Pao-y, however, did not in the least notice what she did, but inquired whether anything had happened the day before.
"Lady Secunda," Hsi Jen explained, "dispatched some one and fetched Hsiao Hung away. Her wish was to have waited for your return; but as I thought that it was of no consequence, I took upon myself to decide, and sent her off."
"That's all right!" rejoined Pao-y. "I knew all about it, there was no need for her to wait."
"Yesterday," resumed Hsi Jen, "the Imperial Consort deputed the Eunuch Hsia to bring a hundred and twenty ounces of silver and to convey her commands that from the first to the third, there should be offered, in the Ch'ing Hsu temple, thanksgiving services to last for three days and that theatrical performances should be given, and oblations presented: and to tell our senior master, Mr. Chia Chen, to take all the gentlemen, and go and burn incense and worship Buddha. Besides this, she also sent presents for the dragon festival."
Continuing, she bade a young servant-maid produce the presents, which had been received the previous day. Then he saw two palace fans of the best quality, two strings of musk-scented beads, two rolls of silk, as fine as the phoenix tail, and a superior mat worked with hibiscus. At the sight of these things, Pao-y was filled with immeasurable pleasure, and he asked whether the articles brought to all the others were similar to his.
"The only things in excess of yours that our venerable mistress has," Hsi Jen explained, "consist of a scented jade sceptre and a pillow made of agate. Those of your worthy father and mother, our master and mistress, and of your aunt exceed yours by a scented sceptre of jade. Yours are the same as Miss Pao's. Miss Lin's are like those of Misses Secunda, Tertia and Quarta, who received nothing beyond a fan and several pearls and none of all the other things. As for our senior lady, Mrs. Chia Chu, and lady Secunda, these two got each two rolls of gauze, two rolls of silk, two scented bags, and two sticks of medicine."
After listening to her enumeration, "What's the reason of this?" he smiled. "How is it that Miss Lin's are not the same as mine, but that Miss Pao's instead are like my own? May not the message have been wrongly delivered?"
"When they were brought out of the palace yesterday," Hsi Jen rejoined, "they were already divided in respective shares, and slips were also placed on them, so that how could any mistake have been made? Yours were among those for our dowager lady's apartments. When I went and fetched them, her venerable ladyship said that I should tell you to go there to-morrow at the fifth watch to return thanks.
"Of course, it's my duty to go over," Pao-y cried at these words, but forthwith calling Tzu Chan: "Take these to your Miss Lin," he told her, "and say that I got them, yesterday, and that she is at liberty to keep out of them any that take her fancy."
Tzu Chan expressed her obedience and took the things away. After a short time she returned. "Miss Lin says," she explained, "that she also got some yesterday, and that you, Master Secundus, should keep yours."
Hearing this reply, Pao-y quickly directed a servant to put them away. But when he had washed his face and stepped out of doors, bent upon going to his grandmother's on the other side, in order to pay his obeisance, he caught sight of Lin Tai-y coming along towards him, from the opposite direction. Pao-y hurriedly walked up to her, "I told you," he smiled, "to select those you liked from my things; how is it you didn't choose any?"
Lin Tai-y had long before banished from her recollection the incident of the previous day, which had made her angry with Pao-y, and was only exercised about the occurrence of this present occasion. "I'm not gifted with such extreme good fortune," she consequently answered, "as to be able to accept them. I can't compete with Miss Pao, in connection with whom something or other about gold or about jade is mentioned. We are simply beings connected with the vegetable kingdom."
The allusion to the two words "gold and jade," aroused, of a sudden, much emotion in the heart of Pao-y. "If beyond what people say about gold or jade," he protested, "the idea of any such things ever crosses my mind, may the heavens annihilate me, and may the earth extinguish me, and may I for ten thousand generations never assume human form!"
These protestations convinced Lin Tai-y that suspicion had been aroused in him. With all promptitude, she smiled and observed, "They're all to no use! Why utter such oaths, when there's no rhyme or reason! Who cares about any gold or any jade of yours!"
"It would be difficult for me to tell you, to your face, all the secrets of my heart," Pao-y resumed, "but by and bye you'll surely come to know all about them! After the three—my old grandmother, my father and my mother—you, my cousin, hold the fourth place; and, if there be a fifth, I'm ready to swear another oath."
"You needn't swear any more," Lin Tai-y replied, "I'm well aware that I, your younger cousin, have a place in your heart; but the thing is that at the sight of your elder cousin, you at once forget all about your younger cousin."
"This comes again from over-suspicion!" ejaculated Pao; "for I'm not at all disposed that way."
"Well," resumed Lin Tai-y, "why did you yesterday appeal to me when that hussey Pao-ch'ai would not help you by telling a story? Had it been I, who had been guilty of any such thing, I don't know what you wouldn't have done again."
But during their tte-a-tte, they espied Pao-ch'ai approach from the opposite direction, so readily they beat a retreat. Pao-ch'ai had distinctly caught sight of them, but pretending she had not seen them, she trudged on her way, with lowered head, and repaired into Madame Wang's apartments. After a short stay, she came to this side to pay dowager lady Chia a visit. With her she also found Pao-y.
Pao-ch'ai ever made it a point to hold Pao-y aloof as her mother had in days gone by mentioned to Madame Wang and her other relatives that the gold locket had been the gift of a bonze, that she had to wait until such time as some suitor with jade turned up before she could be given in marriage, and other similar confidences. But on discovery the previous day that Yan Ch'un's presents to her alone resembled those of Pao-y, she began to feel all the more embarrassed. Luckily, however, Pao-y was so entangled in Lin Tai-y's meshes and so absorbed in heart and mind with fond thoughts of his Lin Tai-y that he did not pay the least attention to this circumstance. But she unawares now heard Pao-y remark with a smile: "Cousin Pao, let me see that string of scented beads of yours!"
By a strange coincidence, Pao-ch'ai wore the string of beads round her left wrist so she had no alternative, when Pao-y asked her for it, than to take it off. Pao-ch'ai, however, was naturally inclined to embonpoint, and it proved therefore no easy matter for her to get the beads off; and while Pao-y stood by watching her snow-white arm, feelings of admiration were quickly stirred up in his heart. "Were this arm attached to Miss Lin's person," he secretly pondered, "I might, possibly have been able to caress it! But it is, as it happens, part and parcel of her body; how I really do deplore this lack of good fortune."
Suddenly he bethought himself of the secret of gold and jade, and he again scanned Pao-ch'ai's appearance. At the sight of her countenance, resembling a silver bowl, her eyes limpid like water and almond-like in shape, her lips crimson, though not rouged, her eyebrows jet-black, though not pencilled, also of that fascination and grace which presented such a contrast to Lin Tai-y's style of beauty, he could not refrain from falling into such a stupid reverie, that though Pao-ch'ai had got the string of beads off her wrist, and was handing them to him, he forgot all about them and made no effort to take them. Pao-ch'ai realised that he was plunged in abstraction, and conscious of the awkward position in which she was placed, she put down the string of beads, and turning round was on the point of betaking herself away, when she perceived Lin Tai-y, standing on the door-step, laughing significantly while biting a handkerchief she held in her mouth. "You can't resist," Pao-ch'ai said, "a single puff of wind; and why do you stand there and expose yourself to the very teeth of it?"
"Wasn't I inside the room?" rejoined Lin Tai-y, with a cynical smile. "But I came out to have a look as I heard a shriek in the heavens; it turned out, in fact, to be a stupid wild goose!"
"A stupid wild goose!" repeated Pao-ch'ai. "Where is it, let me also see it!"
"As soon as I got out," answered Lin Tai-y, "it flew away with a 't'e-rh' sort of noise."
While replying, she threw the handkerchief, she was holding, straight into Pao-y's face. Pao-y was quite taken by surprise. He was hit on the eye. "Ai-yah!" he exclaimed.
But, reader, do you want to hear the sequel? In that case, listen to the circumstances, which will be disclosed in the next chapter.
A happy man enjoys a full measure of happiness, but still prays for happiness. A beloved girl is very much loved, but yet craves for more love.
Pao-y, so our story runs, was gazing vacantly, when Tai-y, at a moment least expected, flung her handkerchief at him, which just hit him on the eyes, and frightened him out of his wits. "Who was it?" he cried.
Lin Tai-y nodded her head and smiled. "I would not venture to do such a thing," she said, "it was a mere slip of my hand. As cousin Pao-ch'ai wished to see the silly wild goose, I was pointing it out to her, when the handkerchief inadvertently flew out of my grip."
Pao-y kept on rubbing his eyes. The idea suggested itself to him to make some remonstrance, but he could not again very well open his lips.
Presently, lady Feng arrived. She then alluded, in the course of conversation, to the thanksgiving service, which was to be offered on the first, in the Ch'ing Hs temple, and invited Pao-ch'ai, Pao-y, Tai-y and the other inmates with them to be present at the theatricals.
"Never mind," smiled Pao-ch'ai, "it's too hot; besides, what plays haven't I seen? I don't mean to come."
"It's cool enough over at their place," answered lady Feng. "There are also two-storied buildings on either side; so we must all go! I'll send servants a few days before to drive all that herd of Taoist priests out, to sweep the upper stories, hang up curtains, and to keep out every single loafer from the interior of the temple; so it will be all right like that. I've already told our Madame Wang that if you people don't go, I mean to go all alone, as I've been again in very low spirits these last few days, and as when theatricals come off at home, it's out of the question for me to look on with any peace and quiet."
When dowager lady Chia heard what she said, she smiled. "Well, in that case," she remarked, "I'll go along with you."
Lady Feng, at these words, gave a smile. "Venerable ancestor," she replied, "were you also to go, it would be ever so much better; yet I won't feel quite at my ease!"
"To-morrow," dowager lady Chia continued, "I can stay in the two-storied building, situated on the principal site, while you can go to the one on the side. You can then likewise dispense with coming over to where I shall be to stand on any ceremonies. Will this suit you or not?"
"This is indeed," lady Feng smiled, "a proof of your regard for me, my worthy senior."
Old lady Chia at this stage faced Pao-ch'ai. "You too should go," she said, "so should your mother; for if you remain the whole day long at home, you will again sleep your head off."
