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Hung Lou Meng, Book I by Cao Xueqin

Part 9 out of 10

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outside swept clean, she detained two doctors to alternately deliberate
on the treatment, feel the pulse and administer the medicines; and for
twelve days, they were not at liberty to return to their homes; while
Chia Lien had no help but to move his quarters temporarily into the
outer library, and lady Feng and P'ing Erh remained both in daily
attendance upon madame Wang in her devotions to the goddess.

Chia Lien, now that he was separated from lady Feng, soon felt disposed
to look round for a flame. He had only slept alone for a couple of
nights, but these nights had been so intensely intolerable that he had
no option than to choose, for the time being, from among the young
pages, those who were of handsome appearance, and bring them over to
relieve his monotony. In the Jung Kuo mansion, there was, it happened, a
cook, a most useless, good-for-nothing drunkard, whose name was To Kuan,
in whom people recognised an infirm and a useless husband so that they
all dubbed him with the name of To Hun Ch'ung, the stupid worm To. As
the wife given to him in marriage by his father and mother was this year
just twenty, and possessed further several traits of beauty, and was
also naturally of a flighty and frivolous disposition, she had an
extreme penchant for violent flirtations. But To Hun-ch'ung, on the
other hand, did not concern himself (with her deportment), and as long
as he had wine, meat and money he paid no heed whatever to anything. And
for this reason it was that all the men in the two mansions of Ning and
Jung had been successful in their attentions; and as this woman was
exceptionally fascinating and incomparably giddy, she was generally
known by all by the name To Ku Ning (Miss To).

Chia Lien, now that he had his quarters outside, chafed under the pangs
of irksome ennui, yet he too, in days gone by, had set his eyes upon
this woman, and had for long, watered in the mouth with admiration; but
as, inside, he feared his winsome wife, and outside, he dreaded his
beloved lads, he had not made any advances. But this To Ku Niang had
likewise a liking for Chia Lien, and was full of resentment at the
absence of a favourable opportunity; but she had recently come to hear
that Chia Lien had shifted his quarters into the outer library, and her
wont was, even in the absence of any legitimate purpose, to go over
three and four times to entice him on; but though Chia Lien was, in
every respect, like a rat smitten with hunger, he could not dispense
with holding consultation with the young friends who enjoyed his
confidence; and as he struck a bargain with them for a large amount of
money and silks, how could they ever not have come to terms (with him to
speak on his behalf)? Besides, they were all old friends of this woman,
so that, as soon as they conveyed the proposal, she willingly accepted
it. When night came To Hun Ch'ung was lying on the couch in a state of
drunkenness, and at the second watch, when every one was quiet, Chia
Lien at once slipped in, and they had their assignation. As soon as he
gazed upon her face, he lost control over his senses, and without even
one word of ordinary greeting or commonplace remark, they forthwith,
fervently indulged in a most endearing tte--tte.

This woman possessed, who could have thought it, a strange natural
charm; for, as soon as any one of her lovers came within any close
distance of her, he speedily could not but notice that her very tendons
and bones mollified, paralysed-like from feeling, so that his was the
sensation of basking in a soft bower of love. What is more, her
demonstrative ways and free-and-easy talk put even those of a born
coquette to shame, with the result that while Chia Lien, at this time,
longed to become heart and soul one with her, the woman designedly
indulged in immodest innuendoes.

"Your daughter is at home," she insinuated in her recumbent position,
"ill with the small-pox, and prayers are being offered to the goddess;
and your duty too should be to abstain from love affairs for a couple of
days, but on the contrary, by flirting with me, you've contaminated
yourself! but, you'd better be off at once from me here!"

"You're my goddess!" gaspingly protested Chia Lien, as he gave way to
demonstrativeness; "what do I care about any other goddess!"

The woman began to be still more indelicate in her manner, so that Chia
Lien could not refrain himself from making a full exhibition of his warm
sentiments. When their tte--tte had come to a close, they both went
on again to vow by the mountains and swear by the seas, and though they
found it difficult to part company and hard to tear themselves away,
they, in due course, became, after this occasion, mutual sworn friends.
But by a certain day the virus in Ta Chieh's system had become
exhausted, and the spots subsided, and at the expiry of twelve days the
goddess was removed, and the whole household offered sacrifices to
heaven, worshipped the ancestors, paid their vows, burnt incense,
exchanged congratulations, and distributed presents. And these
formalities observed, Chia Lien once more moved back into his own
bedroom and was reunited with lady Feng. The proverb is indeed true
which says: "That a new marriage is not equal to a long separation," for
there ensued between them demonstrations of loving affection still more
numerous than heretofore, to which we need not, of course, refer with
any minuteness.

The next day, at an early hour, after lady Feng had gone into the upper
rooms, P'ing Erh set to work to put in order the clothes and bedding,
which had been brought from outside, when, contrary to her expectation,
a tress of hair fell out from inside the pillow-case, as she was intent
upon shaking it. P'ing Erh understood its import, and taking at once the
hair, she concealed it in her sleeve, and there and then came over into
the room on this side, where she produced the hair, and smirkingly asked
Chia Lien, "What's this?"

Chia Lien, at the sight of it, lost no time in making a snatch with the
idea of depriving her of it; and when P'ing Erh speedily endeavoured to
run away, she was clutched by Chia Lien, who put her down on the
stove-couch, and came up to take it from her hand.

"You heartless fellow!" P'ing Erh laughingly exclaimed, "I conceal this,
with every good purpose, from her knowledge, and come to ask you about
it, and you, on the contrary, fly into a rage! But wait till she comes
back, and I'll tell her, and we'll see what will happen."

At these words, Chia Lien hastily forced a smile. "Dear girl!" he
entreated, "give it to me, and I won't venture again to fly into a

But hardly was this remark finished, when they heard the voice of lady
Feng penetrate into the room. As soon as it reached the ear of Chia
Lien, he was at a loss whether it was better to let her go or to snatch
it away, and kept on shouting, "My dear girl! don't let her know."

P'ing Erh at once rose to her feet; but lady Feng had already entered
the room; and she went on to bid P'ing Erh be quick and open a box and
find a pattern for madame Wang. P'ing Erh expressed her obedience with
alacrity; but while in search of it, lady Feng caught sight of Chia
Lien; and suddenly remembering something, she hastened to ask P'ing Erh
about it.

"The other day," she observed, "some things were taken out, and have you
brought them all in or not?"

"I have!" P'ing Erh assented.

"Is there anything short or not?" lady Feng inquired.

"I've carefully looked at them," P'ing Erh added, "and haven't found
even one single thing short."

"Is there anything in excess?" lady Feng went on to ascertain.

P'ing Erh laughed. "It's enough," she rejoined, "that there's nothing
short; and how could there really turn out to be anything over and

"That this half month," lady Feng continued still smiling, "things have
gone on immaculately it would be hard to vouch; for some intimate friend
there may have been, who possibly has left something behind, in the
shape of a ring, handkerchief or other such object, there's no saying
for certain!"

While these words were being spoken, Chia Lien's face turned perfectly
sallow, and, as he stood behind lady Feng, he was intent upon gazing at
P'ing Erh, making signs to her (that he was going) to cut her throat as
a chicken is killed, (threatening her not to utter a sound) and
entreating her to screen him; but P'ing Erh pretended not to notice him,
and consequently observed smiling: "How is it that my ideas should
coincide with those of yours, my lady; and as I suspected that there may
have been something of the kind, I carefully searched all over, but I
didn't find even so much as the slightest thing wrong; and if you don't
believe me, my lady, you can search for your own self."

"You fool!" lady Feng laughed, "had he any things of the sort, would he
be likely to let you and I discover them!"

With these words still on her lips, she took the patterns and went her
way; whereupon P'ing Erh pointed at her nose, and shook her head to and
fro. "In this matter," she smiled, "how much you should be grateful to
me!" A remark which so delighted Chia Lien that his eyebrows distended,
and his eyes smiled, and running over, he clasped her in his embrace,
and called her promiscuously: "My darling, my pet, my own treasure!"

"This," observed P'ing Erh, with the tress in her hand, "will be my
source of power, during all my lifetime! if you treat me kindly, then
well and good! but if you behave unkindly, then we'll at once produce
this thing!"

"Do put it away, please," Chia Lien entreated smirkingly, "and don't, on
an any account, let her know about it!" and as he uttered these words,
he noticed that she was off her guard, and, with a snatch, readily
grabbed it adding laughingly: "In your hands, it would be a source of
woe, so that it's better that I should burn it, and have done with it!"
Saying this he simultaneously shoved it down the sides of his boot,
while P'ing Erh shouted as she set her teeth close: "You wicked man! you
cross the river and then demolish the bridge! but do you imagine that
I'll by and by again tell lies on your behalf!"

Chia Lien perceiving how heart-stirring her seductive charms were,
forthwith clasped her in his arms, and begged her to be his; but P'ing
Erh snatched her hands out of his grasp and ran away out of the room;
which so exasperated Chia Lien that as he bent his body, he exclaimed,
full of indignation: "What a dreadful niggardly young wench! she
actually sets her mind to stir up people's affections with her wanton
blandishments, and then, after all, she runs away!"

"If I be wanton, it's my own look-out;" P'ing Erh answered, from outside
the window, with a grin, "and who told you to arouse your affections? Do
you forsooth mean to imply that my wish is to become your tool? And did
she come to know about it would she again ever forgive me?"

"You needn't dread her!" Chia Lien urged; "wait till my monkey is up,
and I'll take this jealous woman, and beat her to atoms; and she'll then
know what stuff I'm made of. She watches me just as she would watch a
thief! and she's only to hobnob with men, and I'm not to say a word to
any girl! and if I do say aught to a girl, or get anywhere near one, she
must at once give way to suspicion. But with no regard to younger
brothers or nephews, to young and old, she prattles and giggles with
them, and doesn't entertain any fear that I may be jealous; but
henceforward I too won't allow her to set eyes upon any man."

"If she be jealous, there's every reason," P'ing Erh answered, "but for
you to be jealous on her account isn't right. Her conduct is really
straightforward, and her deportment upright, but your conduct is
actuated by an evil heart, so much so that even I don't feel my heart at
ease, not to say anything of her."

"You two," continued Chia Lien, "have a mouth full of malicious breath!
Everything the couple of you do is invariably proper, while whatever I
do is all from an evil heart! But some time or other I shall bring you
both to your end with my own hands!"

This sentence was scarcely at an end, when lady Feng walked into the
court. "If you're bent upon chatting," she urgently inquired, upon
seeing P'ing Erh outside the window, "why don't you go into the room?
and what do you mean, instead, by running out, and speaking with the
window between?"

Chia Lien from inside took up the string of the conversation. "You
should ask her," he said. "It would verily seem as if there were a tiger
in the room to eat her up."

"There's not a single person in the room," P'ing Erh rejoined, "and what
shall I stay and do with him?"

"It's just the proper thing that there should be no one else! Isn't it?"
lady Feng remarked grinning sarcastically.

"Do these words allude to me?" P'ing Erh hastily asked, as soon as she
had heard what she said.

Lady Feng forthwith laughed. "If they don't allude to you," she
continued, "to whom do they?"

"Don't press me to come out with some nice things!" P'ing Erh
insinuated, and, as she spoke, she did not even raise the portiere (for
lady Feng to enter), but straightway betook herself to the opposite

Lady Feng lifted the portiere with her own hands, and walked into the
room. "That girl P'ing Erh," she exclaimed, "has gone mad, and if this
hussey does in real earnest wish to try and get the upper hand of me, it
would be well for you to mind your skin."

