Part 8 out of 14
make up my mind to! I had better pack up a few and take them home and
give them to them as specimens!"
Her remarks amused every one.
"When you start for home," dowager lady Chia said, "I'll give you a
whole porcelain jar full of them; so you may as well eat these first,
while they are hot!"
The rest of the inmates selected such of the fruits as took their fancy,
but after they had helped themselves to one or two, they felt satisfied.
Goody Liu, however, had never before touched such delicacies. These
were, in addition, made small, dainty, and without the least semblance
of clumsiness, so when she and Pan Erh had served themselves to a few of
each sort, half the contents of the dish vanished. But what remained of
them were then, at the instance of lady Feng, put into two plates, and
sent, together with a partition-box, to Wen Kuan and the other singing
girls as their share.
At an unexpected moment, they perceived the nurse come in with Ta
Chieh-erh in her arms, and they all induced her to have a romp with them
for a time. But while Ta Chieh-erh was holding a large pumelo and
amusing herself with it, she casually caught sight of Pan Erh with a
'Buddha's hand.' Ta Chieh would have it. A servant-girl endeavoured to
coax (Pan-Erh) to surrender it to her, but Ta Chieh-erh, unable to curb
her impatience, burst out crying. It was only after the pumelo had been
given to Pan-Erh, and that the 'Buddha's hand' had, by dint of much
humouring, been got from Pan Erh and given to her, that she stopped
Pan Erh had played quite long enough with the 'Buddha's hand,' and had,
at the moment, his two hands laden with fruits, which he was in the
course of eating. When he suddenly besides saw how scented and round the
pumelo was, the idea dawned on him that it was more handy for play, and,
using it as a ball, he kicked it along and went off to have some fun,
relinquishing at once every thought of the 'Buddha's hand.'
By this time dowager lady Chia and the other members had had tea, so
leading off again goody Liu, they threaded their way to the Lung Ts'ui
monastery. Miao YŁ hastened to usher them in. On their arrival in the
interior of the court, they saw the flowers and trees in luxuriant
"Really," smiled old lady Chia, "it's those people, who devote
themselves to an ascetic life and have nothing to do, who manage, by
constant repairs, to make their places much nicer than those of others!"
As she spoke, she wended her steps towards the Eastern hall. Miao YŁ,
with a face beaming with smiles, made way for her to walk in. "We've
just been filling ourselves with wines and meats," dowager lady Chia
observed, "and with the josses you've got in here, we shall be guilty of
profanity. We'd better therefore sit here! But give us some of that good
tea of yours; and we'll get off so soon as we have had a cup of it."
Pao-yŁ watched Miao YŁ's movements intently, when he noticed her lay
hold of a small tea-tray, fashioned in the shape of a peony, made of red
carved lacquer, and inlaid with designs in gold representing a dragon
ensconced in the clouds with the character 'longevity' clasped in its
jaws, a tray, which contained a small multicoloured cup with cover,
fabricated at the 'Ch'eng' Kiln, and present it to his grandmother.
"I don't care for 'Liu An' tea!" old lady Chia exclaimed.
"I know it; but this is old 'ChŁn Mei,'" Miao YŁ answered with a smile.
Dowager lady Chia received the cup. "What water is this?" she went on to
"It's rain water collected last year;" Miao YŁ added by way of reply.
Old lady Chia readily drank half a cup of the tea; and smiling, she
proffered it to goody Liu. "Just you taste this tea!" she said.
Goody Liu drained the remainder with one draught. "It's good, of
course," she remarked laughingly, "but it's rather weak! It would be far
better were it brewed a little stronger!"
Dowager lady Chia and all the inmates laughed. But subsequently, each of
them was handed a thin, pure white covered cup, all of the same make,
originating from the 'Kuan' kiln. Miao YŁ, however, soon gave a tug at
Pao-ch'ai's and Tai-yŁ's lapels, and both quitted the apartment along
with her. But Pao-yŁ too quietly followed at their heels. Spying Miao YŁ
show his two cousins into a side-room, Pao-ch'ai take a seat in the
court, Tai-yŁ seat herself on Miao YŁ's rush mat, and Miao YŁ herself
approach a stove, fan the fire and boil some water, with which she
brewed another pot of tea, Pao-yŁ walked in. "Are you bent upon drinking
your own private tea?" he smiled.
"Here you rush again to steal our tea," the two girls laughed with one
accord. "There's none for you!"
But just as Miao YŁ was going to fetch a cup, she perceived an old
taoist matron bring away the tea things, which had been used in the
upper rooms. "Don't put that 'Ch'eng' kiln tea-cup by!" Miao YŁ hastily
shouted. "Go and put it outside!"
Pao-yŁ understood that it must be because old goody Liu had drunk out of
it that she considered it too dirty to keep. He then saw Miao YŁ produce
two other cups. The one had an ear on the side. On the bowl itself were
engraved in three characters: 'calabash cup,' in the plain 'square'
writing. After these, followed a row of small characters in the 'true'
style, to the effect that the cup had been an article much treasured by
Wang K'ai. Next came a second row of small characters stating: 'that in
the course of the fourth moon of the fifth year of Yuan Feng, of the
Sung dynasty, Su Shih of Mei Shan had seen it in the 'Secret' palace.
This cup, Miao YŁ filled, and handed to Pao-ch'ai.
The other cup was, in appearance, as clumsy as it was small; yet on it
figured an engraved inscription, consisting of 'spotted rhinoceros cup,'
in three 'seal' characters, which bore the semblance of pendent pearls.
Miao YŁ replenished this cup and gave it to Tai-yŁ; and taking the green
jade cup, which she had, on previous occasions, often used for her own
tea, she filled it and presented it to Pao-yŁ.
"'The rules observed in the world,' the adage says, 'must be
impartial,'" Pao-yŁ smiled. "But while my two cousins are handling those
antique and rare gems, here am I with this coarse object!"
"Is this a coarse thing?" Miao YŁ exclaimed. "Why, I'm making no
outrageous statement when I say that I'm inclined to think that it is by
no means certain that you could lay your hand upon any such coarse thing
as this in your home!"
"'Do in the country as country people do,' the proverb says," Pao-yŁ
laughingly rejoined. "So when one gets in a place like this of yours,
one must naturally look down upon every thing in the way of gold,
pearls, jade and precious stones, as coarse rubbish!"
This sentiment highly delighted Miao YŁ. So much so, that producing
another capacious cup, carved out of a whole bamboo root, which with its
nine curves and ten rings, with twenty knots in each ring, resembled a
coiled dragon, "Here," she said with a face beaming with smiles, "there
only remains this one! Can you manage this large cup?"
"I can!" Pao-yŁ vehemently replied, with high glee.
"Albeit you have the stomach to tackle all it holds," Miao YŁ laughed,
"I haven't got so much tea for you to waste! Have you not heard how that
the first cup is the 'taste'-cup; the second 'the stupid-thing-for-
quenching-one's-thirst,' and the third 'the drink-mule' cup? But were
you now to go in for this huge cup, why what more wouldn't that be?"
At these words, Pao-ch'ai, Tai-yŁ and Pao-yŁ simultaneously indulged in
laughter. But Miao-yŁ seized the teapot, and poured well-nigh a whole
cupful of tea into the big cup. Pao-yŁ tasted some carefully, and found
it, in real truth, so exceptionally soft and pure that he extolled it
with incessant praise.
"If you've had any tea this time," Miao-YŁ pursued with a serious
expression about her face, "it's thanks to these two young ladies; for
had you come alone, I wouldn't have given you any."
"I'm well aware of this," Pao-yŁ laughingly rejoined, "so I too will
receive no favour from your hands, but simply express my thanks to these
two cousins of mine, and have done!"
"What you say makes your meaning clear enough!" Miao-yŁ said, when she
heard his reply.
"Is this rain water from last year?" Tai-yŁ then inquired.
"How is it," smiled Miao YŁ sardonically, "that a person like you can be
such a boor as not to be able to discriminate water, when you taste it?
This is snow collected from the plum blossom, five years back, when I
was in the P'an Hsiang temple at HsŁan Mu. All I got was that flower
jar, green as the devil's face, full, and as I couldn't make up my mind
to part with it and drink it, I interred it in the ground, and only
opened it this summer. I've had some of it once before, and this is the
second time. But how is it you didn't detect it, when you put it to your
lips? Has rain water, obtained a year back, ever got such a soft and
pure flavour? and how possibly could it be drunk at all?"
Tai-yŁ knew perfectly what a curious disposition she naturally had, and
she did not think it advisable to start any lengthy discussion with her.
Nor did she feel justified to protract her stay, so after sipping her
tea, she intimated to Pao-ch'ai her intention to go, and they quitted
Pao-yŁ gave a forced smile to Miao YŁ. "That cup," he said, "is, of
course, dirty; but is it not a pity to put it away for no valid reason?
To my idea it would be preferable, wouldn't it? to give it to that poor
old woman; for were she to sell it, she could have the means of
subsistence! What do you say, will it do?"
Miao YŁ listened to his suggestion, and then nodded her head, after some
reflection. "Yes, that will be all right!" she answered. "Lucky for her
I've never drunk a drop out of that cup, for had I, I would rather have
smashed it to atoms than have let her have it! If you want to give it to
her, I don't mind a bit about it; but you yourself must hand it to her!
Now, be quick and clear it away at once!"
"Of course; quite so!" Pao-yŁ continued. "How could you ever go and
speak to her? Things would then come to a worse pass. You too would be
contaminated! If you give it to me, it will be all right."
Miao YŁ there and then directed some one to fetch it and to give it to
Pao-yŁ. When it was brought, Pao-yŁ took charge of it. "Wait until we've
gone out," he proceeded, "and I'll call a few servant-boys and bid them
carry several buckets of water from the stream and wash the floors; eh,
"Yes, that would be better!" Miao YŁ smiled. "The only thing is that you
must tell them to bring the water, and place it outside the entrance
door by the foot of the wall; for they mustn't come in."
"This goes without saying!" Pao-yŁ said; and, while replying, he
produced the cup from inside his sleeve, and handed it to a young
waiting-maid from dowager lady Chia's apartments to hold. "To-morrow,"
he told her, "give this to goody Liu to take with her, when she starts
on her way homewards!"
By the time he made (the girl) understand the charge he entrusted her
with, his old grandmother issued out and was anxious to return home.
Miao YŁ did not exert herself very much to induce her to prolong her
visit; but seeing her as far the main gate, she turned round and bolted
the doors. But without devoting any further attention to her, we will
now allude to dowager lady Chia.
She felt thoroughly tired and exhausted. To such a degree, that she
desired Madame Wang, Ying Ch'un and her sisters to see that Mrs. HsŁeh
had some wine, while she herself retired to the Tao Hsiang village to
rest. Lady Feng immediately bade some servants fetch a bamboo chair. On
its arrival, dowager lady Chia seated herself in it, and two matrons
carried her off hemmed in by lady Feng, Li Wan and a bevy of
servant-girls, and matrons. But let us now leave her to herself, without
any additional explanations.
During this while, Mrs. HsŁeh too said good bye and departed. Madame
Wang then dismissed Wen Kuan and the other girls, and, distributing the
eatables, that had been collected in the partition-boxes, to the
servant-maids to go and feast on, she availed herself of the leisure
moments to lie off; so reclining as she was, on the couch, which had
been occupied by her old relative a few minutes back, she bade a young
maid lower the portiŤre; after which, she asked her to massage her legs.
"Should our old lady yonder send any message, mind you call me at once,"
she proceeded to impress on her mind, and, laying herself down, she went
Pao-yŁ, Hsiang-yŁn and the rest watched the servant-girls take the
partition-boxes and place them among the rocks, and seat themselves some
on boulders, others on the turf-covered ground, some lean against the
trees, others squat down besides the pool, and thoroughly enjoy
themselves. But in a little time, they also perceived YŁan Yang arrive.
