THE CONFESSION OF KAI LUNG
a tale from Ernest Bramah's The Wallet of Kai Lung
Related by himself at Wu-whei when other matter failed him.
As Kai Lung, the story-teller, unrolled his mat and selected, with grave deliberation, the spot under the mulberry-tree which would the longest remain sheltered from the sun's rays, his impassive eye wandered round the thin circle of listeners who had been drawn together by his uplifted voice, with a glance which, had it expressed his actual thoughts, would have betrayed a keen desire that the assembly should be composed of strangers rather than of his most consistent patrons, to whom his stock of tales was indeed becoming embarrassingly familiar. Nevertheless, when he began there was nothing in his voice but a trace of insufficiently restrained triumph, such as might be fitly assumed by one who has discovered and makes known for the first time a story by the renowned historian Lo Cha.
"The adventures of the enlightened and nobly-born Yuin-Pel--"
"Have already thrice been narrated within Wu-whei by the versatile but exceedingly uninventive Kai Lung," remarked Wang Yu placidly. "Indeed, has there not come to be a saying by which an exceptionally frugal host's rice, having undoubtedly seen the inside of the pot many times, is now known in this town as Kai-Pel?"
"Alas!" exclaimed Kai Lung, "well was this person warned of Wu-whei in the previous village, as a place of desolation and excessively bad taste, whose inhabitants, led by an evil-minded maker of very commonplace pipes, named Wang Yu, are unable to discriminate in all matters not connected with the cooking of food and the evasion of just debts. They at Shan Tzu hung on to my cloak as I strove to leave them, praying that I would again entrance their ears with what they termed the melodious word-music of this person's inimitable version of the inspired story of Yuin-Pel."
"Truly the story of Yuin-Pel is in itself excellent," interposed the conciliatory Hi Seng; "and Kai Lung's accomplishment of having three times repeated it here without deviating in the particular of a single word from the first recital stamps him as a story-teller of no ordinary degree. Yet the saying 'Although it is desirable to lose persistently when playing at squares and circles with the broad-minded and sagacious Emperor, it is none the less a fact that the observance of this etiquette deprives the intellectual diversion of much of its interest for both players', is no less true today than when the all knowing H'sou uttered it."
"They well said--they of Shan Tzu--that the people of Wu-whei were intolerably ignorant and of low descent," continued Kai Lung, without heeding the interruption; "that although invariably of a timorous nature, even to the extent of retiring to the woods on the approach of those who select bowmen for the Imperial army, all they require in a story is that it shall be garnished with deeds of bloodshed and violence to the exclusion of the higher qualities of well-imagined metaphors and literary style which alone constitute true excellence."
"Yet it has been said," suggested Hi Seng, "that the inimitable Kai Lung can so mould a narrative in the telling that all the emotions are conveyed therein without unduly disturbing the intellects of the hearers."
"O amiable Hi Seng," replied Kai Lung with extreme affability, "doubtless you are the most expert of water-carriers, and on a hot and dusty day, when the insatiable desire of all persons is towards a draught of unusual length without much regard to its composition, the sight of your goat-skins is indeed a welcome omen; yet when in the season of Cold White Rains you chance to meet the belated chair-carrier who has been reluctantly persuaded into conveying persons beyond the limit of the city, the solitary official watchman who knows that his chief is not at hand, or a returning band of those who make a practise of remaining in the long narrow rooms until they are driven forth at a certain gong-stroke, can you supply them with the smallest portion of that invigorating rice spirit for which alone they crave? From this simple and homely illustration, specially conceived to meet the requirements of your stunted and meagre understanding, learn not to expect both grace and thorns from the willow-tree. Nevertheless, your very immature remarks on the art of story-telling are in no degree more foolish than those frequently uttered by persons who make a living by such a practice; in proof of which this person will relate to the select and discriminating company now assembled an entirely new and unrecorded story--that, indeed, of the unworthy, but frequently highly-rewarded Kai Lung himself."
"The story of Kai Lung!" exclaimed Wang Yu. "Why not the story of Ting, the sightless beggar, who has sat all his life outside the Temple of Miraculous Cures? Who is Kai Lung, that he should have a story? Is he not known to us all here? Is not his speech that of this Province, his food mean, his arms and legs unshaven? Does he carry a sword or wear silk raiment? Frequently have we seen him fatigued with journeying; many times has he arrived destitute of money; nor, on those occasions when a newly-appointed and unnecessarily officious Mandarin has commanded him to betake himself elsewhere and struck him with a rod has Kai Lung caused the stick to turn into a deadly serpent and destroy its master, as did the just and dignified Lu Fei. How, then, can Kai Lung have a story that is not also the story of Wang Yu and Hi Seng, and all others here?"
