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The summary. (Elmira, N.Y.) 1883-19??, October 16, 1920, Image 3

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Persistent link: http://dev.nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn84031251/1920-10-16/ed-1/seq-3/


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THE SUMMARY ThE GOLDEN DRAGON By Carrol K. Michener W^N-LI was in disgraca. She was to be ipurned fron beneath her husband’s roofiree and MDt back to the house of her father. This was because of unfilial behavior toward her august mother-in-law, an offence against a basic tenet of Confusian propriety, therefore deserving of punishment correspondingly grave. Broacly, her crime lay in scattering heresies of the world thru the sleepy conservatism of a family whose facs was set rigidly backward toward tradition; specifically, she waa accused of corrupting the heart of Mei-li, her sister:in-law, whose modern nperienee of “ ascending the dragon’’ is related herein. Sitting alone in the inner chamber, Wan-li tried rebelliously, but sorrowfully, to repress her despair; and, indeed, her face as inscrutably masked the tragedy weighting her spirit as did the Buddhistic repose of the old mansion, whose ochered walls and dragon-curved roofs had dream­ ed through so many other crises in evanescent human lives. But inside the gate of the outer entrance was an expression, audible at least, of her misfor­ tune - the vicarious grief and rage of a hired ser­ vant. Wen-chum, her old amah, reviled the pro- leoitors of her mast.er’B household, even unto re­ mote generations. For three hours the old woman had lain beneath the archway, sailing down cur­ ies upon the Lus. This was her right, according to custom, and the indignity to the family was one that must he borne. Within the innermost chamber, old Mrs. Lu, whose paternal will had been flouted and her potent wrath roused, strove in vain to shut out the servant’s shrieking indictments. Her maid had brought tea and heated rice-wine, and the old lady’s favorite priest had been summoned from a neighboring monastery; still Mrs. Lu’s inger waxed. A horn-beaked drug wizard arrived is baste from his noisome apothecary shop at the village gate, and proposed to burn her shoulders with a heated cath, designed to diminish her eholer. But to bis patient this prescription was M repugnant that he had both the wisdom and the anxiety to depart, passing qnickly away to his more tranquil pursuit of miugling p owdered heetlea with muttered necromancy. Then the priest came, with candle and aickly- iwest incense; be administered fragrant cups of rose-wine, for which bis cloister was renowned, and chanted prayers; from time to time be struck a melodious gong. Cotton was stuffed into the lady’s ears, and peace presently closed her eye­ lids. Without, in the gateway, the clamor persisted. Wen-ehun forgot none of the vices of the illustri­ ous Lus; she left no family skeleton unexhumed. If the Lus had virtues she mentioned them not; and their faults rose from her tongue like a pro­ cession of ugly crows —as many as the teeth of Buddha—blackening the sunlight with the un- wholesomeness of their hue. It was an example of genealogical research that indicated how thor­ oughly the family of Wan-li had pursued their go between inquiries before exchanging the red cards of betrothal. And Wen-chun now labeled them all blackguards of doubtful birth, even those dusty antiquaries who had served the an- (iout Mings. Rocital of these scandals- although, by the davious persuasions of the oriental mind, the process was efficacious in the saving of “ face” for her - did not assuage the bitterness that filled Wan-li. Her imagiowtion invoked the sor­ rows that were inevitable to the married woman, for wLm there is nowhere a welcome even in htr father’s house. She knew that until her latest hour shame must cover the woman cast from a lutband’s couch. Sh\ pictured the winter of her days, alone, without mate ur child, eating the hitter nee of her family's charity. The words of upset came to her mind, and she'repeated them, sighingly, under her breath: “Rudely torn may be a cotton mantle, yet a skillful hand may join it; Snapped in twain be the stiing where pearls are threaded, yet the thread all swiftly knot­ ted; Buts husband and bis wife, once partad.never more may meet.’’ It ia a fiction in the western world that love does not dwell by the Chinese hearth. Wan-li was one of many millions of eentradictions to his ill- considered theory. She could have born the forth- conisg separation from her mother-in-law, hut unfortunately for the tranquility of her heart, she was over-fond of her husband. For this reas­ on she found it difficult, in view of the issue to reconcile the event of her unfilial piety with the kindly motive that had iespired it. She bad de­ signed only the innocent happiness of Mei-li, but bad enraged the dragon of Confucian propriety. While the shrill clamor, shrewish and strident, continued to filter through the walls of her re­ treat from the rasped throat of her servant, bar mind, like the steps of a miscreant seeking the scene of his deeds, groped backward over the course of her progress toward disgrace. The matter began with her entrance into the old-fasbioned house-hold; though, in a way , the beginning lay in her education, with its bursts of illumination from the great West. She was, for China, a new woman, and through an ironical destiny, her married life bad carried her back­ ward away from the light. She was the daughter of a progressive Tao-tai in a cosmopolitan port. She kad been schooled in the learning of the Occident aa it’s interpreted by the pedagogical envoys of America. For her eyes the fierce rays of modernity bad been turn­ ed ruthlessly upon the crannies of tne Orient’s civilization, and in consequences, disturbing doubts of the old, mingled with half-convictions of the new, swept destructivoly through her mind. She was at the danger point that threatens all those who exchange old gods for new - the cross­ roads where reverence too often is dethroned by GET A TRANSFER If you are on the Gloomy Line, Get a transfer. Get off the track of Doubt and Gloom, Get on the Sunshine Track, theie’s room. Get a transfer. If you’re on the Worry Train, Get a Transfer, You must not stay there and complain. Get a tranafei. The Cheerful Cars are passing through. And there is lots of room lor you — Get a transfer. If you’re on the Grouchy Trsck, Get a transfer. Just take a Happy Special back. Get a transfer. Jump on the train and pull the icpe That lands you on the Station Hope- Get a transfer. —The Optimist discouitesy, belief by doubt, and fsith by unbe* lief and imniety. Her father, perhaps, safe in the unyielding conservatism of the old literati, had seen, or at least imagined this peril, and devised what he may have applauded as by no means a half­ portion of antidote. He married her into a fam­ ily as intangment to modernity as the occult shrines of Thibet. And it was thus that Wan-li had come to the generation-old homestead of the Lus, nestling in idolatrous contemplation against the green bill- side that breathed of feng-shui and all the sleep­ ing dragons of Old Cbiua’s auperstilioo. Beneath slumbered the village of Benevolence and Virtue, from this distance graceful and soft­ ened with color as if it were on canvas, but within its crumbling walls squalid and unwholssomely odorous. Though it lay on the shore of the great Yangtze, not three hundred miles from the sea, and the tides and ships off the world swept past ic daily with their exhalations of the new age,the village remained as it had been from its remote establishment—not otherwise under a republic than it was under Genghis Khan. Many of its in­ habitants, indeed, were not aware of the new form of government, and most of the others understood only with vagueness. Its people were as their re­ motest ancestors, perpetuating every custom,in­ tensifying every superstition. There was a hand­ ful of sophisticated merchants and literati, but they were an imperceptible leaven foi the mass, which alone was visible. The queue had by no means vanished as in the treaty ports and in the South abound feet were general, as of old, and the wailing of girls enduring the first wrappings might be heard in any courtyard. The old saying that “for every pair of goldea lilies there is a kang of tears,” still held its poignancy. Wan-li had sensed these things as her bridal •hair pasted from the ateamer-leading^te the old mansion on the hill, and her heart darkened. Lu Cbang-yu, her affianced, was a foreign-school man, and though she knew her nuptial alliance was with one of the most reactionary of the old families, she had expected no such contrast as this with the scene of her girlhood in the coast metropolis; it was the antithesis of Shanghai, where the manacles of multifold Chinese custom were softened into a convenient and easy-going social hybridity. Old