Part 12 out of 14
"That's the line," one and all unanimously exclaimed with a laugh.
"'The whole pond is covered with rush.'"
"Now find the name of the rush?" Li Wan proceeded.
"This must certainly be the cat-tail rush!" hastily again replied
Hsiang-yün. "Can this not be right?"
"You've succeeded in guessing it," Li Wan smiled. "Li Wen's is:
"'Cold runs the stream along the stones;'
"bearing on the name of a man of old."
"Can it be Shan T'ao?" T'an Ch'un smilingly asked.
"It is!" answered Li Wan.
"Ch'i Erh's is the character 'Yung' (glow-worm). It refers to a single
word," Li Wan resumed.
The party endeavoured for a long time to hit upon the solution.
"The meaning of this is certainly deep," Pao-ch'in put in. "I wonder
whether it's the character, 'hua,' (flower) in the combination, 'hua
"That's just it!" Li Ch'i smiled.
"What has a glow-worm to do with flowers?" one and all observed.
"It's capital!" Tai-yü ventured with a smile. "Isn't a glow-worm
transformed from plants?"
The company grasped the sense; and, laughing the while, they, with one
consent, shouted out, "splendid!"
"All these are, I admit, good," Pao-ch'ai remarked, "but they won't suit
our venerable senior's taste. Won't it be better therefore to compose a
few on some simple objects; some which all of us, whether polished or
unpolished, may be able to enjoy?"
"Yes," they all replied, "we should also think of some simple ones on
"I've devised one on the 'Tien Chiang Ch'un' metre," Hsiang-yün pursued,
after some reflection. "But it's really on an ordinary object. So try
and guess it."
Saying this, she forthwith went on to recite:
The creeks and valleys it leaves;
Travelling the world, it performs.
In truth how funny it is!
But renown and gain are still vain;
Ever hard behind it is its fate.
None of those present could fathom what it could be. After protracted
thought, some made a guess, by saying it was a bonze. Others maintained
that it was a Taoist priest. Others again divined that it was a
"All your guesses are wrong," Pao-yü chimed in, after considerable
reflection. "I've got it! It must for a certainty be a performing
"That's really it!" Hsiang-yün laughed.
"The first part is all right," the party observed, "but how do you
explain the last line?"
"What performing monkey," Hsiang-yün asked, "has not had its tail cut
Hearing this, they exploded into a fit of merriment. "Even," they
argued, "the very riddles she improvises are perverse and strange!"
"Mrs. Hsüeh mentioned yesterday that you, cousin Ch'in, had seen much of
the world," Li Wan put in, "and that you had also gone about a good
deal. It's for you therefore to try your hand at a few conundrums.
What's more your poetry too is good. So why shouldn't you indite a few
for us to guess?"
Pao-ch'in, at this proposal, nodded her head, and while repressing a
smile, she went off by herself to give way to thought.
Pao-ch'ai then also gave out this riddle:
Carved sandal and cut cedar rise layer upon layer.
Have they been piled and fashioned by workmen of skill!
In the mid-heavens it's true, both wind and rain fleet by;
But can one hear the tingling of the Buddhists' bell?
While they were giving their mind to guessing what it could be, Pao-yü
Both from the heavens and from the earth, it's indistinct to view.
What time the 'Lang Ya' feast goes past, then mind you take great
When the 'luan's' notes you catch and the crane's message thou'lt look
It is a splendid thing to turn and breathe towards the vault of
heaven, (a kite)
Tai-yü next added:
Why need a famous steed be a with bridle e'er restrained?
Through the city it speeds; the moat it skirts; how fierce it looks.
The master gives the word and wind and clouds begin to move.
On the 'fish backs' and the 'three isles' it only makes a name, (a
T'an Ch'un had also one that she felt disposed to tell them, but just as
she was about to open her lips, Pao-ch'in walked up to them. "The relics
of various places I've seen since my youth," she smiled, "are not few,
so I've now selected ten places of historic interest, on which I've
composed ten odes, treating of antiquities. The verses may possibly be
coarse, but they bear upon things of the past, and secretly refer as
well to ten commonplace articles. So, cousins, please try and guess
"This is ingenious!" they exclaimed in chorus, when they heard the
result of her labour. "Why not write them out, and let us have a look at
But, reader, peruse the next chapter, if you want to learn what follows.
The young maiden Hsüeh Pao-ch'in devises, in novel style, odes bearing
A stupid doctor employs, in reckless manner, drugs of great strength.
When the party heard, the story goes, that Pao-ch'in had made the old
places of interest she had, in days gone by, visited in the various
provinces, the theme of her verses, and that she had composed ten
stanzas with four lines in each, which though referring to relics of
antiquity, bore covertly on ten common objects, they all opined that
they must be novel and ingenious, and they vied with each other in
examining the text. On perusal, they read:
On the relics of Ch'ih Pi:
Deep in Ch'ih Pi doth water lie concealed which does not onward flow.
There but remains a name and surname contained in an empty boat.
When with a clamorous din the fire breaks out, the sad wind waxes
An endless host of eminent spirits wander about inside.
On the ancient remains in Chiao Chih:
Posts of copper and walls of gold protect the capital.
Its fame is spread beyond the seas, scattered in foreign lands.
How true it is that Ma Yüan's achievements have been great.
The flute of iron need not trouble to sing of Tzu Fang.
On the vestiges of former times in Chung Shan:
Renown and gain do they, at any time, fall to a woman's share?
For no reason have I been bidden come into the mortal world.
How hard a task, in point of fact, it is to stop solicitude!
Don't bear a grudge against such people as may oft times jeer at you!
On things of historic interest in Huai Yin:
The sturdy man must ever mind the insults of the vicious dog.
Th' official's rank in San Ch'i was but fixed when his coffin was
Tell all people that upon earth do dwell to look down upon none.
The bounty of one single bowl of rice should be treasured till death.
On events of old in Kuang Lin:
Cicadas chirp; crows roost; but, in a twinkle, they are gone.
How fares these latter days the scenery in Sui T'i?
It's all because he has so long enjoyed so fine a fame,
That he has given rise around to so many disputes.
On the ancient remains of the T'ao Yeh ferry:
Dry grass and parchèd plants their reflex cast upon the shallow pond.
The peach tree branches and peach leaves will bid farewell at last.
What a large number of structures in Liu Ch'ao raise their heads.
A small picture with a motto hangs on the hollow wall.
On the antique vestiges of Ch'ing Chung:
The black stream stretches far and wide, but hindered is its course.
What time were no more thrummed the frozen cords, the songs waxed sad.
The policy of the Han dynasty was in truth strange!
A worthless officer must for a thousand years feel shame.
On things of historic renown in Ma Wei:
Quiet the spots of rouge with sweat pile up and shine.
Gentleness in a moment vanishes and goes.
It is because traces remain of his fine looks,
That to this day his clothes a fragrance still emit.
On events of the past connected with the Pu Tung temple:
The small red lamp is wholly made of thin bone, and is light.
Furtively was it brought along but by force was it stol'n.
Oft was it, it is true, hung by the mistress' own hands,
But long ere this has she allured it to speed off with her.
On the scenery about the Mei Hua (Plum Bloom) monastery.
If not by the plum trees, then by the willows it must be.
Has any one picked up in there the likeness of a girl?
Don't fret about meeting again; in spring its scent returns.
Soon as it's gone, and west winds blow, another year has flown.
When the party had done reading the verses, they with perfect unanimity
extolled their extraordinary excellence. Pao-ch'ai was, however, the
first to raise any objections. "The first eight stanzas," she said, "are
founded upon the testimony of the historical works. But as for the last
two stanzas, there's no knowing where they come from. Besides, we don't
quite fathom their meaning. Wouldn't it be better then if two other
stanzas were written?"
Tai-yü hastened to interrupt her. "The lines composed by cousin Pao
ch'in are indeed devised in a too pigheaded and fast-and-loose sort of
way," she observed. "The two stanzas are, I admit, not to be traced in
the historical works, but though we've never read such outside
traditions, and haven't any idea what lies at the bottom of them, have
we not likely seen a couple of plays? What child of three years old
hasn't some notion about them, and how much more such as we?"
"What she says is perfectly correct," T'an Ch'un chimed in.
"She has besides," Li Wan then remarked, "been to these places herself.
But though there be no mention anywhere of these two references,
falsehoods have from old till now been propagated, and busybodies have,
in fact, intentionally invented such relics of ancient times with a view
of bamboozling people. That year, for instance, in which we travelled up
here to the capital, we came across graves raised to Kuan, the sage, in
three or four distinct places. Now the circumstances of the whole
existence of Kuan the sage are established by actual proof, so how could
there again in his case exist a lot of graves? This must arise from the
esteem in which he is held by posterity for the way he acquitted himself
of his duties during his lifetime. And it is presumably to this esteem
that this fiction owes its origin. This is quite possible enough. Even
in the 'Kuang Yü Chi', you will see that not only are numerous tombs of
the sage Kuan spoken of, but that bygone persons of note are assigned
tombs not few in number. But there are many more relics of antiquity,
about which no testimony can be gathered. The matter treated in the two
stanzas, now in point, is, of course, not borne out by any actual
record; yet in every story, that is told, in every play, that is sung,
and on the various slips as well used for fortune telling, it is
invariably to be found. Old and young, men and women, do all understand
it and speak of it, whether in proverbs or in their everyday talk. They
don't resemble, besides, the ballads encountered in the 'Hsi Hsiang
Chi,' and 'Mou Tan T'ing,' to justify us to fear that we might be
setting eyes upon some corrupt text. They are quite harmless; so we'd
better keep them!"
Pao-ch'ai, after these arguments, dropped at length all discussion. They
thereupon tried for a time to guess the stanzas. None, however, of their
solutions turned out to be correct. But as the days in winter are short,
and they saw that it was time for their evening meal, they adjourned to
the front part of the compound for their supper.
The servants at this stage announced to Madame Wang that Hsi Jen's elder
brother, Hua Tzu-fang, was outside, and reported to her that he had
entered the city to say that his mother was lying in bed dangerously
ill, and that she was so longing to see her daughter that he had come to
beg for the favour of taking Hsi Jen home on a visit. As soon as Madame
Wang heard the news, she dilated for a while upon people's mothers and
daughters, and of course she did not withhold her consent. Sending
therefore at the same time for lady Feng, she communicated the tidings
to her, and enjoined her to deliberate, and take suitable action.
Lady Feng signified her willingness to do what was necessary, and,
returning to her quarters, she there and then commissioned Chou Jui's
wife to go and break the news to Hsi Jen. "Send also," she went on to
direct Mrs. Chou, "for one of the married-women, who are in attendance
when we go out-of-doors, and let you two, together with a couple of
young maids, follow Hsi Jen home. But despatch four cart attendants,
well up in years, to look everywhere for a spacious curricle for you as
well as her, and a small carriage for the maids."
