By Zhou Shou-juan
translated by Perry Link
It was the last day in September, and the autumn leaves had turned red as the rosy clouds of dawn. The rays of the setting sun still illuminated the glittering evening landscape. As Marshall Freeman walked slowly out of the British consular offices, he raised his head for a look at the beautiful sky. Then, heaving a sigh, he stepped into a horse carriage; the driver cracked his whip, and the carriage rumbled off.
This Marshall Freeman was originally a Londoner, and was about twenty-six or twenty-seven years old. He was slender, handsome, and quite a beau. Ten years ago he had received a bachelor's degree from Oxford University. In 1900 he began serving as a clerk in the British Legation at Peking, and had been transferred to Shanghai as Secretary of the Consular Offices. The Consul thought very highly of him. He used him as his right-hand man, and would never be without him. And Freeman certainly did work hard--365 days a year without a miss. He left home every morning at eight on the wings of the morning sun, and returned only with the setting sun at five in the evening.
On his way home every day he passed through a park, where, every time he passed by, a Chinese girl of about seventeen or eighteen years could be seen leaning gracefully on her beautiful snow-white arms against the green railing of the park's sundeck. Her pair of eyes shone down like two clear little streamlets, and the corners of her mouth betrayed the hint of a smile. At first Marshall thought nothing of it. But later he saw that it was the same every day: passing by in the morning, there was always the delicate image of a beautiful woman in the morning sunlight, and at dusk, passing by in the shadows of the setting sun, the same figure was there, leaning against the railing. The same two bewitching eyes shone down like lightning, seeming to fix upon his own person. Freeman began to realize she was watching him in particular, and every day as he passed by, would regularly deliver her a glance toward the sundeck. From then on, the light of those two pair of eyes--one gazing warmly down, one glancing excitedly up--never failed to meet twice a day. It was as if they had concluded a secret pact.
Before long it actually seemed as if they had known one another for years. When Freeman passed by, it became standard practice for him to tip his hat toward the sundeck. and from the sundeck a happy laugh would answer. The flow of their feelings could find expression only in this wordless exchange. Only their four eyes could convey their thoughts. The impulsive hand of Heaven had brought them together.
One day in his comings and goings, Freeman happened to walk through the Chinese park. Striding in and taking a look around, he saw an exquisitely beautiful Chinese girl walking smoothly and gently toward him. He thought he recognized her lovely face. And indeed, it was none other than the girl who leaned on the railing every day and favored him with glances. Marshall Freeman removed his hat, took one step forward, and eagerly blurted out the word "Miss . . ." The girl's checks flushed and two dimples appeared; she lightly brushed her hand past the side of her head and smiled. The two of them then sat down on a bench at the side of the walk and fell into earnest and intimate conversation.
The girl could handle English surprisingly well. Her words flowed, as water from a vase with perfect ease. She originally was from Panyu in Guangdong Province, and her name was Hua Guifang. She had gone to missionary schools since she was little, which accounted for the splendid condition of her English. Her father had been killed by foreigners during the trouble in Peking in 1900. Her mother, grief-stricken, had herself fallen ill and died shortly thereafter. What a pity! This poor little orphan girl was left all alone in the world to fend for herself. Luckily she had an uncle to take care of her. He brought her to Shanghai and, using some inheritances they had, was able to secure a fine large house in a peaceful location. There then lived together, passing the months and years in calm repose. The only problem was that she had grown up now, and had not married. The human being