楼主: 海外逸士

Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China

 楼主| 发表于 11/11/2016 08:29:25 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 10

After a few days, they came across a large caravan and mingled with them, thinking that it would be safer traveling with so many people as the saying goes, "Strength exists in number." It was true theoretically, but not in reality sometimes.
Three days later, they entered a mountainous area with woods growing on the slopes on either side of the road. On a sudden, many people rushed out from the woods with swords, lances or axes in hands. They were outlaws, about fifty in number.
            In the caravan there were only ten men who could fight with swords. Others were merchants and their servants and some women, who were the wives of the merchants. Even if aided by the two yamen bailiffs, how could twelve of them fight against fifty people? They wisely gave up resistance. The outlaws took all the horses and mules with goods and valuables on the back. Then a few outlaws came to the wagon Linda sat in. The wagon had been following the caravan all the way. Linda knew that she could not hide forever and so she got out after she told the boy to stay inside and stuffed his pockets with some jewels and money.
            When the approaching outlaws saw the western beauty, they opened their eyes and mouths wide. Generally they did not take women as captives since their female chieftain forbade it, but this girl was extraordinary and they had to break the rule for once. Linda could not but follow them. The two yamen bailiffs were at a loss what to do. They could not fight a hopeless battle. They could not go back to the capital since they lost Linda. The emperor would surely behead them. They consulted each other and found a good way to solve their dilemma. They asked to join the outlaws, taking the boy along. They wanted at least to be near Linda and maybe there would be a chance to escape with Linda from the outlaws. They paid the driver of the wagon and told him to go back. They no longer needed the wagon.
            They went to speak to the outlaws, “As you take the girl, we can neither go forward nor go back. The government will kill us for loss of the girl. So the only way we can survive is to join you.”
            There was a roar of guffaw among the outlaws at the funny idea. Yamen bailiffs to join outlaws? Never heard of. But the situation spoke for itself. If all other ways would lead them to death, why should they not take the only way and join the outlaws to be alive? Therefore, they were accepted. They took off their uniforms and followed the outlaws to where they lived.
            The outlaws disappeared into the forest on the left side of the road. They went through the woods and climbed the mountain behind the woods with Linda, the boy and the two yamen bailiffs among them. Nearing the top, a strong fence made of the felled tree trunks stood there with a wooden gate open. The group of the outlaws went through the gate and into a gigantic hall also made of wood, serving as the gathering place for meetings. The rear part of the hall, getting access only from behind, was the place to store the loots. Round the hall were dotted here and there small separate houses as living quarters.
            Being informed beforehand, the outlaw chieftain, a middle-aged woman, sat in the hall waiting for them. Linda, the boy and the two yamen bailiffs followed the group leader into the hall. He reported to the chieftain all that had happened. She told the group leader to put the two yamen bailiffs into his group and to take the boy to some robber’s family that had boys, too, so that he could mix with them.
            “Sit down.” She told Linda, indicating the chair on her left. Linda obeyed and took the seat.
            “You look not like one of our race. Where did you come from?”
            “ America.”
            The chieftain had no notion where America was, but at least she knew that the girl was a western beauty. She also knew that the group leader brought her back for the purpose that he would some day ask the chieftain’s permission to marry her. Since Linda was such an innocent girl, so beautiful, she sympathized with her. She would not allow any of the outlaws to touch her. None of them deserved her. She should belong to some good boy, not to an outlaw.
            In the evening, she summoned all the group leaders to her presence and warned them that they should respect the girl as she was now her sworn sister. Everyone was aware that the chieftain liked the girl and wanted to protect her, or someone might really rape her.
 楼主| 发表于 11/12/2016 08:38:07 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 海外逸士 于 11/13/2016 08:58 编辑

