标题: Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China
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发表于 2016-9-17 07:39 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China

Prologue



The day broke fine and clear. The sun showed his ruddy face above the horizon and clambered out by degrees. His face then turned radiant and dazzling. It was the Valentine Day in 2004—the day for lovers to meet. Linda was a blonde with sky-blue eyes and a model's figure, exactly the type akin to a goddess in Greek mythology. She was a senior in a local high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, a girl full of fanciful whim. But she could still use her reason to deal with everything in reality and could restrain herself against impulses. She was also a cheerleader and a member of astronomy society in the school.

            She had a telescope set up in her room at the window. Of a clear night, she would watch the starry sky, imagining herself flitting among the sparkling stars like an angel. She always thought that the sky was really her home. Her great ambition since a little girl was to be a woman astronaut so that she could travel in a genuine spaceship to explore the mystic outer space. She wanted to see everything in the universe in person, not just on science movies. Once she dreamt that she was hovering in the nocturnal sky and approaching a sparkling star. She knew that stars should be fiery balls like the sun. But when she got close enough, she found that it was an enormous ruby reflecting the light of other stars. She was about to take it into her hands when she was awakened by the alarm clock. It was time to go to school.

A certain astrologist told her parents that a girl endowed with such a spirit and temperament might magnetize some mysterious force in the universe, but Linda did not care. As a matter of fact, she longed for it so that she could have some unpredictable change in her boring routine life. She often manifested that a day passed in an exciting adventure was more worth living than a hundred tedious years.

            Frank lived next door and was her playmate since childhood, and now in the same classroom of the same school. They went to school together every morning and came home together every evening. Their fellow students jested that Frank was the shadow of Linda as shadows cannot be separated from objects. Frank joined the school football team and every time he played in a contest Linda would cheer for him at the side of the court.

            That day, they exchanged gifts, a box of chocolate for her and a new tie for him to wear on the prom night a couple of months away. They would soon graduate from high school. They might go to separate colleges as their interest in the life's goal was different, but they could still get together during the vacations and after graduation since the love between them was a strong rope to tie them together. The eternal separation for them seemed impossible in their opinion.

One day Frank took Linda out for a spin in his new convertible that his father had given him as a gift for his seventeenth birthday. They went to the highway and Frank drove at a high speed.

“Don’t drive so fast. You’re way over the speed limit.” Linda warned.

“Watch out for the cops for me.” Frank suggested, “It’s all right. Only eighty. Most people drive at eighty on this highway.”

Linda knew that she could not dissuade him. Frank was sometimes very stubborn. The late afternoon wind blew Linda’s long golden hair flying behind her like the tail of a comet. Frank seemed to accelerate in his high spirits.   Linda had a last resort that she could take to make Frank listen to her.

“If you don’t decelerate, I won’t go with you any farther.”

“What do you mean?” Frank glanced at her face in doubt. He was at a loss to understand Linda.

“I’ll jump out.” Linda said calmly.

“You kidding?” Frank was surprised to hear it. He knew that Linda often did something out of his expectation. But this time it was too drastic. Before he could say anything else, Linda began to unbuckle her seat belt. Frank hastily lessened the speed, but when he turned to check on Linda to see if she had really jumped out, Linda was nowhere to be seen. She was not in the convertible. She was not on the surface of the road if she had jumped out. At that time there was not much traffic. She could not jump into the passing cars of other people. She just vanished into the thin air like the steam having evaporated.

He had to hurry back and inform her parents of the serious situation. They reported the accident to the police, who sent out the message throughout the nation, but Linda could not be found anywhere in the country.

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发表于 2016-9-17 07:41 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 1

Linda was sucked into a space tunnel by a mysterious cosmic force. She was in a state of dream. She dreamt that she was spinning in an airy whirlpool and feeling dizzy. She wanted to cry, but no sound escaped her mouth. She felt like being suffocated. She fell into a swoon. When she came to, she found herself outside a huge city in the broad daylight. She lay on a meadow half a mile away. She was not sure whether she was still in a dream or not. She pinched herself on the left forearm and felt pain. She closed her eyes and lay there for a few minutes longer. The sun shone on her face warmly and a gust of wind played on her long hair. It must be spring right now.

When she got to her feet she beheld people hurrying towards the city on the thoroughfare, which was paved with dry mud, and which, in her opinion, was too narrow, compared with the highways in America. All the people she saw on the thoroughfare were dressed in weird clothes, which looked like a kind of gowns. The gowns most people wore were shabby, in a single dull color of grey, blue or black. They were shod in cloth shoes with holes here and there, or in straw slippers. A few were donned in silk or brocade of red, green or colorfulness. No doubt, they were from rich families. Some horses with riders on them galloped towards the city and a horse-drawn carriage or two just rolled by in the opposite direction.

           Linda walked among the poor people into the city. She was aware that mingling with these people, she looked weird, like a queer fish out of water. People around her looked at her, too. To them she was dressed in weird clothes: a denim jacket and pants of jeans with a pair of snickers on her feet.

            She realized that somehow she had got into a strange land. She caught some broken words from the conversation between people around her. She decided that it was Chinese as she had had some Chinese girlfriends at school and had known a few Chinese words. And the faces she saw in the streets looked like those of Orientals. She wondered how she could have landed in China. Perhaps she had gone through the center of the Earth and emerged on the other hemisphere.

She strolled in the streets, not knowing what to do and where to go. She was a stranger in this big city. She could not guess what city it was as China had so many cities. She only knew Beijing, the capital, and Shanghai, the largest city in China. She wandered aimlessly. She estimated that this main street was fifteen feet wide, with shops lined on both sides. The shops did not have shop windows. They opened from wall to wall. She could look right into the shops and see what they were doing or selling. When she heard some striking noise like iron hitting iron, she looked into it. It was a blacksmith’s shop, swords and spears on the shelves against a shop wall and bows and quivers of arrows hanging on another wall. One shop displayed scrolls of colorful cloth, silk and brocade. A shop assistant was measuring a scroll of pink cloth with a ruler for a female customer. A confectioner across the street sold all sorts of sweets, from malt candy to sweetened dried fruits. One store she could not recognize, because it was an herb store (drugstore). Herbs were not supposed on display. There were cabinets with rows of small drawers in them standing against the rear wall. One kind of herb was stored in one drawer. There was a long counter in the middle of the shop facing the street and separating the shop into two parts. The shop assistants stood behind the counter and the customers before it. When a customer came with a prescription, a shop assistant would take the herbs one by one from the drawers and weigh them on a small steelyard to the right amount stated on the prescription. Every herb was put on a small piece of paper and wrapped up. Then all the wrapped herbs were laid on a large piece of paper and wrapped into a big package. So the prescription was ready to be picked. The Chinese herbs must be decocted in water in an earthen pot. No metal pot was allowed to use. It was said that the herbs might have some unexpected chemical reactions with the metal. When the water looked like a juice of a dark color, it was ready to be taken. The dark juice was poured into a bowl with the dregs left in the pot. The patient only drank the dark juice. The dregs were thrown away at night on the middle of the street just before the front door of the patient. It was believed that when a passerby stepped over the dregs left on the street, he would take the sickness away from the patient. As for whether the passerby would get sick or not, it was not known nor stated in this bad tradition.

Whenever she passed a restaurant, she could judge all right from the people sitting round tables covered with plates of food. For some she could easily find out by the cooking smell wafted out from the kitchen. Standing in front of a restaurant, a sudden feeling of hunger struck her. She looked at her watch on her left wrist. It was half past one. No wonder she felt starved.

Looking at the people inside busily swallowing food, she had wished that she could have eaten something in that restaurant, but she did not know how she could pay for the meal.

            From the fact that there were no cars running in the streets, no public phones anywhere and no modern equipments to be seen, she concluded that she had plunged in a different period of times than hers—times much earlier in the human history. She had watched enough movies about time machines in America and had enough knowledge to draw such a conclusion. Although she had not entered any time machine, she had no doubt about it.

            She had a 20 dollar bill in her pocket, but she was sure that she could not use it here. She felt the banknote in her pocket once more and fortunately she touched chocolate there. Frank had given her a dozen and she had six left. She took out one piece, and stripping it, put into her mouth. But she could not live on her chocolate for long.        

She walked on and on till she came to a place where she saw some women dressed in ancient Persian clothes, which she had seen on TV when at home. She went up to them for help. But as she approached, she heard them speaking a language she did not understand. Those were the wives and daughters of the Persian merchants who came here to trade their goods. So they were speaking Persian. Then she noticed a young man in the crowd looking like an Englishman. She went straight to him and said “Hello!” He did come from England, though the words and sentences he was using sounded like from Shakespeare’s plays. Luckily she had learned some Shakespeare’s works in high school. So they conversed for a while. From him she learned that it was in the sixteenth century and the city was Peking, the capital of China in Ming Dynasty (1368—1644). She could not understand why the capital was called Peking, not Beijing. Maybe it was a dialect.

            She asked, “What is the currency used here?” The young Englishman took out of his purse some broken silver and a few brass coins, each with a square hole in the middle so that the coins could be put on a string. People tied both ends of the string into a knot to form a coin ring. They would put an arm through the ring and move it up onto the shoulder. Thus it was easy to carry

Then he picked a big piece of broken silver from his open palm and said to her, “People just weigh the silver piece to decide its value. The basic unit is one tael, like a pound in English currency. They have smaller units, such as qian equal to one-tenth of a tael, and fen equal to one-hundredth of a tael, somewhat like shilling and pence in our system.”

            Linda thought how she could get some silver bits to tide her over till she found a job. She doubted whether she could be back at home in the future. She might live in China in the sixteenth century for life. So she must work to support herself. She felt that she could trust in the young man and consulted him. He said, “You can work for my father, who is a merchant coming here from England. Can you read and write?” She nodded. “You can be his secretary. You look so smart.” He remarked.

            The young man worked as a secretary for his father and he did not like this boring work. He aspired after adventures in a foreign land, wielding a sword, not sitting in an office and holding a quill all day long. Now he was happy to find a substitute.

            They walked side by side while talking. Suddenly she turned her face to him and said, “Can I borrow some money from you? I'll pay back when I get my salary.” Then she added, “I want to buy some food.”

            “You didn’t have your lunch yet?” He wondered. “It’s long past the lunch time.” He looked up at the sun in the sky, and fished a watch out of his fob to check the time.

            “I don’t have money.” She pleaded.

            “All right. I'll take you to a restaurant.” He observed. “It seems the first time you are here.”

            “Yes.” She replied curtly.

            “How did you come here?”

            “I came with my father.”

            “Where’s your father now?” queried the young man.

            “Last night we lost our way in the mountains and met a tiger. My father fought with it while signaling me to run away. I don't know how my poor father is now, or even alive.” She said in her heart, “Sorry, dad.” She began to pretend to weep. Surely, she had every reason to weep for herself, not for her father, who was now safe in America in the twenty-first century. She herself was away from sweet home, now in a strange country and in a strange time.

            She followed him into a restaurant. When at home, she had had Chinese food from time to time. So she was familiar with the smell and the taste. In fact, she liked Chinese food. She had some egg rolls and a bowl of wanton soup while he sat across from her, sipping tea. After she finished eating, he took her to his father’s house a few blocks away.

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Chapter 2

Mr. Smith, the father of the young man, was shrewd and stingy. He had his son do the secretarial work for him so that he did not need to pay him salary, though he gave him monthly allowance, which was much less than the salary he would pay when he hired a secretary. But his son made a lot of mistakes, which caused him trouble and headache. He should know that cheap pay could not result in good work. Now his son brought home the girl to be his secretary. He only hoped that she could work better than his son, at least worth the pay he would give her. He would pay her less than the average salary, but Linda was contented with the little income as she did not know what the average pay was at that time.

Since he paid her salary, he thought that he must get his money’s worth. So besides the secretarial work, he bade the girl to do all the housework, including cleaning, cooking and washing.

How could Linda cook and wash clothes? When in America, she had ordered pizza when hungry and thrown all the dirty clothes into a washing machine. But there was no washing machine in the sixteenth century in China. She must wash them with bare hands. She carried the dirty clothes in a basket and went to the nearest stream. She watched other women how to wash clothes. They soaked the clothes in water and took them up and put on a smooth stone above the water. Then they beat the wet clothes with a wooden stick till the dirt on the clothes was squeezed out with water. Then they dipped the clothes in water again and shook them in water to let the dirt go with the current. After a while they took them up and wrung water out of the clothes. She followed suit. After washing, she put the clothes back into the basket and went home. She was told to hang the wet clothes on lines tied between trees to dry.

            As for cooking, she often forgot to add salt to the dishes and sometimes burned the meat. Mr. Smith would deduct some money from her salary for the meat burnt. For several times, Mr. Smith had half a mind to fire her, but he knew that he could not get any other person to do all the work with so low salary. At least her secretarial work was satisfactory.

The young man, Albert Smith, was always not at home. He was seeking adventures somewhere else. Once the young man returned home with a black eye. Although he had learned fencing before he came to China, yet fencing was nothing compared with Chinese kungfu. When one used kungfu, he could kick while practicing fencing, no one kicked. And a kungfu person could use any weapon, including heavy steel club, while a fencing person only used a thin rapier. There were so many advantages in kungfu over fencing. So he was now learning kungfu from a famous master. Linda wished that next time when he fought against anyone, he had better give black eye than get it.

As Mr. Smith was busy with his business and Albert was away from home, Linda felt lonely and had no one to talk to, though she never talked to the father unless necessary. She was a little afraid of him with a potbelly and a pudgy build. He stared at her with a fierce look in his eyes whenever speaking to her. Once she forgot to polish his shoes, he deducted some money from her salary for the negligence of her job.

She toiled from morning till night and worked her fingers to the bone. She began to hate the heartless old man. However, she had at least earned some money and bought some clothes of the Ming-Dynasty style. She did not want to be conspicuous with bizarre clothes on among other people. Attraction of public attention was not a good thing in ancient China, especially for a pretty girl, she was told. She threw her modern American clothes away.

One day she bought a fish from the market. She cut the head of the fish off and thought that it were Mr. Smith’s head. Then she felt a little better. Another day when she got a piece of meat, she would beat it as if she were beating Mr. Smith. When she felt much better, she cooked the meat while humming a pop song to herself.

            One afternoon she went out shopping for vegetables and meat for supper. As she looked so beautiful, almost everyone within the sight either glanced or gazed at her. Just then, a big guy came from the other end of the street. He had a sword hanging from the girdle round his waist. All the pedestrians stepped aside to let him pass. A miserable dog got in his way and he kicked it up with his big foot. The dog flew up like a bird, landed on a roof and rolled down onto the ground. It whined in pain and quickly limped away to escape a second kick. At that time in China, most houses were bungalows, and low.

            People in the street just looked on at the scene. No one dared to say anything to this huge guy, especially with a sword hanging on his side. When he got close to Linda, he exclaimed, “Oh, by Buddha! What a beauty! She belongs to me.” He roared in merry laughter. He came to her side and snatched her up and put her on his right shoulder like he were shouldering a sack of rice. Linda fisted him on the back, shouting, “Let me down! Let me down!” She said these words in Chinese, though the pronunciation was not so good, but understandable. She had known a little Chinese when at home because some of her classmates were Chinese-Americans. Since she arrived in China, she had started to learn some more Chinese. She knew that she must overcome the language obstacle, or her life here would be more difficult. She learned easily. She was really a language genius.

            The big guy was kidnapping a girl in the broad daylight before so many eyes. Although this was much more serious than the kicking of a dog, yet no one said anything to him. People just stared in silence. The big guy carried Linda away. Just then, the sound of galloping hooves was heard. People in the narrow street stepped aside to avoid any accident.

            Soon a white steed came into sight. A young woman sat steadily on the horseback. She was dressed in a dark green upper garment and light-green trousers, in a Chinese style, both of silk. Her little delicate feet were incased in so small shoes of greenish brocade. Ah, the stirrup was of silver. She came from a rich family. Her hair was done in a knot on the top of her head with pearls strung together in the shape of a butterfly stuck in it. In her right hand, she held a long whip. She halted the horse in front of the big guy and said in her ringing voice, “Let her down.”

            The guy sneered at her. “Who you think you are.”

            “You don’t know me personally, I'm sure, but you may have heard of my nickname.” At that time, kungfu people, both men and women, used nicknames. As a matter of fact, it was not they themselves who wanted to use nicknames. Other people in the karate circle gave them nicknames based on their own conducts. Therefore, the nicknames would reflect their personality and general behavior.

            “What's it?”

            “Green Phoenix.” She was famous in the kungfu world since she always helped the needy and gave money and things to the poor like some good knights in the middle age in England. Only in England there were no lady knights. Of course, the big guy had heard of Green Phoenix, but he was not afraid of her. He thought to himself, “I’m a big guy. You are only a tiny woman. How can you fight me without being defeated?” He forgot the fact that in kungfu world, it did not depend on the strength born with, but on the kungfu, which would produce great force even from a small stature. The higher one’s kungfu level was, the stronger he or she would be in fight, including kungfu maneuver skills.

            The big guy shifted Linda from his right shoulder to the left and drew out his sword with his right hand. He took the initiative and thrust his sword towards the right leg of Green Phoenix, who was still on the horseback with the guy at her right side. She cracked her whip at his right hand. As the whip was much longer, it hit the guy’s hand before he could reach her with his sword. The whip came so quick that he had no time to change his move. It meant that his kungfu level was much lower. Blood was seen on his hand and a sharp pain released the sword in his grip. It fell on the ground with a clang. He could not believe that he was defeated in the first round. He attributed his defeat to his slighting a woman.

            He let go of Linda, who was about to drop on the ground and might get hurt when the thin end of the long whip flitted by under her body and entwined on her waist. The young woman jerked back the whip with the girl entwined on the other end. As the girl flew over, she held out both her hands and caught her in the air. She let Linda sit behind her on the horseback.

            The big guy picked up his sword and rushed towards Green Phoenix. He would not acknowledge his defeat at the first round. He used his sword as an ax and cut at her hip. She twirled her whip tightly round the blade of his sword and gave a great pull. The force was so gigantic that the guy, though a giant as he was, could not hold his sword any longer. The sword flew away from his hand and landed on the nearby roof. This time the guy knew that he was no match for her and turned to run away for his dear life. Taking the advantage of her long whip, Green Phoenix gave his butts a final hit as a warning and a lesson as well as farewell bidding.

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发表于 2016-9-18 05:40 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 3

Linda told Green Phoenix her distorted story when they sat in a tea room. She even shed a couple of tears like a crocodile. Green Phoenix sympathized with her and consoled her.

“Now tell me where you will go.” Green Phoenix asked the girl.

“I don’t know.” Linda was now in real tears. “I have no relatives, no friends in this city.”

Since such a nasty accident had happened to her, Green Phoenix could not let her go alone for fear that the big guy would be lurking somewhere to get the girl again when she left the girl alone. So she took her to her inn. She told the waiter to put up another bed for her. From now on she would keep an eye on her round the clock. She even tied a string round the wrist of Linda’s left hand and tied the other end of the string on her own right wrist when they went to bed so that if anyone wanted to snatch the girl away in their sleep, the pull at the string would wake her up. But nothing happened the whole night.

            Green Phoenix came from Soochow, a big city to the south of Yangtze River in an eastern province of China. She had been on a journey to the north on some private errand and now would be back to her home city. She would take Linda there and put her up for the time being in her house till she found her father, which she could never achieve since her father was away in America and in the distant future, almost four centuries ahead.

            Before they left the city, Linda went to see Mr. Smith, accompanied by Green Phoenix. She told him that she was quitting the job. Mr. Smith roared at her in wrath.

            “You can’t quit like that. You must give me at least a week’s notice.”

            “I can’t.” Linda pleaded, telling him the episode of the big guy kidnapping her.

            “That’s your problem. If you leave now, I won’t pay you a farthing.”

            Green Phoenix cut in, “Let’s go. We don’t need his stinking pelf.”

            Linda bade adieu to Mr. Smith. Albert was out as always. Linda felt that she owed something to him. It was he who pulled her out of her plight and gave her a job, which at least meant bread and board to her, though temporarily. So she was grateful to him.  

Green Phoenix and Linda started their journey south. They shared the horse, with Linda sitting behind. They let the horse amble through the busy streets. Linda gave her final glance around at all the things past her. She could never surmise that Fate would bring her back again in this city.

Once out of the city, the horse galloped on the thoroughfare. The pedestrians always kept at the side of the road. Some distance away, they saw a carriage lying in the middle of the road, on its side. There must be an accident. Two men dressed like servants were doing something at the carriage. Green Phoenix told Linda to hold her waist tight and spurred her horse to the full speed. The horse seemed to know the intention of its mistress, jumped over the carriage and continued its gallop.

They went along the Great Canal, which had been dug out by the order of Emperor Yang, the second and last emperor in the Sui Dynasty. (581—618 A. D.) It goes from north to south, from the Yellow River to the Yangtze River.

            On the way Green Phoenix told Linda a story about Emperor Yang. Once he sailed down the Great Canal on a dragon-shaped ship. He had the ship towed by a hundred young girls in colorful silk clothes and a hundred white sheep covered with multicolored cloth, a sheep before a girl. On both banks along the canal grew two rows of green willow trees. So the sight was really attractive and there were many spectators. Some of them were the parents or relatives of the girls. They wanted to be close to the girls to see that nothing serious would happen to them. They had had the promise that once the ship reached the destination, the girls could go home.

            Three days later they came across a bazaar outside a town in front of a temple building. The temple housed the town god. It was the tradition that every city or town had a temple built for the guardian god in suburbs and bazaars were always held in the wide space before it. In the bazaar there were all kinds of things on display on the ground for sale. Some food booths dotted here and there. Crowds of people were moving this way and that. Most people would go first into the temple to worship the town god for his blessing and then came out to bargain for things they wanted to buy or to stuff their stomachs with delicious food. In a corner place beside the temple a few people were performing some kungfu feats like in a circus, surrounded by many spectators. When they finished, one of the performers went round with his cap upside down for money. Spectators would throw a few coins in the cap. If the performers were lucky, some rich men would give them pieces of broken silver. Seizing this opportunity, one or two fortune-tellers would put up a small table somewhere in the bazaar. They would also write letters for the illiterate people to get a few coins.

            The collective noise was so great that one had to shout to be heard. Green Phoenix tied her horse to a tree before the temple and promised a beggar sitting against the temple wall some money if he could watch the horse till she was back. The beggar was glad to comply.

Green Phoenix and Linda roamed among the crowds. They came to a food booth and ordered a bowl of noodle for Green Phoenix and a plate of fried wonton for Linda. While eating, Green Phoenix saw a fortune-teller, an old man, not far from the booth. When finishing, they went to the fortune-teller’s table. There was a bench at the other side of the table for clients. Green Phoenix and Linda sat down on the bench.

            Chinese fortune-telling is different from that in other cultures. The gypsies will use a pack of tarot cards or a crystal ball. In Chinese fortune telling, besides palm-reading and face-reading, the fortune teller should acquire eight Chinese characters, two of them representing the year, two standing for the month, two for the date, which represent a person's birthday, and the last two for the hour the person was born in. The eight characters are the essentials in Chinese fortune telling. In ancient China, people didn't have the clock. They used the sundial or the water timer. The time of a whole day was divided into twelve equal sections, one equivalent to two hours of the present time count. Each section had a Chinese character to represent it. So there were twelve characters for the twelve sections of a day's time. These twelve characters formed a group called dizhi. Another group of ten Chinese characters, called tiangan, was invented. The first character of the tiangan group was used together with the first character of dizhi group to form a pair to mark the first date of the year and the first year when people first set up the lunar calendar. (The two characters are used for the month only in fortune telling. In everyday life the ancient people used the first moon or the second moon of the year, etc., in the lunar calendar.) Then the second pair of characters was chosen in the same way, and then the third pair till the tenth pair. As the dizhi group had twelve characters, while the tiangan group had only ten, the eleventh character in dizhi group was paired with the first character in tiangan group and the twelfth with the second, then the first character in dizhi group paired with the third character in tiangan group. Therefore, every sixty years, the same cycle was repeated. The year, the month, the date and the hour were each represented by two characters in fortune telling. When a fortune teller arranged the eight characters in a certain way, aided by other information from a fortune-telling book—like five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth—he could tell a person’s fortune year by year, or even month by month. But generally he told people’s fortune by five-year intervals. If one wanted him to do it year by year, okay, the charge was higher, because more work was involved. He could also write down all the details of one’s fortune so that he could keep it and consult it as often as he liked.

Green Phoenix advised Linda to have her fortune told. Just for fun, Linda agreed. The fortune-teller asked for Linda’s birthday and the exact time she had been born. But Linda did not know the time. So the old man could not tell her fortune; instead, he read her face and palms. He said that Linda had come from another country, which everyone could tell from her face and golden hair. He added that Linda would be a noble lady some day, but would experience a series of mishap. When asked what would be the misfortune, he refused to tell the details, saying that it was the Heaven's secrets and he should not reveal them to any mortals, or he would be punished by Heaven. “Some strange things will happen to you, young lady.” He concluded, “You will travel very far, perhaps to a foreign land in the end.” “Does it mean that I can go back to America in the end?” Linda thought. But she always doubted if any fortune teller could really foretell people’s future. Fate is really a mystery.

            Then the old man told the fortune of Green Phoenix, who gave him her birthday and the birth time. Linda didn’t even listen to it. She was attracted by all the novelties around her. At length Green Phoenix stood up and paid the old man. They went round to buy something. Linda chose a lovely colorful doll made of clay and Green Phoenix selected a white piece of jade in the shape of phoenix.

            They came to a circle, inside which a young guy was performing some karate feats. Linda applauded after the young guy finished, but Green Phoenix made some kind of derision, heard by the young guy. Young people are easily to flare up at even trifling things. The young guy said to Green Phoenix, “All right, my kungfu may be bad. You, young lady, must be very good at kungfu. Let's fight to see who’s better.” He did not even wait for Green Phoenix to say anything in refusal or acceptance and fisted her at her right shoulder. Green Phoenix had to defend herself and so they commenced to fight. The spectators retreated to a safe distance and watched, Linda among them.

            Green Phoenix chopped at his wrist with her right hand. The guy had to withdraw his fist, or the bone of his wrist would be broken by the force of the hit. Their moves became faster, but after some ten rounds, Green Phoenix crouched and kicked him at the calf. He fell on the ground. That meant that she was better in kungfu. As a general rule in the kungfu world, he must acknowledge the defeat. The fight stopped.

            Green Phoenix turned to go, but to her great astonishment and panic, she found that Linda was nowhere to be seen. She looked for her in the throngs and in the temple, but in vain. When she ran to and fro in a great hurry, some middle-aged woman stopped her and told her that she saw a girl with yellow hair, who was put into a carriage by two men and was carried away. Green Phoenix came to the immediate conclusion that Linda had been kidnapped. She asked the woman in which direction the two men had gone and the woman pointed to the east. Therefore, she rode eastward in pursuit of them.

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发表于 2016-9-18 05:41 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 4

It seems in men’s disposition to prefer beautiful girls and always wish to possess them as their property. In the feudal China, women did seem to be men’s property. They could sell their women to anyone they wanted to or even give away as gifts. Quite a few men would bet their wives on the gambling table when they lost everything else. If they lost again, their wives would change hands like some goods.

            Since Green Phoenix and Linda arrived in the bazaar, two men had followed them everywhere. They were woman-mongers and planned to kidnap them and sold them for a handsome price as both girls were so beautiful. But when they saw that Green Phoenix had kungfu, they almost lost hope. Then they saw Linda alone among the crowd and so they sneaked close to her and put a handkerchief dipped in some kind of medicine akin to chloroform over her nose. When she would fall in a swoon, they gently supported her and pulled her away. They stuffed her into a carriage drawn by a horse, which they got ready all the time. They would sell her to a whorehouse.

