KHING-Chu-Fu, Empress of China, was doing her hair when her maids who, on their knees witnessed the delicate operation of artistically arranging the imperial hair of her majesty, burst into cries of admiration scarcely repressed by the etiquette of the palace.
"What is the matter?" Khing-Chu-Fu deigned to ask, turning her head.
"Ah, lady!" exclaimed the maids in a chorus. "Brahma has deigned to favour you with a sign of his protection."
"And what is that?" inquired the empress.
"A silver thread which appears amidst your beautiful hair."
"That is to say I have a white hair."
"So it is called amongst simple mortals, but in the Daughter of the Sun they are threads of silver, to which poets spontaneously sing verses under the penalty of being quartered like dogs."
"Let the seers and astrologers come at this very moment. I must know what this foretells."
Five minutes afterwards the royal boudoir was full of moustached men with eye-protectors, who, kneeling, waited to be consulted.
"To-day a white hair has appeared in my head!" exclaimed the empress.
The seers tugged at their moustaches in desperation, leaving the floor covered with hairs.
"Hail!" said the eldest, "Daughter of the Sun, who hast all the brilliance of the diamond, the beauty of the iris, the wisdom of Confucius, and the sweetness of the honey! This silver thread foretells a terrible calamity in the empire. Know that Brahma has decreed—it horrifies me to say so!—that one of your imperial teeth will commence to ache."
Terror was depicted on every countenance, and all who witnessed this scene pulled their pigtails, a sign of terrible desperation among the Chinese. The pages and maids groaned in chorus; the mandarins sat down on their hats, passing the time by eating tangerine oranges and rubbing their eyes with the peel. The news spread into the city, and very soon the whole of Pekin came out into the streets and places weeping salt tears over the terrible aching of the too—, for simple subjects were forbidden to pronounce completely the names of the imperial members or other parts of their illustrious sovereign’s body.
"The too—, the too—!" shouted the maddened people, making Pekin seem like an immense enclosure of bulls: and as if to make the illusion still more complete, there were not lacking people who produced cattle-bells with which the faithful are called to the pagoda—the church of the Chinese.
In those days there came to Pekin a young Spaniard, a native of Seville, a sharp and witty youth, who had arrived at the capital of the Chinese Empire after having wandered over half the world on foot, without money and without shame. He was thought to be very wide-awake and even clever, and all because he had been a groom and bull-ring attendant in his own town where he was nicknamed Pinchauvas.
Well, our Pinchauvas was astonished to see the desperation of those Chinese and above all when he heard the sound of too—! too—! which made him fear he was going to meet a drove of bulls. In case it was so, he thought it better to climb up to the first window which came to hand.
He had hardly reached the window, when from the interior of the house came forth a hand, and then an arm, which, catching hold of him firmly by the neck, pulled him up and made him enter the house in a most original way.
The arm was that of a palace guard who, on seeing our Sevillian climbing up to a window of one of the imperial rooms, detained him in order to deliver him up to justice.
This crime was a terrible one. In China it was something daring to profane one of the windows of the empress! That crime was punishable, at the least, with death.
The worst of it was that Pinchauvas did not know a word of Chinese, and was therefore amazed when the guard said to him, with a terrible air:
"What is this fellow saying to me?" thought Pinchauvas. "He seems to have a stomach-ache and is telling me that he has indigestion. Well, let him get better." And he shrugged his shoulders.
But the guard was nasty and, seizing him again by the neck, took him through the passages of the palace to the rooms of the great chancellor. The latter was found praying to God that the terrible prediction might not be fulfilled, as it might cost him his destiny. "If the empress’s tooth hurts her, she will hurt me," said he.
So when he was told of the horrible sacrilege committed by a foreigner, he became exceedingly angry and wished to have him beheaded.
"Take me to this youth, that I may settle him," he said to the guard.
And facing the Spaniard he said sharply:
"Another stomach-ache? The same as the horses in the bull-ring. But perhaps they have worries!"
By good fortune the great chancellor spoke broken French and Pinchauvas also, so that at last they almost came to understand each other.
"And what may you have been in your country?" asked the chancellor.
