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66 let us
how is it possible to find a person, on whom we can both place our affections ?”
My dear coz,” said Peartree, after a moment's reflection, “ you permit me to share your confidence; why should we conceal anything from each other?"
Surely," answered Jasper, “I can have no secrets for you.” "“Let me ask you, then, my sweet Jasper, whether the youth who has already won your heart be a person of so little merit, that we need to look farther?"
• “ The youth who has already won my heart ?” replied Jasper, laughing, “ what can you possibly mean, my dear Peartree ? How can you be so absurd' as to think that I care for one young man more than another? And were there even any foundation for such a story, which I am far from admitting, how could it possibly have come to your knowledge ?"
My fair coz,” said Peartree, with a loud laugh, “ if you wish your secret not to be known, believe me, the only way is not to
The most trifling actions of a great poet or a pretty woman are matters of public curiosity, and become the subject of general conversation. Far as I live from here, I have long been informed of all this business."
"“Since you are so well informed, then," replied Jasper, who rather doubted the correctness of her cousin's assertion, know what you have heard. Perhaps it is something about the adventure of Chang-Fanju and the verses on the Willow-tree ?”
Nay,” said Peartree, still laughing, “ that everybody knows. I am not alluding to Chang, who attempted to obtain the credit of having written the poem on the Willow-tree, but to a certain young gentleman named Sa, who was the real author of that
poem, and also of the Salutation to the Swallow.”
At this remark, which evidently showed a knowledge of her most private sentiments, poor Jasper was at first so much confused, that she could not articulate a word; but looked in utter amazement at Yanson, as if to ask whether she had betrayed the secret.
6“ Why this embarrassment? my sweet cousin,” said Peartree, are we not sisters? why should we conceal anything from each other?”
""I know you to be a shrewd girl," said Jasper, perceiving, after a moment's hesitation, that it was useless to dissemble; “but how you have discovered this affair, I am sure I cannot imagine. I have not lisped a syllable of it to any one but Yanson ; nor ventured so much as to dream about it for fear of betraying myself. Is it possible that one of my women can have played the spy and tell-tale?”
Nay, nay,” said Peartree, “make yourself easy on that score,
my fair cousin. Your adventure is a secret, for aught I know, from your very guardian spirit. But there is one person who was of course acquainted with it, and who related it to me with his own mouth; I mean young Sa himself. I dare swear no one else is privy to the matter.'
Nay, coz,” said Jasper, “you are surely jesting. It is nearly a year since Sa left us. My father has sent to inquire after him in all quarters, and can hear nothing about him. Supposing him to be at Canton, how could he possibly communicate with you, a young and pretty girl confined to the female apartment ?"
"“ Your question is natural enough,” replied Peartree, “but certain it is that I saw young Sa, and that we talked of his engagement with you. I have not the most remote intention of deceiving
"" And yet,” said Jasper, “ what you say is neither natural nor probable. How can you expect me to believe it ?”
““ Believe it or not, as you please," replied her cousin; gentleman himself, when you see him again, will at all events assure you that I speak the truth."
"" Alas !” said Jasper, “there is but little chance of our meeting again. After all the fruitless researches, which my
father has made to obtain news of him, I have but too much reason to fear that he has forgotten me.”
““ Forgotten you, my dear Jasper ?” said Peartree, in reply, “why 't is for the very purpose of arranging his marriage with you, that he is now travelling about in all directions, without allowing himself a moment's repose or comfort. How can you speak with so much levity of this most excellent and exemplary young man? He distinguished himself very much last autumn at the Northern Examination.”
"“ It was he, then,” said Jasper, a little surprised, “ who obtained the second place upon the list. How happens it that he was described as a candidate from Honan ?”
"“ The reason was,” replied Peartree, “ that his uncle, the inspector general, is a native of Honan. He has recently adopted his nephew, and the latter of course belongs at present to that province.
"“ Since, then, he has obtained the promotion he desired,” said Jasper, “ why does he not return to fulfil his engagement with me? How happens it that we have not the least intelligence from him ?”
“ “ He is waiting, I imagine,” replied Peartree, “ until he obtains the highest rank of all. Have a little patience, my sweet coz, and he will make you a doctor's lady.”
"“ You speak with such an air of sincerity, my dear sister," said Jasper, “ that I am bound to believe you; and it is certain
that you could not have obtained from any other person the information you possess. But how a young girl like you, shut
in the female apartment, should have been able to converse with an entire stranger, I am wholly unable to imagine. If you love me, relate the whole affair to me in detail, before I die of curiosity.”
6.6. After all that has passed," said Peartree, “I can do no otherwise ; but for Heaven's sake, sweet coz, spare your raillery."
Nay,” said Jasper, “my communications here in the female apartment were something still more singular than your adventure, and will of course close my mouth upon
the subject.” "“ Well, then,” said Peartree, “ since you promise to be merciful, I will e'en tell you all. You must know, then, that after parting from you last year, young Sa was proceeding to the capital in order to arrange with your uncle Gu the preliminaries of his marriage with you. As he was passing through Canton, he was attacked by robbers, and plundered of everything he had with him. In this emergency, he luckily made acquaintance with a certain Counsellor Li, living in the house next to ours, who engaged him to compose the inscriptions for some screens, which he was preparing, and for this purpose gave him for the time a lodging at the bottom of his garden. I happened to be looking out of the summer-house in ours, as he was writing; and was so much struck by his noble air, and the facility with which he managed his pencil, that I knew he must be a poet of great merit. Orphan, as I was, without father or brothers to provide for my establishment, was I obliged to observe to the letter all the ordinary rules, and remain unmarried for life? Do not think too hardly of me, my dear cousin, if I confess to you, that I ventured to deviate from them in this extreme case, and putting on a man's dress, had a personal interview with Sa without the garden gate."
