A Dream of Red Mansions – Chapter 24

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Chapter 24

The Drunken Diamond Proves Himself

Generous and Gallant

An Ambitious Girl Loses Her Handkerchief

as an Enticement

Daiyu’s heart was touched, her thoughts were in a whirl, when some­one came up from behind and shoved her in the back asking:

“What are you doing here all on your own?”

Startled, she looked round. It was Xiangling.

“You stupid creature to frighten me so,” cried Daiyu. “Where have you sprung from?”

Xiangling giggled.

“I can’t find our young lady anywhere. Your Zijuan is looking for you too. She says the Second Mistress has sent you some tea. Let’s go back to your place, shall we?”

She took Daiyu by the hand and they went back to Bamboo Lodge, where they found two small flasks of new tea from the Palace sent over by Xifeng. The two girls sat down. If you ask what serious matters they discussed. These were merely the relative merits of different pieces of embroidery and tapestry. They also played a game of chess and read some passages from a book together before Xiangling took her leave.

But let us return to Baoyu. When Xiren fetched him back he discov­ered Yuanyang leaning over the couch in his outer room examining some of Xiren’s needlework.

“Where have you been?” she asked him. “The old lady is waiting for you. She wants you to go over to the other house to inquire after the Elder Master’s health. You had better change quickly and go.”

As Xiren went into the next room to fetch his clothes and boots, Baoyu sat on the edge of the couch and kicked off his shoes, waiting. He turned and noticed that Yuanyang was wearing a pink silk jacket, a sleeveless black satin jacket and a white silk sash. Her head, turned away from him, was bent over the needlework, and there was a flowered collar around her neck. Laying his cheek against the nape of the neck he inhaled her scent and could not resist stroking her, for her skin was just as white and smooth as Xiren’s. Re mischievously nestled close to her.

“Good sister, let me taste the rouge on your lips!”

With this smiling appeal he clung to her like sticky toffee.

“Xiren!” called Yuanyang. “Come and look at this. All these years you’ve been with him, yet you still haven’t taught him how to behave.”

Xiren, walking in with her arms full of clothes, protested to Baoyu: “I wear out my tongue talking, but you still carry on like this. What’s to become of you? If you go on in this way, you’ll make it impossible for us to stay here.”

She made him change quickly and go with Yuanyang to the front apart­ment. After seeing the Lady Dowager he went out to where his pages and horse were waiting; but just as he was about to mount, Jia Lian arrived back from his father’s house and, dismounting in front of Baoyu, exchanged a few words with him. At this point someone else came over to greet Baoyu too. This was a tall youth in his late teens with an oval face and intelligent, handsome appearance. But familiar though his face was. Baoyu could not remember his name or which branch of the clan he belonged to.

“Why are you staring at him like that?” asked Jia Lian. “Don’t you know Yun, the son of Fifth Sister-in-law who lives in the back lane? ”

“Of course. I can’t think how I forgot.” Baoyu asked after Yun’s mother and inquired his business.

Indicating Jia Lian, the young man said, “I’ve come to have a word with Second Uncle. ”

“You’ve grown very handsome since I saw you last.” Baoyu grinned. “You could almost be my son.

“For shame!” Jia Lian chortled. “Your son? He’s four or five years older than you”

Baoyu smiled.

“What age are you? ”

“Eighteen.”

Jia Yun had all his wits about him. He seized this chance to add: “As the proverb says. ‘A grandfather in the cradle may have a grandson who leans on a stick.’ I may be older than you but ‘The highest mountain can’t shut out the sun.’ These last few years since my father died I’ve had no one to instruct me properly. If you don’t think me too stupid to be your adopted son, Uncle Bao, that would be my great good fortune.”

“Hear that?” Jia Lian laughed. “It’s no joke adopting a son.” With that he went inside.

“If you’re free tomorrow,” said Baoyu to Yun, ‘lust drop in and see me. Don’t learn their sneaky ways. I’m busy now but come to my study tomorrow. We can have a good talk and I’ll show you round the Garden.”

