Yü-ts’un had had no idea that it was he. Hastily taking his hand in his, he smilingly observed, “You are, indeed, an old acquaintance!” and then pressed him to take a seat, so as to have a chat with more ease, but the Retainer would not presume to sit down.
“Friendships,” Yü-ts’un remarked, putting on a smiling expression, “contracted in poor circumstances should not be forgotten! This is a private room; so that if you sat down, what would it matter?”
The Retainer thereupon craved permission to take a seat, and sat down gingerly, all awry.
“Why did you, a short while back,” Yü-ts’un inquired, “not allow me to issue the warrants?”
“Your illustrious office,” replied the Retainer, “has brought your worship here, and is it likely you have not transcribed some philactery of your post in this province!”
“What is an office-philactery?” asked Yü-ts’un with alacrity.
“Now-a-days,” explained the Retainer, “those who become local officers provide themselves invariably with a secret list, in which are entered the names and surnames of the most influential and affluent gentry of note in the province.
This is in vogue in every province. Should inadvertently, at any moment, one give umbrage to persons of this status, why, not only office, but I fear even one’s life,
it would be difficult to preserve. That’s why these lists are called office-philacteries. This Hsüeh family, just a while back spoken of, how could your worship presume to provoke? This case in question affords no difficulties whatever in the way of a settlement; but the prefects, who have held office before you, have all,
by doing violence to the feelings and good name of these people, come to the end they did.”
As he uttered these words, he produced, from inside a purse which he had handy, a transcribed office-philactery, which he handed over to Yü-ts’un; who upon perusal, found it full of trite and unpolished expressions of public opinion, with regard to the leading clans and notable official families in that particular district. They ran as follows:
The “Chia” family is not “chia,” a myth; white jade form the Halls; gold compose their horses! The “A Fang” Palace is three hundred li in extent, but is no fit residence for a “Shih” of Chin Ling. The eastern seas lack white jade beds, and the “Lung Wang,” king of the Dragons, has come to ask for one of the Chin Ling Wang, (Mr. Wang of Chin Ling.) In a plenteous year, snow, (Hsüeh,) is very plentiful; their pearls and gems are like sand, their gold like iron.
Scarcely had Yü-ts’un done reading, when suddenly was heard the announcement, communicated by the beating of a gong,