Part 4 out of 14
Shih Hsiang-yün precipitately concealed the unicorn. "We were just
going," she replied, "so let us all go together."
Conversing, they, in a company, wended their steps into the I Hung
court. Hsi Jen was leaning on the balustrade at the bottom of the steps,
her face turned to the breeze. Upon unexpectedly seeing Hsiang-yün
arrive she with alacrity rushed down to greet her; and taking her hand
in hers, they cheerfully canvassed the events that had transpired during
their separation, while they entered the room and took a seat.
"You should have come earlier," Pao-yü said. "I've got something nice
and was only waiting for you."
Saying this, he searched and searched about his person. After a long
interval, "Ai-ya!" he ejaculated. "Have you perchance put that thing
away?" he eagerly asked Hsi Jen.
"What thing?" inquired Hsi Jen.
"The unicorn," explained Pao-yü, "I got the other day."
"You've daily worn it about you, and how is it you ask me?" remarked Hsi
As soon as her answer fell on his ear, Pao-yü clapped his hands. "I've
lost it!" he cried. "Where can I go and look for it!" There and then, he
meant to go and search in person; but Shih Hsiang-yün heard his
inquiries, and concluded that it must be he who had lost the gem. "When
did you too," she promptly smiled, "get a unicorn?"
"I got it the other day, after ever so much trouble;" rejoined Pao-yü,
"but I can't make out when I can have lost it! I've also become quite
"Fortunately," smiled Shih Hsiang-yün, "it's only a sort of a toy!
Still, are you so careless?" While speaking, she flung open her hand.
"Just see," she laughed, "is it this or not?"
As soon as he saw it, Pao-yü was seized with unwonted delight. But,
reader, if you care to know the cause of his delight, peruse the
explanation contained in the next chapter.
Hsi Jen and Hsiang-yün tell their secret thoughts.
Tai-yü is infatuated with the living Pao-yü.
While trying to conceal her sense of shame and injury Chin Ch'uan is
driven by her impetuous feelings to seek death.
But to resume our narrative. At the sight of the unicorn, Pao-yü was
filled with intense delight. So much so, that he forthwith put out his
hand and made a grab for it. "Lucky enough it was you who picked it up!"
he said, with a face beaming with smiles. "But when did you find it?"
"Fortunately it was only this!" rejoined Shih Hsiang-yün laughing. "If
you by and bye also lose your seal, will you likely banish it at once
from your mind, and never make an effort to discover it?"
"After all," smiled Pao-yü, "the loss of a seal is an ordinary
occurrence. But had I lost this, I would have deserved to die."
Hsi Jen then poured a cup of tea and handed it to Shih Hsiang-yün. "Miss
Senior," she remarked smilingly, "I heard that you had occasion the
other day to be highly pleased."
Shih Hsiang-yün flushed crimson. She went on drinking her tea and did
not utter a single word.
"Here you are again full of shame!" Hsi Jen smiled. "But do you remember
when we were living, about ten years back, in those warm rooms on the
west side and you confided in me one evening, you didn't feel any shame
then; and how is it you blush like this now?"
"Do you still speak about that!" exclaimed Shih Hsiang-yün laughingly.
"You and I were then great friends. But when our mother subsequently
died and I went home for a while, how is it you were at once sent to be
with my cousin Secundus, and that now that I've come back you don't
treat me as you did once?"
"Are you yet harping on this!" retorted Hsi Jen, putting on a smile.
"Why, at first, you used to coax me with a lot of endearing terms to
comb your hair and to wash your face, to do this and that for you. But
now that you've become a big girl, you assume the manner of a young
mistress towards me, and as you put on these airs of a young mistress,
how can I ever presume to be on a familiar footing with you?"
"O-mi-to-fu," cried Shih Hsiang-yün. "What a false accusation! If I be
guilty of anything of the kind, may I at once die! Just see what a
broiling hot day this is, and yet as soon as I arrived I felt bound to
come and look you up first. If you don't believe me, well, ask Lü Erh!
And while at home, when did I not at every instant say something about
Scarcely had she concluded than Hsi Jen and Pao-yü tried to soothe her.
"We were only joking," they said, "but you've taken everything again as
gospel. What! are you still so impetuous in your temperament!"
"You don't say," argued Shih Hsiang-yün, "that your words are hard
things to swallow, but contrariwise, call people's temperaments
As she spoke, she unfolded her handkerchief and, producing a ring, she
gave it to Hsi Jen.
Hsi Jen did not know how to thank her enough. "When;" she consequently
smiled, "you sent those to your cousin the other day, I got one also;
and here you yourself bring me another to-day! It's clear enough
therefore that you haven't forgotten me. This alone has been quite
enough to test you. As for the ring itself, what is its worth? but it's
a token of the sincerity of your heart!"
"Who gave it to you?" inquired Shih Hsiang-yün.
"Miss Pao let me have it." replied Hsi Jen.
"I was under the impression," remarked Hsiang-yün with a sigh, "that it
was a present from cousin Lin. But is it really cousin Pao, that gave it
to you! When I was at home, I day after day found myself reflecting that
among all these cousins of mine, there wasn't one able to compare with
cousin Pao, so excellent is she. How I do regret that we are not the
offspring of one mother! For could I boast of such a sister of the same
flesh and blood as myself, it wouldn't matter though I had lost both
father and mother!"
While indulging in these regrets, her eyes got quite red.
"Never mind! never mind!" interposed Pao-yü. "Why need you speak of
"If I do allude to this," answered Shih Hsiang-yün, "what does it
matter? I know that weak point of yours. You're in fear and trembling
lest your cousin Lin should come to hear what I say, and get angry with
me again for eulogising cousin Pao! Now isn't it this, eh!"
"Ch'ih!" laughed Hsi Jen, who was standing by her. "Miss Yün," she said,
"now that you've grown up to be a big girl you've become more than ever
openhearted and outspoken."
"When I contend;" smiled Pao-yü, "that it is difficult to say a word to
any one of you I'm indeed perfectly correct!"
"My dear cousin," observed Shih Hsiang-yün laughingly, "don't go on in
that strain! You'll provoke me to displeasure. When you are with me all
you are good for is to talk and talk away; but were you to catch a
glimpse of cousin Lin, you would once more be quite at a loss to know
what best to do!"
"Now, enough of your jokes!" urged Hsi Jen. "I have a favour to crave of
"What is it?" vehemently inquired Shih Hsiang-yün.
"I've got a pair of shoes," answered Hsi Jen, "for which I've stuck the
padding together; but I'm not feeling up to the mark these last few
days, so I haven't been able to work at them. If you have any leisure,
do finish them for me."
"This is indeed strange!" exclaimed Shih Hsiang-yün. "Putting aside all
the skilful workers engaged in your household, you have besides some
people for doing needlework and others for tailoring and cutting; and
how is it you appeal to me to take your shoes in hand? Were you to ask
any one of those men to execute your work, who could very well refuse to
"Here you are in another stupid mood!" laughed Hsi Jen. "Can it be that
you don't know that our sewing in these quarters mayn't be done by these
At this reply, it at once dawned upon Shih Hsiang-yün that the shoes
must be intended for Pao-yü. "Since that be the case," she in
consequence smiled; "I'll work them for you. There's however one thing.
I'll readily attend to any of yours, but I will have nothing to do with
any for other people."
"There you are again!" laughed Hsi Jen. "Who am I to venture to trouble
you to make shoes for me? I'll tell you plainly, however, that they are
not mine. But no matter whose they are, it is anyhow I who'll be the
recipient of your favour; that is sufficient."
"To speak the truth," rejoined Shih Hsiang-yün, "you've put me to the
trouble of working, I don't know how many things for you. The reason why
I refuse on this occasion should be quite evident to you!"
"I can't nevertheless make it out!" answered Hsi Jen.
"I heard the other day," continued Shih Hsiang-yün, a sardonic smile on
her lip, "that while the fan-case, I had worked, was being held and
compared with that of some one else, it too was slashed away in a fit of
high dudgeon. This reached my ears long ago, and do you still try to
dupe me by asking me again now to make something more for you? Have I
really become a slave to you people?
"As to what occurred the other day," hastily explained Pao-yü smiling,
"I positively had no idea that that thing was your handiwork."
"He never knew that you'd done it," Hsi Jen also laughed. "I deceived
him by telling him that there had been of late some capital hands at
needlework outside, who could execute any embroidery with surpassing
beauty, and that I had asked them to bring a fan-case so as to try them
and to see whether they could actually work well or not. He at once
believed what I said. But as he produced the case and gave it to this
one and that one to look at, he somehow or other, I don't know how,
managed again to put some one's back up, and she cut it into two. On his
return, however, he bade me hurry the men to make another; and when at
length I explained to him that it had been worked by you, he felt, I
can't tell you, what keen regret!"
"This is getting stranger and stranger!" said Shih Hsiang-yün. "It
wasn't worth the while for Miss Lin to lose her temper about it. But as
she plies the scissors so admirably, why, you might as well tell her to
finish the shoes for you."
"She couldn't," replied Hsi Jen, "for besides other things our venerable
lady is still in fear and trembling lest she should tire herself in any
way. The doctor likewise says that she will continue to enjoy good
health, so long as she is carefully looked after; so who would wish to
ask her to take them in hand? Last year she managed to just get through
a scented bag, after a whole year's work. But here we've already reached
the middle of the present year, and she hasn't yet taken up any needle
In the course of their conversation, a servant came and announced 'that
the gentleman who lived in the Hsing Lung Street had come.' "Our
master," he added, "bids you, Mr. Secundus, come out and greet him."
As soon as Pao-yü heard this announcement, he knew that Chia Yü-ts'un
must have arrived. But he felt very unhappy at heart. Hsi Jen hurried to
go and bring his clothes. Pao-yü, meanwhile, put on his boots, but as he
did so, he gave way to resentment. "Why there's father," he
soliloquised, "to sit with him; that should be enough; and must he, on
every visit he pays, insist upon seeing me!"
"It is, of course, because you have such a knack for receiving and
entertaining visitors that Mr. Chia Cheng will have you go out,"
laughingly interposed Shih Hsiang-yün from one side, as she waved her
"Is it father's doing?" Pao-yü rejoined. "Why, it's he himself who asks
that I should be sent for to see him."
"'When a host is courteous, visitors come often,'" smiled Hsiang-yün,
"so it's surely because you possess certain qualities, which have won
his regard, that he insists upon seeing you."
"But I am not what one would call courteous," demurred Pao-yü. "I am, of
all coarse people, the coarsest. Besides, I do not choose to have any
relations with such people as himself."
"Here's again that unchangeable temperament of yours!" laughed
Hsiang-yün. "But you're a big fellow now, and you should at least, if
you be loth to study and go and pass your examinations for a provincial
graduate or a metropolitan graduate, have frequent intercourse with
officers and ministers of state and discuss those varied attainments,
which one acquires in an official career, so that you also may be able
in time to have some idea about matters in general; and that when by and
bye you've made friends, they may not see you spending the whole day
long in doing nothing than loafing in our midst, up to every imaginable
"Miss," exclaimed Pao-yü, after this harangue, "pray go and sit in some
other girl's room, for mind one like myself may contaminate a person who
knows so much of attainments and experience as you do."