Pao-ch'ai felt constrained to signify her assent. Dowager lady Chia then also despatched domestics to invite Mrs. Hseh; and, on their way, they notified Madame Wang that she was to take the young ladies along with her. But Madame Wang felt, in the first place, in a poor state of health, and was, in the second, engaged in making preparations for the reception of any arrivals from Yan Ch'un, so that she, at an early hour, sent word that it was impossible for her to leave the house. Yet when she received old lady Chia's behest, she smiled and exclaimed: "Are her spirits still so buoyant!" and transmitted the message into the garden that any, who had any wish to avail themselves of the opportunity, were at liberty to go on the first, with their venerable senior as their chaperonne. As soon as these tidings were spread abroad, every one else was indifferent as to whether they went or not; but of those girls who, day after day, never put their foot outside the doorstep, which of them was not keen upon going, the moment they heard the permission conceded to them? Even if any of their respective mistresses were too lazy to move, they employed every expedient to induce them to go. Hence it was that Li Kung-ts'ai and the other inmates signified their unanimous intention to be present. Dowager lady Chia, at this, grew more exultant than ever, and she issued immediate directions for servants to go and sweep and put things in proper order. But to all these preparations, there is no necessity of making detailed reference; sufficient to relate that on the first day of the moon, carriages stood in a thick maze, and men and horses in close concourse, at the entrance of the Jung Kuo mansion.
When the servants, the various managers and other domestics came to learn that the Imperial Consort was to perform good deeds and that dowager lady Chia was to go in person and offer incense, they arranged, as it happened that the first of the moon, which was the principal day of the ceremonies, was, in addition, the season of the dragon-boat festival, all the necessary articles in perfect readiness and with unusual splendour. Shortly, old lady Chia and the other inmates started on their way. The old lady sat in an official chair, carried by eight bearers: widow Li, lady Feng and Mrs. Hseh, each in a four-bearer chair. Pao-ch'ai and Tai-y mounted together a curricle with green cover and pearl tassels, bearing the eight precious things. The three sisters, Ying Ch'un, T'an Ch'un, and Hsi Ch'un got in a carriage with red wheels and ornamented hood. Next in order, followed dowager lady Chia's waiting-maids, Yan Yang, Ying Wu, Hu Po, Chen Chu; Lin Tai-y's waiting-maids Tzu Chan, Hseh Yen, and Ch'un Ch'ien; Pao-ch'ai's waiting-maids Ying Erh and Wen Hsing; Ying Ch'un's servant-girls Ssu Ch'i and Hsiu Ch; T'an Ch'un's waiting-maids Shih Shu and Ts'ui Mo; Hsi Ch'un's servant-girls Ju Hua and Ts'ai P'ing; and Mrs. Hseh's waiting-maids T'ung Hsi, and T'ung Kuei. Besides these, were joined to their retinue: Hsiang Ling and Hsiang Ling's servant-girl Ch'in Erh; Mrs. Li's waiting-maids Su Yn and Pi Yeh; lady Feng's servant-girls P'ing Erh, Feng Erh and Hsiao Hung, as well as Madame Wang's two waiting-maids Chin Ch'uan and Ts'ai Yn. Along with lady Feng, came a nurse carrying Ta Chieh Erh. She drove in a separate carriage, together with a couple of servant-girls. Added also to the number of the suite were matrons and nurses, attached to the various establishments, and the wives of the servants of the household, who were in attendance out of doors. Their carriages, forming one black solid mass, therefore, crammed the whole extent of the street.
Dowager lady Chia and other members of the party had already proceeded a considerable distance in their chairs, and yet the inmates at the gate had not finished mounting their vehicles. This one shouted: "I won't sit with you." That one cried: "You've crushed our mistress' bundle." In the carriages yonder, one screamed: "You've pulled my flowers off." Another one nearer exclaimed: "You've broken my fan." And they chatted and chatted, and talked and laughed with such incessant volubility, that Chou Jui's wife had to go backward and forward calling them to task. "Girls," she said, "this is the street. The on-lookers will laugh at you!" But it was only after she had expostulated with them several times that any sign of improvement became at last visible.
The van of the procession had long ago reached the entrance of the Ch'ing Hs Temple. Pao-y rode on horseback. He preceded the chair occupied by his grandmother Chia. The throngs that filled the streets ranged themselves on either side.
On their arrival at the temple, the sound of bells and the rattle of drums struck their ear. Forthwith appeared the head-bonze Chang, a stick of incense in hand; his cloak thrown over his shoulders. He took his stand by the wayside at the head of a company of Taoist priests to present his greetings. The moment dowager lady Chia reached, in her chair, the interior of the main gate, she descried the lares and penates, the lord presiding over that particular district, and the clay images of the various gods, and she at once gave orders to halt. Chia Chen advanced to receive her acting as leader to the male members of the family. Lady Feng was well aware that Yan Yang and the other attendants were at the back and could not overtake their old mistress, so she herself alighted from her chair to volunteer her services. She was about to hastily press forward and support her, when, by a strange accident, a young Taoist neophyte, of twelve or thirteen years of age, who held a case containing scissors, with which he had been snuffing the candles burning in the various places, just seized the opportunity to run out and hide himself, when he unawares rushed, head foremost, into lady Feng's arms. Lady Feng speedily raised her hand and gave him such a slap on the face that she made the young fellow reel over and perform a somersault. "You boorish young bastard!" she shouted, "where are you running to?"
The young Taoist did not even give a thought to picking up the scissors, but crawling up on to his feet again, he tried to scamper outside. But just at that very moment Pao-ch'ai and the rest of the young ladies were dismounting from their vehicles, and the matrons and women-servants were closing them in so thoroughly on all sides that not a puff of wind or a drop of rain could penetrate, and when they perceived a Taoist neophyte come rushing headlong out of the place, they, with one voice, exclaimed: "Catch him, catch him! Beat him, beat him!"
Old lady Chia overheard their cries. She asked with alacrity what the fuss was all about. Chia Chen immediately stepped outside to make inquiries. Lady Feng then advanced and, propping up her old senior, she went on to explain to her that a young Taoist priest, whose duties were to snuff the candles, had not previously retired out of the compound, and that he was now endeavouring to recklessly force his way out."
"Be quick and bring the lad here," shouted dowager lady Chia, as soon as she heard her explanation, "but, mind, don't frighten him. Children of mean families invariably get into the way of being spoilt by over-indulgence. How ever could he have set eyes before upon such display as this! Were you to frighten him, he will really be much to be pitied; and won't his father and mother be exceedingly cut up?"
As she spoke, she asked Chia Chen to go and do his best to bring him round. Chia Chen felt under the necessity of going, and he managed to drag the lad into her presence. With the scissors still clasped in his hand, the lad fell on his knees, and trembled violently.
Dowager lady Chia bade Chia Chen raise him up. "There's nothing to fear!" she said reassuringly. Then she asked him how old he was.
The boy, however, could on no account give vent to speech.
"Poor boy!" once more exclaimed the old lady. And continuing: "Brother Chen," she added, addressing herself to Chia Chen, "take him away, and give him a few cash to buy himself fruit with; and do impress upon every one that they are not to bully him."
Chia Chen signified his assent and led him off.
During this time, old lady Chia, taking along with her the whole family party, paid her devotions in storey after storey, and visited every place.
The young pages, who stood outside, watched their old mistress and the other inmates enter the second row of gates. But of a sudden they espied Chia Chen wend his way outwards, leading a young Taoist priest, and calling the servants to come, say; "Take him and give him several hundreds of cash and abstain from ill-treating him." At these orders, the domestics approached with hurried step and led him off.
Chia Chen then inquired from the terrace-steps where the majordomo was. At this inquiry, the pages standing below, called out in chorus, "Majordomo!"
Lin Chih-hsiao ran over at once, while adjusting his hat with one hand, and appeared in the presence of Chia Chen.
"Albeit this is a spacious place," Chia Chen began, "we muster a good concourse to-day, so you'd better bring into this court those servants, who'll be of any use to you, and send over into that one those who won't. And choose a few from among those young pages to remain on duty, at the second gate and at the two side entrances, so as to ask for things and deliver messages. Do you understand me, yes or no? The young ladies and ladies have all come out of town to-day, and not a single outsider must be permitted to put his foot in here."
"I understand," replied Lin Chih-hsiao hurriedly signifying his obedience. Next he uttered several yes's.
"Now," proceeded Chia Chen; "you can go on your way. But how is it, I don't see anything of Jung Erh?" he went on to ask.
This question was barely out of his lips, when he caught sight of Jung Erh running out of the belfry. "Look at him," shouted Chia Chen. "Look at him! I don't feel hot in here, and yet he must go in search of a cool place. Spit at him!" he cried to the family servants.
The young pages were fully aware that Chia Chen's ordinary disposition was such that he could not brook contradiction, and one of the lads speedily came forward and sputtered in Chia Jung's face. But Chia Chen still kept his gaze fixed on him, so the young page had to inquire of Chia Jung: "Master doesn't feel hot here, and how is it that you, Sir, have been the first to go and get cool?"
Chia Jung however dropped his arms, and did not venture to utter a single sound. Chia Yn, Chia P'ing, Chia Ch'in and the other young people overheard what was going on and not only were they scared out of their wits, but even Chia Lien, Chia Pin, Chia Ch'ung and their companions were stricken with intense fright and one by one they quietly slipped down along the foot of the wall.
"What are you standing there for?" Chia Chen shouted to Chia Jung. "Don't you yet get on your horse and gallop home and tell your mother that our venerable senior is here with all the young ladies, and bid them come at once and wait upon them?"
As soon as Chia Jung heard these words, he ran out with hurried stride and called out repeatedly for his horse. Now he felt resentment, arguing within himself: "Who knows what he has been up to the whole morning, that he now finds fault with me!" Now he went on to abuse the young servants, crying: "Are your hands made fast, that you can't lead the horse round?" And he felt inclined to bid a servant-boy go on the errand, but fearing again lest he should subsequently be found out, and be at a loss how to account for his conduct he felt compelled to proceed in person; so mounting his steed, he started on his way.
But to return to Chia Chen. Just as he was about to be take himself inside, he noticed the Taoist Chang, who stood next to him, force a smile. "I'm not properly speaking," he remarked, "on the same footing as the others and should be in attendance inside, but as on account of the intense heat, the young ladies have come out of doors, I couldn't presume to take upon myself to intrude and ask what your orders, Sir, are. But the dowager lady may possibly inquire about me, or may like to visit any part of the temple, so I shall wait in here."
