Tai-yu washed himself in the basin of cold water Chin brought. He believed hot water was bad for the skin, that cold water would bring up the blood to feed it. In some way the coolness of the water soothed the continual ache in his hands and legs.
Gratefully, he felt the warmth of clean linen and a long, heavy, quilted mandarin robe that had been laid out for him by Chin's wife. It gave his frail, stooped, tired body the protection it needed against the bite of the early morning air.
Even in old age, Tai-yu disciplined himself. No fragrant warming tea until he swept all the garden's compacted earth paths with a broom made of dried willow branches. He knew that the gardener would do it again.
His back was so bent that his nose nearly rubbed the tip of the broom handle. The air felt damp and had the smell of autumn decay and death. He painfully, slowly brushed his way around the lotus pond moving against the direction of the clock, as though to hold it back.