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´╗┐Title: A Chinese Wonder Book
Author: Pitman, Norman Hinsdale, 1876-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Chinese Wonder Book" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: (Front cover image)]

[Illustration: "SNAKE'S BLOOD MIXED WITH POWDERED DEER-HORN."]



             A CHINESE WONDER BOOK

                      BY

            NORMAN HINSDALE PITMAN


                ILLUSTRATED BY
                 LI CHU-T'ANG


           [Illustration: Colophon]


                   NEW YORK
              E. P. DUTTON & CO.
               681 FIFTH AVENUE



               COPYRIGHT, 1919
                      By
            E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

             _All rights reserved_

       *       *       *       *       *

    Printed in the United States of America



TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                                                   PAGE

  The Golden Beetle or Why the Dog Hates the Cat                      1

  The Great Bell                                                     21

  The Strange Tale of Doctor Dog                                     39

  How Footbinding Started                                            52

  The Talking Fish                                                   68

  Bamboo and the Turtle                                              88

  The Mad Goose and the Tiger Forest                                104

  The Nodding Tiger                                                 120

  The Princess Kwan-Yin                                             134

  The Two Jugglers                                                  147

  The Phantom Vessel                                                160

  The Wooden Tablet                                                 172

  The Golden Nugget                                                 187

  The Man Who Would Not Scold                                       193

  Lu-San, Daughter of Heaven                                        206



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                 Facing
                                                                   Page

  "Snake's blood mixed with powdered deer-horn"          _Frontispiece_

  "Here son!" she cried, "look at my treasure!"                       8

  Clinging to the animal's shaggy hair was Honeysuckle               50

  Throwing herself at his feet she thanked him for his mercy         56

  "Ah," sighed the turtle, "if only the good god, P'anku,
    were here"                                                      102

  Putting his bill close to her ear, he told Hu-Lin of
    his recent discovery                                            108

  The tiger gravely nodded his head                                 130

  All day she was busy carrying water                               138

  Higher and higher he climbed                                      154

  They saw shining in the pathway directly in front of them
    a lump of gold                                                  188

  As she dressed herself she saw with surprise that her fingers
    were shapely                                                    214



THE GOLDEN BEETLE OR WHY THE DOG HATES THE CAT

[Illustration]


"What we shall eat to-morrow, I haven't the slightest idea!" said Widow
Wang to her eldest son, as he started out one morning in search of work.

"Oh, the gods will provide. I'll find a few coppers somewhere," replied
the boy, trying to speak cheerfully, although in his heart he also had
not the slightest idea in which direction to turn.

The winter had been a hard one: extreme cold, deep snow, and violent
winds. The Wang house had suffered greatly. The roof had fallen in,
weighed down by heavy snow. Then a hurricane had blown a wall over, and
Ming-li, the son, up all night and exposed to a bitter cold wind, had
caught pneumonia. Long days of illness followed, with the spending of
extra money for medicine. All their scant savings had soon melted away,
and at the shop where Ming-li had been employed his place was filled by
another. When at last he arose from his sick-bed he was too weak for
hard labour and there seemed to be no work in the neighbouring villages
for him to do. Night after night he came home, trying not to be
discouraged, but in his heart feeling the deep pangs of sorrow that come
to the good son who sees his mother suffering for want of food and
clothing.

"Bless his good heart!" said the poor widow after he had gone. "No
mother ever had a better boy. I hope he is right in saying the gods will
provide. It has been getting so much worse these past few weeks that it
seems now as if my stomach were as empty as a rich man's brain. Why,
even the rats have deserted our cottage, and there's nothing left for
poor Tabby, while old Blackfoot is nearly dead from starvation."

When the old woman referred to the sorrows of her pets, her
remarks were answered by a pitiful mewing and woebegone barking
from the corner where the two unfed creatures were curled up together
trying to keep warm.

Just then there was a loud knocking at the gate. When the widow Wang
called out, "Come in!" she was surprised to see an old bald-headed
priest standing in the doorway. "Sorry, but we have nothing," she went
on, feeling sure the visitor had come in search of food. "We have fed on
scraps these two weeks--on scraps and scrapings--and now we are living
on the memories of what we used to have when my son's father was living.
Our cat was so fat she couldn't climb to the roof. Now look at her. You
can hardly see her, she's so thin. No, I'm sorry we can't help you,
friend priest, but you see how it is."

"I didn't come for alms," cried the clean-shaven one, looking at her
kindly, "but only to see what I could do to help you. The gods have
listened long to the prayers of your devoted son. They honour him
because he has not waited till you die to do sacrifice for you. They
have seen how faithfully he has served you ever since his illness, and
now, when he is worn out and unable to work, they are resolved to reward
him for his virtue. You likewise have been a good mother and shall
receive the gift I am now bringing."

"What do you mean?" faltered Mrs. Wang, hardly believing her ears at
hearing a priest speak of bestowing mercies. "Have you come here to
laugh at our misfortunes?"

"By no means. Here in my hand I hold a tiny golden beetle which you will
find has a magic power greater than any you ever dreamed of. I will
leave this precious thing with you, a present from the god of filial
conduct."

"Yes, it will sell for a good sum," murmured the other, looking closely
at the trinket, "and will give us millet for several days. Thanks, good
priest, for your kindness."

"But you must by no means sell this golden beetle, for it has the power
to fill your stomachs as long as you live."

The widow stared in open-mouthed wonder at the priest's surprising
words.

"Yes, you must not doubt me, but listen carefully to what I tell you.
Whenever you wish food, you have only to place this ornament in a kettle
of boiling water, saying over and over again the names of what you want
to eat. In three minutes take off the lid, and there will be your
dinner, smoking hot, and cooked more perfectly than any food you have
ever eaten."

"May I try it now?" she asked eagerly.

"As soon as I am gone."

When the door was shut, the old woman hurriedly kindled a fire, boiled
some water, and then dropped in the golden beetle, repeating these words
again and again:


  "Dumplings, dumplings, come to me,
   I am thin as thin can be.
   Dumplings, dumplings, smoking hot,
   Dumplings, dumplings, fill the pot."


Would those three minutes never pass? Could the priest have told the
truth? Her old head was nearly wild with excitement as clouds of steam
rose from the kettle. Off came the lid! She could wait no longer. Wonder
of wonders! There before her unbelieving eyes was a pot, full to the
brim of pork dumplings, dancing up and down in the bubbling water, the
best, the most delicious dumplings she had ever tasted. She ate and ate
till there was no room left in her greedy stomach, and then she feasted
the cat and the dog until they were ready to burst.

"Good fortune has come at last," whispered Blackfoot, the dog, to
Whitehead, the cat, as they lay down to sun themselves outside. "I fear
I couldn't have held out another week without running away to look for
food. I don't know just what's happened, but there's no use questioning
the gods."

Mrs. Wang fairly danced for joy at the thought of her son's return and
of how she would feast him.

"Poor boy, how surprised he will be at our fortune--and it's all on
account of his goodness to his old mother."

When Ming-li came, with a dark cloud overhanging his brow, the widow saw
plainly that disappointment was written there.

"Come, come, lad!" she cried cheerily, "clear up your face and smile,
for the gods have been good to us and I shall soon show you how richly
your devotion has been rewarded." So saying, she dropped the golden
beetle into the boiling water and stirred up the fire.

Thinking his mother had gone stark mad for want of food, Ming-li stared
solemnly at her. Anything was preferable to this misery. Should he sell
his last outer garment for a few pennies and buy millet for her?
Blackfoot licked his hand comfortingly, as if to say, "Cheer up, master,
fortune has turned in our favour." Whitehead leaped upon a bench,
purring like a sawmill.

Ming-li did not have long to wait. Almost in the twinkling of an eye he
heard his mother crying out,

"Sit down at the table, son, and eat these dumplings while they are
smoking hot."

Could he have heard correctly? Did his ears deceive him? No, there on
the table was a huge platter full of the delicious pork dumplings he
liked better than anything else in all the world, except, of course, his
mother.

"Eat and ask no questions," counselled the Widow Wang. "When you are
satisfied I will tell you everything."

Wise advice! Very soon the young man's chopsticks were twinkling like
a little star in the verses. He ate long and happily, while his good
mother watched him, her heart overflowing with joy at seeing him at last
able to satisfy his hunger. But still the old woman could hardly wait
for him to finish, she was so anxious to tell him her wonderful secret.

"Here, son!" she cried at last, as he began to pause between mouthfuls,
"look at my treasure!" And she held out to him the golden beetle.

"First tell me what good fairy of a rich man has been filling our hands
with silver?"

"That's just what I am trying to tell you," she laughed, "for there was
a fairy here this afternoon sure enough, only he was dressed like a bald
priest. That golden beetle is all he gave me, but with it comes a secret
worth thousands of cash to us."

The youth fingered the trinket idly, still doubting his senses, and
waiting impatiently for the secret of his delicious dinner. "But,
mother, what has this brass bauble to do with the dumplings, these
wonderful pork dumplings, the finest I ever ate?"

"Baubles indeed! Brass! Fie, fie, my boy! You little know what you are
saying. Only listen and you shall hear a tale that will open your eyes."

She then told him what had happened, and ended by setting all of the
left-over dumplings upon the floor for Blackfoot and Whitehead, a thing
her son had never seen her do before, for they had been miserably poor
and had had to save every scrap for the next meal.

Now began a long period of perfect happiness. Mother, son, dog and
cat--all enjoyed themselves to their hearts' content. All manner of new
foods such as they had never tasted were called forth from the pot by
the wonderful little beetle. Bird-nest soup, shark's fins, and a hundred
other delicacies were theirs for the asking, and soon Ming-li regained
all his strength, but, I fear, at the same time grew somewhat lazy, for
it was no longer necessary for him to work. As for the two animals, they
became fat and sleek and their hair grew long and glossy.

[Illustration: "HERE SON!" SHE CRIED, "HAVE A LOOK AT MY TREASURE!"]

But alas! according to a Chinese proverb, pride invites sorrow. The
little family became so proud of their good fortune that they began to
ask friends and relatives to dinner that they might show off their good
meals. One day a Mr. and Mrs. Chu came from a distant village. They were
much astonished at seeing the high style in which the Wangs lived. They
had expected a beggar's meal, but went away with full stomachs.

"It's the best stuff I ever ate," said Mr. Chu, as they entered their
own tumble-down house.

"Yes, and I know where it came from," exclaimed his wife. "I saw Widow
Wang take a little gold ornament out of the pot and hide it in a
cupboard. It must be some sort of charm, for I heard her mumbling to
herself about pork and dumplings just as she was stirring up the fire."

"A charm, eh? Why is it that other people have all the luck? It looks as
if we were doomed forever to be poor."

"Why not borrow Mrs. Wang's charm for a few days until we can pick up a
little flesh to keep our bones from clattering? Turn about's fair play.
Of course, we'll return it sooner or later."

"Doubtless they keep very close watch over it. When would you find them
away from home, now that they don't have to work any more? As their
house only contains one room, and that no bigger than ours, it would be
difficult to borrow this golden trinket. It is harder, for more reasons
than one, to steal from a beggar than from a king."

"Luck is surely with us," cried Mrs. Chu, clapping her hands. "They are
going this very day to the Temple fair. I overheard Mrs. Wang tell her
son that he must not forget he was to take her about the middle of the
afternoon. I will slip back then and borrow the little charm from the
box in which she hid it."

"Aren't you afraid of Blackfoot?"

"Pooh! he's so fat he can do nothing but roll. If the widow comes back
suddenly, I'll tell her I came to look for my big hair-pin, that I lost
it while I was at dinner."

"All right, go ahead, only of course we must remember we're borrowing
the thing, not stealing it, for the Wangs have always been good friends
to us, and then, too, we have just dined with them."

So skilfully did this crafty woman carry out her plans that within an
hour she was back in her own house, gleefully showing the priest's charm
to her husband. Not a soul had seen her enter the Wang house. The dog
had made no noise, and the cat had only blinked her surprise at seeing a
stranger and had gone to sleep again on the floor.

Great was the clamour and weeping when, on returning from the fair in
expectation of a hot supper, the widow found her treasure missing. It
was long before she could grasp the truth. She went back to the little
box in the cupboard ten times before she could believe it was empty, and
the room looked as if a cyclone had struck it, so long and carefully did
the two unfortunates hunt for the lost beetle.

Then came days of hunger which were all the harder to bear since the
recent period of good food and plenty. Oh, if they had only not got used
to such dainties! How hard it was to go back to scraps and scrapings!

But if the widow and her son were sad over the loss of the good meals,
the two pets were even more so. They were reduced to beggary and had to
go forth daily upon the streets in search of stray bones and refuse that
decent dogs and cats turned up their noses at.

One day, after this period of starvation had been going on for some
time, Whitehead began suddenly to frisk about in great excitement.

"Whatever is the matter with you?" growled Blackfoot. "Are you mad from
hunger, or have you caught another flea?"

"I was just thinking over our affairs, and now I know the cause of all
our trouble."

"Do you indeed?" sneered Blackfoot.

"Yes, I do indeed, and you'd better think twice before you mock me, for
I hold your future in my paw, as you will very soon see."

"Well, you needn't get angry about nothing. What wonderful discovery
have you made--that every rat has one tail?"

"First of all, are you willing to help me bring good fortune back to our
family?"

"Of course I am. Don't be silly," barked the dog, wagging his tail
joyfully at the thought of another good dinner. "Surely! surely! I will
do anything you like if it will bring Dame Fortune back again."

"All right. Here is the plan. There has been a thief in the house who
has stolen our mistress's golden beetle. You remember all our big
dinners that came from the pot? Well, every day I saw our mistress take
a little golden beetle out of the black box and put it into the pot. One
day she held it up before me, saying, 'Look, puss, there is the cause of
all our happiness. Don't you wish it was yours?' Then she laughed and
put it back into the box that stays in the cupboard."

"Is that true?" questioned Blackfoot. "Why didn't you say something
about it before?"

"You remember the day Mr. and Mrs. Chu were here, and how Mrs. Chu
returned in the afternoon after master and mistress had gone to the
fair? I saw her, out of the tail of my eye, go to that very black box
and take out the golden beetle. I thought it curious, but never dreamed
she was a thief. Alas! I was wrong! She took the beetle, and if I am not
mistaken, she and her husband are now enjoying the feasts that belong
to us."

"Let's claw them," growled Blackfoot, gnashing his teeth.

"That would do no good," counselled the other, "for they would be sure
to come out best in the end. We want the beetle back--that's the main
thing. We'll leave revenge to human beings; it is none of our business."

"What do you suggest?" said Blackfoot. "I am with you through thick and
thin."

"Let's go to the Chu house and make off with the beetle."

"Alas, that I am not a cat!" moaned Blackfoot. "If we go there I
couldn't get inside, for robbers always keep their gates well locked. If
I were like you I could scale the wall. It is the first time in all my
life I ever envied a cat."

"We will go together," continued Whitehead. "I will ride on your back
when we are fording the river, and you can protect me from strange
animals. When we get to the Chu house, I will climb over the wall and
manage the rest of the business myself. Only you must wait outside to
help me to get home with the prize."

No sooner arranged than done. The companions set out that very night on
their adventure. They crossed the river as the cat had suggested, and
Blackfoot really enjoyed the swim, for, as he said, it took him back to
his puppyhood, while the cat did not get a single drop of water on her
face. It was midnight when they reached the Chu house.

"Just wait till I return," purred Whitehead in Blackfoot's ear.

With a mighty spring she reached the top of the mud wall, and then
jumped down to the inside court. While she was resting in the shadow,
trying to decide just how to go about her work, a slight rustling
attracted her attention, and pop! one giant spring, one stretch-out of
the claws, and she had caught a rat that had just come out of his hole
for a drink and a midnight walk.

Now, Whitehead was so hungry that she would have made short work of this
tempting prey if the rat had not opened its mouth and, to her amazement,
begun to talk in good cat dialect.

"Pray, good puss, not so fast with your sharp teeth! Kindly be careful
with your claws! Don't you know it is the custom now to put prisoners on
their honour? I will promise not to run away."

"Pooh! what honour has a rat?"

"Most of us haven't much, I grant you, but my family was brought up
under the roof of Confucius, and there we picked up so many crumbs of
wisdom that we are exceptions to the rule. If you will spare me, I will
obey you for life, in fact, will be your humble slave." Then, with a
quick jerk, freeing itself, "See, I am loose now, but honour holds me as
if I were tied, and so I make no further attempt to get away."

"Much good it would do you," purred Whitehead, her fur crackling
noisily, and her mouth watering for a taste of rat steak. "However,
I am quite willing to put you to the test. First, answer a few polite
questions and I will see if you're a truthful fellow. What kind of food
is your master eating now, that you should be so round and plump when
I am thin and scrawny?"

"Oh, we have been in luck lately, I can tell you. Master and mistress
feed on the fat of the land, and of course we hangers-on get the
crumbs."

"But this is a poor tumble-down house. How can they afford such eating?"

"That is a great secret, but as I am in honour bound to tell you, here
goes. My mistress has just obtained in some manner or other, a fairy's
charm----"

"She stole it from our place," hissed the cat, "I will claw her eyes out
if I get the chance. Why, we've been fairly starving for want of that
beetle. She stole it from us just after she had been an invited guest!
What do you think of that for honour, Sir Rat? Were your mistress's
ancestors followers of the sage?"

"Oh, oh, oh! Why, that explains everything!" wailed the rat. "I have
often wondered how they got the golden beetle, and yet of course I dared
not ask any questions."

"No, certainly not! But hark you, friend rat--you get that golden
trinket back for me, and I will set you free at once of all obligations.
Do you know where she hides it?"

"Yes, in a crevice where the wall is broken. I will bring it to you in
a jiffy, but how shall we exist when our charm is gone? There will be
a season of scanty food, I fear; beggars' fare for all of us."

"Live on the memory of your good deed," purred the cat. "It is splendid,
you know, to be an honest beggar. Now scoot! I trust you completely,
since your people lived in the home of Confucius. I will wait here for
your return. Ah!" laughed Whitehead to herself, "luck seems to be coming
our way again!"

Five minutes later the rat appeared, bearing the trinket in its mouth.
It passed the beetle over to the cat, and then with a whisk was off for
ever. Its honour was safe, but it was afraid of Whitehead. It had seen
the gleam of desire in her green eyes, and the cat might have broken her
word if she had not been so anxious to get back home where her mistress
could command the wonderful kettle once more to bring forth food.

The two adventurers reached the river just as the sun was rising above
the eastern hills.

"Be careful," cautioned Blackfoot, as the cat leaped upon his back for
her ride across the stream, "be careful not to forget the treasure. In
short, remember that even though you are a female, it is necessary to
keep your mouth closed till we reach the other side."

"Thanks, but I don't think I need your advice," replied Whitehead,
picking up the beetle and leaping on to the dog's back.

But alas! just as they were nearing the farther shore, the excited cat
forgot her wisdom for a moment. A fish suddenly leaped out of the water
directly under her nose. It was too great a temptation. Snap! went her
jaws in a vain effort to land the scaly treasure, and the golden beetle
sank to the bottom of the river.

"There!" said the dog angrily, "what did I tell you? Now all our trouble
has been in vain--all on account of your stupidity."

For a time there was a bitter dispute, and the companions called each
other some very bad names--such as turtle and rabbit. Just as they were
starting away from the river, disappointed and discouraged, a friendly
frog who had by chance heard their conversation offered to fetch the
treasure from the bottom of the stream. No sooner said than done, and
after thanking this accommodating animal profusely, they turned homeward
once more.

When they reached the cottage the door was shut, and, bark as he would,
Blackfoot could not persuade his master to open it. There was the sound
of loud wailing inside.

"Mistress is broken-hearted," whispered the cat, "I will go to her and
make her happy."

So saying, she sprang lightly through a hole in the paper window, which,
alas! was too small and too far from the ground for the faithful dog to
enter.

A sad sight greeted the gaze of Whitehead. The son was lying on the bed
unconscious, almost dead for want of food, while his mother, in despair,
was rocking backwards and forwards wringing her wrinkled hands and
crying at the top of her voice for some one to come and save them.

"Here I am, mistress," cried Whitehead, "and here is the treasure you
are weeping for. I have rescued it and brought it back to you."

The widow, wild with joy at sight of the beetle, seized the cat in her
scrawny arms and hugged the pet tightly to her bosom.

"Breakfast, son, breakfast! Wake up from your swoon! Fortune has come
again. We are saved from starvation!"

Soon a steaming hot meal was ready, and you may well imagine how the old
woman and her son, heaping praises upon Whitehead, filled the beast's
platter with good things, but never a word did they say of the faithful
dog, who remained outside sniffing the fragrant odours and waiting in
sad wonder, for all this time the artful cat had said nothing of
Blackfoot's part in the rescue of the golden beetle.

At last, when breakfast was over, slipping away from the others,
Whitehead jumped out through the hole in the window.

"Oh, my dear Blackfoot," she began laughingly, "you should have been
inside to see what a feast they gave me! Mistress was so delighted at
my bringing back her treasure that she could not give me enough to eat,
nor say enough kind things about me. Too bad, old fellow, that you are
hungry. You'd better run out into the street and hunt up a bone."

Maddened by the shameful treachery of his companion, the enraged dog
sprang upon the cat and in a few seconds had shaken her to death.

"So dies the one who forgets a friend and who loses honour," he cried
sadly, as he stood over the body of his companion.

Rushing out into the street, he proclaimed the treachery of Whitehead
to the members of his tribe, at the same time advising that all
self-respecting dogs should from that time onwards make war upon the
feline race.

And that is why the descendants of old Blackfoot, whether in China or
in the great countries of the West, have waged continual war upon the
children and grandchildren of Whitehead, for a thousand generations of
dogs have fought them and hated them with a great and lasting hatred.



THE GREAT BELL

[Illustration]


The mighty Yung-lo sat on the great throne surrounded by a hundred
attendants. He was sad, for he could think of no wonderful thing to do
for his country. He flirted his silken fan nervously and snapped his
long finger-nails in the impatience of despair.

"Woe is me!" he cried at last, his sorrow getting the better of his
usual calmness. "I have picked up the great capital and moved it from
the South to Peking and have built here a mighty city. I have surrounded
my city with a wall, even thicker and greater than the famous wall of
China. I have constructed in this city scores of temples and palaces.
I have had the wise men and scholars compile a great book of wisdom,
made up of 23,000 volumes, the largest and most wonderful collection
of learning ever gathered together by the hands of men. I have built
watch-towers, bridges, and giant monuments, and now, alas! as I approach
the end of my days as ruler of the Middle Kingdom there is nothing more
to be done for my people. Better far that I should even now close my
tired eyes for ever and mount up on high to be the guest of the dragon,
than live on in idleness, giving to my children an example of
uselessness and sloth."

"But, your Majesty," began one of Yung-lo's most faithful courtiers,
named Ming-lin, falling upon his knees and knocking his head three times
on the ground, "if you would only deign to listen to your humble slave,
I would dare to suggest a great gift for which the many people of
Peking, your children, would rise up and bless you both now and in
future generations."

"Only tell me of such a gift and I will not only grant it to the
imperial city, but as a sign of thanksgiving to you for your sage
counsel I will bestow upon you the royal peacock feather."

"It is not for one of my small virtues," replied the delighted official,
"to wear the feather when others so much wiser are denied it, but if it
please your Majesty, remember that in the northern district of the city
there has been erected a bell-tower which as yet remains empty. The
people of the city need a giant bell to sound out the fleeting hours of
the day, that they may be urged on to perform their labours and not be
idle. The water-clock already marks the hours, but there is no bell to
proclaim them to the populace."

"A good suggestion in sooth," answered the Emperor, smiling, "and yet
who is there among us that has skill enough in bell-craft to do the task
you propose? I am told that to cast a bell worthy of our imperial city
requires the genius of a poet and the skill of an astronomer."

"True, most mighty one, and yet permit me to say that Kwan-yu, who so
skilfully moulded the imperial cannon, can also cast a giant bell. He
alone of all your subjects is worthy of the task, for he alone can do
it justice."

Now, the official who proposed the name of Kwan-yu to the Emperor had
two objects in so doing. He wished to quiet the grief of Yung-lo, who
was mourning because he had nothing left to do for his people, and,
at the same time, to raise Kwan-yu to high rank, for Kwan-yu's only
daughter had for several years been betrothed to Ming-lin's only
son, and it would be a great stroke of luck for Ming-lin if his
daughter-in-law's father should come under direct favour of the Emperor.

"Depend upon it, Kwan-yu can do the work better than any other man
within the length and breadth of your empire," continued Ming-lin, again
bowing low three times.

"Then summon Kwan-yu at once to my presence, that I may confer with him
about this important business."

In great glee Ming-lin arose and backed himself away from the golden
throne, for it would have been very improper for him to turn his
coat-tails on the Son of Heaven.

But it was with no little fear that Kwan-yu undertook the casting of the
great bell.

"Can a carpenter make shoes?" he had protested, when Ming-lin had broken
the Emperor's message to him.

"Yes," replied the other quickly, "if they be like those worn by the
little island dwarfs, and, therefore, made of wood. Bells and cannon are
cast from similar material. You ought easily to adapt yourself to this
new work."

Now when Kwan-yu's daughter found out what he was about to undertake,
she was filled with a great fear.

"Oh, honoured father," she cried, "think well before you give this
promise. As a cannon-maker you are successful, but who can say about the
other task? And if you fail, the Great One's wrath will fall heavily
upon you."

"Just hear the girl," interrupted the ambitious mother. "What do you
know about success and failure? You'd better stick to the subject of
cooking and baby-clothes, for you will soon be married. As for your
father, pray let him attend to his own business. It is unseemly for
a girl to meddle in her father's affairs."

And so poor Ko-ai--for that was the maiden's name--was silenced, and
went back to her fancy-work with a big tear stealing down her fair
cheek, for she loved her father dearly and there had come into her heart
a strange terror at thought of his possible danger.

Meanwhile, Kwan-yu was summoned to the Forbidden City, which is in the
centre of Peking, and in which stands the Imperial palace. There he
received his instructions from the Son of Heaven.

"And remember," said Yung-lo in conclusion, "this bell must be so great
that the sound of it will ring out to a distance of thirty-three miles
on every hand. To this end, you should add in proper proportions gold
and brass, for they give depth and strength to everything with which
they mingle. Furthermore, in order that this giant may not be lacking in
the quality of sweetness, you must add silver in due proportion, while
the sayings of the sages must be graven on its sides."

Now when Kwan-yu had really received his commission from the
Emperor he searched the bookstalls of the city to find if possible
some ancient descriptions of the best methods used in bell-casting. Also
he offered generous wages to all who had ever had experience in the
great work for which he was preparing. Soon his great foundry was alive
with labourers; huge fires were burning; great piles of gold, silver and
other metals were lying here and there, ready to be weighed.

Whenever Kwan-yu went out to a public tea-house all of his friends plied
him with questions about the great bell.

"Will it be the largest in the world?"