Mrs. Lu had felt some misgivings over the match, she was a mountain of conservatism, and abhorred all change in what, to her, was im- meraorialy venerable and established. She waa fearful that the gossips were, in spite of lying protestations from the go-between, and that Wan-li would prove wood too rotten to be carved, after her exposure to the loose end barbarous in­ fluences from over S'aa. For Mrs, Lu the social and geographical world wss only a ravage void outside the circle of steady, saffron glory haloing the Middle Kingdom. Her apprehensions, therefore, were susceptible to easy conviclion; Wan-li, in spite of undeniable sweetness and beauty still wss capable, without the least intent, ofinfliccinga rapid series of pro­ found shocks upon the musk and- incense com­ placency of her mother-in-law. Wan-li's wedding-chests held a collection of foreign clothing - a complete outfit from Paris - over which Mei-li fluttered in an ecstasy. But to Mrs. Lu they were anathema. After once view­ ing them—critically, though with undoubted in­ terest she observed that they were “ hideous in design and color;” their texture was infeiior to that of Chinese materials; the hat, a wide, red- velvet blossom, waa “ fit only for a foreign monk­ ey” ; and finally no decent daughter of Han would expose so much of her neck and arms. Wan li was ordered to take them off, and to be seen thus immodestly attired no more. Perhaps all would have been we II in this matter had things ended there, but Mrs. Lu was roused from her afternoon nap one day by the sound of giggling in her courtyard, and locked out upon Mei-li promenading before the household in Wan-li’s Paris finery. She was an enchanting apparition to all but Mrs. Lu, whose wrath fell like thun­ der. Wan-li was blamed, and henceforth all faults found their way to her door. But though, in the opinion of Mrs.Lu, Wan-li was palpably corrupting Mei-li with barbatious and unmaidenly notions, ehe nevertheless in some degree had won the affections of her He-jorable and August motber-in law. She was outwardly respectful and modest she was cap­ able at daily tasks, and the keys of the rice-bin had been consigned very early to her keeping- an unprecedented honor. Moreover, she was an undimmed ray of sunshine before the older women’s glooms, and in SI ite of the veneer of her foreign training she had witbin her the spirit and grace of old-fashioned customs. The August One, therefore, in casting about for the means of preserving her daughter from the bath of modern ideas infiltering from the at­ tractive presence of her daughter - in - law, did not at first consider the consider the dire expedient of sending Wan li tack to her par­ ents. She conceived instead, the notion of safely marrying Mei li, thus shifting the responsibility. Gossip anticipated the news of this decision, and the young woman concerned heard of the go- between’s overtures with a perfervid distress. The rumor flew to her ears that the August One’s choice had fallen upon Hu Yongmi son of a rich merchant in the village of Peaceful Longevity, At this her heart stood still, for it was reputed that he was ugly of countenance, a companion of sing-song girls in the tea paviliors, and a smoker of opium. Yet the go-between painted him other­ wise, and Mrs. I,u appeared content. No such unmaidenly or unfilial thought as pro­ testing against her mother's decision, or even of discussiog it with her, occured to Mei-li. She must be satisfied with the fat» reserved for her by the gods, and with prayers to Kwan Yin, the good and merciful deity, to whom she applied tearfully, in spite of the scepticism of Wan-li. Daily she lighted a huge yellow candle in the temple of tt e goddess of a thousand hands, ask­ ing a fair mate with a lover’s heart. Wan-li pitied the child. Also, she pictured the gloomy days that would pass “ like trailing cree­ pers,” 'when sunny Mei-li was gone; and she envisaged Mei-li too, unhappily cloistered in a house-hold unwashed by the light of the new days. This being her own lot, she wished nothing so ardently as to shield Mei-li from it Her thoughts rose near to filial rebellion at the Aug­ ust One’s intent. So, though Mei-li dared not. Wan-li had the amazing audacity to remonstrate with her motb- er-in law, repeating the gossip that Hu was un­ worthy, and reminding her of the proverb that “though he bar big silver door with gold, a maa (Continued on Page 6) .ili ' 'V

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