Infomotions, Inc.The Wallet of Kai Lung / Bramah, Ernest, 1869?-1942



Author: Bramah, Ernest, 1869?-1942
Title: The Wallet of Kai Lung
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ling; kai lung; mandarin; tung fel; kin yen; chan hung
Contributor(s): Safford, Mary J. [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 80,843 words (short) Grade range: 19-23 (graduate school) Readability score: 27 (difficult)
Identifier: etext1076
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The Wallet of Kai Lung

by Ernest Bramah

October, 1997  [Etext #1076]
[Date last updated: June 3, 2005]


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Etext prepared by John Bickers.
First Published 1900 by Mr Grant Richards.

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THE WALLET OF KAI LUNG
By Ernest Bramah

First Published 1900 by Mr Grant Richards.

Etext prepared by John Bickers.



                        THE WALLET OF KAI LUNG

                                  BY

                            ERNEST BRAMAH



  "Ho, illustrious passers-by!" says Kai Lung as he spreads out his
  embroidered mat under the mulberry-tree. "It is indeed unlikely
  that you could condescend to stop and listen to the foolish words
  of such an insignificant and altogether deformed person as myself.
  Nevertheless, if you will but retard your elegant footsteps for a
  few moments, this exceedingly unprepossessing individual will
  endeavour to entertain you." This is a collection of Kai Lung's
  entertaining tales, told professionally in the market places as he
  travelled about; told sometimes to occupy and divert the minds of
  his enemies when they were intent on torturing him.





                        THE WALLET OF KAI LUNG



                              CHAPTER I

                      THE TRANSMUTATION OF LING


                           I: INTRODUCTION

The sun had dipped behind the western mountains before Kai Lung, with
twenty li or more still between him and the city of Knei Yang, entered
the camphor-laurel forest which stretched almost to his destination.
No person of consequence ever made the journey unattended; but Kai
Lung professed to have no fear, remarking with extempore wisdom, when
warned at the previous village, that a worthless garment covered one
with better protection than that afforded by an army of bowmen.
Nevertheless, when within the gloomy aisles, Kai Lung more than once
wished himself back at the village, or safely behind the mud walls of
Knei Yang; and, making many vows concerning the amount of prayer-paper
which he would assuredly burn when he was actually through the gates,
he stepped out more quickly, until suddenly, at a turn in the glade,
he stopped altogether, while the watchful expression into which he had
unguardedly dropped at once changed into a mask of impassiveness and
extreme unconcern. From behind the next tree projected a long straight
rod, not unlike a slender bamboo at a distance, but, to Kai Lung's
all-seeing eye, in reality the barrel of a matchlock, which would come
into line with his breast if he took another step. Being a prudent
man, more accustomed to guile and subservience to destiny than to
force, he therefore waited, spreading out his hands in proof of his
peaceful acquiescence, and smiling cheerfully until it should please
the owner of the weapon to step forth. This the unseen did a moment
later, still keeping his gun in an easy and convenient attitude,
revealing a stout body and a scarred face, which in conjunction made
it plain to Kai Lung that he was in the power of Lin Yi, a noted
brigand of whom he had heard much in the villages.

"O illustrious person," said Kai Lung very earnestly, "this is
evidently an unfortunate mistake. Doubtless you were expecting some
exalted Mandarin to come and render you homage, and were preparing to
overwhelm him with gratified confusion by escorting him yourself to
your well-appointed abode. Indeed, I passed such a one on the road,
very richly apparelled, who inquired of me the way to the mansion of
the dignified and upright Lin Yi. By this time he is perhaps two or
three li towards the east."

"However distinguished a Mandarin may be, it is fitting that I should
first attend to one whose manners and accomplishments betray him to be
of the Royal House," replied Lin Yi, with extreme affability. "Precede
me, therefore, to my mean and uninviting hovel, while I gain more
honour than I can reasonably bear by following closely in your elegant
footsteps, and guarding your Imperial person with this inadequate but
heavily-loaded weapon."

Seeing no chance of immediate escape, Kai Lung led the way, instructed
by the brigand, along a very difficult and bewildering path, until
they reached a cave hidden among the crags. Here Lin Yi called out
some words in the Miaotze tongue, whereupon a follower appeared, and
opened a gate in the stockade of prickly mimosa which guarded the
mouth of the den. Within the enclosure a fire burned, and food was
being prepared. At a word from the chief, the unfortunate Kai Lung
found his hands seized and tied behind his back, while a second later
a rough hemp rope was fixed round his neck, and the other end tied to
an overhanging tree.

Lin Yi smiled pleasantly and critically upon these preparations, and
when they were complete dismissed his follower.

"Now we can converse at our ease and without restraint," he remarked
to Kai Lung. "It will be a distinguished privilege for a person
occupying the important public position which you undoubtedly do; for
myself, my instincts are so degraded and low-minded that nothing gives
me more gratification than to dispense with ceremony."

To this Kai Lung made no reply, chiefly because at that moment the
wind swayed the tree, and compelled him to stand on his toes in order
to escape suffocation.

"It would be useless to try to conceal from a person of your inspired
intelligence that I am indeed Lin Yi," continued the robber. "It is a
dignified position to occupy, and one for which I am quite
incompetent. In the sixth month of the third year ago, it chanced that
this unworthy person, at that time engaged in commercial affairs at
Knei Yang, became inextricably immersed in the insidious delights of
quail-fighting. Having been entrusted with a large number of taels
with which to purchase elephants' teeth, it suddenly occurred to him
that if he doubled the number of taels by staking them upon an
exceedingly powerful and agile quail, he would be able to purchase
twice the number of teeth, and so benefit his patron to a large
extent. This matter was clearly forced upon his notice by a dream, in
which he perceived one whom he then understood to be the benevolent
spirit of an ancestor in the act of stroking a particular quail, upon
whose chances he accordingly placed all he possessed. Doubtless evil
spirits had been employed in the matter; for, to this person's great
astonishment, the quail in question failed in a very discreditable
manner at the encounter. Unfortunately, this person had risked not
only the money which had been entrusted to him, but all that he had
himself become possessed of by some years of honourable toil and
assiduous courtesy as a professional witness in law cases. Not
doubting that his patron would see that he was himself greatly to
blame in confiding so large a sum of money to a comparatively young
man of whom he knew little, this person placed the matter before him,
at the same time showing him that he would suffer in the eyes of the
virtuous if he did not restore this person's savings, which but for
the presence of the larger sum, and a generous desire to benefit his
patron, he would never have risked in so uncertain a venture as that
of quail-fighting. Although the facts were laid in the form of a
dignified request instead of a demand by legal means, and the
reasoning carefully drawn up in columns of fine parchment by a very
illustrious writer, the reply which this person received showed him
plainly that a wrong view had been taken of the matter, and that the
time had arrived when it became necessary for him to make a suitable
rejoinder by leaving the city without delay."

"It was a high-minded and disinterested course to take," said Kai Lung
with great conviction, as Lin Yi paused. "Without doubt evil will
shortly overtake the avaricious-souled person at Knei Yang."

"It has already done so," replied Lin Yi. "While passing through this
forest in the season of Many White Vapours, the spirits of his bad
deeds appeared to him in misleading and symmetrical shapes, and drew
him out of the path and away from his bowmen. After suffering many
torments, he found his way here, where, in spite of our continual
care, he perished miserably and in great bodily pain. . . . But I
cannot conceal from myself, in spite of your distinguished politeness,
that I am becoming intolerably tiresome with my commonplace talk."

"On the contrary," replied Kai Lung, "while listening to your voice I
seemed to hear the beating of many gongs of the finest and most
polished brass. I floated in the Middle Air, and for the time I even
became unconscious of the fact that this honourable appendage, though
fashioned, as I perceive, out of the most delicate silk, makes it
exceedingly difficult for me to breathe."

"Such a thing cannot be permitted," exclaimed Lin Yi, with some
indignation, as with his own hands he slackened the rope and, taking
it from Kai Lung's neck, fastened it around his ankle. "Now, in return
for my uninviting confidences, shall not my senses be gladdened by a
recital of the titles and honours borne by your distinguished family?
Doubtless, at this moment many Mandarins of the highest degree are
anxiously awaiting your arrival at Knei Yang, perhaps passing the time
by outdoing one another in protesting the number of taels each would
give rather than permit you to be tormented by fire-brands, or even to
lose a single ear."

"Alas!" replied Kai Lung, "never was there a truer proverb than that
which says, 'It is a mark of insincerity of purpose to spend one's
time in looking for the sacred Emperor in the low-class tea-shops.' Do
Mandarins or the friends of Mandarins travel in mean garments and
unattended? Indeed, the person who is now before you is none other
than the outcast Kai Lung, the story-teller, one of degraded habits
and no very distinguished or reputable ancestors. His friends are few,
and mostly of the criminal class; his wealth is not more than some six
or eight cash, concealed in his left sandal; and his entire stock-in-
trade consists of a few unendurable and badly told stories, to which,
however, it is his presumptuous intention shortly to add a dignified
narrative of the high-born Lin Yi, setting out his domestic virtues
and the honour which he has reflected upon his house, his valour in
war, the destruction of his enemies, and, above all, his great
benevolence and the protection which he extends to the poor and those
engaged in the distinguished arts."

"The absence of friends is unfortunate," said Lin Yi thoughtfully,
after he had possessed himself of the coins indicated by Kai Lung, and
also of a much larger amount concealed elsewhere among the story-
teller's clothing. "My followers are mostly outlawed Miaotze, who have
been driven from their own tribes in Yun Nan for man-eating and
disregarding the sacred laws of hospitality. They are somewhat
rapacious, and in this way it has become a custom that they should
have as their own, for the purpose of exchanging for money, persons
such as yourself, whose insatiable curiosity has led them to this
place."

"The wise and all-knowing Emperor Fohy instituted three degrees of
attainment: Being poor, to obtain justice; being rich, to escape
flattery; and being human, to avoid the passions," replied Kai Lung.
"To these the practical and enlightened Kang added yet another, the
greatest: Being lean, to yield fatness."

"In such cases," observed the brigand, "the Miaotze keep an honoured
and very venerable rite, which chiefly consists in suspending the
offender by a pigtail from a low tree, and placing burning twigs of
hemp-palm between his toes. To this person it seems a foolish and
meaningless habit; but it would not be well to interfere with their
religious observances, however trivial they may appear."

"Such a course must inevitably end in great loss," suggested Kai Lung;
"for undoubtedly there are many poor yet honourable persons who would
leave with them a bond for a large number of taels and save the money
with which to redeem it, rather than take part in a ceremony which is
not according to one's own Book of Rites."

"They have already suffered in that way on one or two occasions,"
replied Lin Yi; "so that such a proposal, no matter how nobly
intended, would not gladden their faces. Yet they are simple and
docile persons, and would, without doubt, be moved to any feeling you
should desire by the recital of one of your illustrious stories."

"An intelligent and discriminating assemblage is more to a story-
teller than much reward of cash from hands that conceal open mouths,"
replied Kai Lung with great feeling. "Nothing would confer more
pleasurable agitation upon this unworthy person than an opportunity of
narrating his entire stock to them. If also the accomplished Lin Yi
would bestow renown upon the occasion by his presence, no omen of good
would be wanting."

"The pleasures of the city lie far behind me," said Lin Yi, after some
thought, "and I would cheerfully submit myself to an intellectual
accomplishment such as you are undoubtedly capable of. But as we have
necessity to leave this spot before the hour when the oak-leaves
change into night-moths, one of your amiable stories will be the
utmost we can strengthen our intellects with. Select which you will.
In the meantime, food will be brought to refresh you after your
benevolent exertions in conversing with a person of my vapid
understanding. When you have partaken, or thrown it away as utterly
unendurable, the time will have arrived, and this person, together
with all his accomplices, will put themselves in a position to be
subjected to all the most dignified emotions."


                                  II

"The story which I have selected for this gratifying occasion," said
Kai Lung, when, an hour or so later, still pinioned, but released from
the halter, he sat surrounded by the brigands, "is entitled 'Good and
Evil,' and it is concerned with the adventures of one Ling, who bore
the honourable name of Ho. The first, and indeed the greater, part of
the narrative, as related by the venerable and accomplished writer of
history Chow-Tan, is taken up by showing how Ling was assuredly
descended from an enlightened Emperor of the race of Tsin; but as the
no less omniscient Ta-lin-hi proves beyond doubt that the person in
question was in no way connected with any but a line of hereditary
ape-worshippers, who entered China from an unknown country many
centuries ago, it would ill become this illiterate person to express
an opinion on either side, and he will in consequence omit the first
seventeen books of the story, and only deal with the three which refer
to the illustrious Ling himself."


