"Don't make any such assertions，" Tzu-hsing remarked with a sigh， "the present two mansions of Jung and Ning have both alike also suffered reverses， and they cannot come up to their state of days of yore."
"Up to this day， these two households of Ning and of Jung，" Yue-ts'un suggested， "still maintain a very large retinue of people， and how can it be that they have met with reverses？"
"To explain this would be indeed a long story，" said Leng Tzu-hsing. "Last year，" continued Yue-ts'un， "I arrived at Chin Ling， as I entertained a wish to visit the remains of interest of the six dynasties， and as I on that day entered the walled town of Shih T'ou， I passed by the entrance of that old residence. On the east side of the street， stood the Ning Kuo mansion； on the west the Jung Kuo mansion； and these two， adjoining each other as they do， cover in fact well-nigh half of the whole length of the street. Outside the front gate everything was， it is true， lonely and deserted； but at a glance into the interior over the enclosing wall， I perceived that the halls， pavilions， two-storied structures and porches presented still a majestic and lofty appearance. Even the flower garden， which extends over the whole area of the back grounds， with its trees and rockeries， also possessed to that day an air of luxuriance and freshness， which betrayed no signs of a ruined or decrepid establishment."
"You have had the good fortune of starting in life as a graduate，" explained Tzu-tsing as he smiled， "and yet are not aware of the saying uttered by some one of old： that a centipede even when dead does not lie stiff. （These families） may， according to your version， not be up to the prosperity of former years， but， compared with the family of an ordinary official， their condition anyhow presents a difference. Of late the number of the inmates has， day by day， been on the increase； their affairs have become daily more numerous； of masters and servants， high and low， who live in ease and respectability very many there are； but of those who exercise any forethought， or make any provision， there is not even one. In their daily wants， their extravagances， and their expenditure， they are also unable to adapt themselves to circumstances and practise economy； （so that though） the present external framework may not have suffered any considerable collapse， their purses have anyhow begun to feel an exhausting process！ But this is a mere trifle. There is another more serious matter. Would any one ever believe that in such families of official status， in a clan of education and culture， the sons and grandsons of the present age would after all be each （succeeding） generation below the standard of the former？"
Yue-ts'un， having listened to these remarks， observed： "How ever can it be possible that families of such education and refinement can observe any system of training and nurture which is not excellent？ Concerning the other branches， I am not in a position to say anything； but restricting myself to the two mansions of Jung and Ning， they are those in which， above all others， the education of their children is methodical." pearl rabbit
"I was just now alluding to none other than these two establishments，" Tzu-hsing observed with a sigh； "but let me tell you all. In days of yore， the duke of Ning Kuo and the duke of Jung Kuo were two uterine brothers. The Ning duke was the elder； he had four sons. After the death of the duke of Ning Kuo， his eldest son， Chia Tai-hua， came into the title. He also had two sons； but the eldest， whose name was Hu， died at the age of eight or nine； and the only survivor， the second son， Chia Ching， inherited the title. His whole mind is at this time set upon Taoist doctrines； his sole delight is to burn the pill and refine the dual powers； while every other thought finds no place in his mind. Happily， he had， at an early age， left a son， Chia Chen， behind in the lay world， and his father， engrossed as his whole heart was with the idea of attaining spiritual life， ceded the succession of the official title to him. His parent is， besides， not willing to return to the original family seat， but lives outside the walls of the capital， foolishly hobnobbing with all the Taoist priests. This Mr. Chen had also a son， Chia Jung， who is， at this period， just in his sixteenth year. Mr. Ching gives at present no attention to anything at all， so that Mr. Chen naturally devotes no time to his studies， but being bent upon nought else but incessant high pleasure， he has subversed the order of things in the Ning Kuo mansion， and yet no one can summon the courage to come and hold him in check. But I'll now tell you about the Jung mansion for your edification. The strange occurrence， to which I alluded just now， came about in this manner. After the demise of the Jung duke， the eldest son， Chia Tai-shan， inherited the rank. He took to himself as wife， the daughter of Marquis Shih， a noble family of Chin Ling， by whom he had two sons； the elder being Chia She， the younger Chia Cheng. This Tai Shan is now dead long ago； but his wife is still alive， and the elder son， Chia She， succeeded to the deGREe. He is a man of amiable and genial disposition， but he likewise gives no thought to the direction of any domestic concern. The second son Chia Cheng displayed， from his early childhood， a great liking for books， and grew up to be correct and upright in character. His grandfather doated upon him， and would have had him start in life through the arena of public examinations， but， when least expected， Tai-shan， being on the point of death， bequeathed a petition， which was laid before the Emperor. His Majesty， out of regard for his former minister， issued immediate commands that the elder son should inherit the estate， and further inquired how many sons there were besides him， all of whom he at once expressed a wish to be introduced in his imperial presence. His Majesty， moreover， displayed exceptional favour， and conferred upon Mr. Cheng the brevet rank of second class Assistant Secretary （of a Board）， and commanded him to enter the Board to acquire the necessary experience. He has already now been promoted to the office of second class Secretary. This Mr. Cheng's wife， nee Wang， first gave birth to a son called Chia Chu， who became a Licentiate in his fourteenth year. At barely twenty， he married， but fell ill and died soon after the birth of a son. Her （Mrs. Cheng's） second child was a daughter， who came into the world， by a strange coincidence， on the first day of the year. She had an unexpected （pleasure） in the birth， the succeeding year， of another son， who， still more remarkable to say， had， at the time of his birth， a piece of variegated and crystal-like brilliant jade in his mouth， on which were yet visible the outlines of several characters. Now， tell me， was not this a novel and strange occurrence？ eh？"
"Strange indeed！" exclaimed Yue-ts'un with a smile； "but I presume the coming experiences of this being will not be mean."
Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. "One and all，" he remarked， "entertain the same idea. Hence it is that his mother doats upon him like upon a precious jewel. On the day of his first birthday， Mr. Cheng readily entertained a wish to put the bent of his inclinations to the test， and placed before the child all kinds of things， without number， for him to grasp from. Contrary to every expectation， he scorned every other object， and， stretching forth his hand， he simply took hold of rouge， powder and a few hair-pins， with which he began to play. Mr. Cheng experienced at once displeasure， as he maintained that this youth would， by and bye， grow up into a sybarite， devoted to wine and women， and for this reason it is， that he soon began to feel not much attachment for him. But his grandmother is the one who， in spite of everything， prizes him like the breath of her own life. The very mention of what happened is even strange！ He is now grown up to be seven or eight years old， and， although exceptionally wilful， in intelligence and precocity， however， not one in a hundred could come up to him！ And as for the utterances of this child， they are no less remarkable. The bones and flesh of woman， he argues， are made of water， while those of man of mud. 'Women to my eyes are pure and pleasing，' he says， 'while at the sight of man， I readily feel how corrupt， foul and repelling they are！' Now tell me， are not these words ridiculous？ There can be no doubt whatever that he will by and bye turn out to be a licentious roue."