"Indeed, if the refined and enlightened Wang Yu so decides, it must assuredly be true," said Kai Lung patiently; "yet (since even trifles serve to dispel the darker thoughts of existence) would not the history of so small a matter as an opium pipe chain his intelligent consideration? such a pipe, for example, as this person beheld only today exposed for sale, the bowl composed of the finest red clay, delicately baked and fashioned, the long bamboo stem smoother than the sacred tooth of the divine Buddha, the spreading support patiently and cunningly carved with scenes representing the Seven Joys, and the Tenth Hell of unbelievers."
"Ah!" exclaimed Wang Yu eagerly, "it is indeed as you say, a Mandarin among masterpieces. That pipe, O most unobserving Kai Lung, is the work of this retiring and superficial person who is now addressing you, and, though the fact evidently escaped your all-seeing glance, the place where it is exposed is none other than his shop of 'The Fountain of Beauty', which you have on many occasions endowed with your honourable presence."
"Doubtless the carving is the work of the accomplished Wang Yu, and the fitting together," replied Kai Lung; "but the materials for so refined and ornamental a production must of necessity have been brought many thousand li; the clay perhaps from the renowned beds of Honan, the wood from Peking, and the bamboo from one of the great forests of the North."
"For what reason?" said Wang Yu proudly. "At this person's very door is a pit of red clay, purer and infinitely more regular than any to be found at Honan; the hard wood of Wu-whei is extolled among carvers throughout the Empire, while no bamboo is straighter or more smooth than that which grows in the neighbouring woods."
"O most inconsistent Wang Yu!" cried the story-teller, "assuredly a very commendable local pride has dimmed your usually penetrating eyesight. Is not the clay pit of which you speak that in which you fashioned exceedingly unsymmetrical imitations of rat-pies in your childhood? How, then, can it be equal to those of Honan, which you have never seen? In the dark glades of these woods have you not chased the gorgeous butterfly, and, in later years, the no less gaily attired maidens of Wu-whei in the entrancing game of Kiss in the Circle? Have not the bamboo-trees to which you have referred provided you with the ideal material wherewith to roof over those cunningly-constructed pits into which it has ever been the chief delight of the young and audacious to lure dignified and unnaturally stout Mandarins? All these things you have seen and used ever since your mother made a successful offering to the Goddess Kum-Fa. How, then, can they be even equal to the products of remote Honan and fabulous Peking? Assuredly the generally veracious Wang Yu speaks this time with closed eyes and will, upon mature reflexion, eat his words."
The silence was broken by a very aged man who arose from among the bystanders.
"Behold the length of this person's pigtail," he exclaimed, "the whiteness of his moustaches and the venerable appearance of his beard! There is no more aged person present--if, indeed, there be such a one in all the Province. It accordingly devolves upon him to speak in this matter, which shall be as follows: The noble-minded and proficient Kai Lung shall relate the story as he has proposed, and the garrulous Wang Yu shall twice contribute to Kai Lung's bowl when it is passed round, once for himself and once for this person, in order they he may learn either to be more discreet or more proficient in the art of aptly replying."
"The events which it is this person's presumptuous intention to describe to this large-hearted and providentially indulgent gathering," began Kai Lung, when his audience had become settled, and the wooden bowl had passed to and fro among them, "did not occupy many years, although they were of a nature which made them of far more importance than all the remainder of his existence, thereby supporting the sage discernment of the philosopher Wen-weng, who first made the observation that man is greatly inferior to the meanest fly, inasmuch as that creature, although granted only a day's span of life, contrives during that period to fulfil all the allotted functions of existence.
"Unutterably to the astonishment and dismay of this person and all those connected with him (for several of the most expensive readers of the future to be found in the Empire had declared that his life would be marked by great events, his career a source of continual wonder, and his death a misfortune to those who had dealings with him) his efforts to take a degree at the public literary competitions were not attended with any adequate success. In view of the plainly expressed advice of his father it therefore became desirable that this person should turn his attention to some other method of regaining the esteem of those upon whom he was dependent for all the necessaries of existence. Not having the means wherewith to engage in any form of commerce, and being entirely ignorant of all matters save the now useless details of attempting to pass public examinations, he reluctantly decided that he was destined to become one of those who imagine and write out stories and similar devices for printed leaves and books.
