THE ENCHANTED WINE-JUG

In ancient times there lived an old gray-haired man by the river’s
bank where the ferry-boats land. He was poor but honest, and being
childless, and compelled to earn his own food, he kept a little
wine-shop, which, small though it was, possessed quite a local
reputation, for the aged proprietor would permit no quarrelling
on his premises, and sold only one brand of wine, and this was of
really excellent quality. He did not keep a pot of broth simmering
over the coals at his door to tempt the passer-by, and thus increase
his thirst on leaving. The old man rather preferred the customers who
brought their little long-necked bottles, and carried the drink to
their homes. There were some peculiarities–almost mysteries–about
this little wine-shop; the old man had apparently always been there,
and had never seemed any younger. His wine never gave out, no matter
how great might be the local thirst, yet he was never seen to make
or take in a new supply; nor had he a great array of vessels in his
shop. On the contrary, he always seemed to pour the wine out of the
one and same old bottle, the long, slender neck of which was black and
shiny from being so often tipped in his old hand while the generous,
warming stream gurgled outward to the bowl. This had long ceased to be
a matter of inquiry, however, and only upon the advent of a stranger
of an inquiring mind would the subject be re-discussed. The neighbors
were assured that the old man was thoroughly good, and that his wine
was better. Furthermore, he sold it as reasonably as other men sold a
much inferior article. And more than this, they did not care to know;
or at least if they did once care, they had gotten over it, and were
now content to let well enough alone.

I said the old man had no children. That is true, yet he had that which
in a slight degree took the place of children, in that they were his
daily care, his constant companions, and the partners of his bed and
board. These deputy children were none other than a good-natured old
dog, with laughing face and eyes, long silken ears that were ever on
the alert, yet too soft to stand erect, a chunky neck, and a large
round body covered with long soft tan hair and ending in a bushy
tail. He was the very impersonation of canine wisdom and good-nature,
and seldom became ruffled unless he saw his master worried by the ill
behavior of one of his patrons, or when a festive flea persisted in
attacking him on all sides at once. His fellow, a cat, would sometimes
assist in the onslaught, when the dog was about to be defeated and
completely ruffled by his tormentor.

This “Thomas” was also a character in his own way, and though past the
days when his chief ambition had been to catch his tail, he had such a
strong vein of humor running through him that age could not subdue his
frivolous propensities. He had been known to drop a dead mouse upon the
dog’s nose from the counter, while the latter was endeavoring to get a
quiet nap; and then he would blow his tail up as a balloon, hump his
back, and look utterly shocked at such conduct, as the startled dog
nearly jumped out of his skin, and growling horribly, tore around as
though he were either in chase of a wild beast or being chased by one.

This happy couple lived in the greatest contentment with the old
man. They slept in the little kang room with him at night, and enjoyed
the warm stone floor, with its slick oil-paper covering, as much as
did their master. When the old man would go out on a mild moonlit
night to enjoy a pipe of tobacco and gaze at the stars, his companions
would rush out and announce to the world that they were not asleep,
but ready to encounter any and every thing that the darkness might
bring forth, so long as it did not enter their master’s private court,
of which they were in possession.

These two were fair-weather companions up to this time. They had not
been with the old man when a bowl of rice was a luxury. Their days
did not antedate the period of the successful wine-shop history. The
old man, however, often recalled those former days with a shudder,
and thought with great complacency of the time when he had befriended
a divine being, in the form of a weary human traveller, to whom he
gave the last drink his jug contained, and how, when the contents
of the little jug had gurgled down the stranger’s throat in a long
unbroken draught, the stranger had given him a trifling little thing
that looked like a bit of amber, saying: “Drop this into your jug,
old man, and so long as it remains there, you will never want for a
drink.” He did so; and sure enough the jug was heavy with something,
so that he raised it to his lips, and–could he believe it! a most
delicious stream of wine poured down his parched throat.

He took the jug down and peered into its black depths; he shook its
sides, causing the elf within to dance and laugh aloud; and shutting
his eyes, again he took another long draught; then meaning well, he
remembered the stranger, and was about to offer him a drink, when he
discovered that he was all alone, and began to wonder at the strange
circumstance, and to think what he was to do. “I can’t sit here and
drink all the time, or I will be drunk, and some thief will carry
away my jug. I can’t live on wine alone, yet I dare not leave this
strange thing while I seek for work.”

