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Hung Lou Meng, Book II by Cao Xueqin

Part 10 out of 14

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This is quite right! But you'd better let me go and make the proposal to
them and tell them to come and ascertain your wishes; and whatever your
answer then may be just entrust it to them."

This said, she sped into lady Feng's suite of rooms.

Lady Feng had long ago changed her attire, and availed herself of the
absence of any bystander in her apartments to confide the whole matter
to P'ing Erh.

P'ing Erh nodded her head and smiled. "According to my views, success is
not so certain," she observed. "She and I have often secretly talked
this matter over, and the arguments I heard her propound don't make it
the least probable that she'll consent. But all we can say now is:
'We'll see!'"

"Madame Hsing," lady Feng remarked, "is sure to come over here to
consult with me. If she has assented, well and good; but, if she hasn't,
she'll bring displeasure upon her own self, and won't she feel out of
countenance, if all of you are present? So tell the others to fry
several quails, and get anything nice, that goes well with them, and
prepare it for our repast, while you can go and stroll about in some
other spot, and return when you fancy she has gone."

Hearing this, P'ing Erh transmitted her wishes word for word to the
matrons; after which, she sauntered leisurely all alone, into the

When Yan Yang saw Madame Hsing depart, she concluded that she was bound
to go into lady Feng's rooms to consult with her, and that some one was
sure to come and ask her about the proposal, so thinking it advisable to
cross over to this side of the mansion to get out of the way, she
consequently repaired in quest of Hu Po.

"Should our old mistress," she said to her, "ask for me, just say that I
was so unwell that I couldn't even have any breakfast; that I've gone
into the garden for a stroll, but that I will be back at once."

Hu Po undertook to tell her so, and Yan Yang then betook herself too
into the garden. While lolling all over the place, she, contrary to her
expectations, encountered P'ing Erh. P'ing Erh looked round to see that
there was no one about. "Here comes the new secondary wife!" she
smilingly exclaimed.

Yan Yang caught this greeting, and promptly the colour rose to her
face. "How strange it is," she rejoined, "that you've all colluded
together to come, with one accord, and scheme against me! But wait until
I've had it out with your mistress, and then I'll set things all right."

When P'ing Erh observed the angry look on Yan Yang's countenance, her
conscience was so stricken with remorse, on account of the inconsiderate
remark she had passed, that drawing her under the maple tree, she made
her sit on the same boulder as herself, and then went so far as to
recount to her, from beginning to end, all that transpired, and
everything that was said on lady Feng's return, a short while back, from
the off mansion.

Blushes flew to Yan Yang's cheeks. Facing P'ing Erh, she gave a
sardonic smile. "We've all ever been friends," she said, "that is: Hsi
Jen, Hu Po, Su Yn, Tzu Chan, Ts'ai Hsia, Y Ch'uan, She Yeh, Ts'ui
Mo, Ts'ui L, who was in Miss Shih's service and is now gone, K'o Jen
and Chin Ch'uan, now deceased, Hsi Hseh, who left, and you and I. Ever
since our youth up, how many chats have the ten or dozen of us not had,
and what have we not been up to together? But now that we've grown up,
each of us has gone her own way! Yet, my heart is just what it was in
days gone by. Whenever there's anything for me to say or do, I don't try
to impose upon any of you; so just first treasure in your heart the
secret I'm going to tell you, and don't mention it to our lady Secunda!
Not to speak of our senior master wishing to make me his concubine, were
even our lady to die this very moment, and he to send endless
go-betweens, and countless betrothal presents, with the idea of wedding
me and taking me over as his lawful primary wife, I wouldn't also go."

P'ing Erh was at this point desirous to put in some observation, when
from behind the boulder became audible the loud tones of laughter. "You
most barefaced girl!" a voice cried. "It's well you're not afraid of
your teeth falling when you utter such things!"

These words reached the ears of both girls, and, so unawares were they
taken, that they got a regular start, and jumping up with all haste they
went to see behind the boulder. They found no one else than Hsi Jen, who
presented herself before them, with a smiling countenance, and asked:
"What's up? Do tell me!"

As she spoke, the trio seated themselves on a rock. P'ing Erh then
imparted to Hsi Jen as well the drift of their recent conversation.

"Properly speaking, we shouldn't pass such judgments," Hsi Jen remarked,
after listening to her confidences, "but this senior master of ours is
really a most licentious libertine. So much so, that whenever he comes
across a girl with any good looks about her, he won't let her out of his

"Since you don't like to entertain his offer," P'ing Erh suggested,
"I'll put you up to a plan."

"What plan is it?" Yan Yang inquired.

"Just simply tell our old mistress," P'ing Erh laughed, "this answer:
that you've already been promised to our master Secundus, Mr. Lien. Our
senior master then won't very well be able to be importunate.'"

"Ts'ui!" ejaculated Yan Yang. "What a thing you are! Do you still make
such suggestions? Didn't your mistress the other day utter this silly
nonsense! Who'd have thought it, her words have now come true!"

"If you won't have either of them," Hsi Jen smiled, "my idea is that you
should tell our old lady point blank and ask her to give out that she
promised you long ago to our master, number two, Pao-y. Our senior
master will then banish this fad from his mind."

Yan Yang was overcome with anger, shame and exasperation. "What
dreadful vixens both of you are!" she shouted. "You don't deserve a
natural death! I find myself in a fix, and treat you as decent sort of
persons and confide in you so that you should arrange matters for me;
and not to say that you don't bother yourselves a rap about me, you take
turn and turn about to poke fun at me! You're under the impression, in
your own minds, that your fates are sealed, and that both of you are
bound by and bye to become secondary wives; but I can't help thinking
that affairs under the heavens don't so certainly fall in always with
one's wishes and expectations! So you'd better now pull up a bit, and
not be cheeky to such an excessive degree!"

Both her companions then realised in what state of despair she was, and
promptly forcing a smile, "Dear sister," they said, "don't be so touchy!
We've been, ever since we were little mites, like very sisters! All
we've done is to spontaneously indulge in a little fun in a spot where
there's no one present. But tell us what you've decided to do, so that
we too should know, and set our minds at ease."

"Decided what?" Yan Yang cried. "All I know is that I won't go; that's

P'ing Erh shook her head. "You mightn't go," she interposed, "but it
isn't likely that the matter will drop. You're well aware what sort of
temperament that of our senior master's is. It's true that you're
attached to our old mistress' rooms, and that he can't, just at present,
presume to do the least thing to you; but can it be, forsooth, that
you'll be with the old dame for your whole lifetime? You'll also have to
leave to get married, and if you then fall into his hands, it won't go
well with you."

Yan Yang smiled ironically. "I won't leave this place so long as my old
lady lives!" Yan Yang protested. "In the event of her ladyship
departing this life, he'll have, under any circumstances, to also go
into mourning for three years; for there's no such thing as starting by
marrying a concubine, soon after a mother's death! And while he waits
for three years to expire, can one say what may not happen? It will be
time enough to talk about it when that date comes. But should I be
driven to despair from being hard pressed, I'll cut my hair off and
become a nun. If not, there's yet another thing: death! And as for a
whole life time I shall not join myself to a man, what joy will not then
be mine, for having managed to preserve my purity?"

"In very truth," P'ing Erh and Hsi Jen laughed, "this vixen has no sense
of shame! She has now more than ever spoken whatever came foremost to
her lips!"

"What matters a moment's shame," Yan Yang rejoined, "when things have
reached this juncture? But if you don't believe my words, well, you'll
be able to see by and bye; then you'll feel convinced. Madame Hsing said
a short while back that she was going to look up my father and mother,
but I'd like to see whether she'll proceed to Nanking to find them."

"Your parents are in Nanking looking after the houses," P'ing Erh said,
"and they can't come up; yet, in the long run, they can be found out.
Your elder brother and your sister-in-law are besides in here at
present. You, poor thing, are a child born in this establishment. You're
not like us two, who are solitary creatures here."

"What does it matter whether I be born here or not?" Yan Yang
exclaimed. "'You can lead a horse to a fountain, but you can't make him
drink!' So if I don't listen to any proposals, is it likely, may I ask,
that they'll kill my father and mother?" While the words were still on
her lips, they caught sight of her sister-in-law, advancing from the
opposite side. "As they couldn't at once get at your parents," Hsi Jen
remarked, "they've, for a certainty, told your sister-in-law."

"All this wench is good for," Yan Yang shouted, "is 'to rush about as
if selling camels in the six states!' If she heard what I said, she
won't feel flattered."

But while she spoke, her sister-in-law approached them. "Where didn't I
look for you?" her sister-in-law smilingly observed. "Have you, miss,
run over here? Come along with me; I've got something to tell you!"

P'ing Erh and Hsi Jen speedily motioned to her to sit down, but (Yan
Yang's) sister-in-law demurred. "Young ladies, pray be seated; I've come
in search of our girl to tell her something."

Hsi Jen and P'ing Erh feigned perfect ignorance. "What can it be that
it's so pressing?" they said with a smile. "We were engaged in guessing
puns here, so let's find out this, before you go."

"What do you want to tell me?" Yuan Yang inquired. "Speak out!"

"Follow me!" her sister-in-law laughed. "When we get over there, I'll
tell you. It's really some good tidings!"

"Is it perchance what Madame Hsing has told you?" Yan Yang asked.

"Since you, miss, know what it's all about," her sister-in-law added
smilingly, "what else remains for me to do? Be quick and come with me
and I'll explain everything. Verily, it's a piece of happiness as large
as the heavens!"

Yan Yang, at these words, rose to her feet and spat contemptuously with
all her might in her sister-in-law's face. Pointing at her: "Be quick,"
she cried abusively, "and stop that filthy tongue of yours! It would be
ever so much better, were you to bundle yourself away from this! What
good tidings and what piece of happiness! Little wonder is it that you
long and crave the whole day long to see other people's daughter turned
into a secondary wife as one and all of your family would rely upon her
to act contrary to reason and right! A whole household has been
converted into secondary wives! But the sight fills you with such keen
jealousy that you would like to also lay hold of me and throw me into
the pit-fire! If any honours fall to my share, all of you outside will
do everything disorderly and improper, and raise yourselves, in your own
estimations, to the status of uncles (and aunts). But if I don't get
any, and come to grief, you'll draw in your foul necks, and let me live
or die as I please!"

While indulging in this raillery, she gave vent to tears. P'ing Erh and
Hsi Jen did all they could to reason with her so as to prevent her from

Her sister-in-law felt quite out of countenance. "Whether you mean to
accept the proposal, or not," she consequently said, "you can anyhow
speak nicely. It isn't worth the while dragging this one in and
involving that one! The proverb adequately says: 'In the presence of a
dwarf one mustn't speak of dwarfish things!' Here you've been heaping
insult upon me, but I didn't presume to retaliate. These two young
ladies have however given you no provocation whatever; and yet by
referring, as you've done, in this way and that way to secondary wives
how can people stand it peacefully?"

"You shouldn't speak so!" Hsi Jen and P'ing Erh quickly remonstrated.
"She didn't allude to us; so don't be implicating others! Have you heard
of any ladies or gentlemen who'd like to raise us to the rank of
secondary wives? What's more, we two have neither father nor mother, nor
brothers, within these doors, to avail themselves of our positions to
act in a way contrary to right and reason! If she abuses people, let her
do so; it isn't worth our while to be touchy!"

"Seeing," Yan Yang resumed, "that the abuse I've heaped upon her head
has put her to such shame that she doesn't know where to go and screen
her face, she tries to egg you two on! But you two have, fortunately,
your wits about you! Though quite impatient, I never started arguing the
question; she it was who chose to speak just now."

