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Hung Lou Meng, Book II by Cao Xueqin

Part 5 out of 14

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the good counsel she gave you has stirred up your monkey instead."

"From the way you're now speaking," Hsüeh P'an rejoined, "it must be
you, who said that it was I; no one else but you!"

"You simply know how to feel displeased with me for speaking," argued
Pao-ch'ai, "but you don't feel displeased with yourself for that
reckless way of yours of looking ahead and not minding what is behind!"

"You now bear me a grudge," Hsüeh P'an added, "for looking to what is
ahead and not to what is behind; but how is it you don't feel indignant
with Pao-yü for stirring up strife and provoking trouble outside?
Leaving aside everything else, I'll merely take that affair of Ch'i
Kuan-erh's, which occurred the other day, and recount it to you as an
instance. My friends and I came across this Ch'i Kuan-erh, ten times at
least, but never has he made a single intimate remark to me, and how is
it that, as soon as he met Pao-yü the other day, he at once produced his
sash, and gave it to him, though he did not so much as know what his
surname and name were? Now is it likely, forsooth, that this too was
something that I started?"

"Do you still refer to this?" exclaimed Mrs. Hsüeh and Pao-ch'ai, out of
patience. "Wasn't it about this that he was beaten? This makes it clear
enough that it's you who gave the thing out."

"Really, you're enough to exasperate one to death!" Hsüeh P'an
exclaimed. "Had you confined yourselves to saying that I had started the
yarn, I wouldn't have lost my temper; but what irritates me is that such
a fuss should be made for a single Pao-yü, as to subvert heaven and

"Who fusses?" shouted Pao-ch'ai. "You are the first to arm yourself to
the teeth and start a row, and then you say that it's others who are up
to mischief!"

Hsüeh P'an, seeing that every remark, made by Pao-ch'ai, contained so
much reasonableness that he could with difficulty refute it, and that
her words were even harder for him to reply to than were those uttered
by his mother, he was consequently bent upon contriving a plan to make
use of such language as could silence her and compel her to return to
her room, so as to have no one bold enough to interfere with his
speaking; but, his temper being up, he was not in a position to weigh
his speech. "Dear Sister!" he readily therefore said, "you needn't be
flying into a huff with me! I've long ago divined your feelings. Mother
told me some time back that for you with that gold trinket, must be
selected some suitor provided with a jade one; as such a one will be a
suitable match for you. And having treasured this in your mind, and seen
that Pao-yü has that rubbishy thing of his, you naturally now seize
every occasion to screen him...."

However, before he could finish, Pao-ch'ai trembled with anger, and
clinging to Mrs. Hsüeh, she melted into tears. "Mother," she observed,
"have you heard what brother says, what is it all about?"

Hsüeh P'an, at the sight of his sister bathed in tears, became alive to
the fact that he had spoken inconsiderately, and, flying into a rage, he
walked away to his own quarters and retired to rest. But we can well
dispense with any further comment on the subject.

Pao-ch'ai was, at heart, full of vexation and displeasure. She meant to
give vent to her feelings in some way, but the fear again of upsetting
her mother compelled her to conceal her tears. She therefore took leave
of her parent, and went back all alone. On her return to her chamber,
she sobbed and sobbed throughout the whole night. The next day, she got
out of bed, as soon as it dawned; but feeling even no inclination to
comb her chevelure or perform her ablutions, she carelessly adjusted her
clothes and came out of the garden to see her mother.

As luck would have it, she encountered Tai-yü standing alone under the
shade of the trees, who inquired of her: "Where she was off to?"

"I'm going home," Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai replied. And as she uttered these
words, she kept on her way.

But Tai-yü perceived that she was going off in a disconsolate mood; and,
noticing that her eyes betrayed signs of crying, and that her manner was
unlike that of other days, she smilingly called out to her from behind:
"Sister, you should take care of yourself a bit. Were you even to cry so
much as to fill two water jars with tears, you wouldn't heal the wounds
inflicted by the cane."

But as what reply Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai gave is not yet known to you, reader,
lend an ear to the explanation contained in the next chapter.


Pai Yü-ch'uan tastes too the lotus-leaf soup.
Huang Chin-ying skilfully plaits the plum-blossom-knotted nets.

Pao ch'ai had, our story goes, distinctly heard Lin Tai-yü's sneer, but
in her eagerness to see her mother and brother, she did not so much as
turn her head round, but continued straight on her way.

During this time, Lin Tai-yü halted under the shadow of the trees. Upon
casting a glance, in the distance towards the I Hung Yüan, she observed
Li Kung-ts'ai, Ying Ch'un, T'an Ch'un, Hsi Ch'un and various inmates
wending their steps in a body in the direction of the I Hung court; but
after they had gone past, and company after company of them had
dispersed, she only failed to see lady Feng come. "How is it," she
cogitated within herself, "that she doesn't come to see Pao-yü? Even
supposing that there was some business to detain her, she should also
have put in an appearance, so as to curry favour with our venerable
senior and Madame Wang. But if she hasn't shown herself at this hour of
the day, there must certainly be some cause or other."

While preoccupied with conjectures, she raised her head. At a second
glance, she discerned a crowd of people, as thick as flowers in a
bouquet, pursuing their way also into the I Hung court. On looking
fixedly, she recognised dowager lady Chia, leaning on lady Feng's arm,
followed by Mesdames Hsing and Wang, Mrs. Chou and servant-girls,
married women and other domestics. In a body they walked into the court.
At the sight of them, Tai-yü unwittingly nodded her head, and reflected
on the benefit of having a father and mother; and tears forthwith again
bedewed her face. In a while, she beheld Pao-ch'ai, Mrs. Hsüeh and the
rest likewise go in.

But at quite an unexpected moment she became aware that Tzu Chüan was
approaching her from behind. "Miss," she said, "you had better go and
take your medicine! The hot water too has got cold."

"What do you, after all, mean by keeping on pressing me so?" inquired
Tai-yü. "Whether I have it or not, what's that to you?"

"Your cough," smiled Tzu Chüan, "has recently got a trifle better, and
won't you again take your medicine? This is, it's true, the fifth moon,
and the weather is hot, but you should, nevertheless, take good care of
yourself a bit! Here you've been at this early hour of the morning
standing for ever so long in this damp place; so you should go back and
have some rest!"

This single hint recalled Tai-yü to her senses. She at length realised
that her legs felt rather tired. After lingering about abstractedly for
a long while, she quietly returned into the Hsiao Hsiang lodge,
supporting herself on Tzu Chüan. As soon as they stepped inside the
entrance of the court, her gaze was attracted by the confused shadows of
the bamboos, which covered the ground, and the traces of moss, here
thick, there thin, and she could not help recalling to mind those two
lines of the passage in the Hsi Hsiang Chi:

"In that lone nook some one saunters about,
White dew coldly bespecks the verdant moss."

"Shuang Wen," she consequently secretly communed within herself, as she
sighed, "had of course a poor fate; but she nevertheless had a widowed
mother and a young brother; but in the unhappy destiny, to which I,
Tai-yü, am at present doomed, I have neither a widowed mother nor a
young brother."

At this point in her reflections, she was about to melt into another fit
of crying, when of a sudden, the parrot under the verandah caught sight
of Tai-yü approaching, and, with a shriek, he jumped down from his
perch, and made her start with fright.

"Are you bent upon compassing your own death!" she exclaimed. "You've
covered my head all over with dust again!"

The parrot flew back to his perch. "Hsüeh Yen," he kept on shouting,
"quick, raise the portiere! Miss is come!"

Tai-yü stopped short and rapped on the frame with her hand. "Have his
food and water been replenished?" she asked.

The parrot forthwith heaved a deep sigh, closely resembling, in sound,
the groans usually indulged in by Tai-yü, and then went on to recite:

"Here I am fain these flowers to inter, but humankind will laugh me as
a fool."
Who knows who will in years to come commit me to my grave.

As soon as these lines fell on the ear of Tai-yü and Tzu Chüan, they
blurted out laughing.

"This is what you were repeating some time back, Miss." Tzu Chüan
laughed, "How did he ever manage to commit it to memory?"

Tai-yü then directed some one to take down the frame and suspend it
instead on a hook, outside the circular window, and presently entering
her room, she seated herself inside the circular window. She had just
done drinking her medicine, when she perceived that the shade cast by
the cluster of bamboos, planted outside the window, was reflected so far
on the gauze lattice as to fill the room with a faint light, so green
and mellow, and to impart a certain coolness to the teapoys and mats.
But Tai-yü had no means at hand to dispel her ennui, so from inside the
gauze lattice, she instigated the parrot to perform his pranks; and
selecting some verses, which had ever found favour with her, she tried
to teach them to him.

But without descending to particulars, let us now advert to Hsüeh
Pao-ch'ai. On her return home, she found her mother alone combing her
hair and having a wash. "Why do you run over at this early hour of the
morning?" she speedily inquired when she saw her enter.

"To see," replied Pao-ch'ai, "whether you were all right or not, mother.
Did he come again, I wonder, after I left yesterday and make any more
trouble or not?"

As she spoke, she sat by her mother's side, but unable to curb her
tears, she began to weep.

Seeing her sobbing, Mrs. Hsüeh herself could not check her feelings, and
she, too, burst out into a fit of crying. "My child," she simultaneously
exhorted her, "don't feel aggrieved! Wait, and I'll call that child of
wrath to order; for were anything to happen to you, from whom will I
have anything to hope?"

Hsüeh P'an was outside and happened to overhear their conversation, so
with alacrity he ran over, and facing Pao-ch'ai he made a bow, now to
the left and now to the right, observing the while: "My dear sister,
forgive me this time. The fact is that I took some wine yesterday; I
came back late, as I met a few friends on the way. On my return home, I
hadn't as yet got over the fumes, so I unintentionally talked a lot of
nonsense. But I don't so much as remember anything about all I said. It
isn't worth your while, however, losing your temper over such a thing!"

Pao-ch'ai was, in fact, weeping, as she covered her face, but the moment
this language fell on her ear, she could scarcely again refrain from
laughing. Forthwith raising her head, she sputtered contemptuously on
the ground. "You can well dispense with all this sham!" she exclaimed,
"I'm well aware that you so dislike us both, that you're anxious to
devise some way of inducing us to part company with you, so that you may
be at liberty."

Hsüeh P'an, at these words, hastened to smile. "Sister," he argued,
"what makes you say so? once upon a time, you weren't so suspicious and
given to uttering anything so perverse!"

Mrs. Hsüeh hurriedly took up the thread of the conversation. "All you
know," she interposed, "is to find fault with your sister's remarks as
being perverse; but can it be that what you said last night was the
proper thing to say? In very truth, you were drunk!"

"There's no need for you to get angry, mother!" Hsüeh P'an rejoined,
"nor for you sister either; for from this day, I shan't any more make
common cause with them nor drink wine or gad about. What do you say to

"That's equal to an acknowledgment of your failings," Pao-ch'ai laughed.

"Could you exercise such strength of will," added Mrs. Hsüeh, "why, the
dragon too would lay eggs."

"If I again go and gad about with them," Hsüeh P'an replied, "and you,
sister, come to hear of it, you can freely spit in my face and call me a
beast and no human being. Do you agree to that? But why should you two
be daily worried; and all through me alone? For you, mother, to be angry
on my account is anyhow excusable; but for me to keep on worrying you,
sister, makes me less then ever worthy of the name of a human being! If
now that father is no more, I manage, instead of showing you plenty of
filial piety, mamma, and you, sister, plenty of love, to provoke my
mother to anger, and annoy my sister, why I can't compare myself to even
a four-footed creature!"

