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The Wallet of Kai Lung by Ernest Bramah

Part 3 out of 5

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honourably returned the full number of ducks with which he had set
out. It then became evident that although Sen had diligently perfected
himself in the sounds and movements which King-y-Yang had contrived,
he had not fully understood that they were to be executed stealthily,
but had, in consequence, manifested the accomplishment openly, not
unreasonably supposing that such an exhibition would be an additional
inducement to those who appeared to be well-disposed towards the
purchase. From this cause it came about that although large crowds
were attracted by Sen's manner of conducting the enterprise, none
actually engaged to purchase even the least expensively-valued of the
ducks, although several publicly complimented Sen on his exceptional
proficiency, and repeatedly urged him to louder and more frequent
cries, suggesting that by such means possible buyers might be
attracted to the spot from remote and inaccessible villages in the

"When King-y-Yang learned how the venture had been carried out, he
became most intolerably self-opinionated in his expressions towards
Sen's mental attainments and the manner of his bringing up. It was
entirely in vain that the one referred to pointed out in a tone of
persuasive and courteous restraint that he had not, down to the most
minute particulars, transgressed either the general or the specific
obligations of the Five General Principles, and that, therefore, he
was blameless, and even worthy of commendation for the manner in which
he had acted. With an inelegant absence of all refined feeling,
King-y-Yang most incapably declined to discuss the various aspects of
the controversy in an amiable manner, asserting, indeed, that for the
consideration of as many brass cash as Sen had mentioned principles he
would cause him to be thrown into prison as a person of unnatural
ineptitude. Then, without rewarding Sen for the time spent in his
service, or even inviting him to partake of food and wine, the
insufferable deviser of very indifferent animated contrivances again
sent him out, this time into the streets of Hankow with a number of
delicately inlaid boxes, remarking in a tone of voice which plainly
indicated an exactly contrary desire that he would be filled with an
overwhelming satisfaction if Sen could discover any excuse for
returning a second time without disposing of anything. This remark
Sen's ingenuous nature led him to regard as a definite fact, so that
when a passer-by, who tarried to examine the boxes chanced to remark
that the colours might have been arranged to greater advantage, in
which case he would certainly have purchased at least one of the
articles, Sen hastened back, although in a distant part of the city,
to inform King-y-Yang of the suggestion, adding that he himself had
been favourably impressed with the improvement which could be effected
by such an alteration.

"The nature of King-y-Yang's emotion when Sen again presented himself
before him--and when by repeatedly applied tests on various parts of
his body he understood that he was neither the victim of malicious
demons, nor wandering in an insensible condition in the Middle Air,
but that the cause of the return was such as had been plainly
stated--was of so mixed and benumbing a variety, that for a
considerable space of time he was quite unable to express himself in
any way, either by words or by signs. By the time these attributes
returned there had formed itself with King-y-Yang's mind a design of
most contemptible malignity, which seemed to present to his enfeebled
intellect a scheme by which Sen would be adequately punished, and
finally disposed of, without causing him any further trouble in the
matter. For this purpose he concealed the real condition of his
sentiments towards Sen, and warmly expressed himself in terms of
delicate flattery regarding that one's sumptuous and unfailing taste
in the matter of the blending of the colours. Without doubt, he
continued, such an alteration as the one proposed would greatly
increase the attractiveness of the inlaid boxes, and the matter should
be engaged upon without delay. In the meantime, however, not to waste
the immediate services of so discriminating and persevering a servant,
he would entrust Sen with a mission of exceptional importance, which
would certainly tend greatly to his remunerative benefit. In the
district of Yun, in the north-western part of the Province, said the
crafty and treacherous King-y-Yang, a particular kind of insect was
greatly esteemed on account of the beneficent influence which it
exercised over the rice plants, causing them to mature earlier, and to
attain a greater size than ever happened in its absence. In recent
years this creature had rarely been seen in the neighbourhood of Yun,
and, in consequence, the earth-tillers throughout that country had
been brought into a most disconcerting state of poverty, and would,
inevitably, be prepared to exchange whatever they still possessed for
even a few of the insects, in order that they might liberate them to
increase, and so entirely reverse the objectionable state of things.
Speaking in this manner, King-y-Yang entrusted to Sen a carefully
prepared box containing a score of the insects, obtained at a great
cost from a country beyond the Bitter Water, and after giving him
further directions concerning the journey, and enjoining the utmost
secrecy about the valuable contents of the box, he sent him forth.

"The discreet and sagacious will already have understood the nature of
King-y-Yang's intolerable artifice; but, for the benefit of the
amiable and unsuspecting, it is necessary to make it clear that the
words which he had spoken bore no sort of resemblance to affairs as
they really existed. The district around Yun was indeed involved in a
most unprepossessing destitution, but this had been caused, not by the
absence of any rare and auspicious insect, but by the presence of vast
hordes of locusts, which had overwhelmed and devoured the entire face
the country. It so chanced that among the recently constructed devices
at 'The Pure Gilt Dragon of Exceptional Symmetry' were a number of
elegant representations of rice fields and fruit gardens so skilfully
fashioned that they deceived even the creatures, and attracted, among
other living things, all the locusts in Hankow into that place of
commerce. It was a number of these insects that King-y-Yang
vindictively placed in the box which he instructed Sen to carry to
Yun, well knowing that the reception which would be accorded to anyone
who appeared there on such a mission would be of so fatally
destructive a kind that the consideration of his return need not
engage a single conjecture.

"Entirely tranquil in intellect--for the possibility of King-y-Yang's
intention being in any way other than what he had represented it to be
did not arise within Sen's ingenuous mind--the person in question
cheerfully set forth on his long but unavoidable march towards the
region of Yun. As he journeyed along the way, the nature of his
meditation brought up before him the events which had taken place
since his arrival at Hankow; and, for the first time, it was brought
within his understanding that the story of the youth and the three
tigers, which his father had related to him, was in the likeness of a
proverb, by which counsel and warning is conveyed in a graceful and
inoffensive manner. Readily applying the fable to his own condition,
he could not doubt but that the first two animals to be overthrown
were represented by the two undertakings which he had already
conscientiously performed in the matter of the mechanical ducks and
the inlaid boxes, and the conviction that he was even then engaged on
the third and last trial filled him with an intelligent gladness so
unobtrusive and refined that he could express his entrancing emotions
in no other way that by lifting up his voice and uttering the
far-reaching cries which he had used on the first of the occasions
just referred to.

"In this manner the first part of the journey passed away with
engaging celerity. Anxious as Sen undoubtedly was to complete the
third task, and approach the details which, in his own case, would
correspond with the command of the bowmen and the marriage with the
Mandarin's daughter of the person in the story, the noontide heat
compelled him to rest in the shade by the wayside for a lengthy period
each day. During one of these pauses it occurred to his versatile
mind that the time which was otherwise uselessly expended might be
well disposed of in endeavouring to increase the value and condition
of the creatures under his care by instructing them in the performance
of some simple accomplishments, such as might not be too laborious for
their feeble and immature understanding. In this he was more
successful than he had imagined could possibly be the case, for the
discriminating insects, from the first, had every appearance of
recognizing that Sen was inspired by a sincere regard for their
ultimate benefit, and was not merely using them for his own
advancement. So assiduously did they devote themselves to their
allotted tasks, that in a very short space of time there was no detail
in connexion with their own simple domestic arrangements that was not
understood and daily carried out by an appointed band. Entranced at
this intelligent manner of conducting themselves, Sen industriously
applied his time to the more congenial task of instructing them in the
refined arts, and presently he had the enchanting satisfaction of
witnessing a number of the most cultivated faultlessly and
unhesitatingly perform a portion of the well-known gravity-removing
play entitled "The Benevolent Omen of White Dragon Tea Garden; or,
Three Times a Mandarin". Not even content with this elevating display,
Sen ingeniously contrived, from various objects which he discovered at
different points by the wayside, an effective and life-like
representation of a war-junk, for which he trained a crew, who, at an
agreed signal, would take up their appointed places and go through the
required movements, both of sailing, and of discharging the guns, in a
reliable and efficient manner.

"As Sen was one day educating the least competent of the insects in
the simpler parts of banner-carriers, gong-beaters, and the like, to
their more graceful and versatile companions, he lifted up his eyes
and beheld, standing by his side, a person of very elaborately
embroidered apparel and commanding personality, who had all the
appearance of one who had been observing his movements for some space
of time. Calling up within his remembrance the warning which he had
received from King-y-Yang, Sen was preparing to restore the creatures
to their closed box, when a stranger, in a loud and dignified voice,
commanded him to refrain, adding:

"'There is, resting at a spot within the immediate neighbourhood, a
person of illustrious name and ancestry, who would doubtless be
gratified to witness the diverting actions of which this one has
recently been a spectator. As the reward of a tael cannot be unwelcome
to a person of your inferior appearance and unpresentable garments,
take up your box without delay, and follow the one who is now before

"With these words the richly-clad stranger led the way through a
narrow woodland path, closely followed by Sen, to whom the attraction
of the promised reward--a larger sum, indeed, than he had ever
possessed--was sufficiently alluring to make him determined that the
other should not, for the briefest possible moment, pass beyond his

"Not to withhold that which Sen was entirely ignorant of until a later
period, it is now revealed that the person in question was the
official Provider of Diversions and Pleasurable Occupations to the
sacred and illimitable Emperor, who was then engaged in making an
unusually extensive march through the eight Provinces surrounding his
Capital--for the acute and well-educated will not need to be reminded
that Nanking occupied that position at the time now engaged with.
Until his providential discovery of Sen, the distinguished Provider
had been immersed in a most unenviable condition of despair, for his
enlightened but exceedingly perverse-minded master had, of late,
declined to be in any way amused, or even interested, by the simple
and unpretentious entertainment which could be obtained in so
inaccessible a region. The well-intentioned efforts of the followers
of the Court, who engagingly endeavoured to divert the Imperial mind
by performing certain feats which they remembered to have witnessed on
previous occasions, but which, until the necessity arose, they had
never essayed, were entirely without result of a beneficial order.
Even the accomplished Provider's one attainment--that of striking
together both the hands and the feet thrice simultaneously, while
leaping into the air, and at the same time producing a sound not
unlike that emitted by a large and vigorous bee when held captive in
the fold of a robe, an action which never failed to throw the
illustrious Emperor into a most uncontrollable state of amusement when
performed within the Imperial Palace--now only drew from him the
unsympathetic, of not actually offensive, remark that the attitude and
the noise bore a marked resemblance to those produced by a person when
being bowstrung, adding, with unprepossessing significance, that of
the two entertainments he had an unevadable conviction that the
bowstringing would be the more acceptable and gravity-removing.

"When Sen beheld the size and the silk-hung magnificence of the camp
into which his guide led him, he was filled with astonishment, and at
the same time recognized that he had acted in an injudicious and hasty
manner by so readily accepting the offer of a tael; whereas, if he had
been in possession of the true facts of the case, as they now
appeared, he would certainly have endeavoured to obtain double that
amount before consenting. As he was hesitating within himself whether
the matter might not even yet be arranged in a more advantageous
manner, he was suddenly led forward into the most striking and
ornamental of the tents, and commanded to engage the attention of the
one in whose presence he found himself, without delay.

"From the first moment when the inimitable creatures began, at Sen's
spoken word, to go through the ordinary details of their domestic
affairs, there was no sort of doubt as to the nature of the success
with which their well-trained exertions would be received. The dark
shadows instantly forsook the enraptured Emperor's select brow, and
from time to time he expressed himself in words of most unrestrained
and intimate encouragement. So exuberant became the overjoyed
Provider's emotion at having at length succeeded in obtaining the
services of one who was able to recall his Imperial master's unclouded
countenance, that he came forward in a most unpresentable state of
haste, and rose into the air uncommanded, for the display of his
usually not unwelcome acquirement. This he would doubtless have
executed competently had not Sen, who stood immediately behind him,
suddenly and unexpectedly raised his voice in a very vigorous and
proficient duck cry, thereby causing the one before him to endeavour
to turn around in alarm, while yet in the air--an intermingled state
of movements of both the body and the mind that caused him to abandon
his original intention in a manner which removed the gravity of the
Emperor to an even more pronounced degree than had been effected by
the diverting attitudes of the insects.

