The Favourite

THE day following there was a great influx of visitors at the home of Li Wang Ho. They came to present their respects to the Lady Silver Lotus, and to congratulate her on the high honour she had received from the hands of the mighty Emperor. Good wishes were as plentiful as the eggs filling the nest of a she-dragon—and nothing could be more numerous or auspicious! Excessively prosperous and round-bodied merchants and their opulent wives and many other ladies elbowed each other in plump profusion; bringing lavish presents of all sorts for the Favourite Lady of the Son of Heaven; each with a number of servants carrying the finest examples of their various trades; all with eyes alert for fortunate omens, indicating the bestowal of the coveted Sign of the Rampant Tiger, which shows that such and such a one, exhibiting this fame-proclaiming heraldic shield above the entrance of his Emporium, is entrusted with the profit-procuring supplies of the household needs of the Imperial Court. Each brought lovely "Treasures of Charm," or "Make-glad" pieces, such as fans, perfume boxes, sheeny pearls, jades, ivories, rolls of poetically named silks, sculptured screens, parcels of glossy silk paper, precious and rare incense, sable skins, tablecloths, kerchiefs, embroidered silk handkerchiefs, boxes of candy or preserved fruit, flowers, preserved dainties such as dried shrimps, ducks, geese, and many other things too numerous to mention.

The Hall of the Yellow Rose was continually stacked with all sorts of delightful things, and the servants kept on running to and fro in order to place all these treasures in spare rooms.

To every person bringing presents Silver Lotus said: "You should not have done so much; I really cannot see how I can accept your generous gifts; it is too good of you, really," and so on.

The invariable reply was: "These are only a few trifling things; I am really ashamed of their unworthiness," and other polite phrases, as etiquette demanded.

Silver Lotus looked as lovely as a tree of jade in Paradise, and all the visitors gazed at her with admiration. She wore a hairnet of gold-thread set with hundreds of pearls. Her pins and combs were of gold, engraved with mystic animals and birds. Pearl chains and emerald rings outshone each other, and her coat was made of Lotus-root thread, while she wore a skirt of yellow silk. On her tiny feet she wore dainty scarlet shoes, and emerald pendants decorated her white cheeks which shone with the soft radiance of a face powder made out of crushed pearls. A most delicious and strange perfume, evanescent, was wafted around her.

All the visitors were served with wine in large golden cups beset with jewels, and they only took their seats after having been pressed to do so time and again.

"What a happy and splendidly-omened day," said Lai Pao to Li Ho-Lu, "it augurs well for the future."

The girl friends of Silver Lotus and the male portion of the favourite disciples were all present and so was Singing Nightingale, who kept as close as possible to Li Wang Ho, who was seated by the side of Silver Lotus; both occupying equal seats of honour on this occasion.

"I wonder what friend Lu-shun would have to say about all this, were he here?" said Shu Tong to Ying Po Ching.

"Yes," replied the latter, "I really had to let him have his own way with the 'Master' of the Yin Yang yesterday, for it was so amusing to hear how he put that charlatan in his place, as if he were overcome with high-minded pretended indignation."

"The Master seems to think that Lu-shun has the making of a fine disciple," said Shu Tong.

"I believe so too," replied the other, "but we must keep a strict hand on him for a while lest he forgets himself again. He is like an unset topaz, but once he finds that our beloved Sage is really one of the most benign, lovable and wise men in the Empire he will fit himself into the present setting and become a shining asset; he has plenty of personality."

"That fellow Wang Ch'ung made a great muddle of his amiable efforts to please everybody yesterday," said Shu Tong. "He was versatile, but when at last he shrunk away he must have been filled with melancholy emotions."

"He trusted to the intervention of benevolent Spirits," replied Ying Po Ching, "but such as are benevolent to his kind cannot find entry here!"

"I fear we shall not see the merry scamp again," said Shu Tong, "he was amusing while it lasted."

