THE EMPEROR'S BIRTHDAY
MY father's four months' leave having expired, he was received in audience by their Majesties on the first day of the sixth moon. He was much improved in health, but his rheumatism was still very troublesome. This was particularly noticeable when climbing the steps to the Audience Hall, and Her Majesty ordered two of the eunuchs to assist him.
First he thanked Her Majesty for her kindness towards my sister and myself, and, as was the custom, took off his hat and knelt down, bowing his head until it struck the ground. This ceremony was always gone through by any official who had received special favors from Their Majesties.
He then replaced his hat on his head and remained kneeling before the throne. Her Majesty then questioned him about his life in Paris, from time to time complimenting him on his work. Seeing that remaining in this kneeling position appeared to be making him tired, Her Majesty ordered one of the eunuchs to bring a cushion for him to use, which was another great honor, as this cushion was only used by the President of the Grand Council.
Her Majesty told him that as he was now getting to be a very old man, she did not intend sending him away from China again, as she wanted to keep my sister and myself at the Court, which she could not do if she sent him to some foreign country, as he would want to take his daughters with him. She said she was pleased, that although we had been away from China for such a long time, we were well acquainted with the Manchu customs. My father replied that it had been his care that we should be brought up according to the customs of our own country.
Her Majesty when asked the Emperor if he had anything to say, and he replied by asking my father if he spoke French, and thought it very strange on learning that he did not. My father explained that he had never had the time to study it, besides which he considered himself too old to learn a foreign language.
The Emperor next asked what was the feeling in France towards China. My father replied that they were very friendly at that time, but that immediately after the Boxer trouble the post of Minister had been a very embarrassing one. Her Majesty said that it had been an unfortunate affair, but she was glad that everything was now settled satisfactorily. She told my father that he was to get well again as quickly as possible, and the audience came to an end.
Afterwards Her Majesty said that my father was looking very old since his return from France and that he would have to be careful and take things easy until he got stronger again. She was pleased that he had shown appreciation of her interest in my sister and myself.
Preparations were now commenced for celebrating the birthday of His Majesty, the Emperor Kwang Hsu, which was to take place on the 28th of that month. The actual date of the Emperor's birthday was the 26th of the sixth moon, but this day, being the anniversary of the death of a previous Emperor of China, we were unable to hold any festivities, and so it was always celebrated on the 28th day instead. The official celebration lasted for seven days, three days before and four days after the actual date. During that time the whole of the Court dressed in official robes, and no business of any kind whatever was attended to. This being the Emperor's 32nd birthday, and as the full celebrations only took place every tenth year, i. e. On his 20th birthday, his 30th birthday, and so on, the festivities were not carried out on a very grand scale. However, it was quite sufficient to interfere with all business, and the usual morning audiences did not take place during these seven days. The Empress Dowager herself was the only person who did not dress especially during these celebrations, and who did not take any active part in the festivities. Another reason why the celebrations were not carried out on a very large scale was the fact that the Empress Dowager, being alive, she took precedence, according to the Manchu custom, over the Emperor himself, in fact she was the actual ruler of the country, the Emperor being second. The Emperor was quite aware of this fact, and when the Empress commanded that preparations be commenced for the celebrations, the Emperor would always suggest that it was not at all necessary to celebrate the occasion unless it happened to be a tenth year, and would very reluctantly agree to the festivities taking place. Of course this was more out of politeness on the part of the Emperor and to conform to the recognized etiquette, but the nation recognized this birthday and naturally celebrated according to the usual custom. During this period, therefore, the painting of the portrait was postponed.
When the morning of the 25th arrived, the Emperor dressed himself in his official robe-yellow gown, embroidered with gold dragons and coat of a reddish black color. Of course, being the Emperor, in place of the usual button on the hat he wore a large pearl. I might mention that the Emperor was the only person who could wear this particular pearl in place of a button. He came as usual to wish Her Majesty Chi Hsiang and then proceeded to the temple to worship before the ancestral tablets. After this ceremony was over he returned to the Empress Dowager and kowtowed to her. All the Chinese adopt this rule of kowtowing to their parents on their own birthdays, as a sign of reverence and respect. The Emperor next proceeded to the Audience Hall, where all the Ministers were assembled, and received their salutations and congratulations. This ceremony very often caused amusement, for to see several hundred people all bobbing their heads up and down, especially when they did not all manage to do it together, was a very funny sight. Even the Emperor himself had to laugh, it was such an extraordinary spectacle.