Like many another to whom fortune has just come, he knew not for a
time what to do with his good-luck. Finally he hit upon the scheme
of keeping a wine-shop, the success of which we have seen, and have
perhaps refused the old man credit for the wisdom he displayed in
continuing on in a small scale, rather than in exciting unpleasant
curiosity and official oppression, by turning up his jug and attempting
to produce wine at wholesale. The dog and cat knew the secret, and
had ever a watchful eye upon the jug, which was never for a moment
out of sight of one of the three pairs of eyes.

As the brightest day must end in gloom, however, so was this pleasant
state soon to be marred by a most sad and far-reaching accident.

One day the news flashed around the neighborhood that the old man’s
supply of wine was exhausted; not a drop remained in his jug, and he
had no more with which to refill it. Each man on hearing the news ran
to see if it were indeed true, and the little straw-thatched hut and
its small court encircled by a mud wall were soon filled with anxious
seekers after the truth. The old man admitted the statement to be
true, but had little to say; while the dog’s ears hung neglectedly
over his cheeks, his eyes dropped, and he looked as though he might
be asleep, but for the persistent manner in which he refused to lie
down, but dignifiedly bore his portion of the sorrow sitting upright,
but with bowed head.

“Thomas” seemed to have been charged with agitation enough for the
whole family. He walked nervously about the floor till he felt that
justice to his tail demanded a higher plane, where shoes could not
offend, and then betook himself to the counter, and later to the
beam which supported the roof, and made a sort of cats’ and rats’
attic under the thatch.

All condoled with the old man, and not one but regretted that their
supply of cheap, good wine was exhausted. The old man offered no
explanation, though he had about concluded in his own mind that, as
no one knew the secret, he must have in some way poured the bit of
amber into a customer’s jug. But who possessed the jug he could not
surmise, nor could he think of any way of reclaiming it. He talked
the matter over carefully and fully to himself at night, and the
dog and cat listened attentively, winking knowingly at each other,
and puzzling their brains much as to what was to be done and how they
were to assist their kind old friend.

At last the old man fell asleep, and then sitting down face to face
by his side, the dog and cat began a discussion. “I am sure,” says
the cat, “that I can detect that thing if I only come within smelling
distance of it; but how do we know where to look for it.” That was
a puzzler, but the dog proposed that they make a search through
every house in the neighborhood. “We can go on a mere kuh kyung
(look see), you know, and while you call on the cats indoors, and
keep your smellers open, I will yay gee (chat) with the dogs outside,
and if you smell any thing you can tell me.”

The plan seemed to be the only good one, and it was adopted that
very night. They were not cast down because the first search was
unsuccessful, and continued their work night after night. Sometimes
their calls were not appreciated, and in a few cases they had to
clear the field by battle before they could go on with the search. No
house was neglected, however, and in due time they had done the whole
neighborhood, but with no success. They then determined that it must
have been carried to the other side of the river, to which place they
decided to extend their search as soon as the water was frozen over,
so that they could cross on the ice, for they knew they would not be
allowed in the crowded ferry-boats; and while the dog could swim, he
knew that the water was too icy for that. As it soon grew very cold,
the river froze so solidly that bull-carts, ponies, and all passed
over on the ice, and so it remained for near two months, allowing
the searching party to return each morning to their poor old master,
who seemed completely broken up by his loss, and did not venture away
from his door, except to buy the few provisions which his little fund
of savings would allow.

Time flew by without bringing success to the faithful comrades, and
the old man began to think they too were deserting him, as his old
customers had done. It was nearing the time for the spring thaw and
freshet, when one night as the cat was chasing around over the roof
timbers, in a house away to the outside of the settlement across the
river, he detected an odor that caused him to stop so suddenly as to
nearly precipitate himself upon a sleeping man on the floor below. He
carefully traced up the odor, and found that it came from a soapstone
tobacco box that sat upon the top of a high clothes-press near by. The
box was dusty with neglect, and “Thomas” concluded that the possessor
had accidentally turned the coveted gem (for it was from that the
odor came) out into his wine bowl, and, not knowing its nature,
had put it into this stone box rather than throw it away. The lid
was so securely fastened that the box seemed to be one solid piece,
and in despair of opening it, the cat went out to consult the superior
wisdom of the dog, and see what could be done. “I can’t get up there,”
said the dog, “nor can you bring me the box, or I might break it.”

