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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 82, 3 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
Chinese Curiosities. In an article entitled “ Chinese Curiosities,” published in the “ Pall Mall Gazette,” the following, bearing on a peculiar characteristic of Chinamen, occurs: —“ To secure the comfort of their families or the gratification of their hate, and in some cases the furtherance of justice, men are found who willingly offer up their lives to gain their ends. A wealthy criminal condemned for a capital offence finds no difficulty in purchasing, with the consent of his judge, a substitute, by paying an agreed-upon sum to the family of the vicarious victim. It was commonly believed that the men who were executed for participation in the Tientsin massacre played the part of the real culprits at the block that their relations might enjoy their ease for the rest of their lives. And it is not an uncommon thing for a man to commit suicide at the threshold of his enemy’s house in order to involve him in a charge of murder*. But strange as these instances appear, there lately occurred a case in the neighbourhood of Soochow, which is even more incomprehensible. At a place called Ts’ung Ming, two neighbours had for some time lived at enmity, and had resorted to every means in their power to vex and injure each other. At last it occurred to the more inventive of the two that if he could persuade his father to commit suicide he might charge his enemy before the mandarin with having so persecuted the old man as to have driven him to destroy himself. The grotesqueness of the idea was only equalled by the success that it met with. To the proposal—how made we are not told —the old man assented, and in due course * shuffled off this mortal coil,’ leaving the stage clear for the second act. The next scene opens in the magistrate’s court, where the orphan charges his enemy with the constructive murder of his father. So far everything went smoothly for the intriguer ; but, unfortunately for him, in the trial which followed, the accused was able to produce evidence which placed the whole matter in its true light. Then followed a reversal of positions ; and the orphan took his place in the dock on the double charge of having persuaded his father to commit suicide and of having brought an unfounded charge against an innocent man. Matters had been already made so plain that there was no need of a long trial, and the self made orphan now lies under a richly deserved sentence of death in the Soochow gaol. ” Guess Not. Axeltree Jones said he arose to defend the American nation from the aspersions of the Canadian press. He had lately read in a Canada paper that this nation was living too fast, and that he must soon become bankrupt. Such unwarranted attacks on his native country thrilled him with indignation down to his last bunion, and if the press of the country would not resent them he would. “ Livin’ too fast!” as he repeated he drew himself up, “ I hez worn dis same paper collah free weeks. Am dat livin’ too fast 1 Heah am a west ober ten y’ars ole by the almanax ! Am dat dressin’ to kill ? Look at the red woollen patches on dese black pants an’ tole me if it looks as if this nashun was death on sto’ cloze ! Livin’ soo fast! Why de worry ideah am posturous! Am ’taters biled wi’d de hides on an’ pieced out wid bacon an’ co’n-bread livin’ too fast'? On behalf of the American people I protest ! On behalf of dis nashun I warn de Stait of Kennedy dat we can’t be sassed beyond a certain pint. When dat pint hez bin passed dar will come a demand for gore an’revenge !” The speech was received with great applause, and Satisfaction Rice next took the floor and said : “ Civil war an’ its horrors am to be deplored and shunned, but if she must come—if we mus' resort to the force of arms to preserve our honor, den let us resort ! Let us gird on de armor of right an’ march forward wid brave hearts. He who sasses this nashun sasses the LimeKiln Club.” It ws then resolved that this nation was not living too fast, and that Canada had best beware, and the meeting adjourned. “ Detroit Free Press.”
