Lu-San, Daughter of Heaven
Summary
Not Available
Story
Lu-san went to bed without any supper, but her little heart was hungry
for something more than food. She nestled up close beside her sleeping
brothers, but even in their slumber they seemed to deny her that love
which she craved. The gentle lapping of the water against the sides of
the houseboat, music which had so often lulled her into dreamland, could
not quiet her now. Scorned and treated badly by the entire family, her
short life had been full of grief and shame.

Lu-san's father was a fisherman. His life had been one long fight
against poverty. He was ignorant and wicked. He had no more feeling of
love for his wife and five children than for the street dogs of his
native city. Over and over he had threatened to drown them one and all,
and had been prevented from doing so only by fear of the new mandarin.
His wife did not try to stop her husband when he sometimes beat the
children until they fell half dead upon the deck. In fact, she herself
was cruel to them, and often gave the last blow to Lu-san, her only
daughter. Not on one day in the little girl's memory had she escaped
this daily whipping, not once had her parents pitied her.

On the night with which this story opens, not knowing that
Lu-san was listening, her father and mother were planning how to
get rid of her.

"The mandarin cares only about boys," said he roughly. "A man might kill
a dozen girls and he wouldn't say a word."

"Lu-san's no good anyway," added the mother. "Our boat is small, and
she's always in the wrong place."

"Yes, and it takes as much to feed her as if she were a boy. If you say
so, I'll do it this very night."

"All right," she answered, "but you'd better wait till the moon has
set."

"Very well, wife, we'll let the moon go down first, and then the girl."

No wonder Lu-san's little heart beat fast with terror, for there could
be no doubt as to the meaning of her parents' words.

At last when she heard them snoring and knew they were both sound
asleep, she got up silently, dressed herself, and climbed the ladder
leading to the deck. Only one thought was in her heart, to save herself
by instant flight. There were no extra clothes, not a bite of food to
take with her. Besides the rags on her back there was only one thing
she could call her own, a tiny soapstone image of the goddess Kwan-yin,
which she had found one day while walking in the sand. This was the only
treasure and plaything of her childhood, and if she had not watched
carefully, her mother would have taken even this away from her. Oh,
how she had nursed this idol, and how closely she had listened to the
stories an old priest had told about Kwan-yin the Goddess of Mercy, the
best friend of women and children, to whom they might always pray in
time of trouble.

It was very dark when Lu-san raised the trapdoor leading to the outer
air, and looked out into the night. The moon had just gone down, and
frogs were croaking along the shore. Slowly and carefully she pushed
against the door, for she was afraid that the wind coming in suddenly
might awaken the sleepers or, worse still, cause her to let the trap
fall with a bang. At last, however, she stood on the deck, alone and
ready to go out into the big world. As she stepped to the side of the
boat the black water did not make her feel afraid, and she went ashore
without the slightest tremble.

Now she ran quickly along the bank, shrinking back into the shadows
whenever she heard the noise of footsteps, and thus hiding from the
passers-by. Only once did her heart quake, full of fear. A huge boat dog
ran out at her barking furiously. The snarling beast, however, was not
dangerous, and when he saw this trembling little girl of ten he sniffed
in disgust at having noticed any one so small, and returned to watch his
gate.

Lu-san had made no plans. She thought that if she could escape the
death her parents had talked about, they would be delighted at her
leaving them and would not look for her. It was not, then, her own
people that she feared as she passed the rows of dark houses lining the
shore. She had often heard her father tell of the dreadful deeds done
in many of these houseboats. The darkest memory of her childhood was of
the night when he had almost decided to sell her as a slave to the owner
of a boat like these she was now passing. Her mother had suggested that
they should wait until Lu-san was a little older, for she would then be
worth more money. So her father had not sold her. Lately, perhaps, he
had tried and failed.

That was why she hated the river dwellers and was eager to get past
their houses. On and on she sped as fast as her little legs could carry
her. She would flee far away from the dark water, for she loved the
bright sunshine and the land.

As Lu-san ran past the last houseboat she breathed a sigh of relief and
a minute later fell in a little heap upon the sand. Not until now had
she noticed how lonely it was. Over there was the great city with its
thousands of sleepers. Not one of them was her friend. She knew nothing
of friendship, for she had had no playmates. Beyond lay the open fields,
the sleeping villages, the unknown world. Ah, how tired she was! How far
she had run! Soon, holding the precious image tightly in her little hand
and whispering a childish prayer to Kwan-yin, she fell asleep.

