A Dream of Red Mansions – Chapter 29


Chapter 29

Favourites of Fortune Pray for

Better Fortune

An Absurd, Loving Girl Falls

Deeper in Love

Baoyu was so absorbed by his thoughts that when Daiyu flicked his eyes with her handkerchief, he gave a sudden start.

“Who’s that?” he exclaimed.

She shook her head laughingly.

“Sorry, a slip of the hand. Cousin Baochai wanted to see the silly goose, and while pointing it out to her I hit you by mistake.”

Baoyu rubbed his eyes and bit back the retort which was on the tip of his tongue.

Then Xifeng arrived and, alluding in the course of conversation to the Taoist mass to be held at Ethereal Abbey on the first of the next month, she urged the young people to go there to watch the operas.

“It’s too hot for me,” objected Baochai. “Besides, there aren’t any operas I haven’t seen. I’m not going.”

“It’s cool there with tall buildings on either side,” countered Xifeng. “If we’re going I shall send servants a few days in advance to clear out the Taoist priests and clean the place up, then screen it off and close it to the general public. It will be rather pleasant then. I’ve already told Lady Wang. If you won’t go I mean to go alone. Things have been so boring recently; besides, even when we have shows at home, I can’t watch them in comfort.”

When the Lady Dowager heard of this she said, “In that case, I’ll go along with you.”

“If our Old Ancestress is going as well,” cried Xifeng, “so much the better — only I shan’t be free to enjoy myself.”

“I’ll sit in the main balcony and you can watch from one of the side ones, will that suit you? Then you won’t have to dance attendance on me.

“See how our Old Ancestress dotes on me!” Xifeng quipped.

“You must go, and your mother too,” said the Lady Dowager to Baochai. “If you stayed at home you’d only sleep the whole day long.”

Then Baochai had to agree.

The old lady sent a maid to invite Aunt Xue and to notify Lady Wang on the way that she meant to take the girls. Lady Wang had already excused herself on the grounds that she was unwell and expecting word from Yuanchun. She received this message with a smile and the com­ment:

“What good spirits she’s in. Go and tell them in the Garden that any of the young ladies who would like an outing may accompany the old lady on the first.”

Those most excited by this news were the young maids who normally had no chance to cross the threshold, all of whom longed to go. If their mistresses were disinclined to stir they tried in every way to persuade them, to such effect that Li Wan and the rest all agreed to the trip. This pleased the Lady Dowager even more. Meanwhile servants had been sent to make everything ready.

When the first of the fifth month arrived, the road before the Rong Mansion was thronged with carriages, sedan-chairs, attendants and horses. As this mass had been paid for by the Imperial Consort and the Lady Dowager was going in person to offer incense, and as moreover it was just before the Double Fifth Festival, all the preparations were on a more lavish scale than usual.

Presently the ladies of the house emerged. The old lady’s large se­dan-chair had eight bearers; those of Li Wan, Xifeng and Aunt Xue, four apiece. The carriage shared by Baochai and Daiyu was gay with a green awning, pearl-tassels and designs of the Eight Precious Things; that shared by the three Jia girls had crimson wheels and an ornamented covering.

Behind them followed the Lady Dowager’s maids Yuanyang, Yingwu, Hupo and Zhenzhu; Daiyu’s maids Zijuan, Xueyan and Chunxian; Baochai’s maids Yinger and Wenxing; Yingchun’s maids Siqi and Xiuju; Tanchun’s maids Daishu and Cuimo; Xichun’s maids Ruhua and Caiping; and Aunt Xue’s maids Tongxi and Tonggui.

They were also accompanied by Xiangling and her maid Zhener; Li Wan’s maids Suyun and Biyue; Xifeng’s maids Pinger, Fenger and Xiaohong; and Lady Wang’s maids Jinchuan and Caiyun, who because they wanted to go were attending on Xifeng today.

Dajie and her wet-nurse rode in another carriage with other maids.

In addition there were two other maids and some old nurses from the different apartments, as well as some stewards’ wives. The whole street was nearly hidden from sight by all their conveyances. Even after the Lady Dowager’s sedan-chair had gone a considerable distance, these attendants were still mounting their carriages at the gate, where a babel of voices was heard:

“I don’t want you in with me.”

