“Besides, shoulder-straps embarrassed me. ‘Captain Martin’ sounded idiotic. ’Insurgent Martin’—why, that’s well and good. I wanted to end as I had begun, die as my father had died, as a rioter in a riot, as a barricader behind a barricade.
“I could not get killed. I got caught. I belong to you. But I wish to beg a favor of you. I have a son, a child of seventeen; he is at Cherbourg, on the hulks. He fought, it is true, and he does not deny it; but it is I who put a musket in his hand, it is I who told him that his duty was there. He listened to me. He obeyed me. That is all his crime. Do not sentence him too harshly.
“As for me, you have got me; do not let me go, that’s the advice I give you. I am too old to mend; and then, what can you expect? Nothing can change it. I was born on the wrong side of the barricade.”
In the beginning of the year 1870 some English and French residents had been massacred in China. Reparation was demanded. His Excellency Tchong-Keon, Tutor of the Heir-apparent and Vice-President of the War Department, was sent to Europe as Ambassador Extraordinary to the English and French governments.
Tchong-Keon has recently published at Pekin a very curious account of his voyage. One of my friends who lives in Shanghai, and who possesses the rare talent of being able to read Chinese easily, sent me this faithful translation of a part of Tchong-Keon’s book:
HAVRE, September 12, 1870.
I land, and I make myself known. I am the Ambassador of the Emperor of China. I bear apologies to the Emperor of the French, and presents to the Empress. There is no Emperor and no Empress. A Republic has been proclaimed. I am much embarrassed. Shall I offer the apologies and presents that were intended for the Empire to the Republic?
HAVRE, September 14, 1870.
After much reflection, I shall offer the apologies and keep the presents.
HAVRE, September 26, 1870.
Yes; but to whom shall I carry the apologies, and to whom shall I present them? The Government of the French Republic is divided in two: there is one part in Paris and one part in Tours. To go to Paris is not to be thought of. Paris is besieged and blockaded by the Prussians. I shall go to Tours.
HAVRE, October 2, 1870.
I did not go, and I shall not go, to Tours. I received yesterday a visit from the correspondent of the Times, a most agreeable and sensible man. I told him that I intended going to Tours.
“To Tours! What do you want in Tours?”
“To present the apologies of my master to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the French Republic.”
“But that minister isn’t in Tours.”
“And where is he?”
“Blockaded in Paris.”
A Minister of Foreign Affairs who is blockaded in a besieged town seemed to me most extraordinary.