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Little chu

A MAN named Li Hua dwelt at Ch'ang-chou. He was very well off, and about fifty years of age, but he had no sons; only one daughter, named Hsiao-hui, a pretty child on whom her parents doted. When she was four-teen she had a severe illness and died, leaving their home desolate and depriving them of their chief pleasure in life. Mr. Li then bought a concubine, and she by-and-by bore him a son, who was perfectly idolised, and called Chu, or the Pearl. This boy grew up to be a fine manly fellow, though so extremely stupid that when five or six years old he didn't know pulse from corn, and could hardly talk plainly. His father, however, loved him dearly, and did not observe his faults.

Now it chanced that a one-eyed priest came to collect alms in the town, and he seemed to know so much about everybody's private affairs that the people all looked upon him as superhuman. He himself declared he had control over life, death, happiness, and misfortune; and consequently no one dared refuse him whatever sum he chose to ask of them. From Li he demanded one hundred ounces of silver, but was offered only ten, which he refused to receive. This sum was increased to thirty ounces, whereupon the priest looked sternly at Li and said, "I must have one hundred; not a fraction less." Li now got angry, and went away without giving him any, the priest, too, rising up in a rage and shouting after him, "I hope you won't repent." Shortly after these events little Chu fell sick, and crawled about the bed scratching the mat, his face being of an ashen paleness. This frightened his father, who hurried off with eighty ounces of silver, and begged the priest to accept them. "A large sum like this is no trifling matter to earn," said the priest, smiling;  "but what can a poor recluse like myself do for you?" So Li went home, to find that little Chu was already dead; and this worked him into such a state that he immediately laid a complaint before the magistrate. The priest was accordingly summoned and interrogated; but the magistrate wouldn't accept his defence, and ordered him to be bambooed. The blows sounded as if falling on leather, upon which the magi-strate commanded his lictors to search him; and from about his person they drew forth two wooden men, a small coffin, and five small flags. The magistrate here flew into a passion, and made certain mystic signs with his fingers, which when the priest saw he was frightened, and began to excuse himself; but the magistrate would not listen to him, and had him bambooed to death. Li thanked him for his kindness, and, taking his leave, proceeded home. In the evening, after dusk, he was sitting alone with his wife, when suddenly in popped a little boy, who said, "Pa! why did you hurry on so fast? I couldn't catch you up." Looking at him more closely, they saw that he was about seven or eight years old, and Mr. Li, in some alarm, was on the point of questioning him, when he disappeared, re-appearing again like smoke, and, curling round and round, got upon the bed. Li pushed him off, and he fell down without making any sound, crying out, "Pa! why do you do this?" and in a moment he was on the bed again. Li was frightened, and ran away with his wife, the boy calling after them, "Pa! Ma! boo-oo-oo." They went into the next room, bolting the door after them; but there was the little boy at their heels again. Li asked him what he wanted, to which he replied, "I belong to Su-chou; my name is Chan; at six years of age I was left an orphan; my brother and his wife couldn't bear me, so they sent me to live at my maternal grandfather's. One day, when playing outside, a wicked priest killed me by his black art underneath a mulberry-tree, and made of me an evil spirit, dooming me to everlasting devildom without hope of transmigration. Happily you exposed him; and I would now remain with you as your son." "The paths of men and devils," replied Li, "lie in different directions. How can we remain together?" "Give me only a tiny room," cried the boy, "a bed, a mattress, and a cup of cold gruel everyday. I ask for nothing more." So Li agreed, to the great delight of the boy, who slept by himself in another part of the house, coming in the morning and walking in and out like any ordinary person. Hearing Li's concubine crying bitterly, he asked how long little Chu had been dead, and she told him seven days. "It's cold weather now," said he, "and the body can't have decomposed. Have the grave opened, and let me see it; if not too far gone, I can bring him to life again," Li was only too pleased, and went off with the boy; and when they opened the grave they found the body in perfect preservation; but while Li was controlling his emotions, lo! the boy had vanished from his sight. Wondering very much at this, he took little Chu's body home, and had hardly laid it on the bed when he noticed the eyes move. Little Chu then called for some broth, which put him into a perspiration, and then he got up. They were all overjoyed to see him come to life again; and, what is more, he was much brighter and cleverer than before. At night, how-ever, he lay perfectly stiff and rigid, without shewing any signs of life; and, as he didn't move when they turned him over and over, they were much frightened, and thought he had died again. But towards daybreak he awaked as if from a dream, and in reply to their questions said that when he was with the wicked priest there was another boy named Ko-tzu and that the day before, when he had been unable to catch up his father, it was because he had stayed behind to bid adieu to Ko-tzu; that Ko-tzu was now the son of an official in Purgatory named Chiang, and very comfortably settled; and that he had invited him (Chan) to go and play with him that evening, and had sent him back on a white-nosed horse. His mother then asked him if he had seen little Chu in Purgatory; to which he replied, "Little Chu has already been born again. He and our father here had not really the destiny of father and son. Little Chu was merely a man named Yen Tzu-fang, from Chin-ling, who had come to reclaim an old debt." Now Mr. Li had formerly traded to Chin-ling, and actually owed money for goods to a Mr. Yen; but he had died, and no one else knew anything about it, so that he was now greatly alarmed when he heard this story. His mother next asked (the quasi) little Chu if he had seen his sister, Hsiao-hui; and he said he had not, promising to go again and inquire about her. A few days afterwards he told his mother that Hsiao-hui was very happy in Purgatory, being married to a son of one of the Judges; and that she had any quantity of jewels, and crowds of attendants when she went abroad. "Why doesn't she come home to see her parents?" asked his mother. "Well," replied the boy, "dead people, you know, haven't got any flesh or bones; however, if you can only remind them of something that happened in their past lives, their feelings are at once touched. So yesterday I managed, through Mr. Chiang, to get an interview with Hsiao-hui; and we sat together on a coral couch, and I spoke to her of her father and mother at home, all of which she listened to as if she was asleep. I then remarked, Sister, when you were alive you were very fond of embroidering double-stemmed flowers; and once you cut your finger with the scissors, and the blood ran over the silk, but you brought it into the picture as a crimson cloud. Your mother has that picture still, hanging at the head of her bed, a perpetual souvenir of you. Sister, have you forgotten this? ' Then she burst into tears, and promised to ask her husband to let her come and visit you." His mother asked when she would arrive; but he said he could not tell. However, one day he ran in and cried out, "Mother, Hsiao-hui has come, with a splendid equipage and a train of servants; we had better get plenty of wine ready." In a few moments he came in again, saying, "Here is my sister," at the same time asking her to take a seat and rest. He then wept; but none of those present saw anything at all. By-and-by he went out and burnt a quantity of paper money and made offerings of wine outside the door, returning shortly and saying he had sent away her attendants for a while. Hsiao-hui then asked if the green coverlet, a small portion of which had been burnt by a candle, was still in existence. "It is," replied her mother, and, going to a box, she at once produced the coverlet. "Hsiao-hui would like a bed made up for her in her old room," said her (quasi) brother; "she wants to rest awhile, and will talk with you again in the morning."