While from his mouth issued these words, tears rolled down from his
eyes; for he too found it hard to contain them.

Mrs. Hsüeh had not at first been overcome by her feelings; but the
moment his utterances reached her ear, she once more began to experience
the anguish, which they stirred in her heart.

Pao-ch'ai made an effort to force a smile. "You've already," she said,
"been the cause of quite enough trouble, and do you now provoke mother
to have another cry?"

Hearing this, Hsüeh P'an promptly checked his tears. As he put on a
smiling expression, "When did I," he asked, "make mother cry? But never
mind; enough of this! let's drop the matter, and not allude to it any
more! Call Hsiang Ling to come and give you a cup of tea, sister!"

"I don't want any tea." Pao-ch'ai answered. "I'll wait until mother has
finished washing her hands and then go with her into the garden."

"Let me see your necklet, sister," Hsüeh P'an continued. "I think it
requires cleaning."

"It is so yellow and bright," rejoined Pao-ch'ai, "and what's the use of
cleaning it again?"

"Sister," proceeded Hsüeh P'an, "you must now add a few more clothes to
your wardrobe, so tell me what colour and what design you like best."

"I haven't yet worn out all the clothes I have," Pao-ch'ai explained,
"and why should I have more made?"

But, in a little time, Mrs. Hsüeh effected the change in her costume,
and hand in hand with Pao-ch'ai, she started on her way to the garden.

Hsüeh P'an thereupon took his departure. During this while, Mrs. Hsüeh
and Pao-ch'ai trudged in the direction of the garden to look up Pao-yü.
As soon as they reached the interior of the I Hung court, they saw a
large concourse of waiting-maids and matrons standing inside as well as
outside the antechambers and they readily concluded that old lady Chia
and the other ladies were assembled in his rooms. Mrs. Hsüeh and her
daughter stepped in. After exchanging salutations with every one
present, they noticed that Pao-yü was reclining on the couch and Mrs.
Hsüeh inquired of him whether he felt any better.

Pao-yü hastily attempted to bow. "I'm considerably better;" he said.
"All I do," he went on, "is to disturb you, aunt, and you, my cousin,
but I don't deserve such attentions."

Mrs. Hsüeh lost no time in supporting and laying him down. "Mind you
tell me whatever may take your fancy!" she proceeded.

"If I do fancy anything," retorted Pao-yü smilingly, "I shall certainly
send to you, aunt, for it."

"What would you like to eat," likewise inquired Madame Wang, "so that I
may, on my return, send it round to you?"

"There's nothing that I care for," smiled Pao-yü, "though the soup made
for me the other day, with young lotus leaves, and small lotus cores
was, I thought, somewhat nice."

"From what I hear, its flavour is nothing very grand," lady Feng chimed
in laughingly, from where she stood on one side. "It involves, however,
a good deal of trouble to concoct; and here you deliberately go and
fancy this very thing."

"Go and get it ready!" cried dowager lady Chia several successive times.

"Venerable ancestor," urged lady Feng with a smile, "don't you bother
yourself about it! Let me try and remember who can have put the moulds
away!" Then turning her head round, "Go and bid," she enjoined an old
matron, "the chief in the cook-house go and apply for them!"

After a considerable lapse of time, the matron returned. "The chief in
the cook-house," she explained, "says that the four sets of moulds for
soups have all been handed up."

Upon hearing this, lady Feng thought again for a while. "Yes, I
remember," she afterwards remarked, "they were handed up, but I can't
recollect to whom they were given. Possibly they're in the tea-room."

Thereupon, she also despatched a servant to go and inquire of the keeper
of the tea-room about them; but he too had not got them; and it was
subsequently the butler, entrusted with the care of the gold and silver
articles, who brought them round.

Mrs. Hsüeh was the first to take them and examine them. What, in fact,
struck her gaze was a small box, the contents of which were four sets of
silver moulds. Each of these was over a foot long, and one square inch
(in breadth). On the top, holes were bored of the size of beans. Some
resembled chrysanthemums, others plum blossom. Some were in the shape of
lotus seed-cases, others like water chestnuts. They numbered in all
thirty or forty kinds, and were ingeniously executed.

"In your mansion," she felt impelled to observe smilingly to old lady
Chia and Madame Wang, "everything has been amply provided for! Have you
got all these things to prepare a plate of soup with! Hadn't you told
me, and I happened to see them, I wouldn't have been able to make out
what they were intended for!"

Lady Feng did not allow time to any one to put in her word. "Aunt," she
said, "how could you ever have divined that these were used last year
for the imperial viands! They thought of a way by which they devised,
somehow or other, I can't tell how, some dough shapes, which borrow a
little of the pure fragrance of the new lotus leaves. But as all mainly
depends upon the quality of the soup, they're not, after all, of much
use! Yet who often goes in for such soup! It was made once only, and
that at the time when the moulds were brought; and how is it that he has
come to think of it to-day?" So speaking, she took (the moulds), and
handed them to a married woman, to go and issue directions to the people
in the cook-house to procure at once several fowls, and to add other
ingredients besides and prepare ten bowls of soup.

"What do you want all that lot for?" observed Madame Wang.

"There's good reason for it," answered lady Feng. "A dish of this kind
isn't, at ordinary times, very often made, and were, now that brother
Pao-yü has alluded to it, only sufficient prepared for him, and none for
you, dear senior, you, aunt, and you, Madame Wang, it won't be quite the
thing! So isn't it better that this opportunity should be availed of to
get ready a whole supply so that every one should partake of some, and
that even I should, through my reliance on your kind favour, taste this
novel kind of relish."

"You are sharper than a monkey!" Dowager lady Chia laughingly exclaimed
in reply to her proposal. "You make use of public money to confer boons
upon people."

This remark evoked general laughter.

"This is a mere bagatelle!" eagerly laughed lady Feng. "Even I can
afford to stand you such a small treat!" Then turning her head round,
"Tell them in the cook-house," she said to a married woman, "to please
make an extra supply, and that they'll get the money from me."

The matron assented and went out of the room.

Pao-ch'ai, who was standing near, thereupon interposed with a smile.
"During the few years that have gone by since I've come here, I've
carefully noticed that sister-in-law Secunda, cannot, with all her
acumen, outwit our venerable ancestor."

"My dear child!" forthwith replied old lady Chia at these words. "I'm
now quite an old woman, and how can there still remain any wit in me!
When I was, long ago, of your manlike cousin Feng's age, I had far more
wits about me than she has! Albeit she now avers that she can't reach
our standard, she's good enough; and compared with your aunt Wang, why,
she's infinitely superior. Your aunt, poor thing, won't speak much!
She's like a block of wood; and when with her father and mother-in-law,
she won't show herself off to advantage. But that girl Feng has a sharp
tongue, so is it a wonder if people take to her."

"From what you say," insinuated Pao-yü with a smile, "those who don't
talk much are not loved."

"Those who don't speak much," resumed dowager lady Chia, "possess the
endearing quality of reserve. But among those, with glib tongues,
there's also a certain despicable lot; thus it's better, in a word, not
to have too much to say for one's self."

"Quite so," smiled Pao-yü, "yet though senior sister-in-law Chia Chu
doesn't, I must confess, talk much, you, venerable ancestor, treat her
just as you do cousin Feng. But if you maintain that those alone, who
can talk, are worthy of love, then among all these young ladies, sister
Feng and cousin Lin are the only ones good enough to be loved."

"With regard to the young ladies," remarked dowager lady Chia, "it isn't
that I have any wish to flatter your aunt Hsüeh in her presence, but it
is a positive and incontestable fact that there isn't, beginning from
the four girls in our household, a single one able to hold a candle to
that girl Pao-ch'ai."

At these words, Mrs. Hsüeh promptly smiled. "Dear venerable senior!" she
said, "you're rather partial in your verdict."

"Our dear senior," vehemently put in Madame Wang, also smiling, "has
often told me in private how nice your daughter Pao-ch'ai is; so this is
no lie."

Pao-yü had tried to lead old lady Chia on, originally with the idea of
inducing her to speak highly of Lin Tai-yü, but when unawares she began
to eulogise Pao-ch'ai instead the result exceeded all his thoughts and
went far beyond his expectations. Forthwith he cast a glance at
Pao-chai, and gave her a smile, but Pao-chai at once twisted her head
round and went and chatted with Hsi Jen. But of a sudden, some one came
to ask them to go and have their meal. Dowager lady Chia rose to her
feet, and enjoined Pao-yü to be careful of himself. She then gave a few
directions to the waiting-maids, and resting her weight on lady Feng's
arm, and pressing Mrs. Hsüeh to go out first, she, and all with her,
left the apartment in a body. But still she kept on inquiring whether
the soup was ready or not. "If there's anything you might fancy to eat,"
she also said to Mrs. Hsüeh and the others, "mind you, come and tell me,
and I know how to coax that hussey Feng to get it for you as well as

"My venerable senior!" rejoined Mrs. Hsüeh, "you do have the happy knack
of putting her on her mettle; but though she has often got things ready
for you, you've, after all, not eaten very much of them."

"Aunt," smiled lady Feng, "don't make such statements! If our worthy
senior hasn't eaten me up it's purely and simply because she dislikes
human flesh as being sour. Did she not look down upon it as sour, why,
she would long ago have gobbled me up!"

This joke was scarcely ended, when it so tickled the fancy of old lady
Chia and all the inmates that they broke out with one voice in a
boisterous fit of laughter. Even Pao-yü, who was inside the room, could
not keep quiet.

"Really," Hsi Jen laughed, "the mouth of our mistress Secunda is enough
to terrify people to death!"

Pao-yü put out his arm and pulled Hsi Jen. "You've been standing for so
long," he smiled, "that you must be feeling tired."

Saying this, he dragged her down and made her take a seat next to him.

"Here you've again forgotten!" laughingly exclaimed Hsi Jen. "Avail
yourself now that Miss Pao-ch'ai is in the court to tell her to kindly
bid their Ying Erh come and plait a few girdles with twisted cords."

"How lucky it is you've reminded me?" Pao-yü observed with a smile. And
putting, while he spoke, his head out of the window: "Cousin Pao-ch'ai,"
he cried, "when you've had your repast, do tell Ying Erh to come over. I
would like to ask her to plait a few girdles for me. Has she got the
time to spare?"

Pao-ch'ai heard him speak; and turning round: "How about no time?" she
answered. "I'll tell her by and bye to come; it will be all right."

Dowager lady Chia and the others, however, failed to catch distinctly
the drift of their talk; and they halted and made inquiries of Pao-ch'ai
what it was about. Pao-ch'ai gave them the necessary explanations.

"My dear child," remarked old lady Chia, "do let her come and twist a
few girdles for your cousin! And should you be in need of any one for
anything, I have over at my place a whole number of servant-girls doing
nothing! Out of them, you are at liberty to send for any you like to
wait on you!"

"We'll send her to plait them!" Mrs. Hsüeh and Pao-ch'ai observed
smilingly with one consent. "What can we want her for? she also daily
idles her time way and is up to every mischief!"

But chatting the while, they were about to proceed on their way when
they unexpectedly caught sight of Hsiang-yün, P'ing Erh, Hsiang Lin and
other girls picking balsam flowers near the rocks; who, as soon as they
saw the company approaching, advanced to welcome them.