Chia Chen was fully cognisant that this Taoist priest, Chang, had, it is true, in past days, stood as a substitute for the Duke of the Jung Kuo mansion, but that the former Emperor had, with his own lips, conferred upon him the appellation of the 'Immortal being of the Great Unreal,' that he held at present the seal of 'Taoist Superior,' that the reigning Emperor had raised him to the rank of the 'Pure man,' that the princes, now-a-days, dukes, and high officials styled him the "Supernatural being," and he did not therefore venture to treat him with any disrespect. In the second place, (he knew that) he had paid frequent visits to the mansions, and that he had made the acquaintance of the ladies and young ladies, so when he heard his present remark he smilingly rejoined. "Do you again make use of such language amongst ourselves? One word more, and I'll take that beard of yours, and outroot it! Don't you yet come along with me inside?"
"Hah, hah," laughed the Taoist Chang aloud, as he followed Chia Chen in. Chia Chen approached dowager lady Chia. Bending his body he strained a laugh. "Grandfather Chang," he said, "has come in to pay his respects."
"Raise him up!" old lady Chia vehemently called out.
Chia Chen lost no time in pulling him to his feet and bringing him over.
The Taoist Chang first indulged in loud laughter. "Oh Buddha of unlimited years!" he then observed. "Have you kept all right and in good health, throughout, venerable Senior? Have all the ladies and young ladies continued well? I haven't been for some time to your mansion to pay my obeisance, but you, my dowager lady, have improved more and more."
"Venerable Immortal Being!" smiled old lady Chia, "how are you; quite well?"
"Thanks to the ten thousand blessings he has enjoyed from your hands," rejoined Chang the Taoist, "your servant too continues pretty strong and hale. In every other respect, I've, after all, been all right; but I have felt much concern about Mr. Pao-y. Has he been all right all the time? The other day, on the 26th of the fourth moon, I celebrated the birthday of the 'Heaven-Pervading-Mighty-King;' few people came and everything went off right and proper. I told them to invite Mr. Pao to come for a stroll; but how was it they said that he wasn't at home?"
"It was indeed true that he was away from home," remarked dowager lady Chia. As she spoke, she turned her head round and called Pao-y.
Pao-y had, as it happened, just returned from outside where he had been to make himself comfortable, and with speedy step, he came forward. "My respects to you, grandfather Chang," he said.
The Taoist Chang eagerly clasped him in his arms and inquired how he was getting on. Turning towards old lady Chia, "Mr. Pao," he observed, "has grown fatter than ever."
"Outwardly, his looks," replied dowager lady Chia, "may be all right, but, inwardly, he is weak. In addition to this, his father presses him so much to study that he has again and again managed, all through this bullying, to make his child fall sick."
"The other day," continued Chang the Taoist, "I went to several places on a visit, and saw characters written by Mr. Pao and verses composed by him, all of which were exceedingly good; so how is it that his worthy father still feels displeased with him, and maintains that Mr. Pao is not very fond of his books? According to my humble idea, he knows quite enough. As I consider Mr. Pao's face, his bearing, his speech and his deportment," he proceeded, heaving a sigh, "what a striking resemblance I find in him to the former duke of the Jung mansion!" As he uttered these words, tears rolled down his cheeks.
At these words, old lady Chia herself found it hard to control her feelings. Her face became covered with the traces of tears. "Quite so," she assented, "I've had ever so many sons and grandsons, and not one of them betrayed the slightest resemblance to his grandfather; and this Pao-y turns out to be the very image of him!"
"What the former duke of Jung Kuo was like in appearance," Chang, the Taoist went on to remark, addressing himself to Chia Chen, "you gentlemen, and your generation, were, of course, needless to say, not in time to see for yourselves; but I fancy that even our Senior master and our Master Secundus have but a faint recollection of it."
This said, he burst into another loud fit of laughter. "The other day," he resumed, "I was at some one's house and there I met a young girl, who is this year in her fifteenth year, and verily gifted with a beautiful face, and I bethought myself that Mr. Pao must also have a wife found for him. As far as looks, intelligence and mental talents, extraction and family standing go, this maiden is a suitable match for him. But as I didn't know what your venerable ladyship would have to say about it, your servant did not presume to act recklessly, but waited until I could ascertain your wishes before I took upon myself to open my mouth with the parties concerned."
"Some time ago," responded dowager lady Chia, "a bonze explained that it was ordained by destiny that this child shouldn't be married at an early age, and that we should put things off until he grew somewhat in years before anything was settled. But mark my words now. Pay no regard as to whether she be of wealthy and honourable stock or not, the essential thing is to find one whose looks make her a fit match for him and then come at once and tell me. For even admitting that the girl is poor, all I shall have to do will be to bestow on her a few ounces of silver; but fine looks and a sweet temperament are not easy things to come across."
When she had done speaking, lady Feng was heard to smilingly interpose: "Grandfather Chang, aren't you going to change the talisman of 'Recorded Name' of our daughter? The other day, lucky enough for you, you had again the great cheek to send some one to ask me for some satin of gosling-yellow colour. I gave it to you, for had I not, I was afraid lest your old face should have been made to feel uneasy."
"Hah, hah," roared the Taoist Chang, "just see how my eyes must have grown dim! I didn't notice that you, my lady, were in here; nor did I express one word of thanks to you! The talisman of 'Recorded Name' is ready long ago. I meant to have sent it over the day before yesterday, but the unforeseen visit of the Empress to perform meritorious deeds upset my equilibrium, and made me quite forget it. But it's still placed before the gods, and if you will wait I'll go and fetch it."
Saying this, he rushed into the main hall. Presently, he returned with a tea-tray in hand, on which was spread a deep red satin cover, brocaded with dragons. In this, he presented the charm. Ta Chieh-erh's nurse took it from him.
But just as the Taoist was on the point of taking Ta Chieh-erh in his embrace, lady Feng remarked with a smile: "It would have been sufficient if you'd carried it in your hand! And why use a tray to lay it on?"
"My hands aren't clean," replied the Taoist Chang, "so how could I very well have taken hold of it? A tray therefore made things much cleaner!"
"When you produced that tray just now," laughed lady Feng, "you gave me quite a start; I didn't imagine that it was for the purpose of bringing the charm in. It really looked as if you were disposed to beg donations of us."
This observation sent the whole company into a violent fit of laughter. Even Chia Chen could not suppress a smile.
"What a monkey!" dowager lady Chia exclaimed, turning her head round. "What a monkey you are! Aren't you afraid of going down to that Hell, where tongues are cut off?"
"I've got nothing to do with any men whatever," rejoined lady Feng laughing, "and why does he time and again tell me that it's my bounden duty to lay up a store of meritorious deeds; and that if I'm remiss, my life will be short?"
Chang, the Taoist, indulged in further laughter. "I brought out," he explained, "the tray so as to kill two birds with one stone. It wasn't, however, to beg for donations. On the contrary, it was in order to put in it the jade, which I meant to ask Mr. Pao to take off, so as to carry it outside and let all those Taoist friends of mine, who come from far away, as well as my neophytes and the young apprentices, see what it's like."
"Well, since that be the case," added old lady Chia, "why do you, at your age, try your strength by running about the whole day long? Take him at once along and let them see it! But were you to have called him in there, wouldn't it have saved a lot of trouble?"
"Your venerable ladyship," resumed Chang, the Taoist, "isn't aware that though I be, to look at, a man of eighty, I, after all, continue, thanks to your protection, my dowager lady, quite hale and strong. In the second place, there are crowds of people in the outer rooms; and the smells are not agreeable. Besides it's a very hot day and Mr. Pao couldn't stand the heat as he is not accustomed to it. So were he to catch any disease from the filthy odours, it would be a grave thing!"
After these forebodings old lady Chia accordingly desired Pao-y to unclasp the jade of Spiritual Perception, and to deposit it in the tray. The Taoist, Chang, carefully ensconced it in the folds of the wrapper, embroidered with dragons, and left the room, supporting the tray with both his hands.
During this while, dowager lady Chia and the other inmates devoted more of their time in visiting the various places. But just as they were on the point of going up the two-storied building, they heard Chia Chen shout: "Grandfather Chang has brought back the jade."
As he spoke, the Taoist Chang was seen advancing up to them, the tray in hand. "The whole company," he smiled, "were much obliged to me. They think Mr. Pao's jade really lovely! None of them have, however, any suitable gifts to bestow. These are religious articles, used by each of them in propagating the doctrines of Reason, but they're all only too ready to give them as congratulatory presents. If, Mr. Pao, you don't fancy them for anything else, just keep them to play with or to give away to others."
Dowager lady Chia, at these words, looked into the tray. She discovered that its contents consisted of gold signets, and jade rings, or sceptres, implying: "may you have your wishes accomplished in everything," or "may you enjoy peace and health from year to year;" that the various articles were strung with pearls or inlaid with precious stones, worked in jade or mounted in gold; and that they were in all from thirty to fifty.
"What nonsense you're talking!" she then exclaimed. "Those people are all divines, and where could they have rummaged up these things? But what need is there for any such presents? He may, on no account, accept them."
"These are intended as a small token of their esteem," responded Chang, the Taoist, smiling, "your servant cannot therefore venture to interfere with them. If your venerable ladyship will not keep them, won't you make it patent to them that I'm treated contemptuously, and unlike what one should be, who has joined the order through your household?"
Only when old lady Chia heard these arguments did she direct a servant to receive the presents.
"Venerable senior," Pao-y smilingly chimed in. "After the reasons advanced by grandfather Chang, we cannot possibly refuse them. But albeit I feel disposed to keep these things, they are of no avail to me; so would it not be well were a servant told to carry the tray and to follow me out of doors, that I may distribute them to the poor?
"You are perfectly right in what you say!" smiled dowager lady Chia.
The Taoist Chang, however, went on speedily to use various arguments to dissuade him. "Mr. Pao," he observed, "your intention is, it is true, to perform charitable acts; but though you may aver that these things are of little value, you'll nevertheless find among them several articles you might turn to some account. Were you to let the beggars have them, why they will, first of all, be none the better for them; and, next, it will contrariwise be tantamount to throwing them away! If you want to distribute anything among the poor, why don't you dole out cash to them?"
