The Story of the Stone – CHAPTER 23

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CHAPTER 23

Words from the ‘Western Chamber’ supply
a joke that offends
And songs from the ‘Soul’s Return’ move a
tender heart to anguish

Some time after her return from the Visitation the Imperial Concubine commissioned Tan-chun to make her a copy of all the poems about Prospect Garden that had been written during her visit, and having rearranged them in what she considered to be their order of merit, further instructed that they should be engraved on stone in the Prospect Garden itself — a lasting memorial to the precocious talent of her gifted family. In pursuance of these instructions, Jia Zheng ordered his people to look out the best craftsmen available to prepare and engrave the stone and delegated Cousin Zhen to supervise the work with Jia Rong and Jia Qiang as his lieutenants. As Jia Qiang proved to be fully occupied with his twelve young actresses — not to mention their costumes, pro?perties and other paraphernalia — three other junior members of the clan, Jia Chang, Jia Ling and Jia Ping, were called in to supervise the labour in his stead. In due course the preliminary stages of waxing, scratching and ‘redding in’ had commenced, and work on the memorial proceeded according to plan. We pass from this to other matters.
The twenty-four little Buddhist and Taoist nuns having now been moved out of the two miniature temples in the garden, Jia Zheng had been thinking of dispersing them among various temples and convents about the city, when a certain Zhou-shi, the widow of a poor relation of the Rong-guo Jias who lived near by in North Dukes Street, chanced to get wind of this matter and saw in it the possibility of some employment.
Zhou-shi had for some time past been meaning to ask Jia Zheng if he would find her boy Jia Qin a job — no matter how small a job as long as it would bring them in a little income — and now, hearing this news about the nuns, she drove incontinent forth to Xi-feng as fast as cab could carry her and besought her to use her influence on the boy’s behalf.
Xi-feng had always found Zhou-shi a pleasant, unassuming sort of body and was disposed to help her. Having agreed to do so, and having rehearsed her line of approach, she went in to Lady Wang and broached the matter with her in the follow?ing manner.
‘These little Buddhist and Taoist nuns,’ she said, ‘— we definitely ought not to send them away. We shall need them again if Her Grace ever comes on another visit, and it will be a terrible job getting them together again if they have all been dispersed. If you ask me, the best thing would be to move them to the Temple of the Iron Threshold where they would still be under our control. It would only be a question of sending someone out there every month with a bit of money to pay for their housekeeping; then if there is ever any question of needing them again, we have only to say the word and they can be with us immediately without any trouble.’
The suggestion pleased Jia Zheng when it was in due course relayed to him by Lady Wang.
‘Of course. That is just what we should do. I am glad you reminded me.’
From Jia Zheng a summons arrived for Jia Lian while he and Xi-feng were at dinner. He laid down his chopsticks and rose to go, but Xi-feng put a hand out and detained him:
‘Not so fast! Listen to me! If it’s anything else, never mind; but if it’s about those little nuns…’ — and she went on to tell him exactly what he should say in that event and to impress on him how important it was that he should say it.
Jia Lian smiled and shook his head:
‘Sorry, nothing doing! You’ll have to ask him yourself – if you think you know how to!’
Xi-feng’s back stiffened. She laid down her chopsticks and looked at Jia Lian. There was a glint in her eye and a dangerous little smile on her face when she spoke:
‘Do you mean that, or are you joking ?’
‘That boy of my cousin’s widow who lives in West Lane, Jia Yun, has been on at me two or three times about getting him a job, and I promised to do something for him if he would wait. Now here at last a job comes along and, as usual, you want to snap it up yourself.’
‘Don’t worry!’ said Xi-feng consolingly. ‘Her Grace has mentioned that she wants a lot of planting done – pines and cypresses – in the north-east section of the garden, and she has also asked for more shrubs and flowers to be planted round the foot of the main hall. I promise you that as soon as that job comes up your Jia Yun shall be placed in charge of it.’
‘Oh well, in that case all right,’ said Jia Lian. ‘Just one thing, though’ — he dropped his voice and smiled at her slily — ‘Why did you keep pushing me off like that last night? I only wanted to try a change of position.’
A quick flush overspread Xi-feng’s face and she exploded in a little laugh. Then with a ‘pshaw!’ in his direction, she lowered her head again and went back to her meal.
Jia Lian laughed and slipped away. On entering Jia Zheng’s presence he found that the subject was, as Xi-feng had antici?pated, the arrangements for accommodating the little nuns, and he replied as Xi-feng had instructed him:
‘Jia Qin is a promising young fellow. I think he could be entrusted with the job. In any case, he would be drawing the allowance from Accounts each month when all the other pay?ments are made, so we should be able to keep an eye on him.’
Jia Zheng never took much interest in these trivial domestic matters and agreed readily enough to Jia Lian’s suggestion. The latter returned to his apartment and reported to Xi-feng. Xi-feng sent someone to inform Zhou-shi; and soon Jia Qin himself had arrived and was pouring out his gratitude to the two benefactors. With a show of conferring further favours, Xi-feng ‘begged’ Jia Lian to allow Jia Qin three months’ payment in advance. A receipt was written for this amount and Jia Lian’s seal affixed to it, and there and then Jia Qin was issued with a tally and sent to the counting-house to collect the money.
When the three hundred taels of shining silver had been weighed and counted and handed over, Jia Qin picked up a piece at random and tossed it to the cashiers to ‘buy themselves a cup of tea with’. He had a boy to carry the money back home for him, and after taking counsel with his mother he hired a stout little donkey for himself to ride on and four or five covered mule-carts for the nuns, and conducting the carts round to the side gate of the Rong-guo mansion, he called forth the twenty-four little nuns and packed them all inside. Then off they set, with Jia Qin on his donkey at the head of the procession, to the Temple of the Iron Threshold outside the city. And there we leave them.

