Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/664

This page needs to be proofread.
656
[June 4, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.

O Chang Pang! O Chang Pang!
Thou art like the boomerang
Hurled from out a Tartar gang,
Mountains, wilds, and glens amang;
For to slay the bold ourang—
And my fate art thou, Chang Pang!

Then taking from his left breast a tiny embroidered slipper, proceeded to kiss it ardently, at which moment the stranger came up, and struck with the wonderful size and delicacy of the slipper, snatched it from him. Oh, how slippery is the path of love. It would seem that Ch-ng P-ng, foresaw in his mind’s eye the transcendent beauty of the owner of the slipper, for need I say it was the slipper of Chang Pang? The minister shouted “Murder!” and “Fire!” and “Waiter!” it was no use, for the stranger, thrusting him aside, and threatening his life, was gone from the gardens in a moment; while the Premier rolled sprawling on the ground in a fainting state.

A few days afterwards Ch-ng P-ng presented himself at the palace, very handsomely dressed, and proclaimed his intention of attempting to guess the riddles, being by no means terrified by the heads of the unsuccessful suitors, which grinned ghastly on the battlements. The minister, Chong Pong, on his entering the presence chamber, recognised him, and warned him in a whisper to withdraw; but Ch-ng P-ng paid no attention to him, and proceeded to do obeisance to the Emperor and Princess. The reception being concluded, Chang Pang, veiled, rose and recited the following, of which I give you a rough translation:—

On a throne at break of day,
In the dust at evening ray,
Once o’er Canton wielding sway,
By his pigtail torn away,
Borne from Canton’s rolling bay,
To Inflexibles a prey,
By his master now degra-
Ded, and gone where he may stay,
Till we for his ransom pay
(Get the which I wish he may),—
Stranger, solve my simple say,
But, beware, don’t say me Nay.

Ch-ng P-ng, with an effort of mind which seemed stupendous to the courtiers, at once guessed the answer to be “Yeh!” Whereupon the Princess, chagrined but not defeated, again rose, and casting a confident look around, recited the second conundrum in melodious tones. It is as follows:—

The ocean is my firstling’s home,
I haunt the heaving billow,
And where the waves are lashed in foam
I have my downy pillow;
Yet sometimes towards the sunny skies
I float with iridescent dyes.

Of all that’s unenduring
On earth I’m emblematic,
I live—I die—a brief career!
A brief career aquatic.
’Twould seem, though ever starving, I’d
By reason of repletion died.

My third unto my first I wish
Will ever be united,
For thus combined they form a dish
To eat you’ll be delighted.
’Tis strange that things so slight and spare
Combined form a dish so rare.

The Princess, after the applause was hushed, said the “third” syllable was as follows:—

When on the fattened swine
Falleth the butcher’s knife,
And you hear a voice, ’tis mine—
The cry of parting life.
I’m used, too, in proverbial slang,
For those who’ve just escaped death’s pang.

For a moment the Prince seemed bewildered, and a shadow of doubt and anxiety passed across his handsome countenance, but it was but momentary, and with a preliminary smack of the lips, he exclaimed, “Bubble-and-Squeak!” The Princess indignantly rose again, and with flashing eye and quivering voice repeated defiantly the following verses to an audience so silent you could hear a pin fall:—

From Cupido’s poisoned dart
Thou shalt never be delivered;
From the first into thy heart
Swift it flew, and there it quivered.
Hope no more that thou wilt place
Yet the second on my finger.
Look once more upon my face,[Uncovering.
For thou must no longer linger.
Our Celestial Empire fame
To the barbarous whole has given.
If thou canst not tell his name,
Thou in vain for me hast striven.

The Emperor and court, on seeing her unveil, said that Ch-ng P-ng was lost, and that the sight of such resplendent charms would drive him mad. Not so, however, for in a tone of exultation he exclaimed, “Bowring.” Chong Pong, the minister, looked baffled and angry, and swore hideously in his sleeve. The Emperor was dumb with surprise; but the Princess, rising suddenly, solved the difficulty, and declared she would not marry him; nay, would die sooner, and then began to faint and beat her heels on the ground. Ch-ng P-ng, who carefully observed her, and saw the prize slipping from his grasp, determined to try another tack, and proposed that he should propound a riddle to her, and in the event of her guessing it, she should slice and fry him; but, if unsuccessful, she should marry him. And on her consenting, he spoke as follows:—

Cruel lady, who is he,

Royal and a refugee,