It was about the hour before dawn when Heng-cho appeared, bearing across his back a well-filled sack and carrying in his right hand a spade. His steps were turned towards the fig orchard of which Yan had spoken, so that he must pass Chou-hu’s house, but before he reached it Tsae-che had glided out and with loosened hair and trailing robes she sped along the street. Presently there came to Yuen Yan’s waiting ear a long-drawn cry and the sounds of many shutters being flung open and the tread of hurrying feet. The moments hung about him like the wings of a dragon-dream, but a prudent restraint chained him to the inner chamber.
It was fully light when Tsae-che returned, accompanied by one whom she dismissed before she entered. “Felicity,” she explained, placing before Yan a heavy bag of silver. “Your word has been accomplished.”
“It is sufficient,” replied Yan in a tone from which every tender modulation was absent, as he laid the silver by the side of the parchment which he had drawn up. “For what reason is the outer door now barred and they who drink tea with us prevented from entering to wish Yuen Yan prosperity?”
“Strange are my lord’s words, and the touch of his breath is cold to his menial one,” said the woman in doubting reproach.
“It will scarcely warm even the roots of Heng-cho’s fig-trees,” replied Yuen Yan with unveiled contempt. “Stretch across your hand.”
In trembling wonder Tsae-che laid her hand upon the ebony table which stood between them and slowly advanced it until Yan seized it and held it firmly in his own. For a moment he held it, compelling the woman to gaze with a soul-crushing dread into his face, then his features relaxed somewhat from the effort by which he had controlled them, and at the sight Tsae-che tore away her hand and with a scream which caused those outside to forget the memory of every other cry they had ever heard, she cast herself from the house and was seen in the city no more.
These are the pages of the forgotten incident in the life of Yuen Yan which this narrator has sought out and discovered. Elsewhere, in the lesser Classics, it may be read that the person in question afterwards lived to a venerable age and finally Passed Above surrounded by every luxury, after leading an existence consistently benevolent and marked by an even exceptional adherence to the principles and requirements of The Virtues.
Incredible Obtuseness of Those who had Opposed
the Virtuous Kai Lung
It was later than the appointed hour that same day when Kai Lung and Hwa-mei met about the shutter, for the Mandarin’s importunity had disturbed the harmonious balance of their fixed arrangement. As the story-teller left the inner chamber a message of understanding, veiled from those who stood around, had passed between their eyes, and so complete was the sympathy that now directed them that without a spoken word their plans were understood. Li-loe’s acquiescence had been secured by the bestowal of a flask of wine (provided already by Hwa-mei against such an emergency), and though the door-keeper had indicated reproach by a variety of sounds, he forbore from speaking openly of any vaster store.