The Deer And The Cauldron 40

0
146

The Deer And The Cauldron 40
第四十回 待兔只疑株可守 求鱼方悔木难缘

Charges of Treason

洪夫人所乘轿子刚抬走,韦小宝正要转身入内,门口来了一顶大轿,扬州府知府来拜。韦小宝眼见到手的美人一个个离去,心情奇劣,没好气的问道:“你来干甚么?”知府吴之荣请安行礼,说道:“卑职有机密军情禀告大人。”韦小宝听到“机密军情”四字,这才让他入内,心道:“倘若不是机密大事,我打你的屁股。”来到内书房,韦小宝自行坐下,也不让座,便问:“甚么机密军情?”吴之荣道:“请大人屏退左右。”韦小宝挥手命亲兵出去。吴之荣走到他身前,低声道:“钦差大人,这件事非同小可,大人奏了上去,是件了不起的大功。卑职也叨光大人的福荫。因此卑职心想,还是别先禀告抚台、藩台两位大人为是。”韦小宝皱眉道:“甚么大事,这样要紧?”吴之荣道:“回大人:皇上福气大,大人福气大,才教卑职打听到了这个大消息。”韦小宝哼了一声,道:“你吴大人福气也大。”吴之荣道:“不敢,不敢。卑职受皇上恩典,钦差大人的提拔,日日夜夜只在想如何报答大恩。昨日在禅智寺外陪着大人赏过芍药之后,想到大人的谈论风采,心中佩服仰慕得了不得,只盼能天天跟着大人当差,时时刻刻得到大人的指教。”韦小宝道:“那很好啊。你这知府也不用做了。我瞧你聪明伶俐,不如……不如……嗯……”吴之荣大喜,忙请个安,道:“谢大人栽培。”韦小宝微笑道:“不如来给我做看门的门房,要不然就给我抬轿子。我天天出门,你就可见到我了,哈哈,哈哈!”吴之荣大怒,脸色微变,随即陪笑道:“那好极了。给大人做门房,自然是胜于在扬州做知府。卑职平时派了不少闲人,到处打探消息,倘若有人心怀叛逆,诽谤皇上,诬蔑大臣,卑职立刻就知道了。这等妖言惑众、扰乱听闻的大罪,卑职向来是严加惩处的。”韦小宝“唔”了一声,心想这人话风一转,轻轻就把门房、轿伕的事一句带过,深通做官之道,很了不起。吴之荣又道:“倘若是贩夫走卒,市井小人,胡言乱语几句也无大害,最须提防的是读书人。这种人做诗写文章,往往拿些古时候的事来讥刺朝政,平常人看了,往往想不到他们借古讽今的恶毒用意。”韦小宝道:“别人看了不懂,就没甚么害处啊。”吴之荣道:“是,是。虽然如此,终究其心可诛,这等大逆不道的诗文,是万万不能让其流毒天下的。”从袖中取出一个手抄本,双手呈上,说道:“大人请看,这是卑职昨天得到的一部诗集。”
No sooner had Madame Hong’s sedan chair disappeared from view, than another chair arrived at the gate of the Ho Garden, bearing the Prefect of Yangzhou, Wu Zhirong. Trinket was too down in the dumps at the departure of several of his favourite women to appreciate this visit.’ What have you come for?’ he enquired, somewhat brusquely.’I have a piece of particularly confidential military information I should like to share with Your Excellency’ replied the ever’smarmy Wu.Somewhat reluctantly Trinket led Wu into his study, where Wu insisted that they be alone. Trinket dismissed his various guards. ‘Well, what is this all about?’ After an enormous amount of humming and hawing, and endless references to the huge honour he had of serving the Emperor (not to mention his Envoy) in his humble capacity as Prefect, Wu finally came to the point. With a highly conspiratorial expression, he produced from within his gown a manuscript, and presented it with both hands to Trinket. ‘This, Excellency, is a manuscript collection of poems I chanced upon yesterday. Please be so good as to glance through it.’

倘若他袖中取出来的是一叠银票,韦小宝立刻会改颜相向,见到是一本册子,已颇为失望,待听得是诗集,登时便长长打了个呵欠,也不伸手去接,抬起了头,毫不理睬。吴之荣颇为尴尬,双手捧着诗集,慢慢缩回,说道:“昨天酒席之间,有个女子唱了首新诗,是描写扬州乡下女子的,大人听了很不乐意。卑职便去调了这人的诗集来查察,发觉其中果然有不少大逆犯忌的句子。”
Now if he had produced a few silver ingots, Trinket might have reacted with a broad smile. That was just the sort of thing he needed to bring him out of his current bout of depression. But poetry! He yawned, and pretended to ignore it altogether. Wu was most put out. He withdrew the manuscript. ‘You may recall, Excellency, that at last night’s banquet there was a lady who sang a song about the peasant girls of the Yangzhou region, with words by one of our younger local poetic celebrities, a certain Mr Zha Shenxing’ You were not very taken with it, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I took the liberty of leafing through some of the other works of this Mr Zha. And I am afraid to say I found certain passages of his, certain turns of phrase, which could be considered most objectionable-‘

韦小宝懒洋洋的道:“是吗?”吴之荣翻开册子,指着一首诗道:“大人请看,这首诗题目叫做《洪武铜炮歌》。这查慎行所写的,是前朝朱元璋用过的一尊铜炮。”韦小宝一听,倒有了些兴致,问道:“朱元璋也开过大炮吗?”吴之荣道:“是,是。眼下我大清圣天子在位,这姓查的却去做诗歌颂朱元璋的铜炮,不是教大家怀念前朝吗?这诗夸大朱元璋的威风,已是不该,最后四句说道:‘我来见汝荆棘中,并与江山作凭吊。金狄摩挲总泪流,有情争忍长登眺?’这人心怀异志,那是再也明白不过了。我大清奉天承运,驱除朱明,众百姓欢欣鼓舞还来不及,这人却为何见了朱元璋的一尊大炮,就要凭吊江山?要流眼泪?”(按:查慎行早期诗作,颇有怀念前明者,后来为康熙文学侍从之臣,诗风有变。)韦小宝道:“这铜炮在哪里?我倒想去瞧瞧。还能放么?皇上是最喜欢大炮的。”吴之荣道:“据诗中说,这铜炮是在荆州。”韦小宝脸一板,说道:“既不在扬州,你来罗唆甚么?你做的是扬州知府,又不是荆州知府,几时等你做了荆州知县,再去查考这铜炮罢。”吴之荣大吃一惊,心想去做荆州知县,那是降级贬官了,此事不可再提。当即将诗集收入袖中,另行取出两部书来,说道:“钦差大人,这查慎行的诗只略有不妥之处,大人恩典,不加查究。这两部书,却万万不能置之不理了。”韦小宝皱眉道:“那又是甚么家伙了?”吴之荣道:“一部是查伊璜所作的《国寿录》,其中文字全都是赞扬反清叛逆的。一部是顾炎武的诗集,更是无君无上、无法无天之至。”韦小宝暗吃一惊:“顾炎武先生和我师父都是杀乌龟同盟的总军师。他的书怎会落在这官儿手中?不知其中有没提到我们天地会?”问道:“书里写了甚么?你详细说来。”
‘Really’ Did you now?’ Trinket commented, with a singular lack of enthusiasm. Wu went on to point out places in Zha’s verse (a reference, for example, to the bronze cannon used by the founder of the Ming, Zhu Yuanzhang) where the poet seemed to be expressing a certain nostalgia for the defeated Ming dynasty. But Trinket resolutely refused to take the point, and led the conversation instead into a quite unconnected discussion of the technical virtues and defects of Ming cannon as compared with those currently used by the Manchus. Wu gave up on the poems of Zha Shenxing, and tried a couple of other books instead. This time, he assured Trinket, the works contained unquestionable examples of heinous treason. The two books in question were by the renowned Ming Loyalist scholars Zha Yihuang and Gu Yanwu. Trinket knew that Gu Yanwu was indeed an important figure in the Anti’Manchu Resistance, and a close associate of his own Master, the Triad Helmsman Chen Jinnan. How had a book of his come into the hands of this oily witch’hunting mandarin’ Might there be references in it that were dangerous for the Triads’ His curiosity had finally been aroused. ‘What sort of thing do you mean?’ he asked Wu.

吴之荣见韦小宝突感关注,登时精神大振,翻开《国寿录》来,说道:“回大人:这部书把反清的叛逆都说成是忠臣义士。这篇《兵部主事赠监察御史查子传》,写的是他堂兄弟查美继抗拒我大清的逆事,说他如何勾结叛徒,和王师为敌。”右手食指指着文字,读道:“‘会四月十七日,清兵攻袁花集,退经通袁。美继监凌、扬、周、王诸义师,船五百号,众五千余人,皆白裹其头,午余竞发,追及之,斩前百余级,称大捷,敌畏,登岸走。’大人你瞧,他把叛徒称为‘义师’,却称我大清王师为‘敌’,岂非该死之至吗?”韦小宝问道:“顾炎武的书里又写甚么了?”吴之荣放下《国寿录》,拿起顾炎武的诗集,摇头道:“这人作的诗,没一首不是谋反叛逆的言语。这一首题目就叫做《羌胡》,那明明是诽谤我大清。”他手指诗句,读了下去:“我国金瓯本无缺,乱之初生自夷孽。征兵以建州,加饷以建州。土司一反西蜀忧,妖民一唱山东愁,以至神州半流贼,谁其嚆矢由夷酋。四入郊圻躏齐鲁,破邑屠城不可数。刳腹绝肠,折颈折颐,以泽量尸。幸而得囚,去乃为夷,夷口呀呀,凿齿锯牙。建蚩旗,乘莽车。视千城之流血,拥艳女兮如花。呜呼,夷德之残如此,而谓天欲与之国家……”韦小宝摇手道:“不用念了,咦咦呀呀,不知说些甚么东西。”吴之荣道:“回大人:这首诗,说咱们满洲人是蛮夷,说明朝为了跟建州的满洲人打仗,这才征兵加饷,弄得天下大乱。又说咱们满洲人屠城杀人,剖肚子,斩肠子,强抢美女。”韦小宝道:“原来如此。强抢美女,那好得很啊。清兵打破扬州,不是杀了很多百姓吗?若不是为了这件事,皇上怎会豁免扬州三年钱粮?嗯,这个顾炎武,做的诗倒也老实。”吴之荣大吃一惊,暗想:“你小小年纪,太也不知轻重。这些话幸好是你说的,倘若出于旁人之口,我奏告了上去,你头上这顶纱帽还戴得牢么?”但他知韦小宝深得皇帝宠幸,怎有胆子去跟钦差大人作对?连说了几个“是”字,陪笑道:

