“It is gran—inflicted,” agreed Shan Tien, with swift decision.
“The necessary edict may conveniently be drafted in the form of a safe-conduct for this person and all others of his band to a point beyond the confines of your jurisdiction—when the usually agile-witted Ming-shu can sufficiently shake off the benumbing torpor now assailing him so as to use his brush.”
“It is already begun, O virtuous harbinger of joy,” protested the dazed Ming-shu, overturning all the four precious implements in his passion to comply. “A mere breath of time—”
“Let it be signed, sealed and thumb-pressed at every available point of ambiguity,” enjoined Shan Tien.
“Having thus oppressed the vainglory of my self-willed mind, the presumption of this unworthy body must be subdued likewise. The burden of five hundred taels of silver should suffice. If not—”
“In the form of paper obligations, estimable Kai Lung, the same amount would go more conveniently within your scrip,” suggested the Mandarin hopefully.
“Not convenience, O Mandarin, but bodily exhaustion is the essence of my task,” reproved the story-teller.
“Yet consider the anguish of my internal pang, if thus encumbered, you sank spent by the wayside, and being thereby unable to withhold the message, you were called upon to endure a further ill.”
“That, indeed, is worthy of our thought,” confessed Kai Lung. “To this end I will further mortify myself by adventuring upon the uncertain apex of a trustworthy steed (a mode of progress new to my experience) until I enter Tai.”
“The swiftest and most reputable awaits your guiding hand,” replied Shan Tien.
“Let it be enticed forth into a quiet and discreet spot. In the interval, while the obliging Ming-shu plies an unfaltering brush, the task of weighing out my humiliating burden shall be ours.”
In an incredibly short space of time, being continually urged on by the flattering anxiety of Shan Tien (whose precipitancy at one point became so acute that he mistook fourscore taels for five), all things were prepared. With the inscribed parchment well within his sleeve and the bags of silver ranged about his body, Kai Lung approached the platform that had been raised to enable him to subdue the expectant animal.
“Once in the desired position, weighted down as you are, there is little danger of your becoming displaced,” remarked the Mandarin auspiciously.
“Your words are, as usual, many-sided in their wise application, benignity,” replied Kai Lung. “One thing only yet remains. It is apart from the expression of this one’s will, but as an act of justice to yourself and in order to complete the analogy—” And he indicated the direction of Ming-shu.
“Nevertheless you are agreeably understood,” declared Shan Tien, moving apart. “Farewell.”
As those who controlled the front part of the horse at this moment relaxed their tenacity, Kai Lung did not deem it prudent to reply, nor was he specifically observant of the things about. But a little later, while in the act of permitting the creature whose power he ruled to turn round for a last look at its former home, he saw that the unworthy no longer flourished. Ming-shu, with his own discarded cang around his vindictive neck, was being led off in the direction of the prison-house.