“A faithful minister does not serve two princes, and a virtuous woman never thinks of a second husband,” sententiously replied the lady. “If fate were to decree that you should die, it would not be a question of three years or of five years, for never, so long as life lasted, would I dream of a second marriage.”
“It is hard to say, it is hard to say,” replied Chwang.
“Do you think,” rejoined his wife, “that women are like men, desti-tute of virtue and devoid of justice? When one wife is dead you look out for another, you divorce this one and take that one; but we women are for one saddle to one horse. Why do you say these things to annoy me?”
With these words she seized the fan and tore it to shreds.
“Calm yourself,” said her husband; “I only hope, if occasion offers, you will act up to your protestations.”
Not many days after this Chwang fell dangerously ill, and as the symptoms increased in severity, he thus addressed his wife:
“I feel that my end is approaching, and that it is time I should bid you farewell. How unfortunate that you destroyed that fanthe other day! You would have found it useful for drying my tomb.”
Presence to prove
“Pray, my husband, do not at such a moment suggest suspicions of me. Have I not studied the ‘Book of Rites,’ and have I not learned from it to follow one husband, and one only? If you doubt my sincerity, I will die in your presence to prove to you that what I say, I say in all faithfulness.”
“I desire no more,” replied Chwang; and then, as weakness over-came him, he added faintly, “I die. My eyes grow dim.”
With these words he sank back motionless and breathless.
Having assured herself that her husband was dead, the Lady T’ien broke out into loud lamentations, and embraced the corpse again and again. For days and nights she wept and fasted, and constantly dwelt in her thoughts on the virtues and wisdom of the deceased. As was customary, on the death of so learned a man as Chwang, the neighbors all came to offer their condolences and to volunteer their assistance. Just as the last of these had retired, there arrived at the door a young and elegant scholar whose face was like a picture, and whose lips looked as though they had been smeared with vermilion. He was dressed in a violet silk robe, and wore a black cap, an embroidered girdle, and scarlet shoes. His servant announced that he was a Prince of the Kingdom of Tsoo, and he himself added by way of explanation:A Fickle Widow