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Hung Lou Meng, Book I by Cao Xueqin

Part 10 out of 10

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after the mother, her daughter and the cousins had finished their meal,
Pao-yü bade good-bye to Chia She and returned home in company with all
the young ladies; and when they had said good-night to dowager lady
Chia, madame Wang and the others, they each went back into their rooms
and retired to rest; where we shall leave them without any further
comment and speak of Chia Yün's visit to the mansion. As soon as he saw
Chia Lien, he inquired what business it was that had turned up, and Chia
Lien consequently explained: "The other day something did actually
present itself, but as it happened that your aunt had again and again
entreated me, I gave it to Chia Ch'in; as she promised me that there
would be by and by in the garden several other spots where flowers and
trees would be planted; and that when this job did occur, she would, for
a certainty, give it to you and finish!"

Chia Yün, upon hearing these words, suggested after a short pause; "If
that be so, there's nothing for me to do than to wait; but, uncle, you
too mustn't make any allusion beforehand in the presence of aunt to my
having come to-day to make any inquiries; for there will really be ample
time to speak to her when the job turns up!"

"Why should I allude to it?" Chia Lien rejoined. "Have I forsooth got
all this leisure to talk of irrelevant matters! But to-morrow, besides,
I've got to go as far as Hsing Yi for a turn, and it's absolutely
necessary that I should hurriedly come back the very same day; so off
with you now and go and wait; and the day after to-morrow, after the
watch has been set, come and ask for news; but mind at any earlier hour,
I shan't have any leisure!" With these words, he hastily went at the
back to change his clothes. And from the time Chia Yun put his foot out
of the door of the Jung Kuo mansion, he was, the whole way homeward,
plunged in deep thought; but having bethought himself of some expedient,
he straightway wended his steps towards the house of his maternal uncle,
Pu Shih-jen. This Pu Shih-jen, it must be explained, kept, at the
present date, a shop for the sale of spices. He had just returned home
from his shop, and as soon as he noticed Chia Yun, he inquired of him
what business brought him there.

"There's something," Chia Yun replied, "in which I would like to crave
your assistance, uncle; I'm in need of some baroos camphor and musk, so
please, uncle, give me on credit four ounces of each kind, and on the
festival of the eighth moon, I'll bring you the amount in full."

Pu Shih-jen gave a sardonic smile. "Don't," he said, "again allude to
any such thing as selling on tick! Some time back a partner in our
establishment got several ounces of goods for his relatives on credit,
and up to this date the bill hasn't as yet been settled; the result
being that we've all had to make the amount good, so that we've entered
into an agreement that we should no more allow any one to obtain on tick
anything on behalf of either relative or friend, and that whoever acted
contrary to this resolution should be, at once, fined twenty taels, with
which to stand a treat. Besides, the stock of these articles is now
short, and were you also to come, with ready money to this our mean shop
to buy any, we wouldn't even have as much to give you. The best way
therefore is for you to go elsewhere. This is one side of the question;
for on the other, you can't have anything above-board in view; and were
you to obtain what you want as a loan you would again go and play the
giddy dog! But you'll simply say that on every occasion your uncle sees
you, he avails himself of it to find fault with you, but a young fellow
like you doesn't know what's good and what is bad; and you should,
besides, make up your mind to earn a few cash, wherewith to clothe and
feed yourself, so that, when I see you, I too may rejoice!"

"What you, uncle, say," Chia Yun rejoined smiling, "is perfectly right;
the only thing is that at the time of my father's death, I was likewise
so young in years that I couldn't understand anything; but later on, I
heard my mother explain how that for everything, it was lucky that you,
after all, my uncles, went over to our house and devised the ways and
means, and managed the funeral; and is it likely you, uncle, aren't
aware of these things? Besides, have I forsooth had a single acre of
land or a couple of houses, the value of which I've run through as soon
as it came into my hands? An ingenious wife cannot make boiled rice
without raw rice; and what would you have me do? It's your good fortune
however that you've got to deal with one such as I am, for had it been
any one else barefaced and shameless, he would have come, twice every
three days, to worry you, uncle, by asking for two pints of rice and two
of beans, and you then, uncle, would have had no help for it."

