ePub 版

of the privilege of a second marriage and examine for himself the boasted pretensions of the young lady: the governor acceded to his request, and introduced him into the apartment of the maiden: one glance of her eye, sparkling black, fringed with eye-lashes of gold, produced a strange fluttering in the heart of the mandarin; nor was his agitation lessened when, approaching him, she whispered in his car—" He who seeks the liquor of immortality shall find it in Tchee-lang." Dissembling his feelings as he best could, he contented himself with paying the compliments prescribed on such occasions, and retired with the governor, perfectly satisfied that fame had rather depreciated than exaggerated the excellencies of the small-footed beauty.

The preliminaries were soon adjusted between the governor and the mandarin, and the bride sent home to his temporary dwelling in the evening with all due ceremony: no sooner were they alone than Shan-yin said

High is thy destiny, fortunate Whangho! for thee is reserved the felicity of beholding the dragon countenance, and hearing from the golden mouth the expressions of satisfaction, when thou presentest the liquor of immortality : I am of the sect of Tao-tse, and I possess the power of transformation, as thou knowest ; to me has been committed the charge of choosing the man who should convey to the emperor the immortality he desires. Often have I Moated over thy head in the shape of a stork. I have arranged thy water-lilies in forms emblematical of my purpose in vain ; nor until I assumed the appearance of one of thy speckled subjects, did I succeed in fixing thy attention, and recalling thy mind from its profound contemplation : hasten with me into the garden, it is now the propitious moment; the goddess Shen-Keun has escaped the jaws of the devourer, and will shine auspiciously on us."

Whangho followed her into the garden, and Shan-yin pointel out to him a plant which bore a head the size of an orange. “Take this knife," said she, “ make as many incisions as Shen-Keun is nights old, and collect the flowing juice in this box-it is the liquor of immortality."

Whangho did as he was desired. “And now,” said Shan-yin, "let us proceed at once to the imperial residence; thy boat is ready by my orders: we will attain the nearest shore, when, raising the yellow flag, thou mayest impress conveyances to the emperor's presence.

Whangho, who saw the smallest foot in the world playing bo-peep with the moonbeams, and who almost fancied he heard the gentle rustling of a peacock's feather, obeyed his fair bride; and long before the governor of Tchee-lang was stirring, they were far on the road to the Chinese capital.

Our travellers arrived at Pekin without accident or adventure; and Whangho, whose button entitled him to an audience, gave notice to the court of Lipoo to arrange the ceremonies of the interview.

On the appointed day, the mandarin and Shan-yin presented them. selves before the gate of the imperial residence, whose glories illuminate the most distant parts of the earth.

This gate faced the south, and was flanked on each side by an enormous dragon of curious workmanship, before each of which stood a large tree, whose unibrageous foliage served for shelter to the numerous assemblage that attended on business: this gate opened into a court-yard, at one end of which was a great saloon, where the weights and measures for the market were kept; beyond this was the emperor's residence, a succession of low apartments, one story high, communicating with each other; the roofs, composed of reed and straw, covered with verdure, produced by the rains of summer; the whole internal and external walls were hung with paper, painted and gilded in a thousand varieties of design, and varnished, to withstand the weather : on the other side of the court stood the hall of audience, into which, after the necessary delays, the mandarin and his bride were introduced : here sat the emperor, surrounded by his mandarins of the highest classes; on either side were ranged the literary mandarins, whose duty it was to record every word that was uttered by the golden mouth.

Having performed the Ko-iou, and complied with all the ceremonies under the command of the president of the Lipoo, Whangho and his companion waited in awful silence the first words which should proceed from him of the terrible countenance. At length he spoke.

•What has caused Whangho to leave his charge unbidden? What box is that in his hand ? and what female is that whose foot is as the foot of the royal antelope ?"

A mandarin having slowly repeated the words which, however, poor Whangho had heard distinctly enough, he addressed himself to reply; but scarcely had he commenced some incoherent expressions about the liquor of immortality, than the emperor, bursting through all the forms of etiquette, seized on the box in Whangho's hand, and eagerly examined the contents. He then inquired of Whangho the properties and mode of application of the liquor, who was interrupted in his explanation by Shan-yin, who thus addressed the emperor :

“I am Shan-yin, the last of the descendants of the great Lao-tse : knowing the eagerness and sincerity with which you follow the object of our common worship, I resolved that thou shouldst attain the object of thy desire, and the reward for having neglected all the interests of the empire in the pursuit of the only real good. I have used this simple man as an instrument of procuring for thee this happiness, for the edicts of wisdom are carried into effect by the hands of fools. Take, when thou retirest to rest, the contents of that little box; so shalt thou enjoy the beatitude of immortality.”