"When the gratified Emperor had beheld every portion of the tasks
which Sen had instilled into the minds of the insects, down even to
the minutest detail, he called the well-satisfied Provider before him,
and addressing him in a voice which might be designed to betray either
sternness or an amiable indulgence, said:

"'You, O Shan-se, are reported to be a person of no particular
intellect or discernment, and, for this reason, these ones who are
speaking have a desire to know how the matter will present itself in
your eyes. Which is it the more commendable and honourable for a
person to train to a condition of unfailing excellence, human beings
of confessed intelligence or insects of a low and degraded standard?'

"To this remark the discriminating Shan-se made no reply, being,
indeed, undecided in his mind whether such a course was expected of
him. On several previous occasions the somewhat introspective Emperor
had addressed himself to persons in what they judged to be the form of
a question, as one might say, 'How blue is the unapproachable air
canopy, and how delicately imagined the colour of the clouds!' yet
when they had expressed their deliberate opinion on the subjects
referred to, stating the exact degree of blueness, and the like, the
nature of their reception ever afterwards was such that, for the
future, persons endeavoured to determine exactly the intention of the
Emperor's mind before declaring themselves in words. Being exceedingly
doubtful on this occasion, therefore, the very cautious Shan-se
adopted the more prudent and uncompromising attitude, and smiling
acquiescently, he raised both his hands with a self-deprecatory

"'Alas!' exclaimed the Emperor, in a tone which plainly indicated that
the evasive Shan-se had adopted a course which did not commend itself,
'how unendurable a condition of affairs is it for a person of acute
mental perception to be annoyed by the inopportune behaviour of one
who is only fit to mix on terms of equality with beggars, and
low-caste street cleaners--'

"'Such a condition of affairs is indeed most offensively unbearable,
illustrious Being,' remarked Shan-se, who clearly perceived that his
former silence had not been productive of a delicate state of feeling
towards himself.

"'It has frequently been said,' continued the courteous and
pure-minded Emperor, only signifying his refined displeasure at
Shan-se's really ill-considered observation by so arranging his
position that the person in question on longer enjoyed the sublime
distinction of gazing upon his benevolent face, 'that titles and
offices have been accorded, from time to time, without any regard for
the fitting qualifications of those to whom they were presented. The
truth that such a state of things does occasionally exist has been
brought before our eyes during the past few days by the abandoned and
inefficient behaviour of one who will henceforth be a marked official;
yet it has always been our endeavour to reward expert and unassuming
merit, whenever it is discovered. As we were setting forth, when we
were interrupted in a most obstinate and superfluous manner, the one
who can guide and cultivate the minds of unthinking, and not
infrequently obstinate and rapacious, insects would certainly enjoy an
even greater measure of success if entrusted with the discriminating
intellects of human beings. For this reason it appears that no more
fitting person could be found to occupy the important and
well-rewarded position of Chief Arranger of the Competitive
Examinations than the one before us--provided his opinions and manner
of expressing himself are such as commend themselves to us. To satisfy
us on this point let Sen Heng now stand forth and declare his

"On this invitation Sen advanced the requisite number of paces, and
not in any degree understanding what was required of him, determined
that the occasion was one when he might fittingly declare the Five
General Principles which were ever present in his mind. 'Unquestioning
Fidelity to the Sacred Emperor--' he began, when the person in
question signified that the trial was over.

"'After so competent and inspired an expression as that which has just
been uttered, which, if rightly considered, includes all lesser
things, it is unnecessary to say more,' he declared affably. 'The
appointment which has already been specified is now declared to be
legally conferred. The evening will be devoted to a repetition of the
entrancing manoeuvres performed by the insects, to be followed by a
feast and music in honour of the recognized worth and position of the
accomplished Sen Heng. There is really no necessity for the apparently
over-fatigued Shan-se to attend the festival.'

"In such a manner was the foundation of Sen's ultimate prosperity
established, by which he came in the process of time to occupy a very
high place in public esteem. Yet, being a person of honourably-minded
conscientiousness, he did not hesitate, when questioned by those who
made pilgrimages to him for the purpose of learning by what means he
had risen to so remunerative a position, to ascribe his success, not
entirely to his own intelligent perception of persons and events, but,
in part, also to a never-failing regard for the dictates of the Five
General Principles, and a discriminating subservience to the inspired
wisdom of the venerable Poo-chow, as conveyed to him in the story of
the faint-hearted youth and the three tigers. This story Sen
furthermore caused to be inscribed in letters of gold, and displayed
in a prominent position in his native village, where it has since
doubtless been the means of instructing and advancing countless
observant ones who have not been too insufferable to be guided by the
experience of those who have gone before."



Related by Kai Lung at Shan Tzu, on the occasion of his
receiving a very unexpected reward.

"There are certainly many occasions when the principles of the
Mandarin Chan Hung appear to find practical favour in the eyes of
those who form this usually uncomplaining person's audiences at Shan
Tzu," remarked Kai Lung, with patient resignation, as he took up his
collecting-bowl and transferred the few brass coins which it held to a
concealed place among his garments. "Has the village lately suffered
from a visit of one of those persons who come armed with authority to
remove by force or stratagem such goods as bear names other than those
possessed by their holders? or is it, indeed--as they of Wu-whei
confidently assert--that when the Day of Vows arrives the people of
Shan Tzu, with one accord, undertake to deny themselves in the matter
of gifts and free offerings, in spite of every conflicting impulse?"

"They of Wu-whei!" exclaimed a self-opinionated bystander, who had by
some means obtained an inferior public office, and who was, in
consequence, enabled to be present on all occasions without
contributing any offering. "Well is that village named 'The Refuge of
Unworthiness', for its dwellers do little but rob and illtreat
strangers, and spread evil and lying reports concerning better endowed
ones than themselves."

"Such a condition of affairs may exist," replied Kai Lung, without any
indication of concern either one way or the other; "yet it is an
undeniable fact that they reward this commonplace story-teller's too
often underestimated efforts in a manner which betrays them either to
be of noble birth, or very desirous of putting to shame their less
prosperous neighbouring places."

"Such exhibitions of uncalled-for lavishness are merely the signs of
an ill-regulated and inordinate vanity," remarked a Mandarin of the
eighth grade, who chanced to be passing, and who stopped to listen to
Kai Lung's words. "Nevertheless, it is not fitting that a collection
of decaying hovels, which Wu-whei assuredly is, should, in however
small a detail, appear to rise above Shan-Tzu, so that if the
versatile and unassuming Kai Lung will again honour this assembly by
allowing his well-constructed bowl to pass freely to and fro, this
obscure and otherwise entirely superfluous individual will make it his
especial care that the brass of Wu-whei shall be answered with solid
copper, and its debased pewter with doubly refined silver."

With these encouraging words the very opportune Mandarin of the eighth
grade himself followed the story-teller's collecting-bowl, observing
closely what each person contributed, so that, although he gave
nothing from his own store, Kai Lung had never before received so
honourable an amount.

"O illustrious Kai Lung," exclaimed a very industrious and ill-clad
herb-gatherer, who, in spite of his poverty, could not refrain from
mingling with listeners whenever the story-teller appeared in Shan
Tzu, "a single piece of brass money is to this person more than a
block of solid gold to many of Wu-whei; yet he has twice made the
customary offering, once freely, once because a courteous and
pure-minded individual who possesses certain written papers of his
connected with the repayment of some few taels walked behind the bowl
and engaged his eyes with an unmistakable and very significant glance.
This fact emboldens him to make the following petition: that in place
of the not altogether unknown story of Yung Chang which had been
announced the proficient and nimble-minded Kai Lung will entice our
attention with the history of the Mandarin Chan Hung, to which
reference has already been made."

"The occasion is undoubtedly one which calls for recognition to an
unusual degree," replied Kai Lung with extreme affability. "To that
end this person will accordingly narrate the story which has been
suggested, notwithstanding the fact that it has been specially
prepared for the ears of the sublime Emperor, who is at this moment
awaiting this unseemly one's arrival in Peking with every mark of
ill-restrained impatience, tempered only by his expectation of being
the first to hear the story of the well-meaning but somewhat premature
Chan Hung.

"The Mandarin in question lived during the reign of the accomplished
Emperor Tsint-Sin, his Yamen being at Fow Hou, in the Province of
Shan-Tung, of which place he was consequently the chief official. In
his conscientious desire to administer a pure and beneficent rule, he
not infrequently made himself a very prominent object for public
disregard, especially by his attempts to introduce untried things,
when from time to time such matters arose within his mind and seemed
to promise agreeable and remunerative results. In this manner it came
about that the streets of Fow Hou were covered with large flat stones,
to the great inconvenience of those persons who had, from a very
remote period, been in the habit of passing the night on the soft clay
which at all seasons of the year afforded a pleasant and efficient
resting-place. Nevertheless, in certain matters his engaging efforts
were attended by an obvious success. Having noticed that misfortunes
and losses are much less keenly felt when they immediately follow in
the steps of an earlier evil, the benevolent and humane-minded Chan
Hung devised an ingenious method of lightening the burden of a
necessary taxation by arranging that those persons who were the most
heavily involved should be made the victims of an attack and robbery
on the night before the matter became due. By this thoughtful
expedient the unpleasant duty of parting from so many taels was almost
imperceptibly led up to, and when, after the lapse of some slight
period, the first sums of money were secretly returned, with a written
proverb appropriate to the occasion, the public rejoicing of those
who, had the matter been left to its natural course, would still have
been filling the air with bitter and unendurable lamentations, plainly
testified to the inspired wisdom of the enlightened Mandarin.

"The well-merited success of this amiable expedient caused the
Mandarin Chan Hung every variety of intelligent emotion, and no day
passed without him devoting a portion of his time to the labour of
discovering other advantages of a similar nature. Engrossed in deep
and very sublime thought of this order, he chanced upon a certain day
to be journeying through Fow Hou, when he met a person of irregular
intellect, who made an uncertain livelihood by following the
unassuming and charitably-disposed from place to place, chanting in a
loud voice set verses recording their virtues, which he composed in
their honour. On account of his undoubted infirmities this person was
permitted a greater freedom of speech with those above him than would
have been the case had his condition been merely ordinary; so that
when Chan Hung observed him becoming very grossly amused on his
approach, to such an extent indeed, that he neglected to perform any
of the fitting acts of obeisance, the wise and noble-minded Mandarin
did not in any degree suffer his complacency to be affected, but,
drawing near, addressed him in a calm and dignified manner.

"'Why, O Ming-hi,' he said, 'do you permit your gravity to be removed
to such an exaggerated degree at the sight of this in no way striking
or exceptional person? and why, indeed, do you stand in so unbecoming
an attitude in the presence of one who, in spite of his depraved
inferiority, is unquestionably your official superior, and could,
without any hesitation, condemn you to the tortures or even to
bowstringing on the spot?'

"'Mandarin,' exclaimed Ming-hi, stepping up to Chan Hung, and, without
any hesitation, pressing the gilt button which adorned the official's
body garment, accompanying the action by a continuous muffled noise
which suggested the repeated striking of a hidden bell, 'you wonder
that this person stands erect on your approach, neither rolling his
lowered head repeatedly from side to side, nor tracing circles in the
dust of Fow Hou with his submissive stomach? Know then, the meaning of
the proverb, "Distrust an inordinate appearance of servility. The
estimable person who retires from your presence walking backwards may
adopt that deferential manner in order to keep concealed the long
double-edged knife with which he had hoped to slay you." The excessive
amusement that seized this offensive person when he beheld your
well-defined figure in the distance arose from his perception of your
internal satisfaction, which is, indeed, unmistakably reflected in
your symmetrical countenance. For, O Mandarin, in spite of your
honourable endeavours to turn things which are devious into a straight
line, the matters upon which you engage your versatile
intellect--little as you suspect the fact--are as grains of the finest
Foo-chow sand in comparison with that which escapes your attention.'