Chia Lien listened to her, as he kept reclining on the couch. "I never
in the least knew," he ventured, clapping his hands and laughing, "that
P'ing Erh was so dreadful; and I must, after all, from henceforth look
up to her with respect!"

"It's all through your humouring her," lady Feng rejoined; "so I'll
simply settle scores with you and finish with it."

"Ts'ui!" ejaculated Chia Lien at these words, "because you two can't
agree, must you again make a scapegoat of me! Well then, I'll get out of
the way of both of you!"

"I'll see where you'll go and hide," lady Feng observed.

"I've got somewhere to go!" Chia Lien added; and with these words, he
was about to go, when lady Feng urged: "Don't be off! I have something
to tell you."

What it is, is not yet known, but, reader, listen to the account given
in the next chapter.


Upon hearing the text of the stanza, Pao-y comprehends the Buddhistic
While the enigmas for the lanterns are being devised, Chia Cheng is
grieved by a prognostic.

Chia Lien, for we must now prosecute our story, upon hearing lady Feng
observe that she had something to consult about with him, felt
constrained to halt and to inquire what it was about.

"On the 21st," lady Feng explained, "is cousin Hseh's birthday, and
what do you, after all, purpose doing?"

"Do I know what to do?" exclaimed Chia Lien; "you have made, time and
again, arrangements for ever so many birthdays of grown-up people, and
do you, really, find yourself on this occasion without any resources?"

"Birthdays of grown-up people are subject to prescribed rules," lady
Feng expostulated; "but her present birthday is neither one of an adult
nor that of an infant, and that's why I would like to deliberate with

Chia Lien upon hearing this remark, lowered his head and gave himself to
protracted reflection. "You're indeed grown dull!" he cried; "why you've
a precedent ready at hand to suit your case! Cousin Lin's birthday
affords a precedent, and what you did in former years for cousin Lin,
you can in this instance likewise do for cousin Hseh, and it will be
all right."

At these words lady Feng gave a sarcastic smile. "Do you, pray, mean to
insinuate," she added, "that I'm not aware of even this! I too had
previously come, after some thought, to this conclusion; but old lady
Chia explained, in my hearing yesterday, that having made inquiries
about all their ages and their birthdays, she learnt that cousin Hseh
would this year be fifteen, and that though this was not the birthday,
which made her of age, she could anyhow well be regarded as being on the
dawn of the year, in which she would gather up her hair, so that our
dowager lady enjoined that her anniversary should, as a matter of
course, be celebrated, unlike that of cousin Lin."

"Well, in that case," Chia Lien suggested, "you had better make a few
additions to what was done for cousin Lin!"

"That's what I too am thinking of," lady Feng replied, "and that's why
I'm asking your views; for were I, on my own hook, to add anything you
would again feel hurt for my not have explained things to you."

"That will do, that will do!" Chia Lien rejoined laughing, "none of
these sham attentions for me! So long as you don't pry into my doings it
will be enough; and will I go so far as to bear you a grudge?"

With these words still in his mouth, he forthwith went off. But leaving
him alone we shall now return to Shih Hsiang-yn. After a stay of a
couple of days, her intention was to go back, but dowager lady Chia
said: "Wait until after you have seen the theatrical performance, when
you can return home."

At this proposal, Shih Hsiang-yn felt constrained to remain, but she,
at the same time, despatched a servant to her home to fetch two pieces
of needlework, which she had in former days worked with her own hands,
for a birthday present for Pao-ch'ai.

Contrary to all expectations old lady Chia had, since the arrival of
Pao-ch'ai, taken quite a fancy to her, for her sedateness and good
nature, and as this happened to be the first birthday which she was
about to celebrate (in the family) she herself readily contributed
twenty taels which, after sending for lady Feng, she handed over to her,
to make arrangements for a banquet and performance.

"A venerable senior like yourself," lady Feng thereupon smiled and
ventured, with a view to enhancing her good cheer, "is at liberty to
celebrate the birthday of a child in any way agreeable to you, without
any one presuming to raise any objection; but what's the use again of
giving a banquet? But since it be your good pleasure and your purpose to
have it celebrated with clat, you could, needless to say, your own self
have spent several taels from the private funds in that old treasury of
yours! But you now produce those twenty taels, spoiled by damp and
mould, to play the hostess with, with the view indeed of compelling us
to supply what's wanted! But hadn't you really been able to contribute
any more, no one would have a word to say; but the gold and silver,
round as well as flat, have with their heavy weight pressed down the
bottom of the box! and your sole object is to harass us and to extort
from us. But raise your eyes and look about you; who isn't your
venerable ladyship's son and daughter? and is it likely, pray, that in
the future there will only be cousin Pao-y to carry you, our old lady,
on his head, up the Wu T'ai Shan? You may keep all these things for him
alone! but though we mayn't at present, deserve that anything should be
spent upon us, you shouldn't go so far as to place us in any
perplexities (by compelling us to subscribe). And is this now enough for
wines, and enough for the theatricals?"

As she bandied these words, every one in the whole room burst out
laughing, and even dowager lady Chia broke out in laughter while she
observed: "Do you listen to that mouth? I myself am looked upon as
having the gift of the gab, but why is it that I can't talk in such a
wise as to put down this monkey? Your mother-in-law herself doesn't dare
to be so overbearing in her speech; and here you are jabber, jabber with

"My mother-in-law," explained lady Feng, "is also as fond of Pao-y as
you are, so much so that I haven't anywhere I could go and give vent to
my grievances; and instead of (showing me some regard) you say that I'm
overbearing in my speech!"

With these words, she again enticed dowager lady Chia to laugh for a
while. The old lady continued in the highest of spirits, and, when
evening came, and they all appeared in her presence to pay their
obeisance, her ladyship made it a point, while the whole company of
ladies and young ladies were engaged in chatting, to ascertain of
Pao-ch'ai what play she liked to hear, and what things she fancied to

Pao-ch'ai was well aware that dowager lady Chia, well up in years though
she was, delighted in sensational performances, and was partial to sweet
and tender viands, so that she readily deferred, in every respect, to
those things, which were to the taste of her ladyship, and enumerated a
whole number of them, which made the old lady become the more exuberant.
And the next day, she was the first to send over clothes, nicknacks and
such presents, while madame Wang and lady Feng, Tai-y and the other
girls, as well as the whole number of inmates had all presents for her,
regulated by their degree of relationship, to which we need not allude
in detail.

When the 21st arrived, a stage of an ordinary kind, small but yet handy,
was improvised in dowager lady Chia's inner court, and a troupe of young
actors, who had newly made their dbut, was retained for the nonce,
among whom were both those who could sing tunes, slow as well as fast.
In the drawing rooms of the old lady were then laid out several tables
for a family banquet and entertainment, at which there was not a single
outside guest; and with the exception of Mrs. Hseh, Shih Hsiang-yn,
and Pao-ch'ai, who were visitors, the rest were all inmates of her

On this day, Pao-y failed, at any early hour, to see anything of Lin
Tai-y, and coming at once to her rooms in search of her, he discovered
her reclining on the stove-couch. "Get up," Pao-y pressed her with a
smile, "and come and have breakfast, for the plays will commence
shortly; but whichever plays you would like to listen to, do tell me so
that I may be able to choose them."

Tai-y smiled sarcastically. "In that case," she rejoined, "you had
better specially engage a troupe and select those I like sung for my
benefit; for on this occasion you can't be so impertinent as to make use
of their expense to ask me what I like!"

"What's there impossible about this?" Pao-y answered smiling; "well,
to-morrow I'll readily do as you wish, and ask them too to make use of
what is yours and mine."

As he passed this remark, he pulled her up, and taking her hand in his
own, they walked out of the room and came and had breakfast. When the
time arrived to make a selection of the plays, dowager lady Chia of her
own motion first asked Pao-ch'ai to mark off those she liked; and though
for a time Pao-ch'ai declined, yielding the choice to others, she had no
alternative but to decide, fixing upon a play called, "the Record of the
Western Tour," a play of which the old lady was herself very fond. Next
in order, she bade lady Feng choose, and lady Feng, had, after all, in
spite of madame Wang ranking before her in precedence, to consider old
lady Chia's request, and not to presume to show obstinacy by any
disobedience. But as she knew well enough that her ladyship had a
penchant for what was exciting, and that she was still more partial to
jests, jokes, epigrams, and buffoonery, she therefore hastened to
precede (madame Wang) and to choose a play, which was in fact no other
than "Liu Erh pawns his clothes."

Dowager lady Chia was, of course, still more elated. And after this she
speedily went on to ask Tai-y to choose. Tai-y likewise concedingly
yielded her turn in favour of madame Wang and the other seniors, to make
their selections before her, but the old lady expostulated. "To-day,"
she said, "is primarily an occasion, on which I've brought all of you
here for your special recreation; and we had better look after our own
selves and not heed them! For have I, do you imagine, gone to the
trouble of having a performance and laying a feast for their special
benefit? they're already reaping benefit enough by being in here,
listening to the plays and partaking of the banquet, when they have no
right to either; and are they to be pressed further to make a choice of

At these words, the whole company had a hearty laugh; after which,
Tai-y, at length, marked off a play; next in order following Pao-y,
Shih Hsiang-yn, Ying-ch'un, T'an Ch'un, Hsi Ch'un, widow Li Wan, and
the rest, each and all of whom made a choice of plays, which were sung
in the costumes necessary for each. When the time came to take their
places at the banquet, dowager lady Chia bade Pao-ch'ai make another
selection, and Pao-ch'ai cast her choice upon the play: "Lu Chih-shen,
in a fit of drunkenness stirs up a disturbance up the Wu T'ai mountain;"
whereupon Pao-y interposed, with the remark: "All you fancy is to
choose plays of this kind;" to which Pao-ch'ai rejoined, "You've
listened to plays all these years to no avail! How could you know the
beauties of this play? the stage effect is grand, but what is still
better are the apt and elegant passages in it."

"I've always had a dread of such sensational plays as these!" Pao-y

"If you call this play sensational," Pao-ch'ai smilingly expostulated,
"well then you may fitly be looked upon as being no connoisseur of
plays. But come over and I'll tell you. This play constitutes one of a
set of books, entitled the 'Pei Tien Peng Ch'un,' which, as far as
harmony, musical rests and closes, and tune go, is, it goes without
saying, perfect; but there's among the elegant compositions a ballad
entitled: 'the Parasitic Plant,' written in a most excellent style; but
how could you know anything about it?"

Pao-y, upon hearing her speak of such points of beauty, hastily drew
near to her. "My dear cousin," he entreated, "recite it and let me hear
it!" Whereupon Pao-ch'ai went on as follows:

My manly tears I will not wipe away,
But from this place, the scholar's home, I'll stray.
The bonze for mercy I shall thank; under the lotus altar shave my
With Yan to be the luck I lack; soon in a twinkle we shall separate,
And needy and forlorn I'll come and go, with none to care about my
Thither shall I a suppliant be for a fog wrapper and rain hat; my
warrant I shall roll,
And listless with straw shoes and broken bowl, wherever to convert my
fate may be, I'll stroll.

As soon as Pao-y had listened to her recital, he was so full of
enthusiasm, that, clapping his knees with his hands, and shaking his
head, he gave vent to incessant praise; after which he went on to extol
Pao-ch'ai, saying: "There's no book that you don't know."

"Be quiet, and listen to the play," Lin Tai-y urged; "they haven't yet
sung about the mountain gate, and you already pretend to be mad!"

