New gang of drinkers clattered up the stairs a short

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new gang of drinkers clattered up the stairs, a short man with a round,swollen face leading the pack. Just behind him was a much taller man,his most conspicuous feature a scarlet nose. On and on they came, untilthe small building trembled with the stampede. Lü Weifu and I glancedat each other; then I called for the bill.‘D’you earn enough to live on?’ I asked as we prepared to go.‘Yes – twenty dollars a month. Actually, not quite enough.’‘So what are your plans for the future?’‘The future?… I’ve no idea. Have any of the dreams we once had cometo anything? Right now, I don’t know what the next day or even thenext minute might hold.’The waiter brought up the bill and handed it to me. His initial reserve295
now gone, my companion glanced across at me, drawing on hiscigarette, and let me get on with paying.We left together but, as his hotel lay in the opposite direction to mine,we said goodbye just outside the door. Alone, I walked off towards myhotel, refreshed by the wind and snow, a fine, white net of flakesswirling around the dusk sky, and over the buildings and street below.16 February 1924296
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A HAPPY FAMILY(After Xu Qinwen1)‘… whatever he writes – or chooses not to write – is an expression of theself; a shaft of sunlight blazing out from an infinite light source, not theoccasional spark struck from a flint. This – only this – is the true art,written by the true artist… while I… What does it all mean?’He interrupted his stream of consciousness by leaping out of bed. Heknew what he had to do: sell some articles to sustain life. HappinessMonthlywas his organ of choice – because they paid well. But he neededa big idea to get them interested. The right kind of big idea… What arethe youth of today thinking about?… Probably love, marriage, familylife – that kind of thing… Fine: family life it is, then. But what sort ofthing should it be?… No, they won’t accept that. No point in soundingnegative, but… A few steps took him to his writing desk, where he satdown, pulled out a piece of green-lined paper and, resigning himself tothe whole loathsome business, dashed off a title: ‘A Happy Family’.He immediately stalled and stared up at the ceiling, considering whereto place this happy family of his. ‘Beijing?’ he wondered. ‘No. It’s amorgue of a city – even the air smells dead. I suppose I could put themin a high-walled compound… but the air might still get in over the top.No… Jiangsu and Zhejiang are too unstable; Fujian’s even worse.There’s already fighting in Sichuan and Guangdong. Shandong, then, orHenan? Too many bandits. Someone’s bound to get kidnapped – andthere goes my happy family. The foreign concessions in Shanghai andTianjin are too expensive… I can’t have them live abroad, ridiculousidea. All I know about Yunnan and Guizhou is there’s no decenttransport there…’ And on he went, unable to think of a suitable setting.298
He contemplated inventing somewhere and calling it A—: ‘Too risky.They say readers don’t like you using Roman letters to stand in for

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