"Oh, no," he would reply, "that is not necessary, but it must be the
sweetest-toned, for we Chinese strive not for size, but for purity; not
for greatness, but for virtue."

"When will it be finished?"

"Only the gods can tell, for I have had little experience, and perhaps I
shall fail to mix the metals properly."

Every few days the Son of Heaven himself would send an imperial
messenger to ask similar questions, for a king is likely to be just as
curious as his subjects, but Kwan-yu would always modestly reply that he
could not be certain; it was very doubtful when the bell would be ready.

At last, however, after consulting an astrologer, Kwan-yu appointed
a day for the casting, and then there came another courtier robed in
splendid garments, saying that at the proper hour the Great One himself
would for the first time cross Kwan-yu's threshold--would come to see
the casting of the bell he had ordered for his people. On hearing this,
Kwan-yu was sore afraid, for he felt that somehow, in spite of all his
reading, in spite of all the advice he had received from well-wishers,
there was something lacking in the mixture of the boiling metals that
would soon be poured into the giant mould. In short, Kwan-yu was about
to discover an important truth that this great world has been thousands
of years in learning--namely, that mere reading and advice cannot
produce skill, that true skill can come only from years of experience
and practice. On the brink of despair, he sent a servant with money to
the temple, to pray to the gods for success in his venture. Truly,
despair and prayer rhyme in every language.

Ko-ai, his daughter, was also afraid when she saw the cloud on her
father's brow, for she it was, you remember, who had tried to prevent
him from undertaking the Emperor's commission. She also went to the
temple, in company with a faithful old servant, and prayed to heaven.

The great day dawned. The Emperor and his courtiers were assembled, the
former sitting on a platform built for the occasion. Three attendants
waved beautiful hand-painted fans about his imperial brow, for the room
was very warm, and a huge block of ice lay melting in a bowl of carved
brass, cooling the hot air before it should blow upon the head of the
Son of Heaven.

Kwan-yu's wife and daughter stood in a corner at the back of the room,
peering anxiously towards the cauldron of molten liquid, for well they
knew that Kwan-yu's future rank and power depended on the success of
this enterprise. Around the walls stood Kwan-yu's friends, and at the
windows groups of excited servants strained their necks, trying to catch
a glimpse of royalty, and for once afraid to chatter. Kwan-yu himself
was hurrying hither and thither, now giving a final order, now gazing
anxiously at the empty mould, and again glancing towards the throne to
see if his imperial master was showing signs of impatience.

At last all was ready; everyone was waiting breathlessly for the sign
from Yung-lo which should start the flowing of the metal. A slight bow
of the head, a lifting of the finger! The glowing liquid, hissing with
delight at being freed even for a moment from its prison, ran forward
faster and faster along the channel that led into the great earthen bed.

The bell-maker covered his eyes with his fan, afraid to look at the
swiftly-flowing stream. Were all his hopes to be suddenly dashed by the
failure of the metals to mix and harden properly? A heavy sigh escaped
him as at last he looked up at the thing he had created. Something had
indeed gone wrong; he knew in the flash of an eye that misfortune had
overtaken him.

Yes! sure enough, when at last the earthen casting had been broken, even
the smallest child could see that the giant bell, instead of being a
thing of beauty was a sorry mass of metals that would not blend.

"Alas!" said Yung-lo, "here is indeed a mighty failure, but even in this
disappointment I see an object lesson well worthy of consideration, for
behold! in yonder elements are all the materials of which this country
is made up. There are gold and silver and the baser metals. United in
the proper manner they would make a bell so wonderfully beautiful and so
pure of tone that the very spirits of the Western heavens would pause to
look and listen. But divided they form a thing that is hideous to eye
and ear. Oh, my China! how many wars are there from time to time among
the different sections, weakening the country and making it poor! If
only all these peoples, great and small, the gold and silver and the
baser elements, would unite, then would this land be really worthy of
the name of the Middle Kingdom!"

The courtiers all applauded this speech of the great Yung-lo, but
Kwan-yu remained on the ground where he had thrown himself at the feet
of his sovereign. Still bowing his head and moaning, he cried out:

"Ah! your Majesty! I urged you not to appoint me, and now indeed you see
my unfitness. Take my life, I beg you, as a punishment for my failure."

"Rise, Kwan-yu," said the great Prince. "I would be a mean master indeed
if I did not grant you another trial. Rise up and see that your next
casting profits by the lesson of this failure."

So Kwan-yu arose, for when the King speaks, all men must listen. The
next day he began his task once more, but still his heart was heavy,
for he knew not the reason of his failure and was therefore unable to
correct his error. For many months he laboured night and day. Hardly a
word would he speak to his wife, and when his daughter tried to tempt
him with a dish of sunflower seed that she had parched herself, he would
reward her with a sad smile, but would by no means laugh with her and
joke as had formerly been his custom. On the first and fifteenth day of
every moon he went himself to the temple and implored the gods to grant
him their friendly assistance, while Ko-ai added her prayers to his,
burning incense and weeping before the grinning idols.

Again the great Yung-lo was seated on the platform in Kwan-yu's foundry,
and again his courtiers hovered round him, but this time, as it was
winter, they did not flirt the silken fans. The Great One was certain
that this casting would be successful. He had been lenient with Kwan-yu
on the first occasion, and now at last he and the great city were to
profit by that mercy.

Again he gave the signal; once more every neck was craned to see the
flowing of the metal. But, alas! when the casing was removed it was seen
that the new bell was no better than the first. It was, in fact, a
dreadful failure, cracked and ugly, for the gold and silver and the
baser elements had again refused to blend into a united whole.

With a bitter cry which touched the hearts of all those present, the
unhappy Kwan-yu fell upon the floor. This time he did not bow before his
master, for at the sight of the miserable conglomeration of useless
metals his courage failed him, and he fainted. When at last he came to,
the first sight that met his eyes was the scowling face of Yung-lo. Then
he heard, as in a dream, the stern voice of the Son of Heaven:

"Unhappy Kwan-yu, can it be that you, upon whom I have ever heaped my
favours, have twice betrayed the trust? The first time, I was sorry
for you and willing to forget, but now that sorrow has turned into
anger--yea, the anger of heaven itself is upon you. Now, I bid you mark
well my words. A third chance you shall have to cast the bell, but if on
that third attempt you fail--then by order of the Vermilion Pencil both
you and Ming-lin, who recommended you, shall pay the penalty."

For a long time after the Emperor had departed, Kwan-yu lay on the floor
surrounded by his attendants, but chief of all those who tried to
restore him was his faithful daughter. For a whole week he wavered
between life and death, and then at last there came a turn in his
favour. Once more he regained his health, once more he began his
preparations.

Yet all the time he was about his work his heart was heavy, for he felt
that he would soon journey into the dark forest, the region of the great
yellow spring, the place from which no pilgrim ever returns. Ko-ai, too,
felt more than ever that her father was in the presence of a great
danger.

"Surely," she said one day to her mother, "a raven must have flown over
his head. He is like the proverb of the blind man on the blind horse
coming at midnight to a deep ditch. Oh, how can he cross over?"

Willingly would this dutiful daughter have done anything to save her
loved one. Night and day she racked her brains for some plan, but all to
no avail.

On the day before the third casting, as Ko-ai was sitting in front of
her brass mirror braiding her long black hair, suddenly a little bird
flew in at the window and perched upon her head. Immediately the
startled maiden seemed to hear a voice as if some good fairy were
whispering in her ear:

"Do not hesitate. You must go and consult the famous juggler who even
now is visiting the city. Sell your jade-stones and other jewels, for
this man of wisdom will not listen unless his attention is attracted
by huge sums of money."

The feathered messenger flew out of her room, but Ko-ai had heard enough
to make her happy. She despatched a trusted servant to sell her jade and
her jewels, charging him on no account to tell her mother. Then, with a
great sum of money in her possession she sought out the magician who was
said to be wiser than the sages in knowledge of life and death.

"Tell me," she implored, as the greybeard summoned her to his presence,
"tell me how I can save my father, for the Emperor has ordered his death
if he fails a third time in the casting of the bell."

The astrologer, after plying her with questions, put on his
tortoise-shell glasses and searched long in his book of knowledge. He
also examined closely the signs of the heavens, consulting the mystic
tables over and over again. Finally, he turned toward Ko-ai, who all the
time had been awaiting his answer with impatience.

"Nothing could be plainer than the reason of your father's failure, for
when a man seeks to do the impossible, he can expect Fate to give him no
other answer. Gold cannot unite with silver, nor brass with iron, unless
the blood of a maiden is mingled with the molten metals, but the girl
who gives up her life to bring about the fusion must be pure and good."

With a sigh of despair Ko-ai heard the astrologer's answer. She loved
the world and all its beauties; she loved her birds, her companions, her
father; she had expected to marry soon, and then there would have been
children to love and cherish. But now all these dreams of happiness must
be forgotten. There was no other maiden to give up her life for Kwan-yu.
She, Ko-ai, loved her father and must make the sacrifice for his sake.

And so the day arrived for the third trial, and a third time Yung-lo
took his place in Kwan-yu's factory, surrounded by his courtiers. There
was a look of stern expectancy on his face. Twice he had excused his
underling for failure. Now there could be no thought of mercy. If the
bell did not come from its cast perfect in tone and fair to look upon,
Kwan-yu must be punished with the severest punishment that could be
meted out to man--even death itself. That was why there was a look of
stern expectancy on Yung-lo's face, for he really loved Kwan-yu and did
not wish to send him to his death.

As for Kwan-yu himself, he had long ago given up all thought of success,
for nothing had happened since his second failure to make him any surer
this time of success. He had settled up his business affairs, arranging
for a goodly sum to go to his beloved daughter; he had bought the coffin
in which his own body would be laid away and had stored it in one of the
principal rooms of his dwelling; he had even engaged the priests and
musicians who should chant his funeral dirge, and, last but not least,
he had arranged with the man who would have charge of chopping off his
head, that one fold of skin should be left uncut, as this would bring
him better luck on his entry into the spiritual world than if the head
were severed entirely from the body.

And so we may say that Kwan-yu was prepared to die. In fact, on the
night before the final casting he had a dream in which he saw himself
kneeling before the headsman and cautioning him not to forget the
binding agreement the latter had entered into.

Of all those present in the great foundry, perhaps the devoted Ko-ai was
the least excited. Unnoticed, she had slipped along the wall from the
spot where she had been standing with her mother and had planted herself
directly opposite the huge tank in which the molten, seething liquid
bubbled, awaiting the signal when it should be set free. Ko-ai gazed at
the Emperor, watching intently for the well-known signal. When at last
she saw his head move forward she sprang with a wild leap into the
boiling liquid, at the same time crying in her clear, sweet voice:

"For thee, dear father! It is the only way!"

The molten white metal received the lovely girl into its ardent embrace,
received her, and swallowed her up completely, as in a tomb of liquid
fire.

And Kwan-yu--what of Kwan-yu, the frantic father? Mad with grief at the
sight of his loved one giving up her life, a sacrifice to save him, he
had sprung forward to hold her back from her terrible death, but had
succeeded only in catching one of her tiny jewelled slippers as she sank
out of sight for ever--a dainty, silken slipper, to remind him always of
her wonderful sacrifice. In his wild grief as he clasped this pitiful
little memento to his heart he would himself have leaped in and followed
her to her death, if his servants had not restrained him until the
Emperor had repeated his signal and the liquid had been poured into the
cast. As the sad eyes of all those present peered into the molten river
of metals rushing to its earthen bed, they saw not a single sign
remaining of the departed Ko-ai.

This, then, my children, is the time-worn legend of the great bell
of Peking, a tale that has been repeated a million times by poets,
story-tellers and devoted mothers, for you must know that on this third
casting, when the earthen mould was removed, there stood revealed the
most beautiful bell that eye had ever looked upon, and when it was swung
up into the bell-tower there was immense rejoicing among the people. The
silver and the gold and the iron and the brass, held together by the
blood of the virgin, had blended perfectly, and the clear voice of the
monster bell rang out over the great city, sounding a deeper, richer
melody than that of any other bell within the limits of the Middle
Kingdom, or, for that matter, of all the world. And, strange to say,
even yet the deep-voiced colossus seems to cry out the name of the
maiden who gave herself a living sacrifice, "Ko-ai! Ko-ai! Ko-ai!" so
that all the people may remember her deed of virtue ten thousand years
ago. And between the mellow peals of music there often seems to come a
plaintive whisper that may be heard only by those standing near, "Hsieh!
hsieh"--the Chinese word for slipper. "Alas!" say all who hear it,
"Ko-ai is crying for her slipper. Poor little Ko-ai!"

And now, my dear children, this tale is almost finished, but there is
still one thing you must by no means fail to remember. By order of the
Emperor, the face of the great bell was graven with precious sayings
from the classics, that even in its moments of silence the bell might
teach lessons of virtue to the people.

"Behold," said Yung-lo, as he stood beside the grief-stricken father,
"amongst all yonder texts of wisdom, the priceless sayings of our
honoured sages, there is none that can teach to my children so sweet a
lesson of filial love and devotion as that one last act of your devoted
daughter. For though she died to save you, her deed will still be sung
and extolled by my people when you are passed away, yea, even when the
bell itself has crumbled into ruins."



THE STRANGE TALE OF DOCTOR DOG

[Illustration]


Far up in the mountains of the Province of Hunan in the central part of
China, there once lived in a small village a rich gentleman who had only
one child. This girl, like the daughter of Kwan-yu in the story of the
Great Bell, was the very joy of her father's life.

Now Mr. Min, for that was this gentleman's name, was famous throughout
the whole district for his learning, and, as he was also the owner of
much property, he spared no effort to teach Honeysuckle the wisdom of
the sages, and to give her everything she craved. Of course this was
enough to spoil most children, but Honeysuckle was not at all like other
children. As sweet as the flower from which she took her name, she
listened to her father's slightest command, and obeyed without ever
waiting to be told a second time.

Her father often bought kites for her, of every kind and shape. There
were fish, birds, butterflies, lizards and huge dragons, one of which
had a tail more than thirty feet long. Mr. Min was very skilful in
flying these kites for little Honeysuckle, and so naturally did his
birds and butterflies circle round and hover about in the air that
almost any little western boy would have been deceived and said, "Why,
there is a real bird, and not a kite at all!" Then again, he would
fasten a queer little instrument to the string, which made a kind of
humming noise, as he waved his hand from side to side. "It is the wind
singing, Daddy," cried Honeysuckle, clapping her hands with joy;
"singing a kite-song to both of us." Sometimes, to teach his little
darling a lesson if she had been the least naughty, Mr. Min would fasten
queerly twisted scraps of paper, on which were written many Chinese
words, to the string of her favourite kite.

"What are you doing, Daddy?" Honeysuckle would ask. "What can those
queer-looking papers be?"

"On every piece is written a sin that we have done."

"What is a sin, Daddy?"

"Oh, when Honeysuckle has been naughty; that is a sin!" he answered
gently. "Your old nurse is afraid to scold you, and if you are to grow
up to be a good woman, Daddy must teach you what is right."

Then Mr. Min would send the kite up high--high over the house-tops,
even higher than the tall Pagoda on the hillside. When all his cord
was let out, he would pick up two sharp stones, and, handing them to
Honeysuckle, would say, "Now, daughter, cut the string, and the wind
will carry away the sins that are written down on the scraps of paper."

"But, Daddy, the kite is so pretty. Mayn't we keep our sins a little
longer?" she would innocently ask.

"No, child; it is dangerous to hold on to one's sins. Virtue is the
foundation of happiness," he would reply sternly, choking back his
laughter at her question. "Make haste and cut the cord."

So Honeysuckle, always obedient--at least with her father--would saw
the string in two between the sharp stones, and with a childish cry of
despair would watch her favourite kite, blown by the wind, sail farther
and farther away, until at last, straining her eyes, she could see it
sink slowly to the earth in some far-distant meadow.

"Now laugh and be happy," Mr. Min would say, "for your sins are all
gone. See that you don't get a new supply of them."

Honeysuckle was also fond of seeing the Punch and Judy show, for,
you must know, this old-fashioned amusement for children was enjoyed
by little folks in China, perhaps three thousand years before your
great-grandfather was born. It is even said that the great Emperor, Mu,
when he saw these little dancing images for the first time, was greatly
enraged at seeing one of them making eyes at his favourite wife. He
ordered the showman to be put to death, and it was with difficulty the
poor fellow persuaded his Majesty that the dancing puppets were not
really alive at all, but only images of cloth and clay.

No wonder then Honeysuckle liked to see Punch and Judy if the Son of
Heaven himself had been deceived by their queer antics into thinking
them real people of flesh and blood.

But we must hurry on with our story, or some of our readers will be
asking, "But where is Dr. Dog? Are you never coming to the hero of this
tale?" One day when Honeysuckle was sitting inside a shady pavilion that
overlooked a tiny fish-pond, she was suddenly seized with a violent
attack of colic. Frantic with pain, she told a servant to summon her
father, and then without further ado, she fell over in a faint upon the
ground.

When Mr. Min reached his daughter's side, she was still unconscious.
After sending for the family physician to come post haste, he got his
daughter to bed, but although she recovered from her fainting fit, the
extreme pain continued until the poor girl was almost dead from
exhaustion.

Now, when the learned doctor arrived and peered at her from under his
gigantic spectacles, he could not discover the cause of her trouble.
However, like some of our western medical men, he did not confess his
ignorance, but proceeded to prescribe a huge dose of boiling water, to
be followed a little later by a compound of pulverized deer's horn and
dried toadskin.

Poor Honeysuckle lay in agony for three days, all the time growing
weaker and weaker from loss of sleep. Every great doctor in the district
had been summoned for consultation; two had come from Changsha, the
chief city of the province, but all to no avail. It was one of those
cases that seem to be beyond the power of even the most learned
physicians. In the hope of receiving the great reward offered by the
desperate father, these wise men searched from cover to cover in the
great Chinese Cyclopedia of Medicine, trying in vain to find a method of
treating the unhappy maiden. There was even thought of calling in a
certain foreign physician from England, who was in a distant city, and
was supposed, on account of some marvellous cures he had brought to
pass, to be in direct league with the devil. However, the city
magistrate would not allow Mr. Min to call in this outsider, for fear
trouble might be stirred up among the people.

Mr. Min sent out a proclamation in every direction, describing his
daughter's illness, and offering to bestow on her a handsome dowry and
give her in marriage to whoever should be the means of bringing her back
to health and happiness. He then sat at her bedside and waited, feeling
that he had done all that was in his power. There were many answers to
his invitation. Physicians, old and young, came from every part of the
Empire to try their skill, and when they had seen poor Honeysuckle and
also the huge pile of silver shoes her father offered as a wedding gift,
they all fought with might and main for her life; some having been
attracted by her great beauty and excellent reputation, others by the
tremendous reward.

But, alas for poor Honeysuckle! Not one of all those wise men could cure
her! One day, when she was feeling a slight change for the better, she
called her father, and, clasping his hand with her tiny one said, "Were
it not for your love I would give up this hard fight and pass over into
the dark wood; or, as my old grandmother says, fly up into the Western
Heavens. For your sake, because I am your only child, and especially
because you have no son, I have struggled hard to live, but now I feel
that the next attack of that dreadful pain will carry me away. And oh,
I do not want to die!"

Here Honeysuckle wept as if her heart would break, and her old father
wept too, for the more she suffered the more he loved her.

Just then her face began to turn pale. "It is coming! The pain is
coming, father! Very soon I shall be no more. Good-bye, father!
Good-bye; good----." Here her voice broke and a great sob almost broke
her father's heart. He turned away from her bedside; he could not bear
to see her suffer. He walked outside and sat down on a rustic bench; his
head fell upon his bosom, and the great salt tears trickled down his
long grey beard.

As Mr. Min sat thus overcome with grief, he was startled at hearing a
low whine. Looking up he saw, to his astonishment, a shaggy mountain dog
about the size of a Newfoundland. The huge beast looked into the old
man's eyes with so intelligent and human an expression, with such a sad
and wistful gaze, that the greybeard addressed him, saying, "Why have
you come? To cure my daughter?"

The dog replied with three short barks, wagging his tail vigorously and
turning toward the half-opened door that led into the room where the
girl lay.

By this time, willing to try any chance whatever of reviving his
daughter, Mr. Min bade the animal follow him into Honeysuckle's
apartment. Placing his forepaws upon the side of her bed, the dog looked
long and steadily at the wasted form before him and held his ear
intently for a moment over the maiden's heart. Then, with a slight cough
he deposited from his mouth into her outstretched hand, a tiny stone.
Touching her wrist with his right paw, he motioned to her to swallow the
stone.

"Yes, my dear, obey him," counselled her father, as she turned to him
inquiringly, "for good Dr. Dog has been sent to your bedside by the
mountain fairies, who have heard of your illness and who wish to invite
you back to life again."

Without further delay the sick girl, who was by this time almost burned
away by the fever, raised her hand to her lips and swallowed the tiny
charm. Wonder of wonders! No sooner had it passed her lips than a
miracle occurred. The red flush passed away from her face, the pulse
resumed its normal beat, the pains departed from her body, and she arose
from the bed well and smiling.

Flinging her arms about her father's neck, she cried out in joy, "Oh,
I am well again; well and happy; thanks to the medicine of the good
physician."

The noble dog barked three times, wild with delight at hearing these
tearful words of gratitude, bowed low, and put his nose in Honeysuckle's
outstretched hand.

Mr. Min, greatly moved by his daughter's magical recovery, turned to the
strange physician, saying, "Noble Sir, were it not for the form you have
taken, for some unknown reason, I would willingly give four times the
sum in silver that I promised for the cure of the girl, into your
possession. As it is, I suppose you have no use for silver, but remember
that so long as we live, whatever we have is yours for the asking, and
I beg of you to prolong your visit, to make this the home of your old
age--in short, remain here for ever as my guest--nay, as a member of
my family."

The dog barked thrice, as if in assent. From that day he was treated as
an equal by father and daughter. The many servants were commanded to
obey his slightest whim, to serve him with the most expensive food on
the market, to spare no expense in making him the happiest and best-fed
dog in all the world. Day after day he ran at Honeysuckle's side as she
gathered flowers in her garden, lay down before her door when she was
resting, guarded her Sedan chair when she was carried by servants into
the city. In short, they were constant companions; a stranger would have
thought they had been friends from childhood.

One day, however, just as they were returning from a journey outside her
father's compound, at the very instant when Honeysuckle was alighting
from her chair, without a moment's warning, the huge animal dashed past
the attendants, seized his beautiful mistress in his mouth, and before
anyone could stop him, bore her off to the mountains. By the time the
alarm was sounded, darkness had fallen over the valley and as the night
was cloudy no trace could be found of the dog and his fair burden.

Once more the frantic father left no stone unturned to save his
daughter. Huge rewards were offered, bands of woodmen scoured the
mountains high and low, but, alas, no sign of the girl could be found!
The unfortunate father gave up the search and began to prepare himself
for the grave. There was nothing now left in life that he cared
for--nothing but thoughts of his departed daughter. Honeysuckle was gone
for ever.

"Alas!" said he, quoting the lines of a famous poet who had fallen into
despair:


  "My whiting hair would make an endless rope,
  Yet would not measure all my depth of woe."


Several long years passed by; years of sorrow for the ageing man, pining
for his departed daughter. One beautiful October day he was sitting in
the very same pavilion where he had so often sat with his darling. His
head was bowed forward on his breast, his forehead was lined with grief.
A rustling of leaves attracted his attention. He looked up. Standing
directly in front of him was Dr. Dog, and lo, riding on his back,
clinging to the animal's shaggy hair, was Honeysuckle, his long-lost
daughter; while standing near by were three of the handsomest boys he
had ever set eyes upon!

"Ah, my daughter! My darling daughter, where have you been all these
years?" cried the delighted father, pressing the girl to his aching
breast. "Have you suffered many a cruel pain since you were snatched
away so suddenly? Has your life been filled with sorrow?"

"Only at the thought of your grief," she replied, tenderly, stroking
his forehead with her slender fingers; "only at the thought of your
suffering; only at the thought of how I should like to see you every day
and tell you that my husband was kind and good to me. For you must know,
dear father, this is no mere animal that stands beside you. This Dr.
Dog, who cured me and claimed me as his bride because of your promise,
is a great magician. He can change himself at will into a thousand
shapes. He chooses to come here in the form of a mountain beast so that
no one may penetrate the secret of his distant palace."

"Then he is your husband?" faltered the old man, gazing at the animal
with a new expression on his wrinkled face.

"Yes; my kind and noble husband, the father of my three sons, your
grandchildren, whom we have brought to pay you a visit."

"And where do you live?"

"In a wonderful cave in the heart of the great mountains; a beautiful
cave whose walls and floors are covered with crystals, and encrusted
with sparkling gems. The chairs and tables are set with jewels; the
rooms are lighted by a thousand glittering diamonds. Oh, it is lovelier
than the palace of the Son of Heaven himself! We feed of the flesh of
wild deer and mountain goats, and fish from the clearest mountain
stream. We drink cold water out of golden goblets, without first boiling
it, for it is purity itself. We breathe fragrant air that blows through
forests of pine and hemlock. We live only to love each other and our
children, and oh, we are so happy! And you, father, you must come back
with us to the great mountains and live there with us the rest of your
days, which, the gods grant, may be very many."

[Illustration: "CLINGING TO THE ANIMAL'S SHAGGY HAIR WAS HONEYSUCKLE"]

The old man pressed his daughter once more to his breast and fondled the
children, who clambered over him rejoicing at the discovery of a
grandfather they had never seen before.

From Dr. Dog and his fair Honeysuckle are sprung, it is said, the
well-known race of people called the Yus, who even now inhabit the
mountainous regions of the Canton and Hunan provinces. It is not for
this reason, however, that we have told the story here, but because we
felt sure every reader would like to learn the secret of the dog that
cured a sick girl and won her for his bride.



HOW FOOTBINDING STARTED

[Illustration]


In the very beginning of all things, when the gods were creating the
world, at last the time came to separate the earth from the heavens.
This was hard work, and if it had not been for the coolness and skill of
a young goddess all would have failed. This goddess was named Lu-o. She
had been idly watching the growth of the planet, when, to her horror,
she saw the newly made ball slipping slowly from its place. In another
second it would have shot down into the bottomless pit. Quick as a flash
Lu-o stopped it with her magic wand and held it firmly until the chief
god came dashing up to the rescue.

But this was not all. When men and women were put on the earth Lu-o
helped them greatly by setting an example of purity and kindness. Every
one loved her and pointed her out as the one who was always willing to
do a good deed. After she had left the world and gone into the land of
the gods, beautiful statues of her were set up in many temples to keep
her image always before the eyes of sinful people. The greatest of these
was in the capital city. Thus, when sorrowful women wished to offer up
their prayers to some virtuous goddess they would go to a temple of Lu-o
and pour out their hearts before her shrine.

At one time the wicked Chow-sin, last ruler of the Yins, went to pray in
the city Temple. There his royal eyes were captivated by the sight of a
wonderful face, the beauty of which was so great that he fell in love
with it at once, telling his ministers that he wished he might take this
goddess, who was no other than Lu-o, for one of his wives.