He swung himself into the saddle then and his pages escorted him to Jia She’s house, where he found that his uncle had nothing worse than a cold. Having delivered his grandmother’s message he paid his own re­spects. Jia She stood up to reply to the Lady Dowager’s inquiries after his health, then ordered a servant to take Baoyu to his wife.

Baoyu went to the back, to Lady Xing’s apartment, and when she had risen to convey her respects to his grandmother he bowed on his own account. She made him sit beside her on the kang and asked after the rest of the family. While they sipped the tea she had ordered, Jia Cong came in to greet Baoyu.

“Did you ever see such a monkey?” asked Lady Xing. “Is that nanny of yours dead that she doesn’t tidy you up? With that grubby face you look a regular dunce, not like the son of a cultured family.”

Just then ha Huan and his nephew Jia Lan arrived together to pay their respects, and Lady Xing offered them chairs to sit on. But Huan so resented the sight of Baoyu sharing the same cushion with his aunt, who was fonding him and making much of him, that before long he signalled to Lan that they should leave. Lan had to comply, so they both got up to beg leave. Baoyu rose to go too, but Lady Xing stopped him with a smile.

“Just sit where you are. I’ve something else to say to you. ”

He had to resume his seat. She then told the two others:

“When you get back, give my regards to your mothers. I’m so dizzy from the rumpus the girls have raised here that I won’t keep you to dinner”

The two boys promised to do as she said and left.

“Did all the girls come?” asked Baoyu. “Where are they now?”

“After sitting here for a while they went off. They’re at the back somewhere or other.”

“You said you had something to tell me, aunt. What is it?”

“What have I got to say to you! It was only to ask you to stay for dinner with the girls. And I’ve something amusing to give you to take back.”

They chatted until it was time for the meat. A table and chairs were arranged, the table laid, and they had dinner with the girls. Then Baoyu took his leave of Jia She and went home with his sister and cousins. After bidding goodnight to the Lady Dowager and Lady Wang they dispersed to their own rooms to rest.

But let us return to Jia Yun, who had gone in to see Jia Lian. He asked him:

“Have you any job for me yet?”

“Something did turn up the other day, but your aunt begged me to let Jia Qin have it. However, she said there’s soon to be a lot of planting of flowers and trees in the Garden. As soon as that job comes up, she promises you can have it.”

After a short silence Jia Yun said: “I’ll just have to wait in that case. Please don’t tell my aunt that I came today to ask. I’ll mention it to her myself next time I see her. ”

“Why should I mention it? What time do I have to gossip? Tomorrow I’ve got to set off at the fifth watch to make the trip to Xingyi and back on the same day. Wait until the day after to come back for news­—but not before the first watch, I shan’t be free till then.” With that Jia Lian went inside to change his clothes.

On his way home from the Rong Mansion a scheme occurred to Jia Yun. He called on his maternal uncle Bu Shiren,1 who kept a perfumery from which he had just returned.

“What brings you here at such a late hour?” asked Bu after exchang­ing greetings with his nephew.

“I’ve a favour to ask you, uncle. I need some Borneo camphor and musk. Could you possibly let me have four ounces of each on credit? I’ll pay you by the Moon Festival without fail.”

“Don’t talk to me about credit.” His uncle smiled coldly. “Some time ago one of my assistants gave goods worth several taels of silver on credit to a relative, who stilt hasn’t paid up. We had to make good the loss between us. So we agreed never again to give credit to relatives or friends under pain of a twenty taels’ fine.

“In any case, those spices are in short supply. Even if you brought ready cash, a little shop like ours couldn’t let you have so much. We’d have to try to get you some elsewhere. That’s one thing.

“In the second place, you’re obviously up to no good but want these things to do something foolish with them. Now don’t go complaining that your uncle finds fault with you each time we meet! You young people have simply no sense. If you’d just think up some way to earn a few cash to keep yourself well fed and decently dressed, how pleased I should be!”

