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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

This silver he would give to Chia


[298]

Mr. Yang was a man of tried virtue, and had he been able to tolerate _oculo irretorto_, the loss of his money, the priest would have given him, not merely a cure for the bodily ailment under which he was suffering, but a knowledge of those means by which he might have obtained the salvation of his soul, and have enrolled himself among the ranks of the Taoist Immortals. "To those, however," remarks the commentator, "who lament that Mr. Yang was too worldly-minded to secure this great prize, I reply, 'Better one more good man on earth, than an extra angel in heaven.'"

CXLIX.

THE ALCHEMIST.[299]

At Ch'ang-ngan there lived a scholar named Chia Tz[)u]-lung, who one day noticed a very refined-looking stranger; and, on making inquiries about him, learnt that he was a Mr. Chen, who had taken lodgings hard by. Accordingly, next day Chia called and sent in his card, but did not see Chen, who happened to be out at the time. The same thing occurred thrice; and at length Chia engaged some one to watch and let him know when Mr. Chen was at home. However, even then the latter would not come forth to receive his guest, and Chia had to go in and rout him out. The two now entered into conversation, and soon became mutually charmed with each other; and by-and-by Chia sent off a servant to bring wine from a neighbouring wine-shop. Mr. Chen proved himself a

pleasant boon companion, and when the wine was nearly finished, he went to a box, and took from it some wine-cups and a large and beautiful jade tankard, into the latter of which he poured a single cup of wine, and lo! it was filled to the brim. They then proceeded to help themselves from the tankard; but however much they took out, the contents never seemed to diminish. Chia was astonished at this, and begged Mr. Chen to tell him how it was done. "Ah," replied Mr. Chen, "I tried to avoid making your acquaintance solely because of your one bad quality--avarice. The art I practise is a secret known to the Immortals only: how can I divulge it to you?" "You do me wrong," rejoined Chia, "in thus attributing avarice to me. The avaricious, indeed, are always poor." Mr. Chen laughed, and they separated for that day; but from that time they were constantly together, and all ceremony was laid aside between them. Whenever Chia wanted money, Mr. Chen would bring out a black stone, and, muttering a charm, would rub it on a tile or a brick, which was forthwith changed into a lump of silver. This silver he would give to Chia, and it was always just as much as he actually required, neither more nor less; and if ever the latter asked for more, Mr. Chen would rally him on the subject of avarice. Finally, Chia determined to try and get possession of this stone; and one day, when Mr. Chen was sleeping off the fumes of a drinking-bout, he tried to extract it from his clothes. However, Chen detected him at once, and declared that they could be friends no more, and next day he left the place altogether. About a year afterwards Chia was one day wandering by the river-bank, when he saw a handsome-looking stone, marvellously like that in the possession of Mr. Chen; and he picked it up at once and carried it home with him. A few days passed away, and suddenly Mr. Chen presented himself at Chia's house, and explained that the stone in question possessed the property of changing anything into gold, and had been bestowed upon him long before by a certain Taoist priest, whom he had followed as a disciple. "Alas!" added he, "I got tipsy and lost it; but divination told me where it was, and if you will now restore it to me, I shall take care to repay


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