Today we will continue our story about Ying Ning , the laughing girl from the book Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋 志异.
Last time, we talked about a man named Wang ZiFu met a girl on the street and had a love sickness. He left home to find the girl. Walking alone on the road with no clue, he headed to the north hill. After around 10 miles, he was in the midst of mountains. Down in the valley below, buried under trees and flowers, he spotted a house. There were a number of willow trees and bamboos around the house. Birds were chirping on the branches. He didn’t venture to go in but sat on a huge rock.
After not too long, he heard a girl’s voice from within calling, “XiaoRong 小荣” and the voice was sweet-toned. While he was listening, a young lady hold a sprig of apricot flower walking toward him from east to the west. She was trying to stick the flower into her hair. As soon as she raised her head, she saw Wang ZiFu stopped what she was doing. Then, smothering a laugh, she gather the flowers and ran into the house. It was the girl Wang ZiFu was looking for!
However, the girl went back into the house and he had any reason to follow her in. There were no one on the street and he was afraid he would forget the location. So he remained sit at the gate from morning till the sunset. He saw the young lady peeking through he door and was astonished to find him still there.
Suddenly, an old woman leaning on a crane came out of the house and asked Wang ZiFu, “ where are you from young man? I heard you were here this morning. What do you want? Are you hungry? ”Wang ZiFu got up quickly and made a bow. “I am here to visit the relatives.” She asked him what their names were but he couldn’t give any answer. At which she laughed and said , “it is funny that you are looking fore some relatives without knowing their names.Why don’t you just come inside and have something to eat. We have an extra bed for you to sleep. You can leave tomorrow morning and find out the names. ” Wang ZiFu was hungry then and besides, this could bring him close to the young lady. So he accepted the offer and followed the old lady into the house.
They walked along a path paved with white stones with red flowers along the way. The fallen pedals scattered on the steps. Passing through another door, it was a yard full of creepers and other flowers. The old woman showed him room clean and tidy. As soon as they sat down, he felt someone was peeking through the windows. “XiaoRong! Please go and prepare some food.” the old lady cried out. A maid outside immediately answered, “yes madam”.
Meanwhile, Wang ZiFu explained where he was from and who he was. The old loday as shocked, “your mother and I are cousins. But due to our poverty and having no sons, we didn’t contact each other for so long. You are my nephew and a grown up man now.” Wang ZiFu said, “I came here to visit you and my cousin but I didn’t remember your name. ” Remember Wang ZiFu’s cousin made up that the girl was his cousin but in real life it turned out to be the truth. How weird! The old lady introduced herself that her husband’s last name is Qin 秦. She had no sons but one daughter , a child of a concubine of her husbands. She adopted the girl after her mother remarried. “She is a clever girl just with less education. She is always joyful without knowing the sorrows of life. I will let you meet with her later.”
After the tasty dinner, the old woman asked the maid to bring Ying Ning to her. After a while, there was a giggling at the door. The old woman cried out, “Ying Ning! Your cousin is here.” There was then a great tittering as the maid pushed into the room. She covered her mouth and couldn’t stop laughing. “Don’t you release we have a guest. Behave well.” YingNing tried to control herself from laughing . Wang ZiFu made her a bow. The old lady introduced each other. Wang ZiFu asked the old lady how old YingNing was. But the old lady didn’t hear him which made YingNing start laughing again.
“I told you” observed by the old woman, “she does’t have much education. She is already 16 years old but as silly as a kid.” “One old younger than me” Wang ZiFu addressed. “What about your wife?” to which Wang ZiFu replied that he had none. The old lady said, “a clever handsome young man like you is not yet engaged? YingNing is single as well. You two would make a great couple if it wasn’t that you two are cousins.” Wang ZiFu said nothing but staring at YingNing. The maid whispered to YingNing “it is the fellow with the wicked eyes. He didn’t change at all!” YingNing started to laugh again. She proposed to the maid that they should go and check the peach flowers in the garden and off they left. As soon as she left the room , she burst into laugh again. The old man gave orders to make bed ready for Wang ZiFu and told him he could stay for a few days.
If you want to find out what happens next, check out our next episode.
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio 聊斋 志异