Gold and gems without, but dry cocoons within

At Hangchow there lived a costermonger who understood how to keep
oranges a whole year without letting them spoil. His fruit was always
fresh-looking, firm as jade, and of a beautiful golden hue; but inside
— dry as an old cocoon.
One day I asked him, saying, ” Are your oranges for altar or
sacrificial purposes, or for show at banquets? Or do you make this
outside display merely to cheat the foolish? as cheat them, you most
outrageously do.”
“Sir,” replied the orangeman, “I have carried on this trade now for
many years. It is my source of livelihood. I sell: the world buys. And
I have yet to learn that you are the only honest man about, and that I
am the only cheat. Perhaps it never struck you in this light. The
baton-bearers of to-day, seated on their tiger skins, pose as the
martial guardians of the State; but what are they compared with the
captains of old? The broad-brimmed, long-robed ministers of to-day,
pose as pillars of the constitution; but have they the wisdom of our
ancient counsellors? Evil doers arise and none can subdue them. The
people are in misery, and none can relieve them. Clerks are corrupt,
and none can restrain them. Laws decay, and none can renew them. Our
officials eat the bread of the State, and know no shame. They sit in
lofty halls, ride fine steeds, drink themselves drunk with wine, and
batten on the richest fare. Which of them but puts on an awe-inspiring
look, a dignified mien? — all gold and gems without, but dry cocoons
within. You pay, sir, no heed to these things, while you are very
particular about my oranges.”
I had no answer to make. I retired to ponder over this costermonger’s
wit. Was he really out of conceit with the age, or only quizzing me in
defence of his fruit?

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