            The carriage rolled to the notorious Qinhuai River in the southeast of China. It was well-known for the Flower Boat. Those boats were decorated pompously. Every boat, slowly gliding on the smooth water, was a floating brothel. The girls there were divided into classes. Girls of the lowest class would have sex with patrons while girls of the highest class only entertained their patrons with singing, dancing or chess-playing with them. The most famous ones could even draw pictures and write poems. If getting a poem or a painting from a famous girl, a patron would proudly show it to his friends because it meant that he had a special relationship with the girl. He would let them guess in what stage their relationship reached. Some friends might tease him with a fond surmise that he had had sex with the girl, who would never have that with any patrons except the one she was really in love with. Even for the lover, she would not have sex with him until after marriage. Of course, they kept the joke a secret among themselves and did not dare to let the girl know, or the girl would refuse to see the man again for spreading the rumor about her and marring her good reputation.

All the girls were bought young and taught singing and dancing, arts and literature. They could play some kind of musical instruments like lute or fife. And of course, the charges were much higher than those in the whorehouses on land.

            Since Linda was beautiful and special, any procuress would pay a high price for her though she was not so young. The two woman-mongers parked their carriage on the bank under a large tree. One of the men would go to a bawd, with whom they had done a lot of business. He rented a small boat and took Linda in it to a huge boat almost anchoring in the midstream.

            When Linda came to, she found herself in a dark space like in a tiny room. Only it was moving. She was bound hand and foot, but nothing gagged her mouth. She yelled “Help!”

            “Shut up!” A man climbed in, holding a bright sharp dagger. “If you do what we bid, we’ll treat you well. If you want to run away, we’ll kill you without hesitation. Understand?” Linda could not but nod her head in spite that she did not fully understand what he was saying. But she could guess under such circumstances. In the dim interior, she was not sure that the man could see her nodding. Since Linda kept silent and quiet, the man did not make any move or say anything more.

            Several days later, they reached the riverside. The man ordered her to come out and hurried her into a small boat. After a while they got on board a huge beautifully adorned boat. The man left Linda in the outer cabin in the custody of another guy working for the bawd when he himself entered an inner cabin where he met the bawd. There was only a velvet curtain hanging in the doorway between the two cabins.

            “Dear Madam,” said the man, “we have a precious piece of goods for you.”

            “I know.” Smiled the bawd. “You always keep the best girls for me, and I always pay you more than other madams. We both have what we want.”

            “So, it’s pleasure to do business with you.”

            “Where’s she? Show me the goods and we’ll see how much she’s worth.”

            The man pulled aside the curtain and beckoned Linda to come in. Linda obeyed. At the sight of the special girl, the eyes of the bawd became wide and bright. She had never seen a girl with golden hair, and so beautiful. Even her favorite girl, Peony (the bawd liked her girls to use nicknames picked from flowers), was pale in comparison to her. The girl was certainly a western beauty she had heard so much about and only today she witnessed one. Linda only knew that she was on a boat, but could not guess what they wanted from her. She had been taught Chinese all the way down here. But they seemed to talk in a jargon. She had to wait and see what would be the result. She did not have the least idea of the prostitute business in ancient China.

            Then they both left the inner cabin to finish their trade. The bawd came back after a long while. She told Linda that she must learn something. Linda did not care as long as she had food and board. She learned to sing Chinese classical songs and dances. She thought that they wanted her to perform these to make money. That was easy because she had won the second prize in a girl’s singing contest and had been trained in a ballet class, back in America. So she asked the bawd why not to let her sing and dance in her own way and thus might attract more people. Then she sang an American pop song while twisting her body in a modern American dance to the astonishment and satisfaction of the bawd. She had been endowed with a good sexy voice. Linda did not know that her existence and talent were already known to the outside world, beyond the bounds of the boat. News has wings and travels fast.

            All the way towards the east, Green Phoenix kept asking around who had seen a girl with golden hair. Someone said no and someone said yes. The one who said yes had seen such a girl coming out of an inn with two men and even pointed out the direction she had gone. So Green Phoenix followed the clues eastward.

            One day, the governor of this province came on the boat and asked to see Linda, now under the nickname of Water Lily. When Linda entered the big guest cabin, he loved her at the first sight. He was an old man and already had wife and three concubines. He wanted Linda to be her fourth concubine. He offered a large sum of money to the bawd, double or even triple to the price the bawd had paid for Linda. The bawd wanted to refuse because Linda was young and would earn her more money in the years to come, but she did not dare to reject as he was the governor.

            The governor could hire some experienced administrative persons as his counselors. They had helped all the ex-governors to deal with daily routine. One would help him with legal business. One would attend all the financial matters. And one would write all the documents for him like a secretary. It was especially important if the governor wanted to write reports or petitions to the emperor. If one word was used wrong, it might cost him his position or even life. This counselor was his first counselor. Now his first counselor accompanied him here. He also loved Linda at the first sight and thought of a way to discourage the governor.

            “As Your Excellency know, in this country, everything special must be sent to the emperor. If His Majesty knows that Your Excellency have such a special girl for a concubine instead of sending her to the palace, His Majesty may get angry, and think of the result when an emperor flares up.”

           The governor was, of course, afraid of the emperor. So he was contented with her singing and dancing. When he left, besides paying the bawd the dues, he gave Linda personally a ring with a big piece of emerald set on it. Linda thanked him and put the ring on her ring finger. She did not even know that some danger had approached her a while before.

            A few days later, the first counselor came and offered the bawd more money than the governor had offered. He was a middle-aged man and had wife and a concubine. The bawd was a clever woman and said to him, “What if the governor, His Excellency, knows that Your Counsellorship have the girl?” He did not think of that in his eagerness to get the girl. He left crestfallen. Now Linda was safe and raked in silver and gold for the bawd everyday. The bawd looked upon Linda as her Ali Baba’s cave, a never-exhausted treasure source. She even thought Linda’s golden hair worth some money. But Linda was contented, making her living by singing and dancing, better than doing wearisome and laborious housework in that old Englishman’s dwelling.

            Water Lily became famous. Many young men of rich families came to visit her and asked for her hand, but Linda gave rejection to every suitors. She did not want to marry in China in the sixteenth century, especially not to be a concubine. She had a boyfriend back home. Besides, she was still young, only eighteen. However, in China at that time, a girl became of age at sixteen, the right time to get married. The hair style would tell the difference. Before sixteen, a girl would comb part of her hair upward into pigtails like two horns, about two inches high, which was called fork-styled in Chinese. After that age, she would do her hair into one of many styles that an adult would wear. Therefore, everyone who knew Linda thought that she was already two years past the age she should get married.

            One of the young men was of a violent type and particularly unreasonable. He insisted on marrying Linda at any price as his second concubine. At that time in China, rich people only took a girl to wife from an equally rich family. So any girl, though very beautiful, but coming from a brothel or a poor family, could only be a concubine, even if the man had no wife yet. He would get a suitable wife later to help him to manage things of the household.

            One day, the young man brought a group of man-servants with him, declaring that he would take Water Lily home today by force if he met with another rebuff and could not get her peacefully. The bawd was terrified and could do nothing in her limited power to protect Linda. And it was futile to report the event to the district authorities, because government officials were always hand in glove with rich people even if they were wrong.

            The servants forced Linda to go with them and put her in a small boat they had come in. Linda felt like being kidnapped a second time. The young man and his servants rowed the boat to the river bank. There was a luxuriously decorated coach on the shore, waiting to carry the girl home. So many people were there watching that the traffic was blocked. All wanted to have a look at the girl with the golden hair, whom they had heard so much about.

            Green Phoenix stood among the crowds. When she came here, she learned that Linda was in one of the Flower Boats to be a whore. She must deliver her from a hell of a brothel. She had planned to rent a boat rowing around to search all the Flower Boats. Once she found Linda, she would take her away by force. Now she also learned that some violent young man wanted to snatch Linda away from the Flower Boat Linda was in and take her home.

            It was a chance and would save her a lot of trouble to search for her. She tied her horse on a tree behind and watched the young man and his servants with Linda among them. When the group approached the coach, Green Phoenix stepped forward, saying, “You can’t take her. She’s my friend.”

            “Who are you?” The young man asked. “How dare you to interfere with my business?” He made a sign with his hand to his servants and two of them came up to Green Phoenix. She knew that she could not dissuade the young man. So she just used her kungfu. She swirled her long whip and made the thin end go round the waist of a servant. Then she jerked up the whip and threw the servant into the river. She did the same with the other servants. Seeing this, the young man got into the coach and hurried the coachman to drive away, leaving Linda behind.

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Chapter 5

Linda was glad to see Green Phoenix again, who was her sole friend in China. Linda had an impulse to hug Green Phoenix, but she knew that Chinese women in old time were not accustomed to such intimacy. So she restrained herself and was only satisfied with saying "thank you" again and again till Green Phoenix stopped her.

They had the horsepool (created after carpool) and left the spot. Green Phoenix explained to Linda what kind of a job she had been doing. Linda was ashamed of herself that she had been a prostitute without herself knowing it. It had been lucky for her that no patron had asked her to have sex. For that, she was grateful to the bawd to have placed her in the highest class of the business.

            They went further south and came to a city. When they sat in a restaurant having lunch, they heard the diners talking about a disease-healing marriage. Linda was curious to know what it was. So Green Phoenix explained to her.

            When a young man was seriously sick, his parents would arrange a wedding for him. If he had some girl already engaged, it was easy to proceed with the ceremony, but if none, the parents must find someone for that. It was a bad tradition in which people believed that the marriage would have a healing effect to any serious disease. Nevertheless, the result was often that the bridegroom died shortly after the marriage and the bride became a widow.

            “But” asked Linda, “since the bridegroom is seriously ill, how can he stand up for the ritual?”

            “Good question.” was the answer. “The parents will find a substitute for the ceremony. But the girl is still the wife of the sick person. After the ceremony, she is sent into the room the sick young man is lying in bed and waiting for his bride.”

            “What about the substitute?”

            “he’s sent away with some money. Generally they will find a poor young man for that.”

            Linda thought it very ridiculous. It was. However, every race has ridiculous traditions.

After the lunch, they continued on their trip. The next city they arrived in two days later was Yangchow City. Yangchow was a big city at the north side of the Yangtze River. It had a large population at that time and was famous for beautiful girls. It was said that a girl, once living in this city for a long time, would become beautiful if she had not been so before.

            Green Phoenix and Linda entered the city and took lodging in a big inn. As they were not in a hurry, they went to some scenic spots of renown for sightseeing. Linda saw a church and went in followed by Green Phoenix. She wanted to talk to the priest. She felt as if she had not spoken English for a long time. But when she found him, he spoke only Italian because he had come from Italy. Linda was disappointed.

One day when they roamed in the busy streets for the last time as they would leave the city that day, pulling the horse behind, they viewed all sorts of shops lined on either side. Linda had Chinese money now and she wanted to buy something for her parents and boyfriend if she could return there. She went into a shop that sold knickknacks. Green Phoenix stayed outside, being with a horse.

    All of a sudden there arose chaos at the far end of the street. People were running this way, shouting, “Girls, run!” Green Phoenix had known when she had been in the capital that the emperor had issued an order that he would have the beautiful girls in the country sent to the palace. As the women in the palace had grown old, he wanted young girls to replace them. He would select the most beautiful girls as his royal concubines, and less beautiful to be the palace maids. And those left from his selection would be given to his courtiers, the princes, dukes and earls to be their concubines or maids.

            A girl to be chosen had advantages and disadvantages. If she was chosen as a royal concubine, she would live in luxury, with eunuchs and palace maids to wait on her hand and foot. Her father or relatives might be appointed as government officials. But if as a maid, she was not permitted to leave the palace and to visit her parents until old age when her prime time of youth was gone. It was more miserable to be a palace maid, who always got scolding or even beating for petty offences or even for nothing at all when the emperor, the empress or the concubine she served was unhappy and wanted to vent their irritation. If she actually made some serious mistake she might lose her life, depending on the mood of the emperor, the empress or the concubine she served. Therefore, most girls would not like the idea to be sent into the palace, especially nor would their parents.

            When Green Phoenix had been in the capital, the emperor’s order had not been executed yet. The heralds were sent out just when she left for the south. Now a herald must arrive in this city. The mayor sent out his soldiers to seek and seize beautiful girls whenever they set their eyes on one. They would take the girls even in the streets and if it was not enough, they would search door by door. For such a big and famous city, the mayor got a quota bigger than the other cities. He might detain one or two for his own use at the risk of being found out and losing the position.

            Some soldiers dashed up from the other end of the street. Green Phoenix had no time to get Linda and she had to jump onto her horse and galloped away. She thought that if Linda was seized she could come back to deliver her later, if she was still free.

            The soldiers searched every shop, especially those that girls loved to visit. Many girls had already escaped and those who were in the shops stole away from the back doors helped by the owners. But Linda didn't know and was seized by the soldiers. She was taken to the presence of the mayor. As she was so special the mayor had to let her be sent to the palace though he had half a mind to detain her for himself if he dared.

For the time being, Linda lived in the mayor’s yamen and was treated well. The mayor thought that as she was so beautiful, the emperor would certainly like her. So he treated her well in hopes that she would throw in a few good words for him when she became the emperor’s favorite.

Now Linda came to know that she would be sent to the palace of the Chinese emperor. She had never been to a palace, any palace. It must be a beautiful place. And she was curious to see it and see the ancient Chinese emperor. It would be a fantastic experience in her life. Since she did not know any possible danger living in the palace, she was excited and longed to be there soon. When the mayor fulfilled the female quota, he sent all the girls, except two, on the way to the capital, escorted by a battalion of soldiers.

      Linda looked at the other girls. They were all beautiful and the only thing on them that was ugly and unnatural, in her opinion, was their little deformed feet, generally three inches long, and the sole was triangular. It was said that the tradition to bind the female feet had begun in Sung Dynasty (960—1279 A. D.) and lasted till the Republic of China was established. (1912 A.D.) But even when the tradition prevailed, it was only kept within a small circle, only in those families from well-to-do to wealthy ones. In the countryside, most peasant families would not force their girls to bind feet because they must work in the fields. Therefore, the little feet were really a token of richness, for the girls from poor families could not afford to bind their feet.

            When the girls reached the capital, they lodged in a pretty big house, particularly arranged for them. They would wait till all the girls from every corner of the country gathered here. Then the eunuch in charge of this assignment would report to the emperor, who would fix a day to summon all the girls to his presence.
            The girls were trained to perform all the palace etiquette. And on that day they would don palace clothes, specially made to fit each of them. Linda could speak more Chinese now, though in a foreign accent, but understandable. She had learned a little Chinese history in the high school and now she was continuing to learn it from life in  China. There would be no better chance for her, if she was keen on it, but she was forced. She had nothing to do with  China  except that her destiny landed her here.

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Chapter 6

The day came for the palace reception. All the girls were attired suitably. They were waiting in the large yard before the main hall of the palace. They must arrive early when the emperor was still having his breakfast. It was a long waiting and they must stand there. They were not allowed even to sit on the ground because their clothes would get dirty, and dirty clothes were a sign of disrespect in the presence of the emperor. In the history of China, on such an occasion, a feeble girl would indeed faint when the sun rose high and hot.

It was autumn then and the weather was comfortable. Linda’s curiosity was so keen that she kept her eyes wide open to take in all the details of the scenes she had passed on her way here. Once in the palace her excitement reached its apex. She had been told by other girls on their way to Peking that a Chinese emperor was said to be the impersonation of a dragon. She had seen a picture of the Chinese dragon, which was totally different from a Greek dragon. The Chinese dragon had two horns on the head and four talons on the side of the body, which was like a gigantic serpent and covered with huge bright scales. It could ride on the clouds and fly in the sky. Chinese people in the olden times believed that the rain from the sky was the function of the dragon that sucked the water from the ocean and spat it out to form the rain. The myth was so wonderful that Linda wanted to see if the emperor had really two horns on his head or his face would look fierce like that of the dragon.

            At long last the emperor came. Everyone must get down on their knees in his presence. Everyone must prostrate on the ground till he got into the hall. This etiquette must be designed for fear of some assassins. When anyone prostrated on the ground, an assassin would be slow in action and the palace guards had enough time to react. Anyway, it became part of the etiquette.

            The girls were summoned into the hall one by one. The emperor scrutinized every girl and sometimes asked a few questions. There were some groups formed. When the emperor finished with a girl, he would make a sign and the head eunuch would tell the girl to which group she belonged. The group having the fewest girls would be the emperor’s concubines and the group with the most girls would be sent out of the palace to the courtiers, princes, dukes or earls.

            Now it was Linda’s turn. She stepped into the hall with her eyes glancing at the emperor, who looked like anyone else, normal and handsome. The emperor watched her coming in. Her golden hair was very conspicuous, the first thing on her that attracted the attention of the emperor. The emperor liked her very much since she was so beautiful and elegant. He asked Linda where she had come from. Linda answered in a gentle voice, “From America, Your Majesty.” The emperor did not know where America was. He was map-illiterate. He asked, “Where is America?”

            “On the other side of the earth, Your Majesty.”

The emperor looked confused. At that time Chinese people also believed in the flat earth with an immense piece of land surrounded by the seas and beyond the sea in the east there was an island on which lived some gods and goddesses. There had been a story about the elixir that the gods and goddesses had. According to a legend, if whoever could get the elixir and drink it would become immortal. The First Emperor of Qin Dynasty (221—207 B. C.) sent a man by the name of Xu Fu to search for the island. The order was that he must bring back the elixir. He went with one hundred boys and one hundred girls in several ships. The history book recorded that he never returned, but settled down in Japan when he reached it. Therefore, these people were the ancestors of the Japanese. It could be true since there are so many similarities between Chinese and Japanese cultures.

Although the emperor did not know where America was, he at least knew that the girl was a western beauty. He had seen a few when some foreign delegations came to pay their respect to him. He liked the boldness of this girl. All Chinese girls were timid and hung their heads when speaking. The emperor could not really see all the faces clearly except that of Linda’s, who looked at the emperor in the eyes all the time.

The head eunuch told the emperor that this girl could sing and dance in a totally new style no one here had seen before. The head eunuch had asked every girl about her talents, which he had jotted down on his notebook, so that he could report to the emperor when he showed the interest to know. The emperor was very fond of singing and dancing performance. So Linda was directed to the group with the least girls.

            It almost took a whole day for the event. As the emperor retired to his royal study the girls were put up in different places for the night. Five girls, Linda among them, were led into a palace bedroom. They were decided to be the emperor’s concubines. But fate seemed against Linda, or in other words, helped Linda to avoid being a royal concubine in ancient China for the rest of her life.

            Next day, under the guidance of the head eunuch, the girls who would be the royal concubines should go to see the empress dowager, the emperor’s mother, the widow of the late emperor. When she saw all the five girls she frowned at Linda because there was a rule that the emperor must marry Chinese girls to keep the blood pure. He should not have a girl of the other race. So she told the head eunuch to erase Linda’s name from the list.

            The head eunuch liked Linda very much and so he begged the empress dowager to give Linda to him as his wife. The empress dowager gladly granted his wish. It solved her dilemma because she did not know how to dispose of the girl from another race. She could not kill her and could not send her back to her parents if she had her parents in China. To send a selected girl back to her parents was also against the rules. Now she gave her to the head eunuch. Everything would be fine.

But did it sound ridiculous? Since as a common knowledge, eunuchs were castrated, how could a eunuch have sex with a girl even if he married her? Such things did happen in the history of China. As a eunuch was also a man, only having a little something taken from him, he had all the more a desire to have a family and live like any other ordinary men. So a eunuch with a high position in the palace would have a house of his own, buy some poor girl as his wife and adopt sons and daughters to bear his surname, for the purpose to form a family and to enjoy the happiness of the family union. It looked like Linda’s fate was sealed. She would be the wife of a eunuch for the rest of her life.

            The emperor learned it, but he could do nothing against the decision of the empress dowager, his mother. He could only tell the head eunuch that he must treat her well. If anything befell her or he maltreated her, he would have his head cut off.

            A nuptial ceremony was held in the house of the head eunuch. A lot of guests were present. They were all courtiers, who came because perhaps some day they would need the help of the head eunuch to speak a few good words for them privately to the emperor. Of course, they sent precious wedding gifts. Even the empress dowager, the emperor and the empress sent them gold ingots, scrolls of brocade, satin and silk, and precious gems.

In accordance with the tradition, Linda must live separately from the eunuch before the wedding and so the emperor gave her a big house and some menservants and maidservants. On the wedding day some noble ladies, the wives of some courtiers, came to attire her in a red dress of an old Chinese style, embroidered with colorful flowers, and a coronet made of pearls on her head, which was then covered with a red cloth. She was put on a little makeup and her natural feet were encased in a red pair of embroidered brocade shoes especially made for her.

At noon a red palanquin came to pick her. She was led to it by one of the ladies because she could not see owing to the cloth covered on her head. She stepped into the palanquin and sat inside. The palanquin was carried toward the residence of the head eunuch. The wedding procession lasted for two miles. Musicians went ahead, followed by those who were carrying the dowry. The bride's palanquin was in the middle with other palanquins in the wake. The noble ladies rode in those palanquins of their own. Then some soldiers brought up the rear. The emperor ordered his royal troops to line up the streets from the bride’s house to where the head eunuch lived for protection.

            When Linda arrived, she was led into her bedroom. She must sit there till the ceremony began. The ladies kept her company, but they chatted among themselves. The bride should keep silent all the time. It was also the tradition. When the ceremony started, Linda was led out into the main room. On the wall opposite the door was pasted a big red Chinese character, meaning DOUBLE HAPPINESS, and underneath it there was a long table with red burning candles and joss-sticks. The bride and bridegroom knelt on a thick red rug and kowtowed toward the red character. Then they turned ninety degrees and kowtowed to each other. If they had had parents present, they should have kowtowed to them, too. Then they both got up on their feet. The bridegroom led the bride by a red cloth rope back to the bedroom. The bride should still sit there in the company of some ladies while the bridegroom returned to that main room where a wedding feast would be held.

            When the feast ended, the bridegroom went back to the bedroom to sleep with the bride. Once he appeared the ladies left the room after congratulating him. The bride was sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for the bridegroom to come. She was still covered with the red cloth. Now the bridegroom used a short stick to lift the cloth away from the head of the bride. Generally only at that time did the bridegroom see the face of the bride. The tradition never allowed the bridegroom and the bride to meet each other before the wedding ceremony. So the bridegroom only knew whether the bride was pretty or not from the mouth of the matchmaker. But matchmakers were always not reliable. When they said that the bride was pretty, the bridegroom would find on the first night that the bride was ordinary or only tolerable. But the head eunuch had seen Linda in the palace. Therefore, there was no surprise waiting for him. Only his dream of a beautiful wife came true after so many years.

            Three days later, Linda went to the palace to thank the empress dowager and the empress for the gifts they had given her. She should not see the emperor. The head eunuch would see the emperor to express their gratitude.

Now Linda lived comfortably in the big house, bigger than her own home in New Jersey. Every evening the head eunuch came home from palace. He was off duty. They had dinner together. All the dishes were to Linda’s taste because she told the cooks what to prepare. She was the mistress of the household. Once at lunch she was served fried wonton, she asked for some catchup like she were eating French fries. She was used to having catchup to go with everything fried.

            “Catchup? What’s it?” The maid serving it looked perplexed.

            Linda forgot that she was now in the sixteenth century in China. Surely there was no catchup then and there. “Forget it!” She said evasively.

            When the maid asked the cooks what catchup was, one of the cooks said, “Never heard of.”

            At first Linda wanted to tell the cooks how to make catchup from tomatoes, but she did not have the recipe. So she had to give up.

            After dinner with the head eunuch, they talked for a while before bedtime. The head eunuch told Linda all the things in the palace, and also the interesting or sad stories that had happened there. The emperors in the Ming Dynasty all believed in Taoism, not Buddhism. The Taoists loved to practice alchemy. They used chemicals, especially mercury, to make pills. They called them Immortal Pills and declared that whoever took one would become immortal. One of the emperors did take one and died. The Taoists said that His Majesty was gone to Heaven and became immortal. So he was not immortal in this world, but immortal in Heaven. Everyone will be immortal in Heaven, or in Hell.

At bedtime they lay side by side on the big bed like king size. This was a special bed. In fact, all rich families had a bed of this kind. The bed had a huge canopy over it. The canopy hung down from all sides with a curtain in the front, by which they entered the bed area. The canopy with four-side hangings looked like a tent with square top. The bed was almost in the middle within the canopy with four posts to support it. Besides the headboard and footboard, there was a side board at the far side of the bed from the canopy curtain so that a person could only get off bed from one side that was near the curtain. In front of the bed beside the headboard generally stood a small cabinet with sweets and other necessary things inside the drawers and a tea set on top of the cabinet in case that the person was thirsty. Behind the bed there was some space to put a stool to be used at night.

Before going to bed, they would wash their mouths with tea because there was no toothbrush and toothpaste yet. Then they washed their faces and hands, and then some maid came in to wash their feet for them, first Linda’s and then the head eunuch’s.

Since the eunuch could not have sex, the best thing he could do was to feel her body to get some sort of sexual touch. Linda had to tolerate it though she felt disgusted. She did not dare to resist for fear of losing her life. She wanted to see how things would develop for her. She secretly harbored the hope that some day she could be back at home and reunite with her parents.

In bed the eunuch also stripped himself naked. Linda unconsciously had a glance at his lower torso. He had no genital. Linda almost forgot that he was a eunuch. How could a eunuch have a genital? Out of curiosity, she asked him about the genital thing.

“I came from a poor family." The eunuch told his own story. "I am the youngest. I have three brothers. As my parents could not support all of us, they had to give one away. My brothers were old enough to help with the work in the crop fields and that left only me, a boy of nine at that time. The choice was that they could send me to a Buddhist temple to be a monk or to some rich family to be a page. The coincidence was that someone in our neighborhood was a eunuch in the palace. He asked for a leave of ten days to come to visit his parents. When he met my mother, my mother who saw him well-dressed asked him to take me to the palace to be a eunuch. I did not know what a eunuch was at that time. I only knew that the palace was a beautiful place. So I agreed to go. But the custom was that I must have my genital cut off, which was dried and put in a jar. I wanted to back off, but it was too late. So I became a eunuch.”

It was a sad story, Linda thought. Now her curiosity turned toward his dried genital. Before she could ask the question, the eunuch continued, “I have kept the jug until now.”

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发表于 2016-9-25 06:06 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
“What will you do with it?”

“The tradition is like that when I die you should put the jar in my coffin so that my body will be buried as a whole.” What a ridiculous tradition!

Then the eunuch adopted a son of ten years old. Linda thought that the boy was too old to be her son, but she did not care. It would be too much trouble if they adopted a baby. The son must kowtow to Linda and call her mother. There were also rules of etiquette in this family, like every morning the son must kowtow to the parents while he said “Good morning”, and so must he in the evening when he said “Good night”. But Linda ignored those rules behind the back of the eunuch. She was a big girl herself.

            She often took the boy to play in the back garden. She had a swing set up there and a sliding tube made for the boy. She taught him how to play hopscotch and other simple games as she had played in America. She looked upon the boy as her brother, not her son. She felt that she was not mature enough to be a mother.

She had a two-horse-drawn coach to herself, with two guardsmen on horseback following her everywhere she would go. The coach was so luxurious as to befit her status as the wife of the head eunuch in the emperor’s palace. She could go in it anywhere as long as she was guarded.

