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The three genii

THERE was a certain scholar who, passing through Su-ch'ien on his way to Nanking, where he was going to try for his master's degree, happened to fall in with three other gentlemen, all graduates like himself, and was so charmed with their unusual refinement that he purchased a quantity of wine, and begged them to join him in drinking it. While thus pleasantly employed, his three friends told him their names. One was Chieh Ch'in-heng; the second, Ch'ang Feng-lin,; and the other, Ma Hsi-ch'ih. They drank away and enjoyed them selves very much, until evening had crept upon them unperceived, when Chieh said, "Here we, who ought to have been playing the host, have been feasting at a stranger's expense. This is not right. But, come, my house is close by; I will provide you with a bed." Ch'ang and Ma got up, and, taking our hero by the arm, bade his servant come along with them. When they reached a hill to the north of the village, there before them was a house and grounds, with a stream of clear water in front of the door, all the apartments within being beautifully clean and nice. Chieh then gave orders to light the lamps and see after his visitor's servant; whereupon Ma observed, "Of old it was customary to set intellectual refreshments before one's friends; let us not miss the opportunity of this lovely evening, but decide on four themes, one for each of us; and then, when we have finished our essays, we can set to work on the wine." To this the others readily agreed; and each wrote down a theme and threw it on the table. These were next divided amongst them as they sat, and before the second watch was over the essays were all completed and handed round for general inspection; and our scholar was so struck with the elegance and vigour of those by his three friends, that he ran off a copy of them and put it in his pocket. The host then produced some excellent wine, which was drunk by them in such bumpers that soon they were all tolerably tipsy. The other two now took their leave; but Chieh led the scholar into another room, where, so overcome was he with wine, that he went to bed in his boots and clothes.

The sun was high in the heavens when our hero awaked, and, looking round, he saw no house or grounds, only a dell on the hill-side, in which he and his servant had been sleeping. In great alarm he called out to the servant, who also got up, and then they found a hole with a rill of water trickling down before it. Much astonished at all this, he felt in his pocket, and there, sure enough, was the paper on which he had copied the three essays of his friends. On descending the hill and making inquiries, he found that he had been to the Grotto of the Three Genii namely, Crab, Snake, and Frog, three very wonderful beings, who often came out for a stroll, and were occasionally visible to mortal eyes. Subsequently, when our hero entered the examination hall, lo! the three themes set were those of the Three Genii, and he came out at the top of the list.

三仙

一士人赴試金陵,經宿遷,遇三秀才,談論超曠,遂與沽酒款洽。各表姓字:一介秋衡,一常豐林,一麻西池。縱飲甚樂,不覺日暮。介曰:「未修地主之儀,忽叨盛饌,於理不當。茅茨不遠,可便下榻。」常、麻並起捉裾,喚僕相將俱去。至邑北山,忽睹庭院,門遶清流。既入,舍宇清潔。呼童張燈,又命安置從人。麻曰:「昔日以文會友,今場期伊邇,不可虛此良夜。請擬四題,命鬮各拈其一,文成方飲。」眾從之。各擬一題,寫置几上,拾得者就案構思。二更未盡,皆已脫稿,迭相傳視。秀才讀三作,深為傾倒,草錄而懷藏之。主人進良醞,巨杯促釂,不覺醺醉。主人乃導客就別院寢。客醉不暇解履,和衣而臥。及醒,紅日已高,四顧並無院宇,主僕臥山谷中。大駭。見傍有一洞,水涓涓流,自訝迷惘。視懷中,則三作俱存。下問土人,始知為「三仙洞」。蓋洞中有蟹、蛇、蝦蟆三物,最靈,時出游,往往見之。士人入闈,三題即仙作,以是擢解。

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