Chapter 06

In embellishing a shortcoming, he boasts of a long suit;
For presenting a small object, he is mocked by a grat expert.

Poem:
If you lack great talent for the bedroom art,
Tempt not with lesser skills the womb of woe.
In the darkness Pan An’s looks will go unseen:
What use are Cao Zhi’s rhymes before the foe?
After his cream King Xiang returned to Chu;
Pray ask him why he ever climbed Mount Wu.
You expect from birth love’s perfect instrument?
Then see that its size and design are left to you.

The Knave took a seat and opened the discussion: “Well, brother, any interesting contacts?”

Fearing that the Knave merely wanted to shed his responsibilities, Vesperus said no, then went quickly on: “Brother, that one you mentioned just now – what family dies she belong to? Where do they live? How old is she? How would you rate her looks? Do tell me.”

“I’ve found you not one but three. I’ll tell you all about them and let you make your own choice. But you can have only one, you mustn’t get greedy and hanker after all three. That would never do.”

I have these three girls on my mind, thought Vesperus, and here he is talking about three girls too. I wonder if his three could be the same ones I saw? If so, I need seduce only one of them for the other two to come around of their own accord. I wouldn’t even need his help in that.

“Of course not,” he replied. “One would be ample, thank you. I’d never dream of being so greedy.”

“Just as well,” said the Knave. “The only problem is that everybody has his likes and dislikes, and someone I think beautiful may not seem so to you. I’ve found these three girls, but I’m not sure they’ll appeal to you.”

“Brother, you have such a wealth of experience that you must be a good judge. It’s possible that a woman who took my fancy might not seem beautiful to you, but hardly the other way around.”

“Well, then, let me ask you this: do you prefer your women plump or slender?”

“A plump figure has its attractions, just as a slender one does. But a woman must not be so plump as to fill out her clothes or so slender as to look bony. So long as she is plump or slender within a suitable range, she’ll appeal to me.”

“In that case you’ll find all three to your liking. Now let me ask you this: in matters of sex, do you prefer them passionate or prudish?”

“Why, passionate, of course. It’s no fun having a prudish woman in bed with you. It’s simpler sleeping on your own. I’ve always been dead scared of prudes.”

“The Knave shook his head. “In that case, none of these will be right for you.”

“Tell me, brother, how do you know they’re prudish?”

“As it happens, they all belong to the same school – supremely beautiful but lacking experience in lovemaking.”

“But that’s no obstacle! So long as the basic quality is there, passionate behavior can always be instilled. To be quite frank with you, my own wife was a prude at first, utterly ignorant about lovemaking she was; but it took me only a few days to educate her out of it. Now, believe it or not, she’s almost too passionate. So long as these women really are beautiful, I have my own ways of changing them should they be a little on the prudish side.”

“Well, that takes care of that. There’s just one other question I have for you: do you need to take possession as soon as you meet, or are you willing to hold off for a few months while waiting for her to come to hand?”

“Frankly, brother, my desires are always at fever pitch. If I have to go a few nights without a woman, I’ll have a wet dream. In all the time I’ve been away from home, I’ve not visited a brothel once, and by now I’m simply frantic. If I fail to meet a beautiful girl, I daresay I’ll be able to scrape by, but if I do find one, and we have some feeling for each other, I don’t think I could contain myself any longer.”

“In that case let’s confine ourselves to this one and ignore the other two. They belong to a rich and distinguished family and would be difficult to obtain at short notice. This one is the wife of a poor man and should be easy to get. I don’t frequent poor people’s houses, but the promise I made to you has been very much on my mind, and I’ve made a point of looking closely at every woman I saw, by day or night.

“One day I was walking along the street when I noticed this woman sitting in her doorway behind a bamboo curtain. Although I saw her only through the curtain and did not get a clear view, I was struck by the pink and white glow of her complexion, like some priceless pearl radiating light. When I looked again, this time at how graceful her figure was, she seemed like a great beauty’s portrait hanging there inside the curtain and gently swaying in the breeze. The sight held me rooted to the spot, unable to walk on. I stood there opposite her house for a while and then noticed a man coming out, a coarse-looking character in shabby clothes who was taking a roll of silk to market. I went and asked the neighbors about them and learned that the man’s surname was Quan, that due to his reputation for honesty he was known as Honest Quan, and that the woman was his wife. I was worried about not getting a close enough view of her through the curtain, so AI went by a few days later, and there she was again, sitting in her doorway. Before she had time to do anything, I whipped the curtain aside, burst in, and told her that I had come to buy silk from her husband.

