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Hung Lou Meng, Book I by Cao Xueqin

Part 5 out of 10

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were exchanged between the whole company, and they pressed one another
to take a seat. Chia Chen and Mrs. Yu both handed the tea round.

"Our venerable lady," they explained, as they smiled, "is a worthy
senior; while our father is, on the other hand, only her nephew; so that
on a birthday of a man of his age, we should really not have had the
audacity to invite her ladyship; but as the weather, at this time, is
cool, and the chrysanthemums, in the whole garden, are in luxuriant
blossom, we have requested our venerable ancestor to come for a little
distraction, and to see the whole number of her children and
grand-children amuse themselves. This was the object we had in view,
but, contrary to our expectations, our worthy senior has not again
conferred upon us the lustre of her countenance."

Lady Feng did not wait until madame Wang could open her mouth, but took
the initiative to reply. "Our venerable lady," she urged, "had, even so
late as yesterday, said that she meant to come; but, in the evening,
upon seeing brother Pao eating peaches, the mouth of the old lady once
again began to water, and after partaking of a little more than the half
of one, she had, about the fifth watch, to get out of bed two
consecutive times, with the result that all the forenoon to-day, she
felt her body considerably worn out. She therefore bade me inform our
worthy senior that it was utterly impossible for her to come to-day;
adding however that, if there were any delicacies, she fancied a few
kinds, but that they should be very tender."

When Chia Chen heard these words, he smiled. "Our dowager lady," he
replied, "is, I argued, so fond of amusement that, if she doesn't come
to-day, there must, for a certainty, be some valid reason; and that's
exactly what happens to be the case."

"The other day I heard your eldest sister explain," interposed madame
Wang, "that Chia Jung's wife was anything but well; but what's after all
the matter with her?"

"She has," observed Mrs. Yu, "contracted this illness verily in a
strange manner! Last moon at the time of the mid-autumn festival, she
was still well enough to be able to enjoy herself, during half the
night, in company with our dowager lady and madame Wang. On her return,
she continued in good health, until after the twentieth, when she began
to feel more and more languid every day, and loth, likewise, to eat
anything; and this has been going on for well-nigh half a month and
more; she hasn't besides been anything like her old self for two

"May she not," remarked madame Hsing, taking up the thread of the
conversation, "be ailing for some happy event?"

But while she was uttering these words, some one from outside announced:
"Our senior master, second master and all the gentlemen of the family
have come, and are standing in the Reception Hall!" Whereupon Chia Chen
and Chia Lien quitted the apartment with hurried step; and during this
while, Mrs. Yu reiterated how that some time ago a doctor had also
expressed the opinion that she was ailing for a happy event, but that
the previous day, had come a doctor, recommended by Feng Tzu-ying--a
doctor, who had from his youth up made medicine his study, and was very
proficient in the treatment of diseases,--who asserted, after he had
seen her, that it was no felicitous ailment, but that it was some grave
complaint. "It was only yesterday," (she explained,) "that he wrote his
prescription; and all she has had is but one dose, and already to-day
the giddiness in the head is considerably better; as regards the other
symptoms they have as yet shown no marked improvement."

"I maintain," remarked lady Feng, "that, were she not quite unfit to
stand the exertion, would she in fact, on a day like this, be unwilling
to strain every nerve and come round."

"You saw her," observed Mrs. Yu, "on the third in here; how that she
bore up with a violent effort for ever so long, but it was all because
of the friendship that exists between you two, that she still longed for
your society, and couldn't brook the idea of tearing herself away."

When lady Feng heard these words, her eyes got quite red, and after a
time she at length exclaimed: "In the Heavens of a sudden come wind and
rain; while with man, in a day and in a night, woe and weal survene! But
with her tender years, if for a complaint like this she were to run any
risk, what pleasure is there for any human being to be born and to
sojourn in the world?"

She was just speaking, when Chia Jung walked into the apartment; and
after paying his respects to madame Hsing, madame Wang, and lady Feng,
he then observed to Mrs. Yu: "I have just taken over the eatables to our
venerable ancestor; and, at the same time, I told him that my father was
at home waiting upon the senior, and entertaining the junior gentlemen
of the whole family, and that in compliance with grandfather's orders,
he did not presume to go over. The old gentleman was much delighted by
what he heard me say, and having signified that that was all in order,
bade me tell father and you, mother, to do all you can in your
attendance upon the senior gentlemen and ladies, enjoining me to
entertain, with all propriety, my uncles, aunts, and my cousins. He also
went on to urge me to press the men to cut, with all despatch, the
blocks for the Record of Meritorious Deeds, and to print ten thousand
copies for distribution. All these messages I have duly delivered to my
father, but I must now be quick and go out, so as to send the eatables
for the elder as well as for the younger gentlemen of the entire

"Brother Jung Erh," exclaimed lady Feng, "wait a moment. How is your
wife getting on? how is she, after all, to-day?"

"Not well," replied Chia Jung. "But were you, aunt, on your return to go
in and see her, you will find out for yourself."

Chia Jung forthwith left the room. During this interval, Mrs. Yu
addressed herself to mesdames Hsing and Wang; "My ladies," she asked,
"will you have your repast in here, or will you go into the garden for
it? There are now in the garden some young actors engaged in making
their preparations?"

"It's better in here," madame Wang remarked, as she turned towards
madame Hsing.

Mrs. Yu thereupon issued directions to the married women and matrons to
be quick in serving the eatables. The servants, in waiting outside the
door, with one voice signified their obedience; and each of them went
off to fetch what fell to her share. In a short while, the courses were
all laid out, and Mrs. Yu pressed mesdames Hsing and Wang, as well as
her mother, into the upper seats; while she, together with lady Feng and
Pao-y, sat at a side table.

"We've come," observed mesdames Hsing and Wang, "with the original idea
of paying our congratulations to our venerable senior on the occasion of
his birthday; and isn't this as if we had come for our own birthdays?"

"The old gentleman," answered lady Feng, "is a man fond of a quiet life;
and as he has already consummated a process of purification, he may well
be looked upon as a supernatural being, so that the purpose to which
your ladyships have given expression may be considered as manifest to
his spirit, upon the very advent of the intention."

As this sentence was uttered the whole company in the room burst out
laughing. Mrs. Yu's mother, mesdames Hsing and Wang, and lady Feng
having one and all partaken of the banquet, rinsed their mouths and
washed their hands, which over, they expressed a wish to go into the

Chia Jung entered the room. "The senior gentlemen," he said to Mrs. Yu,
"as well as all my uncles and cousins, have finished their repast; but
the elder gentleman Mr. Chia She, who excused himself on the score of
having at home something to attend to, and Mr. Secundus (Chia Cheng),
who is not partial to theatrical performances and is always afraid that
people will be too boisterous in their entertainments, have both of them
taken their departure. The rest of the family gentlemen have been taken
over by uncle Secundus Mr. Lien, and Mr. Se, to the other side to listen
to the play. A few moments back Prince Nan An, Prince Tung P'ing, Prince
Hsi Ning, Prince Pei Ching, these four Princes, with Niu, Duke of Chen
Kuo, and five other dukes, six in all, and Shih, Marquis of Chung Ching,
and other seven, in all eight marquises, sent their messengers with
their cards and presents. I have already told father all about it; but
before I did so, the presents were put away in the counting room, the
lists of presents were all entered in the book, and the 'received with
thanks' cards were handed to the respective messengers of the various
mansions; the men themselves were also tipped in the customary manner,
and all of them were kept to have something to eat before they went on
their way. But, mother, you should invite the two ladies, your mother
and my aunt, to go over and sit in the garden."

"Just so!" observed Mrs. Yu, "but we've only now finished our repast,
and were about to go over."

"I wish to tell you, madame," interposed lady Feng, "that I shall go
first and see brother Jung's wife and then come and join you."

"All right," replied madame Wang; "we should all have been fain to have
paid her a visit, did we not fear lest she should look upon our
disturbing her with displeasure, but just tell her that we would like to
know how she is getting on!"

"My dear sister," remarked Mrs. Yu, "as our son's wife has a ready ear
for all you say, do go and cheer her up, (and if you do so,) it will
besides set my own mind at ease; but be quick and come as soon as you
can into the garden."

Pao-y being likewise desirous to go along with lady Feng to see lady
Ch'in, madame Wang remarked, "Go and see her just for a while, and then
come over at once into the garden; (for remember) she is your nephew's
wife, (and you couldn't sit in there long)."

Mrs. Yu forthwith invited mesdames Wang and Hsing, as well as her own
mother, to adjourn to the other side, and they all in a body walked into
the garden of Concentrated Fragrance; while lady Feng and Pao-y betook
themselves, in company with Chia Jung, over to this side.

Having entered the door, they with quiet step walked as far as the
entrance of the inner chamber. Mrs. Ch'in, upon catching sight of them,
was bent upon getting up; but "Be quick," remonstrated lady Feng, "and
give up all idea of standing up; for take care your head will feel

Lady Feng hastened to make a few hurried steps forward and to grasp Mrs.
Ch'in's hand in hers. "My dear girl!" she exclaimed; "How is it that
during the few days I've not seen you, you have grown so thin?"

Readily she then took a seat on the rug, on which Mrs. Ch'in was seated,
while Pao-y, after inquiring too about her health, sat in the chair on
the opposite side.

"Bring the tea in at once," called out Chia Jung, "for aunt and uncle
Secundus have not had any tea in the drawing room."

Mrs. Ch'in took lady Feng's hand in her own and forced a smile. "This is
all due to my lack of good fortune; for in such a family as this, my
father and mother-in-law treat me just as if I were a daughter of their
own flesh and blood! Besides, your nephew, (my husband,) may, it is
true, my dear aunt, be young in years, but he is full of regard for me,
as I have regard for him, and we have had so far no misunderstanding
between us! In fact, among the senior generation, as well as that of the
same age as myself, in the whole clan, putting you aside, aunt, about
whom no mention need be made, there is not one who has not ever had
anything but love for me, and not one who has not ever shown me anything
but kindness! But since I've fallen ill with this complaint, all my
energy has even every bit of it been taken out of me, so that I've been
unable to show to my father and mother-in-law any mark of filial
attention, yea so much as for one single day and to you, my dear aunt,
with all this affection of yours for me, I have every wish to be dutiful
to the utmost degree, but, in my present state, I'm really not equal to
it; my own idea is, that it isn't likely that I shall last through this

Pao-y kept, while (she spoke,) his eyes fixed intently upon a picture
on the opposite side, representing some begonias drooping in the spring
time, and upon a pair of scrolls, with this inscription written by Ch'in

A gentle chill doth circumscribe the dreaming man because the spring
is cold!
The fragrant whiff which wafts itself into man's nose, is the perfume
of wine!

And he could not help recalling to mind his experiences at the time when
he had fallen asleep in this apartment, and had, in his dream, visited
the confines of the Great Void. He was just plunged in a state of
abstraction, when he heard Mrs. Ch'in give utterance to these
sentiments, which pierced his heart as if they were ten thousand arrows,
(with the result that) tears unwittingly trickled from his eyes.

Lady Feng perceiving him in tears felt it extremely painful within
herself to bear the sight; but she was on pins and needles lest the
patient should detect their frame of mind, and feel, instead (of
benefit), still more sore at heart, which would not, after all, be quite
the purpose of her visit; which was to afford her distraction and
consolation. "Pao-y," she therefore exclaimed, "you are like an old
woman! Ill, as she is, simply makes her speak in this wise, and how ever
could things come to such a pass! Besides, she is young in years, so
that after a short indisposition, her illness will get all right!"
"Don't," she said as she turned towards Mrs. Ch'in, "give way to silly
thoughts and idle ideas! for by so doing won't you yourself be
aggravating your ailment?"