“You’re quite right,” uncle replied Jia Yun amiably. “When my father died I was too small to understand, but later my mother told me how grateful we should be to you for coming over to take things in hand and managing the funeral. And you know better than anyone else, uncle, that I didn’t have any property or land left after my father’s death which I squandered. Even the cleverest housewife can’t cook a meal without rice. What do you expect me to do? You’re lucky I’m not one of those thick-skinned people, for then I’d keep pestering you for three pecks of rice today, two pecks of beans tomorrow. What could you have done then, uncle?”

“Whatever your uncle has is yours for the asking, my boy. But as I keep telling your aunt, what worries me is that you won’t use your head. Your best bet is to go to the big mansion. If you can’t get to see the masters, pocket your pride and get on good terms with their stewards, and they may put some business in your way. The other day, out of town, I ran into the fourth son of your third uncle riding on a donkey with five carts behind him, taking forty of fifty novices to your family temple. His head is screwed on the right way, to get such a job.”

This lecture was too much for Jia Yun, who rose to leave.

“What’s the hurry?” asked his uncle. “Have a bite with us before you go.

“Are you crazy?” put in his wife before he had half finished. “I told you we’ve no rice left. All I’ve got for you is half a catty of noodles which I’m cooking for you now. Why pretend to be rich? If he stays he’ll only go hungry.”

“Just buy another half catty then,” said Bu.

“Yinjie!” his wife called to her daughter “Go and ask Mrs. Wang across the road to lend us twenty or thirty cash—we’ll pay her back tomorrow.”

But by this time Jia Yun, murmuring. “Don’t trouble,” had already made himself scarce.

He left his uncle’s house in a temper and was trudging home with lowered head, fuming over such shabby treatment, when he bumped into a drunkard. As Jia Yun started, the fellow swore:

“Are you blind, fuck you, charging into me like that?”

Before Jia Yun could get out of the way, the drunkard grabbed hold of him. Looking closer he saw that it was his neighbour Ni Er, a rowdy who lived on usury and his winnings in gambling-dens. He was always drinking and getting into fights. Having just collected some interest from one of his creditors, he was lurching drunkenly home when he bumped into Jia Yun. Spoiling for a fight, he raised a menacing fist.

“Hold on, old chap! It’s me.”

The voice sounded familiar Peering with bleary eyes, Ni Er recog­nized Jia Yun and let go of him. Staggering, he said with a smile:

“So it’s Master ha. Strike me dead! Where are you off to?”

“Don’t ask me. I’ve never been so snubbed in my life!”

“Never mind. Tell me who’s been bullying you. I’ll settle accounts with him for you. If anyone in the three streets or six lanes near by, no matter who he is, offends a neighbour of the Drunken Diamond, I’ll see to it that his relatives are scattered and his home destroyed.”

“Take it easy, old chap. Listen to me.” Jia Yun described how Bu had cold-shouldered him.

Ni Er was highly incensed.

“If he weren’t your uncle, wouldn’t I just blast him! How madden­ing! Now don’t worry. I’ve a few taels of silver here. If you want to buy something, just take it. On one condition though. All these years we’ve been neighbours, and everybody knows I’m a money-lender, yet you’ve never once asked for a loan. I don’t know whether you don’t want to dirty your hands having any dealings with a racketeer, or whether you’re afraid of getting involved, thinking my interest too high. If so, I’m not asking now for any interest on this loan. Not for an I.O.U. either But if you’re afraid you’ll be lowering yourself, I won’t presume to lend it. We can just go our different ways. ”

With that he produced a packet of silver from his pouch.

Jia Yun thought, “Ni Er may be a rascal but he’s open-handed and has the name of standing up boldly for his friends. It would be a mistake to annoy him by refusing. I’ll take his silver and later pay him back double.”

