When he heard this, the Sazaye, stroking his beard, replied—
“Well, gentlemen, although you are so good as to say so, it’s nothing to boast of in the way of safety; yet I must admit that, when I shut myself up thus, I do not feel much anxiety.”
And as he was speaking thus, with the pride that apes humility, there came the noise of a great splash; and the shell-fish, shutting up his lid as quickly as possible, kept quite still, and thought to himself, what in the world the noise could be. Could it be a net? Could it be a fish-hook? What a bore it was, always having to keep such a sharp look-out! Were the Tai and the other fish caught, he wondered; and he felt quite anxious about them: however, at any rate, he was safe. And so the time passed; and when he thought all was safe, he stealthily opened his shell, and slipped out his head and looked all round him, and there seemed to be something wrong—something with which he was not familiar. As he looked a little more carefully, lo and behold there he was in a fishmonger’s shop, and with a card marked “sixteen cash” on his back.
Isn’t that a funny story? And so, at one fell swoop, all your boasted wealth of houses and warehouses, and cleverness and talent, and rank and power, are taken away. Poor shell-fish! I think there are some people not unlike them to be found in China and India. How little self is to be depended upon! There is a moral poem which says, “It is easier to ascend to the cloudy heaven without a ladder than to depend entirely on oneself.” This is what is meant by the text, “If a man casts his heart from him, he knows not where to seek for it.” Think twice upon everything that you do. To take no care for the examination of that which relates to yourself, but to look only at that which concerns others, is to cast your heart from you. Casting your heart from you does not mean that your heart actually leaves you: what is meant is, that you do not examine your own conscience. Nor must you think that what I have said upon this point of self-confidences applies only to wealth and riches. To rely on your talents, to rely on the services you have rendered, to rely on your cleverness, to rely on your judgment, to rely on your strength, to rely on your rank, and to think yourself secure in the possession of these, is to place yourselves in the same category with the shell-fish in the story. In all things examine your own consciences: the examination of your own hearts is above all things essential.
(The preacher leaves his place.)
(THE SERMONS OF KIU-O, VOL. I)