"Miss," ventured Hsi Jen, "drop this at once! Last time Miss Pao too
tendered him this advice, but without troubling himself as to whether
people would feel uneasy or not, he simply came out with an ejaculation
of 'hai,' and rushed out of the place. Miss Pao hadn't meanwhile
concluded her say, so when she saw him fly, she got so full of shame
that, flushing scarlet, she could neither open her lips, nor hold her
own counsel. But lucky for him it was only Miss Pao. Had it been Miss
Lin, there's no saying what row there may not have been again, and what
tears may not have been shed! Yet the very mention of all she had to
tell him is enough to make people look up to Miss Pao with respect. But
after a time, she also betook herself away. I then felt very unhappy as
I imagined that she was angry; but contrary to all my expectations, she
was by and bye just the same as ever. She is, in very truth,
long-suffering and indulgent! This other party contrariwise became quite
distant to her, little though one would have thought it of him; and as
Miss Pao perceived that he had lost his temper, and didn't choose to
heed her, she subsequently made I don't know how many apologies to him."
"Did Miss Lin ever talk such trash!" exclaimed Pao-yü. "Had she ever
talked such stuff and nonsense, I would have long ago become chilled
"What you say is all trash!" Hsi Jen and Hsiang-yün remarked with one
voice, while they shook their heads to and fro and smiled.
Lin Tai-yü, the fact is, was well aware that now that Shih Hsiang-yün
was staying in the mansion, Pao-yü too was certain to hasten to come and
tell her all about the unicorn he had got, so she thought to herself:
"In the foreign traditions and wild stories, introduced here of late by
Pao-yü, literary persons and pretty girls are, for the most part,
brought together in marriage, through the agency of some trifling but
ingenious nick-nack. These people either have miniature ducks, or
phoenixes, jade necklets or gold pendants, fine handkerchiefs or elegant
sashes; and they have, through the instrumentality of such trivial
objects, invariably succeeded in accomplishing the wishes they
entertained throughout their lives." When she recently discovered, by
some unforeseen way, that Pao-yü had likewise a unicorn she began to
apprehend lest he should make this circumstance a pretext to create an
estrangement with her, and indulge with Shih Hsiang-yün as well in
various free and easy flirtations and fine doings. She therefore quietly
crossed over to watch her opportunity and take such action as would
enable her to get an insight into his and her sentiments. Contrary,
however, to all her calculations, no sooner did she reach her
destination, than she overheard Shih Hsiang-yün dilate on the topic of
experience, and Pao-yü go on to observe: "Cousin Lin has never indulged
in such stuff and nonsense. Had she ever uttered any such trash, I would
have become chilled even towards her!" This language suddenly produced,
in Lin Tai-yü's mind, both surprise as well as delight; sadness as well
as regret. Delight, at having indeed been so correct in her perception
that he whom she had ever considered in the light of a true friend had
actually turned out to be a true friend. Surprise, "because," she said
to herself: "he has, in the presence of so many witnesses, displayed
such partiality as to speak in my praise, and has shown such affection
and friendliness for me as to make no attempt whatever to shirk
suspicion." Regret, "for since," (she pondered), "you are my intimate
friend, you could certainly well look upon me too as your intimate
friend; and if you and I be real friends, why need there be any more
talk about gold and jade? But since there be that question of gold and
jade, you and I should have such things in our possession. Yet, why
should this Pao-ch'ai step in again between us?" Sad, "because," (she
reflected), "my father and mother departed life at an early period; and
because I have, in spite of the secret engraven on my heart and
imprinted on my bones, not a soul to act as a mentor to me. Besides, of
late, I continuously feel confusion creep over my mind, so my disease
must already have gradually developed itself. The doctors further state
that my breath is weak and my blood poor, and that they dread lest
consumption should declare itself, so despite that sincere friendship I
foster for you, I cannot, I fear, last for very long. You are, I admit,
a true friend to me, but what can you do for my unfortunate destiny!"
Upon reaching this point in her reflections, she could not control her
tears, and they rolled freely down her cheeks. So much so, that when
about to enter and meet her cousins, she experienced such utter lack of
zest, that, while drying her tears she turned round, and wended her
steps back in the direction of her apartments.
Pao-yü, meanwhile, had hurriedly got into his new costume. Upon coming
out of doors, he caught sight of Lin Tai-yü, walking quietly ahead of
him engaged, to all appearances, in wiping tears from her eyes. With
rapid stride, he overtook her.
"Cousin Lin," he smiled, "where are you off to? How is it that you're
crying again? Who has once more hurt your feelings?"
Lin Tai-yü turned her head round to look; and seeing that it was Pao-yü,
she at once forced a smile. "Why should I be crying," she replied, "when
there is no reason to do so?"
"Look here!" observed Pao-yü smilingly. "The tears in your eyes are not
dry yet and do you still tell me a fib?"
Saying this, he could not check an impulse to raise his arm and wipe her
eyes, but Lin Tai-yü speedily withdrew several steps backwards. "Are you
again bent," she said, "upon compassing your own death! Then why do you
knock your hands and kick your feet about in this wise?"
"While intent upon speaking, I forgot," smiled Pao-yü, "all about
propriety and gesticulated, yet quite inadvertently. But what care I
whether I die or live!"
"To die would, after all" added Lin Tai-yü, "be for you of no matter;
but you'll leave behind some gold or other, and a unicorn too or other;
and what would they do?"
This insinuation was enough to plunge Pao-yü into a fresh fit of
exasperation. Hastening up to her: "Do you still give vent to such
language?" he asked. "Why, it's really tantamount to invoking
imprecations on me! What, are you yet angry with me!"
This question recalled to Lin Tai-yü's mind the incidents of a few days
back, and a pang of remorse immediately gnawed her heart for having been
again so indiscreet in her speech. "Now don't you distress your mind!"
she observed hastily, smiling. "I verily said what I shouldn't! Yet what
is there in this to make your veins protrude, and to so provoke you as
to bedew your whole face with perspiration?"
While reasoning with him, she felt unable to repress herself, and,
approaching him, she extended her hand, and wiped the perspiration from
Pao-yü gazed intently at her for a long time. "Do set your mind at
ease!" he at length observed.
At this remark, Lin Tai-yü felt quite nervous. "What's there to make my
mind uneasy?" she asked after a protracted interval. "I can't make out
what you're driving at; tell me what's this about making me easy or
Pao-yü heaved a sigh. "Don't you truly fathom the depth of my words?" he
inquired. "Why, do you mean to say that I've throughout made such poor
use of my love for you as not to be able to even divine your feelings?
Well, if so, it's no wonder that you daily lose your temper on my
"I actually don't understand what you mean by easy or uneasy," Lin
"My dear girl," urged Pao-yü, nodding and sighing. "Don't be making a
fool of me! For if you can't make out these words, not only have I ever
uselessly lavished affection upon you, but the regard, with which you
have always treated me, has likewise been entirely of no avail! And it's
mostly because you won't set your mind at ease that your whole frame is
riddled with disease. Had you taken things easier a bit, this ailment of
yours too wouldn't have grown worse from day to day!"
These words made Lin Tai-yü feel as if she had been blasted by thunder,
or struck by lightning. But after carefully weighing them within
herself, they seemed to her far more fervent than any that might have
emanated from the depths of her own heart, and thousands of sentiments,
in fact, thronged together in her mind; but though she had every wish to
frame them into language, she found it a hard task to pronounce so much
as half a word. All she therefore did was to gaze at him with vacant
Pao-yü fostered innumerable thoughts within himself, but unable in a
moment to resolve from which particular one to begin, he too absently
looked at Tai-yü. Thus it was that the two cousins remained for a long
time under the spell of a deep reverie.
An ejaculation of "Hai!" was the only sound that issued from Lin
Tai-yü's lips; and while tears streamed suddenly from her eyes, she
turned herself round and started on her way homeward.
Pao-yü jumped forward, with alacrity, and dragged her back. "My dear
cousin," he pleaded, "do stop a bit! Let me tell you just one thing;
after that, you may go."
"What can you have to tell me?" exclaimed Lin Tai-yü, who while wiping
her tears, extricated her hand from his grasp. "I know." she cried, "all
you have to say."
As she spoke, she went away, without even turning her head to cast a
glance behind her.
As Pao-yü gazed at her receding figure, he fell into abstraction.
He had, in fact, quitted his apartments a few moments back in such
precipitate hurry that he had omitted to take a fan with him: and Hsi
Jen, fearing lest he might suffer from the heat, promptly seized one and
ran to find him and give it to him. But upon casually raising her head,
she espied Lin Tai-yü standing with him. After a time, Tai-yü walked
away; and as he still remained where he was without budging, she
"You left," she said, "without even taking a fan with you. Happily I
noticed it, and so hurried to catch you up and bring it to you."
But Pao-yü was so lost in thought that as soon as he caught Hsi Jen's
voice, he made a dash and clasped her in his embrace, without so much as
trying to make sure who she was.
"My dear cousin," he cried, "I couldn't hitherto muster enough courage
to disclose the secrets of my heart; but on this occasion I shall make
bold and give utterance to them. For you I'm quite ready to even pay the
penalty of death. I have too for your sake brought ailments upon my
whole frame. It's in here! But I haven't ventured to breathe it to any
one. My only alternative has been to bear it patiently, in the hope that
when you got all right, I might then perchance also recover. But whether
I sleep, or whether I dream, I never, never forget you."
These declarations quite dumfoundered Hsi Jen. She gave way to incessant
apprehensions. All she could do was to shout out: "Oh spirits, oh
heaven, oh Buddha, he's compassing my death!" Then pushing him away from
her, "what is it you're saying?" she asked. "May it be that you are
possessed by some evil spirit! Don't you quick get yourself off?"
This brought Pao-yü to his senses at once. He then became aware that it
was Hsi Jen, and that she had come to bring him a fan. Pao-yü was
overpowered with shame; his whole face was suffused with scarlet; and,
snatching the fan out of her hands, he bolted away with rapid stride.
When Hsi Jen meanwhile saw Pao-yü effect his escape, "Lin Tai-yü," she
pondered, "must surely be at the bottom of all he said just now. But
from what one can see, it will be difficult, in the future, to obviate
the occurrence of some unpleasant mishap. It's sufficient to fill one
with fear and trembling!"
At this point in her cogitations, she involuntarily melted into tears,
so agitated was she; while she secretly exercised her mind how best to
act so as to prevent this dreadful calamity.
But while she was lost in this maze of surmises and doubts, Pao-ch'ai
unexpectedly appeared from the off side. "What!" she smilingly
exclaimed, "are you dreaming away in a hot broiling sun like this?"
Hsi Jen, at this question, hastily returned her smiles. "Those two
birds," she answered, "were having a fight, and such fun was it that I
stopped to watch them."
"Where is cousin Pao off to now in such a hurry, got up in that fine
attire?" asked Pao-ch'ai, "I just caught sight of him, as he went by. I
meant to have called out and stopped him, but as he, of late, talks
greater rubbish than ever, I didn't challenge him, but let him go past."
"Our master," rejoined Hsi Jen, "sent for him to go out."
"Ai-yah!" hastily exclaimed Pao-ch'ai, as soon as this remark reached
her ears. "What does he want him for, on a scalding day like this? Might
he not have thought of something and got so angry about it as to send
for him to give him a lecture!"
"If it isn't this," added Hsi Jen laughing, "some visitor must, I
presume, have come and he wishes him to meet him."
"With weather like this," smiled Pao-ch'ai, "even visitors afford no
amusement! Why don't they, while this fiery temperature lasts, stay at
home, where it's much cooler, instead of gadding about all over the
"Could you tell them so?" smiled Hsi Jen.
"What was that girl Hsiang-yün doing in your quarters?" Pao-ch'ai then
"She only came to chat with us on irrelevant matters." Hsi Jen replied
smiling. "But did you see the pair of shoes I was pasting the other day?
Well, I meant to ask her to-morrow to finish them for me."