“大人果然高见,卑职茅塞顿开。这一首《井中心史歌》,还得请大人指点。这首诗头上有一篇长序,真是狂悖之至。”捧起册子,摇头晃脑的读了起来:“崇祯十一年冬,苏州府城中承天寺以久旱浚井,得一函,其外曰《大宋铁函经》,锢之再重。(大人,那是说井里找到了一只铁盒子。韦小宝道:“铁盒子?里面有金银宝贝吗?”)中有书一卷,名曰《心史》,称‘大宋孤臣郑思肖百拜封’。思肖,号所南,宋之遗民,有闻于志乘者。其藏书之日为德祐九年。宋已亡矣,而犹日夜望陈丞相、张少保统海外之兵,以复大宋三百年之土宇(大人,文章中说的是宋朝,其实是影射大清,顾炎武盼望台湾郑逆统率海外叛兵,来恢复明朝的土宇。)而驱胡元于漠北,至于痛哭流涕,而祷之天地,盟之大神,谓气化转移,必有一日变夷为夏者。(大人,他骂我们满清人是鞑子,要驱逐我们出去。韦小宝道:“你是满洲人么?”这个……这个……卑职做大清皇上的奴才,做满洲大人的属下,那是一心一意为满洲打算的了。)“于是郡中之人见者无不稽首惊诧,而巡抚都院张公国维刻之以传,又为所南立祠堂,藏其函祠中。未几而遭国难,一如德祐末年之事。呜呼,悲矣!(大人,大清兵进关,吊民伐罪,这顾炎武却说是国难,又说呜呼悲矣,这人的用心,还堪问吗?)“其书传至北方者少,而变故之后,又多讳而不出,不见此书者三十余年,而今复睹之于富平朱氏。昔此书初出,太仓守钱君肃赋诗二章,昆山归生庄和之八章。及浙东之陷,张公走归东阳。赴池中死。钱君遁之海外,卒于琅琦山。归生更名祚明,为人尤慷慨激烈,亦终穷饿以没。(大人,这三个反逆,都是不臣服我大清的乱民,幸亏死得早,否则一个个都非满门抄斩不可。)

“独余不才,浮沉于世,悲年远之日往,值禁网之愈密,(大人,他说朝廷查禁逆乱文字,越来越厉害,可是这家伙偏偏胆上生毛,竟然不怕)而见贤思齐,独立不惧,将发挥其事,以示为人臣处变之则焉,故作此歌。”韦小宝听得呵欠连连,只是要知道顾炎武的书中写些甚么,耐着性子听了下去,终于听他读完了一段长序,问道:“完了吗?”吴之荣道:“下面是诗了。”韦小宝道:“若是没甚么要紧的,就不用读了。”吴之荣道:“要紧得很,要紧得很。”读道:“有宋遗臣郑思肖,痛哭胡元移九庙,独力难将汉鼎扶,孤忠欲向湘累吊。著书一卷称《心史》,万古此心心此理。千寻幽井置铁函,百拜丹心今未死,胡虏从来无百年,得逢圣祖再开天……(大人,这句‘胡虏从来无百年’,真是大大该死。他咒诅我大清享国不会过一百年,说汉人会出一个甚么圣祖,再来开天。甚么开天?那就是推翻我大清了!)”

韦小宝道:“我听皇上说过,大清只要善待百姓,那就坐稳了江山,否则空口说甚么千年万年,也是枉然。有一个外国人叫作汤若望,他做钦天监监正,你知道么?”吴之荣道:“是,卑职听见过。”韦小宝道:“这人做了一部历书,推算了二百年。有人告他一状,说大清天下万万年,为甚么只算二百年。当时鳌拜当国,胡涂得紧,居然要杀他的头。幸亏皇上圣明,将鳌拜痛骂了一顿,又将告状的人砍了脑袋,满门抄斩。皇上最不喜欢人家冤枉好人,拿甚么大清一百年天下、二百年天下的鬼话来害人。皇上说,真正的好官,一定爱惜百姓,好好给朝廷当差办事。至于诬告旁人,老是在诗啊文章啊里面挑岔子,这叫做鸡蛋里寻骨头,那就是大花脸奸臣,吩咐我见到这种家伙,立刻绑起来砍他妈的。”
Delighted to have finally provoked some interest, Wu hastened to explain how the two men had fomented rebellious sentiments in their writings, illustrating his argument with copious and lengthy quotations, laboriously explained. To the extent that he understood any of the quotations, Trinket dismissed Wu’s whole case as ‘searching for bones in a chicken’s egg’, and said that this kind of witch’hunt was just the sort of futile occupation that his friend the Emperor would be the first to denounce. Indeed, he insinuated, it might get Wu himself into serious trouble. What mattered to His Majesty (Trinket reiterated) was that loyal officials, and men of letters generally, should care about the people’s welfare, and do the right thing by them. Not this sort of textual hoo’ha.

韦小宝一意回护顾炎武,生怕吴之荣在自己这里告不通,又去向别的官儿出首,闹出事来,越说越是声色俱厉,要吓得吴之荣从此不敢再提此事。他可不知吴之荣所以做到知府,全是为了举告浙江湖州庄廷鑨所修的《明史》中使用明朝正朔,又有对清朝不敬的词句。挑起文字狱以干求功名富贵,原是此人的拿手好戏。这次吴之荣找到顾炎武、查伊璜等人诗文中的把柄,喜不自胜,以为天赐福禄,又可连升三级,那知钦差大人竟会说出这番话来。他零时之间,全身冷汗直淋,心想:“我那桩《明史》案子,是警拜大人亲手经办的。鳌拜大人给皇上革职重处,看来皇上的性子确是和鳌拜大人完全不同,这一次可真糟糕之极了。”康熙如何擒拿鳌拜,说来不大光彩,众大臣揣摩上意,官场中极少有人谈及,吴之荣官卑职小,又在外地州县居官,不知他生平唯一的知音鳌拜大人,便是死于眼前这位韦大人之手,否则的话,更加要魂飞魄散了。
Trinket’s aim was to strike fear into the heart of Wu Zhirong, and thereby discourage him from pursuing this matter any further and endangering the lives of such worthy men as Gu Yanwu. What Trinket did not know at the time was that it was precisely this sort of pernicious denunciation of others that had made Wu’s career- since he had first managed to denounce the poor Zhuang family of Huzhou, in the Ming History affair, a case which eventually led to the execution of every male in the entire Zhuang family. With this new material he had raked up, Wu had been counting on a promotion of at least three ranks. He was greatly disheartened by Trinket’s initial reaction. What he for his part did not know was that the young official in front of him, the Emperor’s current favourite, had been largely responsible for the demise of Oboi, the very Manchu strongman who before his downfall had been so helpful to Wu in the Zhuang affair. If Wu had known this, he would have trembled in his boots.

韦小宝见他面如土色,簌簌发抖,心中暗喜,问道:“读完了吗?”吴之荣道:“这首诗,还……还……还有一半。”韦小宝道:“下面怎么说?”吴之荣战战兢兢的读道:“黄河已清人不待,沉沉水府留光彩。忽见奇书出世间,又惊胡骑满江山。天知世道将反复,故出此书示臣鹄。三十余年再见之,同心同调复同时。陆公已向厓门死,信国捐躯赴燕市。昔日吟诗吊古人,幽篁落木愁山鬼。呜呼,蒲黄之辈何其多!所南见此当如何?”他读得上气不接下气,也不敢插言解说了,好容易读完,书页上已滴满了汗水。韦小宝笑道:“这诗也没有甚么,讲的是甚么山鬼,甚么黄脸婆,倒也有趣。”吴之荣道:“回大人:诗中的‘蒲黄’两字,是指宋朝投降元朝做大官的蒲寿庚和黄万石,那是讥刺汉人做大清官吏的。”韦小宝脸一沉,厉声道:“我说黄脸婆,就是黄脸婆。你老婆的脸很黄么?为甚么有人做诗取笑黄脸婆,要你看不过?”吴之荣退了一步,双手发抖,拍的一声,诗集落地,说道:“是,是。卑职该死。”韦小宝乘机发作,喝道:“好大的胆子!我恭诵皇上圣谕,开导于你。你小小的官儿,竟敢对我摔东西,发脾气!你瞧不起皇上圣谕,那不是造反么?”咕咚一声,吴之荣双膝跪地,连连磕头,说道:“大……大人饶命,饶……饶了小人的胡涂。”韦小宝冷笑道:“你向我摔东西,发脾气,那也罢了,最多不过是个侮慢钦差的罪名,重则杀头,轻则充军,那倒是小事……”吴之荣一听比充军杀头还有更厉害的,越加磕头如捣蒜,说道:“大人宽宏大量,小……小……小的知罪了。”韦小宝喝道:“你瞧不起皇上的圣谕,那还了得?你家中老婆、小姨、儿子、女儿、丈母、姑母、丫头、姘头,一古脑儿都拉出去砍了。”
Trinket was glad to see Wu looking disheartened.’Finished then?’ he enquired.Far from it. Wu insisted on going on, and recited another long passage from the Poetic Works of Gu Yanwu, following it up with another lengthy politico’literary exegesis. Trinket finally lost his temper.’This is outrageous! I was sent here by his Imperial Majesty’s personal command to read out an Edict written in his own Imperial Hand, and instead of your listening respectfully to me, I end up having to listen to you, babbling on for ever about some trifle or other. If that isn’t treason, what is’ This is most certainly a matter for His Majesty’s ears. Probably a sentence of death, I wouldn’t be surprised, for yourself, and for all your family and household, your wives, children, maids, everyone!’

