Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death; but her only alternative was to consult with her father,

and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries. No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation,

and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side,

to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants,

occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there,

she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two;

and when unexpectedly in a state chair, was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house, and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought. At night,

however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out:

“We are messengers, deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words,

fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained, but,

reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

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Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings

Dame Feng, Shih-yin’s wife, upon hearing the tidings, had such a fit of weeping that she hung between life and death;

but her only alternative was to consult with her father, and to despatch servants on all sides to institute inquiries.

No news was however received of him, and she had nothing else to do but to practise resignation,

and to remain dependent upon the support of her parents for her subsistence. She had fortunately still by her side,

to wait upon her, two servant girls, who had been with her in days gone by; and the three of them, mistress as well as servants,

occupied themselves day and night with needlework, to assist her father in his daily expenses.

This Feng Su had after all, in spite of his daily murmurings against his bad luck, no help but to submit to the inevitable.

On a certain day, the elder servant girl of the Chen family was at the door purchasing thread, and while there,

she of a sudden heard in the street shouts of runners clearing the way, and every one explain that the new magistrate had come to take up his office.

The girl, as she peeped out from inside the door, perceived the lictors and policemen go by two by two;

and when unexpectedly in a state chair,

was carried past an official, in black hat and red coat, she was indeed quite taken aback.

“The face of this officer would seem familiar,” she argued within herself; “just as if I had seen him somewhere or other ere this.”

Shortly she entered the house,

and banishing at once the occurrence from her mind, she did not give it a second thought.

At night, however, while she was waiting to go to bed, she suddenly heard a sound like a rap at the door. A band of men boisterously cried out:

“We are messengers,

deputed by the worthy magistrate of this district, and come to summon one of you to an enquiry.”

Feng Su, upon hearing these words,

fell into such a terrible consternation that his eyes stared wide and his mouth gaped.

What calamity was impending is not as yet ascertained,

but, reader, listen to the explanation contained in the next chapter.

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The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!

The green gauze now is also pasted on the straw windows!

What about the cosmetic fresh concocted or the powder just scented;

Why has the hair too on each temple become white like hoarfrost!

Yesterday the tumulus of yellow earth buried the bleached bones,

To-night under the red silk curtain reclines the couple!

Gold fills the coffers, silver fills the boxes,

But in a twinkle, the beggars will all abuse you!

While you deplore that the life of others is not long,

You forget that you yourself are approaching death!

You educate your sons with all propriety,

But they may some day, ’tis hard to say become thieves;

Though you choose (your fare and home) the fatted beam,

You may, who can say, fall into some place of easy virtue!

Confusion reigns far and wide! you have just sung your part, I come on the boards,

Instead of yours, you recognise another as your native land;

What utter perversion!

In one word, it comes to this we make wedding clothes for others!

(We sow for others to reap.)

The crazy limping Taoist clapped his hands. “Your interpretation is explicit,” he remarked with a hearty laugh, “your interpretation is explicit!”

Shih-yin promptly said nothing more than,—“Walk on;” and seizing the stole from the Taoist’s shoulder, he flung it over his own. He did not, however, return home, but leisurely walked away, in company with the eccentric priest.

The report of his disappearance was at once bruited abroad, and plunged the whole neighbourhood in commotion; and converted into a piece of news, it was circulated from mouth to mouth.

Through your dislike of the gauze hat as mean,

You have come to be locked in a cangue;

Yesterday, poor fellow, you felt cold in a tattered coat,

To-day, you despise the purple embroidered dress as long!

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All men spiritual life know to be good,But fame to disregard

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But fame to disregard they ne’er succeed!

From old till now the statesmen where are they?

Waste lie their graves, a heap of grass, extinct.

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But to forget gold, silver, ill succeed!

Through life they grudge their hoardings to be scant,

And when plenty has come, their eyelids close.

All men spiritual life hold to be good,

Yet to forget wives, maids, they ne’er succeed!

Who speak of grateful love while lives their lord,

And dead their lord, another they pursue.

All men spiritual life know to be good,

But sons and grandsons to forget never succeed!

From old till now of parents soft many,

But filial sons and grandsons who have seen?