Chapter 11

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

 楼主| 发表于 11/14/2016 08:29:07 | 显示全部楼层
chapter 12

There were about one thousand outlaws who could fight in this what-they-called-it camp. Six hundred of them were men and four hundred were women, trained by the chieftain herself. Ten girls were specially taught in kungfu as her bodyguards as well as confidential followers.
            The second in command, the vice chieftain, was a man. He was ambitious and always wanted to be the first in command, but his kungfu was no match for the woman chieftain. Among the outlaws, the one who could win everyone else in fight would be the chieftain.
            Anyway, the vice chieftain was plotting a mutiny against the chieftain. He knew so well that he could not fight her and so he tried to poison her.
            One day, the chieftain had her lunch in her own room. Food was served by a man working in the kitchen. When she was about to eat, one of her bodyguards tested the food with a silver needle. It was believed in ancient China that if poison touched anything made of silver, the silver would turn black. Therefore, this method of testing was widely used, from the emperor to any rich family.
            The silver needle turned black this time. It was obvious that someone wanted to poison the chieftain, who told the girl bodyguard to throw away the food as if she had eaten it, and she pretended to have been poisoned.
            Seeing that his scheme worked, the vice chieftain summoned all the outlaws to the hall. When everyone gathered, he declared that the chieftain had suddenly died of some odd disease and he would take over the leadership. Furthermore, he would marry the girl with the golden hair. Many of the men supported him. Rest of the men hesitated, but all the women refused to obey him. They were still loyal to their chieftain. The vice chieftain ordered his supporters to kill those against him. So fight began in the hall.
            Just then a familiar voice was heard ringing throughout the hall, “Stop!” It was the chieftain’s voice. She stood at the doorway of the hall with her bare sword in her hand, ensued by her ten bodyguards. Those who were fighting stopped in surprise, staring at their chieftain with widely opened eyes. Had the vice chieftain not announced just a minute before that the chieftain had been dead? How could a dead person walk in and look alive? Something must be wrong.
            The women outlaws went up to the vice chieftain and surrounded him lest he escape. The men supporters were at a loss what to do next. They were all afraid of the chieftain because she had such good kungfu.
            At the signal from the chieftain, one of the woman outlaws surrounding the vice chieftain drew out her sword and stabbed it into his heart. The vice chieftain crumbled onto the ground like a sack of potatoes. All his followers were dumped into a dungeon. The spark of rebellion was quenched before it could turn into blaze.
 楼主| 发表于 11/15/2016 08:38:12 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 海外逸士 于 11/16/2016 08:40 编辑

Chapter 13

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

 楼主| 发表于 11/17/2016 09:26:59 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 14

