Remembering the occurrence of the previous night,
he meant to write a couple of letters of recommendation for Yü-ts’un to take along with him to the capital,
to enable him, after handing them over at the mansions of certain officials,
to find some place as a temporary home.
He accordingly despatched a servant to ask him to come round, but the man returned and reported that from what the bonze
said, “Mr. Chia had started on his journey to the capital,
at the fifth watch of that very morning, that he had also left a message with the bonze to deliver to you,
Sir, to the effect that men of letters paid no heed to lucky or unlucky days,
that the sole consideration with them was the nature of the matter in hand, and that he could find no time to come round in person and bid good-bye.”
Shih-yin after hearing this message had no alternative but to banish the subject from his thoughts.
In comfortable circumstances, time indeed goes by with easy stride. Soon drew near also the happy festival of the 15th of the 1st
moon, and Shih-yin told a servant Huo Ch’i to take Ying Lien to see the sacrificial fires and flowery lanterns.
About the middle of the night, Huo Ch’i was hard pressed, and he forthwith set Ying Lien down on the doorstep of a certain house. When he felt relieved,
he came back to take her up, but failed to find anywhere any trace of Ying Lien. In a terrible plight, Huo Ch’i prosecuted his search throughout half the night;
but even by the dawn of day, he had not discovered any clue of her whereabouts. Huo Ch’i, lacking,
on the other hand, the courage to go back and face his master, promptly made his escape to his native village.
Shih-yin — in fact, the husband as well as the wife — seeing that their child had not come home during the whole night,
readily concluded that some mishap must have befallen her.
Hastily they despatched several servants to go in search of her, but one and all returned to report that there was neither vestige nor tidings of her.
This couple had only had this child, and this at the meridian of their life,
so that her sudden disappearance
plunged them in such great distress that day and night they mourned her loss to such a point as to well nigh pay no heed to their very lives.
A month in no time went by. Shih-yin was the first to fall ill, and his wife, Dame Feng, likewise, by dint of fretting for her daughter, was also prostrated with sickness.
The doctor was, day after day, sent for, and the oracle consulted by means of divination.
Little did any one think that on this day,
being the 15th of the 3rd moon,