WHEN a Chinese child is born, the fortune teller is always called in. When the fortune teller came to pronounce his report on the future of Oo Too, the little son whom the Chinese stork brought to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chi Ping, over the Chinese Theatre, he said: —

“ Oo Too will be a great man. There is an evil spirit dwelling in the bedquilt that will try to destroy him, to lose him, but he will be found ; and unless the genii are displeased his father will live to be happy and proud of Oo Too.”

So little Mrs. Chi Ping was more joyful over the arrival of her son than even before the visit of the fortune teller, and while her husband attended to his business of acting the parts of bad men in the playhouse downstairs, she occupied herself above in sewing, and cooking, and taking care of Oo Too.

He was a fine little yellow, moon-faced fellow, and presently, when he was a year old, he had become the pet of the neighborhood, the delight of the troupe of actors and of the fortune teller and other wise men of the quarter.

While Mrs. Chi Ping sewed beautiful embroideries to sell to the merchants, she sat on the doorstep of the tall tenement where the theatre was on the first floor, and dozens of her countrymen lodged, like bees in a hive, on all the other stories ; and she smoked her pipe, and watched Oo Too playing with his rattle and tiny gong, and dreamed dreams of the time when Oo Too should be a great man ; but she shuddered considerably when she thought of the evil spirit that hid in the bedquilt, and wondered if the many yellow written prayers and the incense which her husband and she both burned every day would not appease the genii, and defeat the evil spirit and pull him out of the bedquilt.

But evidently the bedquilt spirit was too much for both prayers and incense; for one memorable day, while Mrs. Ping smoked and embroidered, while Mr. Ping, splendidly attired in the robes of a wicked mandarin, shouted his part in the theatre at a rehearsal, Oo Too was whisked up and away by a Chinatown missionary named Miss Virginia Staunton; and although law and sentiment, anger and hatred, entreaty and supplication, were each in turn resorted to by poor Mr. and Mrs. Chi Ping, the courts decided that they were unfit persons to have the custody of their child ; that the father was an actor wearing masks ; that the mother smoked opium, very likely; and that, since the good and excellent young lady had legally adopted Oo Too, it was for his parents to rejoice that so good a thing had happened to him, rather than to inveigh against the benefaction.

Nevertheless, although Chi Ping went about his business of acting with something more than his accustomed vehemence, he said little; but Mrs. Ping never ceased to clamor in the houses, the shops, the streets, and the theatre for her stolen child; never ceased to burn prayers and incense for his return to her; never ceased to weep and lament that out of her loving mother’s arms her firstborn son had been taken away causelessly into the life of foreign devils, to be brought up to hate and despise the religion of his forefathers, to trample his ancestors under the foot of his mind, and to sneer and laugh at the honorable customs of his native land.

So loud and far-reaching and persistent, indeed, were the murmurings of this tiny yellow mother that they finally reached and smote the heart of Miss Virginia Staunton, who kindly condescended to say to her lawyer, who said it to Chi Ping, who told it to his wife:

“ Oo Too is safe and happy, happier than he could possibly be with you ; he will be educated, and grow up into a Christian man. His name is no longer Oo Too Ping; you cannot find him; no one but myself knows where he is or who he is. But I promise you, if we are all alive, when your son, whom you call Oo Too, is eighteen years of age, you shall see him if you wish to, and you will then be proud of him : and for this I give you my word.”

Then Mrs. Ping fell down on her bed, and rent the quilt in pieces, and cried out to Mr. Ping : —

“ Ah, it is within this cursed quilt that the evil spirit lived of whom the fortune teller spoke ; and he spoke true: our little son is lost ; for us he is destroyed. He will be found, yes, but after seventeen more years ; and when he is found, he will be for us a foreign devil, — no more a Chinaman, like his honorable ancestors ! ” And Mrs. Ping cried more bitterly than ever.

Mr. Ping said : —

“ I would rather believe our little son dead than to hear what the white lady says. It is a mystery that, in a country which is called the free, we find our son taken from our arms, and no one to raise his arm to restore him to us.”