“Look out! you’re sitting on my lady’s things.”

“Don’t tread on my flowers!”

“You’ve gone and broken my fan.”

There was no end to their noisy talk and laughter. Zhou Rui’s wife went back and forth to remonstrate:

“Now, girls, don’t make such laughing-stocks of yourselves out in the street.”

She had to repeat this several times to make them quiet down, by which time the front part of the retinue had reached the abbey gate. And as Baoyu rode up on horseback before the Lady Dowager’s sedan-chair, spectators lined the street.

As they neared the abbey gate, they heard the peal of bells and the roll of drums. Abbot Zhang in his robes of office, holding a tablet, was waiting with his priests by the roadside to welcome them. The Lady Dowager’s sedan-chair had just been borne through the gate when, at sight of the clay images of gods guarding the temple gate, those of two messenger gods — one with eyes able to see a thousand ii, the other with ears able to catch each breath of rumour — together with local tutelary gods, she ordered her bearers to halt. Jia Zhen and the young men of the family advanced to receive her. And Xifeng, knowing that Yuanyang and the others were too far behind to help the old lady alight, got down from her own chair to do this. As she did so, an acolyte of twelve or thirteen, holding a case of scissors for cutting the candle-wicks, came darting out to see the fun and ran ~l tilt into her. She boxed his ears so hard that he pitched to the ground.

“Look out where you’re going, little bastard!” she swore.

Too frightened to pick up his scissors, the boy scrambled to his feet to run outdoors. Just then Baochai and the other girls were dismounting from their carriages, escorted by a multitude of matrons and stewards’ wives. At sight of the little fugitive, the attendants shouted:

“Catch him! Beat him!”

“What’s happened?” asked the Lady Dowager.

Jia Zhen hurried over to make inquiries, while Xifeng gave the old lady her arm.

“It’s an acolyte who trims the wicks,” she explained. “He didn’t get out of the way in time and was rushing wildly about.”

“Bring him here. Don’t frighten him,” the Lady Dowager ordered. “Children of humble families are well sheltered by their parents, they have never seen anything so grand before. It would be too bad to frighten him out of his wits — his father and mother would never get over it.” She told Jia Zhen, “Go and bring him gently here.”

Jia Zhen had to drag the boy over. His scissors now in one hand, trembling from head to foot, he fell on his knees. The old lady made Jia Zhen help him up.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “How old are you?”

But he was speechless with fright.

“Poor little thing!” she exclaimed, then turned to Jia Zhen. “Take him away, Zhen, and give him some cash to buy sweetmeats. Don’t let any­one bully him.”

Jia Zhen assented and led the boy away, while the Lady Dowager moved on with her train to see the different shrines.

The pages outside had just observed them enter the third gate when out came Jia Zhen with the acolyte and ordered them to take him away, give him a few hundred cash and not illtreat him. Several servants promptly came forward and led him off.

Standing on the steps Jia Zhen demanded, “Where is the steward?”

All the pages shouted in unison, “Steward!”

At once Lin Zhixiao came running over, holding on his cap with one hand.

“Although this is a large place,” Jia Zhen told him, “there are more people here than we expected. Keep those you need in this courtyard, send those you don’t need to the other, and post some boys at the two main gates and side gates ready to carry out orders and run errands. You know, don’t you, that all the ladies have come today, so not a single outsider must be allowed in.”

“Yes, sir. Right, sir. Very good, sir,” agreed Lin Zhixiao hastily.

“You may go. Wait! Why isn’t Rong here?”

While he was still speaking Jia Rong hurried out from the bell-tower, buttoning his clothes.

“Look at him,” sneered Jia Zhen. “While I swelter here he finds somewhere to cool off.”

He ordered the servants to spit at him, and one of the pages spat in Jia Rong’s face.

“Ask him what he means by it,” ordered Jia Zhen.

So the page asked Jia Rong, “If His Lordship can stand the heat, why should you go to cool off?”

Jia Rong, his arms at his sides, dared not utter a word.

This had struck fear into Jia Yun, Jia Qin and Jia Ping; and even Jia Huang, Jia Bin and Jia Qiong promptly put on their caps and one by one edged forward from the shade at the foot of the wall.

