Bill Meilen
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bigger than my body.”

Sun was truly astonished. “The Gwailo allow you to take away large jade, just like that? Are they blind?”

Loy laughed with his father. “It is difficult to believe, I know, Uncle, but people in Gim San think of jade merely as a green stone, according it no value at all - like limestone or granite. They lack our aesthetic sense to see its value, and of course, we do not intend to point out their folly.”

Sun looked from one to the other and back again.

“But it is very heavy. How do you carry it?”

Lee leaned forward, his face serious now. “In the bowels of cargo ships. We ship it as ballast on chartered tramp steamers from Vancouver. There is an arrangement with the Tanka family Mah in Hong Kong to process it into finished artwork, to be shipped back to Gim San for sale to those who admire the finished stone. It is almost like having a licence to mint our own money.” He leaned back, expansive now. “Although fortune smiles upon our family in this way, we must be very careful. Money can indeed buy us anything we may ever need, but war looms on the horizon of this world, and that can be fatal to future plans.” His voice was firm, authoritative, more old soldier than merchant now.

“Everywhere there is political tension and troop movement, a general build-up of fighting forces. Not only is Nippon engaged in the rape of Manchuria, which they call ‘Manchukuo’ but other powerful fascist forces are on the march elsewhere in the world. Italy, Spain, Germany, everywhere. Once war starts - and it is inevitable - it may be many years before peace returns. We must plan accordingly. You must come with us. I do not want to be apart from you, not knowing your fortunes when the Japanese overrun China, which is certain in view of the fact that Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang seem to believe internal suppression of Chinese communists more important than dealing with the monkey men. Tomorrow, we will show Jing-loy the location of our secret hiding place. It is important that he know where the family fortune is kept, in case of emergencies, and in case you and I do not survive.”

Sun looked worried. “I will do as you say, brother, but we must consider what is to happen to our holdings here. Who will govern the education of the children and the defence of the valley?”

“You see I have brought soldiers with me. They are camped by the riverside below. They are tough and highly trained, and will see to our defence. As for education, the women can read and write. This is a changing world, in which women want to cut their hair short, have big feet, and do unwomanly things. So let them teach the children.”

For a long moment he studied the fine porcelain wine cup, then placed it on the lacquered table beside the divan. Rising, he strode to the edge of the balcony and looked down along the darkening valley.

“Send Lao Chen to call a gathering of elders. They will gather in the main hall as soon as it is fully dark. Someone carry an order that all of my soldiers will stand by in the dooryard.”