            They got a tutor for the boy. At that time, a private tutor lodged in the house of the host, who treated the tutor as a special guest. Linda would sometimes go into the teaching room to listen in. She thought that if she would live here for ever, she should learn more Chinese. She even started to learn how to write Chinese characters, which were really difficult to write. It was much easier for her to write English though she had seldom had chances to write it when in America as she could have so conveniently typed everything on her laptop.

            The tutor was a learned scholar. The curriculum for any pupil in Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368—1644 and  1644—1911) comprised a collection of ballads, a book of quotations of what Confucius had said, a book of quotations of what Mencius had said and a history book, etc. Besides, a pupil must practice calligraphy with a Chinese brush. For the sons of nobilities, they must also learn the book of "Arts of War" by Sunzi and practice horsemanship and martial arts, including how to use a bow and arrows.

            The foster boy was only taught how to read and write with a brush. The foster father did not want him to learn how to fight. When Linda sat in the room, she just learned what she thought she needed. She was clever and learned fast. During a couple of months she could write short compositions. At first she had had some difficulties in handling the brush. She felt it was more difficult to use a brush than to use chopsticks. For chopsticks, Linda had at least practiced the usage of them when in America. But she had never used a brush until now. However, gradually she mastered the art of handling the brush. The tutor was surprised at fast-learning ability of Linda.

            The boy was trained to take the government tests. It was the intention of the head eunuch. Generally in the feudal China, the son would succeed the father to be engaged in whatever the father did for a living. Of course, no eunuch would have his son, though adopted, to be a eunuch, too. Luckily there was this system to choose government officials through the tests. Anyone, no matter he was the son of a peasant or a blacksmith, who could pass three tests held by the government, would be assigned a position as a government official. There was equal opportunity for that just like the employment policy in America.

            Once in a while Linda would receive some valuable gifts sent to the eunuch. She did not know why people wanted to send her so-called husband such valuable gifts. But once she overheard a conversation between the eunuch and a government official. The official wished to have a promotion and so bribed the eunuch to say a few good words before the emperor. Another time another official had done something against the law and would be put into prison. He gave the eunuch a large amount of money and begged him for help. Linda was not interested in such things.

            Once in a while Linda would go into the palace to visit the empress dowager. One day when she passed the study of the emperor, she saw someone kneeling before the study door and kowtowing from time to time. She heard him saying, “If Your Majesty don’t accept my advice, your humble servant will kneel here forever.” Then the emperor shouted from within, “You’re threatening me?”

            “Your humble servant doesn’t dare. He only considers the safety of Your Majesty.”

            At night when they lay side by side, Linda told the eunuch what she had seen in the palace and asked him what all this meant.

            “He is a prime minister. (In the official system of Ming Dynasty there were six ministers in respective charge of the appointment or removal of officials and officers, of the military affairs, of the setup of palace etiquette and arrangement of all state ceremonies, of the national finance, of the law enforcement and of the construction duties in the palace and capital. There were a few prime ministers and one of them was the chief prime minister who was in overall charge of the state affairs. The other prime ministers helped him. And the title of the prime minister was sometimes granted to some old and respected courtiers as an honorary one.) He did this only to beg the emperor not to go out alone in plain clothes. It’s not safe for the emperor.”

            “So the emperor often steals out of the palace in disguise?”

            “Seems so. It’s the sole way a courtier can take to advise the emperor not to do something improper.”

            “What if the emperor refuses to take the advice? Will he kneel there forever?”

            “Once a courtier knelt there for three days and three nights, even in the heavy rain.”

            “Then what happened?”

            “Then the empress dowager learned it and intervened. The emperor must listen to his mother.”

            “The courtier must have taken ill, I guess.”

            “You are right. He’s seriously sick for three months. The emperor sent royal doctors to him and gave him a lot of precious gifts as a reward for his loyalty.”

            “So he didn’t kneel there and get sick for nothing.”

            “I don’t want to get gifts this way.” The eunuch sighed.

            Another day, the eunuch came home unhappy. When Linda hinted her intention to know the reason of it, he said, “A petty eunuch, a smart boy, I like him. He offended the emperor today and was punished by kneeling in the courtyard before the emperor’s study for the whole afternoon and meanwhile he must slap his own face hard. The poor boy!”

            “Does the emperor like to punish people by ordering them to kneel on the ground for a long time and box their own ears?”

            “That’s only one way of punishment. The worse one is to get a good beating on the bare butts and the offender will be kept on bed for a month to heal the wound. Besides, he can only lie prone, or his butts will hurt.”

            “Will the palace maids be punished like that?”

            “Generally they are punished by kneeling and face-slapping, but never beating on the butts. It’s not suitable to beat a girl on the bare butts. Once two maids were punished. They knelt on the ground and slapped each other’s face. That’s only for minor offenses. For serious ones, an offender may be beheaded, which depends totally on the mood of the emperor.”

            Life in the palace as maids and eunuchs was not interesting, Linda thought. Luckily she had not been selected as a royal maid at the time.

            Linda had loved shopping when she had been in America. Although the shops here were small and shabby, she still went shopping a lot out of habit. Since she had abundance of money, she began to visit antique stores. All the antiques she loved were artworks, beautiful and wonderful. Even looking at them could give her a feeling of enjoyment. The colorful china plates and bowls had been made in Tang Dynasty. (618—907 A. D.) The paintings had been drawn in Sung Dynasty. (960—1279 A. D.) The bronze wine cups and bronze mirrors had been cast even earlier, in Shang Dynasty. (1765—1122 B. C.) In another store there displayed on the shelves big round pearls, rubies, emeralds and ivory carvings. She already had a lot of such things at home and so she bought only those curiosities that really took her fancy. The owners of the curiosity shops welcomed the wife of the head eunuch even though she did not buy anything. Her coming would be publicity for their shops. For Linda was now a celebrity that attracted the attention throughout the capital.

            She had heard so much about the Great Wall in China when she had been still in America. Now she was in China and so went one day to the Great Wall in her coach. The coach had to stop at the foot and she climbed the stone steps. It was amazing to stand on the Great Wall watching the scenes on both sides. She learned that it had been built in Qin Dynasty. (221—207 B. C.) The purpose was to hinder the invasion of the Mongols in the north. But the history showed that it did not. The Mongols got across the Great Wall and established their own empire in China, called Yuan Dynasty (1271—1368 A. D.) It was the founder of this Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, who had driven the Mongols back to the north. However, the fact bespoke that the Great Wall did not function as the original builder had supposed.

            Sometimes she took the boy along and would stop at a restaurant to have lunch. Every time when she went out, she would buy some sweets from a confectionery for her husband in name only.

            Now she had become a celebrity among the nobilities as well and there were quite a few young men from noble families following her everywhere. They did not dare to flirt with her, being afraid of the powerful head eunuch. Besides, Linda was the emperor’s favorite. Otherwise, they would pounce on her like hawks on a rabbit. They all felt sorry for her to marry a eunuch. In their opinion, she was like a beautiful flower sticking in a heap of manure as a Chinese saying goes. They only wanted to look at her or speak with her just like American teenagers running after the modern American celebrities they worshiped. The only difference was that those young men never asked Linda to sign her name on their bodies, their clothes, or even on a slip of paper. There was no such vogue yet in ancient China.

            She still had the watch with her because no one knew what it was and so no one took it away from her. She could keep up with the modern time and dates. She even remembered the time difference between America and China. As it was in the ancient China and there was no telephone, nor telegram, whatsoever, she could not make long-distance call or send a message to America. She could not even write to her parents because there was no mail service, either local, nationwide or international. Even if there did have had long distance calls to make, she could not have reached her parents across four centuries. She only dreamt twice that she was back at home. If she could have controlled the dreaming process, she would have dreamt more often than she was now. She was of course nostalgic.

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发表于 2016-9-29 07:53 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 7

One day she was invited to the palace for a royal feast. Indeed, all the high officials and their wives were invited, because it was the birthday of the empress dowager. All the men sat with the emperor in the outer hall while all the women were with the empress dowager in the inner hall. In old China, generally the female and the male did not mingle together in a gathering.
            The whole palace was adorned with red streamers and lanterns. The color red was connected with happiness in Chinese culture, hence, with wedding and birthday parties. The color white was used in funeral.
            Long before the birthday, the presents flowed in from both the capital and all the provinces. All the high-rank officials in Peking and all the governors in the provinces sent in their most precious or priceless birthday gifts. Everyone wanted his gift appreciated by the empress dowager or the emperor so that the promotion would be certain.
            The ladies gathered in an anteroom before the banquet began. Then they were led into another room to look at all the birthday presents. There were a necklace of best biggest pearls, a statue of the God of Longevity carved from the best-quality white jade set with rubies and sapphires, and bracelets of best quality emerald.
Linda’s eyes were very busy to move from this item to the next. She had never seen so many sparkling precious gems on display all her life. That was her new experience and she would tell her parents and Frank all about them if she could return home. She regretted that she had not had a camera with her, or she could take in all these on the film.
It seemed that every item had a story. The statue, two feet high, was sent by the governor of Jiangsu Province, who had spent fifty thousand taels of silver to have it made. Such a big jade was worth a lot of money. It had originally belonged to the Zuo family. The governor wanted Zuo to donate it to him, not sell it to him. Of course Zuo rejected. A few days later Zuo was arrested because a burglar already in prison had confessed that Zuo was his accomplice. The governor questioned Zuo and wanted him to confess how he had done the burglary with the burglar. As Zuo had not done any such things, he refused to plead that he was guilty of it. The governor had Zuo tortured. Under the torments Zuo had to confess to whatever the governor wanted him to. Then he was put into prison. A counselor came to see him in the cell and advised him to donate the jade. Zuo had to part with his precious jade for his dear life. Then he was released, having been told that it was a mistake.
            "The empress dowager likes this gift. He will soon get promotion." A lady near Linda whispered to another lady. Then they all returned to the anteroom and were waiting there for the arrival of the empress dowager.
            Dressed up in red embroidered clothes with the crown on head, the empress dowager came out, ensued by the empress and all the royal concubines, all dressed up in almost the same color. The empress dowager took her seat on a dais at the far end of the inner hall. The empress was seated at her side. The concubines were positioned on the lower floor on both sides, but closest to the dais. Then all the ladies came in from the anteroom and sat one after another in two lines from the concubines down the hall almost to the door.
There was a table set before the empress dowager and the empress with fruits and sweets on it. There were two rows of small tables arranged on either side before every diner down the hall with an aisle in the middle for the eunuchs and palace maids to use to serve food. Every two ladies, including the concubines, shared a table. They sat behind it with their backs to the wall so that food could be served by a maid or a eunuch from the front side in the aisle. The order of the lady’s seat was arranged according to the rank of their husbands. Linda’s seat was in the middle, because the official rank of the head eunuch was not high though he had great power. Actually his power came from the emperor since the emperor believed him. He could say anything, even wrong things, about a courtier, who would then get blame, demotion or even imprisonment from the emperor.
Before the banquet began, all the ladies kowtowed to the empress dowager for her birthday. They shouted thrice in unison, "May Empress Dowager long live!"
            Each diner got the same food in an individual bowl or plate just like in the western style. Tables could be shared, but not the food. The dinner consisted of ten courses, including the final soup. Every course had only a small quantity for the ladies.
            The food service went on the same way in the outer hall. There were only two differences: instead of the empress dowager, the emperor sat on the dais alone and the food served to the men were in large quantity.
            Chinese wine was also served, but no one dared to drink to their heart's content lest they get drunk and do something against the palace etiquette, which might cost them their positions or even lives.
            The whole dining process was accompanied by music. There were rows of carillons set up in one innermost corner of the hall. The musicians struck the bronze bells with something like small drumsticks. The bells had different sizes so that they gave out different notes. Meanwhile, some girl dancers put on a performance in the center of the hall. They wore loose colorful silk dress with long sleeves. They flung the long sleeves into the air and drew them along as they made gliding movements like swans on the smooth lake. The colorful sleeves fluttered in the air like beautiful butterflies. Linda had never seen such performance before. It had a classical beauty, totally different from modern American dances. And the musical sound coming from the bells were resonant and lingered long as it was echoing in the colossal hall. Linda was intoxicated with the Chinese classical music.
            The royal feast went on until the empress dowager felt tired and wanted to rest. The ladies kowtowed to the empress dowager as thanks to her for the feast.
            Unlike other couples who left together, Linda came home alone because the head eunuch was doing overtime on such an occasion. Linda was happy to have such experience. The empress dowager and the empress both liked her. They often sent for her to the palace. They asked her about America though they did not know where it was. Linda told them American history only, the Independent Was and the Civil War, how the colonists took up arms against the Great Britain; how the Civil War broke out and as a result the slaves in the south were emancipated. As Linda now had better knowledge about China and the Chinese, especially those in power, she did not dare to tell them anything about modern America. She was afraid that they might call her a liar to her face if she did so. People anywhere living in the sixteen century certainly could not understand or even imagine such things as television, airplane, satellite and computer, etc.
            Linda was happy with her life in ancient China. She was liked by those VVIP's (very very important persons). Sometimes she felt that she could live the rest of her life like this in China. The only regret for her was to miss her family and Frank for ever.
            However, things would never develop so smoothly in life, at least for Linda. The head eunuch had stolen a precious bronze mirror from the palace storage room. What was so special with this mirror? In ancient China, before the glass mirror was introduced into it, people used bronze mirrors, polished bright on one side, and on the other there were always some pictures in relief. On the back of this mirror, there was a dragon. The specialty about this mirror was that when one held it in the sunlight just above the ground, an image of dragon would be seen on the ground under the mirror. It looked as if the sun’s rays could penetrate the bronze mirror on the part of the dragon picture and form the dragon shape on the ground. It was so wonderful and this mirror was a treasure.
            It happened like this. One day the eunuch in charge of the storage room found the mirror was missing and reported to the head eunuch, but he said that he would take care of it and never did anything to recover it. The eunuch in charge suspected something wrong and reported to a royal concubine, who told the empress, who told the emperor. When the emperor questioned the head eunuch, he did not dare to lie to the emperor and so confessed his theft.
            Therefore, he was put into prison. His estate was confiscated and his family, Linda and the adopted son, were exiled to the remotest province, Yunnan Province, in the southwestern China, bordering on Burma.

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发表于 2016-10-2 06:42 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 8

 Two local yamen bailiffs escorted them to the destination. The two men rented a simple covered wagon drawn by a mule, together with the driver. The simple covered wagon was thus made: with a wooden bottom, a thick mat made of woven dry reeds with two ends bent down to be fixed on both sides of the wagon so that someone could sit under it, looking like a small short tunnel, each entrance covered with a piece of cloth curtain. It was because they were a girl and a boy that they could ride in such a wagon. If they had been two men, they should walk while the yamen bailiffs rode along to watch over them.
            They set out early in the morning. The emperor’s order was that the girl should not be ill-treated. It was not her fault that she got the punishment, which she could not avoid because it was the law. She was involved through her husband. Besides, the empress dowager insisted on banishing her so that she would be as far away as possible from the emperor. The emperor still had some good feelings toward her. So no one dared to ill-treat her. Generally the female exiles would be handcuffed and the male exiles would wear both handcuffs and fetters. But no such things were put on Linda.
            They traveled slowly on the thoroughfare. It was a long journey to that region, no need to hurry. Even if they hastened, anything could happen on their way that might delay their trip. Generally the exiles would have a time limit set by the distance, say, three months, to reach their destination. But for Linda there was no time limit and she was also allowed to take her own things with her. So she had jewelry and paper money. The paper money of that time in China was totally different from that of nowadays. They were certainly not printed. There were many banks, called money stores in ancient China, in almost every big city. They issued the paper money written by hand with bank seals on each piece. The bearers could redeem them in any banks other than the one issued them. People in small towns or villages should go to the big cities for the redemption. But in some places far from those big cities, people could refuse to take the paper money. The paper money was written in big sums. The least was ten taels of silver. But it saved people trouble and strength to carry heavy silver and gold when traveling. So people accepted this as currency, though it was not issued by the government.
            Since Linda had money, she could well afford to rent a nice carriage, but the two yamen bailiffs advised that they should travel like poor people so that the robbers would not attack them. What was the use of the two yamen bailiffs? Generally the robbers would outnumber the armed defenders. So it was wise not to show one’s wealth and pretended poverty.
            Every night they would stay in a lodging house built by the local government. Only those traveling on government business could lodge there and did not have to pay for it. To escort two law-offenders was the government business and the two yamen bailiffs were given money, though very little, for expenses on the way, by their local government. If they missed a lodging house, they had to stay in some private inn and pay for it out of their own pocket. Generally the law-offenders, if not poor, would pay for everything on the way. In this case, the yamen bailiffs could embezzle the money given by the local government. It was open secret and as the money was very little, no one cared.
            They moved forth like on a sightseeing tour. Since all the concerned persons knew that the emperor had a preference for the girl, they half-closed their eyes to whatever she wanted to do. One day they came to a small town in Henan Province. A passer-by told them that they could go to a wedding feast not far from here. The host would give food to everyone coming, no matter invited or not. It was the custom here. So they went to the big house with wedding ornaments hanging everywhere. They seated themselves at a round table and began to attack the food on it.
            Soon the bride came in a red palanquin with the musicians walking in front and her relatives behind. The palanquin resembled a miniature Chinese pavilion with a decorated roof and a sturdy wooden bottom with a wooden board as the back wall, two wooden sides, each with a small curtained window, and a curtain in the front doorway. Generally when the bride got to the front door of the bridegroom’s house, an old woman acting as the bride-receiver would pull aside the front curtain to let the bride step out. There were two poles attached to both sides for the shoulders of the carriers. The bride would sit inside it on a plank set into the sides.
The procession now lasted half a kilometer. In general a red cloth would cover the head of the bride, who had a bridal knot hairdo on the skull with a gold hairpin piercing through the knot. But this time when the palanquin stopped in the front courtyard, no one stepped out of it. Instead, an old woman reached her hand in and took out a piece of wood with a girl’s name written on it. It was a memorial tablet for a dead person. The girl with the name on it was dead. If the name of the dead person was engraved on a stone tablet, which would set in front of the grave, it was called the gravestone. But now the name was written on a wooden tablet, which was called a memorial tablet. All the memorial tablets of a family would put in a special room, lined up on a long table, if the family was not a poor one. If the family was very rich, a family temple would separately be built up for that purpose.
The old woman now held the tablet in both hands and walked solemnly into the hall, where the ceremony was supposed to take place. Linda looked in and saw another old woman holding another tablet. One of the two yamen bailiffs told her that the other tablet represented the dead boy. Linda thought how ridiculous it was for the two dead persons to get married. But later she was told that it was also the custom. The two families were friends and had wanted to marry the boy and the girl if they had still been alive. But unfortunately both were deceased. So the families married them according to the custom. It was believed that they would be husband and wife in the nether world after the holy matrimony.
            Next day they crossed the Yellow River on a ferry boat and went further south. One day they entered Hunan Province. Every province in China is like a state in America. The Yangtze River flows through this province.
            One night, they stayed in an inn at the roadside. They occupied two rooms, one for Linda and the other for the two men and the boy. Late in the night or very early in the morning, Linda heard the ringing of a bell outside, coming nearer and nearer. She was curious and got up to look through the window facing the road. Someone was ringing a bell and chanting something like magic words simultaneously. He was leading a procession towards another inn across the road. The weird thing was that all the men in the procession looked stiff when moving. They did not look like walking, but like leaping forth step by step. Everyone had a yellow piece of paper stuck on the face. The normal person at the head of the procession led the way into that opposite inn. Then all was silence. Nothing else happened.
            Next morning as they started on their way, she asked the two men escorting her about what she had seen last night. One of them answered, “We have a strange custom in this area. It is called ‘leading corpse’. Someone in this district has a power to make the corpse go with him by ringing his bell and chanting his magic words. When a person died far away from home, the family does not want to put the corpse in a coffin to be carried back. For it costs more money. The family just pays a little money to the person and asks him to ‘lead’ or ‘drive’ the corpse home. Then he waits till there are a few more corpses. Before he starts, he puts a piece of yellow paper on the face of each corpse so that no one can see the unnatural stiff face with eyes shut. He uses magic words to move the corpses into a single file and leads them in the direction he wants them to go. The procession always moves by night and stays put by day so that the stiff movement of the corpses won’t scare people. There are special inns for the corpses on the roads he frequents. Once the corpses get into that kind of inn, he makes them stand against the walls in an empty room set aside for that purpose and he himself goes to another room for a sleep. He will lead the corpses individually to his home and collects the money and goes his way.”
            Linda thought that it was an incredible story, but she had just witnessed it herself. Many things were so weird about this country. She decided that she should be ready to accept anything strange on her way to her terra incognita in the remote region.

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Chapter 9

One day they came to a village in the afternoon and found a tea house. They went in to have some tea and snacks there. After finishing, the two yamen bailiffs told Linda and the boy to stay here till they were back. They wanted to look for an inn for the night. They went round the village and came across a gambling house. They were fond of this and strutted into it as if they were millionaires.
            The most popular gambling in any casino in China at that time was dice. There were many types of dice playing. People could play two dice, three dice, four dice or six dice. The simplest sort was to play “big” and “small”. In this case the gambling patrons played against the casino and the dealer would shake the container holding the dice. The patrons could bet their money on “big” or “small”. So the winning chance was fifty-fifty. In other cases a patron could shake the container after the dealer did it. Whoever got the more dots added up on all dice was the winner. In this case, the patron played against the house on huge bets. Sometimes, two patrons could play against each other without the dealer taking part in. In the last two cases the gambling was carried on in some special room.
            The second favorite gambling was something like mahjong, but it was called paijiu, which had thirty-two pieces only. On the faces of the paijiu pieces were engraved dots like on the dice, from two to twelve dots, which was really combinations of the dots on the dice. The play of paijiu was somewhat like dice. Only the paijiu pieces were used instead of dice. The two guys loved to play paijiu and they sat down to the paijiu table. Patrons could play against the casino or against each other between two patrons. They played and played, almost forgetful of Linda and the boy.
            Linda and the boy sat in the tea house, sipping tea and talking. After some time a middle-aged man came in. When he was about to sit down at the table next to Linda’s, he looked up and round at all the customers here. His eyes brightened up when he caught sight of Linda. “By Buddha! I’ve never seen such a beauty in my life.” He said to himself.
            There was a big rich family, Liu’s family, in the village. Actually, the village was called Liu’s Village. Most of the crop fields, the forest on the mountainside to the north of the village and most of the shops belonged to the family. Most of the villagers worked for the family, too.
Old Liu, the head of the household, was a retired government high official. He had embezzled a lot of money when in office. His daughter was married to the son of a prince. Therefore, when his corruption had been revealed, he had escaped from the punishment under the protection of the prince on the condition that he must retire from the office.
Then he came back to the village where he had been born. He had a great deal of money now and built a huge residence. He took over a large expanse of fields at a very low price at which he forced the original owners to sell him. Since he had been a government high official and had still the marital relationship with a prince, no one in the village dared to oppose him. Even the local government would listen to him, or he would write to the prince and had the local government officials removed from the office. His son, Young Liu, was worse. His sole hobby was sex. Whenever he saw a girl he took fancy to, he would order her to be brought to home and rape her. When he was tired of her, he just threw her out of his house and she had to return to her parents’ home, weeping.
There were quite a few people who lived on the hospitality of Liu family. They were called parasites. So for the sake of doing something in return, they always suggested some bad ideas to the son to please him. The middle-aged man who saw Linda in the tea house was one of them.
He no longer took tea and hastened back to report to the son as if he had found a treasure, which indeed was to the lewd son. So the son sent a group of his men led by the middle-aged man to fetch the girl from the tea house. When they reached the tea house, Linda was still there. She was waiting for the two yamen bailiffs and could never foresee the danger approaching her.
The group of men came into the tea house and took Linda by force to the carriage waiting outside. Linda screamed for help, but no one dared to interfere. The boy rushed forth to help his foster mother, but was kicked back and fell onto the ground. The carriage rumbled away and the boy got up and stared after it. He could do nothing now and had to wait for the two yamen bailiffs to come back. He held the hope that they could deliver Linda.
The two yamen bailiffs lost all the pocket money they had on the gambling table. They had to return to the tea house. They wanted to borrow some more money from Linda so that they could win back what they had lost. That is the common psychology of the gamblers, which only makes them lose more. When they entered the tea house, they did not see Linda anywhere. Only the boy was there. As they asked the boy where Linda was, the boy stammered out the sad story while sobbing. They learned from other customers who had taken the girl and hurried to the residence of Liu family.
When they arrived there, the butler received them. When he was told the reason why they came he was terrified and rushed in to report to Old Liu. Old Liu knew that the girl with the golden hair was the favorite of the emperor. How did his son dare to snatch her and bring her home? He then summoned his son to his presence and ordered him to release the girl to the escorting yamen bailiffs. At first the son refused to do so, saying that he liked the girl. But after his father explained why he must let the girl go, he had to give in because if the emperor learned that he had raped the girl, he would certainly be beheaded. Even his father would be punished for his neglect in educating his son. So Linda was freed and went back to the tea house with the two yamen bailiffs, where the boy was awaiting them. After the accident, the two guys lost interest to gamble and they took lodging in a nearby inn. They planned to start their long journey early next morning.

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Chapter 10

 After a few days, they came across a large caravan and mingled with them, thinking that it would be safer traveling with so many people as the saying goes, "Strength exists in number." It was true theoretically, but not in reality sometimes.
Three days later, they entered a mountainous area with woods growing on the slopes on either side of the road. On a sudden, many people rushed out from the woods with swords, lances or axes in hands. They were outlaws, about fifty in number.
            In the caravan there were only ten men who could fight with swords. Others were merchants and their servants and some women, who were the wives of the merchants. Even if aided by the two yamen bailiffs, how could twelve of them fight against fifty people? They wisely gave up resistance. The outlaws took all the horses and mules with goods and valuables on the back. Then a few outlaws came to the wagon Linda sat in. The wagon had been following the caravan all the way. Linda knew that she could not hide forever and so she got out after she told the boy to stay inside and stuffed his pockets with some jewels and money.
            When the approaching outlaws saw the western beauty, they opened their eyes and mouths wide. Generally they did not take women as captives since their female chieftain forbade it, but this girl was extraordinary and they had to break the rule for once. Linda could not but follow them. The two yamen bailiffs were at a loss what to do. They could not fight a hopeless battle. They could not go back to the capital since they lost Linda. The emperor would surely behead them. They consulted each other and found a good way to solve their dilemma. They asked to join the outlaws, taking the boy along. They wanted at least to be near Linda and maybe there would be a chance to escape with Linda from the outlaws. They paid the driver of the wagon and told him to go back. They no longer needed the wagon.
            They went to speak to the outlaws, “As you take the girl, we can neither go forward nor go back. The government will kill us for loss of the girl. So the only way we can survive is to join you.”
            There was a roar of guffaw among the outlaws at the funny idea. Yamen bailiffs to join outlaws? Never heard of. But the situation spoke for itself. If all other ways would lead them to death, why should they not take the only way and join the outlaws to be alive? Therefore, they were accepted. They took off their uniforms and followed the outlaws to where they lived.
            The outlaws disappeared into the forest on the left side of the road. They went through the woods and climbed the mountain behind the woods with Linda, the boy and the two yamen bailiffs among them. Nearing the top, a strong fence made of the felled tree trunks stood there with a wooden gate open. The group of the outlaws went through the gate and into a gigantic hall also made of wood, serving as the gathering place for meetings. The rear part of the hall, getting access only from behind, was the place to store the loots. Round the hall were dotted here and there small separate houses as living quarters.
            Being informed beforehand, the outlaw chieftain, a middle-aged woman, sat in the hall waiting for them. Linda, the boy and the two yamen bailiffs followed the group leader into the hall. He reported to the chieftain all that had happened. She told the group leader to put the two yamen bailiffs into his group and to take the boy to some robber’s family that had boys, too, so that he could mix with them.
            “Sit down.” She told Linda, indicating the chair on her left. Linda obeyed and took the seat.
            “You look not like one of our race. Where did you come from?”
            “ America.”
            The chieftain had no notion where America was, but at least she knew that the girl was a western beauty. She also knew that the group leader brought her back for the purpose that he would some day ask the chieftain’s permission to marry her. Since Linda was such an innocent girl, so beautiful, she sympathized with her. She would not allow any of the outlaws to touch her. None of them deserved her. She should belong to some good boy, not to an outlaw.
            In the evening, she summoned all the group leaders to her presence and warned them that they should respect the girl as she was now her sworn sister. Everyone was aware that the chieftain liked the girl and wanted to protect her, or someone might really rape her.

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Chapter 11

Linda was now living with the outlaws, comfortably, as the chieftain treated her well. As a pastime, she learned archery and some kungfu. The boy was happy because everyone liked him. He was clever and knew how to get people like him. The outlaws looked upon him as their would-be recruit when he grew up. They taught him how to fight. That was what the boy loved to do. The two yamen bailiffs were really outlaws now. They went with them to rob the travelers on the road.
           One day, the outlaws went to the nearest town to buy provisions. The chieftain went with them and took Linda along. Linda was delighted to have the opportunity to shop in the town. She wanted to buy some cosmetics, but the quality of the cosmetics in the ancient time in China was very bad, compared with those in modern America. At last she had to give up. She could not use such bad cosmetics, which might do some harm to her fine skin.
            Having finished shopping, they chose a restaurant for lunch. Linda preferred vegetables to meat for fear that she would gain weight. At that time in china, no one would watch weight. On the contrary, everyone wanted to put on some weight, to look fat, because in their opinion, fat people always were rich and had abundant food, or how could they get fat? They were also lucky people. So luck was combined with obesity, in their traditional thought. The more obese a person grew, the luckier it meant that he was.
            They had a good lunch and all seemed surprised to see that Linda ate so little. “Does the restaurant serve ice-cream?” Linda asked the chieftain, who never heard of such a thing as ice-cream. In the sixteenth century, even the western countries might not have ice-cream. “What’s ice-cream?” The chieftain wanted to know.
            “Never mind.” Linda suddenly realized that she was in the sixteenth century in China.
            But the chieftain would not let it go and insisted that she should be told about the ice-cream. Therefore, Linda had to describe the ice-cream and told her how it was made and tasted, but the chieftain looked perplexed. Linda did not know how she could make the chieftain fully understand for something that did not exist at the time.
            They finished lunch and started on their way back home. The wagons rumbled forth, drawn by horses and loaded with provisions. They took a small road among the mountains. There were other robbers on one of the mountains. Robbers belonging to different groups would fight each other.
            Just as they reached the foot of a mountain, they saw a group of men with swords and spears in their hands rushing down to attack them. Everyone got ready to battle. The chieftain told one of her woman outlaws to protect Linda. She herself pulled out her sword from the sheath by her side and dashed forward.
            The battle went on fiercely. The chieftain had better kungfu and so the other party was soon defeated. They ran back up the mountainside, the way they had come, leaving behind some ten corpses. That was the rule among the outlaws: survival of the strongest.
            Linda was scared witnessing the bloody slaughter. She had never seen such a scene all her teenage life. Although there had been news of killing on television almost everyday back home in America, she had never beheld one in person. She nauseated and felt queer in her stomach.
            Those alive and not even wounded dug pits and buried the dead. They could not carry the bodies back. It was their custom to inter the body where it fell, just like a body thrown into water on the sea. Anyway, they carried the seriously wounded comrades back, even the wounded belonging to the enemies, who would be their men when healed.
            The rest of the way returning to their mountain was smooth without a hitch. As soon as they arrived, Linda shut herself in her room and got some sleep. She felt better when she was called to dinner. Now Linda hated the life of outlaws. It was a dangerous life. She wanted to leave the outlaws, but did not know how she could. She should wait for a chance. She thought that the two yamen bailiffs might help her.

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Chapter 12

There were about one thousand outlaws who could fight in this what-they-called-it camp. Six hundred of them were men and four hundred were women, trained by the chieftain herself. Ten girls were specially taught in kungfu as her bodyguards as well as confidential followers.
            The second in command, the vice chieftain, was a man. He was ambitious and always wanted to be the first in command, but his kungfu was no match for the woman chieftain. Among the outlaws, the one who could win everyone else in fight would be the chieftain.
            Anyway, the vice chieftain was plotting a mutiny against the chieftain. He knew so well that he could not fight her and so he tried to poison her.
            One day, the chieftain had her lunch in her own room. Food was served by a man working in the kitchen. When she was about to eat, one of her bodyguards tested the food with a silver needle. It was believed in ancient China that if poison touched anything made of silver, the silver would turn black. Therefore, this method of testing was widely used, from the emperor to any rich family.
            The silver needle turned black this time. It was obvious that someone wanted to poison the chieftain, who told the girl bodyguard to throw away the food as if she had eaten it, and she pretended to have been poisoned.
            Seeing that his scheme worked, the vice chieftain summoned all the outlaws to the hall. When everyone gathered, he declared that the chieftain had suddenly died of some odd disease and he would take over the leadership. Furthermore, he would marry the girl with the golden hair. Many of the men supported him. Rest of the men hesitated, but all the women refused to obey him. They were still loyal to their chieftain. The vice chieftain ordered his supporters to kill those against him. So fight began in the hall.
            Just then a familiar voice was heard ringing throughout the hall, “Stop!” It was the chieftain’s voice. She stood at the doorway of the hall with her bare sword in her hand, ensued by her ten bodyguards. Those who were fighting stopped in surprise, staring at their chieftain with widely opened eyes. Had the vice chieftain not announced just a minute before that the chieftain had been dead? How could a dead person walk in and look alive? Something must be wrong.
            The women outlaws went up to the vice chieftain and surrounded him lest he escape. The men supporters were at a loss what to do next. They were all afraid of the chieftain because she had such good kungfu.
            At the signal from the chieftain, one of the woman outlaws surrounding the vice chieftain drew out her sword and stabbed it into his heart. The vice chieftain crumbled onto the ground like a sack of potatoes. All his followers were dumped into a dungeon. The spark of rebellion was quenched before it could turn into blaze.

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Chapter 13

Since the outlaws robbed the travelers, those who had been robbed reported to the local yamen. The magistrate had to do something, or if the emperor learned his inability in dealing with the robbers, he would be in great trouble or even lose his position.
            He had sent troops to attack the robbers, but failed to defeat them, because the defending outlaws on the mountain top let loose many big stones and tree trunks when the troops climbed the mountainside to assail. They also poured down cooked oil and set fire to it. The stones and trunks rolling down at a great speed killed many troopers. The burned oil was a greater threat and did more injuries. So the troops had to be withdrawn to the camp at the foot of the mountain.
            After the fierce fight during the day, all the government soldiers fell in sound slumber at night. All of a sudden the outlaws launched a night attack into the camp. The soldiers were roused by the war cries from the outlaws. They had no time to put on armors and helmets. Some grabbed the swords or spears and plunged into battle. Others just fled to some safe place. At daybreak, not many soldiers were left alive. They had to beat a hasty retreat to where they had come.
            This time, the magistrate gathered ten thousand strong, ten times in number than that of the outlaws. Besides, he had the troops take two cannons. They reached the mountain region in the evening and camped at the mountain foot. They sent out patrols with dogs while rest of the troops went to sleep.
            Next morning after a substantial breakfast, they were ready to attack. The cannons sounded first. The shells exploded among the outlaws, who ran in all directions for shelter. The soldiers marched uphill. This time as the outlaws were hiding from the cannon shells, no stones and tree trunks rolled down, nor even arrows. Soon the soldiers reached the gate, which had been shattered by the explosion of a shell. As the soldiers outnumbered them, the outlaws had to flee for their own dear lives. The chieftain gave order for everyone to leave the place and met somewhere else so that they could gather again. They did not want to make too much sacrifice. Linda found the boy in the chaos and both concealed themselves in the firewood room. The two yamen bailiffs did not escape with the outlaws. It was their chance to turn back to the former position. They put on their uniforms and mingled with other soldiers. They wanted to find Linda and the boy.
            Since the outlaws had been put to rout, the troops returned to the city victoriously. When there was no more fighting, Linda thought that it was safe and went out of the hiding place with the boy. But they did not know where to go. Just then, the two yamen bailiffs came running towards them. “Got you!” They cried happily.
            Linda sighed, knowing that escape was impossible. She resigned herself to the fate. So the four of them started on their way to the original destination.

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Chapter 14

They went to a nearby river and rented a boat run by a family, husband and wife with a teenager girl. The husband would row the boat. The wife would cook for the passengers and the girl would do miscellaneous things, like serving tea and food to the passengers. The boat was a medium-sized one and had two decks. The upper deck had two bedrooms for the passengers and the lower deck was also divided into two cabins. The frontal one served as the dining-room and the sitting room as well. The family lived in the one behind. There was a small space like a pantry used as kitchen in the stern of the boat and the hull was used as a storage room.
 
            The boat went upstream. Where the current flew down wildly and rapidly, there were boat pullers to help. They tied some thick ropes onto a boat and pulled the ropes from the shore till they came to somewhere the current was smooth again.
            As their boat went against stream, it was slow and took much longer time to reach the next city than they traveled by land. However, they were not in a hurry and could enjoy the landscapes on both sides of the river. Of an evening they would anchor by a wharf for the night. The boat owner would go ashore to buy provisions for the morrow. Sometimes the two yamen bailiffs, Linda and the boy would disembark too.
            Generally around a wharf would spring up a town or a village, depending on the water traffic heavy or light. One evening they reached a town by the wharf. When the boat cast anchor, the four of them went on land and into the town. They found a tea house and entered it for a rest. After a while the two yamen bailiffs told Linda to stay here and they would go round to buy something as gifts for their families. But in fact, they went round to look for a gambling place. They found one and went in to play dice. They put on plain clothes again to hide their uniform, which would be too conspicuous in such a place. Generally those yamen bailiffs gambled among themselves and seldom went to a gambling house. But it was now only two of them and they had to go to gambling places.
            They had some money now taken from the tourists when they had been with the outlaws. But their fortune was always against them when gambling. They lost everything again. A tall guy, who looked on at their side all the time, offered to loan them money at a very high rate, fifty percent. He said to them, “I lend you my lucky amulet too so that you will soon win back all your money and more. You can’t always lose. The point is that when you win, you must stop.”
            The two yamen bailiffs thought that the tall guy was right. Therefore, they borrowed fifty taels of silver from him. As the rate was fifty percent, when they paid back, they must pay him seventy-five taels. However, the tide did not turn for them. Very soon, they lost the fifty taels. The tall guy who stayed with them offered more, but they refused with “thanks”. Now the guy asked them to pay back the money, which they couldn’t.
            There was a rule in the gambling place in the ancient China that if anyone who borrowed money could not pay back, he would get a good beating or would have one or more fingers cut off. The tall guy brought ten other thugs with him for that purpose. At a signal from him, the ten thugs rushed towards the two yamen bailiffs and wanted to beat them.
            One of the yamen bailiffs shouted, “Stop!”
The tall guy raised his hand and the thugs halted. The guy said, “You have money to pay me?”
The yamen bailiff said, “If you follow us, we can borrow money to return to you.”
“You have friends here?” The guy asked. The yamen bailiff nodded and the guy followed them with the ten thugs trailing in the wake.
The two yamen bailiffs went back to the tea house and walked up to Linda. The guy and his thugs stood at a short distance, watching them. One of the yamen bailiffs whispered to Linda, who took some paper money out of her pocket, found one she needed and handed it to him. It had the worth of a hundred taels. She did not have smaller ones.
So the guy took the money and gave the yamen bailiff the difference of twenty-five taels. Then the guy left with his men. But he told one of the thugs to hide somewhere and follow the two men and the girl to see where they lived. He had seen that the girl had some more money and with money he could do anything.
The two yamen bailiffs and Linda and the boy returned to the boat. Supper was ready for them. After supper, they lingered on the bow of the boat to enjoy the clear sky with the full moon looking down at them before they went to bed.
It was almost midnight. They were roused by some noise. It seemed that a lot of people were getting on board the boat. They jumped out of bed and put on clothes. They went down to the first deck and found the tall guy with his ten thugs.
“What you want?” asked one of the yamen bailiffs.
“Money. All the money you have, or the girl has.”
Such things did happen in the ancient China. No one was surprised. Linda took out all the paper money from her pocket and gave them to the guy, who took them from Linda’s hand. “Ah, a beautiful white hand!” The guy looked up at Linda. “Oh, by Buddha!” He gasped and grasping Linda’s hand he pulled her into his arms. The two yamen bailiffs and the boy wanted to come forth to help, but were surrounded by the thugs. It seemed that the guy wanted to rape her right on the spot. They were all gathering on the prow of the boat.
Linda struggled out of the guy’s arms, but got a slip and fell out of the boat into the water.
Seeing this, the guy escaped with his men.
One of the yamen bailiffs jumped into the water to seek for Linda, but the current was so rapid and his search ended in vain. All three were so sad. Now they had to find Linda, or they could not tell how to get on with their lives.

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Chapter 15

Although Linda could swim in the sea when back in America, now she could not cope with the rapid torrent of the Yangtze River and lost her consciousness at last.
            When she came to, she felt like she was lying in a cradle. She found that it was a boat rocking with the waves. At first she thought she had been pulled out of water by the yamen bailiffs and had been sleeping in her own bed, but after a careful survey, she knew that she was wrong. It was another boat and from the smell it seemed to be a fishing boat. She fell asleep again.
            When it dawned, an old woman came into the cabin to check on Linda, who just woke up.
            “How you feeling?” The old woman asked, dressed in coarse clothes.
            “I’m fine, thank you.” Linda replied. “Where am I now?”
            “Forgot to take up our fishing net last night. You got yourself in it. We already asleep, when felt the boat stir, got up to check. Thought it’s a big fish, but when pulled up the net, it’s you in it.”
            Linda knew that she had been saved by the woman, perhaps together with her husband. So she thanked her once more and got on her feet from the bed. She followed the old woman out of the inner cabin to the outer one. There was an old man sitting at a table. It was the husband. They invited her to sit down and the woman served breakfast. Generally the Chinese breakfast was rice porridge. But Linda was used to it now. She had had it when living with the eunuch.
            The old couple owned the fishing boat, which was like a mobile home for them. When they caught fish, they would row the boat to the nearest town for sale and bought all the necessities. Then they would return to where they always anchored. The place was near a village, where they had been born and had so many relatives and friends.
            Now Linda lived with them happily. Everyday she helped the old woman with cooking and cleaning, and when the net was full of fish, she would lend the old man a hand to pull the net up and put the fish in the hull. The old couple loved her very much and looked upon her as their daughter.
            One day, it was the dragon-boat festival. There was a boat race on the river. The old couple took Linda there in their boat and cast anchor near the bank, on which already so many people stood watching. There was an acrobatic performance before the race. A colossal boat served as the stage. The acrobats showed their feats on the mast and on the dragon head. A female performer stood on one leg on the top of the mast, the other leg lifted high in the air and on her toes stood upright a stick with a plate rotating on it. She also held two sticks separately in her hands, with rotating plates. On her head balanced a set of bowls. In the top bowl stuck out a crimson rose.
            The performance went on for two hours with only a short break in between. The race started almost at noon. Every rich family in this district had a dragon-boat built and took part in the annual race. Men were hired and trained to row the boat. On the bow just behind the dragon’s head there were a big gong and a big drum, which would sound continuously during the race. Two more men were hired for that. When the boats approached the finis line, the race reached its climax. People’s shouting mixed with the sound of the gongs and drums almost deafened Linda’s ears. One boat darted forth and crossed the finis line. Linda could not recognize whose boat it was.
            "The Li’s family won this year." The old man told Linda. The old man regularly sold fish to Li’s family and so he was excited for them.
            In the capital, the head eunuch returned the special bronze mirror he had stolen to the storage room. Since he was a favorite with the empress dowager, who asked the emperor to pardon him, the emperor had him released from the prison, and furthermore, gave him back his properties that had been confiscated.
Now the head eunuch was his old self anew and then he thought of Linda and his son. Of course Linda and the boy were also pardoned and should not be exiled. Therefore, the head eunuch, with the consent from the emperor, sent out someone with official document to the place where Linda was supposed to be banished. However, when the man reached there, the official in charge of the exiled people received him and said that they had never reported to him. He added, “Maybe, they are still on the way as they don’t have time limit.” It must be true. So the man rode back to report to the head eunuch. Then a public declaration was made that Linda and the boy were pardoned, no need to go to the place of exile any more. They should return to the capital now.
            This message was sent to every local government. Then the two yamen bailiffs learned it because they must report to the local government every time they wanted to pass the night in the government lodging house for free. Therefore, they returned to the capital with the boy.
            Since they lost Linda, they were afraid to see the head eunuch, but they had to for two reasons. First, they should give the boy to him. Second, they must explain to him in person how they had lost the girl. As it was not really their fault that Linda fell into the water, the head eunuch did not blame them. The two yamen bailiffs left and went back to their own yamen.
            The head eunuch and the boy, his son, had a family reunion. The only regret was that Linda was not with them. They were anxious to know where Linda was now and whether she was dead or alive. So the head eunuch sent out a message to every local government to seek for a girl with the golden hair. All the local governments put an announcement on the government bulletin board for this message with an award of one hundred taels of silver if anyone who saw such a girl could report to the local government. Then a threat added in the announcement, “If anyone conceals the whereabouts of the girl, he will be punished or imprisoned.”
            One hundred taels of silver was a lot of money to some poor people. Some people of the village, where the boat Linda lived on anchored, would report to the local government in the nearest town for the award. When the old man came to know it, he hurried back and told Linda, who had already told the couple everything about herself except how she had got in China. It was too weird to be believed. Even she would not have believed it herself though it had actually happened to her. But it was her own experience and she could not shut her eyes to it.
            Linda did not want to go back to the head eunuch. No woman wanted to live with a eunuch even if he was rich and powerful. That was an abnormal life. Now Linda had to leave and the old couple understood. They advised her to go west. That way she could be as far as possible from the capital. She should hide in some remote region that no one there knew her. Linda thought that it was a good idea. As she had been robbed of all her money, she was now penniless. So the old couple gave her all the money they had saved.
            Linda learned that the announcement put up by the local government mentioned her having golden hair. She wanted to dye her hair before she left, but in the ancient China there was no such technique and no such material to dye hair. There was a joke about dyeing hair. A man had his hoary hair too early in his thirties. People around him always thought that he was already in fifties. He hated that people had this idea about him. He always wanted to show that he was still young. Once he was invited to attend a gathering of poets. He was a poet himself. He wished that other poets would admire his poetic talent as a young poet when he chanted his new poem, a great poem he thought. Then a wonderful idea struck him. He brushed ink on his hoary hair to make the hair look black. Unfortunately, on his way to the gathering place, it suddenly rained hard. The merciless rain washed the ink down his face and neck. Now he looked sorry. How could he go in such an awkward condition? He had to return home and let this golden opportunity slip through his fingers.
            Linda did not want to brush her hair black with ink like that stupid man in the story, but she must do something to her appearance so that no one could recognize her. At the suggestion of the old couple, she was attired as a farming girl. She put on some old shabby clothes and wrapped her golden hair tightly in a piece of coarse cloth so that no one could see the color of her hair. To finish her disguise, she carried a basket with eggs in it. Now she looked as if she was going to visit her relatives with the eggs as a gift, or to the closest town to sell them.

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Chapter 16

The old couple took Linda to a place some distance away from their village so that no villager could see that Linda fled. Linda thanked them again and stepped ashore. She watched their boat going back and walked toward the west. She followed the public roads in no fear that someone or anyone could recognize her. She was proud of her disguising skill. She never took off the cloth wrapping her hair, even in sleep, that none could ever see the color of her hair. Although she had some foreign accent when she spoke Chinese, the government announcement did not mention it. So no one suspected anything when she talked to people. She had no definite destination and just roamed in the direction the sun set.
            By now she had grown familiar with the Chinese currency system at that time and had come to know what thing was worth how much money. She did not want to waste a coin unnecessarily as her resources were limited. She wished to have the money she had with her lasting as long as possible till she could find a suitable place to settle down.
            Soon she came to a town and entered it. When she was walking in the streets, an old woman accosted her. She wanted to buy some eggs for her grandson. She thought that Linda was really a farming girl selling eggs in the town.
            Linda was at first surprised, but she remembered her feign after a moment's hesitation. She thought to herself, “Why don’t I sell the eggs? I can’t go everywhere with the basket.” So she agreed to sell some eggs to the old woman.
            She had often heard some pedlars crying out their goods in the streets since she had landed in China. And now she heard someone crying, "Scissors and knives sharpening!" The man was selling his service to people who wanted to sharpen their blunted scissors and knives. A few paces away, a door opened and a woman handed the man a cutting knife to be sharpened for her.
            Linda was in doubt if she must cry out her eggs for sale. She had never tried such things before and could not make up her mind. Then she heard another crying some distance away: "Flowers for girls!" In ancient China there were no flower shops. One could only buy them from a hawker.
            Linda consulted herself, “Since I don’t want to carry the eggs along further, I must sell them. Why not cry like others?” So she began, “Fresh eggs for sale!” A door opened from a big house. A woman’s head stuck out and beckoned to Linda. She was the cook of the household and wanted to buy all the eggs as she would have guests coming this evening. She bargained with Linda for the price. Linda was glad to part with the eggs so soon and cut her price a little to the satisfaction of the woman. Linda took the money and handed her all the eggs together with the basket, which she no longer needed. The woman was delighted and asked Linda to bring more eggs for her next time she came into the town. Linda could not make a promise and stammered something no one could understand.
            Linda had lunch in the town and wanted to continue her way to the west, but it was so cloudy that day and she could not figure out the direction. She had learned how to decide for the direction. If she could figure out which direction was the south, she could know which was the west. When she faced the south, her right hand pointed to the west. But how could she make out the south? She remembered that the first way was to look at the rings of the tree. The width between the rings to the southern side in a tree trunk was much greater than that of those to the northern side. Anyway, how could she find a broken tree so that she could see the rings on the broken trunk surface? She walked for some distance and did not see any tree that was broken. It did not work.
            Then she recalled an easy way to do this. She looked at the foliage of a tree and saw that on one side the boughs grew longer and the leaves denser. It was the southern direction. So she figured out which direction was the west and started to walk that way. But she was still not sure if it was right direction she wanted to go.
            She walked out of the town along the public road. The dusk descended on the earth when she came across a village. It was a small village without any inns. The tradition was that a traveler could knock at any house and ask the host or hostess whether he or she could stay for the night. Generally a traveler would be accepted into the house and even supper would be provided, both gratis.
            Linda took lodging in a house. The hostess had a daughter and a son, ten and six years of age respectively. Linda had to share the room with the daughter. The son was sick at the time. There was no doctor in this village. The villagers, if sick, always asked the medical witch to look at the patient and then would pay her either with money or with something of some value.
            In ancient China witches did not have magic power, nor rode on any broomsticks like their colleagues in England. There were a few sorts of witches in China. Some acted as a doctor and others had the ability to summon the ghosts of the diseased kinsfolk.
            The invited witch arrived. She did not go into the bedroom to look at the patient. She burned a pair of red candles and three joss sticks, which was stuck in an incense burner. Then she went down on her knees to kowtow before the burning candles and joss sticks while she was chanting some magic words. After a few minutes she changed into a sitting position, a leg-crossed yoga position, and kept chanting until the joss sticks burned to ashes. Then she got up and scooped some ashes with a spoon. She gave the spoonful of ashes to the woman and bade her to let her son swallow the ashes with warm water. “It’s cure-all from Buddha.” The witch told the woman, “Your son will soon recover.” She took the money the woman offered and left.
            Linda saw all this and suspected the curing effect of the joss-stick ashes. "Can this cure all the diseases?" She asked the woman.
            “Some cured and some didn’t.” was the answer.
            “Why some didn’t?” Linda persisted in getting a thorough answer, “It’s cure-all.”
            “Because those who died have lived to their destined end of life.” The woman added, “The god of the nether world decides the fate of everyone and how long he can live. If one has lived to his destined end of life, even cure-all can’t save him.”
            Linda did not believe that the joss-stick ashes could cure any illness. She guessed that those who were healed must only have trivial ailments like cold and those who were not healed must have serious sickness.
            She went to bed without further thinking of such things. Next morning she got up early and was served breakfast. After finishing it, she took leave of the woman with many thanks.

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Chapter 17

Linda proceeded on her way to the west. She passed a pond, the water in it so clear and transparent. There were some boys of about ten years old swimming in it, their bare butts submerging in water, but still discernible. Seeing this, Linda had an impulse to plunge in for a hearty swimming, but she remembered that she did not even have a bikini on her. Besides, she noticed that no girls would swim in public in the sixteenth century in China.
 
            The boys saw her, shouting and waving their fists at her. Linda understood from their gesture that they wanted her to get lost at once. At that time a girl should not look at boys, especially with bare butts. To avoid further trouble, Linda ran away as fast as her legs could carry her.
            Presently Linda came to a village. From seeing the boys she concluded that there must be a village close by and she wanted to find her lodging for the night there. Generally she eluded to stay in a town for the night. She preferred the village because the villagers might not know the government announcement about her and so she would be safe.
            On entering the village, she was attracted by the voices of the boys reading some books aloud. She followed the sound to a house where she could see through the window that an old man was giving lessons to some ten boys. Linda had already learned something about the education in the ancient China. There were public schools then, but only in the capital and main cities. Somewhere else there might be private schools built at the donations of local wealthy families. Mostly boys got education from private tutors in the house of the tutor and the parents paid the tutor certain amount of money every month. The textbooks were the works of Confucius and Mencius. Linda had studied some when she had lived with the head eunuch. Girls were not encouraged to learn reading and writing. They were taught to sew and cook, and how to serve their future husbands satisfactorily. Girls only in rich families could have a tutor coming to teach them or were taught by their mothers, who were literate.
            Linda listened for a while and walked away. She wanted to find a family that could take her in for the night. Soon she found one. Hospitality was a common virtue in the ancient time everywhere. The family was well-to-do and had a daughter of eight. The girl loved to read and write, and refused to learn sewing and cooking. The parents doted on her and had to give in at length. She had learned hundreds of Chinese characters. When a pupil reached such a stage, a tutor would train him to write parallel sentences or structures. The practice was like that: when the tutor gave two characters, say, meaning “mountain”, the pupil must use two characters, say, meaning “river”. If he said something meaning “orange”, it was wrong, because “mountain” and “river” belonged to the same category of words, the geographic category while “orange” was in a different category. If the pupil was right, the tutor would add another character like “stands” and the pupil must say “flows”. That made “mountain stands” and “river flows”.
            The girl implored Linda to play that kind of word game with her. Luckily Linda had had such practice before and so had no difficulty thereupon. The girl said “wolf” and Linda replied with “dog”. Then the girl said “howls” and Linda added “barks”. The girl continued with “in woods” and Linda paralleled with “in house”. The girl was so delighted that when Linda wanted to leave next morning she importuned her to stay a little longer. As Linda had really nowhere to go, she was glad to comply.
            They could not play the word game all day long. The girl went out with Linda to sightsee the village. When they were passing a house, they noticed some people crowding before the open door. They wondered what had happened inside that house and so squeezed in to have a look.
            On the table in the center of the room some candles and joss sticks were burning and behind the table sat a woman in her fifties. With her eyes shut she began to chant something like “Open the door wide. Your ancestors will come.” Then her mouth foamed and she leaned back. Suddenly her voice changed sounding like that of an old man.
            Linda asked a woman beside her, “What’s the matter? Is the woman sick?”
            “No.” The woman replied, “The woman is a witch. She’s summoning the ghost of the old man, who was the father of the woman standing at the side of the table. Now the old man’s ghost has got into the body of the witch. It’s the old man’s voice speaking now."
            The woman standing at the side of the table was asking some questions while sobbing and the woman with an old man’s voice was answering. Linda did not quite catch what they were saying.
            After a while the voice of the witch came back and she opened her eyes. It seemed that the ghost was gone. The woman paid the witch, who left soon. The woman came to close the door and the crowd dispersed.
            Linda and the girl strolled in the main street and saw a tea house a few paces ahead. They went into it and took seats at an unoccupied table. The house was half full. Four men sat next to them, talking and laughing. Some of their words wafted into Linda’s ears because it concerned her.
            Man A said, "I read in the city yesterday a government announcement. They are seeking for a girl with golden hair and offering a hundred taels of silver."
            Linda’s heart went wild. She was terrified, but did not show it on her face, still sipping tea, but her hand holding the cup was a little trembling. Only no one noticed it. The girl was interested and turned to look at the four men.
            Man B asked, “Is she a criminal? Did she break the prison wall and run away?”
            Linda calmed down and sipped some more tea.
            Man A said, “Not likely from the announcement. Seems her husband wants her back.”
            Linda had already learned it. That was no news for her.
            Man C said, “Did she elope with another man or what?”
            Linda was amused by the notion of elopement.
            Man A said, “Doesn’t say anything about that.”
            Man D said, “One hundred taels is not much. Not worth the effort to look for her.”
            Presently she left the tea house with the girl.

