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Six years have gone by since my daughter was engaged to the young Ma Dawen. Their marriage we have not celebrated; I couldn't bring myself to separate from my only child, my daughter. As the poet Bai Juyi has written:
A tired old man of forty,
An innocent, dear daughter of two -
It is no boy, but better than nothing,
Often I caressed her to comfort myself
Therefore I kept putting off the date of her marriage, beyond the boundaries decreed by the Ancients. Now that, under our glorious Ming dynasty, peace and order reign in our empire and crimes and deceptions but seldom occur, I was led to making this mistake.
Ma Dawen, then, is a nice and presentable boy of thirty, a descendant of one of the lieutenants of the famous Judge Dee, but now very impoverished. I told him to wait until he had gained his degree, and he concurred, but even when he had gone through the dragon gate and entered the ranks of the Arrived Scholars, I was unable to determine a date for his marriage to my daughter.
Last night he came to me, again, to try and persuade me. Useless to say that he did not succeed, and the discussion became heated. Presently he told me some histories of crimes committed because of late marriages, crimes that needed the intervention of his famous forebear the Judge to repair the order.
Around midnight my daughter came to me, and very disturbed I turned to her. When I took a better look I saw how pale she was, and my son-in-law to be also seemed very pale to me. I took fright and looked again: both were in their nightdress! Suspecting a misdemeanor, I became very angry, and was struck by an attack of brain-fever.
When I came to again, a week later, my first wife told me that Ma Dawen and my daughter had drowned themselves, the very night I was struck ill.
In order to warn other fathers of the error in detaining their daughters too long from marriage I offer this story, and the stories the ghost of Ma Dawen told me, to the public.