Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China
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.
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.
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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Copyright 2006~2010 www.yidian.org. All Rights Reserved.