The-devils-of-the-ocean





In the twenty-second year of the period Eternal-happiness, the

population of Chao-cheou's harbour, awaking on a bright summer's

morning, were extremely surprised and frightened to see, swaying on the

blue water of the bay, a strange and abnormally huge ship. The three

high masts were heavily loaded with transversal pieces of wood, from

some of which sails were still hanging; another mast projected

horizontally from the prow, and three sails were tightened from this to

the foremast.



A small boat was lowered from the ship's side and rowed to the quay.

Several hundreds of people were watching the proceedings, asking one

another if it was a human invention or a ship coming from the depths of

hell.



The small boat stopped at a short distance from the bank; one could see

that, beside the rowers, there were three men seated in the stern; their

heads were covered with extraordinarily long and fluffy grey hair; they

wore big hats with feathers of many colours. A Chinaman was in the boat

and hailed the people:



"Ha! Please tell the local authorities that high mandarins from the

ocean want to speak to them. We are peaceful. But if you do any harm to

our men or ships, our wrath will be such that we will destroy in one day

the whole town and kill everybody within ten miles' distance."



Three or four men belonging to the Yamen had heard these words; they ran

to the prefect's palace and came back with an answer they delivered to

the new-comers:



"His Excellency the prefect consents to receive your visit. If you are

peaceful, no harm will be done to you. But if you steal anything, or

wound or kill anybody, the laws of our country will be enforced upon you

without mercy."



Then the boat slowly accosted the quay; two of the men with feathered

hats disembarked with the Chinaman, while six of the rowers, leaving

their oars in the boat, shouldered heavy muskets, and cleared the way,

three walking in front of the feathered hats and three behind. The

rowers wore small caps and had long blue trousers and very short blue

coats.



The prefect, in his embroidered dress, awaited them on the threshold of

his reception-room. He bade the new-comers be seated and asked their

names and their business; the Chinaman translated the questions and the

answers.



"We come from the other side of the earth."



"Well," thought the prefect. "I was sure of it, the earth being square

and flat, the other side of it is certainly hell. What am I to do?"



"We only want to trade with your countrymen. We will sell you what goods

we have brought; we will buy your country's productions, and if no harm

is done we will sail away in a few days."



"Our humble country is very poor," answered the prefect. "The people are

not rich enough to buy any of the splendid goods you may have brought.

Besides, this country's products are not worth your giving any money for

them. If I can give you good advice, you had better sail away to-day and

get to the first harbour of the northern province; there they are very

rich."



"We have just come from it; they told us the very reverse. Here,

according to them, we should be able to find everything we want.

Besides, our mind is settled; we will remain here long enough to buy

what we want and to sell what we can. We are very peaceful people as

long as one deals justly with us. But if you try to beguile us, we will

employ all our strength in the defence of our rights. All we want is a

place on shore where we can store and show our goods."



"Well, well; I never intended to do anything of the sort," said the

prefect. "But the Emperor is the only possessor of the soil. How could I

give you a place even on the shore?"



"We don't want very much, and the Emperor won't know anything. Give us

only the surface of ground covered by a carpet, and we will be

satisfied."



Chinese carpets are not more than two or three feet broad and five or

six feet wide. The prefect thought he could not be blamed to authorise

the foreigners to settle on such a small piece of ground; on the other

hand, if he refused, there would ensue trouble and he would certainly be

cashiered.



"It is only as a special arrangement and by greatly compromising with

the law that I can give you this authorisation."



And the prefect wrote a few words on one of his big red visiting-cards.

The interpreter carefully perused the document. Then the foreigners went

back to their ship. The same day a proclamation was issued and pasted on

the walls of the public edifices, explaining to the people that

The-Devils-of-the-ocean had been authorised to settle on a piece of

ground not bigger than a carpet and that no harm should be done to them.



In compliance with these orders, nobody dared oppose the foreigners when

they began unrolling on the shore a carpet ten yards broad and thirty

yards long. When the carpet was unrolled, The-Devils-of-the-ocean put

themselves in ranks with muskets and swords on the carpet; nearly five

hundred men stood there close to one another.



The prefect, who had personally watched the proceeding, was so angry

against the foreigners for their cunningness that he immediately ordered

troops to drive them out into the water. But the foreigners had a

devilish energy nobody could resist; they killed a great many of our

people, burned the greater part of the city, and occupied for several

years all the northern part of the bay, where they erected a sort of

bazaar and a fortress, which still exist to this day.





The Woman In Green Through Many Lives facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback