In A Chinese Garden (continued) by John P Rastello

scene Tai-yu turned to see what unexpected thing was so exciting Peony. To his astonishment he saw a pair of lustrous brown eyes peering over the wall. At him? No, clearly the eyes watched the colourful bird. The girls face, for it was a girl, was only visible from her glossy, sable-like hair to the tip of her small nose.
"What beautiful eyebrows!" Tai-yu thought. "How extraordinary. Such a thing has never happened before. She must have heard Peony singing. Her hair is tied back, probably in a que. A village girl, no doubt, on her way to the fields or perhaps a visit to the next village. She looks very young."
The soft brown eyes watched Peony for a few minutes, then turned to the old man. He worried that the sight of him might frighten her. But it didn't seem so as she observed him for a moment before disappearing behind the wall.
"Well, Peony," he said. "What do you think of that? Is your singing getting good enough now to attract an audience?"
scene The old man was so entertained by such an unexpected event that for the rest of the morning he forgot to sift his memories. "Such beautiful hair, Peony, and the eyebrows. What could her mouth be like? Sing well tomorrow. Perhaps we shall see her again."
The next morning the dirt path hardly felt the broom, the shrine visited for the briefest moment and the expectant carp went hungry. Even the bamboo, doing its best, gracefully, received hardly a glance. But on the garden wall, was a freshly cut chrysanthemum that Tai-yu had placed there.
The old man sat drinking, rather than sipping, his tea, and the pain in his chest, worse than ever, was hardly noticed. He kept standing up then sitting down again.
"Why aren't you singing, Peony, you lazy ball of feathers. I can see you are sleeping. Like a drunken sailor!" Truth known, Tai-yu in his hope for a particularly outstanding operatic performance that morning, had fed the bird too many bits of rice cake which promptly put Peony into a somnambulant state. Turning his attention from the traitorous Peony, his sick heart nearly stopped when he again saw the cinnamon-coloured eyes watching him.

continues...next chapter...

Illustrations courtesy of:
The Online Bonsai Icon Collection