Shih-yin upon hearing these words, hastily came up to the priest, “What were you so glibly holding forth?” he inquired. “All I could hear were a lot of hao liao (excellent, finality.”)

“You may well have heard the two words ‘hao liao,’” answered the Taoist with a smile, “but can you be said to have fathomed their meaning? You should know that all things in this world are excellent, when they have attained finality; when they have attained finality, they are excellent; but when they have not attained finality, they are not excellent; if they would be excellent, they should attain finality. My song is entitled Excellent-finality (hao liao).”

Shih-yin was gifted with a natural perspicacity that enabled him, as soon as he heard these remarks, to grasp their spirit.

“Wait a while,” he therefore said smilingly; “let me unravel this excellent-finality song of yours; do you mind?”

“Please by all means go on with the interpretation,” urged the Taoist; whereupon Shih-yin proceeded in this strain:

Sordid rooms and vacant courts,

Replete in years gone by with beds where statesmen lay;

Parched grass and withered banian trees,

Where once were halls for song and dance!

Spiders’ webs the carved pillars intertwine,

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His father-in-law, Feng Su, by name, was a native of Ta Ju Chou.

His father-in-law, Feng Su, by name, was a native of Ta Ju Chou. Although only a labourer, he was nevertheless in easy circumstances at home.

When he on this occasion saw his son-in-law come to him in such distress, he forthwith felt at heart considerable displeasure.

Fortunately Shih-yin had still in his possession the money derived from the unprofitable realization of his property,

so that he produced and handed it to his father-in-law, commissioning him to purchase, whenever a suitable opportunity presented itself,

a house and land as a provision for food and raiment against days to come. This Feng Su, however,

only expended the half of the sum, and pocketed the other half, merely acquiring for him some fallow land and a dilapidated house.

Shih-yin being, on the other hand, a man of books and with no experience in matters connected with business and with sowing and reaping,

subsisted, by hook and by crook, for about a year or two, when he became more impoverished.

In his presence, Feng Su would readily give vent to specious utterances, while, with others, and behind his back,

he on the contrary expressed his indignation against his improvidence in his mode of living,

and against his sole delight of eating and playing the lazy.

Shih-yin, aware of the want of harmony with his father-in-law, could not help giving way, in his own heart,

to feelings of regret and pain. In addition to this, the fright and vexation which he had undergone the year before,

the anguish and suffering (he had had to endure), had already worked havoc (on his constitution);

and being a man advanced in years, and assailed by the joint attack of poverty and disease, he at length gradually began to display symptoms of decline.

Strange coincidence, as he, on this day, came leaning on his staff and with considerable strain,

as far as the street for a little relaxation, he suddenly caught sight, approaching from the off side,

of a Taoist priest with a crippled foot;

his maniac appearance so repulsive,

his shoes of straw, his dress all in tatters,

muttering several sentiments to this effect:

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Among the natives of this district bamboo fences and wooden

Among the natives of this district bamboo fences and wooden partitions were in general use,

and these too proved a source of calamity so ordained by fate (to consummate this decree).

With promptness (the fire) extended to two buildings, then enveloped three, then dragged four (into ruin),

and then spread to five houses, until the whole street was in a blaze, resembling the flames of a volcano.

Though both the military and the people at once ran to the rescue, the fire had already assumed a serious hold,

so that it was impossible for them to afford any effective assistance for its suppression.

It blazed away straight through the night, before it was extinguished, and consumed, there is in fact no saying how many dwelling houses.

Anyhow, pitiful to relate, the Chen house, situated as it was next door to the temple, was, at an early part of the evening,

reduced to a heap of tiles and bricks; and nothing but the lives of that couple and several inmates of the family did not sustain any injuries.

Shih-yin was in despair, but all he could do was to stamp his feet and heave deep sighs. After consulting with his wife,

they betook themselves to a farm of theirs, where they took up their quarters temporarily. But as it happened that water had of late years been scarce,

and no crops been reaped, robbers and thieves had sprung up like bees, and though the Government troops were bent upon their capture,

it was anyhow difficult to settle down

quietly on the farm. He therefore had no other resource than to convert, at a loss,

the whole of his property into money,

and to take his wife and two servant girls and come over for shelter to the house of his father-in-law.

