Pan Jinlian Narrowly Escapes Disaster (CHAPTER 12-The Golden Lotus)

The Golden Lotus


Pan Jinlian Narrowly Escapes Disaster

The tree is pitiful that stands alone

Its branches fragile and its roots uncertain.

The dew may give it moisture, but the wind

Blows it to one side and the other.

There is none to raise the silken coverlet

I must sit and keep my watch from night to morning.

Sorrow has made me thin

No loving wish of yours has given me

This slender waist.

Ximen Qing was so delighted with Guijie's beauty that he stayed at the bawdy house for several days. Many times Wu Yueniang sent servants with horses to bring him back, but Guijie's family hid his hat and clothes, and would not let him go. The ladies of his own household were for once at a loss for something to do. Most of them were quite content, but Pan Jinlian was still not thirty years old, and her passions were by no means under control. Day after day, she made herself look as pretty as a jade carving, and stood at the main gate with gleaming teeth and scarlet lips, leaning upon the door and waiting for her husband to return. Not until evening did she go to her room, and there the pillow seemed deserted, and the curtains forlorn, and there was none to share the joys of her dressing table. Sleep would not come to her, and she went to the garden, walking delicately upon the flowers and moss and, when she saw the moon reflected in the water, she thought of the uncertainty of Ximen's nature, and as she watched the tortoiseshell cats enjoying each other's company, it brought only disturbance to her own sweet heart.

Qintong, the boy who had accompanied Meng Yulou when she married Ximen Qing, was now sixteen years old, and for the first time took his place in the household as a full-grown youth. He had finely arched eyebrows and eyes full of intelligence, and was indeed both clever and attractive. Ximen Qing had entrusted him with the care of the garden, and he slept every night in a small room there. Jinlian and Yulou sometimes sewed or played chess in an arbor in the garden, and at such times Qintong waited upon them attentively, and, whenever Ximen Qing was about, would come and give them warning. Jinlian liked him and often summoned him to her room and gave him wine. So morning after morning, and evening after evening, they exchanged understanding glances, and were not entirely indifferent to one another.

It was now about the seventh month and Ximen's birthday was drawing near. Yueniang was well aware of her husband's doings, and once again told Daian to take a horse and go for him. Jinlian privately wrote a note, and told the boy to give it to Ximen Qing in secret. "Tell him," she said, "that I hope it will not be long before he comes back." Daian rode off to the bawdy house, and there found all Ximen's boon companions keeping company with him, kissing the girls, and being very merry.

"What has brought you here?" Ximen Qing said, when he saw Daian. "Is there anything wrong at home?" "No," said Daian. "Well, tell your uncle Fu to collect the money that is owing, and, when I come back, I'll settle up with him."

"He has been collecting some during the last few days," the boy said, "and he is only waiting for you to come home to go through the accounts."

"Did you bring the clothes for your Aunt Guijie?"

"Yes," the boy replied, "here they are." He took a red vest and a blue skirt from a parcel, and gave them to the girl. She made a reverence to him, and called for food and wine to be given him. When he had finished, he came over to Ximen and whispered in his ear: "The Fifth Lady has given me a note for you, asking you to go home soon."

Ximen Qing was just about to take the note when Guijie saw it. She thought it was a love letter from some other girl, and made a dash for it. When she opened it, she found a sheet of patterned paper, with several columns written in black ink, and handed it to Zhu Shinian, asking him to read it for her.

I think of him as evening falls; I think of him when the sky is bright.

I think about my lover till my thoughts overwhelm me, and I faint

Yet still he does not come.

For him I am wounded; for him my spirit faints.

Oh, it is sad.

I lie alone under the figured coverlets; the flickering lamp is nearly out.

The world is sleeping, and the moonbeams creep across the window.

That heart is unrelenting, like a wolf's

How can I bear this agony another night?

Guijie listened to this, then left them and went to her room, where she threw herself face downwards on the bed. Ximen Qing saw that she was upset, tore the note to pieces, and kicked Daian. Twice he implored Guijie to come back, but she paid no heed. Finally, getting more and more excited, he went to her room and carried her out.

"Get on your horse and go home," he said to Daian. "As for the strumpet who told you to come, when I get home, I'll beat her till she comes to a disgusting end." Daian went home with tears in his eyes. "Please don't be so angry," Ximen said, "it is only from my fifth wife. She wants me to go home to talk about something or other. There is nothing else."