“ Seventeen years ! ” moaned Mrs. Ping. “ And all those long months, full of long days, I and you must sit down and wait to behold our little son. And when we see him, he will be no longer small to sit in my lap, but a man and a Christian! ”

“ Seventeen years,” reiterated Chi Ping, in a relentless fashion.

“ Seventeen years,” echoed the fortune teller, who came in just then, grieving with other friends, but not quite able to conceal his pleasure in the speedy and not entirely usual fulfillment of his prognostications.

“ Seventeen years,” also said several wise and rich men, who came in for the purpose of condoling with Chi Ping.

“ Seventeen years ! ” said little Mrs. Ping, with mournful, appealing gestures, her almond eyes asking plainly of these powerful personages if they could not propose some plan to cut away those awful years and restore her baby to her heart.

But they all shook their heads very sadly as they smoked ; and Mrs. Ping wept softly on her bed while she tore the evil bedquilt into strips.

“Well,” said Chi Ping at last, “it is quite true that we have the most powerful servant on our side, as well as have these others who have stolen our child.”

And all the wise, rich men wagged their heads and smoked the harder, and stared at the actor ; and his wife stopped tearing up the quilt to stare at him, too.

“ Chi Ping is correct,” remarked the fortune teller, with a sage bob ; for it was in his trade always to know what every one meant, whether he really did or not ; yet he waited silently for Ping to continue.

“We have the servant that is stronger than any other ; fleeter than the camel before the wind, than the hungry mule that crosses the river to his pasture, than the horse that runs into the fire, than the tiger that seeks his mate ; slower than the seed that sleeps, than the riches that are always coming, and never arrive; more powerful than the monarchs it watches die, than the gods it defies.”

As Chi Ping paused, all present bobbed their heads several times, with a solemn air of sagacity, yet no one undertook to speak.

“We have Time,” concluded Ping. “ It is our servant.”

And they all bobbed once again, and nodded at one another ; and three of the richest merchants of the quarter, and a priest, and Chi Ping — leaving out the fortune teller, for even Chinese fortune tellers are not above the greed of gold — went out together to the joss house and held a consultation ; for Ping was a man of uncommon intelligence and learning, although of the middle class and poor; and among the Chinese the scholar ranks next to royalty.

And while Chi Ping and his advisers and friends took counsel together in the East Side, Miss Virginia Staunton was chatting with her suitor, the Rev. Thornton Bennett, in the West, about little Oo Too. She said : —

“ I am glad, Thornton, that you approve of me about that dear little rescued Chinese darling. I shan’t tell even you where he is, but I will tell you the name I have given him, — Ernest Pingree ; and I feel that he is going to be a good man, now that I have succeeded in removing him entirely from those wretches, his actor - father and opium-smoking mother. I have legally proven to the poor misguided creatures that he is better off, and very likely, if facts were known, they are glad to be rid of him.”

“ Highly probable,” assented Mr. Bennett, whose mind was also on the Chinese question, and whose hopes were centred on going as a missionary to China, and taking Miss Virginia with him as his wife.

They were earnest souls, full of zeal, good works, exemplary living, self-denial, and serious purpose, and having equally thorough faith in the purity and in the wisdom of their own actions.

Not very long after Chi Ping’s consultation with his friends in the joss house, he left the theatre, as he said, for good ; that is, as an actor. His home remained up in the tenement, and through the long days and far into the nights Mrs. Ping sat alone, or with one or two of her countrywomen, always talking of Oo Too ; alone, because her husband had changed his business, and went uptown on the West Side, to work for Ah Soon in his laundry, ironing and washing and starching, and carrying home nice clean clothes in brown parcels to the many customers of Ah Soon. Among these was Miss Virginia Staunton, and quite a number of times the young lady herself paid Chi Ping for the washing, and of course did not know in the least that he was the father of her little adopted boy, Ernest Pingree ; but Chi Ping knew, the rich merchants and the priest of the joss house knew. Miss Virginia spoke pleasantly to Chi Ping, and asked him his name ; and he smiled and answered, “ Johnnee Chineeman.” And she invited him to come to her class in Sunday school, and he answered very politely: “Johnnee velly nice Clistian man allee same likee Melican lady; Johnnee makee velly same likee white lady bimeby. Goo’-by.”

