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The Princess Lily.

AT Chiaochou there lived a man named Tou Hsün, otherwise known as Hsiaohui. One day he had just dropped off to sleep when he beheld a man in serge clothes standing by the bedside, and apparently anxious to communicate something to him. Tou inquired his errand; to which the man replied that he was the bearer of an invitation from his master. “And who is your master?” asked Tou. “Oh, he doesn’t live far off,” replied the other; so away they went together, and after some time came to a place where there were innumerable white houses rising one above the other, and shaded by dense groves of lemon trees. They threaded their way past countless doors, not at all similar to those usually used, and saw a great many official looking men and women passing and repassing, each of whom called out to the man in serge, “Has Mr. Tou come?” to which he always replied in the affirmative. Here a mandarin met them and escorted Tou into a palace, upon which the latter remarked, “This is really very kind of you; but I haven’t the honour of knowing you, and I feel somewhat diffident about going in.” “Our Prince,” answered his guide, “has long heard of you as a man of good family and excellent principles, and is very anxious to make your acquaintance.” “Who is your Prince?” inquired Tou. “You’ll see for yourself in a moment,” said the other; and just then out came two girls with banners, and guided Tou through a great number of doors until they came to a throne, upon which sat the Prince. His Highness immediately descended to meet him, and made him take the seat of honour; after which ceremony exquisite viands of all kinds were spread out before them. Looking up, Tou noticed a scroll, on which was inscribed, The Cassia Court, and he was just beginning to feel puzzled as to what he should say next, when the Prince addressed him as follows:—“The honour of having you for a neighbour is, as it were, a bond of affinity between us. Let us, then, give ourselves up to enjoyment, and put away suspicion and fear.” Tou murmured his acquiescence; and when the wine had gone round several times there arose from a distance the sound of pipes and singing, unaccompanied, however, by the usual drum, and very much subdued in volume. Thereupon the Prince looked about him and cried out, “We are about to set a verse for any of you gentlemen to cap; here you are:—‘Genius seeks the Cassia Court.’” While the courtiers were all engaged in thinking of some fit antithesis, Tou added, “Refinement loves the Lily flower;” upon which the Prince exclaimed, “How strange! Lily is my daughter’s name; and, after such a coincidence, she must come in for you to see her.” In a few moments the tinkling of her ornaments and a delicious fragrance of musk announced the arrival of the Princess, who was between sixteen and seventeen and endowed with surpassing beauty. The Prince bade her make an obeisance to Tou, at the same time introducing her as his daughter Lily; and as soon as the ceremony was over the young lady moved away. Tou remained in a state of stupefaction, and, when the Prince proposed that they should pledge each other in another bumper, paid not the slightest attention to what he said. Then the Prince, perceiving what had distracted his guest’s attention, remarked that he was anxious to find a consort for his daughter, but that unfortunately there was the difficulty of species, and he didn’t know what to do; but again Tou took no notice of what the Prince was saying, until at length one of the bystanders plucked his sleeve, and asked him if he hadn’t seen that the Prince wished to drink with him, and had just been addressing some remarks to him. Thereupon Tou started, and, recovering himself at once, rose from the table and apologized to the Prince for his rudeness, declaring that he had taken so much wine he didn’t know what he was doing. “Besides,” said he, “your Highness has doubtless business to transact; I will therefore take my leave.” “I am extremely pleased to have seen you,” replied the Prince, “and only regret that you are in such a hurry to be gone. However, I won’t detain you now; but, if you don’t forget all about us, I shall be very glad to invite you here again.” He then gave orders that Tou should be escorted home; and on the way one of the courtiers asked the latter why he had said nothing when the Prince had spoken of a consort for his daughter, as his Highness had evidently made the remark with an eye to securing Tou as his soninlaw. The latter was now sorry that he had missed his opportunity; meanwhile they reached his house, and he himself awoke. The sun had already set, and there he sat in the gloom thinking of what had happened. In the evening he put out his candle, hoping to continue his dream; but, alas! the thread was broken, and all he could do was to pour forth his repentance in sighs. One night he was sleeping at a friend’s house when suddenly an officer of the court walked in and summoned him to appear before the Prince; so up he jumped, and hurried off at once to the palace, where he prostrated himself before the throne. The Prince raised him and made him sit down, saying that since they had last met he had become aware that Tou would be willing to marry his daughter, and hoped that he might be allowed to offer her as a handmaid. Tou rose and thanked the Prince, who thereupon gave orders for a banquet to be prepared; and when they had finished their wine it was announced that the Princess had completed her toilet. Immediately a bevy of young ladies came in with the Princess in their midst, a red veil covering her head, and her tiny footsteps sounding like rippling water as they led her up to be introduced to Tou. When the ceremonies were concluded, Tou said to the Princess, “In your presence, Madam, it would be easy to forget even death itself; but, tell me, is not this all a dream?” “And how can it be a dream,” asked the Princess, “when you and I are here together?”
