"The Wonderful Man"
No one must ever learn what it was. It must be the secret of her life, which she should bury within her own bosom, and which not even her own son should ever know, if she could possibly help it.
Having sold her cottage, she moved away to a quiet suburb outside the great city which was so renowned for learning. Then she discarded her woman's attire and dressed herself as a man. In no other way could she support herself and her child, for in China a woman is always under great disadvantages in the way of earning her own living. As a man, she knew that she could hold her own in any of the unskilled employments which she was capable of taking up. And so it turned out. She could carry as heavy a load as any of the men with whom she had to compete, and she was so civil and so well-behaved and so free from the use of profane language, that employers unaware of her sex used to pick her out in preference to others who offered themselves.
The years went by, and her little son was growing up to be a fine young man. The mother had determined that he should be a scholar. This was the one ambition of her life, and for this she slaved and toiled and denied herself almost the very necessaries of life.
Twenty years had passed since that stormy night. In the neighbouring city, the triennial examinations were just finished and the excitement was intense amongst the thousands of students who gathered round the Examination Hall to learn the names of the successful candidates.
By-and-by the son came home with a light step and with his eyes flashing with delight. His excitement was so great that he could hardly utter distinctly the words which rushed from his lips.
"Father," he cried, "the great desire of your heart and of mine has been granted to us to-day. I have passed, and that too with honours, for my name stands at the very top of the list of those who have been adjudged successful. And now, my beloved father, there will be no more hard work for you. My name will soon be flashed throughout the Province and will be posted in every Confucian guild, and scholars everywhere will speak with admiration of the great success I have won.