Her sister-in-law felt inwardly much disconcerted, and beat a retreat in
high dudgeon. But Yan Yang so lost her temper that she still went on to
abuse her; and it was only after P'ing Erh and Hsi Jen had admonished
her for ever so long that she let the matter drop.

"What were you hiding there for?" P'ing Erh then asked Hsi Jen. "We
couldn't see anything of you."

"I went," Hsi Jen explained, "into Miss Quarta's rooms to see our Mr.
Pao-y, but, who'd have thought it, I got there a little too late, and
they told me that he had gone home. But my suspicions were, however,
aroused as I couldn't make out how it was that I hadn't come across him,
and I was about to go and hunt him up in Miss Lin's apartments, when I
met one of her servants who said that he hadn't been there either. Then
just as I was surmising that he must have gone out of the garden,
behold, you came, as luck would have it, from the opposite direction.
But I dodged you, so you didn't see anything of me. Subsequently, she
too appeared on the scene; but I got behind the boulder, from the back
of these trees. I, however, saw that you two had come to have a chat.
Strange to say, though you have four eyes between you, you never caught
a glimpse of me."

Scarcely had she concluded this remark, than they heard some one else
from behind, laughingly exclaim, "Four eyes never saw you, but your six
eyes haven't as yet found me out!"

The three girls received quite a shock from fright; but turning round,
they perceived that it was no other person than Pao-y.

Hsi Jen smiled, and was the first to speak. "You've made me have a good
search," she said. "Where do you hail from?"

"I was just leaving cousin Quarta's," Pao-y laughed, "when I noticed
you coming along, just in front of me; and knowing well enough that you
were bent upon finding me, I concealed myself to have a lark with you. I
saw you then go by, with uplifted head, enter the court, walk out again,
and ask every one you met on your way; but there I stood convulsed with
laughter. I was only waiting to rush up to you and frighten you, when I
afterwards realised that you too were prowling stealthily about, so I
readily inferred that you also were playing a trick upon some one. Then
when I put out my head and looked before me, I saw that it was these two
girls, so I came behind you, by a circuitous way; and as soon as you
left, I forthwith sneaked into your hiding place."

"Let's go and look behind there," P'ing Erh suggested laughingly; "we
may possibly discover another couple; there's no saying."

"There's no one else!" Pao-y laughed.

Yan Yang had long ago concluded that every word of their conversation
had been overheard by Pao-y; but leaning against the rock, she
pretended to be fast asleep.

Pao-y gave her a push. "This stone is cold!" he smiled. "Let's go and
sleep in our rooms. Won't it be better there?"

Saying this, he made an attempt to pull Yan Yang to her feet. Then
hastily pressing P'ing Erh to repair to his quarters and have some tea,
he united his efforts with those of Hsi Jen, and tried to induce Yan
Yang to come away. Yan Yang, at length, got up, and the quartet betook
themselves, after all, into the I Hung court.

Pao-y had caught every word that had fallen from their lips a few
minutes back, and felt, indeed, at heart so much distressed on Yan
Yang's behalf, that throwing himself silently on his bed, he left the
three girls in the outer rooms to prosecute their chat and laugh.

On the other side of the compound, Madame Hsing about this time inquired
of lady Feng who Yan Yang's father was.

"Her father," lady Feng replied, "is called Chin Ts'ai. He and his wife
are in Nanking; they have to look after our houses there, so they can't
pay frequent visits to the capital. Her brother is the Wen-hsiang, who
acts at present as our senior's accountant; but her sister-in-law too is
employed in our worthy ancestor's yonder as head washerwoman."

Madame Hsing thereupon despatched a servant to go and call Yan Yang's
sister-in-law. On Mrs. Chin Wen-hsiang's arrival, she told her all. Mrs.
Chin was naturally pleased and left in capital spirits to find Yan
Yang, in the hope that the moment she communicated the offer to her, the
whole thing would be satisfactorily arranged. But contrary to all her
anticipations, she had to bear a good blowing up from Yan Yang, and to
be told several unpleasant things by Hsi Jen and P'ing Erh, so that she
was filled with as much shame as indignation. She then came and reported
the result to Madame Hsing. "It's no use," she said, "she gave me a
scolding." But as lady Feng was standing by, she could not summon up
courage enough to allude to P'ing Erh, so she added: "Hsi Jen too helped
her to rate me, and they told me a whole lot of improper words, which
could not be breathed in a mistress' ears. It would thus be better to
arrange with our master to purchase a girl and have done; for from all I
see, neither can that mean vixen enjoy such great good fortune, nor we
such vast propitious luck!"

"What's that again to do with Hsi Jen? How came they to know anything
about it?" Madame Hsing exclaimed upon learning the issue. "Who else was
present?" she proceeded to inquire.

"There was Miss P'ing!" was Chin's wife's reply.

"Shouldn't you have given her a slap on the mouth?" lady Feng
precipitately shouted. "As soon as I ever put my foot outside the door,
she starts gadding about; and I never see so much as her shadow, when I
get home. She too is bound to have had a hand in telling you something
or other!"

"Miss P'ing wasn't present," Chin's wife protested. "Looking from a
distance it seemed to me like her; but I couldn't see distinctly. It was
a mere surmise on my part that it was she at all."

"Go and fetch her at once!" lady Feng shouted to a servant. "Tell her
that I've come home, and that Madame Hsing is also here and wants her to
help her in her hurry."

Feng Erh quickly came up to her. "Miss Lin," she observed, "despatched a
messenger for her, and asked her in writing three and four times before
she at last went. I advised her to get back so soon as your ladyship
stepped inside the gate, but 'tell your mistress,' Miss Lin said, 'that
I've put her to the inconvenience of coming round, as I've got something
for her to do for me.'"

This explanation satisfied lady Feng and she let the matter drop. "What
has she got to do," she purposely went on to ask, "that she will trouble
her day after day?"

Madame Hsing was driven to her wits' ends. As soon as the meal was over,
she returned home; and, in the evening, she communicated to Chia She the
result of her errand. After some reflection, Chia She promptly summoned
Chia Lien.

"There are other people in Nanking to look after our property," he told
him on his arrival; "there's not only one family, so be quick and depute
some one to go and summon Chin Ts'ai to come up to the capital."

"Last night a letter arrived from Nanking," Chia Lien rejoined, "to the
effect that Chin Ts'ai had been suffering from some phlegm-obstruction
in the channels of the heart. So a coffin and money were allowed from
the other mansion. Whether he be dead or alive now, I don't know. But
even if alive, he must have lost all consciousness. It would therefore
be a fruitless errand to send for him. His wife, on the other hand, is
quite deaf."

Hearing this, Chia She gave vent to an exclamation of reproof, and next
launched into abuse. "You stupid and unreasonable rascal!" he shouted.
"Is it you of all people, who are up to those things? Don't you yet
bundle yourself off from my presence?"

Chia Lien withdrew out of the room in a state of trepidation. But in a
short while, (Chia She) gave orders to call Chin Wen-hsiang. Chia Lien
(meanwhile) remained in the outer study, for as he neither ventured to
go home, nor presumed to face his father, his only alternative was to
tarry behind. Presently, Chin Wen-hsiang arrived. The servant-lads led
him straightway past the second gate; and he only came out again and
took his departure after sufficient time had elapsed to enable one to
have four or five meals in.

Chia Lien could not for long summon up courage enough to ask what was
up, but when he found out, after a time, that Chia She had gone to
sleep, he eventually crossed over to his quarters. In the course of the
evening lady Feng told him the whole story. Then, at last, he understood
the meaning of the excitement.

But to revert to Yan Yang. She did not get, the whole night, a wink of
sleep. On the morrow, her brother reported to dowager lady Chia that he
would like to take her home on a visit. Dowager lady Chia accorded her
consent and told her she could go and see her people. Yan Yang,
however, would have rather preferred to stay where she was, but the fear
lest her old mistress should give way to suspicion, placed her under the
necessity of going, much against her own inclinations though it was. Her
brother then had no course but to lay before her Chia She's proposal,
and all his promises that she would occupy an honourable position, and
that she would be a secondary wife, with control in the house; but Yan
Yang was so persistent in her refusal that her brother was quite
nonplussed and he was compelled to return, and inform Chia She.

Chia She flew into a dreadful passion. "I'll tell you what," he shouted;
"bid your wife go and tell her that I say: 'that she must, like the
goddess Ch'ang O herself who has from olden times shown a predilection
for young people, only despise me for being advanced in years; that, as
far as I can see, she must be hankering after some young men; that it
must, most likely, be Pao-y; but probably Lien Erh too! If she fosters
these affections, warn her to at once set them at rest; for should she
not come, when I'm ready to have her, who will by and bye venture to
take her? This is the first thing. Should she imagine, in the next
place, that because our venerable senior is fond of her, she may, in the
future, be engaged to be married in the orthodox way, tell her to
consider carefully that she won't very well be able to escape my grip,
no matter in what family she may marry. That it's only in case of her
dying or of her not wedding any one throughout her life that I shall
submit to her decision. Under other circumstances, urge her to seize the
first opportunity and change her mind, as she'll come in for many

To every remark that Chia She uttered, Chin Wen-hsiang acquiesced.
"Yes!" he said.

"Mind you don't humbug me!" Chia She observed. "I shall to-morrow send
again your mistress round to ask Yan Yang. If you two have spoken to
her, and she hasn't given a favorable answer, well, then, no blame will
fall on you. But if she does assent, when she broaches the subject with
her, look out for your heads!"

Chin Wen-hsiang eagerly expressed his obedience over and over again, and
withdrawing out of the room, he retraced his footsteps homeward. Nor did
he have the patience to wait until he could commission his womankind to
speak to her. Indeed he went in person and told her face to face the
injunctions entrusted to him. Yan Yang was incensed to such a degree
that she was at a loss what reply to make. "I'm quite ready to go," she
rejoined, after some cogitation, "but you people must take me before my
old mistress first and let me tell her something about it."

Her brother and sister-in-law flattered themselves that reflection had
induced her to alter her previous decision, and they were both
immeasurably delighted. Her sister-in-law there and then led her into
the upper quarters and ushered her into the presence of old lady Chia.
As luck would have it, Madame Wang, Mrs. Hseh, Li Wan, lady Feng,
Pao-ch'ai and the other girls were, together with several respectable
outside married women who acted as housekeepers, having some fun with
old lady Chia. Yan Yang observed where her mistress was seated, and
hastily dragging her sister-in-law before her, she fell on her knees,
and explained to her, with tears in her eyes, what proposal Madame Hsing
had made to her, what her sister-in-law, who lived in the garden, had
told her, and what message her brother had recently conveyed to her. "As
I would not accept his advances," (she continued), "our senior master
has just now gone so far as to insinuate 'that I was violently attached
to Pao-y; or if that wasn't the case, my object was to gain time so as
to espouse some one outside. That were I even to go up to the very
heavens, I couldn't, during my lifetime, escape his clutches, and that
he would, in the long run, wreak his vengeance on me.' I have
obstinately made up my mind, so I may state in the presence of all of
you here, that I'll, under no circumstances, marry, as long as I live,
any man whatsoever, not to speak of his being a Pao-y, (precious jade);
but even a Pao Chin, (precious gold), a Pao Yin, (precious silver); a
Pao T'ien Wang, (precious lord of heaven); or a Pao Huang Ti, (precious
Emperor); and have done! Were even your venerable ladyship to press me
to take such a step, I couldn't comply with your commands, though you
may threaten to cut my throat with a sword. I'm quite prepared to wait
upon your ladyship, till you depart this life; but go with my father,
mother, or brother, I won't! I'll either commit suicide, or cut my hair
off, and go and become a nun. If you fancy that I'm not in earnest, and
that I'm temporarily using this language to put you off, may, as surely
as heaven, earth, the spirits, the sun and moon look upon me, my throat
be covered with boils!"

