The Story of the Stone – CHAPTER 102

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CHAPTER 102

Illness descends upon the Jia family
in Ning-guo House
And charms and holy water are used
to exoricze Prospect Garden

Bao-chai went immediately to Lady Wang’s apartment.
‘As you know, Tan-chun is getting married,’ began Lady Wang, when Bao-chai had paid her respects. ‘You and Li Wan must have a word with her before she leaves, and try to cheer her up. She is your own cousin after all. She’s such a sensible girl, and I know how well the two of you get along together. I understand that Bao-yu was most upset and started crying when he heard the news. You must talk him round too.
‘I’ve been too poorly recently to be able to do much myself, and Feng spends half her days laid up in bed. You’re a clever girl. From now on you’re going to have to accept a greater share of the family responsibilities. Don’t feel you must hold back all the time for fear of causing offence. In time the weight of this entire household will rest on your shoulders.’
‘Yes, Mother.’
Lady Wang continued:
‘There’s another thing. Feng came here with Cook Liu’s daughter yesterday and said she wanted her to fill the vacancy in your apartment.’
‘Yes, Mother. Patience brought her over to start today,’ said Bao-?chai. ‘She said that you and Cousin Feng were in agreement about it.’
‘Yes. As a matter of fact it was Feng’s idea. I decided it was not worth making an issue of it and going against her wishes. But I feel I should warn you all the same, the girl doesn’t look altogether reliable to me. She could make trouble. A while ago I had one or two of Bao?yu’s more flirtatious maids dismissed- I’m sure you knew about the affair; it led to your going home to live with your mother. Now that you and Bao-yu are married, things are different of course. But I still feel I ought to mention it, so that you can keep an eye on her. Remember, Aroma is the only dependable maid in your apartment.’
‘Yes, Mother.’
Bao-chai stayed a little longer and then left. After dinner she visited Tan-chun and talked with her at some length, offering what comfort and advice she could. We need not describe their conversa?tion in any detail.
The next day was Tan-chun’s day of departure and she came once more to bid a final farewell to Bao-yu. He found the parting a painful one, as was only to be expected. But when she spoke to him calmly and philosophically of her ‘obligations in life’, although at first he hung his head in silence, in the end he began to look a little more cheerful. Tan-chun was relieved that he seemed able to view her future in a less tragic and more enlightened manner; and after saying goodbye to the rest of the family, she climbed into her sedan and set off on the long journey that would take her by land and water to the South.

