Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Copyright © 2010 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
“Interesting, indeed interesting! Now milord won’t be able to boast so loudly!”
Smiling at the same time, he entered the hall complaining,
“Fees refund! Always be careful with your divinations, I say. But what says he? ‘Nary in a hundred would my divination not be accurate.’ Today’s trouble you brought upon yourself!”
On hearing the words, Lord Chou who was still at his seat became annoyed and rebuked,
“Have you gone mad? What you are babbling about!”
Pang Jian laughed out mockingly,
“What did I say? People are here for the ten-fold refund!”
Lord Chou was angry and reproved,
“What nonsense! Who wants a refund?”
Pang Jian replied,
“Milord, need not be angry. Those people demanding their refund are at the door now.”
Not waiting for further instruction, Pang Jian left and led in Shi Tsung Fu and his mother.
Seated, Lord Chou recognized widowed Shi and saw a man at her side, most probably her son. Greatly startled, Lord Chou murmured to himself,
“Yesterday my divination had foretold the son would be crushed in the cave dwelling on the third hour of the watch. How could he be alive and standing right in front of me? The refund is a small matter but my divinations are never wrong. Why is it so today? Surely there must be a reason.”
Lord Chou questioned from his seat,
“Widow Shi, who is that person at your side? What are you doing here?”
Old Mrs. Shi replied,
“My lord, this is the son of this old woman. Last night he did not die and came home this morning. I brought him along to pay his respects to your Lordship.”
Shi Tsung Fu was a smart chap on hearing how his mother spoke; he quickly knelt down and kowtowed to Lord Chou, and stood aside after the obeisance. This respectful kowtow smacked squarely into the jaw of Lord Chou, whose black face immediately turned red, utterly embarrassed to the core. Pushing some silver across the table he said,
“Old Mrs. Shi! Bilking a poor woman I shall not. Take the silver!”
On seeing Lord Chou’s actions Shi Tsung Fu quickly stepped forward and took the ten taels of silver. Lord Chou interrogated,
“Shi Tsung Fu, did you not rest last night in an abandoned cave dwelling near the city’s southern border? Whose magical arts did you learn to dissolve the impending doom? Speak the truth and you shall be rewarded lavishly!”
Shi Tsung Fu heard the cross-examination and merely replied,
“Last night this nobody was hurrying home and as there was no inn on the way, I tarried in this abandoned cave dwelling. Some time in the middle of the night, I had a stomach ache and needed to relieve myself. The moment I ventured out, the place collapsed and therefore I was not crushed inside.”
“Not so! I predicted last night at the hour of Shen great rains will fall; not until the hour of Yu will it cease and at the third hour the skies will be cleared. Also predicted that you are alone in the cave dwelling and be crushed to death with no saviour in sight. How was it possible that a big inconvenience1 suddenly arose? I believe not your words!”
On seeing the silver had been refunded to Mrs. Shi, Pang Jian sneered at his Lord’s lame excuses and said,
“Milord, the divination was not inaccurate; it just got bested by a stomach full of shit thus saving his life. As the refund has been made, just tell the mother and son to leave, why so much questioning?”
Lord Chou felt the sting right in his face when he heard the words, so ashamed and embarrassed that he could hardly speak. Old Mrs. Shi got the picture and quickly bade farewell with Pang Jian following suit.
Shi Tsung Fu then said,
“The sign said the refund is ten taels of silver and thirty pennies. How come there are only ten taels?”
Pang Jian heard the remark and stopped dead in his tracks,
“For a measly thirty pennies you want to drain me! Wait here and I shall get it for you!”
Old Mrs. Shi quickly said,
“My old lord, please don’t tally with this child. We are very delighted on getting back our capital. Now with this ten-fold refund that Lord Chou paid us, we are extremely elated. How can we subject your lordship to more inconvenience?
With such sarcasm, Pang Jian could no longer bear the words and relented instead to save face,
“My good brother, although these words are unintentionally spoken, your words are not unreasonable too. Since my lordship has refunded, how can I Pang Jian not do the same?”
Pang Jian then took out ten packets of pennies and handed over to Shi Tsung Fu who in a thick-skinned face took the cash. After some polite and humility talk, the mother and son left merrily.
Pang Jian was stunned like a fool momentarily before he could enter the inner hall, sulking in stony silence. Lord Chou was not amused because of the sass he had received earlier from Pang Jian. When he saw his sullen face, he almost wanted to lash out but had a change of heart and said to himself,
“If I rebuke him, tongues will wag. ‘Just because your divinations are wrong, so you vent your anger on others’? I’d be a laughing stock.”
