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Miss Lien-hsiang

 THERE was a young man named Sang Tzu-ming, a native of I-chou, who had been left an orphan when quite young. He lived near the Saffron market, and kept himself very much to himself, only going out twice a day for his meals to a neighbour's close by, and sitting quietly at home all the rest of his time. One day the said neighbour called, and asked him in joke if he wasn't afraid of devil-foxes, so much alone as he was. "Oh," replied Sang, laughing, "what has the superior man 1 to fear from devil-foxes. If they come as men, I have here a sharp sword for them; and if as women, why, I shall open the door and ask them to walk in." The neighbour went away, and having arranged with a friend of his, they got a young lady of their acquaintance to climb over Sang's wall with the help of a ladder, and knock at the door. Sang peeped through, and called out "Who's there?" to which the girl answered, "A devil!" and frightened Sang so dreadfully that his teeth chattered in his head. The girl then ran away, and next morning when his neighbour came to see him, Sang told him what had happened, and said he meant to go back to his native place. The neighbour then clapped his hands, and said to Sang, "Why didn't you ask her in?" Whereupon Sang perceived that he had been tricked, and went on quietly again as before.
Some six months afterwards, a young lady knocked at his door; and Sang, thinking his friends were at their old tricks, opened it at once, and asked her to walk in. She did so; and he beheld to his astonishment a perfect Helen for beauty. Asking her whence she came, she replied that her name was Lien-hsiang, and that she lived not very far off, adding that she had long been anxious to make his acquaintance. After that she used to drop in every now and again for a chat; but one evening when Sang was sitting alone expecting her, another young lady suddenly walked in. Thinking it was Lien-hsiang, Sang got up to meet her, but found that the new-comer was somebody else. She was about fifteen or sixteen years of age, wore very full sleeves, and dressed her hair after the fashion of unmarried girls, being otherwise very stylish-looking and refined, and apparently hesitating whether to go on or go back.
Sang, in a great state of alarm, took her for a fox; but the young lady said, "My name is Li, and I am of a respectable family. Hearing of your virtue and talent, I hope to be accorded the honour of your acquaintance." Sang laughed, and took her by the hand, which he found was as cold as ice; and when be asked the reason, she told him that she had always been delicate, and that it was very chilly outside. She then remarked that she intended to visit him pretty frequently, and hoped it would not inconvenience him; so he explained that no one came to see him except another young lady, and that not very often. "When she comes, I'll go," replied the young lady, "and only drop in when she's not here." She then gave him an embroidered slipper, saying that she had worn it, and that whenever he shook it she would know that he wanted to see her, cautioning him at the same time never to shake it before strangers. Taking it in his hand he beheld a very tiny little shoe almost as fine pointed as an awl, with which he was much pleased; and next evening, when nobody was present, he produced the shoe and shook it, whereupon the young lady immediately walked in. Henceforth, whenever he brought it out, the young lady responded to his wishes and appeared before him. This seemed so strange that at last he asked her to give him some explanation; but she only laughed, and said it was mere coincidence. One evening after this Lien-hsiang came, and said in alarm to Sang, "Whatever has made you look so melancholy?" Sang replied that he did not know, and by-and-by she took her leave, saying, they would not meet again for some ten days. During this period Miss Li visited Sang every day, and on one occasion asked him where his other friend was. Sang told her; and then she laughed and said, "What is your opinion of me as compared with Lien-hsiang?" "You are both of you perfection," replied he, "but you are a little colder of the two." Miss Li did'nt much like this, and cried out, "Both of us perfection is what you say to me. Then she must be a downright Cynthia, and I am no match for her." Somewhat out of temper, she reckoned that Lien-hsiang's ten days had expired, and said she would have a peep at her, making Sang promise to keep it all secret. The next evening Lien-hsiang came, and while they were talking she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, dear! how much worse you seem to have become in the last ten days. You must have encountered something bad." Sang asked her why so; to which she answered, "First of all your appearance; and then your pulse is very thready. You've got the devil-disease."
