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Magical Arts

A CERTAIN Mr. Yu was a spirited young fellow, fond of boxing and trials of strength. He was able to take two kettles and swing them round about with the speed of the wind. Now, during the reign of Ch'ung Cheng, when up for the final examination at the capital, his servant became seriously ill. Much troubled at this, he applied to a necromancer in the market-place who was skilful at determining the various leases of life allotted to men. Before he had uttered a word, the necromancer asked him, saying, "Is it not about your servant, Sir, that you would consult me?" Mr. Yu was startled at this, and replied that it was. "The sick man," continued the necromancer, "will come to no harm; you, Sir, are the one in danger." Mr. Yu then begged him to cast his nativity, which he proceeded to do, finally saying to Mr. Yu, "You have but three days to live!" Dreadfully frightened, he remained some time in a state of stupefaction, when the necromancer quietly observed that he possessed the power of averting this calamity by magic, and would exert it for the sum of ten ounces of silver. But Mr. Yu reflected that Life and Death are already fixed, and he didn't see how magic could save him. So he refused, and was just going away, whereupon the necromancer said, "You grudge this trifling outlay. I hope you will not repent it." Mr. Yu's friends also urged him to pay the money, advising him rather to empty his purse than not secure the necromancer's compassion. Mr. Yu, however, would not hear of it and the three days slipped quickly away. Then he sat down calmly in his inn to see what was going to happen. Nothing did happen all day, and at night he shut his door and trimmed the lamp; then, with a sword at his side, he awaited the approach of death.

By-and-by, the clepsydra shewed that two hours had already gone without bringing him any nearer to dissolution; and he was thinking about lying down, when he heard a scratching at the window, and then saw a tiny little man creep through, carrying a spear on his shoulder, who, on reaching the ground, shot up to the ordinary height. Mr. Yu seized his sword and at once struck at it; but only succeeded in cutting the air. His visitor instantly shrunk down small again, and made an attempt to escape through the crevice of the window; but Yu redoubled his blows and at last brought him to the ground. Lighting the lamp, he found only a paper man, cut right through the middle. This made him afraid to sleep, and he sat up watching, until in a little time he saw a horrid hobgoblin creep through the same place. No sooner did it touch the ground than he assailed it lustily with his sword, at length cutting it in half. Seeing, however, that both halves kept on wriggling about, and fearing that it might get up again, he went on hacking at it. Every blow told, giving forth a hard sound, and when he came to examine his work, he found a clay image all knocked to pieces. Upon this he moved his seat near to the window, and kept his eye fixed upon the crack. After some time, he heard a noise like a bull bellowing outside the window, and something pushed against the window-frame with such force as to make the whole house tremble and seem about to fall. Mr. Yu, fearing he should be buried under the ruins, thought he could not do better than fight outside; so he accordingly burst open the door with a crash and rushed out. There he found a huge devil, as tall as the house, and he saw by the dim light of the moon that its face was as black as coal. Its eyes shot forth yellow fire: it had nothing either upon its shoulders or feet; but held a bow in its hand and had some arrows at its waist. Mr. Yu was terrified; and the devil discharged an arrow at him which he struck to the ground with his sword. On Mr. Yu preparing to strike, the devil let off another arrow which the former avoided by jumping aside, the arrow quivering in the wall beyond with a smart crack. The devil here got very angry, and drawing his sword flourished it like a whirl-wind, aiming a tremendous blow at Mr. Yu. Mr. Yu ducked, and the whole force of the blow fell upon the stone wall of the house, cutting it right in two. Mr. Yu then ran out from between the devil's legs, and began hacking at its back, whack! whack! The devil now became furious, and roared like thunder, turning round to get another blow at his assailant. But Mr. Yu again ran between his legs, the devil's sword merely cutting off a piece of his coat. Once more he hacked away, whack! whack! and at length the devil came tumbling down flat. Mr. Yu cut at him right and left, each blow resounding like the watchman's wooden gong; and then, bringing a light, he found it was a wooden image about as tall as a man. The bow and arrows were still there, the latter attached to its waist. Its carved and painted features were most hideous to behold; and wherever Mr. Yu had struck it with his sword, there was blood. Mr. Yu sat with the light in his hand till morning, when he awaked to the fact that all these devils had been sent by the necromancer in order to kill him, and so evidence his own magical power. The next day, after having told the story far and wide, he went with some others to the place where the necromancer had his stall; but the latter, seeing them coming, vanished in the twinkling of an eye. Some one observed that the blood of a dog would reveal a person who had made himself invisible, and Mr. Yu immediately procured some and went back with it. The necromancer disappeared as before, but on the spot where he had been standing they quickly threw down the dog's blood. Thereupon they saw his head and face all smeared over with the blood, his eyes glaring like a devil's ; and at once seizing him, they handed him over to the authorities, by whom he was put to death.