Shortly, they all sallied out of the garden. Madame Wang was worrying
lest dowager lady Chia's strength might be exhausted, and she did her
utmost to induce her to enter the drawing room and sit down. Old lady
Chia herself was feeling her legs quite tired out, so she at once nodded
her head and expressed her assent. Madame Wang then directed a
waiting-maid to hurriedly precede them, and get ready the seats. But as
Mrs. Chao had, about this time, pleaded indisposition, there was only
therefore Mrs. Chou, with the matrons and servant-girls at hand, so they
had ample to do to raise the portières, to put the back-cushions in
their places, and to spread out the rugs.

Dowager lady Chia stepped into the room, leaning on lady Feng's arm. She
and Mrs. Hsüeh took their places, with due regard to the distinction
between hostess and visitors; and Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai and Shih Hsiang-yün
seated themselves below. Madame Wang then came forward, and presented
with her own hands tea to old lady Chia, while Li Kung-ts'ai handed a
cup to Mrs. Hsüeh.

"You'd better let those young sisters-in law do the honours,"
remonstrated old lady Chia, "and sit over there so that we may be able
to have a chat."

Madame Wang at length sat on a small bench. "Let our worthy senior's
viands," she cried, addressing herself to lady Feng, "be served here.
And let a few more things be brought!"

Lady Feng acquiesced without delay, and she told a servant to cross over
to their old mistress' quarters and to bid the matrons, employed in that
part of the household, promptly go out and summon the waiting-girls. The
various waiting-maids arrived with all despatch. Madame Wang directed
them to ask their young ladies round. But after a protracted absence on
the errand, only two of the girls turned up: T'an Ch'un and Hsi Ch'un.
Ying Ch'un, was not, in her state of health, equal to the fatigue, or
able to put anything in her mouth, and Lin Tai-yü, superfluous to add,
could only safely partake of five out of ten meals, so no one thought
anything of their non-appearance. Presently the eatables were brought,
and the servants arranged them in their proper places on the table.

Lady Feng took a napkin and wrapped a bundle of chopsticks in it.
"Venerable ancestor and you, Mrs. Hsüeh," she smiled, standing the while
below, "there's no need of any yielding! Just you listen to me and I'll
make things all right."

"Let's do as she wills!" old lady Chia remarked to Mrs. Hsüeh

Mrs. Hsüeh signified her approval with a smile; so lady Feng placed, in
due course, four pairs of chopsticks on the table; the two pairs on the
upper end for dowager lady Chia and Mrs. Hsüeh; those on the two sides
for Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai and Shih Hsiang-yün. Madame Wang, Li Kung-ts'ai and
a few others, stood together below and watched the attendants serve the
viands. Lady Feng first and foremost hastily asked for clean utensils,
and drew near the table to select some eatables for Pao-yü. Presently,
the soup _à la_ lotus leaves arrived. After old lady Chia had well
scrutinised it, Madame Wang turned her head, and catching sight of Yü
Ch'uan-erh, she immediately commissioned her to take some over to

"She can't carry it single-handed," demurred lady Feng.

But by a strange coincidence, Ying Erh then walked into the room along
with Hsi Erh, and Pao-ch'ai knowing very well that they had already had
their meal forthwith said to Ying Erh: "Your Master Secundus, Mr.
Pao-yü, just asked that you should go and twist a few girdles for him;
so you two might as well proceed together!"

Ying Erh expressed her readiness and left the apartment, in company with
Yü Ch'uan-erh.

"How can you carry it, so very hot as it is, the whole way there?"
observed Ying Erh.

"Don't distress yourself!" rejoined Yü Ch'uan smiling. "I know how to do

Saying this, she directed a matron to come and place the soup, rice and
the rest of the eatables in a present box; and bidding her lay hold of
it and follow them, the two girls sped on their way with empty hands,
and made straight for the entrance of the I Hung court. Here Yü
Ch'uan-erh at length took the things herself, and entered the room in
company with Ying Erh. The trio, Hsi Jen, She Yüeh and Ch'iu Wen were at
the time chatting and laughing with Pao-yü; but the moment they saw
their two friends arrive they speedily jumped to their feet. "How is
it," they exclaimed laughingly, "that you two drop in just the nick of
time? Have you come together?"

With these words on their lips, they descended to greet them. Yü Ch'uan
took at once a seat on a small stool. Ying Erh, however, did not presume
to seat herself; and though Hsi Jen was quick enough in moving a
foot-stool for her, Ying Erh did not still venture to sit down.

Ying Erh's arrival filled Pao-yü with intense delight. But as soon as he
noticed Yü Ch'uan-erh, he recalled to memory her sister Chin Ch'uan-erh,
and he felt wounded to the very heart, and overpowered with shame. And,
without troubling his mind about Ying Erh, he addressed his remarks to
Yü Ch'uan-erh.

Hsi Jen saw very well that Ying Erh failed to attract his attention and
she began to fear lest she felt uncomfortable; and when she further
realised that Ying Erh herself would not take a seat, she drew her out
of the room and repaired with her into the outer apartment, where they
had a chat over their tea.

She Yüeh and her companions had, in the meantime, got the bowls and
chopsticks ready and came to wait upon (Pao-yü) during his meal. But
Pao-yü would not have anything to eat. "Is your mother all right," he
forthwith inquired of Yü Ch'uan-erh.

An angry scowl crept over Yü Ch'uan-erh's face. She did not even look
straight at Pao-yü. And only after a long pause was it that she at last
uttered merely the words, "all right," by way of reply. Pao-yü,
therefore, found talking to her of little zest. But after a protracted
silence he felt impelled to again force a smile, and to ask: "Who told
you to bring these things over to me?"

"The ladies," answered Yü Chuan-erh.

Pao-yü discerned the mournful expression, which still beclouded her
countenance and he readily jumped at the conclusion that it must be
entirely occasioned by the fate which had befallen Chin Ch'uan-erh, but
when fain to put on a meek and unassuming manner, and endeavour to cheer
her, he saw how little he could demean himself in the presence of so
many people, and consequently he did his best and discovered the means
of getting every one out of the way. Afterwards, straining another
smile, he plied her with all sorts of questions.

Yü Ch'uan-erh, it is true, did not at first choose to heed his advances,
yet when she observed that Pao-yü did not put on any airs, and, that in
spite of all her querulous reproaches, he still continued pleasant and
agreeable, she felt disconcerted and her features at last assumed a
certain expression of cheerfulness. Pao-yü thereupon smiled. "My dear
girl," he said, as he gave way to entreaties, "bring that soup and let
me taste it!"

"I've never been in the habit of feeding people," Yü Ch'uan-erh replied.
"You'd better wait till the others return; you can have some then."

"I don't want you to feed me," laughed Pao-yü. "It's because I can't
move about that I appeal to you. Do let me have it! You'll then get back
early and be able, when you've handed over the things, to have your
meal. But were I to go on wasting your time, won't you feel upset from
hunger? Should you be lazy to budge, well then, I'll endure the pain and
get down and fetch it myself."

As he spoke, he tried to alight from bed. He strained every nerve, and
raised himself, but unable to stand the exertion, he burst out into
groans. At the sight of his anguish, Yü Ch'uan-erh had not the heart to
refuse her help. Springing up, "Lie down!" she cried. "In what former
existence did you commit such evil that your retribution in the present
one is so apparent? Which of my eyes however can brook looking at you
going on in that way?"

While taunting him, she again blurted out laughing, and brought the soup
over to him.

"My dear girl;" smiled Pao-yü, "if you want to show temper, better do so
here! When you see our venerable senior and madame, my mother, you
should be a little more even-tempered, for if you still behave like
this, you'll at once get a scolding!"

"Eat away, eat away!" urged Yü Ch'uan-erh. "There's no need for you to
be so sweet-mouthed and honey-tongued with me. I don't put any faith in
such talk!"

So speaking, she pressed Pao-yü until he had two mouthfuls of soup. "It
isn't nice, it isn't nice!" Pao-yü purposely exclaimed.

"Omi-to-fu!" ejaculated Yü Ch'uan-erh. "If this isn't nice, what's

"There's no flavour about it at all," resumed Pao-yü. "If you don't
believe me taste it, and you'll find out for yourself."

Yü Ch'uan-erh in a tantrum actually put some of it to her lips.

"Well," laughed Pao-yü, "it is nice!"

This exclamation eventually enabled Yü Ch'uan to see what Pao-yü was
driving at, for Pao-yü had in fact been trying to beguile her to have a

"As, at one moment, you say you don't want any," she forthwith observed,
"and now you say it is nice, I won't give you any."

While Pao-yü returned her smiles, he kept on earnestly entreating her to
let him have some.

Yü Ch'uan-erh however would still not give him any; and she, at the same
time, called to the servants to fetch what there was for him to eat. But
the instant the waiting-maid put her foot into the room, servants came
quite unexpectedly to deliver a message.

"Two nurses," they said, "have arrived from the household of Mr. Fu,
Secundus, to present his compliments. They have now come to see you, Mr.
Secundus." As soon as Pao-yü heard this report, he felt sure that they
must be nurses sent over from the household of Deputy Sub-Prefect, Fu

This Fu Shih had originally been a pupil of Chia Cheng, and had, indeed,
had to rely entirely upon the reputation enjoyed by the Chia family for
the realisation of his wishes. Chia Cheng had, likewise, treated him
with such genuine regard, and so unlike any of his other pupils, that he
(Fu Shih) ever and anon despatched inmates from his mansion to come and
see him so as to keep up friendly relations.

Pao-yü had at all times entertained an aversion for bold-faced men and
unsophisticated women, so why did he once more, on this occasion, issue
directions that the two matrons should be introduced into his presence?
There was, in fact, a reason for his action. It was simply that Pao-yü
had come to learn that Fu Shih had a sister, Ch'iu-fang by name, a girl
as comely as a magnificent gem, and perfection itself, the report of
outside people went, as much in intellect as in beauty. He had, it is
true, not yet seen anything of her with his own eyes, but the
sentiments, which made him think of her and cherish her, from a
distance, were characterised by such extreme sincerity, that dreading
lest he should, by refusing to admit the matrons, reflect discredit upon
Fu Ch'iu-fang, he was prompted to lose no time in expressing a wish that
they should be ushered in.

This Fu Shih had really risen from the vulgar herd, so seeing that
Ch'iu-fang possessed several traits of beauty and exceptional
intellectual talents, Fu Shih arrived at the resolution of making his
sister the means of joining relationship with the influential family of
some honourable clan. And so unwilling was he to promise her lightly to
any suitor that things were delayed up to this time. Therefore Fu
Ch'iu-fang, though at present past her twentieth birthday, was not as
yet engaged. But the various well-to-do families, belonging to
honourable clans, looked down, on the other hand, on her poor and mean
extraction, holding her in such light esteem, as not to relish the idea
of making any offer for her hand. So if Fu Shih cultivated intimate
terms with the Chia household, he, needless to add, did so with an
interested motive.

The two matrons, deputed on the present errand, completely lacked, as it
happened, all knowledge of the world, and the moment they heard that
Pao-yü wished to see them, they wended their steps inside. But no sooner
had they inquired how he was, and passed a few remarks than Yü
Ch'uan-erh, becoming conscious of the arrival of strangers, did not
bandy words with Pao-yü, but stood with the plate of soup in her hands,
engrossed in listening to the conversation. Pao-yü, again, was absorbed
in speaking to the matrons; and, while eating some rice, he stretched
out his arm to get at the soup; but both his and her (Yü Ch'uan-erh's)
eyes were rivetted on the women, and as he thoughtlessly jerked out his
hand with some violence, he struck the bowl and turned it clean over.
The soup fell over Pao-yü's hand. But it did not hurt Yü Ch'uan-erh. She
sustained, however, such a fright that she gave a start.