"Put them by!" promptly shouted Pao-y, after this rejoinder, "and when evening comes, take a few cash and distribute them."
These directions given, Chang, the Taoist, retired out of the place.
Dowager lady Chia and her companions thereupon walked upstairs and sat in the main part of the building. Lady Feng and her friends adjourned into the eastern part, while the waiting-maids and servants remained in the western portion, and took their turns in waiting on their mistresses.
Before long, Chia Chen came back. "The plays," he announced, "have been chosen by means of slips picked out before the god. The first one on the list is the 'Record of the White Snake.'"
"Of what kind of old story does 'the record of the white snake,' treat?" old lady Chia inquired.
"The story about Han Kao-tsu," replied Chia Chen, "killing a snake and then ascending the throne. The second play is, 'the Bed covered with ivory tablets.'"
"Has this been assigned the second place?" asked dowager lady Chia. "Yet never mind; for as the gods will it thus, there is no help than not to demur. But what about the third play?" she went on to inquire.
"The Nan Ko dream is the third," Chia Chen answered.
This response elicited no comment from dowager lady Chia. Chia Chen therefore withdrew downstairs, and betook himself outside to make arrangements for the offerings to the gods, for the paper money and eatables that had to be burnt, and for the theatricals about to begin. So we will leave him without any further allusion, and take up our narrative with Pao-y.
Seating himself upstairs next to old lady Chia, he called to a servant-girl to fetch the tray of presents given to him a short while back, and putting on his own trinket of jade, he fumbled about with the things for a bit, and picking up one by one, he handed them to his grandmother to admire. But old lady Chia espied among them a unicorn, made of purplish gold, with kingfisher feathers inserted, and eagerly extending her arm, she took it up. "This object," she smiled, "seems to me to resemble very much one I've seen worn also by the young lady of some household or other of ours."
"Senior cousin, Shih Hsiang-yn," chimed in Pao-ch'ai, a smile playing on her lips, "has one, but it's a trifle smaller than this."
"Is it indeed Yn-erh who has it?" exclaimed old lady Chia.
"Now that she lives in our house," remarked Pao-y, "how is it that even I haven't seen anything of it?"
"Cousin Pao-ch'ai," rejoined T'an Ch'un laughingly, "has the power of observation; no matter what she sees, she remembers."
Lin Tai-y gave a sardonic smile. "As far as other matters are concerned," she insinuated, "her observation isn't worth speaking of; where she's extra-observant is in articles people may wear about their persons."
Pao-chai, upon catching this sneering remark, at once turned her head round, and pretended she had not heard. But as soon as Pao-y learnt that Shih Hsiang-yn possessed a similar trinket, he speedily picked up the unicorn, and hid it in his breast, indulging, at the same time, in further reflection. Yet, fearing lest people might have noticed that he kept back that particular thing the moment he discovered that Shih Hsiang-yn had one identical with it, he fixed his eyes intently upon all around while clutching it. He found however that not one of them was paying any heed to his movements except Lin Tai-y, who, while gazing at him was, nodding her head, as if with the idea of expressing her admiration. Pao-y, therefore, at once felt inwardly ill at ease, and pulling out his hand, he observed, addressing himself to Tai-y with an assumed smile, "This is really a fine thing to play with; I'll keep it for you, and when we get back home, I'll pass a ribbon through it for you to wear." "I don't care about it," said Lin Tai-y, giving her head a sudden twist.
"Well," continued Pao-y laughingly, "if you don't like it, I can't do otherwise than keep it myself."
Saying this, he once again thrust it away. But just as he was about to open his lips to make some other observation, he saw Mrs. Yu, the spouse of Chia Chen, arrive along with the second wife recently married by Chia Jung, that is, his mother and her daughter-in-law, to pay their obeisance to dowager lady Chia.
"What do you people rush over here for again?" old lady Chia inquired.
"I came here for a turn, simply because I had nothing to do."
But no sooner was this inquiry concluded than they heard a messenger announce: "that some one had come from the house of general Feng."
The family of Feng Tzu-ying had, it must be explained, come to learn the news that the inmates of the Chia mansion were offering a thanksgiving service in the temple, and, without loss of time, they got together presents of pigs, sheep, candles, tea and eatables and sent them over. The moment lady Feng heard about it she hastily crossed to the main part of the two-storied building. "Ai-ya;" she ejaculated, clapping her hands and laughing. "I never expected anything of the sort; we merely said that we ladies were coming for a leisurely stroll and people imagined that we were spreading a sumptuous altar with lenten viands and came to bring us offerings! But it's all our old lady's fault for bruiting it about! Why, we haven't even got any slips of paper with tips ready."
She had just finished speaking, when she perceived two matrons, who acted as house-keepers in the Feng family, walk upstairs. But before the Feng servants could take their leave, presents likewise arrived, in quick succession, from Chao, the Vice-President of the Board. In due course, one lot of visitors followed another. For as every one got wind of the fact that the Chia family was having thanksgiving services, and that the ladies were in the temple, distant and close relatives, friends, old friends and acquaintances all came to present their contributions. So much so, that dowager lady Chia began at this juncture to feel sorry that she had ever let the cat out of the bag. "This is no regular fasting," she said, "we simply have come for a little change; and we should not have put any one to any inconvenience!" Although therefore she was to have remained present all day at the theatrical performance, she promptly returned home soon after noon, and the next day she felt very loth to go out of doors again.
"By striking the wall, we've also stirred up dust," lady Feng argued. "Why we've already put those people to the trouble so we should only be too glad to-day to have another outing."
But as when dowager lady Chia interviewed the Taoist Chang, the previous day, he made allusion to Pao-y and canvassed his engagement, Pao-y experienced, little as one would have thought it, much secret displeasure during the whole of that day, and on his return home he flew into a rage and abused Chang, the rationalistic priest, for harbouring designs to try and settle a match for him. At every breath and at every word he resolved that henceforward he would not set eyes again upon the Taoist Chang. But no one but himself had any idea of the reason that actuated him to absent himself. In the next place, Lin Tai-y began also, on her return the day before, to ail from a touch of the sun, so their grandmother was induced by these two considerations to remain firm in her decision not to go. When lady Feng, however, found that she would not join them, she herself took charge of the family party and set out on the excursion.
But without descending to particulars, let us advert to Pao-y. Seeing that Lin Tai-y had fallen ill, he was so full of solicitude on her account that he even had little thought for any of his meals, and not long elapsed before he came to inquire how she was.
Tai-y, on her part, gave way to fear lest anything should happen to him, (and she tried to re-assure him). "Just go and look at the plays," she therefore replied, "what's the use of boxing yourself up at home?"
Pao-y was, however, not in a very happy frame of mind on account of the reference to his marriage made by Chang, the Taoist, the day before, so when he heard Lin Tai-y's utterances: "If others don't understand me;" he mused, "it's anyhow excusable; but has she too begun to make fun of me?" His heart smarted in consequence under the sting of a mortification a hundred times keener than he had experienced up to that occasion. Had he been with any one else, it would have been utterly impossible for her to have brought into play feelings of such resentment, but as it was no other than Tai-y who spoke the words, the impression produced upon him was indeed different from that left in days gone by, when others employed similar language. Unable to curb his feelings, he instantaneously lowered his face. "My friendship with you has been of no avail" he rejoined. "But, never mind, patience!"
This insinuation induced Lin Tai-y to smile a couple of sarcastic smiles. "Yes, your friendship with me has been of no avail," she repeated; "for how can I compare with those whose manifold qualities make them fit matches for you?"
As soon as this sneer fell on Pao-y's ear he drew near to her. "Are you by telling me this," he asked straight to her face, "deliberately bent upon invoking imprecations upon me that I should be annihilated by heaven and extinguished by earth?"
Lin Tai-y could not for a time fathom the import of his remarks. "It was," Pao-y then resumed, "on account of this very conversation that I yesterday swore several oaths, and now would you really make me repeat another one? But were the heavens to annihilate me and the earth to extinguish me, what benefit would you derive?"
This rejoinder reminded Tai-y of the drift of their conversation on the previous day. And as indeed she had on this occasion framed in words those sentiments, which should not have dropped from her lips, she experienced both annoyance and shame, and she tremulously observed: "If I entertain any deliberate intention to bring any harm upon you, may I too be destroyed by heaven and exterminated by earth! But what's the use of all this! I know very well that the allusion to marriage made yesterday by Chang, the Taoist, fills you with dread lest he might interfere with your choice. You are inwardly so irate that you come and treat me as your malignant influence."
Pao-y, the fact is, had ever since his youth developed a peculiar kind of mean and silly propensity. Having moreover from tender infancy grown up side by side with Tai-Y, their hearts and their feelings were in perfect harmony. More, he had recently come to know to a great extent what was what, and had also filled his head with the contents of a number of corrupt books and licentious stories. Of all the eminent and beautiful girls that he had met too in the families of either distant or close relatives or of friends, not one could reach the standard of Lin Tai-y. Hence it was that he commenced, from an early period of his life, to foster sentiments of love for her; but as he could not very well give utterance to them, he felt time and again sometimes elated, sometimes vexed, and wont to exhaust every means to secretly subject her heart to a test.
Lin Tai-y happened, on the other hand, to possess in like manner a somewhat silly disposition; and she too frequently had recourse to feigned sentiments to feel her way. And as she began to conceal her true feelings and inclinations and to simply dissimulate, and he to conceal his true sentiments and wishes and to dissemble, the two unrealities thus blending together constituted eventually one reality. But it was hardly to be expected that trifles would not be the cause of tiffs between them. Thus it was that in Pao-y's mind at this time prevailed the reflection: "that were others unable to read my feelings, it would anyhow be excusable; but is it likely that you cannot realise that in my heart and in my eyes there is no one else besides yourself. But as you were not able to do anything to dispel my annoyance, but made use, instead, of the language you did to laugh at me, and to gag my mouth, it's evident that though you hold, at every second and at every moment, a place in my heart, I don't, in fact, occupy a place in yours." Such was the construction attached to her conduct by Pao-y, yet he did not have the courage to tax her with it.