They went to a nearby river and rented a boat run by a family, husband and wife with a teenager girl. The husband would row the boat. The wife would cook for the passengers and the girl would do miscellaneous things, like serving tea and food to the passengers. The boat was a medium-sized one and had two decks. The upper deck had two bedrooms for the passengers and the lower deck was also divided into two cabins. The frontal one served as the dining-room and the sitting room as well. The family lived in the one behind. There was a small space like a pantry used as kitchen in the stern of the boat and the hull was used as a storage room.
            The boat went upstream. Where the current flew down wildly and rapidly, there were boat pullers to help. They tied some thick ropes onto a boat and pulled the ropes from the shore till they came to somewhere the current was smooth again.
            As their boat went against stream, it was slow and took much longer time to reach the next city than they traveled by land. However, they were not in a hurry and could enjoy the landscapes on both sides of the river. Of an evening they would anchor by a wharf for the night. The boat owner would go ashore to buy provisions for the morrow. Sometimes the two yamen bailiffs, Linda and the boy would disembark too.
            Generally around a wharf would spring up a town or a village, depending on the water traffic heavy or light. One evening they reached a town by the wharf. When the boat cast anchor, the four of them went on land and into the town. They found a tea house and entered it for a rest. After a while the two yamen bailiffs told Linda to stay here and they would go round to buy something as gifts for their families. But in fact, they went round to look for a gambling place. They found one and went in to play dice. They put on plain clothes again to hide their uniform, which would be too conspicuous in such a place. Generally those yamen bailiffs gambled among themselves and seldom went to a gambling house. But it was now only two of them and they had to go to gambling places.
            They had some money now taken from the tourists when they had been with the outlaws. But their fortune was always against them when gambling. They lost everything again. A tall guy, who looked on at their side all the time, offered to loan them money at a very high rate, fifty percent. He said to them, “I lend you my lucky amulet too so that you will soon win back all your money and more. You can’t always lose. The point is that when you win, you must stop.”
            The two yamen bailiffs thought that the tall guy was right. Therefore, they borrowed fifty taels of silver from him. As the rate was fifty percent, when they paid back, they must pay him seventy-five taels. However, the tide did not turn for them. Very soon, they lost the fifty taels. The tall guy who stayed with them offered more, but they refused with “thanks”. Now the guy asked them to pay back the money, which they couldn’t.
            There was a rule in the gambling place in the ancient China that if anyone who borrowed money could not pay back, he would get a good beating or would have one or more fingers cut off. The tall guy brought ten other thugs with him for that purpose. At a signal from him, the ten thugs rushed towards the two yamen bailiffs and wanted to beat them.
            One of the yamen bailiffs shouted, “Stop!”
The tall guy raised his hand and the thugs halted. The guy said, “You have money to pay me?”
The yamen bailiff said, “If you follow us, we can borrow money to return to you.”
“You have friends here?” The guy asked. The yamen bailiff nodded and the guy followed them with the ten thugs trailing in the wake.
The two yamen bailiffs went back to the tea house and walked up to Linda. The guy and his thugs stood at a short distance, watching them. One of the yamen bailiffs whispered to Linda, who took some paper money out of her pocket, found one she needed and handed it to him. It had the worth of a hundred taels. She did not have smaller ones.
So the guy took the money and gave the yamen bailiff the difference of twenty-five taels. Then the guy left with his men. But he told one of the thugs to hide somewhere and follow the two men and the girl to see where they lived. He had seen that the girl had some more money and with money he could do anything.
The two yamen bailiffs and Linda and the boy returned to the boat. Supper was ready for them. After supper, they lingered on the bow of the boat to enjoy the clear sky with the full moon looking down at them before they went to bed.
It was almost midnight. They were roused by some noise. It seemed that a lot of people were getting on board the boat. They jumped out of bed and put on clothes. They went down to the first deck and found the tall guy with his ten thugs.
“What you want?” asked one of the yamen bailiffs.
“Money. All the money you have, or the girl has.”
Such things did happen in the ancient China. No one was surprised. Linda took out all the paper money from her pocket and gave them to the guy, who took them from Linda’s hand. “Ah, a beautiful white hand!” The guy looked up at Linda. “Oh, by Buddha!” He gasped and grasping Linda’s hand he pulled her into his arms. The two yamen bailiffs and the boy wanted to come forth to help, but were surrounded by the thugs. It seemed that the guy wanted to rape her right on the spot. They were all gathering on the prow of the boat.
Linda struggled out of the guy’s arms, but got a slip and fell out of the boat into the water.
Seeing this, the guy escaped with his men.
One of the yamen bailiffs jumped into the water to seek for Linda, but the current was so rapid and his search ended in vain. All three were so sad. Now they had to find Linda, or they could not tell how to get on with their lives.
 楼主| 发表于 11/18/2016 08:36:34 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 15