“My husband is away,” she replied, ‘But if it’s silk you want, we have plenty of it. Let me get some out for you to look at.’ But despite what she said, she made no move to get the silk. I talked her into getting some, just to see what her hands and feet were like. Her fingers were like lotus shoots, as delicate and tapering as you could possibly imagine. Her feet were less than three inches long, and she was not wearing high heels either, so there was no artifice involved. I had now seen her hands and feet, but not the rest of here, and I had no idea whether her skin was light or dark in tone, and so I came up with another ploy. Spying another roll of silk on the top of the case, I said, ‘None of this id good enough. Could you get me down that roll from on top? I’d like to take a look at it.’

“She nodded, and raised her arms over her head to get it down. It was a hot day, you understand, and she was wearing nothing but an unlined silk dress. As she raised her arms, her loose sleeves fell all the way back to her shoulders, so that not only were her arms exposed, her breasts were faintly visible too. They were truly as white as snow, as smooth as a mirror, as fine as powder. No doubt about it, she belongs in the top group of all the women I have ever seen. I was embarrassed to be giving her so much trouble and felt obliged to buy a roll of silk. But before I go any further, let me ask you this, brother: do you like this woman and would you want her?”

“She sounds like perfection itself. Of course I do! But how can I see her and then, once I’ve seen her, how can I get her?”

“There’s no problem there. It’ll cost a little money, that’s all. I’ll go and get a few ingots now, and then we’ll set off for her place and wait until her husband leaves home. We’ll proceed as I did before, bursting in and asking for silk. You’ll be able to tell at a glance whether she appeals to you. The only question is whether you like her, for I’ve no doubt that she’ll like you. After facing that coarse-looking husband of hers day after day – honest he may be, but he has absolutely no appeal – she’s bound to be aroused by the very sight of you. Give her the impression you’re making advances and, if she doesn’t take immediate offense, we’ll come back and think how to proceed. I guarantee that within three days, she’ll be yours. Afterwards, if you want to arrange a marriage, I’ss see to that too.”

“I’d be grateful to all eternity. But there is one thing that puzzles me. Since you possess such marvelous ingenuity and supernatural power, I should have thought there’d be nothing in the world you couldn’t do. How is it that you can get me this one and not the other two? Is it really because a poor man is easy to take advantage of but you don’t dare provoke the rich and mighty?”

In every other matter that’s the case; the poor man is easier to take advantage of and the rich man more dangerous to provoke. But with adultery the opposite holds true.”

“Why is that?” asked Vesperus.

“A rich man is sure to have several wives and concubines, and while he is sleeping with one of them, the others will be left on their own. As the old saying goes, ‘Once you’re well fed and clothed, your thoughts turn to sex.’ Thos women, being well fed and well dressed, have nothing else to think about but sex. When a woman like that is feeling frustrated and a man sips into her bed – a man, the very thing she has been longing for! – she is hardly going to push him out again. Even if her husband catches them in the act, although he may feel like seizing them and dragging them off to court, still, as a rich and distinguished man he will fear the resultant loss of face. Alternatively, although he may feel like killing them both on the spot, he won’t want to give up such a beautiful girl, and if he can’t bear to sacrifice her, how can he justify killing her lover? So he will usually suppress his anger and say nothing, playing deaf and dumb so as to give the lover a chance to escape.

“The poor man, on the other hand, has only one wife who sleeps in his arms every night. Forget that she is so preoccupied with worrying about hunger and could that she would never have any lustful thoughts anyway. Even if she did, and tried to arrange a meeting with her lover, there’d be no place for them to have sex. If by some chance they did manage a furtive embrace and were caught in the act, her husband, as a poor man, wouldn’t care about loss of face and would show them no mercy whatever. He’d either seize them and drag them off to court or else kill them both on the spot. That’s why it’s dangerous to provoke a poor man but easy to take advantage of a rich one.”

“That’s all very plausible, but how do you explain the fact that these arguments contradict what you said before?”

“It’s not that I’m being inconsistent, just that those families are in precisely the opposite situations from the one I’ve been talking about, which is why this one is easy to get and the other two are beyond your reach for the moment.”

“I’ve set my heart on this one, but it wouldn’t do any harm to tell me about the other two, if only to show how much trouble you’ve gone to in my behalf.”

