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Hung Lou Meng, Book II by Cao Xueqin

Part 14 out of 14

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her until she went out of doors, they repaired into the hall and
installed themselves in their seats. But just as they were sipping their
tea, they espied Wu Hsin-teng's wife walk in. "Mrs. Chao's brother, Chao
Kuo-chi," she observed, "departed this life yesterday; the tidings have
already been reported to our old mistress and our lady, who said that it
was all right, and bade me tell you, Miss."

At the close of this announcement, she respectfully dropped her arms
against her body, and stood aloof without adding another word. The
servants, who came at this season to lay their reports before (T'an
Ch'un and Li Wan), mustered no small number. But they all endeavoured to
find out how their two new mistresses ran the household; for as long
they managed things properly, one and all willingly resolved to respect
them, but in the event of the least disagreement or improper step, not
only did they not submit to them, but they also spread, the moment they
put their foot outside the second gate, numberless jokes on their
account and made fun of them. Wu Hsin-teng's wife had thus devised an
experiment in her own mind. Had she had to deal with lady Feng, she
would have long ago made an attempt to show off her zeal by proposing
numerous alternatives and discovering various bygone precedents, and
then allowed lady Feng to make her own choice and take action; but, in
this instance, she looked with such disdain on Li Wan, on account of her
simplicity, and on T'an Ch'un, on account of her youthfulness, that she
volunteered only a single sentence, in order to put both these ladies to
the test, and see what course they would be likely to adopt.

"What shall we do?" T'an Ch'un asked Li Wan.

Li Wan reflected for a while. "The other day," she rejoined, "that Hsi
Jen's mother died, I heard that she was given forty taels. So now give
her forty taels as well and have done!"

Upon hearing this proposal, Wu Hsin-teng's wife eagerly expressed her
acquiescence, by uttering a yes; and taking over the permit she was
going on her way at once.

"Come back," shouted T'an Ch'un.

"Wu Hsing-teng's wife had perforce to retrace her footsteps.

"Wait, don't get the money yet," T'an Ch'un remarked. "I want to ask you
something. Some of the old secondary wives, attached years back to our
venerable senior's rooms, lived inside the establishment; others
outside; there were these two distinctions between them. Now if any of
them died at home, how much was allowed them? And how much was allotted
to such as died outside? Tell us what was given in either case for our

As soon as Wu Hsin-teng's wife was asked this question, every detail
bearing on the subject slipped from her memory. Hastily forcing a smile,
"This is," she replied, "nothing of any such great consequence. Whether
much or little be allowed, who'll ever venture to raise a quarrel about

T'an Ch'un then smiled. "This is all stuff and nonsense!" she exclaimed.
"My idea is that it would be better to give a hundred taels. For if we
don't comply with what's right, we shall, not to speak of your
ridiculing us, find it also a hard job by and bye to face your mistress

"Well, in that case," laughed Wu Hsin-teng's wife, "I'll go and look up
the old accounts. I can't recollect anything about them just at this

"You're quite an old hand in the management of affairs," T'an Ch'un
observed with a significant smile, "and can't you remember, but come
instead to perplex us? Whenever you've had anything of the kind to lay
before your lady Secunda, have you also had to go first and look it up?
But if this has been the practice, lady Feng can't be looked upon as
being such a dreadful creature. One could very well call her lenient and
kind. Yet don't you yet hurry to go and hunt them up and bring them to
me to see? If we dilly-dally another day, they won't run you people down
for your coarse-mindedness, but we will seem to have been driven to our
wits' ends!"

Wu Hsin-teng's wife got quite scarlet in the face. Promptly twisting
herself round, she quitted the hall; while the whole bevy of married
women stretched out their tongues significantly.

During her absence, other matters were reported. But in a little while,
Wu Hsin-teng's wife returned with the old accounts. On inspection, T'an
Ch'un found that for a couple of secondary wives, who had lived in the
establishment, twenty-four taels had been granted, and that for two,
whose quarters had been outside, forty taels had in each case been
allowed. Besides these two, others were mentioned, who had lived outside
the mansion; to one of whom a hundred taels had been given, and to the
other, sixty taels. Under these two records, the reasons were assigned.
In the one case, the coffins of father and mother had had to be removed
from another province, and sixty taels extra had consequently been
granted. In the other, an additional twenty taels had been allowed, as a
burial-place had to be purchased at the time.

T'an Ch'un handed the accounts to Li Wan for her perusal.

"Give her twenty taels," readily suggested T'an Ch'un. "Leave these
accounts here for us to examine minutely."

Wu Hsin-teng's wife then walked away. But unexpectedly Mrs. Chao entered
the hall. Li Wan and T'an Ch'un speedily pressed her to take a seat.

Mrs. Chao then broke the silence. "All the inmates of these rooms have
trampled me under heel," she said, "but never mind! Yet, my child, just
ponder, it is only fair that you should take my part."

While ventilating her grievances, her eyes got moist, her nose watered,
and she began to sob.

"To whom are you alluding Mrs. Chao?" T'an Ch'un hastily inquired. "I
can't really make out what you're driving at. Who tramples you under
foot? Speak out and I'll take up your cudgels."

"You're now trampling me down yourself, young lady," Mrs. Chao observed.
"And to whom can I go and tell my grievance?"

T'an Ch'un, at these words, jumped up with alacrity. "I never would
presume to do any such thing," she protested.

Li Wan too vehemently sprung to her feet to proffer her some good

"Pray seat yourselves, both of you," Mrs. Chao cried, "and listen to
what I have to say. I've had, like simmering oil, to consume away in
these rooms to this advanced age. There's also your brother besides. Yet
I can't compare myself now even to Hsi Jen, and what credit do I enjoy?
But you haven't as well any face, so don't let's speak of myself."

"It was really on account of this," T'an Ch'un smiled, "that I said that
I didn't presume to disregard right and to violate propriety."

While she spoke, she resumed her seat, and taking up the accounts, she
turned them over for Mrs. Chao to glance at, after which she read them
out to her for her edification. "These are old customs," she proceeded,
"enforced by the seniors of the family, and every one complies with
them, and could I ever, pray, have changed them? These will hold good
not only with Hsi Jen; but even when by and bye Huan-erh takes a
concubine, the same course will naturally be adopted as in the case of
Hsi Jen. This is no question for any large quarrels or small disputes,
and no mention should be made about face or no face. She's our Madame
Wang's servant-girl, and I've dealt with her according to a
long-standing precedent. Those who say that I've taken suitable action
will come in for our ancestors' bounty and our lady's bounty as well.
But should any one uphold that I've adopted an unfair course, that
person is devoid of all common sense and totally ignorant of what a
blessing means. The only thing she can do is to foster as much
resentment as she chooses. Our lady, Madame Wang, may even give a
present of a house to any one; what credit is that to me? Again, she may
not give a single cash, but even that won't imply any loss of face, as
far as I am concerned. What I have to say is that as Madame Wang is away
from home, you should quietly look after yourself a bit. What's the good
of worrying and fretting? Our lady is extremely fond of me; and, if, at
different times, a chilliness has sprung up on her part, it's because
you, Mrs. Chao, have again and again been officious. Had I been a man
and able to have gone abroad, I would long ago have run away and started
some business. I would then have had something of my own to attend to.
But, as it happens, I am a girl, so that I can't even recklessly utter
so much as a single remark. Madame Wang is well aware of it in her
heart. And it's now because she entertains a high opinion of me that she
recently bade me assume the charge of domestic affairs. But before I've
had time enough to do a single good act, here you come, Mrs. Chao, to
lay down the law. If this reaches Madame Wang's ear, I fear I shall get
into trouble. She won't let me exercise any control, and then I shall,
in real earnest, come in for no face. But even you, Mrs. Chao, will then
actually lose countenance."

Reasoning with her, she so little could repress her tears that they
rolled down her cheeks.

Mrs. Chao had not a word more to say to refute her arguments with. "If
Madame Wang loves you," she simply responded, "there's still more reason
why you should have drawn us into her favour. (Instead of that), all you
think about is to try and win Madame Wang's affections, and you forget
all about us."

"How ever did I forget you?" T'an Ch'un exclaimed. "How would you have
me drag you into favour? Go and ask every one of them, and you'll see
what mistress is indifferent to any one, who exerts her energies and
makes herself useful, and what worthy person requires being drawn into

Li Wan, who stood by, did her best to pacify them with her advice. "Mrs.
Chao," she argued, "don't lose your temper! Neither should you feel any
ill-will against this young lady of yours. Had she even at heart every
good intention to lend you a hand, how could she put it into words?"

"This worthy senior dame," T'an Ch'un impatiently interposed, "has also
grown quite dense! Whom could I drag into favour? Why, in what family,
do the young ladies give a lift to slave-girls? Their qualities as well
as defects should all alike be well known to you people. And what have
they got to do with me?"

Mrs. Chao was much incensed. "Who tells you," she asked, "to give a lift
to any one? Were it not that you looked after the house, I wouldn't have
come to inquire anything of you. But anything you may suggest is right;
so had you, now that your maternal uncle is dead, granted twenty or
thirty taels in excess, is it likely that Madame Wang would not have
given you her consent? It's evident that our Madame Wang is a good woman
and that it's you people who are mean and stingy. Unfortunately,
however, her ladyship has with all her bounty no opportunity of
exercising it. You could, my dear girl, well set your mind at ease. You
wouldn't, in this instance, have had to spend any of your own money; and
at your marriage by and bye, I would still have borne in mind the
exceptional regard you had shown the Chao family. But now that you've
got your full plumage, you've forgotten your extraction, and chosen a
lofty branch to fly to."

Before T'an Ch'un had heard her to the end, she flew into such a rage
that her face blanched; and choking for breath, she gasped and panted.
Sobbing, she asked the while: "Who's my maternal uncle? My maternal
uncle was at the end of the year promoted to be High Commissioner of the
Nine Provinces! How can another maternal uncle have cropped up? It's
because I've ever shown that reverence enjoined by the rites that other
relatives have now more than ever turned up. If what you say be the
case, how is it that every day that Huan-erh goes out, Chao Kuo-chi too
stands up, and follows him to school? Why doesn't he put on the airs of
an uncle? What's the reason that he doesn't? Who isn't aware of the fact
that I'm born of a concubine? Would it require two or three months' time
to trace my extraction? But the fact is you've come to kick up all this
hullaballoo for fear lest people shouldn't be alive to the truth; and
with the express design of making it public all over the place! But I
wonder who of us two will make the other lose face? Luckily, I've got my
wits about me; for had I been a stupid creature ignorant of good
manners, I would long ago have lost all patience."

