A String of Chinese Peach Stones


There was once a mandarin at Ichang [a thousand or so li up the Yangtse] whose father gave into his son’s hands a number of silver ingots [fifty- three ounces each] to take to his native place. Fearing the youth would get into mischief at Hankow, the father covered the silver with molten tin, and called them ingots of tin. The young man reached Hankow, and wishing to see a bit of life, determined to sell his tin. The tinsmith having found out the secret, bought up the whole boat-load at 200 cash a catty [say, 6d. per lb.]. Before long the young scape- grace had spent all, and died in want. The enriched tinsmith soon after had an infant son. He had some forebodings that the spirit of the deceased prodigal had entered the babe. The child cried and cried until something was smashed, when it smiled. Thus it grew up. Its only pleasure was in destruction and waste.

” When grown up, the lad was challenged to spend three hundred taels [ounces of silver] at a meal. This he accomplished by procuring a number of peacocks’ hearts and livers.

” Could he spend three thousand taels in a forenoon? ‘ Yes,’ he said, and invested the sum in gold leaf, which he threw away leaf by leaf from the Yellow Crane Tower of Wuchang. It was splendid sport to see the crowd on shore and the concourse of boatmen scrambling for the gold leaf.

” After some years, the tinsmith died of grief, previously turning his remaining wealth into three hundred and sixty houses and the erection of the Sen Family Temple. His only stipulation with the tenants was that they should provide food and sleeve-money for his son for a year. The son having spent all his ready money, thought there must be some cause for their generosity. Discovering the houses to be his, he sold them all, but after two years died on the river bank a beggar without a cash.”

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