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The young gentleman who couldn't spell.

AT Chia-p'ing there lived a certain young gentleman of considerable talent and very prepossessing appearance. When seventeen years of age he went up for his bachelor's degree; and as he was passing the door of a house, he saw within a pretty-looking girl, who not only riveted his gaze, but also smiled and nodded her head at him. Quite pleased at this, he approached the young lady and began to talk, she, meanwhile, inquiring of him where he lived, and if alone or otherwise. He assured her he was quite by himself; and then she said, "Well, I will come and see you, but you mustn't let any one know." The young gentleman agreed, and when he got home he sent all the servants to another part of the house, and by-and-by the young lady arrived.

She said her name was Wen-chi, and that her admiration for her host's noble bearing had made her visit him, unknown to her mistress. "And gladly," added she, "would I be your handmaid for life." Our hero was delighted, and proposed to purchase her from the mistress she mentioned; and from this time she was in the habit of coming in every other day or so. On one occasion it was raining hard, and, after hanging up her wet cloak upon a peg, she took off her shoes, and bade the young gentleman clean them for her. He noticed that they were newly embroidered with all the colours of the rain-bow, but utterly spoilt by the soaking rain; and was just saying what a pity it was, when the young lady cried out, "I should never have asked you to do such menial work except to show my love for you." All this time the rain was falling fast outside, and Wen-chi now repeated the following line:

" A nipping wind and chilly rain fill the river and the city."

"There," said she, "cap that." The young gentle-man replied that he could not, as he did not even understand what it meant. "Oh, really," retorted the young lady, "if you're not more of a scholar than that, I shall begin to think very little of you." She then told him he had better practice making verses, and he promised he would do so.

By degrees Miss Wen-chi's frequent visits attracted the notice of the servants, as also of a brother-in-law named Sung, who was likewise a gentleman of position; and the latter begged our hero to be allowed to have a peep at her. He was told in reply that the young lady had strictly forbidden that any one should see her; however, he concealed himself in the servants' quarters, and when she arrived he looked at her through the window. Almost beside himself, he now opened the door; whereupon Wen-chi jumping up, vaulted over the wall and disappeared. Sung was really smitten with her, and went off to her mistress to try and arrange for her purchase; but when he mentioned Wen-chi's name, he was informed that they had once had such a girl, who had died several years previously. In great amazement Sung went back and told his brother-in-law, and he now knew that his beloved Wen-chi was a disembodied spirit. So when she came again he asked her if it was so; to which she replied, "It is; but as you wanted a nice wife and I a handsome husband, I thought we should be a suitable pair. What matters it that one is a mortal and the other a spirit," The young gentle-man thoroughly coincided in her view of the case; and when his examination was over, and he was homeward bound, Wen-chi accompanied him, invisible to others and visible to him alone. Arriving at his parents' house, he installed her in the library; and the day she went to pay the customary bride's visit to her father and mother, he told his own mother the whole story. She and his father were greatly alarmed, and ordered him to have no more to do with her; but he would not listen to this, and then his parents tried by all kinds of devices to get rid of the girl, none of which met with any success.

One day our hero had left upon the table some written instructions for one of the servants, wherein he had made a number of mistakes in spelling, such as paper for pepper; jinjer for ginger, and so on; and when Wen-chi saw this, she wrote at the foot:

"Paper for pepper do I see?
Jinjer for ginger can it be?
Of such a husband I'm afraid;
I'd rather be a servant-maid."

She then said to the young gentleman, "Imagining you to be a man of culture, I hid my blushes and sought you out the first. Alas, your qualifications are on the outside; should I not thus be a laughing-stock to all?" She then disappeared, at which the young gentle-man was much hurt; but not knowing to what she alluded, he gave the instructions to his servant, and so made himself the butt of all who heard the story.




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