The Widow Ching, Pirate

A drypoint plate (unfinished) illustrating ‘The Widow Ching – Pirate’, also from Borges’ A Universal History of Infamy. 

widowching

This plate illustrates the final, months-long encounter between the Widow Ching’s ‘fearful multitude’ of ships, and the imperial fleet. The text reads:

‘Each evening, high, shiftless flocks of airy dragons rose from the ships of the imperial squadron and came to rest on the enemy decks and surrounding waters. They were lightweight constructions of rice paper and strips of reed, akin to comets, and their silvery or reddish sides repeated identical characters. The widow anxiously studied this stream of meteors and read in them the long and perplexing fable of a dragon which had always given protection to a fox, despite the fox’s long ingratitude and repeated transgressions. The moon grew slender in the sky, and each evening the paper and reed figures brought the same story, with almost imperceptible variants. The widow was distressed, and she sank into deep thought. When the moon was full in the sky and in the reddish water, the story seemed to reach its end. Nobody was able to predict whether limitless pardon or limitless punishment would descend upon the fox, but the inexorable end drew near. The widow came to an understanding. She threw her two short swords into the river, kneeled in the bottom of a small boat, and ordered herself rowed to the imperial flagship.’

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