"If, really, I hold a place in your heart," Lin Tai-y again reflected, "why do you, albeit what's said about gold and jade being a fit match, attach more importance to this perverse report and think nothing of what I say? Did you, when I so often broach the subject of this gold and jade, behave as if you, verily, had never heard anything about it, I would then have seen that you treat me with preference and that you don't harbour the least particle of a secret design. But how is it that the moment I allude to the topic of gold and jade, you at once lose all patience? This is proof enough that you are continuously pondering over that gold and jade, and that as soon as you hear me speak to you about them, you apprehend that I shall once more give way to conjectures, and intentionally pretend to be quite out of temper, with the deliberate idea of cajoling me!"
These two cousins had, to all appearances, once been of one and the same mind, but the many issues, which had sprung up between them, brought about a contrary result and made them of two distinct minds.
"I don't care what you do, everything is well," Pao-y further argued, "so long as you act up to your feelings; and if you do, I shall be ever only too willing to even suffer immediate death for your sake. Whether you know this or not, doesn't matter; it's all the same. Yet were you to just do as my heart would have you, you'll afford me a clear proof that you and I are united by close ties and that you are no stranger to me!"
"Just you mind your own business," Lin Tai-y on her side cogitated. "If you will treat me well, I'll treat you well. And what need is there to put an end to yourself for my sake? Are you not aware that if you kill yourself, I'll also kill myself? But this demonstrates that you don't wish me to be near to you, and that you really want that I should be distant to you."
It will thus be seen that the desire, by which they were both actuated, to strive and draw each other close and ever closer became contrariwise transformed into a wish to become more distant. But as it is no easy task to frame into words the manifold secret thoughts entertained by either, we will now confine ourselves to a consideration of their external manner.
The three words "a fine match," which Pao-y heard again Lin Tai-y pronounce proved so revolting to him that his heart got full of disgust and he was unable to give utterance to a single syllable. Losing all control over his temper, he snatched from his neck the jade of Spiritual Perception and, clenching his teeth, he spitefully dashed it down on the floor. "What rubbishy trash!" he cried. "I'll smash you to atoms and put an end to the whole question!"
The jade, however, happened to be of extraordinary hardness, and did not, after all, sustain the slightest injury from this single fall. When Pao-y realised that it had not broken, he forthwith turned himself round to get the trinket with the idea of carrying out his design of smashing it, but Tai-y divined his intention, and soon started crying. "What's the use of all this!" she demurred, "and why, pray, do you batter that dumb thing about? Instead of smashing it, wouldn't it be better for you to come and smash me!"
But in the middle of their dispute, Tzu Chan, Hseh Yen and the other maids promptly interfered and quieted them. Subsequently, however, they saw how deliberately bent Pao-y was upon breaking the jade, and they vehemently rushed up to him to snatch it from his hands. But they failed in their endeavours, and perceiving that he was getting more troublesome than he had ever been before, they had no alternative but to go and call Hsi Jen. Hsi Jen lost no time in running over and succeeded, at length, in getting hold of the trinket.
"I'm smashing what belongs to me," remarked Pao-y with a cynical smile, "and what has that to do with you people?"
Hsi Jen noticed that his face had grown quite sallow from anger, that his eyes had assumed a totally unusual expression, and that he had never hitherto had such a fit of ill-temper and she hastened to take his hand in hers and to smilingly expostulate with him. "If you've had a tiff with your cousin," she said, "it isn't worth while flinging this down! Had you broken it, how would her heart and face have been able to bear the mortification?"
Lin Tai-y shed tears and listened the while to her remonstrances. Yet these words, which so corresponded with her own feelings, made it clear to her that Pao-y could not even compare with Hsi Jen and wounded her heart so much more to the quick that she began to weep aloud. But the moment she got so vexed she found it hard to keep down the potion of boletus and the decoction, for counter-acting the effects of the sun, she had taken only a few minutes back, and with a retch she brought everything up. Tzu Chan immediately pressed to her side and used her handkerchief to stop her mouth with. But mouthful succeeded mouthful, and in no time the handkerchief was soaked through and through.
Hseh Yen then approached in a hurry and tapped her on the back.
"You may, of course, give way to displeasure," Tzu Chan argued; "but you should, after all, take good care of yourself Miss. You had just taken the medicines and felt the better for them; and here you now begin vomitting again; and all because you've had a few words with our master Secundus. But should your complaint break out afresh how will Mr. Pao bear the blow?"
The moment Pao-y caught this advice, which accorded so thoroughly with his own ideas, he found how little Tai-y could hold her own with Tzu Chan. And perceiving how flushed Tai-y's face was, how her temples were swollen, how, while sobbing, she panted; and how, while crying, she was suffused with perspiration, and betrayed signs of extreme weakness, he began, at the sight of her condition, to reproach himself. "I shouldn't," he reflected, "have bandied words with her; for now that she's got into this frame of mind, I mayn't even suffer in her stead!"
The self-reproaches, however, which gnawed his heart made it impossible for him to refrain from tears, much as he fought against them. Hsi Jen saw them both crying, and while attending to Pao-y, she too unavoidably experienced much soreness of heart. She nevertheless went on rubbing Pao-y's hands, which were icy cold. She felt inclined to advise Pao-y not to weep, but fearing again lest, in the first place, Pao-y might be inwardly aggrieved, and nervous, in the next, lest she should not be dealing rightly by Tai-y, she thought it advisable that they should all have a good cry, as they might then be able to leave off. She herself therefore also melted into tears. As for Tzu-Chan, at one time, she cleaned the expectorated medicine; at another, she took up a fan and gently fanned Tai-y. But at the sight of the trio plunged in perfect silence, and of one and all sobbing for reasons of their own, grief, much though she did to struggle against it, mastered her feelings too, and producing a handkerchief, she dried the tears that came to her eyes. So there stood four inmates, face to face, uttering not a word and indulging in weeping.
Shortly, Hsi Jen made a supreme effort, and smilingly said to Pao-y: "If you don't care for anything else, you should at least have shown some regard for those tassels, strung on the jade, and not have wrangled with Miss Lin."
Tai-y heard these words, and, mindless of her indisposition, she rushed over, and snatching the trinket, she picked up a pair of scissors, lying close at hand, bent upon cutting the tassels. Hsi Jen and Tzu Chan were on the point of wresting it from her, but she had already managed to mangle them into several pieces.
"I have," sobbed Tai-y, "wasted my energies on them for nothing; for he doesn't prize them. He's certain to find others to string some more fine tassels for him."
Hsi Jen promptly took the jade. "Is it worth while going on in this way!" she cried. "But this is all my fault for having blabbered just now what should have been left unsaid."
"Cut it, if you like!" chimed in Pao-y, addressing himself to Tai-y. "I will on no account wear it, so it doesn't matter a rap."
But while all they minded inside was to create this commotion, they little dreamt that the old matrons had descried Tai-y weep bitterly and vomit copiously, and Pao-y again dash his jade on the ground, and that not knowing how far the excitement might not go, and whether they themselves might not become involved, they had repaired in a body to the front, and reported the occurrence to dowager lady Chia and Madame Wang, their object being to try and avoid being themselves implicated in the matter. Their old mistress and Madame Wang, seeing them make so much of the occurrence as to rush with precipitate haste to bring it to their notice, could not in the least imagine what great disaster might not have befallen them, and without loss of time they betook themselves together into the garden and came to see what the two cousins were up to.
Hsi Jen felt irritated and harboured resentment against Tzu Chan, unable to conceive what business she had to go and disturb their old mistress and Madame Wang. But Tzu Chan, on the other hand, presumed that it was Hsi Jen, who had gone and reported the matter to them, and she too cherished angry feelings towards Hsi Jen.
Dowager lady Chia and Madame Wang walked into the apartment. They found Pao-y on one side saying not a word. Lin Tai-y on the other uttering not a sound. "What's up again?" they asked. But throwing the whole blame upon the shoulders of Hsi Jen and Tzu Chan, "why is it," they inquired, "that you were not diligent in your attendance on them. They now start a quarrel, and don't you exert yourselves in the least to restrain them?"
Therefore with obloquy and hard words they rated the two girls for a time in such a way that neither of them could put in a word by way of reply, but felt compelled to listen patiently. And it was only after dowager lady Chia had taken Pao-y away with her that things quieted down again.
One day passed. Then came the third of the moon. This was Hseh Pan's birthday, so in their house a banquet was spread and preparations made for a performance; and to these the various inmates of the Chia mansion went. But as Pao-y had so hurt Tai-y's feelings, the two cousins saw nothing whatever of each other, and conscience-stricken, despondent and unhappy, as he was at this time could he have had any inclination to be present at the plays? Hence it was that he refused to go on the pretext of indisposition.
Lin Tai-y had got, a couple of days back, but a slight touch of the sun and naturally there was nothing much the matter with her. When the news however reached her that he did not intend to join the party, "If with his weakness for wine and for theatricals," she pondered within herself, "he now chooses to stay away, instead of going, why, that quarrel with me yesterday must be at the bottom of it all. If this isn't the reason, well then it must be that he has no wish to attend, as he sees that I'm not going either. But I should on no account have cut the tassels from that jade, for I feel sure he won't wear it again. I shall therefore have to string some more on to it, before he puts it on."
On this account the keenest remorse gnawed her heart.
Dowager lady Chia saw well enough that they were both under the influence of temper. "We should avail ourselves of this occasion," she said to herself, "to go over and look at the plays, and as soon as the two young people come face to face, everything will be squared." Contrary to her expectations neither of them would volunteer to go. This so exasperated their old grandmother that she felt vexed with them. "In what part of my previous existence could an old sufferer like myself," she exclaimed, "have incurred such retribution that my destiny is to come across these two troublesome new-fledged foes! Why, not a single day goes by without their being instrumental in worrying my mind! The proverb is indeed correct which says: 'that people who are not enemies are not brought together!' But shortly my eyes shall be closed, this breath of mine shall be snapped, and those two enemies will be free to cause trouble even up to the very skies; for as my eyes will then loose their power of vision, and my heart will be void of concern, it will really be nothing to me. But I couldn't very well stifle this breath of life of mine!"
While inwardly a prey to resentment, she also melted into tears.