"All that her sickness in fact needs," observed Chia Jung, "is, that she
should be able to take something to eat, and then there will be nothing
to fear."

"Brother Pao," urged lady Feng, "your mother told you to go over, as
soon as you could, so that don't stay here, and go on in the way you're
doing, for you after all incite this lady also to feel uneasy at heart.
Besides, your mother over there is solicitous on your account." "You had
better go ahead with your uncle Pao," she consequently continued,
addressing herself to Chia Jung, "while I sit here a little longer."

When Chia Jung heard this remark, he promptly crossed over with Pao-y
into the garden of Concentrated Fragrance, while lady Feng went on both
to cheer her up for a time, and to impart to her, in an undertone, a
good deal of confidential advice.

Mrs. Yu had despatched servants, on two or three occasions, to hurry
lady Feng, before she said to Mrs. Ch'in: "Do all you can to take good
care of yourself, and I'll come and see you again. You're bound to get
over this illness; and now, in fact, that you've come across that
renowned doctor, you have really nothing more to fear."

"He might," observed Mrs. Ch'in as she smiled, "even be a supernatural
being and succeed in healing my disease, but he won't be able to remedy
my destiny; for, my dear aunt, I feel sure that with this complaint of
mine, I can do no more than drag on from day to day."

"If you encourage such ideas," remonstrated lady Feng, "how can this
illness ever get all right? What you absolutely need is to cast away all
these notions, and then you'll improve. I hear moreover that the doctor
asserts that if no cure be effected, the fear is of a change for the
worse in spring, and not till then. Did you and I moreover belong to a
family that hadn't the means to afford any ginseng, it would be
difficult to say how we could manage to get it; but were your father and
mother-in-law to hear that it's good for your recovery, why not to speak
of two mace of ginseng a day, but even two catties will be also within
their means! So mind you do take every care of your health! I'm now off
on my way into the garden."

"Excuse me, my dear aunt," added Mrs. Ch'in, "that I can't go with you;
but when you have nothing to do, I entreat you do come over and see me!
and you and I can sit and have a long chat."

After lady Feng had heard these words, her eyes unwillingly got quite
red again. "When I'm at leisure I shall, of course," she rejoined, "come
often to see you;" and forthwith leading off the matrons and married
women, who had come over with her, as well as the women and matrons of
the Ning mansion, she passed through the inner part of the house, and
entered, by a circuitous way, the side gate of the park, when she
perceived: yellow flowers covering the ground; white willows flanking
the slopes; diminutive bridges spanning streams, resembling the Jo Yeh;
zigzag pathways (looking as if) they led to the steps of Heaven; limpid
springs dripping from among the rocks; flowers hanging from hedges
emitting their fragrance, as they were flapped by the winds; red leaves
on the tree tops swaying to and fro; groves picture-like, half stripped
of foliage; the western breeze coming with sudden gusts, and the wail of
the oriole still audible; the warm sun shining with genial rays, and the
cicada also adding its chirp: structures, visible to the gaze at a
distance in the South-east, soaring high on various sites and resting
against the hills; three halls, visible near by on the North-west,
stretching in one connected line, on the bank of the stream; strains of
music filling the pavilion, imbued with an unwonted subtle charm; and
maidens in fine attire penetrating the groves, lending an additional
spell to the scene.

Lady Feng, while engaged in contemplating the beauties of the spot,
advanced onwards step by step. She was plunged in a state of ecstasy,
when suddenly, from the rear of the artificial rockery, egressed a
person, who approached her and facing her said, "My respects to you,

Lady Feng was so startled by this unexpected appearance that she drew
back. "Isn't this Mr. Jui?" she ventured.

"What! sister-in-law," exclaimed Chia Jui, "don't you recognise even

"It isn't that I didn't recognise you," explained lady Feng, "but at the
sudden sight of you, I couldn't conceive that it would possibly be you,
sir, in this place!"

"This was in fact bound to be," replied Chia Jui; "for there's some
subtle sympathy between me and you, sister-in-law. Here I just
stealthily leave the entertainment, in order to revel for a while in
this solitary place when, against every expectation, I come across you,
sister-in-law; and isn't this a subtle sympathy?"

As he spoke, he kept his gaze fixed on lady Feng, who being an
intelligent person, could not but arrive, at the sight of his manner, at
the whole truth in her surmises. "It isn't to be wondered at," she
consequently observed, as she smiled hypocritically, "that your eldest
brother should make frequent allusion to your qualities! for after
seeing you on this occasion, and hearing you utter these few remarks, I
have readily discovered what an intelligent and genial person you are! I
am just now on my way to join the ladies on the other side, and have no
leisure to converse with you; but wait until I've nothing to attend to,
when we can meet again."

"I meant to have gone over to your place and paid my respects to you,
sister-in-law," pleaded Chia Jui, "but I was afraid lest a person of
tender years like yourself mightn't lightly receive any visitors!"

Lady Feng gave another sardonic smile. "Relatives," she continued, "of
one family, as we are, what need is there to say anything of tender

After Chia Jui had heard these words, he felt his heart swell within him
with such secret joy that he was urged to reflect: "I have at length
to-day, when least I expected it, obtained this remarkable encounter
with her!"

But as the display of his passion became still more repulsive, lady Feng
urged him to go. "Be off at once," she remarked, "and join the
entertainment; for mind, if they find you out, they will mulct you in so
many glasses of wine!"

By the time this suggestion had reached Chia Jui's ears, half of his
body had become stiff like a log of wood; and as he betook himself away,
with lothful step, he turned his head round to cast glances at her. Lady
Feng purposely slackened her pace; and when she perceived that he had
gone a certain distance, she gave way to reflection. "This is indeed,"
she thought, "knowing a person, as far as face goes, and not as heart!
Can there be another such a beast as he! If he really continues to
behave in this manner, I shall soon enough compass his death, with my
own hands, and he'll then know what stuff I'm made of."

Lady Feng, at this juncture moved onward, and after turning round a
chain of hillocks, she caught sight of two or three matrons coming along
with all speed. As soon as they espied lady Feng they put on a smile.
"Our mistress," they said, "perceiving that your ladyship was not
forthcoming, has been in a great state of anxiety, and bade your
servants come again to request you to come over.

"Is your mistress," observed lady Feng, "so like a quick-footed demon?"

While lady Feng advanced leisurely, she inquired, "How many plays have
been recited?" to which question one of the matrons replied, "They have
gone through eight or nine." But while engaged in conversation, they had
already reached the back door of the Tower of Celestial Fragrance, where
she caught sight of Pao-y playing with a company of waiting-maids and
pages. "Brother Pao," lady Feng exclaimed, "don't be up to too much
mischief!" "The ladies are all sitting upstairs," interposed one of the
maids. "Please, my lady, this is the way up."

At these words lady Feng slackened her pace, raised her dress, and
walked up the stairs, where Mrs. Yu was already at the top of the
landing waiting for her.

"You two," remarked Mrs. Yu, smiling, "are so friendly, that having met
you couldn't possibly tear yourself away to come. You had better
to-morrow move over there and take up your quarters with her and have
done; but sit down and let me, first of all, present you a glass of

Lady Feng speedily drew near mesdames Hsing and Wang, and begged
permission to take a seat; while Mrs. Yu brought the programme, and
pressed lady Feng to mark some plays.

"The senior ladies occupy the seats of honour," remonstrated lady Feng,
"and how can I presume to choose?"

"We, and our relative by marriage, have selected several plays,"
explained mesdames Hsing and Wang, "and it's for you now to choose some
good ones for us to listen to."

Standing up, lady Feng signified her obedience; and taking over the
programme, and perusing it from top to bottom, she marked off one
entitled, the "Return of the Spirit," and another called "Thrumming and
Singing;" after which she handed back the programme, observing, "When
they have done with the 'Ennoblement of two Officers,' which they are
singing just at present, it will be time enough to sing these two."

"Of course it will," retorted madame Wang, "but they should get it over
as soon as they can, so as to allow your elder Brother and your
Sister-in-law to have rest; besides, their hearts are not at ease."

"You senior ladies don't come often," expostulated Mrs. Yu, "and you and
I will derive more enjoyment were we to stay a little longer; it's as
yet early in the day!"

Lady Feng stood up and looked downstairs. "Where have all the gentlemen
gone to?" she inquired.

"The gentlemen have just gone over to the Pavilion of Plenteous
Effulgence," replied a matron, who stood by; "they have taken along with
them ten musicians and gone in there to drink their wine."

"It wasn't convenient for them," remarked lady Feng, "to be over here;
but who knows what they have again gone to do behind our backs?"

"Could every one," interposed Mrs. Yu, "resemble you, a person of such

While they indulged in chatting and laughing, the plays they had chosen
were all finished; whereupon the tables were cleared of the wines, and
the repast was served. The meal over, the whole company adjourned into
the garden, and came and sat in the drawing-room. After tea, they at
length gave orders to get ready the carriages, and they took their leave
of Mrs. Yu's mother. Mrs. Yu, attended by all the secondary wives,
servants, and married women, escorted them out, while Chia Chen, along
with the whole bevy of young men, stood by the vehicles, waiting in a
group for their arrival.

After saluting mesdames Hsing and Wang, "Aunts," they said, "you must
come over again to-morrow for a stroll."

"We must be excused," observed madame Wang, "we've sat here the whole
day to-day, and are, after all, feeling quite tired; besides, we shall
need to have some rest to-morrow."

Both of them thereupon got into their carriages and took their
departure, while Chia Jui still kept a fixed gaze upon lady Feng; and it
was after Chia Chen had gone in that Li Kuei led round the horse, and
that Pao-y mounted and went off, following in the track of mesdames
Hsing and Wang.

Chia Chen and the whole number of brothers and nephews belonging to the
family had, during this interval, partaken of their meal, and the whole
party at length broke up. But in like manner, all the inmates of the
clan and the guests spent on the morrow another festive day, but we need
not advert to it with any minuteness.

After this occasion, lady Feng came in person and paid frequent visits
to Mrs. Ch'in; but as there were some days on which her ailment was
considerably better, and others on which it was considerably worse, Chia
Chen, Mrs. Yu, and Chia Jung were in an awful state of anxiety.

Chia Jui, it must moreover be noticed, came over, on several instances,
on a visit to the Jung mansion; but it invariably happened that he found
that lady Feng had gone over to the Ning mansion.

This was just the thirtieth of the eleventh moon, the day on which the
winter solstice fell; and the few days preceding that season, dowager
lady Chia, madame Wang and lady Feng did not let one day go by without
sending some one to inquire about Mrs. Ch'in; and as the servants, on
their return, repeatedly reported that, during the last few days,
neither had her ailment aggravated, nor had it undergone any marked
improvement, madame Wang explained to dowager lady Chia, that as a
complaint of this nature had reached this kind of season without getting
any worse, there was some hope of recovery.

"Of course there is!" observed the old lady; "what a dear child she is!
should anything happen to her, won't it be enough to make people die
from grief!" and as she spake she felt for a time quite sore at heart.
"You and she," continuing, she said to lady Feng, "have been friends for
ever so long; to-morrow is the glorious first (and you can't go), but
after to-morrow you should pay her a visit and minutely scrutinise her
appearance: and should you find her any better, come and tell me on your
return! Whatever things that dear child has all along a fancy for, do
send her round a few even as often as you can by some one or other!"