“What are you standing there for?” Jia Zhen snapped at his son. “Hurry up and gallop home to tell your mother and wife that the old lady and all the young ladies are here. They should come at once and wait on them.”

Jia Rong ran off shouting repeatedly for a horse. He grumbled: “Why was this not thought of before? Now I’m the one to take the brunt.” Then he swore at a page, “Are your hands tied that you can’t bring me a horse?”

He would have sent a page in his place, if not for fear this might be discovered later. As it was, he had to ride back to town himself.

But to return to Jia Zhen. As he was turning back to the hall he found Zhang the Taoist standing beside him.

“In view of my special position I ought to attend the ladies inside,” the priest observed with a smile. “But it’s such a hot day, with so many young ladies here too, that I don’t like to presume without your permis­sion. I’d better wait here in case the old lady may want me to show her round.”

Jia Zhen knew that though this Taoist had been the Duke of Rongguo’s substitute,1 later he had been made Chief Warder of the Taoist Script, with the title “Saint of the Great Illusion” verbally conferred by the pre­vious Emperor, and now being Keeper of the Taoist Seal and entitled “Man of Final Truth” by the Emperor he was addressed as “Immortal” by nobles and officials alike. It would not do to slight him. Besides, during his frequent visits to the two mansions he had already made the acquain­tance of all the ladies there, both young and old.

So Jia Zhen responded with a smile, “What sort of talk is this among friends? Stop it at once or I shall pull out your beard. Come along in with me.

Laughing heartily the Taoist followed him in.

Jia Zhen found the Lady Dowager and with a bow informed her:

“Grandfather Zhang has come to pay his respects.”

“Bring him here,” she rejoined at once.

Jia Zhen led in the priest, chortling.

“Buddha of Infinite Longevity!” he exclaimed. “I hope the Old An­cestress has been enjoying good fortune, long life, health and peace, and that all the ladies and young ladies have been happy too. I haven’t called on you to pay my respects, but Your Ladyship looks in better health than ever. ”

“And are you well, Old Immortal?” she responded with a smile.

“Thanks to my share in your good fortune, yes. I keep feeling con­cerned about your grandson, though. How has he been keeping all this time? Not long ago, on the twenty-sixth of last month, we celebrated the birthday of the Prince who Shades the Sky. As few people would be coming and everything was quite clean, I sent to invite Master Bao to come; but they told me he wasn’t at home.”

“It’s true, he wasn’t.”

The old lady called for her grandson.

Baoyu, just back from the privy, hurriedly stepped forward to say, “How do you do, Grandad Zhang?”

The priest took him in his arms and asked after his health.

“Yes,” he remarked to the Lady Dowager, “he looks as if he’s put­ting on weight now.”

“He may look all right but he’s really delicate. And his father is ruin­ing his health, the way he keeps the boy poring over his books.”

“I’ve seen some of his calligraphy and poems in different places recently. They’re so remarkably good I can’t understand why His Lord­ship should still complain he’s idle. I’d say he’s doing all right.” Then, with a sigh, the old Taoist observed, “To me, with his face and figure, his bearing and way of talking, Master Bao seems the image of the old duke.” Tears welled from his eyes as he spoke.

The old lady was painfully affected too.

“You’re right,” she agreed. “Of all my sons and grandsons, Baoyu is the only one who takes after his grandfather.”

The priest then remarked to Jia Zhen, “Of course, sir, your generation were born too late to see the duke. I don’t suppose even Lord She and Lord Zheng remember too well what he looked like.” He burst out laugh­ing again before turning back to the Lady Dowager. “The other day in a certain family I saw a young lady of fifteen, a pretty girl. It seems to me time to arrange a match for the young master. And that young lady would do, as far as looks, intelligence and family go. But not knowing how Your Ladyship feels, I didn’t like to do anything rash. I can go and broach the subject if Your Ladyship gives the word.”

“A bonze told us this boy isn’t fated to marry too early,” she replied. “So we’ll wait until he’s older to settle things. But by all means keep your eyes open. Riches and rank are immaterial. Only if you find a girl pretty enough, come and let us know. Even if the family’s poor it doesn’t matter, we can always let them have a few taels of silver. But good looks and a sweet dispostition are hard to find.”

