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Brown of Moukden: A Story of the Russo-Japanese War

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
The midsummer sun had spent its force, and as it reddened towards its setting Moukden began to breathe again. The gildings on palace, temple, and pagoda shone with a ruddy glow, but the eye was no longer dazzled; garish in full sunlight, the city was now merely brilliant, the reds and greens, blues and yellows, of its house-fronts toned to a rich and charming beauty. The shops—almost every house is a shop—were open, displaying here poultry, dried fish, and articles of common use; there piles of Oriental merchandise: silks and embroideries, parasols and screens, ornaments of silver and copper, priceless porcelain and lacquered ware. Monsters with vermilioned faces grinned from the poles—hung with branches and surmounted by peacocks with spread tail—that bore the signs and legends of the merchants and shopkeepers before whose doors they were erected: all different, yet all alike in gorgeousness of colouring and fantasy of design. Two main thoroughfares traverse Moukden at right angles. Along these flowed in each direction a full tide of people, gathering up cross currents at every side street and alley. It was a picturesque throng, the light costumes showing in brilliant relief against the darker colours of the houses and the brown dust of the roadway. There were folk of many nations: Manchus, Mongols, Tartars, Greeks and Montenegrins, soldiers Chinese and Russian, here and there a European war-correspondent escaping from the boredom of his inn. Pedestrians and horsemen jostled vehicles of all descriptions. Workmen staggered along under enormous loads; labourers of both sexes trudged homewards from the fields, their implements on their shoulders. A drove of fat pigs in charge of a blue-coated swineherd scampered and squealed beneath the wheels of a Russian transport wagon. Here was a rickshaw drawn with shrill cries by its human steeds; there a rough springless two-wheeled mule-cart, painted in yellow ochre, hauled by three mules tandem, and jolting over the ruts with its load of passengers, some on the backs of the mules, some on the shafts, some packed beneath the low tilt of blue cotton. Not far behind, a trolley, pushed by perspiring coolies and carrying seven men standing in unstable equilibrium, had halted to make way for a magnificent blue sedan chair, wadded with fur and silk, borne by four stalwart servants. Through the trellised window of the chair the curious might catch a glimpse of a bespectacled mandarin, his mushroom hat decked with the button indicative of his rank. With shouts and blows a detachment of Chinese soldiers, red-jacketed infantry, carrying halberts, javelins, and sickles swathed to poles, forced a passage for his excellency through the crowd.