At these words, Hsiang-yn also laughed. But, in due course, the whole
party watched the performance until evening, when they broke up. Dowager
lady Chia was so very much taken with the young actor, who played the
role of a lady, as well as with the one who acted the buffoon, that she
gave orders that they should be brought in; and, as she looked at them
closely, she felt so much the more interest in them, that she went on to
inquire what their ages were. And when the would-be lady (replied) that
he was just eleven, while the would-be buffoon (explained) that he was
just nine, the whole company gave vent for a time to expressions of
sympathy with their lot; while dowager lady Chia bade servants bring a
fresh supply of meats and fruits for both of them, and also gave them,
besides their wages, two tiaos as a present.

"This lad," lady Feng observed smiling, "is when dressed up (as a girl),
a living likeness of a certain person; did you notice it just now?"

Pao-ch'ai was also aware of the fact, but she simply nodded her head
assentingly and did not say who it was. Pao-y likewise expressed his
assent by shaking his head, but he too did not presume to speak out.
Shih Hsiang-yn, however, readily took up the conversation. "He
resembles," she interposed, "cousin Lin's face!" When this remark
reached Pao-y's ear, he hastened to cast an angry scowl at Hsiang-yn,
and to make her a sign; while the whole party, upon hearing what had
been said, indulged in careful and minute scrutiny of (the lad); and as
they all began to laugh: "The resemblance is indeed striking!" they

After a while, they parted; and when evening came Hsiang-yn directed
Ts'ui L to pack up her clothes.

"What's the hurry?" Ts'ui L asked. "There will be ample time to pack
up, on the day on which we go!"

"We'll go to-morrow," Hsiang-yn rejoined; "for what's the use of
remaining here any longer--to look at people's mouths and faces?"

Pao-y, at these words, lost no time in pressing forward.

"My dear cousin," he urged; "you're wrong in bearing me a grudge! My
cousin Lin is a girl so very touchy, that though every one else
distinctly knew (of the resemblance), they wouldn't speak out; and all
because they were afraid that she would get angry; but unexpectedly out
you came with it, at a moment when off your guard; and how ever couldn't
she but feel hurt? and it's because I was in dread that you would give
offence to people that I then winked at you; and now here you are angry
with me; but isn't that being ungrateful to me? Had it been any one
else, would I have cared whether she had given offence to even ten; that
would have been none of my business!"

Hsiang-yn waved her hand: "Don't," she added, "come and tell me these
flowery words and this specious talk, for I really can't come up to your
cousin Lin. If others poke fun at her, they all do so with impunity,
while if I say anything, I at once incur blame. The fact is I shouldn't
have spoken of her, undeserving as I am; and as she's the daughter of a
master, while I'm a slave, a mere servant girl, I've heaped insult upon

"And yet," pleaded Pao-y, full of perplexity, "I had done it for your
sake; and through this, I've come in for reproach. But if it were with
an evil heart I did so, may I at once become ashes, and be trampled upon
by ten thousands of people!"

"In this felicitous firstmonth," Hsiang-yn remonstrated, "you shouldn't
talk so much reckless nonsense! All these worthless despicable oaths,
disjointed words, and corrupt language, go and tell for the benefit of
those mean sort of people, who in everything take pleasure in irritating
others, and who keep you under their thumb! But mind don't drive me to
spit contemptuously at you."

As she gave utterance to these words, she betook herself in the inner
room of dowager lady Chia's suite of apartments, where she lay down in
high dudgeon, and, as Pao-y was so heavy at heart, he could not help
coming again in search of Tai-y; but strange to say, as soon as he put
his foot inside the doorway, he was speedily hustled out of it by
Tai-y, who shut the door in his face.

Pao-y was once more unable to fathom her motives, and as he stood
outside the window, he kept on calling out: "My dear cousin," in a low
tone of voice; but Tai-y paid not the slightest notice to him so that
Pao-y became so melancholy that he drooped his head, and was plunged in
silence. And though Hsi Jen had, at an early hour, come to know the
circumstances, she could not very well at this juncture tender any

Pao-y remained standing in such a vacant mood that Tai-y imagined that
he had gone back; but when she came to open the door she caught sight of
Pao-y still waiting in there; and as Tai-y did not feel justified to
again close the door, Pao-y consequently followed her in.

"Every thing has," he observed, "a why and a wherefore; which, when
spoken out, don't even give people pain; but you will rush into a rage,
and all without any rhyme! but to what really does it owe its rise?"

"It's well enough, after all, for you to ask me," Tai-y rejoined with
an indifferent smile, "but I myself don't know why! But am I here to
afford you people amusement that you will compare me to an actress, and
make the whole lot have a laugh at me?"

"I never did liken you to anything," Pao-y protested, "neither did I
ever laugh at you! and why then will you get angry with me?"

"Was it necessary that you should have done so much as made the
comparison," Tai-y urged, "and was there any need of even any laughter
from you? why, though you mayn't have likened me to anything, or had a
laugh at my expense, you were, yea more dreadful than those who did
compare me (to a singing girl) and ridiculed me!"

Pao-y could not find anything with which to refute the argument he had
just heard, and Tai-y went on to say. "This offence can, anyhow, be
condoned; but, what is more, why did you also wink at Yn Erh? What was
this idea which you had resolved in your mind? wasn't it perhaps that if
she played with me, she would be demeaning herself, and making herself
cheap? She's the daughter of a duke or a marquis, and we forsooth the
mean progeny of a poor plebeian family; so that, had she diverted
herself with me, wouldn't she have exposed herself to being depreciated,
had I, perchance, said anything in retaliation? This was your idea
wasn't it? But though your purpose was, to be sure, honest enough, that
girl wouldn't, however, receive any favours from you, but got angry with
you just as much as I did; and though she made me also a tool to do you
a good turn, she, on the contrary, asserts that I'm mean by nature and
take pleasure in irritating people in everything! and you again were
afraid lest she should have hurt my feelings, but, had I had a row with
her, what would that have been to you? and had she given me any offence,
what concern would that too have been of yours?"

When Pao-y heard these words, he at once became alive to the fact that
she too had lent an ear to the private conversation he had had a short
while back with Hsiang-yn: "All because of my, fears," he carefully
mused within himself, "lest these two should have a misunderstanding, I
was induced to come between them, and act as a mediator; but I myself
have, contrary to my hopes, incurred blame and abuse on both sides! This
just accords with what I read the other day in the Nan Hua Ching. 'The
ingenious toil, the wise are full of care; the good-for-nothing seek for
nothing, they feed on vegetables, and roam where they list; they wander
purposeless like a boat not made fast!' 'The mountain trees,' the text
goes on to say, 'lead to their own devastation; the spring (conduces) to
its own plunder; and so on." And the more he therefore indulged in
reflection, the more depressed he felt. "Now there are only these few
girls," he proceeded to ponder minutely, "and yet, I'm unable to treat
them in such a way as to promote perfect harmony; and what will I
forsooth do by and by (when there will be more to deal with)!"

When he had reached this point in his cogitations, (he decided) that it
was really of no avail to agree with her, so that turning round, he was
making his way all alone into his apartments; but Lin Tai-y, upon
noticing that he had left her side, readily concluded that reflection
had marred his spirits and that he had so thoroughly lost his temper as
to be going without even giving vent to a single word, and she could not
restrain herself from feeling inwardly more and more irritated. "After
you've gone this time," she hastily exclaimed, "don't come again, even
for a whole lifetime; and I won't have you either so much as speak to

Pao-y paid no heed to her, but came back to his rooms, and laying
himself down on his bed, he kept on muttering in a state of chagrin; and
though Hsi Jen knew full well the reasons of his dejection, she found it
difficult to summon up courage to say anything to him at the moment, and
she had no alternative but to try and distract him by means of
irrelevant matters. "The theatricals which you've seen to-day," she
consequently observed smiling, "will again lead to performances for
several days, and Miss Pao-ch'ai will, I'm sure, give a return feast."

"Whether she gives a return feast or not," Pao-y rejoined with an
apathetic smirk, "is no concern of mine!"

When Hsi Jen perceived the tone, so unlike that of other days, with
which these words were pronounced: "What's this that you're saying?" she
therefore remarked as she gave another smile. "In this pleasant and
propitious first moon, when all the ladies and young ladies are in high
glee, how is it that you're again in a mood of this sort?"

"Whether the ladies and my cousins be in high spirits or not," Pao-y
replied forcing a grin, "is also perfectly immaterial to me."

"They are all," Hsi Jen added, smilingly, "pleasant and agreeable, and
were you also a little pleasant and agreeable, wouldn't it conduce to
the enjoyment of the whole company?"

"What about the whole company, and they and I?" Pao-y urged. "They all
have their mutual friendships; while I, poor fellow, all forlorn, have
none to care a rap for me."

His remarks had reached this clause, when inadvertently the tears
trickled down; and Hsi Jen realising the state of mind he was in, did
not venture to say anything further. But as soon as Pao-y had reflected
minutely over the sense and import of this sentence, he could not
refrain from bursting forth into a loud fit of crying, and, turning
himself round, he stood up, and, drawing near the table, he took up the
pencil, and eagerly composed these enigmatical lines:

If thou wert me to test, and I were thee to test,
Our hearts were we to test, and our minds to test,
When naught more there remains for us to test
That will yea very well be called a test,
And when there's naught to put, we could say, to the test,
We will a place set up on which our feet to rest.

After he had finished writing, he again gave way to fears that though he
himself could unfold their meaning, others, who came to peruse these
lines, would not be able to fathom them, and he also went on
consequently to indite another stanza, in imitation of the "Parasitic
Plant," which he inscribed at the close of the enigma; and when he had
read it over a second time, he felt his heart so free of all concern
that forthwith he got into his bed, and went to sleep.

But, who would have thought it, Tai-y, upon seeing Pao-y take his
departure in such an abrupt manner, designedly made use of the excuse
that she was bent upon finding Hsi Jen, to come round and see what he
was up to.

"He's gone to sleep long ago!" Hsi Jen replied.

At these words, Tai-y felt inclined to betake herself back at once; but
Hsi Jen smiled and said: "Please stop, miss. Here's a slip of paper, and
see what there is on it!" and speedily taking what Pao-y had written a
short while back, she handed it over to Tai-y to examine. Tai-y, on
perusal, discovered that Pao-y had composed it, at the spur of the
moment, when under the influence of resentment; and she could not help
thinking it both a matter of ridicule as well as of regret; but she
hastily explained to Hsi Jen: "This is written for fun, and there's
nothing of any consequence in it!" and having concluded this remark, she
readily took it along with her to her room, where she conned it over in
company with Hsiang-yn; handing it also the next day to Pao-ch'ai to
peruse. The burden of what Pao-ch'ai read was:

In what was no concern of mine, I should to thee have paid no heed,
For while I humour this, that one to please I don't succeed!
Act as thy wish may be! go, come whene'er thou list; 'tis naught to
Sorrow or joy, without limit or bound, to indulge thou art free!
What is this hazy notion about relatives distant or close?
For what purpose have I for all these days racked my heart with woes?
Even at this time when I look back and think, my mind no pleasure

After having finished its perusal, she went on to glance at the
Buddhistic stanza, and smiling: "This being," she soliloquised; "has
awakened to a sense of perception; and all through my fault, for it's
that ballad of mine yesterday which has incited this! But the subtle
devices in all these rationalistic books have a most easy tendency to
unsettle the natural disposition, and if to-morrow he does actually get
up, and talk a lot of insane trash, won't his having fostered this idea
owe its origin to that ballad of mine; and shan't I have become the
prime of all guilty people?"

