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Hung Lou Meng, Book I by Cao Xueqin

Part 8 out of 10

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on the last occasion forthwith bid them keep it for her; while he went
himself and told dowager lady Chia that he was going over to see the

The plays sung over at Chia Chen's consisted, who would have thought it,
of "Ting L'ang recognises his father," and "Huang Po-ying deploys the
spirits for battle," and in addition to these, "Sung Hsing-che causes
great commotion in the heavenly palace;" "Ghiang T'ai-kung kills the
general and deifies him," and other such like. Soon appeared the spirits
and devils in a confused crowd on the stage, and suddenly also became
visible the whole band of sprites and goblins, among which were some
waving streamers, as they went past in a procession, invoking Buddha and
burning incense. The sound of the gongs and drums and of shouts and
cries were audible at a distance beyond the lane; and in the whole
street, one and all extolled the performance as exceptionally grand, and
that the like could never have been had in the house of any other

Pao-y, noticing that the commotion and bustle had reached a stage so
unbearable to his taste, speedily betook himself, after merely sitting
for a little while, to other places in search of relaxation and fun.
First of all, he entered the inner rooms, and after spending some time
in chatting and laughing with Mrs. Yu, the waiting-maids, and secondary
wives, he eventually took his departure out of the second gate; and as
Mrs. Yu and her companions were still under the impression that he was
going out again to see the play, they let him speed on his way, without
so much as keeping an eye over him.

Chia Chen, Chia Lien, Hseh P'an and the others were bent upon guessing
enigmas, enforcing the penalties and enjoying themselves in a hundred
and one ways, so that even allowing that they had for a moment noticed
that he was not occupying his seat, they must merely have imagined that
he had gone inside and not, in fact, worried their minds about him. And
as for the pages, who had come along with Pao-y, those who were a
little advanced in years, knowing very well that Pao-y would, on an
occasion like the present, be sure not to be going before dusk,
stealthily therefore took advantage of his absence, those, who could, to
gamble for money, and others to go to the houses of relatives and
friends to drink of the new year tea, so that what with gambling and
drinking the whole bevy surreptitiously dispersed, waiting for dusk
before they came back; while those, who were younger, had all crept into
the green rooms to watch the excitement; with the result that Pao-y
perceiving not one of them about bethought himself of a small reading
room, which existed in previous days on this side, in which was
suspended a picture of a beauty so artistically executed as to look
life-like. "On such a bustling day as this," he reasoned, "it's pretty
certain, I fancy, that there will be no one in there; and that beautiful
person must surely too feel lonely, so that it's only right that I
should go and console her a bit." With these thoughts, he hastily betook
himself towards the side-house yonder, and as soon as he came up to the
window, he heard the sound of groans in the room. Pao-y was really
quite startled. "What!" (he thought), "can that beautiful girl,
possibly, have come to life!" and screwing up his courage, he licked a
hole in the paper of the window and peeped in. It was not she, however,
who had come to life, but Ming Yen holding down a girl and likewise
indulging in what the Monitory Dream Fairy had taught him.

"Dreadful!" exclaimed Pao-y, aloud, unable to repress himself, and,
stamping one of his feet, he walked into the door to the terror of both
of them, who parting company, shivered with fear, like clothes that are
being shaken. Ming Yen perceiving that it was Pao-y promptly fell on
his knees and piteously implored for pardon.

"What! in broad daylight! what do you mean by it? Were your master Mr.
Chen to hear of it, would you die or live?" asked Pao-y, as he
simultaneously cast a glance at the servant-girl, who although not a
beauty was anyhow so spick and span, and possessed besides a few charms
sufficient to touch the heart. From shame, her face was red and her ears
purple, while she lowered her head and uttered not a syllable.

Pao-y stamped his foot. "What!" he shouted, "don't you yet bundle
yourself away!"

This simple remark suggested the idea to the girl's mind who ran off, as
if she had wings to fly with; but as Pao-y went also so far as to go in
pursuit of her, calling out: "Don't be afraid, I'm not one to tell
anyone," Ming Yen was so exasperated that he cried, as he went after
them, "My worthy ancestor, this is distinctly telling people about it."

"How old is that servant girl?" Pao-y having asked; "She's, I expect,
no more than sixteen or seventeen," Ming Yen rejoined.

"Well, if you haven't gone so far as to even ascertain her age," Pao-y
observed, "you're sure to know still less about other things; and it
makes it plain enough that her acquaintance with you is all vain and
futile! What a pity! what a pity!"

He then went on to enquire what her name was; and "Were I," continued
Ming Yen smiling, "to tell you about her name it would involve a long
yarn; it's indeed a novel and strange story! She relates that while her
mother was nursing her, she dreamt a dream and obtained in this dream
possession of a piece of brocaded silk, on which were designs, in
variegated colours, representing opulence and honour, and a continuous
line of the character Wan; and that this reason accounts for the name of
Wan Erh, which was given her."

"This is really strange!" Pao-y exclaimed with a grin, after lending an
ear to what he had to say; "and she is bound, I think, by and by to have
a good deal of good fortune!"

These words uttered, he plunged in deep thought for a while, and Ming
Yen having felt constrained to inquire: "Why aren't you, Mr. Secundus,
watching a theatrical performance of this excellent kind?" "I had been
looking on for ever so long," Pao-y replied, "until I got quite weary;
and had just come out for a stroll, when I happened to meet you two. But
what's to be done now?"

Ming Yen gave a faint smile. "As there's no one here to know anything
about it," he added, "I'll stealthily take you, Mr. Secundus, for a walk
outside the city walls; and we'll come back shortly, before they've got
wind of it."

"That won't do," Pao-y demurred, "we must be careful, or else some
beggar might kidnap us away; besides, were they to come to hear of it,
there'll be again a dreadful row; and isn't it better that we should go
to some nearer place, from which we could, after all, return at once?"

"As for some nearer place," Ming Yen observed; "to whose house can we
go? It's really no easy matter!"

"My idea is," Pao-y suggested with a smirk, "that we should simply go,
and find sister Hua, and see what she's up to at home."

"Yes! Yes!" Ming Yen replied laughingly; "the fact is I had forgotten
all about her home; but should it reach their ears," he continued,
"they'll say that it was I who led you, Mr. Secundus, astray, and
they'll beat me!"

"I'm here for you!" Pao-y having assured him; Ming Yen at these words
led the horses round, and the two of them speedily made their exit by
the back gate. Luckily Hsi Jen's house was not far off. It was no
further than half a li's distance, so that in a twinkle they had already
reached the front of the door, and Ming Yen was the first to walk in and
to call for Hsi Jen's eldest brother Hua Tzu-fang.

Hsi Jen's mother had, on this occasion, united in her home Hsi Jen,
several of her sister's daughters, as well as a few of her nieces, and
they were engaged in partaking of fruits and tea, when they heard some
one outside call out, "Brother Hua." Hua Tzu-fang lost no time in
rushing out; and upon looking and finding that it was the two of them,
the master and his servant, he was so taken by surprise that his fears
could not be set at rest. Promptly, he clasped Pao-y in his arms and
dismounted him, and coming into the court, he shouted out at the top of
his voice: "Mr. Pao has come." The other persons heard the announcement
of his arrival, with equanimity, but when it reached Hsi Jen's ears, she
truly felt at such a loss to fathom the object of his visit that issuing
hastily out of the room, she came to meet Pao-y, and as she laid hold
of him: "Why did you come?" she asked.

"I felt awfully dull," Pao-y rejoined with a smile, "and came to see
what you were up to."

Hsi Jen at these words banished, at last, all anxiety from her mind.
"You're again up to your larks," she observed, "but what's the aim of
your visit? Who else has come along with him?" she at the same time went
on to question Ming Yen.

"All the others know nothing about it!" explained Ming Yen exultingly;
"only we two do, that's all."

When Hsi Jen heard this remark, she gave way afresh to solicitous fears:
"This is dreadful!" she added; "for were you to come across any one from
the house, or to meet master; or were, in the streets, people to press
against you, or horses to collide with you, as to make (his horse) shy,
and he were to fall, would that too be a joke? The gall of both of you
is larger than a peck measure; but it's all you, Ming Yen, who has
incited him, and when I go back, I'll surely tell the nurses to beat

Ming Yen pouted his mouth. "Mr. Secundus," he pleaded, "abused me and
beat me, as he bade me bring him here, and now he shoves the blame on my
shoulders! 'Don't let us go,' I suggested; 'but if you do insist, well
then let us go and have done.'"

Hua Tzu-fang promptly interceded. "Let things alone," he said; "now that
they're already here, there's no need whatever of much ado. The only
thing is that our mean house with its thatched roof is both so crammed
and so filthy that how could you, sir, sit in it!"

Hsi Jen's mother also came out at an early period to receive him, and
Hsi Jen pulled Pao-y in. Once inside the room, Pao-y perceived three
or five girls, who, as soon as they caught sight of him approaching, all
lowered their heads, and felt so bashful that their faces were suffused
with blushes. But as both Hua Tzu-fang and his mother were afraid that
Pao-y would catch cold, they pressed him to take a seat on the
stove-bed, and hastened to serve a fresh supply of refreshments, and to
at once bring him a cup of good tea.

"You needn't be flurrying all for nothing," Hsi Jen smilingly
interposed; "I, naturally, should know; and there's no use of even
laying out any fruits, as I daren't recklessly give him anything to

Saying this, she simultaneously took her own cushion and laid it on a
stool, and after Pao-y took a seat on it, she placed the footstove she
had been using, under his feet; and producing, from a satchet, two
peach-blossom-scented small cakes, she opened her own hand-stove and
threw them into the fire; which done, she covered it well again and
placed it in Pao-y's lap. And eventually, she filled her own tea-cup
with tea and presented it to Pao-y, while, during this time, her mother
and sister had been fussing about, laying out in fine array a tableful
of every kind of eatables.

Hsi Jen noticed that there were absolutely no things that he could eat,
but she felt urged to say with a smile: "Since you've come, it isn't
right that you should go empty away; and you must, whether the things be
good or bad, taste a little, so that it may look like a visit to my

As she said this, she forthwith took several seeds of the fir-cone, and
cracking off the thin skin, she placed them in a handkerchief and
presented them to Pao-y. But Pao-y, espying that Hsi Jen's two eyes
were slightly red, and that the powder was shiny and moist, quietly
therefore inquired of Hsi Jen, "Why do you cry for no rhyme or reason?"

"Why should I cry?" Hsi Jen laughed; "something just got into my eyes
and I rubbed them." By these means she readily managed to evade
detection; but seeing that Pao-y wore a deep red archery-sleeved
pelisse, ornamented with gold dragons, and lined with fur from foxes'
ribs and a grey sable fur surtout with a fringe round the border. "What!
have you," she asked, "put on again your new clothes for? specially to
come here? and didn't they inquire of you where you were going?"

"I had changed," Pao-y explained with a grin, "as Mr. Chen had invited
me to go over and look at the play."

"Well, sit a while and then go back;" Hsi Jen continued as she nodded
her head; "for this isn't the place for you to come to!"

"You'd better be going home now," Pao-y suggested smirkingly; "where
I've again kept something good for you."

"Gently," smiled Hsi Jen, "for were you to let them hear, what figure
would we cut?" And with these, words, she put out her hand and
unclasping from Pao-y's neck the jade of Spiritual Perception, she
faced her cousins and remarked exultingly. "Here! see for yourselves;
look at this and learn! When I repeatedly talked about it, you all
thought it extraordinary, and were anxious to have a glance at it;
to-day, you may gaze on it with all your might, for whatever precious
thing you may by and by come to see will really never excel such an
object as this!"

When she had finished speaking, she handed it over to them, and after
they had passed it round for inspection, she again fastened it properly
on Pao-y's neck, and also bade her brother go and hire a small
carriage, or engage a small chair, and escort Pao-y back home.

