Hung Lou Meng, Book I (A)
By Cao Xueqin

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This translation was suggested not by any pretensions to range myself among the ranks of the body of sinologues, but by the perplexities and difficulties experienced by me as a student in Peking, when, at the completion of the Tzu Erh Chi, I had to plunge in the maze of the Hung Lou Meng.

Shortcomings are, I feel sure, to be discovered, both in the prose, as well as among the doggerel and uncouth rhymes, in which the text has been more adhered to than rhythm; but I shall feel satisfied with the result, if I succeed, even in the least degree, in affording a helping hand to present and future students of the Chinese language.

H. Bencraft Joly, H.B.M. Vice-Consulate, Macao, 1st September, 1891.

Chapter I.

  Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality.
  Chia Y-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts
      of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the true circumstances, and borrowed the attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

Wearied with the drudgery experienced of late in the world, the author speaking for himself, goes on to explain, with the lack of success which attended every single concern, I suddenly bethought myself of the womankind of past ages. Passing one by one under a minute scrutiny, I felt that in action and in lore, one and all were far above me; that in spite of the majesty of my manliness, I could not, in point of fact, compare with these characters of the gentle sex. And my shame forsooth then knew no bounds; while regret, on the other hand, was of no avail, as there was not even a remote possibility of a day of remedy.

On this very day it was that I became desirous to compile, in a connected form, for publication throughout the world, with a view to (universal) information, how that I bear inexorable and manifold retribution; inasmuch as what time, by the sustenance of the benevolence of Heaven, and the virtue of my ancestors, my apparel was rich and fine, and as what days my fare was savory and sumptuous, I disregarded the bounty of education and nurture of father and mother, and paid no heed to the virtue of precept and injunction of teachers and friends, with the result that I incurred the punishment, of failure recently in the least trifle, and the reckless waste of half my lifetime. There have been meanwhile, generation after generation, those in the inner chambers, the whole mass of whom could not, on any account, be, through my influence, allowed to fall into extinction, in order that I, unfilial as I have been, may have the means to screen my own shortcomings.

Hence it is that the thatched shed, with bamboo mat windows, the bed of tow and the stove of brick, which are at present my share, are not sufficient to deter me from carrying out the fixed purpose of my mind. And could I, furthermore, confront the morning breeze, the evening moon, the willows by the steps and the flowers in the courtyard, methinks these would moisten to a greater degree my mortal pen with ink; but though I lack culture and erudition, what harm is there, however, in employing fiction and unrecondite language to give utterance to the merits of these characters? And were I also able to induce the inmates of the inner chamber to understand and diffuse them, could I besides break the weariness of even so much as a single moment, or could I open the eyes of my contemporaries, will it not forsooth prove a boon?

This consideration has led to the usage of such names as Chia Y-ts’un and other similar appellations.

More than any in these pages have been employed such words as dreams and visions; but these dreams constitute the main argument of this work, and combine, furthermore, the design of giving a word of warning to my readers.

Reader, can you suggest whence the story begins?

The narration may border on the limits of incoherency and triviality, but it possesses considerable zest. But to begin.

The Empress N Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared, at the Ta Huang Hills and Wu Ch’i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in height, and twenty-four chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo only used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above, without being turned to any account. This was cast down the Ch’ing Keng peak. This stone, strange to say, after having undergone a process of refinement, attained a nature of efficiency, and could, by its innate powers, set itself into motion and was able to expand and to contract.

When it became aware that the whole number of blocks had been made use of to repair the heavens, that it alone had been destitute of the necessary properties and had been unfit to attain selection, it forthwith felt within itself vexation and shame, and day and night, it gave way to anguish and sorrow.

One day, while it lamented its lot, it suddenly caught sight, at a great distance, of a Buddhist bonze and of a Taoist priest coming towards that direction. Their appearance was uncommon, their easy manner remarkable. When they drew near this Ch’ing Keng peak, they sat on the ground to rest, and began to converse. But on noticing the block newly-polished and brilliantly clear, which had moreover contracted in dimensions, and become no larger than the pendant of a fan, they were greatly filled with admiration. The Buddhist priest picked it up, and laid it in the palm of his hand.

“Your appearance,” he said laughingly, “may well declare you to be a supernatural object, but as you lack any inherent quality it is necessary to inscribe a few characters on you, so that every one who shall see you may at once recognise you to be a remarkable thing. And subsequently, when you will be taken into a country where honour and affluence will reign, into a family cultured in mind and of official status, in a land where flowers and trees shall flourish with luxuriance, in a town of refinement, renown and glory; when you once will have been there...”

The stone listened with intense delight.

“What characters may I ask,” it consequently inquired, “will you inscribe? and what place will I be taken to? pray, pray explain to me in lucid terms.” “You mustn’t be inquisitive,” the bonze replied, with a smile, “in days to come you’ll certainly understand everything.” Having concluded these words, he forthwith put the stone in his sleeve, and proceeded leisurely on his journey, in company with the Taoist priest. Whither, however, he took the stone, is not divulged. Nor can it be known how many centuries and ages elapsed, before a Taoist priest, K’ung K’ung by name, passed, during his researches after the eternal reason and his quest after immortality, by these Ta Huang Hills, Wu Ch’i cave and Ch’ing Keng Peak. Suddenly perceiving a large block of stone, on the surface of which the traces of characters giving, in a connected form, the various incidents of its fate, could be clearly deciphered, K’ung K’ung examined them from first to last. They, in fact, explained how that this block of worthless stone had originally been devoid of the properties essential for the repairs to the heavens, how it would be transmuted into human form and introduced by Mang Mang the High Lord, and Miao Miao, the Divine, into the world of mortals, and how it would be led over the other bank (across the San Sara). On the surface, the record of the spot where it would fall, the place of its birth, as well as various family trifles and trivial love affairs of young ladies, verses, odes, speeches and enigmas was still complete; but the name of the dynasty and the year of the reign were obliterated, and could not be ascertained.

On the obverse, were also the following enigmatical verses:

  Lacking in virtues meet the azure skies to mend,
  In vain the mortal world full many a year I wend,
  Of a former and after life these facts that be,
  Who will for a tradition strange record for me?

K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, having pondered over these lines for a while, became aware that this stone had a history of some kind.

“Brother stone,” he forthwith said, addressing the stone, “the concerns of past days recorded on you possess, according to your own account, a considerable amount of interest, and have been for this reason inscribed, with the intent of soliciting generations to hand them down as remarkable occurrences. But in my own opinion, they lack, in the first place, any data by means of which to establish the name of the Emperor and the year of his reign; and, in the second place, these constitute no record of any excellent policy, adopted by any high worthies or high loyal statesmen, in the government of the state, or in the rule of public morals. The contents simply treat of a certain number of maidens, of exceptional character; either of their love affairs or infatuations, or of their small deserts or insignificant talents; and were I to transcribe the whole collection of them, they would, nevertheless, not be estimated as a book of any exceptional worth.”

“Sir Priest,” the stone replied with assurance, “why are you so excessively dull? The dynasties recorded in the rustic histories, which have been written from age to age, have, I am fain to think, invariably assumed, under false pretences, the mere nomenclature of the Han and T’ang dynasties. They differ from the events inscribed on my block, which do not borrow this customary practice, but, being based on my own experiences and natural feelings, present, on the contrary, a novel and unique character. Besides, in the pages of these rustic histories, either the aspersions upon sovereigns and statesmen, or the strictures upon individuals, their wives, and their daughters, or the deeds of licentiousness and violence are too numerous to be computed. Indeed, there is one more kind of loose literature, the wantonness and pollution in which work most easy havoc upon youth.

“As regards the works, in which the characters of scholars and beauties is delineated their allusions are again repeatedly of Wen Chn, their theme in every page of Tzu Chien; a thousand volumes present no diversity; and a thousand characters are but a counterpart of each other. What is more, these works, throughout all their pages, cannot help bordering on extreme licence. The authors, however, had no other object in view than to give utterance to a few sentimental odes and elegant ballads of their own, and for this reason they have fictitiously invented the names and surnames of both men and women, and necessarily introduced, in addition, some low characters, who should, like a buffoon in a play, create some excitement in the plot.

“Still more loathsome is a kind of pedantic and profligate literature, perfectly devoid of all natural sentiment, full of self-contradictions; and, in fact, the contrast to those maidens in my work, whom I have, during half my lifetime, seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. And though I will not presume to estimate them as superior to the heroes and heroines in the works of former ages, yet the perusal of the motives and issues of their experiences, may likewise afford matter sufficient to banish dulness, and to break the spell of melancholy.

“As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to spurt out the wine.

“In these pages, the scenes depicting the anguish of separation, the bliss of reunion, and the fortunes of prosperity and of adversity are all, in every detail, true to human nature, and I have not taken upon myself to make the slightest addition, or alteration, which might lead to the perversion of the truth.

“My only object has been that men may, after a drinking bout, or after they wake from sleep or when in need of relaxation from the pressure of business, take up this light literature, and not only expunge the traces of antiquated books, and obtain a new kind of distraction, but that they may also lay by a long life as well as energy and strength; for it bears no point of similarity to those works, whose designs are false, whose course is immoral. Now, Sir Priest, what are your views on the subject?”

K’ung K’ung having pondered for a while over the words, to which he had listened intently, re-perused, throughout, this record of the stone; and finding that the general purport consisted of nought else than a treatise on love, and likewise of an accurate transcription of facts, without the least taint of profligacy injurious to the times, he thereupon copied the contents, from beginning to end, to the intent of charging the world to hand them down as a strange story.

Hence it was that K’ung K’ung, the Taoist, in consequence of his perception, (in his state of) abstraction, of passion, the generation, from this passion, of voluptuousness, the transmission of this voluptuousness into passion, and the apprehension, by means of passion, of its unreality, forthwith altered his name for that of “Ch’ing Tseng" (the Voluptuous Bonze), and changed the title of “the Memoir of a Stone" (Shih-t’ou-chi,) for that of “Ch’ing Tseng Lu,” The Record of the Voluptuous Bonze; while K’ung Mei-chi of Tung Lu gave it the name of "Feng Yeh Pao Chien,” “The Precious Mirror of Voluptuousness.” In later years, owing to the devotion by Tsao Hseh-ch’in in the Tao Hung study, of ten years to the perusal and revision of the work, the additions and modifications effected by him five times, the affix of an index and the division into periods and chapters, the book was again entitled “Chin Ling Shih Erh Ch’ai,” “The Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling.” A stanza was furthermore composed for the purpose. This then, and no other, is the origin of the Record of the Stone. The poet says appositely:–

  Pages full of silly litter,
  Tears a handful sour and bitter;
  All a fool the author hold,
  But their zest who can unfold?

You have now understood the causes which brought about the Record of the Stone, but as you are not, as yet, aware what characters are depicted, and what circumstances are related on the surface of the block, reader, please lend an ear to the narrative on the stone, which runs as follows:–

In old days, the land in the South East lay low. In this South-East part of the world, was situated a walled town, Ku Su by name. Within the walls a locality, called the Ch’ang Men, was more than all others throughout the mortal world, the centre, which held the second, if not the first place for fashion and life. Beyond this Ch’ang Men was a street called Shih-li-chieh (Ten Li street); in this street a lane, the Jen Ch’ing lane (Humanity and Purity); and in this lane stood an old temple, which on account of its diminutive dimensions, was called, by general consent, the Gourd temple. Next door to this temple lived the family of a district official, Chen by surname, Fei by name, and Shih-yin by style. His wife, ne Feng, possessed a worthy and virtuous disposition, and had a clear perception of moral propriety and good conduct. This family, though not in actual possession of excessive affluence and honours, was, nevertheless, in their district, conceded to be a clan of well-to-do standing. As this Chen Shih-yin was of a contented and unambitious frame of mind, and entertained no hankering after any official distinction, but day after day of his life took delight in gazing at flowers, planting bamboos, sipping his wine and conning poetical works, he was in fact, in the indulgence of these pursuits, as happy as a supernatural being.

One thing alone marred his happiness. He had lived over half a century and had, as yet, no male offspring around his knees. He had one only child, a daughter, whose infant name was Ying Lien. She was just three years of age. On a long summer day, on which the heat had been intense, Shih-yin sat leisurely in his library. Feeling his hand tired, he dropped the book he held, leant his head on a teapoy, and fell asleep.

Of a sudden, while in this state of unconsciousness, it seemed as if he had betaken himself on foot to some spot or other whither he could not discriminate. Unexpectedly he espied, in the opposite direction, two priests coming towards him: the one a Buddhist, the other a Taoist. As they advanced they kept up the conversation in which they were engaged. "Whither do you purpose taking the object you have brought away?” he heard the Taoist inquire. To this question the Buddhist replied with a smile: “Set your mind at ease,” he said; “there’s now in maturity a plot of a general character involving mundane pleasures, which will presently come to a denouement. The whole number of the votaries of voluptuousness have, as yet, not been quickened or entered the world, and I mean to avail myself of this occasion to introduce this object among their number, so as to give it a chance to go through the span of human existence.” “The votaries of voluptuousness of these days will naturally have again to endure the ills of life during their course through the mortal world,” the Taoist remarked; “but when, I wonder, will they spring into existence? and in what place will they descend?”

“The account of these circumstances,” the bonze ventured to reply, “is enough to make you laugh! They amount to this: there existed in the west, on the bank of the Ling (spiritual) river, by the side of the San Sheng (thrice-born) stone, a blade of the Chiang Chu (purple pearl) grass. At about the same time it was that the block of stone was, consequent upon its rejection by the goddess of works, also left to ramble and wander to its own gratification, and to roam about at pleasure to every and any place. One day it came within the precincts of the Ching Huan (Monitory Vision) Fairy; and this Fairy, cognizant of the fact that this stone had a history, detained it, therefore, to reside at the Ch’ih Hsia (purple clouds) palace, and apportioned to it the duties of attendant on Shen Ying, a fairy of the Ch’ih Hsia palace.

“This stone would, however, often stroll along the banks of the Ling river, and having at the sight of the blade of spiritual grass been filled with admiration, it, day by day, moistened its roots with sweet dew. This purple pearl grass, at the outset, tarried for months and years; but being at a later period imbued with the essence and luxuriance of heaven and earth, and having incessantly received the moisture and nurture of the sweet dew, divested itself, in course of time, of the form of a grass; assuming, in lieu, a human nature, which gradually became perfected into the person of a girl.

“Every day she was wont to wander beyond the confines of the Li Hen (divested animosities) heavens. When hungry she fed on the Pi Ch’ing (hidden love) fruit–when thirsty she drank the Kuan ch’ou (discharged sorrows,) water. Having, however, up to this time, not shewn her gratitude for the virtue of nurture lavished upon her, the result was but natural that she should resolve in her heart upon a constant and incessant purpose to make suitable acknowledgment.

“I have been,” she would often commune within herself, “the recipient of the gracious bounty of rain and dew, but I possess no such water as was lavished upon me to repay it! But should it ever descend into the world in the form of a human being, I will also betake myself thither, along with it; and if I can only have the means of making restitution to it, with the tears of a whole lifetime, I may be able to make adequate return.”

“This resolution it is that will evolve the descent into the world of so many pleasure-bound spirits of retribution and the experience of fantastic destinies; and this crimson pearl blade will also be among the number. The stone still lies in its original place, and why should not you and I take it along before the tribunal of the Monitory Vision Fairy, and place on its behalf its name on record, so that it should descend into the world, in company with these spirits of passion, and bring this plot to an issue?”

“It is indeed ridiculous,” interposed the Taoist. “Never before have I heard even the very mention of restitution by means of tears! Why should not you and I avail ourselves of this opportunity to likewise go down into the world? and if successful in effecting the salvation of a few of them, will it not be a work meritorious and virtuous?”

“This proposal,” remarked the Buddhist, “is quite in harmony with my own views. Come along then with me to the palace of the Monitory Vision Fairy, and let us deliver up this good-for-nothing object, and have done with it! And when the company of pleasure-bound spirits of wrath descend into human existence, you and I can then enter the world. Half of them have already fallen into the dusty universe, but the whole number of them have not, as yet, come together.”

“Such being the case,” the Taoist acquiesced, “I am ready to follow you, whenever you please to go.”

But to return to Chen Shih-yin. Having heard every one of these words distinctly, he could not refrain from forthwith stepping forward and paying homage. “My spiritual lords,” he said, as he smiled, “accept my obeisance.” The Buddhist and Taoist priests lost no time in responding to the compliment, and they exchanged the usual salutations. “My spiritual lords,” Shih-yin continued; “I have just heard the conversation that passed between you, on causes and effects, a conversation the like of which few mortals have forsooth listened to; but your younger brother is sluggish of intellect, and cannot lucidly fathom the import! Yet could this dulness and simplicity be graciously dispelled, your younger brother may, by listening minutely, with undefiled ear and careful attention, to a certain degree be aroused to a sense of understanding; and what is more, possibly find the means of escaping the anguish of sinking down into Hades.”

The two spirits smiled, “The conversation,” they added, “refers to the primordial scheme and cannot be divulged before the proper season; but, when the time comes, mind do not forget us two, and you will readily be able to escape from the fiery furnace.”

Shih-yin, after this reply, felt it difficult to make any further inquiries. “The primordial scheme,” he however remarked smiling, "cannot, of course, be divulged; but what manner of thing, I wonder, is the good-for-nothing object you alluded to a short while back? May I not be allowed to judge for myself?”

“This object about which you ask,” the Buddhist Bonze responded, “is intended, I may tell you, by fate to be just glanced at by you.” With these words he produced it, and handed it over to Shih-yin.

Shih-yin received it. On scrutiny he found it, in fact, to be a beautiful gem, so lustrous and so clear that the traces of characters on the surface were distinctly visible. The characters inscribed consisted of the four “T’ung Ling Pao Y,” “Precious Gem of Spiritual Perception." On the obverse, were also several columns of minute words, which he was just in the act of looking at intently, when the Buddhist at once expostulated.

“We have already reached,” he exclaimed, “the confines of vision." Snatching it violently out of his hands, he walked away with the Taoist, under a lofty stone portal, on the face of which appeared in large type the four characters: “T’ai Hs Huan Ching,” “The Visionary limits of the Great Void.” On each side was a scroll with the lines:

  When falsehood stands for truth, truth likewise becomes false,
  Where naught be made to aught, aught changes into naught.

Shih-yin meant also to follow them on the other side, but, as he was about to make one step forward, he suddenly heard a crash, just as if the mountains had fallen into ruins, and the earth sunk into destruction. As Shih-yin uttered a loud shout, he looked with strained eye; but all he could see was the fiery sun shining, with glowing rays, while the banana leaves drooped their heads. By that time, half of the circumstances connected with the dream he had had, had already slipped from his memory.

He also noticed a nurse coming towards him with Ying Lien in her arms. To Shih-yin’s eyes his daughter appeared even more beautiful, such a bright gem, so precious, and so lovable. Forthwith stretching out his arms, he took her over, and, as he held her in his embrace, he coaxed her to play with him for a while; after which he brought her up to the street to see the great stir occasioned by the procession that was going past.

He was about to come in, when he caught sight of two priests, one a Taoist, the other a Buddhist, coming hither from the opposite direction. The Buddhist had a head covered with mange, and went barefooted. The Taoist had a limping foot, and his hair was all dishevelled.

Like maniacs, they jostled along, chattering and laughing as they drew near.

As soon as they reached Shih-yin’s door, and they perceived him with Ying Lien in his arms, the Bonze began to weep aloud.

Turning towards Shih-yin, he said to him: “My good Sir, why need you carry in your embrace this living but luckless thing, which will involve father and mother in trouble?”

These words did not escape Shih-yin’s ear; but persuaded that they amounted to raving talk, he paid no heed whatever to the bonze.

“Part with her and give her to me,” the Buddhist still went on to say.

Shih-yin could not restrain his annoyance; and hastily pressing his daughter closer to him, he was intent upon going in, when the bonze pointed his hand at him, and burst out in a loud fit of laughter.

He then gave utterance to the four lines that follow:

  You indulge your tender daughter and are laughed at as inane;
  Vain you face the snow, oh mirror! for it will evanescent wane,
  When the festival of lanterns is gone by, guard ’gainst your doom,
  ’Tis what time the flames will kindle, and the fire will consume.

Shih-yin understood distinctly the full import of what he heard; but his heart was still full of conjectures. He was about to inquire who and what they were, when he heard the Taoist remark,–"You and I cannot speed together; let us now part company, and each of us will be then able to go after his own business. After the lapse of three ages, I shall be at the Pei Mang mount, waiting for you; and we can, after our reunion, betake ourselves to the Visionary Confines of the Great Void, there to cancel the name of the stone from the records.”

“Excellent! first rate!” exclaimed the Bonze. And at the conclusion of these words, the two men parted, each going his own way, and no trace was again seen of them.

“These two men,” Shih-yin then pondered within his heart, “must have had many experiences, and I ought really to have made more inquiries of them; but at this juncture to indulge in regret is anyhow too late.”

While Shih-yin gave way to these foolish reflections, he suddenly noticed the arrival of a penniless scholar, Chia by surname, Hua by name, Shih-fei by style and Y-ts’un by nickname, who had taken up his quarters in the Gourd temple next door. This Chia Y-ts’un was originally a denizen of Hu-Chow, and was also of literary and official parentage, but as he was born of the youngest stock, and the possessions of his paternal and maternal ancestors were completely exhausted, and his parents and relatives were dead, he remained the sole and only survivor; and, as he found his residence in his native place of no avail, he therefore entered the capital in search of that reputation, which would enable him to put the family estate on a proper standing. He had arrived at this place since the year before last, and had, what is more, lived all along in very straitened circumstances. He had made the temple his temporary quarters, and earned a living by daily occupying himself in composing documents and writing letters for customers. Thus it was that Shih-yin had been in constant relations with him.

As soon as Y-ts’un perceived Shih-yin, he lost no time in saluting him. "My worthy Sir,” he observed with a forced smile; “how is it you are leaning against the door and looking out? Is there perchance any news astir in the streets, or in the public places?”

“None whatever,” replied Shih-yin, as he returned the smile. “Just a while back, my young daughter was in sobs, and I coaxed her out here to amuse her. I am just now without anything whatever to attend to, so that, dear brother Chia, you come just in the nick of time. Please walk into my mean abode, and let us endeavour, in each other’s company, to while away this long summer day.”

After he had made this remark, he bade a servant take his daughter in, while he, hand-in-hand with Y-ts’un, walked into the library, where a young page served tea. They had hardly exchanged a few sentences, when one of the household came in, in flying haste, to announce that Mr. Yen had come to pay a visit.

Shih-yin at once stood up. “Pray excuse my rudeness,” he remarked apologetically, “but do sit down; I shall shortly rejoin you, and enjoy the pleasure of your society.” “My dear Sir,” answered Y-ts’un, as he got up, also in a conceding way, “suit your own convenience. I’ve often had the honour of being your guest, and what will it matter if I wait a little?” While these apologies were yet being spoken, Shih-yin had already walked out into the front parlour. During his absence, Y-ts’un occupied himself in turning over the pages of some poetical work to dispel ennui, when suddenly he heard, outside the window, a woman’s cough. Y-ts’un hurriedly got up and looked out. He saw at a glance that it was a servant girl engaged in picking flowers. Her deportment was out of the common; her eyes so bright, her eyebrows so well defined. Though not a perfect beauty, she possessed nevertheless charms sufficient to arouse the feelings. Y-ts’un unwittingly gazed at her with fixed eye. This waiting-maid, belonging to the Chen family, had done picking flowers, and was on the point of going in, when she of a sudden raised her eyes and became aware of the presence of some person inside the window, whose head-gear consisted of a turban in tatters, while his clothes were the worse for wear. But in spite of his poverty, he was naturally endowed with a round waist, a broad back, a fat face, a square mouth; added to this, his eyebrows were swordlike, his eyes resembled stars, his nose was straight, his cheeks square.

This servant girl turned away in a hurry and made her escape.

“This man so burly and strong,” she communed within herself, “yet at the same time got up in such poor attire, must, I expect, be no one else than the man, whose name is Chia Y-ts’un or such like, time after time referred to by my master, and to whom he has repeatedly wished to give a helping hand, but has failed to find a favourable opportunity. And as related to our family there is no connexion or friend in such straits, I feel certain it cannot be any other person than he. Strange to say, my master has further remarked that this man will, for a certainty, not always continue in such a state of destitution.”

As she indulged in this train of thought, she could not restrain herself from turning her head round once or twice.

When Y-ts’un perceived that she had looked back, he readily interpreted it as a sign that in her heart her thoughts had been of him, and he was frantic with irrepressible joy.

“This girl,” he mused, “is, no doubt, keen-eyed and eminently shrewd, and one in this world who has seen through me.”

The servant youth, after a short time, came into the room; and when Y-ts’un made inquiries and found out from him that the guests in the front parlour had been detained to dinner, he could not very well wait any longer, and promptly walked away down a side passage and out of a back door.

When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back to rejoin Y-ts’un, as he had come to know that he had already left.

In time the mid-autumn festivities drew near; and Shih-yin, after the family banquet was over, had a separate table laid in the library, and crossed over, in the moonlight, as far as the temple and invited Y-ts’un to come round.

The fact is that Y-ts’un, ever since the day on which he had seen the girl of the Chen family turn twice round to glance at him, flattered himself that she was friendly disposed towards him, and incessantly fostered fond thoughts of her in his heart. And on this day, which happened to be the mid-autumn feast, he could not, as he gazed at the moon, refrain from cherishing her remembrance. Hence it was that he gave vent to these pentameter verses:

  Alas! not yet divined my lifelong wish,
  And anguish ceaseless comes upon anguish
  I came, and sad at heart, my brow I frowned;
  She went, and oft her head to look turned round.
  Facing the breeze, her shadow she doth watch,
  Who’s meet this moonlight night with her to match?
  The lustrous rays if they my wish but read
  Would soon alight upon her beauteous head!

Y-ts’un having, after this recitation, recalled again to mind how that throughout his lifetime his literary attainments had had an adverse fate and not met with an opportunity (of reaping distinction), went on to rub his brow, and as he raised his eyes to the skies, he heaved a deep sigh and once more intoned a couplet aloud:

  The gem in the cask a high price it seeks,
  The pin in the case to take wing it waits.

As luck would have it, Shih-yin was at the moment approaching, and upon hearing the lines, he said with a smile: “My dear Y-ts’un, really your attainments are of no ordinary capacity.”

Y-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying. “It would be presumption in my part to think so,” he observed. “I was simply at random humming a few verses composed by former writers, and what reason is there to laud me to such an excessive degree? To what, my dear Sir, do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” he went on to inquire. “Tonight,” replied Shih-yin, “is the mid-autumn feast, generally known as the full-moon festival; and as I could not help thinking that living, as you my worthy brother are, as a mere stranger in this Buddhist temple, you could not but experience the feeling of loneliness. I have, for the express purpose, prepared a small entertainment, and will be pleased if you will come to my mean abode to have a glass of wine. But I wonder whether you will entertain favourably my modest invitation?” Y-ts’un, after listening to the proposal, put forward no refusal of any sort; but remarked complacently: “Being the recipient of such marked attention, how can I presume to repel your generous consideration?”

As he gave expression to these words, he walked off there and then, in company with Shih-yin, and came over once again into the court in front of the library. In a few minutes, tea was over.

The cups and dishes had been laid from an early hour, and needless to say the wines were luscious; the fare sumptuous.

The two friends took their seats. At first they leisurely replenished their glasses, and quietly sipped their wine; but as, little by little, they entered into conversation, their good cheer grew more genial, and unawares the glasses began to fly round, and the cups to be exchanged.

At this very hour, in every house of the neighbourhood, sounded the fife and lute, while the inmates indulged in music and singing. Above head, the orb of the radiant moon shone with an all-pervading splendour, and with a steady lustrous light, while the two friends, as their exuberance increased, drained their cups dry so soon as they reached their lips.

Y-ts’un, at this stage of the collation, was considerably under the influence of wine, and the vehemence of his high spirits was irrepressible. As he gazed at the moon, he fostered thoughts, to which he gave vent by the recital of a double couplet.

  ’Tis what time three meets five, Selene is a globe!
  Her pure rays fill the court, the jadelike rails enrobe!
  Lo! in the heavens her disk to view doth now arise,
  And in the earth below to gaze men lift their eyes.

“Excellent!” cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard these lines; “I have repeatedly maintained that it was impossible for you to remain long inferior to any, and now the verses you have recited are a prognostic of your rapid advancement. Already it is evident that, before long, you will extend your footsteps far above the clouds! I must congratulate you! I must congratulate you! Let me, with my own hands, pour a glass of wine to pay you my compliments.”

Y-ts’un drained the cup. “What I am about to say,” he explained as he suddenly heaved a sigh, “is not the maudlin talk of a man under the effects of wine. As far as the subjects at present set in the examinations go, I could, perchance, also have well been able to enter the list, and to send in my name as a candidate; but I have, just now, no means whatever to make provision for luggage and for travelling expenses. The distance too to Shen Ching is a long one, and I could not depend upon the sale of papers or the composition of essays to find the means of getting there.”

Shih-yin gave him no time to conclude. “Why did you not speak about this sooner?” he interposed with haste. “I have long entertained this suspicion; but as, whenever I met you, this conversation was never broached, I did not presume to make myself officious. But if such be the state of affairs just now, I lack, I admit, literary qualification, but on the two subjects of friendly spirit and pecuniary means, I have, nevertheless, some experience. Moreover, I rejoice that next year is just the season for the triennial examinations, and you should start for the capital with all despatch; and in the tripos next spring, you will, by carrying the prize, be able to do justice to the proficiency you can boast of. As regards the travelling expenses and the other items, the provision of everything necessary for you by my own self will again not render nugatory your mean acquaintance with me.”

Forthwith, he directed a servant lad to go and pack up at once fifty taels of pure silver and two suits of winter clothes.

“The nineteenth,” he continued, “is a propitious day, and you should lose no time in hiring a boat and starting on your journey westwards. And when, by your eminent talents, you shall have soared high to a lofty position, and we meet again next winter, will not the occasion be extremely felicitous?”

Y-ts’un accepted the money and clothes with but scanty expression of gratitude. In fact, he paid no thought whatever to the gifts, but went on, again drinking his wine, as he chattered and laughed.

It was only when the third watch of that day had already struck that the two friends parted company; and Shih-yin, after seeing Y-ts’un off, retired to his room and slept, with one sleep all through, never waking until the sun was well up in the skies.

Remembering the occurrence of the previous night, he meant to write a couple of letters of recommendation for Y-ts’un to take along with him to the capital, to enable him, after handing them over at the mansions of certain officials, to find some place as a temporary home. He accordingly despatched a servant to ask him to come round, but the man returned and reported that from what the bonze said, “Mr. Chia had started on his journey to the capital, at the fifth watch of that very morning, that he had also left a message with the bonze to deliver to you, Sir, to the effect that men of letters paid no heed to lucky or unlucky days, that the sole consideration with them was the nature of the matter in hand, and that he could find no time to come round in person and bid good-bye.”

Shih-yin after hearing this message had no alternative but to banish the subject from his thoughts.

In comfortable circumstances, time indeed goes by with easy stride. Soon drew near also the happy festival of the 15th of the 1st moon, and Shih-yin told a servant Huo Ch’i to take Ying Lien to see the sacrificial fires and flowery lanterns.

About the middle of the night, Huo Ch’i was hard pressed, and he forthwith set Ying Lien down on the doorstep of a certain house. When he felt relieved, he came back to take her up, but failed to find anywhere any trace of Ying Lien. In a terrible plight, Huo Ch’i prosecuted his search throughout half the night; but even by the dawn of day, he had not discovered any clue of her whereabouts. Huo Ch’i, lacking, on the other hand, the courage to go back and face his master, promptly made his escape to his native village.

Shih-yin–in fact, the husband as well as the wife–seeing that their child had not come home during the whole night, readily concluded that some mishap must have befallen her. Hastily they despatched several servants to go in search of her, but one and all returned to report that there was neither vestige nor tidings of her.

This couple had only had this child, and this at the meridian of their life, so that her sudden disappearance plunged them in such great distress that day and night they mourned her loss to such a point as to well nigh pay no heed to their very lives.

A month in no time went by. Shih-yin was the first to fall ill, and his wife, Dame Feng, likewise, by dint of fretting for her daughter, was also prostrated with sickness. The doctor was, day after day, sent for, and the oracle consulted by means of divination.

Little did any one think that on this day, being the 15th of the 3rd moon, while the sacrificial oblations were being prepared in the Hu Lu temple, a pan with oil would have caught fire, through the want of care on the part of the bonze, and that in a short time the flames would have consumed the paper pasted on the windows.

Among the natives of this district bamboo fences and wooden partitions were in general use, and these too proved a source of calamity so ordained by fate (to consummate this decree).

With promptness (the fire) extended to two buildings, then enveloped three, then dragged four (into ruin), and then spread to five houses, until the whole street was in a blaze, resembling the flames of a volcano. Though both the military and the people at once ran to the rescue, the fire had already assumed a serious hold, so that it was impossible for them to afford any effective assistance for its suppression.

It blazed away straight through the night, before it was extinguished, and consumed, there is in fact no saying how many dwelling houses. Anyhow, pitiful to relate, the Chen house, situated as it was next door to the temple, was, at an early part of the evening, reduced to a heap of tiles and bricks; and nothing but the lives of that couple and several inmates of the family did not sustain any injuries.

Shih-yin was in despair, but all he could do was to stamp his feet and heave deep sighs. After consulting with his wife, they betook themselves to a farm of theirs, where they took up their quarters temporarily. But as it happened that water had of late years been scarce, and no crops been reaped, robbers and thieves had sprung up like bees, and though the Government troops were bent upon their capture, it was anyhow difficult to settle down quietly on the farm. He therefore had no other resource than to convert, at a loss, the whole of his property into money, and to take his wife and two servant girls and come over for shelter to the house of his father-in-law.

His father-in-law, Feng Su, by name, was a native of Ta Ju Chou. Although only a labourer, he was nevertheless in easy circumstances at home. When he on this occasion saw his son-in-law come to him in such distress, he forthwith felt at heart considerable displeasure. Fortunately Shih-yin had still in his possession the money derived from the unprofitable realization of his property, so that he produced and handed it to his father-in-law, commissioning him to purchase, whenever a suitable opportunity presented itself, a house and land as a provision for food and raiment against days to come. This Feng Su, however, only expended the half of the sum, and pocketed the other half, merely acquiring for him some fallow land and a dilapidated house.

Shih-yin being, on the other hand, a man of books and with no experience in matters connected with business and with sowing and reaping, subsisted, by hook and by crook, for about a year or two, when he became more impoverished.

In his presence, Feng Su would readily give vent to specious utterances, while, with others, and behind his back, he on the contrary expressed his indignation against his improvidence in his mode of living, and against his sole delight of eating and playing the lazy.

Shih-yin, aware of the want of harmony with his father-in-law, could not help giving way, in his own heart, to feelings of regret and pain. In addition to this, the fright and vexation which he had undergone the year before, the anguish and suffering (he had had to endure), had already worked havoc (on his constitution); and being a man advanced in years, and assailed by the joint attack of poverty and disease, he at length gradually began to display symptoms of decline.

Strange coincidence, as he, on this day, came leaning on his staff and with considerable strain, as far as the street for a little relaxation, he suddenly caught sight, approaching from the off side, of a Taoist priest with a crippled foot; his maniac appearance so repulsive, his shoes of straw, his dress all in tatters, muttering several sentiments to this effect:

  All men spiritual life know to be good,
  But fame to disregard they ne’er succeed!
  From old till now the statesmen where are they?
  Waste lie their graves, a heap of grass, extinct.
  All men spiritual life know to be good,
  But to forget gold, silver, ill succeed!
  Through life they grudge their hoardings to be scant,
  And when plenty has come, their eyelids close.
  All men spiritual life hold to be good,
  Yet to forget wives, maids, they ne’er succeed!
  Who speak of grateful love while lives their lord,
  And dead their lord, another they pursue.
  All men spiritual life know to be good,
  But sons and grandsons to forget never succeed!
  From old till now of parents soft many,
  But filial sons and grandsons who have seen?

Shih-yin upon hearing these words, hastily came up to the priest, “What were you so glibly holding forth?” he inquired. “All I could hear were a lot of hao liao (excellent, finality.”)

“You may well have heard the two words ’hao liao,’” answered the Taoist with a smile, “but can you be said to have fathomed their meaning? You should know that all things in this world are excellent, when they have attained finality; when they have attained finality, they are excellent; but when they have not attained finality, they are not excellent; if they would be excellent, they should attain finality. My song is entitled Excellent-finality (hao liao).”

Shih-yin was gifted with a natural perspicacity that enabled him, as soon as he heard these remarks, to grasp their spirit.

“Wait a while,” he therefore said smilingly; “let me unravel this excellent-finality song of yours; do you mind?”

“Please by all means go on with the interpretation,” urged the Taoist; whereupon Shih-yin proceeded in this strain:

  Sordid rooms and vacant courts,
  Replete in years gone by with beds where statesmen lay;
  Parched grass and withered banian trees,
  Where once were halls for song and dance!
  Spiders’ webs the carved pillars intertwine,
  The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!
  What about the cosmetic fresh concocted or the powder just scented;
  Why has the hair too on each temple become white like hoarfrost!
  Yesterday the tumulus of yellow earth buried the bleached bones,
  To-night under the red silk curtain reclines the couple!
  Gold fills the coffers, silver fills the boxes,
  But in a twinkle, the beggars will all abuse you!
  While you deplore that the life of others is not long,
  You forget that you yourself are approaching death!
  You educate your sons with all propriety,
  But they may some day, ’tis hard to say become thieves;
  Though you choose (your fare and home) the fatted beam,
  You may, who can say, fall into some place of easy virtue!
  Through your dislike of the gauze hat as mean,
  You have come to be locked in a cangue;
  Yesterday, poor fellow, you felt cold in a tattered coat,
  To-day, you despise the purple embroidered dress as long!
  Confusion reigns far and wide! you have just sung your part, I come on
      the boards,
  Instead of yours, you recognise another as your native land;
  What utter perversion!
  In one word, it comes to this we make wedding clothes for others!
  (We sow for others to reap.)

The crazy limping Taoist clapped his hands. “Your interpretation is explicit,” he remarked with a hearty laugh, “your interpretation is explicit!”

Shih-yin promptly said nothing more than,–"Walk on;” and seizing the stole from the Taoist’s shoulder, he flung it over his own. He did not, however, return home, but leisurely walked away, in company with the eccentric priest.

The report of his disappearance was at once bruited abroad, and plunged the whole neighbourhood in commotion; and converted into a piece of news, it was circulated from mouth to mouth.

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death; but her only alternative was to consult with her father, and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries. No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation, and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side, to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants, occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there, she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two; and when unexpectedly in a state chair, was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house, and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought. At night, however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out: “We are messengers, deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words, fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained, but, reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

Chapter II.

  The spirit of Mrs. Chia Shih-yin departs from the town of Yang Chou.
  Leng Tzu-hsing dilates upon the Jung Kuo Mansion.

To continue. Feng Su, upon hearing the shouts of the public messengers, came out in a flurry and forcing a smile, he asked them to explain (their errand); but all these people did was to continue bawling out: "Be quick, and ask Mr. Chen to come out.”

“My surname is Feng,” said Feng Su, as he promptly forced himself to smile; “It is’nt Chen at all: I had once a son-in-law whose surname was Chen, but he has left home, it is now already a year or two back. Is it perchance about him that you are inquiring?”

To which the public servants remarked: “We know nothing about Chen or Chia (true or false); but as he is your son-in-law, we’ll take you at once along with us to make verbal answer to our master and have done with it.”

And forthwith the whole bevy of public servants hustled Feng Su on, as they went on their way back; while every one in the Feng family was seized with consternation, and could not imagine what it was all about.

It was no earlier than the second watch, when Feng Su returned home; and they, one and all, pressed him with questions as to what had happened.

“The fact is,” he explained, “the newly-appointed Magistrate, whose surname is Chia, whose name is Huo and who is a native of Hu-chow, has been on intimate terms, in years gone by, with our son-in-law; that at the sight of the girl Chiao Hsing, standing at the door, in the act of buying thread, he concluded that he must have shifted his quarters over here, and hence it was that his messengers came to fetch him. I gave him a clear account of the various circumstances (of his misfortunes), and the Magistrate was for a time much distressed and expressed his regret. He then went on to make inquiries about my grand-daughter, and I explained that she had been lost, while looking at the illuminations. ’No matter,’ put in the Magistrate, ’I will by and by order my men to make search, and I feel certain that they will find her and bring her back.’ Then ensued a short conversation, after which I was about to go, when he presented me with the sum of two taels.”

The mistress of the Chen family (Mrs. Chen Shih-yin) could not but feel very much affected by what she heard, and the whole evening she uttered not a word.

The next day, at an early hour, Y-ts’un sent some of his men to bring over to Chen’s wife presents, consisting of two packets of silver, and four pieces of brocaded silk, as a token of gratitude, and to Feng Su also a confidential letter, requesting him to ask of Mrs. Chen her maid Chiao Hsing to become his second wife.

Feng Su was so intensely delighted that his eyebrows expanded, his eyes smiled, and he felt eager to toady to the Magistrate (by presenting the girl to him). He hastened to employ all his persuasive powers with his daughter (to further his purpose), and on the same evening he forthwith escorted Chiao Hsing in a small chair to the Yamn.

The joy experienced by Y-ts’un need not be dilated upon. He also presented Feng Su with a packet containing one hundred ounces of gold; and sent numerous valuable presents to Mrs. Chen, enjoining her “to live cheerfully in the anticipation of finding out the whereabouts of her daughter.”

It must be explained, however, that the maid Chi’ao Hsing was the very person, who, a few years ago, had looked round at Y-ts’un and who, by one simple, unpremeditated glance, evolved, in fact, this extraordinary destiny which was indeed an event beyond conception.

Who would ever have foreseen that fate and fortune would both have so favoured her that she should, contrary to all anticipation, give birth to a son, after living with Y-ts’un barely a year, that in addition to this, after the lapse of another half year, Y-ts’un’s wife should have contracted a sudden illness and departed this life, and that Y-ts’un should have at once raised her to the rank of first wife. Her destiny is adequately expressed by the lines:

  Through but one single, casual look
  Soon an exalted place she took.

The fact is that after Y-ts’un had been presented with the money by Shih-yin, he promptly started on the 16th day for the capital, and at the triennial great tripos, his wishes were gratified to the full. Having successfully carried off his degree of graduate of the third rank, his name was put by selection on the list for provincial appointments. By this time, he had been raised to the rank of Magistrate in this district; but, in spite of the excellence and sufficiency of his accomplishments and abilities, he could not escape being ambitious and overbearing. He failed besides, confident as he was in his own merits, in respect toward his superiors, with the result that these officials looked upon him scornfully with the corner of the eye.

A year had hardly elapsed, when he was readily denounced in a memorial to the Throne by the High Provincial authorities, who represented that he was of a haughty disposition, that he had taken upon himself to introduce innovations in the rites and ceremonies, that overtly, while he endeavoured to enjoy the reputation of probity and uprightness, he, secretly, combined the nature of the tiger and wolf; with the consequence that he had been the cause of much trouble in the district, and that he had made life intolerable for the people, &c. &c.

The Dragon countenance of the Emperor was considerably incensed. His Majesty lost no time in issuing commands, in reply to the Memorial, that he should be deprived of his official status.

On the arrival of the despatch from the Board, great was the joy felt by every officer, without exception, of the prefecture in which he had held office. Y-ts’un, though at heart intensely mortified and incensed, betrayed not the least outward symptom of annoyance, but still preserved, as of old, a smiling and cheerful countenance.

