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Bribery And Corruption.

AT Paoting Fu there lived a young man, who having purchased the lowest degree was about to proceed to Peking, in the hope of obtaining, by the aid of a little bribery, an appointment as District Magistrate. His boxes were all ready packed, when he was taken suddenly ill and was confined to his bed for more than a month. One day the servant entered and announced a visitor; whereupon our sick man jumped up and ran to the door as if there was nothing the matter with him. The visitor was elegantly dressed like a man of some position in society; and, after bowing thrice, he walked into the house, explaining that he was Kungsun Hsia, tutor to the Eleventh Prince, and that he had heard our Mr. So-and-so wished to arrange for the purchase of a magistracy. “If that is really so,” added he, “would you not do better to buy a prefecture?” So-and-so thanked him warmly, but said his funds would not be sufficient; upon which Mr. Kungsun declared he should be delighted to assist him with half the purchase money, which he could repay after taking up the post. He went on to say that being on intimate terms with the various provincial Governors the thing could be easily managed for about five thousand taels; and also that at that very moment Chênting Fu being vacant, it would be as well to make an early effort to get the appointment. So-and-so pointed out that this place was in his native province; but Kungsun only laughed at his objection, and reminded him that money could obliterate all distinctions of that kind. This did not seem quite satisfactory; however, Kungsun told him not to be alarmed, as the post of which he was speaking was below in the infernal regions. “The fact is,” said he, “that your term of life has expired, and that your name is already on the death list; by these means you will take your place in the world below as a man of official position. Farewell! in three days we shall meet again.” He then went to the door and mounted his horse and rode away. So-and-so now opened his eyes and spoke a few parting words to his wife and children, bidding them take money from his strong room and go buy large quantities of paper ingots, which they immediately did, quite exhausting all the shops. This was piled in the courtyard with paper images of men, devils, horses, &c., and burning went on day and night until the ashes formed quite a hill. In three days Kungsun returned, bringing with him the money; upon which So-and-so hurried off to the Board of Civil Office, where he had an interview with the high officials, who, after asking his name, warned him to be a pure and upright officer, and then calling him up to the table handed him his letter of appointment. So-and-so bowed and took his leave; but recollecting at once that his purchased degree would not carry much weight with it in the eyes of his subordinates, he sent off to buy elaborate chairs and a number of horses for his retinue, at the same time despatching several devil lictors to fetch his favourite wife in a beautifully adorned sedan chair. All arrangements were just completed when some of the Chênting staff came to meet the new Prefect, others awaiting him all along the line of road, about half a mile in length. He was immensely gratified at this reception, when all of a sudden the gongs before him ceased to sound and the banners were lowered to the ground. He had hardly time to ask what was the matter before he saw those of his servants who were on horseback jump hastily to the ground and dwindle down to about a foot in height, while their horses shrunk to the size of foxes or racoons. One of the attendants near his chariot cried out in alarm, “Here’s Kuan Ti!” and then he, too, jumped out in a fright, and saw in the distance Kuan Ti himself slowly approaching them, followed by four or five retainers on horseback. His great beard covered the lower half of his face, quite unlike ordinary mortals; his aspect was terrible to behold, and his eyes reached nearly to his ears. “Who is this?” roared he to his servants; and they immediately informed him that it was the new Prefect of Chênting. “What!” cried he; “a petty fellow like that to have a retinue like this?” Whereupon So-and-so’s flesh began to creep with fear, and in a few moments he found that he too had shrunk to the size of a little boy of six or seven. Kuan Ti bade his attendants bring the new Prefect with them, and went into a building at the roadside, where he took up his seat facing the south and calling for writing materials told So-and-so to write down his name and address. When this was handed to him he flew into a towering passion, and said, “The scribbly scrawl of a placeman, indeed! Can such a one be entrusted with the welfare of the people? Look me up the record of his good works.” A man then advanced, and whispered something in a low tone; upon which Kuan Ti exclaimed in a loud voice, “The crime of the briber is comparatively trifling; the heavy guilt lies with those who sell official posts for money.” So-and-so was now seized by angels in golden armour, and two of them tore off his cap and robes, and administered to him fifty blows with the bamboo until hardly any flesh remained on his bones. He was then thrust outside the door, and lo! his carriages and horses had disappeared, and he himself was lying, unable to walk for pain, at no great distance from his own house. However, his body seemed as light as a leaf, and in a day and a night he managed to crawl home. When he arrived, he awoke as it were from a dream, and found himself groaning upon the bed; and to the inquiries of his family he only replied that he felt dreadfully sore. Now he really had been dead for seven days; and when he came round thus, he immediately asked for Alien, which was the name of his favourite wife. But the very day before, while chatting with the other members of the family, Alien had suddenly cried out that her husband was made Prefect of Chênting, and that his lictors had come to escort her thither. Accordingly she retired to dress herself in her best clothes, and, when ready to start, she fell back and expired. Hearing this sad story, So-and-so began to mourn and beat his breast, and he would not allow her to be buried at once, in the hope that she might yet come round; but this she never did. Meanwhile So-and-so got slowly better, and by the end of six months was able to walk again. He would often exclaim, “The ruin of my career and the punishment I received—all this I could have endured; but the loss of my dear Alien is more than I can bear.”