*

Prospect Garden, once home to such a distinguished little society of young ladies, had since the death of the Imperial Concubine been left to fall into gradual ruin. With Bao-yu’s marriage, Dai-yu’s death and the departure of Xiang-yun and Bao-qin, the number of residents was already sadly depleted. Then, when the cold weather set in, Li Wan, her cousins Li Qi and Li Wen, Xi-chun and Tan-chun had all moved out to their previous abodes and had only ever gathered together in the Garden to enjoy themselves on particularly fine days or moonlit nights. With Tan-chun no longer at home and Bao-yu still convalescing and confined indoors, there was scarcely anyone left to enjoy the Garden’s delights. It became a desolate place, its paths frequented only by the handful of caretakers whom duty still obliged to live there.
On the day of Tan-chun’s departure, You-shi had come across to Rong-guo House to see her off. It was getting late by the time she left for home, and she decided to save herself the trouble of taking a carriage by returning through the Garden, using the side gate that communicated with Ning-guo House. As she walked through the grounds she was forcibly struck by the aura of desolation that pervaded the place. The buildings were unchanged, but she noticed that a strip of land along the inside of the Garden wall had already been converted into some sort of vegetable plot. A deep sense of melancholy oppressed her spirit. When she reached home she immed?iately developed a fever, and though she fought it off for a couple of days eventually she had to retire to bed. During the daytime the fever was not unduly severe, but at night it became almost insup?portable and she grew delirious and started babbling to herself. Cousin Zhen sent for a doctor at once, who pronounced that she had caught a chill, which had developed complications and had entered into the yang-ming stomach meridian. This accounted for her delirious babbling and hallucinations. She would recover once she had opened her bowels.
You-shi took two doses of the medicine the doctor prescribed, but showed no sign of improvement. If anything she became more deranged than before. Cousin Zhen was now seriously concerned and sent for Jia Rong:
‘Get hold of the names of some good doctors in town and send for one immediately. We must have a second opinion.’
‘But the doctor who came the other day is extremely well thought of,’ objected Jia Rong. ‘It seems to me that in Mother’s case medicine is of little use.’
‘How can you talk like that!’ exclaimed Cousin Zhen. ‘If we don’t give her medicine, what are we supposed to do? Just let her fade away?’
‘I didn’t say she couldn’t be cured,’ said Jia Rong. ‘What was going through my mind was this: when Mother went over to Rong-?guo House the other day, she came back through the Garden. And the fever began as soon as she reached home. It could be that she encountered some evil spirit on the way and is now possessed. I happen to know of an excellent fortune-teller in town, by the name of Half-Immortal Mao. He hails from the South, and is something of a specialist in The Book of Changes. I think we should ask him for a consultation first. See if he can shed any light on the matter. If that gets us nowhere, then let’s by all means look for another doctor.’
Cousin Zhen agreed, and they sent for the fortune-teller at once. When he arrived, he and Jia Rong sat down together in the study and after drinking his tea Half-Immortal Mao began the consultation proper:
‘On what matter does my esteemed client wish me to consult the Changes?’
‘It concerns my mother,’ said Jia Rong. ‘She has fallen ill. Could you please seek some illumination from the Changes on her behalf?’
‘Very well,’ replied Mao. ‘First I shall require some clean water with which to wash my hands. Then, will you be so good as to light some incense, and to set up a small altar? And I shall proceed with the divination.’
The servants carried out these instructions, and Mao extracted the divining cylinder from within his gown, approached the altar, and after making a profound reverence began shaking the cylinder, intoning the following prayer:
‘In the name of the Supreme Ultimate, of the Yin and of the Yang, and of the Generative Powers of the Cosmos; in the name of the Holy Signs made manifest in the Great River, which embody the Myriad Transformations of the Universe, and of the Saints who in their wisdom leave no sincere request unheeded: here, in good faith, Mr Jia, on the occasion of his mother’s illness, devoutly beseeches the Four Sages, Fu Xi, King Wen, the Duke of Zhou and Confucius, to look down from above and vouchsafe an efficacious response to this his earnest supplication. If evil lies hidden, then bring the evil to light; if good, then show the good. First we ask to be told the Three Lines of the Lower Trigram.’
He turned the cylinder upside down and the coins fell onto the tray.
‘Ah! Most efficacious: for the Prime we have a Moving Yin.’
The second throw gave a Yang At Rest, the third another Moving Yin. Picking up the coins, Half-Immortal Mao said:
‘The Lower Trigram has been communicated. Now let us ask to receive the Three Lines of the Upper Trigram, and thus complete the Hexagram.’
These fell as follows: Yang At Rest, Yin At Rest, Yang At Rest. Half-Immortal Mao replaced the cylinder and coins inside his gown, and sat down.
‘Pray be seated,’ he said. ‘Let us consider this in greater detail. We have here the sixty-fourth Hexagram, “Before Completion”: x-.

