The Deer And The Cauldron 37

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The Deer And The Cauldron 37
第三十七回 辕门谁上平蛮策 朝议先颁谕蜀文

Chapter 23 In which Trinket advises the Emperor on Affairs of State; and is sent on an Important Mission to Yangzhou

Trinket in Peking-A Command Performance-Council of State-An Unusual Friendship-A Small Favour-You Monster!-For Old Time’s Sake-The Hunting of the Little Traitor-En route for Yangzhou’ the Wang Wu Clan-Obsequies on the Mountain

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Trinket in Peking

注:晋时平蛮郡在今云南曲靖一带。《谕蜀文》的典故,是汉武帝通西南夷时,派司马相如先赴巴蜀宣谕,要西南各地官民遵从朝旨。

韦小宝带回罗刹国使臣,不一日来到北京。康亲王、索额图等王公大臣见他归来,无不又惊又喜。那日他带同水师出海,从此不知所踪,朝廷数次派人去查,都说大海茫茫,不见踪迹,竟无一艘兵船、一名士兵回来。康熙只知他这一队人在大洋中遭遇飓风,已经全军覆没,每当念及,常自郁郁。消息报进宫中,康熙立时传见。
Finally, after many months, Trinket and his Russian escort arrived in Peking. Prince Kang, Songgotu, and Trinket’s various other friends among the ranks of the Manchu nobility were delighted (and not a little astonished) to see him back. Since his departure from Peking on his naval mission nearly two years earlier, nothing had been heard of him. Several expeditions had been dispatched to ascertain his whereabouts, but no trace whatsoever was found. It had been assumed that he and his entire fleet had been swallowed up into the ocean. Even the Emperor had resigned himself sadly to the thought that his young friend had perished. When news of his arrival in Peking reached the Palace, Kang Xi immediately sent for him.

韦小宝见康熙满脸笑容,叩拜之后,略述别来经过。康熙这次派他出海,主旨是剿灭神龙教、擒拿假太后,现下听说神龙岛已经攻破,假太后虽未擒到,却和罗刹国结成了朋友。康熙自从盘问了蒙古派赴昆明的使臣罕帖摩后,得悉吴三桂勾结罗刹国、蒙古、西藏三处强援,深以为忧,至于尚耿二藩及台变郑氏反较次要。他见韦小宝无恙归来,已是喜欢得紧,得悉有罗刹国使臣到来修好,更是大悦,忙细问详情。韦小宝从头至尾的说了,说到如何教唆苏菲亚怂恿火枪营作乱、如何教她立两个小沙皇而自为摄政王时,康熙哈哈大笑,说道:“他妈的,你学了我大清的乖,却去教会了罗刹女鬼。”
He was visibly delighted to see Trinket safe and sound. He was also greatly comforted to see him in the company of a friendly Russian ambassador. The thought of the Russians forming an alliance against him, in league with Wu Sangui, had been among his principal preoccupations for some time. Trinket gave a highly entertaining account of his Russian adventure, and Kang Xi congratulated him on his precocious diplomatic skills in ‘oiling the works’, and enabling the Princess Sophia to become Regent.

次日康熙上朝,传见罗刹使臣。朝中懂得罗刹话的,只有韦小宝一人。其实罗刹话十分难学,他在短短几个月中,所学会的殊属有限,罗刹使臣的一番颂词,十句中倒有九句半不明白,他欺众人不懂,当即编造一番,竟将当日陆高轩所作的碑文背了出来,甚么“千载之下,爱有大清”,甚么“威灵下济,不赫威能”说了几句。他一面说,一面偷看康熙脸色,但见他笑眯眯的,料知这篇碑文倒也用得上,便朗声念道:“降妖伏魔,如日之昇。羽冀辅佐,吐故纳新。万寿百祥,罔不丰登。仙福永享,并世崇敬。寿与天齐,文武仁圣。须臾,天现……”一背到“天现”两字,当即住口,心想再背下去可要露出狐狸尾巴来了,说道:“罗刹国小沙皇,摄政女王,敬问中国大皇帝万岁爷圣躬安康。”这些句子,本是陆高轩作来颂扬洪教主的,此时韦小宝念将出来,虽然微感不伦不类,但“并世崇敬”、“文武能圣”等语,却也是善祷善颂。众大臣听得都不住点头。康熙知道韦小宝肚中全无货色,这些文辞古雅的句子,决不能随口译出,必是预先请了枪手做好,然后在殿上背诵出来,却万万想不到竟是称颂邪教教主的文辞,给他移花接木、顺手牵羊的用上了。
The following day Kang Xi summoned the Russian ambassador to Court. During the audience, the only person who could claim any competence as an interpreter was Trinket. His own command of the Russian language, however, was extremely limited, and as the Russian diplomat became more and more voluble, and embarked on what sounded (from his rhetorical manner) like an excited Slavic eulogy of his Tartar host, Trinket had to delve deep into his bag of Trinketian tricks. He still remembered the lengthy Turtle Stele inscription that he and Doctor Lu had between them concocted on Snake Island, and managed to produce a mishmash of expressions from the inscription, cleverly adapting them so that they were appropriate to this new occasion. So the Russian ambassador ended up showering the Manchu Emperor with flowery (and rather Mystic Dragon’like) words of praise, wishing him endless ‘Long Life and Blessings’ and extolling more than once the ‘awe with which His Majesty held sway over His subjects, and the magical power that He wielded over his realm . . .’ From time to time Trinket glanced nervously at Kang Xi, but was pleased to see that the Imperial Countenance was receiving all this with apparent pleasure (little knowing that these words had originally been intended for the Great Leader of the Mystic Dragon Sect), and that the great Ministers of State were also nodding their heads wisely. What the Russian was actually saying, no one present had the faintest notion.

那罗刹使臣随即献上礼物。罗刹国比辽东气候更冷,所产玄狐水貂之属,毛皮比之辽东的更为华美丰厚。满洲大臣都是识货之人,一见之下,无不称赏。康熙当即吩咐韦小宝妥为接待使臣,回赐中华礼品。退朝之后,康熙召了汤若望和南怀仁二人来,命他们去见罗刹使臣。南怀仁是比利时国人,言语和法兰西相同,那罗刹使臣会说法兰西话,两人言语相通。南怀仁称颂康熙英明仁惠,古往今来帝王少有其比,说得那使臣大为折服。次日,康熙命汤若望、南怀仁二人在南苑操炮,由韦小宝陪了罗刹使臣观操。那使臣见炮火犀利,射击准确,暗暗钦服,请南怀仁转告皇帝,罗刹国女摄政王决意和中国修好,永为兄弟之邦。
The ambassador then presented Kang Xi with a selection of superb Siberian sabre pelts, whose quality (and superiority to their own sable) was immediately appreciated by the assembled Manchu nobility. Trinket was entrusted by Kang Xi with the task of officially receiving these gifts, and of presenting the ambassador with suitable Chinese gifts in return. When the audience was concluded, Kang Xi summoned Fathers Schall and Verbiest, and instructed them to converse with the ambassador. Verbiest, being Belgian, was able to communicate with the Russian in French, and made a point of impressing upon him what an enlightened ruler Kang Xi was. The next day, Kang Xi gave orders for Schall and Verbiest to stage a cannon’firing display in the grounds of the Imperial Park to the south of Peking, and invited the Russian ambassador to attend the firing. The Russian was secretly impressed by the quality of workmanship, and by the accuracy with which the guns hit their targets. He asked Verbiest to communicate to the Chinese Emperor the earnest desire of the Princess Regent Sophia to enjoy cordial relations with China.

罗刹使臣辞别归国后,康熙想起韦小宝这次出征,一举而翦除了吴三桂两个强援,功劳着实不小,于是降旨封他为一等忠勇伯。王公大臣自有一番庆贺。韦小宝想起施琅、黄总兵等人,何以竟无一人还报,想必是因主帅在海上失踪,他是皇上跟前的第一大红人,皇上震怒,必定会以“失误军机、临阵退缩、陷主帅于死地”等等罪名相加,大家生怕杀头,就此流落在通吃岛附近海岛,再也不敢回来了。满洲兴兵之初,军法极严,接战时如一队之长阵亡而部众退却奔逃,往往全队处死,至康雍年间,当年遗法犹存,是以旗兵精甚,所向无敌。韦小宝于是派了两名使者,指点了通吃岛和神龙岛的途径,去召施琅等人回京。
Once the Russian ambassador had taken his leave, and set off on his long return journey to Moscow, the Emperor reflected that in view of the important and highly statesmanlike contribution that Trinket had made to the establishment of the new Sino’Russian Entente, he deserved to be raised to a higher rank of the nobility. This was duly promulgated, and Viscount Wei became Earl Wei, First Class, with the right to wear the double’eyed peacock feather, an event that called for celebrations all round. Trinket thought to himself that most probably Shi Lang and the others had not dared to report back, terrified of the consequences if they were found responsible for the disappearance of one of His Majesty’s great favourites. They were most probably holed up somewhere on Potluck Island or one of the other nearby islands. He sent a couple of men to try and determine their whereabouts, and if possible to instruct them that all was well and they could return to Peking.

A Command Performance

这日康熙召韦小宝到上书房,指着桌上三通奏章,说道:“小桂子,这三道奏章,是分从三个地方来的,你倒猜猜,是谁的奏章?”韦小宝伸长了头颈,向三道奏章看了几眼,全无头绪可寻,说道:“皇上得给一点儿因头,奴才这才好猜。”康熙微微一笑,提起右掌虚劈,连做了三下杀头的姿势。韦小宝笑道:“啊,是了,是大……大奸臣吴三桂、尚可喜、耿精忠三个家伙的奏章。”康熙笑道:“你聪明得很。你再猜猜,这三道奏章中说的是甚么?”韦小宝搔头道:“这个可难猜得很了。三道奏章是一齐来的么?”康熙道:“有先有后,日子相差也不很远。”韦小宝道:“三个大奸臣都不怀好意,想的是一般心思。奴才猜想他们说的话都差不多。”
One day, Kang Xi summoned Trinket to the Upper Library, and showed him three folded sheets of paper-Memorials to the Throne-that were lying on his desk.’Who do you think these are from?’ he asked. ‘Guess . . .’Trinket of course had no idea. Kang Xi made three chopping movements with his right hand’ three unmistakable executions. Trinket gave a little laugh.’I know! It must be Big Traitor Wu and his two sidekicks, Shang Kexi and Geng Jingzhong. The Three Big Baddies! They sent them, didn’t they.”Very clever guess. And what do you suppose they wanted to say?’That’s a tough one! Did they all arrive at the same time?”More or less.”Well, in that case, I should guess that they’re all more or less up to the same mischief-”You wouldn’t be far wrong.’

康熙伸掌在桌上轻轻一拍,说道:“正是。第一道奏章是尚可喜这老家伙呈上的,他说他年纪大了,想归老辽东,留他儿子尚之信镇守广东。我就批示说,尚可喜要回辽东,也不必留儿子在广东了。吴三桂和耿精忠听到了消息,便先后上了奏章。”
Kang Xi tapped the memorial lying closest to him on the table. ‘This one here’s from old Shang. He pleads that he’s getting on in years, and wants to retire to his family home in the northeast. When he retires (if I let him), he would like to leave his son Shang Zhixin in charge of Guangdong. Do you know what I wrote in the margin’ “If Shang wishes to leave Guangdong, well and good. But that does not necessarily mean that his son is to take over from him.” In other words, you call my bluff, I’ll call yours. The other two, Satrap Wu and Geng, have both sent in memorials to the same effect. Suddenly everyone wants to retire.’

