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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

And Yueeh sheng was left almost by himself in the world


hoped for his speedy recovery

that he might have a chance of coaxing him to comply with his request. But the old man got worse and worse, and at length died; whereupon the elder brother took no trouble about the funeral ceremonies, leaving it all to the younger, who, being an open-handed fellow, made no difficulties about the expense. The latter was also fond of seeing a great deal of company at his house, and his wife often had to get three or four meals a-day ready for guests; and, as her husband did very little towards looking after his affairs, and was further sponged upon by all the needy ones of the neighbourhood, they were soon reduced to a state of poverty. The elder brother helped them to keep body and soul together, but he died shortly afterwards, and this resource was cut off from them. Then, by dint of borrowing in the spring and repaying in the autumn,[329] they still managed to exist, until at last it came to parting with their land, and they were left actually destitute. At that juncture their eldest son died, followed soon after by his mother; and Yueeh-sheng was left almost by himself in the world. He now married the widow of a sheep-dealer, who had a little capital; and she was very strict with him, and wouldn't let him waste time and money with his friends. One night his father appeared to him and said, "My son, you have drained your cup of bitterness to the dregs. You shall now have the money. I will bring it to you." When Yueeh-sheng woke up, he thought it was merely a poor man's dream;
but the next day, while laying the foundations of a wall, he did come upon a quantity of gold. And then he knew what his father had meant by "when you are alone;" for of those about him at that time, more than half were gone.

FOOTNOTES:

[328] The Law of Inheritance, as it obtains in China, has been ably illustrated by Mr. Chal. Alabaster in Vols. V. and VI. of the _China Review_. This writer states that "there seems to be no absolutely fixed law in regard either of inheritance or testamentary dispositions of property, but certain general principles are recognised which the court will not allow to be disregarded without sufficient cause." As a rule the sons, whether by wife or concubine, share equally, and in preference to daughters, even though there should be a written will in favour of the latter.

[329] This has reference to the "seed-time and harvest."

CLXI.

THE BOATMEN OF LAO-LUNG.

When His Excellency Chu was Viceroy of Kuangtung, there were constant complaints from the traders of mysterious disappearances; sometimes as many as three or four of them disappearing at once and never being seen or heard of again. At length the number of such cases, filed of course against some person or persons unknown, multiplied to such an extent that they were simply put on record, and but little notice was further taken of them by the local officials. Thus, when His Excellency entered upon his duties, he found more than a hundred plaints of the kind, besides innumerable cases in which the missing man's relatives lived at a distance and had not instituted proceedings. The mystery so preyed upon the new Viceroy's mind that he lost all appetite for food; and when, finally, all the inquiries he had set on foot resulted in no clue to an elucidation of these strange disappearances, then His Excellency proceeded to wash and purify himself, and, having notified the Municipal God,[330] he took to fasting and sleeping in his study alone. While he was in ecstasy, lo! an official entered, holding a tablet in his hand, and said that he had come from the Municipal temple with the following instructions to the Viceroy:--


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