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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?”]

龍戲蛛

徐公為齊東令。署中有樓,用藏肴餌,往往被物竊食,狼藉於地。家人屢受譙責,因伏伺之。見一蜘蛛,大如斗。駭走白公。公以為異,日遣婢輩投餌焉。蛛益馴,飢輒出依人,飽而後去。積年餘,公偶閱案牘,蛛忽來伏几上。疑其飢,方呼家人取餌;旋見兩蛇夾蛛臥,細裁如箸,蛛爪蜷腹縮,若不勝懼。轉瞬間,蛇暴長,粗於卵。大駭,欲走。巨霆大作,闔家震斃。移時,公甦;夫人及婢僕擊死者七人。公病月餘,尋卒。公為人廉正愛民,柩發之日,民斂錢以送,哭聲滿野。
  異史氏曰:「龍戲蛛,每意是里巷之訛言耳,乃真有之乎?聞雷霆之擊,必於凶人,奈何以循良之吏,罹此慘毒;天公之憒憒,不已多乎!」

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