«« Well done, Peartree !” said Jasper, struck with astonishment, and at the same time highly gratified with this account. “ So young, and so much wit and resolution! You are really a heroine ! But, cousin, how came he to speak of his engagement to me? This young student of ours must be a great babbler.”
6" Not at all,” replied Peartree; “he is, I assure you, a model of discretion. But you must recollect, that I made proposals to him to marry my sister, that is, myself; and when he repeatedly declined, and I as often insisted upon knowing his objection, he had no resource left, but to inform me of his engagement with you. He concluded, of course, that I could have no concern in an affair that happened a thousand miles off, and was far from dreaming that he was talking to me about my own cousin. ProviVOL. XXVII.-NO. 61.
dence, my dear sister, seems to have interposed specially, in order to manage this matter in the way most favorable to our happiness.”
«« And what,” inquired Jasper, “ did you finally agree upon ?"
O" When I found that he was under a prior engagement," replied Peartree," which nothing would induce him to relinquish, and saw that he was a young man of a firm and steady character, I proposed to him, always speaking as if for my sister, the expedient of a double marriage. As he appeared to be satisfied with this, I next resolved to remove to this place with my mother, in order to ascertain your wishes, and complete the arrangement if it should prove agreeable to you. The warm and tender attachment which I have since formed for you, my sweet sister, makes the connexion appear ten times more delightful to me than I had expected. Heaven has surely interposed in a visible manner in our behalf.”
““You are a charming creature, my sweet Peartree, and have quite cleared up the mystery that covered the proceedings of Sa, and explained them in the most satisfactory manner. If we do but complete the arrangement, I will acknowledge you for a greater heroine than any one on record.”
It will be observed, that although the form of the marriage here treated of be different from that in use with us, and the tone of the conversation sportive and lively, the parties observe the same perfect decorum which is usual in reference to the same subject, in the polished societies of the western world. Indeed, the work before us is so far from approaching in any part to undue freedom of thought or expression, that it supposes and exemplifies throughout, a degree of reserve in the ordinary intercourse of the sexes, which appears, when judged by our notions, excessive and ridiculous. The reader will agree with us, we think, in considering the above passage as a favorable specimen of the author's talent for easy and spirited dialogue, which is, after all, the principal attraction in the domestic novel. The characters of the young ladies are also discriminated with some degree of delicacy, and correspond pretty nearly with those of Caroline and Rosamond in Miss Edgeworth's 6 Patronage?;Jasper, all perfection ; Peartree, perfection alloyed and made more interesting by a few grains of étourderie. The above dialogue resembles in tone those of Celia and Rosalind in Shakspeare's. As you like it,' and partly coincides in the turn of thought, with that which passes between Portia and Nerissa and their husbands in the Merchant of Ven
ice,' at the close of the fifth act. We have taken the liberty of employing an abridged translation of the names of the ladies, as a method of escaping from the stiffness of the Chinese nomenclature, and giving the conversation a natural air, in preference to the plan adopted by M. Remusat, of affixing to the original family name the terms of address in use with us. Miss Pa and Miss Lo would appear in English like decided burlesque ; while the names, as translated, being of a slightly comic cast, are, in this respect, in keeping with the tone of the dialogue, and tend to heighten rather than diminish its effect. We perceive, however, that we are approaching the extent of our limits, and must hurry rapidly over the rest of the narrative.
The reader will have gathered from the contents of the above dialogue, that the hero of the novel, after parting from the second heroine, meets with his uncle, the inspector general, is adopted by him, and then proceeds to the capital to pursue his studies. He there distinguishes himself as usual, obtains at the general examination the thirteenth place on the list of the doctors, and, at the final one before the emperor, comes out at the head of one of the two classes of these dignitaries. This rank gives him the right of entering the Jasper Hall, and mounting the Golden Horse, or, in plain language of being admitted into the Imperial Academy of Sciences; a distinction which also regularly carries with it an appointment to one of the great offices at court. But by the intrigues of some power ful friends of the disappointed candidates, he does not receive the promotion properly due to his success, and only obtains an appointment of judge in a remote province. Without, however, making any difficulty on the subject, he sets off pretty soon to take possession of his place, calling on his way first at Honan to offer sacrifice at the burial-place of his ancestors, and afterwards successively at Canton and Nankin to arrange his marriage with his two wives. Unluckily he is disappointed in meeting with both. Dream-of-a-Peartree, as the reader is aware, had left Canton, and no one there could give the least account where she had gone. She had herself sent a messenger to Sa, to inform him, whom he had missed by crossing him on the road. Proceeding thence to Nankin, he finds that Pa has gone upon an excursion of pleasure to the Western Lake. During his absence, no access can of course be had to the family. Having no leisure time upon his hands to make farther inquiries at the moment, he reluctantly continues his journey to his