And Miss Virginia was extremely pleased with her laundryman, and gave him a Prayer Book ; and as she was very busy getting ready to be married, she had n’t time just then to instruct him any further.

Of course the wedding was to be soon. Chi Ping knew all that, for the next week such a lot of frilled, laced, and embroidered linen came to the laundry of Ah Soon, with particular instructions that it was to be “ done up with extra care,” that all the men nodded their heads over their irons and said together, “ Mallied soon, Melican lady.”

And at the end of the week there was such a great pile of beautiful foamy, filmy things to go home to Miss Virginia that Ah Soon went and bought one of those fine little varnished handcarts to put them in, and Chi Ping took them all home ; and Miss Virginia was so pleased with his laundry work that she gave him half a dollar, and said : —

“Johnnee, I am going to be married to the best man in the world ; and when I am back from my wedding tour, I shall send word to Ah Soon for you to come for my clothes.”

And Chi Ping grinned, and when he went home down to the East Side, late that night, and told his friends of it, they all grinned ; and the wisest and richest of the merchants said, with a wink at the joss sticks they lighted, “ What a fine servant Time is! ”

But little Mrs. Ping mourned and grew paler every day, and her narrow eyes grew hollow, and her cheeks, and she murmured over and over again in the ear of any one who would listen to her, “ Seventeen years! Seventeen years! ”

Miss Virginia — or rather, as she must now be called, Mrs. Bennett — did not forget her promise to Chi Ping, by any means, and when she returned from Niagara, and went to live in a pretty flat uptown, near her old home, she wrote a postal card, bidding Ah Soon send for the washing: and every week, regularly, Chi Ping fetched and carried the piles of linen, sometimes in his bag, sometimes in the fine little varnished cart, which had Ah Soon’s name printed on it in red, and which at that time was quite a novelty, for Ah Soon was then the only Chinaman in town who owned one.

Chi Ping and all his friends considered it a distinct degradation to push or pull the cart, but neither he nor they ever said so to one another or to any one else; indeed, Ping pursued the even tenor of his uneventful life with that strange and classic calm which has pervaded his nation since the days of Confucius, some twenty-five hundred years ago. There was no outward expression from the present laundryman as to his sentiments on the change in his association, whatever his inward feelings may have been. He had now scarcely any time to himself, where formerly he had had many hours a day for study, reading, and recreation ; his pay was miserably small compared with the good salary he had earned in the portrayal of all the villains of the Chinese drama; his companions in the laundry were men of no education ; and altogether, from whatever cause, the present existence of Chi Ping, if from choice or compulsion, must have been sadly at variance with his tastes and former habits. Yet he was never seen other than cheerful, and always trying to console Mrs. Ping in her sorrow.

“ The priests do not weary,” he said to her. “ They recite incantations and pronounce magic words ; each day they burn written prayers and incense. The gods and the genii will come out of the grottoes and deal blows, heavy blows, to the foreign devils with the bluish eyes. Oo Too will be avenged.”

“ Ah, but will he ever be returned to me ? ” cried Mrs. Ping.

And her husband answered, “ We must wait.”

Meantime the months had slipped away, and it was more than a year since Miss Virginia’s wedding day ; and one Monday morning, when Chi Ping came with his bag for the clothes, he had to wait a long while at the basement door, — for the Bennetts’ flat was on the first floor, and their kitchen was below ; and so he sat down, as he often did, on the stone steps, and looked at the children already out on the sidewalk playing.

Presently the cook came and handed him the bundle, and she smiled and said to him, “ Johnnee, we ’ve got a little baby upstairs.”

And Chi Ping did not move on the steps, but said, in his dull, listless way, “ Boy ? ”

“ Yes, a nice little boy,” the woman replied.

“ Good, velly good. Johnnee glad. Goo’-by.”

And that night, when Mr. Ping went back to Chinatown after his work, he and his rich and powerful friends, the merchants, had a long talk over their pipes and tea in one of the shops, and Chi Ping said, as he rose to go home to his wife : —

“ Well, from to-day I always take home the clothes in the cart; and it is no more seventeen years until I see my son, but now only sixteen.”