"If I see him back," Hua Tzu-fang remarked, "there would be no harm,
were he even to ride his horse!"

"It isn't because of harm," Hsi Jen replied; "but because he may come
across some one from the house."

Hua Tzu-fang promptly went and bespoke a small chair; and when it came
to the door, the whole party could not very well detain him, and they of
course had to see Pao-y out of the house; while Hsi Jen, on the other
hand, snatched a few fruits and gave them to Ming Yen; and as she at the
same time pressed in his hand several cash to buy crackers with to let
off, she enjoined him not to tell any one as he himself would likewise
incur blame.

As she uttered these words, she straightway escorted Pao-y as far as
outside the door, from whence having seen him mount into the sedan
chair, she dropped the curtain; whereupon Ming Yen and her brother, the
two of them, led the horses and followed behind in his wake. Upon
reaching the street where the Ning mansion was situated, Ming Yen told
the chair to halt, and said to Hua Tzu-fang, "It's advisable that I
should again go, with Mr. Secundus, into the Eastern mansion, to show
ourselves before we can safely betake ourselves home; for if we don't,
people will suspect!"

Hua Tzu-fang, upon hearing that there was good reason in what he said,
promptly clasped Pao-y out of the chair and put him on the horse,
whereupon after Pao-y smilingly remarked: "Excuse me for the trouble
I've surely put you to," they forthwith entered again by the back gate;
but putting aside all details, we will now confine ourselves to Pao-y.

After he had walked out of the door, the several waiting-maids in his
apartments played and laughed with greater zest and with less restraint.
Some there were who played at chess, others who threw the dice or had a
game of cards; and they covered the whole floor with the shells of
melon-seeds they were cracking, when dame Li, his nurse, happened to
come in, propping herself on a staff, to pay her respects and to see
Pao-y, and perceiving that Pao-y was not at home and that the
servant-girls were only bent upon romping, she felt intensely disgusted.
"Since I've left this place," she therefore exclaimed with a sigh, "and
don't often come here, you've become more and more unmannerly; while the
other nurse does still less than ever venture to expostulate with you;
Pao-y is like a candlestick eighty feet high, shedding light on others,
and throwing none upon himself! All he knows is to look down upon people
as being filthy; and yet this is his room and he allows you to put it
topsy-turvey, and to become more and more unmindful of decorum!"

These servant-girls were well aware that Pao-y was not particular in
these respects, and that in the next place nurse Li, having pleaded old
age, resigned her place and gone home, had nowadays no control over
them, so that they simply gave their minds to romping and joking, and
paid no heed whatever to her. Nurse Li however still kept on asking
about Pao-y, "How much rice he now ate at one meal? and at what time he
went to sleep?" to which questions, the servant-girls replied quite at
random; some there being too who observed: "What a dreadful despicable
old thing she is!"

"In this covered bowl," she continued to inquire, "is cream, and why not
give it to me to eat?" and having concluded these words, she took it up
and there and then began eating it.

"Be quick, and leave it alone!" a servant-girl expostulated, "that, he
said, was kept in order to be given to Hsi Jen; and on his return, when
he again gets into a huff, you, old lady, must, on your own motion,
confess to having eaten it, and not involve us in any way as to have to
bear his resentment."

Nurse Li, at these words, felt both angry and ashamed. "I can't
believe," she forthwith remarked, "that he has become so bad at heart!
Not to speak of the milk I've had, I have, in fact every right to even
something more expensive than this; for is it likely that he holds Hsi
Jen dearer than myself? It can't forsooth be that he doesn't bear in
mind how that I've brought him up to be a big man, and how that he has
eaten my blood transformed into milk and grown up to this age! and will
be because I'm now having a bowl of milk of his be angry on that score!
I shall, yes, eat it, and we'll see what he'll do! I don't know what you
people think of Hsi Jen, but she was a lowbred girl, whom I've with my
own hands raised up! and what fine object indeed was she!"

As she spoke, she flew into a temper, and taking the cream she drank the
whole of it.

"They don't know how to speak properly!" another servant-girl interposed
sarcastically, "and it's no wonder that you, old lady, should get angry!
Pao-y still sends you, venerable dame, presents as a proof of his
gratitude, and is it possible that he will feel displeased for such a
thing like this?"

"You girls shouldn't also pretend to be artful flatterers to cajole me!"
nurse Li added; "do you imagine that I'm not aware of the dismissal, the
other day, of Hsi Hseh, on account of a cup of tea? and as it's clear
enough that I've incurred blame, I'll come by and by and receive it!"

Having said this, she went off in a dudgeon, but not a long interval
elapsed before Pao-y returned, and gave orders to go and fetch Hsi Jen;
and perceiving Ching Ling reclining on the bed perfectly still: "I
presume she's ill," Pao-y felt constrained to inquire, "or if she isn't
ill, she must have lost at cards."

"Not so!" observed Chiu Wen; "she had been a winner, but dame Li came in
quite casually and muddled her so that she lost; and angry at this she
rushed off to sleep."

"Don't place yourselves," Pao-y smiled, "on the same footing as nurse
Li, and if you were to let her alone, everything will be all right."

These words were still on his lips when Hsi Jen arrived. After the
mutual salutations, Hsi Jen went on to ask of Pao-y: "Where did you
have your repast? and what time did you come back?" and to present
likewise, on behalf of her mother and sister, her compliments to all the
girls, who were her companions. In a short while, she changed her
costume and divested herself of her fineries, and Pao-y bade them fetch
the cream.

"Nurse Li has eaten it," the servant-girls rejoined, and as Pao-y was
on the point of making some remark Hsi Jen hastened to interfere,
laughing the while; "Is it really this that you had kept for me? many
thanks for the trouble; the other day, when I had some, I found it very
toothsome, but after I had partaken of it, I got a pain in the stomach,
and was so much upset, that it was only after I had brought it all up
that I felt all right. So it's as well that she has had it, for, had it
been kept here, it would have been wasted all for no use! What I fancy
are dry chestnuts; and while you clean a few for me, I'll go and lay the

Pao-y upon hearing these words credited them as true, so that he
discarded all thought of the cream and fetched the chestnuts, which he,
with his own hands, selected and pealed. Perceiving at the same time
that none of the party were present in the room, he put on a smile and
inquired of Hsi Jen: "Who were those persons dressed in red to day?"

"They're my two cousins on my mother's side," Hsi Jen explained, and
hearing this, Pao-y sang their praise as he heaved a couple of sighs.

"What are you sighing for?" Hsi Jen remarked. "I know the secret reasons
of your heart; it's I fancy because she isn't fit to wear red!"

"It isn't that," Pao-y protested smilingly, "it isn't that; if such a
person as that isn't good enough to be dressed in red, who would
forsooth presume to wear it? It's because I find her so really lovely!
and if we could, after all, manage to get her into our family, how nice
it would be then!"

Hsi Jen gave a sardonic smile. "That it's my own fate to be a slave
doesn't matter, but is it likely that the destiny of even my very
relatives could be to become one and all of them bond servants? But you
should certainly set your choice upon some really beautiful girl, for
she would in that case be good enough to enter your house."

"Here you are again with your touchiness!" Pao-y eagerly exclaimed
smiling, "if I said that she should come to our house, does it
necessarily imply that she should be a servant? and wouldn't it do were
I to mention that she should come as a relative!"

"That too couldn't exalt her to be a fit match for you!" rejoined Hsi
Jen; but Pao-y being loth to continue the conversation, simply busied
himself with cleaning the chestnuts.

"How is it you utter not a word?" Hsi Jen laughed; "I expect it's
because I just offended you by my inconsiderate talk! But if by and by
you have your purpose fixed on it, just spend a few ounces of silver to
purchase them with, and bring them in and have done!"

"How would you have one make any reply?" Pao-y smilingly rejoined; "all
I did was to extol her charms; for she's really fit to have been born in
a deep hall and spacious court as this; and it isn't for such foul
things as myself and others to contrariwise spend our days in this

"Though deprived of this good fortune," Hsi Jen explained, "she's
nevertheless also petted and indulged and the jewel of my maternal uncle
and my aunt! She's now seventeen years of age, and everything in the way
of trousseau has been got ready, and she's to get married next year."

Upon hearing the two words "get married," he could not repress himself
from again ejaculating: "Hai hai!" but while he was in an unhappy frame
of mind, he once more heard Hsi Jen remark as she heaved a sigh: "Ever
since I've come here, we cousins haven't all these years been able to
get to live together, and now that I'm about to return home, they, on
the other hand, will all be gone!"

Pao-y, realising that there lurked in this remark some meaning or
other, was suddenly so taken aback that dropping the chestnuts, he
inquired: "How is it that you now want to go back?"

"I was present to-day," Hsi Jen explained, "when mother and brother held
consultation together, and they bade me be patient for another year, and
that next year they'll come up and redeem me out of service!"

Pao-y, at these words, felt the more distressed. "Why do they want to
redeem you?" he consequently asked.

"This is a strange question!" Hsi Jen retorted, "for I can't really be
treated as if I were the issue born in this homestead of yours! All the
members of my family are elsewhere, and there's only myself in this
place, so that how could I end my days here?"

"If I don't let you go, it will verily be difficult for you to get
away!" Pao-y replied.

"There has never been such a principle of action!" urged Hsi Jen; "even
in the imperial palace itself, there's a fixed rule, by which possibly
every certain number of years a selection (of those who have to go takes
place), and every certain number of years a new batch enters; and
there's no such practice as that of keeping people for ever; not to
speak of your own home."

Pao-y realised, after reflection, that she, in point of fact, was
right, and he went on to observe: "Should the old lady not give you your
release, it will be impossible for you to get off."

"Why shouldn't she release me?" Hsi Jen questioned. "Am I really so very
extraordinary a person as to have perchance made such an impression upon
her venerable ladyship and my lady that they will be positive in not
letting me go? They may, in all likelihood, give my family some more
ounces of silver to keep me here; that possibly may come about. But, in
truth, I'm also a person of the most ordinary run, and there are many
more superior to me, yea very many! Ever since my youth up, I've been in
her old ladyship's service; first by waiting upon Miss Shih for several
years, and recently by being in attendance upon you for another term of
years; and now that our people will come to redeem me, I should, as a
matter of right, be told to go. My idea is that even the very redemption
money won't be accepted, and that they will display such grace as to let
me go at once. And, as for being told that I can't be allowed to go as
I'm so diligent in my service to you, that's a thing that can on no
account come about! My faithful attendance is an obligation of my
duties, and is no exceptional service! and when I'm gone you'll again
have some other faithful attendant, and it isn't likely that when I'm no
more here, you'll find it impracticable to obtain one!"

After Pao-y had listened to these various arguments, which proved the
reasonableness of her going and the unreasonableness of any detention,
he felt his heart more than ever a prey to distress. "In spite of all
you say," he therefore continued, "the sole desire of my heart is to
detain you; and I have no doubt but that the old lady will speak to your
mother about it; and if she were to give your mother ample money,
she'll, of course, not feel as if she could very well with any decency
take you home!"

"My mother won't naturally have the audacity to be headstrong!" Hsi Jen
ventured, "not to speak besides of the nice things, which may be told
her and the lots of money she may, in addition, be given; but were she
even not to be paid any compliments, and not so much as a single cash
given her, she won't, if you set your mind upon keeping me here, presume
not to comply with your wishes, were it also against my inclination. One
thing however; our family would never rely upon prestige, and trust upon
honorability to do anything so domineering as this! for this isn't like
anything else, which, because you take a fancy to it, a hundred per cent
profit can be added, and it obtained for you! This action can be well
taken if the seller doesn't suffer loss! But in the present instance,
were they to keep me back for no rhyme or reason, it would also be of no
benefit to yourself; on the contrary, they would be instrumental in
keeping us blood relatives far apart; a thing the like of which, I feel
positive that dowager lady Chia and my lady will never do!"

