Part 2 out of 3
"What are you going to do, then?"
He gave a country laugh, full of suggestion.
* * * * *
Matters so continued until the fifteenth day of the first Moon,
the evening of the Feast of Lanterns. Feng went out to see the
illuminations, and also to profit by the opportunities for theft which
are always afforded in a crowd. The evening wore on, and he had not
yet returned, when a shout arose among the neighbors. Feng's mother
opened the door to see what was the matter. A fire had broken out near
there. In terror, the old woman made haste to carry her furniture into
the yard. Profiting by this confusion, the girl slipped through the
door; but in the street she did not know which way to turn. At
last she found the road to the Ts'ao Gate, and was running in that
direction when she lost herself again. However, when at length she
asked where The Pavilion of the Quick Hedge might be, she was shown a
near way to it.
The attendant was before the door, and she asked him very politely:
"Ten thousand happinesses! Is not this the house of Fan and Erh-lang?"
"Certainly it is, small lady."
"Could you not lead me to him?"
"Assuredly," he answered.
He showed her the way, calling from the door to his masters; but when
Erh-lang, in the pale light of the paper lanterns, recognized the
white face of his betrothed, he cried out in dismay: "Ghost! Ghost!"
Confident in her love, she advanced toward him piteously repeating:
"Elder brother! Elder brother! I am alive!"
But he kept recoiling in terror, and crying: "Help! Help!"
How could he fail to believe himself in the presence of a ghost, when
he had witnessed the funeral, and had, that very evening, encountered
the wife of Chou in mourning garments?
As she was about to touch him and, cringing against the wall, he could
retreat no further, his terror redoubled. Not knowing what he did, he
picked up a heavy stool and struck his dear visitor on the head with
it. She fell back, and her head sounded dully on the stone flags.
Fan ran up at the noise of this. He saw the woman on the ground, and
his brother holding the stool.
"What have you done?" he cried. "What is the matter? Was it you who
"She is a ghost," the other said.
"If she were a ghost, she would not bleed. What have you done?"
Already some ten persons had come up to see what was the matter. The
street guard came in to them and seized Erh-lang, who kept on saying:
"She is the ghost of Chou's daughter. I have killed her."
Hearing this name, a neighbor ran to inform Chou, who would not at
first believe him. At length he decided to go to the wine pavilion,
where he was compelled to recognize her, though he kept on saying:
"I buried her long since!"
Nevertheless, the guard insisted upon leading Erh-lang to prison.
Fan had the doors shut then, and stayed with Chou by the corpse till
Early next day the Governor inquired into the matter. The coffin was
opened. It was found empty, and the keepers told how their dog had
been found dead in the snow on the day after the funeral. In the
absence of any completer explanation, they proceeded with their
Erh-lang, in his prison, was overcome with sorrowful remorse.
Sometimes he said that she could not have survived her burial;
sometimes he was rent with horror at the thought that she had been
alive when he struck her. He recalled her beauty and grace in Spring
by the lake side, and bitter tears rolled from him. While he was
musing in this way, he saw his cell door open, and the girl appeared.
In his emotion and fear, he cried:
"Are you not dead, my darling?"
"Your blow caused me more grief than harm. Now I have wakened, and
have come to see you."
She approached the bench where he sat, and he took her hand:
"How can I have been so foolish as to fear you?"
They were talking thus, and already, in their deep love, they were in
each other's arms. His joy was so keen that suddenly he woke. It was a
On the second night the same thing happened, and on the third, and his
passion grew stronger for her. As she was going away the third time,
"My life on earth had come to an end, but my love was so great and
so potently called me to you, that the Marshal-of-the-Five-Ways, the
Keeper-of-the-Frontier-of-the-Shadows, allowed me to come back to
you, for these three nights. I must leave you now. But, if you do not
forget, there will yet be something of me bound to your soul."
Then she disappeared, and the young man sobbed most bitterly.
In the end the matter was cleared up by chance. Feng's mother, having
filched a golden trifle from her son's bag, went to sell it to the
same jeweler who had made it for Chou. On being denounced before the
Governor, mother and son were apprehended, and all the jewels were
discovered in their house. Torture found them words, and the whole
matter became clear. Erh-lang had actually believed that he saw a
ghost, and was released. Feng was sentenced to slow death, and strips
were torn one by one from his body by the executioner. His mother was
As for Erh-lang, his heart stayed faithful to the girl he had
so greatly loved. At every feast he went to the temple of the
Marshal-of-the-Five-Ways, and burned incense, so that the pleasant
smoke of it might ascend to the palace of the soul of little
Victorious-Immortal. His fidelity touched even the rough heart of Chou
and, when he came to die a few years later, his body was buried in the
same tomb with her whom his arms had known only in sleep.
_Nao fan lou to ch'ing sheng hsien (Chou Victorious-Immortal,
of abundant love, overthrows the Pavilion
of the Fan). Hsing shih heng yen
(1627), 14th Tale._
THE ERROR OF THE EMBROIDERED SLIPPER
The sun is in our eyes
And we think we are running out towards joy;
Our heart pulls us down
And we shall never know the way of the sky
Or the end of all things.
During the Hung-Chih period of our Dynasty there lived at Hang-chow
a young man who was called Chang Loyalty. After his parents died,
leaving him a great fortune, he no longer had anyone to guide him, and
therefore, throwing away his books, he spent his time with gallants of
the sort we name fou-lang-tzu, that is to say "floating-on-the-waves."
They do not know how to profit by opportunity. So Chang no longer
studied anything but various ball games, he abandoned himself to the
pleasures of the theatre, and took his delight in those gardens where
the breezes of love blow in the moonlight. In a word, he followed the
changing flowers of illusion; and, as he was himself seductive, as
impassioned as expert in pleasure, and rich and generous, he became
the favorite of all the women of the town. One day, when spring had
but just caused all the flowers to come out on the amiable banks of
the Lake of the West, Chang invited a company of singing girls and
idlers to spend the afternoon on the blue waters.
He put on a gauze bonnet with floating wings, after the fashion of the
time. His great transparent silk robe was of purple and silver, over
a second embroidered one of pure white. White gauze stockings and red
slippers completed the elegance of his appearance.
He went out, walking unhurriedly, gently waving a fan decorated with
paintings. Behind him walked his little slave, Clear-Lute, who carried
over his shoulder a mantle in case the weather should freshen, and a
long guitar with which to accompany the singing girls.
As they were approaching the gate of Ch'ien-t'ang, Chang looked up,
for no particular reason. On the first story of a house a maiden
held back her window curtain and looked at him. From her whole person
emanated so troubling a charm that he stopped in his walk, and felt
a tremor in his body. For a long time they remained gazing at each
other, until she slowly broke into a smile, and he felt his soul fly
At this moment the door of the house opened below, and a man came
forth; so Chang hastened to resume his walk, and returned in a few
moments. The curtain was drawn back over the window. He waited, but
there was no sign. At length he drew away, turning his head, and
walking as slowly as if he had already gone a hundred leagues on the
Yet eventually he passed the town gate and rejoined his friends on the
boat, which was at once steered to the middle of the lake. The banks
were smiling with peach blossom: the willow leaves were a mist of gold
and green. Little boats, with brightly-dressed passengers, crossed and
re-crossed like ants. In very truth:
Hills are heaped upon hills
And the pavilions on the pavilions.
The songs and dances are never ceasing
On the West Lake.
The warm breeze fans the drunkenness
Of the pleasure walkers.
Heaven is above,
But here we have Hang-chow and Su-chow Lakes.
But Chang carried the picture of that young girl in his soul, and had
no heart for pleasure.
His companions offered him cups of wine, wondering at his melancholy;
but he was far from them.
At twilight they returned, and Chang re-entered by the Ch'ien-t'ang
gate, passing before the girl's house. The window was shut. He
stopped, and forced a cough; but there was no sign. He went to the end
of the street, and came back again, but all was silent. Therefore he
had no choice but to go away.
He returned next morning, and stayed at a shop near by to learn what
he could. He was told:
"They are people called P'an. Their only daughter is sixteen years of
age, and is named Eternal Life. The father has some connection with
a certain powerful family which affords him protection. He lives by
swindling, and everyone fears him. He is a veritable skin-pinker and
This news made Chang a little thoughtful, but he walked on by the
house nevertheless. The young girl was again at her window. They
looked at each other; but there were people about, and he had to go
That evening, as soon as night fell, he went back. The moon was
shining as brightly as the sun, and the street was empty. The youthful
beauty leaned at her window, wrapped in thought and bathed in the
white light. She smiled at him, and he drew from his sleeve his
scarlet muslin handkerchief. He made the knot known as "union of
hearts gives victory." Rolling it in a ball, he threw it, and she
adroitly caught it in two hands. Then she stooped and took off one of
her little embroidered slippers. She dropped it into Chang's waiting
fingers. Enraptured with this gift, which was a pledge of love and
faith, he carried it to his lips and said softly:
"Thank you; Thank you, with all my heart!"