Lady Feng assented to each of her recommendations; and when the second
arrived, she came, after breakfast, to the Ning mansion to see how Mrs.
Ch'in was getting on; and though she found her none the worse, the flesh
all over her face and person had however become emaciated and parched
up. She readily sat with Mrs. Ch'in for a long while, and after they had
chatted on one thing and another, she again reiterated the assurances
that this illness involved no danger, and distracted her for ever so

"Whether I get well or not," observed Mrs. Ch'in, "we'll know in spring;
now winter is just over, and I'm anyhow no worse, so that possibly I may
get all right; and yet there's no saying; but, my dear sister-in-law, do
press our old lady to compose her mind! yesterday, her ladyship sent me
some potato dumplings, with minced dates in them, and though I had two,
they seem after all to be very easily digested!"

"I'll send you round some more to-morrow," lady Feng suggested; "I'm now
going to look up your mother-in-law, and will then hurry back to give my
report to our dowager lady."

"Please, sister-in-law," Mrs. Ch'in said, "present my best respects to
her venerable ladyship, as well as to madame Wang."

Lady Feng signified that she would comply with her wishes, and,
forthwith leaving the apartment, she came over and sat in Mrs. Yu's
suite of rooms.

"How do you, who don't see our son's wife very often, happen to find
her?" inquired Mrs. Yu.

Lady Feng drooped her head for some time. "There's no help," she
ventured, "for this illness! but you should likewise make every
subsequent preparation, for it would also be well if you could scour it

"I've done so much as to secretly give orders," replied Mrs. Yu, "to get
things ready; but for that thing (the coffin), there's no good timber to
be found, so that it will have to be looked after by and by."

Lady Feng swallowed hastily a cup of tea, and after a short chat, "I
must be hurrying back," she remarked, "to deliver my message to our
dowager lady!"

"You should," urged Mrs. Yu, "be sparse in what you tell her lady ship
so as not to frighten an old person like her!"

"I know well enough what to say," replied lady Feng.

Without any further delay, lady Feng then sped back. On her arrival at
home she looked up the old lady. "Brother Jung's wife," she explained,
"presents her compliments, and pays obeisance to your venerable
ladyship; she says that she's much better, and entreats you, her worthy
senior, to set your mind at ease! That as soon as she's a little better
she will come and prostrate herself before your ladyship."

"How do you find her?" inquired dowager lady Chia.

"For the present there's nothing to fear," continued lady Feng; "for her
mien is still good."

After the old lady had heard these words, she was plunged for a long
while in deep reflection; and as she turned towards lady Feng, "Go and
divest yourself of your toilette," she said, "and have some rest."

Lady Feng in consequence signified her obedience, and walked away,
returning home after paying madame Wang a visit. P'ing Erh helped lady
Feng to put on the house costume, which she had warmed by the fire, and
lady Feng eventually took a seat and asked "whether there was anything
doing at home?"

P'ing Erh then brought the tea, and after going over to hand the cup:
"There's nothing doing," she replied; "as regards the interest on the
three hundred taels, Wang Erh's wife has brought it in, and I've put it
away. Besides this, Mr. Jui sent round to inquire if your ladyship was
at home or not, as he meant to come and pay his respects and to have a

"Heng!" exclaimed lady Feng at these words. "Why should this beast
compass his own death? we'll see when he comes what is to be done."

"Why is this Mr. Jui so bent upon coming?' P'ing Erh having inquired,
lady Feng readily gave her an account of how she had met him in the
course of the ninth moon in the Ning mansion, and of what had been said
by him.

"What a mangy frog to be bent upon eating the flesh of a heavenly
goose!" ejaculated P'ing Erh. "A stupid and disorderly fellow with no
conception of relationship, to harbour such a thought! but we'll make
him find an unnatural death!"

"Wait till he comes," added lady Feng, "when I feel certain I shall find
some way."

What happened, however, when Chia Jui came has not, as yet, been
ascertained, but listen, reader, to the explanation given in the next


Wang Hsi-feng maliciously lays a trap for Chia Jui, under pretence
that his affection is reciprocated.
Chia T'ien-hsiang gazes at the face of the mirror of Voluptuousness.

Lady Feng, it must be noticed in continuation of our narrative, was just
engaged in talking with P'ing Erh, when they heard some one announce
that Mr. Jui had come. Lady Feng gave orders that he should be invited
to step in, and Chia Jui perceiving that he had been asked to walk in
was at heart elated at the prospect of seeing her.

With a face beaming with smiles, Lady Feng inquired again and again how
he was; and, with simulated tenderness she further pressed him to take a
seat and urged him to have a cup of tea.

Chia Jui noticed how still more voluptuous lady Feng looked in her
present costume, and, as his eyes burnt with love, "How is it," he
inquired, "that my elder brother Secundus is not yet back?"

"What the reason is I cannot tell," lady Feng said by way of reply.

"May it not be," Chia Jui smilingly insinuated, "that some fair damsel
has got hold of him on the way, and that he cannot brook to tear himself
from her to come home?"

"That makes it plain that there are those among men who fall in love
with any girl they cast their eyes on," hinted lady Feng.

"Your remarks are, sister-in-law, incorrect, for I'm none of this kind!"
Chia Jui explained smirkingly.

"How many like you can there be!" rejoined lady Feng with a sarcastic
smile; "in ten, not one even could be picked out!"

When Chia Jui heard these words, he felt in such high glee that he
rubbed his ears and smoothed his cheeks. "My sister-in-law," he
continued, "you must of course be extremely lonely day after day."

"Indeed I am," observed lady Feng, "and I only wish some one would come
and have a chat with me to break my dull monotony."

"I daily have ample leisure," Chia Jui ventured with a simper, "and
wouldn't it be well if I came every day to dispel your dulness,

"You are simply fooling me," exclaimed lady Feng laughing. "It isn't
likely you would wish to come over here to me?"

"If in your presence, sister-in-law, I utter a single word of falsehood,
may the thunder from heaven blast me!" protested Chia Jui. "It's only
because I had all along heard people say that you were a dreadful
person, and that you cannot condone even the slightest shortcoming
committed in your presence, that I was induced to keep back by fear; but
after seeing you, on this occasion, so chatty, so full of fun and most
considerate to others, how can I not come? were it to be the cause of my
death, I would be even willing to come!"

"You're really a clever person," lady Feng observed sarcastically. "And
oh so much superior to both Chia Jung and his brother! Handsome as their
presence was to look at, I imagined their minds to be full of
intelligence, but who would have thought that they would, after all, be
a couple of stupid worms, without the least notion of human affection!"

The words which Chia Jui heard, fell in so much the more with his own
sentiments, that he could not restrain himself from again pressing
forward nearer to her; and as with eyes strained to give intentness to
his view, he gazed at lady Feng's purse: "What rings have you got on?"
he went on to ask.

"You should be a little more deferential," remonstrated lady Feng in a
low tone of voice, "so as not to let the waiting-maids detect us."

Chia Jui withdrew backward with as much alacrity as if he had received
an Imperial decree or a mandate from Buddha.

"You ought to be going!" lady Feng suggested, as she gave him a smile.

"Do let me stay a while longer," entreated Chia Jui, "you are indeed
ruthless, my sister-in-law."

But with gentle voice did lady Feng again expostulate. "In broad
daylight," she said, "with people coming and going, it is not really
convenient that you should abide in here; so you had better go, and when
it's dark and the watch is set, you can come over, and quietly wait for
me in the corridor on the Eastern side!"

At these words, Chia Jui felt as if he had received some jewel or
precious thing. "Don't make fun of me!" he remarked with vehemence. "The
only thing is that crowds of people are ever passing from there, and how
will it be possible for me to evade detection?"

"Set your mind at ease!" lady Feng advised; "I shall dismiss on leave
all the youths on duty at night; and when the doors, on both sides, are
closed, there will be no one else to come in!"

Chia Jui was delighted beyond measure by the assurance, and with
impetuous haste, he took his leave and went off; convinced at heart of
the gratification of his wishes. He continued, up to the time of dusk, a
prey to keen expectation; and, when indeed darkness fell, he felt his
way into the Jung mansion, availing himself of the moment, when the
doors were being closed, to slip into the corridor, where everything was
actually pitch dark, and not a soul to be seen going backwards or

The door leading over to dowager lady Chia's apartments had already been
put under key, and there was but one gate, the one on the East, which
had not as yet been locked. Chia Jui lent his ear, and listened for ever
so long, but he saw no one appear. Suddenly, however, was heard a sound
like "lo teng," and the east gate was also bolted; but though Chia Jui
was in a great state of impatience, he none the less did not venture to
utter a sound. All that necessity compelled him to do was to issue, with
quiet steps, from his corner, and to try the gates by pushing; but they
were closed as firmly as if they had been made fast with iron bolts; and
much though he may, at this juncture, have wished to find his way out,
escape was, in fact, out of the question; on the south and north was one
continuous dead wall, which, even had he wished to scale, there was
nothing which he could clutch and pull himself up by.

This room, besides, was one the interior (of which was exposed) to the
wind, which entered through (the fissure) of the door; and was perfectly
empty and bare; and the weather being, at this time, that of December,
and the night too very long, the northerly wind, with its biting gusts,
was sufficient to penetrate the flesh and to cleave the bones, so that
the whole night long he had a narrow escape from being frozen to death;
and he was yearning, with intolerable anxiety for the break of day, when
he espied an old matron go first and open the door on the East side, and
then come in and knock at the western gate.

Chia Jui seeing that she had turned her face away, bolted out, like a
streak of smoke, as he hugged his shoulders with his hands (from intense
cold.) As luck would have it, the hour was as yet early, so that the
inmates of the house had not all got out of bed; and making his escape
from the postern door, he straightaway betook himself home, running back
the whole way.

Chia Jui's parents had, it must be explained, departed life at an early
period, and he had no one else, besides his grandfather Tai-ju, to take
charge of his support and education. This Tai-ju had, all along,
exercised a very strict control, and would not allow Chia Jui to even
make one step too many, in the apprehension that he might gad about out
of doors drinking and gambling, to the neglect of his studies.

Seeing, on this unexpected occasion, that he had not come home the whole
night, he simply felt positive, in his own mind, that he was certain to
have run about, if not drinking, at least gambling, and dissipating in
houses of the demi-monde up to the small hours; but he never even gave
so much as a thought to the possibility of a public scandal, as that in
which he was involved. The consequence was that during the whole length
of the night he boiled with wrath.

Chia Jui himself, on the other hand, was (in such a state of
trepidation) that he could wipe the perspiration (off his face) by
handfuls; and he felt constrained on his return home, to have recourse
to deceitful excuses, simply explaining that he had been at his eldest
maternal uncle's house, and that when it got dark, they kept him to
spend the night there.

"Hitherto," remonstrated Tai-ju, "when about to go out of doors, you
never ventured to go, on your own hook, without first telling me about
it, and how is it that yesterday you surreptitiously left the house? for
this offence alone you deserve a beating, and how much more for the lie
imposed upon me."

Into such a violent fit of anger did he consequently fly that laying
hands on him, he pulled him over and administered to him thirty or forty
blows with a cane. Nor would he allow him to have anything to eat, but
bade him remain on his knees in the court conning essays; impressing on
his mind that he would not let him off, before he had made up for the
last ten days' lessons.