After lending an ear to this argument, Pao-y cogitated within himself
for a while. "From what you say," he then observed, "when you say you'll
go, it means that you'll go for certain!"

"Yes, that I'll go for certain," Hsi Jen rejoined.

"Who would have anticipated," Pao-y, after these words, mused in his
own heart, "that a person like her would have shown such little sense of
gratitude, and such a lack of respect! Had I," he then remarked aloud
with a sigh, "been aware, at an early date, that your whole wish would
have been to go, I wouldn't, in that case, have brought you over! But
when you're away, I shall remain alone, a solitary spirit!"

As he spoke, he lost control over his temper, and, getting into bed, he
went to sleep.

The fact is that when Hsi Jen had been at home, and she heard her mother
and brother express their intention of redeeming her back, she there and
then observed that were she even at the point of death, she would not
return home. "When in past days," she had argued, "you had no rice to
eat, there remained myself, who was still worth several taels; and
hadn't I urged you to sell me, wouldn't I have seen both father and
mother die of starvation under my very eyes? and you've now had the good
fortune of selling me into this place, where I'm fed and clothed just
like a mistress, and where I'm not beaten by day, nor abused by night!
Besides, though now father be no more, you two have anyhow by putting
things straight again, so adjusted the family estate that it has resumed
its primitive condition. And were you, in fact, still in straitened
circumstances, and you could by redeeming me back, make again some more
money, that would be well and good; but the truth is that there's no
such need, and what would be the use for you to redeem me at such a time
as this? You should temporarily treat me as dead and gone, and shouldn't
again recall any idea of redeeming me!"

Having in consequence indulged in a loud fit of crying, her mother and
brother resolved, when they perceived her in this determined frame of
mind, that for a fact there was no need for her to come out of service.
What is more they had sold her under contract until death, in the
distinct reliance that the Chia family, charitable and generous a family
as it was, would, possibly, after no more than a few entreaties, make
them a present of her person as well as the purchase money. In the
second place, never had they in the Chia mansion ill-used any of those
below; there being always plenty of grace and little of imperiousness.
Besides, the servant-girls, who acted as personal attendants in the
apartments of the old as well as of the young, were treated so far
unlike the whole body of domestics in the household that the daughters
even of an ordinary and penniless parentage could not have been so
looked up to. And these considerations induced both the mother as well
as her son to at once dispel the intention and not to redeem her, and
when Pao-y had subsequently paid them an unexpected visit, and the two
of them (Pao-y and Hsi Jen) were seen to be also on such terms, the
mother and her son obtained a clearer insight into their relations, and
still one more burden (which had pressed on their mind) fell to the
ground, and as besides this was a contingency, which they had never
reckoned upon, they both composed their hearts, and did not again
entertain any idea of ransoming her.

It must be noticed moreover that Hsi Jen had ever since her youth not
been blind to the fact that Pao-y had an extraordinary temperament,
that he was self-willed and perverse, far even in excess of all young
lads, and that he had, in addition, a good many peculiarities and many
unspeakable defects. And as of late he had placed such reliance in the
fond love of his grandmother that his father and mother even could not
exercise any extreme control over him, he had become so much the more
remiss, dissolute, selfish and unconcerned, not taking the least
pleasure in what was proper, that she felt convinced, whenever she
entertained the idea of tendering him advice, that he would not listen
to her. On this day, by a strange coincidence, came about the discussion
respecting her ransom, and she designedly made use, in the first
instance, of deception with a view to ascertain his feelings, to
suppress his temper, and to be able subsequently to extend to him some
words of admonition; and when she perceived that Pao-y had now silently
gone to sleep, she knew that his feelings could not brook the idea of
her return and that his temper had already subsided. She had never had,
as far as she was concerned, any desire of eating chestnuts, but as she
feared lest, on account of the cream, some trouble might arise, which
might again lead to the same results as when Hsi Hseh drank the tea,
she consequently made use of the pretence that she fancied chestnuts, in
order to put off Pao-y from alluding (to the cream) and to bring the
matter speedily to an end. But telling forthwith the young waiting-maids
to take the chestnuts away and eat them, she herself came and pushed
Pao-y; but at the sight of Pao-y with the traces of tears on his face,
she at once put on a smiling expression and said: "What's there in this
to wound your heart? If you positively do wish to keep me, I shall, of
course, not go away!"

Pao-y noticed that these words contained some hidden purpose, and
readily observed: "Do go on and tell me what else I can do to succeed in
keeping you here, for of my own self I find it indeed difficult to say

"Of our friendliness all along," Hsi Jen smilingly rejoined, "there's
naturally no need to speak; but, if you have this day made up your mind
to retain me here, it isn't through this friendship that you'll succeed
in doing so. But I'll go on and mention three distinct conditions, and,
if you really do accede to my wishes, you'll then have shown an earnest
desire to keep me here, and I won't go, were even a sword to be laid on
my neck!"

"Do tell me what these conditions are," Pao-y pressed her with
alacrity, as he smiled, "and I'll assent to one and all. My dear sister,
my own dear sister, not to speak of two or three, but even two or three
hundred of them I'm quite ready to accept. All I entreat you is that you
and all of you should combine to watch over me and take care of me,
until some day when I shall be transformed into flying ashes; but flying
ashes are, after all, not opportune, as they have form and substance and
they likewise possess sense, but until I've been metamorphosed into a
streak of subtle smoke. And when the wind shall have with one puff
dispelled me, all of you then will be unable to attend to me, just as
much as I myself won't be able to heed you. You will, when that time
comes, let me go where I please, as I'll let you speed where you choose
to go!"

These words so harassed Hsi Jen that she hastened to put her hand over
his mouth. "Speak decently," she said; "I was on account of this just
about to admonish you, and now here you are uttering all this still more
loathsome trash."

"I won't utter these words again," Pao-y eagerly added.

"This is the first fault that you must change," Hsi Jen replied.

"I'll amend," Pao-y observed, "and if I say anything of the kind again
you can wring my mouth; but what else is there?"

"The second thing is this," Hsi Jen explained; "whether you really like
to study or whether you only pretend to like study is immaterial; but
you should, when you are in the presence of master, or in the presence
of any one else, not do nothing else than find fault with people and
make fun of them, but behave just as if you were genuinely fond of
study, so that you shouldn't besides provoke your father so much to
anger, and that he should before others have also a chance of saying
something! 'In my family,' he reflects within himself, 'generation after
generation has been fond of books, but ever since I've had you, you
haven't accomplished my expectations, and not only is it that you don't
care about reading books,'--and this has already filled his heart with
anger and vexation,--'but both before my face and behind my back, you
utter all that stuff and nonsense, and give those persons, who have,
through their knowledge of letters, attained high offices, the nickname
of the "the salaried worms." You also uphold that there's no work
exclusive (of the book where appears) "fathom spotless virtue;" and that
all other books consist of foolish compilations, which owe their origin
to former authors, who, unable themselves to expound the writings of
Confucius, readily struck a new line and invented original notions.' Now
with words like these, how can one wonder if master loses all patience,
and if he does from time to time give you a thrashing! and what do you
make other people think of you?"

"I won't say these things again," Pao-y laughingly protested, "these
are the reckless and silly absurdities of a time when I was young and
had no idea of the height of the heavens and the thickness of the earth;
but I'll now no more repeat them. What else is there besides?"

"It isn't right that you should sneer at the bonzes and vilify the
Taoist priests, nor mix cosmetics or prepare rouge," Hsi Jen continued;
"but there's still another thing more important, you shouldn't again
indulge the bad habits of licking the cosmetic, applied by people on
their lips, nor be fond of (girls dressed) in red!"

"I'll change in all this," Pao-y added by way of rejoinder; "I'll
change in all this; and if there's anything more be quick and tell me."

"There's nothing more," Hsi Jen observed; "but you must in everything
exercise a little more diligence, and not indulge your caprices and
allow your wishes to run riot, and you'll be all right. And should you
comply to all these things in real earnest, you couldn't carry me out,
even in a chair with eight bearers."

"Well, if you do stay in here long enough," Pao-y remarked with a
smile, "there's no fear as to your not having an eight-bearer-chair to
sit in!"

Hsi Jen gave a sardonic grin. "I don't care much about it," she replied;
"and were I even to have such good fortune, I couldn't enjoy such a
right. But allowing I could sit in one, there would be no pleasure in

While these two were chatting, they saw Ch'iu Wen walk in. "It's the
third watch of the night," she observed, "and you should go to sleep.
Just a few moments back your grandmother lady Chia and our lady sent a
nurse to ask about you, and I replied that you were asleep."

Pao-y bade her fetch a watch, and upon looking at the time, he found
indeed that the hand was pointing at ten; whereupon rinsing his mouth
again and loosening his clothes, he retired to rest, where we will leave
him without any further comment.

The next day, Hsi Jen got up as soon as it was dawn, feeling her body
heavy, her head sore, her eyes swollen, and her limbs burning like fire.
She managed however at first to keep up, an effort though it was, but as
subsequently she was unable to endure the strain, and all she felt
disposed to do was to recline, she therefore lay down in her clothes on
the stove-couch. Pao-y hastened to tell dowager lady Chia, and the
doctor was sent for, who, upon feeling her pulse and diagnosing her
complaint, declared that there was nothing else the matter with her than
a chill, which she had suddenly contracted, that after she had taken a
dose or two of medicine, it would be dispelled, and that she would be
quite well. After he had written the prescription and taken his
departure, some one was despatched to fetch the medicines, which when
brought were properly decocted. As soon as she had swallowed a dose,
Pao-y bade her cover herself with her bed-clothes so as to bring on
perspiration; while he himself came into Tai-y's room to look her up.
Tai-y was at this time quite alone, reclining on her bed having a
midday siesta, and the waiting-maids having all gone out to attend to
whatever they pleased, the whole room was plunged in stillness and
silence. Pao-y raised the embroidered soft thread portiere and walked
in; and upon espying Tai-y in the room fast asleep, he hurriedly
approached her and pushing her: "Dear cousin," he said, "you've just had
your meal, and are you asleep already?" and he kept on calling "Tai-y"
till he woke her out of her sleep.

Perceiving that it was Pao-y, "You had better go for a stroll," Tai-y
urged, "for the day before yesterday I was disturbed the whole night,
and up to this day I haven't had rest enough to get over the fatigue. My
whole body feels languid and sore."

"This languor and soreness," Pao-y rejoined, "are of no consequence;
but if you go on sleeping you'll be feeling very ill; so I'll try and
distract you, and when we've dispelled this lassitude, you'll be all

Tai-y closed her eyes. "I don't feel any lassitude," she explained,
"all I want is a little rest; and you had better go elsewhere and come
back after romping about for a while."

"Where can I go?" Pao-y asked as he pushed her. "I'm quite sick and
tired of seeing the others."

At these words, Tai-y burst out laughing with a sound of Ch'ih. "Well!
since you wish to remain here," she added, "go over there and sit down
quietly, and let's have a chat."

"I'll also recline," Pao-y suggested.

"Well, then, recline!" Tai-y assented.

"There's no pillow," observed Pao-y, "so let us lie on the same

"What nonsense!" Tai-y urged, "aren't those pillows outside? get one
and lie on it."

Pao-y walked into the outer apartment, and having looked about him, he
returned and remarked with a smile: "I don't want those, they may be,
for aught I know, some dirty old hag's."

Tai-y at this remark opened her eyes wide, and as she raised herself
up: "You're really," she exclaimed laughingly, "the evil star of my
existence! here, please recline on this pillow!" and as she uttered
these words, she pushed her own pillow towards Pao-y, and, getting up
she went and fetched another of her own, upon which she lay her head in
such a way that both of them then reclined opposite to each other. But
Tai-y, upon turning up her eyes and looking, espied on Pao-y's cheek
on the left side of his face, a spot of blood about the size of a
button, and speedily bending her body, she drew near to him, and rubbing
it with her hand, she scrutinised it closely. "Whose nail," she went on
to inquire, "has scratched this open?"

