Those who found his body, not being able to withdraw so formidable a weight direct, cast a rope across the lower branch of a convenient willow-tree and thus raised it to the shore. In this striking manner Fa Fai’s definite opinion achieved a destined end.
The Degraded Persistence of the Effete Ming-shu
At about the same gong-stroke as before, Kai Lung again stood at the open shutter, and to him presently came the maiden Hwa-mei, bearing in her hands a gift of fruit.
“The story of the much-harassed merchant Wong Ts’in and of the assiduous youth Wei Chang has reached this person’s ears by a devious road, and though it doubtless lost some of the subtler qualities in the telling, the ultimate tragedy had a convincing tone,” she remarked pleasantly.
“It is scarcely to be expected that one who has spent his life beneath an official umbrella should have at his command the finer analogies of light and shade,” tolerantly replied Kai Lung. “Though by no means comparable with the unapproachable history of the Princess Taik and the minstrel Ch’eng as a means for conveying the unexpressed aspirations of the one who relates towards the one who is receptive, there are many passages even in the behaviour of Wei Chang into which this person could infuse an unmistakable stress of significance were he but given the opportunity.”
“The day of that opportunity has not yet dawned,” replied the Golden Mouse; “nor has the night preceding it yet run its gloomy course. Foiled in his first attempt, the vindictive Ming-shu now creeps towards his end by a more tortuous path. Whether or not dimly suspecting something of the strategy by which your imperishable life was preserved to-day, it is no part of his depraved scheme that you should be given a like opportunity again. To-morrow another will be led to judgment, one Cho-kow, a tribesman of the barbarian land of Khim.”
“With him I have already conversed and shared rice,” interposed Kai Lung. “Proceed, elegance.”
“Accused of plundering mountain tombs and of other crimes now held in disrepute, he will be offered a comparatively painless death if he will implicate his fellows, of whom you will be held to be the chief. By this ignoble artifice you will be condemned on his testimony in your absence, nor will you have any warning of your fate until you are led forth to suffer.”
Then replied Kai Lung, after a space of thought: “Not ineptly is it written: ’When the leading carriage is upset the next one is more careful,’ and Ming-shu has taken the proverb to his heart. To counteract his detestable plot will not be easy, but it should not be beyond our united power, backed by a reasonable activity on the part of our protecting ancestors.”
“The devotional side of the emergency has had this one’s early care,” remarked Hwa-mei. “From daybreak to-morrow six zealous and deep-throated monks will curse Ming-shu and all his ways unceasingly, while a like number will invoke blessings and success upon your enlightened head. In the matter of noise and illumination everything that can contribute has been suitably prepared.”