Li Wan was much concerned, but she had to continue to exhort them to
desist. But Mrs. Chao proceeded with a long rigmarole until a servant
was unexpectedly heard to report that lady Secunda had sent Miss Ping to
deliver a message. Mrs. Chao caught the announcement, and eventually
held her peace, when they espied P'ing erh making her appearance. Mrs.
Chao hastily forced a saturnine smile, and motioned to her to take a
seat. "Is your lady any better?" she went on to inquire with vehemence.
"I was just thinking of going to look her up; but I could find no

Upon seeing P'ing Erh enter, Li Wan felt prompted to ask her the object
of her visit.

"My lady says," P'ing Erh smilingly responded, "that she apprehends, now
that Mrs. Chao's brother is dead, that your ladyship and you, miss, are
not aware of the existence of an old precedent. According to the
ordinary practice no more need be given than twenty taels; but she now
requests you, miss, to consider what would be best to do; if even you
add a good deal more, it will do well enough."

T'an Ch'un at once wiped away all traces of tears. "What's the use of
another addition, when there's no valid reason for it?" she promptly
demurred. "Who has again been twenty months in the womb? Or is it
forsooth any one who's gone to the wars, and managed to escape with his
life, carrying his master on his back? Your mistress is certainly very
ingenious! She tells me to disregard the precedent, in order that she
should pose as a benefactress! She wishes to take the money, which
Madame Wang spurns, so as to reap the pleasure of conferring favours!
Just you tell her that I could not presume to add or reduce anything, or
even to adopt any reckless decision. Let her add what she wants and make
a display of bounty. When she gets better and is able to come out, she
can effect whatever additions she fancies."

The moment P'ing Erh arrived, she obtained a fair insight (into lady
Feng's designs), so when she heard the present remarks, she grasped a
still more correct idea of things. But perceiving an angry look about
T'an Ch'un's face, she did not have the temerity to behave towards her
as she would, had she found her in the high spirits of past days. All
she did therefore was to stand aloof with her arms against her sides and
to wait in rigid silence. Just at that moment, however, Pao-ch'ai
dropped in, on her return from the upper rooms. T'an Ch'un quickly rose
to her feet, and offered her a seat. But before they had had time to
exchange any words, a married woman likewise came to report some

But as T'an Ch'un had been having a good cry, three or four young maids
brought her a basin, towel, and hand-glass and other articles of
toilette. T'an Ch'un was at the moment seated cross-legged, on a low
wooden couch, so the maid with the basin had, when she drew near, to
drop on both her knees and lift it high enough to bring it within reach.
The other two girls prostrated themselves next to her and handed the
towels and the rest of the toilet things, which consisted of a
looking-glass, rouge and powder. But P'ing Erh noticed that Shih Shu was
not in the room, and approaching T'an Ch'un with hasty step, she tucked
up her sleeves for her and unclasped her bracelets. Seizing also a large
towel from the hands of one of the maids, she covered the lapel on the
front part of T'an Ch'un's dress; whereupon T'an Ch'un put out her
hands, and washed herself in the basin.

"My lady and miss," the married woman observed, "may it please you to
pay what has been spent in the family school for Mr. Chia Huan and Mr..
Chia Lan during the year."

P'ing Erh was the first to speak. "What are you in such a hurry for?"
she cried. "You've got your eyes wide open, and must be able to see our
young lady washing her face; instead of coming forward to wait on her,
you start talking! Do you also behave in this blind sort of way in the
presence of your lady Secunda? This young lady is, it's true, generous
and lenient, but I'll go and report you to your mistress. I'll simply
tell her that you people have no eye for Miss T'an Ch'un. But when you
find yourselves in a mess, don't bear me any malice."

At this hint the woman took alarm, and hastily forcing a smile, she
pleaded guilty. "I've been rude," she exclaimed. With these words, she
rushed with all despatch out of the room.

T'an Ch'un smoothed her face. While doing so, she turned herself towards
P'ing Erh and gave her a cynical smile. "You've come just one step too
late," she remarked. "You weren't in time to see something laughable!
Even sister Wu, an old hand at business though she be, failed to look up
clearly an old custom and came to play her tricks on us. But when we
plied her with questions, she luckily had the face to admit that it had
slipped from her memory. 'Do you,' I insinuated, 'also forget, when
you've got anything to report to lady Secunda? and have you subsequently
to go and hunt up all about it?' Your mistress can't, I fancy, be so
patient as to wait while she goes and institutes proper search."

P'ing Erh laughed. "Were she to have behaved but once in this wise," she
observed, "I feel positive that a couple of the tendons of her legs
would have long ago been snapped. But, Miss, don't credit all they say.
It's because they see that our senior mistress is as sweet-tempered as a
'P'u-sa,' and that you, miss, are a modest young lady, that they,
naturally, shirk their duties and come and take liberties with you. Your
mind is set upon playing the giddy dogs," continuing, she added;
speaking towards those beyond the doorway; "but when your mistress gets
quite well again, we'll tell her all."

"You're gifted with the greatest perspicacity, miss," the married women,
standing outside the door, smiled in chorus. "The proverb says: 'the
person who commits a fault must be the one to suffer.' We don't in any
way presume to treat any mistress with disdain. Our mistress at present
is in delicate health, and if we intentionally provoke her, may we, when
we die, have no place to have our corpses interred in."

P'ing Erh laughed a laugh full irony. "So long as you're aware of this,
it's well and good," she said. And smiling a saturnine smile, she
resumed, addressing herself to T'an Ch'un: "Miss, you know very well how
busy our lady has been and how little she could afford the time to keep
this tribe of people in order. Of course, they couldn't therefore, be
prevented from becoming remiss. The adage has it: 'Lookers-on are clear
of sight!' During all these years that you, have looked on
dispassionately, there have possibly been instances on which, though
additions or reductions should have been made, our lady Secunda has not
been able to effect them, so, miss, do add or curtail whatever you may
deem necessary, in order that, first, Madame Wang may be benefited, and
that, secondly, you mayn't too render nugatory the kindness with which
you ever deal towards our mistress."

But scarcely had she finished, than Pao-ch'ai and Li Wan smilingly
interposed. "What a dear girl!" they ejaculated. "One really can't feel
angry with that hussy Feng for being partial to her and fond of her. We
didn't, at first, see how we could very well alter anything by any
increase or reduction, but after what you've told us, we must hit upon
one or two things and try and devise means to do something, with a view
of not showing ourselves ungrateful of the advice you've tendered us."

"My heart was swelling with indignation," T'an Ch'un observed laughing,
"and I was about to go and give vent to my temper with her mistress, but
now that she (P'ing Erh) has happened to come, she has, with a few
words, quite dissuaded me from my purpose."

While she spoke, she called the woman, who had been with them a few
minutes back, to return into the room. "For what things for Mr. Chia
Huan and Mr. Chia Lau was the money expended during the year in the
family school?" she inquired of her.

"For cakes," replied the woman, "they ate during the year at school; or
for the purchase of paper and pens. Each one of them is allowed eight

"The various expenses on behalf of the young men," T'an Ch'un added,
"are invariably paid in monthly instalments to the respective
households. For cousin Chia Huan's, Mrs. Chao receives two taels. For
Pao-yŁ's, Hsi Jen draws two taels from our venerable senior's suite of
apartments. For cousin Chia Lan's, some one, in our senior lady's rooms,
gets the proper allowance. So how is it that these extra eight taels
have to be disbursed at school for each of these young fellows? Is it
really for these eight taels that they go to school? But from this day
forth I shall put a stop to this outlay. So P'ing Erh, when you get
back, tell your mistress that I say that this item must absolutely be
done away with."

"This should have been done away with long ago," P'ing Erh smiled. "Last
year our lady expressed her intention to eliminate it, but with the
endless things that claimed her attention about the fall of the year,
she forgot all about it."

The woman had no other course than to concur with her views and to walk
away. But the married women thereupon arrived from the garden of Broad
Vista with the boxes of eatables. So Shih Shu and Su YŁn at once brought
a small dining-table, and P'ing Erh began to fuss about laying the
viands on it.

"If you've said all you had," T'an Ch'un laughed, "you'd better be off
and attend to your business. What's the use of your bustling about

"I've really got nothing to do," P'ing Erh answered smiling. "Our lady
Secunda sent me first, to deliver a message; and next, because she
feared that the servants in here weren't handy enough. The fact is, she
bade me come and help the girls wait on you, my lady, and on you, miss."

"Why don't you bring Mrs. Pao's meal so that she should have it along
with us?" T'an Ch'un then inquired.

As soon as the waiting-maids heard her inquiry, they speedily rushed out
and went under the eaves. "Go," they cried, directing the married women,
"and say that Miss Pao-ch'ai would like to have her repast just now in
the hall along with the others, and tell them to send the eatables

T'an Ch'un caught their directions. "Don't be deputing people to go on
reckless errands!" she vociferated. "Those are dames, who manage
important matters and look after the house, and do you send them to ask
for eatables and inquire about tea? You haven't even the least notion
about gradation. P'ing Erh is standing here, so tell her to go and give
the message."

P'ing Erh immediately assented, and issued from the room, bent upon
going on the errand. But the married women stealthily pulled her back.
"How could you, miss, be made to go and tell them?" they smiled. "We've
got some one here, who can do so!"

So saying, they dusted one of the stone steps with their handkerchiefs.
"You've been standing so long," they observed, "that you must feel quite
tired. Do sit in this sunny place and have a little rest."

P'ing Erh took a seat on the step. Two matrons attached to the tea-room
then fetched a rug and spread it out for her. "It's cold on those
stones," they ventured; "this is, as clean as it can be. So, miss, do
make the best of it, and use it!"

