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《Chinese Tales for Everyone__Real and Imaginary: (19) Judgment by One Word》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Tales Real and Imaginary
(19) Judgment by One Word
 
Long ago, a merchant went on a selling trip on a boat. After loading his goods he waited on it for his servant to come.

Time passed, but no servant came.

Meanwhile, the boatman decided to kill the merchant and took the goods. He threw the merchant into the water to drown, and took the goods to his house.
After all the doings, he visited the merchant’s house to ask why the merchant had not come to his boat.

The wife of the merchant sent everyone to find her husband. There was no trace of him. She asked the servant who was supposed to accompany her husband. He said he had arrived late at the boat only to find his master gone.

The case was brought to the local magistrate.

He questioned the merchant’s wife alone in court. “Tell me exactly what had happened,” he asked.

She said: “My husband had gone a good while that morning. Suddenly I heard knocks at my door. A man shouted loud and said, Mrs. Merchant, why had your husband not come to my boat yet?”

The magistrate nodded with a smile. He sent her to a side room and called the boatman in to state what exactly happened at the merchant’s house. The latter’s statement agreed with what the wife had said.

He then pointed to the boatman and declared: “You have killed the merchant and took his goods by your own confession.”

What confession?” the boatman protested.

 “When you knocked the door in the merchant’s house, you called the name of his wife, not him. You knew he could not be at home because you had killed him.”

 The boatman bowed his head and admitted what he had done. He was rightfully convicted.
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Note: This is a narration of a story in the book 《民間傳說》. It revealed the wisdom of the magistrate who delineated the words and behavior of a killer who attempted to hide his evil deed.
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