Yan Yang had, in fact, upon entering the room, brought along a pair of
scissors, concealed in her sleeve, and, while she spoke, she drew her
hand back, and, dishevelling her tresses, she began to clip them. When
the matrons and waiting-maids saw what she was up to, they hurriedly did
everything they could to induce her to desist from her purpose; but
already half of her locks had gone. And when they found on close
inspection, that with the thick crop of hair she happily had, she had
not succeeded in cutting it all, they immediately dressed it up for her.

Upon hearing of Chia She's designs, dowager lady Chia was provoked to
displeasure. Her whole body trembled and shook. "Of all the attendants
I've had," she cried, "there only remains this single one, upon whom I
can depend, and now they want to conspire and carry her off!" Noticing
then Madame Wang standing close to her, she turned herself towards her.
"All you people really know is to impose upon me!" she resumed.
"Outwardly, you display filial devotion; but, secretly, you plot and
scheme against me. If I have aught that's worth having, you come and dun
me for it. If I have any one who's nice, you come and ask for her.
What's left to me is this low waiting-maid, but as you see that she
serves me faithfully, you naturally can't stand it, and you're doing
your utmost to estrange her from me so as to be the better able to play
your tricks upon me."

Madame Wang quickly rose to her feet. She did not, however, dare to
return a single syllable in self-defence.

Mrs. Hseh noticed that Madame Wang herself came in for her share of
blame, and she did not feel as if she could any longer make an attempt
to tender words of advice. Li Wan, the moment she heard Yan Yang speak
in the strain she did, seized an early opportunity to lead the young
ladies out of the room. T'an Ch'un was a girl with plenty of common
sense, so reflecting within herself that Madame Wang could not, in spite
of the insult heaped upon her, very well presume to say any thing to
exculpate herself, that Mrs. Hseh could not, of course, in her position
of sister, bring forward any arguments, that Pao-ch'ai was unable to
explain things on behalf of her maternal aunt, and that Li Wan, lady
Feng or Pao-y could, still less, take upon themselves the right of
censorship, she thought the opportunity rendered necessary the services
of a daughter; but, as Ying Ch'un was so quiet, and Hsi Ch'un so young,
she consequently walked in, no sooner did she overhear from outside the
window what was said inside, and forcing a smile, she addressed herself
to her grandmother. "How does this matter concern Madame Wang, my
mother?" she interposed. "Venerable senior, just consider! This is a
matter affecting her husband's eldest brother; and how could she, a
junior sister-in-law, know anything about it?..."

But before she had exhausted all her arguments, dowager lady Chia's
countenance thawed into a smile. "I've really grown stupid from old
age!" she exclaimed. "Mrs. Hseh, don't make fun of me! This eldest
sister of yours is most reverent to me; and so unlike that senior lady
of mine, who only knows how to regard her lord and master and to simply
do things for the mere sake of appearances when she deals with her
mother-in-law. I've therefore done her a wrong!"

Mrs. Hseh confined her reply to a 'yes.' "Dear senior, you're so full
of prejudices," she afterwards observed, "that you love your youngest
son's wife more than any one of the others; but it's quite natural."

"I have no prejudices," old lady Chia protested. "Pao-y," she then
proceeded, "I unjustly found fault with your mother; but, how was it
that even you didn't tell me anything, but that you looked on, while she
was having her feelings trampled upon?"

"Could I," smiled Pao-y, "have taken my mother's part, and run down my
senior uncle and aunt? If my mother did not bear the whole blame, upon
whom could she throw it? And had I admitted that it was I who was
entirely at fault, you, venerable ancestor, wouldn't have believed me."

"What you say is quite reasonable," his grandmother laughed. "So be
quick and fall on your knees before your mother and tell her: 'mother,
don't feel aggrieved! Our old lady is so advanced in years. Do it for
Pao-y's sake!'"

At this suggestion, Pao-y hastily crossed over, and dropping on his
knees, he was about to open his lips, when Madame Wang laughingly pulled
him up. "Get up," she cried, "at once! This won't do at all! Is it
likely, pray, that you would tender apologies to me on behalf of our
venerable ancestor?"

Hearing this, Pao-y promptly stood up.

"Even that girl Feng didn't call me to my senses," dowager lady Chia
smiled again.

"I don't lay a word to your charge, worthy senior," lady Feng remarked
smilingly, "and yet you brand me with reproach!"

This rejoinder amused dowager lady Chia. "This is indeed strange!" she
said to all around. "But I'd like to listen to these charges."

"Who told you, dear senior," lady Feng resumed, "to look after your
attendants so well, and lavish such care on them as to make them plump
and fine as water onions? How ever can you therefore bear people a
grudge, if they ask for her hand? I'm, lucky for you, your grandson's
wife; for were I your grandson, I would long ere this have proposed to
her. Would I have ever waited up to the present?"

"Is this any fault of mine?" dowager lady Chia laughed.

"Of course, it's your fault, venerable senior!" lady Feng retorted with
a smile.

"Well, in that case, I too don't want her," old lady Chia proceeded
laughing. "Take her away, and have done!"

"Wait until I go through this existence," lady Feng responded, "and, in
the life to come, I'll assume the form of a man and apply for her hand."

"Take her along," dowager lady Chia laughed, "and give her to Lien-Erh
to attach to his apartments; and we'll see whether that barefaced
father-in-law of yours will still wish to have her or not."

"Lien-Erh is not a match for her!" lady Feng added. "He's only a fit
mate for such as myself and P'ing Erh. A pair of loutish bumpkins like
us to have anything to do with such a one as herself!"

At this rejoinder, they all exploded into a hearty fit of laughter. But
a waiting-maid thereupon announced: "Our senior lady has come." So
Madame Wang immediately quitted the room to go and meet her.

But any further particulars, which you, reader may like to know, will be
given in the following chapter; so listen to it.


An idiotic bully tries to be lewd and comes in for a sound thrashing.
A cold-hearted fellow is prompted by a dread of trouble to betake
himself to a strange place.

As soon as Madame Wang, so runs our narrative, heard of Madame Hsing's
arrival, she quickly went out to welcome her. Madame Hsing was not yet
aware that dowager lady Chia had learnt everything connected with Yan
Yang's affair, and she was coming again to see which way the wind blew.
The moment, however, she stepped inside the courtyard-entrance, several
matrons promptly explained to her, quite confidentially, that their old
mistress had been told all only a few minutes back, and she meant to
retrace her steps, (but she saw that) every inmate in the suite of rooms
was already conscious of her presence. When she caught sight, besides,
of Madame Wang walking out to meet her she had no option but to enter.
First and foremost, she paid her respects to dowager lady Chia, but old
lady Chia did not address her a single remark, so she felt within
herself smitten with shame and remorse.

Lady Feng soon gave something or other as an excuse and withdrew. Yan
Yang then returned also quite alone to her chamber to give vent to her
resentment; and Mrs. Hseh, Madame Wang and the other inmates, one by
one, retired in like manner, for fear of putting Madame Hsing out of
countenance. Madame Hsing, however, could not muster courage to beat a
retreat. Dowager lady Chia noticed that there was no one but themselves
in her apartments. "I hear," she remarked, "that you had come to play
the part of a go-between for your lord and master! You can very well
observe the three obediences and four virtues, but this softness of
yours is a work of supererogation! You people have also got now a whole
lot of grandchildren and sons. Do you still live in fear and trembling
lest he should put his monkey up? Rumour has it that you yet let that
disposition of your husband's run riot!"

Madame Hsing's whole face got suffused with blushes. "I advised him time
and again," she explained, "but he wouldn't listen to me. How is it,
venerable senior, that you don't yet know that he turns a deaf ear to
me? That's why I had no choice in the matter!"

"Would you go and kill any one," dowager lady Chia asked, "that he might
instigate you to? But consider now. Your brother's wife is naturally a
quiet sort of person, and is born with many ailments; but is there
anything, whether large or small, that she doesn't go to the trouble of
looking after? And notwithstanding that that daughter-in-law of yours
lends her a helping hand, she is daily so busy that she 'no sooner puts
down the pick than she has to take up the broom.' So busy, that I have
myself now curtailed a hundred and one things. But whenever there's
anything those two can't manage, there's Yan Yang to come to their
assistance. She is, it's true, a mere child, but nevertheless very
careful; and knows how to concern herself about my affairs a bit;
indenting for anything that need be indented, and availing herself of an
opportunity to tell them to supply every requisite. Were Yan Yang not
the kind of girl she is, how could those two ladies not neglect a whole
or part of those matters, both important as well as unimportant,
connected with the inner and outer quarters? Would I not at present have
to worry my own mind, instead of leaving things to others? Why, I'd
daily have to rack my brain and go and ask them to give me whatever I
might need! Of those girls, who've come to my quarters and those who've
gone, there only remains this single one. She's, besides other respects,
somewhat older in years, and has as well a slight conception of my ways
of doing things, and of my tastes. In the second place, she has managed
to win her mistresses' hearts, for she never tries to extort aught from
me, or to dun this lady for clothes or that one for money. Hence it is
that beginning from your sister-in-law and daughter-in-law down to the
servants in the house, irrespective of old or young, there isn't a soul,
who doesn't readily believe every single word she says in anything, no
matter what it is! Not only do I thus have some one upon whom I can
rely, but your young sister-in-law and your daughter-in-law are both as
well spared much trouble. With a person such as this by me, should even
my daughter-in-law and granddaughter-in-law not have the time to think
of anything, I am not left without it; nor am I given occasion to get my
temper ruffled. But were she now to go, what kind of creature would they
hunt up again to press into my service? Were you even to bring me a
person made of real pearls, she'd be of no use; if she doesn't know how
to speak! I was just about to send some one to go and explain to your
husband that 'I've got money in here enough to buy any girl he fancies,'
and to tell him that 'he's at liberty to give for her purchase from
eight to ten thousand taels; that, if he has set his heart upon this
girl, he can't however have her; and that by leaving her behind to
attend to me, during the few years to come, it will be just the same as
if he tried to acquit himself of his filial duties by waiting upon me
day and night,' so you come at a very opportune moment. Were you
therefore to go yourself at once and deliver him my message, it will
answer the purpose far better!"

These words over, she called the servants. "Go," she said, "and ask Mrs.
Hseh, and your young mistresses to come! We were in the middle of a
chat full of zest, and how is it they've all dispersed?"

The waiting-maids immediately assented and left to go in search of their
mistresses, one and all of whom promptly re-entered her apartments, with
the sole exception of Mrs. Hseh.

"I've only now returned," she observed to the waiting-maid, "and what
shall I go again for? Just tell her that I'm fast asleep!"

"Dearest Mrs. Hseh!" the waiting-maid pleaded, "my worthy senior! our
old mistress will get angry. If you, venerable lady, don't appear
nothing will appease her; so do it for the love of us! Should you object
to walking, why I'm quite ready to carry you on my back."

"You little imp!" Mrs. Hseh laughed. "What are you afraid of? All
she'll do will be to scold you a little; and it will all be over soon!"

While replying, she felt that she had no course but to retrace her
footsteps, in company with the waiting-maid.

