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The Wallet of Kai Lung by Ernest Bramah

Part 2 out of 5

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this experienced person's opinion, indeed, would greatly relieve the
undoubted afflictions from which the one before him is evidently
suffering--when after once anointing himself--"

A lengthy period containing no words caused Ling, who had in the
meantime closed his eyes and lost Canton and all else in delicate
thoughts of Mian, to look up. That which met his attention on doing so
filled him with an intelligent wonder, for the person before him held
in his hand what had the appearance of a tuft of bright yellow hair,
which shone in the light of the sun with a most engaging splendour,
but which he nevertheless regarded with a most undignified expression
of confusion and awe.

"Illustrious demon," he cried at length, kow-towing very respectfully,
"have the extreme amiableness to be of a benevolent disposition, and
do not take an unworthy and entirely unremunerative revenge upon this
very unimportant person for failing to detect and honour you from the

"Such words indicate nothing beyond an excess of hemp spirit,"
answered Ling, with signs of displeasure. "To gain my explicit esteem,
make me smooth without delay, and do not exhibit before me the lock of
hair which, from its colour and appearance, has evidently adorned the
head of one of those maidens whose duty it is to quench the thirst of
travellers in the long narrow rooms of this city."

"Majestic and anonymous spirit," said the other, with extreme
reverence, and an entire absence of the appearance of one who had
gazed into too many vessels, "if such be your plainly-expressed
desire, this superficial person will at once proceed to make smooth
your peach-like skin, and with a carefulness inspired by the certainty
that the most unimportant wound would give forth liquid fire, in which
he would undoubtedly perish. Nevertheless, he desires to make it
evident that this hair is from the head of no maiden, being, indeed,
the uneven termination of your own sacred pigtail, which this
excessively self-confident slave took the inexcusable liberty of
removing, and which changed in this manner within his hand in order to
administer a fit reproof for his intolerable presumption."

Impressed by the mien and unquestionable earnestness of the remover of
hair, Ling took the matter which had occasioned these various emotions
in his hand and examined it. His amazement was still greater when he
perceived that--in spite of the fact that it presented every
appearance of having been cut from his own person--none of the
qualities of hair remained in it; it was hard and wire-like,
possessing, indeed, both the nature and the appearance of a metal.

As he gazed fixedly and with astonishment, there came back into the
remembrance of Ling certain obscure and little-understood facts
connected with the limitless wealth possessed by the Yellow
Emperor--of which the great gold life-like image in the Temple of
Internal Symmetry at Peking alone bears witness now--and of his lost
secret. Many very forcible prophecies and omens in his own earlier
life, of which the rendering and accomplishment had hitherto seemed to
be dark and incomplete, passed before him, and various matters which
Mian had related to him concerning the habits and speech of the
magician took definite form within his mind. Deeply impressed by the
exact manner in which all these circumstances fitted together, one
into another, Ling rewarded the person before him greatly beyond his
expectation, and hurried without delay to his own chamber.


FOR many hours Ling remained in his room, examining in his mind all
passages, either in his own life or in the lives of others, which
might by any chance have influence on the event before him. In this
thorough way he became assured that the competition and its results,
his journey to Si-chow with the encounter in the cypress wood, the
flight of the incapable and treacherous Mandarin, and the battle of
Ki, were all, down to the matter of the smallest detail, parts of a
symmetrical and complete scheme, tending to his present condition.
Cheered and upheld by this proof of the fact that very able deities
were at work on his behalf, he turned his intellect from the
entrancing subject to a contemplation of the manner in which his
condition would enable him to frustrate the uninventive villainies of
the obstinate person Li Keen, and to provide a suitable house and mode
of living to which he would be justified in introducing Mian, after
adequate marriage ceremonies had been observed between them. In this
endeavour he was less successful than he had imagined would be the
case, for when he had first fully understood that his body was of such
a substance that nothing was wanting to transmute it into fine gold
but the absence of the living spirit, he had naturally, and without
deeply examining the detail, assumed that so much gold might be
considered to be in his possession. Now, however, a very definite
thought arose within him that his own wishes and interests would have
been better secured had the benevolent spirits who undertook the
matter placed the secret within his knowledge in such a way as to
enable him to administer the fluid to some very heavy and inexpensive
animal, so that the issue which seemed inevitable before the enjoyment
of the riches could be entered upon should not have touched his own
comfort so closely. To a person of Ling's refined imagination it could
not fail to be a subject of internal reproach that while he would
become the most precious dead body in the world, his value in life
might not be very honourably placed even by the most complimentary one
who should require his services. Then came the thought, which, however
degraded, he found himself unable to put quite beyond him, that if in
the meantime he were able to gain a sufficiency for Mian and himself,
even her pure and delicate love might not be able to bear so offensive
a test as that of seeing him grow old and remain intolerably
healthy--perhaps with advancing years actually becoming lighter day by
day, and thereby lessening in value before her eyes--when the natural
infirmities of age and the presence of an ever-increasing posterity
would make even a moderate amount of taels of inestimable value.

No doubt remained in Ling's mind that the process of frequently making
smooth his surfaces would yield an amount of gold enough to suffice
for his own needs, but a brief consideration of the matter convinced
him that this source would be inadequate to maintain an entire
household even if he continually denuded himself to an almost
ignominious extent. As he fully weighed these varying chances the
certainty became more clear to him with every thought that for the
virtuous enjoyment of Mian's society one great sacrifice was required
of him. This act, it seemed to be intimated, would without delay
provide for an affluent and lengthy future, and at the same time would
influence all the spirits--even those who had been hitherto
evilly-disposed towards him--in such a manner that his enemies would
be removed from his path by a process which would expose them to
public ridicule, and he would be assured in founding an illustrious
and enduring line. To accomplish this successfully necessitated the
loss of at least the greater part of one entire member, and for some
time the disadvantages of going through an existence with only a
single leg or arm seemed more than a sufficient price to pay even for
the definite advantages which would be made over to him in return.
This unworthy thought, however, could not long withstand the memory of
Mian's steadfast and high-minded affection, and the certainty of her
enlightened gladness at his return even in the imperfect condition
which he anticipated. Nor was there absent from his mind a
dimly-understood hope that the matter did not finally rest with him,
but that everything which he might be inspired to do was in reality
only a portion of the complete and arranged system into which he had
been drawn, and in which his part had been assigned to him from the
beginning without power for him to deviate, no matter how much to the
contrary the thing should appear.

As no advantage would be gained by making any delay, Ling at once
sought the most favourable means of putting his resolution into
practice, and after many skilful and insidious inquiries he learnt of
an accomplished person who made a consistent habit of cutting off
limbs which had become troublesome to their possessors either through
accident or disease. Furthermore, he was said to be of a sincere and
charitable disposition, and many persons declared that on no occasion
had he been known to make use of the helpless condition of those who
visited him in order to extort money from them.

Coming to the ill-considered conclusion that he would be able to
conceal within his own breast the true reason for the operation, Ling
placed himself before the person in question, and exhibited the matter
to him so that it would appear as though his desires were promoted by
the presence of a small but persistent sprite which had taken its
abode within his left thigh, and there resisted every effort of the
most experienced wise persons to induce it to come forth again.
Satisfied with this explanation of the necessity of the deed, the one
who undertook the matter proceeded, with Ling's assistance, to sharpen
his cutting instruments and to heat the hardening irons; but no sooner
had he made a shallow mark to indicate the lines which his knife
should take, than his subtle observation at once showed him that the
facts had been represented to him in a wrong sense, and that his
visitor, indeed, was composed of no common substance. Being of a
gentle and forbearing disposition, he did not manifest any indication
of rage at the discovery, but amiably and unassumingly pointed out
that such a course was not respectful towards himself, and that,
moreover, Ling might incur certain well-defined and highly undesirable
maladies as a punishment for the deception.

Overcome with remorse at deceiving so courteous and noble-minded a
person, Ling fully explained the circumstances to him, not even
concealing from him certain facts which related to the actions of
remote ancestors, but which, nevertheless, appeared to have influenced
the succession of events. When he had made an end of the narrative,
the other said:

"Behold now, it is truly remarked that every Mandarin has three hands
and every soldier a like number of feet, yet it is a saying which is
rather to be regarded as manifesting the deep wisdom and
discrimination of the speaker than as an actual fact which can be
taken advantage of when one is so minded--least of all by so valiant a
Commander as the one before me, who has clearly proved that in time of
battle he has exactly reversed the position."

"The loss would undoubtedly be of considerable inconvenience
occasionally," admitted Ling, "yet none the less the sage remark of
Huai Mei-shan, 'When actually in the embrace of a voracious and
powerful wild animal, the desirability of leaving a limb is not a
matter to be subjected to lengthy consideration', is undoubtedly a
valuable guide for general conduct. This person has endured many
misfortunes and suffered many injustices; he has known the
wolf-gnawings of great hopes, which have withered and daily grown less
when the difficulties of maintaining an honourable and illustrious
career have unfolded themselves within his sight. Before him still lie
the attractions of a moderate competency to be shared with the one
whose absence would make even the Upper Region unendurable, and after
having this entrancing future once shattered by the tiger-like
cupidity of a depraved and incapable Mandarin, he is determined to
welcome even the sacrifice which you condemn rather than let the
opportunity vanish through indecision."

"It is not an unworthy or abandoned decision," said the one whose aid
Ling had invoked, "nor a matter in which this person would refrain
from taking part, were there no other and more agreeable means by
which the same results may be attained. A circumstance has occurred
within this superficial person's mind, however: A brother of the one
who is addressing you is by profession one of those who purchase large
undertakings for which they have not the money to pay, and who
thereupon by various expedients gain the ear of the thrifty, enticing
them by fair offers of return to entrust their savings for the purpose
of paying off the debt. These persons are ever on the watch for
transactions by which they inevitably prosper without incurring any
obligation, and doubtless my brother will be able to gather a just
share of the value of your highly-remunerative body without submitting
you to the insufferable annoyance of losing a great part of it

Without clearly understanding how so inviting an arrangement could be
effected, the manner of speaking was exceedingly alluring to Ling's
mind, perplexed as he had become through weighing and considering the
various attitudes of the entire matter. To receive a certain and
sufficient sum of money without his person being in any way mutilated
would be a satisfactory, but as far as he had been able to observe an
unapproachable, solution to the difficulty. In the mind of the amiable
person with whom he was conversing, however, the accomplishment did
not appear to be surrounded by unnatural obstacles, so that Ling was
content to leave the entire design in his hands, after stating that he
would again present himself on a certain occasion when it was asserted
that the brother in question would be present.

So internally lightened did Ling feel after this inspiring
conversation, and so confident of a speedy success had the obliging
person's words made him become, that for the first time since his
return to Canton he was able to take an intellectual interest in the
pleasures of the city. Becoming aware that the celebrated play
entitled "The Precious Lamp of Spotted Butterfly Temple" was in
process of being shown at the Tea Garden of Rainbow Lights and Voices,
he purchased an entrance, and after passing several hours in this
conscientious enjoyment, returned to his chamber, and passed a night
untroubled by any manifestations of an unpleasant nature.