Now Lu-o was terribly angry that an earthly prince should dare to make
such a remark about her. Then and there she determined to punish the
Emperor. Calling her assistant spirits, she told them of Chow-sin's
insult. Of all her servants the most cunning was one whom we shall call
Fox Sprite, because he really belonged to the fox family. Lu-o ordered
Fox Sprite to spare himself no trouble in making the wicked ruler suffer
for his impudence.

For many days, try as he would, Chow-sin, the great Son of Heaven, could
not forget the face he had seen in the temple.

"He is stark mad," laughed his courtiers behind his back, "to fall in
love with a statue."

"I must find a woman just like her," said the Emperor, "and take her to
wife."

"Why not, most Mighty One," suggested a favourite adviser, "send forth a
command throughout the length and breadth of your Empire, that no maiden
shall be taken in marriage until you have chosen yourself a wife whose
beauty shall equal that of Lu-o?"

Chow-sin was pleased with this suggestion and doubtless would have
followed it had not his Prime Minister begged him to postpone issuing
the order. "Your Imperial Highness," began the official, "since you have
been pleased once or twice to follow my counsel, I beg of you to give
ear now to what I say."

"Speak, and your words shall have my best attention," replied Chow-sin,
with a gracious wave of the hand.

"Know then, Great One, that in the southern part of your realm there
dwells a viceroy whose bravery has made him famous in battle."

"Are you speaking of Su-nan?" questioned Chow-sin, frowning, for this
Su-nan had once been a rebel.

"None other, mighty Son of Heaven. Famous is he as a soldier, but his
name is now even greater in that he is the father of the most beautiful
girl in all China. This lovely flower that has bloomed of late within
his household is still unmarried. Why not order her father to bring her
to the palace that you may wed her and place her in your royal
dwelling?"

"And are you sure of this wondrous beauty you describe so prettily?"
asked the ruler, a smile of pleasure lighting up his face.

"So sure that I will stake my head on your being satisfied."

"Enough! I command you at once to summon the viceroy and his daughter.
Add the imperial seal to the message."

The Prime Minister smilingly departed to give the order. In his heart he
was more than delighted that the Emperor had accepted his suggestion,
for Su-nan, the viceroy, had long been his chief enemy, and he planned
in this way to overthrow him. The viceroy, as he knew, was a man of
iron. He would certainly not feel honoured at the thought of having his
daughter enter the Imperial Palace as a secondary wife. Doubtless he
would refuse to obey the order and would thus bring about his own
immediate downfall.

Nor was the Prime Minister mistaken. When Su-nan received the imperial
message his heart was hot with anger against his sovereign. To be robbed
of his lovely Ta-ki, even by the throne, was, in his eyes, a terrible
disgrace. Could he have been sure that she would be made Empress it
might have been different, but with so many others sharing Chow-sin's
favour, her promotion to first place in the Great One's household was by
no means certain. Besides, she was Su-nan's favourite child, and the old
man could not bear the thought of separation from her. Rather would he
give up his life than let her go to this cruel ruler.

"No, you shall not do it," said he to Ta-ki, "not though I must die to
save you."

The beautiful girl listened to her father's words, in tears. Throwing
herself at his feet she thanked him for his mercy and promised to love
him more fondly than ever. She told him that her vanity had not been
flattered by what most girls might have thought an honour, that she
would rather have the love of one good man like her father, than share
with others the affections of a king.

After listening to his daughter, the viceroy sent a respectful answer to
the palace, thanking the Emperor for his favour, but saying he could not
give up Ta-ki. "She is unworthy of the honour you purpose doing her," he
said, in conclusion, "for, having been the apple of her father's eye,
she would not be happy to share even your most august favour with the
many others you have chosen."

[Illustration: "THROWING HERSELF AT HIS FEET SHE THANKED HIM FOR HIS
MERCY."]

When the Emperor learned of Su-nan's reply he could hardly believe his
ears. To have his command thus disobeyed was an unheard-of crime. Never
before had a subject of the Middle Kingdom offered such an insult to a
ruler. Boiling with rage, he ordered his prime minister to send forth
an army that would bring the viceroy to his senses. "Tell him if he
disobeys that he and his family, together with all they possess, shall
be destroyed."

Delighted at the success of his plot against Su-nan, the Prime Minister
sent a regiment of soldiers to bring the rebel to terms. In the meantime
the friends of the daring viceroy had not been idle. Hearing of the
danger threatening their ruler, who had become a general favourite,
hundreds of men offered him their aid against the army of Chow-sin. Thus
when the Emperor's banners were seen approaching and the war drums were
heard rolling in the distance, the rebels, with a great shout, dashed
forth to do battle for their leader. In the fight that took place the
Imperial soldiers were forced to run.

When the Emperor heard of this defeat he was hot with anger. He called
together his advisers and commanded that an army, double the size of the
first one, should be sent to Su-nan's country to destroy the fields and
villages of the people who had risen up against him. "Spare not one of
them," he shouted, "for they are traitors to the Dragon Throne."

Once more the viceroy's friends resolved to support him, even to the
death. Ta-ki, his daughter, went apart from the other members of the
family, weeping most bitterly that she had brought such sorrow upon
them. "Rather would I go into the palace and be the lowest among
Chow-sin's women than to be the cause of all this grief," she cried,
in desperation.

But her father soothed her, saying, "Be of good cheer, Ta-ki. The
Emperor's army, though it be twice as large as mine, shall not overcome
us. Right is on our side. The gods of battle will help those who fight
for justice."

One week later a second battle was fought, and the struggle was so close
that none could foresee the result. The Imperial army was commanded by
the oldest nobles in the kingdom, those most skilled in warfare, while
the viceroy's men were young and poorly drilled. Moreover, the members
of the Dragon Army had been promised double pay if they should
accomplish the wishes of their sovereign, while Su-nan's soldiers knew
only too well that they would be put to the sword if they should be
defeated.

Just as the clash of arms was at its highest, the sound of gongs was
heard upon a distant hill. The government troops were amazed at seeing
fresh companies marching to the rescue of their foe. With a wild cry of
disappointment they turned and fled from the field. These unexpected
reinforcements turned out to be women whom Ta-ki had persuaded to dress
up as soldiers and go with her for the purpose of frightening the enemy.
Thus for a second time was Su-nan victorious.

During the following year several battles occurred that counted for
little, except that in each of them many of Su-nan's followers were
killed. At last one of the viceroy's best friends came to him, saying,
"Noble lord, it is useless to continue the struggle. I fear you must
give up the fight. You have lost more than half your supporters; the
remaining bowmen are either sick or wounded and can be of little use.
The Emperor, moreover, is even now raising a new army from the distant
provinces, and will soon send against us a force ten times as great as
any we have yet seen. There being no hope of victory, further fighting
would be folly. Lead, therefore, your daughter to the palace. Throw
yourself upon the mercy of the throne. You must accept cheerfully the
fate the gods have suffered you to bear."

Ta-ki, chancing to overhear this conversation, rushed in and begged her
father to hold out no longer, but to deliver her up to the greed of the
wicked Chow-sin.

With a sigh, the viceroy yielded to their wishes. The next day he
despatched a messenger to the Emperor, promising to bring Ta-ki at once
to the capital.

Now we must not forget Fox Sprite, the demon, who had been commanded by
the good goddess Lu-o to bring a dreadful punishment upon the Emperor.
Through all the years of strife between Chow-sin and the rebels, Fox
Sprite had been waiting patiently for his chance. He knew well that some
day, sooner or later, there would come an hour when Chow-sin would be at
his mercy. When the time came, therefore, for Ta-ki to go to the palace,
Fox Sprite felt that at last his chance had come. The beautiful maiden
for whom Chow-sin had given up so many hundreds of his soldiers, would
clearly have great power over the Emperor. She must be made to help
in the punishment of her wicked husband. So Fox Sprite made himself
invisible and travelled with the viceroy's party as it went from central
China to the capital.

On the last night of their journey Su-nan and his daughter stopped for
rest and food at a large inn. No sooner had the girl gone to her room
for the night than Fox Sprite followed her. Then he made himself
visible. At first she was frightened to see so strange a being in her
room, but when Fox Sprite told her he was a servant of the great
goddess, Lu-o, she was comforted, for she knew that Lu-o was the friend
of women and children.

"But how can _I_ help to punish the Emperor?" she faltered, when the
sprite told her he wanted her assistance. "I am but a helpless girl,"
and here she began to cry.

"Dry your tears," he said soothingly. "It will be very easy. Only let me
take your form for a little. When I am the Emperor's wife," laughing, "I
shall find a way to punish him, for no one can give a man more pain that
his wife can, if she desires to do so. You know, I am a servant of Lu-o
and can do anything I wish."

"But the Emperor won't have a fox for a wife," she sobbed.

"Though I am still a fox I shall look like the beautiful Ta-ki. Make
your heart easy. He will never know."

"Oh, I see," she smiled, "you will put your spirit into my body and you
will look just like me, though you really won't be me. But what will
become of the real me? Shall I have to be a fox and look like you?"

"No, not unless you want to. I will make you invisible, and you can be
ready to go back into your own body when I have got rid of the Emperor."

"Very well," replied the girl, somewhat relieved by his explanation,
"but try not to be too long about it, because I don't like the idea of
somebody else walking about in my body."

So Fox Sprite caused his own spirit to enter the girl's body, and no
one could have told by her outward appearance that any change had taken
place. The beautiful girl was now in reality the sly Fox Sprite, but in
one way only did she look like a fox. When the fox-spirit entered her
body, her feet suddenly shrivelled up and became very similar in shape
and size to the feet of the animal who had her in his power. When the
fox noticed this, at first he was somewhat annoyed, but, feeling that no
one else would know, he did not take the trouble to change the fox feet
back to human form.

On the following morning, when the viceroy called his daughter for the
last stage of their journey, he greeted Fox Sprite without suspecting
that anything unusual had happened since he had last seen Ta-ki. So well
did this crafty spirit perform his part that the father was completely
deceived, by look, by voice, and by gesture.

The next day the travellers arrived at the capital and Su-nan presented
himself before Chow-sin, the Emperor, leading Fox Sprite with him. Of
course the crafty fox with all his magic powers was soon able to gain
the mastery over the wicked ruler. The Great One pardoned Su-nan,
although he had fully intended to put him to death as a rebel.

Now the chance for which Fox Sprite had been waiting had come. He began
at once, causing the Emperor to do many deeds of violence. The people
had already begun to dislike Chow-sin, and soon he became hateful in
their sight. Many of the leading members of the court were put to death
unjustly. Horrible tortures were devised for punishing those who did not
find favour with the crown. At last there was open talk of a rebellion.
Of course, all these things delighted the wily fox, for he saw that,
sooner or later, the Son of Heaven would be turned out of the palace,
and he knew that then his work for the goddess Lu-o would be finished.

Besides worming his way into the heart of the Emperor, the fox became
a general favourite with the ladies of the palace. These women saw in
Chow-sin's latest wife the most beautiful woman who had ever lived in
the royal harem. One would think that this beauty might have caused
them to hate Fox Sprite, but such was not the case. They admired the
plumpness of Fox Sprite's body, the fairness of Fox Sprite's complexion,
the fire in Fox Sprite's eyes, but most of all they wondered at the
smallness of Fox Sprite's feet, for, you remember, the supposed Ta-ki
now had fox's feet instead of those of human shape.

Thus small feet became the fashion among women. All the court ladies,
old and young, beautiful and ugly, began thinking of plans for making
their own feet as tiny as those of Fox Sprite. In this way they thought
to increase their chances of finding favour with the Emperor.

Gradually people outside the palace began to hear of this absurd
fashion. Mothers bound the feet of their little girls, in such a manner
as to stop their growth. The bones of the toes were bent backwards and
broken, so eager were the elders to have their daughters grow up into
tiny-footed maidens. Thus, for several years of their girlhood the
little ones were compelled to endure the most severe tortures. It was
not long before the new fashion took firm root in China. It became
almost impossible for parents to get husbands for their daughters unless
the girls had suffered the severe pains of foot-binding. And even to
this day we find that many of the people are still under the influence
of Fox Sprite's magic, and believe that a tiny, misshapen foot is more
beautiful than a natural one.

But let us return to the story of Fox Sprite and the wicked Emperor. For
a number of years matters grew continually worse in the country. At last
the people rose in a body against the ruler. A great battle was fought.
The wicked Chow-sin was overthrown and put to death by means of those
very instruments of torture he had used so often against his subjects.
By this time it had become known to all the lords and noblemen that the
Emperor's favourite had been the main cause of their ruler's wickedness;
hence they demanded the death of Fox Sprite. But no one wished to kill
so lovely a creature. Every one appointed refused to do the deed.

Finally, a grey-headed member of the court allowed himself to be
blindfolded. With a sharp sword he pierced the body of Fox Sprite to the
heart. Those standing near covered their eyes with their hands, for they
could not bear to see so wonderful a woman die. Suddenly, as they looked
up, they saw a sight so strange that all were filled with amazement.
Instead of falling to the ground, the graceful form swayed backward and
forward for a moment, when all at once there seemed to spring from her
side a huge mountain fox. The animal glanced around him, then, with a
cry of fear, dashing past officials, courtiers and soldiers, he rushed
through the gate of the enclosure.

"A fox!" cried the people, full of wonder.

At that moment Ta-ki fell in a swoon upon the floor. When they picked
her up, thinking, of course, that she had died from the sword thrust,
they could find no blood on her body, and, on looking more closely, they
saw that there was not even the slightest wound.

"Marvel of marvels!" they all shouted. "The gods have shielded her!"

Just then Ta-ki opened her eyes and looked about her. "Where am I?" she
asked, in faint voice. "Pray tell me what has happened."

Then they told her what they had seen, and at last it was plain to the
beautiful woman that, after all these years, Fox Sprite had left her
body. She was herself once more. For a long time she could not make the
people believe her story; they all said that she must have lost her
mind; that the gods had saved her life, but had punished her for her
wickedness by taking away her reason.

But that night, when her maids were undressing her in the palace, they
saw her feet, which had once more become their natural size, and then
they knew she had been telling the truth.

How Ta-ki became the wife of a good nobleman who had long admired her
great beauty is much too long a story to be told here. Of one thing,
however, we are certain, that she lived long and was happy ever
afterwards.



THE TALKING FISH

[Illustration]


Long, long before your great-grandfather was born there lived in the
village of Everlasting Happiness two men called Li and Sing. Now, these
two men were close friends, living together in the same house. Before
settling down in the village of Everlasting Happiness they had ruled as
high officials for more than twenty years. They had often treated the
people very harshly, so that everybody, old and young, disliked and
hated them. And yet, by robbing the wealthy merchants and by cheating
the poor, these two evil companions had become rich, and it was in order
to spend their ill-gotten gains in idle amusements that they sought out
the village of Everlasting Happiness. "For here," said they, "we can
surely find that joy which has been denied us in every other place. Here
we shall no longer be scorned by men and reviled by women."

Consequently these two men bought for themselves the finest house in
the village, furnished it in the most elegant manner, and decorated
the walls with scrolls filled with wise sayings and pictures by famous
artists. Outside there were lovely gardens filled with flowers and
birds, and oh, ever so many trees with queer twisted branches growing
in the shape of tigers and other wild animals.

Whenever they felt lonely Li and Sing invited rich people of the
neighbourhood to come and dine with them, and after they had eaten,
sometimes they would go out upon the little lake in the centre of their
estate, rowing in an awkward flat-bottomed boat that had been built by
the village carpenter.

One day, on such an occasion, when the sun had been beating down
fiercely upon the clean-shaven heads of all those on the little barge,
for you must know this was long before the day when hats were worn--at
least, in the village of Everlasting Happiness--Mr. Li was suddenly
seized with a giddy feeling, which rapidly grew worse and worse until
he was in a burning fever.

"Snake's blood mixed with powdered deer-horn is the thing for him,"
said the wise-looking doctor who was called in, peering at Li carefully
through his huge glasses, "Be sure," he continued, addressing Li's
personal attendant, and, at the same time, snapping his long
finger-nails nervously, "be sure, above all, not to leave him alone, for
he is in danger of going raving mad at any moment, and I cannot say what
he may do if he is not looked after carefully. A man in his condition
has no more sense than a baby."

Now, although these words of the doctor's really made Mr. Li angry, he
was too ill to reply, for all this time his head had been growing hotter
and hotter, until at last a feverish sleep overtook him. No sooner had
he closed his eyes than his faithful servant, half-famished, rushed out
of the room to join his fellows at their mid-day meal.

Li awoke with a start. He had slept only ten minutes. "Water, water,"
he moaned, "bathe my head with cold water. I am half dead with pain!"
But there was no reply, for the attendant was dining happily with his
fellows.

"Air, air," groaned Mr. Li, tugging at the collar of his silk shirt.
"I'm dying for water. I'm starving for air. This blazing heat will kill
me. It is hotter than the Fire god himself ever dreamed of making it.
Wang, Wang!" clapping his hands feebly and calling to his servant,
"air and water, air and water!"

But still no Wang.

At last, with the strength that is said to come from despair, Mr. Li
arose from his couch and staggered toward the doorway. Out he went into
the paved courtyard, and then, after only a moment's hesitation, made
his way across it into a narrow passage that led into the lake garden.

"What do they care for a man when he is sick?" he muttered. "My good
friend Sing is doubtless even now enjoying his afternoon nap, with a
servant standing by to fan him, and a block of ice near his head to cool
the air. What does he care if I die of a raging fever? Doubtless he
expects to inherit all my money. And my servants! That rascal Wang has
been with me these ten years, living on me and growing lazier every
season! What does he care if I pass away? Doubtless he is certain that
Sing's servants will think of something for him to do, and he will have
even less work than he has now. Water, water! I shall die if I don't
soon find a place to soak myself!"

So saying, he arrived at the bank of a little brook that flowed in
through a water gate at one side of the garden and emptied itself into
the big fish-pond. Flinging himself down by a little stream Li bathed
his hands and wrists in the cool water. How delightful! If only it were
deep enough to cover his whole body, how gladly would he cast himself in
and enjoy the bliss of its refreshing embrace!

For a long time he lay on the ground, rejoicing at his escape from the
doctor's clutches. Then, as the fever began to rise again, he sprang up
with a determined cry, "What am I waiting for? I will do it. There's no
one to prevent me, and it will do me a world of good. I will cast myself
head first into the fish-pond. It is not deep enough near the shore to
drown me if I should be too weak to swim, and I am sure it will restore
me to strength and health."

He hastened along the little stream, almost running in his eagerness to
reach the deeper water of the pond. He was like some small Tom Brown who
had escaped from the watchful eye of the master and run out to play in a
forbidden spot.

Hark! Was that a servant calling? Had Wang discovered the absence of his
employer? Would he sound the alarm, and would the whole place soon be
alive with men searching for the fever-stricken patient?

With one last sigh of satisfaction Li flung himself, clothes and all,
into the quiet waters of the fish-pond. Now Li had been brought up in
Fukien province on the seashore, and was a skilful swimmer. He dived and
splashed to his heart's content, then floated on the surface. "It takes
me back to my boyhood," he cried, "why, oh why, is it not the fashion
to swim? I'd love to live in the water all the time and yet some of my
countrymen are even more afraid than a cat of getting their feet wet.
As for me, I'd give anything to stay here for ever."

"You would, eh?" chuckled a hoarse voice just under him, and then there
was a sort of wheezing sound, followed by a loud burst of laughter. Mr.
Li jumped as if an arrow had struck him, but when he noticed the fat,
ugly monster below, his fear turned into anger. "Look here, what do you
mean by giving a fellow such a start! Don't you know what the Classics
say about such rudeness?"

The giant fish laughed all the louder. "What time do you suppose I have
for Classics? You make me laugh till I cry!"

"But you must answer my question," cried Mr. Li, more and more
persistently, forgetting for the moment that he was not trying some poor
culprit for a petty crime. "Why did you laugh? Speak out at once,
fellow!"

"Well, since you are such a saucy piece," roared the other, "I will tell
you. It was because you awkward creatures, who call yourselves men, the
most highly civilized beings in the world, always think you understand a
thing fully when you have only just found out how to do it."

"You are talking about the island dwarfs, the Japanese," interrupted Mr.
Li, "We Chinese seldom undertake to do anything new."

"Just hear the man!" chuckled the fish. "Now, fancy your wishing to stay
in the water for ever! What do you know about water? Why you're not even
provided with the proper equipment for swimming. What would you do if
you really lived here always?"

"What am I doing now?" spluttered Mr. Li, so angry that he sucked in a
mouthful of water before he knew it.

"Floundering," retorted the other.

"Don't you see me swimming? Are those big eyes of yours made of glass?"

"Yes, I see you all right," guffawed the fish, "that's just it! I see
you too well. Why you tumble about as awkwardly as a water buffalo
wallowing in a mud puddle!"

Now, as Mr. Li had always considered himself an expert in water sports,
he was, by this time, speechless with rage, and all he could do was to
paddle feebly round and round with strokes just strong enough to keep
himself from sinking.

"Then, too," continued the fish, more and more calm as the other lost
his temper, "you have a very poor arrangement for breathing. If I am not
mistaken, at the bottom of this pond you would find yourself worse off
than I should be at the top of a palm tree. What would you do to keep
yourself from starving? Do you think it would be convenient if you had
to flop yourself out on to the land every time you wanted a bite to eat?
And yet, being a man, I doubt seriously if you would be content to take
the proper food for fishes. You have hardly a single feature that would
make you contented if you were to join an under-water school. Look at
your clothes, too, water-soaked and heavy. Do you think them suitable
to protect you from cold and sickness? Nature forgot to give you any
scales. Now I'm going to tell you a joke, so you must be sure to laugh.
Fishes are like grocery shops--always judged by their scales. As you
haven't a sign of a scale, how will people judge you? See the point, eh?
Nature gave you a skin, but forgot the outer covering, except, perhaps
at the ends of your fingers and your toes You surely see by this time
why I consider your idea ridiculous?"

Sure enough, in spite of his recent severe attack of fever, Mr. Li had
really cooled completely off. He had never understood before what great
disadvantages there were connected with being a man. Why not make use of
this chance acquaintance, find out from him how to get rid of that
miserable possession he had called his manhood, and gain the delights
that only a fish can have? "Then, are you indeed contented with your
lot?" he asked finally. "Are there not moments when you would prefer to
be a man?"

"I, a man!" thundered the other, lashing the water with his tail. "How
dare you suggest such a disgraceful change! Can it be that you do not
know my rank? Why, my fellow, you behold in me a favourite nephew of
the king!"

"Then, may it please your lordship," said Mr. Li, softly, "I should
be exceedingly grateful if you would speak a kind word for me to your
master. Do you think it possible that he could change me in some manner
into a fish and accept me as a subject?"

"Of course!" replied the other, "all things are possible to the king.
Know you not that my sovereign is a loyal descendant of the great water
dragon, and, as such, can never die, but lives on and on and on, for
ever and ever and ever, like the ruling house of Japan?"

"Oh, oh!" gasped Mr. Li, "even the Son of Heaven, our most worshipful
emperor, cannot boast of such long years. Yes, I would give my fortune
to be a follower of your imperial master."

"Then follow me," laughed the other, starting off at a rate that made
the water hiss and boil for ten feet around him.

Mr. Li struggled vainly to keep up. If he had thought himself a good
swimmer, he now saw his mistake and every bit of remaining pride was
torn to tatters. "Please wait a moment," he cried out politely, "I beg
of you to remember that I am only a man!"

"Pardon me," replied the other, "it was stupid of me to forget,
especially as I had just been talking about it."

Soon they reached a sheltered inlet at the farther side of the pond.
There Mr. Li saw a gigantic carp idly floating about in a shallow pool,
and then lazily flirting his huge tail or fluttering his fins proudly
from side to side. Attendant courtiers darted hither and thither, ready
to do the master's slightest bidding. One of them, splendidly attired in
royal scarlet, announced, with a downward flip of the head, the approach
of the King's nephew who was leading Mr. Li to an audience with his
Majesty.

"Whom have you here, my lad?" began the ruler, as his nephew, hesitating
for words to explain his strange request, moved his fins nervously
backwards and forwards. "Strange company, it seems to me, you are
keeping these days."

"Only a poor man, most royal sir," replied the other, "who beseeches
your Highness to grant him your gracious favour."


  "When man asks favour of a fish,
     'Tis hard to penetrate his wish--
   He often seeks a lordly dish
     To serve upon his table,"


repeated the king, smiling. "And yet, nephew, you think this fellow is
really peaceably inclined and is not coming among us as a spy?"

Before his friend could answer, Mr. Li had cast himself upon his knees
in the shallow water, before the noble carp, and bowed thrice, until his
face was daubed with mud from the bottom of the pool. "Indeed, your
Majesty, I am only a poor mortal who seeks your kindly grace. If you
would but consent to receive me into your school of fishes. I would for
ever be your ardent admirer and your lowly slave."

"In sooth, the fellow talks as if in earnest," remarked the king, after
a moment's reflection, "and though the request is, perhaps, the
strangest to which I have ever listened, I really see no reason why I
should not turn a fishly ear. But, have the goodness first to cease your
bowing. You are stirring up enough mud to plaster the royal palace of a
shark."

Poor Li, blushing at the monarch's reproof, waited patiently for the
answer to his request.

"Very well, so be it," cried the king impulsively, "your wish is
granted. Sir Trout," turning to one of his courtiers, "bring hither a
fish-skin of proper size for this ambitious fellow."

No sooner said than done. The fish-skin was slipped over Mr. Li's head,
and his whole body was soon tucked snugly away in the scaly coat. Only
his arms remained uncovered. In the twinkling of an eye Li felt sharp
pains shoot through every part of his body. His arms began to shrivel up
and his hands changed little by little until they made an excellent pair
of fins, just as good as those of the king himself. As for his legs and
feet, they suddenly began to stick together until, wriggle as he would,
Li could not separate them. "Ah, ha!" thought he, "my kicking days are
over, for my toes are now turned into a first-class tail."

"Not so fast," laughed the king, as Li, after thanking the royal
personage profusely, started out to try his new fins; "not so fast, my
friend. Before you depart, perhaps I'd better give you a little friendly
advice, else your new powers are likely to land you on the hook of some
lucky fisherman, and you will find yourself served up as a prize of the
pond."

"I will gladly listen to your lordly counsel, for the words of the Most
High to his lowly slave are like pearls before sea slugs. However, as I
was once a man myself I think I understand the simple tricks they use to
catch us fish, and I am therefore in position to avoid trouble."

"Don't be so sure about it. 'A hungry carp often falls into danger,'
as one of our sages so wisely remarked. There are two cautions I would
impress upon you. One is, never, never, eat a dangling worm; no matter
how tempting it looks there are sure to be horrible hooks inside.
Secondly, always swim like lightning if you see a net, but in the
opposite direction. Now, I will have you served your first meal out of
the royal pantry, but after that, you must hunt for yourself, like every
other self-respecting citizen of the watery world."