                          THE STORY OF LING

     Narrated by Kai Lung when a prisoner in the camp of Lin Yi.

Ling was the youngest of three sons, and from his youth upwards proved
to be of a mild and studious disposition. Most of his time was spent
in reading the sacred books, and at an early age he found the worship
of apes to be repulsive to his gentle nature, and resolved to break
through the venerable traditions of his family by devoting his time to
literary pursuits, and presenting himself for the public examinations
at Canton. In this his resolution was strengthened by a rumour that an
army of bowmen was shortly to be raised from the Province in which he
lived, so that if he remained he would inevitably be forced into an
occupation which was even more distasteful to him than the one he was
leaving.

Having arrived at Canton, Ling's first care was to obtain particulars
of the examinations, which he clearly perceived, from the unusual
activity displayed on all sides, to be near at hand. On inquiring from
passers-by, he received very conflicting information; for the persons
to whom he spoke were themselves entered for the competition, and
therefore naturally misled him in order to increase their own chances
of success. Perceiving this, Ling determined to apply at once,
although the light was past, to a Mandarin who was concerned in the
examinations, lest by delay he should lose his chance for the year.

"It is an unfortunate event that so distinguished a person should have
selected this day and hour on which to overwhelm us with his affable
politeness!" exclaimed the porter at the gate of the Yamen, when Ling
had explained his reason for going. "On such a day, in the reign of
the virtuous Emperor Hoo Chow, a very benevolent and unassuming
ancestor of my good lord the Mandarin was destroyed by treachery, and
ever since his family has observed the occasion by fasting and no
music. This person would certainly be punished with death if he
entered the inner room from any cause."

At these words, Ling, who had been simply brought up, and chiefly in
the society of apes, was going away with many expressions of self-
reproach at selecting such a time, when the gate-keeper called him
back.

"I am overwhelmed with confusion at the position in which I find
myself," he remarked, after he had examined his mind for a short time.
"I may meet with an ungraceful and objectionable death if I carry out
your estimable instructions, but I shall certainly merit and receive a
similar fate if I permit so renowned and versatile a person to leave
without a fitting reception. In such matters a person can only trust
to the intervention of good spirits; if, therefore, you will permit
this unworthy individual to wear, while making the venture, the ring
which he perceives upon your finger, and which he recognizes as a very
powerful charm against evil, misunderstandings, and extortion, he will
go without fear."

Overjoyed at the amiable porter's efforts on his behalf, Ling did as
he was desired, and the other retired. Presently the door of the Yamen
was opened by an attendant of the house, and Ling bidden to enter. He
was covered with astonishment to find that this person was entirely
unacquainted with his name or purpose.

"Alas!" said the attendant, when Ling had explained his object, "well
said the renowned and inspired Ting Fo, 'When struck by a thunderbolt
it is unnecessary to consult the Book of Dates as to the precise
meaning of the omen.' At this moment my noble-minded master is engaged
in conversation with all the most honourable and refined persons in
Canton, while singers and dancers of a very expert and nimble order
have been sent for. The entertainment will undoubtedly last far into
the night, and to present myself even with the excuse of your graceful
and delicate inquiry would certainly result in very objectionable
consequences to this person."

"It is indeed a day of unprepossessing circumstances," replied Ling,
and after many honourable remarks concerning his own intellect and
appearance, and those of the person to whom he was speaking, he had
turned to leave when the other continued:

"Ever since your dignified presence illumined this very ordinary
chamber, this person has been endeavouring to bring to his mind an
incident which occurred to him last night while he slept. Now it has
come back to him with a diamond clearness, and he is satisfied that it
was as follows: While he floated in the Middle Air a benevolent spirit
in the form of an elderly and toothless vampire appeared, leading by
the hand a young man, of elegant personality. Smiling encouragingly
upon this person, the spirit said, 'O Fou, recipient of many favours
from Mandarins and of innumerable taels from gratified persons whom
you have obliged, I am, even at this moment, guiding this exceptional
young man towards your presence; when he arrives do not hesitate, but
do as he desires, no matter how great the danger seems or how
inadequately you may appear to be rewarded on earth.' The vision then
melted, but I now clearly perceive that with the exception of the
embroidered cloak which you wear, you are the person thus indicated to
me. Remove your cloak, therefore, in order to give the amiable spirit
no opportunity of denying the fact, and I will advance your wishes;
for, as the Book of Verses indicates, 'The person who patiently awaits
a sign from the clouds for many years, and yet fails to notice the
earthquake at his feet, is devoid of intellect.'"

Convinced that he was assuredly under the especial protection of the
Deities, and that the end of his search was in view, Ling gave his
rich cloak to the attendant, and was immediately shown into another
room, where he was left alone.

After a considerable space of time the door opened and there entered a
person whom Ling at first supposed to be the Mandarin. Indeed, he was
addressing him by his titles when the other interrupted him. "Do not
distress your incomparable mind by searching for honourable names to
apply to so inferior a person as myself," he said agreeably. "The
mistake is, nevertheless, very natural; for, however miraculous it may
appear, this unseemly individual, who is in reality merely a writer of
spoken words, is admitted to be exceedingly like the dignified
Mandarin himself, though somewhat stouter, clad in better garments,
and, it is said, less obtuse of intellect. This last matter he very
much doubts, for he now finds himself unable to recognize by name one
who is undoubtedly entitled to wear the Royal Yellow."

With this encouragement Ling once more explained his position,
narrating the events which had enabled him to reach the second chamber
of the Yamen. When he had finished the secretary was overpowered with
a high-minded indignation.

"Assuredly those depraved and rapacious persons who have both misled
and robbed you shall suffer bow-stringing when the whole matter is
brought to light," he exclaimed. "The noble Mandarin neither fasts nor
receives guests, for, indeed, he has slept since the sun went down.
This person would unhesitatingly break his slumber for so commendable
a purpose were it not for a circumstance of intolerable
unavoidableness. It must not even be told in a low breath beyond the
walls of the Yamen, but my benevolent and high-born lord is in reality
a person of very miserly instinct, and nothing will call him from his
natural sleep but the sound of taels shaken beside his bed. In an
unexpected manner it comes about that this person is quite unsupplied
with anything but thin printed papers of a thousand taels each, and
these are quite useless for the purpose."

"It is unendurable that so obliging a person should be put to such
inconvenience on behalf of one who will certainly become a public
laughing-stock at the examinations," said Ling, with deep feeling; and
taking from a concealed spot in his garments a few taels, he placed
them before the secretary for the use he had indicated.

Ling was again left alone for upwards of two strokes of the gong, and
was on the point of sleep when the secretary returned with an
expression of dignified satisfaction upon his countenance. Concluding
that he had been successful in the manner of awakening the Mandarin,
Ling was opening his mouth for a polite speech, which should contain a
delicate allusion to the taels, when the secretary warned him, by
affecting a sudden look of terror, that silence was exceedingly
desirable, and at the same time opened another door and indicated to
Ling that he should pass through.

In the next room Ling was overjoyed to find himself in the presence of
the Mandarin, who received him graciously, and paid many estimable
compliments to the name he bore and the country from which he came.
When at length Ling tore himself from this enchanting conversation,
and explained the reason of his presence, the Mandarin at once became
a prey to the whitest and most melancholy emotions, even plucking two
hairs from his pigtail to prove the extent and conscientiousness of
his grief.

"Behold," he cried at length, "I am resolved that the extortionate and
many-handed persons at Peking who have control of the examination
rites and customs shall no longer grow round-bodied without remark.
This person will unhesitatingly proclaim the true facts of the case
without regarding the danger that the versatile Chancellor or even the
sublime Emperor himself may, while he speaks, be concealed in some
part of this unassuming room to hear his words; for, as it is wisely
said, 'When marked out by destiny, a person will assuredly be drowned,
even though he passes the whole of his existence among the highest
branches of a date tree.'"

"I am overwhelmed that I should be the cause of such an engaging
display of polished agitation," said Ling, as the Mandarin paused. "If
it would make your own stomach less heavy, this person will willingly
follow your estimable example, either with or without knowing the
reason."

"The matter is altogether on your account, O most unobtrusive young
man," replied the Mandarin, when a voice without passion was restored
to him. "It tears me internally with hooks to reflect that you, whose
refined ancestors I might reasonably have known had I passed my youth
in another Province, should be victim to the cupidity of the ones in
authority at Peking. A very short time before you arrived there came a
messenger in haste from those persons, clearly indicating that a legal
toll of sixteen taels was to be made on each printed paper setting
forth the time and manner of the examinations, although, as you may
see, the paper is undoubtedly marked, 'Persons are given notice that
they are defrauded of any sum which they may be induced to exchange
for this matter.' Furthermore, there is a legal toll of nine taels on
all persons who have previously been examined--"

"I am happily escaped from that," exclaimed Ling with some
satisfaction as the Mandarin paused.

"--and twelve taels on all who present themselves for the first time.
This is to be delivered over when the paper is purchased, so that you,
by reason of this unworthy proceeding at Peking, are required to
forward to that place, through this person, no less than thirty-two
taels."

"It is a circumstance of considerable regret," replied Ling; "for had
I only reached Canton a day earlier, I should, it appears, have
avoided this evil."

"Undoubtedly it would have been so," replied the Mandarin, who had
become engrossed in exalted meditation. "However," he continued a
moment later, as he bowed to Ling with an accomplished smile, "it
would certainly be a more pleasant thought for a person of your
refined intelligence that had you delayed until to-morrow the
insatiable persons at Peking might be demanding twice the amount."

Pondering the deep wisdom of this remark, Ling took his departure; but
in spite of the most assiduous watchfulness he was unable to discern
any of the three obliging persons to whose efforts his success had
been due.


                                 III

It was very late when Ling again reached the small room which he had
selected as soon as he reached Canton, but without waiting for food or
sleep he made himself fully acquainted with the times of the
forthcoming examinations and the details of the circumstances
connected with them. With much satisfaction he found that he had still
a week in which to revive his intellect on the most difficult
subjects. Having become relieved on these points, Ling retired for a
few hours' sleep, but rose again very early, and gave the whole day
with great steadfastness to contemplation of the sacred classics
Y-King, with the exception of a short period spent in purchasing ink,
brushes and writing-leaves. The following day, having become mentally
depressed through witnessing unaccountable hordes of candidates
thronging the streets of Canton, Ling put aside his books, and passed
the time in visiting all the most celebrated tombs in the
neighbourhood of the city. Lightened in mind by this charitable and
agreeable occupation, he returned to his studies with a fixed
resolution, nor did he again falter in his purpose. On the evening of
the examination, when he was sitting alone, reading by the aid of a
single light, as his custom was, a person arrived to see him, at the
same time manifesting a considerable appearance of secrecy and
reserve. Inwardly sighing at the interruption, Ling nevertheless
received him with distinguished consideration and respect, setting tea
before him, and performing towards it many honourable actions with his
own hands. Not until some hours had sped in conversation relating to
the health of the Emperor, the unexpected appearance of a fiery dragon
outside the city, and the insupportable price of opium, did the
visitor allude to the object of his presence.

"It has been observed," he remarked, "that the accomplished Ling, who
aspires to a satisfactory rank at the examinations, has never before
made the attempt. Doubtless in this case a preternatural wisdom will
avail much, and its fortunate possessor will not go unrewarded. Yet it
is as precious stones among ashes for one to triumph in such
circumstances."

"The fact is known to this person," replied Ling sadly, "and the
thought of the years he may have to wait before he shall have passed
even the first degree weighs down his soul with bitterness from time
to time."

"It is no infrequent thing for men of accomplished perseverance, but
merely ordinary intellects, to grow venerable within the four walls of
the examination cell," continued the other. "Some, again, become
afflicted with various malignant evils, while not a few, chiefly those
who are presenting themselves for the first time, are so overcome on
perceiving the examination paper, and understanding the inadequate
nature of their own accomplishments, that they become an easy prey to
the malicious spirits which are ever on the watch in those places;
and, after covering their leaves with unpresentable remarks and
drawings of men and women of distinguished rank, have at length to be
forcibly carried away by the attendants and secured with heavy
chains."

"Such things undoubtedly exist," agreed Ling; "yet by a due regard
paid to spirits, both good and bad, a proper esteem for one's
ancestors, and a sufficiency of charms about the head and body, it is
possible to be closeted with all manner of demons and yet to suffer no
evil."

