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THE village of Wey-tswün was distant fifty lee[17] from the court, where Tieh-chung-u arrived in two hours: he hastened to his father's house: he found every thing still and quiet before the doors; not a person to be seen. He alighted off his horse, and went into the hall of audience; but neither was one of the clerks, or any one else, to be met with there: he would have proceeded farther, but he found the doors fast shut. He knocked and called; the servants within knew his voice: they unlocked the door, and meeting their young master cryed out! "Bad news! things go very ill!" He asked them, why? "Our master, replied they, is cast into prison by the Emperor's order: you are now arrived in good time: pray go immediately to our lady your mother's apartment, and advise with her." Tieh-chung-u was struck speechless with surprize and grief, and suffered himself to be led to the door of her apartment. His mother, who was called She-fu-jen, or my Lady Sheh, perceiving him, went and caught hold of his sleeve, crying, "My son, you are arrived in good time. Your father has discharged the part of a good man, with the most unwearied perseverance: eager to redress grievances, he would be presenting petitions, from morning to night[18] : there has happened an affair of great consequence: I know not whether he is dead or alive: he is in prison." Tieh-chung-u fell into a violent transport of grief: but observing, how deeply his mother was affected, he fell upon his knees before her and said: "Mother, be not cast down, you must not give yourself up to affliction: though the affair be as great as the heavens are high, we must not yield to despair: we must consult together: you must tell me plainly all that has happened." She bade him rise and take a chair, then told him as follows: "Some days ago, as your father was returning from the Emperor's palace, he was stopped in his way home by an old man and his wife, who had their hair loose and disordered, their faces bruised and bloody, and their cloaths rent: they threw themselves before his horse's feet, crying out for justice. Your father asked them who they were, and by whom they were injured. I am a Doctor of law, said the old man, of the second degree, my name is Han-yuen: I have a daughter, whom I have long promised in marriage: but a great Mandarine, named Tah-quay, hearing of her, and that she was something handsome, ordered people to come, and propose terms of marriage, for her to be a second wife, or concubine[19] to him: I answered, that it was impossible for me to consent, for I had already engaged her to another: if he has a mind to take my life, I am content; but I can never yield to give him my daughter. Tah-quay was much enraged: "What! said he, have I made so reasonable a proposal, and am to see it rejected! I'll try whether force can be more successful." Accordingly he sent people to carry her off; which endeavouring to prevent, they abused both of us, in the manner you see. Your father was much affected with his tale, and passionately moved to procure them redress: hurrying home therefore, he instantly drew up a petition to present to the Emperor. But alas, proceeded the Lady Sheh, your father, notwithstanding his great judgement, was at that time overseen, not to secure the two old people for witnesses: for the Emperor, when he had read his petition, demanded what evidence he had to support it. Upon which he went to seek them, but in vain: for Tah-quay had immediate advice of the affair, and instantly secreted them. The awe of his power drew almost all the Mandarines of the court over to his party. And he in his turn delivered in a petition, wherein he charged your father, with abusing the Emperor's confidence, and possessing him with falsehoods against his faithful servants. Upon this your father's office was taken away, and he was sent to prison. And though some of the Mandarines expressed an inclination to assist him, it was to no purpose, as he had no witnesses to produce in his favour: and if he can procure none, he must suffer death."

When she had finished her relation, the countenance of Tieh-chung-u cleared up: "And is Han-yuen, said he, the occasion of all this? this is an affair of trifling consequence; Han-yuen and his daughter every body knows, and the seizing them in their house is known to many. Be no longer dejected, Madam, but take comfort; they cannot be lost. Robbers and thieves, though they be fled into other provinces, are to be found[20] , and why not those that are about the court: fear not then but we shall find these people: nay I myself know where they are concealed." "How! said Sheh-fu-jen, is it possible? do you speak certainly true?" "Can a son, said Tieh-chung-u speak untruths before his mother? that can never be." The Lady Sheh at this was greatly rejoiced, and said, "If this news is true, rest a little and refresh yourself: then hasten to see your father in prison, and take away his sorrow." Upon this she ordered a table to be spread for him to eat; which having done, and changed his cloaths, she called for a servant to attend him. "Madam, said Tieh-chung u, there is no occasion for such haste; I will first draw up a petition for my father to shew the Emperor." When he had finished it, he asked his mother for his father's chop or seal: and taking that, together with the petition of Wey-phey, he put them both in his sleeve, and bade the servant shew him the way to his father.