Pao-chai, at these words, turned her head round, first on this side, and
then on the other. Seeing that there was no one coming or going: "How is
it," she smiled, "that you, who have so much gumption, don't ever show
any respect for people's feelings? I've been of late keeping an eye on
Miss Yün's manner, and, from what I can glean from the various rumours
afloat, she can't be, in the slightest degree, her own mistress at home!
In that family of theirs, so little can they stand the burden of any
heavy expenses that they don't employ any needlework-people, and
ordinary everyday things are mostly attended to by their ladies
themselves. (If not), why is it that every time she has come to us on a
visit, and she and I have had a chat, she at once broached the subject
of their being in great difficulties at home, the moment she perceived
that there was no one present? Yet, whenever I went on to ask her a few
questions about their usual way of living, her very eyes grew red, while
she made some indistinct reply; but as for speaking out, she wouldn't.
But when I consider the circumstances in which she is placed, for she
has certainly had the misfortune of being left, from her very infancy,
without father and mother, the very sight of her is too much for me, and
my heart begins to bleed within me."
"Quite so! Quite so!" observed Hsi Jen, clapping her hands, after
listening to her throughout. "It isn't strange then if she let me have
the ten butterfly knots I asked her to tie for me only after ever so
many days, and if she said that they were coarsely done, but that I
should make the best of them and use them elsewhere, and that if I
wanted any nice ones, I should wait until by and bye when she came to
stay here, when she would work some neatly for me. What you've told me
now reminds me that, as she had found it difficult to find an excuse
when we appealed to her, she must have had to slave away, who knows how
much, till the third watch in the middle of the night. What a stupid
thing I was! Had I known this sooner, I would never have told her a word
"Last time;" continued Pao-ch'ai, "she told me that when she was at home
she had ample to do, that she kept busy as late as the third watch, and
that, if she did the slightest stitch of work for any other people, the
various ladies, belonging to her family, did not like it."
"But as it happens," explained Hsi Jen, "that mulish-minded and
perverse-tempered young master of ours won't allow the least bit of
needlework, no matter whether small or large, to be made by those
persons employed to do sewing in the household. And as for me, I have no
time to turn my attention to all these things."
"Why mind him?" laughed Pao-ch'ai. "Simply ask some one to do the work
"How could one bamboozle him?" resumed Hsi Jen. "Why, he'll promptly
find out everything. Such a thing can't even be suggested. The only
thing I can do is to quietly slave away, that's all."
"You shouldn't work so hard," smiled Pao-ch'ai. "What do you say to my
doing a few things for you?"
"Are you in real earnest!" ventured Hsi Jen smiling. "Well, in that
case, it is indeed a piece of good fortune for me! I'll come over myself
in the evening."
But before she could conclude her reply, she of a sudden noticed an old
matron come up to her with precipitate step. "Where does the report come
from," she interposed, "that Miss Chin Ch'uan-erh has gone, for no rhyme
or reason, and committed suicide by jumping into the well?"
This bit of news startled Hsi Jen. "Which Chin Ch'uan-erh is it," she
"Where are two Chin Ch'uan-erhs to be found!" rejoined the old matron.
"It's the one in our Mistress,' Madame Wang's, apartments, who was the
other day sent away for something or other, I don't know what. On her
return home, she raised her groans to the skies and shed profuse tears,
but none of them worried their minds about her, until, who'd have
thought it, they could see nothing of her. A servant, however, went just
now to draw water and he says that 'while he was getting it from the
well in the south-east corner, he caught sight of a dead body, that he
hurriedly called men to his help, and that when they fished it out, they
unexpectedly found that it was she, but that though they bustled about
trying to bring her round, everything proved of no avail'"
"This is odd!" Pao-ch'ai exclaimed.
The moment Hsi Jen heard the tidings, she shook her head and moaned. At
the remembrance of the friendship, which had ever existed between them,
tears suddenly trickled down her cheeks. And as for Pao-ch'ai, she
listened to the account of the accident and then hastened to Madame
Wang's quarters to try and afford her consolation.
Hsi Jen, during this interval, returned to her room. But we will leave
her without further notice, and explain that when Pao-ch'ai reached the
interior of Madame Wang's home, she found everything plunged in perfect
stillness. Madame Wang was seated all alone in the inner chamber
indulging her sorrow. But such difficulties did Pao-ch'ai experience to
allude to the occurrence, that her only alternative was to take a seat
next to her.
"Where do you come from?" asked Madame Wang.
"I come from inside the garden," answered Pao-ch'ai.
"As you come from the garden," Madame Wang inquired, "did you see
anything of your cousin Pao-yü?"
"I saw him just now," Pao-ch'ai replied, "go out, dressed up in his
fineries. But where he is gone to, I don't know."
"Have you perchance heard of any strange occurrence?" asked Madame Wang,
while she nodded her head and sighed. "Why, Chin Ch'uan Erh jumped into
the well and committed suicide."
"How is it that she jumped into the well when there was nothing to make
her do so?" Pao-ch'ai inquired. "This is indeed a remarkable thing!"
"The fact is," proceeded Madame Wang, "that she spoilt something the
other day, and in a sudden fit of temper, I gave her a slap and sent her
away, simply meaning to be angry with her for a few days and then bring
her in again. But, who could have ever imagined that she had such a
resentful temperament as to go and drown herself in a well! And is not
this all my fault?"
"It's because you are such a kind-hearted person, aunt," smiled
Pao-ch'ai, "that such ideas cross your mind! But she didn't jump into
the well when she was in a tantrum; so what must have made her do so was
that she had to go and live in the lower quarters. Or, she might have
been standing in front of the well, and her foot slipped, and she fell
into it. While in the upper rooms, she used to be kept under restraint,
so when this time she found herself outside, she must, of course, have
felt the wish to go strolling all over the place in search of fun. How
could she have ever had such a fiery disposition? But even admitting
that she had such a temper, she was, after all, a stupid girl to do as
she did; and she doesn't deserve any pity."
"In spite of what you say," sighed Madame Wang, shaking her head to and
fro, "I really feel unhappy at heart."
"You shouldn't, aunt, distress your mind about it!" Pao-ch'ai smiled.
"Yet, if you feel very much exercised, just give her a few more taels
than you would otherwise have done, and let her be buried. You'll thus
carry out to the full the feelings of a mistress towards her servant."
"I just now gave them fifty taels for her," pursued Madame Wang. "I also
meant to let them have some of your cousin's new clothes to enshroud her
in. But, who'd have thought it, none of the girls had, strange
coincidence, any newly-made articles of clothing; and there were only
that couple of birthday suits of your cousin Lin's. But as your cousin
Lin has ever been such a sensitive child and has always too suffered and
ailed, I thought it would be unpropitious for her, if her clothes were
also now handed to people to wrap their dead in, after she had been told
that they were given her for her birthday. So I ordered a tailor to get
a suit for her as soon as possible. Had it been any other servant-girl,
I could have given her a few taels and have finished. But Chin
Ch'uan-erh was, albeit a servant-maid, nearly as dear to me as if she
had been a daughter of mine."
Saying this, tears unwittingly ran down from her eyes.
"Aunt!" vehemently exclaimed Pao-ch'ai. "What earthly use is it of
hurrying a tailor just now to prepare clothes for her? I have a couple
of suits I made the other day and won't it save trouble were I to go and
bring them for her? Besides, when she was alive, she used to wear my old
clothes. And what's more our figures are much alike."
"What you say is all very well," rejoined Madame Wang; "but can it be
that it isn't distasteful to you?"
"Compose your mind," urged Pao-ch'ai with a smile. "I have never paid
any heed to such things."
As she spoke, she rose to her feet and walked away.
Madame Wang then promptly called two servants. "Go and accompany Miss
Pao!" she said.
In a brief space of time, Pao-ch'ai came back with the clothes, and
discovered Pao-yü seated next to Madame Wang, all melted in tears.
Madame Wang was reasoning with him. At the sight of Pao-ch'ai, she, at
once, desisted. When Pao-ch'ai saw them go on in this way, and came to
weigh their conversation and to scan the expression on their
countenances, she immediately got a pretty correct insight into their
feelings. But presently she handed over the clothes, and Madame Wang
sent for Chin Ch'uan-erh's mother, to take them away.
But, reader, you will have to peruse the next chapter for further
A brother is prompted by ill-feeling to wag his tongue a bit.
A depraved son receives heavy blows with a rattan cane.
Madame Wang, for we shall now continue our story, sent for Chin
Ch'uan-erh's mother. On her arrival, she gave her several hair-pins and
rings, and then told her that she could invite several Buddhist priests
as well to read the prayers necessary to release the spirit from
purgatory. The mother prostrated herself and expressed her gratitude;
after which, she took her leave.
Indeed, Pao-yü, on his return from entertaining Yü-ts'un, heard the
tidings that Chin Ch'uan-erh had been instigated by a sense of shame to
take her own life and he at once fell a prey to grief. So much so, that,
when he came inside, and was again spoken to and admonished by Madame
Wang, he could not utter a single word in his justification. But as soon
as he perceived Pao-ch'ai make her appearance in the room, he seized the
opportunity to scamper out in precipitate haste. Whither he was
trudging, he himself had not the least idea. But throwing his hands
behind his back and drooping his head against his chest, he gave way to
sighs, while with slow and listless step he turned towards the hall.
Scarcely, however, had he rounded the screen-wall, which stood in front
of the door-way, when, by a strange coincidence, he ran straight into
the arms of some one, who was unawares approaching from the opposite
direction, and was just about to go towards the inner portion of the
"Hallo!" that person was heard to cry out, as he stood still.
Pao-yü sustained a dreadful start. Raising his face to see, he
discovered that it was no other than his father. At once, he
unconsciously drew a long breath and adopted the only safe course of
dropping his arms against his body and standing on one side.
"Why are you," exclaimed Chia Cheng, "drooping your head in such a
melancholy mood, and indulging in all these moans? When Yü-ts'un came
just now and he asked to see you, you only put in your appearance after
a long while. But though you did come, you were not in the least
disposed to chat with anything like cheerfulness and animation; you
behaved, as you ever do, like a regular fool. I detected then in your
countenance a certain expression of some hidden hankering and sadness;
and now again here you are groaning and sighing! Does all you have not
suffice to please you? Are you still dissatisfied? You've no reason to
be like this, so why is it that you go on in this way?"
Pao-yü had ever, it is true, shown a glib tongue, but on the present
occasion he was so deeply affected by Chin Ch'uan-erh's fate, and vexed
at not being able to die that very instant and follow in her footsteps
that although he was now fully conscious that his father was speaking to
him he could not, in fact, lend him an ear, but simply stood in a timid
and nervous mood. Chia Cheng noticed that he was in a state of trembling
and fear, not as ready with an answer as he usually was, and his sorry
plight somewhat incensed him, much though he had not at first borne him
any ill-feeling. But just as he was about to chide him, a messenger
approached and announced to him: "Some one has come from the mansion of
the imperial Prince Chung Shun, and wishes to see you, Sir." At this
announcement, surmises sprung up in Chia Cheng's mind. "Hitherto," he
secretly mused, "I've never had any dealings with the Chung Shun
mansion, and why is it that some one is despatched here to-day?" As he
gave way to these reflections. "Be quick," he shouted, "and ask him to
take a seat in the pavilion," while he himself precipitately entered the
inner room and changed his costume. When he came out to greet the
visitor, he discovered that it was the senior officer of the Chung Shun
mansion. After the exchange of the salutations prescribed by the rites,
they sat down and tea was presented. But before (Chia Cheng) had had
time to start a topic of conversation, the senior officer anticipated
him, and speedily observed: "Your humble servant does not pay this visit
to-day to your worthy mansion on his own authority, but entirely in
compliance with instructions received, as there is a favour that I have
to beg of you. I make bold to trouble you, esteemed Sir, on behalf of
his highness, to take any steps you might deem suitable, and if you do,
not only will his highness remember your kindness, but even I, your
humble servant, and my colleagues will feel extremely grateful to you."
