“Excellent!” cried Shih-yin with a loud voice, after he had heard these lines; “I have repeatedly maintained that it was impossible for you to remain long inferior
to any, and now the verses you have recited are a prognostic of your rapid advancement. Already it is evident that, before long, you will extend your
footsteps far above the clouds! I must congratulate you! I must congratulate you! Let me, with my own hands, pour a glass of wine to pay you my compliments.”
Yü-ts’un drained the cup. “What I am about to say,” he explained as he suddenly heaved a sigh, “is not the maudlin talk of a man under the effects of wine. As far as the subjects at present set in the examinations go, I could,
perchance, also have well been able to enter the list, and to send in my name as a candidate; but I have, just now, no means whatever to make provision for
luggage and for travelling expenses. The distance too to Shen Ching is a long one, and I could not depend upon the sale of papers or the composition of essays to find the means of getting there.”
Shih-yin gave him no time to conclude. “Why did you not speak about this sooner?” he interposed with haste. “I have long entertained this suspicion;
but as, whenever I met you, this conversation was never broached, I did not presume to make myself officious. But if such be the state of affairs just now,
I lack, I admit, literary qualification, but on the two subjects of friendly spirit and pecuniary means, I have, nevertheless, some experience. Moreover, I rejoice
that next year is just the season for the triennial examinations, and you should start for the capital with all despatch; and in the tripos next spring, you will, by
carrying the prize, be able to do justice to the proficiency you can boast of. As regards the travelling expenses and the other items, the provision of everything
necessary for you by my own self will again not render nugatory your mean acquaintance with me.”
Forthwith, he directed a servant lad to go and pack up at once fifty taels of pure silver and two suits of winter clothes.
“The nineteenth,” he continued, “is a propitious day, and you should lose no time in hiring a boat and starting on your journey westwards. And when, by your
eminent talents, you shall have soared high to a lofty position, and we meet again next winter, will not the occasion be extremely felicitous?”
Yü-ts’un accepted the money and clothes with but scanty expression of gratitude. In fact, he paid no thought whatever to the gifts, but went on, again drinking his wine, as he chattered and laughed.
It was only when the third watch of that day had already struck that the two friends parted company;
and Shih-yin, after seeing Yü-ts’un off,
retired to his room and slept, with one sleep all through,
never waking until the sun was well up in the skies.