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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Tou remained in a state of stupefaction

his errand; to which the man

replied that he was the bearer of an invitation from his master. "And who is your master?" asked Tou. "Oh, he doesn't live far off," replied the other; so away they went together, and after some time came to a place where there were innumerable white houses rising one above the other, and shaded by dense groves of lemon-trees. They threaded their way past countless doors, not at all similar to those usually used, and saw a great many official-looking men and women passing and repassing, each of whom called out to the man in serge, "Has Mr. Tou come?" to which he always replied in the affirmative. Here a mandarin met them and escorted Tou into a palace, upon which the latter remarked, "This is really very kind of you; but I haven't the honour of knowing you, and I feel somewhat diffident about going in." "Our Prince," answered his guide, "has long heard of you as a man of good family and excellent principles, and is very anxious to make your acquaintance." "Who is your Prince?" inquired Tou. "You'll see for yourself in a moment," said the other; and just then out came two girls with banners, and guided Tou through a great number of doors until they came to a throne, upon which sat the Prince. His Highness immediately descended to meet him, and made him take the seat of honour; after which ceremony exquisite viands of all kinds were spread out before them. Looking up, Tou noticed a scroll, on which was inscribed, _The Cassia Court_, and he was just beginning to feel puzzled as to
what he should say next, when the Prince addressed him as follows:--"The honour of having you for a neighbour is, as it were, a bond of affinity between us. Let us, then, give ourselves up to enjoyment, and put away suspicion and fear." Tou murmured his acquiescence; and when the wine had gone round several times there arose from a distance the sound of pipes and singing, unaccompanied, however, by the usual drum, and very much subdued in volume. Thereupon the Prince looked about him and cried out, "We are about to set a verse for any of you gentlemen to cap; here you are:--'_Genius seeks the Cassia Court_.'" While the courtiers were all engaged in thinking of some fit antithesis,[44] Tou added, "_Refinement loves the Lily flower_;" upon which the Prince exclaimed, "How strange! Lily is my daughter's name; and, after such a coincidence, she must come in for you to see her." In a few moments the tinkling of her ornaments and a delicious fragrance of musk announced the arrival of the Princess, who was between sixteen and seventeen and endowed with surpassing beauty. The Prince bade her make an obeisance to Tou, at the same time introducing her as his daughter Lily; and as soon as the ceremony was over the young lady moved away. Tou remained in a state of stupefaction, and, when the Prince proposed that they should pledge each other in another bumper, paid not the slightest attention to what he said. Then the Prince, perceiving what had distracted his guest's attention, remarked that he was anxious to find a consort for his daughter, but that unfortunately there was the difficulty of _species_, and he didn't know what to do; but again Tou took no notice of what the Prince was saying, until at length one of the bystanders plucked his sleeve, and asked him if he hadn't seen that the Prince wished to drink with him, and had just been addressing some remarks to him. Thereupon Tou started, and, recovering himself at once, rose from the table and

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