"My dear child," Pu Shih-jen exclaimed, "had I anything that I could
call my own, your uncle as I am, wouldn't I feel bound to do something
for you? I've day after day mentioned to your aunt that the misfortune
was that you had no resources. But should you ever succeed in making up
your mind, you should go into that mighty household of yours, and when
the gentlemen aren't looking, forthwith pocket your pride and hobnob
with those managers, or possibly with the butlers, as you may, even
through them, be able to get some charge or other! The other day, when I
was out of town, I came across that old Quartus of the third branch of
the family, astride of a tall donkey, at the head of four or five
carriages, in which were about forty to fifty bonzes and Taoist priests
on their way to the family fane, and that man can't lack brains, for
such a charge to have fallen to his share!"

Chia Yün, upon hearing these words, indulged in a long and revolting
rigmarole, and then got up to take his leave.

"What are you in such a hurry for?" Pu Shih-jen remarked. "Have your
meal and then go!"

But this remark was scarcely ended when they heard his wife say: "Are
you again in the clouds? When I heard that there was no rice, I bought
half a catty of dry rice paste, and brought it here for you to eat; and
do you pray now still put on the airs of a well-to-do, and keep your
nephew to feel the pangs of hunger?"

"Well, then, buy half a catty more, and add to what there is, that's
all," Pu Shih-jen continued; whereupon her mother explained to her
daughter, Yin Chieh, "Go over to Mrs. Wang's opposite, and ask her if
she has any cash, to lend us twenty or thirty of them; and to-morrow,
when they're brought over, we'll repay her."

But while the husband and wife were carrying on this conversation, Chia
Yün had, at an early period, repeated several times: "There's no need to
go to this trouble," and off he went, leaving no trace or shadow behind.
But without passing any further remarks on the husband and wife of the
Pu family, we will now confine ourselves to Chia Yün. Having gone in
high dudgeon out of the door of his uncle's house, he started straight
on his way back home; but while distressed in mind, and preoccupied with
his thoughts, he paced on with drooping head, he unexpectedly came into
collision with a drunken fellow, who gripped Chia Yün, and began to
abuse him, crying: "Are your eyes gone blind, that you come bang against

The tone of voice, when it reached Chia Yün ears, sounded like that of
some one with whom he was intimate; and, on careful scrutiny, he found,
in fact, that it was his next-door neighbour, Ni Erh. This Ni Erh was a
dissolute knave, whose only idea was to give out money at heavy rates of
interest and to have his meals in the gambling dens. His sole delight
was to drink and to fight.

He was, at this very moment, coming back home from the house of a
creditor, whom he had dunned, and was already far gone with drink, so
that when, at an unforeseen moment, Chia Yün ran against him, he meant
there and then to start a scuffle with him.

"Old Erh!" Chia Yün shouted, "stay your hand; it's I who have hustled
against you."

As soon as Ni Erh heard the tone of his voice, he opened wide his
drunken eyes and gave him a look; and realising that it was Chia Yün, he
hastened to loosen his grasp and to remark with a smile, as he staggered
about, "Is it you indeed, master Chia Secundus? where were you off to

"I couldn't tell you!" Chia Yün rejoined; "I've again brought
displeasure upon me, and all through no fault of mine."

"Never mind!" urged Ni Erh, "if you're in any trouble you just tell me,
and I'll give vent to your spite for you; for in these three streets,
and six lanes, no matter who may give offence to any neighbours of mine,
of me, Ni Erh, the drunken Chin Kang, I'll wager that I compel that
man's family to disperse, and his home to break up!"

"Old Ni, don't lose your temper," Chia Yün protested, "but listen and
let me tell you what happened!" After which, he went on to tell Ni Erh
the whole affair with Pu Shih-jen. As soon as Ni Erh heard him, he got
into a frightful rage; "Were he not," he shouted, a "relative of yours,
master Secundus, I would readily give him a bit of my mind! Really
resentment will stifle my breath! but never mind! you needn't however
distress yourself. I've got here a few taels ready at hand, which, if
you require, don't scruple to take; and from such good neighbours as you
are, I won't ask any interest upon this money."

With this remark still on his lips, he produced from his pouch a bundle
of silver.

"Ni Erh has, it is true, ever been a rogue," Chia Yün reflected in his
own mind, "but as he is regulated in his dealings by a due regard to
persons, he enjoys, to a great degree, the reputation of generosity; and
were I to-day not to accept this favour of his, he'll, I fear, be put to
shame; and it won't contrariwise be nice on my part! and isn't it better
that I should make use of his money, and by and by I can repay him
double, and things will be all right!"