"How did this happen!" she smilingly shouted with vehemence to the
intense consternation of the waiting-maids, who rushed up and clasped
the bowl. But notwithstanding that Pao-yü had scalded his own hand, he
was quite unconscious of the accident; so much so, that he assailed Yü
Ch'uan-erh with a heap of questions, as to where she had been burnt, and
whether it was sore or not.

Yü Ch'uan-erh and every one present were highly amused.

"You yourself," observed Yü Ch'uan-erh, "have been scalded, and do you
keep on asking about myself?"

At these words, Pao-yü became at last aware of the injury he had
received. The servants rushed with all promptitude and cleared the mess.
But Pao-yü was not inclined to touch any more food. He washed his hands,
drank a cup of tea, and then exchanged a few further sentences with the
two matrons. But subsequently, the two women said good-bye and quitted
the room. Ch'ing Wen and some other girls saw them as far as the bridge,
after which, they retraced their steps.

The two matrons perceived, that there was no one about, and while
proceeding on their way, they started a conversation.

"It isn't strange," smiled the one, "if people say that this Pao-yü of
theirs is handsome in appearance, but stupid as far as brains go. Nice
enough a thing to look at but not to put to one's lips; rather idiotic
in fact; for he burns his own hand, and then he asks some one else
whether she's sore or not. Now, isn't this being a regular fool?"

"The last time I came," the other remarked, also smiling, "I heard that
many inmates of his family feel ill-will against him. In real truth he
is a fool! For there he drips in the heavy downpour like a water fowl,
and instead of running to shelter himself, he reminds other people of
the rain, and urges them to get quick out of the wet. Now, tell me,
isn't this ridiculous, eh? Time and again, when no one is present, he
cries to himself, then laughs to himself. When he sees a swallow, he
instantly talks to it; when he espies a fish, in the river, he forthwith
speaks to it. At the sight of stars or the moon, if he doesn't groan and
sigh, he mutters and mutters. Indeed, he hasn't the least bit of
character; so much so, that he even puts up with the temper shown by
those low-bred maids. If he takes a fancy to a thing, it's nice enough
even though it be a bit of thread. But as for waste, what does he mind?
A thing may be worth a thousand or ten thousand pieces of money, he
doesn't worry his mind in the least about it."

While they talked, they reached the exterior of the garden, and they
betook themselves back to their home; where we will leave them.

As soon as Hsi Jen, for we will return to her, saw the women leave the
room, she took Ying Erh by the hand and led her in, and they asked
Pao-yü what kind of girdle he wanted made.

"I was just now so bent upon talking," Pao-yü smiled to Ying Erh, "that
I forgot all about you. I put you to the trouble of coming, not for
anything else, but that you should also make me a few nets."

"Nets! To put what in?" Ying Erh inquired.

Pao-yü, at this question, put on a smile. "Don't concern yourself about
what they are for!" he replied. "Just make me a few of each kind!"

Ying Erh clapped her hand and laughed. "Could this ever be done!" she
cried, "If you want all that lot, why, they couldn't be finished in ten
years time."

"My dear girl," smiled Pao-yü, "work at them for me then whenever you
are at leisure, and have nothing better to do."

"How could you get through them all in a little time?" Hsi Jen
interposed smilingly. "First choose now therefore such as are most
urgently needed and make a couple of them."

"What about urgently needed?" Ying-Erh exclaimed, "They are merely used
for fans, scented pendants and handkerchiefs."

"Nets for handkerchiefs will do all right." Pao-yü answered.

"What's the colour of your handkerchief?" inquired Ying Erh.

"It's a deep red one." Pao-yü rejoined.

"For a deep red one," continued Ying Erh, "a black net will do very
nicely, or one of dark green. Both these agree with the colour."

"What goes well with brown?" Pao-yü asked.

"Peach-red goes well with brown." Ying Erh added.

"That will make them look gaudy!" Pao-yü observed. "Yet with all their
plainness, they should be somewhat gaudy."

"Leek-green and willow-yellow are what are most to my taste," Ying Erh

"Yes, they'll also do!" Pao-yü retorted. "But make one of peach-red too
and then one of leek-green."

"Of what design?" Ying Erh remarked.

"How many kinds of designs are there?" Pao-yü said.

"There are 'the stick of incense,' 'stools upset towards heaven,' 'part
of elephant's eyes,' 'squares,' 'chains,' 'plum blossom,' and 'willow
leaves." Ying Erh answered.

"What was the kind of design you made for Miss Tertia the other day?"
Pao-yü inquired.

"It was the 'plum blossom with piled cores,'" Ying Erh explained in

"Yes, that's nice." Pao-yü rejoined.

As he uttered this remark, Hsi Jen arrived with the cords. But no sooner
were they brought than a matron cried, from outside the window: "Girls,
your viands are ready!"

"Go and have your meal," urged Pao-yü, "and come back quick after you've
had it."

"There are visitors here," Hsi Jen smiled, "and how can I very well go?"

"What makes you say so?" Ying Erh laughed, while adjusting the cords.
"It's only right and proper that you should go and have your food at
once and then return."

Hearing this, Hsi Jen and her companions went off, leaving behind only
two youthful servant-girls to answer the calls.

Pao-yü watched Ying Erh make the nets. But, while keeping his eyes
intent on her, he talked at the same time of one thing and then another,
and next went on to ask her how far she was in her teens.

Ying Erh continued plaiting. "I'm sixteen," she simultaneously rejoined.

"What was your original surname?" Pao-yü added.

"It was Huang;" answered Ying Erh.

"That's just the thing," Pao-yü smiled; "for in real truth there's the
'Huang Ying-erh;' (oriole)."

"My name, at one time, consisted of two characters," continued Ying Erh.
"I was called Chin Ying; but Miss Pao-ch'ai didn't like it, as it was
difficult to pronounce, and only called me Ying Erh; so now I've come to
be known under that name."

"One can very well say that cousin Pao-ch'ai is fond of you!" Pao-yü
pursued. "By and bye, when she gets married, she's sure to take you
along with her."

Ying Erh puckered up her lips, and gave a significant smile.

"I've often told Hsi Jen," Pao-yü smiled, "that I can't help wondering
who'll shortly be the lucky ones to win your mistress and yourself."

"You aren't aware," laughed Ying Erh, "that our young mistress possesses
several qualities not to be found in a single person in this world; her
face is a second consideration."

Pao-yü noticed how captivating Ying Erh's tone of voice was, how
complaisant she was, and how simpleton-like unaffected in her language
and smiles, and he soon felt the warmest affection for her; and
particularly so, when she started the conversation about Pao-ch'ai.
"Where do her qualities lie?" he readily inquired. "My dear girl, please
tell me!"

"If I tell you," said Ying Erh, "you must, on no account, let her know
anything about it again."

"This goes without saying," smiled Pao-yü.

But this answer was still on his lips, when they overheard some one
outside remark: "How is it that everything is so quiet?"

Both gazed round to see who possibly it could be. They discovered,
strange enough, no one else than Pao-ch'ai herself.

Pao-yü hastily offered her a seat. Pao-ch'ai seated herself, and then
wanted to know what Ying Erh was busy plaiting. Inquiring the while, she
approached her and scrutinised what she held in her hands, half of which
had by this time been done. "What's the fun of a thing like this?" she
said. "Wouldn't it be preferable to plait a net, and put the jade in

This allusion suggested the idea to Pao-yü. Speedily clapping his hands,
he smiled and exclaimed: "Your idea is splendid, cousin. I'd forgotten
all about it! The only thing is what colour will suit it best?"

"It will never do to use mixed colours," Pao-ch'ai rejoined. "Deep red
will, on one hand, clash with the colour; while yellow is not pleasing
to the eye; and black, on the other hand, is too sombre. But wait, I'll
try and devise something. Bring that gold cord and use it with the black
beaded cord; and if you twist one of each together, and make a net with
them, it will look very pretty!"

Upon hearing this, Pao-yü was immeasurably delighted, and time after
time he shouted to the servants to fetch the gold cord. But just at that
moment Hsi Jen stepped in, with two bowls of eatables. "How very strange
this is to-day!" she said to Pao-yü. "Why, a few minutes back, my
mistress, your mother, sent some one to bring me two bowls of viands."

"The supply," replied Pao-yü smiling, "must have been so plentiful
to-day, that they've sent some to every one of you."

"It isn't that," continued Hsi Jen, "for they were distinctly given to
me by name. What's more, I wasn't bidden go and knock my head; so this
is indeed remarkable!"

"If they're given to you," Pao-yü smiled, "why, you had better go and
eat them. What's there in this to fill you with conjectures?"

"There's never been anything like this before," Hsi Jen added, "so, it
makes me feel uneasy."

Pao-ch'ai compressed her lips. "If this," she laughed; "makes you fell
uneasy, there will be by and bye other things to make you far more

Hsi Jen realised that she implied something by her insinuations, as she
knew from past experience that Pao-ch'ai was not one given to lightly
and contemptuously poking fun at people; and, remembering the notions
entertained by Madame Wang on the last occasion she had seen her, she
dropped at once any further allusions to the subject and brought the
eatables up to Pao-yü for his inspection. "I shall come and hold the
cords," she observed, "as soon as I've rinsed my hands."

This said, she immediately quitted the apartment. After her meal, she
washed her hands and came inside to hold the gold cords for Ying Erh to
plait the net with.

By this time, Pao-ch'ai had been called away by a servant, despatched by
Hsüeh P'an. But while Pao-yü was watching the net that was being made he
caught sight, at a moment least expected, of two servant-girls, who came
from the part of Madame Hsing of the other mansion, to bring him a few
kinds of fruits, and to inquire whether he was able to walk. "If you can
go about," they told him, "(our mistress) desires you, Mr. Pao-yü, to
cross over to-morrow and have a little distraction. Her ladyship really
longs to see you."

"Were I able to walk," Pao-yü answered with alacrity, "I would feel it
my duty to go and pay my respects to your mistress! Anyhow, the pain is
better than before, so request your lady to allay her solicitude."

As he bade them both sit down, he, at the same time, called Ch'iu Wen.
"Take," he said to her, "half of the fruits, just received, to Miss Lin
as a present."

Ch'iu Wen signified her obedience, and was about to start on her errand,
when she heard Tai-yü talking in the court, and Pao-yü eagerly shout
out: "Request her to walk in at once!"

But should there be any further particulars, which you, reader, might
feel disposed to know, peruse the details given in the following


While Hsi Jen is busy embroidering mandarin ducks, Pao-yü receives, in
the Chiang Yün Pavilion, an omen from a dream.
Pao-yü apprehends that there is a destiny in affections, when his
feelings are aroused to a sense of the situation in the Pear
Fragrance court.

Ever since dowager lady Chia's return from Madame Wang's quarters, for
we will now take up the string of our narrative, she naturally felt
happier in her mind as she saw that Pao-yü improved from day to day; but
nervous lest Chia Cheng should again in the future send for him, she
lost no time in bidding a servant summon a head-page, a constant
attendant upon Chia Cheng, to come to her, and in impressing upon him
various orders. "Should," she enjoined him, "anything turn up
henceforward connected with meeting guests, entertaining visitors and
other such matters, and your master mean to send for Pao-yü, you can
dispense with going to deliver the message. Just you tell him that I say
that after the severe thrashing he has had, great care must be first
taken of him during several months before he can be allowed to walk; and
that, secondly, his constellation is unpropitious and that he could not
see any outsider, while sacrifices are being offered to the stars; that
I won't have him therefore put his foot beyond the second gate before
the expiry of the eighth moon."