P'ing Erh hastily forced a smile. "Many thanks," she replied.

Another matron next brought her a cup of fine new tea. "This isn't the
tea we ordinarily drink," she quietly smiled. "This is really for
entertaining the young ladies with. Miss, pray moisten your mouth with

P'ing Erh lost no time in bending her body forward and taking the cup.
Then pointing at the company of married women, she observed in a low
voice: "You're all too fond of trouble! The way you're going on won't do
at all! She (T'an Ch'un) is only a young girl, so she is loth to show
any severity, or display any temper. This is because she's full of
respect. Yet you people look down on her and insult her. Should she,
however, be actually provoked into any violent fit of anger, people will
simply say that her behaviour was rather rough, and all will be over.
But as for you, you'll get at once into endless trouble. Even though she
might show herself somewhat wilful, Madame Wang treats her with
considerable forbearance, and lady Secunda too hasn't the courage to
meddle with her; and do you people have such arrogance as to look down
on her? This is certainly just as if an egg were to go and bang itself
against a stone!"

"When were we ever so audacious?" the servants exclaimed with one voice.
"This fuss is all the work of Mrs. Chao!"

"Never mind about that!" P'ing Erh urged again in an undertone. "My dear
ladies, 'when a wall falls, every one gives it a shove.' That Mrs. Chao
has always been rather topsy-turvey in her ways, and done things by
halves; so whenever there has been any rumpus, you've invariably shoved
the blame on to her shoulders. Never have you had any regard for any
single person. Your designs are simply awful! Is it likely that all
these years that I've been here, I haven't come to know of them? Had our
lady Secunda mismanaged things just a little bit, she would have long
ago been run down by every one of you, ladies! Even such as she is, you
would, could you only get the least opportunity, be ready to place her
in a fix! And how many, many times hasn't she been abused by you?"

"She's dreadful," one and all of them rejoined. "You all live in fear
and trembling of her. But we know well enough that no one could say that
she too does not in the depths of her heart entertain some little dread
for the lot of you. The other day, we said, in talking matters over,
that things could not go on smoothly from beginning to end, and that
some unpleasantness was bound to happen. Miss Tertia is, it's true, a
mere girl, and you've always treated her with little consideration, but
out of that company of senior and junior young ladies, she is the only
soul whom our lady Secunda funks to some certain extent. And yet you
people now won't look up to her."

So speaking Ch'iu Wen appeared to view. The married women ran up to her
and inquired after her health. "Miss," they said, "do rest a little.
They've had their meal served in there, so wait until things have been
cleared away, before you go and deliver your message."

"I'm not like you people," Ch'iu Wen smiled. "How can I afford to wait?"

With these words on her lips, she was about to go into the hall, when
P'ing Erh quickly called her back. Ch'iu Wen, upon turning her head
round, caught sight of P'ing Erh. "Have you too," she remarked with a
smile, "come here to become something like those guardians posted
outside the enclosing walls?"

Retracing, at the same time, her footsteps, she took a seat on the rug,
occupied by P'ing Erh.

"What message have you got to deliver?" P'ing Erh gently asked.

"I've got to ask when we can get Pao-yŁ's monthly allowance and our own
too," she responded.

"Is this any such pressing matter?" P'ing Erh answered. "Go back quick,
and tell Hsi Jen that my advice is that no concern whatever should be
brought to their notice to-day. That every single matter reported is
bound to be objected to; and that even a hundred will just as surely be

"Why is it?" vehemently inquired Ch'iu Wen, upon hearing this

P'ing Erh and the other servants then promptly told her the various
reasons. "She's just bent," they proceeded, "upon finding a few weighty
concerns in order to establish, at the expense of any decent person who
might chance to present herself, a precedent of some kind or other so as
to fix upon a mode of action, which might help to put down expenses to
their proper level, and afford a lesson to the whole household; and why
are you people the first to come and bump your heads against the nails?
If you went now and told them your errand, it would also reflect
discredit upon our venerable old mistress and Madame Wang, were they to
pounce upon one or two matters to make an example of you. But if they
complied with one or two of your applications, others will again
maintain 'that they are inclined to favour this one and show partiality
to that one; that as you had your old mistress' and Madame Wang's
authority to fall back upon, they were afraid and did not presume to
provoke their displeasure; that they only avail themselves of
soft-natured persons to make scapegoats of.' Just mark my words! She
even means to raise objections in one or two matters connected with our
lady Secunda, in order to be the better able to shut up people's

Ch'iu Wen listened to her with patient ear; and then stretching out her
tongue, "It's lucky enough you were here, sister P'ing," she smiled;
"otherwise, I would have had my nose well rubbed on the ground. I shall
seize the earliest opportunity and give the lot of them a hint."

While replying, she immediately rose to her feet and took leave of them.
Soon after her departure, Pao-ch'ai's eatables arrived, and P'ing Erh
hastened to enter and wait on her. By that time Mrs. Chao had left, so
the three girls seated themselves on the wooden bed, and went through
their repast. Pao-ch'ai faced the south. T'an Ch'un the west. Li Wan the
east. The company of married women stood quietly under the verandah
ready to answer any calls. Within the precincts of the chamber, only
such maids remained in waiting as had ever been their closest
attendants. None of the other servants ventured, of their own accord, to
put their foot anywhere inside.

The married women (meanwhile) discussed matters in a confidential
whisper. "Let's do our downright best to save trouble," they argued.
"Don't let us therefore harbour any evil design, for even dame Wu will,
in that case, be placed in an awkward fix. And can we boast of any grand
honours to expect to fare any better?"

While they stood on one side, and held counsel together, waiting for the
meal to be over to make their several reports, they could not catch so
much as the caw of a crow inside the rooms. Neither did the clatter of
bowls and chopsticks reach their ears. But presently, they discerned a
maid raise the frame of the portiere as high as she could, and two other
girls bring the table out. In the tea-room, three maids waited with
three basins in hand. The moment they saw the dining-table brought out,
all three walked in. But after a brief interval, they egressed with the
basins and rinsing cups. Shih Shu, Su YŁn and Ying Erh thereupon entered
with three covered cups of tea, placed in trays. Shortly however these
three girls also made their exit. Shih Shu then recommended a young maid
to be careful and attend to the wants (of their mistresses). "When we've
had our rice," she added, "we'll come and relieve you. But don't go
stealthily again and sit down!"

The married women at length delivered their reports in a quiet and
orderly manner; and as they did not presume to be as contemptuous and
offhandish as they had been before, T'an Ch'un eventually cooled down.

"I've got something of moment," she then observed to P'ing Erh, "about
which I would like to consult your mistress. Happily, I remembered it
just now, so come back as soon as you've had your meal. Miss Pao-ch'ai
is also here at present, so, after we four have deliberated together,
you can carefully ask your lady whether action is to be taken
accordingly or not."

P'ing Erh acquiesced and returned to her quarters. "How is it," inquired
lady Feng, "that you've been away such an age?"

P'ing Erh smiled and gave her a full account of what had recently

"What a fine, splendid girl Miss Tertia is!" she laughingly ejaculated.
"What I said was quite right! The only pity is that she should have had
such a miserable lot as not to have been born of a primary wife."

"My lady, you're also talking a lot of trash!" P'ing Erh smiled. "She,
mayn't be Madame Wang's child, but is it likely that any one would be so
bold as to point the finger of scorn at her, and not treat her like the

Lady Feng sighed. "How could you know everything?" she remarked. "She
is, of course, the offspring of a concubine, but as a mere girl, she
can't be placed on the same footing as a man! By and bye, when any one
aspires to her hand, the sort of supercilious parties, who now tread the
world, will, as a first step, ask whether this young lady is the child
of a No. 1 or No. 2 wife. And many of these won't have anything to say
to her, as she is the child, of a No. 2. But really people haven't any
idea that, not to speak of her as the offspring of a secondary wife, she
would be, even as a mere servant-girl of ours, far superior than the
very legitimate daughter of any family. Who, I wonder, will in the
future be so devoid of good fortune as to break off the match; just
because he may be inclined to pick and choose between a wife's child and
a concubine's child? And who, I would like to know, will be that lucky
fellow, who'll snatch her off without any regard to No. 1 and No. 2?"

Continuing, she resumed, turning smilingly towards P'ing Erh, "You know
well enough how many ways and means I've had all these years to devise
in order to effect retrenchment, and how there isn't, I may safely aver,
a single soul in the whole household, who doesn't detest me behind my
back. But now that I'm astride on the tiger's back, (I must go on; for
if I put my foot on the ground, I shall be devoured). It's true, my
tactics have been more or less seen through, but there's no help for it;
I can't very well become more open-handed in a moment! In the second
place, much goes out at home, and little comes in; and the hundred and
one, large and small, things, which turn up, are still managed with that
munificence so characteristic of our old ancestors. But the funds, that
come in throughout the year, fall short of the immense sums of past
days. And if I try again to effect any savings people will laugh at me,
our venerable senior and Madame Wang suffer wrongs, and the servants
abhor me for my stinginess. Yet, if we don't seize the first opportunity
to think of some plan for enforcing retrenchment, our means will, in the
course of a few more years, be completely exhausted."

"Quite so!" assented P'ing Erh. "By and bye, there will be three or four
daughters and two or three more sons added; and our old mistress won't
be able, singlehanded, to meet all this heavy outlay."