Saying this, she promptly tore the paper, and, delivering the pieces to
the servant girls, she bade them go at once and burn them.

"You shouldn't have torn it!" Tai-y remonstrated laughingly. "But wait
and I'll ask him about it! so come along all of you, and I vouch I'll
make him abandon that idiotic frame of mind and that depraved language."

The three of them crossed over, in point of fact, into Pao-y's room,
and Tai-y was the first to smile and observe. "Pao-y, may I ask you
something? What is most valuable is a precious thing; and what is most
firm is jade, but what value do you possess and what firmness is innate
in you?"

But as Pao-y could not, say anything by way of reply, two of them
remarked sneeringly: "With all this doltish bluntness of his will he
after all absorb himself in abstraction?" While Hsiang-yn also clapped
her hands and laughed, "Cousin Pao has been discomfited."

"The latter part of that apothegm of yours," Tai-y continued, "says:

"We would then find some place on which our feet to rest.

"Which is certainly good; but in my view, its excellence is not as yet
complete! and I should still tag on two lines at its close;" as she
proceeded to recite:

"If we do not set up some place on which our feet to rest,
For peace and freedom then it will be best."

"There should, in very truth, be this adjunct to make it thoroughly
explicit!" Pao-ch'ai added. "In days of yore, the sixth founder of the
Southern sect, Hui Neng, came, when he went first in search of his
patron, in the Shao Chou district; and upon hearing that the fifth
founder, Hung Jen, was at Huang Mei, he readily entered his service in
the capacity of Buddhist cook; and when the fifth founder, prompted by a
wish to select a Buddhistic successor, bade his neophytes and all the
bonzes to each compose an enigmatical stanza, the one who occupied the
upper seat, Shen Hsiu, recited:

"A P'u T'i tree the body is, the heart so like a stand of mirror
On which must needs, by constant careful rubbing, not be left dust to

"And Hui Neng, who was at this time in the cook-house pounding rice,
overheard this enigma. 'Excellent, it is excellent,' he ventured, 'but
as far as completeness goes it isn't complete;' and having bethought
himself of an apothegm: 'The P'u T'i, (an expression for Buddha or
intelligence),' he proceeded, 'is really no tree; and the resplendent
mirror, (Buddhistic term for heart), is likewise no stand; and as, in
fact, they do not constitute any tangible objects, how could they be
contaminated by particles of dust?' Whereupon the fifth founder at once
took his robe and clap-dish and handed them to him. Well, the text now
of this enigma presents too this identical idea, for the simple fact is
that those lines full of subtleties of a short while back are not, as
yet, perfected or brought to an issue, and do you forsooth readily give
up the task in this manner?"

"He hasn't been able to make any reply," Tai-y rejoined sneeringly,
"and must therefore be held to be discomfited; but were he even to make
suitable answer now, there would be nothing out of the common about it!
Anyhow, from this time forth you mustn't talk about Buddhistic spells,
for what even we two know and are able to do, you don't as yet know and
can't do; and do you go and concern yourself with abstraction?"

Pao-y had, in his own mind, been under the impression that he had
attained perception, but when he was unawares and all of a sudden
subjected to this question by Tai-y, he soon found it beyond his power
to give any ready answer. And when Pao-ch'ai furthermore came out with a
religious disquisition, by way of illustration, and this on subjects, in
all of which he had hitherto not seen them display any ability, he
communed within himself: "If with their knowledge, which is indeed in
advance of that of mine, they haven't, as yet, attained perception, what
need is there for me now to bring upon myself labour and vexation?"

"Who has, pray," he hastily inquired smilingly, after arriving at the
end of his reflections, "indulged in Buddhistic mysteries? what I did
amounts to nothing more than nonsensical trash, written, at the spur of
the moment, and nothing else."

At the close of this remark all four came to be again on the same terms
as of old; but suddenly a servant announced that the Empress (Yan
Ch'un) had despatched a messenger to bring over a lantern-conundrum with
the directions that they should all go and guess it, and that after they
had found it out, they should each also devise one and send it in. At
these words, the four of them left the room with hasty step, and
adjourned into dowager lady Chia's drawing room, where they discovered a
young eunuch, holding a four-cornered, flat-topped lantern, of white
gauze, which had been specially fabricated for lantern riddles. On the
front side, there was already a conundrum, and the whole company were
vying with each other in looking at it and making wild guesses; when the
young eunuch went on to transmit his orders, saying: "Young ladies, you
should not speak out when you are guessing; but each one of you should
secretly write down the solutions for me to wrap them up, and take them
all in together to await her Majesty's personal inspection as to whether
they be correct or not."

Upon listening to these words, Pao-ch'ai drew near, and perceived at a
glance, that it consisted of a stanza of four lines, with seven
characters in each; but though there was no novelty or remarkable
feature about it, she felt constrained to outwardly give utterance to
words of praise. "It's hard to guess!" she simply added, while she
pretended to be plunged in thought, for the fact is that as soon as she
had cast her eye upon it, she had at once solved it. Pao-y, Tai-y,
Hsiang-yn, and T'an-ch'un, had all four also hit upon the answer, and
each had secretly put it in writing; and Chia Huan, Chia Lan and the
others were at the same time sent for, and every one of them set to work
to exert the energies of his mind, and, when they arrived at a guess,
they noted it down on paper; after which every individual member of the
family made a choice of some object, and composed a riddle, which was
transcribed in a large round hand, and affixed on the lantern. This
done, the eunuch took his departure, and when evening drew near, he came
out and delivered the commands of the imperial consort. "The conundrum,"
he said, "written by Her Highness, the other day, has been solved by
every one, with the exception of Miss Secunda and master Tertius, who
made a wrong guess. Those composed by you, young ladies, have likewise
all been guessed; but Her Majesty does not know whether her solutions
are right or not." While speaking, he again produced the riddles, which
had been written by them, among which were those which had been solved,
as well as those which had not been solved; and the eunuch, in like
manner, took the presents, conferred by the imperial consort, and handed
them over to those who had guessed right. To each person was assigned a
bamboo vase, inscribed with verses, which had been manufactured for
palace use, as well as articles of bamboo for tea; with the exception of
Ying-ch'un and Chia Huan, who were the only two persons who did not
receive any. But as Ying-ch'un looked upon the whole thing as a joke and
a trifle, she did not trouble her mind on that score, but Chia Huan at
once felt very disconsolate.

"This one devised by Mr. Tertius," the eunuch was further heard to say,
"is not properly done; and as Her Majesty herself has been unable to
guess it she commanded me to bring it back, and ask Mr. Tertius what it
is about."

After the party had listened to these words, they all pressed forward to
see what had been written. The burden of it was this:

The elder brother has horns only eight;
The second brother has horns only two;
The elder brother on the bed doth sit;
Inside the room the second likes to squat.

After perusal of these lines, they broke out, with one voice, into a
loud fit of laughter; and Chia Huan had to explain to the eunuch that
the one was a pillow, and the other the head of an animal. Having
committed the explanation to memory and accepted a cup of tea, the
eunuch took his departure; and old lady Chia, noticing in what buoyant
spirits Yan Ch'un was, felt herself so much the more elated, that
issuing forthwith directions to devise, with every despatch, a small but
ingenious lantern of fine texture in the shape of a screen, and put it
in the Hall, she bade each of her grandchildren secretly compose a
conundrum, copy it out clean, and affix it on the frame of the lantern;
and she had subsequently scented tea and fine fruits, as well as every
kind of nicknacks, got ready, as prizes for those who guessed right.

And when Chia Cheng came from court and found the old lady in such high
glee he also came over in the evening, as the season was furthermore
holiday time, to avail himself of her good cheer to reap some enjoyment.
In the upper part of the room seated themselves, at one table dowager
lady Chia, Chia Cheng, and Pao-y; madame Wang, Pao-ch'ai, Tai-y,
Hsiang-yn sat round another table, and Ying-ch'un, Tan-ch'un and Hsi
Ch'un the three of them, occupied a separate table, and both these
tables were laid in the lower part, while below, all over the floor,
stood matrons and waiting-maids for Li Kung-ts'ai and Hsi-feng were both
seated in the inner section of the Hall, at another table.

Chia Chen failed to see Chia Lan, and he therefore inquired: "How is it
I don't see brother Lan," whereupon the female servants, standing below,
hastily entered the inner room and made inquiries of widow Li. "He
says," Mrs. Li stood up and rejoined with a smile, "that as your master
didn't go just then to ask him round, he has no wish to come!" and when
a matron delivered the reply to Chia Cheng; the whole company exclaimed
much amused: "How obstinate and perverse his natural disposition is!"
But Chia Cheng lost no time in sending Chia Huan, together with two
matrons, to fetch Chia Lan; and, on his arrival, dowager lady Chia bade
him sit by her side, and, taking a handful of fruits, she gave them to
him to eat; after which the party chatted, laughed, and enjoyed

Ordinarily, there was no one but Pao-y to say much or talk at any
length, but on this day, with Chia Cheng present, his remarks were
limited to assents. And as to the rest, Hsiang-yn had, though a young
girl, and of delicate physique, nevertheless ever been very fond of
talking and discussing; but, on this instance, Chia Cheng was at the
feast, so that she also held her tongue and restrained her words. As for
Tai-y she was naturally peevish and listless, and not very much
inclined to indulge in conversation; while Pao-ch'ai, who had never been
reckless in her words or frivolous in her deportment, likewise behaved
on the present occasion in her usual dignified manner. Hence it was that
this banquet, although a family party, given for the sake of relaxation,
assumed contrariwise an appearance of restraint, and as old lady Chia
was herself too well aware that it was to be ascribed to the presence of
Chia Cheng alone, she therefore, after the wine had gone round three
times, forthwith hurried off Chia Cheng to retire to rest.

No less cognisant was Chia Cheng himself that the old lady's motives in
packing him off were to afford a favourable opportunity to the young
ladies and young men to enjoy themselves, and that is why, forcing a
smile, he observed: "Having to-day heard that your venerable ladyship
had got up in here a large assortment of excellent riddles, on the
occasion of the spring festival of lanterns, I too consequently prepared
prizes, as well as a banquet, and came with the express purpose of
joining the company; and why don't you in some way confer a fraction of
the fond love, which you cherish for your grandsons and granddaughters,
upon me also, your son?"

"When you're here," old lady Chia replied smilingly, "they won't venture
to chat or laugh; and unless you go, you'll really fill me with intense
dejection! But if you feel inclined to guess conundrums, well, I'll tell
you one for you to solve; but if you don't guess right, mind, you'll be

"Of course I'll submit to the penalty," Chia Cheng rejoined eagerly, as
he laughed, "but if I do guess right, I must in like manner receive a

"This goes without saying!" dowager lady Chia added; whereupon she went
on to recite:

The monkey's body gently rests on the tree top!

"This refers," she said, "to the name of a fruit."

Chia Cheng was already aware that it was a lichee, but he designedly
made a few guesses at random, and was fined several things; but he
subsequently gave, at length, the right answer, and also obtained a
present from her ladyship.

In due course he too set forth this conundrum for old lady Chia to

Correct its body is in appearance,
Both firm and solid is it in substance;
To words, it is true, it cannot give vent,
But spoken to, it always does assent.

When he had done reciting it, he communicated the answer in an undertone
to Pao-y; and Pao-y fathoming what his intention was, gently too told
his grandmother Chia, and her ladyship finding, after some reflection,
that there was really no mistake about it, readily remarked that it was
an inkslab.

