Lu-san went to bed without any supper, but her little heart was hungry for something more than food. She nestled up close beside her sleeping brothers, but even in their slumber they seemed to deny her that love which she craved. The gentle lapping of the water against the sides of the houseboat, music which had so often lulled her into dreamland, could not quiet her now. Scorned and treated badly by the entire family, her short life had been full of grief and shame.
Lu-san’s father was a fisherman. His life had been one long fight against poverty. He was ignorant and wicked. He had no more feeling of love for his wife and five children than for the street dogs of his native city.
Over and over he had threatened to drown them one and all, and had been prevented from doing so only by fear of the new mandarin. His wife did not try to stop her husband when he sometimes beat the children until they fell half dead upon the deck. In fact, she herself was cruel to them, and often gave the last blow to Lu-san, her only daughter.
Not on one day in the little girl’s memory had she escaped this daily whipping, not once had her parents pitied her.
On the night with which this story opens, not knowing that Lu-san was listening, her father and mother were planning how to get rid of her.
“The mandarin cares only about boys,” said he roughly. “A man might kill a dozen girls and he wouldn’t say a word.”
“Lu-san’s no good anyway,” added the mother. “Our boat is small, and she’s always in the wrong place.”
“Yes, and it takes as much to feed her as if she were a boy. If you say so, I’ll do it this very night.”
“All right,” she answered, “but you’d better wait till the moon has set.”
“Very well, wife, we’ll let the moon go down first, and then the girl.”
No wonder Lu-san’s little heart beat fast with terror, for there could be no doubt as to the meaning of her parents’ words.
At last when she heard them snoring and knew they were both sound asleep, she got up silently, dressed herself, and climbed the ladder leading to the deck.
Only one thought was in her heart, to save herself by instant flight.
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