The musical instruments which were used during the ceremony deserve a little description. The principal instrument is made of hard wood, and has a flat bottom about three feet in diameter, with a dome-shaped top raised about three feet from the ground. The inside is quite hollow. A long pole made of the same material is used as a drumstick, and an official, specially appointed, beats with all his might on the drum. The noise can be better imagined than described. This is used as a signal to announce when the Emperor takes his seat upon the throne. In addition to the above, a full sized model of a tiger, also made of similar hard wood, and having twenty-four scales on its back, is brought into the courtyard. In this case they did not beat the instrument, but scraped along its back over the scales, which emitted a noise similar to the letting off simultaneously of innumerable crackers. This noise was kept up during the whole of the ceremony, and what with the drum and this tiger instrument it was sufficient to deafen one. During the ceremony, an official crier used to call out the different orders, such as when to kneel, bow, stand up, kowtow, etc., etc., but with the noise it was quite impossible to hear a single word of what he uttered. Another instrument was composed of a frame made of wood, about eight feet high by three feet broad. Across this frame were three wooden bars, from which was suspended twelve bells, made out of pure gold. When these were struck with a wooden stick the sound was not at all unlike the dulcimer, only, of course, very much louder. This was placed on the right side of the Audience Hall. On the left side a similar instrument was placed, with the exception that the bells were carved out of white jade. The music which could be brought out of the instrument was very sweet.
When this ceremony of receiving the Ministers was concluded, the Emperor proceeded to his private Palace, where the Young Empress (his wife), the Secondary wife and all the Court ladies were gathered, and, after kowtowing, all of the Court ladies present, led by the Young Empress, knelt before him and presented him with a Ru Yee. This is a kind of sceptre. Some are made out of pure jade, while others are made out of wood inlaid with jade. This Ru Yee is a symbol of good luck and was supposed to bring happiness and prosperity to the person to whom it was presented. The ceremony was gone through to the accompaniment of music played on string instruments, which was very sweet.
Next the eunuchs were received by the Emperor, and they similarly congratulated him, but without the accompaniment of music. After the eunuchs came the servant girls, and the whole of the ceremony was over. The Emperor next proceeded to Her Majesty's Palace, where he knelt before Her Majesty and thanked her for the celebration which had been given in his honor, after which Her Majesty, accompanied by the whole Court, went to the theatre to see the play. On arrival at the theatre we were all presented by Her Majesty with sweetmeats, this being the custom on these occasions, and after a little while Her Majesty retired for her afternoon rest. Thus the celebration ended.
Two days after the celebration the seventh moon commenced. The seventh day of the seventh moon was the occasion of another important anniversary.
The two stars, Niu Lang (Capricorn) and Chih Nu (Lyra) are supposed to be the patrons of agriculture and weaving and, according to tradition, were at one time man and wife. As the result of a quarrel, however, they were doomed to live apart, being separated from each other by the "Milky Way." But on the seventh day of the seventh moon of each year they are allowed to see each other and the magpies are supposed to build a bridge to enable them to meet.
The ceremony is rather peculiar. Several basins full of water were placed so that the sun's rays would fall upon them. Her Majesty then took several tiny needles and dropped one into each basin. These floated on the water, casting a shadow across the bottom of the basins. These shadows took different forms, according to the position of the needle, and if the shadow took certain prescribed forms, the person throwing in the needle was supposed to be very lucky and clever, while if they represented certain other forms, they were despised by the gods as being ignorant. In addition, Her Majesty burned incense and offered up prayers to the two gods referred to.