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Yü-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying “It would be

Yü-ts’un lost no time in smiling and replying. “It would be presumption in my part to think so,” he observed. “I was simply at random humming a few verses

composed by former writers, and what reason is there to laud me to such an excessive degree? To what, my dear Sir, do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

he went on to inquire. “Tonight,” replied Shih-yin, “is the mid-autumn feast, generally known as the full-moon festival; and as I could not help thinking that living, as you my worthy brother are, as a mere stranger in this Buddhist temple,

you could not but experience the feeling of loneliness. I have, for the express purpose, prepared a small entertainment, and will be pleased if you will come to my mean abode to have a glass of wine. But I wonder whether you will entertain

favourably my modest invitation?” Yü-ts’un, after listening to the proposal, put forward no refusal of any sort; but remarked complacently: “Being the recipient of such marked attention, how can I presume to repel your generous consideration?”

As he gave expression to these words, he walked off there and then, in company with Shih-yin, and came over once again into the court in front of the library. In a few minutes, tea was over.

The cups and dishes had been laid from an early hour, and needless to say the wines were luscious; the fare sumptuous.

The two friends took their seats. At first they leisurely replenished their glasses, and quietly sipped their wine; but as, little by little, they entered into conversation, their good cheer grew more genial, and unawares the glasses began to fly round, and the cups to be exchanged.

At this very hour, in every house of the neighbourhood, sounded the fife and lute, while the inmates indulged in music and singing. Above head, the orb of the

radiant moon shone with an all-pervading splendour, and with a steady lustrous light, while the two friends, as their exuberance increased, drained their cups dry so soon as they reached their lips.

Yü-ts’un, at this stage of the collation, was considerably under the influence of wine, and the vehemence of his high spirits was irrepressible. As he gazed

at the moon, he fostered thoughts, to which he gave vent by the recital of a double couplet.

’Tis what time three meets five, Selene is a globe!

Her pure rays fill the court, the jadelike rails enrobe!

Lo! in the heavens her disk to view doth now arise,

And in the earth below to gaze men lift their eyes.

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Remembering the occurrence of the previous night

Remembering the occurrence of the previous night,

he meant to write a couple of letters of recommendation for Yü-ts’un to take along with him to the capital,

to enable him, after handing them over at the mansions of certain officials,

to find some place as a temporary home.

He accordingly despatched a servant to ask him to come round, but the man returned and reported that from what the bonze

said, “Mr. Chia had started on his journey to the capital,

at the fifth watch of that very morning, that he had also left a message with the bonze to deliver to you,

Sir, to the effect that men of letters paid no heed to lucky or unlucky days,

that the sole consideration with them was the nature of the matter in hand, and that he could find no time to come round in person and bid good-bye.”

Shih-yin after hearing this message had no alternative but to banish the subject from his thoughts.

In comfortable circumstances, time indeed goes by with easy stride. Soon drew near also the happy festival of the 15th of the 1st

moon, and Shih-yin told a servant Huo Ch’i to take Ying Lien to see the sacrificial fires and flowery lanterns.

About the middle of the night, Huo Ch’i was hard pressed, and he forthwith set Ying Lien down on the doorstep of a certain house. When he felt relieved,

he came back to take her up, but failed to find anywhere any trace of Ying Lien. In a terrible plight, Huo Ch’i prosecuted his search throughout half the night;

but even by the dawn of day, he had not discovered any clue of her whereabouts. Huo Ch’i, lacking,

on the other hand, the courage to go back and face his master, promptly made his escape to his native village.

Shih-yin — in fact, the husband as well as the wife — seeing that their child had not come home during the whole night,

readily concluded that some mishap must have befallen her.

Hastily they despatched several servants to go in search of her, but one and all returned to report that there was neither vestige nor tidings of her.

This couple had only had this child, and this at the meridian of their life,

so that her sudden disappearance

plunged them in such great distress that day and night they mourned her loss to such a point as to well nigh pay no heed to their very lives.

A month in no time went by. Shih-yin was the first to fall ill, and his wife, Dame Feng, likewise, by dint of fretting for her daughter, was also prostrated with sickness.

The doctor was, day after day, sent for, and the oracle consulted by means of divination.