After Li had been fed with several slugs, followed by a juicy worm for
dessert, and after again thanking the king and the king's nephew for
their kindness, he started forth to test his tail and fins. It was no
easy matter, at first, to move them properly. A single flirt of the
tail, no more vigorous than those he had been used to giving with his
legs, would send him whirling round and round in the water, for all
the world like a living top; and when he wriggled his fins, ever so
slightly, as he thought, he found himself sprawling on his back in a
most ridiculous fashion for a dignified member of fishkind. It took
several hours of constant practice to get the proper stroke, and then he
found he could move about without being conscious of any effort. It was
the easiest thing he had ever done in his life; and oh! the water was so
cool and delightful! "Would that I might enjoy that endless life the
poets write of!" he murmured blissfully.

Many hours passed by until at last Li was compelled to admit that,
although he was not tired, he was certainly hungry. How to get something
to eat? Oh! why had he not asked the friendly nephew a few simple
questions? How easily his lordship might have told him the way to get
a good breakfast! But alas! without such advice, it would be a whale's
task to accomplish it. Hither and thither he swam, into the deep
still water, and along the muddy shore; down, down to the pebbly
bottom--always looking, looking for a tempting worm. He dived into the
weeds and rushes, poked his nose among the lily pads. All for nothing!
No fly or worm of any kind to gladden his eager eyes! Another hour
passed slowly away, and all the time his hunger was growing greater and
greater. Would the fish god, the mighty dragon, not grant him even one
little morsel to satisfy his aching stomach, especially since, now that
he was a fish, he had no way of tightening up his belt, as hungry
soldiers do when they are on a forced march?

Just as Li was beginning to think he could not wriggle his tail
an instant longer, and that soon, very soon, he would feel himself
slipping, slipping, slipping down to the bottom of the pond to die--at
that very moment, chancing to look up, he saw, oh joy! a delicious red
worm dangling a few inches above his nose. The sight gave new strength
to his weary fins and tail. Another minute, and he would have had the
delicate morsel in his mouth, when alas! he chanced to recall the advice
given him the day before by great King Carp. "No matter how tempting it
looks, there are sure to be horrible hooks inside." For an instant Li
hesitated. The worm floated a trifle nearer to his half-open mouth. How
tempting! After all, what was a hook to a fish when he was dying? Why be
a coward? Perhaps this worm was an exception to the rule, or perhaps,
perhaps any thing--really a fish in such a plight as Mr. Li could not be
expected to follow advice--even the advice of a real KING.

Pop! He had it in his mouth. Oh, soft morsel, worthy of a king's desire!
Now he could laugh at words of wisdom, and eat whatever came before his
eye. But ugh! What was that strange feeling that--Ouch! it was the fatal
hook!

With one frantic jerk, and a hundred twists and turns, poor Li sought
to pull away from the cruel barb that stuck so fast in the roof of his
mouth. It was now too late to wish he had kept away from temptation.
Better far to have starved at the bottom of the cool pond than to be
jerked out by some miserable fisherman to the light and sunshine of the
busy world. Nearer and nearer he approached the surface. The more he
struggled the sharper grew the cruel barb. Then, with one final splash,
he found himself dangling in mid-air, swinging helplessly at the end of
a long line. With a chunk he fell into a flat-bottomed boat, directly
on top of several smaller fish.

"Ah, a carp!" shouted a well-known voice gleefully; "the biggest fish
I've caught these three moons. What good luck!"

It was the voice of old Chang, the fisherman, who had been supplying
Mr. Li's table ever since that official's arrival in the village of
Everlasting Happiness. Only a word of explanation, and he, Li, would be
free once more to swim about where he willed. And then there should be
no more barbs for him. An escaped fish fears the hook.

"I say, Chang," he began, gasping for breath, "really now, you must
chuck me overboard at once, for, don't you see, I am Mr. Li, your old
master. Come, hurry up about it. I'll excuse you this time for your
mistake, for, of course, you had no way of knowing. Quick!"

But Chang, with a savage jerk, pulled the hook from Li's mouth, and
looked idly towards the pile of glistening fish, gloating over his
catch, and wondering how much money he could demand for it. He had heard
nothing of Mr. Li's remarks, for Chang had been deaf since childhood.

"Quick, quick, I am dying for air," moaned poor Li, and then, with a
groan, he remembered the fisherman's affliction.

By this time they had arrived at the shore, and Li, in company with his
fellow victims, found himself suddenly thrown into a wicker basket. Oh,
the horrors of that journey on land! Only a tiny bit of water remained
in the closely-woven thing. It was all he could do to breathe.

Joy of joys! At the door of his own house he saw his good friend Sing
just coming out. "Hey, Sing," he shouted, at the top of his voice,
"help, help! This son of a turtle wants to murder me. He has me in here
with these fish, and doesn't seem to know that I am Li, his master.
Kindly order him to take me to the lake and throw me in, for it's cool
there and I like the water life much better than that on land."

Li paused to hear Sing's reply, but there came not a single word.

"I beg your honour to have a look at my catch," said old Chang to Sing.
"Here is the finest fish of the season. I have brought him here so that
you and my honoured master, Mr. Li, may have a treat. Carp is his
favourite delicacy."

"Very kind of you, my good Chang, I'm sure, but I fear poor Mr. Li will
not eat fish for some time. He has a bad attack of fever."

"There's where you're wrong," shouted Li, from his basket, flopping
about with all his might, to attract attention, "I'm going to die of a
chill. Can't you recognise your old friend? Help me out of this trouble
and you may have all my money for your pains."

"Hey, what's that!" questioned Sing, attracted, as usual, by the word
money. "Shades of Confucius! It sounds as if the carp were talking."

"What, a talking fish," laughed Chang. "Why, master, I've lived nigh on
to sixty year, and such a fish has never come under my sight. There are
talking birds and talking beasts for that matter; but talking fish, who
ever heard of such a wonder? No, I think your ears must have deceived
you, but this carp will surely cause talk when I get him into the
kitchen. I'm sure the cook has never seen his like. Oh, master! I hope
you will be hungry when you sit down to this fish. What a pity Mr. Li
couldn't help you to devour it!"

"Help to devour myself, eh?" grumbled poor Li, now almost dead for lack
of water. "You must take me for a cannibal, or some other sort of
savage."

Old Chang had now gone round the house to the servants' quarters, and,
after calling out the cook, held up poor Li by the tail for the chef to
inspect.

With a mighty jerk Li tore himself away and fell at the feet of his
faithful cook. "Save me, save me!" he cried out in despair; "this
miserable Chang is deaf and doesn't know that I am Mr. Li, his master.
My fish voice is not strong enough for his hearing. Only take me back to
the pond and set me free. You shall have a pension for life, wear good
clothes and eat good food, all the rest of your days. Only hear me and
obey! Listen, my dear cook, listen!"

"The thing seems to be talking," muttered the cook, "but such wonders
cannot be. Only ignorant old women or foreigners would believe that a
fish could talk." And seizing his former master by the tail, he swung
him on to a table, picked up a knife, and began to whet it on a stone.

"Oh, oh!" screamed Li, "you will stick a knife into me! You will scrape
off my beautiful shiny scales! You will whack off my lovely new fins!
You will murder your old master!"

"Well, you won't talk much longer," growled the cook, "I'll show you a
trick or two with the blade."

So saying, with a gigantic thrust, he plunged the knife deep into the
body of the trembling victim.

With a shrill cry of horror and despair, Mr. Li awoke from the deep
sleep into which he had fallen. His fever was gone, but he found himself
trembling with fear at thought of the terrible death that had come to
him in dreamland.

"Thanks be to Buddha, I am not a fish!" he cried out joyfully; "and now
I shall be well enough to enjoy the feast to which Mr. Sing has bidden
guests for to-morrow. But alas, now that I can eat the old fisherman's
prize carp, it has changed back into myself.


  "If only the good of our dreams came true,
  I shouldn't mind dreaming the whole day through."



BAMBOO AND THE TURTLE

[Illustration]


A party of visitors had been seeing the sights at Hsi Ling. They had
just passed down the Holy Way between the huge stone animals when
Bamboo, a little boy of twelve, son of a keeper, rushed out from his
father's house to see the mandarins go by. Such a parade of great men
he had never seen before, even on the feast days. There were ten sedan
chairs, with bearers dressed in flaming colours, ten long-handled, red
umbrellas, each carried far in front of its proud owner, and a long line
of horsemen.

When this gay procession had filed past, Bamboo was almost ready to cry
because he could not run after the sightseers as they went from temple
to temple and from tomb to tomb. But, alas! his father had ordered him
never to follow tourists. "If you do, they will take you for a beggar,
Bamboo," he had said shrewdly, "and if you're a beggar, then your
daddy's one too. Now they don't want any beggars around the royal
tombs." So Bamboo had never known the pleasure of pursuing the rich.
Many times he had turned back to the little mud house, almost
broken-hearted at seeing his playmates running, full of glee, after the
great men's chairs.

On the day when this story opens, just as the last horseman had passed
out of sight among the cedars, Bamboo chanced to look up toward one of
the smaller temple buildings of which his father was the keeper. It was
the house through which the visitors had just been shown. Could his eyes
be deceiving him? No, the great iron doors had been forgotten in the
hurry of the moment, and there they stood wide open, as if inviting him
to enter.

In great excitement he scurried toward the temple. How often he had
pressed his head against the bars and looked into the dark room, wishing
and hoping that some day he might go in. And yet, not once had he been
granted this favour. Almost every day since babyhood he had gazed at the
high stone shaft, or tablet, covered with Chinese writing, that stood
in the centre of the lofty room, reaching almost to the roof. But
with still greater surprise his eyes had feasted on the giant turtle
underneath, on whose back the column rested. There are many such tablets
to be seen in China, many such turtles patiently bearing their loads of
stone, but this was the only sight of the kind that Bamboo had seen. He
had never been outside the Hsi Ling forest, and, of course, knew very
little of the great world beyond.

It is no wonder then that the turtle and the tablet had always
astonished him. He had asked his father to explain the mystery. "Why
do they have a turtle? Why not a lion or an elephant?" For he had seen
stone figures of these animals in the park and had thought them much
better able than his friend, the turtle, to carry loads on their backs.
"Why it's just the custom," his father had replied--the answer always
given when Bamboo asked a question, "just the custom." The boy had tried
to imagine it all for himself, but had never been quite sure that he
was right, and now, joy of all joys, he was about to enter the very
turtle-room itself. Surely, once inside, he could find some answer
to this puzzle of his childhood.

Breathless, he dashed through the doorway, fearing every minute that
some one would notice the open gates and close them before he could
enter. Just in front of the giant turtle he fell in a little heap on the
floor, which was covered inch-deep with dust. His face was streaked, his
clothes were a sight to behold; but Bamboo cared nothing for such
trifles. He lay there for a few moments, not daring to move. Then,
hearing a noise outside, he crawled under the ugly stone beast and
crouched in his narrow hiding-place, as still as a mouse.

"There, there!" said a deep voice. "See what you are doing, stirring up
such a dust! Why, you will strangle me if you are not careful."

It was the turtle speaking, and yet Bamboo's father had often told him
that it was not alive. The boy lay trembling for a minute, too much
frightened to get up and run.

"No use in shaking so, my lad," the voice continued, a little more
kindly. "I suppose all boys are alike--good for nothing but kicking up
a dust." He finished this sentence with a hoarse chuckle, and the boy,
seeing that he was laughing, looked up with wonder at the strange
creature.

"I meant no harm in coming," said the child finally. "I only wanted to
look at you more closely."

"Oh, that was it, hey? Well, that is strange. All the others come and
stare at the tablet on my back. Sometimes they read aloud the nonsense
written there about dead emperors and their titles, but they never so
much as look at me, at _me_ whose father was one of the great four who
made the world."

Bamboo's eyes shone with wonder. "What! _your_ father helped make the
world?" he gasped.

"Well, not my father exactly, but one of my grandfathers, and it amounts
to the same thing, doesn't it. But, hark! I hear a voice. The keeper is
coming back. Run up and close those doors, so he won't notice that they
have not been locked. Then you may hide in the corner there until he has
passed. I have something more to tell you."

Bamboo did as he was told. It took all his strength to swing the heavy
doors into place. He felt very important to think that he was doing
something for the grandson of a maker of the world, and it would have
broken his heart if this visit had been ended just as it was beginning.

Sure enough, his father and the other keepers passed on, never dreaming
that the heavy locks were not fastened as usual. They were talking about
the great men who had just gone. They seemed very happy and were
jingling some coins in their hands.

"Now, my boy," said the stone turtle when the sound of voices had died
away and Bamboo had come out from his corner, "maybe you think I'm proud
of my job. Here I've been holding up this chunk for a hundred years, I
who am fond of travel. During all this time night and day, I have been
trying to think of some way to give up my position. Perhaps it's
honourable, but, you may well imagine, it's not very pleasant."

"I should think you would have the backache," ventured Bamboo timidly.

"Backache! well, I think so; back, neck, legs, eyes, everything I have
is aching, aching for freedom. But, you see, even if I had kicked up
my heels and overthrown this monument, I had no way of getting through
those iron bars," and he nodded toward the gate.

"Yes, I understand," agreed Bamboo, beginning to feel sorry for his old
friend.

"But, now that you are here, I have a plan, and a good one it is, too, I
think. The watchmen have forgotten to lock the gate. What is to prevent
my getting my freedom this very night? You open the gate, I walk out,
and no one the wiser."

"But my father will lose his head if they find that he has failed to do
his duty and you have escaped."

"Oh, no; not at all. You can slip his keys to-night, lock the gates
after I am gone, and no one will know just what has happened. Why it
will make this building famous. It won't hurt your father, but will do
him good. So many travellers will be anxious to see the spot from which
I vanished. I am too heavy for a thief to carry off, and they will be
sure that it is another miracle of the gods. Oh, I shall have a good
time out in the big world."

Just here Bamboo began to cry.

"Now what is the silly boy blubbering about?" sneered the turtle. "Is he
nothing but a cry-baby?"

"No, but I don't want you to go."

"Don't want me to go, eh? Just like all the others. You're a fine
fellow! What reason have you for wanting to see me weighed down here all
the rest of my life with a mountain on my back? Why, I thought you were
sorry for me, and it turns out that you are as mean as anybody else."

"It is so lonely here, and I have no playmates. You are the only friend
I have."

The tortoise laughed loudly. "Ho, ho! so it's because I make you a
good playmate, eh? Now, if that's your reason, that's another story
altogether. What do you say to going with me then? I, too, need a
friend, and if you help me to escape, why, you are the very friend
for me."

"But how shall you get the tablet off your back?" questioned Bamboo
doubtfully. "It's very heavy."

"That's easy, just walk out of the door. The tablet is too tall to go
through. It will slide off and sit on the floor instead of on my shell."

Bamboo, wild with delight at the thought of going on a journey with the
turtle, promised to obey the other's commands. After supper, when all
were asleep in the little house of the keeper, he slipped from his bed,
took down the heavy key from its peg, and ran pell-mell to the temple.

"Well, you didn't forget me, did you?" asked the turtle when Bamboo
swung the iron gates open.

"Oh, no, I would not break a promise. Are you ready?"

"Yes, quite ready." So saying, the turtle took a step. The tablet swayed
backward and forward, but did not fall. On walked the turtle until
finally he stuck his ugly head through the doorway. "Oh, how good it
looks outside," he said. "How pleasant the fresh air feels! Is that the
moon rising over yonder? It's the first time I've seen it for an age.
My word! just look at the trees! How they have grown since they set that
tombstone on my back! There's a regular forest outside now."

Bamboo was delighted when he saw the turtle's glee at escaping. "Be
careful," he cried, "not to let the tablet fall hard enough to break
it."

Even as he spoke, the awkward beast waddled through the door. The upper
end of the monument struck against the wall, toppled off, and fell with
a great crash to the floor. Bamboo shivered with fear. Would his father
come and find out what had happened?

"Don't be afraid, my boy. No one will come at this hour of the night to
spy on us."

Bamboo quickly locked the gates, ran back to the house, and hung the
key on its peg. He took a long look at his sleeping parents, and then
returned to his friend. After all, he would not be gone long and his
father would surely forgive him.

Soon the comrades were walking down the broad road, very slowly, for the
tortoise is not swift of foot and Bamboo's legs were none too long.

"Where are you going?" said the boy at last, after he had begun to feel
more at home with the turtle.

"Going? Where should you think I would want to go after my century in
prison? Why, back to the first home of my father, back to the very spot
where the great god, P'anku, and his three helpers hewed out the world."

"And is it far?" faltered the boy, beginning to feel just the least bit
tired.

"At this rate, yes, but, bless my life, you didn't think we could travel
all the way at this snail's pace, I hope. Jump on my back, and I'll show
you how to go. Before morning we shall be at the end of the world, or
rather, the beginning."

"Where is the beginning of the world?" asked Bamboo. "I have never
studied geography."

"We must cross China, then Thibet, and at last in the mountains just
beyond we shall reach the spot which P'anku made the centre of his
labour."

At that moment Bamboo felt himself being lifted from the ground. At
first he thought he would slip off the turtle's rounded shell, and he
cried out in fright.

"Never fear," said his friend. "Only sit quietly, and there will be no
danger."

They had now risen far into the air, and Bamboo could look down over the
great forest of Hsi Ling all bathed in moonlight. There were the broad
white roads leading up to the royal tombs, the beautiful temples, the
buildings where oxen and sheep were prepared for sacrifice, the lofty
towers, and the high tree-covered hills under which the emperors were
buried. Until that night Bamboo had not known the size of this royal
graveyard. Could it be that the turtle would carry him beyond the
forest? Even as he asked himself this question he saw that they had
reached a mountain, and the turtle was ascending higher, still higher,
to cross the mighty wall of stone.

Bamboo grew dizzy as the turtle rose farther into the sky. He felt as he
sometimes did when he played whirling games with his little friends, and
got so dizzy that he tumbled over upon the ground. However, this time
he knew that he must keep his head and not fall, for it must have been
almost a mile to the ground below him. At last they had passed over the
mountain and were flying above a great plain. Far below Bamboo could see
sleeping villages and little streams of water that looked like silver
in the moonlight. Now, directly beneath them was a city. A few feeble
lights could be seen in the dark narrow streets, and Bamboo thought he
could hear the faint cries of peddlers crying their midnight wares.

"That's the capital of Shan-shi just below us," said the turtle,
breaking his long silence. "It is almost two hundred miles from here to
your father's house, and we have taken less than half an hour. Beyond
that is the Province of the Western Valleys. In one hour we shall be
above Thibet."

On they whizzed at lightning speed. If it had not been hot summer time
Bamboo would have been almost frozen. As it was, his hands and feet were
cold and stiff. The turtle, as if knowing how chilly he was, flew nearer
to the ground where it was warmer. How pleasant for Bamboo! He was so
tired that he could keep his eyes open no longer and he was soon soaring
in the land of dreams.

When he waked up it was morning. He was lying on the ground in a wild,
rocky region. Not far away burned a great wood fire, and the turtle was
watching some food that was cooking in a pot.

"Ho, ho, my lad! so you have at last waked up after your long ride. You
see we are a little early. No matter if the dragon does think he can fly
faster, I beat him, didn't I? Why, even the phoenix laughs at me and
says I am slow, but the phoenix has not come yet either. Yes, I have
clearly broken the record for speed, and I had a load to carry too,
which neither of the others had, I am sure."

"Where are we?" questioned Bamboo.

"In the land of the beginning," said the other wisely. "We flew over
Thibet, and then went northwest for two hours. If you haven't studied
geography you won't know the name of the country. But, here we are, and
that is enough, isn't it, enough for any one? And to-day is the yearly
feast-day in honour of the making of the world. It was very fortunate
for me that the gates were left open yesterday. I am afraid my old
friends, the dragon and the phoenix, have almost forgotten what I look
like. It is so long since they saw me. Lucky beasts they are, not to be
loaded down under an emperor's tablet. Hello! I hear the dragon coming
now, if I am not mistaken. Yes, here he is. How glad I am to see him!"

Bamboo heard a great noise like the whirr of enormous wings, and then,
looking up, saw a huge dragon just in front of him. He knew it was a
dragon from the pictures he had seen and the carvings in the temples.

The dragon and the turtle had no sooner greeted each other, both very
happy at the meeting, than they were joined by a queer-looking bird,
unlike any that Bamboo had ever seen, but which he knew was the
phoenix. This phoenix looked somewhat like a wild swan, but it had
the bill of a cock, the neck of a snake, the tail of a fish and the
stripes of a dragon. Its feathers were of five colours.

When the three friends had chatted merrily for a few minutes, the turtle
told them how Bamboo had helped him to escape from the temple.

"A clever boy," said the dragon, patting Bamboo gently on the back.

"Yes, yes, a clever boy indeed," echoed the phoenix.

"Ah," sighed the turtle, "if only the good god, P'anku, were here,
shouldn't we be happy! But, I fear he will never come to this
meeting-place. No doubt he is off in some distant spot, cutting out
another world. If I could only see him once more, I feel that I should
die in peace."

"Just listen!" laughed the dragon. "As if one of us could die! Why, you
talk like a mere mortal."

All day long the three friends chatted, feasted, and had a good time
looking round at the places where they had lived so happily when P'anku
had been cutting out the world. They were good to Bamboo also and showed
him many wonderful things of which he had never dreamed.

"You are not half so mean-looking and so fierce as they paint you on the
flags," said Bamboo in a friendly voice to the dragon just as they were
about to separate.

The three friends laughed heartily.

"Oh, no, he's a very decent sort of fellow, even if he is covered with
fish-scales," joked the phoenix.

Just before they bade each other good-bye, the phoenix gave Bamboo a
long scarlet tail-feather for a keepsake, and the dragon gave him a
large scale which turned to gold as soon as the boy took it into his
hand.

"Come, come, we must hurry," said the turtle. "I am afraid your father
will think you are lost." So Bamboo, after having spent the happiest day
of his life, mounted the turtle's back, and they rose once more above
the clouds. Back they flew even faster than they had come. Bamboo had so
many things to talk about that he did not once think of going to sleep,
for he had really seen the dragon and the phoenix, and if he never
were to see anything else in his life, he would always be happy.

Suddenly the turtle stopped short in his swift flight, and Bamboo felt
himself slipping. Too late he screamed for help, too late he tried to
save himself. Down, down from that dizzy height he tumbled, turning,
twisting, thinking of the awful death that was surely coming. Swish!
he shot through the tree tops trying vainly to clutch the friendly
branches. Then with a loud scream he struck the ground, and his long
journey was ended.

[Illustration: "AH," SIGHED THE TURTLE, "IF ONLY THE GOOD GOD, P'ANKU,
WERE HERE."]

"Come out from under that turtle, boy! What are you doing inside the
temple in the dirt? Don't you know this is not the proper place for
you?"

Bamboo rubbed his eyes. Though only half awake, he knew it was his
father's voice.

"But didn't it kill me?" he said as his father pulled him out by the
heel from under the great stone turtle.

"What killed you, foolish boy? What can you be talking about? But I'll
half-kill you if you don't hurry out of this and come to your supper.
Really I believe you are getting too lazy to eat. The idea of sleeping
the whole afternoon under that turtle's belly!"

Bamboo, not yet fully awake, stumbled out of the tablet room, and his
father locked the iron doors.



THE MAD GOOSE AND THE TIGER FOREST

[Illustration]


Hu-lin was a little slave girl. She had been sold by her father when
she was scarcely more than a baby, and had lived for five years with
a number of other children in a wretched houseboat. Her cruel master
treated her very badly. He made her go out upon the street, with the
other girls he had bought, to beg for a living. This kind of life was
especially hard for Hu-lin. She longed to play in the fields, above
which the huge kites were sailing in the air like giant birds. She liked
to see the crows and magpies flying hither and thither. It was great fun
to watch them build their stick nests in the tall poplars. But if her
master ever caught her idling her time away in this manner he beat her
most cruelly and gave her nothing to eat for a whole day. In fact he was
so wicked and cruel that all the children called him Black Heart.

Early one morning when Hu-lin was feeling very sad about the way she was
treated, she resolved to run away, but, alas! she had not gone more than
a hundred yards from the houseboat when she saw Black Heart following
her. He caught her, scolded her most dreadfully, and gave her such a
beating that she felt too faint to stir.

For several hours she lay on the ground without moving a muscle, moaning
as if her heart would break. "Ah! if only someone would save me!" she
thought, "how good I would be all the rest of my days!"

Now, not far from the river there lived an old man in a tumble-down
shanty. The only companion he had was a goose that watched the gate for
him at night and screamed out loudly if any stranger dared to prowl
about the place. Hu-lin and this goose were close friends, and the slave
girl often stopped to chat with the wise fowl as she was passing the old
man's cottage. In this way she had learned that the bird's owner was a
miser who kept a great deal of money hidden in his yard. Ch'ang, the
goose, had an unusually long neck, and was thus able to pry into most of
his master's affairs. As the fowl had no member of his own family to
talk with, he told all he knew to Hu-lin.

On the very morning when Black Heart gave Hu-lin a beating for trying
to run away, Ch'ang made a startling discovery. His lord and master was
not really an old miser, but a young man in disguise. Ch'ang, feeling
hungry, had slipped into the house at daybreak to see if any scraps had
been left from the last evening's meal. The bedroom door had blown open
in the night, and there lay a young man sound asleep, instead of the
greybeard whom the gander called his master. Then, before his very eyes,
the youth changed suddenly into his former shape and was an old man
again.

In his excitement, forgetting all about his empty stomach, the
terror-stricken goose rushed out into the yard to think over the
mystery, but the longer he puzzled, the more strange it all seemed. Then
he thought of Hu-lin, and wished that she would come by, that he might
ask her opinion. He had a high regard for the slave girl's knowledge and
believed that she would understand fully what had taken place.

Ch'ang went to the gate. As usual, it was locked, and there was nothing
for him to do but wait for his master to rise. Two hours later the miser
walked out into the yard. He seemed in good spirits, and he gave Ch'ang
more to eat than usual. After taking his morning smoke on the street in
front of the house, he strolled around it leaving the front gate ajar.

This was precisely what the gander had been expecting. Slipping quietly
into the road, he turned towards the river where he could see the
houseboats lined up at the wharf. On the sand near by lay a well-known
form.

"Hu-lin," he called as he drew near, "wake up, for I have something to
tell you."

"I am not asleep," she answered, turning her tear-stained face towards
her friend.

"Why, what's the matter? You've been crying again. Has old Black Heart
been beating you?"

"Hush! he's taking a nap in the boat. Don't let him hear you."

"It's not likely he would understand goose-talk if he did," replied
Ch'ang, smiling. "However, I suppose it's always best to be on the safe
side, so I'll whisper what I have to say."

Putting his bill close to her ear, he told Hu-lin of his recent
discovery, and ended by asking her to tell him what it all meant.

The child forgot her own misery at hearing his wonderful story. "Are you
quite sure there was not some friend of the miser's spending the night
with him?" she asked gravely.

