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Was it the scent of the perfumed tea, a present from an old sailor friend, which Mrs. Bunker was putting away, or was it the sight of the red jar ornamented with black-and-gold men, with round caps, long petticoats, and pigtails, that caused Lucy next to open her eyes upon a cane sofa, with cushions ornamented with figures in colored silks? The floor of the room was of shining inlaid wood; there were beautifully woven mats all round; stands made of red lacquer work, and seats of cane and bamboo; and there was a round window, through which could be seen a beautiful garden, full of flowering shrubs and trees, a clear pond lined with colored tiles in the middle, and over the wall the gilded roof of a pagoda, like an umbrella, only all in ridge and furrow, and with a little bell at every spoke. Beyond, were beautifully and fantastically shaped hills, and a lake below with pleasure boats on it. It was all wonderfully like a pretty china bowl come to life, and Lucy knew she was in China, even before there came into the room, toddling upon her poor little, tiny feet, a young lady with a small yellow face, little slips of eyes sloping upwards from her flat nose, and black hair combed up very tight from her face and twisted with flowers and ornaments. She had ever so many robes on, the edge of one peeping out below the other, and at the top a sort of blue China-crape tunic, with very wide, loose sleeves dropping an immense way from her hands. There was no gathering in at the waist, and it reached to her knees, where a still more splendid white silk, embroidered, trailed along. She had a big fan in her hand; but when she saw the visitor she went up to a beautiful little, low table, with an ivory frill round it, where stood some dainty, delicate tea-cups and saucers. Into one of these she put a little ball, about as big as an oak-apple, of tea-leaves; a maid dressed like herself poured hot water on it, and handed it on a lacquer- work tray. Lucy took it, said, "Thank you," and then waited.
"Is it not good?" said the little hostess.
"It must be! You are the real tea people," said Lucy: "but I was waiting for sugar and milk."
"That would spoil it," said the Chinese damsel; "only outer barbarians would think of such a thing. And, ah! I see you are one! See, Ki-hi, what monstrous feet!"
"They are not bigger than your maid's," said Lucy rather disgusted. "Why are yours so small?"
"Because my mother and nurse took care of me when I was a baby, and bound them up that they might not grow big and ugly like those of the poor creatures who have to run about for their husbands, feed silk worms, and tend ducks!"
"But shouldn't you like to walk without almost tumbling down?" said Lucy.
"No, indeed! Me a daughter of a mandarin of the blue button! You are a mere barbarian to think a lady ought to want to walk. Do you not see that I never do anything? Look at my lovely nails."
"I think they are claws," said Lucy; "do you never break them?"
"No; when they are a little longer, I shall wear silver shields for them as my mother does."
"And do you really never work?"
"I should think not," said the young lady, scornfully fanning herself; "I leave that to the common folk, who are obliged to. Come with me and let me lean on you, and I will give you a peep through the lattice, that you may see that my father is far above making his daughter work. See, there he sits, with his moustachios hanging down to his chin, and his pig-tail to his heels, and the blue dragon embroidered on his breast, watching while they prepare the hall for a grand dinner. There will be a stew of puppy dog, and another of kittens, and bird's-nest soup; and then the players will come and act part of the nine-night tragedy, and we will look through the lattice. Ah! father is smoking opium, that he may be serene and in good spirits! Does it make your head ache? Ah! that is because your are a mere outer barbarian. She is asleep, Ki-hi; lay her on the sofa, and let her sleep. How ugly her pale hair is, almost as bad as her big feet!"
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