Little did any one think that on this day,

being the 15th of the 3rd moon,

while the sacrificial oblations were being prepared in the Hu Lu temple,

a pan with oil would have caught fire,

through the want of care on the part of the bonze,

and that in a short time the flames would have consumed the paper pasted on the windows.

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“Excellent!” cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard

“Excellent!” cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard these lines; “I have repeatedly maintained that it was impossible for you to remain long inferior

to any, and now the verses you have recited are a prognostic of your rapid advancement. Already it is evident that, before long, you will extend your

footsteps far above the clouds! I must congratulate you! I must congratulate you! Let me, with my own hands, pour a glass of wine to pay you my compliments.”

Yü-ts’un drained the cup. “What I am about to say,” he explained as he suddenly heaved a sigh, “is not the maudlin talk of a man under the effects of wine. As far as the subjects at present set in the examinations go, I could,

perchance, also have well been able to enter the list, and to send in my name as a candidate; but I have, just now, no means whatever to make provision for

luggage and for travelling expenses. The distance too to Shen Ching is a long one, and I could not depend upon the sale of papers or the composition of essays to find the means of getting there.”

Shih-yin gave him no time to conclude. “Why did you not speak about this sooner?” he interposed with haste. “I have long entertained this suspicion;

but as, whenever I met you, this conversation was never broached, I did not presume to make myself officious. But if such be the state of affairs just now,

I lack, I admit, literary qualification, but on the two subjects of friendly spirit and pecuniary means, I have, nevertheless, some experience. Moreover, I rejoice

that next year is just the season for the triennial examinations, and you should start for the capital with all despatch; and in the tripos next spring, you will, by

carrying the prize, be able to do justice to the proficiency you can boast of. As regards the travelling expenses and the other items, the provision of everything

necessary for you by my own self will again not render nugatory your mean acquaintance with me.”

Forthwith, he directed a servant lad to go and pack up at once fifty taels of pure silver and two suits of winter clothes.

“The nineteenth,” he continued, “is a propitious day, and you should lose no time in hiring a boat and starting on your journey westwards. And when, by your

eminent talents, you shall have soared high to a lofty position, and we meet again next winter, will not the occasion be extremely felicitous?”

Yü-ts’un accepted the money and clothes with but scanty expression of gratitude. In fact, he paid no thought whatever to the gifts, but went on, again drinking his wine, as he chattered and laughed.

It was only when the third watch of that day had already struck that the two friends parted company;

and Shih-yin, after seeing Yü-ts’un off,

retired to his room and slept, with one sleep all through,

never waking until the sun was well up in the skies.

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When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back

When the guests had taken their leave, Shih-yin did not go back to rejoin Yü-ts’un, as he had come to know that he had already left.

In time the mid-autumn festivities drew near; and Shih-yin, after the family banquet was over, had a separate table laid in the library, and crossed over, in the moonlight, as far as the temple and invited Yü-ts’un to come round.

The fact is that Yü-ts’un, ever since the day on which he had seen the girl of the Chen family turn twice round to glance at him, flattered himself that she was friendly disposed towards him, and incessantly fostered fond thoughts of her in his heart. And on this day, which happened to be the mid-autumn feast, he could not, as he gazed at the moon, refrain from cherishing her remembrance. Hence it was that he gave vent to these pentameter verses:

Alas! not yet divined my lifelong wish,

And anguish ceaseless comes upon anguish

I came, and sad at heart, my brow I frowned;

She went, and oft her head to look turned round.

Facing the breeze, her shadow she doth watch,

Who’s meet this moonlight night with her to match?

The lustrous rays if they my wish but read

Would soon alight upon her beauteous head!

Yü-ts’un having, after this recitation, recalled again to mind how that throughout his lifetime his literary attainments had had an adverse fate and not met with an opportunity (of reaping distinction), went on to rub his brow, and as he raised his eyes to the skies, he heaved a deep sigh and once more intoned a couplet aloud:

The gem in the cask a high price it seeks,

The pin in the case to take wing it waits.

As luck would have it, Shih-yin was at the moment approaching,

and upon hearing the lines,

he said with a smile:

“My dear Yü-ts’un, really your attainments are of no ordinary capacity.”

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