Pao-y with his body still reclining withdrew from her reach, and as he
did so, he answered with a smile: "It isn't a scratch; it must, I
presume, be simply a drop, which bespattered my cheek when I was just
now mixing and clarifying the cosmetic paste for them."

Saying this, he tried to get at his handkerchief to wipe it off; but
Tai-y used her own and rubbed it clean for him, while she observed: "Do
you still give your mind to such things? attend to them you may; but
must you carry about you a placard (to make it public)? Though uncle
mayn't see it, were others to notice it, they would treat it as a
strange occurrence and a novel bit of news, and go and tell him to curry
favour, and when it has reached uncle's ear, we shall all again not come
out clean, and provoke him to anger."

Pao-y did not in the least heed what she said, being intent upon
smelling a subtle scent which, in point of fact, emanated from Tai-y's
sleeve, and when inhaled inebriated the soul and paralysed the bones.
With a snatch, Pao-y laid hold of Tai-y's sleeve meaning to see what
object was concealed in it; but Tai-y smilingly expostulated: "At such
a time as this," she said, "who keeps scents about one?"

"Well, in that case," Pao-y rejoined with a smirking face, "where does
this scent come from?"

"I myself don't know," Tai-y replied; "I presume it must be, there's no
saying, some scent in the press which has impregnated the clothes."

"It doesn't follow," Pao-y added, as he shook his head; "the fumes of
this smell are very peculiar, and don't resemble the perfume of
scent-bottles, scent-balls, or scented satchets!"

"Is it likely that I have, like others, Buddhistic disciples," Tai-y
asked laughing ironically, "or worthies to give me novel kinds of
scents? But supposing there is about me some peculiar scent, I haven't,
at all events, any older or younger brothers to get the flowers, buds,
dew, and snow, and concoct any for me; all I have are those common
scents, that's all."

"Whenever I utter any single remark," Pao-y urged with a grin, "you at
once bring up all these insinuations; but unless I deal with you
severely, you'll never know what stuff I'm made of; but from henceforth
I'll no more show you any grace!"

As he spoke, he turned himself over, and raising himself, he puffed a
couple of breaths into both his hands, and hastily stretching them out,
he tickled Tai-y promiscuously under her armpits, and along both sides.
Tai-y had never been able to stand tickling, so that when Pao-y put
out his two hands and tickled her violently, she forthwith giggled to
such an extent that she could scarcely gasp for breath. "If you still go
on teasing me," she shouted, "I'll get angry with you!"

Pao-y then kept his hands off, and as he laughed, "Tell me," he asked,
"will you again come out with all those words or not?"

"I daren't do it again," Tai-y smiled and adjusted her hair; adding
with another laugh: "I may have peculiar scents, but have you any 'warm'

Pao-y at this question, could not for a time unfold its meaning: "What
'warm' scent?" he therefore asked.

Tai-y nodded her head and smiled deridingly. "How stupid! what a fool!"
she sighed; "you have jade, and another person has gold to match with
you, and if some one has 'cold' scent, haven't you any 'warm' scent as a

Pao-y at this stage alone understood the import of her remark.

"A short while back you craved for mercy," Pao-y observed smilingly,
"and here you are now going on talking worse than ever;" and as he spoke
he again put out his hands.

"Dear cousin," Tai-y speedily implored with a smirk, "I won't venture
to do it again."

"As for letting you off," Pao-y remarked laughing, "I'll readily let
you off, but do allow me to take your sleeve and smell it!" and while
uttering these words, he hastily pulled the sleeve, and pressing it
against his face, kept on smelling it incessantly, whereupon Tai-y drew
her hand away and urged: "You must be going now!"

"Though you may wish me to go, I can't," Pao-y smiled, "so let us now
lie down with all propriety and have a chat," laying himself down again,
as he spoke, while Tai-y likewise reclined, and covered her face with
her handkerchief. Pao-y in a rambling way gave vent to a lot of
nonsense, which Tai-y did not heed, and Pao-y went on to inquire: "How
old she was when she came to the capital? what sights and antiquities
she saw on the journey? what relics and curiosities there were at Yang
Chou? what were the local customs and the habits of the people?"

Tai-y made no reply; and Pao-y fearing lest she should go to sleep,
and get ill, readily set to work to beguile her to keep awake. "Ai yah!"
he exclaimed, "at Yang Chou, where your official residence is, has
occurred a remarkable affair; have you heard about it?"

Tai-y perceiving that he spoke in earnest, that his words were correct
and his face serious, imagined that what he referred to was a true
story, and she therefore inquired what it was?

Pao-y upon hearing her ask this question, forthwith suppressed a laugh,
and, with a glib tongue, he began to spin a yarn. "At Yang Chou," he
said, "there's a hill called the Tai hill; and on this hill stands a
cave called the Lin Tzu."

"This must all be lies," Tai-y answered sneeringly, "as I've never
before heard of such a hill."

"Under the heavens many are the hills and rivers," Pao-y rejoined, "and
how could you know them all? Wait until I've done speaking, when you
will be free to express your opinion!"

"Go on then," Tai-y suggested, whereupon Pao-y prosecuted his
raillery. "In this Lin Tzu cave," he said, "there was once upon a time a
whole swarm of rat-elves. In some year or other and on the seventh day
of the twelfth moon, an old rat ascended the throne to discuss matters.
'Tomorrow,' he argued, 'is the eighth of the twelfth moon, and men in
the world will all be cooking the congee of the eighth of the twelfth
moon. We have now in our cave a short supply of fruits of all kinds, and
it would be well that we should seize this opportunity to steal a few
and bring them over.' Drawing a mandatory arrow, he handed it to a
small rat, full of aptitude, to go forward on a tour of inspection. The
young rat on his return reported that he had already concluded his
search and inquiries in every place and corner, and that in the temple
at the bottom of the hill alone was the largest stock of fruits and
rice. 'How many kinds of rice are there?' the old rat ascertained, 'and
how many species of fruits?' 'Rice and beans,' the young rat rejoined,
'how many barns-full there are, I can't remember; but in the way of
fruits there are five kinds: 1st, red dates; 2nd, chestnuts; 3rd, ground
nuts; 4th, water caltrops, and 5th, scented taros.' At this report the
old rat was so much elated that he promptly detailed rats to go forth;
and as he drew the mandatory arrow, and inquired who would go and steal
the rice, a rat readily received the order and went off to rob the rice.
Drawing another mandatory arrow, he asked who would go and abstract the
beans, when once more a rat took over the arrow and started to steal the
beans; and one by one subsequently received each an arrow and started on
his errand. There only remained the scented taros, so that picking again
a mandatory arrow, he ascertained who would go and carry away the taros:
whereupon a very puny and very delicate rat was heard to assent. 'I
would like,' he said, 'to go and steal the scented taros.' The old rat
and all the swarm of rats, upon noticing his state, feared that he would
not be sufficiently expert, and apprehending at the same time that he
was too weakly and too devoid of energy, they one and all would not
allow him to proceed. 'Though I be young in years and though my frame be
delicate,' the wee rat expostulated, 'my devices are unlimited, my talk
is glib and my designs deep and farseeing; and I feel convinced that, on
this errand, I shall be more ingenious in pilfering than any of them.'
'How could you be more ingenious than they?' the whole company of rats
asked. 'I won't,' explained the young rat, 'follow their example, and go
straight to work and steal, but by simply shaking my body, and
transforming myself, I shall metamorphose myself into a taro, and roll
myself among the heap of taros, so that people will not be able to
detect me, and to hear me; whereupon I shall stealthily, by means of the
magic art of dividing my body into many, begin the removal, and little
by little transfer the whole lot away, and will not this be far more
ingenious than any direct pilfering or forcible abstraction?' After the
whole swarm of rats had listened to what he had to say, they, with one
voice, exclaimed: 'Excellent it is indeed, but what is this art of
metamorphosis we wonder? Go forth you may, but first transform yourself
and let us see you.' At these words the young rat laughed. 'This isn't a
hard task!' he observed, 'wait till I transform myself.'

"Having done speaking, he shook his body and shouted out 'transform,'
when he was converted into a young girl, most beauteous and with a most
lovely face.

"'You've transformed yourself into the wrong thing,' all the rats
promptly added deridingly; 'you said that you were to become a fruit,
and how is it that you've turned into a young lady?'

"The young rat in its original form rejoined with a sneering smile: 'You
all lack, I maintain, experience of the world; what you simply are aware
of is that this fruit is the scented taro, but have no idea that the
young daughter of Mr. Lin, of the salt tax, is, in real truth, a genuine
scented taro.'"

Tai-y having listened to this story, turned herself round and raising
herself, she observed laughing, while she pushed Pao-y: "I'll take that
mouth of yours and pull it to pieces! Now I see that you've been
imposing upon me."

With these words on her lips, she readily gave him a pinch, and Pao-y
hastened to plead for mercy. "My dear cousin," he said, "spare me; I
won't presume to do it again; and it's when I came to perceive this
perfume of yours, that I suddenly bethought myself of this old story."

"You freely indulge in abusing people," Tai-y added with a smile, "and
then go on to say that it's an old story."

But hardly had she concluded this remark before they caught sight of
Pao-ch'ai walk in. "Who has been telling old stories?" she asked with a
beaming face; "do let me also hear them."

Tai-y pressed her at once into a seat. "Just see for yourself who else
besides is here!" she smiled; "he goes in for profuse abuses and then
maintains that it's an old story!"

"Is it indeed cousin Pao-y?" Pao-ch'ai remarked. "Well, one can't feel
surprised at his doing it; for many have ever been the stories stored up
in his brain. The only pity is that when he should make use of old
stories, he invariably forgets them! To-day, he can easily enough recall
them to mind, but in the stanza of the other night on the banana leaves,
when he should have remembered them, he couldn't after all recollect
what really stared him in the face! and while every one else seemed so
cool, he was in such a flurry that he actually perspired! And yet, at
this moment, he happens once again to have a memory!"

At these words, Tai-y laughed. "O-mi-to-fu!" she exclaimed. "You are
indeed my very good cousin! But you've also (to Pao-y) come across your
match. And this makes it clear that requital and retribution never fail
or err."

She had just reached this part of her sentence, when in Pao-y's rooms
was heard a continuous sound of wrangling; but as what transpired is not
yet known, the ensuing chapter will explain.


Wang Hsi-feng with earnest words upbraids Mrs. Chao's jealous notions.
Lin Tai-y uses specious language to make sport of Shih Hsiang-yn's
querulous tone of voice.

But to continue. Pao-y was in Tai y's apartments relating about the
rat-elves, when Pao-ch'ai entered unannounced, and began to gibe Pao-y,
with trenchant irony: how that on the fifteenth of the first moon, he
had shown ignorance of the allusion to the green wax; and the three of
them then indulged in that room in mutual poignant satire, for the sake
of fun. Pao-y had been giving way to solicitude lest Tai-y should, by
being bent upon napping soon after her meal, be shortly getting an
indigestion, or lest sleep should, at night, be completely dispelled, as
neither of these things were conducive to the preservation of good
health, when luckily Pao-ch'ai walked in, and they chatted and laughed
together; and when Lin Tai-y at length lost all inclination to dose, he
himself then felt composed in his mind. But suddenly they heard
clamouring begin in his room, and after they had all lent an ear and
listened, Lin Tai-y was the first to smile and make a remark. "It's
your nurse having a row with Hsi Jen!" she said. "Hsi Jen treats her
well enough, but that nurse of yours would also like to keep her well
under her thumb; she's indeed an old dotard;" and Pao-y was anxious to
go over at once, but Pao-ch'ai laid hold of him and kept him back,
suggesting: "It's as well that you shouldn't wrangle with your nurse,
for she's quite stupid from old age; and it's but fair, on the contrary,
that you should bear with her a little."