*

Yuan-chun’s editing of the Prospect Garden poems had given her a vivid recollection of the garden’s beauties. She was sure that her father, out of a zealous reverence for the Emperor and herself, would have kept it all locked and closed since her visit and would have allowed no one else to enter, and she felt this to be a waste and a shame — the more so when her family contained so many poetical young ladies who would have found inspiration in its scenery — not to mention the benefit their presence would have bestowed on the garden itself: for, as is well-known,

When lovely woman smiles not,
All Nature’s charms are dead.

Assuredly, the girls must be allowed into the garden. It should become their home. And if the girls, why not Bao-yu? He had grown up in their midst. He was different from other boys. If he were not allowed into the garden as well, he would consider himself left out in the cold, and his distress would cause Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia to feel unhappy too. Unquestionably she should ask for him to be admitted along with the girls. Having reached this decision, she summoned the eunuch Xia Bing-zhong and ordered him to convey the following Edict to Rong-guo House:

Bao-chai and the other young ladies of the household are to reside in the Garden. The Garden is not to be kept closed. Bao-yu is to accompany the young ladies into the Garden and to continue his studies there.

The Edict was received by Jia Zheng and Lady Wang. When Xia Bing-zhong had gone, they reported it at once to Grandmother Jia and sent servants into the garden to sweep and prepare its buildings and rehang the blinds, portières and bed-curtains in readiness for occupation.
No one was more excited by the prospect of this move than Bao-yu. He was discussing it animatedly with Grandmother Jia (it was a discussion in which the words ‘I want’ recurred rather frequently) when suddenly a maid came in and an?nounced that he was wanted by his father. At this bolt from the blue his countenance fell and all his animation drained away. Clinging to his grandmother with the gluey persistence of a toffee twist, he made it abundantly plain to her that he had no wish to obey. The old lady did her best to comfort him:
‘There, there, my lamb! You’d better go and see him. Grannie will see to it that he doesn’t hurt you. He wouldn’t dare. Besides, look at all those lovely poems you wrote: I expect that’s why Her Grace is letting you inside the garden. I’m sure that’s all he wants to see you about. Probably he just wants to warn you against getting up to mischief after you have moved in. You only have to answer nicely and promise to do as he says. You’ll be all right.’
To make sure, she sent a couple of old nannies along as well with strict instructions to watch over him:
‘See that his Pa doesn’t frighten him!’ she told them, and the old women promised their protection.
Obliged to go, yet still reluctant, Bao-yu contrived to do so at so dawdling a pace that each step can have advanced him only a few inches upon his way. It so happened that Jia Zheng had gone for the purpose of discussing these matters into Lady Wang’s room and Lady Wang’s maids Golden, Suncloud, Sunset, Avis and Avocet were standing outside under the eaves. Their amusement when they caught sight of Bao-yu advancing at this snail’s pace into the courtyard was evident from the expression on their faces. Golden seized him by the hand, and thrusting out a pair of heavily carmined lips, she said to him in a whisper:
‘Look at that byootiful lipstick! I’ve only just put it on. Wouldn’t you like a taste of it?’
Suncloud, with a suppressed giggle, pushed her off him:
‘Can’t you see how scared he is? It’s mean of you to tease him at a time like this! He’s in a good mood,’ she said to Bao-yu. ‘You’d better go in straight away, while it lasts!’
Bao-yu entered in a sort of sideways crouch, the picture of a submissive son – a gesture that was wasted, however, since his father and mother were in the inner room at the back. Aunt Zhao raised the inner room’s portière to admit him. He bowed to her and entered. Jia Zheng and Lady Wang sat facing each other on the kang talking. Ying-chun, Tan-chun, Xi-chun and Jia Huan were sitting on a row of chairs below. Ying-chun remained seated at his entrance, but the other three rose to their feet.
Jia Zheng glanced up and saw Bao-yu standing before him. The lively intelligence that shone in the boy’s every feature, his almost breath-taking beauty of countenance contrasted strikingly with Jia Huan’s cringing, hang-dog looks and loutish demeanour, and Jia Zheng thought suddenly of his other son, Jia Zhu, his Firstborn, whom he had lost. He glanced at Lady Wang. Of the children she had borne him Bao-yu was now the only surviving son. He knew how much the boy meant to her. He thought of himself, too: ageing now, his beard already grey. And as he thought, much of his customary dislike of Bao-yu slipped away, so that for the time being perhaps only ten or twenty per cent of it still remained. After what seemed to Bao-yu a very long time, he said:
‘Her Grace has expressed a fear that by spending your time in constant amusement outside you may become an idler and a dullard, and she has directed that you and the girls should be moved into the garden so that you may be kept more closely at your books. See to it that you work hard and diligently! If I detect any signs of your former unruliness and disobedience, you will be in for trouble!’
Bao-yu assented meekly. Lady Wang took his hand and drew him up beside her on the kang. Now that he was seated, Jia Huan and the other two sat down once more in their chairs. Lady Wang stroked Bao-yu’s neck affectionately:
‘Have you finished those pills I sent you the other day yet?’
‘There’s still one left,’ said Bao-yu.
‘You must come for some more tomorrow. I’ll give you another ten. You must get Aroma to give you one every night before you go to sleep.’
‘Yes. You told Aroma, Mother. She’s been giving me one every night, as you said.’
‘Who is this “Aroma”?’ asked Jia Zheng sharply.
‘A maid,’ said Lady Wang.
‘I suppose there are no limits to what a maid may be called,’ said Jia Zheng, ‘but who would have picked an outlandish name like that to give her?’
Lady Wang could see that he was displeased and did her best to cover up for Bao-yu:
‘I think it was Lady Jia who gave her the name.’
‘Mother would never think of a name like that,’ said Jia Zheng. ‘It must have been Bao-yu.’
Bao-yu saw that a frank avowal was now unavoidable and rose to his feet:
‘This maid has a surname which means “Flowers”. There is a line in an old poem I happened to remember