"This determination was favourably received, and upon learning it, this person's dignified father took him aside, and with many assurances of regard presented to him a written sentence, which, he said, would be of incomparable value to one engaged in a literary career, and should in fact, without any particular qualifications, insure an honourable competency. He himself, he added, with what at the time appeared to this one as an unnecessary regard for detail, having taken a very high degree, and being in consequence appointed to a distinguished and remunerative position under the Board of Fines and Tortures, had never made any use of it.
"The written sentence, indeed, was all that it had been pronounced. It had been composed by a remote ancestor, who had spent his entire life in crystallizing all his knowledge and experience into a few written lines, which as a result became correspondingly precious. It defined in a very original and profound manner several undisputable principles, and was so engagingly subtle in its manner of expression that the most superficial person was irresistibly thrown into a deep inward contemplation upon reading it. When it was complete, the person who had contrived this ingenious masterpiece, discovering by means of omens that he still had ten years to live, devoted each remaining year to the task of reducing the sentence by one word without in any way altering its meaning. This unapproachable example of conciseness found such favour in the eyes of those who issue printed leaves that as fast as this person could inscribe stories containing it they were eagerly purchased; and had it not been for a very incapable want of foresight on this narrow-minded individual's part, doubtless it would still be affording him an agreeable and permanent means of living.
"Unquestionably the enlightened Wen-weng was well acquainted with the subject when he exclaimed, 'Better a frugal dish of olives flavoured with honey than the most sumptuously devised puppy-pie of which the greater portion is sent forth in silver-lined boxes and partaken of by others.' At that time, however, this versatile saying--which so gracefully conveys the truth of the undeniable fact that what a person possesses is sufficient if he restrain his mind from desiring aught else--would have been lightly treated by this self-conceited story-teller even if his immature faculties had enabled him fully to understand the import of so profound and well-digested a remark.
"At that time Tiao Ts'un was undoubtedly the most beautiful maiden in all Peking. So frequently were the verses describing her habits and appearances affixed in the most prominent places of the city, that many persons obtained an honourable livelihood by frequenting those spots and disposing of the sacks of written papers which they collected to merchants who engaged in that commerce. Owing to the fame attained by his written sentence, this really very much inferior being had many opportunities of meeting the incomparable maiden Tiao at flower-feasts, melon-seed assemblies, and those gatherings where persons of both sexes exhibit themselves in revolving attitudes, and are permitted to embrace openly without reproach; whereupon he became so subservient to her charms and virtues that he lost no opportunity of making himself utterly unendurable to any who might chance to speak to, or even gaze upon, this Heaven-sent creature.
"So successful was this person in his endeavour to meet the sublime Tiao and to gain her conscientious esteem that all emotions of prudence forsook him, or it would soon have become apparent even to his enfeebled understanding that such consistent good fortune could only be the work of unforgiving and malignant spirits whose ill-will he had in some way earned, and who were luring him on in order that they might accomplish his destruction. That object was achieved on a certain evening when this person stood alone with Tiao upon an eminence overlooking the city and watched the great sky-lantern rise from behind the hills. Under these delicate and ennobling influences he gave speech to many very ornamental and refined thoughts which arose within his mind concerning the graceful brilliance of the light which was cast all around, yet notwithstanding which a still more exceptional and brilliant light was shining in his own internal organs by reason of the nearness of an even purer and more engaging orb. There was no need, this person felt, to hide even his most inside thoughts from the dignified and sympathetic being at his side, so without hesitation he spoke--in what he believes even now must have been a very decorative manner--of the many thousand persons who were then wrapped in sleep, of the constantly changing lights which appeared in the city beneath, and of the vastness which everywhere lay around.
"'O Kai Lung,' exclaimed the lovely Tiao, when this person had made an end of speaking, 'how expertly and in what a proficient manner do you express yourself, uttering even the sentiments which this person has felt inwardly, but for which she has no words. Why, indeed, do you not inscribe them in a book?'