He said, “I know you’re a real sport, old chap. I did think of ap­proaching you, but was afraid you might ignore someone so useless, as all your friends are such bold and capable people. I thought if I asked for a loan you’d be bound to turn me down. But now since you’re so gener­ous I can’t refuse. I’ll send you an I. 0. U. when I get home.”

Ni Er bellowed with laughter

“How you talk! But I won’t hear of it,” he declared. “You spoke of ‘friends.’ Well then, how can I charge you interest? If I did, that wouldn’t be the act of a friend. Let’s cut the cackle. As you don’t look down on me and this is only a paltry sum—a mere fifteen taels thirty cents -take it to buy what you need. If you insist on writing an I. O. U. I won’t give you the silver but lend it to others whom I expect to pay interest.”

“All right,” said Jia Yun, accepting the sliver. “I’ll not write any I.O.U. So don’t blaze up!”

“What you’d just said wasn’t right,” Ni Er chuckled. “It’s dark now so I won’t invite you to have a drink. I have some business to see to. You’d better go back. I’ll trouble you to tell my family to lock up early and turn in, as I shan’t be home tonight. If they want me for anything urgent, our daughter can come and fetch me tomorrow morning. They’ll find me with the horse-dealer, Short-Legged Wang.” So saying, he reeled away.

Marvelling at this stroke of luck Jia Yun reflected, “Ni Er is certainly a character! But what if he’s only generous in his cups? Suppose he asks for a hundred per cent interest tomorrow?” This worried him for a while.

Then he decided, “Never mind, once that job comes my way I can pay him back double.”

He took the silver to a money shop to be weighed and was delighted to find that Ni Er was honest and it was indeed fifteen taels and 34.2 cents. He first went next-door and gave Ni Er’s message to his wife before going home. His mother, who was rolling thread on the kang, asked where he had been all day. For fear of vexing her he made no mention of going to see her brother.

“I was waiting for Uncle Lian in the west mansion,” he said. “Have you had your meal?”

“Yes, and I’ve kept you yours. ”

She told the maid to fetch it. It was already time to light the lamp, and after supper Jia Yun went straight to bed.

As soon as he was up and dressed the next morning, he went to a large perfumery outside the South Gate and bought camphor and musk, which he took to the Rong Mansion. Having first made sure that Jia Lian had indeed left, he went to the gate of his courtyard at the back. Some pages were sweeping the yard with tong-handled brooms. Presently Zhou Rui’s wife came out.

“Stop sweeping,” she told them. “The mistress is coming out.”

Jia Yun swiftly stepped forward to ask:

“Where is Second Aunt going?”

“The old lady has sent for her,” said Mrs. Zhou. “To cut out some clothes, I fancy.”

That same moment Xifeng emerged with a throng of attendants. Know­ing her weakness for flattery and ceremonial, Jia Yun stepped forward respectfully, saluted her with great deference, and inquired after her health.

Xifeng hardly glanced at him, however, merely asking as she walked on how his mother was and why she never called.

“She is not too well, aunt,” he replied. “She often thinks of you and would like to come, but she can’t get away.

Xifeng laughed.

“What a liar you are! You wouldn’t have said that if I hadn’t asked about her.”

“May lightning strike me if I dare to tie to my seniors!” protested Jia Yun. “Only last night she was speaking of you, aunt. She said, ‘Your aunt’s delicate yet look at all she has on her hands. I don’t know where she finds the energy to manage everything so well. Anyone less efficient would be quite worn out.'”

Xifeng beamed at this and involuntarily halted.

“Why pray, should you and your mother gossip about me like that behind my back?”