"Old Erh," he therefore observed aloud with a smile, "you're really a
fine fellow, and as you've shown me such eminent consideration, how can
I presume not to accept your offer! On my return home, I'll write the
customary I.O.U., and send it to you, and all will be in order."

Ni Erh gave a broad grin. "It's only fifteen taels and three mace," he
answered, "and if you insist upon writing an I.O.U., I won't then lend
it to you!"

Chia Yün at these words, took over the money, smiling the while. "I'll
readily," he retorted, "comply with your wishes and have done; for
what's the use of exasperating you!"

"Well then that will be all right!" Ni Erh laughed; "but the day is
getting dark; and I shan't ask you to have a cup of tea or stand you a
drink, for I've some small things more to settle. As for me, I'm going
over there, but you, after all, should please wend your way homewards;
and I shall also request you to take a message for me to my people. Tell
them to close the doors and turn in, as I'm not returning home; and that
in the event of anything occurring, to bid our daughter come over
to-morrow, as soon as it is daylight, to short-legged Wang's house, the
horse-dealer's, in search of me!" And as he uttered this remark he
walked away, stumbling and hobbling along. But we will leave him without
further notice and allude to Chia Yün.

He had, at quite an unexpected juncture, met this piece of luck, so that
his heart was, of course, delighted to the utmost degree. "This Ni Erh,"
he mused, "is really a good enough sort of fellow, but what I dread is
that he may have been open-handed in his fit of drunkenness, and that he
mayn't, by and by, ask for his money to be paid twice over; and what
will I do then? Never mind," he suddenly went on to ponder, "when that
job has become an accomplished fact, I shall even have the means to pay
him back double the original amount."

Prompted by this resolution, he came over to a money-shop, and when he
had the silver weighed, and no discrepancy was discovered in the weight,
he was still more elated at heart; and on his way back, he first and
foremost delivered Ni Erh's message to his wife, and then returned to
his own home, where he found his mother seated all alone on a
stove-couch spinning thread. As soon as she saw him enter, she inquired
where he had been the whole day long, in reply to which Chia Yün,
fearing lest his parent should be angry, forthwith made no allusion to
what transpired with Pu Shih-jen, but simply explained that he had been
in the western mansion, waiting for his uncle Secundus, Lien. This over,
he asked his mother whether she had had her meal or not, and his parent
said by way of reply: "I've had it, but I've kept something for you in
there," and calling to the servant-maid, she bade her bring it round,
and set it before him to eat. But as it was already dark, when the lamps
had to be lit, Chia Yün, after partaking of his meal, got ready and
turned in.

Nothing of any notice transpired the whole night; but the next day, as
soon it was dawn, he got up, washed his face, and came to the main
street, outside the south gate, and purchasing some musk from a
perfumery shop, he, with rapid stride, entered the Jung Kuo mansion; and
having, as a result of his inquiries, found out that Chia Lien had gone
out of doors, Chia Yün readily betook himself to the back, in front of
the door of Chia Lien's court, where he saw several servant-lads, with
immense brooms in their hands, engaged in that place in sweeping the
court. But as he suddenly caught sight of Chou Jui's wife appear outside
the door, and call out to the young boys; "Don't sweep now, our lady is
coming out," Chia Yün eagerly walked up to her and inquired, with a face
beaming with smiles: "Where's aunt Secunda going to?"

To this inquiry, Chou Jui's wife explained: "Our old lady has sent for
her, and I expect, it must be for her to cut some piece of cloth or
other." But while she yet spoke, they perceived a whole bevy of people,
pressing round lady Feng, as she egressed from the apartment.

Chia Yün was perfectly aware that lady Feng took pleasure in flattery,
and delighted in display, so that hastily dropping his arms, he with all
reverence, thrust himself forward and paid his respects to her. But lady
Feng did not even so much as turn to look at him with straight eyes; but
continued, as hitherto, her way onwards, simply confining herself to
ascertaining whether his mother was all right, and adding: "How is it
that she doesn't come to our house for a stroll?"

"The thing is," Chia Yün replied, "that she's not well: she, however,
often thinks fondly of you, aunt, and longs to see you; but as for
coming round, she's quite unable to do so."