In tones of maddening sweetness, she replied:
"Ten thousand happinesses!"
Just then a rough voice was heard within the house. She made another
sign to him and closed the window. And he went home drunk through
silent streets made silver by the moon. Once in his library, he
examined the slipper. It was a golden lotus, so small and so light
that a thousand thoughts troubled the lover. He said:
"I must find someone to arrange our meeting, or else die from an
over-stressing of desire."
Early in the morning, he put some pieces of silver in his sleeve and
hastened to a little wine booth, not far from the house of P'an.
He knew that he would find an old woman there, whom he often met in
pleasurable places. In fact, he saw her and called to her. She at once
saluted him, saying:
"Aya! My uncle, what brings you?"
"I happened to be passing," he answered carelessly.
"But I should like you to walk a little way with me."
"In what can I serve you?" she hastened to ask.
Without speaking, he took her into a quiet little tavern. When they
were seated, and the attendant had brought them fruit and dishes of
food, he poured out a full cup of hot wine and offered it to her,
"I have something to ask of you, ma-ma Lu. But I am afraid that you
cannot accomplish it."
"Without boasting," she answered with a wide smile, "there are few
enterprises, however difficult, in which I do not succeed. What is it
"I want you to arrange a meeting for me with the daughter of P'an,
who lives in the Street of the Ten Officials. Here are five ounces
of silver to begin with. If you succeed, you shall have quite as much
"The small Eternal Life? The little witch! I thought her so demure!
I should never have imagined she was a wild flower. But the matter is
difficult. There are only the parents and the daughter in that house,
and the father is dangerous. He keeps a damnably suspicious watch over
his door. How could you get in? I dare not promise any success."
"You have just boasted that you always succeed. Here are two ounces
The old woman's eyes gleamed like fire at the sight of the
snow-colored metal, and she said:
"I will take the risk. If all goes well, it will be your fortune.
If not, I shall at least have done my best. But give me a proof, for
otherwise she would not listen to me."
Not without regret, Chang took from his bosom the little slipper, and
gave it to her, wrapped in his handkerchief. The old woman at once
slipped it into her sleeve with the pieces of money. As she was
leaving him, she said again:
"The affair is delicate. You must have patience and not hurry me. That
would be dangerous."
"I only ask you to do your best. Come and tell me as soon as you have
Eternal Life was profoundly agitated. Since that moonlit night she had
had no more taste for food, but had said:
"If I married him I would not have lived in vain. But I know neither
his name nor where he lives. When I saw him beneath the moon, why
had I not wings to fly to him? ... As it is, I had only this red
Yet she had to live and speak as usual. But as soon as she was alone
she fell again into her musing.
Two days later, old Lu entered their house. The father had gone out.
The visitor said to mother and daughter:
"I received certain artificial flowers yesterday, and have come to
show them to you."
She took a bunch of a thousand shades out of her basket.
"Would you not say they were real?"
"When I was young," said the mother, "we only wore ordinary flowers,
and did not dream of marvels like these."
"Yet these are only considered mediocre. But the price of the finest
is so high."
"If we cannot buy them, we can at least admire them," the young girl
With gathering smiles, the old woman took from the basket a bunch
which was indeed incomparable.
"And what is the price of that?" questioned the mother.
"How should I dare to fix a price? I leave it to you. But if you have
a little tea, I would willingly drink of it."
"In the admiration caused by your flowers, we have forgotten our
manners. Wait for one moment, while I fetch some boiling water."
As soon as the mother had left the room, the woman took a slight
parcel from her sleeve.
"What have you there?" asked Eternal Life.
"Something important which you must not see."
"Oh, but I must see it then."
"I shall not give it to you," said the cunning old woman. "Aya! You
have taken it from me by force!" she added, letting the parcel into
the girl's hand.
Impatiently the child untied the handkerchief, and recognized her
slipper. Her face flushed into scarlet, and she said with difficulty:
"A single one of these objects is of no use, ma-ma. Why did you show
"I know a certain Lord who would give his life to have the pair. Will
you not consent to help me?"
Trembling all over, Eternal Life said to her softly:
"Since you know all, tell me his name and where he lives."
"He is called Chang, and he owns a hundred myriads of ounces. He is
very gentle; his love is as deep as the sea. He has lost his soul
through thinking of you, and has bidden me arrange a means for his
"How can it be done? My father is terrible. When I have blown out
my lamp, he often comes to look into the rooms. What is your plan,
The old woman thought for a minute, and then said:
"It is not very difficult. You must go to bed early and, as soon as
your father has come up and gone down again, you must rise quietly and
open the window. You must wait for a signal, and let down a long piece
of cloth. He will climb up with the help of this rope, and, if he is
careful to go away before the fifth watch, no one will surprise you."
"Admirable!" cried the delighted child. "When will he come?"
"It is too late to-day. But I will go to him to-morrow morning. Give
me a pledge of re-assurance for him."
"Assuredly! Take the other slipper. He will give it back to me
The old woman hid it in her sleeve, for the mother came in by this
time with the tea. Soon after, she took up her basket and went away,
accompanied to the door by the two women.
She went straight to the house of Chang, but he was out. She offered
her flowers to the women of the house, waiting for some part of the
day in vain.
Next morning she went again to find the young man, but he had not
returned. She went away thoughtful.
The truth is that Chang had remained three days in the house of a
Flower-in-the-Mist. When he returned and heard of the old woman's two
visits, he hastened to find her. She said to him:
"The pledge of love which you entrusted to me is in her hand. She bade
me tell you that her father is dangerous, but that he is to be away
for a long time shortly. She will inform us." On his return journey
the young man passed by P'an's house. Eternal Life was at her window,
and they smiled tenderly at one another.
* * * * *
Three months had passed. Chang was sitting one morning in his library,
when his servants told him that four police officers had come with a
summons. He asked himself fearfully whether he had been mixed up in
any scandal at a pleasure house; but he had to obey. He questioned the
"It is a matter of taxes and duties," they answered.
Reassured, he changed his clothes and went with them, followed by
several of his servants. He was taken at once to the hall where
the Court sat, and, standing before the red table, he saluted the
magistrate. The latter looked at him intently, and harshly asked:
"How did you enter into an intrigue with P'an's daughter? How did you
kill her father and her mother?"
Chang was a libertine. That is to say he had neither strength nor
energy. Hearing himself thus unexpectedly accused of a double crime,
he shook from head to foot, as if a bolt had fallen on him from a calm
sky. He stammered:
"Although I had the intention of establishing a connection with her,
I have not yet succeeded in doing so. As yet I have not known her
The Governor thundered:
"She has just confessed that her relation with you has lasted several
months. How dare you deny it?"
Just then Chang perceived that the young girl was kneeling close to
him. Bewildered and not knowing what to do, he turned to Eternal Life
"How can you say that I have been intimate with you? With what object
are you trying to encompass my ruin?"
She sobbed without answering. Meanwhile the Governor called upon the
officers to apply the buskin of torture to the young man. And they
swarmed about him like ants.
Unhappily for him, Chang Loyalty had been brought up in muslin and
gauze, and had grown to manhood in a brocade. How could he endure
such torture? Hardly had he felt the pressure of the buskin before he
"I confess everything!"
The Governor had a brush and paper given to the accused, that he might
himself write out his confession. The unhappy man wept, saying:
"What must I write? I know nothing of the matter!" Then he turned to
the young girl and added: "Do you at least tell me what you have done,
so that I may write my confession."
Eternal Life answered in irritation: "Did you not look at me with
lecherous eyes under my window? Did you not throw your handkerchief?
Did you not match the pair of my embroidered slippers?"
"All that is true. But about the rest?"
The Governor here interrupted:
"If one thing is true, the rest is also. What is the use of arguing
it? Since he refuses to write, let him be given thirty strokes of
the heavy bamboo, let him be cast into the cell for those who are
condemned to death."
Happily for Chang, his gaolers knew that he was very rich. They but
touched him with their blows, and led him to prison with as much care
as they would a butterfly. Each of them cried:
"Uncle, how could you do such a thing?"
"O my elder brothers," he lamented, "if it is true that I desired
this girl, yet have I never met her. Do you believe that I could be a
murderer? I know nothing about the murder. Tell me of it."
So he learned that, this very morning, Eternal Life on waking up had
been surprised by the silence of the house. From the ground-floor room
where she had passed the night, she had gone up to the story where her
parents slept, and had opened the door of their room. In front of the
bed, under the half-drawn curtains, the floor was a tarn of blood.
She was so frightened that she tumbled down the stairs and fell upon
the street door, sobbing and crying out. Neighbors heard her and ran
up, and she said to them:
"Yesterday, my parents went up to their room. I do not know who has
killed them both."
