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The Great Test.

BEFORE Mr. Yang Tahung was known to fame, he had already acquired some reputation as a scholar in his own part of the country, and felt convinced himself that his was to be no mean destiny. When the list of successful candidates at the examination was brought to where he lived, he was in the middle of dinner, and rushed out with his mouth full to ask if his name was there or not; and on hearing that it was not, he experienced such a revulsion of feeling that what he then swallowed stuck fast like a lump in his chest and made him very ill. His friends tried to appease him by advising him to try at the further examination of the rejected, and when he urged that he had no money, they subscribed ten ounces of silver and started him on his way.

That night he dreamt that a man appeared to him and said, “Ahead of you there is one who can cure your complaint: beseech him to aid you.” The man then added—

“A tune on the flute ’neath the riverside willow:
Oh, show no regret when ’tis cast to the billow!”

Next day, Mr. Yang actually met a Taoist priest sitting beneath a willow tree; and, making him a bow, asked him to prescribe for his malady. “You have come to the wrong person,” replied the priest, smiling; “I cannot cure diseases; but had you asked me for a tune on the flute, I could have possibly helped you.” Then Mr. Yang knew that his dream was being fulfilled; and going down on his knees offered the priest all the money he had. The priest took it, but immediately threw it into the river, at which Mr. Yang, thinking how hardly he had come by this money, was moved to express his regret. “Aha!” cried the priest at this; “so you are not indifferent, eh? You’ll find your money all safe on the bank.” There indeed Mr. Yang found it, at which he was so much astonished that he addressed the priest as though he had been an angel. “I am no angel,” said the priest, “but here comes one;” whereupon Mr. Yang looked behind him, and the priest seized the opportunity to give him a slap on the back, crying out at the same time, “You worldly minded fellow!” This blow brought up the lump of food that had stuck in his chest, and he felt better at once; but when he looked round the priest had disappeared.




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