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The country of the cannibals.

AT Chiao-chou there lived a man named Hsu, who gained his living by trading across the sea. On one occasion he was carried far out of his course by a violent tempest, and reached a country of high hills and dense jungle, where, after making fast his boat and taking provisions with him, he landed, hoping to meet with some of the inhabitants. He then saw that the rocks were covered with large holes, like the cells of bees; and, hearing the sound of voices from within, he stopped in front of one of them and peeped in. To his infinite horror he beheld two hideous beings, with thick rows of horrid fangs, and eyes that glared like lamps, engaged in tearing to pieces and devouring some raw deer's flesh; and, turning round, he would have fled instantly from the spot, had not the cave-men already espied him; and, leaving their food, they seized him and dragged him in. Thereupon ensued a chattering between them, resembling the noise of birds or beasts, and they proceeded to pull off Hsu's clothes as if about to eat him; but Hsu, who was frightened almost to death, offered them the food he had in his wallet, which they ate up with great relish, and looked inside for more. Hsu waved his hand to shew it was all finished, and then they angrily seized him again; at which he cried out, "I have a saucepan in my boat, and can cook you some." The cave-men did not understand what he said; but, by dint of gesticulating freely, they at length seemed to have an idea of what he meant; and, having taken him down to the shore to fetch the saucepan, they returned with him to the cave, where he lighted a fire and cooked the remainder of the deer, with the flavour of which they appeared to be mightily pleased. At night they rolled a big stone to the mouth of the cave, fearing lest he should try to escape; and Hsu himself lay down at a distance from them in doubt as to whether his life would be spared. At daybreak the cave-men went out, leaving the entrance blocked, and by-and-by came back with a deer, which they gave to Hsu to cook. Hsu flayed the carcase, and from a remote corner of the cave took some water and prepared a large quantity, which was no sooner ready than several other cave-men arrived to join in the feast. When they had finished all there was, they made signs that Hsu's saucepan was too small; and three or four days afterwards they brought him a large one, of the same shape as those in common use amongst men, subsequently furnishing him with constant supplies of wolf and deer, of which they always invited him to partake. By degrees they began to treat him kindly, and not to shut him up when they went out; and Hsu, too, gradually learnt to understand, and even to speak, a little of their language, which pleased them so much that they finally gave him a cave-woman for his wife. Hsu was horribly afraid of her; but, as she treated him with great consideration, always reserving tit-bits of food for him, they lived very happily together. One day all the cave-people got up early in the morning, and, having adorned themselves with strings of fine pearls, they went forth as if to meet some honoured guest, giving orders to Hsu to cook an extra quantity of meat that day. "It is the birthday of our King," said Hsu's wife to him; and then, running out, she informed the other cave-people that her husband had no pearls. So each gave five from his own string, and Hsu's wife added ten to these, making in all fifty, which she threaded on a hempen fibre and hung around his neck, each pearl being worth over an hundred ounces of silver. Then they went away, and as soon as Hsu had finished his cooking, his wife appeared and invited him to come and receive the King. So off they went to a huge cavern, covering about a mow of ground, in which was a huge stone, smoothed away at the top like a table, with stone seats at the four sides. At the upper end was a dais, over which was spread a leopard's skin, the other seats having only deer-skins; and within the cavern some twenty or thirty cave-men ranged themselves on the seats. After a short interval a great wind began to stir up the dust, and they all rushed out to a creature very much resembling themselves, which hurried into the cave, and, squatting down cross-legged, cocked its head and looked about like a cormorant. The other cave-men then filed in and took up their positions right and left of the dais, where they stood gazing up at the King with their arms folded before them in the form of a cross. The King counted them one by one, and asked if they were all present; and when they replied in the affirmative, he looked at Hsu and inquired who he was. Thereupon Hsu's wife stepped forward and said he was her husband, and the others all loudly extolled his skill in cookery, two of them running out and bringing back some cooked meat, which they set before the King. His Majesty swallowed it by handfuls, and found it so nice that he gave orders to be supplied regularly; and then, turning to Hsu, he asked him why his string of beads was so short. "He has but recently arrived among us," replied the cave-men, "and hasn't got a complete set; "upon which the King drew ten pearls from the string round his own neck and bestowed them upon Hsu. Each was as big as the top of one's finger, and as round as a bullet; and Hsu's wife threaded them for him and hung them round his neck. Hsu himself crossed his arms and thanked the King in the language of the country, after which His Majesty went off in a gust of wind as rapidly as a bird can fly, and the cave-men sat down and finished what was left of the banquet. Four years afterwards Hsu's wife gave birth to a triplet of two boys and one girl, all of whom were ordinary human beings, and not at all like the mother; at which the other cave-people were delighted, and would often play with them and caress them. Three years passed away, and the children could walk about, after which their father taught them to speak his own tongue; and in their early babblings their human origin was manifested. The boys, as mere children, could climb about on the mountains as easily as though walking upon a level road; and between them and their father there grew up a mutual feeling of attachment. One day the mother had gone out with the girl and one of the boys, and was absent for a long time. A strong north wind was blowing, and Hsu, filled with thoughts of his old home, led his other son down with him to the beach, where lay the boat in which he had formerly reached this country. He then proposed to the boy that they should go away together; and, having explained to him that they could not inform his mother, father and son stepped on board, and, after a voyage of only twenty-four hours, arrived safely at Chiao-chou. On reaching home Hsu found that his wife had married again; so he sold two of his pearls for an enormous sum of money, and set up a splendid establishment. His son was called Piao, and at fourteen or fifteen years of age the boy could lift a weight of three thousand catties (4,000lbs.). He was extremely fond of athletics of all kinds, and thus attracted the notice of the Commander-in-Chief, who gave him a commission as sub-lieutenant. Just at that time there happened to be some trouble on the frontier, and young Piao, having covered himself with glory, was made a colonel at the age of eighteen.

