CHAPTER 10 The Exiling of Wu Song (The Golden Lotus)

The Golden Lotus


The Exiling of Wu Song

Wu Song was taken by the watch to the city jail. Meanwhile Ximen Qing, who had jumped out of the wineshop window, found himself in a courtyard that belonged to old Doctor Hu. One of the maids had just gone to the privy and had lifted her skirts. Suddenly she saw a man crouching at the foot of the wall. As she could not run away, she called, "Thief! thief!" as loudly as she could, and Doctor Hu ran out to see what was the matter. He recognized Ximen Qing, and said:

"My Lord, I must congratulate you on your escape from Wu Song. He has killed a man, and they have taken him to the lockup. But you may go home now, Sir, I don't think there is likely to be any more trouble."

Ximen thanked the doctor, and went home with all the assurance in the world. He told Pan Jinlian what had happened, and they clapped their hands with delight to think that all their troubles were now over. Jinlian advised Ximen to send bribes to all the officials, so that they might make sure that Wu Song would be sentenced to death, for they by no means desired to set eyes on him again. Ximen Qing called his servant Laiwang, and told him to take the magistrate a set of gold and silver drinking cups, with fifty taels of silver, and sums of money for all the other officials, both great and small, and to ask that Wu Song should be punished with all the rigor of the law. The magistrate accepted the bribe and, the next morning, as soon as he entered the Hall of Audience, had Wu Song brought before him, with the waiter and the two singing girls. His manner had now completely changed.

"Wu Song," he said, "you are a desperate fellow and have brought accusations against perfectly innocent people. I have overlooked this more than once. Now you yourself have killed a man, without the slightest cause. Why don't you obey the laws?"

"My quarrel was really with Ximen Qing," Wu Song said, "but, as ill luck would have it, I met this man. He refused to tell me where Ximen Qing was, and I lost my temper and killed him. My Lord, I implore you to give me justice, and bring Ximen Qing to answer to the law for my brother's death. As for myself, I am ready to give my life for this dead man's."

"You are talking nonsense," the magistrate cried. "Do you mean to say you did not know he was an officer of this court? You must certainly have had some other reason for killing him. Why do you try to drag Ximen Qing into the matter? I can see that I shall never get the truth out of you without a beating."

He ordered his attendants to punish Wu Song. Three or four of them pulled him down and gave him twenty strokes of the rod, like drops of rain falling. Wu Song continued to insist that he was being unjustly dealt with. "I have done much for you," he cried, "and you should deal with me accordingly and not have me beaten so severely."

This only made the magistrate more angry. "You killed a man with your fist," he cried. "Now your boldness seems to have gone into your mouth." He ordered the thumbscrews to be put on, and Wu Song's fingers were pressed and his hands beaten fifty times, after which a cangue was put about his neck and he was returned to prison.

Some of the officers had been Wu Song's friends and knew that he was a man who had taken upon himself to avenge another's quarrel. They would have liked to clear him, but, as they had accepted Ximen Qing's bribes, their mouths were sealed and they were unable to do anything. As Wu Song persisted in demanding justice, the magistrate waited a few days and then drew up a dossier without hearing any evidence. All he did was to appoint an officer to go to Lion Street to examine Li's body and fill in the necessary particulars. Then the crime sheet was drawn up as follows:

The accused Wu Song called to see Li, and there was a dispute with regard to the division of certain moneys. The parties became drunk and began to fight. The deceased was kicked and beaten and thrown from a high place. Green and red marks were found on his left side, his face, ribs, and groin.

After completing their examination, the officials went back to the office, and a document was drawn up to be sent with Wu Song to the Prefect of Dongping, where the matter would have to be further investigated and the final judgment made.

The Prefect of Dongping, His Excellency Chen Wenzhao, was a native of Henan and an official of exceptional probity. As soon as the documents were brought to him, he began the hearing of the case.

Chen Wenzhao went to his court and ordered everyone to be brought before him. He read through all the documents that had come from Qinghe and examined the depositions. The indictment said:


An Indictment

The accused Wu Song is twenty-eight years of age, formerly domiciled in the District of Yanggu. On account of his splendid physique he was appointed Captain of the Police in this District.

