to an unknown extent
Big Uncle was seated in his front room, sipping a cup of tea. He motioned me to a stool opposite him. As usual, he did not waste time in coming to the point. “We cannot support
indefinitely a female who contributes nothing to the family.”
a feeling of evil to come
“If you will stop interrupting, I can explain.” Big Uncle took a sip of tea and studied the pattern of his eggshell porcelain cup. Suddenly I realized he was uncomfortable. That only increased my
a woman who cohabits with an important man
“The second son in the Feng family wants another woman for his chamber. He already has two wives, but they’ve produced only girls, and the family isn’t ready to contract for another wife. Therefore, they decided on a
concubine for him.”
someone who commits wrongdoing
Traditionally the strongest weapon that a Chinese woman had was suicide. Time after time women who had been deeply wronged killed themselves. Even when the wrong had been concealed from outsiders, the angry ghost of the dead woman would haunt the
walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
I told Miss Gilbertson about the three choices given me by Big Uncle: to become a concubine, a nun, or the wife of a tenant farmer. “Of the three, I prefer to marry a farmer and
plod around the rice paddies on my big feet. Maybe I can speak English to the water buffalo.”
not dense or plentiful
As soon as Miss Gilbertson and I were shown in by the houseboy, a very tall, thin foreign man came in. He had
sparse brown hair, but to make up for it, he had the bushiest mustache I had ever seen.
similar in quality or character
A younger boy followed them. His face was scowling, and his thumping steps told the world that he was ready to rebel against anything and everything.
I instantly recognized a
cause to move forward with force
She turned and tried to
propel the boy to the front, but he quickly moved around so that he stayed behind her.
a state in which all hope is lost or absent
“Do you think you would be able to be our amah?” asked Mr. Warner. I could see
desperation in his light blue eyes.
the act of counting; reciting numbers in ascending order
But according to Chinese
reckoning, a person is one year old at the moment of birth, and another year is added to everyone’s age on New Year’s Day.
cover with roofing material made of plant stalks
My alternatives were to become a concubine of the Fengs, enter a nunnery, or live in a
thatched farmhouse with mud walls.
boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
I remembered vividly our interview soon after Father's death, when Big Uncle had threatened to have me strangled and thrown down a well. Nor did I forget my
defiant answer, which had not been calculated to soothe his anger.
give encouragement to
The calmness of his voice
emboldened me, and I ventured to explain my decision. “I thought it less disgraceful to the family name than becoming a concubine of the Fengs.”
put forward, of a guess, in spite of possible refutation
The calmness of his voice emboldened me, and I
ventured to explain my decision. “I thought it less disgraceful to the family name than becoming a concubine of the Fengs.”
struck with dread, shock, or dismay
Mother was the one I told next. As I had expected, she was
unfriendly and inclined toward anger or irritation
The houseboy answered the door, and he looked
surly when I asked for help in carrying my bags to my room.
come to terms with
I knew that Billy would be the difficult one, and I had spent some time thinking over ways to
cope with him.
a piece of equipment or a tool used for a specific purpose
As it turned out, I made a good start when I began to unpack my belongings. I was placing my writing
implements on the desk in my room when I heard a voice. “What are those things?”
unable to be governed or controlled
To Billy I had to teach the alphabet first, and he was an
the power of creative imagination
With Billy I had to use all my
resist or confront with resistance
The best way to quiet Billy down was to tell him stories. I loved stories involving plenty of action, and these were the ones that he liked best, too. So I told him stories from Outlaws of the Marsh, a book about a band of 108 outlaws who
defied corrupt government officials.
a journey to a sacred place
My own favorite stories were from the classic Journey to the West, about the Monkey King who escorted the priest Xuan Zang on a
pilgrimage to India.
(informal) small and of little importance
What I didn’t enjoy was being at the beck and call of the children and having to drop whatever I was doing if one of them wanted my attention. I was in no position to say, “Don’t bother me with such a
an embarrassing mistake
Whenever I made some social
blunder, which happened often during my early days as an amah, I would see him smile with satisfaction.
the trait of firmly controlling your own behavior
I realized that each person was supposed to eat a whole thick piece! It took all my
willpower to finish the serving on my plate.
strong feelings of embarrassment
"What’s the matter, Eileen?” asked Grace, who noticed my
not acknowledging the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam
“Timothy, I don’t want the children to learn a
heathen language,” said Mrs. Warner. “She can spend the time teaching Billy to read and write English words.”
causing offense or disapproval
I didn’t see what Mr. Warner found
objectionable. “Why shouldn’t the children hear about Confucianism?” I asked.
the worship of objects or images as gods
“Don’t interrupt me,” snapped Mr. Warner. “Confucianism involves
improperly forward or bold
There was something familiar about Mr. Warner’s tone of voice, except that I had last heard it from someone speaking Chinese: Big Uncle. Neither man would tolerate being interrupted by an
impertinent slip of a girl.
a feeling of righteous anger
I took down my dictionary and looked up idolatry. Reading the definition made my head swell with
disposition to do good
I had grown up learning about the wisdom of Master Confucius, who believed that a country should be ruled by
benevolence, not force.
That constituted idolatry?
form or compose
I had grown up learning about the wisdom of Master Confucius, who believed that a country should be ruled by benevolence, not force. That
expel from a country
I had been
exiled from my own people, and I had entered a world that despised what I had been taught to value.
look down on with disdain or disgust
I had been exiled from my own people, and I had entered a world that
despised what I had been taught to value.