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Singular Case Of Ophthalmia

A MR. KU, of Chiangnan, was stopping in an inn at Chih-sia, when he was attacked by a very severe inflammation of the eyes. Day and night he lay on his bed groaning, no medicines being of any avail; and when he did get a little better, his recovery was accompanied by a singular phenomenon. Every time he closed his eyes, he beheld in front of him a number of large buildings, with all their doors wide open, and people passing and repassing in the background, none of whom he recognised by sight. One day he had just sat down to have a good look, when, all of a sudden, he felt himself passing through the open doors. He went on through three courtyards without meeting any one; but, on looking into some rooms on either side, he saw a great number of young girls sitting, lying, and kneeling about on a red carpet, which was spread on the ground. Just then a man came out from behind the building, and, seeing Ku, said to him, “Ah, the Prince said there was a stranger at the door; I suppose you are the person he meant.” He then asked Ku to walk in, which the latter was at first unwilling to do; however, he yielded to the man’s instances, and accompanied him in, asking whose palace it was. His guide told him it belonged to the son of the Ninth Prince, and that he had arrived at the nick of time, for a number of friends and relatives had chosen this very day to come and congratulate the young gentleman on his recent recovery from a severe illness. Meanwhile another person had come out to hurry them on, and they soon reached a spot where there was a pavilion facing the north, with an ornamental terrace and red balustrades, supported by nine pillars. Ascending the steps, they found the place full of visitors, and then espied a young man seated with his face to the north, whom they at once knew to be the Prince’s son, and thereupon they prostrated themselves before him, the whole company rising as they did so. The young Prince made Ku sit down to the east of him, and caused wine to be served; after which some singing girls came in and performed the Hua fêng chu. They had got to about the third scene, when, all of a sudden, Ku heard the landlord of the inn and his servant shouting out to him that dinner was ready, and was dreadfully afraid that the young Prince, too, had heard. No one, however, seemed to have noticed anything, so Ku begged to be excused a moment, as he wished to change his clothes, and immediately ran out. He then looked up, and saw the sun low in the west, and his servant standing by his bedside, whereupon he knew that he had never left the inn. He was much chagrined at this, and wished to go back as fast as he could; he, therefore, dismissed his servant, and on shutting his eyes once more, he found everything just as he had left it, except that where, on the first occasion, he had observed the young girls, there were none now to be seen, but only some dishevelled humpbacked creatures, who cried out at him, and asked him what he meant by spying about there. Ku didn’t dare reply, but hurried past them as quickly as he could, and on to the pavilion of the young Prince. There he found him still sitting, but with a black beard over a foot in length; and the Prince was anxious to know where he had been, saying that seven scenes of the play were already over. He then seized a big goblet of wine, and made Ku drink it as a penalty, by which time the play was finished, and the list was handed up for a further selection. The “Marriage of P‘êng Tsu” was selected, and then the singing girls began to hand round the wine in cocoanuts big enough to hold about five quarts, which Ku declined, on the ground that he was suffering from weak eyes, and was consequently afraid to drink too much. “If your eyes are bad,” cried the young Prince, “the Court physician is at hand, and can attend to you.” Thereupon, one of the guests sitting to the east came forward, and opening Ku’s eyes with his fingers, touched them with some white ointment, which he applied from the end of a jade pin. He then bade Ku close his eyes, and take a short nap; so the Prince had him conducted into a sleeping room, where he found the bed so soft, and surrounded by such delicious perfume, that he soon fell into a deep slumber. By-and-by he was awaked by what appeared to be the clashing of cymbals, and fancied that the play was still going on; but on opening his eyes, he saw that it was only the inn dog, which was licking an oilman’s gong. His ophthalmia, however, was quite cured; and when he shut his eyes again he could see nothing.




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