He handed over charge of all official business and removed the savings which he had accumulated during the several years he had been in office, his family and all his chattels to his original home; where, after having put everything in proper order, he himself travelled (carried the winds and sleeved the moon) far and wide, visiting every relic of note in the whole Empire.

As luck would have it, on a certain day while making a second journey through the Wei Yang district, he heard the news that the Salt Commissioner appointed this year was Lin Ju-hai. This Lin Ju-hai’s family name was Lin, his name Hai and his style Ju-hai. He had obtained the third place in the previous triennial examination, and had, by this time, already risen to the rank of Director of the Court of Censors. He was a native of K Su. He had been recently named by Imperial appointment a Censor attached to the Salt Inspectorate, and had arrived at his post only a short while back.

In fact, the ancestors of Lin Ju-hai had, from years back, successively inherited the title of Marquis, which rank, by its present descent to Ju-hai, had already been enjoyed by five generations. When first conferred, the hereditary right to the title had been limited to three generations; but of late years, by an act of magnanimous favour and generous beneficence, extraordinary bounty had been superadded; and on the arrival of the succession to the father of Ju-hai, the right had been extended to another degree. It had now descended to Ju-hai, who had, besides this title of nobility, begun his career as a successful graduate. But though his family had been through uninterrupted ages the recipient of imperial bounties, his kindred had all been anyhow men of culture.

The only misfortune had been that the several branches of the Lin family had not been prolific, so that the numbers of its members continued limited; and though there existed several households, they were all however to Ju-hai no closer relatives than first cousins. Neither were there any connections of the same lineage, or of the same parentage.

Ju-hai was at this date past forty; and had only had a son, who had died the previous year, in the third year of his age. Though he had several handmaids, he had not had the good fortune of having another son; but this was too a matter that could not be remedied.

By his wife, ne Chia, he had a daughter, to whom the infant name of Tai Y was given. She was, at this time, in her fifth year. Upon her the parents doated as much as if she were a brilliant pearl in the palm of their hand. Seeing that she was endowed with natural gifts of intelligence and good looks, they also felt solicitous to bestow upon her a certain knowledge of books, with no other purpose than that of satisfying, by this illusory way, their wishes of having a son to nurture and of dispelling the anguish felt by them, on account of the desolation and void in their family circle (round their knees).

But to proceed. Y-ts’un, while sojourning at an inn, was unexpectedly laid up with a violent chill. Finding on his recovery, that his funds were not sufficient to pay his expenses, he was thinking of looking out for some house where he could find a resting place when he suddenly came across two friends acquainted with the new Salt Commissioner. Knowing that this official was desirous to find a tutor to instruct his daughter, they lost no time in recommending Y-ts’un, who moved into the Yamn.

His female pupil was youthful in years and delicate in physique, so that her lessons were irregular. Besides herself, there were only two waiting girls, who remained in attendance during the hours of study, so that Y-ts’un was spared considerable trouble and had a suitable opportunity to attend to the improvement of his health.

In a twinkle, another year and more slipped by, and when least expected, the mother of his ward, ne Chia, was carried away after a short illness. His pupil (during her mother’s sickness) was dutiful in her attendance, and prepared the medicines for her use. (And after her death,) she went into the deepest mourning prescribed by the rites, and gave way to such excess of grief that, naturally delicate as she was, her old complaint, on this account, broke out anew.

Being unable for a considerable time to prosecute her studies, Y-ts’un lived at leisure and had no duties to attend to. Whenever therefore the wind was genial and the sun mild, he was wont to stroll at random, after he had done with his meals.

On this particular day, he, by some accident, extended his walk beyond the suburbs, and desirous to contemplate the nature of the rustic scenery, he, with listless step, came up to a spot encircled by hills and streaming pools, by luxuriant clumps of trees and thick groves of bamboos. Nestling in the dense foliage stood a temple. The doors and courts were in ruins. The walls, inner and outer, in disrepair. An inscription on a tablet testified that this was the temple of Spiritual Perception. On the sides of the door was also a pair of old and dilapidated scrolls with the following enigmatical verses.

  Behind ample there is, yet to retract the hand, the mind heeds not,
  Before the mortal vision lies no path, when comes to turn the will.

“These two sentences,” Y-ts’un pondered after perusal, “although simple in language, are profound in signification. I have previous to this visited many a spacious temple, located on hills of note, but never have I beheld an inscription referring to anything of the kind. The meaning contained in these words must, I feel certain, owe their origin to the experiences of some person or other; but there’s no saying. But why should I not go in and inquire for myself?”

Upon walking in, he at a glance caught sight of no one else, but of a very aged bonze, of unkempt appearance, cooking his rice. When Y-ts’un perceived that he paid no notice, he went up to him and asked him one or two questions, but as the old priest was dull of hearing and a dotard, and as he had lost his teeth, and his tongue was blunt, he made most irrelevant replies.

Y-ts’un lost all patience with him, and withdrew again from the compound with the intention of going as far as the village public house to have a drink or two, so as to enhance the enjoyment of the rustic scenery. With easy stride, he accordingly walked up to the place. Scarcely had he passed the threshold of the public house, when he perceived some one or other among the visitors who had been sitting sipping their wine on the divan, jump up and come up to greet him, with a face beaming with laughter.

“What a strange meeting! What a strange meeting!” he exclaimed aloud.

Y-ts’un speedily looked at him, (and remembered) that this person had, in past days, carried on business in a curio establishment in the capital, and that his surname was Leng and his style Tzu-hsing.

A mutual friendship had existed between them during their sojourn, in days of yore, in the capital; and as Y-ts’un had entertained the highest opinion of Leng Tzu-hsing, as being a man of action and of great abilities, while this Leng Tzu-hsing, on the other hand, borrowed of the reputation of refinement enjoyed by Y-ts’un, the two had consequently all along lived in perfect harmony and companionship.

“When did you get here?” Y-ts’un eagerly inquired also smilingly. “I wasn’t in the least aware of your arrival. This unexpected meeting is positively a strange piece of good fortune.”

“I went home,” Tzu-hsing replied, “about the close of last year, but now as I am again bound to the capital, I passed through here on my way to look up a friend of mine and talk some matters over. He had the kindness to press me to stay with him for a couple of days longer, and as I after all have no urgent business to attend to, I am tarrying a few days, but purpose starting about the middle of the moon. My friend is busy to-day, so I roamed listlessly as far as here, never dreaming of such a fortunate meeting.”

While speaking, he made Y-ts’un sit down at the same table, and ordered a fresh supply of wine and eatables; and as the two friends chatted of one thing and another, they slowly sipped their wine.

The conversation ran on what had occurred after the separation, and Y-ts’un inquired, “Is there any news of any kind in the capital?”

“There’s nothing new whatever,” answered Tzu-hsing. “There is one thing however: in the family of one of your worthy kinsmen, of the same name as yourself, a trifling, but yet remarkable, occurrence has taken place.”

“None of my kindred reside in the capital,” rejoined Y-ts’un with a smile. “To what can you be alluding?”

“How can it be that you people who have the same surname do not belong to one clan?” remarked Tzu-hsing, sarcastically.

“In whose family?” inquired Y-ts’un.

“The Chia family,” replied Tzu-hsing smiling, “whose quarters are in the Jung Kuo Mansion, does not after all reflect discredit upon the lintel of your door, my venerable friend.”

“What!” exclaimed Y-ts’un, “did this affair take place in that family? Were we to begin reckoning, we would find the members of my clan to be anything but limited in number. Since the time of our ancestor Chia Fu, who lived while the Eastern Han dynasty occupied the Throne, the branches of our family have been numerous and flourishing; they are now to be found in every single province, and who could, with any accuracy, ascertain their whereabouts? As regards the Jung-kuo branch in particular, their names are in fact inscribed on the same register as our own, but rich and exalted as they are, we have never presumed to claim them as our relatives, so that we have become more and more estranged.”

“Don’t make any such assertions,” Tzu-hsing remarked with a sigh, “the present two mansions of Jung and Ning have both alike also suffered reverses, and they cannot come up to their state of days of yore.”

“Up to this day, these two households of Ning and of Jung,” Y-ts’un suggested, “still maintain a very large retinue of people, and how can it be that they have met with reverses?”

“To explain this would be indeed a long story,” said Leng Tzu-hsing. "Last year,” continued Y-ts’un, “I arrived at Chin Ling, as I entertained a wish to visit the remains of interest of the six dynasties, and as I on that day entered the walled town of Shih T’ou, I passed by the entrance of that old residence. On the east side of the street, stood the Ning Kuo mansion; on the west the Jung Kuo mansion; and these two, adjoining each other as they do, cover in fact well-nigh half of the whole length of the street. Outside the front gate everything was, it is true, lonely and deserted; but at a glance into the interior over the enclosing wall, I perceived that the halls, pavilions, two-storied structures and porches presented still a majestic and lofty appearance. Even the flower garden, which extends over the whole area of the back grounds, with its trees and rockeries, also possessed to that day an air of luxuriance and freshness, which betrayed no signs of a ruined or decrepid establishment.”

“You have had the good fortune of starting in life as a graduate," explained Tzu-tsing as he smiled, “and yet are not aware of the saying uttered by some one of old: that a centipede even when dead does not lie stiff. (These families) may, according to your version, not be up to the prosperity of former years, but, compared with the family of an ordinary official, their condition anyhow presents a difference. Of late the number of the inmates has, day by day, been on the increase; their affairs have become daily more numerous; of masters and servants, high and low, who live in ease and respectability very many there are; but of those who exercise any forethought, or make any provision, there is not even one. In their daily wants, their extravagances, and their expenditure, they are also unable to adapt themselves to circumstances and practise economy; (so that though) the present external framework may not have suffered any considerable collapse, their purses have anyhow begun to feel an exhausting process! But this is a mere trifle. There is another more serious matter. Would any one ever believe that in such families of official status, in a clan of education and culture, the sons and grandsons of the present age would after all be each (succeeding) generation below the standard of the former?”

Y-ts’un, having listened to these remarks, observed: “How ever can it be possible that families of such education and refinement can observe any system of training and nurture which is not excellent? Concerning the other branches, I am not in a position to say anything; but restricting myself to the two mansions of Jung and Ning, they are those in which, above all others, the education of their children is methodical.”

“I was just now alluding to none other than these two establishments," Tzu-hsing observed with a sigh; “but let me tell you all. In days of yore, the duke of Ning Kuo and the duke of Jung Kuo were two uterine brothers. The Ning duke was the elder; he had four sons. After the death of the duke of Ning Kuo, his eldest son, Chia Tai-hua, came into the title. He also had two sons; but the eldest, whose name was Hu, died at the age of eight or nine; and the only survivor, the second son, Chia Ching, inherited the title. His whole mind is at this time set upon Taoist doctrines; his sole delight is to burn the pill and refine the dual powers; while every other thought finds no place in his mind. Happily, he had, at an early age, left a son, Chia Chen, behind in the lay world, and his father, engrossed as his whole heart was with the idea of attaining spiritual life, ceded the succession of the official title to him. His parent is, besides, not willing to return to the original family seat, but lives outside the walls of the capital, foolishly hobnobbing with all the Taoist priests. This Mr. Chen had also a son, Chia Jung, who is, at this period, just in his sixteenth year. Mr. Ching gives at present no attention to anything at all, so that Mr. Chen naturally devotes no time to his studies, but being bent upon nought else but incessant high pleasure, he has subversed the order of things in the Ning Kuo mansion, and yet no one can summon the courage to come and hold him in check. But I’ll now tell you about the Jung mansion for your edification. The strange occurrence, to which I alluded just now, came about in this manner. After the demise of the Jung duke, the eldest son, Chia Tai-shan, inherited the rank. He took to himself as wife, the daughter of Marquis Shih, a noble family of Chin Ling, by whom he had two sons; the elder being Chia She, the younger Chia Cheng. This Tai Shan is now dead long ago; but his wife is still alive, and the elder son, Chia She, succeeded to the degree. He is a man of amiable and genial disposition, but he likewise gives no thought to the direction of any domestic concern. The second son Chia Cheng displayed, from his early childhood, a great liking for books, and grew up to be correct and upright in character. His grandfather doated upon him, and would have had him start in life through the arena of public examinations, but, when least expected, Tai-shan, being on the point of death, bequeathed a petition, which was laid before the Emperor. His Majesty, out of regard for his former minister, issued immediate commands that the elder son should inherit the estate, and further inquired how many sons there were besides him, all of whom he at once expressed a wish to be introduced in his imperial presence. His Majesty, moreover, displayed exceptional favour, and conferred upon Mr. Cheng the brevet rank of second class Assistant Secretary (of a Board), and commanded him to enter the Board to acquire the necessary experience. He has already now been promoted to the office of second class Secretary. This Mr. Cheng’s wife, ne Wang, first gave birth to a son called Chia Chu, who became a Licentiate in his fourteenth year. At barely twenty, he married, but fell ill and died soon after the birth of a son. Her (Mrs. Cheng’s) second child was a daughter, who came into the world, by a strange coincidence, on the first day of the year. She had an unexpected (pleasure) in the birth, the succeeding year, of another son, who, still more remarkable to say, had, at the time of his birth, a piece of variegated and crystal-like brilliant jade in his mouth, on which were yet visible the outlines of several characters. Now, tell me, was not this a novel and strange occurrence? eh?”

“Strange indeed!” exclaimed Y-ts’un with a smile; “but I presume the coming experiences of this being will not be mean.”

Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. “One and all,” he remarked, “entertain the same idea. Hence it is that his mother doats upon him like upon a precious jewel. On the day of his first birthday, Mr. Cheng readily entertained a wish to put the bent of his inclinations to the test, and placed before the child all kinds of things, without number, for him to grasp from. Contrary to every expectation, he scorned every other object, and, stretching forth his hand, he simply took hold of rouge, powder and a few hair-pins, with which he began to play. Mr. Cheng experienced at once displeasure, as he maintained that this youth would, by and bye, grow up into a sybarite, devoted to wine and women, and for this reason it is, that he soon began to feel not much attachment for him. But his grandmother is the one who, in spite of everything, prizes him like the breath of her own life. The very mention of what happened is even strange! He is now grown up to be seven or eight years old, and, although exceptionally wilful, in intelligence and precocity, however, not one in a hundred could come up to him! And as for the utterances of this child, they are no less remarkable. The bones and flesh of woman, he argues, are made of water, while those of man of mud. ’Women to my eyes are pure and pleasing,’ he says, ’while at the sight of man, I readily feel how corrupt, foul and repelling they are!’ Now tell me, are not these words ridiculous? There can be no doubt whatever that he will by and bye turn out to be a licentious rou.”

Y-ts’un, whose countenance suddenly assumed a stern air, promptly interrupted the conversation. “It doesn’t quite follow,” he suggested. "You people don’t, I regret to say, understand the destiny of this child. The fact is that even the old Hanlin scholar Mr. Cheng was erroneously looked upon as a loose rake and dissolute debauchee! But unless a person, through much study of books and knowledge of letters, so increases (in lore) as to attain the talent of discerning the nature of things, and the vigour of mind to fathom the Taoist reason as well as to comprehend the first principle, he is not in a position to form any judgment.”

Tzu-hsing upon perceiving the weighty import of what he propounded, "Please explain,” he asked hastily, “the drift (of your argument).” To which Y-ts’un responded: “Of the human beings created by the operation of heaven and earth, if we exclude those who are gifted with extreme benevolence and extreme viciousness, the rest, for the most part, present no striking diversity. If they be extremely benevolent, they fall in, at the time of their birth, with an era of propitious fortune; while those extremely vicious correspond, at the time of their existence, with an era of calamity. When those who coexist with propitious fortune come into life, the world is in order; when those who coexist with unpropitious fortune come into life, the world is in danger. Yao, Shun, Y, Ch’eng T’ang, Wen Wang, Wu Wang, Chou Kung, Chao Kung, Confucius, Mencius, T’ung Hu, Han Hsin, Chou Tzu, Ch’eng Tzu, Chu Tzu and Chang Tzu were ordained to see light in an auspicious era. Whereas Ch’i Yu, Kung Kung, Chieh Wang, Chou Wang, Shih Huang, Wang Mang, Tsao Ts’ao, Wen Wen, An Hu-shan, Ch’in Kuei and others were one and all destined to come into the world during a calamitous age. Those endowed with extreme benevolence set the world in order; those possessed of extreme maliciousness turn the world into disorder. Purity, intelligence, spirituality and subtlety constitute the vital spirit of right which pervades heaven and earth, and the persons gifted with benevolence are its natural fruit. Malignity and perversity constitute the spirit of evil, which permeates heaven and earth, and malicious persons are affected by its influence. The days of perpetual happiness and eminent good fortune, and the era of perfect peace and tranquility, which now prevail, are the offspring of the pure, intelligent, divine and subtle spirit which ascends above, to the very Emperor, and below reaches the rustic and uncultured classes. Every one is without exception under its influence. The superfluity of the subtle spirit expands far and wide, and finding nowhere to betake itself to, becomes, in due course, transformed into dew, or gentle breeze; and, by a process of diffusion, it pervades the whole world.

“The spirit of malignity and perversity, unable to expand under the brilliant sky and transmuting sun, eventually coagulates, pervades and stops up the deep gutters and extensive caverns; and when of a sudden the wind agitates it or it be impelled by the clouds, and any slight disposition, on its part, supervenes to set itself in motion, or to break its bounds, and so little as even the minutest fraction does unexpectedly find an outlet, and happens to come across any spirit of perception and subtlety which may be at the time passing by, the spirit of right does not yield to the spirit of evil, and the spirit of evil is again envious of the spirit of right, so that the two do not harmonize. Just like wind, water, thunder and lightning, which, when they meet in the bowels of the earth, must necessarily, as they are both to dissolve and are likewise unable to yield, clash and explode to the end that they may at length exhaust themselves. Hence it is that these spirits have also forcibly to diffuse themselves into the human race to find an outlet, so that they may then completely disperse, with the result that men and women are suddenly imbued with these spirits and spring into existence. At best, (these human beings) cannot be generated into philanthropists or perfect men; at worst, they cannot also embody extreme perversity or extreme wickedness. Yet placed among one million beings, the spirit of intelligence, refinement, perception and subtlety will be above these one million beings; while, on the other hand, the perverse, depraved and inhuman embodiment will likewise be below the million of men. Born in a noble and wealthy family, these men will be a salacious, lustful lot; born of literary, virtuous or poor parentage, they will turn out retired scholars or men of mark; though they may by some accident be born in a destitute and poverty-stricken home, they cannot possibly, in fact, ever sink so low as to become runners or menials, or contentedly brook to be of the common herd or to be driven and curbed like a horse in harness. They will become, for a certainty, either actors of note or courtesans of notoriety; as instanced in former years by Hs Yu, T’ao Ch’ien, Yuan Chi, Chi Kang, Liu Ling, the two families of Wang and Hsieh, Ku Hu-t’ou, Ch’en Hou-chu, T’ang Ming-huang, Sung Hui-tsung, Liu T’ing-chih, Wen Fei-ching, Mei Nan-kung, Shih Man-ch’ing, Lui C’hih-ch’ing and Chin Shao-yu, and exemplified now-a-days by Ni Yn-lin, T’ang Po-hu, Chu Chih-shan, and also by Li Kuei-men, Huang P’an-cho, Ching Hsin-mo, Cho Wen-chn; and the women Hung Fu, Hsieh T’ao, Ch’ Ying, Ch’ao Yn and others; all of whom were and are of the same stamp, though placed in different scenes of action.”

“From what you say,” observed Tzu-hsing, “success makes (a man) a duke or a marquis; ruin, a thief!”

“Quite so; that’s just my idea!” replied Y-ts’un; “I’ve not as yet let you know that after my degradation from office, I spent the last couple of years in travelling for pleasure all over each province, and that I also myself came across two extraordinary youths. This is why, when a short while back you alluded to this Pao-y, I at once conjectured, with a good deal of certainty, that he must be a human being of the same stamp. There’s no need for me to speak of any farther than the walled city of Chin Ling. This Mr. Chen was, by imperial appointment, named Principal of the Government Public College of the Chin Ling province. Do you perhaps know him?”

“Who doesn’t know him?” remarked Tzu-hsing. “This Chen family is an old connection of the Chia family. These two families were on terms of great intimacy, and I myself likewise enjoyed the pleasure of their friendship for many a day.”

“Last year, when at Chin Ling,” Y-ts’un continued with a smile, “some one recommended me as resident tutor to the school in the Chen mansion; and when I moved into it I saw for myself the state of things. Who would ever think that that household was grand and luxurious to such a degree! But they are an affluent family, and withal full of propriety, so that a school like this was of course not one easy to obtain. The pupil, however, was, it is true, a young tyro, but far more troublesome to teach than a candidate for the examination of graduate of the second degree. Were I to enter into details, you would indeed have a laugh. ’I must needs,’ he explained, ’have the company of two girls in my studies to enable me to read at all, and to keep likewise my brain clear. Otherwise, if left to myself, my head gets all in a muddle.’ Time after time, he further expounded to his young attendants, how extremely honourable and extremely pure were the two words representing woman, that they are more valuable and precious than the auspicious animal, the felicitous bird, rare flowers and uncommon plants. ’You may not’ (he was wont to say), ’on any account heedlessly utter them, you set of foul mouths and filthy tongues! these two words are of the utmost import! Whenever you have occasion to allude to them, you must, before you can do so with impunity, take pure water and scented tea and rinse your mouths. In the event of any slip of the tongue, I shall at once have your teeth extracted, and your eyes gouged out.’ His obstinacy and waywardness are, in every respect, out of the common. After he was allowed to leave school, and to return home, he became, at the sight of the young ladies, so tractable, gentle, sharp, and polite, transformed, in fact, like one of them. And though, for this reason, his father has punished him on more than one occasion, by giving him a sound thrashing, such as brought him to the verge of death, he cannot however change. Whenever he was being beaten, and could no more endure the pain, he was wont to promptly break forth in promiscuous loud shouts, ’Girls! girls!’ The young ladies, who heard him from the inner chambers, subsequently made fun of him. ’Why,’ they said, ’when you are being thrashed, and you are in pain, your only thought is to bawl out girls! Is it perchance that you expect us young ladies to go and intercede for you? How is that you have no sense of shame?’ To their taunts he gave a most plausible explanation. ’Once,’ he replied, ’when in the agony of pain, I gave vent to shouting girls, in the hope, perchance, I did not then know, of its being able to alleviate the soreness. After I had, with this purpose, given one cry, I really felt the pain considerably better; and now that I have obtained this secret spell, I have recourse, at once, when I am in the height of anguish, to shouts of girls, one shout after another. Now what do you say to this? Isn’t this absurd, eh?”

“The grandmother is so infatuated by her extreme tenderness for this youth, that, time after time, she has, on her grandson’s account, found fault with the tutor, and called her son to task, with the result that I resigned my post and took my leave. A youth, with a disposition such as his, cannot assuredly either perpetuate intact the estate of his father and grandfather, or follow the injunctions of teacher or advice of friends. The pity is, however, that there are, in that family, several excellent female cousins, the like of all of whom it would be difficult to discover.”

“Quite so!” remarked Tzu-hsing; “there are now three young ladies in the Chia family who are simply perfection itself. The eldest is a daughter of Mr. Cheng, Yuan Ch’un by name, who, on account of her excellence, filial piety, talents, and virtue, has been selected as a governess in the palace. The second is the daughter of Mr. She’s handmaid, and is called Ying Ch’un; the third is T’an Ch’un, the child of Mr. Cheng’s handmaid; while the fourth is the uterine sister of Mr. Chen of the Ning Mansion. Her name is Hsi Ch’un. As dowager lady Shih is so fondly attached to her granddaughters, they come, for the most part, over to their grandmother’s place to prosecute their studies together, and each one of these girls is, I hear, without a fault.”

“More admirable,” observed Y-ts’un, “is the rgime (adhered to) in the Chen family, where the names of the female children have all been selected from the list of male names, and are unlike all those out-of-the-way names, such as Spring Blossom, Scented Gem, and the like flowery terms in vogue in other families. But how is it that the Chia family have likewise fallen into this common practice?”

“Not so!” ventured Tzu-h’sing. “It is simply because the eldest daughter was born on the first of the first moon, that the name of Yuan Ch’un was given to her; while with the rest this character Ch’un (spring) was then followed. The names of the senior generation are, in like manner, adopted from those of their brothers; and there is at present an instance in support of this. The wife of your present worthy master, Mr. Lin, is the uterine sister of Mr. Chia. She and Mr. Chia Cheng, and she went, while at home, under the name of Chia Min. Should you question the truth of what I say, you are at liberty, on your return, to make minute inquiries and you’ll be convinced.”

Y-ts’un clapped his hands and said smiling, “It’s so, I know! for this female pupil of mine, whose name is Tai-y, invariably pronounces the character min as mi, whenever she comes across it in the course of her reading; while, in writing, when she comes to the character ’min,’ she likewise reduces the strokes by one, sometimes by two. Often have I speculated in my mind (as to the cause), but the remarks I’ve heard you mention, convince me, without doubt, that it is no other reason (than that of reverence to her mother’s name). Strange enough, this pupil of mine is unique in her speech and deportment, and in no way like any ordinary young lady. But considering that her mother was no commonplace woman herself, it is natural that she should have given birth to such a child. Besides, knowing, as I do now, that she is the granddaughter of the Jung family, it is no matter of surprise to me that she is what she is. Poor girl, her mother, after all, died in the course of the last month.”

Tzu-hsing heaved a sigh. “Of three elderly sisters,” he explained, “this one was the youngest, and she too is gone! Of the sisters of the senior generation not one even survives! But now we’ll see what the husbands of this younger generation will be like by and bye!”

“Yes,” replied Y-ts’un. “But some while back you mentioned that Mr. Cheng has had a son, born with a piece of jade in his mouth, and that he has besides a tender-aged grandson left by his eldest son; but is it likely that this Mr. She has not, himself, as yet, had any male issue?”

“After Mr. Cheng had this son with the jade,” Tzu-hsing added, “his handmaid gave birth to another son, who whether he be good or bad, I don’t at all know. At all events, he has by his side two sons and a grandson, but what these will grow up to be by and bye, I cannot tell. As regards Mr. Chia She, he too has had two sons; the second of whom, Chia Lien, is by this time about twenty. He took to wife a relative of his, a niece of Mr. Cheng’s wife, a Miss Wang, and has now been married for the last two years. This Mr. Lien has lately obtained by purchase the rank of sub-prefect. He too takes little pleasure in books, but as far as worldly affairs go, he is so versatile and glib of tongue, that he has recently taken up his quarters with his uncle Mr. Cheng, to whom he gives a helping hand in the management of domestic matters. Who would have thought it, however, ever since his marriage with his worthy wife, not a single person, whether high or low, has there been who has not looked up to her with regard: with the result that Mr. Lien himself has, in fact, had to take a back seat (_lit. withdrew 35 li). In looks, she is also so extremely beautiful, in speech so extremely quick and fluent, in ingenuity so deep and astute, that even a man could, in no way, come up to her mark.”

After hearing these remarks Y-ts’un smiled. “You now perceive,” he said, “that my argument is no fallacy, and that the several persons about whom you and I have just been talking are, we may presume, human beings, who, one and all, have been generated by the spirit of right, and the spirit of evil, and come to life by the same royal road; but of course there’s no saying.”

“Enough,” cried Tzu-hsing, “of right and enough of evil; we’ve been doing nothing but settling other people’s accounts; come now, have another glass, and you’ll be the better for it!”

“While bent upon talking,” Y-ts’un explained, “I’ve had more glasses than is good for me.”

“Speaking of irrelevant matters about other people,” Tzu-hsing rejoined complacently, “is quite the thing to help us swallow our wine; so come now; what harm will happen, if we do have a few glasses more.”

Y-ts’un thereupon looked out of the window.

“The day is also far advanced,” he remarked, “and if we don’t take care, the gates will be closing; let us leisurely enter the city, and as we go along, there will be nothing to prevent us from continuing our chat.”

Forthwith the two friends rose from their seats, settled and paid their wine bill, and were just going, when they unexpectedly heard some one from behind say with a loud voice:

“Accept my congratulations, Brother Y-ts’un; I’ve now come, with the express purpose of giving you the welcome news!”

Y-ts’un lost no time in turning his head round to look at the speaker. But reader, if you wish to learn who the man was, listen to the details given in the following chapter.

Chapter III.

  Lin Ju-hai appeals to his brother-in-law, Chia Cheng, recommending
      Y-ts’un, his daughter’s tutor, to his consideration.
  Dowager lady Chia sends to fetch her granddaughter, out of
      commiseration for her being a motherless child.

But to proceed with our narrative.

Y-ts’un, on speedily turning round, perceived that the speaker was no other than a certain Chang Ju-kuei, an old colleague of his, who had been denounced and deprived of office, on account of some case or other; a native of that district, who had, since his degradation, resided in his family home.

Having lately come to hear the news that a memorial, presented in the capital, that the former officers (who had been cashiered) should be reinstated, had received the imperial consent, he had promptly done all he could, in every nook and corner, to obtain influence, and to find the means (of righting his position,) when he, unexpectedly, came across Y-ts’un, to whom he therefore lost no time in offering his congratulations. The two friends exchanged the conventional salutations, and Chang Ju-kuei forthwith communicated the tidings to Y-ts’un.

Y-ts’un was delighted, but after he had made a few remarks, in a great hurry, each took his leave and sped on his own way homewards.

Leng Tzu-hsing, upon hearing this conversation, hastened at once to propose a plan, advising Y-ts’un to request Lin Ju-hai, in his turn, to appeal in the capital to Mr. Chia Cheng for support.

Y-ts’un accepted the suggestion, and parted from his companion.

On his return to his quarters, he made all haste to lay his hand on the Metropolitan Gazette, and having ascertained that the news was authentic, he had on the next day a personal consultation with Ju-hai.

“Providence and good fortune are both alike propitious!” exclaimed Ju-hai. “After the death of my wife, my mother-in-law, whose residence is in the capital, was so very solicitous on my daughter’s account, for having no one to depend upon, that she despatched, at an early period, boats with men and women servants to come and fetch her. But my child was at the time not quite over her illness, and that is why she has not yet started. I was, this very moment, cogitating to send my daughter to the capital. And in view of the obligation, under which I am to you for the instruction you have heretofore conferred upon her, remaining as yet unrequited, there is no reason why, when such an opportunity as this presents itself, I should not do my utmost to find means to make proper acknowledgment. I have already, in anticipation, given the matter my attention, and written a letter of recommendation to my brother-in-law, urging him to put everything right for you, in order that I may, to a certain extent, be able to give effect to my modest wishes. As for any outlay that may prove necessary, I have given proper explanation, in the letter to my brother-in-law, so that you, my brother, need not trouble yourself by giving way to much anxiety.”

As Y-ts’un bowed and expressed his appreciation in most profuse language,–

“Pray,” he asked, “where does your honoured brother-in-law reside? and what is his official capacity? But I fear I’m too coarse in my manner, and could not presume to obtrude myself in his presence.”

Ju-hai smiled. “And yet,” he remarked, “this brother-in-law of mine is after all of one and the same family as your worthy self, for he is the grandson of the Duke Jung. My elder brother-in-law has now inherited the status of Captain-General of the first grade. His name is She, his style Ngen-hou. My second brother-in-law’s name is Cheng, his style is Tzu-chou. His present post is that of a Second class Secretary in the Board of Works. He is modest and kindhearted, and has much in him of the habits of his grandfather; not one of that purse-proud and haughty kind of men. That is why I have written to him and made the request on your behalf. Were he different to what he really is, not only would he cast a slur upon your honest purpose, honourable brother, but I myself likewise would not have been as prompt in taking action.”

When Y-ts’un heard these remarks, he at length credited what had been told him by Tzu-hsing the day before, and he lost no time in again expressing his sense of gratitude to Lin Ju-hai.

Ju-hai resumed the conversation.

“I have fixed,” (he explained,) “upon the second of next month, for my young daughter’s departure for the capital, and, if you, brother mine, were to travel along with her, would it not be an advantage to herself, as well as to yourself?”

Y-ts’un signified his acquiescence as he listened to his proposal; feeling in his inner self extremely elated.

Ju-hai availed himself of the earliest opportunity to get ready the presents (for the capital) and all the requirements for the journey, which (when completed,) Y-ts’un took over one by one. His pupil could not, at first, brook the idea, of a separation from her father, but the pressing wishes of her grandmother left her no course (but to comply).

“Your father,” Ju-hai furthermore argued with her, “is already fifty; and I entertain no wish to marry again; and then you are always ailing; besides, with your extreme youth, you have, above, no mother of your own to take care of you, and below, no sisters to attend to you. If you now go and have your maternal grandmother, as well as your mother’s brothers and your cousins to depend upon, you will be doing the best thing to reduce the anxiety which I feel in my heart on your behalf. Why then should you not go?”

Tai-y, after listening to what her father had to say, parted from him in a flood of tears and followed her nurse and several old matrons from the Jung mansion on board her boat, and set out on her journey.

Y-ts’un had a boat to himself, and with two youths to wait on him, he prosecuted his voyage in the wake of Tai-y.

By a certain day, they reached Ching Tu; and Y-ts’un, after first adjusting his hat and clothes, came, attended by a youth, to the door of the Jung mansion, and sent in a card, which showed his lineage.

Chia Cheng had, by this time, perused his brother-in-law’s letter, and he speedily asked him to walk in. When they met, he found in Y-ts’un an imposing manner and polite address.

This Chia Cheng had, in fact, a great penchant above all things for men of education, men courteous to the talented, respectful to the learned, ready to lend a helping hand to the needy and to succour the distressed, and was, to a great extent, like his grandfather. As it was besides a wish intimated by his brother-in-law, he therefore treated Y-ts’un with a consideration still more unusual, and readily strained all his resources to assist him.

On the very day on which the memorial was submitted to the Throne, he obtained by his efforts, a reinstatement to office, and before the expiry of two months, Y-t’sun was forthwith selected to fill the appointment of prefect of Ying T’ien in Chin Ling. Taking leave of Chia Cheng, he chose a propitious day, and proceeded to his post, where we will leave him without further notice for the present.

But to return to Tai-y. On the day on which she left the boat, and the moment she put her foot on shore, there were forthwith at her disposal chairs for her own use, and carts for the luggage, sent over from the Jung mansion.

Lin Tai-y had often heard her mother recount how different was her grandmother’s house from that of other people’s; and having seen for herself how above the common run were already the attendants of the three grades, (sent to wait upon her,) in attire, in their fare, in all their articles of use, “how much more,” (she thought to herself) “now that I am going to her home, must I be careful at every step, and circumspect at every moment! Nor must I utter one word too many, nor make one step more than is proper, for fear lest I should be ridiculed by any of them!”

From the moment she got into the chair, and they had entered within the city walls, she found, as she looked around, through the gauze window, at the bustle in the streets and public places and at the immense concourse of people, everything naturally so unlike what she had seen elsewhere.

After they had also been a considerable time on the way, she suddenly caught sight, at the northern end of the street, of two huge squatting lions of marble and of three lofty gates with (knockers representing) the heads of animals. In front of these gates, sat, in a row, about ten men in coloured hats and fine attire. The main gate was not open. It was only through the side gates, on the east and west, that people went in and came out. Above the centre gate was a tablet. On this tablet were inscribed in five large characters–"The Ning Kuo mansion erected by imperial command.”

“This must be grandmother’s eldest son’s residence,” reflected Tai-y.

Towards the east, again, at no great distance, were three more high gateways, likewise of the same kind as those she had just seen. This was the Jung Kuo mansion.

They did not however go in by the main gate; but simply made their entrance through the east side door.

With the sedans on their shoulders, (the bearers) proceeded about the distance of the throw of an arrow, when upon turning a corner, they hastily put down the chairs. The matrons, who came behind, one and all also dismounted. (The bearers) were changed for four youths of seventeen or eighteen, with hats and clothes without a blemish, and while they carried the chair, the whole bevy of matrons followed on foot.

When they reached a creeper-laden gate, the sedan was put down, and all the youths stepped back and retired. The matrons came forward, raised the screen, and supported Tai-y to descend from the chair.

Lin Tai-y entered the door with the creepers, resting on the hand of a matron.

On both sides was a verandah, like two outstretched arms. An Entrance Hall stood in the centre, in the middle of which was a door-screen of Ta Li marble, set in an ebony frame. On the other side of this screen were three very small halls. At the back of these came at once an extensive courtyard, belonging to the main building.

In the front part were five parlours, the frieze of the ceiling of which was all carved, and the pillars ornamented. On either side, were covered avenues, resembling passages through a rock. In the side-rooms were suspended cages, full of parrots of every colour, thrushes, and birds of every description.

On the terrace-steps, sat several waiting maids, dressed in red and green, and the whole company of them advanced, with beaming faces, to greet them, when they saw the party approach. “Her venerable ladyship," they said, “was at this very moment thinking of you, miss, and, by a strange coincidence, here you are.”

Three or four of them forthwith vied with each other in raising the door curtain, while at the same time was heard some one announce: “Miss Lin has arrived.”

No sooner had she entered the room, than she espied two servants supporting a venerable lady, with silver-white hair, coming forward to greet her. Convinced that this lady must be her grandmother, she was about to prostrate herself and pay her obeisance, when she was quickly clasped in the arms of her grandmother, who held her close against her bosom; and as she called her “my liver! my flesh!” (my love! my darling!) she began to sob aloud.

The bystanders too, at once, without one exception, melted into tears; and Tai-y herself found some difficulty in restraining her sobs. Little by little the whole party succeeded in consoling her, and Tai-y at length paid her obeisance to her grandmother. Her ladyship thereupon pointed them out one by one to Tai-y. “This,” she said, “is the wife of your uncle, your mother’s elder brother; this is the wife of your uncle, her second brother; and this is your eldest sister-in-law Chu, the wife of your senior cousin Chu.”

Tai-y bowed to each one of them (with folded arms).

“Ask the young ladies in,” dowager lady Chia went on to say; “tell them a guest from afar has just arrived, one who comes for the first time; and that they may not go to their lessons.”

The servants with one voice signified their obedience, and two of them speedily went to carry out her orders.

Not long after three nurses and five or six waiting-maids were seen ushering in three young ladies. The first was somewhat plump in figure and of medium height; her cheeks had a congealed appearance, like a fresh lichee; her nose was glossy like goose fat. She was gracious, demure, and lovable to look at.

The second had sloping shoulders, and a slim waist. Tall and slender was she in stature, with a face like the egg of a goose. Her eyes so beautiful, with their well-curved eyebrows, possessed in their gaze a bewitching flash. At the very sight of her refined and elegant manners all idea of vulgarity was forgotten.

The third was below the medium size, and her mien was, as yet, childlike.

In their head ornaments, jewelry, and dress, the get-up of the three young ladies was identical.

Tai-y speedily rose to greet them and to exchange salutations. After they had made each other’s acquaintance, they all took a seat, whereupon the servants brought the tea. Their conversation was confined to Tai-y’s mother,–how she had fallen ill, what doctors had attended her, what medicines had been given her, and how she had been buried and mourned; and dowager lady Chia was naturally again in great anguish.

“Of all my daughters,” she remarked, “your mother was the one I loved best, and now in a twinkle, she has passed away, before me too, and I’ve not been able to so much as see her face. How can this not make my heart sore-stricken?”

And as she gave vent to these feelings, she took Tai-y’s hand in hers, and again gave way to sobs; and it was only after the members of the family had quickly made use of much exhortation and coaxing, that they succeeded, little by little, in stopping her tears.

They all perceived that Tai-y, despite her youthful years and appearance, was lady-like in her deportment and address, and that though with her delicate figure and countenance, (she seemed as if) unable to bear the very weight of her clothes, she possessed, however, a certain captivating air. And as they readily noticed the symptoms of a weak constitution, they went on in consequence to make inquiries as to what medicines she ordinarily took, and how it was that her complaint had not been cured.

“I have,” explained Tai-y, “been in this state ever since I was born; though I’ve taken medicines from the very time I was able to eat rice, up to the present, and have been treated by ever so many doctors of note, I’ve not derived any benefit. In the year when I was yet only three, I remember a mangy-headed bonze coming to our house, and saying that he would take me along, and make a nun of me; but my father and mother would, on no account, give their consent. ’As you cannot bear to part from her and to give her up,’ he then remarked, ’her ailment will, I fear, never, throughout her life, be cured. If you wish to see her all right, it is only to be done by not letting her, from this day forward, on any account, listen to the sound of weeping, or see, with the exception of her parents, any relatives outside the family circle. Then alone will she be able to go through this existence in peace and in quiet.’ No one heeded the nonsensical talk of this raving priest; but here am I, up to this very day, dosing myself with ginseng pills as a tonic.”

“What a lucky coincidence!” interposed dowager lady Chia; “some of these pills are being compounded here, and I’ll simply tell them to have an extra supply made; that’s all.”

Hardly had she finished these words, when a sound of laughter was heard from the back courtyard. “Here I am too late!” the voice said, “and not in time to receive the distant visitor!”

“Every one of all these people,” reflected Tai-y, “holds her peace and suppresses the very breath of her mouth; and who, I wonder, is this coming in this reckless and rude manner?”

While, as yet, preoccupied with these thoughts, she caught sight of a crowd of married women and waiting-maids enter from the back room, pressing round a regular beauty.

The attire of this person bore no similarity to that of the young ladies. In all her splendour and lustre, she looked like a fairy or a goddess. In her coiffure, she had a band of gold filigree work, representing the eight precious things, inlaid with pearls; and wore pins, at the head of each of which were five phoenixes in a rampant position, with pendants of pearls. On her neck, she had a reddish gold necklet, like coiled dragons, with a fringe of tassels. On her person, she wore a tight-sleeved jacket, of dark red flowered satin, covered with hundreds of butterflies, embroidered in gold, interspersed with flowers. Over all, she had a variegated stiff-silk pelisse, lined with slate-blue ermine; while her nether garments consisted of a jupe of kingfisher-colour foreign crepe, brocaded with flowers.

She had a pair of eyes, triangular in shape like those of the red phoenix, two eyebrows, curved upwards at each temple, like willow leaves. Her stature was elegant; her figure graceful; her powdered face like dawning spring, majestic, yet not haughty. Her carnation lips, long before they parted, betrayed a smile.

Tai-y eagerly rose and greeted her.

Old lady Chia then smiled. “You don’t know her,” she observed. “This is a cunning vixen, who has made quite a name in this establishment! In Nanking, she went by the appellation of vixen, and if you simply call her Feng Vixen, it will do.”

Tai-y was just at a loss how to address her, when all her cousins informed Tai-y, that this was her sister-in-law Lien.

Tai-y had not, it is true, made her acquaintance before, but she had heard her mother mention that her eldest maternal uncle Chia She’s son, Chia Lien, had married the niece of Madame Wang, her second brother’s wife, a girl who had, from her infancy, purposely been nurtured to supply the place of a son, and to whom the school name of Wang Hsi-feng had been given.

Tai-y lost no time in returning her smile and saluting her with all propriety, addressing her as my sister-in-law. This Hsi-feng laid hold of Tai-y’s hand, and minutely scrutinised her, for a while, from head to foot; after which she led her back next to dowager lady Chia, where they both took a seat.

“If really there be a being of such beauty in the world,” she consequently observed with a smile, “I may well consider as having set eyes upon it to-day! Besides, in the air of her whole person, she doesn’t in fact look like your granddaughter-in-law, our worthy ancestor, but in every way like your ladyship’s own kindred- granddaughter! It’s no wonder then that your venerable ladyship should have, day after day, had her unforgotten, even for a second, in your lips and heart. It’s a pity, however, that this cousin of mine should have such a hard lot! How did it happen that our aunt died at such an early period?”