"Under her elevating influence it had already occurred to this illiterate individual that it would be a more dignified and, perhaps, even a more profitable course for him to write out and dispose of, to those who print such matters, the versatile and high-minded expressions which now continually formed his thoughts, rather than be dependent upon the concise sentence for which, indeed, he was indebted to the wisdom of a remote ancestor. Tiao's spoken word fully settled his determination, so that without delay he set himself to the task of composing a story which should omit the usual sentence, but should contain instead a large number of his most graceful and diamond-like thoughts. So engrossed did this near-sighted and superficial person become in the task (which daily seemed to increase rather than lessen as new and still more sublime images arose within his mind) that many months passed before the matter was complete. In the end, instead of a story, it had assumed the proportions of an important and many-volumed book; while Tiao had in the meantime accepted the wedding gifts of an objectionable and excessively round-bodied individual, who had amassed an inconceivable number of taels by inducing persons to take part in what at first sight appeared to be an ingenious but very easy competition connected with the order in which certain horses should arrive at a given and clearly defined spot. By that time, however, this unduly sanguine story-teller had become completely entranced in his work, and merely regarded Tiao-Ts'un as a Heaven-sent but no longer necessary incentive to his success. With every hope, therefore, he went forth to dispose of his written leaves, confident of finding some very wealthy person who would be in a condition to pay him the correct value of the work.
"At the end of two years this somewhat disillusionized but still undaunted person chanced to hear of a benevolent and unassuming body of men who made a habit of issuing works in which they discerned merit, but which, nevertheless, others were unanimous in describing as 'of no good'. Here this person was received with gracious effusion, and being in a position to impress those with whom he was dealing with his undoubted knowledge of the subject, he finally succeeded in making a very advantageous arrangement by which he was to pay one-half of the number of taels expended in producing the work, and to receive in return all the profits which should result from the undertaking. Those who were concerned in the matter were so engagingly impressed with the incomparable literary merit displayed in the production that they counselled a great number of copies being made ready in order, as they said, that this person should not lose by there being any delay when once the accomplishment became the one topic of conversation in tea-houses and yamens. From this cause it came about that the matter of taels to be expended was much greater than had been anticipated at the beginning, so that when the day arrived on which the volumes were to be sent forth this person found that almost his last piece of money had disappeared.
"Alas! how small a share has a person in the work of controlling his own destiny. Had only the necessarily penurious and now almost degraded Kai Lung been born a brief span before the great writer Lo Kuan Chang, his name would have been received with every mark of esteem from one end of the Empire to the other, while taels and honourable decorations would have been showered upon him. For the truth, which could no longer be concealed, revealed the fact that this inopportune individual possessed a mind framed in such a manner that his thoughts had already been the thoughts of the inspired Lo Kuan, who, as this person would not be so presumptuous as to inform this ornamental and well-informed gathering, was the most ingenious and versatile-minded composer of written words that this Empire--and therefore the entire world--has seen, as, indeed, his honourable title of 'The Many-hued Mandarin Duck of the Yang-tse' plainly indicates.
"Although this self-opinionated person had frequently been greatly surprised himself during the writing of his long work by the brilliance and manysidedness of the thoughts and metaphors which arose in his mind without conscious effort, it was not until the appearance of the printed leaves which make a custom of warning persons against being persuaded into buying certain books that he definitely understood how all these things had been fully expressed many dynasties ago by the all-knowing Lo Kuan Chang, and formed, indeed, the great national standard of unapproachable excellence. Unfortunately, this person had been so deeply engrossed all his life in literary pursuits that he had never found an opportunity to glance at the works in question, or he would have escaped the embarrassing position in which he now found himself.
"It was with a hopeless sense of illness of ease that this unhappy one reached the day on which the printed leaves already alluded to would make known their deliberate opinion of his writing, the extremity of his hope being that some would at least credit him with honourable motives, and perhaps a knowledge that if the inspired Lo Kuan Chan had never been born the entire matter might have been brought to a very different conclusion. Alas! only one among the many printed leaves which made reference to the venture contained any words of friendship or encouragement. This benevolent exception was sent forth from a city in the extreme Northern Province of the Empire, and contained many inspiring though delicately guarded messages of hope for the one to whom they gracefully alluded as 'this undoubtedly youthful, but nevertheless, distinctly promising writer of books'. While admitting that altogether they found the production undeniably tedious, they claimed to have discovered indications of an obvious talent, and therefore they unhesitatingly counselled the person in question to take courage at the prospect of a moderate competency which was certainly within his grasp if he restrained his somewhat over-ambitious impulses and closely observed the simple subjects and manner of expression of their own Chang Chow, whose 'Lines to a Wayside Chrysanthemum', 'Mongolians who Have', and several other composed pieces, they then set forth. Although it became plain that the writer of this amiably devised notice was, like this incapable person, entirely unacquainted with the masterpieces of Lo Kuan Chang, yet the indisputable fact remained that, entirely on its merit, the work had been greeted with undoubted enthusiasm, so that after purchasing many examples of the refined printed leaf containing it, this person sat far into the night continually reading over the one unprejudiced and discriminating expression.
