Part 3 out of 10
two brothers will be ever grateful.'
"On language such as this being addressed to me, my feelings of
commiseration naturally burst forth; and I brought him here, and bade
him, first of all, carefully peruse the records of the whole lives of
the maidens in his family, belonging to the three grades, the upper,
middle and lower, but as he has not yet fathomed the import, I have
consequently led him into this place to experience the vision of
drinking, eating, singing and licentious love, in the hope, there is no
saying, of his at length attaining that perception."
Having concluded these remarks, she led Pao-yü by the hand into the
apartment, where he felt a whiff of subtle fragrance, but what it was
that reached his nostrils he could not tell.
To Pao-yü's eager and incessant inquiries, the Fairy made reply with a
sardonic smile. "This perfume," she said, "is not to be found in the
world, and how could you discern what it is? This is made of the essence
of the first sprouts of rare herbs, growing on all hills of fame and
places of superior excellence, admixed with the oil of every species of
splendid shrubs in precious groves, and is called the marrow of
At these words Pao-yü was, of course, full of no other feeling than
The whole party advanced and took their seats, and a young maidservant
presented tea, which Pao-yü found of pure aroma, of excellent flavour
and of no ordinary kind. "What is the name of this tea?" he therefore
asked; upon which the Fairy explained. "This tea," she added,
"originates from the Hills of Emitted Spring and the Valley of Drooping
Fragrance, and is, besides, brewed in the night dew, found on spiritual
plants and divine leaves. The name of this tea is 'one thousand red in
At these words Pao-yü nodded his head, and extolled its qualities.
Espying in the room lutes, with jasper mountings, and tripods, inlaid
with gems, antique paintings, and new poetical works, which were to be
seen everywhere, he felt more than ever in a high state of delight.
Below the windows, were also shreds of velvet sputtered about and a
toilet case stained with the traces of time and smudged with cosmetic;
while on the partition wall was likewise suspended a pair of scrolls,
with the inscription:
A lonesome, small, ethereal, beauteous nook!
What help is there, but Heaven's will to brook?
Pao-yü having completed his inspection felt full of admiration, and
proceeded to ascertain the names and surnames of the Fairies. One was
called the Fairy of Lustful Dreams; another "the High Ruler of
Propagated Passion;" the name of one was "the Golden Maiden of
Perpetuated Sorrow;" of another the "Intelligent Maiden of Transmitted
Hatred." (In fact,) the respective Taoist appellations were not of one
and the same kind.
In a short while, young maid-servants came in and laid the table, put
the chairs in their places, and spread out wines and eatables. There
were actually crystal tankards overflowing with luscious wines, and
amber glasses full to the brim with pearly strong liquors. But still
less need is there to give any further details about the sumptuousness
of the refreshments.
Pao-yü found it difficult, on account of the unusual purity of the
bouquet of the wine, to again restrain himself from making inquiries
"This wine," observed the Monitory Dream Fairy, "is made of the twigs of
hundreds of flowers, and the juice of ten thousands of trees, with the
addition of must composed of unicorn marrow, and yeast prepared with
phoenix milk. Hence the name of 'Ten thousand Beauties in one Cup' was
given to it."
Pao-yü sang its incessant praise, and, while he sipped his wine, twelve
dancing girls came forward, and requested to be told what songs they
were to sing.
"Take," suggested the Fairy, "the newly-composed Twelve Sections of the
Dream of the Red Chamber, and sing them."
The singing girls signified their obedience, and forthwith they lightly
clapped the castagnettes and gently thrummed the virginals. These were
the words which they were heard to sing:
At the time of the opening of the heavens and the laying out of the
earth chaos prevailed.
They had just sung this one line when the Fairy exclaimed: "This ballad
is unlike the ballads written in the dusty world whose purport is to
hand down remarkable events, in which the distinction of scholars,
girls, old men and women, and fools is essential, and in which are
furthermore introduced the lyrics of the Southern and Northern Palaces.
These fairy songs consist either of elegaic effusions on some person or
impressions of some occurrence or other, and are impromptu songs readily
set to the music of wind or string instruments, so that any one who is
not cognisant of their gist cannot appreciate the beauties contained in
them. So you are not likely, I fear, to understand this lyric with any
clearness; and unless you first peruse the text and then listen to the
ballad, you will, instead of pleasure, feel as if you were chewing wax
(devoid of any zest)."
After these remarks, she turned her head round, and directed a young
maid-servant to fetch the text of the Dream of the Red Chamber, which
she handed to Pao-yü, who took it over; and as he followed the words
with his eyes, with his ears he listened to the strains of this song:
Preface of the Bream of the Red Chamber.--When the Heavens were opened
and earth was laid out chaos prevailed! What was the germ of love? It
arises entirely from the strength of licentious love.
What day, by the will of heaven, I felt wounded at heart, and what time
I was at leisure, I made an attempt to disburden my sad heart; and with
this object in view I indited this Dream of the Bed Chamber, on the
subject of a disconsolate gold trinket and an unfortunate piece of jade.
Waste of a whole Lifetime. All maintain that the match between gold and
jade will be happy. All I can think of is the solemn oath contracted in
days gone by by the plant and stone! Vain will I gaze upon the snow,
Hsüeh, [Pao-ch'ai], pure as crystal and lustrous like a gem of the
eminent priest living among the hills! Never will I forget the noiseless
Fairy Grove, Lin [Tai-yü], beyond the confines of the mortal world!
Alas! now only have I come to believe that human happiness is
incomplete; and that a couple may be bound by the ties of wedlock for
life, but that after all their hearts are not easy to lull into
Vain knitting of the brows. The one is a spirit flower of Fairyland; the
other is a beautiful jade without a blemish. Do you maintain that their
union will not be remarkable? Why how then is it that he has come to
meet her again in this existence? If the union will you say, be strange,
how is it then that their love affair will be but empty words? The one
in her loneliness will give way to useless sighs. The other in vain will
yearn and crave. The one will be like the reflection of the moon in
water; the other like a flower reflected in a mirror. Consider, how many
drops of tears can there be in the eyes? and how could they continue to
drop from autumn to winter and from spring to flow till summer time?
But to come to Pao-yü. After he had heard these ballads, so diffuse and
vague, he failed to see any point of beauty in them; but the plaintive
melody of the sound was nevertheless sufficient to drive away his spirit
and exhilarate his soul. Hence it was that he did not make any inquiries
about the arguments, and that he did not ask about the matter treated,
but simply making these ballads the means for the time being of
dispelling melancholy, he therefore went on with the perusal of what
Despicable Spirit of Death! You will be rejoicing that glory is at its
height when hateful death will come once again, and with eyes wide with
horror, you will discard all things, and dimly and softly the fragrant
spirit will waste and dissolve! You will yearn for native home, but
distant will be the way, and lofty the mountains. Hence it is that you
will betake yourself in search of father and mother, while they lie
under the influence of a dream, and hold discourse with them. "Your
child," you will say, "has already trodden the path of death! Oh my
parents, it behoves you to speedily retrace your steps and make good
Separated from Relatives. You will speed on a journey of three thousand
li at the mercy of wind and rain, and tear yourself from all your family
ties and your native home! Your fears will be lest anguish should do any
harm to your parents in their failing years! "Father and mother," you
will bid them, "do not think with any anxiety of your child. From ages
past poverty as well as success have both had a fixed destiny; and is it
likely that separation and reunion are not subject to predestination?
Though we may now be far apart in two different places, we must each of
us try and preserve good cheer. Your abject child has, it is true, gone
from home, but abstain from distressing yourselves on her account!"
Sorrow in the midst of Joy. While wrapped as yet in swaddling clothes,
father and mother, both alas! will depart, and dwell though you will in
that mass of gauze, who is there who will know how to spoil you with any
fond attention? Born you will be fortunately with ample moral courage,
and high-minded and boundless resources, for your parents will not have,
in the least, their child's secret feelings at heart! You will be like a
moon appearing to view when the rain holds up, shedding its rays upon
the Jade Hall; or a gentle breeze (wafting its breath upon it). Wedded
to a husband, fairy like fair and accomplished, you will enjoy a
happiness enduring as the earth and perennial as the Heavens! and you
will be the means of snapping asunder the bitter fate of your youth!
But, after all, the clouds will scatter in Kao T'ang and the waters of
the Hsiang river will get parched! This is the inevitable destiny of
dissolution and continuance which prevails in the mortal world, and what
need is there to indulge in useless grief?
Intolerable to the world. Your figure will be as winsome as an olea
fragrans; your talents as ample as those of a Fairy! You will by nature
be so haughty that of the whole human race few will be like you! You
will look upon a meat diet as one of dirt, and treat splendour as coarse
and loathsome! And yet you will not be aware that your high notions will
bring upon you the excessive hatred of man! You will be very eager in
your desire after chastity, but the human race will despise you! Alas,
you will wax old in that antique temple hall under a faint light, where
you will waste ungrateful for beauty, looks and freshness! But after all
you will still be worldly, corrupt and unmindful of your vows; just like
a spotless white jade you will be whose fate is to fall into the mire!
And what need will there be for the grandson of a prince or the son of a
duke to deplore that his will not be the good fortune (of winning your
The Voluptuary. You will resemble a wolf in the mountains! a savage
beast devoid of all human feeling! Regardless in every way of the
obligations of days gone by, your sole pleasure will be in the
indulgence of haughtiness, extravagance, licentiousness and dissolute
habits! You will be inordinate in your conjugal affections, and look
down upon the beautiful charms of the child of a marquis, as if they
were cat-tail rush or willow; trampling upon the honourable daughter of
a ducal mansion, as if she were one of the common herd. Pitiful to say,
the fragrant spirit and beauteous ghost will in a year softly and gently
The Perception that all things are transient like flowers. You will look
lightly upon the three springs and regard the blush of the peach and the
green of the willow as of no avail. You will beat out the fire of
splendour, and treat solitary retirement as genial! What is it that you
say about the delicate peaches in the heavens (marriage) being
excellent, and the petals of the almond in the clouds being plentiful
(children)? Let him who has after all seen one of them, (really a mortal
being) go safely through the autumn, (wade safely through old age),
behold the people in the white Poplar village groan and sigh; and the
spirits under the green maple whine and moan! Still more wide in expanse
than even the heavens is the dead vegetation which covers the graves!
The moral is this, that the burden of man is poverty one day and
affluence another; that bloom in spring, and decay in autumn, constitute
the doom of vegetable life! In the same way, this calamity of birth and
the visitation of death, who is able to escape? But I have heard it said
that there grows in the western quarter a tree called the P'o So
(Patient Bearing) which bears the fruit of Immortal life!
The bane of Intelligence. Yours will be the power to estimate, in a
thorough manner, the real motives of all things, as yours will be
intelligence of an excessive degree; but instead (of reaping any
benefit) you will cast the die of your own existence! The heart of your
previous life is already reduced to atoms, and when you shall have died,
your nature will have been intelligent to no purpose! Your home will be
in easy circumstances; your family will enjoy comforts; but your
connexions will, at length, fall a prey to death, and the inmates of
your family scatter, each one of you speeding in a different direction,
making room for others! In vain, you will have harassed your mind with
cankering thoughts for half a lifetime; for it will be just as if you
had gone through the confused mazes of a dream on the third watch!