"After all," Chia Cheng smiled; "Your venerable ladyship it is who can
hit the right answer with one guess!" and turning his head round, "Be
quick," he cried, "and bring the prizes and present them!" whereupon the
married women and waiting-maids below assented with one voice, and they
simultaneously handed up the large trays and small boxes.

Old lady Chia passed the things, one by one, under inspection; and
finding that they consisted of various kinds of articles, novel and
ingenious, of use and of ornament, in vogue during the lantern festival,
her heart was so deeply elated that with alacrity she shouted, "Pour a
glass of wine for your master!"

Pao-y took hold of the decanter, while Ying Ch'un presented the cup of

"Look on that screen!" continued dowager lady Chia, "all those riddles
have been written by the young ladies; so go and guess them for my

Chia Cheng signified his obedience, and rising and walking up to the
front of the screen, he noticed the first riddle, which was one composed
by the Imperial consort Yan, in this strain:

The pluck of devils to repress in influence it abounds,
Like bound silk is its frame, and like thunder its breath resounds.
But one report rattles, and men are lo! in fear and dread;
Transformed to ashes 'tis what time to see you turn the head.

"Is this a cracker?" Chia Cheng inquired.

"It is," Pao-y assented.

Chia Cheng then went on to peruse that of Ying-Ch'un's, which referred
to an article of use:

Exhaustless is the principle of heavenly calculations and of human
Skill may exist, but without proper practice the result to find hard
will be!
Whence cometh all this mixed confusion on a day so still?
Simply it is because the figures Yin and Yang do not agree.

"It's an abacus," Chia Cheng observed.

"Quite so!" replied Ying Ch'un smiling; after which they also conned the
one below, by T'an-ch'un, which ran thus and had something to do with an

This is the time when 'neath the stairs the pages their heads raise!
The term of "pure brightness" is the meetest time this thing to make!
The vagrant silk it snaps, and slack, without tension it strays!
The East wind don't begrudge because its farewell it did take!

"It would seem," Chia Cheng suggested, "as if that must be a kite!"

"It is," answered T'an C'h'un; whereupon Chia Cheng read the one below,
which was written by Tai-y to this effect and bore upon some thing:

After the audience, his two sleeves who brings with fumes replete?
Both by the lute and in the quilt, it lacks luck to abide!
The dawn it marks; reports from cock and man renders effete!
At midnight, maids no trouble have a new one to provide!
The head, it glows during the day, as well as in the night!
Its heart, it burns from day to day and 'gain from year to year!
Time swiftly flies and mete it is that we should hold it dear!
Changes might come, but it defies wind, rain, days dark or bright!

"Isn't this a scented stick to show the watch?" Chia Cheng inquired.

"Yes!" assented Pao-y, speaking on Tai-y's behalf; and Chia Cheng
thereupon prosecuted the perusal of a conundrum, which ran as follows,
and referred to an object;

With the South, it sits face to face,
And the North, the while, it doth face;
If the figure be sad, it also is sad,
If the figure be glad, it likewise is glad!

"Splendid! splendid!" exclaimed Chia Cheng, "my guess is that it's a
looking-glass. It's excellently done!"

Pao-y smiled. "It is a looking glass!" he rejoined.

"This is, however, anonymous; whose work is it?" Chia Cheng went on to
ask, and dowager lady Chia interposed: "This, I fancy, must have been
composed by Pao-y," and Chia Cheng then said not a word, but continued
reading the following conundrum, which was that devised by Pao-ch'ai, on
some article or other:

Eyes though it has; eyeballs it has none, and empty 'tis inside!
The lotus flowers out of the water peep, and they with gladness meet,
But when dryandra leaves begin to drop, they then part and divide,
For a fond pair they are, but, united, winter they cannot greet.

When Chia Cheng finished scanning it, he gave way to reflection. "This
object," he pondered, "must surely be limited in use! But for persons of
tender years to indulge in all this kind of language, would seem to be
still less propitious; for they cannot, in my views, be any of them the
sort of people to enjoy happiness and longevity!" When his reflections
reached this point, he felt the more dejected, and plainly betrayed a
sad appearance, and all he did was to droop his head and to plunge in a
brown study.

But upon perceiving the frame of mind in which Chia Cheng was, dowager
lady Chia arrived at the conclusion that he must be fatigued; and
fearing, on the other hand, that if she detained him, the whole party of
young ladies would lack the spirit to enjoy themselves, she there and
then faced Chia Cheng and suggested: "There's no need really for you to
remain here any longer, and you had better retire to rest; and let us
sit a while longer; after which, we too will break up!"

As soon as Chia Cheng caught this hint, he speedily assented several
consecutive yes's; and when he had further done his best to induce old
lady Chia to have a cup of wine, he eventually withdrew out of the Hall.
On his return to his bedroom, he could do nothing else than give way to
cogitation, and, as he turned this and turned that over in his mind, he
got still more sad and pained.

"Amuse yourselves now!" readily exclaimed dowager lady Chia, during this
while, after seeing Chia Cheng off; but this remark was barely finished,
when she caught sight of Pao-y run up to the lantern screen, and give
vent, as he gesticulated with his hands and kicked his feet about, to
any criticisms that first came to his lips. "In this," he remarked,
"this line isn't happy; and that one, hasn't been suitably solved!"
while he behaved just like a monkey, whose fetters had been let loose.

"Were the whole party after all," hastily ventured Tai-y, "to sit down,
as we did a short while back and chat and laugh; wouldn't that be more
in accordance with good manners?"

Lady Feng thereupon egressed from the room in the inner end and
interposed her remarks. "Such a being as you are," she said, "shouldn't
surely be allowed by Mr. Chia Cheng, an inch or a step from his side,
and then you'll be all right. But just then it slipped my memory, for
why didn't I, when your father was present, instigate him to bid you
compose a rhythmical enigma; and you would, I have no doubt, have been
up to this moment in a state of perspiration!"

At these words, Pao-y lost all patience, and laying hold of lady Feng,
he hustled her about for a few moments.

But old lady Chia went on for some time to bandy words with Li
Kung-ts'ai, with the whole company of young ladies and the rest, so that
she, in fact, felt considerably tired and worn out; and when she heard
that the fourth watch had already drawn nigh, she consequently issued
directions that the eatables should be cleared away and given to the
crowd of servants, and suggested, as she readily rose to her feet, "Let
us go and rest! for the next day is also a feast, and we must get up at
an early hour; and to-morrow evening we can enjoy ourselves again!"
whereupon the whole company dispersed.

But now, reader, listen to the sequel given in the chapter which


Pao-y and Tai-y make use of some beautiful passages from the Record
of the Western Side-building to bandy jokes.
The excellent ballads sung in the Peony Pavilion touch the tender
heart of Tai-y.

Soon after the day on which Chia Yuan-ch'un honoured the garden of Broad
Vista with a visit, and her return to the Palace, so our story goes, she
forthwith desired that T'an-ch'un should make a careful copy, in
consecutive order, of the verses, which had been composed and read out
on that occasion, in order that she herself should assign them their
rank, and adjudge the good and bad. And she also directed that an
inscription should be engraved on a stone, in the Broad Vista park, to
serve in future years as a record of the pleasant and felicitous event;
and Chia Cheng, therefore, gave orders to servants to go far and wide,
and select skilful artificers and renowned workmen, to polish the stone
and engrave the characters in the garden of Broad Vista; while Chia Chen
put himself at the head of Chia Jung, Chia P'ing and others to
superintend the work. And as Chia Se had, on the other hand, the control
of Wen Kuan and the rest of the singing girls, twelve in all, as well as
of their costumes and other properties, he had no leisure to attend to
anything else, and consequently once again sent for Chia Ch'ang and Chia
Ling to come and act as overseers.

On a certain day, the works were taken in hand for rubbing the stones
smooth with wax, for carving the inscription, and tracing it with
vermilion, but without entering into details on these matters too
minutely, we will return to the two places, the Yu Huang temple and the
Ta Mo monastery. The company of twelve young bonzes and twelve young
Taoist priests had now moved out of the Garden of Broad Vista, and Chia
Cheng was meditating upon distributing them to various temples to live
apart, when unexpectedly Chia Ch'in's mother, ne Chou,--who resided in
the back street, and had been at the time contemplating to pay a visit
to Chia Cheng on this side so as to obtain some charge, be it either
large or small, for her son to look after, that he too should be put in
the way of turning up some money to meet his expenses with,--came, as
luck would have it, to hear that some work was in hand in this mansion,
and lost no time in driving over in a curricle and making her appeal to
lady Feng. And as lady Feng remembered that she had all along not
presumed on her position to put on airs, she willingly acceded to her
request, and after calling to memory some suitable remarks, she at once
went to make her report to madame Wang: "These young bonzes and Taoist
priests," she said, "can by no means be sent over to other places; for
were the Imperial consort to come out at an unexpected moment, they
would then be required to perform services; and in the event of their
being scattered, there will, when the time comes to requisition their
help, again be difficulties in the way; and my idea is that it would be
better to send them all to the family temple, the Iron Fence Temple; and
every month all there will be to do will be to depute some one to take
over a few taels for them to buy firewood and rice with, that's all, and
when there's even a sound of their being required uttered, some one can
at once go and tell them just one word 'come,' and they will come
without the least trouble!"

Madame Wang gave a patient ear to this proposal, and, in due course,
consulted with Chia Cheng.

"You've really," smiled Chia Cheng at these words, "reminded me how I
should act! Yes, let this be done!" And there and then he sent for Chia

Chia Lien was, at the time, having his meal with lady Feng, but as soon
as he heard that he was wanted, he put by his rice and was just walking
off, when lady Feng clutched him and pulled him back. "Wait a while,"
she observed with a smirk, "and listen to what I've got to tell you! if
it's about anything else, I've nothing to do with it; but if it be about
the young bonzes and young Taoists, you must, in this particular matter,
please comply with this suggestion of mine," after which, she went on in
this way and that way to put him up to a whole lot of hints.

"I know nothing about it," Chia Lien rejoined smilingly, "and as you
have the knack you yourself had better go and tell him!"

But as soon as lady Feng heard this remark, she stiffened her head and
threw down the chopsticks; and, with an expression on her cheeks, which
looked like a smile and yet not a smile, she glanced angrily at Chia
Lien. "Are you speaking in earnest," she inquired, "or are you only

"Yn Erh, the son of our fifth sister-in-law of the western porch, has
come and appealed to me two or three times, asking for something to look
after," Chia Lien laughed, "and I assented and bade him wait; and now,
after a great deal of trouble, this job has turned up; and there you are
once again snatching it away!"

"Compose your mind," lady Feng observed grinning, "for the Imperial
Consort has hinted that directions should be given for the planting, in
the north-east corner of the park, of a further plentiful supply of pine
and cedar trees, and that orders should also be issued for the addition,
round the base of the tower, of a large number of flowers and plants and
such like; and when this job turns up, I can safely tell you that Yun
Erh will be called to assume control of these works."

"Well if that be really so," Chia Lien rejoined, "it will after all do!
But there's only one thing; all I was up to last night was simply to
have some fun with you, but you obstinately and perversely wouldn't."