The Electric Light.— The “Saturday Review” thinks very little of Mr. Edison’s recent experiments with the electric light if we may judge by the following sentence : —“ In our opinion Mr. Edison’s pretentious announcements are as little justified by the fact that he has satisfied himself as to what is the best form of carbon to use in the ordinary and wellknown incandescent method of electric lighting, as a candle manufacturer would be justified in announcing that he had completely solved the problem of domestic lighting, because he had devised a slightly improved candle wick.” AN UNPLEASANT ADVENTURE. ( Continued .) I was horror-struck ; and remembering what the old woman had said about Mick’s readiness in using his knife, could not but feel that I had had a narrow escape from a similar fate. Tom’s fall instantly sobered the party, and they gathered round him with terrified faces ; Mick and Barney alone were unconcerned and defiant. The old woman had run out into the byre, screaming “Murther, murther,” probably without knowing how awfully true her words were. “ Och Mick, och Mick,” the men cried, “ye shouldn’t ha’ struck him like that though ye were scrimmagin’. ” “ An’ what did he aggravate me for ? ” said Mick. “Why did’nt he do what I tould him ? ” “It’s no rason for using the knife, Mick, ye’re always too ready with it,” said one of them; but a savage scowl from Mick, and a hurried motion of the hand towards the fatal knife again, made the speaker draw back, and the ferocious leader of the gang was reproached no more for his murderous deed. * There was no help for it, however, and they consulted together what was to be done with the corpse. To my horror, they decided on putting it in one of the beds, till, as they said, they were ready to start, and then I heard them bringing it to the bedroom. I crouched down as close to the wall as I could. I had no time to get under the bed ; but when they came in I was instantly discovered, and dragged out into the kitchen. “ What brought you here, I’d like to know ?” shouted Barney, roughfly seiizng me, and with anger and fear visible in every ing us, havf you ?” I replied quietly that I had been overtaken by the snow storm on the mountains, and being kuite worn out, had sought shelter in the cottage. I added that I had been no spy on their movements, and that I was quite willing to pay handsomely for my accommodation. I did not mention the cld woman, fearing to get her into trouble with her savage friends. “ A like story,” sneered Barney ; “ an’ how did ye come to pick out this house of all the others 1” 1 I replied that it was the only one X 1 saw. Mick, meantime, had entered the room. 1 “Ye sarpent,” said he, “do ye think i wt-’il jist believe that'? I’ll tell ye what ye 1 are ; ye’re a Sassenach spy, so ye are, an’ 1 ye’d hang us ivery one if ye could.” ]
“ That’s jist it,” said Barney. “Do ye think we’ll be afther lettin’ you carry tales on us to the castle of Dublin, an’ gettin’ us hung up at next 'sizes !” Expressions of approbation followed on all sides, and it was evident they meditated violence. In vain I protested my innocence of all intention of becoming acquainted with their proceedings, and pleaded that I was only a benighted traveller. “ Ay, ay,” said Mick, “ jist so ; out of the snow ye came, did ye ! Faith, and ye had better have stayed in it; we’ll let ye know what bein’ in the snow is, so we will.” They tied my hands tightly with a handkerchief taken from the neck of one of them, and effectually gagged me by stuffing another filled with tow into my mouth. Then they brought me into the kitchen, and Mick went round from one to another whispering. That they meant to take my life was evident; but how I could not then make out. They bound my hands with twisted hay-ropes, took the door of the hovel off its hinges, and, placing the corpse on it, Mick and Barney guarding me, the other men took up their fearful burden, and we set off over the snow. It had ceased falling, but lay deep on the bills, forming immense drifts here and there. It was a bright moonlight night, and I could see below me the light of a town shining, as I walked between my savage guards to my unknown death. The party stopped at last near a small thorn bush, evidently a familiar landmark. Two of them taking the corpse by the arms and two by the feet, they swung it slowly but with increasing energy backwards and forwards a few times, and on Mick crying “ Now,” suddenly let it go. It fell head-foremost on the snow about eight or nine feet from them, and instantly disappeared with a dull loud sound. “ How do ye like that for a cowld bed the night ?” laughed Mick savagely to me. I turned pale and shivered with horror as the truth burst on me. There was a deep and steep gully in the mountain side ; it had been nearly filled by the drifting snow, but its edge was accurately marked by the well known thorn-bush ; they were going to throw me in there along with the corpse, to perish in the snow, which often lasts for weeks in such a gully, notwithstanding any amount of thaw. Had my hands been tied with an ordinary rope it would have betrayed the murder, but the hay would be rotted and washed away by the wet before I could be discovered ; it would then seem as if my murdered companion and I had fallen by accident into the snow, or if his body was still so far undecayed as to show his wounds, it would be supposed that I was his murderer, and had fallen in along with him in the struggle. I had some thoughts of pleading for mercy, and offering them a bribe to release me ; but I had been an unwilling spectator of Mick’s deed, and I knew they would never consider themselves safe if I was at large. I had not much time for these reflections, however, for they hound my feet as tightly as my hands with an additional piece of hay-rope which they had brought for the purpose, and then Mick, as being one of the strongest, himself helped to take me up. As they began to swing me, one took the gag out of my mouth ; a’few wild despairing shrieks escaped me, and then a short flight through the air, a dull shock in the snow, and I sank down into the cold soft drift.