The bolder ones went up the stairs to see. They opened the
bed-curtains, and there were the man and his wife, stiff and with
their throats cut across. They looked to right and left. The window
was shut, and nothing was disturbed.
"It is a serious matter," they muttered. "Let us not act hastily."
One of them went at once to warn the district chief of police, who
came and examined the scene of the crime. He shut and sealed the
house, and led Eternal Life to the Governor's Court. The girl knelt
down and told all that she knew, and the Governor said:
"If the door and windows were closed, and nothing has been stolen, the
matter is dubious. Had your father an enemy?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"That is strange!" murmured the Governor, and thought for a moment.
Suddenly he told the officers to take off the silken veil with which
the young girl had half-covered her head. He could then see her
"How old are you? Are you not betrothed?"
"I am seventeen, and I am still free."
"And you sleep on the ground-floor, while your parents have their room
above? That is very curious."
"Until quite recently your slave slept above. But fifteen days ago
they made a change. I do not know why."
The judge again reflected. Then he struck the table violently, crying
"It is you who have killed your father and mother. Or, rather, it is
your lover. Tell me his name."
"Your slave never leaves the house. How could she have a forbidden
love? Would not the neighbors know it?"
The judge made a salacious grimace:
"In a case of murder the neighbors know nothing. It is clear that you
have had relations with a man. Your parents knew of it, and that is
why they changed their room. Your lover killed them in a rage."
Hearing these words, she became scarlet and then pale. At a sign from
the Governor, the gaolers threw themselves like tigers upon the
little girl, closing a cruel pair of iron nippers on her pellucid
and delicate jade hand. As the jaws began to crush her fingers, she
uttered loud cries:
"Mercy, my lord. I have a lover."
"What is his name?"
And then she fainted. The Governor knew enough. He summoned the young
man and, being convinced of his guilt, had him put in prison, while
awaiting further information. It is well said in a certain proverb:
"Even while you are sitting in your house with the doors shut,
misfortune falls from heaven."
In prison, Chang reflected upon this sudden accusation. Could he have
committed this double crime in his sleep? In the end he offered his
gaolers ten ounces if they would take him to Eternal Life. When they
bargained, he promised twenty ounces. Then they led him as far as
the grill of the women's prison. The girl was there, weeping without
stint. As soon as she saw him, she reviled him between her sobs:
"Ungrateful and dishonorable! You made me mad with love for you. Why
should you cut my parents' throats, and cause my death?"
"Do not make unnecessary noise," he interrupted.
"Let us rather try to clear up this mystery. It is certain that I sent
the old woman Lu to you with your little slipper. Did you see her?"
"Naturally, wretch," she answered disdainfully.
Again he interrupted:
"She told me that you had kept your pledge, that your father was
terrible, and that you were awaiting his departure in order to arrange
a meeting. But since then I have known nothing of you, save a few rare
"Forgetful murderer," she groaned, "again you deny it. Did you not
confess all before the judge? Why do you come to torment me."
"My unfortunate body could not endure the torture. By confessing I
gained some days of life. Do not fly into a rage, but answer me: what
happened after ma-ma Lu had visited you?"
"We arranged everything for the next night. You came and gave me back
my slipper. Since then you have climbed up to my room each night. Dare
you say it is not true?"
Chang thought deeply. The bystanders wondered whether he were guilty
and seeking a clever explanation to save himself, or whether he were
really innocent. At last he said: "Then if we have met often, you
should be very certain of my voice and body. Look at me well, and
The gaolers exclaimed:
"What he says is just. If there were a mistake, would you leave him to
Eternal Life was puzzled, and looked at him earnestly. He repeated:
"Is it I? Dear heart, speak quickly!"
"He who came," she said at last, "was perhaps bigger. But it was
always dark, and how can I be sure? But I remember that on your left
shoulder you have a scar as big as a copper piece."
The bystanders at once exclaimed:
"That is easy to verify. There can be no further mistake. Uncle,
unclothe yourself quickly. If there is nothing there, we shall inform
Chang immediately uncovered his shoulder, and the white flesh was as
smooth as marble. Eternal Life could not believe her eyes. When the
young man had gone back, filled full of hope, to his prison, the
gaolers made their report to the Governor, who had already summoned
In the audience chamber the old woman knelt down and was quite
overcome. The judge began by ordering her forty strokes for having
acted as an abettor of corruption. The flesh of her thighs was nothing
but a bloody paste. She told the whole story.
After coming back from Chang's house without having seen him, old Lu
had found her son Wu-han in their little food shop. He had said to
"You come at the right time. I must kill a pig this morning, and our
assistant has gone out for the day."
The old woman did not like this work. But she was very much afraid of
her son, and did not dare to refuse.
"Wait till I have changed my clothes!" was all she said.
While she was taking off her outer garment, a parcel fell from the
sleeve of it. Thinking that it was money, Wu-han quickly picked it up
and opened it. It was the pair of embroidered slippers. He said:
"Oh! Oh! Who is the little girl who has such feet? She must be of a
very loving nature. If I could hold her to my heart for a whole night,
I should not have lived in vain. But how do these slippers come here,
for they have already been worn?"
"Give them back to me!" she cried. "There is much money in them,
which I will hand to you." And she told him the whole matter. But he
"It has been a common saying from the earliest times that acts not
committed can alone remain unknown. This P'an is a bravo. If he learns
of the matter, all the silver which you receive will be too little to
buy his silence. Our whole shop would fall into his hands."
In dismay the old woman replied:
"Your words are full of reason. I am going to give back the silver
and the slippers. I am going to let it be understood that I refuse to
embroil myself with curtain affairs."
"Where is the silver?" he asked.
The old woman took it from her sleeve, and he put it into his, saying:
"Leave all to me. If they should happen to come and seek a quarrel
with us, we shall have proofs against them. And, if nothing comes of
it, no one will dare to reclaim the money."
"But what shall I say if he asks me for news?"
"That you have not had time enough. Or even that the matter cannot be
What could she do, she who was thus deprived of the money and the
pledge of love? She was surely obliged to lie.
As for Wu-han, he at once went out and spent the money on rich clothes
and a fine gauze bonnet.
In the evening, when his mother was asleep, he put on his pretty
clothes and set the slippers in his sleeve. As the great clock sounded
the first watch, he went out softly and made straight for the house of
P'an. Light clouds were hiding the moon. It was only half full.
He coughed before the house. The window opened, and Eternal Life
appeared. She tied a piece of silk to the frame, and let the other end
fall. He caught it and climbed up, making use of the projections of
the wall with his two feet. Then, with a thousand precautions, he
stepped over the sill. Trembling, the girl hastened to draw back the
piece of silk and to shut the window.
Then he took the child in his arms, and passion leaped up in their two
hearts. In the darkness, and in such emotion, how could that mistake
be known? The usurper drew her towards him.
Even so is the precious scented flower of the nutmeg embraced by the
bind-weed. Even so is the plum blossom torn by the hail. Even so is
the sparrow's nest most outraged by the cuckoo.
When the first clouds of their desire were dissipated by the rain of
caresses, Wu-han took from his sleeve the pledges of love. She gave
them back to him:
"Now that I am happy, I no more wish to go out."
About the fourth watch, before daylight, Wu-han arose and climbed
stealthily down to the street.
Since that time there had to be a storm of rain, or the moon had to
be very clear, to prevent Wu-han from hurrying to the small woman. The
days, and then the months, passed in this way.
One night the deceiver accidentally made some noise as he went away.
P'an immediately came up to them, but saw nothing; for Eternal Life
succeeded in not betraying herself. Next night she warned her lover,
saying to him in her sense:
"Do not come for a few days. That will be safer. Let us give them time
to forget about it."
But her father had his ears on the alert; he heard the window creak,
and he ran up, though again too late. In the morning he said to his
"This baby is certainly about some villainy. She keeps her mouth as
tight as a trap."
"I also have a suspicion," replied her mother.
"Yet the room opens on to the stairs, which come down into our room."
"I am going to give her a good taste of the rod to make her speak."
"That is a bad plan, a very bad plan," said her mother. "It is a true
proverb that you must not show family blemishes. If you beat her,
all the neighbors will know, and who would wish to marry her? Let us
rather make her sleep in our room, which has no way out except the
door. We will spend the night up the stairs, and see what happens."
On being told of this proposal, Eternal Life dared not say anything.
And on the higher floor husband and wife slept in peace.
One evening Wu-ban felt his heart seething with passion. Fearing that
he might be attacked by P'an, he armed himself with a knife, which
he used to cut pigs' throats. Under Eternal Life's window, he coughed
softly. Nothing stirred. He coughed more loudly, thinking she was
asleep. But everything remained quiet. He was going back to his house,
in a thoughtful mood, when he saw a ladder left near to a house which
was being built. He seized upon it, carried it away, and put it up
against Eternal Life's window. The catch was not locked. He pushed it
open, climbed over the sill, and silently went toward the bed.