This was always a sad moon for Her Majesty, it being the anniversary of the death of her husband, the Emperor Hsien Feng, who died on the 17th of that month. The fifteenth of the seventh moon each year is the day of the festival for the dead, and early in the morning the Court moved to the Sea Palace in order to sacrifice. The Chinese hold that when a person dies, his soul still remains on the earth, and on these anniversaries they burn imitation money, the belief being that the soul of the departed one will benefit to the extent of the amount of money so represented. On the anniversary above referred to Her Majesty sent for hundreds of Buddhist priests to pray for those unfortunate people who had died without leaving anyone who could sacrifice for them. On the evening of this day, Her Majesty and all her Court ladies set out in open boats on the lake, where imitation lotus flowers were arranged as lanterns, with a candle placed in the centre, which formed a sort of floating light, the idea being to give light to the spirits of those who had departed during the year, so as to enable them to come and receive the blessings which had been prepared for them. Her Majesty ordered us to light the candles and place the flowers on the water ourselves, as she said it would be appreciated by the spirits of the dead. Some of the eunuchs had told Her Majesty that they had actually seen some of these spirits, which assertion was thoroughly believed. Although she had never seen them herself, she accounted for this by the fact that she was of too high a rank and the spirits were afraid of her, but she ordered all the rest of us to keep a sharp lookout and tell her if we saw anything. Of course we didn't see anything, but many of the Court ladies were so frightened that they closed their eyes for fear they might see something supernatural.
Her Majesty was devoted to the late Emperor Hsien Feng, and she was very sad and morose during this period. We all had to be very careful indeed not to upset her in any way, as she would find fault on the slightest provocation. She hardly had a word to say to any of us, and cried almost incessantly. I could hardly understand the reason for such grief, seeing that the Emperor had died so many years previously. None of the Court ladies were allowed to dress in light-coloured gowns during the whole of the seventh moon. We all dressed either in dark blue or pale blue, while Her Majesty herself dressed in black every day without exception. Even her handkerchiefs were black. The theatres which were usually opened on the first and fifteenth of each month, were closed during the seventh moon. There was no music, and everything was conducted in the most solemn manner; in fact, the whole Court was in deep mourning.
On the morning of the seventeenth day of the seventh moon, Her Majesty visited the late Emperor's tablet, and knelt there crying for quite a while. In order to show respect for the late Emperor, none of us were allowed to eat meat for three days. This being my first year at the Palace, it appeared to me very strange, after the customary gaiety and noise. Of course I felt very sorry for Her Majesty, as I could see that it was a genuine display of grief and was not in any way put on. As I was her favorite at that time, she kept me close to her side during this sad period. The Young Empress said to me one day: "Her Majesty is very much attached to you, and I think you had better stay with her for the time being." This I did, and I was so miserable myself that when Her Majesty commenced crying I would cry also. When she saw that I was crying, Her Majesty would immediately stop and ask me not to cry. She would tell me that I was too young to cry, and that in any case I did not know what real sorrow was as yet. During the conversations we had at that time she would tell me quite a lot about herself. On one occasion she said: "You know I have had a very hard life ever since I was a young girl. I was not a bit happy when with my parents, as I was not the favorite. My sisters had everything they wanted, while I was, to a great extent, ignored altogether. When I first came to the Court, a lot of the people were jealous of me because I was considered to be a beautiful woman at that time. I must say myself that I was a clever one, for I fought my own battles, and won them, too. When I arrived at Court the late Emperor became very much attached to me and would hardly glance at any of the other ladies. Fortunately, I was lucky in giving birth to a son, as it made me the Emperor's undisputed favorite; but after that I had very bad luck. During the last year of his reign the Emperor was seized with a sudden illness. In addition to this the foreign soldiers burnt down the Palace at Yuen Ming Yuen, so we fled to Jehol. Of course everybody knows what took place at that time. I was still a young woman, with a dying husband and a young son. The East Empress Dowager's nephew was a bad man, who coveted the throne, which he had no right to in any event, as he was not of royal blood. I would not wish anyone to experience what I myself passed through at that time. When the Emperor was in a dying condition, being practically unconscious of what was taking place around him, I took my son to his bedside and asked him what was going to be done about his successor to the throne. He made no reply to this, but, as has always been the case in emergencies, I was equal to the occasion, and I said to him: `Here is your son,' on hearing which he immediately opened his eyes and said: `Of course he will succeed to the throne.' I naturally felt relieved when this was settled once and for all. These words were practically the last he spoke, for he died immediately afterwards. Although it is now so many years ago, I can see him now in that dying condition, just as though it all happened only yesterday.