When Lu-san awoke, a cold chill ran through her body, for bending over
her stood a strange person. Soon she saw to her wonder that it was a
woman dressed in beautiful clothes like those worn by a princess. The
child had never seen such perfect features or so fair a face. At first,
conscious of her own filthy rags, she shrank back fearfully, wondering
what would happen if this beautiful being should chance to touch her and
thus soil those slender white fingers. As the child lay there trembling
on the ground, she felt as if she would like to spring into the fairy
creature's arms and beg for mercy. Only the fear that the lovely one
would vanish kept her from so doing. Finally, unable to hold back any
longer, the little girl, bending forward, stretched out her hand to the
woman, saying, "Oh, you are so beautiful! Take this, for it must be you
who lost it in the sand."

The princess took the soapstone figure, eyed it curiously, and then with
a start of surprise said, "And do you know, my little creature, to whom
you are thus giving your treasure?"

"No," answered the child simply, "but it is the only thing I have in all
the world, and you are so lovely that I know it belongs to you. I found
it on the river bank."

Then a strange thing happened. The graceful, queenly woman bent over,
and held out her arms to the ragged, dirty child. With a cry of joy the
little one sprang forward; she had found the love for which she had been
looking so long.

"My precious child, this little stone which you have kept so lovingly,
and which without a thought of self you have given to me--do you know of
whom it is the image?"

"Yes," answered Lu-san, the colour coming to her cheeks again as she
snuggled up contentedly in her new friend's warm embrace, "it is the
dear goddess Kwan-yin, she who makes the children happy."

"And has this gracious goddess brought sunshine into your life, my
pretty one?" said the other, a slight flush covering her fair cheeks at
the poor child's innocent words.

"Oh, yes indeed; if it had not been for her I should not have escaped
to-night. My father would have killed me, but the good lady of heaven
listened to my prayer and bade me stay awake. She told me to wait until
he was sleeping, then to arise and leave the houseboat."

"And where are you going, Lu-san, now that you have left your father?
Are you not afraid to be alone here at night on the bank of this great
river?"

"No, oh no! for the blessed mother will shield me. She has heard my
prayers, and I know she will show me where to go."

The lady clasped Lu-san still more tightly, and something glistened in
her radiant eye. A tear-drop rolled down her cheek and fell upon the
child's head, but Lu-san did not see it, for she had fallen fast asleep
in her protector's arms.

When Lu-san awoke, she was lying all alone on her bed in the houseboat,
but, strange to say, she was not frightened at finding herself once more
near her parents. A ray of sunlight came in, lighting up the child's
face and telling her that a new day had dawned. At last she heard the
sound of low voices, but she did not know who were the speakers. Then
as the tones grew louder she knew that her parents were talking. Their
speech, however, seemed to be less harsh than usual, as if they were
near the bed of some sleeper whom they did not wish to wake.

"Why," said her father, "when I bent over to lift her from the bed,
there was a strange light about her face. I touched her on the arm, and
at once my hand hung limp as if it had been shot. Then I heard a voice
whispering in my ears, 'What! would you lay your wicked hands on one who
made the tears of Kwan-yin flow? Do you not know that when she cries the
gods themselves are weeping?'"

"I too heard that voice," said the mother, her voice trembling; "I heard
it, and it seemed as if a hundred wicked imps pricked me with spears, at
every prick repeating these terrible words, 'And would you kill a
daughter of the gods?'"

"It is strange," he added, "to think how we had begun to hate this
child, when all the time she belonged to another world than ours. How
wicked we must be since we could not see her goodness."

"Yes, and no doubt for every time we have struck her, a thousand blows
will be given us by Yama, for our insults to the gods."

Lu-san waited no longer, but rose to dress herself. Her heart was
burning with love for everything around her. She would tell her parents
that she forgave them, tell them how she loved them still in spite of
all their wickedness. To her surprise the ragged clothes were nowhere
to be seen. In place of them she found on one side of the bed the most
beautiful garments. The softest of silks, bright with flowers--so lovely
that she fancied they must have been taken from the garden of the
gods--were ready to slip on her little body. As she dressed herself she
saw with surprise that her fingers were shapely, that her skin was soft
and smooth. Only the day before, her hands had been rough and cracked by
hard work and the cold of winter. More and more amazed, she stooped to
put on her shoes. Instead of the worn-out soiled shoes of yesterday, the
prettiest little satin slippers were there all ready for her tiny feet.