The flowers’ aroma breathes of hotter days

and so I named her after that.’
‘When you get back you must change the name at once,’ said Lady Wang hurriedly to Bao-yu. ‘Come, Sir Zheng’ – this to her husband – ‘you aren’t going to get angry about a little thing like that?’
‘It doesn’t really matter,’ said Jia Zheng, ‘and there is no need for him to change the name; but it demonstrates what I have always said about the boy: he is fundamentally incapable of caring about serious matters and preoccupies himself with poetic frivolities and other such airy-fairy nonsense as a substitute for solid learning. Wretched fellow!’ he shouted at Bao-yu. ‘What are you waiting for?’
‘Go now, go now I’ said Lady Wang in a flutter. ‘Grandma is probably waiting to begin her dinner.’
Bao-yu murmured a reply and retired, rather more slowly than was necessary. Emerging from the outer door, he grinned and stuck his tongue out at Golden, then shot off like a puff of smoke, the two old nannies hurrying after him. Arriving at the entrance of the covered passage-way he came upon Aroma leaning in the doorway. Her face lit up when she saw him returning unscathed and she asked him what his father had wanted to see him about.
‘Oh, nothing much,’ said Bao-yu. ‘He just wanted to say a few words about not getting up to mischief after we’ve moved into the garden.’
Having answered Aroma, he went in to see his grandmother and told her about the interview. He found Dai-yu with her and asked her which part of the garden she planned to live in. It appeared that she had just been considering this question herself, for her answer was a prompt one:
‘I’ve been thinking how nice it would be in the Naiad’s House. I love all those bamboos and the little winding, half-hidden walk. It is so quiet and peaceful there.’
Bao-yu clapped his hands delightedly:
‘Just what I would have chosen for you! I was hoping you would want to live there, because I want to live in the House of Green Delights — which means that we should be neigh?bours. And both places are quiet and tucked away.’
They were still discussing their plans when a servant arrived from Jia Zheng with a message
for Grandmother Jia. It was to say that the twenty-second of the second month being a Lucky Day was the date on which Bao-yu and the girls were to move into the garden. Servants were to be allowed inside in the interim in order to make the rooms ready for them. It was finally settled that Bao-chai should have All-spice Court, Dai-yu the Naiad’s House, Ying-chun the building on Amaryllis Eyot, Tan-chun the Autumn Studio, Xi-chun the Lotus Pavilion, Li Wan Sweet-rice Village, and Bao-yu the House of Green Delights. Each set of rooms was allotted two old women and four maids in addition to the occupant’s existing maids and nannies, and there were other servants whose sole duty was sweeping and cleaning. On the twenty-second of the second month everyone moved in. The silent, deserted garden suddenly came to life —
Live flowers on silk-embroidered flowers up-glanced,
And unguent scents the scents of spring enhanced
as the bevy of gaily-dressed, chattering girls spread themselves through its quiet walks.

*
But to return to our hero.
Life for Bao-yu after his removal into the garden became utterly and completely satisfying. Every day was spent in the company of his maids and cousins in the most amiable and delightful occupations, such as
reading,
practising calligraphy,
strumming on the qin,
playing Go,
painting,
composing verses,
embroidering in coloured silks,
competitive flower-collecting,
making flower-sprays,
singing,
word games and
guess-fingers.
In a word, he was blissfully happy.
One product of this period was a set of four Garden Nights poems which, though they have little claim to poetic merit, give a fairly accurate impression of the mood and setting of those carefree days:

I. Spring

Behind silk hangings, in warm quilts cocooned,
His ears half doubt the frogs’ first muted sound.
Rain at his window strikes, the pillow’s cold;
Yet to the sleeper’s eyes spring dreams unfold.
Why does the candle shed its waxen tear?
Why on each flower do angry drops appear?
By uncouth din of giggling maids distressed
He burrows deeper in his silken nest.

II. Summer

A tired maid sleeps at her embroidery.
A parrot in its gilt cage calls for tea.
Pale moonbeams on an opened mirror fall,
And burning sandal makes a fragrant pall.
From amber cups thirst-quenching nectar flows.
A willow-breeze through crystal curtains blows.
In pool-side kiosks light-clad maidens flit,
Or, dressed for bed, by open casements sit.

III. Autumn

In Red Rue Study, far from worldly din,
Through rosy gauze moonlight comes flooding in.
Outside, a stork sleeps on moss-wrinkled rocks,
And dew from well-side trees the crow’s wings soaks.
A maid the great quilt’s golden bird has spread;
Her languid master droops his raven head.
Wine-parched and sleepless, in the still night he cries
For tea, and soon thick smoke and steam arise.

IV. Winter

Midnight and winter: plum with bamboo sleeps,
While one midst Indian rugs his vigil keeps.
Only a stork outside is to be found –
No orioles now, though white flowers mask the ground.
Chill strikes the maid’s bones through her garments fine;
Her fur-clad master’s somewhat worse for wine;
But, in tea-making mysteries deep-skilled,
She has with new-swept snow the kettle filled.