The Mandarine, that was governor of the prison, knew Tieh-chung-u, and received him with great courtesy: "Sir, said he, the Mandarine your father is within; pray be pleased to go to him; pardon me that I don't wait on you: you have doubtless something to impart to him in private." Tieh-chung-u returned his civilities in a proper manner, and went in. He found his father sitting, without irons, in great composure. He immediately ran and bowed down four times at his feet; asking pardon for not coming sooner to assist him in his troubles: that he deserved not the name of a son, for being absent when he might have performed him services, or at least have known his commands. Tieh-u-sheh[21] raised himself from his chair: "I am, said he, in the place where my duty requires me to be: why are you not at home minding your studies and doing your duty." "Sir, said Tieh-chung-u, if if it is your duty to be here, it is mine also to be here to wait upon you." His father paused: at length he answered, "You are in the right: you do your duty: but we live in times, when the Mandarines of the court are corrupted, and duty has no longer any regard paid to it: from a just sense of mine, I presented my petition, putting to the hazard whether it would be heard or not: and now, whether I shall live or die, is in the hand of the Emperor: your coming here will avail me nothing." "Sir, replied Tieh chung-u, I am made acquainted with the cause of your confinement: but why do you sit down quietly under it: why do not you continue to seek out the old man and his wife; and without trusting to others, petition for leave to do it in your own person." "That, " said Tieh-u-sheh, "it would not be difficult to obtain: but I fear, if I should apply for such licence, and be still unsuccessful, it will only aggravate my crime, and increase my disgrace." "I have notice of these three people, said the son, but without an express order from the Emperor, they cannot be apprehended." "His order was issued out at the first, replied the father, but they could not be found: my friends inquired, but could learn no news of them. And that you, who are but just arrived, should know any thing of them, is very unlikely. 'Tis all a jest! you are but a boy, and having heard something of it, from people's discourse, only love to hear yourself talk. Go! you are a simpleton." "Sir, answered Tieh-chung-u, this is a matter which regards your life: is it possible for a son to jest upon such an occasion?" Then looking round to see, that nobody was within hearing, he related all that had happened on his journey, both the discourse he had had with the old woman, and with Wey-phey, whose petition he shewed him. At this Tieh-u-sheh became joyful, and said, "If it be so, the Emperor will see that I am blameless: there will then be no danger of my suffering death. But is it not to be feared, that this Tah quay has poisoned, or otherwise made away with these people?" Tieh-chung-u answered, "The palace where he resides, is the Emperor's gift, which no one can enter: your adversary is a wicked man, and of very mean understanding; wholly addicted to pleasure, and immersed in luxury, he thinks of nothing farther: imagining himself secure, he neither suspects any danger, nor has contrivance enough to prevent it: be not therefore, Sir, cast down or sorrowful." "Son, " said the Mandarine Tieh, "you say well: go home now, and fetch some paper and my seal, that I may draw up a petition to the Emperor." "That is already done, said his son, I have here brought it with me: if you like it, let it go: if not, please to draw it up afresh with greater elegance and accuracy." He read it, and pronounced it was very well, and required no alteration: then putting his seal to it, he folded it up, and gave it to the governor of the prison, desiring it might be delivered to a Mandarine of the Emperor's audience chamber, called Tong-ching-su, whose business it is to receive petitions. 

[17] Viz, five leagues.
[18] The Chinese idiom is, "your father to-day would be a good man, to-morrow would be a good man; he would be presenting petitions," &c.
[19] The Chinese laws allow but one, who can properly be called a wife. Yet they may have several second wives or concubines, whose situation is not at all disreputable: but they are greatly dependent on the first, who alone is mistress of the house. Their children are deemed to belong to the true wife, and inherit equally with her own. P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 304.
[20] It is very difficult for robbers to escape in China: for upon all the great roads at every half league are centries stationed, and the exact notice that the Mandarines have of every thing that passes in their respective wards and districts, makes it very rare that they can lie concealed. One of the Missionaries has said, that a criminal cannot find a hiding place in all that vast empire. See P. Semedo, p. 2. P. Du Halde, vol. 1. p. 266. & passim.
[21] The name he received from his office.