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The Wallet of Kai Lung by Ernest Bramah

Part 4 out of 5

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appear again before Tung Fel at the hour of midnight, was, therefore,
nothing but the echo and fulfilment of his own thoughts, and served in
reality to impress his mind with calmer feelings of dignified
unconcern than would have been the case had he not been chosen. Having
neither possessions nor relations, the occupation of disposing of his
goods and making ceremonious and affectionate leavetakings of his
family, against the occurrence of any unforeseen disaster, engrossed
no portion of Yang Hu's time. Yet there was one matter to which no
reference has yet been made, but which now forces itself obtrusively
upon the attention, which was in a large measure responsible for many
of the most prominent actions of Yang Hu's life, and, indeed, in no
small degree influenced his hesitation in offering himself before Tung

Not a bowshot distance from the place where the mountain path entered
the outskirts of the city lived Hiya-ai-Shao with her parents, who
were persons of assured position, though of no particular wealth. For
a period not confined to a single year it had been the custom of Yang
Hu to offer to this elegant and refined maiden all the rarest pieces
of jade which he could discover, while the most symmetrical and
remunerative she-goat in his flock enjoyed the honourable distinction
of bearing her incomparable name. Towards the almond garden of Hiya's
abode Yang Hu turned his footsteps upon leaving his cave, and standing
there, concealed from all sides by the white and abundant flower-laden
foliage, he uttered a sound which had long been an agreed signal
between them. Presently a faint perfume of choo-lan spoke of her near
approach, and without delay Hiya herself stood by his side.

"Well-endowed one," said Yang Hu, when at length they had gazed upon
each other's features and made renewals of their protestations of
mutual regard, "the fixed intentions of a person have often been fitly
likened to the seed of the tree-peony, so ineffectual are their
efforts among the winds of constantly changing circumstance. The
definite hope of this person had long pointed towards a small but
adequate habitation, surrounded by sweet-smelling olive-trees and not
far distant from the jade cliffs and pastures which would afford a
sufficient remuneration and a means of living. This entrancing picture
has been blotted out for the time, and in its place this person finds
himself face to face with an arduous and dangerous undertaking,
followed, perhaps, by hasty and immediate flight. Yet if the adorable
Hiya will prove the unchanging depths of her constantly expressed
intention by accompanying him as far as the village of Hing where
suitable marriage ceremonies can be observed without delay, the exile
will in reality be in the nature of a triumphal procession, and the
emotions with which this person has hitherto regarded the entire
circumstance will undergo a complete and highly accomplished change."

"Oh, Yang!" exclaimed the maiden, whose feelings at hearing these
words were in no way different from those of her lover when he was on
the point of opening the folded paper upon which Tung Fel had written;
"what is the nature of the mission upon which you are so impetuously
resolved? and why will it be followed by flight?"

"The nature of the undertaking cannot be revealed by reason of a
deliberately taken oath," replied Yang Hu; "and the reason of its
possible consequence is a less important question to the two persons
who are here conversing together than of whether the amiable and
graceful Hiya is willing to carry out her often-expressed desire for
an opportunity of displaying the true depths of her emotions towards
this one."

"Alas!" said Hiya, "the sentiments which this person expressed with
irreproachable honourableness when the sun was high in the heavens and
the probability of secretly leaving an undoubtedly well-appointed home
was engagingly remote, seem to have an entirely different significance
when recalled by night in a damp orchard, and on the eve of their
fulfilment. To deceive one's parents is an ignoble prospect;
furthermore, it is often an exceedingly difficult undertaking. Let the
matter be arranged in this way: that Yang leaves the ultimate details
of the scheme to Hiya's expedient care, he proceeding without delay to
Hing, or, even more desirable, to the further town of Liyunnan, and
there awaiting her coming. By such means the risk of discovery and
pursuit will be lessened, Yang will be able to set forth on his
journey with greater speed, and this one will have an opportunity of
getting together certain articles without which, indeed, she would be
very inadequately equipped."

In spite of his conscientious desire that Hiya should be by his side
on the journey, together with an unendurable certainty that evil would
arise from the course she proposed, Yang was compelled by an innate
feeling of respect to agree to her wishes, and in this manner the
arrangement was definitely concluded. Thereupon Hiya, without delay,
returned to the dwelling, remarking that otherwise her absence might
be detected and the entire circumstance thereby discovered, leaving
Yang Hu to continue his journey and again present himself before Tung
Fel, as he had been instructed.

Tung Fel was engaged with brush and ink when Yang Hu entered. Round
him were many written parchments, some venerable with age, and a
variety of other matters, among which might be clearly perceived
weapons, and devices for reading the future. He greeted Yang with many
tokens of dignified respect, and with an evidently restrained emotion
led him towards the light of a hanging lantern, where he gazed into
his face for a considerable period with every indication of
exceptional concern.

"Yang Hu," he said at length, "at such a moment many dark and
searching thoughts may naturally arise in the mind concerning objects
and reasons, omens, and the moving cycle of events. Yet in all these,
out of a wisdom gained by deep endurance and a hardly-won experience
beyond the common lot, this person would say, Be content. The hand of
destiny, though it may at times appear to move in a devious manner, is
ever approaching its appointed aim. To this end were you chosen."

"The choice was openly made by wise and proficient omens," replied
Yang Hu, without any display of uncertainty of purpose, "and this
person is content."

Tung Fel then administered to Yang the Oath of Buddha's Face and the
One called the Unutterable (which may not be further described in
written words) thereby binding his body and soul, and the souls and
repose of all who had gone before him in direct line and all who
should in a like manner follow after, to the accomplishment of the
design. All spoken matter being thus complete between them, he gave
him a mask with which he should pass unknown through the streets and
into the presence of Ping Siang, a variety of weapons to use as the
occasion arose, and a sign by which the attendants at the Yamen would
admit him without further questioning.

As Yang Hu passed through the streets of Ching-fow, which were in a
great measure deserted owing to the command of Tung Fel, he was aware
of many mournful and foreboding sounds which accompanied him on all
sides, while shadowy faces, bearing signs of intolerable anguish and
despair, continually formed themselves out of the wind. By the time he
reached the Yamen a tempest of exceptional violence was in progress,
nor were other omens absent which tended to indicate that matters of a
very unpropitious nature were about to take place.

At each successive door of the Yamen the attendant stepped back and
covered his face, so that he should by no chance perceive who had come
upon so destructive a mission, the instant Yang Hu uttered the sign
with which Tung Fel had provided him. In this manner Yang quickly
reached the door of the inner chamber upon which was inscribed: "Let
the person who comes with a doubtful countenance, unbidden, or
meditating treachery, remember the curse and manner of death which
attended Lai Kuen, who slew the one over him; so shall he turn and go
forth in safety." This unworthy safeguard at the hands of a person who
passed his entire life in altering the fixed nature of justice, and
who never went beyond his outer gate without an armed company of
bowmen, inspired Yang Hu with so incautious a contempt, that without
any hesitation he draw forth his brush and ink, and in a spirit of
bitter signification added the words, "'Come, let us eat together,'
said the wolf to the she-goat."

Being now within a step of Ping Siang and the completion of his
undertaking, Yang Hu drew tighter the cords of his mask, tested and
proved his weapons, and then, without further delay, threw open the
door before him and stepped into the chamber, barring the door quickly
so that no person might leave or enter without his consent.

At this interruption and manner of behaving, which clearly indicated
the nature of the errand upon which the person before him had come,
Ping Siang rose from his couch and stretched out his hand towards a
gong which lay beside him.

"All summonses for aid are now unavailing, Ping Siang," exclaimed
Yang, without in any measure using delicate or set phrases of speech;
"for, as you have doubtless informed yourself, the slaves of tyrants
are the first to welcome the downfall of their lord."

"The matter of your speech is as emptiness to this person," replied
the Mandarin, affecting with extreme difficulty an appearance of
no-concern. "In what manner has he fallen? And how will the depraved
and self-willed person before him avoid the well-deserved tortures
which certainly await him in the public square on the morrow, as the
reward of his intolerable presumptions?"

"O Mandarin," cried Yang Hu, "the fitness and occasion for such
speeches as the one to which you have just given utterance lie as far
behind you as the smoke of yesterday's sacrifice. With what manner of
eyes have you frequently journeyed through Ching-fow of late, if the
signs and omens there have not already warned you to prepare a coffin
adequately designed to receive your well-proportioned body? Has not
the pungent vapour of burning houses assailed your senses at every
turn, or the salt tears from the eyes of forlorn ones dashed your
peach-tea and spiced foods with bitterness?"

"Alas!" exclaimed Ping Siang, "this person now certainly begins to
perceive that many things which he has unthinkingly allowed would
present a very unendurable face to others."

"In such a manner has it appeared to all Ching-fow," said Yang Hu;
"and the justice of your death has been universally admitted. Even
should this one fail there would be an innumerable company eager to
take his place. Therefore, O Ping Siang, as the only favour which it
is within this person's power to accord, select that which in your
opinion is the most agreeable manner and weapon for your end."

"It is truly said that at the Final Gate of the Two Ways the necessity
for elegant and well-chosen sentences ends," remarked Ping Siang with
a sigh, "otherwise the manner of your address would be open to
reproach. By your side this person perceives a long and apparently
highly-tempered sword, which, in his opinion, will serve the purpose
efficiently. Having no remarks of an improving but nevertheless
exceedingly tedious nature with which to imprint the occasion for the
benefit of those who come after, his only request is that the blow
shall be an unhesitating and sufficiently well-directed one."

At these words Yang Hu threw back his cloak to grasp the sword-handle,
when the Mandarin, with his eyes fixed on the naked arm, and evidently
inspired by every manner of conflicting emotions, uttered a cry of
unspeakable wonder and incomparable surprise.

"The Serpent!" he cried, in a voice from which all evenness and
control were absent. "The Sacred Serpent of our Race! O mysterious
one, who and whence are you?"

Engulfed in an all-absorbing doubt at the nature of events, Yang could
only gaze at the form of the serpent which had been clearly impressed
upon his arm from the earliest time of his remembrance, while Ping
Siang, tearing the silk garment from his own arm and displaying
thereon a similar form, continued:

"Behold the inevitable and unvarying birthmark of our race! So it was
with this person's father and the ones before him; so it was with his
treacherously-stolen son; so it will be to the end of all time."

Trembling beyond all power of restraint, Yang removed the mask which
had hitherto concealed his face.

"Father or race has this person none," he said, looking into Ping
Siang's features with an all-engaging hope, tempered in a measure by a
soul-benumbing dread; "nor memory or tradition of an earlier state
than when he herded goats and sought for jade in the southern

"Nevertheless," exclaimed the Mandarin, whose countenance was
lightened with an interest and a benevolent emotion which had never
been seen there before, "beyond all possibility of doubting, you are
this person's lost and greatly-desired son, stolen away many years ago
by the treacherous conduct of an unworthy woman, yet now happily and
miraculously restored to cherish his declining years and perpetuate an
honourable name and race."

"Happily!" exclaimed Yang, with fervent indications of uncontrollable
bitterness. "Oh, my illustrious sire, at whose venerated feet this
unworthy person now prostrates himself with well-merited marks of
reverence and self-abasement, has the errand upon which an ignoble son
entered--the every memory of which now causes him the acutest agony of
the lost, but which nevertheless he is pledged to Tung Fel by the
Unutterable Oath to perform--has this unnatural and eternally cursed
thing escaped your versatile mind?"

"Tung Fel!" cried Ping Siang. "Is, then, this blow also by the hand of
that malicious and vindictive person? Oh, what a cycle of events and
interchanging lines of destiny do your words disclose!"

"Who, then, is Tung Fel, my revered Father?" demanded Yang.