Chia Cheng listened to him, but he could not nevertheless get a clue of
what he was driving at. Promptly returning his smile, he rose to his
feet. "You come, Sir," he inquired, "at the instance of his royal
highness, but what, I wonder, are the commands you have to give me? I
hope you will explain them to your humble servant, worthy Sir, in order
to enable him to carry them out effectively."
The senior officer gave a sardonic smile.
"There's nothing to carry out," he said. "All you, venerable Sir, have
to do is to utter one single word and the whole thing will be effected.
There is in our mansion a certain Ch'i Kuan, who plays the part of young
ladies. He hitherto stayed quietly in the mansion; but for the last
three or five days or so no one has seen him return home. Search has
been instituted in every locality, yet his whereabouts cannot be
discovered. But throughout these various inquiries, eight out of the ten
tenths of the inhabitants of the city have, with one consent, asserted
that he has of late been on very friendly terms with that honourable son
of yours, who was born with the jade in his mouth. This report was told
your servant and his colleagues, but as your worthy mansion is unlike
such residences as we can take upon ourselves to enter and search with
impunity, we felt under the necessity of laying the matter before our
imperial master. 'Had it been any of the other actors,' his highness
also says, 'I wouldn't have minded if even one hundred of them had
disappeared; but this Ch'i Kuan has always been so ready with pat
repartee, so respectful and trustworthy that he has thoroughly won my
aged heart, and I could never do without him.' He entreats you,
therefore, worthy Sir, to, in your turn, plead with your illustrious
scion, and request him to let Ch'i Kuan go back, in order that the
feelings, which prompt the Prince to make such earnest supplications,
may, in the first place, be satisfied: and that, in the next, your mean
servant and his associates may be spared the fatigue of toiling and
At the conclusion of this appeal, he promptly made a low bow. As soon as
Chia Cheng found out the object of his errand, he felt both astonishment
and displeasure. With all promptitude, he issued directions that Pao-yü
should be told to come out of the garden. Pao-yü had no notion whatever
why he was wanted. So speedily he hurried to appear before his father.
"What a regular scoundrel you are!" Chia Cheng exclaimed. "It is enough
that you won't read your books at home; but will you also go in for all
these lawless and wrongful acts? That Ch'i Kuan is a person whose
present honourable duties are to act as an attendant on his highness the
Prince of Chung Shun, and how extremely heedless of propriety must you
be to have enticed him, without good cause, to come away, and thus have
now brought calamity upon me?"
These reproaches plunged Pao-yü in a dreadful state of consternation.
With alacrity he said by way of reply: "I really don't know anything
about the matter! To what do, after all, the two words Ch'i Kuan refer,
I wonder! Still less, besides, am I aware what entice can imply!"
As he spoke, he started crying.
But before Chia Cheng could open his month to pass any further remarks,
"Young gentleman," he heard the senior officer interpose with a sardonic
smile: "you shouldn't conceal anything! if he be either hidden in your
home, or if you know his whereabouts, divulge the truth at once; so that
less trouble should fall to our lot than otherwise would. And will we
not then bear in mind your virtue, worthy scion!"
"I positively don't know." Pao-yü time after time maintained. "There
must, I fear, be some false rumour abroad; for I haven't so much as seen
anything of him."
The senior officer gave two loud smiles, full of derision. "There's
evidence at hand," he rejoined, "so if you compel me to speak out before
your venerable father, won't you, young man, have to suffer the
consequences? But as you assert that you don't know who this person is,
how is it that that red sash has come to be attached to your waist?"
When Pao-yü caught this allusion, he suddenly felt quite out of his
senses. He stared and gaped; while within himself, he argued: "How has
he come to hear anything about this! But since he knows all these secret
particulars, I cannot, I expect, put him off in other points; so
wouldn't it be better for me to pack him off, in order to obviate his
blubbering anything more?" "Sir," he consequently remarked aloud, "how
is it that despite your acquaintance with all these minute details, you
have no inkling of his having purchased a house? Are you ignorant of an
essential point like this? I've heard people say that he's, at present,
staying in the eastern suburbs at a distance of twenty li from the city
walls; at some place or other called Tzu T'an Pao, and that he has
bought there several acres of land and a few houses. So I presume he's
to be found in that locality; but of course there's no saying."
"According to your version," smiled the senior officer, as soon as he
heard his explanation, "he must for a certainty be there. I shall
therefore go and look for him. If he's there, well and good; but if not,
I shall come again and request you to give me further directions."
These words were still on his lips, when he took his leave and walked
off with hurried step.
Chia Cheng was by this time stirred up to such a pitch of indignation
that his eyes stared aghast, and his mouth opened in bewilderment; and
as he escorted the officer out, he turned his head and bade Pao-yü not
budge. "I have," (he said), "to ask you something on my return."
Straightway he then went to see the officer off. But just as he was
turning back, he casually came across Chia Huan and several servant-boys
running wildly about in a body. "Quick, bring him here to me!" shouted
Chia Cheng to the young boys. "I want to beat him."
Chia Huan, at the sight of his father, was so terrified that his bones
mollified and his tendons grew weak, and, promptly lowering his head, he
"What are you running about for?" Chia Cheng asked. "These menials of
yours do not mind you, but go who knows where, and let you roam about
like a wild horse! Where are the attendants who wait on you at school?"
When Chia Huan saw his father in such a dreadful rage, he availed
himself of the first opportunity to try and clear himself. "I wasn't
running about just now" he said. "But as I was passing by the side of
that well, I caught sight, for in that well a servant-girl was drowned,
of a human head that large, a body that swollen, floating about in
really a frightful way and I therefore hastily rushed past."
Chia Cheng was thunderstruck by this disclosure. "There's been nothing
up, so who has gone and jumped into the well?" he inquired. "Never has
there been anything of the kind in my house before! Ever since the time
of our ancestors, servants have invariably been treated with clemency
and consideration. But I expect that I must of late have become remiss
in my domestic affairs, and that the managers must have arrogated to
themselves the right of domineering and so been the cause of bringing
about such calamities as violent deaths and disregard of life. Were
these things to reach the ears of people outside, what will become of
the reputation of our seniors? Call Chia Lien and Lai Ta here!" he
The servant-lads signified their obedience, with one voice. They were
about to go and summon them, when Chia Huan hastened to press forward.
Grasping the lapel of Chia Cheng's coat, and clinging to his knees, he
knelt down. "Father, why need you be angry?" he said. "Excluding the
people in Madame Wang's rooms, this occurrence is entirely unknown to
any of the rest; and I have heard my mother mention...." At this point,
he turned his head, and cast a glance in all four quarters.
Chia Cheng guessed his meaning, and made a sign with his eyes. The young
boys grasped his purpose and drew far back on either side.
Chia Huan resumed his confidences in a low tone of voice. "My mother,"
he resumed, "told me that when brother Pao-yü was, the other day, in
Madame Wang's apartments, he seized her servant-maid Chin Ch'uan-erh
with the intent of dishonouring her. That as he failed to carry out his
design, he gave her a thrashing, which so exasperated Chin Ch'uan-erh
that she threw herself into the well and committed suicide...."
Before however he could conclude his account, Chia Cheng had been
incensed to such a degree that his face assumed the colour of silver
paper. "Bring Pao-yü here," he cried. While uttering these orders, he
walked into the study. "If any one does again to-day come to dissuade
me," he vociferated, "I shall take this official hat, and sash, my home
and private property and surrender everything at once to him to go and
bestow them upon Pao-yü; for if I cannot escape blame (with a son like
the one I have), I mean to shave this scanty trouble-laden hair about my
temples and go in search of some unsullied place where I can spend the
rest of my days alone! I shall thus also avoid the crime of heaping,
above, insult upon my predecessors, and, below, of having given birth to
such a rebellious son."
At the sight of Chia Cheng in this exasperation, the family companions
and attendants speedily realised that Pao-yü must once more be the cause
of it, and the whole posse hastened to withdraw from the study, biting
their fingers and putting their tongues out.
Chia Cheng panted with excitement. He stretched his chest out and sat
bolt upright on a chair. His whole face was covered with the traces of
tears. "Bring Pao-yü! Bring Pao-yü!" he shouted consecutively. "Fetch a
big stick; bring a rope and tie him up; close all the doors! If any one
does communicate anything about it in the inner rooms, why, I'll
immediately beat him to death."
The servant-boys felt compelled to express their obedience with one
consent, and some of them came to look after Pao-yü.
As for Pao-yü, when he heard Chia Cheng enjoin him not to move, he
forthwith became aware that the chances of an unpropitious issue
outnumbered those of a propitious one, but how could he have had any
idea that Chia Huan as well had put in his word? There he still stood in
the pavilion, revolving in his mind how he could get some one to speed
inside and deliver a message for him. But, as it happened, not a soul
appeared. He was quite at a loss to know where even Pei Ming could be.
His longing was at its height, when he perceived an old nurse come on
the scene. The sight of her exulted Pao-yü, just as much as if he had
obtained pearls or gems; and hurriedly approaching her, he dragged her
and forced her to halt. "Go in," he urged, "at once and tell them that
my father wishes to beat me to death. Be quick, be quick, for it's
urgent, there's no time to be lost."
But, first and foremost, Pao-yü's excitement was so intense that he
spoke with indistinctness. In the second place, the old nurse was, as
luck would have it, dull of hearing, so that she did not catch the drift
of what he said, and she misconstrued the two words: "it's urgent," for
the two representing jumped into the well. Readily smiling therefore:
"If she wants to jump into the well, let her do so," she said. "What's
there to make you fear, Master Secundus?"
"Go out," pursued Pao-yü, in despair, on discovering that she was deaf,
"and tell my page to come."
"What's there left unsettled?" rejoined the old nurse. "Everything has
been finished long ago! A tip has also been given them; so how is it
things are not settled?"
Pao-yü fidgetted with his hands and feet. He was just at his wits' ends,
when he espied Chia Cheng's servant-boys come up and press him to go
As soon as Chia Cheng caught sight of him, his eyes got quite red.
Without even allowing himself any time to question him about his gadding
about with actors, and the presents he gave them on the sly, during his
absence from home; or about his playing the truant from school and
lewdly importuning his mother's maid, during his stay at home, he simply
shouted: "Gag his mouth and positively beat him till he dies!"
The servant-boys did not have the boldness to disobey him. They were
under the necessity of seizing Pao-yü, of stretching him on a bench, and
of taking a heavy rattan and giving him about ten blows.
Pao-yü knew well enough that he could not plead for mercy, and all he
could do was to whimper and cry.
Chia Cheng however found fault with the light blows they administered to
him. With one kick he shoved the castigator aside, and snatching the
rattan into his own hands, he spitefully let (Pao-yü) have ten blows and
Pao-yü had not, from his very birth, experienced such anguish. From the
outset, he found the pain unbearable; yet he could shout and weep as
boisterously as ever he pleased; but so weak subsequently did his
breath, little by little, become, so hoarse his voice, and so choked his
throat that he could not bring out any sound.
The family companions noticed that he was beaten in a way that might
lead to an unpropitious end, and they drew near with all despatch and
made earnest entreaties and exhortations. But would Chia Cheng listen to
"You people," he answered, "had better ask him whether the tricks he has
been up to deserve to be overlooked or not! It's you who have all along
so thoroughly spoilt him as to make him reach this degree of depravity!
