But the cunning Superior already had his plan. He ordered all the bonzes to kneel, and said:
“These unhappy ones whom you have convicted are without excuse. But they were the only ones who dared to act so. All my other monks are pure. You have been able to discover the shame of the guilty, which I in my ignorance could not, and there is nothing for it but to put them to death.”
The Governor smiled:
“Then it is only the cells which these two women occupied that have secret passages?”
“There are only those two cells,” answered the unblushing Superior.
“We shall question all the other women, and then see.”
The female visitors, who had already been wakened by the noise, came in turns to give their evidence. They were all in agreement: no bonze had come to trouble them. But the Governor knew that shame would prevent them from speaking, and therefore had them searched. In the pocket of each was found a little packet of pills. He asked them whence these came; but the women, purple in the face and scarlet in the neck, answered no word.
While this examination was taking place, the husbands of the penitents came up and took a part in it. And their anger made them tremble like the hemp-plant or leaves of a tree. When the Governor, who did not wish to push his questioning too far, had allowed the visitors to depart, their husbands swallowed their shame and indignation, and led them away.
The Superior had not yet given up the fight. He asserted that the pills had been given to the women as they entered the monastery. But the two harlots again affirmed that they at least had received them during the visit of the bonzes.
“The matter is quite clear,” the Governor cried at length. “Put all of these adulterers in chains!”
The bonzes had some thought of resisting; but they had no weapons and were outnumbered. The only ones left free were an old man who kindled the incense, and the two little novices still in childhood.
The gate of the monastery was closed and guarded. On his return to the yamen, the Governor took his seat in the Hall of Justice, and had his prisoners questioned in the usual ways. Fear of pain loosened their tongues, and they were condemned to death. They were cast into prison to await the ratification of their sentence.
As the Governor of the prison went his rounds to inspect their bonds, the Superior whispered to him:
“We have brought nothing, neither clothes, nor blankets, nor food. If you will allow me to return for a moment to the monastery with three or four of my monks, I will willingly give you a hundred ounces of silver.”
The prison governor knew the wealth of the monastery. He smiled:
“My price is a hundred ounces for myself, and two hundred for my men.”