Drunken with joy, Wu-ban was already disrobing himself of his clothes,
when, in the stillness of the night, his ears caught the sound of two
people breathing, instead of one. He listened with controlled breath.
Unmistakably the rough breathing of a man was mingled with the softer
murmur of a woman.
He was suddenly blinded with violent anger:
"This is why she did not answer my signal. The vile child has another
man within. It was to get rid of me that she told me of her father's
In his jealous madness he drew his knife and gently felt for the man's
throat. With a clean blow he drove the weapon into the flesh, and
before the woman could move, he cut her throat also, almost beheading
He wiped the knife and his hands on the blanket, opened the window,
and descended. He had closed the catches. Once outside, he ran to
replace the ladder, and went back to his house. Denounced by his
mother and brought before the Court, Wu-ban tried to deny the
accusation. But the officers, on uncovering his shoulder, brought
a scar to view. Eternal Life recognized his voice and his body. The
first tortures overcame his obstinacy, and he confessed all.
The murderer was condemned to slow death.
Eternal Life was strangled, as was old Lu.
Chang, whose lecherous intentions had been the cause of all, was
sentenced to a heavy fine. In dismay, and half ruined, he no more
left his study chamber. Not long afterwards, he was carried off by a
lassitude and a languor.
_Lu Wu-han yin liu ho chin hsieh (Lu Wi-han keeps
an Embroidered Slipper to his scathe) Hsing
Shih heng yen (1627), 16th Tale._
THE COUNTERFEIT OLD WOMAN
During the Ch'eng-Hua period of our dynasty, there lived at Shantung
a young man named Flowering Mulberry, whose parents possessed a
sufficient fortune. He had just bound up his hair beneath his man's
bonnet; his fresh and rosy complexion added to the delicate charm of
One day, as he was going to visit an uncle in a neighboring village,
he was overtaken on the way by a heavy storm of rain, and ran for
shelter into a disused temple; and there, seated on the ground waiting
for the rain to stop, was an old woman. Flowering Mulberry sat down
and, since the storm grew more violent, resigned himself to wait.
Finding him beautiful, the old woman began to converse and ingratiate
herself with him, until at length she came across to him, and finally
her hands wandered gently over his body.
He found this an agreeable manner of passing the time, but said after
a little while: "How is it that, although you are a woman, you have
the voice of a man?"
"My son, I will tell you the truth, but you must not reveal it to
anybody. I am not really a woman, but a man. When I was little, I used
often to disguise myself and mimic the shrill tones of young girls;
and I even learned to sew just as well as they. I used often to go to
the neighboring market towns, pretending that I was a young girl and
offering to do needlework; and my skill was soon much admired by all
the dwellers in the houses where I worked.
"I used to mingle with the women, and by degrees, according to the
licentiousness of their thought, we would enjoy our pleasure. Soon
the women found that they had no more occasion to go out for their
dalliance; and even the sober-minded girls among them became involved.
They did not dare to say anything, for fear of the scandal; and also I
had a drug which I applied during the night to their faces, stupefying
them so that they allowed me to do as I liked. When they recovered
their senses it was too late, and they dared not protest. On the
contrary, they used to bribe me with gold and silken stuffs to keep
silence and to leave their house. Ever since then--and I am now
forty-seven years of age--I have never again put on a man's garments.
I have traveled throughout the two capitals and the nine provinces,
and always when I see a beautiful woman I contrive to go to her house.
In this way I accumulate riches with but little labor; and I have
never been found out."
"What an astonishing tale!" cried the fascinated Flowering Mulberry.
"I wonder whether I could do the like."
"One as beautiful as you are," answered the other, "will be taken for
a woman by everyone. If you wish me to be your instructor you have
only to come with me. I will bind up your feet, and teach you to sew;
and we will go into every house together. You shall be my niece. If we
find a good opportunity I shall give you a little of my drug, and you
will then have no difficulty in achieving your purpose."
The young man's heart was devoured by a desire to put this adventure
to the proof. Without further hesitation he prostrated himself four
times, and adopted the old woman as his master, taking not a moment's
thought for his parents or for his honor. Such an intoxicating thing
When it had stopped raining, he set out with the old woman; and as
soon as they were beyond the boundaries of Shantung they purchased
hair-pins and feminine dresses. The disguise was perfect, and anyone
would have sworn that Flowering Mulberry was an authentic woman. He
changed his first name for that of Niang "the little girl," though for
a few days he was so embarrassed that he did not dare to speak.
But his master seemed no longer wishful to look for fresh victims.
Every evening he insisted upon his niece sharing his bed; and up to a
very late hour would proceed with his instruction and that even to the
It was not for this that Flowering Mulberry had disguised himself. One
day he declared that thenceforward each should go his own way, and the
other was bound to agree; but before leaving him, he gave the boy some
"Two highly important rules are to be observed in our profession. The
first is not to stop too long in the same house. If you stayed in the
one place more than half a month, you would certainly be discovered.
Therefore often change your district, so that from month to month
there may be no time for the traces of your passage to become
noticeable. The second rule is not to let a man come near you. You
are beautiful, young and alone in life, and they will all wish to
interfere with you. Therefore always surround yourself with women. One
last word: have nothing to do with little girls; for they cry out and
So then the two parted.
In the first village he came to, Flowering Mulberry perceived through
a door the silhouette of a most graceful young woman, and struck upon
the door by its copper knocker. The girl opened, and looked at him
through eyes filled with fire. A needle-woman was just what they
But in the evening the boy was disappointed by the arrival of a
husband, whose lusty appearance left him small hope for the night.
He was forced to wait until the young woman was left alone in the
house by day, and came to work in the chamber where he sat. Then he
ventured an observation upon the appearance of the countryside, and
afterwards congratulated her on her husband. She blushed, and their
conversation became more intimate. It was not until the next day,
however, that he dared to make an advance. This met with immediate
success. Two days afterwards he was forced into a hurried departure;
for the husband had taken notice of him, and profited by his wife's
momentary absence to suggest caresses.
Thenceforward he followed his trade. At the age of thirty-two he had
travelled over more than half the empire, and had beguiled several
thousand women. Often, he was so bold as to attack more than eight
persons at a time, in a single house, and not even the little slaves
escaped his attention. The happiness of which he was thus the cause
remained unsuspected, and no one suffered by it, since none could
dream of its existence. He always remembered his master's rule, and
never risked staying for more than a few days in the same place.
At last he came to the province West-of-the-River, and was received
into an important house, where there were more than fifteen women, all
beautiful and young. His feeling toward each of these was of so lively
a nature that twenty days had passed before he could make up his mind
to go away. Now the husband of one of these girls perceived him and,
at once falling in love with him, arranged that his wife should
cause him to come to their house. Flowering Mulberry went, suspecting
nothing, and hardly had he entered before the man came into the room,
took him by the waist and embraced him. Naturally he protested and
began to cry out; but the husband took not the slightest notice
of that. He pushed him on to the next room and searched him with
shameless hands. It was his turn to cry out: the slaves ran in, bound
Flowering Mulberry, and led him to the court of justice. In front of
the judge he tried to plead that he had adopted his disguise in order
to gain his living. But torture drew from him his real name and the
true motive of his behavior, together with an account of his latest
The Governor sent a report to the higher authorities, for he had no
precedent and knew not to what punishment to condemn him. The Viceroy
decided that the case must come under the law of adultery, and also
under that which dealt with the propagation of immorality. The penalty
was a slow death. No extenuating circumstances were admitted. So ended
_Hsing shih heng yen (1627),
THE MONASTERY OF THE ESTEEMED-LOTUS
In the town of Eternal Purity there was once a large monastery
dedicated to the Esteemed-Lotus. It contained hundreds of rooms, and
its grounds covered several thousand acres. Its wealth and prosperity
were due to the possession of a famous relic.
The bonzes, who numbered about a hundred, lived in luxury; and
visitors were sure to be received by one of them from the moment of
entry, and to be invited to take tea and cakes. Now in the temple
there was a "Babies' Chapel," which was reputed to possess miraculous
virtue. By passing the night in it and burning incense, women who
wished to have a son obtained a son: those who wished for a daughter
obtained a daughter.
Round the main hall were set several cells. Women who wished for
children had to be of vigorous age and free from malady. They used
to fast for seven days, and then go into the temple to prostrate
themselves before Fo, and to consult the wands of divination.
If the omens were favorable, they passed a night locked up alone
in one of the cells, for the purpose of prayer. If the omens were
unfavorable, it was because their prayers had not been sufficiently
sincere. The bonzes made this fault known to them; and they began
their seven days' fast anew, before returning to make their devotions.