Her object in coming was to carry off goody Liu for a stroll, so in a
body they followed in their track, with a view of deriving some fun.
Shortly, they got under the honorary gateway put up in the additional
grounds, reserved for the imperial consort's visits to her parents, and
old goody Liu shouted aloud: "Ai-yoh! What! Is there another big temple
While speaking, she prostrated herself and knocked her head, to the
intense amusement of the company, who were quite doubled up with
"What are you laughing at?" goody Liu inquired. "I can decipher the
characters on this honorary gateway. Over at our place temples of this
kind are exceedingly plentiful; and they've all got archways like this!
These characters give the name of the temple."
"Can you make out from those characters what temple this is?" they
Goody Liu quickly raised her head, and, pointing at the inscription,
"Are'nt these," she said, "the four characters 'Pearly Emperor's
Everybody laughed. They clapped their hands and applauded. But when
about to chaff her again, goody Liu experienced a rumbling noise in her
stomach, and vehemently pulling a young servant-girl, and asking her for
a couple of sheets of paper, she began immediately to loosen her
garments. "It won't do in here!" one and all laughingly shouted out to
her, and quickly they directed a matron to lead her away. When they got
at the north-east corner, the matron pointed the proper place out to
her, and in high spirits she walked off and went to have some rest.
Goody Liu had taken plenty of wine; she could not too touch yellow wine;
she had, what is more, drunk and eaten so many fat things that in the
thirst, which supervened, she had emptied several cups of tea; the
result was that she unavoidably got looseness of the bowels. She
therefore squatted for ever so long before she felt any relief. But on
her exit from the private chamber, the wind blew the wine to her head.
Besides, being a woman well up in years, she felt, upon suddenly rising
from a long squatting position, her eyes grow so dim and her head so
giddy that she could not make out the way. She gazed on all four
quarters, but the whole place being covered with trees, rockeries,
towers, terraces, and houses, she was quite at a loss how to determine
her whereabouts, and where each road led to. She had no alternative but
to follow a stone road, and to toddle on her way with leisurely step.
But when she drew near a building, she could not make out where the door
could be. After searching and searching, she accidentally caught sight
of a bamboo fence. "Here's another trellis with flat bean plants
creeping on it!" Goody Liu communed within herself. While giving way to
reflection, she skirted the flower-laden hedge, and discovering a
moonlike, cavelike, entrance, she stepped in. Here she discerned,
stretching before her eyes a sheet of water, forming a pond, which
measured no more than seven or eight feet in breadth. Its banks were
paved with slabs of stone. Its jadelike waves flowed in a limpid stream
towards the opposite direction. At the upper end, figured a slab of
white marble, laid horizontally over the surface. Goody Liu wended her
steps over the slab and followed the raised stone-road; then turning two
bends, in the lake, an entrance into a house struck her gaze. Forthwith,
she crossed the doorway, but her eyes were soon attracted by a young
girl, who advanced to greet her with a smile playing upon her lips.
"The young ladies," goody Liu speedily remarked laughing, "have cast me
adrift; they made me knock about, until I found my way in here."
But seeing, after addressing her, that the girl said nothing by way of
reply, goody Liu approached her and seized her by the hand, when, with a
crash, she fell against the wooden partition wall and bumped her head so
that it felt quite sore. Upon close examination, she discovered that it
was a picture. "Do pictures really so bulge out!" Goody Liu mused within
herself, and, as she exercised her mind with these cogitations, she
scanned it and rubbed her hand over it. It was perfectly even all over.
She nodded her head, and heaved a couple of sighs. But the moment she
turned round, she espied a small door over which hung a soft portiŤre,
of leek-green colour, bestrewn with embroidered flowers. Goody Liu
lifted the portiŤre and walked in. Upon raising her head, and casting a
glance round, she saw the walls, artistically carved in fretwork. On all
four sides, lutes, double-edged swords, vases and censers were stuck
everywhere over the walls; and embroidered covers and gauze nets,
glistened as brightly as gold, and shed a lustre vying with that of
pearls. Even the bricks, on the ground, on which she trod, were jadelike
green, inlaid with designs, so that her eyes got more and more dazzled.
She tried to discover an exit, but where could she find a doorway? On
the left, was a bookcase. On the right, a screen. As soon as she
repaired behind the screen, she faced a door; but, she then caught sight
of another old dame stepping in from outside, and advancing towards her.
Goody Liu was wonderstruck. Her mind was full of uncertainty as to
whether it might not be her son-in-law's mother. "I expect," she felt
prompted to ask with vehemence, "you went to the trouble of coming to
hunt for me, as you didn't see me turn up at home for several days, eh?
But what young lady introduced you in here?" Then noticing that her
whole head was bedecked with flowers, old goody Liu laughed. "How
ignorant of the ways of the world you are!" she said. "Seeing the nice
flowers in this garden, you at once set to work, forgetful of all
consequences, and loaded your pate with them!"
However, while she derided her, the other old dame simply laughed,
without making any rejoinder. But the recollection suddenly flashed to
her memory that she had often heard of some kind of cheval-glasses,
found in wealthy and well-to-do families, and, "May it not be," (she
wondered), "my own self reflected in this glass!" After concluding this
train of thoughts, she put out her hands, and feeling it and then
minutely scrutinising it, she realised that the four wooden partition
walls were made of carved blackwood, into which mirrors had been
inserted. "These have so far impeded my progress," she consequently
exclaimed, "and how am I to manage to get out?"
As she soliloquised, she kept on rubbing the mirror. This mirror was, in
fact, provided with some western mechanism, which enabled it to open and
shut, so while goody Liu inadvertently passed her hands, quite at random
over its surface, the pressure happily fell on the right spot, and
opening the contrivance, the mirror flung round, exposing a door to
view. Old goody Liu was full of amazement as well as of admiration. With
hasty step, she egressed. Her eyes unexpectedly fell on a most handsome
set of bed-curtains. But being at the time still seven or eight tenths
in the wind, and quite tired out from her tramp, she with one jump
squatted down on the bed, saying to herself: "I'll just have a little
rest." So little, however, did she, contrary to her expectations, have
any control over herself, that, as she reeled backwards and forwards,
her eyes got quite drowsy, and then the moment she threw herself in a
recumbent position, she dropped into a sound sleep.
But let us now see what the others were up to. They waited for her and
waited; but they saw nothing of her. Pan Erh got, in the absence of his
grandmother, so distressed that he melted into tears. "May she not have
fallen into the place?" one and all laughingly observed. "Be quick and
tell some one to go and have a look!"
Two matrons were directed to go in search of her; but they returned and
reported that she was not to be found. The whole party instituted a
search in every nook and corner, but nothing could be seen of her.
"She was so drunk," Hsi Jen suggested, "that she's sure to have lost her
way, and following this road, got into our back-rooms. Should she have
crossed to the inner side of the hedge, she must have come to the door
of the backhouse and got in. Nevertheless, the young maids, she must
have come across, must know something about her. If she did not get
inside the hedge, but continued in a south westerly direction, she's all
right, if she made a detour and walked out. But if she hasn't done so,
why, she'll have enough of roaming for a good long while! I had better
therefore go and see what she's up to."
With these words still on her lips, she retraced her footsteps and
repaired into the I Hung court. She called out to the servants, but, who
would have thought it, the whole bevy of young maids, attached to those
rooms, had seized the opportunity to go and have a romp, so Hsi Jen
straightway entered the door of the house. As soon as she turned the
multicoloured embroidered screen, the sound of snoring as loud as peals
of thunder, fell on her ear. Hastily she betook herself inside, but her
nostrils were overpowered by the foul air of wine and w..d, which
infected the apartment. At a glance, she discovered old goody Liu lying
on the bed, face downwards, with hands sprawled out and feet knocking
about all over the place. Hsi Jen sustained no small shock. With
precipitate hurry, she rushed up to her, and, laying hold of her, lying
as she was more dead than alive, she pushed her about until she
succeeded in rousing her to her senses. Old goody Liu was startled out
of her sleep. She opened wide her eyes, and, realising that Hsi Jen
stood before her, she speedily crawled up. "Miss!" she pleaded. "I do
deserve death! I have done what I shouldn't; but I haven't in any way
soiled the bed."
So saying, she swept her hands over it. But Hsi Jen was in fear and
trembling lest the suspicions of any inmate should be aroused, and lest
Pao-yŁ should come to know of it, so all she did was to wave her hand
towards her, bidding her not utter a word. Then with alacrity grasping
three or four handfuls of 'Pai Ho' incense, she heaped it on the large
tripod, which stood in the centre of the room, and put the lid back
again; delighted at the idea that she had not been so upset as to be
"It doesn't matter!" she quickly rejoined in a low tone of voice with a
smile, "I'm here to answer for this. Come along with me!"
While old goody Liu expressed her readiness to comply with her wishes,
she followed Hsi Jen out into the quarters occupied by the young maids.
Here (Hsi Jen) desired her to take a seat. "Mind you say," she enjoined
her, "that you were so drunk that you stretched on a boulder and had a
"All right! I will!" old goody Liu promised.
Hsi Jen afterwards helped her to two cups of tea, when she, at length,
got over the effects of the wine. "What young lady's room is this that
it is so beautiful?" she then inquired. "It seemed to me just as if I
had gone to the very heavenly palace."
Hsi Jen gave a faint smile. "This one?" she asked. "Why, it's our master
Secundus', Mr. Pao's bedroom."
Old goody Liu was quite taken aback, and could not even presume to utter
a sound. But Hsi Jen led her out across the front compound; and, when
they met the inmates of the family, she simply explained to them that
she had found her fast asleep on the grass, and brought her along. No
one paid any heed to the excuse she gave, and the subject was dropped.
Presently, dowager lady Chia awoke, and the evening meal was at once
served in the Tao Hsiang Ts'un. Dowager lady Chia was however quite
listless, and felt so little inclined to eat anything that she forthwith
got into a small open chair, with bamboo seat, and returned to her suite
of rooms to rest. But she insisted that lady Feng and her companions
should go and have their repast, so the young ladies eventually
adjourned once more into the garden.
But, reader, you do not know the sequel, so peruse the circumstances
given in detail in the next chapter.
The Princess of Heng Wu dispels, with sweet words, some insane
The inmate of Hsiao Hsiang puts, with excellent repartee, the final
touch to the jokes made about goody Liu.
We will now resume our story by adding that, on the return of the young
ladies into the garden, they had their meal. This over, they parted
company, and nothing more need be said about them. We will notice,
however, that old goody Liu took Pan Erh along with her, and came first
and paid a visit to lady Feng. "We must certainly start for home
to-morrow, as soon as it is daylight," she said. "I've stayed here, it's
true, only two or three days, but in these few days I have reaped
experience in everything that I had not seen from old till now. It would
be difficult to find any one as compassionate of the poor and
considerate to the old as your venerable dame, your Madame Wang, your
young ladies, and the girls too attached to the various rooms, have all
shown themselves in their treatment of me! When I get home now, I shall
have no other means of showing how grateful I am to you than by
purchasing a lot of huge joss-sticks and saying daily prayers to Buddha
on your behalf; and if he spares you all to enjoy a long life of a
hundred years my wishes will be accomplished."
"Don't be so exultant!" lady Feng smilingly replied. "It's all on
account of you that our old ancestor has fallen ill, by exposing herself
to draughts and that she suffers from disturbed sleep; also that our Ta
Chieh-erh has caught a chill and is laid up at home with fever."
Goody Liu, at these words, speedily heaved a sigh. "Her venerable
ladyship," she said, "is a person advanced in years and not accustomed
to any intense fatigue!"
