The Outlaws of the Marsh Chapter 8 Arms Instructor Lin Is Tattooed and Exiled to Cangzhou
- Posted on: 2023-11-14
- Views: 35
- ▸ The Outlaws of the Marsh
The Outlaws of the Marsh
Arms Instructor Lin Is Tattooed and Exiled to Cangzhou
Sagacious Lu Makes a Shambles of Wild Boar Forest
As we were saying, Marshal Gao shouted for his guards to take Lin Chong out and execute him. Lin Chong loudly exclaimed that he was innocent.
"Why did you enter the Inner Sanctum with a sword in your hand?" demanded the marshal. "Of course you wanted to kill me!"
"Would I dare go in if the marshal hadn't summoned me?" countered Lin Chong. "I saw those two lieutenants enter the hall! They tricked me into coming here!"
"Nonsense! What lieutenants are you talking about? This scoundrel refuses to admit his guilt," said the marshal. And he directed his guards: "Take him to Kaifeng Prefecture. Ask Prefect Teng to examine him and investigate the case. Get the truth out of him, then have him executed. Label the sword as an official exhibit and take it along."
Bearing the marshal's order, the guards escorted Lin Chong to Kaifeng Prefecture. It happened that the prefect was still holding court, and Marshal Gao's emissary brought Lin Chong to the prefect's hall and knelt at the foot of the dais. The prefect's secretary relayed the emissary's message from Gao Qiu and placed the labelled sword down in front of Lin Chong.
"Lin Chong," said the prefect, "you're an arms instructor in the Imperial Guards. You must know the law. How could you enter the Inner Sanctum holding a sword? That's an offence punishable by death."
"Benevolent lord, you reflect the truth like a mirror. Lin Chong has been grievously wronged! Although I'm only a crude and stupid military man, I'm not exactly ignorant of the law. How would I presume to enter the Inner Sanctum? The reason I went there was this: On the twenty-eighth of last month I took my wife to the Temple of the Sacred Mountain to burn incense. There I caught Marshal Gao's son trying to seduce her. I berated him and drove him away. Next, he had Captain Lu Qian trick me into going out to drink and got Fu An to lure my wife to Captain Lu's home, where he tried to ravish her. This too I discovered and wrecked Lu Qian's furniture. Though Young Master Gao failed to despoil her, I have witnesses to both attempts.
"Yesterday, I bought this sword. Today, Marshal Gao sent two lieutenants to summon me. They said he wanted me to bring my sword to compare it with his. And so I went with them to the Inner Sanctum. After they went inside, Marshal Gao suddenly entered the courtyard. It's all a plot to destroy me. Please help me, Your Honor!"
After hearing Lin Chong's story, the prefect ordered that a receipt-of-prisoner be issued, a wooden rack locked around the arms instructor's neck, and that he be held in custody. Lin Chong's family sent food to him in jail and gave tips to the keepers. His father-in-law, Arms Instructor Zhang, also called at the prison. He spent quite a bit, bribing high and low.
It happened that in the prefecture there was a scribe named Sun Ding. Because he was extremely just and kindly and always willing to help people, he was known as Sun the Buddha. Learning the facts of the case, he diplomatically informed the prefect what he had discovered.
"Lin Chong has been wronged," he said. "You must help him."
"But Marshal Gao has confirmed that he committed a crime. He insists that I convict Lin Chong for entering the Inner Sanctum, sword in hand, with the intention of murdering him. What can I do?"
"Is Kaifeng Prefecture ruled by the imperial court or the family of Marshal Gao?"
"Don't talk nonsense!"
"Everyone knows Gao Qiu uses his position tyrannically. There's nothing he won't do. Whoever offends him, even in the slightest, he sends to Kaifeng Prefecture. If he wants a man killed, we kill him. If he wants him hacked, we hack him. We've become a mere subdivision of his family."
"How can I make things easy for Lin Chong? What sort of sentence should I pass?"
