Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. “One and all,” he remarked,

Tzu-hsing gave a faint smile. “One and all,” he remarked, “entertain the same idea. Hence it is that his mother doats upon him like upon a precious jewel. On

the day of his first birthday, Mr. Cheng readily entertained a wish to put the bent of his inclinations to the test, and placed before the child all kinds of things, without

number, for him to grasp from. Contrary to every expectation, he scorned every other object, and, stretching forth his hand, he simply took hold of rouge, powder and a few hair-pins, with which he began to play. Mr. Cheng experienced at once

displeasure, as he maintained that this youth would, by and bye, grow up into a sybarite, devoted to wine and women, and for this reason it is, that he soon began to feel not much attachment for him. But his grandmother is the one who, in spite

of everything, prizes him like the breath of her own life. The very mention of what happened is even strange! He is now grown up to be seven or eight years old,

and, although exceptionally wilful, in intelligence and precocity, however, not one in a hundred could come up to him! And as for the utterances of this child, they are no less remarkable. The bones and flesh of woman, he argues, are made of

water, while those of man of mud. ‘Women to my eyes are pure and pleasing,’ he says, ‘while at the sight of man, I readily feel how corrupt, foul and repelling they

are!’ Now tell me, are not these words ridiculous? There can be no doubt whatever that he will by and bye turn out to be a licentious roué.”

Yü-ts’un, whose countenance suddenly assumed a stern air, promptly interrupted the conversation. “It doesn’t quite follow,” he suggested. “You people don’t, I

regret to say, understand the destiny of this child. The fact is that even the old Hanlin scholar Mr. Cheng was erroneously looked upon as a loose rake and

dissolute debauchee! But unless a person, through much study of books and knowledge of letters,

so increases (in lore) as to attain the talent of discerning the nature of things,

and the vigour of mind to fathom the Taoist

reason as well as to comprehend the first principle,

he is not in a position to form any judgment.”

“It is indeed ridiculous,” interposed the Taoist

“It is indeed ridiculous,” interposed the Taoist. “Never before have I heard even the very mention of restitution by means of tears!

Why should not you and I avail ourselves of this opportunity to likewise go down into the world?

and if successful in effecting the salvation of a few of them, will it not be a work meritorious and virtuous?”

“This proposal,” remarked the Buddhist, “is quite in harmony with my own views. Come along then with me to the palace of the Monitory Vision Fairy, and let us deliver up this good-for-nothing object, and have done with it! And when the

company of pleasure-bound spirits of wrath descend into human existence, you and I can then enter the world. Half of them have already fallen into the dusty

universe, but the whole number of them have not, as yet, come together.”

“Such being the case,” the Taoist acquiesced, “I am ready to follow you, whenever you please to go.”

But to return to Chen Shih-yin. Having heard every one of these words distinctly, he could not refrain from forthwith stepping

forward and paying homage. “My spiritual lords,” he said, as he smiled, “accept my obeisance.” The Buddhist and Taoist priests

lost no time in responding to the compliment, and they exchanged the usual salutations. “My spiritual lords,” Shih-yin

continued; “I have just heard the conversation that passed between you, on causes and effects, a conversation the like of which few mortals have forsooth listened to; but your younger

brother is sluggish of intellect, and cannot lucidly fathom the import! Yet could this dulness and simplicity be graciously

dispelled, your younger brother may, by listening minutely, with

undefiled ear and careful attention, to a certain degree be aroused to a sense of understanding; and what is more, possibly

find the means of escaping the anguish of sinking down into Hades.”

The two spirits smiled, “The conversation,” they added, “refers to the primordial scheme and cannot be divulged before the proper season; but, when the time

comes, mind do not forget us two, and you will readily be able to escape from the fiery furnace.”

Shih-yin, after this reply, felt it difficult to make any further inquiries. “The primordial scheme,” he however remarked smiling, “cannot, of course, be

divulged; but what manner of thing, I wonder, is the good-for-nothing object you alluded to a short while back? May I not be allowed to judge for myself?”

“This object about which you ask,”

the Buddhist Bonze responded, “is intended,

I may tell you, by fate to be just glanced at by you.”

With these words he produced it, and handed it over to Shih-yin.