Although Linda could swim in the sea when back in America, now she could not cope with the rapid torrent of the Yangtze River and lost her consciousness at last.
            When she came to, she felt like she was lying in a cradle. She found that it was a boat rocking with the waves. At first she thought she had been pulled out of water by the yamen bailiffs and had been sleeping in her own bed, but after a careful survey, she knew that she was wrong. It was another boat and from the smell it seemed to be a fishing boat. She fell asleep again.
            When it dawned, an old woman came into the cabin to check on Linda, who just woke up.
            “How you feeling?” The old woman asked, dressed in coarse clothes.
            “I’m fine, thank you.” Linda replied. “Where am I now?”
            “Forgot to take up our fishing net last night. You got yourself in it. We already asleep, when felt the boat stir, got up to check. Thought it’s a big fish, but when pulled up the net, it’s you in it.”
            Linda knew that she had been saved by the woman, perhaps together with her husband. So she thanked her once more and got on her feet from the bed. She followed the old woman out of the inner cabin to the outer one. There was an old man sitting at a table. It was the husband. They invited her to sit down and the woman served breakfast. Generally the Chinese breakfast was rice porridge. But Linda was used to it now. She had had it when living with the eunuch.
            The old couple owned the fishing boat, which was like a mobile home for them. When they caught fish, they would row the boat to the nearest town for sale and bought all the necessities. Then they would return to where they always anchored. The place was near a village, where they had been born and had so many relatives and friends.
            Now Linda lived with them happily. Everyday she helped the old woman with cooking and cleaning, and when the net was full of fish, she would lend the old man a hand to pull the net up and put the fish in the hull. The old couple loved her very much and looked upon her as their daughter.
            One day, it was the dragon-boat festival. There was a boat race on the river. The old couple took Linda there in their boat and cast anchor near the bank, on which already so many people stood watching. There was an acrobatic performance before the race. A colossal boat served as the stage. The acrobats showed their feats on the mast and on the dragon head. A female performer stood on one leg on the top of the mast, the other leg lifted high in the air and on her toes stood upright a stick with a plate rotating on it. She also held two sticks separately in her hands, with rotating plates. On her head balanced a set of bowls. In the top bowl stuck out a crimson rose.
            The performance went on for two hours with only a short break in between. The race started almost at noon. Every rich family in this district had a dragon-boat built and took part in the annual race. Men were hired and trained to row the boat. On the bow just behind the dragon’s head there were a big gong and a big drum, which would sound continuously during the race. Two more men were hired for that. When the boats approached the finis line, the race reached its climax. People’s shouting mixed with the sound of the gongs and drums almost deafened Linda’s ears. One boat darted forth and crossed the finis line. Linda could not recognize whose boat it was.
            "The Li’s family won this year." The old man told Linda. The old man regularly sold fish to Li’s family and so he was excited for them.
            In the capital, the head eunuch returned the special bronze mirror he had stolen to the storage room. Since he was a favorite with the empress dowager, who asked the emperor to pardon him, the emperor had him released from the prison, and furthermore, gave him back his properties that had been confiscated.
Now the head eunuch was his old self anew and then he thought of Linda and his son. Of course Linda and the boy were also pardoned and should not be exiled. Therefore, the head eunuch, with the consent from the emperor, sent out someone with official document to the place where Linda was supposed to be banished. However, when the man reached there, the official in charge of the exiled people received him and said that they had never reported to him. He added, “Maybe, they are still on the way as they don’t have time limit.” It must be true. So the man rode back to report to the head eunuch. Then a public declaration was made that Linda and the boy were pardoned, no need to go to the place of exile any more. They should return to the capital now.