The head-page listened patiently to her instructions, and, assenting to
all she had to say, he took his leave.

Old lady Chia thereupon also sent for nurse Li, Hsi Jen and the other
waiting-maids and recommended them to tell Pao-yü about her injunctions
so that he might be able to quiet his mind.

Pao-yü had always had a repugnance for entertaining high officials and
men in general, and the greatest horror of going in official hat and
ceremonial dress, to offer congratulations, or express condolences, to
pay calls, return visits, or perform other similar conventionalities,
but upon receipt on the present occasion of this message, he became so
much the more confirmed in his dislikes that not only did he suspend all
intercourse with every single relative and friend, but even went so far
as to study more than he had ever done before, his own caprices in the
fulfilment of those morning and evening salutations due to the senior
members of his family. Day after day he spent in the garden, doing
nothing else than loafing about, sitting down here, or reclining there.
Of a morning, he would, as soon as it was day, stroll as far as the
quarters of dowager lady Chia and Madame Wang, to repair back, however,
in no time. Yet ever ready was he every day that went by to perform
menial services for any of the waiting-maids. He, in fact, wasted away
in the most complete _dolce far niente_ days as well as months. If
perchance Pao-ch'ai or any other girl of the same age as herself found
at any time an opportunity to give him advice, he would, instead of
taking it in good part, fly into a huff. "A pure and spotless maiden,"
he would say, "has likewise gone and deliberately imitated those
persons, whose aim is to fish for reputation and to seek praise; that
set of government thieves and salaried devils. This result entirely
arises from the fact that there have been people in former times, who
have uselessly stirred up trouble and purposely fabricated stories with
the primary object of enticing the filthy male creatures, who would
spring up in future ages, to follow in their steps! And who would have
thought it, I have had the misfortune of being born a masculine being!
But, even those beautiful girls, in the female apartments, have been so
contaminated by this practice that verily they show themselves
ungrateful for the virtue of Heaven and Earth, in endowing them with
perception, and in rearing them with so much comeliness."

Seeing therefore what an insane mania possessed him, not one of his
cousins came forward to tender him one proper word of counsel. Lin
Tai-yü was the only one of them, who, from his very infancy, had never
once admonished him to strive and make a position and attain fame, so
thus it was that he entertained for Tai-yü profound consideration. But
enough of minor details.

We will now turn our attention to lady Feng. Soon after the news of Chin
Ch'uan-erh's death reached her, she saw that domestics from various
branches of the family paid her frequent visits at most unexpected
hours, and presented her a lot of things, and that they courted her
presence at most unseasonable moments, to pay their compliments and
adulate her, and she begun to harbour suspicions, in her own mind, as
she little knew what their object could possibly be. On this date, she
again noticed that some of them had brought their gifts, so, when
evening arrived, and no one was present, she felt compelled to inquire
jocosely of P'ing Erh what their aim could be.

"Can't your ladyship fathom even this?" P'ing Erh answered with a
sardonic smile. "Why, their daughters must, I fancy, be servant-girls in
Madame Wang's apartments! For her ladyship's rooms four elderly girls
are at present allotted with a monthly allowance of one tael; the rest
simply receiving several hundreds of cash each month; so now that Chin
Ch'uan-erh is dead and gone, these people must, of course, be anxious to
try their tricks and get this one-tael job!"

Hearing this, lady Feng smiled a significant smile. "That's it. Yes,
that's it!" she exclaimed. "You've really suggested the idea to my mind!
From all appearances, these people are a most insatiable lot; for they
make quite enough in the way of money! And as for any business that
requires a little exertion, why they are never ready to bear a share of
it! They make use of their girls as so many tools to shove their own
duties upon. Yet one overlooks that. But must they too have designs upon
this job? Never mind! These people cannot easily afford to spend upon me
the money they do. But they bring this upon their own selves, so I'll
keep every bit of thing they send. I've, after all, resolved how to act
in the matter!"

Having arrived at this decision, lady Feng purely and simply protracted
the delay until all the women had sent her enough to satisfy her, when
she at last suited her own convenience and spoke to Madame Wang (on the
subject of the vacant post).

Mrs. Hsüeh and her daughter were sitting one day, at noon, in Madame
Wang's quarters, together with Lin Tai-yü and the other girls, when lady
Feng found an opportunity and broached the topic with Madame Wang. "Ever
since," she said, "sister Chin Ch'uan-erh's death, there has been one
servant less in your ladyship's service. But you may possibly have set
your choice upon some girl; if so, do let me know who it is, so that I
may be able to pay her her monthly wages."

This reminder made Madame Wang commune with her own self. "I fancy," she
remarked; "that the custom is that there should be four or five of them;
but as long as there are enough to wait upon me, I don't mind, so we can
really dispense with another."

"What you say is, properly speaking, perfectly correct," smiled lady
Feng; "but it's an old established custom. There are still a couple to
be found in other people's rooms and won't you, Madame, conform with the
rule? Besides, the saving of a tael is a small matter."

After this argument, Madame Wang indulged in further thought. "Never
mind," she then observed, "just you bring over this allowance and pay it
to me. And there will be no need to supply another girl. I'll hand over
this tael to her younger sister, Yü Ch'uan-erh, and finish with it. Her
elder sister came to an unpleasant end, after a long term of service
with me; so if the younger sister, she leaves behind in my employ,
receives a double share, it won't be any too excessive."

Lady Feng expressed her approval and turning round she said smilingly to
Yü Ch'uan-erh: "I congratulate you, I congratulate you!"

Yü Ch'uan-erh thereupon crossed over and prostrated herself.

"I just want to ask you," Madame Wang went on to inquire, "how much Mrs.
Chao and Mrs. Chou are allowed monthly?"

"They have a fixed allowance," answered lady Feng, "each of them draws
two taels. But Mrs. Chao gets two taels for cousin Chia Huan, so hers
amounts in all to four taels; besides these, four strings of cash."

"Are they paid in full month after month?" Madame Wang inquired.

Lady Feng thought the question so very strange that she hastened to
exclaim by way of reply: "How are they not paid in full?"

"The other day," Madame Wang proceeded, "I heard a faint rumour that
there was some one, who complained in an aggrieved way that she had got
a string short. How and why is this?"

"The monthly allowances of the servant-girls, attached to the secondary
wives," lady Feng hurriedly added with a smile, "amounted originally to
a tiao each, but ever since last year, it was decided, by those people
outside, that the shares of each of those ladies' girls should be
reduced by half, that is, each to five hundred cash; and, as each lady
has a couple of servant-girls, they receive therefore a tiao short. But
for this, they can't bear me a grudge. As far as I'm concerned, I would
only be too glad to let them have it; but our people outside will again
disallow it; so is it likely that I can authorise any increase, pray? In
this matter of payments I merely receive the money, and I've nothing to
do with how it comes and how it goes. I nevertheless recommended, on two
or three occasions, that it would be better if these two shares were
again raised to the old amount; but they said that there's only that
much money, so that I can't very well volunteer any further suggestions!
Now that the funds are paid into my hands, I give them to them every
month, without any irregularity of even so much as a day. When payments
hitherto were effected outside, what month were they not short of money?
And did they ever, on any single instance, obtain their pay at the
proper time and date?"

Having heard this explanation, Madame Wang kept silent for a while.
Next, she proceeded to ask, how many girls there were with dowager lady
Chia drawing one tael.

"Eight of them," rejoined lady Feng, "but there are at present only
seven; the other one is Hsi Jen."

"Quite right," assented Madame Wang. "But your cousin Pao-yü hasn't any
maid at one tael; for Hsi Jen is still a servant belonging to old lady
Chia's household."

"Hsi Jen," lady Feng smiled, "is still our dear ancestor's servant;
she's only lent to cousin Pao-yü; so that she still receives this tael
in her capacity of maid to our worthy senior. Any proposal, therefore,
that might now be made, that this tael should, as Hsi Jen is Pao-yü's
servant, be curtailed, can, on no account, be entertained. Yet, were it
suggested that another servant should be added to our senior's staff,
then in this way one could reduce the tael she gets. But if this be not
curtailed, it will be necessary to also add a servant in cousin Chia
Huan's rooms, in order that there should be a fair apportionment. In
fact, Ch'ing Wen, She Yüeh and the others, numbering seven senior maids,
receive each a tiao a month; and Chiao Hui and the rest of the junior
maids, eight in all, get each five hundred cash per mensem; and this was
recommended by our venerable ancestor herself; so how can any one be
angry and feel displeasure?"

"Just listen," laughed Mrs. Hsüeh, "to that girl Feng's mouth! It
rattles and rattles like a cart laden with walnuts, which has turned
topsy-turvy! Yet, her accounts are, from what one can gather, clear
enough, and her arguments full of reason."

"Aunt," rejoined lady Feng smiling, "was I likely, pray, wrong in what I

"Who ever said you were wrong?" Mrs. Hsüeh smiled. "But were you to talk
a little slower, wouldn't it be a saving of exertion for you?"

Lady Feng was about to laugh, but hastily checking herself, she lent an
ear to what Madame Wang might have to tell her.

Madame Wang indulged in thought for a considerable time. Afterwards,
facing lady Feng, "You'd better," she said, "select a waiting-maid
tomorrow and send her over to our worthy senior to fill up Hsi Jen's
place. Then, discontinue that allowance, which Hsi Jen draws, and keep
out of the sum of twenty taels, allotted to me monthly, two taels and a
tiao, and give them to Hsi Jen. So henceforward what Mrs. Chao and Mrs.
Chou will get, Hsi Jen will likewise get, with the only difference that
the share granted to Hsi Jen, will be entirely apportioned out of my own
allowance. Mind, therefore, there will be no necessity to touch the
public funds!"

Lady Feng acquiesced to each one of her recommendations, and, pushing
Mrs. Hsüeh, "Aunt," she inquired, "have you heard her proposal? What
have I all along maintained? Well, my words have actually come out true

"This should have been accomplished long ago," Mrs. Hsüeh answered. "For
without, of course, making any allusion to her looks, her way of doing
business is liberal; her speech and her relations with people are always
prompted by an even temper, while inwardly she has plenty of singleness
of heart and eagerness to hold her own. Indeed, such a girl is not easy
to come across!"

Madame Wang made every effort to conceal her tears. "How could you
people ever rightly estimate Hsi Jen's qualities?" she observed. "Why,
she's a hundred times better than my own Pao-yü. How fortunate, in
reality, Pao-yü is! Well would it be if he could have her wait upon him
for the whole length of his life!"

"In that case," lady Feng suggested, "why, have her face shaved at once,
and openly place her in his room as a secondary wife. Won't this be a
good plan?"

"This won't do!" Madame Wang retorted. "For first and foremost he's of
tender years. In the second place, my husband won't countenance any such
thing! In the third, so long as Pao-yü sees that Hsi Jen is his
waiting-maid, he may, in the event of anything occurring from his having
been allowed to run wild, listen to any good counsel she might give him.
But were she now to be made his secondary wife, Hsi Jen would not
venture to tender him any extreme advice, even when it's necessary to do
so. It's better, therefore, to let things stand as they are for the
present, and talk about them again, after the lapse of another two or
three years."

At the close of these arguments, lady Feng could not put in a word, by
way of reply, to refute them, so turning round, she left the room. She
had no sooner, however, got under the verandah, than she discerned the
wives of a number of butlers, waiting for her to report various matters
to her. Seeing her issue out of the room, they with one consent smiled.
"What has your ladyship had to lay before Madame Wang," they remarked,
"that you've been talking away this length of time? Didn't you find it
hot work?"

