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Moment in Peking Chapter I 京华烟云 第一章 0002
第一章 后花园富翁埋珠宝 北京城百姓避兵灾
It was the morning of the twentieth of July, 1900. A party of mule carts were lined up at the western entrance of Matajen Hutung, a street in the East City of Peking, part of the mules and carts extending to the valley running north and south along the pink walls of the Big Buddha Temple. The cart drivers were early; they had come there at dawn, and there was quite a hubbub in that early morning, as was always the case with these noisy drivers.
Lota, an old man of about fifty and head servant of the family that had engaged the carts for a long journey, was smoking a pipe and watching the drivers feeding the mules; and the drivers were joking and quarreling with each other. When they could not joke about each other's animals and the animals' ancestors, they joked about themselves. "In such times," said one, "who can tell whether one comes back dead or alive after this journey?"
"You are well paid for it, aren't you?" said Lota. "You can buy a farm with a hundred taels of silver."
"What is the use of silver when you are dead?" replied the driver. "Those bullets from foreign rifles don't recognize persons. Peng-teng! It goes through your brain-cap and you are already a corpse with a crooked queue. Look at the belly of this mule! Can flesh stay bullets? But what can you do? One has to earn a living."
"It's difficult to say," rejoined another. "Once the foreign soldiers come into the city, Peking won't be such a good place to live in, either. For myself, I'm glad to get away."