"It is a matter which must be made clear from the beginning," replied
Ping Siang. "At one time this person and Tung Fel were, by nature and
endowments, united in the most amiable bonds of an inseparable
friendship. Presently Tung Fel signed the preliminary contract of a
marriage with one who seemed to be endowed with every variety of
enchanting and virtuous grace, but who was, nevertheless, as the
unrolling of future events irresistibly discovered, a person of
irregular character and undignified habits. On the eve of the marriage
ceremony this person was made known to her by the undoubtedly
enraptured Tung Fel, whereupon he too fell into the snare of her
engaging personality, and putting aside all thoughts of prudent
restraint, made her more remunerative offers of marriage than Tung Fel
could by any possible chance overbid. In such a manner--for after the
nature of her kind riches were exceptionally attractive to her
degraded imagination--she became this person's wife, and the mother of
his only son. In spite of these great honours, however, the undoubted
perversity of her nature made her an easy accomplice to the duplicity
of Tung Fel, who, by means of various disguises, found frequent
opportunity of uttering in her presence numerous well-thought-out
suggestions specially designed to lead her imagination towards an
existence in which this person had no adequate representation.
Becoming at length terrified at the possibility of these unworthy
emotions, obtruding themselves upon this person's notice, the two in
question fled together, taking with them the one who without any doubt
is now before me. Despite the most assiduous search and very tempting
and profitable offers of reward, no information of a reliable nature
could be obtained, and at length this dispirited and completely
changed person gave up the pursuit as unavailing. With his son and
heir, upon whose future he had greatly hoped, all emotions of a
generous and high-minded nature left him, and in a very short space of
time he became the avaricious and deservedly unpopular individual
against whose extortions the amiable and long-suffering ones of
Ching-fow have for so many years protested mildly. The sudden and not
altogether unexpected fate which is now on the point of reaching him
is altogether too lenient to be entirely adequate."

"Oh, my distinguished and really immaculate sire!" cried Yang Hu, in a
voice which expressed the deepest feelings of contrition. "No oaths or
vows, however sacred, can induce this person to stretch forth his hand
against the one who stands before him."

"Nevertheless," replied Ping Siang, speaking of the matter as though
it were one which did not closely concern his own existence, "to
neglect the Unutterable Oath would inevitably involve not only the two
persons who are now conversing together, but also those before and
those who are to come after in direct line, in a much worse condition
of affairs. That is a fate which this person would by no means permit
to exist, for one of his chief desires has ever been to establish a
strong and vigorous line, to which end, indeed, he was even now
concluding a marriage arrangement with the beautiful and refined
Hiya-ai-Shao, whom he had at length persuaded into accepting his
betrothal tokens without reluctance."

"Hiya-ai-Shao!" exclaimed Yang; "she has accepted your silk-bound

"The matter need not concern us now," replied the Mandarin, not
observing in his complicated emotions the manner in which the name of
Hiya had affected Yang, revealing as it undoubtedly did the treachery
of his beloved one. "There only appears to be one honourable way in
which the full circumstances can be arranged, and this person will in
no measure endeavour to avoid it."

"Such an end is neither ignoble nor painful," he said, in an
unchanging voice; "nor will this one in any way shrink from so easy
and honourable a solution."

"The affairs of the future do not exhibit themselves in delicately
coloured hues to this person," said Yang Hu; "and he would, if the
thing could be so arranged, cheerfully submit to a similar fate in
order that a longer period of existence should be assured to one who
has every variety of claim upon his affection."

"The proposal is a graceful and conscientious one," said Ping Siang,
"and is, moreover, a gratifying omen of the future of our race, which
must of necessity be left in your hands. But, for that reason itself,
such a course cannot be pursued. Nevertheless, the events of the past
few hours have been of so exceedingly prosperous and agreeable a
nature that this short-sighted and frequently desponding person can
now pass beyond with a tranquil countenance and every assurance of
divine favour."

With these words Ping Siang indicated that he was desirous of setting
forth the Final Expression, and arranging the necessary matters upon
the table beside him, he stretched forth his hands over Yang Hu, who
placed himself in a suitable attitude of reverence and abasement.

"Yang Hu," began the Mandarin, "undoubted son, and, after the
accomplishment of the intention which it is our fixed purpose to carry
out, fitting representative of the person who is here before you,
engrave well within your mind the various details upon which he now
gives utterance. Regard the virtues; endeavour to pass an amiable and
at the same time not unremunerative existence; and on all occasions
sacrifice freely, to the end that the torments of those who have gone
before may be made lighter, and that others may be induced in turn to
perform a like benevolent charity for yourself. Having expressed
himself upon these general subjects, this person now makes a last and
respectfully-considered desire, which it is his deliberate wish should
be carried to the proper deities as his final expression of opinion:
That Yang Hu may grow as supple as the dried juice of the
bending-palm, and as straight as the most vigorous bamboo from the
forests of the North. That he may increase beyond the prolificness of
the white-necked crow and cover the ground after the fashion of the
binding grass. That in battle his sword may be as a vividly-coloured
and many-forked lightning flash, accompanied by thunderbolts as
irresistible as Buddha's divine wrath; in peace his voice as
resounding as the rolling of many powerful drums among the Khingan
Mountains. That when the kindled fire of his existence returns to the
great Mountain of Pure Flame the earth shall accept again its
component parts, and in no way restrain the divine essence from
journeying to its destined happiness. These words are Ping Siang's
last expression of opinion before he passes beyond, given in the
unvarying assurance that so sacred and important a petition will in no
way be neglected."

Having in this manner completed all the affairs which seemed to be of
a necessary and urgent nature, and fixing his last glance upon Yang Hu
with every variety of affectionate and estimable emotion, the Mandarin
drank a sufficient quantity of the liquid, and placing himself upon a
couch in an attitude of repose, passed in this dignified and
unassuming manner into the Upper Air.

After the space of a few moments spent in arranging certain objects
and in inward contemplation, Yang Hu crossed the chamber, still
holding the half-filled vessel of gold-leaf in his hand, and drawing
back the hanging silk, gazed over the silent streets of Ching-fow and
towards the great sky-lantern above.

"Hiya is faithless," he said at length in an unspeaking voice; "this
person's mother a bitter-tasting memory, his father a swiftly passing
shadow that is now for ever lost." His eyes rested upon the closed
vessel in his hand. "Gladly would--" his thoughts began, but with this
unworthy image a new impression formed itself within his mind. "A
clearly-expressed wish was uttered," he concluded, "and Tung Fel still
remains." With this resolution he stepped back into the chamber and
struck the gong loudly.




"The motives which inspired the actions of the devout Quen-Ki-Tong
have long been ill-reported," said Kai Lung the story-teller, upon a
certain occasion at Wu-whei, "and, as a consequence, his illustrious
memory has suffered somewhat. Even as the insignificant earth-worm may
bring the precious and many coloured jewel to the surface, so has it
been permitted to this obscure and superficially educated one to
discover the truth of the entire matter among the badly-arranged and
frequently really illegible documents preserved at the Hall of Public
Reference at Peking. Without fear of contradiction, therefore, he now
sets forth the credible version.

"Quen-Ki-Tong was one who throughout his life had been compelled by
the opposing force of circumstances to be content with what was
offered rather than attain to that which he desired. Having been
allowed to wander over the edge of an exceedingly steep crag, while
still a child, by the aged and untrustworthy person who had the care
of him, and yet suffering little hurt, he was carried back to the city
in triumph, by the one in question, who, to cover her neglect,
declared amid may chants of exultation that as he slept a majestic
winged form had snatched him from her arms and traced magical figures
with his body on the ground in token of the distinguished sacred
existence for which he was undoubtedly set apart. In such a manner he
became famed at a very early age for an unassuming mildness of
character and an almost inspired piety of life, so that on every side
frequent opportunity was given him for the display of these amiable
qualities. Should it chance that an insufficient quantity of puppy-pie
had been prepared for the family repast, the undesirable but necessary
portion of cold dried rat would inevitably be allotted to the
uncomplaining Quen, doubtless accompanied by the engaging but
unnecessary remark that he alone had a Heaven-sent intellect which was
fixed upon more sublime images than even the best constructed
puppy-pie. Should the number of sedan-chairs not be sufficient to bear
to the Exhibition of Kites all who were desirous of becoming
entertained in such a fashion, inevitably would Quen be the one left
behind, in order that he might have adequate leisure for dignified and
pure-minded internal reflexion.

"In this manner it came about that when a very wealthy but unnaturally
avaricious and evil-tempered person who was connected with Quen's
father in matters of commerce expressed his fixed determination that
the most deserving and enlightened of his friend's sons should enter
into a marriage agreement with his daughter, there was no manner of
hesitation among those concerned, who admitted without any questioning
between themselves that Quen was undeniably the one referred to.

"Though naturally not possessing an insignificant intellect, a
continuous habit, together with a most irreproachable sense of filial
duty, subdued within Quen's internal organs whatever reluctance he
might have otherwise displayed in the matter, so that as courteously
as was necessary he presented to the undoubtedly very ordinary and
slow-witted maiden in question the gifts of irretrievable intention,
and honourably carried out his spoken and written words towards her.

"For a period of years the circumstances of the various persons did
not in any degree change, Quen in the meantime becoming more
pure-souled and inward-seeing with each moon-change, after the manner
of the sublime Lien-ti, who studied to maintain an unmoved endurance
in all varieties of events by placing his body to a greater extent
each day in a vessel of boiling liquid. Nevertheless, the good and
charitable deities to whom Quen unceasingly sacrificed were not
altogether unmindful of his virtues; for a son was born, and an evil
disease which arose from a most undignified display of uncontrollable
emotion on her part ended in his wife being deposited with becoming
ceremony in the Family Temple.

"Upon a certain evening, when Quen sat in his inner chamber
deliberating upon the really beneficent yet somewhat inexplicable
arrangement of the all-seeing ones to whom he was very amiably
disposed in consequence of the unwonted tranquillity which he now
enjoyed, yet who, it appeared to him, could have set out the entire
matter in a much more satisfactory way from the beginning, he was made
aware by the unexpected beating of many gongs, and by other signs of
refined and deferential welcome, that a person of exalted rank was
approaching his residence. While he was still hesitating in his
uncertainty regarding the most courteous and delicate form of
self-abasement with which to honour so important a visitor--whether to
rush forth and allow the chair-carriers to pass over his prostrate
form, to make a pretence of being a low-caste slave, and in that guise
doing menial service, or to conceal himself beneath a massive and
overhanging table until his guest should have availed himself of the
opportunity to examine at his leisure whatever the room contained--the
person in question stood before him. In every detail of dress and
appointment he had the undoubted appearance of being one to whom no
door might be safely closed.

"'Alas!' exclaimed Quen, 'how inferior and ill-contrived is the mind
of a person of my feeble intellectual attainments. Even at this
moment, when the near approach of one who obviously commands every
engaging accomplishment might reasonably be expected to call up within
it an adequate amount of commonplace resource, its ill-destined
possessor finds himself entirely incapable of conducting himself with
the fitting outward marks of his great internal respect. This
residence is certainly unprepossessing in the extreme, yet it contains
many objects of some value and of great rarity; illiterate as this
person is, he would not be so presumptuous as to offer any for your
acceptance, but if you will confer upon him the favour of selecting
that which appears to be the most priceless and unreplaceable, he will
immediately, and with every manifestation of extreme delight, break it
irredeemably in your honour, to prove the unaffected depth of his
gratified emotions.'