Now their next-door neighbour, named Chao, had a daughter who was formerly a great friend of Hsiao-hui's, and that night she dreamt that Hsiao-hui appeared with a turban on her head and a red mantle over her shoul-ders, and that they talked and laughed together pre-cisely as in days gone by. "I am now a spirit," said Hsiao-hui, "and my father and mother can no more see me than if I was far separated from them. Dear sister, I would borrow your body, from which to speak to them. You need fear nothing." On the morrow when Miss Chao met her mother, she fell on the ground before her and remained some time in a state of unconsciousness, at length saying, "Madam, it is many years since we met; your hair has become very white." "The girl's mad," said her mother, in alarm; and, thinking some-thing had gone wrong, proceeded to follow her out of the door. Miss Chao went straight to Li's house, and there with tears embraced Mrs. Li, who did not know what to make of it all. "Yesterday," said Miss Chao, "when I came back, I was unhappily unable to speak with you. Unfilial wretch that I was, to die before you, and leave you to mourn my loss. How can I redeem such behaviour?" Her mother thereupon began to understand the scene, and, weeping, said to her, "I have heard that you hold an honourable position, and this is a great comfort to me; but, living as you do in the palace of a Judge, how is it you are able to get away?" "My husband," replied she, "is very kind; and his parents treat me with all possible consideration. I experience no harsh treatment at their hands." Here Miss Chao rested her cheek upon her hand, exactly as Hsiao-hui had been wont to do when she was alive; and at that moment in came her brother to say that her attendants were ready to return. "I must go," said she, rising up and weeping bitterly all the time; after which she fell down, and remained some time unconscious as before.