吴之荣全身筛糠般发抖,牙齿相击,格格作声,再也说不出话来。韦小宝见吓得他够了,喝问:“那顾炎武在甚么地方?”吴之荣颤声道:“回……回大人……他……他……他是在……”牙齿咬破了舌头,话也说不清楚了,过了好一会,才战战兢兢的道:“卑职大胆,将顾炎武和那姓查的,还……还有一个姓吕的,都……都扣押在府衙门里。”韦小宝道:“你拷问过没有?他们说了些甚么?”吴荣之道:“卑职只是随便问几句口供,他三人甚么也不肯招。”韦小宝道:“他们当真甚么也没说?”吴之荣道:“没……没有。只不过……只不过在那姓查的身边,搜出了一封书信,却是干系很大。大人请看。”从身边摸出一个布包,打了开来,里面是一封信,双手呈上。韦小宝不接,问道:“又是些甚么诗、甚么文章了?”吴之荣道:“不,不是。这是广东提督吴……吴六奇写的。”
Wu threw himself distractedly on the ground and began performing an interminable series of abject kowtows. He pounded his head on the ground with such energy he looked as if he was crushing a big shiny clove of garlic. ‘Excellency! Have mercy!’ He was trembling like a leaf. His teeth were chattering so much he could not get another word out. ‘Well,’ said Trinket, taking a certain delight in Wu’s obvious terror, ‘and what has become of these two gentlemen?’ Hard as he tried to pull himself together (at one point he actually bit through his own tongue, he was so nervous), it was several minutes before Wu could bring himself to utter the necessary words in response to this question’ ‘Excellency … I … I have the two gentlemen in custody, along with a certain Mister Lti.’ ‘And I suppose you have interrogated them’ What did they say?’ ‘Oh, I just asked one or two casual questions. They said nothing. They denied everything.’ They really said nothing?’ ‘Nothing, Excellency. The only seriously incriminating thing was this document, a letter found on Mister Zha’s person.’ He took the offending letter from a bag, and handed it to Trinket. Trinket refused to take it, but simply asked’ ‘What does it say’ Another one of your poems or essays?’ ‘No, sir! It is written by the Military Governor of Guangdong Province, General Wu Liuqi.’

注:顾炎武之诗,原刻本有许多隐语,以诗韵韵目作为代字,如以“虞”代“胡”,以“支”代“夷”等,以免犯忌,后人不易索解。潘重规先生著《亭林诗考索》,详加解明。本文所引系据潘著考订。

韦小宝听到“广东提督吴六奇”七个字,吃了一惊,忙问:“吴六奇?他也会做诗?”吴之荣道:“不是。吴六奇密谋造反,这封信是铁证如山,他再也抵赖不了。卑职刚才说的机密军情,大功一件,就是这件事。”韦小宝唔了一声,心下暗叫:“糟糕!”吴之荣又道:“回大人:读书人做诗写文章,有些叛逆的言语,大人英断,说是不打紧的,卑职十分佩服。常言道得好:秀才造反,三年不成。料想也不成大患。不过这吴六奇总结一省兵符,他要起兵作乱,朝廷如不先发制人,那……那可不得了。”说到吴六奇造反之事,口齿登时伶俐起来,他一直跪在地下,眼见得韦小宝脸上阴晴不定,显见对此事十分关注,于是慢慢站起身来。韦小宝哼的一声,瞪了他一眼。吴之荣一惊,又即跪倒。韦小宝道:“信里写了些甚么?”吴之荣道:“回大人:信里的文字是十分隐晦的,他说西南即有大事,正是大丈夫建功立业之秋。他邀请这姓查的前赴广东,指点机宜。信中说:‘欲图中山、开平之伟举,非青田先生运筹不为功’。那的的确确是封反信。”韦小宝道:“你又来胡说八道了。西南即有大事,你可知是甚么大事?你小小官儿,哪知道皇上和朝廷的机密决策?”吴之荣道:“是,是。不过他信中明明说要造反,实在轻忽不得。”韦小宝接过信来,抽出信笺,但见笺上写满了核桃大的字,只知道墨磨得很浓,笔划很粗,却一字不识,说道:“信上没说要造反啊。”
Trinket started when he heard that name. Beggar Wu was not only a secret member of the Resistance, he had definite Triad affiliations, as Red Banner Master of the Obedience Lodge of Guangdong Province. ‘What’ Does Wu Liuqi write poetry too?’ ‘No, Excellency. This is a letter from Wu Liuqi, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is plotting rebellion against the Manchu Throne. This was what I was referring to in the first place, when I said that I had a military secret I wanted to share with you.’ Trinket uttered a silent curse. From his silence, Wu Zhirong, who had been kneeling for some time, sensed that this new item of news had impressed Lord Wei and he rose slowly to his feet. Trinket scowled at him, and grunted, and Wu sank to his knees again at once. ‘Well, what does the letter say?’ asked Trinket.’It is very cryptic, Excellency. But there is no doubt that he is inviting Zha to join him in Guangdong for the coming rebellion.’Trinket insisted on seeing the letter. He could not decipher a single character of Wu Liuqi’s bold scrawl, but that did not stop him from declaring with absolute conviction”I see no reference to rebellion here.’

吴之荣道:“回大人:造反的话,当然是不会公然写出来的。这吴六奇要做中山王、开平王,请那姓查的做青田先生,这就是造反了。”韦小宝摇头道:“胡说!做官的人,哪一个不想封王封公?难道你不想么?这吴军门功劳很大,他想再为朝廷立一件大功,盼皇上封他一个王爷,那是忠心得很哪。”吴之荣脸色极是尴尬,心想:“跟你这种不学无术之徒,当真甚么也说不清楚。今日我已得罪了你,如不从这件事上立功,我这前程是再也保不住了。”于是耐着性子,陪笑道:“回大人,明朝有两个大将军,一个叫徐达,一个叫常遇春。”韦小宝从小听说书先生说《大明英烈传》,明朝开国的故事听得滚瓜烂熟,一听他提起徐常二位大将,登时精神一振,全不似听他诵念诗文那般昏昏欲睡,笑道:“这两个大将军八面威风,那是厉害得很的。你可知徐达用甚么兵器?常遇春又用甚么兵器?”这一下可考倒了吴之荣,他因《明史》一案飞黄腾达,于明朝史事甚是熟稔,但徐达、常遇春用甚么兵器,却说不上来,陪笑道:“卑职才疏学浅,委实不知。请大人指点。”

韦小宝十分得意,微笑道:“你们只会读死书,这种事情就不知道了。我跟你说,徐大将军是宋朝岳飞岳爷爷转世,使一杆浑铁点钢枪,腰间带一十八枝狼牙箭,百步穿杨,箭无虚发。常将军是三国时燕人张翼德转世,使一根丈八蛇矛,有万夫不当之勇。”跟着说起徐常二将大破元兵的事迹。这些故事都是从说书先生口中听来,自是荒唐的多,真实的少。吴之荣跪在地下听他说故事,膝盖越来越是酸痛,为了讨他欢喜,只得装作听得津津有味,连声赞叹,好容易听他说了个段落,才道:“大人博闻强记,卑职好生佩服。那徐达、常遇春二人功劳很大,死了之后,朱元璋封他二人为王,一个是中山王,一个是开平王。朱元璋有个军师……”韦小宝道:“对了。那军师是刘伯温,上知天文,下知地理,前知三千年,后知一千年。”跟着滔滔不绝的述说,刘伯温如何有通天彻地之能,鬼神莫测之机,打仗时及如何甚么甚么之中,甚么千里之外。

吴之荣双腿麻木,再也忍耐不住,一交坐倒,陪笑道:“大人说故事实在好听,卑职听得出了神。大人恩典,卑职想站起来听,不知可否?”韦小宝一笑,道:“好,起来罢。”吴之荣扶着椅子,慢慢站起,说道:“回大人:吴六奇信里的青田先生,就是刘基刘伯温了,那刘伯温是浙江青田人。吴六奇自己想做徐达、常遇春,要那姓查的做刘伯温。”韦小宝道:“想做徐达、常遇春,那好得很啊。那姓查的想做刘伯温,哼,他未必有这般本事。你道刘伯温很容易做吗?刘伯温的《烧饼歌》说:‘手执钢刀九十九,杀尽胡儿方罢手’,嘿,厉害,厉害!”吴之荣道:“大人真是聪明绝顶,一语中的。那徐达、常遇春、刘伯温三人,都是打元兵的,帮着朱元璋赶走了胡人。吴六奇信中这句话,明明是说要起兵造反,想杀满洲人。”

