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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Tou at first offered objections to this


has been lying coiled up outside

the entrance to the palace, and that it has already devoured 13,800 and odd of your Highness's subjects, and is spreading desolation far and wide. On receipt of this information your servant proceeded to make a reconnaissance, and there beheld a venomous reptile with a head as big as a mountain and eyes like vast sheets of water. Every time it raised its head, whole buildings disappeared down its throat; and, on stretching itself out, walls and houses were alike laid in ruins. In all antiquity there is no record of such a scourge. The fate of our temples and ancestral halls is now a mere question of hours; we therefore pray your Royal Highness to depart at once with the Royal Family and seek somewhere else a happier abode."[47] When Tou had read this document his face turned ashy pale; and just then a messenger rushed in, shrieking out, "Here is the monster!" at which the whole Court burst into lamentations as if their last hour was at hand. The Prince was beside himself with fear; all he could do was to beg Tou to look to his own safety without regarding the wife through whom he was involved in their misfortunes. The Princess, however, who was standing by bitterly lamenting the fate that had fallen upon them, begged Tou not to desert her; and, after a moment's hesitation, he said he should be only too happy to place his own poor home at their immediate disposal if they would only deign to honour him. "How can we talk of _deigning_," cried the Princess, "at such a moment as this?
I pray you take us there as quickly as possible." So Tou gave her his arm, and in no time they had arrived at Tou's house, which the Princess at once pronounced to be a charming place of residence, and better even than their former kingdom. "But I must now ask you," said she to Tou, "to make some arrangement for my father and mother, that the old order of things may be continued here." Tou at first offered objections to this; whereupon the Princess said that a man who would not help another in his hour of need was not much of a man, and immediately went off into a fit of hysterics, from which Tou was trying his best to recall her, when all of a sudden he awoke and found that it was all a dream. However, he still heard a buzzing in his ears which he knew was not made by any human being, and, on looking carefully about he discovered two or three bees which had settled on his pillow. He was very much astonished at this, and consulted with his friend, who was also greatly amazed at his strange story; and then the latter pointed out a number of other bees on various parts of his dress, none of which would go away even when brushed off. His friend now advised him to get a hive for them, which he did without delay; and immediately it was filled by a whole swarm of bees, which came flying from over the wall in great numbers. On tracing whence they had come, it was found that they belonged to an old gentleman who lived near, and who had kept bees for more than thirty years previously. Tou thereupon went and told him the story; and when the old gentleman examined his hive he found the bees all gone. On breaking it open he discovered a large snake inside of about ten feet in length, which he immediately killed, recognising in it the "huge monster" of Tou's adventure. As for the bees, they remained with Tou, and increased in numbers every year.

FOOTNOTES:

[44] In this favourite pastime of the literati in China the important point is that each word in the second line should be a due and proper antithesis of the word in the first line to which it corresponds.

[45] See No. LXII., note 349.


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