CHANG-CH'UN, the brother of the one to whom Ling had applied in his
determination, was confidently stated to be one of the richest persons
in Canton. So great was the number of enterprises in which he had
possessions, that he himself was unable to keep an account of them,
and it was asserted that upon occasions he had run through the
streets, crying aloud that such an undertaking had been the subject of
most inferior and uninviting dreams and omens (a custom observed by
those who wish a venture ill), whereas upon returning and consulting
his written parchments, it became plain to him that he had indulged in
a very objectionable exhibition, as he himself was the person most
interested in the success of the matter. Far from discouraging him,
however, such incidents tended to his advantage, as he could
consistently point to them in proof of his unquestionable commercial
honourableness, and in this way many persons of all classes, not only
in Canton, or in the Province, but all over the Empire, would
unhesitatingly entrust money to be placed in undertakings which he had
purchased and was willing to describe as "of much good". A certain
class of printed leaves--those in which Chang-ch'un did not insert
purchased mentions of his forthcoming ventures or verses recording his
virtues (in return for buying many examples of the printed leaf
containing them)--took frequent occasion of reminding persons that
Chang-ch'un owed the beginning of his prosperity to finding a written
parchment connected with a Mandarin of exalted rank and a low caste
attendant at the Ti-i tea-house among the paper heaps, which it was at
that time his occupation to assort into various departments according
to their quality and commercial value. Such printed leaves freely and
unhesitatingly predicted that the day on which he would publicly lose
face was incomparably nearer than that on which the Imperial army
would receive its back pay, and in a quaint and gravity-removing
manner advised him to protect himself against an obscure but
inevitable poverty by learning the accomplishment of
chair-carrying--an occupation for which his talents and achievements
fitted him in a high degree, they remarked.

In spite of these evilly intentioned remarks, and of illustrations
representing him as being bowstrung for treacherous killing, being
seized in the action of secretly conveying money from passers-by to
himself and other similar annoying references to his private life,
Chang-ch'un did not fail to prosper, and his undertakings succeeded to
such an extent that without inquiry into the detail many persons were
content to describe as "gold-lined" anything to which he affixed his
sign, and to hazard their savings for staking upon the ventures. In
all other departments of life Chang was equally successful; his chief
wife was the daughter of one who stood high in the Emperor's favour;
his repast table was never unsupplied with sea-snails, rats' tongues,
or delicacies of an equally expensive nature, and it was confidently
maintained that there was no official in Canton, not even putting
aside the Taotai, who dare neglect to fondle Chang's hand if he
publicly offered it to him for that purpose.

It was at the most illustrious point of his existence--at the time,
indeed, when after purchasing without money the renowned and
proficient charm-water Ho-Ko for a million taels, he had sold it again
for ten--that Chang was informed by his brother of the circumstances
connected with Ling. After becoming specially assured that the matter
was indeed such as it was represented to be, Chang at once discerned
that the venture was of too certain and profitable a nature to be put
before those who entrusted their money to him in ordinary and doubtful
cases. He accordingly called together certain persons whom he was
desirous of obliging, and informing them privately and apart from
business terms that the opportunity was one of exceptional
attractiveness, he placed the facts before them. After displaying a
number of diagrams bearing upon the mater, he proposed that they
should form an enterprise to be called "The Ling (After Death) Without
Much Risk Assembly." The manner of conducting this undertaking he
explained to be as follows: The body of Ling, whenever the spirit left
it, should become as theirs to be used for profit. For this benefit
they would pay Ling fifty thousand taels when the understanding was
definitely arrived at, five thousand taels each year until the matter
ended, and when that period arrived another fifty thousand taels to
persons depending upon him during his life. Having stated the figure
business, Chang-ch'un put down his written papers, and causing his
face to assume the look of irrepressible but dignified satisfaction
which it was his custom to wear on most occasions, and especially when
he had what appeared at first sight to be evil news to communicate to
public assemblages of those who had entrusted money to his ventures,
he proceeded to disclose the advantages of such a system. At the
extreme, he said, the amount which they would be required to pay would
be two hundred and fifty thousand taels; but this was in reality a
very misleading view of the circumstance, as he would endeavour to
show them. For one detail, he had allotted to Ling thirty years of
existence, which was the extreme amount according to the calculations
of those skilled in such prophecies; but, as they were all undoubtedly
aware, persons of very expert intellects were known to enjoy a much
shorter period of life than the gross and ordinary, and as Ling was
clearly one of the former, by the fact of his contriving so ingenious
a method of enriching himself, they might with reasonable foresight
rely upon his departing when half the period had been attained; in
that way seventy-five thousand taels would be restored to them, for
every year represented a saving of five thousand. Another agreeable
contemplation was that of the last sum, for by such a time they would
have arrived at the most pleasurable part of the enterprise: a million
taels' worth of pure gold would be displayed before them, and the
question of the final fifty thousand could be disposed of by cutting
off an arm or half a leg. Whether they adopted that course, or decided
to increase their fortunes by exposing so exceptional and symmetrical
a wonder to the public gaze in all the principal cities of the Empire,
was a circumstance which would have to be examined within their minds
when the time approached. In such a way the detail of purchase stood
revealed as only fifty thousand taels in reality, a sum so despicably
insignificant that he had internal pains at mentioning it to so
wealthy a group of Mandarins, and he had not yet made clear to them
that each year they would receive gold to the amount of almost a
thousand taels. This would be the result of Ling making smooth his
surfaces, and it would enable them to know that the person in question
actually existed, and to keep the circumstances before their

When Chang-Ch'un had made the various facts clear to this extent,
those who were assembled expressed their feelings as favourably turned
towards the project, provided the tests to which Ling was to be put
should prove encouraging, and a secure and intelligent understanding
of things to be done and not to be done could be arrived at between
them. To this end Ling was brought into the chamber, and fixing his
thoughts steadfastly upon Mian, he permitted portions to be cut from
various parts of his body without betraying any signs of ignoble
agitation. No sooner had the pieces been separated and the virtue of
Ling's existence passed from them than they changed colour and
hardened, nor could the most delicate and searching trials to which
they were exposed by a skilful worker in metals, who was obtained for
the purpose, disclose any particular, however minute, in which they
differed from the finest gold. The hair, the nails, and the teeth were
similarly affected, and even Ling's blood dried into a fine gold
powder. This detail of the trial being successfully completed, Ling
subjected himself to intricate questioning on all matters connected
with his religion and manner of conducting himself, both in public and
privately, the history and behaviour of his ancestors, the various
omens and remarkable sayings which had reference to his life and
destiny, and the intentions which he then possessed regarding his
future movements and habits of living. All the wise sayings and
written and printed leaves which made any allusion to the existence of
and possibility of discovery of the wonderful gold fluid were closely
examined, and found to be in agreement, whereupon those present made
no further delay in admitting that the facts were indeed as they had
been described, and indulged in a dignified stroking of each other's
faces as an expression of pleasure and in proof of their satisfaction
at taking part in so entrancing and remunerative an affair. At Chang's
command many rare and expensive wines were then brought in, and
partaken of without restraint by all persons, the repast being
lightened by numerous well-considered and gravity-removing jests
having reference to Ling and the unusual composition of his person. So
amiably were the hours occupied that it was past the time of no light
when Chang rose and read at full length the statement of things to be
done and things not to be done, which was to be sealed by Ling for his
part and the other persons who were present for theirs. It so
happened, however, that at that period Ling's mind was filled with
brilliant and versatile thoughts and images of Mian, and many-hued
visions of the manner in which they would spend the entrancing future
which was now before them, and in this way it chanced that he did not
give any portion of his intellect to the reading, mistaking it,
indeed, for a delicate and very ably-composed set of verses which
Chang-ch'un was reciting as a formal blessing on parting. Nor was it
until he was desired to affix his sign that Ling discovered his
mistake, and being of too respectful and unobtrusive a disposition to
require the matter to be repeated then, he carried out the obligation
without in any particular understanding the written words to which he
was agreeing.

As Ling walked through the streets to his chamber after leaving the
house and company of Chang-Ch'un, holding firmly among his garments
the thin printed papers to the amount of fifty thousand taels which he
had received, and repeatedly speaking to himself in terms of general
and specific encouragement at the fortunate events of the past few
days, he became aware that a person of mean and rapacious appearance,
whom he had some memory of having observed within the residence he had
but just left, was continually by his side. Not at first doubting that
the circumstance resulted from a benevolent desire on the part of
Chang-ch'un that he should be protected on his passage through the
city, Ling affected not to observe the incident; but upon reaching his
own door the person in question persistently endeavoured to pass in
also. Forming a fresh judgement about the matter, Ling, who was very
powerfully constructed, and whose natural instincts were enhanced in
every degree by the potent fluid of which he had lately partaken,
repeatedly threw him across the street until he became weary of the
diversion. At length, however, the thought arose that one who
patiently submitted to continually striking the opposite houses with
his head must have something of importance to communicate, whereupon
he courteously invited him to enter the apartment and unweigh his

"The facts of the case appear to have been somewhat inadequately
represented," said the stranger, bowing obsequiously, "for this
unornamental person was assured by the benignant Chang-ch'un that the
one whose shadow he was to become was of a mild and forbearing

"Such words are as the conversation of birds to me," replied Ling, not
conjecturing how the matter had fallen about. "This person has just
left the presence of the elegant and successful Chang-ch'un, and no
word that he spoke gave indication of such a follower or such a

"Then it is indeed certain that the various transactions have not been
fully understood," exclaimed the other, "for the exact communication
to this unseemly one was, 'The valuable and enlightened Ling has heard
and agreed to the different things to be done and not to be done, one
phrase of which arranges for your continual presence, so that he will
anticipate your attentions.'"

At these words the truth became as daylight before Ling's eyes, and he
perceived that the written paper to which he had affixed his sign
contained the detail of such an office as that of the person before
him. When too late, more than ever did he regret that he had not
formed some pretext for causing the document to be read a second time,
as in view of his immediate intentions such an arrangement as the one
to which he had agreed had every appearance of becoming of an irksome
and perplexing nature. Desiring to know the length of the attendant's
commands, Ling asked him for a clear statement of his duties, feigning
that he had missed that portion of the reading through a momentary
attack of the giddy sickness. To this request the stranger, who
explained that his name was Wang, instantly replied that his written
and spoken orders were: never to permit more than an arm's length of
space to separate them; to prevent, by whatever force was necessary
for the purpose, all attempts at evading the things to be done and not
to be done, and to ignore as of no interest all other circumstances.
It seemed to Ling, in consequence, that little seclusion would be
enjoyed unless an arrangement could be effected between Wang and
himself; so to this end, after noticing the evident poverty and
covetousness of the person in question, he made him an honourable
offer of frequent rewards, provided a greater distance was allowed to
come between them as soon as Si-chow was reached. On his side, Ling
undertook not to break through the wording of the things to be done
and not to be done, and to notify to Wang any movements upon which he
meditated. In this reputable manner the obstacle was ingeniously
removed, and the intelligent nature of the device was clearly proved
by the fact that not only Ling but Wang also had in the future a much
greater liberty of action than would have been possible if it had been
necessary to observe the short-sighted and evidently
hastily-thought-of condition which Chang-ch'un had endeavoured to


IN spite of his natural desire to return to Mian as quickly as
possible, Ling judged it expedient to give several days to the
occupation of purchasing apparel of the richest kinds, weapons and
armour in large quantities, jewels and ornaments of worked metals and
other objects to indicate his changed position. Nor did he neglect
actions of a pious and charitable nature, for almost his first care
was to arrange with the chief ones at the Temple of Benevolent
Intentions that each year, on the day corresponding to that on which
he drank the gold fluid, a sumptuous and well-constructed coffin
should be presented to the most deserving poor and aged person within
that quarter of the city in which he had resided. When these
preparations were completed, Ling set out with an extensive train of
attendants; but riding on before, accompanied only by Wang, he quickly
reached Si-chow without adventure.

