Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/700

This page has been validated.
684
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

be unmarried. And really they have made a very fair provision for enabling themselves to loose the knot. Not only do they admit such grounds of divorce as would satisfy Sir Cresswell Cresswell, but they add to them inveterate infirmity, disrespect to the husband's parents, thieving, and, most comprehensive class of all, ill-temper and talkativeness. However, if the husband has acquired property since his marriage, if the wife has no parental home to which she may return, or if she has mourned for her husband's parents, divorce can not take place. It is one of the many exemplifications of the Chinese maxim that the laws should be severe, but tempered with mercy in their administration.

There is, however, another dissolution of marriage over which law has no power—that which is effected by the hand of death. The widow is not forbidden to remarry, but by so doing she loses many privileges, and her conduct is considered somewhat light and irregular. Nature, however, will occasionally speak louder than fashion, and it may be worth while to repeat the tale told by Chwângtsze, the great Chinese philosopher.

A Chinaman died soon after his marriage with a young and lovely woman. As he was dying, the wife was loud in her protestations of grief, and her determination not to marry again. The husband was not unreasonable; he only asked that if she did take another spouse she would wait till the earth upon his grave was dry. He died and was buried; and many a young and handsome bachelor of the province of Shantung was present at his funeral. She listened to no suitor, for woman's heart is tender, and she could not so soon forget the lost one. Daily she stole to his grave. She wept, but no tear fell upon the soil, she took good care of that. At last, after a few days, Chwângtsze happened to pass, and saw her fanning, not herself, but the damp earth. He asked the reason. She told him of her husband's last request, and begged him to assist her. She offered him a fan to assist her, and there they sat to fan away the moisture: the grave was so long a-drying!

Poor Chwang! He was not much more lucky himself. He did not take the widow, but neither did he take warning. The geese were carried for him, and were very typical of himself. He had nothing to do for it at last but to quit political life, in which he had gained some distinction, and turn philosopher. But we will have "no more scandal about Queen Elizabeth," lest rosy English cheeks should take the part of China's golden lilies, as we have known widows at home almost in as great a hurry as those of the province of Shantung.

But even to the poor Chinaman death must come at last, even though there is no paper in Canton, so far as we know, to furnish a notice of his life and death, and to publish an abstract of his will, as is the case in more civilized countries. To him it comes armed with few terrors, so long as he leaves behind him male offspring to make