"I know all about that!" Pao-y rejoined. But having concluded this
remark, he walked into his room, where he discovered nurse Li, leaning
on her staff, standing in the centre of the floor, abusing Hsi Jen,
saying: "You young wench! how utterly unmindful you are of your origin!
It's I who've raised you up, and yet, when I came just now, you put on
high airs and mighty side, and remained reclining on the stove-couch!
You saw me well enough, but you paid not the least heed to me! Your
whole heart is set upon acting like a wily enchantress to befool Pao-y;
and you so impose upon Pao-y that he doesn't notice me, but merely
lends an ear to what you people have to say! You're no more than a low
girl bought for a few taels and brought in here; and will it ever do
that you should be up to your mischievous tricks in this room? But
whether you like it or not, I'll drag you out from this, and give you to
some mean fellow, and we'll see whether you will still behave like a
very imp, and cajole people or not?"

Hsi Jen was, at first, under the simple impression that the nurse was
wrath for no other reason than because she remained lying down, and she
felt constrained to explain that "she was unwell, that she had just
succeeded in perspiring, and that having had her head covered, she
hadn't really perceived the old lady;" but when she came subsequently to
hear her mention that she imposed upon Pao-y, and also go so far as to
add that she would be given to some mean fellow, she unavoidably
experienced both a sense of shame and injury, and found it impossible to
restrain herself from beginning to cry.

Pao-y had, it is true, caught all that had been said, but unable with
any propriety to take notice of it, he thought it his duty to explain
matters for her. "She's ill," he observed, "and is taking medicines; and
if you don't believe it," he went on, "well then ask the rest of the

Nurse Li at these words flew into a more violent dudgeon. "Your sole
delight is to screen that lot of sly foxes!" she remarked, "and do you
pay any notice to me? No, none at all! and whom would you like me to go
and ask; who's it that doesn't back you? and who hasn't been dismounted
from her horse by Hsi Jen? I know all about it; but I'll go with you and
explain all these matters to our old mistress and my lady; for I've
nursed you till I've brought you to this age, and now that you don't
feed on milk, you thrust me on one side, and avail yourself of the
servant-girls, in your wish to browbeat me."

As she uttered this remark, she too gave way to tears, but by this time,
Tai-y and Pao-ch'ai had also come over, and they set to work to
reassure her. "You, old lady," they urged, "should bear with them a
little, and everything will be right!" And when nurse Li saw these two
arrive, she hastened to lay bare her grievances to them; and taking up
the question of the dismissal in days gone by, of Hsi Hseh, for having
drunk some tea, of the cream eaten on the previous day, and other
similar matters, she spun a long, interminable yarn.

By a strange coincidence lady Feng was at this moment in the upper
rooms, where she had been making up the account of losses and winnings,
and upon hearing at the back a continuous sound of shouting and
bustling, she readily concluded that nurse Li's old complaint was
breaking forth, and that she was finding fault with Pao-y's servants.
But she had, as luck would have it, lost money in gambling on this
occasion, so that she was ready to visit her resentment upon others.
With hurried step, she forthwith came over, and laying hold of nurse Li,
"Nurse," she said smiling, "don't lose your temper, on a great festival
like this, and after our venerable lady has just gone through a day in
excellent spirits! You're an old dame, and should, when others get up a
row, still do what is right and keep them in proper order; and aren't
you, instead of that, aware what good manners imply, that you will start
vociferating in this place, and make our dowager lady full of
displeasure? Tell me who's not good, and I'll beat her for you; but be
quick and come along with me over to my quarters, where a pheasant which
they have roasted is scalding hot, and let us go and have a glass of
wine!" And as she spoke, she dragged her along and went on her way.
"Feng Erh," she also called, "hold the staff for your old lady Li, and
the handkerchief to wipe her tears with!" While nurse Li walked along
with lady Feng, her feet scarcely touched the ground, as she kept on
saying: "I don't really attach any value to this decrepid existence of
mine! and I had rather disregard good manners, have a row and lose face,
as it's better, it seems to me, than to put up with the temper of that

Behind followed Pao-ch'ai and Tai-y, and at the sight of the way in
which lady Feng dealt with her, they both clapped their hands, and
exclaimed, laughing, "What piece of luck that this gust of wind has
come, and dragged away this old matron!" while Pao-y nodded his head to
and fro and soliloquised with a sigh: "One can neither know whence
originates this score; for she will choose the weak one to maltreat; nor
can one see what girl has given her offence that she has come to be put
in her black books!"

Scarcely had he ended this remark, before Ch'ing Wen, who stood by, put
in her word. "Who's gone mad again?" she interposed, "and what good
would come by hurting her feelings? But did even any one happen to hurt
her, she would have pluck enough to bear the brunt, and wouldn't act so
improperly as to involve others!"

Hsi Jen wept, and as she, did so, she drew Pao-y towards her: "All
through my having aggrieved an old nurse," she urged, "you've now again
given umbrage, entirely on my account, to this crowd of people; and
isn't this still enough for me to bear but must you also go and drag in
third parties?"

When Pao-y realised that to this sickness of hers, had also been
superadded all these annoyances, he promptly stifled his resentment,
suppressed his voice and consoled her so far as to induce her to lie
down again to perspire. And when he further noticed how scalding like
soup and burning like fire she was, he himself watched by her, and
reclining by her side, he tried to cheer her, saying: "All you must do
is to take good care of your ailment; and don't give your mind to those
trifling matters, and get angry."

"Were I," Hsi Jen smiled sardonically, "to lose my temper over such
concerns, would I be able to stand one moment longer in this room? The
only thing is that if she goes on, day after day, doing nothing else
than clamour in this manner, how can she let people get along? But you
rashly go and hurt people's feelings for our sakes; but they'll bear it
in mind, and when they find an opportunity, they'll come out with what's
easy enough to say, but what's not pleasant to hear, and how will we all
feel then?"

While her mouth gave utterance to these words, she could not stop her
tears from running; but fearful, on the other hand, lest Pao-y should
be annoyed, she felt compelled to again strain every nerve to repress
them. But in a short while, the old matrons employed for all sorts of
duties, brought in some mixture of two drugs; and, as Pao-y noticed
that she was just on the point of perspiring, he did not allow her to
get up, but readily taking it up to her, she immediately swallowed it,
with her head still on her pillow; whereupon he gave speedy directions
to the young servant-maids to lay her stove-couch in order.

"Whether you mean to have anything to eat or not," Hsi Jen advised, "you
should after all sit for a time with our old mistress and our lady, and
have a romp with the young ladies; after which you can come back again;
while I, by quietly keeping lying down, will also feel the better."

When Pao-y heard this suggestion, he had no help but to accede, and,
after she had divested herself of her hair-pins and earrings, and he saw
her lie down, he betook himself into the drawing-rooms, where he had his
repast with old lady Chia. But the meal over, her ladyship felt still
disposed to play at cards with the nurses, who had looked after the
household for many years; and Pao-y, bethinking himself of Hsi Jen,
hastened to return to his apartments; where seeing that Hsi Jen was
drowsily falling asleep, he himself would have wished to go to bed, but
the hour was yet early. And as about this time Ch'ing Wen, I Hsia, Ch'in
Wen, Pi Hen had all, in their desire of getting some excitement, started
in search of Yan Yang, Hu Po and their companions, to have a romp with
them, and he espied She Yeh alone in the outer room, having a game of
dominoes by lamp-light, Pao-y inquired full of smiles: "How is it you
don't go with them?"

"I've no money," She Yeh replied.

"Under the bed," continued Pao-y, "is heaped up all that money, and
isn't it enough yet for you to lose from?"

"Had we all gone to play," She Yeh added, "to whom would the charge of
this apartment have been handed over? That other one is sick again, and
the whole room is above, one mass of lamps, and below, full of fire; and
all those old matrons, ancient as the heavens, should, after all their
exertions in waiting upon you from morning to night, be also allowed
some rest; while the young servant girls, on the other hand, have
likewise been on duty the whole day long, and shouldn't they even at
this hour be left to go and have some distraction? and that's why I am
in here on watch."

When Pao-y heard these words, which demonstrated distinctly that she
was another Hsi Jen, he consequently put on a smile and remarked: "I'll
sit in here, so you had better set your mind at ease and go!"

"Since you remain in here, there's less need for me to go," resumed She
Yeh, "for we two can chat and play and laugh; and won't that be nice?"

"What can we two do? it will be awfully dull! but never mind," Pao-y
rejoined; "this morning you said that your head itched, and now that you
have nothing to do, I may as well comb it for you."

"Yes! do so!" readily assented She Yeh, upon catching what he
suggested; and while still speaking, she brought over the dressing-case
containing a set of small drawers and looking-glass, and taking off her
ornaments, she dishevelled her hair; whereupon Pao-y picked up the fine
comb and passed it repeatedly through her hair; but he had only combed
it three or five times, when he perceived Ch'ing Wen hurriedly walk in
to fetch some money. As soon as she caught sight of them both: "You
haven't as yet drunk from the marriage cup," she said with a smile full
of irony, "and have you already put up your hair?"

"Now that you've come, let me also comb yours for you," Pao-y

"I'm not blessed with such excessive good fortune!" Ch'ing Wen retorted,
and as she uttered these words, she took the money, and forthwith
dashing the portiere after her, she quitted the room.

Pao-y stood at the back of She Yeh, and She Yeh sat opposite the
glass, so that the two of them faced each other in it, and Pao-y
readily observed as he gazed in the glass, "In the whole number of rooms
she's the only one who has a glib tongue!"

She Yeh at these words hastily waved her hand towards the inside of the
glass, and Pao-y understood the hint; and suddenly a sound of "hu" was
heard from the portiere, and Ch'ing Wen ran in once again.

"How have I got a glib tongue?" she inquired; "it would be well for us
to explain ourselves."

"Go after your business, and have done," She Yeh interposed laughingly;
"what's the use of your coming and asking questions of people?"

"Will you also screen him?" Ch'ing Wen smiled significantly; "I know all
about your secret doings, but wait until I've got back my capital, and
we'll then talk matters over!"

With this remark still on her lips, she straightway quitted the room,
and during this while, Pao-y having finished combing her hair, asked
She Yeh to quietly wait upon him, while he went to sleep, as he would
not like to disturb Hsi Jen.

Of the whole night there is nothing to record. But the next day, when he
got up at early dawn, Hsi Jen had already perspired, during the night,
so that she felt considerably lighter and better; but limiting her diet
to a little rice soup, she remained quiet and nursed herself, and Pao-y
was so relieved in mind that he came, after his meal, over on this side
to his aunt Hseh's on a saunter. The season was the course of the first
moon, and the school was shut up for the new year holidays; while in the
inner chambers the girls had put by their needlework, and were all
having a time of leisure, and hence it was that when Chia Huan too came
over in search of distraction, he discovered Pao-ch'ai, Hsiang Ling,
Ying Erh, the three of them, in the act of recreating themselves by
playing at chess. Chia Huan, at the sight of them, also wished to join
in their games; and Pao-ch'ai, who had always looked upon him with, in
fact, the same eye as she did Pao-y, and with no different sentiment of
any kind, pressed him to come up, upon hearing that he was on this
occasion desirous to play; and, when he had seated himself together with
them, they began to gamble, staking each time a pile of ten cash. The
first time, he was the winner, and he felt supremely elated at heart,
but as it happened that he subsequently lost in several consecutive
games he soon became a prey to considerable distress. But in due course
came the game in which it was his turn to cast the dice, and, if in
throwing, he got seven spots, he stood to win, but he was likewise bound
to be a winner were he to turn up six; and when Ying Erh had turned up
three spots and lost, he consequently took up the dice, and dashing them
with spite, one of them settled at five; and, as the other reeled wildly
about, Ying Erh clapped her hands, and kept on shouting, "one spot;"
while Chia Huan at once gazed with fixed eye and cried at random: "It's
six, it's seven, it's eight!" But the dice, as it happened, turned up at
one spot, and Chia Huan was so exasperated that putting out his hand, he
speedily made a snatch at the dice, and eventually was about to lay hold
of the money, arguing that it was six spot. But Ying Erh expostulated,
"It was distinctly an ace," she said. And as Pao-ch'ai noticed how
distressed Chia Huan was, she forthwith cast a glance at Ying Erh and
observed: "The older you get, the less manners you have! Is it likely
that gentlemen will cheat you? and don't you yet put down the money?"