The meeting between Ling and Mian was affecting to such an extent that
the blind and deaf attendants wept openly without reproach,
notwithstanding the fact that neither could become possessed of more
than a half of the occurrence. Eagerly the two reunited ones examined
each other's features to discover whether the separation had brought
about any change in the beloved and well-remembered lines. Ling
discovered upon Mian the shadow of an anxious care at his absence,
while the disappointments and trials which Ling had experienced in
Canton had left traces which were plainly visible to Mian's
penetrating gaze. In such an entrancing occupation the time was to
them without hours until a feeling of hunger recalled them to lesser
matters, when a variety of very select foods and liquids was placed
before them without delay. After this elegant repast had been partaken
of, Mian, supporting herself upon Ling's shoulder, made a request that
he would disclose to her all the matters which had come under his
observation both within the city and during his journey to and from
that place. Upon this encouragement, Ling proceeded to unfold his
mind, not withholding anything which appeared to be of interest, no
matter how slight. When he had reached Canton without any perilous
adventure, Mian breathed more freely; as he recorded the interview at
the Office of Warlike Deeds and Arrangements, she trembled at the
insidious malignity of the evil person Li Keen. The conversation with
the wise reader of the future concerning the various states of such as
be officially dead almost threw her into the rigid sickness, from
which, however, the wonderful circumstance of the discovered
properties of the gold fluid quickly recalled her. But to Ling's great
astonishment no sooner had he made plain the exceptional advantages
which he had derived from the circumstances, and the nature of the
undertaking at which he had arrived with Chang-ch'un, than she became
a prey to the most intolerable and unrestrained anguish.

"Oh, my devoted but excessively ill-advised lover," she exclaimed
wildly, and in tones which clearly indicated that she was inspired by
every variety of affectionate emotion, "has the unendurable position
in which you and all your household will be placed by the degrading
commercial schemes and instincts of the mercenary-souled person
Chang-ch'un occupied no place in your generally well-regulated
intellect? Inevitably will those who drink our almond tea, in order to
have an opportunity of judging the value of the appointments of the
house, pass the jesting remark that while the Lings assuredly have 'a
dead person's bones in the secret chamber', at the present they will
not have one in the family graveyard by reason of the death of Ling
himself. Better to lose a thousand limbs during life than the entire
person after death; nor would your adoring Mian hesitate to clasp
proudly to her organ of affection the veriest trunk that had parted
with all its attributes in a noble and sacrificing endeavour to
preserve at least some dignified proportions to embellish the
Ancestral Temple and to receive the worship of posterity."

"Alas!" replied Ling, with extravagant humiliation, "it is indeed
true; and this person is degraded beyond the common lot of those who
break images and commit thefts from sacred places. The side of the
transaction which is at present engaging our attention never occurred
to this superficial individual until now."

"Wise and incomparable one," said Mian, in no degree able to restrain
the fountains of bitter water which clouded her delicate and
expressive eyes, "in spite of this person's biting and ungracious
words do not, she makes a formal petition, doubt the deathless
strength of her affection. Cheerfully, in order to avert the matter in
question, or even to save her lover the anguish of unavailing and
soul-eating remorse, would she consign herself to a badly-constructed
and slow-consuming fire or expose her body to various undignified
tortures. Happy are those even to whom is left a little ash to be
placed in a precious urn and diligently guarded, for it, in any event,
truly represents all that is left of the once living person, whereas
after an honourable and spotless existence my illustrious but
unthinking lord will be blended with a variety of baser substances and
passed from hand to hand, his immaculate organs serving to reward
murderers for their deeds and to tempt the weak and vicious to all
manner of unmentionable crimes."

So overcome was Ling by the distressing nature of the oversight he had
permitted that he could find no words with which to comfort Mian, who,
after some moments, continued:

"There are even worse visions of degradation which occur to this
person. By chance, that which was once the noble-minded Ling may be
disposed of, not to the Imperial Treasury for converting into pieces
of exchange, but to some undiscriminating worker in metals who will
fashion out of his beautiful and symmetrical stomach an elegant
food-dish, so that from the ultimate developments of the circumstance
may arise the fact that his own descendants, instead of worshipping
him, use his internal organs for this doubtful if not absolutely
unclean purpose, and thereby suffer numerous well-merited afflictions,
to the end that the finally-despised Ling and this discredited person,
instead of founding a vigorous and prolific generation, become the
parents of a line of feeble-minded and physically-depressed lepers."

"Oh, my peacock-eyed one!" exclaimed Ling, in immeasurable distress,
"so proficient an exhibition of virtuous grief crushes this misguided
person completely to the ground. Rather would he uncomplainingly lose
his pigtail than--"

"Such a course," said a discordant voice, as the unpresentable person
Wang stepped froth from behind a hanging curtain, where, indeed, he
had stood concealed during the entire conversation, "is especially
forbidden by the twenty-third detail of the things to be done and not
to be done."

"What new adversity is this?" cried Mian, pressing to Ling with a
still closer embrace. "Having disposed of your incomparable body after
death, surely an adequate amount of liberty and seclusion remains to
us during life."

"Nevertheless," interposed the dog-like Wang, "the refined person in
question must not attempt to lose or to dispose of his striking and
invaluable pigtail; for by such an action he would be breaking through
his spoken and written word whereby he undertook to be ruled by the
things to be done and not to be done; and he would also be robbing the
ingenious-minded Chang-ch'un."

"Alas!" lamented the unhappy Ling, "that which appeared to be the end
of all this person's troubles is obviously simply the commencement of
a new and more extensive variety. Understand, O conscientious but
exceedingly inopportune Wang, that the words which passed from this
person's mouth did not indicate a fixed determination, but merely
served to show the unfeigned depth of his emotion. Be content that he
has no intention of evading the definite principles of the things to
be done and not to be done, and in the meantime honour this
commonplace establishment by retiring to the hot and ill-ventilated
chamber, and there partaking of a suitable repast which shall be
prepared without delay."

When Wang had departed, which he did with somewhat unseemly haste,
Ling made an end of recording his narrative, which Mian's grief had
interrupted. In this way he explained to her the reason of Wang's
presence, and assured her that by reason of the arrangement he had
made with that person, his near existence would not be so
unsupportable to them as might at first appear to be the case.

While they were still conversing together, and endeavouring to divert
their minds from the objectionable facts which had recently come
within their notice, an attendant entered and disclosed that the train
of servants and merchandise which Ling had preceded on the journey was
arriving. At this fresh example of her lover's consistent thought for
her. Mian almost forgot her recent agitation, and eagerly lending
herself to the entrancing occupation of unfolding and displaying the
various objects, her brow finally lost the last trace of sadness.
Greatly beyond the imaginings of anticipation were the expensive
articles with which Ling proudly surrounded her; and in examining and
learning the cost of the set jewels and worked metals, the ornamental
garments for both persons, the wood and paper appointments for the
house--even incenses, perfumes, spices and rare viands had not been
forgotten--the day was quickly and profitably spent.

When the hour of sunset arrived, Ling, having learned that certain
preparations which he had commanded were fully carried out, took Mian
by the hand and led her into the chief apartment of the house, where
were assembled all the followers and attendants, even down to the
illiterate and superfluous Wang. In the centre of the room upon a
table of the finest ebony stood a vessel of burning incense, some
dishes of the most highly-esteemed fruit, and an abundance of old and
very sweet wine. Before these emblems Ling and Mian placed themselves
in an attitude of deep humiliation, and formally expressed their
gratitude to the Chief Deity for having called them into existence, to
the cultivated earth for supplying them with the means of sustaining
life, to the Emperor for providing the numerous safeguards by which
their persons were protected at all times, and to their parents for
educating them. This adequate ceremony being completed, Ling
explicitly desired all those present to observe the fact that the two
persons in question were, by that fact and from that time, made as one
being, and the bond between them, incapable of severance.

When the ruling night-lantern came out from among the clouds, Ling and
Mian became possessed of a great desire to go forth with pressed hands
and look again on the forest paths and glades in which they had spent
many hours of exceptional happiness before Ling's journey to Canton.
Leaving the attendants to continue the feasting and drum-beating in a
completely unrestrained manner, they therefore passed out unperceived,
and wandering among the trees, presently stood on the banks of the

"Oh, my beloved!" exclaimed Mian, gazing at the brilliant and
unruffled water, "greatly would this person esteem a short river
journey, such as we often enjoyed together in the days when you were

Ling, to whom the expressed desires of Mian were as the word of the
Emperor, instantly prepared the small and ornamental junk which was
fastened near for this purpose, and was about to step in, when a
presumptuous and highly objectionable hand restrained him.

"Behold," remarked a voice which Ling had some difficulty in ascribing
to any known person, so greatly had it changed from its usual tone,
"behold how the immature and altogether too-inferior Ling observes his
spoken and written assertions!"

At this low-conditioned speech, Ling drew his well-tempered sword
without further thought, in spite of the restraining arms of Mian, but
at the sight of the utterly incapable person Wang, who stood near
smiling meaninglessly and waving his arms with a continuous and
backward motion, he again replaced it.

"Such remarks can be left to fall unheeded from the lips of one who
bears every indication of being steeped in rice spirit," he said with
unprovoked dignity.

"It will be the plain duty of this expert and uncorruptible person to
furnish the unnecessary, but, nevertheless, very severe and
self-opinionated Chang-ch'un with a written account of how the
traitorous and deceptive Ling has endeavoured to break through the
thirty-fourth vessel of the liquids to be consumed and not to be
consumed," continued Wang with increased deliberation and an entire
absence of attention to Ling's action and speech, "and how by this
refined person's unfailing civility and resourceful strategy he has
been frustrated."

"Perchance," said Ling, after examining his thoughts for a short
space, and reflecting that the list of things to be done and not to be
done was to him as a blank leaf, "there may even be some small portion
of that which is accurate in his statement. In what manner," he
continued, addressing the really unendurable person, who was by this
time preparing to pass the night in the cool swamp by the river's
edge, "does this one endanger any detail of the written and sealed
parchment by such an action?"

"Inasmuch," replied Wang, pausing in the process of removing his outer
garments, "as the seventy-ninth--the intricate name given to it
escapes this person's tongue at the moment--but the
ninety-seventh--experLingknowswhamean--provides that any person, with
or without, attempting or not avoiding to travel by sea, lake, or
river, or to place himself in such a position as he may reasonably and
intelligently be drowned in salt water, fresh water, or--or honourable
rice spirit, shall be guilty of, and suffer--complete loss of memory."
With these words the immoderate and contemptible person sank down in a
very profound slumber.

"Alas!" said Ling, turning to Mian, who stood near, unable to retire
even had she desired, by reason of the extreme agitation into which
the incident had thrown her delicate mind and body, "how intensely
aggravating a circumstance that we are compelled to entertain so
dissolute a one by reason of this person's preoccupation when the
matter was read. Nevertheless, it is not unlikely that the detail he
spoke of was such as he insisted, to the extent of making it a thing
not to be done to journey in any manner by water. It shall be an early
endeavour of this person to get these restraining details equitably
amended; but in the meantime we will retrace our footsteps through the
wood, and the enraptured Ling will make a well-thought-out attempt to
lighten the passage by a recital of his recently-composed verses on
the subject of 'Exile from the Loved One; or, Farewell and Return.'"


"MY beloved lord!" said Mian sadly, on a morning after many days had
passed since the return of Ling, "have you not every possession for
which the heart of a wise person searches? Yet the dark mark is
scarcely ever absent from your symmetrical brow. If she who stands
before you, and is henceforth an integral part of your organization,
has failed you in any particular, no matter how unimportant, explain
the matter to her, and the amendment will be a speedy and a joyful

It was indeed true that Ling's mind was troubled, but the fault did
not lie with Mian, as the person in question was fully aware, for
before her eyes as before those of Ling the unevadable compact which
had been entered into with Chang-ch'un was ever present, insidiously
planting bitterness within even the most select and accomplished
delights. Nor with increasing time did the obstinate and intrusive
person Wang become more dignified in his behaviour; on the contrary,
he freely made use of his position to indulge in every variety of
abandonment, and almost each day he prevented, by reason of his
knowledge of the things to be done and not to be done, some refined
and permissible entertainment upon which Ling and Mian had determined.
Ling had despatched many communications upon this subject to
Chang-ch'un, praying also that some expert way out of the annoyance of
the lesser and more unimportant things not to be done should be
arrived at, but the time when he might reasonably expect an answer to
these written papers had not yet arrived.

