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xlwoo
January 11th, 2014, 05:09 PM
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.

cassie30
January 11th, 2014, 07:11 PM
Before I read this can I suggest some paragraph spacing.

xlwoo
January 18th, 2014, 05:08 PM
I did my paragraph spacing in my manuscript, but when posted here, it appears like this. I don't know how the web page functions.