These words were brought to the ears of Pao-y and Tai-y. Neither of them had hitherto heard the adage: "people who are not enemies are not brought together," so when they suddenly got to know the line, it seemed as if they had apprehended abstraction. Both lowered their heads and meditated on the subtle sense of the saying. But unconsciously a stream of tears rolled down their cheeks. They could not, it is true, get a glimpse of each other; yet as the one was in the Hsiao Hsiang lodge, standing in the breeze, bedewed with tears, and the other in the I Hung court, facing the moon and heaving deep sighs, was it not, in fact, a case of two persons living in two distinct places, yet with feelings emanating from one and the same heart?
Hsi Jen consequently tendered advice to Pao-y. "You're a million times to blame," she said, "it's you who are entirely at fault! For when some time ago the pages in the establishment, wrangled with their sisters, or when husband and wife fell out, and you came to hear anything about it, you blew up the lads, and called them fools for not having the heart to show some regard to girls; and now here you go and follow their lead. But to-morrow is the fifth day of the moon, a great festival, and will you two still continue like this, as if you were very enemies? If so, our venerable mistress will be the more angry, and she certainly will be driven sick! I advise you therefore to do what's right by suppressing your spite and confessing your fault, so that we should all be on the same terms as hitherto. You here will then be all right, and so will she over there."
Pao-y listened to what she had to say; but whether he fell in with her views or not is not yet ascertained; yet if you, reader, choose to know, we will explain in the next chapter.
Pao-ch'ai avails herself of the excuse afforded her by a fan to administer a couple of raps. While Ch'un Ling traces, in a absent frame of mind, the outlines of the character Ch'iang, a looker-on appears on the scene.
Lin Tai-y herself, for we will now resume our narrative, was also, ever since her tiff with Pao-y, full of self-condemnation, yet as she did not see why she should run after him, she continued, day and night, as despondent as she would have been had she lost some thing or other belonging to her.
Tzu Chan surmised her sentiments. "As regards what happened the other day," she advised her, "you were, after all, Miss, a little too hasty; for if others don't understand that temperament of Pao-y's, have you and I, surely, also no idea about it? Besides, haven't there been already one or two rows on account of that very jade?"
"Ts'ui!" exclaimed Tai-y. "Have you come, on behalf of others, to find fault with me? But how ever was I hasty?"
"Why did you," smiled Tzu Chan, "take the scissors and cut that tassel when there was no good reason for it? So isn't Pao-y less to blame than yourself, Miss? I've always found his behaviour towards you, Miss, without a fault. It's all that touchy disposition of yours, which makes you so often perverse, that induces him to act as he does."
Lin Tai-y had every wish to make some suitable reply, when she heard some one calling at the door. Tzu Chan discerned the tone of voice. "This sounds like Pao-y's voice," she smiled. "I expect he's come to make his apologies."
"I won't have any one open the door," Tai-y cried at these words.
"Here you are in the wrong again, Miss," Tzu Chan observed. "How will it ever do to let him get a sunstroke and come to some harm on a day like this, and under such a scorching sun?"
Saying this, she speedily walked out and opened the door. It was indeed Pao-y. While ushering him in, she gave him a smile. "I imagined," she said, "that you would never again put your foot inside our door, Master Secundus. But here you are once more and quite unexpectedly!"
"You have by dint of talking," Pao-y laughed, "made much ado of nothing; and why shouldn't I come, when there's no reason for me to keep away? Were I even to die, my spirit too will come a hundred times a day! But is cousin quite well?"
"She is," replied Tzu Chan, "physically all right; but, mentally, her resentment is not quite over."
"I understand," continued Pao-y with a smile. "But resentment, for what?"
With this inquiry, he wended his steps inside the apartment. He then caught sight of Lin Tai-y reclining on the bed in the act of crying. Tai-y had not in fact shed a tear, but hearing Pao-y break in upon her, she could not help feeling upset. She found it impossible therefore to prevent her tears from rolling down her cheeks.
Pao-y assumed a smiling expression and drew near the bed. "Cousin, are you quite well again?" he inquired.
Tai-y simply went on drying her tears, and made no reply of any kind.
Pao-y approached the bed, and sat on the edge of it. "I know," he smiled, "that you're not vexed with me. But had I not come, third parties would have been allowed to notice my absence, and it would have appeared to them as if we had had another quarrel. And had I to wait until they came to reconcile us, would we not by that time become perfect strangers? It would be better, supposing you wish to beat me or blow me up, that you should please yourself and do so now; but whatever you do, don't give me the cold shoulder!"
Continuing, he proceeded to call her "my dear cousin" for several tens of times.
Tai-y had resolved not to pay any more heed to Pao-y. When she, however, now heard Pao-y urge: "don't let us allow others to know anything about our having had a quarrel, as it will look as if we had become thorough strangers," it once more became evident to her, from this single remark, that she was really dearer and nearer to him than any of the other girls, so she could not refrain from saying sobbingly: "You needn't have come to chaff me! I couldn't presume henceforward to be on friendly terms with you, Master Secundus! You should treat me as if I were gone!"
At these words, Pao-y gave way to laughter. "Where are you off to?" he inquired.
"I'm going back home," answered Tai-y.
"I'll go along with you then," smiled Pao-y.
"But if I die?" asked Tai-y.
"Well, if you die," rejoined Pao-y, "I'll become a bonze."
The moment Tai-y caught this reply, she hung down her head. "You must, I presume, be bent upon dying?" she cried. "But what stuff and nonsense is this you're talking? You've got so many beloved elder and younger cousins in your family, and how many bodies will you have to go and become bonzes, when by and bye they all pass away! But to-morrow I'll tell them about this to judge for themselves what your motives are!"
Pao-y was himself aware of the fact that this rejoinder had been recklessly spoken, and he was seized with regret. His face immediately became suffused with blushes. He lowered his head and had not the courage to utter one word more. Fortunately, however, there was no one present in the room.
Tai-y stared at him for ever so long with eyes fixed straight on him, but losing control over her temper, "Ai!" she shouted, "can't you speak?" Then when she perceived Pao-y reduced to such straits as to turn purple, she clenched her teeth and spitefully gave him, on the forehead, a fillip with her finger. "Heug!" she cried gnashing her teeth, "you, this......" But just as she had pronounced these two words, she heaved another sigh, and picking up her handkerchief, she wiped her tears.
Pao-y treasured at one time numberless tender things in his mind, which he meant to tell her, but feeling also, while he smarted under the sting of self-reproach (for the indiscretion he had committed), Tai-y give him a rap, he was utterly powerless to open his lips, much though he may have liked to speak, so he kept on sighing and snivelling to himself. With all these things therefore to work upon his feelings, he unwillingly melted into tears. He tried to find his handkerchief to dry his face with, but unexpectedly discovering that he had again forgotten to bring one with him, he was about to make his coat-sleeve answer the purpose, when Tai-y, albeit her eyes were watery, noticed at a glance that he was going to use the brand-new coat of grey coloured gauze he wore, and while wiping her own, she turned herself round, and seized a silk kerchief thrown over the pillow, and thrust it into Pao-y's lap. But without saying a word, she screened her face and continued sobbing.
Pao-y saw the handkerchief she threw, and hastily snatching it, he wiped his tears. Then drawing nearer to her, he put out his hand and clasped her hand in his, and smilingly said to her: "You've completely lacerated my heart, and do you still cry? But let's go; I'll come along with you and see our venerable grandmother."
Tai-y thrust his hand aside. "Who wants to go hand in hand with you?" she cried. "Here we grow older day after day, but we're still so full of brazen-faced effrontery that we don't even know what right means?"
But scarcely had she concluded before she heard a voice say aloud: "They're all right!"
Pao-y and Tai-y were little prepared for this surprise, and they were startled out of their senses. Turning round to see who it was, they caught sight of lady Feng running in, laughing and shouting. "Our old lady," she said, "is over there, giving way to anger against heaven and earth. She would insist upon my coming to find out whether you were reconciled or not. 'There's no need for me to go and see,' I told her, 'they will before the expiry of three days, be friends again of their own accord.' Our venerable ancestor, however, called me to account, and maintained that I was lazy; so here I come! But my words have in very deed turned out true. I don't see why you two should always be wrangling! For three days you're on good terms and for two on bad. You become more and more like children. And here you are now hand in hand blubbering! But why did you again yesterday become like black-eyed fighting cocks? Don't you yet come with me to see your grandmother and make an old lady like her set her mind at ease a bit?"
While reproaching them, she clutched Tai-y's hand and was trudging away, when Tai-y turned her head round and called out for her servant-girls. But not one of them was in attendance.
"What do you want them for again?" lady Feng asked. "I am here to wait on you!"
Still speaking, she pulled her along on their way, with Pao-y following in their footsteps. Then making their exit out of the garden gate, they entered dowager lady Chia's suite of rooms. "I said that it was superfluous for any one to trouble," lady Feng smiled, "as they were sure of themselves to become reconciled; but you, dear ancestor, so little believed it that you insisted upon my going to act the part of mediator. Yet when I got there, with the intention of inducing them to make it up, I found them, though one did not expect it, in each other's company, confessing their faults, and laughing and chatting. Just like a yellow eagle clutching the feet of a kite were those two hanging on to each other. So where was the necessity for any one to go?"
These words evoked laughter from every one in the room. Pao-ch'ai, however, was present at the time so Lin Tai-y did not retort, but went and ensconced herself in a seat near her grandmother.
When Pao-y noticed that no one had anything to say, he smilingly addressed himself to Pao-ch'ai. "On cousin Hseh P'an's birth-day," he remarked, "I happened again to be unwell, so not only did I not send him any presents, but I failed to go and knock my head before him. Yet cousin knows nothing about my having been ill, and it will seem to him that I had no wish to go, and that I brought forward excuses so as to avoid paying him a visit. If to-morrow you find any leisure, cousin, do therefore explain matters for me to him."
"This is too much punctiliousness!" smiled Pao-ch'ai. "Even had you insisted upon going, we wouldn't have been so arrogant as to let you put yourself to the trouble, and how much less when you were not feeling well? You two are cousins and are always to be found together the whole day; if you encourage such ideas, some estrangement will, after all, arise between you."
"Cousin," continued Pao-y smilingly, "you know what to say; and so long as you're lenient with me all will be all right. But how is it," he went on to ask, "that you haven't gone over to see the theatricals?"
