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Scene Three

 

   

Four months later. MEILAN sits alone in the garden. A poignant autumn twilight suffuses the stage. WIDOW CHENG appears at the doorway of her house.
WIDOW CHENG
Meilan,
It is time to come in.
It is getting late,
And these early autumn evenings
Are chilled.
Meilan?

 

MEILAN
Yes, mother.

 

WIDOW CHENG
Did you hear me?

 

MEILAN
Yes, mother.
I will come in a moment. (WIDOW CHENG sighs and disappears into the house. MEILAN looks up slowly toward the sky.)
MEILAN
The swallows are flying south
And the leaves of the willow trees
Are floating to the ground.
And there is no scent of jasmine.
But the road leads back
And the temple stands,
And the one who waits still waits.
The vagabond, who roams the countryside,
Will hum a lonely tune,
For it is autumn
And the time for sadness.
He has no lute,
Only the sound
Of the leaves upon the path.
The willow trees are almost bare,
And few swallows roam the sky,
And the wind has come
And robbed the scent of jasmine,
But the road leads back
And the one who waits
Still waits. (YANG appears from the right walking toward the monastery. HE sees Meilan and goes to her.)
YANG
Meilan,
The air is too cool
For you to be here
Without a shawl.

 

MEILAN
It is all right.
I shall go in
In a moment.

 

YANG
You have not heard from him?

 

MEILAN
No.

 

YANG
How long has it been?

 

MEILAN
Three weeks.
I have had no word.

 

YANG
Perhaps it is because
He had failed the examinations.
Perhaps he is ashamed to write.

 

MEILAN
That is what I tell myself.
Over and over I say
It is because of that.
He is too proud.

 

YANG
Of course that is the reason!

 

MEILAN
I pray that it is the reason,
But, within my heart,
I know it is not.
He has forgotten me.

 

YANG
Do not speak so, Meilan.
He has not forgotten you.
How could he have forgotten you?

 

MEILAN
If I could believe that.

 

YANG
Why should you not believe that?

 

MEILAN
Because he promised to return
Two months ago.
Because as the weeks have passed,
The time between his letters
Has grown shorter.
Because the words in his letters
Have grown more distant.

 

YANG
No.
He loved you much too strongly
And deeply
To ever forget you.

 

MEILAN
I can only think
There are many ways of love.

 

YANG
I am sure there is another explanation.
I am sure of it!
I shall go to the capitol myself.

 

MEILAN
That will not help.

 

YANG
I cannot see you grieve like this.
I must speak to Wan,
I must know why
He has not written.

 

MEILAN
It will be of no use.

 

YANG
Perhaps he has fallen ill.

 

MEILAN
I have thought of that, too.
But I know it is not so.

 

YANG
It must be!
He has fallen ill.
I shall go immediately
To the capitol.

 

MEILAN
Then go.
But if you find him well, Yang,
And he can no longer remember
The willows by the western gate,
Do not beg him to return.
For my sake,
Do not beg him.

 

YANG
I promise that, Meilan.
I shall leave in the morning.
Now, you must go back in the house.
It is getting colder.
In a few weeks I fear
We shall have snow.

 

MEILAN
Wait!
I have written him a letter.
Would you take it to him?

 

YANG
Of course.

                                        (SHE takes a letter from her robe and hands it to him.)

 

MEILAN
I did not plan on sending it
Until I had received word from him.
I had already sent three letters
Which had gone unanswered.
But this one I should like him to have,
For I have enclosed a jade ring
Which my father gave me
When I was very young.

 

YANG
I shall deliver it safely into his hands.

 

MEILAN
Thank you. (YANG exits through the monastery door. MEILAN sits alone on stage. WIDOW CHENG reappears from the house.)
WIDOW CHENG
Meilan, please.
You must come in. (MEILAN turns her head away so that her mother cannot see her tears.)
WIDOW CHENG
Oh, Meilan,
Meilan!
What can I say to you?
You learn as you grow older
You cannot explain a person.
You know where the sun will set
And when the lotus will bloom again.
You know how the rice will taste
And how bright the lantern will glow.
But you can live with a person
For years and years.
And then one day
They laugh or cry or leave
And you find you do not know them at all.
So you buy an animal
Or take to sewing
Or raise a garden
And thus you live. (There is silence. Then suddenly MEILAN turns to her mother with tears streaming down her cheeks and her hands outstretched.)
MEILAN

Oh, mother…why?

 

 

 

 

LIGHTS FADE