Dowager lady Chia at once motioned her into a seat. "Let's have a game
of cards!" she then smilingly proposed. "You, Mrs. Hseh, are not a good
hand at them; so let's sit together, and see that lady Feng doesn't
cheat us!"

"Quite so," laughed Mrs. Hseh. "But it will be well if your venerable
ladyship would look over my hand a bit! Are we four ladies to play, or
are we to add one or two more persons to our number?"

"Naturally only four!" Madame Wang smiled.

"Were one more player let in," lady Feng interposed, "it would be

"Call Yan Yang here," old lady Chia suggested, "and make her take this
lower seat; for as Mrs. Hseh's eyesight is rather dim, we'll charge her
to look over our two hands a bit."

"You girls know how to read and write," lady Feng remarked with a smile,
addressing herself to T'an Ch'un, "and why don't you learn

"This is again strange!" T'an Ch'un exclaimed. "Instead of bracing up
your energies now to rook some money out of our venerable senior, you
turn your thoughts to fortune-telling!"

"I was just wishing to consult the fates," lady Feng proceeded, "as to
how much I shall lose to-day. Can I ever dream of winning? Why, look
here. We haven't commenced playing, and they have placed themselves in
ambush on the left and right."

This remark amused dowager lady Chia and Mrs. Hseh. But presently Yan
Yang arrived, and seated herself below her old mistress. After Yan Yang
sat lady Feng. The red cloth was then spread; the cards were shuffled;
the dealer was decided upon and the quintet began to play. After the
game had gone on for a time, Yan Yang noticed that dowager lady Chia
had a full hand and was only waiting for one two-spotted card, and she
made a secret sign to lady Feng. Lady Feng was about to lead, but
purposely lingered for a few moments. "This card will, for a certainty,
be snatched by Mrs. Hseh," she smiled, "yet if I don't play this one, I
won't be able later to come out with what I want."

"I haven't got any cards you want in my hand," Mrs. Hseh remarked.

"I mean to see by and bye," lady Feng resumed.

"You're at liberty to see," Mrs. Hseh said. "But go on, play now! Let
me look what card it is."

Lady Feng threw the card in front of Mrs. Hseh. At a glance, Mrs. Hseh
perceived that it was the two spot. "I don't fancy this card," she
smiled. "What I fear is that our dear senior will get a full hand."

"I've played wrong!" lady Feng laughingly exclaimed at these words.

Dowager lady Chia laughed, and throwing down her cards, "If you dare,"
she shouted, "take it back! Who told you to play the wrong card?"

"Didn't I want to have my fortune told?" lady Feng observed. "I played
this card of my own accord, so there's no one with whom I can find

"You should then beat your own lips and punish your own self; it's only
fair;" old lady Chia remarked. Then facing Mrs. Hseh, "I'm not a
niggard, fond of winning money," she went on to say, "but it was my good

"Don't we too think as much?" Mrs. Hseh smiled. "Who's there stupid
enough to say that your venerable ladyship's heart is set upon money?"

Lady Feng was busy counting the cash, but catching what was said, she
restrung them without delay. "I've got my share," she said, laughingly
to the company. "It isn't at all that you wish to win. It's your good
luck that made you come out a winner! But as for me, I am really a mean
creature; and, as I managed to lose, I count the money and put it away
at once."

Dowager lady Chia usually made Yan Yang shuffle the cards for her, but
being engaged in chatting and joking with Mrs. Hseh, she did not notice
Yan Yang take them in hand. "Why is it you're so huffed," old lady Chia
asked, "that you don't even shuffle for me?"

"Lady Feng won't let me have the money!" Yan Yang replied, picking up
the cards.

"If she doesn't give the money," dowager lady Chia observed, "it will be
a turning-point in her luck. Take that string of a thousand cash of
hers," she accordingly directed a servant, "and bring it bodily over

A young waiting-maid actually fetched the string of cash and deposited
it by the side of her old mistress.

"Let me have them," lady Feng eagerly cried smiling, "and I'll square
all that's due, and finish."

"In very truth, lady Feng, you're a miserly creature!" Mrs. Hseh
laughed. "It's simply for mere fun, nothing more!"

Lady Feng, at this insinuation, speedily stood up, and, laying her hand
on Mrs. Hseh, she turned her head round, and pointed at a large wooden
box, in which old lady Chia usually deposited her money. "Aunt," she
said, a smile curling her lips, "look here! I couldn't tell you how much
there is in that box that was won from me! This tiao will be wheedled by
the cash in it, before we've played for half an hour! All we've got to
do is to give them sufficient time to lure this string in as well; we
needn't trouble to touch the cards. Your temper, worthy ancestor, will
thus calm down. If you've also got any legitimate thing for me to do,
you might bid me go and attend to it!"

This joke had scarcely been concluded than it evoked incessant laughter
from dowager lady Chia and every one else. But while she was bandying
words, P'ing Erh happened to bring her another string of cash prompted
by the apprehension that her capital might not suffice to meet her

"It's useless putting them in front of me!" lady Feng cried. "Place
these too over there by our old lady and let them be wheedled in along
with the others! It will thus save trouble, as there won't be any need
to make two jobs of them, to the inconvenience of the cash already in
the box."

Dowager lady Chia had a hearty laugh, so much so, that the cards, she
held in her hand, flew all over the table; but pushing Yan Yang. "Be
quick," she shouted, "and wrench that mouth of hers!"

P'ing Erh placed the cash according to her mistress' directions. But
after indulging too in laughter for a time, she retraced her footsteps.
On reaching the entrance into the court, she met Chia Lien. "Where's
your Madame Hsing?" he inquired. "Mr. Chia She told me to ask her to go

"She's been standing in there with our old mistress," P'ing Erh hastily
laughed, "for ever so long, and yet she isn't inclined to budge! Seize
the earliest opportunity you can get to wash your hands clean of this
business! Our old lady has had a good long fit of fuming and raging.
Luckily, our lady Secunda cracked an endless stock of jokes, so she, at
length, got a bit calmer!"

"I'll go over," Chia Lien said. "All I have to do is to find out our
venerable senior's wishes, as to whether she means to go to Lai Ta's
house on the fourteenth, so that I might have time to get the chairs
ready. As I'll be able to tell Madame Hsing to return, and have a share
of the fun, won't it be well for me to go?"

"My idea is," P'ing Erh suggested laughingly, "that you shouldn't put
your foot in there! Every one, even up to Madame Wang, and Pao-y, have
alike received a rap on the knuckles, and are you also going now to fill
up the gap?"

"Everything is over long ago," Chia Lien observed, "and can it be that
she'll cap the whole thing by blowing me up too? What's more, it's no
concern of mine. In the next place, Mr. Chia She enjoined me that I was
to go in person, and ask his wife round, so, if I at present depute some
one else, and he comes to know about it, he really won't feel in a
pleasant mood, and he'll take advantage of this pretext to give vent to
his spite on me."

These words over, he quickly marched off. And P'ing Erh was so impressed
with the reasonableness of his arguments, that she followed in his

As soon as Chia Lien reached the reception hall, he trod with a light
step. Then peeping in he saw Madame Hsing standing inside. Lady Feng,
with her eagle eye, was the first to espy him. But she winked at him and
dissuaded him from coming in, and next gave a wink to Madame Hsing.
Madame Hsing could not conveniently get away at once, and she had to
pour a cup of tea, and place it in front of dowager lady Chia. But old
lady Chia jerked suddenly round, and took Chia Lien at such a
disadvantage that he found it difficult to beat a retreat. "Who is
outside?" exclaimed old lady Chia. "It seemed to me as if some
servant-boy had poked his head in."

Lady Feng sprung to her feet without delay. "I also," she interposed,
"indistinctly noticed the shadow of some one."

Saying this, she walked away and quitted the room. Chia Lien entered
with hasty step. Forcing a smile, "I wanted to ask," he remarked,
"whether you, venerable senior, are going out on the fourteenth, so that
the chairs may be got ready."

"In that case," dowager lady Chia rejoined, "why didn't you come
straight in; but behaved again in that mysterious way?"

"I saw that you were playing at cards, dear ancestor," Chia Lien
explained with a strained laugh, "and I didn't venture to come and
disturb you. I therefore simply meant to call my wife out to find out
from her."

"Is it anything so very urgent that you had to say it this very moment?"
old lady Chia continued. "Had you waited until she had gone home,
couldn't you have asked her any amount of questions you may have liked?
When have you been so full of zeal before? I'm puzzled to know whether
it isn't as an eavesdropping spirit that you appear on the scene; nor
can I say whether you don't come as a spy. But that impish way of yours
gave me quite a start! What a low-bred fellow you are! Your wife will
play at cards with me for a good long while more, so you'd better bundle
yourself home, and conspire again with Chao Erh's wife how to do away
with your better half."

Her remarks evoked general merriment.

"It's Pao Erh's wife," Yan Yang put in laughingly, "and you, worthy
senior, have dragged in again Chao Erh's wife."

"Yes!" assented old lady Chia, likewise with a laugh. "How could I
remember whether he wasn't (pao) embracing her, or (pei) carrying her on
his back. The bare mention of these things makes me lose all
self-control and provokes me to anger! Ever since I crossed these doors
as a great grandson's wife, I have never, during the whole of these
fifty-four years, seen anything like these affairs, albeit it has been
my share to go through great frights, great dangers, thousands of
strange things and hundred and one remarkable occurrences! Don't you yet
pack yourself off from my presence?"

Chia Lien could not muster courage to utter a single word to vindicate
himself, but retired out of the room with all promptitude. P'ing Erh was
standing outside the window. "I gave you due warning in a gentle tone,
but you wouldn't hear; you've, after all, rushed into the very meshes of
the net!"

These reproaches were still being heaped on him when he caught sight of
Madame Hsing, as she likewise made her appearance outside. "My father,"
Chia Lien ventured, "is at the bottom of all this trouble; and the whole
blame now is shoved upon your shoulders as well as mine, mother."

"I'll take you, you unfilial thing and..." Madame Hsing shouted. "People
lay down their lives for their fathers; and you are prompted by a few
harmless remarks to murmur against heaven and grumble against earth!
Won't you behave in a proper manner? He's in high dudgeon these last few
days, so mind he doesn't give you a pounding!"

"Mother, cross over at once," Chia Lien urged; "for he told me to come
and ask you to go a long time ago."

Pressing his mother, he escorted her outside as far as the other part of
the mansion. Madame Hsing gave (her husband) nothing beyond a general
outline of all that had been recently said; but Chia She found himself
deprived of the means of furthering his ends. Indeed, so stricken was he
with shame that from that date he pleaded illness. And so little able
was he to rally sufficient pluck to face old lady Chia, that he merely
commissioned Madame Hsing and Chia Lien to go daily and pay their
respects to her on his behalf. He had no help too but to despatch
servants all over the place to make every possible search and inquiry
for a suitable concubine for him. After a long time they succeeded in
purchasing, for the sum of eighty taels, a girl of seventeen years of
age, Yen Hung by name, whom he introduced as secondary wife into his

But enough of this subject. In the rooms on the near side, they
protracted for a long time their noisy game of cards, and only broke up
after they had something to eat. Nothing worthy of note, however,
occurred during the course of the following day or two. In a twinkle,
the fourteenth drew near. At an early hour before daybreak, Lai Ta's
wife came again into the mansion to invite her guests. Dowager lady Chia
was in buoyant spirits, so taking along Madame Wang, Mrs. Hseh, Pao-y
and the various young ladies, she betook herself into Lai Ta's garden,
where she sat for a considerable time.

