The garden had a lotus pond, well stocked with fat carp and goldfish. It lay in the centre of the compound, between the pagoda, in which Tai-yu always sat in the morning, and the rear wall. There was a footpath that passed behind the wall leading to paddy fields and another village. The lotus pond was not large. Its width was spanned in the middle by a wooden footbridge that could be crossed by the old man in ten shuffling steps. Had there been a similar bridge over the pond's length, forty steps would have been enough.
One particularly chilly autumn morning, Tai-yu was awakened as usual, by the birdsong. He, like they, rose with the sun regardless of season or weather. Strange dreams had again distorted his night's sleep. Dry, grotesquely distorted tree branches, gaunt and black against a pale grey sky, waved, beckoning to him. Voices he could not understand, called.
"Well," he thought with determination, "not yet. Only when I am ready. I will feel the silent, cold, white mantle of winter first. That will be the season of my final peace."