"Yes, yes, perfectly sure, for he has no friends," replied the gander.
"Besides, I was in the house just before he locked up for the night, and
I saw neither hair nor hide of any other person."

"Then he must be a fairy in disguise!" announced Hu-lin wisely.

"A fairy! what's that?" questioned Ch'ang, more and more excited.

"Why, you old goose, don't you know what a fairy is?" And Hu-lin laughed
outright. By this time she had forgotten her own troubles and was
becoming more and more amused at what she had heard. "Hark!" she said in
a low tone, and speaking very slowly, "a fairy is----" Here she lowered
her voice to a whisper.

The gander nodded violently as she went on with her explanation, and
when she had finished, was speechless with amazement, for a few moments.
"Well," he said finally, "if my master is that kind of man, suppose you
slip away quietly and come with me, for, if a fairy is what you say he
is, he can save you from all your troubles and make me happy for the
rest of my days."

[Illustration: "PUTTING HIS BILL TO HER EAR, HE TOLD HU-LIN OF HIS
RECENT DISCOVERY."]

"I wonder if I dare?" she answered, looking round fearfully towards the
houseboat, from the open scuttle of which came the sound of deep
snoring.

"Yes, yes, of course!" coaxed Ch'ang. "He gave you such a beating that
he won't be afraid of your taking to your heels again very soon."

Hurriedly they went to the miser's compound. Hu-lin's heart was beating
fast as she tried to decide what to say when she should actually stand
before the fairy. The gate was still partly open and the two friends
entered boldly.

"Come this way," said Ch'ang. "He must be in the back-yard digging in
his garden."

But when they reached the vegetable patch there was no one to be seen.

"This is very strange," whispered the gander. "I don't understand it,
for I have never known him to grow tired of work so early. Surely he
cannot have gone in to rest."

Led by her friend, Hu-lin entered the house on tiptoe. The door of the
miser's bedroom stood wide open, and they saw that there was no one
either in that room or any other room of the miserable cottage.

"Come! let's see what kind of bed he sleeps on," said Hu-lin, filled
with curiosity. "I have never been in a fairy's room. It must be
different from other people's rooms."

"No, no! just a plain brick bed, like all the rest," answered Ch'ang, as
they crossed the threshold.

"Does he have a fire in cold weather?" asked Hu-lin, stooping to examine
the small fire hole in the bricks.

"Oh, yes, a hot fire every night, and even in spring when other people
have stopped having fires, the brick bed is hot every night."

"Well, that's rather strange for a miser, don't you think?" said the
girl. "It costs more to keep a fire going than it does to feed a man."

"Yes, that's true," agreed Ch'ang, pruning his feathers. "I hadn't
thought of that. It is strange, very. Hu-lin, you're a wise child. Where
did you learn so much?"

At that moment the gander turned pale at hearing the gate slam loudly
and the bar thrown into place.

"Good gracious! what ever shall we do?" asked Hu-lin. "What will he say
if he finds us here?"

"No telling," said the other, trembling, "but, my dear little friend, we
are certainly caught, for we can't get away without his seeing us."

"Yes, and I've already had one beating to-day! And such a hard one that
I don't believe I could live through another," sighed the child, as the
tears began to flow.

"There, there, little girl, don't worry! Let's hide in this dark corner
behind the baskets," suggested the gander, just as the master's step was
heard at the front door.

Soon the frightened companions were crouching on the ground, trying
to hide. Much to their relief, however, the miser did not go into his
bedroom, and they soon heard him hard at work in the garden. All that
day the two remained in their hiding place, afraid to show themselves
outside the door.

"I can't imagine what he would say if he found out that his watch-goose
had brought a stranger into the house," said Ch'ang.

"Perhaps he would think we were trying to steal some of the money he
has hidden away," she answered, laughing, for as Hu-lin became used
to her cramped quarters she grew less frightened. At any rate she
was not nearly so much afraid of the miser as she had thought she was.
"Besides," she reflected, "he can't be so bad as old Black Heart."

Thus the day wore on and darkness fell over the land. By this time girl
and goose were fast asleep in one corner of the miser's room and knew
nothing more of what was happening.

When the first light of a new day filtered through the paper-covered
window above the miser's bed, Hu-lin awoke with a start, and at first
she could not think where she was. Ch'ang was staring at her with
wide-open frightened eyes that seemed to be asking, "What can it all
mean? It is more than my goose brain can think out."

For on the bed, instead of the miser, there lay a young man whose hair
was a black as a raven's wing. A faint smile lightened up his handsome
face, as if he was enjoying some delightful dream. A cry of wonder
escaped Hu-lin's lips before she could hold it back. The sleeper's eyes
opened instantly and were fixed upon her. The girl was so frightened
that she could not move, and the gander trembled violently as he saw the
change that had come over his master.

The young man was even more surprised than his guests, and for two
minutes he was speechless. "What does this mean?" he asked, finally,
looking at Ch'ang. "What are you doing in my bedroom and who is this
child who seems so frightened?"

"Forgive me, kind sir, but what have you done to my master?" asked the
gander, giving question for question.

"Am I not your master, you mad creature?" said the man, laughing. "You
are more stupid than ever this morning."

"My master was old and ugly, but you are still young and handsome,"
replied Ch'ang in a tone of flattery.

"What," shouted the other, "you say I am still young?"

"Why, yes. Ask Hu-lin, if you don't believe me."

The man turned towards the little girl.

"Yes, indeed you are, sir," she replied in answer to his look. "Never
have I seen a man so beautiful."

"At last! at last!" he cried, laughing joyfully, "I am free, free, free
from all my troubles, but how it has come about is more than I can say!"

For a few minutes he stood in a deep study, snapping his long fingers
as if trying to solve some hard problem. At last a smile lighted up his
face. "Ch'ang," he asked, "what was it you called your guest when you
spoke of her a minute ago?"

"I am Hu-lin," said the child simply, "Hu-lin, the slave girl."

He clapped his hands. "That's right! That's right!" he cried. "I see it
all now; it is as plain as day." Then, noticing the look of wonder on
her face, "It is to you that I owe my freedom from a wicked fairy, and
if you like, I'll tell you the story of my misfortune."

"Pray do, kind sir," she replied eagerly. "I told Ch'ang that you were
a fairy, and I should like to know if I was right."

"Well, you see," he began, "my father is a rich man who lives in a
distant county. When I was a boy he gave me everything I wished. I was
so humoured and petted from earliest childhood that at last I began to
think there was nothing at all in the world I could not have for the
asking, and nothing that I must not do if I wished to.

"My teacher often scolded me for having such notions. He told me there
was a proverb: 'Men die for gain, birds perish to get food.' He thought
such men were very foolish. He told me that money would go a long way
towards making a man happy, but he always ended by saying that the gods
were more powerful than men. He said I must always be careful not to
make the evil spirits angry. Sometimes I laughed in his face, telling
him that I was rich and could buy the favour of gods and fairies. The
good man would shake his head, saying, 'Take care, my boy, or you will
be sorry for these rash speeches.'"

"One day, after he had been giving me a long lecture of this sort, we
were walking in the garden of my father's compound. I was even more
daring than usual and told him that I cared nothing for the rules other
people followed. 'You say,' said I, 'that this well here in my father's
yard is ruled by a spirit, and that if I were to anger him by jumping
over it, he would be vexed and give me trouble.' 'Yes,' said he, 'that
is exactly what I said, and I repeat it. Beware, young man, beware of
idle boasting and of breaking the law.' 'What do I care for a spirit
that lives on my father's land?' I answered with a sneer. 'I don't
believe there is a spirit in this well. If there is, it is only another
of my father's slaves.'

"So saying, and before my tutor could stop me, I leaped across the mouth
of the well. No sooner had I touched the ground than I felt a strange
shrinking of my body. My strength left me in the twinkling of an eye,
my bones shortened, my skin grew yellow and wrinkled. I looked at my
pigtail and found that the hair had suddenly grown thin and white. In
every way I had been changed completely into an old man.

"My teacher stared at me in amazement, and when I asked him what it all
meant my voice was as shrill as that of early childhood. 'Alas! my dear
pupil,' he replied, 'now you will believe what I told you. The spirit of
the well is angry at your wicked conduct and has punished you. You have
been told a hundred times that it is wrong to leap over a well; yet you
did this very thing,' 'But is there nothing that can be done,' I cried;
'is there no way of restoring my lost youth?' He looked at me sadly and
shook his head.

"When my father learned of my sad condition he was terribly upset. He
did everything that could be done to find some way for me to regain my
youth. He had incense burned at a dozen temples and he himself offered
up prayers to various gods. I was his only son, and he could not be
happy without me. At last, when everything else had been done, my worthy
teacher thought of asking a fortune-teller who had become famous in the
city. After inquiring about everything that had led up to my sad plight,
the wise man said that the spirit of the well, as a punishment, had
changed me into a miser. He said that only when I was sleeping would
I be in my natural state, and even then if any one chanced to enter my
room or catch a glimpse of my face, I would be at once changed back into
a greybeard."

"I saw you yesterday morning," shouted the gander. "You were young and
handsome, and then before my very eyes you were changed back into an old
man!"

"To continue my story," said the young man, "the fortune-teller at last
announced that there was only one chance for my recovery and that a very
small one. If at any time, while I was in my rightful shape, that is, as
you see me now, a mad goose should come in, leading a tiger-forest out
of slavery, the charm would be broken, and the evil spirit would no
longer have control over me. When the fortune-teller's answer was
brought to my father, he gave up hope, and so did I, for no one
understood the meaning of such a senseless riddle.

"That night I left my native city, resolved not to disgrace my people
any longer by living with them. I came to this place, bought this house
with some money my father had given me, and at once began living the
life of a miser. Nothing satisfied my greed for money. Everything must
be turned into cash. For five years I have been storing away money, and,
at the same time, starving myself, body and soul.

"Soon after my arrival here, remembering the fortune-teller's riddle,
I decided that I would keep a goose to serve as night watch-man instead
of a dog. In this way I made a start at working out the riddle."

"But I am not a mad goose," hissed the gander angrily. "If it had not
been for me you would still be a wrinkled miser."

"Quite right, dear Ch'ang, quite right," said the young man soothingly;
"you were not mad; so I gave you the name _Ch'ang_, which means mad, and
thus made a mad goose of you."

"Oh, I see," said Hu-lin and Ch'ang together. "How clever!"

"So, you see, I had part of my cure here in my back-yard all the time;
but though I thought as hard as I could, I could think of no way of
securing that Ch'ang should lead a tiger-forest into my room while I was
sleeping. The thing seemed absurd, and I soon gave up trying to study it
out. To-day by accident it has really come to pass."

"So I am the tiger-forest, am I?" laughed Hu-lin.

"Yes, indeed, you are, my dear child, a pretty little tiger-forest, for
_Hu_ means _tiger_, and _lin_ is surely good Chinese for a _grove of
trees_. Then, too, you told me you were a slave girl. Hence, Ch'ang led
you out of slavery."

"Oh, I am so glad!" said Hu-lin, forgetting her own poverty, "so glad
that you don't have to be a horrible old miser any longer."

Just at that moment there was a loud banging on the front gate.

"Who can be knocking in that fashion?" asked the young man in
astonishment.

"Alas! it must be Black Heart, my master," said Hu-lin, beginning to
cry.

"Don't be frightened," said the youth, soothingly stroking the child's
head. "You have saved me, and I shall certainly do as much for you. If
this Mr. Black Heart doesn't agree to a fair proposal he shall have a
black eye to remember his visit by."

It did not take long for the grateful young man to buy Hu-lin's liberty,
especially as he offered as much for her freedom as her master had
expected to get when she was fourteen or fifteen years of age.

When Hu-lin was told of the bargain she was wild with delight. She bowed
low before her new master and then, kneeling, touched her head nine
times on the floor. Rising, she cried out, "Oh, how happy I am, for now
I shall be yours for ever and ever and ever, and good old Ch'ang shall
be my playmate."

"Yes, indeed," he assured her, "and when you are a little older I shall
make you my wife. At present you will go with me to my father's house
and become my little betrothed."

"And I shall never again have to beg for crusts on the street?" she
asked him, her eyes full of wonder.

"No! never!" he answered, laughing, "and you need never fear another
beating."



THE NODDING TIGER

[Illustration]


Just outside the walls of a Chinese city there lived a young woodcutter
named T'ang and his old mother, a woman of seventy. They were very poor
and had a tiny one-room shanty, built of mud and grass, which they
rented from a neighbour. Every day young T'ang rose bright and early and
went up on the mountain near their house. There he spent the day cutting
firewood to sell in the city near by. In the evening he would return
home, take the wood to market, sell it, and bring back food for his
mother and himself. Now, though these two people were poor, they were
very happy, for the young man loved his mother dearly, and the old woman
thought there was no one like her son in all the world. Their friends,
however, felt sorry for them and said, "What a pity we have no
grasshoppers here, so that the T'angs could have some food from heaven!"

One day young T'ang got up before daylight and started for the hills,
carrying his axe on his shoulder. He bade his mother good-bye, telling
her that he would be back early with a heavier load of wood than usual,
for the morrow would be a holiday and they must eat good food. All day
long Widow T'ang waited patiently, saying to herself over and over as
she went about her simple work, "The good boy, the good boy, how he
loves his old mother!"

In the afternoon she began watching for his return--but in vain.
The sun was sinking lower and lower in the west, but still he did not
come. At last the old woman was frightened. "My poor son!" she muttered.
"Something has happened to him." Straining her feeble eyes, she looked
along the mountain path. Nothing was to be seen there but a flock of
sheep following the shepherd. "Woe is me!" moaned the woman. "My boy!
my boy!" She took her crutch from its corner and limped off to a
neighbour's house to tell him of her trouble and beg him to go and look
for the missing boy.

Now this neighbour was kind-hearted, and willing to help old Mother
T'ang, for he felt very sorry for her. "There are many wild beasts in
the mountains," he said, shaking his head as he walked away with her,
thinking to prepare the frightened woman for the worst, "and I fear that
your son has been carried off by one of them." Widow T'ang gave a scream
of horror and sank upon the ground. Her friend walked slowly up the
mountain path, looking carefully for signs of a struggle. At last when
he had gone half way up the slope he came to a little pile of torn
clothing spattered with blood. The woodman's axe was lying by the side
of the path, also his carrying pole and some rope. There could be no
mistake: after making a brave fight, the poor youth had been carried off
by a tiger.

Gathering up the torn garments, the man went sadly down the hill. He
dreaded seeing the poor mother and telling her that her only boy was
indeed gone for ever. At the foot of the mountain he found her still
lying on the ground. When she looked up and saw what he was carrying,
with a cry of despair she fainted away. She did not need to be told what
had happened.

Friends bore her into the little house and gave her food, but they could
not comfort her. "Alas!" she cried, "of what use is it to live? He was
my only boy. Who will take care of me in my old age? Why have the gods
treated me in this cruel way?"

She wept, tore her hair, and beat her chest, until people said she had
gone mad. The longer she mourned, the more violent she became.

The next day, however, much to the surprise of her neighbours, she set
out for the city, making her way along slowly by means of her crutch. It
was a pitiful sight to see her, so old, so feeble, and so lonely. Every
one was sorry for her and pointed her out, saying, "See! the poor old
soul has no one to help her!"

In the city she asked her way to the public hall. When she found the
place she knelt at the front gate, calling out loudly and telling of her
ill-fortune. Just at this moment the mandarin, or city judge, walked
into the court room to try any cases which might be brought before him.
He heard the old woman weeping and wailing outside, and bade one of the
servants let her enter and tell him of her wrongs.

Now this was just what the Widow T'ang had come for. Calming herself,
she hobbled into the great hall of trial.

"What is the matter, old woman? Why do you raise such an uproar in front
of my yamen? Speak up quickly and tell me of your trouble."

"I am old and feeble," she began; "lame and almost blind. I have no
money and no way of earning money. I have not one relative now in all
the empire. I depended on my only son for a living. Every day he climbed
the mountain, for he was a woodcutter, and every evening he came back
home, bringing enough money for our food. But yesterday he went and did
not return. A mountain tiger carried him off and ate him, and now, alas!
there seems to be no help for it--I must die of hunger. My bleeding
heart cries out for justice. I have come into this hall to-day, to beg
your worship to see that the slayer of my son is punished. Surely the
law says that none may shed blood without giving his own blood in
payment."

"But, woman, are you mad?" cried the mandarin, laughing loudly. "Did you
not say it was a tiger that killed your son? How can a tiger be brought
to justice? Of a truth, you must have lost your senses."

The judge's questions were of no avail. The Widow T'ang kept up her
clamour. She would not be turned away until she had gained her purpose.
The hall echoed with the noise of her howling. The mandarin could stand
it no longer. "Hold! woman," he cried, "stop your shrieking. I will do
what you ask. Only go home and wait until I summon you to court. The
slayer of your son shall be caught and punished."

The judge was, of course, only trying to get rid of the demented mother,
thinking that if she were only once out of his sight, he could give
orders not to let her into the hall again. The old woman, however, was
too sharp for him. She saw through his plan and became more stubborn
than ever.

"No, I cannot go," she answered, "until I have seen you sign the order
for that tiger to be caught and brought into this judgment hall."

Now, as the judge was not really a bad man, he decided to humour the old
woman in her strange plea. Turning to the assistants in the court room
he asked which of them would be willing to go in search of the tiger.
One of these men, named Li-neng, had been leaning against the wall, half
asleep. He had been drinking heavily and so had not heard what had been
going on in the room. One of his friends gave him a poke in the ribs
just as the judge asked for volunteers.

Thinking the judge had called him by name, he stepped forward, knelt on
the floor, saying, "I, Li-neng, can go and do the will of your worship."

"Very well, you will do," answered the judge. "Here is your order. Go
forth and do your duty." So saying, he handed the warrant to Li-neng.
"Now, old woman, are you satisfied?" he continued.

"Quite satisfied, your worship," she replied.

"Then go home and wait there until I send for you."

Mumbling a few words of thanks, the unhappy mother left the building.

When Li-neng went outside the court room, his friends crowded round him.
"Drunken sot!" they laughed; "do you know what you have done?"

Li-neng shook his head. "Just a little business for the mandarin, isn't
it? Quite easy."

"Call it easy, if you like. What! man, arrest a tiger, a man-eating
tiger and bring him to the city! Better go and say good-bye to your
father and mother. They will never see you again."

Li-neng slept off his drunkenness, and then saw that his friends were
right. He had been very foolish. But surely the judge had meant the
whole thing only as a joke! No such order had ever been written before!
It was plain that the judge had hit on this plan simply to get rid of
the wailing old woman. Li-neng took the warrant back to the judgment
hall and told the mandarin that the tiger could not be found.

But the judge was in no mood for joking. "Can't be found? And why not?
You agreed to arrest this tiger. Why is it that to-day you try to get
out of your promise? I can by no means permit this, for I have given my
word to satisfy the old woman in her cry for justice."

Li-neng knelt and knocked his head on the floor. "I was drunk," he
cried, "when I gave my promise. I knew not what you were asking. I can
catch a man, but not a tiger. I know nothing of such matters. Still, if
you wish it, I can go into the hills and hire hunters to help me."

"Very well, it makes no difference how you catch him, as long as you
bring him into court. If you fail in your duty, there is nothing left
but to beat you until you succeed. I give you five days."

During the next few days Li-neng left no stone unturned in trying to
find the guilty tiger. The best hunters in the country were employed.
Night and day they searched the hills, hiding in mountain caves,
watching and waiting, but finding nothing. It was all very trying for
Li-neng, since he now feared the heavy hands of the judge more than the
claws of the tiger. On the fifth day he had to report his failure. He
received a thorough beating, fifty blows on the back. But that was not
the worst of it. During the next six weeks, try as he would, he could
find no traces of the missing animal. At the end of each five days, he
got another beating for his pains. The poor fellow was in despair.
Another month of such treatment would lay him on his deathbed. This he
knew very well, and yet he had little hope. His friends shook their
heads when they saw him. "He is drawing near the wood," they said to
each other, meaning that he would soon be in his coffin. "Why don't you
flee the country?" they asked him. "Follow the tiger's example. You see
he has escaped completely. The judge would make no effort to catch you
if you should go across the border into the next province."

Li-neng shook his head on hearing this advice. He had no desire to leave
his family for ever, and he felt sure of being caught and put to death
if he should try to run away.

One day after all the hunters had given up the search in disgust and
gone back to their homes in the valley, Li-neng entered a mountain
temple to pray. The tears rained down his cheeks as he knelt before the
great fierce-looking idol. "Alas! I am a dead man!" he moaned between
his prayers; "a dead man, for now there is no hope. Would that I had
never touched a drop of wine!"

Just then he heard a slight rustling near by. Looking up, he saw a huge
tiger standing at the temple gate. But Li-neng was no longer afraid of
tigers. He knew there was only one way to save himself. "Ah," he said,
looking the great cat straight in the eye, "you have come to eat me,
have you? Well, I fear you would find my flesh a trifle tough, since I
have been beaten with four hundred blows during these six weeks. You are
the same fellow that carried off the woodman last month, aren't you?
This woodman was an only son, the sole support of an old mother. Now
this poor woman has reported you to the mandarin, who, in turn, has had
a warrant drawn up for your arrest. I have been sent out to find you and
lead you to trial. For some reason or other you have acted the coward,
and remained in hiding. This has been the cause of my beating. Now I
don't want to suffer any longer as a result of your murder. You must
come with me to the city and answer the charge of killing the woodman."

All the time Li-neng was speaking, the tiger listened closely. When
the man was silent, the animal made no effort to escape, but, on the
contrary, seemed willing and ready to be captured. He bent his head
forward and let Li-neng slip a strong chain over it. Then he followed
the man quietly down the mountain, through the crowded streets of the
city, into the court room. All along the way there was great excitement.
"The man-slaying tiger has been caught," shouted the people. "He is
being led to trial."

The crowd followed Li-neng into the hall of justice. When the judge
walked in, every one became as quiet as the grave. All were filled with
wonder at the strange sight of a tiger being called before a judge.

The great animal did not seem to be afraid of those who were watching so
curiously. He sat down in front of the mandarin, for all the world like
a huge cat. The judge rapped on the table as a signal that all was ready
for the trial.

"Tiger," said he, turning toward the prisoner, "did you eat the woodman
whom you are charged with killing?"

The tiger gravely nodded his head.

"Yes, he killed my boy!" screamed the aged mother. "Kill him! Give him
the death that he deserves!"

"A life for a life is the law of the land," continued the judge, paying
no attention to the forlorn mother, but looking the accused directly
in the eye. "Did you not know it? You have robbed a helpless old woman
of her only son. There are no relatives to support her. She is crying
for vengeance. You must be punished for your crime. The law must be
enforced. However, I am not a cruel judge. If you can promise to take
the place of this widow's son and support the woman in her old age, I am
quite willing to spare you from a disgraceful death. What say you, will
you accept my offer?"

[Illustration: "THE TIGER GRAVELY NODDED HIS HEAD."]

The gaping people craned their necks to see what would happen, and once
more they were surprised to see the savage beast nod his head in silent
agreement.

"Very well, then, you are free to return to your mountain home; only, of
course, you must remember your promise."

The chains were taken from the tiger's neck, and the great animal walked
silently out of the yamen, down the street, and through the gate opening
towards his beloved mountain cave.

Once more the old woman was very angry. As she hobbled from the room,
she cast sour glances at the judge, muttering over and over again, "Who
ever heard of a tiger taking the place of a son? A pretty game this is,
to catch the brute, and then to set him free." There was nothing for her
to do, however, but to return home, for the judge had given strict
orders that on no account was she to appear before him again.

Almost broken-hearted she entered her desolate hovel at the foot of the
mountain. Her neighbours shook their heads as they saw her. "She cannot
live long," they said. "She has the look of death on her wrinkled face.
Poor soul! she has nothing to live for, nothing to keep her from
starving."

But they were mistaken. Next morning when the old woman went outside to
get a breath of fresh air she found a newly killed deer in front of her
door. Her tiger-son had begun to keep his promise, for she could see the
marks of his claws on the dead animal's body. She took the carcass into
the house and dressed it for the market. On the city streets next day
she had no trouble in selling the flesh and skin for a handsome sum of
money. All had heard of the tiger's first gift, and no one was anxious
to drive a close bargain.

Laden with food, the happy woman went home rejoicing, with money enough
to keep her for many a day. A week later the tiger came to her door
with a roll of cloth and some money in his mouth. He dropped these new
gifts at her feet and ran away without even waiting for her thank-you.
The Widow T'ang now saw that the judge had acted wisely. She stopped
grieving for her dead son and began to love in his stead the handsome
animal that had come to take his place so willingly.

The tiger grew much attached to his foster-mother and often purred
contentedly outside her door, waiting for her to come and stroke his
soft fur. He no longer had the old desire to kill. The sight of blood
was not nearly so tempting as it had been in his younger days. Year
after year he brought the weekly offerings to his mistress until she was
as well provided for as any other widow in the country.

At last in the course of nature the good old soul died. Kind friends
laid her away in her last resting place at the foot of the great
mountain. There was money enough left out of what she had saved to put
up a handsome tombstone, on which this story was written just as you
have read it here. The faithful tiger mourned long for his dear
mistress. He lay on her grave, wailing like a child that had lost its
mother. Long he listened for the voice he had loved so well, long he
searched the mountain-slopes, returning each night to the empty cottage,
but all in vain. She whom he loved was gone for ever.

One night he vanished from the mountain, and from that day to this no
one in that province has ever seen him. Some who know this story say
that he died of grief in a secret cave which he had long used as a
hiding-place. Others add, with a wise shrug of the shoulders, that, like
Shanwang, he was taken to the Western Heaven, there to be rewarded for
his deeds of virtue and to live as a fairy for ever afterwards.



THE PRINCESS KWAN-YIN

[Illustration]


Once upon a time in China there lived a certain king who had three
daughters. The fairest and best of these was Kwan-yin, the youngest.
The old king was justly proud of this daughter, for of all the women who
had ever lived in the palace she was by far the most attractive. It did
not take him long, therefore, to decide that she should be the heir to
his throne, and her husband ruler of his kingdom. But, strange to say,
Kwan-yin was not pleased at this good fortune. She cared little for the
pomp and splendour of court life. She foresaw no pleasure for herself in
ruling as a queen, but even feared that in so high a station she might
feel out of place and unhappy.

Every day she went to her room to read and study. As a result of this
daily labour she soon went far beyond her sisters along the paths of
knowledge, and her name was known in the farthest corner of the kingdom
as "Kwan-yin, the wise princess." Besides being very fond of books,
Kwan-yin was thoughtful of her friends. She was careful about her
behaviour both in public and in private. Her warm heart was open at all
times to the cries of those in trouble. She was kind to the poor and
suffering. She won the love of the lower classes, and was to them a sort
of goddess to whom they could appeal whenever they were hungry and in
need. Some people even believed that she was a fairy who had come to
earth from her home within the Western Heaven, while others said that
once, long years before, she had lived in the world as a prince instead
of a princess. However this may be, one thing is certain--Kwan-yin was
pure and good, and well deserved the praises that were showered upon
her.

