Nui Chang was a personable young man of an age when he should have been thinking of
marriage, but he seemed to have little interest in the opposite sex, apparently quite content to live
alone reading and studying in the hope that he would pass his examinations and get his degree,
thus attaining high office and honor in the state at an earlier age than most.
His neighbor who visited him occasionally was always telling him that he should take a
wife, warning him that a student young and unmarried and living alone as he did might well be
visited by ghosts or foxes. Nui told him that he was not afraid and laughed at his neighbor, who,
thinking to teach him a lesson, arranged that a local singing girl should one night call on Nui and
when he saw her she should pretend to be a ghost.
Several nights later Nui was visited by another girl, and thinking his neighbor was playing
the same game upon him, he this time opened his door and invited her in. He was astounded at
the beauty of this girl. Never in his wildest dreams had he expected to be confronted by so much
loveliness. He asked her who she was and from whence she came.
'My name is Lien,' she replied. 'I am a singing girl from the district west of the town,
and I have come to relieve your loneliness.' Her eyes were bright and bewitching and her smile
Nui believed what she told him, thinking that his neighbor had not over-praised the girl's
beauty in any way. She untied his robe and her touch was soft and warm and he was filled with
desire. She extinguished the lantern and they retired to his bed. When she left him some hours
later she promised that she would come to him again in a few days' time. She visited him three
times during the next two weeks.
Nui always worked at his studies when Lien did not come, and one night he was immersed
in his work when someone softly entered the house. Naturally he thought it was Lien, but the girl
who stood before him was only about fifteen years of age, with loose flowing hair as befitted a
virgin. He knew that she could not be a singing girl, and she looked so delicate and moved with
such grace that he did not think she could be a fox. He asked her who she was.
'I come from an honorable family,' said the girl in a voice of dulcet ones. 'And my name
is Ying. Having heard of your lonely diligence with your books, I have long admired and
respected you and wished to know you. As it seemed impossible for us to meet, I have come to
you without the knowledge of my parents. I am yours to command, for I already love you.'
Nui was touched at such devotion and his blood quickened at the thought of embracing
such a young and delicate maiden. He took her hand and remarked upon its coldness, and she
reminded him that she had come through the chilly night air to be near him, and he could soon
warm her with his love.
Overjoyed at his good fortune, Nui took her to his bed, and lay with her, drinking of her
cool, sweet fragrance to his heart's content. Later, when she had to leave him, she gave him one
of her dainty shoes and told him that he had only to hold it in his hands when he wanted her and
she would know that he was thinking of her and would come to him. But only at night, she said,
when her parents would not know that she was not in her own bed. 'Does anyone else visit you?'
she asked of him.
'Sometimes a singing girl comes to me, but not very often,' Nui replied truthfully, for the
wide-eyed innocence of her lovely eyes gazing into his own forbade him to tell her a lie. He need
not have worried for she was quite unconcerned about his other visitor, but warned him that it
would not do for the two ever to meet. 'I must be careful not to come when she is here and you
must keep my visits secret. I would not want to be classed with a singing girl.'
Nui promised that he would honor her wishes and the next evening Lien did not come and
so he took out Ying's dainty shoe and thinking of her stroked it lovingly, his fingers caressing its
delicate curves as though it was Ying herself whom he was caressing. He wished that she would
again honor him with her presence, and almost as soon as the thought had formulated in his mind
she was there beside him. He marveled at her swift and silent arrival.
Ying gave a tinkling laugh. 'I knew that you would wish to see me again, and I have been
waiting in case your singing girl should come. As she did not, here I am.'
And so Nui again embraced her and he was enraptured by her delicacy and her beauty.
They took pleasure in each other as on the previous night, and she came to him night after night.
He had only to stroke her shoe and there she was.
Then one night Lien, the singing girl, came to him once more and when she set eyes on
him exclaimed in dismay: 'Whatever have you been doing with yourself since I last saw you?'
she cried. 'Are you not sleeping well? You look quite ill.'
Nui replied that perhaps he had not been eating as well as usual and every night he was
deep in his studies, working into the small hours.
'It is obvious that you are not taking care of yourself. Since my mother is sick and I will
not be able to see you again for at least a week, I want you to promise me that you will not work
so hard and that you will have your meals regularly.'
But when Lien saw him again she was shocked at his appearance, saying that he was even
worse than before. 'You are so frail and ill-looking, I am sure you have the spirit sickness. I
think you have been playing the love game with someone else and that is why you have become
so weak. Tell me truthfully if you have and who she is, and I can help you.'
But Nui denied that he was seeing anyone else, for had he not promised Ying that he
would keep her visits secret? In any case, how could anyone so delicate and fragile as she was be
the cause of his sickness?
Lien did not believe him and the next night she waited hidden by a tree outside his
window. She was determined to find out if Nui had lied to her and she did not have long to wait
before she saw Nui take out Ying's shoe from its secret hiding place, and as he stroked it with his
thin hand a truly beautiful girl appeared as if by magic and Lien knew that her worst fears had
been realized. She made her presence known to them and immediately Ying took fright and left.
Lien told him: 'She is a ghost. No wonder you have the spirit sickness. You are being
slowly poisoned by contact with her, and you must give her up immediately. Fortunately the
poison has not yet penetrated too deeply into your system and I can drive it out of your body with
some special herbs. I will bring them to you tomorrow and will nurse you until you are well
again. But you must promise me that you will not see your ghost maiden again.'
Nui did not think that Ying would come to him again in any case, for she would be too
frightened of being seen by Lien. He promised not to see her again, for he was too weak to do
anything else. So Lien brought the herbs and nursed him back to health and in time he was quite
better and eating well, his vigor returned as before. The day came when Lien said that she must
return to her home and that she would not be seeing him for a few days. She warned him once
more about the folly of associating with his ghost maiden.
But Nui did not believe that he had been suffering from the spirit sickness and still less did
he believe that Ying was a ghost. He had to know if the shoe could still bring her to him. He
took it from its hiding place once more and fondled it, thinking of the beauty of its owner, and
Ying appeared as before.