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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

But Chi sheng would not hear of this


At

that time there was a gentleman named Chang living near by, who had five daughters, all very pretty, but the youngest, called Wu-k'o, was singularly beautiful, far surpassing her four sisters. She was not betrothed to any one, when one day, as she was on her way to worship at the family tombs, she chanced to see Chi-sheng, and at her return home spoke about him to her mother. Her mother guessed what her meaning was, and arranged with a match-maker, named Mrs. Yue, to call upon Chi-sheng's parents. This she did precisely at the time when Chi-sheng was so ill, and forthwith told his mother that her son's complaint was one she, Mrs. Yue, was quite competent to cure; going on to tell her about Miss Wu-k'o and the proposed marriage, at which the good lady was delighted, and sent her in to talk about it to Chi-sheng himself. "Alas!" cried he, when he had heard Mrs. Yue's story, "you are bringing me the wrong medicine for my complaint." "All depends upon the efficacy of the medicine," replied Mrs. Yue; "if the medicine is good, it matters not what is the name of the doctor who administers the draught; while to set your heart on a particular person, and to lie there and die because that person doesn't come, is surely foolish in the extreme." "Ah," rejoined Chi-sheng, "there's no medicine under heaven that will do me any good." Mrs. Yue told him his experience was limited, and proceeded to expatiate by speaking and gesticulating on the beauty and liveliness of Wu-k'o. But all Chi-sheng
said was that she was not what he wanted, and, turning round his face to the wall, would listen to no more about her. So Mrs. Yue was obliged to go away, and Chi-sheng became worse and worse every day, until suddenly one of the maids came in and informed him that the young lady herself was at the door. Immediately he jumped up and ran out, and lo! there before him stood a beautiful girl, whom, however he soon discovered not to be Kuei-hsiu. She wore a light yellow robe with a fine silk jacket and an embroidered petticoat, from beneath which her two little feet peeped out; and altogether she more resembled a fairy than anything else. Chi-sheng inquired her name; to which she replied that it was Wu-k'o, adding that she couldn't understand his devoted attachment to Kuei-hsiu, as if there was nobody else in the world. Chi-sheng apologized, saying that he had never before seen any one so beautiful as Kuei-hsiu, but that he was now aware of his mistake. He then swore everlasting fidelity to her, and was just grasping her hand, when he awoke and found his mother rubbing him. It was a dream, but so accurately defined in all its details that he began to think if Wu-k'o was really such as he had seen her, there would be no further need to try for his impracticable cousin. So he communicated his dream to his mother; and she, only too delighted to notice this change of feeling, offered to go to Wu-k'o's house herself; but Chi-sheng would not hear of this, and arranged with an old woman who knew the family to find some pretext for going there, and to report to him what Wu-k'o was like. When she arrived Wu-k'o was ill in bed, and lay with her head propped up by pillows, looking very pretty indeed. The


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