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that a visitor should be suffered to quit the house without receiving the usual compliments and politeness due to a guest; and feeling thus, she very properly resolved to act as the representative of her papa on this particular occasion. She accordingly went into the passage to bid, on the part of her sire, a formal adieu to Si-Long; but the moment she beheld his pale cheek and sunken eye, she perceived how improper, how dangerous it would be, for him to encounter the fatigue of a removal so soon. With the greatest delicacy, however, he persisted in his purpose; with the greatest hospitality she, upon the part of her father, insisted that he should prolong his stay. Their polite contest lasted just four hours and sixteen minutes, in which time they acted through every section of the two hundred and fifty-seventh book of the Code of Forms and Ceremonies: that being the portion which treats of the departure of a guest. In the end Si-Long was vanquished -as how could it be otherwise?-and he promised to defer his departure.
The ice was broken-it had not been thick-and a warm fountain of love sprung up in the hearts of the young people. Thenceforth they were much together; they could not be happy apart; they sighed sighs; they vowed vows; in fine, they arranged a little scheme for boating it together down the current of matrimonial felicity.
Nu-Moun was detained in Peking longer than he anticipated. At last, however, he succeeded in taking his revered master the Emperor off the sick-list,-though, unfortunately, only by placing him upon the bills of mortality. Communicating to his daughter intelligence of this circumstance, he gave her to understand that he should return home in a very few days: and Si-Long had no longer any difficulty in persuading his betrothed that he was so far convalescent as to admit, without imprudence, of his taking his immediate departure. Before he went, however, it was settled between the pair that the young lady should obtain her sire's consent to their union, and induce him, as soon as preliminaries could be arranged, to convey her to Peking for the performance of the marriage ceremonies. So Si-Long at last departed, and in a few days Nu-Moun returned.
The physician was astonished to find that the young mandarin had gone, not having been aware that he had so far recovered as even to leave his chamber. He was more surprised, and not altogether pleased, to discover that the screens, of which his daughter's first letter had made mention, had been so soon displaced; and his spectacles assumed a larger appearance than ever when he heard of the subsequent progress of events. His pig-tail grew exceedingly uneasy, waving in gentle undulations, and occasionally coiling round his shoulders; and, lighting his pipe with great precipitation, he began to smoke with so much energy as to wrinkle up the bamboo, and contract it in length some inches.
Now the fact is that Nu-Moun would have excused his daughter's imprudence, and would have made no objection to her marriage with a young mandarin of so much repute as Si-Long, had it not chanced that he had formed a little plot of his own, with which that of the young people might materially interfere. A fortunate conjunction of stars had suggested the idea, and the more he had pondered upon it, the more it had delighted him.
Need it be said that Tou-Keen would not have been fixed upon as the heroine of this story, had she not been at that precise period the most
beautiful lady in the Chinese dominions? Now it is a custom in the celestial land, when a fresh ruler comes to the throne (as, thanks to the astrological science which Nu-Moun himself had brought to bear on the late Emperor, was now about to be the case), that parents who possess unmarried daughters of great beauty, and of a marriageable age, respectfully offer them to the notice of their sovereign; and from among these, besides making up his little museum of handmaidens, he not unfrequently selects his Empress. The worshipful physician was already in favour with the Emperor élect; so that he might consider there would be little difficulty in obtaining for his lovely daughter an introduction to that potentate. And then-relying much on her surpassing beauty, but more on the promise of the stars-he entertained a strong hope, almost a confidence, that she would find such favour in the imperial eyes as to be the enviable one selected to share the throne;-or at least-but no 'at least it must assuredly be thus, and not otherwise.
Nu-Moun was therefore perplexed; but entertaining no very high opinion of the permanency of ladies' affections, he determined to conceal his purpose for a time, till the ardour of her love for SiLong might somewhat abate, but to accede to her request so far as the journey to Peking was concerned. The idea of becoming an empress, he imagined, must kindle some feelings of ambition in any female mind and as he reflected thus, his queue grew calmer.
