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Title: Strange Stories from the Lodge of Leisures
Author: Unknown
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    STRANGE STORIES
    FROM THE
    LODGE OF LEISURES

    TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY
    GEORGE SOULIÉ
    OF THE FRENCH CONSULAR SERVICE IN CHINA


    BOSTON AND NEW YORK
    HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
    1913

    PRINTED BY
    HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
    LONDON AND AYLESBURY,
    ENGLAND.



PREFACE


The first European students who undertook to give the Western world an
idea of Chinese literature were misled by the outward and profound
respect affected by the Chinese towards their ancient classics. They
have worked from generation to generation in order to translate more and
more accurately the thirteen classics, Confucius, Mengtsz, and the
others. They did not notice that, once out of school, the Chinese did
not pay more attention to their classics than we do to ours: if you see
a book in their hands, it will never be the "Great Study" or the
"Analects," but much more likely a novel like the "History of the Three
Kingdoms," or a selection of ghost-stories. These works that everybody,
young or old, reads and reads again, have on the Chinese mind an
influence much greater than the whole bulk of the classics.
Notwithstanding their great importance for those who study Chinese
thought, they have been completely left aside. In fact, the whole of
real Chinese literature is still unknown to the Westerners.

It is a pity that it should be so. The novels and stories throw an
extraordinary light on Chinese everyday life that foreigners have been
very seldom, and now will never be, able to witness, and they illustrate
in a striking way the idea the Chinese have formed of the other world.
One is able at last to understand what is the meaning of the _huen_ or
superior soul, which leaves the body after death or during sleep, but
keeps its outward appearance and ordinary clothes; the _p'aï_ or
inferior soul which remains in the decaying body, and sometimes is
strong enough to prevent it from decaying, and to give it all the
appearances of life. The magicians of the Tao religion, or Taoist
priests, play a great part in these stories, and the Buddhist ideas of
metempsychosis give the opportunity of more complicated situations than
we dream of.

Among the most celebrated works, I have chosen the "Strange Stories from
the Lodge of Leisures," _Leao chai Chi yi_. It was written in the second
half of the eighteenth century by P'ou Song-lin (P'ou Lieou-hsien), of
Tsy-cheou, in the Chantong province.

The whole work is composed of more than three hundred stories. I have
selected twenty-five among the most characteristic.

This being a literary work, and having nothing scientific to boast of, I
have tried to give my English readers the same literary impression that
the Chinese has. _Tradutore traditore_, say the Italians; I hope I have
not been too much of a traitor.

A translation is always a most difficult work; if it is materially
exact, word for word and sentence by sentence, the so-called scientific
men are satisfied, but all the charm, beauty, and interest of the
original are lost. Very often, too, such translation is obscure and
unintelligible. Each nation has an heirloom of traditions, customs, or
religion to which its literature constantly refers. If the reader is not
acquainted with that literature, these references will convey no meaning
to his mind, or they may even convey a false one. In Chinese, this
difficulty is greater than in any other language; the Far Eastern
civilisation has had a development of its own, and its legends and
superstitions have nothing in common with the Western folklore. The
Chinese mind is radically different from ours, and has grown, in every
generation, more different by reason of a different training and a
different ideal in life. The Chinese writing, moreover, has strengthened
those differences; it represents the ideas themselves, instead of
representing the words; each Chinese sign may be rightly translated by
either of the three or more words by which our language analytically
describes every aspect of one same idea. The sign which is read _Tao_,
for instance, must be, according to the sentence, translated by any of
the words: direction, rule, doctrine, religion, way, road, word, verb;
all of them being the different forms of the same idea of direction,
moral or physical.

Some French sinologists, aware of this difficulty, now translate the
texts literally, and try to explain the meaning by a number of notes,
which sometimes leave only one or two lines of text in a page. This
method seems at first more scientific; it explains everything in the
most careful way, and is very useful for the translation of inscriptions
or of certain obscure passages in historical books. But for real
literature, it is the greatest possible error, leaving out, as it does,
all the impression and illusion the author intended to convey. Besides,
the necessity of going, at every word, down the page in order to find
the meaning in a note, tires the reader and takes away all the pleasure
he should derive from the book.

One may even say that a materially exact translation is, in reality, a
false one; the words we use in writing and speaking being mere technical
signs by which we represent our ideas. For instance, the word
"cathedral" will certainly not convey the same idea to two men, one of
whom has only seen St. Paul's, and the other only Notre-Dame de Paris;
for the first, cathedral means a dome; for the other it means two towers
and a long ogival nave. Below the outward appearance of the words there
lie so many different images that it is absolutely necessary to know the
mentality of a nation in order to master its language. In fact, a true
translation will be the one that, though sometimes materially inexact,
will give the reader the same impression he would have if he were
reading the original text.

Since I first went to China, in 1901, I have had many opportunities of
acquainting myself with all the superstitions of the lower classes, with
all the splendid mental and intellectual training of the learned. My
experience has helped me to perceive what was hidden beneath the words;
and in my translation I have sometimes supplied what the author only
thought necessary to imply. In many places the translation is literal;
in other places it is literary, it being impossible for a Western writer
to retain all the long and useless talking, all the repetitions that
Chinese writing and Chinese taste are equally fond of.

                                                      GEORGE SOULIÉ.



    CONTENTS


    THE GHOST IN LOVE
    THE FRESCO
    THE DWARF HUNTERS
    THE CORPSE THE BLOOD DRINKER
    LOVE REWARDED
    THE WOMAN IN GREEN
    THE FAULT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
    DECEIVING SHADOWS
    PEACEFUL-LIGHT
    HONG THE CURRIER
    AUTUMN-MOON
    THE PRINCESS NELUMBO
    THE TWO BROTHERS
    THE MARBLE ARCH
    THE DUTIFUL SON
    THROUGH MANY LIVES
    THE RIVER OF SORROWS
    THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
    THE SPIRIT OF THE RIVER
    THE-DEVILS-OF-THE-OCEAN
    UNKNOWN DEVILS
    CHILDLESS
    THE PATCH OF LAMB'S SKIN
    LOVE'S-SLAVE
    THE LAUGHING GHOST



_Strange Stories from the Lodge of Leisures_



_THE GHOST IN LOVE_


On the 15th day of the First Moon, in the second year of the period of
"Renewed Principles," the streets of the town of the Eastern Lake were
thronged with people who were strolling about.

At the setting of the sun every shop was brightly lit up; processions of
people moved hither and thither; strings of boys were carrying lanterns
of every form and colour; whole families passed, every member of whom,
young or old, small or big, was holding at the end of a thin bamboo the
lighted image of a bird, an animal, or a flower.

Richer ones, several together, were carrying enormous dragons whose
luminous wings waved at every motion and whose glaring eyes rolled from
right to left. It was the Fête of the Lanterns.

A young man, clothed in a long pale green dress, allowed himself to be
pushed about by the crowd; the passers-by bowed to him:

"How is my Lord Li The-peaceful?"

"The humble student thanks you; and you, how are you?"

"Very well, thanks to your happy influence."

"Does the precious student soon pass his second literary examination?"

"In two months; ignorant that I am. I am idling instead of working."

The fête was drawing to a close when The-peaceful quitted the main
street, and went towards the East Gate, where the house was to be found
in which he lived alone.

He went farther and farther: the moving lights were rarer; ere long he
only saw before him the fire of a white lantern decorated with two red
peonies. The paper globe was swinging to the steps of a tiny girl
clothed in the blue linen that only slaves wore. The light, behind,
showed the elegant silhouette of another woman, this one covered with a
long jacket made in a rich pink silk edged with purple.

As the student drew nearer, the belated walker turned round, showing an
oval face and big long eyes, wherein shone a bright speck, cruel and
mysterious.

Li The-peaceful slackened his pace, following the two strangers, whose
small feet glided silently on the shining flagstones of the street.

He was asking himself how he could begin a conversation, when the
mistress turned round again, softly smiled, and in a low, rich voice,
said to him:

"Is it not strange that in the advancing night we are following the same
road?"

"I owe it to the favour of Heaven," he at once replied; "for I am
returning to the East Gate; otherwise I should never have dared to
follow you."

The conversation, once begun, continued as they walked side by side. The
student learned that the pretty walker was called "Double-peony," that
she was the daughter of Judge Siu, that she lived out of the city in a
garden planted with big trees, on the road to the lake.

On arriving at his house The-peaceful insisted that his new friend
should enter and take a cup of tea. She hesitated; then the two young
people pushed the door, crossed the small yard bordered right and left
with walls covered with tiles, and disappeared in the house....

The servant remained under the portal.

Daylight was breaking when the young girl came out again, calling the
servant, who was asleep. The next evening she came again, always
accompanied by the slave bearing the white lantern with two red
peonies. It was the same each day following.

A neighbour who had watched these nocturnal visits was inquisitive
enough to climb the wall which separated his yard from that of the
lovers, and to wait, hidden in the shade of the house.

At the accustomed hour the street-door, left ajar, opened to let in the
visitors.

Once in the courtyard, they were suddenly transformed, their eyes became
flaming and red; their faces grew pale; their teeth seemed to lengthen;
an icy mist escaped from their lips.

The neighbour did not see any more: terrified, he let himself slide to
the ground and ran to his inner room.

The next morning he went to the student and told him what he had seen.
The lover was paralysed with fear: in order to reassure himself he
resolved to find out everything he could about his mistress.

He at once went outside the ramparts, on the road to the lake, hoping
to find the house of Judge Siu. But at the place he had been told of
there was no habitation; on the left, a fallow plain, sown with tombs,
went up to the hills; on the right, cultivated fields extended as far as
the lake.

However, a small temple was hidden there under big trees. The student
had given up all hope; he entered, notwithstanding, into the sacred
enclosure, knowing that travellers stayed there sometimes for several
weeks.

In the first yard a bonze was passing in his red dress and shaven head;
he stopped him.

"Do you know Judge Siu? He has a daughter----"

"Judge Siu's daughter?" asked the priest, astonished. "Well--yes--but
wait, I will show her to you."

The-peaceful felt his heart overflowing with joy; his beloved one was
living; he was going to see her by the light of day. He quickly
followed his companion.

Passing the first court, they crossed a threshold and found themselves
in a yard planted with high pine-trees and bordered by a low pavilion.
The bonze, passing in first, pushed a door, and, turning round, said:

"Here is Judge Siu's daughter!"

The other stopped, terrified; on a trestle a heavy black lacquered
coffin bore this inscription in golden letters: "Coffin of Double-peony,
Judge Siu's daughter."

On the wall was an unfolded painting representing the little maid; a
white lantern decorated with two red peonies was hung over it.

"Yes, she has been there for the last two years; her parents, according
to the rite, are waiting for a favourable day to bury her."

The student silently turned on his heel and went back, not deigning to
reply to the mocking bow of the priest.

Evening arrived; he locked himself in, and, covering his head with his
blankets, he waited; sleep came to him only at daybreak.

But he could not cease to think of her whom he no longer saw; his heart
beat as if to burst, when in the street he perceived the silhouette of a
woman which reminded him of his friend.

At last he was incapable of containing himself any longer; one evening
he stationed himself behind the door. After a few minutes there was a
knock; he opened the door; it was only the little maid:

"My mistress is in tears; why do you never open the door? I come every
evening. If you will follow me, perhaps she will forgive you."

The-peaceful, blinded by love, started at once, walking by the light of
the white lantern.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day the neighbours, seeing that the student's door was open,
and that his house was empty, made a declaration to the governor of the
town.

The police made an inquest; they collected the evidence of several
people who had been watching the nightly visitors the student had
received. The bonze of the temple outside the city walls came to say
what he knew. The chief of the police went to the road leading to the
lake; he crossed the threshold of the little edifice, passed the first
yard and at last opened the door of the pavilion.

Everything was in order, but under the lid of the heavy coffin one could
see the corner of the long green dress of the student.

In order to do away with evil influences there was a solemn funeral.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ever since this time, on light clear nights, the passers-by often meet
the two lovers entwined together, slowly walking on the road which leads
to the lake.



_THE FRESCO_


In the Great Highway of Eternal Fixity, Mong Flowing-spring and his
friend Choo Little-lotus were slowly walking, clothed in the long light
green dress of the students.

They had both just passed with success their third literary examination,
and were enjoying the pleasures of the capital before returning to their
distant province.

As they were both of small means, they were looking now (and at the same
time filling their eyes with the movement of the street) for a lodging
less expensive than the inn where they had put up on arriving at Pekin.

Leaving the Great Highway, they strolled far into a labyrinth of lanes
more and more silent. They soon lost themselves. Undecided, they had
stopped, when they spied out the red lacquered portal of a temple of the
Mysterious-way.

Pushing the heavy sides of the door, they entered; an old man with his
hair tightly drawn together in a black cap, majestic in his grey dress,
stood behind the door and appeared to be waiting for them.

"Your coming lightens my humble dwelling," he said in bowing. "I beg you
will enter."

"I do not dare! I do not dare!" murmured the two students, bowing in
their turn.

They nevertheless entered, crossing the yard on which the portal opened,
which was closed, at the end, by the little temple in open woodwork
close under the mass of roofs of green tiles.

They went up three steps, then, pushing a narrow and straight door, they
entered. In the half-shadow they distinguished on the white altar a
statue of Tche Kong The-Supreme-Lord, with a golden face and griffins'
feet like the claws of an eagle.

The walls on each side of the altar were painted in frescoes; on the
wall on the right you saw goddesses in the midst of flowers. One of
these young girls, with a low chignon, was gathering a peony and was
slightly smiling. Her mouth, like a cherry, seemed as if it were really
opening; one would have sworn that her eyelids fluttered.

Mong Flowing-spring, his eyes fixed on the painting, remained a long
time without moving, absorbed in his admiration of the work of art, and
disturbed beyond expression by the beauty of the goddess with the low
chignon.

"Why is she not living?" said he. "I would willingly give my life for a
moment of her love!"

Suddenly he started; the young goddess raised herself upright, bursting
with laughter, and got down from the wall. She crossed the door, went
down the staircase, stepped over the yard and left the place.