Lady Feng, upon hearing these words, burst out laughing with a sound of
Ch'ih, and spurting disdainfully at Chia Lien, she lowered her head and
went on at once with her meal; during which time Chia Lien speedily
walked away laughing the while, and betook himself to the front, where
he saw Chia Cheng. It was, indeed, about the young bonzes, and Chia Lien
readily carried out lady Feng's suggestion. "As from all appearances,"
he continued, "Ch'in Erh has, actually, so vastly improved, this job
should, after all, be entrusted to his care and management; and provided
that in observance with the inside custom Ch'in Erh were each day told
to receive the advances, things will go on all right." And as Chia Cheng
had never had much attention to give to such matters of detail, he, as
soon as he heard what Chia Lien had to say, immediately signified his
approval and assent. And Chia Lien, on his return to his quarters,
communicated the issue to lady Feng; whereupon lady Feng at once sent
some one to go and notify dame Chou.

Chia Ch'in came, in due course, to pay a visit to Chia Lien and his
wife, and was incessant in his expressions of gratitude; and lady Feng
bestowed upon him a further favour by giving him, as a first instalment,
an advance of the funds necessary for three months' outlay, for which
she bade him write a receipt; while Chia Lien filled up a cheque and
signed it; and a counter-order was simultaneously issued, and he came
out into the treasury where the sum specified for three months'
supplies, amounting to three hundred taels, was paid out in pure ingots.

Chia Ch'in took the first piece of silver that came under his hand, and
gave it to the men in charge of the scales, with which he told them to
have a cup of tea, and bidding, shortly after, a boy-servant take the
money to his home, he held consultation with his mother; after which, he
hired a donkey for himself to ride on, and also bespoke several
carriages, and came to the back gate of the Jung Kuo mansion; where
having called out the twenty young priests, they got into the carriages,
and sped straightway beyond the city walls, to the Temple of the Iron
Fence, where nothing of any note transpired at the time.

But we will now notice Chia Yan-ch'un, within the precincts of the
Palace. When she had arranged the verses composed in the park of Broad
Vista in their order of merit, she suddenly recollected that the sights
in the garden were sure, ever since her visit through them, to be
diligently and respectfully kept locked up by her father and mother; and
that by not allowing any one to go in was not an injustice done to this
garden? "Besides," (she pondered), "in that household, there are at
present several young ladies, capable of composing odes, and able to
write poetry, and why should not permission be extended to them to go
and take their quarters in it; in order too that those winsome persons
might not be deprived of good cheer, and that the flowers and willows
may not lack any one to admire them!"

But remembering likewise that Pao-y had from his infancy grown up among
that crowd of female cousins, and was such a contrast to the rest of his
male cousins that were he not allowed to move into it, he would, she
also apprehended, be made to feel forlorn; and dreading lest his
grandmother and his mother should be displeased at heart, she thought it
imperative that he too should be permitted to take up his quarters
inside, so that things should be put on a satisfactory footing; and
directing the eunuch Hsia Chung to go to the Jung mansion and deliver
her commands, she expressed the wish that Pao-ch'ai and the other girls
should live in the garden and that it should not be kept closed, and
urged that Pao-y should also shift into it, at his own pleasure, for
the prosecution of his studies. And Chia Cheng and madame Wang, upon
receiving her commands, hastened, after the departure of Hsia Chung, to
explain them to dowager lady Chia, and to despatch servants into the
garden to tidy every place, to dust, to sweep, and to lay out the
portieres and bed-curtains. The tidings were heard by the rest even with
perfect equanimity, but Pao-y was immoderately delighted; and he was
engaged in deliberation with dowager lady Chia as to this necessary and
to that requirement, when suddenly they descried a waiting-maid arrive,
who announced: "Master wishes to see Pao-y."

Pao-y gazed vacantly for a while. His spirits simultaneously were swept
away; his countenance changed colour; and clinging to old lady Chia, he
readily wriggled her about, just as one would twist the sugar (to make
sweetmeats with), and could not, for the very death of him, summon up
courage to go; so that her ladyship had no alternative but to try and
reassure him. "My precious darling" she urged, "just you go, and I'll
stand by you! He won't venture to be hard upon you; and besides, you've
devised these excellent literary compositions; and I presume as Her
Majesty has desired that you should move into the garden, his object is
to give you a few words of advice; simply because he fears that you
might be up to pranks in those grounds. But to all he tells you,
whatever you do, mind you acquiesce and it will be all right!"

And as she tried to compose him, she at the same time called two old
nurses and enjoined them to take Pao-y over with due care, "And don't
let his father," she added, "frighten him!"

The old nurses expressed their obedience, and Pao-y felt constrained to
walk ahead; and with one step scarcely progressing three inches, he
leisurely came over to this side. Strange coincidence Chia Cheng was in
madame Wang's apartments consulting with her upon some matter or other,
and Chin Ch'uan-erh, Ts'ai Yun, Ts'ai Feng, Ts'ai Luan, Hsiu Feng and
the whole number of waiting-maids were all standing outside under the
verandah. As soon as they caught sight of Pao-y, they puckered up their
mouths and laughed at him; while Chin Ch'uan grasped Pao-y with one
hand, and remarked in a low tone of voice: "On these lips of mine has
just been rubbed cosmetic, soaked with perfume, and are you now inclined
to lick it or not?" whereupon Ts'ai Yn pushed off Chin Ch'uan with one
shove, as she interposed laughingly, "A person's heart is at this moment
in low spirits and do you still go on cracking jokes at him? But avail
yourself of this opportunity when master is in good cheer to make haste
and get in!"

Pao-y had no help but to sidle against the door and walk in. Chia Cheng
and madame Wang were, in fact, both in the inner rooms, and dame Chou
raised the portire. Pao-y stepped in gingerly and perceived Chia Cheng
and madame Wang sitting opposite to each other, on the stove-couch,
engaged in conversation; while below on a row of chairs sat Ying Ch'un,
T'an Ch'un, Hsi Ch'un and Chia Huan; but though all four of them were
seated in there only T'an Ch'un, Hsi Ch'un and Chia Huan rose to their
feet, as soon as they saw him make his appearance in the room; and when
Chia Cheng raised his eyes and noticed Pao-y standing in front of him,
with a gait full of ease and with those winsome looks of his, so
captivating, he once again realised what a mean being Chia Huan was, and
how coarse his deportment. But suddenly he also bethought himself of
Chia Chu, and as he reflected too that madame Wang had only this son of
her own flesh and blood, upon whom she ever doated as upon a gem, and
that his own beard had already begun to get hoary, the consequence was
that he unwittingly stifled, well nigh entirely, the feeling of hatred
and dislike, which, during the few recent years he had ordinarily
fostered towards Pao-y. And after a long pause, "Her Majesty," he
observed, "bade you day after day ramble about outside to disport
yourself, with the result that you gradually became remiss and lazy; but
now her desire is that we should keep you under strict control, and that
in prosecuting your studies in the company of your cousins in the
garden, you should carefully exert your brains to learn; so that if you
don't again attend to your duties, and mind your regular tasks, you had
better be on your guard!" Pao-y assented several consecutive yes's;
whereupon madame Wang drew him by her side and made him sit down, and
while his three cousins resumed the seats they previously occupied:
"Have you finished all the pills you had been taking a short while
back?" madame Wang inquired, as she rubbed Pao-y's neck.

"There's still one pill remaining," Pao-y explained by way of reply.

"You had better," madame Wang added, "fetch ten more pills tomorrow
morning; and every day about bedtime tell Hsi Jen to give them to you;
and when you've had one you can go to sleep!"

"Ever since you, mother, bade me take them," Pao-y rejoined, "Hsi Jen
has daily sent me one, when I was about to turn in."

"Who's this called Hsi Jen?" Chia Chen thereupon ascertained.

"She's a waiting-maid!" madame Wang answered.

"A servant girl," Chia Cheng remonstrated, "can be called by whatever
name one chooses; anything is good enough; but who's it who has started
this kind of pretentious name!"

Madame Wang noticed that Chia Cheng was not in a happy frame of mind, so
that she forthwith tried to screen matters for Pao-y, by saying: "It's
our old lady who has originated it!"

"How can it possibly be," Chia Cheng exclaimed, "that her ladyship knows
anything about such kind of language? It must, for a certainty, be

Pao-y perceiving that he could not conceal the truth from him, was
under the necessity of standing up and of explaining; "As I have all
along read verses, I remembered the line written by an old poet:

"What time the smell of flowers wafts itself into man, one knows the
day is warm.

"And as this waiting-maid's surname was Hua (flower), I readily gave her
the name, on the strength of this sentiment."

"When you get back," madame Wang speedily suggested addressing Pao-y,
"change it and have done; and you, sir, needn't lose your temper over
such a trivial matter!"

"It doesn't really matter in the least," Chia Cheng continued; "so that
there's no necessity of changing it; but it's evident that Pao-y
doesn't apply his mind to legitimate pursuits, but mainly devotes his
energies to such voluptuous expressions and wanton verses!" And as he
finished these words, he abruptly shouted out: "You brute-like child of
retribution! Don't you yet get out of this?"

"Get away, off with you!" madame Wang in like manner hastened to urge;
"our dowager lady is waiting, I fear, for you to have her repast!"

Pao-y assented, and, with gentle step, he withdrew out of the room,
laughing at Chin Ch'uan-erh, as he put out his tongue; and leading off
the two nurses, he went off on his way like a streak of smoke. But no
sooner had he reached the door of the corridor than he espied Hsi Jen
standing leaning against the side; who perceiving Pao-y come back safe
and sound heaped smile upon smile, and asked: "What did he want you

"There was nothing much," Pao-y explained, "he simply feared that I
would, when I get into the garden, be up to mischief, and he gave me all
sorts of advice;" and, as while he explained matters, they came into the
presence of lady Chia, he gave her a clear account, from first to last,
of what had transpired. But when he saw that Lin Tai-y was at the
moment in the room, Pao-y speedily inquired of her: "Which place do you
think best to live in?"

Tai-y had just been cogitating on this subject, so that when she
unexpectedly heard Pao-y's inquiry, she forthwith rejoined with a
smile: "My own idea is that the Hsio Hsiang Kuan is best; for I'm fond
of those clusters of bamboos, which hide from view the tortuous
balustrade and make the place more secluded and peaceful than any

Pao-y at these words clapped his hands and smiled. "That just meets
with my own views!" he remarked; "I too would like you to go and live in
there; and as I am to stay in the I Hung Yuan, we two will be, in the
first place, near each other; and next, both in quiet and secluded

While the two of them were conversing, a servant came, sent over by Chia
Cheng, to report to dowager lady Chia that: "The 22nd of the second moon
was a propitious day for Pao-y and the young ladies to shift their
quarters into the garden; that during these few days, servants should be
sent in to put things in their proper places and to clean; that Hsueh
Pao-ch'ai should put up in the Heng Wu court; that Lin Tai-y was to
live in the Hsiao Hsiang lodge; that Chia Ying-ch'un should move into
the Cho Chin two-storied building; that T'an Ch'un should put up in the
Ch'iu Yen library; that Hsi Ch'un should take up her quarters in the
Liao Feng house; that widow Li should live in the Tao Hsiang village,
and that Pao-y was to live in the I Hung court. That at every place two
old nurses should be added and four servant-girls; that exclusive of the
nurse and personal waiting-maid of each, there should, in addition, be
servants, whose special duties should be to put things straight and to
sweep the place; and that on the 22nd, they should all, in a body, move
into the garden."

When this season drew near, the interior of the grounds, with the
flowers waving like embroidered sashes, and the willows fanned by the
fragrant breeze, was no more as desolate and silent as it had been in
previous days; but without indulging in any further irrelevant details,
we shall now go back to Pao-y.