Zhu Shinian teased them. "Don't believe him, Guijie. He is deceiving you. Jinlian is his latest flame, a very pretty girl too. Don't let him go."

Ximen Qing slapped him. "You ruffian! You'll be the death of somebody with these silly jokes of yours. She is angry enough without your talking rubbish."

"Brother," Guiqing said, "you are not fair. If you were a good husband, you would not run about teaching singing girls the arts of love, you should stay at home. Then all would be well. Why, you've only been here a few hours, and now you're getting ready to go away again."

"That's quite true," Bojue said. "You had better take my advice, both of you. Your Lordship must stay here, and you, Guijie, must not lose your temper. The first person to leave will have to spend a couple of taels and treat the rest of us."

Ximen Qing took Guijie on his knee, and they drank together happily. Soon afterwards seven cups of the most delicious tea were brought and handed around.

"Now we'll have a song from everyone who can sing," Xie Xida said. "He who can't sing must tell a funny story, and we'll persuade Guijie to take a little more wine with us. I'll begin."

"Once, a bricklayer was doing some paving in a house, and the lady of the house treated him shabbily. So he quietly took a brick or two and stopped up the drain. Not very long afterwards it began to rain and, of course, the water flooded the whole place. The woman didn't know what on earth to do, and ran to find the bricklayer. This time she gave him a meal, and offered him some money, and got him to make the water flow again. When he had eaten his fill, he went to the gutter, took the bricks out, and the water flowed away at once. "What was the matter with it?" the lady of the house asked him. "Just what is the matter with you," the bricklayer replied. "If there is any money about, the water gate will open; but, if not, there will be no admission."

Guijie thought that this story was aimed at her, and she lost no time before retaliating.

"I should like to tell you a story," she said. "Once upon a time, Sun, the Immortal, thought he would give a banquet to his friends, and sent his tiger around to invite them. As ill luck would have it, the tiger gobbled them all up on the way. The Immortal waited until it was dark, but nobody came. At last the tiger came back. 'Where are my guests?' the Immortal said. 'Master,' said the tiger, 'I fear I am not a success at inviting people. Somehow I seem much better at eating them up.' "

This did not please the brothers at all. "Oh, indeed," Ying Bojue said, "so we are always sponging, are we?" He took a small silver pin from his hair. Xie Xida found in his hat a pair of gilt rings of no great value. Zhu Shin-ian took from his sleeve a tattered old handkerchief worth a pittance. Sun Guazui took a white apron from around his waist. Chang Zhijie had nothing, so he borrowed a small piece of silver from Ximen Qing. They handed all these things to Guiqing, and asked her to provide a feast in honor of Ximen Qing and Guijie. She turned them over to a servant to buy some pork and a chicken, but all the rest she had to pay for herself. Soon everything was brought in, and they sat down. The order was given: "Chopsticks into action." Our description must take time, but there was nothing slow about the movements we describe.

Then every mouth was opened wide and every head was bent.

No sun or sky was to be seen; it was like a cloud of locusts.

They blinked their eyes, their shoulders heaved.

Starvelings they might have been, from some dark dungeon.

One quickly snatched a piece of leg, as though no food

Had passed his lips for years.

One waved his chopsticks thrice, it was as though for years and years

He had not seen a meal.

Sweat trickled down the cheeks of one, he carved a chicken bone

As though inspired by hatred.

Gravy adorned his comrade's lips. With copious drafts of spittle

He gobbled down the pork, with hair and skin.

They ate, and in a flash, the cups and plates were clean

It might have been a den of wolves.

They ate, and in a flash again, the flying chopsticks

Crossed and recrossed the table.

This is the marshal of the King of Gluttons

This, the general of the Lickers-up.

Though it has long been empty, from the wine jar

They try to fill their cups.

Though all the food has gone long since,

They search and search again.

The luscious meal, with all its hundred flavors

Has vanished in a moment.

To worship has it gone,

To worship in the temple of the belly.

They cleared up everything till the plates and dishes looked like the head of a shining bald-pated Buddha. Ximen Qing and Guijie could get nothing but a cup of wine each. They did indeed pick out a few pieces of food, but the others snatched them away. Two of the chairs were broken. The boys, who were looking after the horses, could not get in to share in the repast, and contented themselves by pulling down the statue of the divinity of the place and piddling upon it. When the time came for them to go away, Sun Guazui took a gilded image of Buddha, which was venerated in an inner room, and slipped it inside his trousers. Ying Bojue pretended to kiss Guijie, and stole a gold pin from her hair. Xie Xida went off with Ximen's fan. Zhu Shinian went secretly to Guiqing's room and stole her mirror. As for Chang Zhijie, he did not hand over the money he had borrowed from Ximen Qing, but had the sum put down to his account. They were all in the highest spirits.