"From Lin Chong's story, it's plain that he's innocent, although we haven't been able to find those two lieutenants. Why not have him confess to entering the Inner Sanctum improperly wearing a sword at his waist, sentence him to twenty strokes of the bamboo, tattoo him and exile him to some distant military district?"
After considering this, Prefect Teng went to see Marshal Gao and urged him to agree to such a confession from Lin Chong. Knowing that reason was against him, and since the prefect seemed reluctant to cooperate, the marshal was forced to consent.
The very same day, the prefect called court into session. He had Lin Chong summoned, the rack removed and twenty blows of the bamboo administered. The prefect directed the tattooer to place the mark of a criminal on Lin Chong's cheek. Then he calculated the distance and decided upon Cangzhou as Lin's place of exile. In full court, a hinged wooden rack of seven and a half catties was placed around the arms instructor's neck and nailed fast, and prefectural seals were affixed. The prefect issued a deportation order and designated two guards to escort the prisoner to his destination. Their names were Dong Chao and Xue Ba.
The guards left the prefectural compound with Lin Chong. Outside the gate, many of Lin Chong's neighbors and his father-in-law, Arms Instructor Zhang, were waiting. All repaired to a tavern and took seats.
"Thanks to the assistance of Scribe Sun, my beating was not heavy and I'm still able to walk," said Lin Chong.
Arms Instructor Zhang told the waiter to serve the two guards with wine and fruit. They drank several cups, and the old man presented them each with some silver.
Clasping hands respectfully, Lin Chong addressed his father-in-law. "Bad times have befallen me, exalted father-in-law. I clashed with Young Master Gao and the court has condemned me wrongfully. Now I have something to say: In the three years since you generously gave me your daughter in marriage she has never done anything to displease me. Although she's borne no children, not once have we quarrelled or even grown red in the face. Today I've suffered this misfortune. I'm being exiled to Cangzhou and there's no telling whether I'll live or die. My lady will be left at home. I'm worried about her. I'm afraid Young Master Gao will try to force his suit.
"She's still young. I shouldn't tie her down. This is my own idea, it's entirely voluntary. In the presence of our honorable neighbors I want to write out an annulment of our marriage, consenting to her making a new match and promising not to contest it. Only in this way will I feel at ease, assured that Young Master Gao won't be able to harm her."
"What words are these, good son-in-law," cried the old arms instructor. "You've been unlucky and this misfortune has happened. It's not of your own doing. Today you're going to Cangzhou for temporary refuge, but sooner or later Heaven will pity you and let you return, and husband and wife will be together again. I've got a bit of money. I'll have my daughter and Jin Er move in with me. Come what may, I can support them for four or five years. I won't allow my daughter out on the streets. Young Master Gao won't be able to see her even if he wants to. Don't worry. I'll take care of everything. You go on to Cangzhou. From time to time I'll send you letters and clothing. Don't get any foolish ideas. Just go in peace."
"Thank you, father-in-law, for your good intentions. But I wouldn't feel right, tying her down. Have pity, father-in-law, let me have my way. Then, even if I die, I can close my eyes peacefully."
But Arms Instructor Zhang wouldn't hear of it. The neighbors also were opposed.
"Unless I am allowed to do this, even if I succeed in coming back I swear I'll never see her again," said Lin Chong.
"Write out the annulment, if that's how you feel," said the old man. "In any event, I won't let my daughter marry another."
Lin Chong then sent for a scribe and purchased a sheet of paper. The scribe wrote as Lin Chong dictated:
Because he was convicted of a serious crime, Lin Chong, arms instructor of the Imperial Guards, Eastern Capital, has been sentenced to exile in Cangzhou. What will happen to him is difficult to foretell. His wife (maiden name Zhang) is still young, and he therefore wishes to annul their marriage. He grants her permission to contract a new marriage and guarantees that he will never contest it. The annulment is truly voluntary and not issued under compulsion. In the event of any doubt, this document shall serve as proof.
Year... Month... Day...