"'Strange are your words, O Ming-hi, and dark to this person your
meaning,' replied Chan Hung, whose feelings were evenly balanced
between a desire to know what thing he had neglected and a fear that
his dignity might suffer if he were observed to remain long conversing
with a person of Ming-hi's low mental attainments. 'Without delay, and
with an entire absence of lengthy and ornamental forms of speech,
express the omission to which you have made reference; for this person
has an uneasy inside emotion that you are merely endeavouring to
engage his attention to the end that you may make an unseemly and
irrelevant reply, and thereby involve him in an undeserved ridicule.'

"'Such a device would be the pastime of one of immature years, and
could have no place in this person's habit of conduct,' replied
Ming-hi, with every appearance of a fixed sincerity. 'Moreover, the
matter is one which touches his own welfare closely, and, expressed in
the fashion with the proficient Mandarin has commanded, may be set
forth as follows: By a wise and all-knowing divine system, it is
arranged that certain honourable occupations, which by their nature
cannot become remunerative to any marked degree, shall be singled out
for special marks of reverence, so that those who engage therein may
be compensated in dignity for what they must inevitably lack in taels.
By this refined dispensation the literary occupations, which are in
general the highroads to the Establishment of Public Support and
Uniform Apparel, are held in the highest veneration. Agriculture, from
which it is possible to wrest a competency, follows in esteem; while
the various branches of commerce, leading as they do to vast
possessions and the attendant luxury, are very justly deprived of all
the attributes of dignity and respect. Yet observe, O justice-loving
Mandarin, how unbecomingly this ingenious system of universal
compensation has been debased at the instance of grasping and
avaricious ones. Dignity, riches and ease now go hand in hand, and the
highest rewarded in all matters are also the most esteemed, whereas,
if the discriminating provision of those who have gone before and so
arranged it was observed, the direct contrary would be the case.'

"'It is a state of things which is somewhat difficult to imagine in
general matters of life, in spite of the fair-seemingness of your
words,' said the Mandarin thoughtfully; 'nor can this rather obtuse
and slow-witted person fully grasp the practical application of the
system on the edge of the moment. In what manner would it operate in
the case of ordinary persons, for example?'

"'There should be a fixed and settled arrangement that the low-minded
and degrading occupations--such as that of following charitable
persons from place to place, chanting verses composed in their honour,
that of misleading travellers who inquire the way, so that they fall
into the hands of robbers, and the like callings--should be the most
highly rewarded to the end that those who are engaged therein may
obtain some solace for the loss of dignity they experience, and the
mean intellectual position which they are compelled to maintain. By
this device they would be enabled to possess certain advantages and
degrees of comfort which at present are utterly beyond their grasp, so
that in the end they would escape being entirely debased. To turn to
the other foot, those who are now high in position, and engaged in
professions which enjoy the confidence of all persons, have that which
in itself is sufficient to insure contentment. Furthermore, the most
proficient and engaging in every department, mean or high-minded, have
certain attributes of respect among those beneath them, so that they
might justly be content with the lowest reward in whatever calling
they professed, the least skilful and most left-handed being
compensated for the mental anguish which they must undoubtedly suffer
by receiving the greatest number of taels.'

"'Such a scheme would, as far as the matter has been expressed, appear
to possess all the claims of respect, and to be, indeed, what was
originally intended by those who framed the essentials of existence,'
said Chan Hung, when he had for some space of time considered the
details. 'In one point, however, this person fails to perceive how the
arrangement could be amiably conducted in Fow Hou. The one who is
addressing you maintains, as a matter of right, a position of
exceptional respect, nor, if he must express himself upon such a
detail, are his excessively fatiguing duties entirely
unremunerative . . .'

"'In the case of the distinguished and unalterable Mandarin,'
exclaimed Ming-hi, with no appearance of hesitation, 'the matter would
of necessity be arranged otherwise. Being from that time, as it were,
the controller of the destinies and remunerations of all those in Fow
Hou, he would, manifestly, be outside the working of the scheme;
standing apart and regulating, like the person who turns the handle of
the corn-mill, but does not suffer himself to be drawn between the
stones, he could still maintain both his respect and his remuneration

"'If the detail could honourably be regarded in such a light,' said
Chan Hung, 'this person would, without delay, so rearrange matters in
Fow Hou, and thereby create universal justice and an unceasing
contentment within the minds of all.'

"'Undoubtedly such a course could be justly followed,' assented
Ming-hi, 'for in precisely that manner of working was the complete
scheme revealed to this highly-favoured person.'

"Entirely wrapped up in thoughts concerning the inception and manner
of operation of this project Chan Hung began to retrace his steps
towards the Yamen, failing to observe in his benevolent abstraction of
mind, that the unaffectedly depraved person Ming-hi was stretching out
his feet towards him and indulging in every other form of low-minded
and undignified contempt.

"Before he reached the door of his residence the Mandarin overtook one
who occupied a high position of confidence and remuneration in the
Department of Public Fireworks and Coloured Lights. Fully assured of
this versatile person's enthusiasm on behalf of so humane and
charitable a device, Chan Hung explained the entire matter to him
without delay, and expressly desired that if there were any details
which appeared capable of improvement, he would declare himself
clearly regarding them.

"'Alas!' exclaimed the person with whom the Mandarin was conversing,
speaking in so unfeignedly disturbed and terrified a voice that
several who were passing by stopped in order to learn the full
circumstance, 'have this person's ears been made the object of some
unnaturally light-minded demon's ill-disposed pastime, or does the
usually well-balanced Chan Hung in reality contemplate so violent and
un-Chinese an action? What but evil could arise from a single word of
the change which he proposes to the extent of a full written book? The
entire fixed nature of events would become reversed; persons would no
longer be fully accountable to one another; and Fow Hou being thus
thrown into a most unendurable state of confusion, the protecting
Deities would doubtless withdraw their influence, and the entire
region would soon be given over to the malicious guardianship of
rapacious and evilly-disposed spirits. Let this person entreat the
almost invariably clear-sighted Chan Hung to return at once to his
adequately equipped and sumptuous Yamen, and barring well the door of
his inner chamber, so that it can only be opened from the outside,
partake of several sleeping essences of unusual strength, after which
he will awake in an undoubtedly refreshed state of mind, and in a
condition to observe matters with his accustomed diamond-like

"'By no means!' cried one of those who had stopped to learn the
occasion of the incident--a very inferior maker of unserviceable
imitation pigtails--'the devout and conscientious-minded Mandarin Chan
Hung speaks as the inspired mouth-piece of the omnipotent Buddha, and
must, for that reason, be obeyed in every detail. This person would
unhesitatingly counsel the now invaluable Mandarin to proceed to his
well-constructed residence without delay, and there calling together
his entire staff of those who set down his spoken words, put the
complete Heaven-sent plan into operation, and beyond recall, before he
retires to his inner chamber.'

"Upon this there arose a most inelegant display of undignified
emotions on the part of the assembly which had by this time gathered
together. While those who occupied honourable and remunerative
positions very earnestly entreated the Mandarin to act in the manner
which had been suggested by the first speaker, others--who had, in the
meantime, made use of imagined figures, and thereby discovered that
the proposed change would be greatly to their advantage--raised shouts
of encouragement towards the proposal of the pigtail-maker, urging the
noble Mandarin not to become small in the face towards the
insignificant few who were ever opposed to enlightened reform, but to
maintain an unflaccid upper lip, and carry the entire matter through
to its destined end. In the course of this very unseemly tumult, which
soon involved all persons present in hostile demonstrations towards
each other, both the Mandarin and the official from the Fireworks and
Coloured Lights Department found an opportunity to pass away secretly,
the former to consider well the various sides of the matter, towards
which he became better disposed with every thought, the latter to find
a purchaser of his appointment and leave Fow Hou before the likelihood
of Chan Hung's scheme became generally known.

"At this point an earlier circumstance, which affected the future
unrolling of events to no insignificant degree, must be made known,
concerning as it does Lila, the fair and very accomplished daughter of
Chan Hung. Possessing no son or heir to succeed him, the Mandarin
exhibited towards Lila a very unusual depth of affection, so marked,
indeed, that when certain evil-minded ones endeavoured to encompass
his degradation, on the plea of eccentricity of character, the written
papers which they dispatched to the high ones at Peking contained no
other accusation in support of the contention than that the individual
in question regarded his daughter with an obvious pride and pleasure
which no person of well-balanced intellect lavished on any but a son.

"It was his really conscientious desire to establish Lila's welfare
above all things that had caused Chan Hung to become in some degree
undecided when conversing with Ming-hi on the detail of the scheme;
for, unaffected as the Mandarin himself would have been at the
prospect of an honourable poverty, it was no part of his intention
that the adorable and exceptionally-refined Lila should be drawn into
such an existence. That, indeed, had been the essential of his reply
on a certain and not far removed occasion, when two persons of widely
differing positions had each made a formal request that he might be
allowed to present marriage-pledging gifts to the very desirable Lila.
Maintaining an enlightened openness of mind upon the subject, the
Mandarin had replied that nothing but the merit of undoubted
suitableness of a person would affect him in such a decision. As it
was ordained by the wise and unchanging Deities that merit should
always be fittingly rewarded, he went on to express himself, and as
the most suitable person was obviously the one who could the most
agreeably provide for her, the two circumstances inevitably tended to
the decision that the one chosen should be the person who could amass
the greatest number of taels. To this end he instructed them both to
present themselves at the end of a year, bringing with them the entire
profits of their undertakings between the two periods.

"This deliberate pronouncement affected the two persons in question in
an entirely opposite manner, for one of them was little removed from a
condition of incessant and most uninviting poverty, while the other
was the very highly-rewarded picture-maker Pe-tsing. Both to this
latter person, and to the other one, Lee Sing, the ultimate conclusion
of the matter did not seem to be a question of any conjecture
therefore, and, in consequence, the one became most offensively
self-confident, and the other leaden-minded to an equal degree,
neither remembering the unswerving wisdom of the proverb, 'Wait! all
men are but as the black, horn-cased beetles which overrun the
inferior cooking-rooms of the city, and even at this moment the
heavily-shod and unerring foot of Buddha may be lifted.'

"Lee Sing was, by profession, one of those who hunt and ensnare the
brilliantly-coloured winged insects which are to be found in various
parts of the Empire in great variety and abundance, it being his duty
to send a certain number every year to Peking to contribute to the
amusement of the dignified Emperor. In spite of the not too
intelligent nature of the occupation, Lee Sing took an honourable
pride in all matters connected with it. He disdained, with
well-expressed contempt, to avail himself of the stealthy and somewhat
deceptive methods employed by others engaged in a similar manner of
life. In this way he had, from necessity, acquired agility to an
exceptional degree, so that he could leap far into the air, and while
in that position select from a passing band of insects any which he
might desire. This useful accomplishment was, in a measure, the direct
means of bringing together the person in question and the engaging
Lila; for, on a certain occasion, when Lee Sing was passing through
the streets of Fow Hou, he heard a great outcry, and beheld persons of
all ranks running towards him, pointing at the same time in an upward
direction. Turning his gaze in the manner indicated, Lee beheld, with
every variety of astonishment, a powerful and unnaturally large bird
of prey, carrying in its talons the lovely and now insensible Lila, to
whom it had been attracted by the magnificence of her raiment. The
rapacious and evilly-inspired creature was already above the highest
dwelling-houses when Lee first beheld it, and was plainly directing
its course towards the inaccessible mountain crags beyond the city
walls. Nevertheless, Lee resolved upon an inspired effort, and without
any hesitation bounded towards it with such well-directed proficiency,
that if he had not stretched forth his hand on passing he would
inevitably have been carried far above the desired object. In this
manner he succeeded in dragging the repulsive and completely
disconcerted monster to the ground, where its graceful and unassuming
prisoner was released, and the presumptuous bird itself torn to pieces
amid continuous shouts of a most respectful and engaging description
in honour of Lee and of his versatile attainment.