Flowing-spring followed her without reflecting. He saw her going away
with a light step, and turn down the first lane; the young student ran
behind her.

As he turned the corner, he saw her stop at the entrance of a small
house. She was gracefully waving her hand, and, with sly glances, made
him signs to come.

He hastened forward and entered in his turn. In the silent house there
was nobody, no one but the goddess standing in her long mauve dress and
nibbling the flower that she had picked and that she still held in her
hand.

"I bow down," said the student, who knelt to salute her.

"Rise! you exceed the rites prescribed," she replied.

"I bend my head, not being able to bear the splendour of your beauty."

As she did not seem to be discontented he continued telling her his
admiration and his desire. He approached, touched her hand; she started,
but did not draw back. He then took her in his arms; she did not make
much resistance.

The moments passed rapidly. They spoke to each other in a low voice,
when, suddenly in the street, a noise of heavy boots resounded; steps
stopped before the door; the lock was shaken; oaths were heard.

The young girl grew pale; she told Flowing-spring to hide himself under
the bed. The student felt his heart become quite small; he crouched down
in the shadow, not even being able to breathe. From the depth of his
hiding-place, he saw an officer enter, his face in black lacquer,
covered with a golden cuirass and surrounded by a troop of young girls
in long dresses of bright colours.

"I smell an odour of human flesh!" grumbled the officer, walking heavily
and going round the room.

"Hide yourself well!" the goddess murmured to her lover, raising herself
from the bed and white with terror. "If you can escape from him, wait
till we have left, and open the little door at the end of the garden;
then run away quickly!"

"There is a man here! I smell him! He must be delivered to me! If not,
I shall punish the person who has hidden him."

"We know nothing!" all the young women said together.

"Very well! Let us go out."

Then, following the gracious troop which the goddess had joined, he
crossed the threshold.

Flowing-spring, hidden under the bed, waited till the noise of the boots
had gone away. Then he glided with caution from his refuge.

Half bent, listening with anxiety in fear of being surprised, he flew
from the room and crossed the garden.

During this time Choo Little-lotus, having remained in the temple, had
not remarked the departure of his friend. But, turning round and not any
longer seeing him, he questioned the old magician.

"Your friend is not far off," he replied.

Then, showing him the wall, he said:

"Look! here he is!"

And, indeed, in the centre of the fresco, the image of Flowing-spring
was painted; he was crouched in among the flowers, straining his ear.
The image moved, and, suddenly, the student separated himself from the
wall and advanced, looking sad and anxious.

Choo Little-lotus, terrified, was looking at him. The other told him his
adventure. As he spoke a terrible clap of thunder was heard. The two
friends instinctively shut their eyes; when they opened them, their
glance fell on the fresco: the goddesses had taken their places there
again, in the midst of the flowers; but the young girl with the low
chignon was no longer there.

The magician smiled at Flowing-spring:

"Love has touched her. She has become a woman and is waiting for you in
your village."



_THE DWARF HUNTERS_


The heavy summer in the South is particularly hard to bear for those who
are ill. The damp heat keeps them awake, and thousands of insects
trouble their rest.

Wang Little-third-one, stretched on his bed made of bamboo laths, where
a low fever kept him, complained of it to all those who came to see him,
especially to his friend the magician officiating priest of the little
temple situated in the neighbouring crossway.

The magician knew something of medicine; he prescribed a calming potion
and retired.

When Little-third-one had drunk the potion, his fever fell and he was
able to enjoy a little sleep. He was awakened by a slight noise; night
had come on; the room was lighted by the full moon, which threw a bright
gleam by the open door.

All the insects were moving and flying hither and thither; white ants
who gnaw wood, bad-smelling bugs, enormous cockroaches, mosquitoes,
innumerable and various flies.

As Little-third-one was looking, his attention was drawn by a movement
on the threshold: a small man, not bigger than a thumb, advanced with
precautious steps; in his hand he held a bow; a sword was hanging at his
side.

Little-third-one, on looking closer, saw two dogs as big as
shirt-buttons running before the man with the bow; they suddenly
stopped: the archer approached, held out his weapon, and discharged the
arrow. A cockroach who was crawling before the dogs made a bound, fell
on its back, moved again, then remained motionless; the arrow had run
through it.

Behind the first huntsman others had come; some were on horseback, armed
with swords; some on foot.

From that time it was a pursuit without intermission; hundreds of
insects were shot. At first the mosquitoes escaped; but as they cannot
fly for long, every time that one remained still it was transpierced by
the huntsmen.

Soon nothing was left of all the insects who broke the silence with
their buzzing, their gnashing of teeth, or their falling.

A horseman then was seen galloping over the room, looking from right to
left. He then gave the signal; all the huntsmen called their dogs, went
towards the door, and disappeared.

Little-third-one had not moved, in order not to disturb the hunt. At
last he peacefully went to sleep, henceforth sure of not being awakened
by a sting or a bite. He awoke late the next day almost cured.

When his friend the magician came to see him, he told him his
experience: the other smiled. Wang understood that the mysterious
hunters came from the little temple.



_THE CORPSE THE BLOOD-DRINKER_


Night was slowly falling in the narrow valley. On the winding path cut
in the side of the hill about twenty mules were following each other,
bending under their heavy load; the muleteers, being tired, did not
cease to hurry forward their animals, abusing them with coarse voices.

Comfortably seated on mules with large pack-saddles, three men were
going along at the same pace as the caravan of which they were the
masters. Their thick dresses, their fur boots, and their red woollen
hoods protected them from the cold wind of the mountain.

In the darkness, rendered thicker by a slight fog, the lights of a
village were shining, and soon the mules, hurrying all together,
jostling their loads, crowded before the only inn of the place.

The three travellers, happy to be able to rest, got down from their
saddles when the innkeeper came out on the step of his door and excused
himself, saying all his rooms were taken.

"I have still, it is true, a large hall the other side of the street,
but it is only a barn, badly shut. I will show it to you."

The merchants, disappointed, consulted each other with a look; but it
was too late to continue their way; they followed their landlord.

The hall that was shown to them was big enough and closed at the end by
a curtain. Their luggage was brought; the bed-clothes rolled on the
pack-saddles were spread out, as usual, on planks and trestles.

The meal was served in the general sitting-room, in the midst of noise,
laughing, and movement--smoking rice, vegetables preserved in vinegar,
and lukewarm wine served in small cups. Then every one went to bed; the
lights were put out and profound silence prevailed in the sleeping
village.

However, towards the hour of the Rat, a sensation of cold and
uneasiness awoke one of the three travellers named Wang Fou,
Happiness-of-the-kings. He turned in his bed, but the snoring of his two
companions annoyed him; he could not get to sleep. Again, seeing that
his rest was finished, he got up, relit the lamp which was out, took a
book from his baggage, and stretched himself out again. But if he could
not sleep, it was just as impossible to read. In spite of himself, his
eyes quitted the columns of letters laid out in lines and searched into
the darkness that the feeble light did not contrive to break through.

A growing terror froze him. He would have liked to awaken his
companions, but the fear of being made fun of prevented him.

By dint of looking, he at last saw a slight movement shake the big
curtain which closed the room. There came from behind a crackling of
wood being broken. Then a long, painful threatening silence began again.

The merchant felt his flesh thrill; he was filled with horror, in spite
of his efforts to be reasonable.

He had put aside his book, and, the coverlet drawn up to his nose, he
fixed his enlarged eyes on the shadowy corners at the end of the room.

The side of the curtain was lifted; a pale hand held the folds. The
stuff, thus raised, permitted a being to pass, whose form, hardly
distinct, seemed penetrated by the shadow.

Happiness-of-kings would have liked to scream; his contracted throat
allowed no sound to escape. Motionless and speechless, he followed with
his horrified look the slow movement of the apparition which
approached.

He, little by little, recognised the silhouette of a female, seen by her
short quilted dress and her long narrow jacket. Behind the body he
perceived the curtain again moving.

The spectre, in the meantime bending over the bed of one of the sleeping
travellers, appeared to give him a long kiss.

Then it went towards the couch of the second merchant.
Happiness-of-kings distinctly saw the pale figure, the eyes, from which
a red flame was shining, and sharp teeth, half-exposed in a ferocious
smile, which opened and shut by turns on the throat of the sleeper.

A start disturbed the body under the cover, then all stopped: the
spectre was drinking in long draughts.

Happiness-of-kings, seeing that his turn was coming, had just strength
enough to pull the coverlet over his head. He heard grumblings; a
freezing breath penetrated through the wadded material.

The paroxysm of terror gave the merchant full possession of his
strength; with a convulsive movement he threw his coverlet on the
apparition, jumped out of his bed, and, yelling like a wild beast, he
ran as far as the door and flew away in the night.

Still running, he felt the freezing breath in his back, he heard the
furious growlings of the spectre.

The prolonged howling of the unhappy man filled the narrow street and
awoke all the sleepers in their beds, but none of them moved; they hid
themselves farther and farther under their coverlets. These inhuman
cries meant nothing good for those who should have been bold enough to
go outside.

The bewildered fugitive crossed the village, going faster and faster.
Arriving at the last houses, he was only a few feet in advance and felt
himself fainting.

The road at the extremity of the village was bordered with narrow fields
shaded with big trees. The instinct of a hunted animal drove on the
distracted merchant; he made a brisk turn to the right, then to the
left, and threw himself behind the knotted trunk of a huge
chestnut-tree. The freezing hand already touched his shoulder; he fell
senseless.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the morning, in broad daylight, two men who came to plough in this
same field were surprised to perceive against the tree a white form,
and, on the ground, a man stretched out. This fact coming after the
howling in the night appeared strange to them; they turned back and went
to find the Chief of the Elders. When they returned, the greater part of
the inhabitants of the village followed them.

They approached and found that the form against the tree was the corpse
of a young woman, her nails buried in the bark; from her mouth a stream
of blood had flowed and stained her white silk jacket. A shudder of
horror shook the lookers-on: the Chief of the Elders recognised his
daughter dead for the last six months whose coffin was placed in a barn,
waiting for the burial, a favourable day to be fixed by the astrologers.

The innkeeper recognised one of his guests in the man stretched on the
ground, whom no care could revive.

They returned in haste to find out in what condition the coffin was: the
door of the barn was still open. They went in; a coverlet was thrown on
the ground near the entrance; on two beds the great sun lit up the
hollow and greenish aspect of the corpses whose blood had been emptied.

Behind the drawn curtain the coffin was found open. The corpse of the
young woman evidently had not lost its inferior soul, the vital breath.
Like all beings deprived of conscience and reason, her ferocity was
eager for blood.



_LOVE REWARDED_


Lost in the heart of Peking, in one of the most peaceful neighbourhoods
of the Yellow City, the street of Glowing-happiness was sleeping in the
silence and in the light.

On the right and left of the dusty road was some waste ground, where
several red mangy, and surly dogs were sleeping. Five or six low houses,
their white walls forming a line not well defined, whose low roofs were
covered with grey tiles, bordered the road.

In the first year of the Glorious-Strength, four hundred years ago, a
young man with long hair tied together under the black gauze cap of the
scholars, clothed in a pink dress with purple flowers, was walking in
the setting sun, stepping cautiously in order not to cover with dust
his shoes with thick felt soles.

When the first stars began to shine in the darkening sky, he entered one
of the houses. A wick in a saucer, soaking in oil, burning and smoking,
vaguely lighted an open book on the table: one could only guess, in the
shadow, the form of a chair, a bed in a corner, and a few inscriptions
hanging on the whitewashed walls.

The scholar seated himself before his table and resumed, as he did every
evening, his reading of the Classics, of which he sought to penetrate
the entire meaning. Late passers-by in this lonely thoroughfare still
saw his lamp shining across the trellises of the windows far into the
night.

Golden-dragon lived alone. Now, on that evening an inexplicable languor
made him dreamy; his eyes followed in vain the text; his rebellious
thoughts were scattered.

Impatiently at last he was just going to put out his lamp and go to
bed, when he heard some one knocking at the door.

"Come in!" he cried.

The door grinding on its hinges, a young woman appeared clothed in a
long gown of bright green silk, gracefully lifting her foot to cross the
threshold, and bowing with her two hands united. Golden-dragon,
hurriedly rising to reply, waved in his turn his fists joined together
at the same height as his visage and said, according to the ritual: "Be
kind enough to be seated! What is your noble name?" The visitor did not
pronounce a word; her large black eyes, shadowed by long eyelashes, were
fixed on the face of her host, while she tried to regain her panting
breath.

As she advanced, Golden-dragon felt a strange feeling of admiration and
love.

He did not think such a perfect beauty could exist. As he remained
speechless, she smiled, and her smile had on him the effect of a strong
drink on a hungry man; troubled and dazed, he lost the conscience of
his personality and his acts.

The next morning the sun was shining when he awoke, asking himself if he
had not been dreaming. He thought all day long of his strange visitor,
making thousands of suppositions.

Evening coming on, she suddenly entered, and it was as it had been the
night before.

Two months passed; then the young girl's visits abruptly ceased. The
night covered everything with its black veil, but nobody appeared at the
door. Golden-dragon the first night, waited for her till the hour of the
Rat; at last he went to his couch and fell asleep. Almost immediately he
saw her carried away by two horny _yecha_; she was calling him:

"My beloved, I am drawn away towards the inferior regions. I shall never
be able to get away if prayers are not said for me. My body lies in the
next house."

He started out of sleep in the efforts he made to fly to her, and could
not rest again in his impatience to assert what she had said.

As soon as the sun was up, he ran towards the only house that was next
to his. He knocked; no one replied. Pushing the door, he entered. The
house seemed to be recently abandoned, the rooms were empty, but in a
side hall a black lacquered coffin rested on trestles; on a table the
"Book of Liberation" was open at the chapter of "The great recall."

Golden-dragon doubted no longer; he sang in a high voice the entire
chapter, shut the book, and returned home full of a strange
peacefulness.

Every evening from that time, at the hour when she had appeared to him,
he lit a lantern, went to the house next door and read a chapter of the
holy text.