This garden was not, it is true, to be compared with the garden of Broad
Vista; but it also was most beautifully laid out, and consisted of
spacious grounds. In the way of springs, rockeries, arbours and woods,
towers and terraces, pavilions and halls, it likewise contained a good
many sufficient to excite admiration. In the main hall outside, were
assembled Hseh P'an, Chia Chen, Chia Lien, Chia Jung and several close
relatives. But Lai Ta had invited as well a number of officials, still
in active service, and numerous young men of wealthy families, to keep
them company. Among that party figured one Liu Hsiang-lien, whom Hseh
P'an had met on a previous occasion and kept ever since in constant
remembrance. Having besides discovered that he had a passionate liking
for theatricals, and that the parts he generally filled were those of a
young man or lady, in fast plays, he had unavoidably misunderstood the
object with which he indulged in these amusements, to such a degree as
to misjudge him for a young rake. About this time, he had been
entertaining a wish to cultivate intimate relations with him, but he
had, much to his disgust, found no one to introduce him, so when he, by
a strange coincidence, came to be thrown in his way, on the present
occasion, he revelled in intense delight. But Chia Chen and the other
guests had heard of his reputation, so as soon as wine had blinded their
sense of shame, they entreated him to sing two short plays; and when
subsequently they got up from the banquet, they ensconced themselves
near him, and, pressing him with questions, they carried on a
conversation on one thing and then another.

This Liu Hsiang-lien was, in fact, a young man of an old family; but he
had been unsuccessful in his studies, and had lost his father and
mother. He was naturally light-hearted and magnanimous; not particular
in minor matters; immoderately fond of spear-exercise and fencing, of
gambling and boozing; even going to such excesses as spending his nights
in houses of easy virtue; playing the fife, thrumming the harp, and
going in for everything and anything. Being besides young in years, and
of handsome appearance, those who did not know what his standing was,
invariably mistook him for an actor. But Lai Ta's son had all along been
on such friendly terms with him, that he consequently invited him for
the nonce to help him do the honours.

Of a sudden, while every one was, after the wines had gone round, still
on his good behaviour, Hseh P'an alone got another fit of his old
mania. From an early stage, his spirits sunk within him and he would
fain have seized the first convenient moment to withdraw and consummate
his designs but for Lai Shang-jung, who then said: "Our Mr. Pao-y told
me again just now that although he saw you, as he walked in, he couldn't
speak to you with so many people present, so he bade me ask you not to
go, when the party breaks up, as he has something more to tell you. But
as you insist upon taking your leave, you'd better wait until I call him
out, and when you've seen each other, you can get away; I'll have
nothing to say then."

While delivering the message, "Go inside," he directed the servant-boys,
"and get hold of some old matron and tell her quietly to invite Mr.
Pao-y to come out."

A servant-lad went on the errand, and scarcely had time enough elapsed
to enable one to have a cup of tea in, than Pao-y, actually, made his
appearance outside.

"My dear sir," Lai Shang-jung smilingly observed to Pao-y, "I hand him
over to you. I'm going to entertain the guests!"

With these words, he was off.

Pao-y pulled Lia Hsiang-lien into a side study in the hall, where they
sat down.

"Have you been recently to Ch'in Ch'ung's grave?" he inquired of him.

"How could I not go?" Hsiang-lien answered. "The other day a few of us
went out to give our falcons a fly; and we were yet at a distance of two
li from his tomb, when remembering the heavy rains, we've had this
summer, I gave way to fears lest his grave may not have been proof
against them; so evading the notice of the party I went over and had a
look. I found it again slightly damaged; but when I got back home, I
speedily raised a few hundreds of cash, and issued early on the third
day, and hired two men, who put it right."

"It isn't strange then!" exclaimed Pao-y, "When the lotus blossomed
last month in the pond of our garden of Broad Vista, I plucked ten of
them and bade T'sai Ming go out of town and lay them as my offering on
his grave. On his return, I also inquired of him: whether it had been
damaged by the water or not; and he explained that not only had it not
sustained any harm, but that it looked better than when last he'd seen
it. Several of his friends, I argued, must have had it put in proper
repair; and I felt it irksome that I should, day after day, be so caged
at home as to be unable to be my own master in the least thing, and that
if even I move, and any one comes to know of it, this one is sure to
exhort me, if that one does not restrain me. I can thus afford to brag,
but can't manage to act! And though I've got plenty of money, I'm not at
liberty to spend any of it!"

"There's no use your worrying in a matter like this!" Liu Hsiang-lien
said. "I am outside, so all you need do is to inwardly foster the wish;
that's all. But as the first of the tenth moon will shortly be upon us,
I've already prepared the money necessary for going to the graves. You
know well enough that I'm as poor as a rat; I've no hoardings at home;
and when a few cash find their way into my pocket, I soon remain again
quite empty-handed. But I'd better make the best of this opportunity,
and keep the amount I have, in order that, when the time comes, I mayn't
find myself without a cash."

"It's exactly about this that I meant to send Pei Ming to see you,"
Pao-y added. "But it isn't often that one can manage to find you at
home. I'm well aware how uncertain your movements are; one day you are
here, and another there; you've got no fixed resort."

"There's no need sending any one to hunt me up!" Liu Hsiang-lien
replied. "All that each of us need do in this matter is to acquit
ourselves of what's right. But in a little while, I again purpose going
away on a tour abroad, to return in three to five years' time."

When Pao-y heard his intention, "Why is this?" he at once inquired.

Liu Hsiang-lien gave a sardonic smile. "When my wish is on a fair way to
be accomplished," he said, "you'll certainly hear everything. I must now
leave you."

"After all the difficulty we've had in meeting," Pao-y remarked,
"wouldn't it be better were you and I to go away together in the

"That worthy cousin of yours," Hsiang-lien rejoined, "is as bad as ever,
and were I to stay any longer, trouble would inevitably arise. So it's
as well that I should clear out of his way."

Pao-y communed with himself for a time. "In that case," he then
observed, "it's only right, that you should retire. But if you really be
bent upon going on a distant tour, you must absolutely tell me something
beforehand. Don't, on any account, sneak away quietly!".

As he spoke, the tears trickled down his cheeks.

"I shall, of course, say good-bye to you," Liu Hsiang-lien rejoined.
"But you must not let any one know anything about it!"

While uttering these words, he stood up to get away. "Go in at once," he
urged, "there's no need to see me off!"

Saying this, he quitted the study. As soon as he reached the main
entrance, he came across Hseh P'an, bawling out boisterously, "Who let
young Liu-erh go?"

The moment these shouts fell on Liu Hsiang-lien's ear, his anger flared
up as if it had been sparks spurting wildly about, and he only wished he
could strike him dead with one blow. But on second consideration, he
pondered that a fight after the present festive occasion would be an
insult to Lai Shang-jung, and he perforce felt bound to stifle his

When Hseh P'an suddenly espied him walking out, he looked as delighted
as if he had come in for some precious gem. With staggering step he drew
near him. Clutching him with one grip, "My dear brother," he smirked.
"where are you off to?"

"I'm going somewhere, but will be back soon," Hsiang-lien said by way of

"As soon as you left," Hseh P'an smiled, "all the fun went. But pray
sit a while! If you do so, it will be a proof of your regard for me!
Don't flurry yourself. With such a senior brother as myself to stand by
you, it will be as easy a job for you to become an official as to reap a

The sight of his repulsive manner filled the heart of Hsiang-lien with
disgust and shame. But speedily devising a plan, he drew him to a
secluded spot. "Is your friendship real," he smiled, "or is it only a

This question sent Hseh P'an into such raptures that he found it
difficult to check himself from gratifying his longings. But glancing at
him with the corner of his eye, "My dear brother," he smiled, "what
makes you ask me such a thing? If my friendship for you is a sham, may I
die this moment, before your very eyes."

"Well, if that be so," Hsiang-lien proceeded, "it isn't convenient in
here, so sit down and wait a bit. I'll go ahead, but come out of this
yourself by and bye, and follow me to my place, where we can drink the
whole night long. I've also got there two first-rate young fellows who
never go out of doors. But don't bring so much as a single follower with
you, as you'll find, when you get there, plenty of people ready at hand
to wait on you."

So high did this assignation raise Hseh P'an's spirits that he
recovered, to a certain extent, from the effects of wine. "Is it really
so?" he asked.

"How is it," Hsiang-lien laughed, "that when people treat you with a
sincere heart, you don't, after all, believe them?"

"I'm no fool," eagerly exclaimed Hseh P'an, "and how could I not
believe you? But since this be the case, how am I, who don't even know
the way, to find your whereabouts if you are to go ahead of me?"

"My place is outside the northern gate." Hsiang-lien explained. "But can
you tear yourself away from your home to spend the night outside the
city walls?"

"As long as you're there," Hseh P'an said, "what will I want my home

"If that be so," Hsiang-lien resumed, "I'll wait for you on the bridge
outside the northern gate. But let us meanwhile rejoin the banquet and
have some wine. Come along, after you've seen me go; they won't notice
us then."

"Yes!" shouted Hseh P'an with alacrity as he acquiesced to the

The two young fellows thereupon returned to the feast, and drank for a
time. Hseh Pan, however, could with difficulty endure the suspense. He
kept his gaze intent upon Hsiang-lien; and the more he pondered within
himself upon what was coming, the more exuberance swelled in his heart.
Now he emptied one wine-kettle; now another; and, without waiting for
any one to press him, he, of his own accord, gulped down one drink after
another, with the result that he unconsciously made himself nearly quite
tipsy. Hsiang-lien then got up and quitted the room, and perceiving
every one off his guard, he egressed out of the main entrance. "Go home
ahead," he directed his page Hsing Nu. "I'm going out of town, but I'll
be back at once."

By the time he had finished giving him these directions, he had already
mounted his horse, and straightway he proceeded to the bridge beyond the
northern gate, and waited for Hseh P'an. A long while elapsed, however,
before he espied Hseh P'an in the distance, hurrying along astride of a
high steed, with gaping mouth, staring eyes, and his head, banging from
side to side like a pedlar's drum. Without intermission, he glanced
confusedly about, sometimes to the left, and sometimes to the right;
but, as soon as he got where he had to pass in front of Hsiang-lien's
horse, he kept his gaze fixed far away, and never troubled his mind with
the immediate vicinity.

Hsiang-lien felt amused and angry with him, but forthwith giving his
horse also the rein, he followed in his track, while Hseh P'an
continued to stare ahead.

Little by little the habitations got scantier and scantier, so pulling
his horse round, (Hseh P'an) retraced his steps. The moment he turned
back, he unawares caught sight of Hsiang-lien, and his spirits rose
within him, as if he had got hold of some precious thing of an
extraordinary value. "I knew well enough," he eagerly smiled, "that you
weren't one to break faith."

"Quick, let's go ahead!" Hsiang-lien smilingly urged. "Mind people might
notice us and follow us. It won't then be nice!"

While instigating him, he took the lead, and letting his horse have the
rein, he wended his way onwards, followed closely by Hseh P'an. But
when Hsiang-lien perceived that the country ahead of them was already
thinly settled and saw besides a stretch of water covered with a growth
of weeds, he speedily dismounted, and tied his horse to a tree. Turning
then round; "Get down!" he said, laughingly, to Hseh P'an. "You must
first take an oath, so that in the event of your changing your mind in
the future, and telling anything to anyone, the oath might be

"You're quite right!" Hseh P'an smiled; and jumping down with all
despatch, he too made his horse fast to a tree, and then crouched on his

"If I ever in days to come," he exclaimed, "know any change in my
feelings and breathe a word to any living soul, may heaven blast me and
earth annihilate me!"