At this point Xifeng joined in with a smile: “Grandfather Zhang, you still haven’t brought our daughter her new talisman, yet you had the nerve to send round the other day to ask for yellow satin. And I didn’t like to make you lose face by not giving it.”

Zhang the Taoist roared with laughter.

“My eyes are so dim, I didn’t notice you, madam, and haven’t thanked

you~ The talisman was ready long ago and I was meaning to send it, but when Her Highness ordered this mass to be held I forgot. It’s still before the image of Buddha. I’ll go and get it.”

He hurried off to the main hall, returning presently with a talisman on a tray covered with a red silk sutra wrapper with a dragon design. As Dajie’s nurse took this from him, he held out his arms for the child.

“Why didn’t you bring it in your hands?” Xifeng wanted to know. “Why use a tray?”

“My hands are too dirty, madam. A tray seemed cleaner.”

“You gave me quite a turn when you brought in that tray,” she teased. “I didn’t know you had the talisman on it, I thought you’d come to ask for donations.”

This set the whole party laughing. Even Jia Zhen could not suppress a smile.

“What a monkey you are!” cried the Lady Dowager turning to Xifeng. “Aren’t you afraid of going to the Tongue-Cutting Hell?”

“I’ve done him no harm,” she countered. “Why is he always warn­ing me that unless I do more good deeds I shan’t live long?”

Zhang the Taoist chuckled.

“I brought the tray for two reasons,” he explained. “Not to collect donations, but to borrow Master Bao’s jade to show my Taoist friends and disciples.”

“If that’s the case,” said the Lady Dowager, “there’s no reason why an old man like you should run around. Take Baoyu out to show it to them all, then send him back. Wouldn’t that save trouble?”

“No, Your Ladyship doesn’t understand. I may be more than eighty, but thanks to your shared good fortune I’m hale and hearty; and there are so many of them out there that the place stinks. Master Bao, not being used to this heat, might be over-powered by the stench. And that would be too bad.”

Accordingly the old lady told Baoyu to take off his Jade of Spiritual Understanding and put it on the tray. Zhang the Taoist laid it reverently on the silk and carried the tray respectfully out with both hands.

For their part, the Lady Dowager and her party went on strolling round the temple. They were climbing to the upper storey of one building when

Jia Zhen reported that Grandad Zhang had brought back the jade. As he spoke, Zhang appeared with the tray.

“Everyone felt most obliged to me for the chance to see Master Bao’s jade, which they think most wonderful,” he declared. “They’ve nothing else worth offering, so they’ve sent these Taoist amulets as tokens of their respect. If Master Bao thinks they’re nothing special, he can keep them as toys or give them away, just as he pleases.”

The Lady Dowager saw in the tray several dozen amulets of gold and jade engraved with the inscriptions “May All Your Wishes Come True” and “Eternal Peace.” Each was studded with pearls or jewels and finely carved.

“This won’t do,” she expostulated. “How can priests afford such things? It’s quite uncalled for. We can’t possibly accept them.”

“These are just a small token of their esteem. I couldn’t stop them,” he said. “If Your Ladyship won’t accept them, they’ll think you look down on me and don’t consider me as your protege.”

So she had to tell a maid to take the gifts.

“Since Grandad Zhang won’t let us refuse, and these things are no use to me, madam,” said Baoyu, “why not let my pages carry them out with me now to distribute them to the poor?”

“That’s a good idea,” agreed his grandmother.

But Zhang the Taoist immediately objected, “That’s a charitable thought, Master Bao; but even if these things are of little value, some of them are well made. They’d be wasted on beggars, who’d have no use for them. If you want to help the poor, why not give them money in­stead?”

“All right,” said Baoyu. “We’ll keep them and distribute some alms this evening.”

Thereupon the priest withdrew, while the Lady Dowager and her party went upstairs to sit in the main balcony, Xifeng and her companions occu­pying that to the east. The maids, in the west balcony, took turns waiting on their mistesses.

Presently Jia Zhen came to report that lots had been drawn before the shrine for the operas, and the first was to be The White Serpent.

“What’s the story?” asked the old lady.