韦小宝吃了一惊,心道:“吴大哥的用意,我难道不知道?用得着你说?这封信果然是极大的把柄,天幸撞在我的手里。”于是连连点头,伸手拍拍他肩膀,说道:“好!运气真好!这件事倘若你不是来跟我说,那就大事不妙了。皇上说我是福将,果然是圣上的金口,再也不错的。”吴之荣肩头给他拍了这几下,登时全身骨头也酥了,只觉自出娘胎以来,从未有过如此荣耀,不由得感激涕零,呜咽道:“大人如此眷爱,此恩此德,卑职就是粉身碎骨,也难以报答。大人是福将,卑职跟着你,做个福兵福卒,做只福犬福马,那也是光宗耀祖的事。”韦小宝哈哈大笑,提起手来,摸摸他脑袋,笑道:“很好,很好!”吴之荣身材高,见他伸手摸自己的头不大方便,忙低下头来,让他摸到自己头顶。先前韦小宝大发脾气,吴之荣跪下磕头,已除下了帽子,韦小宝手掌按在他剃得光滑的头皮上,慢慢向后抚去,便如是抚摸一头摇尾乞怜的狗子一般,手掌摸到他的后脑,心道:“我也不要你粉身碎骨,只须在这里砍上他妈的一刀。”问道:“这件事情,除你之外,还有旁人得知么?”吴之荣道:“没有,没有。卑职知道事关重大,决不敢泄露半点风声,倘若给吴六奇这反贼知道逆谋已经败露,立即起事,大人和卑职就半点功劳也没有了。”韦小宝道:“对,你想得挺周到。咱们可要小心,千万别让抚台、藩台他们得知,抢先呈报朝廷,夺了你的大功。”吴之荣心花怒放,接连请安,说道:“是,是。全仗大人维持栽培。”
Wu Zhirong tried to explain to Trinket the ‘treasonous’ innuendo in the letter, by referring to the careers of two famous generals of the Ming. This merely brought on a fit of storytelling from Trinket, a lengthy tactical distraction at the end of which Wu Zhirong (who was still kneeling) had lost all sensation in his knees. He begged leave to stand. Trinket granted him leave, and (realizing the extreme gravity of the situation) decided that now was the time to take steps to win him over. First he patted him jovially on the back, and uttered a few complimentary remarks about his diligence. Wu was ecstatic in his appreciation. Trinket then vaguely raised his hand higher, as if he were planning to give Wu’s head an avuncular pat or two. Wu was a good foot taller than Trinket, and (in his usual sycophantic manner) he now lowered his head to make it easier for Trinket to reach and stroke. Earlier, when he had been on the ground frantically kowtowing, he had removed his hat. The result was that Trinket now ended up gazing at his bald pate, and as he patted it, his hand slid towards the back where Wu’s pigtail stuck out. It was rather like stroking a little dog. And as he reached the back of Wu’s head, Trinket thought to himself’ ‘One slice of a knife and I’d split your tamardy head open!’What he actually said was”Does anyone know anything about this apart from you?”No, Excellency. It seemed imprudent to run the risk of any leak reaching Wu Liuqi, who might thereby be prompted to take precipitate action.’ ‘Very right.’

韦小宝把顾炎武那封信揣入怀里,说道:“这些诗集子,且都留在这里。你悄悄去把顾炎武那几人都带来,我盘问明白之后,就点了兵马,派你押解,送去北京。我亲自拜折,启奏皇上。这一场大功劳,你是第一,我叨光也得个第二。”吴之荣喜不自胜,忙道:“不,不。大人第一,卑职第二。”韦小宝笑道:“你见到皇上之后,说甚么话,待会我再细细教你。只要皇上一喜欢,你做个巡抚、藩台,包在我身上就是。”吴之荣喜欢得几欲晕去,双手将诗集文集放在桌上,咚咚咚的连磕响头,这才辞出。韦小宝生怕中途有变,点了一队骁骑营军士,命一名佐领带了,随同吴之荣去提犯人。
Trinket slipped the letter into his inside pocket.’I should like you to leave those books on my table, and have Gu and the others brought in here. I’ll question them myself first, and then have them sent up to Peking under escort. You can accompany them yourself. I shall write a personal Memorial to His Majesty. You will undoubtedly receive great recognition for this.’ Another series of excited kowtows from Wu, and he left the room.

Doublet seeks Revenge

他回到内堂,差人去传李力世等前来商议。只见双儿走到跟前,突然跪在他面前,呜咽道:“相公,我求你一件事。”韦小宝大为奇怪,忙握住她手,拉了起来,却不放手,柔声道:“好双儿,你是我的命根子,有甚么事,我一定给你办到。”见她脸颊上泪水不断流下,提起左手,用衣袖给她抹眼泪。双儿道:“相公,这件事为难得很,可是我……我不能不求你。”韦小宝左臂搂住她腰,道:“越是为难的事,我给你办到,越显得我宠爱我的好双儿。甚么事,快说。”双儿苍白的脸上微现红晕,低声道:“相公,我……我要杀了刚才那个官儿,你可别生我的气。”韦小宝心想:“这件事咱俩志同道合,你来求我,那是妙之极矣。”问道:“这官儿甚么地方得罪你了?”双儿抽抽噎噎的道:“他没得罪我。这个吴之荣,是我家的大仇人,庄家的老爷、少爷,全是给他害死的。”韦小宝登时省悟,那晚在庄家所见,个个是女子寡妇,屋中又设了许多灵位,原来罪魁祸首便是此人,问道:“你没认错人吗?”
Trinket sent for his Triad Brothers, for an urgent council. As he was awaiting their arrival, Doublet came in to see him. She was sobbing. He hugged her, and begged her to tell him what it was that was troubling her. He would do anything for her. He owed her his very life. Her pale face flushed when she heard these words. ‘Master, don’t be cross with me! It’s that man who just walked out of here! I want to kill him!’ ‘Cross?’ thought Trinket to himself. ‘Why, I was having exactly the same thoughts myself!’ ‘What harm has he done you?’ he enquired gently. Doublet started sobbing again, as she explained the whole thing. ‘It’s not me he has harmed. It’s the Zhuang Family. Old Master Zhuang, Young Master Zhuang-he caused both their deaths. And I owed them everything.’ Trinket remembered now-that night, in the haunted Zhuang mansion. The women he had met on that occasion had all been made widows as the result of Wu’s relentless inquisition into the Ming History. ‘Are you sure it’s the same man?’

双儿泪水又是扑簌簌的流下,呜咽道:“不……不会认错的。那日他……他带了公差衙役来庄家捉人,我年纪还小,不过他那凶恶的模样,我说甚么也不会忘记。”韦小宝心想:“我须当显得十分为难,她才会大大见我的情。”皱起眉头,沉思半晌,踌躇道:“他是朝廷命官,扬州府的知府,皇帝刚好派我到扬州来办事,你如杀了他,只怕我的官也做不成了。刚才他又来跟我说一件大事,你要杀他,恐怕……恐怕……”双儿十分着急,流泪道:“我……我原知道要教相公为难。可是,庄家的老太太,三少奶奶她们……每天在灵位之前磕头,发誓要杀了这姓吴的恶官报仇雪恨。”韦小宝一拍大腿,说道:“好!是我的好双儿求我,就是你要我杀了皇帝,要我自杀,我都依你的,何况一个小小知府?可是你得给我亲个嘴儿。”双儿满脸飞红,又喜又羞,转过了头,低声道:“相公待我这样好,我……我这个人早就是你的了。你……你……”说着低下了头去。韦小宝见她婉娈柔顺,心肠一软,倒不忍就此对她轻薄,笑道:“好,等咱们大功告成,我要亲嘴,你可不许逃走。”双儿红着脸,缓缓点了点头。韦小宝道:“倘若你此刻杀他,这仇报得还是不够痛快。我让你带他去庄家,教他跪在庄家众位老爷、少爷的灵位之前,让三少奶奶她们亲手杀了这狗头,你说可好?”
‘How could I ever forget his evil face’ I was only a young girl at the time, but I still remember that day when he came to my Master’s house with the constables from the Yamen, and began arresting people and taking them away. How many times my Mistress swore she would have revenge, if she ever could!’ Trinket wanted to extract the most out of this situation for himself. He could have simply said, ‘Yes, by all means go ahead and kill the man!’ But no, he must appear to be granting her a special favour, and thereby earn a special favour back from her. And so it was. He made her idea of extracting revenge seem something highly irregular, something he could only allow because it was Doublet, his darling Doublet, who had asked him. For her, he would allow anything, if she would only give him just one little kiss . . . She flushed, hung her head, and turned away. ‘Master, after all this time, surely you know that I’m yours. You hardly have to ask.’ ‘I tell you what,’ said Trinket. ‘It would be far too easy to kill him now. What you must do is take him with you to the Zhuang mansion, and make him kneel down in front of the Spirit Tablets of all those men whose deaths he caused, and then let old Madame Zhuang herself put him to death. Do you agree?’

双儿觉得此事实在太好,只怕未必是真,睁着圆圆的眼睛望着韦小宝,不敢相信,说道:“相公,你不是骗我么?”韦小宝道:“我为甚么骗你?这狗官既是你的仇人,也就是我的仇人了。他要送我一场大富贵,我也毫不希罕。只要小双儿真心对我好,那比世上甚么都强!”双儿心中感激,靠在他的身上,忍不住又哭了出来。韦小宝搂着她柔软的纤腰,心中大乐,寻思:“这等现成人情,每天要做他十个八个,也不嫌多。吴之荣这狗官怎不把阿珂的爹爹也害死了?阿珂倘若也来求我报仇,让我搂搂抱抱,岂不是好?”随即转念:阿珂的爹爹不是李自成,就是吴三桂,怎能让吴之荣害死?
Doublet thought this would be perfect. Almost too perfect, in fact. She wondered if Trinket was tricking her. But he reassured her that the project was as much to his own liking as it was to hers. She stood there by his side, still crying gently. He put his arm round her slender little waist. It was all so touching. If only these moments could happen more often, he mused silently to himself. If only he could give away such favours, and receive such sweet favours in return, more often. Take Green for example. If only Wu Zhirong had been guilty of killing her father too. Then he would have a perfect pretext for having made love to her. . . . There were footsteps at the door, and Trinket snapped out of his absurd reverie. (How could Wu Zhirong possibly have killed Green’s father! Whether you considered her father to be the Satrap or Bash’em Li, in either case the whole idea was utterly ridiculous!)