Years passed by; he got beyond his fiftieth year, grew bent, and walked
with difficulty, but he never missed performing the duty he had imposed
on himself for his unknown friend.

The house where the coffin was placed had successively been let to
several families; but he had arranged that the funereal room should
never be touched. The lodgers bowed to the scholar when he came, and
talked to him; the whole town was entertained with this touching example
of such everlasting love.

"So much constancy and such fidelity cannot remain without reward," they
said.

But time slipped by and nothing came to change the regular life of the
old man.

On his seventieth birthday, as he went to his neighbours, he remarked a
violent excitement.

"My wife has just had a child," said the chief of the family, going to
meet him. "Come and wish her happiness; she does not cease to ask for
you."

"Is it a boy?"

"No, unhappily, a girl, but such a pretty little thing."

Followed by the happy father, the scholar with white hair penetrated
into the room; the mother smiled, holding out the baby to him.
Golden-dragon suddenly started; the child held out her arms to him and
on her little lips, hardly formed, hovered the shadow of a disappeared
smile, the smile of the unknown woman.

And as he looked an extraordinary sensation troubled him; he felt he was
growing younger, more vigorous. Soon, in the midst of the cries of
admiration of the whole family, the bent old man grew straight again;
his grey hair turned black, and the change continued; he became a young
man, a boy, and soon a child.

When the Bell of the great Tower struck the hour of the Rat, he was a
fat pink baby playing and laughing with the little girl.

The governor of the town, being informed, personally directed an
inquiry. It was discovered that the coffin had disappeared at the same
hour when the transformation had happened.

The Emperor, on the report of the governor, ordered the two children to
receive a handsome dowry.

As to them, they grew up, loved each other, and lived happy and well as
far as the limits of human longevity.



_THE WOMAN IN GREEN_


At this time, in the Pavilion-of-the-guests, in the
Monastery-of-the-healing-springs, the most celebrated of the Fo-kien
province, lived a young scholar whose name was Little-cypress.

As soon as the sun rose he was at his work, seated near the trellised
window. When night fell, his lamp still lit the outline of the wooden
trellis.

One morning a shadow darkened his book; he raised his eyes: a young
woman with a long green skirt, her face of matchless beauty, was
standing outside the window and was looking at him.

"You are then always working, Lord Little-cypress?" she said.

She was so bewitching that he knew her immediately for a goddess; but
all the same he asked her where she lived and what was her name.

"Your lordship has looked on his humble wife; he has known her as a
goddess. What is the use of so many questions?"

Little-cypress, satisfied with this reply, invited her to enter the
house. She came in; her waist was so small, one would almost have
thought that her body was divided in two.

He invited her to sit down; they talked and laughed together a long
time.

He asked her to sing, and, with a low voice, which filled her friend
with rapture, she sang:

    "On the trees the bird pursues his companion;
    Oppressed slaves free themselves with love.
    How has my Lord lived alone,
    Without enjoying all the pleasures of married life?"

The sound vibrated like a thread of silk; it penetrated the ear and
troubled the heart. As she finished, she suddenly arose.

"A man is standing near the window, he is listening to us ... he is
going round ... he is trying to see."

"Since when does a goddess fear a man?" replied Little-cypress,
laughing.

"I am troubled without knowing why; my heart beats. I wish to go."

She went to open the door, but abruptly shut it.

"I do not know why I am thus upset. Will you accompany me as far as the
entrance gate?"

Little-cypress held her up till they got to the gate; he had just left
her and turned his head, when he heard her call for help in a voice full
of anguish. He hurriedly turned round; no one was to be seen.

As he was looking for her with stupefaction his eyes fell on a big
cobweb, stretched in the corner of the wall. The ugly and gigantic
insect held in its claws a dragon-fly who was struggling and dolefully
crying. Affected by this sight, he hastened to deliver it.

The pretty insect immediately flew in the direction of the
Pavilion-of-the-guests. Little-cypress saw it go in at the window and
alight on the stone for grinding the ink.

Then it arose again and alighted on the paper which was placed on the
table; there it oddly crawled, retracing its steps, returning,
advancing, and stopping. After a moment it took its flight and
disappeared in the sky.

Little-cypress, much puzzled, approached and looked; on the paper was
written in big strokes the word "Thanks."



_THE FAULT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES_


When Dawning-colour was on the point of dying, he called his mother to
him.

"Mother," he said, "I am going to die. I do not wish White-orchid, my
young wife, to feel herself bound to keep the widowhood. When her
mourning will be finished, she will marry again: our son is only three
years old; you will keep him with you."

Now, the mourning was not yet finished and the coffin was still in the
house waiting for a favourable day, when the young widow began to find
the solitude weigh upon her.

A rich sluggard of the village, named Adolescent, had several times sent
proposals to her through a neighbour; she at last was unwise enough to
agree to an interview with him. When evening came, Adolescent jumped
over the neighbour's wall and went to her room.

He had not been there half an hour when there arose a great noise in the
hall where the coffin was; it seemed as if the cover was violently
thrown to the ground. A little slave who was called afterwards as a
witness told how she ran into the yard and saw her master's corpse
brandishing a sword and jumping towards the room where the lovers were
to be found.

A few instants after, she saw the young widow come out screaming and run
to the garden. Adolescent followed her, covered with blood; he crossed
the threshold and disappeared in the night.

Now, Adolescent, flying from danger, pushed the first door that he came
across in the street; it was that of a young couple; the husband, named
Wang, was absent and only expected to return the next day. The young
wife, hearing a noise, thought it was her husband returning.

"Is that you?" she asked, without quite waking up.

Adolescent, who knew Madame Wang was pretty, answered "Yes" in a low
voice, taking advantage of her error.

A short time after, at Wang's turn to enter, he struck a light, saw a
man in his room, and, furious, seized a pike. Adolescent tried to hide
himself under the bed, but the husband transpierced him several times.
He wished to kill his wife, but she so much begged him not to that he
spared her.

The cries and supplications which came from the room had, however, awoke
the neighbours, who came in; they pulled Adolescent's body from under
the bed; he died almost directly.

There was a silence; the affair was serious. Then one of the assistants
said:

"The judges won't believe that you were in your right of outraged
husband; you ought to have killed your wife also. As it is, you will be
condemned."

Thereupon, Wang killed the unhappy woman.

During this time Dawning-colour's mother, having heard the screams of
her daughter-in-law, thought there was a burglar in the house; she cried
for help and tried to light a lamp, but she was trembling, and her
curtains caught fire.

Some neighbours arrived in haste; while a few of them extinguished the
fire, the others, armed with crossbows, ran through the house and garden
in search of the thief.

At the bottom of the orchard they saw a white mass moving at the foot of
the wall. Without waiting to ascertain what it was, they shot several
arrows; everything was still. The archers approached and lit a torch;
they saw the body of White-orchid transpierced in the head and chest.

Horrified by what they had done, they informed the old woman, who said
nothing.

But this was not all. The elder brother of White-orchid, furious at the
tragic death of his sister, had a lawsuit with the archers and the old
woman.

As usual, the judges ruined both parties; they condemned
Dawning-colour's mother and the archers to receive five hundred bamboo
strokes. The latter were not strong enough to bear this punishment, and
died under the stick. And thus the affair ended.



_DECEIVING SHADOWS_


Night was falling when the horseshoes of the mules of my caravan
resounded on the slippery flagstones of the village.

Tired by a long day of walking, I directed my steps towards the large
hall of the inn, with the intention of resting a moment while my repast
was being prepared.

In the darkened room the glimmer of a small opium-lamp lit up the pale
and hollow face of an old man, occupied in holding over the flame a
small ball of the black drug, which would soon be transformed into
smoke, source of forgetfulness and dreams.

The old man returned my greeting, and invited me to lie down on the
couch opposite to him. He handed me a pipe already prepared and we
began talking together. As ordered by the laws of politeness, I remarked
to my neighbour that he seemed robust for his age.

"My age? Do you, then, think I am so old?"

"But, as you are so wise, you must have seen sixty harvests?"

"Sixty! I am not yet thirty years old! But you must have come from a
long way off, not to know who I am."

And while rolling the balls with dexterity in the palm of his hand, and
making them puff out to the heat of the lamp, he told me his story.

His name was Liu Favour-of-heaven. Born and brought up in the capital,
he had been promoted six years before to the post of sub-prefect in the
town on which our refuge was dependent.

When coming to take his post, he stopped at the inn, the same one where
we were. The house was full; but he had remarked, on entering, a long
pavilion which seemed uninhabited. The landlord, being asked, looked
perplexed; he ended by saying that the pavilion had been shut for the
last two years; all the travellers had complained of noises and strange
visions; probably mischievous spirits lived there.

Favour-of-heaven, having lived in the capital, but little believed in
phantoms. He found the occasion excellent to establish his reputation in
braving imaginary dangers.

His wife and his children implored him in vain; he persisted in his
intention of remaining the night alone in the haunted house.

He had lights brought; installed himself in a big armchair, and placed
across his knees a long and heavy sword.

Hours passed by; the sonorous noise of the gong struck by the watchman
announced successively the hours, first of the Pig, then of the Rat. He
grew drowsy. Suddenly, he was awakened by the gnashing of teeth. All the
lights were out; the darkness, however, was not deep enough to prevent
his being able to distinguish everything confusedly. Anguish seized him;
his heart beat with violence; his staring eyes were fixed on the door.

By the half-opened door he perceived a round white mass, the deformed
head of a monster, who, appearing little by little, stretched long hands
with twisted fingers and claws.

Favour-of-heaven mechanically raised his weapon; his blood frozen in his
veins, he tried to strike the head, whose indistinct features were
certainly dreadful. Without doubt the blow had struck, for a frightful
cry was heard; all the demons of the inferior regions seemed let loose
with this yell; calls were heard from all sides. The trellised frames of
the windows were shaken with violence. The monster gained the door.
Favour-of-heaven pursued him and threw him down.

His terror was such that he felt he must strike and kill. Hardly had he
finished than there entered, rolling from side to side, a little being,
quite round, brandishing unknown weapons at the end of innumerable small
hands. The prefect, with one blow, cut him in two like a watermelon.

However, the windows were shaken with growing rage; unknown beings
entered by the door without interruption; the prefect threw them down
one after another: a black shadow first, then a head balancing itself at
the end of a huge neck, then the jaw of a crocodile, then a big bird
with the chest and feet of a donkey.

Trembling all over, the man struck right and left, exhausted and
panting; a cold perspiration overwhelmed him; he felt his strength
gradually giving way, when the cock crowed at last the coming of the
day.

Little by little, grey dawn designed the trellis of the windows, then
the sun suddenly appeared above the horizon and darted its rays across
the rents in the paper.

Favour-of-heaven felt his heart stand still; on the floor inundated with
blood, the bodies lying there had human forms, forms that he knew: this
one looked like his second wife, and this one, this little head that had
rolled against the foot of the table, he would have sworn that it was
his last son.

With a mad cry he threw away his weapon and ran to open the door,
through which the sun poured in.

An armed crowd was moving in the yard.

"My family! my family! where is my family?"

"They are all with you in the pavilion!"

But as they were speaking they saw with stupor the hair of the young man
becoming white, and the wrinkles of age cover his face, while he
remained motionless as well as insensible.

They drew near; he rolled fainting on the ground. "And thus," ended the
sub-prefect in the silence of the dark hall, where only the little light
of the opium-lamp was shining, "I remained several days without
knowledge of anything. When I came to myself, I had to bear the sorrow
of having killed my whole family in these atrocious circumstances. I
resigned my post: I had magnificent tombs built for all those who were
killed this fatal night, and, since then, I smoke without ceasing the
agreeable drug, in order to fly away from the remembrance, which will
haunt me until my last day."



_PEACEFUL-LIGHT_


In the time when the Shining Dynasty had just conquered the throne, the
eastern coasts of the Empire were ravaged by the rapid junks commanded
by the cruel inhabitants of the Japanese islands, the irresistible _Wo
tsz_.

Now, it happened that the _Wo tsz_ Emperor lost his first wife; knowing
the beauty of Chinese women, he charged one of his officers to bring
back some of them.

The officer, at the head of a numerous troop, landed not far from the
town of The-Smoky-wall. No resistance was possible; the population was
given the example of flight by the functionaries, at least it was thus
said in the Annals of the prefecture.

The country being far from the big centres, the women were not great
coquettes; only one, named Peaceful-light, had always been careful,
since childhood, not to allow her feet to become naturally large; they
were constantly bound up, so much so that she could hardly walk.

Her large soft eyes were shaded with heavy eyelashes; one of the
literati of the place took delight in quoting the poets of antiquity on
them:

    Under the willow of her eyelashes
    The tranquil river of her eyes shines forth.
    I bend and see my image reflected in them.
    Could she be deceitful like the deep water?

When the pirates were coming, she begged her family to leave her, and to
fly without the risk of being delayed by her.

"It is the just punishment for my coquetry," she told them. "Fear
nothing for me, however. I am going to take a strong dose of the paste
extracted from the flowers of Nao-yang which makes one sleep. The
pirates will think I am dead, and will leave me."

The family allowed themselves to be persuaded, and departed. As to
Peaceful-light, she was asleep almost directly after taking the drug,
and she remained motionless on her bed.

The pirates, entering everywhere, at last arrived in the house and
remained struck with admiration by her beauty. The officer who was
called, at first thought her dead and was much grieved, but, touching
her hand and finding it warm and limp, he resolved to carry her away.

When the ravishers were re-embarked, the strong sea-air and the motion
of the boat revived the young girl; she awoke, and was horrified to find
herself surrounded by strangers. The one who seemed the chief spoke to
her in Chinese language in order to reassure her:

"Fear nothing. No harm will come to you. On the contrary, the highest
destiny awaits you; my Lord The Emperor designs you to the honour of
his couch."

Seeing that no one troubled her, Peaceful-light was reassured; she
resolved to wait, confident in her destiny, and knowing that she had
still, ready in her sleeve, in case of necessity, a narcotic dose strong
enough to kill her.

