This version first published Saigon, 1965. With numerous illustrations.
«I thank you very much, generous gentleman, for not taking a lost
thing,» Kieu's voice rose from the other side. «A hairpin is, in fact,
of little value, but rare are virtuous hearts that disdain wealth!» «As
inhabitants of the same village, we have met each other many times,»
replied the young man. «I am one of your neighbors, not a stranger from
another region. Owing to a little perfume dropped from you, today
becomes a happy day to me. For many moons my heart has suffered. Now,
this day, expected so long, has finally come. Ah! Please stay a while,
just a little while so that I may open my heart to you!»
He hurried home, joining, as personal gifts, two gold bracelets and a
silk handkerchief to the pin. Then, using a ladder as high as the
clouds (47), he gently climbed onto the top of the wall. It was she,
the same shy, reserved, and hesitating person whom he met on the other
day. As he looked straight at her face, the young girl bowed her head
«Since our last accidental meeting,» said Kim, «I have cherished my
hope silently, and dreamed of you secretly. I have been so long
overwhelmed that my body becomes now etiolated like an apricot-tree.
Days were added to days without my hoping that a day as happy as today
would come to me. A full month went by with my heart confined in the
Cloud Palace (48). I have decided to stay at the foot of a tree to the
end, at the risk of my life like the man who chose this position (49).
And here you are! Please deign to tell me a few words. Oh, mirror! Will
your brightness reach this humble duckweed?»
«The traditions of my family are pure like ice and snow (50),»
replied Kieu hesitantly, «and we live on the growing of vegetables.
Whatever red love leaves (51) or rosy hymen threads may be (52), they
must depend upon my parents' decision. Oh! Good heart full of pity for
a frail willow, and of anxiety for an ephemeral flower! How can I
answer you when I am still a child?»
«It blows today, and it might rain tomorrow,» said Kim. «Happy
meetings do not often come to us in the spring of life. If you despise
this heart quite distraught with love, then to whom will my sorrow he
useful? Please give me some small pledge to fix my fate, and I'll
arrange to have a matchmaker for our union. If the sky opposes my
sincere love, well I then the spring of my life will flow in
loneliness. If your generosity remains indifferent to my love, shall I
not have suffered enough in following you?»
She listened silently, as though lulled by his words. Already an
uneasiness showed in the expression of her eyes, like spring shining
over a pale autumn.
«Everything seems new to me in this first meeting,» Kieu said, «but I
have too much consideration for your sentiments to be able to repress
mine. Since I am the cause of the trouble of your generous heart, I
accept your words, and I'll carve them on gold and on stone forever.»
Kim-Trong felt his heart relieved at these words. He took out the gold
pin and the silk handkerchief, and handed them to her.
«My life is united with yours from this very day,» he said. «May
these modest pledges witness the words we have addressed each other.»
At that moment, Kieu held in her hand an embroidered silk
handkerchief and a fan with the pictures of turnsoles painted on it.
Immediately she exchanged these objects for the gold pin. Their oath
was thus made, and they were linked to each other as if by glue and
Suddenly, they seemed to hear a voice coming from the rear of the
house. Like falling leaves and flowers, he hurried back to his books,
and she, to her dressing-room.
Since then, like a touchstone in full contact with pure gold, their
love became more profound, and their hearts seemed more gloomy. Though
the Siang River (53) was almost dried up, both were there, one waiting
upstream, and the other, pining away for love downstream. Like snow and
mist, they were kept apart by a high wall, and had a lot of
difficulties in exchanging their love messages.
Windy and moonlit nights succeeded each other alternately. Roses
showed more scarcely, and more verdant grew the bushes. Spring seemed
to be on the wane when the family of Kieu's mother celebrated the
birthday of her grandfather. Her parents, and her younger sister and
brother happily prepared their festival dresses. With a rich chosen
gift, they went out to offer their sincere affection to their