He obtained, finally, a little wort in pounding rice in the stone mortars. It was hard labor for one who had lived as he had done; but it kept them from starving, and his daughter prepared his food for him as nicely as she knew how. One night, as the dinner was spread on the little, low table before him, sitting on the floor, the priest came and demanded his pay; the old blind man lost his appetite for his dinner, and refused to eat. He had to explain to his daughter the compact he had made with the priest, and, while she was filled with grief, and dismayed at the enormity of the price, she yet seemed to have some hope that it might be accomplished and his sight restored.
That night, after her midnight bath, she lay down on a mat in the open air, and gazed up to heaven, to which she prayed that her poor father might be restored to health and sight. While thus engaged, she fell asleep and dreamed that her mother came down from heaven to comfort her, and told her not to worry, that a means would be found for the payment of the rice, and that soon all would be happy again in the little family.
The next day she chanced to hear of the wants of a great merchant who sailed in his large boats to China for trade, but was greatly distressed by an evil spirit that lived in the water through which he must pass. For some time, it was stated, he had not been able to take his boats over this dangerous place, and his loss therefrom was very great. At last it was reported that he was willing and anxious to appease the spirit by mating the offering the wise men had deemed necessary. Priests had told him that the sacrifice of a young maiden to the spirit would quiet it and remove the trouble. He was, therefore, anxious to find the proper person, and had offered a great sum to obtain such an one.
Sim Chung (our heroine), hearing of this, decided that it must be the fulfilment of her dream, and having determined to go and offer herself, she put on old clothes and fasted while journeying, that she might look wan and haggard, like one in mourning. She had previously prepared food for her father, and explained to him that she wished to go and bow at her mother's grave, in return to her for having appeared to her in a dream.
When the merchant saw the applicant, he was at once struck with her beauty and dignity of carriage, in spite of her attempt to disguise herself. He said that it was not in his heart to kill people, especially maidens of such worth as she seemed to be. He advised her not to apply; but she told her story and said she would give herself for the three hundred bags of rice. "Ah! now I see the true nobility of your character. I did not know that such filial piety existed outside the works of the ancients. I will send to my master and secure the rice," said the man, who happened to be but an overseer for a greater merchant.
She got the rice and took it to the priest in a long procession of one hundred and fifty ponies, each laboring under two heavy bags ; the debt cancelled and her doom fixed, she felt the relaxation and grief necessarily consequent upon such a condition. She could not explain to her father, she mourned over the loneliness that would come to him after she was gone, and wondered how he would rapport himself after she was removed and until his sight should be restored. She lay down and prayed to heaven, saying: "I am only fourteen years old, and have but four more hours to live. What will become of my poor father? Oh! who will care for him? Kind heaven, protect him when I am gone."
Wild with grief she went and sat on her father's knee, but could not control her sobs and tears ; whereupon he asked her what the trouble could be. Having made up her mind that the time had come, and that the deed was done and could not be remedied, she decided to tell him, and tried to break it gently; but when the whole troth dawned upon the poor old man it nearly killed him. He clasped her close to his bosom, and crying: "My child, my daughter, my only comfort, I will not let you go. What will eyes be to me if I can no longer look upon your lovely face?" They mingled their tears and sobs, and the neighbors, hearing the commotion in the usually quiet hut, came to see what Was the trouble. Upon ascertaining the reason of the old man's grief, they united in the general wailing. Sim Chung begged them to come and care for the old man when she could look after him no more, and they agreed to do so. While the wailing and heart breaking was going on, a stranger rode up on a donkey and asked for the Sim family. He came just in time to see what the act was costing the poor people. He comforted the girl by giving her a cheque for fifty bags of rice for the support of the father when his daughter should be no more. She took it gratefully and gave it to the neighbors to keep in trust; she then prepared herself, took a last farewell, and left her fainting father to go to her bed in the sea.
In due time the boat that bore Sim Chung, at the head of a procession of boats, arrived at the place where the evil spirit reigned. She was dressed in bridal garments furnished by the merchant. On her arrival at the place, the kind merchant tried once more to appease the spirit by an offering of eatables, but it was useless, whereupon Sim Chung prayed to heaven, bade them all good-by, and leaped into the sea. Above, all was quiet, the waves subsided, the sea became like a lake, and the boats passed on their way unmolested.