Mrs. Spring Fragrance by Edith Maude Eaton
Mrs. Spring Fragrance
The God of Restoration
"He that hath wine hath many friends," muttered Koan-lo the Second, as he glanced backwards into the store, out of which he Was stepping. It was a Chinese general store, well stocked with all manner of quaint wares, and about a dozen Chinmen were sitting around; whilst in an adjoining room could be seen the recumbent forms of several smokers who were discussing business and indulging in the fascinating pipe during the intervals of conversation.
Noticeable amongst the smokers was Koan-lo the First, a tall, middle-aged Chinaman, wearing a black cap with a red button. Koan-lo the First was cousin to Koan-lo the Second, but whereas Koan-lo the Second was young and penniless, Koan-lo the First was one of the wealthiest Chinese merchants in San Francisco and a mighty man amongst the people of his name in that city, who regarded him as a father.
Koan-lo the Second had been instructed by Koan-lo the First to meet Sie, the latter's bride, who was arriving that day by steamer from China. Koan-lo the First was too busy a man to go down himself to the docks.
So Koan-lo the Second and Sie met — though not for the first time. Five years before in a suburb of Canton City they had said to one another: "I love you."
Koan-lo the Second was an orphan and had been educated and cared for from youth upwards by Koan-lo the First.
Sie was the daughter of a slave, which will explain why she and Koan-lo the Second had had the opportunity to know one another before the latter left with his cousin for America. In China the daughters of slaves are allowed far more liberty than girls belonging to a higher class of society.
"Koan-lo, ah Koan-lo," cooed Sie softly and happily as she recognized her lover.
"Sie, my sweetest heart," returned Koan-lo the Second, his voice both glad and sad.
He saw that a mistake had been made — that Sie believed that the man who was to be her husband was himself — Koan-lo the Second.
And all the love that was in him awoke, and he became dizzy thinking of what might yet be.
Could he explain that the Koan-lo who had purchased Sie for his bride, and to whom she of right belonged, was his cousin and pot himself? Could he deliver to the Koan-lo who had many friends and stores of precious valuables the only friend, the only treasure he had ever possessed? And was it likely that Sie would be happy eating the rice of Koan-lo the First when she loved him, Koan-lo the Second?
Sie's little fingers crept into his. She leaned against him. "I am tired. Shall we soon rest?" said she.
"Yes, very soon, my Sie," he murmured, putting his arm around her.
"I was too glad when my father told me that you had sent for me," she whispered.
"I said: 'How good of Koan-lo to remember me all these years.'"
"And did you not remember me, my jess'mine flower?"
"Why need you ask? You know the days and nights have been filled with you."
"Having remembered me, why should you have dreamt that I might have forgotten" you?"
"There is a difference. You are a man; I am a woman."
"You have been mine now for over two weeks," said Koan-lo the Second. "Do you still love, me, Sie?"
"Look into mine eyes and see," she answered.
"And are you happy?"
"Happy! Yes, and this is the happiest day of all, because today my father obtains his freedom."
"How is that, Sie?"
"Why, Koan-lo, you know. Does not my father receive today the balance of the price you pay for me, and is not that, added to what you sent' in advance, sufficient to purchase my father's freedom? My dear, good father — he has worked so hard all these years. He has ever been so kind to me. How glad am I to think that through me the God of Restoration has decreed that he shall no longer be a slave. Yes, I am the happiest woman in the world today."
Sie kissed her husband's hand.
He drew it away and hid with it his face.
"Ah, dear husband!" cried Sie. "You are very sick."
"No, not sick," replied the miserable Koan-lo — "but, Sie, I must tell you that I am a very poor man, and we have got to leave this pretty house in the country and go to some city where I will have to work hard and yon will scarcely have enough to eat."
"Kind, generous Koan-lo," answered Sie, "you have ruined yourself for any sake; you paid too high a price for me. Ah, unhappy Sie, who has pulled Koan-lo into the dust! Now let me be your servant, for gladly would I starve for your sake. I care for Koan-lo, not riches."
And she fell on her knees before the young man, who raised her gently, saying:
"Sie, I am unworthy of such devotion and your words; drive a thousand spears into my heart. Hear my confession, I am your husband, but I am not the man who bought you. My cousin, Koan-lo the First, sent for you to come from China. It was he who bargained for you, and paid half the price your father asked whilst you were in Canton, and agreed to pay the balance upon sight of your face. Alas! the balance will never be paid, for as I have stolen you from my cousin, he is not bound to keep to the agreement, and your father is still a slave."
Sie stood motionless, overwhelmed by the sudden and terrible news. She looked at her husband bewilderedly.
"Is it true, Koan-lo? Must my father, remain a slave?" she asked.