When Daian reached home, he found Yueniang, Yulou, and Jinlian sitting together. They asked him if his master was coming. "Father kicked me and cursed me," the boy said, his eyes still red. "He says that anyone who tries to get him away will find herself in trouble."

"What an outrageous fellow he is," Yueniang cried. "It is quite bad enough that he refuses to come, without ill-treating this poor boy."

"It was bad enough for him to kick the boy, but why should he threaten us?" Yulou said.

"The affection of a dozen of these strumpets wouldn't amount to anything," Jinlian said. "There is an old saying that a shipload of gold and silver would never satisfy people of their sort."

Li Jiao'er had seen Daian return, and, as Jinlian was speaking, she came to the window and listened. They could not see her. She heard Jinlian speak of her family as a host of strumpets. After that, she hated Jinlian from the bottom of her heart, and there was always enmity between them.

Jinlian, while Ximen was away, found that the days passed very slowly. When she realized that he did not mean to return, she waited till her two maids had gone to bed and then, making believe to go and walk in the garden, called Qintong to her room and made him drunk. Then she shut her door, undressed, and the pair made love together.

After this, she called the boy to her room every night and kept him there until daybreak. She gave him two or three of her golden pins, and put them in his hair. On another occasion she gave him a perfume box that she wore on her skirt. Unfortunately, the boy was not very discreet and, as he frequently went drinking and gambling with his fellow servants, it was not long before the affair became known. As the proverb says: "If you would have none to know your secret, you must do no evil." One day the rumor came to the ears of Xue'e and Li Jiao'er.

"That thievish strumpet has been high and mighty for a long time," they said, "but now we have her." They went and told Yueniang. She would not believe a word they said.

"You only wish to make things unpleasant for her," she said, "but you will annoy the Third Lady, and she will say you are slandering her boy." They said no more, and went away.

That evening Jinlian and the boy were amusing themselves. The woman had forgotten to shut the kitchen door. The maid Qiuju chanced to use that door on her way to the privy, and saw everything that was going on. The next morning, she told Xiaoyu, and Xiaoyu told Sun Xue'e.

Once again Xue'e and Li Jiao'er went to tell Yueniang. They gave her all the details, and added: "Her own maid told us about it; it is not something we have invented to get her into trouble. If you will not do anything in the matter, we will tell Father ourselves. If he can forgive a whore like this, he can forgive a scorpion."

It was the twenty-seventh day of the seventh month when Ximen Qing came back from the bawdy house to celebrate his birthday.

"He has just come back," Yueniang said to the two women, "and this should be a happy day for him. If you will not listen to me, and are still determined to tell him, I will not be responsible for the consequences."

They paid no attention to her, and, as soon as Ximen came in, they both ran up and told him that Jinlian was carrying on with one of the boys. Ximen Qing had been in an amiable mood, but at this he flew into a towering rage. He went to the front court, and called, "Qintong! Qintong!" over and over again. Jinlian had heard what was happening, and, with trembling hands and feet, she told Chunmei to call the boy to her room. She begged him not to say a word to his master, and took the pins out of his hair, but she was so excited that she forgot the perfume box.

Ximen Qing ordered the boy to the hall, and made him kneel down. Then he told some of the other servants to get a large bamboo and make it ready for use.

"You rascally slave," he cried, "do you confess your guilt?" Qintong made no reply.

"Take out his pins and let me see them," Ximen said to the boys. They looked, but could not find any.

"What have you done with the silver pin with a golden head?"

"I have no silver pin," Qintong said.

"Ah, you slave, you think you will deceive me, do you?" Ximen said, and ordered the boys to take down his trousers. Three or four of them stripped Qintong. On the jade-colored short trousers he was wearing the perfume box hung. As soon as Ximen caught sight of it, he made the boys show it to him, and recognized at once that it was the same one that used to hang on Jinlian's skirt.

"Where did you get this?" he cried in a fury. "Tell me the truth. Who gave it to you?"

The boy was so terrified that it was a long time before he could speak, but at last he said, "I was tidying the garden one day, and picked it up. Nobody gave it to me."