Ying Erh felt her whole heart much aggrieved, but as she heard Pao-ch'ai
make these remarks, she did not presume to utter a sound, and as she was
under the necessity of laying down the cash, she muttered to herself:
"This one calls himself a gentleman, and yet cheats us of these few
cash, for which I myself even have no eye! The other day when I played
with Mr. Pao-y, he lost ever so many, and yet he did not distress
himself! and what remained of the cash were besides snatched away by a
few servant-girls, but all he did was to smile, that's all!"

Pao-ch'ai did not allow her time to complete what she had to say, but
there and then called her to account and made her desist; whereupon Chia
Huan exclaimed: "How can I compare with Pao-y; you all fear him, and
keep on good terms with him, while you all look down upon me for not
being the child of my lady." And as he uttered these words, he at once
gave way to tears.

"My dear cousin," Pao-ch'ai hastened to advise him, "leave off at once
language of this kind, for people will laugh at you;" and then went on
to scold Ying Erh, when Pao-y just happened to come in. Perceiving him
in this plight, "What is the matter?" he asked; but Chia Huan had not
the courage to say anything.

Pao-ch'ai was well aware of the custom, which prevailed in their family,
that younger brothers lived in respect of the elder brothers, but she
was not however cognisant of the fact that Pao-y would not that any one
should entertain any fear of him. His idea being that elder as well as
younger brothers had, all alike, father and mother to admonish them, and
that there was no need for any of that officiousness, which, instead of
doing good gave, on the contrary, rise to estrangement. "Besides," (he
reasoned,) "I'm the offspring of the primary wife, while he's the son of
the secondary wife, and, if by treating him as leniently as I have done,
there are still those to talk about me, behind my back, how could I
exercise any control over him?" But besides these, there were other
still more foolish notions, which he fostered in his mind; but what
foolish notions they were can you, reader, guess? As a result of his
growing up, from his early youth, among a crowd of girls, of whom, in
the way of sister, there was Yan Ch'un, of cousins, from his paternal
uncle's side, there were Ying Ch'un, and Hsi Ch'un, and of relatives
also there were Shih Hsiang-yn, Lin Tai-y, Hseh Pao-ch'ai and the
rest, he, in due course, resolved in his mind that the divine and
unsullied virtue of Heaven and earth was only implanted in womankind,
and that men were no more than feculent dregs and foul dirt. And for
this reason it was that men were without discrimination, considered by
him as so many filthy objects, which might or might not exist; while the
relationships of father, paternal uncles, and brothers, he did not
however presume to disregard, as these were among the injunctions
bequeathed by the holy man, and he felt bound to listen to a few of
their precepts. But to the above causes must be assigned the fact that,
among his brothers, he did no more than accomplish the general purport
of the principle of human affections; bearing in mind no thought
whatever that he himself was a human being of the male sex, and that it
was his duty to be an example to his younger brothers. And this is why
Chia Huan and the others entertained no respect for him, though in their
veneration for dowager lady Chia, they yielded to him to a certain

Pao-ch'ai harboured fears lest, on this occasion, Pao-y should call him
to book, and put him out of face, and she there and then lost no time in
taking Chia Huan's part with a view to screening him.

"In this felicitous first moon what are you blubbering for?" Pao-y
inquired, "if this place isn't nice, why then go somewhere else to play.
But from reading books, day after day, you've studied so much that
you've become quite a dunce. If this thing, for instance, isn't good,
that must, of course, be good, so then discard this and take up that,
but is it likely that by sticking to this thing and crying for a while
that it will become good? You came originally with the idea of reaping
some fun, and you've instead provoked yourself to displeasure, and isn't
it better then that you should be off at once."

Chia Huan upon hearing these words could not but come back to his
quarters; and Mrs. Chao noticing the frame of mind in which he was felt
constrained to inquire: "Where is it that you've been looked down upon
by being made to fill up a hole, and being trodden under foot?"

"I was playing with cousin Pao-ch'ai," Chia Huan readily replied, "when
Ying Erh insulted me, and deprived me of my money, and brother Pao-y
drove me away."

"Ts'ui!" exclaimed Mrs. Chao, "who bade you (presume so high) as to get
up into that lofty tray? You low and barefaced thing! What place is
there that you can't go to and play; and who told you to run over there
and bring upon yourself all this shame?"

As she spoke, lady Feng was, by a strange coincidence, passing outside
under the window; so that every word reached her ear, and she speedily
asked from outside the window: "What are you up to in this happy first
moon? These brothers are, really, but mere children, and will you just
for a slight mistake, go on preaching to him! what's the use of coming
out with all you've said? Let him go wherever he pleases; for there are
still our lady and Mr. Chia Cheng to keep him in order. But you go and
sputter him with your gigantic mouth; he's at present a master, and if
there be anything wrong about him, there are, after all, those to rate
him; and what business is that of yours? Brother Huan, come out with
you, and follow me and let us go and enjoy ourselves."

Chia Huan had ever been in greater fear and trembling of lady Feng, than
of madame Wang, so that when her summons reached his ear, he hurriedly
went out, while Mrs. Chao, on the other hand, did not venture to breathe
a single word.

"You too," resumed lady Feng, addressing Chia Huan; "are a thing devoid
of all natural spirit! I've often told you that if you want to eat,
drink, play, or laugh, you were quite free to go and play with whatever
female cousin, male cousin, or sister-in-law you choose to disport
yourself with; but you won't listen to my words. On the contrary, you
let all these persons teach you to be depraved in your heart, perverse
in your mind, to be sly, artful, and domineering; and you've, besides,
no respect for your own self, but will go with that low-bred lot! and
your perverse purpose is to begrudge people's preferences! But what
you've lost are simply a few cash, and do you behave in this manner? How
much did you lose?" she proceeded to ask Chia Huan; and Chia Huan, upon
hearing this question, felt constrained to obey, by saying something in
the way of a reply. "I've lost," he explained, "some hundred or two
hundred cash."

"You have," rejoined lady Feng, "the good fortune of being a gentleman,
and do you make such a fuss for the loss of a hundred or two hundred
cash!" and turning her head round, "Feng Erh," she added, "go and fetch
a thousand cash; and as the girls are all playing at the back, take him
along to go and play. And if again by and by, you're so mean and
deceitful, I shall, first of all, beat you, and then tell some one to
report it at school, and won't your skin be flayed for you? All because
of this want of respect of yours, your elder cousin is so angry with you
that his teeth itch; and were it not that I prevent him, he would hit
you with his foot in the stomach and kick all your intestines out! Get
away," she then cried; whereupon Chia Huan obediently followed Feng Erh,
and taking the money he went all by himself to play with Ying Ch'un and
the rest; where we shall leave him without another word.

But to return to Pao-y. He was just amusing himself and laughing with
Pao-ch'ai, when at an unexpected moment, he heard some one announce that
Miss Shih had come. At these words, Pao-y rose, and was at once going
off when "Wait," shouted Pao-ch'ai with a smile, "and we'll go over
together and see her."

Saying this, she descended from the stove-couch, and came, in company
with Pao-y, to dowager lady Chia's on this side, where they saw Shih
Hsiang-yn laughing aloud, and talking immoderately; and upon catching
sight of them both, she promptly inquired after their healths, and
exchanged salutations.

Lin Tai-y just happened to be standing by, and having set the question
to Pao-y "Where do you come from?" "I come from cousin Pao-ch'ai's
rooms," Pao-y readily replied.

Tai-y gave a sardonic smile. "What I maintain is this," she rejoined,
"that lucky enough for you, you were detained over there; otherwise, you
would long ago have, at once, come flying in here!"

"Am I only free to play with you?" Pao-y inquired, "and to dispel your
ennui! I simply went over to her place for a run, and that quite
casually, and will you insinuate all these things?"

"Your words are quite devoid of sense," Tai-y added; "whether you go or
not what's that to me? neither did I tell you to give me any
distraction; you're quite at liberty from this time forth not to pay any
notice to me!"

Saying this, she flew into a high dudgeon and rushed back into her room;
but Pao-y promptly followed in her footsteps: "Here you are again in a
huff," he urged, "and all for no reason! Had I even passed any remark
that I shouldn't, you should anyhow have still sat in there, and chatted
and laughed with the others for a while; instead of that, you come again
to sit and mope all alone!"

"Are you my keeper?" Tai-y expostulated.

"I couldn't, of course," Pao-y smiled, "presume to exercise any
influence over you; but the only thing is that you are doing your own
health harm!"

"If I do ruin my health," Tai-y rejoined, "and I die, it's my own
lookout! what's that to do with you?"

"What's the good," protested Pao-y, "of talking in this happy first
moon of dying and of living?"

"I _will_ say die," insisted Tai-y, "die now, at this very moment!
but you're afraid of death; and you may live a long life of a hundred
years, but what good will that be!"

"If all we do is to go on nagging in this way," Pao-y remarked smiling,
"will I any more be afraid to die? on the contrary, it would be better
to die, and be free!"

"Quite so!" continued Tai-y with alacrity, "if we go on nagging in this
way, it would be better for me to die, and that you should be free of

"I speak of my own self dying," Pao-y added, "so don't misunderstand my
words and accuse people wrongly."

While he was as yet speaking, Pao-ch'ai entered the room: "Cousin Shih
is waiting for you;" she said; and with these words, she hastily pushed
Pao-y on, and they walked away.

Tai-y, meanwhile, became more and more a prey to resentment; and
disconsolate as she felt, she shed tears in front of the window. But not
time enough had transpired to allow two cups of tea to be drunk, before
Pao-y came back again. At the sight of him, Tai-y sobbed still more
fervently and incessantly, and Pao-y realising the state she was in,
and knowing well enough how arduous a task it would be to bring her
round, began to join together a hundred, yea a thousand kinds of soft
phrases and tender words to console her. But at an unforeseen moment,
and before he could himself open his mouth, he heard Tai-y anticipate

"What have you come back again for?" she asked. "Let me die or live, as
I please, and have done! You've really got at present some one to play
with you, one who, compared with me, is able to read and able to
compose, able to write, to speak, as well as to joke, one too who for
fear lest you should have ruffled your temper dragged you away: and what
do you return here for now?"

Pao-y, after listening to all she had to say, hastened to come up to
her. "Is it likely," he observed in a low tone of voice, "that an
intelligent person like you isn't so much as aware that near relatives
can't be separated by a distant relative, and a remote friend set aside
an old friend! I'm stupid, there's no gainsaying, but I do anyhow
understand what these two sentiments imply. You and I are, in the first
place, cousins on my father's sister's side; while sister Pao-ch'ai and
I are two cousins on mother's sides, so that, according to the degrees
of relationship, she's more distant than yourself. In the second place,
you came here first, and we two have our meals at one table and sleep in
one bed, having ever since our youth grown up together; while she has
only recently come, and how could I ever distance you on her account?"

"Ts'ui!" Tai-y exclaimed. "Will I forsooth ever make you distance her!
who and what kind of person have I become to do such a thing? What (I
said) was prompted by my own motives."

"I too," Pao-y urged, "made those remarks prompted by my own heart's
motives, and do you mean to say that your heart can only read the
feelings of your own heart, and has no idea whatsoever of my own?"

Tai-y at these words, lowered her head and said not a word. But after a
long interval, "You only know," she continued, "how to feel bitter
against people for their action in censuring you: but you don't, after
all, know that you yourself provoke people to such a degree, that it's
hard for them to put up with it! Take for instance the weather of to-day
as an example. It's distinctly very cold, to-day, and yet, how is it
that you are so contrary as to go and divest yourself of the pelisse
with the bluish breast-fur overlapping the cloth?"