Scarcely had he ended this oath, when a crash fell on his ear, and lo,
he felt as if an iron hammer had been brought down to bear upon him from
behind. A black mist shrouded his eyes, golden stars flew wildly about
before his gaze; and losing all control over himself, he sprawled on the

Hsiang-lien approached and had a look at him; and, knowing how little he
was accustomed to thrashings, he only exerted but little of his
strength, and struck him a few blows on the face. But about this time a
fruit shop happened to open, and Hseh P'an strained at first every
nerve to rise to his feet, when another slight kick from Hsiang-lien
tumbled him over again.

"Both parties should really be agreeable," he shouted. "But if you were
not disposed to accept my advances, you should have simply told me in a
proper way. And why did you beguile me here to give me a beating?"

So speaking, he went on boisterously to heap invective upon his head.

"I'll take you, you blind fellow, and show you who Mr. Liu is,"
Hsiang-lien cried. "You don't appeal to me with solicitous entreaties,
but go on abusing me! To kill you would be of no use, so I'll merely
give you a good lesson!"

With these words, he fetched his whip, and administered him, thirty or
forty blows from his back down to his shins.

Hseh P'an had sobered down considerably from the effects of wine, and
found the stings of pain so intolerable, that little able to restrain
himself, he gave way to groans.

"Do you go on in this way?" Hsiang-lien said, with an ironical smile.
"Why, I thought you were not afraid of beatings."

While uttering this taunt, he seized Hseh P'an by the left leg, and
dragging him several steps into a miry spot among the reeds, he rolled
him about till he was covered with one mass of mud. "Do you now know
what stuff I'm made of?" he proceeded to ask.

Hseh P'an made no reply. But simply lay prostrate, and moaned. Then
throwing away his whip Hsiang-lien gave him with his fist several thumps
all over the body.

Hseh P'an began to wriggle violently and vociferate wildly. "Oh, my
ribs are broken!" he shouted. "I know you're a proper sort of person!
It's all because I made the mistake of listening to other people's

"There's no need for you to drag in other people!" Hsiang-lien went on.
"Just confine yourself to those present!"

"There's nothing up at present!" Hseh P'an cried. "From what you say,
you're a person full of propriety. So it's I who am at fault."

"You'll have to speak a little milder," Hsiang-lien added, "before I let
you off."

"My dear younger brother," Hseh P'an pleaded, with a groan.

Hsiang-lien at this struck him another blow with his fist.

"Ai!" ejaculated Hseh P'an. "My dear senior brother!" he exclaimed.

Hsiang-lien then gave him two more whacks, one after the other.

"Ai Yo!" Hseh P'an precipitately screamed. "My dear Sir, do spare me,
an eyeless beggar; and henceforth I'll look up to you with veneration;
I'll fear you!"

"Drink two mouthfuls of that water!" shouted Hsiang-lien.

"That water is really too foul," Hseh P'an argued, in reply to this
suggestion, wrinkling his eyebrows the while; "and how could I put any
of it in my mouth?"

Hsiang-lien raised his fist and struck him.

"I'll drink it, I'll drink it!" quickly bawled Hseh P'an.

So saying, he felt obliged to lower his head to the very roots of the
reeds and drink a mouthful. Before he had had time to swallow it, a
sound of 'ai' became audible, and up came all the stuff he had put into
his mouth only a few seconds back.

"You filthy thing!" exclaimed Hsiang-lien. "Be quick and finish
drinking; and I'll let you off."

Upon hearing this, Hseh P'an bumped his head repeatedly on the ground.
"Do please," he cried, "lay up a store of meritorious acts for yourself
and let me off! I couldn't take that were I even on the verge of death!"

"This kind of stench will suffocate me!" Hsiang-lien observed, and, with
this remark, he abandoned Hseh Pan to his own devices; and, pulling his
horse, he put his foot to the stirrup, and rode away.

Hseh Pan, meanwhile, became aware of his departure, and felt at last
relieved in his mind. Yet his conscience pricked him for he saw that he
should not misjudge people. He then made an effort to raise himself, but
the racking torture he experienced all over his limbs was so sharp that
he could with difficulty bear it.

Chia Chen and the other guests present at the banquet became, as it
happened, suddenly alive to the fact that the two young fellows had
disappeared; but though they extended their search everywhere, they saw
nothing of them. Some one insinuated, in an uncertain way, that they had
gone outside the northern gate; but as Hseh P'an's pages had ever lived
in dread of him, who of them had the audacity to go and hunt him up
after the injunctions, he had given them, that they were not to follow
him? But waxing solicitous on his account, Chia Chen subsequently bade
Chia Jung take a few servant-boys and go and discover some clue of him,
or institute inquiries as to his whereabouts. Straightway therefore they
prosecuted their search beyond the northern gate, to a distance of two
li below the bridge, and it was quite by accident that they discerned
Hseh P'an's horse made fast by the side of a pit full of reeds.

"That's a good sign!" they with one voice exclaimed; "for if the horse
is there, the master must be there too!"

In a body, they thronged round the horse, when, from among the reeds,
they caught the sound of human groans, so hurriedly rushing forward to
ascertain for themselves, they, at a glance, perceived Hseh P'an, his
costume all in tatters, his countenance and eyes so swollen and bruised
that it was hard to make out the head and face, and his whole person,
inside as well as outside his clothes, rolled like a sow in a heap of

Chia Jung surmised pretty nearly the truth. Speedily dismounting, he
told the servants to prop him up. "Uncle Hseh," he laughed, "you daily
go in for lewd dalliance; but have you to-day come to dissipate in a
reed-covered pit? The King of the dragons in this pit must have also
fallen in love with your charms, and enticed you to become his
son-in-law that you've come and gored yourself on his horns like this!"

Hseh P'an was such a prey to intense shame that he would fain have
grovelled into some fissure in the earth had he been able to detect any.
But so little able was he to get on his horse that Chia Jung directed a
servant to run to the suburbs and fetch a chair. Ensconced in this,
Hseh P'an entered town along with the search party.

Chia Jung still insisted upon carrying him to Lai Ta's house to join the
feast, so Hseh P'an had to make a hundred and one urgent appeals to him
to tell no one, before Chia Jung eventually yielded to his solicitations
and allowed him to have his own way and return home.

Chia Jung betook himself again to Lai Ta's house, and narrated to Chia
Chen their recent experiences. When Chia Chen also learnt of the
flogging (Hseh P'an) had received from Hsiang-lien, he laughed. "It's
only through scrapes," he cried, "that he'll get all right!"

In the evening, after the party broke up, he came to inquire after him.
But Hseh P'an, who was lying all alone in his bedroom, nursing himself,
refused to see him, on the plea of indisposition.

When dowager lady Chia and the other inmates had returned home, and
every one had retired into their respective apartments, Mrs. Hseh and
Pao-ch'ai observed that Hsiang Ling's eyes were quite swollen from
crying, and they questioned her as to the reason of her distress. (On
being told), they hastily rushed to look up Hseh P'an; but, though they
saw his body covered with scars, they could discover no ribs broken, or
bones dislocated.

Mrs. Hseh fell a prey to anguish and displeasure. At one time, she
scolded Hseh P'an; at another, she abused Liu Hsiang-lien. Her wish was
to lay the matter before Madame Wang in order that some one should be
despatched to trace Liu Hsiang-lien and bring him back, but Pao-ch'ai
speedily dissuaded her. "It's nothing to make a fuss about," she
represented. "They were simply drinking together; and quarrels after a
wine bout are ordinary things. And for one who's drunk to get a few
whacks more or less is nothing uncommon! Besides, there's in our home
neither regard for God nor discipline. Every one knows it. If it's
purely out of love, mother, that you desire to give vent to your spite,
it's an easy matter enough. Have a little patience for three or five
days, until brother is all right and can go out. Mr. Chia Chen and Mr.
Chia Lien over there are not people likely to let the affair drop
without doing anything! They'll, for a certainty, stand a treat, and ask
that fellow, and make him apologise and admit his wrong in the presence
of the whole company, so that everything will be properly settled. But
were you now, ma, to begin making much of this occurrence, and telling
every one, it would, on the contrary, look as if you had, in your
motherly partiality and fond love for him, indulged him to stir up a row
and provoke people! He has, on this occasion, had unawares to eat humble
pie, but will you, ma, put people to all this trouble and inconvenience
and make use of the prestige enjoyed by your relatives to oppress an
ordinary person?"

"My dear child," Mrs. Hseh rejoined, "after listening to the advice
proffered by her, you've, after all, been able to foresee all these
things! As for me, that sudden fit of anger quite dazed me!"

"All will thus be square," Pao-ch'ai smiled, "for, as he's neither
afraid of you, mother, nor gives an ear to people's exhortations, but
gets wilder and wilder every day that goes by, he may, if he gets two or
three lessons, turn over a new leaf."

While Hseh P'an lay on the stovecouch, he reviled Hsiang-lien with all
his might. Next, he instigated the servant-boys to go and demolish his
house, kill him and bring a charge against him. But Mrs. Hseh hindered
the lads from carrying out his purpose, and explained to her son: "that
Liu Hsiang-lien had casually, after drinking, behaved in a disorderly
way, that now that he was over the effects of wine, he was exceedingly
filled with remorse, and that, prompted by the fear of punishment, he
had effected his escape."

But, reader, if you feel any interest to know what happened when Hseh
P'an heard the version his mother gave him, listen to what you will find
in the next chapter.


A sensual-minded man gets into such trouble through his sensuality
that he entertains the idea of going abroad.
An estimable and refined girl manages, after great exertion, to
compose verses at a refined meeting.

But to resume our story. After hearing his mother's arguments, Hseh
P'an's indignation gradually abated. But notwithstanding that his pains
and aches completely disappeared, in three or five days' time, the scars
of his wounds were not yet healed and shamming illness, he remained at
home; so ashamed was he to meet any of his relations or friends.

In a twinkle, the tenth moon drew near; and as several among the
partners in the various shops, with which he was connected, wanted to go
home, after the settlement of the annual accounts, he had to give them a
farewell spread at home. In their number was one Chang Te-hui, who from
his early years filled the post of manager in Hseh P'an's pawnshop; and
who enjoyed in his home a living of two or three thousand taels. His
purpose too was to visit his native place this year, and to return the
following spring.

"Stationery and perfumery have been so scarce this year," he
consequently represented, "that prices will next year inevitably be
high; so when next year comes, what I'll do will be to send up my elder
and younger sons ahead of me to look after the pawnshop, and when I
start on my way back, before the dragon festival, I'll purchase a stock
of paper, scents and fans and bring them for sale. And though we'll have
to reduce the duties, payable at the barriers, and other expenses, there
will still remain for us a considerable percentage of profit."

This proposal set Hseh P'an musing, "With the dressing I've recently
had," he pondered, "I cannot very well, at present, appear before any
one. Were the fancy to take me to get out of the way for half a year or
even a year, there isn't a place where I can safely retire. And to sham
illness, day after day, isn't again quite the right thing! In addition
to this, here I've reached this grown-up age, and yet I'm neither a
civilian nor a soldier. It's true I call myself a merchant; but I've
never in point of fact handled the scales or the abacus. Nor do I know
anything about our territories, customs and manners, distances and
routes. So wouldn't it be advisable that I should also get ready some of
my capital, and go on a tour with Chang Te-hui for a year or so? Whether
I earn any money or not, will be equally immaterial to me. More, I shall
escape from all disgrace. It will, secondly, be a good thing for me to
see a bit of country."