"You have, indeed, the knack of telling lies!" lady Feng laughed with
irony; "for hadn't I alluded to her, she would never have thought of

"Isn't your nephew afraid," Chia Yün protested smilingly, "of being
blasted by lightning to have the audacity of telling lies in the
presence of an elder! Even so late as yesterday evening, she alluded to
you, aunt! 'Though naturally,' she said, 'of a weak constitution, you
had, however, plenty to attend to! that it's thanks to your supremely
eminent energies, aunt, that you're, after all, able to manage
everything in such a perfect manner; and that had you ever made the
slightest slip, there would have long ago crept up, goodness knows, what

As soon as lady Feng heard these words, her whole face beamed with
smiles, and she unconsciously halted her steps, while she proceeded to
ask: "How is it that, both your mother and yourself, tattle about me
behind my back, without rhyme or reason?"

"There's a reason for it," Chia Yün observed, "which is simply this.
I've an excellent friend with considerable money of his own at home, who
recently kept a perfumery shop; but as he obtained, by purchase, the
rank of deputy sub-prefect, he was, the other day, selected for a post
in Yunnan, in some prefecture or other unknown to me; whither he has
gone together with his family. He even closed this shop of his, and
forthwith collecting all his wares, he gave away, what he could give
away, and what he had to sell at a discount, was sold at a loss; while
such valuable articles, as these, were all presented to relatives or
friends; and that's why it is that I came in for some baroos camphor and
musk. But I at the time, deliberated with my mother that to sell them
below their price would be a pity, and that if we wished to give them as
a present to any one, there was no one good enough to use such perfumes.
But remembering how you, aunt, had all along in years gone by, even to
this day, to spend large bundles of silver, in purchasing such articles,
and how, not to speak of this year with an imperial consort in the
Palace, what's even required for this dragon boat festival, will also
necessitate the addition of hundred times as much as the quantity of
previous years, I therefore present them to you, aunt, as a token of my

With these words still on his lips, he simultaneously produced an
ornamented box, which he handed over to her. And as lady Feng was, at
this time, making preparations for presents for the occasion of the
dragon boat festival, for which perfumes were obligatory, she, with all
promptitude, directed Feng Erh: "Receive Mr. Yün's present and take it
home and hand it over to P'ing Erh. To one," she consequently added,
"who seems to me so full of discrimination, it isn't a wonder that your
uncle is repeatedly alluding, and that he speaks highly of you; how that
you talk with all intelligence and that you have experience stored up in
your mind."

Chia Yün upon hearing this propitious language, hastily drew near one
step, and designedly asked: "Does really uncle often refer to me?"

The moment lady Feng caught this question, she was at once inclined to
tell him all about the charge to be entrusted to him, but on second
thought, she again felt apprehensive lest she should be looked lightly
upon by him, by simply insinuating that she had promptly and needlessly
promised him something to do, so soon as she got a little scented ware;
and this consideration urged her to once more restrain her tongue, so
that she never made the slightest reference even to so much as one word
about his having been chosen to look after the works of planting the
flowers and trees. And after confining herself to making the first few
irrelevant remarks which came to her lips, she hastily betook herself
into dowager lady Chia's apartments.

Chia Yün himself did not feel as if he could very well advert to the
subject, with the result that he had no alternative but to retrace his
steps homewards. But as when he had seen Pao-yü the previous day, he had
asked him to go into the outer library and wait for him, he therefore
finished his meal and then once again entered the mansion and came over
into the I Hsia study, situated outside the ceremonial gate, over at old
lady Chia's part of the compound, where he discovered the two lads Ming
Yen, whose name had been changed into Pei Ming, and Chu Yo playing at
chess, and just arguing about the capture of a castle; and besides them,
Yin Ch'uan, Sao Hua, T'iao Yün, Pan Ho, these four or five of them, up
to larks, stealing the young birds from the nests under the eaves of the

As soon as Chia Yün entered the court, he stamped his foot and shouted,
"The monkeys are up to mischief! Here I am, I've come;" and when the
company of servant-boys perceived him, they one and all promptly
dispersed; while Chia Yün walked into the library, and seating himself
at once in a chair, he inquired, "Has your master Secundus, Mr. Pao,
come down?"

"He hasn't been down here at all to-day," Pei Ming replied, "but if you,
Mr. Secundus, have anything to tell him, I'll go and see what he's up to
for you."