“One of them is in her twenties,” said the Knave, “and the other no more than fifteen or sixteen. They are tow sisters who are also sisters-in-law, being married to two brothers. Their husbands’ family has produced officials over many generations, but no one in this generation has succeeded in the higher examinations. These two are nominal licentiates who, for all their studies, are quite ill educated. The elder brother’s name is Scholar Cloud-Reposer, and he’s been married to the woman in her twenties for four or five years now. The younger one’s name is Scholar Cloud-Recliner, and he’s been married to the fifteen – or sixteen-year-old for less than three months. Both wives are as beautiful as the woman I’ve just described, but they’re also prudish. They don’t move or say anything during sex and they give the distinct impression of not liking it. But although they may not like it, their husbands have no other wives or concubines to turn to, so they share their wives’ bedrooms every night, which is why it would not be easy to get either woman. If you want to try, you’ll need to use every trick in the book to arouse her sexual desire and then wait until her husband is away before making your move. It is not something that can be cone in a month or two. The woman in the silk shop whom I mentioned has two advantages: she is easy to meet and her husband is often away. That is why it would be simpler to get her.”

Noting that the description of the two women roughly fitted the two girls he had seen a few days before, Vesperus was reluctant to let the matter drop. “Brother,” he said, “you are perfectly right, but there’s one point you’ve overlooked. You said the two women are prudish and lack sexual desire and therefore it would not be easy to make a move. I suspect they may be like that only because their husbands’ endowment is so tiny and their stamina so inadequate that the wives get no pleasure for sex. If they met up with me, I submit that they would soon be relieved of their prudery.”

“From what I’ve seen,” said the Knave, “their husbands’ endowment can’t be described as tiny or their stamina as inadequate, although it is true that they don’t compare with men of the greatest proportions and capacities. That’s one thing I was going to ask you about, whorthy brother. Your sexual desires are so keen that I’m sure you have what it takes. But tell me, just what is the size of your endowment? And what is your stamina like? I need to know if I am to act for you with an easy mind.”

Vesperus beamed. “That’s one thing you needn’t worry about, my good fellow. I’m not boasting when I say that my stamina and endowment are both more than adequate. They will lay a feast from which even a woman with the heartiest appetite will stagger away gorged and drunk. It will be no pauper’s dinner party, I assure you, from which the guest rises sober and ravenous, complaining bitterly of her host’s lack of savoir-faire.”

“That’s very reassuring. Still, it wouldn’t do any harm to take the matter a little further. When you’re making love, approximately how many thrusts can you give before letting go?”

“I’ve never even counted. Anyone who can keep track of the number is bound to be of very limited sexual powers. I don’t abide by any general rule when I’m making love to a woman, but I can assure you that she receives innumerable thrusts before I stop.”

“Even if you can’t remember the number, you must at least remember how long. Approximately how many hours can you last?”

Vesperus’s actual limit was only one hour, but since he wanted the Knave to act for him, he was afraid to admit to so little, lest he give his friend an excuse for backing out, and he felt compelled to add another hour to his performance.

“I can last a good two hours,” he replied, “If I tried to hold out, I daresay I might be able to last for half an hour or more beyond that.”

“That’s nothing out of the ordinary,” said the Knave. “It doesn’t qualify as a very strong performance. Such mediocre ability is ample for everyday sex with your wife, but I’m afraid it would be quite inadequate for a raid on someone else’s camp.”

“You’re worrying unnecessarily, my good fellow,” said Vesperus. “The other day I bought myself an excellent sex tonic. I have no woman at present, so I’m a warrior without a battlefield. But if an assignation can be arranged, I’ll take a chance and apply some of it ahead of time. I’ve no doubt I shall prove to have plenty of endurance.”

“Sex tonics can give you endurance only,” said the Knave. “They cannot increase your size or firmness. If a man with a large endowment uses one, he’ll be like a gifted graduate taking a ginseng tonic at examination time; in the examination hall his mental powers will naturally be enhanced, and he will be able to express himself well. Buf if a student with a very small endowment uses one, he’ll be no better off than some empty-headed candidate who couldn’t produce a line even if he swallowed pounds of the tonic. What’s the point of his sitting in an examination cell for three days and nights if all he’s doing is holding out regardless of results? Moreover, most such tonics are a swindle. Who knows whether yours will work or not? But I’m not asking whether you’ve tested it. What I want to know is the size and length of your endowment.

