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The Tipsy Turtle.

AT Lint‘iao there lived a Mr. Fêng, whose other name the person who told me this story could not remember; he belonged to a good family, though now somewhat falling into decay. Now a certain man, who caught turtles, owed him some money which he could not pay, but whenever he captured any turtles he used to send one to Mr. Fêng. One day he took him an enormous creature, with a white spot on its forehead; but Fêng was so struck with something in its appearance, that he let it go again. A little while afterwards he was returning home from his son-in-law’s, and had reached the banks of the river, when in the dusk of the evening he saw a drunken man come rolling along, attended by two or three servants. No sooner did he perceive Fêng than he called out, “Who are you?” to which Fêng replied that he was a traveller. “And haven’t you got a name?” shouted out the drunken man in a rage, “that you must call yourself a traveller?” To this Fêng made no reply, but tried to pass by; whereupon he found himself seized by the sleeve and unable to move. His adversary smelt horribly of wine, and at length Fêng asked him, saying, “And pray who are you?” “Oh, I am the late magistrate at Nantu,” answered he; “what do you want to know for?” “A nice disgrace to society you are, too,” cried Fêng; “however, I am glad to hear you are only late magistrate, for if you had been present magistrate there would be bad times in store for travellers.” This made the drunken man furious, and he was proceeding to use violence, when Fêng cried out, “My name is So-and-so, and I’m not the man to stand this sort of thing from anybody.” No sooner had he uttered these words than the drunken man’s rage was turned into joy, and, falling on his knees before Fêng, he said, “My benefactor! pray excuse my rudeness.” Then getting up, he told his servants to go on ahead and get something ready; Fêng at first declining to go with him, but yielding on being pressed. Taking his hand, the drunken man led him along a short distance until they reached a village, where there was a very nice house and grounds, quite like the establishment of a person of position. As his friend was now getting sober, Fêng inquired what might be his name. “Don’t be frightened when I tell you,” said the other; “I am the Eighth Prince of the T‘iao river. I have just been out to take wine with a friend, and somehow I got tipsy; hence my bad behaviour to you, which please forgive.” Fêng now knew that he was not of mortal flesh and blood; but, seeing how kindly he himself was treated, he was not a bit afraid. A banquet followed, with plenty of wine, of which the Eighth Prince drank so freely that Fêng thought he would soon be worse than ever, and accordingly said he felt tipsy himself, and asked to be allowed to go to bed. “Never fear,” answered the Prince, who perceived Fêng’s thoughts; “many drunkards will tell you that they cannot remember in the morning the extravagances of the previous night, but I tell you this is all nonsense, and that in nine cases out of ten those extravagances are committed wittingly and with malice prepense. Now, though I am not the same order of being as yourself, I should never venture to behave badly in your good presence; so pray do not leave me thus.” Fêng then sat down again and said to the Prince, “Since you are aware of this, why not change your ways?” “Ah,” replied the Prince, “when I was a magistrate I drank much more than I do now; but I got into disgrace with the Emperor and was banished here, since which time, ten years and more, I have tried to reform. Now, however, I am drawing near the wood, and being unable to move about much, the old vice has come upon me again; I have found it impossible to stop myself, but perhaps what you say may do me some good.” While they were thus talking, the sound of a distant bell broke upon their ears; and the Prince, getting up and seizing Fêng’s hand, said, “We cannot remain together any longer; but I will give you something by which I may in part requite your kindness to me. It must not be kept for any great length of time; when you have attained your wishes, then I will receive it back again.” Thereupon he spit out of his mouth a tiny man, no more than an inch high, and scratching Fêng’s arm with his nails until Fêng felt as if the skin was gone, he quickly laid the little man upon the spot. When he let go, the latter had already sunk into the skin, and nothing was to be seen but a cicatrix well healed over. Fêng now asked what it all meant, but the Prince only laughed, and said, “It’s time for you to go,” and forthwith escorted him to the door. The prince here bade him adieu, and when he looked round, Prince, village, and house had all disappeared together, leaving behind a great turtle which waddled down into the water, and disappeared likewise. He could now easily account for the Prince’s present to him; and from this moment his sight became intensely keen. He could see precious stones lying in the bowels of the earth, and was able to look down as far as Hell itself; besides which he suddenly found that he knew the names of many things of which he had never heard before. From below his own bedroom he dug up many hundred ounces of pure silver, upon which he lived very comfortably; and once when a house was for sale, he perceived that in it lay concealed a vast quantity of gold, so he immediately bought it, and so became immensely rich in all kinds of valuables. He secured a mirror, on the back of which was a phœnix, surrounded by water and clouds, and portraits of the celebrated wives of the Emperor Shun, so beautifully executed that each hair of the head and eyebrows could easily be counted. If any woman’s face came upon the mirror, there it remained indelibly fixed and not to be rubbed out; but if the same woman looked into the mirror again, dressed in a different dress, or if some other woman chanced to look in, then the former face would gradually fade away.

Now the third princess in Prince Su’s family was very beautiful; and Fêng, who had long heard of her fame, concealed himself on the K‘ung-tung hill, when he knew the Princess was going there. He waited until she alighted from her chair, and then getting the mirror full upon her, he walked off home. Laying it on the table, he saw therein a lovely girl in the act of raising her handkerchief, and with a sweet smile playing over her face; her lips seemed about to move, and a twinkle was discernible in her eyes. Delighted with this picture, he put the mirror very carefully away; but in about a year his wife had let the story leak out, and the Prince, hearing of it, threw Fêng into prison, and took possession of the mirror. Fêng was to be beheaded; however, he bribed one of the Prince’s ladies to tell His Highness that if he would pardon him all the treasures of the earth might easily become his; whereas, on the other hand, his death could not possibly be of any advantage to the Prince. The Prince now thought of confiscating all his goods and banishing him; but the third princess observed, that as he had already seen her, were he to die ten times over it would not give her back her lost face, and that she had much better marry him. The Prince would not hear of this, whereupon his daughter shut herself up and refused all nourishment, at which the ladies of the palace were dreadfully alarmed, and reported it at once to the Prince. Fêng was accordingly liberated, and was informed of the determination of the Princess, which, however, he declined to fall in with, saying that he was not going thus to sacrifice the wife of his days of poverty, and would rather die than carry out such an order. He added that if His Highness would consent, he would purchase his liberty at the price of everything he had. The Prince was exceedingly angry at this, and seized Fêng again; and meanwhile one of the concubines got Fêng’s wife into the palace, intending to poison her. Fêng’s wife, however, brought her a beautiful present of a coral stand for a looking glass, and was so agreeable in her conversation, that the concubine took a great fancy to her, and presented her to the Princess, who was equally pleased, and forthwith determined that they would both be Fêng’s wives. When Fêng heard of this plan, he said to his wife, “With a Prince’s daughter there can be no distinctions of first and second wife;” but Mrs. Fêng paid no heed to him, and immediately sent off to the Prince such an enormous quantity of valuables that it took a thousand men to carry them, and the Prince himself had never before heard of such treasures in his life. Fêng was now liberated once more, and solemnized his marriage with the Princess.

One night after this he dreamt that the Eighth Prince came to him and asked him to return his former present, saying that to keep it too long would be injurious to his chances of life. Fêng asked him to take a drink, but the Eighth Prince said that he had forsworn wine, acting under Fêng’s advice, for three years. He then bit Fêng’s arm, and the latter waked up with the pain to find that the cicatrix on his arm was no longer there.




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