"'Quen-Ki-Tong,' replied the person before him, speaking with an
evident sincerity of purpose, 'pleasant to this one's ears are your
words, breathing as they do an obvious hospitality and a due regard
for the forms of etiquette. But if, indeed, you are desirous of
gaining this person's explicit regard, break no articles of fine
porcelain or rare inlaid wood in proof of it, but immediately dismiss
to a very distant spot the three-score gong-beaters who have enclosed
him within two solid rings, and who are now carrying out their duties
in so diligent a manner that he greatly doubts if the unimpaired
faculties of hearing will ever be fully restored. Furthermore, if your
exceedingly amiable intentions desire fuller expression, cause an
unstinted number of vessels of some uninflammable liquid to be
conveyed into your chrysanthemum garden and there poured over the
numerous fireworks and coloured lights which still appear to be in
progress. Doubtless they are well-intentioned marks of respect, but
they caused this person considerable apprehension as he passed among
them, and, indeed, give to this unusually pleasant and unassuming spot
the by no means inviting atmosphere of a low-class tea-house garden
during the festivities attending the birthday of the sacred Emperor.'

"'This person is overwhelmed with a most unendurable confusion that
the matters referred to should have been regarded in such a light,'
replied Quen humbly. 'Although he himself had no knowledge of them
until this moment, he is confident that they in no wise differ from
the usual honourable manifestations with which it is customary in this
Province to welcome strangers of exceptional rank and titles.'

"'The welcome was of a most dignified and impressive nature,' replied
the stranger, with every appearance of not desiring to cause Quen any
uneasy internal doubts; 'yet the fact is none the less true that at
the moment this person's head seems to contain an exceedingly powerful
and well-equipped band; and also, that as he passed through the
courtyard an ingeniously constructed but somewhat unmanageable figure
of gigantic size, composed entirely of jets of many-coloured flame,
leaped out suddenly from behind a dark wall and made an almost
successful attempt to embrace him in its ever-revolving arms. Lo Yuen
greatly fears that the time when he would have rejoiced in the
necessary display of agility to which the incident gave rise has for
ever passed away.'

"'Lo Yuen!' exclaimed Quen, with an unaffected mingling of the
emotions of reverential awe and pleasureable anticipation. 'Can it
indeed be an uncontroversial fact that so learned and ornamental a
person as the renowned Controller of Unsolicited Degrees stands
beneath this inelegant person's utterly unpresentable roof! Now,
indeed, he plainly understands why this ill-conditioned chamber has
the appearance of being filled with a Heaven-sent brilliance, and why
at the first spoken words of the one before him a melodious sound,
like the rushing waters of the sacred Tien-Kiang, seemed to fill his

"'Undoubtedly the chamber is pervaded by a very exceptional
splendour,' replied Lo Yuen, who, in spite of his high position,
regarded graceful talk and well-imagined compliments in a spirit of
no-satisfaction; 'yet this commonplace-minded one has a fixed
conviction that it is caused by the crimson-eyed and
pink-fire-breathing dragon which, despite your slave's most assiduous
efforts, is now endeavouring to climb through the aperture behind you.
The noise which still fills his ears, also, resembles rather the
despairing cries of the Ten Thousand Lost Ones at the first sight of
the Pit of Liquid and Red-hot Malachite, yet without question both
proceed from the same cause. Laying aside further ceremony, therefore,
permit this greatly over-estimated person to disclose the object of
his inopportune visit. Long have your amiable virtues been observed
and appreciated by the high ones at Peking, O Quen-Ki-Tong. Too long
have they been unrewarded and passed over in silence. Nevertheless,
the moment of acknowledgement and advancement has at length arrived;
for, as the Book of Verses clearly says, "Even the three-legged mule
may contrive to reach the agreed spot in advance of the others,
provided a circular running space has been selected and the number of
rounds be sufficiently ample." It is this otherwise uninteresting and
obtrusive person's graceful duty to convey to you the agreeable
intelligence that the honourable and not ill-rewarded office of
Guarder of the Imperial Silkworms has been conferred upon you, and to
require you to proceed without delay to Peking, so that fitting
ceremonies of admittance may be performed before the fifteenth day of
the month of Feathered Insects.'

"Alas! how frequently does the purchaser of seemingly vigorous and
exceptionally low-priced flower-seeds discover, when too late, that
they are, in reality, fashioned from the root of the prolific and
valueless tzu-ka, skilfully covered with a disguising varnish! Instead
of presenting himself at the place of commerce frequented by those who
entrust money to others on the promise of an increased repayment when
certain very probable events have come to pass (so that if all else
failed he would still possess a serviceable number of taels),
Quen-Ki-Tong entirely neglected the demands of a most ordinary
prudence, nor could he be induced to set out on his journey until he
had passed seven days in public feasting to mark his good fortune, and
then devoted fourteen more days to fasting and various acts of
penance, in order to make known the regret with which he acknowledged
his entire unworthiness for the honour before him. Owing to this very
conscientious, but nevertheless somewhat short-sighted manner of
behaving, Quen found himself unable to reach Peking before the day
preceding that to which Lo Yuen had made special reference. From this
cause it came about that only sufficient time remained to perform the
various ceremonies of admission, without in any degree counselling
Quen as to his duties and procedure in the fulfilment of his really
important office.

"Among the many necessary and venerable ceremonies observed during the
changing periods of the year, none occupy a more important place than
those for which the fifteenth day of the month of Feathered Insects is
reserved, conveying as they do a respectful and delicately-fashioned
petition that the various affairs upon which persons in every
condition of life are engaged may arrive at a pleasant and
remunerative conclusion. At the earliest stroke of the gong the
versatile Emperor, accompanied by many persons of irreproachable
ancestry and certain others, very elaborately attired, proceeds to an
open space set apart for the occasion. With unassuming dexterity the
benevolent Emperor for a brief span of time engages in the menial
occupation of a person of low class, and with his own hands ploughs an
assigned portion of land in order that the enlightened spirits under
whose direct guardianship the earth is placed may not become lax in
their disinterested efforts to promote its fruitfulness. In this
charitable exertion he is followed by various other persons of
recognized position, the first being, by custom, the Guarder of the
Imperial Silkworms, while at the same time the amiably-disposed
Empress plants an allotted number of mulberry trees, and deposits upon
their leaves the carefully reared insects which she receives from the
hands of their Guarder. In the case of the accomplished Emperor an
ingenious contrivance is resorted to by which the soil is drawn aside
by means of hidden strings as the plough passes by, the implement in
question being itself constructed from paper of the highest quality,
while the oxen which draw it are, in reality, ordinary persons
cunningly concealed within masks of cardboard. In this thoughtful
manner the actual labours of the sublime Emperor are greatly lessened,
while no chance is afforded for an inauspicious omen to be created by
the rebellious behaviour of a maliciously-inclined ox, or by any other
event of an unforeseen nature. All the other persons, however, are
required to make themselves proficient in the art of ploughing, before
the ceremony, so that the chances of the attendant spirits discovering
the deception which has been practised upon them in the case of the
Emperor may not be increased by its needless repetition. It was
chiefly for this reason that Lo Yuen had urged Quen to journey to
Peking as speedily as possible, but owing to the very short time which
remained between his arrival and the ceremony of ploughing, not only
had the person in question neglected to profit by instruction, but he
was not even aware of the obligation which awaited him. When,
therefore, in spite of every respectful protest on his part, he was
led up to a massively-constructed implement drawn by two powerful and
undeniably evilly-intentioned-looking animals, it was with every sign
of great internal misgivings, and an entire absence of enthusiasm in
the entertainment, that he commenced his not too well understood task.
In this matter he was by no means mistaken, for it soon became plain
to all observers--of whom an immense concourse was assembled--that the
usually self-possessed Guarder of the Imperial Silkworms was
conducting himself in a most undignified manner; for though he still
clung to the plough-handles with an inspired tenacity, his body
assumed every variety of base and uninviting attitude. Encouraged by
this inelegant state of affairs, the evil spirits which are ever on
the watch to turn into derision the charitable intentions of the
pure-minded entered into the bodies of the oxen and provoked within
their minds a sudden and malignant confidence that the time had
arrived when they might with safety break into revolt and throw off
the outward signs of their dependent condition. From these various
causes it came about that Quen was, without warning, borne with
irresistible certainty against the majestic person of the sacred
Emperor, the inlaid box of Imperial silkworms, which up to that time
had remained safely among the folds of his silk garment, alone serving
to avert an even more violent and ill-destined blow.

"Well said the wise and deep-thinking Ye-te, in his book entitled
'Proverbs of Everyday Happenings', 'Should a person on returning from
the city discover his house to be in flames, let him examine well the
change which he has received from the chair-carrier before it is too
late; for evil never travels alone.' Scarcely had the unfortunate Quen
recovered his natural attributes from the effect of the disgraceful
occurrence which has been recorded (which, indeed, furnished the
matter of a song and many unpresentable jests among the low-class
persons of the city), than the magnanimous Empress reached that detail
of the tree-planting ceremony when it was requisite that she should
deposit the living emblems of the desired increase and prosperity upon
the leaves. Stretching forth her delicately-proportioned hand to Quen
for this purpose, she received from the still greatly confused person
in question the Imperial silkworms in so unseemly a condition that her
eyes had scarcely rested upon them before she was seized with the
rigid sickness, and in that state fell to the ground. At this new and
entirely unforeseen calamity a very disagreeable certainty of
approaching evil began to take possession of all those who stood
around, many crying aloud that every omen of good was wanting, and
declaring that unless something of a markedly propitiatory nature was
quickly accomplished, the agriculture of the entire Empire would cease
to flourish, and the various departments of the commerce in silk would
undoubtedly be thrown into a state of most inextricable confusion.
Indeed, in spite of all things designed to have a contrary effect, the
matter came about in the way predicted, for the Hoang-Ho seven times
overcame its restraining barriers, and poured its waters over the
surrounding country, thereby gaining for the first time its
well-deserved title of 'The Sorrow of China', by which dishonourable
but exceedingly appropriate designation it is known to this day.

"The manner of greeting which would have been accorded to Quen had he
returned to the official quarter of the city, or the nature of his
treatment by the baser class of the ordinary people if they succeeded
in enticing him to come among them, formed a topic of such uninviting
conjecture that the humane-minded Lo Yuen, who had observed the entire
course of events from an elevated spot, determined to make a
well-directed effort towards his safety. To this end he quickly
purchased the esteem of several of those who make a profession of
their strength, holding out the hope of still further reward if they
conducted the venture to a successful termination. Uttering loud cries
of an impending vengeance, as Lo Yuen had instructed them in the
matter, and displaying their exceptional proportions to the
astonishment and misgivings of all beholders, these persons tore open
the opium-tent in which Quen had concealed himself, and, thrusting
aside all opposition, quickly dragged him forth. Holding him high upon
their shoulders, in spite of his frequent and ill-advised endeavours
to cast himself to the ground, some surrounded those who bore
him--after the manner of disposing his troops affected by a skilful
leader when the enemy begin to waver--and crying aloud that it was
their unchanging purpose to submit him to the test of burning
splinters and afterwards to torture him, they succeeded by this
stratagem in bringing him through the crowd; and hurling back or
outstripping those who endeavoured to follow, conveyed him secretly
and unperceived to a deserted and appointed spot. Here Quen was
obliged to remain until other events caused the recollection of the
many to become clouded and unconcerned towards him, suffering frequent
inconveniences in spite of the powerful protection of Lo Yuen, and not
at all times being able to regard the most necessary repast as an
appointment of undoubted certainty. At length, in the guise of a
wandering conjurer who was unable to display his accomplishments owing
to an entire loss of the power of movement in his arms, Quen passed
undetected from the city, and safely reaching the distant and
unimportant town of Lu-Kwo, gave himself up to a protracted period of
lamentation and self-reproach at the unprepossessing manner in which
he had conducted his otherwise very inviting affairs.


TWO hand-counts of years passed away and Quen still remained at
Lu-kwo, all desire of returning either to Peking or to the place of
his birth having by this time faded into nothingness. Accepting the
inevitable fact that he was not destined ever to become a person with
whom taels were plentiful, and yet being unwilling to forego the
charitable manner of life which he had always been accustomed to
observe, it came about that he spent the greater part of his time in
collecting together such sums of money as he could procure from the
amiable and well-disposed, and with them building temples and engaging
in other benevolent works. From this cause it arose the Quen obtained
around Lu-kwo a reputation for high-minded piety, in no degree less
than that which had been conferred upon him in earlier times, so that
pilgrims from far distant places would purposely contrive their
journey so as to pass through the town containing so unassuming and
virtuous a person.