"It is undoubtedly possible to do so, according to the Immortal
Principles," admitted the stranger; "but it is not an undertaking in
which a refined person would take intelligent pleasure; as the proverb
says, 'He is a wise and enlightened suppliant who seeks to discover an
honourable Mandarin, but he is a fool who cries out, "I have found
one."' However, it is obvious that the reason of my visit is
understood, and that your distinguished confidence in yourself is
merely a graceful endeavour to obtain my services for a less amount of
taels than I should otherwise have demanded. For half the usual sum,
therefore, this person will take your place in the examination cell,
and enable your versatile name to appear in the winning lists, while
you pass your moments in irreproachable pleasures elsewhere."

Such a course had never presented itself to Ling. As the person who
narrates this story has already marked, he had passed his life beyond
the influence of the ways and manners of towns, and at the same time
he had naturally been endowed with an unobtrusive highmindedness. It
appeared to him, in consequence, that by accepting this engaging offer
he would be placing those who were competing with him at a
disadvantage. This person clearly sees that it is a difficult matter
for him to explain how this could be, as Ling would undoubtedly reward
the services of the one who took his place, nor would the number of
the competitors be in any way increased; yet in such a way the thing
took shape before his eyes. Knowing, however, that few persons would
be able to understand this action, and being desirous of not injuring
the estimable emotions of the obliging person who had come to him,
Ling made a number of polished excuses in declining, hiding the true
reason within himself. In this way he earned the powerful malignity of
the person in question, who would not depart until he had effected a
number of very disagreeable prophecies connected with unpropitious
omens and internal torments, all of which undoubtedly had a great
influence on Ling's life beyond that time.

Each day of the examination found Ling alternately elated or
depressed, according to the length and style of the essay which he had
written while enclosed in his solitary examination cell. The trials
each lasted a complete day, and long before the fifteen days which
composed the full examination were passed, Ling found himself half
regretting that he had not accepted his visitor's offer, or even
reviling the day on which he had abandoned the hereditary calling of
his ancestors. However, when, after all was over, he came to
deliberate with himself on his chances of attaining a degree, he could
not disguise from his own mind that he had well-formed hopes; he was
not conscious of any undignified errors, and, in reply to several
questions, he had been able to introduce curious knowledge which he
possessed by means of his exceptional circumstances--knowledge which
it was unlikely that any other candidate would have been able to make
himself master of.

At length the day arrived on which the results were to be made public;
and Ling, together with all the other competitors and many
distinguished persons, attended at the great Hall of Intellectual
Coloured Lights to hear the reading of the lists. Eight thousand
candidates had been examined, and from this number less than two
hundred were to be selected for appointments. Amid a most
distinguished silence the winning names were read out. Waves of most
undignified but inevitable emotion passed over those assembled as the
list neared its end, and the chances of success became less at each
spoken word; and then, finding that his was not among them, together
with the greater part of those present, he became a prey to very
inelegant thoughts, which were not lessened by the refined cries of
triumph of the successful persons. Among this confusion the one who
had read the lists was observed to be endeavouring to make his voice
known, whereupon, in the expectation that he had omitted a name, the
tumult was quickly subdued by those who again had pleasurable visions.

"There was among the candidates one of the name of Ling," said he,
when no-noise had been obtained. "The written leaves produced by this
person are of a most versatile and conflicting order, so that, indeed,
the accomplished examiners themselves are unable to decide whether
they are very good or very bad. In this matter, therefore, it is
clearly impossible to place the expert and inimitable Ling among the
foremost, as his very uncertain success may have been brought about
with the assistance of evil spirits; nor would it be safe to pass over
his efforts without reward, as he may be under the protection of
powerful but exceedingly ill-advised deities. The estimable Ling is
told to appear again at this place after the gong has been struck
three times, when the matter will have been looked at from all round."

At this announcement there arose another great tumult, several crying
out that assuredly their written leaves were either very good or very
bad; but no further proclamation was made, and very soon the hall was
cleared by force.

At the time stated Ling again presented himself at the Hall, and was
honourably received.

"The unusual circumstances of the matter have already been put forth,"
said an elderly Mandarin of engaging appearance, "so that nothing
remains to be made known except the end of our despicable efforts to
come to an agreeable conclusion. In this we have been made successful,
and now desire to notify the result. A very desirable and not
unremunerative office, rarely bestowed in this manner, is lately
vacant, and taking into our minds the circumstances of the event, and
the fact that Ling comes from a Province very esteemed for the warlike
instincts of its inhabitants, we have decided to appoint him commander
of the valiant and blood-thirsty band of archers now stationed at
Si-chow, in the Province of Hu-Nan. We have spoken. Let three guns go
off in honour of the noble and invincible Ling, now and henceforth a
commander in the ever-victorious Army of the Sublime Emperor, brother
of the Sun and Moon, and Upholder of the Four Corners of the World."


                                  IV

Many hours passed before Ling, now more downcast in mind than the most
unsuccessful student in Canton, returned to his room and sought his
couch of dried rushes. All his efforts to have his distinguished
appointment set aside had been without avail, and he had been ordered
to reach Si-chow within a week. As he passed through the streets,
elegant processions in honour of the winners met him at every corner,
and drove him into the outskirts for the object of quietness. There he
remained until the beating of paper drums and the sound of exulting
voices could be heard no more; but even when he returned lanterns
shone in many dwellings, for two hundred persons were composing
verses, setting forth their renown and undoubted accomplishments,
ready to affix to their doors and send to friends on the next day. Not
giving any portion of his mind to this desirable act of behaviour,
Ling flung himself upon the floor, and, finding sleep unattainable,
plunged himself into profound meditation of a very uninviting order.
"Without doubt," he exclaimed, "evil can only arise from evil, and as
this person has always endeavoured to lead a life in which his
devotions have been equally divided between the sacred Emperor, his
illustrious parents, and his venerable ancestors, the fault cannot lie
with him. Of the excellence of his parents he has full knowledge;
regarding the Emperor, it might not be safe to conjecture. It is
therefore probable that some of his ancestors were persons of
abandoned manner and inelegant habits, to worship whom results in evil
rather than good. Otherwise, how could it be that one whose chief
delight lies in the passive contemplation of the Four Books and the
Five Classics, should be selected by destiny to fill a position
calling for great personal courage and an aggressive nature? Assuredly
it can only end in a mean and insignificant death, perhaps not even
followed by burial."

In this manner of thought he fell asleep, and after certain very base
and impressive dreams, from which good omens were altogether absent,
he awoke, and rose to begin his preparations for leaving the city.
After two days spent chiefly in obtaining certain safeguards against
treachery and the bullets of foemen, purchasing opium and other gifts
with which to propitiate the soldiers under his charge, and in
consulting well-disposed witches and readers of the future, he set
out, and by travelling in extreme discomfort, reached Si-chow within
five days. During his journey he learned that the entire Province was
engaged in secret rebellion, several towns, indeed, having declared
against the Imperial army without reserve. Those persons to whom Ling
spoke described the rebels, with respectful admiration, as fierce and
unnaturally skilful in all methods of fighting, revengeful and
merciless towards their enemies, very numerous and above the ordinary
height of human beings, and endowed with qualities which made their
skin capable of turning aside every kind of weapon. Furthermore, he
was assured that a large band of the most abandoned and best trained
was at that moment in the immediate neighbourhood of Si-chow.

Ling was not destined long to remain in any doubt concerning the truth
of these matters, for as he made his way through a dark cypress wood,
a few li from the houses of Si-chow, the sounds of a confused outcry
reached his ears, and on stepping aside to a hidden glade some
distance from the path, he beheld a young and elegant maiden of
incomparable beauty being carried away by two persons of most
repulsive and undignified appearance, whose dress and manner clearly
betrayed them to be rebels of the lowest and worst-paid type. At this
sight Ling became possessed of feelings of a savage yet agreeable
order, which until that time he had not conjectured to have any place
within his mind, and without even pausing to consider whether the
planets were in favourable positions for the enterprise to be
undertaken at that time, he drew his sword, and ran forward with loud
cries. Unsettled in their intentions at this unexpected action, the
two persons turned and advanced upon Ling with whirling daggers,
discussing among themselves whether it would be better to kill him at
the first blow or to take him alive, and, when the day had become
sufficiently cool for the full enjoyment of the spectacle, submit him
to various objectionable tortures of so degraded a nature that they
were rarely used in the army of the Emperor except upon the persons of
barbarians. Observing that the maiden was not bound, Ling cried out to
her to escape and seek protection within the town, adding, with a
magnanimous absence of vanity:

"Should this person chance to fall, the repose which the presence of
so lovely and graceful a being would undoubtedly bring to his
departing spirit would be out-balanced by the unendurable thought that
his commonplace efforts had not been sufficient to save her from the
two evilly-disposed individuals who are, as he perceives, at this
moment, neglecting no means within their power to accomplish his
destruction." Accepting the discernment of these words, the maiden
fled, first bestowing a look upon Ling which clearly indicated an
honourable regard for himself, a high-minded desire that the affair
might end profitably on his account, and an amiable hope that they
should meet again, when these subjects could be expressed more clearly
between them.

In the meantime Ling had become at a disadvantage, for the time
occupied in speaking and in making the necessary number of bows in
reply to her entrancing glance had given the other persons an
opportunity of arranging their charms and sacred written sentences to
greater advantage, and of occupying the most favourable ground for the
encounter. Nevertheless, so great was the force of the new emotion
which had entered into Ling's nature that, without waiting to consider
the dangers or the best method of attack, he rushed upon them, waving
his sword with such force that he appeared as though surrounded by a
circle of very brilliant fire. In this way he reached the rebels, who
both fell unexpectedly at one blow, they, indeed, being under the
impression that the encounter had not commenced in reality, and that
Ling was merely menacing them in order to inspire their minds with
terror and raise his own spirits. However much he regretted this act
of the incident which he had been compelled to take, Ling could not
avoid being filled with intellectual joy at finding that his own
charms and omens were more distinguished than those possessed by the
rebels, none of whom, as he now plainly understood, he need fear.

Examining these things within his mind, and reflecting on the events
of the past few days, by which he had been thrown into a class of
circumstances greatly differing from anything which he had ever
sought, Ling continued his journey, and soon found himself before the
southern gate of Si-chow. Entering the town, he at once formed the
resolution of going before the Mandarin for Warlike Deeds and
Arrangements, so that he might present, without delay, the papers and
seals which he had brought with him from Canton.

"The noble Mandarin Li Keen?" replied the first person to whom Ling
addressed himself. "It would indeed be a difficult and hazardous
conjecture to make concerning his sacred person. By chance he is in
the strongest and best-concealed cellar in Si-chow, unless the
sumptuous attractions of the deepest dry well have induced him to make
a short journey"; and, with a look of great unfriendliness at Ling's
dress and weapons, this person passed on.

"Doubtless he is fighting single-handed against the armed men by whom
the place is surrounded," said another; "or perhaps he is constructing
an underground road from the Yamen to Peking, so that we may all
escape when the town is taken. All that can be said with certainty is
that the Heaven-sent and valorous Mandarin has not been seen outside
the walls of his well-fortified residence since the trouble arose;
but, as you carry a sword of conspicuous excellence, you will
doubtless be welcome."

Upon making a third attempt Ling was more successful, for he inquired
of an aged woman, who had neither a reputation for keen and polished
sentences to maintain, nor any interest in the acts of the Mandarin or
of the rebels. From her he learned how to reach the Yamen, and
accordingly turned his footsteps in that direction. When at length he
arrived at the gate, Ling desired his tablets to be carried to the
Mandarin with many expressions of an impressive and engaging nature,
nor did he neglect to reward the porter. It was therefore with the
expression of a misunderstanding mind that he received a reply setting
forth that Li Keen was unable to receive him. In great doubt he
prevailed upon the porter, by means of a still larger reward, again to
carry in his message, and on this occasion an answer in this detail
was placed before him.

"Li Keen," he was informed, "is indeed awaiting the arrival of one
Ling, a noble and valiant Commander of Bowmen. He is given to
understand, it is true, that a certain person claiming the same
honoured name is standing in somewhat undignified attitudes at the
gate, but he is unable in any way to make these two individuals meet
within his intellect. He would further remind all persons that the
refined observances laid down by the wise and exalted Board of Rites
and Ceremonies have a marked and irreproachable significance when the
country is in a state of disorder, the town surrounded by rebels, and
every breathing-space of time of more than ordinary value."