"I myself entertain fears on the same score," lady Feng smiled. "But,
after all, there will be ample. For when Pao-yŁ and cousin Lin get
married, there won't be any need to touch a cent of public money, as our
old lady has her own private means, and she can well fork out some. Miss
Secunda is the child of your senior master yonder, and she too needn't
be taken into account. So there only remain three or four, for each of
whom one need only spend, at the utmost, ten thousand taels. Cousin Huan
will marry in the near future; and if an outlay of three thousand taels
prove insufficient, we will be able, by curtailing the bandoline, used
in those rooms for smoothing the hair with, make both ends meet. And
should our worthy senior's end come about, provision for everything is
already made. All that we'll have to do will be to spend some small sum
for a few miscellaneous trifles; and three to five thousand taels will
more than suffice. So with further economies at present, there will be
plenty for all our successive needs. The only fear is lest anything
occur at an unforeseen juncture; for then it will be dreadful! But don't
let us give way to apprehensions with regard to the future! You'd better
have your rice; and when you've done, be quick and go and hear what they
mean to treat about in their deliberations. I must now turn this
opportunity to the best account. I was only this very minute lamenting
that I had no help at my disposal. There's Pao-yŁ, it's true, but he too
is made of the same stuff as the rest of them in here. Were I even to
get him under my thumb, it would be of no earthly use whatever. Senior
lady is as good-natured as a joss; and she likewise is no good. Miss
Secunda is worse than useless. Besides, she doesn't belong to this
place. Miss Quarta is only a child. That young fellow Lan and Huan-erh
are, more than any of the others, like frozen kittens with frizzled
coats. They only wait to find some warm hole in a stove into which they
may poke themselves! Really from one and the same womb have been created
two human beings (T'an Ch'un and Chia Huan) so totally unlike each other
as the heavens are distant from the earth. But when I think of all this,
I feel quite angry! Again, that girl Lin and Miss Pao are both deserving
enough, but as they also happen to be our connexions, they couldn't very
well be put in charge of our family affairs. What's more, the one
resembles a lantern, decorated with nice girls, apt to spoil so soon as
it is blown by a puff of wind. The other has made up her mind not to
open her month in anything that doesn't concern her. When she's
questioned about anything, she simply shakes her head, and repeats
thrice: 'I don't know,' so that it would be an extremely difficult job
to go and ask her to lend a helping hand. There's only therefore Miss
Tertia, who is as sharp of mind as of tongue. She's besides a
straightforward creature in this household of ours and Madame Wang is
attached to her as well. It's true that she outwardly makes no display
of her feelings for her, but it's all that old thing Mrs. Chao, who has
done the mischief, for, in her heart, she actually holds her as dear as
she does Pao-yŁ. She's such a contrast to Huan-erh! He truly makes it
hard for any one to care a rap for him. Could I have had my own way, I
would long ere this have packed him out of the place. But since she
(T'au Ch'un) has now got this idea into her mind, we must cooperate with
her. For if we can afford each other a helping hand, I too won't be
single-handed and alone. And as far as every right principle, eternal
principle, and honesty of purpose go, we shall with such a person as a
helpmate, be able to save ourselves considerable anxiety, and Madame
Wang's interests will, on the other hand, derive every advantage. But,
as far as unfairness and bad faith go, I've run the show with too
malicious a hand, and I must turn tail and draw back from my old ways.
When I review what I've done, I find that if I still push my tyrannical
rule to the bitter end, people will hate me most relentlessly; so much
so, that under their smiles they'll harbour daggers, and much though we
two may then be able to boast of having four eyes and two heads between
us, they'll compass our ruin, when they can at any moment find us off
our guard. We should therefore make the best of this crisis, so that as
soon as she takes the initiative and sets things in order, all that
tribe of people may for a time lose sight of the bitter feelings they
cherish against us, for the way we've dealt with them in the past. But
there's another thing besides. I naturally know the great talents you
possess, but I feel mistrust lest you should, by your own wits, not be
able to bring things round. I enjoin these things then on you, now, for
although a mere girl she has everything at her fingers' ends. The only
thing is that she must try and be wary in speech. She's besides so much
better read than I am that she's a harder nut to crack. Now the proverb
says: 'in order to be able to catch the rebels, you must first catch
their chief.' So if she's at present disposed to mature some plan and
set to work to put it into practice, she'll certainly have to first and
foremost make a start with me. In the event consequently of her raising
objections to anything I've done, mind you don't begin any dispute with
her. The more virulent she is in her censure of me, the more deferential
you should be towards her. That's your best plan. And whatever you do,
don't imagine that I'm afraid of any loss of face. But the moment you
flare up with her, things won' go well......"

P'ing Erh did not allow her time to conclude her argument. "You're too
much disposed to treat us as simpletons!" she smiled. "I've already
carried out your wishes, and do you now enjoin all these things on me?"

Lady Feng smiled. "It's because," she resumed, "I feared lest you, who
have your eyes and mouth so full of me, and only me, might be inclined
to show no regard whatever for her, that's why. I couldn't, therefore,
but tender you the advice I did. But since you've already done what I
wanted you to do, you've shown yourself far sharper than I am. There's
nothing in this to drive you into another tantrum, and to make that
mouth of yours begin to chatter away so much about 'you and I,' 'you and
I' !"

"I've actually addressed you as 'you' ;" P'ing Erh rejoined; "but if you
be displeased at it, isn't this a case of a slap on the mouth? You can
very well give me another one, for is it likely that this phiz of mine
hasn't as yet tasted any, pray?"

"What a vixen you are!" lady Feng said smilingly. "How many faults will
you go on picking out, before you shut up? You see how ill I am, and yet
you come to rub me the wrong way. Come and sit down; for you and I can
at all events have our meal together when there is no one to break in
upon us. It's only right that we should."

While these remarks dropped from her lips, Feng Erh and some three or
four other maids entered the room and laid the small stove-couch table.
Lady Feng only ate some birds' nests' soup and emptied two small plates
of some recherchť light viands; for she had long ago temporarily reduced
her customary diet.

Feng Erh placed the four kinds of eatables allotted to P'ing Erh on the
table. After which, she filled a bowl of rice for her. Then with one leg
bent on the edge of the stove-couch, while the other rested on the
ground, P'ing Erh kept lady Feng company during her repast; and waiting
on her, afterwards, until she finished rinsing her mouth, she issued
certain directions to Feng Erh, and crossed over at length to T'an
Ch'un's quarters. Here she found the courtyard plunged in perfect
stillness, for the various inmates, who had been assembled there, had
already taken their leave.

But, reader, do you wish to follow up the story? If so, listen to the
circumstances detailed in the next chapter.


The clever T'an Ch'un increases their income and removes long-standing
The worthy Pao-ch'ai preserves intact, by the display of a little
intelligence, the great reputation enjoyed by the Chia family.

But let us pick up the clue of our story. P'ing Erh bore lady Feng
company during her meal; then attending to her, while she rinsed her
mouth and washed her hands, she betook herself eventually to T'an
Ch'un's quarters, where she discovered the courtyard in perfect
stillness. Not a soul was about beyond several maids, matrons and close
attendants of the inner rooms, who stood outside the windows on the
alert to obey any calls. P'ing Erh stepped into the hall. The two
cousins and their sister-in-law were all three engaged in discussing
some domestic affairs. They were talking about the feast, to which they
had been invited during the new year festivities by Lai Ta's wife, and
various details in connection with the garden she had in her place. But
as soon as she (P'ing Erh) appeared on the scene, T'an Ch'un desired her
to seat herself on her footstool.

"What was exercising my mind," she thereupon observed, "confines itself
to this. I was computing that the head-oil, and rouge and powder, we use
during the course of a month, are also a matter of a couple of taels;
and I was thinking that what with the sum of two taels, already allotted
us every month, and the extra monthly amount given as well to the maids,
allowances are, with the addition again of that of eight taels for
school expenses, we recently spoke about, piled to be sure one upon
another. The thing is, it's true, a mere trifle, and the amount only a
bagatelle, but it doesn't seem to be quite proper. But how is it that
your mistress didn't take this into account?"

P'ing Erh smiled. "There's a why and a wherefore," she answered. "All
the things required by you, young ladies, must absolutely be subject to
a fixed rule; for the different compradores have to lay in a stock of
each every month; and to send them to us by the maids to take charge of;
but purely and simply to keep in readiness for you to use. No such thing
could ever be tolerated as that each of us should have to get money
every day and try and hunt up some one to go and buy these articles for
us! That's how it is that the compradores outside receive a lump sum,
and that they send us, month by month, by the female servants the
supplies allotted for the different rooms. As regards the two taels
monthly allowed you, young ladies, they were not originally intended
that you should purchase any such articles with, but that you should, if
at any time the ladies in charge of the household affairs happened to be
away from home or to have no leisure, be saved the trouble of having to
go in search of the proper persons, in the event of your suddenly
finding yourselves in need of money. This was done simply because it was
feared that you would be subjected to inconvenience. But an unprejudiced
glance about me now shows me that at least half of our young mistresses
in the various quarters invariably purchase these things with ready
money of their own; so I can't help suspecting that, if it isn't a
question of the compradores shirking their duties, it must be that what
they buy is all mere rubbish."

T'an Ch'un and Li Wan laughed. "You must have kept a sharp lookout to
have managed to detect these things!" they said. "But as for shirking
the purchases, they don't actually do so. It's simply that they're
behind time by a good number of days. Yet when one puts on the screw
with them, they get some articles from somewhere or other, who knows
where? These are however only a sham; for, in reality, they aren't fit
for use. But as they're now as ever obtained with cash down, a couple of
taels could very well be given to the brothers or sons of some of the
other people's nurses to purchase them with. They'll then be good for
something! Were we however to employ any of the public domestics in the
establishment, the things will be just as bad as ever. I wonder how they
do manage to get such utter rot as they do?"

"The purchases of the compradores may be what they are," P'ing Erh
smiled; "but were anyone else to buy any better articles, the
compradores themselves won't ever forgive them. Besides other things,
they'll aver that they harbour evil designs, and that they wish to
deprive them of their post. That's how it comes about that the servants
would much rather give offence to you all inside, (by getting inferior
things), and that they have no desire to hurt the feelings of the
managers outside, (by purchasing anything of superior quality). But if
you, young ladies, requisition the services of the nurses, these men
won't have the arrogance to make any nonsensical remarks."

"This accounts for the unhappy state my heart is in," T'an Ch'un
observed. "But as we're called upon to squander money right and left,
and as the things purchased are half of them uselessly thrown away,
wouldn't it, after all, be better for us to eliminate this monthly
allowance to the compradores? This is the first thing. The next I'd like
to ask you is this. When they went, during the new year festivities, to
Lai Ta's house, you also went with them; and what do think of that small
garden as compared with this of ours?"

