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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Lue discovered what had taken place


Ch'u, who said he came from

Shantung. This Ch'u was a very hard-working fellow; he never seemed to be idle, and actually slept in the school-room, not going home at all. Ch'en became much attached to him, and one day asked him why he never went away. "Well, you see," replied Ch'u, "my people are very poor, and can hardly afford to pay for my schooling; but, by dint of working half the night, two of my days are equal to three of anybody else's." Thereupon Ch'en said he would bring his own bed to the school, and that they would sleep there together; to which Ch'u replied that the teaching they got wasn't worth much, and that they would do better by putting themselves under a certain old scholar named Lue. This they were easily able to do, as the arrangement at the temple was monthly, and at the end of each month anyone was free to go or to come. So off they went to this Mr. Lue, a man of considerable literary attainments, who had found himself in Shun-t'ien Fu without a cash in his pocket, and was accordingly obliged to take pupils. He was delighted at getting two additions to his number and, Ch'u showing himself an apt scholar, the two soon became very great friends, sleeping in the same room and eating at the same table. At the end of the month Ch'u asked for leave of absence, and, to the astonishment of all, ten days elapsed without anything being heard of him. It then chanced that Ch'en went to the T'ien-ning temple, and there he saw Ch'u under one of the verandahs, occupied in cutting wood for lucifer-matches.[92]
The latter was much disconcerted by the arrival of Ch'en, who asked him why he had given up his studies; so the latter took him aside, and explained that he was so poor as to be obliged to work half a month to scrape together funds enough for his next month's schooling. "You come along back with me," cried Ch'en, on hearing this, "I will arrange for the payment," which Ch'u immediately consented to do on condition that Ch'en would keep the whole thing a profound secret. Now Ch'en's father was a wealthy tradesman, and from his till Ch'en abstracted money wherewith to pay for Ch'u; and by-and-by, when his father found him out, he confessed why he had done so. Thereupon Ch'en's father called him a fool, and would not let him resume his studies; at which Ch'u was much hurt, and would have left the school too, but that old Mr. Lue discovered what had taken place, and gave him the money to return to Ch'en's father, keeping him still at the school, and treating him quite like his own son. So Ch'en studied no more, but whenever he met Ch'u he always asked him to join in some refreshment at a restaurant, Ch'u invariably refusing, but yielding at length to his entreaties, being himself loth to break off their old acquaintanceship.

Thus two years passed away, when Ch'en's father died, and Ch'en went back to his books under the guidance of old Mr. Lue, who was very glad to see such determination. Of course Ch'en was now far behind Ch'u; and in about six months Lue's son arrived, having begged his way in search of his father, so Mr. Lue gave up his school and returned home with a purse which his pupils had made up for him, Ch'u adding nothing thereto but his tears. At parting, Mr. Lue advised Ch'en to take Ch'u as his tutor, and this he did, establishing him comfortably in the house with him. The examination was very shortly to commence, and Ch'en felt convinced that he should not get through; but Ch'u said he thought he should be able to manage the matter for him. On the appointed day he introduced Ch'en to a gentleman who he said was a


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