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Courage Tested.

MR. TUNG was a Hsüchou man, very fond of playing broadsword, and a light-hearted, devil-may-care fellow, who was often involving himself in trouble. One day he fell in with a traveller who was riding on a mule and going the same way as himself; whereupon they entered into conversation, and began to talk to each other about feats of strength and so on. The traveller said his name was T‘ung, and that he belonged to Liaoyang; that he had been twenty years away from home, and had just returned from beyond the sea. “And I venture to say,” cried Tung, “that in your wanderings on the Four Seas you have seen a great many people; but have you seen any supernaturally clever ones?” T‘ung asked him to what he alluded; and then Tung explained what his own particular hobby was, adding how much he would like to learn from them any tricks in the art of broadsword. “Supernatural,” replied the traveller, “are to be found everywhere. It needs but that a man should be a loyal subject and a filial son for him to know all that the super naturals know.” “Right you are, indeed!” cried Tung, as he drew a short sword from his belt, and, tapping the blade with his fingers, began to accompany it with a song. He then cut down a tree that was by the wayside, to shew T‘ung how sharp it was; at which T‘ung smoothed his beard and smiled, begging to be allowed to have a look at the weapon. Tung handed it to him, and, when he had turned it over two or three times, he said, “This is a very inferior piece of steel; now, though I know nothing about broadsword myself, I have a weapon which is really of some use.” He then drew from beneath his coat a sword of a foot or so in length, and with it he began to pare pieces off Tung’s sword, which seemed as soft as a melon, and which he cut quite away like a horse’s hoof. Tung was greatly astonished, and borrowed the other’s sword to examine it, returning it after carefully wiping the blade. He then invited T‘ung to his house, and made him stay the night; and, after begging him to explain the mystery of his sword, began to nurse his leg and sit listening respectfully without saying a word. It was already pretty late, when suddenly there was a sound of scuffling next door, where Tung’s father lived; and, on putting his ear to the wall, he heard an angry voice saying, “Tell your son to come here at once, and then I will spare you.” This was followed by other sounds of beating and a continued groaning, in a voice which Tung knew to be his father’s. He therefore seized a spear, and was about to rush forth, but T‘ung held him back, saying, “You’ll be killed for a certainty if you go. Let us think of some other plan.” Tung asked what plan he could suggest; to which the other replied, “The robbers are killing your father: there is no help for you; but as you have no brothers, just go and tell your wife and children what your last wishes are, while I try and rouse the servants.” Tung agreed to this, and ran in to tell his wife, who clung to him and implored him not to go, until at length all his courage had ebbed away, and he went upstairs with her to get his bow and arrows ready to resist the robbers’ attack. At that juncture he heard the voice of his friend T‘ung, outside on the eaves of the house, saying, with a laugh, “All right; the robbers have gone;” but on lighting a candle, he could see nothing of him. He then stole out to the front door, where he met his father with a lantern in his hand, coming in from a party at a neighbour’s house; and the whole courtyard was covered with the ashes of burnt grass, whereby he knew that T‘ung the traveller was himself a supernatural.




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