III

Pang Noo went to school and worked steadily for three years. He learned amazingly fast, and did far more in three years than the brightest pupils usually do in ten. His noted teacher soon found that the boy could even lead him, and it became evident that further stay at the school was unnecessary. The boy also was very anxious to go and see his parents. At last he bade his teacher good-by, to the Borrow of both, for their companionship had been very pleasant and profitable, and they had more than the usual attachment of teacher and pupil for each other. Pang Noo and his attendant journeyed leisurely to their home, where they were received with the greatest delight. His mother had not seen her son during his schooling, and even her fond pride was hardly prepared for the great improvement the boy had made, both in body and mind, since last she saw him. The father eventually ashed to see the ancestral fan he had given him, and the boy had to confess that he had it not, giving as an excuse that he had lost it on the road. His father could not conceal his anger, and for some time their pleasure was marred by this unfortunate circumstance. Such a youth and an only son could not long remain unforgiven, however, and soon all was forgotten, and he enjoyed the fullest love of his parents and admiration of his friends as he quietly pursued his studies and recreation.

In this way he came down to his sixteenth year, the pride of the neighborhood. His quiet was remarked, but no one knew the secret cause, and how much of his apparent studious attention was devoted to the charming little maiden image that was framed in his mental vision. About this time a very great official from the neighborhood called upon bis father, and after the usual formalities, announced that he had heard of the remarkable son You Tah Jung was the father of, and he had come to consult upon the advisability of uniting their families, as he himself had been blessed with a daughter who was beautiful and accomplished. You Tah Jung was delighted at the prospect of making such a fine alliance for his son, and gave his immediate consent, but to his dismay, his son objected so strenuously and withal so honorably that the proposition had to be declined as graciously as the rather awkward circumstances would allow. Both men being sensible, however, they but admired the boy the more, for the clever rascal had begged his father to postpone all matrimonial matters, as far as he was concerned, till he had been able to make a name for himself, and had secured rank, that he might merit such attention.

Pang Noo was soon to have an opportunity to distinguish himself. A great quaga (civil-service examination) was to be held at the capi-cal, and Pang Noo announced his intention of entering the lists and competing for civil rank. His father was glad, and in due time started him off in proper style. The examination was held in a great enclosure at the rear of the palace, where the King and his counsellors sat in a pavilion upon a raised stage of masonry. The hundreds of men and youths from all parts of the country were seated upon the ground under large umbrellas. Pang Noo was given a subject, and soon finished his essay, after which he folded it up carefully and tossed the manuscript over a wall into an enclosure, where it was received and delivered to the board of examiners. These gentlemen, as well as His Majesty, were at once struck with the rare merit of the production, and made instant inquiry concerning the writer. Of course he was successful, and a herald soon announced that Pang, the son of You Tab Jung had taken the highest honors. He was summoned before the King, who was pleased with the young man's brightness and wisdom. In addition to his own rank, his father was made governor of a province, and made haste to come to court and thank his sovereign for the double honor, and to congratulate his son.

Pang was given permission to go and bow at the tomb of his ancestors, in grateful acknowledgment for Heaven's blessings. Having done which, he went to pay his respects to his mother, who fairly worshipped her son now, if she had not done so before. During his absence the King had authorized the board of appointments to give him the high rank of Ussa, for, though he was young. His Majesty thought one so wise and quick, well fitted to travel in disguise and spy out the acta of evil officials, learn the condition of the people, and bring the corrupt and usurous to punishment. Pang Noo was amazed at his success, yet the position just suited him, for, aside from a desire to better the condition of his fellow-men, he felt that in this position he would be apt to learn the whereabouts of his lady-love, whose beautiful vision was ever before him. Donning a suitable disguise, therefore, he set out upon the business at hand with a light heart.

IV

UHN Hah during all this time had been progressing in a quiet way as a girl should, but she also was quite the wonder of her neighborhood. All this time she had had many, if not constant, dreams of the handsome youth she had met by the roadside. She had lived over the incident time and again, and many a time did she take down and gaze upon the beautiful fan, which, however, opened and closed in such a manner that, ordinarily, the characters were concealed. At last, however, she discovered them, and great was her surprise and delight at the message. She dwelt on it much, and finally concluded it was a heaven arranged union, and as the lad had pledged his faith to her, she vowed she would be his, or never marry at all This thought she nourished, longing to see Pang Noo, and wondering how she should ever find him, till she began to regard herself as really the wife of her lover.

About this time one of His Majesty's greatest generals, who had a reputation for bravery and cruelty as well, came to stop at his country holding near by, and hearing of the remarkable girl, daughter of the retired, but very honorable, brother official, he made a call at the house of Mr. Cho, and explained that he was willing to betroth his son to Cho's daughter. The matter was considered at length, and Cho gave his willing consent. Upon the departure of the General, the father went to acquaint his daughter with her good fortune. Upon hearing it, she seemed struck dumb, and then began to weep and moan, as though some great calamity had befallen her. She could say nothing, nor bear to hear any more said of the matter. She could neither eat nor sleep, and the roses fled from her tear-bedewed cheeks. Her parents were dismayed, but wisely abstained from troubling her. Her mother, however, betimes lovingly coaxed her daughter to confide in her, but it was . long before the girl could bring herself to disclose a secret so peculiar and apparently so unwomanly. The mother prevailed at last, and the whole story of the early infatuation eventually came forth. "He has pledged himself to me," she said, "he recognized me at sight as his heaven-sent bride, and I have pledged myself to him. I cannot marry another, and, should I never find him on earth, this fan shall be my husband till death liberates my spirit to join his in the skies." She enumerated his great charms of manner and person, and begged her mother not to press this other marriage upon her, but rather let her die, insisting, however, that should she die her mother must tell Pang Noo how true she had been to him.

The father was in a great dilemma. "Why did you not tell this to your mother before? Here the General has done me the honor to ask that our families be united, and I have consented. Now I must decline, and his anger will be so great that he will ruin me at the Capitol. And then, after all, this is but an absurd piece of childish foolishness. Your fine young man, had he half the graces you give him, would have been betrothed long before this."

"No! No!" she exclaimed, "he has pledged himself, and I know he is even now coming to me. He will not marry another, nor can I. Would you ask one woman to marry two men? Yet that is what you ask in this, for I am already the wife of Pang Noo in my heart.

Kill me, if you will, but spare me this, I beg and entreat," and she writhed about on her cot, crying till the mat was saturated with her tears.

The parents loved her too well to withstand her pleadings, and resigning themselves to the inevitable persecution that must result, they dispatched a letter to the General declining bis kind offer, in as unobjectionable a maimer as possible. It had the result that was feared. The General, in a towering rage, sent soldiers to arrest Mr. Cho, but before he could go further, a messenger arrived from Seoul with despatches summoning him to the Capitol immediately, as a rebellion had broken out on the borders. Before leaving, however, he instructed the local magistrate to imprison the man and not release him till he consented to the marriage. It chanced that the magistrate was an honest man and knew the General to be a very cruel, relentless warrior. He therefore listened to Cho's story, and believed the strange case. Furthermore, his love for the girl softened his heart, and he bade them to collect what they could and go to another province to live. Cho did so, with deep gratitude to the magistrate, while the latter wrote to the General that the prisoner had avoided arrest and fled to unknown parts, taking his family with him.