And do you yet come to advise me to spare him? When by and bye you've
incited him to commit parricide or regicide, you will at length, then,
give up trying to dissuade me, eh?"
This language jarred on the ears of the whole party; and knowing only
too well that he was in an exasperated mood, they fussed about
endeavouring to find some one to go in and convey the news.
But Madame Wang did not presume to be the first to inform dowager lady
Chia about it. Seeing no other course open to her, she hastily dressed
herself and issued out of the garden. Without so much as worrying her
mind as to whether there were any male inmates about or not, she
straightway leant on a waiting-maid and hurriedly betook herself into
the library, to the intense consternation of the companions, pages and
all the men present, who could not manage to clear out of the way in
Chia Cheng was on the point of further belabouring his son, when at the
sight of Madame Wang walking in, his temper flared up with such
increased violence, just as fire on which oil is poured, that the rod
fell with greater spite and celerity. The two servant-boys, who held
Pao-yü down, precipitately loosened their grip and beat a retreat.
Pao-yü had long ago lost all power of movement. Chia Cheng, however, was
again preparing to assail him, when the rattan was immediately locked
tightly by Madame Wang, in both her arms.
"Of course, of course," Chia Cheng exclaimed, "what you want to do
to-day is to make me succumb to anger!"
"Pao-yü does, I admit, merit to be beaten," sobbed Madame Wang; "but you
should also, my lord, take good care of yourself! The weather, besides,
is extremely hot, and our old lady is not feeling quite up to the mark.
Were you to knock Pao-yü about and kill him, it would not matter much;
but were perchance our venerable senior to suddenly fall ill, wouldn't
it be a grave thing?"
"Better not talk about such things!" observed Chia Cheng with a listless
smile. "By my bringing up such a degenerate child of retribution I have
myself become unfilial! Whenever I've had to call him to account, there
has always been a whole crowd of you to screen him; so isn't it as well
for me to avail myself of to-day to put an end to his cur-like existence
and thus prevent future misfortune?"
As he spoke, he asked for a rope to strangle him; but Madame Wang lost
no time in clasping him in her embrace, and reasoning with him as she
wept. "My lord and master," she said, "it is your duty, of course, to
keep your son in proper order, but you should also regard the
relationship of husband and wife. I'm already a woman of fifty and I've
only got this scapegrace. Was there any need for you to give him such a
bitter lesson? I wouldn't presume to use any strong dissuasion; but
having, on this occasion, gone so far as to harbour the design of
killing him, isn't this a fixed purpose on your part to cut short my own
existence? But as you are bent upon strangling him, be quick and first
strangle me before you strangle him! It will be as well that we, mother
and son, should die together, so that if even we go to hell, we may be
able to rely upon each other!"
At the conclusion of these words, she enfolded Pao-yü in her embrace and
raised her voice in loud sobs.
After listening to her appeal, Chia Cheng could not restrain a deep
sigh; and taking a seat on one of the chairs, the tears ran down his
cheeks like drops of rain.
But while Madame Wang held Pao-yü in her arms, she noticed that his face
was sallow and his breath faint, and that his green gauze nether
garments were all speckled with stains of blood, so she could not check
her fingers from unloosening his girdle. And realising that from the
thighs to the buttocks, his person was here green, there purple, here
whole, there broken, and that there was, in fact, not the least bit,
which had not sustained some injury, she of a sudden burst out in bitter
lamentations for her offspring's wretched lot in life. But while
bemoaning her unfortunate son, she again recalled to mind the memory of
Chia Chu, and vehemently calling out "Chia Chu," she sobbed: "if but you
were alive, I would not care if even one hundred died!"
But by this time, the inmates of the inner rooms discovered that Madame
Wang had gone out, and Li Kung-ts'ai, Wang Hsi-feng and Ting Ch'un and
her sisters promptly rushed out of the garden and came to join her.
While Madame Wang mentioned, with eyes bathed in tears, the name of Chia
Chu, every one listened with composure, with the exception of Li
Kung-ts'ai, who unable to curb her feelings also raised her voice in
sobs. As soon as Chia Cheng heard her plaints, his tears trickled down
with greater profusion, like pearls scattered about. But just as there
seemed no prospect of their being consoled, a servant-girl was unawares
heard to announce: "Our dowager lady has come!" Before this announcement
was ended, her tremulous accents reached their ears from outside the
window. "If you were to beat me to death and then despatch him," she
cried, "won't you be clear of us!"
Chia Cheng, upon seeing that his mother was coming, felt distressed and
pained. With all promptitude, he went out to meet her. He perceived his
old parent, toddling along, leaning on the arm of a servant-girl,
wagging her head and gasping for breath.
Chia Cheng drew forward and made a curtsey. "On a hot broiling day like
this," he ventured, forcing a smile, "what made you, mother, get so
angry as to rush over in person? Had you anything to enjoin me, you
could have sent for me, your son, and given me your orders."
Old lady Chia, at these words, halted and panted. "Are you really
chiding me?" she at the same time said in a stern tone. "It's I who
should call you to task! But as the son, I've brought up, isn't worth a
straw, to whom can I go and address a word?"
When Chia Cheng heard language so unlike that generally used by her, he
immediately fell on his knees. While doing all in his power to contain
his tears: "The reason why," he explained, "your son corrects his
offspring is a desire to reflect lustre on his ancestors and splendour
on his seniors; so how can I, your son, deserve the rebuke with which
you greet me, mother?"
At this reply, old lady Chia spurted contemptuously. "I made just one
remark," she added, "and you couldn't stand it, and can Pao-yü likely
put up with that death-working cane? You say that your object in
correcting your son is to reflect lustre on your ancestors and splendour
on your seniors, but in what manner did your father correct you in days
Saying this, tears suddenly rolled down from her eyes also.
Chia Cheng forced another smile. "Mother;" he proceeded, "you shouldn't
distress yourself! Your son did it in a sudden fit of rage, but from
this time forth I won't touch him again."
Dowager lady Chia smiled several loud sneering smiles. "But you
shouldn't get into a huff with me!" she urged. "He's your son, so if you
choose to flog him, you can naturally do so, but I cannot help thinking
that you're sick and tired of me, your mother, of your wife and of your
son, so wouldn't it be as well that we should get out of your way, the
sooner the better, as we shall then be able to enjoy peace and quiet?"
So speaking, "Go and look after the chairs." she speedily cried to a
servant. "I and your lady as well as Pao-yü will, without delay, return
The servant had no help but to assent.
Old lady Chia thereupon called Madame Wang over to her. "You needn't
indulge in sorrow!" she exhorted her. "Pao-yü is now young, and you
cherish him fondly; but does it follow that when in years to come he
becomes an official, he'll remember that you are his mother? You mustn't
therefore at present lavish too much of your affection upon him, so that
you may by and bye, spare yourself, at least, some displeasure."
When these exhortations fell on Chia Cheng's ear, he instantly
prostrated himself before her. "Your remarks mother," he observed, "cut
the ground under your son's very feet."
"You distinctly act in a way," cynically smiled old lady Chia,
"sufficient to deprive me of any ground to stand upon, and then you, on
the contrary, go and speak about yourself! But when we shall have gone
back, your mind will be free of all trouble. We'll see then who'll
interfere and dissuade you from beating people!"
After this reply, she went on to give orders to directly get ready the
baggage, carriages, chairs and horses necessary for their return.
Chia Cheng stiffly and rigidly fell on his knees, and knocked his head
before her, and pleaded guilty. Dowager lady Chia then addressed him
some words, and as she did so, she came to have a look at Pao-yü. Upon
perceiving that the thrashing he had got this time was unlike those of
past occasions, she experienced both pain and resentment. So clasping
him in her arms, she wept and wept incessantly. It was only after Madame
Wang, lady Feng and the other ladies had reasoned with her for a time
that they at length gradually succeeded in consoling her.
But waiting-maids, married women, and other attendants soon came to
support Pao-yü and take him away. Lady Feng however at once expostulated
with them. "You stupid things," she exclaimed, won't you open your eyes
and see! How ever could he be raised and made to walk in the state he's
in! Don't you yet instantly run inside and fetch some rattan slings and
a bench to carry him out of this on?
At this suggestion, the servants rushed hurry-scurry inside and actually
brought a bench; and, lifting Pao-yü, they placed him on it. Then
following dowager lady Chia, Madame Wang and the other inmates into the
inner part of the building, they carried him into his grandmother's
apartments. But Chia Cheng did not fail to notice that his old mother's
passion had not by this time yet abated, so without presuming to consult
his own convenience, he too came inside after them. Here he discovered
how heavily he had in reality castigated Pao-yü. Upon perceiving Madame
Wang also crying, with one breath, "My flesh;" and, with another, saying
with tears: "My son, if you had died sooner, instead of Chu Erh, and
left Chu Erh behind you, you would have saved your father these fits of
anger, and even I would not have had to fruitlessly worry and fret for
half of my existence! Were anything to happen now to make you forsake
me, upon whom will you have me depend?" And then after heaping
reproaches upon herself for a time, break out afresh in lamentations for
her, unavailing offspring, Chia Cheng was much cut up and felt conscious
that he should not with his own hand have struck his son so ruthlessly
as to bring him to this state, and he first and foremost directed his
attention to consoling dowager lady Chia.
"If your son isn't good," rejoined the old lady, repressing her tears,
"it is naturally for you to exercise control over him. But you shouldn't
beat him to such a pitch! Don't you yet bundle yourself away? What are
you dallying in here for? Is it likely, pray, that your heart is not yet
satisfied, and that you wish to feast your eyes by seeing him die before
These taunts induced Chia Cheng to eventually withdraw out of the room.
By this time, Mrs. Hsüeh together with Pao-ch'ai, Hsiang Ling, Hsi Jen,
Shih Hsiang-yün and his other cousins had also congregated in the
apartments. Hsi Jen's heart was overflowing with grief; but she could
not very well give expression to it. When she saw that a whole company
of people shut him in, some pouring water over him, others fanning him;
and that she herself could not lend a hand in any way, she availed
herself of a favourable moment to make her exit. Proceeding then as far
as the second gate, she bade the servant-boys go and fetch Pei-Ming. On
his arrival, she submitted him to a searching inquiry. "Why is it," she
asked, "that he was beaten just now without the least provocation; and
that you didn't run over soon to tell me a word about it?"
"It happened," answered Pei Ming in great perplexity, "that I wasn't
present. It was only after he had given him half the flogging that I
heard what was going on, and lost no time in ascertaining what it was
all about. It's on account of those affairs connected with Ch'i Kuan and
that girl Chin Ch'uan."
"How did these things come to master's knowledge?" inquired Hsi Jen.
"As for that affair with Ch'i Kuan," continued Pei Ming, "it is very
likely Mr. Hsüeh P'an who has let it out; for as he has ever been
jealous, he may, in the absence of any other way of quenching his
resentment, have instigated some one or other outside, who knows, to
come and see master and add fuel to his anger. As for Chin Ch'uan-erh's
affair it has presumably been told him by Master Tertius. This I heard
from the lips of some person, who was in attendance upon master."
Hsi Jen saw how much his two versions tallied with the true
circumstances, so she readily credited the greater portion of what was
told her. Subsequently, she returned inside. Here she found a whole
crowd of people trying to do the best to benefit Pao-yü. But after they
had completed every arrangement, dowager lady Chia impressed on their
minds that it would be better were they to carefully move him into his
own quarters. With one voice they all signified their approval, and with
a good deal of bustling and fussing, they speedily transferred Pao-yü
into the I Hung court, where they stretched him out comfortably on his
own bed. Then after some further excitement, the members of the family
began gradually to disperse. Hsi Jen at last entered his room, and
waited upon him with singleness of heart.