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Chapter 18

The family Linda stayed with was very nice to her. At first she had half a mind to settle down here. The only dread was that this village was too close to a city. The message that she was wanted would some day spread here and then she would not be safe. Therefore, she could not have made up her mind whether to settle down or to move on.
           Now her fear became a definite truth. For her own security, she could no longer stay here. So she insisted on leaving. Next morning when she bade farewell to the hostess, the woman gave her a parcel containing some dried cake, boiled eggs and a flask of water. People taking long journey always carried food and water lest they reach some places that they could get no food and water supply. Linda took the parcel and expressed her hearty gratitude to the woman for her kindness.
            The girl almost began crying and begged Linda to visit her on her return. Linda was not sure if she would come back the way she went. But she had to make the promise as a white lie.
            It was hot in the south of China. It was noon. Linda took a rest under the shade of a big tree and ate a piece of cake and an egg and drank some water. Then she started on her way again.
            She came across a pond. The water was so lucid. Linda perspired all over and needed to have a bath. Since no one was seen all around, she stripped herself naked and dove into the pond.
            There were a long row of thick bushes on the bank so that she could hide behind it when she was bathing. She put her clothes and the parcel at the roots of the bushes. This way no one could steal them. The jacket and pants she had had on when she had landed in China had been thrown away long before. Now she wore what the local people wore so that she could mingle with them without being too conspicuous.
            To her panic, she beheld a young man approaching the pond. She had no time to put her clothes on when the young man ran up. He saw a naked girl in the water. How could a young man not get excited at such a sight? He kicked off his shoes and stepped into the water. Linda swam to the center of the pond where the water was deep. She only kept her head on the surface. The young man stayed in the shallow water up to his waste and did not plunge in. The situation lasted for quite some time. Linda could not stay naked for ever in the water. She must do something to get herself out of the plight.
            She thought that the young man perhaps could not swim, or he would come after her. She got a good idea and swam toward the young man. When she got very close, the young man stretched his hands and looked like he wanted to grip on Linda’s hair and pull her out. Linda dove in the water and reached out her hands to pull his ankles. The young man struggled in water. Linda made him drink enough water and he lost consciousness. Linda laid him on the bank and put on her clothes. She left the young man where he was lying and went her own way. When the young man came to, the girl was nowhere to be seen. He did not know if he had had a dream or met a fox genie. Chinese people believed in fox genie, who could change into the form of a beautiful girl and could vanish in a moment.
Linda was now clambering a hillside. She suddenly heard a man’s voice shouting at some distance, “You girl, stop right there!” She turned to look. A middle-aged man with a sword in his right hand scurried toward her. She knew that the man must be a rogue and came to rob her or even rape her. She started to run at top speed. After a while, she looked back and saw the man getting closer and closer to her. She looked forth and saw that she would soon reach the top of the hill. She thought, “When I get to the hill top, I can roll down the other side and escape from the villain.”
            But when she reached the summit, she was dismayed to find that the other side of the hill was a cliff that she could not estimate how high. At least she saw that the bottom was a valley. About half way down, a tree growing out from the cliff wall caught her eyes. Maybe, she could jump down onto the tree first and then climbed down into the valley. At the moment, the man’s voice yelled close behind her, “Stop. You’ll fall to death.”
            Linda made up her mind that she could not let the rascal rape her. What if she was infected with AIDS? It was a painful disease. But she forgot that there was no AIDS in the sixteenth century anywhere. Anyway, she jumped down feet first and landed on the tree. She clutched on some branches with both her hands to steady herself. Then she looked up and saw the moron sticking his head out and watching her. Linda thought, “If he also jumps down, I have to fight him.” She fished out a dagger tied on her right leg. She had got the dagger when she had been with the outlaws. She always had it with her in case she might need it. Now she had the need for it.
            The man stood at the edge of the cliff, considering whether he wanted to leap down, too, after the girl. When he saw Linda take out a dagger, he decided that it was not worth the risk of being pierced through the chest. He turned and left the spot.
            As the immediate danger was now over, she had time to deliberately examine her surroundings. First, she looked at the cliff wall to see if there were thick vines that she could use to climb up. But to her disappointment, the vines did not climb upward, but climbed downward. Correctly to speak, the vines grew up from the foot of the cliff and stopped right round the tree. None grew any higher. So there was no hope for her to climb upward. “At least,” she thought to herself, “I can climb downward. No need for me to jump down.”
            She was lucky. If there were no vines at all on the cliff wall, what could she do now? She could not jump down, for the height was about thirty meters by her estimation. Even if she did not dash herself to death, she would injure some parts of her body. Under such circumstances, how could she survive with serious injuries?
            She began to descend on all fours gripping tightly on the vines. It took her quite some time to set her feet on the solid ground. She looked round. It was a beautiful valley with trees and grass covering the bottom. Then she found some rabbits and a deer staring at her from some distance.
            She walked about in the valley and found a cave in the cliff wall. The cave was small, but with enough space to hold Linda. “I have to stay here for the time being. God made a cave here for me for the night.” She said aloud to herself. “Ah, I have some company. Come here, you cute little rabbit! And you, lovely deer!” She coaxed.
            She sat on a rock and thought, “I’m like Alice in a rabbit hole now. Only this is not a rabbit hole, but a valley. There’s not the Cheshire cat, but a deer instead. No pack of cards either.” She looked round for mushrooms and saw some pretty ones. “What will become of me if I have a bite of the mushroom there? Will I grow up till I can reach the top of the cliff? Then I can get myself out of here. But what if I grow smaller and smaller? Will the rabbit bite my head off?” Of course, she would not eat that mushroom. She had been told that when a mushroom looked colorful, it was very probably poisonous. Then she found some fruits on the trees. She lived on fruits for three days and found that there was a slope at the other side that she might escape from there.
            The deer and rabbits no longer evaded her when she approached them. She could caress or hug them. “I will leave tomorrow, but can’t take them with me.” She thought, not without being sorry. All at once a wonderful idea occurred in her mind. She took out her dagger and carved these words on one of the antlers of the deer: “Linda’s deer.”
            Sometimes she wished that it were a nightmare and that when something terrible happened to her, she would wake up and find herself in her own room of her New Jersey home.

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Chapter 19

The valley led to a steep slope. Linda scaled up and entered a forest. Soon she came across a hut, made of tree trunks with thatched roof. Carefully she approached the hut, unaware of what was lurking inside waiting for her. There might be an escaped prisoner hiding inside. There might . . .
            She could not—should not make so many hypotheses. There hung in the doorway a patchy cloth curtain. She stood in front of the curtain, shouting, “Anyone there?”
            “Who’s it?” A woman’s voice called from within. Then the curtain was pulled aside and a woman stood in the doorway. She was in her forties, dressed in old shabby clothes.
            “I’m lost in the mountains.” Linda told the woman with an inquiring look.
            “Come in, please.” The woman said. She stepped aside, still holding the curtain up.
            Linda walked in. It was dim inside. Linda could not see anything. After a while when her eyes were adjusted, she saw a table a few paces away with two benches on either side of it and an oil lamp on it. A wooden bed was in one innermost corner. That was all the furniture they had.
            Linda sat on one bench and the woman on the other.
            “Do you want a drink of water?” The woman asked her.
            “No, thanks.” She said curtly. She was not sure if she must tell the woman her story. Finally she decided to wait.
            “My husband’s a hunter.” The woman said. “Whenever he gets some games, he will sell most of them in the village at the foot of the mountain and buy some necessities. I will collect fruits in the woods. We still have some salted deer meat. It’s delicious. You can stay for supper and for the night. Tomorrow my husband will show you how to get to the nearest village.”
            Linda thanked her again. Now she was worried about the deer with her name on. Some day it would surely become the trophy of the hunter. She did not want to witness it. If she could, she would leave right off. But it was growing dark and she did not know the way out. So she had to stay for the night.
            “I’m home.” A man’s voice came in. It must be the husband of the woman, who stood up and went out to meet him.
            “A lovely deer! A big game!” exclaimed the woman.
            “Yes.” The man said in delight. “It ran so fast, but couldn’t be faster than my arrow. So I got it. Look at its antler, the engravings.”
            Linda’s heart thumped wildly. The horrible thing she had feared did happen to the poor deer. She got out checking on the antler. Surely her name was on it. She wanted to nauseate. She wanted to cry. But she restrained herself. There were something else beside the deer, a rabbit and two pheasants. She was not sure if the rabbit was the one she loved. She had not made any sign on it.
She returned into the hut and sat on the same bench. When the couple came in, she stood up to greet the husband, who just nodded his recognition. The games were left outside.
At supper Linda could not eat the salted deer meat and so she made up an excuse that she was a vegetarian. She ate some fruits and drank some water.
The family went to bed early. The woman arranged that Linda slept with her on the bed. The man put two benches together side by side and slept on them. Although it was not comfortable, the man did not complain. He blew out the wick and soon began to snore.
Linda had always slept alone, never shared a bed with anyone. So she could not sleep well. She stayed awake most of the night.
The family got up early when Linda wanted to sleep for a while longer. As the woman saw that Linda was still sleepy, she told Linda to keep on sleeping. Now Linda was alone on bed and so she slept like a log. When she woke up, it was almost noon. She got up and ate some fruits as brunch. The woman offered her some deer meat. Linda could not eat it. It was her deer. Thinking of that, her eyes were filled with tears. She turned away from the woman to wipe them off.
The husband had already gone out hunting. The woman asked Linda to wait for the return of her husband, but Linda declined. She wanted to leave at once and asked for the direction. The woman told her how to get to the nearest village. Linda thanked her for her hospitality and took leave.
She passed a graveyard and saw many people crowding before respective tombs here and there. The graveyard had no fences around. The tombs looked like domes, or inverted bowls, or in the eye of Linda, like gigantic buns. The tombs were made of stone bricks with boiled sticky rice as mortar. Mortar was easily broken while the stone bricks stuck together with the boiled sticky rice, when dried, were very strong. The gravediggers could hardly break through to steal the valuable things buried with the body. It was another custom for rich families to put some valuable things or the things the diseased had loved when alive in the coffin. They believed that the diseased could still possess them in the nether world when buried with him or her.
Before every tombstone there were platefuls of fruits and lighted candles and incenses. People of a family kowtowed to the tomb one by one, from the oldest to the youngest. Then some houses or horses or men and women, all made of paper, were burned. By burning these things, people also believed that the diseased could receive them and use them like in this world. The diseased could live in the house, riding the horse when traveling and have the men and women as servants.
Linda stood aside watching and wondered why so many people came on the same day. She went with a crowd going west. She asked a woman if it was a special day. The woman wondered how the girl could not know the day. It was a popular day that almost everyone knew. But she still replied, “Yes. Every year on this day people go to the graves of their ancestors to worship them.”
In Chinese it is called “Clear and Bright Day” in the fifth solar term. But it is not always clear and bright on that day. Sometimes it will rain.

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发表于 2016-11-17 07:30 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
chapter 20

On the right side of the road, Linda perceived a temple on the slope of the mountain. She felt thirsty and wanted to ask for a cup of tea there. She went up to the temple and found that it was a nunnery. She knocked at the door. Presently a young Buddhist nun came to open it. In China such a nun was the opposite of the Buddhist monk. That is to say, they shaved off all their hair on the head and burned nine tiny holes on the pate like the monks did. A young girl who became a nun always had certain reasons. Some wanted to escape from something very bad. Others probably came from destitute families. Their parents could no longer support them and had to send them to the nunnery. It was better than to be sold to the whorehouse.
There are two main sorts of religions in China that Han Tribe believes. The number of Han Tribe is more than ninety percent of the whole population. Besides Buddhism, which came from India, there is a native religion called Taoism. The Taoists, together with their opposite the Taoist nuns, wear their hair in a knot on top of their heads. They both worship Lao Tzu, and other legendary gods. They are polytheists. But the Buddhists in China are also polytheists.
“Can I have some water? I’m too thirsty.” Linda asked bashfully.
“Of course. Please come in.” The young nun said politely.
Linda was led to the guest sitting room and served tea. It was a nice place, so quiet. Linda thought that if she could live here, no one would find her, because no one would think that she hid herself in a nunnery. The only question was whether the nuns would agree to her request.
“Can I stay here for a couple of days?” Linda asked the young nun. Then she fished some money from her pocket and donated it to the nunnery. The young nun took the money and thanked her.
“But I must ask permission of the head nun for that.” She left Linda sitting there alone. She returned after a while, saying, “The head nun agrees. Will you please follow me?”
She led Linda to a guest bedroom and left. Though small, the room was neat and tidy, with a bed put against the innermost wall, a cabinet for clothes beside the bed, and a table and two chairs against the wall under the window.
Every morning the young nun brought in a basin of hot water for her to wash her face and a cup of salty water to rinse her mouth. There was no toothpaste at that time and no toothbrush either.
Before every meal, a nun would strike a piece of hollow wood carved into the shape of a fish. When stricken with a wooden stick, the sound would spread throughout the nunnery. It was the signal for meals. All the nuns would go into the canteen while the guests went to a special dining room. Before every meal, the nuns would have a ritual to chant their sutras. Then every nun would get into a file with two bowls. One would contain rice covered with some cooked vegetables and the other would hold vegetable soup. When nuns got the bowls full they would go back to their fixed seats at long tables. When they finished eating, they would leave the canteen in a file to their respective positions.
Linda was led to the special dining room and had breakfast with some more guests. Generally they would have porridge and steamed dumplings for breakfast. For lunch, they would be served rice and vegetable dishes and for supper noodles covered with mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
In old China nuns, monks, Taoists and Taoist nuns could not eat meat, egg, fish or even milk. They should keep celibacy. But nowadays, since no one will be monks or nuns, for encouragement they are allowed to eat everything and to get married because the temples are the scenic spots for sightseeing and the sources of income in the tourist business. If a temple has no monks or nuns, it will look ridiculous to the tourists.
Linda enjoyed the tranquility of her life for a month. During that time she watched the nuns having public prayers for some families, who wanted to memorialize their ancestors through the ceremony. The ceremony went like that: on the wall hung the portraits of the ancestors and before them there was a table, on which were laid lighted candles and incenses in a burner. Six nuns stood at one side of the table and six at the other side. They chanted sutras, accompanied by playing some Buddhist musical instruments. Every nun held a different instrument, some like a cymbal and some like a bell with the top on a short stick. The nun held it downside up like a goblet. All the nuns struck their instruments at regular intervals while chanting. During this performance, the family members would kowtow before the portraits one by one. When the chanting was over, a lot of paper money and other paper things were burned. Linda had never seen it before. So she never missed one.
One day when she went to bed, she forgot to latch the door. Next morning the young nun came and pushed open the door. Linda was still asleep in bed. Her hair spread over the pillow. The young nun was surprised to see the golden hair. She laid the basin of hot water on the table and went up to the bed. She felt the golden hair. The touch was the same as she had felt her own hair before it had been shaved off. She knew that it was real hair, not golden threads.
            Linda suddenly woke up and saw the nun looking at her hair. She was horrified, afraid that the nun might go to report to the yamen in the nearest town. She didn’t know yet that those unworldly people never cared about the worldly things. But Linda decided then and there that she must leave soon.
            “How can it be that your hair is golden?” The nun asked curiously.
            “I was born like that. It brought me a lot of troubles.” She added privately, “Only since I landed in China.”
            “I like your hair color.” The young nun said enviously.
            “Will you please not mention it to anyone else?” Linda implored.
            “Why not? Any particular reason?”
            “I’m always afraid that someone may want my hair, thinking it is made of gold, and may come to murder me for it.”
            “Be at rest. None will think your hair’s made of genuine gold, or he’s insane. But my advice is that you can shave off your hair and become a nun here.”
            “Shave off the hair and become a nun?” Linda had never thought of that. She loved her hair and was proud of having it. It has certainly some advantage to have golden hair. Many people like the hair being golden and some men love girls with golden hair. Linda did not want to shave it and she did not want to become a nun, in China.
            Linda got up, wrapped up her hair and came to the table to wash her face. After breakfast, she bade farewell to the nuns and left the nunnery. She walked west aimlessly along the public road. At noon she ate some dried food and drank some water the nuns had given her. Some other travelers on foot rested on the road side, sitting on rocks, while they had their lunch. Linda sat at some distance from them. She did not want to be asked questions. It would certainly happen if she sat close to anyone. By now she had learned that Chinese people loved to ask other people personal questions.
            In the evening, Linda came to another village. When she passed a house, she saw a throng before the open door. She squeezed in to the front and saw two old men standing on opposite side of a table, on which there was a tray with fine sands in it. A thin piece of bamboo was made into a circle with two short straight bamboo pieces attached to the circle and crossing each other in the middle, looking like ⊕. A Chinese brush was tied onto the crossing point. The two old men stretched out their forefingers, one from his right hand and the other from his left hand, each holding the bamboo circle at opposite sides, or correctly to speak, the bamboo circle resting with opposite sides on their forefingers. That way, it meant that they could not move the brush to write any Chinese words.
            There was a third old man who knelt before the table and murmured something like in prayer. Then Linda saw the brush moving as if by itself, looking like writing something in the sand tray. When the brush stopped the two old men took the brush away. The third old man stood up and copied what had been written in the sand on a slip of paper. And the three men gathered together in the consultation of one another.
            The spectators scattered. Linda asked a middle-aged woman, “What’s all this about?”
            “They have some problems they can’t solve and want to ask help from a god.” The woman answered. “If a god, any god, happens to pass the place in the sky, he may come down to write something in the sand, if it interests him to give the mortals some divine advice.”
            “But I didn’t see any god come down.” Linda doubted.
            “You can’t see a god. No one can see a god.”
            “Then who knows if a god came down or not?”
            “Did you see the brush being moved?”
Linda nodded.
“That meant that a god was here, because the two men supporting the brush were incapable of writing anything. Even if they were able to move the brush simultaneously, they couldn’t write out coherent sentences. So it proves that some god came to write something in the sand tray.”
Linda was still skeptical, but she said nothing more and went her own way. She had already been accustomed to anything weird in the ancient China.

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发表于 2016-11-20 06:39 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 21

Once more Linda trespassed on the hospitality of a family for the night. The family was so-so financially. After supper, Linda helped to wash the dishes as if she did it in return for the food and board. The couple was in their forties and had a son of twelve. They owned the house and used the front room as a dining place, selling wonton. It could not be called a restaurant. So people called it wonton shop.
            The husband and wife were very busy. They must make wonton with minced meat wrapped up in flour skin. When customers came, they cooked it in boiled water. As all the wontons floated on the surface, it meant that wontons were ready to serve. They made some kind of soup at the same time and then they put twenty wontons in a bowl and ladled some soup into it. The son helped to take the bowl of wonton to the customers. Now Linda helped as a waitress. She also learned to make wonton.
            At first Linda wanted to leave the next day, but the wife asked her to stay, saying, "If you are not in a hurry to leave, you can stay as long as you like. You are a nice girl. I love you very much."
            Since Linda had really nowhere to go, she thought that she could stay here longer, or even for ever if they could get along well. But she did not know, or could not guess, why the woman asked her to stay. As the family lived only from hand to mouth, they could not afford to have their son married to any girls. They hoped that when their son came of age, at sixteen years old, he could marry Linda as she looked like a homeless girl. Although Linda was much older than their son, it did happen in ancient China to take older girls for wife. The sole concept of marriage in ancient China was to get a boy as an heir so that when they died they had someone to inherit their family name and property, if any, and look after their grave. And their ghosts could return home on certain days to enjoy the worship of their posterities.
            Anyway, Linda stayed and helped with any work she could do. The shop would open early in the morning, when it was still dark outside. It would close late till the nightfall when the supper time was long over. Then the family would retire to the quarters behind the shop to rest.
            Every day they had wonton for three meals. Actually they did not have regular three meals. Whenever anyone of the family, including Linda, felt hungry, he or she just ate wontons till full. It was indeed unbearable to eat wonton everyday, every meal. But what could Linda do or say? Sometimes when the husband went to market shopping for meat, flour and vegetables, he would buy some sweets or different food for Linda. The couple already looked upon her as their future daughter-in-law, and treated her like one.
            Three months elapsed. Linda lost the tract of dates and days by the solar calendar, because the battery in her watch had died. In ancient China people used old methods to mark the time and dates. The more accurate way to count the time of the day was to use the sundial, but what if there was no sun that day? A simple machine was invented, named clepsydra or water clock. It consisted of two metal containers, one above the other. The above one holding water had a small hole in the bottom, the water dripping one by one into the lower container through the hole. There were grooves carved on the inner side to mark the time. People could tell time by checking on which groove the water reached. Chinese people divided the day into twelve equal parts. Every part was equal to two hours we use now. And so was the sundial marked.
            For those who could not afford a water clock, or a sundial, they could only estimate time by looking at the sun or the light of the day if it was cloudy. Everywhere there were night watchmen, who reported time during the night by going around a certain area and striking a gong. They always worked night shift, beginning at the fall of the night. People divided the night time into five parts. The watchmen hit the gong once in the first part, twice in the second part and thrice in the third part. When they struck five times, it would soon be daybreak.
            They had a rich neighbor living close to them, who frequented their wonton shop. He had a son four years older than their son. One day the neighbor visited them in the shop.
            “Hello, my old friend!” He accosted the husband. “Long time no see.”
            “Ah, my dear neighbor, long time no see.” The neighbor had been absent from his shop for a few months. “Where have you been?”
            “Had a tour in the Yunnan Province and bought some herbs.” He was a doctor and owned a herb store. He not only charged his patients for consulting fees, but also sold them the medicine he had made. He earned a great deal of money and was one of the wealthiest men in the village.
            “Welcome back, my dear neighbor.” He handed the neighbor a bowl of wonton for free.
While eating, he talked to the husband. “I know you have a homeless girl living with you. I also know you want her to be your daughter-in-law. But your son is still so young. He can’t marry her until four years later. My son just reaches the age to be married. Let’s have a deal, okay?”
            “What’s the deal?” The husband was curious to know.
            “The girl marries my son and I give you a thousand taels of silver.” He offered.
            “Are you kidding me?” The husband was in doubt.
            “I’m serious. Think of it, with a thousand taels, you can get any girl for your son.”
            A thousand of taels was a lot of money then. It was a great temptation, but he could not make decision all by himself. He must consult his wife first. His wife was the one to decide on everything and anything in the household.
            “Although the girl is beautiful, the money is more important. You cannot eat beauty when hungry. You cannot dress beauty when cold. So take the deal.” said the wife.
            “How or what can we tell the girl?” asked the husband.
            “We don’t need to tell her. Let the doctor tell her himself.”
            “Good idea.” The wife consented.
            Linda was ignorant about their deal. She lived everyday like the day before until one day when a red palanquin came to the door. Linda was curious to know what that was for. When she stepped out of the door to look, two middle-aged strong women came forth to hold her either arm and push her into the palanquin. Linda struggled, but the two women were too strong for her to get away from their grasp. Linda cried, but no one dared to interfere.
            Linda was carried into a big house. When the palanquin stopped in the front courtyard, she was dragged out and rushed into a room. Then the two strong women came in to dress her up in bride’s costume. Linda had seen the costume before and came to know what would happen.
            Linda knew that it was futile to resist by force and so she gave up struggle and let the women attire her while she was making a bold plan. When they finished with her, she said to them, “Go to tell your master to come here to see me. I have something very important to tell him.”
            The two women did not stir. They were told to watch the girl lest she do something drastic or even commit suicide. Linda saw them standing still as if they were deaf and did not hear what she had spoken.
            “It will save his life if he knows what I’m about to say." Linda had to use her last resort.
            A matter of life and death was indeed very important. Therefore, the two women did not dare to delay. One of them went out of the room to fetch the doctor.
            The doctor was doubtful. “What can the girl tell?” He thought. But he still came to see Linda.
            When he came into the room, he saw a beautiful girl sitting on a redwood chair. What surprised him was that the girl had taken off her headwear and showed a headful of golden hair. The doctor seemed to know something about golden hair, but he could not remember anything.
            “What do you want to tell me, my girl?” The doctor inquired.
            “Do you notice the color of my hair?” Linda pointed to her head.
            The doctor made an affirmative gesture.
            “I’m the girl the government is seeking for. If they know you are forcing me to marry your son, what do you think they’ll do to you?”
            Now it dawned on the doctor. He remembered that he had read the government announcement about a girl with golden hair they were hunting for. The girl must be a VIP or a criminal. Either way, he should report to the government since now the girl was in his house, or he would be punished, even imprisoned. He left Linda in the custody of the two strong women.
            After making some arrangement, the doctor returned. He told Linda that he would send her to the local yamen. Linda made no objection and followed him out. There was a coach at the door. She climbed in and it moved forward.

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发表于 2016-11-24 08:46 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 22

The coach went to the nearest city and after one hour it rolled to a halt before the local yamen. The mayor of the city was reported about the arrival of the girl with golden hair. He did not know who this girl really was, but at least he knew that it was the girl the head eunuch wanted. And from the document the head eunuch had sent to every city and town, the mayor could read between lines that this girl must be an important person to the head eunuch, not like someone who was wanted as an offender and would be punished when returned. The city he administered was a great distance away from the capital and so he did not learn the details.
 