Overpowered with becoming shame at having been connected with so
unseemly a breach of civility, for which his great haste had in
reality been accountable, Ling hastened back into the town, and spent
many hours endeavouring to obtain a chair of the requisite colour in
which to visit the Mandarin. In this he was unsuccessful, until it was
at length suggested to him that an ordinary chair, such as stood for
hire in the streets of Si-chow, would be acceptable if covered with
blue paper. Still in some doubt as to what the nature of his reception
would be, Ling had no choice but to take this course, and accordingly
he again reached the Yamen in such a manner, carried by two persons
whom he had obtained for the purpose. While yet hardly at the
residence a salute was suddenly fired; all the gates and doors were,
without delay, thrown open with embarrassing and hospitable profusion,
and the Mandarin himself passed out, and would have assisted Ling to
step down from his chair had not that person, clearly perceiving that
such a course would be too great an honour, evaded him by an
unobtrusive display of versatile dexterity. So numerous and profound
were the graceful remarks which each made concerning the habits and
accomplishments of the other that more than the space of an hour was
passed in traversing the small enclosed ground which led up to the
principal door of the Yamen. There an almost greater time was
agreeably spent, both Ling and the Mandarin having determined that the
other should enter first. Undoubtedly Ling, who was the more powerful
of the two, would have conferred this courteous distinction upon Li
Keen had not that person summoned to his side certain attendants who
succeeded in frustrating Ling in his high-minded intentions, and in
forcing him through the doorway in spite of his conscientious protests
against the unsurmountable obligation under which the circumstance
placed him.

Conversing in this intellectual and dignified manner, the strokes of
the gong passed unheeded; tea had been brought into their presence
many times, and night had fallen before the Mandarin allowed Ling to
refer to the matter which had brought him to the place, and to present
his written papers and seals.

"It is a valuable privilege to have so intelligent a person as the
illustrious Ling occupying this position," remarked the Mandarin, as
he returned the papers; "and not less so on account of the one who
preceded him proving himself to be a person of feeble attainments and
an unendurable deficiency of resource."

"To one with the all-knowing Li Keen's mental acquisitions, such a
person must indeed have become excessively offensive," replied Ling
delicately; "for, as it is truly said, 'Although there exist many
thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who
cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.'"

"He to whom I have referred was such a one," said Li Keen,
appreciating with an expression of countenance the fitness of Ling's
proverb. "He was totally inadequate to the requirements of his
position; for he possessed no military knowledge, and was placed in
command by those at Peking as a result of his taking a high place at
one of the examinations. But more than this, although his three years
of service were almost completed, I was quite unsuccessful in
convincing him that an unseemly degradation probably awaited him
unless he could furnish me with the means with which to propitiate the
persons in authority at Peking. This he neglected to do with obstinate
pertinacity, which compelled this person to inquire within himself
whether one of so little discernment could be trusted with an
important and arduous office. After much deliberation, this person
came to the decision that the Commander in question was not a fit
person, and he therefore reported him to the Imperial Board of
Punishment at Peking as one subject to frequent and periodical
eccentricities, and possessed of less than ordinary intellect. In
consequence of this act of justice, the Commander was degraded to the
rank of common bowman, and compelled to pay a heavy fine in addition."

"It was a just and enlightened conclusion of the affair," said Ling,
in spite of a deep feeling of no enthusiasm, "and one which
surprisingly bore out your own prophecy in the matter."

"It was an inspired warning to persons who should chance to be in a
like position at any time," replied Li Keen. "So grasping and corrupt
are those who control affairs in Peking that I have no doubt they
would scarcely hesitate in debasing even one so immaculate as the
exceptional Ling, and placing him in some laborious and ill-paid civil
department should he not accede to their extortionate demands."

This suggestion did not carry with it the unpleasurable emotions which
the Mandarin anticipated it would. The fierce instincts which had been
aroused within Ling by the incident in the cypress wood had died out,
while his lamentable ignorance of military affairs was ever before his
mind. These circumstances, together with his naturally gentle habits,
made him regard such a degradation rather favourably than otherwise.
He was meditating within himself whether he could arrange such a
course without delay when the Mandarin continued:

"That, however, is a possibility which is remote to the extent of at
least two or three years; do not, therefore, let so unpleasing a
thought cast darkness upon your brows or remove the unparalleled
splendour of so refined an occasion . . . Doubtless the accomplished
Ling is a master of the art of chess-play, for many of our most
thoughtful philosophers have declared war to be nothing but such a
game; let this slow-witted and cumbersome person have an opportunity,
therefore, of polishing his declining facilities by a pleasant and
dignified encounter."


                                  V

On the next day, having completed his business at the Yamen, Ling left
the town, and without desiring any ceremony quietly betook himself to
his new residence within the camp, which was situated among the millet
fields some distance from Si-chow. As soon as his presence became
known all those who occupied positions of command, and whose years of
service would shortly come to an end, hastened to present themselves
before him, bringing with them offerings according to the rank they
held, they themselves requiring a similar service from those beneath
them. First among these, and next in command to Ling himself, was the
Chief of Bowmen, a person whom Ling observed with extreme satisfaction
to be very powerful in body and possessing a strong and dignified
countenance which showed unquestionable resolution and shone with a
tiger-like tenaciousness of purpose.

"Undoubtedly," thought Ling, as he observed this noble and
prepossessing person, "here is one who will be able to assist me in
whatever perplexities may arise. Never was there an individual who
seemed more worthy to command and lead; assuredly to him the most
intricate and prolonged military positions will be an enjoyment; the
most crafty stratagems of the enemy as the full moon rising from
behind a screen of rushes. Without making any pretence of knowledge,
this person will explain the facts of the case to him and place
himself without limit in his hands."

For this purpose he therefore detained the Chief of Bowmen when the
others departed, and complimented him, with many expressive phrases,
on the excellence of his appearance, as the thought occurred to him
that by this means, without disclosing the full measure of his
ignorance, the person in question might be encouraged to speak
unrestrainedly of the nature of his exploits, and perchance thereby
explain the use of the appliances employed and the meaning of the
various words of order, in all of which details the Commander was as
yet most disagreeably imperfect. In this, however, he was
disappointed, for the Chief of Bowmen, greatly to Ling's surprise,
received all his polished sentences with somewhat foolish smiles of
great self-satisfaction, merely replying from time to time as he
displayed his pigtail to greater advantage or rearranged his gold-
embroidered cloak:

"This person must really pray you to desist; the honour is indeed too
great."

Disappointed in his hope, and not desiring after this circumstance to
expose his shortcomings to one who was obviously not of a highly-
refined understanding, no matter how great his valour in war or his
knowledge of military affairs might be, Ling endeavoured to lead him
to converse of the bowmen under his charge. In this matter he was more
successful, for the Chief spoke at great length and with evilly-
inspired contempt of their inelegance, their undiscriminating and
excessive appetites, and the frequent use which they made of low words
and gestures. Desiring to become acquainted rather with their methods
of warfare than with their domestic details, Ling inquired of him what
formation they relied upon when receiving the foemen.

"It is a matter which has not engaged the attention of this one,"
replied the Chief, with an excessive absence of interest. "There are
so many affairs of intelligent dignity which cannot be put aside, and
which occupy one from beginning to end. As an example, this person may
describe how the accomplished Li-Lu, generally depicted as the Blue-
eyed Dove of Virtuous and Serpent-like Attitudes, has been scattering
glory upon the Si-chow Hall of Celestial Harmony for many days past.
It is an enlightened display which the high-souled Ling should
certainly endeavour to dignify with his presence, especially at the
portion where the amiable Li-Lu becomes revealed in the appearance of
a Peking sedan-chair bearer and describes the manner and likenesses of
certain persons--chiefly high-priests of Buddha, excessively round-
bodied merchants who feign to be detained within Peking on affairs of
commerce, maidens who attend at the tables of tea-houses, and those of
both sexes who are within the city for the first time to behold its
temples and open spaces--who are conveyed from place to place in the
chair."

"And the bowmen?" suggested Ling, with difficulty restraining an
undignified emotion.

"Really, the elegant Ling will discover them to be persons of
deficient manners, and quite unworthy of occupying his well-bred
conversation," replied the Chief. "As regards their methods--if the
renowned Ling insists--they fight by means of their bows, with which
they discharge arrows at the foemen, they themselves hiding behind
trees and rocks. Should the enemy be undisconcerted by the cloud of
arrows, and advance, the bowmen are instructed to make a last
endeavour to frighten them back by uttering loud shouts and feigning
the voices of savage beasts of the forest and deadly snakes."

"And beyond that?" inquired Ling.

"Beyond that there are no instructions," replied the Chief. "The
bowmen would then naturally take to flight, or, if such a course
became impossible, run to meet the enemy, protesting that they were
convinced of the justice of their cause, and were determined to fight
on their side in the future."

"Would it not be of advantage to arm them with cutting weapons also?"
inquired Ling; "so that when all their arrows were discharged they
would still be able to take part in the fight, and not be lost to us?"

"They would not be lost to us, of course," replied the Chief, "as we
would still be with them. But such a course as the one you suggest
could not fail to end in dismay. Being as well armed as ourselves,
they would then turn upon us, and, having destroyed us, proceed to
establish leaders of their own."

As Ling and the Chief of Bowmen conversed in this enlightened manner,
there arose a great outcry from among the tents, and presently there
entered to them a spy who had discovered a strong force of the enemy
not more than ten or twelve li away, who showed every indication of
marching shortly in the direction of Si-chow. In numbers alone, he
continued, they were greatly superior to the bowmen, and all were well
armed. The spreading of this news threw the entire camp into great
confusion, many protesting that the day was not a favourable one on
which to fight, others crying that it was their duty to fall back on
Si-chow and protect the women and children. In the midst of this
tumult the Chief of Bowmen returned to Ling, bearing in his hand a
written paper which he regarded in uncontrollable anguish.

"Oh, illustrious Ling," he cried, restraining his grief with
difficulty, and leaning for support upon the shoulders of two bowmen,
"how prosperous indeed are you! What greater misfortune can engulf a
person who is both an ambitious soldier and an affectionate son, than
to lose such a chance of glory and promotion as only occurs once
within the lifetime, and an affectionate and venerable father upon the
same day? Behold this mandate to attend, without a moment's delay, at
the funeral obsequies of one whom I left, only last week, in the
fullness of health and power. The occasion being an unsuitable one, I
will not call upon the courteous Ling to join me in sorrow; but his
own devout filial piety is so well known that I can conscientiously
rely upon an application for absence to be only a matter of official
ceremony."

"The application will certainly be regarded as merely official
ceremony," replied Ling, without resorting to any delicate pretence of
meaning, "and the refined scruples of the person who is addressing me
will be fully met by the official date of his venerated father's death
being fixed for a more convenient season. In the meantime, the
unobtrusive Chief of Bowmen may take the opportunity of requesting
that the family tomb be kept unsealed until he is heard from again."

Ling turned away, as he finished this remark, with a dignified feeling
of not inelegant resentment. In this way he chanced to observe a large
body of soldiers which was leaving the camp accompanied by their
lesser captains, all crowned with garlands of flowers and creeping
plants. In spite of his very inadequate attainments regarding words of
order, the Commander made it understood by means of an exceedingly
short sentence that he was desirous of the men returning without
delay.

"Doubtless the accomplished Commander, being but newly arrived in this
neighbourhood, is unacquainted with the significance of this display,"
said one of the lesser captains pleasantly. "Know then, O wise and
custom-respecting Ling, that on a similar day many years ago this
valiant band of bowmen was engaged in a very honourable affair with
certain of the enemy. Since then it has been the practice to
commemorate the matter with music and other forms of delight within
the large square at Si-chow."

"Such customs are excellent," said Ling affably. "On this occasion,
however, the public square will be so insufferably thronged with the
number of timorous and credulous villagers who have pressed into the
town that insufficient justice would be paid to your entrancing
display. In consequence of this, we will select for the purpose some
convenient spot in the neighbourhood. The proceedings will be
commenced by a display of arrow-shooting at moving objects, followed
by racing and dancing, in which this person will lead. I have spoken."

At these words many of the more courageous among the bowmen became
destructively inspired, and raised shouts of defiance against the
enemy, enumerating at great length the indignities which they would
heap upon their prisoners. Cries of distinction were also given on
behalf of Ling, even the more terrified exclaiming:

"The noble Commander Ling will lead us! He has promised, and assuredly
he will not depart from his word. Shielded by his broad and sacred
body, from which the bullets glance aside harmlessly, we will advance
upon the enemy in the stealthy manner affected by ducks when crossing
the swamp. How altogether superior a person our Commander is when
likened unto the leaders of the foemen--they who go into battle
completely surrounded by their archers!"