Sudden a crash (will be heard) like the fall of a spacious palace, and a
dusky gloominess (will supervene) such as is caused by a lamp about to
spend itself! Alas! a spell of happiness will be suddenly (dispelled by)
adversity! Woe is man in the world! for his ultimate doom is difficult
Leave behind a residue of happiness! Hand down an excess of happiness;
hand down an excess of happiness! Unexpectedly you will come across a
benefactor! Fortunate enough your mother, your own mother, will have
laid by a store of virtue and secret meritorious actions! My advice to
you, mankind, is to relieve the destitute and succour the distressed! Do
not resemble those who will harp after lucre and show themselves
unmindful of the ties of relationship: that wolflike maternal uncle of
yours and that impostor of a brother! True it is that addition and
subtraction, increase and decrease, (reward and punishment,) rest in the
hands of Heaven above!
Splendour at last. Loving affection in a mirror will be still more
ephemeral than fame in a dream. That fine splendour will fleet how soon!
Make no further allusion to embroidered curtain, to bridal coverlet; for
though you may come to wear on your head a pearl-laden coronet, and, on
your person, a jacket ornamented with phoenixes, yours will not
nevertheless be the means to atone for the short life (of your husband)!
Though the saying is that mankind should not have, in their old age, the
burden of poverty to bear, yet it is also essential that a store of
benevolent deeds should be laid up for the benefit of sons and
grandsons! (Your son) may come to be dignified in appearance and wear on
his head the official tassel, and on his chest may be suspended the gold
seal resplendent in lustre; he may be imposing in his majesty, and he
may rise high in status and emoluments, but the dark and dreary way
which leads to death is short! Are the generals and ministers who have
been from ages of old still in the flesh, forsooth? They exist only in a
futile name handed down to posterity to reverence!
Death ensues when things propitious reign! Upon the ornamented beam will
settle at the close of spring the fragrant dust! Your reckless
indulgence of licentious love and your naturally moonlike face will soon
be the source of the ruin of a family. The decadence of the family
estate will emanate entirely from Ching; while the wane of the family
affairs will be entirely attributable to the fault of Ning! Licentious
love will be the main reason of the long-standing grudge.
The flying birds each perch upon the trees! The family estates of those
in official positions will fade! The gold and silver of the rich and
honoured will be scattered! those who will have conferred benefit will,
even in death, find the means of escape! those devoid of human feelings
will reap manifest retribution! Those indebted for a life will make, in
due time, payment with their lives; those indebted for tears have
already (gone) to exhaust their tears! Mutual injuries will be revenged
in no light manner! Separation and reunion will both alike be determined
by predestination! You wish to know why your life will be short; look
into your previous existence! Verily, riches and honours, which will
come with old age, will likewise be a question of chance! Those who will
hold the world in light esteem will retire within the gate of
abstraction; while those who will be allured by enticement will have
forfeited their lives (The Chia family will fulfil its destiny) as
surely as birds take to the trees after they have exhausted all they had
to eat, and which as they drop down will pile up a hoary, vast and lofty
heap of dust, (leaving) indeed a void behind!
When the maidens had finished the ballads, they went on to sing the
"Supplementary Record;" but the Monitory Vision Fairy, perceiving the
total absence of any interest in Pao-yü, heaved a sigh. "You silly
brat!" she exclaimed. "What! haven't you, even now, attained
"There's no need for you to go on singing," speedily observed Pao-yü, as
he interrupted the singing maidens; and feeling drowsy and dull, he
pleaded being under the effects of wine, and begged to be allowed to lie
The Fairy then gave orders to clear away the remains of the feast, and
escorted Pao-yü to a suite of female apartments, where the splendour of
such objects as were laid out was a thing which he had not hitherto
seen. But what evoked in him wonder still more intense, was the sight,
at an early period, of a girl seated in the room, who, in the freshness
of her beauty and winsomeness of her charms, bore some resemblance to
Pao-ch'ai, while, in elegance and comeliness, on the other hand, to
While he was plunged in a state of perplexity, the Fairy suddenly
remarked: "All those female apartments and ladies' chambers in so many
wealthy and honourable families in the world are, without exception,
polluted by voluptuous opulent puppets and by all that bevy of
profligate girls. But still more despicable are those from old till now
numberless dissolute roués, one and all of whom maintain that libidinous
affections do not constitute lewdness; and who try, further, to prove
that licentious love is not tantamount to lewdness. But all these
arguments are mere apologies for their shortcomings, and a screen for
their pollutions; for if libidinous affection be lewdness, still more
does the perception of licentious love constitute lewdness. Hence it is
that the indulgence of sensuality and the gratification of licentious
affection originate entirely from a relish of lust, as well as from a
hankering after licentious love. Lo you, who are the object of my love,
are the most lewd being under the heavens from remote ages to the
Pao-yü was quite dumbstruck by what he heard, and hastily smiling, he
said by way of reply: "My Fairy labours under a misapprehension. Simply
because of my reluctance to read my books my parents have, on repeated
occasions, extended to me injunction and reprimand, and would I have the
courage to go so far as to rashly plunge in lewd habits? Besides, I am
still young in years, and have no notion what is implied by lewdness!"
"Not so!" exclaimed the Fairy; "lewdness, although one thing in
principle is, as far as meaning goes, subject to different
constructions; as is exemplified by those in the world whose heart is
set upon lewdness. Some delight solely in faces and figures; others find
insatiable pleasure in singing and dancing; some in dalliance and
raillery; others in the incessant indulgence of their lusts; and these
regret that all the beautiful maidens under the heavens cannot minister
to their short-lived pleasure. These several kinds of persons are foul
objects steeped skin and all in lewdness. The lustful love, for
instance, which has sprung to life and taken root in your natural
affections, I and such as myself extend to it the character of an
abstract lewdness; but abstract lewdness can be grasped by the mind, but
cannot be transmitted by the mouth; can be fathomed by the spirit, but
cannot be divulged in words. As you now are imbued with this desire only
in the abstract, you are certainly well fit to be a trustworthy friend
in (Fairyland) inner apartments, but, on the path of the mortal world,
you will inevitably be misconstrued and defamed; every mouth will
ridicule you; every eye will look down upon you with contempt. After
meeting recently your worthy ancestors, the two Dukes of Ning and Jung,
who opened their hearts and made their wishes known to me with such
fervour, (but I will not have you solely on account of the splendour of
our inner apartments look down despisingly upon the path of the world),
I consequently led you along, my son, and inebriated you with luscious
wines, steeped you in spiritual tea, and admonished you with excellent
songs, bringing also here a young sister of mine, whose infant name is
Chien Mei, and her style K'o Ching, to be given to you as your wedded
wife. To-night, the time will be propitious and suitable for the
immediate consummation of the union, with the express object of letting
you have a certain insight into the fact that if the condition of the
abode of spirits within the confines of Fairyland be still so
(imperfect), how much the more so should be the nature of the affections
which prevail in the dusty world; with the intent that from this time
forth you should positively break loose from bondage, perceive and amend
your former disposition, devote your attention to the works of Confucius
and Mencius, and set your steady purpose upon the principles of
Having ended these remarks, she initiated him into the mysteries of
licentious love, and, pushing Pao-yü into the room, she closed the door,
and took her departure all alone. Pao-yü in a dazed state complied with
the admonitions given him by the Fairy, and the natural result was, of
course, a violent flirtation, the circumstances of which it would be
impossible to recount.
When the next day came, he was by that time so attached to her by ties
of tender love and their conversation was so gentle and full of charm
that he could not brook to part from K'o Ching. Hand-in-hand, the two of
them therefore, went out for a stroll, when they unexpectedly reached a
place, where nothing else met their gaze than thorns and brambles, which
covered the ground, and a wolf and a tiger walking side by side. Before
them stretched the course of a black stream, which obstructed their
progress; and over this stream there was, what is more, no bridge to
enable one to cross it.
While they were exercising their minds with perplexity, they suddenly
espied the Fairy coming from the back in pursuit of them. "Desist at
once," she exclaimed, "from making any advance into the stream; it is
urgent that you should, with all speed, turn your faces round!"
Pao-yü lost no time in standing still. "What is this place?" he
"This is the Ford of Enticement," explained the Fairy. "Its depth is ten
thousand chang; its breadth is a thousand li; in its stream there are no
boats or paddles by means of which to effect a passage. There is simply
a raft, of which Mu Chu-shih directs the rudder, and which Hui Shih chen
punts with the poles. They receive no compensation in the shape of gold
or silver, but when they come across any one whose destiny it is to
cross, they ferry him over. You now have by accident strolled as far as
here, and had you fallen into the stream you would have rendered quite
useless the advice and admonition which I previously gave you."
These words were scarcely concluded, when suddenly was heard from the
midst of the Ford of Enticement, a sound like unto a peal of thunder,
whereupon a whole crowd of gobblins and sea-urchins laid hands upon
Pao-yü and dragged him down.
This so filled Pao-yü with consternation that he fell into a
perspiration as profuse as rain, and he simultaneously broke forth and
shouted, "Rescue me, K'o Ching!"
These cries so terrified Hsi Jen and the other waiting-maids, that they
rushed forward, and taking Pao-yü in their arms, "Don't be afraid,
Pao-yü," they said, "we are here."
But we must observe that Mrs. Ch'in was just inside the apartment in the
act of recommending the young waiting-maids to be mindful that the cats
and dogs did not start a fight, when she unawares heard Pao-yü, in his
dream, call her by her infant name. In a melancholy mood she therefore
communed within herself, "As far as my infant name goes, there is, in
this establishment, no one who has any idea what it is, and how is it
that he has come to know it, and that he utters it in his dream?" And
she was at this period unable to fathom the reason. But, reader, listen
to the explanations given in the chapter which follows.
Chia Pao-yü reaps his first experience in licentious love.
Old Goody Liu pays a visit to the Jung Kuo Mansion.
Mrs. Ch'in, to resume our narrative, upon hearing Pao-yü call her in his
dream by her infant name, was at heart very exercised, but she did not
however feel at liberty to make any minute inquiry.
Pao-yü was, at this time, in such a dazed state, as if he had lost
something, and the servants promptly gave him a decoction of lungngan.
After he had taken a few sips, he forthwith rose and tidied his clothes.
Hsi Jen put out her hand to fasten the band of his garment, and as soon
as she did so, and it came in contact with his person, it felt so icy
cold to the touch, covered as it was all over with perspiration, that
she speedily withdrew her hand in utter surprise.
"What's the matter with you?" she exclaimed.
A blush suffused Pao-yü's face, and he took Hsi Jen's hand in a tight
grip. Hsi Jen was a girl with all her wits about her; she was besides a
couple of years older than Pao-yü and had recently come to know
something of the world, so that at the sight of his state, she to a
great extent readily accounted for the reason in her heart. From modest
shame, she unconsciously became purple in the face, and not venturing to
ask another question she continued adjusting his clothes. This task
accomplished, she followed him over to old lady Chia's apartments; and
after a hurry-scurry meal, they came back to this side, and Hsi Jen
availed herself of the absence of the nurses and waiting-maids to hand
Pao-yü another garment to change.
"Please, dear Hsi Jen, don't tell any one," entreated Pao-yü, with
"What did you dream of?" inquired Hsi Jen, smiling, as she tried to
stifle her blushes, "and whence comes all this perspiration?"
"It's a long story," said Pao-yü, "which only a few words will not
suffice to explain."