Chia Jui had in the first instance, frozen the whole night, and, in the
next place, came in for a flogging. With a stomach, besides, gnawed by
the pangs of hunger, he had to kneel in a place exposed to drafts
reading the while literary compositions, so that the hardships he had to
endure were of manifold kinds.

Chia Jui's infamous intentions had at this junction undergone no change;
but far from his thoughts being even then any idea that lady Feng was
humbugging him, he seized, after the lapse of a couple of days, the
first leisure moments to come again in search of that lady.

Lady Feng pretended to bear him a grudge for his breach of faith, and
Chia Jui was so distressed that he tried by vows and oaths (to establish
his innocence.) Lady Feng perceiving that he had, of his own accord,
fallen into the meshes of the net laid for him, could not but devise
another plot to give him a lesson and make him know what was right and
mend his ways.

With this purpose, she gave him another assignation. "Don't go over
there," she said, "to-night, but wait for me in the empty rooms giving
on to a small passage at the back of these apartments of mine. But
whatever you do, mind don't be reckless."

"Are you in real earnest?" Chia Jui inquired.

"Why, who wants to play with you?" replied lady Feng; "if you don't
believe what I say, well then don't come!"

"I'll come, I'll come, yea I'll come, were I even to die!" protested
Chia Jui.

"You should first at this very moment get away!" lady Feng having
suggested, Chia Jui, who felt sanguine that when evening came, success
would for a certainty crown his visit, took at once his departure in
anticipation (of his pleasure.)

During this interval lady Feng hastily set to work to dispose of her
resources, and to add to her stratagems, and she laid a trap for her
victim; while Chia Jui, on the other hand, was until the shades of
darkness fell, a prey to incessant expectation.

As luck would have it a relative of his happened to likewise come on
that very night to their house and to only leave after he had dinner
with them, and at an hour of the day when the lamps had already been
lit; but he had still to wait until his grandfather had retired to rest
before he could, at length with precipitate step, betake himself into
the Jung mansion.

Straightway he came into the rooms in the narrow passage, and waited
with as much trepidation as if he had been an ant in a hot pan. He
however waited and waited, but he saw no one arrive; he listened but not
even the sound of a voice reached his ear. His heart was full of intense
fear, and he could not restrain giving way to surmises and suspicion.
"May it not be," he thought, "that she is not coming again; and that I
may have once more to freeze for another whole night?"

While indulging in these erratic reflections, he discerned some one
coming, looking like a black apparition, who Chia Jui readily concluded,
in his mind, must be lady Feng; so that, unmindful of distinguishing
black from white, he as soon as that person arrived in front of him,
speedily clasped her in his embrace, like a ravenous tiger pouncing upon
its prey, or a cat clawing a rat, and cried: "My darling sister, you
have made me wait till I'm ready to die."

As he uttered these words, he dragged the comer, in his arms, on to the
couch in the room; and while indulging in kisses and protestations of
warm love, he began to cry out at random epithets of endearment.

Not a sound, however, came from the lips of the other person; and Chia
Jui had in the fulness of his passion, exceeded the bounds of timid love
and was in the act of becoming still more affectionate in his
protestations, when a sudden flash of a light struck his eye, by the
rays of which he espied Chia Se with a candle in hand, casting the light
round the place, "Who's in this room?" he exclaimed.

"Uncle Jui," he heard some one on the couch explain, laughing, "was
trying to take liberties with me!"

Chia Jui at one glance became aware that it was no other than Chia Jung;
and a sense of shame at once so overpowered him that he could find
nowhere to hide himself; nor did he know how best to extricate himself
from the dilemma. Turning himself round, he made an attempt to make good
his escape, when Chia Se with one grip clutched him in his hold.

"Don't run away," he said; "sister-in-law Lien has already reported your
conduct to madame Wang; and explained that you had tried to make her
carry on an improper flirtation with you; that she had temporised by
having recourse to a scheme to escape your importunities, and that she
had imposed upon you in such a way as to make you wait for her in this
place. Our lady was so terribly incensed, that she well-nigh succumbed;
and hence it is that she bade me come and catch you! Be quick now and
follow me, and let us go and see her."

After Chia Jui had heard these words, his very soul could not be
contained within his body.

"My dear nephew," he entreated, "do tell her that it wasn't I; and I'll
show you my gratitude to-morrow in a substantial manner."

"Letting you off," rejoined Chia Se, "is no difficult thing; but how
much, I wonder, are you likely to give? Besides, what you now utter with
your lips, there will be no proof to establish; so you had better write
a promissory note."

"How could I put what happened in black and white on paper?" observed
Chia Jui.

"There's no difficulty about that either!" replied Chia Se; "just write
an account of a debt due, for losses in gambling, to some one outside;
for payment of which you had to raise funds, by a loan of a stated
number of taels, from the head of the house; and that will be all that
is required."

"This is, in fact, easy enough!" Chia Jui having added by way of answer;
Chia Se turned round and left the room; and returning with paper and
pencils, which had been got ready beforehand for the purpose, he bade
Chia Jui write. The two of them (Chia Jung and Chia Se) tried, the one
to do a good turn, and the other to be perverse in his insistence; but
(Chia Jui) put down no more than fifty taels, and appended his

Chia Se pocketed the note, and endeavoured subsequently to induce Chia
Jung to come away; but Chia Jung was, at the outset, obdurate and
unwilling to give in, and kept on repeating; "To-morrow, I'll tell the
members of our clan to look into your nice conduct!"

These words plunged Chia Jui in such a state of dismay, that he even
went so far as to knock his head on the ground; but, as Chia Se was
trying to get unfair advantage of him though he had at first done him a
good turn, he had to write another promissory note for fifty taels,
before the matter was dropped.

Taking up again the thread of the conversation, Chia Se remarked, "Now
when I let you go, I'm quite ready to bear the blame! But the gate at
our old lady's over there is already bolted, and Mr. Chia Cheng is just
now engaged in the Hall, looking at the things which have arrived from
Nanking, so that it would certainly be difficult for you to pass through
that way. The only safe course at present is by the back gate; but if
you do go by there, and perchance meet any one, even I will be in for a
mess; so you might as well wait until I go first and have a peep, when
I'll come and fetch you! You couldn't anyhow conceal yourself in this
room; for in a short time they'll be coming to stow the things away, and
you had better let me find a safe place for you."

These words ended, he took hold of Chia Jui, and, extinguishing again
the lantern, he brought him out into the court, feeling his way up to
the bottom of the steps of the large terrace. "It's safe enough in this
nest," he observed, "but just squat down quietly and don't utter a
sound; wait until I come back before you venture out."

Having concluded this remark, the two of them (Chia Se and Chia Jung)
walked away; while Chia Jui was, all this time, out of his senses, and
felt constrained to remain squatting at the bottom of the terrace
stairs. He was about to consider what course was open for him to adopt,
when he heard a noise just over his head; and, with a splash, the
contents of a bucket, consisting entirely of filthy water, was emptied
straight down over him from above, drenching, as luck would have it, his
whole person and head.

Chia Jui could not suppress an exclamation. "Ai ya!" he cried, but he
hastily stopped his mouth with his hands, and did not venture to give
vent to another sound. His whole head and face were a mass of filth, and
his body felt icy cold. But as he shivered and shook, he espied Chia Se
come running. "Get off," he shouted, "with all speed! off with you at

As soon as Chia Jui returned to life again, he bolted with hasty
strides, out of the back gate, and ran the whole way home. The night had
already reached the third watch, so that he had to knock at the door for
it to be opened.

"What's the matter?" inquired the servants, when they saw him in this
sorry plight; (an inquiry) which placed him in the necessity of making
some false excuse. "The night was dark," he explained, "and my foot
slipped and I fell into a gutter."

Saying this, he betook himself speedily to his own apartment; and it was
only after he had changed his clothes and performed his ablutions, that
he began to realise that lady Feng had made a fool of him. He
consequently gave way to a fit of wrath; but upon recalling to mind the
charms of lady Feng's face, he felt again extremely aggrieved that he
could not there and then clasp her in his embrace, and as he indulged in
these wild thoughts and fanciful ideas, he could not the whole night
long close his eyes.

From this time forward his mind was, it is true, still with lady Feng,
but he did not have the courage to put his foot into the Jung mansion;
and with Chia Jung and Chia Se both coming time and again to dun him for
the money, he was likewise full of fears lest his grandfather should
come to know everything.

His passion for lady Feng was, in fact, already a burden hard to bear,
and when, moreover, the troubles of debts were superadded to his tasks,
which were also during the whole day arduous, he, a young man of about
twenty, as yet unmarried, and a prey to constant cravings for lady Feng,
which were difficult to gratify, could not avoid giving way, to a great
extent, to such evil habits as exhausted his energies. His lot had, what
is more, been on two occasions to be frozen, angered and to endure much
hardship, so that with the attacks received time and again from all
sides, he unconsciously soon contracted an organic disease. In his heart
inflammation set in; his mouth lost the sense of taste; his feet got as
soft as cotton from weakness; his eyes stung, as if there were vinegar
in them. At night, he burnt with fever. During the day, he was
repeatedly under the effects of lassitude. Perspiration was profuse,
while with his expectorations of phlegm, he brought up blood. The whole
number of these several ailments came upon him, before the expiry of a
year, (with the result that) in course of time, he had not the strength
to bear himself up. Of a sudden, he would fall down, and with his eyes,
albeit closed, his spirit would be still plunged in confused dreams,
while his mouth would be full of nonsense and he would be subject to
strange starts.

Every kind of doctor was asked to come in, and every treatment had
recourse to; and, though of such medicines as cinnamon, aconitum seeds,
turtle shell, ophiopogon, Y-ch herb, and the like, he took several
tens of catties, he nevertheless experienced no change for the better;
so that by the time the twelfth moon drew once again to an end, and
spring returned, this illness had become still more serious.

Tai-ju was very much concerned, and invited doctors from all parts to
attend to him, but none of them could do him any good. And as later on,
he had to take nothing else but decoctions of pure ginseng, Tai-ju could
not of course afford it. Having no other help but to come over to the
Jung mansion, and make requisition for some, Madame Wang asked lady Feng
to weigh two taels of it and give it to him. "The other day," rejoined
lady Feng, "not long ago, when we concocted some medicine for our
dowager lady, you told us, madame, to keep the pieces that were whole,
to present to the spouse of General Yang to make physic with, and as it
happens it was only yesterday that I sent some one round with them."

"If there's none over here in our place," suggested madame Wang, "just
send a servant to your mother-in-law's, on the other side, to inquire
whether they have any. Or it may possibly be that your elder
brother-in-law Chen, over there, might have a little. If so, put all you
get together, and give it to them; and when he shall have taken it, and
got well and you shall have saved the life of a human being, it will
really be to the benefit of you all."

Lady Feng acquiesced; but without directing a single person to institute
any search, she simply took some refuse twigs, and making up a few mace,
she despatched them with the meagre message that they had been sent by
madame Wang, and that there was, in fact, no more; subsequently
reporting to madame Wang that she had asked for and obtained all there
was and that she had collected as much as two taels, and forwarded it to

Chia Jui was, meanwhile, very anxious to recover his health, so that
there was no medicine that he would not take, but the outlay of money
was of no avail, for he derived no benefit.

On a certain day and at an unexpected moment, a lame Taoist priest came
to beg for alms, and he averred that he had the special gift of healing
diseases arising from grievances received, and as Chia Jui happened,
from inside, to hear what he said, he forthwith shouted out: "Go at
once, and bid that divine come in and save my life!" while he
reverentially knocked his head on the pillow.