"In consequence of this incident the grateful Lila would often
deliberately leave the society of the rich and well-endowed in order
to accompany Lee on his journeys in pursuit of exceptionally-precious
winged insects. Regarding his unusual ability as the undoubted cause
of her existence at that moment, she took an all-absorbing pride in
such displays, and would utter loud and frequent exclamations of
triumph when Lee leaped out from behind some rock, where he had lain
concealed, and with unfailing regularity secured the object of his
adroit movement. In this manner a state of feeling which was by no
means favourable to the aspiring picture-maker Pe-tsing had long
existed between the two persons; but when Lee Sing put the matter in
the form of an explicit petition before Chan Hung (to which adequate
reference has already been made), the nature of the decision then
arrived at seemed to clothe the realization of their virtuous and
estimable desires with an air of extreme improbability.

"'Oh, Lee,' exclaimed the greatly-disappointed maiden when her lover
had explained to her the nature of the arrangement--for in her
unassuming admiration of the noble qualities of Lee she had
anticipated that Chan Hung would at once have received him with
ceremonious embraces and assurances of his permanent affection--'how
unendurable a state of things in this in which we have become
involved! Far removed from this one's anticipations was the thought of
becoming inalienably associated with that outrageous person Pe-tsing,
or of entering upon an existence which will necessitate a feigned
admiration of his really unpresentable efforts. Yet in such a manner
must the entire circumstance complete its course unless some ingenious
method of evading it can be discovered in the meantime. Alas, my
beloved one! the occupation of ensnaring winged insects is indeed an
alluring one, but as far as this person has observed, it is also
exceedingly unproductive of taels. Could not some more expeditious
means of enriching yourself be discovered? Frequently has the
unnoticed but nevertheless very attentive Lila heard her father and
the round-bodied ones who visit him speak of exploits which seem to
consist of assuming the shapes of certain wild animals, and in that
guise appearing from time to time at the place of exchange within the
city walls. As this form of entertainment is undoubtedly very
remunerative in its results, could not the versatile and ready-witted
Lee conceal himself within the skin of a bear, or some other untamed
beast, and in this garb, joining them unperceived, play an appointed
part and receive a just share of the reward?'

"'The result of such an enterprise might, if the matter chanced to
take an unforeseen development, prove of a very doubtful nature,'
replied Lee Sing, to whom, indeed, the proposed venture appeared in a
somewhat undignified light, although, with refined consideration, he
withheld such a thought from Lila, who had proposed it for him, and
also confessed that her usually immaculate father had taken part in
such an exhibition. 'Nevertheless, do not permit the dark shadow of an
inward cloud to reflect itself upon your almost invariably amiable
countenance, for this person has become possessed of a valuable
internal suggestion which, although he has hitherto neglected, being
content with a small but assured competency, would doubtless bring
together a serviceable number of taels if rightly utilized.'

"'Greatly does this person fear that the valuable internal suggestion
of Lee Sing will weigh but lightly in the commercial balance against
the very rapidly executed pictures of Pe-tsing,' said Lila, who had
not fully recalled from her mind a disturbing emotion that Lee would
have been well advised to have availed himself of her ingenious and
well-thought-out suggestion. 'But of what does the matter consist?'

"'It is the best explained by a recital of the circumstances leading
up to it,' said Lee. 'Upon an occasion when this person was passing
through the streets of Fow Hou, there gathered around him a company of
those who had, on previous occasions, beheld his exceptional powers of
hurtling himself through the air in an upward direction, praying that
he would again delight their senses by a similar spectacle. Not being
unwilling to afford those estimable persons of the amusement they
desired, this one, without any elaborate show of affected hesitancy,
put himself into the necessary position, and would without doubt have
risen uninterruptedly almost into the Middle Air, had he not, in
making the preparatory movements, placed his left foot upon an
over-ripe wampee which lay unperceived on the ground. In consequence
of this really blameworthy want of caution the entire manner and
direction of this short-sighted individual's movements underwent a
sudden and complete change, so that to those who stood around it
appeared as though he were making a well-directed endeavour to
penetrate through the upper surface of the earth. This unexpected
display had the effect of removing the gravity of even the most aged
and severe-minded persons present, and for the space of some moments
the behaviour and positions of those who stood around were such that
they were quite unable to render any assistance, greatly as they
doubtless wished to do so. Being in this manner allowed a period for
inward reflexion of a very concentrated order, it arose within this
one's mind that at every similar occurrence which he had witnessed,
those who observed the event had been seized in a like fashion, being
very excessively amused. The fact was made even more undoubted by the
manner of behaving of an exceedingly stout and round-faced person, who
had not been present from the beginning, but who was affected to a
most incredible extent when the details, as they had occurred, were
made plain to him, he declaring, with many references to the Sacred
Dragon and the Seven Walled Temple at Peking, that he would willingly
have contributed a specified number of taels rather than have missed
the diversion. When at length this person reached his own chamber, he
diligently applied himself to the task of carrying into practical
effect the suggestion which had arisen in his mind. By an arrangement
of transparent glasses and reflecting surfaces--which, were it not for
a well-defined natural modesty, he would certainly be tempted to
describe as highly ingenious--he ultimately succeeded in bringing
about the effect he desired.'

"With these words Lee put into Lila's hands an object which closely
resembled the contrivances by which those who are not sufficiently
powerful to obtain positions near the raised platform, in the Halls of
Celestial Harmony, are nevertheless enabled to observe the complexions
and attire of all around them. Regulating it by means of a hidden
spring, he requested her to follow closely the actions of a
heavily-burdened passerby who was at that moment some little distance
beyond them. Scarcely had Lila raised the glass to her eyes than she
became irresistibly amused to a most infectious degree, greatly to the
satisfaction of Lee, who therein beheld the realization of his hopes.
Not for the briefest space of time would she permit the object to pass
from her, but directed it at every person who came within her sight,
with frequent and unfeigned exclamations of wonder and delight.

"'How pleasant and fascinating a device is this!' exclaimed Lila at
length. 'By what means is so diverting and gravity-removing a result

"'Further than that it is the concentration of much labour of
continually trying with glasses and reflecting surfaces, this person
is totally unable to explain it,' replied Lee. 'The chief thing,
however, is that at whatever moving object it is directed--no matter
whether a person so observed is being carried in a chair, riding upon
an animal, or merely walking--at a certain point he has every
appearance of being unexpectedly hurled to the ground in a most
violent and mirth-provoking manner. Would not the stout and
round-faced one, who would cheerfully have contributed a certain
number of taels to see this person manifest a similar exhibition,
unhesitatingly lay out that sum to secure the means of so gratifying
his emotions whenever he felt the desire, even with the revered
persons of the most dignified ones in the Empire? Is there, indeed, a
single person between the Wall and the Bitter Waters on the South who
is so devoid of ambition that he would miss the opportunity of
subjecting, as it were, perhaps even the sacred Emperor himself to the
exceptional feat?'

"'The temptation to possess one would inevitably prove overwhelming to
any person of ordinary intelligence,' admitted Lila. 'Yet, in spite of
this one's unassumed admiration for the contrivance, internal doubts
regarding the ultimate happiness of the two persons who are now
discussing the matter again attack her. She recollects, somewhat
dimly, an almost forgotten, but nevertheless, very unassailable
proverb, which declares that more contentment of mind can assuredly be
obtained from the unexpected discovery of a tael among the folds of a
discarded garment than could, in the most favourable circumstances,
ensue from the well-thought-out construction of the new and hitherto
unknown device. Furthermore, although the span of a year may seem
unaccountably protracted when persons who reciprocate engaging
sentiments are parted, yet when the acceptance or refusal of
Pe-tsing's undesirable pledging-gifts hangs upon the accomplishment of
a remote and not very probable object within that period, it becomes
as a breath of wind passing through an autumn forest.'

"Since the day when Lila and Lee had sat together side by side, and
conversed in this unrestrained and irreproachable manner, the great
sky-lantern had many times been obscured for a period. Only an
insignificant portion of the year remained, yet the affairs of Lee
Sing were in no more prosperous a condition than before, nor had he
found an opportunity to set aside any store of taels. Each day the
unsupportable Pe-tsing became more and more obtrusive and
self-conceited, even to the extent of throwing far into the air coins
of insignificant value whenever he chanced to pass Lee in the street,
at the same time urging him to leap after them and thereby secure at
least one or two pieces of money against the day of calculating. In a
similar but entirely opposite fashion, Lila and Lee experienced the
acutest pangs of an ever-growing despair, until their only form of
greeting consisted in gazing into each other's eyes with a
soul-benumbing expression of self-reproach.

"Yet at this very time, when even the natural and unalterable powers
seemed to be conspiring against the success of Lee's modest and
inoffensive hopes, an event was taking place which was shortly to
reverse the entire settled arrangement of persons and affairs, and
involved Fow Hou in a very inextricable state of uncertainty. For, not
to make a pretence of concealing a matter which has been already in
part revealed, the Mandarin Chan Hung had by this time determined to
act in the manner which Ming-hi had suggested; so that on a certain
morning Lee Sing was visited by two persons, bearing between them a
very weighty sack of taels, who also conveyed to him the fact that a
like amount would be deposited within his door at the end of each
succeeding seven days. Although Lee's occupation had in the past been
very meagrely rewarded, either by taels of by honour, the circumstance
which resulted in his now receiving so excessively large a sum is not
made clear until the detail of Ming-hi's scheme is closely examined.
The matter then becomes plain, for it had been suggested by that
person that the most proficient in any occupation should be rewarded
to a certain extent, and the least proficient to another stated
extent, the original amounts being reversed. When those engaged by
Chang Hung to draw up the various rates came to the profession of
ensnaring winged insects, however, they discovered that Lee Sing was
the only one of that description in Fow Hou, so that it became
necessary in consequence to allot him a double portion, one amount as
the most proficient, and a much larger amount as the least proficient.

"It is unnecessary now to follow the not altogether satisfactory
condition of affairs which began to exist in Fow Hou as soon as the
scheme was put into operation. The full written papers dealing with
the matter are in the Hall of Public Reference at Peking, and can be
seen by any person on the payment of a few taels to everyone connected
with the establishment. Those who found their possessions reduced
thereby completely overlooked the obvious justice of the arrangement,
and immediately began to take most severe measures to have the order
put aside; while those who suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves
raised to positions of affluence tended to the same end by conducting
themselves in a most incapable and undiscriminating manner. And during
the entire period that this state of things existed in Fow Hou the
really contemptible Ming-hi continually followed Chan Hung about from
place to place, spreading out his feet towards him, and allowing
himself to become openly amused to a most unseemly extent.

"Chief among those who sought to have the original manner of rewarding
persons again established was the picture-maker, Pe-tsing, who now
found himself in a condition of most abject poverty, so unbearable,
indeed, that he frequently went by night, carrying a lantern, in the
hope that he might discover some of the small pieces of money which he
had been accustomed to throw into the air on meeting Lee Sing. To his
pangs of hunger was added the fear that he would certainly lose Lila,
so that from day to day he redoubled his efforts, and in the end, by
using false statements and other artifices of a questionable nature,
the party which he led was successful in obtaining the degradation of
Chan Hung and his dismissal from office, together with an entire
reversal of all his plans and enactments.

"On the last day of the year which Chan Hung had appointed as the
period of test for his daughter's suitors, the person in question was
seated in a chamber of his new abode--a residence of unassuming
appearance but undoubted comfort--surrounded by Lila and Lee, when the
hanging curtains were suddenly flung aside, and Pe-tsing, followed by
two persons of low rank bearing sacks of money, appeared among them.

