Ping Kwe's Downfall
It was Ping-Kwe's fondness for a river excursion, combined with the fact
of his possessing a very hasty temper, which led to his downfall. It
happened in this wise.
One day it chanced that he was in a particularly bad frame of mind; he
quarrelled with his wife, he heat his two little yellow-faced bairns,
and after doing all that was possible to promote discord in his
household, he started off on one of his favourite river trips, instead
of going back to his work.
The cool, sweet evening air might perhaps have done something towards
chasing Ping-Kwe's evil humour away, but alas! under the canopy of the
boat, within which he seated himself, he saw two English ladies, the
wife and sister of the British Consul in the district. Now Ping-Kwe
hated the English like poison and he thereupon began a tirade against
all foreigners, making use of as many English words as he could, for the
benefit of the two ladies.
Fortunately, his knowledge of the English language was limited, or Mrs.
Armstrong and Miss Heathcote might have been more alarmed than they
already were at his storm of abuse.
'What do we want with them here?' he snarled in his native tongue,
'turning the place upside down? If I had my will I would throw them all
'Calm yourself, Ping,' said one of his fellow-townsmen, Chang by name,
who was sitting near. 'Take my advice and throw something-else
Here he laid a restraining hand on the ill-tempered Chinaman's shoulder.
'What do you mean?' was the retort.
'Your bad temper; it will be the ruin of you if you don't.'
Alas! this open rebuke only added fuel to the fire, and Ping-Kwe's
fellow-passengers (who were bound for the town of Tsoung, across the
water) at length grew thoroughly tired of his company.
'Who is that fellow?' whispered one of the occupants of the boat to
'Oh! it is Ping-Kwe,' was the reply, as though that answered everything.
'What! the manager of Kong-Yung's stores in the town yonder?'
'How comes it that he is here, instead of attending to his work?' went
on the questioner.
As there was no satisfactory answer to this query, the stranger, who was
none other than Kong-Yung himself, said no more.
He had but lately come into his property, and so was not yet known to
all his tenants; but in these few minutes he had learnt enough to know
that Ping-Kwe was not the right sort of man to make a good manager.
Ping-Kwe, could he but have known it, would have given a year of his
life rather than show himself thus in his worst colours before his
wealthy employer. It was not the first time he had neglected his
business, but now his sin had found him out.
Perhaps Kong-Yung might have passed over this offence with a caution,
for he was not a hard man, but such a display of ill-temper was
unpardonable, and so it came to pass that early on the following
morning, Ping-Kwe received a curt dismissal from his post.
Nothing he could say or do had any power to alter his employer's
decision, and, before a month had elapsed, the hapless man found himself
utterly without the means of providing for his wife and family.
Strange to say, it was in his adversity that the best part of his nature
came to the fore.
For his wife and children's sake he would have cheerfully starved
himself; but alas! hunger and destitution stared them all in the face.
Days passed on into weeks, and still the hapless Chinaman was workless.
Never would Ping-Kwe or his patient little wife forget the miseries of
one terrible night. Overhead the stars were shining as though breathing
hope to the forlorn family, who were now actually without a roof to
cover them. The children were crying pitifully for food, and Ping-Kwe,
in his despair, began to think that even death itself would be welcome.
And the stinging part of it all was that he had brought his troubles
upon himself, for Kong-Yung had told him frankly the reason of his
It was when matters were at their lowest ebb, that the English ladies,
hearing of Ping-Kwe's sad plight, came to his aid.
With their own hands they tended to the necessities of the destitute
family, and it was owing to their intervention that Ping-Kwe found
employment again under his former master. It was humble work, it is
true, but Ping-Kwe was now a humble man.
With mingled shame and gratitude he accepted the kindly aid of the two
ladies, and from that time forth never more was he heard to say a word
against the English. Their influence by degrees wrought such a change in
Ping-Kwe that his best friends would hardly have known him.
As to his diligence in business, there could be no doubt, and Kong-Yung
never had reason to regret taking him into his service again. A few
months later, he chanced to be once more in the same boat with his
'What has happened to that temper of yours, Ping-Kwe?' asked Ching, with
a good-natured smile; 'I have not seen it lately.'
'No,' replied Ping-Kwe, 'I don't suppose you have. As a matter of fact I
have taken the advice you gave me some time ago, and have thrown it
"'Throw your bad temper overboard.'"