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xlwoo
May 10th, 2014, 03:26 PM
Chapter 33

When Linda revealed her true identity in the critical situation, she knew that they would send her to the capital. She was prepared for it, which would be better than to be spanked on the bare buttocks. Now she no longer had any need to go to the church in Yangchow City. She had to take Danba with her to live in the capital.
They both sat in a pompous coach specially made for her. Danba had never seen such a coach before, let alone to sit in it. The coach was guarded by a battalion of soldiers. When they reached the next city, the soldiers were sent back and the mayor of this city sent the soldiers there to escort Linda to the capital. Therefore, the coach with the two girls inside was like a stick in the hands of the runners in a relay race till the final runner reached the finish line.
The head eunuch was exulted when he got the news that Linda had been found. It was almost a year since Linda had disappeared. He reported the happy news to the empress dowager and the emperor. Both of them felt happy, too, because they really liked the girl.
“Your slave must report to Your Majesties, Empress Dowager and Emperor, your slave’s humble wife brings another girl with her. It is said that the other girl belongs to a minority in the southwestern part of Your Majesty’s domain.” This was also a custom that a simple thing should be said in complication when reporting to the royal family.
“How old is the other girl?” asked the emperor, who was always interested in girls though he had already the empress and several royal concubines. If he came to like any of the palace maids, he could rightfully possess her as another concubine.
“Your slave got report from the mayor of that city that the girl is thirteen years of age.”
“Too young for me.” The emperor thought to himself. “The mayor did a good thing and I will reward him by promoting him to a higher rank.”
“Your slave thanks Your Majesty for him.” The head eunuch got on his knees and kowtowed three times. It was the palace ritual.
Three days later Linda arrived in the capital. When the head eunuch got the report, he hastened out to meet her after he reported the news to the empress dowager and the emperor and got their approval. He met Linda at the gate of the city. Although Linda had always been disgusted with the emasculated man, twenty years older than herself, she was now moved by his sincerity and warmth toward her.
The head eunuch had been granted for three days’ absence from his palace duties. Now they gathered in their sitting room. Linda introduced Danba to him. Then the boy came forward to kowtow to Linda, who was his adoptive mother.
After a sumptuous dinner, Linda told her husband and her son all that had happened to her after she had been separated from the boy and the two yamen bailiffs. When she came to the story about how she had been mistaken for a goddess and people there kowtowed to her and kissed her feet, the head eunuch and the boy could not but burst into laughter. The eunuch said to Danba, “Now you know she is my wife, not a goddess.”
“But she looks very much like the statue of the goddess in our temple.” The girl said.
“But if she is a goddess, she will take you flying to heaven, not travel to here.” The eunuch tried to persuade her.
When Linda and the eunuch retired to their bedroom, they discussed what they should do with Danba. “We can either send her home escorted by soldiers, or let her stay with us.” The eunuch added, “What do you think, my beloved wife?”
“I’ll talk to her tomorrow to see what she thinks. She’s a nice girl. I don’t want to force her to accept our arrangement.” Linda observed. The eunuch made no objection.
Next day, when Linda consulted Danba for her own opinion, the girl said that her mother had died two years before and she had no one there to really care for her.
“Where’s your father?” Linda was curious to know. She had never asked Danba about her personal information.
“Died in an accident when I was a baby. He fell from the mountain.”
Linda sympathized with the girl and decided to let Danba live with her here. That night she told the eunuch about her decision.
“Very good.” The eunuch said, “How about we adopt her as our daughter? We have a son and now we have a daughter. Life is so happy for us.”
“Just for you, not for me.” Linda thought to herself. “Good idea.” She said aloud.
Danba was glad to learn the decision they had made for her. She could now live in such a big city and with Linda, her adoptive mother, whom she always worshiped even if she was not a goddess. Besides, she had a brother to play with.
When the head eunuch returned to his duties in the palace, he reported to the empress dowager and the emperor that they had adopted the girl Linda had brought with her as their daughter. The empress dowager was happy for them. She gave the eunuch some jewels for his foster daughter as gifts and ordered him to tell Linda to bring the girl to her presence next day. “I’d like to see the girl and I haven’t seen Linda for a long time.”
The head eunuch promised to give his wife the message and kowtowed three times as thanks for the gifts endowed to his adopted daughter. When the head eunuch went home in the evening, he conveyed to Linda the wish of her majesty that she wanted to see her and the girl next day.
Danba was so excited at the news that she kept awake the whole night. She had never dreamt that she could visit the palace some day in her life. When the first rays of the sun shone on her windows, she jumped out from the bed, slipped into her new clothes as fast as she could and put on the jewels given to her by the empress dowager. When she stepped out of her bedroom door, she saw no one in the corridor. Usually there was bustle and hustle everywhere. Her bedroom was in the rear part of the house, where all the females lived. Now she went to the dining room in the front part of the house. Gradually she met people hastening to and fro in all the corridors. When she reached the dining room, Linda, the boy and the tutor were already there.
“Lazybones. You should get up before the sun.” Linda joked with her.
“Where’s dad?” Danba asked.
“He must arrive in the palace before five. He’s already there now.” Linda told her.
“When will we go to see the empress dowager?”
“It’s too early now. Being old, her majesty gets up late. After she’s dressed, she’ll put on some makeup and then has breakfast. She’ll be ready to see anyone after nine. But we have to reach there a bit earlier and wait to be received.”
Danba hurried down her food. The tutor and the boy had gone to their study to have lessons. Danba must learn and would join them later when she was back from the palace.
Linda and Danba rode in a beautiful coach to the palace. They were shown into an anteroom to wait there. After at least half an hour, a cry came: “Her Majesty, the Empress Dowager’s coming!”
The empress dowager stepped into the anteroom and took her seat in her accustomed throne. Linda kowtowed to her. And Danba knelt a little behind her and kowtowed, too.
Linda thought that not long before other people kowtowed to her, but now she kowtowed to someone else. The turn of things was really so unpredictable.
Linda was granted a chair when she got up. She thanked the empress dowager and sat down. Danba stood behind Linda’s chair. Then the empress dowager told the head eunuch to send for the empress and all the royal concubines. The head eunuch was off on the errand. Linda knew that the empress dowager wanted her to tell them her adventures when away from the capital.
When all the listeners arrived and were seated, Linda began her narration. As she came to the part that she had fallen from the air, had been mistaken for a goddess and the tribe people there had all kowtowed to her, the empress dowager, the empress and all the royal concubines smiled in mirth. The palace etiquette did not allow females to laugh aloud. Educated females in ancient China should be demure and quiet, especially in the palace. The eunuchs and maids standing aside could only gnash their teeth to keep them from bursting into laughter.
“She’s the girl they sent to serve me.” Linda pointed to Danba behind her. Danba lowered her head in timidity when all the eyes centered on her.
Linda finished her narration and it was already noon. The empress dowager ordered everyone to remain for lunch. Danba had never seen so many dishes served. She was allowed to sit beside Linda and shared the table and food. It took much longer to finish the lunch in the palace than in the head eunuch’s home.
After the lunch the empress dowager would take a nap and everyone must leave. Linda and Danba kowtowed their adieu to the empress dowager, the empress and all the royal concubines and stepped out of the anteroom. As they got into the open space of the front yard before the anteroom, where all those in the anteroom could see them, a queer thing happened that no one who witnessed it could believe their own eyes.
Linda and Danba suddenly were no longer there as if they evaporated into the thin air.
People inside the anteroom looked at each other. They did not know what to think. One of the royal concubines muttered to herself, but loud enough to be audible to all the people there: “Maybe, that girl with the golden hair is actually a goddess from heaven.”