"During this entire period Quen had been accompanied by his only son,
a youth of respectful personality, in whose entertaining society he
took an intelligent interest. Even when deeply engaged in what he
justly regarded as the crowning work of his existence--the planning
and erecting of an exceptionally well-endowed marble temple, which was
to be entirely covered on the outside with silver paper, and on the
inside with gold-leaf--he did not fail to observe the various
conditions of Liao's existence, and the changing emotions which from
time to time possessed him. Therefore, when the person in question,
without displaying any signs of internal sickness, and likewise
persistently denying that he had lost any considerable sum of money,
disclosed a continuous habit of turning aside with an unaffected
expression of distaste from all manner of food, and passed the entire
night in observing the course of the great sky-lantern rather than in
sleep, the sage and discriminating Quen took him one day aside, and
asked him, as one who might aid him in the matter, who the maiden was,
and what class and position her father occupied.

"'Alas!' exclaimed Liao, with many unfeigned manifestations of an
unbearable fate, 'to what degree do the class and position of her
entirely unnecessary parents affect the question? or how little hope
can this sacrilegious one reasonably have of ever progressing as far
as earthly details of a pecuniary character in the case of so adorable
and far-removed a Being? The uttermost extent of this wildly-hoping
person's ambition is that when the incomparably symmetrical Ts'ain
learns of the steadfast light of his devotion, she may be inspired to
deposit an emblematic chrysanthemum upon his tomb in the Family
Temple. For such a reward he will cheerfully devote the unswerving
fidelity of a lifetime to her service, not distressing her gentle and
retiring nature by the expression of what must inevitably be a
hopeless passion, but patiently and uncomplainingly guarding her
footsteps as from a distance.'

"Being in this manner made aware of the reason of Liao's frequent and
unrestrained exclamations of intolerable despair, and of his fixed
determination with regard to the maiden Ts'ain (which seemed, above
all else, to indicate a resolution to shun her presence) Quen could
not regard the immediately-following actions of his son with anything
but an emotion of confusion. For when his eyes next rested upon the
exceedingly contradictory Liao, he was seated in the open space before
the house in which Ts'ain dwelt, playing upon an instrument of
stringed woods, and chanting verses into which the names of the two
persons in question had been skilfully introduced without restraint,
his whole manner of behaving being with the evident purpose of
attracting the maiden's favourable attention. After an absence of many
days, spent in this graceful and complimentary manner, Liao returned
suddenly to the house of his father, and, prostrating his body before
him, made a specific request for his assistance.

"'As regards Ts'ain and myself,' he continued, 'all things are
arranged, and but for the unfortunate coincidence of this person's
poverty and of her father's cupidity, the details of the wedding
ceremony would undoubtedly now be in a very advanced condition. Upon
these entrancing and well-discussed plans, however, the shadow of the
grasping and commonplace Ah-Ping has fallen like the inopportune
opium-pipe from the mouth of a person examining substances of an
explosive nature; for the one referred to demands a large and utterly
unobtainable amount of taels before he will suffer his
greatly-sought-after daughter to accept the gifts of irretrievable

"'Grievous indeed is your plight,' replied Quen, when he thus
understood the manner of obstacle which impeded his son's hopes; 'for
in the nature of taels the most diverse men are to be measured through
the same mesh. As the proverb says, "'All money is evil,' exclaimed
the philosopher with extreme weariness, as he gathered up the gold
pieces in exchange, but presently discovering that one among them was
such indeed has he had described, he rushed forth without tarrying to
take up a street garment; and with an entire absence of dignity
traversed all the ways of the city in the hope of finding the one who
had defrauded him." Well does this person know the mercenary Ah-Ping,
and the unyielding nature of his closed hand; for often, but always
fruitlessly, he has entered his presence on affairs connected with the
erecting of certain temples. Nevertheless, the matter is one which
does not admit of any incapable faltering, to which end this one will
seek out the obdurate Ah-Ping without delay, and endeavour to entrap
him by some means in the course of argument.'

"From the time of his earliest youth Ah-Ping had unceasingly devoted
himself to the object of getting together an overwhelming number of
taels, using for this purpose various means which, without being
really degrading or contrary to the written law, were not such as
might have been cheerfully engaged in by a person of high-minded
honourableness. In consequence of this, as he grew more feeble in
body, and more venerable in appearance, he began to express frequent
and bitter doubts as to whether his manner of life had been really
well arranged; for, in spite of his great wealth, he had grown to
adopt a most inexpensive habit on all occasions, having no desire to
spend; and an ever-increasing apprehension began to possess him that
after he had passed beyond, his sons would be very disinclined to
sacrifice and burn money sufficient to keep him in an affluent
condition in the Upper Air. In such a state of mind was Ah-Ping when
Quen-Ki-Tong appeared before him, for it had just been revealed to him
that his eldest and favourite son had, by flattery and by openly
praising the dexterity with which he used his brush and ink, entrapped
him into inscribing his entire name upon certain unwritten sheets of
parchment, which the one in question immediately sold to such as were
heavily indebted to Ah-Ping.

"'If a person can be guilty of this really unfilial behaviour during
the lifetime of his father,' exclaimed Ah-Ping, in a tone of
unrestrained vexation, 'can it be prudently relied upon that he will
carry out his wishes after death, when they involve the remitting to
him of several thousand taels each year? O estimable Quen-Ki-Tong, how
immeasurably superior is the celestial outlook upon which you may
safely rely as your portion! When you are enjoying every variety of
sumptuous profusion, as the reward of your untiring charitable
exertions here on earth, the spirit of this short-sighted person will
be engaged in doing menial servitude for the inferior deities, and
perhaps scarcely able, even by those means, to clothe himself
according to the changing nature of the seasons.'

"'Yet,' replied Quen, 'the necessity for so laborious and
unremunerative an existence may even now be averted by taking
efficient precautions before you pass to the Upper Air.'

"'In what way?' demanded Ah-Ping, with an awakening hope that the
matter might not be entirely destitute of cheerfulness, yet at the
same time preparing to examine with even unbecoming intrusiveness any
expedient which Quen might lay before him. 'Is it not explicitly
stated that sacrifices and acts of a like nature, when performed at
the end of one's existence by a person who to that time has professed
no sort of interest in such matters, shall in no degree be entered as
to his good, but rather regarded as examples of deliberate
presumptuousness, and made the excuse for subjecting him to more
severe tortures and acts of penance than would be his portion if he
neglected the custom altogether?'

"'Undoubtedly such is the case,' replied Quen; 'and on that account it
would indicate a most regrettable want of foresight for you to conduct
your affairs in the manner indicated. The only undeniably safe course
is for you to entrust the amount you will require to a person of
exceptional piety, receiving in return his written word to repay the
full sum whenever you shall claim it from him in the Upper Air. By
this crafty method the amount will be placed at the disposal of the
person in question as soon as he has passed beyond, and he will be
held by his written word to return it to you whenever you shall demand

"So amiably impressed with this ingenious scheme was Ah-Ping that he
would at once have entered more fully into the detail had the thought
not arisen in his mind that the person before him was the father of
Liao, who urgently required a certain large sum, and that for this
reason he might with prudence inquire more fully into the matter
elsewhere, in case Quen himself should have been imperceptibly led
aside, even though he possessed intentions of a most unswerving
honourableness. To this end, therefore, he desired to converse again
with Quen on the matter, pleading that at that moment a gathering of
those who direct enterprises of a commercial nature required his
presence. Nevertheless, he would not permit the person referred to
depart until he had complimented him, in both general and specific
terms, on the high character of his life and actions, and the
intelligent nature of his understanding, which had enabled him with so
little mental exertion to discover an efficient plan.

"Without delay Ah-Ping sought out those most skilled in all varieties
of law-forms, in extorting money by devices capable of very different
meanings, and in expedients for evading just debts; but all agreed
that such an arrangement as the one he put before them would be
unavoidably binding, provided the person who received the money
alluded to spent it in the exercise of his charitable desires, and
provided also that the written agreement bore the duty seal of the
high ones at Peking, and was deposited in the coffin of the lender.
Fully satisfied, and rejoicing greatly that he could in this way
adequately provide for his future and entrap the avaricious ones of
his house, Ah-Ping collected together the greater part of his
possessions, and converting it into pieces of gold, entrusted them to
Quen on the exact understanding that has already been described, he
receiving in turn Quen's written and thumb-signed paper of repayment,
and his assurance that the whole amount should be expended upon the
silver-paper and gold-leaf Temple with which he was still engaged.

"It is owing to this circumstance that Quen-Ki-Tong's irreproachable
name has come to be lightly regarded by many who may be fitly likened
to the latter person in the subtle and experienced proverb, 'The wise
man's eyes fell before the gaze of the fool, fearing that if he looked
he must cry aloud, "Thou hopeless one!" "There," said the fool to
himself, "behold this person's power!"' These badly educated and
undiscriminating persons, being entirely unable to explain the ensuing
train of events, unhesitatingly declare that Quen-Ki-Tong applied a
portion of the money which he had received from Ah-Ping in the manner
described to the object of acquiring Ts'ain for his son Liao. In this
feeble and incapable fashion they endeavour to stigmatize the
pure-minded Quen as one who acted directly contrary to his
deliberately spoken word, whereas the desired result was brought about
in a much more artful manner; they describe the commercially
successful Ah-Ping as a person of very inferior prudence, and one
easily imposed upon; while they entirely pass over, as a detail
outside the true facts, the written paper reserved among the sacred
relics in the Temple, which announces, among other gifts of a small
and uninviting character, 'Thirty thousand taels from an elderly
ginseng merchant of Lu-kwo, who desires to remain nameless, through
the hand of Quen-Ki-Tong.' The full happening in its real and harmless
face is now set forth for the first time.

"Some weeks after the recorded arrangement had been arrived at by
Ah-Ping and Quen, when the taels in question had been expended upon
the Temple and were, therefore, infallibly beyond recall, the former
person chanced to be passing through the public garden in Lu-kwo when
he heard a voice lifted up in the expression of every unendurable
feeling of dejection to which one can give utterance. Stepping aside
to learn the cause of so unprepossessing a display of unrestrained
agitation, and in the hope that perhaps he might be able to use the
incident in a remunerative manner, Ah-Ping quickly discovered the
unhappy being who, entirely regardless of the embroidered silk robe
which he wore, reclined upon a raised bank of uninviting earth, and
waved his hands from side to side as his internal emotions urged him.

"'Quen-Ki-Tong!' exclaimed Ah-Ping, not fully convinced that the fact
was as he stated it in spite of the image clearly impressed upon his
imagination; 'to what unpropitious occurrence is so unlooked-for an
exhibition due? Are those who traffic in gold-leaf demanding a high
and prohibitive price for that commodity, or has some evil and
vindicative spirit taken up its abode within the completed portion of
the Temple, and by its offensive but nevertheless diverting remarks
and actions removed all semblance of gravity from the countenances of
those who daily come to admire the construction?'

"'O thrice unfortunate Ah-Ping,' replied Quen when he observed the
distinguishing marks of the person before him, 'scarcely can this
greatly overwhelmed one raise his eyes to your open and intelligent
countenance; for through him you are on the point of experiencing a
very severe financial blow, and it is, indeed, on your account more
than on his own that he is now indulging in these outward signs of a
grief too far down to be expressed in spoken words.' And at the memory
of his former occupation, Quen again waved his arms from side to side
with untiring assiduousness.