"All the other printed leaves displayed a complete absence of good taste in dealing with the mater. One boldly asserted that the entire circumstance was the outcome of a foolish jest or wager on the part of a person who possessed a million taels; another predicted that it was a cunning and elaborately thought-out method of obtaining the attention of the people on the part of certain persons who claimed to vend a reliable and fragrantly-scented cleansing substance. The "Valley of Hoang Rose Leaves and Sweetness" hoped, in a spirit of no sincerity, that the ingenious Kai Lung would not rest on his tea-leaves, but would soon send forth an equally entertaining amended example of the "Sayings of Confucious" and other sacred works, while the "Pure Essence of the Seven Days' Happenings" merely printed side by side portions from the two books under the large inscription, 'IS THERE REALLY ANY NEED FOR US TO EXPRESS OURSELVES MORE CLEARLY?'
"The disappointment both as regards public esteem and taels--for, after the manner in which the work had been received by those who advise on such productions, not a single example was purchased--threw this ill-destined individual into a condition of most unendurable depression, from which he was only aroused by a remarkable example of the unfailing wisdom of the proverb which says 'Before hastening to secure a possible reward of five taels by dragging an unobservant person away from a falling building, examine well his features lest you find, when too late, that it is one to whom you are indebted for double that amount.' Disappointed in the hope of securing large gains from the sale of his great work, this person now turned his attention again to his former means of living, only to find, however, that the discredit in which he had become involved even attached itself to his concise sentence; for in place of the remunerative and honourable manner in which it was formerly received, it was now regarded on all hands with open suspicion. Instead of meekly kow-towing to an evidently pre-arranged doom, the last misfortune aroused this usually resigned story-teller to an ungovernable frenzy. Regarding the accomplished but at the same time exceedingly over-productive Lo Kuan Chang as the beginning of all his evils, he took a solemn oath as a mark of disapproval that he had not been content to inscribe on paper only half of his brilliant thoughts, leaving the other half for the benefit of this hard-striving and equally well-endowed individual, in which case there would have been a sufficiency of taels and of fame for both.
"For a very considerable space of time this person could conceive no method by which he might attain his object. At length, however, as a result of very keen and subtle intellectual searching, and many well-selected sacrifices, it was conveyed by means of a dream that one very ingenious yet simple way was possible. The renowned and universally-admired writings of the distinguished Lo Kuan for the most part take their action within a few dynasties of their creator's own time: all that remained for this inventive person to accomplish, therefore, was to trace out the entire matter, making the words and speeches to proceed from the mouths of those who existed in still earlier periods. By this crafty method it would at once appear as though the not-too-original Lo Kuan had been indebted to one who came before him for all his most subtle thoughts, and, in consequence, his tomb would become dishonoured and his memory execrated. Without any delay this person cheerfully set himself to the somewhat laborious task before him. Lo Kuan's well-known exclamation of the Emperor Tsing on the battlefield of Shih-ho, 'A sedan-chair! a sedan-chair! This person will unhesitatingly exchange his entire and well-regulated Empire for such an article', was attributed to an Emperor who lived several thousand years before the treacherous and unpopular Tsing. The new matter of a no less frequently quoted portion ran: 'O nobly intentioned but nevertheless exceedingly morose Tung-shin, the object before you is your distinguished and evilly-disposed-of father's honourably-inspired demon', the change of a name effecting whatever alteration was necessary; while the delicately-imagined speech beginning 'The person who becomes amused at matters resulting from double-edged knives has assuredly never felt the effect of a well-directed blow himself' was taken from the mouth of one person and placed in that of one of his remote ancestors. In such a manner, without in any great degree altering the matter of Lo Kuan's works, all the scenes and persons introduced were transferred to much earlier dynasties than those affected by the incomparable writer himself, the final effect being to give an air of extreme unoriginality to his really undoubtedly genuine conceptions.