"She has never before been in such high spirits as yesterday!" lady Feng
observed. "As you were here, so anxious was she to let you see
everything, that she trudged over the greater part of the garden. And Ta
Chieh-erh was given a piece of cake by Madame Wang, when I came to hunt
you up, and she ate it, who knows in what windy place, and began at once
to get feverish."
"Ta Chieh-erh," goody Liu remarked, "hasn't, I fancy, often put her foot
into the garden; and young people like her mustn't really go into
strange places, for she's not like our children, who are able to use
their legs! In what graveyards don't they ramble about! A puff of wind
may, on the one hand, have struck her, it's not at all unlikely; or
being, on the other, so chaste in body, and her eyes also so pure she
may, it is to be feared, have come across some spirit or other. I can't
help thinking therefore that you should consult some book of exorcisms
on her behalf; for mind she may have run up against some evil
This remark suggested the idea to lady Feng. There and then she called
P'ing Erh to fetch the 'Jade Box Record.' When brought, she desired
Ts'ai Ming to look over it for her. Ts'ai Ming turned over the pages for
a time, and then read: 'Those who fall ill on the 25th day of the 8th
moon have come across, in a due westerly quarter, of some flower spirit;
they feel heavy, with no inclination for drink or food. Take seven
sheets of white paper money, and, advancing forty steps due west, burn
them and exorcise the spirit; recovery will follow at once!'"
"There's really no mistake about that!" lady Feng smiled. "Are there not
flower spirits in the garden? But what I dread is that our old lady
mayn't have come across one too."
Saying this, she bade a servant purchase two lots of paper money. On
their arrival, she sent for two proper persons, the one to exorcise the
spirits for dowager lady Chia and the other to expel them from Ta
Chieh-erh; and these observances over, Ta Chieh-erh did, in effect, drop
quietly to sleep.
"It's verily people advanced in years like you," lady Feng smilingly
exclaimed; "who've gone through many experiences! This Ta Chieh-erh of
mine has often been inclined to ail, and it has quite puzzled me to make
out how and why it was."
"This isn't anything out of the way!" goody Liu said. "Affluent and
honourable people bring up their offspring to be delicate. So naturally,
they are not able to endure the least hardship! Moreover, that young
child of yours is so excessively cuddled that she can't stand it. Were
you, therefore, my lady, to pamper her less from henceforth, she'll
"There's plenty of reason in that too!" lady Feng observed. "But it
strikes me that she hasn't as yet got a name, so do give her one in
order that she may borrow your long life! In the next place, you are
country-people, and are, after all,--I don't expect you'll get angry
when I mention it,--somewhat in poor circumstances. Were a person then
as poor as you are to suggest a name for her, you may, I trust, have the
effect of counteracting this influence for her."
When old goody Liu heard this proposal, she immediately gave herself up
to reflection. "I've no idea of the date of her birth!" she smiled after
"She really was born on no propitious date!" lady Feng replied. "By a
remarkable coincidence she came into the world on the seventh day of the
"This is certainly splendid!" old goody Lin laughed with alacrity. "You
had better name her at once Ch'iao Chieh-erh (seventh moon and
ingenuity). This is what's generally called: combating poison by poison
and attacking fire by fire. If therefore your ladyship fixes upon this
name of mine, she will, for a surety, attain a long life of a hundred
years; and when she by and bye grows up to be a big girl, every one of
you will be able to have a home and get a patrimony! Or if, at any time,
there occur anything inauspicious and she has to face adversity, why it
will inevitably change into prosperity; and if she comes across any evil
fortune, it will turn into good fortune. And this will all arise from
this one word, 'Ch'iao' (ingenuity.)"
Lady Feng was, needless to say, delighted by what she heard, and she
lost no time in expressing her gratitude. "If she be preserved," she
exclaimed, "to accomplish your good wishes, it will be such a good
thing!" Saying this, she called P'ing Erh. "As you and I are bound to be
busy to-morrow," she said, "and won't, I fear, be able to spare any
leisure moments, you'd better, if you have nothing to do now, get ready
the presents for old goody Liu, so as to enable her to conveniently
start at early dawn to-morrow."
"How could I presume to be the cause of such reckless waste?" goody Liu
interposed. "I've already disturbed your peace and quiet for several
days, and were I to also take your things away, I'd feel still less at
ease in my heart!"
"There's nothing much!" lady Feng protested. "They consist simply of a
few ordinary things. But, whether good or bad, do take them along, so
that the people in the same street as yourselves and your next-door
neighbours may have some little excitement, and that it may look as if
you had been on a visit to the city!"
But while she endeavoured to induce the old dame to accept the presents,
she noticed P'ing Erh approach. "Goody Liu," she remarked, "come over
here and see!"
Old goody Liu precipitately followed P'ing Erh into the room on the off
side. Here she saw the stove-couch half full with piles of things. P'ing
Erh took these up one by one and let her have a look at them. "This,"
she explained, "is a roll of that green gauze you asked for yesterday.
Besides this, our lady Feng gives you a piece of thick bluish-white
gauze to use as lining. These are two pieces of pongee, which will do
for wadded coats and jupes as well. In this bundle are two pieces of
silk, for you to make clothes with, for the end of the year. This is a
box containing various home-made cakes. Among them are some you've
already tasted and some you haven't; so take them along, and put them in
plates and invite your friends; they'll be ever so much better than any
that you could buy! These two bags are those in which the melons and
fruit were packed up yesterday. This one has been filled with two
bushels of fine rice, grown in the imperial fields, the like of which
for congee, it would not be easy to get. This one contains fruits from
our garden and all kinds of dry fruits. In this packet, you'll find
eight taels of silver. These various things are presents for you from
our Mistress Secunda. Each of these packets contains fifty taels so that
there are in all a hundred taels; they're the gift of Madame Wang. She
bids you accept them so as to either carry on any trade, for which no
big capital is required, or to purchase several acres of land, in order
that you mayn't henceforward have any more to beg favours of relatives,
or to depend upon friends." Continuing, she added smilingly, in a low
tone of voice, "These two jackets, two jupes, four head bands, and a
bundle of velvet and thread are what I give you, worthy dame, as my
share. These clothes are, it is true, the worse for use, yet I haven't
worn them very much. But if you disdain them, I won't be so presuming as
to say anything."
After mention of each article by P'ing Erh, goody Liu muttered the name
of Buddha, so already she had repeated Buddha's name several thousands
of times. But when she saw the heap of presents which P'ing Erh too
bestowed on her, and the little ostentation with which she did it, she
promptly smiled. "Miss!" she said, "what are you saying? Could I ever
disdain such nice gifts as these! Had I even the money, I couldn't buy
them anywhere. The only thing is that I feel overpowered with shame. If
I keep them, it won't be nice, and if I don't accept them, I shall be
showing myself ungrateful for your kind attention."
"Don't utter all this irrelevant talk!" P'ing Erh laughed. "You and I
are friends; so compose your mind and take the things I gave you just
now! Besides, I have, on my part, something to ask of you. When the
close of the year comes, select a few of your cabbages, dipped in lime,
and dried in the sun, as well as some lentils, flat beans, tomatoes and
pumpkin strips, and various sorts of dry vegetables and bring them over.
We're all, both high or low, fond of such things. These will be quite
enough! We don't want anything else, so don't go to any useless
Goody Liu gave utterance to profuse expressions of gratitude and
signified her readiness to comply with her wishes.
"Just you go to sleep," P'ing Erh urged, "and I'll get the things ready
for you and put them in here. As soon as the day breaks to-morrow, I'll
send the servant-lads to hire a cart and pack them in; don't you
therefore worry yourself in the least on that score!"
Goody Liu felt more and more ineffably grateful. So crossing over, she
again said, with warm protestations of thankfulness, good bye to lady
Feng; after which, she repaired to dowager lady Chia's quarters on this
side, where she slept, with one sleep, during the whole night. Early the
next day, as soon as she had combed her hair and performed her
ablutions, she asked to go and pay her adieus to lady Chia. But as old
lady Chia was unwell, the various members of the family came to see how
she was getting on. On their reappearance outside, they transmitted
orders that the doctor should be sent for. In a little time, a matron
reported that the doctor had arrived, and an old nurse invited dowager
lady Chia to ensconce herself under the curtain.
"I'm an old woman!" lady Chia remonstrated. "Am I not aged enough to be
a mother to that fellow? and am I, pray, to still stand on any
ceremonies with him? There's no need to drop the curtain; I'll see him
as I am, and have done."
Hearing her objections, the matrons fetched a small table, and, laying a
small pillow on it, they directed a servant to ask the doctor in.
Presently, they perceived the trio Chia Chen, Chia Lien, and Chia Jung,
bringing Dr. Wang. Dr. Wang did not presume to use the raised road, but
confining himself to the side steps, he kept pace with Chia Chen until
they reached the platform. Two matrons, who had been standing, one on
either side from an early hour, raised the portiťre. A couple of old
women servants then took the lead and showed the way in. But Pao-yŁ too
appeared on the scene to meet them.
They found old lady Chia seated bolt upright on the couch, dressed in a
blue crape jacket, lined with sheep skin, every curl of which resembled
a pearl. On the right and left stood four young maids, whose hair had
not as yet been allowed to grow, with fly-brushes, finger-bowls, and
other such articles in their hands. Five or six old nurses were also
drawn up on both sides like wings. At the back of the jade-green gauze
mosquito-house were faintly visible several persons in red and green
habiliments, with gems on their heads, and gold trinkets in their
Dr. Wang could not muster the courage to raise his head. With speedy
step, he advanced and paid his obeisance. Dowager lady Chia noticed that
he wore the official dress of the sixth grade, and she accordingly
concluded that he must be an imperial physician. "How are you noble
doctor?" she inquired, forcing a smile. "What is the worthy surname of
this noble doctor?" she then asked Chia Chen.
Chia Chen and his companions made prompt reply. "His surname is Wang,"
"There was once a certain Wang ChŁn-hsiao who filled the chair of
President of the College of Imperial Physicians," dowager lady smilingly
proceeded. "He excelled in feeling the pulse."
Dr. Wang bent his body, and with alacrity he lowered his head and
returned her smile. "That was," he explained, "my grand uncle."
"Is it really so!" laughingly pursued dowager lady Chia, upon catching
this reply. "We can then call ourselves old friends!"
So speaking, she quietly put out her hand and rested it on the small
pillow. A nurse laid hold of a small stool and placed it before the
small table, slightly to the side of it. Dr. Wang bent one knee and took
a seat on the stool. Drooping his head, he felt the pulse of the one
hand for a long while; next, he examined that of the other; after which,
hastily making a curtsey, he bent his head and started on his way out of
"Excuse me for the trouble I've put you to!" dowager lady Chia smiled.
"Chen Erh, escort him outside, and do see that he has a cup of tea."
Chia Chen, Chia Lien and the rest of their companions immediately
acquiesced by uttering several yes's, and once more they led Dr. Wang
into the outer study.
"Your worthy senior," Dr. Wang explained, "has nothing else the matter
with her than a slight chill, which she must have inadvertently
contracted. She needn't, after all, take any medicines; all she need do
is to diet herself and keep warm a little; and she'll get all right. But
I'll now write a prescription, in here. Should her venerable ladyship
care to take any of the medicine, then prepare a dose, according to the
prescription, and let her have it. But should she be loth to have any,
well, never mind, it won't be of any consequence."
Saying this, he wrote the prescription, as he sipped his tea. But when
about to take his leave, he saw a nurse bring Ta Chieh-erh into the
room. "Mr. Wang," she said, "do also have a look at our Chieh Erh!"