As she uttered these words, she hastily took her handkerchief and wiped the tears from her eyes.

“I’ve only just recovered from a fit of crying,” dowager lady Chia observed, as she smiled, “and have you again come to start me? Your cousin has only now arrived from a distant journey, and she is so delicate to boot! Besides, we have a few minutes back succeeded in coaxing her to restrain her sobs, so drop at once making any allusion to your former remarks!”

This Hsi-feng, upon hearing these words, lost no time in converting her sorrow into joy.

“Quite right,” she remarked. “But at the sight of my cousin, my whole heart was absorbed in her, and I felt happy, and yet wounded at heart: but having disregarded my venerable ancestor’s presence, I deserve to be beaten, I do indeed!”

And hastily taking once more Tai-y’s hand in her own: “How old are you, cousin?” she inquired; “Have you been to school? What medicines are you taking? while you live here, you mustn’t feel homesick; and if there’s anything you would like to eat, or to play with, mind you come and tell me! or should the waiting maids or the matrons fail in their duties, don’t forget also to report them to me.”

Addressing at the same time the matrons, she went on to ask, “Have Miss Lin’s luggage and effects been brought in? How many servants has she brought along with her? Go, as soon as you can, and sweep two lower rooms and ask them to go and rest.”

As she spake, tea and refreshments had already been served, and Hsi-feng herself handed round the cups and offered the fruits.

Upon hearing the question further put by her maternal aunt Secunda, "Whether the issue of the monthly allowances of money had been finished or not yet?” Hsi-feng replied: “The issue of the money has also been completed; but a few moments back, when I went along with several servants to the back upper-loft, in search of the satins, we looked for ever so long, but we saw nothing of the kind of satins alluded to by you, madame, yesterday; so may it not be that your memory misgives you?”

“Whether there be any or not, of that special kind, is of no consequence,” observed madame Wang. “You should take out,” she therefore went on to add, “any two pieces which first come under your hand, for this cousin of yours to make herself dresses with; and in the evening, if I don’t forget, I’ll send some one to fetch them.”

“I’ve in fact already made every provision,” rejoined Hsi-feng; “knowing very well that my cousin would be arriving within these two days, I have had everything got ready for her. And when you, madame, go back, if you will pass an eye over everything, I shall be able to send them round.”

Madame Wang gave a smile, nodded her head assentingly, but uttered not a word by way of reply.

The tea and fruit had by this time been cleared, and dowager lady Chia directed two old nurses to take Tai-y to go and see her two maternal uncles; whereupon Chia She’s wife, madame Hsing, hastily stood up and with a smiling face suggested, “I’ll take my niece over; for it will after all be considerably better if I go!”

“Quite so!” answered dowager lady Chia, smiling; “you can go home too, and there will be no need for you to come over again!”

Madame Hsing expressed her assent, and forthwith led Tai-y to take leave of madame Wang. The whole party escorted them as far as the door of the Entrance Hall, hung with creepers, where several youths had drawn a carriage, painted light blue, with a kingfisher-coloured hood.

Madame Hsing led Tai-y by the hand and they got up into their seats. The whole company of matrons put the curtain down, and then bade the youths raise the carriage; who dragged it along, until they came to an open space, where they at length put the mules into harness.

Going out again by the eastern side gate, they proceeded in an easterly direction, passed the main entrance of the Jung mansion, and entered a lofty doorway painted black. On the arrival in front of the ceremonial gate, they at once dismounted from the curricle, and madame Hsing, hand-in-hand with Tai-y, walked into the court.

“These grounds,” surmised Tai-y to herself, “must have been originally converted from a piece partitioned from the garden of the Jung mansion.”

Having entered three rows of ceremonial gates they actually caught sight of the main structure, with its vestibules and porches, all of which, though on a small scale, were full of artistic and unique beauty. They were nothing like the lofty, imposing, massive and luxurious style of architecture on the other side, yet the avenues and rockeries, in the various places in the court, were all in perfect taste.

When they reached the interior of the principal pavilion, a large concourse of handmaids and waiting maids, got up in gala dress, were already there to greet them. Madame Hsing pressed Tai-y into a seat, while she bade some one go into the outer library and request Mr. Chia She to come over.

In a few minutes the servant returned. “Master,” she explained, “says: ’that he has not felt quite well for several days, that as the meeting with Miss Lin will affect both her as well as himself, he does not for the present feel equal to seeing each other, that he advises Miss Lin not to feel despondent or homesick; that she ought to feel quite at home with her venerable ladyship, (her grandmother,) as well as her maternal aunts; that her cousins are, it is true, blunt, but that if all the young ladies associated together in one place, they may also perchance dispel some dulness; that if ever (Miss Lin) has any grievance, she should at once speak out, and on no account feel a stranger; and everything will then be right.”

Tai-y lost no time in respectfully standing up, resuming her seat after she had listened to every sentence of the message to her. After a while, she said goodbye, and though madame Hsing used every argument to induce her to stay for the repast and then leave, Tai-y smiled and said, “I shouldn’t under ordinary circumstances refuse the invitation to dinner, which you, aunt, in your love kindly extend to me, but I have still to cross over and pay my respects to my maternal uncle Secundus; if I went too late, it would, I fear, be a lack of respect on my part; but I shall accept on another occasion. I hope therefore that you will, dear aunt, kindly excuse me.”

“If such be the case,” madame Hsing replied, “it’s all right.” And presently directing two nurses to take her niece over, in the carriage, in which they had come a while back, Tai-y thereupon took her leave; madame Hsing escorting her as far as the ceremonial gate, where she gave some further directions to all the company of servants. She followed the curricle with her eyes so long as it remained in sight, and at length retraced her footsteps.

Tai-y shortly entered the Jung Mansion, descended from the carriage, and preceded by all the nurses, she at once proceeded towards the east, turned a corner, passed through an Entrance Hall, running east and west, and walked in a southern direction, at the back of the Large Hall. On the inner side of a ceremonial gate, and at the upper end of a spacious court, stood a large main building, with five apartments, flanked on both sides by out-houses (stretching out) like the antlers on the head of deer; side-gates, resembling passages through a hill, establishing a thorough communication all round; (a main building) lofty, majestic, solid and grand, and unlike those in the compound of dowager lady Chia.

Tai-y readily concluded that this at last was the main inner suite of apartments. A raised broad road led in a straight line to the large gate. Upon entering the Hall, and raising her head, she first of all perceived before her a large tablet with blue ground, upon which figured nine dragons of reddish gold. The inscription on this tablet consisted of three characters as large as a peck-measure, and declared that this was the Hall of Glorious Felicity.

At the end, was a row of characters of minute size, denoting the year, month and day, upon which His Majesty had been pleased to confer the tablet upon Chia Yuan, Duke of Jung Kuo. Besides this tablet, were numberless costly articles bearing the autograph of the Emperor. On the large black ebony table, engraved with dragons, were placed three antique blue and green bronze tripods, about three feet in height. On the wall hung a large picture representing black dragons, such as were seen in waiting chambers of the Sui dynasty. On one side stood a gold cup of chased work, while on the other, a crystal casket. On the ground were placed, in two rows, sixteen chairs, made of hard-grained cedar.

There was also a pair of scrolls consisting of black-wood antithetical tablets, inlaid with the strokes of words in chased gold. Their burden was this:

  On the platform shine resplendent pearls like sun or moon,
  And the sheen of the Hall faade gleams like russet sky.

Below, was a row of small characters, denoting that the scroll had been written by the hand of Mu Shih, a fellow-countryman and old friend of the family, who, for his meritorious services, had the hereditary title of Prince of Tung Ngan conferred upon him.

The fact is that madame Wang was also not in the habit of sitting and resting, in this main apartment, but in three side-rooms on the east, so that the nurses at once led Tai-y through the door of the eastern wing.

On a stove-couch, near the window, was spread a foreign red carpet. On the side of honour, were laid deep red reclining-cushions, with dragons, with gold cash (for scales), and an oblong brown-coloured sitting-cushion with gold-cash-spotted dragons. On the two sides, stood one of a pair of small teapoys of foreign lacquer of peach-blossom pattern. On the teapoy on the left, were spread out Wen Wang tripods, spoons, chopsticks and scent-bottles. On the teapoy on the right, were vases from the Ju Kiln, painted with girls of great beauty, in which were placed seasonable flowers; (on it were) also teacups, a tea service and the like articles.

On the floor on the west side of the room, were four chairs in a row, all of which were covered with antimacassars, embroidered with silverish-red flowers, while below, at the feet of these chairs, stood four footstools. On either side, was also one of a pair of high teapoys, and these teapoys were covered with teacups and flower vases.

The other nick-nacks need not be minutely described.

The old nurses pressed Tai-y to sit down on the stove-couch; but, on perceiving near the edge of the couch two embroidered cushions, placed one opposite the other, she thought of the gradation of seats, and did not therefore place herself on the couch, but on a chair on the eastern side of the room; whereupon the waiting maids, in attendance in these quarters, hastened to serve the tea.

While Tai-y was sipping her tea, she observed the headgear, dress, deportment and manners of the several waiting maids, which she really found so unlike what she had seen in other households. She had hardly finished her tea, when she noticed a waiting maid approach, dressed in a red satin jacket, and a waistcoat of blue satin with scollops.

“My lady requests Miss Lin to come over and sit with her,” she remarked as she put on a smile.

The old nurses, upon hearing this message, speedily ushered Tai-y again out of this apartment, into the three-roomed small main building by the eastern porch.

On the stove-couch, situated at the principal part of the room, was placed, in a transverse position, a low couch-table, at the upper end of which were laid out, in a heap, books and a tea service. Against the partition-wall, on the east side, facing the west, was a reclining pillow, made of blue satin, neither old nor new.

Madame Wang, however, occupied the lower seat, on the west side, on which was likewise placed a rather shabby blue satin sitting-rug, with a back-cushion; and upon perceiving Tai-y come in she urged her at once to sit on the east side.

Tai-y concluded, in her mind, that this seat must certainly belong to Chia Cheng, and espying, next to the couch, a row of three chairs, covered with antimacassars, strewn with embroidered flowers, somewhat also the worse for use, Tai-y sat down on one of these chairs.

But as madame Wang pressed her again and again to sit on the couch, Tai-y had at length to take a seat next to her.

“Your uncle,” madame Wang explained, “is gone to observe this day as a fast day, but you’ll see him by and bye. There’s, however, one thing I want to talk to you about. Your three female cousins are all, it is true, everything that is nice; and you will, when later on you come together for study, or to learn how to do needlework, or whenever, at any time, you romp and laugh together, find them all most obliging; but there’s one thing that causes me very much concern. I have here one, who is the very root of retribution, the incarnation of all mischief, one who is a ne’er-do-well, a prince of malignant spirits in this family. He is gone to-day to pay his vows in the temple, and is not back yet, but you will see him in the evening, when you will readily be able to judge for yourself. One thing you must do, and that is, from this time forth, not to pay any notice to him. All these cousins of yours don’t venture to bring any taint upon themselves by provoking him.”

Tai-y had in days gone by heard her mother explain that she had a nephew, born into the world, holding a piece of jade in his mouth, who was perverse beyond measure, who took no pleasure in his books, and whose sole great delight was to play the giddy dog in the inner apartments; that her maternal grandmother, on the other hand, loved him so fondly that no one ever presumed to call him to account, so that when, in this instance, she heard madame Wang’s advice, she at once felt certain that it must be this very cousin.

“Isn’t it to the cousin born with jade in his mouth, that you are alluding to, aunt?” she inquired as she returned her smile. “When I was at home, I remember my mother telling me more than once of this very cousin, who (she said) was a year older than I, and whose infant name was Pao-y. She added that his disposition was really wayward, but that he treats all his cousins with the utmost consideration. Besides, now that I have come here, I shall, of course, be always together with my female cousins, while the boys will have their own court, and separate quarters; and how ever will there be any cause of bringing any slur upon myself by provoking him?”

“You don’t know the reasons (that prompt me to warn you),” replied madame Wang laughingly. “He is so unlike all the rest, all because he has, since his youth up, been doated upon by our old lady! The fact is that he has been spoilt, through over-indulgence, by being always in the company of his female cousins! If his female cousins pay no heed to him, he is, at any rate, somewhat orderly, but the day his cousins say one word more to him than usual, much trouble forthwith arises, at the outburst of delight in his heart. That’s why I enjoin upon you not to heed him. From his mouth, at one time, issue sugared words and mellifluous phrases; and at another, like the heavens devoid of the sun, he becomes a raving fool; so whatever you do, don’t believe all he says.”

Tai-y was assenting to every bit of advice as it was uttered, when unexpectedly she beheld a waiting-maid walk in. “Her venerable ladyship over there,” she said, “has sent word about the evening meal.”

Madame Wang hastily took Tai-y by the hand, and emerging by the door of the back-room, they went eastwards by the verandah at the back. Past the side gate, was a roadway, running north and south. On the southern side were a pavilion with three divisions and a Reception Hall with a colonnade. On the north, stood a large screen wall, painted white; behind it was a very small building, with a door of half the ordinary size.

“These are your cousin Feng’s rooms,” explained madame Wang to Tai-y, as she pointed to them smiling. “You’ll know in future your way to come and find her; and if you ever lack anything, mind you mention it to her, and she’ll make it all right.”

At the door of this court, were also several youths, who had recently had the tufts of their hair tied together, who all dropped their hands against their sides, and stood in a respectful posture. Madame Wang then led Tai-y by the hand through a corridor, running east and west, into what was dowager lady Chia’s back-court. Forthwith they entered the door of the back suite of rooms, where stood, already in attendance, a large number of servants, who, when they saw madame Wang arrive, set to work setting the tables and chairs in order.

Chia Chu’s wife, ne Li, served the eatables, while Hsi-feng placed the chopsticks, and madame Wang brought the soup in. Dowager lady Chia was seated all alone on the divan, in the main part of the apartment, on the two sides of which stood four vacant chairs.

Hsi-feng at once drew Tai-y, meaning to make her sit in the foremost chair on the left side, but Tai-y steadily and concedingly declined.

“Your aunts and sisters-in-law, standing on the right and left,” dowager lady Chia smilingly explained, “won’t have their repast in here, and as you’re a guest, it’s but proper that you should take that seat.”

Then alone it was that Tai-y asked for permission to sit down, seating herself on the chair.

Madame Wang likewise took a seat at old lady Chia’s instance; and the three cousins, Ying Ch’un and the others, having craved for leave to sit down, at length came forward, and Ying Ch’un took the first chair on the right, T’an Ch’un the second, and Hsi Ch’un the second on the left. Waiting maids stood by holding in their hands, flips and finger-bowls and napkins, while Mrs. Li and lady Feng, the two of them, kept near the table advising them what to eat, and pressing them to help themselves.

In the outer apartments, the married women and waiting-maids in attendance, were, it is true, very numerous; but not even so much as the sound of the cawing of a crow could be heard.

The repast over, each one was presented by a waiting-maid, with tea in a small tea tray; but the Lin family had all along impressed upon the mind of their daughter that in order to show due regard to happiness, and to preserve good health, it was essential, after every meal, to wait a while, before drinking any tea, so that it should not do any harm to the intestines. When, therefore, Tai-y perceived how many habits there were in this establishment unlike those which prevailed in her home, she too had no alternative but to conform herself to a certain extent with them. Upon taking over the cup of tea, servants came once more and presented finger-bowls for them to rinse their mouths, and Tai-y also rinsed hers; and after they had all again finished washing their hands, tea was eventually served a second time, and this was, at length, the tea that was intended to be drunk.

“You can all go,” observed dowager lady Chia, “and let us alone to have a chat.”

Madame Wang rose as soon as she heard these words, and having made a few irrelevant remarks, she led the way and left the room along with the two ladies, Mrs. Li and lady Feng.

Dowager lady Chia, having inquired of Tai-y what books she was reading, "I have just begun reading the Four Books,” Tai-y replied. “What books are my cousins reading?” Tai-y went on to ask.

“Books, you say!” exclaimed dowager lady Chia; “why all they know are a few characters, that’s all.”

The sentence was barely out of her lips, when a continuous sounding of footsteps was heard outside, and a waiting maid entered and announced that Pao-y was coming. Tai-y was speculating in her mind how it was that this Pao-y had turned out such a good-for-nothing fellow, when he happened to walk in.

He was, in fact, a young man of tender years, wearing on his head, to hold his hair together, a cap of gold of purplish tinge, inlaid with precious gems. Parallel with his eyebrows was attached a circlet, embroidered with gold, and representing two dragons snatching a pearl. He wore an archery-sleeved deep red jacket, with hundreds of butterflies worked in gold of two different shades, interspersed with flowers; and was girded with a sash of variegated silk, with clusters of designs, to which was attached long tassels; a kind of sash worn in the palace. Over all, he had a slate-blue fringed coat of Japanese brocaded satin, with eight bunches of flowers in relief; and wore a pair of light blue satin white-soled, half-dress court-shoes.

His face was like the full moon at mid-autumn; his complexion, like morning flowers in spring; the hair along his temples, as if chiselled with a knife; his eyebrows, as if pencilled with ink; his nose like a suspended gallbladder (a well-cut and shapely nose); his eyes like vernal waves; his angry look even resembled a smile; his glance, even when stern, was full of sentiment.

Round his neck he had a gold dragon necklet with a fringe; also a cord of variegated silk, to which was attached a piece of beautiful jade.

As soon as Tai-y became conscious of his presence, she was quite taken aback. “How very strange!” she was reflecting in her mind; “it would seem as if I had seen him somewhere or other, for his face appears extremely familiar to my eyes;” when she noticed Pao-y face dowager lady Chia and make his obeisance. “Go and see your mother and then come back,” remarked her venerable ladyship; and at once he turned round and quitted the room.

On his return, he had already changed his hat and suit. All round his head, he had a fringe of short hair, plaited into small queues, and bound with red silk. The queues were gathered up at the crown, and all the hair, which had been allowed to grow since his birth, was plaited into a thick queue, which looked as black and as glossy as lacquer. Between the crown of the head and the extremity of the queue, hung a string of four large pearls, with pendants of gold, representing the eight precious things. On his person, he wore a long silvery-red coat, more or less old, bestrewn with embroidery of flowers. He had still round his neck the necklet, precious gem, amulet of Recorded Name, philacteries, and other ornaments. Below were partly visible a fir-cone coloured brocaded silk pair of trousers, socks spotted with black designs, with ornamented edges, and a pair of deep red, thick-soled shoes.

(Got up as he was now,) his face displayed a still whiter appearance, as if painted, and his eyes as if they were set off with carnation. As he rolled his eyes, they brimmed with love. When he gave utterance to speech, he seemed to smile. But the chief natural pleasing feature was mainly centred in the curve of his eyebrows. The ten thousand and one fond sentiments, fostered by him during the whole of his existence, were all amassed in the corner of his eyes.

His outward appearance may have been pleasing to the highest degree, but yet it was no easy matter to fathom what lay beneath it.

There are a couple of roundelays, composed by a later poet, (after the excellent rhythm of the) Hsi Chiang Yueh, which depict Pao-y in a most adequate manner.

The roundelays run as follows:

  To gloom and passion prone, without a rhyme,
  Inane and madlike was he many a time,
  His outer self, forsooth, fine may have been,
  But one wild, howling waste his mind within:
  Addled his brain that nothing he could see;
  A dunce! to read essays so loth to be!
  Perverse in bearing, in temper wayward;
  For human censure he had no regard.
  When rich, wealth to enjoy he knew not how;
  When poor, to poverty he could not bow.
  Alas! what utter waste of lustrous grace!
  To state, to family what a disgrace!
  Of ne’er-do-wells below he was the prime,
  Unfilial like him none up to this time.
  Ye lads, pampered with sumptuous fare and dress,
  Beware! In this youth’s footsteps do not press!

But to proceed with our story.

“You have gone and changed your clothes,” observed dowager lady Chia, "before being introduced to the distant guest. Why don’t you yet salute your cousin?”

Pao-y had long ago become aware of the presence of a most beautiful young lady, who, he readily concluded, must be no other than the daughter of his aunt Lin. He hastened to advance up to her, and make his bow; and after their introduction, he resumed his seat, whence he minutely scrutinised her features, (which he thought) so unlike those of all other girls.

Her two arched eyebrows, thick as clustered smoke, bore a certain not very pronounced frowning wrinkle. She had a pair of eyes, which possessed a cheerful, and yet one would say, a sad expression, overflowing with sentiment. Her face showed the prints of sorrow stamped on her two dimpled cheeks. She was beautiful, but her whole frame was the prey of a hereditary disease. The tears in her eyes glistened like small specks. Her balmy breath was so gentle. She was as demure as a lovely flower reflected in the water. Her gait resembled a frail willow, agitated by the wind. Her heart, compared with that of Pi Kan, had one more aperture of intelligence; while her ailment exceeded (in intensity) by three degrees the ailment of Hsi-Tzu.

Pao-y, having concluded his scrutiny of her, put on a smile and said, "This cousin I have already seen in days gone by.”

“There you are again with your nonsense,” exclaimed lady Chia, sneeringly; “how could you have seen her before?”

“Though I may not have seen her, ere this,” observed Pao-y with a smirk, “yet when I look at her face, it seems so familiar, and to my mind, it would appear as if we had been old acquaintances; just as if, in fact, we were now meeting after a long separation.”

“That will do! that will do!” remarked dowager lady Chia; “such being the case, you will be the more intimate.”

Pao-y, thereupon, went up to Tai-y, and taking a seat next to her, continued to look at her again with all intentness for a good long while.

“Have you read any books, cousin?” he asked.

“I haven’t as yet,” replied Tai-y, “read any books, as I have only been to school for a year; all I know are simply a few characters.”

“What is your worthy name, cousin?” Pao-y went on to ask; whereupon Tai-y speedily told him her name.

“Your style?” inquired Pao-y; to which question Tai-y replied, “I have no style.”

“I’ll give you a style,” suggested Pao-y smilingly; “won’t the double style ’P’in P’in,’ ’knitting brows,’ do very well?”

“From what part of the standard books does that come?” T’an Ch’un hastily interposed.

“It is stated in the Thorough Research into the state of Creation from remote ages to the present day,” Pao-y went on to explain, “that, in the western quarter, there exists a stone, called Tai, (black,) which can be used, in lieu of ink, to blacken the eyebrows with. Besides the eyebrows of this cousin taper in a way, as if they were contracted, so that the selection of these two characters is most appropriate, isn’t it?”

“This is just another plagiarism, I fear,” observed T’an Ch’un, with an ironic smirk.

“Exclusive of the Four Books,” Pao-y remarked smilingly, “the majority of works are plagiarised; and is it only I, perchance, who plagiarise? Have you got any jade or not?” he went on to inquire, addressing Tai-y, (to the discomfiture) of all who could not make out what he meant.

“It’s because he has a jade himself,” Tai-y forthwith reasoned within her mind, “that he asks me whether I have one or not.–No; I haven’t one,” she replied. “That jade of yours is besides a rare object, and how could every one have one?”

As soon as Pao-y heard this remark, he at once burst out in a fit of his raving complaint, and unclasping the gem, he dashed it disdainfully on the floor. “Rare object, indeed!” he shouted, as he heaped invective on it; “it has no idea how to discriminate the excellent from the mean, among human beings; and do tell me, has it any perception or not? I too can do without this rubbish!”

All those, who stood below, were startled; and in a body they pressed forward, vying with each other as to who should pick up the gem.

Dowager lady Chia was so distressed that she clasped Pao-y in her embrace. “You child of wrath,” she exclaimed. “When you get into a passion, it’s easy enough for you to beat and abuse people; but what makes you fling away that stem of life?”

Pao-y’s face was covered with the traces of tears. “All my cousins here, senior as well as junior,” he rejoined, as he sobbed, “have no gem, and if it’s only I to have one, there’s no fun in it, I maintain! and now comes this angelic sort of cousin, and she too has none, so that it’s clear enough that it is no profitable thing.”

Dowager lady Chia hastened to coax him. “This cousin of yours,” she explained, “would, under former circumstances, have come here with a jade; and it’s because your aunt felt unable, as she lay on her death-bed, to reconcile herself to the separation from your cousin, that in the absence of any remedy, she forthwith took the gem belonging to her (daughter), along with her (in the grave); so that, in the first place, by the fulfilment of the rites of burying the living with the dead might be accomplished the filial piety of your cousin; and in the second place, that the spirit of your aunt might also, for the time being, use it to gratify the wish of gazing on your cousin. That’s why she simply told you that she had no jade; for she couldn’t very well have had any desire to give vent to self-praise. Now, how can you ever compare yourself with her? and don’t you yet carefully and circumspectly put it on? Mind, your mother may come to know what you have done!”

As she uttered these words, she speedily took the jade over from the hand of the waiting-maid, and she herself fastened it on for him.

When Pao-y heard this explanation, he indulged in reflection, but could not even then advance any further arguments.

A nurse came at the moment and inquired about Tai-y’s quarters, and dowager lady Chia at once added, “Shift Pao-y along with me, into the warm room of my suite of apartments, and put your mistress, Miss Lin, temporarily in the green gauze house; and when the rest of the winter is over, and repairs are taken in hand in spring in their rooms, an additional wing can be put up for her to take up her quarters in.”

“My dear ancestor,” ventured Pao-y; “the bed I occupy outside the green gauze house is very comfortable; and what need is there again for me to leave it and come and disturb your old ladyship’s peace and quiet?”

“Well, all right,” observed dowager lady Chia, after some consideration; "but let each one of you have a nurse, as well as a waiting-maid to attend on you; the other servants can remain in the outside rooms and keep night watch and be ready to answer any call.”

At an early hour, besides, Hsi-feng had sent a servant round with a grey flowered curtain, embroidered coverlets and satin quilts and other such articles.

Tai-y had brought along with her only two servants; the one was her own nurse, dame Wang, and the other was a young waiting-maid of sixteen, whose name was called Hseh Yen. Dowager lady Chia, perceiving that Hseh Yen was too youthful and quite a child in her manner, while nurse Wang was, on the other hand, too aged, conjectured that Tai-y would, in all her wants, not have things as she liked, so she detached two waiting-maids, who were her own personal attendants, named Tzu Chan and Ying Ko, and attached them to Tai-y’s service. Just as had Ying Ch’un and the other girls, each one of whom had besides the wet nurses of their youth, four other nurses to advise and direct them, and exclusive of two personal maids to look after their dress and toilette, four or five additional young maids to do the washing and sweeping of the rooms and the running about backwards and forwards on errands.

Nurse Wang, Tzu Chan and other girls entered at once upon their attendance on Tai-y in the green gauze rooms, while Pao-y’s wet-nurse, dame Li, together with an elderly waiting-maid, called Hsi Jen, were on duty in the room with the large bed.

This Hsi Jen had also been, originally, one of dowager lady Chia’s servant-girls. Her name was in days gone by, Chen Chu. As her venerable ladyship, in her tender love for Pao-y, had feared that Pao-y’s servant girls were not equal to their duties, she readily handed her to Pao-y, as she had hitherto had experience of how sincere and considerate she was at heart.

Pao-y, knowing that her surname was at one time Hua, and having once seen in some verses of an ancient poet, the line “the fragrance of flowers wafts itself into man,” lost no time in explaining the fact to dowager lady Chia, who at once changed her name into Hsi Jen.

This Hsi Jen had several simple traits. While in attendance upon dowager lady Chia, in her heart and her eyes there was no one but her venerable ladyship, and her alone; and now in her attendance upon Pao-y, her heart and her eyes were again full of Pao-y, and him alone. But as Pao-y was of a perverse temperament and did not heed her repeated injunctions, she felt at heart exceedingly grieved.

At night, after nurse Li had fallen asleep, seeing that in the inner chambers, Tai-y, Ying Ko and the others had not as yet retired to rest, she disrobed herself, and with gentle step walked in.

“How is it, miss,” she inquired smiling, “that you have not turned in as yet?”

Tai-y at once put on a smile. “Sit down, sister,” she rejoined, pressing her to take a seat. Hsi Jen sat on the edge of the bed.

“Miss Lin,” interposed Ying Ko smirkingly, “has been here in an awful state of mind! She has cried so to herself, that her eyes were flooded, as soon as she dried her tears. ’It’s only to-day that I’ve come,’ she said, ’and I’ve already been the cause of the outbreak of your young master’s failing. Now had he broken that jade, as he hurled it on the ground, wouldn’t it have been my fault? Hence it was that she was so wounded at heart, that I had all the trouble in the world, before I could appease her.”

“Desist at once, Miss! Don’t go on like this,” Hsi Jen advised her; "there will, I fear, in the future, happen things far more strange and ridiculous than this; and if you allow yourself to be wounded and affected to such a degree by a conduct such as his, you will, I apprehend, suffer endless wounds and anguish; so be quick and dispel this over-sensitive nature!”

“What you sisters advise me,” replied Tai-y, “I shall bear in mind, and it will be all right.”

They had another chat, which lasted for some time, before they at length retired to rest for the night.

The next day, (she and her cousins) got up at an early hour and went over to pay their respects to dowager lady Chia, after which upon coming to madame Wang’s apartments, they happened to find madame Wang and Hsi-feng together, opening the letters which had arrived from Chin Ling. There were also in the room two married women, who had been sent from madame Wang’s elder brother’s wife’s house to deliver a message.

Tai-y was, it is true, not aware of what was up, but T’an Ch’un and the others knew that they were discussing the son of her mother’s sister, married in the Hseh family, in the city of Chin Ling, a cousin of theirs, Hseh P’an, who relying upon his wealth and influence had, by assaulting a man, committed homicide, and who was now to be tried in the court of the Ying T’ien Prefecture.

Her maternal uncle, Wang Tzu-t’eng, had now, on the receipt of the tidings, despatched messengers to bring over the news to the Chia family. But the next chapter will explain what was the ultimate issue of the wish entertained in this mansion to send for the Hseh family to come to the capital.

Chapter IV.

  An ill-fated girl happens to meet an ill-fated young man.
  The Hu Lu Bonze adjudicates the Hu Lu case.

Tai-y, for we shall now return to our story, having come, along with her cousin to madame Wang’s apartments, found madame Wang discussing certain domestic occurrences with the messengers, who had arrived from her elder brother’s wife’s home, and conversing also about the case of homicide, in which the family of her mother’s sister had become involved, and other such relevant topics. Perceiving how pressing and perplexing were the matters in which madame Wang was engaged, the young ladies promptly left her apartments, and came over to the rooms of their widow sister-in-law, Mrs. Li.

This Mrs. Li had originally been the spouse of Chia Chu. Although Chu had died at an early age, he had the good fortune of leaving behind him a son, to whom the name of Chia Lan was given. He was, at this period, just in his fifth year, and had already entered school, and applied himself to books.

This Mrs. Li was also the daughter of an official of note in Chin Ling. Her father’s name was Li Shou-chung, who had, at one time, been Imperial Libationer. Among his kindred, men as well as women had all devoted themselves to poetry and letters; but ever since Li Shou-chung continued the line of succession, he readily asserted that the absence of literary attainments in his daughter was indeed a virtue, so that it soon came about that she did not apply herself in real earnest to learning; with the result that all she studied were some parts of the “Four Books for women,” and the “Memoirs of excellent women,” that all she read did not extend beyond a limited number of characters, and that all she committed to memory were the examples of these few worthy female characters of dynasties of yore; while she attached special importance to spinning and female handiwork. To this reason is to be assigned the name selected for her, of Li Wan (Li, the weaver), and the style of Kung Ts’ai (Palace Sempstress).

Hence it was that, though this Li Wan still continued, after the loss of her mate, while she was as yet in the spring of her life, to live amidst affluence and luxury, she nevertheless resembled in every respect a block of rotten wood or dead ashes. She had no inclination whatsoever to inquire after anything or to listen to anything; while her sole and exclusive thought was to wait upon her relatives and educate her son; and, in addition to this, to teach her young sisters-in-law to do needlework and to read aloud.

Tai-y was, it is true, at this period living as a guest in the Chia mansion, where she certainly had the several young ladies to associate with her, but, outside her aged father, (she thought) there was really no need for her to extend affection to any of the rest.

But we will now speak of Chia Y-ts’un. Having obtained the appointment of Prefect of Ying T’ien, he had no sooner arrived at his post than a charge of manslaughter was laid before his court. This had arisen from some rivalry between two parties in the purchase of a slave-girl, either of whom would not yield his right; with the result that a serious assault occurred, which ended in homicide.

Y-ts’un had, with all promptitude, the servants of the plaintiffs brought before him, and subjected them to an examination.

“The victim of the assault,” the plaintiffs deposed, “was your servants’ master. Having on a certain day, purchased a servant-girl, she unexpectedly turned out to be a girl who had been carried away and sold by a kidnapper. This kidnapper had, first of all, got hold of our family’s money, and our master had given out that he would on the third day, which was a propitious day, take her over into the house, but this kidnapper stealthily sold her over again to the Hseh family. When we came to know of this, we went in search of the seller to lay hold of him, and bring back the girl by force. But the Hseh party has been all along the bully of Chin Ling, full of confidence in his wealth, full of presumption on account of his prestige; and his arrogant menials in a body seized our master and beat him to death. The murderous master and his crew have all long ago made good their escape, leaving no trace behind them, while there only remain several parties not concerned in the affair. Your servants have for a whole year lodged complaints, but there has been no one to do our cause justice, and we therefore implore your Lordship to have the bloodstained criminals arrested, and thus conduce to the maintenance of humanity and benevolence; and the living, as well as the dead, will feel boundless gratitude for this heavenly bounty.”

When Y-ts’un heard their appeal, he flew into a fiery rage. “What!” he exclaimed. “How could a case of such gravity have taken place as the murder of a man, and the culprits have been allowed to run away scot-free, without being arrested? Issue warrants, and despatch constables to at once lay hold of the relatives of the bloodstained criminals and bring them to be examined by means of torture.”

Thereupon he espied a Retainer, who was standing by the judgment-table, wink at him, signifying that he should not issue the warrants. Y-t’sun gave way to secret suspicion, and felt compelled to desist.

Withdrawing from the Court-room, he retired into a private chamber, from whence he dismissed his followers, only keeping this single Retainer to wait upon him.

The Retainer speedily advanced and paid his obeisance. “Your worship," he said smiling, “has persistently been rising in official honours, and increasing in wealth so that, in the course of about eight or nine years, you have forgotten me.”

“Your face is, however, extremely familiar,” observed Y-ts’un, “but I cannot, for the moment, recall who you are.”

“Honourable people forget many things,” remarked the Retainer, as he smiled. “What! Have you even forgotten the place where you started in life? and do you not remember what occurred, in years gone by, in the Hu Lu Temple?”

Y-ts’un was filled with extreme astonishment; and past events then began to dawn upon him.

The fact is that this Retainer had been at one time a young priest in the Hu Lu temple; but as, after its destruction by fire, he had no place to rest his frame, he remembered how light and easy was, after all, this kind of occupation, and being unable to reconcile himself to the solitude and quiet of a temple, he accordingly availed himself of his years, which were as yet few, to let his hair grow, and become a retainer.

Y-ts’un had had no idea that it was he. Hastily taking his hand in his, he smilingly observed, “You are, indeed, an old acquaintance!” and then pressed him to take a seat, so as to have a chat with more ease, but the Retainer would not presume to sit down.

“Friendships,” Y-ts’un remarked, putting on a smiling expression, "contracted in poor circumstances should not be forgotten! This is a private room; so that if you sat down, what would it matter?”

The Retainer thereupon craved permission to take a seat, and sat down gingerly, all awry.

“Why did you, a short while back,” Y-ts’un inquired, “not allow me to issue the warrants?”

“Your illustrious office,” replied the Retainer, “has brought your worship here, and is it likely you have not transcribed some philactery of your post in this province!”

“What is an office-philactery?” asked Y-ts’un with alacrity.

“Now-a-days,” explained the Retainer, “those who become local officers provide themselves invariably with a secret list, in which are entered the names and surnames of the most influential and affluent gentry of note in the province. This is in vogue in every province. Should inadvertently, at any moment, one give umbrage to persons of this status, why, not only office, but I fear even one’s life, it would be difficult to preserve. That’s why these lists are called office-philacteries. This Hseh family, just a while back spoken of, how could your worship presume to provoke? This case in question affords no difficulties whatever in the way of a settlement; but the prefects, who have held office before you, have all, by doing violence to the feelings and good name of these people, come to the end they did.”

As he uttered these words, he produced, from inside a purse which he had handy, a transcribed office-philactery, which he handed over to Y-ts’un; who upon perusal, found it full of trite and unpolished expressions of public opinion, with regard to the leading clans and notable official families in that particular district. They ran as follows:

The “Chia” family is not “chia,” a myth; white jade form the Halls; gold compose their horses! The “A Fang” Palace is three hundred li in extent, but is no fit residence for a “Shih” of Chin Ling. The eastern seas lack white jade beds, and the “Lung Wang,” king of the Dragons, has come to ask for one of the Chin Ling Wang, (Mr. Wang of Chin Ling.) In a plenteous year, snow, (Hseh,) is very plentiful; their pearls and gems are like sand, their gold like iron.

Scarcely had Y-ts’un done reading, when suddenly was heard the announcement, communicated by the beating of a gong, that Mr. Wang had come to pay his respects.

Y-ts’un hastily adjusted his official clothes and hat, and went out of the room to greet and receive the visitor. Returning after a short while he proceeded to question the Retainer (about what he had been perusing.)

“These four families,” explained the Retainer, “are all interlaced by ties of relationship, so that if you offend one, you offend all; if you honour one, you honour all. For support and protection, they all have those to take care of their interests! Now this Hseh, who is charged with homicide, is indeed the Hseh implied by ’in a plenteous year, (Hseh,) snow, is very plentiful.’ In fact, not only has he these three families to rely upon, but his (father’s) old friends, and his own relatives and friends are both to be found in the capital, as well as abroad in the provinces; and they are, what is more, not few in number. Who is it then that your Worship purposes having arrested?”

When Y-ts’un had heard these remarks, he forthwith put on a smile and inquired of the Retainer, “If what you say be true, how is then this lawsuit to be settled? Are you also perchance well aware of the place of retreat of this homicide?”

“I don’t deceive your Worship,” the Retainer ventured smiling, “when I say that not only do I know the hiding-place of this homicide, but that I also am acquainted with the man who kidnapped and sold the girl; I likewise knew full well the poor devil and buyer, now deceased. But wait, and I’ll tell your worship all, with full details. This person, who succumbed to the assault, was the son of a minor gentry. His name was Feng Yan. His father and mother are both deceased, and he has likewise no brothers. He looked after some scanty property in order to eke out a living. His age was eighteen or nineteen; and he had a strong penchant for men’s, and not much for women’s society. But this was too the retribution (for sins committed) in a previous existence! for coming, by a strange coincidence, in the way of this kidnapper, who was selling the maid, he straightway at a glance fell in love with this girl, and made up his mind to purchase her and make her his second wife; entering an oath not to associate with any male friends, nor even to marry another girl. And so much in earnest was he in this matter that he had to wait until after the third day before she could enter his household (so as to make the necessary preparations for the marriage). But who would have foreseen the issue? This kidnapper quietly disposed of her again by sale to the Hseh family; his intention being to pocket the price-money from both parties, and effect his escape. Contrary to his calculations, he couldn’t after all run away in time, and the two buyers laid hold of him and beat him, till he was half dead; but neither of them would take his coin back, each insisting upon the possession of the girl. But do you think that young gentleman, Mr. Hseh, would yield his claim to her person? Why, he at once summoned his servants and bade them have recourse to force; and, taking this young man Feng, they assailed him till they made mincemeat of him. He was then carried back to his home, where he finally died after the expiry of three days. This young Mr. Hseh had previously chosen a day, on which he meant to set out for the capital, and though he had beaten the young man Feng to death, and carried off the girl, he nevertheless behaved in the manner of a man who had had no concern in the affair. And all he gave his mind to was to take his family and go along on his way; but not in any wise in order to evade (the consequences) of this (occurrence). This case of homicide, (he looked upon) as a most trivial and insignificant matter, which, (he thought), his brother and servants, who were on the spot, would be enough to settle. But, however, enough of this person. Now does your worship know who this girl is who was sold?”

“How could I possibly know?” answered Y-ts’un.

“And yet,” remarked the Retainer, as he laughed coldly, “this is a person to whom you are indebted for great obligations; for she is no one else than the daughter of Mr. Chen, who lived next door to the Hu Lu temple. Her infant name is ’Ying Lien.’”

“What! is it really she?” exclaimed Y-ts’un full of surprise. “I heard that she had been kidnapped, ever since she was five years old; but has she only been sold recently?”

“Kidnappers of this kind,” continued the Retainer, “only abduct infant girls, whom they bring up till they reach the age of twelve or thirteen, when they take them into strange districts and dispose of them through their agents. In days gone by, we used daily to coax this girl, Ying Lien, to romp with us, so that we got to be exceedingly friendly. Hence it is that though, with the lapse of seven or eight years, her mien has assumed a more surpassingly lovely appearance, her general features have, on the other hand, undergone no change; and this is why I can recognise her. Besides, in the centre of her two eyebrows, she had a spot, of the size of a grain of rice, of carnation colour, which she has had ever since she was born into the world. This kidnapper, it also happened, rented my house to live in; and on a certain day, on which the kidnapper was not at home, I even set her a few questions. She said, ’that the kidnapper had so beaten her, that she felt intimidated, and couldn’t on any account, venture to speak out; simply averring that the kidnapper was her own father, and that, as he had no funds to repay his debts, he had consequently disposed of her by sale!’ I tried time after time to induce her to answer me, but she again gave way to tears and added no more than: ’I don’t really remember anything of my youth.’ Of this, anyhow, there can be no doubt; on a certain day the young man Feng and the kidnapper met, said the money was paid down; but as the kidnapper happened to be intoxicated, Ying Lien exclaimed, as she sighed: ’My punishment has this day been consummated!’ Later on again, when she heard that young Feng would, after three days, have her taken over to his house, she once more underwent a change and put on such a sorrowful look that, unable to brook the sight of it, I waited till the kidnapper went out, when I again told my wife to go and cheer her by representing to her that this Mr. Feng’s fixed purpose to wait for a propitious day, on which to come and take her over, was ample proof that he would not look upon her as a servant-girl. ’Furthermore,’ (explained my wife to her), ’he is a sort of person exceedingly given to fast habits, and has at home ample means to live upon, so that if, besides, with his extreme aversion to women, he actually purchases you now, at a fancy price, you should be able to guess the issue, without any explanation. You have to bear suspense only for two or three days, and what need is there to be sorrowful and dejected?’ After these assurances, she became somewhat composed, flattering herself that she would from henceforth have a home of her own.

“But who would believe that the world is but full of disappointments! On the succeeding day, it came about that the kidnapper again sold her to the Hseh family! Had he disposed of her to any other party, no harm would anyhow have resulted; but this young gentleman Hseh, who is nicknamed by all, ’the Foolish and overbearing Prince,’ is the most perverse and passionate being in the whole world. What is more, he throws money away as if it were dust. The day on which he gave the thrashing with blows like falling leaves and flowing water, he dragged (_lit. pull alive, drag dead) Ying Lien away more dead than alive, by sheer force, and no one, even up to this date, is aware whether she be among the dead or the living. This young Feng had a spell of empty happiness; for (not only) was his wish not fulfilled, but on the contrary he spent money and lost his life; and was not this a lamentable case?”

When Y-ts’un heard this account he also heaved a sigh. “This was indeed,” he observed, “a retribution in store for them! Their encounter was likewise not accidental; for had it been, how was it that this Feng Yan took a fancy to Ying Lien?