Saying this he there and then left the room; and Chia Yün meanwhile gave
himself to the inspection of the pictures and nicknacks. But some
considerable time elapsed, and yet he did not see him arrive; and
noticing besides that the other lads had all gone to romp, he was just
plunged in a state of despondency, when he heard outside the door a
voice cry out, with winning tone, and tender accents: "My elder

Chia Yün looked out, and saw that it was a servant-maid of fifteen or
sixteen, who was indeed extremely winsome and spruce. As soon however as
the maid caught a glimpse of Chia Yün, she speedily turned herself round
and withdrew out of sight. But, as luck would have it, it happened that
Pei Ming was coming along, and seeing the servant-maid in front of the
door, he observed: "Welcome, welcome! I was quite at a loss how to get
any news of Pao-yü." And as Chia Yün discerned Pei Ming, he hastily too,
ran out in pursuit of him, and ascertained what was up; whereupon Pei
Ming returned for answer: "I waited a whole day long, and not a single
soul came over; but this girl is attached to master Secundus' (Mr.
Pao's) rooms!" and, "My dear girl," he consequently went on to say, "go
in and take a message. Say that Mr. Secundus, who lives under the
portico, has come!"

The servant-maid, upon hearing these words, knew at once that he was a
young gentleman belonging to the family in which she served, and she did
not skulk out of sight, as she had done in the first instance; but with
a gaze sufficient to kill, she fixed her two eyes upon Chia Yün, when
she heard Chia Yün interpose: "What about over the portico and under the
portico; you just tell him that Yün Erh is come, that's all."

After a while this girl gave a sarcastic smile. "My idea is," she
ventured, "that you, master Secundus, should really, if it so please
you, go back, and come again to-morrow; and to-night, if I find time,
I'll just put in a word with him!"

"What's this that you're driving at?" Pei Ming then shouted.

And the maid rejoined: "He's not even had a siesta to-day, so that he'll
have his dinner at an early hour, and won't come down again in the
evening; and is it likely that you would have master Secundus wait here
and suffer hunger? and isn't it better than he should return home? The
right thing is that he should come to-morrow; for were even by and by
some one to turn up, who could take a message, that person would simply
acquiesce with the lips, but would he be willing to deliver the message
in for you?"

Chia Yün, upon finding how concise and yet how well expressed this
girl's remarks had been, was bent upon inquiring what her name was; but
as she was a maid employed in Pao-yü's apartments, he did not therefore
feel justified in asking the question, and he had no other course but to
add, "What you say is quite right, I'll come to-morrow!" and as he
spoke, he there and then was making his way outside, when Pei Ming
remarked: "I'll go and pour a cup of tea; and master Secundus, have your
tea and then go."

Chia Yün turned his head round, as he kept on his way, and said by way
of rejoinder: "I won't have any tea; for I've besides something more to
attend to!" and while with his lips he uttered these words, he, with his
eyes, stared at the servant-girl, who was still standing in there.

Chia Yün wended his steps straightway home; and the next day, he came to
the front entrance, where, by a strange coincidence, he met lady Feng on
her way to the opposite side to pay her respects. She had just mounted
her carriage, but perceiving Chia Yün arrive, she eagerly bade a servant
stop him, and, with the window between them, she smiled and observed:
"Yün Erh, you're indeed bold in playing your pranks with me! I thought
it strange that you should give me presents; but the fact is you had a
favour to ask of me; and your uncle told me even yesterday that you had
appealed to him!"

Chia Yün smiled. "Of my appeal to uncle, you needn't, aunt, make any
mention; for I'm at this moment full of regret at having made it. Had I
known, at an early hour, that things would have come to this pass, I
would, from the very first, have made my request to you, aunt; and by
this time everything would have been settled long ago! But who would
have anticipated that uncle was, after all, a man of no worth!"

"Strange enough," lady Feng remarked sneeringly, "when you found that
you didn't succeed in that quarter, you came again yesterday in search
of me!"

"Aunt, you do my filial heart an injustice," Chia Yün protested; "I
never had such a thought; had I entertained any such idea, wouldn't I,
aunt, have made my appeal to you yesterday? But as you are now aware of
everything, I'll really put uncle on one side, and prefer my request to
you; for circumstances compel me to entreat you, aunt, to be so good as
to show me some little consideration!"

Lady Feng laughed sardonically. "You people will choose the long road to
follow and put me also in a dilemma! Had you told me just one word at an
early hour, what couldn't have been brought about? an affair of state
indeed to be delayed up to this moment! In the garden, there are to be
more trees planted and flowers laid down, and I couldn't think of any
person that I could have recommended, and had you spoken before this,
wouldn't the whole question have been settled soon enough?"

