Bill Meilen
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To have gold in the hand
Is to feel the surging bloodflow
Of all mankind.
Yet it can be a poison gift
Awakening demons of greed.
Chang Suey-sun

REFRESHED from a rubdown under the waterfall spray, clad in cool cotton and silk robes, the three leading men of the Family Chang lay on the open rock balcony, sipping home-made ricewine, discoursing upon family affairs.

The evening was soft and pleasant, and with the departure of the blazing sun behind Nan Ling, a gentle breeze had risen to blow away the sweltering heat absorbed by the great stones of the old house. Lee shifted his great weight comfortably on the lacquered divan, reaching for the canvas vest he had worn under his uniform tunic. Unbuttoning a pocket, he withdrew a flat bar of gold and held it out to his younger brother.

Sun took it and hefted it, fingering the impressions stamped deep in the rich yellow metal by the assay office. “It looks like gold, and has the same substantial weight. I see it has been flame-burnished. You have had it assayed?”

Lee nodded. “Take my word for it, Sun, it is pure alluvial gold from the Cariboo country. Properly assayed. Point nine nine nine pure, from our own claims in Gim San.”

“That is the meaning of these Gwailo markings?”

“These are standard markings used by barbarians to indicate purity. What you hold is ten troy ounces of the purest gold available - and we have brought five hundred ounces home with us. It has great value for jewellers. Jade and gold are beautiful together. In America, it makes men go mad.”

Sun nodded happily. “Yes. I can understand that madness. It is beautiful, with a great depth of colour that is a joy to observe. You would have to grind much rock to get so much gold.”

“I told you, it is alluvial, found in fine grains and nuggets in riverbed gravel and sand. We crush no ore, nor do any mining at all. This alluvial gold is extracted from a rich river source only a short way from our very own mountain of jade.”

“Mountain of jade?” Sun’s mouth dropped open like a flytrap with amazement.

His brother laughed happily. “Truly, to use the term ‘mountain’ is an exaggeration. It is only a small part of a mountain, a strata of medium quality green nephrite, but quite clear, virtually unflawed. To my knowledge, it is the best that has ever been found in North America. It carves most beautifully and has caused great excitement among our artefact trader friends in Hong Kong, who have recently taken delivery of an entire cargo of it in blocks