Elegant’s face was purple with shame.
“It is all your child’s fault. He is the son of the Lord Wu.”
“Ya-nei? But you have never seen him! Besides, he was at the dinner with your father, and we came away at midnight. How can he be here?”
Trusting in her mother’s indulgence, the young girl confessed everything, and added:
“Your unworthy daughter has dishonored our name and lost her innocence. My crime is unpardonable. But it was the will of Heaven. There had to be that storm to make us meet, and then destiny prevented our betrothal. Our strength was too small for the struggle, and we have sworn to love each other until death. I implore you to speak to my father and appease him; for if he makes an uproar; there is nothing left for me but to die.”
Her tears fell like rain. And, while they were talking, Ya-nei’s snores sounded like thunder.
“At least make him keep quiet,” cried the mother in a fury. “We can no longer hear ourselves speak.”
And she went out, slamming the door, while Elegant hastened to awaken the sleeper.
“Really you might snore less loudly!” she said with impatience. “All is discovered now.”
When he heard this, Ya-nei’s body was frozen with terror as if he had received a drenching in cold water. His teeth chattered.
“Do not be afraid. I have asked my mother to speak for us. If my father is angry, there will be time enough for us to die then.”
The woman meanwhile had hurried to her husband, but there was a slave with him, putting the cabin in order. So she waited, and the tears rolled from her eyes. Ho Chang thought she was anxious about her daughter’s health, and reassured her:
“She will be better in a few days. The doctor said so. Do not disturb yourself.”
But she sneered at him:
“You have been listening to the flower words of old Wise-Wand. Better in a few days! She would have to be ill first!”
“What do you mean?”
Since the servant was no longer there, she told him in a low voice what she had seen and heard. Ho Chang’s anger was such that his sight was troubled. She begged him to calm himself.
“Enough! Enough!” he thundered. “This worthless daughter fouls the very air upon our threshold. We must kill them both in the night, so that none may know.”
The woman’s face became as the earth.
“We have already reached a ripe age, and this is the only flesh and bone we have. If you kill her, what will be left to us? As for Ya-nei, he is of a good family, he is intelligent, and well-built. Our stations are identical and our houses equal. His only fault is that he did not make a proposal, but rather forced everything in secret. Yet so the matter is. Would it not be better to send him back with a letter to Wu, requiring gifts of betrothal? We would lose all by making a scandal.”