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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

The magistrate thought this strange advice


[222]

See No. XXXII., note 197.

[223] An Imperial mandate is always written on yellow silk, and the ceremony of opening and perusing it is accompanied by prostrations and other acts of reverential submission.

CXIX.

MR. WILLOW AND THE LOCUSTS.

During the Ming dynasty a plague of locusts[224] visited Ch'ing-yen, and was advancing rapidly towards the I district, when the magistrate of that place, in great tribulation at the pending disaster, retired one day to sleep behind the screen in his office. There he dreamt that a young graduate, named Willow, wearing a tall hat and a green robe, and of very commanding stature, came to see him, and declared that he could tell the magistrate how to get rid of the locusts. "To-morrow," said he, "on the south-west road, you will see a woman riding[225] on a large jennet: she is the Spirit of the Locusts; ask her, and she will help you." The magistrate thought this strange advice; however, he got everything ready, and waited, as he had been told, at the roadside. By-and-by, along came a woman with her hair tied up in a knot, and a serge cape over her shoulders, riding slowly northwards on an old mule; whereupon the magistrate burned some sticks of incense, and, seizing the mule's bridle, humbly presented a goblet of wine. The woman asked him what he wanted; to which he replied,

"Lady, I implore you to save my small magistracy from the dreadful ravages of your locusts." "Oho!" said the woman, "that scoundrel, Willow, has been letting the cat out of the bag, has he? He shall suffer for it: I won't touch your crops." She then drank three cups of wine, and vanished out of sight. Subsequently, when the locusts did come, they flew high in the air, and did not settle on the crops; but they stripped the leaves off every willow-tree far and wide; and then the magistrate awaked to the fact that the graduate of his dream was the Spirit of the Willows. Some said that this happy result was owing to the magistrate's care for the welfare of his people.

FOOTNOTES:

[224] Innumerable pamphlets have been published in China on the best methods of getting rid of these destructive insects, but none to my knowledge contain much sound or practical advice.

[225] See No. LII., note 286. The mules of the north of China are marvels of beauty and strength; and the price of a fine animal often goes as high as L100.

CXX.

MR. TUNG; OR, VIRTUE REWARDED.

At Ch'ing-chow there lived a Mr. Tung, President of one of the Six Boards, whose domestic regulations were so strict that the men and women servants were not allowed to speak to each other.[226] One day he caught a slave-girl laughing and talking with one of his attendants, and


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