"It isn't half as big as ours," P'ing Erh laughingly explained. "The
trees and plants are likewise fewer by a good deal."

"When I was having a chat with their daughter," T'an Ch'un proceeded,
"she said that, besides the flowers they wear, and the bamboo shoots,
vegetables, fish and shrimps they eat from this garden of theirs,
there's still enough every year for people to take over under contract,
and that at the close of each year there's a surplus in full of two
hundred taels. Ever since that day is it that I've become alive to the
fact that even a broken lotus leaf, and a blade of withered grass are
alike worth money."

"This is, in very truth, the way wealthy and well-to-do people talk!"
Pao-ch'ai laughed. "But notwithstanding your honourable position, young
ladies, you really understand nothing about these concerns. Yet, haven't
you, with all your book-lore, seen anything of the passage in the
writing of Chu Fu-tzu: 'Throw not they self away?'"

"I've read it, it's true," T'an Ch'un smiled, "but its object is simply
to urge people to exert themselves; it's as much empty talk as any
random arguments, and how could it be bodily treated as gospel?"

"Chu-tzu's work all as much empty talk as any random arguments?"
Pao-ch'ai exclaimed. "Why every sentence in it is founded on fact.
You've only had the management of affairs in your hands for a couple of
days, and already greed and ambition have so beclouded your mind that
you've come to look upon Chu-tzu as full of fraud and falsehood. But
when you by and bye go out into the world and see all those mighty
concerns reeking with greed and corruption, you'll even go so far as to
treat Confucius himself as a fraud!"

"Haven't you with all your culture read a book like that of Chi-tzu's?"
Pan Ch'un laughed. "Chi-tzu said in bygone days 'that when one descends
into the arena where gain and emoluments are to be got, and enters the
world of planning and plotting, one makes light of the injunctions of
Yao and Shun, and disregards the principles inculcated by Confucius and

"What about the next line?" Pao-ch'ai insinuated with a significant

"I now cut the text short," T'an Ch'un smilingly rejoined, "in order to
adapt the sense to what I want to say. Would I recite the following
sentence, and heap abuse upon my own self; is it likely I would; eh?"

"There's nothing under the heavens that can't be turned to some use,"
Pao-ch'ai added. "And since everything can be utilised, everything must
be worth money. But can it be that a person gifted with such
intelligence as yours can have had no experience in such great matters
and legitimate concerns as these?"

"You send for a person," Li Wan laughingly interposed, 'and you don't
speak about what's right and proper, but you start an argument on

"Learning is right and proper," Pao-ch'ai answered. "If we made no
allusion to learning, we'd all soon enough drift among the rustic herd!"

The trio bandied words for a while, after which they turned their
attention again to pertinent affairs.

T'an Ch'un took up once more the thread of the conversation. "This
garden of ours," she argued, "is only half as big as theirs, so if you
double the income they derive, you will see that we ought to reap a net
profit of four hundred taels a year. But were we also now to secure a
contract for our surplus products, the money, we'd earn, would, of
course, be a mere trifle and not one that a family like ours should
hanker after. And were we to depute two special persons (to attend to
the garden), the least permission given by them to any one to turn
anything to improper uses, would, since there be so many things of
intrinsic value, be tantamount to a reckless destruction of the gifts of
heaven. So would it not be preferable to select several quiet, steady
and experienced old matrons, out of those stationed in the grounds, and
appoint them to put them in order and look after things? Neither will
there be any need then to make them pay any rent, or give any taxes in
kind. All we can ask them is to supply the household with whatever they
can afford during the year. In the first place, the garden will, with
special persons to look after the plants and trees, naturally so improve
from year to year that there won't be any bustle or confusion, whenever
the time draws nigh to utilise the grounds. Secondly, people won't
venture to injure or uselessly waste anything. In the third place, the
old matrons themselves will, by availing themselves of these small
perquisites, not labour in the gardens year after year and day after day
all for no good. Fourthly, it will in like manner be possible to effect
a saving in the expenditure for gardeners, rockery-layers, sweepers and
other necessary servants. And this excess can be utilised for making up
other deficiencies. I don't see any reason why this shouldn't be

Pao-ch'ai was standing below contemplating the pictures with characters
suspended on the walls. Upon hearing these suggestions, she readily
nodded her head assentingly and smiled. "Excellent!" she cried. "'Within
three years, there will be no more famines and dearths.'"

"What a first-rate plan!" Li Wan chimed in. "This, if actually adopted,
will delight the heart of Madame Wang. Pecuniary economies are of
themselves a paltry matter; but there will be then in the garden those
to sweep the grounds, and those whose special charge will be to look
after them. Besides, were the persons selected allowed to turn up an
honest cash by selling part of the products, they will be so impelled by
a sense of their responsibilities, and prompted by a desire of gain that
there won't any longer be any who won't acquit themselves of their
duties to the fullest measure."

"It remained for you, miss, to put these suggestions in words," P'ing
Erh remarked. "Our mistress may have entertained the idea, but it is by
no means certain that she thought it nice on her part to give utterance
to it. For as you, young ladies, live at present in the garden, she
could not possibly, unable as she is to supply such additional ornaments
as will make it more showy, contrariwise depute people to exercise
authority in it, and to keep it in order, with a view of effecting a
reduction in expenses. Such a proposal could never have dropped from her

Pao-ch'ai advanced up to her with alacrity. Rubbing her face: "Open that
mouth of yours wide," she laughed, "and let me see of what stuff your
teeth and tongue are made! Ever since you put your foot out of bed this
morning you've jabbered away up to this very moment! And your song has
all been in one strain. For neither have you been very complimentary to
Miss Tertia, nor have you admitted that your mistress is, as far as wits
go, so much below the mark as to be unable to effect suitable provision.
Yet whenever Miss Tertia advanced any arguments, you've at once made use
of endless words to join issue with her. This is because the plan
devised by Miss Tertia was also hit upon by your lady Feng. But there
must surely have been a reason why she couldn't carry it into execution.
Again, as the young ladies have now their quarters in the garden, she
couldn't, with any decency, direct any one to go and rule over it, for
the mere sake of saving a few cash. Just consider this. If the garden is
actually handed to people to make profit out of it, the parties
interested will, of course, not even permit a single spray of flowers to
be plucked, and not a single fruit to be taken away. With such as come
within the category of senior young ladies, they won't naturally have
the audacity to be particular; but they'll daily have endless rows with
the junior girls. (Lady Feng) has, with her fears about the future and
her misgivings about the present, shown herself neither too overbearing
nor too servile. This mistress of theirs is not friendly disposed
towards us, but when she hears of her various proposals, shame might
induce her to turn over a new leaf."

"Early this morning," T'an Ch'un laughingly observed, "I was very cross,
but as soon as I heard of her (P'ing Erh's) arrival, I casually
remembered that her mistress employed, during her time, such domestics
as were up to all kinds of larks, and at the sight of her, I got more
cross than ever. But, little though one would have thought it, she
behaved from the moment she came, like a rat that tries to get out of
the way of a cat. And as she had had to stand for ever so long, I pitied
her very much; but she took up the thread of the conversation, and went
on to spin that long yarn of hers. Yet, instead of mentioning that her
mistress treats me with every consideration, she, on the contrary,
observed: 'The kindness with which you have all along dealt with our
lady miss, has not been to no purpose.' This remark therefore not only
dispelled my anger, but filled me with so much shame that I began to
feel sore at heart. And, when I came to think carefully over the matter,
I failed to see how I, a mere girl, who had personally done so much
mischief that not a soul cared a straw for me and not a soul took any
interest in me, could possess any such good qualities as to treat any
one kindly...."

When she reached this point, she could not check her tears from brimming
over. Li Wan and her associates perceived how pathetically she spoke;
and, recalling to mind bow Mrs. Chao had always run her down, and how
she had ever been involved in some mess or other with Madame Wang, on
account of this Mrs. Chao, they too found it difficult to refrain from
melting into sobs. But they then used their joint efforts to console

"Let's avail ourselves of this quiet day," they suggested, "to try and
find out how we could increase our revenue and remove abuses, so as not
to render futile the charge laid on us by Madame Wang. What use or
purpose is it to allude to such trivial matters?"

"I've already grasped your object," P'ing Erh hastily ventured. "Miss,
speak out; who do you consider fit? And as soon as the proper persons
have been fixed upon, everything will be square enough."

"What you say is all very well," T'an Ch'un rejoined, "but it will be
necessary to let your lady know something about it. It has never been
the proper thing for us in here to scrape together any small profits.
But as your mistress is full of gumption, I adopted the course I did.
Had she been at all narrowminded, with many prejudices and many
jealousies, I wouldn't have shown the least willingness in the matter.
But, as it will look as if I were bent upon pulling her to pieces, how
can I take action without consulting her?"

"In that case," P'ing Erh smiled, "I'll go and tell her something about

With this response, she went on the errand; and only returned after a
long lapse of time. "I said," she laughed, "that it would be perfectly
useless for me to go. How ever could our lady not readily accede to an
excellent proposal like this?"

Hearing this, T'an Ch'un forthwith joined Li Wan in directing a servant
to ask for the roll, containing the names of the matrons in the garden,
and bring it to them. When produced, they all held council together, and
fixing cursorily upon several persons, they summoned them to appear
before them. Li Wan then explained to them the general outline of their
duties; and not one was there among the whole company, who listened to
her, who would not undertake the charge. One said: "If you confide that
bamboo tree for twelve months to my care, it will again next year be a
single tree, but besides the shoots, which will have been eaten at home,
I shall be able, in the course of the year, to also pay in some money."
"Hand me over," another one remarked, "that portion of paddy field, and
there will, during the year, be no need to touch any public funds on
account of the various birds, large and small, which are kept for mere
fun. Besides that, I shall be in a position to give in something more."

T'an Ch'un was about to pass a remark when a servant reported that the
doctor had come; and that he had entered the garden to see Miss Shih. So
the matrons were obliged to go and usher the doctor in.

"Were there a hundred of you here," promptly expostulated P'ing Erh,
"you wouldn't know what propriety means! Are there perchance no couple
of housekeepers about to push themselves forward and see the doctor in?"