The whole bevy of servants felt constrained to usher the Taoist in; and
Chia Jui, taking hold of him with a dash, "My Buddha!" he repeatedly
cried out, "save my life!"

The Taoist heaved a sigh. "This ailment of yours," he remarked, "is not
one that could be healed with any medicine; I have a precious thing here
which I'll give you, and if you gaze at it every day, your life can be

When he had done talking, he produced from his pouch a looking-glass
which could reflect a person's face on the front and back as well. On
the upper part of the back were engraved the four characters: "Precious
Mirror of Voluptuousness." Handing it over to Chia Jui: "This object,"
he proceeded, "emanates from the primordial confines of the Great Void
and has been wrought by the Monitory Dream Fairy in the Palace of
Unreality and Spirituality, with the sole intent of healing the
illnesses which originate from evil thoughts and improper designs.
Possessing, as it does, the virtue of relieving mankind and preserving
life, I have consequently brought it along with me into the world, but I
only give it to those intelligent preminent and refined princely men to
set their eyes on. On no account must you look at the front side; and
you should only gaze at the back of it; this is urgent, this is
expedient! After three days, I shall come and fetch it away; by which
time, I'm sure, it will have made him all right."

These words finished, he walked away with leisurely step, and though all
tried to detain him, they could not succeed.

Chia Jui received the mirror. "This Taoist," he thought, "would seem to
speak sensibly, and why should I not look at it and try its effect?" At
the conclusion of these thoughts, he took up the Mirror of
Voluptuousness, and cast his eyes on the obverse side; but upon
perceiving nought else than a skeleton standing in it, Chia Jui
sustained such a fright that he lost no time in covering it with his
hands and in abusing the Taoist. "You good-for-nothing!" he exclaimed,
"why should you frighten me so? but I'll go further and look at the
front and see what it's like."

While he reflected in this manner, he readily looked into the face of
the mirror, wherein he caught sight of lady Feng standing, nodding her
head and beckoning to him. With one gush of joy, Chia Jui felt himself,
in a vague and mysterious manner, transported into the mirror, where he
held an affectionate tte--tte with lady Feng. Lady Feng escorted him
out again. On his return to bed, he gave vent to an exclamation of "Ai
yah!" and opening his eyes, he turned the glass over once more; but
still, as hitherto, stood the skeleton in the back part.

Chia Jui had, it is true, experienced all the pleasant sensations of a
tte--tte, but his heart nevertheless did not feel gratified; so that
he again turned the front round, and gazed at lady Feng, as she still
waved her hand and beckoned to him to go. Once more entering the mirror,
he went on in the same way for three or four times, until this occasion,
when just as he was about to issue from the mirror, he espied two
persons come up to him, who made him fast with chains round the neck,
and hauled him away. Chia Jui shouted. "Let me take the mirror and I'll
come along." But only this remark could he utter, for it was forthwith
beyond his power to say one word more. The servants, who stood by in
attendance, saw him at first still holding the glass in his hand and
looking in, and then, when it fell from his grasp, open his eyes again
to pick it up, but when at length the mirror dropped, and he at once
ceased to move, they in a body came forward to ascertain what had
happened to him. He had already breathed his last. The lower part of his
body was icy-cold; his clothes moist from profuse perspiration. With all
promptitude they changed him there and then, and carried him to another

Tai-ju and his wife wept bitterly for him, to the utter disregard of
their own lives, while in violent terms they abused the Taoist priest.
"What kind of magical mirror is it?" they asked. "If we don't destroy
this glass, it will do harm to not a few men in the world!"

Having forthwith given directions to bring fire and burn it, a voice was
heard in the air to say, "Who told you to look into the face of it? You
yourselves have mistaken what is false for what is true, and why burn
this glass of mine?"

Suddenly the mirror was seen to fly away into the air; and when Tai-ju
went out of doors to see, he found no one else than the limping Taoist,
shouting, "Who is he who wishes to destroy the Mirror of
Voluptuousness?" While uttering these words, he snatched the glass, and,
as all eyes were fixed upon him, he moved away lissomely, as if swayed
by the wind.

Tai-ju at once made preparations for the funeral and went everywhere to
give notice that on the third day the obsequies would commence, that on
the seventh the procession would start to escort the coffin to the Iron
Fence Temple, and that on the subsequent day, it would be taken to his
original home.

Not much time elapsed before all the members of the Chia family came, in
a body, to express their condolences. Chia She, of the Jung Mansion,
presented twenty taels, and Chia Cheng also gave twenty taels. Of the
Ning Mansion, Chia Chen likewise contributed twenty taels. The remainder
of the members of the clan, of whom some were poor and some rich, and
not equally well off, gave either one or two taels, or three or four,
some more, some less. Among strangers, there were also contributions,
respectively presented by the families of his fellow-scholars,
amounting, likewise, collectively to twenty or thirty taels.

The private means of Tai-ju were, it is true, precarious, but with the
monetary assistance he obtained, he anyhow performed the funeral rites
with all splendour and clat.

But who would have thought it, at the close of winter of this year, Lin
Ju-hai contracted a serious illness, and forwarded a letter, by some
one, with the express purpose of fetching Lin Tai-y back. These
tidings, when they reached dowager lady Chia, naturally added to the
grief and distress (she already suffered), but she felt compelled to
make speedy preparations for Tai-y's departure. Pao-y too was
intensely cut up, but he had no alternative but to defer to the
affection of father and daughter; nor could he very well place any
hindrance in the way.

Old lady Chia, in due course, made up her mind that she would like Chia
Lien to accompany her, and she also asked him to bring her back again
along with him. But no minute particulars need be given of the manifold
local presents and of the preparations, which were, of course,
everything that could be wished for in excellence and perfectness.
Forthwith the day for starting was selected, and Chia Lien, along with
Lin Tai-y, said good-bye to all the members of the family, and,
followed by their attendants, they went on board their boats, and set
out on their journey for Yang Chou.

But, Reader, should you have any wish to know fuller details, listen to
the account given in the subsequent Chapter.


Ch'in K'o-ch'ing dies, and Chia Jung is invested with the rank of
military officer to the Imperial Body-guard.
Wang Hsi-feng lends her help in the management of the Jung Kuo

Lady Feng, it must be added, in prosecuting our narrative, was ever
since Chia Lien's departure to accompany Tai-y to Yang Chou, really
very dejected at heart; and every day, when evening came, she would,
after simply indulging in a chat and a laugh with P'ing Erh, turn in, in
a heedless frame of mind, for the night.

In the course of the night of this day, she had been sitting with P'ing
Erh by lamp-light clasping the hand-stove; and weary of doing her work
of embroidery, she had at an early hour, given orders to warm the
embroidered quilt, and both had gone to bed; and as she was bending her
fingers, counting the progress of the journey, and when they should be
arriving, unexpectedly, the third watch struck.

P'ing Erh had already fallen fast asleep; and lady Feng was feeling at
length her sleepy eyes slightly dose, when she faintly discerned Mrs.
Ch'in walk in from outside.

"My dear sister-in-law," she said as she smiled, "sleep in peace; I'm on
my way back to-day, and won't even you accompany me just one stage? But
as you and I have been great friends all along, I cannot part from you,
sister-in-law, and have therefore come to take my leave of you. There
is, besides, a wish of mine, which isn't yet accomplished; and if I
don't impart it to you, it isn't likely that telling any one else will
be of any use."

Lady Feng could not make out the sense of the words she heard. "What
wish is it you have?" she inquired, "do tell me, and it will be safe
enough with me."

"You are, my dear sister-in-law, a heroine among women," observed Mrs.
Ch'in, "so much so that those famous men, with sashes and official hats,
cannot excel you; how is it that you're not aware of even a couple of
lines of common adages, of that trite saying, 'when the moon is full, it
begins to wane; when the waters are high, they must overflow?' and of
that other which says that 'if you ascend high, heavy must be your
fall.' Our family has now enjoyed splendour and prosperity for already
well-nigh a century, but a day comes when at the height of good fortune,
calamity arises; and if the proverb that 'when the tree falls, the
monkeys scatter,' be fulfilled, will not futile have been the reputation
of culture and old standing of a whole generation?"

Lady Feng at these words felt her heart heavy, and overpowered by
intense awe and veneration.

"The fears you express are well founded," she urgently remarked, "but
what plan is there adequate to preserve it from future injury?"

"My dear sister-in-law," rejoined Mrs. Ch'in with a sardonic smile,
"you're very simple indeed! When woe has reached its climax, weal
supervenes. Prosperity and adversity, from days of yore up to the
present time, now pass away, and now again revive, and how can
(prosperity) be perpetuated by any human exertion? But if now, we could
in the time of good fortune, make provision against any worldly
concerns, which might arise at any season of future adversity, we might
in fact prolong and preserve it. Everything, for instance, is at present
well-regulated; but there are two matters which are not on a sure
footing, and if such and such suitable action could be adopted with
regard to these concerns, it will, in subsequent days, be found easy to
perpetuate the family welfare in its entity."

"What matters are these?" inquired lady Feng.

"Though at the graves of our ancestors," explained Mrs. Ch'in,
"sacrifices and oblations be offered at the four seasons, there's
nevertheless no fixed source of income. In the second place, the family
school is, it is true, in existence; but it has no definite
grants-in-aid. According to my views, now that the times are prosperous,
there's, as a matter of course, no lack of offerings and contributions;
but by and bye, when reverses set in, whence will these two outlays be
met from? Would it not be as well, and my ideas are positive on this
score, to avail ourselves of the present time, when riches and honours
still reign, to establish in the immediate vicinity of our ancestral
tombs, a large number of farms, cottages, and estates, in order to
enable the expenditure for offerings and grants to entirely emanate from
this source? And if the household school were also established on this
principle, the old and young in the whole clan can, after they have, by
common consent, determined upon rules, exercise in days to come control,
in the order of the branches, over the affairs connected with the landed
property, revenue, ancestral worship and school maintenance for the year
(of their respective term.) Under this rotatory system, there will
likewise be no animosities; neither will there be any mortgages, or
sales, or any of these numerous malpractices; and should any one happen
to incur blame, his personal effects can be confiscated by Government.
But the properties, from which will be derived the funds for ancestral
worship, even the officials should not be able to appropriate, so that
when reverses do supervene, the sons and grandsons of the family may be
able to return to their homes, and prosecute their studies, or go in for
farming. Thus, while they will have something to fall back upon, the
ancestral worship will, in like manner, be continued in perpetuity. But,
if the present affluence and splendour be looked upon as bound to go on
without intermission, and with no thought for the day to come, no
enduring plan be after all devised, presently, in a little while, there
will, once again, transpire a felicitous occurrence of exceptional kind,
which, in point of fact, will resemble the splendour of oil scorched on
a violent fire, or fresh flowers decorated with brocades. You should
bear in mind that it will also be nothing more real than a transient
pageant, nothing but a short-lived pleasure! Whatever you do, don't
forget the proverb, that 'there's no banquet, however sumptuous, from
which the guests do not disperse;' and unless you do, at an early date,
take precautions against later evils, regret will, I apprehend, be of no

"What felicitous occurrence will take place?" lady Feng inquired with

"The decrees of Heaven cannot be divulged; but as I have been very
friendly with you, sister-in-law, for so long, I will present you,
before I take my leave, with two lines, which it behoves you to keep in
mind," rejoined Mrs. Ch'in, as she consequently proceeded to recite what

The three springs, when over, all radiance will wane;
The inmates to seek each a home will be fain.

