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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.

蓮花公主

膠州竇旭,字曉暉。方晝寢,見一褐衣人立榻前,逡巡惶顧,似欲有言。生問之。答云:「相公奉屈。」「相公何人?」曰:「近在鄰境。」從之而出。轉過牆屋,導至一處,疊閣重樓,萬椽相接,曲折而行。覺萬戶千門,迥非人世。又見宮人女官,往來甚夥,都向褐衣人問曰:「竇郎來乎?」褐衣人諾。俄,一貴官出,迎見甚恭。既登堂,生啟問曰:「素既不敘,遂疏參謁。過蒙愛接,頗注疑念。」貴官曰:「寡君以先生清族世德,傾風結慕,深願思晤焉。」生益駭,問:「王何人?」答云:「少間自悉。」無何,二女官至,以雙旌導生行。入重門,見殿上一王者,見生入,降階而迎,執賓主禮。禮已,踐席,列筵豐盛。仰視殿上一扁曰「桂府」。生跼蹙不能致辭。王曰:「忝近芳鄰,緣即至深。便當暢懷,勿致疑畏。」生唯唯。酒數行,笙歌作於下,鉦鼓不鳴,音聲幽細。稍間,王忽左右顧曰:「朕一言,煩卿等屬對:『才人登桂府。』」四座方思,生即應云:「君子愛蓮花。」王大悅曰:「奇哉!蓮花乃公主小字,何適合如此?寧非夙分?傳語公主,不可不出一晤君子。」移時,珮環聲近,蘭麝香濃,則公主至矣。年十六七,妙好無雙。王命向生展拜,曰:「此即蓮花小女也。」拜已而去。生睹之,神情搖動,木坐凝思。王舉觴勸飲,目竟罔睹。王似微察其意,乃曰:「息女宜相匹敵,但自慚不類,如何?」生悵然若癡,即又不聞。近坐者躡之曰:「王揖君未見,王言君未聞耶?」生茫乎若失,㦬自慚,離席曰:「臣蒙優渥,不覺過醉,儀節失次,幸能垂宥。然日旰君勤,即告出也。」王起曰:「既見君子,實愜心好,何倉卒而便言離也?卿既不住,亦無敢於強。若煩縈念,更當再邀。」遂命內官導之出。途中內官語生曰:「適王謂可匹敵,似欲附為婚姻,何默不一言?」生頓足而悔,步步追恨,遂已至家。忽然醒寤,則返照已殘。冥坐觀想,歷歷在目。晚齋滅燭,冀舊夢可以復尋,而邯鄲路渺,悔歎而已。一夕,與友人共榻,忽見前內官來,傳王命相召。生喜,從去。見王伏謁。王曳起,延止隅坐,曰:「別後知勞思眷。謬以小女子奉裳衣,想不過嫌也。」生即拜謝。王命學士大臣,陪侍宴飲。酒闌,宮人前白:「公主妝竟。」俄見數十宮女,擁公主出。以紅錦覆首,凌波微步,挽上氍毹,與生交拜成禮。已而送歸館舍。洞房溫清,窮極芳膩。生曰:「有卿在目,真使人樂而忘死。但恐今日之遭,乃是夢耳。」公主掩口曰:「明明妾與君,那得是夢?」詰旦方起,戲為公主勻鉛黃;已而以帶圍腰,布指度足。公主笑問曰:「君顛耶?」曰:「臣屢為夢誤,故細志之。倘是夢時,亦足動懸想耳。」調笑未已,一宮女馳入曰:「妖入宮門,王避偏殿,凶禍不遠矣!」生大驚,趨見王。王執手泣曰:「君子不棄,方圖永好。詎期孽降自天,國祚將覆,且復奈何!」生驚問何說。王以案上一章,授生啟讀。章云:「含香殿大學士臣黑翼,為非常妖異,祈早遷都,以存國脈事:據黃門報稱:自五月初六日,來一千丈巨蟒,盤踞宮外,吞食內外臣民一萬三千八百餘口;所過宮殿盡成丘墟,等因。臣奮勇前窺,確見妖蟒:頭如山岳,目等江海;昂首則殿閣齊吞,伸腰則樓垣盡覆。真千古未見之凶,萬代不遭之禍!社稷宗廟,危在旦夕!乞皇上早率宮眷,速遷樂土」云云。生覽畢,面如灰土。即有宮人奔奏:「妖物至矣!」闔殿哀呼,慘無天日。王倉遽不知所為,但泣顧曰:「小女已累先生。」生坌息而返。公主方與左右抱首哀鳴,見生入,牽衿曰:「郎焉置妾?」生愴惻欲絕,乃捉腕思曰:「小生貧賤,慚無金屋。有茅廬三數間,姑同竄匿可乎?」公主含涕曰:「急何能擇?乞攜速往!」生乃挽扶而出。未幾,至家。公主曰:「此大安宅,勝故國多矣。然妾從君來,父母何依?請別築一舍,當舉國相從。」生難之。公主號咷曰:「不能急人之急,安用郎也!」生略慰解,即已入室。公主伏床悲啼,不可勸止。焦思無術,頓然而醒,始知夢也。而耳畔啼聲,嚶嚶未絕。審聽之,殊非人聲,乃蜂子二三頭,飛鳴枕上。大叫怪事。友人詰之,乃以夢告。友人亦詫為異。共起視蜂,依依裳袂間,拂之不去。友人勸為營巢。生如所請,督工構造。方豎兩堵,而群蜂自牆外來,絡繹如蠅。頂尖未合,飛集盈斗。跡所由來,則鄰翁之舊圃也。圃中蜂一房,三十餘年矣,生息頗繁。或以生事告翁。翁覘之,蜂戶寂然。發其壁,則蛇據其中,長丈許。捉而殺之。乃知巨蟒即此物也。蜂入生家,滋息更盛,亦無他異。

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