Dong-Yung nodded. The flower girl came slowly in under the guarded gateway. She was a country child, with brown cheeks and merry eyes. Her shallow basket was steadied by a ribbon over one shoulder, and caught between an arm and a swaying hip. In the flat, round basket, on green little leaves, lay the wired perfumed orchids.
“How many? It is an auspicious day. See, the lilies have bloomed. One for the hair and two for the buttonholes. They smell sweet as the breath of heaven itself.”
Dong-Yung smiled as the flower-girl stuck one of the fragrant, fragile, green-striped orchids in her hair, and hung two others, caught on delicate loops of wire, on the jade studs of her jacket, buttoned on the right shoulder.
“Ah, you are beautiful-come-death!” said the flower-girl. “Great happiness be thine!”
“Even a small wife can be happy at times.” Dong-Yung took out a little woven purse and paid over two coppers apiece to the flower-girl.
At the gate the girl and the gate-keeper fell a-talking.
“Is the morning rice ready?” called a man’s voice from the room behind.
Dong-Yung turned quickly. Her whole face changed. It had been smiling and pleased before at the sight of the faint, white lily-petals and the sunlight on her feet and the fragrance of the orchids in her hair; but now it was lit with an inner radiance.
“My beloved Master!” Dong-Yung made a little instinctive gesture toward the approaching man, which in a second was caught and curbed by Chinese etiquette. Dressed, as she was, in pale-gray satin trousers, loose, and banded at the knee with wide blue stripes, and with a soft jacket to match, she was as beautiful in the eyes of the approaching man as the newly opened lilies. What he was in her eyes it would be hard for any modern woman to grasp: that rapture of adoration, that bliss of worship, has lingered only in rare hearts and rarer spots on the earth’s surface.
Foh-Kyung came out slowly through the ancestral hall. The sunlight edged it like a bright border. The floors were wide open, and Dong-Yung saw the decorous rows of square chairs and square tables set rhythmically along the walls, and the covered dais at the head for the guest of honour. Long crimson scrolls, sprawled with gold ideographs, hung from ceiling to floor. A rosewood cabinet, filled with vases, peach bloom, imperial yellow, and turquoise blue, gleamed like a lighted lamp in the shadowy morning light of the room.
Foh-Kyung stooped to smell the lilies.
“They perfume the very air we breathe. Little Jewel, I love our old Chinese ways. I love the custom of the lily-planting and the day the lilies bloom. I love to think the gods smell them in heaven, and are gracious to mortals for their fragrance’s sake.”
“I am so happy!” Dong-Yung said, poking the toe of her slipper in and out the sunlight. She looked up at the man before her, and saw he was tall and slim and as subtle-featured as the cross-legged bronze Buddha himself. His long thin hands were hid, crossed and slipped along the wrists within the loose apricot satin sleeves of his brocaded garment. His feet, in their black satin slippers and tight-fitting white muslin socks, were austere and aristocratic. Dong-Yung, when he was absent, loved best to think of him thus, with his hands hidden and his eyes smiling.