“This Ying Lien had, during all these years, to endure much harsh treatment from the hands of the kidnapper, and had, at length, obtained the means of escape; and being besides full of warm feeling, had he actually made her his wife, and had they come together, the event would certainly have been happy; but, as luck would have it, there occurred again this contretemps.

“This Hseh is, it is true, more laden with riches and honours than Feng was, but when we bear in mind what kind of man he is he certainly, with his large bevy of handmaids, and his licentious and inordinate habits, cannot ever be held equal to Feng Yan, who had set his heart upon one person! This may appositely be termed a fantastic sentimental destiny, which, by a strange coincidence, befell a couple consisting of an ill-fated young fellow and girl! But why discuss third parties? The only thing now is how to decide this case, so as to put things right.”

“Your worship,” remarked the Retainer smiling, “displayed, in years gone by, such great intelligence and decision, and how is it that today you, on the contrary, become a person without any resources! Your servant has heard that the promotion of your worship to fill up this office is due to the exertions of the Chia and Wang families; and as this Hseh P’an is a relative of the Chia mansion, why doesn’t your worship take your craft along with the stream, and bring, by the performance of a kindness, this case to an issue, so that you may again in days to come, be able to go and face the two Dukes Chia and Wang?”

“What you suggest,” replied Y-ts’un, “is, of course, right enough; but this case involves a human life, and honoured as I have been, by His Majesty the Emperor, by a restoration to office, and selection to an appointment, how can I at the very moment, when I may strain all my energies to show my gratitude, by reason of a private consideration, set the laws at nought? This is a thing which I really haven’t the courage to do.”

“What your worship says is naturally right and proper,” remarked the Retainer at these words, smiling sarcastically, “but at the present stage of the world, such things cannot be done. Haven’t you heard the saying of a man of old to the effect that great men take action suitable to the times. ’He who presses,’ he adds, ’towards what is auspicious and avoids what is inauspicious is a perfect man.’ From what your worship says, not only you couldn’t, by any display of zeal, repay your obligation to His Majesty, but, what is more, your own life you will find it difficult to preserve. There are still three more considerations necessary to insure a safe settlement.”

Y-ts’un drooped his head for a considerable time.

“What is there in your idea to be done?” he at length inquired.

“Your servant,” responded the Retainer, “has already devised a most excellent plan. It’s this: To-morrow, when your Lordship sits in court, you should, merely for form’s sake, make much ado, by despatching letters and issuing warrants for the arrest of the culprits. The murderer will naturally not be forthcoming; and as the plaintiffs will be strong in their displeasure, you will of course have some members of the clan of the Hseh family, together with a few servants and others, taken into custody, and examined under torture, when your servant will be behind the scenes to bring matters to a settlement, by bidding them report that the victim had succumbed to a sudden ailment, and by urging the whole number of the kindred, as well as the headmen of the place, to hand in a declaration to that effect. Your Worship can aver that you understand perfectly how to write charms in dust, and conjure the spirit; having had an altar, covered with dust, placed in the court, you should bid the military and people to come and look on to their heart’s content. Your Worship can give out that the divining spirit has declared: ’that the deceased, Feng Yan, and Hseh P’an had been enemies in a former life, that having now met in the narrow road, their destinies were consummated; that Hseh P’an has, by this time, contracted some indescribable disease and perished from the effects of the persecution of the spirit of Feng.’ That as the calamity had originated entirely from the action of the kidnapper, exclusive of dealing with the kidnapper according to law, the rest need not be interfered with, and so on. Your servant will be in the background to speak to the kidnapper and urge him to make a full confession; and when people find that the response of the divining spirit harmonizes with the statements of the kidnapper, they will, as a matter of course, entertain no suspicion.

“The Hseh family have plenty of money, so that if your Worship adjudicates that they should pay five hundred, they can afford it, or one thousand will also be within their means; and this sum can be handed to the Feng family to meet the outlay of burning incense and burial expenses. The Feng family are, besides, people of not much consequence, and (the fuss made by them) being simply for money, they too will, when they have got the cash in hand, have nothing more to say. But may it please your worship to consider carefully this plan and see what you think of it?”

“It isn’t a safe course! It isn’t a safe course!” Y-ts’un observed as he smiled. “Let me further think and deliberate; and possibly by succeeding in suppressing public criticism, the matter might also be settled.”

These two closed their consultation by a fixed determination, and the next day, when he sat in judgment, he marked off a whole company of the plaintiffs as well as of the accused, as were mentioned by name, and had them brought before him. Y-ts’un examined them with additional minuteness, and discovered in point of fact, that the inmates of the Feng family were extremely few, that they merely relied upon this charge with the idea of obtaining some compensation for joss-sticks and burials; and that the Hseh family, presuming on their prestige and confident of patronage, had been obstinate in the refusal to make any mutual concession, with the result that confusion had supervened, and that no decision had been arrived at.

Following readily the bent of his feelings, Y-ts’un disregarded the laws, and adjudicated this suit in a random way; and as the Feng family came in for a considerable sum, with which to meet the expense for incense and the funeral, they had, after all, not very much to say (in the way of objections.)

With all despatch, Y-ts’un wrote and forwarded two letters, one to Chia Cheng, and the other to Wang Tzu-t’eng, at that time commander-in-chief of a Metropolitan Division, simply informing them: that the case, in which their worthy nephew was concerned, had come to a close, and that there was no need for them to give way to any extreme solicitude.

This case had been settled through the exclusive action of the young priest of the Hu Lu temple, now an official Retainer; and Y-ts’un, apprehending, on the other hand, lest he might in the presence of others, divulge the circumstances connected with the days gone by, when he was in a state of penury, naturally felt very unhappy in his mind. But at a later period, he succeeded, by ultimately finding in him some shortcoming, and deporting him to a far-away place, in setting his fears at rest.

But we will put Y-ts’un on one side, and refer to the young man Hseh, who purchased Ying Lien, and assaulted Feng Yuan to death.

He too was a native of Chin Ling and belonged to a family literary during successive generations; but this young Hseh had recently, when of tender age, lost his father, and his widowed mother out of pity for his being the only male issue and a fatherless child, could not help doating on him and indulging him to such a degree, that when he, in course of time, grew up to years of manhood, he was good for nothing.

In their home, furthermore, was the wealth of a millionaire, and they were, at this time, in receipt of an income from His Majesty’s privy purse, for the purvey of various articles.

This young Hseh went at school under the name of P’an. His style was Wen Ch’i. His natural habits were extravagant; his language haughty and supercilious. He had, of course, also been to school, but all he knew was a limited number of characters, and those not well. The whole day long, his sole delight was in cock-fighting and horse-racing, rambling over hills and doing the sights.

Though a Purveyor, by Imperial appointment, he had not the least idea of anything relating to matters of business or of the world. All he was good for was: to take advantage of the friendships enjoyed by his grandfather in days of old, to present himself at the Board of Revenue to perfunctorily sign his name and to draw the allowance and rations; while the rest of his affairs he, needless to say, left his partners and old servants of the family to manage for him.

His widowed mother, a Miss Wang, was the youngest sister of Wang Tzu-t’eng, whose present office was that of Commander-in-Chief of a Metropolitan Division; and was, with Madame Wang, the spouse of Chia Cheng, of the Jung Kuo Mansion, sisters born of one mother. She was, in this year, more or less forty years of age and had only one son: this Hseh P’an.

She also had a daughter, who was two years younger than Hseh P’an, and whose infant name was Pao Ch’ai. She was beautiful in appearance, and elegant and refined in deportment. In days gone by, when her father lived, he was extremely fond of this girl, and had her read books and study characters, so that, as compared with her brother, she was actually a hundred times his superior. Having become aware, ever since her father’s death, that her brother could not appease the anguish of her mother’s heart, she at once dispelled all thoughts of books, and gave her sole mind to needlework, to the menage and other such concerns, so as to be able to participate in her mother’s sorrow, and to bear the fatigue in lieu of her.

As of late the Emperor on the Throne held learning and propriety in high esteem, His Majesty called together and singled out talent and ability, upon which he deigned to display exceptional grace and favour. Besides the number called forth from private life and chosen as Imperial secondary wives, the daughters of families of hereditary official status and renown were without exception, reported by name to the authorities, and communicated to the Board, in anticipation of the selection for maids in waiting to the Imperial Princesses and daughters of Imperial Princes in their studies, and for filling up the offices of persons of eminence, to urge them to become excellent.

Ever since the death of Hseh P’an’s father, the various assistants, managers and partners, and other employes in the respective provinces, perceiving how youthful Hseh P’an was in years, and how much he lacked worldly experience, readily availed themselves of the time to begin swindling and defrauding. The business, carried on in various different places in the capital, gradually also began to fall off and to show a deficit.

Hseh P’an had all along heard that the capital was the one place for gaieties, and was just entertaining the idea of going on a visit, when he eagerly jumped at the opportunity (that presented itself,) first of all to escort his sister, who was going to wait for the selection, in the second place to see his relatives, and in the third to enter personally the capital, (professedly) to settle up long-standing accounts, and to make arrangements for new outlays, but, in reality, with the sole purpose of seeing the life and splendour of the metropolis.

He therefore, had, at an early period, got ready his baggage and small luggage, as well as the presents for relatives and friends, things of every description of local production, presents in acknowledgment of favours received, and other such effects, and he was about to choose a day to start on his journey when unexpectedly he came in the way of the kidnapper who offered Ying Lien for sale. As soon as Hseh P’an saw how distingue Ying Lien was in her appearance, he formed the resolution of buying her; and when he encountered Feng Yan, come with the object of depriving him of her, he in the assurance of superiority, called his sturdy menials together, who set upon Feng Yan and beat him to death. Forthwith collecting all the affairs of the household, and entrusting them one by one to the charge of some members of the clan and several elderly servants of the family, he promptly took his mother, sister and others and after all started on his distant journey, while the charge of homicide he, however, treated as child’s play, flattering himself that if he spent a few filthy pieces of money, there was no doubt as to its settlement.

He had been on his journey how many days, he had not reckoned, when, on a certain day, as they were about to enter the capital, he furthermore heard that his maternal uncle, Wang Tzu-t’eng, had been raised to the rank of Supreme Governor of nine provinces, and had been honoured with an Imperial command to leave the capital and inspect the frontiers.

Hseh P’an was at heart secretly elated. “I was just lamenting,” he thought, “that on my visit to the capital, I would have my maternal uncle to exercise control over me, and that I wouldn’t be able to gambol and frisk to my heart’s content, but now that he is leaving the capital, on promotion, it’s evident that Heaven accomplishes man’s wishes.”

As he consequently held consultation with his mother; “Though we have," he argued, “several houses of our own in the capital, yet for these last ten years or so, there has been no one to live in them, and the people charged with the looking after them must unavoidably have stealthily rented them to some one or other. It’s therefore needful to let servants go ahead to sweep and get the place in proper order, before we can very well go ourselves.”

“What need is there to go to such trouble?” retorted his mother; “the main object of our present visit to the capital is first of all to pay our respects to our relatives and friends; and it is, either at your elder uncle’s, my brother’s place, or at your other uncle’s, my sister’s husband’s home, both of which families’ houses are extremely spacious, that we can put up provisionally, and by and bye, at our ease, we can send servants to make our house tidy. Now won’t this be a considerable saving of trouble?”

“My uncle, your brother,” suggested Hseh P’an, “has just been raised to an appointment in an outside province, so that, of course, in his house, things must be topsy-turvey, on account of his departure; and should we betake ourselves, like a hive of bees and a long trail, to him for shelter; won’t we appear very inconsiderate?”

“Your uncle,” remarked his mother, “is, it is true, going on promotion, but there’s besides the house of your aunt, my sister. What is more, during these last few years from both your uncle’s and aunt’s have, time after time, been sent messages, and letters forwarded, asking us to come over; and now that we’ve come, is it likely, though your uncle is busy with his preparations to start on his journey, that your aunt of the Chia family won’t do all she can to press us to stay? Besides, were we to have our house got ready in a scramble, won’t it make people think it strange? I however know your idea very well that were we kept to stay at your uncle’s and aunt’s, you won’t escape being under strict restraint, unlike what would be the case were we to live in our own house, as you would be free then to act as you please! Such being the case, go, on your own account, and choose some place to take up your quarters in, while I myself, who have been separated from your aunt and cousins for these several years, would however like to stay with them for a few days; and I’ll go along with your sister and look up your aunt at her home. What do you say; will this suit you or not?”

Hseh P’an, upon hearing his mother speak in this strain, knew well enough that he could not bring her round from her determination; and he had no help but to issue the necessary directions to the servants to make straight for the Jung Kuo mansion. Madame Wang had by this time already come to know that in the lawsuit, in which Hseh P’an was concerned, Chia Y-ts’un had fortunately intervened and lent his good offices, and was at length more composed in her mind. But when she again saw that her eldest brother had been advanced to a post on the frontier, she was just deploring that, deprived of the intercourse of the relatives of her mother’s family, how doubly lonely she would feel; when, after the lapse of a few days, some one of the household brought the unexpected announcement that “our lady, your sister, has, with the young gentleman, the young lady and her whole household, entered the capital and have dismounted from their vehicles outside the main entrance.” This news so delighted madame Wang that she rushed out, with a few attendants, to greet them in the large Entrance Hall, and brought Mrs. Hseh and the others into her house.

The two sisters were now reunited, at an advanced period of their lives, so that mixed feelings of sorrow and joy thronged together, but on these it is, of course, needless to dilate.

After conversing for a time on what had occurred, subsequent to their separation, madame Wang took them to pay their obeisance to dowager lady Chia. They then handed over the various kinds of presents and indigenous articles, and after the whole family had been introduced, a banquet was also spread to greet the guests.

Hseh P’an, having paid his respects to Chia Cheng and Chia Lien, was likewise taken to see Chia She, Chia Chen and the other members.

Chia Cheng sent a messenger to tell madame Wang that “’aunt’ Hseh had already seen many springs and autumns, while their nephew was of tender age, with no experience, so that there was every fear, were he to live outside, that something would again take place. In the South-east corner of our compound,” (he sent word,) “there are in the Pear Fragrance Court, over ten apartments, all of which are vacant and lying idle; and were we to tell the servants to sweep them, and invite ’aunt’ Hseh and the young gentleman and lady to take up their quarters there, it would be an extremely wise thing.”

Madame Wang had in fact been entertaining the wish to keep them to live with them, when dowager lady Chia also sent some one to say that, “Mrs. Hseh should be asked to put up in the mansion in order that a greater friendliness should exist between them all.”

Mrs. Hseh herself had all along been desirous to live in one place with her relatives, so as to be able to keep a certain check over her son, fearing that, if they lived in a separate house outside, the natural bent of his habits would run riot, and that some calamity would be brought on; and she therefore, there and then, expressed her sense of appreciation, and accepted the invitation. She further privately told madame Wang in clear terms, that every kind of daily expense and general contribution would have to be entirely avoided and withdrawn as that would be the only thing to justify her to make any protracted stay. And madame Wang aware that she had, in her home, no difficulty in this line, promptly in fact complied with her wishes.

From this date it was that “aunt” Hseh and her children took up their quarters in the Pear Fragrance Court.

This Court of Pear Fragrance had, we must explain, been at one time used as a place for the quiet retirement of the Duke Jung in his advanced years. It was on a small scale, but ingeniously laid out. There were, at least, over ten structures. The front halls and the back houses were all in perfect style. There was a separate door giving on to the street, and the people of the household of Hseh P’an used this door to go in and out. At the south-west quarter, there was also a side door, which communicated with a narrow roadway. Beyond this narrow road, was the eastern court of madame Wang’s principal apartment; so that every day, either after her repast, or in the evening, Mrs. Hseh would readily come over and converse, on one thing and another, with dowager lady Chia, or have a chat with madame Wang; while Pao-ch’ai came together, day after day, with Tai y, Ying-ch’un, her sisters and the other girls, either to read, to play chess, or to do needlework, and the pleasure which they derived was indeed perfect. Hseh P’an however had all along from the first instance, been loth to live in the Chia mansion, as he dreaded that with the discipline enforced by his uncle, he would not be able to be his own master; but his mother had made up her mind so positively to remain there, and what was more, every one in the Chia mansion was most pressing in their efforts to keep them, that there was no alternative for him but to take up his quarters temporarily there, while he at the same time directed servants to go and sweep the apartments of their own house, with a view that they should move into them when they were ready.

But, contrary to expectation, after they had been in their quarters for not over a month, Hseh P’an came to be on intimate relations with all the young men among the kindred of the Chia mansion, the half of whom were extravagant in their habits, so that great was, of course, his delight to frequent them. To-day, they would come together to drink wine; the next day to look at flowers. They even assembled to gamble, to dissipate and to go everywhere and anywhere; leading, with all their enticements, Hseh P’an so far astray, that he became far worse, by a hundred times, than he was hitherto.

Although it must be conceded that Chia Cheng was in the education of his children quite correct, and in the control of his family quite systematic, yet in the first place, the clan was so large and the members so numerous, that he was unable to attend to the entire supervision; and, in the second place, the head of the family, at this period, was Chia Chen, who, as the eldest grandchild of the Ning mansion, had likewise now come into the inheritance of the official status, with the result that all matters connected with the clan devolved upon his sole and exclusive control. In the third place, public as well as private concerns were manifold and complex, and being a man of negligent disposition, he estimated ordinary affairs of so little consequence that any respite from his official duties he devoted to no more than the study of books and the playing of chess.

Furthermore, this Pear Fragrance Court was separated by two rows of buildings from his quarters and was also provided with a separate door opening into the street, so that, being able at their own heart’s desire to go out and to come in, these several young fellows could well indulge their caprices, and gratify the bent of their minds.

Hence it was that Hseh P’an, in course of time gradually extinguished from his memory every idea of shifting their quarters.

But what transpired, on subsequent days, the following chapter will explain.

Chapter V.

  The spirit of Chia Pao-y visits the confines of the Great Void.
  The Monitory Vision Fairy expounds, in ballads, the Dream of the Red

Having in the fourth Chapter explained, to some degree, the circumstances attending the settlement of the mother and children of the Hseh family in the Jung mansion, and other incidental matters, we will now revert to Lin Tai-y.

Ever since her arrival in the Jung mansion, dowager lady Chia showed her the highest sympathy and affection, so that in everything connected with sleeping, eating, rising and accommodation she was on the same footing as Pao-y; with the result that Ying Ch’un, Hsi Ch’un and T’an Ch’un, her three granddaughters, had after all to take a back seat. In fact, the intimate and close friendliness and love which sprung up between the two persons Pao-y and Tai-y, was, in the same degree, of an exceptional kind, as compared with those existing between the others. By daylight they were wont to walk together, and to sit together. At night, they would desist together, and rest together. Really it was a case of harmony in language and concord in ideas, of the consistency of varnish or of glue, (a close friendship), when at this unexpected juncture there came this girl, Hseh Pao-ch’ai, who, though not very much older in years (than the others), was, nevertheless, in manner so correct, and in features so beautiful that the consensus of opinion was that Tai-y herself could not come up to her standard.

What is more, in her ways Pao-Ch’ai was so full of good tact, so considerate and accommodating, so unlike Tai-y, who was supercilious, self-confident, and without any regard for the world below, that the natural consequence was that she soon completely won the hearts of the lower classes. Even the whole number of waiting-maids would also for the most part, play and joke with Pao-ch’ai. Hence it was that Tai-y fostered, in her heart, considerable feelings of resentment, but of this however Pao-ch’ai had not the least inkling.

Pao-y was, likewise, in the prime of his boyhood, and was, besides, as far as the bent of his natural disposition was concerned, in every respect absurd and perverse; regarding his cousins, whether male or female, one and all with one common sentiment, and without any distinction whatever between the degrees of distant or close relationship. Sitting and sleeping, as he now was under the same roof with Tai-y in dowager lady Chia’s suite of rooms, he naturally became comparatively more friendly with her than with his other cousins; and this friendliness led to greater intimacy and this intimacy once established, rendered unavoidable the occurrence of the blight of harmony from unforeseen slight pretexts.

These two had had on this very day, for some unknown reason, words between them more or less unfriendly, and Tai-y was again sitting all alone in her room, giving way to tears. Pao-y was once more within himself quite conscience-smitten for his ungraceful remarks, and coming forward, he humbly made advances, until, at length, Tai-y little by little came round.

As the plum blossom, in the eastern part of the garden of the Ning mansion, was in full bloom, Chia Chen’s spouse, Mrs. Yu, made preparations for a collation, (purposing) to send invitations to dowager lady Chia, mesdames Hsing, and Wang, and the other members of the family, to come and admire the flowers; and when the day arrived the first thing she did was to take Chia Jung and his wife, the two of them, and come and ask them round in person. Dowager lady Chia and the other inmates crossed over after their early meal; and they at once promenaded the Hui Fang (Concentrated Fragrance) Garden. First tea was served, and next wine; but the entertainment was no more than a family banquet of the kindred of the two mansions of Ning and Jung, so that there was a total lack of any novel or original recreation that could be put on record.

After a little time, Pao-y felt tired and languid and inclined for his midday siesta. “Take good care,” dowager lady Chia enjoined some of them, “and stay with him, while he rests for a while, when he can come back;” whereupon Chia Jung’s wife, Mrs. Ch’in, smiled and said with eagerness: “We got ready in here a room for uncle Pao, so let your venerable ladyship set your mind at ease. Just hand him over to my charge, and he will be quite safe. Mothers and sisters,” she continued, addressing herself to Pao-y’s nurses and waiting maids, “invite uncle Pao to follow me in here.”

Dowager lady Chia had always been aware of the fact that Mrs. Ch’in was a most trustworthy person, naturally courteous and scrupulous, and in every action likewise so benign and gentle; indeed the most estimable among the whole number of her great grandsons’ wives, so that when she saw her about to go and attend to Pao-y, she felt that, for a certainty, everything would be well.

Mrs. Ch’in, there and then, led away a company of attendants, and came into the rooms inside the drawing room. Pao-y, upon raising his head, and catching sight of a picture hung on the upper wall, representing a human figure, in perfect style, the subject of which was a portrait of Yen Li, speedily felt his heart sink within him.

There was also a pair of scrolls, the text of which was:

  A thorough insight into worldly matters arises from knowledge;
  A clear perception of human nature emanates from literary lore.

On perusal of these two sentences, albeit the room was sumptuous and beautifully laid out, he would on no account remain in it. “Let us go at once,” he hastened to observe, “let us go at once.”

Mrs. Ch’in upon hearing his objections smiled. “If this,” she said, “is really not nice, where are you going? if you won’t remain here, well then come into my room.”

Pao-y nodded his head and gave a faint grin.

“Where do you find the propriety,” a nurse thereupon interposed, “of an uncle going to sleep in the room of a nephew’s wife?”

“Ai ya!” exclaimed Mrs. Ch’in laughing, “I don’t mind whether he gets angry or not (at what I say); but how old can he be as to reverentially shun all these things? Why my brother was with me here last month; didn’t you see him? he’s, true enough, of the same age as uncle Pao, but were the two of them to stand side by side, I suspect that he would be much higher in stature.”

“How is it,” asked Pao-y, “that I didn’t see him? Bring him along and let me have a look at him!”

“He’s separated,” they all ventured as they laughed, “by a distance of twenty or thirty li, and how can he be brought along? but you’ll see him some day.”

As they were talking, they reached the interior of Mrs. Ch’in’s apartments. As soon as they got in, a very faint puff of sweet fragrance was wafted into their nostrils. Pao-y readily felt his eyes itch and his bones grow weak. “What a fine smell!” he exclaimed several consecutive times.

Upon entering the apartments, and gazing at the partition wall, he saw a picture the handiwork of T’ang Po-hu, consisting of Begonias drooping in the spring time; on either side of which was one of a pair of scrolls, written by Ch’in Tai-hs, a Literary Chancellor of the Sung era, running as follows:

  A gentle chill doth circumscribe the dreaming man, because the spring
      is cold.
  The fragrant whiff, which wafts itself into man’s nose, is the perfume
      of wine!

On the table was a mirror, one which had been placed, in days of yore, in the Mirror Palace of the Emperor Wu Tse-t’ien. On one side stood a gold platter, in which Fei Yen, who lived in the Ch’ao state, used to stand and dance. In this platter, was laid a quince, which An Lu-shan had flung at the Empress T’ai Chen, inflicting a wound on her breast. In the upper part of the room, stood a divan ornamented with gems, on which the Emperor’s daughter, Shou Ch’ang, was wont to sleep, in the Han Chang Palace Hanging, were curtains embroidered with strings of pearls, by T’ung Ch’ang, the Imperial Princess.

“It’s nice in here, it’s nice in here,” exclaimed Pao-y with a chuckle.

“This room of mine,” observed Mrs. Ch’in smilingly, “is I think, good enough for even spirits to live in!” and, as she uttered these words, she with her own hands, opened a gauze coverlet, which had been washed by Hsi Shih, and removed a bridal pillow, which had been held in the arms of Hung Niang. Instantly, the nurses attended to Pao-y, until he had laid down comfortably; when they quietly dispersed, leaving only the four waiting maids: Hsi Jen, Ch’iu Wen, Ch’ing Wen and She Yueh to keep him company.

“Mind be careful, as you sit under the eaves,” Mrs. Ch’in recommended the young waiting maids, “that the cats do not start a fight!”

Pao-y then closed his eyes, and, little by little, became drowsy, and fell asleep.

It seemed to him just as if Mrs. Ch’in was walking ahead of him. Forthwith, with listless and unsettled step, he followed Mrs. Ch’in to some spot or other, where he saw carnation-like railings, jade-like steps, verdant trees and limpid pools–a spot where actually no trace of any human being could be met with, where of the shifting mundane dust little had penetrated.

Pao-y felt, in his dream, quite delighted. “This place,” he mused, “is pleasant, and I may as well spend my whole lifetime in here! though I may have to lose my home, I’m quite ready for the sacrifice, for it’s far better being here than being flogged, day after day, by father, mother, and teacher.”

While he pondered in this erratic strain, he suddenly heard the voice of some human being at the back of the rocks, giving vent to this song:

  Like scattering clouds doth fleet a vernal dream;
  The transient flowers pass like a running stream;
  Maidens and youths bear this, ye all, in mind;
  In useless grief what profit will ye find?

Pao-y perceived that the voice was that of a girl. The song was barely at an end, when he soon espied in the opposite direction, a beautiful girl advancing with majestic and elastic step; a girl quite unlike any ordinary mortal being. There is this poem, which gives an adequate description of her:

  Lo she just quits the willow bank; and sudden now she issues from the
      flower-bedecked house;
  As onward alone she speeds, she startles the birds perched in the
      trees, by the pavilion; to which as she draws nigh, her shadow
      flits by the verandah!
  Her fairy clothes now flutter in the wind! a fragrant perfume like
      unto musk or olea is wafted in the air; Her apparel lotus-like is
      sudden wont to move; and the jingle of her ornaments strikes the
  Her dimpled cheeks resemble, as they smile, a vernal peach; her
      kingfisher coiffure is like a cumulus of clouds; her lips part
      cherry-like; her pomegranate-like teeth conceal a fragrant
  Her slender waist, so beauteous to look at, is like the skipping snow
      wafted by a gust of wind; the sheen of her pearls and kingfisher
      trinkets abounds with splendour, green as the feathers of a duck,
      and yellow as the plumes of a goose;
  Now she issues to view, and now is hidden among the flowers; beautiful
      she is when displeased, beautiful when in high spirits; with
      lissome step, she treads along the pond, as if she soars on wings
      or sways in the air.
  Her eyebrows are crescent moons, and knit under her smiles; she
      speaks, and yet she seems no word to utter; her lotus-like feet
      with ease pursue their course; she stops, and yet she seems still
      to be in motion; the charms of her figure all vie with ice in
      purity, and in splendour with precious gems; Lovely is her
      brilliant attire, so full of grandeur and refined grace.
  Loveable her countenance, as if moulded from some fragrant substance,
      or carved from white jade; elegant is her person, like a phoenix,
      dignified like a dragon soaring high.
  What is her chastity like? Like a white plum in spring with snow
      nestling in its broken skin; Her purity? Like autumn orchids
      bedecked with dewdrops.
  Her modesty? Like a fir-tree growing in a barren plain; Her
      comeliness? Like russet clouds reflected in a limpid pool.
  Her gracefulness? Like a dragon in motion wriggling in a stream;
      Her refinement? Like the rays of the moon shooting on to a cool
  Sure is she to put Hsi Tzu to shame! Bound to put Wang Ch’iang to the
      blush! What a remarkable person! Where was she born? and whence
      does she come?
  One thing is true that in Fairy-land there is no second like her! that
      in the Purple Courts of Heaven there is no one fit to be her peer!
  Forsooth, who can it be, so surpassingly beautiful!

Pao-y, upon realising that she was a fairy, was much elated; and with eagerness advanced and made a bow.

“My divine sister,” he ventured, as he put on a smile. “I don’t know whence you come, and whither you are going. Nor have I any idea what this place is, but I make bold to entreat that you would take my hand and lead me on.”

“My abode,” replied the Fairy, “is above the Heavens of Divested Animosities, and in the ocean of Discharged Sorrows. I’m the Fairy of Monitory Vision, of the cave of Drooping Fragrance, in the mount of Emitted Spring, within the confines of the Great Void. I preside over the voluptuous affections and sensual debts among the mortal race, and supervise in the dusty world, the envies of women and the lusts of man. It’s because I’ve recently come to hear that the retribution for voluptuousness extends up to this place, that I betake myself here in order to find suitable opportunities of disseminating mutual affections. My encounter with you now is also not a matter of accident! This spot is not distant from my confines. I have nothing much there besides a cup of the tender buds of tea plucked by my own hands, and a pitcher of luscious wine, fermented by me as well as several spritelike singing and dancing maidens of great proficiency, and twelve ballads of spiritual song, recently completed, on the Dream of the Red Chamber; but won’t you come along with me for a stroll?”

Pao-y, at this proposal, felt elated to such an extraordinary degree that he could skip from joy, and there and then discarding from his mind all idea of where Mrs. Ch’in was, he readily followed the Fairy.

They reached some spot, where there was a stone tablet, put up in a horizontal position, on which were visible the four large characters: "The confines of the Great Void,” on either side of which was one of a pair of scrolls, with the two antithetical sentences:

  When falsehood stands for truth, truth likewise becomes false;
  When naught be made to aught, aught changes into naught!

Past the Portal stood the door of a Palace, and horizontally, above this door, were the four large characters: “The Sea of Retribution, the Heaven of Love.” There were also a pair of scrolls, with the inscription in large characters:

  Passion, alas! thick as the earth, and lofty as the skies, from ages
      past to the present hath held incessant sway;
  How pitiful your lot! ye lustful men and women envious, that your
      voluptuous debts should be so hard to pay!

Pao-y, after perusal, communed with his own heart. “Is it really so!" he thought, “but I wonder what implies the passion from old till now, and what are the voluptuous debts! Henceforward, I must enlighten myself!”

Pao-y was bent upon this train of thoughts when he unwittingly attracted several evil spirits into his heart, and with speedy step he followed in the track of the fairy, and entered two rows of doors when he perceived that the Lateral Halls were, on both sides, full of tablets and scrolls, the number of which he could not in one moment ascertain. He however discriminated in numerous places the inscriptions: The Board of Lustful Love; the Board of contracted grudges; The Board of Matutinal sobs; the Board of nocturnal tears; the Board of vernal affections; and the Board of autumnal anguish.

After he had perused these inscriptions, he felt impelled to turn round and address the Fairy. “May I venture to trouble my Fairy,” he said, “to take me along for a turn into the interior of each of these Boards? May I be allowed, I wonder, to do so?”

“Inside each of these Boards,” explained the Fairy, “are accumulated the registers with the records of all women of the whole world; of those who have passed away, as well as of those who have not as yet come into it, and you, with your mortal eyes and human body, could not possibly be allowed to know anything in anticipation.”

But would Pao-y, upon hearing these words, submit to this decree? He went on to implore her permission again and again, until the Fairy casting her eye upon the tablet of the board in front of her observed, "Well, all right! you may go into this board and reap some transient pleasure.”

Pao-y was indescribably joyous, and, as he raised his head, he perceived that the text on the tablet consisted of the three characters: the Board of Ill-fated lives; and that on each side was a scroll with the inscription:

  Upon one’s self are mainly brought regrets in spring and autumn gloom;
  A face, flowerlike may be and moonlike too; but beauty all for whom?

Upon perusal of the scroll Pao-y was, at once, the more stirred with admiration; and, as he crossed the door, and reached the interior, the only things that struck his eye were about ten large presses, the whole number of which were sealed with paper slips; on every one of these slips, he perceived that there were phrases peculiar to each province.

Pao-y was in his mind merely bent upon discerning, from the rest, the slip referring to his own native village, when he espied, on the other side, a slip with the large characters: “the Principal Record of the Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling.”

“What is the meaning,” therefore inquired Pao-y, “of the Principal Record of the Twelve Maidens of Chin Ling?”

“As this is the record,” explained the Fairy, “of the most excellent and prominent girls in your honourable province, it is, for this reason, called the Principal Record.”

“I’ve often heard people say,” observed Pao-y, “that Chin Ling is of vast extent; and how can there only be twelve maidens in it! why, at present, in our own family alone, there are more or less several hundreds of young girls!”

The Fairy gave a faint smile. “Through there be,” she rejoined, “so large a number of girls in your honourable province, those only of any note have been selected and entered in this record. The two presses, on the two sides, contain those who are second best; while, for all who remain, as they are of the ordinary run, there are, consequently, no registers to make any entry of them in.”

Pao-y upon looking at the press below, perceived the inscription: "Secondary Record of the twelve girls of Chin Ling;” while again in another press was inscribed: “Supplementary Secondary Record of the Twelve girls of Chin Ling.” Forthwith stretching out his hand, Pao-y opened first the doors of the press, containing the “supplementary secondary Record,” extracted a volume of the registers, and opened it. When he came to examine it, he saw on the front page a representation of something, which, though bearing no resemblance to a human being, presented, at the same time, no similitude to scenery; consisting simply of huge blotches made with ink. The whole paper was full of nothing else but black clouds and turbid mists, after which appeared the traces of a few characters, explaining that–

  A cloudless moon is rare forsooth to see,
  And pretty clouds so soon scatter and flee!
  Thy heart is deeper than the heavens are high,
  Thy frame consists of base ignominy!
  Thy looks and clever mind resentment will provoke,
  And thine untimely death vile slander will evoke!
  A loving noble youth in vain for love will yearn.

After reading these lines, Pao-y looked below, where was pictured a bouquet of fresh flowers and a bed covered with tattered matting. There were also several distiches running as follows:

  Thy self-esteem for kindly gentleness is but a fancy vain!
  Thy charms that they can match the olea or orchid, but thoughts inane!
  While an actor will, envious lot! with fortune’s smiles be born,
  A youth of noble birth will, strange to say, be luckless and forlorn.

Pao-y perused these sentences, but could not unfold their meaning, so, at once discarding this press, he went over and opened the door of the press of the “Secondary Records” and took out a book, in which, on examination, he found a representation of a twig of Olea fragrans. Below, was a pond, the water of which was parched up and the mud dry, the lotus flowers decayed, and even the roots dead. At the back were these lines:

  The lotus root and flower but one fragrance will give;
  How deep alas! the wounds of thy life’s span will be;
  What time a desolate tree in two places will live,
  Back to its native home the fragrant ghost will flee!

Pao-y read these lines, but failed to understand what they meant. He then went and fetched the “Principal Record,” and set to looking it over. He saw on the first page a picture of two rotten trees, while on these trees was suspended a jade girdle. There was also a heap of snow, and under this snow was a golden hair-pin. There were in addition these four lines in verse:

  Bitter thy cup will be, e’en were the virtue thine to stop the loom,
  Thine though the gift the willow fluff to sing, pity who will thy
  High in the trees doth hang the girdle of white jade,
  And lo! among the snow the golden pin is laid!

To Pao-y the meaning was again, though he read the lines over, quite unintelligible. He was, about to make inquiries, but he felt convinced that the Fairy would be both to divulge the decrees of Heaven; and though intent upon discarding the book, he could not however tear himself away from it. Forthwith, therefore, he prosecuted a further perusal of what came next, when he caught sight of a picture of a bow. On this bow hung a citron. There was also this ode:

  Full twenty years right and wrong to expound will be thy fate!
  What place pomegranate blossoms come in bloom will face the Palace
  The third portion of spring, of the first spring in beauty short will
  When tiger meets with hare thou wilt return to sleep perennial.

Further on, was also a sketch of two persons flying a kite; a broad expanse of sea, and a large vessel; while in this vessel was a girl, who screened her face bedewed with tears. These four lines were likewise visible:

  Pure and bright will be thy gifts, thy purpose very high;
  But born thou wilt be late in life and luck be passed by;
  At the tomb feast thou wilt repine tearful along the stream,
  East winds may blow, but home miles off will be, even in dream.

After this followed a picture of several streaks of fleeting clouds, and of a creek whose waters were exhausted, with the text:

  Riches and honours too what benefit are they?
  In swaddling clothes thou’lt be when parents pass away;
  The rays will slant, quick as the twinkle of an eye;
  The Hsiang stream will recede, the Ch’u clouds onward fly!

Then came a picture of a beautiful gem, which had fallen into the mire, with the verse:

  Thine aim is chastity, but chaste thou wilt not be;
  Abstraction is thy faith, but void thou may’st not see;
  Thy precious, gemlike self will, pitiful to say,
  Into the mundane mire collapse at length some day.

A rough sketch followed of a savage wolf, in pursuit of a beautiful girl, trying to pounce upon her as he wished to devour her. This was the burden of the distich:

  Thy mate is like a savage wolf prowling among the hills;
  His wish once gratified a haughty spirit his heart fills!
  Though fair thy form like flowers or willows in the golden moon,
  Upon the yellow beam to hang will shortly be its doom.

Below, was an old temple, in the interior of which was a beautiful person, just in the act of reading the religious manuals, as she sat all alone; with this inscription:

  In light esteem thou hold’st the charms of the three springs for their
      short-liv’d fate;
  Thine attire of past years to lay aside thou chang’st, a Taoist dress
      to don;
  How sad, alas! of a reputed house and noble kindred the scion,
  Alone, behold! she sleeps under a glimmering light, an old idol for

Next in order came a hill of ice, on which stood a hen-phoenix, while under it was this motto:

  When time ends, sure coincidence, the phoenix doth alight;
  The talents of this human form all know and living see,
  For first to yield she kens, then to control, and third genial to be;
  But sad to say, things in Chin Ling are in more sorry plight.

This was succeeded by a representation of a desolate village, and a dreary inn. A pretty girl sat in there, spinning thread. These were the sentiments affixed below:

  When riches will have flown will honours then avail?
  When ruin breaks your home, e’en relatives will fail!
  But sudden through the aid extended to Dame Liu,
  A friend in need fortune will make to rise for you.

Following these verses, was drawn a pot of Orchids, by the side of which, was a beautiful maiden in a phoenix-crown and cloudy mantle (bridal dress); and to this picture was appended this device:

  What time spring wanes, then fades the bloom of peach as well as plum!
  Who ever can like a pot of the olea be winsome!
  With ice thy purity will vie, vain their envy will be!
  In vain a laughing-stock people will try to make of thee.

At the end of this poetical device, came the representation of a lofty edifice, on which was a beauteous girl, suspending herself on a beam to commit suicide; with this verse:

  Love high as heav’n, love ocean-wide, thy lovely form will don;
  What time love will encounter love, license must rise wanton;
  Why hold that all impiety in Jung doth find its spring,
  The source of trouble, verily, is centred most in Ning.

Pao-y was still bent upon prosecuting his perusal, when the Fairy perceiving that his intellect was eminent and bright, and his natural talents quickwitted, and apprehending lest the decrees of heaven should be divulged, hastily closed the Book of Record, and addressed herself to Pao-y. “Come along with me,” she said smiling, “and see some wonderful scenery. What’s the need of staying here and beating this gourd of ennui?”

In a dazed state, Pao-y listlessly discarded the record, and again followed in the footsteps of the Fairy. On their arrival at the back, he saw carnation portires, and embroidered curtains, ornamented pillars, and carved eaves. But no words can adequately give an idea of the vermilion apartments glistening with splendour, of the floors garnished with gold, of the snow reflecting lustrous windows, of the palatial mansions made of gems. He also saw fairyland flowers, beautiful and fragrant, and extraordinary vegetation, full of perfume. The spot was indeed elysian.

He again heard the Fairy observe with a smiling face: “Come out all of you at once and greet the honoured guest!”

These words were scarcely completed, when he espied fairies walk out of the mansion, all of whom were, with their dangling lotus sleeves, and their fluttering feather habiliments, as comely as spring flowers, and as winsome as the autumn moon. As soon as they caught sight of Pao-y, they all, with one voice, resentfully reproached the Monitory Vision Fairy. “Ignorant as to who the honoured guest could be,” they argued, "we hastened to come out to offer our greetings simply because you, elder sister, had told us that, on this day, and at this very time, there would be sure to come on a visit, the spirit of the younger sister of Chiang Chu. That’s the reason why we’ve been waiting for ever so long; and now why do you, in lieu of her, introduce this vile object to contaminate the confines of pure and spotless maidens?”

As soon as Pao-y heard these remarks, he was forthwith plunged in such a state of consternation that he would have retired, but he found it impossible to do so. In fact, he felt the consciousness of the foulness and corruption of his own nature quite intolerable. The Monitory Vision Fairy promptly took Pao-y’s hand in her own, and turning towards her younger sisters, smiled and explained: “You, and all of you, are not aware of the why and wherefore. To-day I did mean to have gone to the Jung mansion to fetch Chiang Chu, but as I went by the Ning mansion, I unexpectedly came across the ghosts of the two dukes of Jung and Ning, who addressed me in this wise: ’Our family has, since the dynasty established itself on the Throne, enjoyed merit and fame, which pervaded many ages, and riches and honours transmitted from generation to generation. One hundred years have already elapsed, but this good fortune has now waned, and this propitious luck is exhausted; so much so that they could not be retrieved! Our sons and grandsons may be many, but there is no one among them who has the means to continue the family estate, with the exception of our kindred grandson, Pao-y alone, who, though perverse in disposition and wayward by nature, is nevertheless intelligent and quick-witted and qualified in a measure to give effect to our hopes. But alas! the good fortune of our family is entirely decayed, so that we fear there is no person to incite him to enter the right way! Fortunately you worthy fairy come at an unexpected moment, and we venture to trust that you will, above all things, warn him against the foolish indulgence of inordinate desire, lascivious affections and other such things, in the hope that he may, at your instigation, be able to escape the snares of those girls who will allure him with their blandishments, and to enter on the right track; and we two brothers will be ever grateful.’

“On language such as this being addressed to me, my feelings of commiseration naturally burst forth; and I brought him here, and bade him, first of all, carefully peruse the records of the whole lives of the maidens in his family, belonging to the three grades, the upper, middle and lower, but as he has not yet fathomed the import, I have consequently led him into this place to experience the vision of drinking, eating, singing and licentious love, in the hope, there is no saying, of his at length attaining that perception.”

Having concluded these remarks, she led Pao-y by the hand into the apartment, where he felt a whiff of subtle fragrance, but what it was that reached his nostrils he could not tell.

To Pao-y’s eager and incessant inquiries, the Fairy made reply with a sardonic smile. “This perfume,” she said, “is not to be found in the world, and how could you discern what it is? This is made of the essence of the first sprouts of rare herbs, growing on all hills of fame and places of superior excellence, admixed with the oil of every species of splendid shrubs in precious groves, and is called the marrow of Conglomerated Fragrance.”

At these words Pao-y was, of course, full of no other feeling than wonder.