"I couldn't stand the heat" rejoined Pao-ch'ai. "I looked on while two plays were being sung, but I found it so intensely hot, that I felt anxious to retire. But the visitors not having dispersed, I had to give as an excuse that I wasn't feeling up to the mark, and so came away at once."
Pao-y, at these words, could not but feel ill at ease. All he could do was to feign another smile. "It's no wonder," he observed, "that they compare you, cousin, to Yang Kuei-fei; for she too was fat and afraid of hot weather."
Hearing this, Pao-ch'ai involuntarily flew into a violent rage. Yet when about to call him to task, she found that it would not be nice for her to do so. After some reflection, the colour rushed to her cheeks. Smiling ironically twice, "I may resemble," she said, "Yang Kuei-fei, but there's not one of you young men, whether senior or junior, good enough to play the part of Yang Kuo-chung."
While they were bandying words, a servant-girl Ch'ing Erh, lost sight of her fan and laughingly remarked to Pao-ch'ai: "It must be you, Miss Pao, who have put my fan away somewhere or other; dear mistress, do let me have it!"
"You'd better be mindful!" rejoined Pao-ch'ai, shaking her finger at her. "With whom have I ever been up to jokes, that you come and suspect me? Have I hitherto laughed and smirked with you? There's that whole lot of girls, go and ask them about it!"
At this suggestion, Ch'ing Erh made her escape.
The consciousness then burst upon Pao-y, that he had again been inconsiderate in his speech, in the presence of so many persons, and he was overcome by a greater sense of shame than when, a short while back, he had been speaking with Lin Tai-y. Precipitately turning himself round, he went, therefore, and talked to the others as well.
The sight of Pao-y poking fun at Pao-ch'ai gratified Tai-y immensely. She was just about to put in her word and also seize the opportunity of chaffing her, but as Ch'ing Erh unawares asked for her fan and Pao-ch'ai added a few more remarks, she at once changed her purpose. "Cousin Pao-ch'ai," she inquired, "what two plays did you hear?"
Pao-ch'ai caught the expression of gratification in Tai-y's countenance, and concluded that she had for a certainty heard the raillery recently indulged in by Pao-y and that it had fallen in with her own wishes; and hearing her also suddenly ask the question she did, she answered with a significant laugh: "What I saw was: 'Li Kuei blows up Sung Chiang and subsequently again tenders his apologies'."
Pao-y smiled. "How is it," he said, "that with such wide knowledge of things new as well as old; and such general information as you possess, you aren't even up to the name of a play, and that you've come out with such a whole string of words. Why, the real name of the play is: 'Carrying a birch and begging for punishment'".
"Is it truly called: 'Carrying a birch and begging for punishment'"? Pao-ch'ai asked with laugh. "But you people know all things new and old so are able to understand the import of 'carrying a birch and begging for punishment.' As for me I've no idea whatever what 'carrying a birch and begging for punishment' implies."
One sentence was scarcely ended when Pao-y and Tai-y felt guilty in their consciences; and by the time they heard all she said, they were quite flushed from shame. Lady Feng did not, it is true, fathom the gist of what had been said, but at the sight of the expression betrayed on the faces of the three cousins, she readily got an inkling of it. "On this broiling hot day," she inquired laughing also; "who still eats raw ginger?"
None of the party could make out the import of her insinuation. "There's no one eating raw ginger," they said.
Lady Feng intentionally then brought her hands to her cheeks, and rubbing them, she remarked with an air of utter astonishment, "Since there's no one eating raw ginger, how is it that you are all so fiery in the face?"
Hearing this, Pao-y and Tai-y waxed more uncomfortable than ever. So much so, that Pao-ch'ai, who meant to continue the conversation, did not think it nice to say anything more when she saw how utterly abashed Pao-y was and how changed his manner. Her only course was therefore to smile and hold her peace. And as the rest of the inmates had not the faintest notion of the drift of the remarks exchanged between the four of them, they consequently followed her lead and put on a smile.
In a short while, however, Pao-ch'ai and lady Feng took their leave.
"You've also tried your strength with them," Tai-y said to Pao-y laughingly. "But they're far worse than I. Is every one as simple in mind and dull of tongue as I am as to allow people to say whatever they like."
Pao-y was inwardly giving way to that unhappiness, which had been occasioned by Pao-ch'ai's touchiness, so when he also saw Tai-y approach him and taunt him, displeasure keener than ever was aroused in him. A desire then asserted itself to speak out his mind to her, but dreading lest Tai-y should he in one of her sensitive moods, he, needless to say, stifled his anger and straightway left the apartment in a state of mental depression.
It happened to be the season of the greatest heat. Breakfast time too was already past, and masters as well as servants were, for the most part, under the influence of the lassitude felt on lengthy days. As Pao-y therefore strolled, from place to place, his hands behind his back he heard not so much as the caw of a crow. Issuing out of his grandmother's compound on the near side, he wended his steps westwards, and crossed the passage, on which lady Feng's quarters gave. As soon as he reached the entrance of her court, he perceived the door ajar. But aware of lady Feng's habit of taking, during the hot weather, a couple of hours' siesta at noon, he did not feel it a convenient moment to intrude. Walking accordingly through the corner door, he stepped into Madame Wang's apartment. Here he discovered several waiting-maids, dosing with their needlework clasped in their hands. Madame Wang was asleep on the cool couch in the inner rooms. Chin Ch'uan-erh was sitting next to her massaging her legs. But she too was quite drowsy, and her eyes wore all awry. Pao-y drew up to her with gentle tread. The moment, however, that he unfastened the pendants from the earrings she wore, Chin Ch'uan opened her eyes, and realised that it was no one than Pao-y.
"Are you feeling so worn out!" he smilingly remarked in a low tone of voice.
Chin Ch'uan pursed up her lips and gave him a smile. Then waving her hand so as to bid him quit the room, she again closed her eyes.
Pao-y, at the sight of her, felt considerable affection for her and unable to tear himself away, so quietly stretching his head forward, and noticing that Madame Wang's eyes were shut, he extracted from a purse, suspended about his person, one of the 'scented-snow-for-moistening-mouth pills,' with which it was full, and placed it on Chin Ch'uan-erh's lips. Chin Ch'uan-erh, however, did not open her eyes, but simply held (the pill) in her mouth. Pao-y then approached her and took her hand in his. "I'll ask you of your mistress," he gently observed smiling, "and you and I will live together."
To this Chin Ch'uan-erh said not a word.
"If that won't do," Pao-y continued, "I'll wait for your mistress to wake and appeal to her at once."
Chin Ch'uan-erh distended her eyes wide, and pushed Pao-y off. "What's the hurry?" she laughed. "'A gold hair-pin may fall into the well; but if it's yours it will remain yours only.' Is it possible that you don't even see the spirit of this proverb? But I'll tell you a smart thing. Just you go into the small court, on the east side, and you'll find for yourself what Mr. Chia Huau and Ts'ai Yun are up to!"
"Let them be up to whatever they like," smiled Pao-y, "I shall simply stick to your side!"
But he then saw Madame Wang twist herself round, get up, and give a slap to Chin Ch'uan-erh on her mouth. "You mean wench!" she exclaimed, abusing her, while she pointed her finger at her, "it's you, and the like of you, who corrupt these fine young fellows with all the nice things you teach them!"
The moment Pao-y perceived Madame Wang rise, he bolted like a streak of smoke. Chin Ch'uan-erh, meanwhile, felt half of her face as hot as fire, yet she did not dare utter one word of complaint. The various waiting-maids soon came to hear that Madame Wang had awoke and they rushed in in a body.
"Go and tell your mother," Madame Wang thereupon said to Y Ch'uan-erh, "to fetch your elder sister away."
Chin Ch'uan-erh, at these words, speedily fell on her knees. With tears in her eyes: "I won't venture to do it again," she pleaded. "If you, Madame, wish to flog me, or to scold me do so at once, and as much as you like but don't send me away. You will thus accomplish an act of heavenly grace! I've been in attendance on your ladyship for about ten years, and if you now drive me away, will I be able to look at any one in the face?"
Though Madame Wang was a generous, tender-hearted person, and had at no time raised her hand to give a single blow to any servant-girl, she, however, when she accidentally discovered Chin Ch'uan-erh behave on this occasion in this barefaced manner, a manner which had all her lifetime been most reprehensible to her, was so overcome by passion that she gave Chin Ch'uan-erh just one slap and spoke to her a few sharp words. And albeit Chin Ch'uan-erh indulged in solicitous entreaties, she would not on any account keep her in her service. At length, Chin Ch'uan-erh's mother, Dame Pao, was sent for to take her away. Chin Ch'uan-erh therefore had to conceal her disgrace, suppress her resentment, and quit the mansion.
But without any further reference to her, we will now take up our story with Pao-y. As soon as he saw Madame Wang awake, his spirits were crushed. All alone he hastily made his way into the Ta Kuan garden. Here his attention was attracted by the ruddy sun, shining in the zenith, the shade of the trees extending far and wide, the song of the cicadas, filling the ear; and by a perfect stillness, not even broken by the echo of a human voice. But the instant he got near the trellis, with the cinnamon roses, the sound of sobs fell on his ear. Doubts and surmises crept into Pao-y's mind, so halting at once, he listened with intentness. Then actually he discerned some one on the off-side of the trellis. This was the fifth moon, the season when the flowers and foliage of the cinnamon roses were in full bloom. Furtively peeping through an aperture in the fence, Pao-y saw a young girl squatting under the flowers and digging the ground with a hair-pin she held in her hand. As she dug, she silently gave way to tears.
"Can it be possible," mused Pao-y, "that this girl too is stupid? Can she also be following P'in Erh's example and come to inter flowers? Why if she's likewise really burying flowers," he afterwards went on to smilingly reflect, "this can aptly be termed: 'Tung Shih tries to imitate a frown.' But not only is what she does not original, but it is despicable to boot. You needn't," he meant to shout out to the girl, at the conclusion of this train of thought, "try and copy Miss Lin's example." But before the words had issued from his mouth, he luckily scrutinised her a second time, and found that the girl's features were quite unfamiliar to him, that she was no menial, and that she looked like one of the twelve singing maids, who were getting up the plays. He could not, however, make out what rles she filled: scholars, girls, old men, women, or buffoons. Pao-y quickly put out his tongue and stopped his mouth with his hand. "How fortunate," he inwardly soliloquised, "that I didn't make any reckless remark! It was all because of my inconsiderate talk on the last two occasions, that P'in Erh got angry with me, and that Pao-ch'ai felt hurt. And had I now given them offence also, I would have been in a still more awkward fix!"