Finally she climbed the rude ladder, and lo, everything she touched
seemed to be changed as if by magic, like her gown. The narrow rounds of
the ladder had become broad steps of polished wood, and it seemed as if
she was mounting the polished stairway of some fairy-built pagoda. When
she reached the deck everything was changed. The ragged patchwork which
had served so long as a sail had become a beautiful sheet of canvas that
rolled and floated proudly in the river breeze. Below were the dirty
fishing smacks which Lu-san was used to, but here was a stately ship,
larger and fairer than any she had ever dreamed of, a ship which had
sprung into being as if at the touch of her feet.

After searching several minutes for her parents she found them trembling
in a corner, with a look of great fear on their faces. They were clad
in rags, as usual, and in no way changed except that their savage faces
seemed to have become a trifle softened. Lu-san drew near the wretched
group and bowed low before them.

Her mother tried to speak; her lips moved, but made no sound: she had
been struck dumb with fear.

"A goddess, a goddess!" murmured the father, bending forward three times
and knocking his head on the deck. As for the brothers, they hid their
faces in their hands as if dazzled by a sudden burst of sunlight.

For a moment Lu-san paused. Then, stretching out her hand, she touched
her father on the shoulder. "Do you not know me, father? It is Lu-san,
your little daughter."

The man looked at her in wonder. His whole body shook, his lips
trembled, his hard brutish face had on it a strange light. Suddenly he
bent far over and touched his forehead to her feet. Mother and sons
followed his example. Then all gazed at her as if waiting for her
command.

"Speak, father," said Lu-san. "Tell me that you love me, say that you
will not kill your child."

"Daughter of the gods, and not of mine," he mumbled, and then paused as
if afraid to continue.

"What is it, father? Have no fear."

"First, tell me that you forgive me."

The child put her left hand upon her father's forehead and held the
right above the heads of the others, "As the Goddess of Mercy has given
me her favour, so I in her name bestow on you the love of heaven. Live
in peace, my parents. Brothers, speak no angry words. Oh, my dear ones,
let joy be yours for ever. When only love shall rule your lives, this
ship is yours and all that is in it."

Thus did Lu-san change her loved ones. The miserable family which had
lived in poverty now found itself enjoying peace and happiness. At first
they did not know how to live as Lu-san had directed. The father
sometimes lost his temper and the mother spoke spiteful words; but as
they grew in wisdom and courage they soon began to see that only love
must rule.

All this time the great boat was moving up and down the river. Its
company of sailors obeyed Lu-san's slightest wish. When their nets were
cast overboard they were always drawn back full of the largest, choicest
fish. These fish were sold at the city markets, and soon people began to
say that Lu-san was the richest person in the whole country.

One beautiful day during the Second Moon, the family had just returned
from the temple. It was Kwan-yin's birthday, and, led by Lu-san, they
had gone gladly to do the goddess honour. They had just mounted to the
vessel's deck when Lu-san's father, who had been looking off towards the
west, suddenly called the family to his side. "See!" he exclaimed. "What
kind of bird is that yonder in the sky?"

As they looked, they saw that the strange object was coming nearer and
nearer, and directly towards the ship. Every one was excited except
Lu-san. She was calm, as if waiting for something she had long expected.

"It is a flight of doves," cried the father in astonishment, "and they
seem to be drawing something through the air."

At last, as the birds flew right over the vessel, the surprised
onlookers saw that floating beneath their wings was a wonderful chair,
all white and gold, more dazzling even than the one they had dreamed the
Emperor himself sat in on the Dragon Throne. Around each snow-white neck
was fastened a long streamer of pure gold, and these silken ribbons were
tied to the chair in such a manner as to hold it floating wherever its
light-winged coursers chose to fly.

Down, down, over the magic vessel came the empty chair, and as it
descended, a shower of pure white lilies fell about the feet of Lu-san,
until she, the queen of all the flowers, was almost buried. The doves
hovered above her head for an instant, and then gently lowered their
burden until it was just in front of her.

With a farewell wave to her father and mother, Lu-san stepped into the
fairy car. As the birds began to rise, a voice from the clouds spoke in
tones of softest music: "Thus Kwan-yin, Mother of Mercies, rewards
Lu-san, daughter of the earth. Out of the dust spring the flowers; out
of the soil comes goodness. Lu-san! that tear which you drew from
Kwan-yin's eye fell upon the dry ground and softened it; it touched the
hearts of those who loved you not. Daughter of earth no longer, rise
into the Western Heaven, there to take your place among the fairies,
there to be a star within the azure realms above."

As Lu-san's doves disappeared in the distant skies, a rosy light
surrounded her flying car. It seemed to those who gazed in wonder that
heaven's gates were opening to receive her. At last when she was gone
beyond their sight, suddenly it grew dark upon the earth, and the eyes
of all that looked were wet with tears.