The Wallet of Kai Lung
Ernest Bramah

Part 1 out of 5

By Ernest Bramah

Etext prepared by John Bickers,



"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 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 nor 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

"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."


"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."


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

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

"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

"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.


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 he 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

"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

"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

"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."


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-how.

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 let 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 our 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."


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

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

"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

"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
judgement 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.


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.


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


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

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

"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

"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.


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

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

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 judgement
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

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 the 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.


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:


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
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


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