            This message was sent to every local government. Then the two yamen bailiffs learned it because they must report to the local government every time they wanted to pass the night in the government lodging house for free. Therefore, they returned to the capital with the boy.
            Since they lost Linda, they were afraid to see the head eunuch, but they had to for two reasons. First, they should give the boy to him. Second, they must explain to him in person how they had lost the girl. As it was not really their fault that Linda fell into the water, the head eunuch did not blame them. The two yamen bailiffs left and went back to their own yamen.
            The head eunuch and the boy, his son, had a family reunion. The only regret was that Linda was not with them. They were anxious to know where Linda was now and whether she was dead or alive. So the head eunuch sent out a message to every local government to seek for a girl with the golden hair. All the local governments put an announcement on the government bulletin board for this message with an award of one hundred taels of silver if anyone who saw such a girl could report to the local government. Then a threat added in the announcement, “If anyone conceals the whereabouts of the girl, he will be punished or imprisoned.”
            One hundred taels of silver was a lot of money to some poor people. Some people of the village, where the boat Linda lived on anchored, would report to the local government in the nearest town for the award. When the old man came to know it, he hurried back and told Linda, who had already told the couple everything about herself except how she had got in China. It was too weird to be believed. Even she would not have believed it herself though it had actually happened to her. But it was her own experience and she could not shut her eyes to it.
            Linda did not want to go back to the head eunuch. No woman wanted to live with a eunuch even if he was rich and powerful. That was an abnormal life. Now Linda had to leave and the old couple understood. They advised her to go west. That way she could be as far as possible from the capital. She should hide in some remote region that no one there knew her. Linda thought that it was a good idea. As she had been robbed of all her money, she was now penniless. So the old couple gave her all the money they had saved.
            Linda learned that the announcement put up by the local government mentioned her having golden hair. She wanted to dye her hair before she left, but in the ancient China there was no such technique and no such material to dye hair. There was a joke about dyeing hair. A man had his hoary hair too early in his thirties. People around him always thought that he was already in fifties. He hated that people had this idea about him. He always wanted to show that he was still young. Once he was invited to attend a gathering of poets. He was a poet himself. He wished that other poets would admire his poetic talent as a young poet when he chanted his new poem, a great poem he thought. Then a wonderful idea struck him. He brushed ink on his hoary hair to make the hair look black. Unfortunately, on his way to the gathering place, it suddenly rained hard. The merciless rain washed the ink down his face and neck. Now he looked sorry. How could he go in such an awkward condition? He had to return home and let this golden opportunity slip through his fingers.
            Linda did not want to brush her hair black with ink like that stupid man in the story, but she must do something to her appearance so that no one could recognize her. At the suggestion of the old couple, she was attired as a farming girl. She put on some old shabby clothes and wrapped her golden hair tightly in a piece of coarse cloth so that no one could see the color of her hair. To finish her disguise, she carried a basket with eggs in it. Now she looked as if she was going to visit her relatives with the eggs as a gift, or to the closest town to sell them.
 楼主| 发表于 11/19/2016 08:40:36 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 16