The Line of most significance to you and to your generation is the Tertian, with Fire at the Seventh Branch Wu, and the Signature“Ruin”. This certainly indicates that Dire Misfortune lies in store. You have asked me to consult the Changes concerning your mother’s illness, and great attention should therefore be paid to the parental Prime, which contains the Signature “Spectre”, as does the Quintal. It would seem that your mother is indeed seriously afflicted. But all will still be for the best. The present misfortune is concatenated with Water at the First Branch Zi and at the Twelfth Branch Hai; but when this element wanes, with the Third Branch Yin comes Wood and thence Fire. The Signature “Offspring” at the Tertian also counteracts the Spectral influence, and with the regenerative effect of the continuing revolution of both the solar and lunar bodies, in two days the “Spectre” originally concatenated with Water at the First Branch Zi should be rendered void, and by the day Xu all will be well. But I see that the parental Prime contains further Spectral permu?tations. I fear your father may himself be afflicted. And your own per?sonal Line has a severe concentration of “Ruin”. When Water reaches its zenith and Earth its nadir, be prepared for misfortune to strike.’
Mao sat back, thrusting his beard forward, as if to emphasize the authenticity of his prognosis.
At the beginning of this rigmarole it was all Jia Rong could do to keep a straight face. But gradually Mao impressed him as a man who knew what he was talking about, and when he went on to predict misfortune for Cousin Zhen, Jia Rong began to take him rather more seriously.
‘Your exposition is certainly very learned,’ he commented. ‘But could you, I wonder, be more precise as to the nature of the illness that is affilicting my mother?’
‘In the Hexagram,’ replied Mao, ‘Fire at the Seventh Branch Wu in the Prime changes to Water and is thus controlled. This would indicate some inner congestion in which both cold and heat are combined. But I am afraid a precise diagnosis lies beyond the lim?itations of even a more elaborate milfoil reading of the Changes. For that, you would have to cast a Six Cardinal horoscope.’
‘Is that branch of divination one with which you are also con?versant?’ asked Jia Rong.
‘To a certain extent,’ replied Mao.
Jia Rong asked him to cast the horoscope, and wrote down the relevant Stems and Branches. Mao proceeded to adjust his Diviner’s Compass, setting the co-ordinates for the Heavenly Generals. The reading obtained was: ‘White Tiger’ at the Eleventh Branch Xu.
‘This Configuration,’ said Mao, ‘is known as “Dissolution of the Soul.” The “White Tiger” is inauspicious, but is contained and prevented from doing injury when it occurs at a zenith of fortune. In this case, however, it is enveloped in a Mephitic Aura, and occurs at a seasonal passage where Confinement and Death predominate; it is therefore a hungry tiger and sure to do harm. The effect is similiar to the spiritual dispersion consequent upon extreme shock. Hence the name of the configuration, which represents a state of acute physical and mental alarm, of profound melancholy; in illness it foresees death, in litigation misfortune. The Tiger is seen approaching at sunset, which means the illness must have been contracted in the evening. The wording reads: “In this configuration, a Tiger lies hidden in some old building, making mischief, or manifests itself in some more palpable way.”
‘You are enquiring specifically about your parents. In a Yang or daylight environment, the Tiger afflicts the male, while a Yin or night-time environment it afflicts the female. This configuration therefore bodes ill for both of your parents.
Jia Rong was stunned by this, and turned ashen pale.
‘It all sounds very convincing,’ he said, before Mao could continue. ‘But it doesn’t exactly tally with the Hexagram in The Book of Changes. How dangerous is the situation, do you think?’
‘Do not panic,’ said Mao. ‘Let me look into this little more carefully.’
He lowered his head in thought and mumbled to himself for a few moments. Then:
‘All is well! We are saved! My Compass reveals a “Delivering Spirit” at the Sixth Branch Si. In other words, what we have here is a “Dissolution of the Soul” leading to a “Restoration of the Spirit”, or Sorrow turning to Joy. There is therefore no real cause for concern. You should just exercise a little caution.’
Jia Rong handed him his fee and saw him off the premises, before returning to report to his father:
‘The fortune-teller says that Mother’s illness was contracted towards evening in an old building, and was caused by an encounter with a White Tiger spirit emanating from a corpse.’
‘Didn’t you say that she came back through the Garden the other evening?’ said Cousin Zhen. ‘It must have been there that she ran into this thing. And didn’t your aunt Feng go walking in the Garden too, and fall ill afterwards? She denied having encountered anything out of the ordinary, but the maids and serving-women all told a different story. They said she’d seen a hairy monster up on a hill, with eyes as big as lanterns, and that she’d even heard it talk. It gave your aunt Feng such a fright that she went running home, and immediately fell ill and took to her bed.’
‘Of course!’ exclaimed Jia Rong. ‘I remember! And I heard Bao-yu’s boy Tealeaf say that Skybright had turned into a Hibiscus Fairy. So she must be haunting the Garden, for a start. And when Cousin Lin died, music was heard in the air, so she’s probably there somewhere too, looking after some other flower. Ugh! It makes your flesh creep, to think of all the sprites and fairies there must be cooped up in there! It used to be perfectly safe when there were plenty of people living there and the place had a feeling of life about it. But now it’s so dashed lonely! When Mother went through, she probably trod on one of the flowers, or bumped into one of the fairies. It sounds as if Mao’s Hexagram was on the mark all right.’
‘Did he talk of any real danger?’ asked Cousin Zhen.
‘According to him, by the day Xu all will be well. I must say, though, I hope his calculations don’t turn out to be too accurate…’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Cousin Zhen.
‘Well, if he’s right, then there could be some trouble in store for you too, Father.’
As they were talking, there came a cry from one of the serving-women in the inner apartments:
‘Mrs Zhen insists on getting up and going to the Garden! The maids can’t hold her down.
Cousin Zhen and Jia Rong went in to pacify You-shi.
‘The one in red is coming to get me!’ she screamed deliriously. ‘The one in green is after me!’
The servants found her behaviour at once funny and frightening. Cousin Zhen depatched one of them to buy paper money, and burn it in the Garden. That night You-shi came out in a sweat and calmed down considerably, and by the day Xu she gradually started to recover.
Word soon spread that Prospect Garden was haunted, and the caretakers became too frightened to carry out their duties. Plants were left untended, trees unpruned, and all the flower-beds unwatered. No one dared walk around after dark, and as a result the resident wildlife began to make it their own domain. Thing eventually got so bad that even in broad daylight the servants would enter the Garden only accompanied and armed with cudgels.
After a few days, Cousin Zhen fell ill as predicted. He did not send for a doctor. Whenever the illness permitted, he went to the Garden to pray and burn paper money; whenever it became severe, he uttered feverish prayers in his chamber. He recovered, and then it was Jia Rong’s turn to go down; and after Jia Rong, the others, one by one. This continued for several months, and both households lived in constant fear. Even the slightest rustle or cry of a bird was suspect, and every plant or tree was feared to harbour a malicious spirit. Now that the Garden was abandoned and no longer productive, extra funds were needed again for the various apartments of the household, and this added to the already crushing deficit of Rong-guo House. The Garden’s caretakers saw nothing to be gained by staying. They all wanted to leave the place, and invented a whole series of incidents to substantiate the presence of diabolical tree-imps and flower sprites. Eventually they achieved their goal: they were all evacuated, the garden gate was securely locked, and no one dared go in at all. Fine halls, lofty pavilions, elegant rooms and terraces became nothing more than nesting-places for birds and lairs for wild beasts.