Upon this, perceiving the clear direction in which matters were
turning, the Chief of Bowmen again approached Ling.

"Doubtless the highly-favoured person whom I am now addressing has
been endowed with exceptional authority direct from Peking," he
remarked with insidious politeness. "Otherwise this narrow-minded
individual would suggest that such a decision does not come within the
judgment of a Commander."

In his ignorance of military matters it had not entered the mind of
Ling that his authority did not give him the power to commence an
attack without consulting other and more distinguished persons. At the
suggestion, which he accepted as being composed of truth, he paused,
the enlightened zeal with which he had been inspired dying out as he
plainly understood the difficulties by which he was enclosed. There
seemed a single expedient path for him in the matter; so, directing a
person of exceptional trustworthiness to prepare himself for a
journey, he inscribed a communication to the Mandarin Li Keen, in
which he narrated the facts and asked for speedy directions, and then
despatched it with great urgency to Si-chow.


                                  VI

When these matters were arranged, Ling returned to his tent, a victim
to feelings of a deep and confused doubt, for all courses seemed to be
surrounded by extreme danger, with the strong possibility of final
disaster. While he was considering these things attentively, the spy
who had brought word of the presence of the enemy again sought him. As
he entered, Ling perceived that his face was the colour of a bleached
linen garment, while there came with him the odour of sickness.

"There are certain matters which this person has not made known," he
said, having first expressed a request that he might not be compelled
to stand while he conversed. "The bowmen are as an inferior kind of
jackal, and they who lead them are pigs, but this person has observed
that the Heaven-sent Commander has internal organs like steel hardened
in a white fire and polished by running water. For this reason he will
narrate to him the things he has seen--things at which the lesser ones
would undoubtedly perish in terror without offering to strike a blow."

"Speak," said Ling, "without fear and without concealment."

"In numbers the rebels are as three to one with the bowmen, and are,
in addition, armed with matchlocks and other weapons; this much I have
already told," said the spy. "Yesterday they entered the village of Ki
without resistance, as the dwellers there were all peaceable persons,
who gain a living from the fields, and who neither understood nor
troubled about the matters between the rebels and the army. Relying on
the promises made by the rebel chiefs, the villagers even welcomed
them, as they had been assured that they came as buyers of their corn
and rice. To-day not a house stands in the street of Ki, not a person
lives. The men they slew quickly, or held for torture, as they desired
at the moment; the boys they hung from the trees as marks for their
arrows. Of the women and children this person, who has since been
subject to several attacks of fainting and vomiting, desires not to
speak. The wells of Ki are filled with the bodies of such as had the
good fortune to be warned in time to slay themselves. The cattle drag
themselves from place to place on their forefeet; the fish in the
Heng-Kiang are dying, for they cannot live on water thickened into
blood. All these things this person has seen."

When he had finished speaking, Ling remained in deep and funereal
thought for some time. In spite of his mild nature, the words which he
had heard filled him with an inextinguishable desire to slay in hand-
to-hand fighting. He regretted that he had placed the decision of the
matter before Li Keen.

"If only this person had a mere handful of brave and expert warriors,
he would not hesitate to fall upon those savage and barbarous
characters, and either destroy them to the last one, or let his band
suffer a like fate," he murmured to himself.

The return of the messenger found him engaged in reviewing the bowmen,
and still in this mood, so that it was with a commendable feeling of
satisfaction, no less than virtuous contempt, that he learned of the
Mandarin's journey to Peking as soon as he understood that the rebels
were certainly in the neighbourhood.

"The wise and ornamental Li Keen is undoubtedly consistent in all
matters," said Ling, with some refined bitterness. "The only
information regarding his duties to which this person obtained from
him chanced to be a likening of war to skilful chess-play, and to this
end the accomplished person in question has merely availed himself of
a common expedient which places him at the remote side of the divine
Emperor. Yet this act is not unwelcome, for the responsibility of
deciding what course is to be adopted now clearly rests with this
person. He is, as those who are standing by may perceive, of under the
usual height, and of no particular mental or bodily attainments. But
he has eaten the rice of the Emperor, and wears the Imperial sign
embroidered upon his arm. Before him are encamped the enemies of his
master and of his land, and in no way will he turn his back upon them.
Against brave and skilful men, such as those whom this person
commands, rebels of a low and degraded order are powerless, and are,
moreover, openly forbidden to succeed by the Forty-second Mandate in
the Sacred Book of Arguments. Should it have happened that into this
assembly any person of a perfidious or uncourageous nature has gained
entrance by guile, and has not been detected and driven forth by his
outraged companions (as would certainly occur if such a person were
discovered), I, Ling, Commander of Bowmen, make an especial and well-
considered request that he shall be struck by a molten thunderbolt if
he turns to flight or holds thoughts of treachery."

Having thus addressed and encouraged the soldiers, Ling instructed
them that each one should cut and fashion for himself a graceful but
weighty club from among the branches of the trees around, and then
return to the tents for the purpose of receiving food and rice spirit.

When noon was passed, allowing such time as would enable him to reach
the camp of the enemy an hour before darkness, Ling arranged the
bowmen in companies of convenient numbers, and commenced the march,
sending forward spies, who were to work silently and bring back
tidings from every point. In this way he penetrated to within a single
li of the ruins of Ki, being informed by the spies that no outposts of
the enemy were between him and that place. Here the first rest was
made to enable the more accurate and bold spies to reach them with
trustworthy information regarding the position and movements of the
camp. With little delay there returned the one who had brought the
earliest tidings, bruised and torn with his successful haste through
the forest, but wearing a complacent and well-satisfied expression of
countenance. Without hesitation or waiting to demand money before he
would reveal his knowledge, he at once disclosed that the greater part
of the enemy were rejoicing among the ruins of Ki, they having
discovered there a quantity of opium and a variety of liquids, while
only a small guard remained in the camp with their weapons ready. At
these words Ling sprang from the ground in gladness, so great was his
certainty of destroying the invaders utterly. It was, however, with
less pleasurable emotions that he considered how he should effect the
matter, for it was in no way advisable to divide his numbers into two
bands. Without any feeling of unendurable conceit, he understood that
no one but himself could hold the bowmen before an assault, however
weak. In a similar manner, he determined that it would be more
advisable to attack those in the village first. These he might have
reasonable hopes of cutting down without warning the camp, or, in any
event, before those from the camp arrived. To assail the camp first
would assuredly, by the firing, draw upon them those from the village,
and in whatever evil state these might arrive, they would, by their
numbers, terrify the bowmen, who without doubt would have suffered
some loss from the matchlocks.

Waiting for the last light of day, Ling led on the men again, and
sending forward some of the most reliable, surrounded the place of the
village silently and without detection. In the open space, among
broken casks and other inconsiderable matters, plainly shown by the
large fires at which burned the last remains of the houses of Ki, many
men moved or lay, some already dull or in heavy sleep. As the darkness
dropped suddenly, the signal of a peacock's shriek, three times
uttered, rang forth, and immediately a cloud of arrows, directed from
all sides, poured in among those who feasted. Seeing their foemen
defenceless before them, the archers neglected the orders they had
received, and throwing away their bows they rushed in with uplifted
clubs, uttering loud shouts of triumph. The next moment a shot was
fired in the wood, drums beat, and in an unbelievably short space of
time a small but well-armed band of the enemy was among them. Now that
all need of caution was at an end, Ling rushed forward with raised
sword, calling to his men that victory was certainly theirs, and
dealing discriminating and inspiriting blows whenever he met a foeman.
Three times he formed the bowmen into a figure emblematic of triumph,
and led them against the line of matchlocks. Twice they fell back,
leaving mingled dead under the feet of the enemy. The third time they
stood firm, and Ling threw himself against the waving rank in a noble
and inspired endeavour to lead the way through. At that moment, when a
very distinguished victory seemed within his hand, his elegant and
well-constructed sword broke upon an iron shield, leaving him
defenceless and surrounded by the enemy.

"Chief among the sublime virtues enjoined by the divine Confucius,"
began Ling, folding his arms and speaking in an unmoved voice, "is an
intelligent submission--" but at that word he fell beneath a rain of
heavy and unquestionably well-aimed blows.


                                 VII

Between Si-chow and the village of Ki, in a house completely hidden
from travellers by the tall and black trees which surrounded it, lived
an aged and very wise person whose ways and manner of living had
become so distasteful to his neighbours that they at length agreed to
regard him as a powerful and ill-disposed magician. In this way it
became a custom that all very unseemly deeds committed by those who,
in the ordinary course, would not be guilty of such behaviour, should
be attributed to his influence, so that justice might be effected
without persons of assured respectability being put to any
inconvenience. Apart from the feeling which resulted from this just
decision, the uncongenial person in question had become exceedingly
unpopular on account of certain definite actions of his own, as that
of causing the greater part of Si-chow to be burned down by secretly
breathing upon the seven sacred water-jugs to which the town owed its
prosperity and freedom from fire. Furthermore, although possessed of
many taels, and able to afford such food as is to be found upon the
tables of Mandarins, he selected from choice dishes of an
objectionable nature; he had been observed to eat eggs of unbecoming
freshness, and the Si-chow Official Printed Leaf made it public that
he had, on an excessively hot occasion, openly partaken of cow's milk.
It is not a matter for wonder, therefore, that when unnaturally loud
thunder was heard in the neighbourhood of Si-chow the more ignorant
and credulous persons refused to continue in any description of work
until certain ceremonies connected with rice spirit, and the adherence
to a reclining position for some hours, had been conscientiously
observed as a protection against evil.

Not even the most venerable person in Si-chow could remember the time
when the magician had not lived there, and as there existed no written
record narrating the incident, it was with well-founded probability
that he was said to be incapable of death. Contrary to the most
general practice, although quite unmarried, he had adopted no son to
found a line which would worship his memory in future years, but had
instead brought up and caused to be educated in the most difficult
varieties of embroidery a young girl, to whom he referred, for want of
a more suitable description, as the daughter of his sister, although
he would admit without hesitation, when closely questioned, that he
had never possessed a sister, at the same time, however, alluding with
some pride to many illustrious brothers, who had all obtained
distinction in various employments.

Few persons of any high position penetrated into the house of the
magician, and most of these retired with inelegant haste on perceiving
that no domestic altar embellished the great hall. Indeed, not to make
concealment of the fact, the magician was a person who had entirely
neglected the higher virtues in an avaricious pursuit of wealth. In
that way all his time and a very large number of taels had been
expended, testing results by means of the four elements, and putting
together things which had been inadequately arrived at by others. It
was confidently asserted in Si-chow that he possessed every manner of
printed leaf which had been composed in whatsoever language, and all
the most precious charms, including many snake-skins of more than
ordinary rarity, and the fang of a black wolf which had been stung by
seven scorpions.

On the death of his father the magician had become possessed of great
wealth, yet he contributed little to the funeral obsequies nor did any
suggestion of a durable and expensive nature conveying his enlightened
name and virtues down to future times cause his face to become
gladdened. In order to preserve greater secrecy about the enchantments
which he certainly performed, he employed only two persons within the
house, one of whom was blind and the other deaf. In this ingenious
manner he hoped to receive attention and yet be unobserved, the blind
one being unable to see the nature of the incantations which he
undertook, and the deaf one being unable to hear the words. In this,
however, he was unsuccessful, as the two persons always contrived to
be present together, and to explain to one another the nature of the
various matters afterwards; but as they were of somewhat deficient
understanding, the circumstance was unimportant.

It was with more uneasiness that the magician perceived one day that
the maiden whom he had adopted was no longer a child. As he desired
secrecy above all things until he should have completed the one
important matter for which he had laboured all his life, he decided
with extreme unwillingness to put into operation a powerful charm
towards her, which would have the effect of diminishing all her
attributes until such time as he might release her again. Owing to his
reluctance in the matter, however, the magic did not act fully, but
only in such a way that her feet became naturally and without binding
the most perfect and beautiful in the entire province of Hu Nan, so
that ever afterwards she was called Pan Fei Mian, in delicate
reference to that Empress whose feet were so symmetrical that a golden
lily sprang up wherever she trod. Afterwards the magician made no
further essay in the matter, chiefly because he was ever convinced
that the accomplishment of his desire was within his grasp.

