Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The mystery that binds

“…no. He’s teaching China. The word will go to the ends of the Empire — how the barbarians came, and smashed the chalice, and went away. And for the first time all China will realise, that they’re not the world’s core, that their Emperor is not God, and that the dream they’ve lived in for thousands of years, is just . . . a dream. Gros was right—it’ll bring down the Manchoos, no error, not today, perhaps not for years, but at last. The mystery that binds China will go up in smoke with the Summer Palace, you see. And just by the way — China will break no more treaties; not in our time.”
      I thought about Yehonala, and wondered if he was right. As it turned out, he was, almost; China was quiet for forty years, until she roused the Boxers against us. And now the Manchoos are gone, and who’ll deny it was the fire that Elgin kindled that made China’s millions think thoughts they’d never thought before?

Flashman and the Dragon, p.279, Fontana Paperback edition, 1986.

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