He accordingly recounted minutely, for her benefit, the subject of his
dream. When he came to where the Fairy had explained to him the
mysteries of love, Hsi Jen was overpowered with modesty and covered her
face with her hands; and as she bent down, she gave way to a fit of
laughter. Pao-yü had always been fond of Hsi Jen, on account of her
gentleness, pretty looks and graceful and elegant manner, and he
forthwith expounded to her all the mysteries he had been taught by the
Hsi Jen was, of course, well aware that dowager lady Chia had given her
over to Pao-yü, so that her present behaviour was likewise no
transgression. And subsequently she secretly attempted with Pao-yü a
violent flirtation, and lucky enough no one broke in upon them during
their tête-à-tête. From this date, Pao-yü treated Hsi Jen with special
regard, far more than he showed to the other girls, while Hsi Jen
herself was still more demonstrative in her attentions to Pao-yü. But
for a time we will make no further remark about them.
As regards the household of the Jung mansion, the inmates may, on adding
up the total number, not have been found many; yet, counting the high as
well as the low, there were three hundred persons and more. Their
affairs may not have been very numerous, still there were, every day,
ten and twenty matters to settle; in fact, the household resembled, in
every way, ravelled hemp, devoid even of a clue-end, which could be used
as an introduction.
Just as we were considering what matter and what person it would be best
to begin writing of, by a lucky coincidence suddenly from a distance of
a thousand li, a person small and insignificant as a grain of mustard
seed happened, on account of her distant relationship with the Jung
family, to come on this very day to the Jung mansion on a visit. We
shall therefore readily commence by speaking of this family, as it after
all affords an excellent clue for a beginning.
The surname of this mean and humble family was in point of fact Wang.
They were natives of this district. Their ancestor had filled a minor
office in the capital, and had, in years gone by, been acquainted with
lady Feng's grandfather, that is madame Wang's father. Being covetous of
the influence and affluence of the Wang family, he consequently joined
ancestors with them, and was recognised by them as a nephew.
At that time, there were only madame Wang's eldest brother, that is lady
Feng's father, and madame Wang herself, who knew anything of these
distant relations, from the fact of having followed their parents to the
capital. The rest of the family had one and all no idea about them.
This ancestor had, at this date, been dead long ago, leaving only one
son called Wang Ch'eng. As the family estate was in a state of ruin, he
once more moved outside the city walls and settled down in his native
village. Wang Ch'eng also died soon after his father, leaving a son,
known in his infancy as Kou Erh, who married a Miss Liu, by whom he had
a son called by the infant name of Pan Erh, as well as a daughter,
Ch'ing Erh. His family consisted of four, and he earned a living from
As Kou Erh was always busy with something or other during the day and
his wife, dame Liu, on the other hand, drew the water, pounded the rice
and attended to all the other domestic concerns, the brother and sister,
Ch'ing Erh and Pan Erh, the two of them, had no one to look after them.
(Hence it was that) Kou Erh brought over his mother-in-law, old goody
Liu, to live with them.
This goody Liu was an old widow, with a good deal of experience. She had
besides no son round her knees, so that she was dependent for her
maintenance on a couple of acres of poor land, with the result that when
her son-in-law received her in his home, she naturally was ever willing
to exert heart and mind to help her daughter and her son-in-law to earn
This year, the autumn had come to an end, winter had commenced, and the
weather had begun to be quite cold. No provision had been made in the
household for the winter months, and Kou Erh was, inevitably,
exceedingly exercised in his heart. Having had several cups of wine to
dispel his distress, he sat at home and tried to seize upon every trifle
to give vent to his displeasure. His wife had not the courage to force
herself in his way, and hence goody Liu it was who encouraged him, as
she could not bear to see the state of the domestic affairs.
"Don't pull me up for talking too much," she said; "but who of us
country people isn't honest and open-hearted? As the size of the bowl we
hold, so is the quantity of the rice we eat. In your young days, you
were dependent on the support of your old father, so that eating and
drinking became quite a habit with you; that's how, at the present time,
your resources are quite uncertain; when you had money, you looked
ahead, and didn't mind behind; and now that you have no money, you
blindly fly into huffs. A fine fellow and a capital hero you have made!
Living though we now be away from the capital, we are after all at the
feet of the Emperor; this city of Ch'ang Ngan is strewn all over with
money, but the pity is that there's no one able to go and fetch it away;
and it's no use your staying at home and kicking your feet about."
"All you old lady know," rejoined Kou Erh, after he had heard what she
had to say, "is to sit on the couch and talk trash! Is it likely you
would have me go and play the robber?"
"Who tells you to become a robber?" asked goody Liu. "But it would be
well, after all, that we should put our heads together and devise some
means; for otherwise, is the money, pray, able of itself to run into our
"Had there been a way," observed Kou Erh, smiling sarcastically, "would
I have waited up to this moment? I have besides no revenue collectors as
relatives, or friends in official positions; and what way could we
devise? 'But even had I any, they wouldn't be likely, I fear, to pay any
heed to such as ourselves!"
"That, too, doesn't follow," remarked goody Liu; "the planning of
affairs rests with man, but the accomplishment of them rests with
Heaven. After we have laid our plans, we may, who can say, by relying on
the sustenance of the gods, find some favourable occasion. Leave it to
me, I'll try and devise some lucky chance for you people! In years gone
by, you joined ancestors with the Wang family of Chin Ling, and twenty
years back, they treated you with consideration; but of late, you've
been so high and mighty, and not condescended to go and bow to them,
that an estrangement has arisen. I remember how in years gone by, I and
my daughter paid them a visit. The second daughter of the family was
really so pleasant and knew so well how to treat people with kindness,
and without in fact any high airs! She's at present the wife of Mr.
Chia, the second son of the Jung Kuo mansion; and I hear people say that
now that she's advanced in years, she's still more considerate to the
poor, regardful of the old, and very fond of preparing vegetable food
for the bonzes and performing charitable deeds. The head of the Wang
mansion has, it is true, been raised to some office on the frontier, but
I hope that this lady Secunda will anyhow notice us. How is it then that
you don't find your way as far as there; for she may possibly remember
old times, and some good may, no one can say, come of it? I only wish
that she would display some of her kind-heartedness, and pluck one hair
from her person which would be, yea thicker than our waist."
"What you suggest, mother, is quite correct," interposed Mrs. Liu, Kou
Erh's wife, who stood by and took up the conversation, "but with such
mouth and phiz as yours and mine, how could we present ourselves before
her door? Why I fear that the man at her gate won't also like to go and
announce us! and we'd better not go and have our mouths slapped in
Kou Erh, who would have thought it, prized highly both affluence and
fame, so that when he heard these remarks, he forthwith began to feel at
heart a little more at ease. When he furthermore heard what his wife had
to say, he at once caught up the word as he smiled.
"Old mother," he rejoined; "since that be your idea, and what's more,
you have in days gone by seen this lady on one occasion, why shouldn't
you, old lady, start to-morrow on a visit to her and first ascertain how
the wind blows!"
"Ai Ya!" exclaimed old Goody, "It may very well be said that the
marquis' door is like the wide ocean! what sort of thing am I? why the
servants of that family wouldn't even recognise me! even were I to go,
it would be on a wild goose chase."
"No matter about that," observed Kou Erh; "I'll tell you a good way; you
just take along with you, your grandson, little Pan Erh, and go first
and call upon Chou Jui, who is attached to that household; and when once
you've seen him, there will be some little chance. This Chou Jui, at one
time, was connected with my father in some affair or other, and we were
on excellent terms with him."
"That I too know," replied goody Liu, "but the thing is that you've had
no dealings with him for so long, that who knows how he's disposed
towards us now? this would be hard to say. Besides, you're a man, and
with a mouth and phiz like that of yours, you couldn't, on any account,
go on this errand. My daughter is a young woman, and she too couldn't
very well go and expose herself to public gaze. But by my sacrificing
this old face of mine, and by going and knocking it (against the wall)
there may, after all, be some benefit and all of us might reap profit."
That very same evening, they laid their plans, and the next morning
before the break of day, old goody Liu speedily got up, and having
performed her toilette, she gave a few useful hints to Pan Erh; who,
being a child of five or six years of age, was, when he heard that he
was to be taken into the city, at once so delighted that there was
nothing that he would not agree to.
Without further delay, goody Liu led off Pan Erh, and entered the city,
and reaching the Ning Jung street, she came to the main entrance of the
Jung mansion, where, next to the marble lions, were to be seen a crowd
of chairs and horses. Goody Liu could not however muster the courage to
go by, but having shaken her clothes, and said a few more seasonable
words to Pan Erh, she subsequently squatted in front of the side gate,
whence she could see a number of servants, swelling out their chests,
pushing out their stomachs, gesticulating with their hands and kicking
their feet about, while they were seated at the main entrance chattering
about one thing and another.
Goody Liu felt constrained to edge herself forward. "Gentlemen," she
ventured, "may happiness betide you!"
The whole company of servants scrutinised her for a time. "Where do you
come from?" they at length inquired.
"I've come to look up Mr. Chou, an attendant of my lady's," remarked
goody Liu, as she forced a smile; "which of you, gentlemen, shall I
trouble to do me the favour of asking him to come out?"
The servants, after hearing what she had to say, paid, the whole number
of them, no heed to her; and it was after the lapse of a considerable
time that they suggested: "Go and wait at a distance, at the foot of
that wall; and in a short while, the visitors, who are in their house,
will be coming out."
Among the party of attendants was an old man, who interposed,
"Don't baffle her object," he expostulated; "why make a fool of her?"
and turning to goody Liu: "This Mr. Chou," he said, "is gone south: his
house is at the back row; his wife is anyhow at home; so go round this
way, until you reach the door, at the back street, where, if you will
ask about her, you will be on the right track."
Goody Liu, having expressed her thanks, forthwith went, leading Pan Erh
by the hand, round to the back door, where she saw several pedlars
resting their burdens. There were also those who sold things to eat, and
those who sold playthings and toys; and besides these, twenty or thirty
boys bawled and shouted, making quite a noise.
Goody Liu readily caught hold of one of them. "I'd like to ask you just
a word, my young friend," she observed; "there's a Mrs. Chou here; is
she at home?"
"Which Mrs. Chou?" inquired the boy; "we here have three Mrs. Chous; and
there are also two young married ladies of the name of Chou. What are
the duties of the one you want, I wonder ?"
"She's a waiting-woman of my lady," replied goody Liu.
"It's easy to get at her," added the boy; "just come along with me."
Leading the way for goody Liu into the backyard, they reached the wall
of a court, when he pointed and said, "This is her house.--Mother Chou!"
he went on to shout with alacrity; "there's an old lady who wants to see
Chou Jui's wife was at home, and with all haste she came out to greet
her visitor. "Who is it?" she asked.
Goody Liu advanced up to her. "How are you," she inquired, "Mrs. Chou?"
Mrs. Chou looked at her for some time before she at length smiled and
replied, "Old goody Liu, are you well? How many years is it since we've
seen each other; tell me, for I forget just now; but please come in and
"You're a lady of rank," answered goody Liu smiling, as she walked
along, "and do forget many things. How could you remember such as
With these words still in her mouth, they had entered the house,
whereupon Mrs. Chou ordered a hired waiting-maid to pour the tea. While
they were having their tea she remarked, "How Pan Erh has managed to
grow!" and then went on to make inquiries on the subject of various
matters, which had occurred after their separation.
"To-day," she also asked of goody Liu, "were you simply passing by? or
did you come with any express object?"