拿起一道奏章,说道:“这是吴三桂这老小子的,他说:‘念臣世受天恩,捐糜难报,惟期尽瘁藩篱,安敢遽请息肩?今闻平南王尚可喜有陈情之疏,已蒙恩览,准撤全藩。仰持鸿慈,冒干天听,请撤安插。’哼,他是试我来着,瞧我敢不敢撤他的藩?他不是独个儿干,而是联络了尚可喜、耿精忠三个一起来吓唬我!”康熙又拿起另一道奏章,道:“这是耿精忠的,他说:‘臣袭爵二载,心恋帝阙,只以海氛叵测,未敢遽议罢兵。近见平南王尚可喜乞归一疏,已奉前旨。伏念臣部下官兵,南征二十余载,仰恳皇仁,撤回安插。’一个在云南,一个在福建,相隔万里,为甚么两道折子上所说的话都差不多?一面说不能罢兵,一面又说恳求撤回。这几个家伙,还把我放在眼里吗?”说着气忿忿的将奏章往桌上一掷。韦小宝道:“是啊,这三道奏章,大逆不道之至,其实就是造反的战书。皇上,咱们这就发兵,把三个反贼都捉到京师里来,满门……哼,全家男的杀了,女的赏给功臣为奴。”他本想说“满门抄斩”,忽然想起阿珂和陈圆圆,于是中途改口。
Kang Xi picked the two other folded sheets of paper from his desk. ‘Here’s old Wu’s, and here’s Geng’s. Obviously they’re trying me out. Putting out feelers, to see how I’ll react. Both of them claim that they want to “retire”. But really they’re just seeing if I’ve got the guts to stand up to them. They’re trying to intimidate me. They’re in this together. You can tell from the wording.’ Kang Xi tossed the two memorials back onto his desk. He was clearly very angry. ‘Why, it’s disgraceful!’ exclaimed Trinket. ‘Anyone can see those aren’t proper memorials. They don’t really want to retire at all! They’re declaring war. We should raise an army, capture all three of those traitors, and have their entire families-whoops, I mean, have all the men in their families executed! The womenfolk we’ll give as slaves to your worthiest ministers.’ In his enthusiasm, Trinket had for an instant forgotten that the ‘family’ of the greatest traitor of the three, Satrap Wu, included the beautiful Peerless Consort, Chen Yuanyuan, and her adorable daughter Green.

康熙道:“咱们如先发兵,倒给天下百姓说我杀戮功臣,说甚么鸟尽弓藏,兔死狗烹。不如先行撤藩,瞧着三人的动静。若是遵旨撤藩,恭顺天命,那就罢了;否则的话,再发兵讨伐,这就师出有名。”韦小宝道:“皇上料事如神,奴才拜服之至。好比唱戏:皇上问道:‘下面跪的是谁啊?’吴三桂道:‘臣吴三桂见驾。’皇上喝道:‘好大胆的吴三桂,你怎不抬起头来?’
‘No’ replied Kang Xi, ‘if we attacked them openly, that would create a bad impression. My subjects would accuse me of being ungrateful to my great ministers. “He casts aside the bow once it has shot the bird,” they would say. “He cooks the dog once it has caught the hare.” I think I’ll allow them to retire. See if they do go quietly into retirement. If they don’t, then I can raise an army and crush them, with good cause.’ ‘Your Majesty’s wisdom knows no bounds!’ cried Trinket. An opportunity for showing off his histrionic talents had just presented itself’ ‘It’s just like a scene from an opera. Centre stage, and sings’ “Pray, which of my subjects Wu (painted face, big beard, costume bristling with lots of peacock feathers) sings back’ “Your humble servant Wu Saaaaaan’guuuuuuuiiiiii!” Lots of warbling and vibrato here . . . “Why, look up man!” cries the Emperor. “Why so downcast'”

吴三桂道:‘臣有罪不敢抬头。’皇上唱道:‘你犯了何罪?’吴三桂道:“奴才不肯撤藩,想要造反。’皇上喝道:‘呔,大胆的东西!韦小宝!’我就一个箭步,上前跪倒,应道:‘小将在!’皇上叫道:‘令箭在此!派你带领十万大兵,讨伐反贼吴三桂去者!’奴才接过令箭,叫声:‘得令!’飞起一腿,往吴三桂屁股上踢去,登时将他踢得屁滚尿流,呜呼哀哉!”康熙哈哈大笑,问道:“你想带兵去打吴三桂?”韦小宝见他眼光中有嘲弄之色,知道小皇帝是跟自己开玩笑,说道:“奴才年纪这么点儿,又没甚么本事,怎能统带大军?最好皇上亲自做大元帅,我给你做先锋官,逢山开路,遇水搭桥,浩浩荡荡,杀奔云南而去。”康熙给他说得心中跃跃欲动,觉得御驾亲征吴三桂,这件事倒好玩得紧,说道:“待我仔细想想。”
“My liege, I have committed an offence! I must needs confess!” “What offence, man’ Speak up!” The Emperor begins to grow angry. The Satrap’ “I never truly wished to retire! All I really wanted to do was to rebell” The orchestra starts to wind itself up. “Why you shameless rascal!” cries the Emperor. “Where is my Trusty General, Earl Trinket Wei'” That’s where I come shuffling forward and kneel before the throne. “Your humble general at your service, Majesty!” The Emperor hands me the tally’ “Go forth, General Wei, lead an army of a hundred thousand men and crush the wicked traitor and rebel, Wu Saaaaaaan’guuuuuuuiiiiii!” More warbling. I take the tally and sing’ “My Emperor’s word is my command!” And then I swing my leg through the air and give Wu Sangui a boot right up the bum, and he is so badly winded he ends up pooing all over the stage and howling, “Oh woe is me! Oh lack a day!”‘ Trinket had Kang Xi in stitches. The Emperor hadn’t laughed so much in a very long time.

Council of State

次日清晨,康熙召集众王公大臣,在太和殿上商议军国大事。韦小宝虽然连升了数级,在朝廷中还是官小职微,本无资格上太和殿参与议政。康熙下了特旨,说他曾奉使云南,知悉吴藩内情,钦命陪驾议政。小皇帝居中坐于龙椅,亲王、郡王、贝勒、贝子、大学士、尚书等大臣分班站立,韦小宝站在诸人之末。康熙将尚可喜、吴三桂、耿精忠三道奏章,交给中和殿大学士兼礼部尚书巴泰,说道:“三藩上奏,恳求撤藩,该当如何,大家分别奏来。”
The next day Kang Xi held a dawn audience in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, to discuss this whole matter of the Three Feudatories with his Ministers of State and Princes of the Realm. Trinket, although only a junior official, was asked to attend the audience by special Imperial Dispensation. Kang Xi took his seat on the Dragon Throne, and before him stood assembled the Princes of the Blood, the Princes of the Second, Third, and Fourth Order (Beilehs and Beizis), the Grand Chancellors and Ministers of the various Boards- and, last and youngest of all (but by no means least), Trinket.Kang Xi handed the three memorials to the Grand Chancellor of the Hall of Middle Harmony, an elderly Manchu statesman by the name of Lord Batai, who simultaneously held the important post of Minister of the Board of Bites. He was ordered to show them to all present, that they might tender their views on the best way to proceed.

诸王公大臣传阅奏章后,康亲王杰书说道:“回皇上:依奴才愚见,三藩恳求撤藩,均非出于本心,似乎是在试探朝廷。”康熙道:“何以见得?你且说来。”杰书道:“三道奏章之中,都说当地军务繁重,不敢擅离。既说军务繁忙,却又求撤藩,显见是自相矛盾。”康熙点了点头。
It was Trinket’s friend Giyesu, Prince Kang, who spoke first’ ‘Majesty, these “requests to retire” are clearly not meant in earnest.’ Tray explain,’ replied the Emperor. Prince Kang drew attention to obvious inconsistencies, which all pointed to the likelihood that these so’called memorials were in fact ‘feelers’, designed to test the young Emperor’s mettle. Kang Xi nodded. Another of his senior ministers, Wei Zhouzhe, the Grand Chancellor of the Hall for Protecting Harmony, an elder with white hair and a flowing white beard, spoke next, urging the utmost caution on the Emperor’s part. ‘I strongly advise that Your Majesty should in no way countenance these false pleas for retirement. To do so would merely goad them into unleashing the forces of chaos in our land. We would have a full’scale rebellion on our hands.’ He followed this up with several learned references to the Taoist classic The Way and Its Power, in which the ancient sage Laozi denounces all acts of military aggression as contrary to the peaceful motion of the Tao. Kang Xi nodded.

保和殿大学士卫周祚白发白须,年纪甚老,说道:“以臣愚见,朝廷该当温旨慰勉,说三藩功勋卓著,皇上甚为倚重,须当用心办事,为王室屏藩。撤藩之事,应毋庸议。”康熙道:“照你看,三藩不撤的为是?”卫周祚道:“圣上明鉴:老子言道:‘佳兵不祥’,就算是好兵,也是不祥的。又有人考据,那‘佳’字乃‘惟’字之误,‘惟兵不祥’,那更加说得明白了。老子又有言道:‘兵者不祥之器,非君子之器,不得已而用之。”韦小宝暗暗纳罕:“这老家伙好大的胆子,在皇上跟前,居然老子长、老子短的。皇上却也不生气。”他可不知这老子是古时的圣人李耳,却不是市井之徒的自称。康熙点了点头,说道:“兵凶战危,古有明训。一有征伐之事,不免生灵涂炭。你们说朕如下温旨慰勉,不许撤藩,这事就可了结么?”文华殿大学士对喀纳道:“皇上明鉴:吴三桂自镇守云南以来,地方安宁,蛮夷不扰,本朝南方迄无边患,倘若将他迁往辽东,云贵一带或有他患。朝廷如不许撤藩,吴三桂感激图报,耿尚二藩以及广西孔军,也必仰戴天恩,从此河清海晏,天下太平。”康熙道:“你深恐撤藩之后,西南少了重镇,说不定会有边患?”对喀纳道:“是。吴三桂兵甲精良,素具威望,蛮夷慑服。一加调动,是福是祸,难以逆料。以臣愚见,多一事不如少一事。”户部尚书米思翰道:“自古圣王治国,推重黄老之术。西汉天下大治,便因萧规曹随,为政在求清净无为。皇上圣明,德迈三皇,汉唐盛世也是少有其比。皇上冲年接位,秉政以来,与民休息,协和四夷,天下俱感恩德。以臣浅见,三藩的事,只是依老规矩办理,不必另有更张,自必风调雨顺,国泰民安。圣天子垂拱而治,也不必多操甚么心。”康熙问大学士杜立德:“你以为如何?”杜立德道:“三藩之设,本为酬功。今三藩并无大过,倘若骤然撤去,恐有无知之徒,议论朝廷未能优容先朝功臣,或有碍圣朝政声。”众王公大臣说来说去,都是主张不可撤藩。
Another of the Grand Chancellors, the Manchu Duikena, also pointed out that by accepting the resignation of the Three Feudatories, Kang Xi might be creating a dangerous power vacuum in the South and South’West, where for years Wu and his cronies (for all their faults) had kept the native tribes under control. Several others among Kang Xi’s elder statesmen spoke to the same effect. The consensus was that to accept the ‘resignation’ of the Three Feudatory Warlords of the South would be a rash move, likely to lead to civil war.

韦小宝听了众人的言语,话中大掉书袋,虽然不大懂,也知均是主张不撤藩,心中焦急起来,忙向索额图使个眼色,微微摇头,要他出言反对众人的主张。
Trinket could only follow a limited amount of the high’flown language being used at the audience, but it was enough for him to understand which way the debate was tending. It was not at all the way he and Kang Xi had hoped. He caught his friend Songgotu’s eye, and gave a barely perceptible shake of the head-meaning, ‘I’m counting on you to speak out against all these people and their policy of appeasement.’

索额图见他摇头,误会其意,以为是叫自己也反对撤藩,心想他明白皇上真正心意,又见康熙对众人的议论不置可否,料想小皇帝必定不敢跟吴三桂打仗,说道:“吴、尚、耿三人都善于用兵,倘若朝廷撤藩,三藩竟然抗命,云南、贵州、广东、福建、广西五省同时发兵,说不定还有其他反叛出兵响应,倒也不易应付。照奴才看来,吴三桂和尚可喜年纪都老得很了,已不久人世,不妨等上几年,让二人寿终正寝。三藩身经百战的老兵宿将也死上一大批,到那时候再来撤藩,就有把握得多了。”
Unfortunately, Songgotu completely misunderstood Trinket’s gesture. He assumed that Trinket was privy to the young Emperor’s intentions, and that Kang Xi was reluctant to confront the Satrap, or to provoke him by willingly accepting his resignation. He therefore interpreted Trinket’s shake of the head to mean, ‘I want you to speak out against accepting the resignation.’ Which is exactly what he proceeded to do.’Satrap Wu and his associates are experienced and skilful generals,’ Songgotu began. ‘Supposing Your Majesty were to accept their resignations, and by so doing offend them. Suppose they were to raise the standard of rebellion in the five southern provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian. Suppose other provinces were to join them. We would have an extremely difficult situation on our hands. My advice is this. Wu and Shang are already advanced in years. Let them die, and with them the rest of the older generation of their generals. Then, with them out of the way, we can make a move to retrieve control of the South.’

