He stood beside her rickshaw, in his imperial yellow garment hemmed with the rainbow waves of the sea, and smiled down into her eyes.
“But the spirit God of love, the foreign-born spirit God?” said Dong-Yung. “Shall we feast to him too?”
“Nay, it is not fitting to feast to two gods at once,” said Foh-Kyung. “Do as I have said.”
He left her. Dong-Yung, riding through the sun-splashed afternoon, buying coloured jewels and flowery perfume and making herself beautiful, yet felt uneasy. She had not quite understood. A dim knowledge advanced toward her like a wall of fog. She pressed her two hands against it and held it off—held it off by sheer mental refusal to understand. In the courtyard at home the children were playing with their lighted animals, drawing their gaudy paper ducks, luminous with candle-light, to and fro on little standards set on four wheels. At the gate hung a tall red-and-white lantern, and over the roof floated a string of candle-lit balloons. In the ancestral hall the great wife had lit the red candles, speared on their slender spikes, before the tablets. In the kitchen the cooks and amahs were busy with the feast-cooking. Candles were stuck everywhere on the tables and benches. They threw little pools of light on the floor before the stove and looked at the empty niche. In the night it was merely a black hole in the stove filled with formless shadow. She wished—
“Dong-Yung, Flower in the House, where hast thou hidden the kitchen gods? Put them in their place.” Foh-Kyung, still in imperial yellow, stood like a sun in the doorway.
“Put them back, little Jewel in the Hair. It is not permitted to worship the spirit God. There are bars and gates. The spirit of man must turn back in the searching, turn back to the images of plaster and paint.”
Dong-Yung let the wall of fog slide over her. She dropped her resistance. She knew.
“Nay, not the spirit of man. It is but natural that the great God does not wish the importunings of a small wife. Worship thou alone the great God, and the shadow of that worship will fall on my heart.”
“Nay, I cannot worship alone. My worship is not acceptable in the sight of the foreign God. My ways are not his ways.”
Foh-Kyung’s face was unlined and calm, yet Dong-Yung felt the hidden agony of his soul, flung back from its quest upon gods of plaster and paint.
“But I know the thoughts of thy heart, O Lord and Master, white and fragrant as the lily-buds that opened to-day. Has thy wish changed?”
“Nay, my wish is even the same, but it is not permitted to a man of two wives to be a follower of the spirit God.”
Dong-Yung had known it all along. This knowledge came with no surprise. It was she who kept him from the path of his desire!
“Put back the kitchen gods,” said Foh-Kyung. “We will live and believe and die even as our fathers have done. The gate to the God of love is closed.”