But Shu Tong was wrong, for at that moment the "High" Master of the Yin Yang entered; full of bows and smiles and bland greetings. Approaching the Place of Honour he saluted the Sage and Silver Lotus, and, holding out a small parcel, wrapped in vividly coloured silk, was on the point of handing it over to the Favourite Lady when at a sign of Li Wang Ho two stalwart servants approached him from behind.

"May I have the inestimable honour, sweet Lady, as the Master of the Yin Yang, with many blessings, honoured and peacock-eyed one" . . . . . . . . . At this moment the servants took him by the arms and persuasively conducted him to the outer Gate, to his well-merited, bewildered and undignified confusion.

"As the Master" . . . . . . . . .he began again, when a large and hairy hand was placed over his protesting mouth. Wriggling like an eel he shook himself free for a moment and continued: "of the Yin Yang of honourable" . . . . . . . . .By this time the door was reached but his voice could be heard saying: "degree and importance" . . . . . . . . .when there was a thud in the distance; the Gate banged, and a moment later the grinning servants re-entered, wiping their hands and readjusting their sandals, which had become somewhat disarranged in the process of bidding farewell and speeding the elegant but rather obtuse Wang Ch'ung on his way out of the house of Li Wang Ho and also out of this story.

The visitors all looked at each other in well-bred and honourable astonishment, until the voice of Li Ho-Lu was heard saying: "Here was one greedy for unearned profits. Having had one lesson already, his dull mind was not content with the graceful manner in which one of us indicated to him in the most polished and forbearing manner that his presence was rather superfluous here. Greed always comes before a thud!"

Li Wang Ho spoke, and said: "The greedy person's hunger is never stilled. The more he fills himself with food, riches, honours, or empty information—the emptier he feels; the emptier he feels the more he hungers; until his bubble of greediness bursts and he becomes emptier than a hole in the air. This is the only way in which a greedy person learns the emptiness of him who is filled with greed."

Heart's Delight asked: "Is it not wrong for a man to abuse another, and even shout him down?"

"Yes," replied the Sage, "but remember that it is better to be abused than ignored; and if you are angered by abuse, suspect yourself as much as you should suspect a person who is overloud in his praise of you. And if abuse provokes you, be sure that it is your own opinion of yourself which bears out the aspersions of your traducer. Be indifferent to abuse, but despise praise. And the louder your opponent shouts, the less is he sure of himself; for noise is ever the sign of incompetence and cowardice.

"Big words are generally employed to conceal the littleness of the ideas they try to express; and bluster is the braying of the ass-like man: for is it not true that the noisy grasshopper cannot even move a little twig, while the silent elephant can uproot a tree?"

A merry burst of conversation broke out as the disciples told the visitors of the happenings on the previous day, and shouts of laughter greeted the repetition of some of the quaint and diverting sayings of Lu-shun and his wordy opponent.

So sped the happy time, and now Li Wang Ho rose up and all were still to listen to his words.

Introducing Singing Nightingale as a new member of his household, telling the gathering of the lad's great talents, he added: "And I will ask you to hear a short poem he has composed in honour of tomorrow's great event. He will accompany himself on the Moon-Guitar."

Singing Nightingale came forward and sang the Song of:

The emperor's Palace

The Emperor's Golden Palace
Lies shining in the Sun.

Four porcelain Towers stand around,
Which gracefully to heaven bound.
Ten thousand silver bells, so sweet,
Have they, whose tinkling sounds ring out to greet
The happiness that dwells in Summer's Air,
When Silver Maid with mien so fair
Comes forth in answers to those sounds.
And all the flowers in the Palace Grounds
Lift up their lovely heads and listen;
The goldfish in the lakes do jump with joy and glisten
Within their deep cool pools of green and amethystine
Shades. And all the birds sing jubilant songs
In multicoloured feathery throngs
As Silver Lotus passes by in glowing ardour,
To meet her Royal Lover in the arbour
Within the Gardens of the Emperor's Golden Palace—
A-shining in the Sun!

This lovely Song, sung and played with fervid artistry, aroused the assembly to the greatest enthusiasm, and all crowded around the Singer and showered upon him colourful compliments and congratulations. That one so young should be able to compose such a sunny, aureate picture in a few words, not to mention the masterly melody he had added to the Poem, was the wonder of all.

But Singing Nightingale—auspicious and happy-omened name—heard only half of what was being said to him and had eyes for no one but Silver Lotus; who smiled down upon him from her seat of honour. When a little more quietness reigned again, one of the visitors remarked to Li Wang Ho that the lad was evidently inspired by the beauty of nature, of things, and of the rare human beings who can truly be considered beautiful in every way, such as was shown in the perfection of the Lady Silver Lotus herself.

To this the Sage replied: "Beauty and ugliness are the same. For not only does beauty lie in the eye of the beholder, as ugliness also does (and who shall therefore say with true authority that this is ugly and that beautiful), but they are both aspects of the same illusion . . . . . . . . . viewed from different angles.

"True beauty," he continued, "lies not in the outward appearance of a thing, or a living being. The real beauty of an object of Art, a Figure, a Painting, or a building, for instance, lies in the hidden ecstasy which inspired their creators. It lies in the Message they receive from the Higher Beings, and in their ability to receive that Message and give it shape; just as the ability of the beholder to see in every detail that same beauty is an equal gift from the Heavenly Ones.

"As there are numberless grades of artistic ability to execute the messages of the Gods and give them form, so there exists a similar number of states of inspired attunement which will enable the beholders or listeners to receive that message too—by means of reflections from their own minds—and interpret it to a greater or lesser extent. Some will receive the Message in full and attain to a state of ecstasy equal to the original inspiration; others will be able to reflect less; some will reflect nothing of the beauty but will feel antagonistic towards it; and upon the grade of antagonism will depend the strength of their aversion, which, in their case, may turn a thing of beauty into one of ugliness.

"Can a crude Barbarian appreciate the elevated state of a highly civilized Race? No! He will only be able to rejoice in things of brutal strength, and adore Idols, which to a civilized person seem hideous.

"But are such things really hideous? Again no! For within their seeming ugliness lies hidden an ideal; no matter how unevolved and wrong this ideal may seem to be to others of a different temperament or state of evolution.

"But . . . . . . . . . if that which a Barbarian, an unevolved person, or a decadent one admires evinces lust, cruelty, or hatred: then there is true ugliness in both the manifestation itself (and therefore in the mind of its maker, and in the source whence he received his inspiration) and in the mind of the admirer.

"Real beauty lies hidden within the material shape or expression (whether in animate or inanimate objects), and can only be perceived with the eye of the spirit; for it is always of a material nature and sent to console Man for all the unpleasant things that come to pass from time to time during his span of material existence. Therefore, the material eye or mind knows not what real beauty or real ugliness is; and man cannot judge it in this way, but must wait until he has learned to overcome and see through the webs of illusion which surround him on all sides, so that he can penetrate spiritually into the inner regions of beauty."

"But," asked one of the guests, "is it not just as important, Master Li Wang Ho, to possess an equal amount of knowledge of the more material things in this world? It seems to this humble and uninformed speaker, who has little understanding of the finer shades of the Arts, and even less of the elevated wisdom of such great Philosophers and Sages as yourself—although he is a great admirer of all Arts and Philosophies—that, being placed in a material world within a material body, we cannot apprehend the higher unless we first fully understand the lower worlds?"

"This is extremely well spoken," replied Li Wang Ho, recognizing in the speaker one of the highest authorities on the ancient as well as modern Arts in all their multifarious manifestations and ramifications; a man of a refined and elegant personality, living at the Capital and famous throughout the Empire for his superior attainments in this and other directions.