"All right!" acquiesced Chou Jui's wife. But just as she was about to
start, lady Feng continued her injunctions. "Hsi Jen," she added; "is a
person not fond of any fuss, so tell her that it's I who have given the
orders; and impress upon her that she must put on several nice, coloured
clothes, and pack up a large valise full of wearing apparel. Her valise,
must be a handsome one; and she must take a decent hand-stove. Bid her
too first come and look me up here when she's about to start."
Mrs. Chou promised to execute her directions and went on her way.
After a long interval, (lady Feng) actually saw Hsi Jen arrive, got up
in full costume and head-gear, and with her two waiting-maids and Chou
Jui's wife, who carried the hand-stove and the valise packed up with
clothes. Lady Feng's eye was attracted by several golden hairpins and
pearl ornaments of great brilliancy and beauty, which Hsi Jen wore in
her coiffure. Her gaze was further struck by the peach-red stiff silk
jacket she had on, brocaded with all sorts of flowers and lined with
ermine, by her leek-green wadded jupe, artistically ornamented with
coils of gold thread, and by the bluish satin and grey squirrel pelisse
she was wrapped in.
"These three articles of clothing, given to you by our dowager lady,"
lady Feng smiled, "are all very nice; but this pelisse is somewhat too
plain. If you wear this, you'll besides feel cold, so put on one with
"Our Madame Wang," Hsi Jen laughingly rejoined, "gave me this one with
the grey squirrel. I've also got one with ermine. She says that when the
end of the year draws nigh, she'll let me have one with long fur."
"I've got one with long fur," lady Feng proceeded with a smile. "I don't
fancy it much as the fringe does not hang with grace. I was on the point
of having it changed; but, never mind, I'll let you first use it; and,
when at the close of the year, Madame Wang has one made for you, I can
then have mine altered, and it will come to the same thing as if you
were returning it like that to me."
One and all laughed. "That's the way of talking into which her ladyship
has got!" they observed. "There she is the whole year round recklessly
carelessly and secretly making good, on Madame Wang's account, ever so
many things; how many there is no saying; for really the things for
which compensation is made, cannot be so much as enumerated; and does
she ever go, and settle scores with Madame Wang? and here she comes, on
this occasion, and gives vent again to this mean language, in order to
poke fun at people!"
"How could Madame Wang," lady Feng laughed, "ever give a thought to such
trifles as these? They are, in fact, matters of no consequence. Yet were
I not to look after them, it would be a disgrace to all of us, and
needless to say, I would myself get into some scrape. It's far better
that I should dress you all properly, and so get a fair name and finish;
for were each of you to cut the figure of a burnt cake, people would
first and foremost ridicule me, by saying that in looking after the
household I have, instead of doing good, been the means of making
beggars of you!"
After hearing her out, the whole party heaved a sigh. "Who could ever
be," they exclaimed, "so intuitively wise as you, to show, above, such
regard for Madame Wang, and below, such consideration for her
In the course of these remarks, they noticed lady Feng bid P'ing Erh
find the dark green stiff silk cloak with white fox, she had worn the
day before, and give it to Hsi Jen. But perceiving, also, that in the
way of a valise, she only had a double one made of black spotted,
figured sarcenet, with a lining of light red pongee silk, and that its
contents consisted merely of two wadded jackets, the worse for wear, and
a pelisse, lady Feng went on to tell P'ing Erh to fetch a woollen
wrapper, lined with jade-green pongee. But she ordered her besides to
pack up a snow-cloak for her.
P'ing Erh walked away and produced the articles. The one was made of
deep-red felt, and was old. The other was of deep-red soft satin,
neither old nor new.
"I don't deserve so much as a single one of these," Hsi Jen said.
"Keep this felt one for yourself," P'ing Erh smiled, "and take this one
along with you and tell some one to send it to that elderly girl, who
while every one, in that heavy fall of snow yesterday, was rolled up in
soft satin, if not in felt, and while about ten dark red dresses were
reflected in the deep snow and presented such a fine sight, was the only
one attired in those shabby old clothes. She seems more than ever to
raise her shoulders and double her back. She is really to be pitied; so
take this now and give it to her!"
"She surreptitiously wishes to give my things away!" lady Feng laughed.
"I haven't got enough to spend upon myself and here I have you, better
still, to instigate me to be more open-handed!"
"This comes from the filial piety your ladyship has ever displayed
towards Madame Wang," every one laughingly remarked, "and the fond love
for those below you. For had you been mean and only thought of making
much of things and not cared a rap for your subordinates, would that
girl have presumed to behave in this manner?"
"If any one therefore has read my heart, it's she," lady Feng rejoined
with a laugh, "but yet she only knows it in part."
At the close of this rejoinder, she again spoke to Hsi Jen. "If your
mother gets well, all right," she said; "but if anything happens to her,
just stay over, and send some one to let me know so that I may specially
despatch a servant to bring you your bedding. But whatever you do,
don't, use their bedding, nor any of their things to comb your hair
with. As for you people," continuing, she observed to Mrs. Chou Jui,
"you no doubt are aware of the customs, prevailing in this
establishment, so that I can dispense with giving you any injunctions."
"Yes, we know them all," Mrs. Chou Jui assented. "As soon as we get
there, we'll, of course, request their male inmates to retire out of the
way. And in the event of our having to stay over, we'll naturally apply
for one or two extra inner rooms."
With these words still on her lips, she followed Hsi Jen out of the
apartment. Then directing the servant-boys to prepare the lanterns,
they, in due course, got into their curricle, and came to Hua Tzu-fang's
quarters, where we will leave them without any further comment.
Lady Feng, meanwhile, sent also for two nurses from the I Hung court. "I
am afraid," she said to them, "that Hsi Jen won't come back, so if there
be any elderly girl, who has to your knowledge, so far, had her wits
about her, depute her to come and keep night watch in Pao-yü's rooms.
But you nurses must likewise take care and exercise some control, for
you mustn't let Pao-yü recklessly kick up any trouble!"
"Quite so," answered the two nurses, agreeing to her directions, after
which, they quitted her presence. But not a long interval expired before
they came to report the result of their search. "We've set our choice
upon Ch'ing Wen and She Yüeh to put up in his rooms," they reported. "We
four will take our turn and look after things during the night."
When lady Feng heard these arrangements, she nodded her head. "At
night," she observed, "urge him to retire to bed soon; and in the
morning press him to get up at an early hour."
The nurses replied that they would readily carry out her orders and
returned alone into the garden.
In a little time Chou Jui's wife actually brought the news, which she
imparted to lady Feng, that: "as her mother was already beyond hope, Hsi
Jen could not come back."
Lady Feng then explained things to Madame Wang, and sent, at the same
time, servants to the garden of Broad Vista to fetch (Hsi Jen's) bedding
and toilet effects.
Pao-yü watched Ch'ing Wen and She Yüeh get all her belongings in proper
order. After the things had been despatched, Ch'ing Wen and She Yüeh
divested themselves of their remaining fineries and changed their jupes
and jackets. Ch'ing Wen seated herself round a warming-frame.
"Now," She Yüeh smiled, "you're not to put on the airs of a young lady!
I advise you to also move about a bit."
"When you're all clean gone," Ch'ing Wen returned for answer, "I shall
have ample time to budge. But every day that you people are here, I
shall try and enjoy peace and quiet."
"My dear girl," She Yüeh laughed, "I'll make the bed, but drop the cover
over that cheval-glass and put the catches right; you are so much taller
So saying, she at once set to work to arrange the bed for Pao-yü.
"Hai!" ejaculated Ch'ing Wen smiling, "one just sits down to warm one's
self, and here you come and disturb one!"
Pao-yü had at this time been sitting, plunged in a despondent mood. The
thought of Hsi Jen's mother had crossed through his mind and he was
wondering whether she could be dead or alive, when unexpectedly
overhearing Ch'ing Wen pass the remarks she did, he speedily sprung up,
and came out himself and dropped the cover of the glass, and fastened
the contrivance, after which he walked into the room. "Warm yourselves,"
he smiled, "I've done all there was to be done."
"I can't manage," Ch'ing Wen rejoined smiling, "to get warm at all. It
just also strikes me that the warming-pan hasn't yet been brought."
"You've had the trouble to think of it!" She Yüeh observed. "But you've
never wanted a chafing-dish before. It's so warm besides on that
warming-frame of ours; not like the stove-couch in that room, which is
so cold; so we can very well do without it to-day."
"If both of you are to sleep on that," Pao-yü smiled, "there won't be a
soul with me outside, and I shall be in an awful funk. Even you won't be
able to have a wink of sleep during the whole night!"
"As far as I'm concerned," Ch'ing Wen put in, "I'm going to sleep in
here. There's She Yüeh, so you'd better induce her to come and sleep
But while they kept up this conversation, the first watch drew near, and
She Yüeh at once lowered the mosquito-curtain, removed the lamp, burnt
the joss-sticks, and waited upon Pao-yü until he got into bed. The two
maids then retired to rest. Ch'ing Wen reclined all alone on the
warming-frame, while She Yüeh lay down outside the winter apartments.
The third watch had come and gone, when Pao-yü, in the midst of a dream,
started calling Hsi Jen. He uttered her name twice, but no one was about
to answer him. And it was after he had stirred himself out of sleep that
he eventually recalled to mind that Hsi Jen was not at home, and he had
a hearty fit laughter to himself.
Ch'ing Wen however had been roused out of her sleep, and she called She
Yüeh. "Even I," she said, "have been disturbed, fast asleep though I
was; and, lo, she keeps a look-out by his very side and doesn't as yet
know anything about his cries! In very deed she is like a stiff corpse!"
She Yüeh twisted herself round and yawned. "He calls Hsi Jen," she
smilingly rejoined, "so what's that to do with me? What do you want?"
proceeding, she then inquired of him.
"I want some tea," Pao-yü replied.
She Yüeh hastily jumped out of bed, with nothing on but a short wadded
coat of red silk.
"Throw my pelisse over you;" Pao-yü cried; "for mind it's cold!"
She Yüeh at these words put back her hands, and, taking the warm
pelisse, lined even up to the lapel, with fur from the neck of the
sable, which Pao-yü had put on on getting up, she threw it over her
shoulders and went below and washed her hands in the basin. Then filling
first a cup with tepid water, she brought a large cuspidor for Pao-yü to
wash his mouth. Afterwards, she drew near the tea-case, and getting a
cup, she first rinsed it with lukewarm water, and pouring half a cup of
tea from the warm teapot, she handed it to Pao-yü. After he had done,
she herself rinsed her mouth, and swallowed half a cupful of tea.
"My dear girl," Ch'ing Wen interposed smiling, "do give me also a sip."
"You put on more airs than ever," She Yüeh laughed.
"My dear girl;" Ch'ing Wen added, "to-morrow night, you needn't budge;
I'll wait on you the whole night long. What do you say to that?"
Hearing this, She Yüeh had no help but to attend to her as well, while
she washed her mouth, and to pour a cup of tea and give it to her to
"Won't you two go to sleep," She Yüeh laughed, "but keep on chatting?
