Hung Lou Meng, or, the Dream of the Red Chamber is a Webnovel produced by Cao Xueqin.
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Read WebNovel Hung Lou Meng, or, the Dream of the Red Chamber Volume I Part 52
At these words, Chia Lien hastily forced a smile. “Dear girl!” he entreated, “give it to me, and I won’t venture again to fly into a pa.s.sion.”
But hardly was this remark finished, when they heard the voice of lady Feng penetrate into the room. As soon as it reached the ear of Chia Lien, he was at a loss whether it was better to let her go or to s.n.a.t.c.h it away, and kept on shouting, “My dear girl! don’t let her know.”
P’ing Erh at once rose to her feet; but lady Feng had already entered the room; and she went on to bid P’ing Erh be quick and open a box and find a pattern for madame w.a.n.g. P’ing Erh expressed her obedience with alacrity; but while in search of it, lady Feng caught sight of Chia Lien; and suddenly remembering something, she hastened to ask P’ing Erh about it.
“The other day,” she observed, “some things were taken out, and have you brought them all in or not?”
“I have!” P’ing Erh a.s.sented.
“Is there anything short or not?” lady Feng inquired.
“I’ve carefully looked at them,” P’ing Erh added, “and haven’t found even one single thing short.”
“Is there anything in excess?” lady Feng went on to ascertain.
P’ing Erh laughed. “It’s enough,” she rejoined, “that there’s nothing short; and how could there really turn out to be anything over and above?”
“That this half month,” lady Feng continued still smiling, “things have gone on immaculately it would be hard to vouch; for some intimate friend there may have been, who possibly has left something behind, in the shape of a ring, handkerchief or other such object, there’s no saying for certain!”
While these words were being spoken, Chia Lien’s face turned perfectly sallow, and, as he stood behind lady Feng, he was intent upon gazing at P’ing Erh, making signs to her (that he was going) to cut her throat as a chicken is killed, (threatening her not to utter a sound) and entreating her to screen him; but P’ing Erh pretended not to notice him, and consequently observed smiling: “How is it that my ideas should coincide with those of yours, my lady; and as I suspected that there may have been something of the kind, I carefully searched all over, but I didn’t find even so much as the slightest thing wrong; and if you don’t believe me, my lady, you can search for your own self.”
“You fool!” lady Feng laughed, “had he any things of the sort, would he be likely to let you and I discover them!”
With these words still on her lips, she took the patterns and went her way; whereupon P’ing Erh pointed at her nose, and shook her head to and fro. “In this matter,” she smiled, “how much you should be grateful to me!” A remark which so delighted Chia Lien that his eyebrows distended, and his eyes smiled, and running over, he clasped her in his embrace, and called her promiscuously: “My darling, my pet, my own treasure!”
“This,” observed P’ing Erh, with the tress in her hand, “will be my source of power, during all my lifetime! if you treat me kindly, then well and good! but if you behave unkindly, then we’ll at once produce this thing!”
“Do put it away, please,” Chia Lien entreated smirkingly, “and don’t, on an any account, let her know about it!” and as he uttered these words, he noticed that she was off her guard, and, with a s.n.a.t.c.h, readily grabbed it adding laughingly: “In your hands, it would be a source of woe, so that it’s better that I should burn it, and have done with it!”
Saying this he simultaneously shoved it down the sides of his boot, while P’ing Erh shouted as she set her teeth close: “You wicked man! you cross the river and then demolish the bridge! but do you imagine that I’ll by and by again tell lies on your behalf!”
Chia Lien perceiving how heart-stirring her seductive charms were, forthwith clasped her in his arms, and begged her to be his; but P’ing Erh s.n.a.t.c.hed her hands out of his grasp and ran away out of the room; which so exasperated Chia Lien that as he bent his body, he exclaimed, full of indignation: “What a dreadful n.i.g.g.ardly young wench! she actually sets her mind to stir up people’s affections with her wanton blandishments, and then, after all, she runs away!”
“If I be wanton, it’s my own look-out;” P’ing Erh answered, from outside the window, with a grin, “and who told you to arouse your affections? Do you forsooth mean to imply that my wish is to become your tool? And did she come to know about it would she again ever forgive me?”
“You needn’t dread her!” Chia Lien urged; “wait till my monkey is up, and I’ll take this jealous woman, and beat her to atoms; and she’ll then know what stuff I’m made of. She watches me just as she would watch a thief! and she’s only to hobn.o.b with men, and I’m not to say a word to any girl! and if I do say aught to a girl, or get anywhere near one, she must at once give way to suspicion. But with no regard to younger brothers or nephews, to young and old, she prattles and giggles with them, and doesn’t entertain any fear that I may be jealous; but henceforward I too won’t allow her to set eyes upon any man.”