The emperor, transported with the speech of the descendant of Laotse, abruptly dismissed the assembly; and, having ordered Shan-yin to be treated with the respect due to the empress herself, retired to his private apartments.

Poor Whangho, who had not duly considered the consequence of giving immortality to emperors, was a little astounded when, the next morning, be found himself a prisoner; and, peeping from the window of his apartment, he saw the walls of the emperor's palace enveloped in the purest white, while messengers, with flags of yellow and white, thronged on the heels of each other, out of every outlet of the great square ; and presently heard a mandarin utter, with a stentorian voice, “ That, whereas it had pleased the Emperor Ven-tee to visit his brother the Suu, Yang-kin had taken on himself the cares of the empire till his return."

Whangho, brought before the court of Hong-roo, could relat2 merely

[ocr errors]

what he knew of the transaction; and now he learned, for the first time, that Shan-yin had disappeared in the night and gone, no one knew whither.

The new emperor, not disposed to visit on the head of the evidently innocent cause of his elevation to the throne the guilt of others, biassed the court of Hong-poo in Whangho's favour, which, after due deliberation, published the following sentence:-“That Whangho should be deprived of his striped button, receive a hundred tokens of the emperor's paternal care on his back, be condemned to the tcha for one month, and then banished to the government of Tchee-lang,” whose late governor had been elevated to the striped button and the purveyorship of the frogs in his stead.

Poor Whangho! He endured the first part of his sentence with filial thankfulness, and dragged about his tcha with much composure, on the four corners of which were written the following sentences of the wise Kong-fou-tchu :—“ Unsavoury is the odour of proffered service." "Be content in your present condition ; seeing it is difficult for any man to fulfil his duty: let none seek to go beyond it.” “ Let him not run after short feet whose business it is to look after long toes.”

At the completion of his sentence he hurried to his new government of Tchee-lang, where his first wife had already arrived, and he wondered as he first beheld her after his long absence, how he could have thought her feet large, so small did they now appear in his eyes. He sedulously applied himself to oversee the cutting and drying of the reeds. Although his cap was decorated by no button it kept his head every whit as comfortable; and his successor at Tchee-ho, to do him justice, furnished him plentifully with the finest frogs, which died full as fast and fat as under the old administration.

Here he concluded his days, divided once more into equal hours of sleep and contemplation ; but he was never heard afterwards to hint at small feet; and for immortality, he had learned, by a bitter lesson, that it is to be found only on the other side of the gate of death.

Shan-yin was never seen more ; but rumour, which can enlighten the darkest mysteries, said that she might be found in the palace of the new emperor, and thus accounted for her father's elevation and the leniency of Whangho's sentence.



Dear wife, in unselfish good humour invincible,

My efforts to praise you are worthless and faint;
You live on the true “Greatest happiness principle,"

And my Jeremiad is ne'er a complaint.
By Bentham's own system our being you measure;

Dividing my losses to double my gain;
For, when you advise me you “maximise pleasure,”

And when you sing to me you“ minimise pain.”

[blocks in formation]

Chap. I. DURAND DE FERVAL was a young gentleman of faith and credit, that is to say, he had unbounded faith in his personal attractions, and an unlimited credit with his tailor.

Fortunate had it been for him had he served an apprenticeship to the said tailor, for he would then probably have learned the economical art of " cutting his coat according to his cloth ;” whereas, the extravagant habits of his juvenility had left him rather“ out at elbows” in the matter of his private fortune. To repair his pecuniary losses he had come to the desperate resolution of committing-matrimony !

Paris was the chosen field for his connubial exploit, and thither, accompanied by his confidential valet, Antoine, he resorted.