I'll go out for a time; I'll be back soon."
"Are there any evil spirits waiting for you outside?" Ch'ing Wen smiled.
"It's sure to be bright moonlight out of doors," Pao-yü observed, "so
go, while we continue our chat."
So speaking, he coughed twice.
She Yüeh opened the back-door, and raising the woollen portière and
looking out, she saw what a beautiful moonlight there really was.
Ch'ing Wen allowed her just time enough to leave the room, when she felt
a wish to frighten her for the sake of fun. But such reliance did she
have in her physique, which had so far proved better than that of
others, that little worrying her mind about the cold, she did not even
throw a cloak over her, but putting on a short jacket, she descended,
with gentle tread and light step, from the warming-frame and was making
her way out to follow in her wake, when "Hallo!" cried Pao-yü warning
her. "It's freezing; it's no joke!"
Ch'ing Wen merely responded with a wave of the hand and sallied out of
the door to go in pursuit of her companion. The brilliancy of the moon,
which met her eye, was as limpid as water. But suddenly came a slight
gust of wind. She felt it penetrate her very flesh and bore through her
bones. So much so, that she could not help shuddering all over. "Little
wonder is it," she argued within herself, "if people say 'that one
mustn't, when one's body is warm, expose one's self to the wind.' This
cold is really dreadful!" She was at the same time just on the point of
giving (She Yüeh) a start, when she heard Pao-yü shout from inside,
"Ch'ing Wen has come out."
Ch'ing Wen promptly turned back and entered the room. "How could I ever
frighten her to death?" she laughed. "It's just your way; you're as
great a coward as an old woman!"
"It isn't at all that you might do her harm by frightening her," Pao-yü
smiled, "but, in the first place, it wouldn't be good for you to get
frost-bitten; and, in the second, you would take her so much off her
guard that she won't be able to prevent herself from uttering a shout.
So, in the event of rousing any of the others out of their sleep, they
won't say that we are up to jokes, but maintain instead that just as Hsi
Jen is gone, you two behave as if you'd come across ghosts or seen evil
spirits. Come and tuck in the coverlets on this side!"
When Ch'ing Wen heard what he wanted done she came accordingly and
tucked in the covers, and, putting out her hands, she inserted them
under them, and set to work to warm the bedding.
"How cold your hand is!" Pao-yü laughingly exclaimed. "I told you to
look out or you'd freeze!"
Noticing at the same time that Ch'ing Wen's cheeks were as red as rouge,
he rubbed them with his hands. But as they felt icy cold to his touch,
"Come at once under the cover and warm yourself!" Pao-yü urged.
Hardly, however, had he concluded these words, than a sound of 'lo teng'
reached their ears from the door, and She Yüeh rushed in all in a
tremor, laughing the while.
"I've had such a fright," she smiled, as she went on speaking. "Goodness
me! I saw in the black shade, at the back of the boulders on that hill,
some one squatting, and was about to scream, when it turned out to be
nothing else than that big golden pheasant. As soon as it caught sight
of a human being, it flew away. But it was only when it reached a
moonlit place that I at last found out what it was. Had I been so
heedless as to scream, I would have been the means of getting people out
of their beds!"
Recounting her experiences, she washed her hands.
"Ch'ing Wen, you say, has gone out," she proceeded laughing, "but how is
it I never caught a glimpse of her? She must certainly have gone to
"Isn't this she?" Pao-yü inquired with a smile. "Is she not here warming
herself? Had I not been quick in shouting, she would verily have given
you a fright."
"There was no need for me to go and frighten her," Ch'ing Wen laughingly
observed. "This hussy has frightened her own self."
With these words she ensconced herself again under her own coverlet.
"Did you forsooth go out," She Yüeh remarked, "in this smart dress of a
"Why, of course, she went out like this!" Pao-yü smiled.
"You wouldn't know, for the life of you, how to choose a felicitous
day!" She Yüeh added. "There you go and stand about on a fruitless
errand. Won't your skin get chapped from the frost?"
Saying this, she again raised the copper cover from the brasier, and,
picking up the shovel, she buried the live charcoal deep with ashes, and
taking two bits of incense of Cambodia fragrant wood, she threw them
over them. She then re-covered the brasier, and repairing to the back of
the screen, she gave the lamp a thorough trimming to make it throw out
more light; after which, she once more laid herself down.
As Ch'ing Wen had some time before felt cold, and now began to get warm
again, she unexpectedly sneezed a couple of times.
"How about that?" sighed Pao-yü. "There you are; you've after all caught
"Early this morning," She Yüeh smiled, "she shouted that she wasn't
feeling quite herself. Neither did she have the whole day a proper bowl
of food. And now, not to speak of her taking so little care of herself,
she is still bent upon playing larks upon people! But if she falls ill
by and bye, we'll let her suffer what she will have brought upon
"Is your head hot?" Pao-yü asked.
"It's nothing at all!" Ch'ing Wen rejoined, after coughing twice. "When
did I get so delicate?"
But while she spoke, they heard the striking clock, suspended on the
partition wall in the outer rooms, give two sounds of 'tang, tang,' and
the matron, on the night watch outside, say: "Now, young girls, go to
sleep. To-morrow will be time enough for you to chat and laugh!"
"Don't let's talk!" Pao-yü then whispered, "for, mind, we'll also induce
them to start chattering." After this, they at last went to sleep.
The next day, they got up at an early hour. Ch'ing Wen's nose was indeed
considerably stopped. Her voice was hoarse; and she felt no inclination
"Be quick," urged Pao-yü, "and don't make a fuss, for your mistress, my
mother, may come to know of it, and bid you also shift to your house and
nurse yourself. Your home might, of course, be all very nice, but it's
in fact somewhat cold. So isn't it better here? Go and lie down in the
inner rooms, and I'll give orders to some one to send for the doctor to
come quietly by the back door and have a look at you. You'll then get
all right again."
"In spite of what you say," Ch'ing Wen demurred, "you must really say
something about it to our senior lady, Mrs. Chia Chu; otherwise the
doctor will be coming unawares, and people will begin to ask questions;
and what answer could one give them?"
Pao-yü found what she said so full of reason that he called an old
nurse. "Go and deliver this message to your senior mistress," he
enjoined her. "Tell her that Ch'ing Wen got a slight chill yesterday.
That as it's nothing to speak of, and Hsi Jen is besides away, there
would be, more than ever, no one here to look after things, were she to
go home and attend to herself, so let her send for a doctor to come
quietly by the back entrance and see what's the matter with her; but
don't let her breathe a word about it to Madame Wang, my mother."
The old nurse was away a considerable time on the errand. On her return,
"Our senior mistress," she reported, "has been told everything. She says
that: 'if she gets all right, after taking a couple of doses of
medicine, it will be well and good. But that in the event of not
recovering, it would, really, be the right thing for her to go to her
own home. That the season isn't healthy at present, and that if the
other girls caught her complaint it would be a small thing; but that the
good health of the young ladies is a vital matter.'"
Ch'ing Wen was lying in the winter apartment, coughing and coughing,
when overhearing (Li Wan's) answer, she lost control over her temper.
"Have I got such a dreadful epidemic," she said, "that she fears that I
shall bring it upon others? I'll clear off at once from this place; for
mind you don't get any headaches and hot heads during the course of your
"While uttering her grievances, she was bent upon getting up
immediately, when Pao-yü hastened to smile and to press her down.
"Don't lose your temper," he advised her. "This is a responsibility
which falls upon her shoulders, so she is afraid lest Madame Wang might
come to hear of it, and call her to task. She only made a harmless
remark. But you've always been prone to anger, and now, as a matter of
course your spleen is larger than ever."
But in the middle of his advice to her, a servant came and told him that
the doctor had arrived. Pao-yü accordingly crossed over to the off side,
and retired behind the bookcase; from whence he perceived two or three
matrons, whose duty it was to keep watch at the back door, usher the
The waiting-maids, meanwhile, withdrew out of the way. Three or four old
nurses dropped the deep-red embroidered curtain, suspended in the winter
apartment. Ch'ing Wen then simply stretched out her hand from among the
folds of the curtain. But the doctor noticed that on two of the fingers
of her hand, the nails, which measured fully two or three inches in
length, still bore marks of the pure red dye from the China balsam, and
forthwith he turned his head away. An old nurse speedily fetched a towel
and wiped them for her, when the doctor set to work and felt her pulse
for a while, after which he rose and walked into the outer chamber.
"Your young lady's illness," he said to the old nurses, "arises from
external sources, and internal obstructive influences, caused by the
unhealthiness of the season of late. Yet it's only a slight chill, after
all. Fortunately, the young lady has ever been moderate in her drinking
and eating. The cold she has is nothing much. It's mainly because she
has a weak constitution that she has unawares got a bit of a chill. But
if she takes a couple of doses of medicine to dispel it with, she'll be
So saying, he followed once more the matron out of the house.
Li Wan had, by this time, sent word to the various female domestics at
the back entrance, as well as to the young maids in the different parts
of the establishment to keep in retirement. All therefore that the
doctor perceived as he went along was the scenery in the garden. But not
a single girl did he see.
Shortly, he made his exit out of the garden gate, and taking a seat in
the duty-lodge of the servant-lads, who looked after the
garden-entrance, he wrote a prescription.
"Sir," urged an old nurse, "don't go yet. Our young master is fretful
and there may be, I fancy, something more to ask you."
"Wasn't the one I saw just now a young lady," the doctor exclaimed with
eagerness, "but a young man, eh? Yet the rooms were such as are occupied
by ladies. The curtains were besides let down. So how could the patient
I saw have ever been a young man?"
"My dear sir," laughed the old nurse, "it isn't strange that a
servant-girl said just now that a new doctor had been sent for on this
occasion, for you really know nothing about our family matters. That
room is that of our young master, and that is a girl attached to the
apartments; but she's really a servant-maid. How ever were those a young
lady's rooms? Had a young lady fallen ill, would you ever have
penetrated inside with such ease?"
With these words, she took the prescription and wended her way into the
When Pao-yü came to peruse it, he found, above, such medicines mentioned
as sweet basil, platycodon, carraway seeds, mosla dianthera, and the
like; and, below, citrus fusca and sida as well.
"He deserves to be hanged! He deserves death!" Pao-yü shouted. "Here he
treats girls in the very same way as he would us men! How could this
ever do? No matter what internal obstruction there may be, how could she
ever stand citrus and sida? Who asked him to come? Bundle him off at
once; and send for another, who knows what he's about."
"Whether he uses the right medicines or not," the old nurse pleaded, "we
are not in a position to know. But we'll now tell a servant-lad to go
and ask Dr. Wang round. It's easy enough! The only thing is that as this
doctor wasn't sent for through the head manager's office his fee must be
paid to him."
"How much must one give him?" Pao-yü inquired.
"Were one to give him too little, it wouldn't look nice," a matron
ventured. "He should be given a tael. This would be quite the thing with
such a household as ours."
