Ho Chang’s rage was already half spent, and he now let himself be persuaded by degrees. He went out and asked the boatmen where they were.
“We are approaching Wu-ch’ang.”
“You will anchor there.”
He then called his confidential steward and, explaining all to him, gave him a letter. After this he went to see his daughter, who hid herself under the blanket when she beheld him. He spoke no word to her; but in a stern tone called out Ya-nei, who crept from his hiding-place, saluted the older man, and said:
“My crime deserves death.”
“How could a young man of your education commit such an act? My wife has prevailed upon me to spare your life; but, if you would redeem your fault, you must take my unworthy daughter as your wife. If this is not your intention, do not count upon my pardon.”
Ya-nei abased himself in ritual prostration.
“The honor which you do me is a reward which my conduct does not deserve,” he said. “I shall speak to my parents as soon as I return.”
Ho Chang hurried him away, without leaving him time to speak to the young girl again. She was clinging to her mother, and whispered:
“I do not know my father’s intention. Could I not have a letter from Ya-nei on his arrival?”
Her truly indulgent mother went and spoke to the steward.
The latter had already hired a boat, and, as it was night, the intruder would be able to pass from one junk to the other without being observed. They set out, while Elegant wept incessantly for sorrow and uneasiness. We must now return to the family of Wu.
After the night of Ya-nei’s departure, their boat had proceeded for several leagues before the young man’s absence was noticed. But when they called for him, and his cabin was found empty, the souls of his parents left their bodies. They howled their despair, supposing that their child had fallen unobserved into the water.
They turned the ship about, hoping at least to recover the body; but all searching was in vain, and they had perforce to resume their journey in despair.
They had been at their destination for two days when Ya-nei arrived; you may suppose that their surprise was only equalled by their joy. They read Ho Chang’s letter, and understood everything. They scolded their son, and made a feast for Ho Chang’s envoy. When the betrothal gifts were ready, they sent them in charge of their steward, to whom Ya-nei entrusted a secret letter for his Elegant.
Soon the time came for Ya-nei’s examination at the capital, and he was accepted. His father asked for a holiday, and the whole family went to Kien-K’ang, where the marriage was celebrated. The fame of Elegant’s wisdom and beauty grew with the years, and the happiness of these two was never dimmed.
Hsing shih heng yen (1627), 28th Tale.