It was about this period that intelligence was brought to Ling from
the villages on the road to Peking, how Li Keen, having secretly
ascertained that his Yamen was standing and his goods uninjured, had
determined to return, and was indeed at that hour within a hundred li
of Si-chow. Furthermore, he had repeatedly been understood to
pronounce clearly that he considered Ling to be the head and beginning
of all his inconveniences, and to declare that the first act of
justice which he should accomplish on his return would be to submit
the person in question to the most unbearable tortures, and then cause
him to lose his head publicly as an outrager of the settled state of
things and an enemy of those who loved tranquillity. Not doubting that
Li Keen would endeavour to gain an advantage by treachery if the
chance presented itself, Ling determined to go forth to meet him, and
without delay settle the entire disturbance in one well-chosen and
fatally-destructive encounter. To this end, rather than disturb the
placid mind of Mian, to whom the thought of the engagement would be
weighted with many disquieting fears, he gave out that he was going
upon an expedition to surprise and capture certain fish of a very
delicate flavour, and attended by only two persons, he set forth in
the early part of the day.

Some hours later, owing to an ill-considered remark on the part of the
deaf attendant, to whom the matter had been explained in an imperfect
light, Mian became possessed of the true facts of the case, and
immediately all the pleasure of existence went from her. She despaired
of ever again beholding Ling in an ordinary state, and mournfully
reproached herself for the bitter words which had risen to her lips
when the circumstance of his condition and the arrangement with
Chang-ch'un first became known to her. After spending an interval in a
polished lament at the manner in which things were inevitably tending,
the thought occurred to Mian whether by any means in her power she
could influence the course and settled method of affairs. In this
situation the memory of the person Wang, and the fact that on several
occasions he had made himself objectionable when Ling had proposed to
place himself in such a position that he incurred some very remote
chance of death by drowning or by fire, recurred to her. Subduing the
natural and pure-minded repulsion which she invariably experienced at
the mere thought of so debased an individual, she sought for him, and
discovering him in the act of constructing cardboard figures of men
and animals, which it was his custom to dispose skilfully in
little-frequented paths for the purpose of enjoying the sudden terror
of those who passed by, she quickly put the matter before him, urging
him, by some means, to prevent the encounter, which must assuredly
cost the life of the one whom he had so often previously obstructed
from incurring the slightest risk.

"By no means," exclaimed Wang, when he at length understood the full
meaning of the project; "it would be a most unpresentable action for
this commonplace person to interfere in so honourable an undertaking.
Had the priceless body of the intrepid Ling been in any danger of
disappearing, as, for example, by drowning or being consumed in fire,
the nature of the circumstance would have been different. As the
matter exists, however, there is every appearance that the far-seeing
Chang-ch'un will soon reap the deserved reward of his somewhat
speculative enterprise, and to that end this person will immediately
procure a wooden barrier and the services of four robust carriers, and
proceed to the scene of the conflict."

Deprived of even this hope of preventing the encounter, Mian betook
herself in extreme dejection to the secret room of the magician, which
had been unopened since the day when the two attendants had searched
for substances to apply to their master, and there she diligently
examined every object in the remote chance of discovering something
which might prove of value in averting the matter in question.

Not anticipating that the true reason of his journey would become
known to Mian, Ling continued on his way without haste, and passing
through Si-chow before the sun had risen, entered upon the great road
to Peking. At a convenient distance from the town he came to a
favourable piece of ground where he decided to await the arrival of Li
Keen, spending the time profitably in polishing his already brilliant
sword, and making observations upon the nature of the spot and the
condition of the surrounding omens, on which the success of his
expedition would largely depend.

As the sun reached the highest point in the open sky the sound of an
approaching company could be plainly heard; but at the moment when the
chair of the Mandarin appeared within the sight of those who waited,
the great luminary, upon which all portents depend directly or
indirectly, changed to the colour of new-drawn blood and began to sink
towards the earth. Without any misgivings, therefore, Ling disposed
his two attendants in the wood, with instructions to step forth and
aid him if he should be attacked by overwhelming numbers, while he
himself remained in the way. As the chair approached, the Mandarin
observed a person standing alone, and thinking that it was one who,
hearing of his return, had come out of the town to honour him, he
commanded the bearers to pause. Thereupon, stepping up to the opening,
Ling struck the deceptive and incapable Li Keen on the cheek, at the
same time crying in a full voice, "Come forth, O traitorous and
two-stomached Mandarin! for this person is very desirous of assisting
you in the fulfilment of your boastful words. Here is a most
irreproachable sword which will serve excellently to cut off this
person's undignified head; here is a waistcord which can be tightened
around his breast, thereby producing excruciating pains over the
entire body."

At the knowledge of who the one before him was, and when he heard the
words which unhesitatingly announced Ling's fixed purpose, Li Keen
first urged the carriers to fall upon Ling and slay him, and then,
perceiving that such a course was exceedingly distasteful to their
natural tendencies, to take up the chair and save him by flight. But
Ling in the meantime engaged their attention, and fully explained to
them the treacherous and unworthy conduct of Li Keen, showing them how
his death would be a just retribution for his ill-spent life, and
promising them each a considerable reward in addition to their
arranged payment when the matter in question had been accomplished.
Becoming convinced of the justice of Ling's cause, they turned upon Li
Keen, insisting that he should at once attempt to carry out the
ill-judged threats against Ling, of which they were consistent
witnesses, and announcing that, if he failed to do so, they would
certainly bear him themselves to a not far distant well of stagnant
water, and there gain the approbation of the good spirits by freeing
the land of so unnatural a monster.

Seeing only a dishonourable death on either side, Li Keen drew his
sword, and made use of every artifice of which he had knowledge in
order to disarm Ling or to take him at a disadvantage. In this he was
unsuccessful, for Ling, who was by nature a very expert sword-user,
struck him repeatedly, until he at length fell in an expiring
condition, remarking with his last words that he had indeed been a
narrow-minded and extortionate person during his life, and that his
death was an enlightened act of celestial accuracy.

Directing Wang and his four hired persons, who had in the meantime
arrived, to give the body of the Mandarin an honourable burial in the
deep of the wood, Ling rewarded and dismissed the chairbearers, and
without delay proceeded to Si-chow, where he charitably distributed
the goods and possessions of Li Keen among the poor of the town.
Having in this able and conscientious manner completely proved the
misleading nature of the disgraceful statements which the Mandarin had
spread abroad concerning him, Ling turned his footsteps towards Mian,
whose entrancing joy at his safe return was judged by both persons to
be a sufficient reward for the mental distress with which their
separation had been accompanied.


AFTER the departure of Ling from Canton, the commercial affairs of
Chang-ch'un began, from a secret and undetectable cause, to assume an
ill-regulated condition. No venture which he undertook maintained a
profitable attitude, so that many persons who in former times had been
content to display the printed papers setting forth his name and
virtues in an easily-seen position in their receiving-rooms, now
placed themselves daily before his house in order to accuse him of
using their taels in ways which they themselves had not sufficiently
understood, and for the purpose of warning passers-by against his
inducements. It was in vain that Chang proposed new undertakings, each
of an infallibly more prosperous nature than those before; the persons
who had hitherto supported him were all entrusting their money to one
named Pung Soo, who required millions where Chang had been content
with thousands, and who persistently insisted on greeting the sacred
Emperor as an equal.

In this unenviable state Chang's mind continually returned to thoughts
of Ling, whose lifeless body would so opportunely serve to dispel the
embarrassing perplexities of existence which were settling thickly
about him. Urged forward by a variety of circumstances which placed
him in an entirely different spirit from the honourable bearing which
he had formerly maintained, he now closely examined all the papers
connected with the matter, to discover whether he might not be able to
effect his purpose with an outward exhibition of law forms. While
engaged in this degrading occupation, a detail came to his notice
which caused him to become very amiably disposed and confident of
success. Proceeding with the matter, he caused a well-supported report
to be spread about that Ling was suffering from a wasting sickness,
which, without in any measure shortening his life, would cause him to
return to the size and weight of a newly-born child, and being by
these means enabled to secure the entire matter of "The Ling (After
Death) Without Much Risk Assembly" at a very small outlay, he did so,
and then, calling together a company of those who hire themselves out
for purposes of violence, journeyed to Si-chow.

Ling and Mian were seated together at a table in the great room,
examining a vessel of some clear liquid, when Chang-ch'un entered with
his armed ones, in direct opposition to the general laws of ordinary
conduct and the rulings of hospitality. At the sight, which plainly
indicated a threatened display of violence, Ling seized his renowned
sword, which was never far distant from him, and prepared to carry out
his spoken vow, that any person overstepping a certain mark on the
floor would assuredly fall.

"Put away your undoubtedly competent weapon, O Ling," said Chang, who
was desirous that the matter should be arranged if possible without
any loss to himself, "for such a course can be honourably adopted when
it is taken into consideration that we are as twenty to one, and have,
moreover, the appearance of being inspired by law forms."

"There are certain matters of allowed justice which over-rule all
other law forms," replied Ling, taking a surer hold of his
sword-grasp. "Explain, for your part, O obviously double-dealing
Chang-ch'un, from whom this person only recently parted on terms of
equality and courtesy, why you come not with an agreeable face and a
peaceful following, but with a countenance which indicates both
violence and terror, and accompanied by many whom this person
recognizes as the most outcast and degraded from the narrow and
evil-smelling ways of Canton?"

"In spite of your blustering words," said Chang, with some attempt at
an exhibition of dignity, "this person is endowed by every right, and
comes only for the obtaining, by the help of this expert and
proficient gathering, should such a length become necessary, of his
just claims. Understand that in the time since the venture was
arranged this person has become possessed of all the property of 'The
Ling (After Death) Without Much Risk Assembly', and thereby he is
competent to act fully in the matter. It has now come within his
attention that the one Ling to whom the particulars refer is
officially dead, and as the written and sealed document clearly
undertook that the person's body was to be delivered up for whatever
use the Assembly decided whenever death should possess it, this person
has now come for the honourable carrying out of the undertaking."

At these words the true nature of the hidden contrivance into which he
had fallen descended upon Ling like a heavy and unavoidable
thunderbolt. Nevertheless, being by nature and by reason of his late
exploits fearless of death, except for the sake of the loved one by
his side, he betrayed no sign of discreditable emotion at the

"In such a case," he replied, with an appearance of entirely
disregarding the danger of the position, "the complete parchment must
be of necessity overthrown; for if this person is now officially dead,
he was equally so at the time of sealing, and arrangements entered
into by dead persons have no actual existence."

"That is a matter which has never been efficiently decided," admitted
Chang-ch'un, with no appearance of being thrown into a state of
confusion at the suggestion, "and doubtless the case in question can
by various means be brought in the end before the Court of Final
Settlement at Peking, where it may indeed be judged in the manner you
assert. But as such a process must infallibly consume the wealth of a
province and the years of an ordinary lifetime, and as it is this
person's unmoved intention to carry out his own view of the
undertaking without delay, such speculations are not matters of
profound interest."

Upon this Chang gave certain instructions to his followers, who
thereupon prepared to advance. Perceiving that the last detail of the
affair had been arrived at, Ling threw back his hanging garment, and
was on the point of rushing forward to meet them, when Mian, who had
maintained a possessed and reliant attitude throughout, pushed towards
him the vessel of pure and sparkling liquid with which they had been
engaged when so presumptuously broken in upon, at the same time
speaking to him certain words in an outside language. A new and
Heaven-sent confidence immediately took possession of Ling, and
striking his sword against the wall with such irresistible force that
the entire chamber trembled and the feeble-minded assassins shrank
back in unrestrained terror, he leapt upon the table, grasping in one
hand the open vessel.

