“Well,” asked Ruh, showing her brother the picture in the sporting pages of the afternoon newspaper, “could that be Nai?”
“With only one third of her face showing like that?” Hu gave his younger sister a wry look. “It could be. That looks a lot like eldest brother’s chin and jaw line, and Nai is a lot like him in the face.”
“So you’re not sure either?” Ruh felt disproportionately disappointed.
“I’m not, but I haven’t finished,” Hu gave her a smile and a light tap on the back of her hand that could have been an admonishment. “The posture and body shape remind me very much of a picture we’ve got a copy of in one of the old albums. It’s of Father’s maternal grandmother, our Great-Grandmother Gao, before she got married and I think she’s standing just like that – except it’s a posed photo and you can see her face.”
“I didn’t know we had a photo that old of her,” Ruh said in surprise. “I thought her family didn’t have any money for things like that. Dirt poor peasants, as Mother’s older relatives used to say.”
“I think it was taken by a photographer who was planning to use it for postcards.” Hu smiled. “There was quite a market in postcards with pretty girls on them back then. I think I was told that her father, Great-Great-Grandfather Liu, gave her copy of the picture to a matchmaker so he could get her a town husband who was better off than him or his neighbours.” He chuckled, “Of course, back then she would have been considered the beauty, not Great-Grandmother Tang.”
“What!? But everyone says…and you look at her photos,” protested Ruh.
“She fits the modern idea of beauty,” corrected Hu. “Back then, she was a tall, bony girl who happened to be a minor noble and a notable heiress. The last two reasons are why she was said to be a beauty by her suitors. Take them out of the picture and most people wanted good, childbearing hips and a generous face like Great-Grandmother Gao’s.”
“That’s mean. You’re saying they only liked her for her money!”
“And her family’s position, don’t forget that,” pointed out Hu. “Besides, you’re missing the corollary.” His smile might not have been quite kind.
“What corollary?” Ruh was puzzled.
“Back then Nai and our baby sister, Aki, would have been the family beauties. The rest of you would never have found husbands based on your looks alone, and given the family circumstances, you’d have had no dowries to speak of.” He took pity on her and added with a kinder grin, “You would have had to rely on your hearts and your heads to find husbands, both of which are fairly good. Cooking would have helped, but most of you should have been able to learn that.”
“Very funny,” his sister said coldly, “but, when you’ve finished amusing yourself, do you think that’s Nai in this picture?”
Hu took the time to double check that there was no chance of them being overheard before he answered. “Frankly, based on the picture of the girl, I can’t be certain. However, I did some checking and Shui Tzu Dan is the name Nai’s gi teacher used when he was on the professional circuit.”
“So it could be Nai,” said Ruh, “except it says that she’s his protégé.”
Hu made a gesture with his hand and said, “Not so loud. Firstly, newspapers do get things wrong sometimes; reporters and editors are only human. Secondly, when I did that checking, everyone said that Master Que only had one student Nai’s age and that was Nai. I believe we need to re-examine our assumptions.”