As soon as she landed, she was taken in great haste to the Palace. The
Emperor, greatly satisfied with her beauty, conferred on her at once the
rank of first favourite.

But all the luxury and love which surrounded her could not make her
forget her family and her country; she resolved to run away.

In order to manage it, she complained to her master how sad it was for
her never to be able to speak her own language with companions from her
country. The Emperor, happy to be able to please her, gave orders to fit
out a sea-junk, in order to go to the Chinese coast.

The day when all was ready the young girl found means of pouring into
her master's drink a dose of her narcotic. Then, when he was asleep, she
took his private seal and, going out of the room, she called the
intendant of the Palace and said to him:

"The Emperor has ordered me to go to China to fetch a magician, a member
of my family, who has great power on water and wind. Here is the seal,
proof of my mission. The ship must be almost ready."

The intendant knew that a junk had been specially prepared to go to
China; he saw the seal; what suspicion could he have? He had a palanquin
brought as quickly as possible; two hours after, the wood of the junk
groaned under the blows of the unfurling waves.

Arriving in sight of the coast, on the pretext of not frightening the
population, the young girl begged the officer who accompanied her to
send a messenger to the prefect of the town, bearing a letter that she
had prepared. The officer, without distrust, sent one of his men.

The letter of Peaceful-light showed a whole scheme to which the prefect
could but give his consent. The messenger returned, bringing to the
officer and to the men an invitation to take part in the feast that was
being prepared for them, their intentions not being bad.

Peaceful-light retired into her family, who welcomed her with a thousand
demonstrations of joy.

In the wine that was freely poured out for the strangers they had
dissolved the flowers of Nao-yang. The effects were not long in being
felt; a torpor that they attributed to the table excesses seized them
one after another. They were soon all sleeping deeply. Men arrived with
swords, glided near them, and, a signal being given, cut off their
heads.

While these events were passing in China, others still more serious were
happening in Japan. Soon after the departure of Peaceful-light, the
Emperor's brother penetrated into the room where the sovereign was left
sleeping. This brother was ambitious; he profited by the occasion,
killed the unhappy Mikado, took possession of the seals of the State,
and, calling his partisans in haste, proclaimed himself Chief of the
State. Only a part of the princes followed him; the others, filled with
indignation by the crime that had been accomplished, united their troops
to crush the usurper; civil war tore the whole of Japan to pieces.

As to Peaceful-light, by order of the authorities she received public
congratulations and gifts of land which allowed her to marry and be
happy, as she merited.



_HONG THE CURRIER_


"In the time when the Justice of Heaven was actively employed with the
affairs of the earth, one of my ancestors had an adventure to which we
owe our present fortune, and of which few men of to-day have seen the
equal."

Thus began my friend Hong; reclining on the red cushions of the big
couch, he fanned himself gracefully with an ivory fan painted all over.

"Our family, as you know, originally came from the town of
The-Black-chain in the province of The-Foaming-rivers. Our ancestor Hong
The-just was a currier by trade; he cut and scraped the skins that were
entrusted to him. His family was composed only of his wife, who helped
him as well as she could.

"Notwithstanding this persistent labour, they were very poor; no
furniture ornamented the three rooms in the small house that they hired
in the Street-of-the-golden-flowers.

"When the last days of the twelfth moon in that year arrived, they found
they were owing six strings of copper cash to ten different creditors.
With all they possessed, there only remained 400 cash. What were they to
do? They reflected for a long time. Hong The-just at last said to his
wife:

"'Take these 400 cash; you will be able to buy rice to live on. As to
me, as I cannot pay my debts before the first day of the first moon, I
am going to leave the town and hide myself in the mountain. My
creditors, not seeing me, will believe you when you tell them that I
have been to find money in the neighbouring town. Once the first day of
the first moon passed, as law ordains to wait till the following term,
I shall then come back, and we shall continue to live as well as we
can.'

"It was indeed the wisest thing to do. His wife made him a parcel of a
blanket and a few dry biscuits. She wept at seeing him go away quite
bent, walking with difficulty on the slippery flagstones of the street.

"The snow was falling in thick flakes and already covered the grey tiled
roofs, when Hong The-just left the city gate and directed his steps to a
cave that he knew of in a lonely valley.

"He arrived at last, and, throwing his heavy load on the ground, he
glanced around him in order to choose the place where he would sleep.

"An exclamation of stupor escaped from him when he saw, seated
motionless on a stone, a man clothed in a long sable cloak, with a cap
of the same fur, looking at him in a mournful, indifferent way.

"'How strange!' at last said Hong, laughing. 'Dare I ask your noble
name and the reason that brings you to this remote refuge? How is it
that you are not with your friends, drinking hot wine and rejoicing in
the midst of the luxuriance of the tables covered with various eatables
and brilliant lights?'

"'My name is Yang Glow-of-dawn. And you, what is your precious name?'
replied mechanically the first occupant.

"'I am called Hong The-just, and I am here to escape from my creditors.'

"'You, also?' sneered Glow-of-dawn. 'The strokes of Fate do not vary
much. As for me, I deal in European goods; my correspondents have not
settled my accounts and I am in want of nearly a hundred thousand ounces
of silver to close the year. None of my friends could advance me the
sum, and here I am, obliged to fly away from my creditors.'

"'A hundred thousand ounces!' cried The-just. 'With a sum like that I
should pass the rest of my days in plenty. Anyhow, struck by the same
misfortune, we are thus united; let us try to pass cheerfully the last
day of the year, and attempt to imagine that these humble cakes are
refined food.'

"When they were eating their pastry and drinking water from the near
torrent, Glow-of-dawn suddenly said:

"'But you, how much do you owe? I have here a few ounces of silver;
maybe you could balance your accounts with them.'

"'My debts do not exceed six strings of copper cash. But how could I
dare accept your offer?'

"'Not at all! take these ten ounces; you will pay your debts and bring
me here food and wine; that will help me to wait till the end of the
festivals.'

"The-just, reiterating his thanks, took the ingots that were offered him
and went down as quickly as possible towards the town.

"His wife, on seeing him and hearing his story, could not restrain her
joy. She hurried to go and buy provisions of all kinds. Her husband
tried to light the stove, but they had not lit a fire for a long time;
he found the chimney filled with soot and dust.

"Hong tried to sweep it with a big broom, but the masonry gave way,
filling the room with the bricks and rubbish.

"'How very annoying!' grumbled the currier. 'Now the stove is destroyed
let us take away what remains, and we will make the fire beneath the
opening in the roof!'

"When his wife returned, he was still working. She put down her basket
and helped to raise a huge stone that formed the bottom of the hearth.
What was their astonishment in seeing a chest, half-broken, from which
big ingots of gold were falling!

"'What are we to do with this?' said his wife. 'If we sell this gold,
everybody will think that we have stolen it, and we shall be put in
prison.'

"'We have only one thing to do,' replied Hong. 'Let us entrust our
fortune to my companion in the cave; he is a good man. We shall save
him, and he will make our money prosper; I will hurry and tell him.'

"When Hong arrived, it was nearly nightfall; Yang was standing under
flakes of snow at the entrance of the grotto; he received him with
reproaches:

"'You have come so late that my eyes are sore in looking out for you in
vain!'

"'Do not abuse me, Old Uncle; drink this wine and eat these cakes that
are still warm, and I will tell you what delayed me.'

"And while Glow-of-dawn ate and drank, the other told him of his
adventure and of his intentions about the treasure.

"Surprised and touched, the merchant did not know how to express his
wonder and gratitude. They talked over the best way of proceeding to
bring the gold and settle the business.

"Then, by the glimmer of a bad lantern, they returned to the town and
entered the merchant's house. There the currier washed himself, did his
hair, and clothed himself in rich garments. A sedan-chair was waiting
for him, followed by sturdy servants; he went away....

"The next day Glow-of-dawn's creditors presented themselves at the house
of their debtor. He was standing at the entrance, and bowed in wishing
them a thousand times happiness. They entered; tea was brought in by
busy servants. They at last discussed the settlement of their yearly
accounts. The master of the house found out that he owed 180,000 ounces
of silver.

"'We have been informed that larger sums of silver are due to you, but
you know the custom; you must settle everything to-day. In order to save
you, we are content to make an estimate of your wealth, your goods and
lands.'

"'Do not give yourselves such a trouble,' replied the merchant, laughing
and waving his hand. 'I thought you would be relentless, so I have been
to speak to my elder brother, who has an immense fortune; he has put at
my disposal several hundred thousand ounces. But here! I hear the cry of
the bearers; it must be him with the chests of white metal.'

"The major domo came hurrying in, carrying high in the air the huge red
card with the names and surnames written in black.

"'The venerable Old Great Uncle The-just has arrived!'

"'Allow me?' said Yang, getting up, and going towards the door, of which
both sides were open. Hong entered. They made each other a thousand
affectionate greetings, as all brothers do who are animated with right
feelings.

"'Dear elder brother! here are the gentlemen who have come for the
settlement of my accounts about which I spoke to you.'

"'Gentlemen!' and the currier bowed, not without a certain grace that
his new fortune had already given him. 'Well! how much is the total
amount? I have brought you ten thousand ounces of gold, which is nearly
350,000 ounces of silver. Will you have enough?'

"While he was speaking, bearers were trooping in, and laid down on the
ground heavy chests, the lids of which being raised, one could see the
bars of precious metal.

"The merchants, thunderstruck by all these riches and generosity,
remained silent for a moment; then they bowed low and bade the currier
sit in the place of honour.

"Many delicate and exquisite dishes were brought in of which The-just
did not even know the names; sweet wines were handed round in small
transparent china cups.

"At last the secretaries counted the ingots, and they all returned home
paid. When every one had retired, Glow-of-dawn knelt before the currier
and, striking the earth with his forehead, he said:

"'Now you are my elder brother. You have rescued me, and I henceforth
wish you to live here. My house, my properties, everything I possess
belongs to you. Your wife is my sister-in-law.'

"The currier hurried to raise him up and, much moved, said:

"'I do not forget that it is you who saved me when you were still in
misfortune. Your good genius has rewarded you. I am only the instrument
of Fate.'"



_AUTUMN-MOON_


In the town of Sou-tcheou a young man lived called
Lake-of-the-Immortals; he was wise and generous. His business consisted
in going to fetch goods from neighbouring towns, which he afterwards
brought back to his native city. He was thus obliged to be absent for
lengthy periods, during which he left his house to the care of an elder
brother, a celebrated scholar, who was married, and whom he tenderly
loved.

Once he had been by the Grand Canal as far as Chen-kiang; the goods he
was going to take not being ready, he waited, and to while away the time
he visited the Golden Island, whose temples with yellow-tiled roofs show
in the verdure above the yellow water of the river, nearly opposite to
the town; he passed the night there, as visitors did usually.

When he had just fallen asleep, he saw in a dream a young girl, fourteen
or fifteen years old, her visage regular and pure.

On the second night he had the same dream. Surprised, he awoke; it was
no dream; the young girl was there, near to him. At a glance he saw she
was no human being; he hastened to get up and, saluting, to ask her the
ordinary questions.

"My name is Autumn-moon," she replied. "My father was a celebrated
magician. When I died, he worked out my future destiny and wrote it down
with powerful incantations; this charm has been put into my coffin, so
that the inferior authorities should not make any mistake. It was
written that, thirty years after my death, I should be called again to
life and marry Lake-of-the-Immortals. There you are, and I have come to
know my husband."

As she said the last words she slowly vanished in the night. The next
day, as the young man, disturbed and preoccupied by this strange
adventure, was sitting in his room, thinking of her, she appeared
suddenly before his eyes and said:

"Come quickly! something important for you is going to happen at the
prefect's palace. We have not a minute to lose."

Lake-of-the-Immortals questioned her, but she would not answer. Then
they both crossed the river and walked as fast as they could up to the
yamen.

As they arrived at the gate, four soldiers, dragging a prisoner, were on
the point of entering. Lake-of-the-Immortals recognised his elder
brother in the person of the prisoner; he drew near, threw himself on
his neck, and pressed him to his heart.

"How is it that you are here? why this arrest? And you, soldiers, where
do you take him?"

"We have orders: what means this interference?" And they pushed the
young man aside. Lake-of-the-Immortals was of a violent temper and had a
strong affection for his brother; he could not let him go, and answered
to the brutality of the soldiers by such a tempest of thumping and
kicking that these honest but prudent soldiers asked no more and fled.

"What have you done?" said Autumn-moon. "Hitting soldiers is serious; we
must fly."

And all three, running, arrived at the beach, jumped into a small boat,
and rowed with all their strength.

When day appeared, they were safely lodged in a small inn, several lis
from Chen-kiang. Lake-of-the-Immortals, exhausted, went to sleep
immediately. When he awoke, his two companions had disappeared. He asked
the innkeeper; nobody had seen them go out.

Distressed and sad, the young man did not dare to show himself outside.
He remained solitary in his room. When twilight came, his door opened
and a woman entered:

"I bring you a message from Autumn-moon; she has been arrested. If you
wish to see her, you must follow me; I will show you the way."

"And my brother? do you know anything?"

"Your brother is safe in Sou-tcheou now. But come and follow me."

They started and soon arrived before a wall, which they got over by
helping one another. Through a window giving on the yard they fell in,
the lover perceived Autumn-moon on a bed. Two soldiers were trying to
tease her, saying:

"What is the use of resisting us, as you will be executed to-morrow
morning?"

Lake-of-the-Immortals did not hear any more; he rushed into the room,
threw himself on the soldiers, tore a sword from them, and laid them on
the ground. Before the wretched men had time to make a gesture of
defence, he carried away the girl and flew.

At this moment he started violently, and found himself in his same room
in the Golden Island. A servant entered, bringing the breakfast he had
ordered when arriving for the first time, the night before, on the
island.

As he was asking himself the meaning of such a vivid dream, he heard a
noise in the courtyard. Going out, he saw several men surrounding the
body of a girl stretched before his door.

"Where does she come from?" asked some one.

"We have never seen her!" said another.

Lake-of-the-Immortals came nearer; it was the body, seemingly senseless,
of Autumn-moon. He had her brought immediately into his room. A doctor
who had been called declared she was still alive, but needed very
careful nursing.