"Behold the end, O most uninventive and slow-witted Chang-ch'un!" he
cried in a dreadful and awe-compelling voice. "As a reward for your
faithless and traitorous behaviour, learn how such avaricious-minded
incompetence turns and fastens itself upon the vitals of those who
beget it. In spite of many things which were not of a graceful nature
towards him, this person has unassumingly maintained his part of the
undertaking, and would have followed such a course conscientiously to
the last. As it is, when he has made an end of speaking, the body
which you are already covetously estimating in taels will in no way be
distinguishable from that of the meanest and most ordinary maker of
commercial ventures in Canton. For, behold! the fluid which he holds
in his hand, and which it is his fixed intention to drain to the last
drop, is in truth nothing but a secret and exceedingly powerful
counteractor against the virtues of the gold drug; and though but a
single particle passed his lips, and the swords of your brilliant and
versatile murderers met the next moment in his breast, the body which
fell at your feet would be meet for worms rather than for the

It was indeed such a substance as Ling represented it to be, Mian
having discovered it during her very systematic examination of the
dead magician's inner room. Its composition and distillation had
involved that self-opinionated person in many years of arduous toil,
for with a somewhat unintelligent lack of foresight he had obstinately
determined to perfect the antidote before he turned his attention to
the drug itself. Had the matter been more ingeniously arranged, he
would undoubtedly have enjoyed an earlier triumph and an affluent and
respected old age.

At Ling's earnest words and prepared attitude an instant conviction of
the truth of his assertions took possession of Chang. Therefore,
seeing nothing but immediate and unevadable ruin at the next step, he
called out in a loud and imploring voice that he should desist, and no
harm would come upon him. To this Ling consented, first insisting that
the followers should be dismissed without delay, and Chang alone
remain to have conversation on the matter. By this just act the lower
parts of Canton were greatly purified, for the persons in question
being driven forth into the woods, mostly perished by encounters with
wild animals, or at the hands of the enraged villagers, to whom Ling
had by this time become greatly endeared.

When the usual state had been restored, Ling made clear to Chang the
altered nature of the conditions to which he would alone agree. "It is
a noble-minded and magnanimous proposal on your part, and one to which
this misguided person had no claim," admitted Chang, as he affixed his
seal to the written undertaking and committed the former parchment to
be consumed by fire. By this arrangement it was agreed that Ling
should receive only one-half of the yearly payment which had formerly
been promised, and that no sum of taels should become due to those
depending on him at his death. In return for these valuable
allowances, there were to exist no details of things to be done and
not to be done, Ling merely giving an honourable promise to observe
the matter in a just spirit, while--most esteemed of all--only a
portion of his body was to pass to Chang when the end arrived, the
upper part remaining to embellish the family altar and receive the
veneration of posterity.

As the great sky-lantern rose above the trees and the time of no-noise
fell upon the woods, a flower-laden pleasure-junk moved away from its
restraining cords, and, without any sense of motion, gently bore Ling
and Mian between the sweet-smelling banks of the Heng-Kiang. Presently
Mian drew from beneath her flowing garment an instrument of stringed
wood, and touching it with a quick but delicate stroke, like the
flight and pausing of a butterfly, told in well-balanced words a
refined narrative of two illustrious and noble-looking persons, and
how, after many disagreeable evils and unendurable separations, they
entered upon a destined state of earthly prosperity and celestial
favour. When she made an end of the verses, Ling turned the junk's
head by one well-directed stroke of the paddle, and prepared by using
similar means to return to the place of mooring.

"Indeed," he remarked, ceasing for a moment to continue this skilful
occupation, "the words which you have just spoken might, without
injustice, be applied to the two persons who are now conversing
together. For after suffering misfortunes and wrongs beyond an
appropriate portion, they have now reached that period of existence
when a tranquil and contemplative future is assured to them. In this
manner is the sage and matured utterance of the inspired philosopher
Nien-tsu again proved: that the life of every person is largely
composed of two varieties of circumstances which together build up his
existence--the Good and the Evil."


WHEN Kai Lung, the story-teller, made an end of speaking, he was
immediately greeted with a variety of delicate and pleasing remarks,
all persons who had witnessed the matter, down even to the lowest type
of Miaotze, who by reason of their obscure circumstances had been
unable to understand the meaning of a word that had been spoken,
maintaining that Kai Lung's accomplishment of continuing for upwards
of three hours without a pause had afforded an entertainment of a very
high and refined order. While these polished sayings were being
composed, together with many others of a similar nature, Lin Yi
suddenly leapt to his feet with a variety of highly objectionable
remarks concerning the ancestors of all those who were present, and
declaring that the story of Ling was merely a well-considered
stratagem to cause them to forget the expedition which they had
determined upon, for by that time it should have been completely
carried out. It was undoubtedly a fact that the hour spoken of for the
undertaking had long passed, Lin Yi having completely overlooked the
speed of time in his benevolent anxiety that the polite and valorous
Ling should in the end attain to a high and remunerative destiny.

In spite of Kai Lung's consistent denials of any treachery, he could
not but be aware that the incident tended greatly to his disadvantage
in the eyes of those whom he had fixed a desire to conciliate, nor did
his well-intentioned offer that he would without hesitation repeat the
display for a like number of hours effect his amiable purpose. How the
complication would finally have been determined without interruption
is a matter merely of imagination, for at that moment an outpost, who
had been engaged in guarding the secrecy of the expedition, threw
himself into the enclosure in a torn and breathless condition, having
run through the forest many li in a winding direction for the explicit
purpose of warning Lin Yi that his intentions had become known, and
that he and his followers would undoubtedly be surprised and overcome
if they left the camp.

At this intimation of the eminent service which Kai Lung had rendered
them, the nature of their faces towards him at once changed
completely, those who only a moment before had been demanding his
death particularly hailing him as their inspired and unobtrusive
protector, and in all probability, indeed, a virtuous and benignant
spirit in disguise.

Bending under the weight of offerings which Lin Yi and his followers
pressed upon him, together with many clearly set out desires for his
future prosperity, and assured of their unalterable protection on all
future occasions, Kai Lung again turned his face towards the lanterns
of Knei Yang. Far down the side of the mountain they followed his
footsteps, now by a rolling stone, now by a snapping branch of yellow
pine. Once again they heard his voice, cheerfully repeating to
himself; "Among the highest virtues of a pure existence--" But beyond
that point the gentle forest breath bore him away.



Narrated by Kai Lung, in the open space of the tea-shop of The
Celestial Principles, at Wu-whei.

"Ho, illustrious passers-by!" said Kai Lung, the story-teller, as he
spread out his embroidered mat under the mulberry-tree. "It is indeed
unlikely that you would condescend to stop and listen to the foolish
words of such an insignificant and altogether deformed person as
myself. Nevertheless, if you will but retard your elegant footsteps
for a few moments, this exceedingly unprepossessing individual will
endeavour to entertain you with the recital of the adventures of the
noble Yung Chang, as recorded by the celebrated Pe-ku-hi."

Thus adjured, the more leisurely-minded drew near to hear the history
of Yung Chang. There was Sing You the fruit-seller, and Li Ton-ti the
wood-carver; Hi Seng left his clients to cry in vain for water; and
Wang Yu, the idle pipe-maker, closed his shop of "The Fountain of
Beauty", and hung on the shutter the gilt dragon to keep away
customers in his absence. These, together with a few more shopkeepers
and a dozen or so loafers, constituted a respectable audience by the
time Kai Lung was ready.

"It would be more seemly if this ill-conditioned person who is now
addressing such a distinguished assembly were to reward his fine and
noble-looking hearers for their trouble," apologized the story-teller.
"But, as the Book of Verses says, 'The meaner the slave, the greater
the lord'; and it is, therefore, not unlikely that this majestic
concourse will reward the despicable efforts of their servant by
handfuls of coins till the air appears as though filled with swarms of
locusts in the season of much heat. In particular, there is among this
august crowd of Mandarins one Wang Yu, who has departed on three
previous occasions without bestowing the reward of a single cash. If
the feeble and covetous-minded Wang Yu will place within this very
ordinary bowl the price of one of his exceedingly ill-made pipes, this
unworthy person will proceed."

"Vast chasms can be filled, but the heart of man never," quoted the
pipe-maker in retort. "Oh, most incapable of story-tellers, have you
not on two separate occasions slept beneath my utterly inadequate roof
without payment?"

But he, nevertheless, deposited three cash in the bowl, and drew
nearer among the front row of the listeners.

"It was during the reign of the enlightened Emperor Tsing Nung," began
Kai Lung, without further introduction, "that there lived at a village
near Honan a wealthy and avaricious maker of idols, named Ti Hung. So
skilful had he become in the making of clay idols that his fame had
spread for many li round, and idol-sellers from all the neighbouring
villages, and even from the towns, came to him for their stock. No
other idol-maker between Honan and Nanking employed so many
clay-gatherers or so many modellers; yet, with all his riches, his
avarice increased till at length he employed men whom he called
'agents' and 'travellers', who went from house to house selling his
idols and extolling his virtues in verses composed by the most
illustrious poets of the day. He did this in order that he might turn
into his own pocket the full price of the idols, grudging those who
would otherwise have sold them the few cash which they would make.
Owing to this he had many enemies, and his army of travellers made him
still more; for they were more rapacious than the scorpion, and more
obstinate than the ox. Indeed, there is still the proverb, 'With honey
it is possible to soften the heart of the he-goat; but a blow from an
iron cleaver is taken as a mark of welcome by an agent of Ti Hung.' So
that people barred the doors at their approach, and even hung out
signs of death and mourning.

"Now, among all his travellers there was none more successful, more
abandoned, and more valuable to Ti Hung than Li Ting. So depraved was
Li Ting that he was never known to visit the tombs of his ancestors;
indeed, it was said that he had been heard to mock their venerable
memories, and that he had jestingly offered to sell them to anyone who
should chance to be without ancestors of his own. This objectionable
person would call at the houses of the most illustrious Mandarins, and
would command the slaves to carry to their masters his tablets, on
which were inscribed his name and his virtues. Reaching their
presence, he would salute them with the greeting of an equal, 'How is
your stomach?' and then proceed to exhibit samples of his wares,
greatly overrating their value. 'Behold!' he would exclaim, 'is not
this elegantly-moulded idol worthy of the place of honour in this
sumptuous mansion which my presence defiles to such an extent that
twelve basins of rose-water will not remove the stain? Are not its
eyes more delicate than the most select of almonds? and is not its
stomach rounder than the cupolas upon the high temple at Peking? Yet,
in spite of its perfections, it is not worthy of the acceptance of so
distinguished a Mandarin, and therefore I will accept in return the
quarter-tael, which, indeed, is less than my illustrious master gives
for the clay alone.'

"In this manner Li Ting disposed of many idols at high rates, and
thereby endeared himself so much to the avaricious heart of Ti Hung
that he promised him his beautiful daughter Ning in marriage.

"Ning was indeed very lovely. Her eyelashes were like the finest
willow twigs that grow in the marshes by the Yang-tse-Kiang; her
cheeks were fairer than poppies; and when she bathed in the Hoang Ho,
her body seemed transparent. Her brow was finer than the most polished
jade; while she seemed to walk, like a winged bird, without weight,
her hair floating in a cloud. Indeed, she was the most beautiful
creature that has ever existed."

"Now may you grow thin and shrivel up like a fallen lemon; but it is
false!" cried Wang Yu, starting up suddenly and unexpectedly. "At Chee
Chou, at the shop of 'The Heaven-sent Sugar-cane', there lives a
beautiful and virtuous girl who is more than all that. Her eyes are
like the inside circles on the peacock's feathers; her teeth are finer
than the scales on the Sacred Dragon; her--"

"If it is the wish of this illustriously-endowed gathering that this
exceedingly illiterate paper tiger should occupy their august moments
with a description of the deformities of the very ordinary young
person at Chee Chou," said Kai Lung imperturbably, "then the remainder
of the history of the noble-minded Yung Chang can remain until an evil
fate has overtaken Wang Yu, as it assuredly will shortly."