"Well, in that case, aunt," ventured Chia Yün with a smile, "you had
better depute me to-morrow, and have done!"

"This job," continued lady Feng after a pause, "is not, my impression
is, very profitable; and if you were to wait till the first moon of next
year, when the fireworks, lanterns, and candles will have to be
purveyed, I'll depute you as soon as those extensive commissions turn

"My dear aunt," pleaded Chia Yün, "first appoint me to this one, and if
I do really manage this satisfactorily, you can then commission me with
that other!"

"You know in truth how to draw a long thread," lady Feng observed
laughing. "But hadn't it been that your uncle had spoken to me on your
account, I wouldn't have concerned myself about you. But as I shall
cross over here soon after the repast, you had better come at eleven
a.m., and fetch the money, for you to enter into the garden the day
after to-morrow, and have the flowers planted!"

As she said this, she gave orders to drive the "scented" carriage, and
went on her way by the quickest cut; while Chia Yün, who was
irrepressibly delighted, betook himself into the I Hsia study, and
inquired after Pao-yü. But, who would have thought it, Pao-yü had, at an
early hour, gone to the mansion of the Prince of Pei Ching, so that Chia
Yün had to sit in a listless mood till noon; and when he found out that
lady Feng had returned, he speedily wrote an acknowledgment and came to
receive the warrant. On his arrival outside the court, he commissioned a
servant to announce him, and Ts'ai Ming thereupon walked out, and merely
asking for the receipt, went in, and, after filling in the amount, the
year and moon, he handed it over to Chia Yün together with the warrant.
Chia Yün received them from him, and as the entry consisted of two
hundred taels, his heart was full of exultant joy; and turning round, he
hurried to the treasury, where after he had taken over the amount in
silver, he returned home and laid the case before his mother, and
needless to say, that both the parent and her son were in high spirits.
The next day, at the fifth watch, Chia Yun first came in search of Ni
Erh, to whom he repaid the money, and then taking fifty taels along with
him, he sped outside the western gate to the house of Fang Ch'un, a
gardener, to purchase trees, where we will leave him without saying
anything more about him.

We will now resume our story with Pao-yü. The day on which he
encountered Chia Yün, he asked him to come in on the morrow and have a
chat with him, but this invitation was practically the mere formal talk
of a rich and well-to-do young man, and was not likely to be so much as
borne in mind; and so it was that it readily slipped from his memory. On
the evening of the day, however, on which he returned home from the
mansion of the Prince Pei Ching, he came, after paying his salutations
to dowager lady Chia, madame Wang, and the other inmates, back into the
garden; but upon divesting himself of all his fineries, he was just
about to have his bath, when, as Hsi Jen had, at the invitation of Hsüeh
Pao-ch'ai, crossed over to tie a few knotted buttons, as Ch'in Wen and
Pi Hen had both gone to hurry the servants to bring the water, as T'an
Yun had likewise been taken home, on account of her mother's illness,
and She Yueh, on the other hand, was at present ailing in her quarters,
while the several waiting-maids, who were in there besides to attend to
the dirty work, and answer the calls, had, surmising that he would not
requisition their services, one and all gone out in search of their
friends and in quest of their companions, it occurred, contrary to their
calculations, that Pao-yü remained this whole length of time quite alone
in his apartments; and as it so happened that Pao-yü wanted tea to
drink, he had to call two or three times before he at last saw three old
matrons walk in. But at the sight of them, Pao-yü hastily waved his hand
and exclaimed: "No matter, no matter; I don't want you," whereupon the
matrons had no help but to withdraw out of the rooms; and as Pao-yü
perceived that there were no waiting-maids at hand, he had to come down
and take a cup and go up to the teapot to pour the tea; when he heard
some one from behind him observe: "Master Secundus, beware, you'll
scorch your hand; wait until I come to pour it!" And as she spoke, she
walked up to him, and took the cup from his grasp, to the intense
surprise, in fact, of Pao-yü, who inquired: "Where were you that you
have suddenly come to give me a start?"

The waiting-maid smiled as she handed him the tea. "I was in the back
court," she replied, "and just came in from the back door of the inner
rooms; and is it likely that you didn't, sir, hear the sound of my

Pao-yü drank his tea, and as he simultaneously passed the servant-girl
under a minute inspection, he found that though she wore several
articles of clothing the worse for wear, she was, nevertheless, with
that head of beautiful hair, as black as the plumage of a raven, done up
in curls, her face so oblong, her figure so slim and elegant, indeed,
supremely beautiful, sweet, and spruce, and Pao-yü eagerly inquired:
"Are you also a girl attached to this room of mine?"

