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jewels, having bartered her pearl for her opportunity; but her long coat of jade-green, embroidered with golden willows, and her trousers of palest rose left nothing to be desired. In her hair two golden paeonias were fastened with pins of kingfisher work. The Son of Heaven was seated upon the throne as the ladies approached, marshaled by the August Aunt. He was attired in the Yellow Robe with the Flying Dragons, and upon the Imperial Head was the Cap, ornamented with one hundred and forty-four priceless gems. From it hung the twelve pendants of strings of pearls, partly concealing the august eyes of the Jade Emperor. No greater splendor can strike awe into the soul of man.
At his command the August Aunt took her seat upon a lesser chair at the Celestial Feet. Her mien was majestic, and struck awe into the assembled beauties, whose names she spoke aloud as each approached and prostrated herself. She then pronounced these words: 'Beautiful ones, the Emperor, having considered the opinions submitted by you on the subject of the Superior Man, is pleased to express his august commendation. Dismiss, therefore, anxiety from your minds, and prepare to assist at the humble concert of music we have prepared for his Divine pleasure.'
Slightly raising himself in his chair, the Son of Heaven looked down upon that Garden of Beauty, holding in his hand an ivory tablet bound with red silk.
'Lovely ladies,' he began, in a voice that assuaged fear, 'who among you was it that laid before our feet a composition beginning thus—"Though the sky rain pearls"?'
The August Aunt immediately rose. 'Imperial Majesty, none! These eyes supervised every composition. No impropriety was permitted.'
The Son of Heaven resumed: 'Let that Lady stand forth.'
The words were few, but sufficient. Trembling in every limb, the RoundFaced Beauty separated herself from her companions and prostrated herself, amid the breathless amazement of the Blossoms of the Palace. He looked down upon her as she knelt, pale as a lady carved in ivory, but lovely as the lotus of Chang-su. He turned to the August Aunt. 'Princess of Han, my Imperial Aunt, I would speak with this lady alone.'
Decorum itself and the custom of Palaces could not conceal the indignation of the August Aunt as she rose and retired, driving the ladies before her as a shepherd drives his sheep.
The Hall of Tranquil Longevity being now empty, the Jade Emperor extended his hand and beckoned the Round-Faced Beauty to approach. This she did, hanging her head like a flower surcharged with dew and swaying gracefully as a wind-bell, and knelt on the lowest step of the Seat of State.
'Loveliest One,' said the Emperor, 'I have read your composition. I would know the truth. Did any aid you as you spoke it? Was it the thought of your own heart?'
'None aided, Divine,' said she, almost fainting with fear. 'It was indeed the thought of this illiterate slave, consumed with an unwarranted but uncontrollable passion.'
'And have you in truth desired to see your Lord?'
'As a prisoner in a dungeon desires the light, so was it with this low person.'
'And having seen?'
'Augustness, the dull eyes of this slave are blinded with beauty.'
She laid her head before his feet.
'Yet you have depicted, not the ideal Man, but the Ideal Woman. This was not the Celestial command. How was this?'
'Because, O versatile and auspicious
Emperor, the blind cannot behold the sunlight, and it is only the Ideal Woman who is worthy to comprehend and worship the Ideal Man. For this alone is she created.'
A smile began to illumine the Imperial Countenance. 'And how, O RoundFaced Beauty, did you evade the vigilance of the August Aunt?'
She hung her head lower, speaking almost in a whisper. 'With her one pearl did this person buy the secrecy of the writer; and when the August Aunt slept, did I conceal the paper in her sleeve with the rest, and her own Imperial hand gave it to the engraver of ivory.'
She veiled her face with two jadewhite hands that trembled excessively. On hearing this statement the Celestial Emperor broke at once into a very great laughter, and he laughed loud and long as a tiller of wheat. The Round-Faced Beauty heard it demurely until, catching the Imperial eye, decorum was forgotten and she too laughed uncontrollably. So they continued, and finally the Emperor leaned back, drying the tears in his eyes with his august sleeve, and the lady, resuming her gravity, hid her face in her hands, yet regarded him through her fingers.
When the August Aunt returned at the end of an hour with the ladies, surrounded by the attendants with their instruments of music, the Round-Faced
Beauty was seated in the chair that she herself had occupied, and on the whiteness of her brow was hung the chain of pearls, which had formed the frontal of the Cap of the Emperor.
It is recorded that, advancing from honor to honor, the Round-Faced Beauty was eventually chosen Empress and became the mother of the Imperial Prince. The celestial purity of her mind and the absence of all flaws of jealousy and anger warranted this distinction. But it is also recorded that, after her elevation, no other lady was ever exalted in the Imperial favor or received the slightest notice from the Emperor. For the Empress, now well acquainted with the Ideal Man, judged it better that his experiences of the Ideal Woman should be drawn from herself alone. And as she decreed, so it was done. Doubtless Her Majesty did well.
It is known that the Emperor departed to the Ancestral Spirits at an early age, seeking, as the August Aunt observed, that repose which on earth could never more be his. But no one has asserted that this lady's disposition was free from the ordinary blemishes of humanity.
As for the Celestial Empress (who survives in history as one of the most astute rulers who ever adorned the Dragon Throne), she continued to rule her son and the Empire, surrounded by the respectful admiration of all.