This resolution once arrived at in his mind, he waited until they rose
from the banquet, when he, with calmness and equanimity, brought his
plans to Chang Te-hui's cognizance, and asked him to postpone his
departure for a day or two so that they should proceed on the journey

In the evening, he imparted the tidings to his mother. Mrs. Hseh, upon
hearing his intention, was albeit delighted, tormented with fresh
misgivings lest he should stir up trouble abroad,--for as far as the
expense was concerned she deemed it a mere bagatelle,--and she
consequently would not permit him to go. "You have," she reasoned with
him, "to take proper care of me, so that I may be able to live in peace.
Another thing is, that you can well dispense with all this buying and
selling, for you are in no need of the few hundreds of taels, you may

Hseh P'an had long ago thoroughly resolved in his mind what to do and
he did not therefore feel disposed to listen to her remonstrances. "You
daily tax me," he pleaded, "with being ignorant of the world, with not
knowing this, and not learning that, and now that I stir up my good
resolution, with the idea of putting an end to all trifling, and that I
wish to become a man, to do something for myself, and learn how to carry
on business, you won't let me! But what would you have me do? Besides
I'm not a girl that you should coop me up at home! And when is this
likely to come to an end? Chang Te-hui is, moreover, a man well up in
years; and he is an old friend of our family, so if I go with him, how
ever will I be able to do anything that's wrong? Should I at any time be
guilty of any impropriety, he will be sure to speak to me, and to exhort
me. He even knows the prices of things and customs of trade; and as I
shall, as a matter of course, consult him in everything, what advantage
won't I enjoy? But if you refuse to let me go, I'll wait for a couple of
days, and, without breathing a word to any one at home, I'll furtively
make my preparations and start, and, when by next year I shall have made
my fortune and come back, you'll at length know what stuff I'm made

When he had done speaking, he flew into a huff and went off to sleep.

Mrs. Hseh felt impelled, after the arguments she heard him propound, to
deliberate with Pao-ch'ai.

"If brother," Pao-ch'ai smilingly rejoined, "were in real earnest about
gaining experience in some legitimate concerns, it would be well and
good. But though he speaks, now that he is at home, in a plausible
manner, the moment he gets abroad, his old mania will break out again,
and it will be hard to exercise any check over him. Yet, it isn't worth
the while distressing yourself too much about him! If he does actually
mend his ways, it will be the happiness of our whole lives. But if he
doesn't change, you won't, mother, be able to do anything more; for
though, in part, it depends on human exertion, it, in part, depends upon
the will of heaven! If you keep on giving way to fears that, with his
lack of worldly experience, he can't be fit to go abroad and can't be up
to any business, and you lock him up at home this year, why next year
he'll be just the same! Such being the case, you'd better, ma,--since
his arguments are right and specious enough,--make up your mind to
sacrifice from eight hundred to a thousand taels and let him have them
for a try. He'll, at all events, have one of his partners to lend him a
helping hand, one who won't either think it a nice thing to play any of
his tricks upon him. In the second place, there will be, when he's gone,
no one to the left of him or to the right of him, to stand by him, and
no one upon whom to rely, for when one goes abroad, who cares for any
one else? Those who have, eat; and those who haven't starve. When he
therefore casts his eyes about him and realises that there's no one to
depend upon, he may, upon seeing this, be up to less mischief than were
he to stay at home; but of course, there's no saying."

Mrs. Hseh listened to her, and communed within herself for a moment.
"What you say is, indeed, right and proper!" she remarked. "And could
one, by spending a small sum, make him learn something profitable, it
will be well worth!"

They then matured their plans; and nothing further of any note
transpired during the rest of the night.

The next day, Mrs. Hseh sent a messenger to invite Chang Te-hui to come
round. On his arrival, she charged Hseh P'an to regale him in the
library. Then appearing, in person, outside the window of the covered
back passage, she made thousand of appeals to Chang Te-hui to look after
her son and take good care of him.

Chang Te-hui assented to her solicitations with profuse assurances, and
took his leave after the collation.

"The fourteenth," he went on to explain to Hseh P'an. "is a propitious
day to start. So, worthy friend, you'd better be quick and pack up your
baggage, and hire a mule, for us to begin our long journey as soon as
the day dawns on the fourteenth."

Hseh P'an was intensely gratified, and he communicated their plans to
Mrs. Hseh. Mrs. Hseh then set to, and worked away, with the assistance
of Pao-ch'ai, Hsiang Ling and two old nurses, for several consecutive
days, before she got his luggage ready. She fixed upon the husband of
Hseh P'an's nurse an old man with hoary head, two old servants with
ample experience and long services, and two young pages, who acted as
Hseh P'an's constant attendants, to go with him as his companions, so
the party mustered, inclusive of master and followers, six persons in
all. Three large carts were hired for the sole purpose of carrying the
baggage and requisites; and four mules, suitable for long journeys, were
likewise engaged. A tall, dark brown, home-bred mule was selected for
Hseh P'an's use; but a saddle horse, as well, was provided for him.

After the various preparations had been effected, Mrs. Hseh, Pao-ch'ai
and the other inmates tendered him, night after night, words of advice.
But we can well dispense with dilating on this topic. On the arrival of
the thirteenth, Hseh P'an went and bade good-bye to his maternal
uncles. After which, he came and paid his farewell visit to the members
of the Chia household. Chia Chen and the other male relatives
unavoidably prepared an entertainment to speed him off. But to these
festivities, there is likewise little need to allude with any

On the fourteenth, at break of day, Mrs. Hseh, Pao-ch'ai and the other
members of the family accompanied Hseh P'an beyond the ceremonial gate.
Here his mother and her daughter stood and watched him, their four eyes
fixed intently on him, until he got out of sight, when they, at length,
retraced their footsteps into the house.

Mrs. Hseh had, in coming up to the capital, only brought four or five
family domestics and two or three old matrons and waiting-maids with
her, so, after the departure on the recent occasion, of those, who
followed Hseh P'an, no more than one or two men-servants remained in
the outer quarters. Mrs. Hseh repaired therefore on the very same day
into the study, and had the various ornaments, bric--brac, curtains and
other articles removed into the inner compound and put away. Then
bidding the wives of the two male attendants, who had gone with Hseh
P'an, likewise move their quarters inside, along with the other women,
she went on to impress upon Hsiang Ling to put everything carefully away
in her own room as well, and to lock the doors; "for," (she said), "you
must come at night and sleep with me."

"Since you've got all these people to keep you company, ma," Pao-ch'ai
remarked, "wouldn't it be as well to tell sister Ling to come and be my
companion? Our garden is besides quite empty and the nights are so long!
And as I work away every night, won't it be better for me to have an
extra person with me?"

"Quite so!" smiled Mrs. Hseh, "I forgot that! I should have told her to
go with you; it's but right. It was only the other day that I mentioned
to your brother that: 'Wen Hsing too was young, and not fit to attend to
everything that turns up, that Ying Erh could not alone do all the
waiting, and that it was necessary to purchase another girl for your

"If we buy one, we won't know what she's really like!" Pao-ch'ai
demurred. "If she gives us the slip, the money we may have spent on her
will be a mere trifle, so long as she hasn't been up to any pranks! So
let's quietly make inquiries, and, when we find one with well-known
antecedents, we can purchase her, and, we'll be on the safe side then!"

While speaking, she told Hsiang Ling to collect her bedding and clothes;
and desiring an old matron and Ch'in Erh to take them over to the Heng
Wu Yan, Pao-ch'ai returned at last into the garden in company with
Hsiang Ling.

"I meant to have proposed to my lady," Hsiang Ling said to Pao-ch'ai,
"that, when master left, I should be your companion, miss; but I feared
lest her ladyship should, with that suspicious mind of hers, have
maintained that I was longing to come into the garden to romp. But who'd
have thought it, it was you, after all, who spoke to her about it!"

"I am well aware," Pao-ch'ai smiled, "that you've been inwardly yearning
for this garden, and that not for a day or two, but with the little time
you can call your own, you would find it no fun, were you even able to
run over once in a day, so long as you have to do it in a hurry-scurry!
Seize therefore this opportunity of staying, better still, for a year;
as I, on my side, will then have an extra companion; and you, on yours,
will be able to accomplish your wishes."

"My dear miss!" laughingly observed Hsiang Ling, "do let's make the best
of this time, and teach me how to write verses!"

"I say," Pao-ch'ai laughed, "'you no sooner, get the Lung state than you
long for the Shu'! I advise you to wait a bit. This is the first day
that you spend in here, and you should, first and foremost, go out of
the garden by the eastern side gate and look up and salute every one in
her respective quarters commencing from our old lady. But you needn't
make it a point of telling them that you've moved into the garden. If
anyone does allude to the reason why you've shifted your quarters, you
can simply explain cursorily that I've brought you in as a companion,
and then drop the subject. On your return by and bye into the garden,
you can pay a visit to the apartments of each of the young ladies."

Hsiang Ling signified her acquiescence, and was about to start when she
saw P'ing Erh rush in with hurried step. Hsiang Ling hastened to ask
after her health, and P'ing Erh felt compelled to return her smile, and
reciprocate her inquiry.

"I've brought her in to-day," Pao-ch'ai thereupon smilingly said to
P'ing Erh, "to make a companion of her. She was just on the point of
going to tell your lady about it!"

"What is this that you're saying, Miss?" P'ing Erh rejoined, with a
smile. "I really am at a loss what reply to make to you!"

"It's the right thing!" Pao-ch'ai answered. "' In a house, there's the
master, and in a temple there's the chief priest.' It's true, it's no
important concern, but something must, in fact, be mentioned, so that
those, who sit up on night duty in the garden, may be aware that these
two have been added to my rooms, and know when to close the gates and
when to wait. When you get back therefore do mention it, so that I
mayn't have to send some one to tell them."

P'ing Erh promised to carry out her wishes. "As you're moved in here,"
she said to Hsiang Ling, "won't you go and pay your respects to your

"I had just this very moment," Pao-ch'ai smiled, "told her to go and do

"You needn't however go to our house," P'ing Erh remarked, "our Mr.
Secundus is laid up at home."

Hsiang Ling assented and went off, passing first and foremost by dowager
lady Chia's apartments. But without devoting any of our attention to
her, we will revert to P'ing Erh.

Seeing Hsiang Ling walk out of the room, she drew Pao-ch'ai near her.
"Miss! have you heard our news?" she inquired in a low tone of voice.

"I haven't heard any news," Pao-ch'ai responded. "We've been daily so
busy in getting my brother's things ready for his voyage abroad, that we
know nothing whatever of any of your affairs in here. I haven't even
seen anything of my female cousins these last two days."

"Our master, Mr. Chia She, has beaten our Mr. Secundus to such a degree
that he can't budge," P'ing Erh smiled. "But is it likely, miss, that
you've heard nothing about it?"

"This morning," Pao-ch'ai said by way of reply, "I heard a vague report
on the subject, but I didn't believe it could be true. I was just about
to go and look up your mistress, when you unexpectedly arrived. But why
did he beat him again?"