One day the king called this favourite daughter to the royal bedside,
for he felt that the hour of death was drawing near. Kwan-yin kowtowed
before her royal father, kneeling and touching her forehead on the floor
in sign of deepest reverence. The old man bade her rise and come closer.
Taking her hand tenderly in his own, he said, "Daughter, you know well
how I love you. Your modesty and virtue, your talent and your love of
knowledge, have made you first in my heart. As you know already, I chose
you as heir to my kingdom long ago. I promised that your husband should
be made ruler in my stead. The time is almost ripe for me to ascend upon
the dragon and become a guest on high. It is necessary that you be given
at once in marriage."

"But, most exalted father," faltered the princess, "I am not ready to be
married."

"Not ready, child! Why, are you not eighteen? Are not the daughters of
our nation often wedded long before they reach that age? Because of your
desire for learning I have spared you thus far from any thought of a
husband, but now we can wait no longer."

"Royal father, hear your child, and do not compel her to give up her
dearest pleasures. Let her go into a quiet convent where she may lead
a life of study!"

The king sighed deeply at hearing these words. He loved his daughter and
did not wish to wound her. "Kwan-yin," he continued, "do you wish to
pass by the green spring of youth, to give up this mighty kingdom? Do
you wish to enter the doors of a convent where women say farewell to
life and all its pleasures? No! your father will not permit this. It
grieves me sorely to disappoint you, but one month from this very day
you shall be married. I have chosen for your royal partner a man of many
noble parts. You know him by name already, although you have not seen
him. Remember that, of the hundred virtues filial conduct is the chief,
and that you owe more to me than to all else on earth."

Kwan-yin turned pale. Trembling, she would have sunk to the floor, but
her mother and sisters supported her, and by their tender care brought
her back to consciousness.

Every day of the month that followed, Kwan-yin's relatives begged her to
give up what they called her foolish notion. Her sisters had long since
given up hope of becoming queen. They were amazed at her stupidity. The
very thought of any one's choosing a convent instead of a throne was to
them a sure sign of madness. Over and over again they asked her reason
for making so strange a choice. To every question, she shook her head,
replying, "A voice from the heavens speaks to me, and I must obey it."

On the eve of the wedding day Kwan-yin slipped out of the palace, and,
after a weary journey, arrived at a convent called, "The Cloister of the
White Sparrow." She was dressed as a poor maiden. She said she wished to
become a nun. The abbess, not knowing who she was, did not receive her
kindly. Indeed, she told Kwan-yin that they could not receive her into
the sisterhood, that the building was full. Finally, after Kwan-yin had
shed many tears, the abbess let her enter, but only as a sort of
servant, who might be cast out for the slightest fault.

Now that Kwan-yin found herself in the life which she had long dreamt
of leading, she tried to be satisfied. But the nuns seemed to wish to
make her stay among them most miserable. They gave her the hardest tasks
to do, and it was seldom that she had a minute to rest. All day long
she was busy, carrying water from a well at the foot of the convent hill
or gathering wood from a neighbouring forest. At night when her back
was almost breaking, she was given many extra tasks, enough to have
crushed the spirit of any other woman than this brave daughter of
a king. Forgetting her grief, and trying to hide the lines of pain
that sometimes wrinkled her fair forehead, she tried to make these
hard-hearted women love her. In return for their rough words, she
spoke to them kindly, and never did she give way to anger.

One day while poor Kwan-yin was picking up brushwood in the forest she
heard a tiger making his way through the bushes. Having no means of
defending herself, she breathed a silent prayer to the gods for help,
and calmly awaited the coming of the great beast. To her surprise, when
the bloodthirsty animal appeared, instead of bounding up to tear her in
pieces, he began to make a soft purring noise. He did not try to hurt
Kwan-yin, but rubbed against her in a friendly manner, and let her pat
him on the head.

[Illustration: "ALL DAY SHE WAS BUSY CARRYING WATER."]

The next day the princess went back to the same spot. There she found
no fewer than a dozen savage beasts working under the command of the
friendly tiger, gathering wood for her. In a short time enough brush and
firewood had been piled up to last the convent for six months. Thus,
even the wild animals of the forest were better able to judge of her
goodness than the women of the sisterhood.

At another time when Kwan-yin was toiling up the hill for the twentieth
time, carrying two great pails of water on a pole, an enormous dragon
faced her in the road. Now, in China, the dragon is sacred, and Kwan-yin
was not at all frightened, for she knew that she had done no wrong.

The animal looked at her for a moment, switched its horrid tail, and
shot out fire from its nostrils. Then, dashing the burden from the
startled maiden's shoulder, it vanished. Full of fear, Kwan-yin hurried
up the hill to the nunnery. As she drew near the inner court, she was
amazed to see in the centre of the open space a new building of solid
stone. It had sprung up by magic since her last journey down the hill.
On going forward, she saw that there were four arched doorways to the
fairy house. Above the door facing west was a tablet with these words
written on it: "In honour of Kwan-yin, the faithful princess." Inside
was a well of the purest water, while, for drawing this water, there a
strange machine, the like of which neither Kwan-yin nor the nuns had
ever seen.

The sisters knew that this magic well was a monument to Kwan-yin's
goodness. For a few days they treated her much better. "Since the gods
have dug a well at our very gate," they said, "this girl will no longer
need to bear water from the foot of the hill. For what strange reason,
however, did the gods write this beggar's name on the stone?"

Kwan-yin heard their unkind remarks in silence. She could have explained
the meaning of the dragon's gift, but she chose to let her companions
remain in ignorance. At last the selfish nuns began to grow careless
again, and treated her even worse than before. They could not bear to
see the poor girl enjoy a moment's idleness.

"This is a place for work," they told her. "All of us have laboured hard
to win our present station. You must do likewise." So they robbed her of
every chance for study and prayer, and gave her no credit for the magic
well.

One night the sisters were awakened from their sleep by strange noises,
and soon they heard outside the walls of the compound the blare of a
trumpet. A great army had been sent by Kwan-yin's father to attack the
convent, for his spies had at last been able to trace the runaway
princess to this holy retreat.

"Oh, who has brought this woe upon us?" exclaimed all the women, looking
at each other in great fear. "Who has done this great evil? There is one
among us who has sinned most terribly, and now the gods are about to
destroy us." They gazed at one another, but no one thought of Kwan-yin,
for they did not believe her of enough importance to attract the anger
of heaven, even though she might have done the most shocking of deeds.
Then, too, she had been so meek and lowly while in their holy order that
they did not once dream of charging her with any crime.

The threatening sounds outside grew louder and louder. All at once a
fearful cry arose among the women: "They are about to burn our sacred
dwelling." Smoke was rising just beyond the enclosure where the soldiers
were kindling a great fire, the heat of which would soon be great enough
to make the convent walls crumble into dust.

Suddenly a voice was heard above the tumult of the weeping sisters:
"Alas! I am the cause of all this trouble."

The nuns, turning in amazement, saw that it was Kwan-yin who was
speaking. "You?" they exclaimed, astounded.

"Yes, I, for I am indeed the daughter of a king. My father did not wish
me to take the vows of this holy order. I fled from the palace. He has
sent his army here to burn these buildings and to drag me back a
prisoner."

"Then, see what you have brought upon us, miserable girl!" exclaimed the
abbess. "See how you have repaid our kindness! Our buildings will be
burned above our heads! How wretched you have made us! May heaven's
curses rest upon you!"

"No, no!" exclaimed Kwan-yin, springing up, and trying to keep the
abbess from speaking these frightful words. "You have no right to say
that, for I am innocent of evil. But, wait! You shall soon see whose
prayers the gods will answer, yours or mine!" So saying, she pressed her
forehead to the floor, praying the almighty powers to save the convent
and the sisters.

Outside the crackling of the greedy flames could already be heard. The
fire king would soon destroy every building on that hill-top. Mad with
terror, the sisters prepared to leave the compound and give up all their
belongings to the cruel flames and still more cruel soldiers. Kwan-yin
alone remained in the room, praying earnestly for help.

Suddenly a soft breeze sprang up from the neighbouring forest, dark
clouds gathered overhead, and, although it was the dry season a
drenching shower descended on the flames. Within five minutes the fire
was put out and the convent was saved. Just as the shivering nuns were
thanking Kwan-yin for the divine help she had brought them, two soldiers
who had scaled the outer wall of the compound came in and roughly asked
for the princess.

The trembling girl, knowing that these men were obeying her father's
orders, poured out a prayer to the gods, and straightway made herself
known. They dragged her from the presence of the nuns who had just begun
to love her. Thus disgraced before her father's army, she was taken to
the capital.

On the morrow, she was led before the old king. The father gazed sadly
at his daughter, and then the stern look of a judge hardened his face as
he beckoned the guards to bring her forward.

From a neighbouring room came the sounds of sweet music. A feast was
being served there amid great splendour. The loud laughter of the guests
reached the ears of the young girl as she bowed in disgrace before her
father's throne. She knew that this feast had been prepared for her, and
that her father was willing to give her one more chance.

"Girl," said the king, at last regaining his voice, "in leaving the
royal palace on the eve of your wedding day, not only did you insult
your father, but your king. For this act you deserve to die. However,
because of the excellent record you had made for yourself before you ran
away, I have decided to give you one more chance to redeem yourself.
Refuse me, and the penalty is death: obey me, and all may yet be
well--the kingdom that you spurned is still yours for the asking. All
that I require is your marriage to the man whom I have chosen."

"And when, most august King, would you have me decide?" asked Kwan-yin
earnestly.

"This very day, this very hour, this very moment," he answered sternly.
"What! would you hesitate between love upon a throne and death? Speak,
my daughter, tell me that you love me and will do my bidding!"

It was now all that Kwan-yin could do to keep from throwing herself at
her father's feet and yielding to his wishes, not because he offered her
a kingdom, but because she loved him and would gladly have made him
happy. But her strong will kept her from relenting. No power on earth
could have stayed her from doing what she thought her duty.

"Beloved father," she answered sadly, and her voice was full of
tenderness, "it is not a question of my love for you--of that there is
no question, for all my life I have shown it in every action. Believe
me, if I were free to do your bidding, gladly would I make you happy,
but a voice from the gods has spoken, has commanded that I remain a
virgin, that I devote my life to deeds of mercy. When heaven itself has
commanded, what can even a princess do but listen to that power which
rules the earth?"

The old king was far from satisfied with Kwan-yin's answer. He grew
furious, his thin wrinkled skin turned purple as the hot blood rose to
his head. "Then you refuse to do my bidding! Take her, men! Give to her
the death that is due to a traitor to the king!" As they bore Kwan-yin
away from his presence the white-haired monarch fell, swooning, from his
chair.

That night, when Kwan-yin was put to death, she descended into the lower
world of torture. No sooner had she set foot in that dark country of the
dead than the vast region of endless punishment suddenly blossomed forth
and became like the gardens of Paradise. Pure white lilies sprang up on
every side, and the odour of a million flowers filled all the rooms and
corridors. King Yama, ruler of the dominion, rushed forth to learn the
cause of this wonderful change. No sooner did his eyes rest upon the
fair young face of Kwan-yin than he saw in her the emblem of a purity
which deserved no home but heaven.

"Beautiful virgin, doer of many mercies," he began, after addressing
her by her title, "I beg you in the name of justice to depart from this
bloody kingdom. It is not right that the fairest flower of heaven should
enter and shed her fragrance in these halls. Guilt must suffer here, and
sin find no reward. Depart thou, then, from my dominion. The peach of
immortal life shall be bestowed upon you, and heaven alone shall be your
dwelling place."

Thus Kwan-yin became the Goddess of Mercy; thus she entered into that
glad abode, surpassing all earthly kings and queens. And ever since that
time, on account of her exceeding goodness, thousands of poor people
breathe out to her each year their prayers for mercy. There is no fear
in their gaze as they look at her beautiful image, for their eyes are
filled with tears of love.



THE TWO JUGGLERS

[Illustration]


One beautiful spring day two men strolled into the public square of
a well-known Chinese city. They were plainly dressed and looked like
ordinary countrymen who had come in to see the sights. Judging by their
faces, they were father and son. The elder, a wrinkled man of perhaps
fifty, wore a scant grey beard. The younger had a small box on his
shoulder.

At the hour when these strangers entered the public square, a large
crowd had gathered, for it was a feast day, and every one was bent on
having a good time. All the people seemed very happy. Some, seated in
little open-air booths, were eating, drinking, and smoking. Others were
buying odds and ends from the street-vendors, tossing coins, and playing
various games of chance.

The two men walked about aimlessly. They seemed to have no friends among
the pleasure-seekers. At last, however, as they stood reading a public
notice posted at the entrance of the town-hall or yamen, a bystander
asked them who they were.

"Oh, we are jugglers from a distant province," said the elder, smiling
and pointing towards the box. "We can do many tricks for the amusement
of the people."

Soon it was spread about among the crowd that two famous jugglers had
just arrived from the capital, and that they were able to perform many
wonderful deeds. Now it happened that the mandarin or mayor of the city,
at that very moment was entertaining a number of guests in the yamen.
They had just finished eating, and the host was wondering what he should
do to amuse his friends, when a servant told him of the jugglers.

"Ask them what they can do," said the mandarin eagerly. "I will pay them
well if they can really amuse us, but I want something more than the old
tricks of knife-throwing and balancing. They must show us something
new."

The servant went outside and spoke to the jugglers: "The great man bids
you tell him what you can do. If you can amuse his visitors he will
bring them out to the private grand stand, and let you perform before
them and the people who are gathered together."

"Tell your honourable master," said the elder, whom we shall call Chang,
"that, try us as he will, he will not be disappointed. Tell him that we
come from the unknown land of dreams and visions, that we can turn rocks
into mountains, rivers into oceans, mice into elephants, in short, that
there is nothing in magic too difficult for us to do."

The official was delighted when he heard the report of his servant.
"Now we may have a little fun," he said to his guests, "for there are
jugglers outside who will perform their wonderful tricks before us."

The guests filed out on to the grand stand at one side of the public
square. The mandarin commanded that a rope should be stretched across
so as to leave an open space in full view of the crowd, where the two
Changs might give their exhibition.

For a time the two strangers entertained the people with some of the
simpler tricks, such as spinning plates in the air, tossing bowls up and
catching them on chopsticks, making flowers grow from empty pots, and
transforming one object into another. At last, however, the mandarin
cried out: "These tricks are very good of their kind, but how about
those idle boasts of changing rivers into oceans and mice into
elephants? Did you not say that you came from the land of dreams? These
tricks you have done are stale and shopworn. Have you nothing new with
which to regale my guests on this holiday?"

"Most certainly, your excellency. But surely you would not have a
labourer do more than his employer requires? Would that not be quite
contrary to the teachings of our fathers? Be assured, sir, anything that
you demand I can do for you. Only say the word."

The mandarin laughed outright at this boasting language. "Take care, my
man! Do not go too far with your promises. There are too many impostors
around for me to believe every stranger. Hark you! no lying, for if you
lie in the presence of my guests, I shall take great pleasure in having
you beaten."

"My words are quite true, your excellency," repeated Chang earnestly.
"What have we to gain by deceit, we who have performed our miracles
before the countless hosts of yonder Western Heaven?"

"Ha, ha! hear the braggarts!" shouted the guests. "What shall we command
them to do?"

For a moment they consulted together, whispering and laughing.

"I have it," cried the host finally. "Our feast was short of fruit,
since this is the off season. Suppose we let this fellow supply us.
Here, fellow, produce us a peach, and be quick about it. We have no time
for fooling."

"What, masters, a peach?" exclaimed the elder Chang in mock dismay.
"Surely at this season you do not expect a peach."

"Caught at his own game," laughed the guests, and the people began to
hoot derisively.

"But, father, you promised to do anything he required," urged the son.
"If he asks even a peach, how can you refuse and at the same time save
your face?"

"Hear the boy talk," mumbled the father, "and yet, perhaps he's right.
Very well, masters," turning to the crowd, "if it's a peach you want,
why, a peach you shall have, even though I must send into the garden of
the Western Heaven for the fruit."

The people became silent and the mandarin's guests forgot to laugh. The
old man, still muttering, opened the box from which he had been taking
the magic bowls, plates, and other articles. "To think of people wanting
peaches at this season! What is the world coming to?"

After fumbling in the box for some moments he drew out a skein of golden
thread, fine spun and as light as gossamer. No sooner had he unwound a
portion of this thread than a sudden gust of wind carried it up into the
air above the heads of the onlookers. Faster and faster the old man
paid out the magic coil, higher and higher the free end rose into the
heavens, until, strain his eyes as he would, no one present could see
into what far-region it had vanished.

"Wonderful, wonderful!" shouted the people with one voice, "the old man
is a fairy."

For a moment they forgot all about the mandarin, the jugglers, and the
peach, so amazed were they at beholding the flight of the magic thread.

At last the old man seemed satisfied with the distance to which his cord
had sailed, and, with a bow to the spectators, he tied the end to a
large wooden pillar which helped to support the roof of the grand stand.
For a moment the structure trembled and swayed as if it too would be
carried off into the blue ether, the guests turned pale and clutched
their chairs for support, but not even the mandarin dared to speak, so
sure were they now that they were in the presence of fairies.

"Everything is ready for the journey," said old Chang calmly.

"What! shall you leave us?" asked the mayor, finding his voice again.

"I? Oh, no, my old bones are not spry enough for quick climbing. My son
here will bring us the magic peach. He is handsome and active enough to
enter that heavenly garden. Graceful, oh graceful is that peach tree--of
course, you remember the line from the poem--and a graceful man must
pluck the fruit."

The mandarin was still more surprised at the juggler's knowledge of a
famous poem from the classics. It made him and his friends all the more
certain that the newcomers were indeed fairies.

The young man at a sign from his father tightened his belt and the bands
about his ankles, and then, with a graceful gesture to the astonished
people, sprang upon the magic string, balanced himself for a moment on
the steep incline, and then ran as nimbly up as a sailor would have
mounted a rope ladder. Higher and higher he climbed till he seemed no
bigger than a lark ascending into the blue sky, and then, like some tiny
speck, far, far away, on the western horizon.

The people gazed in open-mouthed wonder. They were struck dumb and
filled with some nameless fear; they hardly dared to look at the
enchanter who stood calmly in their midst, smoking his long-stemmed
pipe.

The mandarin, ashamed of having laughed at and threatened this man
who was clearly a fairy, did not know what to say. He snapped his long
finger nails and looked at his guests in mute astonishment. The visitors
silently drank their tea, and the crowd of sightseers craned their necks
in a vain effort to catch sight of the vanished fairy. Only one in all
that assembly, a bright-eyed little boy of eight, dared to break the
silence, and he caused a hearty burst of merriment by crying out, "Oh,
daddy, will the bad young man fly off into the sky and leave his poor
father all alone?"

The greybeard laughed loudly with the others, and tossed the lad a
copper. "Ah, the good boy," he said smiling, "he has been well trained
to love his father; no fear of foreign ways spoiling his filial piety."

After a few moments of waiting, old Chang laid aside his pipe and fixed
his eyes once more on the western sky. "It is coming," he said quietly.
"The peach will soon be here."

[Illustration: "HIGHER AND HIGHER HE CLIMBED."]

Suddenly he held out his hand as if to catch some falling object, but,
look as they would, the people could see nothing. Swish! thud! it came
like a streak of light, and, lo, there in the magician's fingers was a
peach, the most beautiful specimen the people had ever seen, large and
rosy. "Straight from the garden of the gods," said Chang, handing the
fruit to the mandarin, "a peach in the Second Moon, and the snow hardly
off the ground."

Trembling with excitement, the official took the peach and cut it open.
It was large enough for all his guests to have a taste, and such a taste
it was! They smacked their lips and wished for more, secretly thinking
that never again would ordinary fruit be worth the eating.

But all this time the old juggler, magician, fairy or whatever you
choose to call him, was looking anxiously into the sky. The result of
this trick was more than he had bargained for. True, he had been able to
produce the magic peach which the mandarin had called for, but his son,
where was his son? He shaded his eyes and looked far up into the blue
heavens, and so did the people, but no one could catch a glimpse of the
departed youth.

"Oh, my son, my son," cried the old man in despair, "how cruel is the
fate that has robbed me of you, the only prop of my declining years! Oh,
my boy, my boy, would that I had not sent you on so perilous a journey!
Who now will look after my grave when I am gone?"

Suddenly the silken cord on which the young man had sped so daringly
into the sky, gave a quick jerk which almost toppled over the post to
which it was tied, and there, before the very eyes of the people, it
fell from the lofty height, a silken pile on the ground in front of
them.

The greybeard uttered a loud cry and covered his face with his hands.
"Alas! the whole story is plain enough," he sobbed. "My boy was caught
in the act of plucking the magic peach from the garden of the gods, and
they have thrown him into prison. Woe is me! Ah! woe is me!"

The mandarin and his friends were deeply touched by the old man's grief,
and tried in vain to comfort him. "Perhaps he will return," they said.
"Have courage!"

"Yes, but in what a shape?" replied the magician. "See! even now they
are restoring him to his father."

The people looked, and they saw twirling and twisting through the air
the young man's arm. It fell upon the ground in front of them at the
fairy's feet. Next came the head, a leg, the body. One by one before the
gasping, shuddering people, the parts of the unfortunate young man were
restored to his father.

After the first outburst of wild, frantic grief the old man by a great
effort gained control of his feelings, and began to gather up these
parts, putting them tenderly into the wooden box.

By this time many of the spectators were weeping at the sight of the
father's affliction. "Come," said the mandarin at last, deeply moved,
"let us present the old man with sufficient money to give his boy a
decent burial."

All present agreed willingly, for there is no sight in China that causes
greater pity than that of an aged parent robbed by death of an only son.
The copper cash fell in a shower at the juggler's feet, and soon tears
of gratitude were mingled with those of sorrow. He gathered up the money
and tied it in a large black cloth. Then a wonderful change came over
his face. He seemed all of a sudden to forget his grief. Turning to the
box, he raised the lid. The people heard him say: "Come, my son; the
crowd is waiting for you to thank them. Hurry up! They have been very
kind to us."

In an instant the box was thrown open with a bang, and before the
mandarin and his friends, before the eyes of all the sightseers the
young man, strong and whole once more, stepped forth and bowed, clasping
his hands and giving the national salute.

For a moment all were silent. Then, as the wonder of the whole thing
dawned upon them, the people broke forth into a tumult of shouts,
laughter, and compliments. "The fairies have surely come to visit us!"
they shouted. "The city will be blessed with good fortune! Perhaps it is
Fairy Old Boy himself who is among us!"

The mandarin rose and addressed the jugglers, thanking them in the name
of the city for their visit and for the taste they had given to him and
his guests of the peach from the heavenly orchard.

Even as he spoke, the magic box opened again; the two fairies
disappeared inside, the lid closed, and the chest rose from the ground
above the heads of the people. For a moment it floated round in a circle
like some homing pigeon trying to find its bearings before starting on
a return journey. Then, with a sudden burst of speed, it shot off into
the heavens and vanished from the sight of those below, and not a thing
remained as proof of the strange visitors except the magic peach seed
that lay beside the teacups on the mandarin's table.

According to the most ancient writings there is now nothing left to tell
of this story. It has been declared, however, by later scholars that the
official and his friends who had eaten the magic peach, at once began to
feel a change in their lives. While, before the coming of the fairies,
they had lived unfairly, accepting bribes and taking part in many
shameful practices, now, after tasting of the heavenly fruit, they began
to grow better. The people soon began to honour and love them, saying,
"Surely these great men are not like others of their kind, for these men
are just and honest in their dealings with us. They seem not to be
ruling for their own reward!"

However this may be, we do know that before many years their city became
the centre of the greatest peach-growing section of China, and even
yet when strangers walk in the orchards and look up admiringly at the
beautiful sweet-smelling fruit, the natives sometimes ask proudly, "And
have you never heard about the wonderful peach which was the beginning
of all our orchards, the magic peach the fairies brought us from the
Western Heaven?"



THE PHANTOM VESSEL

[Illustration]


Once a ship loaded with pleasure-seekers was sailing from North China
to Shanghai. High winds and stormy weather had delayed her, and she was
still one week from port when a great plague broke out on board. This
plague was of the worst kind. It attacked passengers and sailors alike
until there were so few left to sail the vessel that it seemed as if she
would soon be left to the mercy of winds and waves.

On all sides lay the dead, and the groans of the dying were most
terrible to hear. Of that great company of travellers only one, a
little boy named Ying-lo, had escaped. At last the few sailors, who
had been trying hard to save their ship, were obliged to lie down upon
the deck, a prey to the dreadful sickness, and soon they too were
dead.

Ying-lo now found himself alone on the sea. For some reason--he did not
know why--the gods or the sea fairies had spared him, but as he looked
about in terror at the friends and loved ones who had died, he almost
wished that he might join them.

The sails flapped about like great broken wings, while the giant waves
dashed higher above the deck, washing many of the bodies overboard and
wetting the little boy to the skin. Shivering with cold, he gave himself
up for lost and prayed to the gods, whom his mother had often told him
about, to take him from this dreadful ship and let him escape the fatal
illness.

As he lay there praying he heard a slight noise in the rigging just
above his head. Looking up, he saw a ball of fire running along a
yardarm near the top of the mast. The sight was so strange that he
forgot his prayer and stared with open-mouthed wonder. To his
astonishment, the ball grew brighter and brighter, and then suddenly
began slipping down the mast, all the time increasing in size. The poor
boy did not know what to do or to think. Were the gods, in answer to his
prayer, sending fire to burn the vessel? If so, he would soon escape.
Anything would be better than to be alone upon the sea.

Nearer and nearer came the fireball. At last, when it reached the deck,
to Ying-lo's surprise, something very, very strange happened. Before he
had time to feel alarmed, the light vanished, and a funny little man
stood in front of him peering anxiously into the child's frightened
face.

"Yes, you are the lad I'm looking for," he said at last, speaking in a
piping voice that almost made Ying-lo smile. "You are Ying-lo, and you
are the only one left of this wretched company." This he said, pointing
towards the bodies lying here and there about the deck.

Although he saw that the old man meant him no harm, the child could say
nothing, but waited in silence, wondering what would happen next.

By this time the vessel was tossing and pitching so violently that it
seemed every minute as if it would upset and go down beneath the foaming
waves, never to rise again. Not many miles distant on the right, some
jagged rocks stuck out of the water, lifting their cruel heads as if
waiting for the helpless ship.

The newcomer walked slowly towards the mast and tapped on it three times
with an iron staff he had been using as a cane. Immediately the sails
spread, the vessel righted itself and began to glide over the sea so
fast that the gulls were soon left far behind, while the threatening
rocks upon which the ship had been so nearly dashed seemed like specks
in the distance.