"I thought that I could be happy with my son as the Emperor Tung Chi, but unfortunately he died before he was twenty years of age. Since that time I have been a changed woman, as all happiness was over as far as I was concerned when he died. I had also quite a lot of trouble with the East Empress Dowager and found it very difficult to keep on good terms with her. However, she died five years after the death of my son. In addition to all this, when the Emperor Kwang Hsu was brought to me as a baby three years old, he was a very sickly child, and could hardly walk, he was so thin and weak. His parents seemed to be afraid of giving him anything to eat. You know his father was Prince Chung, and his mother was my sister, so of course he was almost the same as my own son, in fact I adopted him as such. Even now, after all my trouble on his account, he is not in perfect health. As you know, I have had plenty of other troubles beside these, but it is useless to mention them now. I am disappointed with everything, as nothing has turned out as I had expected." With this remark Her Majesty commenced crying afresh. Continuing, she said: "People seem to think that just because I am the Empress Dowager that I am bound to be happy, but what I have just told you is not all. I have gone through much more than that. If ever anything went wrong, I was always the one who was blamed. The censors even dare to impeach me once in a while. However, I am philosopher enough to take things for what they are worth, otherwise I would have been in my own grave long, long ago. Just imagine how small minded these people are. Amongst other things they objected to my transferring my Court to the Summer Palace during the hot weather, although I could do no harm by being there. Even in the short time you have spent at Court, you can see that I am unable to decide anything alone, while whenever they want anything they consult with each other and then present their petition to me, which, unless it is something of a very serious nature, I never think of refusing."
After the time set apart for mourning had expired, we all went back to the Summer Palace, where Miss Carl re-commenced her work on Her Majesty's portrait. Her Majesty apparently soon got tired of this portrait painting, for one day she asked me when I thought it would be finished. She was afraid that it would not be finished by the time the cold weather came on, when we always removed the Court to the Forbidden City, and she said it would be a lot of trouble and inconvenience to have to continue the portrait there. I told Her Majesty that it could easily be arranged and that she need not worry herself.
After I had been posing in Her Majesty's place for several days Her Majesty asked me whether Miss Carl had said anything about it, and if she did, I was to inform her that it was a command from Her Majesty, and that I dare not make any further suggestions in that respect. So we had no further trouble with Miss Carl after that. I had, however, quite a lot of trouble with the eunuchs, who, in spite of Her Majesty's instructions, were anything but polite to Miss Carl. Of course Miss Carl herself did not know this. I tried to make them behave better by threatening to tell Her Majesty about them, which had a good effect for a while, but they were soon as bad as ever.
At the commencement of the eighth moon, Her Majesty always attended to the transplanting of her chrysanthemums, which was one of her favorite flowers, so each day she would take us with her to the west side of the lake and, assisted by us, would cut the tops of the young plants and set them in flower pots. I was very much surprised at this, as there were no roots, only the stems of the flowers, but Her Majesty assured me that they would soon grow into very pretty plants. Every day we went over to water these flowers until they began to bud. In case it rained heavily, Her Majesty would order some of the eunuchs to go over and cover up these chrysanthemum plants with mats, so that they would not be broken. It was characteristic of Her Majesty that, no matter what other business she had to attend to, her flowers had her first consideration and she would, if necessary, even go without her usual rest in order to superintend them personally. She also spent quite a time in looking after her orchard, where she had planted apple trees, pear trees, etc. Another thing which I began to notice was that when the spring and summer days had passed, she got quite irritable and sad, while in the winter she was simply unbearable. She loathed cold weather.
One day, during the eighth moon, Her Majesty was taken slightly ill, and complained of suffering from severe headaches. This was the only time I ever saw Her Majesty actually sick. She, however, got up as usual in the morning, and held audience, but was unable to take her luncheon, and very soon had to retire to her bed. Several doctors were summoned, each of whom took her pulse. This was quite a ceremony in itself. The doctors knelt at the bedside, and Her Majesty stretched forth her arm, resting her hand upon a small pillow which was provided for that purpose. After this each doctor wrote out his prescription, all of which were different from each other. We handed them to Her Majesty, who chose the one which she thought was the nicest to take, and two attendants and the doctor himself had to take a dose in her presence before she would touch it. Then she would take it all right.
During this time it rained a great deal and was very hot. The climate at this time of the year is very damp, which causes the flies to make their appearance in millions. If there was one thing more than another that Her Majesty detested it was these flies. During the actual summer they were not so troublesome as at this particular time. Of course every precaution was taken to keep them away, a eunuch being posted at each door, provided with sort of a switch made of horse hair fastened at the end of a bamboo pole. We were never troubled by mosquitoes, however; in fact I never saw a mosquito curtain in the Palace during the whole of my stay there. These flies were an abomination, and in spite of all that could be done a few would find their way into the rooms. Whenever they alighted on Her Majesty she would scream, while if by any chance one were to alight on her food she would order the whole lot to be thrown away. This would spoil her appetite for the whole day and put her into a terrible temper as well. Whenever she saw one anywhere near her, she would order whoever happened to be present to go and catch it. I myself often received this order, but I detested them almost as much as Her Majesty did, they were so dirty, and stuck to one's hands whenever they touched them.
After her illness Her Majesty was indisposed more or less for quite a long time, and doctors were constantly in attendance. She took so many different kinds of medicine that instead of getting better she got worse and eventually contracted a fever. Her Majesty was very much afraid of fevers of any kind and we had to stay with her all night and all day and had to take our meals whenever we could get away from her bedside for a few minutes. Another peculiarity was Her Majesty's aversion for any kind of perfume near her when she was sick, while when she was feeling well she was simply smothered in it. The same applied to fresh flowers; in spite of her love for them under ordinary conditions, when she was sick she could not bear them anywhere near. Her nerves became absolutely unstrung, as she was unable to sleep during the day, and consequently the time passed very slowly to her. In order to make the time pass a little less tediously, she gave instructions for one of the better educated eunuchs to read to her during the daytime. This reading generally consisted of ancient Chinese history, poetry and all kinds of Chinese lore, and while the eunuch was reading to her we had to stand by her bedside, one of us being told off to massage her legs, which seemed to soothe her somewhat. This same program was gone through every day until she was completely herself again -- some ten days later.
One day Her Majesty asked me: "What kind of medicine does a foreign doctor usually give in case of a fever? I have heard that they make you take all kinds of pills. This must be very dangerous, as you never know what they are made of. Here in China all medicines are made from roots, and I can always find out whether I am receiving the right medicine, as I have a book which explains what each different medicine is for. Another thing I have heard is that foreign doctors generally operate on you with a knife, while we cure the same sickness by means of our medicine. Li Lien Ying told me that one of our little eunuchs had a boil on his wrist and someone advised him to go to the hospital. Of course they didn't know what they would do, and the foreign doctor there opened the boil with a knife, which frightened the child very much. I was very much surprised when I heard he was all right again in a couple of days." Continuing, Her Majesty said: "A year ago one of the foreign ladies came to the Palace, and hearing me cough a lot, gave me some black pills and told me to swallow them. I did not like to offend her, so I took the pills and told her I would take them by and bye. However, I was afraid to take them and threw them away." Of course I answered that I didn't know much about medicines, to which she replied that she had seen me take foreign medicines whenever I was not feeling well. She then said: "Of course I know there are people in Peking who do take the medicines given them by foreign doctors and even some of my own relatives patronize these foreigners also. They try not to let me know, but I do know for all that. In any case, if they choose to kill themselves by taking these things, it is none of my business; that is the reason why, when they are sick, I never send my own doctors to attend them."