"'Chan Hung,' he said at length, 'in the past events arose which
compelled this person to place himself against you in your official
position. Nevertheless, he has always maintained towards you
personally an unchanging affection, and understanding full well that
you are one of those who maintain their spoken word in spite of all
happenings, he has now come to exhibit the taels which he has
collected together, and to claim the fulfilment of your deliberate

"With these words the commonplace picture-maker poured forth the
contents of the sacks, and stood looking at Lila in a most confident
and unprepossessing manner.

"'Pe-tsing,' replied Chan Hung, rising from his couch and speaking in
so severe and impressive a voice that the two servants of Pe-tsing at
once fled in great apprehension, 'this person has also found it
necessary, in his official position, to oppose you; but here the
similarity ends, for, on his part, he has never felt towards you the
remotest degree of affection. Nevertheless, he is always desirous, as
you say, that persons should regard their spoken word, and as you seem
to hold a promise from the Chief Mandarin of Fow Hou regarding
marriage-gifts towards his daughter, he would advise you to go at once
to that person. A misunderstanding has evidently arisen, for the one
whom you are addressing is merely Chan Hung, and the words spoken by
the Mandarin have no sort of interest for him--indeed, he understands
that all that person's acts have been reversed, so that he fails to
see how anyone at all can regard you and your claim in other than a
gravity-removing light. Furthermore, the maiden in question is now
definitely and irretrievably pledged to this faithful and successful
one by my side, who, as you will doubtless be gracefully overjoyed to
learn, has recently disposed of a most ingenious and diverting
contrivance for an enormous number of taels, so many, indeed, that
both the immediate and the far-distant future of all the persons who
are here before you are now in no sort of doubt whatever.'

"At these words the three persons whom he had interrupted again turned
their attention to the matter before them; but as Pe-tsing walked
away, he observed, though he failed to understand the meaning, that
they all raised certain objects to their eyes, and at once became
amused to a most striking and uncontrollable degree."



Related by himself at Wu-whei when other matter failed him.

As Kai Lung, the story-teller, unrolled his mat and selected, with
grave deliberation, the spot under the mulberry-tree which would the
longest remain sheltered from the sun's rays, his impassive eye
wandered round the thin circle of listeners who had been drawn
together by his uplifted voice, with a glance which, had it expressed
his actual thoughts, would have betrayed a keen desire that the
assembly should be composed of strangers rather than of his most
consistent patrons, to whom his stock of tales was indeed becoming
embarrassingly familiar. Nevertheless, when he began there was nothing
in his voice but a trace of insufficiently restrained triumph, such as
might be fitly assumed by one who has discovered and makes known for
the first time a story by the renowned historian Lo Cha.

"The adventures of the enlightened and nobly-born Yuin-Pel--"

"Have already thrice been narrated within Wu-whei by the versatile but
exceedingly uninventive Kai Lung," remarked Wang Yu placidly. "Indeed,
has there not come to be a saying by which an exceptionally frugal
host's rice, having undoubtedly seen the inside of the pot many times,
is now known in this town as Kai-Pel?"

"Alas!" exclaimed Kai Lung, "well was this person warned of Wu-whei in
the previous village, as a place of desolation and excessively bad
taste, whose inhabitants, led by an evil-minded maker of very
commonplace pipes, named Wang Yu, are unable to discriminate in all
matters not connected with the cooking of food and the evasion of just
debts. They at Shan Tzu hung on to my cloak as I strove to leave them,
praying that I would again entrance their ears with what they termed
the melodious word-music of this person's inimitable version of the
inspired story of Yuin-Pel."

"Truly the story of Yuin-Pel is in itself excellent," interposed the
conciliatory Hi Seng; "and Kai Lung's accomplishment of having three
times repeated it here without deviating in the particular of a single
word from the first recital stamps him as a story-teller of no
ordinary degree. Yet the saying 'Although it is desirable to lose
persistently when playing at squares and circles with the broad-minded
and sagacious Emperor, it is none the less a fact that the observance
of this etiquette deprives the intellectual diversion of much of its
interest for both players', is no less true today than when the all
knowing H'sou uttered it."

"They well said--they of Shan Tzu--that the people of Wu-whei were
intolerably ignorant and of low descent," continued Kai Lung, without
heeding the interruption; "that although invariably of a timorous
nature, even to the extent of retiring to the woods on the approach of
those who select bowmen for the Imperial army, all they require in a
story is that it shall be garnished with deeds of bloodshed and
violence to the exclusion of the higher qualities of well-imagined
metaphors and literary style which alone constitute true excellence."

"Yet it has been said," suggested Hi Seng, "that the inimitable Kai
Lung can so mould a narrative in the telling that all the emotions are
conveyed therein without unduly disturbing the intellects of the

"O amiable Hi Seng," replied Kai Lung with extreme affability,
"doubtless you are the most expert of water-carriers, and on a hot and
dusty day, when the insatiable desire of all persons is towards a
draught of unusual length without much regard to its composition, the
sight of your goat-skins is indeed a welcome omen; yet when in the
season of Cold White Rains you chance to meet the belated
chair-carrier who has been reluctantly persuaded into conveying
persons beyond the limit of the city, the solitary official watchman
who knows that his chief is not at hand, or a returning band of those
who make a practise of remaining in the long narrow rooms until they
are driven forth at a certain gong-stroke, can you supply them with
the smallest portion of that invigorating rice spirit for which alone
they crave? From this simple and homely illustration, specially
conceived to meet the requirements of your stunted and meagre
understanding, learn not to expect both grace and thorns from the
willow-tree. Nevertheless, your very immature remarks on the art of
story-telling are in no degree more foolish than those frequently
uttered by persons who make a living by such a practice; in proof of
which this person will relate to the select and discriminating company
now assembled an entirely new and unrecorded story--that, indeed, of
the unworthy, but frequently highly-rewarded Kai Lung himself."

"The story of Kai Lung!" exclaimed Wang Yu. "Why not the story of
Ting, the sightless beggar, who has sat all his life outside the
Temple of Miraculous Cures? Who is Kai Lung, that he should have a
story? Is he not known to us all here? Is not his speech that of this
Province, his food mean, his arms and legs unshaven? Does he carry a
sword or wear silk raiment? Frequently have we seen him fatigued with
journeying; many times has he arrived destitute of money; nor, on
those occasions when a newly-appointed and unnecessarily officious
Mandarin has commanded him to betake himself elsewhere and struck him
with a rod has Kai Lung caused the stick to turn into a deadly serpent
and destroy its master, as did the just and dignified Lu Fei. How,
then, can Kai Lung have a story that is not also the story of Wang Yu
and Hi Seng, and all others here?"

"Indeed, if the refined and enlightened Wang Yu so decides, it must
assuredly be true," said Kai Lung patiently; "yet (since even trifles
serve to dispel the darker thoughts of existence) would not the
history of so small a matter as an opium pipe chain his intelligent
consideration? such a pipe, for example, as this person beheld only
today exposed for sale, the bowl composed of the finest red clay,
delicately baked and fashioned, the long bamboo stem smoother than the
sacred tooth of the divine Buddha, the spreading support patiently and
cunningly carved with scenes representing the Seven Joys, and the
Tenth Hell of unbelievers."

"Ah!" exclaimed Wang Yu eagerly, "it is indeed as you say, a Mandarin
among masterpieces. That pipe, O most unobserving Kai Lung, is the
work of this retiring and superficial person who is now addressing
you, and, though the fact evidently escaped your all-seeing glance,
the place where it is exposed is none other than his shop of 'The
Fountain of Beauty', which you have on many occasions endowed with
your honourable presence."

"Doubtless the carving is the work of the accomplished Wang Yu, and
the fitting together," replied Kai Lung; "but the materials for so
refined and ornamental a production must of necessity have been
brought many thousand li; the clay perhaps from the renowned beds of
Honan, the wood from Peking, and the bamboo from one of the great
forests of the North."

"For what reason?" said Wang Yu proudly. "At this person's very door
is a pit of red clay, purer and infinitely more regular than any to be
found at Honan; the hard wood of Wu-whei is extolled among carvers
throughout the Empire, while no bamboo is straighter or more smooth
than that which grows in the neighbouring woods."

"O most inconsistent Wang Yu!" cried the story-teller, "assuredly a
very commendable local pride has dimmed your usually penetrating
eyesight. Is not the clay pit of which you speak that in which you
fashioned exceedingly unsymmetrical imitations of rat-pies in your
childhood? How, then, can it be equal to those of Honan, which you
have never seen? In the dark glades of these woods have you not chased
the gorgeous butterfly, and, in later years, the no less gaily attired
maidens of Wu-whei in the entrancing game of Kiss in the Circle? Have
not the bamboo-trees to which you have referred provided you with the
ideal material wherewith to roof over those cunningly-constructed pits
into which it has ever been the chief delight of the young and
audacious to lure dignified and unnaturally stout Mandarins? All these
things you have seen and used ever since your mother made a successful
offering to the Goddess Kum-Fa. How, then, can they be even equal to
the products of remote Honan and fabulous Peking? Assuredly the
generally veracious Wang Yu speaks this time with closed eyes and
will, upon mature reflexion, eat his words."

The silence was broken by a very aged man who arose from among the

"Behold the length of this person's pigtail," he exclaimed, "the
whiteness of his moustaches and the venerable appearance of his beard!
There is no more aged person present--if, indeed, there be such a one
in all the Province. It accordingly devolves upon him to speak in this
matter, which shall be as follows: The noble-minded and proficient Kai
Lung shall relate the story as he has proposed, and the garrulous Wang
Yu shall twice contribute to Kai Lung's bowl when it is passed round,
once for himself and once for this person, in order they he may learn
either to be more discreet or more proficient in the art of aptly

"The events which it is this person's presumptuous intention to
describe to this large-hearted and providentially indulgent
gathering," began Kai Lung, when his audience had become settled, and
the wooden bowl had passed to and fro among them, "did not occupy many
years, although they were of a nature which made them of far more
importance than all the remainder of his existence, thereby supporting
the sage discernment of the philosopher Wen-weng, who first made the
observation that man is greatly inferior to the meanest fly, inasmuch
as that creature, although granted only a day's span of life,
contrives during that period to fulfil all the allotted functions of

"Unutterably to the astonishment and dismay of this person and all
those connected with him (for several of the most expensive readers of
the future to be found in the Empire had declared that his life would
be marked by great events, his career a source of continual wonder,
and his death a misfortune to those who had dealings with him) his
efforts to take a degree at the public literary competitions were not
attended with any adequate success. In view of the plainly expressed
advice of his father it therefore became desirable that this person
should turn his attention to some other method of regaining the esteem
of those upon whom he was dependent for all the necessaries of
existence. Not having the means wherewith to engage in any form of
commerce, and being entirely ignorant of all matters save the now
useless details of attempting to pass public examinations, he
reluctantly decided that he was destined to become one of those who
imagine and write out stories and similar devices for printed leaves
and books.

"This determination was favourably received, and upon learning it,
this person's dignified father took him aside, and with many
assurances of regard presented to him a written sentence, which, he
said, would be of incomparable value to one engaged in a literary
career, and should in fact, without any particular qualifications,
insure an honourable competency. He himself, he added, with what at
the time appeared to this one as an unnecessary regard for detail,
having taken a very high degree, and being in consequence appointed to
a distinguished and remunerative position under the Board of Fines and
Tortures, had never made any use of it.

"The written sentence, indeed, was all that it had been pronounced. It
had been composed by a remote ancestor, who had spent his entire life
in crystallizing all his knowledge and experience into a few written
lines, which as a result became correspondingly precious. It defined
in a very original and profound manner several undisputable
principles, and was so engagingly subtle in its manner of expression
that the most superficial person was irresistibly thrown into a deep
inward contemplation upon reading it. When it was complete, the person
who had contrived this ingenious masterpiece, discovering by means of
omens that he still had ten years to live, devoted each remaining year
to the task of reducing the sentence by one word without in any way
altering its meaning. This unapproachable example of conciseness found
such favour in the eyes of those who issue printed leaves that as fast
as this person could inscribe stories containing it they were eagerly
purchased; and had it not been for a very incapable want of foresight
on this narrow-minded individual's part, doubtless it would still be
affording him an agreeable and permanent means of living.