And “ Sixteen years ! Sixteen years! ” wailed little Mrs. Ping monotonously, day in and day out, yet with a great patience, for the Chinese is the most patient person under the sun. Yet sometimes, when she saw the wife of the comedian of the troupe with her little girl in her arms, she reached out her own thin yellow little hands toward the west, where she supposed her Oo Too to be, and wept and trembled and shook until her heart was almost broken with the misery and uncertainty and anguish of it all, with the mad, impotent sense of the injustice and cruelty of it.

So for three hundred and sixty-five days after the birth of Mrs. Bennett’s little son Mrs. Ping continued to reiterate, “ Sixteen years ! Sixteen years ! ”

Then Chi Ping said to her, early one morning, as he was going up to the laundry : —

“It is no longer sixteen years : now it is only fifteen, and the son of our enemy is a year of age, and you must burn prayers and incense all day for a week now, and go into the joss house and spend your hours there.”

And Mrs. Ping said, “ I will do as you say.”

That happened to be a Monday morning, and Chi Ping presently trotted off from the laundry, pushing his cart after Mrs. Bennett’s clothes. It was December, very cold, and he came as usual and sat on the steps. He was a little too early, and he fell asleep, with his head leaning on the handle of the cart as it stood beside him in the area, — so fast asleep that cook had to waken him.

“ Why, Johnnee ! ” she cried, as she gave him a bounce with the big bundle. “I do always have to be afther wakin’ ye up ivry week ! What’s the matther wid ye ? Get up and get out of the way ! Sure ’n’ here’s Joanna wantin’ to get through wid the baby carriage ! ”

“ Solly, velly solly ! ” said Chi Ping, rising slowly and yawning. “ Chineeman work muchee, sleepee lill, tiled evly day ! ”

“ Goo - goo gar - ar - ar ! ” remarked Thornton Bennett, Jr., seizing Mr. Ping’s pointed finger.

Mr. Ping smiled. “ Nice lill babee ! ” he said. “ Goo’-by.”

On Saturday, when Ah Soon always sent home Mrs. Bennett’s clothes, it was still colder than it had been on Monday ; but the Bennett baby was brought up to go out in all sorts and conditions of weather, and Chi Ping was not at all surprised when, at the close-gathering twilight, he saw it being wheeled up and down from the corner to the house, waiting and watching for its father to alight from the trolley car. It was the only child on the block just then, although a dozen shrill voices could be heard shrieking around on the avenue, where the gutter had been converted into a sliding-pond. Chi Ping passed the baby carriage, trotting along with his cart. He took out the clothes, and handed the large piles in to the cook; and as he sat down on the step to wait for his money the baby carriage, came into the area, and the nurse said, pushing past Chi Ping where he leaned, apparently sleeping soundly: —

“ Keep still now, baby, be good, while Joanna goes in and gets your other afghan ; it’s too cold to keep you out any longer without it, waiting for dada.”

Then the same instant that the nurse disappeared Mr. Ping woke up, and took a small vial from one of his jacket pockets and a cloth from another, and tipped the vial on the cloth and clapped it over the face of Thornton Bennett, Jr., and opened the little cart, and snatched up the baby and thrust him, cloth, bottle, and all, inside, and snapped to the cart door, and sat down on the area steps again, and went fast asleep, leaning against the cart handle.

Then the nurse came out, and then the cook, then the baby’s mother; then his father arrived from downtown, where he went every day to teach ; then the neighbors in the flat-house, and the policemen presently : and Mr. Ping was in the midst of the hubbub and confusion, and Joanna told how she had seen him asleep when she went in, asleep when she came out; and everybody questioned him, but Chi Ping could give no information at all.

“ Johnnee muchee velly tiled ; washee, washee allee time ; fallee sleepee evly day ; evly time come Mis’ Bennett; solly! Nice lill babee; too bad losee only lill babee havee ; velly solly ; velly bad. Goo’-by ; go tellee Ah Soon. Velly solly too. Come ’gain next week money. Goo’-by.”

As Chi Ping, his hands on his cart handle, turned to go away, Mrs. Bennett rushed up to him on the sidewalk and laid her white hands both on his yellow ones.

