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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

And a few days afterwards Liu said to him


cousin of his, named Liu, and

asked Ch'en to accompany this cousin, which Ch'en was just proceeding to do when Ch'u pulled him back from behind,[93] and he would have fallen down but that the cousin pulled him up again, and then, after having scrutinized his appearance, carried him off to his own house. There being no ladies there, Ch'en was put into the inner apartments; and a few days afterwards Liu said to him, "A great many people will be at the gardens to-day; let us go and amuse ourselves awhile, and afterwards I will send you home again." He then gave orders that a servant should proceed on ahead with tea and wine, and by-and-by they themselves went, and were soon in the thick of the fete. Crossing over a bridge, they saw beneath an old willow tree a little painted skiff, and were soon on board, engaged in freely passing round the wine. However, finding this a little dull, Liu bade his servant go and see if Miss Li, the famous singing-girl, was at home; and in a few minutes the servant returned bringing Miss Li with him. Ch'en had met her before, and so they at once exchanged greetings, while Liu begged her to be good enough to favour them with a song. Miss Li, who seemed labouring under a fit of melancholy, forthwith began a funeral dirge; at which Ch'en was not much pleased, and observed that such a theme was hardly suitable to the occasion. With a forced smile, Miss Li changed her key, and gave them a love-song; whereupon Ch'en seized her hand, and said, "There's that song of the Huan-sha river,[94]
which you sang once before; I have read it over several times, but have quite forgotten the words." Then Miss Li began--

"Eyes overflowing with tears, she sits gazing into her glass, Lifting the bamboo screen, one of her comrades approaches; She bends her head and seems intent on her bow-like slippers, And forces her eyebrows to arch themselves into a smile. With her scarlet sleeve she wipes the tears from her perfumed cheek, In fear and trembling lest they should guess the thoughts that o'erwhelm her."[95]

Ch'en repeated this over several times, until at length the skiff stopped, and they passed through a long verandah, where a great many verses had been inscribed on the walls,[96] to which Ch'en at once proceeded to add a stanza of his own. Evening was now coming on, and Liu remarked that the candidates would be just about leaving the examination-hall;[97] so he escorted him back to his own home, and there left him. The room was dark, and there was no one with him; but by-and-by the servants ushered in some one whom at first he took to be Ch'u. However, he soon saw that it was not Ch'u, and in another moment the stranger had fallen against him and knocked him down. "Master's fainted!" cried the servants, as they ran to pick him up; and then Ch'en discovered that the one who had fallen down was really no other than himself.[98] On getting up, he saw Ch'u standing by his side; and when they had sent away the servants the latter said, "Don't be alarmed: I am nothing more than a disembodied spirit. My time for re-appearing on earth[99] is long overdue, but I could not forget your great kindness to me, and accordingly I have remained under this form in order to assist in the accomplishment of your wishes. The three bouts[100] are over, and your ambition will be gratified." Ch'en then inquired if Ch'u could assist him in like manner for his doctor's degree; to which the latter replied, "Alas! the luck descending to you from your ancestors is not equal to that.[101] They were a niggardly


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