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The Wallet of Kai Lung

The Confession 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."
 
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