days—and it is true, too, to a great extent to-day—the prominent place given to education in China rendered the village schools an object of more than common interest, where the educated men of the Empire received their first intellectual training. Probably in no other country was there such uniformity in the standards of instruction. Every educated man was then a potential school master—this was certainly true of Yuen-nan. But all is now changing, as the infusion of the spirit of the phrase “China for the Chinese” gains forceful meaning among the people.