Part 3 out of 3
"O wretch, tell me the truth, or I shall strike you! Why were you
At first Prudence thought of denial. Then she said to herself that
it would be better to confess and to beg her parents to break off her
betrothal with the family of P'ei, so that they might marry her to
Yu-lang. If they refused, she would die. That was all. So she told the
whole matter without evasion.
"We are husband and wife. Our love is boundless, and our vows will
endure for at least a hundred years. My brother is recovered, and
we fear that we shall be separated. Yu-lang wishes to return to his
parents, to send his sister in his place. It seemed, then, to your
daughter that a woman cannot have two husbands, and that if Yu-lang
cannot marry me, I must die."
As she listened to her, her mother's breast opened with rage, and she
stamped her feet: "This rotten carrion has sent his son here and
has deceived me. And now my daughter is lost. I must beat him
She seized her stick, opened the door and ran forth. Her daughter,
forgetting her shame, tried to prevent her; but the old woman pushed
her away violently, so that she fell down. Prudence got up and ran
after her. The attendants also ran.
Now Yu-lang had very well understood that all was discovered when
Liu's wife had dragged her daughter away. A moment later, the nurse
"O my Gods! And, ah unhappiness! All is well lost! Prudence is being
questioned with the stick."
It seemed to him that two knives were piercing his heart. He burst out
into sobbing. But the nurse was already taking out his hair-pins and
clothing him as a man. In a state of stupor he let himself be hurried
to the main door and through the streets. A few moments later he was
back at his parents' house.
His father did not fail to say to him:
"I told you to play the girl, not the man. Why have you committed acts
of which Celestial Reason disapproves?"
Yu-lang jostled thus by his father and his mother, no longer knew
where he stood. Meanwhile the nurse objected:
"But what can they say there? Our young Lord has only to keep himself
hidden for a few days, and it will all pass over."
But at Liu's house the nurse, as she went away, had unwittingly locked
the door, and Liu's wife had come to it and was shaking it violently,
stammering with rage and flourishing her stick.
"Thief, whom may Heaven strike dead! O very vile rascal! For what did
you take me? I am going to show you who I am! I will have your life!
If you do not open the door, I shall break it open with a great case."
But naturally no one answered. Prudence tried in vain to stay her
mother, who loaded her with insults; but at last, in her rage, she
succeeded in breaking the lock, and rushed into the room with her
stick uplifted. The cage was empty and the bird had flown. She knelt
on all fours to look under the bed and under the furniture, crying out
all the time:
"Thief, you shall die!"
But, as she was compelled to admit, there was no trace of the
ravisher. Then Prudence said to her, sobbing meanwhile:
"And now, after this scandal, the P'ei family is let into the whole
secret. I entreat you to have pity on me and let me marry Yu-lang.
Otherwise, must I not die in order to redeem my shame?"
She fell on her knees, weeping and groaning.
"What you say is true," answered her mother resuming some measure of
calm. "After this wonderful affair, no one will want you."
However, a mother's love cannot be altogether restrained. She drew
near to her daughter: "My poor child! All this is not your fault. It
is that rotten carrion of a Sun who has caused it. But we cannot, of
ourselves, break off the betrothal with P'ei."
As Liu came up in the meantime, the matter had to be explained to him.
He was nearly half a day without being able to speak, and it may be
surmised that his first words were to throw the blame on his wife:
"The whole fault is yours! By making me say I do not know what, you
arranged all this. Instead of altering the date as you should have
done! And to crown all, you insisted upon placing our daughter in his
arms! She has very well kept him company, has she not?"
His wife's anger was not quite dead, and these remarks rekindled it.
Her voice rolled out like thunder:
"You old tortoise!" she began....
But on this occasion he also was furious. He advanced, threatening to
strike her. Prudence tried to come between them, and all three were
nothing but a rolling, striking, shouting and weeping congeries. The
servants then ran to inform Virgin Diamond who rose from his bed and
unsteadily ran. His mother was moved with pity to see him, and his
father also stopped his vituperation. They both went out muttering.
Virgin Diamond then asked his sister the cause of all this, and why
his young wife was no longer there. She answered only with tears; but
his mother, who had returned, told the whole story.
Virgin Diamond's anger was so strong that his face became the color of
the earth. However, he contained himself, saying:
"Let us not publish this family shame abroad. If the news spreads,
everybody will laugh at us."
As a matter of course, their mischievous neighbor, Li, had heard their
shouting and weeping. He had quickly climbed on to his wall, but had
been unable to understand what was happening. Next morning he watched
for the first of the women slaves who came out, and drew her into
his house. Fifty pieces of copper decided the girl to speak, and the
delighted Li, letting her depart, ran to the house of P'ei, to whom he
told all that he knew.
P'ei went straight to the house of Liu:
"I know all," he cried. "Give back the gifts, and let no more be
Liu's face became red and white by turns. He thought:
"How does he already know what happened in my house but yesterday?"
Then he denied the matter:
"Kinsman, whence come these words with which you are trying to sully
"Miserable cheat!" cried the other, "you are in very truth an old
And he struck him on the face with his hand.
"Murderer!" cried Liu in a fury. "Do you dare to come to my house and
insult me and strike me?"
And he struck P'ei such a violent blow that the old man fell to the
ground. Then they began to belabor each other. Virgin Diamond and
his mother, hearing their cries, ran up and separated them. Afterward
P'ei, pointing with his finger and trembling, cried:
"You know how to strike, old tortoise! We shall see whether you are as
clever in speaking before the judge."
And he went out swearing. Liu exclaimed:
"It is all Sun's fault. If I do not bring an action against them, they
will even now escape entirely free."
In spite of his son's curses, he hurriedly set about writing an
accusation, and ran to the Governor s palace.
The court was sitting, and Liu, holding his accusation, approached the
judge. P'ei was already there, and reviled him as soon as he saw him.
Liu retaliated, and the battle began anew.
At this interruption, the magistrate sternly ordered the two to kneel
and explain themselves. Both spoke confusedly at the same time, but
the whole story was none the less made clear. All those who were
implicated in the matter were summoned, and they came to fall upon
At length the judge delivered sentence. All the former betrothals were
annulled. Yu-lang became betrothed to her whom he had outraged. But
the Sun family owed a compensation to the Liu family, which in its
turn owed a bride to the P'ei family. So Pearl Sun was given to the
son of P'ei, and Virgin Diamond was bestowed upon the former betrothed
of Yu-lang. Having settled the affair, the Governor summoned three
red palankeens and the three brides were conducted under escort to
the homes of their new husbands. The town of Hang-chow talked of this
affair for a long time, but in the end forgot it for some new scandal.
_Hsing shih heng yen (1627),