"Committer of every infamy and inceptor of nameless crimes," began Ming-shu, moistening his brush, "in the past, by the variety of discreditable subterfuges, you have parried the stroke of a just retribution. On this occasion, however, your admitted powers of evasion will avail you nothing. By a special form of administration, designed to meet such cases, your guilt will be taken as proved.

"Draw near, Kai Lung," he continued sympathetically, "and indicate with as little delay as possible what in your opinion would constitute a sufficient punishment." Thus invited and with his cords unbound, Kai Lung advanced and took his station near the table, Ming-shu noticeably making room for him.

"Nor is it known to my remembrance." "Then out of your own mouth a fitting test is set, which if Kai Lung can agreeably perform will at once demonstrate a secret and a guilty confederacy between you both. Proceed, O story-teller, to incriminate Ming-shu together with yourself!" "I proceed, High Excellence, but chiefly to the glorification of your all-discerning mind," replied Kai Lung.

Kai Lung, however, remained unseen among the trees, not being desirous of obtruding himself upon Ming-shu unnecessarily. When the noise had almost died away in the distance he came forth, believing that all would by this time have passed, and approached the road. As he reached it a single chair was hurried by, its carriers striving by increased exertion to regain their fellows.

When Kai Lung had repeated the story of the well-intentioned youth Hien and of the Chief Examiner Thang-li and had ceased to speak, a pause of questionable import filled the room, broken only by the undignified sleep-noises of the gross Ming-shu. Glances of implied perplexity were freely passed among the guests, but it remained for Shan Tien to voice their doubt.

"To that end you would suggest ?" Uncertainty sat upon the brow of both Shan Tien and Ming-shu. "To straighten out the entangled thread this person would plead guilty to the act in a lesser capacity and against his untrammelled will of rejoicing musically on a day set apart for universal woe: a crime aimed directly at the sacred person of the Sublime Head and all those of his Line."

Ming-shu, you upon whom the duty of regulating my admittedly vagarious mind devolves, what happened officially on the eleventh day of the Month of Gathering-in?" demanded the Mandarin in an ominous tone.

"The overrated person now about to try your refined patience to its limit is one who calls himself Kai Lung," declared Ming-shu offensively. "From an early age he has combined minstrelsy with other and more lucrative forms of crime.

"The devotional side of the emergency has had this one's early care," remarked Hwa-mei. "From daybreak to-morrow six zealous and deep-throated monks will curse Ming-shu and all his ways unceasingly, while a like number will invoke blessings and success upon your enlightened head. In the matter of noise and illumination everything that can contribute has been suitably prepared."

Tell me rather, since that is our present errand, who is she whom you pursue and to what intent?" "That is not so simple as to be contained within the hollow of an acorn sheath. Let it suffice that she has the left ear of Shan Tien, even as Ming-shu has the right, but on which side his hearing is better it might be hazardous to guess." "And her meritorious name?"