"It is well said," continued the Master, "that to be like Yau, Shun and Yü is to be perfect; and although our present Lord of the Empire has commanded that all the Books of Ancient History should be destroyed (for they contained a great mass of misinformation entirely useless to a proper understanding of the wonderful times we live in today, and of an even greater future, when all the present innovations shall have had time to expand and come to full fruitage), there are certain undeniable periods in our history of which we have definite knowledge, in which certain great personalities left an indelible mark upon this Celestial Realm. Our present Emperor—the greatest of all the Rulers I have in mind—is always the first to acknowledge the accomplishments of his really great predecessors, and I therefore may speak freely.

"Let us consider our first historically known Emperor, the divine Hu-hi—a Son of God of supernatural powers, who first established social order among our People; who had up to then lived like animals in the wilds. Ruling from 6732 until 6618 before this year of our present era, he was the first to establish family life by introducing matrimony. He taught our people to hunt, fish and keep flocks; constructed musical instruments in order to prepare their minds for higher developments by means of the first Art they had ever contacted, and he gave them hieroglyphics, in order to replace the knot-writing previously in use.

"Then we have the Emperor Schon-ming, the divine Labourer, who lived 26 centuries ago; he who invented the agricultural instruments which are still in use today, and taught our people the medicinal properties of numerous plants and herbs.

"Then we have him who built the first Temples, houses and cities, and regulated the calendar, to which he added the intercalary month; namely the Emperor Huang-ti, and his wife, the Lady Si-ling, who first succeeded in the rearing of silkworms and the manufacture of silk.

"In the Shû-King, the Canon of History, edited by K'ung Fu-tze himself, you can read of our Emperor Yau, living about 2,100 years ago, who was the greatest Emperor of all, the most perfect Sovereign who had all the virtues; and his equally famous successor Shun; followed again by Shü, who saved the country from utter destruction threatened by the Great Flood, by cutting canals through the hills, thus allowing the waters to escape.

"All these Emperors concentrated on the material advantages and taught our people to have a larger understanding of all material things and conditions, thus preparing them for the further eventual developments of their spiritual qualities.

"And now, in these latter days, when all the Arts and Sciences flourish exceedingly on account of the great men who did so much to awaken in the minds of our people the potentialities of Good Conduct—as in the case of K'ung Fu-tze, and Spiritual and Divine Wisdom, as taught by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching, bringing that holy attunement with all that is elevated and good—without which no great Arts, Philosophies and Sciences can flourish—we have introduced to us the Teachings of the Lord Buddha, telling us that real merit lies not in works, but solely in Purity and Wisdom combined.

"Religion cannot be learnt from Books, but solely from the presence of the Buddha within the heart of Man; and each must search within his own heart in order to find Him and hear His Divine Voice. Only when he has accomplished that will he be able in this or a future life to hear the Voices of the Divine Beings in the Upper Regions and become a Master of the Arts and of the Philosophies, and, last of all, of the Hidden Wisdom—which will be given to him by the Voice of the Buddha within his heart, who is always in contact with those in the Higher Worlds of God.

"Thus," he continued, "your question was entirely right, and uttered at the right moment. Too often do those who are fascinated by the study of the Higher Knowledge forget that they are still in a material region. Knowing that there all is Illusion they neglect their duties as material beings sometimes; forgetting that whatever messages they receive are not only meant for themselves but for their fellows also; so far as the latter are able to comprehend. This neglect of the material is just as wrong as ignoring the spiritual part of Man; there should be a perfect balance between the material and spiritual; then the beauty of spiritual inspiration, expressed in a material manner outwardly, will be understood with the aid of the inner eye of the spiritual mind, aided by the material organs of sight and hearing . . . . . and so we can arrive at that necessary balance I have just mentioned and know what true beauty and true ugliness really are."

Li Wang Ho continued: "The ancient Sages, too, honoured what was within and sought pleasure in what was without; thus achieving a correct relative proportion of what was due to both the within and the without."

One of the visitors now asked: "Should we always be serious in all we do and so avoid the absurdities of what people call 'fun' and 'amusement'? Is life not too short already if we really wish to make moral and mental progress?"

