Page:Inside Canton.djvu/205

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soft, plaintive voice singing. I lifted up my eyes to the façade, painted and varnished like a lacquered box, and beheld through the window of trellised bamboo-work the pretty little head of Madame Li, above which swung the boughs of a weeping willow. The charming creature made us a good-natured bow, and kept her place at the window, singing away like a caged nightingale.

We entered into the aviary of our friend Pan-se-Chen. On this occasion it seemed to us that the pretty birds led a pleasanter life than usual. These women led a very easy life in this wealthy home. During the day they congregated in little groups, and did their work or gossiped. Their occupations had nothing laborious about them: they did embroidery, played a little music, or perhaps kneaded rice-flour, and made sweetmeats for confectionery luncheons. Our presence in this part of the house caused as much flutter in that usually calm retreat as the visit of a bishop to a hamlet. The whole bevy of fascinating little beings made an irruption into the hall where we were received, and prattled away like a flock of nuns. A table, covered with sweatmeats, preserves, and tarts, was set in the middle of the room, and first one and then the other came nibbling and pecking as she pleased, with the tips of her chopsticks. Young domestics, with hair hanging down their backs, brought us tea on trays of red lacquer;