只听得室外脚步声响,知是李力世等人到来,韦小宝道:“这件事放心好了。现下我有要事跟人商量,你到门外守着,别让人进来,可也别偷听我们说话。”双儿应道:“是。我从来不偷听你说话。”突然拉起韦小宝的右手,俯嘴亲了一下,闪身出门。
It was a delegation of Triad Brothers. Trinket spoke to Doublet’ ‘Don’t you go worrying about any of this. I have to talk to these people now, so you go outside and make sure I am not disturbed. And don’t go eavesdropping either!’ ‘I’ve never done that!’ whispered Doublet. Suddenly she took Trinket’s right hand, raised it to her mouth, and kissed it, ever so sweetly, before dashing out of the room.

Writing a Letter

李力世等天地会群雄来到室中,分别坐下。韦小宝道:“众位哥哥,昨晚我听到一个大消息,事情紧急,来不及跟众位商量,急忙赶到丽春院去。总算运气不坏,虽然闹得一塌胡涂,终于救了顾炎武先生和吴六奇大哥的性命。”群雄大为诧异,韦香主昨晚之事确实太过荒唐。宿娼嫖院,那也罢了,却从妓院里抬了一张大床出来,搬了七个女子招摇过市,乱七八糟,无以复加,原来竟是为了相救顾炎武和吴六奇,那当真想破头也想不到了,当下齐问端详。韦小宝笑道:“咱们在昆明之时,众位哥哥假扮吴三桂的卫士,去妓院喝酒打架。兄弟觉得这计策不错,昨晚依样葫芦,又来一次。”群雄点头,均想:“原来如此。”韦小宝心想若再多说,不免露出马脚,便道:“这中间的详情,也不用细说了。”伸手入怀,摸了吴六奇那封书信出来。
At his meeting with the Triads, Trinket managed to merge two recent events into one, to his own advantage.’Brothers,’ he announced, ‘I have some extremely important news to share with you. Thanks to information gleaned during my undercover mission last night to the Alley of Chiming Jade, I have been able to save the lives of two important members of the Resistance, Banner Lodge Master Wu of Guangdong and the noted scholar Mr Gu Yanwu.’ The Brothers had been more than a little perplexed by their Lodge Master’s undignified antics of the previous night, culminating in the absurd bedstead parade. They were comforted to know that it had all been for a deep hidden purpose. They were going to ask for a few more details about the operation, when Trinket reached into his inner pocket and produced the letter.

钱老本接了过来,摊在桌上,与众同阅,只见信端写的是“伊璜仁兄先生道鉴”,信末署名是“雪中铁丐”四字。大家知道“雪中铁丐”是吴六奇的外号,但“伊璜先生”是谁却都不知。群雄肚里墨水都颇为有限,猜到信中所云“西南将有大事”是指吴三桂将要造反,但甚么“欲图中山、开平之伟业”,甚么“非青田先生运筹不为功”这些典故隐语,却全然不懂,各人面面相觑,静候韦小宝解说。韦小宝笑道:“兄弟肚里胀满了扬州汤包和长鱼面,墨水是半点也没有的。众位哥哥肚里,想必也是老酒多过墨水。顾炎武先生不久就要到来,咱们请他老先生解说便是。”说话之间,亲兵报道有客来访,一个是大喇嘛,一个是蒙古王子。韦小宝请天地会群雄以亲兵身份伴随接见,生怕这两个“结义兄长”翻脸无情,一面又去请阿琪出来。相见之下,桑结和葛尔丹却十分亲热,大赞韦小宝义气深重。待得阿琪欢欢喜喜的出来相见,葛尔丹更是心花怒放,这时阿琪手铐早已除去,重施脂粉,打扮齐整。
Butcher Qian spread the letter out on the table, and perused it with the other Brothers. They were unable to make head or tail of the various learned allusions with which it was littered. Trinket laughed. The trouble with you Triads is, all you stuff yourselves with is Yangzhou dumplings, noodles, and wine-there isn’t a drop of scholar’s ink in your veins! Luckily for you, Mr Gu is on his way here at this very moment, and he can explain it all.’ At that moment, the arrival was announced not of Gu, but of the Mongol Prince Galdan and the Tibetan Lama Sangge. Trinket went out to speak to them in private. They were warm in their appreciation of Trinket’s brotherly concern for their well’being, and Galdan was delighted to be reunited with Blue Girl, whom Trinket had sent for meanwhile. She was now minus handcuffs, and had been able to smarten herself up a bit for the occasion.

韦小宝笑道:“幸好两位哥哥武功盖世,杀退了妖人,否则的话,兄弟小命不保。这批妖人武艺不弱,人数又多。两位哥哥以少胜多,打得他们屁滚尿流,落荒而逃,兄弟佩服之至。咱们来摆庆功宴,庆贺两位哥哥威震天下,大胜而归。”桑结和葛尔丹明明为神龙教所擒,幸得韦小宝释放洪夫人,将他二人换了回来,但在韦小宝说来,倒似是他二人将敌人打得大败亏输一般。桑结脸有惭色,心中暗暗感激。葛尔丹却眉飞色舞,在心上人之前得意洋洋。钦差说一声摆酒,大堂中立即盛设酒筵。韦小宝起身和两位义兄把盏,谀词潮涌,说到后来,连桑结也忘了被擒之辱。只是韦小宝再赞他武功天下第一,桑结却连连摇手,自知比之洪教主,实是远为不及。喝了一会酒,桑结和葛尔丹起身告辞。韦小宝道:“两位哥哥,最好请你们两位各写一道奏章,由兄弟呈上皇帝。将来大哥要做西藏活佛,二哥要做‘整个儿好’,兄弟在皇帝跟前一定大打边鼓。”说到这里,放低了声音,道:“日后吴三桂这老小子起兵造反,两位哥哥帮着皇帝打这老小子,咱们的事,哪有不成功之理?”两人大喜,齐说有理。韦小宝领着二人来到书房。葛尔丹道:“愚兄文墨上不大来得,这道奏章,还是兄弟代写了罢。”韦小宝笑道:“兄弟自己的名字,只有一个‘小’字,写来担保是不会错的,那个‘韦’字就靠不住了。这个‘宝’字,写来写去总有些儿不对头。咱们叫师爷来代写。”桑结道:“这事十分机密,不能让人知道。愚兄文笔也不通顺,对付着写了便是。好在咱们不是考状元,皇上也不来理会文笔好不好,只消意思不错就是了。”他每根手指虽斩去了一节,倒还能写字,于是写了自己的奏章,又代葛尔丹写了,由葛尔丹打了手印,画上花押。三人重申前盟,将来富贵与共,患难相扶,决不负了结义之情。韦小宝命人托出三盘金子,分赠二位义兄和阿琪,备马备轿,恭送出门。回进厅来,亲兵报道吴知府已押解犯人到来。韦小宝吩咐吴之荣在东厅等候,将顾炎武等三人带到内堂,开了手铐,屏退亲兵,只留下天地会群雄,关上了门,躬身行礼,说道:“天地会青木堂香主韦小宝,率同众兄弟参见顾军师和查先生、吕先生。”
Trinket congratulated them on having outclassed the deadly Mystic Dragon kungfu of their adversaries (when in fact he and they knew that they had been taken captive, and only released as part of an exchange-but face was saved), and immediately proposed a banquet to celebrate their safe return. He also suggested to his two friends that they each write a Memorial to the Emperor. That way there would be something to support their future promotions. They agreed to the proposal, and since Sangge was the best educated among them (Galdan could hardly write Chinese, and Trinket was no better) he wrote both Memorials himself. Galdan affixed his personal seal to his. Trinket presented them each (including Blue) with a handsome gift of silver, and saw them on their way. On his return he was informed that Prefect Wu had brought across his three prisoners. He gave instructions for Wu to wait in the eastern side’room, and led Gu Yanwu, Zha Yihuang, and Lii Liuliang into his study. He dismissed his regular guards, bolted the door, and was then alone with the three men and his Triad Brothers. ‘Lodge Master Wei of the Green Wood Lodge is honoured to meet with you three gentlemen.’

那日查伊璜接到吴六奇密函,大喜之下,约了吕留良同到扬州,来寻顾炎武商议,不料吴之荣刚好查到顾炎武的诗集,带了差衙捕快去拿人,将查吕二人一起擒了去。一加抄检,竟在查伊璜身上将吴六奇这通密函抄了出来。三人愧恨欲死,均想自己送了性命倒不打紧,吴六奇这密谋一泄漏,可坏了大事。哪知道奇峰突起,钦差大臣竟然自称是天地会的香主,不由得惊喜交集,如在梦中。当日河间府开杀龟大会,韦小宝并未露面,但李力世,徐天川、玄贞道人、钱老本等人均和顾炎武相识。顾、查、吕三人当年在运河舟中遇险,曾蒙天地会总舵主陈近南相救,待知眼前这个少年钦差便是陈近南的徒弟,当下更无怀疑,欢然叙话。
They stared at him open’mouthed. It took a moment to sink in. The recent affair, which had led to their being arrested by Prefect Wu, had been most unfortunate. What had happened was this’ Zha had received an important letter from his old friend and fellow Loyalist Beggar Wu in Guangdong, a letter that concerned their plans for concerted action in the event of Satrap Wu’s rebellion. Zha had immediately arranged for his two Loyalist friends to make their way to Yangzhou to discuss its contents. Unfortunately the ever vigilant Prefect Wu, in the wake of his intensive reading of Gu’s Poetic Works, had seen fit to ‘investigate’ the two other gentlemen and, in the course of these extended investigations, had discovered the incriminating letter on Zha’s person, and arrested him too. Their concern for their own well’being had been quite eclipsed by their apprehension for General Wu’s safety. He was a key figure in the entire Resistance enterprise. They were dumbfounded (and delighted beyond measure) to learn that the whole affair had been nipped in the bud by none other than Lodge Master Wei, in his undercover role as Special Imperial Envoy to the city of Yangzhou. They had already met several of the Triad Brothers present, and knew that the young Lodge Master was himself a disciple of Helmsman Chen Jinnan, who had personally saved them from their last scrape with the authorities, on board the boat on the Grand Canal.*