"Unquestionably the enlightened Wen-weng was well acquainted with the
subject when he exclaimed, 'Better a frugal dish of olives flavoured
with honey than the most sumptuously devised puppy-pie of which the
greater portion is sent forth in silver-lined boxes and partaken of by
others.' At that time, however, this versatile saying--which so
gracefully conveys the truth of the undeniable fact that what a person
possesses is sufficient if he restrain his mind from desiring aught
else--would have been lightly treated by this self-conceited
story-teller even if his immature faculties had enabled him fully to
understand the import of so profound and well-digested a remark.

"At that time Tiao Ts'un was undoubtedly the most beautiful maiden in
all Peking. So frequently were the verses describing her habits and
appearances affixed in the most prominent places of the city, that
many persons obtained an honourable livelihood by frequenting those
spots and disposing of the sacks of written papers which they
collected to merchants who engaged in that commerce. Owing to the fame
attained by his written sentence, this really very much inferior being
had many opportunities of meeting the incomparable maiden Tiao at
flower-feasts, melon-seed assemblies, and those gatherings where
persons of both sexes exhibit themselves in revolving attitudes, and
are permitted to embrace openly without reproach; whereupon he became
so subservient to her charms and virtues that he lost no opportunity
of making himself utterly unendurable to any who might chance to speak
to, or even gaze upon, this Heaven-sent creature.

"So successful was this person in his endeavour to meet the sublime
Tiao and to gain her conscientious esteem that all emotions of
prudence forsook him, or it would soon have become apparent even to
his enfeebled understanding that such consistent good fortune could
only be the work of unforgiving and malignant spirits whose ill-will
he had in some way earned, and who were luring him on in order that
they might accomplish his destruction. That object was achieved on a
certain evening when this person stood alone with Tiao upon an
eminence overlooking the city and watched the great sky-lantern rise
from behind the hills. Under these delicate and ennobling influences
he gave speech to many very ornamental and refined thoughts which
arose within his mind concerning the graceful brilliance of the light
which was cast all around, yet notwithstanding which a still more
exceptional and brilliant light was shining in his own internal organs
by reason of the nearness of an even purer and more engaging orb.
There was no need, this person felt, to hide even his most inside
thoughts from the dignified and sympathetic being at his side, so
without hesitation he spoke--in what he believes even now must have
been a very decorative manner--of the many thousand persons who were
then wrapped in sleep, of the constantly changing lights which
appeared in the city beneath, and of the vastness which everywhere lay

"'O Kai Lung,' exclaimed the lovely Tiao, when this person had made an
end of speaking, 'how expertly and in what a proficient manner do you
express yourself, uttering even the sentiments which this person has
felt inwardly, but for which she has no words. Why, indeed, do you not
inscribe them in a book?'

"Under her elevating influence it had already occurred to this
illiterate individual that it would be a more dignified and, perhaps,
even a more profitable course for him to write out and dispose of, to
those who print such matters, the versatile and high-minded
expressions which now continually formed his thoughts, rather than be
dependent upon the concise sentence for which, indeed, he was indebted
to the wisdom of a remote ancestor. Tiao's spoken word fully settled
his determination, so that without delay he set himself to the task of
composing a story which should omit the usual sentence, but should
contain instead a large number of his most graceful and diamond-like
thoughts. So engrossed did this near-sighted and superficial person
become in the task (which daily seemed to increase rather than lessen
as new and still more sublime images arose within his mind) that many
months passed before the matter was complete. In the end, instead of a
story, it had assumed the proportions of an important and many-volumed
book; while Tiao had in the meantime accepted the wedding gifts of an
objectionable and excessively round-bodied individual, who had amassed
an inconceivable number of taels by inducing persons to take part in
what at first sight appeared to be an ingenious but very easy
competition connected with the order in which certain horses should
arrive at a given and clearly defined spot. By that time, however,
this unduly sanguine story-teller had become completely entranced in
his work, and merely regarded Tiao-Ts'un as a Heaven-sent but no
longer necessary incentive to his success. With every hope, therefore,
he went forth to dispose of his written leaves, confident of finding
some very wealthy person who would be in a condition to pay him the
correct value of the work.

"At the end of two years this somewhat disillusionized but still
undaunted person chanced to hear of a benevolent and unassuming body
of men who made a habit of issuing works in which they discerned
merit, but which, nevertheless, others were unanimous in describing as
'of no good'. Here this person was received with gracious effusion,
and being in a position to impress those with whom he was dealing with
his undoubted knowledge of the subject, he finally succeeded in making
a very advantageous arrangement by which he was to pay one-half of the
number of taels expended in producing the work, and to receive in
return all the profits which should result from the undertaking. Those
who were concerned in the matter were so engagingly impressed with the
incomparable literary merit displayed in the production that they
counselled a great number of copies being made ready in order, as they
said, that this person should not lose by there being any delay when
once the accomplishment became the one topic of conversation in
tea-houses and yamens. From this cause it came about that the matter
of taels to be expended was much greater than had been anticipated at
the beginning, so that when the day arrived on which the volumes were
to be sent forth this person found that almost his last piece of money
had disappeared.

"Alas! how small a share has a person in the work of controlling his
own destiny. Had only the necessarily penurious and now almost
degraded Kai Lung been born a brief span before the great writer Lo
Kuan Chang, his name would have been received with every mark of
esteem from one end of the Empire to the other, while taels and
honourable decorations would have been showered upon him. For the
truth, which could no longer be concealed, revealed the fact that this
inopportune individual possessed a mind framed in such a manner that
his thoughts had already been the thoughts of the inspired Lo Kuan,
who, as this person would not be so presumptuous as to inform this
ornamental and well-informed gathering, was the most ingenious and
versatile-minded composer of written words that this Empire--and
therefore the entire world--has seen, as, indeed, his honourable title
of 'The Many-hued Mandarin Duck of the Yang-tse' plainly indicates.

"Although this self-opinionated person had frequently been greatly
surprised himself during the writing of his long work by the
brilliance and manysidedness of the thoughts and metaphors which arose
in his mind without conscious effort, it was not until the appearance
of the printed leaves which make a custom of warning persons against
being persuaded into buying certain books that he definitely
understood how all these things had been fully expressed many
dynasties ago by the all-knowing Lo Kuan Chang, and formed, indeed,
the great national standard of unapproachable excellence.
Unfortunately, this person had been so deeply engrossed all his life
in literary pursuits that he had never found an opportunity to glance
at the works in question, or he would have escaped the embarrassing
position in which he now found himself.

"It was with a hopeless sense of illness of ease that this unhappy one
reached the day on which the printed leaves already alluded to would
make known their deliberate opinion of his writing, the extremity of
his hope being that some would at least credit him with honourable
motives, and perhaps a knowledge that if the inspired Lo Kuan Chan had
never been born the entire matter might have been brought to a very
different conclusion. Alas! only one among the many printed leaves
which made reference to the venture contained any words of friendship
or encouragement. This benevolent exception was sent forth from a city
in the extreme Northern Province of the Empire, and contained many
inspiring though delicately guarded messages of hope for the one to
whom they gracefully alluded as 'this undoubtedly youthful, but
nevertheless, distinctly promising writer of books'. While admitting
that altogether they found the production undeniably tedious, they
claimed to have discovered indications of an obvious talent, and
therefore they unhesitatingly counselled the person in question to
take courage at the prospect of a moderate competency which was
certainly within his grasp if he restrained his somewhat
over-ambitious impulses and closely observed the simple subjects and
manner of expression of their own Chang Chow, whose 'Lines to a
Wayside Chrysanthemum', 'Mongolians who Have', and several other
composed pieces, they then set forth. Although it became plain that
the writer of this amiably devised notice was, like this incapable
person, entirely unacquainted with the masterpieces of Lo Kuan Chang,
yet the indisputable fact remained that, entirely on its merit, the
work had been greeted with undoubted enthusiasm, so that after
purchasing many examples of the refined printed leaf containing it,
this person sat far into the night continually reading over the one
unprejudiced and discriminating expression.

"All the other printed leaves displayed a complete absence of good
taste in dealing with the mater. One boldly asserted that the entire
circumstance was the outcome of a foolish jest or wager on the part of
a person who possessed a million taels; another predicted that it was
a cunning and elaborately thought-out method of obtaining the
attention of the people on the part of certain persons who claimed to
vend a reliable and fragrantly-scented cleansing substance. The
"Valley of Hoang Rose Leaves and Sweetness" hoped, in a spirit of no
sincerity, that the ingenious Kai Lung would not rest on his
tea-leaves, but would soon send forth an equally entertaining amended
example of the "Sayings of Confucious" and other sacred works, while
the "Pure Essence of the Seven Days' Happenings" merely printed side
by side portions from the two books under the large inscription,

"The disappointment both as regards public esteem and taels--for,
after the manner in which the work had been received by those who
advise on such productions, not a single example was purchased--threw
this ill-destined individual into a condition of most unendurable
depression, from which he was only aroused by a remarkable example of
the unfailing wisdom of the proverb which says 'Before hastening to
secure a possible reward of five taels by dragging an unobservant
person away from a falling building, examine well his features lest
you find, when too late, that it is one to whom you are indebted for
double that amount.' Disappointed in the hope of securing large gains
from the sale of his great work, this person now turned his attention
again to his former means of living, only to find, however, that the
discredit in which he had become involved even attached itself to his
concise sentence; for in place of the remunerative and honourable
manner in which it was formerly received, it was now regarded on all
hands with open suspicion. Instead of meekly kow-towing to an
evidently pre-arranged doom, the last misfortune aroused this usually
resigned story-teller to an ungovernable frenzy. Regarding the
accomplished but at the same time exceedingly over-productive Lo Kuan
Chang as the beginning of all his evils, he took a solemn oath as a
mark of disapproval that he had not been content to inscribe on paper
only half of his brilliant thoughts, leaving the other half for the
benefit of this hard-striving and equally well-endowed individual, in
which case there would have been a sufficiency of taels and of fame
for both.

"For a very considerable space of time this person could conceive no
method by which he might attain his object. At length, however, as a
result of very keen and subtle intellectual searching, and many
well-selected sacrifices, it was conveyed by means of a dream that one
very ingenious yet simple way was possible. The renowned and
universally-admired writings of the distinguished Lo Kuan for the most
part take their action within a few dynasties of their creator's own
time: all that remained for this inventive person to accomplish,
therefore, was to trace out the entire matter, making the words and
speeches to proceed from the mouths of those who existed in still
earlier periods. By this crafty method it would at once appear as
though the not-too-original Lo Kuan had been indebted to one who came
before him for all his most subtle thoughts, and, in consequence, his
tomb would become dishonoured and his memory execrated. Without any
delay this person cheerfully set himself to the somewhat laborious
task before him. Lo Kuan's well-known exclamation of the Emperor Tsing
on the battlefield of Shih-ho, 'A sedan-chair! a sedan-chair! This
person will unhesitatingly exchange his entire and well-regulated
Empire for such an article', was attributed to an Emperor who lived
several thousand years before the treacherous and unpopular Tsing. The
new matter of a no less frequently quoted portion ran: 'O nobly
intentioned but nevertheless exceedingly morose Tung-shin, the object
before you is your distinguished and evilly-disposed-of father's
honourably-inspired demon', the change of a name effecting whatever
alteration was necessary; while the delicately-imagined speech
beginning 'The person who becomes amused at matters resulting from
double-edged knives has assuredly never felt the effect of a
well-directed blow himself' was taken from the mouth of one person and
placed in that of one of his remote ancestors. In such a manner,
without in any great degree altering the matter of Lo Kuan's works,
all the scenes and persons introduced were transferred to much earlier
dynasties than those affected by the incomparable writer himself, the
final effect being to give an air of extreme unoriginality to his
really undoubtedly genuine conceptions.

