August 17, 2017 at 8:10 am #1869ISCBJKeymaster
第十二回 王熙凤毒设相思局 贾天祥正照风月鉴
Wang Xi-feng sets a trap for her admirer
And Jia Rui looks into the wrong side of the mirror
Jia Rui’s arrival was announced while Xi-feng and Patience were still talking about him.
‘Ask him in,’ said Xi-feng.
Hearing that he was to be received, Jia Rui rejoiced inwardly. He came into the room wreathed in smiles and overwhelmed Xi-feng with civilities. With feigned solicitude she pressed him to be seated and to take tea. He became quite ecstatic at the sight of her informal dress.
‘Why isn’t Cousin Lian back yet?’ he asked, staring with fascinated eyes.
‘I don’t know what the reason can be,’ said Xi-feng.
‘Could it be,’ Jia Rui inquired archly, ‘that Someone has detained him on his way home and that he can’t tear himself away?’
Men are all the same!’ said Xi-feng. ‘They have only to set eyes on a woman to begin another affair.’
‘Ah, there you are wrong!’ said Jia Rui. ‘I am not that sort of man.’
‘But how many men are there like you?’ said Xi-feng. ‘I doubt you could find one in ten.’
At this last remark Jia Rui positively scratched his ears with pleasure.
‘You must find it very dull here on your own every day,’ he said.
‘Yes, indeed!’ said Xi-feng. ‘If only there were someone who could come and talk to me and help me to pass the time!’
‘Well,’ said Jia Rui, ‘I am always free. How would it be if I were to come every day to help you pass the time?’
‘You must be joking!’ said Xi-feng. ‘What would you want to come here for?’
‘I mean every word I say,’ said Jia Rui. ‘May I be struck by lightning if I don’t! True, there was a time when I should have been scared to come, because people always told me what a holy terror you were and how dangerous it was to cross you; but now I know that in reality you are all gentleness and flin, there is nothing that could stop me coming. I would come now if it cost me my life.’
‘It’s true then,’ said Xi-feng, smiling delightedly. ‘You really are an understanding sort of person – so much more so than Rong or Qiang! I used to think that since they were such handsome and cultured4ooking young men they must be understanding as well, but they turned out to be stupid brutes without the least consideration for other people’s feelings.’
This little speech went straight to Jia Rui’s heart, and unconsciously he began edging his seat nearer to Xi-feng’s. He peered closely at an embroidered purse that she was wearing and expressed a strong interest in one of her rings.
‘Take care!’ said Xi-feng in a low tone. ‘The servants might see you!’
Obedient to his goddess’s command, Jia Rui quickly drew back again. Xi-feng laughed.
‘You had better go!’
‘Ah no, cruel cousin! Let me stay a little longer!’
‘Even if you stay, it’s not very convenient here in broad daylight, with people coming and going all the time. Go away now and come hack later when it’s dark, at the beginning of the first watch. You can slip into the gallery west of this apartment and wait for me there.’
Jia Rui received these words like someone being presented with a rare and costly jewel.
‘Are you sure you’re not joking ?’he asked hurriedly. ‘A lot of people must go through that way. How should we avoid being seen?’
‘Don’t worry!’ said Xi-feng. ‘I’ll give the watchmen a night off. When the side gates are closed, no one else can get through.’
Jia Rui was beside himself with delight and hurriedly took his leave, confident that the fu1filment of all he wished for was now in sight. Having waited impatiently for nightfall, he groped his way into the Rong-guo mansion just before they closed the gates and slipped into the gallery, now totally deserted—as Xi-feng had promised it would be—and black as pitch.
The gate at the end of the alley-way opening on to Grandmother Jia’s quarters had already been barred on the outer side; only the gate at the east end remained open. For a long time Jia Rui listened intently, but no one came. Suddenly there was a loud slam and the gate at the east end, too, banged shut. Alarmed, but not daring to make a sound, Jia Rui stealthily crept out and tried it. It was locked—as tight as a bucket. Now even if he wanted to get out he could not, for the walls on either side of the alley-way were too high to scale. Moreover the gallery was bare and draughty and this was the midwinter season when the nights are long and the bitter north wind seems to pierce into the very marrow of the bones. By the end of the night he was almost dead with cold.