The cells had no sort of opening in their walls, and when a penitent
entered one of them, her family and attendants used to come and
install her. As soon as night came, she was locked in the cell, and
the bonzes insisted that a member of her family must pass the night
before her door, so that none might entertain the least suspicion of
an entry to her. When the woman returned to her home, the child was
already formed. It was born fat and beautiful always, and without any
There was, moreover, no household, either of public officials or the
common people, which did not send one or even two of its members
to pray in the Babies' Chapel. And women came to it even from the
Every day the crowd in the monastery was comparable with mountains
or the sea, and the place was filled with the gayest hubbub. They no
longer kept any reckoning of the offerings of every kind which flowed
in upon them. When the women were asked how, during the night, the
P'u-sa had made his answer intelligible, some answered simply that Fo
had told them in a dream that they would have a son. Others said that
they had dreamed that a lo-han had come and lain beside them. Others
asserted that they had had no dream. Others again blushed and declined
to answer. Some women never repeated this kind of prayer a second
time: others, on the contrary, went to the temple as often as
You will tell me that this story of a Fo or of a P'u-sa coming every
night to the monastery is in no way short of preposterous. But it must
be borne in mind that the people of that district had a greater faith
in sorcerers than in doctors, and could not distinguish the true from
the false. Consequently they continued to send their wives to the
As a matter of course these bonzes, whose outward behavior was so
laudable and correct, were wholly and unreservedly gluttons within,
both for luxury and debauch.
Although the cells were apparently quite close, each really had a
secret door. When the women were sound asleep, the bonzes came softly
into the cell, and to such purpose that, when their victims were
aroused, it was already almost too late. Those who would have wished
to protest kept silence for the sake of their reputations.
Now the women were young and sound: the bonzes were strong and
vigorous. They had, moreover, taken the precaution to cause certain
special pills to be administered to their visitors. Consequently it
but rarely happened that these prayers were not heard. Sober-minded
wives would have died with shame sooner than confess the matter to
their husbands; and, as for the others, they kept quiet so that they
might be able to do it again.
Matters were in this case when a new Governor was appointed to the
district, the Lord Wang. Soon after he entered upon his office, he
heard tell of the Monastery of the Esteemed-Lotus, and could not help
"Since it is Fo and P'u-sa who are involved, it should be enough
simply to pray. Why, then, must the women also go and pass the night
in the temple? There must be some questionable artifice in that."
But he could do nothing without proof; so he waited until the ninth
Sun of the ninth Moon, which was a great festival, and then mixed with
the crowd of the faithful who went to the holy place.
Passing through the main gate, he found himself beneath great acacias
and hundred-year-old pines. Before him stood the temple, brightly
painted with vermilion and decorated by a tablet on which was
inscribed in gold letters: "Monastery of the Esteemed-Lotus, for
Retirement." To right and left was a succession of pavilions, and
innumerable visitors were going out and coming in.
The first bonze who saw the Governor wished to run and warn his
companions. The Lord Wang attempted to stop him, but he broke
loose, and soon the drums and bells were sounding to do honor to
the magistrate, while the bonzes formed in two ranks and bowed as he
He entered the temple and burned some joss-sticks; after which the
Superior made him a low obeisance and begged him to come and rest
himself for a moment in the reception hall. Tea was served. Then,
concealing his true design, the Governor said:
"I have learned of the great reputation of this Holy Retreat, and I
intend to ask the Emperor to grant you a tablet of honor inscribed
with the names and particulars of all the bonzes of the district."
Naturally the delighted Superior wished to prostrate himself in
thanks; but the Governor continued:
"They have spoken to me also of a miraculous chapel. Is the matter so
in truth? And in what manner are these prayers made?"
The Superior answered without misgiving that the period of fasting was
seven days; but that by reason of the greatness of their desire and
the sincerity of their prayers it most frequently happened that the
petitions of the suppliants were granted in a dream during the night
which they passed at the monastery.
The Governor asked carelessly what measures were taken to ensure the
preservation of the proprieties; and the other explained that the
cells had no other entrance than the door, before which a member of
the family had to pass the night.
"Since that is the case," said the visitor, "I shall send my wife
"If you wish for a son, it is only necessary for both of you to pray
sincerely in your palace, and the miracle will be accomplished," the
Superior assured him hastily; for he was greatly afraid to see the
local authorities concerning themselves in this affair.
"But why must the wives of the people come here, if my wife need not
disturb herself to do so?"
"Are you not the protector of our doctrine, and is it not natural that
the spirits should pay special attention to your prayers?" answered
the astute bonze.
"So be it," agreed Wang. "But allow me to visit this miraculous
The hall was filled with women, who fled to right and left. The statue
of Kwan-yin was covered with necklaces and pieces of embroidery. She
was represented holding a child in her arms, while four or five babies
clung to her robe. The altar and the walls were covered with votive
offerings, chiefly consisting of embroidered slippers. Candles beyond
number were held in branches of candlesticks. The hall was filled with
the smoke of incense. To the left was the immortal Chang who gives
us children. To the right was the "Officer of the Star of Extended
Wang bowed before the goddess. Then he went to visit the penitents'
cells. Each ceiling was painted over with flowers, a carpet covered
each floor and the bed, the table and the chairs were spotlessly
He examined the cells carefully all over and found no crack. Not
a mouse, not even an ant could have entered in. He went out in
perplexity and, after the usual formalities, again stepped into his
palankeen, which was accompanied to the gate by all the bonzes.
Thinking to the right and musing to the left, as the proverb says,
the Governor suddenly conceived a plan. As soon as he arrived at the
palace, he summoned one of his secretaries, and said to him:
"Go and find me two harlots, and clothe them as honest women. Give one
of them a box of black ink and the other a box of vermilion paste, and
send them to pass the night at the monastery. If any one approaches
them, let them mark his head with the red and the black. I shall go
myself to-morrow morning to examine the matter. Above all, let this
thing be kept the closest secret."
The secretary at once went to seek out two public women of his
acquaintance. One was named Mei-chieh, and the other Wan-erh. He
took them to his house, explained the Governor's orders to them, and
clothed them as matrons of good family. He summoned two palankeens,
which he caused the sham penitents to enter, and himself conducted
the procession to the monastery. He left the women in their cells, and
came back to inform the monk on duty.
After his departure, a little novice brought tea to the present
visitors, who were more than ten in number. Who would have thought of
troubling to examine the two new arrivals?
At the sounding of the first watch, all the cells were locked. The
members of the various families took up their positions before the
doors. The bonzes shut themselves into their own apartments.
When Mei-chieh found herself alone, she put her little box of
vermilion near the pillow, turned up the lamp, undressed herself,
and lay upon the bed. But she was unable to sleep for thinking of her
mission, and continually kept looking through the bed curtains.
The second watch sounded. On every side the sounds of human life were
silenced, and all things were still. Suddenly she heard, under the
floor, this noise: Ko-Ko. She sat up, thinking it was a rat, and saw
a part of the floor move to one side. A shaven head appeared, and
was quickly followed by the whole body. It was a bonze. Mei-chieh was
astounded, and thought:
"So these rascally priests have been outraging honest women!"
But she did not stir. The bonze quietly blew out the lamp, came
towards the bed, let fall his robe, and slipped under the blankets.
Mei-chieh pretended to be asleep. She felt him gently move her leg to
one side, and then she made as though to wake saying:
"Who are you who come in the night and insult me?" She pushed him
away, but the bonze embraced her in his arms, and whispered: "I am a
lo-han with a body of gold, and I have come to give you a son."
While speaking, he busied himself in accordance with his salacity.
It must be said that all bonzes have no mean talent in the matter of
cloud and rain; and this one was full of vigorous manhood. Mei-chieh
was a woman of great experience, but she was unable to resist him and
had difficulty, at length, in repressing herself. However, she took
advantage of his arriving at the supreme point of his emotion to dip
her fingers in the box of vermilion and to mark his head without his
perceiving it. After a certain time, the bonze glided from the bed,
leaving the girl a little packet, and saying:
"Here are some pills to assist your prayer. Take three-tenths of an
ounce each day in hot water, and you will have a son."
Weary in body, Mei-chieh was just dimly closing her eyes, when she
was aroused by a fresh touch, and, thinking that the same bonze had
returned, said in surprise:
"What? Are you able to come back again, when even I am so tired?"
But he answered without a pause:
"You are making a mistake! I have but just come, and the saviour of my
comforts is as yet unknown to you."
"But, I am tired...."
"In that case, take one of these pills...."
And he handed her a packet. But she was afraid that it might be poison
and placed it on the bed, contriving in the same movement to dip her
fingers in the vermilion and to stroke the newcomer's head. He
was even more terrible than the former, and did not cease before
As the old song says:
In an old stone mortar
Where so many pestles have been worn away,
There is need of a heavy copper hammer,
Or the work is lost.
At dawn, another bonze appeared and said to them in a low voice:
"Perhaps you have had your fill. Is not my turn coming?"