To this Li Wang Ho answered: "It is as necessary to indulge in innocent fun as air is needed to make a fire burn. The person who is always serious is unbalanced, and if we gave ear to the enemies of light-hearted enjoyment, we might just as well blot out the sun and destroy every flower the Gods have made so that we might have some beauty and pleasure in life. Amusement and fun counterbalance serious thought and study, and the man who spends a certain amount of time in merriment is more ready for the deeper aspects of life than the one who always dwells in gloom.

"Though there is no absurdity which has not its defender, if the absurdity will be too stupid it will destroy itself in the end, and there is no need to worry about it. But good fun, which keeps young the heart and mind, is like true virtue: we cannot do without it, and it will keep people away from vice."

"How shall one best succeed in any undertaking?" asked another visitor.

"The inferior man," replied the Sage, "runs round in agitated circles, now trying this, then the other, always on the watch for fortunate omens. But the superior man awaits with fortitude the decrees of Heaven and only acts at the appointed time.

"And when he has to visit the other end of the City, he starts from his own doorway and walks upon the road—unless he is carried by his bearers; and he does not risk his life by jumping from roof to roof like an eager ape, bent on mischief.

"The lesser kind are like the careless servant who has just smashed the piece of priceless jade: she looks around for the cause of her mishap, forgetting that it is the result of her own ineptitude.

"In the same manner the inferior person destroys success in all he undertakes by omitting to take counsel from on high. Go within and hearken to the voice of thy Heavenly Guide.

"As K'ung Fu-tze has said: 'When the superior man has free course with his principles, that is what we call success; when such course is denied, that is what we call failure.' You will now have a better understanding of what he meant by this.

"And always remember that he who has drunk from a cup of jade, should not shake it out afterwards; for thus he might smash the vessel of good fortune!"

Moonbeam now asked: "How shall one deal with scandal?"

The Master replied: "If you hear of a person being slandered, the best thing is never to believe that which ought not to be the truth. The busybody is generally a person who has nothing else to do; but it is also a fact that if scandal were a kite that threatened to fall for lack of wind, all the bystanders would puff their hardest to keep it in the air and make it rise still higher! It is easy to speak well about a stranger; but it is difficult for most not to blame the nearest friend.

"There is a relish in scandal which tickles the moral palate of the unmoral. But the best way to deal with talebearers is to show that you are not amused; for the righteous find no pleasure in unrighteousness."

"What is the best way of dealing with an impertinent person?" asked another guest.

"Show me an impertinent person and you show me a conceited one without breeding," replied the Sage.

"An impertinent person, or an impudent one is always a fool who is proud of the greatness of his littleness. He will hold all others in contempt, thus scarring his own unworthy self without being aware of it. In his conceit he will be the easy victim of the suave, who behold him with an inward but irrefutable sneer. The only form of reason an impertinent man has is prejudice in his own favour.

"And the only way to deal with impertinence is to forgive and forget it; ever after preventing all contact with such an individual."

"What is the real value of studying antiquity?" asked a scholarly-looking individual.

"If we study antiquity," replied Li Wang Ho, "and consider the great men who lived and wrought in those ancient times, we not only learn but become delighted in the end if we apply ourselves and behold truth's bright countenance. The ruins of these ancient worlds were once their glory, just as our present glory will lead to ruin at last. This is a rule of Nature in the manifested worlds, and nothing can prevent the fulfilment of this eternal Law.

"In the study of history lies all wisdom; all subtlety and wit, that is to say: if we apply that which we have learnt from history. Once the love of study has been planted within the mind, nothing can uproot it again. Study is also a way of escape from the troubles of life.

"There is no greater treasure than learning; for the learnéd man will enjoy the company of his own thoughts. But mere learning does not constitute wisdom. But who will visit the rich man if the wise man makes him welcome? The truly wise are respected—the rich envied. And has not Mèng-Zî declared that: 'He who respects others is respected by them'? So what greater benefit can one receive than being respected by the wise men we respect?

