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View Full Version : Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China (26)



xlwoo
September 18th, 2015, 01:02 PM
Chapter 26

Before long Linda entered a district in the southwestern China, where many minorities lived. The weather is warm there. Some minorities lived in houses made of bamboos instead of logs. The bamboo houses were not put up on the ground. They were high above the ground. People erected many thick bamboos with the big ends firmly in the ground like pillars. Then they built the horizontal floor at about a person’s height with the bamboo stairs from the ground up for the access, then the bamboo walls with windows. Everything inside was also made of bamboo.
Linda lodged in one of the houses. She climbed up the bamboo stairs into the outer room. The family had two children, a boy of ten and a girl of nine. Everyone just sat on the bamboo floor around a low bamboo table. Then supper was served. It was rice cooked inside a piece of hollow bamboo trunk. The rice had a special good scent. Linda never tasted such rice before and liked it.
When it was bed time, Linda got a quilt as a mattress put on the bamboo floor and a sheet of cloth as a cover. It was not so comfortable as a bed, but tolerable. The only annoying thing was the squeaking of the bamboo floor when she turned on the quilt.
Life was easy here. Linda loved to stay longer. She could pay the family for that. She guessed that no one could find her if she lived here. However, she wanted to travel further to see more of this beautiful district. She could come back any time when she had enough of roaming.
Next day she took leave of the family and went further west. She walked by a stream and saw some girls ahead, washing clothes in it. When Linda passed them, one of the girls threw some water on her, which wetted her clothes a little. She turned to look what the matter was.
There was a peculiar tradition among this minority about the girls selecting their husbands. When a girl was at waterside, if she saw a passing boy she liked, whether it was her kinsfolk or a total stranger, she would throw some water on him. The tradition decided that if the boy ignored the girl and went straight ahead, it meant that the boy did not like the girl and that if the boy turned to look at the girl, it meant that the boy liked the girl and the girl must marry the boy.
Nevertheless, Linda did not know the tradition and turned to look at the girl. Now all the girls ran up to surround her. Linda was at a loss what to do. The girls did not say anything to Linda, just pushed her toward the village at a distance. Linda had to follow them.
They reached a house, made of logs as pillars and dried mud plastered on some wooden frames as walls. A girl pushed Linda into the house, which consisted only of one room. There was a table and some benches. Linda sat on one of the benches, waiting to see what would happen next. She must still pretend to be mute.
Since there were a few girls, Linda did not know which girl had thrown water on her as she had not witnessed the action. Linda thought the girl pushing her in was the one throwing water on her, but actually she was wrong. The girl splashing water on her would be the bride tonight and was hiding somewhere else.
The girl pushing Linda in was leaning on the door jamb. Other girls were nowhere to be seen. The girl must have been told to watch over her lest she should run away. Linda did not know what they wanted of her. Suddenly she had a surmise that they might kill her as a sacrifice to their deity. She had read that such things did happen with the primitive natives in Africa. It was better that she should escape now. She could easily conquer this girl as she had been an athlete at school. She was about to stand up and rush forth when a group of girls and women came into sight. Linda had to stop and kept sitting where she was.
Two women came in while the girls stood outside. One of the women congratulated Linda, saying that she had been chosen to be the husband of the girl who had splashed water on her. Now Linda became aware of the reason why they brought her here. It was the second time that such things happened to her. She had had some experience before and now showed some amusement on her face. At least she could be at rest that she would not be killed as a sacrifice to a deity.
She said ah-ah and made some gestures to show that she was mute. She reckoned that they might not want to have a mute as the girl’s husband. Then to the woman’s surprise she found the boy mute. But the tradition maintained that once the relationship was decided by the throwing of water on the girl’s part and the affirmative reaction of the boy, they could not go back on it, no matter whether the boy was a mute or a cripple or one having much more serious conditions.
The woman was the mother of the would-be bride. The sole comfort she got was that the boy was very handsome, the handsomest among all the husbands the girls in the village had married.
Then the women and the girls all left except the one leaning against the door jamb. Linda did not need to flee now. Besides, she had a secret weapon to use if she was cornered.
Soon it was dinner time. Another woman came to take Linda to a square where there was a wedding party ready. Linda was arranged to sit beside the bride. Food was put on the table and Linda felt very hungry. So she just helped herself to everything served. When dinner was finished, everybody stood up and went to sit on the ground around a bonfire. According to the tradition, the bride and the bridegroom should dance and sing round the bonfire to entertain the guests.
Linda thought that it was time to reveal her identity. She shouted aloud, “Sorry, I can’t marry her.” Everyone was stunned hearing a girl’s ringing voice issued from the mute boy. No one said anything. So Linda went on, “I’m really a girl myself. I put on a boy’s clothes because it’s more convenient for me to travel. How can a girl marry a girl?”
Finally it dawned on the people in the square. But it was not the stranger’s fault. She did not know their tradition and she had the freedom to disguise herself as a boy.
The bride began to burst into laughter as if it was the most laughable thing in the world. The other girls chuckled and giggled. Since the time of their ancestors, they had never got a fake boy for a husband. This time the disappointed bride hit the “jackpot”.
It seemed as if the laughing was infectious and all the people started to guffaw, too. Linda could not help smiling. Laughing made the awkward situation turn into a merry moment. At least no harm was done to the bride and she could still find a husband.
Gradually the laughter abated and the young people, girls and boys, recommenced dancing and singing. Why not make the merry moment last longer?
Linda joined in the dancing. She learned fast and danced to the tune of the singing. Linda had now changed into a girl’s dress she had got as a memento, the white long dress reaching her ankles. She looked like a goddess from the heaven. Three boys, who thought themselves handsome enough to be the husband of Linda, wanted to befriend Linda first. There was another tradition among this minority that once a month there would be a gathering of young people. During the dancing and singing, a boy could court a girl. The way of courting was special. The boy sang out love words in the song he improvised on the spot. If the girl agreed to marry the boy, she could sing back with the words of consent. Then the parents of both families would arrange their wedding party.
The three boys took the opportunity to turn the occasion into a courting gathering. They danced around Linda and sang the love words. But as Linda did not understand what all this meant, all their efforts were in vain. When the boys saw that Linda could not respond in the way the tradition demanded, they resorted to the other alternative means. Each of them plucked a pretty wild flower and offered it to Linda. If she accepted the flower of any of them, Linda should marry him.
Since the previous experience, Linda became wary. But before she had time to react, three girls rushed over here to Linda’s rescue. One of them pulled Linda away from the boys. It was because the three girls were fond of the three boys and were waiting for the boys to respectively court them. So they did not want any of them to marry the alien girl.
Linda was towed to the circle with the bride in. Other girls were teasing her. On seeing Linda coming, the bride scurried over and shouted to Linda, “You are my friend though you can’t be my husband. Pray, stay with us if you are not on an urgent errand.”
“I’m just traveling and sightseeing. I can stay for a while.” Linda said honestly.
During Linda’s stay, the three boys often came to visit her, but every time they appeared, there were the three girls with Linda. And they acted like Linda’s bodyguards against the boys.
The three girls secretly wished that Linda should leave soon though they could not drive her away. Linda could guess what was happening. Therefore, after ten days, she departed to the delight of the three girls and to the disappointment of the three boys.