Upon hearing her appeal, Dr. Wang immediately rose to his feet. While
she was clasped in her nurse's arms, he rested Ta Chieh-erh's hand on
his left hand and felt her pulse with his right, and rubbing her
forehead, he asked her to put out her tongue and let him see it. "Were I
to express my views about Chieh Erh, you would again abuse me! If she's,
however, kept quiet and allowed to go hungry for a couple of meals,
she'll get over this. There's no necessity for her to take any decocted
medicines. I'll just send her some pills, which you'll have to dissolve
in a preparation of ginger, and give them to her before she goes to
sleep; when she has had these, there will be nothing more the matter
At the conclusion of these recommendations, he bade them goodbye and
took his departure. Chia Chen and his companions then took the
prescription and came and explained to old lady Chia the nature of her
indisposition, and, depositing on the table, the paper given to them by
the doctor, they quitted her presence. But nothing more need be said
Madame Wang and Li Wan, lady Feng, Pao Ch'ai and the other young ladies
noticed, meanwhile, that the doctor had gone, and they eventually
egressed from the back of the mosquito-house. After a short stay, Madame
Wang returned to her quarters. Goody Liu repaired, when she perceived
everything quiet again, into the upper rooms and made her adieus to
dowager lady Chia.
"When you've got any leisure, do pay us another visit," old lady Chia
urged, and bidding Yuan Yang come to her, "Do be careful," she added,
"and see dame Liu safely on her way out; for not being well I can't
escort you myself."
Goody Liu expressed her thanks, and saying good bye a second time, she
betook herself, along with YŁan Yang, into the servants' quarters. Here
YŁan Yang pointed at a bundle on the stove-couch. "These are," she said,
"several articles of clothing, belonging to our old mistress; they were
presented to her in years gone by, by members of our family on her
birthdays and various festivals; her ladyship never wears anything made
by people outside; yet to hoard these would be a downright pity! Indeed,
she hasn't worn them even once. It was yesterday that she told me to get
out two costumes and hand them to you to take along with you, either to
give as presents, or to be worn by some one in your home; but don't make
fun of us! In the box you'll find the flour-fruits, for which you asked.
This bundle contains the medicines to which you alluded the other day.
There are 'plum-blossom-spotted-tongue pills,' and 'purple-gold-
ingot- pills,' also 'vivifying-blood-vessels-pills,' as well as
'driving-offspring and preserving-life pills;' each kind being rolled
up in a sheet bearing the prescription; and the whole lot of them are
packed up in here. While these two are purses for you to wear in the way
of ornaments." So saying, she forthwith loosened the cord, and,
producing two ingots representing pencils, and with 'ju i' on them,
implying 'your wishes will surely be fulfilled,' she drew near and
showed them to her, "Take the purses," she pursued smiling, "but do
leave these behind and give them to me."
Goody Liu was so overjoyed that she had, from an early period, come out
afresh with several thousands of invocations of Buddha's names. When she
therefore heard YŁan Yang's suggestion, "Miss," she quickly rejoined,
"you're at perfect liberty to keep them!"
YŁan Yang perceived that her words were believed by her; so smiling she
once more dropped the ingots into the purse. "I was only joking with you
for fun!" she observed. "I've got a good many like these; keep them
therefore and give them, at the close of the year, to your young
Speaking the while, she espied a young maid walk in with a cup from the
'Ch'eng' kiln, and hand it to old goody Liu. "This," (she said,) "our
master Secundus, Mr. Pao, gives you."
"Whence could I begin enumerating the things I got!" Goody Liu
exclaimed. "In what previous existence did I accomplish anything so
meritorious as to bring to-day this heap of blessings upon me!"
With these words, she eagerly took possession of the cup.
"The clothes I gave you the other day, when I asked you to have a bath,
were my own," YŁan Yang resumed, "and if you don't think them too mean,
I've got a few more, which I would also like to let you have."
Goody Liu thanked her with vehemence, so YŁan Yang, in point of fact,
produced several more articles of clothing, and these she packed up for
her. Goody Liu thereupon expressed a desire to also go into the garden
and take leave of Pao-yŁ and the young ladies, Madame Wang and the other
inmates and to thank them for all they did for her, but YŁan Yang raised
objections. "You can dispense with going!" she remarked. "They don't see
any one just now! But I'll deliver the message for you by and bye! When
you've got any leisure, do come again. Go to the second gate," she went
on to direct an old matron, "and call two servant-lads to come here, and
help this old dame to take her things away!"
After the matron had signified her obedience, YŁan Yang returned with
goody Liu to lady Feng's quarters, on the off part of the mansion, and,
taking the presents as far as the side gate, she bade the servant-lads
carry them out. She herself then saw goody Liu into her curricle and
start on her journey homewards.
But without commenting further on this topic, let us revert to Pao-ch'ai
and the other girls. After breakfast, they recrossed into their
grandmother's rooms and made inquiries about her health. On their way
back to the garden, they reached a point where they had to take
different roads. Pao-ch'ai then called out to Tai-yŁ. "P'in Erh!" she
observed, "come with me; I've got a question to ask you."
Tai-yŁ wended her steps therefore with Pao-ch'ai into the Heng Wu court.
As soon as they entered the house, Pao-ch'ai threw herself into a seat.
"Kneel down!" she smiled. "I want to examine you about something!"
Tai-yŁ could not fathom her object, and consequently laughed. "Look
here." she cried, "this chit Pao has gone clean off her senses! What do
you want to examine me about?"
Pao-ch'ai gave a sardonic smile. "My dear, precious girl, my dear
maiden," she exclaimed, "what utter trash fills your mouth! Just speak
the honest and candid truth, and finish!"
Tai-yŁ could so little guess her meaning that her sole resource was to
smile. Inwardly, however, she could not help beginning to experience
certain misgivings. "What did I say?" she remarked. "You're bent upon
picking out my faults! Speak out and let me hear what it's all about!"
"Do you still pretend to be a fool?" Pao-ch'ai laughed. "When we played
yesterday that game of wine-forfeits, what did you say? I really
couldn't make out any head or tail."
Tai-yŁ, after a moment's reflection, remembered eventually that she had
the previous day been guilty of a slip of the tongue and come out with a
couple of passages from the 'Peony Pavilion,' and the 'Record of the
West Side-house,' and, of a sudden, her face got scarlet with blushes.
Drawing near Pao-ch'ai she threw her arms round her. "My dear cousin!"
she smiled, "I really wasn't conscious of what I was saying! It just
blurted out of my mouth! But now that you've called me to task, I won't
say such things again."
"I've no idea of what you were driving at," Pao-ch'ai laughingly
rejoined. "What I heard you recite sounds so thoroughly unfamiliar to
me, that I beg you to enlighten me!"
"Dear cousin," pleaded Tai-yŁ, "don't tell anyone else! I won't, in the
future, breathe such things again."
Pao-ch'ai noticed how from shame the blood rushed to her face, and how
vehement she was in her entreaties, and she felt both to press her with
questions; so pulling her into a seat to make her have a cup of tea, she
said to her in a gentle tone, "Whom do you take me for? I too am
wayward; from my youth up, yea ever since I was seven or eight, I've
been enough trouble to people! Our family was also what one would term
literary. My grandfather's extreme delight was to be ever with a book in
his hand. At one time, we numbered many members, and sisters and
brothers all lived together; but we had a distaste for wholesome books.
Among my brothers, some were partial to verses; others had a weakness
for blank poetical compositions; and there were none of such works as
the 'Western side-House,' and 'the Guitar,' even up to the hundred and
one books of the 'YŁan' authors, which they hadn't managed to get. These
books they stealthily read behind our backs; but we, on our part,
devoured them, on the sly, without their knowing it. Subsequently, our
father came to get wind of it; and some of us he beat, while others he
scolded; burning some of the books, and throwing away others. It is
therefore as well that we girls shouldn't know anything of letters. Men,
who study books and don't understand the right principle, can't,
moreover, reach the standard of those, who don't go in for books; so how
much more such as ourselves? Even versifying, writing and the like
pursuits aren't in the line of such as you and me. Indeed, neither are
they within the portion of men. Men, who go in for study and fathom the
right principles, should cooperate in the government of the empire, and
should rule the nation; this would be a nobler purpose; but one doesn't
now-a-days hear of the very existence of such persons! Hence, the study
of books makes them worse than they ever were before. But it isn't the
books that ruin them; the misfortune is that they make improper use of
books! That is why study doesn't come up to ploughing and sowing and
trading; as these pursuits exercise no serious pernicious influences. As
far, however, as you and I go, we should devote our minds simply to
matters connected with needlework and spinning; for we will then be
fulfilling our legitimate duties. Yet, it so happens that we too know a
few characters. But, as we can read, it behoves us to choose no other
than wholesome works; for these will do us no harm! What are most to be
shirked are those low books, as, when once they pervert the disposition,
there remains no remedy whatever!"
While she indulged in this long rigmarole, Tai-yŁ lowered her head and
sipped her tea. And though she secretly shared the same views on the
subject, all the answer she gave her in assent was limited to one single
word 'yes.' But at an unexpected moment, Su YŁn appeared in the room.
"Our lady Lien," she said, "requests the presence of both of you, young
ladies, to consult with you in an important matter. Miss Secunda, Miss
Tertia, Miss Quarta, Miss Shih and Mr. Pao, our master Secundus, are
there waiting for you."
"What's up again?" Pao-ch'ai inquired.
"You and I will know what it is when we get there," Tai-yŁ explained.
So saying, she came, with Pao-ch'ai, into the Tao Hsiang village. Here
they, in fact, discovered every one assembled. As soon as Li Wan caught
sight of the two cousins, she smiled. "The society has barely been
started," she observed, "and here's one who wants to give us the slip;
that girl Quarta wishes to apply for a whole year's leave."
"It's that single remark of our worthy senior's yesterday that is at the
bottom of it!" Tai-yŁ laughed. "For by bidding her execute some painting
or other of the garden, she has put her in such high feather that she
applies for leave!"
"Don't be so hard upon our dear ancestor!" Pao-Ch'ai rejoined, a smile
playing on her lips. "It's entirely due to that allusion of grandmother
Tai-yŁ speedily took up the thread of the conversation. "Quite so!" she
smiled. "It's all through that remark of hers! But of what branch of the
family is she a grandmother? We should merely address her as the 'female
locust;' that's all."
As she spoke, one and all were highly amused.
"When any mortal language finds its way into that girl Feng's mouth,"
Pao-ch'ai laughed, "she knows how to turn it to the best account! What a
fortunate thing it is that that vixen Feng has no idea of letters and
can't boast of much culture! Her _forte_ is simply such vulgar
things as suffice to raise a laugh! Worse than her is that P'in Erh with
that coarse tongue! She has recourse to the devices of the 'Ch'un
Ch'iu'! By selecting, from the vulgar expressions used in low slang, the
most noteworthy points, she eliminates what's commonplace, and makes,
with the addition of a little elegance and finish, her style so much
like that of the text that each sentence has a peculiar character of its
own! The three words representing 'female locust' bring out clearly the
various circumstances connected with yesterday! The wonder is that she
has been so quick in devising them!"
After lending an ear to her arguments, they all laughed. "Those
explanations of yours," they cried, "show well enough that you are not
below those two!"
"Pray, let's consult as to how many days' leave to grant her!" Li Wan
proposed. "I gave her a month, but she thinks it too little. What do you
say about it?"
"Properly speaking," Tai-yŁ put in, "one year isn't much! The laying out
of this garden occupied a whole year; and to paint a picture of it now
will certainly need two years' time. She'll have to rub the ink, to
moisten the pencils, to stretch the paper, to mix the pigments, and
When she had reached this point, even Tai-yŁ could not restrain herself
from laughing. "If she goes on so leisurely to work," she exclaimed,
"won't she require two years' time?"
