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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

And immediately turned his forces upon Tsu Shu shun


[116] Mr. Li had, doubtless, taken a "drop too much" before he started on his mountain walk.



K'u Ta-yu was a native of the Yang district, and managed to get a military appointment under the command of Tsu Shu-shun.[117] The latter treated him most kindly, and finally sent him as Major-General of some troops by which he was then trying to establish the dynasty of the usurping Chows. K'u soon perceived that the game was lost, and immediately turned his forces upon Tsu Shu-shun, whom he succeeded in capturing, after Tsu had been wounded in the hand, and whom he at once forwarded as a prisoner to headquarters. That night he dreamed that the Judge of Purgatory appeared to him, and, reproaching him with his base ingratitude, bade the devil-lictors seize him and scald his feet in a cauldron of boiling oil. K'u then woke up with a start, and found that his feet were very sore and painful; and in a short time they swelled up, and his toes dropped off. Fever set in, and in his agony he shrieked out, "Ungrateful wretch that I was indeed," and fell back and expired.


[117] Of whom I can learn nothing.


justify;">SMELLING ESSAYS.[118]

Now as they wandered about the temple they came upon an old blind priest sitting under the verandah, engaged in selling medicines and prescribing for patients. "Ah!" cried Sung, "there is an extraordinary man who is well versed in the arts of composition;" and immediately he sent back to get the essay they had just been reading, in order to obtain the old priest's opinion as to its merits. At the same moment up came their friend from Yue-hang, and all three went along together. Wang began by addressing him as "Professor;" whereupon the priest, who thought the stranger had come to consult him as a doctor, inquired what might be the disease from which he was suffering. Wang then explained what his mission was; upon which the priest smiled and said, "Who's been telling you this nonsense? How can a man with no eyes discuss with you the merits of your compositions?" Wang replied by asking him to let his ears do duty for his eyes; but the priest answered that he would hardly have patience to sit out Wang's three sections, amounting perhaps to some two thousand and more words. "However," added he, "if you like to burn it, I'll try what I can do with my nose." Wang complied, and burnt the first section there and then; and the old priest, snuffing up the smoke, declared that it wasn't such a bad effort, and finally gave it as his opinion that Wang would probably succeed at the examination. The young scholar from Yue-hang didn't believe that the old priest could really tell anything by these means, and forthwith proceeded to burn an essay by one of the old masters; but the priest no sooner smelt the smoke than he cried out, "Beautiful indeed! beautiful indeed! I do enjoy this. The light of genius and truth is evident here." The Yue-hang scholar was greatly astonished at this, and began to burn an essay of his own; whereupon the priest said, "I had had but a taste of that one; why change so soon to another?" "The first paragraph," replied the young man, "was by a friend; the rest is my own composition." No sooner had he uttered these words than the old priest began to retch violently, and begged that he might have no more, as he was sure it would make him sick. The Yue-hang scholar was much abashed at this, and went away; but in a few days the list came out and his name was among the successful ones, while Wang's was not. He at once hurried off to tell the old priest, who, when he heard the news, sighed and said, "I may be blind with my eyes but I am not so with my nose, which I fear is the case with the examiners. Besides," added he, "I was talking to you about composition: I said nothing about _destiny_."[119]

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