Vietnamese Tale: The Limit


His firm reputation as a joker did this man a disservice when the new mandarin, who prided himself on his intelligence, summoned him to his chamber and said:
’Here is on my desk a silver tale, which will be yours if you manage to catch me out. If you fail, your reputation being overrated, I will have you given thirty strokes of this big cane to teach you not to make fun of fools anymore!”

The man, casting frightened glances at the instrument of torture, scratched his ears, a prey to the greatest perplexity.
’You are ‘father and mother’ of the people,’ he finally decided to reply. ’I owe you the whole truth I have never lied in my life!”

“That won’t do!” said the mandarin smiling condescendingly. ’I have all the witnesses I want.’
‘They are fools, as you have just said. All the stories I have told them are in a book my grandfather brought back from a visit to China. Ignorant people think I invent them, but a learned man like you…’

’Bring it me! I’ve read a good deal, and I should like to know if I’ve come across it.’
’What, sir Mandarin?”
’Your book!’

’But I’ve never had one! Or rather, that silver tale you’ve lost would enable me to buy one, If I could read!’
The presence of the militiamen that the mandarin had taken care to call in for the eventual beating prevented him from retracting. And that is how a mandarin was forced to dip into his pocket to join the ranks of those he treated as fools.