The indifferent quality of these poems did not prevent members of that class of worldlings who see merit in a name and excellence in a title from copying them out and proclaiming them everywhere as miracles of precocious talent when they discovered that their author was the thirteen-year-old heir apparent of Sir Jia of Rong-guo House. There were also a number of bright young things who professed an extravagant liking for the deliciousness of the poems, and who copied them on to fans and wall-spaces and recited them on the least provocation (or none at all) at social gatherings. Soon Bao-yu was being besieged with requests for more poems, for speci?mens of his calligraphy, for paintings, for inscriptions. He began to feel himself a lion and was kept constantly busy with these dilettantish ‘duties’.
Then, quite suddenly, in the midst of this placid, agreeable existence, he was discontented. He got up one day feeling out of sorts. Nothing he did brought any relief. Whether he stayed indoors or went out into the garden, he remained bored and miserable. The garden’s female population were mostly still in that age of innocence when freedom from inhibition is the fruit of ignorance. Waking and sleeping they surrounded him, and their mindless giggling was constantly in his ears. How could they understand the restless feelings that now consumed him? In his present mood of discontent he was bored with the garden and its inmates; yet his attempts to find distraction outside it ended in the same emptiness and ennui.
Tealeaf saw how it was with him and racked his brains for a remedy. Unfortunately all the things he could think of seemed to be things that Bao-yu had already tried and grown tired of. But no, there was something he had not yet tried. As soon as Tealeaf thought of it, he set off to the book-stalls and bought a pile of books — books of a kind Bao-yu had never heard about – to give as a present to his young master. His purchases included
Old Inklubber’s Stories Old and New
The Secret History of Flying Swallow
Sister of Flying Swallow
The Infamous Loves of Empress Wu
The Jade Ring Concubine, or Peeps in the Inner Palace
and a heap of playbooks — mostly romantic comedies and the like.
Bao-yu took one look at this gift and was enraptured; but Tealeaf uttered a warning:
‘Don’t take these into the garden! If you do, and anyone finds out about them, I’ll be in real trouble — more than just a bellyful!’
The injunction was one with which Bao-yu was most un?willing to comply. After a good deal of hesitation he picked out a few of the chaster volumes to keep by his bed and read when no one was about, and left the cruder, more forthright ones behind, hidden somewhere in his outer study.
One day after lunch — it was round about the Midwash of the third month, as our forefathers, who measured the passage of time by their infrequent ablutions, were wont to say – Bao-yu set off for Drenched Blossoms Weir with the volumes of Western Chamber under his arm, and sitting down on a rock underneath the peach-tree which grew there beside the bridge, he took up the first volume and began, very attentively, to read the play. He had just reached the line

The red flowers in their hosts are falling

when a little gust of wind blew over and a shower of petals suddenly rained down from the tree above, covering his clothes, his book and all the ground about him. He did not like to shake them off for fear they got trodden underfoot, so collecting as many of them as he could in the lap of his gown, he carried them to the water’s edge and shook them in. The petals bobbed and circled for a while on the surface of the water before finally disappearing over the weir. When he got back he found that a lot more of them had fallen while he was away. As he hesitated, a voice behind him said,
‘What are you doing here?’
He looked round and saw that it was Dai-yu. She was carrying a garden hoe with a muslin bag hanging from the end of it on her shoulder and a garden broom in her hand.
‘You’ve come just at the right moment,’ said Bao-yu, smiling at her. ‘Here, sweep these petals up and tip them in the water for me! I’ve just tipped one lot in myself.’
‘It isn’t a good idea to tip them in the water,’ said Dai-yu. ‘The water you see here is clean, but farther on beyond the weir, where it flows past people’s houses, there are all sorts of muck and impurity, and in the end they get spoiled just the same. In that corner over there I’ve got a grave for the flowers, and what I’m doing now is sweeping them up and putting them in this silk bag to bury them there, so that they can gradu?ally turn back into earth. Isn’t that a cleaner way of disposing of them?’
Bao-yu was full of admiration for this idea.
‘Just let me put this book somewhere and I’ll give you a hand.’
‘What book?’ said Dai-yu.
‘Oh… The Doctrine of the Mean and The Greater Learning,’ he said, hastily concealing it.
‘Don’t try to fool me!’ said Dai-yu. ‘You would have done much better to let me look at it in the first place, instead of hiding it so guiltily.’
‘In your case, coz, I have nothing to be afraid of,’ said Bao-yu; ‘but if I do let you look, you must promise not to tell anyone. It’s marvellous stuff. Once you start reading it, you’ll even stop wanting to eat!’
He handed the book to her, and Dai-yu put down her things and looked. The more she read, the more she liked it, and before very long she had read several acts. She felt the power of the words and their lingering fragrance. Long after she had finished reading, when she had laid down the book and was sitting there rapt and silent, the lines continued to ring on in her head.
‘Well,’ said Bao-yu, ‘is it good?’
Dai-yu smiled and nodded.
Bao-yu laughed:

‘How can I, full of sickness and of woe,
Withstand that face which kingdoms could o’erthrow?’

