The Box of Beautiful Things
by Brian Dolton
Yi Qin came to visit Weng Hao's Grand Carnival Of Curiosities on a spring day,
with the air sharp and clear. She was humbly dressed, not like an emissary of the
Emperor at all, and she took her place in the line, and she handed over her quarter-teng piece. She looked at the tigers, pacing back and forth in their cages. She
watched the acrobats perform, tumbling and swooping and spinning. She listened
to the story-teller, and laughed when he recounted the tale of the Little Fisherman
and the Seven Foolish Demons.
She had not come, however, to see these things. They were diversions; amusing
in their way, but no more than that. No; she had come, like everyone else, to see
the Box Of Beautiful Things.
But not for the same reason.
There was a long line. Even though the carnival was camped in the middle of a
dusty plain, people had come from a hundred li in every direction, spurred on by
rumor. Weng Hao himself was marshalling the customers. As Yi Qin waited for
her turn (for no more than ten people at a time were allowed into the tent where
the Box Of Beautiful Things was kept), she studied him. He was a big man;
bigger, almost, than his skin could withstand. His cheeks seemed distended, and
his eyes were thin black slits that he could barely open. He had a long black
moustache and wore gaudy silks.
His voice boomed out, from time to time. The wait is worth it, he would cry.
Why, a wait of a Great Year would be worth it, to see the Box Of Beautiful
Things. Such things as you have never before seen. Such things as you could not
even imagine! Gaze upon beauty, and let your heart lift, to know that there is still
such wonder in the world!
Yi Qin had seen many wonders, and by no means all of them were beautiful. She
shuffled forwards as the line moved, and folded her hands together under her
sleeves. Her thumb sought the point of one of the darts she kept hidden. Not yet,
she told herself. Not until you can see the Box Of Beautiful Things.