查伊璜说了吴六奇信中“中山、开平、青田先生”的典故,天地会群雄这才恍然,连说好险。吕留良叹道:“当年我们三人,还有一位黄梨洲黄兄,得蒙尊师相救,今日不慎惹祸,又得韦兄弟解难。唉,当真是百无一用是书生,贤师徒大恩大德,更是无以为报了。”韦小宝道:“大家是自己人,吕先生又何必客气?”查伊璜道:“扬州府衙门的公差突然破门而入,真如迅雷不及掩耳,我一见情势不对,忙想拿起吴兄这封信来撕毁,却已给公差抓住了手臂,反到背后。只道这场大祸闯得不小,兄弟已打定主意,刑审之时,招供这写信的‘雪中铁丐’就是吴三桂。反正兄弟这条老命是不能保了,好歹要保得吴六奇吴兄的周全。”众人哈哈大笑,都说这计策真妙。查伊璜道:“那也是迫不得已的下策。‘雪中铁丐’名扬天下,只怕拉不到吴三桂的头上。问官倘若调来吴兄的笔迹,一加查对,那是非揭露真相不可。”顾炎武道:“我们两次泄露了吴兄的秘密,两次得救,可见冥冥中自有天意,鞑子气运不长,吴兄大功必成。可是自今以后,这件事再也不能出口,总不成第三次又有这般运气。”众人齐声称是。顾炎武问韦小宝:“韦香主,你看此事如何善后?”韦小宝道:“难得和三位先生相见,便请三位在这里盘桓几日,大家一起喝酒。再把吴之荣这狗官叫来,让他站在旁边瞧着,就此吓死了他。如果狗官胆子大,吓他不死,一刀砍了他狗头便是。”顾炎武笑道:“这法儿虽是出了胸中恶气,只怕泄露风声。这狗官是朝廷命官,韦香主要杀他,总也得有个罪名才是。”韦小宝沉吟片刻,说道:“有了。就请查先生假造一封信,算是吴三桂写给这狗官的。这狗官吹牛,说道依照排行算起来,吴三桂是他族叔甚么的,要是假造书信嫌麻烦,就将吴六奇大哥这封信抄一遍就是了。只消换了上下的名字。不论是谁跟吴三桂勾结,我砍了他的脑袋,小皇帝一定赞成。”

众人一齐称善。顾炎武笑道:“韦香主才思敏捷,这移花接木之计,可说是一箭双雕,即以其人之道,还治其人之身。伊璜兄,就请你大笔一挥罢。”查伊璜笑道:“想不到今日要给吴三桂这老贼做一次记室。”韦小宝以己度人,只道假造一封书信甚难,因此提议原信照抄。但顾、查、吕三人乃当世名士,提笔写信,便如韦小宝掷骰子、赌牌九一般,直是家常便饭,何足道哉?查伊璜提起了笔,正待要写,问道:“不知吴之荣的别字叫作甚么?吴三桂写信给他,如果用他别字,更加显得熟络些。”韦小宝道:“高大哥,请你去问问这狗官。”高彦超出去询问,回来笑道:“这狗官字‘显扬’。他问为甚么问他别字。我说钦差大臣要写信给京里吏部、刑部两位尚书,详细称赞他的功劳,呈报他的官名别字。这狗官笑得嘴也合不拢来,赏了我十两银子。”说着将一锭银子在手中一抛一抛。众人又都大笑。查伊璜一挥而就,交给顾炎武,道:“亭林兄你瞧使得吗?”顾炎武接过,吕留良就着他手中一起看了,都道:“好极,好极。”吕留良笑道:“这句‘岂知我太祖高皇帝首称吴国,竟应三百年后我叔侄之姓氏’,将这个‘吴’字可扣得极死,再也推搪不了。”顾炎武笑道:“这两句‘欲斩白蛇而赋大风,愿吾侄纳圯下之履;思奋濠上而都应天,期吾侄取诚意之爵。’那是从六奇兄这句‘欲图中平、开平之伟业,非青田先生运筹不为功’之中化出来的了。”查伊璜笑道:“依样葫芦,邯郸学步。”

天地会群雄面面相觑,不知他三人说些甚么,只道是甚么帮会暗语,江湖切口。顾炎武于是向众人解说,明太祖朱元璋初起之时自称“吴国公”,后来又称“吴王”,这刚好和吴三桂、吴之荣的姓氏相同;斩白蛇、赋大风是汉高祖刘邦的事,圯下纳履是张良的故事;朱元璋起于濠上而定都应天,爵封诚意伯的就是刘伯温。韦小宝鼓掌道:“这封信写得比吴六奇大哥的还要好,这吴三桂原是想做皇帝。只不过将他比做汉高祖、朱元璋,未免太捧他了。”吕留良笑道:“这是吴三桂自己捧自己,可不是查先生捧他啊。”韦小宝笑道:“对,对!我忘了这是吴三桂自己写的。”查伊璜问道:“下面署甚么名好?”顾炎武道:“这一封信,不论是谁一看,都知道是吴三桂写的,署名越是含糊,越像是真的,就署‘叔西手札’四字好了。”对钱老本道:“钱兄,这四个字请你来写,我们的字有书生气,不像带兵的武人。”钱老本拿起笔来,战战兢兢的写了,歉然道:“这四个字歪歪斜斜的,太不成样子。”顾炎武道:“吴三桂是武人,这信自然是要记室写的。这四个字署名很好,没有章法间架,然而很有力道,像武将的字。”查伊璜在信封上写了“亲呈扬州府家知府老爷亲拆”十二字,封入信笺,交给韦小宝,微笑道:“伪造书信,未免有损阴德,不是正人君子之所为。不过为了兴复大业,也只好不拘小节了。”韦小宝心想:“对付吴之荣这种狗贼,造一封假信打甚么紧?读书人真酸得可笑。”收起书信,说道:“这件事办好之后,咱们来喝酒,给三位先生接风。”顾炎武道:“韦兄弟和六奇兄一文一武,定是明室中兴的柱石,邓高密、郭汾阳也不过如是。若能扳倒了吴三桂这老贼,更是如去鞑子之一臂。韦兄弟这杯酒,待得大功告成之时再喝罢。咱们三人这就告辞,以免在此多耽,走漏风声,坏了大事。”
As they talked the matter over, they came up with a highly ingenious plan whereby they could turn the present situation to their own advantage, and incriminate Prefect Wu. The basic idea was Trinket’s, but the scholars were quick to lend it their support. Gu Yanwu was to write another letter, a fake, this time from the Satrap himself to Prefect Wu (for the three men-the Satrap, the Beggar General, and the Prefect-all shared the same surname), implicating him in the forthcoming rebellion. Gu and Zha were much taken with the idea, and applied their considerable literary talents to the task. ‘I never thought the day would dawn when I should be acting as the Satrap’s scribe!’ joked Zha. For details of this, the reader is directed to the Prologue of the First Book. When the finished product had been approved by all three of them, after a great deal of subtle discussion of epistolary rhetoric (all of which the Triad Brothers found highly mystifying-probably some form of secret language, they concluded), Butcher Qian was asked to sign the Satrap’s actual name at the foot of the letter. The letter itself would quite plausibly have been written by one of the Satrap’s secretaries, but it would look more convincing to have it signed in the hand not of a man of letters but of a plain man of action. Qian obliged, and wrote four extremely wobbly but bold characters-Gu Yanwu assured him that the wobblier and bolder they were, the better. The letter was handed to Trinket. The three gentlemen declined Trinket’s invitation to extend their drinking. Nothing must be done to arouse Prefect Wu’s suspicions. Trinket did not press them, and was in fact somewhat relieved to see them go.

韦小宝心中虽对顾炎武颇为敬重,但这三位名士说话咬文嚼字,每句话都有典故,要听懂一半也不大容易,和他们多谈得一会,便觉周身不自在,听说要走,真是求之不得,心想:“你们三位老先生赌钱是一定不喜欢的,见了妓院里的姑娘只怕要吓得魂不附体。我若是骂一句‘他妈的’,你们非瞪眼珠、吹胡子不可,还是快快的请罢。”于是取出一叠银票,每人分送三千两,以作盘缠,请徐天川和高彦超从后门护送出城。顾、查、吕三人一走,韦小宝全身畅快,心想:“朝廷里那些做文官的,个个也都是读书人,偏是那么有趣。江苏省那些大官,好比马抚台、慕藩台,可也比顾先生、查先生他们好玩。若是交朋友哪,吴之荣这狗头也胜于这三位老先生了。”正想到巡抚、布政司,亲兵来报,巡抚和布政司求见。韦小宝一凛:“难道走漏了风声?”
They were the sort of people he admired, but whose company he found (to use his own expression) a ‘drag’. You just couldn’t have any fun with men like that. If he had suggested a game of cards, they would probably have passed out. With them it was all fancy talk, high’flown verbiage, learned quotations, the sort of thing that totally passed him by, and in fact made him feel thoroughly uncomfortable. The mere sight of one of the sexier girls from Vernal Delights would probably have given them a heart attack. And if he had so much as breathed a single ‘tamardy!’ in their presence, Heaven help him! He gave them each a thousand taels of silver to help them on their way, and instructed Butcher Qian and Apothecary Xu to see them out by a side entrance. They had no sooner left, than the arrival was announced of Governor Ma and the Provincial Treasurer, on urgent business. ‘Yikes!’ thought Trinket. ‘Has word got out already?’