"I've come, the fact is, with an object!" promptly replied goody Liu;
"(first of all) to see you, my dear sister-in-law; and, in the second
place also, to inquire after my lady's health. If you could introduce me
to see her for a while, it would be better; but if you can't, I must
readily borrow your good offices, my sister-in-law, to convey my
Mr. Chou Jui's wife, after listening to these words, at once became to a
great extent aware of the object of her visit. Her husband had, however,
in years gone by in his attempt to purchase some land, obtained
considerably the support of Kou Erh, so that when she, on this occasion,
saw goody Liu in such a dilemma, she could not make up her mind to
refuse her wish. Being in the second place keen upon making a display of
her own respectability, she therefore said smilingly:
"Old goody Liu, pray compose your mind! You've come from far off with a
pure heart and honest purpose, and how can I ever not show you the way
how to see this living Buddha? Properly speaking, when people come and
guests arrive, and verbal messages have to be given, these matters are
not any of my business, as we all here have each one kind of duties to
carry out. My husband has the special charge of the rents of land coming
in, during the two seasons of spring and autumn, and when at leisure, he
takes the young gentlemen out of doors, and then his business is done.
As for myself, I have to accompany my lady and young married ladies on
anything connected with out-of-doors; but as you are a relative of my
lady and have besides treated me as a high person and come to me for
help, I'll, after all, break this custom and deliver your message.
There's only one thing, however, and which you, old lady, don't know. We
here are not what we were five years before. My lady now doesn't much
worry herself about anything; and it's entirely lady Secunda who looks
after the menage. But who do you presume is this lady Secunda? She's the
niece of my lady, and the daughter of my master, the eldest maternal
uncle of by-gone days. Her infant name was Feng Ko."
"Is it really she?" inquired promptly goody Liu, after this explanation.
"Isn't it strange? what I said about her years back has come out quite
correct; but from all you say, shall I to-day be able to see her?"
"That goes without saying," replied Chou Jui's wife; "when any visitors
come now-a-days, it's always lady Feng who does the honours and
entertains them, and it's better to-day that you should see her for a
while, for then you will not have walked all this way to no purpose."
"O mi to fu!" exclaimed old goody Liu; "I leave it entirely to your
"What's that you're saying?" observed Chou Jui's wife. "The proverb
says: 'Our convenience is the convenience of others.' All I have to do
is to just utter one word, and what trouble will that be to me."
Saying this, she bade the young waiting maid go to the side pavilion,
and quietly ascertain whether, in her old ladyship's apartment, table
had been laid.
The young waiting-maid went on this errand, and during this while, the
two of them continued a conversation on certain irrelevant matters.
"This lady Feng," observed goody Liu, "can this year be no older than
twenty, and yet so talented as to manage such a household as this! the
like of her is not easy to find!"
"Hai! my dear old goody," said Chou Jui's wife, after listening to her,
"it's not easy to explain; but this lady Feng, though young in years, is
nevertheless, in the management of affairs, superior to any man. She has
now excelled the others and developed the very features of a beautiful
young woman. To say the least, she has ten thousand eyes in her heart,
and were they willing to wager their mouths, why ten men gifted with
eloquence couldn't even outdo her! But by and bye, when you've seen her,
you'll know all about her! There's only this thing, she can't help being
rather too severe in her treatment of those below her."
While yet she spake, the young waiting-maid returned. "In her venerable
lady's apartment," she reported, "repast has been spread, and already
finished; lady Secunda is in madame Wang's chamber."
As soon as Chou Jui's wife heard this news, she speedily got up and
pressed goody Liu to be off at once. "This is," she urged, "just the
hour for her meal, and as she is free we had better first go and wait
for her; for were we to be even one step too late, a crowd of servants
will come with their reports, and it will then be difficult to speak to
her; and after her siesta, she'll have still less time to herself."
As she passed these remarks, they all descended the couch together.
Goody Liu adjusted their dresses, and, having impressed a few more words
of advice on Pan Erh, they followed Chou Jui's wife through winding
passages to Chia Lien's house. They came in the first instance into the
side pavilion, where Chou Jui's wife placed old goody Liu to wait a
little, while she herself went ahead, past the screen-wall and into the
entrance of the court.
Hearing that lady Feng had not come out, she went in search of an
elderly waiting-maid of lady Feng, P'ing Erh by name, who enjoyed her
confidence, to whom Chou Jui's wife first recounted from beginning to
end the history of old goody Liu.
"She has come to-day," she went on to explain, "from a distance to pay
her obeisance. In days gone by, our lady used often to meet her, so
that, on this occasion, she can't but receive her; and this is why I've
brought her in! I'll wait here for lady Feng to come down, and explain
everything to her; and I trust she'll not call me to task for officious
P'ing Erh, after hearing what she had to say, speedily devised the plan
of asking them to walk in, and to sit there pending (lady Feng's
arrival), when all would be right.
Chou Jui's wife thereupon went out and led them in. When they ascended
the steps of the main apartment, a young waiting-maid raised a red
woollen portière, and as soon as they entered the hall, they smelt a
whiff of perfume as it came wafted into their faces: what the scent was
they could not discriminate; but their persons felt as if they were
among the clouds.
The articles of furniture and ornaments in the whole room were all so
brilliant to the sight, and so vying in splendour that they made the
head to swim and the eyes to blink, and old goody Liu did nothing else
the while than nod her head, smack her lips and invoke Buddha. Forthwith
she was led to the eastern side into the suite of apartments, where was
the bedroom of Chia Lien's eldest daughter. P'ing Erh, who was standing
by the edge of the stove-couch, cast a couple of glances at old goody
Liu, and felt constrained to inquire how she was, and to press her to
have a seat.
Goody Liu, noticing that P'ing Erh was entirely robed in silks, that she
had gold pins fixed in her hair, and silver ornaments in her coiffure,
and that her countenance resembled a flower or the moon (in beauty),
readily imagined her to be lady Feng, and was about to address her as my
lady; but when she heard Mrs. Chou speak to her as Miss P'ing, and P'ing
Erh promptly address Chou Jui's wife as Mrs. Chou, she eventually became
aware that she could be no more than a waiting-maid of a certain
She at once pressed old goody Liu and Pan Erh to take a seat on the
stove-couch. P'ing Erh and Chou Jui's wife sat face to face, on the
edges of the couch. The waiting-maids brought the tea. After they had
partaken of it, old goody Liu could hear nothing but a "lo tang, lo
tang" noise, resembling very much the sound of a bolting frame winnowing
flour, and she could not resist looking now to the East, and now to the
West. Suddenly in the great Hall, she espied, suspended on a pillar, a
box at the bottom of which hung something like the weight of a balance,
which incessantly wagged to and fro.
"What can this thing be?" communed goody Liu in her heart, "What can be
its use?" While she was aghast, she unexpectedly heard a sound of "tang"
like the sound of a golden bell or copper cymbal, which gave her quite a
start. In a twinkle of the eyes followed eight or nine consecutive
strokes; and she was bent upon inquiring what it was, when she caught
sight of several waiting-maids enter in a confused crowd. "Our lady has
come down!" they announced.
P'ìng Erh, together with Chou Jui's wife, rose with all haste. "Old
goody Liu," they urged, "do sit down and wait till it's time, when we'll
come and ask you in."
Saying this, they went out to meet lady Feng.
Old goody Liu, with suppressed voice and ear intent, waited in perfect
silence. She heard at a distance the voices of some people laughing,
whereupon about ten or twenty women, with rustling clothes and
petticoats, made their entrance, one by one, into the hall, and thence
into the room on the other quarter. She also detected two or three
women, with red-lacquered boxes in their hands, come over on this part
and remain in waiting.
"Get the repast ready!" she heard some one from the offside say.
The servants gradually dispersed and went out; and there only remained
in attendance a few of them to bring in the courses. For a long time,
not so much as the caw of a crow could be heard, when she unexpectedly
perceived two servants carry in a couch-table, and lay it on this side
of the divan. Upon this table were placed bowls and plates, in proper
order replete, as usual, with fish and meats; but of these only a few
kinds were slightly touched.
As soon as Pan Erh perceived (all these delicacies), he set up such a
noise, and would have some meat to eat, but goody Liu administered to
him such a slap, that he had to keep away.
Suddenly, she saw Mrs. Chou approach, full of smiles, and as she waved
her hand, she called her. Goody Liu understood her meaning, and at once
pulling Pan Erh off the couch, she proceeded to the centre of the Hall;
and after Mrs. Chou had whispered to her again for a while, they came at
length with slow step into the room on this side, where they saw on the
outside of the door, suspended by brass hooks, a deep red flowered soft
portière. Below the window, on the southern side, was a stove-couch, and
on this couch was spread a crimson carpet. Leaning against the wooden
partition wall, on the east side, stood a chain-embroidered back-cushion
and a reclining pillow. There was also spread a large watered satin
sitting cushion with a gold embroidered centre, and on the side stood
cuspidores made of silver.
Lady Feng, when at home, usually wore on her head a front-piece of dark
martin à la Chao Chün, surrounded with tassels of strung pearls. She had
on a robe of peach-red flowered satin, a short pelisse of slate-blue
stiff silk, lined with squirrel, and a jupe of deep red foreign crepe,
lined with ermine. Resplendent with pearl-powder and with cosmetics, she
sat in there, stately and majestic, with a small brass poker in her
hands, with which she was stirring the ashes of the hand-stove. P'ing
Erh stood by the side of the couch, holding a very small lacquered
tea-tray. In this tray was a small tea-cup with a cover. Lady Feng
neither took any tea, nor did she raise her head, but was intent upon
stirring the ashes of the hand-stove.
"How is it you haven't yet asked her to come in?" she slowly inquired;
and as she spake, she turned herself round and was about to ask for some
tea, when she perceived that Mrs. Chou had already introduced the two
persons and that they were standing in front of her.
She forthwith pretended to rise, but did not actually get up, and with a
face radiant with smiles, she ascertained about their health, after
which she went in to chide Chou Jui's wife. "Why didn't you tell me they
had come before?" she said.
Old goody Liu was already by this time prostrated on the ground, and
after making several obeisances, "How are you, my lady?" she inquired.
"Dear Mrs. Chou," lady Feng immediately observed, "do pull her up, and
don't let her prostrate herself! I'm yet young in years and don't know
her much; what's more, I've no idea what's the degree of the
relationship between us, and I daren't speak directly to her."
"This is the old lady about whom I spoke a short while back," speedily
explained Mrs. Chou.
Lady Feng nodded her head assentingly.
By this time old goody Liu had taken a seat on the edge of the
stove-couch. As for Pan Erh, he had gone further, and taken refuge
behind her back; and though she tried, by every means, to coax him to
come forward and make a bow, he would not, for the life of him, consent.
"Relatives though we be," remarked lady Feng, as she smiled, "we haven't
seen much of each other, so that our relations have been quite distant.
But those who know how matters stand will assert that you all despise
us, and won't often come to look us up; while those mean people, who
don't know the truth, will imagine that we have no eyes to look at any
Old goody Liu promptly invoked Buddha. "We are at home in great
straits," she pleaded, "and that's why it wasn't easy for us to manage
to get away and come! Even supposing we had come as far as this, had we
not given your ladyship a slap on the mouth, those gentlemen would also,
in point of fact, have looked down upon us as a mean lot."
"Why, language such as this," exclaimed lady Feng smilingly, "cannot
help making one's heart full of displeasure! We simply rely upon the
reputation of our grandfather to maintain the status of a penniless
official; that's all! Why, in whose household is there anything
substantial? we are merely the denuded skeleton of what we were in days
of old, and no more! As the proverb has it: The Emperor himself has
three families of poverty-stricken relatives; and how much more such as
you and I?"
