“Such exhibitions of uncalled-for lavishness are merely the signs of an ill-regulated and inordinate vanity,” remarked a Mandarin of the eighth grade, who chanced to be passing, and who stopped to listen to Kai Lung’s words. “Nevertheless, it is not fitting that a collection of decaying hovels, which Wu-whei assuredly is, should, in however small a detail, appear to rise above Shan Tzu, so that if the versatile and unassuming Kai Lung will again honour this assembly by allowing his well-constructed bowl to pass freely to and fro, this obscure and otherwise entirely superfluous individual will make it his especial care that the brass of Wu-whei shall be answered with solid copper, and its debased pewter with doubly refined silver.”
With these encouraging words the very opportune Mandarin of the eighth grade himself followed the story-teller’s collecting-bowl, observing closely what each person contributed, so that, although he gave nothing from his own store, Kai Lung had never before received so honourable an amount.
“O illustrious Kai Lung,” exclaimed a very industrious and ill-clad herb-gatherer, who, in spite of his poverty, could not refrain from mingling with listeners whenever the story-teller appeared in Shan Tzu, “a single piece of brass money is to this person more than a block of solid gold to many of Wu-whei; yet he has twice made the customary offering, once freely, once because a courteous and pure-minded individual who possesses certain written papers of his connected with the repayment of some few taels walked behind the bowl and engaged his eyes with an unmistakable and very significant glance. This fact emboldens him to make the following petition: that in place of the not altogether unknown story of Yung Chang which had been announced the proficient and nimble-minded Kai Lung will entice our attention with the history of the Mandarin Chan Hung, to which reference has already been made.”
“The occasion is undoubtedly one which calls for recognition to an unusual degree,” replied Kai Lung with extreme affability. “To that end this person will accordingly narrate the story which has been suggested, notwithstanding the fact that it has been specially prepared for the ears of the sublime Emperor, who is at this moment awaiting this unseemly one’s arrival in Peking with every mark of ill-restrained impatience, tempered only by his expectation of being the first to hear the story of the well-meaning but somewhat premature Chan Hung.
“The Mandarin in question lived during the reign of the accomplished Emperor Tsint-Sin, his Yamen being at Fow Hou, in the Province of Shan-Tung, of which place he was consequently the chief official. In his conscientious desire to administer a pure and beneficent rule, he not infrequently made himself a very prominent object for public disregard, especially by his attempts to introduce untried things, when from time to time such matters arose within his mind