When Her Majesty had completely recovered from her illness she used to go out on the lake a great deal, sometimes in an open boat and at other times in a steam launch. She always appeared to enjoy this kind of thing. For some reason or other she always insisted on taking the west side of the lake, which was very shallow, and invariably the launch would get stuck fast in the mud, which seemed to afford Her Majesty great enjoyment; she simply loved to feel the launch strike the bottom. The open boats would then come alongside and we would have to get out of the launch and enter the boats and proceed to the top of the nearest hill to watch the efforts of the eunuchs trying to refloat the launch. It was a characteristic of Her Majesty to experience a keen sense of enjoyment at the troubles of other people. The eunuchs knew this quite well, and whenever opportunity offered, they would do something which they thought would amuse Her Majesty. So long as it was nothing of a serious nature Her Majesty would always overlook it, but in case it proved serious or was carelessness, she would always order them to be severely punished. Thus it was very hard to tell just what to do in order to please her.
Another of Her Majesty's peculiarities was inquisitiveness. For example: As I have stated before, it was the custom for Her Majesty to have sweetmeats brought to her before every meal, and after she had finished with them, the remainder were distributed among the Court ladies. Whenever it happened that we were very busy, we did not bother with the sweetmeats at all, which Her Majesty very soon found out. One day, after she had finished dining, she came and looked through the window to see what we were doing, and saw some of the eunuchs eating the sweetmeats which she had given to us. She did not say anything, but simply ordered that the sweetmeats should be brought back again, making us believe that she wanted some more herself. I knew that there was something wrong, as she never ordered them back before. When she saw what was left of them, she asked who had been eating so many, as they were nearly all finished, but she got no reply -- we were all too scared. However, after thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that it would be best to tell her the truth, for I was quite certain that she knew anyhow. So I told her that we had all been very busy and had forgotten all about the sweetmeats, and that the eunuchs had come and taken them themselves, and I added that this was not the first time they had done so. I was rather glad that she had given me this opportunity to report the eunuchs, for Her Majesty replied that if she intended the eunuchs to have sweetmeats, she herself could give them some, but thought it a lack of appreciation on our part not eating them ourselves after she had been so kind as to provide them for us. She turned to me, and said: "I am glad that you have told the truth, as I saw myself what was happening." She gave orders that the offending eunuchs should each have three months' wages deducted as a punishment, but of course I knew very well they didn't mind that, as they were making many times the amount of their salary in other ways. On my return to the sitting room, one of the Court ladies said: "You should not have told Her Majesty about the eunuchs, they are sure to revenge themselves in some way." I asked how they could possibly injure me in any way, as they were only servants, but she told me that they would find some underhand way in which to get even with me, this being their general custom. Of course I knew the eunuchs were a bad lot, but could not see what cause they had to be against me in any way. I knew they dare not say anything against me to Her Majesty, so I forgot all about the matter. I found out afterwards that one of the tricks they used to play on any of the Court ladies who offended them was to try and prejudice Her Majesty against us. For instance, if Her Majesty told one of the eunuchs that a certain thing should be done, instead of telling me what Her Majesty wanted, the eunuch would go off to one of the other ladies and tell her. In this way Her Majesty would get the impression that I was too lazy to wait upon her myself, and of course the other lady would get all the credit. Although Her Majesty was very kind to me, also the Young Empress, it was very hard to get along with eunuchs, and it was not good policy to offend them in any way. They regarded themselves as being exclusively the servants of Her Majesty, the Empress Dowager, and refused to take instructions from anybody else, consequently they were often very rude to the other ladies of the Court, not even excepting the Young Empress.
Everything proceeded as usual until the eighth moon, when the Emperor was to sacrifice at the "Temple of the Sun." On this occasion the Emperor wore a red robe.
About this time Mrs. Conger asked for a private audience, as she wanted to see Her Majesty and at the same time see how the portrait was progressing. Her Majesty replied that she would receive her and gave orders accordingly. At this private audience Mrs. Conger brought into the Court two of her relatives to be presented to Her Majesty, besides Miss Campbell and a missionary lady. As it was a private audience, the guests were conducted to Her Majesty's private Palace. They were received in the hall which was being used as studio for this lady artist, although Her Majesty was out of patience with the portrait painting, and talked to us a great deal about it, yet when she saw Mrs. Conger and the others she was extremely polite and told them that the portrait was going to be a masterpiece. She was in an unusually good humor that day and told me to give orders to the eunuchs to open all the buildings and show them to her guests. Her Majesty led the way from one room to another and showed them her curios in the different rooms, until she came to rest in one of the bedrooms, when she ordered chairs to be brought in for the guests. There were many chairs in this room, but they were really small thrones of Her Majesty's, although they looked like any ordinary chairs. The custom is that no matter what kind of a chair it may be, as soon as she uses it, it is at once called her throne and no one is allowed to sit on it thereafter unless the order is given by her.