"There's dame Wu and dame T'an," the servant, who brought the message,
replied. "The two are on duty at the south-west corner at the
'accumulated splendour' gate."

At this answer, P'ing Erh allowed the subject to drop.

After the departure of the matrons, T'an Ch'un inquired of Pao-ch'ai
what she thought of them.

"Such as are diligent at the outset," Pao-ch'ai answered smiling,
"become remiss in the end; and those who have a glib tongue have an eye
to gain."

T'an Ch'un listened to her reply; and nodding her head, she extolled its
wisdom. Then showing them with her finger several names on the list, she
submitted them for the perusal of the trio. P'ing Erh speedily went and
fetched a pen and inkslab.

"This old mother Chu," the trio observed, "is a trustworthy woman.
What's more, this old dame and her sons have generation after generation
done the sweeping of the bamboo groves. So let's now place the various
bamboo trees under her control. This old mother T'ien was originally a
farmer, and everything in the way of vegetables and rice, in and about
the Tao Hsiang village, should, albeit they couldn't, planted as they
are as a mere pastime, be treated in such earnest as to call for large
works and extensive plantations, be entrusted to her care; for won't
they fare better if she can be on the spot and tend them with extra
diligence at the proper times and seasons?"

"What a pity it is," T'an Ch'un proceeded smilingly, "that two places so
spacious as the Heng Wu garden and the I Hung court bring no grit to the

"Things in the Heng Wu garden are in a worse state," Li Wan hastily
interposed. "Aren't the scented wares and scented herbs sold at present
everywhere in perfumery shops, large fairs and great temples the very
counterpart of these things here? So if you reckon up, you will find how
much greater a return these articles will give than any other kind of
product. As for the I Hung court, we needn't mention other things, but
only take into account the roses that bud during the two seasons of
spring and summer; to how many don't they amount in all? Besides these,
we've got along the whole hedge, cinnamon roses and monthly roses, stock
roses, honey-suckle and westeria. Were these various flowers dried and
sold to the tea and medicine shops, they'd also fetch a good deal of

"Quite so!" T'an Ch'un acquiesced with a smile. "The thing is that
there's no one with any notion how to deal with scented herbs."

"There's Ying Erh who waits on Miss Pao-ch'ai," P'ing Erh promptly
smiled. "Her mother is well-versed in these things. It was only the
other day that she plucked a few, and plaited them, after drying them
well in the sun, into a flower-basket and a gourd, and gave them to me
to play with. But miss can you have forgotten all about it?"

"I was this very minute speaking in your praise," Pao-ch'ai observed
smiling, "and do you come to chaff me?"

"What makes you say so?" exclaimed the trio, in utter astonishment.

"It will on no account do," Pao-ch'ai added. "You employ such a lot of
people in here that they all lead a lazy life and have nothing to put a
hand to, and were I also now to introduce some more, that tribe will
look even upon me with utter contempt. But let me think of some one for
you. There's in the I Hung court, an old dame Yeh; she's Pei Ming's
mother. That woman is an honest old lady; and is furthermore on the best
of terms with our Ying Erh's mother. So wouldn't it be well were this
charge given to this dame Yeh? Should there even be anything that she
doesn't know, there'll be no necessity for us to tell her. She can go
straightway and consult with Ying Erh's mother. And if she can't attend
to everything herself, it won't matter to whom she relegates some of her
duties. These will be purely private favours. In the event too of any
one making any mean insinuations, the blame won't fall on our shoulders.
By adopting this course, you'll be managing things in such a way as to
do extreme justice to all; and the trust itself will also be placed on a
most satisfactory footing."

"Excellent!" ejaculated Li Wan and P'ing Erh simultaneously.

"This may be well and good," T'an Ch'un laughed, "but the fear is that
at the sight of gain, they'll forget all about propriety."

"That's nothing to do with us!" P'ing Erh rejoined a smile playing,
about her lips. "It was only the other day that Ying Erh recognised dame
Yeh as her adopted mother, and invited her to eat and drink with them,
so that the two families are on the most intimate terms."

At this assurance, T'an Ch'un relinquished the topic of conversation,
and, holding council together, they selected several persons, all of
whom the four had ever viewed with impartial favour and they marked off
their names, by dotting them with a pen.

In a little while, the matrons came to report that 'the doctor had
gone;' and they handed the prescription. Their three mistresses then
perused its contents. On the one hand, they despatched domestics to take
it outside, so that the drugs should be got, and to superintend their
decoction. On the other, T'an Ch'un and Li Wan explicitly explained to
the various servants chosen what particular place each had to look
after. "Exclusive," they added, "of what fixed custom requires for home
consumption during the four seasons, you are still at liberty to pluck
whatever remains and have it taken away. As for the profits, we'll
settle accounts at the close of the year."

"I've also bethought myself of something," T'an Ch'un smiled. "If the
settlement of accounts takes place at the end of the year, the money
will, at the time of delivery, be naturally paid into the accountancy.
Those high up will then as usual add a whole lot of controllers; and
these will, on their part, fleece their own share as soon as the money
gets into the palms of their hand. But as by this system, we've now
initiated, you've been singled out for appointment, you've already
ridden so far above their heads, that they foster all sorts of animosity
against you. They don't, however, give vent to their feelings; but if
they don't seize the close of the year, when you have to deliver your
accounts, to play their tricks on you, for what other chances will they
wait? Moreover, they obtain, in everything that comes under their
control during the year, half of every share their masters get. This is
an old custom. Every one is aware of its existence. But this is a new
regime I now introduce in this garden, so don't let the money find its
way into their hands! Whenever the annual settling of accounts arrives,
bring them in to us."

"My idea is," Pao-ch'ai smilingly suggested, "that no accounts need be
handed even inside. This one will have a surplus, that one a deficit, so
that it will involve no end of trouble; wouldn't it be better therefore
if we were to find out who of them would take over this or that
particular kind and let them purvey the various things? These are for
the exclusive use of the inmates of the garden; and I've already made an
estimate of them for you. They amount to just a few sorts, and simply
consist of head-oil, rouge, powder and scented paper; in all of which,
the young ladies and maids are subject to a fixed rule. Then, besides
these, there are the brooms, dust-baskets and poles, wanted in different
localities, and the food for the large and small animals and birds, and
the deer and rabbits. These are the only kinds of things required. And
if they contract for them, there'll be little need for any one to go to
the accountancy for money. But just calculate what a saving will thus be

"All these items are, I admit, mere trifles," P'ing Erh smiled, "but if
you lump together what's used during a year, you will find that a saving
of four hundred taels will be effected."

"Again!" smilingly remarked Pao-ch'ai, "it would be four hundred taels
in one year; but eight hundred taels in two years; and with these, we
could purchase a few more houses and let them; and in the way of poor,
sandy land we could also add several acres to those we've already got.
'There will, of course, still remain a surplus; but as they will have
ample trouble and inconvenience to put up with during the year, they
should also be allowed some balance in hand so as to make up what's
wanted for themselves. The main object is, of course, to increase
profits and curtail expenses, yet we couldn't be stingy to any excessive
degree. In fact, were we even able to make any further economy of over
two or three hundred taels, it would never be the proper thing; should
this involve a breach of the main principles of decorum. With this
course duly put into practice, outside, the accountancy will issue in
one year four or five hundred taels less, without even the semblance of
any parsimony; while, inside, the matrons will obtain, on the other
hand, some little thing to supply their wants with; the nurses, who have
no means of subsistence, will likewise be placed in easy circumstances;
and the plants and trees in the garden will year by year increase in
strength and grow more abundantly. In this wise, you too will have such
articles as will be fit for use. So that this plan will, to some extent,
not constitute a breach of the high principles of propriety. And if ever
we want to retrench a little more from where won't we be able to get
money? But if the whole balance, if any, be put to the credit of the
public fund, every one, inside as well as outside, will fill the streets
with the din of murmurings! And won't this be then a slur upon the code
of honour of a household such as yours? So were any charge to be
entrusted to this one, out of the several tens of old nurses at present
employed in the garden, and not to that one, the remainder will
naturally resent such injustice. As I said a while back all that these
women will have to provide among themselves amounts to a few articles,
so they will unavoidably have ample means. Hence each should be told to
contribute, beyond the articles that fall to her share during the year,
a certain number of tiaos, whether she may or may not realise any
balance, and then jointly lump these sums together, and distribute them
among those nurses only on service in the garden. For although they may
not have anything to do with the control of these things, they
themselves will have to stay in the grounds, to keep an eye over the
servants on duty, to shut the doors, to close the windows and to get up
early and retire late. Whenever it rains in torrents or it snows hard
and chairs have to be carried, for you, young ladies, to go out and come
in; or boats have to be punted, and sledges drawn, these rough and
arduous duties come alike within their sphere of work. They have to
labour in the garden from one year's end to the other, and though, they
earn something in those grounds, it's only right that they should able
to get some small benefits in the discharge of their legitimate duties.
But there's another most trivial point that I would broach with less
reserve. If you only think of your ease, and don't share the profits
with them, they will, of course, never presume to show their
displeasure, but in their hearts they won't cherish you any good
feeling. What they'll do will be to make public business a pretext to
serve their own private ends with; they'll pluck more of your fruits
than they should; and cut greater quantities of your flowers than they
ought. And you people will have a grievance, but you won't have anywhere
to go and confide it. But should they too reap some gain, they'll
readily look after such things on your behalf as you won't have the time
to attend to."

The matrons listened to her explanations; (and finding that) they would
be removed from the control of the accountancy, that they would not be
compelled to go and settle accounts with lady Feng, and that all that
they would be called upon to do every year would be to supply a few more
tiaos, were each and all delighted to an exceptional degree. So much so,
that every one of them exclaimed in a chorus that they were quite
prepared to agree to the terms. "It is better," they said, "than to be
obliged to go out and be squeezed by them; and to have to fork out our
own money as well."

Those too not entrusted with the care of any portion of land were also
highly elated, when they heard that at the close of each year they
would, though they had no valid claim, come in for some share of hard

"They'll have to bear the trouble," they however argued, "to keep things
in order, so it's only right that they should be left with a few cash to
meet their various wants with; and how could we very well gobble our
three meals without doing a stroke of work?"