There is no need to go into that,” said Vesperus. “What I will say, though, is that it is not small.”

Seeing that Vesperus was not about to respond, the Knave shot out his hand and tugged at the crotch of his friend’s trousers in an effort to free the object in question. Vesperus kept evading his reach, refusing to let him do so. “If that’s the way things are,” said the Knave, “I won’t bother you anymore. Your stamina certainly can’t be described as strong. If your endowment should be puny, too, and if by some chance you fail to stimulate the woman and she cries rape, think how terrible that would be! If you got into any trouble, I would be the one who had misled you, and that is something I cannot accept.”

Confronted with such vehemence from his friend, Vesperus could only smile gamely. “My endowment will certainly pass muster,” he said, “but I do find it a little indelicate to have to produce it in front of a friend, and in broad daylight too. However, since you’re so worried over nothing, I suppose I have no choice but to make a spectacle of myself.”

With that, he undid his belt and bought out a penis that was dainty in both size and texture. Weighing it in his hand, he continued, “Here is my modest endowment. Take a look at it by all means.”

The Knave approached and scrutinized it. This is what he saw:

Body a pearly white,
Head a crimson glow.
Around the base thin grasses in dense profusion rise,
Under the skin fine threads are faintly to be seen.
Bounced in the hand, it makes no sound, being lighter than the hand itself;
Touched with fingers, it retains no trace, its muscles being so few.
In length all of two inches;
In Weight a good quarter-ounce.
Solid outside, hollow inside, easy to mistake for a schoolboy’s brush handle.
Sharp of head, tiny of ey, easy to confuse with a Tartar girl’s pipe stem.
A twelve-year-old virgin could accommodate it,
A thirteen-year-old catamite would delight in it.
Hard as iron before the event, resembling a very long dried razor clam;
Bent like a bow when all is done,
Suggesting a very plump dried shrimp.

The Knave examined it, looked at Verperus in the eye, contemplated for a long time, but said nothing. Vesperus assumed he was astonished at its size.

“It is only like this when limp,” he said. “When full of vigor it is even more spectacular.”

“If this is what ti’s like when limp,” said the Knave, “I can well imagine what it’s like when full of vigor. I’ve seen all I need to, thank you. Please put it away.” Then, unable to contain himself any longer, he put his hand over his mouth and burst out laughing.

“How can you be so ignorant of your own limitations, worthy brother? Your endowment is less than a third the size of other people’s and yet you propose to go off and seduce their wives! Do you imagine the women’s shoes are too big for the lasts they have at home and that they need your little peg wedged in alongside? When I saw you looking about everywhere for women, I assumed you had a mighty instrument on you, something to strike fear into the hearts of all who saw it. That’s why I hesitated to ask you to show it to me. I never dreamed that it would turn out to be a flesh-and-blood hair clasp, good for titillating a woman inside her pubic hair, perhaps, but useless in the really important place!”

“it will serve at a pinch,” protested Vesperus. “Perhaps yours is so massive that you tend to look down on everybody else’s. I’ll have you know that this unworthy instrument of mine has been much admired.”

“Admired?” said the Knave. “A virgin with her maidenhead intact or else some boy who has yet to make his debut – people like that would admire it. But apart from them, I’m afraid everyone else would find it as hard as I do to flatter your honorable instrument.”

“You mean to tell me that everybody’s penis is bigger than mine?”

“I see them all the time – I must have inspected a thousand or two, at least – and I don’t think I’ve sever seen one quite as delicate as yours.”

“Let’s leave other people’s out of it. The husbands of those women – how do their members compare with mine?”

“Not much bigger – only two or three times the size and length.”

Vesperus gave a laugh. “Now I know you’re not telling me the truth!” he said. “This shows that you don’t want the responsibility of helping me and are just looking for a way out. Let me ask you this: Perhaps you really did see the two men in that household as you robbed their houses at night, but as for the woman in the silk sho, you told me yourself that you visited her only once, in the daytime, and that you spoke only to her and never met the husband. How can you possibly be sure that his thing to tow or three times as big as mine?”