Trinket works Fast

韦小宝出厅相见,见二人脸上神色肃然,心下不禁惴惴。宾主行礼坐下。巡抚马佑从衣袖中取出一件公文,站起身来双手呈上,说道:“钦差大人,出了大事啦。”韦小宝接过公文,交给布政司慕天颜,道:“兄弟不识字,请老兄念念。”慕天颜道:“是。”打开了公文,他早已知道内容,说道:“大人,京里兵部六百里紧急来文,吩咐转告大人,吴三桂这逆贼举兵造反。”韦小宝一听大喜,忍不住跳起身来,叫道:“他妈的,这老小子果然干起来啦。”
Governor Ma and Treasurer Mu sat down with Trinket and exchanged the usual civilities. Ma then informed Trinket that he had come on a matter of the greatest urgency. Trinket swallowed hard, and tried his best not to look too concerned. Ma took an envelope marked Highly Urgent and Confidential from his inner pocket, and handed it to Trinket. Trinket in turn handed it to the Treasurer, and asked him to read its contents, explaining”I’m afraid I can’t read very well.’Treasurer Mu already knew the contents by heart.’Excellency,’ he replied, ‘the letter is from the Board of War in the Capital, informing you that the Satrap has already raised the standard of revolt! The war has begun!’Trinket was hugely relieved (that it had nothing to do with Prefect Wu’s witch’hunt), and quite unable to contain his delight. He jumped up, and waved his arms in the air.’So he’s finally done it! Tamardy! Excellent kungfu!’

马佑和慕天颜面面相觑。钦差大人,一听到吴三桂造反的大消息,竟然大喜若狂,不知是何用意。韦小宝笑道:“皇上神机妙算,早料到这件事了。两位不必惊慌。皇上的兵马、粮草、大炮、火药、饷银、器械,甚么都预备得妥妥当当的。吴三桂这老小子不动手便罢,他这一造反,咱们非把他的陈圆圆捉来不可。”马佑和慕天颜虽听他言语不伦不类,但听说皇上一切有备,倒也放了不少心。吴三桂善于用兵,麾下兵强马壮,一听得他起兵造反,所有做官的都胆战心惊,只怕头上这顶乌纱帽要保不住。韦小宝道:“有一件事倒奇怪得很。”
The two mandarins exchanged perplexed glances. Trinket hastened to reassure them that all was well, and that the Emperor was more than prepared for this eventuality. In fact, given that the Imperial forces were now in such a perfect state of preparation, the sooner the conflict broke out, and Satrap Wu was disposed of (as he surely would be), the better. Hence his own joyful excitement.’By the way, I assume that this news has been classified as Top Secret?’ Trinket said casually.’Most definitely, Excellency’ was Mu’s reply.’Strange . . .’

二人齐道:“请道其详。”韦小宝道:“这个消息,两位是刚才得知吗?”马佑道:“是。卑职一接到兵部公文,即刻知会藩台大人,赶来大人行辕。”韦小宝道:“当真没泄漏?”两人齐道:“这是军国大事,须请大人定夺,卑职万万不敢泄漏。”韦小宝道:“可是扬州府知府却先知道了,岂不是有点儿古怪吗?”马佑和慕天颜对望了一眼,均感诧异。马佑道:“请问大人,不知吴知府怎么说。”韦小宝道:“他刚才鬼鬼祟祟的来跟我说,西南将有大事发生,有人要做朱元璋,他要做刘伯温。劝我识时务,把你们两位扣了起来。我听了不懂,甚么朱元璋、刘伯温,胡说八道,正在骂他,你们两位就来了。”两人大吃一惊,脸色大变。马佑庸庸碌碌,慕天颜却颇有应变之才,低声道:“那吴某如此说,是在劝大人造反。他不要脑袋了。”韦小宝道:“我可不懂他说甚么,要他说得明白些。他老是抛书袋,甚么先发后发。我说老子年纪轻轻,已做了大官,还不算先发吗?”马佑和慕天颜均想:“这吴知府说的,是先发制人,后发制于人。钦差大人没学问,还道是先发达、后发达。”两人老成练达,也不说穿。哪知“先发制人”这句成语,韦小宝从小就听说书先生说过无数遍,这一次却不是没学问,而是装傻。马佑道:“这吴知府好大的胆子!不知他走了没有?”韦小宝道:“他还在这里候着,说要跟我商议大事。哼,他小小知府,有甚么大计跟我商议?打吴三桂的大计,兄弟也只跟两位商议,不会去听他一个小小知府的罗唆。”马佑道:“是,是。可否请大人把吴知府叫出来,让卑职问他几句话?”
‘How so, Lord Wei?”Oh, nothing really. It’s just that Prefect Wu was here just now, and he seemed to know all about it.’Trinket might be no scholar, but his mind worked fast.’How is that possible’ How could he have known?’Trinket proceeded to draw the noose tighter and tighter round Wu’s neck. He told the two mandarins that Wu had actually tried to implicate him in the forthcoming rebellion, offering him substantial rewards. As for Governor Ma and Treasurer Mu (so Wu had implied), they were in the way of his own advancement, and were to be disposed of at the earliest opportunity.’Where is this man!’ cried Mu. ‘Has he left already?”As. a matter of fact he is waiting just outside.”Would you be so kind as to call him in’ I should like to hear him answer one or two questions.’

韦小宝道:“很好!”转头吩咐亲兵:“请吴知府。”吴之荣来到大厅,只见巡抚和布政司在座,不由得又喜又忧,喜的是钦差大臣十分重视自己的密报,竟将抚藩都请了来同一商议,忧的是讯息一泄露,巡抚和布政司不免分了自己的大功,当下上前请安参见,垂手站立。韦小宝笑道:“吴知府请坐。”吴之荣道:“是,是。多谢大人赐座。”屁股沾着一点椅子边儿坐了。韦小宝道:“吴知府,你有一件大事来跟兄弟商议,虽然你再三说道,不可让抚台大人和藩台大人知道,不过这件事十分重大,只好请两位大人一起来谈谈,请你不可见怪。”吴之荣神色十分尴尬,忙起身向韦小宝和抚藩三人请安,陪笑道:“卑职大胆,三位大人明鉴。这个……这个……”要待掩饰几句,但韦小宝已开门见山的说了出来,不论说甚么都是难以掩饰。巡抚和布政司二人的脸色,自然要有多难看便有多难看了。韦小宝微笑道:“吴知府讯息十分灵通,他说西南有一位手提兵马大权的武将,日内就要起兵造反。他这一起兵,可乖乖不得了,天下震动,皇上的龙廷也坐不稳了,说不定咱们的人头都要落地。是不是?”吴之荣道:“是。不过三位大人洪福齐天,那自然逢凶化吉,遇难呈祥,定是百无禁忌的。”韦小宝道:“这是托吴大人的福了。吴大人,这位武将,跟你是同宗,也是姓吴?”吴之荣应道:“是。这是敝宗……”韦小宝抢着道:“你拿到了这武将的一封信,是他亲笔所写,这封信不会是假的罢?”吴之荣道:“千真万确,决计不假。”韦小宝点头道:“这信中虽然没说要起兵造反,不过说到了朱元璋、刘伯温甚么的。兄弟没读过书,不明白信里讲些甚么,吴大人跟兄弟详细解说信里意思,要兄弟立刻动手,甚么先发后发的,说道这是一百年也难遇上的机会,一场大富贵是一定不会脱手的,兄弟可以封王,而吴大人也能封一个伯爵甚么的,是不是?”吴之荣道:“这是卑职的谬见,大人明断,胜于卑职百倍。那封信里写的,的确是这个意思。”
Trinket obliged.Wu came in, and seeing the two others there, assumed that Trinket had summoned them, wanting to bring them in on his little coup, the denunciation of a nest of Loyalist conspirators. What a shame, he thought to himself, that the credit for this would now have to be divided by four, instead of by two! But still, he would have to live with that. He walked forward, and bowed. They told him to be seated, and he perched gingerly on a nearby chair. Trinket managed things with great panache. First he got Prefect Wu to admit that he had just been to see him about ‘a letter from a highly’placed General planning rebellion’, and then, extracting the original letter (from Beggar Wu) from his right sleeve, he brandished it in front of him, saying’ ‘Is this the letter’ Look carefully now. This is very important.’ Prefect Wu glanced at the letter, and immediately recognized it. ‘Yes, that’s definitely the letter.’ Thank you,’ said Trinket, carefully slipping the letter back into his right sleeve. ‘That is all. I should like you to withdraw from the room for a moment now, Prefect Wu,’ said Trinket. ‘I need to discuss this with my colleagues here.’ Governor Ma had with the greatest of difficulty managed to contain himself during this interrogation, out of respect for the Imperial Envoy. But he was fuming with rage at his subordinate the Prefect’s treasonous conduct, and the veins were bulging on his forehead.

韦小宝从右手袖筒里取出吴六奇那封信来,拿到吴之荣面前,身子一侧,遮住了那信,说道:“就是这封信,是不是?你瞧清楚了,事关重大,可不能弄错。”吴之荣道:“是,是。正是这封,那是决计不会错的。”韦小宝道:“很好。”将那信收入右手袖筒,回坐椅上,说道:“吴知府,请你暂且退下,我跟抚台大人、藩台大人两位商议。看来我们三人的功名富贵,要全靠你吴大人了,哈哈。”吴之荣掩不住脸上的得意之情,又向三人请安,道:“全仗三位大人恩典栽培。”侧身慢慢退了下去。韦小宝待他退到门口,问道:“吴知府,你的别字,叫作甚么?”吴之荣道:“不敢。卑职贱名之荣,草字显扬。”韦小宝点点头,道:“这就是了。”马佑和慕天颜二人当韦小宝讯问吴之荣之时,心中都已大怒,只是官场规矩,上官正在说话,下属不敢插口。马佑脾气暴躁,待要申斥,韦小宝已命吴之荣退下,不由得额头青筋突起,满脸胀得通红。韦小宝从左手袖筒中取出查伊璜所写的那封假信,说道:“两位请看看这信。吴之荣这厮说得这信好不厉害,兄弟没读过书,也不知他说的是真是假。”