BY MARGARET WIDDEMER
I Think there are two aprons at home that I can hem;
I can put a frill of lace for edge to one of them;
I will have blue ribbon to tie it, and to sew
Just above the pocket in a flaring bow;
And I can sit quite quiet, as if nothing had been
Except the needle's in and out and out and in —
(Every sorrow ends — every horror ends —
Every terror ends that we hone to face or do —
These hours will end, too.)
Back where I live there still are green things to see —
All of it will surely stop to-night at least by ten,
A VOICE FROM THE JURY
BY ANNE C. E. ALLINSON
My friend and I were discussing the story called 'The Jury,' published in the Atlantic Monthly for October. It will be remembered that the author leaves with a group of women the problem of whether their old friend, Violet, shall be freely and fully received by them if she accepts the invitation of her husband, Harry, to return to him and to their children, after spending several 'crimson years' with Cyril.
My friend is a business woman, trained in the office and the market-place. I am a professional woman, trained in schools and universities. She chose not to marry. I chose to marry. We have become friends somewhat far along the road, after passing various sorts of milestones. Diverse discipline, work, experiences, and acquaintances have shaped our characters and opinions. Yet these opinions, on matters connected with 'life,' practically always coincide.
So it proved to be when we imagined ourselves parts of the jury in the case of Violet versus Society. We began by swiftly agreeing that we had the right to decide in favor of a woman once our friend without feeling too sombrely that this decision would be equivalent to a public statement of our own principles. Friendship, once assumed, entails certain obligations; and we claimed the right to stand by a friend without thereby being understood to regard either her action or her character as models for other women. In this matter of Violet it seemed to us clear that, if her husband and daughters wanted her to come back, and if she wanted to come, it was
not for us to create obstacles or to omit the ordinary interchanges of social life with a family that had united in a desire to 'begin again.'
To be sure, we felt that Tina Metcalfe was visionary in thinking that things socially could really be as they were before, and that Harry was tragically mistaken in thinking that his or his children's happiness would bloom again under the given conditions. Violet was to return as arrogantly as she went, still maintaining that her right to a happy life had been superior to theirs. We smiled somewhat cynically over her concern for the social status of her daughters, whose every other need she had so readily disregarded. The crimson years had evidently not modified her cold egotism. We anticipated no great success for her in reassuming the roles of wife and mother, friend and hostess. But that was not our affair. As far as we were concerned, Tina might cable as unanimous a 'come' as she chose.
The thing that alienated us was Violet's own willingness to come. We were both shocked by the cowardice of a woman who could not abide by either choice, by either marriage or free love. Violet was as unsatisfactory as Helena in the recent novel called Invisible Tides. Both 'heroines,' without even a decent regret, abandoned their husbands as long as men more agreeable to them lived. Then, when death intervened (in time to save the men from disillusionment), instead of standing alone, as many an unmarried or widowed woman stands alone, they made use of the love and chivalry of their former victims to return to the comfortable safeties of a conventional life. By this materialistic meanness Violet stripped from her life any pretense of bravery.
We went on to discuss her earlier vagrancy, her original action which, at least, had rejected conventions for the sake of an emotion. But we could not be stampeded by any such show of 'idealism.' The emotion had been one which is glorious only when it submits to be secondary. And with the rejection of certain unessentials went the rejection of priceless treasures that a woman of large mind and large heart would refuse to sacrifice to an isolating passion. Passion harnessed to all the other powers of a generous nature is a mighty dynamo. Divorced from them it shrivels despicably. No, my friend and I knew that Violet, hiding herself with Cyril, had revealed the cheapness of her fibre. She had shown it, too, in the easy frivolity with which she disregarded obligations still scrupulously observed by the other members of a common undertaking. Accustomed to taking seriously business and professional contracts, we were disgusted by the way she tossed aside her spoken contract with Harry — whose only fault was that she liked Cyril better — and shattered brutally the tacit contract made with her children when she forced life upon them.
In our conversation we had not yet reached the profounder expression of our ethical judgment. There was, of course, a stark question of public right and wrong, which must perplex even Harry in relation to his daughters. But ultimately we judged Violet's action, not as it broke a law of church or state, but as it offended against moral princi
ples which support more external prohibitions. The love of man and woman is not a thing apart, a fleshly accident set loose from the domain of spiritual law. Two human wills can unite to preserve married love by observing the laws which ensure the health of all love. Of these, the first and the last are that love dies in self-seeking and is renewed in every act of self-forgetfulness. 'It's not an exhortation, but an axiom,' I said to my friend as we touched upon the subject.
But we were growing tired of Violet, and the world about us was very beautiful. The October sun was laying a sheet of pure flame behind the trunks of the maple trees on the edge of the wide pasture. There were ardent touches of red on the sumach between the straight green savins. The young moon was silvering above the red and gold of the sunset. In the silence, my friend's thoughts roamed I know not where. My own circled and alighted on the magnificent lover in Meredith's Tragic Comedians. The silver moon invited him and Clotilde, on the passion-swept night of their first meeting, to go quite mad. But his brilliant mind refused to be eclipsed — 'the handsome face of the orb that lights us would be well enough were it only a gallop between us two. Dearest, the orb that lights us two for a lifetime must be taken all round, and I have been on the wrong side of the moon. I know the other face of it — a visage scored with regrets, dead dreams, burned passions, bald illusions, and the like, the like, the like! — sunless, waterless, without a flower.'
How stupid to mistake this evening's moon for to-morrow's sun! How stupid to mistake the crimson slash on the sumach for the whole broad upland!