"A fair wind raises no storm," said Wang Yu sulkily; and Kai Lung

"Such loveliness could not escape the evil eye of Li Ting, and
accordingly, as he grew in favour with Ti Hung, he obtained his
consent to the drawing up of the marriage contracts. More than this,
he had already sent to Ning two bracelets of the finest gold, tied
together with a scarlet thread, as a betrothal present. But, as the
proverb says, 'The good bee will not touch the faded flower', and
Ning, although compelled by the second of the Five Great Principles to
respect her father, was unable to regard the marriage with anything
but abhorrence. Perhaps this was not altogether the fault of Li Ting,
for on the evening of the day on which she had received his present,
she walked in the rice fields, and sitting down at the foot of a
funereal cypress, whose highest branches pierced the Middle Air, she
cried aloud:

"'I cannot control my bitterness. Of what use is it that I should be
called the "White Pigeon among Golden Lilies", if my beauty is but for
the hog-like eyes of the exceedingly objectionable Li Ting? Ah, Yung
Chang, my unfortunate lover! what evil spirit pursues you that you
cannot pass your examination for the second degree? My noble-minded
but ambitious boy, why were you not content with an agricultural or
even a manufacturing career and happiness? By aspiring to a literary
degree, you have placed a barrier wider than the Whang Hai between

"'As the earth seems small to the soaring swallow, so shall
insuperable obstacles be overcome by the heart worn smooth with a
fixed purpose,' said a voice beside her, and Yung Chang stepped from
behind the cypress tree, where he had been waiting for Ning. 'O one
more symmetrical than the chrysanthemum,' he continued, 'I shall yet,
with the aid of my ancestors, pass the second degree, and even obtain
a position of high trust in the public office at Peking.'

"'And in the meantime,' pouted Ning, 'I shall have partaken of the
wedding-cake of the utterly unpresentable Li Ting.' And she exhibited
the bracelets which she had that day received.

"'Alas!' said Yung Chang, 'there are times when one is tempted to
doubt even the most efficacious and violent means. I had hoped that by
this time Li Ting would have come to a sudden and most unseemly end;
for I have drawn up and affixed in the most conspicuous places
notifications of his character, similar to the one here.'

"Ning turned, and beheld fastened to the trunk of the cypress an
exceedingly elegantly written and composed notice, which Yung read to
her as follows:


"'Let the distinguished inhabitants of this district observe
the exceedingly ungraceful walk and bearing of the low person
who calls himself Li Ting. Truthfully, it is that of a dog in
the act of being dragged to the river because his sores and
diseases render him objectionable in the house of his master.
So will this hunchbacked person be dragged to the place of
execution, and be bowstrung, to the great relief of all who
respect the five senses; A Respectful Physiognomy,
Passionless, Reflexion, Soft Speech, Acute Hearing, Piercing

"'He hopes to attain to the Red Button and the Peacock's
Feather; but the right hand of the Deity itches, and Li Ting
will assuredly be removed suddenly.'

"'Li Ting must certainly be in league with the evil forces if he can
withstand so powerful a weapon,' said Ning admiringly, when her lover
had finished reading. 'Even now he is starting on a journey, nor will
he return till the first day of the month when the sparrows go to the
sea and are changed into oysters. Perhaps the fate will overtake him
while he is away. If not--'

"'If not,' said Yung, taking up her words as she paused, 'then I have
yet another hope. A moment ago you were regretting my choice of a
literary career. Learn, then, the value of knowledge. By its aid
(assisted, indeed, by the spirits of my ancestors) I have discovered a
new and strange thing, for which I can find no word. By using this new
system of reckoning, your illustrious but exceedingly narrow-minded
and miserly father would be able to make five taels where he now makes
one. Would he not, in consideration for this, consent to receive me as
a son-in-law, and dismiss the inelegant and unworthy Li Ting?'

"'In the unlikely event of your being able to convince my illustrious
parent of what you say, it would assuredly be so,' replied Ning. 'But
in what way could you do so? My sublime and charitable father already
employs all the means in his power to reap the full reward of his
sacred industry. His "solid house-hold gods" are in reality mere
shells of clay; higher-priced images are correspondingly constructed,
and his clay gatherers and modellers are all paid on a "profit-sharing
system". Nay, further, it is beyond likelihood that he should wish for
more purchasers, for so great is his fame that those who come to buy
have sometimes to wait for days in consequence of those before them;
for my exceedingly methodical sire entrusts none with the receiving of
money, and the exchanges are therefore made slowly. Frequently an
unnaturally devout person will require as many as a hundred idols, and
so the greater part of the day will be passed.'

"'In what way?' inquired Yung tremulously.

"'Why, in order that the countings may not get mixed, of course; it is
necessary that when he has paid for one idol he should carry it to a
place aside, and then return and pay for the second, carrying it to
the first, and in such a manner to the end. In this way the sun sinks
behind the mountains.'

"'But,' said Yung, his voice thick with his great discovery, 'if he
could pay for the entire quantity at once, then it would take but a
hundredth part of the time, and so more idols could be sold.'

"'How could this be done?' inquired Ning wonderingly. 'Surely it is
impossible to conjecture the value of so many idols.'

"'To the unlearned it would indeed be impossible,' replied Yung
proudly, 'but by the aid of my literary researches I have been enabled
to discover a process by which such results would be not a matter of
conjecture, but of certainty. These figures I have committed to
tablets, which I am prepared to give to your mercenary and slow-witted
father in return for your incomparable hand, a share of the profits,
and the dismissal of the unintentive and morally threadbare Li Ting.'

"'When the earth-worm boasts of his elegant wings, the eagle can
afford to be silent,' said a harsh voice behind them; and turning
hastily they beheld Li Ting, who had come upon them unawares. 'Oh,
most insignificant of table-spoilers,' he continued, 'it is very
evident that much over-study has softened your usually well-educated
brains. Were it not that you are obviously mentally afflicted, I
should unhesitatingly persuade my beautiful and refined sword to
introduce you to the spirits of your ignoble ancestors. As it is, I
will merely cut off your nose and your left ear, so that people may
not say that the Dragon of the Earth sleeps and wickedness goes

"Both had already drawn their swords, and very soon the blows were so
hard and swift that, in the dusk of the evening, it seemed as though
the air were filled with innumerable and many-coloured fireworks. Each
was a practised swordsman, and there was no advantage gained on either
side, when Ning, who had fled on the appearance of Li Ting,
reappeared, urging on her father, whose usually leisurely footsteps
were quickened by the dread that the duel must surely result in
certain loss to himself, either of a valuable servant, or of the
discovery which Ning had briefly explained to him, and of which he at
once saw the value.

"'Oh, most distinguished and expert persons,' he exclaimed
breathlessly, as soon as he was within hearing distance, 'do not
trouble to give so marvellous an exhibition for the benefit of this
unworthy individual, who is the only observer of your illustrious
dexterity! Indeed, your honourable condescension so fills this
illiterate person with shame that his hearing is thereby
preternaturally sharpened, and he can plainly distinguish many voices
from beyond the Hoang Ho, crying for the Heaven-sent representative of
the degraded Ti Hung to bring them more idols. Bend, therefore, your
refined footsteps in the direction of Poo Chow, O Li Ting, and leave
me to make myself objectionable to this exceptional young man with my
intolerable commonplaces.'

"'The shadow falls in such a direction as the sun wills,' said Li
Ting, as he replaced his sword and departed.

"'Yung Chang,' said the merchant, 'I am informed that you have made a
discovery that would be of great value to me, as it undoubtedly would
if it is all that you say. Let us discuss the matter without ceremony.
Can you prove to me that your system possesses the merit you claim for
it? If so, then the matter of arrangement will be easy.'

"'I am convinced of the absolute certainty and accuracy of the
discovery,' replied Yung Chang. 'It is not as though it were an
ordinary matter of human intelligence, for this was discovered to me
as I was worshipping at the tomb of my ancestors. The method is
regulated by a system of squares, triangles, and cubes. But as the
practical proof might be long, and as I hesitate to keep your adorable
daughter out in the damp night air, may I not call at your inimitable
dwelling in the morning, when we can go into the matter thoroughly?'

"I will not weary this intelligent gathering, each member of which
doubtless knows all the books on mathematics off by heart, with a
recital of the means by which Yung Chang proved to Ti Hung the
accuracy of his tables and the value of his discovery of the
multiplication table, which till then had been undreamt of," continued
the story-teller. "It is sufficient to know that he did so, and that
Ti Hung agreed to his terms, only stipulating that Li Ting should not
be made aware of his dismissal until he had returned and given in his
accounts. The share of the profits that Yung was to receive was cut
down very low by Ti Hung, but the young man did not mind that, as he
would live with his father-in-law for the future.

"With the introduction of this new system, the business increased like
a river at flood-time. All rivals were left far behind, and Ti Hung
put out this sign:


"Good-morning! Have you worshipped one of Ti Hung's refined
ninety-nine cash idols?

"Let the purchasers of ill-constructed idols at other
establishments, where they have grown old and venerable while
waiting for the all-thumb proprietors to count up to ten, come
to the shop of Ti Hung and regain their lost youth. Our
ninety-nine cash idols are worth a tael a set. We do not,
however, claim that they will do everything. The ninety-nine
cash idols of Ti Hung will not, for example, purify linen, but
even the most contented and frozen-brained person cannot be
happy until he possesses one. What is happiness? The
exceedingly well-educated Philosopher defines it as the
accomplishment of all our desires. Everyone desires one of the
Ti Hung's ninety-nine cash idols, therefore get one; but be
sure that it is Ti Hung's.

"Have you a bad idol? If so, dismiss it, and get one of Ti
Hung's ninety-nine cash specimens.

"Why does your idol look old sooner than your neighbours?
Because yours is not one of Ti Hung's ninety-nine cash

"They bring all delights to the old and the young,
The elegant idols supplied by Ti Hung.

"N.B.--The 'Great Sacrifice' idol, forty-five cash; delivered,
carriage free, in quantities of not less than twelve, at any
temple, on the evening before the sacrifice.

"It was about this time that Li Ting returned. His journey had been
more than usually successful, and he was well satisfied in
consequence. It was not until he had made out his accounts and handed
in his money that Ti Hung informed him of his agreement with Yung

"'Oh, most treacherous and excessively unpopular Ti Hung,' exclaimed
Li Ting, in a terrible voice, 'this is the return you make for all my
entrancing efforts in your services, then? It is in this way that you
reward my exceedingly unconscientious recommendations of your very
inferior and unendurable clay idols, with their goggle eyes and
concave stomachs! Before I go, however, I request to be inspired to
make the following remark--that I confidently predict your ruin. And
now this low and undignified person will finally shake the elegant
dust of your distinguished house from his thoroughly inadequate feet,
and proceed to offer his incapable services to the rival establishment
over the way.'

"'The machinations of such an evilly-disposed person as Li Ting will
certainly be exceedingly subtle,' said Ti Hung to his son-in-law when
the traveller had departed. 'I must counteract his omens. Herewith I
wish to prophecy that henceforth I shall enjoy an unbroken run of good
fortune. I have spoken, and assuredly I shall not eat my words.'

"As the time went on, it seemed as though Ti Hung had indeed spoken
truly. The ease and celerity with which he transacted his business
brought him customers and dealers from more remote regions than ever,
for they could spend days on the journey and still save time. The army
of clay-gatherers and modellers grew larger and larger, and the
work-sheds stretched almost down to the river's edge. Only one thing
troubled Ti Hung, and that was the uncongenial disposition of his
son-in-law, for Yung took no further interest in the industry to which
his discovery had given so great an impetus, but resolutely set to
work again to pass his examination for the second degree.