Having passed these remarks, she inquired of Mrs. Chou, "Have you let
madame know, yes or no?"
"We are now waiting," replied Mrs. Chou, "for my lady's orders."
"Go and have a look," said lady Feng; "but, should there be any one
there, or should she be busy, then don't make any mention; but wait
until she's free, when you can tell her about it and see what she says."
Chou Jui's wife, having expressed her compliance, went off on this
errand. During her absence, lady Feng gave orders to some servants to
take a few fruits and hand them to Pan Erh to eat; and she was inquiring
about one thing and another, when there came a large number of married
women, who had the direction of affairs in the household, to make their
P'ing Erh announced their arrival to lady Feng, who said: "I'm now
engaged in entertaining some guests, so let them come back again in the
evening; but should there be anything pressing then bring it in and I'll
settle it at once."
P'ing Erh left the room, but she returned in a short while. "I've asked
them," she observed, "but as there's nothing of any urgency, I told them
to disperse." Lady Feng nodded her head in token of approval, when she
perceived Chou Jui's wife come back. "Our lady," she reported, as she
addressed lady Feng, "says that she has no leisure to-day, that if you,
lady Secunda, will entertain them, it will come to the same thing; that
she's much obliged for their kind attention in going to the trouble of
coming; that if they have come simply on a stroll, then well and good,
but that if they have aught to say, they should tell you, lady Secunda,
which will be tantamount to their telling her."
"I've nothing to say," interposed old goody Liu. "I simply come to see
our elder and our younger lady, which is a duty on my part, a relative
as I am."
"Well, if there's nothing particular that you've got to say, all right,"
Mrs. Chou forthwith added, "but if you do have anything, don't hesitate
telling lady Secunda, and it will be just as if you had told our lady."
As she uttered these words, she winked at goody Liu. Goody Liu
understood what she meant, but before she could give vent to a word, her
face got scarlet, and though she would have liked not to make any
mention of the object of her visit, she felt constrained to suppress her
shame and to speak out.
"Properly speaking," she observed, "this being the first time I see you,
my lady, I shouldn't mention what I've to say, but as I come here from
far off to seek your assistance, my old friend, I have no help but to
She had barely spoken as much as this, when she heard the youths at the
inner-door cry out: "The young gentleman from the Eastern Mansion has
Lady Feng promptly interrupted her. "Old goody Liu," she remarked, "you
needn't add anything more." She, at the same time, inquired, "Where's
your master, Mr. Jung?" when became audible the sound of footsteps along
the way, and in walked a young man of seventeen or eighteen. His
appearance was handsome, his person slender and graceful. He had on
light furs, a girdle of value, costly clothes and a beautiful cap.
At this stage, goody Liu did not know whether it was best to sit down or
to stand up, neither could she find anywhere to hide herself.
"Pray sit down," urged lady Feng, with a laugh; "this is my nephew!' Old
goody Liu then wriggled herself, now one way, and then another, on to
the edge of the couch, where she took a seat.
"My father," Chia Jung smilingly ventured, "has sent me to ask a favour
of you, aunt. On some previous occasion, our grand aunt gave you, dear
aunt, a stove-couch glass screen, and as to-morrow father has invited
some guests of high standing, he wishes to borrow it to lay it out for a
little show; after which he purposes sending it back again."
"You're late by a day," replied lady Feng. "It was only yesterday that I
gave it to some one."
Chia Jung, upon hearing this, forthwith, with giggles and smiles, made,
near the edge of the couch, a sort of genuflexion. "Aunt," he went on,
"if you don't lend it, father will again say that I don't know how to
speak, and I shall get another sound thrashing. You must have pity upon
your nephew, aunt."
"I've never seen anything like this," observed lady Feng sneeringly;
"the things belonging to the Wang family are all good, but where have
you put all those things of yours? the only good way is that you
shouldn't see anything of ours, for as soon as you catch sight of
anything, you at once entertain a wish to carry it off."
"Pray, aunt," entreated Chia Jung with a smile, "do show me some
"Mind your skin!" lady Feng warned him, "if you do chip or spoil it in
She then bade P'ing Erh take the keys of the door of the upstairs room
and send for several trustworthy persons to carry it away.
Chia Jung was so elated that his eyebrows dilated and his eyes smiled.
"I've brought myself," he added, with vehemence, "some men to take it
away; I won't let them recklessly bump it about."
Saying this, he speedily got up and left the room.
Lady Feng suddenly bethought herself of something, and turning towards
the window, she called out, "Jung Erh, come back." Several servants who
stood outside caught up her words: "Mr. Jung," they cried, "you're
requested to go back;" whereupon Chia Jung turned round and retraced his
steps; and with hands drooping respectfully against his sides, he stood
ready to listen to his aunt's wishes.
Lady Feng was however intent upon gently sipping her tea, and after a
good long while of abstraction, she at last smiled: "Never mind," she
remarked; "you can go. But come after you've had your evening meal, and
I'll then tell you about it. Just now there are visitors here; and
besides, I don't feel in the humour."
Chia Jung thereupon retired with gentle step.
Old goody Liu, by this time, felt more composed in body and heart. "I've
to-day brought your nephew," she then explained, "not for anything else,
but because his father and mother haven't at home so much as anything to
eat; the weather besides is already cold, so that I had no help but to
take your nephew along and come to you, old friend, for assistance!"
As she uttered these words, she again pushed Pan Erh forward. "What did
your father at home tell you to say?" she asked of him; "and what did he
send us over here to do? Was it only to give our minds to eating fruit?"
Lady Feng had long ago understood what she meant to convey, and finding
that she had no idea how to express herself in a decent manner, she
readily interrupted her with a smile. "You needn't mention anything,"
she observed, "I'm well aware of how things stand;" and addressing
herself to Mrs. Chou, she inquired, "Has this old lady had breakfast,
yes or no?"
Old goody Liu hurried to explain. "As soon as it was daylight," she
proceeded, "we started with all speed on our way here, and had we even
so much as time to have any breakfast?"
Lady Feng promptly gave orders to send for something to eat. In a short
while Chou Jui's wife had called for a table of viands for the guests,
which was laid in the room on the eastern side, and then came to take
goody Liu and Pan Erh over to have their repast.
"My dear Mrs. Chou," enjoined lady Feng, "give them all they want, as I
can't attend to them myself;" which said, they hastily passed over into
the room on the eastern side.
Lady Feng having again called Mrs. Chou, asked her: "When you first
informed madame about them, what did she say?" "Our Lady observed,"
replied Chou Jui's wife, "that they don't really belong to the same
family; that, in former years, their grandfather was an official at the
same place as our old master; that hence it came that they joined
ancestors; that these few years there hasn't been much intercourse
(between their family and ours); that some years back, whenever they
came on a visit, they were never permitted to go empty-handed, and that
as their coming on this occasion to see us is also a kind attention on
their part, they shouldn't be slighted. If they've anything to say,"
(our lady continued), "tell lady Secunda to do the necessary, and that
will be right."
"Isn't it strange!" exclaimed lady Feng, as soon as she had heard the
message; "since we are all one family, how is it I'm not familiar even
with so much as their shadow?"
While she was uttering these words, old goody Liu had had her repast and
come over, dragging Pan Erh; and, licking her lips and smacking her
mouth, she expressed her thanks.
Lady Feng smiled. "Do pray sit down," she said, "and listen to what I'm
going to tell you. What you, old lady, meant a little while back to
convey, I'm already as much as yourself well acquainted with! Relatives,
as we are, we shouldn't in fact have waited until you came to the
threshold of our doors, but ought, as is but right, to have attended to
your needs. But the thing is that, of late, the household affairs are
exceedingly numerous, and our lady, advanced in years as she is,
couldn't at a moment, it may possibly be, bethink herself of you all!
What's more, when I took over charge of the management of the menage, I
myself didn't know of all these family connections! Besides, though to
look at us from outside everything has a grand and splendid aspect,
people aren't aware that large establishments have such great hardships,
which, were we to recount to others, they would hardly like to credit as
true. But since you've now come from a great distance, and this is the
first occasion that you open your mouth to address me, how can I very
well allow you to return to your home with empty hands! By a lucky
coincidence our lady gave, yesterday, to the waiting-maids, twenty taels
to make clothes with, a sum which they haven't as yet touched, and if
you don't despise it as too little, you may take it home as a first
instalment, and employ it for your wants."
When old goody Liu heard the mention made by lady Feng of their
hardships, she imagined that there was no hope; but upon hearing her
again speak of giving her twenty taels, she was exceedingly delighted,
so much so that her eyebrows dilated and her eyes gleamed with smiles.
"We too know," she smilingly remarked, "all about difficulties! but the
proverb says, 'A camel dying of leanness is even bigger by much than a
horse!' No matter what those distresses may be, were you yet to pluck
one single hair from your body, my old friend, it would be stouter than
our own waist."
Chou Jui's wife stood by, and on hearing her make these coarse
utterances, she did all she could to give her a hint by winking, and
make her desist. Lady Feng laughed and paid no heed; but calling P'ing
Erh, she bade her fetch the parcel of money, which had been given to
them the previous day, and to also bring a string of cash; and when
these had been placed before goody Liu's eyes: "This is," said lady
Feng, "silver to the amount of twenty taels, which was for the time
given to these young girls to make winter clothes with; but some other
day, when you've nothing to do, come again on a stroll, in evidence of
the good feeling which should exist between relatives. It's besides
already late, and I don't wish to detain you longer and all for no
purpose; but, on your return home, present my compliments to all those
of yours to whom I should send them."
As she spake, she stood up. Old goody Liu gave utterance to a thousand
and ten thousand expressions of gratitude, and taking the silver and
cash, she followed Chou Jui's wife on her way to the out-houses. "Well,
mother dear," inquired Mrs. Chou, "what did you think of my lady that
you couldn't speak; and that whenever you opened your mouth it was all
'your nephew.' I'll make just one remark, and I don't mind if you do get
angry. Had he even been your kindred nephew, you should in fact have
been somewhat milder in your language; for that gentleman, Mr. Jung, is
her kith and kin nephew, and whence has appeared such another nephew of
hers (as Pan Erh)?"
Old goody Liu smiled. "My dear sister-in-law," she replied, "as I gazed
upon her, were my heart and eyes, pray, full of admiration or not? and
how then could I speak as I should?"
As they were chatting, they reached Chou Jui's house. They had been
sitting for a while, when old goody Liu produced a piece of silver,
which she was purposing to leave behind, to be given to the young
servants in Chou Jui's house to purchase fruit to eat; but how could
Mrs. Chou satiate her eye with such a small piece of silver? She was
determined in her refusal to accept it, so that old goody Liu, after
assuring her of her boundless gratitude, took her departure out of the
back gate she had come in from.
Reader, you do not know what happened after old goody Liu left, but
listen to the explanation which will be given in the next chapter.
Presentation of artificial flowers made in the Palace.
Chia Lien disports himself with Hsi-feng.
Pao-yü meets Ch'in Chung at a family party.
To resume our narrative. Chou Jui's wife having seen old goody Liu off,
speedily came to report the visit to madame Wang; but, contrary to her
expectation, she did not find madame Wang in the drawing-room; and it
was after inquiring of the waiting-maids that she eventually learnt that
she had just gone over to have a chat with "aunt" Hsüeh. Mrs. Chou, upon
hearing this, hastily went out by the eastern corner door, and through
the yard on the east, into the Pear Fragrance Court.