When the document was completed, Lin Chong took the writing brush and signed his name below the date, then added his thumb print. Just as he was about to hand the annulment to his father-in-law, his wife, weeping and crying aloud, came hurrying to the tavern, followed by the maidservant, Jin Er, who was carrying a bundle of clothing. Lin Chong rose and went forward to meet her.
"Wife," he said, "I have something to tell you. I've already spoken to father-in-law. Because I've fallen on bad times, I've had this misfortune. Today, I start for Cangzhou. It's hard to say whether I'll live or die. I don't want to hold you back in the flower of your youth, so I've had this document written. Please don't wait for me. If you meet a good man, marry again. Don't delay your happiness on my account."
"Husband," she wept. "I've never wronged you in the slightest. How can you discard me?"
"I mean well, wife," said Lin Chong. "Otherwise, we'll only impede each other. You'll be harmed."
"Don't worry, my daughter," said Arms Instructor Zhang. "Even though son-in-law recommends it, I'll never allow you to remarry. He can depart easy in his mind. If he doesn't return, I'll provide for you for the rest of your life, so that you can remain faithful to him."
The young woman uttered heart-rending sobs, tears streaming down her cheeks. When she saw the annulment document she collapsed swooning to the floor. Lin Chong and his father-in-law hurried to raise her. It was some time before she revived. She wept uncontrollably as Lin Chong presented the document to her father. Women neighbors did their best to comfort her. Supporting the bereft woman under the arms, they escorted her home.
"Go, and try to come back soon," Arms Instructor Zhang told Lin Chong. "Tomorrow, I shall move your wife over to my house. I'll take care of her until you return. You can depart without any worries. Be sure to write to us from time to time, if you find people who can deliver your letters."
Lin Chong rose and thanked his father-in-law and his neighbors, placed his bundle on his back, and went off with the guards. Arms Instructor Zhang and the neighbors departed for home. Of them we shall say no more.
We'll speak of the two guards and Lin Chong. Dong Chao and Xue Ba locked their prisoner in a guard house, and returned to their homes to pack some things for their journey. As Dong Chao was tying a bundle together, a waiter from the tavern at the head of the lane came in.
"Sir, a gentleman wishes to speak with you in our tavern."
"Who is he?"
"I don't know. He only told me to invite you over."
Dong Chao went with the waiter to a room in the tavern. He found a man wearing a hat decorated with Buddhist swastikas and dressed in a black silk tunic. On his feet were black boots and plain stockings. When Dong Chao entered, the man quickly rose and clasped hands in greeting.
"Please be seated," he said.
"I have not had the privilege of meeting Your Honor before," said Dong Chao. "How can I serve you?"
"Please sit down. You'll know shortly."
Dong Chao took a chair on the opposite side of the table. The waiter brought wine cups and food and fruit and laid them out.
"Where does Xue the guard live?" the man asked.
"In that lane ahead," replied Dong Chao.
The man called the waiter and asked him for Xue's exact address. "Invite him here to meet me," he instructed.
In less time than it takes to drink a cup of tea, the waiter returned with Xue Ba.
"This gentleman has invited us for a talk," Dong Chao explained.
"May I ask your name, sir?" queried Xue Ba.
"You'll know very soon," replied the man. "First let us drink."
The three took their seats and the waiter served wine. After they had consumed several cups, the man drew from his sleeve ten ounces of gold and placed them on the table.
"Five ounces for each of you," he said. "There is a small matter I want to trouble you about."
"But we don't know Your Honor. Why should you give us gold?" they asked.
"Aren't you going to Cangzhou?"
"We're taking Lin Chong there under orders of the Kaifeng Prefect," said Dong Chao.
"It's precisely for that reason that I must bother you two. I am Marshal Gao's trusted Captain Lu Qian."
Dong Chao and Xue Ba immediately greeted him with profound respect. "How can insignificant men like us presume to sit at the same table with Your Honor," they cried.