The old couple took Linda to a place some distance away from their village so that no villager could see that Linda fled. Linda thanked them again and stepped ashore. She watched their boat going back and walked toward the west. She followed the public roads in no fear that someone or anyone could recognize her. She was proud of her disguising skill. She never took off the cloth wrapping her hair, even in sleep, that none could ever see the color of her hair. Although she had some foreign accent when she spoke Chinese, the government announcement did not mention it. So no one suspected anything when she talked to people. She had no definite destination and just roamed in the direction the sun set.
            By now she had grown familiar with the Chinese currency system at that time and had come to know what thing was worth how much money. She did not want to waste a coin unnecessarily as her resources were limited. She wished to have the money she had with her lasting as long as possible till she could find a suitable place to settle down.
            Soon she came to a town and entered it. When she was walking in the streets, an old woman accosted her. She wanted to buy some eggs for her grandson. She thought that Linda was really a farming girl selling eggs in the town.
            Linda was at first surprised, but she remembered her feign after a moment's hesitation. She thought to herself, “Why don’t I sell the eggs? I can’t go everywhere with the basket.” So she agreed to sell some eggs to the old woman.
            She had often heard some pedlars crying out their goods in the streets since she had landed in China. And now she heard someone crying, "Scissors and knives sharpening!" The man was selling his service to people who wanted to sharpen their blunted scissors and knives. A few paces away, a door opened and a woman handed the man a cutting knife to be sharpened for her.
            Linda was in doubt if she must cry out her eggs for sale. She had never tried such things before and could not make up her mind. Then she heard another crying some distance away: "Flowers for girls!" In ancient China there were no flower shops. One could only buy them from a hawker.
            Linda consulted herself, “Since I don’t want to carry the eggs along further, I must sell them. Why not cry like others?” So she began, “Fresh eggs for sale!” A door opened from a big house. A woman’s head stuck out and beckoned to Linda. She was the cook of the household and wanted to buy all the eggs as she would have guests coming this evening. She bargained with Linda for the price. Linda was glad to part with the eggs so soon and cut her price a little to the satisfaction of the woman. Linda took the money and handed her all the eggs together with the basket, which she no longer needed. The woman was delighted and asked Linda to bring more eggs for her next time she came into the town. Linda could not make a promise and stammered something no one could understand.
            Linda had lunch in the town and wanted to continue her way to the west, but it was so cloudy that day and she could not figure out the direction. She had learned how to decide for the direction. If she could figure out which direction was the south, she could know which was the west. When she faced the south, her right hand pointed to the west. But how could she make out the south? She remembered that the first way was to look at the rings of the tree. The width between the rings to the southern side in a tree trunk was much greater than that of those to the northern side. Anyway, how could she find a broken tree so that she could see the rings on the broken trunk surface? She walked for some distance and did not see any tree that was broken. It did not work.
            Then she recalled an easy way to do this. She looked at the foliage of a tree and saw that on one side the boughs grew longer and the leaves denser. It was the southern direction. So she figured out which direction was the west and started to walk that way. But she was still not sure if it was right direction she wanted to go.
            She walked out of the town along the public road. The dusk descended on the earth when she came across a village. It was a small village without any inns. The tradition was that a traveler could knock at any house and ask the host or hostess whether he or she could stay for the night. Generally a traveler would be accepted into the house and even supper would be provided, both gratis.
            Linda took lodging in a house. The hostess had a daughter and a son, ten and six years of age respectively. Linda had to share the room with the daughter. The son was sick at the time. There was no doctor in this village. The villagers, if sick, always asked the medical witch to look at the patient and then would pay her either with money or with something of some value.
            In ancient China witches did not have magic power, nor rode on any broomsticks like their colleagues in England. There were a few sorts of witches in China. Some acted as a doctor and others had the ability to summon the ghosts of the diseased kinsfolk.
            The invited witch arrived. She did not go into the bedroom to look at the patient. She burned a pair of red candles and three joss sticks, which was stuck in an incense burner. Then she went down on her knees to kowtow before the burning candles and joss sticks while she was chanting some magic words. After a few minutes she changed into a sitting position, a leg-crossed yoga position, and kept chanting until the joss sticks burned to ashes. Then she got up and scooped some ashes with a spoon. She gave the spoonful of ashes to the woman and bade her to let her son swallow the ashes with warm water. “It’s cure-all from Buddha.” The witch told the woman, “Your son will soon recover.” She took the money the woman offered and left.
            Linda saw all this and suspected the curing effect of the joss-stick ashes. "Can this cure all the diseases?" She asked the woman.
            “Some cured and some didn’t.” was the answer.
            “Why some didn’t?” Linda persisted in getting a thorough answer, “It’s cure-all.”
            “Because those who died have lived to their destined end of life.” The woman added, “The god of the nether world decides the fate of everyone and how long he can live. If one has lived to his destined end of life, even cure-all can’t save him.”
            Linda did not believe that the joss-stick ashes could cure any illness. She guessed that those who were healed must only have trivial ailments like cold and those who were not healed must have serious sickness.
            She went to bed without further thinking of such things. Next morning she got up early and was served breakfast. After finishing it, she took leave of the woman with many thanks.
 楼主| 发表于 11/20/2016 08:35:07 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 17