The rumours of armed men in the neighbourhood of Si-chow threw the
magician into an unendurable condition of despair. To lose all, as
would most assuredly happen if he had to leave his arranged rooms and
secret preparations and take to flight, was the more bitter because he
felt surer than ever that success was even standing by his side. The
very subtle liquid, which would mix itself into the component parts of
the living creature which drank it, and by an insidious and harmless
process so work that, when the spirit departed, the flesh would become
resolved into a figure of pure and solid gold of the finest quality,
had engaged the refined minds of many of the most expert individuals
of remote ages. With most of these inspired persons, however, the
search had been undertaken in pure-minded benevolence, their chief aim
being an honourable desire to discover a method by which one's
ancestors might be permanently and effectively preserved in a fit and
becoming manner to receive the worship and veneration of posterity.
Yet, in spite of these amiable motives, and of the fact that the
magician merely desired the possession of the secret to enable him to
become excessively wealthy, the affair had been so arranged that it
should come into his possession.

The matter which concerned Mian in the dark wood, when she was only
saved by the appearance of the person who is already known as Ling,
entirely removed all pleasurable emotions from the magician's mind,
and on many occasions he stated in a definite and systematic manner
that he would shortly end an ignoble career which seemed to be
destined only to gloom and disappointment. In this way an important
misunderstanding arose, for when, two days later, during the sound of
matchlock firing, the magician suddenly approached the presence of
Mian with an uncontrollable haste and an entire absence of dignified
demeanour, and fell dead at her feet without expressing himself on any
subject whatever, she deliberately judged that in this manner he had
carried his remark into effect, nor did the closed vessel of yellow
liquid which he held in his hand seem to lead away from this decision.
In reality, the magician had fallen owing to the heavy and conflicting
emotions which success had engendered in an intellect already greatly
weakened by his continual disregard of the higher virtues; for the
bottle, indeed, contained the perfection of his entire life's study,
the very expensive and three-times purified gold liquid.

On perceiving the magician's condition, Mian at once called for the
two attendants, and directed them to bring from an inner chamber all
the most effective curing substances, whether in the form of powder or
liquid. When these proved useless, no matter in what way they were
applied, it became evident that there could be very little hope of
restoring the magician, yet so courageous and grateful for the
benefits which she had received from the person in question was Mian,
that, in spite of the uninviting dangers of the enterprise, she
determined to journey to Ki to invoke the assistance of a certain
person who was known to be very successful in casting out malicious
demons from the bodies of animals, and from casks and barrels, in
which they frequently took refuge, to the great detriment of the
quality of the liquid placed therein.

Not without many hidden fears, Mian set out on her journey, greatly
desiring not to be subjected to an encounter of a nature similar to
the one already recorded; for in such a case she could hardly again
hope for the inspired arrival of the one whom she now often thought of
in secret as the well-formed and symmetrical young sword-user.
Nevertheless, an event of equal significance was destined to prove the
wisdom of the well-known remark concerning thoughts which are
occupying one's intellect and the unexpected appearance of a very
formidable evil spirit; for as she passed along, quickly yet with so
dignified a motion that the moss received no impression beneath her
footsteps, she became aware of a circumstance which caused her to stop
by imparting to her mind two definite and greatly dissimilar emotions.

In a grassy and open space, on the verge of which she stood, lay the
dead bodies of seventeen rebels, all disposed in very degraded
attitudes, which contrasted strongly with the easy and becoming
position adopted by the eighteenth--one who bore the unmistakable
emblems of the Imperial army. In this brave and noble-looking
personage Mian at once saw her preserver, and not doubting that an
inopportune and treacherous death had overtaken him, she ran forward
and raised him in her arms, being well assured that however indiscreet
such an action might appear in the case of an ordinary person, the
most select maiden need not hesitate to perform so honourable a
service in regard to one whose virtues had by that time undoubtedly
placed him among the Three Thousand Pure Ones. Being disturbed in this
providential manner, Ling opened his eyes, and faintly murmuring, "Oh,
sainted and adorable Koon Yam, Goddess of Charity, intercede for me
with Buddha!" he again lost possession of himself in the Middle Air.
At this remark, which plainly proved Ling to be still alive, in spite
of the fact that both the maiden and the person himself had thoughts
to the contrary, Mian found herself surrounded by a variety of
embarrassing circumstances, among which occurred a remembrance of the
dead magician and the wise person at Ki whom she had set out to
summon; but on considering the various natural and sublime laws which
bore directly on the alternative before her, she discovered that her
plain destiny was to endeavour to restore the breath in the person who
was still alive rather than engage on the very unsatisfactory chance
of attempting to call it back to the body from which it had so long
been absent.

Having been inspired to this conclusion--which, when she later
examined her mind, she found not to be repulsive to her own inner
feelings--Mian returned to the house with dexterous speed, and calling
together the two attendants, she endeavoured by means of signs and
drawings to explain to them what she desired to accomplish. Succeeding
in this after some delay (for the persons in question, being very
illiterate and narrow-minded, were unable at first to understand the
existence of any recumbent male person other than the dead magician,
whom they thereupon commenced to bury in the garden with expressions
of great satisfaction at their own intelligence in comprehending
Mian's meaning so readily) they all journeyed to the wood, and bearing
Ling between them, they carried him to the house without further
adventure.


                                 VIII

It was in the month of Hot Dragon Breaths, many weeks after the fight
in the woods of Ki, that Ling again opened his eyes to find himself in
an unknown chamber, and to recognize in the one who visited him from
time to time the incomparable maiden whose life he had saved in the
cypress glade. Not a day had passed in the meanwhile on which Mian had
neglected to offer sacrifices to Chang-Chung, the deity interested in
drugs and healing substances, nor had she wavered in her firm resolve
to bring Ling back to an ordinary existence even when the attendants
had protested that the person in question might without impropriety be
sent to the Restoring Establishment of the Last Chance, so little did
his hope of recovering rest upon the efforts of living beings.

After he had beheld Mian's face and understood the circumstances of
his escape and recovery, Ling quickly shook off the evil vapours which
had held him down so long, and presently he was able to walk slowly in
the courtyard and in the shady paths of the wood beyond, leaning upon
Mian for the support he still required.

"Oh, graceful one," he said on such an occasion, when little stood
between him and the full powers which he had known before the battle,
"there is a matter which has been pressing upon this person's mind for
some time past. It is as dark after light to let the thoughts dwell
around it, yet the thing itself must inevitably soon be regarded, for
in this life one's actions are for ever regulated by conditions which
are neither of one's own seeking nor within one's power of
controlling."

At these words all brightness left Mian's manner, for she at once
understood that Ling referred to his departure, of which she herself
had lately come to think with unrestrained agitation.

"Oh, Ling," she exclaimed at length, "most expert of sword-users and
most noble of men, surely never was a maiden more inelegantly placed
than the one who is now by your side. To you she owes her life, yet it
is unseemly for her even to speak of the incident; to you she must
look for protection, yet she cannot ask you to stay by her side. She
is indeed alone. The magician is dead, Ki has fallen, Ling is going,
and Mian is undoubtedly the most unhappy and solitary person between
the Wall and the Nan Hai."

"Beloved Mian," exclaimed Ling, with inspiring vehemence, "and is not
the utterly unworthy person before you indebted to you in a double
measure that life is still within him? Is not the strength which now
promotes him to such exceptional audacity as to aspire to your lovely
hand, of your own creating? Only encourage Ling to entertain a well-
founded hope that on his return he shall not find you partaking of the
wedding feast of some wealthy and exceptionally round-bodied Mandarin,
and this person will accomplish the journey to Canton and back as it
were in four strides."

"Oh, Ling, reflexion of my ideal, holder of my soul, it would indeed
be very disagreeable to my own feelings to make any reply save one,"
replied Mian, scarcely above a breath-voice. "Gratitude alone would
direct me, were it not that the great love which fills me leaves no
resting-place for any other emotion than itself. Go if you must, but
return quickly, for your absence will weigh upon Mian like a dragon-
dream."

"Violet light of my eyes," exclaimed Ling, "even in surroundings which
with the exception of the matter before us are uninspiring in the
extreme, your virtuous and retiring encouragement yet raises me to
such a commanding eminence of demonstrative happiness that I fear I
shall become intolerably self-opinionated towards my fellow-men in
consequence."

"Such a thing is impossible with my Ling," said Mian, with conviction.
"But must you indeed journey to Canton?"

"Alas!" replied Ling, "gladly would this person decide against such a
course did the matter rest with him, for as the Verses say, 'It is
needless to apply the ram's head to the unlocked door.' But Ki is
demolished, the unassuming Mandarin Li Keen has retired to Peking, and
of the fortunes of his bowmen this person is entirely ignorant."

"Such as survived returned to their homes," replied Mian, "and Si-chow
is safe, for the scattered and broken rebels fled to the mountains
again; so much this person has learned."

"In that case Si-chow is undoubtedly safe for the time, and can be
left with prudence," said Ling. "It is an unfortunate circumstance
that there is no Mandarin of authority between here and Canton who can
receive from this person a statement of past facts and give him
instructions for the future."

"And what will be the nature of such instructions as will be given at
Canton?" demanded Mian.

"By chance they may take the form of raising another company of
bowmen," said Ling, with a sigh, "but, indeed, if this person can
obtain any weight by means of his past service, they will tend towards
a pleasant and unambitious civil appointment."

"Oh, my artless and noble-minded lover!" exclaimed Mian, "assuredly a
veil has been before your eyes during your residence in Canton, and
your naturally benevolent mind has turned all things into good, or you
would not thus hopefully refer to your brilliant exploits in the past.
Of what commercial benefit have they been to the sordid and miserly
persons in authority, or in what way have they diverted a stream of
taels into their insatiable pockets? Far greater is the chance that
had Si-chow fallen many of its household goods would have found their
way into the Yamens of Canton. Assuredly in Li Keen you will have a
friend who will make many delicate allusions to your ancestors when
you meet, and yet one who will float many barbed whispers to follow
you when you have passed; for you have planted shame before him in the
eyes of those who would otherwise neither have eyes to see nor tongues
to discuss the matter. It is for such a reason that this person
distrusts all things connected with the journey, except your
constancy, oh, my true and strong one."

"Such faithfulness would alone be sufficient to assure my safe return
if the matter were properly represented to the supreme Deities," said
Ling. "Let not the thin curtain of bitter water stand before your
lustrous eyes any longer, then, the events which have followed one
another in the past few days in a fashion that can only be likened to
thunder following lightning are indeed sufficient to distress one with
so refined and swan-like an organization, but they are now assuredly
at an end."

"It is a hope of daily recurrence to this person," replied Mian,
honourably endeavouring to restrain the emotion which openly exhibited
itself in her eyes; "for what maiden would not rather make successful
offerings to the Great Mother Kum-Fa than have the most imposing and
verbose Triumphal Arch erected to commemorate an empty and
unsatisfying constancy?"

In this amiable manner the matter was arranged between Ling and Mian,
as they sat together in the magician's garden drinking peach-tea,
which the two attendants--not without discriminating and significant
expressions between themselves--brought to them from time to time.
Here Ling made clear the whole manner of his life from his earliest
memory to the time when he fell in dignified combat, nor did Mian
withhold anything, explaining in particular such charms and spells of
the magician as she had knowledge of, and in this graceful manner
materially assisting her lover in the many disagreeable encounters and
conflicts which he was shortly to experience.

It was with even more objectionable feelings than before that Ling now
contemplated his journey to Canton, involving as it did the separation
from one who had become as the shadow of his existence, and by whose
side he had an undoubted claim to stand. Yet the necessity of the
undertaking was no less than before, and the full possession of all
his natural powers took away his only excuse for delaying in the
matter. Without any pleasurable anticipations, therefore, he consulted
the Sacred Flat and Round Sticks, and learning that the following day
would be propitious for the journey, he arranged to set out in
accordance with the omen.

When the final moment arrived at which the invisible threads of
constantly passing emotions from one to the other must be broken, and
when Mian perceived that her lover's horse was restrained at the door
by the two attendants, who with unsuspected delicacy of feeling had
taken this opportunity of withdrawing, the noble endurance which had
hitherto upheld her melted away, and she became involved in very
melancholy and obscure meditations until she observed that Ling also
was quickly becoming affected by a similar gloom.