Those, who caught this insinuation, clapped their hands and indulged in
"Her innuendoes are full of zest!" Pao-ch'ai ventured laughingly. "But
what takes the cake is that last remark about leisurely going to work,
for if she weren't to paint at all, how could she ever finish her task?
Hence those jokes cracked yesterday were, sufficient, of course, to
evoke laughter, but, on second thought, they're devoid of any fun! Just
you carefully ponder over P'in Erh's words! Albeit they don't amount to
much, you'll nevertheless find, when you come to reflect on them, that
there's plenty of gusto about them. I've really had such a laugh over
them that I can scarcely move!
"It's the way that cousin Pao-ch'ai puffs her up," Hsi Ch'un observed
"that makes her so much the more arrogant that she turns me also into a
Tai-yŁ hastily smiled and pulled her towards her. "Let me ask you," she
said, "are you only going to paint the garden, or will you insert us in
it as well?"
"My original idea was to have simply painted the garden," Hsi Ch'un
explained; "but our worthy senior told me again yesterday that a mere
picture of the grounds would resemble the plan of a house, and
recommended that I should introduce some inmates too so as to make it
look like what a painting should. I've neither the knack for the fine
work necessary for towers and terraces, nor have I the skill to draw
representations of human beings; but as I couldn't very well raise any
objections, I find myself at present on the horns of a dilemma about
"Human beings are an easy matter!" Tai-yŁ said. "What beats you are
"Here you are again with your trash!" Li Wan exclaimed. "Will there be
any need to also introduce insects in it? As far, however, as birds go,
it may probably be advisable to introduce one or two kinds!"
"If any other insects are not put in the picture," Tai-yŁ smiled, "it
won't matter; but without yesterday's female locust in it, it will fall
short of the original?"
This retort evoked further general amusement. While Tai-yŁ laughed, she
beat her chest with both hands. "Begin painting at once!" she cried.
"I've even got the title all ready. The name I've chosen is, 'Picture of
a locust brought in to have a good feed.'"
At these words, they laughed so much the more heartily that at a time
they bent forward, and at another they leant back. But a sound of "Ku
tung" then fell on their ears, and unable to make out what could have
dropped, they anxiously and precipitately looked about. It was, they
found, Shih Hsiang-yŁn, who had been reclining on the back of the chair.
The chair had, from the very outset, not been put in a sure place, and
while indulging in hearty merriment she threw her whole weight on the
back. She did not, besides, notice that the dovetails on each side had
come out, so with a tilt towards the east, she as well as the chair
toppled over in a heap. Luckily, the wooden partition-wall was close
enough to arrest her fall, and she did not sprawl on the ground. The
sight of her created more amusement than ever among all her relatives;
so much so, that they could scarcely regain their equilibrium. It was
only after Pao-yŁ had rushed up to her, and given her a hand and raised
her to her feet again that they at last managed to gradually stop
Pao-yŁ then winked at Tai-yŁ. Tai-yŁ grasped his meaning, and, forthwith
withdrawing into the inner room, she lifted the cover of the mirror, and
looked at her face. She found the hair about her temples slightly
dishevelled, so, promptly opening Li Wan's toilet-case, and extracting a
narrow brush, she stood in front of the mirror, and smoothed it down
with a few touches. Afterwards, laying the brush in its place she
stepped into the outer suite. "Is this," she said pointing at Li Wan,
"doing what you're told and showing us how to do needlework and teaching
us manners? Why, instead of that, you press us to come here and have a
good romp and a hearty laugh!"
"Just you listen to her perverse talk," Li Wan laughed. "She takes the
lead and kicks up a rumpus, and incites people to laugh, and then she
throws the blame upon me! In real truth, she's a despicable thing! What
I wish is that you should soon get some dreadful mother-in-law, and
several crotchety and abominable older and younger sisters-in-law, and
we'll see then whether you'll still be as perverse or not!"
Tai-yŁ at once became quite scarlet in the face, and pulling Pao-ch'ai,
"Let us," she added, "give her a whole year's leave!"
"I've got an impartial remark to make. Listen to me all of you!"
Pao-ch'ai chimed in. "Albeit the girl, Ou, may have some idea about
painting, all she can manage are just a few outline sketches, so that
unless, now that she has to accomplish the picture of this garden, she
can lay a claim to some ingenuity, will she ever be able to succeed in
effecting a painting? This garden resembles a regular picture. The
rockeries and trees, towers and pavilions, halls and houses are, as far
as distances and density go, neither too numerous, nor too few. Such as
it is, it is fitly laid out; but were you to put it on paper in strict
compliance with the original, why, it will surely not elicit admiration.
In a thing like this, it's necessary to pay due care to the various
positions and distances on paper, whether they should be large or
whether small; and to discriminate between main and secondary; adding
what is needful to add, concealing and reducing what should be concealed
and reduced, and exposing to view what should remain visible. As soon as
a rough copy is executed, it should again be considered in all its
details, for then alone will it assume the semblance of a picture. In
the second place, all these towers, terraces and structures must be
distinctly delineated; for with just a trifle of inattention, the
railings will slant, the pillars will be topsy-turvy, doors and windows
will recline in a horizontal position, steps will separate, leaving
clefts between them, and even tables will be crowded into the walls, and
flower-pots piled on portiŤres; and won't it, instead of turning out
into a picture, be a mere caricature? Thirdly, proper care must also be
devoted, in the insertion of human beings, to density and height, to the
creases of clothing, to jupes and sashes, to fingers, hands, and feet,
as these are most important details; for if even one stroke be not
thoroughly executed, then, if the hands be not swollen, the feet will be
made to look as if they were lame. The colouring of faces and the
drawing of the hair are minor points; but, in my own estimation, they
really involve intense difficulty. Now a year's leave is, on one hand,
too excessive, and a month's is, on the other, too little; so just give
her half a year's leave. Depute, besides, cousin Pao-yŁ to lend her a
hand in her task. Not that cousin Pao knows how to give any hints about
painting; that in itself would be more of a drawback; but in order that,
in the event of there being anything that she doesn't comprehend, or of
anything perplexing her as to how best to insert it, cousin Pao may take
the picture outside and make the necessary inquiries of those gentlemen,
who excel in painting. Matters will thus be facilitated for her."
At this suggestion Pao-yŁ was the first to feel quite enchanted. "This
proposal is first-rate!" he exclaimed. "The towers and terraces minutely
executed by Chan Tzu-liang are so perfect, and the beauties painted by
Ch'eng Jih-hsing so extremely fine that I'll go at once and ask them of
"I've always said that you fuss for nothing!" Pao-ch'ai interposed. "I
merely passed a cursory remark, and there you want to go immediately and
ask for things. Do wait until we arrive at some decision in our
deliberations, and then you can go! But let's consider now what would be
best to use to paint the picture on?"
"I've got, in my quarters," Pao-yŁ answered, "some snow-white, wavy
paper, which is both large in size, and proof against ink as well."
Pao-ch'ai gave a sarcastic smile. "I do maintain," she cried, "that you
are a perfectly useless creature! That snow-white, wavy paper is good
for pictures consisting of characters and for outline drawings. Or else,
those who have the knack of making landscapes, use it for depicting
scenery of the southern Sung era, as it resists ink and is strong enough
to bear coarse painting. But were you to employ this sort of paper to
make a picture of this garden on, it will neither stand the colours, nor
will it be easy to dry the painting by the fire. So not only won't it be
suitable, but it will be a pity too to waste the paper. I'll tell you a
way how to get out of this. When this garden was first laid out, some
detailed plan was used, which although executed by a mere
house-decorator, was perfect with regard to sites and bearings. You'd
better therefore ask for it of your worthy mother, and apply as well to
lady Feng for a piece of thick glazed lustring of the size of that
paper, and hand them to the gentlemen outside, and request them to
prepare a rough copy for you, with any alterations or additions as might
be necessary to make so as to accord with the style of these grounds.
All that will remain to be done will be to introduce a few human beings;
no more. Then when you have to match the azure and green pigments as
well as the ground gold and ground silver, you can get those people
again to do so for you. But you'll also have to bring an extra portable
stove, so as to have it handy for melting the glue, and for washing your
pencils, after you've taken the glue off. You further require a large
table, painted white and covered with a cloth. That lot of small dishes
you have aren't sufficient; your pencils too are not enough. It will be
well consequently for you to purchase a new set of each."
"Do I own such a lot of painting materials!" Hsi Ch'un exclaimed. "Why,
I simply use any pencil that first comes under my hand to paint with;
that's all. And as for pigments, I've only got four kinds, ochrey stone,
'Kuang' flower paint, rattan yellow and rouge. Besides these, all I have
amount to a couple of pencils for applying colours; no more."
"Why didn't you say so earlier?" Pao-ch'ai remarked. "I've still got
some of these things remaining. But you don't need them, so were I to
give you any, they'd lie uselessly about. I'll put them away for you now
for a time, and, when you want them, I'll let you have some. You should,
however, keep them for the exclusive purpose of painting fans; for were
you to paint such big things with them it would be a pity! I'll draw out
a list for you to-day to enable you to go and apply to our worthy senior
for the items; as it isn't likely that you people can possibly know all
that's required. I'll dictate them, and cousin Pao can write them down!"
Pao-yŁ had already got a pencil and inkslab ready, for, fearing lest he
might not remember clearly the various necessaries, he had made up his
mind to write a memorandum of them; so the moment he heard Pao-ch'ai's
suggestion, he cheerfully took up his pencil, and listened quietly.
"Four pencils of the largest size," Pao-ch'ai commenced, "four of the
third size; four of the second size; four pencils for applying colours
on big ground; four on medium ground; four for small ground; ten claws
of large southern crabs; ten claws of small crabs; ten pencils for
painting side-hair and eyebrows; twenty for laying heavy colours; twenty
for light colours; ten for painting faces; twenty willow-twigs; four
ounces of 'arrow head' pearls; four ounces of southern ochre; four
ounces of stone yellow; four ounces of dark green; four ounces of
malachite; four ounces of tube-yellow; eight ounces of 'kuang' flower;
four boxes of lead powder; ten sheets of rouge; two hundred sheets of
thin red-gold leaves; two hundred sheets of lead; four ounces of smooth
glue, from the two Kuang; and four ounces of pure alum. The glue and
alum for sizing the lustring are not included, so don't bother
yourselves about them, but just take the lustring and give it to them
outside to size it with alum for you. You and I can scour and clarify
all these pigments, and thus amuse ourselves, and prepare them for use
as well. I feel sure you'll have an ample supply to last you a whole
lifetime. But you must also get ready four sieves of fine lustring; a
pair of coarse ones; four brush-pencils; four bowls, some large, some
small; twenty large, coarse saucers; ten five-inch plates; twenty
three-inch coarse, white plates; two stoves; four large and small
earthenware pans; two new porcelain jars; four new water buckets; four
one-foot-long bags, made of white cloth; two catties of light charcoal;
one or two catties of willow-wood charcoal; a wooden box with three
drawers; a yard of thick gauze, two ounces of fresh ginger; half a catty
"An iron kettle and an iron shovel," hastily chimed in Tai-yŁ with a
smile full of irony.
"To do what with them?" Pao-ch'ai inquired.
"You ask for fresh ginger, soy and all these condiments, so I indent for
an iron kettle for you to cook the paints and eat them." Tai-yŁ
answered, to the intense merriment of one and all, who gave way to
"What do you, P'in Erh, know about these things?" Pao-ch'ai laughed. "I
am not certain in my mind that you won't put those coarse coloured
plates straightway on the fire. But unless you take the precaution
beforehand of rubbing the bottom with ginger juice, mixed with soy, and
of warming them dry, they're bound to crack, the moment they experience
the least heat."
"It's really so," they exclaimed with one voice, after this explanation.