“I saw the other two with my own eyes,” said the Knave. “This one I only heard about. The first day I met her, I went and asked the neighbors about her husband, and they told me his name. Then I asked them: ‘Such a beautiful woman – I wonder how she manages to get along with her stupid clod of a husband?” ‘Although the husband may look coarse,’ they told me, ‘he is fortunate enough to have an impressive endowment and that is why the two of them rub along without any actual quarrels.’ I then asked, ‘How large is his endowment?’ Their reply was, ‘We’ve never measured it, but in summer, when he strips down, we’ve noticed it swinging about in his pants the size of a laundry beater, so we know it’s impressive.’ I made a mental note of that at the time, which is what led me to ask to see yours today. Why else, for no reason whatever, would I want to inspect someone’s penis?”

At last it dawned on Vesperus that the Knave was telling him the truth, and he began to feel depressed. After pondering a while, he went on, “When a woman goes to bed with someone, it’s not only from sexual desire, you know. It may also be because she admires his mind or is attracted by his looks. If neither his mind nor his looks amount to much, a man is forced to rely on his sexual prowess. Now I happen to be quite well endowed with looks and brains, and perhaps a woman will take that into account and be a little less demanding in the other department. I implore you to see this matter through for me. You mustn’t ignore my many strong points because of a single shortcoming and abandon your idea of helping a friend.”

“Talent and looks,” said the Knave. “are sweeteners for the medicine of seduction. Like ginger and dates, their flavor helps get the medicine inside, but once it’s in there, the medicine alone has to cure the disease; the ginger and dates are of no further use. If a man goes in for seduction and has neither looks nor talent, he’ll not be able to get a foot in the door, but once he is inside, his true powers are in demand. What are you planning to do with her under the quilt, anyway, write poems on her pelvis? If someone with a very limited endowment and stamina manages to get in by virtue of his looks and talent and then gives a disappointing display the first few times, he will very quickly get the cold shoulder. A fellow takes his life in his hands when he goes in for adultery, and he therefore hopes for a love affair that will last a long time. Why go to such trouble if all you have in mind is two or three nights’ fun? We thieves think we have to steal five hundred or a thousand taels’ worth of valuables in a break-in, just to make up for the stigma we incur. For a couple of items we might as well stay home, rather than incur the stigma and have nothing to show for it. But let’s ignore for the moment the man’s desire for long-time pleasure. A woman who deceives her husband and has an affair must take endless precautions and suffer innumerable alarms, poor thing, in order to get some real pleasure. All well and good if she enjoys it a few hundred or even a few dozen times. But if she gets no pleasure out of the affair at all, she’s no better off than a hen mounted by a rooster. The hen scarcely knows what’s going on inside her before it’s over. The woman’s life has been wasted and her reputation lost, all for nothing! Not an easy thought to live with! Forgive me for what I’m going to say, worthy brother, but while endowment and stamina like yours are all right for keeping your wife on the straight and narrow, they are not enough to sustain any wild ideas about debauching other men’s wives and daughters. Luckily I was shrewd enough to measure the customer before cutting the cloth. if I’d simply set to work without asking your measurements, the garments would have been far too big for you. What a waste of material! And apart altogether from the woman’s resentment, I’m afraid you, too, would have balmed me in your heart for not acting in good faith but deliberately choosing someone too large for you so as to get myself off the hook. I’m a straightforward sort of fellow, and I put things crudely, but I hope you won’t hold it against me. From now on if you need any money or clothing, I’m only too ready to provide it. But as to this other matter, I simply can not do your bidding.”

From the forcefulness with which the Knave spoke, Vesperus realized that the affair was a lost cause. He knew, too, that the money and clothing would be stolen goods, and he was afraid of the trouble they could land him in.

“I am in rather a difficult spot,” he said, “but I haven’t spent all my travel money yet, and I still have a few plain garments left. I would not want to put you to any expenses.”

After saying a few things to comfort his friend, the Knave made as if to leave. Vesperus, his hopes dashed, could not find it in his heart to ask him to stay, and showed him to the gate.

After this frustration did Vesperus curb his desires? Did he reform? The reader is not the only one who is perplexed over these issues; the author himself is not sure, either, and will have to continue into the next chapter before he resolves them. Thus far, although Vesperus’ s mind has been corrupted, his conduct is without blemish. He is still, believe it or not, a man who could lead a virtuous life.

Critique

Each passage of discourse is bound to contain several superb images that invariably delight the reader and cause him to burst out laughing. They are too numerous to list in full, but two examples may be cited: the likening of sex tonics to examination tonics and the comparison of talent and looks with medicinal sweeteners. Humorous though these remarks are, they also contain a profound truth. I don’t know how many thousand apertures the author’s mind possesses, to radiate such brilliance!

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