But, reader, if you feel any curiosity to hear what follows, listen to
what you will find divulged in the next chapter.
Tai-yü loves Pao-yü with extreme affection; but, on account of this
affection, her female cousin gets indignant.
Hsüeh P'an commits a grave mistake; but Pao-ch'ai makes this mistake a
pretext to tender advice to her brother.
When Hsi Jen saw dowager lady Chia, Madame Wang and the other members of
the family take their leave, our narrative says, she entered the room.
and, taking a seat next to Pao-yü, she asked him, while she did all she
could to hide her tears: "How was it that he beat you to such extremes?"
Pao-yü heaved a sigh. "It was simply," he replied, "about those trifles.
But what's the use of your asking me about them? The lower part of my
body is so very sore! Do look and see where I'm bruised!"
At these words, Hsi Jen put out her hand, and inserting it gently under
his clothes, she began to pull down the middle garments. She had but
slightly moved them, however, when Pao-yü ground his teeth and groaned
"ai-ya." Hsi Jen at once stayed her hand. It was after three or four
similar attempts that she, at length, succeeded in drawing them down.
Then looking closely, Hsi Jen discovered that the upper part of his legs
was all green and purple, one mass of scars four fingers wide, and
covered with huge blisters.
Hsi Jen gnashed her teeth. "My mother!" she ejaculated, "how is it that
he struck you with such a ruthless hand! Had you minded the least bit of
my advice to you, things wouldn't have come to such a pass! Luckily, no
harm was done to any tendon or bone; for had you been crippled by the
thrashing you got, what could we do?"
In the middle of these remarks, she saw the servant-girls come, and they
told her that Miss Pao-ch'ai had arrived. Hearing this, Hsi Jen saw well
enough that she had no time to put him on his middle garments, so
forthwith snatching a double gauze coverlet, she threw it over Pao-yü.
This done, she perceived Pao-ch'ai walk in, her hands laden with pills
"At night," she said to Hsi Jen, "take these medicines and dissolve them
in wine and then apply them on him, and, when the fiery virus from that
stagnant blood has been dispelled, he'll be all right again."
After these directions, she handed the medicines to Hsi Jen. "Is he
feeling any better now?" she proceeded to inquired.
"Thanks!" rejoined Pao-yü. "I'm feeling better," he at the same time
went on to say; after which, he pressed her to take a seat.
Pao-ch'ai noticed that he could open his eyes wide, that he could speak
and that he was not as bad as he had been, and she felt considerable
inward relief. But nodding her head, she sighed. "If you had long ago
listened to the least bit of the advice tendered to you by people things
would not have reached this climax to-day," she said. "Not to speak of
the pain experienced by our dear ancestor and aunt Wang, the sight of
you in this state makes even us feel at heart...."
Just as she had uttered half of the remark she meant to pass, she
quickly suppressed the rest; and smitten by remorse for having spoken
too hastily, she could not help getting red in the face and lowering her
Pao-yü was realising how affectionate, how friendly and how replete with
deep meaning were the sentiments that dropped from her month, when, of a
sudden, he saw her seal her lips and, flashing crimson, droop her head,
and simply fumble with her girdle. Yet so fascinating was she in those
timid blushes, which completely baffle description, that his feelings
were roused within him to such a degree, that all sense of pain flew at
once beyond the empyrean. "I've only had to bear a few blows," he
reflected, "and yet every one of them puts on those pitiful looks
sufficient to evoke love and regard; so were, after all, any mishap or
untimely end to unexpectedly befall me, who can tell how much more
afflicted they won't be! And as they go on in this way, I shall have
them, were I even to die in a moment, to feel so much for me; so there
will indeed be no reason for regret, albeit the concerns of a whole
lifetime will be thus flung entirely to the winds!"
While indulging in these meditations, ha overheard Pao-ch'ai ask Hsi
Jen: "How is it that he got angry, without rhyme or reason, and started
beating him?" and Hsi Jen tell her, in reply, the version given to her
by Pei Ming.
Pao-yü had, in fact, no idea as yet of what had been said by Chia Huan,
and, when he heard Hsi Jen's disclosures, he eventually got to know what
it was; but as it also criminated Hsüeh P'an, he feared lest Pao-ch'ai
might feel unhappy, so he lost no time in interrupting Hsi Jen.
"Cousin Hsüeh," he interposed, "has never been like that; you people
mustn't therefore give way to idle surmises!"
These words were enough to make Pao-ch'ai see that Pao-yü had thought it
expedient to say something to stop Hsi Jen's mouth, apprehending that
her suspicions might get roused; and she consequently secretly mused
within herself: "He has been beaten to such a pitch, and yet, heedless
of his own pains and aches, he's still so careful not to hurt people's
feelings. But since you can be so considerate, why don't you take a
little more care in greater concerns outside, so that your father should
feel a little happier, and that you also should not have to suffer such
bitter ordeals! But notwithstanding that the dread of my feeling hurt
has prompted you to interrupt Hsi Jen in what she had to tell me, is it
likely that I am blind to the fact that my brother has ever followed his
fancies, allowed his passions to run riot, and never done a thing to
exercise any check over himself? His temperament is such that he some
time back created, all on account of that fellow Ch'in Chung, a rumpus
that turned heaven and earth topsy-turvy; and, as a matter of course,
he's now far worse than he was ever before!"
"You people," she then observed aloud, at the close of these
cogitations, "shouldn't bear this one or that one a grudge. I can't help
thinking that it's, after all, because of your usual readiness, cousin
Pao-yü, to hobnob with that set that your father recently lost control
over his temper. But assuming that my brother did speak in a careless
manner and did casually allude to you cousin Pao-yü, it was with no
design to instigate any one! In the first place, the remarks he made
were really founded on actual facts; and secondly, he's not one to ever
trouble himself about such petty trifles as trying to guard against
animosities. Ever since your youth up, Miss Hsi, you've simply had
before your eyes a person so punctilious as cousin Pao-yü, but have you
ever had any experience of one like that brother of mine, who neither
fears the powers in heaven or in earth, and who readily blurts out all
Hsi Jen, seeing Pao-yü interrupt her, at the bare mention of Hsüeh P'an,
understood at once that she must have spoken recklessly and gave way to
misgivings lest Pao-ch'ai might not have been placed in a false
position, but when she heard the language used by Pao-ch'ai, she was
filled with a keener sense of shame and could not utter a word. Pao-yü
too, after listening to the sentiments, which Pao-ch'ai expressed, felt,
partly because they were so magnanimous and noble, and partly because
they banished all misconception from his mind, his heart and soul throb
with greater emotion then ever before. When, however, about to put in
his word, he noticed Pao-ch'ai rise to her feet.
"I'll come again to see you to-morrow," she said, "but take good care of
yourself! I gave the medicines I brought just now to Hsi Jen; let her
rub you with them at night and I feel sure you'll get all right."
With these recommendations, she walked out of the door.
Hsi Jen hastened to catch her up and escorted her beyond the court.
"Miss," she remarked, "we've really put you to the trouble of coming.
Some other day, when Mr. Secundus is well, I shall come in person to
"What's there to thank me for?" replied Pao-ch'ai, turning her head
round and smiling. "But mind, you advise him to carefully tend his
health, and not to give way to idle thoughts and reckless ideas, and
he'll recover. If there's anything he fancies to eat or to amuse himself
with, come quietly over to me and fetch it for him. There will be no use
to disturb either our old lady, or Madame Wang, or any of the others;
for in the event of its reaching Mr. Chia Cheng's ear, nothing may, at
the time, come of it; but if by and bye he finds it to be true, we'll,
doubtless, suffer for it!"
While tendering this advice, she went on her way.
Hsi Jen retraced her steps and returned into the room, fostering genuine
feelings of gratitude for Pao-ch'ai. But on entering, she espied Pao-yü
silently lost in deep thought, and looking as if he were asleep, and yet
not quite asleep, so she withdrew into the outer quarters to comb her
hair and wash.
Pao-yü meanwhile lay motionless in bed. His buttocks tingled with pain,
as if they were pricked with needles, or dug with knives; giving him to
boot a fiery sensation just as if fire were eating into them. He tried
to change his position a bit, but unable to bear the anguish, he burst
into groans. The shades of evening were by this time falling. Perceiving
that though Hsi Jen had left his side there remained still two or three
waiting-maids in attendance, he said to them, as he could find nothing
for them to do just then, "You might as well go and comb your hair and
perform your ablutions; come in, when I call you."
Hearing this, they likewise retired. During this while, Pao-yü fell into
a drowsy state. Chiang Yü-han then rose before his vision and told him
all about his capture by men from the Chung Shun mansion. Presently,
Chin Ch'uan-erh too appeared in his room bathed in tears, and explained
to him the circumstances which drove her to leap into the well. But
Pao-yü, who was half dreaming and half awake, was not able to give his
mind to anything that was told him. Unawares, he became conscious of
some one having given him a push; and faintly fell on his ear the
plaintive tones of some person in distress. Pao-yü was startled out of
his dreams. On opening his eyes, he found it to be no other than Lin
Tai-yü. But still fearing that it was only a dream, he promptly raised
himself, and drawing near her face he passed her features under a minute
scrutiny. Seeing her two eyes so swollen, as to look as big as peaches,
and her face glistening all over with tears: "If it is not Tai-yü," (he
thought), "who else can it be?"
Pao-yü meant to continue his scrutiny, but the lower part of his person
gave him such unbearable sharp twitches that finding it a hard task to
keep up, he, with a shout of "Ai-yo," lay himself down again, as he
heaved a sigh. "What do you once more come here for?" he asked. "The
sun, it is true, has set; but the heat remaining on the ground hasn't
yet gone, so you may, by coming over, get another sunstroke. Of course,
I've had a thrashing but I don't feel any pains or aches. If I behave in
this fashion, it's all put on to work upon their credulity, so that they
may go and spread the reports outside in such a way as to reach my
father's ear. Really it's all sham; so you mustn't treat it as a fact!"
Though Lin Tai-yü was not giving way at the time to any wails or loud
sobs, yet the more she indulged in those suppressed plaints of hers, the
worse she felt her breath get choked and her throat obstructed; so that
when Pao-yü's assurances fell on her ear, she could not express a single
sentiment, though she treasured thousands in her mind. It was only after
a long pause that she at last could observe, with agitated voice: "You
must after this turn over a new leaf."
At these words, Pao-yü heaved a deep sigh. "Compose your mind," he
urged. "Don't speak to me like this; for I am quite prepared to even lay
down my life for all those persons!"
But scarcely had he concluded this remark than some one outside the
court was heard to say: "Our lady Secunda has arrived."
Lin Tai-yü readily concluded that it was lady Feng coming, so springing
to her feet at once, "I'm off," she said; "out by the back-court. I'll
look you up again by and bye."
"This is indeed strange!" exclaimed Pao-yü as he laid hold of her and
tried to detain her. "How is it that you've deliberately started living
in fear and trembling of her!"
Lin Tai-yü grew impatient and stamped her feet. "Look at my eyes!" she
added in an undertone. "Must those people amuse themselves again by
poking fun at me?"
After this response, Pao-yü speedily let her go.
Lin Tai-yü with hurried step withdrew behind the bed; and no sooner had
she issued into the back-court, than lady Feng made her appearance in
the room by the front entrance.
"Are you better?" she asked Pao-yü. "If you fancy anything to eat, mind
you send some one over to my place to fetch it for you."
