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Myths and Legends of China

Page: 162

friendship and met constantly, and later it happened that the stranger chanced to see the young lady of over the way. “Who is that?” said he, following her with his eyes. Ku told him, and then he said, “She is certainly pretty, but rather stern in her appearance.” By and by Ku went in, and his mother told him the girl had come to beg a little rice, as they had had nothing to eat all day. “She’s a good daughter,” said his mother, “and I’m very sorry for her. We must try and help them a little.” Ku thereupon shouldered a peck of rice, and, knocking at their door, presented it with his mother’s compliments. The young lady received the rice, but said nothing; and then she got into the habit of coming over and helping Ku’s mother with her work and household affairs, almost as if she had been her daughter-in-law, for which Ku was very grateful to her, Page 378and whenever he had anything nice he always sent some of it in to her mother, though the young lady herself never once took the trouble to thank him. So things went on until Ku’s mother got an abscess on her leg, and lay writhing in agony day and night. Then the young lady devoted herself to the invalid, waiting on her and giving her medicine with such care and attention that at last the sick woman cried out, “O that I could secure such a daughter-in-law as you to see this old body into its grave!” The young lady soothed her, and replied, “Your son is a hundred times more filial than I, a poor widow’s only daughter.” “But even a filial son makes a bad nurse,” answered the patient; “besides, I am now drawing toward the evening of my life, when my body will be exposed to the mists and the dews, and I am vexed in spirit about our ancestral worship and the continuance of our line.” As she was speaking Ku walked in; and his mother, weeping, said, “I am deeply indebted to this young lady; do not forget to repay her goodness.” Ku made a low bow, but the young lady said, “Sir, when you were kind to my mother, I did not thank you; why then thank me?” Ku thereupon became more than ever attached to her; but could never get her to depart in the slightest degree from her cold demeanour toward himself. One day, however, he managed to squeeze her hand, upon which she told him never to do so again; and then for some time he neither saw nor heard anything of her. She had conceived a violent dislike to the young stranger above mentioned; and one evening, when he was sitting talking with Ku, the young lady appeared. After a while she got angry at something he said, and drew from her robe a glittering knife about a foot long. The young man, seeing her do this, ran out in a fright Page 379and she after him, only to find that he had vanished. She then threw her dagger up into the air, and whish! a streak of light like a rainbow, and something came tumbling down with a flop. Ku got a light, and ran to see what it was; and lo! there lay a white fox, head in one place and body in another. “There is your friend,” cried the girl; “I knew he would cause me to destroy him sooner or later.” Ku dragged it into the house, and said, “Let us wait till to-morrow to talk it over; we shall then be more calm.” Next day the young lady arrived, and Ku inquired about her knowledge of the black art; but she told Ku not to trouble himself about such affairs, and to keep it secret or it might be prejudicial to his happiness. Ku then entreated her to consent to their union, to which she replied that she had already been as it were a daughter-in-law to his mother, and there was no need to push the thing further. “Is it because I am poor?” asked Ku. “Well, I am not rich,” answered she, “but the fact is I had rather not.” She then took her leave, and the next evening when Ku went across to their house to try once more to persuade her the young lady had disappeared, and was never seen again.

The Boon-companion

Once upon a time there was a young man named Ch’ê, who was not particularly well off, but at the same time very fond of his wine; so much so that without his three stoups of liquor every night he was quite unable to sleep, and bottles were seldom absent from the head of his bed. One night he had waked up and was turning over and over, when he fancied some one was in the bed with him; but then, thinking it was only the clothes which had slipped off, he put out his hand to feel, and in doing so touched Page 380something silky like a cat. Striking a light, he found it was a fox, lying in a drunken sleep like a dog; and then looking at his wine bottle he saw that it had been emptied. “A boon-companion,” said he, laughing, as he avoided startling the animal, and, covering it up, lay down to sleep with his arm across it, and the candle alight so as to see what transformation it might undergo. About midnight the fox stretched itself, and Ch’ê cried, “Well, to be sure, you’ve had a nice sleep!” He then drew off the clothes, and beheld an elegant young man in a scholar’s dress; but the young man jumped up, and, making a low obeisance, returned his host many thanks for not cutting off his head. “Oh,” replied Ch’ê, “I am not averse to liquor myself; in fact they say I’m too much given to it. If you have no objection, we’ll be a pair of bottle-and-glass chums.” So they lay down and went to sleep again, Ch’ê urging the young man to visit him often, and saying that they must have faith in each other. The fox agreed to this, but when Ch’ê awoke in the morning his bedfellow had already disappeared. So he prepared a goblet of first-rate wine in expectation of his friend’s arrival, and at nightfall sure enough he came. They then sat together drinking, and the fox cracked so many jokes that Ch’ê said he regretted he had not known him before. “And truly I don’t know how to repay your kindness,” replied the former, “in preparing all this nice wine for me.” “Oh,” said Ch’ê, “what’s a pint or so of wine?—nothing worth speaking of.” “Well,” rejoined the fox, “you are only a poor scholar, and money isn’t so easily to be got. I must see if I can’t secure a little wine capital for you.” Next evening, when he arrived, he said to Ch’ê, “Two miles down toward the south-east you will find some silver lying by the wayside. Go early in the morning and get it.” So on the morrow Page 381Ch’ê set off, and actually obtained two lumps of silver, with which he bought some choice morsels to help them out with their wine that evening. The fox now told him that there was a vault in his backyard which he ought to open; and when he did so he found therein more than a hundred strings of cash.8 “Now then,” cried Ch’ê, delighted, “I shall have no more anxiety about funds for buying wine with all this in my purse!” “Ah,” replied the fox, “the water in a puddle is not inexhaustible. I must do something further for you.” Some days afterward the fox said to Ch’ê, “Buckwheat is very cheap in the market just now. Something is to be done in that line.” Accordingly Ch’ê bought over forty tons, and thereby incurred general ridicule; but by and by there was a bad drought, and all kinds of grain and beans were spoilt. Only buckwheat would grow, and Ch’ê sold off his stock at a profit of 1000 per cent. His wealth thus began to increase; he bought two hundred acres of rich land, and always planted his crops, corn, millet, or what not, upon the advice of the fox secretly given him beforehand. The fox looked on Ch’ê’s wife as a sister, and on Ch’ê’s children as his own; but when subsequently Ch’ê died it never came to the house again.


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