The whole party advanced and took their seats, and a young maidservant presented tea, which Pao-y found of pure aroma, of excellent flavour and of no ordinary kind. “What is the name of this tea?” he therefore asked; upon which the Fairy explained. “This tea,” she added, "originates from the Hills of Emitted Spring and the Valley of Drooping Fragrance, and is, besides, brewed in the night dew, found on spiritual plants and divine leaves. The name of this tea is ’one thousand red in one hole.’”

At these words Pao-y nodded his head, and extolled its qualities. Espying in the room lutes, with jasper mountings, and tripods, inlaid with gems, antique paintings, and new poetical works, which were to be seen everywhere, he felt more than ever in a high state of delight. Below the windows, were also shreds of velvet sputtered about and a toilet case stained with the traces of time and smudged with cosmetic; while on the partition wall was likewise suspended a pair of scrolls, with the inscription:

  A lonesome, small, ethereal, beauteous nook!
  What help is there, but Heaven’s will to brook?

Pao-y having completed his inspection felt full of admiration, and proceeded to ascertain the names and surnames of the Fairies. One was called the Fairy of Lustful Dreams; another “the High Ruler of Propagated Passion;” the name of one was “the Golden Maiden of Perpetuated Sorrow;” of another the “Intelligent Maiden of Transmitted Hatred.” (In fact,) the respective Taoist appellations were not of one and the same kind.

In a short while, young maid-servants came in and laid the table, put the chairs in their places, and spread out wines and eatables. There were actually crystal tankards overflowing with luscious wines, and amber glasses full to the brim with pearly strong liquors. But still less need is there to give any further details about the sumptuousness of the refreshments.

Pao-y found it difficult, on account of the unusual purity of the bouquet of the wine, to again restrain himself from making inquiries about it.

“This wine,” observed the Monitory Dream Fairy, “is made of the twigs of hundreds of flowers, and the juice of ten thousands of trees, with the addition of must composed of unicorn marrow, and yeast prepared with phoenix milk. Hence the name of ’Ten thousand Beauties in one Cup’ was given to it.”

Pao-y sang its incessant praise, and, while he sipped his wine, twelve dancing girls came forward, and requested to be told what songs they were to sing.

“Take,” suggested the Fairy, “the newly-composed Twelve Sections of the Dream of the Red Chamber, and sing them.”

The singing girls signified their obedience, and forthwith they lightly clapped the castagnettes and gently thrummed the virginals. These were the words which they were heard to sing:

  At the time of the opening of the heavens and the laying out of the
      earth chaos prevailed.

They had just sung this one line when the Fairy exclaimed: “This ballad is unlike the ballads written in the dusty world whose purport is to hand down remarkable events, in which the distinction of scholars, girls, old men and women, and fools is essential, and in which are furthermore introduced the lyrics of the Southern and Northern Palaces. These fairy songs consist either of elegaic effusions on some person or impressions of some occurrence or other, and are impromptu songs readily set to the music of wind or string instruments, so that any one who is not cognisant of their gist cannot appreciate the beauties contained in them. So you are not likely, I fear, to understand this lyric with any clearness; and unless you first peruse the text and then listen to the ballad, you will, instead of pleasure, feel as if you were chewing wax (devoid of any zest).”

After these remarks, she turned her head round, and directed a young maid-servant to fetch the text of the Dream of the Red Chamber, which she handed to Pao-y, who took it over; and as he followed the words with his eyes, with his ears he listened to the strains of this song:

Preface of the Bream of the Red Chamber.–When the Heavens were opened and earth was laid out chaos prevailed! What was the germ of love? It arises entirely from the strength of licentious love.

What day, by the will of heaven, I felt wounded at heart, and what time I was at leisure, I made an attempt to disburden my sad heart; and with this object in view I indited this Dream of the Bed Chamber, on the subject of a disconsolate gold trinket and an unfortunate piece of jade.

Waste of a whole Lifetime. All maintain that the match between gold and jade will be happy. All I can think of is the solemn oath contracted in days gone by by the plant and stone! Vain will I gaze upon the snow, Hseh, [Pao-ch’ai], pure as crystal and lustrous like a gem of the eminent priest living among the hills! Never will I forget the noiseless Fairy Grove, Lin [Tai-y], beyond the confines of the mortal world! Alas! now only have I come to believe that human happiness is incomplete; and that a couple may be bound by the ties of wedlock for life, but that after all their hearts are not easy to lull into contentment.

Vain knitting of the brows. The one is a spirit flower of Fairyland; the other is a beautiful jade without a blemish. Do you maintain that their union will not be remarkable? Why how then is it that he has come to meet her again in this existence? If the union will you say, be strange, how is it then that their love affair will be but empty words? The one in her loneliness will give way to useless sighs. The other in vain will yearn and crave. The one will be like the reflection of the moon in water; the other like a flower reflected in a mirror. Consider, how many drops of tears can there be in the eyes? and how could they continue to drop from autumn to winter and from spring to flow till summer time?

But to come to Pao-y. After he had heard these ballads, so diffuse and vague, he failed to see any point of beauty in them; but the plaintive melody of the sound was nevertheless sufficient to drive away his spirit and exhilarate his soul. Hence it was that he did not make any inquiries about the arguments, and that he did not ask about the matter treated, but simply making these ballads the means for the time being of dispelling melancholy, he therefore went on with the perusal of what came below. Despicable Spirit of Death! You will be rejoicing that glory is at its height when hateful death will come once again, and with eyes wide with horror, you will discard all things, and dimly and softly the fragrant spirit will waste and dissolve! You will yearn for native home, but distant will be the way, and lofty the mountains. Hence it is that you will betake yourself in search of father and mother, while they lie under the influence of a dream, and hold discourse with them. “Your child,” you will say, “has already trodden the path of death! Oh my parents, it behoves you to speedily retrace your steps and make good your escape!”

Separated from Relatives. You will speed on a journey of three thousand li at the mercy of wind and rain, and tear yourself from all your family ties and your native home! Your fears will be lest anguish should do any harm to your parents in their failing years! “Father and mother,” you will bid them, “do not think with any anxiety of your child. From ages past poverty as well as success have both had a fixed destiny; and is it likely that separation and reunion are not subject to predestination? Though we may now be far apart in two different places, we must each of us try and preserve good cheer. Your abject child has, it is true, gone from home, but abstain from distressing yourselves on her account!”

Sorrow in the midst of Joy. While wrapped as yet in swaddling clothes, father and mother, both alas! will depart, and dwell though you will in that mass of gauze, who is there who will know how to spoil you with any fond attention? Born you will be fortunately with ample moral courage, and high-minded and boundless resources, for your parents will not have, in the least, their child’s secret feelings at heart! You will be like a moon appearing to view when the rain holds up, shedding its rays upon the Jade Hall; or a gentle breeze (wafting its breath upon it). Wedded to a husband, fairy like fair and accomplished, you will enjoy a happiness enduring as the earth and perennial as the Heavens! and you will be the means of snapping asunder the bitter fate of your youth! But, after all, the clouds will scatter in Kao T’ang and the waters of the Hsiang river will get parched! This is the inevitable destiny of dissolution and continuance which prevails in the mortal world, and what need is there to indulge in useless grief?

Intolerable to the world. Your figure will be as winsome as an olea fragrans; your talents as ample as those of a Fairy! You will by nature be so haughty that of the whole human race few will be like you! You will look upon a meat diet as one of dirt, and treat splendour as coarse and loathsome! And yet you will not be aware that your high notions will bring upon you the excessive hatred of man! You will be very eager in your desire after chastity, but the human race will despise you! Alas, you will wax old in that antique temple hall under a faint light, where you will waste ungrateful for beauty, looks and freshness! But after all you will still be worldly, corrupt and unmindful of your vows; just like a spotless white jade you will be whose fate is to fall into the mire! And what need will there be for the grandson of a prince or the son of a duke to deplore that his will not be the good fortune (of winning your affections)?

The Voluptuary. You will resemble a wolf in the mountains! a savage beast devoid of all human feeling! Regardless in every way of the obligations of days gone by, your sole pleasure will be in the indulgence of haughtiness, extravagance, licentiousness and dissolute habits! You will be inordinate in your conjugal affections, and look down upon the beautiful charms of the child of a marquis, as if they were cat-tail rush or willow; trampling upon the honourable daughter of a ducal mansion, as if she were one of the common herd. Pitiful to say, the fragrant spirit and beauteous ghost will in a year softly and gently pass away!

The Perception that all things are transient like flowers. You will look lightly upon the three springs and regard the blush of the peach and the green of the willow as of no avail. You will beat out the fire of splendour, and treat solitary retirement as genial! What is it that you say about the delicate peaches in the heavens (marriage) being excellent, and the petals of the almond in the clouds being plentiful (children)? Let him who has after all seen one of them, (really a mortal being) go safely through the autumn, (wade safely through old age), behold the people in the white Poplar village groan and sigh; and the spirits under the green maple whine and moan! Still more wide in expanse than even the heavens is the dead vegetation which covers the graves! The moral is this, that the burden of man is poverty one day and affluence another; that bloom in spring, and decay in autumn, constitute the doom of vegetable life! In the same way, this calamity of birth and the visitation of death, who is able to escape? But I have heard it said that there grows in the western quarter a tree called the P’o So (Patient Bearing) which bears the fruit of Immortal life!

The bane of Intelligence. Yours will be the power to estimate, in a thorough manner, the real motives of all things, as yours will be intelligence of an excessive degree; but instead (of reaping any benefit) you will cast the die of your own existence! The heart of your previous life is already reduced to atoms, and when you shall have died, your nature will have been intelligent to no purpose! Your home will be in easy circumstances; your family will enjoy comforts; but your connexions will, at length, fall a prey to death, and the inmates of your family scatter, each one of you speeding in a different direction, making room for others! In vain, you will have harassed your mind with cankering thoughts for half a lifetime; for it will be just as if you had gone through the confused mazes of a dream on the third watch! Sudden a crash (will be heard) like the fall of a spacious palace, and a dusky gloominess (will supervene) such as is caused by a lamp about to spend itself! Alas! a spell of happiness will be suddenly (dispelled by) adversity! Woe is man in the world! for his ultimate doom is difficult to determine!

Leave behind a residue of happiness! Hand down an excess of happiness; hand down an excess of happiness! Unexpectedly you will come across a benefactor! Fortunate enough your mother, your own mother, will have laid by a store of virtue and secret meritorious actions! My advice to you, mankind, is to relieve the destitute and succour the distressed! Do not resemble those who will harp after lucre and show themselves unmindful of the ties of relationship: that wolflike maternal uncle of yours and that impostor of a brother! True it is that addition and subtraction, increase and decrease, (reward and punishment,) rest in the hands of Heaven above!

Splendour at last. Loving affection in a mirror will be still more ephemeral than fame in a dream. That fine splendour will fleet how soon! Make no further allusion to embroidered curtain, to bridal coverlet; for though you may come to wear on your head a pearl-laden coronet, and, on your person, a jacket ornamented with phoenixes, yours will not nevertheless be the means to atone for the short life (of your husband)! Though the saying is that mankind should not have, in their old age, the burden of poverty to bear, yet it is also essential that a store of benevolent deeds should be laid up for the benefit of sons and grandsons! (Your son) may come to be dignified in appearance and wear on his head the official tassel, and on his chest may be suspended the gold seal resplendent in lustre; he may be imposing in his majesty, and he may rise high in status and emoluments, but the dark and dreary way which leads to death is short! Are the generals and ministers who have been from ages of old still in the flesh, forsooth? They exist only in a futile name handed down to posterity to reverence!

Death ensues when things propitious reign! Upon the ornamented beam will settle at the close of spring the fragrant dust! Your reckless indulgence of licentious love and your naturally moonlike face will soon be the source of the ruin of a family. The decadence of the family estate will emanate entirely from Ching; while the wane of the family affairs will be entirely attributable to the fault of Ning! Licentious love will be the main reason of the long-standing grudge.

The flying birds each perch upon the trees! The family estates of those in official positions will fade! The gold and silver of the rich and honoured will be scattered! those who will have conferred benefit will, even in death, find the means of escape! those devoid of human feelings will reap manifest retribution! Those indebted for a life will make, in due time, payment with their lives; those indebted for tears have already (gone) to exhaust their tears! Mutual injuries will be revenged in no light manner! Separation and reunion will both alike be determined by predestination! You wish to know why your life will be short; look into your previous existence! Verily, riches and honours, which will come with old age, will likewise be a question of chance! Those who will hold the world in light esteem will retire within the gate of abstraction; while those who will be allured by enticement will have forfeited their lives (The Chia family will fulfil its destiny) as surely as birds take to the trees after they have exhausted all they had to eat, and which as they drop down will pile up a hoary, vast and lofty heap of dust, (leaving) indeed a void behind!

When the maidens had finished the ballads, they went on to sing the "Supplementary Record;” but the Monitory Vision Fairy, perceiving the total absence of any interest in Pao-y, heaved a sigh. “You silly brat!” she exclaimed. “What! haven’t you, even now, attained perception!”

“There’s no need for you to go on singing,” speedily observed Pao-y, as he interrupted the singing maidens; and feeling drowsy and dull, he pleaded being under the effects of wine, and begged to be allowed to lie down.

The Fairy then gave orders to clear away the remains of the feast, and escorted Pao-y to a suite of female apartments, where the splendour of such objects as were laid out was a thing which he had not hitherto seen. But what evoked in him wonder still more intense, was the sight, at an early period, of a girl seated in the room, who, in the freshness of her beauty and winsomeness of her charms, bore some resemblance to Pao-ch’ai, while, in elegance and comeliness, on the other hand, to Tai-yu.

While he was plunged in a state of perplexity, the Fairy suddenly remarked: “All those female apartments and ladies’ chambers in so many wealthy and honourable families in the world are, without exception, polluted by voluptuous opulent puppets and by all that bevy of profligate girls. But still more despicable are those from old till now numberless dissolute rous, one and all of whom maintain that libidinous affections do not constitute lewdness; and who try, further, to prove that licentious love is not tantamount to lewdness. But all these arguments are mere apologies for their shortcomings, and a screen for their pollutions; for if libidinous affection be lewdness, still more does the perception of licentious love constitute lewdness. Hence it is that the indulgence of sensuality and the gratification of licentious affection originate entirely from a relish of lust, as well as from a hankering after licentious love. Lo you, who are the object of my love, are the most lewd being under the heavens from remote ages to the present time!”

Pao-y was quite dumbstruck by what he heard, and hastily smiling, he said by way of reply: “My Fairy labours under a misapprehension. Simply because of my reluctance to read my books my parents have, on repeated occasions, extended to me injunction and reprimand, and would I have the courage to go so far as to rashly plunge in lewd habits? Besides, I am still young in years, and have no notion what is implied by lewdness!”

“Not so!” exclaimed the Fairy; “lewdness, although one thing in principle is, as far as meaning goes, subject to different constructions; as is exemplified by those in the world whose heart is set upon lewdness. Some delight solely in faces and figures; others find insatiable pleasure in singing and dancing; some in dalliance and raillery; others in the incessant indulgence of their lusts; and these regret that all the beautiful maidens under the heavens cannot minister to their short-lived pleasure. These several kinds of persons are foul objects steeped skin and all in lewdness. The lustful love, for instance, which has sprung to life and taken root in your natural affections, I and such as myself extend to it the character of an abstract lewdness; but abstract lewdness can be grasped by the mind, but cannot be transmitted by the mouth; can be fathomed by the spirit, but cannot be divulged in words. As you now are imbued with this desire only in the abstract, you are certainly well fit to be a trustworthy friend in (Fairyland) inner apartments, but, on the path of the mortal world, you will inevitably be misconstrued and defamed; every mouth will ridicule you; every eye will look down upon you with contempt. After meeting recently your worthy ancestors, the two Dukes of Ning and Jung, who opened their hearts and made their wishes known to me with such fervour, (but I will not have you solely on account of the splendour of our inner apartments look down despisingly upon the path of the world), I consequently led you along, my son, and inebriated you with luscious wines, steeped you in spiritual tea, and admonished you with excellent songs, bringing also here a young sister of mine, whose infant name is Chien Mei, and her style K’o Ching, to be given to you as your wedded wife. To-night, the time will be propitious and suitable for the immediate consummation of the union, with the express object of letting you have a certain insight into the fact that if the condition of the abode of spirits within the confines of Fairyland be still so (imperfect), how much the more so should be the nature of the affections which prevail in the dusty world; with the intent that from this time forth you should positively break loose from bondage, perceive and amend your former disposition, devote your attention to the works of Confucius and Mencius, and set your steady purpose upon the principles of morality.”

Having ended these remarks, she initiated him into the mysteries of licentious love, and, pushing Pao-y into the room, she closed the door, and took her departure all alone. Pao-y in a dazed state complied with the admonitions given him by the Fairy, and the natural result was, of course, a violent flirtation, the circumstances of which it would be impossible to recount.

When the next day came, he was by that time so attached to her by ties of tender love and their conversation was so gentle and full of charm that he could not brook to part from K’o Ching. Hand-in-hand, the two of them therefore, went out for a stroll, when they unexpectedly reached a place, where nothing else met their gaze than thorns and brambles, which covered the ground, and a wolf and a tiger walking side by side. Before them stretched the course of a black stream, which obstructed their progress; and over this stream there was, what is more, no bridge to enable one to cross it.

While they were exercising their minds with perplexity, they suddenly espied the Fairy coming from the back in pursuit of them. “Desist at once,” she exclaimed, “from making any advance into the stream; it is urgent that you should, with all speed, turn your faces round!”

Pao-y lost no time in standing still. “What is this place?” he inquired.

“This is the Ford of Enticement,” explained the Fairy. “Its depth is ten thousand chang; its breadth is a thousand li; in its stream there are no boats or paddles by means of which to effect a passage. There is simply a raft, of which Mu Chu-shih directs the rudder, and which Hui Shih chen punts with the poles. They receive no compensation in the shape of gold or silver, but when they come across any one whose destiny it is to cross, they ferry him over. You now have by accident strolled as far as here, and had you fallen into the stream you would have rendered quite useless the advice and admonition which I previously gave you.”

These words were scarcely concluded, when suddenly was heard from the midst of the Ford of Enticement, a sound like unto a peal of thunder, whereupon a whole crowd of gobblins and sea-urchins laid hands upon Pao-y and dragged him down.

This so filled Pao-y with consternation that he fell into a perspiration as profuse as rain, and he simultaneously broke forth and shouted, “Rescue me, K’o Ching!”

These cries so terrified Hsi Jen and the other waiting-maids, that they rushed forward, and taking Pao-y in their arms, “Don’t be afraid, Pao-y,” they said, “we are here.”

But we must observe that Mrs. Ch’in was just inside the apartment in the act of recommending the young waiting-maids to be mindful that the cats and dogs did not start a fight, when she unawares heard Pao-y, in his dream, call her by her infant name. In a melancholy mood she therefore communed within herself, “As far as my infant name goes, there is, in this establishment, no one who has any idea what it is, and how is it that he has come to know it, and that he utters it in his dream?” And she was at this period unable to fathom the reason. But, reader, listen to the explanations given in the chapter which follows.

Chapter VI.

  Chia Pao-y reaps his first experience in licentious love.
  Old Goody Liu pays a visit to the Jung Kuo Mansion.

Mrs. Ch’in, to resume our narrative, upon hearing Pao-y call her in his dream by her infant name, was at heart very exercised, but she did not however feel at liberty to make any minute inquiry.

Pao-y was, at this time, in such a dazed state, as if he had lost something, and the servants promptly gave him a decoction of lungngan. After he had taken a few sips, he forthwith rose and tidied his clothes.

Hsi Jen put out her hand to fasten the band of his garment, and as soon as she did so, and it came in contact with his person, it felt so icy cold to the touch, covered as it was all over with perspiration, that she speedily withdrew her hand in utter surprise.

“What’s the matter with you?” she exclaimed.

A blush suffused Pao-y’s face, and he took Hsi Jen’s hand in a tight grip. Hsi Jen was a girl with all her wits about her; she was besides a couple of years older than Pao-y and had recently come to know something of the world, so that at the sight of his state, she to a great extent readily accounted for the reason in her heart. From modest shame, she unconsciously became purple in the face, and not venturing to ask another question she continued adjusting his clothes. This task accomplished, she followed him over to old lady Chia’s apartments; and after a hurry-scurry meal, they came back to this side, and Hsi Jen availed herself of the absence of the nurses and waiting-maids to hand Pao-y another garment to change.

“Please, dear Hsi Jen, don’t tell any one,” entreated Pao-y, with concealed shame.

“What did you dream of?” inquired Hsi Jen, smiling, as she tried to stifle her blushes, “and whence comes all this perspiration?”

“It’s a long story,” said Pao-y, “which only a few words will not suffice to explain.”

He accordingly recounted minutely, for her benefit, the subject of his dream. When he came to where the Fairy had explained to him the mysteries of love, Hsi Jen was overpowered with modesty and covered her face with her hands; and as she bent down, she gave way to a fit of laughter. Pao-y had always been fond of Hsi Jen, on account of her gentleness, pretty looks and graceful and elegant manner, and he forthwith expounded to her all the mysteries he had been taught by the Fairy.

Hsi Jen was, of course, well aware that dowager lady Chia had given her over to Pao-y, so that her present behaviour was likewise no transgression. And subsequently she secretly attempted with Pao-y a violent flirtation, and lucky enough no one broke in upon them during their tte--tte. From this date, Pao-y treated Hsi Jen with special regard, far more than he showed to the other girls, while Hsi Jen herself was still more demonstrative in her attentions to Pao-y. But for a time we will make no further remark about them.

As regards the household of the Jung mansion, the inmates may, on adding up the total number, not have been found many; yet, counting the high as well as the low, there were three hundred persons and more. Their affairs may not have been very numerous, still there were, every day, ten and twenty matters to settle; in fact, the household resembled, in every way, ravelled hemp, devoid even of a clue-end, which could be used as an introduction.

Just as we were considering what matter and what person it would be best to begin writing of, by a lucky coincidence suddenly from a distance of a thousand li, a person small and insignificant as a grain of mustard seed happened, on account of her distant relationship with the Jung family, to come on this very day to the Jung mansion on a visit. We shall therefore readily commence by speaking of this family, as it after all affords an excellent clue for a beginning.

The surname of this mean and humble family was in point of fact Wang. They were natives of this district. Their ancestor had filled a minor office in the capital, and had, in years gone by, been acquainted with lady Feng’s grandfather, that is madame Wang’s father. Being covetous of the influence and affluence of the Wang family, he consequently joined ancestors with them, and was recognised by them as a nephew.

At that time, there were only madame Wang’s eldest brother, that is lady Feng’s father, and madame Wang herself, who knew anything of these distant relations, from the fact of having followed their parents to the capital. The rest of the family had one and all no idea about them.

This ancestor had, at this date, been dead long ago, leaving only one son called Wang Ch’eng. As the family estate was in a state of ruin, he once more moved outside the city walls and settled down in his native village. Wang Ch’eng also died soon after his father, leaving a son, known in his infancy as Kou Erh, who married a Miss Liu, by whom he had a son called by the infant name of Pan Erh, as well as a daughter, Ch’ing Erh. His family consisted of four, and he earned a living from farming.

As Kou Erh was always busy with something or other during the day and his wife, dame Liu, on the other hand, drew the water, pounded the rice and attended to all the other domestic concerns, the brother and sister, Ch’ing Erh and Pan Erh, the two of them, had no one to look after them. (Hence it was that) Kou Erh brought over his mother-in-law, old goody Liu, to live with them.

This goody Liu was an old widow, with a good deal of experience. She had besides no son round her knees, so that she was dependent for her maintenance on a couple of acres of poor land, with the result that when her son-in-law received her in his home, she naturally was ever willing to exert heart and mind to help her daughter and her son-in-law to earn their living.

This year, the autumn had come to an end, winter had commenced, and the weather had begun to be quite cold. No provision had been made in the household for the winter months, and Kou Erh was, inevitably, exceedingly exercised in his heart. Having had several cups of wine to dispel his distress, he sat at home and tried to seize upon every trifle to give vent to his displeasure. His wife had not the courage to force herself in his way, and hence goody Liu it was who encouraged him, as she could not bear to see the state of the domestic affairs.

“Don’t pull me up for talking too much,” she said; “but who of us country people isn’t honest and open-hearted? As the size of the bowl we hold, so is the quantity of the rice we eat. In your young days, you were dependent on the support of your old father, so that eating and drinking became quite a habit with you; that’s how, at the present time, your resources are quite uncertain; when you had money, you looked ahead, and didn’t mind behind; and now that you have no money, you blindly fly into huffs. A fine fellow and a capital hero you have made! Living though we now be away from the capital, we are after all at the feet of the Emperor; this city of Ch’ang Ngan is strewn all over with money, but the pity is that there’s no one able to go and fetch it away; and it’s no use your staying at home and kicking your feet about.”

“All you old lady know,” rejoined Kou Erh, after he had heard what she had to say, “is to sit on the couch and talk trash! Is it likely you would have me go and play the robber?”

“Who tells you to become a robber?” asked goody Liu. “But it would be well, after all, that we should put our heads together and devise some means; for otherwise, is the money, pray, able of itself to run into our house?”

“Had there been a way,” observed Kou Erh, smiling sarcastically, “would I have waited up to this moment? I have besides no revenue collectors as relatives, or friends in official positions; and what way could we devise? ’But even had I any, they wouldn’t be likely, I fear, to pay any heed to such as ourselves!”

“That, too, doesn’t follow,” remarked goody Liu; “the planning of affairs rests with man, but the accomplishment of them rests with Heaven. After we have laid our plans, we may, who can say, by relying on the sustenance of the gods, find some favourable occasion. Leave it to me, I’ll try and devise some lucky chance for you people! In years gone by, you joined ancestors with the Wang family of Chin Ling, and twenty years back, they treated you with consideration; but of late, you’ve been so high and mighty, and not condescended to go and bow to them, that an estrangement has arisen. I remember how in years gone by, I and my daughter paid them a visit. The second daughter of the family was really so pleasant and knew so well how to treat people with kindness, and without in fact any high airs! She’s at present the wife of Mr. Chia, the second son of the Jung Kuo mansion; and I hear people say that now that she’s advanced in years, she’s still more considerate to the poor, regardful of the old, and very fond of preparing vegetable food for the bonzes and performing charitable deeds. The head of the Wang mansion has, it is true, been raised to some office on the frontier, but I hope that this lady Secunda will anyhow notice us. How is it then that you don’t find your way as far as there; for she may possibly remember old times, and some good may, no one can say, come of it? I only wish that she would display some of her kind-heartedness, and pluck one hair from her person which would be, yea thicker than our waist.”

“What you suggest, mother, is quite correct,” interposed Mrs. Liu, Kou Erh’s wife, who stood by and took up the conversation, “but with such mouth and phiz as yours and mine, how could we present ourselves before her door? Why I fear that the man at her gate won’t also like to go and announce us! and we’d better not go and have our mouths slapped in public!”

Kou Erh, who would have thought it, prized highly both affluence and fame, so that when he heard these remarks, he forthwith began to feel at heart a little more at ease. When he furthermore heard what his wife had to say, he at once caught up the word as he smiled.

“Old mother,” he rejoined; “since that be your idea, and what’s more, you have in days gone by seen this lady on one occasion, why shouldn’t you, old lady, start to-morrow on a visit to her and first ascertain how the wind blows!”

“Ai Ya!” exclaimed old Goody, “It may very well be said that the marquis’ door is like the wide ocean! what sort of thing am I? why the servants of that family wouldn’t even recognise me! even were I to go, it would be on a wild goose chase.”

“No matter about that,” observed Kou Erh; “I’ll tell you a good way; you just take along with you, your grandson, little Pan Erh, and go first and call upon Chou Jui, who is attached to that household; and when once you’ve seen him, there will be some little chance. This Chou Jui, at one time, was connected with my father in some affair or other, and we were on excellent terms with him.”

“That I too know,” replied goody Liu, “but the thing is that you’ve had no dealings with him for so long, that who knows how he’s disposed towards us now? this would be hard to say. Besides, you’re a man, and with a mouth and phiz like that of yours, you couldn’t, on any account, go on this errand. My daughter is a young woman, and she too couldn’t very well go and expose herself to public gaze. But by my sacrificing this old face of mine, and by going and knocking it (against the wall) there may, after all, be some benefit and all of us might reap profit.”

That very same evening, they laid their plans, and the next morning before the break of day, old goody Liu speedily got up, and having performed her toilette, she gave a few useful hints to Pan Erh; who, being a child of five or six years of age, was, when he heard that he was to be taken into the city, at once so delighted that there was nothing that he would not agree to.

Without further delay, goody Liu led off Pan Erh, and entered the city, and reaching the Ning Jung street, she came to the main entrance of the Jung mansion, where, next to the marble lions, were to be seen a crowd of chairs and horses. Goody Liu could not however muster the courage to go by, but having shaken her clothes, and said a few more seasonable words to Pan Erh, she subsequently squatted in front of the side gate, whence she could see a number of servants, swelling out their chests, pushing out their stomachs, gesticulating with their hands and kicking their feet about, while they were seated at the main entrance chattering about one thing and another.

Goody Liu felt constrained to edge herself forward. “Gentlemen,” she ventured, “may happiness betide you!”

The whole company of servants scrutinised her for a time. “Where do you come from?” they at length inquired.

“I’ve come to look up Mr. Chou, an attendant of my lady’s,” remarked goody Liu, as she forced a smile; “which of you, gentlemen, shall I trouble to do me the favour of asking him to come out?”

The servants, after hearing what she had to say, paid, the whole number of them, no heed to her; and it was after the lapse of a considerable time that they suggested: “Go and wait at a distance, at the foot of that wall; and in a short while, the visitors, who are in their house, will be coming out.”

Among the party of attendants was an old man, who interposed,

“Don’t baffle her object,” he expostulated; “why make a fool of her?" and turning to goody Liu: “This Mr. Chou,” he said, “is gone south: his house is at the back row; his wife is anyhow at home; so go round this way, until you reach the door, at the back street, where, if you will ask about her, you will be on the right track.”

Goody Liu, having expressed her thanks, forthwith went, leading Pan Erh by the hand, round to the back door, where she saw several pedlars resting their burdens. There were also those who sold things to eat, and those who sold playthings and toys; and besides these, twenty or thirty boys bawled and shouted, making quite a noise.

Goody Liu readily caught hold of one of them. “I’d like to ask you just a word, my young friend,” she observed; “there’s a Mrs. Chou here; is she at home?”

“Which Mrs. Chou?” inquired the boy; “we here have three Mrs. Chous; and there are also two young married ladies of the name of Chou. What are the duties of the one you want, I wonder ?”

“She’s a waiting-woman of my lady,” replied goody Liu.

“It’s easy to get at her,” added the boy; “just come along with me.”

Leading the way for goody Liu into the backyard, they reached the wall of a court, when he pointed and said, “This is her house.–Mother Chou!" he went on to shout with alacrity; “there’s an old lady who wants to see you.”

Chou Jui’s wife was at home, and with all haste she came out to greet her visitor. “Who is it?” she asked.

Goody Liu advanced up to her. “How are you,” she inquired, “Mrs. Chou?”

Mrs. Chou looked at her for some time before she at length smiled and replied, “Old goody Liu, are you well? How many years is it since we’ve seen each other; tell me, for I forget just now; but please come in and sit.”

“You’re a lady of rank,” answered goody Liu smiling, as she walked along, “and do forget many things. How could you remember such as ourselves?”

With these words still in her mouth, they had entered the house, whereupon Mrs. Chou ordered a hired waiting-maid to pour the tea. While they were having their tea she remarked, “How Pan Erh has managed to grow!” and then went on to make inquiries on the subject of various matters, which had occurred after their separation.

“To-day,” she also asked of goody Liu, “were you simply passing by? or did you come with any express object?”

“I’ve come, the fact is, with an object!” promptly replied goody Liu; "(first of all) to see you, my dear sister-in-law; and, in the second place also, to inquire after my lady’s health. If you could introduce me to see her for a while, it would be better; but if you can’t, I must readily borrow your good offices, my sister-in-law, to convey my message.”

Mr. Chou Jui’s wife, after listening to these words, at once became to a great extent aware of the object of her visit. Her husband had, however, in years gone by in his attempt to purchase some land, obtained considerably the support of Kou Erh, so that when she, on this occasion, saw goody Liu in such a dilemma, she could not make up her mind to refuse her wish. Being in the second place keen upon making a display of her own respectability, she therefore said smilingly:

“Old goody Liu, pray compose your mind! You’ve come from far off with a pure heart and honest purpose, and how can I ever not show you the way how to see this living Buddha? Properly speaking, when people come and guests arrive, and verbal messages have to be given, these matters are not any of my business, as we all here have each one kind of duties to carry out. My husband has the special charge of the rents of land coming in, during the two seasons of spring and autumn, and when at leisure, he takes the young gentlemen out of doors, and then his business is done. As for myself, I have to accompany my lady and young married ladies on anything connected with out-of-doors; but as you are a relative of my lady and have besides treated me as a high person and come to me for help, I’ll, after all, break this custom and deliver your message. There’s only one thing, however, and which you, old lady, don’t know. We here are not what we were five years before. My lady now doesn’t much worry herself about anything; and it’s entirely lady Secunda who looks after the menage. But who do you presume is this lady Secunda? She’s the niece of my lady, and the daughter of my master, the eldest maternal uncle of by-gone days. Her infant name was Feng Ko.”

“Is it really she?” inquired promptly goody Liu, after this explanation. "Isn’t it strange? what I said about her years back has come out quite correct; but from all you say, shall I to-day be able to see her?”

“That goes without saying,” replied Chou Jui’s wife; “when any visitors come now-a-days, it’s always lady Feng who does the honours and entertains them, and it’s better to-day that you should see her for a while, for then you will not have walked all this way to no purpose.”

“O mi to fu!” exclaimed old goody Liu; “I leave it entirely to your convenience, sister-in-law.”

“What’s that you’re saying?” observed Chou Jui’s wife. “The proverb says: ’Our convenience is the convenience of others.’ All I have to do is to just utter one word, and what trouble will that be to me.”

Saying this, she bade the young waiting maid go to the side pavilion, and quietly ascertain whether, in her old ladyship’s apartment, table had been laid.

The young waiting-maid went on this errand, and during this while, the two of them continued a conversation on certain irrelevant matters.

“This lady Feng,” observed goody Liu, “can this year be no older than twenty, and yet so talented as to manage such a household as this! the like of her is not easy to find!”

“Hai! my dear old goody,” said Chou Jui’s wife, after listening to her, "it’s not easy to explain; but this lady Feng, though young in years, is nevertheless, in the management of affairs, superior to any man. She has now excelled the others and developed the very features of a beautiful young woman. To say the least, she has ten thousand eyes in her heart, and were they willing to wager their mouths, why ten men gifted with eloquence couldn’t even outdo her! But by and bye, when you’ve seen her, you’ll know all about her! There’s only this thing, she can’t help being rather too severe in her treatment of those below her.”

While yet she spake, the young waiting-maid returned. “In her venerable lady’s apartment,” she reported, “repast has been spread, and already finished; lady Secunda is in madame Wang’s chamber.”

As soon as Chou Jui’s wife heard this news, she speedily got up and pressed goody Liu to be off at once. “This is,” she urged, “just the hour for her meal, and as she is free we had better first go and wait for her; for were we to be even one step too late, a crowd of servants will come with their reports, and it will then be difficult to speak to her; and after her siesta, she’ll have still less time to herself.”

As she passed these remarks, they all descended the couch together. Goody Liu adjusted their dresses, and, having impressed a few more words of advice on Pan Erh, they followed Chou Jui’s wife through winding passages to Chia Lien’s house. They came in the first instance into the side pavilion, where Chou Jui’s wife placed old goody Liu to wait a little, while she herself went ahead, past the screen-wall and into the entrance of the court.

Hearing that lady Feng had not come out, she went in search of an elderly waiting-maid of lady Feng, P’ing Erh by name, who enjoyed her confidence, to whom Chou Jui’s wife first recounted from beginning to end the history of old goody Liu.

“She has come to-day,” she went on to explain, “from a distance to pay her obeisance. In days gone by, our lady used often to meet her, so that, on this occasion, she can’t but receive her; and this is why I’ve brought her in! I’ll wait here for lady Feng to come down, and explain everything to her; and I trust she’ll not call me to task for officious rudeness.”

P’ing Erh, after hearing what she had to say, speedily devised the plan of asking them to walk in, and to sit there pending (lady Feng’s arrival), when all would be right.

Chou Jui’s wife thereupon went out and led them in. When they ascended the steps of the main apartment, a young waiting-maid raised a red woollen portire, and as soon as they entered the hall, they smelt a whiff of perfume as it came wafted into their faces: what the scent was they could not discriminate; but their persons felt as if they were among the clouds.

The articles of furniture and ornaments in the whole room were all so brilliant to the sight, and so vying in splendour that they made the head to swim and the eyes to blink, and old goody Liu did nothing else the while than nod her head, smack her lips and invoke Buddha. Forthwith she was led to the eastern side into the suite of apartments, where was the bedroom of Chia Lien’s eldest daughter. P’ing Erh, who was standing by the edge of the stove-couch, cast a couple of glances at old goody Liu, and felt constrained to inquire how she was, and to press her to have a seat.

Goody Liu, noticing that P’ing Erh was entirely robed in silks, that she had gold pins fixed in her hair, and silver ornaments in her coiffure, and that her countenance resembled a flower or the moon (in beauty), readily imagined her to be lady Feng, and was about to address her as my lady; but when she heard Mrs. Chou speak to her as Miss P’ing, and P’ing Erh promptly address Chou Jui’s wife as Mrs. Chou, she eventually became aware that she could be no more than a waiting-maid of a certain respectability.

She at once pressed old goody Liu and Pan Erh to take a seat on the stove-couch. P’ing Erh and Chou Jui’s wife sat face to face, on the edges of the couch. The waiting-maids brought the tea. After they had partaken of it, old goody Liu could hear nothing but a “lo tang, lo tang” noise, resembling very much the sound of a bolting frame winnowing flour, and she could not resist looking now to the East, and now to the West. Suddenly in the great Hall, she espied, suspended on a pillar, a box at the bottom of which hung something like the weight of a balance, which incessantly wagged to and fro.

“What can this thing be?” communed goody Liu in her heart, “What can be its use?” While she was aghast, she unexpectedly heard a sound of “tang" like the sound of a golden bell or copper cymbal, which gave her quite a start. In a twinkle of the eyes followed eight or nine consecutive strokes; and she was bent upon inquiring what it was, when she caught sight of several waiting-maids enter in a confused crowd. “Our lady has come down!” they announced.

P’ng Erh, together with Chou Jui’s wife, rose with all haste. “Old goody Liu,” they urged, “do sit down and wait till it’s time, when we’ll come and ask you in.”

Saying this, they went out to meet lady Feng.

Old goody Liu, with suppressed voice and ear intent, waited in perfect silence. She heard at a distance the voices of some people laughing, whereupon about ten or twenty women, with rustling clothes and petticoats, made their entrance, one by one, into the hall, and thence into the room on the other quarter. She also detected two or three women, with red-lacquered boxes in their hands, come over on this part and remain in waiting.

“Get the repast ready!” she heard some one from the offside say.

The servants gradually dispersed and went out; and there only remained in attendance a few of them to bring in the courses. For a long time, not so much as the caw of a crow could be heard, when she unexpectedly perceived two servants carry in a couch-table, and lay it on this side of the divan. Upon this table were placed bowls and plates, in proper order replete, as usual, with fish and meats; but of these only a few kinds were slightly touched.

As soon as Pan Erh perceived (all these delicacies), he set up such a noise, and would have some meat to eat, but goody Liu administered to him such a slap, that he had to keep away.

Suddenly, she saw Mrs. Chou approach, full of smiles, and as she waved her hand, she called her. Goody Liu understood her meaning, and at once pulling Pan Erh off the couch, she proceeded to the centre of the Hall; and after Mrs. Chou had whispered to her again for a while, they came at length with slow step into the room on this side, where they saw on the outside of the door, suspended by brass hooks, a deep red flowered soft portire. Below the window, on the southern side, was a stove-couch, and on this couch was spread a crimson carpet. Leaning against the wooden partition wall, on the east side, stood a chain-embroidered back-cushion and a reclining pillow. There was also spread a large watered satin sitting cushion with a gold embroidered centre, and on the side stood cuspidores made of silver.

Lady Feng, when at home, usually wore on her head a front-piece of dark martin la Chao Chn, surrounded with tassels of strung pearls. She had on a robe of peach-red flowered satin, a short pelisse of slate-blue stiff silk, lined with squirrel, and a jupe of deep red foreign crepe, lined with ermine. Resplendent with pearl-powder and with cosmetics, she sat in there, stately and majestic, with a small brass poker in her hands, with which she was stirring the ashes of the hand-stove. P’ing Erh stood by the side of the couch, holding a very small lacquered tea-tray. In this tray was a small tea-cup with a cover. Lady Feng neither took any tea, nor did she raise her head, but was intent upon stirring the ashes of the hand-stove.

“How is it you haven’t yet asked her to come in?” she slowly inquired; and as she spake, she turned herself round and was about to ask for some tea, when she perceived that Mrs. Chou had already introduced the two persons and that they were standing in front of her.

She forthwith pretended to rise, but did not actually get up, and with a face radiant with smiles, she ascertained about their health, after which she went in to chide Chou Jui’s wife. “Why didn’t you tell me they had come before?” she said.

Old goody Liu was already by this time prostrated on the ground, and after making several obeisances, “How are you, my lady?” she inquired.

“Dear Mrs. Chou,” lady Feng immediately observed, “do pull her up, and don’t let her prostrate herself! I’m yet young in years and don’t know her much; what’s more, I’ve no idea what’s the degree of the relationship between us, and I daren’t speak directly to her.”

“This is the old lady about whom I spoke a short while back,” speedily explained Mrs. Chou.

Lady Feng nodded her head assentingly.

By this time old goody Liu had taken a seat on the edge of the stove-couch. As for Pan Erh, he had gone further, and taken refuge behind her back; and though she tried, by every means, to coax him to come forward and make a bow, he would not, for the life of him, consent.

“Relatives though we be,” remarked lady Feng, as she smiled, “we haven’t seen much of each other, so that our relations have been quite distant. But those who know how matters stand will assert that you all despise us, and won’t often come to look us up; while those mean people, who don’t know the truth, will imagine that we have no eyes to look at any one.”

Old goody Liu promptly invoked Buddha. “We are at home in great straits,” she pleaded, “and that’s why it wasn’t easy for us to manage to get away and come! Even supposing we had come as far as this, had we not given your ladyship a slap on the mouth, those gentlemen would also, in point of fact, have looked down upon us as a mean lot.”

“Why, language such as this,” exclaimed lady Feng smilingly, “cannot help making one’s heart full of displeasure! We simply rely upon the reputation of our grandfather to maintain the status of a penniless official; that’s all! Why, in whose household is there anything substantial? we are merely the denuded skeleton of what we were in days of old, and no more! As the proverb has it: The Emperor himself has three families of poverty-stricken relatives; and how much more such as you and I?”

Having passed these remarks, she inquired of Mrs. Chou, “Have you let madame know, yes or no?”

“We are now waiting,” replied Mrs. Chou, “for my lady’s orders.”

“Go and have a look,” said lady Feng; “but, should there be any one there, or should she be busy, then don’t make any mention; but wait until she’s free, when you can tell her about it and see what she says.”

Chou Jui’s wife, having expressed her compliance, went off on this errand. During her absence, lady Feng gave orders to some servants to take a few fruits and hand them to Pan Erh to eat; and she was inquiring about one thing and another, when there came a large number of married women, who had the direction of affairs in the household, to make their several reports.

