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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Upon which Kuan Ti exclaimed in a loud voice

and spoke a few parting words

to his wife and children, bidding them take money from his strong-room[149] and go buy large quantities of paper ingots,[150] which they immediately did, quite exhausting all the shops. This was piled in the court-yard with paper images of men, devils, horses, &c., and burning went on day and night until the ashes formed quite a hill. In three days Kung-sun returned, bringing with him the money; upon which So-and-so hurried off to the Board of Civil Office,[151] where he had an interview with the high officials, who, after asking his name, warned him to be a pure and upright officer, and then calling him up to the table handed him his letter of appointment. So-and-so bowed and took his leave; but recollecting at once that his purchased degree would not carry much weight with it in the eyes of his subordinates,[152] he sent off to buy elaborate chairs and a number of horses for his retinue, at the same time despatching several devil lictors to fetch his favourite wife in a beautifully adorned sedan-chair. All arrangements were just completed when some of the Chen-ting staff came to meet the new Prefect,[153] others awaiting him all along the line of road, about half a mile in length. He was immensely gratified at this reception, when all of a sudden the gongs before him ceased to sound and the banners were lowered to the ground. He had hardly time to ask what was the matter before he saw those of his servants who were on horseback jump hastily to the ground and dwindle down
to about a foot in height, while their horses shrunk to the size of foxes or racoons. One of the attendants near his chariot cried out in alarm, "Here's Kuan Ti!"[154] and then he, too, jumped out in a fright, and saw in the distance Kuan Ti himself slowly approaching them, followed by four or five retainers on horseback. His great beard covered the lower half of his face, quite unlike ordinary mortals; his aspect was terrible to behold, and his eyes reached nearly to his ears. "Who is this?" roared he to his servants; and they immediately informed him that it was the new Prefect of Chen-ting. "What!" cried he; "a petty fellow like that to have a retinue like this?"[155] Whereupon So-and-so's flesh began to creep with fear, and in a few moments he found that he too had shrunk to the size of a little boy of six or seven. Kuan Ti bade his attendants bring the new Prefect with them, and went into a building at the roadside, where he took up his seat facing the south[156] and calling for writing materials told So-and-so to write down his name and address. When this was handed to him he flew into a towering passion, and said, "The scribbly scrawl of a placeman, indeed![157] Can such a one be entrusted with the welfare of the people? Look me up the record of his good works." A man then advanced, and whispered something in a low tone; upon which Kuan Ti exclaimed in a loud voice, "The crime of the briber is comparatively trifling; the heavy guilt lies with those who sell official posts for money." So-and-so was now seized by angels in golden armour, and two of them tore off his cap and robes, and administered to him fifty blows with the bamboo until hardly any flesh remained on his bones. He was then thrust outside the door, and lo! his carriages and horses had disappeared, and he himself was lying, unable to walk for pain, at no great distance from his own house. However, his body seemed as light as a leaf, and in a day and a night he managed to crawl home. When he arrived, he awoke as it were from a dream, and found himself groaning upon the bed; and to the inquiries of his family he only replied that he felt dreadfully sore. Now he really had been dead for seven days; and when he came round thus, he immediately asked for A-lien, which was the name of his favourite wife. But the very day before, while chatting with the other members of the family, A-lien had suddenly cried out that her husband was made Prefect of Chen-ting, and that his lictors had come to escort her thither. Accordingly she retired to dress herself in her best clothes, and, when ready to start, she fell back and expired. Hearing this sad story, So-and-so began to mourn and beat his breast, and he would not allow her to be buried at once, in the hope that she might yet come round; but this she never did. Meanwhile So-and-so got slowly better, and by the end of six months was able to walk again. He would often exclaim, "The ruin of my career and the punishment I received--all this I could have endured; but the loss of my dear A-lien is more than I can bear."[158]

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