“The fact is that a very good friend of mine, who owns a perfumery, has bought the rank of an assistant sub-prefect and was recently ap­pointed to a post somewhere in Yunnan. Since he is taking the whole family with him, he’s decided to close the shop. He’s been going through his stock, giving some things away, selling others cheap, and presenting the more valuable stuff to relatives and friends. That’s how I acquired some Borneo camphor and musk. My mother and I agreed that if we tried to sell it we wouldn’t be able to get the proper price, because who is there willing to spend so much on such things? Even the richest fami­lies would only want a few grams at the most. And even if we gave the stuff away, we couldn’t think of anyone who deserves to use so much valuable perfume as these—in fact he may sell the stuff to someone else for next to nothing. Then I thought of you, aunt, and remembered the packets of money you’ve spent in the past on such things. This year, what with the Imperial Consort in the Palace and the Dragon-Boat Fes­tival coming, I’m sure you’ll be needing ten times the usual amount. So after thinking it over we decided the most appropriate thing to do was to make a present of it to you, aunt, as a token of esteem. This way it won’t be wasted.”

He took out a brocade-covered box and respectfully raised it in both hands to present it.

Xifeng, as it so happened, needed some festival gifts and had been thinking of buying some spices and aromatic herbs. Gratified and de­lighted by this unexpected gift and Jia Yun’s little speech, she told Fenger:

“Take my nephew’s present home and give it to Pinger”

Then to Jia Yun she said, “I see you have good sense. No wonder your uncle is always telling me how sensibly you talk and what tact you have.”

Jia Yun, hearing this, felt he was getting somewhere. He stepped closer “Has uncle been talking to you about me then?” he asked signifi­cantly.

Xifeng was tempted to tell him about the job of supervising tree-plant­ing which they had in mind for him, but was afraid he might take it the wrong way and imagine she was offering it in return for a few aromatics. So she refrained, saying not a word about it. And after a few casual remarks she went on to see the Lady Dowager. Jia Yun had to go home without having broached the subject.

As Baoyu had invited him the previous day to call on him in his study, after lunch he went back and made his way to Luminous Clouds Studio outside the ceremonial gate leading to the Lady Dowager’s apartments. He found Beiming having a game of chess with Chuyao and squabbling over a move. Four other pages, Yingchuan, Saohua, Tiaoyun and Banhe, were up on the roof robbing a bird’s nest. As Jia Yun entered the court­yard he stamped his foot.

“Up to your monkey-tricks again! Can’t you see a visitor’s come?”

Hearing this, all the pages scampered off. Jia Yun went into the study and took a seat.

“Has Master Bao been here today?” he asked.

“No, he hasn’t. If you want to talk to him, I’ll scout round and find out his whereabouts for you.” Beiming went out.

For the time it takes for a meal Jia Yun inspected the calligraphy, paintings and curios. Then, as Beiming had not returned, he looked round for the other pages; but they had all gone off to amuse themselves. He was feeling put out and bored when a sweet voice just outside the door called:

“Brother!”

Looking out he discovered a maid of sixteen or seventeen, a slender, neat, clever-looking girl. She was shrinking back at sight of Jia Yun when Beiming returned.

“Good,” he said. “I was looking for a messenger.

Jia Yun walked out to question the page, who told him:

“I waited for a long time, but nobody came out. This is one of the girls from Happy Red Court.” He turned to her “Be a good girl and tell him, will you, that the Second Master from the back lane has called.”

On learning that Jia Yun belonged to her masters’ clan, the maid did not avoid him as she had before but shot him one or two penetrating glances.

“Never mind about the back lane,” he joked. “Just tell him Yun has come.

The girl gave a faint smile.

“If you please, sir, I think you’d better go home and come back to-morrow, I’ll tell him this evening if I have a chance.”

“What do you mean?” asked Beiming.

“He missed his nap this afternoon, so he’s sure to dine early and won’t be coming here this evening. Are you going to make this gentle­man wait and go hungry? He’d much better go home now and come back tomorrow. Because even if someone promised to take a message, he mightn’t deliver it.”

The girl spoke so concisely and prettily that Jia Yun wanted to ask her name. But as she worked for Baoyu he thought better of it, simply re­marking:

“Right you are. I’ll come tomorrow.”

Beiming urged him to have a cup of tea before leaving.

“No thanks,” said Jia Yun. “I have some other business.” Walking off as he spoke, he looked back at the girl still standing there, and then made his way home.