*

Skybright’s cousin, Wu Gui, lived, it will be remembered, opposite the rear gate-house of the Garden. It had reached the ears of Wu Gui’s wife that Skybright, after her death, had become a flower fairy, and from then on she took the precaution of staying indoors every evening. One day Wu Gui went shopping and stayed out later than usual. His wife had caught a slight cold and during the day took the wrong medicine, with the result that when Wu Gui returned that evening he found her lying dead on the kang. Because of her reputation for promiscuity, other members of the household staff concluded that a sprite must have climbed over the Garden wall, enjoyed her at inordinate length, and finally ‘sucked the sap’ out of her.
This incident put Grandmother Jia in a great tizzy. She increased the guard around Bao-yu’s apartment and had it constantly watched and patrolled. Some of the younger maids subsequently claimed to have seen weird red-faced creatures lurking in the vicinity, while others testified to the presence of a strange female apparition of great beauty. Such rumours soon multiplied, and Bao-yu lived in mortal terror. Bao~chai was less easily taken in, and warned the maids that any more fear-mongering would bring them a good hiding. Although this quietened things down a bit, there was still an atmosphere of great apprehension throughout both mansions, and more watchmen were taken on, which was an additional expense.
Jia She was the only one not to believe a word of it.
‘There’s nothing the matter with the Garden, for heaven’s sake! Haunted! What an absurd notion!’
He waited for a warm day when there was a mild breeze, and went to inspect the Garden himself, accompanied by a large number of armed servants. They all advised him against going, but he would not listen. When they entered the Garden, the atmosphere was so dark and sinister, so oppressively Yin, that they could almost touch it. Jia She refused to turn back, and his servants reluctantly followed him in, with many a furtive and shrinking sideways glance. One young lad among them, already scared to death, heard a sudden ‘whoosh!’, and turning to look saw something brightly coloured go flashing past. He uttered a terrified ‘Aiyo!’, went instantly weak at the knees and collapsed on the ground. When Jia She looked back and stopped to question him, he replied breathlessly:
‘I saw it with my own eyes! I did! A monster with a yellow face and a red beard, all dressed in green! It went up there, into that grotto behind those trees!’
Jia She was somewhat shaken himself.
‘Did anyone else see this thing?’
Some of the servants decided to take advantage of the situation and replied:
‘Clear as daylight, sir. You were up in front and we didn’t want to alarm you, sir. So we tried to keep a grip on ourselves, and act as if nothing had happened.’
Jia She now lacked the courage to go any further. He turned back and went home as quickly as possible, telling the boys who had accompanied him not to say anything about what had happened, but merely to let it be known that they had had an uneventful tour of the Garden. He himself needed no further convincing that the Garden was haunted, and began to think it might be advisable to apply to the Taoist Pontificate for priests to perform an exorcism. His servants, meanwhile, who were by nature fond of making trouble, saw how frightened their master was, and far from concealing the episode, retailed it with a great deal of gusto and embellishment, creating quite a sensation and eliciting a good deal of open-mouthed astonish?ment.
In the end Jia She decided that there was no other recourse than to go ahead and hold a formal ceremony of exorcism. A suitable day in the almanac was chosen, and an altar was constructed in the Garden, on a dais in the main hall of the Reunion Palace. Images of the Three Pure Ones were set up, flanked by figures of the spirits presiding over each of the Twenty-Eight Constellations, and of the Four Great Commanders- Ma, Zhao, Wen and Zhou. Further down the hall, the sacred precinct was made complete with a diagrammatic repre?sentation of the Thirty-Six Heavenly Generals. The air was heavy with flowers and incense, the hall blazed with lanterns and candles. Bells, drums, liturgical instruments and other paraphernalia were arrayed along both sides of the hall, and emblematic banners were hoisted at each of the Five Cardinal Points (the Four Corners and the Centre). The Taoist Pontiff had delegated Forty-Nine Deacons for the ceremony, and they began by spending a whole day purifying the altar. Then three priests went the rounds of the hall, waving smoking bundles of joss-sticks and sprinkling holy water, and when this was done the great Drum of the Dharma thundered forth. The priests now donned their Seven Star Mitres and robed themselves in their chasubles emblazoned with the Nine Heavenly Mansions and the Eight Trigrams. Wearing Cloud-Mounting Pattens on their feet and holding ivory tablets in their hands, they addressed themselves in reverent supplication to the sages. For a full day they chanted the Arcanum Primordii, a text renowned for its efficacy in the dispelling of misfortune, the exorcizing of evil spirits and the general en?hancement of propitious vibrations. Then they produced the Spirit Roll, which called on the Heavenly Generals to be present. It was inscribed with the following large characters:

