Their tenderness was deeper than the sea
For it was past sounding,
Their love was as the mountains
But even higher.
Also, since Chia had been admitted to her favor, rich Lords and powerful Ministers were no longer permitted to see the girl’s beauty. At first Li used to give large sums of money, so that the matron to whom Shih-niang belonged, shrugged her shoulders and smiled. But the days went quickly, and the months too; and a year had passed. Chia’s coffers had gradually become empty; and now his hand could no longer keep pace with his wishes. But the ancient ma-ma remained patient.
In the meanwhile the Judge had learned that his son was frequenting the theatre, and sent him repeated orders to return home. But Chia, who was infatuated, kept on delaying his departure until, hearing that his father was truly furious, he no longer dared to return. It was well said by the ancients: “As long as harmony endures there is unity; when harmony ceases, there is separation.”
Shih-niang’s love was sincere, and her heart only burned the more for him whose hands were empty. The ma-ma frequently ordered her to send her lover away; then, seeing that the young girl was indifferent to her commands, she tried to exasperate Chia with stinging words, hoping thus to compel him to depart. But her visitor’s nature was so gentle that his anger could not be provoked, and the only result was to make him more amiable in his behavior to the old woman, who in her impotence ended in reproaching Shih-niang:
“We who keep open doors must eat our visitors three times a day, and clothe ourselves with them. We lead out the departing guest by one door, but to receive a fresh one by another. When desire is excited under our roof, our silver and silks mount up like hills. But it is more than a year since this Li Chia began troubling your curtains, and now old patrons and new guests alike have discontinued their visiting. The spirit Chung-k’uci no longer comes to our door; nay, not the littlest devil. Therefore I am angry and humiliated. What will become of us, now that we have no trace of visitors?”
Shih-niang restrained herself with difficulty under these reproaches, and answered calmly:
“Young Lord Li did not come here with empty hands. He has paid us considerable sums of money.”
“It was so at one time; but it is now so no longer. Tell him to give me enough to pay for rice for the two of you.... Indeed, I have no luck! Most of the girls I buy claim all the silver, and hardly care whether their clients live or die. But now I have reared a white tiger who refuses riches, opens wide the door, and makes my old body bear the total burden. O miserable child! You wish to keep the poor for nothing. Where will you find clothes and food? Tell your beggar to be wise enough to give me a few ounces of silver. If you will not send him away, I shall sell you and look for another slave. That would be better for both of us.”