The wonderful stone (1)
In the prefecture of Shun-tien there lived a man named Hsing
Yun-fei, who was an amateur mineralogist and would pay any
price for a good specimen.
One day as he was fishing in the river, something caught his
net, and diving down, he brought up a stone about a foot in diameter, beautifully carved on all sides to resemble clustering hills
and peaks. He was quite as pleased with this as if he had found
some precious stone; and having had an elegant sandal-wood
stand made for it, he set his prize upon the table.
Whenever it was about to rain, clouds, which from a distance
looked like new cotton-wool, would come forth from each of the
holes or grottoes on the stone, and appear to close them up.
By-and-by an influential personage called at the house and
begged to see the stone, immediately seizing it and handing it
over to a lusty servant, at the same time whipping his horse and
riding away. Hsing was in despair; but all he could do was to
mourn the loss of his stone, and indulge his anger against the
Meanwhile, the servant, who had carried off the stone on his
back, stopped to rest at a bridge; when all of a sudden his hand
slipped and the stone fell into the water. His master was extremely
put out at this, and gave him a sound beating; subsequently hiring
several divers, who tried every means in their power to recover the
stone, but were quite unable to find it. He then went away, having
first published a notice of reward, and by these means many were
tempted to seek for the stone.
Soon after, Hsing himself came to the spot, and as he mournfully approached the bank, the water became clear, and he
could see the stone lying at the bottom. Taking off his clothes, he
quickly jumped in and brought it out, together with the sandal-wood stand, which was still with it. He carried it off home, but
being no longer desirous of showing it to people, he had an inner
room cleaned and put it in there.
Some time afterwards an old man knocked at the door and
asked to be allowed to see the stone; whereupon Hsing replied that
he had lost it a long time ago. "Isn't that it in the inner room ?"
said the old man smiling. He then laid his hand upon the stone and
said, "This is an old family relic of mine : I lost it many months
since. How does it come to be here? I pray you now restore it to
me." Hsing didn't know what to say, but declared he was the
owner of the stone; upon which the old man remarked, "If it is
really yours, what evidence can you bring to prove it ?" Hsing
made no reply; and the old man continued, "To show you that I
know this stone, I may mention that it has altogether ninety-two
grottoes, and that in the largest of these are five words:
A stone from Heaven above."
Hsing looked and found that there were actually some
small characters, no larger than grains of rice, which, by straining his eyes a
little, he managed to read; also, that the number of grottoes was as
the old man has said. However, he would not give him the stone;
and the old man laughed, and asked, "Pray, what right have you
to keep other people's things ?"
He then bowed and went away, Hsing escorting him as far as the
door; but when he returned to the room, the stone had disappeared. In a great fright, he ran after the old man, who had
walked slowly and was not far off, and seizing his sleeve entreated
him to give back the stone. "Do you think," said the latter, "that
I could conceal a stone a foot in diameter in my sleeve ?" But Hsing knew that he must be superhuman, and led him back to the
house, where he threw himself on his knees and begged that he
might have the stone.
"Is it yours or mine ?" asked the old man.
"Of course it is yours," replied Hsing, "though I hope you will
consent to deny yourself the pleasure of keeping it."