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The Eye and the Eye
London, 1867 There was a peach tree growing at the crossroads of Church Lane near Northey Street. It had not been there yesterday. Dao Chen stopped in his steps and gaped, all the while carts of goods and passers-by swept past him in hues of burnt grey and brown. This was Limehouse on the East End, Limehouse of the wharves, and peach trees did not grow here, their roots tangling through the surface of dirty city avenues. Someone jostled him, and Dao Chen did his best imitation of a stunned brick, never taking his eyes off the peach tree. "Oy, watch where you're goin'!" his unfortunate new friend said. Dao Chen made a sound in his throat that was meant to be an apology but came out more as continued awe. Not towards the labourer who had just budged him from the road, of course, though Dao Chen was certain that the man, as every working man trying to feed his family, possessed some small talent that deserved awe. No, his reverence was reserved for the pink-hued tree with its soft delicate petals, blossoms spouting from its branches like little poems. The man who had crashed into him took another look at Dao Chen's face, and disgust seeped into his voice like sewage. "Chinaman," he said, a single word that was definition, judgement, and insult.