Tai-yŁ perused the list for a while. She then smiled and gave T'an Ch'un
a tug. "Just see," she whispered, "we want to paint a picture, and she
goes on indenting for a number of water jars and boxes! But, I presume,
she's got so muddled, that she inserts a list of articles needed for her
T'an Ch'un, at her remark, laughed with such heartiness, that it was all
she could do to check herself. "Cousin Pao," she observed, "don't you
wring her mouth? Just ask her what disparaging things she said about
"Why need I ask?" Pao-ch'ai smiled. "Is it likely, pray, that you can
get ivory out of a cur's mouth?"
Speaking the while, she drew near, and, seizing Tai-yŁ, she pressed her
down on the stove-couch with the intention of pinching her face. Tai-yŁ
smilingly hastened to implore for grace. "My dear cousin," she cried,
"spare me! P'in Erh is young in years; all she knows is to talk at
random; she has no idea of what's proper and what's improper. But you
are my elder cousin, so teach me how to behave. If you, cousin, don't
let me off, to whom can I go and address my entreaties?"
Little did, however, all who heard her apprehend that there lurked some
hidden purpose in her insinuations. "She's right there," they
consequently pleaded smilingly. "So much is she to be pitied that even
we have been mollified; do spare her and finish!"
Pao-ch'ai had, at first, meant to play with her, but when she unawares
heard her drag in again the advice she had tendered her the other day,
with regard to the reckless perusal of unwholesome books, she at once
felt as if she could not have any farther fuss with her, and she let her
rise to her feet.
"It's you, after all, elder cousin," Tai-yŁ laughed. "Had it been I, I
wouldn't have let any one off."
Pao-ch'ai smiled and pointed at her. "It is no wonder," she said, "that
our dear ancestor doats on you and that every one loves you. Even I have
to-day felt my heart warm towards you! But come here and let me put your
hair up for you!"
Tai-yŁ then, in very deed, swung herself round and crossed over to her.
Pao-ch'ai arranged her coiffure with her hands. Pao-yŁ, who stood by and
looked on, thought the style, in which her hair was being made up,
better than it was before. But, of a sudden, he felt sorry at what had
happened, as he fancied that she should not have let her brush her side
hair, but left it alone for the time being and asked him to do it for
her. While, however, he gave way to these erratic thoughts, he heard
Pao-ch'ai speak. "We've done with what there was to write," she said,
"so you'd better tomorrow go and tell grandmother about the things. If
there be any at home, well and good; but if not, get some money to buy
them with. I'll then help you both in your preparations."
Pao-yŁ vehemently put the list away; after which, they all joined in a
further chat on irrelevant matters; and, their evening meal over, they
once more repaired into old lady Chia's apartments to wish her
good-night. Their grandmother had, indeed, had nothing serious the
matter with her. Her ailment had amounted mainly to fatigue, to which a
slight chill had been super-added, so that having kept in the warm room
for the day and taken a dose or two of medicine, she entirely got over
the effects, and felt, in the evening, quite like own self again.
But, reader, the occurrences of the next day areas yet a mystery to you,
but the nest chapter will divulge them.
Having time to amuse themselves, the Chia inmates raise, when least
expected, funds to celebrate lady Feng's birthday.
In his ceaseless affection for Chin Ch'uen, Pao-yŁ uses, for the
occasion, a pinch of earth as incense and burns it.
When Madame Wang saw, for we will now proceed with our narrative, that
the extent of dowager lady Chia's indisposition, contracted on the day
she had been into the garden of Broad Vista, amounted to a simple chill,
that no serious ailment had supervened, and that her health had improved
soon after the doctor had been sent for and she had taken a couple of
doses of medicine, she called lady Feng to her and asked her to get
ready a present of some kind for her to take to her husband, Chia Cheng.
But while they were engaged in deliberation, they perceived a
waiting-maid arrive. She came from their old senior's part to invite
them to go to her. So, with speedy step, Madame Wang led the way for
lady Feng, and they came over into her quarters.
"Pray, may I ask," Madame Wang then inquired, "whether you're feeling
nearly well again now?"
"I'm quite all right to-day," old lady Chia replied. "I've tasted the
young-pheasant soup you sent me a little time back and find it full of
relish. I've also had two pieces of meat, so I feel quite comfortable
"These dainties were presented to you, dear ancestor, by that girl
Feng," Madame Wang smiled. "It only shows how sincere her filial piety
is. She does not render futile the love, which you, venerable senior,
ever lavish on her."
Dowager lady Chia nodded her head assentingly. "She's too kind to think
of me!" she answered smiling. "But should there be any more uncooked,
let them fry a couple of pieces; and, if these be thoroughly immersed in
wine, the congee will taste well with them. The soup is, it's true,
good, but it shouldn't, properly speaking, be prepared with fine rice."
After listening to her wishes, lady Feng expressed with alacrity her
readiness to see them executed, and directed a servant to go and deliver
the message in the cook-house.
"I sent the servant for you," dowager lady Chia meanwhile said to Madame
Wang with a smile, "not for anything else, but for the birthday of that
girl Feng, which falls on the second. I had made up my mind two years
ago to celebrate her birthday in proper style, but when the time came,
there happened to be again something important to attend to, and it went
by without anything being done. But this year, the inmates are, on one
hand, all here, and there won't, I fancy, be, on the other, anything to
prevent us, so we should all do our best to enjoy ourselves thoroughly
for a day."
"I was thinking the same thing," Madame Wang rejoined, laughingly, "and,
since it's your good pleasure, venerable senior, why, shouldn't we
deliberate at once and decide upon something?"
"To the best of my recollection," dowager lady Chia resumed smiling,
"whenever in past years I've had any birthday celebrations for any one
of us, no matter who it was, we have ever individually sent our
respective presents; but this method is common and is also apt, I think,
to look very much as if there were some disunion. But I'll now devise a
new way; a way, which won't have the effect of creating any discord, and
will be productive of good cheer."
"Let whatever way you may think best, dear ancestor, be adopted." Madame
Wang eagerly rejoined.
"My idea is," old lady Chia laughingly continued, "that we too should
follow the example of those poor families and raise a subscription among
ourselves, and devote the whole of whatever we may collect to meet the
outlay for the necessary preparations. What do you say, will this do or
"This is a splendid idea!" Madame Wang acquiesced. "But what will, I
wonder, be the way adopted for raising contributions?"
Old lady Chia was the more inspirited by her reply. There and then she
despatched servants to go and invite Mrs. HsŁeh, Madame Hsing and the
rest of the ladies, and bade others summon the young ladies and Pao-yŁ.
But from the other mansion, Chia Chen's spouse, Lai Ta's wife, even up
to the wives of such stewards as enjoyed a certain amount of
respectability, were likewise to be asked to come round.
The sight of their old mistress' delight filled the waiting-maids and
married women with high glee as well; and each hurried with vehemence to
execute her respective errand. Those that were to be invited were
invited, and those that had to be sent for were sent for; and, before
the lapse of such time as could suffice to have a meal in, the old as
well as young, the high as well as low, crammed, in a black mass, every
bit of the available space in the rooms.
Only Mrs. HsŁeh and dowager lady Chia sat opposite to each other.
Mesdames Hsing and Wang simply seated themselves on two chairs, which
faced the door of the apartment. Pao-ch'ai and her five or six cousins
occupied the stove-couch. Pao-yŁ sat on his grandmother's lap. Below,
the whole extent of the floor was crowded with inmates on their feet.
But old lady Chia forthwith desired that a few small stools should be
fetched. When brought, these were proffered to Lai Ta's mother and some
other nurses, who were advanced in years and held in respect; for it was
the custom in the Chia mansion that the family servants, who had waited
upon any of the fathers or mothers, should enjoy a higher status than
even young masters and mistresses. Hence it was that while Mrs. Yu, lady
Feng and other ladies remained standing below, Lai Ta's mother and three
or four other old nurses had, after excusing themselves for their
rudeness, seated themselves on small stools.
Dowager lady Chia recounted, with a face beaming with smiles, the
suggestions she had shortly made, for the benefit of the various inmates
present; and one and all, of course, were only too ready to contribute
for the entertainment. More, some of them, were on friendly terms with
lady Feng, so they, of their own free will, adopted the proposal; others
lived in fear and trembling of lady Feng, and these were only too
anxious to make up to her. Every one, besides, could well afford the
means, so that, as soon as they heard of the proposed subscriptions,
they, with one consent, signified their acquiescence.
"I'll give twenty taels!" old lady Chia was the first to say with a
smile playing round her lips.
"I'll follow your lead, dear senior," Mrs. HsŁeh smiled, "and also
subscribe twenty taels."
"We don't presume to place ourselves on an equal footing with your
ladyship," Mesdames Hsing and Wang pleaded. "We, of course, come one
degree lower; each of us therefore will contribute sixteen taels."
"We too naturally rank one step lower," Mrs. Yu and Li Wan also smiled,
"so we'll each give twelve taels."
"You're a widow," dowager lady Chia eagerly demurred, addressing herself
to Li Wan, "and have lost all your estate, so how could we drag you into
all this outlay! I'll contribute for you!"
"Don't be in such high feather dear senior," lady Feng hastily observed
laughing, "but just look to your accounts before you saddle yourself
with this burden! You've already taken upon yourself two portions; and
do you now also volunteer sixteen taels on behalf of my elder
sister-in-law? You may willingly do so, while you speak in the abundance
of your spirits, but when you, by and bye, come to ponder over what
you've done, you'll feel sore at heart again! 'It's all that girl Feng
that's driven me to spend the money,' you'll say in a little time; and
you'll devise some ingenious way to inveigle me to fork out three or
four times as much as your share and thus make up your deficit in an
underhand way; while I will still be as much in the clouds as if I were
in a dream!"
These words made every one laugh.
"According to you, what should be done?" dowager lady Chia laughingly
"My birthday hasn't yet come," lady Feng smiled; "and already now I've
been the recipient of so much more than I deserve that I am quite
unhappy. But if I don't contribute a single cash, I shall feel really
ill at ease for the trouble I shall be giving such a lot of people. It
would be as well, therefore, that I should bear this share of my senior
sister-in-law; and, when the day comes, I can eat a few more things, and
thus be able to enjoy some happiness."
"Quite right!" cried Madame Hsing and the others at this suggestion. So
old lady Chia then signified her approval.
"There's something more I'd like to add," lady Feng pursued smiling. "I
think that it's fair enough that you, worthy ancestor, should, besides
your own twenty taels, have to stand two shares as well, the one for
cousin Liu, the other for cousin Pao-yŁ, and that Mrs. HsŁeh should,
beyond her own twenty taels, likewise bear cousin Pao-ch'ai's portion.
But it's somewhat unfair that the two ladies Mesdames Hsing and Wang
should each only give sixteen taels, when their share is small, and when
they don't subscribe anything for any one else. It's you, venerable
senior, who'll be the sufferer by this arrangement."
Dowager lady Chia, at these words, burst out into a boisterous fit of
laughter. "It's this hussey Feng," she observed, "who, after all, takes
my side! What you say is quite right. Hadn't it been for you, I would
again have been duped by them!"
"Dear senior!" lady Feng smiled. Just hand over our two cousins to those
two ladies and let each take one under her charge and finish. If you
make each contribute one share, it will be square enough."
"This is perfectly fair," eagerly rejoined old lady Chia. "Let this
suggestion be carried out!"
Lai Ta's mother hastily stood up. "This is such a subversion of right,"
she smiled, "that I'll put my back up on account of the two ladies.
She's a son's wife, on the other side, and, in here, only a wife's
brother's child; and yet she doesn't incline towards her mother-in-law
and her aunt, but takes other people's part. This son's wife has
therefore become a perfect stranger; and a close niece has, in fact,
become a distant niece!"
