Nurse Wang, Tzu Chüan and other girls entered at once upon

Nurse Wang, Tzu Chüan and other girls entered at once upon their attendance on Tai-yü in the green gauze rooms,

while Pao-yü‘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-yü, had feared that Pao-yü‘s servant girls were not equal to their duties,

she readily handed her to Pao-yü, as she had hitherto had experience of how sincere and considerate she was at heart.

Pao-yü, 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-yü,

her heart and her eyes were again full of Pao-yü,

and him alone. But as Pao-yü 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-yü,

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-yü 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.

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

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

“Exclusive of the Four Books,” Pao-yü 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-yü, (to the discomfiture) of all who could not make out what he meant.

“It’s because he has a jade himself,” Tai-yü 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-yü 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-yü 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-yü‘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!”

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But one wild, howling waste his mind within:

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-yü 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.

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Your aunts and sisters-in-law, standing on the right and left

“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-yü 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-yü 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-yü 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-yü what books she was reading,

“I have just begun reading the Four Books,”

Tai-yü replied.

“What books are my cousins reading?”

Tai-yü went on to ask.

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“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-yü 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-yü 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-yü, 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-yü 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, née 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-yü,

meaning to make her sit in the foremost chair on the left side,

but Tai-yü steadily and concedingly declined.

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“Your uncle,” madame Wang explained, “is gone to observe

“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-yü 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-yü. 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?”

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There was also a pair of scrolls consisting of black-wood

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 fa?ade 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-yü 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.

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Hardly had she finished these words, when a sound of laughter was

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-yü, “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-yü 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.”

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Hardly had she finished these words, when a sound of laughter was

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-yü, “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-yü 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.”

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And as she gave vent to these feelings, she took Tai-yü‘s hand in

And as she gave vent to these feelings, she took Tai-yü‘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-yü, 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-yü, “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.”

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