There was only one bar to the speedy fruition of his hopes and wishes—for Durand had determined in his own mind that the partie he should clect should be as much indebted to Beauty as to Fortune. Now there was a plentiful crop of widows and ladies of a certain age who would have listened most favourably to the attentions of so elegant a youth—but De Ferval reserved his arrows for a different mark, and his affections for a more attractive market. Always on the wing, he was one day sauntering in the gardens of the Tuileries, accompanied by his valet, when he was struck by the appearance of two ladies. The elder -a tall, slender, but by no means inelegant figure-was dressed in the extravagance of the prevailing fashion; her companion-a lovely blonde, and simply attired-moved like a grace, and looked like a Hebe just stepped from her pedestal.

As De Ferval gazed upon this charming creature, his heart was affected by the most lively emotion. He certainly experienced a sensation as new as it was extraordinary.

“ Are you unwell, Monsieur ?”' inquired Antoine, anxiously, as his master staggered and supported himself against the pedestal of one of the many statues which adorn the gardens.

“ What a divinity!” said Durand, looking ardently after the receding object of his fascination—“ what an air !” Antoine was amazed, and followed the direction of his master's eyes. “ Yes! I have discovered the long-sought object at length!”

And a pretty length she is !” cried Antoine, whose attention was rivetted on the more prominent figure of the elder of the two. “ And as for the air-egad! it passes her without obstruction, for she is as straight and smooth as a May-pole!" Elle est femme Turque, Monsieur, clle est ennemie de la Graisse (Grèce).-(She is a Turkish woman, Sir, she is a foe to fat-grease).

“ Are you blind, Antoine ?” cried Durand. “I mean that delicate rose-bud blooming on her arm.”

“Oh! ah !” exclaimed Antoine ; " there is certainly a little ' difference,' as the cavalier said, when he saw his two friends draw their rapiers. And I'm thinking

“ Antoine,” interrupted the impatient master," I am afraid I take more interest in that damsel than is consistent with my prudent resolves --but there is really a certain something—a—a—you understand.”

“ Perfectly," said the attentive valet, smiling ; " but if there's not a certain something which you require attached to those pretty personals ?"

“ We must inquire into that,” replied Durand; “ but see, they return. Now, mark me, Antoine,” continued he ; “ do not notice or appear to belong to me—but watch them closely, and, when they quit the promenade, follow their footsteps, and endeavour to ascertain whether she's really worth—

“ The stipulated amount of"
“ Psha !--my attention! You cannot mistake her"

Although there may be a great many like her—as well as yourself," said Antoine, who could not possibly refrain from a joke.

“ Look !" cried the enraptured admirer,“ what bewitching smiles irradiate her beautiful countenance! Follow, Antoine, follow ?"

“ Depend on me,” said Antoine. « Je suivrai ces souris comme un inatou-(I will follow those smiles (or mice) like a tom-cat).”

Turning upon his heel the adroit Antoine now diligently followed his master's instructions—and the two ladies; and in about a quarter of an hour they glided from the parti-coloured crowd, with the watchful valet, like a shadow close in their rear.

De Ferval, in a fever of anxiety, returned to his hotel, to await the issue of Antoine's. inquiries.

[ocr errors]

CHAP. II. Lolling in one chair, his legs extended upon two others, Durand alternately employed himself with sipping Château Margaux, and cooling his palate with an ice.

“ How perfectly ridiculous,” said he, soliloquising, “ that I, who have survived the years of indiscretion, and cut my teeth of wisdom, should now be fooled by a pretty face! After all, she may prove to be nothing more than some intriguing marchande des modes-a trickster—an adventurer ;- but no I wrong her ;-there is a gentility—a modesty-a grace! Yes! by Heaven she is a paragon! No! no !--my judgment cannot possibly be so blinded by passion as to lead me into such an egregious error. Should I be mistaken, I am not yet so deeply dipped in love but I may prudently beat a retreat."

Antoine entered the room- -Durand was on his feet in a moment. “ Well, Antoine, well ?" demanded he.

Adieu panier, vendanges sont faites !--('Tis all over, we are a day after the fair!") exclaimed the valet ; “ there is already a rival in the field.”

“Never !"
" It's true.”
“ You must be imposed upon.'

“ Nay, I am not one of those who are to be told that “ des ressies sont des lanternes—(the moon is made of green cheese"), replied Antoine. “I have sifted the affair thoroughly, and I am convinced there is a man in the way.

“A mere dangler, perhaps,” said Durand—“not an accepted lover?”

“ That I could not ascertain,” answered the valet; “but it does look rather suspicious when a man is permitted to pay his attentions to a

« 上一頁繼續 »