Thereupon Mrs. Hsüeh also came to pay him a visit. Shortly after, a
messenger likewise arrived from old lady Chia (to inquire after him).
When the time came to prepare the lights, Pao-yü had a couple of
mouthfuls of soup to eat, but he felt so drowsy and heavy that he fell
Presently, Chou Jui's wife, Wu Hsin-teng's wife and Cheng Hao-shih's
wife, all of whom were old dames who frequently went to and fro, heard
that Pao-yü had been flogged and they too hurried into his quarters.
Hsi Jen promptly went out to greet them. "Aunts," she whispered,
smiling, "you've come a little too late; Master Secundus is sleeping."
Saying this, she led them into the room on the opposite side, and,
pressing then to sit down, she poured them some tea.
After sitting perfectly still for a time, "When Master Secundus awakes"
the dames observed, "do send us word!"
Hsi Jen assured them that she would, and escorted them out. Just,
however, as she was about to retrace her footsteps, she met an old
matron, sent over by Madame Wang, who said to her: "Our mistress wants
one of Master Secundus attendants to go and see her."
Upon hearing this message, Hsi Jen communed with her own thoughts. Then
turning round, she whispered to Ch'ing Wen, She Yüeh, Ch'iu Wen, and the
other maids: "Our lady wishes to see one of us, so be careful and remain
in the room while I go. I'll be back soon."
At the close of her injunctions, she and the matron made their exit out
of the garden by a short cut, and repaired into the drawing-room.
Madame Wang was seated on the cool couch, waving a banana-leaf fan. When
she became conscious of her arrival: "It didn't matter whom you sent,"
she remarked, "any one would have done. But have you left him again?
Who's there to wait on him?"
At this question, Hsi Jen lost no time in forcing a smile. "Master
Secundus," she replied, "just now fell into a sound sleep. Those four or
five girls are all right now, they are well able to attend to their
master, so please, Madame, dispel all anxious thoughts! I was afraid
that your ladyship might have some orders to give, and that if I sent
any of them, they might probably not hear distinctly, and thus occasion
delay in what there was to be done."
"There's nothing much to tell you," added Madame Wang. "I only wish to
ask how his pains and aches are getting on now?"
"I applied on Mr. Secundus," answered Hsi Jen, "the medicine, which Miss
Pao-ch'ai brought over; and he's better than he was. He was so sore at
one time that he couldn't lie comfortably; but the deep sleep, in which
he is plunged now, is a clear sign of his having improved."
"Has he had anything to eat?" further inquired Madame Wang.
"Our dowager mistress sent him a bowl of soup," Hsi Jen continued, "and
of this he has had a few mouthfuls. He shouted and shouted that his
mouth was parched and fancied a decoction of sour plums, but remembering
that sour plums are astringent things, that he had been thrashed only a
short time before, and that not having been allowed to groan, he must,
of course, have been so hard pressed that fiery virus and heated blood
must unavoidably have accumulated in the heart, and that were he to put
anything of the kind within his lips, it might be driven into the
cardiac regions and give rise to some serious illness; and what then
would we do? I therefore reasoned with him for ever so long and at last
succeeded in deterring him from touching any. So simply taking that
syrup of roses, prepared with sugar, I mixed some with water and he had
half a small cup of it. But he drank it with distaste; for, being
surfeited with it, he found it neither scented nor sweet."
"Ai-yah!" ejaculated Madame Wang. "Why didn't you come earlier and tell
me? Some one sent me the other day several bottles of scented water. I
meant at one time to have given him some, but as I feared that it would
be mere waste, I didn't let him have any. But since he is so sick and
tired of that preparation of roses, that he turns up his nose at it,
take those two bottles with you. If you just mix a teaspoonful of it in
a cup of water, it will impart to it a very strong perfume."
So saying, she hastened to tell Ts'ai Yün to fetch the bottles of
scented water, which she had received as a present a few days before.
"Let her only bring a couple of them, they'll be enough!" Hsi Jen chimed
in. "If you give us more, it will be a useless waste! If it isn't
enough, I can come and fetch a fresh supply. It will come to the same
Having listened to all they had to say, Ts'ai Yün left the room. After
some considerable time, she, in point of fact, returned with only a
couple of bottles, which she delivered to Hsi Jen.
On examination, Hsi Jen saw two small glass bottles, no more than three
inches in size, with screwing silver stoppers at the top. On the
gosling-yellow labels was written, on one: "Pure extract of _olea
fragrans_," on the other, "Pure extract of roses."
"What fine things these are!" Hsi Jen smiled. "How many small bottles
the like of this can there be?"
"They are of the kind sent to the palace," rejoined Madame Wang. "Didn't
you notice that gosling-yellow slip? But mind, take good care of them
for him; don't fritter them away!"
Hsi Jen assented. She was about to depart when Madame Wang called her
back. "I've thought of something," she said, "that I want to ask you."
Hsi Jen hastily came back.
Madame Wang made sure that there was no one in the room. "I've heard a
faint rumour," she then inquired, "to the effect that Pao-yü got a
thrashing on this occasion on account of something or other which
Huan-Erh told my husband. Have you perchance heard what it was that he
said? If you happen to learn anything about it, do confide in me, and I
won't make any fuss and let people know that it was you who told me."
"I haven't heard anything of the kind," answered Hsi Jen. "It was
because Mr. Secundus forcibly detained an actor, and that people came
and asked master to restore him to them that he got flogged."
"It was also for this," continued Madame Wang as she nodded her head,
"but there's another reason besides."
"As for the other reason, I honestly haven't the least idea about it,"
explained Hsi Jen. "But I'll make bold to-day, and say something in your
presence, Madame, about which I don't know whether I am right or wrong
in speaking. According to what's proper...."
She had only spoken half a sentence, when hastily she closed her mouth
"You are at liberty to proceed," urged Madame Wang.
"If your ladyship will not get angry, I'll speak out," remarked Hsi Jen.
"Why should I get angry?" observed Madame Wang. "Proceed!"
"According to what's proper," resumed Hsi Jen, "our Mr. Secundus should
receive our master's admonition, for if master doesn't hold him in
check, there's no saying what he mightn't do in the future."
As soon as Madame Wang heard this, she clasped her hands and uttered the
invocation, "O-mi-to-fu!" Unable to resist the impulse, she drew near
Hsi Jen. "My dear child," she added, "you have also luckily understood
the real state of things. What you told me is in perfect harmony with my
own views! Is it likely that I don't know how to look after a son? In
former days, when your elder master, Chu, was alive, how did I succeed
in keeping him in order? And can it be that I don't, after all, now
understand how to manage a son? But there's a why and a wherefore in it.
The thought is ever present in my mind now, that I'm already a woman
past fifty, that of my children there only remains this single one, that
he too is developing a delicate physique, and that, what's more, our
dear senior prizes him as much as she would a jewel, that were he kept
under strict control, and anything perchance to happen to him, she
might, an old lady as she is, sustain some harm from resentment, and
that as the high as well as the low will then have no peace or quiet,
won't things get in a bad way? So I feel prompted to spoil him by
over-indulgence. Time and again I reason with him. Sometimes, I talk to
him; sometimes, I advise him; sometimes, I cry with him. But though, for
the time being, he's all right, he doesn't, later on, worry his mind in
any way about what I say, until he positively gets into some other mess,
when he settles down again. But should any harm befall him, through
these floggings, upon whom will I depend by and bye?"
As she spoke, she could not help melting into tears.
At the sight of Madame Wang in this disconsolate mood, Hsi Jen herself
unconsciously grew wounded at heart, and as she wept along with her,
"Mr. Secundus," she ventured, "is your ladyship's own child, so how
could you not love him? Even we, who are mere servants, think it a piece
of good fortune when we can wait on him for a time, and all parties can
enjoy peace and quiet. But if he begins to behave in this manner, even
peace and quiet will be completely out of the question for us. On what
day, and at what hour, don't I advise Mr. Secundus; yet I can't manage
to stir him up by any advice! But it happens that all that crew are ever
ready to court his friendship, so it isn't to be wondered that he is
what he is! The truth is that he thinks the advice we give him is not
right and proper! As you have to-day, Madame, alluded to this subject,
I've got something to tell you which has weighed heavy on my mind. I've
been anxious to come and confide it to your ladyship and to solicit your
guidance, but I've been in fear and dread lest you should give way to
suspicion. For not only would then all my disclosures have been in vain,
but I would have deprived myself of even a piece of ground wherein my
remains could be laid."
Madame Wang perceived that her remarks were prompted by some purpose.
"My dear child," she eagerly urged; "go on, speak out! When I recently
heard one and all praise you secretly behind your back, I simply fancied
that it was because you were careful in your attendance on Pao-yü; or
possibly because you got on well with every one; all on account of minor
considerations like these; (but I never thought it was on account of
your good qualities). As it happens, what you told me just now concerns,
in all its bearings, a great principle, and is in perfect accord with my
ideas, so speak out freely, if you have aught to say! Only let no one
else know anything about it, that is all that is needed."
"I've got nothing more to say," proceeded Hsi Jen. "My sole idea was to
solicit your advice, Madame, as to how to devise a plan to induce Mr.
Secundus to move his quarters out of the garden by and bye, as things
will get all right then."
This allusion much alarmed Madame Wang. Speedily taking Hsi Jen's hand
in hers: "Is it likely," she inquired, "that Pao-yü has been up to any
mischief with any one?"
"Don't be too suspicious!" precipitately replied Hsi Jen. "It wasn't at
anything of the kind that I was hinting. I merely expressed my humble
opinion. Mr. Secundus is a young man now, and the young ladies inside
are no more children. More than that, Miss Lin and Miss Pao may be two
female maternal first cousins of his, but albeit his cousins, there is
nevertheless the distinction of male and female between them; and day
and night, as they are together, it isn't always convenient, when they
have to rise and when they have to sit; so this cannot help making one
give way to misgivings. Were, in fact, any outsider to see what's going
on, it would not look like the propriety, which should exist in great
families. The proverb appositely says that: 'when there's no trouble,
one should make provision for the time of trouble.' How many concerns
there are in the world, of which there's no making head or tail, mostly
because what persons do without any design is construed by such
designing people, as chance to have their notice attracted to it, as
having been designedly accomplished, and go on talking and talking till,
instead of mending matters, they make them worse! But if precautions be
not taken beforehand, something improper will surely happen, for your
ladyship is well aware of the temperament Mr. Secundus has shown all
along! Besides, his great weakness is to fuss in our midst, so if no
caution be exercised, and the slightest mistake be sooner or later
committed, there'll be then no question of true or false: for when
people are many one says one thing and another, and what is there that
the months of that mean lot will shun with any sign of respect? Why, if
their hearts be well disposed, they will maintain that he is far
superior to Buddha himself. But if their hearts be badly disposed, they
will at once knit a tissue of lies to show that he cannot even reach the
standard of a beast! Now, if people by and bye speak well of Mr.
Secundus, we'll all go on smoothly with our lives. But should he
perchance give reason to any one to breathe the slightest disparaging
remark, won't his body, needless for us to say, be smashed to pieces,
his bones ground to powder, and the blame, which he might incur, be made
ten thousand times more serious than it is? These things are all
commonplace trifles; but won't Mr. Secundus' name and reputation be
subsequently done for for life? Secondly, it's no easy thing for your
ladyship to see anything of our master. A proverb also says: 'The
perfect man makes provision beforehand;' so wouldn't it be better that
we should, this very minute, adopt such steps as will enable us to guard
against such things? Your ladyship has much to attend to, and you
couldn't, of course, think of these things in a moment. And as for us,
it would have been well and good, had they never suggested themselves to
our minds; but since they have, we should be the more to blame did we
not tell you anything about them, Madame. Of late, I have racked my
mind, both day and night on this score; and though I couldn't very well
confide to any one, my lamp alone knows everything!"