马佑接过信来,见封皮上写的是“亲呈扬州府家知府老爷亲拆”,抽出信笺,和慕天颜同观,见上款是“显扬吾侄”。两人越看越怒。马佑不等看完全信,已拍案大叫:“这狗头如此大胆,我亲手一刀把他杀了。”慕天颜心细,觉得吴之荣胆敢公然劝上官造反,未免太过不合情理,然而刚才韦小宝当面讯问,对方对答一句句亲耳听见,哪里更有怀疑?昨日在禅智寺前赏芍药,吴之荣亲口说过吴三桂是他族叔,看来吴之荣料定吴三桂造反必成,得意忘形,行事便肆无忌惮起来。韦小宝道:“这封书信,当真是吴三桂写给他的?”马佑道:“这狗头自己说是千真万确。”韦小宝道:“信里长篇大论,到底写些甚么,烦二位解给兄弟听听。”慕天颜于是一句句解释,甚么“斩白蛇而赋大风”、“纳圯下之履”、甚么“奋濠上而都应天”、“取诚意之爵”等典故,一一说明。马佑道:“单是‘我太祖高皇帝首称吴国’这一句,就要叫他灭族。”慕天颜点头道:“吴逆起事,听说正是以甚么朱三太子号召,说要规复明室。”

正议论间,忽报京中御前侍卫到来传宣圣旨。韦小宝和马佑、慕天颜跪下接旨,却是康熙宣召韦小宝急速进京,至于敕建扬州忠烈祠之事,交由江苏省布政同办理。韦小宝大喜,心想:“小皇帝打吴三桂,如果派我当大元帅,那可威风得紧。”马佑、慕天颜听上谕中颇有奖勉之语,当即道贺,恭喜他加官晋爵。韦小宝道:“兄弟明日就得回京,叩见皇上之时,自会称赞二位是大大的好官。只不过二位的官做得到底如何好法,说来惭愧,兄弟实在不大明白,只好请二位说来听听。”抚藩二人大喜,拱手称谢。慕天颜便夸赞巡抚的政绩,他揣摩康熙的性情,尽拣马佑如何勤政爱民、宣教德化的事来说,其中九成倒是假的。只听得马佑笑得嘴也合不拢来。接着慕天颜也说了几件自己得意的政绩,虽然言辞简略,却都是十分实在的功劳。韦小宝道:“这些兄弟都记下了。咱们还得再加上一件大功劳。吴逆造反,皇上痛恨之极,这吴之荣要作内应,想叫江苏全省文武百官一齐造反,幸亏给咱们三人查了出来。这一奏报上去,封赏是走不去的。兄弟明日就要动身回京,就请二位写一道奏章罢。”抚藩二人齐道:“这是韦大人的大功,卑职不敢掠美。”韦小宝道:“不用客气,算是咱们三人一齐立的功劳好了。”慕天颜又道:“总督麻大人回去了江宁,钦差大臣回奏圣上之时,最好也请给麻大人说几句好话。”韦小宝道:“很好。说好话又不用本钱。”马佑、慕天颜又再称谢,这才辞出。
Trinket now extracted the other letter, the one which Zha and friends had fabricated, from his left sleeve, and handed it to Ma and Mu. It was perfect. Wu was finished. Ma opened the envelope, and read the letter. The brazen, treacherous dog! I should like to slay him with my own sword this very minute!’ Even as they were digesting the contents of the faked letter (Trinket made a point of asking Treasurer Mu to explain every last nuance), the arrival was announced of a Palace Guard from the Capital, bearing a special Imperial Edict for Lord Wei. The three of them knelt at once to receive the Imperial instructions, which were that Imperial Envoy Wei was to return at once to the Capital, and leave the details of the construction of the Yangzhou Martyrs’ Memorial in the hands of the Provincial Treasurer. Trinket promised to put in a good word for them both at Court. As for the case of Prefect Wu, he asked them to write a joint Memorial to the Throne, which he would personally present to the Emperor. They insisted that such a Memorial should also praise the role played by their superior, Viceroy Malji, in Nanking. Trinket readily agreed.

韦小宝吩咐徐天川等将吴之荣绑了起来,口中塞了麻核,叫他有口难言。吴之荣心中的惊惧和诧异,自是再也无法形容了。次日一早,扬州城里的文武官员便一个个排着班等在厅中,候钦差大人接见。每个人自均有一份重礼。在扬州做官,那是天下最丰裕的缺份,每个官员也不想升官,只盼钦差大人回到北京说几句好话,自己的职位能多做得几年,那就心满意足了。总督昨日也已得到讯息,连夜赶到扬州,他和巡抚送的程仪自然更重。扬州一府豁免三年钱粮,经手之人自有回扣,韦小宝虽然来不及亲办,藩台早将他应得回扣备妥奉上。韦小宝随身带来的武将亲随,也都得了丰厚礼金。马佑已写了奏摺,请韦小宝面奏,奏章中将韦小宝如何明查暗访、亲入险地、这才破获吴三桂、吴之荣的密谋等情,大大夸张了一番,而总督、巡抚、布政司三人从旁襄助,也不无功劳。慕天颜又道:“皇上对吴逆用兵,可惜卑职是文官,没本事上阵杀贼。卑职已秉承总督大人、抚台大人的意思,十天之内,派人押解一批粮饷送去湖南,听由皇上使用。”韦小宝喜道:“大军未发,粮草先行。三位想得周到,皇上一定十分欢喜。”
When Ma and Mu had taken their leave, Trinket gave Butcher Qian and the other Triads instructions to tie up Wu Zhirong, and gag him. The Prefect’s utter shock and terror when they did this can v’ell be imagined. The following morning, the entire Yangzhou. mandarinate lined up outside Trinket’s Temporary Residence to say farewell to the Imperial Envoy (and of course to load him with presents, in the hope that he would speak for them in Peking). Even the Viceroy came hurrying down from Nanking to be there. Treasurer Mu had written the Memorial, in the course of which he praised Lord Wei to the skies for his role in uncovering the treasonous intentions of Yangzhou’s Prefect (and needless to say did not forget to give a substantial portion of the credit to the Viceroy, the Governor, and himself).

Spring Fragrance the Sceptic

众官辞出后,韦小宝派亲兵去丽春院接来母亲,换了便服,和母亲相见。韦春芳不知儿子做了大官,只道是赌钱作弊,赢了一笔大钱,听他说要接自己去北京享福,当即摇头,说道:“赢来的银子,今天左手来,明天右手去。我到了北京,你却又把钱输了个干净,说不定把老娘卖入窑子。老娘要做生意,还是在扬州的好。北京地方,那些弯舌头的官话老娘也说不来。”
When all the mandarins and official callers had left, Trinket sent one of his guards to Vernal Delights, to fetch his mother and bring her to the Ho Garden, while he himself changed into less formal clothes.Spring Fragrance still had no idea that her son really had become a big shot. She thought he’d probably made all that cash at cards. Now, when she saw with her own eyes who he really was, and when he told her he wanted to take her with him to Peking, to enjoy the good life, she simply shook her head.’You never know what will happen up there. Maybe you’ll lose all your money again, and then you’ll have to sell me into one of those northern brothels. Who knows’ If I’m going to have to do that kind of work, I’d rather it was here in Yangzhou. At least here I can understand what people are saying. I’ve never been able to follow that terrible Peking accent.’

韦小宝笑道:“妈,你放一百二十个心。到了北京,你有丫头老妈子服侍,甚么事也不用做。我的银子永远输不完的。”韦春芳不住摇头,道:“甚么事也不做,闷也闷死我了。丫头老妈子服侍,老娘没这个福份,没的三天就翘了辫子。”韦小宝知道母亲脾气,心想整天坐在大院子里纳闷,确也毫无味道,拿出一叠银票,共五万两银子,说道:“妈,这笔银子给你。你去将丽春院买了来,自己做老板娘罢。我看还可再买三间院子,咱们开丽春院、丽夏院、丽秋院、丽冬院,春夏秋冬,一年四季发财。”
‘Please mum, you need never ever worry, I promise. In Peking you can have all the maids you want, and I swear, we’ll never run out of money. Ever.’She just kept on shaking her head.’I’d only get bored, with nothing to do.’Trinket could see she had made her mind up. It was no use bullying her. He took out a big wad of notes-at least fifty thousand taels there must have been.’Mum, this is for you. I want you to go back and buy Vernal Delights. You can do that now. You can be the Madame from now on. In fact you’ve got enough there to buy another three whole whore’houses as well, and then we can set up a chain. We’ll call them the Four Seasons’ Vernal Delights, Summer Delights, Autumn Delights, and Winter Delights. We’ll have money rolling in all year round.’ Spring Fragrance was more modest in her ambitions (and more sceptical in her approach to life).

韦春芳却胸无大志,笑道:“我去叫人瞧瞧,也不知银票是真的还是假的,倘若当真兑得银子,老娘小小的弄间院子,也很开心了。要开大院子,等你长大了,自己来做老板罢。”低声问道:“小宝,你这大笔钱,可不是偷来抢来的罢?”韦小宝从袋里摸出四粒骰子,叫道:“满堂红!”一把掷在桌上,果真四粒骰子都是四点向天。韦春芳大喜,这才放心,笑道:“小王八蛋学会了这手本事,那是输不穷你啦。”
‘The first thing I’m going to do is ask someone to check these notes and see if they’re genuine,’ she said. ‘If they are, then I might just start up a little place of my own. Nothing too grand. When you’re grown up, you can come and help me run it.’ Then sotto voce’ ‘Trink, tell me truthfully, did you steal the money?’ Just to humour her, Trinket produced a set of dice from his pocket. ‘Full House Red!’ he called, and threw the dice. Sure enough they were red, every one of them, four red pips staring up at the ceiling. Now that was something his mum could understand. ‘Why, you little turtle-egg! So that’s how you did it!’

Previous articleThe Deer And The Cauldron 41
Next articleThe Deer And The Cauldron 4
Discover the wonders of China through studying abroad - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand your horizons, immerse yourself in a rich and diverse culture, and gain a world-class education.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here