"Why say I didn't wear it?" Pao-y smilingly observed. "I did, but
seeing you get angry I felt suddenly in such a terrible blaze, that I at
once took it off!"

Tai-y heaved a sigh. "You'll by and by catch a cold," she remarked,
"and then you'll again have to starve, and vociferate for something to

While these two were having this colloquy, Hsiang-yn was seen to walk
in! "You two, Ai cousin and cousin Lin," she ventured jokingly, "are
together playing every day, and though I've managed to come after ever
so much trouble, you pay no heed to me at all!"

"It's invariably the rule," Tai-y retorted smilingly, "that those who
have a defect in their speech will insist upon talking; she can't even
come out correctly with 'Erh' (secundus) cousin, and keeps on calling
him 'Ai' cousin, 'Ai' cousin! And by and by when you play 'Wei Ch'i'
you're sure also to shout out yao, ai, (instead of erh), san; (one, two,

Pao-y laughed. "If you imitate her," he interposed, "and get into that
habit, you'll also begin to bite your tongue when you talk."

"She won't make even the slightest allowance for any one," Hsiang-yn
rejoined; "her sole idea being to pick out others' faults. You may
readily be superior to any mortal being, but you shouldn't, after all,
offend against what's right and make fun of every person you come
across! But I'll point out some one, and if you venture to jeer her,
I'll at once submit to you."

"Who is it?" Tai-y vehemently inquired.

"If you do have the courage," Hsiang-yn answered, "to pick out cousin
Pao-ch'ai's faults, you then may well be held to be first-rate!"

Tai-y after hearing these words, gave a sarcastic smile. "I was
wondering," she observed, "who it was. Is it indeed she? How could I
ever presume to pick out hers?"

Pao-y allowed her no time to finish, but hastened to say something to
interrupt the conversation.

"I couldn't, of course, during the whole of this my lifetime,"
Hsiang-yn laughed, "attain your standard! but my earnest wish is that
by and by should be found for you, cousin Lin, a husband, who bites his
tongue when he speaks, so that you should every minute and second listen
to 'ai-ya-os!' O-mi-to-fu, won't then your reward be manifest to my

As she made this remark, they all burst out laughing heartily, and
Hsiang-yn speedily turned herself round and ran away.

But reader, do you want to know the sequel? Well, then listen to the
explanation given in the next chapter.


The eminent Hsi Jen, with winsome ways, rails at Pao-y, with a view
to exhortation.
The beauteous P'ing Erh, with soft words, screens Chia Lien.

But to resume our story. When Shih Hsiang-yn ran out of the room, she
was all in a flutter lest Lin Tai-y should catch her up; but Pao-y,
who came after her, readily shouted out, "You'll trip and fall. How ever
could she come up to you?"

Lin Tai-y went in pursuit of her as far as the entrance, when she was
impeded from making further progress by Pao-y, who stretched his arms
out against the posts of the door.

"Were I to spare Yn Erh, I couldn't live!" Lin Tai-y exclaimed, as she
tugged at his arms. But Hsiang-yn, perceiving that Pao-y obstructed
the door, and surmising that Tai-y could not come out, speedily stood
still. "My dear cousin," she smilingly pleaded, "do let me off this

But it just happened that Pao-ch'ai, who was coming along, was at the
back of Hsiang-yn, and with a face also beaming with smiles: "I advise
you both," she said, "to leave off out of respect for cousin Pao-y, and
have done."

"I don't agree to that," Tai-y rejoined; "are you people, pray, all of
one mind to do nothing but make fun of me?"

"Who ventures to make fun of you?" Pao-y observed advisingly; "and
hadn't you made sport of her, would she have presumed to have said
anything about you?"

While this quartet were finding it an arduous task to understand one
another, a servant came to invite them to have their repast, and they
eventually crossed over to the front side, and as it was already time
for the lamps to be lit, madame Wang, widow Li Wan, lady Feng, Ying
Ch'un, T'an Ch'un, Hsi Ch'un and the other cousins, adjourned in a body
to dowager lady Chia's apartments on this side, where the whole company
spent a while in a chat on irrelevant topics, after which they each
returned to their rooms and retired to bed. Hsiang-yn, as of old,
betook herself to Tai-y's quarters to rest, and Pao-y escorted them
both into their apartment, and it was after the hour had already past
the second watch, and Hsi Jen had come and pressed him several times,
that he at length returned to his own bedroom and went to sleep. The
next morning, as soon as it was daylight, he threw his clothes over him,
put on his low shoes and came over into Tai-y's room, where he however
saw nothing of the two girls Tzu Chan and Ts'ui Lu, as there was no one
else here in there besides his two cousins, still reclining under the
coverlets. Tai-y was closely wrapped in a quilt of almond-red silk, and
lying quietly, with closed eyes fast asleep; while Shih Hsiang-yn, with
her handful of shiny hair draggling along the edge of the pillow, was
covered only up to the chest, and outside the coverlet rested her curved
snow-white arm, with the gold bracelets, which she had on.

At the sight of her, Pao-y heaved a sigh. "Even when asleep," he
soliloquised, "she can't be quiet! but by and by, when the wind will
have blown on her, she'll again shout that her shoulder is sore!" With
these words, he gently covered her, but Lin Tai-y had already awoke out
of her sleep, and becoming aware that there was some one about, she
promptly concluded that it must, for a certainty, be Pao-y, and turning
herself accordingly round, and discovering at a glance that the truth
was not beyond her conjectures, she observed: "What have you run over to
do at this early hour?" to which question Pao-y replied: "Do you call
this early? but get up and see for yourself!"

"First quit the room," Tai-y suggested, "and let us get up!"

Pao-y thereupon made his exit into the ante-chamber, and Tai-y jumped
out of bed, and awoke Hsiang-yn. When both of them had put on their
clothes, Pao-y re-entered and took a seat by the side of the toilet
table; whence he beheld Tzu-chan and Hseh Yen walk in and wait upon
them, as they dressed their hair and performed their ablutions.
Hsiang-yn had done washing her face, and Ts'i L at once took the
remaining water and was about to throw it away, when Pao-y interposed,
saying: "Wait, I'll avail myself of this opportunity to wash too and
finish with it, and thus save myself the trouble of having again to go
over!" Speaking the while, he hastily came forward, and bending his
waist, he washed his face twice with two handfuls of water, and when Tzu
Chan went over to give him the scented soap, Pao-y added: "In this
basin, there's a good deal of it, and there's no need of rubbing any
more!" He then washed his face with two more handfuls, and forthwith
asked for a towel, and Ts'i L exclaimed: "What! have you still got
this failing? when will you turn a new leaf?" But Pao-y paid not so
much as any heed to her, and there and then called for some salt, with
which he rubbed his teeth, and rinsed his mouth. When he had done, he
perceived that Hsiang-yn had already finished combing her hair, and
speedily coming up to her, he put on a smile, and said: "My dear cousin,
comb my hair for me!"

"This can't be done!" Hsiang-yn objected.

"My dear cousin," Pao-y continued smirkingly, "how is it that you
combed it for me in former times?"

"I've forgotten now how to comb it!" Hsiang-yn replied.

"I'm not, after all, going out of doors," Pao-y observed, "nor will I
wear a hat or frontlet, so that all that need be done is to plait a few
queues, that's all!" Saying this, he went on to appeal to her in a
thousand and one endearing terms, so that Hsiang-yn had no alternative,
but to draw his head nearer to her and to comb one queue after another,
and as when he stayed at home he wore no hat, nor had, in fact, any
tufted horns, she merely took the short surrounding hair from all four
sides, and twisting it into small tufts, she collected it together over
the hair on the crown of the head, and plaited a large queue, binding it
fast with red ribbon; while from the root of the hair to the end of the
queue, were four pearls in a row, below which, in the way of a tip, was
suspended a golden pendant.

"Of these pearls there are only three," Hsiang-yn remarked as she went
on plaiting; "this isn't one like them; I remember these were all of one
kind, and how is it that there's one short?"

"I've lost one," Pao-y rejoined.

"It must have dropped," Hsiang-yn added, "when you went out of doors,
and been picked up by some one when you were off your guard; and he's
now, instead of you, the richer for it."

"One can neither tell whether it has been really lost," Tai-y, who
stood by, interposed, smiling the while sarcastically; "nor could one
say whether it hasn't been given away to some one to be mounted in some
trinket or other and worn!"

Pao-y made no reply; but set to work, seeing that the two sides of the
dressing table were all full of toilet boxes and other such articles,
taking up those that came under his hand and examining them. Grasping
unawares a box of cosmetic, which was within his reach, he would have
liked to have brought it to his lips, but he feared again lest
Hsiang-yn should chide him. While he was hesitating whether to do so or
not, Hsiang-yn, from behind, stretched forth her arm and gave him a
smack, which sent the cosmetic flying from his hand, as she cried out:
"You good-for-nothing! when will you mend those weaknesses of yours!"
But hardly had she had time to complete this remark, when she caught
sight of Hsi Jen walk in, who upon perceiving this state of things,
became aware that he was already combed and washed, and she felt
constrained to go back and attend to her own coiffure and ablutions. But
suddenly, she saw Pao-ch'ai come in and inquire: "Where's cousin Pao-y

"Do you mean to say," Hsi Jen insinuated with a sardonic smile, "that
your cousin Pao-y has leisure to stay at home?"

When Pao-ch'ai heard these words, she inwardly comprehended her meaning,
and when she further heard Hsi Jen remark with a sigh: "Cousins may well
be on intimate terms, but they should also observe some sort of
propriety; and they shouldn't night and day romp together; and no matter
how people may tender advice it's all like so much wind blowing past the
ears." Pao-ch'ai began, at these remarks, to cogitate within her mind:
"May I not, possibly, have been mistaken in my estimation of this girl;
for to listen to her words, she would really seem to have a certain
amount of _savoir faire_!"

Pao-ch'ai thereupon took a seat on the stove-couch, and quietly, in the
course of their conversation on one thing and another, she managed to
ascertain her age, her native village and other such particulars, and
then setting her mind diligently to put, on the sly, her conversation
and mental capacity to the test, she discovered how deeply worthy she
was to be respected and loved. But in a while Pao-y arrived, and
Pao-ch'ai at once quitted the apartment.

"How is it," Pao-y at once inquired, "that cousin Pao-ch'ai was
chatting along with you so lustily, and that as soon as she saw me
enter, she promptly ran away?"

Hsi Jen did not make any reply to his first question, and it was only
when he had repeated it that Hsi Jen remarked: "Do you ask me? How can I
know what goes on between you two?"

When Pao-y heard these words, and he noticed that the look on her face
was so unlike that of former days, he lost no time in putting on a smile
and asking: "Why is it that you too are angry in real earnest?"

"How could I presume to get angry!" Hsi Jen rejoined smiling
indifferently; "but you mustn't, from this day forth, put your foot into
this room! and as you have anyhow people to wait on you, you shouldn't
come again to make use of my services, for I mean to go and attend to
our old mistress, as in days of old."

With this remark still on her lips, she lay herself down on the
stove-couch and closed her eyes. When Pao-y perceived the state of mind
she was in, he felt deeply surprised and could not refrain from coming
forward and trying to cheer her up. But Hsi Jen kept her eyes closed and
paid no heed to him, so that Pao-y was quite at a loss how to act. But
espying She Yeh enter the room, he said with alacrity: "What's up with
your sister?"

"Do I know?" answered She Yeh, "examine your own self and you'll
readily know!"