Lady Feng tucked up her sleeves several times. Then resting her foot on
the step of the side door, she laughed and rejoined: "The draft in this
passage is so cool, that I'll stop, and let it play on me a bit before I
go on. You people," she proceeded to tell them, "say that I've been
talking to her all this while, but Madame Wang conjured up all that has
occurred for the last two hundred years and questioned me about it; so
could I very well not have anything to say in reply? But from this day
forth," she added with a sarcastic smile, "I shall do several mean
things, and should even (Mrs. Chao and Mrs. Chou) go, out of any
ill-will, and tell Madame Wang, I won't know what fear is for such
stupid, glib-tongued, foul-mouthed creatures as they, who are bound not
to see a good end! It isn't for them to indulge in those fanciful dreams
of becoming primary wives, for there, will come soon a day when the
whole lump sum of their allowance will be cut off! They grumble against
us for having now reduced the perquisites of the servant-maids, but they
don't consider whether they deserve to have so many as three girls to
dance attendance on them!"

While heaping abuse on their heads, she started homewards, and went all
alone in search of some domestic to go and deliver a message to old lady

But without any further reference to her, we will take up the thread of
our narrative with Mrs. Hsüeh, and the others along with her. During
this interval they finished feasting on melons. After some more gossip,
each went her own way; and Pao-ch'ai, Tai-yü and the rest of the cousins
returned into the garden. Pao-ch'ai then asked Tai-yü to repair with her
to the O Hsiang Arbour. But Tai-yü said that she was just going to have
her bath, so they parted company, and Pao-ch'ai walked back all by
herself. On her way, she stepped into the I Hung Yüan, to look up Pao-yü
and have a friendly hobnob with him, with the idea of dispelling her
mid-day lassitude; but, contrary to her expectations, the moment she put
her foot into the court, she did not so much as catch the caw of a crow.
Even the two storks stood under the banana trees, plunged in sleep.
Pao-ch'ai proceeded along the covered passage and entered the rooms.
Here she discovered the servant-girls sleeping soundly on the bed of the
outer apartment; some lying one way, some another; so turning round the
decorated screen, she wended her steps into Pao-yü's chamber. Pao-yü was
asleep in bed. Hsi Jen was seated by his side, busy plying her needle.
Next to her, lay a yak tail. Pao-ch'ai advanced up to her. "You're
really far too scrupulous," she said smilingly in an undertone. "Are
there still flies or mosquitos in here? and why do yet use that fly-flap
for, to drive what away?"

Hsi Jen was quite taken by surprise. But hastily raising her head, and
realising that it was Pao-ch'ai, she hurriedly put down her needlework.
"Miss," she whispered with a smile, "you came upon me so unawares that
you gave me quite a start! You don't know, Miss, that though there be no
flies or mosquitoes there is, no one would believe it, a kind of small
insect, which penetrates through the holes of this gauze; it is scarcely
to be detected, but when one is asleep, it bites just like ants do!"

"It isn't to be wondered at," Pao-ch'ai suggested, "for the back of
these rooms adjoins the water; the whole place is also one mass of
fragrant flowers, and the interior of this room is, too, full of their
aroma. These insects grow mostly in the core of flowers, so no sooner do
they scent the smell of any than they at once rush in."

Saying this, she cast a look on the needlework she (Hsi Jen) held in her
hands. It consisted, in fact, of a belt of white silk, lined with red,
and embroidered on the upper part with designs representing mandarin
ducks, disporting themselves among some lotus. The lotus flowers were
red, the leaves green, the ducks of variegated colours.

"Ai-yah!" ejaculated Pao-ch'ai, "what very beautiful work! For whom is
this, that it's worth your while wasting so much labour on it?"

Hsi Jen pouted her lips towards the bed.

"Does a big strapping fellow like this," Pao-ch'ai laughed, "still wear
such things?"

"He would never wear any before," Hsi Jen smiled, "that's why such a
nice one was specially worked for him, in order that when he was allowed
to see it, he should not be able to do otherwise than use it. With the
present hot weather, he goes to sleep anyhow, but as he has been coaxed
to wear it, it doesn't matter if even he doesn't cover himself well at
night. You say that I bestow much labour upon this, but you haven't yet
seen the one he has on!"

"It is a lucky thing," Pao-ch'ai observed, smiling, "that you're gifted
with such patience."

"I've done so much of it to-day," remarked Hsi Jen, "that my neck is
quite sore from bending over it. My dear Miss," she then urged with a
beaming countenance, "do sit here a little. I'll go out for a turn. I'll
be back shortly."

With these words, she sallied out of the room.

Pao-ch'ai was intent upon examining the embroidery, so in her
absentmindedness, she, with one bend of her body, settled herself on the
very same spot, which Hsi Jen had recently occupied. But she found, on
second scrutiny, the work so really admirable, that impulsively picking
up the needle, she continued it for her. At quite an unforeseen
moment--for Lin Tai-yü had met Shih Hsiang-yün and asked her to come
along with her and present her congratulations to Hsi Jen--these two
girls made their appearance in the court. Finding the whole place
plunged in silence, Hsiang-yün turned round and betook herself first
into the side-rooms in search of Hsi Jen. Lin Tai-yü, meanwhile, walked
up to the window from outside, and peeped in through the gauze frame. At
a glance, she espied Pao-yü, clad in a silvery-red coat, lying
carelessly on the bed, and Pao-ch'ai, seated by his side, busy at some
needlework, with a fly-brush resting by her side.

As soon as Lin Tai-yü became conscious of the situation, she immediately
slipped out of sight, and stopping her mouth with one hand, as she did
not venture to laugh aloud, she waved her other hand and beckoned to
Hsiang-yün. The moment Hsiang-yün saw the way she went on, she concluded
that she must have something new to impart to her, and she approached
her with all promptitude. At the sight, which opened itself before her
eyes, she also felt inclined to laugh. Yet the sudden recollection of
the kindness, with which Pao-ch'ai had always dealt towards her, induced
her to quickly seal her lips. And knowing well enough that Tai-yü never
spared any one with her mouth, she was seized with such fear lest she
should jeer at them, that she immediately dragged her past the window.
"Come along!" she observed. "Hsi Jen, I remember, said that she would be
going at noon to wash some clothes at the pond. I presume she's there
already so let's go and join her."

Tai-yü inwardly grasped her meaning, but, after indulging in a couple of
sardonic smiles, she had no alternative but to follow in her footsteps.

Pao-ch'ai had, during this while, managed to embroider two or three
petals, when she heard Pao-yü begin to shout abusingly in his dreams.
"How can," he cried, "one ever believe what bonzes and Taoist priests
say? What about a match between gold and jade? My impression is that
it's to be a union between a shrub and a stone!"

Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai caught every single word uttered by him and fell
unconsciously in a state of excitement. Of a sudden, however, Hsi Jen
appeared on the scene. "Hasn't he yet woke up?" she inquired.

Pao-ch'ai nodded her head by way of reply.

"I just came across," Hsi Jen smiled, "Miss Lin and Miss Shih. Did they
happen to come in?"

"I didn't see them come in," Pao-ch'ai answered. "Did they tell you
anything?" she next smilingly asked of Hsi Jen.

Hsi Jen blushed and laughed significantly. "They simply came out with
some of those jokes of theirs," she explained. "What decent things could
such as they have had to tell me?"

"They made insinuations to-day," Pao-ch'ai laughed, "which are anything
but a joke! I was on the point of telling you them, when you rushed away
in an awful hurry."

But no sooner had she concluded, than she perceived a servant, come over
from lady Feng's part to fetch Hsi Jen. "It must be on account of what
they hinted," Pao-ch'ai smilingly added.

Hsi Jen could not therefore do otherwise than arouse two servant-maids
and go. She proceeded, with Pao-ch'ai, out of the I Hung court, and then
repaired all alone to lady Feng's on this side. It was indeed to
communicate to her what had been decided about her, and to explain to
her, as well, that though she could go and prostrate herself before
Madame Wang, she could dispense with seeing dowager lady Chia. This news
made Hsi Jen feel very awkward; to such an extent, that no sooner had
she got through her visit to Madame Wang, than she returned in a hurry
to her rooms.

Pao-yü had already awoke. He asked the reason why she had been called
away, but Hsi Jen temporised by giving him an evasive answer. And only
at night, when every one was quiet, did Hsi Jen at length give him a
full account of the whole matter. Pao-yü was delighted beyond measure.
"I'll see now," he said, with a face beaming with smiles, "whether
you'll go back home or not. On your return, after your last visit to
your people, you stated that your brother wished to redeem you, adding
that this place was no home for you, and that you didn't know what would
become of you in the long run. You freely uttered all that language
devoid of feeling and reason, and enough too to produce an estrangement
between us, in order to frighten me; but I'd like to see who'll
henceforward have the audacity to come and ask you to leave!"

Hsi Jen, upon hearing this, smiled a smile full of irony. "You shouldn't
say such things!" she replied. "From henceforward I shall be our Madame
Wang's servant, so that, if I choose to go I needn't even breathe a word
to you. All I'll have to do will be to tell her, and then I shall be
free to do as I like."

"But supposing that I behaved improperly," demurred Pao-yü laughingly,
"and that you took your leave after letting mother know, you yourself
will be placed in no nice fix, when people get wind that you left on
account of my having been improper."

"What no nice fix!" smiled Hsi Jen. "Is it likely that I am bound to
serve even highway robbers? Well, failing anything else, I can die; for
human beings may live a hundred years, but they're bound, in the long
run, to fall a victim to death! And when this breath shall have
departed, and I shall have lost the sense of hearing and of seeing, all
will then be well!"

When her rejoinder fell on his ear, Pao-yü promptly stopped her mouth
with both his hands. "Enough! enough! that will do," he shouted.
"There's no necessity for you to utter language of this kind."

Hsi Jen was well aware that Pao-yü was gifted with such a peculiar
temperament, that he even looked upon flattering or auspicious phrases
with utter aversion, treating them as meaningless and consequently
insincere, so when, after listening to those truths, she had spoken with
such pathos, he, lapsed into another of his melancholy moods, she blamed
herself for the want of consideration she had betrayed. Hastily
therefore putting on a smile, she tried to hit upon some suitable
remarks, with which to interrupt the conversation. Her choice fell upon
those licentious and immodest topics, which had ever been a relish to
the taste of Pao-yü; and from these the conversation drifted to the
subject of womankind. But when, subsequently, reference was made to the
excellency of the weak sex, they somehow or other also came to touch
upon the mortal nature of women, and Hsi Jen promptly closed her lips in

Noticing however that now that the conversation had reached a point so
full of zest for him, she had nothing to say for herself, Pao-yü
smilingly remarked: "What human being is there that can escape death?
But the main thing is to come to a proper end! All that those abject
male creatures excel in is, the civil officers, to sacrifice their lives
by remonstrating with the Emperor; and, the military, to leave their
bones on the battlefield. Both these deaths do confer, after life is
extinct, the fame of great men upon them; but isn't it, in fact, better
for them not to die? For as it is absolutely necessary that there should
be a disorderly Emperor before they can afford any admonition, to what
future fate do they thus expose their sovereign, if they rashly throw
away their lives, with the sole aim of reaping a fair name for
themselves? War too must supervene before they can fight; but if they go
and recklessly lay down their lives, with the exclusive idea of gaining
the reputation of intrepid warriors, to what destiny will they abandon
their country by and bye? Hence it is that neither of these deaths can
be looked upon as a legitimate death."

"Loyal ministers," Hsi Jen argued, "and excellent generals simply die
because it isn't in their power to do otherwise."