"Do you remember me?" said the stranger, suddenly turning and coming up
to Ying-lo, but his voice was lost in the whistling of the wind, and the
boy knew only by the moving of his lips that the old man was talking.
The greybeard bent over until his mouth was at Ying-lo's ear: "Did you
ever see me before?"

With a puzzled look, at first the child shook his head. Then as he gazed
more closely there seemed to be something that he recognized about the
wrinkled face. "Yes, I think so, but I don't know when."

With a tap of his staff the fairy stopped the blowing of the wind, and
then spoke once more to his small companion: "One year ago I passed
through your village. I was dressed in rags, and was begging my way
along the street, trying to find some one who would feel sorry for me.
Alas! no one answered my cry for mercy. Not a crust was thrown into my
bowl. All the people were deaf, and fierce dogs drove me from door to
door. Finally when I was almost dying of hunger, I began to feel that
here was a village without one good person in it. Just then you saw my
suffering, ran into the house, and brought me out food. Your heartless
mother saw you doing this and beat you cruelly. Do you remember now, my
child?"

"Yes, I remember," he answered sadly, "and that mother is now lying
dead. Alas! all, all are dead, my father and my brothers also. Not one
is left of my family."

"Little did you know, my boy, to whom you were giving food that day.
You took me for a lowly beggar, but, behold, it was not a poor man that
you fed, for I am Iron Staff. You must have heard of me when they were
telling of the fairies in the Western Heaven, and of their adventures
here on earth."

"Yes, yes," answered Ying-lo, trembling half with fear and half with
joy, "indeed I have heard of you many, many times, and all the people
love you for your kind deeds of mercy."

"Alas! they did not show their love, my little one. Surely you know that
if any one wishes to reward the fairies for their mercies, he must begin
to do deeds of the same kind himself. No one but you in all your village
had pity on me in my rags. If they had known that I was Iron Staff,
everything would have been different; they would have given me a feast
and begged for my protection.


  "The only love that loves aright
   Is that which loves in every plight.
   The beggar in his sad array
   Is moulded of the selfsame clay.

  "Who knows a man by what he wears,
   By what he says or by his prayers?
   Hidden beneath that wrinkled skin
   A fairy may reside within.

  "Then treat with kindness and with love
   The lowly man, the god above;
   A friendly nod, a welcome smile--
   For love is ever worth the while."


Ying-lo listened in wonder to Iron Staff's little poem, and when he had
finished, the boy's face was glowing with the love of which the fairy
had spoken. "My poor, poor father and mother!" he cried; "they knew
nothing of these beautiful things you are telling me. They were brought
up in poverty. As they were knocked about in childhood by those around
them, so they learned to beat others who begged them for help. Is it
strange that they did not have hearts full of pity for you when you
looked like a beggar?"

"But what about you, my boy? You were not deaf when I asked you. Have
you not been whipped and punished all your life? How then did you learn
to look with love at those in tears?"

The child could not answer these questions, but only looked sorrowfully
at Iron Staff. "Oh, can you not, good fairy, will you not restore my
parents and brothers, and give them another chance to be good and useful
people?"

"Listen, Ying-lo; it is impossible--unless you do two things first," he
answered, stroking his beard gravely and leaning heavily upon his staff.

"What are they? What must I do to save my family? Anything you ask of me
will not be too much to pay for your kindness."

"First you must tell me of some good deed done by these people for whose
lives you are asking. Name only one, for that will be enough; but it is
against our rules to help those who have done nothing."

Ying-lo was silent, and for a moment his face was clouded. "Yes, I
know," he said finally, brightening. "They burned incense once at the
temple. That was certainly a deed of virtue."

"But when was it, little one, that they did this?"

"When my big brother was sick, and they were praying for him to get
well. The doctors could not save him with boiled turnip juice or with
any other of the medicines they used, so my parents begged the gods."

"Selfish, selfish!" muttered Iron Staff. "If their eldest son had not
been dying they would have spent no money at the temple. They tried in
this way to buy back his health, for they were expecting him to support
them in their old age."

Ying-lo's face fell. "You are right," he answered.

"Can you think of nothing else?"

"Yes, oh, yes, last year when the foreigner rode through our village and
fell sick in front of our house, they took him in and cared for him."

"How long?" asked the other sharply.

"Until he died the next week."

"And what did they do with the mule he was riding, his bed, and the
money in his bag? Did they try to restore them to his people?"

"No, they said they'd keep them to pay for the trouble." Ying-lo's face
turned scarlet.

"But try again, dear boy! Is there not one little deed of goodness that
was not selfish? Think once more."

For a long time Ying-lo did not reply. At length he spoke in a low
voice; "I think of one, but I fear it amounts to nothing."

"No good, my child, is too small to be counted when the gods are
weighing a man's heart."

"Last spring the birds were eating in my father's garden. My mother
wanted to buy poison from the shop to destroy them, but my father said
no, that the little things must live, and he for one was not in favour
of killing them."

"At last, Ying-lo, you have named a real deed of mercy, and as he spared
the tiny birds from poison, so shall his life and the lives of your
mother and brothers be restored from the deadly plague.

"But remember there is one other thing that depends on you."

Ying-lo's eyes glistened gratefully. "Then if it rests with me, and I
can do it, you have my promise. No sacrifice should be too great for a
son to make for his loved ones even though his life itself is asked in
payment."

"Very well, Ying-lo. What I require is that you carry out to the letter
my instructions. Now it is time for me to keep my promise to you."

So saying, Iron Staff called on Ying-lo to point out the members of his
family, and, approaching them one by one, with the end of his iron stick
he touched their foreheads. In an instant each, without a word, arose.
Looking round and recognising Ying-lo, they stood back, frightened at
seeing him with the fairy. When the last had risen to his feet, Iron
Staff beckoned all of them to listen. This they did willingly, too much
terrified to speak, for they saw on all sides signs of the plague that
had swept over the vessel, and they remembered the frightful agony they
had suffered in dying. Each knew that he had been lifted by some magic
power from darkness into light.

"My friends," began the fairy, "little did you think when less than a
year ago you drove me from your door that soon you yourselves would be
in need of mercy. To-day you have had a peep into the awful land of
Yama. You have seen the horror of his tortures, have heard the screams
of his slaves, and by another night you would have been carried before
him to be judged. What power is it that has saved you from his clutches?
As you look back through your wicked lives can you think of any reason
why you deserved this rescue? No, there is no memory of goodness in
your black hearts. Well, I shall tell you: it is this little boy, this
Ying-lo, who many times has felt the weight of your wicked hands and
has hidden in terror at your coming. To him alone you owe my help."

Father, mother, and brothers all gazed in turn, first at the fairy and
then at the timid child whose eyes fell before their looks of gratitude.

"By reason of his goodness this child whom you have scorned is worthy of
a place within the Western Heaven. In truth, I came this very day to
lead him to that fairyland. For you, however, he wishes to make a
sacrifice. With sorrow I am yielding to his wishes. His sacrifice will
be that of giving up a place among the fairies and of continuing to live
here on this earth with you. He will try to make a change within your
household. If at any time you treat him badly and do not heed his
wishes--mark you well my words--by the power of this magic staff which I
shall place in his hands, he may enter at once into the land of the
fairies, leaving you to die in your wickedness. This I command him to
do, and he has promised to obey my slightest wish.

"This plague took you off suddenly and ended your wicked lives. Ying-lo
has raised you from its grasp and his power can lift you from the bed of
sin. No other hand than his can bear the rod which I am leaving. If one
of you but touch it, instantly he will fall dead upon the ground.

"And now, my child, the time has come for me to leave you. First,
however, I must show you what you are now able to do. Around you lie the
corpses of sailors and passengers. Tap three times upon the mast and
wish that they shall come to life," So saying he handed Ying-lo the iron
staff.

Although the magic rod was heavy, the child lifted it as if it were a
fairy's wand. Then, stepping forward to the mast, he rapped three times
as he had been commanded. Immediately on all sides arose the bodies,
once more full of life and strength.

"Now command the ship to take you back to your home port, for such
sinful creatures as these are in no way fit to make a journey among
strangers. They must first return and free their homes of sin."

Again rapping on the mast, the child willed the great vessel to take
its homeward course. No sooner had he moved the staff than, like a bird
wheeling in the heavens, the bark swung round and started on the return
journey. Swifter than a flash of lightning flew the boat, for it was
now become a fairy vessel. Before the sailors and the travellers could
recover from their surprise, land was sighted and they saw that they
were indeed entering the harbour.

Just as the ship was darting toward the shore the fairy suddenly, with
a parting word to Ying-lo, changed into a flaming ball of fire which
rolled along the deck and ascended the spars. Then, as it reached the
top of the rigging, it floated off into the blue sky, and all on board,
speechless with surprise, watched it until it vanished.

With a cry of thanksgiving, Ying-lo flung his arms about his parents and
descended with them to the shore.



THE WOODEN TABLET

[Illustration]


"Yes, my boy, whatever happens, be sure to save that tablet. It is the
only thing we have left worth keeping."

K'ang-p'u's father was just setting out for the city, to be gone all
day. He had been telling K'ang-p'u about some work in the little garden,
for the boy was a strong and willing helper.

"All right, father, I'll do what you tell me; but suppose the foreign
soldiers should come while you are gone? I heard that they were over at
T'ang Shu yesterday and burned the village. If they should come here,
what must I do?"

Mr. Lin laughed heartily. "Why, there's nothing here for them to burn,
if it comes to that!--a mud house, a grass roof, and a pile of ragged
bedding. Surely they won't bother my little hut. It's loot they're
after--money--or something they can sell."

"But, father," persisted the boy, "haven't you forgotten? Surely you
wouldn't wish them to burn your father's tablet?"

"Quite right; for the moment I did forget. Yes, yes, my boy, whatever
happens be sure to save the tablet. It is the only thing we have worth
keeping."

With that, Mr. Lin went out at the gate, leaving K'ang-p'u standing all
alone. The little fellow was scarcely twelve years old. He had a bright,
sunny face and a happy heart. Being left by himself did not mean tears
and idleness for him.

He went into the poor little house and stood for a moment looking
earnestly at the wooden tablet. It was on a shelf in the one-roomed
shanty, an oblong piece of wood about twelve inches high, enclosed in
a wooden case. Through the carved screen work in the front, K'ang-p'u
could see his grandfather's name written in Chinese characters on the
tablet. Ever since babyhood K'ang-p'u had been taught to look at this
piece of wood with a feeling of reverence.

"Your grandfather's spirit is inside," his father had said one day. "You
must worship his spirit, for he was a good man, far better than your
dad. If I had obeyed him in all things, I, his only son, should not now
be living in this miserable hut."

"But didn't he live here, too?" asked K'ang-p'u in surprise.

"Oh, no, we lived in a big house over yonder in another village; in a
big house with a high stone wall."

The little fellow had gasped with surprise at hearing this, for there
was not such a thing as a stone wall in his village, and he felt that
his grandfather must have been a rich man. He had not asked any more
questions, but from that day on he had been rather afraid of the carved
wooden box in which his grandfather's spirit was supposed to live.

So, on this day when his father left him alone, the boy stood looking at
the tablet, wondering how a big man's spirit could squeeze into such a
small space. He put out his finger cautiously and touched the bottom of
the box, then drew back, half-frightened at his own daring. No bad
results followed. It seemed just like any other piece of wood. Somewhat
puzzled, he walked out of the house into the little garden. His father
had told him to re-set some young cabbages. This was work which
K'ang-p'u had done many times before. First, he gathered a basket of
chicken feathers, for his father had told him that a few feathers placed
at the roots of the young plant would do more to make it strong and
healthy than anything else that could be used.

All day K'ang-p'u worked steadily in the garden. He was just beginning
to feel tired, when he heard a woman screaming in the distance. He
dropped his basket and rushed to the gate. Down the road at the far
side of the village he saw a crowd of women and children running hither
and thither, and--yes! there were the soldiers--the dreaded foreign
soldiers! They were burning the houses; they were stealing whatever they
could find.

Now, most boys would have been frightened--would have taken to their
heels without thought of consequences. K'ang-p'u, however, though
like other lads afraid of soldiers, was too brave to run without first
doing his duty. He decided to stand his ground until he was sure the
foreigners were coming his way. Perhaps they would grow tired of their
cruel sport and leave the little house unharmed. He watched with
wide-open eyes the work of pillage. Alas! these men did not seem to
tire of their amusement. One after another the houses were entered and
robbed. Women were screaming and children crying. Nearly all the village
men were away in a distant market town, for none of them had expected
an attack.

Nearer and nearer came the robbers. At last they were next door to
K'ang-p'u's hut, and he knew the time had come for him to do his duty.
Seizing the basket of chicken feathers, he rushed into the house,
snatched the precious tablet from the shelf, and hid it in the bottom of
the basket. Then, without stopping to say good-bye to the spot which he
had known all his life, he rushed out of the gate and down the narrow
street.

"Kill the kid!" shouted a soldier, whom K'ang-p'u nearly ran against in
his hurry. "Put down the basket, boy! No stealing here."

"Yes, kill him!" shouted another with a loud laugh; "he'd make a good
bit of bacon."

But no one touched him, and K'ang-p'u, still holding tightly to his
burden, was soon far out on the winding road among the cornfields. If
they should follow, he thought of hiding among the giant cornstalks. His
legs were tired now, and he sat down under a stone memorial arch near
some crossroads to rest.

Where was he going, and what should he do? These were the questions that
filled the boy's whirling little brain. First, he must find out if the
soldiers were really destroying all the houses in his village. Perhaps
some of them would not be burned and he could return at night to join
his father.

After several failures he managed to climb one of the stone pillars and
from the arch above he could get a good view of the surrounding country.
Over to the west was his village. His heart beat fast when he saw that
a great cloud of smoke was rising from the houses. Clearly, the thieves
were making quick work of the place, and soon there would be nothing
left but piles of mud, brick, ashes and other rubbish.

Night came on. K'ang-p'u clambered down from his stone perch. He was
beginning to feel hungry, and yet he dared not turn back towards home.
And besides, would not all the other villagers be hungry, too? He lay
down at the foot of the stone monument, placing the basket within reach
at one side. Soon he fell fast asleep.

How long he had been sleeping he never knew; but it was not yet day when
he awoke with a start and looked round him in the moonlight. Some one
had called him distinctly by name. At first, he thought it must have
been his father's voice; and then as he grew wider and wider awake he
knew this could not be, for the voice sounded like that of an old man.
K'ang-p'u looked round in amazement, first at the stone columns, then
at the arch above. No one was to be seen. Had he been dreaming?

Just as he lay back to sleep once more, the voice sounded again very
faintly, "K'ang-p'u! K'ang-p'u! why don't you let me out? I can't
breathe under all these feathers."

Quick as a flash he knew what was the matter. Burying his hand in the
basket, he seized the wooden tablet, drew it from its hiding-place, and
stood it up on the stone base. Wonder of wonders! There before his very
eyes he saw a tiny fellow, not six inches high, sitting on top of the
wooden upright and dangling his legs over the front of the tablet. The
dwarf had a long grey beard, and K'ang-p'u, without looking twice, knew
that this was the spirit of his dead grandfather come to life and
clothed with flesh and blood.

"Ho, ho!" said the small man, laughing, "so you thought you'd bury your
old grandfather in feathers, did you? A soft enough grave, but rather
smelly."

"But, sir," cried K'ang-p'u, "I had to do it, to save you from the
soldiers! They were just about to burn our house and you in it."

"There, there, my boy! don't be uneasy. I am not scolding you. You did
the best you could for your old gran'ther. If you had been like most
lads, you would have taken to your heels and left me to those sea-devils
who were sacking the village. There is no doubt about it: you saved me
from a second death much more terrible than the first one."

K'ang-p'u shuddered, for he knew that his grandfather had been killed in
battle. He had heard his father tell the story many times.

"Now, what do you propose doing about it?" asked the old man finally,
looking straight into the boy's face.

"Doing about it, sir? Why, really, I don't know. I thought that perhaps
in the morning the soldiers would be gone and I could carry you back.
Surely my father will be looking for me."

"What! looking for you in the ashes? And what could he do if he did find
you? Your house is burned, your chickens carried away and your cabbages
trampled underfoot. A sorry home he will return to. You would be just
one more mouth to feed. No! that plan will never do. If your father
thinks you are dead, he will go off to another province to get work.
That would save him from starvation."

"But what am I to do?" wailed poor K'ang-p'u. "I don't want him to leave
me all alone!"

"All alone! What! don't you count your old grand-daddy? Surely you are
not a very polite youngster, even if you did save me from burning to
death."

"Count you?" repeated the boy, surprised. "Why, surely you can't help me
to earn a living?"

"Why not, boy? Is this an age when old men are good for nothing?"

"But, sir, you are only the _spirit_ of my grandfather, and spirits
cannot work!"

"Ha, ha! just hear the child. Why, look you, I will show you what
spirits can do, provided you will do exactly what I tell you."

Of course, K'ang-p'u promised, for he was always obedient; and was not
this little man who spoke so strangely, the spirit of his grandfather?
And is not every lad in China taught to honour his ancestors?

"Now, listen, my boy. First, let me say that if you had not been kind,
brave and filial, I should not take the trouble to help you out of your
misfortune. As it is, there is nothing else for me to do. I cast your
father off because he was disobedient. He has lived in a dirty hovel
ever since. Doubtless, he has been sorry for his misdeeds, for I see
that although he was disgraced by being sent away from the family home,
he has taught you to honour and love me. Most boys would have snatched
up a blanket or a piece of bread before running from the enemy, but you
thought only of my tablet. You saved me and went to bed hungry. For this
bravery, I shall give back to you the home of your ancestors."

"But I can't live in it," said K'ang-p'u, full of wonder, "if you will
not let my father come back to it. If he goes away he will have a very
hard time: he will be lonely without me, and may die; and then I would
not be able to take care of his grave, or to burn incense there at the
proper season!"

"Quite right, K'ang-p'u. I see you love your father as well as your
grandfather's tablet. Very well; you shall have your way. I daresay your
father is sorry by this time that he treated me so badly."

"Indeed, he must be," said the boy earnestly, "for I have seen him kneel
before your tablet many times and burn incense there on the proper days.
I know he is very sorry."

"Very well; go to sleep again. Let us wait until morning and then I
shall see what I can do for you. This moonlight is not bright enough for
my old eyes. I shall have to wait for morning."

As he spoke these last words, the little man began to grow smaller and
smaller before the eyes of his grandson, until at last he had altogether
disappeared.

At first, K'ang-p'u was too much excited to close his eyes. He remained
for a time looking up into the starry sky and wondering if what he had
heard would really come true, or whether he could have dreamt the whole
story of his grandfather's coming to life again. Could it really be that
the old family property would be given back to his father? He remembered
now that he had once heard his father speak of having lived in a large
house on a beautiful compound. It was just before K'ang-p'u's mother had
been carried away by the fever. As she had lain tossing upon the rude
stone bed, with none of those comforts which are so necessary for the
sick, K'ang-p'u remembered that his father had said to her: "What a
shame that we are not living in my father's house! There you might have
had every luxury. It is all my fault; I disobeyed my father."

Soon after that his mother had died, but K'ang-p'u had remembered those
words ever since, and had often wished that he could hear more about
this house where his father had spent his boyhood. Could it be possible
that they would soon be living in it? No, surely there must be some
mistake: the night fairies of his dreams had been deceiving him. With
a sigh he closed his eyes and once more fell asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

When K'ang-p'u next awoke, the sun was shining full in his face. He
looked around him, sleepily rubbing his eyes and trying to remember
all that had happened. Suddenly he thought of the tablet and of his
grandfather's appearance at midnight. But, strange to say, the basket
had disappeared with all its contents. The tablet was nowhere to be
seen, and even the stone arch under which he had gone to sleep had
completely vanished. Alas! his grandfather's tablet--how poorly he had
guarded it! What terrible thing would happen now that it was gone!

K'ang-p'u stood up and looked round him in trembling surprise. What
could have taken place while he was sleeping? At first, he did not know
what to do. Fortunately, the path through the corn was still there, and
he decided to return to the village and see if he could find any trace
of his father. His talk with the old man must have been only an idle
dream, and some thief must have carried off the basket. If only the
stone arch had not vanished K'ang-p'u would not have been so perplexed.

He hurried along the narrow road, trying to forget the empty stomach
which was beginning to cry for food. If the soldiers were still in the
village, surely they would not hurt an empty-handed little boy. More
than likely they had gone the day before. If he could only find his
father! Now he crossed the little brook where the women came to rub
their clothes upon the rocks. There was the big mulberry tree where the
boys used to gather leaves for their silkworms. Another turn of the road
and he would see the village.

When K'ang-p'u passed round the corner and looked for the ruins of the
village hovels, an amazing sight met his gaze. There, rising directly
before him, was a great stone wall, like those he had seen round the
rich people's houses when his father had taken him to the city. The
great gate stood wide open, and the keeper, rushing out, exclaimed:

"Ah! the little master has come!"

Completely bewildered, the boy followed the servant through the gateway,
passed through several wide courts, and then into a garden where flowers
and strangely-twisted trees were growing.

This, then, was the house which his grandfather had promised him--the
home of his ancestors. Ah! how beautiful! how beautiful! Many men and
women servants bowed low as he passed, saluting with great respect and
crying out:

"Yes, it is really the little master! He has come back to his own!"

K'ang-p'u, seeing how well dressed the servants were, felt much ashamed
of his own ragged garments, and put up his hands to hide a torn place.
What was his amazement to find that he was no longer clad in soiled,
ragged clothes, that he was dressed in the handsomest embroidered silk.
From head to foot he was fitted out like the young Prince his father had
pointed out to him one day in the city.

Then they entered a magnificent reception-hall on the other side of the
garden. K'ang-p'u could not keep back his tears, for there stood his
father waiting to meet him.

"My boy! my boy!" cried the father, "you have come back to me. I feared
you had been stolen away for ever."

"Oh, no!" said K'ang-p'u, "you have not lost me, but I have lost the
tablet. A thief came and took it last night while I was sleeping."

"Lost the tablet! A thief! Why, no, my son, you are mistaken! There it
is, just before you."

K'ang-p'u looked, and saw standing on a handsome carved table the
very thing he had mourned as lost. As he stared in surprise he almost
expected to see the tiny figure swinging its legs over the top, and to
hear the high-pitched voice of his grandfather.

"Yes, it is really the lost tablet!" he cried joyfully. "How glad I am
it is back in its rightful place once more."

Then father and son fell upon their knees before the wooden emblem, and
bowed reverently nine times to the floor, thanking the spirit for all it
had done for them. When they arose their hearts were full of a new
happiness.



THE GOLDEN NUGGET

[Illustration]


Once upon a time many, many years ago, there lived in China two friends
named Ki-wu and Pao-shu. These two young men, like Damon and Pythias,
loved each other and were always together. No cross words passed between
them; no unkind thoughts marred their friendship. Many an interesting
tale might be told of their unselfishness, and of how the good fairies
gave them the true reward of virtue. One story alone, however, will be
enough to show how strong was their affection and their goodness.

It was a bright beautiful day in early spring when Ki-wu and Pao-shu set
out for a stroll together, for they were tired of the city and its
noises.

"Let us go into the heart of the pine forest," said Ki-wu lightly.
"There we can forget the cares that worry us; there we can breathe the
sweetness of the flowers and lie on the moss-covered ground."

"Good!" said Pao-shu, "I, too, am tired. The forest is the place for
rest."

Happy as two lovers on a holiday, they passed along the winding road,
their eyes turned in longing toward the distant tree-tops. Their hearts
beat fast in youthful pleasure as they drew nearer and nearer to the
woods.

"For thirty days I have worked over my books," sighed Ki-wu. "For thirty
days I have not had a rest. My head is stuffed so full of wisdom, that I
am afraid it will burst. Oh, for a breath of the pure air blowing
through the greenwood."

"And I," added Pao-shu sadly, "have worked like a slave at my counter
and found it just as dull as you have found your books. My master treats
me badly. It seems good, indeed, to get beyond his reach."

Now they came to the border of the grove, crossed a little stream,
and plunged headlong among the trees and shrubs. For many an hour they
rambled on, talking and laughing merrily; when suddenly on passing round
a clump of flower-covered bushes, they saw shining in the pathway
directly in front of them a lump of gold.

"See!" said both, speaking at the same time, and pointing toward the
treasure.

[Illustration: "THEY SAW SHINING IN THE PATHWAY, DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF
THEM, A LUMP OF GOLD."]

Ki-wu, stooping, picked up the nugget. It was nearly as large as a
lemon, and was very pretty. "It is yours, my dear friend," said he, at
the same time handing it to Pao-shu; "yours because you saw it first."

"No, no," answered Pao-shu, "you are wrong, my brother, for you were
first to speak. Now, you can never say hereafter that the good fairies
have not rewarded you for all your faithful hours of study."

"Repaid me for my study! Why, that is impossible. Are not the wise men
always saying that study brings its own reward? No, the gold is yours:
I insist upon it. Think of your weeks of hard labour--of the masters that
have ground you to the bone! Here is something far better. Take it,"
laughing. "May it be the nest egg by means of which you may hatch out a
great fortune."

Thus they joked for some minutes, each refusing to take the treasure
for himself; each insisting that it belonged to the other. At last, the
chunk of gold was dropped in the very spot where they had first spied
it, and the two comrades went away, each happy because he loved his
friend better than anything else in the world. Thus they turned their
backs on any chance of quarrelling.

"It was not for gold that we left the city," exclaimed Ki-wu warmly.

"No," replied his friend, "One day in this forest is worth a thousand
nuggets."

"Let us go to the spring and sit down on the rocks," suggested Ki-wu.
"It is the coolest spot in the whole grove."

When they reached the spring they were sorry to find the place already
occupied. A countryman was stretched at full length on the ground.

"Wake up, fellow!" cried Pao-shu, "there is money for you near by. Up
yonder path a golden apple is waiting for some man to go and pick it
up."

Then they described to the unwelcome stranger the exact spot where the
treasure was, and were delighted to see him set out in eager search.

For an hour they enjoyed each other's company, talking of all the hopes
and ambitions of their future, and listening to the music of the birds
that hopped about on the branches overhead.

At last they were startled by the angry voice of the man who had gone
after the nugget. "What trick is this you have played on me, masters?
Why do you make a poor man like me run his legs off for nothing on a
hot day?"

"What do you mean, fellow?" asked Ki-wu, astonished. "Did you not find
the fruit we told you about?"

"No," he answered, in a tone of half-hidden rage, "but in its place a
monster snake, which I cut in two with my blade. Now, the gods will
bring me bad luck for killing something in the woods. If you thought you
could drive me from this place by such a trick, you'll soon find you
were mistaken, for I was first upon this spot and you have no right to
give me orders."

"Stop your chatter, bumpkin, and take this copper for your trouble. We
thought we were doing you a favour. If you are blind, there's no one but
yourself to blame. Come, Pao-shu, let us go back and have a look at this
wonderful snake that has been hiding in a chunk of gold."

Laughing merrily, the two companions left the countryman and turned back
in search of the nugget.

