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Page 233

PART II - CHAPTER XVIII

him and bidding Wang Da Ma to bring wine to comfort him.
Then I, left alone with my mother, looked again on the silent, stiffening face. I was the only one who had ever seen her truly, and my heart melted itself into hot and burning tears. I drew the curtains slowly at last and shut her away, back again into the loneliness in which she had lived.
My mother-my mother !

§
We have perfumed her body with the oil of acanthus flowers. We have wrapped her in length upon length of yellow silken gauze. We have placed her in one of the two great coffins made each of the trunks of immense camphor trees and prepared for her and for my father many years ago when my grandparents died. Upon her closed eyes lie the sacred jade stones.
Now the great coffin has been sealed. We have called the geomancer and consulted him to find the day ordained for her funeral. He has searched the book of the stars and has discovered that it is the sixth day of the sixth moon of the new year.
We have called priests, therefore, and they

Page 234

PART II - CHAPTER XVIII

have come decked in the scarlet and yellow robes of their office. With the sad music of pipes and in solemn procession we have conducted her to the temple to await the day of burial.
There she lies under the eyes of the gods, in the stillness and the dust of the centuries. There is not a sound to break her long sleep; there is for ever only the muffled chant of the priests at dawn and at twilight, and through the night the single note of the temple bell struck at long intervals.
I can think of no one but of her.

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