The vengeance of Tung Fel
For a period not to be measured by days or weeks the air of Ching-fow had been as unrestful as that of the locust plains beyond the Great Wall, for every speech which passed bore two faces, one fair to hear, as a greeting, but the other insidiously speaking behind a screen, of rebellion, violence, and the hope of overturning the fixed order of events. With those whom they did not mistrust of treachery persons spoke in low voices of definite plans, while at all times there might appear in prominent places of the city skilfully composed notices setting forth great wrongs and injustices towards which resignation and a lowly bearing were outwardly counselled, yet with the same words cunningly inflaming the minds, even of the patient, as no pouring out of passionate thoughts and undignified threatenings could have done. Among the people, unknown, unseen, and unsuspected, except to the proved ones to whom they desired to reveal themselves, moved the agents of the Three Societies. While to the many of Ching-fow nothing was desired or even thought of behind the downfall of their own officials, and, chief of all, the execution of the evil-minded and depraved Mandarin Ping Siang, whose cruelties and extortions had made his name an object of wide and deserved loathing, the agents only regarded the city as a bright spot in the line of blood and fire which they were fanning into life from Peking to Canton, and which would presumably burst forth and involve the entire Empire.
Although it had of late become a plain fact, by reason of the manner of behaving of the people, that events of a sudden and turbulent nature could not long be restrained, yet outwardly there was no exhibition of violence, not even to the length of resisting those whom Ping Siang sent to enforce his unjust demands, chiefly because a well-founded whisper had been sent round that nothing was to be done until Tung Fel should arrive, which would not be until the seventh day in the month of Winged Dragons. To this all persons agreed, for the more aged among them, who, by virtue of their years, were also the formers of opinion in all matters, called up within their memories certain events connected with the two persons in question which appeared to give to Tung Fel the privilege of expressing himself clearly when the matter of finally dealing with the malicious and self-willed Mandarin should be engaged upon.
Among the mountains which enclose Ching-fow on the southern side dwelt a jade-seeker, who also kept goats. Although a young man and entirely without relations, he had, by patient industry, contrived to collect together a large flock of the best-formed and most prolific goats to be found in the neighbourhood, all the money which he received in exchange for jade being quickly bartered again for the finest animals which he could obtain. He was dauntless in penetrating