保定有國學生某,將入都納貲,謀得縣尹。方趣裝而病,月餘不起。忽有僮入曰:「客至。」某亦忘其疾,趨出逆客。客華服類貴者。三揖入舍,叩所自來。客曰:「僕,公孫夏,十一皇子坐客也。聞治裝將圖縣尹,既有是志,太守不更佳耶?」某遜謝,但言:「貲薄,不敢有奢願。」客請效力,俾出半貲,約於任所取盈。某喜求策,客曰:「督、撫皆某最契之交,暫得五千緡,其事濟矣。目前真定缺員,便可急圖。」某訝其本省。客笑曰:「君迂矣!但有孔方在,何問吳、越桑梓 耶?」某終躊躕,疑其不經。客曰:「無須疑惑。實相告:此冥中城隍缺也。君壽盡,已注死籍。乘此營辦,尚可以致冥貴。」即起告別,曰:「君且自謀,三日當復會。」遂出門跨馬去,某忽開眸,與妻子永訣。命出藏鏹,市楮錠萬提,郡中是物為空。堆積庭中,雜芻靈鬼馬,日夜焚之,灰高如山。三日,客果至。某出貲交兌,客即導至部署,見貴官坐殿上,某便伏拜。貴官略審姓名,便勉以「清廉謹慎」等語。乃取憑文,喚至案前與之。某稽首出署。自念監生卑賤,非車服炫耀,不足震懾曹屬。於是益市輿馬;又遣鬼役以彩輿迓其美妾。區畫方已,真定鹵簿已至。途百里餘,一道相屬,意甚得。忽前導者鉦息旗靡。驚疑間,見騎者盡下,悉伏道周;人小徑尺,馬大如狸。車前者駭曰:「關帝至矣!」某懼,下車亦伏,遙見帝君從四五騎,緩轡而至。鬚多繞頰,不似世所模肖者;而神采威猛,目長幾近耳際。馬上問:「此何官?」從者答:「真定守。」帝君曰:「區區一郡,何直得如此張皇!」某聞之,灑然毛悚;身暴縮,自顧如六七歲兒。帝君令起,使隨馬蹤行。道傍有殿宇,帝君入,南向坐,命以筆札,俾自書鄉貫姓名。某書已,呈進。帝君視之,怒曰:「字訛誤不成形象!此市儈耳,何足以任民社!」又命稽其德籍。傍一人跪奏,不知何詞。帝君厲聲曰:「干進罪小,賣爵罪重!」旋見金甲神綰鎖去。遂有二人捉某,褫去冠服,笞五十,臀肉幾脫,逐出門外。四顧車馬盡空,痛不能步,偃息草間。細認其處,離家尚不甚遠。幸身輕如葉,一晝夜始抵家。豁若夢醒,床上呻吟。家人集問,但言股痛。蓋瞑然若死者,已七日矣,至是始寤。便問:「阿憐何不來。」──蓋妾小字也。先是,阿憐方坐談,忽曰:「彼為真定太守,差役來接我矣。」乃入室麗妝,妝竟而卒,才隔夜耳。家人述其異。某悔恨椎胸,命停尸勿葬,冀其復還。數日杳然,乃葬之。某病漸瘳,但股瘡大劇,半年始起。每自曰:「官貲盡耗,而橫被冥刑,此尚可忍;但愛妾不知舁向何所,清夜所難堪耳。」


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