As soon as she reached the entrance, she caught sight of madame Wang's
waiting-maid, Chin Ch'uan-erh, playing about on the terrace steps, with
a young girl, who had just let her hair grow. When they saw Chou Jui's
wife approach, they forthwith surmised that she must have some message
to deliver, so they pursed up their lips and directed her to the
inner-room. Chou Jui's wife gently raised the curtain-screen, and upon
entering discovered madame Wang, in voluble conversation with "aunt"
Hsüeh, about family questions and people in general.
Mrs. Chou did not venture to disturb them, and accordingly came into the
inner room, where she found Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai in a house dress, with her
hair simply twisted into a knot round the top of the head, sitting on
the inner edge of the stove-couch, leaning on a small divan table, in
the act of copying a pattern for embroidery, with the waiting-maid Ying
Erh. When she saw her enter, Pao Ch'ai hastily put down her pencil, and
turning round with a face beaming with smiles, "Sister Chou," she said,
"take a seat."
Chou Jui's wife likewise promptly returned the smile.
"How is my young lady?" she inquired, as she sat down on the edge of the
couch. "I haven't seen you come over on the other side for two or three
days! Has Mr. Pao-yü perhaps given you offence?"
"What an idea!" exclaimed Pao Ch'ai, with a smile. "It's simply that
I've had for the last couple of days my old complaint again, and that
I've in consequence kept quiet all this time, and looked after myself."
"Is that it?" asked Chou Jui's wife; "but after all, what rooted kind of
complaint are you subject to, miss? you should lose really no time in
sending for a doctor to diagnose it, and give you something to make you
all right. With your tender years, to have an organic ailment is indeed
Pao Ch'ai laughed when she heard these remarks.
"Pray," she said, "don't allude to this again; for this ailment of mine
I've seen, I can't tell you, how many doctors; taken no end of medicine
and spent I don't know how much money; but the more we did so, not the
least little bit of relief did I see. Lucky enough, we eventually came
across a bald-pated bonze, whose speciality was the cure of nameless
illnesses. We therefore sent for him to see me, and he said that I had
brought this along with me from the womb as a sort of inflammatory
virus, that luckily I had a constitution strong and hale so that it
didn't matter; and that it would be of no avail if I took pills or any
medicines. He then told me a prescription from abroad, and gave me also
a packet of a certain powder as a preparative, with a peculiar smell and
strange flavour. He advised me, whenever my complaint broke out, to take
a pill, which would be sure to put me right again. And this has, after
all, strange to say, done me a great deal of good."
"What kind of prescription is this one from abroad, I wonder," remarked
Mrs. Chou; "if you, miss, would only tell me, it would be worth our
while bearing it in mind, and recommending it to others: and if ever we
came across any one afflicted with this disease, we would also be doing
a charitable deed."
"You'd better not ask for the prescription," rejoined Pao Ch'ai smiling.
"Why, its enough to wear one out with perplexity! the necessaries and
ingredients are few, and all easy to get, but it would be difficult to
find the lucky moment! You want twelve ounces of the pollen of the white
peone, which flowers in spring, twelve ounces of the pollen of the white
summer lily, twelve ounces of the pollen of the autumn hibiscus flower,
and twelve ounces of the white plum in bloom in the winter. You take the
four kinds of pollen, and put them in the sun, on the very day of the
vernal equinox of the succeeding year to get dry, and then you mix them
with the powder and pound them well together. You again want twelve mace
of water, fallen on 'rain water' day....."
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Chou promptly, as she laughed. "From all
you say, why you want three years' time! and what if no rain falls on
'rain water' day! What would one then do?"
"Quite so!" Pao Ch'ai remarked smilingly; "how can there be such an
opportune rain on that very day! but to wait is also the best thing,
there's nothing else to be done. Besides, you want twelve mace of dew,
collected on 'White Dew' day, and twelve mace of the hoar frost,
gathered on 'Frost Descent' day, and twelve mace of snow, fallen on
'Slight Snow' day! You next take these four kinds of waters and mix them
with the other ingredients, and make pills of the size of a lungngan.
You keep them in an old porcelain jar, and bury them under the roots of
some flowers; and when the ailment betrays itself, you produce it and
take a pill, washing it down with two candareens of a yellow cedar
"O-mi-to-fu!" cried Mrs. Chou, when she heard all this, bursting out
laughing. "It's really enough to kill one! you might wait ten years and
find no such lucky moments!"
"Fortunate for me, however," pursued Pao Ch'ai, "in the course of a year
or two, after the bonze had told me about this prescription, we got all
the ingredients; and, after much trouble, we compounded a supply, which
we have now brought along with us from the south to the north; and lies
at present under the pear trees."
"Has this medicine any name or other of its own?" further inquired Mrs.
"It has a name," replied Pao Ch'ai; "the mangy-headed bonze also told it
me; he called it 'cold fragrance' pill."
Chou Jui's wife nodded her head, as she heard these words. "What do you
feel like after all when this complaint manifests itself?" she went on
"Nothing much," replied Pao Ch'ai; "I simply pant and cough a bit; but
after I've taken a pill, I get over it, and it's all gone."
Mrs. Chou was bent upon making some further remark, when madame Wang was
suddenly heard to enquire, "Who is in here?"
Mrs. Chou went out hurriedly and answered; and forthwith told her all
about old goody Liu's visit. Having waited for a while, and seeing that
madame Wang had nothing to say, she was on the point of retiring, when
"aunt" Hsueh unexpectedly remarked smiling: "Wait a bit! I've something
to give you to take along with you."
And as she spoke, she called for Hsiang Ling. The sound of the
screen-board against the sides of the door was heard, and in walked the
waiting-maid, who had been playing with Chin Ch'uan-erh. "Did my lady
call?" she asked.
"Bring that box of flowers," said Mrs. Hsueh.
Hsiang Ling assented, and brought from the other side a small
embroidered silk box.
"These," explained "aunt" Hsüeh, "are a new kind of flowers, made in the
palace. They consist of twelve twigs of flowers of piled gauze. I
thought of them yesterday, and as they will, the pity is, only get old,
if uselessly put away, why not give them to the girls to wear them in
their hair! I meant to have sent them over yesterday, but I forgot all
about them. You come to-day most opportunely, and if you will take them
with you, I shall have got them off my hands. To the three young ladies
in your family give two twigs each, and of the six that will remain give
a couple to Miss Lin, and the other four to lady Feng."
"Better keep them and give them to your daughter Pao Ch'ai to wear,"
observed madame Wang, "and have done with it; why think of all the
"You don't know, sister," replied "aunt" Hsüeh, "what a crotchety thing
Pao Ch'ai is! she has no liking for flower or powder."
With these words on her lips, Chou Jui's wife took the box and walked
out of the door of the room. Perceiving that Chin Ch'uan-erh was still
sunning herself outside, Chou Jui's wife asked her: "Isn't this Hsiang
Ling, the waiting-maid that we've often heard of as having been
purchased just before the departure of the Hsüeh family for the capital,
and on whose account there occurred some case of manslaughter or other?"
"Of course it's she," replied Chin Ch'uan. But as they were talking,
they saw Hsiang Ling draw near smirkingly, and Chou Jui's wife at once
seized her by the hand, and after minutely scrutinizing her face for a
time, she turned round to Chin Ch'uan-erh and smiled. "With these
features she really resembles slightly the style of lady Jung of our
"So I too maintain!" said Chin Ch'uan-erh.
Chou Jui's wife then asked Hsiang Ling, "At what age did you enter this
family? and where are your father and mother at present?" and also
inquired, "In what year of your teens are you? and of what place are you
But Hsiang Ling, after listening to all these questions, simply nodded
her head and replied, "I can't remember."
When Mrs. Chou and Chin Ch'uan-erh heard these words, their spirits
changed to grief, and for a while they felt affected and wounded at
heart; but in a short time, Mrs. Chou brought the flowers into the room
at the back of madame Wang's principal apartment.
The fact is that dowager lady Chia had explained that as her
granddaughters were too numerous, it would not be convenient to crowd
them together in one place, that Pao-yü and Tai-yü should only remain
with her in this part to break her loneliness, but that Ying Ch'un, T'an
Ch'un, and Hsi Ch'un, the three of them, should move on this side in the
three rooms within the antechamber, at the back of madame lady Wang's
quarters; and that Li Wan should be told off to be their attendant and
to keep an eye over them.
Chou Jui's wife, therefore, on this occasion came first to these rooms
as they were on her way, but she only found a few waiting-maids
assembled in the antechamber, waiting silently to obey a call.
Ying Ch'un's waiting-maid, Ssu Chi, together with Shih Shu, T'an Ch'un's
waiting-maid, just at this moment raised the curtain, and made their
egress, each holding in her hand a tea-cup and saucer; and Chou Jui's
wife readily concluding that the young ladies were sitting together also
walked into the inner room, where she only saw Ying Ch'un and T'an Ch'un
seated near the window, in the act of playing chess. Mrs. Chou presented
the flowers and explained whence they came, and what they were.
The girls forthwith interrupted their game, and both with a curtsey,
expressed their thanks, and directed the waiting-maids to put the
Mrs. Chou complied with their wishes (and handing over the flowers);
"Miss Hsi Ch'un," she remarked, "is not at home; and possibly she's over
there with our old lady."
"She's in that room, isn't she?" inquired the waiting-maids.
Mrs. Chou at these words readily came into the room on this side, where
she found Hsi Ch'un, in company with a certain Chih Neng, a young nun of
the "moon reflected on water" convent, talking and laughing together. On
seeing Chou Jui's wife enter, Hsi Ch'un at once asked what she wanted,
whereupon Chou Jui's wife opened the box of flowers, and explained who
had sent them.
"I was just telling Chih Neng," remarked Hsi Ch'un laughing, "that I
also purpose shortly shaving my head and becoming a nun; and strange
enough, here you again bring me flowers; but supposing I shave my head,
where can I wear them?"
They were all very much amused for a time with this remark, and Hsi
Ch'un told her waiting-maid, Ju Hua, to come and take over the flowers.
"What time did you come over?" then inquired Mrs. Chou of Chih Neng.
"Where is that bald-pated and crotchety superior of yours gone?"
"We came," explained Chih Neng, "as soon as it was day; after calling
upon madame Wang, my superior went over to pay a visit in the mansion of
Mr. Yü, and told me to wait for her here."
"Have you received," further asked Mrs. Chou, "the monthly allowance for
incense offering due on the fifteenth or not?"
"I can't say," replied Chih Neng.
"Who's now in charge of the issue of the monthly allowances to the
various temples?" interposed Hsi Ch'un, addressing Mrs. Chou, as soon as
she heard what was said.
"It's Yü Hsin," replied Chou Jui's wife, "who's intrusted with the
"That's how it is," observed Hsi Ch'un with a chuckle; "soon after the
arrival of the Superior, Yü Hsin's wife came over and kept on whispering
with her for some time; so I presume it must have been about this
Mrs. Chou then went on to bandy a few words with Chih Neng, after which
she came over to lady Feng's apartments. Proceeding by a narrow passage,
she passed under Li Wan's back windows, and went along the wall
ornamented with creepers on the west. Going out of the western side
gate, she entered lady Feng's court, and walked over into the Entrance
Hall, where she only found the waiting-girl Feng Erh, sitting on the
doorsteps of lady Feng's apartments.
