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In the prolog, Grandfather Wu is seen as a boy, then as a young man whose marriage to a mandarin's daughter yields a child. As Mr. Wu's daughter emerges into womanhood, a marriage is arranged for Nang Ping with a mandarin. Despite the seclusion of her father's palace, she meets and falls in love with Basil Gregory, a young Englishman, and reveals her secret when he asks her to marry him. Wu learns of the situation, and despite his great love for her, he takes her life--according to custom--in atonement, then determines to wreak vengeance on Basil's family. Inviting Mrs. Gregory and her daughter to his home, Wu threatens to have Basil killed and the daughter betrayed; the mother offers her own life, but failing, she stabs Wu, thus freeing her children.