Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Nose For The King
by [?]

In the morning calm of Korea, when its peace and tranquility truly merited its ancient name, “Cho-sen,” there lived a politician by name Yi Chin Ho. He was a man of parts, and–who shall say?–perhaps in no wise worse than politicians the world over. But, unlike his brethren in other lands, Yi Chin Ho was in jail. Not that he had inadvertently diverted to himself public moneys, but that he had inadvertently diverted too much. Excess is to be deplored in all things, even in grafting, and Yi Chin Ho’s excess had brought him to most deplorable straits.

Ten thousand strings of cash he owed the government, and he lay in prison under sentence of death. There was one advantage to the situation–he had plenty of time in which to think. And he thought well. Then called he the jailer to him.

“Most worthy man, you see before you one most wretched,” he began. “Yet all will be well with me if you will but let me go free for one short hour this night. And all will be well with you, for I shall see to your advancement through the years, and you shall come at length to the directorship of all the prisons of Cho-sen.”

“How now?” demanded the jailer. “What foolishness is this? One short hour, and you but waiting for your head to be chopped off! And I, with an aged and much-to-be-respected mother, not to say anything of a wife and several children of tender years! Out upon you for the scoundrel that you are!”

“From the Sacred City to the ends of all the Eight Coasts there is no place for me to hide,” Yi Chin Ho made reply. “I am a man of wisdom, but of what worth my wisdom here in prison? Were I free, well I know I could seek out and obtain the money wherewith to repay the government. I know of a nose that will save me from all my difficulties.”

“A nose!” cried the jailer.

“A nose,” said Yi Chin Ho. “A remarkable nose, if I may say so, a most remarkable nose.”

The jailer threw up his hands despairingly. “Ah, what a wag you are, what a wag,” he laughed. “To think that that very admirable wit of yours must go the way of the chopping-block!”

And so saying, he turned and went away. But in the end, being a man soft of head and heart, when the night was well along he permitted Yi Chin Ho to go.

Straight he went to the Governor, catching him alone and arousing him from his sleep.

“Yi Chin Ho, or I’m no Governor!” cried the Governor. “What do you here who should be in prison waiting on the chopping-block!”

“I pray your excellency to listen to me,” said Yi Chin Ho, squatting on his hams by the bedside and lighting his pipe from the fire-box. “A dead man is without value. It is true, I am as a dead man, without value to the government, to your excellency, or to myself. But if, so to say, your excellency were to give me my freedom–“

“Impossible!” cried the Governor. “Besides, you are condemned to death.”

“Your excellency well knows that if I can repay the ten thousand strings of cash, the government will pardon me,” Yi Chin Ho went on. “So, as I say, if your excellency were to give me my freedom for a few days, being a man of understanding, I should then repay the government and be in position to be of service to your excellency. I should be in position to be of very great service to your excellency.”

“Have you a plan whereby you hope to obtain this money?” asked the Governor.

“I have,” said Yi Chin Ho.

“Then come with it to me to-morrow night; I would now sleep,” said the Governor, taking up his snore where it had been interrupted.