Hundreds of years ago, there were a great many learned men in China, who were always trying to find out something which would make them live for ever. They mixed up all kinds of things together, and boiled them for a long time over the fire, and then drank the juice. Some of them were soon poisoned, while all the rest made themselves very ill, and did not live any longer than other people. One man sent a bottle of his mixture to the king, only it never reached his Majesty, because it was stolen and drunk up by the door-keeper of the palace. At this the king was very angry, and sent for the door-keeper and ordered his head to be cut off on the spot. But the door-keeper said, ” Please, your Majesty, if you kill me, it shows that the medicine I drank cannot make people live for ever; so that it would have been of no use to your Majesty.” The king laughed at this, and let him off.
However, there was another man, who had spent about fifty years in trying to make this wonderful medicine. He had mixed up every kind of drug and plant it was possible to get hold of, and he had tried his mixture on a great number of old people ; but all of them had died, some perhaps sooner than they would otherwise have done. Well, one day as he was sitting at a table in his garden, working away at his mixtures, he was so pleased with a new kind he had made that he felt positive he had found the secret at last. So he determined, before giving it to anybody else, to make sure of some for himself, and there and then he drank off nearly a cupful. Immediately, he felt himself rising slowly from the ground, and soon he began going faster and faster, until he was quite high up in the air. This seemed to frighten him, for he dropped the cup with a lot of the mixture in it. The cup fell in his backyard, and the cocks and hens ran at once to get a sip of the mixture, thinking it was probably something good to eat. His dog too ran to take a lick, and even the cat had a taste. Very soon they were all sailing after their master up into the sky, and gradually passed out of sight, and were never heard of again.
Retold by H. A. Giles