Chinese Folktales

28. The Little Dog

THERE was a scholar in Shansi who found the company of others too noisy. He therefore made his home in a Buddhist temple. But he suffered a great deal from the fact that the room was full of bedbugs, midges and fleas so that he got no sleep at nights.

Once he was resting on his bed after his meal. Then suddenly two minute horsemen appeared with plumes on their helmets. They were about two inches tall and rode horses the size of grasshoppers. On their hands they wore hawking gloves and they carried peregrines the size of flies. They galloped round the roam at great speed. As the scholar was watching them another creature entered, clad like the first but carrying bow and arrows and accompanied by a hound the size of an ant. He was followed by a large throng of men on foot and on horseback, perhaps several hundreds of them. They too had hundreds of falcons and hounds with them. The midges and flies in the room flew up but they were all hunted down by the hawks. The hounds climbed on to the scholar’s bed and nosed along the wall, tracking down lice and fleas and devouring them. Whatever was hiding in the crevices was spotted by them and driven out so that in a very short time nearly all the vermin were dead.

The scholar pretended to be asleep while he watched them. The falcons settled on him and the dogs scampered over his body. Presently there arrived a man in a yellow robe, with a crown like a king; he climbed up on an empty bed and installed himself there. Instantly the mounted men rode up to him, dismounted and brought him all their venison and game birds. Then they assembled in front of him in large numbers and talked to him in a strange language.

After a While the king got into a small carriage and his bodyguards hastened to saddle their horses. With a thousand cries they galloped out of the room, like beans being scattered, and a thick cloud of dust rose behind them. In an instant they were all gone but the scholar’s eyes were still fixed on the spot in fright and amazement. He did not know whence they had come. He slipped on his shoes and looked all round but they had disappeared without a trace. He returned and searched about his room but there was nothing to be seen. Only on a brick by the wall was there a tiny little dog which had been left behind. Swiftly the scholar caught it. It was quite tame. He placed it in his ink box and regarded it from all sides. It had a perfectly smooth delicate skin and on its neck was a minute collar. He tried to feed it a few crumbs but it merely sniffed them and did not touch them. Then it leapt up on to the bed, and nosed out a few ticks and lice. among the seams of the clothes which it ate. Then it returned and lay down. When the night ended the scholar feared that it might have run away but there it was lying curled up as before. Whenever he laid himself to sleep the little dog would get on to his bed and kill all the vermin it could find. No fly or midge again dared to settle there. The scholar loved the little dog like a jewel. But once he fell asleep in the daytime and the little dog had crept up to his side. When the scholar woke up he turned over, resting himself on his elbow. He felt something under him and was afraid it might be the little dog.

Hurriedly he got up and locked but the tiny dog was already dead, squashed flat like a figure cut out of paper. But all the vermin had gone.

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