When she awoke at last she smiled feebly to the young man.

"No, it is no dream," she replied to his questions. "Your brother was
called before the King of Hells; you saved him. You have saved me also
from eternal disappearance, and I am called again to life; the
prediction of my father was true."

A fortnight later she was able to get up; they started together and
arrived safely at Sou-tcheou. When they got to his brother's house, his
sister-in-law told them there had been illness in the house; her husband
had been in grave danger of death; he was quite well now.

When they were all together, Lake-of-the-Immortals told what he had seen
and done. They all listened to him in silence. The family henceforth
lived united and happy.



_THE PRINCESS NELUMBO_


Gleam-of-day was sleeping; his round face and high forehead denoted the
scholar's right intelligence.

All of a sudden he saw a man standing before his bed who appeared to be
waiting.

"What is it?" inquired the sleeper, getting up.

"The prince is asking for you."

"Which prince?"

"The prince of the neighbouring territory."

Gleam-of-day, grumbling, got up, put on his court dress and followed his
guide. Palanquins were waiting; they started rapidly, and their retinue
was soon passing in the midst of innumerable pavilions and towers with
pointed roofs.

They at last stopped in the courtyard of the palace; young girls with
bright clothing were seen, and looked inquiringly at the new-comer, who
was announced with great pomp.

At last Gleam-of-day reached the audience hall. The prince was seated on
the throne; he descended the steps and welcomed his guest according to
the rites.

"You perfume this neighbourhood," he said. "Your reputation has come to
me, and I wished to know you."

The servants brought wine; they began to converse nobly and brilliantly.
At last the prince asked:

"Among the flowers, tell me which one you prefer."

"The nelumbo," he replied, without hesitating.

"The nelumbo? it is precisely my daughter's surname. What a curious
coincidence! The princess must absolutely know you."

And he made a sign to one of the attendants, who at once went out. A few
minutes after, the princess appeared. She was between sixteen and
seventeen years old. Nothing could equal her admirable beauty.

Her father ordered her to bow to the scholar and said:

"Here is my daughter Nelumbo."

Gleam-of-day, looking at her, felt troubled to the depth of his soul.
The prince spoke to him; he hardly heard, and replied awkwardly. When
the princess had retired, the conversation languished; the prince at
last rose and put an end to the interview.

During all the way back the young man was ashamed at the same time with
his emotion before the girl, as well as his rudeness towards the prince.
He was so much troubled that he ordered his retinue to go back to the
palace.

When he entered the audience hall, he threw himself to the ground before
the prince and begged to be excused for his rudeness.

"You need not excuse yourself; the sentiment that I read in your eyes is
powerful and the thought of it is not unpleasant to me."

While Gleam-of-day, happy with this encouragement, was still excusing
himself, twenty young girls came running:

"A monster has entered the palace; it is a python ten thousand feet
long. It has already devoured thirteen hundred persons; its head is like
a mountain peak."

Every one got up; the frightened guard and the courtiers ran hither and
thither, looking where they could hide themselves. The princess and her
maids-in-waiting were crying for help.

Gleam-of-day at last said to the prince:

"I have only three miserable rooms in a cottage, but you will be safe in
them. Will you fly there with your daughter?"

"Let us go as quickly as possible," replied the prince, seizing the
princess by the wrist.

They all three ran across the deserted streets. When they arrived,
Nelumbo threw herself on the bed, without being able to stop weeping.

Gleam-of-day was so moved that he suddenly awoke: everything was a
dream.

Just then he heard a scream in the next room, where his father slept;
there was a struggle, blows, and at last a sigh of satisfaction.

The door opened, and the old man was seen pushing an enormous serpent at
the end of a stick. When Gleam-of-day turned back to his bed, he found
it covered with bees; on the pillow the queen had alighted.



_THE TWO BROTHERS_


In the town of Sou-tcheou there lived two brothers. The elder, surnamed
Merchant, was very rich; the younger, named Deceived-hope, very poor.
They lived side by side, and their houses, the paternal inheritance,
were only separated by a low wall. They were both married.

This year, the harvest having been bad, Deceived-hope could not afford
the necessary rice for his family to live upon. His wife said to him:

"Let us send our son to your brother: he will be touched and will give
us something, without any doubt."

Deceived-hope hesitated, but at last decided to take this step which
hurt his pride. When the child returned from his uncle's, his hands
were empty. They questioned him:

"I told my uncle that you were without rice; he hesitated and looked at
my aunt. She then said to me: 'The two brothers live separately; their
food also is separate.'"

Deceived-hope and his wife did not say a word; they fetched the bale of
rice that was still in their corn-loft and lived thus.

Now, in the town, two or three vagabonds who knew the riches of Merchant
broke open his door one night, and tied him up as well as his wife. As
he would not show his treasure, they began burning his hands and feet.
Merchant and his wife screamed for help. Deceived-hope heard them and
got up in order to run to their house, but his wife held him back, and,
approaching the wall which separated them, cried:

"The two brothers live separately; their food also is separate."

However, as their cries increased, Deceived-hope could not contain
himself, and, seizing a weapon, leapt over the wall, fell on the
thieves, and dispersed them. Then, when his brother and his
sister-in-law were delivered and quieted, he returned home, saying to
his wife:

"They are certain to give us a present."

But, the next day and the days following, they waited in vain!
Deceived-hope could not resist the temptation to relate everything to
his friends. The same thieves heard of it and, thinking that he would
not interfere any more, broke open the door of Merchant the same evening
and began again to torture him as well as his wife.

Deceived-hope, indeed, did not wish to interfere. However, his heart and
his liver were upset by the painful cries of his brother. He could not
forbear running to his help.

The brigands, disconcerted, flew again, but this time Merchant and his
wife were severely burnt; they lost the use of their hands and feet.

The next day Merchant said to his wife:

"My brother has saved our lives; without him we should be ruined; I am
going to give him a part of what we have."

"Do nothing of the kind," replied his wife; "if he had come sooner, he
would have saved our hands and feet; now, thanks to him, we are infirm."

And they did nothing. Deceived-hope, however, wanting money, made an act
of sale of his house and sent it to his brother, hoping that he would be
touched by his misery and would send back the deed with a present.

In fact Merchant was going to send him some silver ingots, but his wife
stopped him:

"Let us take his house; we shall be able to make ours bigger, and it
will be much more convenient."

Merchant hesitated a little, but he ended by accepting the act, and sent
the price agreed on. Deceived-hope went and settled in another part of
the town; with his small capital, he opened a vegetable-shop, which soon
prospered.

The brigands, having heard that Merchant was now living alone, broke
open his door very quietly, tortured him, and then killed him, taking
away all he had. In leaving the place, they cried all over the town:

"Merchant's corn-loft is open! Let all the poor go and take the rice!"

They thus went, one by one, silently, all the poor of the neighbourhood,
taking away as much of the heaped-up rice as they could. Soon there was
nothing left.

Deceived-hope being informed, wished to revenge his brother; he pursued
the brigands and killed two of them.

From this time it was he who every day attended to the needs of his
sister-in-law, now in misery. Some months afterwards, exhausted, she
died.

Deceived-hope came back and was soon settled in the patrimony that he
had recovered. One night he was soundly sleeping, when he saw his
brother.

"You have saved us twice, and we have been ungrateful. I should not be
dead if I had not acted badly with you. I wish to make amends. Under the
stone of the hearth you will find five hundred ounces of gold that I had
hidden, and of the existence of which my wife was ignorant."

Deceived-hope started from his sleep; he told his dream to his wife. She
at once got up, drew out the stone of the hearth, and found the mass of
gold. Henceforth, happy and rich, they lived long and were charitable
and friendly with every one.



_THE MARBLE ARCH_


When the troubles began to break out in Hankow, many families were
alarmed. Those who were not ignorant of the powerful organisation of the
revolutionists left the town as soon as possible, anticipating that it
would soon be plundered and burnt.

The retired prefect, Kiun, was amongst the first to embark in order to
go down the river. His house was situated at several lis from the river,
on the confines of the suburbs, outside the fortified enclosure. He had
only been married a short time, and was living with his father and
mother.

When the baggage at last was ready, the bearers fixed it in the middle
of their long bamboos and set off two by two, grumbling under the heavy
load. The two old people followed; Kiun and his young wife, the charming
Seaweed, helped them as well as they could.

In order to avoid crossing the centre of the town, they followed the
crenellated wall by an almost deserted road. A young man and woman alone
were sauntering in the same direction, carrying parcels on their
shoulders.

"Where are you going to?" they asked, as it is the custom to do between
travellers.

"As far as the river," replied Kiun. "And you?"

"We also," said the young man. "What is your precious name?"

"My contemptible name is Kiun. But you, deign to inform me about your
family?"

"My name is Wang The-king. We are flying from the insurrection."

They thus talked while walking in company.

Seaweed took the advantage of a moment when the new-comers were a little
in front to bend towards her husband.

"Do not let us get in the same junk with these strangers. The man has
looked at me several times in a rude way; his eyes are unsteady and
fickle; I am afraid of him."

Kiun made a sign of assent. But when they had arrived on the quay, Wang
The-king gave himself so much trouble to find a junk and help to embark
the luggage that the prefect, bound by the rites, could not avoid asking
him to get on board the boat with him.

They unmoored; Wang The-king established himself on the prow with his
wife, near the mariners; he spoke a long time with them while they were
passing the last houses of the large city.

When night fell, they were in a part of the river where it got broader
to such an extent that you could no longer distinguish the banks. The
wind was blowing rather violently and the unfurling waves projected
heavy showers on the mats which covered the quarter-deck.

Kiun, uneasy, went to the prow of the boat in order to question the
master. The bright moon was rising, lighting the dark line of the bank.
They approached in order to throw the anchor.

Wang The-king was on the narrow bridge; when Kiun came to his side, he
coolly pushed the poor prefect overboard. Kiun's father was two paces
behind; Wang ran to him and threw him also into the tumultuous waters of
the rapid current. Kiun's mother, hearing a cry and a struggle, went to
see what was happening, and she also was precipitated into the foaming
river.

Seaweed, from the cabin, had seen all; but she took good care not to go
outside; she moaned:

"Alas! my father-in-law and my mother-in-law are dead! My husband has
been killed! I am going to die, too!"

While she was crying, Wang The-king entered the cabin.

"Fear nothing," said he; "forget those people who are no more and won't
come back. I am going to take you home to the city of The-Golden-tombs.
There I have fields and houses belonging to me; I will give them to
you."

The young woman kept back her sobs and said nothing; she thought it wise
not to provoke the murderer.

Wang The-king, very satisfied with his prospects, went back to the
mariners, gave them the greater part of what his victims had brought in
silver and luggage; then he quietly took his dinner and retired to his
cabin with his wife. The woman had a strange look, but she did not say
anything, and they went to sleep.

Towards the hour of the Rat, the woman began to groan; then she started
out of her sleep and cried to her husband:

"Kill me, repudiate me! I can no longer stay with you! Thunder and
lightning will strike you! I have dreamt it; I will no longer be the
wife of a murderer and a thief!"

Wang, furious, struck her. But as she continued, he took her in his arms
and threw her into the river.

On the second day the boat arrived at The-Golden-tombs. Wang took
Seaweed to his family. When his old mother asked what he had done with
his first wife, he replied:

"She fell in the river, and I will marry this one."

They were soon settled in the house. Wang wished to take liberties with
Seaweed, who gently drove him back.

"We must not neglect the rites. Do not let us forget to empty first the
marriage cup."

Wang joyously accepted; and soon, seated opposite each other, they began
exchanging cups of wine in the ritual way.

Seaweed, however, pretended to drink, and tried to make her lover tipsy;
she contrived this little by little.

Wang, rendered sleepy by the wine, undressed himself, got on the bed,
and ordered the young woman to put out the lamps and come to him.

She carefully blew the lamps and said:

"I will come in a minute!"

Then she quickly went to her luggage, took out a sword she had hidden
there, and came back. Feeling with her hands in the darkness, she found
the throat of the man and struck him as hard as she could: the man
screamed and tried to get up; she struck again and again: there was a
moaning, a gurgle, and then silence.

However, Wang's mother, having heard some noise, came with a lantern.
Seaweed killed her before the old woman could even say a word.

Then the young woman, having avenged her family, tried to cut her own
throat, in order to join her husband. The sword was blunt and she was
only able to scratch herself. She then remembered that, outside the
house, there was a fairly big pond; she ran out and threw herself into
the water.

Some neighbours saw her and ran to her help; other people came; lanterns
were brought forth; the poor girl at last was taken out of the pond, and
brought back to her house. But, when the new-comers entered the room,
they saw the bodies and the blood.

"Murder! Murder!" cried they.

And they immediately sent a boy to call the police. The constables came
and looked all over the room; they soon found in Seaweed's luggage a
note prepared by the unfortunate woman and stating the truth about her
family's death. The assistants were loud in their praise of her act:

"She avenged her husband; she has been witty enough to beguile the
murderer; and now she has killed herself! Such an act of courage and
virtue has not been heard of for centuries. We must ask the authorities
to build her a marble arch to commemorate her history, and be an example
to future generations."

While all this was going on, they tried to revive the woman; everything
was done, but in vain. A coffin was then brought in, and the girl
transferred to it, covered with her best garments and jewels. The lid
was screwed on, and everybody left the house.

We must now come back to the evening when Wang pushed into the water
Seaweed's husband. Kiun was a strong man and a very good swimmer;
surprised by this sudden attack, all he could do at first was to keep
his head out of the tumultuous water. He then thought to go back to the
boat, but, on the foaming expanse nothing was to be seen; the rapid
current had driven him too far. At last the water brought him to a
curving beach, where he was able to land.

Walking disconsolately on the sand, he saw a human body rolled by the
surge; he approached, and recognised his father; farther on he saw his
mother; both he dragged out of the water. Most uneasy about his wife, he
walked on the river's edge, straining his eyes; the moon was shining; he
saw at last a human being holding a big piece of wood. He swam to her,
pushed her to the beach, and took her he thought was his wife to the dry
sand. He undid the upper garment in order to rub her members; when he
saw she was not so cold, he wiped her hair out of her face. His stupor
was immense in recognising Wang's wife.