"Alas!" she exclaimed, "how unworthy a person I am thus to impose upon
my lord a greater burden than that which already weighs him down!
Rather ought this one to dwell upon the happiness of that day, when,
after successfully evading or overthrowing the numerous bands of
assassins which infest the road from here to Canton, and after
escaping or recovering from the many deadly pestilences which
invariably reduce that city at this season of the year, he shall
triumphantly return. Assuredly there is a highly-polished surface
united to every action in life, no matter how funereal it may at first
appear. Indeed, there are many incidents compared with which death
itself is welcome, and to this end Mian has reserved a farewell gift."

Speaking in this manner the devoted and magnanimous maiden placed in
Ling's hands the transparent vessel of liquid which the magician had
grasped when he fell. "This person," she continued, speaking with
difficulty, "places her lover's welfare incomparably before her own
happiness, and should he ever find himself in a situation which is
unendurably oppressive, and from which death is the only escape--such
as inevitable tortures, the infliction of violent madness, or the
subjection by magic to the will of some designing woman--she begs him
to accept this means of freeing himself without regarding her anguish
beyond expressing a clearly defined last wish that the two persons in
question may be in the end happily reunited in another existence."

Assured by this last evidence of affection, Ling felt that he had no
longer any reason for internal heaviness; his spirits were
immeasurably raised by the fragrant incense of Mian's great devotion,
and under its influence he was even able to breathe towards her a few
words of similar comfort as he left the spot and began his journey.


                                  IX

On entering Canton, which he successfully accomplished without any
unpleasant adventure, the marked absence of any dignified ostentation
which had been accountable for many of Ling's misfortunes in the past,
impelled him again to reside in the same insignificant apartment that
he had occupied when he first visited the city as an unknown and
unimportant candidate. In consequence of this, when Ling was
communicating to any person the signs by which messengers might find
him, he was compelled to add, "the neighbourhood in which this
contemptible person resides is that officially known as 'the mean
quarter favoured by the lower class of those who murder by
treachery,'" and for this reason he was not always treated with the
regard to which his attainments entitled him, or which he would have
unquestionably received had he been able to describe himself as of
"the partly-drained and uninfected area reserved to Mandarins and
their friends."

It was with an ignoble feeling of mental distress that Ling exhibited
himself at the Chief Office of Warlike Deeds and Arrangements on the
following day; for the many disadvantageous incidents of his past life
had repeated themselves before his eyes while he slept, and the not
unhopeful emotions which he had felt when in the inspiring presence of
Mian were now altogether absent. In spite of the fact that he reached
the office during the early gong strokes of the morning, it was not
until the withdrawal of light that he reached any person who was in a
position to speak with him on the matter, so numerous were the lesser
ones through whose chambers he had to pass in the process. At length
he found himself in the presence of an upper one who had the
appearance of being acquainted with the circumstances, and who
received him with dignity, though not with any embarrassing exhibition
of respect or servility.

"'The hero of the illustrious encounter beyond the walls of Si-chow,'"
exclaimed that official, reading the words from the tablet of
introduction which Ling had caused to be carried into him, and at the
same time examining the person in question closely. "Indeed, no such
one is known to those within this office, unless the words chance to
point to the courteous and unassuming Mandarin Li Keen, who, however,
is at this moment recovering his health at Peking, as set forth in the
amiable and impartial report which we have lately received from him."

At these words Ling plainly understood that there was little hope of
the last events becoming profitable on his account.

"Did not the report to which allusion has been made bear reference to
one Ling, Commander of the Archers, who thrice led on the fighting
men, and who was finally successful in causing the rebels to disperse
towards the mountains?" he asked, in a voice which somewhat trembled.

"There is certainly reference to one of the name you mention," said
the other; "but regarding the terms--perhaps this person would better
protect his own estimable time by displaying the report within your
sight."

With these words the upper one struck a gong several times, and after
receiving from an inner chamber the parchment in question, he placed
it before Ling, at the same time directing a lesser one to interpose
between it and the one who read it a large sheet of transparent
substance, so that destruction might not come to it, no matter in what
way its contents affected the reader. Thereon Ling perceived the
following facts, very skilfully inscribed with the evident purpose of
inducing persons to believe, without question, that words so elegantly
traced must of necessity be truthful also.

  A Benevolent Example of the Intelligent Arrangement by which the
  most Worthy Persons outlive those who are Incapable.

  The circumstances connected with the office of the valuable and
  accomplished Mandarin of Warlike Deeds and Arrangements at Si-chow
  have, in recent times, been of anything but a prepossessing order.
  Owing to the very inadequate methods adopted by those who earn a
  livelihood by conveying necessities from the more enlightened
  portions of the Empire to that place, it so came about that for a
  period of five days the Yamen was entirely unsupplied with the
  fins of sharks or even with goats' eyes. To add to the polished
  Mandarin's distress of mind the barbarous and slow-witted rebels
  who infest those parts took this opportunity to destroy the town
  and most of its inhabitants, the matter coming about as follows:

  The feeble and commonplace person named Ling who commands the
  bowmen had but recently been elevated to that distinguished
  position from a menial and degraded occupation (for which, indeed,
  his stunted intellect more aptly fitted him); and being in
  consequence very greatly puffed out in self-gratification, he
  became an easy prey to the cunning of the rebels, and allowed
  himself to be beguiled into a trap, paying for this contemptible
  stupidity with his life. The town of Si-chow was then attacked,
  and being in this manner left defenceless through the weakness--or
  treachery--of the person Ling, who had contrived to encompass the
  entire destruction of his unyielding company, it fell after a
  determined and irreproachable resistance; the Mandarin Li Keen
  being told, as, covered with the blood of the foemen, he was
  dragged away from the thickest part of the unequal conflict by his
  followers, that he was the last person to leave the town. On his
  way to Peking with news of this valiant defence, the Mandarin was
  joined by the Chief of Bowmen, who had understood and avoided the
  very obvious snare into which the stagnant-minded Commander had
  led his followers, in spite of disinterested advice to the
  contrary. For this intelligent perception, and for general
  nobility of conduct when in battle, the versatile Chief of Bowmen
  is by this written paper strongly recommended to the dignity of
  receiving the small metal Embellishment of Valour.

  It has been suggested to the Mandarin Li Keen that the bestowal of
  the Crystal Button would only be a fit and graceful reward for his
  indefatigable efforts to uphold the dignity of the sublime
  Emperor; but to all such persons the Mandarin has sternly replied
  that such a proposal would more fitly originate from the renowned
  and valuable Office of Warlike Deeds and Arrangements, he well
  knowing that the wise and engaging persons who conduct that
  indispensable and well-regulated department are gracefully
  voracious in their efforts to reward merit, even when it is
  displayed, as in the case in question, by one who from his
  position will inevitably soon be urgently petitioning in a like
  manner on their behalf.

When Ling had finished reading this elegantly arranged but exceedingly
misleading parchment, he looked up with eyes from which he vainly
endeavoured to restrain the signs of undignified emotion, and said to
the upper one:

"It is difficult employment for a person to refrain from unendurable
thoughts when his unassuming and really conscientious efforts are
represented in a spirit of no satisfaction, yet in this matter the
very expert Li Keen appears to have gone beyond himself; the Commander
Ling, who is herein represented as being slain by the enemy, is,
indeed, the person who is standing before you, and all the other
statements are in a like exactness."

"The short-sighted individual who for some hidden desire of his own is
endeavouring to present himself as the corrupt and degraded creature
Ling, has overlooked one important circumstance," said the upper one,
smiling in a very intolerable manner, at the same time causing his
head to move slightly from side to side in the fashion of one who
rebukes with assumed geniality; and, turning over the written paper,
he displayed upon the under side the Imperial vermilion Sign.
"Perhaps," he continued, "the omniscient person will still continue in
his remarks, even with the evidence of the Emperor's unerring pencil
to refute him."

At these words and the undoubted testimony of the red mark, which
plainly declared the whole of the written matter to be composed of
truth, no matter what might afterwards transpire, Ling understood that
very little prosperity remained with him.

"But the town of Si-chow," he suggested, after examining his mind; "if
any person in authority visited the place, he would inevitably find it
standing and its inhabitants in agreeable health."

"The persistent person who is so assiduously occupying my intellectual
moments with empty words seems to be unaccountably deficient in his
knowledge of the customs of refined society and of the meaning of the
Imperial Signet," said the other, with an entire absence of benevolent
consideration. "That Si-chow has fallen and that Ling is dead are two
utterly uncontroversial matters truthfully recorded. If a person
visited Si-chow, he might find it rebuilt or even inhabited by those
from the neighbouring villages or by evil spirits taking the forms of
the ones who formerly lived there; as in a like manner, Ling might be
restored to existence by magic, or his body might be found and
possessed by an outcast demon who desired to revisit the earth for a
period. Such circumstances do not in any way disturb the announcement
that Si-chow has without question fallen, and that Ling has officially
ceased to live, of which events notifications have been sent to all
who are concerned in the matters."

As the upper one ceased speaking, four strokes sounded upon the gong,
and Ling immediately found himself carried into the street by the
current of both lesser and upper ones who poured forth at the signal.
The termination of this conversation left Ling in a more unenviable
state of dejection than any of the many preceding misfortunes had
done, for with enlarged inducements to possess himself of a competent
appointment he seemed to be even further removed from this attainment
than he had been at any time in his life. He might, indeed, present
himself again for the public examinations; but in order to do even
that it would be necessary for him to wait almost a year, nor could he
assure himself that his efforts would again be likely to result in an
equal success. Doubts also arose within his mind of the course which
he should follow in such a case; whether to adopt a new name,
involving as it would certain humiliation and perhaps disgrace if
detection overtook his footsteps, or still to possess the title of one
who was in a measure dead, and hazard the likelihood of having any
prosperity which he might obtain reduced to nothing if the fact should
become public.

As Ling reflected upon such details he found himself without intention
before the house of a wise person who had become very wealthy by
advising others on all matters, but chiefly on those connected with
strange occurrences and such events as could not be settled definitely
either one way or the other until a remote period had been reached.
Becoming assailed by a curious desire to know what manner of evils
particularly attached themselves to such as were officially dead but
who nevertheless had an ordinary existence, Ling placed himself before
this person, and after arranging the manner of reward related to him
so many of the circumstances as were necessary to enable a full
understanding to be reached, but at the same time in no way betraying
his own interest in the matter.

"Such inflictions are to no degree frequent," said the wise person
after he had consulted a polished sphere of the finest red jade for
some time; "and this is in a measure to be regretted, as the hair of
these persons--provided they die a violent death, which is invariably
the case--constitutes a certain protection against being struck by
falling stars, or becoming involved in unsuccessful law cases. The
persons in question can be recognized with certainty in the public
ways by the unnatural pallor of their faces and by the general
repulsiveness of their appearance, but as they soon take refuge in
suicide, unless they have the fortune to be removed previously by
accident, it is an infrequent matter that one is gratified by the
sight. During their existence they are subject to many disorders from
which the generality of human beings are benevolently preserved; they
possess no rights of any kind, and if by any chance they are detected
in an act of a seemingly depraved nature, they are liable to judgment
at the hands of the passers-by without any form whatever, and to
punishment of a more severe order than that administered to
commonplace criminals. There are many other disadvantages affecting
such persons when they reach the Middle Air, of which the chief--"

"This person is immeasurably indebted for such a clear explanation of
the position," interrupted Ling, who had a feeling of not desiring to
penetrate further into the detail; "but as he perceives a line of
anxious ones eagerly waiting at the door to obtain advice and
consolation from so expert and amiable a wizard, he will not make
himself uncongenial any longer with his very feeble topics of
conversation."

By this time Ling plainly comprehended that he had been marked out
from the beginning--perhaps for all the knowledge which he had to the
opposite effect, from a period in the life of a far-removed ancestor--
to be an object of marked derision and the victim of all manner of
malevolent demons in whatever actions he undertook. In this condition
of understanding his mind turned gratefully to the parting gift of
Mian whom he had now no hope of possessing; for the intolerable
thought of uniting her to so objectionable a being as himself would
have been dismissed as utterly inelegant even had he been in a manner
of living to provide for her adequately, which itself seemed clearly
impossible. Disregarding all similar emotions, therefore, he walked
without pausing to his abode, and stretching his body upon the rushes,
drank the entire liquid unhesitatingly, and prepared to pass beyond
with a tranquil mind entirely given up to thoughts and images of Mian.


