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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Falling on his knees before Feng

in a rage, "that you must call

yourself a traveller?" To this Feng made no reply, but tried to pass by; whereupon he found himself seized by the sleeve and unable to move. His adversary smelt horribly of wine, and at length Feng asked him, saying, "And pray who are you?" "Oh, I am the late magistrate at Nan-tu," answered he; "what do you want to know for?" "A nice disgrace to society you are, too," cried Feng; "however, I am glad to hear you are only _late_ magistrate, for if you had been present magistrate there would be bad times in store for travellers." This made the drunken man furious, and he was proceeding to use violence, when Feng cried out, "My name is So-and-so, and I'm not the man to stand this sort of thing from anybody." No sooner had he uttered these words than the drunken man's rage was turned into joy, and, falling on his knees before Feng, he said, "My benefactor! pray excuse my rudeness." Then getting up, he told his servants to go on ahead and get something ready; Feng at first declining to go with him, but yielding on being pressed. Taking his hand, the drunken man led him along a short distance until they reached a village, where there was a very nice house and grounds, quite like the establishment of a person of position. As his friend was now getting sober, Feng inquired what might be his name. "Don't be frightened when I tell you," said the other; "I am the Eighth Prince of the T'iao river. I have just been out to take wine with a friend, and somehow I got tipsy; hence my bad behaviour
to you, which please forgive." Feng now knew that he was not of mortal flesh and blood; but, seeing how kindly he himself was treated, he was not a bit afraid. A banquet followed, with plenty of wine, of which the Eighth Prince drank so freely that Feng thought he would soon be worse than ever, and accordingly said he felt tipsy himself, and asked to be allowed to go to bed. "Never fear," answered the Prince, who perceived Feng's thoughts; "many drunkards will tell you that they cannot remember in the morning the extravagances of the previous night, but I tell you this is all nonsense, and that in nine cases out of ten those extravagances are committed wittingly and with malice prepense.[23] Now, though I am not the same order of being as yourself, I should never venture to behave badly in your good presence; so pray do not leave me thus." Feng then sat down again and said to the Prince, "Since you are aware of this, why not change your ways?" "Ah," replied the Prince, "when I was a magistrate I drank much more than I do now; but I got into disgrace with the Emperor and was banished here, since which time, ten years and more, I have tried to reform. Now, however, I am drawing near the wood,[24] and being unable to move about much, the old vice has come upon me again; I have found it impossible to stop myself, but perhaps what you say may do me some good." While they were thus talking, the sound of a distant bell broke upon their ears; and the Prince, getting up and seizing Feng's hand, said, "We cannot remain together any longer; but I will give you something by which I may in part requite your kindness to me. It must not be kept for any great length of time; when you have attained your wishes, then I will receive it back again." Thereupon he spit out of his mouth a tiny man, no more than an inch high, and scratching Feng's arm with his nails until Feng felt as if the skin was gone, he quickly laid the little man upon the spot. When he let go, the latter had already sunk into the skin, and nothing was to be seen but a cicatrix well healed over. Feng now asked what it all meant, but the Prince only laughed, and said, "It's time for you to go," and forthwith escorted him to the door. The prince here bade him adieu, and when he looked round, Prince, village, and house had all disappeared together, leaving behind a great turtle which waddled down into the water, and disappeared likewise. He could now easily account for the Prince's present to him; and from this moment his sight became intensely keen. He could see precious stones lying in the bowels of the earth, and was able to look down as far as Hell itself; besides which he suddenly found that he knew the names of many things of which he had never heard before. From below his own bedroom he dug up many hundred ounces of pure silver, upon which he lived very comfortably; and once when a house was for sale, he perceived that in it lay concealed a vast quantity of gold, so he immediately bought it, and so became immensely rich in all kinds of valuables. He secured a mirror, on the back of which was a phoenix, surrounded by water and clouds, and portraits of the celebrated wives of the Emperor Shun,[25] so beautifully executed that each hair of the head and eyebrows could easily be counted. If any woman's face came upon the mirror, there it remained indelibly fixed and not to be rubbed out; but if the same woman looked into the mirror again, dressed in a different dress, or if some other woman chanced to look in, then the former face would gradually fade away.

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