Lord Chou had no choice but to stew in anger. Finally he bellowed,
“Pang Jian! Take down the sign from the main entrance. From now on, no more divination business!”
Pang Jian detected anger in his lordship and dared not disobey. The signs were then taken down. This is really,
Drawing all the waters from the Three Rivers2,
Still not possible in washing away this morning of shame!
Joy flooded their hearts as Mrs. Shi and son took the ten taels of silver and thirty pennies. On their way home, they bought a goat and some wine. Putting on their Sunday best they paid a visit to the Ren family to thank them. Ren Tai Kung tried to decline the lavish gifts but after three rounds of giving and declining3 he had no choice but to accept them. Ren Tai Kung then ordered his servants to prepare a feast in their honour. Half a day went by before mother and son finished their feast with the Rens. On their way back, Ren Tai Kung and wife reminded them time and again that they must not mention their daughter to anyone. About this we shall not talk anymore. In the meantime, ever since the refund incident, Lord Chou was very unhappy. The divination business had been closed for a few days straight, all divination requests were refused. Sitting in his study feeling bored, he thought to himself,
“My Eight Trigram Divination is never wrong. I must get to the bottom of this. How is the hour of death for Shi Tsung Fu in error?”
The more he thought the more suspicious he became,
“The divination has no flaws!”
Suddenly he realized something and laughed aloud,
“How stupid I can be! Why don’t I divine it again? Then I shall know the truth instead of letting my imagination run amuck.”
Quickly he took out his divination cylinder, waved it a few times and soon a divination was formed. Looking closely he saw that ‘Pure Yin (female) was in ascendancy”.
Lord Chou gasped,
“That day, when I made a divination for myself, it said there was trouble in encountering females. Today, it is pure female essence!” Does it mean that the one who broke my prediction is a female?”
Once more Lord Chou checked and no error was found and yet the divination could not identify the culprit’s name. He became very impatient and fretful. [‘If Peach Blossom had a way in transmitting the way out to Mrs. Shi, how could she not suppress the hours of her birth to prevent Lord Chou from finding out her identity?‘ – The author.] No matter how hard Lord Chou tried to divine with his fingers, he had no success. Muttering angrily in hate,
“If I ever find out the identity of this person, I shall cut her into half or else I swear that a man I shall never be!”
Angrily, he slammed down the divination box. No matter what other methods he tried, he could not find out who the culprit was. From then onwards Lord Chou sat alone stewing in anger. With each passing day, his wrath was so great that no one dared to bring his food, to enter in his presence or to come forward in trying to placate him.
In a bat of the eye, it was around the first ten days into the lunar month. As usual Lord Chou was sitting alone in the garden pavilion when Pang Jian entered. On seeing his master’s seething wrath, he knew that it still had something to do with Shi Tsung Fu. He said with a smile,
“Milord, I have been thinking. If Shi Tsung Ren had not come out of the cave dwelling, wouldn’t he be a crushed duck inside? Or maybe that he had done some good deeds on his journey? An old adage said, ‘A little hidden merit done, a decade of longevity increased.’ He must have met some saviour who instructed a way out for him. However all this is conjecture so why doesn’t milord simply make another divination to get to the bottom of things?”
“Don’t you think I have already done this for myself? According to its form, it clearly indicated that a woman helped him out and thus broke my prediction. No matter how much I try, I cannot find out who she is!”
Pan Jian continued,
“In this city of Morning Song, don’t say it was a woman. Even if the divination had said it was an outstanding man, Milord could not have easily identified him. So many accurate divinations you have given, how can one inaccuracy amount to anything? Right now there are so many people waiting at the main door each day for divine guidance. My mouth has become dry and sour in trying to shoo them away and yet no one wants to leave. All want a divination in earnest. Those who had come from afar will be in anger when turned away. I am getting worried that things will get out of hand. Please reconsider before it’s too late. Originally milord’s goal was to un-befuddle the masses. Now because of such a trifle matter, you have abandoned your goal. A laughing matter to all it shall become. How now? How now?”
Lord Chou heard the advice and reflected,
“Your advice is sound. I wanted to find out who saved Shi Tsung Fu. Seems there’s something wrong with the Eight Trigrams. Let me divine myself a few more times to test its accuracy. I cannot be too careless!”
Pang Jian gave a hearty laugh on hearing his master’s words,
“Milord, why not divine me instead and see how lucky or ill-fortuned I’m going to be?”
Sneeringly, Lord Chou replied,
“Pang Jian, you have served me for a long time. You are honest and thrifty. I shall grant you a boon today. First go and burn some incense before the sages. Then bring me the divination box and we shall begin your divination.”