"'It is an exceedingly distinguished and honourable thing to have
failed thirty-five times, and still to be undiscouraged,' admitted Ti
Hung; 'but I cannot cleanse my throat from bitterness when I consider
that my noble and lucrative business must pass into the hands of
strangers, perhaps even into the possession of the unendurable Li

"But it had been appointed that this degrading thing should not
happen, however, and it was indeed fortunate that Yung did not abandon
his literary pursuits; for after some time it became very apparent to
Ti Hung that there was something radically wrong with his business. It
was not that his custom was falling off in any way; indeed, it had
lately increased in a manner that was phenomenal, and when the
merchant came to look into the matter, he found to his astonishment
that the least order he had received in the past week had been for a
hundred idols. All the sales had been large, and yet Ti Hung found
himself most unaccountably deficient in taels. He was puzzled and
alarmed, and for the next few days he looked into the business
closely. Then it was that the reason was revealed, both for the
falling off in the receipts and for the increase in the orders. The
calculations of the unfortunate Yung Chang were correct up to a
hundred, but at that number he had made a gigantic error--which,
however, he was never able to detect and rectify--with the result that
all transactions above that point worked out at a considerable loss to
the seller. It was in vain that the panic-stricken Ti Hung goaded his
miserable son-in-law to correct the mistake; it was equally in vain
that he tried to stem the current of his enormous commercial
popularity. He had competed for public favour, and he had won it, and
every day his business increased till ruin grasped him by the pigtail.
Then came an order from one firm at Peking for five millions of the
ninety-nine cash idols, and at that Ti Hung put up his shutters, and
sat down in the dust.

"'Behold!' he exclaimed, 'in the course of a lifetime there are many
very disagreeable evils that may overtake a person. He may offend the
Sacred Dragon, and be in consequence reduced to a fine dry powder; or
he may incur the displeasure of the benevolent and pure-minded
Emperor, and be condemned to death by roasting; he may also be
troubled by demons or by the disturbed spirits of his ancestors, or be
struck by thunderbolts. Indeed, there are numerous annoyances, but
they become as Heaven-sent blessings in comparison to a
self-opinionated and more than ordinarily weak-minded son-in-law. Of
what avail is it that I have habitually sold one idol for the value of
a hundred? The very objectionable man in possession sits in my
delectable summer-house, and the unavoidable legal documents settle
around me like a flock of pigeons. It is indeed necessary that I
should declare myself to be in voluntary liquidation, and make an
assignment of my book debts for the benefit of my creditors. Having
accomplished this, I will proceed to the well-constructed tomb of my
illustrious ancestors, and having kow-towed at their incomparable
shrines, I will put an end to my distinguished troubles with this
exceedingly well-polished sword.'

"'The wise man can adapt himself to circumstances as water takes the
shape of the vase that contains it,' said the well-known voice of Li
Ting. 'Let not the lion and the tiger fight at the bidding of the
jackal. By combining our forces all may be well with you yet. Assist
me to dispose of the entirely superfluous Yung Chang and to marry the
elegant and symmetrical Ning, and in return I will allot to you a
portion of my not inconsiderable income.'

"'However high the tree, the leaves fall to the ground, and your hour
has come at last, O detestable Li Ting!' said Yung, who had heard the
speakers and crept upon them unperceived. 'As for my distinguished and
immaculate father-in-law, doubtless the heat has affected his
indefatigable brains, or he would not have listened to your
contemptible suggestion. For yourself, draw!'

"Both swords flashed, but before a blow could be struck the spirits of
his ancestors hurled Li Ting lifeless to the ground, to avenge the
memories that their unworthy descendant had so often reviled.

"'So perish all the enemies of Yung Chang,' said the victor. 'And now,
my venerated but exceedingly short-sighted father-in-law, learn how
narrowly you have escaped making yourself exceedingly objectionable to
yourself. I have just received intelligence from Peking that I have
passed the second degree, and have in consequence been appointed to a
remunerative position under the Government. This will enable us to
live in comfort, if not in affluence, and the rest of your engaging
days can be peacefully spent in flying kites.'"



Related by Kai Lung, at Wu-whei, as a rebuke to Wang Yu and
certain others who had questioned the practical value of his stories.

"It is an undoubted fact that this person has not realized the direct
remunerative advantage which he confidently anticipated," remarked the
idle and discontented pipe-maker Wang Yu, as, with a few other persons
of similar inclination, he sat in the shade of the great mulberry tree
at Wu-whei, waiting for the evil influence of certain very mysterious
sounds, which had lately been heard, to pass away before he resumed
his occupation. "When the seemingly proficient and trustworthy Kai
Lung first made it his practice to journey to Wu-whei, and narrate to
us the doings of persons of all classes of life," he continued, "it
seemed to this one that by closely following the recital of how
Mandarins obtained their high position, and exceptionally rich persons
their wealth, he must, in the end, inevitably be rendered competent to
follow in their illustrious footsteps. Yet in how entirely contrary a
direction has the whole course of events tended! In spite of the
honourable intention which involved a frequent absence from his place
of commerce, those who journeyed thither with the set purpose of
possessing one of his justly-famed opium pipes so perversely regarded
the matter that, after two or three fruitless visits, they
deliberately turned their footsteps towards the workshop of the
inelegant Ming-yo, whose pipes are confessedly greatly inferior to
those produced by the person who is now speaking. Nevertheless, the
rapacious Kai Lung, to whose influence the falling off in custom was
thus directly attributable, persistently declined to bear any share
whatever in the loss which his profession caused, and, indeed,
regarded the circumstance from so grasping and narrow-minded a point
of observation that he would not even go to the length of suffering
this much-persecuted one to join the circle of his hearers without on
every occasion making the customary offering. In this manner a
well-intentioned pursuit of riches has insidiously led this person
within measurable distance of the bolted dungeon for those who do not
meet their just debts, while the only distinction likely to result
from his assiduous study of the customs and methods of those high in
power is that of being publicly bowstrung as a warning to others.
Manifestedly the pointed finger of the unreliable Kai Lung is a very
treacherous guide."

"It is related," said a dispassionate voice behind them, "that a
person of limited intelligence, on being assured that he would
certainly one day enjoy an adequate competence if he closely followed
the industrious habits of the thrifty bee, spent the greater part of
his life in anointing his thighs with the yellow powder which he
laboriously collected from the flowers of the field. It is not so
recorded; but doubtless the nameless one in question was by profession
a maker of opium pipes, for this person has observed from time to time
how that occupation, above all others, tends to degrade the mental
faculties, and to debase its followers to a lower position than that
of the beasts of labour. Learn therefrom, O superficial Wang Yu, that
wisdom lies in an intelligent perception of great principles, and not
in a slavish imitation of details which are, for the most part, beyond
your simple and insufficient understanding."

"Such may, indeed, be the case, Kai Lung," replied Wang Yu
sullenly--for it was the story-teller in question who had approached
unperceived, and who now stood before them--"but it is none the less a
fact that, on the last occasion when this misguided person joined the
attending circle at your uplifted voice, a Mandarin of the third
degree chanced to pass through Wu-whei, and halted at the door-step of
'The Fountain of Beauty', fully intending to entrust this one with the
designing and fashioning of a pipe of exceptional elaborateness. This
matter, by his absence, has now passed from him, and to-day, through
listening to the narrative of how the accomplished Yuin-Pel doubled
his fortune, he is the poorer by many taels."

"Yet to-morrow, when the name of the Mandarin of the third degree
appears in the list of persons who have transferred their entire
property to those who are nearly related to them in order to avoid it
being seized to satisfy the just claims made against them," replied
Kai Lung, "you will be able to regard yourself the richer by so many

At these words, which recalled to the minds of all who were present
the not uncommon manner of behaving observed by those of exalted rank,
who freely engaged persons to supply them with costly articles without
in any way regarding the price to be paid, Wang Yu was silent.

"Nevertheless," exclaimed a thin voice from the edge of the group
which surrounded Kai Lung, "it in nowise follows that the stories are
in themselves excellent, or of such a nature that the hearing of their
recital will profit a person. Wang Yu may be satisfied with empty
words, but there are others present who were studying deep matters
when Wang Yu was learning the art of walking. If Kai Lung's stories
are of such remunerative benefit as the person in question claims, how
does it chance that Kai Lung himself who is assuredly the best
acquainted with them, stands before us in mean apparel, and on all
occasions confessing an unassuming poverty?"

"It is Yan-hi Pung," went from mouth to mouth among the
bystanders--"Yan-hi Pung, who traces on paper the words of chants and
historical tales, and sells them to such as can afford to buy. And
although his motive in exposing the emptiness of Kai Lung's stories
may not be Heaven-sent--inasmuch as Kai Lung provides us with such
matter as he himself purveys, only at a much more moderate price--yet
his words are well considered, and must therefore be regarded."

"O Yan-hi Pung," replied Kai Lung, hearing the name from those who
stood about him, and moving towards the aged person, who stood
meanwhile leaning upon his staff, and looking from side to side with
quickly moving eyelids in a manner very offensive towards the
story-teller, "your just remark shows you to be a person of
exceptional wisdom, even as your well-bowed legs prove you to be one
of great bodily strength; for justice is ever obvious and wisdom
hidden, and they who build structures for endurance discard the
straight and upright and insist upon such an arch as you so
symmetrically exemplify."

Speaking in this conciliatory manner, Kai Lung came up to Yan-hi Pung,
and taking between his fingers a disc of thick polished crystal, which
the aged and short-sighted chant-writer used for the purpose of
magnifying and bringing nearer the letters upon which he was engaged,
and which hung around his neck by an embroidered cord, the
story-teller held it aloft, crying aloud:

"Observe closely, and presently it will be revealed and made clear how
the apparently very conflicting words of the wise Yan-hi Pung, and
those of this unassuming but nevertheless conscientious person who is
now addressing you, are, in reality, as one great truth."

With this assurance Kai Lung moved the crystal somewhat, so that it
engaged the sun's rays, and concentrated them upon the uncovered crown
of the unsuspecting and still objectionably-engaged person before him.
Without a moment's pause, Yan-hi Pung leapt high into the air,
repeatedly pressing his hand to the spot thus selected and crying

"Evil dragons and thunderbolts! but the touch was as hot as a scar
left by the uncut nail of the sublime Buddha!"

"Yet the crystal--" remarked Kai Lung composedly, passing it into the
hands of those who stood near.

"Is as cool as the innermost leaves of the riverside sycamore," they

Kai Lung said nothing further, but raised both his hands above his
head, as if demanding their judgement. Thereupon a loud shout went up
on his behalf, for the greater part of them loved to see the manner in
which he brushed aside those who would oppose him; and the sight of
the aged person Yan-hi Pung leaping far into the air had caused them
to become exceptionally amused, and, in consequence, very amiably
disposed towards the one who had afforded them the entertainment.

"The story of Sen Heng," began Kai Lung, when the discussion had
terminated in the manner already recorded, "concerns itself with one
who possessed an unsuspecting and ingenious nature, which ill-fitted
him to take an ordinary part in the everyday affairs of life, no
matter how engaging such a character rendered him among his friends
and relations. Having at an early age been entrusted with a burden of
rice and other produce from his father's fields to dispose of in the
best possible manner at a neighbouring mart, and having completed the
transaction in a manner extremely advantageous to those with whom he
trafficked but very intolerable to the one who had sent him, it at
once became apparent that some other means of gaining a livelihood
must be discovered for him.

"'Beyond all doubt,' said his father, after considering the matter for
a period, 'it is a case in which one should be governed by the wise
advice and example of the Mandarin Poo-chow.'

