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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Chen relaxed his hold and let Chia proceed

your kindness." "You have divined

rightly," replied Chia; "the stone is with me; but recollect, if you please, that the indigent Kuan Chung[300] shared the wealth of his friend Pao Shu." At this hint Mr. Chen said he would give Chia one hundred ounces of silver; to which the latter replied that one hundred ounces was a fair offer, but that he would far sooner have Mr. Chen teach him the formula to utter when rubbing the stone on anything, so as just to try the thing once himself. Mr. Chen was afraid to do this; whereupon Chia cried out, "You are an Immortal yourself; you must know well enough that I would never deceive a friend." So Mr. Chen was prevailed upon to teach him the formula, and then Chia would have tried the art upon the immense stone washing-block[301] which was lying near at hand, had not Mr. Chen seized his arm and begged him not to do any thing so outrageous. Chia then picked up half a brick and laid it on the washing-block, saying to Mr. Chen, "This little piece is not too much, surely?" Accordingly, Mr. Chen relaxed his hold and let Chia proceed; which he did by promptly ignoring the half brick and quickly rubbing the stone on the washing-block. Mr. Chen turned pale when he saw him do this, and made a dash forward to get hold of the stone; but it was too late, the washing-block was already a solid mass of silver, and Chia quietly handed him back the stone. "Alas! alas!" cried Mr. Chen, in despair, "what is to be done now? For having thus irregularly conferred wealth upon a mortal,[302] Heaven
will surely punish me. Oh, if you would save me, give away one hundred coffins[303] and one hundred suits of wadded clothes." "My friend," replied Chia, "my object in getting money was not to hoard it up like a miser." Mr. Chen was delighted at this; and during the next three years Chia engaged in trade, taking care to be all the time fulfilling his promise to Mr. Chen. At the expiration of that time Mr. Chen himself reappeared, and, grasping Chia's hand, said to him, "Trustworthy and noble friend, when we last parted the Spirit of Happiness impeached me before God,[304] and my name was erased from the list of angels. But now that you have carried out my request, that sentence has accordingly been rescinded. Go on as you have begun, without ceasing." Chia asked Mr. Chen what office he filled in heaven; to which the latter replied that he was only a fox, who, by a sinless life, had finally attained to that clear perception of the Truth which leads to immortality. Wine was then brought, and the two friends enjoyed themselves together as of old; and even when Chia had passed the age of ninety years, that fox still used to visit him from time to time.


[299] Alchemy was widely cultivated in China during the Han dynasty by priests of the Taoist religion, but all traces of it have now long since disappeared.

[300] See No. XXII., note 143.

[301] These are used, together with a heavy wooden _baton_, by the Chinese washerman, the effect being most disastrous to a European wardrobe.

[302] For thus interfering with the appointments of Destiny.

[303] To provide coffins for poor people has ever been regarded as an act of transcendent merit. The tornado at Canton, in April, 1878, in which several thousand lives were lost, afforded an admirable opportunity for the exercise of this form of charity--an opportunity which was very largely availed of by the benevolent.

[304] For usurping its prerogative by allowing Chia to obtain unauthorized wealth.



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