When she caught sight of Mrs. Chou approaching, she at once waved her
hand, bidding her go to the eastern room. Chou Jui's wife understood her
meaning, and hastily came on tiptoe to the chamber on the east, where
she saw a nurse patting lady Feng's daughter to sleep.
Mrs. Chou promptly asked the nurse in a low tone of voice: "Is the young
lady asleep at this early hour? But if even she is I must wake her up."
The nurse nodded her head in assent, but as these inquiries were being
made, a sound of laughter came from over the other side, in which lady
Feng's voice could be detected; followed, shortly after, by the sound of
a door opening, and out came P'ing Erh, with a large brass basin in her
hands, which she told Feng Erh to fill with water and take inside.
P'ing Erh forthwith entered the room on this side, and upon perceiving
Chou Jui's wife: "What have you come here again for, my old lady?" she
Chou Jui's wife rose without any delay, and handed her the box. "I've
come," said she, "to bring you a present of flowers."
Upon hearing this, P'ing Erh opened the box, and took out four sprigs,
and, turning round, walked out of the room. In a short while she came
from the inner room with two sprigs in her hand, and calling first of
all Ts'ai Ming, she bade her take the flowers over to the mansion on the
other side and present them to "madame" Jung, after which she asked Mrs.
Chou to express her thanks on her return.
Chou Jui's wife thereupon came over to dowager lady Chia's room on this
side of the compound, and as she was going through the Entrance Hall,
she casually came, face to face, with her daughter, got up in gala
dress, just coming from the house of her mother-in-law.
"What are you running over here for at this time?" promptly inquired
"Have you been well of late, mother?" asked her daughter. "I've been
waiting for ever so long at home, but you never come out! What's there
so pressing that has prevented you from returning home? I waited till I
was tired, and then went on all alone, and paid my respects to our
venerable lady; I'm now, on my way to inquire about our lady Wang. What
errand haven't you delivered as yet, ma; and what is it you're holding?"
"Ai! as luck would have it," rejoined Chou Jui's wife smilingly, "old
goody Liu came over to-day, so that besides my own hundred and one
duties, I've had to run about here and there ever so long, and all for
her! While attending to these, Mrs. Hsueh came across me, and asked me
to take these flowers to the young ladies, and I've been at it up to
this very moment, and haven't done yet! But coming at this time, you
must surely have something or other that you want me to do for you!
"Really ma, you're quick at guessing!" exclaimed her daughter with a
smile; "I'll tell you what it's all about. The day before yesterday,
your son-in-law had a glass of wine too many, and began altercating with
some person or other; and some one, I don't know why, spread some evil
report, saying that his antecedents were not clear, and lodged a charge
against him at the Yamen, pressing the authorities to deport him to his
native place. That's why I've come over to consult with you, as to whom
we should appeal to, to do us this favour of helping us out of our
"I knew at once," Mrs. Chou remarked after listening, "that there was
something wrong; but this is nothing hard to settle! Go home and wait
for me and I'll come straightway, as soon as I've taken these flowers to
Miss Lin; our madame Wang and lady Secunda have both no leisure (to
attend to you now,) so go back and wait for me! What's the use of so
Her daughter, upon hearing this, forthwith turned round to go back, when
she added as she walked away, "Mind, mother, and make haste."
"All right," replied Chou Jui's wife, "of course I will; you are young
yet, and without experience, and that's why you are in this flurry."
As she spoke, she betook herself into Tai-yü's apartments. Contrary to
her expectation Tai-yü was not at this time in her own room, but in
Pao-yü's; where they were amusing themselves in trying to solve the
"nine strung rings" puzzle. On entering Mrs. Chou put on a smile.
"'Aunt' Hsüeh," she explained, "has told me to bring these flowers and
present them to you to wear in your hair."
"What flowers?" exclaimed Pao-yü. "Bring them here and let me see them."
As he uttered these words, he readily stretched out his hands and took
them over, and upon opening the box and looking in, he discovered, in
fact, two twigs of a novel and artistic kind of artificial flowers, of
piled gauze, made in the palace.
Tai-yü merely cast a glance at them, as Pao-yü held them. "Have these
flowers," she inquired eagerly, "been sent to me alone, or have all the
other girls got some too?"
"Each one of the young ladies has the same," replied Mrs. Chou; "and
these two twigs are intended for you, miss."
Tai-yü forced a smile. "Oh! I see," she observed. "If all the others
hadn't chosen, even these which remain over wouldn't have been given to
Chou Jui's wife did not utter a word in reply.
"Sister Chou, what took you over on the other side?" asked Pao-yü.
"I was told that our madame Wang was over there," explained Mrs. Chou,
"and as I went to give her a message, 'aunt' Hsüeh seized the
opportunity to ask me to bring over these flowers."
"What was cousin Pao Ch'ai doing at home?" asked Pao-yü. "How is it
she's not even been over for these few days?"
"She's not quite well," remarked Mrs. Chou.
When Pao-yü heard this news, "Who'll go," he speedily ascertained of the
waiting-maids, "and inquire after her? Tell her that cousin Lin and I
have sent round to ask how our aunt and cousin are getting on! ask her
what she's ailing from and what medicines she's taking, and explain to
her that I know I ought to have gone over myself, but that on my coming
back from school a short while back, I again got a slight chill; and
that I'll go in person another day."
While Pao-yü was yet speaking, Hsi Hsüeh volunteered to take the
message, and went off at once; and Mrs. Chou herself took her leave
without another word.
Mrs. Chou's son-in-law was, in fact, Leng Tzu-hsing, the intimate friend
of Yü-ts'un. Having recently become involved with some party in a
lawsuit, on account of the sale of some curios, he had expressly charged
his wife to come and sue for the favour (of a helping hand). Chou Jui's
wife, relying upon her master's prestige, did not so much as take the
affair to heart; and having waited till evening, she simply went over
and requested lady Feng to befriend her, and the matter was forthwith
When the lamps were lit, lady Feng came over, after having disrobed
herself, to see madame Wang. "I've already taken charge," she observed,
"of the things sent round to-day by the Chen family. As for the presents
from us to them, we should avail ourselves of the return of the boats,
by which the fresh delicacies for the new year were forwarded, to hand
them to them to carry back."
Madame Wang nodded her head in token of approval.
"The birthday presents," continued lady Feng, "for lady Ling Ngan, the
mother of the Earl of Ling Ngan, have already been got together, and
whom will you depute to take them over?"
"See," suggested madame Wang, "who has nothing to do; let four maids go
and all will be right! why come again and ask me?"
"Our eldest sister-in-law Chen," proceeded lady Feng, "came over to
invite me to go to-morrow to their place for a little change. I don't
think there will be anything for me to do to-morrow."
"Whether there be or not," replied madame Wang, "it doesn't matter; you
must go, for whenever she comes with an invitation, it includes us, who
are your seniors, so that, of course, it isn't such a pleasant thing for
you; but as she doesn't ask us this time, but only asks you, it's
evident that she's anxious that you should have a little distraction,
and you mustn't disappoint her good intention. Besides it's certainly
right that you should go over for a change."
Lady Feng assented, and presently Li Wan, Ying Ch'un and the other
cousins, likewise paid each her evening salutation and retired to their
respective rooms, where nothing of any notice transpired.
The next day lady Feng completed her toilette, and came over first to
tell madame Wang that she was off, and then went to say good-bye to
dowager lady Chia; but when Pao-yü heard where she was going, he also
wished to go; and as lady Feng had no help but to give in, and to wait
until he had changed his clothes, the sister and brother-in-law got into
a carriage, and in a short while entered the Ning mansion.
Mrs. Yu, the wife of Chia Chen, and Mrs. Ch'in, the wife of Mr. Chia
Jung, the two sisters-in-law, had, along with a number of maids,
waiting-girls, and other servants, come as far as the ceremonial gate to
receive them, and Mrs. Yu, upon meeting lady Feng, for a while indulged,
as was her wont, in humorous remarks, after which, leading Pao-yü by the
hand, they entered the drawing room and took their seats, Mrs. Ch'in
handed tea round.
"What have you people invited me to come here for?" promptly asked lady
Feng; "if you have anything to present me with, hand it to me at once,
for I've other things to attend to."
Mrs. Yu and Mrs. Ch'in had barely any time to exchange any further
remarks, when several matrons interposed, smilingly: "Had our lady not
come to-day, there would have been no help for it, but having come, you
can't have it all your own way."
While they were conversing about one thing and another, they caught
sight of Chia Jung come in to pay his respects, which prompted Pao-yü to
inquire, "Isn't my elder brother at home to-day?"
"He's gone out of town to-day," replied Mrs. Yu, "to inquire after his
grandfather. You'll find sitting here," she continued, "very dull, and
why not go out and have a stroll?"
"A strange coincidence has taken place to-day," urged Mrs. Ch'in, with a
smile; "some time back you, uncle Pao, expressed a wish to see my
brother, and to-day he too happens to be here at home. I think he's in
the library; but why not go and see for yourself, uncle Pao?"
Pao-yü descended at once from the stove-couch, and was about to go, when
Mrs. Yu bade the servants to mind and go with him. "Don't you let him
get into trouble," she enjoined. "It's a far different thing when he
comes over under the charge of his grandmother, when he's all right."
"If that be so," remarked lady Feng, "why not ask the young gentleman to
come in, and then I too can see him. There isn't, I hope, any objection
to my seeing him?"
"Never mind! never mind!" observed Mrs. Yu, smilingly; "it's as well
that you shouldn't see him. This brother of mine is not, like the boys
of our Chia family, accustomed to roughly banging and knocking about.
Other people's children are brought up politely and properly, and not in
this vixenish style of yours. Why, you'd ridicule him to death!"
"I won't laugh at him then, that's all," smiled lady Feng; "tell them to
bring him in at once."
"He's shy," proceeded Mrs. Ch'in, "and has seen nothing much of the
world, so that you are sure to be put out when you see him, sister."
"What an idea!" exclaimed lady Feng. "Were he even No Cha himself, I'd
like to see him; so don't talk trash; if, after all, you don't bring him
round at once, I'll give you a good slap on the mouth."
"I daren't be obstinate," answered Mrs. Ch'in smiling; "I'll bring him
In a short while she did in fact lead in a young lad, who, compared with
Pao-yü, was somewhat more slight but, from all appearances, superior to
Pao-yü in eyes and eyebrows, (good looks), which were so clear and
well-defined, in white complexion and in ruddy lips, as well as graceful
appearance and pleasing manners. He was however bashful and timid, like
In a shy and demure way, he made a bow to lady Feng and asked after her
Lady Feng was simply delighted with him. "You take a low seat next to
him!" she ventured laughingly as she first pushed Pao-yü back. Then
readily stooping forward, she took this lad by the hand and asked him to
take a seat next to her. Presently she inquired about his age, his
studies and such matters, when she found that at school he went under
the name of Ch'in Chung.
The matrons and maids in attendance on lady Feng, perceiving that this
was the first time their mistress met Ch'in Chung, (and knowing) that
she had not at hand the usual presents, forthwith ran over to the other
side and told P'ing Erh about it.
P'ing Erh, aware of the close intimacy that existed between lady Feng
and Mrs. Ch'in, speedily took upon herself to decide, and selecting a
piece of silk, and two small gold medals, (bearing the wish that he
should attain) the highest degree, the senior wranglership, she handed
them to the servants who had come over, to take away.
Lady Feng, however, explained that her presents were too mean by far,
but Mrs. Ch'in and the others expressed their appreciation of them; and
in a short time the repast was over, and Mrs. Yu, lady Feng and Mrs.