After these words had been heard by Pao-y, he gazed vacantly for some
time, feeling the while very unhappy; but raising himself impetuously:
"Well!" he exclaimed, "if you don't notice me, all right, I too will go
to sleep," and as he spoke he got up, and, descending from the couch, he
betook himself to his own bed and went to sleep. Hsi Jen noticing that
he had not budged for ever so long, and that he faintly snored, presumed
that he must have fallen fast asleep, so she speedily rose to her feet,
and, taking a wrapper, came over and covered him. But a sound of "hu"
reached her ear, as Pao-y promptly threw it off and once again closed
his eyes and feigned sleep. Hsi Jen distinctly grasped his idea and,
forthwith nodding her head, she smiled coldly. "You really needn't lose
your temper! but from this time forth, I'll become mute, and not say one
word to you; and what if I do?"

Pao-y could not restrain himself from rising. "What have I been up to
again," he asked, "that you're once more at me with your advice? As far
as your advice goes, it's all well and good; but just now without one
word of counsel, you paid no heed to me when I came in, but, flying into
a huff, you went to sleep. Nor could I make out what it was all about,
and now here you are again maintaining that I'm angry. But when did I
hear you, pray, give me a word of advice of any kind?"

"Doesn't your mind yet see for itself?" Hsi Jen replied; "and do you
still expect me to tell you?"

While they were disputing, dowager lady Chia sent a servant to call him
to his repast, and he thereupon crossed over to the front; but after he
had hurriedly swallowed a few bowls of rice, he returned to his own
apartment, where he discovered Hsi Jen reclining on the outer
stove-couch, while She Yeh was playing with the dominoes by her side.
Pao-y had been ever aware of the intimacy which existed between She
Yeh and Hsi Jen, so that paying not the slightest notice to even She
Yeh, he raised the soft portiere and straightway walked all alone into
the inner apartment. She Yeh felt constrained to follow him in, but
Pao-y at once pushed her out, saying: "I don't venture to disturb you
two;" so that She Yeh had no alternative but to leave the room with a
smiling countenance, and to bid two young waiting-maids go in. Pao-y
took hold of a book and read for a considerable time in a reclining
position; but upon raising his head to ask for some tea, he caught sight
of a couple of waiting-maids, standing below; the one of whom, slightly
older than the other, was exceedingly winsome.

"What's your name?" Pao-y eagerly inquired.

"I'm called Hui Hsiang, (orchid fragrance)," that waiting-maid rejoined

"Who gave you this name?" Pao-y went on to ask.

"I went originally under the name of Yn Hsiang (Gum Sandarac)," added
Hui Hsiang, "but Miss Hua it was who changed it."

"You should really be called Hui Ch'i, (latent fragrance), that would be
proper; and why such stuff as Hui Hsiang, (orchid fragrance)?"

"How many sisters have you got?" he further went on to ask of her.

"Four," replied Hui Hsiang.

"Which of them are you?" Pao-y asked.

"The fourth," answered Hui Hsiang.

"By and by you must be called Ssu Erh, (fourth child)," Pao-y
suggested, "for there's no need for any such nonsense as Hui Hsiang
(orchid fragrance) or Lan Ch'i (epidendrum perfume.) Which single girl
deserves to be compared to all these flowers, without profaning pretty
names and fine surnames!"

As he uttered these words, he bade her give him some tea, which he
drank; while Hsi Jen and She Yeh, who were in the outer apartment, had
been listening for a long time and laughing with compressed lips.

Pao-y did not, on this day, so much as put his foot outside the door of
his room, but sat all alone sad and dejected, simply taking up his
books, in order to dispel his melancholy fit, or diverting himself with
his writing materials; while he did not even avail himself of the
services of any of the family servants, but simply bade Ssu Erh answer
his calls.

This Ssu Erh was, who would have thought it, a girl gifted with
matchless artfulness, and perceiving that Pao-y had requisitioned her
services, she speedily began to devise extreme ways and means to
inveigle him. When evening came, and dinner was over, Pao-y's eyes were
scorching hot and his ears burning from the effects of two cups of wine
that he had taken. Had it been in past days, he would have now had Hsi
Jen and her companions with him, and with all their good cheer and
laughter, he would have been enjoying himself. But here was he, on this
occasion, dull and forlorn, a solitary being, gazing at the lamp with an
absolute lack of pleasure. By and by he felt a certain wish to go after
them, but dreading that if they carried their point, they would, in the
future, come and tender advice still more immoderate, and that, were he
to put on the airs of a superior to intimidate them, he would appear to
be too deeply devoid of all feeling, he therefore, needless to say,
thwarted the wish of his heart, and treated them just as if they were
dead. And as anyway he was constrained also to live, alone though he
was, he readily looked upon them, for the time being as departed, and
did not worry his mind in the least on their account. On the contrary,
he was able to feel happy and contented with his own society. Hence it
was that bidding Ssu Erh trim the candles and brew the tea, he himself
perused for a time the "Nan Hua Ching," and upon reaching the precept:
"On thieves," given on some additional pages, the burden of which was:
"Therefore by exterminating intuitive wisdom, and by discarding
knowledge, highway robbers will cease to exist, and by taking off the
jade and by putting away the pearls, pilferers will not spring to
existence; by burning the slips and by breaking up the seals, by
smashing the measures, and snapping the scales, the result will be that
the people will not wrangle; by abrogating, to the utmost degree, wise
rules under the heavens, the people will, at length, be able to take
part in deliberation. By putting to confusion the musical scale, and
destroying fifes and lutes, by deafening the ears of the blind Kuang,
then, at last, will the human race in the world constrain his sense of
hearing. By extinguishing literary compositions, by dispersing the five
colours and by sticking the eyes of Li Chu, then, at length, mankind
under the whole sky, will restrain the perception of his eyes. By
destroying and eliminating the hooks and lines, by discarding the
compasses and squares, and by amputating Kung Chui's fingers, the human
race will ultimately succeed in constraining his ingenuity,"--his high
spirits, on perusal of this passage, were so exultant that taking
advantage of the exuberance caused by the wine, he picked up his pen,
for he could not repress himself, and continued the text in this wise:
"By burning the flower, (Hua-Hsi Jen) and dispersing the musk, (She
Yeh), the consequence will be that the inmates of the inner chambers
will, eventually, keep advice to themselves. By obliterating Pao-ch'ai's
supernatural beauty, by reducing to ashes Tai-y's spiritual perception,
and by destroying and extinguishing my affectionate preferences, the
beautiful in the inner chambers as well as the plain will then, at
length, be put on the same footing. And as they will keep advice to
themselves, there will be no fear of any disagreement. By obliterating
her supernatural beauty, I shall then have no incentive for any violent
affection; by dissolving her spiritual perception, I will have no
feelings with which to foster the memory of her talents. The hair-pin,
jade, flower and musk (Pao-ch'ai, Tai-y, Hsi Jen and She Yeh) do each
and all spread out their snares and dig mines, and thus succeed in
inveigling and entrapping every one in the world."

At the conclusion of this annex, he flung the pen away, and lay himself
down to sleep. His head had barely reached the pillow before he at once
fell fast asleep, remaining the whole night long perfectly unconscious
of everything straight up to the break of day, when upon waking and
turning himself round, he, at a glance, caught sight of no one else than
Hsi Jen, sleeping in her clothes over the coverlet.

Pao-y had already banished from his mind every thought of what had
transpired the previous day, so that forthwith giving Hsi Jen a push:
"Get up!" he said, "and be careful where you sleep, as you may catch

The fact is that Hsi Jen was aware that he was, without regard to day or
night, ever up to mischief with his female cousins; but presuming that
if she earnestly called him to account, he would not mend his ways, she
had, for this reason, had recourse to tender language to exhort him, in
the hope that, in a short while, he would come round again to his better
self. But against all her expectations Pao-y had, after the lapse of a
whole day and night, not changed the least in his manner, and as she
really was in her heart quite at a loss what to do, she failed to find
throughout the whole night any proper sleep. But when on this day, she
unexpectedly perceived Pao-y in this mood, she flattered herself that
he had made up his mind to effect a change, and readily thought it best
not to notice him. Pao-y, seeing that she made no reply, forthwith
stretched out his hand and undid her jacket; but he had just unclasped
the button, when his arm was pushed away by Hsi Jen, who again made it
fast herself.

Pao-y was so much at his wit's ends that he had no alternative but to
take her hand and smilingly ask: "What's the matter with you, after all,
that I've had to ask you something time after time?"

Hsi Jen opened her eyes wide. "There's nothing really the matter with
me!" she observed; "but as you're awake, you surely had better be going
over into the opposite room to comb your hair and wash; for if you
dilly-dally any longer, you won't be in time."

"Where shall I go over to?" Pao-y inquired.

Hsi Jen gave a sarcastic grin. "Do you ask me?" she rejoined; "do I
know? you're at perfect liberty to go over wherever you like; from this
day forth you and I must part company so as to avoid fighting like cocks
or brawling like geese, to the amusement of third parties. Indeed, when
you get surfeited on that side, you come over to this, where there are,
after all, such girls as Fours and Fives (Ssu Erh and Wu Erh) to dance
attendance upon you. But such kind of things as ourselves uselessly
defile fine names and fine surnames."

"Do you still remember this to-day!" Pao-y asked with a smirk.

"Hundred years hence I shall still bear it in mind," Hsi Jen protested;
"I'm not like you, who treat my words as so much wind blowing by the
side of your ears, that what I've said at night, you've forgotten early
in the morning."

Pao-y perceiving what a seductive though angry air pervaded her face
found it difficult to repress his feelings, and speedily taking up, from
the side of the pillow, a hair-pin made of jade, he dashed it down
breaking it into two exclaiming: "If I again don't listen to your words,
may I fare like this hair-pin."

Hsi Jen immediately picked up the hair-pin, as she remarked: "What's up
with you at this early hour of the morning? Whether you listen or not is
of no consequence; and is it worth while that you should behave as you

"How can you know," Pao-y answered, "the anguish in my heart!"

"Do you also know what anguish means?" Hsi Jen observed laughing; "if
you do, then you can judge what the state of my heart is! But be quick
and get up, and wash your face and be off!"

As she spoke, they both got out of bed and performed their toilette; but
after Pao-y had gone to the drawing rooms, and at a moment least
expected by any one, Tai-y walked into his apartment. Noticing that
Pao-y was not in, she was fumbling with the books on the table and
examining them, when, as luck would have it, she turned up the Chuang
Tzu of the previous day. Upon perusing the passage tagged on by Pao-y,
she could not help feeling both incensed and amused. Nor could she
restrain herself from taking up the pen and appending a stanza to this

Who is that man, who of his pen, without good rhyme, made use,
A toilsome task to do into the Chuang-tzu text to steal,
Who for the knowledge he doth lack no sense of shame doth feel,
But language vile and foul employs third parties to abuse?

At the conclusion of what she had to write, she too came into the
drawing room; but after paying her respects to dowager lady Chia, she
walked over to madame Wang's quarters.

Contrary to everybody's expectations, lady Feng's daughter, Ta Chieh
Erh, had fallen ill, and a great fuss was just going on as the doctor
had been sent for to diagnose her ailment.

"My congratulations to you, ladies," the doctor explained; "this young
lady has fever, as she has small-pox; indeed it's no other complaint!"

As soon as madame Wang and lady Feng heard the tidings, they lost no
time in sending round to ascertain whether she was getting on all right
or not, and the doctor replied: "The symptoms are, it is true, serious,
but favourable; but though after all importing no danger, it's necessary
to get ready the silkworms and pigs' tails."

When lady Feng received this report, she, there and then, hastened to
make the necessary preparations, and while she had the rooms swept and
oblations offered to the goddess of small-pox, she, at the same time,
transmitted orders to her household to avoid viands fried or roasted in
fat, or other such heating things; and also bade P'ing Erh get ready the
bedding and clothes for Chia Lien in a separate room, and taking pieces
of deep red cotton material, she distributed them to the nurses,
waiting-maids and all the servants, who were in close attendance, to cut
out clothes for themselves. And having had likewise some apartments

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