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The Unjust Sentence.

MR. CHU was a native of Yangku, and, as a young man, was much given to playing tricks and talking in a loose kind of way. Having lost his wife, he went off to ask a certain old woman to arrange another match for him; and on the way, he chanced to fall in with a neighbour’s wife who took his fancy very much. So he said in joke to the old woman, “Get me that stylish looking, handsome lady, and I shall be quite satisfied.” “I’ll see what I can do,” replied the old woman, also joking, “if you will manage to kill her present husband;” upon which Chu laughed and said he certainly would do so. Now about a month afterwards, the said husband, who had gone out to collect some money due to him, was actually killed in a lonely spot; and the magistrate of the district immediately summoned the neighbours and beadle and held the usual inquest, but was unable to find any clue to the murderer. However, the old woman told the story of her conversation with Chu, and suspicion at once fell upon him. The constables came and arrested him; but he stoutly denied the charge; and the magistrate now began to suspect the wife of the murdered man. Accordingly, she was severely beaten and tortured in several ways until her strength failed her, and she falsely acknowledged her guilt. Chu was then examined, and he said, “This delicate woman could not bear the agony of your tortures; what she has stated is untrue; and, even should her wrong escape the notice of the Gods, for her to die in this way with a stain upon her name is more than I can endure. I will tell the whole truth. I killed the husband that I might secure the wife: she knew nothing at all about it.” And when the magistrate asked for some proof, Chu said his bloody clothes would be evidence enough; but when they sent to search his house, no bloody clothes were forthcoming. He was then beaten till he fainted; yet when he came round he still stuck to what he had said. “It is my mother,” cried he, “who will not sign the death warrant of her son. Let me go myself and I will get the clothes.” So he was escorted by a guard to his home, and there he explained to his mother that whether she gave up or withheld the clothes, it was all the same; that in either case he would have to die, and it was better to die early than late. Thereupon his mother wept bitterly, and going into the bedroom, brought out, after a short delay, the required clothes, which were taken at once to the magistrate’s. There was now no doubt as to the truth of Chu’s story; and as nothing occurred to change the magistrate’s opinion, Chu was thrown into prison to await the day for his execution. Meanwhile, as the magistrate was one day inspecting his gaol, suddenly a man appeared in the hall, who glared at him fiercely and roared out, “Dull-headed fool! unfit to be the guardian of the people’s interests!”—whereupon the crowd of servants standing round rushed forward to seize him, but with one sweep of his arms he laid them all flat on the ground. The magistrate was frightened out of his wits, and tried to escape, but the man cried out to him, “I am one of Kuan Ti’s lieutenants. If you move an inch you are lost.” So the magistrate stood there, shaking from head to foot with fear, while his visitor continued, “The murderer is Kung Piao: Chu had nothing to do with it.”
The lieutenant then fell down on the ground, and was to all appearance lifeless; however, after a while he recovered, his face having quite changed, and when they asked him his name, lo! it was Kung Piao. Under the application of the bamboo he confessed his guilt. Always an unprincipled man, he had heard that the murdered man was going out to collect money, and thinking he would be sure to bring it back with him, he had killed him, but had found nothing. Then when he learnt that Chu had acknowledged the crime as his own doing, he had rejoiced in secret at such a stroke of luck. How he had got into the magistrate’s hall he was quite unable to say. The magistrate now called for some explanation of Chu’s bloody clothes, which Chu himself was unable to give; but his mother, who was at once sent for, stated that she had cut her own arm to stain them, and when they examined her they found on her left arm the scar of a recent wound. The magistrate was lost in amazement at all this; unfortunately for him the reversal of his sentence cost him his appointment, and he died in poverty, unable to find his way home. As for Chu, the widow of the murdered man married him in the following year, out of gratitude for his noble behaviour.

冤獄

朱生,陽穀人。少年佻達,喜詼謔。因喪偶,往求媒媼。遇其鄰人之妻,睨之美。戲謂媼曰:「適睹尊鄰,雅少麗,若為我求凰,渠可也。」媼亦戲曰:「請殺其男子,我為若圖之。」朱笑曰:「諾。」更月餘,鄰人出討負,被殺於野。邑令拘鄰保,血膚取實,究無端緒;惟媒媼述相謔之詞,以此疑朱。捕至,百口不承。令又疑鄰婦與私,搒掠之,五毒參至,婦不能堪,誣伏。又訊朱。朱曰:「細嫩不任苦刑,所言皆妄。既是冤死,而又加以不節之名,縱鬼神無知,予心何忍乎?我實供之可矣:欲殺夫而娶其婦,皆我之為,婦實不知之也。」問:「何憑?」答言:「血衣可證。」及使人搜諸其家,竟不可得。又掠之,死而復蘇者再。朱乃云:「此母不忍出證據死我耳,待自取之。」因押歸告母曰:「予我衣,死也;即不予,亦死也:均之死,故遲也不如其速也。」母泣,入室移時,取衣出,付之。令審其跡確,擬斬。再駁再審,無異詞。經年餘,決有日矣。令方慮囚,忽一人直上公堂,努目視令而大罵曰:「如此憒憒,何足臨民!」隸役數十輩,將共執之。其人振臂一揮,頹然並仆。令懼,欲逃,其人大言曰:「我關帝前周將軍也!昏官若動,即便誅卻!」令戰懼悚聽。其人曰:「殺人者乃宮標也,於朱某何與?」言已,倒地,氣若絕。少頃而醒,面無人色。及問其人,則宮標也。搒之,盡服其罪。蓋宮素不逞,知其討負而歸,意腰橐必富,及殺之,竟無所得。聞朱誣服,竊自幸。是日身入公門,殊不自知。令問朱血衣所自來,朱亦不知之。喚其母鞫之,則割臂所染;驗其左臂,刀痕猶未平也。令亦愕然。後以此被參揭免官,罰贖羈留而死。年餘,鄰母欲嫁其婦;婦感朱義,遂嫁之。
  異史氏曰:「訟獄乃居官之首務,培陰騭,滅天理,皆在於此,不可不慎也。躁急污暴,固乖天和;淹滯因循,亦傷民命。一人興訟,則數農違時;一案既成,則十家蕩產:豈故之細哉!余嘗謂為官者,不濫受詞訟,即是盛德。且非重大之情,不必羈候;若無疑難之事,何用徘徊?即或鄉里愚民,山村豪氣,偶因鵝鴨之爭,致起雀角之忿,此不過借官宰之一言,以為平定而已,無用全人,祇須兩造,笞杖立加,葛藤悉斷。所謂神明之宰非耶?每見今之聽訟者矣:一票既出,若故忘之。攝牒者入手未盈,不令消見官之票;承刑者潤筆不飽,不肯懸聽審之牌。矇蔽因循,動經歲月,不及登長吏之庭,而皮骨已將盡矣!而儼然而民上也者,偃息在床,漠若無事。寧知水火獄中,有無數冤魂,伸頸延息,以望拔救耶!然在奸民之凶頑,固無足惜;而在良民株累,亦復何堪?況且無辜之干連,往往奸民少而良民多;而良民之受害,且更倍於奸民。何以故?奸民難虐,而良民易欺也。皂隸之所毆罵,胥徒之所需索,皆相良者而施之暴。自入公門,如蹈湯火。早結一日之案,則早安一日之生,有何大事,而顧奄奄堂上若死人,似恐谿壑之不遽飽,而故假之以歲時也者!雖非酷暴,而其實厥罪維均矣。嘗見一詞之中,其急要不可少者,不過三數人;其餘皆無辜之赤子,妄被羅織者也。或平昔以睚疃開嫌,或當前以懷璧致罪,故興訟者以其全力謀正案,而以其餘毒復小仇。帶一名於紙尾,遂成附骨之疽;受萬罪於公門,竟屬切膚之痛。人跪亦跪,狀若烏集;人出亦出,還同猱繫。而究之官問不及,吏詰不至,其實一無所用,祇足以破產傾家,飽蠹役之貪囊,鬻子典妻,洩小人之私憤而已。深願為官者,每投到時,略一審詰:當逐逐之,不當逐芟之。不過一濡毫、一動腕之間耳,便保全多少身家,培養多少元氣。從政者曾不一念及於此,又何必桁楊刀鋸能殺人哉!」

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