Mistress and Maid: Jiaohongji

By Meng Chengshun; Cyril Birch | Go to book overview
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SCENE 7
Response in Rhyme

PETAL(enters and recites): Little maid, sixteen, pretty and smart should pass salad days fancy-free; still gets smitten by passion's dart tries out loving looks secretly! My name is Feihong, “Flying Pink,” or simply Petal. I am quite well endowed with feminine charms and I'm good at reading and writing. Unhappily, I was destined to be only a serving maid, and so I spend time in and around the master's private quarters. His wife is a jealous woman, though, and keeps a strict watch, so although you could say the master and I are very close, as it happens I've stayed intact so far. I'm in my sixteenth year, born the same year, same month as the young mistress. When I have some time to spare from my duties with the master and madam I walk across to the young mistress's boudoir to keep her company and admire her needlework and calligraphy. The young mistress has it all, looks and brains both, and she's sweet and ladylike as well, very serious and dignified, never an unseemly word or a careless laugh. Among all the women who've ever been celebrated for talent and virtue it would truly be hard to find her equal. And yet: I've been quietly watching her, and ever since she set eyes on this Cousin Shen she seems to have developed a sudden attachment to him. I've tried a few hints, hoping to find out more, but she never responds. (She sighs) Oh Miss, Miss, you may keep your feelings to yourself, but I've a good idea what the attraction is. And if you're going to play Cui Yingying, don't tell me I can't manage the part of Red Maid!1 But enough of this. I can see for myself that Cousin

____________________
1
Cui Yingying is the heroine of the Romance of the West Wing, the best known of all Chinese plays; it has been translated by Stephen H. West and Wilt Idema in their book The Moon and the Zither (University of California Press, 1991). The progress of Yingying's romance with the young scholar Zhang is helped along by her maidservant, the pert, flirtatious Red Maid (Hongniang).

-43-

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