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BY MRS. CAROLINE. 1. BUTLER, AUTHOR OF “RECOLLECTIONS OF CHINA," "MAID OF CHE-KI-ANG," ETC.
candidate in the “Scient fic Halls,” yet dare not for Do not draw upon you a person's enmity, for enmity is
the lack of sycee (silver) enter their gates, lest disnever appeased—injury returns upon him who injures, grace might fall upon him. and sharp words recoil against him who says them. Yet Lí was of a merry heart-and, as all the world
knows, there is no better panacea for the ills of forOn the green and flowery banks of the beautiful tune ihan the spirit of cheerfulness. Thus, although Lake Tai-hoo, whose surface bears a thousand isles, poverty barred the way to promotion, it could not resting like emeralds amid translucent pearl, dwelt materially affect his happiness-no more than the Whanki the mother of Li. The mother of Li! Ah passing wind which for a moment ruffled the surface happy distinction-ah envied title! For where, far of the lake, yet had no power to move its depths. or near, was the name could rank with Li on the Now it happened that one day taking his nels Lí scroll of learning-receiving even in childhood the went down to the lake, and as he cast them within title of the “Exiled Immortal," from his skill in the waters, not knowing any one was near, he broke classic and historical lore!
forth into a merry song, which sent its glad burt hen Moreover, he was of a most beautiful counte- far off to the lips of mocking Echo, like Ariel, seemnance, while the antelope that fed among the hills ing to "ride on the curled clouds.” Now it also was not more swift of foot. Who like Lí could chanced, that within a grove of the graceful bamboo, draw such music from the seven silken strings of the which skirted the path down which Lí had passed on Kin! or when with graceful touch his fingers swept his way, walked the great Mandarin Hok-wan. the lute, adding thereto the well-skilled melody of his " Hi! by the head of Confucius the fellow sings voice, youths and maidens opened their ears to listen, well!” he exclaimed, as the song met his ear, (for, for wonderful was ihe ravishing harmony.
as we have said, Lí had a voice of rare melody,) and Yet although the gods of learning smiled upon this forthwith issuing from his concealment, Huk-wan youthful disciple of Confucius, poverty came so seated bimself upon the bank and entered into con. with her iron hand, and although she could not crush versation with the young fisherman. the active mind of Lí, with a strong grip, she held him
If the mere melody of the voice had so charmed back from testing his skill with the ambitious literati, the mandarin, how much more was be captivated by both old and young, who annually flocked to the the wit and learning of the youth, who, ihus poorly capital to present their themes before the examiners. appareled, and humbly employed, seemed to share For even in those days as the present, money was wisdom with the gods! Hok-wan stroked his eyerequired to purchase the smiles of these severe brows in astonishment, and then bidding Lí leave his judges. They must read with golden spectacles— nets, he bore him off as a rare prize to his own house, or wo to ihe unhappy youth who, buoyant with hope where he that day feasted a numerous company. and-empty pockets, comes before them! With First conducting Lí to an inner apartment, he prewhat contempt is his essay cast aside, not worth the sented him with a magnificent robe rich embroireading!
dered, together with every article necessary to comSorely vexed, therefore, was poor Li—and what plete the toilet of a person of distinction, and when wonder—to know that he might safely cope with any thus appareled, introduced him into the presence of his guests. And truly Lí walked in among them “ Appear boldly in the 'Scientific Halls' before with all the stateliness and hauteur of a man who the Examiners,” said a third, “and never fear but feels that he is conferring an honor, instead of being thy name shall be cried at midnight from the highest honored, as no doubt Lí should have considered him tower in the city, * as the successful Li, with whom self, in such an august assemblage of grave manda- no other candidate can compete !" rins. With what an air he seated himself at ibe " When the wind blows over the fields does not sumptuously loaded table! where, according to Chi- the grass bend before it!” said Hok-wan. " When nese custom of the higher classes, the various dishes the great IIo speaks will not inferiors obey! the of meals, soups, fish, preserves, etc., were all nearly learned academician Ho is my brother-10 him then hidden by large bouquets of beautiful flowers, and you shall go-one word from him, and even the pyramids of green leaves.
