EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI - Page 21

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  1. #201
    Thetown was in a far southern province. It took more than a month forthe concerned parties to travel the long distance to the capital.When the minister questioned Cabbage, she was consistent with whatshe had said. The son of the mayor had warned her that if she changedanything in her statement of confession the consequence would be veryserious. But he hadn't explained how serious it would have been andCabbage hadn't doubted it. She really liked him and wanted him tolive. The minister had a meeting with his consultants. They all knewthat if Cabbage insisted on what she had confessed, they couldn'tchange the verdict. They had no reason to do so. They should find away out of it. Everyone in the room put on the thinking cap. All of asudden, one of the consultants said that he was struck with awonderful idea.
    Ina small room of the Judicial Ministry building, a square table stoodin the center with two people seated at it opposite each other. Onewas Cabbage and the other was Yang. They were brought together inthis room by the jailers, who told them that the minister gave themthe dinner because they would be executed next day. They weresupposed to bid eternal adieu to each other at their last dinnerparty. There were four dishes on the table and even wine wasprovided. Yang was in total despair and felt that it was unfair tohim because he didn't murder anybody. Cabbage hung her head low,ashamed of herself for framing Yang. At first both of them keptsilent. No one cared to speak. To break the awkwardness, Yang began,“Cabbage, let's drink farewell. We may meet in next life.”Cabbage could think of nothing to say. So she remained in silence.She realized now that she had been taken in by the son. Perhaps, hehad never loved her from the beginning, but why had he wanted herhusband out of the way by poisoning him? “Cabbage,” Yang wenton, “We will die tomorrow. Can you tell me the truth so that Iwon't die ignorant?” Cabbage thought what was the use now even ifshe told the truth. They would be executed next day all the same. Soshe made no answer, still bending her head low. Yang was a couple ofyears older than she. They grew up together in the same neighborhood.When in childhood, they played together. Then Yang reached the age tobe tutored, he transferred his new knowledge to her by teaching herhow to read and write. As her family was not rich, Yang's fatherdidn't consent to their marriage. Then she was married to the latehusband. “Did you still remember we read the story West Chambertogether?” How could she forget? She recalled many scenes in theirchildhood and when they had grown up. She almost buried her chin inher chest. “Cabbage, speak to me, please. Let me hear your voiceonce more before I die.” Yang sounded like begging her. Her tearsdripped on her lap. “Don't cry, Cabbage. Talk to me. We have onlytonight to live.” Yang said softly. Cabbage sobbed out the words,“I'm sorry.”

  2. #202
    Noneed to say sorry.” Yang sighed. After a while. “Do you hate me?”Cabbage asked bashfully.
    No.Why should I hate you? Everyone will die sooner or later.” Yangsaid philosophically.
    BecauseI framed you.” At last she said that.
    So,you did frame me?” Yang said without any surprise. Cabbage nodded.
    Nowtell me the truth, please.”
    What'sthe use now?”
    Atleast I know the truth before I die.”
    Aftera lot of importunity from Yang, Cabbage told him the truth. Yangsighed and laughed and began to eat and drink. A jailer came intotheir room, holding a stack of paper in his hand. He told Cabbage tosign on the bottom of the last page. Cabbage didn't know what thatmeant, but she signed anyway. Why should she care what papers shesigned? She would soon die. She cared for nothing any more.
    Nextday, both of them were brought before the minister. They thought theminister would send them to the execution ground. But the ministerasked Cabbage, “Why didn't you tell the truth in the localgovernment? I mean, at least you could do it in the governor'syamen.” Cabbage was confused. She was at a loss to understand whatthe minister had just asked. This was the ruse they had used to drawthe truth out of Cabbage. The minister had hidden himself in the nextroom with some of his consultants. They had been eavesdropping towhat Yang and Cabbage would have said. A consultant had written downall the facts Cabbage had confessed to Yang. The minister issued anorder to fetch the mayor, the son of the mayor and the owner of thedrugstore, who had sold the arsenic to the son. When the drugstoreowner pointed out that it was the son of the mayor, not Yang, who hadcome to him to buy the arsenic, the son could no longer deny hiscrime. So the original verdict was invalid. The son was executed. Themayor was removed from his office and exiled to a remote province.Cabbage and Yang were proved not guilty and released. Yang went backto his home in the southern province. He was handicapped on the kneesfor life.
    Thecase was closed. Many officials in that southern province were eitherdismissed from their posts or demoted, because they had misjudged acase that had involved two innocent lives. The minister wrote areport to West Empress Dowager. She was interested in the case andcurious to see what Cabbage looked like and so summoned Cabbage toher presence. In ordinary circumstances, only courtiers above acertain rank could be present before an empress dowager. Cabbage wasa special case. After the interview, Cabbage became a nun.

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