How far I may have sunk through the yielding snow I know not —it seemed several feet; but I stopped gradually and without inconvenience, and found myself resting on my side in a bed fitting accurately to the shape of my body, and hence singularly easy ; moreover, after the first few moments, I was not even cold ; the snow, being a bad conductor of heat, formed a very warm and comfortable covering round me. Overcome by fatigue, and knowing that I was in no immediate danger, I positively fell asleep, and must have slept some time, when I was roused by falling still further into the gully. The warmth of my body was melting the snow —I was sinking still deeper into my grave. I knew that such drifts in deep ravines lasted for many weeks. If I called out, no one would hear me : and should a cry by any accident reach the upper air, it would only serve to make the fact of my being alive known to my foes. I gave myself up for lost. Death stared me in the face. Deeper and deeper I sank at intervals during these two days and the intervening night, listening meanwhile to the trickling of the little stream formed of melted snow which ran down the centre of the gully, and which appeared not far from me. I was completely buried in the snow, owing to the continued drifting by the wind, and only the small passage which the warmth of my breath kept free remained to maintain my communication with the upper world or with the vital air. I tried to be as patient as I could, alternately rengning myself to my fate, and then again trying to hope for some chance of release. Towards the close of the second day—for I could distinguish the light from the darkness by means of the aperture—l experienced a sensation, after one of those short sudden descents that I have mentioned, caused by the melting snow giving way under me, as if something sharp were pressing into my right shoulder, which was undermost. Wriggling a little, so as to relieve myself from it, I made it worse, and then became aware that it was a sharp piece of rock on which I was leaning. I had sunk to the ground, or nearly so, apparently not far from the centre of the gully. A gleam of hope shot across my mind. Might I not manage to cut the hay-rope which bound my hands by means of friction against this same sharp rock 1 Working and pushing, wriggling and turning, with great difficulty I got myself forward through the snow till I brought my wrists against the piece of rock instead of my shoulder, and then slowly and laboriously commenced rubbing the hay-rope against the sharp edge. It was weary work, behind my back, and under a weight of snow. The hay was very tenacious, and friction had not so much effect on it as it would have had. on a hempen cord ; but by degrees I managed to insert little sharp points of the rock between one or two of the straws and the rest of the rope, when the former were of course broken without any difficulty. It was necessary, moreover, to cut the cord in two places, so effectively was it tied round my arms, but at last my toilsome work was accomplished, and I found myself free.
To work my knees up through the snow and release my feet was an easy task compared with that of setting my hands at liberty, and now, at length, I began to have some definite hopes of surviving my entombment. Luckily the ruffians had left me my pocket-flask and sandwiches, and to satisfy the excessive cravings of hunger was my first step. How intense these had become, I think no one can know who has not been in a similar situation, and the knowledge that I had food about me certainly did not tend to diminish my energies. Having demolished my sandwiches with great relish, and also made a libeial demand upon my flask, I set to work in earnest, scooping away the snow above me with my hands, and working it behind me like a terrier dog in a hole, or a mole burrowing his underground passage. But it would not do : my weight pressed down the snow behind tighter than that which was above me, so that I had soon a chamber as high as I could reach, and further progress upwards was, of course, impossible. It then occurred to me that if I could run a level in the downhill direction X must soon come out in the light of day, and on this track I accordingly set to work, for although the exercise kept me warm, the fatigue was very great, and my hands were torn and lacerated with the sharp 1 pieces of stone and fragments of thorn |
which were embedded in the snow. The first object I encountered was the corpse of the poor young fellow who had been so brutally murdered, and whose fate I had so nearly shared. Shuddering with horror, I endeavored to avoid it in my course; but when I got past it I determined to try and bring it out along with me, and after some hours of patient work I succeeded, to my great joy, in boring my way out to the upper world again just as the first beams of illuminating the eastern sky across the mountain range. I brought the corpse along with me, but of course no further than out of the snow-drift. I have little more to tell. I made my way in safety to a lower and more hospitable region, and on to the next village, where, seeking out the constabulary sergeant, I told him my story, enquiring whether he knew who the individuals were who were addressed as Mick and Barney. “ I rather think I can guess, sir,” he replied. ‘ ‘ Mick must be a fellow of the name of Flanagan, the biggest ruffian on the country side ; and Barney, I have no doubt, is Bernard Ryan, who is wellknown to be his right-hand man. I shall see after them. ” So I have no doubt he did to the best of his ability, but without effect, for I heard from him subsequently that they had both without question left the country, accompanied no doubt by the rest of the party, early on the morning after the murder of the young man and their endeavor to bury me along with him in his snowy grave. At the inquest on poor Tom warrants were issued for their apprehension, but they were doubtless already on safe ground in some unknown region. For weeks after my adventure I was haunted by the rememberance of the dangers I had experienced, and would wake in the night with the old falling sensation like that in the snow-drift. My present task recalls it all now, and I have given up walking tours till Ireland shall be in a more settled condition. CONCLUDED.
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 82, 3 April 1880
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