Linda proceeded on her way to the west. She passed a pond, the water in it so clear and transparent. There were some boys of about ten years old swimming in it, their bare butts submerging in water, but still discernible. Seeing this, Linda had an impulse to plunge in for a hearty swimming, but she remembered that she did not even have a bikini on her. Besides, she noticed that no girls would swim in public in the sixteenth century in China.
            The boys saw her, shouting and waving their fists at her. Linda understood from their gesture that they wanted her to get lost at once. At that time a girl should not look at boys, especially with bare butts. To avoid further trouble, Linda ran away as fast as her legs could carry her.
            Presently Linda came to a village. From seeing the boys she concluded that there must be a village close by and she wanted to find her lodging for the night there. Generally she eluded to stay in a town for the night. She preferred the village because the villagers might not know the government announcement about her and so she would be safe.
            On entering the village, she was attracted by the voices of the boys reading some books aloud. She followed the sound to a house where she could see through the window that an old man was giving lessons to some ten boys. Linda had already learned something about the education in the ancient China. There were public schools then, but only in the capital and main cities. Somewhere else there might be private schools built at the donations of local wealthy families. Mostly boys got education from private tutors in the house of the tutor and the parents paid the tutor certain amount of money every month. The textbooks were the works of Confucius and Mencius. Linda had studied some when she had lived with the head eunuch. Girls were not encouraged to learn reading and writing. They were taught to sew and cook, and how to serve their future husbands satisfactorily. Girls only in rich families could have a tutor coming to teach them or were taught by their mothers, who were literate.
            Linda listened for a while and walked away. She wanted to find a family that could take her in for the night. Soon she found one. Hospitality was a common virtue in the ancient time everywhere. The family was well-to-do and had a daughter of eight. The girl loved to read and write, and refused to learn sewing and cooking. The parents doted on her and had to give in at length. She had learned hundreds of Chinese characters. When a pupil reached such a stage, a tutor would train him to write parallel sentences or structures. The practice was like that: when the tutor gave two characters, say, meaning “mountain”, the pupil must use two characters, say, meaning “river”. If he said something meaning “orange”, it was wrong, because “mountain” and “river” belonged to the same category of words, the geographic category while “orange” was in a different category. If the pupil was right, the tutor would add another character like “stands” and the pupil must say “flows”. That made “mountain stands” and “river flows”.
            The girl implored Linda to play that kind of word game with her. Luckily Linda had had such practice before and so had no difficulty thereupon. The girl said “wolf” and Linda replied with “dog”. Then the girl said “howls” and Linda added “barks”. The girl continued with “in woods” and Linda paralleled with “in house”. The girl was so delighted that when Linda wanted to leave next morning she importuned her to stay a little longer. As Linda had really nowhere to go, she was glad to comply.
            They could not play the word game all day long. The girl went out with Linda to sightsee the village. When they were passing a house, they noticed some people crowding before the open door. They wondered what had happened inside that house and so squeezed in to have a look.
            On the table in the center of the room some candles and joss sticks were burning and behind the table sat a woman in her fifties. With her eyes shut she began to chant something like “Open the door wide. Your ancestors will come.” Then her mouth foamed and she leaned back. Suddenly her voice changed sounding like that of an old man.
            Linda asked a woman beside her, “What’s the matter? Is the woman sick?”
            “No.” The woman replied, “The woman is a witch. She’s summoning the ghost of the old man, who was the father of the woman standing at the side of the table. Now the old man’s ghost has got into the body of the witch. It’s the old man’s voice speaking now."
            The woman standing at the side of the table was asking some questions while sobbing and the woman with an old man’s voice was answering. Linda did not quite catch what they were saying.
            After a while the voice of the witch came back and she opened her eyes. It seemed that the ghost was gone. The woman paid the witch, who left soon. The woman came to close the door and the crowd dispersed.
            Linda and the girl strolled in the main street and saw a tea house a few paces ahead. They went into it and took seats at an unoccupied table. The house was half full. Four men sat next to them, talking and laughing. Some of their words wafted into Linda’s ears because it concerned her.
            Man A said, "I read in the city yesterday a government announcement. They are seeking for a girl with golden hair and offering a hundred taels of silver."
            Linda’s heart went wild. She was terrified, but did not show it on her face, still sipping tea, but her hand holding the cup was a little trembling. Only no one noticed it. The girl was interested and turned to look at the four men.
            Man B asked, “Is she a criminal? Did she break the prison wall and run away?”
            Linda calmed down and sipped some more tea.
            Man A said, “Not likely from the announcement. Seems her husband wants her back.”
            Linda had already learned it. That was no news for her.
            Man C said, “Did she elope with another man or what?”
            Linda was amused by the notion of elopement.
            Man A said, “Doesn’t say anything about that.”
            Man D said, “One hundred taels is not much. Not worth the effort to look for her.”
            Presently she left the tea house with the girl.
 楼主| 发表于 11/21/2016 07:55:19 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 18