"Worthy dames," Pao-ch'ai smiled, "you mustn't decline. These duties are
within your province and you should fulfil them. All you need do is to
exert yourselves a bit by day and night, and not be so remiss and
careless as to suffer any of the servants to drink and gamble; that's
all. Otherwise, I myself must have nothing to do with the control. But
you, yourselves, know well enough that it's my aunt who appealed to me
with her own lips three and five times to do it as a favour to her.
'Your eldest sister-in-law,' she represented, 'has at present no
leisure, and the other girls are young,' and then she asked me to look
after things. So if I now don't accede, it's as clear as day that I
shall be the cause of much worry to my aunt. Our lady Feng herself is
seriously ill, and our domestic affairs can't hang fire. I'm really with
nothing to do, so were even a mere neighbour to solicit my help, I would
also feel bound to lend her a hand in her pressure of work. How much
more therefore when it's my own aunt, who invokes my aid? Setting aside
the way I'm execrated by one and all, how would I ever be able to stare
my aunt in the face, if, while I gave my sole mind to winning fame and
fishing for praise, any one got so intoxicated and lost so much in
gambling as to stir up trouble? At such a juncture remorse on your part
will be too late! Even the old reputation you have ever enjoyed will
entirely be lost and gone. Those young ladies and girls and this vast
garden are alike placed under your supervision, purely and simply
because one takes into account that you have been nurses to three or
four generations and that you have most scrupulously observed the rules
of etiquette and propriety. It's but fair that you should try, with one
mind, and show some little regard for what's right and proper. But if
you contrariwise behave with such laxity as to let people gratify their
wishes by guzzling and gambling, and my aunt comes to hear of these nice
doings, a little scolding from her will be of little consequence. But if
the various women, who attend to the household, get scent of the state
of affairs, they will haul you over the coals, without even so much as
breathing one single word beforehand to my aunt. And venerable people,
though you are, you will then, instead of tendering advice to young
people, be called to account by them. As housekeepers, they exercise,
it's true, authority over you; but why shouldn't you yourselves observe
a certain amount of decorum? And if you do so, will they have any
occasion to bully you? The reason why I've now bethought myself of this
special boon for you is that you should unanimously strain every nerve
to diligently attend to the garden, in order that the powers that be
may, at the sight of your unrelenting care and zeal, have no cause to
give way to solicitude. And won't they inwardly look up to you with
regard? Neither will you render of no effect the various benefits
devised for them. But go now and minutely ponder over all my advice!"

All the women received her words with gratification. "What you say is
quite right," they replied. "From this time forth you, miss, and you,
our lady, can well compose your minds. With the interest both of you
feel on our behalf, may heaven and earth not spare us, if we do not
display a full amount of gratitude for all your kindnesses."

These assurances were still being uttered when they saw Lin Chih-hsiao's
wife walk in. "The family of the Chen mansion of Chiang Nan," she
explained, "arrived in the capital yesterday. To-day, they're going into
the palace to offer their congratulations. But they've now sent
messengers ahead to come and bring presents and pay their respects."

While she spoke, she produced the list of presents and handed it up.
T'an Ch'un took it over from her. "They consist," she said, perusing it,
"of twelve rolls of brocades and satins embroidered with dragons, such
as are for imperial use; twelve rolls of satins of various colours, of
the kind worn by the Emperor; twelve rolls of every sort of imperial
gauze; twelve rolls of palace silks of the quality used by his majesty;
and twenty rolls of satins, gauzes, silks and thin silks of different
colours, generally worn by officials."

After glancing over the list, Li Wan and T'an Ch'un suggested that a
first-class tip should be given to the messengers who brought them,
after which, they went on to direct a servant to convey the tidings to
dowager lady Chia.

Old lady Chia gave orders to call Li Wan, T'an Ch'un, Pao-ch'ai and the
other girls. On their arrival, the presents were passed under review;
and this over, Li Wan put them aside. "You must wait," she said to the
servants of the inner store-room, "until Madame Wang comes back and sees
them; you can then lock them up."

"This Chen family too," old lady Chia thereupon added, "isn't like any
other family; the highest tips should therefore be conferred upon the
men. But as in a twinkle, they may also send some of their womankind to
come and make their obeisance, silks should be got ready in

Scarcely was this remark concluded before a domestic actually announced:
'that four ladies of the Chen mansion had come to pay their respects.'

Upon hearing this, dowager lady Chia hastily directed that they should
be introduced into her presence. The four women ranged from forty years
and over. Their clothing and head-gear were not, in any material degree,
different from those of mistresses. As soon as they presented their
compliments and inquired about their healths, old lady Chia desired that
four footstools should be moved forward. But though the four women
thanked her for bidding them sit down, they only occupied the stools,
after Pao-ch'ai had seated herself.

"When did you enter the capital?" old lady Chia inquired.

The four women jumped to their feet with alacrity. "We entered the
capital yesterday," they answered. "Our lady has taken our young lady
today into the palace to pay their homage. That's why she bade us come
and give you their compliments, and see how the young ladies are getting

"You hadn't paid a visit to the capital for ever so many years," dowager
lady Chia smilingly observed, "and here you appear now quite

The four women simultaneously smiled again. "Quite so!" they said. "We
received this year imperial orders, summoning us to the capital!"

"Has the whole family come?" old lady Chia asked.

"Our old mistress, our young master, the two young ladies and the other
ladies haven't come up," the four women explained. "Only our lady has
come, together with Miss Tertia."

"Is she engaged to any one?" old lady Chia asked.

"Not yet," rejoined the quartet.

"The two families, that of your senior married lady and that of your
lady Secunda are both on most intimate terms with ours," dowager lady
Chia smilingly added.

"Yes, they are," replied the four women with a smile. "The letters
received each year from our young ladies, assure us that they're
entirely dependent upon the kindness bestowed upon them, in your worthy
mansion, for their well-being."

"What kindness?" old lady Chia exclaimed laughingly. "These two families
are really friends of long standing. In addition to this, they're old
relatives. So what we do is our simple bounden duty. What's more in the
favour of your two young ladies is, that they're not full of their own
importance. That's how it is that we've come to be on such close terms."

The four women smiled. "This is mainly due to your venerable ladyship's
excessive humility," they answered.

"Is that young gentleman of yours too with your old mistress?" old lady
Chia went on to inquire.

"Yes, he has also come with our old mistress," the four women retorted.

"How old is he?" old lady Chia then asked. "Does he go to school?" she
afterwards inquired.

"He's thirteen this year," the four women said by way of response. "But
all through those good looks of his, our old mistress cherishes him so
fondly that from his youth up, he has been wayward to the extreme, and
that he now daily plays the truant. But our master and mistress as well
don't keep any great check over him."

"Yet, he can't resemble that young fellow of ours," old lady Chia
laughed. "What's the name of your young gentleman?"

"As our old mistress treats him just like a real precious gem," the
quartet explained, "and as his complexion is naturally so white, her
ladyship calls him Pao-yŁ."

"Here's another one with the name of Pao-yŁ!" old lady Chia laughingly
said to Li Wan.

Li Wan and her companions hastily made a curtsey. "There have been, from
old times to the present," they smiled, "very many among contemporaries
and persons of different generations as well, who have borne duplicate

The four women also smiled. "After the selection of this infant name,"
they proceeded, "we all, both high or low, began to give way to
surmises, as we could not make out in what relative's or friend's family
there was a lad also called by the same name. But as we hadn't come to
the capital for ten years or so, we couldn't remember."

"That young fellow is my grandson," dowager lady Chia remarked. "Hallo!
some one come here!"

The married women and maids assented and approached several steps.

"Go into the garden," old lady Chia smilingly said, "and call our Pao-yŁ
here, so that these four housekeeping dames should see how he compares
with their own Pao-yŁ."

The married women, upon hearing her orders, promptly went off. After a
while, they entered the room pressing round Pao-yŁ. The moment the four
dames caught sight of him, they speedily rose to their feet. "He has
given us such a start!" they exclaimed smilingly. "Had we not come into
your worthy mansion, and perchance, met him, elsewhere, we would have
taken him for our own Pao-yŁ, and followed him as far as the capital."

While speaking they came forward and took hold of his hands and assailed
him with questions.

Pao-yŁ however also put on a smile and inquired after their healths.

"How do his looks compare with those of your young gentleman?" dowager
lady Chia asked as she smiled.

"The way the four dames ejaculated just now," Li Wan and her companions
explained, "was sufficient to show how much they resemble in looks."

"How could there ever he such a coincidence?" old lady Chia laughed.
"Yet, the children of wealthy families are so delicately nurtured that
unless their faces are so deformed as to make them downright ugly,
they're all equally handsome, as far as general appearances go. So
there's nothing strange in this!"

"As we gaze at his features," the quartet added, with smiling faces, "we
find him the very image of him; and from what we gather from your
venerable ladyship, he's also like him in waywardness. But, as far as we
can judge, this young gentleman's disposition is ever so much better
than that of ours."

"What makes you think so?" old lady Chia precipitately inquired.

"We saw it as soon as we took hold of the young gentleman's hands," the
four women laughingly rejoined, "and when he spoke to us. Had it been
that fellow of ours, he would have simply called us fools. Not to speak
of taking his hand in ours, why we daren't even slightly move any of his
things. That's why, those who wait on him are invariably young girls."

Before the four dames had time to conclude what they had to say, Li Wan
and the rest found it so hard to check themselves that with one voice
they burst into loud laughter.

Old lady Chia also laughed. "Let's also send some one now," she said,
"to have a look at your Pao-yŁ. When his hand is taken, he too is sure
to make an effort to put up with it. But don't you know that children of
families such as yours and mine are bound, notwithstanding their
numerous perverse and strange defects, to return the orthodox
civilities, when they come across any strangers. But should they not
return the proper civilities, they should, by no manner of means, be
suffered to behave with such perverseness. It's the way that grown-up
people doat on them that makes them what they are. And as they can,
first and foremost, boast of bewitching good looks and they comport
themselves, secondly, towards visitors with all propriety--, in fact,
with less faulty deportment than their very seniors--, they manage to
win the love and admiration of such as only get a glimpse of them. Hence
it is that they're secretly indulged to a certain degree. But if they
don't show the least regard to any one inside or outside, and so reflect
no credit upon their parents, they deserve, with all their handsome
looks, to be flogged to death."