Pang Jian was overjoyed. Quickly he burnt some incense and brought out the accoutrements. Six times, Lord Chou began to shake the divination box and as he peered into it, all at once, his countenance changed. Stupefied, his tongue hung out in disbelief and he shook his head sadly. Great is today if no divination was made but now the black face of Lord Chou turned yellow, two spirals of purple cloud rising between his thick eyebrows.
What has the divination in store for Pang Jian? Good or bad, please read the next chapter.
1. Or rather the great convenience – bowel movement 大便. 小便 “Lesser convenience is urination”.
2. The 3 great rivers of China, the Yellow River (黃河), the Yangtze (楊子江) and the Pearl River (珠江)
3. One of the unspoken rules in Chinese society is that one cannot accept a gift immediately. This is considered rude and greedy. One has to decline three times before acceptance. The giver on the other hand must do his obligatory insistence to give face to the receiver. If the gift was not accepted, it would be considered an insult to the giver as it is construed to be too shabby to be accepted. This tango of display must be observed at all costs. However this custom applies only to people of equal rank. When one receiving a gift from a superior, the gift must be accepted with both hands immediately. Of course a different dance routine is ensued.
當時彭剪一聞石婆子之言，明知他母子商酌定來討賠還卦資的“好話”，即冷笑一聲道：“有趣，我趣！我家公爺今日可是講不得響嘴了！ ”一面笑著，一面走進裡面說道：“快把卦金還人家罷！我也說過要小心看卦才好，你道’百不失一’，今日算出這件事來了！”周公此時還坐在座上，見彭剪如此話來，便喝道：“你瘋了麼？口中亂講些什麼話！”彭剪笑道：“講什麼？人家要倒賠十倍銀子來了！ ”周公聞言，大怒道：“胡說！有誰來要賠還銀子？”彭剪道：“公爺不消發怒。要賠銀子的人現在門外。”他也不聽周公吩咐，竟出來領了石宗輔母子二人進去。
宗輔又言：“招牌上寫的十兩三錢，為何止有十兩？”彭剪聽得，打一頓足道：“三錢頭要我賠還的，待我來給與你。 ”石婆子忙道：“老爺，休要同他孩子這般見識。我們只望得回本銀，就算好了。公爺反一賠十，這是十分足矣。倒反累老爺又賠還，豈可受得起？”當時彭剪好難受此話，便慢慢的道：“好兄弟，此話雖係無心，我想來甚是有理。公爺既賠了，我難道不賠的？ ”便向身中把十個小包兒也拿出來，遞與石宗輔。那石宗輔老著臉兒接了。母子也說了些好話，便歡歡喜喜的去了。
憑君汲盡三江水，難洗今朝滿面羞。當時石家母子得了十兩三錢銀子，滿心喜悅，就在路上市肆買了羊、酒回家。母子們又換了新衣，一同進至任家，與任太公夫妻叩謝，任太公見他禮物甚重，再三推辭。石家母子只是不依。太公無奈，只得收下。又吩咐家人備了一桌酒筵，與他母子二人接風。吃了半日酒，方才辭了出去。臨行時，太公夫妻又是再三囑咐。教他母子切不可說出是他女兒設法救的。這話且暫按下。再說周公自從那日被石家母子來討回卦資，心中甚是不樂，便把卜市一連關了幾日，不與人卜卦，止是悶坐書房，心裡想道：“孤的八卦有準，一定的判決，豈料算石宗輔之死期竟然不靈！”復又細想：“前卜之卦，判的一些不錯。”心中愈加狐疑。忽然猛醒，反把自己笑了一笑，道：“好呆呀！何不蔔一卜看？就可知道了。何用如此胡思亂想？”忙取了卦筒，搖了幾搖，起一卦，細細一著，著得是“純陰持世”，心中吃驚道：“那日孤自佔時，也是不利陰人，今日又占得純陰之卦！難道有什麼陰人破我的八卦？ ”左右推詳，一些不錯，但只再算不出這陰人姓名，心中焦燥起來。 —做書的又言：桃花女既能傳法與石婆子，他自己的八字早已按住了，周公那裡推得出桃花女的姓名來？所以他掐來算去，算去掐來，再也推詳不出，暗暗恨道：“孤訪出這個人的姓名來，不斬他為兩段，誓不為人！”恨恨的把卦盒丟下，氣了一回，無計可施，無可奈何，只得罷了。自此之後，終日悶坐，差些兒連飲食也不進。左右的人知道周公的性子不好，不敢前來勸他。