The young lady and of the Tung-Ting
The spirits of the Tung-ting lake are very much in the habit of
borrowing boats. Sometimes the cable of an empty junk will cast
itself off, and away goes the vessel over the waves to the sound of
music in the air above. The boatmen crouch down in one corner
and hide their faces, not daring to look up until the trip is over
and they are once more at their old anchorage.
Now a certain Mr. Lin, returning home after having failed
at the examination for his Master's degree, was lying down
very tipsy on the deck of his boat, when suddenly strains of
music and singing began to be heard. The boatmen shook Mr.
Lin, but failing to rouse him, ran down and hid themselves in the hold below.
Then some one came and lifted him up, letting him drop again on
to the deck, where he was allowed to remain in the same drunken
sleep as before. By-and-by the noise of the various instruments
became almost deafening, and Lin, partially waking up, smelt a
delicious odor of perfumes filling the air around him. Opening
his eyes, he saw that the boat was crowded with a number of
beautiful girls; and knowing that something strange was going
on, he pretended to be fast asleep.
There was then a call for Chih-cheng, upon which a young
waiting-maid came forward and stood quite close to Mr. Lin's
head. Her stockings were the colour of the kingfisher's
wing, and her feet encased in tiny purple shoes, no bigger
than one's finger. Much smitten with this young lady, he
took hold of her stocking with his teeth, causing her, the
next time she moved, to fall forward flat on her face. Some
one, evidently in authority, asked what was the matter; and
when he heard the explanation, was very angry, and gave
orders to take off Mr. Lin's head. Soldiers now came and
bound Lin, and on getting up he beheld a man sitting with
his face to the south, and dressed in the garments of a king.
"Sire," cried Lin, as he was being led away, "the king of the Tung-ting lake was a mortal named Lin; your servant's name is
Lin also. His Majesty was a disappointed candidate; your servant
is one too. His Majesty met the Dragon Lady, and was made
immortal; your servant has played a trick upon this girl, and he is
to die. Why this inequality of fortunes ?"
When the king heard this, he bade them bring him back,
and asked him, saying, "Are you, then, a disappointed
candidate ?" Lin said he was; whereupon the king handed him
writing materials, and ordered him to compose an ode upon a lady's headdress. Some time passed before Lin, who was a scholar of some
repute in his own neighborhood, had done more than sit thinking about what he should write; and at length the king upbraided
him, saying, "Come, come, a man of your reputation should not
take so long."
"Sire," replied Lin, laying down his pen, "it took ten years to
complete the Songs of the Three Kingdoms; whereby it may be
known that the value of compositions depends more upon the labor given to them
than the speed with which they are written." The king
laughed, and waited patiently from early morning till noon,
when a copy of the verses was put into his hand, with which
he declared himself very pleased. He now commanded that Lin should be served with wine; and shortly after
there followed a collation of all kinds of curious dishes, in the
middle of which an officer came in and reported that the register
of people to be drowned had been made up.
"How many in all ?" asked the king.
"Two hundred and twenty-eight," was the reply; and then the
king inquired who had been deputed to carry it out; whereupon
he was informed that the generals Mao and Nan had been
appointed to do the work. Lin here rose to take leave, and the
king presented him with ten ounces of pure gold and a crystal
square, telling him it would preserve him from any danger he
might encounter on the lake. At this moment the king's retinue
and horses ranged themselves in proper order upon the surface of
the lake; and his Majesty, stepping from the boat into his sedan-chair, disappeared from view.
When everything had been quiet for a long time, the
boatmen emerged from the hold, and proceeded to shape their
course northwards. The wind, however, was against them, and
they were unable to make any headway; when all of a sudden
an iron cat appeared floating on the top of the water.
"General Mao has come," cried the boatmen, in great alarm;
and they and all the passengers on board fell down on their
faces. Immediately afterwards a great wooden beam stood up
from the lake, nodding itself backwards and forwards, which
the boatmen, more frightened than ever, said was General
Nan. Before long a tremendous sea was raging, the sun was
darkened in the heavens, and every vessel in sight was
capsized. But Mr. Lin sat in the middle of the boat, with
the crystal square in his hand, and the mighty waves broke
around without doing them any harm. Thus were they saved,
and Lin returned home; and whenever he told his wonderful story, he would assert that, although unable to speak positively as to the facial beauty of the young lady he had seen, he
dared say that she had the most exquisite pair of feet in the