When at last morning came, Jia Rui saw the gate at the east end open and an old woman pass through to the gate opposite and call for someone to open up. Still hugging himself against the cold, he sprinted out of the other gate while her back was towards him. Fortunately no one was about at that early hour, and he was able to slip out of the rear entrance of the mansion and run back home unseen.
Jia Rui had lost both of his parents in infancy and had been brought up under the sole guardianship of his grandfather Jia Dai-ru. Obsessed by the fear that once outside the house his grandson might indulge in drinking and gambling to the detriment of his studies, Dai-ru had subjected him since early youth to an iron discipline from which not the slightest deviation was tolerated. Seeing him now suddenly absent himself a whole night from home, and being incapable, in his wildest imaginings, of guessing what had really happened, he took it as a foregone conclusion that he had been either drinking or gaming and had probably passed the night in some house of prostitution – a supposition which caused the old gentleman to spend the whole night in a state of extreme choler.
The prospect of facing his grandfather on arrival made Jia Rui sweat. A lie of some sort was indispensable.
‘I went to see Uncle yesterday,’ he managed to say, ‘and M it was getting dark, he asked me to stay the night.’
‘I have always told you that you are not to go out of that gate without first informing me,’ said his grandfather. ‘Why then did you presume to go off on your own yesterday without saying a word to anybody? That in itself would constitute sufficient grounds for chastisement. But in addition to that you are lying!’
Thereupon he, forced him to the ground, and, with the utmost savagery, dealt him thirty or forty whacks with the bamboo, after which he forbade him to eat and made him kneel in the open courtyard with a book in his hand until he had prepared the equivalent of ten days’ homework.
The exquisite torments suffered by Jia Rui, as he knelt with an empty stomach in the draughty courtyard reciting his home-work after having already been frozen all night long and then beaten, can be imagined.
Yet even now his infatuation remained unaltered. It never entered his mind that he had been made a fool of. And so two days later, as soon as he had some free time, he was back once more looking for Xi-feng. She deliberately reproached him for having failed her, thereby so exasperating him that he swore by the most terrible oaths that he had been faithful. Seeing him hurl himself so willingly into the net, Xi-feng decided that a further lesson would be needed to cure him of his folly and proposed another assignation.
‘Only tonight,’ she said, ‘don’t wait for me in that place again. Wait in the empty room in the little passage-way behind this apartment. But mind you don’t run into anybody.’
‘Do you really mean this?’ said Jia Rui.
‘If you don’t believe me, don’t come!’
‘I’ll come! I’ll come!’ said Jia Rui. ‘Whatever happens, I shall be there.’
‘Now I think you had better go.’
Confident of seeing her again in the evening, Jia Rui went off uncomplainingly, leaving Xi-feng time to muster her forces, brief her officers, and prepare the trap in which the luckless man was to be caught.
Jia Rui waited for the evening with great impatience. By a stroke of bad luck some relations came on a visit and stayed to supper. It was already lamplight when they left, and Jia Rui then had to wait for his grandfather to settle down for the night before he could scuttle off to the Rong mansion and make his way to the room in the little passage-way where Xi-feng had told him to go. He waited there for her arrival with the frenzied agitation of an ant on a hot saucepan. Yet, though he waited and waited, not a human shape appeared nor a human sound was heard, and he began to be frightened and a little suspicious:
‘Surely she won’t fall me? Surely I shan’t be made to spend another night in the cold…?’
As he was in the midst of these gloomy imaginings, a dark figure glided into the room. Certain that it must be Xi-feng, Jia Rui cast all caution to the winds and, when the figure approached him, threw himself upon it like a hungry tiger seizing its prey or a cat pouncing on a harmless mouse.