Nu-Moun was not mistaken in his judgment of his daughter. He took her to Peking, and soon venturing to communicate his scheme to her, was delighted to find how readily and how warmly she entered into his views. She requested only that he would endeavour to keep their proposed proceedings a secret from Si-Long; because, if it should prove that the Emperor was without discrimination, it would be well, she considered, to have, as the Chinese express it, another spoon to her rice.
The Emperor, though a new Emperor, was already an old man. But the ladies forgot the old man in the young Emperor; and many would even have consented to have become old women, could they thereby have secured to themselves a share in the imperial throne. At his inauguration, many of those most remarkable for beauty, who, in conformity to the custom to which we have adverted, had been brought from various parts of the empire, were presented to him for selection; and he chose from among them several, who were honoured with particular appointments in the palace. But when the surpassingly beautiful Tou-Keen was introduced into his presence, he rose with unspeakable condescension, and declared before the assembled court that he recognized that lady as the person to whom he had been mated some thousand years before, in a different state of being, and who was destined to become his spouse in this. The next day he sent forth a proclamation, giving the wisest and best reasons for having made use of an abridged edition of the marriage ceremonies, and declaring that his imperial example in this instance was not to be referred to as a precedent.
When the unfortunate Si-Long received the news of his beloved Tou-Keen's marriage with the Emperor, he for a long while refused to give it credence, declaring that the lady was engaged to himself, and that truth itself was not half so true as she. As soon, however, as he became convinced of the fact, he was well-nigh beside himself
with rage and despair. He gnashed his teeth, and tore his pig-tail, and declared that falsehood itself was not half so false as Tou-Keen. 'I will be revenged,' cried he, as sure as a bow and arrow.' Guns had not at that time been introduced in China.
His conduct and declarations became a theme at court; and a mandarin, who had been jealous of the favour Si-Long had obtained from the late Emperor, ventured to report to the new one all that he had so rashly spoken. Poor Si-Long would soon have been a volume of fugitive poetry, that is to say, a collection of small pieces, -but for the interposition of the amiable Tou-Keen, who was opposed to such poetical justice. The beautiful Empress, however, was not unwilling that her too aspiring lover should receive a punishment proportioned to his offence; so she suggested that there should be inflicted upon him two hundred strokes of the bamboo; and that with the imperial gratuity of ten score marks which would accompany the execution of this order, he might be dismissed from the province of Pe-che-le. An Emperor of China, as the father of his people, well understands that to spare the rod is to spoil the child; and the bamboo is one of the most useful plants in his dominion. His subjects naturally prize it, because they feel its use.
After obtaining such proof of his mistress's favour, Si-Long had little desire to remain longer in the capital, and thus banishment became to him a matter of indifference. He was behind the world, -or, as it is more commonly expressed, the world was before him, -and he set forth from the great capital with his little capital upon his back. He was likely to retain his marks some time; but, as his mandarin's button had been taken from him, he was no longer among the nobles.
He wandered on, greatly depressed in spirit, and careless whither chance might lead him, and for several days mechanically retraced the way he had lately taken when entrusted with the Emperor's commission. Having at length arrived at the place where the path turned off to the dwelling of the physician, he could not resist an inclination to revisit the abode which he had left with such pleasing anticipations. Not doubting, however, that his story had got there before him, he did not venture to show himself in front of the house; but choosing the dusk of the evening, he went stealthily through the garden, and passed along avenues of bananas and orangetrees, till he came to a small summer-house, commanding an extensive view of a tank of gold fish. In that fantastic building he threw himself down on a bamboo bench,-he did not notice that it was of bamboo, or he would have chosen some other, and looked pensively at the water, and at the fish that sported so merrily therein. He had once before sat in that place; the beautiful but faithless Tou-Keen was then his companion; they had slipped forth unobserved of the domestics, and in that retreat had enjoyed an hour of delightful intercourse, such as in the Celestial Land falls to the lot of few lovers, although such hours only can make the Celestial Land a perfect paradise. His heart was low, and as he looked at the gold fish, and thought of his false lady, he repeated to himself the words of the celebrated poet, Sing-Song, which have been so well translated by Gray: