Thus bereft, Tian was on the point of giving way to a seemly despair when a message concerned with Mu, the only daughter of Ko’en Cheng, reached him. It professed a high-minded regard for his welfare, and added that although the one who was inspiring the communication had been careful to avoid seeing him on the occasion of his entry into Ti-foo, it was impossible for her not to be impressed by the dignity of his bearing. Ko’en Cheng having become vastly wealthy as the result of entering into an arrangement with Ah-tang before Ti-foo was sacked, it did not seem unreasonable to Tian that Ning was in some way influencing his destiny from afar. On this understanding he ultimately married Mu, and thereby founded a prolific posterity who inherited a great degree of his powers. In the course of countless generations the attributes have faded, but even to this day the true descendants of the line of Ning are frequently vouchsafed dreams in which they stand naked and without shame, see gems or metals hidden or buried in the earth and float at will through space.
The Inopportune Behaviour of the Covetous Li-loe
It was upon the occasion of his next visit to the shutter in the wall that Kai Lung discovered the obtuse-witted Li-loe moving about the enclosure. Though docile and well-meaning on the whole, the stunted intelligence of the latter person made him a doubtful accomplice, and Kai Lung stood aside, hoping to be soon alone.
Li-loe held in his hand an iron prong, and with this he industriously searched the earth between the rocks and herbage. Ever since their previous encounter upon that same spot it had been impossible to erase from his deformed mind the conviction that a store of rare and potent wine lay somewhere concealed within the walls of the enclosure. Continuously he besought the story-teller to reveal the secret of its hiding-place, saying: “What an added bitterness will assail your noble throat if, when you are led forth to die, your eye closes upon the one who has faithfully upheld your cause lying with a protruded tongue panting in the noonday sun.”
“Peace, witless,” Kai Lung usually replied; “there is no such store.”
“Nevertheless,” the doorkeeper would stubbornly insist, “the cask cannot yet be empty. It is beyond your immature powers.”
Thus it again befell, for despite Kai Lung’s desire to escape, Li-loe chanced to look up suddenly and observed him.
“Alas, brother,” he remarked reproachfully, when they had thus contended, “the vessel that returns whole the first time is chipped the second and broken at the third essay, and it will yet be too late between us. If it be as you claim, to what end did you boast of a cask of wine and of running among a company of goats with leaves entwined in your hair?”
“That,” replied Kai Lung, “was in the nature of a classical allusion, too abstruse for your deficient wit. It concerned the story of Kiau Sun, who first attained the honour.”