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The Cattle Plague.

CH‘ÊN HUAFÊNG, of Mêngshan, overpowered by the great heat, went and lay down under a tree, when suddenly up came a man with a thick comforter round his neck, who also sat down on a stone in the shade, and began fanning himself as hard as he could, the perspiration all the time running off him like a waterfall. Ch‘ên rose and said to him with a smile, “If Sir, you were to remove that comforter, you would be cool enough without the help of a fan.” “It would be easy enough,” replied the stranger, “to take off my comforter; but the difficulty would be in getting it on again.” He then went on to converse generally upon other matters, in a manner which betokened considerable refinement; and by-and-by he exclaimed, “What I should like now is just a draught of iced wine to cool the twelve joints of my œsophagus.” “Come along, then,” cried Ch‘ên, “my house is close by, and I shall be happy to give you what you want.” So off they went together; and Ch‘ên set before them some capital wine, which he produced from a cave, cold enough to numb their teeth. The stranger was delighted, and remained there drinking until late in the evening, when, all at once, it began to rain. Ch‘ên lighted a lamp; and he and his guest, who now took off the comforter, sat talking together in dishabille. Every now and again the former thought he saw a light coming from the back of the stranger’s head; and when at length he had gone off into a tipsy sleep, Ch‘ên took the light to examine more closely. He found behind the ears a large cavity, partitioned by a number of membranes, and looking like a lattice, with a thin skin hanging down in front of each, the spaces being apparently empty. In great astonishment Ch‘ên took a hairpin, and inserted it into one of these places, when pff! out flew something like a tiny cow, which broke through the window, and was gone. This frightened Ch‘ên, and he determined to play no more tricks; just then, however, the stranger waked up. “Alas!” cried he, “you have been at my head, and have let out the Cattle Plague. What is to be done, now?” Ch‘ên asked what he meant: upon which the stranger said, “There is no object in further concealment. I will tell you all. I am the Angel of Pestilence for the six kinds of domestic animals. That form which you have let out attacks oxen, and I fear that, for miles round, few will escape alive.” Now Ch‘ên himself was a cattle farmer, and when he heard this was dreadfully alarmed, and implored the stranger to tell him what to do. “What to do!” replied he; “why, I shall not escape punishment myself; how can I tell you what to do. However, you will find powdered K‘uts‘an an efficacious remedy, that is if you don’t keep it a secret for your private use.” The stranger then departed, first of all piling up a quantity of earth in a niche in the wall, a handful of which, he told Ch‘ên, given to each animal, might prove of some avail. Before long the plague did break out; and Ch‘ên, who was desirous of making a little money by it, told the remedy to no one, with the exception of his younger brother. The latter tried it on his own beasts with great success; while, on the other hand, those belonging to Ch‘ên himself died off, to the number of fifty head, leaving him only four or five old cows, which shewed every sign of soon sharing the same fate. In his distress, Ch‘ên suddenly bethought himself of the earth in the niche; and, as a last resource, gave some to the sick animals. By the next morning they were quite well, and then he knew that his secrecy about the remedy had caused it to have no effect. From that moment his stock went on increasing, and in a few years he had as many as ever.

牛癀

陳華封,蒙山人。以盛暑煩熱,枕藉野樹下。忽一人奔波而來,首著圍領,疾趨樹陰,掬石而座,揮扇不停,汗下如流瀋。陳起座,笑曰:「若除圍領,不扇可涼。」客曰:「脫之易,再著難也。」就與傾談,頗極蘊藉。既而曰:「此時無他想,但得冰浸良醞,一道冷芳,度下十二重樓,暑氣可消一半。」陳笑曰:「此願易遂,僕當為君償之。」因握手曰:「寒舍伊邇,請即迂步。」客笑而從之。至家,出藏酒於石洞,其涼震齒。客大悅,一舉十觥。日已就暮,天忽雨;於是張燈於室,客乃解除領巾,相與磅礡。語次,見客腦後,時漏燈光,疑之。無何,客酩酊,眠榻上。陳移燈竊窺之,見耳後有巨穴,琖大;數道厚膜,間鬲如櫺;櫺外耎革垂蔽,中似空空。駭極,潛抽髻簪,撥膜覘之,有一物,狀類小牛,隨手飛出,破窗而去。益駭,不敢復撥。方欲轉步,而客已醒。驚曰:「子窺見吾隱矣!放牛㾮出,將為奈何?」陳拜詰其故。客曰:「今已若此,尚復何諱。實相告:我六畜瘟神耳。適所縱者牛㾮,恐百里內牛無種矣。」陳故以養牛為業,聞之大恐,拜求術解。客曰:「余且不免於罪,其何術之能解?惟苦參散最效,其廣傳此方,勿存私念可也。」言已,謝別出門。又掬土堆壁龕中,曰:「每用一合亦效。」拱不復見。居無何,牛果病,瘟疫大作。陳欲專利,祕其方,不肯傳;惟傳其弟。弟試之神驗。而陳自剉啖牛,殊罔所效,有牛兩百蹄躈,倒斃殆盡;遺老牡牛四五頭,亦逡巡就死。中心懊惱,無所用力。忽憶龕中掬土,念未必效,姑妄投之,經夜,牛乃盡起。始悟藥之不靈,乃神罰其私也。後數年,牝牛繁育,漸復其故。

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