"I am," rejoined that waiting-maid.

"But since you belong to this room, how is it I don't know you?" Pao-yü

When the maid heard these words, she forced a laugh. "There are even
many," she explained, "that are strangers to you; and is it only myself?
I've never, before this, served tea, or handed water, or brought in
anything; nor have I attended to a single duty in your presence, so how
could you know me?"

"But why don't you attend to any of those duties that would bring you to
my notice?" Pao-yü questioned.

"I too," answered the maid, "find it as difficult to answer such a
question. There's however one thing that I must report to you, master
Secundus. Yesterday, some Mr. Yün Erh or other came to see you; but as I
thought you, sir, had no leisure, I speedily bade Pei Ming tell him to
come early to-day. But you unexpectedly went over again to the mansion
of the Prince of Pei Ching."

When she had spoken as far as this, she caught sight of Ch'iu Wen and Pi
Hen enter the court, giggling and laughing; the two of them carrying
between them a bucket of water; and while raising their skirts with one
hand, they hobbled along, as the water spurted and plashed. The
waiting-maid hastily come out to meet them so as to relieve them of
their burden, but Ch'iu Wen and Pi Hen were in the act of standing face
to face and finding fault with each other; one saying, "You've wetted my
clothes," the other adding, "You've trod on my shoes," and upon, all of
a sudden, espying some one walk out to receive the water, and
discovering, when they came to see, that it was actually no one else
than Hsiao Hung, they were at once both so taken aback that, putting
down the bucket, they hurried into the room; and when they looked about
and saw that there was no other person inside besides Pao-yü they were
at once displeased. But as they were meanwhile compelled to get ready
the articles necessary for his bath, they waited until Pao-yü was about
to divest himself of his clothes, when the couple of them speedily
pulled the door to behind them, as they went out, and walked as far as
the room on the opposite side, in search of Hsiao Hung; of whom they
inquired: "What were you doing in his room a short while back?"

"When was I ever in the room?" Hsiao Hung replied; "simply because I
lost sight of my handkerchief, I went to the back to try and find it,
when unexpectedly Mr. Secundus, who wanted tea, called for you sisters;
and as there wasn't one even of you there, I walked in and poured a cup
for him, and just at that very moment you sisters came back."

"You barefaced, low-bred thing!" cried Ch'iu Wen, turning towards her
and spurting in her face. "It was our bounden duty to tell you to go and
hurry them for the water, but you simply maintained that you were busy
and made us go instead, in order to afford you an opportunity of
performing these wily tricks! and isn't this raising yourself up li by
li? But don't we forsooth, even so much as come up to you? and you just
take that looking-glass and see for yourself, whether you be fit to
serve tea and to hand water or not?"

"To-morrow," continued Pi Hea, "I'll tell them that whenever there's
anything to do connected with his wanting tea, or asking for water, or
with fetching things for him, not one of us should budge, and that
_she_ alone should be allowed to go, and have done!"

"If this be your suggestion," remarked Ch'iu Wen, "wouldn't it be still
better that we should all disperse, and let her reign supreme in this

But while the two of them were up to this trouble, one saying one thing,
and another, another, they caught sight of two old nurses walk in to
deliver a message from lady Feng; who explained: "To-morrow, someone
will bring in gardeners to plant trees, and she bids you keep under more
rigorous restraint, and not sun your clothes and petticoats anywhere and
everywhere; nor air them about heedlessly; that the artificial hill
will, all along, be entirely shut in by screening curtains, and that you
mustn't he running about at random."

"I wonder," interposed Ch'iu Wen with alacrity, "who it is that will
bring the workmen to-morrow, and supervise the works?"

"Some one or other called Mr. Yün, living at the back portico," the old
woman observed.