The sun rose at last and warmed them. The young woman sighed, opened
her eyes, and, completely herself again, told Kiun what she had seen:

"My husband is a murderer. In a dream I saw the King-of-Shadows himself
sitting behind his tribunal and writing his name on the death-list.
Besides, he is in love with your wife. If you wish it, we will go
together straight to The Golden-tombs and do what we can to avenge
ourselves."

Kiun, seeing a man coming to work in a field not far from there, went to
him and told him in a few words what had happened; the man led them to
his landlord, a rich man, who gave them food and warm dresses, sent men
to bring the drowned bodies to a side house and have them properly
buried. Then he advanced a certain sum of money to Kiun, who agreed to
send it back when he should get to a place where he could find a
correspondent of his bankers.

Then Kiun and his companion engaged a small boat and went down the
river. When they got to The Golden-tombs, they questioned the people in
the street about Wang. A month had elapsed since the events we have told
of; the first man they questioned looked at them in wonder:

"How is it you don't know what happened? Wang is dead; he has been
killed by a virtuous woman whose family he had murdered and who killed
herself afterwards. You have only to go on; in the first street to your
right you will see a new marble arch which has just been erected to
commemorate virtuous Seaweed's courageous death."

Kiun thought his heart would burst; he dragged his companion to the
marble arch and read the inscription. Then he bought a bundle of those
imitations of gold and silver ingots made with paper which people burn
on the tombs in order to send some money to the dead; he went to the
tomb in the place indicated by the inscription.

There he reverently knelt, and, after having knocked the ground with his
forehead, he burnt the paper-ingots, rose, and went away with Wang's
wife.

When they were back in their boat, they discussed their plans and
resolved to go down the river to Shanghai.

They were leaving the harbour, when a small boat crossed their way; two
women sat on the bench. One of them reminded Kiun strangely of his late
wife. The woman had looked up at him and seemed surprised. The retired
prefect, moved by a mysterious strength, pronounced aloud a sentence
which used to make his wife laugh when they were together happy in
Hankow:

"I see wild geese flying high in the sky."

Seaweed, when she was alive, used to answer by a phrase which had
nothing to do with the first sentence, and had made them laugh very
often by its stupidity. The woman in the boat said it too:

"The dog wants the cat's biscuit; you quickly shut it in the house."

Kiun, wondering whether it was Seaweed's ghost, asked the mariners to go
alongside the other boat; he jumped in it; the woman threw her arms
round his neck, and they wept together.

"Are you alive? or is it only your ghost I hold in my arms?" asked he.

"I am alive!"

Then she told him her adventures; when she was put into the coffin, she
had some jewels on. One of the assistants resolved to steal them; he
waited till everybody was gone and the house empty; then he deliberately
unscrewed the coffin's lid and rifled what he could. He was trying to
take a ring off her hand, when the supposed corpse rose and screamed.

The poor man thought his last hour had come and did not move. Seaweed,
seeing her jewels in his hands, and seeing the coffin she was in,
grasped the situation at a glance.

"You want my jewels! Have them if you like; you saved my life, and
without you I would have been stifled in this gruesome box."

The man at first dared not accept; then he said:

"In exchange for your kindness, I will tell you something. In the third
house in the first street lives a rich widow; she is alone and would
like to adopt a girl; go to her and tell her everything. She will be
happy to give you a home."

Then he helped her to get out of the coffin, screwed the lid again, and
disappeared. Seaweed went straight to the house. The widow received her
with the greatest kindness, and asked of her to let everybody believe
she was dead; if not, there would have been a lawsuit.

Both women, now united by the closest affection, had been out on the
river for pleasure's sake when they saw Kiun's bark. The widow, when the
explanations were finished, opened her arms to Kiun; she called him her
son-in-law. Seaweed asked Wang's wife to be the second wife of her
husband. And they all lived long and happy.



_THE DUTIFUL SON_


At the foot of the Oriental-Perfume-Mountain, in one of the most
beautiful places of this celebrated district, the passers-by could see a
small lodge. Chou The-favourable lived there with his mother. He was
still young, being only thirty years old, and earned his living in the
way so highly praised by the ancient Classics; he cultivated a small
field by his house, and every week went to the next market to exchange
what he had for what he wanted.

Both were very happy, when a calamity befell them; the old mother one
morning felt a pain in her right leg. Two or three days afterwards she
had there an ulcer that no remedies could cure; everything was tried and
everything failed. Day and night she was moaning, turning over in her
hard wooden bed.

The-favourable forgot to drink and eat, in his anxiety to give his
mother the medicines the doctor advised.

Several months wore on; the ulcer did not heal. The despair of the son
was greater every day; at last, overcome by his fatigue, he fell asleep
and dreamt that he saw his father. The old man told him:

"You have been a dutiful son. But I must tell you that your mother will
not recover if you can't apply to her ulcer a piece of man's fat."

Then everything was dissolved like a smoke in the wind.

The-favourable awoke and, thinking over his dream, he found it very
strange.

"What can I do?" thought he. "Man's fat is not easily found in the
market. My father would not have appeared to me if this extraordinary
medicine was not really the only thing that will cure my mother. Well,
I will take a piece of fat of my own body; I have nothing else to do."

Then, rising from his bed, he took a sharp knife, and, pulling the skin
of his side, he cut a large piece off. His pain was not so great as he
had expected it to be, and, what seemed more extraordinary to him, no
blood flowed from the wound.

He could not see that, from the heaven above, a messenger had come on a
cloud, was recording this noble feat on his life's register, and helped
him by averting all ordinary sufferance.

The-favourable hastened to put the piece of flesh on his mother's ulcer;
the pain disappeared immediately, and a few days after the old woman
could walk as she used to do; on her leg there remained only a red scar.

When she asked what medicine had been employed, The-favourable eluded
the answer. But somehow the truth was known in the neighbourhood; the
prefect sent a report to the Throne and came himself with a decree of
the Emperor, giving a title and an allowance to the dutiful son.



_THROUGH MANY LIVES_


Some people remember every incident of their former existences; it is a
fact which many examples can prove. Other people do not forget what they
learned before they died and were born again, but remember only
confusedly what they were in a precedent life.

Wang The-acceptable, of the Yellow-peach-blossom city, when people
discussed such questions before him, used to narrate the experience he
had had with his first son.

The boy, at the time he spoke of, was three or four years old. He did
not say many words, and some people thought he was dumb. One day,
The-acceptable was writing a letter, when he was disturbed by a friend.
He put his writing-brush down on the table and left the room. When he
came back, his letter was finished, and written much more correctly than
he would have believed himself able to do. Besides, he did not remember
having finished it. The puzzle did not trouble him very much.

Another day the same thing occurred; he left the room, leaving a letter
unfinished on the table; when he came back, the letter was nearly ended.
Nobody but the boy had been in the room. Troubled and suspicious, he
rose and feigned to go away; but he came back immediately and
noiselessly. From the door, he saw his boy kneeling on the stool and
writing the letter.

The little man suddenly saw his father and asked to be forgiven. The
father of course laughed:

"We all thought you were dumb; if you are such a learned man, the family
happiness will be great! How could we punish you?"

From that date he had good lessons given to the boy, who very early
passed successfully his third degree examination and became one of the
most celebrated "Entered among the learned" of his time.

When his father asked him whether he remembered what he had been before
being what he now was, the boy said that the first life he could
remember was that of a young student; he lived in a monastery to save as
much as he could of his income. When he died, the King-of-the-Darkness
punished him for his stinginess and condemned him to become a donkey in
the same monastery he had lived in.

He wanted to die, but did not know what to do; the priests loved him and
were very careful. One day he was on a mountain road and was tempted to
throw himself downhill; but he had a man on his back and was afraid of
the punishment the King-of-the-Darkness would inflict upon him if he
killed that man. So he went on. Many years passed; he died at last, and
was born again as a peasant. But, as he had forgotten nothing of his
former lives, he was able to speak a few days after his birth. His
father and mother judged the thing highly suspicious and killed him.

After that, he was born in the family of Wang The-acceptable.
Appreciating the surroundings, and bearing in mind that he had last been
killed because he spoke too early, he was very careful this time not to
utter a single word. But when he saw the paper and ink he could not
resist his love of literature and finished the letter.



_THE RIVER OF SORROWS_


Along the path leading to the city of All-virtues, in the obscure night,
a poor coolie, grumbling under a heavy load of salt, was trudging on as
fast as he could.

"I shall never get there before the hour of the Rat, and my wife will
say again; 'Wang The-tenth has drunk too many cups of wine.' She does
not know the weight of that stuff!"

As he was thus thinking, two men suddenly jumped from either side of the
road and held him by the arms.

"What do you want?" cried the poor man. "I am only an unhappy carrier,
and my load is only salt, very common salt."

"We don't want your salt, and you had better throw it down. We are sent
from the Regions below and we want you to come down with us."

"Am I dead already?" asked The-tenth. "I did not know. I must tell my
wife. Can't you come again to-morrow night?"

"Impossible to wait. You must come immediately. But I don't think you
are dead. It is only to work for a few days down below."

"This is rather strange," replied The-tenth. "With all the people who
have died since the world has been the world you still want living men?
We don't go and ask you to do our work, do we?"

While thus arguing, he felt himself suffocated by a heavy smell and lost
consciousness.

When he awoke, he was on the bank of a fairly large river. Hundreds of
men were standing in the water; some of them carried baskets; others,
with spades and different utensils, were dragging out what they could
from the bottom. Soldiers with heavy sticks struck those who stopped
even for a second.

On the bank several men were standing, and a number of others came from
time to time. A magistrate was sitting behind a big red table, turning
over the pages of a book. At last, he called "Wang The-tenth."

"Wang The-tenth!" repeated the soldiers. And they threw the poor man
down in a kneeling position in front of the magistrate, who looked on
the book and said:

"You have been an undutiful son; do you remember the day when you told
your father he was a fool?"

Then speaking to the soldiers, he said:

"To the river!"

The guards pushed the man, gave him a basket, and ordered him to help in
the cleaning of the river.

The water was red and thick; its stench was abominable; the bodies of
the workmen were all red, and The-tenth discovered it was blood. He
looked at the first basket he took to the bank; it was only putrid flesh
and broken bones.

Thus he worked day by day without stopping. When he was not going fast
enough, the guards struck him with their sticks, and their sticks were
bones. In the deep places he had to put his head into the water and felt
the filthy stuff fill his nostrils and mouth.

Among the workers he recognised many people he used to know. A great
number died and were carried away by the stream.

At last two guards called his name, helped him to the bank, and suddenly
he found himself again on the path leading to the city of All-virtues.

Now, on the night when The-tenth was taken away, his wife waited for
him. Troubled not to see him, she started as soon as the sun beamed, and
looked for him on the road. She soon found his body lying unconscious.
Trying in vain to revive him, she thought him dead, and wept bitterly.

Not being strong enough to bring home his body, she came back to town in
order to ask the help of her family. In the afternoon, clad in the white
dress of mourning, and accompanied by her four brothers, she started
again.

What was her astonishment and fear when, approaching the place where she
had found the body, she saw her husband walking towards her. He was all
covered with blood, and the stench was so strong that everybody pinched
his nose.

When he had explained what had happened, they all returned to the
village. The-tenth knelt reverently before his ancestors' tablet,
offered butter and rice, and burnt incense.

This very day he asked a Taoist priest what was the river he had worked
in. The priest explained to him it was called the River-of-sorrows. It
took its source in the outer world in every tear that was shed. The
people that killed themselves out of despair were floated down its
stream to the kingdom of shadows.

Sometimes the sorrows on earth were so great that people killed
themselves by thousands and did not shed any tears; the blood then was
too thick to wash away the decayed remains, and the river-bed had to be
cleaned lest it should overflow and drown the whole world. Living men
alone were employed in this work, for only living men can cure living
men's sorrows.



_THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND_


In the beautiful Chu-san archipelago there is a small island where the
flowers never cease blooming, and where the trees grow thick and high.
From the most remote antiquity nobody has been known to live in the
shade of this virgin forest; the ferns, the creepers, are so entangled
that it is impossible for a man to cross this wilderness without
clearing his way with a hatchet.

A young student named Chang, who lived in the City-over-the-sea, used to
rest himself from his daily labour by going out to sea in a small junk
he managed himself.

Having heard of the mysterious island, he resolved to explore it,
prepared wine and food, and sailed out on a beautiful summer's morning.

Towards midday he neared the place where the island was supposed to be.
Soon a delicious perfume of flowers was brought to him by the hot
breeze. He saw the dark green of the trees over the light green of the
sea, and, when still nearer, the yellow sand of the beach, where he
resolved to disembark.

The junk touched the shore; he tied it to a large fallen tree whose end
dipped into the gentle waves, and proceeded at once to a hearty meal.

While he was storing again in the boat what remained of his provisions,
he was suddenly startled by a subdued laugh. Turning his head, he saw
among the wild roses of the shore, a young girl covered with a long blue
dress, who looked at him with dark eyes full of flame.

"Your servant is most happy to see you here. I did not suppose I should
ever have the pleasure of meeting you."

"Who are you?" asked Chang, forgetting, in his astonishment, the proper
forms of inquiry.

"I am only a poor singer who has been brought here by
The-Duke-of-the-sea."

Chang, hearing these words, was afraid in his heart; The-Duke-of-the-sea
was a renowned pirate who used to plunder every village of the coast,
and was reputed to be cruel and vindictive. But the girl was so
attractive that he soon forgot everything in the pleasure of her
chatter.

Seated at the foot of a big tree, they were laughing, when a noise came
from the forest.

"It is The-Duke-of-the-sea! It is The-Duke-of-the-sea!" murmured the
girl. "I must be off at once."

And she disappeared behind the foliage.

While Chang was asking himself what he should do, he suddenly saw a huge
snake coming straight to him. Its body was as thick as a cask, and so
long that the end was still hidden in the forest, while the head was
balancing over the frightened student.

