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Chapter 1  

Chapter 2  

Chapter 3  

Chapter 4  

Chapter 5  

Chapter 6  

Chapter 7  

Chapter 8  

Chapter 9  

Chapter 10  

Chapter 11  

Chapter 12  

 
 

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Chapter 11

The carriage had stopped inside the Meridian Gate. The square was filled with imperial guards and foot soldiers. Something was happening. Heather was unaccustomed to such military presence and felt extremely frightened and overwhelmed. One of the Guards of Honor saw them standing gazing in amazement at the palace and approached the carriage.

Guard
Ni jiao shenme mingzi (What is your name?)

Father
Sir. I am Mr. Buchanan and this is my daughter Heather. We are here at the request of his highness Emperor Ch`ung-chen.

The guard turns and motions to three soldiers to come to the carriage. Three foot soldiers run over and the guard instructs them to take the baggage to the guest quarters. They bow and quickly grab the luggage off of the top of the carriage and from the rear. One of the soldiers glimpses over at Heather and smiles. She returns his gesture. The Guard of Honor speaks to her father in Chinese. She can hear portions of the conversations. The guard explained that he was going to escort them to the Grand Secretaryís office.


Father
Come Heather. We are being taken to the Grand Secretary. Do not say a word unless spoken to. Remember?

Heather
Of course Father. Not one word.

Heather and her father follow the imperial guard. She is in awe of the grand palace. She gathers her skirts and walks briskly towards the Palace of Heavenly Purity. They go into the rear of the building and are met by two grand looking but very dangerous palace eunuchs. The Guard of Honor announces them and the guards lower there broad swords to allow them to pass. Heather glances at her father and notices that he appears terribly worried. Her knees begin to shake and she feels nauscious. They are led to the Grand Secretaryís chambers and are instructed to wait inside and not to leave. After seeing the eunuchs it is very much understood that one slip and they would both be in deep trouble. No one was going anywhere!

Grand Secretary(A frail man with a very traditional long wirey beard and moustache and a very odd looking hat)
Welcome to Palace. I trust you traveled at ease Mr. Buchanan?

Father
Yes. Thank you.

Heather noticed that The Grand Secretary appeared very regal indeed. However, he also appeared very nervous. Her father noticed this alsoÖ

Father

Sire. Have we arrived at an inopportune time?

Grand Secretary(Throws his hands up in excitement)
Not at all! Not at all! We are going to be having a grand celebration tomorrow. The Emperor wishes to celebrate his most recent victory against the Mongol troops in the North. You have arrived at a most wonderful time. Now I believe, you must rest from your journey. Your daughter is being given some maids to tend to her needs and they will instruct her on the palace customs.

Father

This is very generous of you. Thank you.

Grand Secretary(Walks over to Heather)
Do you speak Chinese?

Heather(Bows)
Yes. I have been tutored in Chinese for the last three years.

Grand Secretary(Startled by her fluency)
Excellent. I am sure you will have no problems settling in.
(Rings a bell)

Two eunuchs open the doors and the Grand Secretary requests an escort to take the two guests to their chambers. The eunuchs nod and one walks off to find an escort. Within minutes a servant arrives.

Grand Secretary
There is going to be a banquet this evening in the Hall of Protective Harmony. I ask that you both attend in formal attire. I am sure the Emperor will wish to meet you as soon as possible. Tonight will be the most opportune time. Well.. I must get back to my affairs of business. If you need anything at all please tell your escort. His name is "Han".

Han
Please follow me Sir..Madame

Heather and her father follow Han through the long corridors. They pass the Hall of Earthly Peace which appears silent and neglected. (Heather makes a mental note of this)

They make a right turn and come to the guest quarters. Her fatherís chamber is directly across from her own. Heather breaths a sigh of relief. All of her luggage had already been placed inside and three young maids were standing waiting at the doorway. They appear eager to please her but sheís too exhausted to even notice so she slips off her slippers and throws herself down on the western styled bed. The three maids giggle with excitement. Heather peeks out of one of her eyes and notices one of the maids admiring her clothes.


Heather (Sits up)
Tell me that you have not all been resigned to care for my needs?

Ms. Lan(Is an attractive gentle soft spoken woman dressed in a beautiful gray silk garment. Her hair braided and neatly tied with a grey silk ribbon)
Yes. My lady.

Heather
Well. I believe thee shall have an easy duty then. I do not pretend to want three women pestering over my needs. Although I wouldnít mind a hot bath right now.

Ms. Lan

We have already predicted that you may desire to bathe after your trip.

Heather
Thank goodness. Where is it?

Ms. Lan
ĎTis just in the next chamber over.
We have already been instructed as to your agenda for this evening.
Which gown would you like to wear for the banquet ? We will prepare it for you.

Heather
Thank you. I will be wearing the green gown with the blue tartan sach.
Can you show me to the bathing room?

Ms. Lan
I will take you there and stay with you. I have been instructed not to allow you out of my sight until you comprehend the palace customs.

Heather
Why all the fuss? I donít understand.

Ms. Lan
You will learn soon enough. There are areas which you are forbidden to enter. Not only because you are a woman but also because you are a foreigner. There are also social customs that you must abide to as a woman. Please try to understand.

Heather
Oh.. I understand perfectly. Not too worry. I have seen those eunuchs!

Ms. Lan(laughs)
Yes. One must be very careful around them.

Heather and Ms. Lan walk next door to the bathing room.
Heather is happy to rid herself of the heavy dress and undergarments. Ms. Lan sits silently in the corner while Heather slips into the tub. Heather sighs and relaxes in the hot steaming water..


Heather
So what do you do for fun around here?

Ms. Lan
Well. We do not really have too much time for fun ..as you say. I enjoy reading, embroidery , watching the palace scholars work and helping now and then in the Imperial Gardens.

Heather
Yes. I have heard of the gardens. They say the aroma will stay with you forever.

Ms. Lan
Yes. We have some wonderful flowers in full bloom right now. If we have time we can visit the garden before your first lesson.

Heather
That sounds wonderful. Ahh.. This bath feels great. Forgive me for being presumptious but I think we are going to get along just fine Ms. Lan.

Ms. Lan smiles and takes a robe over to Heather.

Ms. Lan
We only have a small amount of time. I need to give you some instructions for this evening.

Heather(Wraps the robe around herself and follows Ms. Lan next door.)
Alright. Father has already told me that I am not to speak until I am spoken to.

Ms. Lan
That is correct. Also, you must never stand taller than the Emperor. Whenever he speaks directly to you. You must give the customary bow and address him like so.." Yes.. Your Royal Highness" Itís easy if you follow others lead. I will be there with you. This is a very large celebration so there will be many officials there. I will be there to assist you.

Heather
Thank goodness. I was worried that I would have no one with me. I know Father will be busy with the other gentlemen.

Ms. Lan
Yes. He should be leaving soon to join the others. Your father must be a special gentleman. The Emperor is not known to embrace Western ideas..

Heather
My Father and I have been in China for the last six years. He and the Emperor both have mutual acquaintance in the trading business and of course ..the King. This friend recommended my Father to the Emperor and the King made a personal request to undertake the position. Father has taught English to several Chinese Gentry already. It was more of a hobby for him though until now.

Ms. Lan
Your Father must be a kind man.

Heather
Yes. He has a kind heart. He loves China..the people.. the culture.

The other two maids arrive with Heatherís gown. Ms. Lan careful combs Heatherís long golden hair. The other women watch in amazement. They had never seen a blonde woman before.

Heather(Tickled by their curiosity)
You can touch it if you like.

They walk over and gently touch her hair.

Ms. Lan
They said it looks like gold but it is as soft as lambís wool.
I have to leave you for a moment to prepare for this evening. I will be back soon.

Heather(Smiles)
Thank you.

They maids finish arranging her hair and bring a looking glass for Heather to view herself. Heather is impressed and the maids bring her gown.
Heather steps into her gown and arranges her sach in proper Scottish fashion. She slips on her green satin slippers and glances one more time in the looking glass. Heather puts a little more powder on her face and while she waits for Ms. Lan she looks out of the window. She can see the wall of the Imperial Garden and one of the four Watch Towers in the distance.


Ms. Lan(Dressed in a beautiful formal Chinese rose coloured silk gown. Her face is powdered and her hair braided and adorned with Chinese combs)
Are you ready to leave?

Heather
Yes. I believe so. Promise you will not leave my side.

Ms. Lan(Laughs)
I promise.
They leave Heatherís chambers and make their way to The Hall of Protective Harmony. The bells are ringing triumphantly from the Meridian Gate. The entrance to the Hall is decorated with colorful paper lanterns and flags. Heather notices that there are a large number of eunuchs surrounding the Hall and Guards of Honor swarm the area.

Heather
Why so many guards?

Ms. Lan
Just the usual heightened security because of the number of guests. There are many traitors who would like to see the Emperor depart this life as soon as possible.

Heather

Ahh.... I understand.

They join a large group of officials and are announced. When Heather is announced heads turn from every direction and one could have heard a pin drop. Heather whispers in Ms. Lanís ear.

Heather
Is there something wrong?

Ms. Lan
Not at all. They are in awe of your beauty child. Just nod and receive their kind gestures.

Heather nods and follows Ms. Lanís lead.
Heather is introduced to many Chinese Officials and their spouses. She notices her father in the far corner of the room and asks Ms. Lan if she may join him.

Mrs. Lan

Yes. I think that would be agreeable. The Emperor will be joining us soon.
Heather walks over to her father and his eyes sparkle in admiration.

Father

Well.. Lassy. Donít ye look positively breath taking this evening.

Heather
Thank you Father. You look positively handsome this evening too.

Father
Thank you. Well.. what do you think so far?

Heather
I am still a little overwhelmed . Give me a few days.
Father. I would like to introduce you to Ms. Lan. She is my companion and teacher while we are here as guests.
Father bows and greets Ms. Lan.

Heather
Would it be alright if I sit? I am a little tired.

Ms. Lan
No. You cannot sit until after the Emperor sits. Donít worry I can see they are about to announce him.

The orchestra stops playing and the drums announce the Emperorís arrival. Everyone drops to their knees and bows in recognition.. He is followed by his Grand Secretary and several eunuchs and a young gentleman. Ms. Lan whispers in Heatherís ear.

Ms. Lan
Thatís the Emperorís son. His name is Xin.
Heather looks upward to see the young man.

Jenny
Itís him! Heís the Emperorís son. His hair is long and braided. His clothes are different but itís him alright!

The Emperor sits on his throne and makes himself comfortable. His son joins the most distinguished guests on the opposite site of the Hall facing Heather. She glances over and notices that he is looking her direction. He smiles. Heather blushes and turns her eyes back in the Emperorís direction. Ms. Lan witnesses the exchange and smiles at Heather.
Father is asked by the Grand Secretary to introduce him self to Emperor Ch`ung-chen. He moves briskly to the front and kneels down. Heather could not hear the conversation but she could tell by the facial expressions that he was well received. The Emperor glanced over at Heather. Ms. Lan gently grasps Heatherís arm and moves her to the front also.


Emperor Ch`ung-chen(smiles)
Welcome Miss Buchanan. I trust you find my palace accomodating?

Heather(Curtsies)
Yes. Your Highness. It is truly magnificent.

Emperor Ch`ung-chen
Yes. It is.
(He dismisses them with a glance)

Ms. Lan and Heather move slowly back into the crowd.
Heatherís Father joins them afterwards.


Father
Seems quite jolly doesnít he?

Ms. Lan(Giggles)
Well this evening he is very happy indeed.

Shortly afterwards while Ms. Lan introduces Heather to some more Officials she glances over and see Xin conversing with the Grand Secretary. The Grand Secretary nods and looks in Heatherís direction. He moves towards them with Xin at his side.

Grand Secretary
Mr. Buchanan. Miss. Buchanan.
I would like to introduce you to his Highness Prince Ch`ung

Xin(Bows and smiles)
Welcome.

Father
Thank you. I am looking forward to assisting your Father.

Xin
Yes. I was surprised my father has taken on this interest of learning English. I understand I will also be tutored.

Father
Yes.

Xin(Glances at the Grand Secretary)
I have to warn you I am not as studious as some would presume.

Father
You will not have any problems your Highness.

Xin(laughs)
Thank you for your vote of confidence Mr. Buchanan.

Father laughs.

Xin
Now Miss. Buchanan. I understand you speak Chinese fluently?

Heather
Yes Sir. I have been tutored for the last three years.

Xin
Excellent. Well. I fear I must attend to affairs. It was a pleasure meeting you both. I look forward to hearing about the social circles in Europe.

Father
Oh. I am afraid I know very little about social circles. My daughter Heather is more in tune to the social life.

Xin(Smiles devilishly at Heather)
I look forward to meeting you both again soon.

Father
Thank you ..your Highness.

Heather and Ms. Lan sit and watch a Lion Dance and some other spectacular musical demonstrations. Heather watches the Prince carefully. She admires his strenght but can tell he must give the Emperor much stress as he appears to be one that may not comply with rules too easily.
After the Emperor leave Heather quickly requests to retire early. Ms. Lan agrees and escorts her back to her room. On the way Heather asks to see the Imperial Garden.


Heather
Would you mind terribly if go into the garden this evening instead of tomorrow?

Ms. Lan
I donít see why not. The garden is most beautiful under a full moon when the air is cool. Be careful with your footing though. Itís hard to manuoevre around it in some places.

Heather
Iíll be fine.

They open the large gate to the garden. Heather is immediatedly stuck by a beautiful honeysuckle aroma. They walk to the center of the Garden where the large incense urn burns eternally.

Heather
Itís so beautiful. Can we sit for a while?

Ms. Lan
Sure. I have to take care of something for tomorrow. Would you mind sitting her for a moment.

Heather(smiles)
Of course not. Itís so peaceful here. I should love to sit and listen to the fountain and the crickets.

Ms. Lan
Alright. I will be right back.

Heather breathes a sigh of relief and and wanders around the garden until she comes to a bench that is well lit under the moon light. She puts her head back gently and closes her eyes.

Xin
Beautiful garden. Isnít it?

Heather (Startled)
Yes. Your Highness. It is.

Xin
I appologize for startling you.
I often come here to relax and escape.

Heather (Smiles)
I understand. The company, the music.. it is all so glorious but I am so tired from my journey.

Xin
I imagine so. Where has Ms. Lan gone?

Heather
She said that she would return in a moment.

Xin
Ah.. I see.

Heather(Sighs)
The palace is so beautiful.

Xin
Yes. It echoes the voices of the my ancestors. One peaceful nights you can hear their whispers in the wind.

Heather(smiles)
I wonder what they would say about a Western woman trodding around in their palace.

Xin
I think they would say ..thank goodness for the beautiful blessing.

Heather blushes.

Ms. Lan
Ms. Buchanan are you there?

Heather
Yes. I am right here with..

Heather looks around and Xin is no where to be seen.


Ms. Lan
I see you now. Thank you for waiting patiently.

Heather
Not at all. You could leave me here all evening and I would not complain. Do you smell that?

Ms. Lan
Yes. Itís Jasmine. Itís coming from over there.

Heather.
Well. I guess itís time to retire.

Ms. Lan
Yes. Ma'am

Heather picks up her skirts and as she is walking away from the garden she looks to see if she can see Xin.. but he is nowhere to be found.

Next Chapter

Written by Isabel Hodge
 





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