“ Oh, Johnnee ! ” cried the frantic mother. “ Try, try to remember ! Did n’t you hear baby cry while you slept ? Did n’t you hear a footstep, or feel some one brush by you ? Try, Johnnee, try to remember ! ”

“No hea’ babee cly ; if babee cly, Johnnee must hea’ cly ; no hea’ ; no step; no blush by Johnnee. Johnnee sleepee sleepee sound. Solly.”

“ Oh, my baby! my baby! Stolen from me ! Oh, God ! what shall I do ? ” and the mother sank swooning in her husband’s arms, while Chi Ping trotted off, pushing the little varnished cart before him back to the laundry of Ah Soon.

The town rang with it; the whole country echoed the mother’s wild prayer, the poor father’s desperate appeals. Rewards were offered by both of the baby’s grandfathers, men of wealth and prominence ; the town offered a reward; the mothers of the town offered a reward. But Thornton Bennett, Jr., was not to be had for cry of love, or lure of lucre, or subtlety of detection.

The night of the day of his disappearance Chi Ping carried a parcel home to Chinatown, as he often had for the past year, — just the same sized and weighted parcel; he also went out to a shop and had tea and smoked with his rich, influential friends, and the comedian and the manager of the theatre ; and a week later, while all the rewards were being offered, and the newspapers had headings in large type, and the land was ringing with accounts of the inscrutable, dastardly cruelty of those who would rob a young mother of her firstborn son, Chinatown had a festival of its own, to which no one outside of it paid any heed. Chinatown has many festivals ; one more or less makes no difference. In this one they carried, swinging between paper lanterns and strings of beads, strips of bright yellow paper with a blue dragon printed at either end, and in between the wise words of Chi Ping, late villain of Chinatown theatre, — “ Time is our Servant.”

By and by, little Mrs. Ping, who now had plenty to do taking care of Thornton Bennett, Jr., dyeing his face with saffron every other day, and his hair with a black liquid, and dressing him in the garments of her own Oo Too, and presently teaching him the first maxims of the classics (that is, Confucius ; for Chi Ping was, as has been intimated, an educated person, and not under the sway wholly of the Taoist priests), —by and by, then, Mrs. Ping, while she tended the baby, whom they called Ah Ping, began to say, “ Fifteen years ! Fifteen years ! ” every morning when she got up, and every night when she went to bed.

And all the while Chi Ping was fetching and carrying the clothes in the handcart from the Bennetts’ flat to the laundry of Ah Soon every week, and often seeing Mrs. Bennett, and hearing her incessant laments for her little son.

At last Chi Ping did not come any more for the clothes, and the new Chinaman who came could not speak any English at all, except “ Close comee. Ah Soon man ; all light, goo’-by ; ” and Mrs. Bennett was sorry, for she held any one dear who had seen and known her baby.

Mr. and Mrs. Ping, with All Ping, now being full two years of age, started one morning for San Francisco, and reached there five days later, and took ship and sailed away for Hong - Kong, and thence traveled to Pekin, with plenty of money and in good comfort, for the rich merchants of Chinatown spared nothing to help avenge the kidnapping of the actor’s little son ; and they said to Chi Ping when he was leaving the town : —

“ Write to us every year for the whole fourteen years, — do not fail once ; and we will write to you every year at the Feast of Dragons, and we will keep you in entire knowledge of the movements of those who stole away Oo Too from his mother’s arms.”

So Chi Ping and his wife and Ah Ping lived on in Pekin, and Chi Ping went back to his old profession of acting, but with only small parts to play and a small salary, in the Royal Theatre.

And from year to year Mrs. Ping said, “Fourteen years, thirteen years, twelve years; ” and each year Chi Ping received a letter from his rich merchant friends in America. But the news was always the same, until the eleventh year was near its beginning; then the word came that the Bennetts were going out to China as missionaries, and that their destination was Pekin.

The same year of their arrival they were of course much interested in all that they saw, and although the inscrutable loss of the baby was ever present and never to be lessened, still the father and mother tried to bow in meekness and humility to the affliction that had been permitted; tried to be cheerful and to be good. The annual Feast of Dragons occurred soon after their arrival; and as they gazed out on the procession, they beheld little Ah Ping, now being five years old, pass by, arrayed, as Chinese children are for this greatest of festivals, in embroidered and gold-trimmed garments, a grinning and horrible mask decorating his chest, beautiful crisp paper flowers encircling his head, immense twisted horns springing out from either side of his gaudy wreath, and a festival drum in his hands.

