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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Hou was at his wits' end what to do


"Snow on the whiskers descending: Live clouds falling from heaven: Wood in water buoyed up: In the wall an opening effected."

The official then retired, and the Viceroy waked up; but it was only after a night of tossing and turning that he hit upon what seemed to him the solution of the enigma. "The first line," argued he, "must signify _old_ (_lao_ in Chinese); the second refers to the _dragon_[331] (_lung_ in Chinese); the third is clearly a _boat_; and the fourth a _door_ here taken in its secondary sense--_man_." Now, to the east of the province, not far from the pass by which traders from the north connect their line of trade with the southern seas, there was actually a ferry known as the Old Dragon (_Lao-lung_); and thither the Viceroy immediately despatched a force to arrest those employed in carrying people backwards and forwards. More than fifty men were caught, and they all confessed at once without the application of torture. In fact, they were bandits under the guise of boatmen;[332] and after beguiling passengers on board, they would either drug them or burn stupefying incense until they were senseless, finally cutting them open and putting a large stone inside to make the body sink. Such was the horrible story, the discovery of which brought throngs to the Viceroy's door to serenade him in terms of gratitude and praise.[333]

FOOTNOTES:

[330] See

No. I., note 36.

[331] Clouds being naturally connected in every Chinaman's mind with these fabulous creatures, the origin of which has been traced by some to waterspouts. See No. LXXXI., note 84.

[332] "Boat-men" is the solution of the last two lines of the enigma.

[333] The commentator actually supplies a list of the persons who signed a congratulatory petition to the Viceroy on the arrest and punishment of the criminals.

CLXII.

THE PIOUS SURGEON.

A certain veterinary surgeon, named Hou, was carrying food to his field labourers, when suddenly a whirlwind arose in his path. Hou seized a spoon and poured out a libation of gruel, whereupon the wind immediately dropped. On another occasion, he was wandering about the municipal temple when he noticed an image of Liu Ch'uean presenting the melon,[334] in whose eye was a great splotch of dirt. "Dear me, Sir Liu!" cried Hou, "who has been ill-using you like this?" He then scraped away the dirt with his finger-nail, and passed on. Some years afterwards, as he was lying down very ill, two lictors walked in and carried him off to a yamen, where they insisted on his bribing them heavily. Hou was at his wits' end what to do; but just at that moment a personage dressed in green robes came forth, who was greatly astonished at seeing him there, and asked what it all meant. Our hero at once explained; whereupon the man in green turned upon the lictors and abused them for not shewing proper respect to Mr. Hou. Meanwhile a drum sounded like the roll of thunder, and the man in green told Hou that it was for the morning session, and that he would have to attend. Leading Hou within he put him in his proper place, and, promising to inquire into the charge against him, went forward and whispered a few words to one of the clerks. "Oh," said the latter, advancing and making a bow to the veterinary surgeon, "yours is a trifling matter.


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