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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Which very much astonished Liang

when he inquired where the king,

her father, was, she said he had gone off with the God of War to fight against Ch'ih-yu,[37] and had not returned. A few days passed, and Ch'en began to think his people at home would be anxious about him; so he sent off his servant with a letter to tell them he was safe and sound, at which they were all overjoyed, believing him to have been lost in the wreck of the boat, of which event news had already reached them. However, they were unable to send him any reply, and were considerably distressed as to how he would find his way home again. Six months afterwards Ch'en himself appeared, dressed in fine clothes, and riding on a splendid horse, with plenty of money, and valuable jewels in his pocket--evidently a man of wealth. From that time forth he kept up a magnificent establishment; and in seven or eight years had become the father of five children. Every day he kept open house, and if any one asked him about his adventures, he would readily tell them without reservation. Now a friend of his, named Liang, whom he had known since they were boys together, and who, after holding an appointment for some years in Nan-fu, was crossing the Tung-t'ing Lake, on his way home, suddenly beheld an ornamental barge, with carved wood-work and red windows, passing over the foamy waves to the sound of music and singing from within. Just then a beautiful young lady leant out of one of the windows, which she had pushed open, and by her side Liang saw a young man sitting, in a _neglige_ attitude,
while two nice-looking girls stood by and shampooed[38] him. Liang, at first, thought it must be the party of some high official, and wondered at the scarcity of attendants;[39] but, on looking more closely at the young man, he saw it was no other than his old friend Ch'en. Thereupon he began almost involuntarily to shout out to him; and when Ch'en heard his own name, he stopped the rowers, and walked out towards the figure-head,[40] beckoning Liang to cross over into his boat, where the remains of their feast was quickly cleared away, and fresh supplies of wine, and tea, and all kinds of costly foods spread out by handsome slave-girls. "It's ten years since we met," said Liang, "and what a rich man you have become in the meantime." "Well," replied Ch'en, "do you think that so very extraordinary for a poor fellow like me?" Liang then asked him who was the lady with whom he was taking wine, and Ch'en said she was his wife, which very much astonished Liang, who further inquired whither they were going. "Westwards," answered Ch'en, and prevented any further questions by giving a signal for the music, which effectually put a stop to all further conversation.[41] By-and-by, Liang found the wine getting into his head, and seized the opportunity to ask Ch'en to make him a present of one of his beautiful slave-girls. "You are drunk,[42] my friend," replied Ch'en; "however, I will give you the price of one as a pledge of our old friendship." And, turning to a servant, he bade him present Liang with a splendid pearl, saying, "Now you can buy a Green Pearl;[43] you see I am not stingy;" adding forthwith, "but I am pressed for time, and can stay no longer with my old friend." So he escorted Liang back to his boat, and, having let go the rope, proceeded on his way. Now, when Liang reached home, and called at Ch'en's house, whom should he see but Ch'en himself drinking with a party of friends. "Why, I saw you only yesterday," cried Liang, "upon the Tung-t'ing. How quickly you have got back!" Ch'en denied this, and then Liang repeated the whole story, at the conclusion of which, Ch'en laughed, and said, "You must be mistaken. Do you imagine I can be in two places at once?" The company were all much astonished, and knew not what to make of it; and subsequently when Ch'en, who died at the age of eighty, was being carried to his grave, the bearers thought the coffin seemed remarkably light, and on opening it to see, found that the body had disappeared.

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