After returning to this District from a tour of duty, the accused visited his brother's tomb. He ascertained that his sister-in-law had not observed the required period of mourning, but had remarried. The same day he inquired from people in the streets concerning the matter, and ultimately proceeded to a wineshop in Lion Street, where he met Li Waichuan. Being drunk, he endeavored to recover the sum of three hundred cash that he alleged Li had previously borrowed from him, but Li refused to pay the money and the two men fought. Li was struck and kicked, and so severely injured that he died shortly afterwards.

In proof whereof the singing girls Niu and Bao are witnesses.

The watch arrested Wu Song, and officers deputed for that purpose proceeded to the place where Li's body lay and made a careful examination. We then heard Wu Song and prepared the accompanying depositions. We trust that upon further investigation you will find the particulars to be correct.

It is our submission that Wu Song fought with and killed the man, and that he should be executed in accordance with the law for the capital offense, not for fighting or the dispute over money. The waiter Wang, and the two girls Niu and Bao, appear to be guiltless in the matter, and we only await your permission to release them.

Dated this eighth day of the eighth month of the third year of Zhenghe:

Li Dadian, Magistrate

Luo He'an, Deputy Magistrate

Hua Helu, Keeper of the Archives

Xia Gongji, Prosecutor

Qian Lao, Chief Jailer

When the Prefect had read this document, he asked Wu Song how he had come to kill Li Waichuan. Wu Song kowtowed.

"My Lord of the Blue Heavens," he said, "I trust that, in your court, justice may be done. If you will allow me to speak, I will tell the truth about the matter."

"Say on," the Prefect ordered.

Wu Song told him the whole story, not omitting a single detail, from Ximen Qing's seduction of Jinlian to the rejection of his accusation at the Qinghe court. He ended by saying: "I wished only to avenge my brother, and it was Ximen Qing of whom I was in search. Unhappily, I did kill this man, but the fault is not mine alone. Ximen Qing is very rich, and the officers did not dare to arrest him. I am not afraid of death. My sole desire is to avenge my murdered brother, whose remains lie in the tomb awaiting vengeance."

"I understand the case," the Prefect said. "That will do for the present." He called forward Qian Lao and ordered him to be given twenty strokes. "Your magistrate does not seem to know how to perform his duties. He should not allow himself to be moved by personal interest and sell justice in this way."

Again he questioned Wu Song, and amended the indictment that had come from Qinghe. Finally he said to his officers: "This fellow was anxious to avenge his brother and killed this man more or less accidentally. He seems a good man and he ought not to be treated like a common criminal." He gave orders that the cangue should be removed from Wu Song's neck and a lighter one put in its place, and that he should be detained in the prison. The rest of the party were sent back to Qinghe with instructions to the magistrate that Ximen Qing, Jinlian, old woman Wang, Yun'ge, and He the Ninth should be sent to the Prefect to be examined. When all this had been done, the Prefect said, he would send forward the documents to the Imperial Court.

Wu Song was still in prison, but the officials soon found what a good fellow he was, and sent him wine and food without taking anything in return. The news reached Qinghe and, when Ximen Qing heard it, he was greatly alarmed. He knew that Chen Wenzhao was incorruptible, and did not dare to try to bribe him, but he decided to send word to his relative Chen and ask for help. He told Laiwang to go to the Eastern Capital in all haste with a letter to Marshal Yang, the Provincial Commander-in-Chief, begging him to use all his influence with the Imperial Tutor Cai. When Cai heard of the matter he was afraid that the magistrate Li would suffer, so he secretly wrote to the Prefect of Dongping asking him not to proceed with the examination of Ximen Qing and Jinlian. Now Chen Wenzhao had been the chief magistrate of Dalisi before he had been appointed to the Prefecture of Dongping. He had been befriended by Cai, and knew that Marshal Yang was in high favor at court. He finally decided that the best thing he could do was to settle the matter without injury to either side.