"As you know, Lin Chong has incurred the marshal's displeasure. The marshal has ordered me to present you with these ten ounces of gold. He hopes you will finish off Lin Chong in some secluded place along the road—it needn't be too far—and bring back a certification of his death from the local authorities. If Kaifeng Prefecture causes any difficulty, the marshal will take care of it personally. You needn't worry about that."
"I'm afraid it's not possible," said Dong Chao. "The official order of Kaifeng Prefecture directs that we deliver Lin Chong alive, not that we kill him. He's not an old man: How could we explain his death? We'd surely get into trouble. I'm afraid it can't be done."
"Dong, old fellow," said Xue Ba, "listen to me. If Marshal Gao ordered us to die, we would have to obey, to say nothing of a case like this, when he sends this gentleman with gold. Say no more. I'll share it with you and that's that. If we do this little favor, we'll be looked after in the future. On the road to Cangzhou there's a big pine forest, a wild evil place. Come what may, we'll finish him off there."
Xue Ba took the gold and said, "You can rely on us, Your Honor. At the latest on the fifth stage of the journey, at the earliest the second, the thing will be done."
Very pleased, Lu Qian exclaimed: "Xue Ba is truly straightforward and to the point. When the deed is accomplished, bring back the golden print on Lin Chong's face as proof. I will then reward you both with another ten ounces of gold. I shall be waiting for good news. Be sure not to delay."
In Song times, prisoners who were to be exiled were always tattooed on the face. To make it sound better, the mark was called "the golden print."
The three finished their wine, Lu Qian paid the bill, then all left the tavern and went their separate ways.
Dong Chao and Xue Ba, after dividing the gold, returned to their homes and finished packing. Then they took their official staves, called for Lin Chong at the guard house, and set out from the city. They travelled more than thirty li before calling a halt. In Song days, guards escorting a prisoner did not have to pay for lodging in public inns. Xue and Dong brought Lin Chong to an inn, and they stayed the night.
At dawn the next morning, the guards lit a fire and made breakfast, and the three continued their journey to Cangzhou. It was the height of summer and the weather was scorching. Lin Chong had not suffered much when he was beaten. But now a few days had passed, and the fiery heat irritated his wounds. He walked painfully, with dragging steps.
"Stupid clod," Xue Ba said. "It's over two thousand li from here to Cangzhou. Who knows when we'll get there, at the rate you're going!"
"I was buffeted a bit in the marshal's compound, and then, the other day, I was beaten with bamboos. My wounds are paining me in this awful heat," Lin Chong explained. "Please, sirs, don't be impatient."
"Just take your time," said Dong Chao. "Never mind his grumbling."
Xue Ba kept complaining and cursing all along the road. "It's our misfortune to have run into a wretched demon like you," he berated Lin Chong.
As the day was drawing to a close, the three again put up at a village inn. Entering the door, the guards rested their staves and removed their packs. Lin Chong also dropped his luggage bundle. Before the guards could say anything, he took out some pieces of silver and told the attendant to bring wine, meat and rice, and set the table. Lin then invited the guards to dine with him.
Dong Chao and Xue Ba ordered still more wine, plying Lin Chong with it until he fell over on his side, wooden rack and all. Xue Ba then boiled a large pot of water. When it was bubbling hot he poured it into a basin.
"Wash your feet, Arms Instructor," he said. "You'll sleep better."
Lin Chong struggled to a sitting position, but he couldn't lean forward because of the rack.
"I'll wash them for you," Xue Ba offered.
"How could I impose upon you?" Lin Chong hastily replied.
"Men travelling together shouldn't be ceremonious over such details," said Xue Ba.
Lin Chong didn't realize it was a plot. He stretched out his legs. Xue Ba seized them and plunged them into the boiling water.
exclaimed Lin Chong, hurriedly pulling his feet out. They had turned red and swollen. "I mustn't trouble you!" he cried.
"Plenty of prisoners have looked after guards, but how often do you see a guard serving a prisoner?" said Xue Ba. "With the best of intentions I wash his feet, but he has the nerve to complain—the water's too cold, the water's too hot If this isn't returning evil for good I don't know what is!"
He grumbled and swore half the night.
Not daring to reply, Lin Chong could only fall over and lie on his side.
The two guards poured out the boiling water, filled the basin afresh, then went to wash their feet outside.
They slept until the fourth watch, rising while the rest of the inn was still in bed. Xue Ba heated some water to wash with, and cooked breakfast. Lin Chong, dizzy, was unable to eat and barely able to walk. Xue Ba threatened him with his staff. Dong Chao untied from his belt a pair of new straw sandals with loops and bindings of woven hemp. He told Lin Chong to put them on. Lin Chong's scalded feet were covered with blisters. He wanted his old soft sandals, but they were nowhere to be found. He had to put the new ones on.
The waiter added up the bill and the guards led Lin Chong from the inn. It was by now the fifth watch.
Before Lin Chong had gone more than two or three li, the blisters on his feet, broken by the new straw sandals, bled freely. He could hardly drag himself along and he groaned ceaselessly.
"Walk! Faster!" shouted Xue Ba. "Keep moving or I'll help you with this staff."
"Have pity on me, good officer," Lin Chong pleaded. "Would I dare slow down deliberately and delay our journey? It's because my feet are killing me. I can't walk."
"You can lean on me," said Dong Chao. He supported Lin Chong. But since the arms instructor walked with difficulty, they covered only four or five li.
It became obvious that Lin Chong really couldn't go much farther. They saw ahead of them a wild evil wood shrouded in mist. Known as Wild Boar Forest, it was the first dangerous place on the road from Kaifeng to Cangzhou. During the Song Dynasty, those who had grudges against prisoners being sent into exile often bribed their escorts to murder them there. Who can say how many good men lost their lives in that wood?
Now, the two guards led Lin Chong straight into the forest.
"In the whole fifth watch we haven't even walked ten li," said Dong Chao. "We'll never reach Cangzhou at this rate."
"I'm tired," said Xue Ba. "Let's rest here."
The three men walked deeper into the forest, then removed their packs and placed them at the foot of a tree. Lin Chong groaned. With his back against a tree trunk he slid to the ground.
"Having to wait for you every time we take a step has worn me out too," said Dong Chao. "I want to sleep a while, then we'll go on."
They rested their staves and lay down beside a tree. But no sooner had they closed their eyes than they leaped up with an exclamation.
"What's wrong, good officers?" asked Lin Chong.
"We were just about to sleep when we remembered that there are no doors and locks here. We're afraid you'll run off. We're worried, so we can't sleep in peace."
"I'm a respectable man. Since I've already been convicted, I'd never run away."
"Who can believe that?" scoffed Dong Chao. "The only way we can really feel secure is to tie you up."
"It that's what you good officers want, how can I refuse?"
Xue Ba took a rope from his waist and bound Lin Chong hand and foot and tied him, together with the rack, tightly to the tree. Then he and Dong Chao sprang up, whirled around, seized their staves and advanced on Lin Chong.
"Killing you isn't our idea," they said. "The other day Captain Lu Qian informed us of the order of Marshal Gao. We're to finish you off here and return immediately with the golden print. Even if we travelled a few more days, it would still be your death march. Doing the job here, we can get back that much earlier. Don't blame us two brothers. We're only carrying out orders. We have no choice. You must know: A year from this day will be the first anniversary of your death! We've been given a time limit. We must return quickly with our report."
When Lin Chong heard this, his tears fell like rain. "Officers," he cried, "there's never been any enmity between us. Spare me, and I'll never forget you in this world or the next!"
"Empty talk," said Dong Chao. "You can't be saved!"
Xue Ba raised his official staff and swung it fiercely at Lin Chong's head.
What a pity that a hero's life should vanish like a dream!
There are no inns on the long road to the Nether Regions. In whose home can a wandering spirit rest in the deep of night?
Did Lin Chong live or die? Read our next chapter if you would know.
Start the discussion...