"To look up to a wise man is good; for thus one forgets to look down upon others. And if we are able to respect a wise contemporary, how much more shall we respect the sagacious men of antiquity, who are the Teachers of the erudite of today, who have been enriched with the spoils of Wisdom which time has consecrated?

"The Wisdom of Antiquity is the Star by which we steer our ship of life into a safe harbour, for it is better to forget the new and unproved notions of to-day than not to remember the well-founded learning of the profound Sages of long ago."

Now Silver Lotus spoke and asked: "How shall we best be able to believe in God?"

Li Wang Ho turned to her and said: "Only a fool believes there is no God, no Deity; and even he is not certain: for he can only believe in his own denial, and never know the Truth. But if such a one is alone in the darkness of night, or in peril, he sheds his disbelief in God like a snake casts off its scaly hide.

"If a man has no belief in God, he cannot have any belief in man either; never call such a one your friend, for his heart is empty of all goodness and full of viciousness. Therefore it becomes expedient for him to deny God!

"And it is remarkable that there never was, or can be, a woman who denies God.

"The shallow philosopher believes there is no God; but the true Philosopher adores the Makers and Manifesters of all we behold. A great Barbarian has said that atheism is a disease of the soul before it becomes an error of the understanding. He was only partly right, for the Soul is God and never subject to disease. For how could that which is perfect and God be imperfect at any time?

"The denier of God is as bad as the bigot, for both shut out the truth, the first by denial, the second by fear. As the atheist has no faith in God, so has the bigot no faith in the goodness of God whom he turns into an evil spectre, suffering from chronic dogmatism, clothed with the devil's mantle, armed with a veil of pseudo-holiness with which to hide his own iniquities. A bigot is a man who claims sole rights of entrance to Heaven; but he will find that God cannot be persuaded to sign an agreement with him: for such contracts are made with Satan alone!

"Neither the bigot nor the atheist has therefore any judgement, and the false fire of their overheated imaginations will burn them up in the end.

"The man without Faith, the man who is sceptical of all that seems good, is generally the most gullible person who will accept the improbable, or even the impossible, such as the absence of a Divine Ruler. For the credulous person believes first of all in evil, and if he ever is forced to believe in goodness he does so only after much reluctant reflection. Such persons are without Faith, and their only belief lies in perfidy.

"But the person who has true Faith is possessed of that heroism which will lead him to God, though his Way be lit by utter Darkness. And he will make that darkness shine with the Illumination of his Faith and Aspiration.

"Therefore believe, have Faith, and Trust in the God whose divine Emanations enfold and pervade all the manifested Worlds—though they are but reflections from the senses of the Creators and of Man, and little things in themselves. For if you trust God in little things, how much more sublime will be the greatness of that which He will bestow upon your Faithful Soul when it has done with the material realms for the time being."

The Master ceased speaking, and now the servants brought in a number of different indoor games, so that the visitors should be able to amuse themselves in diverse ways. There were some who began to play chess, or dominoes, others played various card-games, some were guessing fingers, the loser having to drink a large beaker of wine, whilst others still were telling stories. A few more belated callers had arrived and presented Silver Lotus with packets of acacia incense—the symbol of health—or beautiful jade boxes filled with all sorts of flower seeds—the symbol of lovely children. One even presented a gorgeously carved bowl full of uncooked rice—the symbol of prosperity. Some of the guests wandered around the various apartments, admiring the tasteful arrangement of everything and the many art-treasures, making of the house almost a museum. There was an aviary full of beautiful birds, tanks of rare angel-goldfish, herbariums and pots of exotic flowers, vivariums containing all kinds of living specimens of strange animals and insects. There were jewels, scrolls, books, silken draperies embroidered with mystical figures of celestials, men, animals, birds and fishes in gold-thread on coloured silk; fans, bronze vases, and many other graceful things—mostly presents from grateful disciples. Others went into the Court of Ancestors with its Central Hall, reading the tablets of all those forefathers of the Sage who had ascended to the Upper Heavens.