A SUMMONS

IN THE NAME

OF THE

THREE REALMS,

THE ULTIMATE, THE PRIMORDIAL, AND THE PURE;

IN THE NAME

OF THE

SUPREME PONTIFF

AND THE

TALISMANIC POWER VESTED IN HIM;

ALL BENEVOLENT SPIRITS OF THE REGION

ARE HEREBY CALLED TO THIS ALTAR

TO DO SERVICE

The menfolk of both Rong-guo and Ning-guo House had taken courage from the presence of the priests, and were gathered in the Garden to watch the demon-hunt.
‘Most impressive!’ they all agreed. ‘All those benevolent spirits and powers are bound to strike fear into the heart of even the most obdurate demon!’
They crowded in front of the altar to watch the rest of the pro?ceedings. The young banner-bearing Deacons took up their positions in the hall, one group at each of the Five Cardinal Points, North, East, South, West and Centre, and awaited their orders. The three priests stood on the lower steps of the altar: one held the Magic Sword and the Holy Water, one the black Seven Star Banner, and one the peach-wood Demon Whip. The music ceased. The gong sounded thrice, the monks intoned a prayer, and the cohorts of banner-bearers began performing circular gyrations. The priests then descended from the altar and instructed the Jia menfolk to conduct them to every storeyed building, studio, hall, pavilion, chamber, cottage or covered walk, every hillside and water’s edge in the Garden. In each place they sprinkled the Holy Water and brandished the Magic Sword. On their return, the gong rang out again, the Seven Star Banner was raised aloft and consecrated, and as it de?scended the Deacons formed a phalanx around it with their lesser banners, and the Demon Whip was cracked three times in the air.
This, thought the Jias, must be the climactic moment; now at last the entire company of evil spirits would be routed and captured. They thronged forward to be in at the finish. But nothing seemed to happen. No apparition, no sound; only the voice of one of the priests, ordering the Deacons to ‘bring on the jars’. These receptacles were duly ‘brought on’, and in them the priests proceeded to ‘confine’ the invisible spirits, sealing them afterwards with official seals. The Abbot inscribed some magical characters in vermilion, and put the jars to one side, giving orders that they should be taken back to the temple. There they were to be placed beneath a pagoda, whose geomantic location would ensure that they and their contents were safely ‘contained’. The temporary altar was dismantled and thanks given to the Heavenly Powers. Jia She made a solemn kowtow of gratitude to the Abbot.
Afterwards Jia Rong and the younger men of the family had a good laugh about it all in private:
‘All that pantomime to catch the evil spirits! They might at least have let us have a look! What a farce! They probably didn’t manage to catch a single one!’
‘Fools!’ snapped Cousin Zhen, when he heard this. ‘Evil spirits don’t behave like that at all. At certain times they condense into crude matter, at others they dissolve into the ether. With so many benevolent spirits present of course they wouldn’t dare take on material form. It’s their etheric form that’s in question here. That is what Their Holinesses have taken hold of; by so doing they have rendered the spirits harmless. That is how the magic works.’
The younger generation were only half-convinced, and reserved their judgement until such time as they could observe a more visible diminution in demonic activity; the servants, who were told quite firmly that the spirits had now been caught, became less apprehensive as a result, and no further incidents or sightings were reported; while Cousin Zhen and the other invalids made a complete recovery (which they had no hesitation in attributing to the efficacy of the monks’ spells).
There was, however, one page-boy who continued to find the whole episode highly amusing, and who shared his amusement with the others:
‘I don’t know what the earlier business was about, but that day we were in the Garden with Sir She, it was nothing more than a big pheasant that took off out of the undergrowth and went flying past us. Old Ropey got the fright of his life and thought he’d seen a ghost or something. He made a great song and dance about it afterwards. Most of the others believed him and backed him up, and Sir She swallowed the whole thing. Oh well, at least they put on a nice bit of mumbo-jumbo for us!’
But no one was convinced by his version of the story. And certainly no one was willing to live in the Garden again.