But Ch'iu Wen and Pi Hen were neither of them acquainted with him, and
they went on promiscuously asking further questions on his account, but
Hsiao Hung knew distinctly in her mind who it was, and was well aware
that it was the person whom she had seen, the previous day, in the outer

The surname of this Hsiao Hung had, in fact, been originally Lin, while
her infant name had been Hung Yü; but as the word Yü improperly
corresponded with the names of Pao-yü and Tai-yü, she was, in due
course, simply called Hsiao Hung. She was indeed an hereditary servant
of the mansion; and her father had latterly taken over the charge of all
matters connected with the farms and farmhouses in every locality. This
Hung-yü came, at the age of sixteen, into the mansion, to enter into
service, and was attached to the Hung Yuan, where in point of fact she
found both a quiet and pleasant home; and when contrary to all
expectation, the young ladies as well as Pao-yü, were subsequently
permitted to move their quarters into the garden of Broad Vista, it so
happened that this place was, moreover, fixed upon by Pao-yü. This Hsiao
Hung was, it is true, a girl without any experience, but as she could,
to a certain degree, boast of a pretty face, and as, in her own heart,
she recklessly fostered the idea of exalting herself to a higher
standard, she was ever ready to thrust herself in Pao-yü's way, with a
view to showing herself off. But attached to Pao-yü's personal service
were a lot of servants, all of whom were glib and specious, so that how
could she ever find an opportunity of thrusting herself forward? But
contrary to her anticipations, there turned up, eventually on this day,
some faint glimmer of hope, but as she again came in for a spell of
spiteful abuse from Ch'iu Wen and her companion, her expectations were
soon considerably frustrated, and she was just plunged in a melancholy
mood, when suddenly she heard the old nurse begin the conversation about
Chia Yün, which unconsciously so affected her heart that she hastily
returned, quite disconsolate, into her room, and lay herself down on her
bed, giving herself quietly to reflection. But while she was racking and
torturing her brain and at a moment when she was at a loss what decision
to grasp, her ear unexpectedly caught, emanating from outside the
window, a faint voice say: "Hsiao Hung, I've picked up your pocket
handkerchief in here!" and as soon as Hsiao Hung heard these words, she
walked out with hurried step and found that it was no one else than Chia
Yün in person; and as Hsiao Hung unwillingly felt her powdered face
suffused with brushes: "Where did you pick it up, Mr. Secundus?" she

"Come over," Chia Yün smiled, "and I'll tell you!" And as he uttered
these words, he came up and drew her to him; but Hsiao Hung twisted
herself round and ran away; but was however tripped over by the step of
the door.

Now, reader, do you want to know the sequel? If so the next chapter will


ERRATA [as noted in the original book].

Preface rhythm not rhymes

Chap. I Page 7 Line 30 on _not_ in
" " " 13 " 11 _dele_ he
" II " 22 " 18 Yü-ts'un _not_ Y-tüs'un
" " " 22 " 25 dele _one_ the
" " " 30 " 14 imbued with _not_ by
" III " 50 " 33 rhythm _not_ rythm
" IV " 64 " 27 _dele_ as _and read:_ and his
widowed mother etc.
" " " 65 " 3 _dele_ in _and read_: while the
rest of his
" V " 80 " 23 monitory _not_ Monotony
" " " 87 " 21 fervour _not_ favour
" VI " 92 " 20 bonzes _not_ bonze
" " " 93 " 1 _Read_: Ai-ya, exclaimed old Goody;
It may very well be said that the
marquis' door etc.
" " " 99 " 4 _read_: à la Chao Chün
" VII " 114 " 13 Chia Jung _not_ Ch'ia Jung
" " " 119 " 10 steward _not_ setward
" IX " 140 " 10 whiff _not_ wiff
" " " 141 " 26 roll _not_ rollster
" X " 157 " 16 action _not_ actions
" XIII " 196 " 23 in the fear _not_ in fear
" XIV " 199 " 39 roll _not_ rollster
" XV " 215 " 23 preparations _not_ preparation
" XVI " 231 " 22 But these words _not_ But that these
words etc.
" " " 238 " 33 roll _not_ rollester
" XVIII " 270 " 11 _delete_ he
" " " 270 " 40 otter _not_ other
" " " 280 " 20 roll _not_ rollster
" XIX " 290 " 15 _supply_ 'the' _before_ milk
" XX " 304 " 39 _read_: lying down, and she felt etc.
" XXI " 321 " 35 though he was _not_ were
" " " 324 " 12 _supply_ 'with' _after_ fumbling
" XXIII " 331 " 32 _read_: a fancy to _not_ for
" " " 338 " 13 _supply_ 'himself' _after_
" XXIII " 349 " 38 him _not_ her
" " " 353 " 39 devotes his energies to _not_ upon
" " " 361 " 1 felt _not_ fell
" " " 371 " 21 lips _not_ slips

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