A continuous hum of happy talk hung like an auspicious rosy cloud of Spring within the precincts and the inner parts of the Master's home.

Silver Lotus and Li Wang Ho beheld it all with the content of peaceful and virtuous minds, and the latter said: "You have learned long ago, my sweet daughter, that the three obediences of a woman are: before her marriage to her father, during marriage to her husband, and in widowhood to her son; may you never experience the last. It is also well to remember that that which we desire most is always full of virtue. For this reason it is wise to bear in mind always what the virtues were we saw in the things we once desired so ardently, and not to be blind to them afterwards, when most of us are inclined to forget these same virtues after we have become inured to them by continuous propinquity.

"This applies especially to the state of married bliss; and in this forgetfulness lies the real danger of discontent following happiness. It is true that Fate defeats even the greatest physician, but were it not for illnesses there would be no doctors. Until Fate decides the parting of the ways let there be no need for 'doctors' in the shape of 'friendly' advisers to thee, my child, when the inevitable moments of friction arrive and the faltering human mind is assailed by doubts. Free thyself whenever this occurs by resolutely refusing to notice anything amiss, and breathe no word to any one of thy perplexities—for this would give them more definite shape. By ignoring them they dissolve into nothingness, and it will be as if they never were; which is literally true, for nothing is ever what we imagine it to be.

"But, knowing my sweet Silver Maid, there is really no need to talk to thee like a garrulous old man."

"Oh, belovéd Master, and dear sweet Father of my Heart and Soul," replied Silver Lotus with a sob in her voice, "never call thyself that; ignorant as I am, possessing but little real Wisdom, it would have been still worse if I had not had the felicity to dwell within the Light of thy Love, Kindness and wise Protection; spiritually, intellectually and physically. Never shall I forget thy wise teachings, and what thou hast said to me just now will for ever be engraved upon the tablets of my memory. How can I ever thank thee and show my eternal love and gratitude?"

And now the visitors began to take their leave, for evening was drawing on apace; it being near the hour of the Dog.

When the last one had gone and Li Wang Ho, Silver Lotus and Singing Nightingale alone remained, the Maiden went into the garden to take a silent farewell of all that had been so dear to her heart until now; nor would she ever forget.

Singing Nightingale followed her with his eyes as she slowly strolled about in deep meditation, her eyes filled with tears; now standing before the Lotus Pool, again softly touching a velvety bloom or flowering shrub.

Hastily the lad fetched a scroll of paper and began to write rapidly.

Li Wang Ho, who had watched both without a word or movement, went over softly to the writer after a few moments, and, when the latter had evidently applied the last stroke of his brush, he said: "What are you writing, my Son?"

Singing Nightingale handed over the scroll without speaking, and the Sage read:

Singing Nightingale's Song

The breeze blew softly,
The Spring-rain was falling,
And in the spreading branches of the lofty
Tree a bird's melodious voice was calling.

The cherry-trees in glorious bloom,
The flower-embroidered field,
Light up the twilight's deepening gloom
Before the day to night does yield.

The sickle of the argent Moon
Rides in the sky, and stars will soon
Come out and shyly peep
At Silver Lotus, who now does keep
A final tryst with all the sweet
Surroundings which she'll never meet
Again, when to the loving arms
Of her beloved she has fled
And made surrender of her charms—
So heavenly that all
The birds, the trees and flowers,
The stars and Moon shall
Fade to nought; and rose-clad bowers
Seem colourless when in the hours
Of Happiness her Lord shall Bless
Her coming with a soft caress.

The Master drew the lad towards him and kissed his brow in the silence which had descended like a benediction on the place so lately filled with happy talk and laughter.

NEXT— Chapter Six: The Garden of Delight

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© COPYRIGHT J Michaud PhD and — all rights reserved