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  1. #251
    Theaide gave the monk a name card and told him to go and announce hisvisit to the master. He followed the monk into the backyard. Thebutler received the monk. When he looked at the name card, he said tothe monk, “I don't know him.” The monk said, “His Esquire is anofficial of this town.” The butler made a gesture like Okay. “I'llsee him.” So the aide stepped forward and introduced himself. Thebutler said, “What can I do for you, Your Esquire?” The aidesaid, “Let's talk in the room.” He wanted to see the master. Ashe was about to enter the master's room, the butler blocked his way,saying, “We'd better talk here.” The butler clapped his handstwice. A servant came carrying two chairs. He put the chairs underthe eaves outside the windows. “What's your master's name?” Theaide inquired. “Tang.” The butler replied curtly.
    “Ishe an official? Where did he come from? Where will he go?”
    “Sorry,I can't tell you.”
    “Then,your master must be an imperial envoy in disguise.”
    “Whateveryou want to guess.”
    “Ifyour master is an imperial envoy, we local officials must have theresponsibility to protect him.”
    “Thisis not necessary. It would be better if the local officials justpretend to know nothing about us. They will be rewarded later fortheir silence. We won't stay here long.”

  2. #252
    Theaide had to leave. He reported to the mayor. The mayor sent for oneof his advisers. This adviser was known to be informative andknowledgeable. He analyzed that before any imperial envoy left thecapital, the message would appear on the official newsletter from thecapital. Since there was not such a message on the most recentnewsletter, the master could not be an imperial envoy. Besides, ingeneral, an imperial envoy would be much older. Then he consultedhimself in a stage whisper, If the rumor is true, could he be theemperor escaped south?” The mayor was shocked to hear it. He asked,“What did you say?” The adviser said that the matter was verysubtle, very delicate, must be handled very carefully. If the rumorwas true, what should they do? If the rumor was false, they wouldsurely arrest him. But how could they know if it was true or false?The mayor decided to visit the master himself. But the adviser got abetter idea.
    Oneday when the cook went to buy some meat in a market place, someonecaused a fight with him and he was taken to the local yamen. Themayor didn't ask him anything about the fight.
    “Whois your master?” The mayor queried.
    “Idon't know.” The cook said in a quivering voice. He was nervous andfrightened.
    “It'simpossible you don't know for whom you work.” The mayor didn'tbelieve him.
    “Ireally don't know. The butler arranges everything and gives orders.”
    “Haveyou seen your master? Don't say you're never seen him.”
    “Yes.He's thin, pale, early thirties, quiet. He's never spoken to me.”
    “Isthere anything unusual about your master? You can take time tothink.”
    Thecook considered for a while. “He gets up very early, has lunch atnoon and dinner at six in the evening.” That was just like theschedule in the Forbidden City.
    “Anythingelse special?” The mayor asked hopefully.
    “Mymaster is afraid of thunder. During a thunderstorm, the butler andthe servants are always with him.” All the courtiers knew that theemperor was afraid of thunderclaps because the eunuchs talked a lotabout it. Since nothing more could be squeezed out of the cook, hewas let go with a warning that he shouldn't speak to anyone about theevent of today.
    Stillthey were not sure who the master was. So the mayor went to see himwith some policemen, all in plain clothes. Their strategy was that ifhe was an impostor, they would take him into custody right away. Ifhe was really the escaped emperor, they would pretend that theydidn't know anything about the emperor escaped and went back for adiscussion what they should do next. If they couldn't make sure, thatwas the problem.
    Thistime since the mayor came himself, the master received him. “Wheredo you come from?” The mayor inquired like a routine patrolpoliceman asking a lodger in an inn.
    “Thecapital.” His voice was low like having a sore throat.
    “Inwhich yamen do you work?”
    “TheRoyal Family Affairs Management.”
    “Youhave any official business down here?”
    “Sure.”The butler stood beside the master all the time.
    “What'syour business?”
    “Can'ttell.” He cast a glimpse at the butler.
    “Willyou go further south?”
    “Doyou have any official traveling documents?”
    “Can'tlet you see.”
    Sowhat else could the mayor say? He returned to his yamen forconsultation. The mayor said, “I think he is an impostor.”

  3. #253
    Animpostor for what?The aide wanted to know.
    Hedidn't say he's the emperor. How could he be an impostor?” said theadviser.
    “I'lltake full responsibilities if anything happens to show I am wrong.”The mayor persisted. The aide and the adviser had to obey him. Theylaid out the ploy in details. They would invite him to stay in theyamen, even by force if necessary. He must be under their controlfirst. Then the mayor would report to the governor. If it turned outthat he was really the emperor, they could say that they wanted toprotect him. If he was not, he would go to jail, which was veryclose, just in the yamen.
    Nextday the mayor sent some policemen to escort the master, the butler,the servants and even the cook into the yamen and confined them. Thenat the command from the governor, they escorted the group to WuchangCity where the governor had his yamen and the group was confinedthere. The mayor thought that as the governor had had an interviewwith West Empress Dowager and the emperor, he should recognize theemperor. But the problem was that even the governor could not tell ifhe was the emperor or not, because during the interview the governorhad prostrated before West Empress Dowager and the emperor and didn'tdare to look up. Their last resort was to send someone to the capitalto glean the information about the emperor. The man the governor hadsent was smart. He went to some tea houses where the eunuchs wouldgather after their duties. He got acquainted with some of the eunuchsand treated them with food and drink. He learned at length that theemperor was still confined in the Forbidden City.
    Whenthe man brought back the message, the governor accused Yang, themaster, of the impersonation of the emperor. The master pleaded thathe had never said that he was the emperor. Only the mayor had thoughthim to be the emperor. The master was really innocent. But no, he wasguilty of what the mayor had originally mistaken him to be. Thegovernor knew that such a case would please West Empress Dowager.That was what really mattered to him. So all the seven people wereexecuted. They would eventually die even if they could live up to theage of one hundred years. Therefore, why not let them die earlier toplease West Empress Dowager?


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