"Satisfied with his accomplishment, and followed by a hired person of
low class bearing the writings, which, by nature of the research
necessary in fixing the various dates and places so that even the wary
should be deceived, had occupied the greater part of a year, this now
fully confident story-teller--unmindful of the well-tried excellence
of the inspired saying, 'Money is hundred-footed; upon perceiving a
tael lying apparently unobserved upon the floor, do not lose the time
necessary in stooping, but quickly place your foot upon it, for one
fails nothing in dignity thereby; but should it be a gold piece,
distrust all things, and valuing dignity but as an empty name, cast
your entire body upon it'--went forth to complete his great task of
finally erasing from the mind and records of the Empire the hitherto
venerated name of Lo Kuan Chang. Entering the place of commerce of the
one who seemed the most favourable for the purpose, he placed the
facts as they would in future be represented before him, explained the
undoubtedly remunerative fame that would ensue to all concerned in the
enterprise of sending forth the printed books in their new form, and,
opening at a venture the written leaves which he had brought with him,
read out the following words as an indication of the similarity of the
entire work:

"'Whai-Keng: Friends, Chinamen, labourers who are engaged in
agricultural pursuits, entrust to this person your acute and
well-educated ears;

"'He has merely come to assist in depositing the body of
Ko'ung in the Family Temple, not for the purpose of making
remarks about him of a graceful and highly complimentary

"'The unremunerative actions of which persons may have been
guilty possess an exceedingly undesirable amount of endurance;

"'The successful and well-considered almost invariably are
involved in a directly contrary course;

"'This person desires nothing more than a like fate to await

"When this one had read so far, he paused in order to give the other
an opportunity if breaking in and offering half his possessions to be
allowed to share in the undertaking. As he remained unaccountably
silent, however, an inelegant pause occurred which this person at
length broke by desiring an expressed opinion on the matter.

"'O exceedingly painstaking, but nevertheless highly inopportune Kai
Lung,' he replied at length, while in his countenance this person read
an expression of no-encouragement towards his venture, 'all your
entrancing efforts do undoubtedly appear to attract the undesirable
attention of some spiteful and tyrannical demon. This closely-written
and elaborately devised work is in reality not worth the labour of a
single stroke, nor is there in all Peking a sender forth of printed
leaves who would encourage any project connected with its issue.'

"'But the importance of such a fact as that which would clearly show
the hitherto venerated Lo Kuan Chang to be a person who passed off as
his own the work of an earlier one!' cried this person in despair,
well knowing that the deliberately expressed opinion of the one before
him was a matter that would rule all others. 'Consider the interest of
the discovery.'

"'The interest would not demand more than a few lines in the ordinary
printed leaves,' replied the other calmly. 'Indeed, in a manner of
speaking, it is entirely a detail of no consequence whether or not the
sublime Lo Kuan ever existed. In reality his very commonplace name may
have been simply Lung; his inspired work may have been written a score
of dynasties before him by some other person, or they may have been
composed by the enlightened Emperor of the period, who desired to
conceal the fact, yet these matters would not for a moment engage the
interest of any ordinary passer-by. Lo Kuan Chang is not a person in
the ordinary expression; he is an embodiment of a distinguished and
utterly unassailable national institution. The Heaven-sent works with
which he is, by general consent, connected form the necessary
unchangeable standard of literary excellence, and remain for ever
above rivalry and above mistrust. For this reason the matter is
plainly one which does not interest this person.'

"In the course of a not uneventful existence this self-deprecatory
person has suffered many reverses and disappointments. During his
youth the high-minded Empress on one occasion stopped and openly
complimented him on the dignified outline presented by his body in
profile, and when he was relying upon this incident to secure him a
very remunerative public office, a jealous and powerful Mandarin
substituted a somewhat similar, though really very much inferior,
person for him at the interview which the Empress had commanded.
Frequently in matters of commerce which have appeared to promise very
satisfactorily at the beginning this person has been induced to
entrust sums of money to others, when he had hoped from the
indications and the manner of speaking that the exact contrary would
be the case; and in one instance he was released at a vast price from
the torture dungeon in Canton--where he had been thrown by the subtle
and unconscientious plots of one who could not relate stories in so
accurate and unvarying a manner as himself--on the day before that on
which all persons were freely set at liberty on account of exceptional
public rejoicing. Yet in spite of these and many other very
unendurable incidents, this impetuous and ill-starred being never felt
so great a desire to retire to a solitary place and there disfigure
himself permanently as a mark of his unfeigned internal displeasure,
as on the occasion when he endured extreme poverty and great personal
inconvenience for an entire year in order that he might take away face
from the memory of a person who was so placed that no one expressed
any interest in the matter.

"Since then this very ill-clad and really necessitous person has
devoted himself to the honourable but exceedingly arduous and in
general unremunerative occupation of story-telling. To this he would
add nothing save that not infrequently a nobly-born and
highly-cultured audience is so entranced with his commonplace efforts
to hold the attention, especially when a story not hitherto known has
been related, that in order to afford it an opportunity of expressing
its gratification, he has been requested to allow another offering to
be made by all persons present at the conclusion of the



For a period not to be measured by days or weeks the air of Ching-fow
had been as unrestful as that of the locust plains beyond the Great
Wall, for every speech which passed bore two faces, one fair to hear,
as a greeting, but the other insidiously speaking behind a screen, of
rebellion, violence, and the hope of overturning the fixed order of
events. With those whom they did not mistrust of treachery persons
spoke in low voices of definite plans, while at all times there might
appear in prominent places of the city skilfully composed notices
setting forth great wrongs and injustices towards which resignation
and a lowly bearing were outwardly counselled, yet with the same words
cunningly inflaming the minds, even of the patient, as no pouring out
of passionate thoughts and undignified threatenings could have done.
Among the people, unknown, unseen, and unsuspected, except to the
proved ones to whom they desired to reveal themselves, moved the
agents of the Three Societies. While to the many of Ching-fow nothing
was desired or even thought of behind the downfall of their own
officials, and, chief of all, the execution of the evil-minded and
depraved Mandarin Ping Siang, whose cruelties and extortions had made
his name an object of wide and deserved loathing, the agents only
regarded the city as a bright spot in the line of blood and fire which
they were fanning into life from Peking to Canton, and which would
presumably burst forth and involve the entire Empire.

Although it had of late become a plain fact, by reason of the manner
of behaving of the people, that events of a sudden and turbulent
nature could not long be restrained, yet outwardly there was no
exhibition of violence, not even to the length of resisting those whom
Ping Siang sent to enforce his unjust demands, chiefly because a
well-founded whisper had been sent round that nothing was to be done
until Tung Fel should arrive, which would not be until the seventh day
in the month of Winged Dragons. To this all persons agreed, for the
more aged among them, who, by virtue of their years, were also the
formers of opinion in all matters, called up within their memories
certain events connected with the two persons in question which
appeared to give to Tung Fel the privilege of expressing himself
clearly when the matter of finally dealing with the malicious and
self-willed Mandarin should be engaged upon.

Among the mountains which enclose Ching-fow on the southern side dwelt
a jade-seeker, who also kept goats. Although a young man and entirely
without relations, he had, by patient industry, contrived to collect
together a large flock of the best-formed and most prolific goats to
be found in the neighbourhood, all the money which he received in
exchange for jade being quickly bartered again for the finest animals
which he could obtain. He was dauntless in penetrating to the most
inaccessible parts of the mountains in search of the stone, unfailing
in his skilful care of the flock, in which he took much honourable
pride, and on all occasions discreet and unassumingly restrained in
his discourse and manner of life. Knowing this to be his invariable
practice, it was with emotions of an agreeable curiosity that on the
seventh day of the month of Winged Dragons those persons who were
passing from place to place in the city beheld this young man, Yang
Hu, descending the mountain path with unmistakable signs of profound
agitation, and an entire absence of prudent care. Following him
closely to the inner square of the city, on the continually expressed
plea that they themselves had business in that quarter, these persons
observed Yang Hu take up a position of unendurable dejection as he
gazed reproachfully at the figure of the all-knowing Buddha which
surmounted the Temple where it was his custom to sacrifice.

"Alas!" he exclaimed, lifting up his voice, when it became plain that
a large number of people was assembled awaiting his words, "to what
end does a person strive in this excessively evilly-regulated
district? Or is it that this obscure and ill-destined one alone is
marked out as with a deep white cross for humiliation and ruin?
Father, and Sacred Temple of Ancestral Virtues, wherein the meanest
can repose their trust, he has none; while now, being more destitute
than the beggar at the gate, the hope of honourable marriage and a
robust family of sons is more remote than the chance of finding the
miracle-working Crystal Image which marks the last footstep of the
Pure One. Yesterday this person possessed no secret store of silver or
gold, nor had he knowledge of any special amount of jade hidden among
the mountains, but to his call there responded four score goats, the
most select and majestic to be found in all the Province, of which,
nevertheless, it was his yearly custom to sacrifice one, as those here
can testify, and to offer another as a duty to the Yamen of Ping
Siang, in neither case opening his eyes widely when the hour for
selecting arrived. Yet in what an unseemly manner is his respectful
piety and courteous loyalty rewarded! To-day, before this person went
forth on his usual quest, there came those bearing written papers by
which they claimed, on the authority of Ping Siang, the whole of this
person's flock, as a punishment and fine for his not contributing
without warning to the Celebration of Kissing the Emperor's Face--the
very obligation of such a matter being entirely unknown to him.
Nevertheless, those who came drove off this person's entire wealth,
the desperately won increase of a life full of great toil and
uncomplainingly endured hardship, leaving him only his cave in the
rocks, which even the most grasping of many-handed Mandarins cannot
remove, his cloak of skins, which no beggar would gratefully receive,
and a bright and increasing light of deep hate scorching within his
mind which nothing but the blood of the obdurate extortioner can
efficiently quench. No protection of charms or heavily-mailed bowmen
shall avail him, for in his craving for just revenge this person will
meet witchcraft with a Heaven-sent cause and oppose an unsleeping
subtlety against strength. Therefore let not the innocent suffer
through an insufficient understanding, O Divine One, but direct the
hand of your faithful worshipper towards the heart that is proud in
tyranny, and holds as empty words the clearly defined promise of an
all-seeing justice."

Scarcely had Yang Hu made an end of speaking before there happened an
event which could be regarded in no other light than as a direct
answer to his plainly expressed request for a definite sign. Upon the
clear air, which had become unnaturally still at Yang Hu's words, as
though to remove any chance of doubt that this indeed was the
requested answer, came the loud beating of many very powerful brass
gongs, indicating the approach of some person of undoubted importance.
In a very brief period the procession reached the square, the
gong-beaters being followed by persons carrying banners, bowmen in
armour, others bearing various weapons and instruments of torture,
slaves displaying innumerable changes of raiment to prove the rank and
consequence of their master, umbrella carriers and fan wavers, and
finally, preceded by incense burners and surrounded by servants who
cleared away all obstructions by means of their formidable and heavily
knotted lashes, the unworthy and deceitful Mandarin Ping Siang, who
sat in a silk-hung and elaborately wrought chair, looking from side to
side with gestures and expressions of contempt and ill-restrained

At the sign of this powerful but unscrupulous person all those who
were present fell upon their faces, leaving a broad space in their
midst, except Yang Hu, who stepped back into the shadow of a doorway,
being resolved that he would not prostrate himself before one whom
Heaven had pointed out as the proper object of his just vengeance.

When the chair of Ping Siang could no longer be observed in the
distance, and the sound of his many gongs had died away, all the
persons who had knelt at his approach rose to their feet, meeting each
other's eyes with glances of assured and profound significance. At
length there stepped forth an exceedingly aged man, who was generally
believed to have the power of reading omens and forecasting futures,
so that at his upraised hand all persons became silent.