            “Anyhow, I must treat her well, whoever she is.” He said to himself. He hastened out to receive her and told a maid to lead Linda to the guestroom best-ornamented. When Linda took her seat at a rosewood table carved with flower patterns all around the sides, the maid brought in a basin of hot water for her to wash her face and hands.
At dinner time, she was invited to meet the mayor and his wife for dinner. He could not meet the girl alone lest his enemies should spread the rumor that he had some unnatural relationship with the girl, which would surely bring disaster on him.
At the dinner table, the mayor mentioned that tomorrow he would send a squad of soldiers to escort her to the capital. Linda kept calm. The first stage of her plan went successfully. Now she would carry out the second stage of her plan.
“Do you know who I am?” Linda asked the mayor.
“Not really. I only know that the head eunuch’s looking for you.”
“Do you know why he’s looking for me?”
“No clue whatsoever.” He said frankly.
“Because I’m his titular wife.” Thus speaking, Linda stared at the mayor and his wife, who were both stunned and dumbfound. After a while they stirred as if awakening from a slumber.
“As now you know who I am, let’s have a deal.”
“What’s the deal about?” The mayor stammered out the question.
“Will any woman willingly marry a eunuch?” She looked from the mayor to his wife.
The mayor kept silence. His wife replied “No” in a low voice.
Then Linda told them the part of her story about how to become the wife of the eunuch. She was of course not willing to be his wife.
“Now that I’m free, I won’t go back to him. So I’ll make a deal with you.” The mayor waited for her to go on. Linda continued, “If you send me back, I will tell the head eunuch that before you send me back to him, you want to rape me as I’m so beautiful. Do you think if he will believe me?”
That was out of question. Who would not believe the complaints of the young pretty wife?
“If he believes me, then do you think how he will deal with you?”
It was beyond all doubts that he would be killed under whatever excuses and die in disgrace. But he said nothing, waiting for her to reveal the other side of the deal.
“If you let me go, of course, I can’t complain to the head eunuch about you. We’ll forget everything that happened. You are still the mayor of the city.”
“Will you please stay here for the night? I’ll consult my wife and will tell you our decision tomorrow.” He needed time to consider it. It was too important to his future, or even his life.
Linda retired to her bedroom, but she could not sleep well. She feared that if the mayor was loyal to the head eunuch, which she could not be sure, and insisted on sending her to the capital at the risk of being killed, what could she do? She would fall again into the hands of that hideous man. Even if she had that mayor killed, she could not flee from the titular husband and would live with him for the rest of her life unless she would be carried back by that mysterious force to America in the twenty-first century.
Next morning when she woke up, the maid brought her the hot water and then the breakfast. When she finished, she was asked to see the mayor and his wife. She wrapped her hair in a cloth and followed the maid to the room where the couple was waiting for her.
“Sit down please!” The wife said when she saw Linda making her appearance in the doorway.
“Thanks.” Linda took her seat at their right hand and waited for them to tell her their decision.
After a while, the wife said, “We accept the deal. You can leave now.”
Linda stood up and was about to leave when the wife jerked out the words, “Wait a minute.”
Linda’s heart gave a sudden jump. Then she saw the wife hand her some money.
“Take these. You may need it.” said the wife.
The couple had had a serious discussion last night. They were really afraid that the girl would do as she had threatened. “I think we’d better let her go.” The wife suggested.
“What if the head eunuch gets to know that we let her go?” His dread was not without reason.
“How could the head eunuch know? He’s so far away from us. Besides, the information that we let the girl go won’t reach him until after a long time. If we have to take a risk, this is a long-termed risk.” The wife reasoned with him.
The mayor nodded his understanding and consent. His wife added, “It looks the girl’s short of money. We’d better give her some. If later she is caught by someone else and sent back to her husband, she won’t say anything unfavorable to us.”
Linda patted her empty pocket. She really needed money. So she took the money and left with many thanks. The mayor and his wife were satisfied. They were safe now.

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发表于 2016-11-27 06:41 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 23

Linda left the city as fast as possible. She was afraid that the mayor might regret letting her go and send his men to catch up with her and take her back. She knew for a fact that the head eunuch would be very happy if the mayor sent her back to him and for that matter the mayor would surely get a promotion.
            She proceeded west, but did not know where she could hide herself. She just kept walking. She had changed her shoes twice. The Chinese shoes at that time were made of cloth, not leather. The sole of the shoe was thus made: many layers of cloth cut into the sole shape were sewed tightly together, about one centimeter thick; the tops were also made of cloth, only two layers, and then the top and the sole were sewed together. The shoe was thus finished. So it was easily worn out.
            When she had stayed in the wonton shop, the wife had made her a new pair of shoes, which she was wearing now. She felt the paper money in her pocket and took out to have a look. At the time when she had accepted it, she had not looked at it. So she did not know how much money they had given her. Now she could deliberately check on the amount of the money. It was a hundred taels of silver, which would last her for a long time. She was grateful to the couple.
            When she was passing another village, she saw a large house decorated with white lanterns and white paper streamers in front of the main door. The people coming and going were all dressed in white linen clothes. Loud crying was heard even in the street.
            Linda knew that someone had died in the house. She also learned the custom that anyone coming to mourn the deceased would get a treat of a substantial meal. Generally the mourners were relatives, friends or at least acquaintances. No strangers would go in to pay the last esteem to the deceased. But the custom allowed a hungry person to go in and mourn for the deceased, and then he or she could have free lunch or supper, depending what time of the day it was.
            Linda felt hungry now, but she was not bold enough to squeeze through the crowd of spectators into the house. Just then, a man came out to announce that they wanted to hire some women to help crying and mourning beside the coffin as the family members of the deceased were tired and needed some rest after the long-time wailing. It was also the tradition that when anyone came to pay his respect, there must be persons wailing beside the body. So when the family needed rest, they would hire women to do the job, because the female voice was shrill and loud.
            “Let’s go in.” A woman beside Linda pushed Linda to go in with her. To have company would make her not look so awkward. So Linda led the way in, pushed by the woman from behind.
            It was close to the dusk. Linda and the woman were given supper first and then asked to work the night shift. Linda and woman were led into the hall where the coffin was laid at the far end. Linda noticed that the end of the coffin was different in shape from that in  America, which was octagon, while the two ends were different in size and shape in  China. It was rectangular at the bigger end for the head and square at the smaller end for the feet. There was a table before the coffin with candles and incenses burning the whole night. That was why they needed people working night shift to take care of the burning candles so that they would not cause a fire as there were so many white paper decorations in the hall.
            Linda and the woman sat on the side of the coffin. She did not know what to do as a hired wailer and so she just followed what the woman did. When a visitor came, the woman began to bewail and covered her eyes with a handkerchief as if she really shed tears. Linda followed suit. As soon as the visitor left, the woman stopped crying and took the handkerchief off her eyes, which were totally dry. Linda thought it ridiculous, but it was the tradition and she could not change the tradition, however ridiculous it was.
The visitors came less and less as the night went deep. It was now almost midnight. The night watchman struck three times. Other servants and maids had gone to sleep one hour earlier. Linda and the woman were left in the hall to look after the burning candles.
Linda could not stay awake any more. She would like to have a cup of hot coffee, but there was no coffee in the sixteen century in  China. The woman sitting beside her was dozing off. Linda let her eyelids drop, too.
Linda had no idea how long she had dozed. She awakened when she heard a sudden noise. She opened her eyes to look what it was. To her panic she saw the lid of the coffin was being pushed up by degrees. At once she woke up the woman, who was still yawning.
Linda did not dare to speak. She thought that any sound might expedite the action of that thing. So she pointed to the coffin and signaled the woman to look that way.
The lid suddenly slipped onto the floor. The body in the coffin jumped out. It was stiff. The limbs could not move separately by themselves. Only the whole body could leap forward, rigidly.
“Let’s run.” The woman whispered. She was also afraid to speak aloud. She started to dash out of the hall, dragging Linda along by the hand. “That’s the mutation of the corpse.” She told Linda while gasping, “We call it vampire.”
“Will it suck our blood?” Linda asked, terrified. She had watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books about vampire. She had thought that vampires, werewolves, as well as witches, were all legends, no such things in the world. But now, she witnessed a vampire herself. Perhaps, these things did exist in the olden times. They were extinct now as dinosaurs were.
“Sure. If it doesn’t do us any harm, why should we run like mice before a cat?”
Linda looked back. The vampire leaped fast and was very close behind. They had to maneuver like rabbits, making a sudden turn to the right. The vampire was clumsy at changing directions. It sprang straight forward. When it found that it had lost its target in front, it halted all at once and made a maladroit turn toward them. It began to leap again, faster and faster. Therefore, they made the turns oftener to elude being caught.
In the movies she had seen in  America, a silver wedge would have conquered a vampire. But she did not know what could vanquish a Chinese vampire.
“We can’t keep running like that. We must do something to stop it.” She said to the woman. Both were out of breath now. She said the words between gasps.
“We must get a broom to throw at it.” She replied.
“Where can we get a broom?” Linda wondered.
“I don’t know. We are not familiar with the surroundings.” The woman despaired.
They were then entering the back garden. There were big rocks here and there among the trees and lawns. Linda noticed that the vampire could not jump high. She pulled the woman toward behind a rock and stopped running while getting breath back. The vampire hit the rock and fell on the ground, but it jumped up on its feet and continued its chase.
Linda and the woman ran anew. Presently they reached a pond. Linda jumped into the water, pulling the woman into it. The woman could not swim. In ancient China, women were not permitted to learn to swim. However, Linda managed to make the woman's head keep above water and drag her along in the water.
The vampire seemed not to know that there was water before it. It leaped into water, too. But it could not swim, nor could it jump up or forth in water. Since it could not move its limbs, it floated on the surface.
Linda reached the other side and drew the woman onto the dry ground. The woman did not faint, only wet and weary. They were safe now. They lay on the ground for a rest. After a while, they got up on their feet and turned their eyes to the pond. The vampire was floating there.
“We must find someone, better the butler, so that they can get that thing back into the coffin.” The woman said. So they went back into the hall to see anyone would be there. But they found none. Everyone was in sleep now. The day did not break yet.
Then they heard the gong was being struck four times. “Let’s go and find the night watchman.” The woman suggested. So they followed the sound of gong being hit and found the watchman. This watchman worked for the family and knew of course where to find the butler.
When informed of the accident, the butler had to report to the head of the family. Hearing it, almost all the family members got up. They all wanted to see the vampire. When the body was taken out of the water and onto the ground, it stayed still, no longer a vampire. The body was dried and the wet clothes on it were changed before it was put back into the coffin and the lid restored. More long nails were driven in to keep the lid firmly on the coffin so that such an accident would not happen again.
Everyone was disappointed that they missed the rare chance to see the vampire in action. But they forgot the fact that they would risk their lives to see a vampire.
Since everyone was up now, Linda and the woman were needed no more. They got paid and left. “Sorry.” The woman apologized to Linda, “I got you into this mess and almost lost our lives.”
“That’s okay since we are still alive.” Linda took leave of the woman and went her own way.

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发表于 2016-12-1 07:53 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 24

She walked through a village after a village, a town after a town, a city after a city, in the direction the sun set. One day in the evening she reached a reclusive big house, owned by a wealthy family. The nearest neighbor was five li (about two miles) away. She lodged in it. The hostess was very nice to her. After supper, the hostess asked a favor of Linda.
            “What’s it?” Linda inquired, “I don’t know if I can do it.”
            “Sure, you can do it, or I won’t ask.” said the hostess.
            Linda waited for her to go on.
            “I have a son, who is seriously sick.”
            Linda’s heart thumped wildly. She feared that the woman would ask her to marry her sick son like in another case she had witnessed.
            “Sorry, I can’t marry your sick son.” She ejaculated.
“I’ve never thought of it. I won’t ask a stranger to marry my son. That’s not what I will ask you for the favor.”
“Then what’s it?”
“Have you heard of fox genie, who often turns into a pretty girl and runs after boys?”
            Linda had certainly heard of it during the time she lived in China, though she did not believe it.
“When a fox genie finds a boy she likes, she will come into his bedroom every night, assuming the form of a beautiful girl and has sex with him. How can a boy refuse a beautiful girl? Even if he rejects, the fox genie will succeed, using her magic power. The problem is that the fox genie sucks excessive sperm from the boy. We believe sperm is the essence of a boy’s life. If sperm is all gone, the boy will die. This is the case with my son. It began almost half a year ago and my son looks like a skeleton now.”
“Why does the fox genie want to suck sperm? What’s the use for her?”
“I don’t know, but it is said that human sperm can prolong the life of a fox genie.” Then she added jokingly, “You can ask the fox genie herself if she comes.”
“What can I do? I don’t have any magic power to drive the fox genie away.” Linda observed.
“You don’t need to do anything. Just sit in my son’s bedroom.”
“What’s the use for me to sit there?” Linda wondered.
“It is said that if a girl’s with the boy, the fox genie won’t have sex with him before a girl.”
“If that’s so easy, I can do it.” Linda agreed in earnest. She did want to save the boy’s life.
“Thank you very much. You only need to sit there during the night. You can do whatever you like during the daytime.”
“What if I fall asleep while sitting there?”
“I don’t know. We’ll see if you do. It’s time now. Let’s go.”
The woman led Linda into the boy’s bedroom and introduced her to her son, who acknowledged by a slight nod of his head. The boy lay in bed and looked really skinny. When the woman told her son about her plan, he did not say anything and shut his eyes.
The furniture in this room consisted of a single bed with a large canopy over it, a table with two chairs at either side of it by the window, a cabinet against one wall by the headboard side and some trunks, one on top of another, against the opposite wall.
The bed curtains on this side of the canopy were generally hooked up in the day and let down at night when the boy was sleeping. But that night the curtains could not be let down because Linda sat in the room and watched over him to see whether the fox genie would come to have sex with him or not.
Linda took her seat at the table by the window. There was a candle in the center of the table. Presently the woman left. Linda just sat there. She could do nothing in the candle light, which was so dim, compared with the electric lights Linda had been used to in America.
Linda felt sleepy after midnight, but she did not dare even to doze off. She was a responsible girl. Once she promised to do something, she must keep her promise. If in America, she could have drunk some coffee to keep her staying awake, but now in China, in the sixteenth century, no coffee was available. She pinched her left arm hard with her right hand so that the pain would drive her drowsiness away.
Soon it dawned and nothing happened overnight. Linda had been told that she could leave the bedroom at daybreak. So she went to her own bedroom for some sleep. When she woke up, it was early afternoon. She got up and got into her dress. A maid came in with washing water and then came again with food. When she was eating, the hostess came in and waited for her to finish.
“Anything happened last night?” She inquired.
“Nothing.” Linda replied laconically.
“Thank you very much for your help.” The woman was really grateful.
Linda bade her farewell and wanted to leave. But the woman importuned her to stay longer.
“Oh, my good girl, you can’t leave like that. You must stay till my son’s recovered.” The woman was almost in tears.
“Madam, why don’t you send a maid in?” Linda had had the question turning in her mind all night. She thought that if a girl like herself could keep away the fox genie, any girl could do it.
“The maid is so young. She’s only thirteen. When I wanted to send her in, she was so frightened that she almost fainted. How could I force her for that?” She explained. "When I asked you for the favor, you didn’t faint, nor refused. So I think you are the right person. If you can stay, say, for a month, the fox genie can have no more chance to come and may find someone else. Once the fox genie stops coming, my son will get well soon.”
It seemed a life and death problem. She could not harden her heart to refuse the request. So she stayed. “I’m working night shift.” She said to herself.
Sometimes she felt her eyelids so heavy and could not help dozing off for a few minutes. When she opened her eyes, everything was the same, all quiet. It meant that the fox genie did not take the advantage to come. Linda wished that she could see a fox genie and ask her why she wanted to suck a boy’s sperm.
One night she planned to have some sleep, not just to doze off, so as to give the fox genie more time that she might see one when she woke up. But her scheme was wasted. Nothing had happened. She doubted if there was really a fox genie in existence.
During the month, the boy got gradually recovered. The mother thanked Linda profusely.
“Ah, my good girl, you can stay here as long as you like if you don’t have anywhere to go. Make it your home.” The woman said honestly.
Linda thought that she could hide here safely. So she stayed willingly.
Soon the boy got totally well anew. He was eighteen now and was educated at home under the private tutorship of a learned scholar, who was staying with the family. The textbooks at that time were all classics, including literature and poetry. There were no physics and chemistry, no algebra and geometry. Sometimes pupils were taught how to add and subtract and asked to memorize the multiplication table.
            Boys of eighteen already knew sex, but in ancient China boys and girls should strictly keep a polite distance between them. Their marriage was decided by parents. They could not see each other until after the wedding ceremony. Then they began to know each other, understand each other and then deliberately fall in love with each other, if they could. If they fitted each other in all respects, they were a lucky pair and would live happily ever after. If not, they would often quarrel. The strange thing was that the husband could divorce the wife and send her back to the home of her parents, but not vice versa.
            Since boys could not easily approach girls, once they were in a secret contact with one, they were like a piece of dry wood that easily caught fire. That was why the son could not refuse the induction of the fox genie in the form of a beautiful girl.
            One night after dinner, the woman invited Linda to sit for a while in her bedroom. She wanted to have a tête-à-tête with Linda.
            “Where are your parents, if you don’t mind my asking?” The woman began.
            “I’m alone here.”
            “So you are an orphan?”
“Almost.”
“You never got married, I guess?” She wanted to make sure that the girl was still a virgin.
“Of course not.”
“Do you like my son?” In ancient China people never said the word “love” referring to the relationship between the opposite sex.
From her experience Linda knew from the beginning where the conversation would lead to. So she replied readily, “I won’t marry your son.”
The woman knew that she could not force it on her and so dropped the heart-to-heart talk and let Linda go. Linda bade her good night and went back to her own bedroom. She lay in bed, but could not fall into sleep right away. She sank into reverie.
“Why do people always want me to marry their sons when I lodge in their houses?” She asked herself, but could get no answer. She was tired of it. She decided to set out on her aimless journey again tomorrow morning.
However, when she told the woman that she would depart after breakfast and thanked her for the hospitality, the woman asked her to stay one day more because she would marry the maid to her son so that the fox genie would not return to bother him.
“Good idea!” Linda said and complied with her invitation. That night a hasty wedding was held, but the maid was only a concubine. The boy could still marry another girl of the same social status and of equal wealth as wife.
Early next day Linda took leave of the woman and her family.

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发表于 2016-12-4 06:45 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 25

Linda was vexed with the problem that people always wanted her to marry their sons, but could not find a proper solution. She walked on and on, and finally entered a small town. At the turn of a street she accidentally bumped into a boy. The boy screamed in a shrill voice like a girl. Then he blamed Linda for bumping into him, but the voice was really a girl's.
 
            Even in old China there were tomboys, who would be attired as a boy and would perform a lot of mischievous deeds. This boy, or rather girl, had just made a practical joke on a pedlar by drawing a pig on his back furtively. The pedlar was her neighbor. When Linda knocked on her, she was on her way to escape.
Then a wonderful idea struck Linda. Why would she not pretend to be a boy, though she was not a tomboy in real life? Now she was looking for a ready-made clothes store, but could not find one. She was not familiar with the town. So she had to ask somebody and was told that there was one two blocks down.
She bought some boy’s clothes and carried them in a bundle to some deserted place. After she made sure that there was no one at the site, she changed into them. “Remember, I’m a boy now.” She reminded herself. She tucked her hair into a boy’s cap. She wanted to make sure if she was looking like a boy, but she could not find a mirror. When she walked past a pond, she stooped to look into the smooth water that reflected her image. A familiar boy smiled at her from the mirror of water. She was satisfied with the disguise. Then she decided that she would play a mute boy lest her voice should betray her.
She continued on her trip. In the evening she reached another small town and put up at an inn. She went up to the counter. As she must play mute, she had to communicate by gestures.
“How can I help you, sir?” The counter clerk asked.
She declined her head to her right side and put her two hands palm to palm together on her cheek, a common gesture for sleep. Another clerk led her to a guest room. At that time there was no lock on a bedroom door. A wooden latch was attached on the inside for a person to secure it when sleeping. “Will you have supper in the room or in the dining hall, sir?” The clerk asked.
Linda pointed to the table in the room, meaning she would have it here. The clerk left in a hurry and presently returned with a teapot and a teacup. He poured a cup of tea for Linda and asked, “What do you want for supper, sir?” Linda could not order as she should not speak. She made a gesture of writing. The clerk took out a piece of paper and a brush and an ink box. Linda wrote down what she wanted and handed it to the clerk. About half an hour later, the clerk came again with the supper.
After the table was cleared, the clerk brought in a hot towel for Linda to clean her face and hands. Then he brought in a basin of hot water for Linda to wash her feet. When the basin was taken away, Linda latched the door and went to sleep.
Next day she set off after breakfast. Soon she was out of the town. When the sun clambered high she felt weary and took a break, sitting on a rock by the road. After a while a wagon came drawn by a donkey. An old man sat on it, looking like a peasant. The wagon was empty. He must have dropped some goods and was returning home. Linda stood up and asked for a ride. Pointing to herself and then pointing to the wagon, she made a sitting posture. The man understood and nodded his consent. So she climbed on it and sat crossed-legged.
The old man was talkative, forgetful that she was mute. Linda only said “ah-ah” in reply. Then the man began to hum a rural tune to himself while from time to time he was smoking some sort of tobacco in a long-stemmed pipe.
It was toward the dusk when they reached a village. Generally a village had no inns. That was why a traveler must depend on the kindness of a host or hostess. Once in the village, the old man stopped his wagon before the gate of a big house and said to Linda, “I think you must stay here for the night. My humble home is very small and untidy, and can’t let a rich young man like you sleep in there. You can lodge in this house. The family never refuses to take in travelers.”
Linda understood why the old man thought her rich because she had by mistake bought silk clothes that rich people wore. She realized it when she put them on and she could not go to change them. Now she had to pretend to be rich.
She got down from the wagon, and taking out a small piece of silver, she gave it to the old man as a sign of thanks for riding on his wagon. He took it and thanked Linda, who already turned to go to knock at the double door of that big house.
The door opened and the head of manservants in uniform appeared from behind the door.
"The young man is a mute. He needs food and board." The old man shouted to the manservant, who opened the door wide to let Linda in as he heard what the old man had said and as the young man looked so harmless.
Linda was led to the sitting room. She was received by the host, who was in his fifties. The host was so surprised to see such a handsome young man before him and the young man looked like coming from a rich family.
The host had a daughter of sixteen years old and was at present seeking for a suitable young man for his daughter. He could not find one in this village. Now a young man came to his door.
“Where did you come from, young man?” The host commenced the conversation.
Linda feigned to be mute and asked for paper and brush and ink. She wrote “From Peking” when she got the supplies. She would almost have written, “From America.” She had wanted to write the name of some city closer to here, but she knew few names of the cities or towns in China. Besides Peking or Beijing, the only city she knew was Shanghai. But she seemed to have learned that Shanghai developed in Qing Dynasty (1644—1911 A. D.), not in Ming Dynasty in which she was now.
“He must come from the family of some high officials.” The host thought. “If he can marry my daughter, I will have a strong relationship with the high officialdom. The only defect is that he is mute. But it is also an advantage. He won’t quarrel with my daughter.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Just travel all over the country.” She wrote. She really did not know where she would go.
“If you are not in a hurry, you can stay here a little longer.” He invited.
Since Linda had really no definite destination, she accepted the offer. The host was happy and sent a message to his wife and daughter, who knew his intention.
At dinner the mother and daughter came out to meet Linda. They both were fond of Linda at the first sight. Linda looked at the daughter, too, because young girls would attract each other more easily. The daughter was pretty and had a sweet smile. Linda also liked her.
The daughter often invited Linda to go out in their family coach during her stay. They went to see the mountains some miles away. There was a beautiful waterfall, which formed a clear brook on the gentle slope. The daughter took off her shoes and socks and dipped her feet in the cool water. Linda followed suit.
“You have nicely-shaped feet. Your feet don’t look like a boy’s, so small and so white.” She commented. Linda pointed to her own feet and then pointed to the feet of the daughter. It meant that her feet were also small and white, almost the same size.
“A boy’s feet should be bigger than mine.” She smiled at Linda, who wanted to ask, “Is that a rule?” But they left the paper and brush and ink in the coach, which parked at the foot of the mountain. She just said, “Ah-ah” instead.
It was almost a month when at last the father put up the proposal. “Do you like my daughter?” He asked Linda one evening after dinner when only he and Linda were in the sitting room. The paper and brush and ink were all ready on the table before Linda. She just nodded. She really liked the other girl. She forgot that when Chinese people said “like”, it actually meant “love”.
“Would you like to marry her?”
Linda was stunned. To avoid the possibility that people would ask her to marry their sons, she went through all the trouble to change into a boy’s clothes. But now she was astonished and confused. How could it happen that she was asked to marry someone’s daughter when she was disguised as a boy?
Involuntarily she ejaculated, “Sorry, I can’t.” How could she marry a girl? She was not a lesbian.
Then it was the host’s turn to be astounded. How could the young man speak if he was mute? He did not realize yet that the voice sounded like a girl’s.
“I’m also a girl in a boy’s clothes, which will make me travel more conveniently." Linda confessed. Then she told the father the stories about the proposed marriages to people’s sons. That was why she had put on a boy’s clothes.
The man was delighted by her stories, but disappointed at the disillusion of his dream. He sent for his wife and daughter and repeated the stories to them, who were totally surprised, too. But the daughter did not care. She still liked Linda. She was only sixteen, not eager to get married. She liked a playmate better.
That night when Linda lay in bed, she thought to herself, “I must leave as my secret has been revealed.” Therefore, next day, she bade adieu to the family. The host did not ask her to stay longer. Only the daughter felt sorry that Linda would leave so soon. She gave Linda a white long dress as a token of friendship. “When you are tired of being a boy, you can put on this dress to be a girl again.” The daughter said.