Shortly after these events Mr. Li became dangerously ill, and no medicines were of any avail, so that his son feared they would not be able to save his life. Two devils sat at the head of his bed, one holding an iron staff, the other a nettle-hemp rope four or five feet in length. Day and night his son implored them to go, but they would not move; and Mrs. Li in sorrow began to prepare the funeral clothes. Towards evening her son entered and cried out, "Strangers and women, leave the room! My sister's husband is coming to see his father-in-law." He then clapped his hands, and burst out laughing. "What is the matter?" asked his mother. " am laughing," answered he, "because when the two devils heard my sister's husband was coming, they both ran under the bed, like terrapins, drawing in their heads. By-and-by, looking at nothing, he began to talk about the weather, and ask his sister's husband how he did, and then he clapped his hands, and said, "I begged the two devils to go, but they would not ] it's all right now." After this he went out to the door and returned, saying, "My sister's husband has gone. He took away the two devils tied to his horse. My father ought to get better now. Besides, Hsiao-hui's husband said he would speak to the Judge, and obtain a hundred years' lease of life both for you and my father." The whole family rejoiced exceedingly at this, and, when night came, Mr. Li was better, and in a few days quite well again. A tutor was engaged for (the quasi) little Chu, who shewed himself an apt pupil, and at eighteen years of age took his bachelor's degree. He could also see things of the other world; and when anyone in the village was ill, he pointed out where the devils were, and burnt them out with fire, so that everybody got well. However, before long he himself became very ill, and his flesh turned green and purple; whereupon he said, "The devils afflict me thus because I let out their secrets. Hence-forth I shall never divulge them again."

珠兒


常州民李化,富有田產。年五十餘,無子。一女名小惠,容質秀美,夫妻最憐愛之。十四歲,暴病夭殂,冷落庭幃,益少生趣。始納婢,經年余,生一子,視如拱壁,名之珠兒。兒漸長,魁梧可愛。然性絕痴,五六歲尚不辨菽麥;言語蹇澀。李亦好而不知其惡。會有眇僧,募緣于市,輒知人閨闥,於是相驚以神;且雲,能生死禍福人。幾十百千,執名以索,無敢違者。詣李募百緡。李難之,給十金,不受;漸至三十金。僧厲色曰:「必百緡,缺一文不可!」李亦怒,收金遽去。僧忿然而起曰:「勿悔,勿悔!」無何,珠兒心暴痛,巴刮床席,色如土灰。李懼,將八十金詣僧乞救。僧笑曰:「多金大不易!然山僧何能為?」李歸而兒已死。李慟甚,以狀訴邑宰。宰拘僧訊鞫,亦辨給無情詞。笞之,似擊鞔革。令搜其身,得木人二﹑小棺一﹑小旗幟五。宰怒,以手疊訣舉示之。僧乃懼,自投無數。宰不聽,杖殺之。李叩謝而歸。

時已曛暮,與妻坐床上。忽一小兒,㑌儴入室,曰:「阿翁行何疾?極力不能得追。」視其休貌,當得七八歲。李驚,方將詰問,則見其若隱若現,恍惚如煙霧,宛轉間,已登榻坐。李推下之,墮地無聲。曰:「阿翁何乃爾!」瞥然復登。李懼,與妻俱奔。兒呼阿父﹑阿母,嘔啞不休。李入妾室,急闔其扉;還顧,兒已在膝下。李駭,問何為。答曰:「我蘇州人,姓詹氏。六歲失怙恃,不為兄嫂所容,逐居外祖家。偶戲門外,為妖僧迷殺桑樹下,驅使如倀鬼,冤閉窮泉,不得脫化。幸賴阿翁昭雪,願得為子。」李曰:「人鬼殊途,何能相依?」兒曰:「但除斗室,為兒設床褥,日澆一杯冷漿粥,余都無事。」李從之。兒喜,遂獨臥室中。晨來出入閨閣,如家生。聞妾哭子聲,問:「珠兒死幾日矣?」答以七日。曰:「天嚴寒,尸當不腐。試發塚啟視,如未損壞,兒當得活。」李喜,與兒去,開穴驗之,軀殼如故。方此忉怛,回視,失兒所在。異之,舁尸歸。方置榻上,目已瞥動;少頃呼湯,湯已而汗,汗已遂起。