After listening to these words, Madame Wang felt as if she had been
blasted by thunder and struck by lightning; and, as they fitted so
appositely with the incident connected with Chin Ch'uan-erh, her heart
was more than ever fired with boundless affection for Hsi Jen. "My dear
girl," she promptly smiled, "it's you, who are gifted with enough
foresight to be able to think of these things so thoroughly. Yet, did I
not also think of them? But so busy have I been these several times that
they slipped from my memory. What you've told me to-day, however, has
brought me to my senses! It's, thanks to you, that the reputation of me,
his mother, and of him, my son, is preserved intact! I really never had
the faintest idea that you were so excellent! But you had better go now;
I know of a way. Yet, just another word. After your remarks to me, I'll
hand him over to your charge; please be careful of him. If you preserve
him from harm, it will be tantamount to preserving me from harm, and I
shall certainly not be ungrateful to you for it."
Hsi Jen said several consecutive yes's, and went on her way. She got
back just in time to see Pao-yü awake. Hsi Jen explained all about the
scented water; and, so intensely delighted was Pao-yü, that he at once
asked that some should be mixed and brought to him to taste. In very
deed, he found it unusually fragrant and good. But as his heart was a
prey to anxiety on Tai-yü's behalf, he was full of longings to despatch
some one to look her up. He was, however, afraid of Hsi Jen. Readily
therefore he devised a plan to first get Hsi Jen out of the way, by
despatching her to Pao-ch'ai's, to borrow a book. After Hsi Jen's
departure, he forthwith called Ch'ing Wen. "Go," he said, "over to Miss
Lin's and see what she's up to. Should she inquire about me, all you
need tell her is that I'm all right."
"What shall I go empty-handed for?" rejoined Ch'ing Wen. "If I were, at
least, to give her a message, it would look as if I had gone for
"I have no message that you can give her," added Pao-yü.
"If it can't be that," suggested Ch'ing Wen; "I might either take
something over or fetch something. Otherwise, when I get there, what
excuse will I be able to find?"
After some cogitation, Pao-yü stretched out his hand and, laying hold of
a couple of handkerchiefs, he threw them to Ch'ing Wen. "These will do,"
he smiled. "Just tell her that I bade you take them to her."
"This is strange!" exclaimed Ch'ing Wen. "Will she accept these two half
worn-out handkerchiefs! She'll besides get angry and say that you were
making fun of her."
"Don't worry yourself about that;" laughed Pao-yü. "She will certainly
know what I mean."
Ch'ing Wen, at this rejoinder, had no help but to take the handkerchiefs
and to go to the Hsiao Hsiang lodge, where she discovered Ch'un Hsien in
the act of hanging out handkerchiefs on the railings to dry. As soon as
she saw her walk in, she vehemently waved her hand. "She's gone to
sleep!" she said. Ch'ing Wen, however, entered the room. It was in
perfect darkness. There was not even so much as a lantern burning, and
Tai-yü was already ensconced in bed. "Who is there?" she shouted.
"It's Ch'ing Wen!" promptly replied Ch'ing Wen.
"What are you up to?" Tai-yü inquired.
"Mr. Secundus," explained Ch'ing Wen, "sends you some handkerchiefs,
Tai-yü's spirits sunk as soon as she caught her reply. "What can he have
sent me handkerchiefs for?" she secretly reasoned within herself. "Who
gave him these handkerchiefs?" she then asked aloud. "They must be fine
ones, so tell him to keep them and give them to some one else; for I
don't need such things at present."
"They're not new," smiled Ch'ing Wen. "They are of an ordinary kind, and
Hearing this, Lin Tai-yü felt downcast. But after minutely searching her
heart, she at last suddenly grasped his meaning and she hastily
observed: "Leave them and go your way."
Ch'ing Wen was compelled to put them down; and turning round, she betook
herself back again. But much though she turned things over in her mind
during the whole of her way homewards, she did not succeed in solving
When Tai-yü guessed the object of the handkerchief, her very soul
unawares flitted from her. "As Pao-yü has gone to such pains," she
pondered, "to try and probe this dejection of mine, I have, on one hand,
sufficient cause to feel gratified; but as there's no knowing what my
dejection will come to in the future there is, on the other, enough to
make me sad. Here he abruptly and deliberately sends me a couple of
handkerchiefs; and, were it not that he has divined my inmost feelings,
the mere sight of these handkerchiefs would be enough to make me treat
the whole thing as ridiculous. The secret exchange of presents between
us," she went on to muse, "fills me also with fears; and the thought
that those tears, which I am ever so fond of shedding to myself, are of
no avail, drives me likewise to blush with shame."
And by dint of musing and reflecting, her heart began, in a moment, to
bubble over with such excitement that, much against her will, her
thoughts in their superabundance rolled on incessantly. So speedily
directing that a lamp should be lighted, she little concerned herself
about avoiding suspicion, shunning the use of names, or any other such
things, and set to work and rubbed the ink, soaked the pen, and then
wrote the following stanzas on the two old handkerchiefs:
Vain in my eyes the tears collect; those tears in vain they flow,
Which I in secret shed; they slowly drop; but for whom though?
The silk kerchiefs, which he so kindly troubled to give me,
How ever could they not with anguish and distress fill me?
The second ran thus:
Like falling pearls or rolling gems, they trickle on the sly.
Daily I have no heart for aught; listless all day am I.
As on my pillow or sleeves' edge I may not wipe them dry,
I let them dot by dot, and drop by drop to run freely.
And the third:
The coloured thread cannot contain the pearls cov'ring my face.
Tears were of old at Hsiang Chiang shed, but faint has waxed each
Outside my window thousands of bamboos, lo, also grow,
But whether they be stained with tears or not, I do not know.
Lin Tai-yü was still bent upon going on writing, but feeling her whole
body burn like fire, and her face scalding hot, she advanced towards the
cheval-glass, and, raising the embroidered cover, she looked in. She saw
at a glance that her cheeks wore so red that they, in very truth, put
even the peach blossom to the shade. Yet little did she dream that from
this date her illness would assume a more serious phase. Shortly, she
threw herself on the bed, and, with the handkerchiefs still grasped in
her hand, she was lost in a reverie.
Putting her aside, we will now take up our story with Hsi Jen. She went
to pay a visit to Pao-ch'ai, but as it happened, Pao-ch'ai was not in
the garden, but had gone to look up her mother. Hsi Jen, however, could
not very well come back with empty hands so she waited until the second
watch, when Pao-ch'ai eventually returned to her quarters.
Indeed, so correct an estimate of Hsüeh P'an's natural disposition did
Pao-ch'ai ever have, that from an early moment she entertained within
herself some faint suspicion that it must have been Hsüeh P'an, who had
instigated some person or other to come and lodge a complaint against
Pao-yü. And when she also unexpectedly heard Hsi Jen's disclosures on
the subject, she became more positive in her surmises. The one, who had,
in fact, told Hsi Jen was Pei Ming. But Pei Ming too had arrived at the
conjecture in his own mind, and could not adduce any definite proof, so
that every one treated his statements as founded partly on mere
suppositions, and partly on actual facts; but, despite this, they felt
quite certain that it was (Hsüeh P'an) who had intrigued.
Hsüeh P'an had always enjoyed this reputation; but on this particular
instance the harm was not, actually, his own doing; yet as every one,
with one consent, tenaciously affirmed that it was he, it was no easy
matter for him, much though he might argue, to clear himself of blame.
Soon after his return, on this day, from a drinking bout out of doors,
he came to see his mother; but finding Pao-ch'ai in her rooms, they
exchanged a few irrelevant remarks. "I hear," he consequently asked,
"that cousin Pao-yü has got into trouble; why is it?"
Mrs. Hsüeh was at the time much distressed on this score. As soon
therefore as she caught this question, she gnashed her teeth with rage,
and shouted: "You good-for-nothing spiteful fellow! It's all you who are
at the bottom of this trouble; and do you still have the face to come
and ply me with questions?"
These words made Hsüeh P'an wince. "When did I stir up any trouble?" he
"Do you still go on shamming!" cried Mrs. Hsüeh. "Every one knows full
well that it was you, who said those things, and do you yet
"Were every one," insinuated Hsüeh P'an, "to assert that I had committed
murder, would you believe even that?"
"Your very sister is well aware that they were said by you." Mrs. Hsüeh
continued, "and is it likely that she would accuse you falsely, pray?"
"Mother," promptly interposed Pao-ch'ai, "you shouldn't be brawling with
brother just now! If you wait quietly, we'll find out the plain and
honest truth." Then turning towards Hsüeh P'an: "Whether it's you, who
said those things or not," she added, "it's of no consequence. The whole
affair, besides, is a matter of the past, so what need is there for any
arguments; they will only be making a mountain of a mole-hill! I have
just one word of advice to give you; don't, from henceforward, be up to
so much reckless mischief outside; and concern yourself a little less
with other people's affairs! All you do is day after day to associate
with your friends and foolishly gad about! You are a happy-go-lucky sort
of creature! If nothing happens well and good; but should by and bye
anything turn up, every one will, though it be none of your doing,
imagine again that you are at the bottom of it! Not to speak of others,
why I myself will be the first to suspect you!"
Hsüeh P'an was naturally open-hearted and plain-spoken, and could not
brook anything in the way of innuendoes, so, when on the one side,
Pao-ch'ai advised him not to foolishly gad about, and his mother, on the
other, hinted that he had a foul tongue, and that he was the cause that
Pao-yü had been flogged, he at once got so exasperated that he jumped
about in an erratic manner and did all in his power, by vowing and
swearing, to explain matters. "Who has," he ejaculated, heaping abuse
upon every one, "laid such a tissue of lies to my charge! I'd like to
take the teeth of that felon and pull them out! It's clear as day that
they shove me forward as a target; for now that Pao-yü has been flogged
they find no means of making a display of their zeal. But, is Pao-yü
forsooth the lord of the heavens that because he has had a thrashing
from his father, the whole household should be fussing for days? The
other time, he behaved improperly, and my uncle gave him two whacks. But
our venerable ancestor came, after a time, somehow or other, I don't
know how, to hear about it, and, maintaining that it was all due to Mr.
Chia Chen, she called him before her, and gave him a good blowing up.
And here to-day, they have gone further, and involved me. They may drag
me in as much as they like, I don't fear a rap! But won't it be better
for me to go into the garden, and take Pao-yü and give him a bit of my
mind and kill him? I can then pay the penalty by laying down my life for
his, and one and all will enjoy peace and quiet!"
While he clamoured and shouted, he looked about him for the bar of the
door, and, snatching it up, he there and then was running off, to the
consternation of Mrs. Hsüeh, who clutched him in her arms. "You
murderous child of retribution!" she cried. "Whom would you go and beat?
come first and assail me?"
From excitement Hsüeh P'an's eyes protruded like copper bells. "What are
you up to," he vociferated, "that you won't let me go where I please,
and that you deliberately go on calumniating me? But every day that
Pao-yü lives, the longer by that day I have to bear a false charge, so
it's as well that we should both die that things be cleared up?"
Pao-ch'ai too hurriedly rushed forward. "Be patient a bit!" she exhorted
him. "Here's mamma in an awful state of despair. Not to mention that it
should be for you to come and pacify her, you contrariwise kick up all
this rumpus! Why, saying nothing about her who is your parent, were even
a perfect stranger to advise you, it would be meant for your good! But