Ever since he shifted his quarters into the park, his heart was full of
joy, and his mind of contentment, fostering none of those extraordinary
ideas, whose tendency could be to give birth to longings and hankerings.
Day after day, he simply indulged, in the company of his female cousins
and the waiting-maids, in either reading his books, or writing
characters, or in thrumming the lute, playing chess, drawing pictures
and scanning verses, even in drawing patterns of argus pheasants, in
embroidering phoenixes, contesting with them in searching for strange
plants, and gathering flowers, in humming poetry with gentle tone,
singing ballads with soft voice, dissecting characters, and in playing
at mora, so that, being free to go everywhere and anywhere, he was of
course completely happy. From his pen emanate four ballads on the times
of the four seasons, which, although they could not be looked upon as
first-rate, afford anyhow a correct idea of his sentiments, and a true
account of the scenery.

The ballad on the spring night runs as follows:

The silken curtains, thin as russet silk, at random are spread out.
The croak of frogs from the adjoining lane but faintly strikes the
The pillow a slight chill pervades, for rain outside the window falls.
The landscape, which now meets the eye, is like that seen in dreams by
In plenteous streams the candles' tears do drop, but for whom do they
Each particle of grief felt by the flowers is due to anger against me.
It's all because the maids have by indulgence indolent been made.
The cover over me I'll pull, as I am loth to laugh and talk for long.

This is the description of the aspect of nature on a summer night:

The beauteous girl, weary of needlework, quiet is plunged in a long
The parrot in the golden cage doth shout that it is time the tea to
The lustrous windows with the musky moon like open palace-mirrors
The room abounds with fumes of sandalwood and all kinds of imperial
From the cups made of amber is poured out the slippery dew from the
The banisters of glass, the cool zephyr enjoy flapped by the willow
In the stream-spanning kiosk, the curtains everywhere all at one time
do wave.
In the vermilion tower the blinds the maidens roll, for they have made
the night's toilette.

The landscape of an autumnal evening is thus depicted:

In the interior of the Chiang Yn house are hushed all clamorous din
and noise.
The sheen, which from Selene flows, pervades the windows of carnation
The moss-locked, streaked rocks shelter afford to the cranes, plunged
in sleep.
The dew, blown on the t'ung tree by the well, doth wet the roosting
Wrapped in a quilt, the maid comes the gold phoenix coverlet to
The girl, who on the rails did lean, on her return drops the
kingfisher flowers!
This quiet night his eyes in sleep he cannot close, as he doth long
for wine.
The smoke is stifled, and the fire restirred, when tea is ordered to
be brewed.

The picture of a winter night is in this strain:

The sleep of the plum trees, the dream of the bamboos the third watch
have already reached.
Under the embroidered quilt and the kingfisher coverlet one can't
sleep for the cold.
The shadow of fir trees pervades the court, but cranes are all that
meet the eye.
Both far and wide the pear blossom covers the ground, but yet the hawk
cannot be heard.
The wish, verses to write, fostered by the damsel with the green
sleeves, has waxd cold.
The master, with the gold sable pelisse, cannot endure much wine.
But yet he doth rejoice that his attendant knows the way to brew the
The newly-fallen snow is swept what time for tea the water must be

But putting aside Pao-y, as he leisurely was occupied in scanning some
verses, we will now allude to all these ballads. There lived, at that
time, a class of people, whose wont was to servilely court the
influential and wealthy, and who, upon perceiving that the verses were
composed by a young lad of the Jung Kuo mansion, of only twelve or
thirteen years of age, had copies made, and taking them outside sang
their praise far and wide. There were besides another sort of
light-headed young men, whose heart was so set upon licentious and
seductive lines, that they even inscribed them on fans and screen-walls,
and time and again kept on humming them and extolling them. And to the
above reasons must therefore be ascribed the fact that persons came in
search of stanzas and in quest of manuscripts, to apply for sketches and
to beg for poetical compositions, to the increasing satisfaction of
Pao-y, who day after day, when at home, devoted his time and attention
to these extraneous matters. But who would have anticipated that he
could ever in his quiet seclusion have become a prey to a spirit of
restlessness? Of a sudden, one day he began to feel discontent, finding
fault with this and turning up his nose at that; and going in and coming
out he was simply full of ennui. And as all the girls in the garden were
just in the prime of youth, and at a time of life when, artless and
unaffected, they sat and reclined without regard to retirement, and
disported themselves and joked without heed, how could they ever have
come to read the secrets which at this time occupied a place in the
heart of Pao-y? But so unhappy was Pao-y within himself that he soon
felt loth to stay in the garden, and took to gadding about outside like
an evil spirit; but he behaved also the while in an idiotic manner.

Ming Yen, upon seeing him go on in this way, felt prompted, with the
idea of affording his mind some distraction, to think of this and to
devise that expedient; but everything had been indulged in with surfeit
by Pao-y, and there was only this resource, (that suggested itself to
him,) of which Pao-y had not as yet had any experience. Bringing his
reflections to a close, he forthwith came over to a bookshop, and
selecting novels, both of old and of the present age, traditions
intended for outside circulation on Fei Yen, Ho Te, Wu Tse-t'ien, and
Yang Kuei-fei, as well as books of light literature consisting of
strange legends, he purchased a good number of them with the express
purpose of enticing Pao-y to read them. As soon as Pao-y caught sight
of them, he felt as if he had obtained some gem or jewel. "But you
mustn't," Ming Yen went on to enjoin him, "take them into the garden;
for if any one were to come to know anything about them, I shall then
suffer more than I can bear; and you should, when you go along, hide
them in your clothes!"

But would Pao-y agree to not introducing them into the garden? So after
much wavering, he picked out only several volumes of those whose style
was more refined, and took them in, and threw them over the top of his
bed for him to peruse when no one was present; while those coarse and
very indecent ones, he concealed in a bundle in the outer library.

On one day, which happened to be the middle decade of the third moon,
Pao-y, after breakfast, took a book, the "Hui Chen Chi," in his hand
and walked as far as the bridge of the Hsin Fang lock. Seating himself
on a block of rock, that lay under the peach trees in that quarter, he
opened the Hui Chen Chi and began to read it carefully from the
beginning. But just as he came to the passage: "the falling red
(flowers) have formed a heap," he felt a gust of wind blow through the
trees, bringing down a whole bushel of peach blossoms; and, as they
fell, his whole person, the entire surface of the book as well as a
large extent of ground were simply bestrewn with petals of the blossoms.
Pao-y was bent upon shaking them down; but as he feared lest they
should be trodden under foot, he felt constrained to carry the petals in
his coat and walk to the bank of the pond and throw them into the
stream. The petals floated on the surface of the water, and, after
whirling and swaying here and there, they at length ran out by the Hsin
Fang lock. But, on his return under the tree, he found the ground again
one mass of petals, and Pao-y was just hesitating what to do, when he
heard some one behind his back inquire, "What are you up to here?" and
as soon as Pao-y turned his head round, he discovered that it was Lin
Tai-y, who had come over carrying on her shoulder a hoe for raking
flowers, that on this hoe was suspended a gauze-bag, and that in her
hand she held a broom.

"That's right, well done!" Pao-y remarked smiling; "come and sweep
these flowers, and throw them into the water yonder. I've just thrown a
lot in there myself!"

"It isn't right," Lin Tai-y rejoined, "to throw them into the water.
The water, which you see, is clean enough here, but as soon as it finds
its way out, where are situated other people's grounds, what isn't there
in it? so that you would be misusing these flowers just as much as if
you left them here! But in that corner, I have dug a hole for flowers,
and I'll now sweep these and put them into this gauze-bag and bury them
in there; and, in course of many days, they will also become converted
into earth, and won't this be a clean way (of disposing of them)?"

Pao-y, after listening to these words, felt inexpressibly delighted.
"Wait!" he smiled, "until I put down my book, and I'll help you to clear
them up!"

"What's the book?" Tai-y inquired.

Pao-y at this question was so taken aback that he had no time to
conceal it. "It's," he replied hastily, "the Chung Yung and the Ta

"Are you going again to play the fool with me? Be quick and give it to
me to see; and this will be ever so much better a way!"

"Cousin," Pao-y replied, "as far as you yourself are concerned I don't
mind you, but after you've seen it, please don't tell any one else. It's
really written in beautiful style; and were you to once begin reading
it, why even for your very rice you wouldn't have a thought?"

As he spoke, he handed it to her; and Tai-y deposited all the flowers
on the ground, took over the book, and read it from the very first page;
and the more she perused it, she got so much the more fascinated by it,
that in no time she had finished reading sixteen whole chapters. But
aroused as she was to a state of rapture by the diction, what remained
even of the fascination was enough to overpower her senses; and though
she had finished reading, she nevertheless continued in a state of
abstraction, and still kept on gently recalling the text to mind, and
humming it to herself.

"Cousin, tell me is it nice or not?" Pao-y grinned.

"It is indeed full of zest!" Lin Tai-y replied exultingly.

"I'm that very sad and very sickly person," Pao-y explained laughing,
"while you are that beauty who could subvert the empire and overthrow
the city."

Lin Tai-y became, at these words, unconsciously crimson all over her
cheeks, even up to her very ears; and raising, at the same moment, her
two eyebrows, which seemed to knit and yet not to knit, and opening wide
those eyes, which seemed to stare and yet not to stare, while her
peach-like cheeks bore an angry look and on her thin-skinned face lurked
displeasure, she pointed at Pao-y and exclaimed: "You do deserve death,
for the rubbish you talk! without any provocation you bring up these
licentious expressions and wanton ballads to give vent to all this
insolent rot, in order to insult me; but I'll go and tell uncle and

As soon as she pronounced the two words "insult me," her eyeballs at
once were suffused with purple, and turning herself round she there and
then walked away; which filled Pao-y with so much distress that he
jumped forward to impede her progress, as he pleaded: "My dear cousin, I
earnestly entreat you to spare me this time! I've indeed said what I
shouldn't; but if I had any intention to insult you, I'll throw myself
to-morrow into the pond, and let the scabby-headed turtle eat me up, so
that I become transformed into a large tortoise. And when you shall have
by and by become the consort of an officer of the first degree, and you
shall have fallen ill from old age and returned to the west, I'll come
to your tomb and bear your stone tablet for ever on my back!"

As he uttered these words, Lin Tai-y burst out laughing with a sound of
"pu ch'ih," and rubbing her eyes, she sneeringly remarked: "I too can
come out with this same tune; but will you now still go on talking
nonsense? Pshaw! you're, in very truth, like a spear-head, (which looks)
like silver, (but is really soft as) wax!"

"Go on, go on!" Pao-y smiled after this remark; "and what you've said,
I too will go and tell!"

"You maintain," Lin Tai-y rejoined sarcastically, "that after glancing
at anything you're able to recite it; and do you mean to say that I
can't even do so much as take in ten lines with one gaze?"

Pao-y smiled and put his book away, urging: "Let's do what's right and
proper, and at once take the flowers and bury them; and don't let us
allude to these things!"

Forthwith the two of them gathered the fallen blossoms; but no sooner
had they interred them properly than they espied Hsi Jen coming, who
went on to observe: "Where haven't I looked for you? What! have you
found your way as far as this! But our senior master, Mr. Chia She, over
there isn't well; and the young ladies have all gone over to pay their
respects, and our old lady has asked that you should be sent over; so go
back at once and change your clothes!"

