The Wallet of Kai Lung HTML version

The Transmutation Of Ling
The sun had dipped behind the western mountains before Kai Lung, with twenty li or
more still between him and the city of Knei Yang, entered the camphor-laurel forest
which stretched almost to his destination. No person of consequence ever made the
journey unattended; but Kai Lung professed to have no fear, remarking with extempore
wisdom, when warned at the previous village, that a worthless garment covered one with
better protection than that afforded by an army of bowmen. Nevertheless, when within
the gloomy aisles, Kai Lung more than once wished himself back at the village, or safely
behind the mud walls of Knei Yang; and, making many vows concerning the amount of
prayer-paper which he would assuredly burn when he was actually through the gates, he
stepped out more quickly, until suddenly, at a turn in the glade, he stopped altogether,
while the watchful expression into which he had unguardedly dropped at once changed
into a mask of impassiveness and extreme unconcern. From behind the next tree
projected a long straight rod, not unlike a slender bamboo at a distance, but, to Kai Lung's
all-seeing eye, in reality the barrel of a matchlock, which would come into line with his
breast if he took another step. Being a prudent man, more accustomed to guile and
subservience to destiny than to force, he therefore waited, spreading out his hands in
proof of his peaceful acquiescence, and smiling cheerfully until it should please the
owner of the weapon to step forth. This the unseen did a moment later, still keeping his
gun in an easy and convenient attitude, revealing a stout body and a scarred face, which
in conjunction made it plain to Kai Lung that he was in the power of Lin Yi, a noted
brigand of whom he had heard much in the villages.
"O illustrious person," said Kai Lung very earnestly, "this is evidently an unfortunate
mistake. Doubtless you were expecting some exalted Mandarin to come and render you
homage, and were preparing to overwhelm him with gratified confusion by escorting him
yourself to your well-appointed abode. Indeed, I passed such a one on the road, very
richly apparelled, who inquired of me the way to the mansion of the dignified and upright
Lin Yi. By this time he is perhaps two or three li towards the east."
"However distinguished a Mandarin may be, it is fitting that I should first attend to one
whose manners and accomplishments betray him to be of the Royal House," replied Lin
Yi, with extreme affability. "Precede me, therefore, to my mean and uninviting hovel,
while I gain more honour than I can reasonably bear by following closely in your elegant
footsteps, and guarding your Imperial person with this inadequate but heavily-loaded
Seeing no chance of immediate escape, Kai Lung led the way, instructed by the brigand,
along a very difficult and bewildering path, until they reached a cave hidden among the
crags. Here Lin Yi called out some words in the Miaotze tongue, whereupon a follower
appeared, and opened a gate in the stockade of prickly mimosa which guarded the mouth
of the den. Within the enclosure a fire burned, and food was being prepared. At a word
from the chief, the unfortunate Kai Lung found his hands seized and tied behind his back,