During the time the eunuchs were bringing in the chairs kept purposely for foreigners to use, one of the ladies of the party made a mistake and sat upon one of Her Majesty's thrones. I noticed her at once, and before I had a chance to warn her, Her Majesty made a sign of annoyance to me. I went to this lady at once and told her I wanted to show her something and naturally she was obliged to get up. The trouble was this, although Her Majesty felt that no one had the right to sit upon her throne, she expected me to get this lady off the chair and at the same time not to tell her the reason why. While I was busy interpreting for her, she said in an undertone: "There she is again, sitting on my bed. We had better leave this room." After this the ladies were conducted to the refreshment room, and when they had partaken of lunch, bade Her Majesty good-bye, leaving Miss Carl with us. As usual we reported to her that we had seen the guests safely off. She said to me: "That was a funny lady: first she sat upon my throne, and then upon my bed. Perhaps she does not know what a throne is when she sees one, and yet foreigners laugh at us. I am sure that our manners are far superior to theirs. Another thing -- did you notice that Mrs. Conger handed a parcel to Miss Carl out in the courtyard when she came in?" I replied that I had noticed her passing something like a parcel, but could not tell what the parcel contained. She thereupon told me to go and ask Miss Carl what it was. At that time I had received so many peculiar orders from Her Majesty that I was beginning to get accustomed to them and used my own discretion in carrying out her instructions. Therefore I did not ask Miss Carl, but set about finding out for myself. However, when I began to look around for the parcel, it had mysteriously disappeared and I could not find the thing anywhere. This naturally worried me, knowing as I did that Her Majesty liked her instructions carried out quickly. While I was searching, one of the eunuchs came in and told me that Her Majesty wanted to see me, and of course I had to go to her. Before she could say anything to me, I informed Her Majesty that I had not been able to ask Miss Carl about the parcel as she was asleep, but would do so immediately she got up. Her Majesty said: "I don't want Miss Carl to think I have told you to ask what the parcel contains, otherwise she might think I am suspicious of what is going on, so you must manage to get the information somehow without mentioning the matter; you are clever enough to do that much." Shortly afterwards, while I was walking along with Miss Carl to Her Majesty's Palace, to proceed with the portrait, I noticed that she was carrying the parcel in question, which was a great relief to me, I can assure you. On arrival at the Palace, Miss Carl said to me: "You need not trouble to pose at present, as it is rather dark, and I can be painting the throne; you can look through this magazine, if you like, to pass the time away." So I opened up the parcel, which proved to contain nothing more than an ordinary American monthly magazine. After glancing through the book, I made an excuse to hurry away and inform Her Majesty. However, she had already gone out for her usual trip on the lake, so I took my chair and followed. When I reached the lake, Her Majesty, who had seen me, sent a small boat and I was rowed out to the launch. Before I could get a chance to speak, Her Majesty said with a smile: "I know all about it, it was a book and Miss Carl handed it to you to read." I was very much disappointed that I had had my journey for nothing. I knew that the eunuchs would report it to Her Majesty at the first opportunity, but I hardly expected they would have done so already. Her Majesty was now quite satisfied, and simply asked whether Miss Carl suspected that she had enquired about the matter.
As I was about to return to Miss Carl, Her Majesty called me and said: "There is one thing I want to tell you and that is whenever any foreign ladies are visiting the Palace, always keep close to the Emperor so that in the event of their speaking to him you can interpret." I answered that so far whenever any foreigners were present I was present also and did not think that anybody had held any conversation with the Emperor whatsoever. She explained that her reason for mentioning this was that she wanted me to be just as courteous to the Emperor as I was to herself, and I was to place myself entirely at his disposal whenever visitors were present. Of course I knew very well that this was not the true reason at all but that she wanted to take every precaution to preclude the possibility of foreigners influencing the Emperor in matters of reform, etc.