*

Some days later, when things had quietened down somewhat, Jia She thought he might discreetly move a few servants back into the Garden as caretakers, to make sure that no undesirable characters tried to sneak their way in there at night. He was about to issue instructions to this effect when Jia Lian came in.
‘I have just been to visit Uncle Wang Zi-teng’s family,’ he said, after paying his respects, ‘and while I was there I heard the most devastating piece of news. Uncle Zheng has apparently been im?peached by the Viceroy! The charge against him is that he failed to control his subordinates and was responsible for the requisitioning of extortionate quantities of tax-grain. The Viceroy has asked for his dismissal.’
Jia She was stunned:
‘This must surely be some idle rumour. Why, there was a letter from your uncle Zheng only the other day. Full of good news. He wrote that Tan-chun had arrived safely, and that he had chosen a suitable day to escort her to her future husband’s family on the coast. The journey had passed off without mishap. Absolutely no cause for concern. What’s more, the Viceroy is supposed to be related to Tan?chun’s husband, and even gave a party to celebrate the wedding. How could the man impeach his own relative? Well, it’s no use speculating like this: you’d better go and see the Civil Office people. Find out what you can, and report straight back to me.’
Jia Lian departed at once, and returned a few hours later.
‘It’s as I feared, Father. Uncle Zheng has been impeached. How?ever, as an act of Imperial clemency his case did not go through the normal channels, but was dealt with directly by His Majesty. I have the exact wording of the Imperial Rescript:

On account of Jia Zheng’s failure to control subordinate officials, and on account of the extortionate levying of tax-grain and cruel exploitation of the common people perpetrated under his administration, he deserves to he dismissed altogether. But because this is his first provincial posting, and because he is inexperienced as an administrator and has in this matter been deceived by his own subordinates, he is only to be demoted three grades, and by a special dispensation will be reinstated as Under-Secretary in the Board of Works. He is to return at once to the capital.

‘This news is official. While I was at the Board of Civil Office a county magistrate from Kiangsi came for an audience. He said he was indebted to Uncle Zheng in many ways and had a high opinion of him, but considered him an inept manager of people. His servants got up to all sorts of skulduggery behind his back, and were squeezing the local officials for all they were worth. Uncle’s reputation was already ruined. The Viceroy had known about it for some time, and he too was of the opinion that Uncle Zheng was basically a good man. I don’t know quite why he brought the impeachment in the end. Perhaps he was afraid that things had got out of hand and that more serious trouble might lie ahead. In using this relatively minor charge as grounds for impeachment, maybe he was really trying to save Uncle Zheng from an even worse fate.’
Jia She interrupted Jia Lian:
‘Go and tell your aunt Wang about this straight away. But don’t trouble your grandmother at present.’
So Jia Lian went to report to Lady Wang. For the sequel, please turn to the next chapter.

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