P’ing Erh announced their arrival to lady Feng, who said: “I’m now engaged in entertaining some guests, so let them come back again in the evening; but should there be anything pressing then bring it in and I’ll settle it at once.”

P’ing Erh left the room, but she returned in a short while. “I’ve asked them,” she observed, “but as there’s nothing of any urgency, I told them to disperse.” Lady Feng nodded her head in token of approval, when she perceived Chou Jui’s wife come back. “Our lady,” she reported, as she addressed lady Feng, “says that she has no leisure to-day, that if you, lady Secunda, will entertain them, it will come to the same thing; that she’s much obliged for their kind attention in going to the trouble of coming; that if they have come simply on a stroll, then well and good, but that if they have aught to say, they should tell you, lady Secunda, which will be tantamount to their telling her.”

“I’ve nothing to say,” interposed old goody Liu. “I simply come to see our elder and our younger lady, which is a duty on my part, a relative as I am.”

“Well, if there’s nothing particular that you’ve got to say, all right," Mrs. Chou forthwith added, “but if you do have anything, don’t hesitate telling lady Secunda, and it will be just as if you had told our lady.”

As she uttered these words, she winked at goody Liu. Goody Liu understood what she meant, but before she could give vent to a word, her face got scarlet, and though she would have liked not to make any mention of the object of her visit, she felt constrained to suppress her shame and to speak out.

“Properly speaking,” she observed, “this being the first time I see you, my lady, I shouldn’t mention what I’ve to say, but as I come here from far off to seek your assistance, my old friend, I have no help but to mention it.”

She had barely spoken as much as this, when she heard the youths at the inner-door cry out: “The young gentleman from the Eastern Mansion has come.”

Lady Feng promptly interrupted her. “Old goody Liu,” she remarked, “you needn’t add anything more.” She, at the same time, inquired, “Where’s your master, Mr. Jung?” when became audible the sound of footsteps along the way, and in walked a young man of seventeen or eighteen. His appearance was handsome, his person slender and graceful. He had on light furs, a girdle of value, costly clothes and a beautiful cap.

At this stage, goody Liu did not know whether it was best to sit down or to stand up, neither could she find anywhere to hide herself.

“Pray sit down,” urged lady Feng, with a laugh; “this is my nephew!’ Old goody Liu then wriggled herself, now one way, and then another, on to the edge of the couch, where she took a seat.

“My father,” Chia Jung smilingly ventured, “has sent me to ask a favour of you, aunt. On some previous occasion, our grand aunt gave you, dear aunt, a stove-couch glass screen, and as to-morrow father has invited some guests of high standing, he wishes to borrow it to lay it out for a little show; after which he purposes sending it back again.”

“You’re late by a day,” replied lady Feng. “It was only yesterday that I gave it to some one.”

Chia Jung, upon hearing this, forthwith, with giggles and smiles, made, near the edge of the couch, a sort of genuflexion. “Aunt,” he went on, "if you don’t lend it, father will again say that I don’t know how to speak, and I shall get another sound thrashing. You must have pity upon your nephew, aunt.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” observed lady Feng sneeringly; "the things belonging to the Wang family are all good, but where have you put all those things of yours? the only good way is that you shouldn’t see anything of ours, for as soon as you catch sight of anything, you at once entertain a wish to carry it off.”

“Pray, aunt,” entreated Chia Jung with a smile, “do show me some compassion.”

“Mind your skin!” lady Feng warned him, “if you do chip or spoil it in the least.”

She then bade P’ing Erh take the keys of the door of the upstairs room and send for several trustworthy persons to carry it away.

Chia Jung was so elated that his eyebrows dilated and his eyes smiled. "I’ve brought myself,” he added, with vehemence, “some men to take it away; I won’t let them recklessly bump it about.”

Saying this, he speedily got up and left the room.

Lady Feng suddenly bethought herself of something, and turning towards the window, she called out, “Jung Erh, come back.” Several servants who stood outside caught up her words: “Mr. Jung,” they cried, “you’re requested to go back;” whereupon Chia Jung turned round and retraced his steps; and with hands drooping respectfully against his sides, he stood ready to listen to his aunt’s wishes.

Lady Feng was however intent upon gently sipping her tea, and after a good long while of abstraction, she at last smiled: “Never mind,” she remarked; “you can go. But come after you’ve had your evening meal, and I’ll then tell you about it. Just now there are visitors here; and besides, I don’t feel in the humour.”

Chia Jung thereupon retired with gentle step.

Old goody Liu, by this time, felt more composed in body and heart. “I’ve to-day brought your nephew,” she then explained, “not for anything else, but because his father and mother haven’t at home so much as anything to eat; the weather besides is already cold, so that I had no help but to take your nephew along and come to you, old friend, for assistance!”

As she uttered these words, she again pushed Pan Erh forward. “What did your father at home tell you to say?” she asked of him; “and what did he send us over here to do? Was it only to give our minds to eating fruit?”

Lady Feng had long ago understood what she meant to convey, and finding that she had no idea how to express herself in a decent manner, she readily interrupted her with a smile. “You needn’t mention anything," she observed, “I’m well aware of how things stand;” and addressing herself to Mrs. Chou, she inquired, “Has this old lady had breakfast, yes or no?”

Old goody Liu hurried to explain. “As soon as it was daylight,” she proceeded, “we started with all speed on our way here, and had we even so much as time to have any breakfast?”

Lady Feng promptly gave orders to send for something to eat. In a short while Chou Jui’s wife had called for a table of viands for the guests, which was laid in the room on the eastern side, and then came to take goody Liu and Pan Erh over to have their repast.

“My dear Mrs. Chou,” enjoined lady Feng, “give them all they want, as I can’t attend to them myself;” which said, they hastily passed over into the room on the eastern side.

Lady Feng having again called Mrs. Chou, asked her: “When you first informed madame about them, what did she say?” “Our Lady observed," replied Chou Jui’s wife, “that they don’t really belong to the same family; that, in former years, their grandfather was an official at the same place as our old master; that hence it came that they joined ancestors; that these few years there hasn’t been much intercourse (between their family and ours); that some years back, whenever they came on a visit, they were never permitted to go empty-handed, and that as their coming on this occasion to see us is also a kind attention on their part, they shouldn’t be slighted. If they’ve anything to say," (our lady continued), “tell lady Secunda to do the necessary, and that will be right.”

“Isn’t it strange!” exclaimed lady Feng, as soon as she had heard the message; “since we are all one family, how is it I’m not familiar even with so much as their shadow?”

While she was uttering these words, old goody Liu had had her repast and come over, dragging Pan Erh; and, licking her lips and smacking her mouth, she expressed her thanks.

Lady Feng smiled. “Do pray sit down,” she said, “and listen to what I’m going to tell you. What you, old lady, meant a little while back to convey, I’m already as much as yourself well acquainted with! Relatives, as we are, we shouldn’t in fact have waited until you came to the threshold of our doors, but ought, as is but right, to have attended to your needs. But the thing is that, of late, the household affairs are exceedingly numerous, and our lady, advanced in years as she is, couldn’t at a moment, it may possibly be, bethink herself of you all! What’s more, when I took over charge of the management of the menage, I myself didn’t know of all these family connections! Besides, though to look at us from outside everything has a grand and splendid aspect, people aren’t aware that large establishments have such great hardships, which, were we to recount to others, they would hardly like to credit as true. But since you’ve now come from a great distance, and this is the first occasion that you open your mouth to address me, how can I very well allow you to return to your home with empty hands! By a lucky coincidence our lady gave, yesterday, to the waiting-maids, twenty taels to make clothes with, a sum which they haven’t as yet touched, and if you don’t despise it as too little, you may take it home as a first instalment, and employ it for your wants.”

When old goody Liu heard the mention made by lady Feng of their hardships, she imagined that there was no hope; but upon hearing her again speak of giving her twenty taels, she was exceedingly delighted, so much so that her eyebrows dilated and her eyes gleamed with smiles.

“We too know,” she smilingly remarked, “all about difficulties! but the proverb says, ’A camel dying of leanness is even bigger by much than a horse!’ No matter what those distresses may be, were you yet to pluck one single hair from your body, my old friend, it would be stouter than our own waist.”

Chou Jui’s wife stood by, and on hearing her make these coarse utterances, she did all she could to give her a hint by winking, and make her desist. Lady Feng laughed and paid no heed; but calling P’ing Erh, she bade her fetch the parcel of money, which had been given to them the previous day, and to also bring a string of cash; and when these had been placed before goody Liu’s eyes: “This is,” said lady Feng, “silver to the amount of twenty taels, which was for the time given to these young girls to make winter clothes with; but some other day, when you’ve nothing to do, come again on a stroll, in evidence of the good feeling which should exist between relatives. It’s besides already late, and I don’t wish to detain you longer and all for no purpose; but, on your return home, present my compliments to all those of yours to whom I should send them.”

As she spake, she stood up. Old goody Liu gave utterance to a thousand and ten thousand expressions of gratitude, and taking the silver and cash, she followed Chou Jui’s wife on her way to the out-houses. “Well, mother dear,” inquired Mrs. Chou, “what did you think of my lady that you couldn’t speak; and that whenever you opened your mouth it was all ’your nephew.’ I’ll make just one remark, and I don’t mind if you do get angry. Had he even been your kindred nephew, you should in fact have been somewhat milder in your language; for that gentleman, Mr. Jung, is her kith and kin nephew, and whence has appeared such another nephew of hers (as Pan Erh)?”

Old goody Liu smiled. “My dear sister-in-law,” she replied, “as I gazed upon her, were my heart and eyes, pray, full of admiration or not? and how then could I speak as I should?”

As they were chatting, they reached Chou Jui’s house. They had been sitting for a while, when old goody Liu produced a piece of silver, which she was purposing to leave behind, to be given to the young servants in Chou Jui’s house to purchase fruit to eat; but how could Mrs. Chou satiate her eye with such a small piece of silver? She was determined in her refusal to accept it, so that old goody Liu, after assuring her of her boundless gratitude, took her departure out of the back gate she had come in from.

Reader, you do not know what happened after old goody Liu left, but listen to the explanation which will be given in the next chapter.

Chapter VII.

  Presentation of artificial flowers made in the Palace.
  Chia Lien disports himself with Hsi-feng.
  Pao-y meets Ch’in Chung at a family party.

To resume our narrative. Chou Jui’s wife having seen old goody Liu off, speedily came to report the visit to madame Wang; but, contrary to her expectation, she did not find madame Wang in the drawing-room; and it was after inquiring of the waiting-maids that she eventually learnt that she had just gone over to have a chat with “aunt” Hseh. Mrs. Chou, upon hearing this, hastily went out by the eastern corner door, and through the yard on the east, into the Pear Fragrance Court.

As soon as she reached the entrance, she caught sight of madame Wang’s waiting-maid, Chin Ch’uan-erh, playing about on the terrace steps, with a young girl, who had just let her hair grow. When they saw Chou Jui’s wife approach, they forthwith surmised that she must have some message to deliver, so they pursed up their lips and directed her to the inner-room. Chou Jui’s wife gently raised the curtain-screen, and upon entering discovered madame Wang, in voluble conversation with “aunt" Hseh, about family questions and people in general.

Mrs. Chou did not venture to disturb them, and accordingly came into the inner room, where she found Hseh Pao-ch’ai in a house dress, with her hair simply twisted into a knot round the top of the head, sitting on the inner edge of the stove-couch, leaning on a small divan table, in the act of copying a pattern for embroidery, with the waiting-maid Ying Erh. When she saw her enter, Pao Ch’ai hastily put down her pencil, and turning round with a face beaming with smiles, “Sister Chou,” she said, "take a seat.”

Chou Jui’s wife likewise promptly returned the smile.

“How is my young lady?” she inquired, as she sat down on the edge of the couch. “I haven’t seen you come over on the other side for two or three days! Has Mr. Pao-y perhaps given you offence?”

“What an idea!” exclaimed Pao Ch’ai, with a smile. “It’s simply that I’ve had for the last couple of days my old complaint again, and that I’ve in consequence kept quiet all this time, and looked after myself.”

“Is that it?” asked Chou Jui’s wife; “but after all, what rooted kind of complaint are you subject to, miss? you should lose really no time in sending for a doctor to diagnose it, and give you something to make you all right. With your tender years, to have an organic ailment is indeed no trifle!”

Pao Ch’ai laughed when she heard these remarks.

“Pray,” she said, “don’t allude to this again; for this ailment of mine I’ve seen, I can’t tell you, how many doctors; taken no end of medicine and spent I don’t know how much money; but the more we did so, not the least little bit of relief did I see. Lucky enough, we eventually came across a bald-pated bonze, whose speciality was the cure of nameless illnesses. We therefore sent for him to see me, and he said that I had brought this along with me from the womb as a sort of inflammatory virus, that luckily I had a constitution strong and hale so that it didn’t matter; and that it would be of no avail if I took pills or any medicines. He then told me a prescription from abroad, and gave me also a packet of a certain powder as a preparative, with a peculiar smell and strange flavour. He advised me, whenever my complaint broke out, to take a pill, which would be sure to put me right again. And this has, after all, strange to say, done me a great deal of good.”

“What kind of prescription is this one from abroad, I wonder,” remarked Mrs. Chou; “if you, miss, would only tell me, it would be worth our while bearing it in mind, and recommending it to others: and if ever we came across any one afflicted with this disease, we would also be doing a charitable deed.”

“You’d better not ask for the prescription,” rejoined Pao Ch’ai smiling. "Why, its enough to wear one out with perplexity! the necessaries and ingredients are few, and all easy to get, but it would be difficult to find the lucky moment! You want twelve ounces of the pollen of the white peone, which flowers in spring, twelve ounces of the pollen of the white summer lily, twelve ounces of the pollen of the autumn hibiscus flower, and twelve ounces of the white plum in bloom in the winter. You take the four kinds of pollen, and put them in the sun, on the very day of the vernal equinox of the succeeding year to get dry, and then you mix them with the powder and pound them well together. You again want twelve mace of water, fallen on ’rain water’ day.....”

“Good gracious!” exclaimed Mrs. Chou promptly, as she laughed. “From all you say, why you want three years’ time! and what if no rain falls on ’rain water’ day! What would one then do?”

“Quite so!” Pao Ch’ai remarked smilingly; “how can there be such an opportune rain on that very day! but to wait is also the best thing, there’s nothing else to be done. Besides, you want twelve mace of dew, collected on ’White Dew’ day, and twelve mace of the hoar frost, gathered on ’Frost Descent’ day, and twelve mace of snow, fallen on ’Slight Snow’ day! You next take these four kinds of waters and mix them with the other ingredients, and make pills of the size of a lungngan. You keep them in an old porcelain jar, and bury them under the roots of some flowers; and when the ailment betrays itself, you produce it and take a pill, washing it down with two candareens of a yellow cedar decoction.”

“O-mi-to-fu!” cried Mrs. Chou, when she heard all this, bursting out laughing. “It’s really enough to kill one! you might wait ten years and find no such lucky moments!”

“Fortunate for me, however,” pursued Pao Ch’ai, “in the course of a year or two, after the bonze had told me about this prescription, we got all the ingredients; and, after much trouble, we compounded a supply, which we have now brought along with us from the south to the north; and lies at present under the pear trees.”

“Has this medicine any name or other of its own?” further inquired Mrs. Chou.

“It has a name,” replied Pao Ch’ai; “the mangy-headed bonze also told it me; he called it ’cold fragrance’ pill.”

Chou Jui’s wife nodded her head, as she heard these words. “What do you feel like after all when this complaint manifests itself?” she went on to ask.

“Nothing much,” replied Pao Ch’ai; “I simply pant and cough a bit; but after I’ve taken a pill, I get over it, and it’s all gone.”

Mrs. Chou was bent upon making some further remark, when madame Wang was suddenly heard to enquire, “Who is in here?”

Mrs. Chou went out hurriedly and answered; and forthwith told her all about old goody Liu’s visit. Having waited for a while, and seeing that madame Wang had nothing to say, she was on the point of retiring, when "aunt” Hsueh unexpectedly remarked smiling: “Wait a bit! I’ve something to give you to take along with you.”

And as she spoke, she called for Hsiang Ling. The sound of the screen-board against the sides of the door was heard, and in walked the waiting-maid, who had been playing with Chin Ch’uan-erh. “Did my lady call?” she asked.

“Bring that box of flowers,” said Mrs. Hsueh.

Hsiang Ling assented, and brought from the other side a small embroidered silk box.

“These,” explained “aunt” Hseh, “are a new kind of flowers, made in the palace. They consist of twelve twigs of flowers of piled gauze. I thought of them yesterday, and as they will, the pity is, only get old, if uselessly put away, why not give them to the girls to wear them in their hair! I meant to have sent them over yesterday, but I forgot all about them. You come to-day most opportunely, and if you will take them with you, I shall have got them off my hands. To the three young ladies in your family give two twigs each, and of the six that will remain give a couple to Miss Lin, and the other four to lady Feng.”

“Better keep them and give them to your daughter Pao Ch’ai to wear," observed madame Wang, “and have done with it; why think of all the others?”

“You don’t know, sister,” replied “aunt” Hseh, “what a crotchety thing Pao Ch’ai is! she has no liking for flower or powder.”

With these words on her lips, Chou Jui’s wife took the box and walked out of the door of the room. Perceiving that Chin Ch’uan-erh was still sunning herself outside, Chou Jui’s wife asked her: “Isn’t this Hsiang Ling, the waiting-maid that we’ve often heard of as having been purchased just before the departure of the Hseh family for the capital, and on whose account there occurred some case of manslaughter or other?”

“Of course it’s she,” replied Chin Ch’uan. But as they were talking, they saw Hsiang Ling draw near smirkingly, and Chou Jui’s wife at once seized her by the hand, and after minutely scrutinizing her face for a time, she turned round to Chin Ch’uan-erh and smiled. “With these features she really resembles slightly the style of lady Jung of our Eastern Mansion.”

“So I too maintain!” said Chin Ch’uan-erh.

Chou Jui’s wife then asked Hsiang Ling, “At what age did you enter this family? and where are your father and mother at present?” and also inquired, “In what year of your teens are you? and of what place are you a native?”

But Hsiang Ling, after listening to all these questions, simply nodded her head and replied, “I can’t remember.”

When Mrs. Chou and Chin Ch’uan-erh heard these words, their spirits changed to grief, and for a while they felt affected and wounded at heart; but in a short time, Mrs. Chou brought the flowers into the room at the back of madame Wang’s principal apartment.

The fact is that dowager lady Chia had explained that as her granddaughters were too numerous, it would not be convenient to crowd them together in one place, that Pao-y and Tai-y should only remain with her in this part to break her loneliness, but that Ying Ch’un, T’an Ch’un, and Hsi Ch’un, the three of them, should move on this side in the three rooms within the antechamber, at the back of madame lady Wang’s quarters; and that Li Wan should be told off to be their attendant and to keep an eye over them.

Chou Jui’s wife, therefore, on this occasion came first to these rooms as they were on her way, but she only found a few waiting-maids assembled in the antechamber, waiting silently to obey a call.

Ying Ch’un’s waiting-maid, Ssu Chi, together with Shih Shu, T’an Ch’un’s waiting-maid, just at this moment raised the curtain, and made their egress, each holding in her hand a tea-cup and saucer; and Chou Jui’s wife readily concluding that the young ladies were sitting together also walked into the inner room, where she only saw Ying Ch’un and T’an Ch’un seated near the window, in the act of playing chess. Mrs. Chou presented the flowers and explained whence they came, and what they were.

The girls forthwith interrupted their game, and both with a curtsey, expressed their thanks, and directed the waiting-maids to put the flowers away.

Mrs. Chou complied with their wishes (and handing over the flowers); "Miss Hsi Ch’un,” she remarked, “is not at home; and possibly she’s over there with our old lady.”

“She’s in that room, isn’t she?” inquired the waiting-maids.

Mrs. Chou at these words readily came into the room on this side, where she found Hsi Ch’un, in company with a certain Chih Neng, a young nun of the “moon reflected on water” convent, talking and laughing together. On seeing Chou Jui’s wife enter, Hsi Ch’un at once asked what she wanted, whereupon Chou Jui’s wife opened the box of flowers, and explained who had sent them.

“I was just telling Chih Neng,” remarked Hsi Ch’un laughing, “that I also purpose shortly shaving my head and becoming a nun; and strange enough, here you again bring me flowers; but supposing I shave my head, where can I wear them?”

They were all very much amused for a time with this remark, and Hsi Ch’un told her waiting-maid, Ju Hua, to come and take over the flowers.

“What time did you come over?” then inquired Mrs. Chou of Chih Neng. "Where is that bald-pated and crotchety superior of yours gone?”

“We came,” explained Chih Neng, “as soon as it was day; after calling upon madame Wang, my superior went over to pay a visit in the mansion of Mr. Y, and told me to wait for her here.”

“Have you received,” further asked Mrs. Chou, “the monthly allowance for incense offering due on the fifteenth or not?”

“I can’t say,” replied Chih Neng.

“Who’s now in charge of the issue of the monthly allowances to the various temples?” interposed Hsi Ch’un, addressing Mrs. Chou, as soon as she heard what was said.

“It’s Y Hsin,” replied Chou Jui’s wife, “who’s intrusted with the charge.”

“That’s how it is,” observed Hsi Ch’un with a chuckle; “soon after the arrival of the Superior, Y Hsin’s wife came over and kept on whispering with her for some time; so I presume it must have been about this allowance.”

Mrs. Chou then went on to bandy a few words with Chih Neng, after which she came over to lady Feng’s apartments. Proceeding by a narrow passage, she passed under Li Wan’s back windows, and went along the wall ornamented with creepers on the west. Going out of the western side gate, she entered lady Feng’s court, and walked over into the Entrance Hall, where she only found the waiting-girl Feng Erh, sitting on the doorsteps of lady Feng’s apartments.

When she caught sight of Mrs. Chou approaching, she at once waved her hand, bidding her go to the eastern room. Chou Jui’s wife understood her meaning, and hastily came on tiptoe to the chamber on the east, where she saw a nurse patting lady Feng’s daughter to sleep.

Mrs. Chou promptly asked the nurse in a low tone of voice: “Is the young lady asleep at this early hour? But if even she is I must wake her up.”

The nurse nodded her head in assent, but as these inquiries were being made, a sound of laughter came from over the other side, in which lady Feng’s voice could be detected; followed, shortly after, by the sound of a door opening, and out came P’ing Erh, with a large brass basin in her hands, which she told Feng Erh to fill with water and take inside.

P’ing Erh forthwith entered the room on this side, and upon perceiving Chou Jui’s wife: “What have you come here again for, my old lady?” she readily inquired.

Chou Jui’s wife rose without any delay, and handed her the box. “I’ve come,” said she, “to bring you a present of flowers.”

Upon hearing this, P’ing Erh opened the box, and took out four sprigs, and, turning round, walked out of the room. In a short while she came from the inner room with two sprigs in her hand, and calling first of all Ts’ai Ming, she bade her take the flowers over to the mansion on the other side and present them to “madame” Jung, after which she asked Mrs. Chou to express her thanks on her return.

Chou Jui’s wife thereupon came over to dowager lady Chia’s room on this side of the compound, and as she was going through the Entrance Hall, she casually came, face to face, with her daughter, got up in gala dress, just coming from the house of her mother-in-law.

“What are you running over here for at this time?” promptly inquired Mrs. Chou.

“Have you been well of late, mother?” asked her daughter. “I’ve been waiting for ever so long at home, but you never come out! What’s there so pressing that has prevented you from returning home? I waited till I was tired, and then went on all alone, and paid my respects to our venerable lady; I’m now, on my way to inquire about our lady Wang. What errand haven’t you delivered as yet, ma; and what is it you’re holding?”

“Ai! as luck would have it,” rejoined Chou Jui’s wife smilingly, “old goody Liu came over to-day, so that besides my own hundred and one duties, I’ve had to run about here and there ever so long, and all for her! While attending to these, Mrs. Hsueh came across me, and asked me to take these flowers to the young ladies, and I’ve been at it up to this very moment, and haven’t done yet! But coming at this time, you must surely have something or other that you want me to do for you! what’s it?”

“Really ma, you’re quick at guessing!” exclaimed her daughter with a smile; “I’ll tell you what it’s all about. The day before yesterday, your son-in-law had a glass of wine too many, and began altercating with some person or other; and some one, I don’t know why, spread some evil report, saying that his antecedents were not clear, and lodged a charge against him at the Yamen, pressing the authorities to deport him to his native place. That’s why I’ve come over to consult with you, as to whom we should appeal to, to do us this favour of helping us out of our dilemma!”

“I knew at once,” Mrs. Chou remarked after listening, “that there was something wrong; but this is nothing hard to settle! Go home and wait for me and I’ll come straightway, as soon as I’ve taken these flowers to Miss Lin; our madame Wang and lady Secunda have both no leisure (to attend to you now,) so go back and wait for me! What’s the use of so much hurry!”

Her daughter, upon hearing this, forthwith turned round to go back, when she added as she walked away, “Mind, mother, and make haste.”

“All right,” replied Chou Jui’s wife, “of course I will; you are young yet, and without experience, and that’s why you are in this flurry.”

As she spoke, she betook herself into Tai-y’s apartments. Contrary to her expectation Tai-y was not at this time in her own room, but in Pao-y’s; where they were amusing themselves in trying to solve the "nine strung rings” puzzle. On entering Mrs. Chou put on a smile. "’Aunt’ Hseh,” she explained, “has told me to bring these flowers and present them to you to wear in your hair.”

“What flowers?” exclaimed Pao-y. “Bring them here and let me see them.”

As he uttered these words, he readily stretched out his hands and took them over, and upon opening the box and looking in, he discovered, in fact, two twigs of a novel and artistic kind of artificial flowers, of piled gauze, made in the palace.

Tai-y merely cast a glance at them, as Pao-y held them. “Have these flowers,” she inquired eagerly, “been sent to me alone, or have all the other girls got some too?”

“Each one of the young ladies has the same,” replied Mrs. Chou; “and these two twigs are intended for you, miss.”

Tai-y forced a smile. “Oh! I see,” she observed. “If all the others hadn’t chosen, even these which remain over wouldn’t have been given to me.”

Chou Jui’s wife did not utter a word in reply.

“Sister Chou, what took you over on the other side?” asked Pao-y.

“I was told that our madame Wang was over there,” explained Mrs. Chou, "and as I went to give her a message, ’aunt’ Hseh seized the opportunity to ask me to bring over these flowers.”

“What was cousin Pao Ch’ai doing at home?” asked Pao-y. “How is it she’s not even been over for these few days?”

“She’s not quite well,” remarked Mrs. Chou.

When Pao-y heard this news, “Who’ll go,” he speedily ascertained of the waiting-maids, “and inquire after her? Tell her that cousin Lin and I have sent round to ask how our aunt and cousin are getting on! ask her what she’s ailing from and what medicines she’s taking, and explain to her that I know I ought to have gone over myself, but that on my coming back from school a short while back, I again got a slight chill; and that I’ll go in person another day.”

While Pao-y was yet speaking, Hsi Hseh volunteered to take the message, and went off at once; and Mrs. Chou herself took her leave without another word.

Mrs. Chou’s son-in-law was, in fact, Leng Tzu-hsing, the intimate friend of Y-ts’un. Having recently become involved with some party in a lawsuit, on account of the sale of some curios, he had expressly charged his wife to come and sue for the favour (of a helping hand). Chou Jui’s wife, relying upon her master’s prestige, did not so much as take the affair to heart; and having waited till evening, she simply went over and requested lady Feng to befriend her, and the matter was forthwith ended.

When the lamps were lit, lady Feng came over, after having disrobed herself, to see madame Wang. “I’ve already taken charge,” she observed, "of the things sent round to-day by the Chen family. As for the presents from us to them, we should avail ourselves of the return of the boats, by which the fresh delicacies for the new year were forwarded, to hand them to them to carry back.”

Madame Wang nodded her head in token of approval.

“The birthday presents,” continued lady Feng, “for lady Ling Ngan, the mother of the Earl of Ling Ngan, have already been got together, and whom will you depute to take them over?”

“See,” suggested madame Wang, “who has nothing to do; let four maids go and all will be right! why come again and ask me?”

“Our eldest sister-in-law Chen,” proceeded lady Feng, “came over to invite me to go to-morrow to their place for a little change. I don’t think there will be anything for me to do to-morrow.”

“Whether there be or not,” replied madame Wang, “it doesn’t matter; you must go, for whenever she comes with an invitation, it includes us, who are your seniors, so that, of course, it isn’t such a pleasant thing for you; but as she doesn’t ask us this time, but only asks you, it’s evident that she’s anxious that you should have a little distraction, and you mustn’t disappoint her good intention. Besides it’s certainly right that you should go over for a change.”

Lady Feng assented, and presently Li Wan, Ying Ch’un and the other cousins, likewise paid each her evening salutation and retired to their respective rooms, where nothing of any notice transpired.

The next day lady Feng completed her toilette, and came over first to tell madame Wang that she was off, and then went to say good-bye to dowager lady Chia; but when Pao-y heard where she was going, he also wished to go; and as lady Feng had no help but to give in, and to wait until he had changed his clothes, the sister and brother-in-law got into a carriage, and in a short while entered the Ning mansion.

Mrs. Yu, the wife of Chia Chen, and Mrs. Ch’in, the wife of Mr. Chia Jung, the two sisters-in-law, had, along with a number of maids, waiting-girls, and other servants, come as far as the ceremonial gate to receive them, and Mrs. Yu, upon meeting lady Feng, for a while indulged, as was her wont, in humorous remarks, after which, leading Pao-y by the hand, they entered the drawing room and took their seats, Mrs. Ch’in handed tea round.

“What have you people invited me to come here for?” promptly asked lady Feng; “if you have anything to present me with, hand it to me at once, for I’ve other things to attend to.”

Mrs. Yu and Mrs. Ch’in had barely any time to exchange any further remarks, when several matrons interposed, smilingly: “Had our lady not come to-day, there would have been no help for it, but having come, you can’t have it all your own way.”

While they were conversing about one thing and another, they caught sight of Chia Jung come in to pay his respects, which prompted Pao-y to inquire, “Isn’t my elder brother at home to-day?”

“He’s gone out of town to-day,” replied Mrs. Yu, “to inquire after his grandfather. You’ll find sitting here,” she continued, “very dull, and why not go out and have a stroll?”

“A strange coincidence has taken place to-day,” urged Mrs. Ch’in, with a smile; “some time back you, uncle Pao, expressed a wish to see my brother, and to-day he too happens to be here at home. I think he’s in the library; but why not go and see for yourself, uncle Pao?”

Pao-y descended at once from the stove-couch, and was about to go, when Mrs. Yu bade the servants to mind and go with him. “Don’t you let him get into trouble,” she enjoined. “It’s a far different thing when he comes over under the charge of his grandmother, when he’s all right.”

“If that be so,” remarked lady Feng, “why not ask the young gentleman to come in, and then I too can see him. There isn’t, I hope, any objection to my seeing him?”

“Never mind! never mind!” observed Mrs. Yu, smilingly; “it’s as well that you shouldn’t see him. This brother of mine is not, like the boys of our Chia family, accustomed to roughly banging and knocking about. Other people’s children are brought up politely and properly, and not in this vixenish style of yours. Why, you’d ridicule him to death!”

“I won’t laugh at him then, that’s all,” smiled lady Feng; “tell them to bring him in at once.”

“He’s shy,” proceeded Mrs. Ch’in, “and has seen nothing much of the world, so that you are sure to be put out when you see him, sister.”

“What an idea!” exclaimed lady Feng. “Were he even No Cha himself, I’d like to see him; so don’t talk trash; if, after all, you don’t bring him round at once, I’ll give you a good slap on the mouth.”

“I daren’t be obstinate,” answered Mrs. Ch’in smiling; “I’ll bring him round!”

In a short while she did in fact lead in a young lad, who, compared with Pao-y, was somewhat more slight but, from all appearances, superior to Pao-y in eyes and eyebrows, (good looks), which were so clear and well-defined, in white complexion and in ruddy lips, as well as graceful appearance and pleasing manners. He was however bashful and timid, like a girl.

In a shy and demure way, he made a bow to lady Feng and asked after her health.

Lady Feng was simply delighted with him. “You take a low seat next to him!” she ventured laughingly as she first pushed Pao-y back. Then readily stooping forward, she took this lad by the hand and asked him to take a seat next to her. Presently she inquired about his age, his studies and such matters, when she found that at school he went under the name of Ch’in Chung.

The matrons and maids in attendance on lady Feng, perceiving that this was the first time their mistress met Ch’in Chung, (and knowing) that she had not at hand the usual presents, forthwith ran over to the other side and told P’ing Erh about it.

P’ing Erh, aware of the close intimacy that existed between lady Feng and Mrs. Ch’in, speedily took upon herself to decide, and selecting a piece of silk, and two small gold medals, (bearing the wish that he should attain) the highest degree, the senior wranglership, she handed them to the servants who had come over, to take away.

Lady Feng, however, explained that her presents were too mean by far, but Mrs. Ch’in and the others expressed their appreciation of them; and in a short time the repast was over, and Mrs. Yu, lady Feng and Mrs. Ch’in played at dominoes, but of this no details need be given; while both Pao-y and Ch’in Chung sat down, got up and talked, as they pleased.

Since he had first glanced at Ch’in Chung, and seen what kind of person he was, he felt at heart as if he had lost something, and after being plunged in a dazed state for a time, he began again to give way to foolish thoughts in his mind.

“There are then such beings as he in the world!” he reflected. “I now see there are! I’m however no better than a wallowing pig or a mangy cow! Despicable destiny! why was I ever born in this household of a marquis and in the mansion of a duke? Had I seen the light in the home of some penniless scholar, or poverty-stricken official, I could long ago have enjoyed the communion of his friendship, and I would not have lived my whole existence in vain! Though more honourable than he, it is indeed evident that silk and satins only serve to swathe this rotten trunk of mine, and choice wines and rich meats only to gorge the filthy drain and miry sewer of this body of mine! Wealth! and splendour! ye are no more than contaminated with pollution by me!”

Ever since Ch’in Chung had noticed Pao-y’s unusual appearance, his sedate deportment, and what is more, his hat ornamented with gold, and his dress full of embroidery, attended by beautiful maids and handsome youths, he did not indeed think it a matter of surprise that every one was fond of him.

“Born as I have had the misfortune to be,” he went on to commune within himself, “in an honest, though poor family, how can I presume to enjoy his companionship! This is verily a proof of what a barrier poverty and wealth set between man and man. What a serious misfortune is this too in this mortal world!”

In wild and inane ideas of the same strain, indulged these two youths!

Pao-y by and by further asked of him what books he was reading, and Ch’in Chung, in answer to these inquiries, told him the truth. A few more questions and answers followed; and after about ten remarks, a greater intimacy sprang up between them.

Tea and fruits were shortly served, and while they were having their tea, Pao-y suggested, “We two don’t take any wine, and why shouldn’t we have our fruit served on the small couch inside, and go and sit there, and thus save you all the trouble?”

The two of them thereupon came into the inner apartment to have their tea; and Mrs. Ch’in attended to the laying out of fruit and wines for lady Feng, and hurriedly entered the room and hinted to Pao-y: “Dear uncle Pao, your nephew is young, and should he happen to say anything disrespectful, do please overlook it, for my sake, for though shy, he’s naturally of a perverse and wilful disposition, and is rather given to having his own way.”

“Off with you!” cried Pao-y laughing; “I know it all.” Mrs. Ch’in then went on to give a bit of advice to her brother, and at length came to keep lady Feng company. Presently lady Feng and Mrs. Yu sent another servant to tell Pao-y that there was outside of everything they might wish to eat and that they should mind and go and ask for it; and Pao-y simply signified that they would; but his mind was not set upon drinking or eating; all he did was to keep making inquiries of Ch’in Chung about recent family concerns.

Ch’in Chung went on to explain that his tutor had last year relinquished his post, that his father was advanced in years and afflicted with disease, and had multifarious public duties to preoccupy his mind, so that he had as yet had no time to make arrangements for another tutor, and that all he did was no more than to keep up his old tasks; that as regards study, it was likewise necessary to have the company of one or two intimate friends, as then only, by dint of a frequent exchange of ideas and opinions, one could arrive at progress; and Pao-y gave him no time to complete, but eagerly urged, “Quite so! But in our household, we have a family school, and those of our kindred who have no means sufficient to engage the services of a tutor are at liberty to come over for the sake of study, and the sons and brothers of our relatives are likewise free to join the class. As my own tutor went home last year, I am now also wasting my time doing nothing; my father’s intention was that I too should have gone over to this school, so that I might at least temporarily keep up what I have already read, pending the arrival of my tutor next year, when I could again very well resume my studies alone at home. But my grandmother raised objections; maintaining first of all, that the boys who attend the family classes being so numerous, she feared we would be sure to be up to mischief, which wouldn’t be at all proper; and that, in the second place, as I had been ill for some time, the matter should be dropped, for the present. But as, from what you say, your worthy father is very much exercised on this score, you should, on your return, tell him all about it, and come over to our school. I’ll also be there as your schoolmate; and as you and I will reap mutual benefit from each other’s companionship, won’t it be nice!”

“When my father was at home the other day,” Ch’in Chung smiled and said, "he alluded to the question of a tutor, and explained that the free schools were an excellent institution. He even meant to have come and talked matters over with his son-in-law’s father about my introduction, but with the urgent concerns here, he didn’t think it right for him to come about this small thing, and make any trouble. But if you really believe that I might be of use to you, in either grinding the ink, or washing the slab, why shouldn’t you at once make the needful arrangements, so that neither you nor I may idle our time? And as we shall be able to come together often and talk matters over, and set at the same time our parents’ minds at ease, and to enjoy the pleasure of friendship, won’t it be a profitable thing!”

“Compose your mind!” suggested Pao-y. “We can by and by first of all, tell your brother-in-law, and your sister as well as sister-in-law Secunda Lien; and on your return home to-day, lose no time in explaining all to your worthy father, and when I get back, I’ll speak to my grandmother; and I can’t see why our wishes shouldn’t speedily be accomplished.”

By the time they had arrived at this conclusion, the day was far advanced, and the lights were about to be lit; and they came out and watched them once more for a time as they played at dominoes. When they came to settle their accounts Mrs. Ch’in and Mrs. Yu were again the losers and had to bear the expense of a theatrical and dinner party; and while deciding that they should enjoy this treat the day after the morrow, they also had the evening repast.

Darkness having set in, Mrs. Yu gave orders that two youths should accompany Mr. Ch’in home. The matrons went out to deliver the directions, and after a somewhat long interval, Ch’in Chung said goodbye and was about to start on his way.

“Whom have you told off to escort him?” asked Mrs. Yu.

“Chiao Ta,” replied the matrons, “has been told to go, but it happens that he’s under the effects of drink and making free use again of abusive language.”

Mrs. Yu and Mrs. Chin remonstrated. “What’s the use,” they said, “of asking him? that mean fellow shouldn’t be chosen, but you will go again and provoke him.”

“People always maintain,” added lady Feng, “that you are far too lenient. But fancy allowing servants in this household to go on in this way; why, what will be the end of it?”

“You don’t mean to tell me,” observed Mrs. Yu, “that you don’t know this Chiao Ta? Why, even the gentlemen one and all pay no heed to his doings! your eldest brother, Chia Cheng, he too doesn’t notice him. It’s all because when he was young he followed our ancestor in three or four wars, and because on one occasion, by extracting our senior from the heap of slain and carrying him on his back, he saved his life. He himself suffered hunger and stole food for his master to eat; they had no water for two days; and when he did get half a bowl, he gave it to his master, while he himself had sewage water. He now simply presumes upon the sentimental obligations imposed by these services. When the seniors of the family still lived, they all looked upon him with exceptional regard; but who at present ventures to interfere with him? He is also advanced in years, and doesn’t care about any decent manners; his sole delight is wine; and when he gets drunk, there isn’t a single person whom he won’t abuse. I’ve again and again told the stewards not to henceforward ask Chiao Ta to do any work whatever, but to treat him as dead and gone; and here he’s sent again to-day.”

“How can I not know all about this Chiao Ta?” remarked lady Feng; “but the secret of all this trouble is, that you won’t take any decisive step. Why not pack him off to some distant farm, and have done with him?” And as she spoke, “Is our carriage ready?” she went on to inquire.

“All ready and waiting,” interposed the married women.

Lady Feng also got up, said good-bye, and hand in hand with Pao-y, they walked out of the room, escorted by Mrs. Yu and the party, as far as the entrance of the Main Hall, where they saw the lamps shedding a brilliant light and the attendants all waiting on the platforms. Chiao Ta, however, availing himself of Chia Chen’s absence from home, and elated by wine, began to abuse the head steward Lai Erh for his injustice.

“You bully of the weak and coward with the strong,” he cried, “when there’s any pleasant charge, you send the other servants, but when it’s a question of seeing any one home in the dark, then you ask me, you disorderly clown! a nice way you act the steward, indeed! Do you forget that if Mr. Chiao Ta chose to raise one leg, it would be a good deal higher than your head! Remember please, that twenty years ago, Mr. Chiao Ta wouldn’t even so much as look at any one, no matter who it was; not to mention a pack of hybrid creatures like yourselves!”

While he went on cursing and railing with all his might, Chia Jung appeared walking by lady Feng’s carriage. All the servants having tried to hush him and not succeeding, Chia Jung became exasperated; and forthwith blew him up for a time. “Let some one bind him up,” he cried, "and tomorrow, when he’s over the wine, I’ll call him to task, and we’ll see if he won’t seek death.”

Chiao Ta showed no consideration for Chia Jung. On the contrary, he shouted with more vigour. Going up to Chia Jung: “Brother Jung,” he said, “don’t put on the airs of a master with Chiao Ta. Not to speak of a man such as you, why even your father and grandfather wouldn’t presume to display such side with Chiao Ta. Were it not for Chiao Ta, and him alone, where would your office, honours, riches and dignity be? Your ancestor, whom I brought back from the jaws of death, heaped up all this estate, but up to this very day have I received no thanks for the services I rendered! on the contrary, you come here and play the master; don’t say a word more, and things may come right; but if you do, I’ll plunge the blade of a knife white in you and extract it red.”

Lady Feng, from inside the carriage, remarked to Chia Jung: “Don’t you yet pack off this insolent fellow! Why, if you keep him in your house, won’t he be a source of mischief? Besides, were relatives and friends to hear about these things, won’t they have a laugh at our expense, that a household like ours should be so devoid of all propriety?”

Chia Jung assented. The whole band of servants finding that Chiao Ta was getting too insolent had no help but to come up and throw him over, and binding him up, they dragged him towards the stables. Chiao Ta abused even Chia Chen with still more vehemence, and shouted in a boisterous manner. “I want to go,” he cried, “to the family Ancestral Temple and mourn my old master. Who would have ever imagined that he would leave behind such vile creatures of descendants as you all, day after day indulging in obscene and incestuous practices, ’in scraping of the ashes’ and in philandering with brothers-in-law. I know all about your doings; the best thing is to hide one’s stump of an arm in one’s sleeve!” (wash one’s dirty clothes at home).

The servants who stood by, upon hearing this wild talk, were quite at their wits’ end, and they at once seized him, tied him up, and filled his mouth to the fullest extent with mud mixed with some horse refuse.

Lady Feng and Chia Jung heard all he said from a distance, but pretended not to hear; but Pao-y, seated in the carriage as he was, also caught this extravagant talk and inquired of lady Feng: “Sister, did you hear him say something about ’scraping of the ashes?’ What’s it?”

“Don’t talk such rubbish!” hastily shouted lady Feng; “it was the maudlin talk of a drunkard! A nice boy you are! not to speak of your listening, but you must also inquire! wait and I’ll tell your mother and we’ll see if she doesn’t seriously take you to task.”