"Military officers," Pao-yü explained, "place such entire reliance upon
brute force that they become lax in their stratagems and faulty in their
plans. It's because they don't possess any inherent abilities that they
lose their lives. Could one therefore, pray, say that they had no other
alternative? Civil officials, on the other hand, can still less compare
with military officers. They read a few passages from books, and commit
them to memory; and, on the slightest mistake made by the Emperor,
they're at once rash enough to remonstrate with him, prompted by the
sole idea of attaining the fame of loyalty and devotion. But, as soon as
their stupid notions have bubbled over, they forfeit their lives, and is
it likely that it doesn't lie within their power to do otherwise? Why,
they should also bear in mind that the Emperor receives his decrees from
Heaven; and, that were he not a perfect man, Heaven itself would, on no
account whatever, confer upon him a charge so extremely onerous. This
makes it evident therefore that the whole pack and parcel of those
officers, who are dead and gone, have invariably fallen victims to their
endeavours to attain a high reputation, and that they had no knowledge
whatever of the import of the great principle of right! Take me as an
instance now. Were really mine the good fortune of departing life at a
fit time, I'd avail myself of the present when all you girls are alive,
to pass away. And could I get you to shed such profuse tears for me as
to swell out into a stream large enough to raise my corpse and carry it
to some secluded place, whither no bird even has ever wended its flight,
and could I become invisible like the wind, and nevermore from this
time, come into existence as a human being, I shall then have died at a
proper season."

Hsi Jen suddenly awoke to the fact that he was beginning to give vent to
a lot of twaddle, and speedily, pleading fatigue, she paid no further
notice to him. This compelled Pao-yü to at last be quiet and go to
sleep. By the morrow, all recollection of the discussion had vanished
from his mind.

One day, Pao-yü was feeling weary at heart, after strolling all over the
place, when remembering the song of the "Peony Pavilion," he read it
over twice to himself; but still his spirits continued anything but
joyous. Having heard, however, that among the twelve girls in the Pear
Fragrance Court there was one called Ling Kuan, who excelled in singing,
he purposely issued forth by a side gate and came in search of her. But
the moment he got there, he discovered Pao Kuan, and Yü Kuan in the
court. As soon as they caught sight of Pao-yü, they, with one consent,
smiled and urged him to take a seat. Pao-yü then inquired where Ling
Kuan was. Both girls explained that she was in her room, so Pao-yü
hastened in. Here he found Ling Kuan alone, reclining against a pillow.
Though perfectly conscious of his arrival, she did not move a muscle.
Pao-yü ensconced himself next to her. He had always been in the habit of
playing with the rest of the girls, so thinking that Ling Kuan was like
the others, he felt impelled to draw near her and to entreat her, with a
forced smile, to get up and sing part of the "Niao Ch'ing Ssu." But his
hopes were baffled; for as soon as Ling Kuan perceived him sit down, she
impetuously raised herself and withdrew from his side. "I'm hoarse," she
rejoined with a stern expression on her face. "The Empress the other day
called us into the palace; but I couldn't sing even then."

Seeing her sit bolt upright, Pao-yü went on to pass her under a minute
survey. He discovered that it was the girl, whom he had, some time ago
beheld under the cinnamon roses, drawing the character "Ch'iang." But
seeing the reception she accorded him, who had never so far known what
it was to be treated contemptuously by any one, he blushed crimson,
while muttering some abuse to himself, and felt constrained to quit the

Pao Kuan and her companion could not fathom why he was so red and
inquired of him the reason. Pao-yü told them. "Wait a while," Pao Kuan
said, "until Mr. Ch'iang Secundus comes; and when he asks her to sing,
she is bound to sing."

Pao-yü at these words felt very sad within himself. "Where's brother
Ch'iang gone to?" he asked.

"He's just gone out," Pao Kuan answered. "Of course, Ling Kuan must have
wanted something or other, and he's gone to devise ways and means to
bring it to her."

Pao-yü thought this remark very extraordinary. But after standing about
for a while, he actually saw Chia Ch'iang arrive from outside, carrying
a cage, with a tiny stage inserted at the top, and a bird as well; and
wend his steps, in a gleeful mood, towards the interior to join Ling
Kuan. The moment, however, he noticed Pao-yü, he felt under the
necessity of halting.

"What kind of bird is that?" Pao-yü asked. "Can it hold a flag in its
beak, or do any tricks?"

"It's the 'jade-crested and gold-headed bird,'" smiled Chia Ch'iang.

"How much did you give for it?" Pao-yü continued.

"A tael and eight mace," replied Chia Ch'iang.

But while replying to his inquiries, he motioned to Pao-yü to take a
seat, and then went himself into Ling Kuan's apartment.

Pao-yü had, by this time, lost every wish of hearing a song. His sole
desire was to find what relations existed between his cousin and Ling
Kuan, when he perceived Chia Ch'iang walk in and laughingly say to her,
"Come and see this thing."

"What's it?" Ling Kuan asked, rising.

"I've bought a bird for you to amuse yourself with," Chia Ch'iang added,
"so that you mayn't daily feel dull and have nothing to distract
yourself with. But I'll first play with it and let you see."

With this prelude, he took a few seeds and began to coax the bird, until
it, in point of fact, performed various tricks, on the stage, clasping
in its beak a mask and a flag.

All the girls shouted out: "How nice;" with the sole exception of Ling
Kuan, who gave a couple of apathetic smirks, and went in a huff to lie
down. Again Chia Ch'iang, however, kept on forcing smiles, and inquiring
of her whether she liked it or not.

"Isn't it enough," Ling Kuan observed, "that your family entraps a fine
lot of human beings like us and coops us up in this hole to study this
stuff and nonsense, but do you also now go and get a bird, which
likewise is, as it happens, up to this sort of thing? You distinctly
fetch it to make fun of us, and mimick us, and do you still ask me
whether I like it or not?"

Hearing this reproach, Chia Ch'iang of a sudden sprang to his feet with
alacrity and vehemently endeavoured by vowing and swearing to establish
his innocence. "How ever could I have been such a fool to-day," he
proceeded, "as to go and throw away a tael or two to purchase this bird?
I really did it in the hope that it would afford you amusement. I never
for a moment entertained such thoughts as those you credit me with. But
never mind; I'll let it go, and save you all this misery!"

So saying, he verily gave the bird its liberty; and, with one blow, he
smashed the cage to atoms.

"This bird," still argued Ling Kuan, "differs, it's true, from a human
being; but it too has a mother and father in its nest, and could you
have had the heart to bring it here to perform these silly pranks? In
coughing to-day, I expectorated two mouthfuls of blood, and Madame Wang
sent some one here to find you so as to tell you to ask the doctor round
to minutely diagnose my complaint, and have you instead brought this to
mock me with? But it so happens that I, who have not a soul to look
after me, or to care for me, also have the fate to fall ill!"

Chia Ch'iang listened to her. "Yesterday evening," he eagerly explained,
"I asked the doctor about it. He said that it was nothing at all, that
you should take a few doses of medicine, and that he would be coming
again in a day or two to see how you were getting on. But who'd have
thought it, you have again to-day expectorated blood. I'll go at once
and invite him to come round."

Speaking the while, he was about to go immediately when Ling Kuan cried
out and stopped him. "Do you go off in a tantrum in this hot broiling
sun?" she said. "You may ask him to come, but I won't see him."

When he heard her resolution, Chia Ch'iang had perforce to stand still.

Pao-yü, perceiving what transpired between them, fell unwittingly in a
dull reverie. He then at length got an insight into the deep import of
the tracing of the character "Ch'iang." But unable to bear the ordeal
any longer, he forthwith took himself out of the way. So absorbed,
however, was Chia Ch'iang's whole mind with Ling Kuan that he could not
even give a thought to escorting any one; and it was, in fact, the rest
of the singing-girls who saw (Pao-yü) out.

Pao-yü's heart was gnawed with doubts and conjectures. In an imbecile
frame of mind, he came to the I Hung court. Lin Tai-yü was, at the
moment, sitting with Hsi Jen, and chatting with her. As soon as Pao-yü
entered his quarters, he addressed himself to Hsi Jen, with a long sigh.
"I was very wrong in what I said yesterday evening," he remarked. "It's
no matter of surprise that father says that I am so narrow-minded that I
look at things through a tube and measure them with a clam-shell. I
mentioned something last night about having nothing but tears, shed by
all of you girls, to be buried in. But this was a mere delusion! So as I
can't get the tears of the whole lot of you, each one of you can
henceforward keep her own for herself, and have done."

Hsi Jen had flattered herself that the words he had uttered the previous
evening amounted to idle talk, and she had long ago dispelled all
thought of them from her mind, but when Pao-yü unawares made further
allusion to them, she smilingly rejoined: "You are verily somewhat

Pao-yü kept silent, and attempted to make no reply. Yet from this time
he fully apprehended that the lot of human affections is, in every
instance, subject to predestination, and time and again he was wont to
secretly muse, with much anguish: "Who, I wonder, will shed tears for
me, at my burial?"

Lin Tai-yü, for we will now allude to her, noticed Pao-yü's behaviour,
but readily concluding that he must have been, somewhere or other, once
more possessed by some malignant spirit, she did not feel it advisable
to ask many questions. "I just saw," she consequently observed, "my
maternal aunt, who hearing that to-morrow is Miss Hsüeh's birthday, bade
me come at my convenience to ask you whether you'll go or not, (and to
tell you) to send some one ahead to let them know what you mean to do."

"I didn't go the other day, when it was Mr. Chia She's birthday, so I
won't go now." Pao-yü answered. "If it is a matter of meeting any one, I
won't go anywhere. On a hot day like this to again don my ceremonial
dress! No, I won't go. Aunt is not likely to feel displeased with me!"

"What are you driving at?" Hsi Jen speedily ventured. "She couldn't be
put on the same footing as our senior master! She lives close by here.
Besides she's a relative. Why, if you don't go, won't you make her
imagine things? Well, if you dread the heat, just get up at an early
hour and go over and prostrate yourself before her, and come back again,
after you've had a cup of tea. Won't this look well?"

Before Pao-yü had time to say anything by way of response, Tai-yü
anticipated him. "You should," she smiled, "go as far as there for the
sake of her, who drives the mosquitoes away from you."

Pao-yü could not make out the drift of her insinuation. "What about
driving mosquitoes away?" he vehemently inquired.

Hsi Jen then explained to him how while he was fast asleep the previous
day and no one was about to keep him company, Miss Pao-ch'ai had sat
with him for a while.

"It shouldn't have been done!" Pao-yü promptly exclaimed, after hearing
her explanations. "But how did I manage to go to sleep and show such
utter discourtesy to her? I must go to-morrow!" he then went on to add.
But while these words were still on his lips, he unexpectedly caught
sight of Shih Hsian-yün walk in in full dress, to bid them adieu, as she
said that some one had been sent from her home to fetch her away.

The moment Pao-yü and Tai-yü heard what was the object of her visit,
they quickly rose to their feet and pressed her to take a seat. But Shih
Hsiang-yün would not sit down, so Pao-yü and Tai-yü were compelled to
escort her as far as the front part of the mansion.

Shih Hsiang-yün's eyes were brimming with tears; but realising that
several people from her home were present, she did not have the courage
to give full vent to her feelings. But when shortly Pao-ch'ai ran over
to find her, she felt so much the more drawn towards them, that she
could not brook to part from them. Pao-ch'ai, however, inwardly
understood that if her people told her aunt anything on their return,
there would again be every fear of her being blown up, as soon as she
got back home, and she therefore urged her to start on her way. One and
all then walked with her up to the second gate, and Pao-yü wished to
accompany her still further outside, but Shih Hsiang-yün deterred him.
Presently, they turned to go back. But once more, she called Pao-yü to
her, and whispered to him in a soft tone of voice: "Should our venerable
senior not think of me do often allude to me, so that she should depute
some one to fetch me."