This reply made Ximen still more angry. He bit his lips, and told his servants to beat the boy with all their strength. Qintong was bound and given thirty terrible stripes till his flesh was torn and the blood ran down his legs. Then Ximen told Laibao to cut the boy's hair at the temples and turn him out, and on no account to allow him to return. Qintong kowtowed, wept, and went away.

Jinlian soon heard all that had happened and felt as though a stream of icy water had been poured over her. It was not long before Ximen Qing arrived. She was so frightened that she trembled, and the blood in her veins seemed to freeze. She went forward to take his clothes, but Ximen Qing boxed her ears so hard that he knocked her down. Then he told Chunmei to shut all the doors and keep everybody out. He took a small chair, went out, and sat in the courtyard in a shady place. Then he took a horse whip, and made the woman take off her clothes and kneel before him. She bowed her white face, but did not dare to make a sound.

"You rascally whore," Ximen cried, "don't pretend you are dreaming. I have questioned that slave and he has confessed everything. You had better tell me the truth. When I was away, how many times did you play your games with that boy?"

"Oh, Heavens! Heavens!" Jinlian said, sobbing, "somebody has been telling lies about me, and I shall die if you believe them. All these days you've been away, I have spent my whole time sewing with Yulou. As soon as it was dark, I locked my door and went to bed. Unless there was something very urgent, I never even ventured to go beyond the corner door. If you don't believe me, ask Chunmei. There was nothing I could do without her seeing." She called to Chunmei: "Sister, come here and tell your Father all about it."

"You rascally whore," Ximen said again, "I know you gave the boy two or three gold pins. Why don't you admit it?"

"These suspicions will be the death of me," Jinlian cried. "Some nasty-minded strumpet who will come to a foul end has been telling you lies. I suppose she was jealous because she saw you always coming to sleep in my room. You know how many pins there were, there is not one missing. Count them yourself, and see. How can you suspect me of being so base as to carry on with a slave? If he were a full-grown slave, they would probably tell the same story, but this short-haired lad is hardly out of his cradle. There is not a word of truth in the story. They have made up the whole chapter of scandal."

"We will leave the pins out of it," Ximen said, taking the perfume box from his sleeve. "This, I think, belongs to you. How do I come to find it on that boy's person? Now perhaps you will not have so much to say." And, with these words, Crash! fell the whip on her delicate white body. The pain was so great that she burst into tears.

"Oh, dear good Father," she cried, "you mustn't treat me like this. If you will only give me a chance, I can explain everything. If you won't give me the chance, but beat me to death, you'll make a very nasty mess here. As for that perfume box, one day when you were away Yulou and I were doing some needlework in the garden. It wasn't firmly attached, and it must have fallen down as I was going through the flower arbor. I looked everywhere for it, but the boy must have picked it up. I am sure I did not give it to him."

This certainly seemed to agree with what Qintong had said. Ximen looked again at the woman. Her flower-like body, unclothed, was kneeling as she uttered these softening words and wept so touchingly. His anger flew to Java, and he began to cool down. He called Chunmei and kissed her.

"Did she play heads and tails with that boy? If you tell me I ought to forgive the little strumpet, I will do so."

Chunmei sat on his knee, and made herself most charming and affectionate. "Father," she said, "you are making a fool of yourself. Mother and I never left one another the whole time. How can you possibly imagine that she would have anything to do with that slave? No, the whole thing is a plot made up by somebody, who is jealous. You must deal with the matter yourself, Father. If the story gets about, and you make yourself a laughingstock, that won't be very pleasant."

Ximen Qing could say no more. He told Jinlian to stand up and dress, and bade Qiuju prepare a meal. Jinlian poured out a full cup of wine and, offering it to him with both hands, knelt to wait for its return.

"This time I forgive you," Ximen said. "Whenever I am away, you must keep your mind pure and your ways clean. Shut your door early, and be on your guard against thoughts of evil. If I ever hear of anything of this sort again, there will be no more forgiveness."

"Your word is my law," Jinlian said meekly. She kowtowed four times, and sat down to drink with him.

So Jinlian, despite the high favor in which she was held by her husband, brought shame upon herself.

Ximen Qing was drinking wine in Jinlian's room when a boy knocked at the door and told him that Yueniang's two brothers, Fu, the manager of his shop, Ximen's daughter Ximen Dajie and her husband, and several other relatives had called to congratulate him on his birthday. He left Jinlian and went to receive his guests. Ying Bojue, Xie Xida, and the other brothers had also brought presents. Even Guijie had sent a servant with a gift. Ximen Qing was soon very busy receiving all his presents and sending out letters of invitation in return.