康熙微微一笑,说道:“你这是老成持重的打算。”索额图还道是皇上夸奖,忙磕头谢恩,道:“奴才为国家计议大事,不敢不尽忠竭虑,以策万全。康熙问大学士图海道:“你文武全才,深通三韬六略,善于用兵,以为此事如何。”图海道:“奴才才智平庸,全蒙皇上加恩提拔。皇上明见万里,朝廷兵马精良,三藩若有不轨之心,谅来也不成大事。只是若将三藩所部数十万人一齐开赴辽东,却也颇有可虑之处。”康熙问道:“甚么事可虑?”图海道:“辽东是我大清根本之地,列祖列宗的陵寝所在,三藩倘若真有不臣之意,数十万人在辽东作起乱来,倒也不易防范。”康熙点了点头。图海又道:“三藩的军队撤离原地,朝廷须另调兵马,前赴云南、广东、福建驻防。数十万大军北上,又有数十万大军南下,一来一往,耗费不小,也势必滋扰地方。三藩驻军和当地百姓相处颇为融洽,不闻有何冲突。广东和福建的言语十分古怪奇特,调了新军过去,大家言语不通,习俗不同,说不定会激起民变,有伤皇上爱民如子的圣意。”韦小宝越听越急,他知道小皇帝决意撤藩,王公大臣却个个胆小怕事,自己官小职卑,年纪又小,在朝廷之上又不能胡说八道,这可为难得紧了。
Kang Xi gave a wry smile.’Just the sort of cautious line I would have expected you to take.’Songgotu chose to take this as a compliment.The Grand Chancellor Tuhai offered his words of counsel next, among which was the observation that if the Emperor were to allow Wu and his associates to ‘retire’ and move to the North, together with their substantial body of troops, he would then be obliged to station fresh troops of his own down in the barbarous regions of the South; and in view of the fact that the dialects spoken by the common people of Fujian and Guangdong were totally outlandish and incomprehensible to the Manchu ear, these new troops would undoubtedly have great trouble communicating, which would lead to serious misunderstanding between the Emperor and the subjects he loved so dearly-etcetera, etcetera.Trinket was beginning to panic. He knew (from their previous conversation in the Library) that Kang Xi had set his mind on accepting the ‘resignations’ and on calling Wu’s bluff; but his counsellors were too cowardly, not one of them was willing to support such a bold and decisive course of action. And he himself was much too junior and inexperienced to dare to speak out.

康熙问兵部尚书明珠:“明珠,此事是兵部该管,你以为如何?”明珠道:“圣上天纵聪明,高瞻远瞩,见事比臣子们高上百倍。奴才想来想去,撤藩有撤的好处,不撤也有不撤的好处,心中好生委决不下,接连几天睡不着觉。后来忽然想到一件事,登时放心,昨晚就睡得着了。原来奴才心想,皇上思虑周详,算无遗策,满朝奴才们所想到的事情,早已一一都在皇上的料中。奴才们想到的计策,再高也高不过皇上的指点。奴才只须听皇上的吩咐办事,皇上怎么说,奴才们就死心塌地、勇往直前的去办,最后定然大吉大利,万事如意。”
Kang Xi turned next to the Manchu nobleman Mingju, Minister of the Board of War, and one of the up’and’coming statesmen of the time.’What do you think, Mingju’ This falls under your department.’ ‘Majesty, I hold your wisdom in these matters in the deepest respect’ replied Mingju. ‘I have myself given a great deal of thought to this question of whether or not to accept the so’called resignation of the Three Feudatory Warlords of the South. I can see both sides. It is an extraordinarily hard decision-‘ Trinket held his breath. ‘For several nights’ continued Mingju, ‘I have been unable to sleep. Then last night, I suddenly realized something fundamental, something that finally set my mind at rest, and enabled me to have a good night’s sleep at last.’ ‘Well go on’ Trinket muttered silently to himself. ‘Let’s hear it!’ ‘What I realized’ continued the unruffled Mingju, ‘was this. Your Majesty, in His great wisdom, has considered every aspect of this affair with penetrating vision. Nothing that we, Your humble ministers, may think or say can possibly compare with Your Majesty’s far’seeing judgement in this matter. All we have to do is to obey, all we have to do is to serve, to put at the disposal of Your Majesty’s plans-whatever they may be-our last drop of life’s blood, our last ounce of courage, and victory will be assured, all will indeed be for the best in the best of all possible worlds . . .’

韦小宝一听,佩服之极,暗想:“满朝文武,做官的本事谁也及不上这个家伙。此人马屁功夫十分到家,老子得拜他为师才是。这家伙日后飞黄腾达,功名富贵不可限量。”
‘Phew!’ thought Trinket to himself. ‘At last someone in this pathetic gaggle of old geezers has actually got things right! And boy, does this dude know how to lick the Emperor’s dragon’arse! I could do with a few lessons from him myself. He’ll go a long way, this one! Excellent kungfu!’

康熙微微一笑,说道:“我是叫你想主意,可不是来听你说歌功颂德的言语。”明珠磕头道:“圣上明鉴:奴才这不是歌功颂德,的的确确是实情。自从兵部得知三藩有不稳的讯息,奴才日夜担心,思索如何应付,万一要用兵,又如何调兵遣将,方有必胜之道,总是要让主子不操半点心才是。可是想来想去,实在主子太圣明,而奴才们太脓包,我们苦思焦虑而得的方策,万万不及皇上随随便便的出个主意。圣天子是天上紫薇星下凡,自然不是奴才这种凡夫俗子能及得上的。因此奴才心想,只要皇上吩咐下来,就必定是好的。就算奴才们一时不明白,只要用心干去,到后来终于会恍然大悟的。”
Kang Xi, meanwhile, was smiling at Mingju’s little speech. ‘I asked for your opinion, Lord Mingju; I asked for a plan, not a hero party.’ Mingju kowtowed. ‘Majesty, my words were no exaggerated praise. They were a true statement of fact. At the Board of War, my colleagues and I have been aware for some time now of rumblings in the South. I have personally been racking my brains to come up with a plan of action that would enable Your Majesty to deal with the problem smoothly and swiftly. But now I realize that I have been thinking incorrectly. My most basic assumptions have been wrong. You are the one who understands. You are the Son of Heaven, you are the earthly embodiment of the Star of Wisdom. Your orders are for us to obey. This is a most simple truth that has finally dawned on me with blinding clarity, Your Majesty!’

众大臣听了,心中都暗暗骂他无耻,当众谄谀,无所不用其极,但也只得随声附和。康熙道:“韦小宝,你到过云南,你倒说说看:这件事该当如何?”
The other statesmen were secretly spitting at Mingju for a shameless sycophant, but none dared to contradict him.Kang Xi turned to Trinket.’Lord Wei, you have been down to Yunnan in person. Tell us what you think. How should we deal with this problem?’

韦小宝道:“皇上明鉴:奴才对国家大事是不懂的,只不过吴三桂对奴才说过一句话,他说:‘韦都统,以后有甚么变故,你不用发愁,你的都统职位,只有上升,不会下降。’奴才就不懂了,问他:‘以后有甚么变故啊?’吴三桂笑道:‘时候到了,你自然知道。’皇上,吴三桂是想造反。这件事千真万确,这会儿只怕龙袍也已做好了。他把自己比作是猛虎,却把皇上比作是黄莺。”
‘Your Majesty’ replied Trinket, ‘there is one thing I remember very clearly from my trip to Yunnan. I remember the Satrap saying to me’ “If anything should happen, don’t you worry, you can only rise higher …” I asked him at the time what he meant by anything happening, and he just said that I would know soon enough when the time arrived. Your Majesty, if there’s one thing I know for dead certain, it’s that the Satrap is planning to rise up against you. There’s no question about it. That’s the thing that’s going to happen, I know it is. It’s only a matter of time. He’s probably got his own Dragon Robe all ready and hanging on a peg, waiting to put on when he sits on the throne. He sees himself as the Savage Tiger, and you as the Helpless Little Bird. I know he does. He more or less said so.’

康熙眉头微蹙,问道:“甚么猛虎、黄莺的?”韦小宝磕了几个头,说道:“吴三桂这厮说了好些大逆不道的言语,奴才说甚么也不敢转述。”康熙道:“你说好了,又不是你自己说的。”韦小宝道:“是。吴三桂有三件宝贝,他说这三件宝贝虽好,可惜有点儿美中不足。第一件宝贝,是一块鸽蛋那么大的红宝石,当真鸡血一般红,他镶在帽上,说道:‘宝石很大,可惜帽子太小。’”康熙哼了一声。众大臣你瞧瞧我,我瞧瞧你,均想:“宝石很大,可惜帽子太小。”这句话言下之意,显是头上想戴顶皇冠了。
Kang Xi frowned.’What do you mean?’Trinket promptly performed a series of kowtows.’Majesty, Satrap Wu said a lot of unrepeatable things-”Come, come.. . There’s no harm in repeating them. After all, it wasn’t you that said them.”Very well, Majesty. The Satrap has what he calls his Three Treasures. He told me all about them. And he said to me, that however much he loves his Three Treasures, there’s something about them that makes him unhappy.’Kang Xi looked utterly bewildered by this. Trinket continued”The first of his Treasures is a huge ruby the size of a pigeon’s egg. It’s deep red, a true chicken’s blood colour. He’s got it mounted on the very top of his favourite hat. He said to me, “This is a fine ruby, isn’t it’ Pity the hat isn’t something bigger. . .”‘Kang Xi gave an audible ‘humph’. The assembled statesmen glanced nervously around. It was clear to them all that by something bigger Satrap Wu meant ‘an Imperial crown’.

韦小宝道:“他第二件宝贝,是一张白底黑纹的白老虎皮。奴才曾在宫里服侍皇上,可也从来没见过这样的白老虎皮。吴三桂说,这种白老虎几百年难得见一次,当年宋太祖赵匡胤打到过,朱元璋打到过,曹操和刘备也都打到过的。他把白老虎皮垫在椅上,说道:‘白老虎皮难得,可惜椅子太也寻常。’”康熙又点点头,心中暗暗好笑,知道韦小宝信口开河诬陷吴三桂;又知他毫无学问,以为曹操也做过皇帝。
Trinket continued.’The second of his Treasures is a white tiger skin with black stripes. In all my time here in the Palace, Majesty, I’ve never seen anything like it. The Satrap told me that this kind of tiger is very, very rare. So rare that it may only be seen once in a hundred years. The Founding Emperors of the Song and Ming dynasties each saw one; the Emperors Cao Cao and Liu Bei each saw one, in the time of the Three Kingdoms. The Satrap had this tiger skin spread on his big chair, and he said to me’ “Splendid skin, isn’t it’ Pity the chair isn’t something bigger. . .”‘ Kang Xi nodded. He was secretly chuckling to himself, and deriving a great deal of amusement from this fanfaronade of Trinket’s, which he knew perfectly well had been made up for the occasion, purely to show Satrap Wu in an unfavourable light. It was a typical piece of Trinketry, he thought to himself, to have made the mistake of calling Cao Cao an emperor. Anyone who had actually read the book of The Three Kingdoms (as opposed to gleaning bits here and there from storytellers and operas, as Trinket had) would have known that the famous General Cao Cao died well before he could found his own dynasty. It was his son who was the first to sit on the Wei Throne. This was precisely the sort of Trinketian carelessness that betrayed the whole performance.

