Lai-Xeng and the Lotus Pool
In the village of Nedra-lyn, Lai-Xeng would break his travels to visit old friends. In the heat of the day, he would rest by a sheltered pond, on which the lotus petals floated, shaded by stately willow trees, and think thoughts none would dare interrupt.
But that afternoon came Mistress Ci, the usurer. From her withered limbs draped silks, and her breath smelled of the finest of plum wines, and her fingernails were painted with gold leaf. She would do things no one else would, and from that her palms cupped silver uncounted. And so she bade her slaves carry her sedan chair to the pond, and set it beside the Sage, for though custom was nothing to her beside the sheen of gold and the sparkle of jewels in her vaults, she would always listen to those who were deemed thoughtful. And in such wise she learned many things.
Mistress Ci drew the jade-beaded curtain of her chair aside and gazed upon the Sage, with hard black eyes deeper than jet. "O Lai-Xeng, worthy Sage," she rasped, "Hear me. I am honored, I am rich, my days under the Lady of Heaven have been long. But I am old, and my daughters are dead, and their children are idle wasters of silver, loving luxury, but not caring to earn or maintain it. How can I preserve what I have built, that it not be poured into the sand like water when I am laid with my ancestors?"
Lai-Xeng did not look at her, but slid off one sandal, and lowered his toe into the water. He said nothing. Knowing of his ways, Mistress Ci waited: she was, if anything, patient, and her years had not made her the hastier. Even when the young daughter of the Sage's friend, Ichi the sandalmaker, came to tell him that the afternoon meal was ready to serve, Lai-Xeng did not move.
At last, the old Sage reached up, and allowed the girl to help him to his feet. He left the sandal on the grass, making no effort to replace it on his foot. Turning half over his shoulder, but not facing the old woman, Lai-Xeng asked "Did you see the hole in the water made by my toe?"
"I am old, not blind, honored Sage," Mistress Ci said, trying to keep asperity from her voice. "I did."
"And where is it now? So, too, with your life or mine. The pool does not notice that you lived, and it will not care when you die. Your passing will leave behind no more than did my toe, and your monuments no more than that sandal, which in a month's time no one will recall ever covered the foot of Lai-Xeng."Go to Comment