“It’s about the First Emperor of Han who killed a serpent, then founded the dynasty. The second is Every Son a High Minister.”2

“So that’s the second?” The Lady Dowager nodded, smiling. “Well, if this is the wish of the gods, what must be must be. And what’s the third?”

“The Dream of the Southern Tributary State. “3

At this she made no comment. Jia Zhen withdrew to prepare the written prayers, burn incense and order the actors to start. But no more of this.

Baoyu, seated next to his grandmother upstairs, told one of the maids to bring him the tray of gifts. Having put on his own jade again he rum­maged through his presents, showing them one by one to the old lady. Her eye was struck by a gold unicorn decorated with turquoise enamel, which she picked up.

“I’m sure I’ve seen something like this on one of the girls,” she remarked.

“Cousin Xiangyun has one like that, only a little smaller,” Baochai told her.

“So that’s it!” exclaimed the Lady Dowager.

“All this time she’s been staying with us, how come I’ve never no­ticed it?” asked Baoyu.

“Cousin Baochai’s observant,” chuckled Tanchun. “She never for­gets anything either.”

“She’s not so observant about other things,” remarked Daiyu cuttingly. “But she’s most observant about other people’s trinkets.”

Baochai turned away and pretended not to have heard.

As soon as Baoyu knew that Xiangyun had a unicorn too, he picked this one up and slipped it into his pocket. Then, afraid people might see through him, he glanced surreptitiously round. The only one paying any attention was Daiyu, who was nodding at him with a look of speculation in her eyes. Embarrassed by this, he took the unicorn out again and showed it to her.

“This is rather fun,” he said with a smile. “I’ll keep it for you till we get home, then put it on a cord for you to wear. ”

Daiyu tossed her head.

“I don’t fancy it.”

“If you really don’t, in that case I’ll keep it for myself.” He put it away again.

Before he could say more, Madam You and Rong’s second wife — Jia Zhen’s wife and daughter-in-law — arrived to pay their respects.

“You shouldn’t have come,” protested the old lady. “I’m just out for a little jaunt.”

The next second it was announced that messengers had come from General Feng. For as soon as Feng Ziying heard that the Jia family were celebrating a mass in the abbey he had prepared gifts of pigs, sheep, incense, candles and sweetmeats and had them sent along. The moment Xifeng knew this she hurried over to the main balcony.

“Aiya!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands. “I wasn’t prepared for this. We just looked on this as an outing, but they’ve sent offerings under the impression that we’re making a serious sacrifice of it. It’s all our old lady’s fault. Now I shall have to prepare some tips.”

That same instant up come two stewards’ wives from the Feng fam­ily. And before they had left more presents arrived from Vice-Minister Zhao, to be followed in quick succession by gifts from all their relatives and friends who had heard that the ladies of the Jia family were holding a service in the abbey.

The Lady Dowager began to regret the whole expedition.

“This isn’t a regular sacrifice,” she said. “We just came out for fun, but we’ve put them to all this trouble.”

So after watching only one performance she went home that same afternoon and refused to go back the next day.

“Why not go the whole hog?” Xifeng reasoned. “Since we’ve al­ready put everybody out, we may as well amuse ourselves again today.”

But Baoyu had been sulking ever since Zhang the Taoist broached the subject of his marriage to his grandmother. He was still fulminating against the priest and puzzling other people by muttering: “I never want to set eyes on him again.” As for Daiyu she had been suffering since her return from a touch of the sun. For these reasons the old lady remained ada­mant. When Xifeng saw that she would not go, she took some others back with her to the abbey.

Baoyu was so worried on Daiyu’s account that he would not touch his food and kept going over to find out how she was. Daiyu, for her part, was worried about him.

“Why don’t you go and see the shows?” she asked. “Why should you stay at home?”

The Taoist’s officiousness still rankled with Baoyu, and when Daiyu, said this he thought: “I could forgive others for not understanding me, but now even she is making fun of me.” So his resentment increased a hun­dredfold. He wouldn’t have flared up had it been anyone else, but Daiyu’s behaving this way was a different matter. His face clouded over.

“All right, all right,” he said sullenly. “We’ve known each other all these years in vain.”