Lady Feng was bent upon making further inquiries, when she heard a
messenger at the second gate strike the "cloudy board" four consecutive
blows. It was indeed the announcement of a death; and it woke up lady
Feng with a start. A servant reported that lady Jung of the eastern
mansion was no more.

Lady Feng was so taken aback that a cold perspiration broke out all over
her person, and she fell for a while into vacant abstraction. But she
had to change her costume, with all possible haste, and to come over to
madame Wang's apartments.

By this time, all the members of the family were aware of the tidings,
and there was not one of them who did not feel disconsolate; one and all
of them were much wounded at heart. The elder generation bethought
themselves of the dutiful submission which she had all along displayed;
those of the same age as herself reflected upon the friendship and
intimacy which had ever existed with her; those younger than her
remembered her past benevolence. Even the servants of the household,
whether old or young, looked back upon her qualities of sympathy with
the poor, pity of the destitute, affection for the old, and
consideration for the young; and not one of them all was there who did
not mourn her loss, and give way to intense grief.

But these irrelevant details need not be dilated upon; suffice it to
confine ourselves to Pao-y.

Consequent upon Lin Tai-y's return home, he was left to his own self
and felt very lonely. Neither would he go and disport himself with
others; but with the daily return of dusk, he was wont to retire quietly
to sleep.

On this day, while he was yet under the influence of a dream, he heard
the announcement of Mrs. Ch'in's death, and turning himself round
quickly he crept out of bed, when he felt as if his heart had been
stabbed with a sword. With a sudden retch, he straightway expectorated a
mouthful of blood, which so frightened Hsi Jen and the rest that they
rushed forward and supported him.

"What is the matter?" they inquired, and they meant also to go and let
dowager lady Chia know, so as to send for a doctor, but Pao-y dissuaded

"There's no need of any flurry; it's nothing at all," he said, "it's
simply that the fire of grief has attacked the heart, and that the blood
did not circulate through the arteries."

As he spoke, he speedily raised himself up, and, after asking for his
clothes and changing, he came over to see dowager lady Chia. His wish
was to go at once to the other side; and Hsi Jen, though feeling uneasy
at heart, seeing the state of mind he was in, did not again hinder him,
as she felt constrained to let him please himself.

When old lady Chia saw that he was bent upon going: "The breath is just
gone out of the body," she consequently remonstrated, "and that side is
still sullied. In the second place it's now dark, and the wind is high;
so you had better wait until to-morrow morning, when you will be in
ample time."

Pao-y would not agree to this, and dowager lady Chia gave orders to get
the carriage ready, and to depute a few more attendants and followers to
go with him. Under this escort he went forward and straightway arrived
in front of the Ning mansion, where they saw the main entrance wide
open, the lamps on the two sides giving out a light as bright as day,
and people coming and going in confused and large numbers; while the
sound of weeping inside was sufficient to shake the mountains and to
move the hills.

Pao-y dismounted from the carriage; and with hurried step, walked into
the apartment, where the coffin was laid. He gave vent to bitter tears
for a few minutes, and subsequently paid his salutations to Mrs. Yu.
Mrs. Yu, as it happened, had just had a relapse of her old complaint of
pains in the stomach and was lying on her bed.

He eventually came out again from her chamber to salute Chia Chen, just
at the very moment that Chia Tai-ju, Chia Tai-hsiu, Chia Ch'ih, Chiao
Hsiao, Chia Tun, Chia She, Chia Cheng, Chia Tsung, Chia Pin, Chia Hsing,
Chia Kuang, Chia Shen, Chia Ch'iung, Chia Lin, Chia Se, Chia Ch'ang,
Chia Ling, Chia Yn, Chia Ch'in, Chia Chen, Chia P'ing, Chia Tsao, Chia
Heng, Chia Fen, Chia Fang, Chia Lan, Chia Chun, Chia Chih and the other
relatives of the families had likewise arrived in a body.

Chia Chen wept so bitterly that he was like a man of tears. "Of the
whole family, whether young or old, distant relatives or close friends,"
he was just explaining to Chia Tai-ju and the rest, "who did not know
that this girl was a hundred times better than even our son? but now
that her spirit has retired, it's evident that this elder branch of the
family will be cut off and that there will be no survivor."

While he gave vent to these words, he again burst into tears, and the
whole company of relatives set to work at once to pacify him. "She has
already departed this life," they argued, "and tears are also of no
avail, besides the pressing thing now is to consult as to what kind of
arrangements are to be made."

Chia Chen clapped his hands. "What arrangements are to be made!" he
exclaimed; "nothing is to be done, but what is within my means."

As they conversed, they perceived Ch'in Yeh and Ch'in Chung, as well as
several relations of Mrs. Yu, arrive, together with Mrs. Yu's sisters;
and Chia Chen forthwith bade Chia Ch'ung, Chia Shen, Chia Lin and Chia
Se, the four of them, to go and entertain the guests; while he, at the
same time, issued directions to go and ask the Astrologer of the
Imperial Observatory to come and choose the days for the ceremonies.

(This Astrologer) decided that the coffin should remain in the house for
seven times seven days, that is forty-nine days; that after the third
day, the mourning rites should be begun and the formal cards should be
distributed; that all that was to be done during these forty-nine days
was to invite one hundred and eight Buddhist bonzes to perform, in the
main Hall, the High Confession Mass, in order to ford the souls of
departed relatives across the abyss of suffering, and afterwards to
transmute the spirit (of Mrs. Ch'in); that, in addition, an altar should
be erected in the Tower of Heavenly Fragrance, where nine times nine
virtuous Taoist priests should, for nineteen days, offer up prayers for
absolution from punishment, and purification from retribution. That
after these services, the tablet should be moved into the Garden of
Concentrated Fragrance, and that in the presence of the tablet, fifteen
additional eminent bonzes and fifteen renowned Taoist Priests should
confront the altar and perform meritorious deeds every seven days.

The news of the death of the wife of his eldest grandson reached Chia
Ching; but as he himself felt sure that, at no distant date, he would
ascend to the regions above, he was loth to return again to his home,
and so expose himself to the contamination of the world, as to
completely waste the meritorious excellence acquired in past days. For
this reason, he paid no heed to the event, but allowed Chia Chen a free
hand to accomplish the necessary preparations.

Chia Chen, to whom we again revert, was fond of display and
extravagance, so that he found, on inspection of coffins, those few made
of pine-wood unsuitable to his taste; when, strange coincidence, Hseh
P'an came to pay his visit of condolence, and perceiving that Chia Chen
was in quest of a good coffin: "In our establishment," he readily
suggested, "we have a lot of timber of some kind or other called Ch'iang
wood, which comes from the T'ieh Wang Mount, in Huang Hai; and which
made into coffins will not rot, not for ten thousand years. This lot
was, in fact, brought down, some years back, by my late father; and had
at one time been required by His Highness I Chung, a Prince of the royal
blood; but as he became guilty of some mismanagement, it was, in
consequence, not used, and is still lying stored up in our
establishment; and another thing besides is that there's no one with the
means to purchase it. But if you do want it, you should come and have a
look at it."

Chia Chen, upon hearing this, was extremely delighted, and gave orders
that the planks should be there and then brought over. When the whole
family came to inspect them, they found those for the sides and the
bottom to be all eight inches thick, the grain like betel-nut, the smell
like sandal-wood or musk, while, when tapped with the hand, the sound
emitted was like that of precious stones; so that one and all agreed in
praising the timber for its remarkable quality.

"What is their price?" Chia Chen inquired with a smile.

"Even with one thousand taels in hand," explained Hseh P'an laughingly,
"I feel sure you wouldn't find any place, where you could buy the like.
Why ask about price? if you just give the workmen a few taels for their
labour, it will be quite sufficient."

Chia Chen, at these words, lost no time in giving expression to profuse
assurances of gratitude, and was forthwith issuing directions that the
timber should be split, sawn and made up, when Chia Cheng proffered his
advice. "Such articles shouldn't," he said, "be, in my idea, enjoyed by
persons of the common run; it would be quite ample if the body were
placed in a coffin made of pine of the best quality."

But Chia Chen would not listen to any suggestion.

Suddenly he further heard that Mrs. Ch'in's waiting-maid, Jui Chu by
name, had, after she had become alive to the fact that her mistress had
died, knocked her head against a post, and likewise succumbed to the
blows. This unusual occurrence the whole clan extolled in high terms;
and Chia Chen promptly directed that, with regard to ceremonies, she
should be treated as a granddaughter, and that the body should, after it
had been placed in the coffin, be also deposited in the Hall of Attained
Immortality, in the Garden of Concentrated Fragrance.

There was likewise a young waiting-maid, called Pao Chu, who, as Mrs.
Ch'in left no issue, was willing to become an adopted child, and begged
to be allowed to undertake the charge of dashing the mourning bowl, and
accompanying the coffin; which pleased Chia Chen so much that he
speedily transmitted orders that from that time forth Pao Chu should be
addressed by all as 'young miss.'

Pao Chu, after the rites of an unmarried daughter, mourned before the
coffin to such an unwonted degree, as if bent upon snapping her own
life; while the members of the entire clan, as well as the inmates of
the Mansions, each and all, readily observed, in their conduct, the
established mourning usages, without of course any transgression or

"Chia Jung," pondered Chia Chen, "has no higher status than that of
graduate by purchase, and were this designation written on the funeral
streamer, it will not be imposing, and, in point of fact, the retinue
will likewise be small." He therefore was exceedingly unhappy, in his
own mind, when, as luck would have it, on this day, which was the fourth
day of the first seven, Tai Ch'an, a eunuch of the Palace of High
Renown, whose office was that of Palace Overseer, first prepared
sacrificial presents, which he sent round by messengers, and next came
himself in an official chair, preceded by criers beating the gong, to
offer sacrificial oblations.

Chia Chen promptly received him, and pressed him into a seat; and when
they adjourned into the Hall of the Loitering Bees, tea was presented.

Chia Chen had already arrived at a fixed purpose, so that he seized an
opportunity to tell him of his wish to purchase an office for Chia
Jung's advancement.

Tai Ch'an understood the purport of his remark. "It is, I presume," he
added smilingly, "that the funeral rites should be a little more

"My worthy sir," eagerly rejoined Chia Chen, "your surmise on that score
is perfectly correct."

"The question," explained Tai Ch'an, "comes up at an opportune moment;
for there is just at present a good vacancy. Of the three hundred
officers who at present constitute the Imperial Body Guard, there are
two wanting. Yesterday marquis Hsiang Yang's third brother came to
appeal to me with one thousand five hundred taels of ready money, which
he brought over to my house. You know the friendship of old standing
which exists between him and me, so that, placing other considerations
aside, I without a second thought, assented for his father's sake. But
there still remains another vacancy, which, who would have thought it,
fat general Feng, of Yung Hsing, asked to purchase for his son; but I
have had no time to give him an answer. Besides, as our child wants to
purchase it, you had better at once write a statement of his

Chia Chen lost no time in bidding some one write the statement on red
paper, which Tai Ch'an found, on perusal, to record that Chia Jung was
a graduate, by purchase, of the District of Chiang Ning, of the Ying
T'ien Prefecture, in Chiang Nan; that Chia Tai-hua, his great
grandfather, had been Commander-in-Chief of the Metropolitan Camp, and
an hereditary general of the first class, with the prefix of Spiritual
Majesty; that his grandfather Chia Ching was a metropolitan graduate of
the tripos in the Ping Ch'en year; and that his father Chia Chen had
inherited a rank of nobility of the third degree, and was a general,
with the prefix of Majestic Intrepidity.