"When Dr. Wang comes," Pao-yü asked, "how much is he given?"
"Whenever Dr. Wang and Dr. Chang come," a matron smilingly explained,
"no money is ever given them. At the four seasons of each year however
presents are simply sent to them in a lump. This is a fixed annual
custom. But this new doctor has come only this once so he should be
given a tael."
After this explanation, Pao-yü readily bade She Yüeh go and fetch the
"I can't make out where sister Hua put it;" She Yüeh rejoined.
"I've often seen her take money out of that lacquered press, ornamented
with designs made with shells;" Pao-yü added; "so come along with me,
and let's go and search."
As he spoke, he and She Yüeh came together into what was used as a
store-room by Hsi Jen. Upon opening the shell-covered press, they found
the top shelf full of pens, pieces of ink, fans, scented cakes, various
kinds of purses, handkerchiefs and other like articles, while on the
lower shelf were piled several strings of cash. But, presently they
pulled out the drawer, when they saw, in a small wicker basket, several
pieces of silver, and a steelyard.
She Yüeh quickly snatched a piece of silver. Then raising the steelyard,
"Which is the one tael mark?" she asked.
Pao-yü laughed. "It's amusing that you should appeal to me!" he said.
"You really behave as if you had only just come!"
She Yüeh also laughed, and was about to go and make inquiries of some
one else, when Pao-yü interfered. "Choose a piece out of those big ones
and give it to him, and have done," he said. "We don't go in for buying
and selling, so what's the use of minding such trifles!"
She Yüeh, upon hearing this, dropped the steelyard, and selected a
piece, which she weighed in her hand. "This piece," she smiled, "must, I
fancy, be a tael. But it would be better to let him have a little more.
Don't let's give too little as those poor brats will have a laugh at our
expense. They won't say that we know nothing about the steelyard; but
that we are designedly mean."
A matron who stood at the threshold of the door, smilingly chimed in.
"This ingot," she said, "weighs five taels. Even if you cut half of it
off, it will weigh a couple of taels, at least. But there are no sycee
shears at hand, so, miss, put this piece aside and choose a smaller
She Yüeh had already closed the press and walked out. "Who'll go and
fumble about again?" she laughed. "If there's a little more, well, you
take it and finish."
"Be quick," Pao-yü remarked, "and tell Pei Ming to go for another
doctor. It will be all right."
The matron received the money and marched off to go and settle matters.
Presently, Dr. Wang actually arrived, at the invitation of Pei Ming.
First and foremost he felt the pulse and then gave the same diagnosis of
the complaint (as the other doctor did) in the first instance. The only
difference being that there was, in fact, no citrus or sida or other
similar drugs, included in the prescription. It contained, however,
false sarsaparilla roots, dried orange peel, peonia albifora, and other
similar medicines. But the quantities were, on the other hand,
considerably smaller, as compared with those of the drugs mentioned in
the former prescription.
"These are the medicines," Pao-yü ejaculated exultingly, "suitable for
girls! They should, it's true, be of a laxative nature, but never over
and above what's needful. When I fell ill last year, I suffered from a
chill, but I got such an obstruction in the viscera that I could neither
take anything liquid or substantial, yet though he saw the state I was
in, he said that I couldn't stand sida, ground gypsum, citrus and other
such violent drugs. You and I resemble the newly-opened white begonia,
Yün Erh sent me in autumn. And how could you resist medicines which are
too much for me? We're like the lofty aspen trees, which grow in
people's burial grounds. To look at, the branches and leaves are of
luxuriant growth, but they are hollow at the core."
"Do only aspen trees grow in waste burial grounds?" She Yüeh smiled. "Is
it likely, pray, that there are no fir and cypress trees? What's more
loathsome than any other is the aspen. For though a lofty tree, it only
has a few leaves; and it makes quite a confused noise with the slightest
puff of wind! If you therefore deliberately compare yourself to it,
you'll also be ranging yourself too much among the common herd!"
"I daren't liken myself to fir or cypress;" Pao-yü laughingly retorted.
"Even Confucius says: 'after the season waxes cold, one finds that the
fir and cypress are the last to lose their foliage,' which makes it
evident that these two things are of high excellence. Thus it's those
only, who are devoid of every sense of shame, who foolishly liken
themselves to trees of the kind!"
While engaged in this colloquy, they perceived the old matron bring the
drugs, so Pao-yü bade her fetch the silver pot, used for boiling
medicines in, and then he directed her to prepare the decoction on the
"The right thing would be," Ch'ing Wen suggested, "that you should let
them go and get it ready in the tea-room; for will it ever do to fill
this room with the smell of medicines?"
"The smell of medicines," Pao-yü rejoined, "is far nicer than that
emitted by the whole lot of flowers. Fairies pick medicines and prepare
medicines. Besides this, eminent men and cultured scholars gather
medicines and concoct medicines; so that it constitutes a most excellent
thing. I was just thinking that there's everything and anything in these
rooms and that the only thing that we lack is the smell of medicines;
but as luck would have it, everything is now complete."
Speaking, he lost no time in giving orders to a servant to put the
medicines on the fire. Next, he advised She Yüeh to get ready a few
presents and bid a nurse take them and go and look up Hsi Jen, and
exhort her not to give way to excessive grief. And when he had settled
everything that had to be seen to, he repaired to the front to dowager
lady Chia's and Madame Wang's quarters, and paid his respects and had
Lady Feng, as it happened, was just engaged in consulting with old lady
Chia and Madame Wang. "The days are now short as well as cold," she
argued, "so wouldn't it be advisable that my senior sister-in-law, Mrs.
Chia Chu, should henceforward have her repasts in the garden, along with
the young ladies? When the weather gets milder, it won't at all matter,
if they have to run backward and forward."
"This is really a capital idea!" Madame Wang smiled. "It will be so
convenient during windy and rainy weather. To inhale the chilly air
after eating isn't good. And to come quite empty, and begin piling up a
lot of things in a stomach full of cold air isn't quite safe. It would
be as well therefore to select two cooks from among the women, who have,
anyhow, to keep night duty in the large five-roomed house, inside the
garden back entrance, and station them there for the special purpose of
preparing the necessary viands for the girls. Fresh vegetables are
subject to some rule of distribution, so they can be issued to them from
the general manager's office. Or they might possibly require money or be
in need of some things or other. And it will be all right if a few of
those pheasants, deer, and every kind of game, be apportioned to them."
"I too was just thinking about this," dowager lady Chia observed. "The
only thing I feared was that with the extra work that would again be
thrown upon the cook-house, they mightn't have too much to do."
"There'll be nothing much to do," lady Feng replied. "The same
apportionment will continue as ever. In here, something may be added;
but in there something will be reduced. Should it even involve a little
trouble, it will be a small matter. If the girls were exposed to the
cold wind, every one else might stand it with impunity; but how could
cousin Lin, first and foremost above all others, resist anything of the
kind? In fact, brother Pao himself wouldn't be proof against it. What's
more, none of the various young ladies can boast of a strong
What rejoinder old lady Chia made to lady Feng, at the close of her
representations, is not yet ascertained; so, reader, listen to the
explanations you will find given in the next chapter.
The beautiful P'ing Erh endeavours to conceal the loss of the
bracelet, made of work as fine as the feelers of a shrimp.
The brave Ch'ing Wen mends the down-cloak during her indisposition.
But let us return to our story.
"Quite so!" was the reply with which dowager lady Chia (greeted lady
Feng's proposal). "I meant the other day to have suggested this
arrangement, but I saw that every one of you had so many urgent matters
to attend to, (and I thought) that although you would not presume to
bear me a grudge, were several duties now again superadded, you would
unavoidably imagine that I only regarded those young grandsons and
granddaughters of mine, and had no consideration for any of you, who
have to look after the house. But since you make this suggestion
yourself, it's all right."
And seeing that Mrs. Hsüeh, and 'sister-in-law' Li were sitting with
her, and that Madame Hsing, and Mrs. Yu and the other ladies, who had
also crossed over to pay their respects, had not as yet gone to their
quarters, old lady Chia broached the subject with Madame Wang, and the
rest of the company. "I've never before ventured to give utterance to
the remarks that just fell from my lips," she said, "as first of all I
was in fear and trembling lest I should have made that girl Feng more
presumptuous than ever, and next, lest I should have incurred the
displeasure of one and all of you. But since you're all here to-day, and
every one of you knows what brothers' wives and husbands' sisters mean,
is there (I ask) any one besides her as full of forethought?"
Mrs. Hsüeh, 'sister-in-law' Li and Mrs. Yu smiled with one consent.
"There are indeed but few like her!" they cried. "That of others is
simply a conventional 'face' affection, but she is really fond of her
husband's sisters and his young brother. In fact, she's as genuinely
filial with you, venerable senior."
Dowager lady Chia nodded her head. "Albeit I'm fond of her," she sighed,
"I can't, on the other hand, help distrusting that excessive shrewdness
of hers, for it isn't a good thing."
"You're wrong there, worthy ancestor," lady Feng laughed with alacrity.
"People in the world as a rule maintain that 'too shrewd and clever a
person can't, it is feared, live long.' Now what people of the world
invariably say people of the world invariably believe. But of you alone,
my dear senior, can no such thing be averred or believed. For there you
are, ancestor mine, a hundred times sharper and cleverer than I; and how
is it that you now enjoy both perfect happiness and longevity? But I
presume that I shall by and bye excel you by a hundredfold, and die at
length, after a life of a thousand years, when you venerable senior
shall have departed from these mortal scenes!"
"After every one is dead and gone," dowager lady Chia laughingly
observed, "what pleasure will there be, if two antiquated elves, like
you and I will be, remain behind?"
This joke excited general mirth.
But so concerned was Pao-yü about Ch'ing Wen and other matters that he
was the first to make a move and return into the garden. On his arrival
at his quarters, he found the rooms full of the fragrance emitted by the
medicines. Not a soul did he, however, see about. Ch'ing Wen was
reclining all alone on the stove-couch. Her face was feverish and red.
When he came to touch it, his hand experienced a scorching sensation.
Retracing his steps therefore towards the stove, he warmed his hands and
inserted them under the coverlet and felt her. Her body as well was as
hot as fire.
"If the others have left," he then remarked, "there's nothing strange
about it, but are She Yüeh and Ch'iu Wen too so utterly devoid of
feeling as to have each gone after her own business?"
"As regards Ch'iu Wen," Ch'ing Wen explained, "I told her to go and have
her meal. And as for She Yüeh, P'ing Erh came just now and called her
out of doors and there they are outside confabbing in a mysterious way!
What the drift of their conversation can be I don't know. But they must
be talking about my having fallen ill, and my not leaving this place to
"P'ing Erh isn't that sort of person," Pao-yü pleaded. "Besides, she had
no idea whatever about your illness, so that she couldn't have come
specially to see how you were getting on. I fancy her object was to look
up She Yüeh to hobnob with her, but finding unexpectedly that you were
not up to the mark, she readily said that she had come on purpose to
find what progress you were making. This was quite a natural thing for a
person with so wily a disposition to say, for the sake of preserving
harmony. But if you don't go home, it's none of her business. You two
have all along been, irrespective of other things, on such good terms
that she could by no means entertain any desire to injure the friendly
relations which exist between you, all on account of something that
doesn't concern her."