韦小宝道:“这第三件宝贝,是一块大理石屏风,天然生成的风景,图画中有只小黄莺儿站在树上,树底下有一头大老虎。吴三桂言道:‘屏风倒也珍贵,就可惜猛虎是在树下,小黄莺儿却站在高枝之上。’”
Meanwhile Trinket was still in full swing’ ‘The third of his Treasures is a screen made of mottled marble from Dali in Yunnan. The natural pattern of the stone looks just like a landscape, and in the foreground you can see a cute little bird, an oriole, perched on the branch of a tree, with a great tiger crouching beneath it. The Satrap said to me with a sigh’ “This screen is a true treasure, isn’t it’ But I always feel there’s something not quite right about it. The Bird is perched above the Tiger, and not the other way round . . .”‘

康熙道:“他这三句话,都不过是比喻,未必是有心造反。”韦小宝道:“皇上宽洪大量,爱惜奴才。吴三桂倘若有三分良心,知道感恩图报,那就好了。只可惜他就会向朝中的王公大臣送礼,这位黄金一千两,那位白银两万两,出手阔绰得不得了。那三件宝贝,却又不向皇上进贡。”康熙笑道:“我可不贪图他甚么东西。”韦小宝道:“是啊,吴三桂老是向朝廷要饷银,请犒赏,银子拿到手,倒有一大半留在北京,送给了文武百官。奴才对他说:‘王爷,你送金子银子给当朝那些大官,出手实在太阔气了,我都代你肉痛。’吴三桂笑道:‘小兄弟,这些金子银子,也不过暂且寄在他们家里,让他们个个帮我说好话,过得几年,他们会乖乖的加上利钱,连本带利的还我。’奴才这可不明白了,问道:‘王爷,财物到了人家手里,怎样还会还你?这是你心甘情愿送给他们的,又不是人家向你借的,怎么还会有利钱?’吴三桂哈哈大笑,拍拍我肩膀,拿了一只锦缎袋子给我,说着:‘小兄弟,这是小王送给你的一点小意思,盼你在皇上跟前,多给我说几句好话。皇上若要撤藩,你务必要说,这藩是千万撤不得的。哈哈,你放心好了,这些东西,我将来不会向你讨还。’”韦小宝一面说,一面从怀里摸出一只锦缎袋子,提在手中,高高举起,人人见到袋上绣着“平西王府”四个红字。他俯下身来,打开袋口,倒了转来,只听得玎玎当当一阵响,珍珠、宝石、翡翠、美玉,数十件珍品散在殿上,珠光宝气,耀眼生花。这些珠宝有些固是吴三桂所赠,有些却是韦小宝从别处纳来的贿赂,一时之间,旁人又怎能分辨?
Kang Xi registered a mild protest, and reminded Trinket that all of this was no more than a figure of speech. It proved nothing. At no point had the Satrap actually mentioned rebellion. ‘Your Majesty is too generous. I only wish the Satrap was the sort of man to appreciate Your Majesty’s kindness. I wish he was capable of showing himself worthy of it in any way. I’m afraid all he is capable of doing is bribing everyone to say flattering things about him. He’s done it with every nobleman in Peking. He even tried doing it with me. See . . .’ This was the moment for Trinket to produce his trump card. He took an embroidered bag from inside his gown, and held it high in the air so that the characters embroidered on it in red silk were clearly legible-they read ‘Satrap of the West’. Then he emptied its contents on the floor for everyone to see’ pearls, priceless gems of every kind, jewelry inlaid with turquoise, pieces of jade-a dazzling heap of every imaginable kind of precious stone. Some of them had in fact been given to him by the Satrap; others were bribes given him by a number of different individuals. In the circumstances, no one there could possibly distinguish the one category from the other.

康熙微笑道:“你到云南走这一遭,倒是大有所获了。”韦小宝道:“这些珍珠宝贝,奴才是不敢要的,请皇上赏了别人罢。”康熙笑嘻嘻的道:“是吴三桂送你的,我怎能拿来赏给别人?”韦小宝道:“吴三桂送给奴才,要我在皇上面前撒谎,帮他说好话,说万万不能撤藩,奴才对皇上忠心耿耿,不能贪图一些金银财宝,把反贼说成是忠臣。但这么一来,收了吴三桂的东西,有点儿对不起他。反正普天下的金银财宝,都是皇上的物事。皇上赏给谁,是皇上的恩德,用不着吴三桂拿来做好人,收买人心。”
Kang Xi smiled.’Quite a little haul you picked up in Kunming!”I should like to present all of this to Your Majesty, for you to distribute as you see fit.’Kang Xi chuckled.’Come! These things are yours, they were given to you by the Satrap in person. How could I possibly give them away to anybody else.”He gave them to me because he wanted me to lie to Your Majesty, to say all sorts of good things about him, so that you would play his game and refuse to accept his offer of resignation. But I am Your Majesty’s loyal subject, I can only speak the truth. I could never tell you a lie, not for a thousand bags of jewels as big as that one! Keep it all. Anything that belongs to the Satrap belongs by rights to Your Majesty.’

康熙哈哈一笑,说道:“你倒对朕挺忠心,那么这些珍珠宝贝,算是我重行赏给你的好了。”又从衣袋里摸出一只西洋弹簧金表来,说道:“另外赏你一件西洋宝贝。”韦小宝忙跪下磕头,走上几步,双手将金表接了过来。
Kang Xi laughed.’Well, my loyal and trusty subject, I agree to redistribute these precious trinkets on your behalf! I hereby give them-to you!’As he said this Kang Xi reached inside his gown and produced a little solid gold timepiece with a Western spring mechanism- the sort of gadget he had always been fond of collecting from his Jesuit advisers.’And here’s a little Western “trinket” of mine to add to your collection.’Trinket promptly kowtowed, took a few steps forward, and accepted the gold watch.

他君臣二人这么一番做作,众大臣均是善观气色之人,哪里还不明白康熙的心意?众大臣都收受过吴三桂的贿赂,最近这一批还是韦小宝转交的,心想自己倘若再不识相,韦小宝把“滇敬”多少,当朝抖了出来,皇上一震怒,以“交通外藩,图谋不轨”的罪名论处,不杀头也得充军。韦小宝诬陷吴三桂的言语,甚是幼稚可笑,吴三桂就算真有造反之心,也决计不会在皇上派去的钦差面前透露;又说甚么送了朝中大臣的金银,将来要连本带利收回,暗示日后造反成功,做了皇帝,要向各大臣讨还金银。这明明是没见过世面的小孩子想法,吴三桂这等老谋深算之人,岂会斤斤计较于送了多少金银?但明知韦小宝的言语不堪一驳,他有皇上撑腰,又有谁敢自讨苦吃,出口辩驳?
This protracted exchange between the Emperor and his favourite was enough to make Kang Xi’s real wishes abundantly clear to his assembled counsellors (which had, of course, been Trinket’s plan all along). They were no fools. All of them had (over the years) received substantial bribes from the Satrap, and many of those bribes had reached them via Trinket himself. If this information were to be placed before the Emperor now, the best they could hope for would be deportation; the worst they could fear was decapitation. As for Trinket’s performance (the ‘ThreeTreasures’, and all that stuff about ‘anything happening’), they saw through that at once as the fabrication of a child. Supposing the Satrap had been planning an immediate uprising against the Manchu Throne, he would hardly have chosen to give hints of his plans to the Emperor’s juvenile envoy. But that wasn’t the main point. Now that Trinket had said all this, no one would dream of contradicting him. They would be extremely foolish to even think of doing so.

明珠脑筋最快,立即说道:“韦都统少年英才,见世明白,对皇上赤胆忠心,深入吴三桂的虎穴,探到了事实真相,当真令人好生佩服。若不是皇上洞烛机先,派遣韦都统亲去探察,我们在京里办事的,又哪知道吴三桂这老家伙深蒙国恩,竟会心存反侧?”他这几句话既捧了康熙和韦小宝,又为自己和满朝同僚轻轻开脱,跟着再坐实了吴三桂的罪名。太和殿上,人人均觉这几句话甚为中听,诸大臣本来都惴惴不安,这时不由得松了一口气。
Mingju was the first to respond. ‘Young Colonel Wei has demonstrated for us all his extraordinary strategic and diplomatic acumen, and I think we are all indebted to him for having insinuated himself so effectively into the Satrap’s inner sanctum, and for having extracted such vital information, information which is indeed of the first import in our present deliberations today.’ He was at it again. Trinket stifled a yawn as Mingju continued’ ‘We must congratulate Your Majesty on the great insight You exhibited, in selecting Colonel Wei to undertake his mission to Yunnan. Now we know what wicked intentions truly lie concealed within the Satrap’s breast!’ Mingju had skilfuEy re’positioned himself on the winning (that is to say, the Emperor’s) side of the debate, and simultaneously provided most of his colleagues with a way out, while reiterating the Satrap’s criminal intent. There was an almost audible ripple of relief in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

康亲王和索额图原跟韦小宝交好,这时自然会意,当即落井下石,大说吴三桂的不是。众大臣你一句、我一句,都说该当撤藩,有的还痛责自己胡涂,幸蒙皇上开导指点,这才如拨开云雾见青天。有的更贡献方略,说得如何撤藩,如何将吴三桂锁拿来京,如何去抄他的家。吴三桂富可敌国,一说到抄他的家,人人均觉是个大大的优差,但转念一想,又觉这件事可不好办,吴三桂一翻脸,你还没抄到他的家,他先砍了你的脑袋。
Songgotu and Prince Kang (long’time friends of Trinket’s) lost no time in giving their support to this new consensus, and before long everyone in the assembly was speaking emphatically in favour of accepting the Satrap’s ‘resignation’ (where minutes before they had been unanimous in opposing it). There was now even talk of confiscating the Satrap’s property, and the faces of one or two present lit up at the thought of the spoils that might come their way if they were put in charge of that particular assignment. But their premature excitement cooled considerably when they remembered who it was they would be dealing with. The Satrap was still (by the reckoning of some) the most powerful man in China. You might well find that before you actually succeeded in confiscating a stick of his, he had taken steps to confiscate, sequestrate, and separate your head from your shoulders.

康熙待众人都说过了,说道:“吴三桂虽有不轨之心,但反状未露,今日此间的说话,谁也不许漏了一句出去。须得给他一个改过自新的机会。”众大臣齐颂扬皇恩浩荡,宽仁慈厚。康熙从怀中取出一张黄纸,说道:“这一道上谕,你们瞧瞧有甚么不妥的。”巴泰躬身接过,双手捧定,大声念了起来:“奉天承运皇帝诏曰:自古帝王平定天下,式赖师武臣力;及海宇宁谧,振旅班师,休息士卒,俾封疆重臣,优游颐养,赏延奕世,宠固河山,甚盛典也!”他念到这里,顿了一顿。众大臣一齐发出嗡嗡、啧啧之声,赞扬皇上的御制宏文。巴泰轻轻咳嗽一声,把脑袋转了两个圈子,便如是欣赏韩柳欧苏的绝妙文章一般,然后拉长调子,又念了起来:“王夙笃忠贞,克摅猷略,宣劳戮力,镇守岩疆,释朕南顾之忧,厥功懋焉!”他念到这里,顿了一顿,轻轻叹道:“真是好文章!”索额图道:“皇上天恩,吴三桂只要稍有人性,拜读了这道上谕,只怕登时就惭愧死了。”巴泰又念道:“但念王年齿已高,师徒暴露,久驻遐荒,眷怀良切。近以地方底定,故允王所请,搬移安插。兹特请某某、某某,前往宣谕朕意。王其率所属官兵,趣装北上,慰朕眷注;庶几旦夕觏止,君臣偕乐,永保无疆之休。至一应安插事宜,已饬所司饬庀周详。王到日,即有宁宇,无以为念。钦此。”巴泰音调铿锵,将这道上谕念得抑扬顿挫。念毕,众臣无不大赞。明珠道:“‘旦夕觏止,君臣偕乐’这八个字,真叫人感激不能自胜。奴才们听了,心窝儿里也是一阵子暖烘烘的。”图海道:“皇上心虑周到,预先跟他说一到北京,就有地方住,免得他推三阻四,说要派人来京起楼建屋,推搪耽搁,又拖他三年五年。”
Kang Xi let them talk for a while amongst themselves, and then he spoke: ‘Very well. We are (此词不清) evil course of action. But as yet we have no tangible proof. We must be cautious. What we have said here today must go no further than these walls. We must give him a chance to see the error of his ways.’Kang Xi produced a scroll of yellow paper and handed it to Lord Batai.This is my Edict concerning this matter. Pray read it out loud.’This Batai did, interjecting at appropriate intervals exclamations of wonder at the elegance and force of the Emperor’s prose, which emulated that of the great prose masters of the Tang and Song dynasties. He went on to invoke the names of several of these masters’ Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, Ouyang Xiu, and Su Dongpo. The drift of the Edict was simple’ His Majesty was pleased to accord to his loyal subject Wu Sangui the right to retire to the North in his old age and enjoy the fruits of a lifetime’s loyal service.The assembly was fulsome in its praise of the Edict, Tuhai drawing attention to the Emperor’s generosity in offering to provide the Satrap with a residence in the Capital, thereby relieving him of the bother and expense of building himself a mansion of his own.

康熙道:“最好吴三桂能奉命归朝,百姓免了一场刀兵之灾,须得派两个能说会道之人云南宣谕朕意。”众大臣听皇帝这么说,眼光都向韦小宝瞧去。韦小宝给众人瞧得心慌,心想:“乖乖弄的东,这件事可不是玩的。上次送新媳妇去,还险些送了性命,这次去撤藩,吴三桂岂有不杀钦差大臣之理?”念及到了云南可以见到阿珂,心头不禁一热,但终究还是性命要紧。
Kang Xi commented”It is my sincere hope that Wu will accept this offer of mine, and that my people will be spared the consequences of a conflict. I shall select two senior ministers to convey this Edict to him personally in Yunnan. They must be men capable of being very persuasive.’All eyes turned automatically to Trinket. He felt extremely uncomfortable. After all, he reasoned with himself, his previous visit to Yunnan had nearly ended in catastrophe. If he were to try his luck again, and this time as the bearer of an Edict, which for all its elegance was quite clearly a challenge, why, he would be asking to have his head chopped off. But then again, if he went, he might have a chance to see Green. . . But then again, on reflection, even the prospect of that pleasure did not cancel out the undesirability of losing his head. . .