"I? A wise monkey." 
The chancellor did not understand the word monkey, but did understand the word wise, and full of joy he said:
"I am going to ask you a question, and if you answer me rightly, count on my protection."
The chancellor then informed Pinchauvas of the cause which had sown such sorrow in Pekin, and the lad, smiling, said to him with the greatest sang-froid:
"Is that all? Well I will restore calm to the Chinese Empire. I will make this white hair disappear and with it the presages of these charlatans. What has the hair to do with the teeth? Introduce me to the empress and you will see something interesting."
"I will, but it would not be well for the empress to see you in these clothes. May God make your days happy! We must make you look decent!"
And taking him to the bathroom, he placed him in the hands of his slaves who, in a twinkling, perfumed and clothed him in beautiful robes of silk and gold.
Pinchauvas, accompanied by the great chancellor, went to the imperial rooms, and there, on account of the person who accompanied him being the head of the government, had only to wait in eleven ante-chambers, after which he was shown into the imperial presence.
"Here I bring you, celebrated princess, the most famous and wise necromancer of the world," said the chancellor, who must have been fond of exaggerating. "A whirlwind made him fall on this palace dragging him from far lands, and in the centre of the whirlwind it seems to me I saw great Confucius, who held him by the neck."
"Rise, wise man!" said the empress sweetly.
Pinchauvas did not move.
"Get up, wise man!" repeated the chancellor in French.
"Do you mean me?" exclaimed Pinchauvas. And with one bound he stood up.
"Bow down, or you are a dead man," shouted the chancellor to him.
"I don’t want to," answered the youth.
"What does he say?" inquired the princess.
"That he must see the silver thread that Brahma presented you with this morning."
"Look at it!" said the queen with emphasis.
And taking out the seven hundred hair-pins and the three hundred packing needles with which she adorned herself, she let her silky black hair fall down, and amongst it could be seen one hair as white as snow.
Pinchauvas advanced, with more fear than shame and his mind made up, seized the hair, and, making signs as if in prayer, sharply pulled it out. The queen gave a scream and Pinchauvas, approaching a window, threw out the white hair, the cause of the misfortune of the Chinese Empire.
"Ah!" exclaimed the queen, "do you return Brahma his gift? What a marvellous man! He deserves a thousand rewards. For the present you will cede to him your post, and from to-day he will be my chancellor; and, so that you will not be troubled, I will hang you this afternoon with a rope that I made for you some days ago."
"What an honour for the family, lady!" said the chancellor, terrified. "Do you wish me to translate your proposal to the wise man?"
"Do so at once."
The poor man translated with complete fidelity what the queen had said, and then Pinchauvas told the chancellor that he would only accept his post on condition that he was given him as his secretary.
The empress acceded to Pinchauvas’ request, and granted him the royal seal as a sign of his unlimited authority.
"So that I can do what I like?" he asked.
"Whatever your highness wishes! Now, I am going to present you to the high functionaries of the palace."
He received them all with gestures of amiable protection, and the chancellor translated what he said.
"See here," said Pinchauvas, "let them bring me that Chinaman who seized me by the neck two hours ago."
"Seized your highness by your venerable neck?" indignantly asked the secretary.
"Does your highness wish us to burn him alive or simply to hang him?"
"I want you to bring him here safe and sound."
"Really, does your highness wish to strangle him with your own hands? He does not deserve such an extraordinary honour."
They brought the poor guard into the presence of Pinchauvas, and when they told him he was the new chancellor he almost died of terror.
"And now shall I really give you stomach-ache?" asked Pinchauvas, deliberately, raising his hand to his neck, which still hurt him.
The guard thought these were signs to hang him, and they would have done so, but for the opportune intervention of the brand new chancellor, who, besides pardoning the unfortunate man, conferred a high post upon him close to his person.
Pinchauvas has now learned Chinese and is called Pin-chu-chu, which means the wisest of the wise. And when he remembers his youth, he says inwardly:
"What would those poor horses in the bull-ring of Seville have said if they had been told that they had had the honour of being guided by the future Chancellor of China!"
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