He reprieved Wu Song, but ordered him to be given forty strokes, branded, and banished two thousand li. In Wu Da's case, it was declared that, as the body had been burned, the matter must be considered closed. The others were ordered to be sent home. This was all duly written down, and the documents sent, first to the Provincial Office, then to the Court. They were returned by the higher authorities with orders that the Prefect's proposals should be put into execution. Chen Wenzhao took Wu Song from the jail, read over the papers in the case, gave him forty strokes, and set a cangue upon him. Two columns of characters were branded on his face, and he was ordered to leave for Mengzhou in the charge of two officials, who took the document with them. Then the other parties in the case were dismissed.

That day Wu Song, in the charge of two officers of the court, left the prefecture of Dongping for Qinghe. There, he sold all his furniture and gave the money to the officers, and asked one of his neighbors, named Yao, to look after Ying'er. "If His Majesty pardons me," he said, "I will pay you back. I can never forget your kindness."

Wu Song's neighbors knew well that he was a good man in misfortune, and they gave him, some silver, some a little wine; others offered food, money, and rice. He went once again to his own rooms and got a soldier to bring his personal belongings, and the next day they set off from Qinghe along the high road for Mengzhou.

When Ximen Qing heard that Wu Song had really started for Mengzhou, he felt secure at last. The canker that had ravaged his heart so long was now removed, and he felt completely at ease. He gave orders to Laiwang, Lai Po, and Laixing to make preparations in the garden. They set up folding screens and arranged embroidered hangings in the Hibiscus Arbor; a banquet was prepared, and a band of musicians engaged to sing and dance. Yueniang and the other ladies enjoyed the repast, and menservants, serving women, and maids waited upon them.

Incense was burned in precious censers, and flowers set out in golden vases

Treasures from Xiangzhou in all their glory.

When the lattice was raised, the shining pearls from He Pu gleamed.

Flame-like dates and pears from Jiao heaped on crystal dishes

Cups of green jade filled with a precious juice, a liquid jade.

Of roasted dragon's liver, of fried phoenix giblets, one chopstick's load was worth ten thousand pence.

The palms of black bears, the hooves of purple camels

Mingled their sweet savor with the wine's, filling the air.

Then were ground the phoenix balls of tea,

And a small clear wave rose in the white jade cups.

As the precious liquid was outpoured, there came fragrance from the golden jar.

The lord Meng Chang was now outdone

The wealth of Shi Chong rivaled.

Ximen Qing and Yueniang sat in the place of honor, and the other ladies arranged themselves according to their position in the household. As they passed the cups from one to the other, they seemed as full of grace as the flowers of a posy or the pattern upon a piece of brocade.

They were drinking when Daian brought in a boy and a young maid of great beauty, whose hair was dressed in a fringe upon her brows. She was carrying two boxes.

"Our neighbors the Huas," Daian said, "have sent some flowers for the ladies."

The maid came before Ximen and Yueniang, kowtowed to them, and said, "My mistress has sent me with this box of cakes and these flowers for you." Yueniang opened the boxes. One contained pastries, some of which were stuffed with fruit, and others with peppers. They were like those made in the Imperial palaces. The other box contained freshly picked lilies. She was greatly pleased, and told the little girl to thank her mistress. After giving them something to eat, she presented the girl with a handkerchief and the boy with a hundred coins.

"Tell your Mistress," she said, "that I am most grateful to her." She asked the little girl her name.

"I am called Yingchun, and this boy is Tian Fu." Then they both withdrew.

"Mistress Hua is really very kind," Yueniang said to Ximen Qing. "She is always sending her servants with something or other for us, and I have never made her any return."

"Brother Hua married the lady two years ago," Ximen said. "He himself told me what a sweet disposition she has, but that is clearly to be seen from the excellence of her maid."

"I saw her once," Yueniang said, "at her father-in-law's funeral. She is moderately tall and has a round face. She has two delicately arched eyebrows and a very clear skin. She certainly seems very gentle, and still quite young, not more than twenty-four or twenty-five, I should think."

"You may not know," Ximen said, "that before she married Hua, she was one of the second ladies of Minister Liang. She brought Hua a very good fortune."

"Well, she has sent us these two boxes," Yueniang said, "and we must not be less courteous than she is. I will send her something in return tomorrow."

