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xlwoo
September 6th, 2015, 02:19 PM
Chapter 14

They went to a nearby river and rented a boat run by a family, husband and wife with a teenager girl. The husband would row the boat. The wife would cook for the passengers and the girl would do miscellaneous things, like serving tea and food to the passengers. The boat was a medium-sized one and had two decks. The upper deck had two bedrooms for the passengers and the lower deck was also divided into two cabins. The frontal one served as the dining-room and the sitting room as well. The family lived in the one behind. There was a small space like a pantry used as kitchen in the stern of the boat and the hull was used as a storage room.
The boat went upstream. Where the current flew down wildly and rapidly, there were boat pullers to help. They tied some thick ropes onto a boat and pulled the ropes from the shore till they came to somewhere the current was smooth again.
As their boat went against stream, it was slow and took much longer time to reach the next city than they traveled by land. However, they were not in a hurry and could enjoy the landscapes on both sides of the river. Of an evening they would anchor by a wharf for the night. The boat owner would go ashore to buy provisions for the morrow. Sometimes the two yamen bailiffs, Linda and the boy would disembark too.
Generally around a wharf would spring up a town or a village, depending on the water traffic heavy or light. One evening they reached a town by the wharf. When the boat cast anchor, the four of them went on land and into the town. They found a tea house and entered it for a rest. After a while the two yamen bailiffs told Linda to stay here and they would go round to buy something as gifts for their families. But in fact, they went round to look for a gambling place. They found one and went in to play dice. They put on plain clothes again to hide their uniform, which would be too conspicuous in such a place. Generally those yamen bailiffs gambled among themselves and seldom went to a gambling house. But it was now only two of them and they had to go to gambling places.
They had some money now taken from the tourists when they had been with the outlaws. But their fortune was always against them when gambling. They lost everything again. A tall guy, who looked on at their side all the time, offered to loan them money at a very high rate, fifty percent. He said to them, “I lend you my lucky amulet too so that you will soon win back all your money and more. You can’t always lose. The point is that when you win, you must stop.”
The two yamen bailiffs thought that the tall guy was right. Therefore, they borrowed fifty taels of silver from him. As the rate was fifty percent, when they paid back, they must pay him seventy-five taels. However, the tide did not turn for them. Very soon, they lost the fifty taels. The tall guy who stayed with them offered more, but they refused with “thanks”. Now the guy asked them to pay back the money, which they couldn’t.
There was a rule in the gambling place in the ancient China that if anyone who borrowed money could not pay back, he would get a good beating or would have one or more fingers cut off. The tall guy brought ten other thugs with him for that purpose. At a signal from him, the ten thugs rushed towards the two yamen bailiffs and wanted to beat them.
One of the yamen bailiffs shouted, “Stop!”
The tall guy raised his hand and the thugs halted. The guy said, “You have money to pay me?”
The yamen bailiff said, “If you follow us, we can borrow money to return to you.”
“You have friends here?” The guy asked. The yamen bailiff nodded and the guy followed them with the ten thugs trailing in the wake.
The two yamen bailiffs went back to the tea house and walked up to Linda. The guy and his thugs stood at a short distance, watching them. One of the yamen bailiffs whispered to Linda, who took some paper money out of her pocket, found one she needed and handed it to him. It had the worth of a hundred taels. She did not have smaller ones.
So the guy took the money and gave the yamen bailiff the difference of twenty-five taels. Then the guy left with his men. But he told one of the thugs to hide somewhere and follow the two men and the girl to see where they lived. He had seen that the girl had some more money and with money he could do anything.
The two yamen bailiffs and Linda and the boy returned to the boat. Supper was ready for them. After supper, they lingered on the bow of the boat to enjoy the clear sky with the full moon looking down at them before they went to bed.
It was almost midnight. They were roused by some noise. It seemed that a lot of people were getting on board the boat. They jumped out of bed and put on clothes. They went down to the first deck and found the tall guy with his ten thugs.
“What you want?” asked one of the yamen bailiffs.
“Money. All the money you have, or the girl has.”
Such things did happen in the ancient China. No one was surprised. Linda took out all the paper money from her pocket and gave them to the guy, who took them from Linda’s hand. “Ah, a beautiful white hand!” The guy looked up at Linda. “Oh, by Buddha!” He gasped and grasping Linda’s hand he pulled her into his arms. The two yamen bailiffs and the boy wanted to come forth to help, but were surrounded by the thugs. It seemed that the guy wanted to rape her right on the spot. They were all gathering on the prow of the boat.
Linda struggled out of the guy’s arms, but got a slip and fell out of the boat into the water.
Seeing this, the guy escaped with his men.
One of the yamen bailiffs jumped into the water to seek for Linda, but the current was so rapid and his search ended in vain. All three were so sad. Now they had to find Linda, or they could not tell how to get on with their lives.