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Mary Porter Gamewell and the Siege of Peking

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Mary Porter Gamewell and the Siege of Peking
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Author(s): A. H. Tuttle
Date Published: 2010/07
Page Count: 208
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-137-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-138-6

Under siege in imperial China

Mary Gamewell was a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church in China. This riveting account of a good woman continuing her vocational work despite every adversity will absorb those interested Women missionaries, the China of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the turbulent time of the Boxers. Gamewell was already an ‘old China’ hand by 1900. She had experienced the Chungking Riot of 1886 and knew well the dangers which could beset Europeans in her position. Her view of the siege of Peking itself will interest any student of the subject. Available in soft cover or hard back with dust jacket.

It was now so late that I knew the gentlemen must be on their way from town, and I hoped to gain time so that they might arrive. But the people grew so rude that the servant who had asked me to come out to the crowd now begged me to go in. Our cook went for a chief of police. When he arrived the people only laughed at him, and he could not disperse them. When I started in, someone threw at me and the crowd set up a howl. I backed against a wall. The official and cook managed to keep the crowds back until I got away. While I stood outside the last time, a bright-faced little girl stood beside me, and when I started in she came out of the crowd and followed me back, talking in a trembling and yet sympathetic voice. She went on and asked if she might come to the house with me, and if I would teach her to write.<br>
She chattered on so bright and cheery, a perfect little sunbeam shining through a dark cloud. I left the cook in the street, and, as it was almost supper time and the gentlemen would soon be home, I thought I would prepare supper. I heard a great pounding at the gate and feared they might get in. Remembering how they ran from me at first, I thought that with Mr. Gamewell’s gun I might make them run again, in case they got in, and perhaps keep the place until the gentlemen came. They were expected now every minute. I put the gun together the best I could, and took it, unloaded of course, and went into the kitchen.<br>
The little girl stood at the door and soon announced: ‘They are in. They are coming.’ Sure enough, they had broken down the immense hospital gate and were crowding in. I took the gun and started toward them. When a hundred or more feet away the crowd caught sight of the gun and made off in haste through the broken gate. I went down and stood guard at the gate while one half of the great door was shut and braced up with heavy stones. I saw there would be a struggle if we attempted to have the other half put up. So I stood guard keeping out the crowd, hoping for the return of the gentlemen.<br>
At this juncture the cook went to Fu Tou Kuan for the magistrate. A man diverted my attention by coming up with a child and pretending to be a friend whom I did not recognize. Suddenly someone seized the barrel of the gun. The crowd sprung to his assistance, the servants to mine. Two servants and I pulled one way and as many as could get hold of the barrel pulled the other way. As I pulled in desperation what thoughts crowded my mind! ‘Frank’s gun, a gift from his brother, now dead. Just arrived, not yet used. How silly to bring it out! What shall I do if they get away with it ?’ How we pulled! We had an advantage in having hold of the butt end. They threw at me and pounded my fingers with their fists, while others pulled. There could be only one end. They made off with the gun, and I stood in distress and shame to see it go.<br>
The stampede for the gun seemed to frighten those outside, and the crowd gave away and many ran right away. There was hubbub about me. One said they did not believe in tobacco, and I turned to see the servants looking at me in great concern. The old gateman had some fine tobacco in his hand which he offered to tie about my finger. Then I saw that the index finger of my right hand was cut almost to the bone. The blood had flowed quite a little stream, staining the soft stone quite red. My dress was spattered with mud, my hair and neck on one side were all plastered with mud, and on the same side a big swelling was rapidly rising just below the temple. The crowd had caught sight of me and fled in dismay, afraid of being held accountable, no doubt, for a worse task than they attempted to undertake.<br>
Just here the cook came in and said the official Pu-kuan would not attend to the affair. I sat down in the gate alone, and for a second hot tears flowed from grief for the lost gun. Then the servants came, and directing them to put up the other half of the gate, I hastened to make myself tidy before Mr. Gamewell should get back. I dressed my finger, and washed the mud off, and had only time to hurry into my ulster and a tie, when the official from Fu Tou Kuan walked in.<br>
Probably hearing of a bigger disturbance than he had thought possible, he came in to forestall disastrous consequences to himself in case anyone should be called into account for the disturbance of the day. He said he would get the gun for me and went away. He met the crowd venturing in again and put them out, though the servants said his manner was as if ridiculing foreigners at the same time he was putting the men out of the gate.
Soon after the official was gone Mr. Gamewell came in. A man had gone to town to call him, and met him at the corner of the city on his way out. In great anxiety he came on. He sat down and only looked and looked at me after I showed him that I was not seriously hurt. He suffered more than I did. I did not even know that I was hurt, until all was over. I did not know when I was hurt. Probably the trigger tore my finger, but I did not feel it. By and by the doctor came in. He had heard alarming reports on the road and came in looking pale. He dressed my finger most scientifically, using carbolic acid, which benumbed the finger and prevented any pain.
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