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That Dragons Play with Spider

MR. HSÜ was a magistrate at Shantung. A certain upper chamber of his house was used as a storeroom; but some creature managed so frequently to get in and make havoc among the stores, for which the servants were always being scolded, that at length some of the latter determined to keep watch. By-and-by they saw a huge spider as big as a peck measure, and hurried off to tell their master, who thought it so strange that he gave orders to the servants to feed the insect with cakes. It thus became very tame, and would always come forth when hungry, returning as soon as it had taken enough to eat. Years passed away, and one day Mr. Hsü was consulting his archives, when suddenly the spider appeared and ran under the table. Thinking it was hungry, he bade his servants give it a cake; but the next moment he noticed two snakes, of about the thickness of a chopstick, lying one on each side. The spider drew in its legs as if in mortal fear, and the snakes began to swell out until they were as big round as an egg; at which Mr. Hsü was greatly alarmed, and would have hurried away, when crash! went a peal of thunder, killing every person in the house. Mr. Hsü himself recovered consciousness after a little while, but only to see his wife and servants, seven persons in all, lying dead; and after a month’s illness he, too, departed this life. Now Mr. Hsü was an upright, honourable man, who really had the interests of the people at heart. A subscription was accordingly raised to pay his funeral expenses, and on the day of his burial the air was rent for miles round with cries of weeping and lamentation.

[Hereon the commentator, I Shihshih, makes the following remark:—“That dragons play with pearls I have always regarded as an old woman’s tale. Is it possible, then, that the story is a fact? I have heard, too, that the thunder strikes only the guilty man; and, if so, how could a virtuous official be visited with this dire calamity?”]




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