The Wallet of Kai Lung
Ernest Bramah

Part 5 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernest Bramah, of whom in his lifetime Who's
Who had so little to say, was born in
Manchester. At seventeen he chose farming as a
profession, but after three years of losing
money gave it up to go into journalism. He
started as correspondent on a typical
provincial paper, then went to London as
secretary to Jerome K. Jerome, and worked
himself into the editorial side of Jerome's
magazine, To-day, where he got the opportunity
of meeting the most important literary figures
of the day. But he soon left To-day to join a
new publishing firm, as editor of a
publication called The Minister; finally,
after two years of this, he turned to writing
as his full-time occupation. He was intensely
interested in coins and published a book on
the English regal copper coinage. He is,
however, best known as the creator of the
charming character Kai Lung who appears in Kai
Lung Unrolls His Mat, Kai Lung's Golden Hours,
The Wallet of Kai Lung, Kai Lung Beneath the
Mulberry Tree, The Mirror of Kong Ho, and The
Moon of Much Gladness; he also wrote two one-
act plays which are often performed at London
variety theatres, and many stories and articles
in leading periodicals. He died in 1942.


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