While wrapt in these thoughts, he felt much annoyance at not being able to recognise who she was. But on further minute inspection, he noticed that this maiden, with contracted eyebrows, as beautiful as the hills in spring, frowning eyes as clear as the streams in autumn, a face, with transparent skin, and a slim waist, was elegant and beautiful and almost the very image of Lin Tai-y. Pao-y could not, from the very first, make up his mind to wrench himself away. But as he stood gazing at her in a doltish mood, he realised that, although she was tracing on the ground with the gold hair-pin, she was not digging a hole to bury flowers in, but was merely delineating characters on the surface of the soil. Pao-y's eyes followed the hair-pin from first to last, as it went up and as it came down. He watched each dash, each dot and each hook. He counted the strokes. They numbered eighteen. He himself then set to work and sketched with his finger on the palm of his hand, the lines, in their various directions, and in the order they had been traced a few minutes back, so as to endeavour to guess what the character was. On completing the sketch, he discovered, the moment he came to reflect, that it was the character "Ch'iang," in the combination, 'Ch'iang Wei,' representing cinnamon roses.
"She too," pondered Pao-y, "must have been bent upon writing verses, or supplying some line or other, and at the sight now of the flowers, the idea must have suggested itself to her mind. Or it may very likely be that having spontaneously devised a couplet, she got suddenly elated and began, for fear it should slip from her memory, to trace it on the ground so as to tone the rhythm. Yet there's no saying. Let me see, however, what she's going to write next."
While cogitating, he looked once more. Lo, the girl was still tracing. But tracing up or tracing down, it was ever the character "Ch'iang." When he gazed again, it was still the self-same Ch'iang.
The one inside the fence fell, in fact, from an early stage, into a foolish mood, and no sooner was one 'Ch'iang,' finished than she started with another; so that she had already written several tens of them. The one outside gazed and gazed, until he unwittingly also got into the same foolish mood. Intent with his eyes upon following the movements of the pin, in his mind, he communed thus with his own thoughts: "This girl must, for a certainty, have something to say, or some unspeakable momentous secret that she goes on like this. But if outwardly she behaves in this wise, who knows what anguish she mayn't suffer at heart? And yet, with a frame to all appearances so very delicate, how could she ever resist much inward anxiety! Woe is me that I'm unable to transfer some part of her burden on to my own shoulders!"
In midsummer, cloudy and bright weather are uncertain. A few specks of clouds suffice to bring about rain. Of a sudden, a cold blast swept by, and tossed about by the wind fell a shower of rain. Pao-y perceived that the water trickling down the girl's head saturated her gauze attire in no time. "It's pouring," Pao-y debated within himself, "and how can a frame like hers resist the brunt of such a squall." Unable therefore to restrain himself, he vehemently shouted: "Leave off writing! See, it's pouring; you're wet through!"
The girl caught these words, and was frightened out of her wits. Raising her head, she at once descried some one or other standing beyond the flowers and calling out to her: "Leave off writing. It's pouring!" But as Pao-y was, firstly, of handsome appearance, and as secondly the luxuriant abundance of flowers and foliage screened with their boughs, thick-laden with leaves, the upper and lower part of his person, just leaving half of his countenance exposed to view, the maiden simply jumped at the conclusion that he must be a servant girl, and never for a moment dreamt that it might be Pao-y. "Many thanks, sister, for recalling me to my senses," she consequently smiled. "Yet is there forsooth anything outside there to protect you from the rain?"
This single remark proved sufficient to recall Pao-y to himself. With an exclamation of "Ai-yah," he at length became conscious that his whole body was cold as ice. Then drooping his head, he realised that his own person too was drenched. "This will never do," he cried, and with one breath he had to run back into the I Hung court. His mind, however, continued much exercised about the girl as she had nothing to shelter her from the rain.
As the next day was the dragon-boat festival, Wen Kuan and the other singing girls, twelve in all, were given a holiday, so they came into the garden and amused themselves by roaming everywhere and anywhere. As luck would have it, the two girls Pao-Kuan, who filled the rle of young men and Y Kuan, who represented young women, were in the I Hung court enjoying themselves with Hsi Jen, when rain set in and they were prevented from going back, so in a body they stopped up the drain to allow the water to accumulate in the yard. Then catching those that could be caught, and driving those that had to be driven, they laid hold of a few of the green-headed ducks, variegated marsh-birds and coloured mandarin-ducks, and tying their wings they let them loose in the court to disport themselves. Closing the court Hsi Jen and her playmates stood together under the verandah and enjoyed the fun. Pao-y therefore found the entrance shut. He gave a rap at the door. But as every one inside was bent upon laughing, they naturally did not catch the sound; and it was only after he had called and called, and made a noise by thumping at the door, that they at last heard. Imagining, however, that Pao-y could not be coming back at that hour, Hsi Jen shouted laughing: "who's it now knocking at the door? There's no one to go and open."
"It's I," rejoined Pao-y.
"It's Miss Pao-ch'ai's tone of voice," added She Yeh.
"Nonsense!" cried Ch'ing Wen. "What would Miss Pao-ch'ai come over to do at such an hour?"
"Let me go," chimed in Hsi Jen, "and see through the fissure in the door, and if we can open, we'll open; for we mustn't let her go back, wet through."
With these words, she came along the passage to the doorway. On looking out, she espied Pao-y dripping like a chicken drenched with rain.
Seeing him in this plight, Hsi Jen felt solicitous as well as amused. With alacrity, she flung the door wide open, laughing so heartily that she was doubled in two. "How could I ever have known," she said, clapping her hands, "that you had returned, Sir! Yet how is it that you've run back in this heavy rain?"
Pao-y had, however, been feeling in no happy frame of mind. He had fully resolved within himself to administer a few kicks to the person, who came to open the door, so as soon as it was unbarred, he did not try to make sure who it was, but under the presumption that it was one of the servant-girls, he raised his leg and give her a kick on the side.
"Ai-yah!" ejaculated Hsi Jen.
Pao-y nevertheless went on to abuse. "You mean things!" he shouted. "It's because I've always treated you so considerately that you don't respect me in the least! And you now go to the length of making a laughing-stock of me!"
As he spoke, he lowered his head. Then catching sight of Hsi Jen, in tears, he realised that he had kicked the wrong person. "Hallo!" he said, promptly smiling, "is it you who've come? Where did I kick you?"
Hsi Jen had never, previous to this, received even a harsh word from him. When therefore she on this occasion unexpectedly saw Pao-y gave her a kick in a fit of anger and, what made it worse, in the presence of so many people, shame, resentment, and bodily pain overpowered her and she did not, in fact, for a time know where to go and hide herself. She was then about to give rein to her displeasure, but the reflection that Pao-y could not have kicked her intentionally obliged her to suppress her indignation. "Instead of kicking," she remarked, "don't you yet go and change your clothes?"
Pao-y walked into the room. As he did so, he smiled. "Up to the age I've reached," he observed, "this is the first instance on which I've ever so thoroughly lost control over my temper as to strike any one; and, contrary to all my thoughts, it's you that happened to come in my way?"
Hsi Jen, while patiently enduring the pain, effected the necessary change in his attire. "I've been here from the very first," she simultaneously added, smilingly, "so in all things, whether large or small, good or bad, it has naturally fallen to my share to bear the brunt. But not to say another word about your assault on me, why, to-morrow you'll indulge your hand and star-beating others!"
"I did not strike you intentionally just now," retorted Pao-y.
"Who ever said," rejoined Hsi Jen, "that you did it intentionally! It has ever been the duty of that tribe of servant-girls to open and shut the doors, yet they've got into the way of being obstinate, and have long ago become such an abomination that people's teeth itch to revenge themselves on them. They don't know, besides, what fear means. So had you first assured yourself that it was they and given them a kick, a little intimidating would have done them good. But I'm at the bottom of the mischief that happened just now, for not calling those, upon whom it devolves, to come and open for you."
During the course of their conversation, the rain ceased, and Pao Kuan and Y Kuan had been able to take their leave. Hsi Jen, however, experienced such intense pain in her side, and felt such inward vexation, that at supper she could not put a morsel of anything in her mouth. When in the evening, the time came for her to have her bath, she discovered, on divesting herself of her clothes, a bluish bruise on her side of the size of a saucer and she was very much frightened. But as she could not very well say anything about it to any one, she presently retired to rest. But twitches of pain made her involuntarily moan in her dreams and groan in her sleep.
Pao-y did, it is true, not hurt her with any malice, but when he saw Hsi Jen so listless and restless, and suddenly heard her groan in the course of the night, he realised how severely he must have kicked her. So getting out of bed, he gently seized the lantern and came over to look at her. But as soon as he reached the side of her bed, he perceived Hsi Jen expectorate, with a retch, a whole mouthful of phlegm. "Oh me!" she gasped, as she opened her eyes. The presence of Pao-y startled her out of her wits. "What are you up to?" she asked.
"You groaned in your dreams," answered Pao-y, "so I must have kicked you hard. Do let me see!"
"My head feels giddy," said Hsi Jen. "My throat foul and sweet; throw the light on the floor!"
At these words, Pao-y actually raised the lantern. The moment he cast the light below, he discerned a quantity of fresh blood on the floor.
Pao-y was seized with consternation. "Dreadful!" was all he could say. At the sight of the blood, Hsi Jen's heart too partly waxed cold.
But, reader, the next chapter will reveal the sequel, if you really have any wish to know more about them.
Pao-y allows the girl Ch'ing Wen to tear his fan so as to afford her amusement. A wedding proves to be the result of the descent of a unicorn.
But to proceed. When she saw on the floor the blood, she had brought up, Hsi Jen immediately grew partly cold. What she had often heard people mention in past days 'that the lives of young people, who expectorate blood, are uncertain, and that although they may live long, they are, after all, mere wrecks,' flashed through her mind. The remembrance of this saying at once completely scattered to the winds the wish, she had all along cherished, of striving for honour and of being able to boast of glory; and from her eyes unwittingly ran down streams of tears.