“ What a sweet little face, Thornton! ” cried Mrs. Bennett. “ Look ! the features are not Chinese at all, but only the yellow skin and pigtail, and the awful insignia of heathendom. Oh, how I shall work and strive among these benighted children, in blessed memory of my lost darling! ”

Which indeed she did for five years. At this time little Mrs. Ping was saying wearily, “ Six more years, six more years, more long, more cruel, than the first! ” and burning as many prayers and as much incense as she could afford, which was not a great deal, for her husband had lost his position at the theatre ; they said he was too old, and no longer supple and big enough of lung; and a few taels a week was all he could earn, and the boy must be well taken care of, he must go on at school.

So Mrs. Ping went to work in a factory, and was pulled and pushed back and forth every day in a wheelbarrow by a cooly, in company with seven other women, just to earn a little and keep Ah Ping at school. Chi Ping himself went from bad to worse in the way of occupation, until finally he had to take to cameldriving with coals across the marshy plains to Taku.

But Mrs. Ping said when she reached home each night from the oil factory, “ Five years, five years, and I shall see my little son; ” and she made supper of acorn-flour cakes for herself and Ah Ping, who was now grown to be a fine fellow of eleven, very studious, very devout, very learned in all the religion of the Chinese, which was extremely fitting, as Chi Ping intended him to be a priest, if money could be earned to keep him at the schools and colleges long enough.

But Chi Ping was now away, and could not get back with his reloaded camels for four months longer, and Mrs. Ping had to keep the letter from America unread until his return.

When he got home he read it, and the rich merchants said : “ Those who stole away your little son have written to America for one to be sent to them who has been educated in a remote part of Maine. We have seen him ; we believe he is Chinese ; we think he may be your son ; he is of the proper age ; but you must wait, and not be in haste.”

And Chi Ping and his wife both said, under their breath, “ Haste ! ” and Chi Ping added: “ Oh, but Time is the one excellent servant of the poor; let us not despise the years yet to pass, but the rather spend them in toiling bravely to educate Ah Ping in the grand, the munificent religion of our country.”

And they did toil; and the toil wrote wrinkles in the quaint little wistful face of Mrs. Ping, and furrows in the swart countenance of her husband ; but the boy did not toil or fare badly, going to his college and the joss house, and learning all the rites and mysteries of the Chinese faith.

Now the five years were nearing their close ; the seventeen long years were almost at an end. Ernest Pingree had come out to Pekin, and joined Mr. and Mrs. Bennett at the mission ; he was studying for the ministry, and a more enthusiastic, devout, charming lad never lived. The Bennetts had become so attached to him that, in despair of ever gleaning any tidings of their son, they had adopted him, and looked forward to the time when he should be doing wonders among his own race. They had never told him who he was ; he knew nothing of his parentage other than the obvious fact of his Mongolian origin, — which was more than Ah Ping had ever learned of his birth. In the climate of China the American child’s skin had yellowed ; his eyes were black and his hair naturally straight and dark, his eyebrows as scanty as the Americans’ frequently are; habit, association, intimacy, had wrought in his features one of those subtle changes of expression, if not of outline, which are not rare, and he passed everywhere as the son of the actor and his wife.

Chi Ping reached home from Taku, with his spongy-footed drove, not very much after the day he had planned; but his journey had been a poor one, and he had but little to show for it. In his absence his wife had been ill and unable to go to the factory, and Ah Ping had had to stay away from the college. There was little even to eat in the house, — a few grains of rice, a little peanut oil, some peach-pit kernels to grind into flour between the stones; yet they ate and were thankful, Ah Ping thought, because they were all once more together.

When he went out, Mrs. Ping said quickly, “ The seventeen years are gone, is it not so, — all gone ? ”

And Chi Ping bowed his head.

“My son! My son! Now, if he be not dead, I shall behold him! ” and her small weazened face became transfigured.