Pao-y was in such a state of fright that he speedily entreated her to forgive him. “My dear sister,” he craved, “I won’t venture again to say anything of the kind”

“My dear brother, if that be so, it’s all right!” rejoined lady Feng reassuringly; “on our return we’ll speak to her venerable ladyship and ask her to send some one to arrange matters in the family school, and invite Ch’in Chung to come to school for his studies.”

While yet this conversation was going on, they arrived at the Jung Mansion.

Reader, do you wish to know what follows? if you do, the next chapter will unfold it.

Chapter VIII.

  By a strange coincidence, Chia Pao-y becomes acquainted with the
      golden clasp.
  In an unexpected meeting, Hseh Pao-ch’ai sees the jade of spiritual

Pao-y and lady Feng, we will now explain, paid, on their return home, their respects to all the inmates, and Pao-y availed himself of the first occasion to tell dowager lady Chia of his wish that Ch’in Chung should come over to the family school. “The presence for himself of a friend as schoolmate would,” he argued, “be fitly excellent to stir him to zeal,” and he went on to speak in terms of high praise of Ch’in Chung, his character and his manners, which most of all made people esteem him.

Lady Feng besides stood by him and backed his request. “In a day or two,” she added, “Ch’in Chung will be coming to pay his obeisance to your venerable ladyship.”

This bit of news greatly rejoiced the heart of dowager lady Chia, and lady Feng likewise did not let the opportunity slip, without inviting the old lady to attend the theatrical performance to come off the day after the morrow. Dowager lady Chia was, it is true, well on in years, but was, nevertheless, very fond of enjoyment, so that when the day arrived and Mrs. Yu came over to invite her round, she forthwith took madame Wang, Lin Tai-y, Pao-y and others along and went to the play.

It was about noon, when dowager lady Chia returned to her apartments for her siesta; and madame Wang, who was habitually partial to a quiet life, also took her departure after she had seen the old lady retire. Lady Feng subsequently took the seat of honour; and the party enjoyed themselves immensely till the evening, when they broke up.

But to return to Pao-y. Having accompanied his grandmother Chia back home, and waited till her ladyship was in her midday sleep, he had in fact an inclination to return to the performance, but he was afraid lest he should be a burden to Mrs. Ch’in and the rest and lest they should not feel at ease. Remembering therefore that Pao Ch’ai had been at home unwell for the last few days, and that he had not been to see her, he was anxious to go and look her up, but he dreaded that if he went by the side gate, at the back of the drawing-room, he would be prevented by something or other, and fearing, what would be making matters worse, lest he should come across his father, he consequently thought it better to go on his way by a detour. The nurses and waiting-maids thereupon came to help him to change his clothes; but they saw him not change, but go out again by the second door. These nurses and maids could not help following him out; but they were still under the impression that he was going over to the other mansion to see the theatricals. Contrary to their speculations, upon reaching the entrance hall, he forthwith went to the east, then turned to the north, and walking round by the rear of the hall, he happened to come face to face with two of the family companions, Mr. Ch’an Kuang, and Mr. Tan T’ing-jen. As soon as they caught sight of Pao-y, they both readily drew up to him, and as they smiled, the one put his arm round his waist, while the other grasped him by the hand.

“Oh divine brother!” they both exclaimed, “this we call dreaming a pleasant dream, for it’s no easy thing to come across you!”

While continuing their remarks they paid their salutations, and inquired after his health; and it was only after they had chatted for ever so long, that they went on their way. The nurse called out to them and stopped them, “Have you two gentlemen,” she said, “come out from seeing master?”

They both nodded assent. “Your master,” they explained, “is in the Meng P’o Chai small library having his siesta; so that you can go through there with no fear.”

As they uttered these words, they walked away.

This remark also evoked a smile from Pao-y, but without further delay he turned a corner, went towards the north, and came into the Pear Fragrance Court, where, as luck would have it, he met the head manager of the Household Treasury, Wu Hsin-teng, who, in company with the head of the granary, Tai Liang, and several other head stewards, seven persons in all, was issuing out of the Account Room.

On seeing Pao-y approaching, they, in a body, stood still, and hung down their arms against their sides. One of them alone, a certain butler, called Ch’ien Hua, promptly came forward, as he had not seen Pao-y for many a day, and bending on one knee, paid his respects to Pao-y. Pao-y at once gave a smile and pulled him up.

“The day before yesterday,” smiled all the bystanders, “we were somewhere together and saw some characters written by you, master Secundus, in the composite style. The writing is certainly better than it was before! When will you give us a few sheets to stick on the wall?”

“Where did you see them?” inquired Pao-y, with a grin.

“They are to be found in more than one place,” they replied, “and every one praises them very much, and what’s more, asks us for a few.”

“They are not worth having,” observed Pao-y smilingly; “but if you do want any, tell my young servants and it will be all right.”

As he said these words, he moved onwards. The whole party waited till he had gone by, before they separated, each one to go his own way.

But we need not dilate upon matters of no moment, but return to Pao-y.

On coming to the Pear Fragrance Court, he entered, first, into “aunt" Hseh’s room, where he found her getting some needlework ready to give to the waiting-maids to work at. Pao-y forthwith paid his respects to her, and “aunt” Hseh, taking him by the hand, drew him towards her and clasped him in her embrace.

“With this cold weather,” she smilingly urged, “it’s too kind of you, my dear child, to think of coming to see me; come along on the stove-couch at once!–Bring some tea,” she continued, addressing the servants, “and make it as hot as it can be!”

“Isn’t Hseh P’an at home?” Pao-y having inquired: “He’s like a horse without a halter,” Mrs. Hseh remarked with a sigh; “he’s daily running here and there and everywhere, and nothing can induce him to stay at home one single day.”

“Is sister (Pao Ch’ai) all right again?” asked Pao-y. “Yes,” replied Mrs. Hseh, “she’s well again. It was very kind of you two days ago to again think of her, and send round to inquire after her. She’s now in there, and you can go and see her. It’s warmer there than it’s here; go and sit with her inside, and, as soon as I’ve put everything away, I’ll come and join you and have a chat.”

Pao-y, upon hearing this, jumped down with alacrity from the stove-couch, and walked up to the door of the inner room, where he saw hanging a portire somewhat the worse for use, made of red silk. Pao-y raised the portire and making one step towards the interior, he found Pao Ch’ai seated on the couch, busy over some needlework. On the top of her head was gathered, and made into a knot, her chevelure, black as lacquer, and glossy like pomade. She wore a honey-coloured wadded robe, a rose-brown short-sleeved jacket, lined with the fur of the squirrel of two colours: the “gold and silver;” and a jupe of leek-yellow silk. Her whole costume was neither too new, neither too old, and displayed no sign of extravagance.

Her lips, though not rouged, were naturally red; her eyebrows, though not pencilled, were yet blue black; her face resembled a silver basin, and her eyes, juicy plums. She was sparing in her words, chary in her talk, so much so that people said that she posed as a simpleton. She was quiet in the acquittal of her duties and scrupulous as to the proper season for everything. “I practise simplicity,” she would say of herself.

“How are you? are you quite well again, sister?” inquired Pao-y, as he gazed at her; whereupon Pao Ch’ai raised her head, and perceiving Pao-y walk in, she got up at once and replied with a smile, “I’m all right again; many thanks for your kindness in thinking of me.”

While uttering this, she pressed him to take a seat on the stove-couch, and as he sat down on the very edge of the couch, she told Ying Erh to bring tea and asked likewise after dowager lady Chia and lady Feng. “And are all the rest of the young ladies quite well?” she inquired.

Saying this she scrutinised Pao-y, who she saw had a head-dress of purplish-gold twisted threads, studded with precious stones. His forehead was bound with a gold circlet, representing two dragons, clasping a pearl. On his person he wore a light yellow, archery-sleeved jacket, ornamented with rampant dragons, and lined with fur from the ribs of the silver fox; and was clasped with a dark sash, embroidered with different-coloured butterflies and birds. Round his neck was hung an amulet, consisting of a clasp of longevity, a talisman of recorded name, and, in addition to these, the precious jade which he had had in his mouth at the time of his birth.

“I’ve daily heard every one speak of this jade,” said Pao Ch’ai with a smile, “but haven’t, after all, had an opportunity of looking at it closely, but anyhow to-day I must see it.”

As she spoke, she drew near. Pao-y himself approached, and taking it from his neck, he placed it in Pao Ch’ai’s hand. Pao Ch’ai held it in her palm. It appeared to her very much like the egg of a bird, resplendent as it was like a bright russet cloud; shiny and smooth like variegated curd and covered with a net for the sake of protection.

Readers, you should know that this was the very block of useless stone which had been on the Ta Huang Hills, and which had dropped into the Ch’ing Keng cave, in a state of metamorphosis. A later writer expresses his feelings in a satirical way as follows:

  N Wo’s fusion of stones was e’er a myth inane,
  But from this myth hath sprung fiction still more insane!
  Lost is the subtle life, divine, and real!–gone!
  Assumed, mean subterfuge! foul bags of skin and bone!
  Fortune, when once adverse, how true! gold glows no more!
  In evil days, alas! the jade’s splendour is o’er!
  Bones, white and bleached, in nameless hill-like mounds are flung,
  Bones once of youths renowned and maidens fair and young.

The rejected stone has in fact already given a record of the circumstances of its transformation, and the inscription in seal characters, engraved upon it by the bald-headed bonze, and below will now be also appended a faithful representation of it; but its real size is so very diminutive, as to allow of its being held by a child in his mouth while yet unborn, that were it to have been drawn in its exact proportions, the characters would, it is feared, have been so insignificant in size, that the beholder would have had to waste much of his eyesight, and it would besides have been no pleasant thing.

While therefore its shape has been adhered to, its size has unavoidably been slightly enlarged, to admit of the reader being able, conveniently, to peruse the inscription, even by very lamplight, and though he may be under the influence of wine.

These explanations have been given to obviate any such sneering remarks as: “What could be, pray, the size of the mouth of a child in his mother’s womb, and how could it grasp such a large and clumsy thing?”

On the face of the jade was written:

  Precious Gem of Spiritual Perception.
  If thou wilt lose me not and never forget me,
  Eternal life and constant luck will be with thee!

On the reverse was written:

  1 To exorcise evil spirits and the accessory visitations;
  2 To cure predestined sickness;
  3 To prognosticate weal and woe.

Pao Ch’ai having looked at the amulet, twisted it again to the face, and scrutinising it closely, read aloud:

  If thou wilt lose me not and never forget me,
  Eternal life and constant luck will be with thee!

She perused these lines twice, and, turning round, she asked Ying Erh laughingly: “Why don’t you go and pour the tea? what are you standing here like an idiot!”

“These two lines which I’ve heard,” smiled Ying Erh, “would appear to pair with the two lines on your necklet, miss!”

“What!” eagerly observed Pao-y with a grin, when he caught these words, "are there really eight characters too on your necklet, cousin? do let me too see it.”

“Don’t listen to what she says,” remarked Pao Ch’ai, “there are no characters on it.”

“My dear cousin,” pleaded Pao-y entreatingly, “how is it you’ve seen mine?”

Pao Ch’ai was brought quite at bay by this remark of his, and she consequently added, “There are also two propitious phrases engraved on this charm, and that’s why I wear it every day. Otherwise, what pleasure would there be in carrying a clumsy thing.”

As she spoke, she unfastened the button, and produced from inside her crimson robe, a crystal-like locket, set with pearls and gems, and with a brilliant golden fringe. Pao-y promptly received it from her, and upon minute examination, found that there were in fact four characters on each side; the eight characters on both sides forming two sentences of good omen. The similitude of the locket is likewise then given below. On the face of the locket is written:

“Part not from me and cast me not away;”

And on the reverse:

“And youth, perennial freshness will display!”

Pao-y examined the charm, and having also read the inscription twice over aloud, and then twice again to himself, he said as he smiled, “Dear cousin, these eight characters of yours form together with mine an antithetical verse.”

“They were presented to her,” ventured Ying Erh, “by a mangy-pated bonze, who explained that they should be engraved on a golden trinket....”

Pao Ch’ai left her no time to finish what she wished to say, but speedily called her to task for not going to bring the tea, and then inquired of Pao-y “Where he had come from?”

Pao-y had, by this time, drawn quite close to Pao Ch’ai, and perceived whiff after whiff of some perfume or other, of what kind he could not tell. “What perfume have you used, my cousin,” he forthwith asked, “to fumigate your dresses with? I really don’t remember smelling any perfumery of the kind before.”

“I’m very averse,” replied Pao Ch’ai blandly, “to the odour of fumigation; good clothes become impregnated with the smell of smoke.”

“In that case,” observed Pao-y, “what scent is it?”

“Yes, I remember,” Pao Ch’ai answered, after some reflection; “it’s the scent of the ’cold fragrance’ pills which I took this morning.”

“What are these cold fragrance pills,” remarked Pao-y smiling, “that they have such a fine smell? Give me, cousin, a pill to try.”

“Here you are with your nonsense again,” Pao Ch’ai rejoined laughingly; "is a pill a thing to be taken recklessly?”

She had scarcely finished speaking, when she heard suddenly some one outside say, “Miss Lin is come;” and shortly Lin Tai-y walked in in a jaunty manner.

“Oh, I come at a wrong moment!” she exclaimed forthwith, smirking significantly when she caught sight of Pao-y.

Pao-y and the rest lost no time in rising and offering her a seat, whereupon Pao Ch’ai added with a smile, “How can you say such things?”

“Had I known sooner,” continued Tai-y, “that he was here, I would have kept away.”

“I can’t fathom this meaning of yours,” protested Pao Ch’ai.

“If one comes,” Tai-y urged smiling, “then all come, and when one doesn’t come, then no one comes. Now were he to come to-day, and I to come to-morrow, wouldn’t there be, by a division of this kind, always some one with you every day? and in this way, you wouldn’t feel too lonely, nor too crowded. How is it, cousin, that you didn’t understand what I meant to imply?”

“Is it snowing?” inquired Pao-y, upon noticing that she wore a cloak made of crimson camlet, buttoning in front.

“It has been snowing for some time,” ventured the matrons, who were standing below. “Fetch my wrapper!” Pao-y remarked, and Tai-y readily laughed. “Am I not right? I come, and, of course, he must go at once.”

“Did I ever mention that I was going?” questioned Pao-y; “I only wish it brought to have it ready when I want it.”

“It’s a snowy day,” consequently remarked Pao-y’s nurse, dame Li, “and we must also look to the time, but you had better remain here and amuse yourself with your cousin. Your aunt has, in there, got ready tea and fruits. I’ll tell the waiting-maid to go and fetch your wrapper and the boys to return home.” Pao-y assented, and nurse Li left the room and told the boys that they were at liberty to go.

By this time Mrs. Hseh had prepared tea and several kinds of nice things and kept them all to partake of those delicacies. Pao-y, having spoken highly of some goose feet and ducks’ tongues he had tasted some days before, at his eldest sister-in-law’s, Mrs. Yu’s, “aunt” Hseh promptly produced several dishes of the same kind, made by herself, and gave them to Pao-y to try. “With a little wine,” added Pao-y with a smile, “they would be first rate.”

Mrs. Hseh thereupon bade the servants fetch some wine of the best quality; but dame Li came forward and remonstrated. “My lady,” she said, "never mind the wine.”

Pao-y smilingly pleaded: “My nurse, I’ll take just one cup and no more.”

“It’s no use,” nurse Li replied, “were your grandmother and mother present, I wouldn’t care if you drank a whole jar. I remember the day when I turned my eyes away but for a moment, and some ignorant fool or other, merely with the view of pandering for your favour, gave you only a drop of wine to drink, and how this brought reproaches upon me for a couple of days. You don’t know, my lady, you have no idea of his disposition! it’s really dreadful; and when he has had a little wine he shows far more temper. On days when her venerable ladyship is in high spirits, she allows him to have his own way about drinking, but he’s not allowed to have wine on any and every day; and why should I have to suffer inside and all for nothing at all?”

“You antiquated thing!” replied Mrs. Hseh laughing, “set your mind at ease, and go and drink your own wine! I won’t let him have too much, and should even the old lady say anything, let the fault be mine.”

Saying this, she asked a waiting-maid to take nurse Li along with her and give her also a glass of wine so as to keep out the cold air.

When nurse Li heard these words, she had no alternative but to go for a time with all the others and have some wine to drink.

“The wine need not be warmed: I prefer it cold!” Pao-y went on to suggest meanwhile.

“That won’t do,” remonstrated Mrs. Hseh; “cold wine will make your hand tremble when you write.”

“You have,” interposed Pao Ch’ai smiling, “the good fortune, cousin Pao-y, of having daily opportunities of acquiring a knowledge of every kind of subject, and yet don’t you know that the properties of wine are mostly heating? If you drink wine warm, its effects soon dispel, but if you drink it cold, it at once congeals in you; and as upon your intestines devolves the warming of it, how can you not derive any harm? and won’t you yet from this time change this habit of yours? leave off at once drinking that cold wine.”

Pao-y finding that the words he had heard contained a good deal of sense, speedily put down the cold wine, and having asked them to warm it, he at length drank it.

Tai-y was bent upon cracking melon seeds, saying nothing but simply pursing up her lips and smiling, when, strange coincidence, Hseh Yen, Tai-y’s waiting-maid, walked in and handed her mistress a small hand-stove.

“Who told you to bring it?” ascertained Tai-y grinningly. “I’m sorry to have given whoever it is the trouble; I’m obliged to her. But did she ever imagine that I would freeze to death?”

“Tzu Chuan was afraid,” replied Hseh Yen, “that you would, miss, feel cold, and she asked me to bring it over.”

Tai-y took it over and held it in her lap. “How is it,” she smiled, "that you listen to what she tells you, but that you treat what I say, day after day, as so much wind blowing past your ears! How is it that you at once do what she bids you, with even greater alacrity than you would an imperial edict?”

When Pao-y heard this, he felt sure in his mind that Tai-y was availing herself of this opportunity to make fun of him, but he made no remark, merely laughing to himself and paying no further notice. Pao Ch’ai, again, knew full well that this habit was a weak point with Tai-y, so she too did not go out of her way to heed what she said.

“You’ve always been delicate and unable to stand the cold,” interposed "aunt” Hseh, “and is it not a kind attention on their part to have thought of you?”

“You don’t know, aunt, how it really stands,” responded Tai-y smilingly; “fortunately enough, it was sent to me here at your quarters; for had it been in any one else’s house, wouldn’t it have been a slight upon them? Is it forsooth nice to think that people haven’t so much as a hand-stove, and that one has fussily to be sent over from home? People won’t say that the waiting-maids are too officious, but will imagine that I’m in the habit of behaving in this offensive fashion.”

“You’re far too punctilious,” remarked Mrs. Hseh, “as to entertain such notions! No such ideas as these crossed my mind just now.”

While they were conversing, Pao-y had taken so much as three cups of wine, and nurse Li came forward again to prevent him from having any more. Pao-y was just then in a state of exultation and excitement, (a state) enhanced by the conversation and laughter of his cousins, so that was he ready to agree to having no more! But he was constrained in a humble spirit to entreat for permission. “My dear nurse,” he implored, "I’ll just take two more cups and then have no more.”

“You’d better be careful,” added nurse Li, “your father is at home to-day, and see that you’re ready to be examined in your lessons.”

When Pao-y heard this mention, his spirits at once sank within him, and gently putting the wine aside, he dropped his head upon his breast.

Tai-y promptly remonstrated. “You’ve thrown cold water,” she said, "over the spirits of the whole company; why, if uncle should ask to see you, well, say that aunt Hseh detained you. This old nurse of yours has been drinking, and again makes us the means of clearing her muddled head!”

While saying this, she gave Pao-y a big nudge with the intent of stirring up his spirits, adding, as she addressed him in a low tone of voice: “Don’t let us heed that old thing, but mind our own enjoyment.”

Dame Li also knew very well Tai-y’s disposition, and therefore remarked: “Now, Miss Lin, don’t you urge him on; you should after all, give him good advice, as he may, I think, listen to a good deal of what you say to him.”

“Why should I urge him on?” rejoined Lin Tai-y, with a sarcastic smile, "nor will I trouble myself to give him advice. You, old lady, are far too scrupulous! Old lady Chia has also time after time given him wine, and if he now takes a cup or two more here, at his aunt’s, lady Hseh’s house, there’s no harm that I can see. Is it perhaps, who knows, that aunt is a stranger in this establishment, and that we have in fact no right to come over here to see her?”

Nurse Li was both vexed and amused by the words she had just heard. "Really,” she observed, “every remark this girl Lin utters is sharper than a razor! I didn’t say anything much!”

Pao Ch’ai too could not suppress a smile, and as she pinched Tai-y’s cheek, she exclaimed, “Oh the tongue of this frowning girl! one can neither resent what it says, nor yet listen to it with any gratification!”

“Don’t be afraid!” Mrs. Hseh went on to say, “don’t be afraid; my son, you’ve come to see me, and although I’ve nothing good to give you, you mustn’t, through fright, let the trifle you’ve taken lie heavy on your stomach, and thus make me uneasy; but just drink at your pleasure, and as much as you like, and let the blame fall on my shoulders. What’s more, you can stay to dinner with me, and then go home; or if you do get tipsy, you can sleep with me, that’s all.”

She thereupon told the servants to heat some more wine. “I’ll come,” she continued, “and keep you company while you have two or three cups, after which we’ll have something to eat!”

It was only after these assurances that Pao-y’s spirits began at length, once more to revive, and dame Li then directed the waiting-maids what to do. “You remain here,” she enjoined, “and mind, be diligent while I go home and change; when I’ll come back again. Don’t allow him," she also whispered to “aunt” Hseh, “to have all his own way and drink too much.”

Having said this, she betook herself back to her quarters; and during this while, though there were two or three nurses in attendance, they did not concern themselves with what was going on. As soon as they saw that nurse Li had left, they likewise all quietly slipped out, at the first opportunity they found, while there remained but two waiting-maids, who were only too glad to curry favour with Pao-y. But fortunately “aunt” Hseh, by much coaxing and persuading, only let him have a few cups, and the wine being then promptly cleared away, pickled bamboo shoots and chicken-skin soup were prepared, of which Pao-y drank with relish several bowls full, eating besides more than half a bowl of finest rice congee.

By this time, Hseh Pao Ch’ai and Lin Tai-y had also finished their repast; and when Pao-y had drunk a few cups of strong tea, Mrs. Hseh felt more easy in her mind. Hseh Yen and the others, three or four of them in all, had also had their meal, and came in to wait upon them.

“Are you now going or not?” inquired Tai-y of Pao-y.

Pao-y looked askance with his drowsy eyes. “If you want to go,” he observed, “I’ll go with you.”

Tai-y hearing this, speedily rose. “We’ve been here nearly the whole day,” she said, “and ought to be going back.”

As she spoke the two of them bade good-bye, and the waiting-maids at once presented a hood to each of them.

Pao-y readily lowered his head slightly and told a waiting-maid to put it on. The girl promptly took the hood, made of deep red cloth, and shaking it out of its folds, she put it on Pao-y’s head.

“That will do,” hastily exclaimed Pao-y. “You stupid thing! gently a bit; is it likely you’ve never seen any one put one on before? let me do it myself.”

“Come over here, and I’ll put it on for you,” suggested Tai-y, as she stood on the edge of the couch. Pao-y eagerly approached her, and Tai-y carefully kept the cap, to which his hair was bound, fast down, and taking the hood she rested its edge on the circlet round his forehead. She then raised the ball of crimson velvet, which was as large as a walnut, and put it in such a way that, as it waved tremulously, it should appear outside the hood. These arrangements completed she cast a look for a while at what she had done. “That’s right now,” she added, "throw your wrapper over you!”

When Pao-y caught these words, he eventually took the wrapper and threw it over his shoulders.

“None of your nurses,” hurriedly interposed aunt Hseh, “are yet come, so you had better wait a while.”

“Why should we wait for them?” observed Pao-y. “We have the waiting-maids to escort us, and surely they should be enough.”

Mrs. Hseh finding it difficult to set her mind at ease deputed two married women to accompany the two cousins; and after they had both expressed (to these women) their regret at having troubled them, they came straightway to dowager lady Chia’s suite of apartments.

Her venerable ladyship had not, as yet, had her evening repast. Hearing that they had been at Mrs. Hseh’s, she was extremely pleased; but noticing that Pao-y had had some wine, she gave orders that he should be taken to his room, and put to bed, and not be allowed to come out again.

“Do take good care of him,” she therefore enjoined the servants, and when suddenly she bethought herself of Pao-y’s attendants, “How is it," she at once inquired of them all, “that I don’t see nurse Li here?”

They did not venture to tell her the truth, that she had gone home, but simply explained that she had come in a few moments back, and that they thought she must have again gone out on some business or other.

“She’s better off than your venerable ladyship,” remarked Pao-y, turning round and swaying from side to side. “Why then ask after her? Were I rid of her, I believe I might live a little longer.”

While uttering these words, he reached the door of his bedroom, where he saw pen and ink laid out on the writing table.

“That’s nice,” exclaimed Ch’ing Wen, as she came to meet him with a smile on her face, “you tell me to prepare the ink for you, but though when you get up, you were full of the idea of writing, you only wrote three characters, when you discarded the pencil, and ran away, fooling me, by making me wait the whole day! Come now at once and exhaust all this ink before you’re let off.”

Pao-y then remembered what had taken place in the morning. “Where are the three characters I wrote?” he consequently inquired, smiling.

“Why this man is tipsy,” remarked Ch’ing Wen sneeringly. “As you were going to the other mansion, you told me to stick them over the door. I was afraid lest any one else should spoil them, as they were being pasted, so I climbed up a high ladder and was ever so long in putting them up myself; my hands are even now numb with cold.”

“Oh I forgot all about it,” replied Pao-y grinning, “if your hands are cold, come and I’ll rub them warm for you.”

Promptly stretching out his hand, he took those of Ch’ing Wen in his, and the two of them looked at the three characters, which he recently had written, and which were pasted above the door. In a short while, Tai-y came.

“My dear cousin,” Pao-y said to her smilingly, “tell me without any prevarication which of the three characters is the best written?”

Tai-y raised her head and perceived the three characters: Red, Rue, Hall. “They’re all well done,” she rejoined, with a smirk, “How is it you’ve written them so well? By and bye you must also write a tablet for me.”

“Are you again making fun of me?” asked Pao-y smiling; “what about sister Hsi Jen?” he went on to inquire.

Ch’ing Wen pouted her lips, pointing towards the stove-couch in the inner room, and, on looking in, Pao-y espied Hsi Jen fast asleep in her daily costume.

“Well,” Pao-y observed laughing, “there’s no harm in it, but its rather early to sleep. When I was having my early meal, on the other side,” he proceeded, speaking to Ch’ing Wen, “there was a small dish of dumplings, with bean-curd outside; and as I thought you would like to have some, I asked Mrs. Yu for them, telling her that I would keep them, and eat them in the evening; I told some one to bring them over, but have you perchance seen them?”

“Be quick and drop that subject,” suggested Ch’ing Wen; “as soon as they were brought over, I at once knew they were intended for me; as I had just finished my meal, I put them by in there, but when nurse Li came she saw them. ’Pao-y,’ she said, ’is not likely to eat them, so I’ll take them and give them to my grandson.’ And forthwith she bade some one take them over to her home.”

While she was speaking, Hsi Hseh brought in tea, and Pao-y pressed his cousin Lin to have a cup.

“Miss Lin has gone long ago,” observed all of them, as they burst out laughing, “and do you offer her tea?”

Pao-y drank about half a cup, when he also suddenly bethought himself of some tea, which had been brewed in the morning. “This morning,” he therefore inquired of Hsi Hseh, “when you made a cup of maple-dew tea, I told you that that kind of tea requires brewing three or four times before its colour appears; and how is that you now again bring me this tea?”

“I did really put it by,” answered Hsi Hseh, “but nurse Li came and drank it, and then went off.”

Pao-y upon hearing this, dashed the cup he held in his hand on the ground, and as it broke into small fragments, with a crash, it spattered Hsi Hseh’s petticoat all over.

“Of whose family is she the mistress?” inquired Pao-y of Hsi Hseh, as he jumped up, “that you all pay such deference to her. I just simply had a little of her milk, when I was a brat, and that’s all; and now she has got into the way of thinking herself more high and mighty than even the heads of the family! She should be packed off, and then we shall all have peace and quiet.”

Saying this, he was bent upon going, there and then, to tell dowager lady Chia to have his nurse driven away.

Hsi Jen was really not asleep, but simply feigning, with the idea, when Pao-y came, to startle him in play. At first, when she heard him speak of writing, and inquire after the dumplings, she did not think it necessary to get up, but when he flung the tea-cup on the floor, and got into a temper, she promptly jumped up and tried to appease him, and to prevent him by coaxing from carrying out his threat.

A waiting-maid sent by dowager lady Chia came in, meanwhile, to ask what was the matter.

“I had just gone to pour tea,” replied Hsi Jen, without the least hesitation, “and I slipped on the snow and fell, while the cup dropped from my hand and broke. Your decision to send her away is good,” she went on to advise Pao-y, “and we are all willing to go also; and why not avail yourself of this opportunity to dismiss us in a body? It will be for our good, and you too on the other hand, needn’t perplex yourself about not getting better people to come and wait on you!”

When Pao-y heard this taunt, he had at length not a word to say, and supported by Hsi Jen and the other attendants on to the couch, they divested him of his clothes. But they failed to understand the drift of what Pao-y kept on still muttering, and all they could make out was an endless string of words; but his eyes grew heavier and drowsier, and they forthwith waited upon him until he went to sleep; when Hsi Jen unclasped the jade of spiritual perception, and rolling it up in a handkerchief, she lay it under the mattress, with the idea that when he put it on the next day it should not chill his neck.

Pao-y fell sound asleep the moment he lay his head on the pillow. By this time nurse Li and the others had come in, but when they heard that Pao-y was tipsy, they too did not venture to approach, but gently made inquiries as to whether he was asleep or not. On hearing that he was, they took their departure with their minds more at ease.

The next morning the moment Pao-y awoke, some one came in to tell him that young Mr. Jung, living in the mansion on the other side, had brought Ch’in Chung to pay him a visit.

Pao-y speedily went out to greet them and to take them over to pay their respects to dowager lady Chia. Her venerable ladyship upon perceiving that Ch’in Chung, with his handsome countenance, and his refined manners, would be a fit companion for Pao-y in his studies, felt extremely delighted at heart; and having readily detained him to tea, and kept him to dinner, she went further and directed a servant to escort him to see madame Wang and the rest of the family.

With the fond regard of the whole household for Mrs. Ch’in, they were, when they saw what a kind of person Ch’in Chung was, so enchanted with him, that at the time of his departure, they all had presents to give him; even dowager lady Chia herself presented him with a purse and a golden image of the God of Learning, with a view that it should incite him to study and harmony.

“Your house,” she further advised him, “is far off, and when it’s cold or hot, it would be inconvenient for you to come all that way, so you had better come and live over here with me. You’ll then be always with your cousin Pao-y, and you won’t be together, in your studies, with those fellow-pupils of yours who have no idea what progress means.”

Ch’in Chung made a suitable answer to each one of her remarks, and on his return home he told everything to his father.

His father, Ch’in Pang-yeh, held at present the post of Secretary in the Peking Field Force, and was well-nigh seventy. His wife had died at an early period, and as she left no issue, he adopted a son and a daughter from a foundling asylum.

But who would have thought it, the boy also died, and there only remained the girl, known as K Ch’ing in her infancy, who when she grew up, was beautiful in face and graceful in manners, and who by reason of some relationship with the Chia family, was consequently united by the ties of marriage (to one of the household).

Ch’in Pang-yeh was in his fiftieth year when he at length got this son. As his tutor had the previous year left to go south, he remained at home keeping up his former lessons; and (his father) had been just thinking of talking over the matter with his relatives of the Chia family, and sending his son to the private school, when, as luck would have it, this opportunity of meeting Pao-y presented itself.

Knowing besides that the family school was under the direction of the venerable scholar Chia Tai-ju, and hoping that by joining his class, (his son) might advance in knowledge and by these means reap reputation, he was therefore intensely gratified. The only drawbacks were that his official emoluments were scanty, and that both the eyes of everyone in the other establishment were set upon riches and honours, so that he could not contribute anything short of the amount (given by others); but his son’s welfare throughout life was a serious consideration, and he, needless to say, had to scrape together from the East and to collect from the West; and making a parcel, with all deference, of twenty-four taels for an introduction present, he came along with Ch’in Chung to Tai-ju’s house to pay their respects. But he had to wait subsequently until Pao-y could fix on an auspicious date on which they could together enter the school.

As for what happened after they came to school, the next chapter will divulge.

Chapter IX.

  Chia Cheng gives good advice to his wayward son.
  Li Kuei receives a reprimand.
  Chia Jui and Li Kuei rebuke the obstinate youths!
  Ming Yen causes trouble in the school-room.

But to return to our story. Mr. Ch’in, the father, and Ch’in Chung, his son, only waited until the receipt, by the hands of a servant, of a letter from the Chia family about the date on which they were to go to school. Indeed, Pao-y was only too impatient that he and Ch’in Chung should come together, and, without loss of time, he fixed upon two days later as the day upon which they were definitely to begin their studies, and he despatched a servant with a letter to this effect.

On the day appointed, as soon as it was daylight, Pao-y turned out of bed. Hsi Jen had already by that time got books, pencils and all writing necessaries in perfect readiness, and was sitting on the edge of the bed in a moping mood; but as soon as she saw Pao-y approach, she was constrained to wait upon him in his toilette and ablutions.

Pao-y, noticing how despondent she was, made it a point to address her. "My dear sister,” he said, “how is it you aren’t again yourself? Is it likely that you bear me a grudge for being about to go to school, because when I leave you, you’ll all feel dull?”

Hsi Jen smiled. “What an ideal” she replied. “Study is a most excellent thing, and without it a whole lifetime is a mere waste, and what good comes in the long run? There’s only one thing, which is simply that when engaged in reading your books, you should set your mind on your books; and that you should think of home when not engaged in reading. Whatever you do, don’t romp together with them, for were you to meet our master, your father, it will be no joke! Although it’s asserted that a scholar must strain every nerve to excel, yet it’s preferable that the tasks should be somewhat fewer, as, in the first place, when one eats too much, one cannot digest it; and, in the second place, good health must also be carefully attended to. This is my view on the subject, and you should at all times consider it in practice.”

While Hsi Jen gave utterance to a sentence, Pao-y nodded his head in sign of approval of that sentence. Hsi Jen then went on to speak. “I’ve also packed up,” she continued, “your long pelisse, and handed it to the pages to take it over; so mind, when it’s cold in the school-room, please remember to put on this extra clothing, for it’s not like home, where you have people to look after you. The foot-stove and hand-stove, I’ve also sent over; and urge that pack of lazy-bones to attend to their work, for if you say nothing, they will be so engrossed in their frolics, that they’ll be loth to move, and let you, all for nothing, take a chill and ruin your constitution.”

“Compose your mind,” replied Pao-y; “when I go out, I know well enough how to attend to everything my own self. But you people shouldn’t remain in this room, and mope yourselves to death; and it would be well if you would often go over to cousin Lin’s for a romp.”

While saying this, he had completed his toilette, and Hsi Jen pressed him to go and wish good morning to dowager lady Chia, Chia Cheng, madame Wang, and the other members of the family.

Pao-y, after having gone on to give a few orders to Ch’ing Wen and She Yueh, at length left his apartments, and coming over, paid his obeisance to dowager lady Chia. Her venerable Ladyship had likewise, as a matter of course, a few recommendations to make to him, which ended, he next went and greeted madame Wang; and leaving again her quarters, he came into the library to wish Chia Cheng good morning.

As it happened, Chia Cheng had on this day returned home at an early hour, and was, at this moment, in the library, engaged in a friendly chat with a few gentlemen, who were family companions. Suddenly perceiving Pao-y come in to pay his respects, and report that he was about to go to school, Chia Cheng gave a sardonic smile. “If you do again,” he remarked, “make allusions to the words going to school, you’ll make even me blush to death with shame! My advice to you is that you should after all go your own way and play; that’s the best thing for you; and mind you don’t pollute with dirt this floor by standing here, and soil this door of mine by leaning against it!”

The family companions stood up and smilingly expostulated.

“Venerable Sir,” they pleaded, “why need you be so down upon him? Our worthy brother is this day going to school, and may in two or three years be able to display his abilities and establish his reputation. He will, beyond doubt, not behave like a child, as he did in years gone past. But as the time for breakfast is also drawing nigh, you should, worthy brother, go at once.”

When these words had been spoken, two among them, who were advanced in years, readily took Pao-y by the hand, and led him out of the library.

“Who are in attendance upon Pao-y?” Chia Cheng having inquired, he heard a suitable reply, “We, Sir!” given from outside; and three or four sturdy fellows entered at an early period and fell on one knee, and bowed and paid their obeisance.

When Chia Cheng came to scrutinise who they were, and he recognised Li Kuei, the son of Pao-y’s nurse, he addressed himself to him. “You people,” he said, “remain waiting upon him the whole day long at school, but what books has he after all read? Books indeed! why, he has read and filled his brains with a lot of trashy words and nonsensical phrases, and learnt some ingenious way of waywardness. Wait till I have a little leisure, and I’ll set to work, first and foremost, and flay your skin off, and then settle accounts with that good-for-nothing!”

This threat so terrified Li Kuei that he hastily fell on both his knees, pulled off his hat, knocked his head on the ground, and gave vent to repeated assenting utterances: “Oh, quite so, Sir! Our elder brother Mr. Pao has,” he continued, “already read up to the third book of the Book of Odes, up to where there’s something or other like: ’Yiu, Yiu, the deer bleat; the lotus leaves and duckweed.’ Your servant wouldn’t presume to tell a lie!”

As he said this, the whole company burst out into a boisterous fit of laughter, and Chia Cheng himself could not also contain his countenance and had to laugh. “Were he even,” he observed, “to read thirty books of the Book of Odes, it would be as much an imposition upon people and no more, as (when the thief) who, in order to steal the bell, stops up his own ears! You go and present my compliments to the gentleman in the schoolroom, and tell him, from my part, that the whole lot of Odes and old writings are of no use, as they are subjects for empty show; and that he should, above all things, take the Four Books, and explain them to him, from first to last, and make him know them all thoroughly by heart,–that this is the most important thing!”

Li Kuei signified his obedience with all promptitude, and perceiving that Chia Cheng had nothing more to say, he retired out of the room.

During this while, Pao-y had been standing all alone outside in the court, waiting quietly with suppressed voice, and when they came out he at once walked away in their company.

Li Kuei and his companions observed as they shook their clothes, “Did you, worthy brother, hear what he said that he would first of all flay our skins off! People’s servants acquire some respectability from the master whom they serve, but we poor fellows fruitlessly wait upon you, and are beaten and blown up in the bargain. It would be well if we were, from henceforward, to be treated with a certain amount of regard.”

Pao-y smiled, “Dear Brother,” he added, “don’t feel aggrieved; I’ll invite you to come round to-morrow!”

“My young ancestor,” replied Li Kuei, “who presumes to look forward to an invitation? all I entreat you is to listen to one or two words I have to say, that’s all.”

As they talked they came over once more to dowager lady Chia’s on this side.

Ch’in Chung had already arrived, and the old lady was first having a chat with him. Forthwith the two of them exchanged salutations, and took leave of her ladyship; but Pao-y, suddenly remembering that he had not said good-bye to Tai-y, promptly betook himself again to Tai-y’s quarters to do so.

Tai-y was, at this time, below the window, facing the mirror, and adjusting her toilette. Upon hearing Pao-y mention that he was on his way to school, she smiled and remarked, “That’s right! you’re now going to school and you’ll be sure to reach the lunar palace and pluck the olea fragrans; but I can’t go along with you.”

“My dear cousin,” rejoined Pao-y, “wait for me to come out from school, before you have your evening meal; wait also until I come to prepare the cosmetic of rouge.”

After a protracted chat, he at length tore himself away and took his departure.

“How is it,” interposed Tai-y, as she once again called out to him and stopped him, “that you don’t go and bid farewell to your cousin Pao Ch’ai?”

Pao-y smiled, and saying not a word by way of reply he straightway walked to school, accompanied by Ch’in Chung.

This public school, which it must be noticed was also not far from his quarters, had been originally instituted by the founder of the establishment, with the idea that should there be among the young fellows of his clan any who had not the means to engage a tutor, they should readily be able to enter this class for the prosecution of their studies; that all those of the family who held official position should all give (the institution) pecuniary assistance, with a view to meet the expenses necessary for allowances to the students; and that they were to select men advanced in years and possessed of virtue to act as tutors of the family school.

The two of them, Ch’in Chung and Pao-y, had now entered the class, and after they and the whole number of their schoolmates had made each other’s acquaintance, their studies were commenced. Ever since this time, these two were wont to come together, go together, get up together, and sit together, till they became more intimate and close. Besides, dowager lady Chia got very fond of Ch’in Chung, and would again and again keep him to stay with them for three and five days at a time, treating him as if he were one of her own great-grandsons. Perceiving that in Ch’in Chung’s home there was not much in the way of sufficiency, she also helped him in clothes and other necessaries; and scarcely had one or two months elapsed before Ch’in Chung got on friendly terms with every one in the Jung mansion.

Pao-y was, however, a human being who could not practise contentment and observe propriety; and as his sole delight was to have every caprice gratified, he naturally developed a craving disposition. “We two, you and I, are,” he was also wont secretly to tell Ch’in Chung, “of the same age, and fellow-scholars besides, so that there’s no need in the future to pay any regard to our relationship of uncle and nephew; and we should treat each other as brothers or friends, that’s all.”

Ch’in Chung at first (explained that) he could not be so presumptuous; but as Pao-y would not listen to any such thing, but went on to address him as brother and to call him by his style Ch’ing Ch’ing, he had likewise himself no help, but to begin calling him, at random, anything and anyhow.

There were, it is true, a large number of pupils in this school, but these consisted of the sons and younger brothers of that same clan, and of several sons and nephews of family connections. The proverb appositely describes that there are nine species of dragons, and that each species differs; and it goes of course without saying that in a large number of human beings there were dragons and snakes, confusedly admixed, and that creatures of a low standing were included.

Ever since the arrival of the two young fellows, Ch’in Chung and Pao-y, both of whom were in appearance as handsome as budding flowers, and they, on the one hand, saw how modest and genial Ch’in Chung was, how he blushed before he uttered a word, how he was timid and demure like a girl, and on the other hand, how that Pao-y was naturally proficient in abasing and demeaning himself, how he was so affable and good-natured, considerate in his temperament and so full of conversation, and how that these two were, in consequence, on such terms of intimate friendship, it was, in fact, no matter of surprise that the whole company of fellow-students began to foster envious thoughts, that they, behind their backs, passed on their account, this one one disparaging remark and that one another, and that they insinuated slanderous lies against them, which extended inside as well as outside the school-room.

Indeed, after Hseh P’an had come over to take up his quarters in madame Wang’s suite of apartments, he shortly came to hear of the existence of a family school, and that this school was mainly attended by young fellows of tender years, and inordinate ideas were suddenly aroused in him. While he therefore fictitiously gave out that he went to school, [he was as irregular in his attendance as the fisherman] who catches fish for three days, and suns his nets for the next two; simply presenting his school-fee gift to Chia Tai-jui and making not the least progress in his studies; his sole dream being to knit a number of familiar friendships. Who would have thought it, there were in this school young pupils, who, in their greed to obtain money, clothes and eatables from Hseh P’an, allowed themselves to be cajoled by him, and played tricks upon; but on this topic, it is likewise superfluous to dilate at any length.

