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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Hsue informed him that his name was Hsue


After

this the two friends went on much as they had done before, until one day Liu-lang again said he had come to bid Hsue farewell. Hsue thought he had found another substitute, but Liu-lang told him that his former behaviour had so pleased Almighty Heaven, that he had been appointed guardian angel of Wu-chen, in the Chao-yuean district, and that on the following morning he would start for his new post. "And if you do not forget the days of our friendship," added he, "I pray you come and see me, in spite of the long journey." "Truly," replied Hsue, "you well deserved to be made a God; but the paths of Gods and men lie in different directions, and even if the distance were nothing, how should I manage to meet you again?" "Don't be afraid on that score," said Liu-lang, "but come;" and then he went away, and Hsue returned home. The latter immediately began to prepare for the journey, which caused his wife to laugh at him and say, "Supposing you do find such a place at the end of that long journey, you won't be able to hold a conversation with a clay image." Hsue, however, paid no attention to her remarks, and travelled straight to Chao-yuean, where he learned from the inhabitants that there really was a village called Wu-chen, whither he forthwith proceeded and took up his abode at an inn. He then inquired of the landlord where the village temple was; to which the latter replied by asking him somewhat hurriedly if he was speaking to Mr. Hsue. Hsue informed him that his name was Hsue,
asking in reply how he came to know it; whereupon the landlord further inquired if his native place was not Tz[)u]-chou. Hsue told him it was, and again asked him how he knew all this; to which the landlord made no answer, but rushed out of the room; and in a few moments the place was crowded with old and young, men, women, and children, all come to visit Hsue. They then told him that a few nights before they had seen their guardian deity in a vision, and he had informed them that Mr. Hsue would shortly arrive, and had bidden them to provide him with travelling expenses, &c. Hsue was very much astonished at this, and went off at once to the shrine, where he invoked his friend as follows:--"Ever since we parted I have had you daily and nightly in my thoughts; and now that I have fulfilled my promise of coming to see you, I have to thank you for the orders you have issued to the people of the place. As for me, I have nothing to offer you but a cup of wine, which I pray you accept as though we were drinking together on the river-bank." He then burnt a quantity of paper money,[180] when lo! a wind suddenly arose, which, after whirling round and round behind the shrine, soon dropped, and all was still. That night Hsue dreamed that his friend came to him, dressed in his official cap and robes, and very different in appearance from what he used to be, and thanked him, saying, "It is truly kind of you to visit me thus: I only regret that my position makes me unable to meet you face to face, and that though near we are still so far. The people here will give you a trifle, which pray accept for my sake; and when you go away, I will see you a short way on your journey." A few days afterwards Hsue prepared to start, in spite of the numerous invitations to stay which poured in upon him from all sides; and then the inhabitants loaded him with presents of all kinds, and escorted him out of the village. There a whirlwind arose and accompanied him several miles, when he turned round and invoked his friend thus:--"Liu-lang, take care of your valued person. Do not trouble yourself to come any farther.[181] Your noble heart will ensure happiness to this district, and there is no occasion for me to give a word of advice to my old friend." By-and-by the whirlwind ceased, and the villagers, who were much astonished, returned to their own homes. Hsue, too, travelled homewards, and being now a man of some means, ceased to work any more as a fisherman. And whenever he met a Chao-yuean man he would ask him about that guardian angel, being always informed in reply that he was a most beneficent God. Some say the place was Shih-k'eng-chuang, in Chang-ch'in: I can't say which it was myself.


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