妖術

于公者,少任俠,喜拳勇,力能持高壺,作旋風舞。崇禎間,殿試在都,仆疫不起,患之。會市上有善卜者,能決人生死,將代問之。既至,未言。卜曰:「君莫欲問仆病乎?」公駭應之。曰:「病者無害,君可危。」公乃自卜。卜者起卦,愕然曰:「君三日當死!」公驚詫良久。卜者從容曰:「鄙人有小術,報我十金,當代禳之。」公自念,生死已定,術豈能解;不應而起,欲出。卜者曰:「惜此小費,勿悔勿悔!」愛公者皆為公懼,勸罄橐以哀之。公不聽。
  倏忽至三日,公端坐旅舍,靜以覘之,終日無恙。至夜,闔戶挑燈,倚劍危坐。一漏向盡,更無死法。意欲就枕,忽聞窗隙窣窣有聲。急視之,一小人荷戈入;及地,則高如人。公捉劍起,急擊之,飄忽未中。遂遽小,復尋窗隙,意欲遁去。公疾斫之,應手而倒。燭之,則紙人,已腰斷矣。公不敢臥,又坐待之。逾時,一物穿窗入,怪獰如鬼。才及地,急擊之,斷而為兩,皆蠕動。恐其復起,又連擊之,劍劍皆中,其聲不耎。審視,則土偶,片片已碎。於是移坐窗下,目注隙中。久之,聞窗外如牛喘,有物推窗櫺,房壁震搖,其勢欲傾。公懼覆壓,計不如出而鬬之,遂剨然脫扃,奔而出。見一巨鬼,高與檐齊;昏月中,見其面黑如煤,眼閃爍有黃光;上無衣,下無履,手弓而腰矢。公方駭,鬼則彎矣。公以劍撥矢,矢墮;欲擊之,則又關矣。公急躍避,矢貫于壁,戰戰有聲。鬼怒甚,拔佩刀,揮如風,望公力劈。公猱進,刀中庭石,石立斷。公出其股間,削鬼中踝,鏗然有聲。鬼益怒,吼如雷,轉身復剁。公又伏身入;刀落,斷公裙。公已及脅下,猛斫之,亦鏗然有聲,鬼仆而僵。公亂擊之,聲硬如柝。燭之,則一木偶,高大如人。弓矢尚纏腰際,刻畫猙獰;劍擊處,皆有血出。公因秉燭待旦,方悟鬼物皆卜人遣之,欲致人于死,以神其術也。
  次日,遍告交知,與共詣卜所。卜人遙見公,瞥不可見。或曰:「皆翳形術也,犬血可破。」公如言,戒備而往。卜人又匿如前。急以犬血沃立處,但見卜人頭而皆為犬血模糊,目灼灼如鬼立。乃執付有司而殺之。
  異史氏曰:「嘗謂買卜為一痴。世之講此道而不爽于生死者幾人?卜之而爽,猶不卜也。且即明明告我以死期之至,將復如何?況借人命以神其術者,其可畏尤甚耶!」

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