“‘Alas!’ exclaimed the Emperor, in a tone which plainly indicated that the evasive Shan-se had adopted a course which did not commend itself, ’how unendurable a condition of affairs is it for a person of acute mental perception to be annoyed by the inopportune behaviour of one who is only fit to mix on terms of equality with beggars, and low-caste street cleaners—’
“’Such a condition of affairs is indeed most offensively unbearable, illustrious Being,’ remarked Shan-se, who clearly perceived that his former silence had not been productive of a delicate state of feeling towards himself.
“‘It has frequently been said,’ continued the courteous and pure-minded Emperor, only signifying his refined displeasure at Shan-se’s really ill-considered observation by so arranging his position that the person in question on longer enjoyed the sublime distinction of gazing upon his benevolent face, ’that titles and offices have been accorded, from time to time, without any regard for the fitting qualifications of those to whom they were presented. The truth that such a state of things does occasionally exist has been brought before our eyes during the past few days by the abandoned and inefficient behaviour of one who will henceforth be a marked official; yet it has always been our endeavour to reward expert and unassuming merit, whenever it is discovered. As we were setting forth, when we were interrupted in a most obstinate and superfluous manner, the one who can guide and cultivate the minds of unthinking, and not infrequently obstinate and rapacious, insects would certainly enjoy an even greater measure of success if entrusted with the discriminating intellects of human beings. For this reason it appears that no more fitting person could be found to occupy the important and well-rewarded position of Chief Arranger of the Competitive Examinations than the one before us —provided his opinions and manner of expressing himself are such as commend themselves to us. To satisfy us on this point let Sen Heng now stand forth and declare his beliefs.’
“On this invitation Sen advanced the requisite number of paces, and not in any degree understanding what was required of him, determined that the occasion was one when he might fittingly declare the Five General Principles which were ever present in his mind. ’Unquestioning Fidelity to the Sacred Emperor—’ he began, when the person in question signified that the trial was over.
“’After so competent and inspired an expression as that which has just been uttered, which, if rightly considered, includes all lesser things, it is unnecessary to say more,’ he declared affably. ’The appointment which has already been specified is now declared to be legally conferred. The evening will be devoted to a repetition of the entrancing manoeuvres performed by the insects, to be followed by a feast and music in honour of the recognized worth and position of the accomplished Sen Heng. There is really no necessity for the apparently over-fatigued Shan-se to attend the festival.’