Stephen Chan

The Late Home-coming Prodigal Son – Chapter 6

A translation from ‘遊子遲遲歸’

Chapter Six         Running Away to Kunming


My second oldest brother was grandpa’s favorite grandson, and he was given the largest allowances. He studied at a boarding school called Hua-Ren College (华仁书院). In those days, students attended boarding schools were all from wealthy families. He was also very upset with our family. Our parents refused to let him marry his sweet heart. They wanted him to wait a year or two till after his high school graduation. Our cousin and I persuaded him to elope with his lover. I volunteered to show him how to get into mother’s room to steal money. We rehearsed for about a month. Finally the day arrived on a Friday morning. I was at school, our parents were out, and my brother was home alone. He successfully removed the whole safe from mother’s room and disappeared.


My parents were devastated, anxious, and sad. They wanted to report to the police for the loss, but felt ashamed because of the situation. All of a sudden, I became quite important at home. I persuaded my parents not to approach the police as it might cause my brother to panic and commit foolish acts, or even attempt suicide. My brother was actually hiding in a house on the same street, waiting for my everyday report on my parents’ activities. I became his secret agent, waiting for his day of elopement, so I could join them. But I was disappointed as there was no money in the safe. Their own money was very tight, not enough for three people to survive. So the two lovers decided to go to Kunming (昆明) (in the province of Yunnan云南省).



They would take an available boat down to the shore of Vietnam, and then take a train to Kunming (昆明). During the days of the hideout, my mother gave me a lot of allowance to search for my brother’s whereabouts. I went to my brother daily to tell him about my parents’ activities. I even gave them my allowances mother gave me to buy the boat fares. He promised he would try to get me to Kunming (昆明) as soon as he arrived there. After months of scheming and instigating, all I received was a mere promise.


The day when my brother left Hong Kong, I mailed his hand written letter home for him. It was addressed to my parents, mainly telling them that life in Hong Kong was too comfortable, and he wanted to return to China to study. He wanted to experience physical hardship to stimulate him to strive for achievement. All these rhetoric were drafted jointly by our cousin and me because my brother could not write proper Chinese. My parents were relieved but sad after reading his letter. Soon, they sent him monetary supplies; he suffered no financial hardship at all.

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