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Myths and Legends of China

Page: 147

The covetous Pa-chieh, however, expressed himself in favour of accepting the widow’s terms. Finding it impossible to do so openly, he stole round to the back and secured a private interview. His personal appearance was against him, but the widow was not altogether uncompliant. She not only entertained the travellers, but agreed to Pa-chieh retiring within the household in the character of a son-in-law, the other three remaining as guests in the guest-rooms.

Blind Man’s Buff

But a new problem now arose. If Pa-chieh were wedded to one of the three daughters, the others would feel aggrieved. So the widow proposed to blindfold him with a handkerchief, and marry him to whichever he succeeded in catching. But, with the bandage tied over his eyes, Pa-chieh only found himself groping in darkness. “The tinkling sound of female trinkets was all around him, the odour of musk was in his nostrils; like fairy forms they fluttered about him, but he could no more grasp one than he could a shadow. One way Page 344and another he ran till he was too giddy to stand, and could only stumble helplessly about.”

The prospective mother-in-law then unloosed the bandage, and informed Pa-chieh that it was not her daughters’ ‘slipperiness,’ as he had called it, which prevented their capture, but the extreme modesty of each in being generous enough to forgo her claims in favour of one of her sisters. Pa-chieh thereupon became very importunate, urging his suit for any one of the daughters or for the mother herself or for all three or all four. This was beyond all conscience, but the widow was equal to the emergency, and suggested another solution. Each of her daughters wore a waistcoat embroidered in jewels and gold. Pa-chieh was to try these on in turn, and to marry the owner of the one which fitted him. Pa-chieh put one on, but as he was tying the cord round his waist it transformed itself into strong coils of rope which bound him tightly in every limb. He rolled about in excruciating agony, and as he did so the curtain of enchantment fell and the beauties and the palace disappeared.

Next morning the rest of the party on waking up also found that all had changed, and saw that they had been sleeping on the ground in the cypress-grove. On making search they found Pa-chieh bound fast to a tree. They cut him down, to pursue the journey a sadder and wiser Pig, and the butt of many a quip from his fellow-travellers.

The Lotus Cave

When the party left the Elephant Country, seeing a mountain ahead, the Master warned his disciples to be careful. Sun said: “Master, say not so; remember the text of the Sacred Book, ‘So long as the heart is right Page 345there is nothing to fear.’” After this Sun kept a close watch on Pa-chieh, who, while professing to be on guard, slept most of the time. When they arrived at Ping-ting Shan they were approached by a woodcutter, who warned them that in the mountain, which extended for 600 li (200 miles), there was a Lotus Cave, inhabited by a band of demons under two chiefs, who were lying in wait to devour the travellers. The woodcutter then disappeared. Accordingly, Pa-chieh was ordered to keep watch. But, seeing some hay, he lay down and went to sleep, and the mountain demons carried him away to the Lotus Cave.


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