Page:Inside Canton.djvu/179

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"Why? I have under my own roof two young girls whom I found in the Han-Leu, and they are neither the least beautiful nor the least charming occupants of the women's quarter in my house!"

"Really, I cannot believe that you have taken home to your wives two women, who have been leading this sad life."

On these words Pan-se-Chen made a gesture of astonishment, rose, and, placing himself before Callery, said to him:—

"I do not understand your squeamishness! We Chinese have none of these prejudices, and we find ourselves all the better off for being without them. In our eyes a woman is a jewel which does not lose any of its value though being admired by everybody. If I go to a lapidary, and see some precious stone of a pure water, an emerald clasp, or ancient pan-che, in fine preservation, am I entitled to despise them, disparage their beauty and refuse to wear them, under the silly pretext that others have worn them before me? When people pay you ingots of silver, do you depreciate their value because others have handled them before you? … Very good! believe me, a woman is like the precious stone or the bar of silver; she keeps her value so long as she keeps her beauty, her complexion, her figure, her elegance, and he is a great fool who refuses to appropriate her, on the ground of scruples void of common sense."