Next morning Tou amused himself by helping the Princess to paint her face, and then, seizing a girdle, began to measure the size of her waist and the length of her fingers and feet. “Are you crazy?” cried she, laughing; to which Tou replied, “I have been deceived so often by dreams, that I am now making a careful record. If such it turns out to be, I shall still have something as a souvenir of you.” While they were thus chatting a maid rushed into the room, shrieking out, “Alas, alas! a great monster has got into the palace: the Prince has fled into a side chamber: destruction is surely come upon us.” Tou was in a great fright when he heard this, and rushed off to see the Prince, who grasped his hand and, with tears in his eyes, begged him not to desert them. “Our relationship,” cried he, “was cemented when Heaven sent this calamity upon us; and now my kingdom will be overthrown. What shall I do?” Tou begged to know what was the matter; and then the Prince laid a despatch upon the table, telling Tou to open it and make himself acquainted with its contents. This despatch ran as follows:—“The Grand Secretary of State, Black Wings, to His Royal Highness, announcing the arrival of an extraordinary monster, and advising the immediate removal of the Court in order to preserve the vitality of the empire. A report has just been received from the officer in charge of the Yellow Gate stating that, ever since the 6th of the 5th moon, a huge monster, 10,000 feet in length, has been lying coiled up outside the entrance to the palace, and that it has already devoured 13,800 and odd of your Highness’s subjects, and is spreading desolation far and wide. On receipt of this information your servant proceeded to make a reconnaissance, and there beheld a venomous reptile with a head as big as a mountain and eyes like vast sheets of water. Every time it raised its head, whole buildings disappeared down its throat; and, on stretching itself out, walls and houses were alike laid in ruins. In all antiquity there is no record of such a scourge. The fate of our temples and ancestral halls is now a mere question of hours; we therefore pray your Royal Highness to depart at once with the Royal Family and seek somewhere else a happier abode.” When Tou had read this document his face turned ashy pale; and just then a messenger rushed in, shrieking out, “Here is the monster!” at which the whole Court burst into lamentations as if their last hour was at hand. The Prince was beside himself with fear; all he could do was to beg Tou to look to his own safety without regarding the wife through whom he was involved in their misfortunes. The Princess, however, who was standing by bitterly lamenting the fate that had fallen upon them, begged Tou not to desert her; and, after a moment’s hesitation, he said he should be only too happy to place his own poor home at their immediate disposal if they would only deign to honour him. “How can we talk of deigning,” cried the Princess, “at such a moment as this? I pray you take us there as quickly as possible.” So Tou gave her his arm, and in no time they had arrived at Tou’s house, which the Princess at once pronounced to be a charming place of residence, and better even than their former kingdom. “But I must now ask you,” said she to Tou, “to make some arrangement for my father and mother, that the old order of things may be continued here.” Tou at first offered objections to this; whereupon the Princess said that a man who would not help another in his hour of need was not much of a man, and immediately went off into a fit of hysterics, from which Tou was trying his best to recall her, when all of a sudden he awoke and found that it was all a dream. However, he still heard a buzzing in his ears which he knew was not made by any human being, and, on looking carefully about he discovered two or three bees which had settled on his pillow. He was very much astonished at this, and consulted with his friend, who was also greatly amazed at his strange story; and then the latter pointed out a number of other bees on various parts of his dress, none of which would go away even when brushed off. His friend now advised him to get a hive for them, which he did without delay; and immediately it was filled by a whole swarm of bees, which came flying from over the wall in great numbers. On tracing whence they had come, it was found that they belonged to an old gentleman who lived near, and who had kept bees for more than thirty years previously. Tou thereupon went and told him the story; and when the old gentleman examined his hive he found the bees all gone. On breaking it open he discovered a large snake inside of about ten feet in length, which he immediately killed, recognising in it the “huge monster” of Tou’s adventure. As for the bees, they remained with Tou, and increased in numbers every year.




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