明珠见韦小宝面如土色,知他不敢去,便道:“皇上明鉴:以能说会道而言,本来都统韦小宝极是能干。不过韦都统为人嫉恶如仇,得知吴三桂对皇上不敬,恨他入骨,多一半见面就要申斥吴三桂,只怕要坏事。奴才愚见,不如派礼部侍郎折尔肯、翰林院学士达尔礼二人前去云南,宣示上谕。这两人文质彬彬,颇具雅望,或能感化顽恶,亦未可知。”康熙一听,甚合心意,当即口谕折尔肯、达尔礼二人前往宣旨。众大臣见皇帝撤藩之意早决,连上谕也都写定了带在身边,都深悔先前给吴三桂说了好话。这时人人口风大改,说了许多吴三桂无中生有的罪状,当真是大奸大恶,罪不可赦。康熙点点头,说道:“吴三桂虽坏,也不至于如此。大家实事求是,小心办事罢。”站起身来,向韦小宝招招手,带着他走到后殿。韦小宝跟在皇帝身后,来到御花园中。
Mingju observed that Trinket’s face had turned somewhat pale, and correctly deduced that he was not an enthusiastic candidate for this assignment.’Your Majesty,’ he declared, ‘undoubtedly the person in many ways most qualified for such an important task would be ColonelWei. Unfortunately, his deep’seated hostility towards Satrap Wu disqualifies him in this instance. He might find himself, out of loyalty to Your Majesty, incapable of mollifying this villain’s evil intentions. Instead I propose that Your Majesty send Jerken, Chief Secretary at the Board of Rites, and Senior Academician Darli. Both are men of great culture and refinement, and would I am sure acquit themselves admirably in this task.’ Kang Xi was only too pleased to go along with this proposal. Now that the whole thing was settled, the ministers felt a sense of great futility about their earlier reluctance to take a firmer stand against Satrap Wu. Clearly, appeasement had never been the Emperor’s intention; his mind had been made up from the very beginning. He had even come to the meeting with an Edict already prepared. Most of them managed to get in a few concluding remarks about the Satrap’s unforgivable treason, before they were all dismissed and the audience was declared closed. Kang Xi’s parting remarks were: ‘Do not be too hasty in your condemnation of the Satrap. We must judge by facts, and by facts alone.’ As the members of his Council of State withdrew, he gestured to Trinket to follow him into the inner apartments located behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

An Unusual Friendship

康熙笑道:“小桂子,真有你的。若不是你拿了那袋珍珠宝贝出来,抖在地下,他妈的那些老家伙,还在给吴三桂说好话呢。”韦小宝道:“其实皇上只须说一声‘还是撤藩的好’,大家还不是个个都说‘果然是撤藩的好’。只不过要他们自己说出口来,比较有趣些。”康熙点点头,说道:“老家伙们做事力求稳当,所想的也不能说全都错了。不过这样一来,吴三桂想几时动手,就几时干,一切全由他来拿主意,于咱们可大大不利。咱们先撤他的藩,就可打乱了他的脚步。”韦小宝道:“是啊,好比赌牌九,那有老是让吴三桂做庄之理?皇上也得掷几把骰子啊。”康熙道:“这个比喻对了,不能老是让他做庄。小桂子,咱们这把骰子是掷下去了,可是吴三桂这家伙当真挺不好斗呀。他部下的大将士卒,都是身经百战的厉害脚色。他一起兵造反,倘若普天下的汉人都响应他,那可糟了!”
When they reached the Imperial Garden, Kang Xi turned to Trinket with a smile’ Thank heavens for you! If you hadn’t tipped all those jewels on the floor, the old buffers would still be in there saying nice things about Satrap Wu!’ The truth is, Your Majesty, that all you needed to do was come out and say that you thought it best to accept the resignations, and they would all have fallen into line. They were none of them prepared to stick their necks out.’ Kang Xi nodded. They’re not bad. Just terribly cautious. Sometimes one has to act. If we let the Satrap make all the moves, we don’t stand a chance. We need to call his bluff, throw him off course a little.’ ‘I couldn’t agree more,’ chipped in Trinket. ‘It’s like gambling. You can’t let the Satrap be banker all the time!’ ‘Exactly! Well, the die is cast now, my friend! Let’s just hope it all turns out for the best. Old Wu could be a formidable opponent. And if a large number of Chinese decide to rally to his side, and take a stand against me, the going could get really rough!’

韦小宝近年在各地行走,听到汉人咒骂鞑子的语言果是不少,汉人人数众多,每有一百个汉人,未必就有一个满洲人,倘若天下汉人都造起反来,满洲人无论如何抵挡不住,然而咒骂鞑子的人虽多,痛恨吴三桂的更多。他想到此节,说道:“皇上望安,普天下的汉人,没一个喜欢吴三桂这家伙。他要造反,除了自己的亲信之外,不会有甚么人捧他的场。”
Trinket knew only too well that there were genuine grounds for these fears of Kang Xi’s. Wherever he’d travelled, he’d heard the Chinese reviling the Manchus. There was little love lost there. And for every Manchu there were hundreds of Chinese. If they were to take Wu Sangui’s side, they would be unstoppable. The only hope for the Manchus lay in the fact that however much the Chinese hated them, they hated Wu even more.’You can set your mind at ease, Majesty. The Chinese will never side with Wu. They hate him too much. The only people he can count one are his own cronies.’

康熙点点头,道:“我也想到了此节。前明桂王逃到缅甸,是吴三桂去捉了来杀的。吴三桂要造反,只能说兴汉反满,却不能说反清复明。”说到这里,顿了一顿,问道:“前明崇祯皇帝,是哪一天死的?”韦小宝搔了搔头,嗫嚅道:“这个……奴才那时候还没出世,倒不……不大清楚。”康熙哈哈大笑,说道:“我这可问道于盲了。那时候我也没出世。是了,到他忌辰那天,我派几名亲王贝勒,去崇祯陵上拜祭一番,好教天下百姓都感激我,心中痛恨吴三桂。”韦小宝道:“皇上神机妙算。但如崇祯皇帝的忌辰相隔时候还远,吴三桂却先造反起来呢?”康熙踱了几步,微笑道:“这些时候来,你奉旨办事,苦头着实吃了不少。五台山、云南、神龙岛、辽东,最后连罗刹国也去了。我这次派你去个好地方,调剂,调剂。”韦小宝道:“天下最好的地方,就是在皇上身边。只要听到皇上说一句话,见到皇上一眼,我就浑身有劲,心里说不出的舒服。皇上,这话千真万确,可不是拍马屁。”
Kang Xi nodded.’I know that what you say is true. After all, it was Wu who brought the Ming Pretender, Prince Gui, back from Burma and put him to death. He may claim to be a Chinese fighting the Manchus; but after what he has done, he can never claim to stand for the restoration of the House of Ming.’After a moment’s thought he added”I’ve got an idea. I shall send a delegation of Princes to the tomb of the last Ming Emperor, Chong Zhen, north of Peking, on the anniversary of his death. I’ll give orders for them to make offerings at his grave. That may help me to win over the hearts of my Chinese subjects, and cause them to hate Satrap Wu all the more.’That is an excellent idea, Your Majesty,’ commented Trinket. The sooner the better in fact, or Wu may have already started his rebellion.’Kang Xi walked up and down the paths of his garden.Trinket, since you came to the Palace, I’ve kept you very busy. I’ve sent you to the Wutai Mountains, I’ve sent you to Yunnan, to Snake Island, to Liaodong Province, and you’ve only just come back from Russia. Well, this time I’ve thought of a much nicer place to send you. It’ll do you good to have a change of scene.”You know that for me the best place of all is when I’m near you, Majesty. I just like to hear the sound of your voice, I like to see you smile. That’s what makes me happy. And I mean it. I’m not trying to flatter you.’

康熙点头道:“这是实情。我和你君臣投机,那也是缘份。我跟你是从小打架打出来的交情,与众不同。我见到你,心里也总很高兴。小桂子,那半年中得不到你的消息,只道你在大海中淹死了,我一直好生后悔,不该派你去冒险,着实伤心难过。”韦小宝心下激动,道:“但……但愿我能一辈子服侍你。”说着语音已有些哽咽。康熙道:“好啊,我做六十年皇帝,你就做六十年大官,咱君臣两个有恩有义,有始有终。”皇帝对臣子说到这样的话,那是难得之极了,一来康熙年少,说话爽直,二来他和韦小宝是总角之交,互相真诚。韦小宝道:“你做一百年皇帝,我就跟你当一百年差,做不做大官倒不在乎。”康熙笑道:“做六十年皇帝还不够么?一个人也不可太不知足了。”顿了一顿,说道:“小桂子,这次我派你去扬州,让你衣锦还乡。”韦小宝听得“去扬州”三字,心中突的一跳,问道:“甚么叫衣锦还乡哪?”康熙道:“你在京里做了大官,回到故乡去见见亲戚朋友,出出风头,让大家羡慕你,那不挺美吗?你叫手下人帮你写一道奏章,你的父亲、母亲,朝廷都可给他们诰命,风光,风光。”韦小宝道:“是,是,多谢皇上的恩典。”康熙见他神色有些尴尬,问道:“咦,你不喜欢?”韦小宝摇头道:“我喜欢得紧,只不过……只不过我不知自己亲生的爹爹是谁。”
Kang Xi nodded. ‘I believe you. I feel the same way myself. I feel happy when I see you. All that time when you were away and no one knew what had happened to you, and we all thought you were drowned, I felt so wretched. I should never have sent you on such a dangerous mission in the first place. I felt damned bad about it.’ Trinket was genuinely moved by these words of Kang Xi’s. ‘I just… I wish I could stay with you for the rest of my life.’ There was an unmistakable lump in his throat. ‘Very well. I shall rule as Emperor of China for sixty years, and you shall be my Chief Minister of State for sixty years.’ The Emperor rarely talked to one of his subjects in this way. But the friendship between these two young men was most unusual. ‘Laurie,’ said Kang Xi, reverting without thinking to his old name for Trinket, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ve got in mind for this new mission. I’m planning to send you to Yangzhou. To your old home. It can be your splendid home’coming. What do you say?’ Trinket was not quite sure what ‘splendid home’coming’ meant exactly. Kang Xi continued’ ‘Just think, you can show off in front of all your friends and relations. We can even arrange for your family to receive special honours for the occasion’ your mother, your father . ..’ Trinket was looking a little sheepish. ‘What’s the matter’ Don’t you want to go?’ ‘Yes, of course I want to go. It’s just that . . . well, I don’t actually know who my real father is.’

康熙一怔,想到自己父亲在五台山出家,跟他倒有些同病相怜,拍拍他肩膀,温言道:“你到了扬州,不妨慢慢寻访,上天或许垂怜,能让你父子团圆。小桂子,你去扬州,这趟差使可易办得紧了。我派你去造一座忠烈祠。”韦小宝搔了搔头,说道:“种栗子?皇上,你要吃栗子,我这就给你到街上去买,糖炒良乡桂花栗子,又香又糯,不用到扬州去种。”康熙哈哈大笑,道:“他妈的,小桂子就是没学问。我是说忠烈祠,你却缠夹不清,搞成了种栗子。忠烈祠是一座祠堂,供奉忠臣烈士的。”韦小宝笑道:“奴才这可笨得紧了,原来是去起一座关帝庙甚么的。”康熙道:“这就对了。清兵进关之后,在扬州、嘉定杀戮很惨,以致有甚么‘扬州十日’、‘嘉定三屠’的话。想到这些事,我心中总是不安。”韦小宝道:“当时的确杀得很惨啊。扬州城里到处都是死尸,隔了十多年,井里河里还常见到死人骷髅头。不过那时候我还没出世,您也没出世,可怪不到咱们头上。”康熙道:“话是这么说,不过是我祖宗的事,也就是我的事。当时有个史可法,你听说过吗?”
Kang Xi stared at Trinket for a moment. He too had a somewhat strange relationship with his own father, he reflected. After all, the old man, who was officially supposed to be dead, was a hermit living incognito on Mount Wutai. He felt he almost knew how Trinket must feel. He patted him on the shoulder and spoke a few words of consolation. ‘When you get to Yangzhou, you can make a few enquiries. You never know, you might strike lucky. You may end up happily reunited with your father after all. And Laurie, on this trip, your duties will be very light. I want you to go to Yangzhou to build a temple in honour of the Martyrs who died during the Massacre.’ Kang Xi was referring to the terrible Ten Days of Yangzhou’ and the Three Butcherings of Jiading’, in which the occupying Manchu troops had massacred so many inhabitants of Yangzhou and the nearby city of Jiading. Kang Xi himself felt a great sense of remorse for these atrocities (even though they were committed by his forbears well before he was born).’I know all about that,’ said Trinket. ‘Even ten years after the killings, people were still finding skeletons down wells, and in the riverbed. But neither of us were alive then. It wasn’t our doing.”In a way you’re right,’ replied Kang Xi. But the men who did it were my ancestors. So in another way it is to do with me. Have you heard about a man called Shi Kefa?’