"Yes, it is true," replied her husband. "But we have still one another, and you say you care not for poverty. So forgive me and forget your father. I forgot all for love of you." "
He attempted to draw her to him, but with a pitiful cry she turned and fled.
Koan-lo the First sat smoking and meditating.
Many moons had gone by since Koan-lo the Second had betrayed the trust of Koan-lo the First, and Koan-lo the First was wondering what Koan-lo the Second was doing, and how he was living. "He had little money and was unused to working hard, and with a woman to support what will the dog do?" thought the old man. He felt injured and bitter, but towards the evening, after long smoking, his heart became softened, and he said to his pipe: "Well, well, he had a loving feeling for her, and the young I suppose must mate with the young. I think I could overlook his ungratefulness were he to come and seek forgiveness."
"Great and honored sir, the dishonored Sie kneels before you and begs you to put your foot on her head."
These words were uttered by a young Chinese girl of rare beauty, who had entered the room suddenly and prostrated herself before Koan-Io the First. He looked up angrily.
"Ah, I see the false woman who made her father a bar!" he cried.
Tears fell from the downcast eyes of Sie, the kneeler.
"Good sir," said she, "ere I had become a woman or your cousin a man, we loved one another, and when we met after a long separation, we both forgot our duty. But the God of Restoration worked with my heart. I repented and now am come to you to give myself up to be your slave, to Work for you until the flesh drops from my bones, if such be your desire, only asking that you will send to my father the balance of my purchase price, for he is too old and feeble to be a slave. Sir, you are known to be a more than just man. Oh, grant my request! 'Tis for my father's sake I plead. For many years he nourished me, with trouble and care; and my heart almost breaks when I think of him. Punish me for my misdeeds, dress me in rags, and feed me on the meanest food! Only let me serve you and make myself of use to you, so that I may be worth my father's freedom."
"And what of my cousin? Are you now false to him?"
"No, not false to Koan-lo, my husband — only true to my father."
"And you wish me, whom you have injured, to free your father? ,;
Sie's head, dropped lower as she replied:
"I wish to be your slave. I wish to pay with the labor of my hands the debt I owe you and the debt I owe my father. For this I have left my husband."
Koah-lo the First arose, lifted Sie's chin with his hand, and contemplated with earnest eyes her face.
"Your heart is not all bad," he observed. "Sit down and listen. I will not buy you for my slave, for in this country it is against the law to buy a woman for a slave; but I will hire you for five years to be my servant, and for that time you will do my bidding, and after that you will be free. Rest in peace concerning your father."
"May the sun ever shine on you, most gracious master!" cried Sie.
Then Koan-lo the First pointed out to her a hallway leading to a little room, which room he said she could have for her own private use while she remained with him,
Sie thanked him and was leaving" his presence when the door was burst open and Koan-lo the Second, looking haggard and wild, entered. He rushed up to Sie and clutched her by the shoulder.
"You are mine!" he shouted. "I will kill you before you become another man's!"
"Cousin," said Koan-lo the First,. "I wish not to have the woman to be my wife, but I claim her as my servant. She has already received her wages — her father's freedom."
Koan-lo the Second gazed bewilderedly into the faces of his wife and cousin. Then he threw up his hands and cried:
"Oh, Koan-lo, my cousin, I have been evil. Always have I envied you and carried bitter thoughts of you in my heart. Even your kindness to me in the past has provoked my ill-will, and when I have seen you surrounded by friends, I have said scornfully: 'He that hath wine hath many friends,' although I well knew the people loved you for your good heart. And Sie I have deceived. I took her to myself, knowing that she thought I was what I was not. I caused her to believe she was mine by all rights."
"So I am yours," broke in Sie tremblingly!
"So she shall be yours — when you are worthy of such a pearl and can guard and keep it," said Koan-lo the First. Then waving his cousin away from Sie, he continued:
"This is your punishment; the God of Restoration demands it. For five years you shall not see the face of Sie, your wife. Meanwhile, study, think, be honest, and work."
"Your husband comes for you today. Does the thought make you glad?" questioned Koan-lo the First.
Sie smiled and blushed.
"I shall be sorry to leave you," she replied.
"But more glad than sad," said the old man. "Sie, your husband is now a fine fellow. He has changed wonderfully during his years of probation."
"Then I shall neither know nor love him," said Sie mischievously. "Why, here he — "
"My sweet one!"
"My children, take my blessing; be good and be happy. I go to my pipe, to dream of bliss if not to find it."
With these words Koan-lo the First retired.
"Is he not almost as a god?" said Sie.
"Yes," answered her husband, drawing her on to his knee. "He has been better to me than I have deserved. And you — ah, Sie, how can you care for me when you know what a bad fellow I have been?"
"Well," said Sie contentedly, "it is always our best friends who know how bad we are."