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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Of commuting the fines and penalties of the Penal Code

kicked and foamed until at length Mr. Ts'ui let it go at the same old pace; and by mid-day he had reached his destination. As he rode into the town, the people were astonished to hear of the marvellous journey just accomplished, and the Prince[273] sent to say he should like to buy the horse. Mr. Ts'ui, fearing that the real owner might come forward, was compelled to refuse this offer; but when, after six months had elapsed, no inquiries had been made, he agreed to accept eight hundred ounces of silver, and handed over the horse to the Prince. He then bought himself a good mule, and returned home. Subsequently, the Prince had occasion to use the horse for some important business at Lin-ch'ing; and when there it took the opportunity to run away. The officer in charge pursued it right up to the house of a Mr. Tseng, who lived next door to Mr. Ts'ui, and saw it run in and disappear. Thereupon he called upon Mr. Tseng to restore it to him; and, on the latter declaring he had never even seen the animal, the officer walked into his private apartments, where he found, hanging on the wall, a picture of a horse, by Tz[)u]-ang,[274] exactly like the one he was in search of, and with part of the tail burnt away by a joss-stick. It was now clear that the Prince's horse was a supernatural creature; but the officer, being afraid to go back without it, would have prosecuted Mr. Tseng, had not Ts'ui, whose eight hundred ounces of silver had since increased to something like ten thousand, stepped in and paid back the original purchase-money. Mr. Tseng was exceedingly grateful to him for this act of kindness, ignorant, as he was, of the previous sale of the horse by Ts'ui to the Prince.


[272] The Chinese never cut the tails of their horses or mules.

[273] One of the feudal Governors of by-gone days.

[274] A Chinese Landseer.



Mr. Wang, of Ch'ang-shan, was in the habit, when a District Magistrate, of commuting the fines and penalties of the Penal Code, inflicted on the various prisoners, for a corresponding number of butterflies. These he would let go all at once in the court, rejoicing to see them fluttering hither and thither, like so many tinsel snippings borne about by the breeze. One night he dreamt that a young lady, dressed in gay-coloured clothes, appeared to him and said, "Your cruel practice has brought many of my sisters to an untimely end, and now you shall pay the penalty of thus gratifying your tastes." The young lady then changed into a butterfly and flew away. Next day, the magistrate was sitting alone, over a cup of wine, when it was announced to him that the censor was at the door; and out he ran at once to receive His Excellency, with a white flower, that some of his women had put in his official hat, still sticking there. His Excellency was very angry at what he deemed a piece of disrespect to himself; and, after severely censuring Mr. Wang, turned round and went away. Thenceforward no more penalties were commuted for butterflies.



A certain poor man, named Chang, who lived at I, fell in one day with a Taoist priest. The latter was highly skilled in the science of physiognomy;[275]

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