The Story of Hok Lee and the Dwarfs
There once lived in a small town in China a man named Hok Lee. He was a steady industrious man, who not only worked hard at his trade, but did all his own house-work as well, for he had no wife to do it for him. 'What an excellent industrious man is this Hok Lee!' said his neighbours; 'how hard he works: he never leaves his house to amuse himself or to take a holiday as others do!'
But Hok Lee was by no means the virtuous person his neighbours thought him. True, he worked hard enough by day, but at night, when all respectable folk were fast asleep, he used to steal out and join a dangerous band of robbers, who broke into rich people's houses and carried off all they could lay hands on.
This state of things went on for some time, and, though a thief was caught now and then and punished, no suspicion ever fell on Hok Lee, he was such a very respectable, hard-working man.
Hok Lee had already amassed a good store of money as his share of the proceeds of these robberies when it happened one morning on going to market that a neighbour said to him:
'Why, Hok Lee, what is the matter with your face? One side of it is all swelled up.'
True enough, Hok Lee's right cheek was twice the size of his left, and it soon began to feel very uncomfortable.
'I will bind up my face,' said Hok Lee; 'doubtless the warmth will cure the swelling.' But no such thing. Next day it was worse, and day by day it grew bigger and bigger till it was nearly as large as his head and became very painful.
Hok Lee was at his wits' ends what to do. Not only was his cheek unsightly and painful, but his neighbours began to jeer and make fun of him, which hurt his feelings very much indeed.
One day, as luck would have it, a travelling doctor came to the town. He sold not only all kinds of medicine, but also dealt in many strange charms against witches and evil spirits.
Hok Lee determined to consult him, and asked him into his house.
After the doctor had examined him carefully, he spoke thus: 'This, O Hok Lee, is no ordinary swelled face.