韦小宝道:“史阁部史大人死守扬州,那是一位大大的忠臣。我们扬州的老人家说起他来,都是要流眼泪的。我们院子里供了一个牌位,写的是‘九纹龙史进之灵位’,初一月半,大伙儿都要向这牌位磕头。我听人说,其实就是史阁部,不过瞒着官府就是了。”康熙点了点头道:“忠臣烈士,遗爱自在人心。原来百姓们供奉了九纹龙史进的灵位,焚香跪拜,其实是纪念史可法。小桂子,你家那个是甚么院子啊?”韦小宝脸上一红,道:“皇上,这件事说起来又不大好听了。我们家里开了一家堂子,叫作丽春堂,在扬州算是数一数二的大妓院。”康熙微微一笑,心道:“你满口市井胡言,早知道你决非出身于书香世家。你这小子对我倒很忠心,连这等丑事也不瞒我。”其实开妓院甚么,韦小宝已是在大吹牛皮了,他母亲只不过是个妓女而已,哪里是甚么妓院老板了。
‘Who hasn’t!’ replied Trinket. ‘He was the great general who died defending Yangzhou. When I was a boy, the old folk of Yangzhou used to break down in tears if they so much as mentioned his name. There was even a stone tablet in his honour in the courtyard of our . . . our home.”It’s martyrs like him whose memory lives on. People still feel love for them long after their death. Incidentally, tell me, Laurie, whereabouts in Yangzhou exactly was your home?’Trinket flushed.’Majesty, it’s nothing to be proud of, I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, I was brought up in a whore’house. My folks ran one of the best places in Yangzhou, a place called Vernal Delights.’Kang Xi smiled. He was thinking to himself”I’ve always known you were a street’urchin. But I’m touched that you finally felt able to tell me the whole truth.’Actually Trinket’s version was a somewhat inflated version of the truth. His mother didn’t run Vernal Delights. She wasn’t anything as grand as a Madame. She was simply one of the many whores who worked there.

康熙道:“你奉了我的上谕,到扬州去宣读。我褒扬史可法尽忠报国,忠君爱民,是个大大的忠臣,大大的好汉。我们大清敬重忠臣义士,瞧不起反叛逆贼。我给史可法好好的起一座祠堂,把扬州当时守城殉难的忠臣将勇,都在祠堂里供奉。再拿三十万两银子去,抚恤救济扬州、嘉定两城的百姓。我再下旨,免这两个地方三年钱粮。”韦小宝长长吁了口气,说道:“皇上,你这番恩典可真太大了。我得向你真心诚意的磕几个头才行。”说着爬下地来,冬冬冬的磕了三个响头。康熙笑问:“你以前向我磕头,不是真心诚意的么?”韦小宝微笑道:“有时是真心诚意,有时不过敷衍了事。”康熙哈哈一笑,也不以为忤,心想:“向我磕头的那些人,一百个中,倒有九十九个是敷衍了事的,也只有小桂子才说出口来。”
Kang Xi proceeded.’You are to be the official bearer of my Edict in Yangzhou. I intend to honour Shi Kefa as a selfless martyr and a loyal minister. A great man, in short. Our Manchu Imperial House sets great store by the virtues of selflessness and loyalty; we decry treason and rebellion. I wish to raise a memorial to Shi Kefa and all the other loyal ministers who died with him, fighting to protect the city of Yangzhou. And I intend to set aside three hundred thousand taels of silver to succour those in need among Yangzhou’s citizenry, and among the needy of the city of Jiading, which also suffered so terribly. And I shall exempt them from paying taxes for a period of three years.’ Trinket heaved a great sigh. ‘Your compassion and generosity are boundless, Majesty! For this, I must kowtow to you in all sincerity.’ Which he proceeded to do. Kang Xi laughed. ‘You mean, none of your previous kowtows were performed in sincerity?’ Trinket smiled. ‘Sometimes they were, and sometimes they weren’t.’ Kang Xi laughed out loud. He was thinking to himself’ ‘Ninety’nine out of a hundred kowtows are performed without the slightest sincerity of feeling. But Trinket is the only person who’d ever dare to admit to it.’

韦小宝道:“皇上,你这个计策,当真是一箭射下两只鸟儿。”康熙笑道:“甚么一箭射下两只鸟儿?这叫做一箭双雕。你倒说说看,是两只甚么鸟儿?”韦小宝道:“这座忠烈祠一起,天下汉人都知道皇上待百姓很好。以前鞑……以前清兵在扬州、嘉定乱杀汉人,皇上心中过意不去,想法子补报。如果吴三桂造反,又或是尚可喜、耿精忠造反,要恢复明朝甚么的,老百姓就会说,满清有甚么不好?皇帝好得很哪。”康熙点点头,说道:“你这话是不错,不过稍微有一点以小人之心,度君子之腹。我想到昔年扬州十日、嘉定三屠,确是心中恻然,发银抚恤,减免钱粮,也不是全然为了收买人心。那第二只鸟儿又是甚么?”韦小宝道:“皇上起这祠堂,大家知道做忠臣义士是好的,做反叛贼子是不好的。吴三桂要造反,那是反贼,老百姓就瞧他不起了。”康熙伸手在他肩头重重一拍,笑道:“对!咱们须得大肆宣扬,忠心报主才是好人。天下的百姓哪一个肯做坏人?吴三桂不起兵便罢,若是起兵,也没人跟从他。”韦小宝道:“我听说书先生说故事,自来最了不起的忠臣义士,一位是岳飞岳爷爷,一位是关帝关王爷。皇上,咱们这次去扬州修忠烈祠,不如把岳爷爷、关王爷的庙也都修上一修。”康熙笑道:“你心眼儿挺灵,就可惜不读书,没学问。修关帝庙,那是很好,关羽忠心报主,大有义气,我来赐他一个封号。那岳飞打的是金兵。咱们大清,本来叫做后金,金就是清,金兵就是清兵。这岳王庙,就不用理会了。”韦小宝道:“是,是,原来如此。”心中想:“原来你们鞑子是金兀术、哈迷蚩的后代。你们祖宗可差劲得很。”康熙道:“河南省王屋山,好像有吴三桂伏下的一支兵马,是不是?”韦小宝一怔,应道:“是啊。”心想:“这件事你若不提,我倒忘了。”康熙道:“当时你查到吴三桂的逆谋,派人前来奉知,我反而将你申斥一顿,你可知是甚么原因?”韦小宝道:“想来咱们对付吴三桂的兵马还没调派好,因此皇上假装不信,免得打草惊蛇。”康熙笑道:“对了!打草惊蛇,这成语用得对了。朝廷之中,吴三桂一定伏有不少心腹,我们一举一动,这老贼无不知道得清清楚楚。王屋山司徒伯雷的事,当时我如一加查究,吴三桂立刻便知道了。他心里一惊,说不定马上就起兵造反。那时朝廷的虚实他甚么都知道,他的兵力部署甚么的,我可一点儿也不知,打起仗来,我们非输不可。一定要知己知彼,才可百战百胜。”
‘Seriously, Majesty, if you build this temple and lower their taxes, the people of Yangzhou will love you.’ Kang Xi nodded. ‘I know. Another thing-on your way down to Yangzhou, there’s an additional assignment I have for you. Do you remember those bandits you once encountered on Mount Wangwu, in Henan’ The ones who were working for the Satrap?’ It had been a while since Trinket’s encounter with Situ Bolei’s men, and the fair Zeng Rou, but Kang Xi’s words brought the episode back vividly. He especially remembered the Imperial scolding he had received for allowing himself to be distracted on his way to Yunnan with Princess Ning.

韦小宝道:“皇上当时派人来大骂我一顿,满营军官都知道了。吴三桂若有奸细在我兵营里,必定去报告给老家伙知道。老家伙心里,说不定还在暗笑皇上胡涂呢。”康熙道:“你这次去扬州,随带五千兵马,去到河南济源,突然出其不意,便将王屋山上的匪窟给剿了。吴三桂这一支伏兵离京师太近,是个心腹之患。”韦小宝喜道:“那妙得紧。皇上,不如你御驾亲征,杀吴三桂一个下马威。”康熙微笑道:“王屋山上只一二千土匪,其中一大半倒是老弱妇孺,那个姓元的张大其辞,说甚么有三万多人,全是假的。我早已派人上山去查得清清楚楚。一千多名土匪,要我御驾亲征,未免叫人笑话罢!哈哈,哈哈。”韦小宝跟着干笑几声,心想小皇帝精明之极,虚报大数可不成。康熙道:“怎么剿灭王屋山土匪,你下去想想,过一两天来回奏。”
‘At the time, I was displeased with you for getting involved with them as you did. You see, the Satrap has spies everywhere’ a showdown with the Wang Wu Clan at that time would have alerted old Wu, and could have precipitated his uprising. At that stage we were simply not prepared for him. We had neither the necessary troops nor the necessary information. As Master Sun says in The Art of War. “Know yourself, know your enemy, and victory will always be yours.”‘ He continued’ ‘But now things are different. I don’t feel comfortable with that little nest of Wang Wu traitors so close to the Capital. So I want you to wipe them out. You can take five thousand men, and a detachment of cavalry. The Wang Wu people are between one and two thousand strong, and that includes a large number of women and children, and old folk. Don’t believe the exaggerated reports of their numbers. I have excellent information on this. You should have no trouble. Think about it and report back to me in a couple of days.’

A Small Favour

韦小宝答应了退下,寻思:“这行军打仗,老子可不大在行。当日水战靠施琅,陆战靠谁才是?有了,我去调广东提督吴六奇来做副手,一切全听他的。这人打仗是把好手。”转念又想:“皇上叫我想好方略,一两天回奏,到广东去请吴六奇,来回最快也得一个月,那可来不及。北京城里,可有甚么打仗的好手?”盘算半晌,北京城里出名的武将倒是不少,但大都是满洲大官,不是已经封公封侯的,就是将军提督,自己小小一个都统,指挥他们不动。他爵位已封到伯爵,在满清职官制度,子爵已是一品,伯爵以上,列入超品,比之大学士、尚书的品秩还高。但那是虚衔,虽然尊贵,却无实权。他小小年纪,想要名臣勇将听命于己,可就不易了。

他在房中踱来踱去寻思,瞧着案上施琅所赠的那只玉碗,心想:“施琅在北京城里不得意,这才来求我。北京城里,不得意的武官该当还有不少哪。但又要不得意,又要有本事,一时之间,未必凑得齐在一起。没本事而飞黄腾达之人,北京城里倒也不少,像我韦小宝,就是一位了,哈哈!”走过去将玉碗捧在手里,心想:“‘加官晋爵’,这四字的口采倒灵,他送我这只玉碗时,我是子爵,现下可升到伯爵啦。我凭了甚么本事加官进爵?最大的本事便是拍马屁,拍得小皇帝舒舒服服,除此之外,老子的本事实在他妈的平常得紧。看来凡事有本事之人,不肯拍马屁,喜欢拍马屁的,便是跟老子差不多。”仰起了头思索,相识的武官之中,有那个是不肯拍马屁的?天地会的英雄豪杰当然不会随便拍人马屁,只是除了师父陈近南和吴六奇之外,大家只会内功外功,不会带兵打仗。

师父的部将林兴珠是会打仗的,可惜回去了台湾。突然之间,想起了一件事:那日他带同施琅等人前赴天津,转去塘沽出海,水师总兵黄甫对自己奉承周到,天津卫有一个大胡子武官,却对自己皱眉扁嘴,一副瞧不起的模样,一句马屁也不肯拍。这家伙是谁哪?他当时没记住这军官的名字,这时候自然更加想不起来,心中只想:“拍马屁的,就没本事。这大胡子不肯拍马屁,一定有本事。”当下有了主意,即到兵部尚书衙门去找尚书明珠,请他尽快将天津卫将一名大胡子车官调来北京,这大胡子的军阶不高也不低,不是副将,就是参将。

明珠觉得这件事有些奇怪,这大胡子无名无姓,如何调法?但韦小宝眼前是皇帝最得宠之人,莫说只不过去天津调一个武官,就是再难十倍的题目出下来,也得想法子交差,当即含笑答应,亲笔写了一道六百里加急文书给天津卫总兵,命他将麾下所有的大胡子军官,一齐调来北京,赴部进见。次日中午时分,韦小宝刚吃完中饭,亲兵来报,兵部尚书大人求见。韦小宝迎出大门,只见明珠身后跟着二十来个大胡子军官,有的黑胡子,有的白胡子,有的花白胡子,个个尘沙被面,大汗淋漓。明珠笑道:“韦爵爷,你吩咐调的人,兄弟给你找来了一批,请你挑选,不知哪一个合式。”韦小宝忽然间见到这么一大群大胡子军官,一怔之下,不由得哈哈大笑,说道:“尚书大人,我只请你找一个大胡子,你办事可真周到,一找就找了二十来个,哈哈,哈哈。”

明珠笑道:“就怕传错了人,不中韦爵爷的意啊。”韦小宝又是哈哈大笑,说道:“天津卫总兵麾下,原来有这么许多个大胡子……”话未说完,人丛中突然有人暴雷也似的喝道:“大胡子便怎样?你没的拿人来开玩笑!”韦小宝和明珠都吃了一惊,齐向那人瞧去,只见他身材魁梧,站在众军官之中,比旁人都高了半个头,满脸怒色,一丛大胡子似乎一根根都翘了起来。韦小宝一怔,随即喜道:“对了,对了,正是老兄,我便是要找你。”那大胡子怒道:“上次你来到天津,我言语中冲撞了你,早知你定要报复出气。哼,我没犯罪,要硬加我甚么罪名,只怕也不容易。”明珠斥道:“你叫甚么名字?怎地在上官面前如此无礼?”