"If I am not mistaken," said the student, "the gold lies beyond that
fallen tree."

"Quite true; we shall soon see the dead snake."

Quickly they crossed the remaining stretch of pathway, with their eyes
fixed intently on the ground. Arriving at the spot where they had left
the shining treasure, what was their surprise to see, not the lump of
gold, not the dead snake described by the idler, but, instead, two
beautiful golden nuggets, each larger than the one they had seen at
first.

Each friend picked up one of these treasures and handed it joyfully to
his companion.

"At last the fairies have rewarded you for your unselfishness!" said
Ki-wu.

"Yes," answered Pao-shu, "by granting me a chance to give you your
deserts."



THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT SCOLD

[Illustration]


Old Wang lived in a village near Nanking. He cared for nothing in the
world but to eat good food and plenty of it. Now, though this Wang was
by no means a poor man, it made him very sad to spend money, and so
people called him in sport, the Miser King, for Wang is the Chinese word
for king. His greatest pleasure was to eat at some one else's table when
he knew that the food would cost him nothing, and you may be sure that
at such times he always licked his chopsticks clean. But when he was
spending his own money, he tightened his belt and drank a great deal
of water, eating very little but scraps such as his friends would have
thrown to the dogs. Thus people laughed at him and said:


  "When Wang an invitation gets,
   He chews and chews until he sweats,
   But, when his own food he must eat.
   The tears flow down and wet his feet."


One day while Wang was lying half asleep on the bank of a stream that
flowed near his house he began to feel hungry. He had been in that
spot all day without tasting anything. At last he saw a flock of ducks
swimming in the river. He knew that they belonged to a rich man named
Lin who lived in the village. They were fat ducks, so plump and tempting
that it made him hungry to look at them. "Oh, for a boiled duck!" he
said to himself with a sigh. "Why is it that the gods have not given me
a taste of duck during the past year? What have I done to be thus
denied?"

Then the thought flashed into his mind: "Here am I asking why the gods
have not given me ducks to eat. Who knows but that they have sent this
flock thinking I would have sense enough to grab one? Friend Lin, many
thanks for your kindness. I think I shall accept your offer and take one
of these fowls for my dinner." Of course Mr. Lin was nowhere near to
hear old Wang thanking him.

By this time the flock had come to shore. The miser picked himself up
lazily from the ground, and, after tiring himself out, he at last
managed to pick one of the ducks up, too. He took it home joyfully,
hiding it under his ragged garment. Once in his own yard, he lost no
time in killing and preparing it for dinner. He ate it, laughing to
himself all the time at his own slyness, and wondering what his friend
Lin would think if he chanced to count his ducks that night. "No doubt
he will believe it was a giant hawk that carried off that bird," he
said, chuckling. "My word! but didn't I do a great trick? I think I will
repeat the dose to-morrow. The first duck is well lodged in my stomach,
and I am ready to take an oath that all the others will find a bed in
the same boarding-house before many weeks are past. It would be a pity
to leave the first one to pine away in lonely grief. I could never be so
cruel."

So old Wang went to bed happy. For several hours he snored away noisily,
dreaming that a certain rich man had promised him good food all the rest
of his life, and that he would never be forced to do another stroke of
work. At midnight, however, he was wakened from his sleep by an
unpleasant itching. His whole body seemed to be on fire, and the pain
was more than he could bear. He got up and paced the floor. There was no
oil in the house for his lamp, and he had to wait until morning to see
what was the matter. At early dawn he stepped outside his shanty. Lo,
and behold! he found little red spots all over his body. Before his very
eyes he saw tiny duck feathers sprouting from these spots. As the
morning went by, the feathers grew larger and larger, until his whole
body was covered with them from head to foot. Only his face and hands
were free of the strange growth.

With a cry of horror, Wang began to pull the feathers out by handfuls,
flinging them in the dirt and stamping on them. "The gods have fooled
me!" he yelled. "They made me take the duck and eat it, and now they are
punishing me for stealing." But the faster he jerked the feathers out,
the faster they grew in again, longer and more glossy than before. Then,
too, the pain was so great that he could scarcely keep from rolling on
the ground. At last completely worn out by his useless labour, and
moaning with despair, he took to his bed. "Am I to be changed into a
bird?" he groaned. "May the gods have mercy on me!"

He tossed about on his bed: he could not sleep; his heart was sick with
fear. Finally he fell into a troubled sleep, and, sleeping, had a dream.
A fairy came to his bedside; it was Fairy Old Boy, the friend of the
people. "Ah, my poor Wang," said the fairy, "all this trouble you have
brought upon yourself by your shiftless, lazy habits. When others work,
why do you lie down and sleep your time away? Why don't you get up and
shake your lazy legs? There is no place in the world for such a man as
you except the pig-sty."

"I know you are telling the truth," wailed Wang, "but how, oh, how can I
ever work with all these feathers sticking out of me? They will kill me!
They will kill me!"

"Hear the man!" laughed Old Boy. "Now, if you were a hopeful, happy
fellow, you would say, 'What a stroke of luck! No need to buy garments.
The gods have given me a suit of clothes that will never wear out.' You
are a pretty fellow to be complaining, aren't you?"

After joking in this way for a little while, the good fairy changed his
tone of voice and said, "Now, Wang, are you really sorry for the way
you have lived, sorry for your years of idleness, sorry because you
disgraced your old Father and Mother? I hear your parents died of hunger
because you would not help them."

Wang, seeing that Old Boy knew all about his past life, and, feeling his
pain growing worse and worse every minute, cried out at last: "Yes! Yes!
I will do anything you say. Only, I pray you, free me of these
feathers!"

"I wouldn't have your feathers," said Old Boy, "and I cannot free you of
them. You will have to do the whole thing yourself. What you need is to
hear a good scolding. Go and get Mr. Lin, the owner of the stolen duck,
to scold freely. The harder he scolds, the sooner will your feathers
drop out."

Now, of course, some readers will laugh and say, "But this was only
a silly dream, and meant nothing." Mr. Wang, however, did not think
in this way. He woke up very happy. He would go to Mr. Lin, confess
everything and take the scolding. Then he would be free of his feathers
and would go to work. Truly he had led a lazy life. What the good Fairy
Old Boy had said about his father and mother had hurt him very badly,
for he knew that every word was true. From this day on, he would not be
lazy; he would take a wife and become the father of a family.

Miser Wang meant all right when he started out from his shanty. From his
little hoard of money he took enough cash to pay Mr. Lin for the stolen
duck. He would do everything the fairy had told him and even more. But
this doing more was just where he got into trouble. As he walked along
the road jingling the string of cash, and thinking that he must soon
give it up to his neighbour, he grew very sad. He loved every copper of
his money and he disliked to part with it. After all, Old Boy had not
told him he must confess to the owner of the duck; he had said he must
go to Lin and get Lin to give a good scolding. "Old Boy did not say that
Lin must scold _me_," thought the miser. "All that I need do is to get
him to _scold_, and then my feathers will drop off and I shall be happy.
Why not tell him that old Sen stole his duck, and get him to give Sen a
scolding? That will surely do just as well, and I shall save my money as
well as my face. Besides, if I tell Lin that I am a thief, perhaps he
will send for a policeman and they will haul me off to prison. Surely
going to jail would be as bad as wearing feathers. Ha, ha! This will be
a good joke on Sen, Lin, and the whole lot of them. I shall fool Fairy
Old Boy too. Really he had no right to speak of my father and mother in
the way he did. After all, they died of fever, and I was no doctor to
cure them. How could he say it was my fault?"

The longer Wang talked to himself, the surer he became that it was
useless to tell Lin that he had stolen the duck. By the time he had
reached the duck man's house he had fully made up his mind to deceive
him. Mr. Lin invited him to come in and sit down. He was a plain-spoken,
honest kind of man, this Lin. Everybody liked him, for he never spoke
ill of any man and he always had something good to say of his
neighbours.

"Well, what's your business, friend Wang? You have come out bright and
early, and it's a long walk from your place to mine."

"Oh, I had something important I wanted to talk to you about," began
Wang slyly. "That's a fine flock of ducks you have over in the meadow."

"Yes," said Mr. Lin smiling, "a fine flock indeed." But he said nothing
of the stolen fowl.

"How many have you?" questioned Wang more boldly.

"I counted them yesterday morning and there were fifteen."

"But did you count them again last night?"

"Yes, I did," answered Lin slowly.

"And there were only fourteen then?"

"Quite right, friend Wang, one of them was missing; but one duck is of
little importance. Why do you speak of it?"

"What, no importance! losing a duck? How can you say so? A duck's a
duck, isn't it, and surely you would like to know how you lost it?"

"A hawk most likely."

"No, it wasn't a hawk, but if you would go and look in old Sen's duck
yard, you would likely find feathers."

"Nothing more natural, I am sure, in a duck yard."

"Yes, but your duck's feathers," persisted Wang.

"What! you think old Sen is a thief, do you, and that he has been
stealing from me?"

"Exactly! you have it now."

"Well, well, that is too bad! I am sorry the old fellow is having such
a hard time. He is a good worker and deserves better luck. I should
willingly have given him the duck if he had only asked for it. Too bad
that he had to steal it."

Wang waited to see how Mr. Lin planned to punish the thief, feeling sure
that the least he could do, would be to go and give him a good scolding.

But nothing of the kind happened. Instead of growing angry, Mr. Lin
seemed to be sorry for Sen, sorry that he was poor, sorry that he was
willing to steal.

"Aren't you even going to give him a scolding?" asked Wang in disgust.
"Better go to his house with me and give him a good raking over the
coals."

"What use, what use? Hurt a neighbour's feelings just for a duck? That
would be foolish indeed."

By this time the Miser King had begun to feel an itching all over his
body. The feathers had begun hurting again, and he was frightened once
more. He became excited and threw himself on the floor in front of Mr.
Lin.

"Hey! what's the matter, man?" cried Lin, thinking Wang was in a fit.
"What's the matter? Are you ill?"

"Yes, very ill," wailed Wang. "Mr. Lin, I'm a bad man, and I may as well
own it at once and be done with it. There is no use trying to dodge the
truth or hide a fault. I stole your duck last night, and to-day I came
sneaking over here and tried to put the thing off on old Sen."

"Yes, I knew it," answered Lin. "I saw you carrying the duck off under
your garment. Why did you come to see me at all if you thought I did not
know you were guilty?"

"Only wait, and I'll tell you everything," said Wang, bowing still
lower. "After I had boiled your duck and eaten it, I went to bed. Pretty
soon I felt an itching all over my body. I could not sleep and in the
morning I found that I had a thick growth of duck's feathers from head
to foot. The more I pulled them out, the thicker they grew in. I could
hardly keep from screaming. I took to my bed, and after I had tossed
about for hours a fairy came and told me that I could never get rid of
my trouble unless I got you to give me a thorough scolding. Here is the
money for your duck. Now for the love of mercy, scold, and do it
quickly, for I can't stand the pain much longer."

Wang was grovelling in the dirt at Lin's feet, but Lin answered him only
with a loud laugh which finally burst into a roar. "Duck feathers! ha!
ha! ha! and all over your body? Why, that's too good a story to believe!
You'll be wanting to live in the water next. Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Scold me! scold me!" begged Wang, "for the love of the gods scold me!"

But Lin only laughed the louder. "Pray let me see this wonderful growth
of feathers first, and then we'll talk about the scolding."

Wang willingly opened his garment and showed the doubting Lin that he
had been really speaking the truth.

"They must be warm," said Lin, laughing. "Winter is soon coming and you
are not over fond of work. Won't they save you the trouble of wearing
clothing?"

"But they make me itch so I can scarcely stand it! I feel like screaming
out, the pain is so great," and again Wang got down and began to kowtow
to the other; that is, he knelt and bumped his forehead against the
ground.

"Be calm, my friend, and give me time to think of some good
scold-words," said Lin at last. "I am not in the habit of using strong
language, and very seldom lose my temper. Really you must give me time
to think of what to say."

By this time Wang was in such pain that he lost all power over himself.
He seized Mr. Lin by the legs crying out, "Scold me! scold me!"

Mr. Lin was now out of patience with his visitor. Besides Wang was
holding him so tightly that it really felt as if Lin were being pinched
by some gigantic crawfish. Suddenly Lin could hold his tongue no longer:
"You lazy hound! you whelp! you turtle! you lazy, good-for-nothing
creature! I wish you would hurry up and roll out of this!"

Now, in China, this is very strong language, and, with a cry of joy,
Wang leaped from the ground, for he knew that Lin had scolded him. No
sooner had the first hasty words been spoken than the feathers began
falling from the lazy man's body, and, at last, the dreadful itching
had entirely stopped. On the floor in front of Lin lay a great pile of
feathers, and Wang freed from his trouble, pointed to them and said,
"Thank you kindly, my dear friend, for the pretty names you have called
me. You have saved my life, and, although I have paid for the duck, I
wish to add to the bargain by making you a present of these handsome
feathers. They will, in a measure, repay you for your splendid set of
scold-words. I have learned my lesson well, I hope, and I shall go out
from here a better man. Fairy Old Boy told me that I was lazy. You agree
with the fairy. From this day, however, you shall see that I can bend my
back like a good fellow. Good-bye, and, many thanks for your kindness."

So saying, with many low bows and polite words, Wang left the duck
owner's house, a happier and a wiser man.



LU-SAN, DAUGHTER OF HEAVEN

[Illustration]


Lu-san went to bed without any supper, but her little heart was hungry
for something more than food. She nestled up close beside her sleeping
brothers, but even in their slumber they seemed to deny her that love
which she craved. The gentle lapping of the water against the sides of
the houseboat, music which had so often lulled her into dreamland, could
not quiet her now. Scorned and treated badly by the entire family, her
short life had been full of grief and shame.

Lu-san's father was a fisherman. His life had been one long fight
against poverty. He was ignorant and wicked. He had no more feeling of
love for his wife and five children than for the street dogs of his
native city. Over and over he had threatened to drown them one and all,
and had been prevented from doing so only by fear of the new mandarin.
His wife did not try to stop her husband when he sometimes beat the
children until they fell half dead upon the deck. In fact, she herself
was cruel to them, and often gave the last blow to Lu-san, her only
daughter. Not on one day in the little girl's memory had she escaped
this daily whipping, not once had her parents pitied her.

On the night with which this story opens, not knowing that
Lu-san was listening, her father and mother were planning how to
get rid of her.

"The mandarin cares only about boys," said he roughly. "A man might kill
a dozen girls and he wouldn't say a word."

"Lu-san's no good anyway," added the mother. "Our boat is small, and
she's always in the wrong place."

"Yes, and it takes as much to feed her as if she were a boy. If you say
so, I'll do it this very night."

"All right," she answered, "but you'd better wait till the moon has
set."

"Very well, wife, we'll let the moon go down first, and then the girl."

No wonder Lu-san's little heart beat fast with terror, for there could
be no doubt as to the meaning of her parents' words.

At last when she heard them snoring and knew they were both sound
asleep, she got up silently, dressed herself, and climbed the ladder
leading to the deck. Only one thought was in her heart, to save herself
by instant flight. There were no extra clothes, not a bite of food to
take with her. Besides the rags on her back there was only one thing
she could call her own, a tiny soapstone image of the goddess Kwan-yin,
which she had found one day while walking in the sand. This was the only
treasure and plaything of her childhood, and if she had not watched
carefully, her mother would have taken even this away from her. Oh,
how she had nursed this idol, and how closely she had listened to the
stories an old priest had told about Kwan-yin the Goddess of Mercy, the
best friend of women and children, to whom they might always pray in
time of trouble.

It was very dark when Lu-san raised the trapdoor leading to the outer
air, and looked out into the night. The moon had just gone down, and
frogs were croaking along the shore. Slowly and carefully she pushed
against the door, for she was afraid that the wind coming in suddenly
might awaken the sleepers or, worse still, cause her to let the trap
fall with a bang. At last, however, she stood on the deck, alone and
ready to go out into the big world. As she stepped to the side of the
boat the black water did not make her feel afraid, and she went ashore
without the slightest tremble.

Now she ran quickly along the bank, shrinking back into the shadows
whenever she heard the noise of footsteps, and thus hiding from the
passers-by. Only once did her heart quake, full of fear. A huge boat dog
ran out at her barking furiously. The snarling beast, however, was not
dangerous, and when he saw this trembling little girl of ten he sniffed
in disgust at having noticed any one so small, and returned to watch his
gate.

Lu-san had made no plans. She thought that if she could escape the
death her parents had talked about, they would be delighted at her
leaving them and would not look for her. It was not, then, her own
people that she feared as she passed the rows of dark houses lining the
shore. She had often heard her father tell of the dreadful deeds done
in many of these houseboats. The darkest memory of her childhood was of
the night when he had almost decided to sell her as a slave to the owner
of a boat like these she was now passing. Her mother had suggested that
they should wait until Lu-san was a little older, for she would then be
worth more money. So her father had not sold her. Lately, perhaps, he
had tried and failed.

That was why she hated the river dwellers and was eager to get past
their houses. On and on she sped as fast as her little legs could carry
her. She would flee far away from the dark water, for she loved the
bright sunshine and the land.

As Lu-san ran past the last houseboat she breathed a sigh of relief and
a minute later fell in a little heap upon the sand. Not until now had
she noticed how lonely it was. Over there was the great city with its
thousands of sleepers. Not one of them was her friend. She knew nothing
of friendship, for she had had no playmates. Beyond lay the open fields,
the sleeping villages, the unknown world. Ah, how tired she was! How far
she had run! Soon, holding the precious image tightly in her little hand
and whispering a childish prayer to Kwan-yin, she fell asleep.

When Lu-san awoke, a cold chill ran through her body, for bending over
her stood a strange person. Soon she saw to her wonder that it was a
woman dressed in beautiful clothes like those worn by a princess. The
child had never seen such perfect features or so fair a face. At first,
conscious of her own filthy rags, she shrank back fearfully, wondering
what would happen if this beautiful being should chance to touch her and
thus soil those slender white fingers. As the child lay there trembling
on the ground, she felt as if she would like to spring into the fairy
creature's arms and beg for mercy. Only the fear that the lovely one
would vanish kept her from so doing. Finally, unable to hold back any
longer, the little girl, bending forward, stretched out her hand to the
woman, saying, "Oh, you are so beautiful! Take this, for it must be you
who lost it in the sand."

The princess took the soapstone figure, eyed it curiously, and then with
a start of surprise said, "And do you know, my little creature, to whom
you are thus giving your treasure?"

"No," answered the child simply, "but it is the only thing I have in all
the world, and you are so lovely that I know it belongs to you. I found
it on the river bank."

Then a strange thing happened. The graceful, queenly woman bent over,
and held out her arms to the ragged, dirty child. With a cry of joy the
little one sprang forward; she had found the love for which she had been
looking so long.

"My precious child, this little stone which you have kept so lovingly,
and which without a thought of self you have given to me--do you know of
whom it is the image?"

"Yes," answered Lu-san, the colour coming to her cheeks again as she
snuggled up contentedly in her new friend's warm embrace, "it is the
dear goddess Kwan-yin, she who makes the children happy."

"And has this gracious goddess brought sunshine into your life, my
pretty one?" said the other, a slight flush covering her fair cheeks at
the poor child's innocent words.

"Oh, yes indeed; if it had not been for her I should not have escaped
to-night. My father would have killed me, but the good lady of heaven
listened to my prayer and bade me stay awake. She told me to wait until
he was sleeping, then to arise and leave the houseboat."

"And where are you going, Lu-san, now that you have left your father?
Are you not afraid to be alone here at night on the bank of this great
river?"

"No, oh no! for the blessed mother will shield me. She has heard my
prayers, and I know she will show me where to go."

The lady clasped Lu-san still more tightly, and something glistened in
her radiant eye. A tear-drop rolled down her cheek and fell upon the
child's head, but Lu-san did not see it, for she had fallen fast asleep
in her protector's arms.

When Lu-san awoke, she was lying all alone on her bed in the houseboat,
but, strange to say, she was not frightened at finding herself once more
near her parents. A ray of sunlight came in, lighting up the child's
face and telling her that a new day had dawned. At last she heard the
sound of low voices, but she did not know who were the speakers. Then
as the tones grew louder she knew that her parents were talking. Their
speech, however, seemed to be less harsh than usual, as if they were
near the bed of some sleeper whom they did not wish to wake.

"Why," said her father, "when I bent over to lift her from the bed,
there was a strange light about her face. I touched her on the arm, and
at once my hand hung limp as if it had been shot. Then I heard a voice
whispering in my ears, 'What! would you lay your wicked hands on one who
made the tears of Kwan-yin flow? Do you not know that when she cries the
gods themselves are weeping?'"

"I too heard that voice," said the mother, her voice trembling; "I heard
it, and it seemed as if a hundred wicked imps pricked me with spears, at
every prick repeating these terrible words, 'And would you kill a
daughter of the gods?'"

"It is strange," he added, "to think how we had begun to hate this
child, when all the time she belonged to another world than ours. How
wicked we must be since we could not see her goodness."

"Yes, and no doubt for every time we have struck her, a thousand blows
will be given us by Yama, for our insults to the gods."

Lu-san waited no longer, but rose to dress herself. Her heart was
burning with love for everything around her. She would tell her parents
that she forgave them, tell them how she loved them still in spite of
all their wickedness. To her surprise the ragged clothes were nowhere
to be seen. In place of them she found on one side of the bed the most
beautiful garments. The softest of silks, bright with flowers--so lovely
that she fancied they must have been taken from the garden of the
gods--were ready to slip on her little body. As she dressed herself she
saw with surprise that her fingers were shapely, that her skin was soft
and smooth. Only the day before, her hands had been rough and cracked by
hard work and the cold of winter. More and more amazed, she stooped to
put on her shoes. Instead of the worn-out soiled shoes of yesterday, the
prettiest little satin slippers were there all ready for her tiny feet.

[Illustration: AS SHE DRESSED HERSELF SHE SAW WITH SURPRISE THAT HER
FINGERS WERE SHAPELY.]

Finally she climbed the rude ladder, and lo, everything she touched
seemed to be changed as if by magic, like her gown. The narrow rounds of
the ladder had become broad steps of polished wood, and it seemed as if
she was mounting the polished stairway of some fairy-built pagoda. When
she reached the deck everything was changed. The ragged patchwork which
had served so long as a sail had become a beautiful sheet of canvas that
rolled and floated proudly in the river breeze. Below were the dirty
fishing smacks which Lu-san was used to, but here was a stately ship,
larger and fairer than any she had ever dreamed of, a ship which had
sprung into being as if at the touch of her feet.

After searching several minutes for her parents she found them trembling
in a corner, with a look of great fear on their faces. They were clad
in rags, as usual, and in no way changed except that their savage faces
seemed to have become a trifle softened. Lu-san drew near the wretched
group and bowed low before them.

Her mother tried to speak; her lips moved, but made no sound: she had
been struck dumb with fear.

"A goddess, a goddess!" murmured the father, bending forward three times
and knocking his head on the deck. As for the brothers, they hid their
faces in their hands as if dazzled by a sudden burst of sunlight.

For a moment Lu-san paused. Then, stretching out her hand, she touched
her father on the shoulder. "Do you not know me, father? It is Lu-san,
your little daughter."

The man looked at her in wonder. His whole body shook, his lips
trembled, his hard brutish face had on it a strange light. Suddenly he
bent far over and touched his forehead to her feet. Mother and sons
followed his example. Then all gazed at her as if waiting for her
command.

"Speak, father," said Lu-san. "Tell me that you love me, say that you
will not kill your child."

"Daughter of the gods, and not of mine," he mumbled, and then paused as
if afraid to continue.

"What is it, father? Have no fear."

"First, tell me that you forgive me."

The child put her left hand upon her father's forehead and held the
right above the heads of the others, "As the Goddess of Mercy has given
me her favour, so I in her name bestow on you the love of heaven. Live
in peace, my parents. Brothers, speak no angry words. Oh, my dear ones,
let joy be yours for ever. When only love shall rule your lives, this
ship is yours and all that is in it."

Thus did Lu-san change her loved ones. The miserable family which had
lived in poverty now found itself enjoying peace and happiness. At first
they did not know how to live as Lu-san had directed. The father
sometimes lost his temper and the mother spoke spiteful words; but as
they grew in wisdom and courage they soon began to see that only love
must rule.

All this time the great boat was moving up and down the river. Its
company of sailors obeyed Lu-san's slightest wish. When their nets were
cast overboard they were always drawn back full of the largest, choicest
fish. These fish were sold at the city markets, and soon people began to
say that Lu-san was the richest person in the whole country.

One beautiful day during the Second Moon, the family had just returned
from the temple. It was Kwan-yin's birthday, and, led by Lu-san, they
had gone gladly to do the goddess honour. They had just mounted to the
vessel's deck when Lu-san's father, who had been looking off towards the
west, suddenly called the family to his side. "See!" he exclaimed. "What
kind of bird is that yonder in the sky?"

As they looked, they saw that the strange object was coming nearer and
nearer, and directly towards the ship. Every one was excited except
Lu-san. She was calm, as if waiting for something she had long expected.

"It is a flight of doves," cried the father in astonishment, "and they
seem to be drawing something through the air."

At last, as the birds flew right over the vessel, the surprised
onlookers saw that floating beneath their wings was a wonderful chair,
all white and gold, more dazzling even than the one they had dreamed the
Emperor himself sat in on the Dragon Throne. Around each snow-white neck
was fastened a long streamer of pure gold, and these silken ribbons were
tied to the chair in such a manner as to hold it floating wherever its
light-winged coursers chose to fly.

Down, down, over the magic vessel came the empty chair, and as it
descended, a shower of pure white lilies fell about the feet of Lu-san,
until she, the queen of all the flowers, was almost buried. The doves
hovered above her head for an instant, and then gently lowered their
burden until it was just in front of her.

With a farewell wave to her father and mother, Lu-san stepped into the
fairy car. As the birds began to rise, a voice from the clouds spoke in
tones of softest music: "Thus Kwan-yin, Mother of Mercies, rewards
Lu-san, daughter of the earth. Out of the dust spring the flowers; out
of the soil comes goodness. Lu-san! that tear which you drew from
Kwan-yin's eye fell upon the dry ground and softened it; it touched the
hearts of those who loved you not. Daughter of earth no longer, rise
into the Western Heaven, there to take your place among the fairies,
there to be a star within the azure realms above."

As Lu-san's doves disappeared in the distant skies, a rosy light
surrounded her flying car. It seemed to those who gazed in wonder that
heaven's gates were opening to receive her. At last when she was gone
beyond their sight, suddenly it grew dark upon the earth, and the eyes
of all that looked were wet with tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Transcriber's Notes: In the list of illustrations, the following typos
were corrected: climed for climbed, lamp for lump. Note also that a few
of the captions do not match the text on the images, this idiosyncracy
is in the original and has not been corrected. On page 6 the missing
word 'the' was added: "for joy at thought" became "for joy at the
thought". The Front Matter in the original is unnumbered, and has been
assigned i-vi for disambiguation in the HTML.]





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