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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

This Chi sheng proceeded to do

old woman approached the couch

and asked what was the matter; to which Wu-k'o made no reply, her fingers fidgetting all the time with her waistband. "She's been behaving badly to her father and mother," cried the latter, who was in the room; "there's many a one has offered to marry her, but she says she'll have none but Chi-sheng: and then when I scold her a bit, she takes on and won't touch her food for days." "Madam," said the old woman, "if you could get that young man for your daughter they would make a truly pretty pair; and as for him, if he could only see Miss Wu-k'o, I'm afraid it would be too much for him. What do you think of my going there and getting them to make proposals?" "No, thank you," replied Wu-k'o; "I would rather not risk his refusal;" upon which the old woman declared she would succeed, and hurried off to tell Chi-sheng, who was delighted to find from her report that Wu-k'o was exactly as he had seen her in his dream, though he didn't trust implicitly in all the old woman said. By-and-by, when he began to get a little better, he consulted with the old woman as to how he could see Wu-k'o with his own eyes; and, after some little difficulty, it was arranged that Chi-sheng should hide himself in a room from which he would be able to see her as she crossed the yard supported by a maid, which she did every day at a certain hour. This Chi-sheng proceeded to do, and in a little while out she came, accompanied by the old woman as well, who instantly drew her attention either to the clouds or
the trees, in order that she should walk more leisurely. Thus Chi-sheng had a good look at her, and saw that she was truly the young lady of his dream. He could hardly contain himself for joy; and when the old woman arrived and asked if she would do instead of Kuei-hsiu, he thanked her very warmly and returned to his own home. There he told his father and mother, who sent off a match-maker to arrange the preliminaries; but the latter came back and told them that Wu-k'o was already betrothed. This was a terrible blow for Chi-sheng, who was soon as ill as ever, and offered no reply to his father and mother when they charged him with having made a mistake. For several months he ate nothing but a bowl of rice-gruel a-day, and he became as emaciated as a fowl, when all of a sudden the old woman walked in and asked him what was the matter. "Foolish boy," said she, when he had told her all; "before you wouldn't have her, and do you imagine she is bound to have you now? But I'll see if I can't help you; for were she the Emperor's own daughter, I should still find some way of getting her." Chi-sheng asked what he should do, and she then told him to send a servant with a letter next day to Wu-k'o's house, to which his father at first objected for fear of another repulse; but the old woman assured him that Wu-k'o's parents had since repented, besides which no written contract had as yet been made; "and you know the proverb," added she, "that those who are first at the fire will get their dinner first." So Chi-sheng's father agreed, and two servants were accordingly sent, their mission proving a complete success. Chi-sheng now rapidly recovered his health, and thought no more of Kuei-hsiu, who, when she heard of the intended match, became in her turn very seriously ill, to the great anger of her father, who said she might die for all he cared, but to the great sorrow of her mother, who was extremely fond of her daughter.

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