"'Strange indeed to this person's ears are your words,' said Ah-Ping,
outwardly unmoved, but with an apprehensive internal pain that he
would have regarded Quen's display of emotion with an easier stomach
if his own taels were safely concealed under the floor of his inner
chamber. 'The sum which this one entrusted to you has, without any
pretence been expended upon the Temple, while the written paper
concerning the repayment bears the duty seal of the high ones at
Peking. How, then, can Ah-Ping suffer a loss at the hands of

"'Ah-Ping,' said Quen, with every appearance of desiring that both
persons should regard the matter in a conciliatory spirit, 'do not
permit the awaiting demons, which are ever on the alert to enter into
a person's mind when he becomes distressed out of the common order of
events, to take possession of your usually discriminating faculties
until you have fully understood how this affair has come about. It is
no unknown thing for a person of even exceptional intelligence to
reverse his entire manner of living towards the end of a long and
consistent existence; the far-seeing and not lightly-moved Ah-Ping
himself has already done so. In a similar, but entirely contrary
manner, the person who is now before you finds himself impelled
towards that which will certainly bear a very unpresentable face when
the circumstances become known; yet by no other means is he capable of
attaining his greatly-desired object.'

"'And to what end does that trend?' demanded Ah-Ping, in no degree
understanding how the matter affected him.

"'While occupied with enterprises which those of an engaging and
complimentary nature are accustomed to refer to as charitable, this
person has almost entirely neglected a duty of scarcely less
importance--that of establishing an unending line, through which his
name and actions shall be kept alive to all time,' replied Quen.
'Having now inquired into the matter, he finds that his only son,
through whom alone the desired result can be obtained, has become
unbearably attached to a maiden for whom a very large sum is demanded
in exchange. The thought of obtaining no advantage from an entire life
of self-denial is certainly unprepossessing in the extreme, but so,
even to a more advanced degree, is the certainty that otherwise the
family monuments will be untended, and the temple of domestic virtues
become an early ruin. This person has submitted the dilemma to the
test of omens, and after considering well the reply, he has decided to
obtain the price of the maiden in a not very honourable manner, which
now presents itself, so that Liao may send out his silk-bound gifts
without delay.'

"'It is an unalluring alternative,' said Ah-Ping, whose only inside
thought was one of gratification that the exchange money for Ts'ain
would so soon be in his possession, 'yet this person fails to perceive
how you could act otherwise after the decision of the omens. He now
understands, moreover, that the loss you referred to on his part was
in the nature of a figure of speech, as one makes use of thunderbolts
and delicately-scented flowers to convey ideas of harsh and amiable
passions, and alluded in reality to the forthcoming departure of his
daughter, who is, as you so versatilely suggested, the comfort and
riches of his old age.'

"'O venerable, but at this moment somewhat obtuse, Ah-Ping,' cried
Quen, with a recurrence to his former method of expressing his
unfeigned agitation, 'is your evenly-balanced mind unable to grasp the
essential fact of how this person's contemplated action will affect
your own celestial condition? It is a distressing but entirely
unavoidable fact, that if this person acts in the manner which he has
determined upon, he will be condemned to the lowest place of torment
reserved for those who fail at the end of an otherwise pure existence,
and in this he will never have an opportunity of meeting the very much
higher placed Ah-Ping, and of restoring to him the thirty-thousand
taels as agreed upon.'

"At these ill-destined words, all power of rigidness departed from
Ah-Ping's limbs, and he sank down upon the forbidding earth by Quen's

"'O most unfortunate one who is now speaking,' he exclaimed, when at
length his guarding spirit deemed it prudent to restore his power of
expressing himself in words, 'happy indeed would have been your lot
had you been content to traffic in ginseng and other commodities of
which you have actual knowledge. O amiable Quen, this matter must be
in some way arranged without causing you to deviate from the
entrancing paths of your habitual virtue. Could not the very
reasonable Liao be induced to look favourably upon the attractions of
some low-priced maiden, in which case this not really hard-stomached
person would be willing to advance the necessary amount, until such
time as it could be restored, at a very low and unremunerative rate of

"'This person has observed every variety of practical humility in the
course of his life,' replied Quen with commendable dignity, 'yet he
now finds himself totally unable to overcome an inward repugnance to
the thought of perpetuating his honoured name and race through the
medium of any low-priced maiden. To this end has he decided.'

"Those who were well acquainted with Ah-Ping in matters of commerce
did not hesitate to declare that his great wealth had been acquired by
his consistent habit of forming an opinion quickly while others
hesitated. On the occasion in question he only engaged his mind with
the opposing circumstances for a few moments before he definitely
fixed upon the course which he should pursue.

"'Quen-Ki-Tong,' he said, with an evident intermingling of many very
conflicting emotions, 'retain to the end this well-merited reputation
for unaffected honourableness which you have so fittingly earned. Few
in the entire Empire, with powers so versatilely pointing to an
eminent position in any chosen direction, would have been content to
pass their lives in an unremunerative existence devoted to actions of
charity. Had you selected an entirely different manner of living, this
person has every confidence that he, and many others in Lu-kwo, would
by this time be experiencing a very ignoble poverty. For this reason
he will make it his most prominent ambition to hasten the realization
of the amiable hopes expressed both by Liao and by Ts'ain, concerning
their future relationship. In this, indeed, he himself will be more
than exceptionally fortunate should the former one prove to possess
even a portion of the clear-sighted sagaciousness exhibited by his
engaging father.'


"Bright hued is the morning, the dark clouds have fallen;
At the mere waving of Quen's virtuous hands they melted away.
Happy is Liao in the possession of so accomplished a parent,
Happy also is Quen to have so discriminating a son.

"The two persons in question sit, side by side, upon an
embroidered couch,
Listening to the well-expressed compliments of those who pass
to and fro.
From time to time their eyes meet, and glances of a very
significant amusement pass between them;
Can it be that on so ceremonious an occasion they are
recalling events of a gravity-removing nature?

"The gentle and rainbow-like Ts'ain has already arrived,
With the graceful motion of a silver carp gliding through a
screen of rushes, she moves among those who are assembled.
On the brow of her somewhat contentious father there rests the
shadow of an ill-repressed sorrow;
Doubtless the frequently-misjudged Ah-Ping is thinking of his
lonely hearth, now that he is for ever parted from that
which he holds most precious.

"In the most commodious chamber of the house the elegant
wedding-gifts are conspicuously displayed; let us stand
beside the one which we have contributed, and point out
its excellence to those who pass by.
Surely the time cannot be far distant when the sound of many
gongs will announce that the very desirable repast is at
length to be partaken of.



When Yin, the son of Yat Huang, had passed beyond the years assigned
to the pursuit of boyhood, he was placed in the care of the hunchback
Quang, so that he might be fully instructed in the management of the
various weapons used in warfare, and also in the art of stratagem, by
which a skilful leader is often enabled to conquer when opposed to an
otherwise overwhelming multitude. In all these accomplishments Quang
excelled to an exceptional degree; for although unprepossessing in
appearance he united matchless strength to an untiring subtlety. No
other person in the entire Province of Kiang-si could hurl a javelin
so unerringly while uttering sounds of terrifying menace, or could
cause his sword to revolve around him so rapidly, while his face
looked out from the glittering circles with an expression of
ill-intentioned malignity that never failed to inspire his adversary
with irrepressible emotions of alarm. No other person could so
successfully feign to be devoid of life for almost any length of time,
or by his manner of behaving create the fixed impression that he was
one of insufficient understanding, and therefore harmless. It was for
these reasons that Quang was chosen as the instructor of Yin by Yat
Huang, who, without possessing any official degree, was a person to
whom marks of obeisance were paid not only within his own town, but
for a distance of many li around it.

At length the time arrived when Yin would in the ordinary course of
events pass from the instructorship of Quang in order to devote
himself to the commerce in which his father was engaged, and from time
to time the unavoidable thought arose persistently within his mind
that although Yat Huang doubtless knew better than he did what the
circumstances of the future required, yet his manner of life for the
past years was not such that he could contemplate engaging in the
occupation of buying and selling porcelain clay with feelings of an
overwhelming interest. Quang, however, maintained with every
manifestation of inspired assurance that Yat Huang was to be commended
down to the smallest detail, inasmuch as proficiency in the use of
both blunt and sharp-edged weapons, and a faculty for passing
undetected through the midst of an encamped body of foemen, fitted a
person for the every-day affairs of life above all other

"Without doubt the very accomplished Yat Huan is well advised on this
point," continued Quang, "for even this mentally short-sighted person
can call up within his understanding numerous specific incidents in
the ordinary career of one engaged in the commerce of porcelain clay
when such attainments would be of great remunerative benefit. Does the
well-endowed Yin think, for example, that even the most depraved
person would endeavour to gain an advantage over him in the matter of
buying or selling porcelain clay if he fully understood the fact that
the one with whom he was trafficking could unhesitatingly transfix
four persons with one arrow at the distance of a hundred paces? Or to
what advantage would it be that a body of unscrupulous outcasts who
owned a field of inferior clay should surround it with drawn swords by
day and night, endeavouring meanwhile to dispose of it as material of
the finest quality, if the one whom they endeavoured to ensnare in
this manner possessed the power of being able to pass through their
ranks unseen and examine the clay at his leisure?"

"In the cases to which reference has been made, the possession of
those qualities would undoubtedly be of considerable use," admitted
Yin; yet, in spite of his entire ignorance of commercial matters, this
one has a confident feeling that it would be more profitable to avoid
such very doubtful forms of barter altogether rather than spend eight
years in acquiring the arts by which to defeat them. "That, however,
is a question which concerns this person's virtuous and engaging
father more than his unworthy self, and his only regret is that no
opportunity has offered by which he might prove that he has applied
himself diligently to your instruction and example, O amiable Quang."

It had long been a regret to Quang also that no incident of a
disturbing nature had arisen whereby Yin could have shown himself
proficient in the methods of defence and attack which he had taught
him. This deficiency he had endeavoured to overcome, as far as
possible, by constructing life-like models of all the most powerful
and ferocious types of warriors and the fiercest and most relentless
animals of the forest, so that Yin might become familiar with their
appearance and discover in what manner each could be the most
expeditiously engaged.

"Nevertheless," remarked Quang, on an occasion when Yin appeared to be
covered with honourable pride at having approached an unusually large
and repulsive-looking tiger so stealthily that had the animal been
really alive it would certainly have failed to perceive him, "such
accomplishments are by no means to be regarded as conclusive in
themselves. To steal insidiously upon a destructively-included wild
beast and transfix it with one well-directed blow of a spear is
attended by difficulties and emotions which are entirely absent in the
case of a wickerwork animal covered with canvas-cloth, no matter how
deceptive in appearance the latter may be."

To afford Yin a more trustworthy example of how he should engage with
an adversary of formidable proportions, Quang resolved upon an
ingenious plan. Procuring the skin of a grey wolf, he concealed
himself within it, and in the early morning, while the mist-damp was
still upon the ground, he set forth to meet Yin, who had on a previous
occasion spoken to him of his intention to be at a certain spot at
such an hour. In this conscientious enterprise, the painstaking Quang
would doubtless have been successful, and Yin gained an assured
proficiency and experience, had it not chanced that on the journey
Quang encountered a labourer of low caste who was crossing the
enclosed ground on his way to the rice field in which he worked. This
contemptible and inopportune person, not having at any period of his
existence perfected himself in the recognized and elegant methods of
attack and defence, did not act in the manner which would assuredly
have been adopted by Yin in similar circumstances, and for which Quang
would have been fully prepared. On the contrary, without the least
indication of what his intention was, he suddenly struck Quang, who
was hesitating for a moment what action to take, a most intolerable
blow with a formidable staff which he carried. The stroke in question
inflicted itself upon Quang upon that part of the body where the head
becomes connected with the neck, and would certainly have been
followed by others of equal force and precision had not Quang in the
meantime decided that the most dignified course for him to adopt would
be to disclose his name and titles without delay. Upon learning these
facts, the one who stood before him became very grossly and
offensively amused, and having taken from Quang everything of value
which he carried among his garments, went on his way, leaving Yin's
instructor to retrace his steps in unendurable dejection, as he then
found that he possessed no further interest whatever in the

When Yat Huang was satisfied that his son was sufficiently skilled in
the various arts of warfare, he called him to his inner chamber, and
having barred the door securely, he placed Yin under a very binding
oath not to reveal, until an appointed period, the matter which he was
going to put before him.