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发表于 2016-12-6 06:35 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
chapter 26

Before long Linda entered a district in the southwestern China, where many minorities lived. The weather is warm there. Some minorities lived in houses made of bamboos instead of logs. The bamboo houses were not put up on the ground. They were high above the ground. People erected many thick bamboos with the big ends firmly in the ground like pillars. Then they built the horizontal floor at about a person’s height with the bamboo stairs from the ground up for the access, then the bamboo walls with windows. Everything inside was also made of bamboo.
            Linda lodged in one of the houses. She climbed up the bamboo stairs into the outer room. The family had two children, a boy of ten and a girl of nine. Everyone just sat on the bamboo floor around a low bamboo table. Then supper was served. It was rice cooked inside a piece of hollow bamboo trunk. The rice had a special good scent. Linda never tasted such rice before and liked it.
            When it was bed time, Linda got a quilt as a mattress put on the bamboo floor and a sheet of cloth as a cover. It was not so comfortable as a bed, but tolerable. The only annoying thing was the squeaking of the bamboo floor when she turned on the quilt.
            Life was easy here. Linda loved to stay longer. She could pay the family for that. She guessed that no one could find her if she lived here. However, she wanted to travel further to see more of this beautiful district. She could come back any time when she had enough of roaming.
            Next day she took leave of the family and went further west. She walked by a stream and saw some girls ahead, washing clothes in it. When Linda passed them, one of the girls threw some water on her, which wetted her clothes a little. She turned to look what the matter was.
            There was a peculiar tradition among this minority about the girls selecting their husbands. When a girl was at waterside, if she saw a passing boy she liked, whether it was her kinsfolk or a total stranger, she would throw some water on him. The tradition decided that if the boy ignored the girl and went straight ahead, it meant that the boy did not like the girl and that if the boy turned to look at the girl, it meant that the boy liked the girl and the girl must marry the boy.
           Nevertheless, Linda did not know the tradition and turned to look at the girl. Now all the girls ran up to surround her. Linda was at a loss what to do. The girls did not say anything to Linda, just pushed her toward the village at a distance. Linda had to follow them.
            They reached a house, made of logs as pillars and dried mud plastered on some wooden frames as walls. A girl pushed Linda into the house, which consisted only of one room. There was a table and some benches. Linda sat on one of the benches, waiting to see what would happen next. She must still pretend to be mute.
            Since there were a few girls, Linda did not know which girl had thrown water on her as she had not witnessed the action. Linda thought the girl pushing her in was the one throwing water on her, but actually she was wrong. The girl splashing water on her would be the bride tonight and was hiding somewhere else.
            The girl pushing Linda in was leaning on the door jamb. Other girls were nowhere to be seen. The girl must have been told to watch over her lest she should run away. Linda did not know what they wanted of her. Suddenly she had a surmise that they might kill her as a sacrifice to their deity. She had read that such things did happen with the primitive natives in Africa. It was better that she should escape now. She could easily conquer this girl as she had been an athlete at school. She was about to stand up and rush forth when a group of girls and women came into sight. Linda had to stop and kept sitting where she was.
            Two women came in while the girls stood outside. One of the women congratulated Linda, saying that she had been chosen to be the husband of the girl who had splashed water on her. Now Linda became aware of the reason why they brought her here. It was the second time that such things happened to her. She had had some experience before and now showed some amusement on her face. At least she could be at rest that she would not be killed as a sacrifice to a deity.
            She said ah-ah and made some gestures to show that she was mute. She reckoned that they might not want to have a mute as the girl’s husband. Then to the woman’s surprise she found the boy mute. But the tradition maintained that once the relationship was decided by the throwing of water on the girl’s part and the affirmative reaction of the boy, they could not go back on it, no matter whether the boy was a mute or a cripple or one having much more serious conditions.
            The woman was the mother of the would-be bride. The sole comfort she got was that the boy was very handsome, the handsomest among all the husbands the girls in the village had married.
            Then the women and the girls all left except the one leaning against the door jamb. Linda did not need to flee now. Besides, she had a secret weapon to use if she was cornered.
            Soon it was dinner time. Another woman came to take Linda to a square where there was a wedding party ready. Linda was arranged to sit beside the bride. Food was put on the table and Linda felt very hungry. So she just helped herself to everything served. When dinner was finished, everybody stood up and went to sit on the ground around a bonfire. According to the tradition, the bride and the bridegroom should dance and sing round the bonfire to entertain the guests.
            Linda thought that it was time to reveal her identity. She shouted aloud, “Sorry, I can’t marry her.” Everyone was stunned hearing a girl’s ringing voice issued from the mute boy. No one said anything. So Linda went on, “I’m really a girl myself. I put on a boy’s clothes because it’s more convenient for me to travel. How can a girl marry a girl?”
            Finally it dawned on the people in the square. But it was not the stranger’s fault. She did not know their tradition and she had the freedom to disguise herself as a boy.
            The bride began to burst into laughter as if it was the most laughable thing in the world. The other girls chuckled and giggled. Since the time of their ancestors, they had never got a fake boy for a husband. This time the disappointed bride hit the “jackpot”.
            It seemed as if the laughing was infectious and all the people started to guffaw, too. Linda could not help smiling. Laughing made the awkward situation turn into a merry moment. At least no harm was done to the bride and she could still find a husband.
            Gradually the laughter abated and the young people, girls and boys, recommenced dancing and singing. Why not make the merry moment last longer? 
            Linda joined in the dancing. She learned fast and danced to the tune of the singing. Linda had now changed into a girl’s dress she had got as a memento, the white long dress reaching her ankles. She looked like a goddess from the heaven. Three boys, who thought themselves handsome enough to be the husband of Linda, wanted to befriend Linda first. There was another tradition among this minority that once a month there would be a gathering of young people. During the dancing and singing, a boy could court a girl. The way of courting was special. The boy sang out love words in the song he improvised on the spot. If the girl agreed to marry the boy, she could sing back with the words of consent. Then the parents of both families would arrange their wedding party.
            The three boys took the opportunity to turn the occasion into a courting gathering. They danced around Linda and sang the love words. But as Linda did not understand what all this meant, all their efforts were in vain. When the boys saw that Linda could not respond in the way the tradition demanded, they resorted to the other alternative means. Each of them plucked a pretty wild flower and offered it to Linda. If she accepted the flower of any of them, Linda should marry him.
            Since the previous experience, Linda became wary. But before she had time to react, three girls rushed over here to Linda’s rescue. One of them pulled Linda away from the boys. It was because the three girls were fond of the three boys and were waiting for the boys to respectively court them. So they did not want any of them to marry the alien girl.
            Linda was towed to the circle with the bride in. Other girls were teasing her. On seeing Linda coming, the bride scurried over and shouted to Linda, “You are my friend though you can’t be my husband. Pray, stay with us if you are not on an urgent errand.”
            “I’m just traveling and sightseeing. I can stay for a while.” Linda said honestly.
            During Linda’s stay, the three boys often came to visit her, but every time they appeared, there were the three girls with Linda. And they acted like Linda’s bodyguards against the boys.
            The three girls secretly wished that Linda should leave soon though they could not drive her away. Linda could guess what was happening. Therefore, after ten days, she departed to the delight of the three girls and to the disappointment of the three boys.

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发表于 2016-12-8 08:11 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 27
Linda went alongside the stream and soon saw a grassland. She walked on the soft grass, humming her favorite American pop songs. All at once she was face to face with a cobra within five feet. She recognized it because she had often seen it on television. She was afraid to stir as she had been told what she should do before a cobra, which was seemingly about to attack. She had only been told to stand still and did not know what to do next.
           Just at the critical moment, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a mystic tornado came. It carried Linda away into the air. She was in panic, but still kept calm. At length the tornado subsided and Linda was falling. She had on the dress a Chinese girl had given her. The sleeves of it were big and loose; the nether part was like a skirt. Linda spread her arms like the wings of a bird and the skirt part was blown open like a parachute. She was not very high when the tornado had let her go and so the pull of the gravity was not strong. Soon she descended in a square on her feet.
            There were some elder women sitting outdoors. Their houses were made of irregular stones, one heaped upon another, but were steady enough and would not crumble. They looked up when Linda flew down from the mid-air. They thought she was a goddess from the heaven. At that time, most people were superstitious. They believed that only a goddess could come down from the above. So they all fell on their knees and kowtowed to Linda.
            Linda did not know what it meant and what she should do until she heard them calling her “Our Goddess! Welcome, our Goddess! Pray, bless our tribe!” Then they crawled over to Linda and kissed her bare feet one after another, her shoes being lost when she had been carried across the air.
            This was a unique minority, different from other minorities. It was ruled by women while others were governed by men. A lady chieftain ruled the tribe. Men in this minority must do all the work and obeyed the women. The husband had no say in the household and must listen to the wife.
            One of the women was the chieftain. She said, "Goddess, pray come in!" Linda did not say anything and walked into the house, ensued by the women still on all fours. It was their tradition that they must always on their knees before a goddess to show their esteem and homage.
The tribe had built a temple to worship the goddess their ancestors created from imagination, or maybe, from a beautiful girl as the model. By coincidence, the statue of the goddess was gilded to the long hair, which matched Linda’s long golden hair. Therefore, they were all sure that it was the goddess herself that came down from heaven to bless them.
There were two main rooms in it; the middle room served as dining and living room and the lateral room on the left as the bedroom; the storeroom and kitchen affixed on the right side. There was a large armchair in the middle room set against the back wall. It was generally occupied by the chieftain and now Linda was begged to sit in it. She would be worshipped by all the members of the tribe. The chieftain had issued an order that the whole tribe gather in this room.
According to Chinese historical records and books, there had been some small countries under the reign of the female. But there are no detailed chronicles about most of them. Only one has a little something we know. This one was called East Female State. There was a West Female State that we know nothing more about except the name. The legend said that there was a hot spring and the queen liked to bath in it, waited on by male concubines. The women in this country were all beautiful, which was the cause that this country perished. It was so said.
In the seventh century, the Tibetans invaded this country. The queen was pro-Tang-Dynasty (618—907 A.D.) and so sent an emergency message to the Tang emperor in hopes that they would send troops to protect her, but Tang Dynasty was a great distance away while Tibet was very close. When the Tibetans occupied their territory, they had to flee to the present location, but they could not establish a state there. They lived as a tribe and the queen turned to be the chieftain to hide from the invaders and to elude further harm to their people.
The tribe members were summoned to the house where Linda was in, but the house was too small to hold all of them. So only some important ladies crawled in to kowtow to their goddess and also kissed her feet. Their belief was that if they could touch the goddess, they could get blessing directly from her. But they could not use their hands to touch the goddess. It would be disrespectful. And they could not touch any part of the goddess. So it would be in the highest regard to use their lips to touch the feet of the goddess. It was how their ritual had been set up.
Most of the members were prostrating outside and kept kowtowing. Linda did not know how to react and just let them do whatever they were doing. She was indulging in her own daydreaming.
At last they stopped kowtowing, but still knelt there. Then at the signal of the chieftain, everyone crawled out backwards, because they thought that it was also disrespectful to show their buttocks to the goddess. The people outside had already dispersed after kowtowing.
One girl of about thirteen was left to wait on the goddess. Although the girl still knelt before Linda, but she kept her upper torso upright and looked at Linda in the face, so naively.
Linda felt relieved when all the people were gone. She had never had such experience before, of course, since she was not a goddess. She even doubted that a real goddess could have had such experience if there were goddesses in heaven.
“What’s your name?” Linda asked the girl.
“My Goddess can call me Danba.”
“A nice name.” Linda smiled at her.
“Can my Goddess tell me something that happened in heaven?” The girl implored.
Linda was totally amazed that the girl should ask such a question. How could she answer it? What could she answer? She sat there motionless like being spellbound.
The girl looked at Linda, guessing what the goddess would tell her. As the goddess was taking time thinking, she must be searching for some intriguing stories for her. There must have been a lot of stories in heaven as the goddesses had lived since the beginning of the world.
Many ideas were spinning in Linda’s head like the wheel of fortune. She could not be certain which to grasp. Suddenly a wonderful notion struck her. “Why not tell her some science stories? Like how the world began.” She loved to study science at school.
“Okay, I tell you the story from the beginning. Do you know how the world began?”
“No.” Danba said laconically, looking up at Linda from her position on her knees.
“Very long long long ago in the universe—” She was interrupted.
“Pardon me, my Goddess, what is the universe?” Danba had keen curiosity.
“The sun, the stars and our earth are all in the universe. It encompasses everything.”
“Even the goddesses?” The teenager asked, tilting her head to the right.
“Of course. Or where do you think the goddesses are living?”
Danba was silent, waiting with her eyes opened large for Linda to continue.
“There was a ball in the universe—” She was interrupted again.
“Where the ball come from?” Danba asked.
That was a tough question. Even scientists cannot answer it. If scientists cannot tell where the ball came from, how can they be sure there was a ball there in the universe and it exploded? But she could not avoid answering it to the girl even though the scientists do. Should a goddess know everything? Linda must invent some kind of story.
“The ball originally belonged to the goddesses. They often played with it. One day a goddess kicked the ball hard into the depth of the universe and it exploded. People call it the Big Bang. Then time began from that moment.” Then Linda thought, “Should I say time began to be counted from that moment?”  
Danba cut in here, “No time before the Big Bang? How can the goddesses tell time if there’s no time before the Big what?”
“The Big Bang. The goddesses don’t need time. When they feel hungry, they eat ambrosia; when they are thirsty, they drink nectar; when they are drowsy, they fall asleep.” Do goddesses ever need to sleep? Linda was not sure about it herself. Anyway, it was only a story told to a teenager.
“After the Big Bang, suns, stars and planets formed as we see now in the sky.”
Danba listened attentively. She had never heard such things before.
            “Do you know how there sprang out human beings on earth?” Linda asked. Danba shook her head. “The human beings originally evolved from microorganisms.” Linda explained as best as she could. But from the look of the girl Linda knew it was beyond her comprehension. “Oops!” Linda thought, “Too complicated.”
            “Let’s put it this way.” Linda considered for a while and went on, “Do you know lizard?”
            ‘Yes.” Danba replied, “A lot around here.”
            “Bird evolved from lizard and—” Linda was interrupted once more.
            “Pray, my Goddess, what is ‘evolved’?”
            “Change. Lizard changed into bird.” She must choose common words to make her understand.
            “But, my Goddess, I never see any lizard changed into a bird.”
            “The process was very slow. It changed little by little. It might take millions of years to complete the change from lizard to bird.”
            “Suppose the front claws of the lizard changed into the wings. How did they actually change?”
            Now Linda was cornered. She did not know how to reply. The theory of evolution did not give such particulars. If no details are provided for a theory or a plan, the theory or plan is meaningless just like the blueprint of a machine: if there is only an outline and no details on the blueprint, how can the machine be made? This blueprint is senseless. She thought.
            “How about the long tail of the lizard? The bird’s tail has only long feathers. How the lizard’s tail changed into the bird’s tail?” Another tough question.
            However, she had to say something to the girl. “As I said the change happened little by little. First, the front claws turned into something between the claw and the wing.” She stopped there. Suddenly she had a question herself. Why did we never get a fossil of the transitional forms in the changing process from the reptile to the bird as the evolution took millions of years? If there is no fossil to prove it, how can the theory be true? Linda thought.

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Chapter 28

Just when Linda was in the dilemma, someone said aloud outside the house, “May I come in to worship the goddess?” The chieftain had given order that no one should go into the house without the permission from the goddess.
            Linda told Danba to let the woman in. The girl was about to crawl to the door when Linda told her to stand up and walk. “I can’t.” Danba said, “It’s chieftain’s order.”
            “Don’t be afraid. Tell the chieftain that the goddess permits you to walk before her when you are performing some duties for her.”
           The girl stood up and walked to open the door. She forgot to walk backwards and showed her butts to the goddess. But Linda did not care even if she was really a goddess.
            In went a middle-aged woman on her knees. She could not crawl because she was holding a dress on her palms. She handed the dress to Danba, who was now on her knees again. The woman kowtowed and said, “Pray, my Goddess, take a bath and change into this dress. It was made after the style of the dress on the statue of the goddess in the temple.”
            Linda did not understand why she should be dressed like the statue in the temple. However, she really did not care, either. Anyway, she needed a bath badly. She had not taken a bath for a long time. She bade the woman to leave. Then she got on her feet and was led by Danba (actually the girl walked after Linda and just told her where to go) into another house with a few rooms. Linda entered a room and saw that there was a hot spring inside. Linda stripped herself and had a hearty bath. The girl knelt beside the bathtub, holding the dress.
            “Put the dress on the chair and jump in to have a bath with me.” Linda told the girl.
            “No, I can’t. This room is for my Goddess only. We use other rooms.”
            Linda did not want to force her. Soon she dried herself and put on the new dress. It fitted her and suited her like being custom-made. She liked the dress though it would look weird if she wore it in America. She returned to her own house, followed by Danba, who was walking now by the order of the goddess.
            It turned dark soon and the candles in some holders fixed on the walls were lit. Presently the girl served dinner. All were vegetables and fruits, because the cook thought that a goddess would not eat meat. Linda was hungry and helped herself to the food.
            All the time when Linda was eating, Danba knelt beside the table and stood up only when necessary. Linda glanced at the kneeling girl and recalled that she had knelt before the emperor when she had been in the capital. At that time she thought why she must kneel before another person, but now people knelt before her. She did not know whether she should enjoy it or should be disgusted at it.
            When bedtime came, Danba kowtowed to Linda three times and kissed her feet as a sign of good night. Linda retired to her own bedroom and went to sleep. The girl slept in another room. There was a rope hanging from the ceiling by Linda’s bed. The other end of the rope went through a hole in the ceiling to the next room, which was the girl’s bedroom. There was a bell tied on the other end. Linda could pull the rope if she wanted the girl and the bell would sound to awaken Danba.
            Next day when Linda was having breakfast, a man’s voice came in, “May I come in to worship Goddess?” Linda heard it and told Danba to let him in. An old man crawled in and kowtowed to Linda. Linda got used to such ritual by now and just asked the man what he wanted from her.
            “First, I beg Goddess to grant blessings on myself.” He prostrated before Linda, who did not know how to bestow blessings. But before she could say anything, the man kissed her right foot and then lifting her foot, put it on his head, like Friday did to Robinson Crusoe on the island.
           Linda thought that he had something else to ask. She just waited. Then the man crawled back for a few feet and said, “My Goddess, my son is sick. Would Goddess go to see him and cure him?”
            “I’m not a doctor. How can I cure your son?”
            “By magic power, my Goddess. I beg Goddess to have mercy on my son.”
            Linda thought that if she had had the supposed magic power, she would have loved to heal his son. Now what could she do? She had to tell people the truth now. It was their mistake to believe that she was a goddess, not her fault.
            “I’m not a goddess and don’t have any magic power.” She confessed.
            But the old man did not believe her. If she could have descended from heaven, she should be a goddess. Therefore, the man implored hard by kowtowing on the floor without stopping. That was too much. Linda could no longer just sit there and do nothing. She could not let the old man keep on kowtowing like that. She had to grant his wish and quickly finished her breakfast.
            Once Linda walked into the old man’s house, everyone inside fell on their knees and his wife crawled up to Linda and kissed her feet. Linda went directly into another room and checked on the son, who was lying on bed. She asked the son how he was feeling and after getting the reply, she guessed that he had been suffering from the sunstroke since he had worked in the hot sun yesterday all day long.
            When Linda had been in the capital as the wife of the head eunuch, she had learned some herb and medical knowledge. It was another tradition in the ancient China that the royal male members, including the emperor himself, and the officials must learn some basic knowledge about Chinese herb and medicine. It was particularly needed for a high official like a minister or a cabinet member. It was because when the emperor was taken ill, though he would be diagnosed by the royal doctors, some close royal members and the officials of the highest rank would read the prescription written by the royal doctors to see whether it was suitable and if it did, they would approve the use of it so that the doctors would not shoulder the responsibilities alone if the condition of the emperor’s sickness deteriorated. That was why they should learn some knowledge of the medicine.
            When Linda had left the capital, she had taken with her some ready medicine, like pills and powders. Now she took out a pill for sunstroke and ordered the son to swallow it with water. Then she came out of the room and told the old man that she had given his son some medicine and hoped that he would get better soon.
            In the evening the old man came again to beg to see the goddess. When he was let in, he made a lot of kowtows as his hearty gratitude to the goddess because his son was recovered. Linda was glad to hear it.

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Chapter 29

After this event, the whole tribe was firmer in believing that Linda was a goddess. And Linda was afraid that people would come to beg her for all sorts of things and so made up her mind that she would receive no one. She figured that if people were not able to see her, they could not make any requests. She also felt that this was a nice safe place to hide from the search of the government for her. The only annoying thing was that people here mistook her for a goddess and would bother her with their troubles, which was entirely out of her power to help them.
            As she had no television to watch, no books to read, no music to listen to, nothing she could do, she began to meditate, which she had learned from Green Phoenix because a kungfu person should do it every night before going to sleep.
            Linda did the meditation in the daytime and told Danba not to disturb her under whatever circumstances. She sat on her bed cross-legged like in a yoga position and closed her eyes. She put her hands with palms down on her knees and kept her breath slow and deep as if down to the lower abdomen. She relaxed every muscle on her body.
            Danba, if nothing else to do, would always kneel before or beside Linda. Now she sat back with her butts on her heels, watching Linda sit there cross-legged with eyes shut. She did not know what the goddess was doing. Her curiosity was sharp, but she knew that she should not disturb the goddess by asking any questions right at present. She could wait. She waited patiently.
            When Linda opened her eyes and smiled at her, she could no longer restrain herself. “What my Goddess doing?”
            “I’m meditating.” Linda explained.
            “What’s ‘meditating’?” It was the first time that the girl saw someone meditating.
            “That’s a kind of exercise.” Linda told her. Danba could not understand it. In her opinion, any exercise should be accompanied by moves of some part of the body. How could it be an exercise when one only sat there quiet and motionless. Linda saw skepticism on her face.
            “That’s a special kind of exercise. You just sit there with a blank mind and exercise your breath within. You breathe slow and deep into your lower abdomen. When you do it long, you will feel warmth in your body.”
            “Pray, my Goddess, can I meditate?”
            “Sure. Why not? Everyone can do it. Only you must keep a correct posture, or you can’t get the warmth. Let me teach you.” Then Linda explained in details to her how to do the exercise.
            “Must I also sit cross-legged?”
            “It’s the general post we take when meditating though I was told that we could do it when we are standing or lying on our backs. The most important point is to fully relax your muscles.”
            “But my Goddess, the chieftain told me that I must be on my knees before my Goddess.”
            “I permit you to sit cross-legged when you are meditating.”
            Danba began to meditate, or what else could she do when the goddess was meditating?
            Once while they were meditating someone was shouting something outside the house. Danba had to stop meditating and go to warn the someone not to make loud noise. When she opened the door, she saw an old woman kneeling there and saying that she must beg the goddess to help her.
“Goddess is meditating and can’t be disturbed. You must wait here till Goddess finish.” She shut the door and returned to the inner room. She resumed her meditation. She knew that the woman would wait outside quietly on her knees.
After a good while Danba knew that the goddess finished her meditation because she heard the creaking of the bed. She opened her eyes and met the eyes of the goddess, smiling at her. At once she changed her sitting pose into that of kneeling and reported that an old woman waited at the door in need of help. Linda frowned, but she could not say NO. She remembered that she had said NO to some of her girl friends, or even her boyfriend if their requests had not been reasonable. But how could she say NO to these people when their requests were always about some problems that they had no power to solve themselves. When they thought that she had that power to deliver them from any disaster while in reality she did not have it. The problem with her was that people here would not take the fact that she was not a goddess. Therefore, she had to avoid meeting people best as she could. But when people came to the door begging for her help, she could not hide any more. Sometimes she thought that she must leave the place. However, where else could she go now?
“Go to ask her what’s her problem.” Linda told Danba, who made her way to the door and opened it again. “What’s your problem?” She asked the woman.
“I have a boat tied to a tree trunk on the stream bank, but it’s gone now. Can my Goddess tell me where I can go to find it?” The girl conveyed the message to Linda.
“Tell her to go downstream.” Linda said after she thought for a while. Then Danba conveyed the instruction to the woman, who kowtowed three times, got on her feet and left. She sent some boys downstream and they found the boar for her. It was stranded there. It was because the rope had been broken through wear and tear.
After that event the people here had more confidence in Linda and believed in her omniscience. Actually Linda had only used her common knowledge that a loose boat would go with the current downstream. Fortunately for Linda, not many accidents happened here.

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Chapter 30

Linda felt that life here was very boring because since she unexpectedly arrived here out of the air she had never been out for sightseeing. She was not a girl fond of a quiet life. She loved exercises and hiking, and to explore the beautiful natural scenes. Linda found that this was a beautiful place with verdant mountains and translucent streams and a cool cascade.
            Now as people seldom came to bother her recently, there was no need for her to hide any more. She wanted to go out to enjoy the beautiful nature.
            Next day she went out like a moth bursting out of the cocoon. Danba followed her everywhere.
They went to the little waterfall, under which there was a pool. The water spilling from the pool formed a little creek, which emerged with other creeks into the main stream in this area.
            Linda sat on a rock at the edge of the pool. She took off her shoes and dipped her feet in the clear cool water. She felt so good as if she was eating ice-cream. She told Danba to do the same, but the girl did not dare, afraid that the chieftain would punish her if she came to know it.
            “Don’t be afraid. I order you to.” Linda encouraged her, “You are my maid and must obey me first.” So the girl obeyed and taking off her shoes, dipped her feet in the water, too. They sat there for half an hour, enjoying the feeling of self-indulgence. They talked and laughed to their heart’s content. Danba had a sudden feeling that the goddess was not a goddess any more, but a girl like herself. Then as suddenly as she had the feeling she realized that it was a blasphemy that she had such a thought. She felt ashamed of herself and punished herself by slapping her own face twice.
            “What’s the matter? What are you doing?” Linda inquired, turning her head to look at Danba.
            “Sorry. Nothing.” She could not tell the goddess that she had had such a thought flitting across her mind for a moment. If the goddess knew it, the goddess might get angry and turn her into a frog or something else. But she forgot that a goddess, if Linda was, knew everything, including what people were thinking. Then she would be deemed lying to a goddess. It would be more serious to lie to a goddess than she had thought the goddess was a mortal girl like herself.
            A man stood on the top of the mountain just across the pool and saw the goddess and the girl sitting together, talking and laughing. In his opinion, or in the mind of the most people here, a goddess should be stern, demure and quiet, just like the statue in the temple. But he did not think of the difference between the statue of a goddess and the living goddess. He would certainly be overwhelmed with great astonishment if he learned some of the stories about the Greek goddesses.
            He thought that he must go to find the chieftain and tell her everything he saw. He found the chieftain at her new home and reported it to her. The chieftain and the other old women in her house were flabbergasted at the news. They stood up and hurried to the spot.
            They all got on their knees before Linda and after kowtowing for three times, the chieftain said, “My Goddess, pray go back home. It’s not safe here for my Goddess.” She forgot that a goddess would not fear anything. A goddess was safe everywhere. But she could not say in the face of the goddess that a goddess should also behave herself.
            “I just relax for a while.” Linda pleaded, “I’ll go back soon. Don’t worry.”
            The chieftain and the other old women kept on kowtowing, which meant that if Linda did not go back, they would kneel there for ever. Linda recalled what had happened in the palace. A prime minister had done the same as he had wanted the emperor to accept his advice. There arose a question: who must listen to whom, the emperor to the courtier, or the courtier to the emperor. Perhaps everyone should listen to reason, to whoever had the reason.
            These old women were still kneeling before her. She could not ignore them, just enjoying herself. Now she knew that the means they were taking were really effective. She had to get up, put on her shoes and leave. Danba followed suit.
            After the goddess went for a while, the chieftain and other women stood up and followed at a distance. They saw Danba walking after the goddess. The chieftain was aware that Danba could not crawl after the goddess at the current moment and in the current condition. It was a long way to home. Besides, the girl could not crawl on the rugged mountain trail. Otherwise, she would be disrespectful to the goddess and would be punished.
            When Linda got home, she was frustrated. She could not surmise what she could do and what she could not do. She knew that the one thing she could not do was to sit still and stiff all day long like the statue in the temple. She could not live here forever like this. If a goddess had limited moves, she would not be a goddess. Actually she was not one. She wanted freedom of what she would like to do. So she must leave some day. She began to make a plan.
            She knew that she could not escape alone as the girl Danba always followed her everywhere. She had either to lose her or take her along. But to lose her was really a difficult task. Danba was almost like a chewed bubble gum sticking to her or like her inseparable shadow. Linda could think of no way to get rid of her. So she decided to take her along. Besides, it was safer to go with the girl. If people saw her with the girl, they would think that she and the girl were just sightseeing. The first step was decided that she would take the girl with her.
            Now she must make up her mind how to get away from here. She could not go too far among the mountains. It would rouse the suspicion of the people when they saw her, even if she was with the girl, because she had no reason to go too far from where she lived. The best possible way was to steal a boat and go downstream. If she could succeed in the plan at some night, she would leave the place forever. But after that, what would she do with the girl? She could not let the girl come back alone. She was too young to travel all by herself. It seemed that she would stick to her for a long time, even all her life. Then she must let her learn both Chinese and English so that she might find a job, or she could leave her with a European priest when she could speak some English. All right. She would consider it later. The urgent thing at present was how to get a boat and flee safely.
            Linda noticed that people just left their boats tied to some trees on the shore. If she could steal out at night without being detected by anyone, the success of escape was ensured.
            Now the last problem was how to persuade the girl to go with her. But if she told her that she would leave the place, the girl might go to report to the chieftain. The best way was to tell her a white lie. When they were at a safe distance, she would let her know the truth. Now she thought that her plan was perfect. She should choose a night to carry it out.
            “Danba, I just received a message from other goddesses in heaven.” Linda said to the girl one evening after supper. “They want to meet me somewhere else, not here. I will take you with me to meet them. But you must keep it a secret.”
            Danba was excited and promised not to tell it to anyone else. That night when she fell asleep, she dreamt that a throng of goddesses dancing and singing around her. They did not order her to go down on her knees before them. Instead, they invited her to join in their dancing. As Danba could not dance the dance they were dancing, she just stood in the center of the circle and looked and smiled at the goddesses she worshipped so much.
            Next day Linda and Danba fared as usual. After supper, Linda went into her bedroom and told Danba to stay with her. Linda pretended to be meditating to wait for the suitable time to leave. Danba meditated, too. Time ticked off. From the moonlight shining in through the window, Linda reckoned that it was almost midnight. Everyone should be in sleep. Linda got up and touched the girl, who opened her eyes and stood up, too. She guessed that it was time to meet the goddesses.
            They went to the bank of the main stream. There were a few boats, some tied to the tree trunks and one tied to a rock sticking out of the ground. Linda climbed into this boat and so did Danba. They rowed the boat downstream. Linda estimated the distance they were covering. Approximately after some ten miles which should be a safe distance, Linda signaled Danba to near the boat to the bank and tied it to a tree. They began to walk.
            “Why we come so far to meet the goddesses?” Danba asked.
            “They don’t want to be seen by other people.” Linda explained.
            They walked deliberately till it began to dawn. “Where we’re going?” The girl asked.
            “Let’s find a place to rest for a while and we must talk.” Linda said. Danba followed Linda to the side of a little brook. They sat down on a smooth rock to rest their poor legs and feet.
            “Listen, Danba. I’m really not a goddess. I just fell from above and your people mistook me as a goddess.” Linda wanted to tell the girl the truth. Danba listened agape.
            “I felt uncomfortable living among your people. I could not do what I wanted. I lived there like a prisoner, not a goddess. That’s why I want to leave. As you always followed me everywhere, I have to take you with me. Now we must stick together and make a living all by ourselves.”
            Next day when the cook did not see Danba come to the kitchen to take the breakfast to the goddess, he was at a loss what to think. He just waited till lunch time. But it was almost late in the afternoon that the food prepared for the goddess was still there. He himself was forbidden to go near to the goddess. So he had to report to the chieftain, who came immediately with other old women. She could not find the goddess or Danba anywhere.
“Goddess is gone, back to heaven.” One of the old women said.
“Then, Danba should come to report to us.” Another woman said.
“I guess Goddess take her along.” The third woman said.
“Anyway, Goddess can’t live among us forever.” The chieftain said, “Lucky for Danba. She can be with Goddess in heaven. I hope she’ll come down to visit us some day.”

