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 suspicion!”
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 her.
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 his features.
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.