‘My darling, how I have waited for you!” he exclaimed, enfolding his beloved in his arms; and carrying her to the kang, he laid her down and began kissing her and tugging at her trousers, murmuring ‘my sweetest darling’ and ‘my honey love’ and other such endearments in between kisses. Through-out all of this not a single sound was uttered by his partner. Jia Rui now tore down his own trousers and prepared to thrust home his hard and throbbing; member. Suddenly a light flashed – and there was Jia Qiang holding aloft a candle in a candlestick which he shone around:
‘Who is in this room?’
At this the person on the kang gave a giggle:
‘Uncle Rui is trying to bugger me!’
Horrors I The sight he saw when he looked down made Jia Rui want to sink into the ground. It was Jia Rong! He turned to bolt, but Jia Qiang held him fast.
‘Oh no you don’t! Auntie Lian has already told Lady Wang that you have been pestering her. She asked us to keep you here while she went to tell. When lady Wang first heard, she was so angry that she fainted, but now she’s come round again and ;s asking for you to be brought to her. Come along, then! Off we go!’
At these words Jia Rui’s soul almost left its seat in his body.
‘My dear nephew, just tell her that you didn’t find me here!’ he said. ‘Tomorrow I will reward you handsomely.’
‘I suppose I could let you go easily enough,’ said Jia Qiang. ‘The question is, how big would this reward be? In any case, just saying that you will give me a reward is no good. I should want a written guarantee.’
‘But I can’t put a thing like this down in writing!’
‘No problem there,’ said Jia Qiang. ‘just say that you’ve lost money gambling and have borrowed such and such an amount to cover your losses. That’s all you need do.’
‘I could do that, certainly,’ said Jia Rui.
Jia Qiang at once disappeared and reappeared only a moment later with paper and a writing-brush which had evidently been made ready in advance. Writing at his dictation Jia Rui was compelled, in spite of protests, to put down fifty taels of silver as the amount on the IOU. The document, having been duly signed, was at once pocketed by Jia Qiang, who then pretended to seek the connivance of Jia Rong. But Jia Rong feigned the most obdurate incorruptibility and insisted that he would lay the matter next day before a council of the whole clan and see that justice was done. Jia Rui became quite frantic and kotowed to him. Finally, under pressure from Jia Qiang and in return for another IOU for fifty taels of silver made out in his favour, he allowed his scruples to be overcome.
‘You realize, don’t you,’ said Jia Qiang, ‘that I’m going to get into trouble for this? Now let’s see. The gate leading to Lady Jia’s courtyard was bolted some time ago, and Sir Zheng is at the moment in the main reception room looking at some stuff that has just arrived from Nanking, so you can’t go through that way. The only way left would be through the back gate. The trouble is, though, that if you leave now, you might run into someone on the way, and then I should get into even worse trouble. You’d better let me scout around a bit first and come for you when the coast is clear. In the meantime you can t hide here, though, because they will shortly be coming in to store the stuff from Nanking here. I’ll find somewhere else for you.’
He took Jia Rui by the arm, and having first blown the candle out, led him into the courtyard and groped his way round to the underside of the steps which led up to the terrace of the central building.
‘This hollow under the steps will do. Crouch down there, and don’t make a sound! You can go when I come for you.
Jia Qiang and Jia Rong then went off leaving him to himself.
Jia Rui, by now a mere automaton in the hands of his captors, obediently crouched down beneath the steps and was just beginning a series of calculations respecting his present financial predicament when a sudden slosh! signalled the discharge of a slop-pail’s stinking contents immediately above his head, drenching him from top to toe with liquid filth and causing him to cry out in dismay – but only momentarily, for the excrement covered his face and head and caused him to close his mouth again in a hurry and crouch silent and shivering in the icy cold. Just then Jia Qiang came running up:
‘Hurry! hurry! You can go now.’
At the word of command Jia Rui bounded out of his hole and sprinted for dear life through the rear gate and back to his own home. It was now past midnight, and he had to shout for someone to let him in. When the servant who answered the gate saw the state he was in and asked him how it had happened, he had to pretend that he had been out in the darkness to ease himself and had fallen into the jakes. Then rushing into his own room he stripped off his clothes and washed, his mind running all the time on how Xi-feng had tricked him. The thought of her trickery provoked a surge of hatred in his soul; yet even as he hated her, the vision of her loveliness made him long to clasp her to his breast. Torn by these violent and conflicting emotions, he passed the whole night without a single wink of sleep.
