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Scene Five

 

 

Lights come up and flood the stage with sunlight. It is early afternoon the following spring. MEILAN again sits alone in the garden.
MEILAN
The peach blossoms are in bloom again,
And I must watch them by myself.
And I must wade in the stream alone
And see the sun rise by myself.
But, oh, if you had come back to me!
I would have smiled
If you had smiled
And been nearby
In case you called.
All the things I would have done,
If you had come back to me.
I would have brought your tea to drink
And made your bed
And warmed your bed,
If only you had come back to me.
But, Meilan,
Go dry your eyes
And bury this within your heart.
And maybe someday
When another spring is here,
Unfold it
And caress it
And dream what might have been.
Oh, Wan!
Love does not die.
It lives and grows.
Love does not die for me.
Oh, Wan,
I would have given all of me,
And most of all I would have lived---
Oh, how much I would have lived!---
If you had come back to me. (SHE turns and walks slowly back into the house and disappears. Lights rise within the Cheng living room. BEITESEN enters, bringing WIDOW CHENG, who is straightening the sideboard, a bouquet of peonies.)
WIDOW CHENG
Thank you, Beitesen. (BEITESEN exits upstage as WIDOW CHENG arranges the flowers in a vase.)
WIDOW CHENG
The blossoms grow more fragrant as the years go by
For the plant is more in love as the summers pass… (As SHE begins to sing the same aria we heard in the opening scene, WAN appears from stage left walking toward the Cheng house. He looks superb; his face is aglow with prosperity, and he is immaculately dressed in a handsome expensive robe. HE knocks on the door. WIDOW CHENG opens it and stares at him for a second in amazement. Then SHE greets him formally.)
WIDOW CHENG
Wan Lei,
I am most surprised.
We did not expect to see you again.

 

WAN
Madame Cheng,
It is indeed a pleasure.

 

WINDOW CHENG
Will you come in?

 

WAN
I hope I have not disturbed you
By arriving unannounced.
                                            (glancing about the room)
It is just as when I left.
 

 

WIDOW CHENG
A year ago.

 

WANG
Has it been a year?
It seems like such a short time.

 

WIDOW CHENG
As one grows older,
The years pass more quickly.
But somehow
This past year went by very slowly.
I do not know why.

 

WAN
The countryside is just as green,
The monastery is just as lovely,
And I have heard that the bandits have been routed.
Ah, such tranquility!
If only I had this in the capitol.

 

WIDOW CHENG
You are looking very well, Wan Lei,
And most prosperous.

 

WAN
You are very kind, Madame Cheng.
Yes, things have gone well with me
These past few months.
You know I failed the examinations.

 

WIDOW CHENG
Yes, I had heard.

 

WAN
I was pleased to discover
The examinations are not of such vast importance
As I had thought
Or as my father had thought.
I will have another chance at them.
The Emperor will see to that.

 

WIDOW CHENG
The Emperor?

 

WAN
Yes, I am most proud.
The Emperor has read some of my poetry.

 

WIDOW CHENG
That is fine for you, Wan Lei.
Yang has always said
You were fated
To be a poet of renown.
Have you seen Yang?

 

WAN
No, not yet.
I came here first.
I had hoped to see Meilan.

 

WIDOW CHENG
Meilan?
Oh, yes, of course.
If you will excuse me,
I shall call her.

 

WAN
If you would be so kind. (WIDOW CHENG exits into the next room. WAN stands alone on stage deeply moved by the renewal of memories. HE gently touches the flowers and carefully surveys the room.)
WAN
The room is the same.
It is the same room
I once held sacred.
The apricot trees stand by the window,
And this door leads out
To the willows by the western gate.
Everything is just as it was.
Time has not altered this little house
Or the temple or the garden.
Time has only changed my eyes.
How different it all seems now.
Once I sat in that chair
And waited for a girl to appear,
Waited for her to notice me,
And when she did appear,
I longed for her to speak,
But she did not.
It was the same room
And it is the same today.
But how it has changed!
How it has changed!
Sometimes
I recall the sweetness
And the agony
Of my first love.
How young and tender it was!
How sacred was this room!
Oh, time, time,
How delicately you rule our lives!
How cleverly you change
Apricot trees and willows
And gardens and rooms.
Time, time, time.
How strange it is…
Oh, well,
Someday I shall have to write a poem about it.

                                                    (WIDOW CHENG reappears from the doorway.)

 

WIDOW CHENG
I am most sorry, Wan.
Meilan begs to be excused.
She is not feeling well.

 

WAN
Certainly.

 

WIDOW CHENG
May I offer you some tea?

 

WAN
That is most kind of you,
But I have little time.

 

WIDOW CHENG
What brings you back
To our province?

 

WAN
I had need of a rest.
And I thought it might be pleasant
To leave the capitol for a week or two
And return to the place of some
Of my most treasured memories.

 

WIDOW CHENG
Then you will be at the monastery?

 

WAN
No. I did not want to impose.
I am at an inn
In the neighboring village.
I did hope to see Meilan,
For she was kind enough
To send me a jade ring
Some months ago.
I did not have the chance to thank her.
I wonder if you would.

 

WIDOW CHENG
Yes, of course.

 

WAN
Now I must take my leave.

 

WIDOW CHENG
I am sorry you must go so soon.
Your visit was much too brief.
Perhaps you will come again
While you are here in the province.

 

WAN
Perhaps.
Goodbye, Madame Cheng.
It was so pleasant seeing you again.

 

WIDOW CHENG
Goodbye, Wan Lei.  (WAN walks out of the house and into the garden. HE is   about to leave through the direction of the willows, but changes his mind and exits the way he came. WIDOW CHENG disappears into the other room. For a moment the stage is empty. Then MEILAN steps from behind the living room screen. SHE rushes to the door and into the garden looking right and then left, trying to catch a glimpse of her former lover.)
MEILAN
                                        (sobbing in a weak voice)
Oh, Wan! Oh, Wan!
                                         (SHE collapses to the ground.)

 

 

CURTAIN