“I know that too.” She laughed sarcastically. “I’m not like those others who own things which make them a good match for you. ”

He went up to her then and demanded to her face, “Does this mean you really want to invoke Heaven and Earth to destroy me?” Before she could fathom his meaning he went on, “Yesterday I took an oath because of this, and today you provoke me again. If Heaven and Earth destroy me, what good will it do you?”

Daiyu remembered their previous conversation and realized she had blundered. She was conscience-stricken and frantic.

“If I wish you harm, may Heaven and Earth destroy me too,” she sobbed. “Why take on like this? I know. When Zhang the Taoist spoke of your marriage yesterday, you were afraid he might prevent the match of your choice. And now you’re working your temper off on me.”

Now Baoyu had always been deplorably eccentric. Since childhood, moreover, he had been intimate with Daiyu, finding her a kindred spirit. Thus now that he knew a little more and had read some improper books, he felt none of the fine girls he had seen in the families of relatives and friends fit to hold a candle to her. He had long since set his heart on having her, but could not admit as much. So whether happy or angry, he used every means to test her secretly.

And Daiyu, being rather eccentric too, would disguise her feelings to test him in return.

Thus each concealed his or her real sentiments to sound the other out.

The proverb says, “When false meets false, the truth will out.” So inevi­tably, in the process, they kept quarrelling over trifles.

So now Baoyu was reflecting. “I can forgive others not understand­ing me, but you ought to know you’re the only one I care for. Yet instead of comforting me you only taunt me. It’s obviously no use my thinking of you every minute of the day — you’ve no place for me in your heart.” To tell her this, however, was beyond him.

As for Daiyu, she was reflecting, “I know I’ve a place in your heart. Naturally you don’t take that vicious talk about gold matching jade seri­ously, but think of me seriously instead. Even if I raise the subject, you should take it perfectly calmly to show that it means nothing to you, that the one you really care for is me. Why get so worked up at the mention of gold and jade? This shows you’re thinking about them all the time. You’re afraid I suspect this when I mention them, so you put on a show of being worked up — just to fool me.

In fact, to start with their two hearts were one, but each of them was so hyper-sensitive that their longing to be close ended in estrangement.

Now Baoyu was telling himself, “Nothing else matters to me so long as you’re happy. Then I’d gladly die for you this very instant. Whether you know this or not, you can at least feel that in my heart you’re close to me and not distant.”

Daiyu meanwhile was thinking, “Just take good care of yourself. When you’re happy, I’m happy too. Why should you be upset because of me? You should know that if you’re upset, so am I. It means you won’t let me be close to you and want me to keep at a distance.”

So their mutual concern for each other resulted in their estrangement. But as it is hard to describe all their secret thoughts, we shall have to content ourselves with recording their actions.

Those words “the match of your choice” infuriated Baoyu. Too choked with rage to speak, he tore the jade from his neck and dashed it to the floor.

“You rubbishy thing!” he cried, gnashing his teeth. “I’1l smash you to pieces and have done with it.”

The jade was so hard, however, that no damage was done. So he looked around for something with which to smash it.

Daiyu was already weeping.

“Why destroy that dumb object?” she sobbed. “Better destroy me instead.”

Zijuan and Xueyan dashed in to stop this quarrel. Seeing Baoyu ham­mering at the jade they tried to snatch it away from him but failed. And since this was more serious than usual they had to send for Xiren, who hurried in and managed to rescue the stone.

Baoyu smiled bitterly.

“I can smash what’s mine, can’t I? What business is it of yours?”

Xiren had never before seen him so livid with rage, his whole face contorted.

“Because you have words with your cousin is no reason to smash this up,” she said coaxingly, taking his hand. “Suppose you broke it, think how bad she’d feel.”

This touched Daiyu’s heart, yet it only made her more wretched to think that Baoyu had less consideration for her than Xiren. She sobbed even more bitterly, so distraught that she threw up the herbal medicine she had just taken. Zijuan hastily brought her a handkerchief which soon was completely soaked through. Xueyan meanwhile massaged her back.

“No matter how angry you are, miss, do think of your health!” Zijuan urged. “You were feeling a little better after the medicine; it’s this tiff with Master Bao that’s made you retch. If you fall ill, how upset Master Bao will be.”