Chi Ping nodded, and rose from the meal, and took his wife by the hand, and bade Ah Ping follow them ; and they went out into the street where they lived, near the old Ferry road, a very ragged, wretched - looking three. And they trudged along doggedly all the way, until they came to the compound, and gained entrance, and inquired the path to the mission where the Bennetts lived ; and they reached the door, and on the porch, in an American rocking-chair, sat Mrs. Bennett, and her husband was reading a newspaper aloud, and inside, in the parlor, Ernest Pingree sat reading, also, from a large book.

Chi Ping went up first; his wife clung to his skirt; she was hungry for the first glimpse of her son. Ah Ping hung back ; he was so starved he felt he must humble himself — nay, it would not be humiliation, but triumph over the foreign devil — and ask an alms of these rich people before he left ; perhaps that was what his father and mother had walked so far for ; he could not tell. He understood no other language than the Chinese, not a word; he had been rigorously excluded from the least intercourse with Christians, precisely as Ernest Pingree had been kept away from the Chinese.

Chi Ping spoke first, replying to the kindly inquiring glances of both Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, but speaking directly to the woman : —

“ Seventeen years allee same same gone away. Me Chi Ping; father lill babee Melican lady steal ’way long ’go, New York. Melican lady plomise my wife ” — little Mrs. Ping’s eyes were so full of pathetic longing that they must have moved a heart of stone ; only no one was looking at them just then except the lad, dropping his big book, in the parlor — “ plomise my wife see my lill babee when eighteen years ol’. Have waitee allee time same same ; come, now, where my son ? ”

“ My son ? ” echoed Mrs. Ping, stretching her short neck out as a thirsty creature toward the cool waters that it scents.

And then Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Bennett consulted aside for a few moments ; for she recalled the face of Mrs. Ping, and her promise to her long ago, although Mr. Ping she had not, to her knowledge, ever seen, yet his face too seemed familiar ; and the husband and wife were stunned and surprised, and utterly nonplussed, for Ernest Pingree was not the sort of lad to present out of hand with a pair of dirty beggars for parents. Still, a promise was a promise, and their patience should be rewarded; and that would be all, for what could they do with Ernest, although he might convert them ?

And while Chi and his wife waited, the others went into the parlor and told Ernest Pingree ; and he said, “ Take me out to them at once.”

Then he was led out, and he beheld them unkempt and ragged as they were.

And little weazen-faced, wistful-eyed Mrs. Ping darted to him, and stretched out her lean, short arms, when Virginia Bennett said, “This is your son.”

But when Mrs. Ping got close to Ernest Pingree, she stopped short and drew back, and, cowering behind her husband, she whimpered : “ My son ! my son ! my lill son ! foleign mister, no mo’ Chineeman ; allee shavee man ! allee Clistian ! Bettel die long ago! ” she added passionately, rising now, and turning her back.

Chi Ping stood still, motionless, inexpressive, irresponsive to the kind words Ernest Pingree tried to utter, to the amiable explanations and the tactful little sermon of the missionary and his wife ; his countenance as if carved of yellow stone, his eyes as if two black glass beads, while all three consoled, exhorted, did their best.

At last Ah Ping thought it was about time to do what seemed good to him, and he fell down and prostrated himself, his forehead touching the dust before them, as he cried out pitifully, “ Ta — la — aie ! Ta — la — aie ! ”

And when they gave him alms, he looked up and smiled in their eyes, but cursed them in his heart.

Still Chi Ping stood motionless, until finally it seemed that no one there had anything more to say ; when, breaking the curious pause, he remarked in that casual fashion common to his countrymen, no matter if under the greatest stress or none at all, “ Melican lady make lose own lill babee long ago allee same jessee likee my ? ”

Virginia Bennett turned sharply, and stared at Chi Ping.

Her husband answered for her very gently, for the wound bled yet in both their hearts at a word or a touch : “ Yes, our son was stolen from us many years since.”

“ How did you know it ? ” Mrs. Bennett asked of Mr. Chi Ping.

“ Me washeeman Ah Soon, come close velly same lill babee go,” replied Chi Ping gravely, without stirring, while his wife and the lad crouched on the path, under a tree.

