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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Chia took off his shoes and lay down


[64]

See No. LXVIII., note 30. The circumstances which led to this marriage would certainly be considered "exceptional."

LXXIV.

A RIP VAN WINKLE.[65]

[The story runs that a Mr. Chia, after obtaining, with the assistance of a mysterious friend, his master's degree, became alive to the vanity of mere earthly honours, and determined to devote himself to the practice of Taoism, in the hope of obtaining the elixir of immortality.[66]]

So early one morning Chia and his friend, whose name was Lang, stole away together, without letting Chia's family know anything about it; and by-and-by they found themselves among the hills, in a vast cave where there was another world and another sky. An old man was sitting there in great state, and Lang presented Chia to him as his future master. "Why have you come so soon?" asked the old man; to which Lang replied, "My friend's determination is firmly fixed: I pray you receive him amongst you." "Since you have come," said the old man, turning to Chia, "you must begin by putting away from you your earthly body." Chia murmured his assent, and was then escorted by Lang to sleeping-chamber where he was provided with food, after which Lang went away. The room was beautifully clean:[67] the doors had no panels and the windows no lattices; and all the furniture was one table and one couch.

Chia took off his shoes and lay down, with the moon shining brightly into the room; and beginning soon to feel hungry, he tried one of the cakes on the table, which he found sweet and very satisfying. He thought Lang would be sure to come back, but there he remained hour after hour by himself, never hearing a sound. He noticed, however, that the room was fragrant with a delicious perfume; his viscera seemed to be removed from his body, by which his intellectual faculties were much increased; and every one of his veins and arteries could be easily counted. Then suddenly he heard a sound like that of a cat scratching itself; and, looking out of the window, he beheld a tiger sitting under the verandah. He was horribly frightened for the moment, but immediately recalling the admonition of the old man, he collected himself and sat quietly down again. The tiger seemed to know that there was a man inside, for it entered the room directly afterwards, and walking straight up to the couch sniffed at Chia's feet. Whereupon there was a noise outside, as if a fowl were having its legs tied, and the tiger ran away. Shortly afterwards a beautiful young girl came in, suffusing an exquisite fragrance around; and going up to the couch where Chia was, she bent over him and whispered, "Here I am." Her breath was like the sweet odour of perfumes; but as Chia did not move, she whispered again, "Are you sleeping?" The voice sounded to Chia remarkably like that of his wife; however, he reflected that these were all probably nothing more than tests of his determination, so he closed his eyes firmly for a while. But by-and-by the young lady called him by his pet name, and then he opened his eyes wide to discover that she was no other than his own wife. On asking her how she had come there, she


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