"Your remarks are right enough," Ch'ing Wen rejoined, "but I do suspect
her, as why did she too start, all of a sudden, imposing upon me?"
"Wait, I'll walk out by the back door," Pao-yü smiled, "and go to the
foot of the window, and listen to what she's saying. I'll then come and
Speaking the while, he, in point of fact, sauntered out of the back
door; and getting below the window, he lent an ear to their confidences.
"How did you manage to get it?" She Yueh inquired with gentle voice.
"When I lost sight of it on that day that I washed my hands," P'ing Erh
answered, "our lady Secunda wouldn't let us make a fuss. But the moment
she left the garden, she there and then sent word to the nurses,
stationed in the various places, to institute careful search. Our
suspicions, however, fell upon Miss Hsing's maid, who has ever also been
poverty-stricken; surmising that a young girl of her age, who had never
set eyes upon anything of the kind, may possibly have picked it up and
taken it. But never did we positively believe that it could be some one
from this place of yours! Happily, our lady Secunda wasn't in the room,
when that nurse Sung who is with you here went over, and said, producing
the bracelet, 'that the young maid, Chui Erh, had stolen it, and that
she had detected her, and come to lay the matter before our lady
Secunda. I promptly took over the bracelet from her; and recollecting
how imperious and exacting Pao-yü is inclined to be, fond and devoted as
he is to each and all of you; how the jade which was prigged the other
year by a certain Liang Erh, is still, just as the matter has cooled
down for the last couple of years, canvassed at times by some people
eager to serve their own ends; how some one has now again turned up to
purloin this gold trinket; how it was filched, to make matters worse,
from a neighbour's house; how as luck would have it, she took this of
all things; and how it happened to be his own servant to give him a slap
on his mouth, I hastened to enjoin nurse Sung to, on no account
whatever, let Pao-yü know anything about it, but simply pretend that
nothing of the kind had transpired, and to make no mention of it to any
single soul. In the second place,' (I said), 'our dowager lady and
Madame Wang would get angry, if they came to hear anything. Thirdly, Hsi
Jen as well as yourselves would not also cut a very good figure.' Hence
it was that in telling our lady Secunda, I merely explained 'that on my
way to our senior mistress,' the bracelet got unclasped, without my
knowing it; that it fell among the roots of the grass; that there was no
chance of seeing it while the snow was deep, but that when the snow
completely disappeared to-day there it glistened, so yellow and bright,
in the rays of the sun, in precisely the very place where it had
dropped, and that I then picked it up.' Our lady Secunda at once
credited my version. So here I come to let you all know so as to be
henceforward a little on your guard with her, and not get her a job
anywhere else. Wait until Hsi Jen's return, and then devise means to
pack her off, and finish with her."
"This young vixen has seen things of this kind before," She Yüeh
ejaculated, "and how is it that she was so shallow-eyed?"
"What could, after all, be the weight of this bracelet?" P'ing Erh
observed. "It was once our lady Secunda's. She says that this is called
the 'shrimp-feeler'-bracelet. But it's the pearl, which increases its
weight. That minx Ch'ing Wen is as fiery as a piece of crackling
charcoal, so were anything to be told her, she may, so little able is
she to curb her temper, flare up suddenly into a huff, and beat or scold
her, and kick up as much fuss as she ever has done before. That's why I
simply tell you. Exercise due care, and it will be all right."
With this warning, she bid her farewell and went on her way.
Her words delighted, vexed and grieved Pao-yü. He felt delighted, on
account of the consideration shown by P'ing Erh for his own feelings.
Vexed, because Chui Erh had turned out a petty thief. Grieved, that Chui
Erh, who was otherwise such a smart girl, should have gone in for this
disgraceful affair. Returning consequently into the house, he told
Ch'ing Wen every word that P'ing Erh had uttered. "She says," he went on
to add, "that you're so fond of having things all your own way that were
you to hear anything of this business, now that you are ill, you would
get worse, and that she only means to broach the subject with you, when
you get quite yourself again."
Upon hearing this, Ch'ing Wen's ire was actually stirred up, and her
beautiful moth-like eyebrows contracted, and her lovely phoenix eyes
stared wide like two balls. So she immediately shouted out for Chui Erh.
"If you go on bawling like that," Pao-yü hastily remonstrated with her,
"won't you show yourself ungrateful for the regard with which P'ing Erh
has dealt with you and me? Better for us to show ourselves sensible of
her kindness and by and bye pack the girl off, and finish."
"Your suggestion is all very good," Ch'ing Wen demurred, "but how could
I suppress this resentment?"
"What's there to feel resentment about?" Pao-yü asked. "Just you take
good care of yourself; it's the best thing you can do."
Ch'ing Wen then took her medicine. When evening came, she had another
couple of doses. But though in the course of the night, she broke out
into a slight perspiration, she did not see any change for the better in
her state. Still she felt feverish, her head sore, her nose stopped, her
voice hoarse. The next day, Dr. Wang came again to examine her pulse and
see how she was getting on. Besides other things, he increased the
proportions of certain medicines in the decoction and reduced others;
but in spite of her fever having been somewhat brought down, her head
continued to ache as much as ever.
"Go and fetch the snuff," Pao-yü said to She Yüeh, "and give it to her
to sniff. She'll feel more at ease after she has had several strong
She Yüeh went, in fact, and brought a flat crystal bottle, inlaid with a
couple of golden stars, and handed it to Pao-yü.
Pao-yü speedily raised the cover of the bottle. Inside it, he
discovered, represented on western enamel, a fair-haired young girl, in
a state of nature, on whose two sides figured wings of flesh. This
bottle contained some really first-rate foreign snuff.
Ch'ing Wen's attention was fixedly concentrated on the representation.
"Sniff a little!" Pao-yü urged. "If the smell evaporates, it won't be
Ch'ing Wen, at his advice, promptly dug out a little with her nail, and
applied it to her nose. But with no effect. So digging out again a good
quantity of it, she pressed it into her nostrils. Then suddenly she
experienced a sensation in her nose as if some pungent matter had
penetrated into the very duct leading into the head, and she sneezed
five or six consecutive times, until tears rolled down from her eyes and
mucus trickled from her nostrils.
Ch'ing Wen hastily put the bottle away. "It's dreadfully pungent!" she
laughed. "Bring me some paper, quick!"
A servant-girl at once handed her a pile of fine paper.
Ch'ing Wen extracted sheet after sheet, and blew her nose.
"Well," said Pao-yü smiling, "how are you feeling now?"
"I'm really considerably relieved." Ch'ing Wen rejoined laughing. "The
only thing is that my temples still hurt me."
"Were you to treat yourself exclusively with western medicines, I'm sure
you'd get all right," Pao-yü added smilingly. Saying this, "Go," he
accordingly desired She Yüeh, "to our lady Secunda, and ask her for
some. Tell her that I spoke to you about them. My cousin over there
often uses some western plaster, which she applies to her temples when
she's got a headache. It's called 'I-fo-na.' So try and get some of it!"
She Yüeh expressed her readiness. After a protracted absence, she, in
very deed, came back with a small bit of the medicine; and going quickly
for a piece of red silk cutting, she got the scissors and slit two round
slips off as big as the tip of a finger. After which, she took the
medicine, and softening it by the fire, she spread it on them with a
Ch'ing Wen herself laid hold of a looking-glass with a handle and stuck
the bits on both her temples.
"While you were lying sick," She Yüeh laughed, "you looked like a
mangy-headed devil! But with this stuff on now you present a fine sight!
As for our lady Secunda she has been so much in the habit of sticking
these things about her that they don't very much show off with her!"
This joke over, "Our lady Secunda said," she resumed, addressing herself
to Pao-yü, "'that to-morrow is your maternal uncle's birthday, and that
our mistress, your mother, asked her to tell you to go over. That
whatever clothes you will put on to-morrow should be got ready to-night,
so as to avoid any trouble in the morning.'"
"Anything that comes first to hand," Pao-yü observed, "will do well
enough! There's no getting, the whole year round, at the end of all the
fuss of birthdays!"
Speaking the while, he rose to his feet and left the room with the idea
of repairing to Hsi Ch'un's quarters to have a look at the painting. As
soon as he got outside the door of the court-yard, he unexpectedly spied
Pao-ch'in's young maid, Hsiao Lo by name, crossing over from the
opposite direction. Pao-yü, with rapid step, strode up to her, and
inquired of her whither she was going.
"Our two young ladies," Hsiao Lo answered with a smile, "are in Miss
Lin's rooms; so I'm also now on my way thither."
Catching this answer, Pao-yü wheeled round and came at once with her to
the Hsiao Hsiang Lodge. Here not only did he find Pao-ch'ai and her
cousin, but Hsing Chou-yen as well. The quartet was seated in a circle
on the warming-frame; carrying on a friendly chat on everyday domestic
matters; while Tzu Chüan was sitting in the winter apartment, working at
some needlework by the side of the window.
The moment they caught a glimpse of him, their faces beamed with smiles.
"There comes some one else!" they cried. "There's no room for you to
"What a fine picture of beautiful girls, in the winter chamber!" Pao-yü
smiled. "It's a pity I come a trifle too late! This room is, at all
events, so much warmer than any other, that I won't feel cold if I plant
myself on this chair."
So saying, he made himself comfortable on a favourite chair of Tai-yü's
over which was thrown a grey squirrel cover. But noticing in the winter
apartment a jadestone bowl, full of single narcissi, in clusters of
three or five, Pao-yü began praising their beauty with all the language
he could command. "What lovely flowers!" he exclaimed. "The warmer the
room gets, the stronger is the fragrance emitted by these flowers! How
is it I never saw them yesterday?"
"These are," Tai-yü laughingly explained, "from the two pots of
narcissi, and two pots of allspice, sent to Miss Hsüeh Secunda by the
wife of Lai Ta, the head butler in your household. Of these, she gave me
a pot of narcissi; and to that girl Yün, a pot of allspice. I didn't at
first mean to keep them, but I was afraid of showing no consideration
for her kind attention. But if you want them, I'll, in my turn, present
them to you. Will you have them; eh?"
"I've got two pots of them in my rooms," Pao-yü replied, "but they're
not up to these. How is it you're ready to let others have what cousin
Ch'in has given you? This can on no account do!"
"With me here," Tai-yü added, "the medicine pot never leaves the fire,
the whole day long. I'm only kept together by medicines. So how could I
ever stand the smell of flowers bunging my nose? It makes me weaker than
ever. Besides, if there's the least whiff of medicines in this room, it
will, contrariwise, spoil the fragrance of these flowers. So isn't it
better that you should have them carried away? These flowers will then
breathe a purer atmosphere, and won't have any mixture of smells to
"I've also got now some one ill in my place," Pao-yü retorted with a
smile, "and medicines are being decocted. How comes it you happen to
know nothing about it?"
