A Fickle Widow part 2

“Your wrists are not strong enough for such work,” he said. “Let me relieve you at it.”

“By all means,” replied the lady briskly. “Here is the fan, and I shall owe you an everlasting debt of gratitude if you will fan it dry as quickly as possible.”

Ornament hairpins

Without more ado, Chwang set to work, and by the exercise of his magical powers he extracted every drop of moisture from the grave with a few waves of the fan. The lady was delighted with his success, and with the sunniest smile said, “How can I thank you sufficiently for your kindness! As a small mark of my gratitude, let me present you with this embroidered fan which I had in reserve; and as a token of my esteem, I really must ask you to accept one of my silver hairpins.” With these words she presented the philosopher with the fan, and drawing out one of her ornamented hairpins, she offered it for his acceptance. The philosopher took the fan, but, possibly having the fear of Lady T’ien before his eyes, he declined the pin. The incident made him thoughtful, and as he seated himself again in his thatched hall, he sighed deeply.

“Why are you sighing?”’ inquired the Lady T’ien, who happened to enter at that moment, “and where does the fan come from which you hold in your hand?”

Thus invited, Chwang related all that had passed at the tomb. As he proceeded with the tale, Lady T’ien’s countenance fell, and when he had concluded she broke forth indignantly, inveighing against the young widow, who she vowed was a disgrace to her sex. So soon as she had exhausted her vituperations, Chwang quietly repeated the prov-erb, “Knowing men’s faces is not like knowing their hearts.”

Interpreting this use of the saying as implying some doubts as to the value of her protestations, Lady T’ien exclaimed:

“How dare you condemn all women as though they were all formed in the same mold with this shameless widow? I wonder you are not afraid of calling down a judgment on yourself for such an injustice to me, and others like me.”

“What need is there of all this violence?” rejoined her husband. “Now, tell me, if I were to die, would you, possessed as you are of youth and beauty, be content to remain a widow for five, or even three?

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