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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

232 Quadrupeds don't usually fly

style="text-align: justify;"> CXXII.


A certain man, who had bought a fine cow, dreamt the same night that wings grew out of the animal's back, and that it had flown away. Regarding this as an omen of some pending misfortune, he led the cow off to market again, and sold it at a ruinous loss. Wrapping up in a cloth the silver he received, he slung it over his back, and was half way home, when he saw a falcon eating part of a hare.[230] Approaching the bird, he found it was quite tame, and accordingly tied it by the leg to one of the corners of the cloth, in which his money was. The falcon fluttered about a good deal, trying to escape; and, by-and-by, the man's hold being for a moment relaxed, away went the bird, cloth, money, and all. "It was destiny," said the man every time he told the story; ignorant as he was, first, that no faith should be put in dreams;[231] and, secondly, that people shouldn't take things they see by the wayside.[232] Quadrupeds don't usually fly.


[230] See No. VI., note 51.

[231] The highly educated Confucianist rises above the superstition that darkens the lives of his less fortunate fellow countrymen. Had such a dream as the above received an inauspicious interpretation at the hands of some local soothsayer, the owner of the animal would in nine cases

out of ten have taken an early opportunity of getting rid of it.

[232] The Chinese love to refer to the "good old time" of their forefathers, when a man who dropped anything on the highway would have no cause to hurry back for fear of its being carried off by a stranger.



At I-tu there lived a family of the name of Cheng. The two sons were both distinguished scholars, but the elder was early known to fame, and, consequently, the favourite with his parents, who also extended their preference to his wife. The younger brother was a trifle wild, which displeased his father and mother very much, and made them regard his wife, too, with anything but a friendly eye. The latter reproached her husband for being the cause of this, and asked him why he, being a man like his brother, could not vindicate the slights that were put upon her. This piqued him; and, setting to work in good earnest, he soon gained a fair reputation, though still not equal to his brother's. That year the two went up for the highest degree; and, on New Year's Eve, the wife of the younger, very anxious for the success of her husband, secretly tried the "mirror and listen" trick.[233] She saw two men pushing each other in jest, and heard them say, "You go and get cool," which remark she was quite unable to interpret for good or for bad, so she thought no more about the matter. After the examination, the two brothers returned home; and one day, when the weather was extremely hot, and their two wives were hard at work in the cook-house, preparing food for their field-labourers, a messenger rode up in hot haste[234] to announce that the elder brother had passed. Thereupon his mother went into the cook-house, and, calling to her daughter-in-law, said, "Your husband has passed; _you go and get cool_." Rage and grief now filled the breast of the second son's wife, who, with tears in her eyes, continued her task of cooking, when suddenly another messenger rushed in to say, that the second son had passed, too. At this, his wife flung down her frying-pan, and cried out, "Now I'll _go and get cool_;" and as in the heat of her excitement she uttered these words, the recollection of her trial of the "mirror and listen" trick flashed upon her, and she knew that the words of that evening had been fulfilled.

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