When Pao-y heard what she said, he hastily picked up his books, and
saying good bye to Tai-y, he came along with Hsi Jen, back into his
room, where we will leave him to effect the necessary change in his
costume. But during this while, Lin Tai-y was, after having seen Pao-y
walk away, and heard that all her cousins were likewise not in their
rooms, wending her way back alone, in a dull and dejected mood, towards
her apartment, when upon reaching the outside corner of the wall of the
Pear Fragrance court, she caught, issuing from inside the walls, the
harmonious strains of the fife and the melodious modulations of voices
singing. Lin Tai-y readily knew that it was the twelve singing-girls
rehearsing a play; and though she did not give her mind to go and
listen, yet a couple of lines were of a sudden blown into her ears, and
with such clearness, that even one word did not escape. Their burden was

These troth are beauteous purple and fine carmine flowers, which in
this way all round do bloom,
And all together lie ensconced along the broken well, and the
dilapidated wall!

But the moment Lin Tai-y heard these lines, she was, in fact, so
intensely affected and agitated that she at once halted and lending an
ear listened attentively to what they went on to sing, which ran thus:

A glorious day this is, and pretty scene, but sad I feel at heart!
Contentment and pleasure are to be found in whose family courts?

After overhearing these two lines, she unconsciously nodded her head,
and sighed, and mused in her own mind. "Really," she thought, "there is
fine diction even in plays! but unfortunately what men in this world
simply know is to see a play, and they don't seem to be able to enjoy
the beauties contained in them."

At the conclusion of this train of thought, she experienced again a
sting of regret, (as she fancied) she should not have given way to such
idle thoughts and missed attending to the ballads; but when she once
more came to listen, the song, by some coincidence, went on thus:

It's all because thy loveliness is like a flower and like the comely
That years roll swiftly by just like a running stream.

When this couplet struck Tai-yu's ear, her heart felt suddenly a prey to
excitement and her soul to emotion; and upon further hearing the words:

Alone you sit in the secluded inner rooms to self-compassion giving

--and other such lines, she became still more as if inebriated, and like
as if out of her head, and unable to stand on her feet, she speedily
stooped her body, and, taking a seat on a block of stone, she minutely
pondered over the rich beauty of the eight characters:

It's all because thy loveliness is like a flower and like the comely
That years roll swiftly by just like a running stream.

Of a sudden, she likewise bethought herself of the line:

Water flows away and flowers decay, for both no feelings have.

--which she had read some days back in a poem of an ancient writer, and
also of the passage:

When on the running stream the flowers do fall, spring then is past
and gone;

--and of:

Heaven (differs from) the human race,

--which also appeared in that work; and besides these, the lines, which
she had a short while back read in the Hsi Hiang Chi:

The flowers, lo, fall, and on their course the waters red do flow!
Petty misfortunes of ten thousand kinds (my heart assail!)

both simultaneously flashed through her memory; and, collating them all
together, she meditated on them minutely, until suddenly her heart was
stricken with pain and her soul fleeted away, while from her eyes
trickled down drops of tears. But while nothing could dispel her present
state of mind, she unexpectedly realised that some one from behind gave
her a tap; and, turning her head round to look, she found that it was a
young girl; but who it was, the next chapter will make known.


The drunken Chin Kang makes light of lucre and shows a preference for
The foolish girl mislays her handkerchief and arouses mutual thoughts.

But to return to our narrative. Lin Tai-y's sentimental reflections
were the while reeling and ravelling in an intricate maze, when
unexpectedly some one from behind gave her a tap, saying: "What are you
up to all alone here?" which took Lin Tai-yu so much by surprise that
she gave a start, and turning her head round to look and noticing that
it was Hsiang Ling and no one else; "You stupid girl!" Lin Tai-y
replied, "you've given me such a fright! But where do you come from at
this time?"

Hsiang Ling giggled and smirked. "I've come," she added, "in search of
our young lady, but I can't find her anywhere. But your Tzu Chuan is
also looking after you; and she says that lady Secunda has sent a
present to you of some tea. But you had better go back home and sit

As she spoke, she took Tai-y by the hand, and they came along back to
the Hsiao Hsiang Kuan; where lady Feng had indeed sent her two small
catties of a new season tea, of superior quality. But Lin Tai-y sat
down, in company with Hsiang Ling, and began to converse on the merits
of this tapestry and the fineness of that embroidery; and after they had
also had a game at chess, and read a few sentences out of a book, Hsiang
Ling took her departure. But we need not speak of either of them, but
return now to Pao-y. Having been found, and brought back home, by Hsi
Jen, he discovered Yuan Yang reclining on the bed, in the act of
examining Hsi Jen's needlework; but when she perceived Pao-y arrive,
she forthwith remarked: "Where have you been? her venerable ladyship is
waiting for you to tell you to go over and pay your obeisance to our
Senior master, and don't you still make haste to go and change your
clothes and be off!"

Hsi Jen at once walked into the room to fetch his clothes, and Pao-y
sat on the edge of the bed, and pushed his shoes off with his toes; and,
while waiting for his boots to put them on, he turned round and
perceiving that Yan Yang, who was clad in a light red silk jacket and a
green satin waistcoat, and girdled with a white crepe sash, had her face
turned the other way, and her head lowered giving her attention to the
criticism of the needlework, while round her neck she wore a collar with
embroidery, Pao-y readily pressed his face against the nape of her
neck, and as he sniffed the perfume about it, he did not stay his hand
from stroking her neck, which in whiteness and smoothness was not below
that of Hsi Jen; and as he approached her, "My dear girl," he said
smiling and with a drivelling face, "do let me lick the cosmetic off
your mouth!" clinging to her person, as he uttered these words, like
twisted sweetmeat.

"Hsi Jen!" cried Yan Yang at once, "come out and see! You've been with
him a whole lifetime, and don't you give him any advice; but let him
still behave in this fashion!" Whereupon, Hsi Jen walked out, clasping
the clothes, and turning to Pao-y, she observed, "I advise you in this
way and it's no good, I advise you in that way and you don't mend; and
what do you mean to do after all? But if you again behave like this, it
will then, in fact, be impossible for me to live any longer in this

As she tendered these words of counsel, she urged him to put his clothes
on, and, after he had changed, he betook himself, along with Yuan Yang,
to the front part of the mansion, and bade good-bye to dowager lady
Chia; after which he went outside, where the attendants and horses were
all in readiness; but when he was about to mount his steed, he perceived
Chia Lien back from his visit and in the act of dismounting; and as the
two of them stood face to face, and mutually exchanged some inquiries,
they saw some one come round from the side, and say: "My respects to
you, uncle Pao-y!"

When Pao-y came to look at him, he noticed that this person had an
oblong face, that his body was tall and lanky, that his age was only
eighteen or nineteen, and that he possessed, in real truth, an air of
refinement and elegance; but though his features were, after all,
exceedingly familiar, he could not recall to mind to what branch of the
family he belonged, and what his name was.

"What are you staring vacantly for?" Chia Lien inquired laughing.

"Don't you even recognise him? He's Yn Erh, the son of our fifth
sister-in-law, who lives in the back court!"

"Of course!" Pao-y assented complacently. "How is it that I had
forgotten just now!" And having gone on to ask how his mother was, and
what work he had to do at present; "I've come in search of uncle
Secundus, to tell him something," Chia Yn replied, as he pointed at
Chia Lien.

"You've really improved vastly from what you were before," added Pao-y
smiling; "you verily look just is if you were my son!"

"How very barefaced!" Chia Lien exclaimed as he burst out laughing;
"here's a person four or five years your senior to be made your son!"

"How far are you in your teens this year?" Pao-y inquired with a smile.

"Eighteen!" Chia Yn rejoined.

This Chia Yn was, in real deed, sharp and quick-witted; and when he
heard Pao-y remark that he looked like his son, he readily gave a
sarcastic smile and observed, "The proverb is true which says, 'the
grandfather is rocked in the cradle while the grandson leans on a
staff.' But though old enough in years, I'm nevertheless like a
mountain, which, in spite of its height, cannot screen the sun from
view. Besides, since my father's death, I've had no one to look after
me, and were you, uncle Pao, not to disdain your doltish nephew, and to
acknowledge me as your son, it would be your nephew's good fortune!"

"Have you heard what he said?" Chia Lien interposed cynically. "But to
acknowledge him as a son is no easy question to settle!" and with these
words, he walked in; whereupon Pao-y smilingly said: "To-morrow when
you have nothing to do, just come and look me up; but don't go and play
any devilish pranks with them! I've just now no leisure, so come
to-morrow, into the library, where I'll have a chat with you for a whole
day, and take you into the garden for some fun!"

With this remark still on his lips, he laid hold of the saddle and
mounted his horse; and, followed by the whole bevy of pages, he crossed
over to Chia She's on this side; where having discovered that Chia She
had nothing more the matter with him than a chill which he had suddenly
contracted, he commenced by delivering dowager lady Chia's message, and
next paid his own obeisance. Chia She, at first, stood up and made
suitable answer to her venerable ladyship's inquiries, and then calling
a servant, "Take the gentleman," he said, "into my lady's apartment to
sit down."

Pao-y withdrew out of the room, and came by the back to the upper
apartment; and as soon as madame Hsing caught sight of him, she, before
everything else, rose to her feet and asked after old lady Chia's
health; after which, Pao-y made his own salutation, and madame Hsing
drew him on to the stove-couch, where she induced him to take a seat,
and eventually inquired after the other inmates, and also gave orders to
serve the tea. But scarcely had they had tea, before they perceived Chia
Tsung come in to pay his respects to Pao-y.

"Where could one find such a living monkey as this!" madame Hsing
remarked; "is that nurse of yours dead and gone that she doesn't even
keep you clean and tidy, and that she lets you go about with those
eyebrows of yours so black and that mouth so filthy! you scarcely look
like the child of a great family of scholars."

While she spoke, she perceived both Chia Huan and Chia Lan, one of whom
was a young uncle and the other his nephew, also advance and present
their compliments, and madame Hsing bade the two of them sit down on the
chairs. But when Chia Huan noticed that Pao-y sat on the same rug with
madame Hsing, and that her ladyship was further caressing and petting
him in every possible manner, he soon felt so very unhappy at heart,
that, after sitting for a short time, he forthwith made a sign to Chia
Lan that he would like to go; and as Chia Lan could not but humour him,
they both got up together to take their leave. But when Pao-y perceived
them rise, he too felt a wish to go back along with them, but madame
Hsing remarked smilingly, "You had better sit a while as I've something
more to tell you," so that Pao-y had no alternative but to stay. "When
you get back," madame Hsing added, addressing the other two, "present,
each one of you, my regards to your respective mothers. The young
ladies, your cousins, are all here making such a row that my head is
dazed, so that I won't to-day keep you to have your repast here." To
which Chia Huan and Chia Lan assented and quickly walked out.

"If it be really the case that all my cousins have come over," Pao-y
ventured with a smirk, "how is it that I don't see them?"

"After sitting here for a while," madame Hsing explained, "they all went
at the back; but in what rooms they have gone, I don't know."

"My senior aunt, you said you had something to tell me, Pao-y observed;
what's it, I wonder?"

"What can there possibly be to tell you?" madame Hsing laughed; "it was
simply to make you wait and have your repast with the young ladies and
then go; but there's also a fine plaything that I'll give you to take
back to amuse yourself with."

These two, the aunt and her nephew, were going on with their colloquy
when, much to their surprise, it was time for dinner and the young
ladies were all invited to come. The tables and chairs were put in their
places, and the cups and plates were arranged in proper order; and,

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