**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


From The ‘London Times’ of 1904
by [?]

Clayton rose, and stood by the window, and looked up into the black sky, and listened to the thrashing sleet and the piping wind; then he said: ‘That a dying man’s last of earth should be–this!’ After a little he said: ‘I must see the sun again–the sun!’ and the next moment he was feverishly calling: ‘China! Give me China–Peking!’

I was strangely stirred, and said to myself: ‘To think that it is a mere human being who does this unimaginable miracle–turns winter into summer, night into day, storm into calm, gives the freedom of the great globe to a prisoner in his cell, and the sun in his naked splendour to a man dying in Egyptian darkness.’

I was listening.

‘What light! what brilliancy! what radiance!…. This is Peking?’


‘The time?’


‘What is the great crowd for, and in such gorgeous costumes? What masses and masses of rich colour and barbaric magnificence! And how they flash and glow and burn in the flooding sunlight! What is the occasion of it all?’

‘The coronation of our new emperor–the Czar.’

‘But I thought that that was to take place yesterday.’

‘This is yesterday–to you.’

‘Certainly it is. But my mind is confused, these days: there are reasons for it…. Is this the beginning of the procession?’

‘Oh, no; it began to move an hour ago.’

‘Is there much more of it still to come?’

‘Two hours of it. Why do you sigh?’

‘Because I should like to see it all.’

‘And why can’t you?’

‘I have to go–presently.’

‘You have an engagement?’

After a pause, softly: ‘Yes.’ After another pause: ‘Who are these in the splendid pavilion?’

‘The imperial family, and visiting royalties from here and there and yonder in the earth.’

‘And who are those in the adjoining pavilions to the right and left?’

‘Ambassadors and their families and suites to the right; unofficial foreigners to the left.’

‘If you will be so good, I–‘

Boom! That distant bell again, tolling the half-hour faintly through the tempest of wind and sleet. The door opened, and the governor and the mother and child entered–the woman in widow’s weeds! She fell upon her husband’s breast in a passion of sobs, and I–I could not stay; I could not bear it. I went into the bedchamber, and closed the door. I sat there waiting–waiting–waiting, and listening to the rattling sashes and the blustering of the storm. After what seemed a long, long time, I heard a rustle and movement in the parlour, and knew that the clergyman and the sheriff and the guard were come. There was some low-voiced talking; then a hush; then a prayer, with a sound of sobbing; presently, footfalls–the departure for the gallows; then the child’s happy voice: ‘Don’t cry now, mamma, when we’ve got papa again, and taking him home.’

The door closed; they were gone. I was ashamed: I was the only friend of the dying man that had no spirit, no courage. I stepped into the room, and said I would be a man and would follow. But we are made as we are made, and we cannot help it. I did not go.

I fidgeted about the room nervously, and presently went to the window and softly raised it–drawn by that dread fascination which the terrible and the awful exert–and looked down upon the court-yard. By the garish light of the electric lamps I saw the little group of privileged witnesses, the wife crying on her uncle’s breast, the condemned man standing on the scaffold with the halter around his neck, his arms strapped to his body, the black cap on his head, the sheriff at his side with his hand on the drop, the clergyman in front of him with bare head and his book in his hand.

‘I am the resurrection and the life–‘

I turned away. I could not listen; I could not look. I did not know whither to go or what to do. Mechanically and without knowing it, I put my eye to that strange instrument, and there was Peking and the Czar’s procession! The next moment I was leaning out of the window, gasping, suffocating, trying to speak, but dumb from the very imminence of the necessity of speaking. The preacher could speak, but I, who had such need of words–‘And may God have mercy upon your soul. Amen.’