Meanwhile Meng Yulou, who had heard all about Jinlian's trouble, seized the opportunity while Ximen was not there, and went to see her without the others knowing anything about it. When she came, Jinlian was lying on the bed.

"Do tell me what it is all about, Sister," she said.

Jinlian cried bitterly. "That little strumpet has been telling tales about me. She made our husband so angry that he thrashed me. I hate those two whores with a hate as deep as the ocean."

"If you had to play tricks with the boy," Yulou said, "you might at least have made sure that I shouldn't lose him. But don't be unhappy. Our husband is bound to look at things from our point of view. If he comes to see me tomorrow, I shall tell him what I think about him."

"It is good of you to trouble about me," Jinlian said. She called Chunmei, and told her to serve tea. They chatted for a while, and Yulou went back to her own rooms. That night, Mistress Wu was staying with Yueniang and Ximen Qing went to sleep with Yulou.

"It was very wrong of you to distress Jinlian so unreasonably," Yulou said. "She did not do anything. This trouble has all come from her quarrel with Xue'e and Li Jiao'er. Without taking the trouble to make any inquiries, you had my boy beaten. You have certainly been most unjust, and it makes things very awkward for the poor woman. Do you imagine our mistress would not have told you, if there had been any truth in the story?"

"I did ask Chunmei," Ximen Qing said, "and she said exactly what you say."

"The Fifth Lady is very much upset," Yulou said. "Why don't you go and see her?"

"I will go and see her tomorrow," Ximen promised.

The next day was Ximen's birthday, and many visitors came to take wine with him, Major Zhou, the magistrate Xia, Captain Zhang, and Uncle Wu, Yueniang's brother. Ximen Qing sent a sedan chair for Guijie, and engaged two singing girls, who performed throughout the day.

As soon as her niece arrived, Li Jiao'er took her to visit Yueniang and the others, and she drank tea with them. They asked Jinlian to come and see her, and twice a maid went to her room to invite her, but she said she was not very well and refused to come. Later in the evening, when Guijie was about to go home, Yueniang gave her a silk handkerchief and some artificial flowers, and went with Li Jiao'er to see her off. Guijie was anxious to go to the garden and pay her respects to Jinlian, but as soon as Jinlian heard she was coming, she told Chunmei to bolt and bar the corner door. When Guijie got there, Chunmei said, "My Mistress's orders. I dare not open the door." Guijie had to go away, greatly abashed.

That evening Ximen Qing went to see Jinlian. Her beautiful tresses were all in disorder, and she seemed very weary and faded. But when he came, she took her clothes, served him with tea, and hot water to wash his feet, and showed him a hundred signs of affection. That night, as they played together, she did for him whatever he asked of her.

"Brother," she said, "who in all this household really cares about you? They are all just stale married women, nothing more. I am the only one who understands you, and you understand me. The others see that you show me favor and spend most of your time here; it makes them jealous, and they try to vent their spite on me. How could you be caught by such talk, and treat me so unkindly? There is an old saying: 'When a farmyard chicken is beaten, it turns round and round; a wild one flies away.' You may beat me to death, but I shall never run away. The other day, when you were at the bawdy house and kicked Daian, I never complained. The Great Lady and Yulou know that quite well. I said I was afraid the girls there would do you no good. I said singing girls in places like that care for nothing but money. What is true love to them? Is there a single one of them who really loves you? That is all I said. Somebody came slyly up and secretly listened, and then they plotted together to get me in disgrace. Fortunately, while people may injure others, they cannot kill them; it is only those whom Heaven wishes to destroy who die. In the future you will realize that I am speaking the truth, and you will know what to do if such a thing happens again."

Ximen Qing was completely won over, and his delight in her was greater than ever.

Some days afterwards he mounted his horse and went off to the bawdy house, attended by Daian and Ping'an. Guijie had other visitors, but as soon as she heard he was coming, she went to her room, washed off her powder, removed her rings and ornaments, lay down on the bed, and pulled the bedclothes over her. Ximen Qing came in. He waited for a long time before the old woman appeared and made a reverence to him.

"Why is it so long since you were here?" the old lady said. She asked him to take a seat.

"I was very busy on my birthday," Ximen Qing said, "and there is no one at home who seems able to attend to things."

"I am afraid my daughter must have been a trouble to you," the old lady said.

Ximen asked why Guiqing did not come to see him on his birthday. The old woman told him that she had been away; a traveler had taken her to stay with him at the inn, and she was still there. They talked for a while, and the old woman offered him tea.

"Where is Guijie?" Ximen said at length. "Don't you know, Sir!" the old woman said. "Ever since the child came back from your house, she has been terribly overwrought. She is not at all well. I can't tell you what is the matter with her, but she has stayed in bed all the time and refused to leave her room. You must have a heart like a wolf's not to have been to see her before."

"This is the first I have heard of it," Ximen said. "Where is she? I will go and see her."

"She is lying down in her bedroom," the old lady said. She told a maid to go and raise the lattice. Ximen Qing went into the room. Guijie, covered with the bedclothes, was sitting on the bed, her face turned to the wall; her hair was in disorder and she seemed in a sad way. She did not move when Ximen came in.

"Why have you been ill since you were at my place?" Ximen said. The girl did not reply.

"What has made you so angry? Tell me." He questioned her for a long time, and at last she said:

"It is all your Fifth Lady's doing. Since you have someone in your own home who is as good as any strumpet, I can't imagine why you come here and make love to a wicked girl like me. I may have been brought up in this house, but I don't believe I'm any worse than some in other houses I could mention. I did not go as a singing girl that day; I came to give you a present. Your great lady was very kind and gave me flowers and clothes, and when I heard you had a fifth lady, I asked to be allowed to pay my respects to her. If I hadn't done so, she would have said that the girls from the bawdy house are very ill-mannered, but I did ask, and she refused to see me. When I was leaving your house, I asked once more, and she ordered her maid to shut the door in my face. Really she is lacking in the very elements of politeness."

"You mustn't blame her too much," Ximen Qing said. "She wasn't very well that day. If she had been, I'm sure she wouldn't have refused to come and see you. But I've often felt like giving that little strumpet a beating. She's always hurting somebody with that sharp tongue of hers."

Guijie slapped him lightly on the face. "Why haven't you beaten her, then, you shameless fellow?"

"You don't know how severe I can be," Ximen Qing said. "I have punished most unmercifully all the women and maids in my house, except, of course, my first wife. Sometimes I use a whip upon them twenty or thirty times or even more, and sometimes I cut their hair off."

"Oh," said Guijie, "I've met men before who talk about cutting the hair off their womenfolk, but never one who did more than brag about it. You may have bowed three times and made reverence twice to them for all anybody could prove. If you mean what you say, go home and cut off a single tress, bring it here, and show it to me. If you do that, I'll believe you are the greatest hero there is in this part of the world."

"Your hand upon it," Ximen cried.

"A hundred times, if it pleases you."

Ximen Qing spent the night with Guijie, and the next day, as he was mounting his horse to go home, she called after him: "If you don't bring it to me, don't dare to show your face here again."

This made Ximen very excited, especially as he was already half drunk. As soon as he got home, he went straight to Jinlian's room. She saw that he had had some wine, and was most careful in her attentions. She offered him something to eat, but he would have none of it. He told Chunmei to make the bed, then sent her away and shut the door. He sat on the bed and ordered the woman to take off his shoes. She took them off. Then he got on to the bed, but he would not go to sleep, and sat on a pillow. He bade Jinlian undress and kneel down. She was so terrified that the sweat rolled down her body. She had not the faintest notion what was amiss, and could only kneel down sobbing quietly.

"Father," she said, "tell me what is wrong, even if it kills me. I have been so careful all day, and still I don't seem to satisfy you. You are just sawing me asunder with a blunt knife. How can I bear it?"

"You rascally little whore," Ximen cried, "if you don't take your clothes off, I will show you no mercy." He called to Chunmei: "Bring me the whip that is hanging behind the door."

Chunmei would not go into the room, and he had to call for a long time before she slowly pushed the door open and went in. Jinlian was on her knees, and the lamp had fallen down beside the table. In spite of Ximen's orders, the maid did not obey him.

"Chunmei, Sister, please help me," Jinlian cried, "he is going to beat me again."

"Don't worry about her, little oily mouth," Ximen said. "Give me the whip. I am going to beat the strumpet."

"How can you be so shameless, Father?" Chunmei cried. "What has Mother done wrong? You seem to listen to anything any bad woman likes to tell you, making a storm in a teacup all the time. Mother is one heart and mind with you. What makes you so changeable? I shall not do what you say." She shut the door and went out. Ximen Qing could only burst out laughing.

"I won't beat you this time," he said to Jinlian. "Come here. I want you to give me something. Will you give it me or not?"

"My precious darling," Jinlian said, "I belong to you, heart and soul. Whatever you ask, it is yours. What do you want?"

"I want some of your hair," Ximen said.

"Heavens!" Jinlian cried, "if you had asked me to set myself on fire, I would have done it. But to cut off my hair... that is too much. You must wish to frighten me to death. From the day of my birth, twenty-six years until this very day, I have never done such a thing. And lately my hair has been falling out of its own accord. Do, please, spare me that indignity."

"You are always complaining about my bad tempers," Ximen Qing said, "yet you won't do a single thing I ask you."

"If I don't obey you, I don't obey anybody. But tell me, why do you want my hair?"

"I am thinking of having a hairnet made," Ximen said.

"If you want a net, I will make one for you, but you must not take my hair to that strumpet to lay a spell on me."

"I won't give it to anybody," Ximen said, "but I must have your hair to make the foundation for a net."

"Very well," Jinlian said, "in that case I will let you cut some off." She parted her hair. Ximen took a pair of scissors and cut a large tress from the crown of her head. He wrapped it in paper, and put it in his sleeve. Jinlian pressed close to him and wept quietly.

"I will do anything you wish," she said. "The only thing I ask is that you love me always. You may play with others as much as you please, but you must not forget me."

That night their joy in each other seemed more glorious than ever. The next morning, when Ximen Qing got up, she served him with tea; then he mounted his horse and rode to the bawdy house.

"Where is the hair you were going to cut off?" Guijie cried.

"Here you are," said Ximen. He took the hair from his sleeve, and handed it to her. She opened the packet. It contained a tress of beautiful hair, as black as the blackest coal. She put it into her sleeve.

"You have seen it now," Ximen said. "Give it back to me. She was terribly upset because I insisted on cutting off that hair, and, until I changed countenance and frightened her, she wouldn't hear of my cutting it off. I told her I wanted it to make a net. You see, I have brought it to you. Perhaps now you will believe that I always do what I say."

"I don't see why you should be so alarmed," Guijie said. "There is nothing so very extraordinary about it. I'll let you have it before you go. You shouldn't have taken it, if you are so frightened of her."

"What makes you think I'm afraid of her?" Ximen Qing said, laughing. "If I were, I shouldn't tell anybody."

Guijie asked her sister to take wine with Ximen Qing, and, going to a quiet place, put some of the hair into her shoe, that she might tread it underfoot every day. She kept Ximen a prisoner for several days and would not allow him to go home.

Jinlian was very unhappy for several days after her hair had been cut. She refused to leave her room and seemed too languid to take food or tea. Yueniang sent one of the boys to bring old woman Liu, an old favorite of hers, to see what was the matter.

"The lady is suffering from some secret grief," the old woman said, "and because the trouble is insistent and she can't free herself from it, she has headaches and gnawing pains at the heart, and does not feel inclined to take her food."

She opened her medicine box, and, taking out two black pills, told Jinlian to take them in the evening with some ginger water. "I will bring my husband tomorrow," she said. "He will tell your fortune for the coming year and see whether there is any bad luck in store."

"Can your husband really see what is in one's life?" Jinlian asked.

"He is blind," the old woman said, "but there are three things he can do. He can tell fortunes and read the Yin-Yang, and so save people from misadventure. He can bleed the sick, cauterize, and cure wens. The third thing is only to be mentioned with discretion, but, as a matter of fact, he can make philters to change people's hearts."

"What are these philters for?" Jinlian said.

"Well," old woman Liu said, "suppose father and son do not agree as well as they might, or there is a slight misunderstanding between brothers, or a quarrel between wives, if my husband is told the true state of affairs, he will make a spell and write a charm. This is put in water, and the people concerned are given it to drink. Three days after drinking this water, father and son will love one another again, brothers will reach a perfect understanding, and wives will live in harmony together.

"Again, when a man is unsuccessful in business, or his lands and family are not doing very well, my husband can produce the necessary money and increase profits. And when it comes to curing illnesses and making people immune, praying to the stars and invoking the planets, my husband is absolutely a master. People call him Liu the Master of the Stars. I remember the case of a household where there was a new wife who came from a family that was none too well off. She was inclined to be light-fingered, and was always stealing things from her mother-in-law to give to her own people. When her husband found her out, he beat her. My husband exercised his art on her behalf, made a charm, and when it had been burned to ashes, the ashes were put into the cistern. The whole family drank the water from this cistern, and afterwards, even if they actually saw her stealing, they didn't seem to realize what she was about. He also put another charm under her pillow, and when her husband had once slept on that pillow, his hands might have been tied, for he could not beat her any more."

Jinlian listened to this and stored it away in her mind. She told the maid to give the old woman some tea and cakes, and, when she was about to take her departure, she gave her not only three qian of silver for her fee, but five more to buy the materials needed for making a charm. She told her to bring the blind man early the next day so that he could burn the charm. The old woman went home, and next morning very early she brought the blind old rascal to the gate, and was about to go to the inner court. Ximen Qing was standing in the courtyard, and the gatekeeper asked the blind man what his business was.

"We have come to burn some papers for the Fifth Lady," the old woman said.

"Very well, in you go," the boy said, "but mind the dog doesn't bite you."

The old woman led her husband to Jinlian's apartments, and they waited some time for her. When she came, the blind man made a reverence to her; then they sat down, and Jinlian told him the eight characters of her destiny. The blind rascal reckoned for a while on his fingers, and said; "Lady, I will now interpret the eight characters of your destiny. They are Gengchen for the year, Gengyin for the month, Yihai for the day, and Jichou for the hour of your birth. The eighth of the month is the Spring Day, we must reckon your fate as from the first month. According to the admirable doctrine of Zi Ping, though your eight characters are indeed both clear and remarkable, you will never have the husband star in a favorable conjunction. The question of children, too, does not seem to be decided in your favor. The Yi tree grows in the first month and, though this would seem to show that you will enjoy good health, you must be careful lest you overdo things. Geng gold appears twice, and the Yangren star is unduly prominent, while the husband star is very troublesome. I should say that you will only reach contentment when you have outlived two husbands."

"I have already outlived one," Jinlian said.

"I beg you to excuse me, Lady," the blind rascal went on, "but though your life appears to be of the type known as Shayin, you are handicapped by the fact that there is the water of Gui in the Hai as well as in the Chou. This is decidedly a superabundance of water, and it rushes out of a single Ji earth. The stars Guan and Sha are confused. In the case of a man, if the influence of the Sha star is predominant, he will attain to dignity and prominence, but, in the case of a woman, such a state of affairs indicates that she will be dangerous to her husbands. The fact that you belong to this class shows that you know very well what you're about and that you attract men.

"With regard to your fortune for the present year, this year is Jiachen in the cycle, and this is a sign of coming calamity. The two stars Xiaohao and Goujiao are influencing you, and, though this does not indicate any real catastrophe, you will have trouble from friends and relations, and backbiters will prove a nuisance."

"It is kind of you to have gone so carefully into all this for me," Jinlian said, "and now I should like you to make a spell for me. Here is a tael of silver to spend on a cup of tea. All I want is that backbiters shall leave me in peace, and that my husband shall have a high esteem for me." She went to her room, found a couple of hair ornaments, and gave them to the blind man. He put them in his sleeve.

"If you would like me to make a spell," he said, "I shall take a piece of willow wood and fashion it into two figures, one male and the other female. On one I shall write your husband's eight characters and on the other your own. Then I shall bind them together with forty-nine red threads. I shall cover the man's eyes with a piece of red cloth and stuff him with the leaves of artemisia. I shall put a needle through his hands and stick the feet with gum. You must put the figures under his pillow, secretly. I shall also write a charm in red ink, and the ashes of this you must put into his tea. Then providing he sleeps on this pillow, you will see the result in three days at the utmost."

"What is the meaning of all this?" Jinlian said.

"I will explain," the old rogue replied. "The covering of the eyes with cloth will make you appear to him as beautiful as Xi Shi. Stuffing the figure with artemisia will make him love you. If I put a needle through the hands, that will ensure that, whatever your faults, he will not be able to raise his hand against you. Finally, the sticking of the feet with gum will prevent his wandering away from you."

Jinlian found this extremely satisfactory, and she wasted no time in getting candles and paper to burn the charms. The next day old woman Liu brought them, with water and the spell figures. Jinlian did with them as she had been told. She burned the charm to ashes, and prepared some of the best tea. When Ximen Qing came back, she told Chunmei to give him some of the tea. That night they slept on the same pillow. Two or three days passed, and their happiness was as great as that of fishes sporting in the water.

Readers, every household, no matter whether it be great or small, should make a rule that nuns, priests, nurses, and procuresses like these should always be kept at a distance.


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