The first bonze gave a chuckle, but rose and went out. The other then
got upon the bed, and very gently caressed Mei-chieh.
She pretended to repulse him, but he kissed her upon the lips, and
said in her ear:
"If he has fatigued you, I have here some pills which will restore the
Springtime of your thoughts."
And he thrust a pill into her mouth, which she could not avoid
swallowing. A perfume rose from her mouth into her nostrils, and
caused her bones to melt, imbuing her body with delicious warmth.
But, even while thinking of herself, Mei-chieh did not forget the
Governor's orders. She marked the head of this new assailant also,
"What a nice sleek old pate!"
The bonze burst out laughing:
"I am full of tender and reliable emotions. I am not like the
unmannerly people of our town. Come and see me often."
And he retired.
Meanwhile the Governor had left his yamen by the fifth watch, before
the day had yet broken, accompanied by an escort of about a hundred
resolute men, carrying chains and manacles.
Arriving at the still closed gate of the monastery, he made the
greater part of his train hide to the right and left, keeping only
some ten men about him. The secretary knocked at the gate, crying that
the Governor was there and wished to enter.
The first bonzes who heard his shout made haste to arrange their
garments and receive the visitor. But the Lord Wang, paying no
attention to their salutations, went straight to the apartment of the
Superior, who was already up and prepared to begin the ritual of his
greeting. But the Governor dryly ordered him to summon all the bonzes,
and to show him the Convent register.
Somewhat alarmed, the Superior ordered bells and drums to be sounded,
and the bonzes, snatched from their sleep, ran up in groups. When the
names written on the register had been called, the Governor commanded
the astonished monks to remove their skullcaps.
In the full light of the morning sun three heads were seen to be
marked with vermilion, but, Oh, prodigy, no less than eleven heads
were covered with black ink!
"It no longer surprises me that these prayers should be so
successful," murmured the secretary. "Indeed these bonzes are very
Lord Wang pointed out the guilty ones, and caused them to be put in
chains, asking: "Whence come these marks of red and black upon you?"
But the kneeling monks looked at each other and could not answer,
while the whole assembly remained stricken with wonder at this strange
Meanwhile the secretary had gone into the Babies' Chapel and, by dint
of shouting, had roused the two harlots from a heavy sleep.
They quickly put on their garments, and came to kneel before the
Governor, who asked them:
"What did you see during the night? Tell me the whole truth."
Since they had agreed to the mission, the two women rendered a plain
account of the events of that night, showing the pills which the
bonzes had given them, and also their boxes of vermilion and black.
The bonzes, seeing that their schemes were brought to light, felt
their livers turn and their hearts put out of working. They groaned in
their secret despair, while the fourteen culprits beat the earth with
their brows and begged for mercy.
"Miserable wretches, you dare to preach divine intervention, so that
you may deceive the foolish and outrage the virtuous! What have you to
But the cunning Superior already had his plan. He ordered all the
bonzes to kneel, and said:
"These unhappy ones whom you have convicted are without excuse. But
they were the only ones who dared to act so. All my other monks are
pure. You have been able to discover the shame of the guilty, which I
in my ignorance could not, and there is nothing for it but to put them
The Governor smiled:
"Then it is only the cells which these two women occupied that have
"There are only those two cells," answered the unblushing Superior.
"We shall question all the other women, and then see."
The female visitors, who had already been wakened by the noise, came
in turns to give their evidence. They were all in agreement: no bonze
had come to trouble them. But the Governor knew that shame would
prevent them from speaking, and therefore had them searched. In the
pocket of each was found a little packet of pills. He asked them
whence these came; but the women, purple in the face and scarlet in
the neck, answered no word.
While this examination was taking place, the husbands of the penitents
came up and took a part in it. And their anger made them tremble like
the hemp-plant or leaves of a tree. When the Governor, who did not
wish to push his questioning too far, had allowed the visitors to
depart, their husbands swallowed their shame and indignation, and led
The Superior had not yet given up the fight. He asserted that the
pills had been given to the women as they entered the monastery. But
the two harlots again affirmed that they at least had received them
during the visit of the bonzes.
"The matter is quite clear," the Governor cried at length. "Put all of
these adulterers in chains!"
The bonzes had some thought of resisting; but they had no weapons and
were outnumbered. The only ones left free were an old man who kindled
the incense, and the two little novices still in childhood.
The gate of the monastery was closed and guarded. On his return to the
yamen, the Governor took his seat in the Hall of Justice, and had his
prisoners questioned in the usual ways. Fear of pain loosened their
tongues, and they were condemned to death. They were cast into prison
to await the ratification of their sentence.
As the Governor of the prison went his rounds to inspect their bonds,
the Superior whispered to him:
"We have brought nothing, neither clothes, nor blankets, nor food. If
you will allow me to return for a moment to the monastery with three
or four of my monks, I will willingly give you a hundred ounces of
The prison governor knew the wealth of the monastery. He smiled:
"My price is a hundred ounces for myself, and two hundred for my men."
The Superior made a grimace, but was compelled to promise this larger
sum. The warders consulted with each other, and finally, when night
came, led the Superior and three of his bonzes back to the monastery.
From a secret place among their cells the monks took the promised
three hundred ounces, and gave them at once to the warders. While
these were weighing them and sharing them among themselves, they
collected the rest of their treasure, and secretly laid hold of
weapons, short swords and hatchets, which they rolled up in their
blankets. Also they brought away wine. Thus heavily laden, warders
and bonzes alike returned to the prison, and held a feast. The priests
succeeded in making their warders drunk. In the middle of the night
they drew forth their weapons and, having first set each other
free, proceeded to force the gates. They might perhaps have escaped
altogether; but in their rancour against the Governor they went first
to attack the yamen. The troops of police were numerous and well
armed, and the bonzes were quickly overcome. The Superior gave his
men orders to return as quickly as possible to the prison, to lay down
their arms and to say that only a few of them had revolted, since this
might save the others. But the warders attacked them so hotly that
they were all put back in chains.
Their crime was grave, and doubly aggravated by rebellion. Next day,
when the sun had well risen, the Governor gave his judgment. All the
hundred and twelve monks were led straight to the market-place and
beheaded. Groups of men provided with torches went to set fire to the
monastery, and it was soon a smoking ruin. Joy flowered upon the faces
of all the men of that town. But it is said that many of the women
wept in secret.
_Adapted from Hsing shih heng yen
(1627), 39th Tale._
A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE
Marriages have from all time been arranged beforehand by Heaven. If
such is the will of destiny, the most distantly separated persons
come together, and the nearest neighbors never see each other. All is
settled before birth, and every effort of mortals does but accomplish
the decree of Fate. This is proved by the following story.
During the Ching-yu period of the Sung dynasty, there lived at
Hang-chow a doctor named Liu. His wife had given him a son and a
daughter. The son, who was but sixteen years old, had been called
Virgin Diamond, and was betrothed to young Pearl, of the family of
Sun. He was brilliant in his studies, and gave every promise that
he would one day attain to the highest literary standard, and to the
greatest honor. The daughter was named Prudence. She was fifteen years
old, and had just received marriage gifts from her betrothed, the son
of P'ei, a neighboring druggist. Her eyebrows were like the feelers
of a butterfly, and her eyes had the grace of those of a phoenix.
Her hips, flexible as willow branches swayed by the wind, wakened the
liveliest feeling. Her face was that of a flower; and the nimbleness
of her light body brought to mind the flight of swallows.
The go-between who had concluded Prudence's betrothal came one day
at the instance of the P'ei family to ask that marriage might be
hastened. But Liu had determined first to accomplish the ceremonies
for his son, and accordingly took customary steps with this object in
view, so that a day was at length fixed. But when the appointed time
was drawing near, Virgin Diamond fell seriously ill. His father, Liu,
wished to postpone the ceremony, but his mother argued that perhaps
joy would cure him better than medicine.
"But if, by mischance, our son should die?" he insisted.
"We will send back the bride and all the gifts, and the family will
have nothing to say."
The doctor, like many men, was wax in the hands of his wife, and
therefore her wish was fulfilled.
But it chanced that one of their neighbors had been slightly affronted
by them, and had never forgiven them. He heard of Virgin Diamond's
illness, and spoke of it to the family of Sun.
Sun had no intention of compromising his daughter's future; so he
summoned and questioned the go-between who had arranged the betrothal.
The poor woman was in a great quandary, fearing to offend either the
one family or the other; yet she was compelled to admit the truth. In
her anxiety she ran to the house of Liu to obtain a postponement of
the marriage until Virgin Diamond's recovery, and hinted that, failing
this, Sun would send his old nurse to see the sick bridegroom.
Liu did not know what to do, and before he had come to a decision,
the nurse arrived. He saluted her, not knowing what excuse to make.
At last he said to the go-between: "Be so good as to entertain this
venerable aunt for a moment, while I go and find my Old-Thornbush."