Dai-yu reddened to the tips of her ears. The eyebrows that seemed to frown yet somehow didn’t were raised now in anger and the lovely eyes flashed. There was rage in her crimson cheeks and resentment in all her looks.
‘You’re hateful!’ – she pointed a finger at him in angry accusal — ‘deliberately using that horrid play to take advantage of me. I’m going straight off to tell Uncle and Aunt!’
At the words ‘take advantage of me’ her eyes filled with tears, and as she finished speaking she turned from him and began to go. Bao-yu rushed after her and held her back:
‘Please, please forgive me! Dearest coz! If I had the slightest intention of taking advantage of you, may I fall into the water and be eaten up by an old bald-headed turtle! When you have become a great lady and gone at last to your final resting-place, I shall become the stone turtle that stands in front of your grave and spend the rest of eternity carrying your tombstone on my back as a punishment!’
His ridiculous declamation provoked a sudden explosion of mirth. She laughed and simultaneously wiped the tears away with her knuckles:
‘Look at you – the same as ever! Scared as anything, but you still have to go on talking nonsense. Well, I know you now for what you are:

“Of silver spear the leaden counterfeit”!’

‘Well! You can talk!’ said Bao-yu laughing. ‘Listen to you! Now I’m going off to tell on you!’
‘You needn’t imagine you’re the only one with a good memory,’ said Dai-yu haughtily. ‘I suppose I’m allowed to remember lines too if I like.’
Bao-yu took back the book from her with a good-natured laugh:
‘Never mind about all that now! Let’s get on with this flower-burying!’
And the two of them set about sweeping together the fallen flower-petals and putting them into the bag. They had just finished burying it when Aroma came hurrying up to them:
‘So there you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Your Uncle She isn’t well and the young ladies have all gone over to visit him. Her Old Ladyship says you are to go as well. You’d better come back straight away and get changed!’
Bao-yu picked up his book, took leave of Dai-yu, and ac?companied Aroma back to his room.
And there, for the moment, we shall leave him.

*
With Bao-yu gone and the girls evidently all out, Dai-yu began to feel lonely and depressed. She was on her way back to her own room and was just passing by the corner of Pear Tree Court when she heard the languorous meanderings of a flute and the sweet modulation of a girlish voice coming from the other side of the wall, and knew that the twelve little actresses were at their rehearsal inside. Although she was paying no particular attention to the singing, a snatch of it chanced suddenly to fall with very great clarity on her ear, so that she was able to make out quite distinctly the words of two whole lines of the aria being sung:

‘Here multiflorate splendour blooms forlorn
Midst broken fountains, mouldering walls –’

They moved her strangely, and she stopped to listen. The voice went on:

‘And the bright air, the brilliant morn
Feed my despair.
Joy and gladness have withdrawn
To other gardens, other halls -’

At this point the listener unconsciously nodded her head and sighed.
‘It’s true,’ she thought, ‘there is good poetry even in plays. What a pity most people think of them only as entertainment. A lot of the real beauty in them must go unappreciated.’
She suddenly became aware that her mind was wandering and regretted that her inattention had caused her to miss some of the singing. She listened again. This time it was another voice:

‘Because for you, my flowerlike fair,
The swift years like the waters flow—’

The words moved her to the depth of her being.

‘I have sought you everywhere,
And at last I find you here,
In a dark room full of woe—’

It was like intoxication, a sort of delirium. Her legs would no longer support her. She collapsed on to a near-by rockery and crouched there, the words turning over and over in her mind:

Because for you, my flowerlike fair,
The swift years like the waters flow …

Suddenly she thought of a line from an old poem she had read quite recently:

Relentlessly the waters flow, the flowers fade.

From that her mind turned to those famous lines written in his captivity by the tragic poet-emperor of Later Tang:

The blossoms fall, the water flows,
The glory of the spring is gone
In nature’s world as in the human one —

and to some lines from The Western Chamber which she had just been reading:

As flowers fall and the flowing stream runs red,
A thousand sickly fancies crowd the mind.

All these different lines and verses combined into a single overpowering impression, riving her soul with a pang of such keen anguish that the tears started from her eyes. She might have remained there indefinitely, weeping and comfortless, had not someone just at that moment come up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to look and saw that it was—
But if you wish to know who it was, you must read the next chapter!

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