“If she be jealous, there’s every reason,” P’ing Erh answered, “but for you to be jealous on her account isn’t right. Her conduct is really straightforward, and her deportment upright, but your conduct is actuated by an evil heart, so much so that even I don’t feel my heart at ease, not to say anything of her.”
“You two,” continued Chia Lien, “have a mouth full of malicious breath!
Everything the couple of you do is invariably proper, while whatever I do is all from an evil heart! But some time or other I shall bring you both to your end with my own hands!”
This sentence was scarcely at an end, when lady Feng walked into the court. “If you’re bent upon chatting,” she urgently inquired, upon seeing P’ing Erh outside the window, “why don’t you go into the room?
and what do you mean, instead, by running out, and speaking with the window between?”
Chia Lien from inside took up the string of the conversation. “You should ask her,” he said. “It would verily seem as if there were a tiger in the room to eat her up.”
“There’s not a single person in the room,” P’ing Erh rejoined, “and what shall I stay and do with him?”
“It’s just the proper thing that there should be no one else! Isn’t it?”
lady Feng remarked grinning sarcastically.
“Do these words allude to me?” P’ing Erh hastily asked, as soon as she had heard what she said.
Lady Feng forthwith laughed. “If they don’t allude to you,” she continued, “to whom do they?”
“Don’t press me to come out with some nice things!” P’ing Erh insinuated, and, as she spoke, she did not even raise the portiere (for lady Feng to enter), but straightway betook herself to the opposite side.
Lady Feng lifted the portiere with her own hands, and walked into the room. “That girl P’ing Erh,” she exclaimed, “has gone mad, and if this hussey does in real earnest wish to try and get the upper hand of me, it would be well for you to mind your skin.”
Chia Lien listened to her, as he kept reclining on the couch. “I never in the least knew,” he ventured, clapping his hands and laughing, “that P’ing Erh was so dreadful; and I must, after all, from henceforth look up to her with respect!”
“It’s all through your humouring her,” lady Feng rejoined; “so I’ll simply settle scores with you and finish with it.”
“Ts’ui!” e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.ed Chia Lien at these words, “because you two can’t agree, must you again make a scapegoat of me! Well then, I’ll get out of the way of both of you!”
“I’ll see where you’ll go and hide,” lady Feng observed.
“I’ve got somewhere to go!” Chia Lien added; and with these words, he was about to go, when lady Feng urged: “Don’t be off! I have something to tell you.”
What it is, is not yet known, but, reader, listen to the account given in the next chapter.
Upon hearing the text of the stanza, Pao-yu comprehends the Buddhistic spells.
While the enigmas for the lanterns are being devised, Chia Cheng is grieved by a prognostic.
Chia Lien, for we must now prosecute our story, upon hearing lady Feng observe that she had something to consult about with him, felt constrained to halt and to inquire what it was about.
“On the 21st,” lady Feng explained, “is cousin Hsueh’s birthday, and what do you, after all, purpose doing?”
“Do I know what to do?” exclaimed Chia Lien; “you have made, time and again, arrangements for ever so many birthdays of grown-up people, and do you, really, find yourself on this occasion without any resources?”
“Birthdays of grown-up people are subject to prescribed rules,” lady Feng expostulated; “but her present birthday is neither one of an adult nor that of an infant, and that’s why I would like to deliberate with you!”
Chia Lien upon hearing this remark, lowered his head and gave himself to protracted reflection. “You’re indeed grown dull!” he cried; “why you’ve a precedent ready at hand to suit your case! Cousin Lin’s birthday affords a precedent, and what you did in former years for cousin Lin, you can in this instance likewise do for cousin Hsueh, and it will be all right.”
At these words lady Feng gave a sarcastic smile. “Do you, pray, mean to insinuate,” she added, “that I’m not aware of even this! I too had previously come, after some thought, to this conclusion; but old lady Chia explained, in my hearing yesterday, that having made inquiries about all their ages and their birthdays, she learnt that cousin Hsueh would this year be fifteen, and that though this was not the birthday, which made her of age, she could anyhow well be regarded as being on the dawn of the year, in which she would gather up her hair, so that our dowager lady enjoined that her anniversary should, as a matter of course, be celebrated, unlike that of cousin Lin.”
“Well, in that case,” Chia Lien suggested, “you had better make a few additions to what was done for cousin Lin!”
“That’s what I too am thinking of,” lady Feng replied, “and that’s why I’m asking your views; for were I, on my own hook, to add anything you would again feel hurt for my not have explained things to you.”
“That will do, that will do!” Chia Lien rejoined laughing, “none of these sham attentions for me! So long as you don’t pry into my doings it will be enough; and will I go so far as to bear you a grudge?”
With these words still in his mouth, he forthwith went off. But leaving him alone we shall now return to Shih Hsiang-yun. After a stay of a couple of days, her intention was to go back, but dowager lady Chia said: “Wait until after you have seen the theatrical performance, when you can return home.”
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