There were also two lovable young scholars, relatives of what branch of the family is not known, and whose real surnames and names have also not been ascertained, who, by reason of their good and winsome looks, were, by the pupils in the whole class, given two nicknames, to one that of "Hsiang Lin,” “Fragrant Love,” and to the other “Y Ai,” “Precious Affection.” But although every one entertained feelings of secret admiration for them, and had the wish to take liberties with the young fellows, they lived, nevertheless, one and all, in such terror of Hseh P’an’s imperious influence, that they had not the courage to come forward and interfere with them.

As soon as Ch’in Chung and Pao-y had, at this time, come to school, and they had made the acquaintance of these two fellow-pupils, they too could not help becoming attached to them and admiring them, but as they also came to know that they were great friends of Hseh P’an, they did not, in consequence, venture to treat them lightly, or to be unseemly in their behaviour towards them. Hsiang Lin and Y Ai both kept to themselves the same feelings, which they fostered for Ch’in Chung and Pao-y, and to this reason is to be assigned the fact that though these four persons nurtured fond thoughts in their hearts there was however no visible sign of them. Day after day, each one of them would, during school hours, sit in four distinct places: but their eight eyes were secretly linked together; and, while indulging either in innuendoes or in double entendres, their hearts, in spite of the distance between them, reflected the whole number of their thoughts.

But though their outward attempts were devoted to evade the detection of other people’s eyes, it happened again that, while least expected, several sly lads discovered the real state of affairs, with the result that the whole school stealthily frowned their eyebrows at them, winked their eyes at them, or coughed at them, or raised their voices at them; and these proceedings were, in fact, not restricted to one single day.

As luck would have it, on this day Tai-jui was, on account of business, compelled to go home; and having left them as a task no more than a heptameter line for an antithetical couplet, explaining that they should find a sentence to rhyme, and that the following day when he came back, he would set them their lessons, he went on to hand the affairs connected with the class to his elder grandson, Chia Jui, whom he asked to take charge.

Wonderful to say Hseh P’an had of late not frequented school very often, not even so much as to answer the roll, so that Ch’in Chung availed himself of his absence to ogle and smirk with Hsiang Lin; and these two pretending that they had to go out, came into the back court for a chat.

“Does your worthy father at home mind your having any friends?” Ch’in Chung was the first to ask. But this sentence was scarcely ended, when they heard a sound of coughing coming from behind. Both were taken much aback, and, speedily turning their heads round to see, they found that it was a fellow-scholar of theirs, called Chin Jung.

Hsiang Lin was naturally of somewhat hasty temperament, so that with shame and anger mutually impelling each other, he inquired of him, "What’s there to cough at? Is it likely you wouldn’t have us speak to each other?”

“I don’t mind your speaking,” Chin Jung observed laughing; “but would you perchance not have me cough? I’ll tell you what, however; if you have anything to say, why not utter it in intelligible language? Were you allowed to go on in this mysterious manner, what strange doings would you be up to? But I have sure enough found you out, so what’s the need of still prevaricating? But if you will, first of all, let me partake of a share in your little game, you and I can hold our tongue and utter not a word. If not, why the whole school will begin to turn the matter over.”

At these words, Ch’in Chung and Hsiang Lin were so exasperated that their blood rushed up to their faces. “What have you found out?” they hastily asked.

“What I have now detected,” replied Chin Jung smiling, “is the plain truth!” and saying this he went on to clap his hands and to call out with a loud voice as he laughed: “They have moulded some nice well-baked cakes, won’t you fellows come and buy one to eat!” (These two have been up to larks, won’t you come and have some fun!)

Both Ch’in Chung and Hsiang Lin felt resentful as well as fuming with rage, and with hurried step they went in, in search of Chia Jui, to whom they reported Chin Jung, explaining that Chin Jung had insulted them both, without any rhyme or reason.

The fact is that this Chia Jui was, in an extraordinary degree, a man with an eye to the main chance, and devoid of any sense of propriety. His wont was at school to take advantage of public matters to serve his private interest, and to bring pressure upon his pupils with the intent that they should regale him. While subsequently he also lent his countenance to Hseh P’an, scheming to get some money or eatables out of him, he left him entirely free to indulge in disorderly behaviour; and not only did he not go out of his way to hold him in check, but, on the contrary, he encouraged him, infamous though he was already, to become a bully, so as to curry favour with him.

But this Hseh P’an was, by nature, gifted with a fickle disposition; to-day, he would incline to the east, and to-morrow to the west, so that having recently obtained new friends, he put Hsiang Lin and Y Ai aside. Chin Jung too was at one time an intimate friend of his, but ever since he had acquired the friendship of the two lads, Hsiang Lin and Y Ai, he forthwith deposed Chin Jung. Of late, he had already come to look down upon even Hsiang Lin and Y Ai, with the result that Chia Jui as well was deprived of those who could lend him support, or stand by him; but he bore Hseh P’an no grudge, for wearying with old friends, as soon as he found new ones, but felt angry that Hsiang Lin and Y Ai had not put in a word on his behalf with Hseh P’an. Chia Jui, Chin Jung and in fact the whole crowd of them were, for this reason, just harbouring a jealous grudge against these two, so that when he saw Ch’in Chung and Hsiang Lin come on this occasion and lodge a complaint against Chin Jung, Chia Jui readily felt displeasure creep into his heart; and, although he did not venture to call Ch’in Chung to account, he nevertheless made an example of Hsiang Lin. And instead (of taking his part), he called him a busybody and denounced him in much abusive language, with the result that Hsiang Lin did not, contrariwise, profit in any way, but brought displeasure upon himself. Even Ch’in Chung grumbled against the treatment, as each of them resumed their places.

Chin Jung became still more haughty, and wagging his head and smacking his lips, he gave vent to many more abusive epithets; but as it happened that they also reached Y Ai’s ears, the two of them, though seated apart, began an altercation in a loud tone of voice.

Chin Jung, with obstinate pertinacity, clung to his version. “Just a short while back,” he said, “I actually came upon them, as they were indulging in demonstrations of intimate friendship in the back court. These two had resolved to be one in close friendship, and were eloquent in their protestations, mindful only in persistently talking their trash, but they were not aware of the presence of another person.”

But his language had, contrary to all expectations, given, from the very first, umbrage to another person, and who do you, (gentle reader,) imagine this person to have been?

This person was, in fact, one whose name was Chia Se; a grandson likewise of a main branch of the Ning mansion. His parents had died at an early period, and he had, ever since his youth, lived with Chia Chen. He had at this time grown to be sixteen years of age, and was, as compared with Chia Jung, still more handsome and good looking. These two cousins were united by ties of the closest intimacy, and were always together, whether they went out or stayed at home.

The inmates of the Ning mansion were many in number, and their opinions of a mixed kind; and that whole bevy of servants, devoid as they were of all sense of right, solely excelled in the practice of inventing stories to backbite their masters; and this is how some mean person or other again, who it was is not known, insinuated slanderous and opprobrious reports (against Chia Se). Chia Chen had, presumably, also come to hear some unfavourable criticisms (on his account), and having, of course, to save himself from odium and suspicion, he had, at this juncture, after all, to apportion him separate quarters, and to bid Chia Se move outside the Ning mansion, where he went and established a home of his own to live in.

This Chia Se was handsome as far as external appearances went, and intelligent withal in his inward natural gifts, but, though he nominally came to school, it was simply however as a mere blind; for he treated, as he had ever done, as legitimate occupations, such things as cock fighting, dog-racing and visiting places of easy virtue. And as, above, he had Chia Chen to spoil him by over-indulgence; and below, there was Chia Jung to stand by him, who of the clan could consequently presume to run counter to him?

Seeing that he was on the closest terms of friendship with Chia Jung, how could he reconcile himself to the harsh treatment which he now saw Ch’in Chung receive from some persons? Being now bent upon pushing himself forward to revenge the injustice, he was, for the time, giving himself up to communing with his own heart. “Chin Jung, Chia Jui and the rest are,” he pondered, “friends of uncle Hseh, but I too am on friendly terms with him, and he with me, and if I do come forward and they tell old Hseh, won’t we impair the harmony which exists between us? and if I don’t concern myself, such idle tales make, when spoken, every one feel uncomfortable; and why shouldn’t I now devise some means to hold them in check, so as to stop their mouths, and prevent any loss of face!”

Having concluded this train of thought, he also pretended that he had to go out, and, walking as far as the back, he, with low voice, called to his side Ming Yen, the page attending upon Pao-y in his studies, and in one way and another, he made use of several remarks to egg him on.

This Ming Yen was the smartest of Pao-y’s attendants, but he was also young in years and lacked experience, so that he lent a patient ear to what Chia Se had to say about the way Chin Jung had insulted Ch’in Chung. “Even your own master, Pao-y,” (Chia Se added), “is involved, and if you don’t let him know a bit of your mind, he will next time be still more arrogant.”

This Ming Yen was always ready, even with no valid excuse, to be insolent and overbearing to people, so that after hearing the news and being furthermore instigated by Chia Se, he speedily rushed into the schoolroom and cried out “Chin Jung;” nor did he address him as Mr. Chin, but merely shouted “What kind of fellow is this called Chin?”

Chia Se presently shuffled his feet, while he designedly adjusted his dress and looked at the rays of the sun. “It’s time,” he observed and walking forthwith, first up to Chia Jui, he explained to him that he had something to attend to and would like to get away a little early; and as Chia Jui did not venture to stop him, he had no alternative but to let him have his way and go.

During this while, Ming Yen had entered the room and promptly seizing Chin Jung in a grip: “What we do, whether proper or improper,” he said, "doesn’t concern you! It’s enough anyway that we don’t defile your father! A fine brat you are indeed, to come out and meddle with your Mr. Ming!”

These words plunged the scholars of the whole class in such consternation that they all wistfully and absently looked at him.

“Ming Yen,” hastily shouted out Chia Jui, “you’re not to kick up a rumpus.”

Chin Jung was so full of anger that his face was quite yellow. “What a subversion of propriety! a slave and a menial to venture to behave in this manner! I’ll just simply speak to your master,” he exclaimed as he readily pushed his hands off and was about to go and lay hold of Pao-y to beat him.

Ch’in Chung was on the point of turning round to leave the room, when with a sound of ’whiff’ which reached him from behind, he at once caught sight of a square inkslab come flying that way. Who had thrown it he could not say, but it struck the desk where Chia Lan and Chia Chn were seated.

These two, Chia Lan and Chia Chn, were also the great-grandsons of a close branch of the Jung mansion. This Chia Chn had been left fatherless at an early age, and his mother doated upon him in an unusual manner, and it was because at school he was on most friendly terms with Chia Lan, that these two sat together at the same desk. Who would have believed that Chia Chn would, in spite of being young in years, have had an extremely strong mind, and that he would be mostly up to mischief without the least fear of any one. He watched with listless eye from his seat Chin Jung’s friends stealthily assist Chin Jung, as they flung an inkslab to strike Ming Yen, but when, as luck would have it, it hit the wrong mark, and fell just in front of him, smashing to atoms the porcelain inkslab and water bottle, and smudging his whole book with ink, Chia Chn was, of course, much incensed, and hastily gave way to abuse. “You consummate pugnacious criminal rowdies! why, doesn’t this amount to all of you taking a share in the fight!” And as he uttered this abuse, he too forthwith seized an inkslab, which he was bent upon flinging.

Chia Lan was one who always tried to avoid trouble, so that he lost no time in pressing down the inkslab, while with all the words his mouth could express, he tried to pacify him, adding “My dear brother, it’s no business of yours and mine.”

Chia Chn could not repress his resentment; and perceiving that the inkslab was held down, he at once laid hold of a box containing books, which he flung in this direction; but being, after all, short of stature, and weak of strength, he was unable to send it anywhere near the mark; so that it dropped instead when it got as far as the desk belonging to Pao-y and Ch’in Chung, while a dreadful crash became audible as it fell smash on the table. The books, papers, pencils, inkslabs, and other writing materials were all scattered over the whole table; and Pao-y’s cup besides containing tea was itself broken to pieces and the tea spilt.

Chia Chn forthwith jumped forward with the intent of assailing the person who had flung the inkslab at the very moment that Chin Jung took hold of a long bamboo pole which was near by; but as the space was limited, and the pupils many, how could he very well brandish a long stick? Ming Yen at an early period received a whack, and he shouted wildly, “Don’t you fellows yet come to start a fight.”

Pao-y had, besides, along with him several pages, one of whom was called Sao Hung, another Ch’u Yo, another Mo Y. These three were naturally up to every mischief, so that with one voice, bawling boisterously, “You children of doubtful mothers, have you taken up arms?” Mo Y promptly took up the bar of a door; while Sao Hung and Ch’u Yo both laid hold of horsewhips, and they all rushed forward like a hive of bees.

Chia Jui was driven to a state of exasperation; now he kept this one in check, and the next moment he reasoned with another, but who would listen to his words? They followed the bent of their inclinations and stirred up a serious disturbance.

Of the whole company of wayward young fellows, some there were who gave sly blows for fun’s sake; others there were who were not gifted with much pluck and hid themselves on one side; there were those too who stood on the tables, clapping their hands and laughing immoderately, shouting out: “Go at it.”

The row was, at this stage, like water bubbling over in a cauldron, when several elderly servants, like Li Kuei and others, who stood outside, heard the uproar commence inside, and one and all came in with all haste and united in their efforts to pacify them. Upon asking “What’s the matter?” the whole bevy of voices shouted out different versions; this one giving this account, while another again another story. But Li Kuei temporised by rebuking Ming Yen and others, four in all, and packing them off.

Ch’in Chung’s head had, at an early period, come into contact with Chin Jung’s pole and had had the skin grazed off. Pao-y was in the act of rubbing it for him, with the overlap of his coat, but realising that the whole lot of them had been hushed up, he forthwith bade Li Kuei collect his books.

“Bring my horse round,” he cried; “I’m going to tell Mr. Chia Tai-ju that we have been insulted. I won’t venture to tell him anything else, but (tell him I will) that having come with all propriety and made our report to Mr. Chia Jui, Mr. Chia Jui instead (of helping us) threw the fault upon our shoulders. That while he heard people abuse us, he went so far as to instigate them to beat us; that Ming Yen seeing others insult us, did naturally take our part; but that they, instead (of desisting,) combined together and struck Ming Yen and even broke open Ch’in Chung’s head. And that how is it possible for us to continue our studies in here?”

“My dear sir,” replied Li Kuei coaxingly, “don’t be so impatient! As Mr. Chia Tai-ju has had something to attend to and gone home, were you now, for a trifle like this, to go and disturb that aged gentleman, it will make us, indeed, appear as if we had no sense of propriety: my idea is that wherever a thing takes place, there should it be settled; and what’s the need of going and troubling an old man like him. This is all you, Mr. Chia Jui, who is to blame; for in the absence of Mr. Chia Tai-ju, you, sir, are the head in this school, and every one looks to you to take action. Had all the pupils been at fault, those who deserved a beating should have been beaten, and those who merited punishment should have been punished! and why did you wait until things came to such a pass, and didn’t even exercise any check?”

“I blew them up,” pleaded Chia Jui, “but not one of them would listen.”

“I’ll speak out, whether you, worthy sir, resent what I’m going to say or not,” ventured Li Kuei. “It’s you, sir, who all along have after all had considerable blame attached to your name; that’s why all these young men wouldn’t hear you! Now if this affair is bruited, until it reaches Mr. Chia Tai-ju’s ears, why even you, sir, will not be able to escape condemnation; and why don’t you at once make up your mind to disentangle the ravelled mess and dispel all trouble and have done with it!”

“Disentangle what?” inquired Pao-y; “I shall certainly go and make my report.”

“If Chin Jung stays here,” interposed Ch’in Chung sobbing, “I mean to go back home.”

“Why that?” asked Pao-y. “Is it likely that others can safely come and that you and I can’t? I feel it my bounden duty to tell every one everything at home so as to expel Chin Jung. This Chin Jung,” he went on to inquire as he turned towards Lei Kuei, “is the relative or friend of what branch of the family?”

Li Kuei gave way to reflection and then said by way of reply: “There’s no need whatever for you to raise this question; for were you to go and report the matter to the branch of the family to which he belongs, the harmony which should exist between cousins will be still more impaired.”

“He’s the nephew of Mrs. Huang, of the Eastern mansion,” interposed Ming Yen from outside the window. “What a determined and self-confident fellow he must be to even come and bully us; Mrs. Huang is his paternal aunt! That mother of yours is only good for tossing about like a millstone, for kneeling before our lady Lien, and begging for something to pawn. I’ve no eye for such a specimen of mistress.”

“What!” speedily shouted Li Kuei, “does this son of a dog happen to know of the existence of all these gnawing maggots?” (these disparaging facts).

Pao-y gave a sardonic smile. “I was wondering whose relative he was," he remarked; “is he really sister-in-law Huang’s nephew? well, I’ll go at once and speak to her.”

As he uttered these words, his purpose was to start there and then, and he called Ming Yen in, to come and pack up his books. Ming Yen walked in and put the books away. “Master,” he went on to suggest, in an exultant manner, “there’s no need for you to go yourself to see her; I’ll go to her house and tell her that our old lady has something to ask of her. I can hire a carriage to bring her over, and then, in the presence of her venerable ladyship, she can be spoken to; and won’t this way save a lot of trouble?”

“Do you want to die?” speedily shouted Li Kuei; “mind, when you go back, whether right or wrong, I’ll first give you a good bumping, and then go and report you to our master and mistress, and just tell them that it’s you, and only you, who instigated Mr. Pao-y! I’ve succeeded, after ever so much trouble, in coaxing them, and mending matters to a certain extent, and now you come again to continue a new plan. It’s you who stirred up this row in the school-room; and not to speak of your finding, as would have been the proper course, some way of suppressing it, there you are instead still jumping into the fire.”

Ming Yen, at this juncture, could not muster the courage to utter a sound. By this time Chia Jui had also apprehended that if the row came to be beyond clearing up, he himself would likewise not be clear of blame, so that circumstances compelled him to pocket his grievances and to come and entreat Ch’in Chung as well as to make apologies to Pao-y. These two young fellows would not at first listen to his advances, but Pao-y at length explained that he would not go and report the occurrence, provided only Chin Jung admitted his being in the wrong. Chin Jung refused, at the outset, to agree to this, but he ultimately could find no way out of it, as Chia Jui himself urged him to make some temporising apology.

Li Kuei and the others felt compelled to tender Chin Jung some good advice: “It’s you,” they said, “who have given rise to the disturbance, and if you don’t act in this manner, how will the matter ever be brought to an end?” so that Chin Jung found it difficult to persist in his obstinacy, and was constrained to make a bow to Ch’in Chung.

Pao-y was, however, not yet satisfied, but would insist upon his knocking his head on the ground, and Chia Jui, whose sole aim was to temporarily smother the affair, quietly again urged Chin Jung, adding that the proverb has it: “That if you keep down the anger of a minute, you will for a whole life-time feel no remorse.”

Whether Chin Jung complied or not to his advice is not known, but the following chapter will explain.

Chapter X.

  Widow Chin, prompted by a desire to reap advantage, puts up
      temporarily with an insult.
  Dr. Chang in discussing Mrs. Chin’s illness minutely exhausts its

We will now resume our story. As the persons against Chin Jung were so many and their pressure so great, and as, what was more, Chia Jui urged him to make amends, he had to knock his head on the ground before Ch’in Chung. Pao-y then gave up his clamorous remonstrances and the whole crowd dispersed from school.

Chin Jung himself returned home all alone, but the more he pondered on the occurrence, the more incensed he felt. “Ch’in Chung,” he argued, “is simply Chia Jung’s young brother-in-law, and is no son or grandson of the Chia family, and he too joins the class and prosecutes his studies on no other footing than that of mine; but it’s because he relies upon Pao-y’s friendship for him that he has no eye for any one. This being the case, he should be somewhat proper in his behaviour, and there would be then not a word to say about it! He has besides all along been very mystical with Pao-y, imagining that we are all blind, and have no eyes to see what’s up! Here he goes again to-day and mixes with people in illicit intrigues; and it’s all because they happened to obtrude themselves before my very eyes that this rumpus has broken out; but of what need I fear?”

His mother, ne Hu, hearing him mutter; “Why meddle again,” she explained, “in things that don’t concern you? I had endless trouble in getting to speak to your paternal aunt; and your aunt had, on the other hand, a thousand and one ways and means to devise, before she could appeal to lady Secunda, of the Western mansion; and then only it was that you got this place to study in. Had we not others to depend upon for your studies, would we have in our house the means sufficient to engage a teacher? Besides, in other people’s school, tea and eatables are all ready and found; and these two years that you’ve been there for your lessons, we’ve likewise effected at home a great saving in what would otherwise have been necessary for your eating and use. Something has been, it’s true, economised; but you have further a liking for spick and span clothes. Besides, it’s only through your being there to study, that you’ve come to know Mr. Hseh! that Mr. Hseh, who has even in one year given us so much pecuniary assistance as seventy and eighty taels! And now you would go and raise a row in this school-room! why, if we were bent upon finding such another place, I tell you plainly, and once for all, that we would find it more difficult than if we tried to scale the heavens! Now do quietly play for a while, and then go to sleep, and you’ll be ever so much better for it then.”

Chin Jung thereupon stifled his anger and held his tongue; and, after a short while, he in fact went to sleep of his own accord.

The next day he again went to school, and no further comment need be made about it; but we will go on to explain that a young lady related to her had at one time been given in marriage to a descendant (of the eldest branch) of the Chia family, (whose names were written) with the jade radical, Chia Huang by name; but how could the whole number of members of the clan equal in affluence and power the two mansions of Ning and Jung? This fact goes, as a matter of course, without saying. The Chia Huang couple enjoyed some small income; but they also went, on frequent occasions, to the mansions of Ning and Jung to pay their respects; and they knew likewise so well how to adulate lady Feng and Mrs. Yu, that lady Feng and Mrs. Yu would often grant them that assistance and support which afforded them the means of meeting their daily expenses.

It just occurred on this occasion that the weather was clear and fine, and that there happened, on the other hand, to be nothing to attend to at home, so forthwith taking along with her a matron, (Mrs. Chia Huang) got into a carriage and came over to see widow Chin and her nephew. While engaged in a chat, Chin Jung’s mother accidentally broached the subject of the affair, which had transpired in the school-room of the Chia mansion on the previous day, and she gave, for the benefit of her young sister-in-law, a detailed account of the whole occurrence from beginning to end. This Mrs. Huang would not have had her temper ruffled had she not come to hear what had happened; but having heard about it, anger sprung from the very depths of her heart. “This fellow, Ch’in Chung,” she exclaimed, "is a relative of the Chia family, but is it likely that Jung Erh isn’t, in like manner, a relative of the Chia family; and when relatives are many, there’s no need to put on airs! Besides, does his conduct consist, for the most part, of anything that would make one get any face? In fact, Pao-y himself shouldn’t do injury to himself by condescending to look at him. But, as things have come to this pass, give me time and I’ll go to the Eastern mansion and see our lady Chen and then have a chat with Ch’in Chung’s sister, and ask her to decide who’s right and who’s wrong!”

Chin Jung’s mother upon hearing these words was terribly distressed. "It’s all through my hasty tongue,” she observed with vehemence, “that I’ve told you all, sister-in-law: but please, sister, give up at once the idea of going over to say anything about it! Don’t trouble yourself as to who is in the right, and who is in the wrong; for were any unpleasantness to come out of it, how could we here stand on our legs? and were we not to stand on our legs, not only would we never be able to engage a tutor, but the result will be, on the contrary, that for his own person will be superadded many an expense for eatables and necessaries.”

“What do I care about how many?” replied Mrs. Huang; “wait till I’ve spoken about it, and we’ll see what will be the result.” Nor would she accede to her sister-in-law’s entreaties, but bidding, at the same time, the matron look after the carriage, she got into it, and came over to the Ning Mansion.

On her arrival at the Ning Mansion, she entered by the eastern side gate, and dismounting from the carriage, she went in to call on Mrs. Yu, the spouse of Chia Chen, with whom she had not the courage to put on any high airs; but gently and quietly she made inquiries after her health, and after passing some irrelevant remarks, she ascertained: “How is it I don’t see lady Jung to-day?”

“I don’t know,” replied Mrs. Yu, “what’s the matter with her these last few days; but she hasn’t been herself for two months and more; and the doctor who was asked to see her declares that it is nothing connected with any happy event. A couple of days back, she felt, as soon as the afternoon came, both to move, and both even to utter a word; while the brightness of her eyes was all dimmed; and I told her, ’You needn’t stick to etiquette, for there’s no use for you to come in the forenoon and evening, as required by conventionalities; but what you must do is, to look after your own health. Should any relative come over, there’s also myself to receive them; and should any of the senior generation think your absence strange, I’ll explain things for you, if you’ll let me.’

“I also advised brother Jung on the subject: ’You shouldn’t,’ I said, ’allow any one to trouble her; nor let her be put out of temper, but let her quietly attend to her health, and she’ll get all right. Should she fancy anything to eat, just come over here and fetch it; for, in the event of anything happening to her, were you to try and find another such a wife to wed, with such a face and such a disposition, why, I fear, were you even to seek with a lantern in hand, there would really be no place where you could discover her. And with such a temperament and deportment as hers, which of our relatives and which of our elders don’t love her?’ That’s why my heart has been very distressed these two days! As luck would have it early this morning her brother turned up to see her, but who would have fancied him to be such a child, and so ignorant of what is proper and not proper to do? He saw well enough that his sister was not well; and what’s more all these matters shouldn’t have been recounted to her; for even supposing he had received the gravest offences imaginable, it behoved him anyhow not to have broached the subject to her! Yesterday, one would scarcely believe it, a fight occurred in the school-room, and some pupil or other who attends that class, somehow insulted him; besides, in this business, there were a good many indecent and improper utterances, but all these he went and told his sister! Now, sister-in-law, you are well aware that though (our son Jung’s) wife talks and laughs when she sees people, that she is nevertheless imaginative and withal too sensitive, so that no matter what she hears, she’s for the most part bound to brood over it for three days and five nights, before she loses sight of it, and it’s from this excessive sensitiveness that this complaint of hers arises. Today, when she heard that some one had insulted her brother, she felt both vexed and angry; vexed that those fox-like, cur-like friends of his had moved right and wrong, and intrigued with this one and deluded that one; angry that her brother had, by not learning anything profitable, and not having his mind set upon study, been the means of bringing about a row at school; and on account of this affair, she was so upset that she did not even have her early meal. I went over a short while back and consoled her for a time, and likewise gave her brother a few words of advice; and after having packed off that brother of hers to the mansion on the other side, in search of Pao-y, and having stood by and seen her have half a bowl of birds’ nests soup, I at length came over. Now, sister-in-law, tell me, is my heart sore or not? Besides, as there’s nowadays no good doctor, the mere thought of her complaint makes my heart feel as if it were actually pricked with needles! But do you and yours, perchance, know of any good practitioner?”

Mrs. Chin had, while listening to these words, been, at an early period, so filled with concern that she cast away to distant lands the reckless rage she had been in recently while at her sister-in-law’s house, when she had determined to go and discuss matters over with Mrs. Ch’in. Upon hearing Mrs. Yu inquire of her about a good doctor, she lost no time in saying by way of reply: “Neither have we heard of any one speak of a good doctor; but from the account I’ve just heard of Mrs. Ch’in’s illness, it may still, there’s no saying, be some felicitous ailment; so, sister-in-law, don’t let any one treat her recklessly, for were she to be treated for the wrong thing, the result may be dreadful!”

“Quite so!” replied Mrs. Yu.

But while they were talking, Chia Chen came in from out of doors, and upon catching sight of Mrs. Chin; “Isn’t this Mrs. Huang?” he inquired of Mrs. Yu; whereupon Mrs. Chin came forward and paid her respects to Chia Chen.

“Invite this lady to have her repast here before she goes,” observed Chia Chen to Mrs. Yu; and as he uttered these words he forthwith walked into the room on the off side.

The object of Mrs. Chin’s present visit had originally been to talk to Mrs. Ch’in about the insult which her brother had received from the hands of Ch’in Chung, but when she heard that Mrs. Ch’in was ill, she did not have the courage to even so much as make mention of the object of her errand. Besides, as Chia Chen and Mrs. Yu had given her a most cordial reception, her resentment was transformed into pleasure, so that after a while spent in a further chat about one thing and another, she at length returned to her home.

It was only after the departure of Mrs. Chin that Chia Chen came over and took a seat. “What did she have to say for herself during this visit to-day?” he asked of Mrs. Yu.

“She said nothing much,” replied Mrs. Yu. “When she first entered the room, her face bore somewhat of an angry look, but, after a lengthy chat and as soon as mention of our son’s wife’s illness was made, this angered look after all gradually abated. You also asked me to keep her for the repast, but, having heard that our son’s wife was so ill she could not very well stay, so that all she did was to sit down, and after making a few more irrelevant remarks, she took her departure. But she had no request to make. To return however now to the illness of Jung’s wife, it’s urgent that you should find somewhere a good doctor to diagnose it for her; and whatever you do, you should lose no time. The whole body of doctors who at present go in and out of our household, are they worth having? Each one of them listens to what the patient has to say of the ailment, and then, adding a string of flowery sentences, out he comes with a long rigmarole; but they are exceedingly diligent in paying us visits; and in one day, three or four of them are here at least four and five times in rotation! They come and feel her pulse, they hold consultation together, and write their prescriptions, but, though she has taken their medicines, she has seen no improvement; on the contrary, she’s compelled to change her clothes three and five times each day, and to sit up to see the doctor; a thing which, in fact, does the patient no good.”

“This child too is somewhat simple,” observed Chia Chen; “for what need has she to be taking off her clothes, and changing them for others? And were she again to catch a chill, she would add something more to her illness; and won’t it be dreadful! The clothes may be no matter how fine, but what is their worth, after all? The health of our child is what is important to look to! and were she even to wear out a suit of new clothes a-day, what would that too amount to? I was about to tell you that a short while back, Feng Tzu-ying came to see me, and, perceiving that I had somewhat of a worried look, he asked me what was up; and I told him that our son’s wife was not well at all, that as we couldn’t get any good doctor, we couldn’t determine with any certainty, whether she was in an interesting condition, or whether she was suffering from some disease; that as we could neither tell whether there was any danger or not, my heart was, for this reason, really very much distressed. Feng Tzu-ying then explained that he knew a young doctor who had made a study of his profession, Chang by surname, and Yu-shih by name, whose learning was profound to a degree; who was besides most proficient in the principles of medicine, and had the knack of discriminating whether a patient would live or die; that this year he had come to the capital to purchase an official rank for his son, and that he was now living with him in his house. In view of these circumstances, not knowing but that if, perchance, the case of our daughter-in-law were placed in his hands, he couldn’t avert the danger, I readily despatched a servant, with a card of mine, to invite him to come; but the hour to-day being rather late, he probably won’t be round, but I believe he’s sure to be here to-morrow. Besides, Feng-Tzu-ying was also on his return home, to personally entreat him on my behalf, so that he’s bound, when he has asked him, to come and see her. Let’s therefore wait till Dr. Chang has been here and seen her, when we can talk matters over!”

Mrs. Yu was very much cheered when she heard what was said. “The day after to-morrow,” she felt obliged to add, “is again our senior’s, Mr. Chia Ching’s birthday, and how are we to celebrate it after all?”

“I’ve just been over to our Senior’s and paid my respects,” replied Chia Chen, “and further invited the old gentleman to come home, and receive the congratulations of the whole family.

“’I’m accustomed,’ our Senior explained, ’to peace and quiet, and have no wish to go over to that worldly place of yours; for you people are certain to have published that it’s my birthday, and to entertain the design to ask me to go round to receive the bows of the whole lot of you. But won’t it be better if you were to give the “Record of Meritorious Acts,” which I annotated some time ago, to some one to copy out clean for me, and have it printed? Compared with asking me to come, and uselessly receive the obeisances of you all, this will be yea even a hundred times more profitable! In the event of the whole family wishing to pay me a visit on any of the two days, to-morrow or the day after to-morrow, if you were to stay at home and entertain them in proper style, that will be all that is wanted; nor will there be any need to send me anything! Even you needn’t come two days from this; and should you not feel contented at heart, well, you had better bow your head before me to-day before you go. But if you do come again the day after to-morrow, with a lot of people to disturb me, I shall certainly be angry with you.’ After what he said, I will not venture to go and see him two days hence; but you had better send for Lai Sheng, and bid him get ready a banquet to continue for a couple of days.”

Mrs. Yu, having asked Chia Jung to come round, told him to direct Lai Sheng to make the usual necessary preparations for a banquet to last for a couple of days, with due regard to a profuse and sumptuous style.

“You go by-and-by,” (she advised him), “in person to the Western Mansion and invite dowager lady Chia, mesdames Hsing and Wang, and your sister-in-law Secunda lady Lien to come over for a stroll. Your father has also heard of a good doctor, and having already sent some one to ask him round, I think that by to-morrow he’s sure to come; and you had better tell him, in a minute manner, the serious symptoms of her ailment during these few days.”

Chia Jung having signified his obedience to each of her recommendations, and taken his leave, was just in time to meet the youth coming back from Feng Tzu-ying’s house, whither he had gone a short while back to invite the doctor round.

“Your slave,” he consequently reported, “has just been with a card of master’s to Mr. Feng’s house and asked the doctor to come. ’The gentleman here,’ replied the doctor, ’has just told me about it; but to-day, I’ve had to call on people the whole day, and I’ve only this moment come home; and I feel now my strength (so worn out), that I couldn’t really stand any exertion. In fact were I even to get as far as the mansion, I shouldn’t be in a fit state to diagnose the pulses! I must therefore have a night’s rest, but, to-morrow for certain, I shall come to the mansion. My medical knowledge,’ he went on to observe, ’is very shallow, and I don’t deserve the honour of such eminent recommendation; but as Mr. Feng has already thus spoken of me in your mansion, I can’t but present myself. It will be all right if in anticipation you deliver this message for me to your honourable master; but as for your worthy master’s card, I cannot really presume to keep it.’ It was again at his instance that I’ve brought it back; but, Sir, please mention this result for me (to master).”

Chia Jung turned back again, and entering the house delivered the message to Chia Chen and Mrs. Yu; whereupon he walked out, and, calling Lai Sheng before him, he transmitted to him the orders to prepare the banquet for a couple of days.

After Lai Sheng had listened to the directions, he went off, of course, to get ready the customary preparations; but upon these we shall not dilate, but confine ourselves to the next day.

At noon, a servant on duty at the gate announced that the Doctor Chang, who had been sent for, had come, and Chia Chen conducted him along the Court into the large reception Hall, where they sat down; and after they had partaken of tea, he broached the subject.

“Yesterday,” he explained, “the estimable Mr. Feng did me the honour to speak to me of your character and proficiency, venerable doctor, as well as of your thorough knowledge of medicine, and I, your mean brother, was filled with an immeasurable sense of admiration!”

“Your Junior,” remonstrated Dr. Chang, “is a coarse, despicable and mean scholar and my knowledge is shallow and vile! but as worthy Mr. Feng did me the honour yesterday of telling me that your family, sir, had condescended to look upon me, a low scholar, and to favour me too with an invitation, could I presume not to obey your commands? But as I cannot boast of the least particle of real learning, I feel overburdened with shame!”

“Why need you be so modest?” observed Chia Chen; “Doctor, do please walk in at once to see our son’s wife, for I look up, with full reliance, to your lofty intelligence to dispel my solicitude!”

Chia Jung forthwith walked in with him. When they reached the inner apartment, and he caught sight of Mrs. Ch’in, he turned round and asked Chia Jung, “This is your honourable spouse, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” assented Chia Jung; “but please, Doctor, take a seat, and let me tell you the symptoms of my humble wife’s ailment, before her pulse be felt. Will this do?”

“My mean idea is,” remarked the Doctor, “that it would, after all, be better that I should begin by feeling her pulse, before I ask you to inform me what the source of the ailment is. This is the first visit I pay to your honourable mansion; besides, I possess no knowledge of anything; but as our worthy Mr. Feng would insist upon my coming over to see you, I had in consequence no alternative but to come. After I have now made a diagnosis, you can judge whether what I say is right or not, before you explain to me the phases of the complaint during the last few days, and we can deliberate together upon some prescription; as to the suitableness or unsuitableness of which your honourable father will then have to decide, and what is necessary will have been done.”

“Doctor,” rejoined Chia Jung, “you are indeed eminently clear sighted; all I regret at present is that we have met so late! But please, Doctor, diagnose the state of the pulse, so as to find out whether there be hope of a cure or not; if a cure can be effected, it will be the means of allaying the solicitude of my father and mother.”

The married women attached to that menage forthwith presented a pillow; and as it was being put down for Mrs. Ch’in to rest her arm on, they raised the lower part of her sleeve so as to leave her wrist exposed. The Doctor thereupon put out his hand and pressed it on the pulse of the right hand. Regulating his breath (to the pulsation) so as to be able to count the beatings, he with due care and minuteness felt the action for a considerable time, when, substituting the left hand, he again went through the same operation.

“Let us go and sit outside,” he suggested, after he had concluded feeling her pulses. Chia Jung readily adjourned, in company with the Doctor, to the outer apartment, where they seated themselves on the stove-couch. A matron having served tea; “Please take a cup of tea, doctor,” Chia Jung observed. When tea was over, “Judging,” he inquired, "Doctor, from the present action of the pulses, is there any remedy or not?”

“The action of the pulse, under the forefinger, on the left hand of your honorable spouse,” proceeded the Doctor, “is deep and agitated; the left hand pulse, under the second finger, is deep and faint. The pulse, under the forefinger, of the right hand, is gentle and lacks vitality. The right hand pulse, under my second finger, is superficial, and has lost all energy. The deep and agitated beating of the forepulse of the left hand arises from the febrile state, due to the weak action of the heart. The deep and delicate condition of the second part of the pulse of the left wrist, emanates from the sluggishness of the liver, and the scarcity of the blood in that organ. The action of the forefinger pulse, of the right wrist, is faint and lacks strength, as the breathing of the lungs is too weak. The second finger pulse of the right wrist is superficial and devoid of vigour, as the spleen must be affected injuriously by the liver. The weak action of the heart, and its febrile state, should be the natural causes which conduce to the present irregularity in the catamenia, and insomnia at night; the poverty of blood in the liver, and the sluggish condition of that organ must necessarily produce pain in the ribs; while the overdue of the catamenia, the cardiac fever, and debility of the respiration of the lungs, should occasion frequent giddiness in the head, and swimming of the eyes, the certain recurrence of perspiration between the periods of 3 to 5 and 5 to 7, and the sensation of being seated on board ship. The obstruction of the spleen by the liver should naturally create distaste for liquid or food, debility of the vital energies and prostration of the four limbs. From my diagnosis of these pulses, there should exist these various symptoms, before (the pulses and the symptoms can be said) to harmonise. But should perchance (any doctor maintain) that this state of the pulses imports a felicitous event, your servant will not presume to give an ear to such an opinion!”

A matron, who was attached as a personal attendant (to Mrs. Ch’in,) and who happened to be standing by interposed: “How could it be otherwise?" she ventured. “In real truth, Doctor, you speak like a supernatural being, and there’s verily no need for us to say anything! We have now, ready at hand, in our household, a good number of medical gentlemen, who are in attendance upon her, but none of these are proficient enough to speak in this positive manner. Some there are who say that it’s a genital complaint; others maintain that it’s an organic disease. This doctor explains that there is no danger: while another, again, holds that there’s fear of a crisis either before or after the winter solstice; but there is, in one word, nothing certain said by them. May it please you, sir, now to favour us with your clear directions.”

“This complaint of your lady’s,” observed the Doctor, “has certainly been neglected by the whole number of doctors; for had a treatment with certain medicines been initiated at the time of the first occurrence of her habitual sickness, I cannot but opine that, by this time, a perfect cure would have been effected. But seeing that the organic complaint has now been, through neglect, allowed to reach this phase, this calamity was, in truth, inevitable. My ideas are that this illness stands, as yet, a certain chance of recovery, (three chances out of ten); but we will see how she gets on, after she has had these medicines of mine. Should they prove productive of sleep at night, then there will be added furthermore two more chances in the grip of our hands. From my diagnosis, your lady is a person, gifted with a preminently excellent, and intelligent disposition; but an excessive degree of intelligence is the cause of frequent contrarieties; and frequent contrarieties give origin to an excessive amount of anxious cares. This illness arises from the injury done, by worrying and fretting, to the spleen, and from the inordinate vigour of the liver; hence it is that the relief cannot come at the proper time and season. Has not your lady, may I ask, heretofore at the period of the catamenia, suffered, if indeed not from anaemia, then necessarily from plethora? Am I right in assuming this or not?”

“To be sure she did,” replied the matron; “but she has never been subject to anaemia, but to a plethora, varying from either two to three days, and extending, with much irregularity, to even ten days.”

“Quite so!” observed the Doctor, after hearing what she had to say, “and this is the source of this organic illness! Had it in past days been treated with such medicine as could strengthen the heart, and improve the respiration, would it have reached this stage? This has now overtly made itself manifest in an ailment originating from the paucity of water and the vigour of fire; but let me make use of some medicines, and we’ll see how she gets on!”

There and then he set to work and wrote a prescription, which he handed to Chia Jung, the purpose of which was: Decoction for the improvement of respiration, the betterment of the blood, and the restoration of the spleen. Ginseng, Atractylodes Lancea; Yunnan root; Prepared Ti root; Aralia edulis; Peony roots; Levisticum from Sze Ch’uan; Sophora tormentosa; Cyperus rotundus, prepared with rice; Gentian, soaked in vinegar; Huai Shan Yao root; Real “O” glue; Carydalis Ambigua; and Dried liquorice. Seven Fukien lotus seeds, (the cores of which should be extracted,) and two large zizyphi to be used as a preparative.

“What exalted intelligence!” Chia Jung, after perusing it, exclaimed. "But I would also ask you, Doctor, to be good enough to tell me whether this illness will, in the long run, endanger her life or not?”

The Doctor smiled. “You, sir, who are endowed with most eminent intelligence (are certain to know) that when a human illness has reached this phase, it is not a derangement of a day or of a single night; but after these medicines have been taken, we shall also have to watch the effect of the treatment! My humble opinion is that, as far as the winter of this year goes, there is no fear; in fact, after the spring equinox, I entertain hopes of a complete cure.”

Chia Jung was likewise a person with all his wits about him, so that he did not press any further minute questions.

Chia Jung forthwith escorted the Doctor and saw him off, and taking the prescription and the diagnosis, he handed them both to Chia Chen for his perusal, and in like manner recounted to Chia Chen and Mrs. Yu all that had been said on the subject.

“The other doctors have hitherto not expressed any opinions as positive as this one has done,” observed Mrs. Yu, addressing herself to Chia Chen, “so that the medicines to be used are, I think, surely the right ones!”

“He really isn’t a man,” rejoined Chia Chen, “accustomed to give much of his time to the practice of medicine, in order to earn rice for his support: and it’s Feng Tzu-ying, who is so friendly with us, who is mainly to be thanked for succeeding, after ever so much trouble, in inducing him to come. But now that we have this man, the illness of our son’s wife may, there is no saying, stand a chance of being cured. But on that prescription of his there is ginseng mentioned, so you had better make use of that catty of good quality which was bought the other day.”

Chia Jung listened until the conversation came to a close, after which he left the room, and bade a servant go and buy the medicines, in order that they should be prepared and administered to Mrs. Ch’in.

What was the state of Mrs. Ch’in’s illness, after she partook of these medicines, we do not know; but, reader, listen to the explanation given in the chapter which follows.

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Hung Lou Meng: Book I
By Cao Xueqin
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