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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Shook and shook while its victim squeaked and squeaked


FOOTNOTE:

[289] Literally, "golden oranges." These are skilfully preserved by the Cantonese, and form a delicious sweetmeat for dessert.

CXLIV.

THE GREAT RAT.

During the reign of the Emperor Wan Li,[290] the palace was troubled by the presence of a huge rat, quite as big as a cat, which ate up all the cats that were set to catch it. Just then it chanced that among the tribute offerings sent by some foreign State was a lion-cat, as white as snow. This cat was accordingly put into the room where the rat usually appeared; and, the door being closely shut, a secret watch was kept. By-and-by the rat came out of its hole and rushed at the cat, which turned and fled, finally jumping up on the table. The rat followed, upon which the cat jumped down; and thus they went on up and down for some time. Those who were watching said the cat was afraid and of no use; however, in a little while the rat began to jump less briskly, and soon after squatted down out of breath. Then the cat rushed at it, and, seizing the rat by the back of the neck, shook and shook while its victim squeaked and squeaked, until life was extinct. Thus they knew the cat was not afraid, but merely waited for its adversary to be fatigued, fleeing when pursued and itself pursuing the fleeing rat. Truly, many a bad swordsman may be compared with that

rat!

FOOTNOTE:

[290] A.D. 1573-1620, the epoch of the most celebrated "blue china."

CXLV.

WOLVES.

I.--A certain village butcher, who had bought some meat at market and was returning home in the evening, suddenly came across a wolf, which followed him closely, its mouth watering at the sight of what he was carrying. The butcher drew his knife and drove the animal off; and then reflecting that his meat was the attraction, he determined to hang it up in a tree and fetch it the next morning. This he accordingly did, and the wolf followed him no further; but when he went at daylight to recover his property, he saw something hanging up in the tree resembling a human corpse. It turned out to be the wolf, which, in its efforts to get at the meat, had been caught on the meat-hook like a fish; and as the skin of a wolf was just then worth ten ounces of silver, the butcher found himself possessed of quite a little capital. Here we have a laughable instance of the result of "climbing trees to catch fish."[291]

II.--A butcher, while travelling along at night, was sore pressed by a wolf, and took refuge in an old mat shed which had been put up for the watchman of the crops. There he lay, while the wolf sniffed at him from outside, and at length thrust in one of its paws from underneath. This the butcher seized hold of at once, and held it firmly, so that the wolf couldn't stir; and then, having no other weapon at hand, he took a small knife he had with him and slit the skin underneath the wolf's paw. He now proceeded to blow into it, as butchers blow into pork;[292] and after vigorously blowing for some time, he found that the wolf had ceased to struggle; upon which he went outside and saw the animal lying on the ground, swelled up to the size of a cow, and unable to bend its legs or close its open mouth. Thereupon he threw it across his shoulders and carried it off home. However, such a feat as this could only be accomplished by a butcher.

FOOTNOTES:

[291] A satirical remark of Mencius (Book I.), used by the sage when combating the visionary projects of a monarch of antiquity.


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