那大胡子适才到兵部衙门、已参见过明珠,他是该管的大上司,可也不敢胡乱顶撞,便躬身道:“回大人:卑职天津副将赵良栋。”明珠道:“这位韦都统官高爵尊,为人宽仁,是本部的好朋友,你怎地得罪他了?快快上前陪罪。”赵良栋心头一口气难下,悻悻然斜睨韦小宝,心想:“你这乳臭未干的黄口小子,我为甚么向你陪罪?”韦小宝笑道:“赵大哥莫怪,是兄弟得罪了你,该当兄弟向你陪罪。”转过头来,向着众军官说:“兄弟有一件要事,要跟赵副将商议,一时记不起他的尊姓大名,以致兵部大人邀了各位一齐到北京来,累得各位连夜赶路,实在对不起得很。”说着连连拱手。众军官忙即还礼。赵良栋见他言语谦和,倒是大出意料之外,心头火气,也登时消了,便即向韦小宝说道:“小将得罪。”躬身行礼。韦小宝拱拱手,笑道:“不用客气。”转身向明珠道:“大人光临,请到里面坐,兄弟敬酒道谢。天津卫的朋友们,也都请进去。”明珠有心要和他结纳,欣然入内。

韦小宝大张筵席,请明珠坐了首席,请赵良栋坐次席,自己在主位相陪,其余的天津武将另行坐了三桌。伯爵府的酒席自是十分丰盛,酒过三巡,做戏的在筵前演唱起来。这次进京的天津众武将,有的只不过是个小小把总,只因天生了一把大胡子,居然在伯爵府中与兵部尚书、伯爵大人一起喝酒听戏,当真是做梦也想不到的意外奇逢。赵良栋脾气虽然倔强,为人却也精细,见韦小宝在席上不提商议何事,也不出言相询,只是听着韦小宝说些罗刹国的奇风异俗,心想:“小孩子胡说八道,那有男人女人在大庭广众之间搂抱了跳啊跳的,天下怎会有如此不识羞耻之事?”

明珠喝了几杯酒,听了一出戏,便起身告辞。韦小宝送出大门,回进大厅,陪着众军官看完了戏,吃饱了酒饭,这才请赵良栋到内书房详谈。赵良栋见书架上摆满了一套套书籍,不禁肃然起敬:“这小孩儿年纪虽小,学问倒是好的,这可比我们粗胚高明了。”韦小宝见他眼望书籍,笑道:“赵大哥,不瞒你说,这些书本子都是拿来摆样子的。兄弟识得的字,加起来凑不满十个。我自己的名字‘韦小宝’三字,连在一起总算是识得的,分了开来,就靠不大住。除此之外,就只好对书本子他妈的干瞪眼了。”

赵良栋哈哈大笑,心头又是一松,觉得这小都统性子倒很直爽,不搭架子,说道:“韦大人,卑职先前言语冒犯,你别见怪,”韦小宝笑道:“见甚么怪啊。你我不妨兄弟相称,你年纪大,我叫你赵大哥,你就叫我韦兄弟。”赵良栋忙站起来请安,说道:“都统大人可别说这等话,那太也折杀小人了。”韦小宝笑道:“请坐,请坐。我不过运气好,碰巧做了几件让皇上称心满意的事,你还道我真有甚么狗屁本事么?我做这个官,实在惭愧得紧,那及得上赵大哥一刀一枪,功劳苦劳,完全是凭真本事干起来的。”赵良栋听得心头大悦,说道:“韦大人,我是粗人,你有甚么事,尽管吩咐下来,只要小将做得到的,一定拚命给你去干。就算当真做不到,我也给你拚命去干。”

韦小宝大喜,说道:“我也没甚么事,只是上次在天津卫见到赵大哥,见你相貌堂堂,一表人才,我是钦差大臣,人人都来拍我马屁,偏生赵大哥就不卖帐。”赵良栋神色有些尴尬,说道:“小将是粗鲁武人,不善奉承上司,倒不是有意对钦差大臣无礼。”韦小宝道:“我没见怪,否则的话,也不会找你来了。我心中有个道理,凡是没本事的,只好靠拍马屁去升官发财;不肯拍马屁的,一定是有本事之人。”赵良栋喜道:“韦大人这几句话说得真爽快极了。小将本事是没有,可是听到人家吹牛拍马,心中就是有气。得罪了上司,跟同僚吵架,升不了官,都是为了这个牛脾气。”韦小宝道:“你不肯拍马屁,一定是有本事的。”赵良栋裂开了大嘴,不知说甚么话才好,真觉“生我者父母,知我者韦大人”也。

韦小宝吩咐在书房中开了酒席,两人对酌闲谈。赵良栋说起自己身世,是陕西省人氏,行伍出身,打仗时勇往直前,积功而升到副将,韦小宝听说他善于打仗,心头甚喜,暗想:“我果然没看错了人。”当下问起带兵进攻一座山头的法子。赵良栋不读兵书,但久经战阵,经历极富,听韦小宝问起,只道是考较自己本事。当下滔滔不绝的说了起来:说得兴起,将书架上的四书五经一部部搬将下来,布成山峰、山谷、河流、道路之形,打仗时何处埋伏、何处佯攻、何处拦截、何处冲击,一一细加解释。他说的是双方兵力相等的战法。韦小宝问道:“如果敌人只有一千人,咱们却有五千兵马,要怎么进攻,便能必胜?”赵良栋道:“打仗必胜,那是没有的。不过我们兵力多了敌人几倍,如果是由小将来带,倘若再打输了,那还算是人么?总要将敌人尽数生擒活捉,一个也不漏网才好。”

韦小宝命家丁去取了几千文铜钱来,当作兵马。赵良栋便布起阵来。韦小宝将他的话记在心中,当晚留他在府中歇宿。次日去见康熙,依样葫芦,便在上书房中布起阵来。韦小宝不敢胡乱搬动皇帝的书籍,大致粗具规模,也就是了。康熙沉思半晌,问道:“这法子是谁教你的?”韦小宝也不隐瞒,将赵良栋之事说了。康熙听说明珠连夜召了二十几名大胡子军官,从天津赶来,供他挑选,不由得哈哈大笑,问道:“你又怎知赵良栋有本事?”

韦小宝可不敢说由于这大胡子不拍马屁,自己是马屁大王,这秘诀决不能让皇帝知道,便道:“上次皇上派奴才去天津,我见这大胡子带的兵操得很好,心想总有一日要对吴三桂用兵,这大胡子倒是个人才。”康熙点点头道:“你念念不忘对付吴三桂,那就好得很。朝里那些老头子啊,哼,念念不忘就是怎样讨好吴三桂,向他索取贿赂。那赵良栋现今是副将,是不是?你回头答应他,一力保荐他升官,我特旨升他为总兵,让他承你的情,以后尽心帮你办事。”韦小宝喜道:“皇上体贴臣下,当真无微不至。”他回到伯爵府,跟赵良栋说了。过得数日,兵部果然发下凭状,升赵良栋为总兵,听由都统韦小宝调遣。赵良栋自是感激不尽,心想跟着这位少年上司,不用拍马屁而升官甚快,实是人生第一大乐事。这些日子,朝中大臣等待三藩是奉旨撤藩、还是起兵造反的讯息,心下都惶惶不安。

这日韦小宝正和赵良栋在府中谈论,有人求见,却是额驸吴应熊请去府中小酌。那请客的亲随说道:“额驸很久没见韦大人,很是牵挂,务请韦大人赏光。额驸说,谢媒酒还没请您老人家喝过呢。”韦小宝心想:“这驸马爷有名无实,谢甚么媒?不过说到这个‘谢’字,你们姓吴的总不能请我喝一杯酒就此了事,不妨过去瞧瞧,顺手发财,有何不可。”当下带了赵良栋和骁骑营亲兵,来到额驸府中。吴应熊与建宁公主成婚后,在北京已有赐第,与先前暂居时的局面又自不同,吴应熊带着几名军官,出大门迎接,说道:“韦大人,咱们是自己兄弟,今日大家叙叙,也没外客。刚从云南来了几位朋友,正好请他们陪赵总兵喝酒。”几名军官通名引进,一个留着长须、形貌威重的是云南提督张勇;另外两个都是副将,神情悍勇的名叫王进宝,温和恭敬的名叫孙思克。韦小宝拉着王进宝的手,说道:“王大哥,你是宝,我也是宝,不过你是大宝,我是小宝。咱哥儿俩‘宝一对’,有杀没赔。”云南三将都哈哈大笑起来,见韦小宝性子随和,均感欣喜。韦小宝对张勇道:“张大哥,上次兄弟到云南,怎么没见到你们三位啊?”张勇道:“那时候王爷恰好派小将三人出去巡边,没能在昆明侍候韦大人。”韦小宝道:“唉,甚么大人、小将的,大家爽爽快快,我叫你张大哥,你叫我韦兄弟,咱们这叫做‘哥俩好,喜相逢’!”张勇笑道:“韦大人这般说,我们可怎么敢当?”几个人说笑着走进厅去,刚坐定,家人献上茶来,另一名家丁过来向吴应熊道:“公主请额驸陪着韦大人进去见见。”
Having agreed to Kang Xi’s ‘additional assignment’, Trinket proceeded to make ready for the expedition, and selected a lieutenant’colonel by the name of Zhao Liangdong as second in command of his force.While all the necessary preparations were taking place, Trinket received an invitation from Wu Yingxiong, the Little Traitor, Satrap Wu’s unfortunately mutilated son, whose marriage with the spirited Princess Ning had by now been technically ‘celebrated’. Wu wished to ‘thank’ Lord Wei formally for having served as a go’between in his marriage. The couple were now living in a large princely mansion in the Capital, and Trinket made his way there, unable to resist the thought of the substantial new inflow of gifts that must be in the offing.Young Wu came out to greet him at the main gate, accompanied by several members of his staff. Wu introduced his men to Trinket, and they all sat around in the Prince’s reception hall for a while making perfunctory conversation. One of his serving’men came in to announce that the Princess would be pleased if her husband were to bring Lord Wei in to see her.

韦小宝心中怦的一跳,心想:“这位公主可不大好见。”想到昔日和她同去云南,一路上风光旖旎,有如新婚夫妇一般,不由得热血上涌,脸上红了起来。吴应熊笑道:“公主常说,咱们的姻缘是韦大人撮成的,非好好敬一杯谢媒酒不可。”说着站起身来,向张勇等笑道:“各位宽坐。”陪着韦小宝走进内堂。经过两处厅堂,来到一间厢房,吴应熊反手带上了房门,脸色郑重,说道:“韦大人,这一件事,非请你帮个大忙不可。”
Trinket blushed fiercely. He was completely taken aback by this unexpected development, remembering only too clearly the passionate relationship he’d had with Young Wu’s tempestuous bride, and their frequent bouts of torrid love’making on the long journey down to Yunnan. This might prove to be a tricky encounter. But Wu insisted, and excusing himself from the other company, led the way through towards her private quarters.They had not yet reached their destination, and were passing through a side’room, when Wu suddenly closed the door behind him and looked at Trinket with a very serious expression.’Lord Wei,’ he began, ‘I have a very special favour to ask of you.’