As she said this, dowager lady Chia and every one present began to
laugh. "If the junior ladies subscribe twelve taels each," Lai Ta's
mother went on to ask, "we must, as a matter of course, also come one
degree lower; eh?"
Upon hearing this, old lady Chia remonstrated. "This won't do!" she
observed. "You naturally should rank one degree lower, but you're all, I
am well aware, wealthy people; and, in spite of your status being
somewhat lower, your funds are more flourishing than theirs. It's only
just then that you should be placed on the same standing as those
The posse of nurses expressed with promptness their acceptance of the
proposal their old mistress made.
"The young ladies," dowager lady Chia resumed, "should merely give
something for the sake of appearances! If each one contributes a sum
proportionate to her monthly allowance, it will be ample!" Turning her
head, "YŁan Yang!" she cried, "a few of you should assemble in like
manner, and consult as to what share you should take in the matter. So
bring them along!"
YŁan Yang assured her that her desires would be duly attended to and
walked away. But she had not been absent for any length of time, when
she appeared on the scene along with P'ing Erh, Hsi Jen, Ts'ai Hsia and
other girls, and a number of waiting-maids as well. Of these, some
subscribed two taels; others contributed one tael.
"Can it be," dowager lady Chia then said to P'ing Erh, "that you don't
want any birthday celebrated for your mistress, that you don't range
yourself also among them?"
"The other money I gave," P'ing Erh smiled, "I gave privately, and is
extra." "This is what I am publicly bound to contribute along with the
"That's a good child!" lady Chia laughingly rejoined.
"Those above as well as those below have all alike given their share,"
lady Feng went on to observe with a smile. "But there are still those
two secondary wives; are they to give anything or not? Do go and ask
them! It's but right that we should go to the extreme length and include
them. Otherwise, they'll imagine that we've looked down upon them!"
"Just so!" eagerly answered lady Chia, at these words. "How is it that
we forgot all about them? The only thing is, I fear, they've got no time
to spare; yet, tell a servant-girl to go and ask them what they'll do!"
While she spoke, a servant-girl went off. After a long absence, she
returned. "Each of them," she reported, "will likewise contribute two
Dowager lady Chia was delighted with the result. "Fetch a pen and
inkslab," she cried, "and let's calculate how much they amount to, all
Mrs. Yu abused lady Feng in a low tone of voice. "I'll take you, you
mean covetous creature, and ... ! All these mothers-in-law and
sisters-in-law have come forward and raised money to celebrate your
birthday, and are you yet not satisfied that you must also drag in those
two miserable beings! But what do you do it for?"
"Try and talk less trash!" lady Feng smiled; also in an undertone.
"We'll be leaving this place in a little time and then I'll square up
accounts with you! But why ever are those two miserable? When they have
money, they uselessly give it to other people; and isn't it better that
we should get hold of it, and enjoy ourselves with it?"
While she uttered these taunts, they computed that the collections would
reach a sum over and above one hundred and fifty taels.
"We couldn't possibly run through all this for a day's theatricals and
banquet!" old lady Chia exclaimed.
"As no outside guests are to be invited," Mrs. Yu interposed, "and the
number of tables won't also be many, there will be enough to cover two
or three days' outlay! First of all, there won't be anything to spend
for theatricals, so we'll effect a saving on that item."
"Just call whatever troupe that girl Feng may say she likes best,"
dowager lady Chia suggested.
"We've heard quite enough of the performances of that company of ours,"
lady Feng said; "let's therefore spend a little money and send for
another, and see what they can do."
"I leave that to you, brother Chen's wife," old lady Chia pursued, "in
order that our girl Feng should have occasion to trouble her mind with
as little as possible, and be able to enjoy a day's peace and quiet.
It's only right that she should."
Mrs. Yu replied that she would be only too glad to do what she could.
They then prolonged their chat for a little longer, until one and all
realised that their old senior must be quite fagged out, and they
After seeing Mesdames Hsing and Wang off, Mrs. Yu and the other ladies
adjourned into lady Feng's rooms to consult with her about the birthday
"Don't ask me!" lady Feng urged. "Do whatever will please our worthy
"What a fine thing you are to come across such a mighty piece of luck!"
Mrs. Yu smiled. "I was wondering what had happened that she summoned us
all! Why, was it simply on this account? Not to breathe a word about the
money that I'll have to contribute, must I have trouble and annoyance to
bear as well? How will you show me any thanks?"
"Don't bring shame upon yourself!" lady Feng laughed. "I didn't send for
you; so why should I be thankful to you! If you funk the exertion, go at
once and let our venerable senior know, and she'll depute some one else
and have done."
"You go on like this as you see her in such excellent spirits, that's
why!" Mrs. Yu smilingly answered. "It would be well, I advise you, to
pull in a bit; for if you be too full of yourself, you'll get your due
After some further colloquy, these two ladies eventually parted company.
On the next day, the money was sent over to the Ning Kuo Mansion at the
very moment that Mrs. Yu had got up, and was performing her toilette and
ablutions. "Who brought it?" she asked.
"Nurse Lin," the servant-girl said by way of response.
"Call her in," Mrs. Yu said.
The servant-girls walked as far as the lower rooms and called Lin
Chih-hsiao's wife to come in. Mrs. Yu bade her seat herself on the
footstool. While she hurriedly combed her hair and washed her face and
hands, she wanted to know how much the bundle contained in all.
"This is what's subscribed by us servants." Lin Chih-hsiao's wife
replied, "and so I collected it and brought it over first. As for the
contributions of our venerable mistress, and those of the ladies, they
aren't ready yet."
But simultaneously with this reply, the waiting-maids announced: "Our
lady of the other mansion and Mrs. HsŁeh have sent over some one with
"You mean wenches!" Mrs. Yu cried, scolding them with a smile. "All the
gumption you've got is to simply bear in mind this sort of nonsense! In
a fit of good cheer, your old mistress yesterday purposely expressed a
wish to imitate those poor people, and raise a subscription. But you at
once treasured it up in your memory, and, when the thing came to be
canvassed by you, you treated it in real earnest! Don't you yet quick
bundle yourselves out, and bring the money in! Be careful and give them
some tea before you see them off."
The waiting-maids smilingly hastened to go and take delivery of the
money and bring it in. It consisted, in all, of two bundles, and
contained Pao-ch'ai's and Tai-yŁ's shares as well.
"Whose shares are wanting?" Mrs. Yu asked.
"Those of our old lady, of Madame Wang, the young ladies, and of our
girls below are still missing," Lin Chih-hsiao's wife explained.
"There's also that of your senior lady," Mrs. Yu proceeded.
"You'd better hurry over, my lady," Lin Chih-hsiao's wife said; "for as
this money will be issued through our mistress Secunda, she'll nobble
the whole of it."
While conversing, Mrs. Yu finished arranging her coiffure and performing
her ablutions; and, giving orders to see that the carriage was got
ready, she shortly arrived at the Jung mansion. First and foremost she
called on lady Feng. Lady Feng, she discovered, had already put the
money into a packet, and was on the point of sending it over.
"Is it all there?" Mrs. Yu asked.
"Yes, it is," lady Feng smiled, "so you might as well take it away at
once; for if it gets mislaid, I've nothing to do with it."
"I'm somewhat distrustful," Mrs. Yu laughed, "so I'd like to check it in
These words over, she verily checked sum after sum. She found Li Wan's
share alone wanting. "I said that you were up to tricks!" laughingly
observed Mrs. Yu. "How is it that your elder sister-in-law's isn't
"There's all that money; and isn't it yet enough?" lady Feng smiled. "If
there's merely a portion short it shouldn't matter! Should the money
prove insufficient, I can then look you up, and give it to you."
"When the others were present yesterday," Mrs. Yu pursued, "you were
ready enough to act as any human being would; but here you're again
to-day prevaricating with me! I won't, by any manner of means, agree to
this proposal of yours! I'll simply go and ask for the money of our
"I see how dreadful you are!" lady Feng laughed. "But when something
turns up by and bye, I'll also be very punctilious; so don't you then
bear me a grudge!"
"Well, never mind if you don't give your quota!" Mrs. Yu smilingly
rejoined. "Were it not that I consider the dutiful attentions you've all
along shown me would I ever be ready to humour you?"
So rejoining, she produced P'ing Erh's share. "P'ing Erh, come here,"
she cried, "take this share of yours and put it away! Should the money
collected turn out to be below what's absolutely required, I'll make up
the sum for you."
P'ing Erh apprehended her meaning. "My lady," she answered, with a
cheerful countenance, "it would come to the same thing if you were to
first spend what you want and to give me afterwards any balance that may
remain of it."
"Is your mistress alone to be allowed to do dishonest acts," Mrs. Yu
laughed, "and am I not to be free to bestow a favour?"
P'ing Erh had no option, but to retain her portion.
"I want to see," Mrs. Yu added, "where your mistress, who is so
extremely careful, will run through all the money, we've raised! If she
can't spend it, why she'll take it along with her in her coffin, and
make use of it there."
While still speaking, she started on her way to dowager lady Chia's
suite of rooms. After first paying her respects to her, she made a few
general remarks, and then betook herself into YŁan Yang's quarters where
she held a consultation with YŁan Yang. Lending a patient ear to all
that YŁan Yang; had to recommend in the way of a programme, and as to
how best to give pleasure to old lady Chia, she deliberated with her
until they arrived at a satisfactory decision. When the time came for
Mrs. Yu to go, she took the two taels, contributed by YŁan Yang, and
gave them back to her. "There's no use for these!" she said, and with
these words still on her lips, she straightway quitted her presence and
went in search of Madame Wang.
After a short chat, Madame Wang stepped into the family shrine reserved
for the worship of Buddha, so she likewise restored Ts'ai YŁn's share to
her; and, availing herself of lady Feng's absence, she presently
reimbursed to Mrs. Chu and Mrs. Chao the amount of their respective
These two dames would not however presume to take their money back.
"Your lot, ladies, is a pitiful one!" Mrs. Yu then expostulated. "How
can you afford all this spare money! That hussey Feng is well aware of
the fact. I'm here to answer for you!"
At these assurances, both put the money away, with profuse expressions
In a twinkle, the second day of the ninth moon arrived. The inmates of
the garden came to find out that Mrs. Yu was making preparations on an
extremely grand scale; for not only was there to be a theatrical
performance, but jugglers and women storytellers as well; and they
combined in getting everything ready that could conduce to afford
amusement and enjoyment.
"This is," Li Wan went on to say to the young ladies, "the proper day
for our literary gathering, so don't forget it. If Pao-yŁ hasn't
appeared, it must, I presume, be that his mind is so preoccupied with
the fuss that's going on that he has lost sight of all pure and refined
Speaking, "Go and see what he is up to!" she enjoined a waiting-maid;
"and be quick and tell him to come."
The waiting-maid returned after a long absence. "Sister Hua says," she
reported, "that he went out of doors, soon after daylight this morning."
The result of the inquiries filled every one with surprise. "He can't
have gone out!" they said. "This girl is stupid, and doesn't know how to
speak." They consequently also directed Ts'ui Mo to go and ascertain the
truth. In a little time, Ts'ui Mo returned. "It's really true," she
explained, "that he has gone out of doors. He gave out that a friend of
his was dead, and that he was going to pay a visit of condolence."
"There's certainly nothing of the kind," T'an Ch'un interposed. "But
whatever there might have been to call him away, it wasn't right of him
to go out on an occasion like the present one! Just call Hsi Jen here,
and let me ask her!"
