In 1908, shortly before the death of the formidable
Empress Dowager, Tzu Hsi, Ferdinand Feghoot sentimentally tried to save her
doomed Chinese Empire. (He had ruled as the Emperor Fei Hu, 357-329 B.C.) Though
she paid no heed to his counsels, his mission was by no means an absolute
failure. He did save the life of her Master Chef, venerable Mao Shih-pen.
A young lion had escaped from the zoo, and the
Empress decreed that when it was cornered and shot it would be the piece de resistance
at a most splendid banquet. The top mandarins were invited, and the whole
diplomatic corps. After any number of delicate dishes were served, finally in
came Mao's masterpiece.
Everyone set to eagerly, and there was a sudden dead
silence. The dish tasted awful. The French ambassador actually spat his first
bite into his napkin.
The furious Empress had Mao dragged before her.
"Such insulting incompetence," she screamed, "must be
punished!" And she sentenced him to suffer the death of a thousand cuts.
Instantly, Feghoot threw himself at her feet. Be
merciful, Heavenborn!" he cried out. "Master Mao wasn't responsible.
Your political enemies have been spiking his tea with straight alcohol! He was
drunk without knowing it!"
"How do you know this?" she demanded.
"It was obvious," replied Ferdinand
Feghoot. "The poor old man couldn't even wok a strayed lion."