"'Illustrious sire,' exclaimed Sen Heng, who chanced to be present,
'the illiterate person who stands before you is entirely unacquainted
with the one to whom you have referred; nevertheless, he will, as you
suggest, at once set forth, and journeying with all speed to the abode
of the estimable Poo-chow, solicit his experience and advice.'

"'Unless a more serious loss should be occasioned,' replied the father
coldly, 'there is no necessity to adopt so extreme a course. The
benevolent Mandarin in question existed at a remote period of the
Thang dynasty, and the incident to which an allusion has been made
arose in the following way: To the public court of the enlightened
Poo-chow there came one day a youth of very inferior appearance and
hesitating manner, who besought his explicit advice, saying: "The
degraded and unprepossessing being before you, O select and venerable
Mandarin, is by nature and attainments a person of the utmost timidity
and fearfulness. From this cause life itself has become a detestable
observance in his eyes, for those who should be his companions of both
sexes hold him in undisguised contempt, making various unendurable
allusions to the colour and nature of his internal organs whenever he
would endeavour to join them. Instruct him, therefore, the manner in
which this cowardice may be removed, and no service in return will be
esteemed too great." "There is a remedy," replied the benevolent
Mandarin, without any hesitation whatever, "which if properly carried
out is efficacious beyond the possibility of failure. Certain
component parts of your body are lacking, and before the desired
result can be obtained these must be supplied from without. Of all
courageous things the tiger is the most fearless, and in consequence
it combines all those ingredients which you require; furthermore, as
the teeth of the tiger are the instruments with which it accomplishes
its vengeful purpose, there reside the essential principles of its
inimitable courage. Let the person who seeks instruction in the
matter, therefore, do as follows: taking the teeth of a full-grown
tiger as soon as it is slain, and before the essences have time to
return into the body, he shall grind them to a powder, and mixing the
powder with a portion of rice, consume it. After seven days he must
repeat the observance, and yet again a third time, after another
similar lapse. Let him, then, return for further guidance; for the
present the matter interests this person no further." At these words
the youth departed, filled with a new and inspired hope; for the
wisdom of the sagacious Poo-chow was a matter which did not admit of
any doubt whatever, and he had spoken with well-defined certainty of
the success of the experiment. Nevertheless, after several days
industriously spent in endeavouring to obtain by purchase the teeth of
a newly-slain tiger, the details of the undertaking began to assume a
new and entirely unforeseen aspect; for those whom he approached as
being the most likely to possess what he required either became very
immoderately and disagreeably amused at the nature of the request, or
regarded it as a new and ill-judged form of ridicule, which they
prepared to avenge by blows and by base remarks of the most personal
variety. At length it became unavoidably obvious to the youth that if
he was to obtain the articles in question it would first be necessary
that he should become adept in the art of slaying tigers, for in no
other way were the required conditions likely to be present. Although
the prospect was one which did not greatly tend to allure him, yet he
did not regard it with the utterly incapable emotions which would have
been present on an earlier occasion; for the habit of continually
guarding himself from the onslaughts of those who received his inquiry
in an attitude of narrow-minded distrust had inspired him with a
new-found valour, while his amiable and unrestrained manner of life
increased his bodily vigour in every degree. First perfecting himself
in the use of the bow and arrow, therefore, he betook himself to a
wild and very extensive forest, and there concealed himself among the
upper foliage of a tall tree standing by the side of a pool of water.
On the second night of his watch, the youth perceived a large but
somewhat ill-conditioned tiger approaching the pool for the purpose of
quenching its thirst, whereupon he tremblingly fitted an arrow to his
bowstring, and profiting by the instruction he had received, succeeded
in piercing the creature to the heart. After fulfilling the observance
laid upon him by the discriminating Poo-chow, the youth determined to
remain in the forest, and sustain himself upon such food as fell to
his weapons, until the time arrived when he should carry out the rite
for the last time. At the end of seven days, so subtle had he become
in all kinds of hunting, and so strengthened by the meat and herbs
upon which he existed, that he disdained to avail himself of the
shelter of a tree, but standing openly by the side of the water, he
engaged the attention of the first tiger which came to drink, and
discharged arrow after arrow into its body with unfailing power and
precision. So entrancing, indeed, had the pursuit become that the next
seven days lengthened out into the apparent period of as many moons,
in such a leisurely manner did they rise and fall. On the appointed
day, without waiting for the evening to arrive, the youth set out with
the first appearance of light, and penetrated into the most
inaccessible jungles, crying aloud words of taunt-laden challenge to
all the beasts therein, and accusing the ancestors of their race of
ever imaginable variety of evil behaviour. Yet so great had become the
renown of the one who stood forth, and so widely had the warning voice
been passed from tree to tree, preparing all who dwelt in the forest
against his anger, that not even the fiercest replied openly, though
low growls and mutterings proceeded from every cave within a
bow-shot's distance around. Wearying quickly of such feeble and
timorous demonstrations, the youth rushed into the cave from which the
loudest murmurs proceeded, and there discovered a tiger of unnatural
size, surrounded by the bones of innumerable ones whom it had
devoured; for from time to time its ravages became so great and
unbearable, that armies were raised in the neighbouring villages and
sent to destroy it, but more than a few stragglers never returned.
Plainly recognizing that a just and inevitable vengeance had overtaken
it, the tiger made only a very inferior exhibition of resistance, and
the youth, having first stunned it with a blow of his closed hand,
seized it by the middle, and repeatedly dashed its head against the
rocky sides of its retreat. He then performed for the third time the
ceremony enjoined by the Mandarin, and having cast upon the cringing
and despicable forms concealed in the surrounding woods and caves a
look of dignified and ineffable contempt, set out upon his homeward
journey, and in the space of three days' time reached the town of the
versatile Poo-chow. "Behold," exclaimed that person, when, lifting up
his eyes, he saw the youth approaching laden with the skins of the
tigers and other spoils, "now at least the youths and maidens of your
native village will no longer withdraw themselves from the company of
so undoubtedly heroic a person." "Illustrious Mandarin," replied the
other, casting both his weapons and his trophies before his inspired
adviser's feet, "what has this person to do with the little ones of
either sex? Give him rather the foremost place in your ever-victorious
company of bowmen, so that he may repay in part the undoubted debt
under which he henceforth exists." This proposal found favour with the
pure-minded Poo-chow, so that in course of time the unassuming youth
who had come supplicating his advice became the valiant commander of
his army, and the one eventually chosen to present plighting gifts to
his only daughter.'

"When the father had completed the narrative of how the faint-hearted
youth became in the end a courageous and resourceful leader of bowmen,
Sen looked up, and not in any degree understanding the purpose of the
story, or why it had been set forth before him, exclaimed:

"'Undoubtedly the counsel of the graceful and intelligent Mandarin
Poo-chow was of inestimable service in the case recorded, and this
person would gladly adopt it as his guide for the future, on the
chance of it leading to a similar honourable career; but alas! there
are no tigers to be found throughout this Province.'

"'It is a loss which those who are engaged in commerce in the city of
Hankow strive to supply adequately,' replied his father, who had an
assured feeling that it would be of no avail to endeavour to show Sen
that the story which he had just related was one setting forth a
definite precept rather than fixing an exact manner of behaviour. 'For
that reason,' he continued, 'this person has concluded an arrangement
by which you will journey to that place, and there enter into the
house of commerce of an expert and conscientious vendor of moving
contrivances. Among so rapacious and keen-witted a class of persons as
they of Hankow, it is exceedingly unlikely that your amiable
disposition will involve any individual one in an unavoidably serious
loss, and even should such an unforeseen event come to pass, there
will, at least, be the undeniable satisfaction of the thought that the
unfortunate occurrence will in no way affect the prosperity of those
to whom you are bound by the natural ties of affection.'

"'Benevolent and virtuous-minded father,' replied Sen gently, but
speaking with an inspired conviction; 'from his earliest infancy this
unassuming one has been instructed in an inviolable regard for the
Five General Principles of Fidelity to the Emperor, Respect for
Parents, Harmony between Husband and Wife, Agreement among Brothers,
and Constancy in Friendship. It will be entirely unnecessary to inform
so pious-minded a person as the one now being addressed that no evil
can attend the footsteps of an individual who courteously observes
these enactments.'

"'Without doubt it is so arranged by the protecting Deities,' replied
the father; 'yet it is an exceedingly desirable thing for those who
are responsible in the matter that the footsteps to which reference
has been made should not linger in the neighbourhood of the village,
but should, with all possible speed, turn in the direction of Hankow.'

"In this manner it came to pass that Sen Heng set forth on the
following day, and coming without delay to the great and powerful city
of Hankow, sought out the house of commerce known as 'The Pure Gilt
Dragon of Exceptional Symmetry', where the versatile King-y-Yang
engaged in the entrancing occupation of contriving moving figures, and
other devices of an ingenious and mirth-provoking character, which he
entrusted into the hands of numerous persons to sell throughout the
Province. From this cause, although enjoying a very agreeable
recompense from the sale of the objects, the greatly perturbed
King-y-Yang suffered continual internal misgivings; for the habit of
behaving of those whom he appointed to go forth in the manner
described was such that he could not entirely dismiss from his mind an
assured conviction that the details were not invariably as they were
represented to be. Frequently would one return in a very deficient and
unpresentable condition of garment, asserting that on his return,
while passing through a lonely and unprotected district, he had been
assailed by an armed band of robbers, and despoiled of all he
possessed. Another would claim to have been made the sport of evil
spirits, who led him astray by means of false signs in the forest, and
finally destroyed his entire burden of commodities, accompanying the
unworthy act by loud cries of triumph and remarks of an insulting
nature concerning King-y-Yang; for the honourable character and
charitable actions of the person in question had made him very
objectionable to that class of beings. Others continually accounted
for the absence of the required number of taels by declaring that at a
certain point of their journey they were made the object of marks of
amiable condescension on the part of a high and dignified public
official, who, on learning in whose service they were, immediately
professed an intimate personal friendship with the estimable
King-y-Yang, and, out of a feeling of gratified respect for him, took
away all such contrivances as remained undisposed of, promising to
arrange the payment with the refined King-y-Yang himself when they
should next meet. For these reasons King-y-Yang was especially
desirous of obtaining one whose spoken word could be received, upon
all points, as an assured fact, and it was, therefore, with an emotion
of internal lightness that he confidently heard from those who were
acquainted with the person that Sen Heng was, by nature and
endowments, utterly incapable of representing matters of even the most
insignificant degree to be otherwise than what they really were.

Filled with an acute anxiety to discover what amount of success would
be accorded to his latest contrivance, King-y-Yang led Sen Heng to a
secluded chamber, and there instructed him in the method of selling
certain apparently very ingeniously constructed ducks, which would
have the appearance of swimming about on the surface of an open vessel
of water, at the same time uttering loud and ever-increasing cries,
after the manner of their kind. With ill-restrained admiration at the
skilful nature of the deception, King-y-Yang pointed out that the
ducks which were to be disposed of, and upon which a seemingly very
low price was fixed, did not, in reality, possess any of these
accomplishments, but would, on the contrary, if placed in water, at
once sink to the bottom in a most incapable manner; it being part of
Sen's duty to exhibit only a specially prepared creature which was
restrained upon the surface by means of hidden cords, and, while
bending over it, to simulate the cries as agreed upon. After
satisfying himself that Sen could perform these movements competently,
King-y-Yang sent him forth, particularly charging him that he should
not return without a sum of money which fully represented the entire
number of ducks entrusted to him, or an adequate number of unsold
ducks to compensate for the deficiency.

"At the end of seven days Sen returned to King-y-Yang, and although
entirely without money, even to the extent of being unable to provide
himself with the merest necessities of a frugal existence, he

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