韦小宝脸上又是一红,心想:“你给公主阉了,做不来丈夫,要我帮这大忙吗?”嗫嗫嚅嚅的道:“这个……这个……有些不大好意思罢。”吴应熊一愕,说道:“若不是韦大人仗义援手,解这急难,别人谁也没此能耐。”韦小宝神色更是扭怩,心想:“定是公主逼他来求我的,否则为甚么非要我帮手不可,别人就不行?”吴应熊见韦小宝神色有异,只道他不肯援手,说道:“这件事情,我也明白十分难办,事成之后,父王和兄弟一定不会忘了韦大人给我们的好处。”韦小宝心想:“为甚么连吴三桂也要感激我?啊,是了,吴三桂定是没孙子,要我帮他生一个。是不是能生孙子,那可拿不准啊。”说道:“驸马爷,这件事是没把握的。王爷跟你谢在前头,要是办不成,岂不是对不起人?”吴应熊道:“不打紧,不打紧。韦大人只要尽了力,我父子一样承情,就是公主,也是感激不尽。”韦小宝笑道:“你要我卖力,那是一定的。”随即正色道:“不论成与不成,我一定守口如瓶,王爷与额驸倒可放一百二十个心。”吴应熊道:“这个自然,谁还敢泄漏了风声?总得请韦大人鼎力,越快办成越好。”韦小宝微笑道:“也不争在这一时三刻罢?”突然想起:“啊哟,不对!我帮他生个儿子倒不打紧,他父子俩要造反,不免满门抄斩。那时岂不是连我的儿子也一刀斩了?”随即又想:“小皇帝不会连建宁公主也杀了,公主的儿子,自然也网开这么两面三面。”
Trinket blushed again, thinking to himself’ ‘Sorry mate, just because she sliced your thing off and you can’t perform your duties as a husband, that doesn’t mean to say that yours truly can step into the breach (so to speak)’ there’s really nothing I can do to help you . . .’ What he actually managed to say was’ ‘I’m not sure . . . It’s really rather tricky . . .’ ‘Look’ replied Wu, ‘do this for me, and Father will be indebted to you for ever!’ Trinket looked a trifle nonplussed. ‘What’s your old dad got to do with this?’ he was thinking. ‘Oh, I see, the old boy wants grandchildren, and you can’t oblige. That figures.’ ‘And it will make the Princess so happy!’ Wu blurted out. ‘Hrn’ reflected Trinket. ‘If I know anything about her, I’d say that was more than likely.’ ‘You’re the only person I can turn to!’ Wu’s plea was sounding more and more urgent. ‘I know it’s a dashed difficult thing to ask of anyone-‘ ‘A trifle unusual perhaps,’ was the extent of Trinket’s silent agreement. ‘I wouldn’t say difficult exacdy. I think I know more or less what’s involved.’ Then a major drawback occurred to him’ if he did go ahead with Young Wu’s request and father the Princess’ children, later on, when it came to exterminating the Satrap’s entire family (which was now official Imperial policy), this would have to include Trinket’s own children, the fruit of his own loins (and all that kind of thing). Then again, he could probably persuade the Emperor to make an exception in the case of die Princess, who was in fact part of his Imperial family too. Perhaps die thing was do’able after all. Memories of pleasant hours spent wrestling in bed with the tomboy Princess came drifting back.

吴应熊见他脸色阴晴不定,走近一步,低声道:“削藩的事,消息还没传到云南,张提督他们是不知道的。韦大人若能赶着在皇上跟前进言,收回削藩的成命,六百里加急文书赶去云南,准能将削藩的上谕截回来。”韦小宝一愕,问道:“你……你说的是削藩的事?”吴应熊道:“是啊,眼前大事,还有大得过削藩的?皇上对韦大人,可说得是言听计从,只有韦大人出马,才能挽狂澜于既倒。”韦小宝心想:“原来我全然会错了意,真是好笑。”忍不住哈哈大笑。
Young Wu was studying Trinket’s face’ he could not decipher what was going on in his mind. He stepped forward nervously and whispered in his ear’ This whole business about His Majesty accepting my fadier’s resignation-and the new Imperial Edict-hasn’t reached Yunnan yet. There’s still time I know you can do it! You’re the only one the Emperor listens to. Speak to him! Make him change his mind, I beg you! Persuade him to send an express messenger and cancel the whole thing-and I promise you, you’ll not regret it! I’ll make it worth your while . . .’ Trinket stared at him in utter astonishment. ‘You mean that’s it!’ was all he could say. ‘Why, yes! It’s the only thing that matters right now! You’re our only hope.’ ‘What a scream!’ Trinket was thinking. ‘I was on completely the wrong track.’ He suddenly burst out laughing.

吴应熊愕然道:“韦大人为甚么发笑,是我的话说错了么?”韦小宝忙道:“不是,不是。对不住,我忽然想起了另一件事好笑。”吴应熊脸上微有愠色,暗暗切齿:“眼前且由得你猖狂,等父王举起义旗,一路势如破竹的打到北京,拿住了你这小子,瞧我不把你千刀万剐才怪。”韦小宝道:“驸马爷,明儿一早,我便去叩见皇上,说道吴额驸是皇上的妹夫,平西王是皇上的尊亲,就算不再加官晋爵,总不能削了尊亲的爵位,这可对不起公主哪。”吴应熊喜道:“是,是。韦大人脑筋动得快,一时三刻之间,就想了大条道理出来,一切拜托。咱们这就见公主去。”他带领韦小宝,来到公主房外求见。
Wu seemed very put out. ‘Please tell me what the joke is, Lord Wei. Have I said something wrong?’ ‘Oh no, not at all’ returned Trinket casually. ‘I suddenly thought of something funny that had absolutely nothing to do with what you were talking about.’ Wu looked more than a little crestfallen. ‘Go on’ he muttered bitterly to himself, ‘make a fool of me now! Crow for all you’re worth! But when my father gets started and mows down everything between Yunnan and Peking, I’ll have you thrown into chains, you dirty rat, and sliced into little pieces like you deserve!’ ‘Your Highness’ said Trinket, ‘be assured, first thing tomorrow I will raise this matter with His Majesty.’ ‘I should be most obliged’ said Wu, and led the way on.

You Little Monster!

公主房中出来一位宫女,吩咐韦小宝在房侧的花厅中等候。过不多时,公主便来到厅中,大声喝道:“小桂子,你隔了这么多时候也不来见我,你想死了?快给我滚过来!”韦小宝笑着请了个安,笑道:“公主万福金安。小桂子天天记挂着公主,只是皇上派我出差,一直去到罗刹国,还是这几天刚回来的。”公主眼圈儿一红,道:“你天天记着我?见你的鬼了,我……我……”说着泪水便扑簌簌的掉了下来。韦小宝见公主玉容清减,神色憔悴,料想她与吴应熊婚后,定是郁郁寡欢,心想:“吴应熊这小子是个太监,嫁给太监做老婆,自然没甚么快活。”眼见公主这般情况,想起昔日之情,不由得心生怜惜,说道:“公主记挂皇上,皇上也很记挂公主,说道过得几天,要接公主进宫,叙叙兄妹之情。”这是他假传圣旨,康熙可没说过这话。
A maid emerged from the Princess’ chamber, and asked Trinket and Young Wu to come forward and wait in a side’room. A few minutes later, there she was, her brash, loud, inimitable self.’So! Where has my little Laurie been all this time’ Come here at once!’Trinket dropped politely to one knee, and greeted her pleasantly.’I missed you so much, Princess. But His Majesty sent me on a long mission, all the way to Russia in fact, and I have only just returned.”Missed me so much, did you’ Pooh!’Her eyes were already red; now they produced a great flood of tears.The Princess looked haggard and drawn. Married life was clearly taking its toll on her. Poor girl, Trinket reflected, stuck with her eunuch of a husband. He suddenly found himself feeling very sorry for her. He rose to his feet. ‘His Majesty misses you a great deal’ he began, rather feebly. ‘In fact, he’s planning to invite you to the Palace in a few days, for a reunion.’ (He made a mental note that he’d better remember to let Kang Xi know of this when he next saw him.)

建宁公主这几个月来住在额驸府中,气闷无比,听了韦小宝这句话,登时大喜,问道:“甚么时候?你跟皇帝哥哥说,明天我就去瞧他。”韦小宝道:“好啊!额驸有一件事,吩咐我明天面奏皇上,我便奏请皇上接公主进宫便是。”吴应熊也很喜欢,说道:“有公主帮着说话,皇上是更加不会驳回的了。”公主小嘴一撇,说道:“哼,我只跟皇帝哥哥说家常话,可不帮你说甚么国家大事。”吴应熊陪笑道:“好罢,你爱说甚么,就说甚么。”公主慢慢站起来,笑道:“小桂子,这么久没见你,你可长高了。听说你在罗刹国有个鬼姑娘相好,是不是啊?”韦小宝笑道:“哪有这回事?”突然之间,拍的一声响,脸上已热辣辣的吃了公主一记耳光。韦小宝叫道:“啊哟!”跳了起来。公主笑道:“你说话不尽不实,跟我也胆敢撒谎?”提起手来,又是一掌。韦小宝侧头避过,这一掌没打着。公主对吴应熊道:“我有事要审问小桂子,你不必在这里听着了。”
The Princess brightened up the minute she heard this. She stood up. ‘Laurie, I’ve not seen you for absolutely ages! How you’ve grown! They tell me you had a lover in Russia. Did you?’ Trinket laughed. ‘Of course n-‘ Before he could finish, he felt his cheek stinging. The Princess was back in form, and had given him a sharp slap in the face. He let out a cry and jumped in the air. ‘How dare you lie to me?’ cried the Princess. She was all poised for a second slap. But Trinket succeeded in side’stepping this one. The Princess turned to her husband, who was still there lurking in the background. ‘I want to see Laurie in private. Go on, get out.’

吴应熊微笑道:“好,我陪外面的武官们喝酒去。”心想眼睁睁的瞧着韦小宝挨打,他面子上可不大好看,当下退出花厅。公主一伸手,扭住韦小宝的耳朵,喝道:“死小鬼,你忘了我啦。”说着重重一扭。韦小宝痛得大叫,忙道:“没有,没有!我这可不是瞧你来了吗?”公主飞腿在他小腹上踢了一脚,骂道:“没良心的,瞧我不剐了你?若不是我叫你来,你再过三年也不会来瞧我。”韦小宝见厅上无人,伸手搂住了她,低声道:“别动手动脚的,明儿我跟你在皇宫里叙叙。”
Wu smiled sheepishly and took his leave, only too relieved not to have to witness his wife humiliating the Imperial favourite. As soon as he was out of the room, the Princess took hold of Trinket’s ear and gave it a nasty little tweak. ‘You little monster! You forgot all about me, didn’t you!’ She carried on tweaking, harder and harder. Trinket howled with pain. ‘No! It’s the truth! I’ve come specially to see you-‘ The Princess landed him a vicious kick in the groin. ‘You good’for’nothing!’ she cried. ‘I’ve a good mind to hack you into pieces! You’d never have come to see me if I hadn’t sent for you-not in ten years, and you know it!’ Trinket took a quick look round to make sure there was no one else in the room. Then he wrapped his arms around the Princess, and gave her a quick cuddle. ‘Stop making such a scene!’ he whispered in her ear. ‘Wait till we have a moment together in the Palace. We can “chat” properly then.’

公主脸上一红,道:“叙甚么?叙你这小鬼头!”伸手在他额头卜的一下,打了个爆栗。韦小宝抱着她的双手紧了一紧,说道:“我使一招‘双龙抢珠’!”公主啐了他一口,挣扎了开去。韦小宝道:“咱们如在这里亲热,只怕驸马爷起疑,明儿在宫里见。”公主双颊红晕,说道:“他疑心甚么?”媚眼如丝,横了他一眼,似笑非笑的道:“小鬼头儿,快滚你的罢!”
She flushed. ‘Chat about what? About your Russian doll?!’ She gave him a sharp poke on the forehead. Trinket took both her hands in his’ ‘I think I’ll try a move on you,’ he said. Two Dragons Wrestling for the Pearl.’ She spat in his face, and struggled free. ‘If we do anything here,’ said Trinket, ‘I’m afraid your Princely Lord and Master might get suspicious … Seriously, let’s keep it for when we meet in the Palace.’ The Princess blushed fiercely. ‘Do what here’ What is there he could possibly get suspicious about?’ She gave him one of her crafty, irresistible, seductive glances, and then said, half laughing’ ‘Go on! Out of my sight, you little monster!’

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