The Taoist priest
Once upon a time there was a Mr. Han, who belonged to a
wealthy family, and was fond of entertaining people. A man
named Hsu, of the same town, frequently joined him over a
bottle; and on one occasion when they were together a Taoist
priest came to the door with his alms-bowl in his hand. The servants threw him some money and food, but the priest would not
accept them, neither would he go away; and at length they took
no more notice of him.
Mr. Han heard the noise of the priest knocking his bowl' going
on for a long time, and asked his servants what was the matter;
and they had hardly told him when the priest himself walked in.
Mr. Han begged him to be seated; whereupon the priest bowed to
both gentlemen and took his seat. On making the usual inquiries,
they found that he lived at an old tumbledown temple to the east
of the town, and Mr. Han expressed regret at not having heard
sooner of his arrival, so that he might have shown him the proper
hospitality of a resident. The priest said that he had only recently
arrived, and had no friends in the place; but hearing that Mr.
Han was a jovial fellow, he had been very anxious to take a glass
with him. Mr. Han then ordered wine, and the priest soon distinguished himself as a hard drinker; Mr. Hsu treating him all the
time with a certain amount of disrespect in consequence of his
shabby appearance, while Mr. Han made allowances for him as
being a traveler.
When he had drunk over twenty large cups of wine, the priest
took his leave, returning subsequently whenever any jollification
was going on, no matter whether it was eating or drinking. Even
Han began now to tire a little of him; and on one occasion Hsu
said to him in raillery, "Good priest, you seem to like being a
guest; why don't you play the host sometimes for a change ?"
"Ah," replied the priest, "I am much the same as yourself
a mouth carried between a couple of shoulders." This put Hsu to
shame, and he had no answer to make; so the priest continued,
"But although that is so, I have been revolving the question with
myself for some time, and when we do meet I shall do my best to
repay your kindness with a cup of my own poor wine."
When they had finished drinking, the priest said he hoped he
should have the pleasure of their company the following day at noon; and at the
appointed time the two friends went together, not expecting,
however, to find anything ready for them. But the priest was
waiting for them in the street; and passing through a
handsome courtyard, they beheld long suites of elegant apartments stretching away before them. In great astonishment, they
remarked to the priest that they had not visited this temple for
some time, and asked when it had been thus repaired; to which he
replied that the work had been only lately completed.
They then went inside, and there was a magnificently-
decorated apartment, such as would not be found even in the
houses of the wealthy. This made them begin to feel more respect
for their host; and no sooner had they sat down than wine and
food were served by a number of boys, all about sixteen years of
age, and dressed in embroidered coats, with red shoes. The wine
and eatables were delicious, and very nicely served; and when the
dinner was taken away, a course of rare fruits was put on the
table, the names of all of which it would be impossible to
mention. They were arranged in dishes of crystal and jade, the
brilliancy of which lighted up the surrounding furniture; and the
goblets in which the wine was poured were of glass, and more
than a foot in circumference.
Later the priest cried out, "Call the Shih sisters,"
whereupon one of the boys went out and in a few moments two
elegant young ladies walked in. The first was tall and slim
like a willow wand; the other was short and very young, both
being exceedingly pretty girls. Being told to sing while the company were
drinking, the younger beat time and sang a song, while the elder
accompanied her on the flageolet. They acquitted themselves
admirably; and, when the song was over, the priest, holding his
goblet bottom upwards in the air, challenged his guests to follow
his example, bidding his servants pour out more wine all round.
He then turned to the girls, and remarked that they had not
danced for a long time, asking if they were still able to do so;
upon which a carpet was spread by one of the boys, and the two
young ladies proceeded to dance, their long robes waving about
and perfuming the air around. The dance concluded, they leant
against a painted screen, while the two guests gradually became
more and more confused and were at last irrecoverably drunk.
The priest took no notice of them; but when he had finished
drinking, he got up and said, "Pray, go on with your wine; I am
going to rest awhile, and will return by-and-by." He then went
away, and lay down on a splendid couch at the other end of the
room; at which Hsu was very angry, and shouted out, "Priest,
you are a rude fellow," at the same time making towards him
with a view of rousing him up. The priest then ran out, and Han
and Hsu lay down to sleep, one at each end of the room, on
elaborately-carved couches covered with beautiful mattresses.
When they woke up, they found themselves lying in the road,
Mr. Hsu with his head in a dirty drain. Hard by were a couple of
rush huts; but everything else was gone.