Pao-yü time after time assured her that he would comply with her wishes.
And having followed her with their eyes, while she got into her curricle
and started, they eventually retraced their steps towards the inner
compound. But, reader, if you like to follow up the story, peruse the
details contained in the chapter below.


In the Study of Autumnal Cheerfulness is accidentally formed the
Cydonia Japonica Society.
In the Heng Wu Court, the chrysanthemum is, on a certain night,
proposed as a subject for verses.

But to continue. After Shih Hsiang-yün's return home, Pao-yü and the
other inmates spent their time, as of old, in rambling about in the
garden in search of pleasure, and in humming poetical compositions. But
without further reference to their doings, let us take up our narrative
with Chia Cheng.

Ever since the visit paid to her home by the imperial consort, he
fulfilled his official duties with additional zeal, for the purpose of
reverently making requital for the grace shown him by the Emperor. His
correct bearing and his spotless reputation did not escape His Majesty's
notice, and he conferred upon him the special appointment of Literary
Chancellor, with the sole object of singling out his true merit; for
though he had not commenced his career through the arena of public
examinations, he belonged nevertheless to a family addicted to letters
during successive generations. Chia Cheng had, therefore, on the receipt
of the imperial decree, to select the twentieth day of the eighth moon
to set out on his journey. When the appointed day came, he worshipped at
the shrines of his ancestors, took leave of them and of dowager lady
Chia, and started for his post. It would be a needless task, however, to
recount with any full particulars how Pao-yü and all the inmates saw him
off, how Chia Cheng went to take up his official duties, and what
occurred abroad, suffice it for us to notice that Pao-yü, ever since
Chia Cheng's departure, indulged his caprices, allowed his feelings to
run riot, and gadded wildly about. In fact, he wasted his time, and
added fruitless days and months to his age.

On this special occasion, he experienced more than ever a sense of his
lack of resources, and came to look up his grandmother Chia and Madame
Wang. With them, he whiled away some of his time, after which he
returned into the garden. As soon as he changed his costume, he
perceived Ts'ui Mo enter, with a couple of sheets of fancy notepaper, in
her hand, which she delivered to him.

"It quite slipped from my mind," Pao-yü remarked. "I meant to have gone
and seen my cousin Tertia; is she better that you come?"

"Miss is all right," Ts'ui Mo answered. "She hasn't even had any
medicine to-day. It's only a slight chill."

When Pao-yü heard this reply, he unfolded the fancy notepaper. On
perusal, he found the contents to be: "Your cousin, T'an Ch'un,
respectfully lays this on her cousin Secundus' study-table. When the
other night the blue sky newly opened out to view, the moon shone as if
it had been washed clean! Such admiration did this pure and rare
panorama evoke in me that I could not reconcile myself to the idea of
going to bed. The clepsydra had already accomplished three turns, and
yet I roamed by the railing under the dryandra trees. But such poor
treatment did I receive from wind and dew (that I caught a chill), which
brought about an ailment as severe (as that which prevented the man of
old from) picking up sticks. You took the trouble yesterday to come in
person and cheer me up. Time after time also did you send your
attendants round to make affectionate inquiries about me. You likewise
presented me with fresh lichees and relics of writings of Chen Ch'ing.
How deep is really your gracious love! As I leant to-day on my table
plunged in silence, I suddenly remembered that the ancients of
successive ages were placed in circumstances, in which they had to
struggle for reputation and to fight for gain, but that they
nevertheless acquired spots with hills and dripping streams, and,
inviting people to come from far and near, they did all they could to
detain them, by throwing the linch-pins of their chariots into wells or
by holding on to their shafts; and that they invariably joined
friendship with two or three of the same mind as themselves, with whom
they strolled about in these grounds, either erecting altars for song,
or establishing societies for scanning poetical works. Their meetings
were, it is true, prompted, on the spur of the moment, by a sudden fit
of good cheer, but these have again and again proved, during many years,
a pleasant topic of conversation. I, your cousin, may, I admit, be
devoid of talent, yet I have been fortunate enough to enjoy your company
amidst streams and rockeries, and to furthermore admire the elegant
verses composed by Hsüeh Pao-ch'ai and Lin Tai-yü. When we were in the
breezy hall and the moonlit pavilion, what a pity we never talked about
poets! But near the almond tree with the sign and the peach tree by the
stream, we may perhaps, when under the fumes of wine, be able to fling
round the cups, used for humming verses! Who is it who opines that
societies with any claim to excellent abilities can only be formed by
men? May it not be that the pleasant meetings on the Tung Shan might
yield in merit to those, such as ourselves, of the weaker sex? Should
you not think it too much to walk on the snow, I shall make bold to ask
you round, and sweep the way clean of flowers and wait for you.
Respectfully written."

The perusal of this note filled Pao-yü unawares with exultation.
Clapping his hands; "My third cousin," he laughed, "is the one eminently
polished; I'll go at once to-day and talk matters over with her."

As he spoke, he started immediately, followed by Ts'ui Mo. As soon as
they reached the Hsin Fang pavilion, they espied the matron, on duty
that day at the back door of the garden, advancing towards them with a
note in her hand. The moment she perceived Pao-yü she forthwith came up
to meet him. "Mr. Yün," she said, "presents his compliments to you. He
is waiting for you at the back gate. This is a note he bade me bring

Upon opening the note, Pao-yü found it to read as follows: "An unfilial
son, Yün, reverently inquires about his worthy father's boundless
happiness and precious health. Remembering the honour conferred upon me
by your recognising me, in your heavenly bounty, as your son, I tried
both day as well as night to do something in evidence of my pious
obedience, but no opportunity could I find to perform anything filial.
When I had, some time back, to purchase flowers and plants, I succeeded,
thanks to your vast influence, venerable senior, in finally making
friends with several gardeners and in seeing a good number of gardens.
As the other day I unexpectedly came across a white begonia, of a rare
species, I exhausted every possible means to get some and managed to
obtain just two pots. If you, worthy senior, regard your son as your own
very son, do keep them to feast your eyes upon! But with this hot
weather to-day, the young ladies in the garden will, I fear, not be at
their ease. I do not consequently presume to come and see you in person,
so I present you this letter, written with due respect, while knocking
my head before your table. Your son, Yün, on his knees, lays this
epistle at your feet. A joke!"

After reading this note, Pao-yü laughed. "Has he come alone?" he asked.
"Or has he any one else with him?"

"He's got two flower pots as well," rejoined the matron.

"You go and tell him," Pao-yü urged, "that I've informed myself of the
contents of his note, and that there are few who think of me as he does!
If you also take the flowers and, put them in my room, it will be all

So saying, he came with Ts'ui Mo into the Ch'iu Shuang study, where he
discovered Pao-ch'ai, Tai-yü, Ying Ch'un and Hsi Ch'un already
assembled. When they saw him drop in upon them, they all burst out
laughing. "Here comes still another!" they exclaimed.

"I'm not a boor," smiled T'an Ch'un, "so when the idea casually crossed
my mind, I wrote a few notes to try and see who would come. But who'd
have thought that, as soon as I asked you, you would all come."

"It's unfortunately late," Pao-yü smilingly observed. "We should have
started this society long ago."

"You can't call this late!" Tai-yü interposed, "so why give way to
regret! The only thing is, you must form your society, without including
me in the number; for I daren't be one of you."

"If you daren't," Ying Ch'un smiled, "who can presume to do so?"

"This is," suggested Pao-yü, "a legitimate and great purpose; and we
should all exert our energies. You shouldn't be modest, and I yielding;
but every one of us, who thinks of anything, should freely express it
for general discussion. So senior cousin Pao-ch'ai do make some
suggestion; and you junior cousin Lin Tai-yü say something."

"What are you in this hurry for?" Pao-ch'ai exclaimed. "We are not all
here yet."

This remark was barely concluded, when Li Wan also arrived. As soon as
she crossed the threshold, "It's an excellent proposal," she laughingly
cried, "this of starting a poetical society. I recommend myself as
controller. Some time ago in spring, I thought of this, 'but,' I mused,
'I am unable to compose verses, so what's the use of making a mess of
things?' This is why I dispelled the idea from my mind, and made no
mention about it. But since it's your good pleasure, cousin Tertia, to
start it, I'll help you to set it on foot."

"As you've made up your minds," Tai-yü put in, "to initiate a poetical
society, every one of us will be poets, so we should, as a first step,
do away with those various appellations of cousin and uncle and aunt,
and thus avoid everything that bears a semblance of vulgarity."

"First rate," exclaimed Li Wan, "and why should we not fix upon some new
designations by which to address ourselves? This will be a far more
refined way! As for my own, I've selected that of the 'Old farmer of Tao
Hsiang;' so let none of you encroach on it."

"I'll then call myself the 'resident-scholar of the Ch'iu Shuang,' and
have done," T'an Ch'un observed with a smile.

"'Resident-scholar or master' is, in fact, not to the point. It's
clumsy, besides," Pao-yü interposed. "The place here is full of dryandra
and banana trees, and if one could possibly hit upon some name bearing
upon the dryandra and banana, it would be preferable."

"I've got one," shouted T'an Ch'un smilingly. "I'll style myself 'the
guest under the banana trees.'"

"How uncommon!" they unanimously cried. "It's a nice one!"

"You had better," laughed Tai-yü, "be quick and drag her away and stew
some slices of her flesh, for people to eat with their wine."

No one grasped her meaning, "Ch'uang-tzu," Tai-yü proceeded to explain,
smiling, "says: 'The banana leaves shelter the deer,' and as she styles
herself the guest under the banana tree, is she not a deer? So be quick
and make pieces of dried venison of her."

At these words, the whole company laughed.

"Don't be in a hurry!" T'an Ch'un remarked, as she laughed. "You make
use of specious language to abuse people; but I've thought of a fine and
most apposite name for you!" Whereupon addressing herself to the party,
"In days gone by," she added, "an imperial concubine, Nü Ying, sprinkled
her tears on the bamboo, and they became spots, so from olden times to
the present spotted bamboos have been known as the 'Hsiang imperial
concubine bamboo.' Now she lives in the Hsiao Hsiang lodge, and has a
weakness too for tears, so the bamboos over there will by and bye, I
presume, likewise become transformed into speckled bamboos; every one
therefore must henceforward call her the 'Hsiao Hsiang imperial
concubine' and finish with it."

After listening to her, they one and all clapped their hands, and cried
out: "Capital!" Lin Tai-yü however drooped her head and did not so much
as utter a single word.

"I've also," Li Wan smiled, "devised a suitable name for senior cousin,
Hsüeh Pao-chai. It too is one of three characters."

"What's it?" eagerly inquired the party.

"I'll raise her to the rank of 'Princess of Heng Wu,'" Li Wan rejoined.
"I wonder what you all think about this."

"This title of honour," T'an Ch'un observed, "is most apposite."

"What about mine?" Pao-yü asked. "You should try and think of one for me

"Your style has long ago been decided upon," Pao-ch'ai smiled. "It
consists of three words: 'fussing for nothing!' It's most pat!"

"You should, after all, retain your old name of 'master of the flowers
in the purple cave,'" Li Wan suggested. "That will do very well."

"Those were some of the doings of my youth; why rake them up again?"

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