These sentiments evoked a smile from the four dames. "Your words
venerable lady," they exclaimed, "are quite correct. But though our
Pao-yŁ be wilful and strange in his ways, yet, whenever he meets any
visitors, he behaves with courteousness and good manners; so much so,
that he's more pleasing to watch than even grown-up persons. There is no
one, therefore, who sees him without falling in love with him. But
you'll say: 'why is he then beaten?' You really aren't aware that at
home he has no regard either for precept or for heaven; that he comes
out with things that never suggest themselves to the imagination of
grown-up people, and that he does everything that takes one by surprise.
The result is that his father and mother are driven to their wits' ends.
But wilfulness is natural to young children. Reckless expenditure is a
common characteristic of young men. Antipathy to school is a common
feeling with young people. Yet there are ways and means to bring him
round. The worse with him is that his disposition is so crotchety and
whimsical. Can this ever do?...."

This reply was barely ended when a servant informed them that their
mistress had returned. Madame Wang entered the room, and saluted the
women. The four dames paid their obeisance to her. But they had just had
sufficient time to pass a few general observations, when dowager lady
Chia bade them go and rest. Madame Wang then handed the tea in person
and withdrew from the apartment. But when the four dames got up to say
good-bye, old lady Chia adjourned to Madame Wang's quarters. After a
chat with her on domestic affairs, she however told the women to go
back; so let us put them by without any further allusion to them.

During this while, old lady Chia's spirits waxed so high, that she told
every one and any one she came across that there was another Pao-yŁ, and
that he was, in every respect, the very image of her grandson.

But as each and all bore in mind that there were many inmates among the
large households of those officials with official ancestors, called by
the same names, that it was an ordinary occurrence for a grandmother to
be passionately fond of her grandson, and that there was nothing
out-of-the-way about it, they treated the matter as of no significance.
Pao-yŁ alone however was such a hair-brained simpleton that he
conjectured that the statements made by the four dames had been intended
to flatter his grandmother Chia.

But subsequently he betook himself into the garden to see how Shih
Hsiang-yŁn was getting on.

"Compose your mind now," Shih Hsiang-yŁn then said to him, "and go on
with your larks! Once, you were as lonely as a single fibre, which can't
be woven into thread, and like a single bamboo, which can't form a
grove, but now you've found your pair. When you exasperate your parents,
and they give you beans, you'll be able to bolt to Nanking in quest of
the other Pao-yŁ."

"What utter rubbish!" Pao-yŁ exclaimed. "Do you too believe that there's
another Pao-yŁ?"

"How is it," Hsiang-yŁn asked, "that there was some one in the Lieh
state called Lin Hsiang-ju, and that during the Han dynasty there lived
again another person, whose name was Ssu Ma Hsiang-ju?"

"This matter of names is all well enough," Pao-yŁ rejoined with a smile.
"But as it happens, his very appearance is the counterpart of mine. Such
a thing could never be!"

"How is it," Hsiang-yŁn inquired, "that when the K'uang people saw
Confucius, they fancied it was Yang Huo?"

"Confucius and Yang Huo," Pao-yŁ smilingly argued, "may have been alike
in looks, but they hadn't the same names. Lin and Ssu were again,
notwithstanding their identical names, nothing like each other in
appearances. But can it ever be possible that he and I should resemble
each other in both respects?"

Hsiang-yŁn was at a loss what reply to make to his arguments. "You may,"
she consequently remarked smiling, "propound any rubbish you like, I'm
not in the humour to enter into any discussion with you. Whether there
be one or not is quite immaterial to me. It doesn't concern me at all."

Saying this, she lay herself down.

Pao-yŁ however began again to exercise his mind with further surmises.
"If I say," he cogitated, "that there can't be one, there seems from all
appearances to be one. And if I say that there is one, I haven't, on the
other hand, seen him with my own eyes."

Sad and dejected he returned therefore to his quarters, and reclining on
his couch, he silently communed with his own thoughts until he
unconsciously became drowsy and fell fast asleep.

Finding himself (in his dream) in some garden or other, Pao-yŁ was
seized with astonishment. "Besides our own garden of Broad Vista," he
reflected, "is there another such garden?" But while indulging in these
speculations, several girls, all of whom were waiting-maids, suddenly
made their appearance from the opposite direction. Pao-yŁ was again
filled with surprise. "Besides YŁan Yang, Hsi Jen and P'ing Erh," he
pondered, "are there verily such maidens as these?"

"Pao-yŁ!" he heard that company of maids observe, with faces beaming
with smiles, "how is it you find yourself in here?"

Pao-yŁ laboured under the impression that they were addressing him. With
hasty step, he consequently drew near them, and returned their smiles.
"I got here," he answered, "quite listlessly. What old family friend's
garden is this, I wonder? But sisters, pray, take me for a stroll."

The maids smiled with one consent. "Really!" they exclaimed, "this isn't
our Pao-yŁ. But his looks too are spruce and nice; and he is as
precocious too with his tongue."

Pao-yŁ caught their remarks. "Sisters!" he eagerly cried, "is there
actually a second Pao-yŁ in here?"

"As for the two characters 'Pao-yŁ,'" the maids speedily explained,
"every one in our house has received our old mistress' and our mistress'
injunctions to use them as a spell to protract his life for many years
and remove misfortune from his path, and when we call him by that name,
he simply goes into ecstasies, at the very mention of it. But you, young
brat, from what distant parts of the world do you hail that you've
recklessly been also dubbed by the same name? But beware lest we pound
that frowzy flesh of yours into mincemeat."

"Let's be off at once!" urged another maid, as she smiled. "Don't let
our Pao-yŁ see us here and say again that by hobnobbing with this
stinking young fellow, we've been contaminated by all his pollution."

With these words on her lips, they straightway walked off.

Pao-yŁ fell into a brown study. "There's never been," he mused, "any one
to treat me with such disdain before! But what is it, in fact, that
induces them to behave towards me in this manner? May it not be true
that there lives another human being the very image of myself?"

While lost in reverie, he advanced with heedless step, until he reached
a courtyard. Pao-yŁ was struck with wonder. "Is there actually," he
cried, "besides the I Hung court another court like it?" Spontaneously
then ascending the steps, he entered an apartment, in which he discerned
some one reclining on a couch. On the off side sat several girls, busy
at needlework; now laughing joyfully; now practising their jokes; when
he overheard the young person on the couch heave a sigh.

"Pao-yŁ," smilingly inquired a maid, "what, aren't you asleep? What are
you once more sighing for? I presume it's because your sister is ill
that you abandon yourself again to idle fears and immoderate anguish!"

These words fell on Pao-yŁ's ears, and took him quite aback.

"I've heard grandmother say," he overheard the young person on the couch
observe, "that there lives at Ch'ang An, the capital, another Pao-yŁ
endowed with the same disposition as myself. I never believed what she
told me; but I just had a dream, and in this dream I found myself in a
garden of the metropolis where I came across several maidens; all of
whom called me a 'stinking young brat,' and would have nothing whatever
to do with me. But after much difficulty, I succeeded in penetrating
into his room. He happened to be fast asleep. There he lay like a mere
bag of bones. His real faculties had flown somewhere or other; whither
it was hard for me to say."

Hearing this, "I've come here," Pao-yŁ said with alacrity, "in search of
Pao-yŁ; and are you, indeed, that Pao-yŁ?"

The young man on the couch jumped down with all haste and enfolded him
in his arms. "Are you verily Pao-yŁ?" he laughingly asked. "This isn't
by any means such stuff as dreams are made of!"

"How can you call this a dream?" Pao-yŁ rejoined. "It's reality, yea,
nothing but reality!"

But scarcely was this rejoinder over, than he heard some one come, and
say: "our master, your father, wishes to see you, Pao-yŁ."

The two lads started with fear. One Pao-yŁ rushed off with all despatch.
The other promptly began to shout, "Pao-yŁ! come back at once! Pao-yŁ;
be quick and return!"

Hsi Jen, who stood by (Pao-yŁ), heard him call out his own name, in his
dreams, and immediately gave him a push and woke him up. "Where is
Pao-yŁ gone to?" she laughed.

Although Pao-yŁ was by this time aroused from sleep, his senses were as
yet dull, so pointing towards the door, "He's just gone out," he
replied, "he's not far off."

Hsi Jen laughed. "You're under the delusion of a dream," she said. "Rub
your eyes and look carefully! It's your reflection in the mirror."

Pao-yŁ cast a glance in front of him, and actually caught sight of the
large inlaid mirror, facing him quite opposite, so he himself burst out
laughing. But, presently, a maid handed him a rince-bouche and tea and
salt, and he washed his mouth.

"Little wonder is it," She YŁeh ventured, "if our old mistress has
repeatedly enjoined that it isn't good to have too many mirrors about in
young people's rooms, for as the spirit of young persons is not fully
developed there is every fear, with mirrors casting their reflections
all over the place, of their having wild dreams in their sleep. And is a
bed now placed before that huge mirror there? When the covers of the
mirrors are let down, no harm can befall; but as the season advances,
and the weather gets hot, one feels so languid and tired, that is one
likely to think of dropping them? Just as it happened a little time
back; it slipped entirely from your memory. Of course, when he first got
into bed, he must have played with his face towards the glass; but upon
shortly closing his eyes, he must naturally have fallen into such
confused dreams, that they thoroughly upset his rest. Otherwise, how is
it possible that he should have started shouting his own name? Would it
not be as well if the bed were moved inside to-morrow? That's the proper
place for it."

Hardly had she, however, done, before they perceived a servant, sent by
Madame Wang to call Pao-yŁ. But what she wanted to tell him is not yet
known, so, reader, listen to the circumstances recorded in the
subsequent chapter.


[transcriber's note: The second volume of this translation ends thus,
and no more of it was ever published.]


[original book lists no errata; these were found during Project

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