“But what shall I say if he asks me for news?”
“That you have not had time enough. Or even that the matter cannot be arranged.”
What could she do, she who was thus deprived of the money and the pledge of love? She was surely obliged to lie.
As for Wu-han, he at once went out and spent the money on rich clothes and a fine gauze bonnet.
In the evening, when his mother was asleep, he put on his pretty clothes and set the slippers in his sleeve. As the great clock sounded the first watch, he went out softly and made straight for the house of P’an. Light clouds were hiding the moon. It was only half full.
He coughed before the house. The window opened, and Eternal Life appeared. She tied a piece of silk to the frame, and let the other end fall. He caught it and climbed up, making use of the projections of the wall with his two feet. Then, with a thousand precautions, he stepped over the sill. Trembling, the girl hastened to draw back the piece of silk and to shut the window.
Then he took the child in his arms, and passion leaped up in their two hearts. In the darkness, and in such emotion, how could that mistake be known? The usurper drew her towards him.
Even so is the precious scented flower of the nutmeg embraced by the bind-weed. Even so is the plum blossom torn by the hail. Even so is the sparrow’s nest most outraged by the cuckoo.
When the first clouds of their desire were dissipated by the rain of caresses, Wu-han took from his sleeve the pledges of love. She gave them back to him:
“Now that I am happy, I no more wish to go out.”
About the fourth watch, before daylight, Wu-han arose and climbed stealthily down to the street.
Since that time there had to be a storm of rain, or the moon had to be very clear, to prevent Wu-han from hurrying to the small woman. The days, and then the months, passed in this way.
One night the deceiver accidentally made some noise as he went away. P’an immediately came up to them, but saw nothing; for Eternal Life succeeded in not betraying herself. Next night she warned her lover, saying to him in her sense:
“Do not come for a few days. That will be safer. Let us give them time to forget about it.”
But her father had his ears on the alert; he heard the window creak, and he ran up, though again too late. In the morning he said to his wife:
“This baby is certainly about some villainy. She keeps her mouth as tight as a trap.”
“I also have a suspicion,” replied her mother.
“Yet the room opens on to the stairs, which come down into our room.”
“I am going to give her a good taste of the rod to make her speak.”
“That is a bad plan, a very bad plan,” said her mother. “It is a true proverb that you must not show family blemishes. If you beat her, all the neighbors will know, and who would wish to marry her? Let us rather make her sleep in our room, which has no way out except the door. We will spend the night up the stairs, and see what happens.”