“I cannot move the thing, or I might push it off, and let it fall to
the floor and break,” said the cat.

So after explaining the things they could not do, the dog finally
hit upon a plan they might perhaps successfully carry out. “I will
tell you,” said he. “You go and see the chief of the rat guild in this
neighborhood, tell him that if he will help you in this matter, we will
both let him alone for ten years, and not hurt even a mouse of them.”

“But what good is that going to do?”

“Why, don’t you see, that stone is no harder than some wood, and they
can take turns at it till they gnaw a hole through, then we can easily
get the gem.”

The cat bowed before the marvellous judgment of the dog, and went off
to accomplish the somewhat difficult task of obtaining an interview
with the master rat. Meanwhile the dog wagged his ears and tail,
and strode about with a swinging stride, in imitation of the great
yang ban, or official, who occasionally walked past his master’s
door, and who seemed to denote by his haughty gait his superiority
to other men. His importance made him impudent, and when the cat
returned, to his dismay, he found his friend engaged in a genuine
fight with a lot of curs who had dared to intrude upon his period of
self-congratulation. “Thomas” mounted the nearest wall, and howled
so lustily that the inmates of the house, awakened by the uproar,
came out and dispersed the contestants.

The cat had found the rat, who, upon being assured of safety,
came to the mouth of his hole, and listened attentively to the
proposition. It is needless to say he accepted it, and a contract
was made forthwith. It was arranged that work was to begin at once,
and be continued by relays as long as they could work undisturbed,
and when the box was perforated, the cat was to be summoned.

The ice had now broken up and the pair could not return home very
easily, so they waited about the neighborhood for some months, picking
up a scant living, and making many friends and not a few enemies,
for they were a proud pair, and ready to fight on provocation.

It was warm weather, when, one night, the cat almost forgot his
compact as he saw a big fat rat slinking along towards him. He
crouched low and dug his long claws into the earth, while every nerve
seemed on the jump; but before he was ready to spring upon his prey,
he fortunately remembered his contract. It was just in time, too,
for as the rat was none other than the other party to the contract,
such a mistake at that time would have been fatal to their object.

The rat announced that the hole was completed, but was so small at the
inside end that they were at a loss to know how to get the gem out,
unless the cat could reach it with his paw. Having acquainted the
dog with the good news, the cat hurried off to see for himself. He
could introduce his paw, but as the object was at the other end of
the box he could not quite reach it. They were in a dilemma, and
were about to give up, when the cat went again to consult with the
dog. The latter promptly told them to put a mouse into the box, and
let him bring out the gem. They did so, but the hole was too small
for the little fellow and his load to get out at the same time,
so that much pushing and pulling had to be done before they were
successful. They got it safely at last, however, and gave it at once
to the dog for safe-keeping. Then, with much purring and wagging of
tails, the contract of friendship was again renewed, and the strange
party broke up; the rats to go and jubilate over their safety, the
dog and cat to carry the good news to their mourning master.

Again canine wisdom was called into play in devising a means for
crossing the river. The now happy dog was equal to such a trifling
thing as this, however, and instructed the cat that he must take the
gem in his mouth, hold it well between his teeth, and then mount his
(the dog’s) back, where he could hold on firmly to the long hair of
his neck while he swam across the river. This was agreed upon, and
arriving at the river they put the plan into execution. All went well
until, as they neared the opposite bank, a party of school-children
chanced to notice them coming, and, after their amazement at the
strange sight wore away, they burst into uproarious laughter, which
increased the more they looked at the absurd sight. They clapped their
hands and danced with glee, while some fell on the ground and rolled
about in an exhaustion of merriment at seeing a cat astride a dog’s
back being ferried across the river.