This touched Baoyu’s heart, yet also struck him as proof that Daiyu had less consideration for him than Zijuan. But now Daiyu’s cheeks were flushed and swollen. Weeping and choking, her face streaked with tears and sweat, she looked most fearfully frail. The sight filled him with com­punction.

“I should never have argued with her and got her into this state,” he scolded himself. “I can’t even suffer instead of her.” He, too, shed tears.

Xiren’s heart ached to see how bitterly both of them were weeping. She felt Baoyu’s hands. They were icy cold. She wanted to urge him not to cry, but feared that bottling up his resentment would be bad for him; on the other hand, comforting him might seem like slighting Daiyu. Thinking that tears might calm them all, she wept in sympathy.

Zijuan, who had cleaned up and was gently fanning Daiyu, was so affected by the sight of the three of them weeping in silence that she had to put a handkerchief to her own eyes.

So all four of them wept in silence until Xiren, forcing a smile, said to Baoyu:

“Just because of the tassel on your jade, if not for any other reason, you shouldn’t quarrel with Miss Lin.”

At this Daiyu forgot her nausea and rushed over to snatch the jade, seizing a pair of scissors to cut off the tassel. Xiren and Zijuan intervened too late to save it.

“All my work for nothing,” sobbed Daiyu. “He doesn’t care for it. He can get someone else to make him a better one.”

Xiren hastily took the jade from her.

“Why do that?” she protested. “It’s my fault. I should have held my tongue.”

“Go ahead and cut it up,” Baoyu urged Daiyu. “I shan’t wear it anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”

During this commotion, some old nurses had bustled off without their knowing to inform the Lady Dowager and Lady Wang. For having heard Daiyu crying and vomiting and Baoyu threatening to smash his jade, they did not want to be held responsible should any serious trouble come of it. Their flurried, earnest report so alarmed the old lady and Lady Wang that both came to the Garden to see what dreadful thing had happened. Xiren was frantic and blamed Zijuan for disturbing their mistresses, while Zijuan held Xiren to blame.

When the Lady Dowager and Lady Wang found both the young people quiet and were told there was nothing amiss, they vented their anger on their two chief maids.

“Why don’t you look after them properly?” they scolded. “Can’t you do something when they start quarrelling?”

The two maids had to listen meekly to a long lecture, and peace was only restored when the old lady took Baoyu away.

The next day, the third of the month, was Xue Pan’s birthday, and the whole Jia family was invited to a feast and theatricals. Baoyu had not seen Daiyu since he offended her and was feeling too remorseful and depressed to enjoy any show. He pleaded illness, therefore, as an excuse not to go.

Daiyu was not seriously ill, simply suffering from the heat. When she heard of Baoyu’s refusal to go she thought, “He has a weakness for feasts and theatricals. If he’s staying away today, it must either be be­cause yesterday’s business still rankles or because he knows I’m not going. I should never have cut that tassel off his jade. I’m sure he won’t wear it again now unless I make him another.” So she felt thoroughly conscience-stricken too.

The Lady Dowager had hoped they would stop sulking and make it up while watching operas together. When both refused to go she grew quite frantic.

“What sins have I committed in a past existence to be plagued with two such troublesome children?” she lamented. “Not a day goes by without something to worry about. How true the proverb is that ‘En­emies and lovers are destined to meet.’ Once I’ve closed my eyes and breathed my last, they can quarrel and storm as much as they like. What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve for. But I’m not at my last gasp just yet.” With that she wept too.

When word of this reached Baoyu and Daiyu, neither of whom had heard that proverb before, they felt as if a great light had dawned on them. With lowered heads they pondered its meaning and could not hold back their tears. True, they were still apart: one weeping to the breeze in Bamboo Lodge, the other sighing to the moon in Happy Red Court. But although apart, at heart they were as one.

Xiren scolded Baoyu, “It’s entirely your fault. You used to blame boys who quarrelled with their sisters, or husbands who disputed with their wives, for being too stupid to understand girl’s hearts. Yet now you’re being just as bad yourself. The day after tomorrow, the fifth, is the festival. If you two go on looking daggers at each other that will make the old lady even angrier and no one will have any peace. Do get over your temper and apologize! Let bygones be bygones. Wouldn’t that be better for both sides?”

Whether Baoyu took her advice or not you may read in the next chapter.

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