From that time on, though he longed for Xi-feng with unabated passion, he never dared to visit the Rong-guo mansion again. Jia Rong and Jia Qiang, on the other hand, came frequently to his house to ask for their money, so that he was in constant dread of his grandfather finding out about the IOUs.
Unable, even now, to overcome his longing for Xi-feng, saddled with a heavy burden of debt, harassed during the daytime by the schoolwork set him by his exacting grandfather, worn-out during the nights by the excessive hand-pumping inevitable in an unmarried man of twenty whose mistress was both unattainable and constantly in his thoughts, twice frozen, tormented and forced to flee – what constitution could withstand so many shocks and strains without succumbing in the end to illness? The symptoms of Jia Rui’s illness—a palpitation in the heart, a loss of taste in the mouth, a weakness in the hams, a smarting in the eyes, feverishness by night and lassitude by day, albumen in the urine and blood-flecks in the phlegm—had all manifested themselves within less than a year. By that time they had produced a complete breakdown and driven him to his bed, where he lay, with eyes tight shut, babbling deliriously and inspiring terror in all who saw him. Physicians were called in to treat him and some bushels of cinnamon bark, autumn root, turtle-shell, black leek and Solomon’s seal must at one time and another have been in-fused and taken without the least observable effect.
Winter went and spring came and Jia Rui’s sickness grew even worse. His grandfather Dai-ru was in despair. Medical advice from every quarter had been taken and none of it had proved effective. The most recent advice was that the patient should be given a pure decoction of ginseng without admixture of other ingredients. So costly a remedy was far beyond Dai-ru’s resources and he was obliged to go to the Rong-guo mansion to beg. Lady Wang ordered Wang Xi-feng to weigh out two ounces for him from their own supplies.
‘The other day when we were making up a new lot of pills for Grandmother,’ said Xi-feng, ‘you told me to keep any of the remaining whole roots for a medicine you were sending to General Yang’s wife. I sent her the medicine yesterday, sol am afraid we haven’t any left.’
‘Well, even if we haven’t got any,’ said Lady Wang, ‘you can send to your mother-in-law’s for some; and probably they will have some at your Cousin Zhen’s. Between you you ought somehow or other to be able to raise enough to give him. If you can save a man’s life by doing so, you will have performed a work of merit.’
But though Xi-feng pretended to do as Lady Wang suggested, in fact she made no such inquiries. She merely scraped a few drams of broken bits together and sent them to Dai-ru with a message that ‘Lady Wang had instructed her to send this, and it was all they had.’ To Lady Wang, however, she reported that she had asked the others and altogether obtained more than two ounces of ginseng which she had sent to Dai-ru.
Jia Rui now wanted desperately to live and eagerly swallowed every medicine that they offered him; but all was a waste of money, for nothing seemed to do him any good. One day a lame Taoist appeared at the door asking for alms and claiming to be able to cure retributory illnesses. Jia Rui, who chanced to overhear him, called out from his bed:
‘Quick, tell the holy man to come in and save me!’ and as he called, he kotowed with his head on the pillow. The servants were obliged to bring the Taoist into the bedroom. Jia Rui clung to him tenaciously.
‘Holy one, save me!’ he cried out again and again.
The Taoist sighed.
‘No medicine will cure your sickness. However, I have a precious thing here that I can lend you which, if you will look at it every day, can be guaranteed to save your life.’
So saying, he took from his satchel a mirror which had reflecting surfaces on both its sides. The words A MIRROR FOR THE ROMANTIC were inscribed on the back. He handed it to Jia Rui.