He hurried into the interior of the house, and in a few words told his
wife what was happening.
"She is already here and wishes to see our son. I told you that it
would have been better to change the day."
"You really are a decayed piece of goods. Their daughter has received
our gifts, and is already our daughter-in-law. You shall see."
Then she said to Prudence:
"Make haste and prepare our large room for a collation to the family
She herself went to the room where the nurse was, and asked:
"Has our new daughter's mother something to say to us?"
"She is uneasy about the health of your honorable son, and has sent me
to see him, thinking that it would be better to postpone the marriage
if he were seriously ill."
"I am gratified to receive this proof of her consideration. My son
has, in fact, taken cold, but it is not a serious indisposition.
As for choosing another day, that is not to be thought of. Our
preparations are made, and a delay would involve too great a loss.
Furthermore, happiness drives away every ill. The invitations are sent
out. We might imagine that your family had changed its intention...."
"At least, can I see the invalid?"
"He has just taken a drug and is asleep. Besides, I have told you that
he has caught cold. Are you trying to insult me by expressing a wish
to prove my words?"
"If the matter stands thus," the nurse politely made haste to answer,
"it only remains for me to withdraw."
"You cannot go in this way. You have not even taken a cup of tea.
If you please, let us go into the new room, for my house is all in
On entering, the nurse observed the excellent arrangement of the young
"Everything is ready, as you see," said the wife of Liu. "And if my
son is not quite recovered after the ceremony, I shall take care
of him in my pavilion, until he is able to embark upon his conjugal
Having taken tea, the nurse at last arose and went away. On her return
she recounted to her master and mistress what had taken place, and Sun
and his wife found themselves in a difficult dilemma. They could not
think of allowing their daughter to ruin her life by entering of her
betrothed, if he were going to die, and, if the young man were not
seriously ill, they stood the risk of losing all their preparation,
and of giving occasion for slander. Suddenly their son Yu-lang, who
was present, said:
"If they have not allowed him to be seen, it means that he is
seriously ill. There is no way by which we can go back on our
contract; and yet we cannot send my sister to her ruin in this
fashion. I have a plan, and you must tell me what you think of it. Let
us send the go-between to advise Liu that the marriage will take place
on the appointed day, but that the bride's equipment will not be sent
until after her husband's recovery. I am sure that they will reject
this offer, and then we shall have a good excuse for throwing the
blame on them."
"But what if they should agree," objected his parents, after a
"They will certainly not agree, or else they would have postponed the
marriage. Besides, it is impossible that they should be willing to
have another mouth to feed, without any dowry or plenishing."
His father said:
"Very well, if by any chance they do agree, you shall disguise
yourself as a woman and go in your sister's place. You could take a
man's clothing with you, and put it on if the sick youth recovered, or
matters seemed to take an unfortunate turn. They would not dare to say
anything for fear of being ridiculed."
"Oh! that is impossible!" cried the young man. "In the first place
I would be discovered at once. And what would people say of me
"They would say that you had played a trick on these people, and that
is all. You are still in the freshness of youth. You are sufficiently
like your sister to deceive those who do not know you very well,
especially in a wedding garment. You must do it. That is decided. The
nurse can go with you to arrange your hair.... And in this way, if our
son-in-law dies, Liu will have neither my daughter nor her equipment."
When the wife of Liu received Sun's proposal from the mouth of the
go-between, she hesitated for a moment. But then she reflected on the
false situation in which she would be placed by refusing. So, masking
her thoughts beneath a smile, she agreed to the arrangement.
On the day fixed for the marriage, Yu-lang was constrained to disguise
himself. But two grave difficulties presented themselves. First
with regard to his feet: how was it possible for him to imitate his
sister's ravishing golden lotuses, so like to sphinx heads, and the
balancing of her light steps, a swaying of flowers in the soft
breeze? They gave him a petticoat which reached to the ground, and he
practised his sister's gait, at which she laughed until she cried. The
next question was his ear-rings. It so happened that his left lobe had
been pierced; for in his childhood they had made him wear one ring,
in order to persuade the evil spirits that he was a girl, whose
death would be of no importance. Everybody knows that the Jinn always
endeavor to rob us of that which is truly dear to us, and leave
untouched that which is of no value.
So Yu-lang hung a jewel in his left lobe, and stuck a small piece of
plaster over his right ear, so that it might seem it had suffered a
slight wound. His great pearl-decorated headdress concealed his head,
brow and shoulders. His scarlet robes, embroidered with gold and
silver, helped to disguise his figure, and the transformation was
complete by rouge on his lips and cheeks.
When evening at length drew near, drums and flutes were sounded,
the flowered palankeen entered the courtyard, and the hoodwinked
go-between, admiring the beauty of the bogus bride, herself opened
the scarlet curtains. Not seeing Yu-lang; she remarked upon this
circumstance, and they answered carelessly that he was indisposed and
kept to his bed. Actually at that moment he was taking leave of his
parents and imitating to the best of his ability the sobs which were
fitting to the occasion.
The procession at last set out and all the bride's equipment was
a little leather trunk. At the house of Liu there was considerable
"When the bride arrives, our son will be unable to cross the threshold
as ritual demands, and the marriage will not be accomplished.
The bride will be left alone to salute the ancestors, and this is
impossible. What shall we do?"
"It cannot be helped," answered the mother. "So much the worse! Our
daughter must make it known that she will take her brother's place.
She shall recite the poem of the threshold in his name, and the rites
will be thus observed."
And Prudence, in her graceful girl's garments, did in fact receive
the false Pearl as she got out of the palankeen, pronounced the sacred
formulas, and led the new bride before the tablets. The two seeming
sisters-in-law knelt down, and several of the bystanders laughed
inwardly to see two women perform the marriage ceremony, and then
kneel for the purpose of the grand prostration.
The wife of Liu led Yu-lang to the invalid's bed; but he had been
excited and troubled by the music and noise, and had fainted. They
had hastily to revive him by pouring some spoonfuls of hot soup in his
At length the false bride was led to the prepared pavilion, and her
great veil was taken off. Then her fresh beauty shone forth, and
everybody uttered exclamations of joy: the wife of Liu was alone in
feeling a certain compassion, for she thought of all that the new
bride would have to lose, and deplored her son's misfortune in falling
ill at the moment of tasting so great happiness.
As for Yu-lang, the tedium of beholding the hideousness of all the
guests was curiously diminished by the pleasure of seeing Prudence's
delectable face. He thought:
"What a misfortune that I am already betrothed! Here is she whom Fate
should have given me."
Prudence, on her part, felt herself drawn towards him in an
irresistible manner, and said to her mother and the go-between:
"Alas! surely my brother has no luck, and my sister-in-law will be
very unhappy alone tonight! Is she not charming? If my future husband
were like her, my life would be free from all regret."
Meanwhile, the marriage feast came to an end, a present was sent to
the musicians, and the guests withdrew. The disguised boy, after being
conducted to his pavilion, had his nurse's assistance in unmaking
the complicated structure of his nuptial adornment. At last he found
himself alone, but with no wish for sleep. Now Liu and his wife said
to each other:
"It seems hard to leave the newly-wed bride alone for her first night
under our roof. Would it not be better to tell Prudence to go and keep
As always, the father made certain objections which were not listened
to. Prudence insisted, and soon mother and daughter went together to
the new pavilion, and approached the bed, the curtains of which were
"Here is your sister-in-law come to spend the night with you...."
Yu-lang did not know what to say. He was afraid of being discovered,
and held the curtains very tightly under his chin, as he put his head
through the opening.
"I am accustomed to be alone," he stammered. But the mother said:
"Aya! You are both of the same age, you are almost sisters. What are
you afraid of? If you want to be particular, you have only to keep a
blanket between you."
During this time, Yu-lang was moved as much by fear as by delight. Was
it not strangely fortunate that Prudence's mother should herself have
come and let her in this manner to his bed? But if the young girl
should call out? On the other hand he thought:
"She is fifteen years old, therefore she has been ready for some time;
the door of her emotions is ajar. If I take precaution and kindle her
heart little by little, there is no need to fear that she will refuse
to nibble at my hook."
Now the wife of Liu had already retired, and Prudence had shot the
bolt of the door. She was laughing all over the bright chrysanthemum
of her face:
"Sister-in-law, you have taken no refreshment. Are you not hungry? If
you wish for anything, tell me, and I will go and fetch it for you."
"I am deeply grateful to my sister-in-law for her gentle thought."
Prudence noticed that the wick of the lamp had not been trimmed, and
was burning long, straight and red. So she exclaimed:
"That is for your happiness, sister-in-law!"
The other could not restrain a burst of laughter.
Prudence blushed and laughed also:
"You know how to be merry."
So they talked together. At length the maiden, taking the flowers out
of her hair, got upon the bed and knelt down to undress herself. He
"On which pillow would you like to sleep? The lower one?"