judges themselves shall cry your name.” And now no sooner had lok.wan delivered with " Ivory does not come from a rat's mouth, or gold all customary formality the speech of welcome, and from brass clippings," thought Lí, as he listened to drained to the bealth of his guests the tiny goblet of these remarks—"a few candareens now would be crystal, embossed with gold, than rising to his feet, better for me than all this fine talk-truly I must be and joining his hands before his breast, in token of a fool not to know all this stuff before. Yet by the respect to his host, Li called a servaut, and bidding sacred manes of my ancestors, I will go to the capihim take a part from all the good things spread be. tal, and that, too, ere another sun ripens the ricefore him, said:
fields-furnished with a letter to the illustrious Ho, I “ Carry these to the dwelling of Whanki, the mo. may dare admittance." ther of Lí. Say to her that as the sands on the lake Giddy with wine, and with the excitement of high shore, countless are the blessings of the gods, who hopes for the future, at a late hour Lí was borne in a have this day smiled upon her son. Bid her eat-sumptuous palankeen 10 the humble dwelling of for although from hunger he should gnaw his flesh, Whanki. and from thirst drink his blood, yet not one morsel of The poor old soul at first knew not the gay gallant this banquet shall pass the lips of Lí unless his aged who stood before her, so much had the gisi-robes of mother be also sustained by the same delicacies.” the mandarin changed his appearance.
At hearing which, all the mandarins, and Hok-wan “ Heigh-yah! but, Lí, thou art as fine as a mag. himself, loudly expressed their admiration. Such is pie," quoth she, raising her head from the pan of the esteem which the Chinese entertain for filial charcoal, over which she seemed to be simmering piety.
something in a small dish—" Heigh-and now I look This duty discharged, Lí attacked the dainties be- at you again, I see you have drank of that cursed fore him like a hungry soldier, yet seasoning all he sam-shu—forever abhorred be the name of I-zih! said and did with so much wit and humor, that the with all thy wit dost thou not know the wise saying guests laid down their chop-sticks and listened with of Mencius— Like a crane among hens is a man wonder. With the wine, Lí grew still more merry of parts among fools" (It may be inferred, I -his wit cut like hail-stones wheresoe'er it lighted, think, ihat the good old Whanki was something of a and at his jovial songs the grave dignitaries forget scold.) And while thou hast been guzzling, see what ting their rank, (somewhat washed away by copious I have prepared for thee-what had I to do with draughts of sam-shu,*) snapped their fingers, wag- birds-nest soup; and with shark's fins, and with ged their shorn heads, and even rising from the table pigeon's eggs from the table of Hok-wan! My poor embraced him familiarly. At length, when after an Li will be too modest to eat with the great company, interval of a few hours their hilarity was somewhat I said to myself, and I will not eat them, but warm abated, during which the guests walked in the beau- them up to comfort him when he comes back-look, tiful gardens, or reclining upon luxuriant cushions, here they are,” (lifting the dish from the fire) “and regaled themselves with their pipes, or in masticating yet thou comest home like a well-fed, stupid swine!" their favorite betel nut, Li made bare bis bosom be. “Now lush, mother,” answered Li, “ if thy son fore them, and to their astonishment they found it has been drinking with fools, they wore fine feathers was only a needy scholar whose praises they had -and now embrace me, for I am going to the been shouting.
capital." A needy scholar!
“Li, thou art drunk-go to bed—the capital inIlow firmly they clutched their fobs, lest a canda- deed! Ah cursed, cursed I-tih!” exclaimed the old reent might jump into the pocket of the needy scholar. But of advice they were as profuse as grass- But when at length Lí convinced her that he was hoppers in August.
neither drunk nor crazy, but in reality about to start “Go to the capital-go to Kiang-fu” (Nankin the for Nankin, as a candidate for honors in the Scientific ancient capital of the empire,) “thou wilt perplex Halls, and with a letter to the great Ilo in his pouch, the learned—thou wilt bewilder the ignorant !" said Whanki knocked her head reverently before the
shrine of the household gods in token of gratitude. "Hi! this fellow Li will yet stand with honor be- The remainder of the night was passed in prepafore the emperor," cried another.
* The custom of announcing the names of the success* A deleterious liquor distilled from rice.
ful candidates at the examination. † A Chinese coin.
† The god of intoxicating liquors.
rations for the journey, and just as the golden ripples to the history which the youth gave of his hard strugof the lake danced in the rays of the rising sun, Lí gles, of his poverty, and earnest desire to come betenderly embraced his aged parent, and set forth on fore the judges on the day of examination, than Ho, foot for Nankin, more than a hundred miles distant. embracing him, bade him be of good cheer.
“Ah, the blessed bug," quoih the old woman, “Now, by the sacred Budha !" he exclaimed, gazing after him so long as she could catch a glimpse “ learning like thine shall win its crown without the of his large bamboo hat, "he will not want for rice aid of propitiatory gilis, save to the gods themselves. any day—no sycee has he in his pockets, but such a Know, 0 Lí, that Yang and Kau, who enjoy the tongue in his head, as will bring him food and smiles of the great emperor, are this year, the examihonors."
To them shalt thou go, with no favor but my Whanki was right. In every hamlet he passed name-humble as it is, it shall cause thine to be enthrough—in every coutage by the wayside, Lí found rolled among the literali of the Imperial Academy!" a shelter and a welcome-the good people consider- No doubt Ho manifested great vanity in this, in so ing themselves amply repaid for their hospitality if much as hinting that his “humble” name could the young stranger would but touch the strings of balance with gold in the scales of avarice! Neverihe pipa, or recite to them odes from the Shoo-king. theless Lí was delighted, and immediately set about
In this manner he reached the capital, and crossing piling up such a cloud castle as spread over his the marble bridge over the great canal, upon the whole heaven of glory. eastern side, entered the city at the Gate of Exten- And now the day of examination approached, and sive Peace. Going into the first barber's shop which confident of success, Lí boldly presented himself for offered, Li carefully plucked out his beard, (hear this, admission. ye exquisites of modern days!) shaved his head Offering the memorial of Ho, which was to insure anew to the crown, and placed his long black hair him, as he supposed, the favor of the judges, he was with red ribbons. Then entering an adjoining tavern, much surprised to see those great men, Yang and he exchanged his dusty, travel-worn garments for Kau, after turning over the missive with elevated the rich dress presented him by Hok-wan, which he noses, expressive of their contempt, cast it from them had preserved with great care for the occasion, and with scorn. holding up his fan, lo shield his eyes from the sun, "Heigh! the academician Ho thinks to cheat us stepped forth into the busy streets, to look for the with bubbles! He sends us a scrawl devoid of meandwelling of the illustrious Ho.
ing, to bespeak our favor for an upstart without deAnd next, within the Hall of Ceremony, in the ele- gree or title! Yes—we will remember the name of gant mansion of Ho, behold Li in the presence of the Lé !" Saying which, they cast looks of bitter disdain great man himself—for with the same audacity which upon the needy scholar. marked his behavior at the dinner of Hok-wan, had Then commenced the tedious formula of the exLí given the door-keeper a vermilion card, leading amination. The candidates, hundreds in number, Ho to expect a visiter of rank. Advancing three were all obliged 10 undergo the strict search of the steps to meet him, Ho bows low to his stranger guest officers in attendance. Their robes, pockets, shoes, -then with graceful ease Li also advances three and even their nicely platted queues were examined, steps, and bows still lower-Ho again gravely steps to see they had not secreted some essay or composiforward and makes another salutation-upon which tion of some kind, which they might substitute for Li again does the same—with a still lower bending one written on the spot without preparation, when of the body, Ho once more advances—whereupon the examiners should command them. This done, Lí, nearly touching ihe marble pavements with his they were all seated on long benches with their paper forehead, steps forward yet another three steps! By and pencils ready for the trial—the doors and winthis time their united and solemn paces had brought dows in the meanwhile being closely barred and them near the couch upon which visiters are ex. guarded, that no one from without should have the pected to repose themselves. And here again the power of smuggling any written paper into the hands same formalities were gone through with, as to'who of the students. should first be seated thereon. But being seated, Lí At a signal-gun the theme for composition was at once burst forth with such a flow of wit and fancy, given out, and, like the velvet feet of butterflies, the that Ho was completely captivated ere he knew the pencils of the rival candidates glided smoothly and name or business of the daring youth!
tleetly over the tinted paper. With perfect compoNow this was a capital stroke of Lí. For the sure and ease, Li wrote off his essay in the most academician cared not so much for any dignitary beautiful characters, without a single erasure or under the Emperor Supreme, as he did for a man of omission-handling the subject with great skill and learning, or even for one who could tickle the mo- judgment, and gave it into the hands of Yang. ments as they flew with witty jests, provoking laugh- “ Heigh!" said Yang, without giving himself ter. Ho saw at once that Lí not only possessed this even the trouble to glance over it, but drawing his recommendation, but that his knowledge could also pencil derisively over the fair and beautiful charac. ring on as many topics as there were bells to the ters, “I remember the name of Lí! What stuff is Porcelain Tower. When, therefore, he had perused here-why the fellow is only fit to grind my ink!" the letter af Hok-wan, which, after securing his “ To grind your ink !" quoth Kau, “ say rather he ground, Li put into his hand, and after having listened ) is only fit to lace my buskins!"