The next day Jia Yun went back. In front of the main gate he ran into Xifeng on her way to the other house to pay her respects. She had just got into her carriage, but at sight of Jia Yun she ordered a servant to stop him and called to him with a smile through the carriage window:

“You’ve got a nerve, Yun, playing that trick on me! I see now why you gave me that present. You had a favour to ask. Yesterday your uncle told me you’d already approached him.”

“Please don’t bring that up, aunt,” he pleaded, smiling. “I’m sorry I ever asked him. If I’d know how things stood I’d have come to you in the first place, and it would all have been settled long ago. I didn’t know it was no use appealing to uncle.”

Xifeng laughed.

“No wonder! So it was after failing with him that you came to me yesterday.”

“That’s not fair, aunt. I had no such idea in my mind. If I had, wouldn’t I have appealed to you yesterday? But since you know about it now, I’ll bypass uncle and beg you, aunt, to show me some kindness.”

“What a roundabout way of doing things!” She smiled sarcastically. “You make it hard for me. If you’d told me earlier, this little business wouldn’t have taken so long. Some trees and flowers are to be planted in the Garden, and I was looking for someone to put in charge. If you’d spoken before, it could have been fixed up some time ago.”

“Well, you can put me in charge, aunt.”

Xifeng thought for a moment.

“I think better not. Suppose we wait until next New Year and give you the bigger job of buying fireworks and lanterns?”

“Let me have this job first, dear aunt. If I do all fight in this, you can give me the other later.”

“You do look ahead, don’t you?” She chuckled. “All right. But I wouldn’t have bothered if your uncle hadn’t put in a word for you. I shall be back after breakfast, so come about noon for the money and you can start your planting the day after tomorrow.”

She ordered the servants to start the carriage and left.

Overjoyed, Jia Yun went to Luminous Clouds Studio and asked for Baoyu, only to find he had gone out early that morning to call on the Prince of Beijing. He sat quietly there till noon when he heard that Xifeng was back, and then wrote a receipt and went to get the tally. He waited outside the courtyard while a servant announced him. Then Caiming came out and took his receipt. When the amount to be drawn and the date had been filled in, the page returned it to him with the tally. He saw to his delight that the sum entered was two hundred taels and went straight to the treasury to get the silver, then home to inform his mother, who re­joiced with him.

At the fifth watch the next morning, he sought out Ni Er to return his loan, and seeing that he was in funds Ni Er took the money.

Then Jia Yun took fifty taels to the house of Fang Chun, a gardener who lived outside the West Gate, from whom he bought trees.

To revert now to Baoyu. His invitation to Jia Yun that day had been no more than a rich lordling’s way of talking, and not being seriously meant was soon forgotten. Upon his return from the palace of the Prince of Beijing in the evening, he paid his respects to his grandmother and mother before going back to the Garden, where he took off his formal clothes and waited for his bath.

It so happened that Xiren had been asked over by Baochai to help braid some knot-buttons; Qiuwen and Bihen had gone to hurry the ser­vants bringing water; Tanyun had asked leave for her mother’s birthday; and Sheyue was ill at home. The other maids who did the rougher work, not expecting to be summoned, had gone off in search of their friends. Thus for a short while Baoyu was all alone. And precisely at this moment he wanted some tea. He called several times before two or three old nannies came in. These he hastily waved away saying:

“It’s all right. I don’t need you.”

Then the old women had to withdraw.

As none of the girls were about, Baoyu fetched a bowl himself and went to get the teapot.

“Don’t scald yourself, Master Bao. Let me do that,” called a voice from behind. A girl stepped forward and took the bowl from him.

Baoyu started.

“Where did you spring from?” he asked. “What a fright you gave me!”

Handing him the tea she answered: “I was in the back yard. Didn’t you hear me come in by the back door, Master Bao?”

Baoyu sized her up as he sipped his tea. Her clothes were by no means new, but with her fine black hair gathered in a knot, her oval face and her trim, slender figure, she looked altogether a most sweet, pretty girl.