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发表于 2016-12-13 06:55 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 31

Linda and Danba walked eastward. Linda wanted to find a church so that she could leave Danba with the priest. She would ask the priest to find some way to send Danba back to her own people. Linda remembered that she had seen a church somewhere on her way here, but now she could not recall the exact location.
            According to some records, the earliest priest that came to China was an Italian Giovanni da Montecorvino (1247-1328). He came in 1294 to the capital (Peking) of Yuan Dynasty (1271—1368) and built three churches there. He also translated the New Testament and the Psalms in the Old Testament into the Mongolian language, because Yuan Dynasty was established by Mongolians.
            In 1307, he was appointed by the pope to be an archbishop in Peking area. He then sent someone to Yangchow, a big commercial city in southern China, to build a church.           
In 1316, another Italian priest, Odorico da Pordenone (1286-1331), came to China by water and disembarked in the city of Canton. Then he went to Peking and stayed there for three years (1325—1328) and visited some other cities. In 1330 when he returned to Italy by land, he wrote a book about China, referring to the city of Yangchow and the church. When Linda had been there, she had seen the church, too.
            All this meant that when Linda reached China by accident, the western religion had developed there. After a few days, Linda came across a church. She went in with Danba to see the priest, but the priest came from France and Linda could not speak French. It was in the southwestern China. The French priests entered China through Vietnam.
            Linda left the church and continued on her way east with Danba. Now she decided to go back to Yangchow. She remembered that she had seen a church there. But it was a long way there. She knew that it would take her and Danba several months to reach the city. She had still some money with her, but not much. She must save every coin. But she must buy some clothes for herself and Danba. The clothes they were wearing would look too weird among people of Han tribe.
            In the first town they reached, Linda bought new clothes and changed into them. She wrapped her golden hair with a cloth like before. Danba was delighted to have new clothes on. She liked them very much. She also changed her hair style into that of other girls she saw in this small town.
            When Linda had entered the town, she had paid particular attention if there was still the government announcement about her, but there were none of such announcements on the town wall by the gate, where any announcements were usually posted. Linda was at rest. It meant that no one would notice her even if the cloth covering her golden hair was blown off by the wind. Instinctively she tightened the knot of the cloth under her chin. They lodged in a small inn for the night.
            One day they went through a village. Linda saw a house decorated with red lanterns and cloth streamers. She had experience now. She knew that there was a wedding going on in that house. And she also knew that she and Danba could go in to eat without being questioned or driven out. So she went in with Danba like invited guests. Danba had never seen so many dishes on the table. She ate to the limit her small stomach could contain.
            After the feast, the two girls mingled with the real guests, touring the house. Then all the guests ended up in the bedroom of the bride and bridegroom. The tradition allowed the guests to make jokes on the newly-wed couple.
            The red cloth that covered the head of the bride had already been taken off. Some guests made comments on the features of the bride.
            “Her eyes a bit too small.”
            “Her mouth a bit too large.”
            “Her nose all right. So is her skin.”
            “The little feet are lovely.”
            Someone hung an apple by a string from the ceiling and asked the bridegroom to get a bite from it. “If you fail, you will be punished.” He told the bridegroom, who began to try, but failed every time, because he could only use his mouth without any help from hands. Whenever his teeth touched the apple, it swung away.
            “Now how will we punish him?” One of the guests asked.
            “Not we, but the bride should punish him.” Another suggested. All the guests applauded their agreement. They decided that the bridegroom should play his role as a footstool and let the bride rest her feet on his back. At first the bridegroom wanted to refuse, but after a second thought, he accepted because if he rejected this punishment offer, the guests might think of something else and something worse. The bride was a shy girl and had not said anything since the guests came into her bedroom. She was just like a puppet and let others guide her action. Now the bridegroom was on all fours before the bride, who just sat on the edge of the bed and did not stir. A girl guest came to pick up her feet and put them on the back of the bridegroom. Everyone laughed.
            Linda and Danba stood at one side, watching the whole process. Linda had seen such things before, but it was new experience for Danba. She was greatly intrigued. It was past midnight that the guests dispersed. Some went back home and some lodged in the house of the host. Linda and Danba were so tired and sleepy that they found an empty room and slept on chairs put together. Members of the household had already retired to their own separate bedrooms, being drunk in the celebration.
            After the guests were all gone, the bridegroom got up and helped the bride to unbutton her clothes. That night, they were like fish in the water, as a Chinese saying goes.
            Next day Linda and Danba continued on their long journey to Yangchow City.

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发表于 2016-12-14 06:56 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 32

Now they were approaching big cities. When Linda entered one, she noticed that there still was the announcement about her on the city wall by the gate. But no one was reading it. The reward was increased to a thousand taels of silver. But since none had seen such a girl with golden hair, people had lost interest in it long before.
            Linda thought that she had better disguise herself as a boy so that no one would suspect a boy as the girl with the golden hair. Therefore, she bought some man’s clothes for both of them, only in different style. She attired herself as a boy from a rich family. She covered her hair in a man’s cap and carried a folded fan in her right hand. Now she looked like a young man who had read a lot of books. She disguised Danba as her page, because such a young man always had a page to wait on him and follow him everywhere he went. Danba looked funny in her page’s apparel. She wore her hair into the popular page’s style like growing two horns on either side of the top of her head.
            Then they went out in disguise to test if people could recognize them. They sauntered in the streets for a while and walked into a big restaurant. Since Linda pretended to be a wealthy young man, she could not go into a shabby one, where only the laborers and pedlars frequented.
            Although she had not much money left, she thought that she could order cheap dishes in such a restaurant. She found an empty table on the second floor. According to a custom in the old China, a page or a servant could not sit with his master at the same table. But it was demanded only at home. When traveling outside, master and servant could sit together at the same table.
            Before Linda ordered anything, a young man at the next table stood up and accosted her, “What’s your surname, my brother?” This was also a custom that people of almost the same age, especially young people, liked to get acquainted with each other even if they were totally strangers at first.
            Linda quickly invented her Chinese surname, “Li. And yours?”
            “My humble surname (a kind of modest saying among Chinese people, used even today) is Wang. Can Brother Li share the same table with us?” He was with other two young men. Another Chinese custom was to put the word Brother before the surname of another man to show esteem and intimacy. He pulled out the chair beside him.
            Linda went there to take the seat. Danba did not know what to do. Wang noticed Danba and said, “This little brother (a sort of polite address to another man’s page) can sit with our pages at the other table.” Linda turned her head to look at the table Wang pointed to. There were three boys of almost Danba’s age. They were also eating and talking to each other. It seemed that they were familiar with each other. It bespoke that their masters were friends and frequently met. Linda told Danba to sit there. Danba bashfully sat down on the empty chair. She began to help herself to the dishes on the table as she was already hungry. When anyone at the table spoke to her, she just replied with one word or two.
           “Where do you come from, Brother Li?” Wang asked after introducing other two men to Linda as Zhang and Cheng.
            Linda could not say that she came from America. Instead she said that she came from Peking.
            “So, you must be from a high official’s family, or even from that of a royal member?” Zhang guessed. Linda could not tell them the truth. “Neither.” She replied curtly.
            “Does Brother Li have any business here?” Chinese people liked to know everything about someone they had just known though it had nothing at all to do with them.
            “Just traveling.” She answered. “What does Brother Wang do here?” Linda now adopted the strategy that she asked them questions so that they could no longer ask her questions.
            “We all live here. Our fathers are all landowners as well as businessmen. The three wealthiest families in this city.” Cheng boasted.
            “Let’s drink our welcome to you!” Wang held up his cup to Linda, who did not like the taste of the Chinese wine.
            “I never drink wine. Sorry, Brother Wang.” Linda declined.
            “Just try this cup.” Wang said. When he saw Linda did not stir, he added, “I take it as an insult if you don’t drink it.” That was the Chinese way to force people to drink.
            “I said sorry I can’t drink. It has nothing to do with insult.” Linda contradicted.
            “It’s our custom that you must drink it.” Zhang and Cheng came round to hold Linda’s head and Wang poured the wine into her mouth. They acted so fast that Linda had no time to shun from them. Some of the wine spilt onto the chest of Linda’s silk gown and some into her mouth. Linda spat it out onto the floor.
            The three of them laughed without caring how Linda was feeling. Linda got on her feet and was about to bid them goodbye when Zhang said, “Let’s go to some place. It’s fun there.” They did not let Linda say anything of refusal and just pushed her along like being kidnapped. Danba and the three other pages ensued.
            They took Linda to a casino. Linda had to follow them in since they had never let go of her arms all the way from the restaurant to here. She did not like gambling. She did not even know how to gamble. “How much money do you have, Brother Li?” Wang asked her.
            “I don’t have any money with me.” Linda thought that if she did not have any money, they would let her go. But Wang said, “I’ll lend you money. You can pay me back later.” Wang thought that as Linda came from Peking, even if she was not from a high official’s family, she should be rich. She should have a lot of money with her when traveling.
            Without asking Linda for her consent, Wang bet ten taels of silver for her on the small side of the dice table. It lost as the dice showed large dots added up. Linda was not even aware that the bet was for her. This way she owed a hundred taels of silver to Wang when she wanted to leave. She was greatly shocked to find it out when Wang asked her to repay him the hundred taels.
            “How can I owe you so much money? I did not remember that I even borrowed money from you?” Linda protested.
            “I said I would bet for you. When you did not say NO, I thought that you acquiesced. That’s why you owe me money.”
            Linda was stunned. Linda never thought that he was so low as to be able to do such things to her. But she did not know that it was not a thing that seldom happened in ancient China.
            Now Linda did not know what to do. She counted the money left in her pocket. There were only fifty taels of silver in paper form. She could not give the money to Wang for two reasons. First, she had not agreed to let him bet for her. He had never even asked her. Second, she needed the money to travel at least to Yangchow City.
            However, Wang would not let her go. “Let’s go to yamen and let the mayor decide.”
            Although it was the last place that Linda wanted to go, Wang and his two friends pushed Linda along, followed by Danba and the pages. Danba did not know what happened to Linda. Under such a situation, she could not say anything and she did not know what she should say.
           Once they reached the yamen, Wang took up the drumstick and beat the huge drum set up in front of the yamen gate. Shortly, the mayor sat in the hall behind the big long table with some yamen bailiffs lining up on both sides.
            The three young men pushed Linda into the hall and they stood before the long table. The pages could not go in and had to wait outside.
            “Who’s the plaintiff?” The mayor inquired.
            “It’s me.” Wang stepped a little forward and answered.
            “State your reason.” The mayor banged his heavy wooden piece on the table. Every official in this situation would bang the wood, which meant that it was the yamen, so behave yourself and speak the truth, nothing but the truth. Liars would be punished.
            Wang stated what had happened between himself and Li. After the mayor got confirmation from Linda that Wang stated the truth, he decided that Li was in the wrong. When he learned that Li had only fifty taels he ordered his yamen bailiffs to give Li fifty spanks on the buttocks, one for each tael owed.
            Linda was scared because she knew that when they beat a man on the butts they would strip him of his trousers and hit him on the bare skin. How could she be beaten like that?
            Desperately she took off her boy’s cap and shook loose her golden hair, which hung down round her shoulders. Now it was their turn to be surprised. The mayor and the three young men gazed at Linda without speaking anything for a while. At last they realized that Li was a girl in disguise of a boy.
            It was apparent that Li was the girl with the golden hair, who was wanted by the head eunuch. The mayor had ordered the announcement posted on the wall by the city gate. The young men had read the announcement. Now the mayor thought that if he sent the girl to the capital, he would win the permanent favor of the head eunuch. So he changed his attitude and ordered his yamen bailiffs to drive the three young men out.
            Then he invited Linda to go into the rear part of his yamen, where he and his family lived. He introduced Linda to his wife and asked her to take good care of their noble guest. Before the mayor went out of the room, Linda stopped him, saying, “I’ve a companion waiting before the yamen. Will Your Excellency let her in?” Linda told the mayor that her name was Danba and gave him some description of the girl.
            Shortly after the mayor left, Danba was led in. when she saw Linda, she instinctively fell on her knees before Linda and kissed her feet like Linda was still a goddess. The mayor’s wife thought that the girl was Linda’s maidservant.

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发表于 2016-12-15 06:58 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 33

When Linda revealed her true identity in the critical situation, she knew that they would send her to the capital. She was prepared for it, which would be better than to be spanked on the bare buttocks. Now she no longer had any need to go to the church in Yangchow City. She had to take Danba with her to live in the capital.
They both sat in a pompous coach specially made for her. Danba had never seen such a coach before, let alone to sit in it. The coach was guarded by a battalion of soldiers. When they reached the next city, the soldiers were sent back and the mayor of this city sent the soldiers there to escort Linda to the capital. Therefore, the coach with the two girls inside was like a stick in the hands of the runners in a relay race till the final runner reached the finish line.
            The head eunuch was exulted when he got the news that Linda had been found. It was almost a year since Linda had disappeared. He reported the happy news to the empress dowager and the emperor. Both of them felt happy, too, because they really liked the girl.
            “Your slave must report to Your Majesties, Empress Dowager and Emperor, your slave’s humble wife brings another girl with her. It is said that the other girl belongs to a minority in the southwestern part of Your Majesty’s domain.” This was also a custom that a simple thing should be said in complication when reporting to the royal family.
            “How old is the other girl?” asked the emperor, who was always interested in girls though he had already the empress and several royal concubines. If he came to like any of the palace maids, he could rightfully possess her as another concubine.
            “Your slave got report from the mayor of that city that the girl is thirteen years of age.”
            “Too young for me.” The emperor thought to himself. “The mayor did a good thing and I will reward him by promoting him to a higher rank.”
            “Your slave thanks Your Majesty for him.” The head eunuch got on his knees and kowtowed three times. It was the palace ritual.
            Three days later Linda arrived in the capital. When the head eunuch got the report, he hastened out to meet her after he reported the news to the empress dowager and the emperor and got their approval. He met Linda at the gate of the city. Although Linda had always been disgusted with the emasculated man, twenty years older than herself, she was now moved by his sincerity and warmth toward her.
            The head eunuch had been granted for three days’ absence from his palace duties. Now they gathered in their sitting room. Linda introduced Danba to him. Then the boy came forward to kowtow to Linda, who was his adoptive mother.
            After a sumptuous dinner, Linda told her husband and her son all that had happened to her after she had been separated from the boy and the two yamen bailiffs. When she came to the story about how she had been mistaken for a goddess and people there kowtowed to her and kissed her feet, the head eunuch and the boy could not but burst into laughter. The eunuch said to Danba, “Now you know she is my wife, not a goddess.”
            “But she looks very much like the statue of the goddess in our temple.” The girl said.
            “But if she is a goddess, she will take you flying to heaven, not travel to here.” The eunuch tried to persuade her.
            When Linda and the eunuch retired to their bedroom, they discussed what they should do with Danba. “We can either send her home escorted by soldiers, or let her stay with us.” The eunuch added, “What do you think, my beloved wife?”
            “I’ll talk to her tomorrow to see what she thinks. She’s a nice girl. I don’t want to force her to accept our arrangement.” Linda observed. The eunuch made no objection.
            Next day, when Linda consulted Danba for her own opinion, the girl said that her mother had died two years before and she had no one there to really care for her.
            “Where’s your father?” Linda was curious to know. She had never asked Danba about her personal information.
            “Died in an accident when I was a baby. He fell from the mountain.”
            Linda sympathized with the girl and decided to let Danba live with her here. That night she told the eunuch about her decision.
            “Very good.” The eunuch said, “How about we adopt her as our daughter? We have a son and now we have a daughter. Life is so happy for us.”
            “Just for you, not for me.” Linda thought to herself. “Good idea.” She said aloud.
            Danba was glad to learn the decision they had made for her. She could now live in such a big city and with Linda, her adoptive mother, whom she always worshiped even if she was not a goddess. Besides, she had a brother to play with.
            When the head eunuch returned to his duties in the palace, he reported to the empress dowager and the emperor that they had adopted the girl Linda had brought with her as their daughter. The empress dowager was happy for them. She gave the eunuch some jewels for his foster daughter as gifts and ordered him to tell Linda to bring the girl to her presence next day. “I’d like to see the girl and I haven’t seen Linda for a long time.”
The head eunuch promised to give his wife the message and kowtowed three times as thanks for the gifts endowed to his adopted daughter. When the head eunuch went home in the evening, he conveyed to Linda the wish of her majesty that she wanted to see her and the girl next day.
Danba was so excited at the news that she kept awake the whole night. She had never dreamt that she could visit the palace some day in her life. When the first rays of the sun shone on her windows, she jumped out from the bed, slipped into her new clothes as fast as she could and put on the jewels given to her by the empress dowager. When she stepped out of her bedroom door, she saw no one in the corridor. Usually there was bustle and hustle everywhere. Her bedroom was in the rear part of the house, where all the females lived. Now she went to the dining room in the front part of the house. Gradually she met people hastening to and fro in all the corridors. When she reached the dining room, Linda, the boy and the tutor were already there.
“Lazybones. You should get up before the sun.” Linda joked with her.
“Where’s dad?” Danba asked.
“He must arrive in the palace before five. He’s already there now.” Linda told her.
“When will we go to see the empress dowager?”
“It’s too early now. Being old, her majesty gets up late. After she’s dressed, she’ll put on some makeup and then has breakfast. She’ll be ready to see anyone after nine. But we have to reach there a bit earlier and wait to be received.”
Danba hurried down her food. The tutor and the boy had gone to their study to have lessons. Danba must learn and would join them later when she was back from the palace.
Linda and Danba rode in a beautiful coach to the palace. They were shown into an anteroom to wait there. After at least half an hour, a cry came: “Her Majesty, the Empress Dowager’s coming!”
The empress dowager stepped into the anteroom and took her seat in her accustomed throne. Linda kowtowed to her. And Danba knelt a little behind her and kowtowed, too.
Linda thought that not long before other people kowtowed to her, but now she kowtowed to someone else. The turn of things was really so unpredictable.
Linda was granted a chair when she got up. She thanked the empress dowager and sat down. Danba stood behind Linda’s chair. Then the empress dowager told the head eunuch to send for the empress and all the royal concubines. The head eunuch was off on the errand. Linda knew that the empress dowager wanted her to tell them her adventures when away from the capital.
When all the listeners arrived and were seated, Linda began her narration. As she came to the part that she had fallen from the air, had been mistaken for a goddess and the tribe people there had all kowtowed to her, the empress dowager, the empress and all the royal concubines smiled in mirth. The palace etiquette did not allow females to laugh aloud. Educated females in the ancient China should be demure and quiet, especially in the palace. The eunuchs and maids standing aside could only gnash their teeth to keep them from bursting into laughter.
“She’s the girl they sent to serve me.” Linda pointed to Danba behind her. Danba lowered her head in timidity when all the eyes centered on her.
Linda finished her narration and it was already noon. The empress dowager ordered everyone to remain for lunch. Danba had never seen so many dishes served. She was allowed to sit beside Linda and shared the table and food. It took much longer to finish the lunch in the palace than in the head eunuch’s home.
After the lunch the empress dowager would take a nap and everyone must leave. Linda and Danba kowtowed their adieu to the empress dowager, the empress and all the royal concubines and stepped out of the anteroom. As they got into the open space of the front yard before the anteroom, where all those in the anteroom could see them, a queer thing happened that no one who witnessed it could believe their own eyes.
Linda and Danba suddenly were no longer there as if they evaporated into the thin air.   
            People inside the anteroom looked at each other. They did not know what to think. One of the royal concubines muttered to herself, but loud enough to be audible to all the people there: “Maybe, that girl with the golden hair is actually a goddess from heaven.”

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发表于 2016-12-16 06:47 AM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
Chapter 34

It seemed that the mysterious cosmic force traveled between America and China and now it took Linda back to America with Danba since they stuck together hand in hand. Linda felt again like in a dream and when she woke up, she found herself in the Central Park in New York. She sat up and looked around and saw Danba lying beside her. She could remember everything that had happened in China. It had not been a dream. Something did have happened to her, or she should be now at home in New Jersey, not in New York. It was in midday time. People stood around them, watching, because they were dressed in weird clothes. Linda just ignored them. Shortly Danba came to like from a coma. She opened her eyes, but could not recognize the surroundings. So many people in clothes of different styles were around them and so were a few dogs on leash. Danba did not know that these animals were dogs because they looked different from those she had seen in her life.
            Then her eyes fell on Linda. “Where are we now?” she asked feebly as if she was recovering from a serious disease.
            “We are in America now.” Linda responded. “Let's go.” She pulled Danba up from her lying position. Linda had mentioned America several times to Danba. So she knew that it was Linda’s home country, from where she had come to China.
Linda was in ecstasy that she could go home and see her parents now, and her boyfriend Frank. They pushed through people and walked out of the park. Linda hailed the first taxi she saw in the street. Danba had never seen any motor vehicles before. She asked, “What is this?”
Linda did not know how to explain to the full comprehension of Danba. She just said, “It’s a sort of coach here.”
“Why no horse to draw it?” Danba was always curious.
Linda knew that Danba could not understand that it was driven by motor. She just said, “You will learn it later.” Danba must learn English first now that she was in America.
            All the way to New Jersey, Danba was excited to see the view flitting by. When at last the taxi stopped at the address Linda remembered she had been living, she and Danba jumped out of it. She gave the driver the twenty dollar bill she had always kept in her pocket, but it was not enough. She gave him her watch that she had always had on her, and then she took out some big broken pieces of silver that she still had in her pocket. The driver shook his head and accepted all those as the fare. He guessed that the girls came from another country that was very backward.
            Linda and Danba ran to the house. Linda rang the door bell while Danba stood a little behind her. After a while the door opened. To Linda’s great surprise, there stood in the doorway a woman that looked like her mother, but in a younger version.
            “Who are you, Miss?” The woman asked.
            “Mom, it’s me, Linda.” She replied, “You don’t know me?”
            “Should I know you? I never saw you before.”
            Linda was confused. Something must have gone wrong. “Can we come in to explain?” She asked.
            She and Danba looked quite harmless. The woman stepped back and opened the door wide. Linda walked in with Danba in her wake. When they all sat down, Linda started to tell everything, from the day she had found herself in China till today she had found herself in New York with the girl Danba. To convince the woman, she produced some silver bits that had been used as currency in the ancient China.
            “An intriguing story. But what does all that have to do with me?” The woman was dubious.
            Linda was helpless. She looked up and happened to see the calendar on the wall opposite her seat. It showed the year 1984 on it. Impossible. She could not believe her own eyes. It was twenty years earlier than the year in which she had been sent to  China by a mysterious cosmic force. She had been eighteen in that year. When it was twenty years back, she was not born yet. No wonder, her mom did not know her. The whole thing seemed in a science fiction. How could it happen to her?
            Linda was desperate and knew that any further explanation was futile, too. How could a mother know her daughter unborn yet? She stood up and so did Danba. They said bye-bye to the woman.
            Linda did not know where she could go. She was homeless now. She could not sleep in the streets like a vagabond. Frank was not yet born either. Therefore, there was no one she was familiar with that she could go for help. The sole way now was to rent a house. But she must have money first. She had some jewels with her. So she must sell one of them. The first thing she decided to sell was her gem necklace. Anyway, she managed to sell it to someone who was a collector for some ten thousands of dollars. But she did not know that when the collector showed it to an expert, the expert was greatly surprised to see such an artwork. From the style the expert recognized it as a precious piece generally used by someone in the palace of ancient China. It was worth millions of dollars.
            Linda rented a room in a certain house in  New York. She must find a job to support herself and Danba. And Danba should go to school. So she must have more money. She had to give up her two bracelets for auction. They were sold for one million dollars.
            Shortly Linda became a celebrity. Reporters from both the newspapers and the television stations tracked her down. They wanted her story. But FBI made investigations on her. They wanted to know how and where a girl of her age could get such a valuable thing. Was any crime involved in it? Linda told her true story to them, but they did not believe her. Only they had nothing whatsoever against her. They even at a time suspected her to be an alien spy from the outer space to the Earth.
However, when the media learned it, the story became the headline on every newspaper and on every news program of every television station. The reporters even dogged Danba’s steps. But some days later, they gave up any attempts to draw anything from her, because she could not speak English yet.
            Then a publisher came to see Linda and asked her to write a book about her adventures in  China. The publishing company advanced to her a large sum of royalty under a contract. When her book came out, it was soon turned into a movie.
            Linda and Danba lived comfortably. Sometimes after a few years, Linda had a curiosity to know whether her parents had given birth to a girl named Linda now, or the next door neighbors had born a boy named Frank. But she had nothing to do with them any more. When that Linda or Frank grew to eighteen years old, she would be nearly forty, almost her mother's age since she had returned to  America twenty years earlier. Sometimes she felt that she owed her mother something. At least the bringing up of her had cost her mother a lot of money and energy. One day she mailed a package to her mother with a best-quality pearl necklace inside, which the empress had given her as a souvenir.

The End

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