View Full Version : Adventure of an American Girl in Ancient China 31

May 3rd, 2014, 01:40 PM
Chapter 32

Now they were approaching big cities. When Linda entered one, she noticed that there still was the announcement about her on the city wall by the gate. But no one was reading it. The reward was increased to a thousand taels of silver. But since none had seen such a girl with golden hair, people had lost interest in it long before.
Linda thought that she had better disguise herself as a boy so that no one would suspect a boy as the girl with the golden hair. Therefore, she bought some man’s clothes for both of them, only in different style. She attired herself as a boy from a rich family. She covered her hair in a man’s cap and carried a folded fan in her right hand. Now she looked like a young man who had read a lot of books. She disguised Danba as her page, because such a young man always had a page to wait on him and follow him everywhere he went. Danba looked funny in her page’s apparel. She wore her hair into the popular page’s style like growing two horns on either side of the top of her head.
Then they went out in disguise to test if people could recognize them. They sauntered in the streets for a while and walked into a big restaurant. Since Linda pretended to be a wealthy young man, she could not go into a shabby one, where only the laborers and pedlars frequented.
Although she had not much money left, she thought that she could order cheap dishes in such a restaurant. She found an empty table on the second floor. According to a custom in the old China, a page or a servant could not sit with his master at the same table. But it was demanded only at home. When traveling outside, master and servant could sit together at the same table.
Before Linda ordered anything, a young man at the next table stood up and accosted her, “What’s your surname, my brother?” This was also a custom that people of almost the same age, especially young people, liked to get acquainted with each other even if they were totally strangers at first.
Linda quickly invented her Chinese surname, “Li. And yours?”
“My humble surname (a kind of modest saying among Chinese people, used even today) is Wang. Can Brother Li share the same table with us?” He was with other two young men. Another Chinese custom was to put the word Brother before the surname of another man to show esteem and intimacy. He pulled out the chair beside him.
Linda went there to take the seat. Danba did not know what to do. Wang noticed Danba and said, “This little brother (a sort of polite address to another man’s page) can sit with our pages at the other table.” Linda turned her head to look at the table Wang pointed to. There were three boys of almost Danba’s age. They were also eating and talking to each other. It seemed that they were familiar with each other. It bespoke that their masters were friends and frequently met. Linda told Danba to sit there. Danba bashfully sat down on the empty chair. She began to help herself to the dishes on the table as she was already hungry. When anyone at the table spoke to her, she just replied with one word or two.
“Where do you come from, Brother Li?” Wang asked after introducing other two men to Linda as Zhang and Cheng.
Linda could not say that she came from America. Instead she said that she came from Peking.
“So, you must be from a high official’s family, or even from that of a royal member?” Zhang guessed. Linda could not tell them the truth. “Neither.” She replied curtly.
“Does Brother Li have any business here?” Chinese people liked to know everything about someone they had just known though it had nothing at all to do with them.
“Just traveling.” She answered. “What does Brother Wang do here?” Linda now adopted the strategy that she asked them questions so that they could no longer ask her questions.
“We all live here. Our fathers are all landowners as well as businessmen. The three wealthiest families in this city.” Cheng boasted.
“Let’s drink our welcome to you!” Wang held up his cup to Linda, who did not like the taste of the Chinese wine.
“I never drink wine. Sorry, Brother Wang.” Linda declined.
“Just try this cup.” Wang said. When he saw Linda did not stir, he added, “I take it as an insult if you don’t drink it.” That was the Chinese way to force people to drink.
“I said sorry I can’t drink. It has nothing to do with insult.” Linda contradicted.
“It’s our custom that you must drink it.” Zhang and Cheng came round to hold Linda’s head and Wang poured the wine into her mouth. They acted so fast that Linda had no time to shun from them. Some of the wine spilt onto the chest of Linda’s silk gown and some into her mouth. Linda spat it out onto the floor.
The three of them laughed without caring how Linda was feeling. Linda got on her feet and was about to bid them goodbye when Zhang said, “Let’s go to some place. It’s fun there.” They did not let Linda say anything of refusal and just pushed her along like being kidnapped. Danba and the three other pages ensued.
They took Linda to a casino. Linda had to follow them in since they had never let go of her arms all the way from the restaurant to here. She did not like gambling. She did not even know how to gamble. “How much money do you have, Brother Li?” Wang asked her.
“I don’t have any money with me.” Linda thought that if she did not have any money, they would let her go. But Wang said, “I’ll lend you money. You can pay me back later.” Wang thought that as Linda came from Peking, even if she was not from a high official’s family, she should be rich. She should have a lot of money with her when traveling.
Without asking Linda for her consent, Wang bet ten taels of silver for her on the small side of the dice table. It lost as the dice showed large dots added up. Linda was not even aware that the bet was for her. This way she owed a hundred taels of silver to Wang when she wanted to leave. She was greatly shocked to find it out when Wang asked her to repay him the hundred taels.
“How can I owe you so much money? I did not remember that I even borrowed money from you?” Linda protested.
“I said I would bet for you. When you did not say NO, I thought that you acquiesced. That’s why you owe me money.”
Linda was stunned. Linda never thought that he was so low as to be able to do such things to her. But she did not know that it was not a thing that seldom happened in ancient China.
Now Linda did not know what to do. She counted the money left in her pocket. There were only fifty taels of silver in paper form. She could not give the money to Wang for two reasons. First, she had not agreed to let him bet for her. He had never even asked her. Second, she needed the money to travel at least to Yangchow City.
However, Wang would not let her go. “Let’s go to yamen and let the mayor decide.”
Although it was the last place that Linda wanted to go, Wang and his two friends pushed Linda along, followed by Danba and the pages. Danba did not know what happened to Linda. Under such a situation, she could not say anything and she did not know what she should say.
Once they reached the yamen, Wang took up the drumstick and beat the huge drum set up in front of the yamen gate. Shortly, the mayor sat in the hall behind the big long table with some yamen bailiffs lining up on both sides.
The three young men pushed Linda into the hall and they stood before the long table. The pages could not go in and had to wait outside.
“Who’s the plaintiff?” The mayor inquired.
“It’s me.” Wang stepped a little forward and answered.
“State your reason.” The mayor banged his heavy wooden piece on the table. Every official in this situation would bang the wood, which meant that it was the yamen, so behave yourself and speak the truth, nothing but the truth. Liars would be punished.
Wang stated what had happened between himself and Li. After the mayor got confirmation from Linda that Wang stated the truth, he decided that Li was in the wrong. When he learned that Li had only fifty taels he ordered his yamen bailiffs to give Li fifty spanks on the buttocks, one for each tael owed.
Linda was scared because she knew that when they beat a man on the butts they would strip him of his trousers and hit him on the bare skin. How could she be beaten like that?
Desperately she took off her boy’s cap and shook loose her golden hair, which hung down round her shoulders. Now it was their turn to be surprised. The mayor and the three young men gazed at Linda without speaking anything for a while. At last they realized that Li was a girl in disguise of a boy.
It was apparent that Li was the girl with the golden hair, who was wanted by the head eunuch. The mayor had ordered the announcement posted on the wall by the city gate. The young men had read the announcement. Now the mayor thought that if he sent the girl to the capital, he would win the permanent favor of the head eunuch. So he changed his attitude and ordered his yamen bailiffs to drive the three young men out.
Then he invited Linda to go into the rear part of his yamen, where he and his family lived. He introduced Linda to his wife and asked her to take good care of their noble guest. Before the mayor went out of the room, Linda stopped him, saying, “I’ve a companion waiting before the yamen. Will Your Excellency let her in?” Linda told the mayor that her name was Danba and gave him some description of the girl.
Shortly after the mayor left, Danba was led in. when she saw Linda, she instinctively fell on her knees before Linda and kissed her feet like Linda was still a goddess. The mayor’s wife thought that the girl was Linda’s maidservant.