A Chinese Story

translated by George Souliť


When Dawning-colour was on the point of dying, he called his mother to him.

"Mother," he said, "I am going to die. I do not wish White-orchid, my young wife, to feel herself bound to keep the widowhood. When her mourning will be finished, she will marry again: our son is only three years old; you will keep him with you."

Now, the mourning was not yet finished and the coffin was still in the house waiting for a favourable day, when the young widow began to find the solitude weigh upon her.

A rich sluggard of the village, named Adolescent, had several times sent proposals to her through a neighbour; she at last was unwise enough to agree to an interview with him. When evening came, Adolescent jumped over the neighbour's wall and went to her room.

He had not been there half an hour when there arose a great noise in the hall where the coffin was; it seemed as if the cover was violently thrown to the ground. A little slave who was called afterwards as a witness told how she ran into the yard and saw her master's corpse brandishing a sword and jumping towards the room where the lovers were to be found.

A few instants after, she saw the young widow come out screaming and run to the garden. Adolescent followed her, covered with blood; he crossed the threshold and disappeared in the night.

Now, Adolescent, flying from danger, pushed the first door that he came across in the street; it was that of a young couple; the husband, named Wang, was absent and only expected to return the next day. The young wife, hearing a noise, thought it was her husband returning.

"Is that you?" she asked, without quite waking up.

Adolescent, who knew Madame Wang was pretty, answered "Yes" in a low voice, taking advantage of her error.

A short time after, at Wang's turn to enter, he struck a light, saw a man in his room, and, furious, seized a pike. Adolescent tried to hide himself under the bed, but the husband transpierced him several times. He wished to kill his wife, but she so much begged him not to that he spared her.

The cries and supplications which came from the room had, however, awoke the neighbours, who came in; they pulled Adolescent's body from under the bed; he died almost directly.

There was a silence; the affair was serious. Then one of the assistants said:

"The judges won't believe that you were in your right of outraged husband; you ought to have killed your wife also. As it is, you will be condemned."

Thereupon, Wang killed the unhappy woman.

During this time Dawning-colour's mother, having heard the screams of her daughter-in-law, thought there was a burglar in the house; she cried for help and tried to light a lamp, but she was trembling, and her curtains caught fire.

Some neighbours arrived in haste; while a few of them extinguished the fire, the others, armed with crossbows, ran through the house and garden in search of the thief.

At the bottom of the orchard they saw a white mass moving at the foot of the wall. Without waiting to ascertain what it was, they shot several arrows; everything was still. The archers approached and lit a torch; they saw the body of White-orchid transpierced in the head and chest.

Horrified by what they had done, they informed the old woman, who said nothing.

But this was not all. The elder brother of White-orchid, furious at the tragic death of his sister, had a lawsuit with the archers and the old woman.

As usual, the judges ruined both parties; they condemned Dawning-colour's mother and the archers to receive five hundred bamboo strokes. The latter were not strong enough to bear this punishment, and died under the stick. And thus the affair ended.