"As my sister-in-law wishes."
"Then, if you please, let us sleep on the same."
Prudence had slipped under the blankets to finish undressing, and the
boy did likewise, removing his upper garment. The lamp, placed on a
little table beside the bed, dimly lit up the recess through the thin
His emotion began to rise, and he asked:
"How many flowering Springtides have you known?"
"Fifteen, this year."
"Are you betrothed?"
But she was seized with unaccountable shyness, and dared not answer.
He brought his lips close to the delicate ear lying beside him, and
"Why are you so bashful? We are only two women together."
Very low, she answered him:
"I am betrothed to the son of P'ei, the druggist, and already they
are urging that the ceremony should take place. Happily nothing is yet
"You are not very eager, then?"
She pushed his head gently away, saying:
"It is not nice of you to take hold of my words in this way, and to
make fun of me. If I am not eager, you do not seem to be any more so
"And how do you know that, maiden? In any case, how could I be so when
we are two women."
"You speak to me as if you were my mother," the other laughed.
"Considering my age, I should rather be your husband," he
She burst out laughing:
"It is I who am the husband, seeing that I took my brother's place at
"Well, let us not argue, but rather act as if we were husband and
Thus both of them spoke words of meaning. They grew more and more
"Since we are husband and wife," he said impatiently, "why do we not
sleep under the same blanket?"
As he spoke, he pushed back the thick quilt, and began to observe the
garment on the so sweet and smooth, so soft and graceful body. She
had kept on an under garment, but her heart was filled with Springtime
thoughts, and she offered no resistance to his eye.
Then, trembling with desire, he came to her breasts that had so lately
dawned, and were so firm. Their tender points were red as a cock's
crest, and in all things lovable.
Delighted with this game, Prudence put out her hands to return his
caresses, and also found his breasts. But there was nothing but quite
a little button. She was astonished, and said to herself:
"She is as tall as I am. How comes it that she is not further
But by this time Yu-lang was holding her right in his arms, and
had his lips glued to her, wantonly thrusting out his tongue. She
continued the game by giving it a little nibble, and then thrust out
her own tongue. This he so tenderly caressed with his that the girl's
body seemed all at once to melt, and she said languorously:
"This is no longer a game. We are truly husband and wife!"
The false bride, seeing that he had fully awakened the passion of his
dupe, made answer:
"Not yet. We must take off our under garments."
"But I am afraid lest people should talk. It is not good to take them
He gave a nervous laugh and, without paying attention to her words,
undid her girdle and took off her garment. As he advanced toward her,
she protected herself with her two hands, saying:
"Sister-in-law, sister-in-law, you must not!"
But he kissed her again upon the lips.
"There is nothing to forbid it, little sister. You may caress me
In her agitation, and so as not to seem too stupid, she took off his
vest, and her timid little hand suddenly stopped short. Her surprise
was such that, for a moment, she could not speak. But at last she
said: "What man are you who dare to take my sister-in-law's place?"
"I am your husband," he answered hugging her to him.
She pushed him off, and said seriously:
"If you do not tell me in plain truth who you are, I shall cry and
call out, and you will be sorry for that."
"Do not be angry, little sister," he replied. "I will tell you
everything. I am Yu-lang, your sister-in-law's elder brother. My
parents heard that your brother was seriously ill, and did not wish my
sister to leave our house; but since your parents would not alter the
day of the marriage, I had to disguise myself and take my sister's
place, until your brother should be healed. I never expected that
Heaven would, in its bounty, allow me to become your husband. But we
alone must know of our love. Let us not betray it to any."
Pressing forward again, he tried to bind her in his arms. Although
she had believed she was with a woman, Prudence had loved him from
the first; the feeling which she had mistaken for friendship quickly
changed to that of love, for it was kindled, as was all of her, by the
young man's ardour. Nevertheless she was suffused with shame, and so
wavered between one extremity and the other.
As for him, in the freshness of his still maiden youth he spoke to
her of everlasting vows, of a love higher than the mountain and vaster
than the sea, and of a marriage shaped from a boundless happiness. Her
betrothed, her parents and her shame were all forgotten. She covered
her face with her hand and resisted no longer.
When the cloud and the rain of their intoxication had been dispelled,
they clasped each other close and went to sleep.
Meanwhile, the nurse, being in the secret of this disguise, had been
much disturbed at seeing Prudence share the young man's bed. From the
adjoining room she had heard their laughter, and then their sighs,
and had no further doubt of what had happened. And inwardly she cried:
In the morning, after Prudence had returned to her parents' house to
perform her toilet, the woman came in to wait upon Yu-lang, and said
to him in a low voice:
"O practitioner! You have done a fine thing! What will happen if
people come to know of it?"
"I did not search her out. Her mother led her to my bed. How could I
have avoided this?"
"You ought to have resisted with all your might."
"With such an adorably beautiful girl? Even a man of iron and stone
could not have resisted. Also, if you say nothing, who will know of
When the process of disguise was again completed, he went to salute
the wife of Liu. Then all the women of the house and the cousins came
to see him. Finally Prudence came in, and they two laughed together.
For that day, as was the custom, Liu and his wife had invited their
relations and friends, and there was a great feast, with music and
a dinner lasting until the evening. Then, when the house was quiet
again, the girl went, as on the previous night, to keep young
Yu-lang company. That night, even more so than the preceding one,
the butterflies beat their wings, and the passionate phoenixes were
In the morning, they kept together. Therefore the scandalized nurse
ran out and told everything to Sun said his wife, and they reeled with
surprise and emotion.
"Alas, misfortune will certainly come of it! We must bring him back as
soon as possible."
They summoned the go-between and told her that, according to custom,
on the third day after the marriage they wished to see their daughter
at their house. She therefore went to the home of Liu, and the two
lovers trembled when they heard of this request. But the wife of Liu
had not forgotten the difficulties which Sun had made with regard to
the marriage; and she was afraid of not seeing her daughter-in-law
again. So she said:
"But my son is still suffering, and the marriage has not been
altogether accomplished. We will speak of this again at some later
This answer had to be sufficient. The nurse was in terror, and watched
the approaches of the room all night for fear lest anybody should hear
the rapturous exclamation of the lovers.
The days passed, and Virgin Diamond gradually grew better. Since he
admired the beauty of his young wife, his desire to know her hastened
his recovery, and the time came when he was able to get up. Still
walking unsteadily, he went into the nuptial pavilion to see her who
was his bride, and came before the door, supported by his attendants.
The nurse was there, and cried out loud:
"My Lord wishes to enter!"
Yu-lang was, quite naturally, holding Prudence in his arms. He hastily
released her, and went close to the door.
"You have succeeded in rising, my elder brother?" said Prudence. "You
will fatigue yourself."
"That is no matter," he answered, making a deep obeisance before her
whom he believed to be his wife.
"Ten thousand happinesses be with you!" Yu-lang graciously replied.
"What an exquisite pair!" cried the wife of Liu, proud of her son and
happy at his fortune.
The false bride's beauty was meanwhile strangely reviving the
invalid's vitality. And the other lad thought:
"He is a fine boy in spite of his illness: there is no need to pity my
sister. But if he can get up, he will waste no time in coming to spend
the night with me. I must depart as quickly as possible."
When evening came, he explained his fears to Prudence.
"It is quite necessary to persuade your mother to send me back to
my home, that I may change places with my sister. Everything will be
discovered if we delay."
"You wish to go? But what will become of me alone?"
"I have already thought of that. Alas. Alas! But we are both betrothed
to another. What can we do?"
"If you do not want me living, I must die so that my soul may follow
And she sobbed and sobbed. He dried her eyes saying to her:
"Do not meet trouble in this way, but leave me to find a plan."
They clasped each other in their arms, shedding most bitter tears.
Now it must be said that the wife of Liu was a little wearied of
seeing her daughter night and day inseparable from her sister-in-law.
However, she said nothing, because the marriage was not actually
accomplished. But passing before the marriage pavilion on that day,
she heard a sobbing. She drew near noiselessly and, through a hole in
the window paper, saw them close in each other's arms and weeping.
"This is very odd," she said.
She wished to make an outcry, but remembered that her son was just
getting better, and would fall ill again from any sorrow. She gently
tried to push the door open, but it was locked. She called out:
"It is strange that this door should be locked!"
The lovers recognized her voice, and made haste to dry their tears and
open the door. She came in.
"Why do you lock yourselves in during full daylight, and groan and
embrace each other?"
They felt the blood flow to their faces, and answered nothing. The
mother's hands and feet were trembling with rage. She seized hold of
"You are playing some pretty trick. Let me talk to you a little."
And she dragged her into an empty room. The attendants who saw her
asked each other why the girl was being dragged along like that. But
by this time the mother had locked the door. When the attendants came
and looked through the holes in the paper, they saw her lifting a
stick, and heard her crying: