Friendship with Foxes

A certain man had an enormous stack of straw, as big as a hill, in which his servants, taking what was daily required for use, had made quite a large hole. In this hole a fox fixed his abode, and would often show himself to the master of the house under the form of an old man.

One day the latter invited the master to walk into his abode; he at first declined, but accepted on being pressed; and when he got inside, lo! he saw a long suite of handsome apartments. They then sat down, and exquisitely perfumed tea and wine were brought; but the place was so gloomy that there was no difference between night and day.

By and by, the entertainment being over, the guest took his leave; and on looking back the beautiful rooms and their contents had all disappeared.

The old man himself was in the habit of going away in the evening and returning with the first streaks of morning; and as no one was able to follow him, the master of the house asked him one day whither he went. To this he replied that a friend invited him to take wine; and then the master begged to be allowed to accompany him, a proposal to which the old man very reluctantly consented. However, he seized the master by the arm, and away they went as though riding on the wings of the wind; and in about the time it takes to cook a pot of millet they reached a city and walked into a restaurant, where there were a number of people drinking together and making a great noise.

The old man led his companion to a gallery above, from which they could look down on the feasters below; and he himself went down and brought away from the tables all kinds of nice food and wine, without appearing to be seen or noticed by any of the company.

After a while a man dressed in red garments came forward and laid upon the table some dishes of cumquats; the master at once requested the old man to go down and get him some of these.

“Ah,” replied the latter, “that is an upright man: I cannot approach him.”

Thereupon the master said to himself, “By thus seeking the companionship of a fox, I then am deflected from the true course. Henceforth I too will be an upright man.”

No sooner had he formed this resolution than he suddenly lost all control over his body, and fell from the gallery down among the revellers below. These gentlemen were much astonished by his unexpected descent; and he himself, looking up, saw there was no gallery to the house, but only a large beam upon which he had been sitting. He now detailed the whole of the circumstances, and those present made up a purse for him to pay his travelling expenses; for he was at Yü-t’ai—a thousand li from home.


From Myths & Legends of China by E. T. C. Werner


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