Chang could not say a word and dared not move: the snake entwined
himself round a tree and round the man, holding fast its prisoner's
arms. Then, lowering its head, it threw out its tongue, and, pricking
the student's nose, began to suck the blood which came out and fell on
the ground.

Chang saw that, if he did not immediately free himself, he would
certainly die. Feeling cautiously with his hand round his waist, he took
from his purse a certain poisoned pill that he kept there and intended
to try on wolves and foxes. With two fingers he took the pill and threw
it into the red pool at his feet.

The snake, of course, sucked it with the blood; it immediately stopped
drinking, straightened its body, and rocked its head to and fro,
knocking the tree-trunks and hissing desperately.

Chang, feeble and hardly able to stand, dragged himself as fast as he
could out of reach on to the beach and quickly untied his boat.
Nevertheless, before going out to sea, he fetched a sword and went
cautiously into the wood again. The snake did not move. Chang flourished
his sword, and with a mighty stroke cut the head off and ran to his
boat.

He returned to the City-over-the-sea, went to bed and was ill for a
month. When he spoke of his experience, he always said that, to his
mind, it was the beautiful girl he had seen at first who had come again
in the form of a snake.



_THE SPIRIT OF THE RIVER_


In a small village along the river Tsz lived a fisherman named Siu. He
started every night with his nets, and took very great care not to
forget to bring with him a small jar of spirits. Before throwing his
cast-net, he drank a small cup of the fragrant liquor and poured some
drops into the slow current, praying aloud:

"O Spirit-of-the-river, please accept these offerings and favour your
humble servant. I am poor and I must take some of the fishes that live
in your cold kingdom. Don't be angry against me and don't prevent the
eels and trouts coming to me!"

When every fisherman on the river brought back only one basket of
fishes, he always proudly bore home a heavy charge of two or three
baskets full to the brim.

Once, on a rosy dawn of early spring, when the sun, still below the
horizon, began to eat with its golden teeth the vanishing darkness, he
said aloud:

"O Spirit-of-the-river! For many years, every night I have drunk with
you a good number of wine-cups; but I never saw your face; won't you
favour me with your presence? We could sit together, and the pleasure of
drinking would be much greater."

Hardly had he finished these words when, from the middle of the stream,
emerged a beautiful young man clothed in pink, who slowly walked on the
smooth surface of the limpid water, and sat on the boat's end, saying:

"Here I am."

The fisherman, being half-drunk, was not troubled in any way; he bowed
to the young man, offered him, with his two hands, a cup of the strong
wine, and said:

"Well! I long wished to receive your instructions, and I am very glad to
see you. You must be mighty tired of living in that water; the few drops
of wine I pour every night are quite lost in such a quantity of
tasteless liquid. You had better come up every night; we will drink
together and enjoy each other's company."

From this day, when darkness closed in, the Spirit waited for the
fisherman and partook of his provisions. As soon as the sun rose above
the horizon he suddenly disappeared. The fisherman did not find that
very convenient; he asked his companion if he could not arrange to stay
with him sometimes in the daytime.

"Impossible; we can't do such a thing, we spirits and ghosts. We belong
to the kingdom of shadows. When the shadows, fighting the daylight,
bring with them the Night, we are free to go and wander about. But as
soon as the herald of the morn, the cock, has proclaimed the daily
victory of the sun, we are powerless and must disappear."

On the same day the fisherman was sitting on the bank, smoking a pipe
before going home with his baskets, when he saw a woman holding a child
in her arms and hastening along the river towards a ford some hundred
yards up stream. She was already in the water, when she missed her
footing, fell into the river, and was rolled away by the stream. The
child, by some happy chance, had fallen on the bank and lay there,
crying.

The fisherman could easily have gone in his boat and saved the woman,
who was still struggling to regain the bank, but he was a prudent man:

"This woman, whom I don't know, seems to be beautiful," thought he.
"Maybe it is my friend The-Spirit-of-the-river who has arranged all
this, and chosen the girl to be his wife. If I prevent her going down
to his cold lodgings, he will be angry and ruin my fishing. All I could
do is to adopt this boy until somebody comes and asks for him."

And he did not move, until the poor woman had disappeared in the yellow
stream; then he took the child. Once back in the village, he inquired
about the mother; nobody could tell who she was. The days passed and
nobody asked for the boy. This was strange enough, but, stranger still,
from this day the fisherman never saw The-Spirit-of-the-river again. He
offered him many cups of wine, and his fishing was as good as ever, but
though he prayed heartily, his companion of so many nights did not
appear any more.

When the boy was three years old he insisted on accompanying his adopted
father in his night fishing. Summer had come; the cold was no more to be
feared. The man consented to take his adopted son with him; they
started together in the twilight.

As soon as the darkness closed, the boy's voice changed; his appearance
was different.

"What a silly man you are!" said he. "Don't you know me now? For more
than two years I waited for an opportunity to tell you who I was. But
you always went out at night and you never came back before the sun was
high in the sky. You had never failed to present your offerings; so I
could not resist your prayer when you asked me to stay with you in the
daytime. Now, here I am, till your death; when the sun is up I shall
only be your son, but when the night closes I shall be your companion,
and we will enjoy together what longevity the Fate allows you."



_THE-DEVILS-OF-THE-OCEAN_


In the twenty-second year of the period Eternal-happiness, the
population of Chao-cheou's harbour, awaking on a bright summer's
morning, were extremely surprised and frightened to see, swaying on the
blue water of the bay, a strange and abnormally huge ship. The three
high masts were heavily loaded with transversal pieces of wood, from
some of which sails were still hanging; another mast projected
horizontally from the prow, and three sails were tightened from this to
the foremast.

A small boat was lowered from the ship's side and rowed to the quay.
Several hundreds of people were watching the proceedings, asking one
another if it was a human invention or a ship coming from the depths of
hell.

The small boat stopped at a short distance from the bank; one could see
that, beside the rowers, there were three men seated in the stern; their
heads were covered with extraordinarily long and fluffy grey hair; they
wore big hats with feathers of many colours. A Chinaman was in the boat
and hailed the people:

"Ha! Please tell the local authorities that high mandarins from the
ocean want to speak to them. We are peaceful. But if you do any harm to
our men or ships, our wrath will be such that we will destroy in one day
the whole town and kill everybody within ten miles' distance."

Three or four men belonging to the Yamen had heard these words; they ran
to the prefect's palace and came back with an answer they delivered to
the new-comers:

"His Excellency the prefect consents to receive your visit. If you are
peaceful, no harm will be done to you. But if you steal anything, or
wound or kill anybody, the laws of our country will be enforced upon you
without mercy."

Then the boat slowly accosted the quay; two of the men with feathered
hats disembarked with the Chinaman, while six of the rowers, leaving
their oars in the boat, shouldered heavy muskets, and cleared the way,
three walking in front of the feathered hats and three behind. The
rowers wore small caps and had long blue trousers and very short blue
coats.

The prefect, in his embroidered dress, awaited them on the threshold of
his reception-room. He bade the new-comers be seated and asked their
names and their business; the Chinaman translated the questions and the
answers.

"We come from the other side of the earth."

"Well," thought the prefect. "I was sure of it, the earth being square
and flat, the other side of it is certainly hell. What am I to do?"

"We only want to trade with your countrymen. We will sell you what goods
we have brought; we will buy your country's productions, and if no harm
is done we will sail away in a few days."

"Our humble country is very poor," answered the prefect. "The people are
not rich enough to buy any of the splendid goods you may have brought.
Besides, this country's products are not worth your giving any money for
them. If I can give you good advice, you had better sail away to-day and
get to the first harbour of the northern province; there they are very
rich."

"We have just come from it; they told us the very reverse. Here,
according to them, we should be able to find everything we want.
Besides, our mind is settled; we will remain here long enough to buy
what we want and to sell what we can. We are very peaceful people as
long as one deals justly with us. But if you try to beguile us, we will
employ all our strength in the defence of our rights. All we want is a
place on shore where we can store and show our goods."

"Well, well; I never intended to do anything of the sort," said the
prefect. "But the Emperor is the only possessor of the soil. How could I
give you a place even on the shore?"

"We don't want very much, and the Emperor won't know anything. Give us
only the surface of ground covered by a carpet, and we will be
satisfied."

Chinese carpets are not more than two or three feet broad and five or
six feet wide. The prefect thought he could not be blamed to authorise
the foreigners to settle on such a small piece of ground; on the other
hand, if he refused, there would ensue trouble and he would certainly be
cashiered.

"It is only as a special arrangement and by greatly compromising with
the law that I can give you this authorisation."

And the prefect wrote a few words on one of his big red visiting-cards.
The interpreter carefully perused the document. Then the foreigners went
back to their ship. The same day a proclamation was issued and pasted on
the walls of the public edifices, explaining to the people that
The-Devils-of-the-ocean had been authorised to settle on a piece of
ground not bigger than a carpet and that no harm should be done to them.

In compliance with these orders, nobody dared oppose the foreigners when
they began unrolling on the shore a carpet ten yards broad and thirty
yards long. When the carpet was unrolled, The-Devils-of-the-ocean put
themselves in ranks with muskets and swords on the carpet; nearly five
hundred men stood there close to one another.

The prefect, who had personally watched the proceeding, was so angry
against the foreigners for their cunningness that he immediately ordered
troops to drive them out into the water. But the foreigners had a
devilish energy nobody could resist; they killed a great many of our
people, burned the greater part of the city, and occupied for several
years all the northern part of the bay, where they erected a sort of
bazaar and a fortress, which still exist to this day.



_UNKNOWN DEVILS_


Suen Pure-whiteness was privileged with the possibility of seeing
distinctly all the creatures of the other world, who, for the greater
part of humanity, remain always mysterious and invisible.

One night he slept in a mountain monastery; he had closed and barred the
door; the full moon illuminated the window; everything was quiet. He had
slept an hour, when he was awakened by the hissing of the wind; the gate
of the monastery seemed to be thrown open; after a while the door of his
room was shaken, the bar dropped down, and the heavy wood turned on its
hinges.

Pure-whiteness thought at first that it would be better to close his
eyes and to wait; but his curiosity was aroused, he looked intently;
after a few seconds he could see a big devil, so big that he was obliged
to stoop in order not to break his head against the ceiling, and who was
coming slowly towards the bed. His face had the colour and general
appearance of an old melon. His eyes were full of lightning and his
mouth was bigger than a tub. His teeth were at least three inches long
and his tongue kept moving incessantly, while he uttered a sound like
"Ha-la."

Pure-whiteness was much afraid; but, seeing he had no way of escape, he
took a short sword from under his pillow and, with all his might, thrust
it into the devil's breast; it sounded as if he had struck a stone.

The devil hissed in a fearful way; he extended his claws to catch the
man. Pure-whiteness jumped on the right side; the devil could only catch
his dress and started; the man hastened to unfasten his dress; he
dropped and remained there on all fours, motionless and mute. When the
devil's steps ceased to be heard he screamed for help; the priests came
with lamps; everything was in order, but in the bed Pure-witeness was
yelling as in a nightmare.

On another day Pure-whiteness was in the country enjoying the pleasures
of harvest. The golden rice was piled high and everybody was busy. Some
armed men had been posted here and there, according to the custom;
everybody knows that when the rice is ripened in a place, people of the
neighbouring villages are always looking for an opportunity to make the
harvest themselves or to take away what has been cut by the owners.

Pure-whiteness, tired by the heat, laid down behind a rice-stack; after
a while he heard stealthy steps; raising his head, he saw a big devil
more than ten feet high, with hair and beard of a fierce reddish colour,
who was approaching. Pure-whiteness yelled for help: men with spears
came to the rescue. The devil bellowed like the thunder and flew away.
Pure-whiteness told them what he had seen; nobody would believe him, but
they nevertheless started in pursuit; people working in the fields all
round had not seen anything, so everybody came back.

The second day Pure-whiteness was among four or five men, when he saw
the same devil.

"He has come back!" cried he, flying away.

The other people ran away too. When they came back, everything was
quiet. But they always kept by their side some spears, bows and arrows,
and swords.

For two or three days, they had no trouble; the rice was being stored in
the granaries, when Pure-whiteness, looking up, screamed:

"The devil has come back!"

Everybody ran to his arms. Pure-whiteness fell down; the devil picked
him up, bit his head, threw him down, and went away.

When the man came back, Pure-whiteness bore the marks of teeth on his
head; he did not know anybody. Taken home and nursed, he remained
unconscious for a few days and died.



_CHILDLESS_


In the city of The-Great-name lived a rich idler named Tuan
Correct-happiness. He had then attained the age of forty and still he
had no son. His wife, Peaceful-union, was extremely jealous, so that he
dared not openly buy a concubine, as law authorised him, to continue his
lineage.

When he saw that, at forty, he had no son, he secretly bought a young
girl, whom he carefully left outside his own house.

A woman is not easily deceived--a jealous woman especially;
Peaceful-union soon discovered the whole truth. She had the girl brought
before her and took advantage of an impertinent answer to have her
beaten a hundred blows; after that, she turned on her husband and drove
him nearly mad with reproaches. What could the poor man do? He sold his
concubine to a neighbouring family named Liu, and peace was restored in
the house.

The days and years passed on without any change in the situation; the
nephews of Correct-happiness, seeing that he was old already and had no
son, began to fawn upon him, each of them trying to be the one that
would be elected as an adopted son to continue the family cult, as is
the custom.

Peaceful-union at last began to see her error and regretted bitterly
what she had done.

"You are only sixty years old," said she to her husband. "Is it too
late? Let us buy two chosen girls who will be your second wives; maybe
one of them will give you a son."

The old man smiled sadly; he did not entertain any great hope;
nevertheless, the concubines were bought. After a year, to the great
surprise and joy of everybody, both gave birth--one to a girl, the other
to a boy. But both children died a few months after.

Correct-happiness, when winter set in, caught a cold and was soon in a
desperate state of health. His nephews were always beside him; but,
seeing he would adopt neither of them, they began looting the house;
they found at last the treasure and took it away openly.

