Letter from Peking: A Novel
Pearl S. Buck
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about his nostrils, his tightened lips. “She was shot,” he said. He was trembling again and I could not bear it. “Baba—don’t tell me! Don’t think of it.” He went on as though I had not spoken. “In the year 1930, in the city of Nanking, she was seized by order of the secret police of the Nationalist government. She was living alone. She had not accompanied her friend, Madame Sun. She had not left with the others on the Long March. For reasons I never knew she had been told to remain in the
love. Beginning? I do not know how deeply he has gone into love. I do not know what he thinks about love. If Gerald were here, as he should be, to help me with our son, I could talk with him and heed his advice. But would he speak to Rennie? My neighbor, Mrs. Landes, a grandmother, says that fathers cannot “speak” to their sons. She says that her own husband would never “speak” to the boys. They are grown now and married, but he did not speak, and she could not speak. “But why?” I asked her.
“Because it would make me feel naked before my own boys,” she said downrightly. Her boys have married good valley women. Perhaps in their plain inarticulate lives, it is better not to speak. Words may be too much for the simple acts of physical union. I do not know. But I have known the fullness of love, an achievement absolute in height and depth, and I wish for my son a like joy. “Sit down, Rennie,” I said. “It is late, but not too late for what I want to say.” He sat down on the low wall of
“Ai-lan was killed,” Baba said painfully. His old face wrinkled and tears dripped down from his eyes. “It was long ago, Baba.” “I believe it was not,” he replied. “I believe it was only last year, or at most two years ago. Her grave is still fresh.” He paused. “Where is her grave?” he asked. He was determined to weep for his dead wife. But why now, after all the years? “Did you love her, Baba?” I asked. He paused to consider. When he spoke it was in one of his rare moments of clarity. “I
I do not know whether he had heard us. We never know what he hears and we were talking more loudly than we knew. Perhaps Baba had got out of his chair with some thought of coming downstairs, although he has not walked alone across the room since Christmas. He lay there. His head had struck the stone hearth of the fireplace. He was dead. …We have come home from Baba’s funeral. Sam stayed, he and Bruce Spaulden took care of every detail for me. Had it been possible, I would have sent Baba’s ashes