“You’re right, our families were very close,” Mrs. Liu murmured. She looked up at me, and after a moment she sighed. “I want to tell you that our decision about breaking your engagement was a very hard one. We
agonized over it for many months. I’m truly sorry, Ailin.”
under terms not final or fully worked out or agreed upon
Father looked less worried. “The
provisional government set up by Sun Yat-sen here in Nanjing seems stable enough. He certainly shows no sign of wanting to make himself emperor.”
look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
glowered at me for a moment and turned back to Father. “What were you thinking of when you sent this girl to a foreign school? They’ll fill her head with strange ideas. As if she didn’t have enough of them to start with!”
a feeling of righteous anger
Big Uncle’s face turned red with
outrage, I didn’t know which made him angrier: Mother’s daring to break into a serious conversation about the outside world or the idea of my studying to become a teacher.
infection transmitted by inhalation or ingestion of bacilli
Did this mean that Father was suffering from
tuberculosis, the dreaded lung disease that had killed my aunt?
very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
The world history class was taught by Miss Scott, a
gaunt woman with frizzy yellow hair.
originality by virtue of being new and surprising
Tin cans were a great
novelty to us, and I couldn’t imagine actually wearing them, much less fighting in a suit made of them.
marked by intense activity or agitation
But Father was a sick man. He was coughing a lot now, and his cheeks often had a
evidencing little spirit or courage
“You haven’t really lost much if Hanwei
meekly follows his parents’ orders,” said Xueyan. "It was his mother who decided to break the engagement, wasn’t it?”
decide with authority
Hanwei seemed still interested in me, and it was Mrs. Liu who had
decreed that big feet were unacceptable.
inclined or willing to give in to orders or wishes of others
"According to Master Confucius, women should be
submissive to men. Having bound feet certainly made us helpless and therefore
Generations of girls had to suffer
excruciating pain because somebody unknown had decreed that big feet were unacceptable in upper-class society.
a government administered primarily by nonelective officials
I knew he hadn’t been going to work, and I tried to convince myself that it was because not all the government
bureaucracies had been running smoothly.
But it was getting harder to ignore the
telltale signs of Father’s lung disease: the fits of coughing, which ended with blood on his handkerchiefs.
an established ceremony prescribed by a religion
rites were not as elaborate as those for Grandmother, and I felt a burning resentment as I stood weeping loudly with my sisters and the other women.
unwilling to spend
I stared at Big Uncle with hatred, condemning him for his
having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
Big Uncle’s eyes bulged, but otherwise he kept his face
impassive. “Since you always eavesdrop on adult conversations, you must know that we have to cut down on unnecessary expenses. The tuition for your school is an unnecessary expense.”
listen without the speaker's knowledge
Big Uncle’s eyes bulged, but otherwise he kept his face impassive. “Since you always
eavesdrop on adult conversations, you must know that we have to cut down on unnecessary expenses. The tuition for your school is an unnecessary expense.”
the trait of being rude and impertinent
insolence is the result of your going to a foreign school!” cried Big Uncle.
summon with a wave, nod, or some other gesture
As Big Uncle struggled for breath, I heard a rustle behind me. Big Uncle’s first wife
beckoned. “You’d better come into my room and sit with me for a while. It’s not safe for you when he’s like that.”
discourage or frighten with threats or a domineering manner
I knew she was right. Following her, I thought this was the bravest thing this slender,
browbeaten woman had ever done.
having a musical sound; especially a pleasing tune
At Miss Gilbertson’s kindness I broke down and wept, something I hadn’t done under Big Uncle’s attacks. It was not the easy,
melodious wailing I had participated in at funerals, but a painful sobbing that scraped my throat.
brusque and surly and forbidding
“Here, use this,” said Miss Gilbertson
gruffly, offering me a handkerchief.
wet through and through; thoroughly wet
When I finished wiping my face and tried to return the
sodden ball of linen, Miss Gilbertson smiled and shook her head. "You can keep the handkerchief, Eileen.”
affectedly shy especially in a playful or provocative way
As the term approached its end, the girls who were graduating began making sentimental farewells. Some of them
coyly hinted that marriages were being arranged for them by their families.
a sudden sharp feeling
I felt a
pang every time marriage plans were mentioned.
inactivity; showing an unusual lack of energy
Nanjing, called one of the Three Ovens of China, became a city of hazy
in a lethargic manner
Even the beggars were quiet as they
languidly held out their begging bowls to passersby.
fill with high spirits; fill with optimism
We were both
intoxicated: she by the joy of teaching and I by the joy of learning.