Page:Inside Canton.djvu/208

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207
INSIDE CANTON.

messenger was a long time in executing her errand, and Madame Li now and then manifested signs of impatience. When the concubine made her appearance at last, bringing the desired article, the legitimate wife rose from her seat, went up to her, snatched the work away, and with her own slender hands gave her two smart boxes on the ear, which shook from her cheeks a powder of white and pink mingled. The unlucky tsié, a charming young person, the one who most nearly resembled the mistress of the house, fled into a corner, crying and sobbing, and not a soul, in all this feminine assembly, dared to speak a word of protest against the punishment.

We had other proofs of the despotic authority exercised by this young lady under her own roof. In her presence, the tsié were respectful and almost timid; they trembled to take any liberty without formal leave given; and the mistress must pass the word for free speech and innocent mirth before they dared to laugh and joke. When Madame de Lagrené went to visit the house of Pan-se-Chen, it was Madame Li who received her. She always went through her duties as hostess and mistress of the household with ease and dignity. After the customary compliments and salutations, she offered her hand—covered with her long clothes—to the great lady of the West, and made her sit at her side by a table tastefully served. The tsié, at a distance behind these ladies, elegantly dressed, with their heads