The dog was too weary, and consequently matter-of-fact, to see much
fun in it, but the cat shook his sides till his agitation caused the
dog to take in great gulps of water in attempting to keep his head
up. This but increased the cat’s merriment, till he broke out in a
laugh as hearty as that of the children, and in doing so dropped the
precious gem into the water. The dog, seeing the sad accident, dove at
once for the gem; regardless of the cat, who could not let go in time
to escape, and was dragged down under the water. Sticking his claws
into the dog’s skin, in his agony of suffocation, he caused him so much
pain that he missed the object of his search, and came to the surface.

The cat got ashore in some way, greatly angered at the dog’s rude
conduct. The latter, however, cared little for that, and as soon as
he had shaken the water from his hide, he made a lunge at his unlucky
companion, who had lost the results of a half year’s faithful work
in one moment of foolishness.

Dripping like a “drowned cat,” “Thomas” was, however, able to climb
a tree, and there he stayed till the sun had dried the water from
his fur, and he had spat the water from his inwards in the constant
spitting he kept up at his now enemy, who kept barking ferociously
about the tree below. The cat knew that the dog was dangerous when
aroused, and was careful not to descend from his perch till the coast
was clear; though at one time he really feared the ugly boys would
knock him off with stones as they passed. Once down, he has ever since
been careful to avoid the dog, with whom he has never patched up the
quarrel. Nor does he wish to do so, for the very sight of a dog causes
him to recall that horrible cold ducking and the day spent up a tree,
and involuntarily he spits as though still filled with river-water,
and his tail blows up as it had never learned to do till the day when
for so long its damp and draggled condition would not permit of its
assuming the haughty shape. This accounts for the scarcity of cats
and the popularity of dogs. [2]

The dog did not give up his efforts even now. He dove many times in
vain, and spent most of the following days sitting on the river’s bank,
apparently lost in thought. Thus the winter found him–his two chief
aims apparently being to find the gem and to kill the cat. The latter
kept well out of his way, and the ice now covered the place where the
former lay hidden. One day he espied a man spearing fish through a hole
in the ice, as was very common. Having a natural desire to be around
where any thing eatable was being displayed, and feeling a sort of
proprietorship in the particular part of the river where the man was
fishing, and where he himself had had such a sad experience, he went
down and looked on. As a fish came up, something natural seemed to
greet his nostrils, and then, as the man lay down his catch, the dog
grabbed it and rushed off in the greatest haste. He ran with all his
might to his master, who, poor man, was now at the end of his string
(coin in Korea is perforated and strung on a string), and was almost
reduced to begging. He was therefore delighted when his faithful old
friend brought him so acceptable a present as a fresh fish. He at once
commenced dressing it, but when he slit it open, to his infinite joy,
his long-lost gem fell out of the fish’s belly. The dog was too happy
to contain himself, but jumping upon his master, he licked him with
his tongue, and struck him with his paws, barking meanwhile as though
he had again treed the cat.

As soon as their joy had become somewhat natural, the old man carefully
placed the gem in his trunk, from which he took the last money he
had, together with some fine clothes–relics of his more fortunate
days. He had feared he must soon pawn these clothes, and had even
shown them to the brokers. But now he took them out to put them on,
as his fortune had returned to him. Leaving the fish baking on the
coals, he donned his fine clothes, and taking his last money, he went
and purchased wine for his feast, and for a beginning; for he knew
that once he placed the gem back in the jug, the supply of wine would
not cease. On his return he and the good dog made a happy feast of
the generous fish, and the old man completely recovered his spirits
when he had quaffed deeply of the familiar liquid to which his mouth
was now such a stranger. Going to his trunk directly, he found to his
amazement that it contained another suit of clothes exactly like the
first ones he had removed, while there lay also a broken string of
cash of just the amount which he had previously taken out.

Sitting down to think, the whole truth dawned upon him, and he then
saw how he had abused his privilege before in being content to use
his talisman simply to run a wine-shop, while he might have had money
and every thing else in abundance by simply giving the charm a chance
to work.

Acting upon this principle, the old man eventually became immensely
wealthy, for he could always duplicate any thing with his piece of
amber. He carefully tended his faithful dog, who never in his remaining
days molested a rat, and never lost an opportunity to attack every
cat he saw.

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