"This is strange!" Tai-yü laughed. "I was really speaking quite
thoughtlessly; for who ever knows what's going on in your apartments?
But why do you, instead of getting here a little earlier to listen to
old stories, come at this moment to bring trouble and vexation upon your
Pao-yü gave a laugh. "Let's have a meeting to-morrow," he proposed, "for
we've also got the themes. Let's sing the narcissus and allspice."
"Never mind, drop that!" Tai-yü rejoined, upon hearing his proposal. "I
can't venture to write any more verses. Whenever I indite any, I'm
mulcted. So I'd rather not be put to any great shame."
While uttering these words she screened her face with both hands.
"What's the matter?" Pao-yü smiled. "Why are you again making fun of me?
I'm not afraid of any shame, but, lo, you screen your face."
"The next time," Pao-ch'ai felt impelled to interpose laughingly, "I
convene a meeting, we'll have four themes for odes and four for songs;
and each one of us will have to write four odes and four roundelays. The
theme of the first ode will treat of the plan of the great extreme; the
rhyme fixed being 'hsien,' (first), and the metre consisting of five
words in each line. We'll have to exhaust every one of the rhymes under
'hsien,' and mind, not a single one may be left out."
"From what you say," Pao-ch'in smilingly observed, "it's evident that
you're not in earnest, cousin, in setting the club on foot. It's clear
enough that your object is to embarrass people. But as far as the verses
go, we could forcibly turn out a few, just by higgledy-piggledy taking
several passages from the 'Canon of Changes,' and inserting them in our
own; but, after all, what fun will there be in that sort of thing? When
I was eight years of age, I went with my father to the western seaboard
to purchase foreign goods. Who'd have thought it, we came across a girl
from the 'Chen Chen' kingdom. She was in her eighteenth year, and her
features were just like those of the beauties one sees represented in
foreign pictures. She had also yellow hair, hanging down, and arranged
in endless plaits. Her whole head was ornamented with one mass of
cornelian beads, amber, cats' eyes, and 'grandmother-green-stone.' On
her person, she wore a chain armour plaited with gold, and a coat, which
was up to the very sleeves, embroidered in foreign style. In a belt, she
carried a Japanese sword, also inlaid with gold and studded with
precious gems. In very truth, even in pictures, there is no one as
beautiful as she. Some people said that she was thoroughly conversant
with Chinese literature, and could explain the 'Five classics,' that she
was able to write odes and devise roundelays, and so my father requested
an interpreter to ask her to write something. She thereupon wrote an
original stanza, which all, with one voice, praised for its remarkable
beauty, and extolled for its extraordinary merits."
"My dear cousin," eagerly smiled Pao-yü, "produce what she wrote, and
let's have a look at it."
"It's put away in Nanking;" Pao-ch'in replied with a smile. "So how
could I at present go and fetch it?"
Great was Pao-yü's disappointment at this rejoinder. "I've no luck," he
cried, "to see anything like this in the world."
Tai-yü laughingly laid hold of Pao-ch'in. "Don't be humbugging us!" she
remarked. "I know well enough that you are not likely, on a visit like
this, to have left any such things of yours at home. You must have
brought them along. Yet here you are now again palming off a fib on us
by saying that you haven't got them with you. You people may believe
what she says, but I, for my part, don't."
Pao-ch'in got red in the face. Drooping her head against her chest, she
gave a faint smile; but she uttered not a word by way of response.
"Really P'in Erh you've got into the habit of talking like this!"
Pao-ch'ai laughed. "You're too shrewd by far."
"Bring them along," Tai-yü urged with a smile, "and give us a chance of
seeing something and learning something; it won't hurt them."
"There's a whole heap of trunks and baskets," Pao-ch'ai put in laughing,
"which haven't been yet cleared away. And how could one tell in which
particular one, they're packed up? Wait a few days, and when things will
have been put straight a bit, we'll try and find them: and every one of
us can then have a look at them; that will be all right. But if you
happen to remember the lines," she pursued, speaking to Pao-ch'in, "why
not recite them for our benefit?"
"I remember so far that her lines consisted of a stanza with five
characters in each line," Pao-ch'ai returned for answer. "For a foreign
girl, they're verily very well done."
"Don't begin for a while," Pao-ch'ai exclaimed. "Let me send for Yün
Erh, so that she too might hear them."
After this remark, she called Hsiao Lo to her. "Go to my place," she
observed, "and tell her that a foreign beauty has come over, who's a
splendid hand at poetry. 'You, who have poetry on the brain,' (say to
her), 'are invited to come and see her,' and then lay hold of this
verse-maniac of ours and bring her along."
Hsiao Lo gave a smile, and went away. After a long time, they heard
Hsiang-yün laughingly inquire, "What foreign beauty has come?" But while
asking this question, she made her appearance in company with Hsiang
"We heard your voices long before we caught a glimpse of your persons!"
the party laughed.
Pao-ch'in and her companions motioned to her to sit down, and, in due
course, she reiterated what she had told them a short while back.
"Be quick, out with it! Let's hear what it is!" Hsiang-yün smilingly
Pao-ch'in thereupon recited:
Last night in the Purple Chamber I dreamt.
This evening on the 'Shui Kuo' Isle I sing.
The clouds by the isle cover the broad sea.
The zephyr from the peaks reaches the woods.
The moon has never known present or past.
From shallow and deep causes springs love's fate.
When I recall my springs south of the Han,
Can I not feel disconsolate at heart?
After listening to her, "She does deserve credit," they unanimously
shouted, "for she really is far superior to us, Chinese though we be."
But scarcely was this remark out of their lips, when they perceived She
Yüeh walk in. "Madame Wang," she said, "has sent a servant to inform
you, Master Secundus, that 'you are to go at an early hour to-morrow
morning to your maternal uncle's, and that you are to explain to him
that her ladyship isn't feeling quite up to the mark, and that she
cannot pay him a visit in person.'"
Pao-yü precipitately jumped to his feet (out of deference to his
mother), and signified his assent, by answering 'Yes.' He then went on
to inquire of Pao-ch'ai and Pao-ch'in, "Are you two going?"
"We're not going," Pao-ch'ai rejoined. "We simply went there yesterday
to take our presents over but we left after a short chat."
Pao-yü thereupon pressed his female cousins to go ahead and he then
followed them. But Tai-yü called out to him again and stopped him. "When
is Hsi Jen, after all, coming back?" she asked.
"She'll naturally come back after she has accompanied the funeral,"
Tai-yü had something more she would have liked to tell him, but she
found it difficult to shape it into words. After some moments spent in
abstraction, "Off with you!" she cried.
Pao-yü too felt that he treasured in his heart many things he would fain
confide to her, but he did not know what to bring to his lips, so after
cogitating within himself for a time, he likewise observed smilingly:
"We'll have another chat to-morrow," and, as he said so, he wended his
way down the stairs. Lowering his head, he was just about to take a step
forward, when he twisted himself round again with alacrity. "Now that
the nights are longer than they were, you're sure to cough often and
wake several times in the night; eh?" he asked.
"Last night," Tai-yü answered, "I was all right; I coughed only twice.
But I only slept at the fourth watch for a couple of hours and then I
couldn't close my eyes again."
"I really have something very important to tell you," Pao-yü proceeded
with another smile. "It only now crossed my mind." Saying this, he
approached her and added in a confidential tone: "I think that the
birds' nests sent to you by cousin Pao-chai...."
Barely, however, had he had time to conclude than he spied dame Chao
enter the room to pay Tai-yü a visit. "Miss, have you been all right
these last few days?" she inquired.
Tai-yü readily guessed that this was an attention extended to her merely
as she had, on her way back from T'an Ch'un's quarters, to pass by her
door, so speedily smiling a forced smile, she offered her a seat.
"Many thanks, dame Chao," she said, "for the trouble of thinking of me,
and for coming in person in this intense cold."
Hastily also bidding a servant pour the tea, she simultaneously winked
Pao-yü grasped her meaning, and forthwith quitted the apartment. As this
happened to be about dinner time, and he had been enjoined as well by
Madame Wang to be back at an early hour, Pao-yü returned to his
quarters, and looked on while Ch'ing Wen took her medicine. Pao-yü did
not desire Ch'ing Wen this evening to move into the winter apartment,
but stayed with Ch'ing Wen outside; and, giving orders to bring the
warming-frame near the winter apartment, She Yueh slept on it.
Nothing of any interest worth putting on record transpired during the
night. On the morrow, before the break of day, Ch'ing Wen aroused She
"You should awake," she said. "The only thing is that you haven't had
enough sleep. If you go out and tell them to get the water for tea ready
for him, while I wake him, it will be all right."
She Yueh immediately jumped up and threw something over her. "Let's call
him to get up and dress in his fine clothes." she said. "We can summon
them in, after this fire-box has been removed. The old nurses told us
not to allow him to stay in this room for fear the virus of the disease
should pass on to him; so now if they see us bundled up together in one
place, they're bound to kick up another row."
"That's my idea too," Ch'ing Wen replied.
The two girls were then about to call him, when Pao-yü woke up of his
own accord, and speedily leaping out of bed, he threw his clothes over
She Yüeh first called a young maid into the room and put things
shipshape before she told Ch'in Wen and the other servant-girls to
enter; and along with them, she remained in waiting upon Pao-yü while he
combed his hair, and washed his face and hands. This part of his toilet
over, She Yüeh remarked: "It's cloudy again, so I suppose it's going to
snow. You'd better therefore wear a woollen overcoat!"
Pao-yü nodded his head approvingly; and set to work at once to effect
the necessary change in his costume. A young waiting-maid then presented
him a covered bowl, in a small tea tray, containing a decoction made of
Fu-kien lotus and red dates. After Pao-yü had had a couple of mouthfuls,
She Yüeh also brought him a small plateful of brown ginger, prepared
according to some prescription. Pao-yü put a piece into his mouth, and,
impressing some advice on Ch'ing 'Wen, he crossed over to dowager lady
Chia's suite of rooms.
His grandmother had not yet got out of bed. But she was well aware that
Pao-yü was going out of doors so having the entrance leading into her
bedroom opened she asked Pao-yü to walk in. Pao-yü espied behind the old
lady, Pao-ch'in lying with her face turned towards the inside, and not
awake yet from her sleep.
Dowager lady Chia observed that Pao-yü was clad in a deep-red felt
fringed overcoat, with woollen lichee-coloured archery-sleeves and with
an edging of dark green glossy satin, embroidered with gold rings.
"What!" old lady Chia inquired, "is it snowing?"
"The weather is dull," Pao-yü replied, "but it isn't snowing yet."
Dowager lady Chia thereupon sent for Yüan Yang and told her to fetch the
peacock down pelisse, finished the day before, and give it to him. Yüan
Yang signified her obedience and went off, and actually returned with
what was wanted.