Tai Ch'an, after perusal, turned his hand behind him and passed (the
statement) to a constant attendant of his, to put away: "Go back," he
enjoined him, "and give it to His Excellency Mr. Chao, at the head of
the Board of Revenue, and tell him, that I present him my compliments,
and would like him to draw up a warrant for subaltern of the Imperial
Body Guard of the fifth grade, and to also issue a commission; that he
should take the particulars from this statement and fill them up; and
that to-morrow I'll come and have the money weighed and sent over."

The young attendant signified his obedience, and Tai Ch'an thereupon
took his leave. Chia Chen did all he could to detain him, but with no
success; so that he had no alternative but to escort him as far as the
entrance of the Mansion. As he was about to mount into his chair, Chia
Chen inquired, "As regards the money, shall I go and pay it into the
Board, or am I to send it to the Board of Eunuchs?"

"If you were to go and pay it at the Board," observed Tai Ch'an; "you
are sure to suffer loss; so that it would be better if you just weighed
exactly one thousand taels and sent them over to my place; for then an
end will be put to all trouble."

Chia Chen was incessant in his expression of gratitude. "When the period
of mourning has expired," he consequently added, "I shall lead in
person, my despicable eldest son to your mansion, to pay our obeisance,
and express our thanks."

They then parted company, but close upon this, were heard again the
voices of runners. It was, in fact, the spouse of Shih Ting, the marquis
of Chung Ching, who was just arriving. Shih Hsiang-yun, mesdames Wang,
and Hsing, lady Feng and the rest came out at once, to greet her, and
lead her into the Main Building; when they further saw the sacrificial
presents of the three families, of the marquis of Chin Hsiang, the
marquis of Ch'uan Ning, and the earl of Shou Shan, likewise spread out
in front of the tablet.

In a short while, these three noblemen descended from their chairs, and
Chia Chen received them in the Large Hall. In like manner all the
relatives and friends arrived in such quick succession, one coming,
another going, that it is impossible to remember even so much as their
number. One thing need be said that during these forty-nine days the
street on which the Ning Kuo mansion stood, was covered with a sheet of
white, formed by the people, coming and going; and thronged with
clusters of flowers, as the officials came and went.

At the instance of Chia Chen, Chia Jung, the next day donned his gala
dress and went over for his papers; and on his return the articles in
use in front of the coffin, as well as those belonging to the cortege
and other such things, were all regulated by the rules prescribed for an
official status of the fifth degree; while, on the tablet and notice
alike the inscription consisted of: Spirit of lady Ch'in, (by marriage)
of the Chia mansion, and by patent a lady of the fifth rank (of the
titles of honour).

The main entrance of the Garden of Concentrated Fragrance, adjoining the
street, was opened wide; and on both sides were raised sheds for the
musicians, and two companies of players, dressed in blue, discoursed
music at the proper times; while one pair after another of the
paraphernalia was drawn out so straight as if cut by a knife or slit by
an axe. There were also two large carmine boards, carved with gilt
inscriptions, erected outside the gate; the designations in bold
characters on the upper sides being: Guard of the Imperial Antechamber,
charged with the protection of the Inner Palace and Roads, in the Red
Prohibited City.

On the opposite side, facing each other, rose, high above the ground,
two altars for the services of the Buddhist and Taoist priests, while a
placard bore the inscription in bold type: Funeral Obsequies of lady
Ch'in, (by marriage) of the Chia mansion, by patent a lady of the fifth
rank, consort of the eldest grandson of the hereditary duke of Ning Kuo,
and guard of the Imperial Antechamber, charged with the protection of
the Inner Palace and Roads in the Red Prohibited City. We, Wan Hs, by
Heaven's commands charged with the perennial preservation of perfect
peace in the Kingdom of the Four Continents, as well as of the lands
contained therein, Head Controller of the School of Void and Asceticism,
and Superior in Chief (of the Buddhist hierarchy); and Yeh Sheng,
Principal Controller, since the creation, of the Disciples of Perfect
Excellence and Superior in Chief (of the Taoist priesthood), and others,
having in a reverent spirit purified ourselves by abstinence, now raise
our eyes up to Heaven, prostrate ourselves humbly before Buddha, and
devoutly pray all the Chia Lans, Chieh Tis, Kung Ts'aos and other
divinities to extend their sacred bounties, and from afar to display
their spiritual majesty, during the forty-nine days (of the funeral
rites), for the deliverance from judgment and the absolution from
retribution (of the spirit of lady Ch'in), so that it may enjoy a
peaceful and safe passage, whether by sea or by land; and other such
prayers to this effect, which are in fact not worth the trouble of
putting on record.

Chia Chen had, it is true, all his wishes gratified; but, as his wife
was laid up in the inner chambers, with a relapse of her old complaint,
and was not in a fit state to undertake the direction of the ceremonies,
he was very much distressed lest, when the high officials (and their
wives) came and went, there should occur any breach of the prescribed
conventionalities, which he was afraid would evoke ridicule. Hence it
was that he felt in low spirits; but while he was plunged in solicitude
Pao-y, who happened to be close by, readily inquired, "Everything may
be safely looked upon as being satisfactorily settled, and why need you,
elder brother, still be so full of concern?"

Chia Chen forthwith explained to him how it was that in the ladies'
apartments there was no one (to do the honours), but Pao-y at these
words smiled: "What difficulty is there about it?" he remarked; "I'll
recommend some one to take temporary charge of the direction of things
for you during the month, and I can guarantee that everything will be
properly carried out."

"Who is it?" Chia Chen was quick to ask; but as Pao-y perceived that
there were still too many relatives and friends seated around, he did
not feel as if he could very well speak out; so that he went up to Chia
Chen and whispered a couple of remarks in his ear.

Chia Chen's joy knew no bounds when he heard this suggestion.
"Everything will indeed be properly carried out," he added laughingly;
"but I must now be going at once."

With these words, he drew Pao-y along, and taking leave of the whole
number of visitors, they forthwith came into the drawing rooms.

This day was luckily not a grand occasion, so that few relatives and
friends had come. In the inner apartments there were only a small number
of ladies of close kinship. Mesdames Hsing and Wang, and lady Feng, and
the women of the whole household, were entertaining the guests, when
they heard a servant announce that Mr. Chia Chen had come. (This
announcement) took the whole body of ladies and young ladies so much by
surprise, that, with a rushing sound, they tried to hide in the back
rooms; but they were not quick enough (to effect their escape).

Lady Feng alone composedly stood up. Chia Chen was himself at this time
rather unwell, and being also very much cut up, he entered the room
shuffling along, propping himself up with a staff.

"You are not well?" therefore remarked madame Hsing and the others, "and
you've had besides so much to attend to during these consecutive days,
that what you require is rest to get all right; and why do you again
come over?"

Chia Chen was, as he leant on his staff, straining every nerve to bend
his body so as to fall on his knees and pay his respects to them, and
express his sense of obligation for the trouble they had taken, when
madame Hsing and the other ladies hastily called Pao-y to raise him up,
bidding a servant move a chair for him to sit on. Chia Chen would not
take a seat; but making an effort to return a smile, "Your nephew," he
urged, "has come over, as there's a favour that I want to ask of my two
aunts as well as of my eldest cousin."

"What is it?" promptly inquired madame Hsing and the rest.

"My aunts," Chia Chen replied with all haste, "you surely are aware that
your grandson's wife is now no more; your nephew's wife is also laid up
unwell, and, as I see that things in the inner apartments are really not
what they should properly be, I would trouble my worthy eldest cousin to
undertake in here the direction of affairs for a month; and if she does,
my mind will be set at ease."

Madame Hsing smiled. "Is it really about this that you've come?" she
asked; "your eldest cousin is at present staying with your aunt Secunda,
and all you have to do is to speak to her and it will be all right."

"How ever could a mere child like her," speedily remonstrated madame
Wang, "carry out all these matters? and shouldn't she manage things
properly, she will, on the contrary, make people laugh, so it would
therefore be better that you should trouble some one else."

"What your ideas are, aunt," rejoined Chia Chen smiling, "your nephew
has guessed; you're afraid lest my eldest cousin should have to bear
fatigue and annoyance; for as to what you say, that she cannot manage
things, why my eldest cousin has, from her youth up, ever been in her
romping and playing so firm and decided; and now that she has entered
the married estate, and has the run of affairs in that mansion, she must
have reaped so much the more experience, and have become quite an old
hand! I've been thinking these last few days that outside my eldest
cousin, there's no one else who could come to my help; and, aunt, if you
don't do it for the face of your nephew and your nephew's wife, do it,
at least, for the affection you bore to her who is no more."

While he uttered these words tears trickled down his face. The fears
that madame Wang inwardly entertained were that lady Feng had no
experience in funeral matters, and she apprehended, that if she was not
equal to managing them, she would incur the ridicule of others; but when
she now heard Chia Chen make the appeal in such a disconsolate mood, she
relented considerably in her resolution. But as she turned her eyes
towards lady Feng (to ascertain her wishes), she saw that she was
plunged in abstraction.

Lady Feng had all along found the greatest zest in taking the initiative
in everything, with the idea of making a display of her abilities, so
that when she perceived how earnest Chia Chen was in his entreaties, she
had, at an early period, made up her mind to give a favourable reply.
Seeing besides madame Wang show signs of relenting, she readily turned
round and said to her, "My elder cousin has made his appeal in such a
solicitous way that your ladyship should give your consent and have done
with it."

"Do you think you are equal to the task?" inquired madame Wang in a

"What's there that I couldn't be equal to?" replied lady Feng; "for
urgent matters outside, my cousin may be said to have already made full
provision; and all there is to be done is to keep an eye over things
inside. But should there occur anything that I don't know, I can ask
you, madame, and it will be right."

Madame Wang perceiving the reasonableness of what she heard her say,
uttered not a word, and when Chia Chen saw that lady Feng had assented;
"How much you do attend to I don't mind," he observed, forcing another
smile, "but I must, in any case, entreat you, cousin, to assume the
onerous charge. As a first step I'll pay my obeisance to you in here,
and when everything has been finished, I shall then come over into that
mansion to express my thanks."

With these words still on his lips, he made a low bow, but lady Feng had
scarcely had time to return the compliment, before Chia Chen had
directed a servant to fetch the warrant of the Ning mansion, which he
bade Pao-y hand over to lady Feng.

"Cousin," he added, "take whatever steps you think best; and if you want
anything, all you have to do is to simply send for it with this, and
there will even be no use to consult me. The only thing I must ask you
is, not to be too careful in order to save me expense, for the main
consideration is that things should be handsomely done. In the second
place, it will be well if you were also to treat servants here in the
same way as in the other mansion, and not be too scrupulous in the fear
that any one might take offence. Outside these two concerns, there's
nothing else to disturb my mind."

Lady Feng did not venture to take over the warrant at once, but merely
turned round to ascertain what were madame Wang's wishes.

"In view of the reason brother Chen advances," madame Wang rejoined,
"you had better assume the charge at once and finish with it; don't,
however, act on your own ideas; but when there's aught to be done, be
careful and send some one to consult your cousin's wife, ever so little
though it be on the subject."

Pao-y had already taken over the warrant from Chia Chen's grasp, and
forcibly handed it to lady Feng, "Will you, cousin," he went on to
question, "take up your quarters here or will you come every day? should
you cross over, day after day, it will be ever so much more fatiguing
for you, so that I shall speedily have a separate court got ready for
you in here, where you, cousin, can put up for these several days and be
more comfortable."