"From father to son, in unbroken line for ten generations, has such a
custom been observed," he said, "for the course of events is not to be
lightly entered upon. At the commencement of that cycle, which period
is now fully fifteen score years ago, a very wise person chanced to
incur the displeasure of the Emperor of that time, and being in
consequence driven out of the capital, he fled to the mountains. There
his subtle discernment and the pure and solitary existence which he
led resulted in his becoming endowed with faculties beyond those
possessed by ordinary beings. When he felt the end of his earthly
career to be at hand he descended into the plain, where, in a state of
great destitution and bodily anguish, he was discovered by the one
whom this person has referred to as the first of the line of
ancestors. In return for the care and hospitality with which he was
unhesitatingly received, the admittedly inspired hermit spent the
remainder of his days in determining the destinies of his rescuer's
family and posterity. It is an undoubted fact that he predicted how
one would, by well-directed enterprise and adventure, rise to a
position of such eminence in the land that he counselled the details
to be kept secret, lest the envy and hostility of the ambitious and
unworthy should be raised. From this cause it has been customary to
reveal the matter fully from father to son, at stated periods, and the
setting out of the particulars in written words has been severely
discouraged. Wise as this precaution certainly was, it has resulted in
a very inconvenient state of things; for a remote ancestor--the fifth
in line from the beginning--experienced such vicissitudes that he
returned from his travels in a state of most abandoned idiocy, and
when the time arrived that he should, in turn, communicate to his son,
he was only able to repeat over and over again the name of the pious
hermit to whom the family was so greatly indebted, coupling it each
time with a new and markedly offensive epithet. The essential details
of the undertaking having in this manner passed beyond recall,
succeeding generations, which were merely acquainted with the fact
that a very prosperous future awaited the one who fulfilled the
conditions, have in vain attempted to conform to them. It is not an
alluring undertaking, inasmuch as nothing of the method to be pursued
can be learned, except that it was the custom of the early ones, who
held the full knowledge, to set out from home and return after a
period of years. Yet so clearly expressed was the prophecy, and so
great the reward of the successful, that all have eagerly journeyed
forth when the time came, knowing nothing beyond that which this
person has now unfolded to you."

When Yat Huang reached the end of the matter which it was his duty to
disclose, Yin for some time pondered the circumstances before
replying. In spite of a most engaging reverence for everything of a
sacred nature, he could not consider the inspired remark of the
well-intentioned hermit without feelings of a most persistent doubt,
for it occurred to him that if the person in question had really been
as wise as he was represented to be, he might reasonably have been
expected to avoid the unaccountable error of offending the enlightened
and powerful Emperor under whom he lived. Nevertheless, the prospect
of engaging in the trade of porcelain clay was less attractive in his
eyes than that of setting forth upon a journey of adventure, so that
at length he expressed his willingness to act after the manner of
those who had gone before him.

This decision was received by Yat Huang with an equal intermingling of
the feelings of delight and concern, for although he would have by no
means pleasurably contemplated Yin breaking through a venerable and
esteemed custom, he was unable to put entirely from him the thought of
the degrading fate which had overtaken the fifth in line who made the
venture. It was, indeed, to guard Yin as much as possible against the
dangers to which he would become exposed, if he determined on the
expedition, that the entire course of his training had been selected.
In order that no precaution of a propitious nature should be
neglected, Yat Huang at once despatched written words of welcome to
all with whom he was acquainted, bidding them partake of a great
banquet which he was preparing to mark the occasion of his son's
leave-taking. Every variety of sacrifice was offered up to the
controlling deities, both good and bad; the ten ancestors were
continuously exhorted to take Yin under their special protection, and
sets of verses recording his virtues and ambitions were freely
distributed among the necessitous and low-caste who could not be
received at the feast.

The dinner itself exceeded in magnificence any similar event that had
ever taken place in Ching-toi. So great was the polished ceremony
observed on the occasion, that each guest had half a score of cups of
the finest apricot-tea successively placed before him and taken away
untasted, while Yat Huang went to each in turn protesting vehemently
that the honour of covering such pure-minded and distinguished persons
was more than his badly designed roof could reasonably bear, and
wittingly giving an entrancing air of reality to the spoken compliment
by begging them to move somewhat to one side so that they might escape
the heavy central beam if the event which he alluded to chanced to
take place. After several hours had been spent in this congenial
occupation, Yat Huang proceeded to read aloud several of the sixteen
discourses on education which, taken together, form the discriminating
and infallible example of conduct known as the Holy Edict. As each
detail was dwelt upon Yin arose from his couch and gave his deliberate
testimony that all the required tests and rites had been observed in
his own case. The first part of the repast was then partaken of, the
nature of the ingredients and the manner of preparing them being fully
explained, and in a like manner through each succeeding one of the
four-and-forty courses. At the conclusion Yin again arose, being
encouraged by the repeated uttering of his name by those present, and
with extreme modesty and brilliance set forth his manner of thinking
concerning all subjects with which he was acquainted.

Early on the morning of the following day Yin set out on his travels,
entirely unaccompanied, and carrying with him nothing beyond a sum of
money, a silk robe, and a well-tried and reliable spear. For many days
he journeyed in a northerly direction, without encountering anything
sufficiently unusual to engage his attention. This, however, was
doubtless part of a pre-arranged scheme so that he should not be drawn
from a destined path, for at a small village lying on the southern
shore of a large lake, called by those around Silent Water, he heard
of the existence of a certain sacred island, distant a full day's
sailing, which was barren of all forms of living things, and contained
only a single gigantic rock of divine origin and majestic appearance.
Many persons, the villagers asserted, had sailed to the island in the
hope of learning the portent of the rock, but none ever returned, and
they themselves avoided coming even within sight of it; for the sacred
stone, they declared, exercised an evil influence over their ships,
and would, if permitted, draw them out of their course and towards
itself. For this reason Yin could find no guide, whatever reward he
offered, who would accompany him; but having with difficulty succeeded
in hiring a small boat of inconsiderable value, he embarked with food,
incense, and materials for building fires, and after rowing
consistently for nearly the whole of the day, came within sight of the
island at evening. Thereafter the necessity of further exertion
ceased, for, as they of the village had declared would be the case,
the vessel moved gently forward, in an unswerving line, without being
in any way propelled, and reaching its destination in a marvellously
short space of time, passed behind a protecting spur of land and came
to rest. It then being night, Yin did no more than carry his stores to
a place of safety, and after lighting a sacrificial fire and
prostrating himself before the rock, passed into the Middle Air.

In the morning Yin's spirit came back to the earth amid the sound of
music of a celestial origin, which ceased immediately he recovered
full consciousness. Accepting this manifestation as an omen of Divine
favour, Yin journeyed towards the centre of the island where the rock
stood, at every step passing the bones of innumerable ones who had
come on a similar quest to his, and perished. Many of these had left
behind them inscriptions on wood or bone testifying their deliberate
opinion of the sacred rock, the island, their protecting deities, and
the entire train of circumstances, which had resulted in their being
in such a condition. These were for the most part of a maledictory and
unencouraging nature, so that after reading a few, Yin endeavoured to
pass without being in any degree influenced by such ill-judged

"Accursed be the ancestors of this tormented one to four generations
back!" was prominently traced upon an unusually large shoulder-blade.
"May they at this moment be simmering in a vat of unrefined dragon's
blood, as a reward for having so undiscriminatingly reared the person
who inscribes these words only to attain this end!" "Be warned, O
later one, by the signs around!" Another and more practical-minded
person had written: "Retreat with all haste to your vessel, and escape
while there is yet time. Should you, by chance, again reach land
through this warning, do not neglect, out of an emotion of gratitude,
to burn an appropriate amount of sacrifice paper for the lessening of
the torments of the spirit of Li-Kao," to which an unscrupulous one,
who was plainly desirous of sharing in the benefit of the requested
sacrifice, without suffering the exertion of inscribing a warning
after the amiable manner of Li-Kao, had added the words, "and that of
Huan Sin".

Halting at a convenient distance from one side of the rock which,
without being carved by any person's hand, naturally resembled the
symmetrical countenance of a recumbent dragon (which he therefore
conjectured to be the chief point of the entire mass), Yin built his
fire and began an unremitting course of sacrifice and respectful
ceremony. This manner of conduct he observed conscientiously for the
space of seven days. Towards the end of that period a feeling of
unendurable dejection began to possess him, for his stores of all
kinds were beginning to fail, and he could not entirely put behind him
the memory of the various well-intentioned warnings which he had
received, or the sight of the fleshless ones who had lined his path.
On the eighth day, being weak with hunger and, by reason of an
intolerable thirst, unable to restrain his body any longer in the spot
where he had hitherto continuously prostrated himself nine-and-ninety
times each hour without ceasing, he rose to his feet and retraced his
steps to the boat in order that he might fill his water-skins and
procure a further supply of food.

With a complicated emotion, in which was present every abandoned and
disagreeable thought to which a person becomes a prey in moments of
exceptional mental and bodily anguish, he perceived as soon as he
reached the edge of the water that the boat, upon which he was
confidently relying to carry him back when all else failed, had
disappeared as entirely as the smoke from an extinguished opium pipe.
At this sight Yin clearly understood the meaning of Li-Kao's
unregarded warning, and recognized that nothing could now save him
from adding his incorruptible parts to those of the unfortunate ones
whose unhappy fate had, seven days ago, engaged his refined pity.
Unaccountably strengthened in body by the indignation which possessed
him, and inspired with a virtuous repulsion at the treacherous manner
of behaving on the part of those who guided his destinies, he hastened
back to his place of obeisance, and perceiving that the habitually
placid and introspective expression on the dragon face had
imperceptibly changed into one of offensive cunning and unconcealed
contempt, he snatched up his spear and, without the consideration of a
moment, hurled it at a score of paces distance full into the sacred
but nevertheless very unprepossessing face before him.

At the instant when the presumptuous weapon touched the holy stone the
entire intervening space between the earth and the sky was filled with
innumerable flashes of forked and many-tongued lightning, so that the
island had the appearance of being the scene of a very extensive but
somewhat badly-arranged display of costly fireworks. At the same time
the thunder rolled among the clouds and beneath the sea in an
exceedingly disconcerting manner. At the first indication of these
celestial movements a sudden blindness came upon Yin, and all power of
thought or movement forsook him; nevertheless, he experienced an
emotion of flight through the air, as though borne upwards upon the
back of a winged creature. When this emotion ceased, the blindness
went from him as suddenly and entirely as if a cloth had been pulled
away from his eyes, and he perceived that he was held in the midst of
a boundless space, with no other object in view than the sacred rock,
which had opened, as it were, revealing a mighty throng within, at the
sight of whom Yin's internal organs trembled as they would never have
moved at ordinary danger, for it was put into his spirit that these in
whose presence he stood were the sacred Emperors of his country from
the earliest time until the usurpation of the Chinese throne by the
devouring Tartar hordes from the North.