When Pao-yü came to survey it, he found that the green and golden hues
glistened with bright lustre, that the jadelike variegated colours on it
shone with splendour, and that it bore no resemblance to the duck-down
coat, which Pao-ch'in had been wearing.
"This," he heard his grandmother smilingly remark, "is called 'bird
gold'. This is woven of the down of peacocks, caught in Russia, twisted
into thread. The other day, I presented that one with the wild duck down
to your young female cousin, so I now give you this one."
Pao-yü prostrated himself before her, after which he threw the coat over
"Go and let your mother see it before you start," his grandmother
Pao-yü assented, and quitted her apartments, when he caught sight of
Yüan Yang standing below rubbing her eyes. Ever since the day on which
Yüan Yang had sworn to have done with the match, she had not exchanged a
single word with Pao-yü. Pao-yü was therefore day and night a prey to
dejection. So when he now observed her shirk his presence again, Pao-yü
at once advanced up to her, and, putting on a smile, "My dear girl," he
said, "do look at the coat I've got on. Is it nice or not?"
Yüan Yang shoved his hand away, and promptly walked into dowager lady
Pao-yü was thus compelled to repair to Madame Wang's room, and let her
see his coat. Retracing afterwards his footsteps into the garden, he let
Ch'ing Wen and She Yüeh also have a look at it, and then came and told
his grandmother that he had attended to her wishes.
"My mother," he added, "has seen what I've got on. But all she said was:
'what a pity!' and then she went on to enjoin me to be 'careful with it
and not to spoil it.'"
"There only remains this single one," old lady Chia observed, "so if you
spoil it you can't have another. Even did I want to have one made for
you like it now, it would be out of the question."
At the close of these words, she went on to advise him. "Don't," she
said, "have too much wine and come back early." Pao-yü acquiesced by
uttering several yes's.
An old nurse then followed him out into the pavilion. Here they
discovered six attendants, (that is), Pao-yü's milk-brother Li Kuei, and
Wang Ho-jung, Chang Jo-chin, Chao I-hua, Ch'ien Ch'i, and Chou Jui, as
well as four young servant-lads: Pei Ming, Pan Ho, Chu Shao and Sao
Hung; some carrying bundles of clothes on their backs, some holding
cushions in their hands, others leading a white horse with engraved
saddle and variegated bridles. They had already been waiting for a good
long while. The old nurse went on to issue some directions, and the six
servants, hastily expressing their obedience by numerous yes's, quickly
caught hold of the saddle and weighed the stirrup down while Pao-yü
mounted leisurely. Li Kuei and Wang Ho-jung then led the horse by the
bit. Two of them, Ch'ien Ch'i and Chou Jui, walked ahead and showed the
way. Chang Jo-chin and Chao I-hua followed Pao-yü closely on each side.
"Brother Chou and brother Ch'ien," Pao-yü smiled, from his seat on his
horse, "let's go by this side-gate. It will save my having again to
dismount, when we reach the entrance to my father's study."
"Mr. Chia Cheng is not in his study," Chou Jui laughed, with a curtsey.
"It has been daily under lock and key, so there will be no need for you,
master, to get down from your horse."
"Though it be locked up," Pao-yü smiled, "I shall have to dismount all
"You're quite right in what you say, master;" both Ch'ien Ch'i and Li
Kuei chimed in laughingly; "but pretend you're lazy and don't get down.
In the event of our coming across Mr. Lai Ta and our number two Mr. Lin,
they're sure, rather awkward though it be for them to say anything to
their master, to tender you one or two words of advice, but throw the
whole of the blame upon us. You can also tell them that we had not
explained to you what was the right thing to do."
Chou Jui and Ch'ien Ch'i accordingly wended their steps straight for the
side-gate. But while they were keeping up some sort of conversation,
they came face to face with Lai Ta on his way in.
Pao-yü speedily pulled in his horse, with the idea of dismounting. But
Lai Ta hastened to draw near and to clasp his leg. Pao-yü stood up on
his stirrup, and, putting on a smile, he took his hand in his, and made
several remarks to him.
In quick succession, he also perceived a young servant-lad make his
appearance inside leading the way for twenty or thirty servants, laden
with brooms and dust-baskets. The moment they espied Pao-yü, they, one
and all, stood along the wall, and dropped their arms against their
sides, with the exception of the head lad, who bending one knee, said:
"My obeisance to you, sir."
Pao-yü could not recall to mind his name or surname, but forcing a faint
smile, he nodded his head to and fro. It was only when the horse had
well gone past, that the lad eventually led the bevy of servants off,
and that they went after their business.
Presently, they egressed from the side-gate. Outside, stood the
servant-lads of the six domestics, Li Kuei and his companions, as well
as several grooms, who had, from an early hour, got ready about ten
horses and been standing, on special duty, waiting for their arrival. As
soon as they reached the further end of the side-gate, Li Kuei and each
of the other attendants mounted their horses, and pressed ahead to lead
the way. Like a streak of smoke, they got out of sight, without any
occurrence worth noticing.
Ch'ing Wen, meanwhile, continued to take her medicines. But still she
experienced no relief in her ailment. Such was the state of exasperation
into which she worked herself that she abused the doctor right and left.
"All he's good for," she cried, "is to squeeze people's money. But he
doesn't know how to prescribe a single dose of efficacious medicine for
"You have far too impatient a disposition!" She Yüeh said, as she
advised her, with a smile. "'A disease,' the proverb has it, 'comes like
a crumbling mountain, and goes like silk that is reeled.' Besides,
they're not the divine pills of 'Lao Chün'. How ever could there be such
efficacious medicines? The only thing for you to do is to quietly look
after yourself for several days, and you're sure to get all right. But
the more you work yourself into such a frenzy, the worse you get!"
Ch'ing Weng went on to heap abuse on the head of the young-maids. "Where
have they gone? Have they bored into the sand?" she ejaculated. "They
see well enough that I'm ill, so they make bold and runaway. But by and
bye when I recover, I shall take one by one of you and flay your skin
off for you."
Ting Erh, a young maid, was struck with dismay, and ran up to her with
hasty step. "Miss," she inquired, "what's up with you?"
"Is it likely that the rest are all dead and gone, and that there only
remains but you?" Ch'ing Wen exclaimed.
But while she spoke, she saw Chui Erh also slowly enter the room.
"Look at this vixen!" Ch'ing Wen shouted. "If I don't ask for her, she
won't come. Had there been any monthly allowances issued and fruits
distributed here, you would have been the first to run in! But approach
a bit! Am I tigress to gobble you up?"
Chui Erh was under the necessity of advancing a few steps nearer to her.
But, all of a sudden, Ch'ing Wen stooped forward, and with a dash
clutching her hand, she took a long pin from the side of her pillow, and
pricked it at random all over.
"What's the use of such paws?" she railed at her. "They don't ply a
needle, and they don't touch any thread! All you're good for is to prig
things to stuff that mouth of yours with! The skin of your phiz is
shallow and those paws of yours are light! But with the shame you bring
upon yourself before the world, isn't it right that I should prick you,
and make mincemeat of you?"
Chui Erh shouted so wildly from pain that She Yueh stepped forward and
immediately drew them apart. She then pressed Ch'ing Wen, until she
induced her to lie down.
"You're just perspiring," she remarked, "and here you are once more bent
upon killing yourself. Wait until you are yourself again! Won't you then
be able to give her as many blows as you may like? What's the use of
kicking up all this fuss just now?"
Ch'ing Wen bade a servant tell nurse Sung to come in. "Our master
Secundus, Mr. Pao-yü, recently asked me to tell you," she remarked on
her arrival, "that Chui Erh is very lazy. He himself gives her orders to
her very face, but she is ever ready to raise objections and not to
budge. Even when Hsi Jen bids her do things, she vilifies her behind her
back. She must absolutely therefore be packed off to-day. And if Mr. Pao
himself lays the matter to-morrow before Madame Wang, things will be
After listening to her grievances, nurse Sung readily concluded in her
mind that the affair of the bracelet had come to be known. "What you
suggest is well and good, it's true," she consequently smiled, "but it's
as well to wait until Miss Hua (flower) returns and hears about the
things. We can then give her the sack."
"Mr. Pao-yü urgently enjoined this to-day," Ch'ing Wen pursued, "so what
about Miss Hua (flower) and Miss Ts'ao (grass)? We've, of course, gob
rules of propriety here, so you just do as I tell you; and be quick and
send for some one from her house to come and fetch her away!"
"Well, now let's drop this!" She Yüeh interposed. "Whether she goes soon
or whether she goes late is one and the same thing; so let them take her
away soon; we'll then be the sooner clear of her."
At these words, nurse Sung had no alternative but to step out, and to
send for her mother. When she came, she got ready all her effects, and
then came to see Ch'ing Wen and the other girls. "Young ladies," she
said, "what's up? If your niece doesn't behave as she ought to, why,
call her to account. But why banish her from this place? You should,
indeed, leave us a little face!"
"As regards what you say," Ch'ing Wen put in, "wait until Pao-yü comes,
and then we can ask him. It's nothing to do with us."
The woman gave a sardonic smile. "Have I got the courage to ask him?"
she answered. "In what matter doesn't he lend an ear to any settlement
you, young ladies, may propose? He invariably agrees to all you say! But
if you, young ladies, aren't agreeable, it's really of no avail. When
you, for example, spoke just now,--it's true it was on the sly,--you
called him straightway by his name, miss. This thing does very well with
you, young ladies, but were we to do anything of the kind, we'd be
looked upon as very savages!"
Ch'ing Wen, upon hearing her remark, became more than ever exasperated,
and got crimson in the face. "Yes, I called him by his name," she
rejoined, "so you'd better go and report me to our old lady and Madame
Wang. Tell them I'm a rustic and let them send me too off."
"Sister-in-law," urged She Yüeh, "just you take her away; and if you've
got aught to say, you can say it by and bye. Is this a place for you to
bawl in and to try and explain what is right? Whom have you seen
discourse upon the rules of propriety with us? Not to speak of you,
sister-in-law, even Mrs. Lai Ta and Mrs. Lin treat us fairly well. And
as for calling him by name, why, from days of yore to the very present,
our dowager mistress has invariably bidden us do so. You yourselves are
well aware of it. So much did she fear that it would be a difficult job
to rear him that she deliberately wrote his infant name on slips of
paper and had them stuck everywhere and anywhere with the design that
one and all should call him by it. And this in order that it might
exercise a good influence upon his bringing up. Even water-coolies and
scavenger-coolies indiscriminately address him by his name; and how much
more such as we? So late, in fact, as yesterday Mrs. Lin gave him but
once the title of 'Sir,' and our old mistress called even her to task.