The family Linda stayed with was very nice to her. At first she had half a mind to settle down here. The only dread was that this village was too close to a city. The message that she was wanted would some day spread here and then she would not be safe. Therefore, she could not have made up her mind whether to settle down or to move on.
           Now her fear became a definite truth. For her own security, she could no longer stay here. So she insisted on leaving. Next morning when she bade farewell to the hostess, the woman gave her a parcel containing some dried cake, boiled eggs and a flask of water. People taking long journey always carried food and water lest they reach some places that they could get no food and water supply. Linda took the parcel and expressed her hearty gratitude to the woman for her kindness.
            The girl almost began crying and begged Linda to visit her on her return. Linda was not sure if she would come back the way she went. But she had to make the promise as a white lie.
            It was hot in the south of China. It was noon. Linda took a rest under the shade of a big tree and ate a piece of cake and an egg and drank some water. Then she started on her way again.
            She came across a pond. The water was so lucid. Linda perspired all over and needed to have a bath. Since no one was seen all around, she stripped herself naked and dove into the pond.
            There were a long row of thick bushes on the bank so that she could hide behind it when she was bathing. She put her clothes and the parcel at the roots of the bushes. This way no one could steal them. The jacket and pants she had had on when she had landed in China had been thrown away long before. Now she wore what the local people wore so that she could mingle with them without being too conspicuous.
            To her panic, she beheld a young man approaching the pond. She had no time to put her clothes on when the young man ran up. He saw a naked girl in the water. How could a young man not get excited at such a sight? He kicked off his shoes and stepped into the water. Linda swam to the center of the pond where the water was deep. She only kept her head on the surface. The young man stayed in the shallow water up to his waste and did not plunge in. The situation lasted for quite some time. Linda could not stay naked for ever in the water. She must do something to get herself out of the plight.
            She thought that the young man perhaps could not swim, or he would come after her. She got a good idea and swam toward the young man. When she got very close, the young man stretched his hands and looked like he wanted to grip on Linda’s hair and pull her out. Linda dove in the water and reached out her hands to pull his ankles. The young man struggled in water. Linda made him drink enough water and he lost consciousness. Linda laid him on the bank and put on her clothes. She left the young man where he was lying and went her own way. When the young man came to, the girl was nowhere to be seen. He did not know if he had had a dream or met a fox genie. Chinese people believed in fox genie, who could change into the form of a beautiful girl and could vanish in a moment.
Linda was now clambering a hillside. She suddenly heard a man’s voice shouting at some distance, “You girl, stop right there!” She turned to look. A middle-aged man with a sword in his right hand scurried toward her. She knew that the man must be a rogue and came to rob her or even rape her. She started to run at top speed. After a while, she looked back and saw the man getting closer and closer to her. She looked forth and saw that she would soon reach the top of the hill. She thought, “When I get to the hill top, I can roll down the other side and escape from the villain.”
            But when she reached the summit, she was dismayed to find that the other side of the hill was a cliff that she could not estimate how high. At least she saw that the bottom was a valley. About half way down, a tree growing out from the cliff wall caught her eyes. Maybe, she could jump down onto the tree first and then climbed down into the valley. At the moment, the man’s voice yelled close behind her, “Stop. You’ll fall to death.”
            Linda made up her mind that she could not let the rascal rape her. What if she was infected with AIDS? It was a painful disease. But she forgot that there was no AIDS in the sixteenth century anywhere. Anyway, she jumped down feet first and landed on the tree. She clutched on some branches with both her hands to steady herself. Then she looked up and saw the moron sticking his head out and watching her. Linda thought, “If he also jumps down, I have to fight him.” She fished out a dagger tied on her right leg. She had got the dagger when she had been with the outlaws. She always had it with her in case she might need it. Now she had the need for it.
            The man stood at the edge of the cliff, considering whether he wanted to leap down, too, after the girl. When he saw Linda take out a dagger, he decided that it was not worth the risk of being pierced through the chest. He turned and left the spot.
            As the immediate danger was now over, she had time to deliberately examine her surroundings. First, she looked at the cliff wall to see if there were thick vines that she could use to climb up. But to her disappointment, the vines did not climb upward, but climbed downward. Correctly to speak, the vines grew up from the foot of the cliff and stopped right round the tree. None grew any higher. So there was no hope for her to climb upward. “At least,” she thought to herself, “I can climb downward. No need for me to jump down.”
            She was lucky. If there were no vines at all on the cliff wall, what could she do now? She could not jump down, for the height was about thirty meters by her estimation. Even if she did not dash herself to death, she would injure some parts of her body. Under such circumstances, how could she survive with serious injuries?
            She began to descend on all fours gripping tightly on the vines. It took her quite some time to set her feet on the solid ground. She looked round. It was a beautiful valley with trees and grass covering the bottom. Then she found some rabbits and a deer staring at her from some distance.
            She walked about in the valley and found a cave in the cliff wall. The cave was small, but with enough space to hold Linda. “I have to stay here for the time being. God made a cave here for me for the night.” She said aloud to herself. “Ah, I have some company. Come here, you cute little rabbit! And you, lovely deer!” She coaxed.
            She sat on a rock and thought, “I’m like Alice in a rabbit hole now. Only this is not a rabbit hole, but a valley. There’s not the Cheshire cat, but a deer instead. No pack of cards either.” She looked round for mushrooms and saw some pretty ones. “What will become of me if I have a bite of the mushroom there? Will I grow up till I can reach the top of the cliff? Then I can get myself out of here. But what if I grow smaller and smaller? Will the rabbit bite my head off?” Of course, she would not eat that mushroom. She had been told that when a mushroom looked colorful, it was very probably poisonous. Then she found some fruits on the trees. She lived on fruits for three days and found that there was a slope at the other side that she might escape from there.
            The deer and rabbits no longer evaded her when she approached them. She could caress or hug them. “I will leave tomorrow, but can’t take them with me.” She thought, not without being sorry. All at once a wonderful idea occurred in her mind. She took out her dagger and carved these words on one of the antlers of the deer: “Linda’s deer.”
            Sometimes she wished that it were a nightmare and that when something terrible happened to her, she would wake up and find herself in her own room of her New Jersey home.
 楼主| 发表于 11/22/2016 08:44:37 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 19

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