群喜珠兒復生,又加之慧黠便利,迥異曩昔。但夜間僵臥,毫無氣息,共轉側之,冥然若死。眾大愕,謂其復死;天將明,始若夢醒。群就問之。答雲:「昔從妖僧時,有兒等二人,其一名哥子,昨追阿父不及,蓋在後與哥子作別耳。今在冥間,與姜員外作義嗣,亦甚優游。夜分,固來邀兒戲。適以白鼻騧送兒歸。」母因問:「在陰司見珠兒否?」曰:「珠兒已轉生矣。渠與阿翁無父子緣,不過金陵嚴子方,來討百十千債負耳。」初,李販于金陵,欠嚴貨價未償,而嚴翁死,此事無知者。李聞之,大駭。母問:「兒見惠姊否?」兒曰:「不知,再去當訪之。」

又二三日,謂母曰:「惠姊在冥中大好,嫁得楚江王小郎子,珠翠滿頭髻;一出門,便十百作呵殿聲。」母曰:「何不一歸寧?」曰:「人既死,都與骨肉無關切。倘有人細述前生,方豁然動念耳。昨托姜員外,夤緣見姊,姊姊呼我坐珊瑚床上,與言父母懸念,渠都如眠睡。兒雲:「姊在時,喜繡並蒂花,剪刀刺手爪,血涴綾子上,姊就刺作赤水雲。今母猶掛床頭壁,顧念不去心。姊忘之乎?」姊始淒感,雲:「會須白郎君,歸省阿母。」」母問其期,答言不知。

一日謂母:「姊行且至,僕從大繁,當多備漿酒。」少間,奔入室曰:「姊來矣!」移榻中堂,曰:「姊姊且憩坐,少悲啼。」諸人悉無所見。兒率人焚紙酹飲于門外,反曰:「騶從暫令去矣。姊言:「昔日所覆綠錦被,曾為燭花燒一點如豆大,尚在否?」」母曰:「在。」即啟笥出之。兒曰:「姊命我陳舊閨中。乏疲,且小臥,翌日再與阿母言。」

東鄰趙氏女,故與惠為繡閣交。是夜,忽夢惠幞頭紫帔來相望,言笑如平生。且言:「我今異物,父母覿面,不啻河山。將借妹子與家人共話,勿須驚恐。」質明,方與母言,忽仆地悶絕。逾刻始醒,向母曰:「小惠與阿嬸別幾年矣,頓鬖鬖白發生!」母駭曰:「兒病狂耶?」女拜別即出,母知其異,從之。直達李所,抱母哀啼。母驚不知所謂。女曰:「兒昨歸,頗委頓,未遑一言。兒不孝,中途棄高堂,勞父母哀念,罪何可贖!」母頓悟,乃哭。已而問曰:「聞兒今貴,甚慰母心。但汝棲身五家,何遂能來?」女曰:「郎君與兒極燕好,姑舅亦相撫愛,頗不謂妒丑。」惠生時,好以手支頤,女言次,輒作故態,神情宛似。未幾,珠兒奔入曰:「接姊者至矣。」女乃起,拜別泣下,曰:「兒去矣。」言訖,復踣,移時乃蘇。

後數月,李病劇,醫藥罔效。兒曰:「旦夕恐不救也!二鬼坐床頭,一執鐵杖子,一挽苧麻繩,長四五尺許,兒晝夜哀之不去。」母哭,乃備衣衾。既暮,兒趨入曰:「雜人婦,且避去,姊夫來視阿翁。」俄頃,鼓掌而笑。母問之,曰:「我笑二鬼,聞姊夫來,俱匿床下如龜鱉。」又少時,望空道寒暄,問姊起居。既而拍手曰:「二鬼奴哀之不去,至此大快!」乃出至門外,卻回,曰:「姊夫去矣。二鬼被鎖馬鞅上。阿父當即無恙。姊夫言:歸白大王,為父母乞百年壽也。」一傢俱喜。至夜,病良已,數日尋瘥。

延師教兒讀。兒甚慧,十八入邑庠,猶能言冥間事。見裡中病者,輒指鬼祟所在,以火爇之,往往得瘳。後暴病,體膚青紫,自言鬼神責我綻露,由是不復言。


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