Just before dawn in Peiping's model prison a policewoman called to Yoshiko Kawashima through the barred opening of her cell. But Yoshiko slept soundly. Her cell mate, Mrs. Li, a middle-aged opium smuggler, shook her. Said Mrs. Li in great compassion: "Get up, foolish-elder brother."*
Yoshiko opened her eyes, raised herself on a shoulder. "Why," she grumbled, "do you wake me so early this morning?"
"I am afraid," replied Mrs. Li, "to think why."
Thus began the last hour of Yoshiko's strange life. She was born, the Princess Chin Pi-hui (Radiant Jade) of the Manchu dynasty, overthrown in 1911 by China's Sun Yatsen. She had been adopted by a member of Japan's powerful Black Dragon society, renamed Yoshiko (Beautiful One), reared man-fashion in the warrior code of Nippon. As a girl she dedicated herself to the overthrow of the Chinese Republic and the restoration of her house. She became a Japanese spy, masquerading as a taxi-dancer, a Chinese soldier, even as a Korean prostitute (Chinese officers preferred them). She came to be known as the "Mata Hari of China." When war ended she was captured and three weeks ago sentenced to be shot (TIME, March 15).
Last Wishes. On this dim morning last week, Yoshiko rose and calmly put on her grey, cotton-padded prison uniform. Six guards led her into the large vegetable garden in the rear of the prison.
His official red silk cape thrown over an overcoat, Prosecutor Ho Chung-pan of the Hopehi High Court sat behind a small wooden table upon which was placed a writing set and paper. Yoshiko stood at attention four feet from him. "Your appeal has been rejected," Ho piped shrilly. "I am here to see that .the order of your execution is carried out immediately. Have you any last wishes?"
"I should like," said she, "to have your permission to change my clothes." Said he brusquely: "There is no time for that."
"Then," said Yoshiko in mild irony, "I am grateful for the kind treatment I have received while alive in this prison." She paused briefly. "There is one thing, I should like to write a letter to my foster father." For a minute she brushed in Japanese.
"Is there anything else?" demanded the prosecutor. There was nothing. He gestured toward the guards. Yoshiko, upon order, faced about and walked nine paces forward. A guard with a rifle came up behind her. "Kneel down," he shouted. The echo rang out from the prison wall. Yoshiko knelt with the poise of a girl being introduced at court. The guard raised his gun, fired one shot into the back of her head. Yoshiko pitched awkwardly on her face. The morning sun was up. It was 6:20 a.m.
Back in the women's cell block, Mrs. Li and the head matron made up Yoshiko's bed and began assembling her belongings. Both women's eyes were red, as were those of a number of other women prisoners.
"As a woman she was not bad," the matron said. "All of us liked her. One could never guess she was a famous spy."