Ch'in played at dominoes, but of this no details need be given; while
both Pao-yü and Ch'in Chung sat down, got up and talked, as they
Since he had first glanced at Ch'in Chung, and seen what kind of person
he was, he felt at heart as if he had lost something, and after being
plunged in a dazed state for a time, he began again to give way to
foolish thoughts in his mind.
"There are then such beings as he in the world!" he reflected. "I now
see there are! I'm however no better than a wallowing pig or a mangy
cow! Despicable destiny! why was I ever born in this household of a
marquis and in the mansion of a duke? Had I seen the light in the home
of some penniless scholar, or poverty-stricken official, I could long
ago have enjoyed the communion of his friendship, and I would not have
lived my whole existence in vain! Though more honourable than he, it is
indeed evident that silk and satins only serve to swathe this rotten
trunk of mine, and choice wines and rich meats only to gorge the filthy
drain and miry sewer of this body of mine! Wealth! and splendour! ye are
no more than contaminated with pollution by me!"
Ever since Ch'in Chung had noticed Pao-yü's unusual appearance, his
sedate deportment, and what is more, his hat ornamented with gold, and
his dress full of embroidery, attended by beautiful maids and handsome
youths, he did not indeed think it a matter of surprise that every one
was fond of him.
"Born as I have had the misfortune to be," he went on to commune within
himself, "in an honest, though poor family, how can I presume to enjoy
his companionship! This is verily a proof of what a barrier poverty and
wealth set between man and man. What a serious misfortune is this too in
this mortal world!"
In wild and inane ideas of the same strain, indulged these two youths!
Pao-yü by and by further asked of him what books he was reading, and
Ch'in Chung, in answer to these inquiries, told him the truth. A few
more questions and answers followed; and after about ten remarks, a
greater intimacy sprang up between them.
Tea and fruits were shortly served, and while they were having their
tea, Pao-yü suggested, "We two don't take any wine, and why shouldn't we
have our fruit served on the small couch inside, and go and sit there,
and thus save you all the trouble?"
The two of them thereupon came into the inner apartment to have their
tea; and Mrs. Ch'in attended to the laying out of fruit and wines for
lady Feng, and hurriedly entered the room and hinted to Pao-yü: "Dear
uncle Pao, your nephew is young, and should he happen to say anything
disrespectful, do please overlook it, for my sake, for though shy, he's
naturally of a perverse and wilful disposition, and is rather given to
having his own way."
"Off with you!" cried Pao-yü laughing; "I know it all." Mrs. Ch'in then
went on to give a bit of advice to her brother, and at length came to
keep lady Feng company. Presently lady Feng and Mrs. Yu sent another
servant to tell Pao-yü that there was outside of everything they might
wish to eat and that they should mind and go and ask for it; and Pao-yü
simply signified that they would; but his mind was not set upon drinking
or eating; all he did was to keep making inquiries of Ch'in Chung about
recent family concerns.
Ch'in Chung went on to explain that his tutor had last year relinquished
his post, that his father was advanced in years and afflicted with
disease, and had multifarious public duties to preoccupy his mind, so
that he had as yet had no time to make arrangements for another tutor,
and that all he did was no more than to keep up his old tasks; that as
regards study, it was likewise necessary to have the company of one or
two intimate friends, as then only, by dint of a frequent exchange of
ideas and opinions, one could arrive at progress; and Pao-yü gave him no
time to complete, but eagerly urged, "Quite so! But in our household, we
have a family school, and those of our kindred who have no means
sufficient to engage the services of a tutor are at liberty to come over
for the sake of study, and the sons and brothers of our relatives are
likewise free to join the class. As my own tutor went home last year, I
am now also wasting my time doing nothing; my father's intention was
that I too should have gone over to this school, so that I might at
least temporarily keep up what I have already read, pending the arrival
of my tutor next year, when I could again very well resume my studies
alone at home. But my grandmother raised objections; maintaining first
of all, that the boys who attend the family classes being so numerous,
she feared we would be sure to be up to mischief, which wouldn't be at
all proper; and that, in the second place, as I had been ill for some
time, the matter should be dropped, for the present. But as, from what
you say, your worthy father is very much exercised on this score, you
should, on your return, tell him all about it, and come over to our
school. I'll also be there as your schoolmate; and as you and I will
reap mutual benefit from each other's companionship, won't it be nice!"
"When my father was at home the other day," Ch'in Chung smiled and said,
"he alluded to the question of a tutor, and explained that the free
schools were an excellent institution. He even meant to have come and
talked matters over with his son-in-law's father about my introduction,
but with the urgent concerns here, he didn't think it right for him to
come about this small thing, and make any trouble. But if you really
believe that I might be of use to you, in either grinding the ink, or
washing the slab, why shouldn't you at once make the needful
arrangements, so that neither you nor I may idle our time? And as we
shall be able to come together often and talk matters over, and set at
the same time our parents' minds at ease, and to enjoy the pleasure of
friendship, won't it be a profitable thing!"
"Compose your mind!" suggested Pao-yü. "We can by and by first of all,
tell your brother-in-law, and your sister as well as sister-in-law
Secunda Lien; and on your return home to-day, lose no time in explaining
all to your worthy father, and when I get back, I'll speak to my
grandmother; and I can't see why our wishes shouldn't speedily be
By the time they had arrived at this conclusion, the day was far
advanced, and the lights were about to be lit; and they came out and
watched them once more for a time as they played at dominoes. When they
came to settle their accounts Mrs. Ch'in and Mrs. Yu were again the
losers and had to bear the expense of a theatrical and dinner party; and
while deciding that they should enjoy this treat the day after the
morrow, they also had the evening repast.
Darkness having set in, Mrs. Yu gave orders that two youths should
accompany Mr. Ch'in home. The matrons went out to deliver the
directions, and after a somewhat long interval, Ch'in Chung said goodbye
and was about to start on his way.
"Whom have you told off to escort him?" asked Mrs. Yu.
"Chiao Ta," replied the matrons, "has been told to go, but it happens
that he's under the effects of drink and making free use again of
Mrs. Yu and Mrs. Chin remonstrated. "What's the use," they said, "of
asking him? that mean fellow shouldn't be chosen, but you will go again
and provoke him."
"People always maintain," added lady Feng, "that you are far too
lenient. But fancy allowing servants in this household to go on in this
way; why, what will be the end of it?"
"You don't mean to tell me," observed Mrs. Yu, "that you don't know this
Chiao Ta? Why, even the gentlemen one and all pay no heed to his doings!
your eldest brother, Chia Cheng, he too doesn't notice him. It's all
because when he was young he followed our ancestor in three or four
wars, and because on one occasion, by extracting our senior from the
heap of slain and carrying him on his back, he saved his life. He
himself suffered hunger and stole food for his master to eat; they had
no water for two days; and when he did get half a bowl, he gave it to
his master, while he himself had sewage water. He now simply presumes
upon the sentimental obligations imposed by these services. When the
seniors of the family still lived, they all looked upon him with
exceptional regard; but who at present ventures to interfere with him?
He is also advanced in years, and doesn't care about any decent manners;
his sole delight is wine; and when he gets drunk, there isn't a single
person whom he won't abuse. I've again and again told the stewards not
to henceforward ask Chiao Ta to do any work whatever, but to treat him
as dead and gone; and here he's sent again to-day."
"How can I not know all about this Chiao Ta?" remarked lady Feng; "but
the secret of all this trouble is, that you won't take any decisive
step. Why not pack him off to some distant farm, and have done with
him?" And as she spoke, "Is our carriage ready?" she went on to inquire.
"All ready and waiting," interposed the married women.
Lady Feng also got up, said good-bye, and hand in hand with Pao-yü, they
walked out of the room, escorted by Mrs. Yu and the party, as far as the
entrance of the Main Hall, where they saw the lamps shedding a brilliant
light and the attendants all waiting on the platforms. Chiao Ta,
however, availing himself of Chia Chen's absence from home, and elated
by wine, began to abuse the head steward Lai Erh for his injustice.
"You bully of the weak and coward with the strong," he cried, "when
there's any pleasant charge, you send the other servants, but when it's
a question of seeing any one home in the dark, then you ask me, you
disorderly clown! a nice way you act the steward, indeed! Do you forget
that if Mr. Chiao Ta chose to raise one leg, it would be a good deal
higher than your head! Remember please, that twenty years ago, Mr. Chiao
Ta wouldn't even so much as look at any one, no matter who it was; not
to mention a pack of hybrid creatures like yourselves!"
While he went on cursing and railing with all his might, Chia Jung
appeared walking by lady Feng's carriage. All the servants having tried
to hush him and not succeeding, Chia Jung became exasperated; and
forthwith blew him up for a time. "Let some one bind him up," he cried,
"and tomorrow, when he's over the wine, I'll call him to task, and we'll
see if he won't seek death."
Chiao Ta showed no consideration for Chia Jung. On the contrary, he
shouted with more vigour. Going up to Chia Jung: "Brother Jung," he
said, "don't put on the airs of a master with Chiao Ta. Not to speak of
a man such as you, why even your father and grandfather wouldn't presume
to display such side with Chiao Ta. Were it not for Chiao Ta, and him
alone, where would your office, honours, riches and dignity be? Your
ancestor, whom I brought back from the jaws of death, heaped up all this
estate, but up to this very day have I received no thanks for the
services I rendered! on the contrary, you come here and play the master;
don't say a word more, and things may come right; but if you do, I'll
plunge the blade of a knife white in you and extract it red."
Lady Feng, from inside the carriage, remarked to Chia Jung: "Don't you
yet pack off this insolent fellow! Why, if you keep him in your house,
won't he be a source of mischief? Besides, were relatives and friends to
hear about these things, won't they have a laugh at our expense, that a
household like ours should be so devoid of all propriety?"
Chia Jung assented. The whole band of servants finding that Chiao Ta was
getting too insolent had no help but to come up and throw him over, and
binding him up, they dragged him towards the stables. Chiao Ta abused
even Chia Chen with still more vehemence, and shouted in a boisterous
manner. "I want to go," he cried, "to the family Ancestral Temple and
mourn my old master. Who would have ever imagined that he would leave
behind such vile creatures of descendants as you all, day after day
indulging in obscene and incestuous practices, 'in scraping of the
ashes' and in philandering with brothers-in-law. I know all about your
doings; the best thing is to hide one's stump of an arm in one's
sleeve!" (wash one's dirty clothes at home).
The servants who stood by, upon hearing this wild talk, were quite at
their wits' end, and they at once seized him, tied him up, and filled
his mouth to the fullest extent with mud mixed with some horse refuse.
Lady Feng and Chia Jung heard all he said from a distance, but pretended
not to hear; but Pao-yü, seated in the carriage as he was, also caught
this extravagant talk and inquired of lady Feng: "Sister, did you hear
him say something about 'scraping of the ashes?' What's it?"
"Don't talk such rubbish!" hastily shouted lady Feng; "it was the
maudlin talk of a drunkard! A nice boy you are! not to speak of your
listening, but you must also inquire! wait and I'll tell your mother and
we'll see if she doesn't seriously take you to task."
Pao-yü was in such a state of fright that he speedily entreated her to
forgive him. "My dear sister," he craved, "I won't venture again to say
anything of the kind"
"My dear brother, if that be so, it's all right!" rejoined lady Feng
reassuringly; "on our return we'll speak to her venerable ladyship and