A Chinese Story
translated by George
In the city of The-Great-name lived
a rich idler named Tuan Correct-happiness.
He had then attained the age
of forty and still he had no son. His wife,
Peaceful-union, was extremely jealous, so
that he dared not openly buy a concubine,
as law authorised him, to continue his
When he saw that, at forty, he had no
son, he secretly bought a young girl, whom
he carefully left outside his own house.
A woman is not easily deceived—a
jealous woman especially; Peaceful-union
soon discovered the whole truth. She had
the girl brought before her and took advantage
of an impertinent answer to have her
beaten a hundred blows; after that, she
turned on her husband and drove him nearly
mad with reproaches. What could the
poor man do? He sold his concubine to
a neighbouring family named Liu, and peace
was restored in the house.
The days and years passed on without
any change in the situation; the nephews
of Correct-happiness, seeing that he was
old already and had no son, began to fawn
upon him, each of them trying to be the
one that would be elected as an adopted
son to continue the family cult, as is the
Peaceful-union at last began to see her
error and regretted bitterly what she had
"You are only sixty years old," said
she to her husband. "Is it too late? Let
us buy two chosen girls who will be your
second wives; maybe one of them will
give you a son."
The old man smiled sadly; he did not
entertain any great hope; nevertheless,
the concubines were bought. After a year,
to the great surprise and joy of everybody,
both gave birth—one to a girl, the other
to a boy. But both children died a few
Correct-happiness, when winter set in,
caught a cold and was soon in a desperate
state of health. His nephews were always
beside him; but, seeing he would adopt
neither of them, they began looting the
house; they found at last the treasure and
took it away openly.
The moribund was too ill even to know
what they did. Peaceful-union tried in
vain to stop them.
"Will you leave me to die of hunger?
I am the wife of your uncle. I am entitled
to a part of his riches."
But they would not hear her.
"If you had borne a son to our uncle,
or if he had adopted one of us, we would
not have touched a single copper cash of
his treasure; but, through your own fault,
he has nobody to maintain his rights; we
take what is our own."
When the day ended, the widow found
herself alone in the deserted and emptied
house, crying over the body of her dead
Suddenly she heard steps outside the
door; a young man appeared on the
threshold, his eyes full of tears, covered
with the white dress of mourning. He
entered, kneeled beside the corpse, and,
knocking the ground with his forehead, he
began the ritual lamentations.
Peaceful-union stopped crying and looked
at him with astonishment; she did not
"May I ask your noble name? Who
are you to cry over my husband's
"I am the deceased's only son."
The widow started with surprise and a
pang of her old jealousy; would her husband
have had a son without her knowing it?
But the next words of the young man
Twenty years ago, when she had beaten
and sold away the first concubine of her
husband, she did not know the girl bore
already the fruit of this short union. Six
months later she had a son, to whom she
gave the name of Correct-sadness; but,
bearing in mind the bad treatment she had
received, she asked the Liu family to keep
the child as one of their own. They consented
and sent the boy to school with their
When Correct-sadness was eighteen, the
chief of the Liu family died; the family
dispersed, and only a small legacy was left
to the young man. Believing he was a
member of the family, he could not understand
what happened, and asked his mother;
she told him the truth. Resenting the
hard treatment inflicted on his mother, he
awaited the death of his father to make
his own identity known.
Peaceful-union was very happy to hear
"I am no more without a son," said she.
"All that my nephews have taken away,
treasure and furniture, they must bring
back again. If not, the magistrate will
send them to die in jail."
In fact, the nephews refused to give back
anything. The widow began a lawsuit;
everything at last was restored to the
Peaceful-union hastened to choose him
a wife, and as soon as the matrimonial
festivities were ended she told her daughter-in-law:
"My dear child, if I were you, I would
ask Correct-sadness to buy immediately one
or two good concubines; if you have a son
and they have also, so much the better, but
you can't realise how difficult to bear it
is to be childless."