‘This object comes from the Hall of Emptiness in the Land of Illusion. It was fashioned by the fairy Disenchantment as an antidote to the ill effects of impure mental activity. It has life-giving and restorative properties and has been brought into the world for the contemplation of those intelligent and handsome young gentlemen whose hearts are too susceptible to the charms of beauty. I lend it to you on one important condition: you must only look into the back of the mirror. Never, never under any circumstances look into the front. Three days hence I shall come again to reclaim it, by which time I guarantee that your illness will have gone.’
With that he left, at a surprising speed, ignoring the earnest entreaties of those present that he should stay longer.
‘This is intriguing!’ Jia Rui thought to himself when the Taoist gave him the mirror. ‘Let me try looking into it as he says, and holding it up to his face he looked into the back as instructed and saw a grinning skull, which he covered up hastily with a curse:
‘Silly old fool, to scare me like that! – But let me see what happens when I look into the other side!’
He turned the mirror round and looked, and there inside was Xi-feng beckoning to him to enter, and his ravished soul floated into the mirror after her. There they performed the act of love together, after which she saw him out again. But when he found himself once more back in his bed he stared and cried out in horror: for the mirror, of its own accord, had turned itself round in his hand and the same grinning skull faced him that he had seen before. He could feel the sweat trickling all over his body and lower down in the bed a little pool of semen that he had just ejaculated.
Yet still he was not satisfied, and turned the face of the mirror once more towards him. Xi-feng was there beckoning to him again and calling, and again he went in after her. He did this three or four times. But the last time, just as he was going to return from the mirror, two figures approached him holding iron chains which they fastened round him and by which they proceeded to drag him away. He cried out as they dragged him:
‘Walt! Let me take the mirror with me . . .!
Those were the last words he ever uttered.
To those who stood around the bed and watched him while this was happening he appeared first to be holding up the mirror and looking into it, then to let it drop; then to open his eyes in a ghastly stare and pick it up again; then, as it once more fell from his grasp, he finally ceased to move.
When they examined him more closely they found that his breathing had already stopped and that underneath his body there was a large, wet, icy patch of recently ejaculated semen.
At once they lifted him from the bed and busied themselves with the laying-out, while old Dai-ru and his wife abandoned themselves to a paroxysm of grief. They cursed the Taoist for a necromancer and ordered the servants to heap up a fire and cast the mirror upon the flames. But just at that moment a voice was heard in the air saying, ‘Who told him to look in the front? It is you who are to blame, for confusing the unreal with the real! Why then should you burn my mirror ?’
Suddenly the mirror was seen to rise up and fly out of the room, and when Dai-ru went outside to look, there was the lame Taoist asking for it back. He snatched it as it flew towards him and disappeared before Dai-ru’s very eyes.
Seeing that there was to be no redress, Dai-ru was obliged to set about preparing for the funeral and began by announcing his grandson’s death to everybody concerned. Reading of the sutras began on the third day and on the seventh the coffin was drawn in procession to temporary lodging in the Temple of the Iron Threshold to await future reburial. The various members of the Jia family all came in due course to offer their condolences. From the Rong-guo side Jia She and Jia Zheng each gave twenty taels of silver and from the Ning-guo side Cousin Zhen also gave twenty taels. The other members of the clan gave amounts varying from one to four taels according to their means. A collection made among the parents of the dead man’s fellow-students raised an additional twenty or thirty taels. Although Dai-ru’s means were slender, with so much monetary help coming in he was able to perform the whole business in considerable style.
Towards the end of the year in which Jia Rui’s troubles started Lin Ru-hai fell seriously ill and wrote a letter asking to see Dai-yu again. Though Grandmother Jia was plunged into deepest gloom by the letter, she was obliged to prepare with all possible expedition for her granddaughter’s departure. And Bao-yu, though he too was distres8ed at the prospect of Dai-yu’s leaving him, could scarcely seek to interfere in a matter affecting the natural feelings of a father and his child. Grandmother Jia insisted that Jia Lian should accompany Dai-yu and see her safely there and back. The various gifts to be taken and the journey-money were, it goes without saying, duly prepared. A suitable day on which to commence the journey was quickly determined and Jia Lian and Dai-yu took leave of all the rest and, embarking with their attendants, set sail for Yangchow.
Next: Chapter 13
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