As Yin gazed in fear-stricken amazement, a knowledge of the various
Pure Ones who composed the assembly came upon him. He understood that
the three unclad and commanding figures which stood together were the
Emperors of the Heaven, Earth, and Man, whose reigns covered a space
of more than eighty thousand years, commencing from the time when the
world began its span of existence. Next to them stood one wearing a
robe of leopard-skin, his hand resting upon a staff of a massive club,
while on his face the expression of tranquillity which marked his
predecessors had changed into one of alert wakefulness; it was the
Emperor of Houses, whose reign marked the opening of the never-ending
strife between man and all other creatures. By his side stood his
successor, the Emperor of Fire, holding in his right hand the emblem
of the knotted cord, by which he taught man to cultivate his mental
faculties, while from his mouth issued smoke and flame, signifying
that by the introduction of fire he had raised his subjects to a state
of civilized life.

On the other side of the boundless chamber which seemed to be
contained within the rocks were Fou-Hy, Tchang-Ki, Tcheng-Nung, and
Huang, standing or reclining together. The first of these framed the
calendar, organized property, thought out the eight Essential
Diagrams, encouraged the various branches of hunting, and the rearing
of domestic animals, and instituted marriage. From his couch floated
melodious sounds in remembrance of his discovery of the property of
stringed woods. Tchang-Ki, who manifested the property of herbs and
growing plants, wore a robe signifying his attainments by means of
embroidered symbols. His hand rested on the head of the dragon, while
at his feet flowed a bottomless canal of the purest water. The
discovery of written letters by Tcheng-Nung, and his ingenious plan of
grouping them after the manner of the constellations of stars, was
emblemized in a similar manner, while Huang, or the Yellow Emperor,
was surrounded by ores of the useful and precious metals, weapons of
warfare, written books, silks and articles of attire, coined money,
and a variety of objects, all testifying to his ingenuity and inspired

These illustrious ones, being the greatest, were the first to take
Yin's attention, but beyond them he beheld an innumerable concourse of
Emperors who not infrequently outshone their majestic predecessors in
the richness of their apparel and the magnificence of the jewels which
they wore. There Yin perceived Hung-Hoang, who first caused the chants
to be collected, and other rulers of the Tcheon dynasty; Yong-Tching,
who compiled the Holy Edict; Thang rulers whose line is rightly called
"the golden", from the unsurpassed excellence of the composed verses
which it produced; renowned Emperors of the versatile Han dynasty;
and, standing apart, and shunned by all, the malignant and
narrow-minded Tsing-Su-Hoang, who caused the Sacred Books to be

Even while Yin looked and wondered, in great fear, a rolling voice,
coming from one who sat in the midst of all, holding in his right hand
the sun, and in his left the moon, sounded forth, like the music of
many brass instruments playing in unison. It was the First Man who

"Yin, son of Yat Huang, and creature of the Lower Part," he said,
"listen well to the words I speak, for brief is the span of your
tarrying in the Upper Air, nor will the utterance I now give forth
ever come unto your ears again, either on the earth, or when, blindly
groping in the Middle Distance, your spirit takes its nightly flight.
They who are gathered around, and whose voices I speak, bid me say
this: Although immeasurably above you in all matters, both of
knowledge and of power, yet we greet you as one who is
well-intentioned, and inspired with honourable ambition. Had you been
content to entreat and despair, as did all the feeble and incapable
ones whose white bones formed your pathway, your ultimate fate would
have in no wise differed from theirs. But inasmuch as you held
yourself valiantly, and, being taken, raised an instinctive hand in
return, you have been chosen; for the day to mute submission has, for
the time or for ever, passed away, and the hour is when China shall be
saved, not by supplication, but by the spear."

"A state of things which would have been highly unnecessary if I had
been permitted to carry out my intention fully, and restore man to his
prehistoric simplicity," interrupted Tsin-Su-Hoang. "For that reason,
when the voice of the assemblage expresses itself, it must be
understood that it represents in no measure the views of

"In the matter of what has gone before, and that which will follow
hereafter," continued the Voice dispassionately, "Yin, the son of
Yat-Huang, must concede that it is in no part the utterance of
Tsin-Su-Hoang--Tsin-Su-Hoang who burned the Sacred Books."

At the mention of the name and offence of this degraded being a great
sound went up from the entire multitude--a universal cry of
execration, not greatly dissimilar from that which may be frequently
heard in the crowded Temple of Impartiality when the one whose duty it
is to take up, at a venture, the folded papers, announces that the
sublime Emperor, or some mandarin of exalted rank, has been so
fortunate as to hold the winning number in the Annual State Lottery.
So vengeance-laden and mournful was the combined and evidently
preconcerted wail, that Yin was compelled to shield his ears against
it; yet the inconsiderable Tsin-Su-Hoang, on whose account it was
raised, seemed in no degree to be affected by it, he, doubtless,
having become hardened by hearing a similar outburst, at fixed hours,
throughout interminable cycles of time.

When the last echo of the cry had passed away the Voice continued to

"Soon the earth will again receive you, Yin," it said, "for it is not
respectful that a lower one should be long permitted to gaze upon our
exalted faces. Yet when you go forth and stand once more among men
this is laid on you: that henceforth you are as a being devoted to a
fixed and unchanging end, and whatever moves towards the restoring of
the throne of the Central Empire the outcast but unalterably sacred
line of its true sovereigns shall have your arm and mind. By what
combination of force and stratagem this can be accomplished may not be
honourably revealed by us, the all-knowing. Nevertheless, omens and
guidance shall not be lacking from time to time, and from the
beginning the weapon by which you have attained to this distinction
shall be as a sign of our favour and protection over you."

When the Voice made an end of speaking the sudden blindness came upon
Yin, as it had done before, and from the sense of motion which he
experienced, he conjectured that he was being conveyed back to the
island. Undoubtedly this was the case, for presently there came upon
him the feeling that he was awakening from a deep and refreshing
sleep, and opening his eyes, which he now found himself able to do
without any difficulty, he immediately discovered that he was
reclining at full length on the ground, and at a distance of about a
score of paces from the dragon head. His first thought was to engage
in a lengthy course of self-abasement before it, but remembering the
words which had been spoken to him while in the Upper Air, he
refrained, and even ventured to go forward with a confident but
somewhat self-deprecatory air, to regain the spear, which he perceived
lying at the foot of the rock. With feelings of a reassuring nature he
then saw that the very undesirable expression which he had last beheld
upon the dragon face had melted into one of encouraging urbanity and
benignant esteem.

Close by the place where he had landed he discovered his boat, newly
furnished with wine and food of a much more attractive profusion than
that which he had purchased in the village. Embarking in it, he made
as though he would have returned to the south, but the spear which he
held turned within his grasp, and pointed in an exactly opposite
direction. Regarding this fact as an express command on the part of
the Deities, Yin turned his boat to the north, and in the space of two
days' time--being continually guided by the fixed indication of the
spear--he reached the shore and prepared to continue his travels in
the same direction, upheld and inspired by the knowledge that
henceforth he moved under the direct influence of very powerful



As recorded by himself before his sudden departure from
Peking, owing to circumstances which are made plain in the
following narrative.

There are moments in the life of a person when the saying of the wise
Ni-Hyu that "Misfortune comes to all men and to most women" is endowed
with double force. At such times the faithful child of the Sun is a
prey to the whitest and most funereal thoughts, and even the inspired
wisdom of his illustrious ancestors seems more than doubtful, while
the continued inactivity of the Sacred Dragon appears for the time to
give colour to the scoffs of the Western barbarian. A little while ago
these misgivings would have found no resting-place in the bosom of the
writer. Now, however--but the matter must be made clear from the

The name of the despicable person who here sets forth his immature
story is Kin Yen, and he is a native of Kia-Lu in the Province of
Che-Kiang. Having purchased from a very aged man the position of
Hereditary Instructor in the Art of Drawing Birds and Flowers, he gave
lessons in these accomplishments until he had saved sufficient money
to journey to Peking. Here it was his presumptuous intention to learn
the art of drawing figures in order that he might illustrate printed
leaves of a more distinguished class than those which would accept
what true politeness compels him to call his exceedingly unsymmetrical
pictures of birds and flowers. Accordingly, when the time arrived, he
disposed of his Hereditary Instructorship, having first ascertained in
the interests of his pupils that his successor was a person of refined
morals and great filial piety.

Alas! it is well written, "The road to eminence lies through the cheap
and exceedingly uninviting eating-houses." In spite of this person's
great economy, and of his having begged his way from Kia-Lu to Peking
in the guise of a pilgrim, journeying to burn incense in the sacred
Temple of Truth near that city, when once within the latter place his
taels melted away like the smile of a person of low class when he
discovers that the mandarin's stern words were not intended as a jest.
Moreover, he found that the story-makers of Peking, receiving higher
rewards than those at Kia-Lu, considered themselves bound to introduce
living characters into all their tales, and in consequence the very
ornamental drawings of birds and flowers which he had entwined into a
legend entitled "The Last Fight of the Heaven-sent Tcheng"--a story
which had been entrusted to him for illustration as a test of his
skill--was returned to him with a communication in which the writer
revealed his real meaning by stating contrary facts. It therefore
became necessary that he should become competent in the art of drawing
figures without delay, and with this object he called at the
picture-room of Tieng Lin, a person whose experience was so great that
he could, without discomfort to himself, draw men and women of all
classes, both good and bad. When the person who is setting forth this
narrative revealed to Tieng Lin the utmost amount of money he could
afford to give for instruction in the art of drawing living figures,
Tieng Lin's face became as overcast as the sky immediately before the
Great Rains, for in his ignorance of this incapable person's poverty
he had treated him with equality and courtesy, nor had he kept him
waiting in the mean room on the plea that he was at that moment
closeted with the Sacred Emperor. However, upon receiving an assurance
that a rumour would be spread in which the number of taels should be
multiplied by ten, and that the sum itself should be brought in
advance, Tieng Lin promised to instruct this person in the art of
drawing five characters, which, he said, would be sufficient to
illustrate all stories except those by the most expensive and
highly-rewarded story-tellers--men who have become so proficient that
they not infrequently introduce a score or more of living persons into
their tales without confusion.

After considerable deliberation, this unassuming person selected the
following characters, judging them to be the most useful, and the most
readily applicable to all phases and situations of life:

1. A bad person, wearing a long dark pigtail and smoking an opium
pipe. His arms to be folded, and his clothes new and very expensive.

2. A woman of low class. One who removes dust and useless things from
the rooms of the over-fastidious and of those who have long nails; she
to be carrying her trade-signs.

3. A person from Pe-ling, endowed with qualities which cause the
beholder to be amused. This character to be especially designed to go
with the short sayings which remove gravity.

4. One who, having incurred the displeasure of the sublime Emperor,
has been decapitated in consequence.

5. An ordinary person of no striking or distinguished appearance. One
who can be safely introduced in all places and circumstances without
great fear of detection.

After many months spent in constant practice and in taking
measurements, this unenviable person attained a very high degree of
proficiency, and could draw any of the five characters without
hesitation. With renewed hope, therefore, he again approached those
who sit in easy-chairs, and concealing his identity (for they are
stiff at bending, and when once a picture-maker is classed as "of no
good" he remains so to the end, in spite of change), he succeeded in
getting entrusted with a story by the elegant and refined Kyen Tal.
This writer, as he remembered with distrust, confines his
distinguished efforts entirely to the doings of sailors and of those
connected with the sea, and this tale, indeed, he found upon reading
to be the narrative of how a Hang-Chow junk and its crew, consisting
mostly of aged persons, were beguiled out of their course by an
exceedingly ill-disposed dragon, and wrecked upon an island of naked
barbarians. It was, therefore, with a somewhat heavy stomach that this
person set himself the task of arranging his five characters as so to
illustrate the words of the story.