P'ing Erh set her teeth to and gave way to abuse. "It's all on account
of some Chia Y-ts'un or other; a starved and half-dead boorish bastard,
who went yonder quite unexpectedly. It isn't yet ten years, since we've
known him, and he has been the cause of ever so much trouble! In the
spring of this year, Mr. Chia She saw somewhere or other, I can't tell
where, a lot of antique fans; so, when on his return home, he noticed
that the fine fans stored away in the house, were all of no use, he at
once directed servants to go everywhere and hunt up some like those he
had seen. Who'd have anticipated it, they came across a reckless
creature of retribution, dubbed by common consent the 'stone fool,' who
though so poor as to not even have any rice to put to his mouth,
happened to have at home twenty antique fans. But these he utterly
refused to take out of his main door. Our Mr. Secundus had thus a
precious lot of bother to ask ever so many favours of people. But when
he got to see the man, he made endless appeals to him before he could
get him to invite him to go and sit in his house; when producing the
fans, he allowed him to have a short inspection of them. From what our
Mr. Secundus says, it would be really difficult to get any the like of
them. They're made entirely of spotted black bamboo, and the stags and
jadelike clusters of bamboo on them are the genuine pictures, drawn by
men of olden times. When he got back, he explained these things to Mr.
Chia She, who readily asked him to buy them, and give the man his own
price for them. The 'stone fool,' however, refused. 'Were I even to be
dying from hunger,' he said, 'or perishing from frostbites, and so much
as a thousand taels were offered me for each single fan, I wouldn't part
with them.' Mr. Chia She could do nothing, but day after day he abused
our Mr. Secundus as a good-for-nothing. Yet he had long ago promised the
man five hundred taels, payable cash down in advance, before delivery of
the fans, but he would not sell them. 'If you want the fans,' he had
answered, 'you must first of all take my life.' Now, miss, do consider
what was to be done? But, Y-ts'un is, as it happens, a man with no
regard for divine justice. Well, when he came to hear of it, he at once
devised a plan to lay hold of these fans, so fabricating the charge
against him of letting a government debt drag on without payment, he had
him arrested and brought before him in the Yamn; when he adjudicated
that his family property should be converted into money to make up the
amount due to the public chest; and, confiscating the fans in question,
he set an official value on them and sent them over here. And as for
that 'stone fool,' no one now has the faintest idea whether he be dead
or alive. Mr. Chia She, however, taunted Mr. Secundus. 'How is it,' he
said, 'that other people can manage to get them?' Our master simply
rejoined 'that to bring ruin upon a person in such a trivial matter
could not be accounted ability.' But, at these words, his father
suddenly rushed into a fury, and averred that Mr. Secundus had said
things to gag his mouth. This was the main cause. But several minor
matters, which I can't even recollect, also occurred during these last
few days. So, when all these things accumulated, he set to work and gave
him a sound thrashing. He didn't, however, drag him down and strike him
with a rattan or cane, but recklessly assaulted him, while he stood
before him, with something or other, which he laid hold of, and broke
his face open in two places. We understand that Mrs. Hseh has in here
some medicine or other for applying on wounds, so do try, miss, and find
a ball of it and let me have it!"

Hearing this, Pao-ch'ai speedily directed Ying Erh to go and look for
some, and, on discovering two balls of it, she brought them over and
handed them to P'ing Erh.

"Such being the case," Pao-ch'ai said, "do make, on your return, the
usual inquiries for me, and I won't then need to go."

P'ing Erh turned towards Pao-ch'ai, and expressed her readiness to
execute her commission, after which she betook herself home, where we
will leave her without further notice.

After Hsiang Ling, for we will take up the thread of our narrative with
her, completed her visits to the various inmates, she had her evening
meal. Then when Pao-ch'ai and every one else went to dowager lady Chia's
quarters, she came into the Hsiao Hsiang lodge. By this time Tai-y had
got considerably better. Upon hearing that Hsiang Ling had also moved
into the garden, she, needless to say, was filled with delight.

"Now, that I've come in here," Hsiang Ling then smiled and said, "do
please teach me, at your leisure, how to write verses. It will be a bit
of good luck for me if you do."

"Since you're anxious to learn how to versify," Tai-y answered with a
smile, "you'd better acknowledge me as your tutor; for though I'm not a
good hand at poetry, yet I know, after all, enough to be able to teach

"Of course you do!" Hsiang Ling laughingly remarked. "I'll readily treat
you as my tutor. But you mustn't put yourself to any trouble!"

"Is there anything so difficult about this," Tai-y pursued, "as to make
it necessary to go in for any study? Why, it's purely and simply a
matter of openings, elucidations, embellishments and conclusions. The
elucidations and embellishments, which come in the centre, should form
two antithetical sentences, the even tones must pair with the uneven.
Empty words must correspond with full words; and full words with empty
words. In the event of any out-of-the-way lines, it won't matter if the
even and uneven tones, and the empty and full words do not pair."

"Strange though it may appear," smiled Hsiang Ling, "I often handle
books with old poems, and read one or two stanzas, whenever I can steal
the time; and some among these I find pair most skilfully, while others
don't. I have also heard that the first, third and fifth lines are of no
consequence; and that the second, fourth and sixth must be clearly
distinguished. But I notice that there are in the poetical works of
ancient writers both those which accord with the rules, as well as those
whose second, fourth and sixth lines are not in compliance with any
rule. Hence it is that my mind has daily been full of doubts. But after
the hints you've given me, I really see that all these formulas are of
no account, and that the main requirement is originality of diction."

"Yes, that's just the principle that holds good," Tai-y answered. "But
diction is, after all, a last consideration. The first and foremost
thing is the choice of proper sentiments; for when the sentiments are
correct, there'll even be no need to polish the diction; it's certain to
be elegant. This is called versifying without letting the diction affect
the sentiments."

"What I admire," Hsiang Ling proceeded with a smile; "are the lines by
old Lu Fang;

"The double portire, when not raised, retains the fragrance long.
An old inkslab, with a slight hole, collects plenty of ink.

"Their language is so clear that it's charming."

"You must on no account," Tai-y observed, "read poetry of the kind.
It's because you people don't know what verses mean that you, no sooner
read any shallow lines like these, than they take your fancy. But when
once you get into this sort of style, it's impossible to get out of it.
Mark my words! If you are in earnest about learning, I've got here Wang
Mo-chieh's complete collection; so you'd better take his one hundred
stanzas, written in the pentameter rule of versification, and carefully
study them, until you apprehend them thoroughly. Afterwards, look over
the one hundred and twenty stanzas of Lao T'u, in the heptameter rule;
and next read a hundred or two hundred of the heptameter four-lined
stanzas by Li Ch'ing-lieu. When you have, as a first step, digested
these three authors, and made them your foundation, you can take T'ao
Yuan-ming, Ying, Liu, Hsieh, Yan, Y, Pao and other writers and go
through them once. And with those sharp and quick wits of yours, I've no
doubt but that you will become a regular poet before a year's time."

"Well, in that case," Hsiang Ling smiled, after listening to her, "bring
me the book, my dear miss, so that I may take it along. It will be a
good thing if I can manage to read several stanzas at night."

At these words, Tai-y bade Tzu Chan fetch Wang Tso-ch'eng's pentameter
stanzas. When brought, she handed them to Hsiang Ling. "Only peruse
those marked with red circles" she said. "They've all been selected by
me. Read each one of them; and should there be any you can't fathom, ask
your miss about them. Or when you come across me, I can explain them to

Hsiang Ling took the poems and repaired back to the Heng Wu-yan. And
without worrying her mind about anything she approached the lamp and
began to con stanza after stanza. Pao-ch'ai pressed her, several
consecutive times, to go to bed; but as even rest was far from her
thoughts, Pao-ch'ai let her, when she perceived what trouble she was
taking over her task, have her own way in the matter.

Tai-y had one day just finished combing her hair and performing her
ablutions, when she espied Hsiang Ling come with smiles playing about
her lips, to return her the book and to ask her to let her have T'u's
poetical compositions in exchange.

"Of all these, how many stanzas can you recollect?" Tai-y asked,

"I've read every one of those marked with a red circle," Hsiang Ling
laughingly rejoined.

"Have you caught the ideas of any of them, yes or no?" Tai-y inquired.

"Yes, I've caught some!" Hsiang Ling smiled. "But whether rightly or not
I don't know. Let me tell you."

"You must really," Tai-y laughingly remarked, "minutely solicit
people's opinions if you want to make any progress. But go on and let me
hear you."

"From all I can see," Hsiang Ling smiled, "the beauty of poetry lies in
certain ideas, which though not quite expressible in words are,
nevertheless, found, on reflection, to be absolutely correct. Some may
have the semblance of being totally devoid of sense, but, on second
thought, they'll truly be seen to be full of sense and feeling."

"There's a good deal of right in what you say," Tai-y observed. "But I
wonder how you arrived at this conclusion?"

"I notice in that stanza on 'the borderland,' the antithetical couplet:

"In the vast desert reigns but upright mist.
In the long river setteth the round sun.

"Consider now how ever can mist be upright? The sun is, of course, round.
But the word 'upright' would seem to be devoid of common sense; and
'round' appears far too commonplace a word. But upon throwing the whole
passage together, and pondering over it, one fancies having seen the
scenery alluded to. Now were any one to suggest that two other
characters should be substituted for these two, one would verily be hard
pressed to find any other two as suitable. Besides this, there's also
the couplet:

"When the sun sets, rivers and lakes are white;
When the mist falls, the heavens and earth azure.

"Both 'white' and 'azure', apparently too lack any sense; but reflection
will show that these two words are absolutely necessary to bring out
thoroughly the aspect of the scenery. And in conning them over, one
feels just as if one had an olive, weighing several thousands of
catties, in one's mouth, so much relish does one derive from them. But
there's this too:

"At the ferry stays the setting sun,
O'er the mart hangs the lonesome mist.

"And how much trouble must these words 'stay,' and 'over, have caused the
author in their conception! When the boats made fast, in the evening of
a certain day of that year in which we came up to the capital, the banks
were without a trace of human beings; and there were only just a few
trees about; in the distance loomed the houses of several families
engaged in preparing their evening meal, and the mist was, in fact,
azure like jade, and connected like clouds. So, when I, as it happened,
read this couplet last night, it actually seemed to me as if I had come
again to that spot!"

But in the course of their colloquy, Pao-y and T'an Ch'un arrived; and
entering the room, they seated themselves, and lent an ear to her
arguments on the verses.

"Seeing that you know so much," Pao-y remarked with a smiling face,
"you can dispense with reading poetical works, for you're not far off
from proficiency. To hear you expatiate on these two lines, makes it
evident to my mind that you've even got at their secret meaning."

"You say," argued Tai-y with a significant smile, "that the line:

"'O'er (the mart) hangs the lonesome mist,'

"is good; but aren't you yet aware that this is only plagiarised from an
ancient writer? But I'll show you the line I'm telling you of. You'll
find it far plainer and clearer than this."

While uttering these words, she turned up T'ao Yan-ming's,

Dim in the distance lies a country place;
Faint in the hamlet-market hangs the mist;

and handed it to Hsiang Ling.

Hsiang Ling perused it, and, nodding her head, she eulogised it.
"Really," she smiled, the word 'over' is educed from the two characters
implying 'faint.'

Pao-y burst out into a loud fit of exultant laughter. "You've already
got it!" he cried. "There's no need of explaining anything more to you!
Any further explanations will, in lieu of benefiting you, make you
unlearn what you've learnt. Were you therefore to, at once, set to work,
and versify, your lines are bound to be good."

"To-morrow," observed T'an ch'un with a smile; "I'll stand an extra
treat and invite you to join the society."

"Why make a fool of me, miss?" Hsiang Ling laughingly ejaculated. "It's
merely that mania of mine that made me apply my mind to this subject at
all; just for fun and no other reason."

T'an Ch'un and Tai-y both smiled. "Who doesn't go in for these things

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