The Out-passing into a State
of Assured Felicity of the
Much-enduring Two With Whom These Printed Leaves
Have Chiefly Been Concerned
Although it was towards sunset, the heat of the day still hung above the dusty earth-road, and two who tarried within the shadow of an ancient arch were loath to resume their way. They had walked far, for the uncertain steed, having revealed a too contentious nature, had been disposed of in distant Tai to an honest stranger who freely explained the imperfection of its ignoble outline.
“Let us remain another space of time,” pleaded Hwa-mei reposefully, “and as without your all-embracing art the course of events would undoubtedly have terminated very differently from what it has, will you not, out of an emotion of gratitude, relate a story for my ear alone, weaving into it the substance of this ancient arch whose shade proves our rest?”
“Your wish is the crown of my attainment, unearthly one,” replied Kai Lung, preparing to obey. “This concerns the story of Ten-teh, whose name adorns the keystone of the fabric.”
The Story of the Loyalty
of Ten-teh, the Fisherman
“Devotion to the Emperor—”
The Five Great Principles
The reign of the enlightened Emperor Tung Kwei had closed amid scenes of treachery and lust, and in his perfidiously-spilled blood was extinguished the last pale hope of those faithful to his line. His only son was a nameless fugitive—by ceaseless report already Passed Beyond—his party scattered and crushed out like the sparks from his blackened Capital, while nothing that men thought dare pass their lips. The usurper Fuh-chi sat upon the dragon throne and spake with the voice of brass cymbals and echoing drums, his right hand shedding blood and his left hand spreading fire. To raise an eye before him was to ape with death, and a whisper in the outer ways foreran swift torture. With harrows he uprooted the land until no household could gather round its ancestral tablets, and with marble rollers he flattened it until none dare lift his head. For the body of each one who had opposed his ambition there was offered an equal weight of fine silver, and upon the head of the child-prince was set the reward of ten times his weight in pure gold. Yet in noisome swamps and forests, hidden in caves, lying on desolate islands, and concealing themselves in every kind of solitary place were those who daily prostrated themselves to the memory of Tung Kwei and by a sign acknowledged the authority of his infant son Kwo Kam. In the Crystal City there was a great roar of violence and drunken song, and men and women lapped from deep lakes filled up with wine; but the ricesacks of the poor had long been turned out and shaken for a little dust; their eyes were closing and in their hearts they were as powder between the mill-stones. On the north and the west the barbarians had begun to press forward in resistless waves, and from The Island to The Beak pirates laid waste the coast.