But just as she was issuing these directions, she perceived Hsi Jen
appear on the scene. "No matter what he may have had to attend to
to-day," Li Wan and the rest remarked, "he shouldn't have gone out! In
the first place, it's your mistress Secunda's birthday, and our dowager
lady is in such buoyant spirits that the various inmates, whether high
or low, are coming from either mansion to join in the fun; and lo, he
goes off! Secondly, this is the proper day as well for holding our first
literary gathering, and he doesn't so as apply for leave, but stealthily
Hsi Jen heaved it sigh. "He said last night," she explained, "that he
had something very important to do this morning; that he was going as
far as Prince Pei Ching's mansion, but that he would hurry back. I
advised him not to go; but, of course, he wouldn't listen to me. When he
got out of bed, at daybreak this morning, he asked for his plain clothes
and put them on, so, I suppose, some lady of note belonging to the
household of Prince Pei Ching must have departed this life; but who can
"If such be truly the case," Li Wan and her companions exclaimed, "it's
quite right that he should have gone over for a while; but he should
have taken care to be back in time !"
This remark over, they resumed their deliberations. "Let's write our
verses," they said, "and we can fine him on his return."
As these words were being spoken, they espied a messenger despatched by
dowager lady Chia to ask them over, so they at once adjourned to the
front part of the compound.
Hsi Jen then reported to his grandmother what Pao-yŁ had done. Old lady
Chia was upset by the news; so much so, that she issued immediate orders
to a few servants to go and fetch him.
Pao-yŁ had, in fact, been brooding over some affair of the heart. A day
in advance he therefore gave proper injunctions to Pei Ming. "As I shall
be going out of doors to-morrow at daybreak," he said, "you'd better get
ready two horses and wait at the back door! No one else need follow as
an escort! Tell Li Kuei that I've gone to the Pei mansion. In the event
of any one wishing to start in search of me, bid him place every
obstacle in the way, as all inquiries can well be dispensed with! Let
him simply explain that I've been detained in the Pei mansion, but that
I shall surely be back shortly."
Pei Ming could not make out head or tail of what he was driving at; but
he had no alternative than to deliver his message word for word. At the
first blush of morning of the day appointed, he actually got ready two
horses and remained in waiting at the back gate. When daylight set in,
he perceived Pao-yŁ make his appearance from the side door; got up, from
head to foot, in a plain suit of clothes. Without uttering a word, he
mounted his steed; and stooping his body forward, he proceeded at a
quick step on his way down the road. Pei Ming had no help but to follow
suit; and, springing on his horse, he smacked it with his whip, and
overtook his master. "Where are we off to?" he eagerly inquired, from
"Where does this road lead to?" Pao-yŁ asked.
"This is the main road leading out of the northern gate." Pei Ming
replied. "Once out of it, everything is so dull and dreary that there's
nothing worth seeing!"
Pao-yŁ caught this answer and nodded his head. "I was just thinking that
a dull and dreary place would be just the thing!" he observed. While
speaking, he administered his steed two more whacks. The horse quickly
turned a couple of corners, and trotted out of the city gate. Pei Ming
was more and more at a loss what to think of the whole affair; yet his
only course was to keep pace closely in his master's track. With one
gallop, they covered a distance of over seven or eight lis. But it was
only when human habitations became gradually few and far between that
Pao-yŁ ultimately drew up his horse. Turning his head round: "Is there
any place here," he asked, "where incense is sold?"
"Incense!" Pei Ming shouted, "yes, there is; but what kind of incense it
is I don't know."
"All other incense is worth nothing," Pao-yŁ resumed, after a moment's
reflection. "We should get sandalwood, conifer and cedar, these three."
"These three sorts are very difficult to get," Pei Ming smiled.
Pao-yŁ was driven to his wits' ends. But Pei Ming noticing his dilemma,
"What do you want incense for?" he felt impelled to ask. "Master
Secundus, I've often seen you wear a small purse, about your person,
full of tiny pieces of incense; and why don't you see whether you've got
it with you?"
This allusion was sufficient to suggest the idea to Pao-yŁ's mind.
Forthwith, he drew back his hand and felt the purse suspended on the
lapel of his coat. It really contained two bits of 'Ch'en Su.' At this
discovery, his heart expanded with delight. The only thing that (damped
his spirits) was the notion that there was a certain want of reverence
in his proceedings; but, on second consideration, he concluded that what
he had about him was, after all, considerably superior to any he could
purchase, and, with alacrity, he went on to inquire about a censer and
"Don't think of such things!" Pei Ming urged. "Where could they be
procured in a deserted and lonely place like this? If you needed them,
why didn't you speak somewhat sooner, and we could have brought them
along with us? Would not this have been more convenient?"
"You stupid thing!" exclaimed Pao-yŁ. "Had we been able to bring them
along, we wouldn't have had to run in this way as if for life!"
Pei Ming indulged in a protracted reverie, after which, he gave a smile.
"I've thought of something," he cried, "but I wonder what you'll think
about it, Master Secundus! You don't, I expect, only require these
things; you'll need others too, I presume. But this isn't the place for
them; so let's move on at once another couple of lis, when we'll get to
the 'Water Spirit' monastery."
"Is the 'Water Spirit' monastery in this neighbourhood?" Pao-yŁ eagerly
inquired, upon hearing his proposal. "Yes, that would be better; let's
With this reply, he touched his horse with his whip. While advancing on
their way, he turned round. "The nun in this 'Water Spirit' monastery,"
he shouted to Pei Ming, "frequently comes on a visit to our house, so
that when we now get there and ask her for the loan of a censer, she's
certain to let us have it."
"Not to mention that that's a place where our family burns incense," Pei
Ming answered, "she could not dare to raise any objections, to any
appeal from us for a loan, were she even in a temple quite unknown to
us. There's only one thing, I've often been struck with the strong
dislike you have for this 'Water Spirit' monastery, master, and how is
that you're now, so delighted with the idea of going to it?"
"I've all along had the keenest contempt for those low-bred persons,"
Pao-yŁ rejoined, "who, without knowing why or wherefore, foolishly offer
sacrifices to the spirits, and needlessly have temples erected. The
reason of it all is, that those rich old gentlemen and unsophisticated
wealthy women, who lived in past days, were only too ready, the moment
they heard of the presence of a spirit anywhere, to take in hand the
erection of temples to offer their sacrifices in, without even having
the faintest notion whose spirits they were. This was because they
readily credited as gospel-truth such rustic stories and idle tales as
chanced to reach their ears. Take this place as an example. Offerings
are presented in this 'Water Spirit' nunnery to the spirit of the 'Lo'
stream; hence the name of 'Water Spirit' monastery has been given to it.
But people really don't know that in past days, there was no such thing
as a 'Lo' spirit! These are, indeed, no better than legendary yarns
invented by Ts'ao Tzu-chien, and who would have thought it, this sort of
stupid people have put up images of it, to which they offer oblations.
It serves, however, my purpose to-day, so I'll borrow of her whatever I
need to use."
While engaged in talking, they reached the entrance. The old nun saw
Pao-yŁ arrive, and was thoroughly taken aback. So far was this visit
beyond her expectations, that well did it seem to her as if a live
dragon had dropped from the heavens. With alacrity, she rushed up to
him; and making inquiries after his health, she gave orders to an old
Taoist to come and take his horse.
Pao-yŁ stepped into the temple. But without paying the least homage to
the image of the 'Lo' spirit, he simply kept his eyes fixed intently on
it; for albeit made of clay, it actually seemed, nevertheless, to
flutter as does a terror-stricken swan, and to wriggle as a dragon in
motion. It looked like a lotus, peeping its head out of the green
stream, or like the sun, pouring its rays upon the russet clouds in the
early morn. Pao-yŁ's tears unwittingly trickled down his cheeks.
The old nun presented tea. Pao-yŁ then asked her for the loan of a
censer to burn incense in. After a protracted absence, the old nun
returned with some incense as well as several paper horses, which she
had got ready for him to offer. But Pao-yŁ would not use any of the
things she brought. "Take the censer," he said to Pei Ming, "and go out
into the back garden and find a clean spot!"
But having been unable to discover one; "What about, the platform round
that well?" Pei Ming inquired.
Pao-yŁ nodded his head assentingly. Then along with him, he repaired to
the platform of the well. He deposited the censer on the ground, while
Pei Ming stood on one side. Pao-yŁ produced the incense, and threw it on
the fire. With suppressed tears, he performed half of the ceremony, and,
turning himself round, he bade Pei Ming clear the things away. Pei Ming
acquiesced; but, instead of removing the things, he speedily fell on his
face, and made several prostrations, as his lips uttered this prayer:
"I, Pei Ming, have been in the service of Master Secundus for several
years. Of the secrets of Mr. Secundus' heart there are none, which I
have not known, save that with regard to this sacrifice to-day; the
object of which, he has neither told me; nor have I had the presumption
to ask. But thou, oh spirit! who art the recipient of these sacrificial
offerings, must, I expect, unknown though thy surname and name be to me,
be a most intelligent and supremely beautiful elder or younger sister,
unique among mankind, without a peer even in heaven! As my Master
Secundus cannot give vent to the sentiments, which fill his heart, allow
me to pray on his behalf! Should thou possess spirituality, and holiness
be thy share, do thou often come and look up our Mr. Secundus, for
persistently do his thoughts dwell with thee! And there is no reason why
thou should'st not come! But should'st thou be in the abode of the dead,
grant that our Mr. Secundus too may, in his coming existence, be
transformed into a girl, so that he may be able to amuse himself with
you all! And will not this prove a source of pleasure to both sides?"
At the close of his invocation, he again knocked his head several times
on the ground, and, eventually, rose to his feet.
Pao-yŁ lent an ear to his utterances, but, before they had been brought
to an end, he felt it difficult to repress himself from laughing. Giving
him a kick, "Don't talk such stuff and nonsense!" he shouted. "Were any
looker-on to overhear what you say, he'd jeer at you!"
Pei Ming got up and put the censer away. While he walked along with
Pao-yŁ, "I've already," he said, "told the nun that you hadn't as yet
had anything to eat, Master Secundus, and I bade her get a few things
ready for you, so you must force yourself to take something. I know very
well that a grand banquet will be spread in our mansion to-day, that
exceptional bustle will prevail, and that you have, on account of this,
Sir, come here to get out of the way. But as you're, after all, going to
spend a whole day in peace and quiet in here, you should try and divert
yourself as best you can. It won't, therefore, by any manner of means do
for you to have nothing to eat."
"I won't be at the theatrical performance to have any wine," Pao-yŁ
remarked, "so what harm will there be in my having a drink here, as the
fancy takes me?"
"Quite so!" rejoined Pei Ming. "But there's another consideration. You
and I have run over here; but there must be some whose minds are ill at
ease. Were there no one uneasy about us, well, what would it matter if
we got back into town as late as we possibly could? But if there be any
solicitous on your account, it's but right, Master Secundus, that you
should enter the city and return home. In the first place, our worthy
old mistress and Madame Wang, will thus compose their minds; and
secondly, you'll observe the proper formalities, if you succeed in doing
nothing else. But even supposing that, when once you get home, you feel
no inclination to look at the plays and have anything to drink, you can
merely wait upon your father and mother, and acquit yourself of your
filial piety! Well, if it's only a matter of fulfilling this obligation,
and you don't care whether our old mistress and our lady, your mother,
experience concern or not, why, the spirit itself, which has just been
the recipient of your oblations, won't feel in a happy frame of mind!
You'd better therefore, master, ponder and see what you think of my
"I see what you're driving at!" Pao-yŁ smiled. "You keep before your
mind the thought that you're the only servant, who has followed me as an
attendant out of town, and you give way to fear that you will, on your
return, have to bear the consequences. You hence have recourse to these
grandiloquent arguments to shove words of counsel down my throat! I've
come here now with the sole object of satisfying certain rites, and then
going to partake of the banquet and be a spectator of the plays; and I
never mentioned one single word about any intention on my part not to go
back to town for a whole day! I've, however, already accomplished the
wish I fostered in my heart, so if we hurry back to town, so as to