This is one side of the question. In the next place, we all have to go
and make frequent reports to our venerable dowager lady and Madame Wang,
and don't we with them allude to him by name in what we have to say? Is
it likely we'd also style him 'Sir?' What day is there that we don't
utter the two words 'Pao-yü' two hundred times? And is it for you,
sister-in-law, to come and pick out this fault? But in a day or so, when
you've leisure to go to our old mistress' and Madame Wang's, you'll hear
us call him by name in their very presence, and then you'll feel
convinced. You've never, sister-in-law, had occasion to fulfil any
honourable duties by our old lady and our lady. From one year's end to
the other, all you do is to simply loaf outside the third door. So it's
no matter of surprise, if you don't happen to know anything of the
customs which prevail with us inside. But this isn't a place where you,
sister-in-law, can linger for long. In another moment, there won't be
any need for us to say anything; for some one will be coming to ask you
what you want, and what excuse will you be able to plead? So take her
away and let Mrs. Lin know about it; and commission her to come and find
our Mr. Secundus and tell him all. There are in this establishment over
a thousand inmates; one comes and another comes, so that though we know
people and inquire their names, we can't nevertheless imprint them
clearly on our minds."
At the close of this long rigmarole, she at once told a young maid to
take the mop and wash the floors.
The woman listened patiently to her arguments, but she could find no
words to say anything to her by way of reply. Nor did she have the
audacity to protract her stay. So flying into a huff, she took Chui Erh
along with her, and there and then made her way out.
"Is it likely," nurse Sung hastily observed, "that a dame like you
doesn't know what manners mean? Your daughter has been in these rooms
for some time, so she should, when she is about to go, knock her head
before the young ladies. She has no other means of showing her
gratitude. Not that they care much about such things. Yet were she to
simply knock her head, she would acquit herself of a duty, if nothing
more. But how is it that she says I'm going, and off she forthwith
Chui Erh overheard these words, and felt under the necessity of turning
back. Entering therefore the apartment, she prostrated herself before
the two girls, and then she went in quest of Ch'iu Wen and her
companions, but neither did they pay any notice whatever to her.
"Hai!" ejaculated the woman, and heaving a sigh--for she did not venture
to utter a word,--she walked off, fostering a grudge in her heart.
Ch'ing Wen had, while suffering from a cold, got into a fit of anger
into the bargain, so instead of being better, she was worse, and she
tossed and rolled until the time came for lighting the lamps. But the
moment she felt more at ease, she saw Pao-yü come back. As soon as he
put his foot inside the door, he gave way to an exclamation, and stamped
"What's the reason of such behaviour?" She Yüeh promptly asked him.
"My old grandmother," Pao-yü explained, "was in such capital spirits
that she gave me this coat to-day; but, who'd have thought it, I
inadvertently burnt part of the back lapel. Fortunately however the
evening was advanced so that neither she nor my mother noticed what had
Speaking the while, he took it off. She Yüeh, on inspection, found
indeed a hole burnt in it of the size of a finger. "This," she said,
"must have been done by some spark from the hand-stove. It's of no
Immediately she called a servant to her. "Take this out on the sly," she
bade her, "and let an experienced weaver patch it. It will be all right
So saying, she packed it up in a wrapper, and a nurse carried it
"It should be ready by daybreak," she urged. "And by no means let our
old lady or Madame Wang know anything about it."
The matron brought it back again, after a protracted absence. "Not
only," she explained; "have weavers, first-class tailors, and
embroiderers, but even those, who do women's work, been asked about it,
and they all have no idea what this is made of. None of them therefore
will venture to undertake the job."
"What's to be done?" She Yüeh inquired. "But it won't matter if you
don't wear it to-morrow."
"To-morrow is the very day of the anniversary," Pao-yü rejoined.
"Grandmother and my mother bade me put this on and go and pay my visit;
and here I go and burn it, on the first day I wear it. Now isn't this
enough to throw a damper over my good cheer?"
Ch'ing Wen lent an ear to their conversation for a long time, until
unable to restrain herself, she twisted herself round. "Bring it here,"
she chimed in, "and let me see it! You haven't been lucky in wearing
this; but never mind!"
These words were still on Ch'ing Wen's lips, when the coat was handed to
her. The lamp was likewise moved nearer to her. With minute care she
surveyed it. "This is made," Ch'ing Wen observed, "of gold thread, spun
from peacock's feathers. So were we now to also take gold thread,
twisted from the feathers of the peacock, and darn it closely, by
imitating the woof, I think it will pass without detection."
"The peacock-feather-thread is ready at hand," She Yüeh remarked
smilingly. "But who's there, exclusive of you, able to join the
"I'll, needless to say, do my level best to the very cost of my life and
finish," Ch'ing Wen added.
"How ever could this do?" Pao-yü eagerly interposed. "You're just
slightly better, and how could you take up any needlework?"
"You needn't go on in this chicken-hearted way!" Ch'ing Wen cried. "I
know my own self well enough."
With this reply, she sat up, and, putting her hair up, she threw
something over her shoulders. Her head felt heavy; her body light.
Before her eyes, confusedly flitted golden stirs. In real deed, she
could not stand the strain. But when inclined to give up the work, she
again dreaded that Pao-yü would be driven to despair. She therefore had
perforce to make a supreme effort and, setting her teeth to, she bore
the exertion. All the help she asked of She Yüeh was to lend her a hand
in reeling the thread.
Ch'ing Wen first took hold of a thread, and put it side by side (with
those in the pelisse) to compare the two together. "This," she remarked,
"isn't quite like them; but when it's patched up with it, it won't show
"It will do very well," Pao-yü said. "Could one also go and hunt up a
Ch'ing Wen commenced by unstitching the lining, and, inserting under it,
a bamboo bow, of the size of the mouth of a tea cup, she bound it tight
at the back. She then turned her mind to the four sides of the aperture,
and these she loosened by scratching them with a golden knife. Making
next two stitches across with her needle, she marked out the warp and
woof; and, following the way the threads were joined, she first and
foremost connected the foundation, and then keeping to the original
lines, she went backwards and forwards mending the hole; passing her
work, after every second stitch, under further review. But she did not
ply her needle three to five times, before she lay herself down on her
pillow, and indulged in a little rest.
Pao-yü was standing by her side. Now he inquired of her: "Whether she
would like a little hot water to drink." Later on, he asked her to
repose herself. Now he seized a grey-squirrel wrapper and threw it over
her shoulders. Shortly after, he took a pillow and propped her up. (The
way he fussed) so exasperated Ch'ing Wen that she begged and entreated
him to leave off.
"My junior ancestor!" she exclaimed, "do go to bed and sleep! If you sit
up for the other half of the night, your eyes will to-morrow look as if
they had been scooped out, and what good will possibly come out of
Pao-yü realised her state of exasperation and felt compelled to come and
lie down anyhow. But he could not again close his eyes.
In a little while, she heard the clock strike four, and just managing to
finish she took a small tooth-brush, and rubbed up the pile.
"That will do!" She Yüeh put in. "One couldn't detect it, unless one
examined it carefully."
Pao-yü asked with alacrity to be allowed to have a look at it. "Really,"
he smiled, "it's quite the same thing."
Ch'ing Wen coughed and coughed time after time, so it was only after
extreme difficulty that she succeeded in completing what she had to
patch. "It's mended, it's true," she remarked, "but it does not, after
all, look anything like it. Yet, I cannot stand the effort any more!"
As she shouted 'Ai-ya,' she lost control over herself, and dropped down
upon the bed.
But, reader, if you choose to know anything more of her state, peruse
the next chapter.
In the Ning Kuo mansion sacrifices are offered to their ancestors on
the last night of the year.
In the Jung Kuo mansion, a banquet is given on the evening of the 15th
of the first moon.
But to resume our story. When Pao-yü saw that Ch'ing Wen had in her
attempt to finish mending the peacock-down cloak exhausted her strength
and fatigued herself, he hastily bade a young maid help him massage her;
and setting to work they tapped her for a while, after which, they
retired to rest. But not much time elapsed before broad daylight set in.
He did not however go out of doors, but simply called out that they
should go at once and ask the doctor round.
Presently, Dr. Wang arrived. After feeling her pulse, his suspicions
were aroused. "Yesterday," he said, "she was much better, so how is it
that to-day she is instead weaker, and has fallen off so much? She must
surely have had too much in the way of drinking or eating! Or she must
have fatigued herself. A complaint arising from outside sources is,
indeed, a light thing. But it's no small matter if one doesn't take
proper care of one's self, as she has done after perspiring."
As he passed these remarks, he walked out of the apartment, and, writing
a prescription, he entered again.
When Pao-yü came to examine it, he perceived that he had eliminated the
laxatives, and all the drugs, whose properties were to expel noxious
influences, but added pachyma cocos, rhubarb, arolia edulis, and other
such medicines, which could stimulate the system and strengthen her
Pao-yü, on one hand, hastened to direct a servant to go and decoct them,
and, on the other, he heaved a sigh. "What's to be done?" he exclaimed.
"Should anything happen to her, it will all be through the evil
consequences of my shortcomings!"
"Hai!" cried Ch'ing Wen, from where she was reclining on her pillow.
"Dear Mr. Secundus, go and mind your own business! Have I got such a
Pao-yü had no alternative but to get out of the way. But in the
afternoon, he gave out that he was not feeling up to the mark, and
hurried back to her side again.
The symptoms of Ch'ing Wen's illness were, it is true, grave; yet
fortunately for her she had ever had to strain her physical strength,
and not to tax the energies of her mind. Furthermore, she had always
been frugal in her diet, so that she had never sustained any harm from
under or over-eating. The custom in the Chia mansion was that as soon as
any one, irrespective of masters or servants, contracted the slightest
chill or cough, quiet and starving should invariably be the main things
observed, the treatment by medicines occupying only a secondary place.
Hence it was that when the other day she unawares felt unwell, she at
once abstained from food during two or three days, while she carefully
also nursed herself by taking proper medicines. And although she
recently taxed her strength a little too much, she gradually succeeded,
by attending with extra care to her health for another few days, in
bringing about her complete recovery.
Of late, his female cousins, who lived in the garden, had been having
their meals in their rooms, so with the extreme convenience of having a
fire to prepare drinks and eatables, Pao-yü himself was able, needless
for us to go into details, to ask for soups and order broths for (Ch'ing
Wen), with which to recoup her health.
Hsi Jen returned soon after she had followed the funeral of her mother.
She Yüeh then minutely told Hsi Jen all about Chui Erh's affair, about
Ch'ing Wen having sent her off, and about Pao-yü having been already
informed of the fact, and so forth, yet to all this Hsi Jen made no
further comment than: "what a very hasty disposition (that girl Ch'ing
But consequent upon Li Wan being likewise laid up with a cold, she got
through the inclemency of the weather; Madame Hsing suffering so much
from sore eyes that Ying Ch'un and Chou-yen had to go morning and
evening and wait on her, while she used such medicines as she had; Li
Wan's brother, having also taken her sister-in-law Li, together with Li
Wen and Li Ch'i, to spend a few days at his home, and Pao-yü seeing, on
one hand, Hsi Jen brood without intermission over the memory of her