“My master,” replied the servant, “has never yet been married.”
“What qualities does he look for in the fortunate woman he will choose for his wife?” inquired the lady.
“My master says,” replied the servant, who had taken quite as much wine as was good for him, “that if he could obtain a renowned beauty like yourself, madam, his heart’s desire would be fulfilled.”
“Did he really say so? Are you sure you are telling me the truth?” eagerly asked the lady.
“Is it likely that an old man like me would tell you a lie?” replied the servant.
“If it be so, will you then act as a go-between and arrange a match between us?”
“My master has already spoken to me of the matter, and would desire the alliance above all things, if it were not for the respect due from a disciple to a deceased master, and for the animadversions to which such a marriage would give rise.”
“But as a matter of fact,” said the, Lady T’ien, “the Prince was never my husband’s disciple; and as to our neighbors about here, they are too few and insignificant to make their animadversions worth a thought.”
The objections having thus been overcome, the servant undertook to negotiate with his master, and promised to bring word of the result at any hour of the day or night at which he might have anything to communicate.
Chamber of death
So soon as the man was gone, the Lady T’ien gave way to excited impatience. She went backwards and forwards to the chamber of death, that she might pass the door of the Prince’s room, and even listened at his window, hoping to hear him discussing with his servant the proposed alliance. All, however, was still until she approached the coffin, when she heard an unmistakable sound of hard breathing. Shocked and terrified, she exclaimed, “Can it be possible that the dead has come to life again!”
A light, however, relieved her apprehensions by discovering the form of the Prince’s servant lying in a drunken sleep on a couch by the corpse. At any other time such disrespect to the deceased would have drawn from her a torrent of angry rebukes, but on this occasion she thought it best to say nothing, and on the next morning she accosted the defaulter without any reference to his escapade of the night before. To her eager inquiries the servant answered that his master was satisfied on the points she had combated on the preceding evening, but that there were still three unpropitious circumstances which made him hesitate.
“What are they?” asked the lady.A Fickle Widow