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xlwoo
January 26th, 2014, 05:47 PM
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 a 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.