"There's no need," replied lady Feng smiling; "for on that side they
can't do without me; and it will be better if I were to come daily."

"Do as you like," Chia Chen observed; and after subsequently passing a
few more irrelevant remarks, he at length left the room.

After a time, the lady relatives dispersed, and madame Wang seized the
opportunity to inquire of lady Feng, "What do you purpose doing to-day?"

"You had better, please madame, go back," urged lady Feng, "for I must
first of all find out some clue before I can go home."

Madame Wang, upon hearing these words, returned to her quarters, in
advance, in company with madame Hsing, where we will leave them.

Lady Feng meanwhile came into a colonnade, which enclosed a suite of
three apartments, and taking a seat, she gave way to reflection. "The
first consideration," she communed within herself, "is that the
household is made up of mixed elements, and things might be lost; the
second is that the preparations are under no particular control, with
the result that, when the time comes, the servants might shirk their
duties; the third is that the necessary expenditure being great, there
will be reckless disbursements and counterfeit receipts; the fourth,
that with the absence of any distinction in the matter of duties,
whether large or small, hardship and ease will be unequally shared; and
the fifth, that the servants being arrogant, through leniency, those
with any self-respect will not brook control, while those devoid of
'face' will not be able to improve their ways."

These five were, in point of fact, usages in vogue in the Ning mansion.
But as you are unable, reader, to ascertain here how lady Feng set
things right, listen to the explanations given in the following chapter.


Lin Ju-hai dies in the City of Yang Chou.
Chia Pao-y meets the Prince of Pei Ching on the way.

When Lai Sheng, be it noticed in continuing our story, the major-domo in
the Ning Kuo mansion, came to hear that from inside an invitation had
been extended to lady Feng to act as deputy, he summoned together his
co-workers and other servants. "Lady Secunda, of the western mansion,"
he harangued them, "has now been asked to take over the control of
internal affairs; and should she come we must, when we apply for
anything, or have anything to say, be circumspect in our service; we
should all every day come early and leave late; and it's better that we
should exert ourselves during this one month and take rest after it's
over. We mustn't throw away our old 'face,' for she's well known to be
an impetuous thing, with a soured face and a hard heart, who, when
angry, knows no distinction of persons."

The whole company unanimously admitted that he was right; and one of
their number too observed smilingly, "It's but right that for the inner
apartments, we should, in fact, get her to come and put things in proper
order, as everything is very much what it should not be."

But while he uttered these words, they saw Lai Wang's wife coming, with
an indent in hand, to fetch paper for the supplications and prayers, the
amount of which was mentioned on the order; and they one and all
hastened to press her into a seat, and to help her to a cup of tea;
while a servant was told to fetch the quantity of paper required. (When
it was brought,) Lai Wang carried it in his arms and came, the whole way
with his wife, as far as the ceremonial gate; when he, at length,
delivered it over to her and she clasped it, and walked into the room
all alone.

Lady Feng issued prompt directions to Ts'ai Ming to prepare a register;
and sending, there and then, for Lai Sheng's wife, she asked her to
submit, for her perusal, the roll with the servants' names. She
furthermore fixed upon an early hour of the following day to convene the
domestics and their wives in the mansion, in order that they should
receive their orders; but, after cursorily glancing over the number of
entries in the list, and making a few inquiries of Lai Sheng's wife, she
soon got into her curricle, and went home.

On the next day, at six and two quarters, she speedily came over. The
matrons and married women of the Ning Kuo mansion assembled together, as
soon as they heard of her arrival; but, perceiving lady Feng, assisted
by Lai Sheng's wife, engaged in apportioning the duties of each servant,
they could not presume to intrude, but remained outside the window
listening to what was going on.

"As I've been asked to take over the charge," they heard lady Feng
explain to Lai Sheng's wife, "I'm, needless to say, sure to incur the
displeasure of you all, for I can't compare with your mistress, who has
such a sweet temper, and allows you to have your own way. But saying
nothing more of those ways, which prevailed hitherto among your people
in this mansion, you must now do as I tell you; for on the slightest
disregard of my orders, I shall, with no discrimination between those
who may be respectable and those who may not be, clearly and distinctly
call all alike to account."

Having concluded these remarks, she went on to order Ts'ai Ming to read
the roll; and, as their names were uttered, one by one was called in,
and passed under inspection. After this inspection, which was got over
in a short time, she continued giving further directions. "These
twenty," she said "should be divided into two companies; ten in each
company, whose sole daily duties should be to attend inside to the
guests, coming and going, and to serve tea for them; while with any
other matters, they needn't have anything to do. These other twenty
should also be divided into two companies, whose exclusive duties will
be, day after day, to look after the tea and eatables of the relatives
of our family; and these too will have no business to concern themselves
with outside matters. These forty will again be divided into two
companies, who will have nothing else to look to than to remain in front
of the coffin and offer incense, renew the oil, hang up the streamers,
watch the coffin, offer sacrifices of rice, and oblations of tea, and
mourn with the mourners; and neither need they mind anything outside
these duties. These four servants will be specially attached to the
inner tea-rooms to look after cups, saucers and the tea articles
generally; and in the event of the loss of any single thing, the four of
them will have to make it good between them. These other four servants
will have the sole charge of the articles required for eatables and
wine; and should any get mislaid compensation will have likewise to be
made by them. These eight servants will only have to attend to taking
over the sacrificial offerings; while these eight will have nothing more
to see to beyond keeping an eye over the lamps, oil, candles and paper
wanted everywhere. I'll have a whole supply served out and handed to you
eight to by and by apportion to the various places, in quantities which
I will determine. These thirty servants are each day, by rotation, to
keep watch everywhere during the night, looking after the gates and
windows, taking care of the fires and candles, and sweeping the grounds;
while the servants, who remain, are to be divided for duty in the houses
and rooms, each one having charge of a particular spot. And beginning
from the tables, chairs and curios in each place, up to the very
cuspidors and brooms, yea even to each blade of grass or sprout of herb,
which may be there, the servants looking after this part will be called
upon to make good anything that may be either mislaid or damaged. You,
Lai Sheng's wife, will every day have to exercise general supervision
and inspection; and should there be those who be lazy, any who may
gamble, drink, fight or wrangle, come at once and report the matter to
me; and you mustn't show any leniency, for if I come to find it out, I
shall have no regard to the good old name of three or four generations,
which you may enjoy. You now all have your fixed duties, so that
whatever batch of you after this acts contrary to these orders, I shall
simply have something to say to that batch and to no one else. The
servants, who have all along been in my service, carry watches on their
persons, and things, whether large or small, are invariably done at a
fixed time. But, in any case, you also have clocks in your master's
rooms, so that at 6.30, I shall come and read the roll, and at ten
you'll have breakfast. Whenever there is any indent of any permits to be
made or any report to be submitted, it should be done at 11.30 a.m. and
no later. At 7 p.m., after the evening paper has been burnt, I shall
come to each place in person to hold an inspection; and on my return,
the servants on watch for the night will hand over the keys. The next
day, I shall again come over at 6.30 in the morning; and needless to say
we must all do the best we can for these few days; and when the work has
been finished your master is sure to recompense you."

When she had done speaking, she went on to give orders that tea, oil,
candles, feather dusters, brooms and other necessaries should be issued,
according to the fixed quantities. She also had furniture, such as
table-covers, antimacassars, cushions, rugs, cuspidors, stools and the
like brought over and distributed; while, at the same time, she took up
the pencil and made a note of the names of the persons in charge of the
various departments, and of the articles taken over by the respective
servants, in entries remarkable for the utmost perspicacity.

The whole body of servants received their charge and left; but they all
had work to go and attend to; not as in former times, when they were at
liberty to select for themselves what was convenient to do, while the
arduous work, which remained over, no one could be found to take in
hand. Neither was it possible for them in the various establishments to
any longer avail themselves of the confusion to carelessly mislay
things. In fact, visitors came and guests left, but everything after all
went off quietly, unlike the disorderly way which prevailed hitherto,
when there was no clue to the ravel; and all such abuses as indolence,
and losses, and the like were completely eradicated.

Lady Feng, on her part, (perceiving) the weight her influence had in
enjoining the observance of her directions, was in her heart exceedingly
delighted. But as she saw, that Chia Chen was, in consequence of Mrs.
Yu's indisposition, even so much the more grieved as to take very little
to drink or to eat, she daily, with her own hands, prepared, in the
other mansion, every kind of fine congee and luscious small dishes,
which she sent over, in order that he might be tempted to eat.

And Chia Lien had likewise given additional directions that every day
the finest delicacies should be taken into the ante-chamber, for the
exclusive use of lady Feng.

Lady Feng was not one to shirk exertion and fatigue, so that, day after
day, she came over at the proper time, called the roll, and managed
business, sitting all alone in the ante-chamber, and not congregating
with the whole bevy of sisters-in-law. Indeed, even when relatives or
visitors came or went, she did not go to receive them, or see them off.

This day was the thirty-fifth day, the very day of the fifth seven, and
the whole company of bonzes had just (commenced the services) for
unclosing the earth, and breaking Hell open; for sending a light to show
the way to the departed spirit; for its being admitted to an audience by
the king of Hell; for arresting all the malicious devils, as well as for
soliciting the soul-saving Buddha to open the golden bridge and to lead
the way with streamers. The Taoist priests were engaged in reverently
reading the prayers; in worshipping the Three Pure Ones and in
prostrating themselves before the Gemmy Lord. The disciples of
abstraction were burning incense, in order to release the hungered
spirits, and were reading the water regrets manual. There was also a
company of twelve nuns of tender years, got up in embroidered dresses,
and wearing red shoes, who stood before the coffin, silently reading all
the incantations for the reception of the spirit (from the lower
regions,) with the result that the utmost bustle and stir prevailed.

Lady Feng, well aware that not a few guests would call on this day, was
quick to get out of bed at four sharp, to dress her hair and perform her
ablutions. After having completed every arrangement for the day, she
changed her costume, washed her hands, and swallowed a couple of
mouthfuls of milk. By the time she had rinsed her mouth, it was exactly
6.30; and Lai Wang's wife, at the head of a company of servants, had
been waiting a good long while, when lady Feng appeared in front of the
Entrance Hall, mounted her carriage and betook herself, preceded by a
pair of transparent horn lanterns, on which were written, in large type,
the three characters, Jung Kuo mansion, to the main entrance gate of the
Ning Household. The door lanterns shed brilliant rays from where they
were suspended; while on either side the lanterns, of uniform colours,
propped upright, emitted a lustrous light as bright as day.

The servants of the family, got up in their mourning clothes, covered
the ground far and wide like a white sheet. They stood drawn in two
rows, and requested that the carriage should drive up to the main
entrance. The youths retired, and all the married women came forward,
and raising the curtain of the carriage, lady Feng alighted; and as with
one arm she supported herself on Feng Erh, two married women, with
lanterns in their hands, lighted the way. Pressed round by the servants,
lady Feng made her entry. The married women of the Ning mansion advanced
to greet her, and to pay their respects; and this over, lady Feng, with
graceful bearing, entered the Garden of Concentrated Fragrance.
Ascending the Spirit Hall, where the tablet was laid, the tears, as soon
as she caught sight of the coffin, trickled down her eyes like pearls
whose string had snapped; while the youths in the court, and their
number was not small, stood in a reverent posture, with their arms
against their sides, waiting to burn the paper. Lady Feng uttered one
remark, by way of command: "Offer the tea and burn the paper!" when the

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