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.He took the girl’s chin in his hand, and raised her head so they could look into each other’s eyes.“Why are you here by yourself, so far out into the country?” he asked the girl.“Have you become separated from your parents?”The girl shook her head and looked back down at the ground.The old man again raised her chin with his hand and their eyes met for the second time.After staring into her eyes for several moments, the old man said, “You are not lost, are you child? You are here by your own choice, although you know not where you are.”The girl tried to turn her gaze back to the ground, but this time the old man stopped her and would not let her retreat.“What was so wrong with your life that you chose to come where you know not in order to escape it?”The girl again shook her head, and unsuccessfully tried to return her gaze toward the ground.“Why don’t you tell me your story?” he asked.“I have plenty of time.” He laid his stick across his lap, cupped his face in his hands, propped his elbows on his knees and waited for the girl to begin speaking.Children in ancient China were raised to revere the wisdom of the elders, and felt obliged to heed their requests.So in spite of her reservations, the girl sat down on the ground, crossed her legs, and told the old man about her life in the monastery.She told him how she had dreamed of becoming a great warrior of kung fu, but that she was not allowed to train because she was a girl.Then she told him of the incident with Xieng-gui, and how she had fled the monastery that night.Tears began to swell again from the girl’s eyes.She fought them, and tried to sniff them back up her nose.“That is indeed a sad story,” whispered the old man shaking his head.“I do not blame you; I would have ran away too.Such ideas are ridiculous! Anyone can practice kung fu, if the desire is in her heart.” Then he raised himself to his feet with his walking stick, and said to the girl, “Come with me.I will teach you everything about kung fu that my master taught to me.”The girl was momentarily amazed, but jumped to her feet to follow the old man.Could this frail and feeble old man really teach her the art of kung fu? She doubted that this was the case, but she had nowhere else to go, and the prospect of a decent meal made her happy to comply.“What is your name, child?” the old man inquired as they slowly descended the path leading from the pond.“My name is ‘Girl’,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone.“’Girl’?”, he said incredulously.“Did I hear this right?”“Yes, my name is ‘Girl’.”“That is not a name.Do you not have a proper one?”“’Girl’ is what I was called at the monastery,” she said earnestly.“Well you should choose a new name more to your liking,” the old man rejoined.“What would you like to call yourself?”“’Girl’ is good enough for me.”“No, it is not good enough for you,” said the old man in a firm tone, “but if ‘Girl’ suits you, then I will call you that until a proper name has been borne to us on the east wind.”“May I ask your name?”, the girl said in a deferential tone of voice, once again reverting her eyes to the ground as they strolled down the path.“My name is Jai-tien,” he replied, “but from this day forward you should call me Master Jai-tien, as I will be your instructor in the art of kung fu.You will live in my house, and I will provide for all of your necessities for as long as your heart is true to your words.” The old man reached over and patted her on the head several times with a broad smile on his wrinkly old face.The girl smiled without raising her eyes from the ground.Jai-tien led the way down the remainder of the path to his tiny home at the foot of the steep hill that rose above the green pond.A relatively flat and grassy area of ground contained the small home, a barn of livestock, and a shed.The house looked to be very old, but had been impeccably maintained.It had only two rooms, which served as kitchen, sleeping chambers, and sitting room.In one corner stood a large iron stove that served as both an oven and a source of heat in the winter.There was a small shrine in another corner, and only a paper sliding door separated the inside of the house from the rest of the world.The old man fed the girl her first true meal she had eaten in what seemed like forever.Then he placed a straw mat on the floor near the stove, where she fell asleep instantly in the glorious comfort of the soft feather pillow.A new beginningThe next morning, Jai-tien woke the girl at daybreak.“Girl, get up!”, he scolded.“You are wasting half the day lying there like a turtle on a log.”The girl awoke and rubbed her eyes.She tried to lie back down to sleep more, but Jai-tien was insistent.“Girl, awaken! There are chores to be performed before breakfast [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]