“‘Chan Hung,’ he said at length, ’in the past events arose which compelled this person to place himself against you in your official position. Nevertheless, he has always maintained towards you personally an unchanging affection, and understanding full well that you are one of those who maintain their spoken word in spite of all happenings, he has now come to exhibit the taels which he has collected together, and to claim the fulfilment of your deliberate promise.’
“With these words the commonplace picture-maker poured forth the contents of the sacks, and stood looking at Lila in a most confident and unprepossessing manner.
“‘Pe-tsing,’ replied Chan Hung, rising from his couch and speaking in so severe and impressive a voice that the two servants of Pe-tsing at once fled in great apprehension, ’this person has also found it necessary, in his official position, to oppose you; but here the similarity ends, for, on his part, he has never felt towards you the remotest degree of affection. Nevertheless, he is always desirous, as you say, that persons should regard their spoken word, and as you seem to hold a promise from the Chief Mandarin of Fow Hou regarding marriage-gifts towards his daughter, he would advise you to go at once to that person. A misunderstanding has evidently arisen, for the one whom you are addressing is merely Chan Hung, and the words spoken by the Mandarin have no sort of interest for him—indeed, he understands that all that person’s acts have been reversed, so that he fails to see how anyone at all can regard you and your claim in other than a gravity-removing light. Furthermore, the maiden in question is now definitely and irretrievably pledged to this faithful and successful one by my side, who, as you will doubtless be gracefully overjoyed to learn, has recently disposed of a most ingenious and diverting contrivance for an enormous number of taels, so many, indeed, that both the immediate and the far-distant future of all the persons who are here before you are now in no sort of doubt whatever.’
“At these words the three persons whom he had interrupted again turned their attention to the matter before them; but as Pe-tsing walked away, he observed, though he failed to understand the meaning, that they all raised certain objects to their eyes, and at once became amused to a most striking and uncontrollable degree.”
The confession of Kai Lung
Related by himself at Wu-whei when other matter failed him.
As Kai Lung, the story-teller, unrolled his mat and selected, with grave deliberation, the spot under the mulberry-tree which would the longest remain sheltered from the sun’s rays, his impassive eye wandered round the thin circle of listeners who had been drawn together by his uplifted voice, with a glance which, had it expressed his actual thoughts, would have betrayed a keen desire that the assembly should be composed of strangers rather than of his most consistent patrons, to whom his stock of tales was indeed becoming embarrassingly familiar. Nevertheless, when he began there was nothing in his voice but a trace of insufficiently restrained triumph, such as might be fitly assumed by one who has discovered and makes known for the first time a story by the renowned historian Lo Cha.