The family name of Hua Zixu's wife was Li. She was born on the fifteenth day of the first month, and on that day somebody had sent the family a pair of fish-shaped vases. She was given the name of Li Ping'er. She had once been the concubine of Minister Liang of the Prefecture of Daming, a son-in-law of the Imperial Tutor Cai. His wife was a very jealous woman, and had made an end of several maids and concubines, and buried their bodies in the garden. So Li Ping'er had to live hidden away in his study, with an old woman to wait on her.

On the fifteenth of the first month in the third year of Zhenghe, Minister Liang and his wife were in the Green Jade Pavilion, when the whole family except Li Ping'er and her servant were murdered by Li Kui. They succeeded in escaping, Li Ping'er taking with her a hundred large pearls and a pair of jewels as black as a raven's wings. They went to the Eastern Capital in the hope of finding some relatives there. At that time Eunuch Hua, one of the Imperial Chamberlains, had just been appointed to the Governorship of Guangnan. His nephew Hua Zixu was unmarried, so the eunuch secured the services of a go-between and arranged a marriage between his nephew and the woman. The eunuch went to Guangnan and they with him, but they had not been there very long before old Hua fell ill, had to resign his appointment, and go home again. His home was in the district of Qinghe. Then he died, and all his property came to his nephew. Every day this gentleman and his friends frequented the bawdy houses, and he had become a member of the brotherhood that Ximen Qing had founded.

With Ying Bojue, Xie Xida, and the rest, he amused himself with singing girls, and they were all most intimate. It was well known that he was a nephew of one of the Imperial Chamberlains and very free with his money, and his friends were always dragging him away to the bawdy house. Often he did not return for three or four nights at a time.

Ximen Qing and his ladies made merry in the Hibiscus Arbor. They drank till it was late, and then went to their own apartments. Ximen Qing went to Jinlian's room. He was already half drunk, and soon wished to enjoy the delights of love with his new lady. Jinlian hastily burned incense, and they took off their clothes and went to bed. But Ximen Qing would not allow her to go too fast. He knew that she played the flute exquisitely. He sat down behind the curtains of the bed, and set her before him. Then Jinlian daintily pushed back the golden bracelets from her wrists and stimulated his penis with her lips, while he leaned forward to enjoy the delight of her movements. She continued for a long time, and all the while his delight grew greater. He called Chunmei to bring in some tea. Jinlian was afraid that her maid would see her, and hastily pulled down the bed curtains.

"What are you afraid of?" Ximen said. "Our neighbor Hua has two excellent maids. One of them, the younger, brought us those flowers today, but there is another about as old as Chunmei. Brother Hua has already taken her virginity. Indeed wherever her mistress is, she is too. She is really very pretty, and of course no one can tell what a man like Brother Hua may do in the privacy of his own home."

Jinlian looked at him.

"You are a strange creature, but I will not scold you," she said. "If you wish to have this girl, have her and be done with it. Why go beating about the bush, pointing at a mountain when you really are thinking about something quite different. I know you would like to have somebody else to compare with me, but I am not jealous. She is not actually my maid. Tomorrow, I will go to the garden to rest for a while, and that will give you a chance. You can call her into this room and do what you like with her. Will that satisfy you?"

Ximen Qing was delighted. "You understand me so well!" he said. "How can I help loving you?" So these two agreed, and their delight in each other and in their love could not have been greater. After she had played the flute, they kissed each other, and went to sleep.

The next day Jinlian went to the apartments of Yulou, and Ximen Qing called Chunmei to his room, and had his pleasure of her.

From that day, Jinlian showered favors on this girl. She would not allow her to go and wait at the kitchen, but kept her to attend to her bedroom, and serve her with tea. She chose beautiful clothes and ornaments for her, and bound her feet very tightly.

Chunmei was a very different kind of girl from Qiuju. She was extremely intelligent and full of fun, and she had a pretty skill with her tongue, besides being very beautiful. Ximen Qing found her irresistible. Qiuju, on the other hand, was both simple and stupid: Jinlian was always punishing her.


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