The cells had no sort of opening in their walls, and when a penitent entered one of them, her family and attendants used to come and install her. As soon as night came, she was locked in the cell, and the bonzes insisted that a member of her family must pass the night before her door, so that none might entertain the least suspicion of an entry to her. When the woman returned to her home, the child was already formed. It was born fat and beautiful always, and without any blemish.
There was, moreover, no household, either of public officials or the common people, which did not send one or even two of its members to pray in the Babies’ Chapel. And women came to it even from the provinces.
Every day the crowd in the monastery was comparable with mountains or the sea, and the place was filled with the gayest hubbub. They no longer kept any reckoning of the offerings of every kind which flowed in upon them. When the women were asked how, during the night, the P’u-sa had made his answer intelligible, some answered simply that Fo had told them in a dream that they would have a son. Others said that they had dreamed that a lo-han had come and lain beside them. Others asserted that they had had no dream. Others again blushed and declined to answer. Some women never repeated this kind of prayer a second time: others, on the contrary, went to the temple as often as possible.
You will tell me that this story of a Fo or of a P’u-sa coming every night to the monastery is in no way short of preposterous. But it must be borne in mind that the people of that district had a greater faith in sorcerers than in doctors, and could not distinguish the true from the false. Consequently they continued to send their wives to the temple.
As a matter of course these bonzes, whose outward behavior was so laudable and correct, were wholly and unreservedly gluttons within, both for luxury and debauch.
Although the cells were apparently quite close, each really had a secret door. When the women were sound asleep, the bonzes came softly into the cell, and to such purpose that, when their victims were aroused, it was already almost too late. Those who would have wished to protest kept silence for the sake of their reputations.
Now the women were young and sound: the bonzes were strong and vigorous. They had, moreover, taken the precaution to cause certain special pills to be administered to their visitors. Consequently it but rarely happened that these prayers were not heard. Sober-minded wives would have died with shame sooner than confess the matter to their husbands; and, as for the others, they kept quiet so that they might be able to do it again.
Matters were in this case when a new Governor was appointed to the district, the Lord Wang. Soon after he entered upon his office, he heard tell of the Monastery of the Esteemed-Lotus, and could not help thinking:
“Since it is Fo and P’u-sa who are involved, it should be enough simply to pray. Why, then, must the women also go and pass the night in the temple? There must be some questionable artifice in that.”