About that time another merchant was driven by stress of weather to the country of the cave-men, and had hardly stepped ashore before he observed a young man whom he knew at once to be of Chinese origin. The young man asked him whence he came, and finally took him into a cave hid away in a dark valley and concealed by the dense jungle. There he bade him remain, and in a little while he returned with some deer's flesh, which he gave the merchant to eat, saying at the same time that his own father was a Chiao-chou man. The merchant now knew that the young man was Hsu's son, he himself being acquainted with Hsu as a trader in the same line of business. "Why, he's an old friend of mine," cried the latter; "his other son is now a colonel." The young man did not know what was meant by a colonel, so the merchant told him it was the title of a Chinese mandarin. "And what is a mandarin?" asked the youth. "A mandarin," replied the merchant, "is one who goes out with a chair and horses; who at home sits upon a dais in the hall; whose summons is answered by a hundred voices; who is looked at only with side-long eyes, and in whose presence all people stand aslant; this is to be a mandarin." The young man was deeply touched at this recital, and at length the merchant said to him, "Since your honoured father is at Chiao-chou, why do you remain here?" "Indeed," replied the youth, "I have often indulged the same feeling; but my mother is not a Chinese woman, and, apart from the difference of her language and appearance, I fear that if the other cave-people found it out they would do us some mischief." He then took his leave, being in rather a disturbed state of mind, and bade the merchant wait until the wind should prove favourable,  when he promised to come and see him off, and charge him with a letter to his father and brother. Six months the merchant remained in that cave, occasionally taking a peep at the cave-people passing backwards and for-wards, but not daring to leave his retreat. As soon as the monsoon set in the young man arrived and urged him to hurry away, begging him, also, not to forget the letter to his father. So the merchant sailed away and soon reached Chiao-chou, where he visited the colonel and told him the whole story. Piao was much affected, and wished to go in search of those members of the family; but his father feared the dangers he would encounter, and advised him not to think of such a thing. However, Piao was not to be deterred; and having imparted his scheme to the commander-in-chief, he took with him two soldiers and set off. Adverse winds prevailed at that time, and they beat about for half a moon, until they were out of sight of all land, could not see a foot before them, and had completely lost their reckoning. Just then a mighty sea arose and capsizedtheir boat, tossing Piao into the water, where he floated about for some time at the will of the waves, until suddenly somebody dragged him out and carried him into a house. Then he saw that his rescuer was to all appearances a cave-man, and accordingly he addressed him in the cave-people's language, and told him whither he himself was bound. "It is my native place," replied the cave-man, in astonishment; "but you will excuse my saying that you are now 8,000 li out of your course. This is the way to the country of the Poisonous Dragons, and not your route at all." He then went off to find a boat for Piao, and, himself swimming in the water behind, pushed it along like an arrow from a bow, so quickly that by the next day they had traversed the whole distance. On the shore Piao observed a young man walking up and down and evidently watching him; and, knowing that no human beings dwelt there, he guessed at once that he was his brother. Approaching more closely, he saw that he was right; and, seizing the young man's hand, he asked after his mother and sister. On hearing that they were well, he would have gone directly to see them; but the younger one begged him not to do so, and ran away himself to fetch them. Mean-while, Piao turned to thank the cave-man who had brought him there, but he, too, had disappeared. In a few minutes his mother and sister arrived, and, on seeing Piao, they could not restrain their tears. Piao then laid his scheme before them, and when they said they feared people would ill-treat them, he replied, "In China I hold a high position, and people will not dare to shew you disrespect." Thus they determined to go. The wind, however, was against them, and mother and son were at a loss what to do, when suddenly the sail bellied out towards the south, and a rustling sound was heard. "Heaven helps us, my mother!" cried Piao, full of joy; and, hurrying on board at once, in three days they had reached their destination. As they landed the people fled right and left in fear, Piao having divided his own clothes amongst the party; and when they arrived at the house, and his mother saw Hsu, she began to rate him soundly for running away without her. Hsu hastened to acknowledge his error, and then all the family and servants were introduced to her, each one being in mortal dread of such a singular personage. Piao now bade his mother learn to talk Chinese, and gave her any quantity of fine clothes and rich meats, to the infinite delight of the old lady. She and her daughter both dressed in man's clothes, and by the end of a few months were able to understand what was said to them. The brother, named Pao [Leopard], and the sister, Yeh [Night], were both clever enough, and immensely strong into the bargain. Piao was ashamed that Pao could not read, and set to work to teach him; and the youngster was so quick that he learnt the sacred books and histories by merely reading them once over. However, he would not enter upon a literary career, loving better to draw a strong bow or ride a spirited horse, and finally taking the highest military degree. He married the daughter of a post-captain; but his sister had some trouble in getting a husband, because of her being the child of a cave-woman. At length a sergeant, named Yuan, who was under her brother's command, was forced to take her as his wife. She could draw a hundred-catty bow, and shoot birds at a hundred paces without ever missing. Whenever Yuan went to battle she went with him; and his subsequent rise to high rank was chiefly due to her. At thirty-four years of age Pao got a command; and in his great battles his mother, clad in armour and grasping a spear, would fight by his side, to the terror of all their adversaries; and when he himself received the dignity of an hereditary title, he memorialized the Throne to grant his mother the title of "lady."


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