The feast was served. In the sky one moon blotted out a world of stars. Foh-Kyung sat alone, smoking. Laughter and talk filled the women’s wing. The amahs and coolies were resting outside. A thin reed of music crept in and out among the laughter and talk, from the reed flute of the cook. The kitchen was quite empty. One candle on the table sent up a long smoky tongue of flame. The fire still smouldered in the corner. A little wind shook the cypress-branches without, and carried the scent of the opened lilies into the room.
Dong-Yung, still arrayed for feasting, went to the pigskin trunk in the corner, fitted the key from her belt into the carven brass wings of the butterfly, and lifted out the kitchen gods. One in each hand, she held them, green and gold. She put them back in their niche, and lifted up a bowl of rice to their feet, and beat her head on the ground before them.
“Forgive me, O my kitchen gods, forgive my injurious hands and heart; but the love of my master is even greater than my fear of thee. Thou and I, we bar the gates of heaven from him.”
When she had finished, she tiptoed around the room, touching the chairs and tables with caressing fingers. She stole out into the courtyard, and bent to inhale the lily fragrance, sweeter by night than by day. “An auspicious day,” the gate-keeper had said that morning. Foh-Kyung had stood beside her, with his feet in the sunshine; she remembered the light in his eyes. She bent her head till the fingers of the lily-petals touched her cheek. She crept back through the house, and looked at Foh-Kyung smoking. His eyes were dull, even as are the eyes of sightless bronze Buddhas. No, she would never risk going in to speak to him. If she heard the sound of his voice, if he called her “little Flower of the House,” she would never have the strength to go. So she stood in the doorway and looked at him much as one looks at a sun, till wherever else one looks, one sees the same sun against the sky.
In the formless shadow she made a great obeisance, spreading out her arms and pressing the palms of her hands against the floor.
“O my Lord and Master,” she said, with her lips against the boards of the floor, softly, so that none might hear her—“O my Lord and Master, I go. Even a small wife may unbar the gates of heaven.”
First, before she went, she cast the two kitchen gods, green and gold, of ancient plaster, into the embers of the fire. There in the morning the cook-rice amahs found the onyx stones that had been their eyes. The house was still unlocked, the gate-keeper at the feast. Like a shadow she moved along the wall and through the gate. The smell of the lilies blew past her. Drums and chants echoed up the road, and the sounds of manifold feastings. She crept away down by the wall, where the moon laid a strip of blackness, crept away to unbar the gates of heaven for her lord and master.