The Jade Pendant had gathered around it a number of myths, some of which were quite absurd, such as the one that it was worth half-a-million dollars, but the reality was astonishing enough to raise gasps of admiration and envy. The jewel, as big as the palm of a child’s hand, consisted of a thick circular piece of intricately carved jade of the most brilliant and lucid green, surrounded by the innumerable diamonds arranged in floral designs. It was worn on a chain round the neck, but the sheer weight of the jewel, not to mention the extreme folly of risking loss or theft, had caused it to be little disturbed in its place in the bank vaults. Mrs. Khoo had worn it only twice-once at a banquet given by the sultan-the jewel had been specially flown, under strict security, to the royal town where it made quite a stir, even at a function that glittered with fabulous jewels-and again, at the wedding of her nephew. Since then, it had lain safely in the bank vaults, for the myriad weddings and other functions that Mrs. Khoo had subsequently attended were considered too insignificant to justify the presence of this jewel, the like of which nobody had ever seen. But its absence on the broad perfumed bosom of Mrs. Khoo was as likely to provoke comments as its presence:’Ah, you’re not wearing the Jade Pendant! That’s a disappointment to me, for I had hoped to see it. I’ve heard so much about it.’
To make up for the loss of pleasure that would have been afforded by the sight of the Jade Pendant, Mrs. Khoo would talk about its history-how it had come down to her from her mother who had got it from her own mother, and if its origin was traced far enough, it could be ascertained that the first possessor was a concubine of a Vietnamese emperor of the seventeenth century. Its continuing connections with royalty must be something predestined, for, confided Mrs. Khoo, her mother had once told her that the wife of a sultan who had seen it had actually wanted to buy it, no matter how great the cost; she had actually sent emissaries to begin the task of negotiation and purchase. It was an extremely difficult thing to do, but the persistent royal lady was at last turned down.
The engrossing question had been: to whom would Mrs. Khoo leave the jewel when she died-her daughter-in-law or her daughter? Mrs. Khoo had actually long settled the matter in favour of her daughter. There was nothing she would not do for Lian Kim, her favourite child. Moreover, she would not wait for her death to hand over the jewel-when Lian Kim got married, the gift would be made. The bride would wear the Jade Pendant at the wedding dinner, for every one of the guests to see.
When Lian Kim was home for the holidays with her fiance, she had insisted insisted her mother on taking the jewel out of the bank for him to see. He was an Art student whom she had met in London, and the wonder on his face and the long whistle od admiration and incredulity as he looked at the Jade Pendant that Lian Kim had laughingly placed on his artist’s begrimed sweater, was a small but definite step towards the mollification of his future mother-in-law whose chagrin, when her daughter wrote to her of being engaged to a foreigner, was great indeed. How vexing, she had thought to herself and later said to her husband, although she would not have dared to say the same to her daughter. How vexing to have a daughter married to a foreigner, and a poor one at that. But there was nothing to be done, once the young people of today made up their minds. Her vexation was increased that day by a very humiliating incident. She had just shown the jade Pendant to Lian Kim and Ron and was getting ready to put it back in its case of red velvet, when she heard Ah Soh sweeping outside the room. Upon impulse, she called Ah Soh into the room to view the jewel, thinking afterwards, in the generosity of her heart, that even a humbled widowed relative who made cakes and puddings for...
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