"Satisfied with his accomplishment, and followed by a hired person of low class bearing the writings, which, by nature of the research necessary in fixing the various dates and places so that even the wary should be deceived, had occupied the greater part of a year, this now fully confident story-teller--unmindful of the well-tried excellence of the inspired saying, 'Money is hundred-footed; upon perceiving a tael lying apparently unobserved upon the floor, do not lose the time necessary in stooping, but quickly place your foot upon it, for one fails nothing in dignity thereby; but should it be a gold piece, distrust all things, and valuing dignity but as an empty name, cast your entire body upon it'--went forth to complete his great task of finally erasing from the mind and records of the Empire the hitherto venerated name of Lo Kuan Chang. Entering the place of commerce of the one who seemed the most favourable for the purpose, he placed the facts as they would in future be represented before him, explained the undoubtedly remunerative fame that would ensue to all concerned in the enterprise of sending forth the printed books in their new form, and, opening at a venture the written leaves which he had brought with him, read out the following words as an indication of the similarity of the entire work:
"'Whai-Keng: Friends, Chinamen, labourers who are engaged in agricultural pursuits, entrust to this person your acute and well-educated ears;
"'He has merely come to assist in depositing the body of Ko'ung in the Family Temple, not for the purpose of making remarks about him of a graceful and highly complimentary nature;
"'The unremunerative actions of which persons may have been guilty possess an exceedingly undesirable amount of endurance;
"'The successful and well-considered almost invariably are involved in a directly contrary course;
"'This person desires nothing more than a like fate to await Ko'ung.'
"When this one had read so far, he paused in order to give the other an opportunity if breaking in and offering half his possessions to be allowed to share in the undertaking. As he remained unaccountably silent, however, an inelegant pause occurred which this person at length broke by desiring an expressed opinion on the matter.
"'O exceedingly painstaking, but nevertheless highly inopportune Kai Lung,' he replied at length, while in his countenance this person read an expression of no-encouragement towards his venture, 'all your entrancing efforts do undoubtedly appear to attract the undesirable attention of some spiteful and tyrannical demon. This closely-written and elaborately devised work is in reality not worth the labour of a single stroke, nor is there in all Peking a sender forth of printed leaves who would encourage any project connected with its issue.'
"'But the importance of such a fact as that which would clearly show the hitherto venerated Lo Kuan Chang to be a person who passed off as his own the work of an earlier one!' cried this person in despair, well knowing that the deliberately expressed opinion of the one before him was a matter that would rule all others. 'Consider the interest of the discovery.'
"'The interest would not demand more than a few lines in the ordinary printed leaves,' replied the other calmly. 'Indeed, in a manner of speaking, it is entirely a detail of no consequence whether or not the sublime Lo Kuan ever existed. In reality his very commonplace name may have been simply Lung; his inspired work may have been written a score of dynasties before him by some other person, or they may have been composed by the enlightened Emperor of the period, who desired to conceal the fact, yet these matters would not for a moment engage the interest of any ordinary passer-by. Lo Kuan Chang is not a person in the ordinary expression; he is an embodiment of a distinguished and utterly unassailable national institution. The Heaven-sent works with which he is, by general consent, connected form the necessary unchangeable standard of literary excellence, and remain for ever above rivalry and above mistrust. For this reason the matter is plainly one which does not interest this person.'
"In the course of a not uneventful existence this self-deprecatory person has suffered many reverses and disappointments. During his youth the high-minded Empress on one occasion stopped and openly complimented him on the dignified outline presented by his body in profile, and when he was relying upon this incident to secure him a very remunerative public office, a jealous and powerful Mandarin substituted a somewhat similar, though really very much inferior, person for him at the interview which the Empress had commanded. Frequently in matters of commerce which have appeared to promise very satisfactorily at the beginning this person has been induced to entrust sums of money to others, when he had hoped from the indications and the manner of speaking that the exact contrary would be the case; and in one instance he was released at a vast price from the torture dungeon in Canton--where he had been thrown by the subtle and unconscientious plots of one who could not relate stories in so accurate and unvarying a manner as himself--on the day before that on which all persons were freely set at liberty on account of exceptional public rejoicing. Yet in spite of these and many other very unendurable incidents, this impetuous and ill-starred being never felt so great a desire to retire to a solitary place and there disfigure himself permanently as a mark of his unfeigned internal displeasure, as on the occasion when he endured extreme poverty and great personal inconvenience for an entire year in order that he might take away face from the memory of a person who was so placed that no one expressed any interest in the matter.
"Since then this very ill-clad and really necessitous person has devoted himself to the honourable but exceedingly arduous and in general unremunerative occupation of story-telling. To this he would add nothing save that not infrequently a nobly-born and highly-cultured audience is so entranced with his commonplace efforts to hold the attention, especially when a story not hitherto known has been related, that in order to afford it an opportunity of expressing its gratification, he has been requested to allow another offering to be made by all persons present at the conclusion of the entertainment."
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