Bill Meilen
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There was a long silence as the two stared into the darkness of the trees. Then something stirred in the gloom.

“Drop your weapons!” a voice commanded. The captain shrugged and undid his belt, dropping his holstered Colt .45 to the ground. The young soldier cautiously lowered his Garand M.1 rifle and straightened, trying hopelessly to see the source of the voice. “Move on up the path,” it commanded, but it came from everywhere in the rocky ravine, and the rocks had a thousand eyes.

As the two uniformed intruders picked their steepening way up the path, men dropped quietly into the ravine behind them, armed to the teeth. The men were dressed like peasants, but were too strong and ordered, used to reacting in a trained manner while under stress. Closing around the two intruders, they formed a tight escort, pushing them up the incline. At the top of the path, the great timber and masonry house appeared, heavy iron-bound pine gates to the dooryard standing wide, bordered with heraldic glyphs and two carved stone dragons. The two men were herded into the yard, and the gates swung to behind them.

“What are you doing here?” another voice demanded.

The officer smiled to himself. “Thinking this was a place famous for its pure mountain waters, I came to take the waters for my health.”

There was a pause. After a while someone shuffled in the darkest corner of the dooryard behind the nan-tree columns and a rosewood screen. “You will find plenty of water in the river. Take it and go. Your men are disporting themselves like devils in front of the women of the village! Have you come to try and cut off more heads?”

The officer chuckled as though highly amused. “Not unless it is absolutely necessary. But there’s no need to be afraid. I would hardly cut off the head of my own brother, Chang Suey-sun!”

The statement hung in the air for a moment.

Then there was a gasp and the sound of hurried footsteps and Sun stepped out and looked at the two men with amazement.

“Chang Suey-lee! Elder brother! What are you doing dressed as a Kuomintang officer? I thought you had left all that behind you. And who is this with you, this young soldier? He looks out of condition. Do not tell me this is the little thing you took away with you?” His face was beaming with joy as he embraced his brother. He stepped back to look at the young soldier. “Don’t tell me this is young Chang Jing-loy, who used to talk with me about many things?” The young man coloured up and scraped at the beaten earth of the dooryard with the edge of his nailed boot, saying nothing, but looking with embarrassment toward his father.

Sun looked at him closely. “Mute, is he?” he demanded, then not waiting for an answer, turned to his brother. “Is this some stricken idiot you have brought to see me? Have you permitted him to lose our language? Has he forgotten all that I took so much trouble to teach him when he was drooling and throwing his food all over the place?!”

Lee laughed. “No, he is not an idiot, although he often behaves like one. Of course he speaks. Speak to your uncle, boy! Do what we rehearsed!”