                                  X

Upon a certain occasion, the particulars of which have already been
recorded, Ling had judged himself to have passed into the form of a
spirit on beholding the ethereal form of Mian bending over him. After
swallowing the entire liquid, which had cost the dead magician so much
to distil and make perfect, it was with a well-assured determination
of never again awakening that he lost the outward senses and floated
in the Middle Air, so that when his eyes next opened upon what seemed
to be the bare walls of his own chamber, his first thought was a
natural conviction that the matter had been so arranged either out of
a charitable desire that he should not be overcome by a too sudden
transition to unparalleled splendour, or that such a reception was the
outcome of some dignified jest on the part of certain lesser and more
cheerful spirits. After waiting in one position for several hours,
however, and receiving no summons or manifestation of a celestial
nature, he began to doubt the qualities of the liquid, and applying
certain tests, he soon ascertained that he was still in the lower
world and unharmed. Nevertheless, this circumstance did not tend in
any way to depress his mind, for, doubtless owing to some hidden
virtue of the fluid, he felt an enjoyable emotion that he still lived;
all his attributes appeared to be purified, and he experienced an
inspired certainty of feeling that an illustrious and highly-
remunerative future lay before one who still had an ordinary existence
after being both officially killed and self-poisoned.

In this intelligent disposition thoughts of Mian recurred to him with
unreproved persistence, and in order to convey to her an account of
the various matters which had engaged him since his arrival at the
city, and a well-considered declaration of the unchanged state of his
own feelings towards her, he composed and despatched with impetuous
haste the following delicate verses:

                              CONSTANCY

  About the walls and gates of Canton
  Are many pleasing and entertaining maidens;
  Indeed, in the eyes of their friends and of the passers-by
  Some of them are exceptionally adorable.
  The person who is inscribing these lines, however,
  Sees before him, as it were, an assemblage of deformed and
    un-prepossessing hags,
  Venerable in age and inconsiderable in appearance;
  For the dignified and majestic image of Mian is ever before him,
  Making all others very inferior.

  Within the houses and streets of Canton
  Hang many bright lanterns.
  The ordinary person who has occasion to walk by night
  Professes to find them highly lustrous.
  But there is one who thinks contrary facts,
  And when he goes forth he carries two long curved poles
  To prevent him from stumbling among the dark and hidden places;
  For he has gazed into the brilliant and pellucid orbs of Mian,
  And all other lights are dull and practically opaque.

  In various parts of the literary quarter of Canton
  Reside such as spend their time in inward contemplation.
  In spite of their generally uninviting exteriors
  Their reflexions are often of a very profound order.
  Yet the unpopular and persistently-abused Ling
  Would unhesitatingly prefer his own thoughts to theirs,
  For what makes this person's thoughts far more pleasing
  Is that they are invariably connected with the virtuous and
    ornamental Mian.

Becoming very amiably disposed after this agreeable occupation, Ling
surveyed himself at the disc of polished metal, and observed with
surprise and shame the rough and uninviting condition of his person.
He had, indeed, although it was not until some time later that he
became aware of the circumstance, slept for five days without
interruption, and it need not therefore be a matter of wonder or of
reproach to him that his smooth surfaces had become covered with short
hair. Reviling himself bitterly for the appearance which he conceived
he must have exhibited when he conducted his business, and to which he
now in part attributed his ill-success, Ling went forth without delay,
and quickly discovering one of those who remove hair publicly for a
very small sum, he placed himself in the chair, and directed that his
face, arms, and legs should be denuded after the manner affected by
the ones who make a practice of observing the most recent customs.

"Did the illustrious individual who is now conferring distinction on
this really worn-out chair by occupying it express himself in favour
of having the face entirely denuded?" demanded the one who conducted
the operation; for these persons have become famous for their elegant
and persistent ability to discourse, and frequently assume ignorance
in order that they themselves may make reply, and not for the purpose
of gaining knowledge. "Now, in the objectionable opinion of this
unintelligent person, who has a presumptuous habit of offering his
very undesirable advice, a slight covering on the upper lip,
delicately arranged and somewhat fiercely pointed at the extremities,
would bestow an appearance of--how shall this illiterate person
explain himself?--dignity?--matured reflexion?--doubtless the
accomplished nobleman before me will understand what is intended with
a more knife-like accuracy than this person can describe it--but
confer that highly desirable effect upon the face of which at present
it is entirely destitute . . . 'Entirely denuded?' Then without fail
it shall certainly be so, O incomparable personage . . . Does the
versatile Mandarin now present profess any concern as to the condition
of the rice plants? . . . Indeed, the remark is an inspired one; the
subject is totally devoid of interest to a person of intelligence
. . . A remarkable and gravity-removing event transpired within the
notice of this unassuming person recently. A discriminating individual
had purchased from him a portion of his justly renowned Thrice-
extracted Essence of Celestial Herb Oil--a preparation which in this
experienced person's opinion, indeed, would greatly relieve the
undoubted afflictions from which the one before him is evidently
suffering--when after once anointing himself--"

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                  XI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                 XII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                 XIII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                 XIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                  XV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  *       *       *       *       *

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

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

                     THE END OF THE STORY OF LING


                                 XVI

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

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

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

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



                              CHAPTER II

                       THE STORY OF YUNG CHANG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

             "'BEWARE OF INCURRING DEATH FROM STARVATION

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

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

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

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

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

"'In what way?' inquired Yung tremulously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                          "NO WAITING HERE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



                             CHAPTER III

                      THE PROBATION OF SEN HENG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"At the end of seven days Sen returned to King-y-Yang, and although
entirely without money, even to the extent of being unable to provide
himself with the merest necessities of a frugal existence, he
honourably returned the full number of ducks with which he had set
out. It then became evident that although Sen had diligently perfected
himself in the sounds and movements which King-y-Yang had contrived,
he had not fully understood that they were to be executed stealthily,
but had, in consequence, manifested the accomplishment openly, not
unreasonably supposing that such an exhibition would be an additional
inducement to those who appeared to be well-disposed towards the
purchase. From this cause it came about that although large crowds
were attracted by Sen's manner of conducting the enterprise, none
actually engaged to purchase even the least expensively-valued of the
ducks, although several publicly complimented Sen on his exceptional
proficiency, and repeatedly urged him to louder and more frequent
cries, suggesting that by such means possible buyers might be
attracted to the spot from remote and inaccessible villages in the
neighbourhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




                              CHAPTER IV

               THE EXPERIMENT OF THE MANDARIN CHAN HUNG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



                              CHAPTER V

                      THE CONFESSION OF KAI LUNG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



                              CHAPTER VI

                      THE VENGEANCE OF TUNG FEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           "TO THE CUSTOM-RESPECTING PERSONS OF CHING-FOW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

                         "THE TIME IS COME!
                           BY WHOSE HAND?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 drew 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
mountains."

"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
gifts?"

"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.



                             CHAPTER VII

              THE CAREER OF THE CHARITABLE QUEN-KI-TONG


                  FIRST PERIOD: THE PUBLIC OFFICIAL

"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 many 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
ears.'

"'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.


                  SECOND PERIOD: THE TEMPLE BUILDER

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
intention.'

"'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
it.'

"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 preserved 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
Quen-Ki-Tong?'

"'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
side.

"'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
interest?'

"'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.'

           "VERSES COMPOSED BY A MUSICIAN OF LU-KWO, ON THE
                 OCCASION OF THE WEDDING CEREMONY OF
                           LIAO AND TS'AIN

  "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."



                             CHAPTER VIII

               THE VISION OF YIN, THE SON OF YAT HUANG

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
accomplishments.

"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
undertaking.

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
outbursts.

"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
energy.

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
burned.

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
spoke.

"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
Tsin-Su-Hoang."

"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
speak.

"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
spirits.



                              CHAPTER IX

       THE ILL-REGULATED DESTINY OF KIN YEN, THE PICTURE-MAKER

  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
beginning.

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
condition.

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
sunset."

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
knife.

"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 withdrew 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
personality?"

"Judge for yourself," this person said, "first understanding that the
two immaculate characters figuring as the personages of the narrative
are exact copies of this dishonoured person himself and of the willowy
Tien, daughter of the vastly rich Pe-li-Chen, whom he was hopeful of
marrying."

Selecting one of the least offensive of the passages in the work, this
unhappy person read the following immature and inelegant words:

"This well-satisfied writer of printed leaves had a
highly-distinguished time last night. After Chow had departed to see
about food, and the junk had been fastened up at the lock of Kilung,
on the Yang-tse-Kiang, he and the round-bodied Shang were journeying
along the narrow path by the river-side when the right leg of the
graceful and popular person who is narrating these events disappeared
into the river. Suffering no apprehension in the dark, but that the
vanishing limb was the left leg of Shang, this intelligent writer
allowed his impassiveness to melt away to an exaggerated degree; but
at that moment the circumstance became plain to the round-bodied
Shang, who was in consequence very grossly amused at the mishap and
misapprehension of your good lord, the writer, at the same time
pointing out the matter as it really was. Then it chanced that there
came by one of the maidens who carry tea and jest for small sums of
money to the sitters at the little tables with round white tops, at
which this remarkable person, the confidant of many mandarins, ever
desirous of displaying his priceless power of removing gravity, said
to her:

"'How much of gladness, Ning-Ning? By the Sacred Serpent this is
plainly your night out.'

"Perceiving the true facts of the predicament of this commendable
writer, she replied:

"'Suffer not your illustrious pigtail to be removed, venerable Wang;
for in this maiden's estimation it is indeed your night in.'

"There are times when this valued person wonders whether his method of
removing gravity be in reality very antique or quite new. On such
occasions the world, with all its schools, and those who interfere in
the concerns of others, continues to revolve around him. The wondrous
sky-lanterns come out silently two by two like to the crystallized
music of stringed woods. Then, in the mystery of no-noise, his head
becomes greatly enlarged with celestial and highly-profound thoughts;
his groping hand seems to touch matter which may be written out in his
impressive style and sold to those who print leaves, and he goes home
to write out such."

When this person looked up after reading, with tears of shame in his
eyes, he perceived that the lesser one had cautiously disappeared.
Therefore, being unable to gain admittance to the inner office, he
returned to his home.

Here the remark of the omniscient Tai Loo again fixes itself upon the
attention. No sooner had this incapable person reached his house than
he became aware that a parcel had arrived for him from the still
adorable Tien. Retiring to a distance from it, he opened the
accompanying letter and read:

"When a virtuous maiden has been made the victim of a heartless jest
or a piece of coarse stupidity at a person's hands, it is no uncommon
thing for him to be struck blind on meeting her father. Therefore, if
the degraded and evil-minded Kin Yen values his eyes, ears, nose,
pigtail, even his dishonourable breath, let him hide himself behind a
fortified wall at Pe-li-Chen's approach.

"With this Tien returns everything she has ever accepted from Kin Yen.
She even includes the brace of puppies which she received anonymously
about a month ago, and which she did not eat, but kept for reasons of
her own--reasons entirely unconnected with the vapid and exceedingly
conceited Kin Yen."

As though this letter, and the puppies of which this person now heard
for the first time, making him aware of the existence of a rival
lover, were not enough, there almost immediately arrived a letter from
Tien's father:

"This person has taken the advice of those skilled in extorting money
by means of law forms, and he finds that Kin Yen has been guilty of a
grave and highly expensive act. This is increased by the fact that
Tien had conveyed his seemingly distinguished intentions to all her
friends, before whom she now stands in an exceedingly ungraceful
attitude. The machinery for depriving Kin Yen of all the necessaries
of existence shall be put into operation at once."

At this point, the person who is now concluding his obscure and
commonplace history, having spent his last piece of money on
joss-sticks and incense-paper, and being convinced of the presence of
the spirits of his ancestors, is inspired to make the following
prophecies: That Tieng Lin, who imposed upon him in the matter of
picture-making, shall come to a sudden end, accompanied by great
internal pains, after suffering extreme poverty; that the one who sits
in an easy-chair, together with his lesser one and all who make
stories for them, shall, while sailing to a rice feast during the
Festival of Flowers, be precipitated into the water and slowly
devoured by sea monsters, Klan-hi in particular being tortured in the
process; that Pel-li-Chen, the father of Tien, shall be seized with
the dancing sickness when in the presence of the august Emperor, and
being in consequence suspected of treachery, shall, to prove the truth
of his denials, be submitted to the tests of boiling tar, red-hot
swords, and of being dropped from a great height on to the Sacred
Stone of Goodness and Badness, in each of which he shall fail to
convince his judges or to establish his innocence, to the amusement of
all beholders.

These are the true words of Kin Yen, the picture-maker, who, having
unweighed his mind and exposed the avaricious villainy of certain
persons, is now retiring by night to a very select and hidden spot in
the Khingan Mountains.



End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Wallet of Kai Lung, by Bramah


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