“Do you work here?” he asked with a smile.

“Yes,” she answered.

“How is it, in that case, I’ve never seen you?”

The maid laughed mockingly.

“There are plenty of us you haven’t seen. I’m not the only one by any means. How could you know me? I don’t fetch and carry for you, or wait on you personally.”

“Why not?”

“That’s asking! But I’ve something to report, sin Yesterday a young gentleman called Yun came to see you. I told Beiming to send him away as I thought you were busy, and asked him to come back this morning. But by then you’d already gone to call on the prince.”

Just at this moment Qiuwen and Bihen staggered back, laughing and chatting, holding up their skirts, a bucket between them from which the water was splashing. This maid hurried to relieve them of their load.

“You’ve wet my skirt,” Qiuwen complained to Bihen.

“You trod on my shoe!” Bihen retorted.

Looking at this girl who had appeared so abruptly, they saw it was Xiaohong. Both put down the bucket in surprise and hurried in. They were very put out to find Baoyu on his own. As soon as they had pre­pared his bath and helped him undress, they closed the door behind them and went round again to the back to find Xiaohong.

“What were you doing in there just now?” they demanded.

“I hadn’t been in,” she said. “I couldn’t find my handkerchief, so] was looking for it at the back when Master Bao called for tea. As none of you sisters was about, I went in to pour it for him. And that’s when you turned up.”

Qiuwen spat in her face.

“Shameless slut! I told you to go and hurry them with the water, but you said you were busy and made us go instead. Then you seized this chance to wait on him here yourself. You’re making your way up, aren’t you? Think we can’t keep up with you, eh? Have a look at yourself in a mirror. Are you fit to serve Master Pao tea?”

Bihen chimed in: “Tomorrow we’ll tell the others that if he wants tea or water or anything, we needn’t stir—she’ll do it.”

“The rest of us may just as well clear oft leaving her on her own here.”

They were laying into Xiaohong in turn when an old nanny arrived with a message from Xifeng.

“Someone’s bringing gardeners tomorrow to plant trees, so you must watch out. Don’t go sunning your clothes and skirts all over the place.

All the artificial hills will be screened off. You’re not to go running wild.”

“Who’ll be in charge of the workmen?” asked Qiuwen.

“Some Master Yun from the back lane,” was the answer

The name meant nothing to Qiuwen and Bihen, who put some other questions; but Xiaohong knew it must be the man she had met the day before in the study outside.

Now Xiaohong’s family name was Lin and her childhood name was Hongyu (Red Jade): but because “yu” jade) came in the names Daiyu and Baoyu she was called Xiaohong instead. Her family had served the Jias for generations, and her father was now in charge of various farms and properties outside. Xiaohong was sixteen this year. When first sent into Grand View Garden she had been assigned to Happy Red Court, which was pleasantly quiet at the time. But after the girls and Baoyu were commanded to move there to live and these rooms were taken by him, simple as Xiaohong was, with her good looks she was foolishly ea­ger to climb up in the world. She had long been looking for a chance to attract Baoyu’s attention, but his other attendants were too smart to al­low her to put herself forward. Today her opportunity had come, but her hopes had been dashed by the spitefulness of Qiuwen and Bihen. She was feeling most disgruntled when the old nanny mentioned that Jia Yun would be coming, and that put a new idea into her head. She went deject­edly back to her room and lay down to think it oven. As she tossed and turned someone called softly through the window:

“Xiaohong! I’ve found your handkerchief for you.”

She ran out to look. It was no other than Jia Yun. With a blush of confusion she asked:

“Where did you find it sir?”

Jia Yun laughed.

“Come here and I’ll tell you.”

He grabbed for her. She turned frantically and fled, but stumbled over the threshold and woke with a start. So it was only a dream!

If you want to know the upshot, read the next chapter

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Discover the wonders of China through studying abroad - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand your horizons, immerse yourself in a rich and diverse culture, and gain a world-class education.

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