"Behold!" he exclaimed, "none can turn aside in doubt from the
deliberately pointed finger of Buddha. Henceforth, in spite of the
well-intentioned suggestions of those who would shield him under the
plea of exacting orders from high ones at Peking or extortions
practised by slaves under him of which he is ignorant, there can no
longer be any two voices concerning the guilty one. Yet what does the
knowledge of the cormorant's cry avail the golden carp in the shallow
waters of the Yuen-Kiang? A prickly mormosa is an adequate protection
against a naked man armed only with a just cause, and a company of
bowmen has been known to quench an entire city's Heaven-felt desire
for retribution. This person, and doubtless others also, would have
experienced a more heartfelt enthusiasm in the matter if the sublime
and omnipotent Buddha had gone a step further, and pointed out not
only the one to be punished, but also the instrument by which the
destiny could be prudently and effectively accomplished."

From the mountain path which led to Yang Hu's cave came a voice, like
an expressly devised reply to this speech. It was that of some person
uttering the "Chant of Rewards and Penalties":

"How strong is the mountain sycamore!
"Its branches reach the Middle Air, and the eye of none can
pierce its foliage;
"It draws power and nourishment from all around, so that weeds
alone may flourish under its shadow.
"Robbers find safety within the hollow of its trunk; its
branches hide vampires and all manner of evil things which
prey upon the innocent;
"The wild boar of the forest sharpen their tusks against the
bark, for it is harder than flint, and the axe of the
woodsman turns back upon the striker.
"Then cries the sycamore, 'Hail and rain have no power against
me, nor can the fiercest sun penetrate beyond my outside
"'The man who impiously raises his hand against me falls by
his own stroke and weapon.
"'Can there be a greater or a more powerful than this one?
Assuredly, I am Buddha; let all things obey me.'
"Whereupon the weeds bow their heads, whispering among
themselves, 'The voice of the Tall One we hear, but not
that of Buddha. Indeed, it is doubtless as he says.'
"In his musk-scented Heaven Buddha laughs, and not deigning to
raise his head from the lap of the Phoenix Goddess, he
thrusts forth a stone which lies by his foot.
"Saying, 'A god's present for a god. Take it carefully, O
presumptuous Little One, for it is hot to the touch.'
"The thunderbolt falls and the mighty tree is rent in twain.
'They asked for my messenger,' said the Pure One, turning
again to repose."

With the last spoken word there came into the sight of those who were
collected together a person of stern yet engaging appearance. His
hands and face were the colour of mulberry stain by long exposure to
the sun, while his eyes looked forth like two watch-fires outside a
wolf-haunted camp. His long pigtail was tangled with the binding
tendrils of the forest, and damp with the dew of an open couch. His
apparel was in no way striking or brilliant, yet he strode with the
dignity and air of a high official, pushing before him a covered box
upon wheels.

"It is Tung Fel!" cried many who stood there watching his approach, in
tones which showed those who spoke to be inspired by a variety of
impressive emotions. "Undoubtedly this is the seventh day of the month
of Winged Dragons, and, as he specifically stated would be the case,
lo! he has come."

Few were the words of greeting which Tung Fel accorded even to the
most venerable of those who awaited him.

"This person has slept, partaken of fruit and herbs, and devoted an
allotted time to inward contemplation," he said briefly. "Other and
more weighty matters than the exchange of dignified compliments and
the admiration of each other's profiles remain to be accomplished.
What, for example, is the significance of the written parchment which
is displayed in so obtrusive a manner before our eyes? Bring it to
this person without delay."

At these words all those present followed Tung Fel's gaze with
astonishment, for conspicuously displayed upon the wall of the Temple
was a written notice which all joined in asserting had not been there
the moment before, though no man had approached the spot. Nevertheless
it was quickly brought to Tung Fel, who took it without any fear or
hesitation and read aloud the words which it contained.


"Truly the span of existence of any upon this earth is brief
and not to be considered; therefore, O unfortunate dwellers of
Ching-fow, let it not affect your digestion that your bodies
are in peril of sudden and most excruciating tortures and your
Family Temples in danger of humiliating disregard.

"Why do your thoughts follow the actions of the noble Mandarin
Ping Siang so insidiously, and why after each unjust exaction
do your eyes look redly towards the Yamen?

"Is he not the little finger of those at Peking, obeying their
commands and only carrying out the taxation which others have
devised? Indeed, he himself has stated such to be the fact.
If, therefore, a terrible and unforeseen fate overtook the
usually cautious and well-armed Ping Siang, doubtless--perhaps
after the lapse of some considerable time--another would be
sent from Peking for a like purpose, and in this way, after a
too-brief period of heaven-sent rest and prosperity, affairs
would regulate themselves into almost as unendurable a
condition as before.

"Therefore ponder these things well, O passer-by. Yesterday
the only man-child of Huang the wood-carver was taken away to
be sold into slavery by the emissaries of the most just Ping
Siang (who would not have acted thus, we are assured, were it
not for the insatiable ones at Peking), as it had become plain
that the very necessitous Huang had no other possession to
contribute to the amount to be expended in coloured lights as
a mark of public rejoicing on the occasion of the moonday of
the sublime Emperor. The illiterate and prosaic-minded Huang,
having in a most unseemly manner reviled and even assailed
those who acted in the matter, has been effectively disposed
of, and his wife now alternately laughs and shrieks in the
Establishment of Irregular Intellects.

"For this reason, gazer, and because the matter touches you
more closely than, in your self-imagined security, you are
prone to think, deal expediently with the time at your
disposal. Look twice and lingeringly to-night upon the face of
your first-born, and clasp the form of your favourite one in a
closer embrace, for he by whose hand the blow is directed may
already have cast devouring eyes upon their fairness, and to-
morrow he may say to his armed men: 'The time is come; bring
her to me'."

"From the last sentence of the well-intentioned and undoubtedly
moderately-framed notice this person will take two phrases,' remarked
Tung Fel, folding the written paper and placing it among his garments,
'which shall serve him as the title of the lifelike and
accurately-represented play which it is his self-conceited intention
now to disclose to this select and unprejudiced gathering. The scene
represents an enlightened and well-merited justice overtaking an
arrogant and intolerable being who--need this person add?--existed
many dynasties ago, and the title is:


Delivering himself in this manner, Tung Fel drew back the hanging
drapery which concealed the front of his large box, and disclosed to
those who were gathered round, not, as they had expected, a passage
from the Record of the Three Kingdoms, or some other dramatic work of
undoubted merit, but an ingeniously constructed representation of a
scene outside the walls of their own Ching-fow. On one side was a
small but minutely accurate copy of a wood-burner's hut, which was
known to all present, while behind stood out the distant but
nevertheless unmistakable walls of the city. But it was nearest part
of the spectacle that first held the attention of the entranced
beholders, for there disported themselves, in every variety of
guileless and attractive attitude, a number of young and entirely
unconcerned doves. Scarcely had the delighted onlookers fully observed
the pleasing and effective scene, or uttered their expressions of
polished satisfaction at the graceful and unassuming behaviour of the
pretty creatures before them, than the view entirely changed, and, as
if by magic, the massive and inelegant building of Ping Siang's Yamen
was presented before them. As all gazed, astonished, the great door of
the Yamen opened stealthily, and without a moment's pause a lean and
ill-conditioned rat, of unnatural size and rapacity, dashed out and
seized the most select and engaging of the unsuspecting prey in its
hungry jaws. With the expiring cry of the innocent victim the entire
box was immediately, and in the most unexpected manner, involved in a
profound darkness, which cleared away as suddenly and revealed the
forms of the despoiler and the victim lying dead by each other's side.

Tung Fel came forward to receive the well-selected compliments of all
who had witnessed the entertainment.

"It may be objected," he remarked, "that the play is, in a manner of
expressing one's self, incomplete; for it is unrevealed by whose hand
the act of justice was accomplished. Yet in this detail is the
accuracy of the representation justified, for though the time has
come, the hand by which retribution is accorded shall never be

In such a manner did Tung Fel come to Ching-fow on the seventh day of
the month of Winged Dragons, throwing aside all restraint, and no
longer urging prudence or delay. Of all the throng which stood before
him scarcely one was without a deep offence against Ping Siang, while
those who had not as yet suffered feared what the morrow might

A wandering monk from the Island of Irredeemable Plagues was the first
to step forth in response to Tung Fel's plainly understood suggestion.

"There is no necessity for this person to undertake further acts of
benevolence," he remarked, dropping the cloak from his shoulder and
displaying the hundred and eight scars of extreme virtue; "nor," he
continued, holding up his left hand, from which three fingers were
burnt away, "have greater endurances been neglected. Yet the matter
before this distinguished gathering is one which merits the favourable
consideration of all persons, and this one will in no manner turn
away, recounting former actions, while he allows others to press
forward towards the accomplishment of the just and divinely-inspired

With these words the devout and unassuming person in question
inscribed his name upon a square piece of rice-paper, attesting his
sincerity to the fixed purpose for which it was designed by dipping
his thumb into the mixed blood of the slain animals and impressing
this unalterable seal upon the paper also. He was followed by a seller
of drugs and subtle medicines, whose entire stock had been seized and
destroyed by order of Ping Siang, so that no one in Ching-fow might
obtain poison for his destruction. Then came an overwhelming stream of
persons, all of whom had received some severe and well-remembered
injury at the hands of the malicious and vindictive Mandarin. All
these followed a similar observance, inscribing their names and
binding themselves by the Blood Oath. Last of all Yang Hu stepped up,
partly from a natural modesty which restrained him from offering
himself when so many more versatile persons of proved excellence were
willing to engage in the matter, and partly because an ill-advised
conflict was taking place within his mind as to whether the extreme
course which was contemplated was the most expedient to pursue. At
last, however, he plainly perceived that he could not honourably
withhold himself from an affair that was in a measure the direct
outcome of his own unendurable loss, so that without further
hesitation he added his obscure name to the many illustrious ones
already in Tung Fel's keeping.

When at length dark fell upon the city and the cries of the watchmen,
warning all prudent ones to bar well their doors against robbers, as
they themselves were withdrawing until the morrow, no longer rang
through the narrow ways of Ching-fow, all those persons who had
pledged themselves by name and seal went forth silently, and came
together at the place whereof Tung Fel had secretly conveyed them
knowledge. There Tung Fel, standing somewhat apart, placed all the
folded papers in the form of a circle, and having performed over them
certain observances designed to insure a just decision and to keep
away evil influences, submitted the selection to the discriminating
choice of the Sacred Flat and Round Sticks. Having in this manner
secured the name of the appointed person who should carry out the act
of justice and retribution, Tung Fel unfolded the paper, inscribed
certain words upon it, and replaced it among the others.

"The moment before great deeds," began Tung Fel, stepping forward and
addressing himself to the expectant ones who were gathered round, "is
not the time for light speech, nor, indeed, for sentences of dignified
length, no matter how pleasantly turned to the ear they may be. Before
this person stand many who are undoubtedly illustrious in various arts
and virtues, yet one among them is pre-eminently marked out for
distinction in that his name shall be handed down in imperishable
history as that of a patriot of a pure-minded and uncompromising
degree. With him there is no need of further speech, and to this end I
have inscribed certain words upon his namepaper. To everyone this
person will now return the paper which has been entrusted to him,
folded so that the nature of its contents shall be an unwritten leaf
to all others. Nor shall the papers be unfolded by any until he is
within his own chamber, with barred doors, where all, save the one who
shall find the message, shall remain, not venturing forth until
daybreak. I, Tung Fel, have spoken, and assuredly I shall not eat my
word, which is that a certain and most degrading death awaits any who
transgress these commands."

It was with the short and sudden breath of the cowering antelope when
the stealthy tread of the pitiless tiger approaches its lair, that
Yang Hu opened his paper in the seclusion of his own cave; for his
mind was darkened with an inspired inside emotion that he, the one
doubting among the eagerly proffering and destructively inclined
multitude, would be chosen to accomplish the high aim for which,
indeed, he felt exceptionally unworthy. The written sentence which he
perceived immediately upon unfolding the paper, instructing him to

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