The sayings of the ancient philosopher Tai Loo are indeed very subtle,
and the truth of his remark, "After being disturbed in one's dignity
by a mandarin's foot it is no unusual occurrence to fall flat on the
face in crossing a muddy street," was now apparent. Great as was the
disadvantage owing to the nature of the five characters, this became
as nothing when it presently appeared that the avaricious and
clay-souled Tieng Lin, taking advantage of the blindness of this
person's enthusiasm, had taught him the figures so that they all gazed
in the same direction. In consequence of this it would have been
impossible that two should be placed as in the act of conversing
together had not the noble Kyen Tal been inspired to write that "his
companions turned from him in horror". This incident the ingenious
person who is recording these facts made the subject of three separate
drawings, and having in one or two other places effected skilful
changes in the writing, so similar in style to the strokes of the
illustrious Kyen Tal as to be undetectable, he found little difficulty
in making use of all his characters. The risks of the future, however,
were too great to be run with impunity; therefore it was arranged, by
means of money--for this person was fast becoming acquainted with the
ways of Peking--that an emissary from one who sat in an easy-chair
should call upon him for a conference, the narrative of which appeared
in this form in the Peking Printed Leaves of Thrice-distilled Truth:

The brilliant and amiable young picture-maker Kin Yen, in
spite of the immediate and universal success of his
accomplished efforts, is still quite rotund in intellect, nor
is he, if we may use a form of speaking affected by our
friends across the Hoang Hai, "suffering from swollen feet." A
person with no recognized position, but one who occasionally
does inferior work of this nature for us, recently surprised
Kin Yen without warning, and found him in his sumptuously
appointed picture-room, busy with compasses and tracing-paper.
About the place were scattered in elegant confusion several of
his recent masterpieces. From the subsequent conversation we
are in a position to make it known that in future this refined
and versatile person will confine himself entirely to
illustrations of processions, funerals, armies on the march,
persons pursued by others, and kindred subjects which appeal
strongly to his imagination. Kin Yen has severe emotions on
the subject of individuality in art, and does not hesitate to
express himself forcibly with reference to those who are
content to degrade the names of their ancestors by turning out
what he wittily describes as "so much of varied mediocrity".

The prominence obtained by this pleasantly-composed notice--for it was
copied by others who were unaware of the circumstance of its
origin--had the desired effect. In future, when one of those who sit
in easy-chairs wished for a picture after the kind mentioned, he would
say to his lesser one: "Oh, send to the graceful and versatile Kin
Yen; he becomes inspired on the subject of funerals," or persons
escaping from prison, or families walking to the temple, or whatever
it might be. In that way this narrow-minded and illiterate person was
soon both looked at and rich, so that it was his daily practice to be
carried, in silk garments, past the houses of those who had known him
in poverty, and on these occasions he would puff out his cheeks and
pull his moustaches, looking fiercely from side to side.

True are the words written in the elegant and distinguished Book of
Verses: "Beware lest when being kissed by the all-seeing Emperor, you
step upon the elusive banana-peel." It was at the height of eminence
in this altogether degraded person's career that he encountered the
being who led him on to his present altogether too lamentable

Tien Nung is the earthly name by which is known she who combines all
the most illustrious attributes which have been possessed of women
since the days of the divine Fou-Hy. Her father is a person of very
gross habits, and lives by selling inferior merchandise covered with
some of good quality. Upon past occasions, when under the direct
influence of Tien, and in the hope of gaining some money benefit, this
person may have spoken of him in terms of praise, and may even have
recommended friends to entrust articles of value to him, or to procure
goods on his advice. Now, however, he records it as his unalterable
decision that the father of Tien Nung is by profession a person who
obtains goods by stratagem, and that, moreover, it is impossible to
gain an advantage over him on matters of exchange.

The events that have happened prove the deep wisdom of Li Pen when he
exclaimed "The whitest of pigeons, no matter how excellent in the
silk-hung chamber, is not to be followed on the field of battle." Tien
herself was all that the most exacting of persons could demand, but
her opinions on the subject of picture-making were not formed by heavy
thought, and it would have been well if this had been borne in mind by
this person. One morning he chanced to meet her while carrying open in
his hands four sets of printed leaves containing his pictures.

"I have observed," said Tien, after the usual personal inquiries had
been exchanged, "that the renowned Kin Yen, who is the object of the
keenest envy among his brother picture-makers, so little regards the
sacredness of his accomplished art that never by any chance does he
depict persons of the very highest excellence. Let not the words of an
impetuous maiden disarrange his digestive organs if they should seem
too bold to the high-souled Kin Yen, but this matter has, since she
has known him, troubled the eyelids of Tien. Here," she continued,
taking from this person's hand one of the printed leaves which he was
carrying, "in this illustration of persons returning from
extinguishing a fire, is there one who appears to possess those
qualities which appeal to all that is intellectual and competitive
within one? Can it be that the immaculate Kin Yen is unacquainted with
the subtle distinction between the really select and the vastly
ordinary? Ah, undiscriminating Kin Yen! are not the eyelashes of the
person who is addressing you as threads of fine gold to junk's cables
when compared with those of the extremely commonplace female who is
here pictured in the art of carrying a bucket? Can the most refined
lack of vanity hide from you the fact that your own person is
infinitely rounder than this of the evilly-intentioned-looking
individual with the opium pipe? O blind Kin Yen!"

Here she fled in honourable confusion, leaving this person standing in
the street, astounded, and a prey to the most distinguished emotions
of a complicated nature.

"Oh, Tien," he cried at length, "inspired by those bright eyes,
narrower than the most select of the three thousand and one possessed
by the sublime Buddha, the almost fallen Kin Yen will yet prove
himself worthy of your esteemed consideration. He will, without delay,
learn to draw two new living persons, and will incorporate in them the
likenesses which you have suggested."

Returning swiftly to his abode, he therefore inscribed and despatched
this letter, in proof of his resolve:

"To the Heaven-sent human chrysanthemum, in whose body reside the
Celestial Principles and the imprisoned colours of the rainbow.

"From the very offensive and self-opinionated picture-maker.

"Henceforth this person will take no rest, nor eat any but the
commonest food, until he shall have carried out the wishes of his one
Jade Star, she whose teeth he is not worthy to blacken.

"When Kin Yen has been entrusted with a story which contains a being
in some degree reflecting the character of Tien, he will embellish it
with her irreproachable profile and come to hear her words. Till then
he bids her farewell"

From that moment most of this person's time was necessarily spent in
learning to draw the two new characters, and in consequence of this he
lost much work, and, indeed, the greater part of the connexion which
he had been at such pains to form gradually slipped away from him.
Many months passed before he was competent to reproduce persons
resembling Tien and himself, for in this he was unassisted by Tieng
Lin, and his progress was slow.

At length, being satisfied, he called upon the least fierce of those
who sit in easy-chairs, and requested that he might be entrusted with
a story for picture-making.

"We should have been covered with honourable joy to set in operation
the brush of the inspired Kin Yen," replied the other with agreeable
condescension; "only at the moment, it does not chance that we have
before us any stories in which funerals, or beggars being driven from
the city, form the chief incidents. Perhaps if the polished Kin Yen
should happen to be passing this ill-constructed office in about six
months' time--"

"The brush of Kin Yen will never again depict funerals, or labourers
arranging themselves to receive pay or similar subjects," exclaimed
this person impetuously, "for, as it is well said, 'The lightning
discovers objects which the paper-lantern fails to reveal.' In future
none but tales dealing with the most distinguished persons shall have
his attention."

"If this be the true word of the dignified Kin Yen, it is possible
that we may be able to animate his inspired faculties," was the
response. "But in that case, as a new style must be in the nature of
an experiment, and as our public has come to regard Kin Yen as the
great exponent of Art Facing in One Direction, we cannot continue the
exceedingly liberal payment with which we have been accustomed to
reward his elegant exertions."

"Provided the story be suitable, that is a matter of less importance,"
replied this person.

"The story," said the one in the easy-chair, "is by the refined
Tong-king, and it treats of the high-minded and conscientious doubts
of one who would become a priest of Fo. When preparing for this
distinguished office he discovers within himself leanings towards the
religion of Lao-Tse. His illustrious scruples are enhanced by his
affection for Wu Ping, who now appears in the story."

"And the ending?" inquired this person, for it was desirable that the
two should marry happily.

"The inimitable stories of Tong-king never have any real ending, and
this one, being in his most elevated style, has even less end than
most of them. But the whole narrative is permeated with the odour of
joss-sticks and honourable high-mindedness, and the two characters are
both of noble birth."

As it might be some time before another story so suitable should be
offered, or one which would afford so good an opportunity of wafting
incense to Tien, and of displaying her incomparable outline in
dignified and magnanimous attitudes, this was eagerly accepted, and
for the next week this obscure person spent all his days and nights in
picturing the lovely Tien and his debased self in the characters of
the nobly-born young priest of Fo and Wu Ping. The pictures finished,
he caused them to be carefully conveyed to the office, and then,
sitting down, spent many hours in composing the following letter, to
be sent to Tien, accompanying a copy of the printed leaves wherein the
story and his drawing should appear:

"When the light has for a period been hidden from a person, it is no
uncommon thing for him to be struck blind on gazing at the sun;
therefore, if the sublime Tien values the eyes of Kin Yen, let her
hide herself behind a gauze screen on his approach.

"The trembling words of Tien have sunk deep into the inside of Kin Yen
and become part of his being. Never again can he depict persons of the
quality and in the position he was wont to do.

"With this he sends his latest efforts. In each case he conceives his
drawings to be the pictures of the written words; in the noble Tien's
case it is undoubtedly so, in his own he aspires to it. Doubtless the
unobtrusive Tien would make no claim to the character and manner of
behaving of the one in the story, yet Kin Yen confidently asserts that
she is to the other as the glove is to the hand, and he is filled with
the most intelligent delight at being able to exhibit her in her true
robes, by which she will be known to all who see her, in spite of her
dignified protests. Kin Yen hopes; he will come this evening after

The week which passed between the finishing of the pictures and the
appearance of the eminent printed leaves containing them was the
longest in this near-sighted person's ill-spent life. But at length
the day arrived, and going with exceedingly mean haste to the place of
sale, he purchased a copy and sent it, together with the letter of his
honourable intention, on which he had bestowed so much care, to Tien.

Not till then did it occur to this inconsiderable one that the
impetuousness of his action was ill-judged; for might it not be that
the pictures were evilly-printed, or that the delicate and fragrant
words painting the character of the one who now bore the features of
Tien had undergone some change?

To satisfy himself, scarce as taels had become with him, he purchased
another copy.

There are many exalted sayings of the wise and venerable Confucious
constructed so as to be of service and consolation in moments of
strong mental distress. These for the greater part recommend
tranquillity of mind, a complete abnegation of the human passions and
the like behaviour. The person who is here endeavouring to bring this
badly-constructed account of his dishonourable career to a close
pondered these for some moments after twice glancing through the
matter in the printed leaves, and then, finding the faculties of
speech and movement restored to him, procured a two-edged knife of
distinguished brilliance and went forth to call upon the one who sits
in an easy-chair.

"Behold," said the lesser one, insidiously stepping in between this
person an the inner door, "my intellectual and all-knowing chief is
not here to-day. May his entirely insufficient substitute offer words
of congratulation to the inspired Kin Yen on his effective and
striking pictures in this week's issue?"

"His altogether insufficient substitute," answered this person, with
difficulty mastering his great rage, "may and shall offer words of
explanation to the inspired Kin Yen, setting forth the reason of his
pictures being used, not with the high-minded story of the elegant
Tong-king for which they were executed, but accompanying exceedingly
base, foolish, and ungrammatical words written by Klan-hi, the Peking
remover of gravity--words which will evermore brand the dew-like Tien
as a person of light speech and no refinement"; and in his agony this
person struck the lacquered table several times with his elegant

"O Kin Yen," exclaimed the lesser one, "this matter rests not here. It
is a thing beyond the sphere of the individual who is addressing you.
All he can tell is that the graceful Tong-king withdraw his
exceedingly tedious story for some reason at the final moment, and as
your eminent drawings had been paid for, my chief of the inner office
decided to use them with this story of Klan-hi. But surely it cannot
be that there is aught in the story to displease your illustrious

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