The moribund was too ill even to know what they did. Peaceful-union
tried in vain to stop them.

"Will you leave me to die of hunger? I am the wife of your uncle. I am
entitled to a part of his riches."

But they would not hear her.

"If you had borne a son to our uncle, or if he had adopted one of us, we
would not have touched a single copper cash of his treasure; but,
through your own fault, he has nobody to maintain his rights; we take
what is our own."

When the day ended, the widow found herself alone in the deserted and
emptied house, crying over the body of her dead husband.

Suddenly she heard steps outside the door; a young man appeared on the
threshold, his eyes full of tears, covered with the white dress of
mourning. He entered, kneeled beside the corpse, and, knocking the
ground with his forehead, he began the ritual lamentations.

Peaceful-union stopped crying and looked at him with astonishment; she
did not know him.

"May I ask your noble name? Who are you to cry over my husband's death?"

"I am the deceased's only son."

The widow started with surprise and a pang of her old jealousy; would
her husband have had a son without her knowing it? But the next words
of the young man explained everything.

Twenty years ago, when she had beaten and sold away the first concubine
of her husband, she did not know the girl bore already the fruit of this
short union. Six months later she had a son, to whom she gave the name
of Correct-sadness; but, bearing in mind the bad treatment she had
received, she asked the Liu family to keep the child as one of their
own. They consented and sent the boy to school with their children.

When Correct-sadness was eighteen, the chief of the Liu family died; the
family dispersed, and only a small legacy was left to the young man.
Believing he was a member of the family, he could not understand what
happened, and asked his mother; she told him the truth. Resenting the
hard treatment inflicted on his mother, he awaited the death of his
father to make his own identity known.

Peaceful-union was very happy to hear this story.

"I am no more without a son," said she. "All that my nephews have taken
away, treasure and furniture, they must bring back again. If not, the
magistrate will send them to die in jail."

In fact, the nephews refused to give back anything. The widow began a
lawsuit; everything at last was restored to the legal heir.

Peaceful-union hastened to choose him a wife, and as soon as the
matrimonial festivities were ended she told her daughter-in-law:

"My dear child, if I were you, I would ask Correct-sadness to buy
immediately one or two good concubines; if you have a son and they have
also, so much the better, but you can't realise how difficult to bear it
is to be childless."



_THE PATCH OF LAMB'S SKIN_


In the twenty-fourth year K'ang-hsi lived in a remote district of the
western provinces, a man who could remember his former lives. He was now
a "tsin-shi," "entered-among-the-learned," renowned, and much considered
by his friends.

When speaking of the existences he had gone through, he used to say:

"As far as I remember, I was first a soldier--it was in the last days of
the Ming dynasty; my regiment was encamped at The-Divided-roads on the
Ten-thousand-miles-great-wall. My remembrances are not very clear as to
whom we fought with, but I remember the joy of striking the enemy, the
hissing of the arrows, the yelling of the charging troops.

"I was still young when I was killed. After death, of course I was
called before the tribunal of The-King-of-shadows. Closing my eyes, I
can still see the big caldrons full of boiling oil for the trying of
criminals; the Judge in embroidered dress seated behind a red table; the
satellites everywhere, ready to act on the first word,--in fact,
everything exactly the same as in the worldly tribunals, excepting that,
in the eastern part of the hall, there were huge wooden stands from
which hung skins of every description--horse-skins, lambs' skins, dogs'
skins, and human skins of every age and condition; skins of old men, of
fat and important people, of lean and shrivelled men, of boys and girls.

"The trial began; the souls, according to their deeds, were condemned to
put on one of the skins and to come up again to the Lighted World in
this new shape.

"When my turn came I was sentenced to put a dog's skin on; and in this
low shape I was thrown again in the stream of life. But as I had not
forgotten my former condition, I was so ashamed, that the first day I
came on earth I threw myself under the wheels of a heavy carriage and
died.

"The-King-of-shadows was extremely surprised to see me again so soon;
the dogs, as a rule, having no conscience, he could not suppose I had
killed myself, and did not hold me responsible for it.

"This time, I was born again as a pig. Pigs are valuable, and there are
always people to look after them; so I could not kill myself. I tried to
starve myself to death, but hunger was the strongest, and I had to
endure such a life. Happily, the butcher soon put a speedy end to it.

"When my name was called to the tribunal of Darkness, the
King-of-shadows looked over the pages of the Book and said:

"'He must be a lamb now.'

"The runners took a white lamb's skin, brought it, and began putting it
over my body. While this was going on, the secretary, who was writing
the sentence in the Book, started and said to the Judge:

"'Your Honour, there is a mistake. Please Your Honour read over again;
this soul has to be a man now.'

"You know that, on the Big Book of Shadows, all our past deeds are
recorded as well as our future destiny.

"The Judge looked at it over again and said:

"'True! Happily, you saw the mistake.'

"Then, turning to the runners, he ordered them to take off the skin,
which already covered more than half my body. They had to exert all
their strength, and even so, they tore it off into pieces. It hurt me so
much that I thought I could not stand it and I should die; but I was
dead, and I could not die more than that.

"At last they left me bleeding and panting, and I was born again in my
present condition. But they had forgotten a piece of lamb's skin on my
right shoulder, and I still have it now."

And he uncovered his arm and shoulder to show a piece of white woollen
hair on his right shoulder.



_LOVE'S-SLAVE_


In the City-between-the-rivers lived a young student named Lan. He had
just passed successfully his second literary examination, and, walking
in the Street-of-the-precious-stones, asked himself what he would now do
in life.

While he was going, looking vacantly at the passers-by, he saw an old
friend of his father, and hastened to join his closed fists and to
salute him very low, as politeness orders.

"My best congratulations!" answered the old man. "What are you doing in
this busy street?"

"Nothing at all; I was asking myself what profession I am now to
pursue."

"What profession? Which one would be more honourable than that of
teacher? It is the only one an 'elevated man' _Kiu-jen_ of the second
degree, can pursue. By the by, would you honour my house with your
presence? My son is nearly eighteen. He is not half as learned as he
should be, and, besides, he has a very bad temper. I feel very old; if I
knew you would consent to give him the right direction and be a second
father to him, I would not dread so much to die and leave him alone."

Lan bowed and said:

"I am much honoured by your proposition, and I accept it readily. I will
go to-morrow to your palace."

Two hours after, a messenger brought to the young man a packet
containing one hundred ounces of silver, with a note stating that this
comparatively great sum represented his first year's salary.

In the evening he knocked at his pupil's door and was ushered into the
sitting-room. The old man introduced him to the whole family: first his
son, a lad with a decided look boding no good; then a young and
beautiful girl of seventeen, his daughter, called Love's-slave. Lan was
struck by the sweet and refined appearance of his pupil's sister.

"The sight of her will greatly help me to stay here," thought he.

The next morning, when his first lesson was ended, he strolled out into
the garden, admiring here a flower and there an artificial little
waterfall among diminutive mountain-rocks. Behind a bamboo-bush he
suddenly saw Love's-slave and was discreetly turning back, when she
stopped him by a few words of greeting.

Every day they thus met in the solitude of the flowers and trees and
grew to love each other. Lan's task with his pupil was greater and
harder than he had supposed; but for Love's-slave's sake, he would never
have remained in the house.

After three months the old man fell ill; the doctors were unable to cure
him; he died, and was buried in the family ground, behind the house.

When Lan, after the funeral, told his pupil to resume his lessons, he
met with such a reception that he went immediately to his room and
packed his belongings. Love's-slave, hearing from a servant what had
happened, went straight to her lover's room and tried to induce him to
stay.

"How can you ask that from me?" said he. "After such an insult, I would
consider myself as the basest of men if I stayed. I have 'lost face'; I
must go."

The girl, seeing that nothing could prevail upon his resolution, went
out of the room, but silently closed and locked the outer gate.

Lan left on a table what remained of the silver given him by the old
man, and wrote a note to inform his pupil of his departure.

When he tried the gate and found it locked, he did not know at first
what to do. Then he remembered a place where he could easily climb over
the enclosure, went there, threw his luggage over the wall, and let
himself out in this somewhat undignified way.

Before going back to his house, he went round to the tomb of the old man
and burnt some sticks of perfume. Kneeling down, he explained
respectfully to the dead what had happened and excused himself for
having left unfinished the task he had undertaken. Rising at last, he
went away.

The next morning Love's-slave, pleased with her little trick, came to
the student's room and looked for him; he was nowhere to be found. She
saw the silver on the table, and, reading the note he had left, she
understood that he would never come back.

Her grief stifled her; heavy tears at last began running down her rosy
cheeks. She took the silver, went straight to her father's tomb,
fastened the heavy metal to her feet, and unrolled a sash from her
waist. Then, making a knot with the sash round her neck, she climbed up
the lower branches of a big fir-tree, fastened the other end of the
coloured silk as high as she could and threw herself down. A few minutes
afterwards she was dead. She was discovered by a member of the family,
and quietly buried in the same enclosure.

Lan, who did not know anything, came back two or three days after to see
her. The servants told him the truth. Silently and sullenly, he went to
the tomb, and long remained absorbed in his thoughts; dusk was
gathering; the first star shone in the sky. All of a sudden, hearing a
sound as of somebody laughing, he turned round. Love's-slave was before
his eyes.

"I was waiting for you, my love," she said in a strange and muffled
voice. "Why are you coming so late?"

As he wanted to kiss her, she stopped him:

"Oh dear! I am dead. But it is decreed that I will come again to life if
a magician performs the ceremony prescribed in the
Book-of-Transmutations."

Immaterial like an evening fog, she disappeared in the growing darkness.

Lan returned immediately to the town, and, entering the first Taoist
temple he saw, he explained to the priest what he wanted.

"If she has said it is decreed she should come back to life, we have
only to go and open her tomb, while here my disciples will sing the
proper chapters of the Book. Let us go now."

Giving some directions to his companions, he took a spade and started
with Lan. The moon was shining, so that without any lantern they were
able to perform their gloomy task.

Once the heavy lid of the coffin was unscrewed and taken off, the body
of the young girl appeared as fresh as if she had been sleeping.

When the cold night-air bathed her face, she raised her head, sneezed,
and sat up; looking at Lan, she said in a low voice:

"At last, you have come! I am recalled to life by your love. But now I
am feeble; don't speak harshly to me; I could not bear it."

Lan, kissing her lovingly, took her in his arms and brought her to his
house. After some days she was able to walk and live like ordinary
people do.

They married and lived happily together for a year. Then, one day, Lan,
having come back half-drunk from a friend's house, was rebuked by her,
and, incensed, pushed her back. She did not say a word but, fainting,
she fell down. Blood ran from her nostrils and mouth; nothing could
recall her departing spirit.



_THE LAUGHING GHOST_


Siu Long-mountain was one of the most celebrated students of the
district of Perfect-flowers. Having mastered the mysterious theories of
the ancient Classics, he took a fancy in the researches of the Taoist
magicians, whose temples may be found in the smallest villages of the
Empire. He soon discovered that, for the greater number, they were
impostors; and, being proud of his newly acquired science, he concluded
that none of them possessed any occult power.

When he came to this somewhat hasty conclusion, he was seated alone in
his library; the night was already advancing; a small oil lamp hardly
illuminated his books on the table he was sitting at.

"Yes, there is no doubt; nothing exists outside the material
appearances. There is nothing occult in the world, and nothing can come
out of nothingness."

As he was saying these words half aloud, he was startled by an unearthly
laugh which seemed to come from behind his back. He turned quickly
round; but nothing was to be seen.

His heart beating, he was listening intently; the laugh came from
another part of the room.

Long-mountain was brave, but as people are brave who have only met the
ordinary dangers of civilised life, such as barking dogs, insulting
coolies, or angry dealers presenting a long-deferred bill. He tried in
vain to believe it was only a joke imposed on him by some friend;
nothing could prevail upon his growing terror.

Straining his eyes, he looked at the part of the room the laugh seemed
to come from. At first he could not see anything, but by degrees he
perceived a black shadow moving in a corner, then a strange form with a
horse's head and a man's body, all covered with long black hair; the
teeth were big and sharp as so many mountain-peaks. The eyes of this
dreadful creature began shining so much that the whole room was
illuminated. Then it began moving towards the man.

This was too much; the student screamed like a dying donkey, and,
bursting the door open, he ran out into the courtyard.

From an open door in the western pavilion a ray of light crossed the
darkness; four or five men were playing cards, drinking, and swearing.
Long-mountain ran into their room, and, panting, explained his vision.

The men, being drunk, wanted to see the Thing; holding lanterns and
lamps, they accompanied their visitor back to his studio. When they
passed the doorway, Long-mountain screamed again; the Thing was still
there. He would have run away had not the men, laughing and jesting,
shown him what the Ghost in reality was--a long dress hung in a corner
to a big hook, on which sat a black cat mewing desperately.

When the men closed the door and left him alone, the student was deeply
ashamed of his terror; shaken by his emotion, he went to bed and tried
to sleep. Sleep would not come; his nervousness seemed to increase.
Starting at the smallest noise, he remained a long time wide awake; then
he lost consciousness.

In the silence one only heard the cries of the night-birds and the
buzzing of the autumn's insects; the lamp was out, but a brilliant moon
began to pour its silver light through the window.

The door suddenly creaked; Long-mountain awoke and sat up on his bed;
the door slowly opened, and the same Thing he had seen and heard entered
the room and advanced towards the bed, while the same unearthly laugh
came from the long and unshapely head; the flaming eyes were fixed on
the student.

When the Thing was near the bed, Long-mountain fell heavily and did not
move any more.

The Ghost stopped, put his hand on the breast of the man, remained in
that position a moment, then went quickly and silently out of the room.

A man was standing outside.

"What did he say?" asked he.

"Be quiet!" said the Ghost, taking off his horse's head and discovering
a man's very serious face. "The joke was good. But we have done it too
well. I think he is dead of terror; we had better be as silent as a tomb
about all this. The magistrate would never believe in a joke; we would
be held responsible for this death and pay a heavy penalty."

                                 THE END


_Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury,
England._





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