“Oh,” cried Mrs. Bennett, “now I know why your face seemed familiar to me! I am glad to see you, Johnnee! We must be great friends now, and you must be proud of your son here, who is going to be a minister, priest, you know ! ” she said exuberantly.

“ Flends ? ” echoed Chi Ping. “ Ploud, pliest, no sabe. Melican lady, man,” he added, raising his keen eyes for a second to the two Occidental faces confronting him, “ likee sabe who take 'way lill babee long ago ? ”

“ What do you mean ? ” cried the woman and man both.

“ Ah ! ” screamed Virginia Bennett, “ you know something about my boy ! We never thought of you ! We trusted you ! Who took him ? Who paid you to keep still ? Speak ! ” she shrieked, while Ernest Pingree listened and Mrs. Ping listened, and Ah Ping did not, because he did not understand a word, and was occupied only in being glad of the alms tinkling in his frowzy jacket pocket, and in being glad of the food it would buy.

“No payee me,” replied the Chinaman quietly.

“ Who stole him ? ” said the mother tensely.

“Me takee lill babee myself.” He stood precisely in the spot he had from the first, his yellow face as impassive now as then.

“ You ! ” the Bennetts gasped.

Chi Ping nodded. “ Melican lady takee lill babee, my Oo Too; me takee Melican lady lill babee, jessee allee same same, no diflence.”

“ Where is my child ? ” Virginia Bennett asks, with the fierceness of all those years-full of pent-up suspense and agony concentrated in her words.

“ Light here,” replies Mr. Ping.

“ Alive, thank God! ” says the father, under his breath. “ Take us to him.”

The Chinaman does not stir. “You likee look see he ? ” he inquires blandly.

“Yes! yes! oh yes ! My son ! My son ! ” Mrs. Bennett’s eager eyes light up, and she descends the steps quickly.

Chi Ping points with his lean, taper forefinger to the narrow, scrawny, beggarly figure squatting on the ground.

“ He you’ lill babee, he you’ son. He no sabe Englishee talkee.”

And even then Chi Ping stood stockstill, and no hint of expression of any kind passed across his face.

Through the horrible heartbreak of silence that followed, the mute looks, the stricken hopelessness of inspection, the unconscious immobility of Ah Ping beneath his parents’ regard, Chi Ping kept still. When Mrs. Bennett staggered against her husband’s arm for support, he spoke again.

“ No likee ? ” he asked pleasantly. “ Velly nicee loung man ; fine scholar ; hab my teacliee allee classic, Confucius ; you’ lill son glow up nicee Chineeman, be ploud he ; bimeby, nex’ year, he pliest Chinee ’ligion, sabe ? no likee ? ”

The Bennetts went into the house; the two Pings got up from the ground, and prepared to move when Chi Ping should stir. He stepped down from the veranda, impassive as ever, but he said in Chinese: —

“ Time is a good servant. I am glad I engaged him. Come, now we will go home.”

Some one stopped him ; a hand was laid upon his arm, —* the hand of his own son, whom they had baptized Ernest Pingree.

“ You are my father,” the lad said ; “ yonder is my mother. I will go with you, and serve you, help you, and comfort you.”

“ You ! Clistian man! ” said Chi Ping, confounded. “ You no comee lib beggarman side ! You stay Clistian side : nicee close ; nicee housee ; nicee eatee, dlinkee, allee time same same.”

“ It is because I am a Christian,” said the lad, “ that I choose to go with you.”

“ Melican lady’s boy ? ” inquired Mr. Ping, pointing to Ah Ping, trotting on ahead with Mrs. Ping.

“ I will be his brother,” was the reply, and the four walked out of the compound together, and back toward the hovel near the old Ferry road.

Then a great sob sounded out of the mission - house parlor, and the woman there rose up from her knees, and unhesitatingly walked to the open door and out of it. On the threshold she turned and said to her husband : —

“ I am going to my son, — our son. Will you come, too ? The greatest good we can do in the world now is to try each day a little to win him back to his birthright.”

Thornton Bennett put his arm around her, and they too walked out of the compound, following the path the others had taken ; but they went much faster, for the hunger of mother love, long unfed, spurred the woman, and presently she was speaking to her son.

Frances Aymar Mathews.