The following evening when Miss Li came, Sang asked her what she thought of Lien-hsiang. "Oh," said she, "there's no question about her beauty; but she's a fox. When she went away I followed her to her hole on the hill side." Sang, however, attributed this remark to jealousy, and took no notice of it; but the next evening when Lien-hsiang came, he observed, "I don't believe it myself, but some one has told me you are a fox." Lien-hsiang asked who had said so, to which Sang replied that he was only joking; and then she begged him to explain what difference there was between a fox and an ordinary person. "Well," answered Sang, "foxes frighten people to death, and, therefore, they are very much dreaded." "Don't you believe that '."cried Lien-hsiang; "and now tell me who has been saying this of me." Sang declared at first that it was only a joke of his, but by-and-by yielded to her instances, and let out the whole story. "Of course I saw how changed you were," said Lien-hsiang; "she is surely not a human being to be able to cause such a rapid alteration in you. Say nothing, tomorrow I'll watch her as she watched me." The following evening Miss Li came in: and they had hardly interchanged half-a-dozen sentences when a cough was heard outside the window, and Miss Li ran away. Lien-hsiang then entered and said to Sang, "You are lost! She is a devil, and if you do not at once forbid her coming here, you will soon be on the road to the other world." "All jealousy," thought Sang, saying nothing, as Lien-hsiang continued, "I know that you don't like to be rude to her; but I, for my part, cannot see you sacrificed, and tomorrow I will bring you some medicine to expel the poison from your system. Happily, the disease has not yet taken firm hold of you, and in ten days you will be well again." The next evening she produced a knife and chopped up some medicine for Sang, which made him feel much better; but, although he was very grateful to her, he still persisted in disbelieving that he had the devil-disease. After some days he recovered and Lien-hsiang left him, warning him to have no more to do with Miss Li. Sang pretended that he would follow her advice, and closed the door and trimmed his lamp. He then took out the slipper, and on shaking it Miss Li appeared, somewhat cross at having been kept away for several days. "She merely attended on me these few nights while I was ill," said Sang; "don't be angry." At this Miss Li brightened up a little; but by-and-by Sang told her that people said she was a devil. "It's that nasty fox," cried Miss Li, after a pause, "putting these things into your head. If you don't break with her, I won't come here again." She then began to sob and cry, and Sang had some trouble in pacifying her. Next evening Lien-hsiang came and found out that Miss Li had been there again; whereupon she was very angry with Sang, and told him he would certainly die. "Why need you be so jealous?" said Sang, laughing; at which she only got more enraged, and replied, "When you were nearly dying the other day and I saved you, if I had not been jealous, where would you have been now?" Sang pretended he was only joking, and said that Miss Li had told him his recent illness was entirely owing to the machinations of a fox; to which she replied, "It's true enough what you say, only you don't see whose machinations. However, if anything happens to you, I should never clear myself even had I a hundred mouths; we will, therefore, part.
A hundred days hence I shall see you on your bed." Sang could not persuade her to stay, and away she went; and from that time Miss Li became a regular visitor.
Two months passed away, and Sang began to expe-rience a feeling of great lassitude, which he tried at first to shake off, but by-and-by he became very thin, and could only take thick gruel. He then thought about going back to his native place; however, he could not bear to leave Miss Li, and in a few more days he was so weak that he was unable to get up. His friend next door, seeing how ill he was, daily sent in his boy with food and drink; and now Sang began for the first time to suspect Miss Li. So he said to her, "I am sorry I didn't listen to Lien-hsiang before I got as bad as this." He then closed his eyes and kept them shut for some time; and when he opened them again Miss Li had disappeared. Their acquaintanceship was thus at an end, and Sang lay all emaciated as he was upon his bed in his solitary room longing for the return of Lien-hsiang. One day, while he was still thinking about her, some one drew aside the screen and walked in. It was Lien-hsiang; and ap-proaching the bed she said with a smile, "Was I then talking such nonsense?" Sang struggled a long time to speak; and, at length, confessing he had been wrong, implored her to save him. "When the disease has reached such a pitch as this," replied Lien-hsiang, "there is very little to be done. I merely came to bid you fare-well, and to clear up your doubts about my jealousy." In great tribulation, Sang asked her to take something she would find under his pillow and destroy it; and she accordingly drew forth the slipper, which she proceeded to examine by the light of the lamp, turning it over and over. All at once Miss Li walked in, but when she saw Lien-hsiang she turned back as though she would run away, which Lien-hsiang instantly prevented by placing herself in the doorway. Sang then began to reproach her, and Miss Li could make no reply; where-upon Lien-hsiang said, "At last we meet. Formerly you attributed this gentleman's illness to me; what have you to say now?" Miss Li bent her head in acknowledge-ment of her guilt, and Lien-hsiang continued, "How is it that a nice girl like you can thus turn love into hate?" Here Miss Li threw herself on the ground in a flood of tears and begged for mercy; and Lien-hsiang, raising her up, inquired of her as to her past life. "I am a daughter of a petty official named Li, and I died young, leaving the web of my des-tiny incomplete, like the silkworm that perishes in the spring. To be the partner of this gentleman was my ardent wish; but I had never any intention of causing his death." "I have heard, "remarked Lien-hsiang, "that the advantage devils obtain by killing people is that their victims are ever with them after death. Is this so?"' "It is not," replied Miss Li; "the companionship of two devils gives no pleasure to either. Were it otherwise, I should not have wanted for friends in the realms below. But tell me, how do foxes manage not to kill people." "You allude to such foxes as suck the breath out of people?" replied Lien-hsiang; "I am not of that class. Some foxes are harmless; no devils are, 5 because of the dominance of the yin 6 in their com-positions." Sang now knew that these two girls were really a fox and a devil; however, from being long accustomed to their society, he was not in the least alarmed. His breathing had dwindled to a mere thread, and at length he uttered a cry of pain. Lien-hsiang looked round and said, "How shall we cure him?" upon which Miss Li blushed deeply and drew back; and then Lien-hsiang added, "If he does get well, I'm afraid you will be dreadfully jealous." Miss Li drew herself up, and replied, "Could a physician be found to wipe away the wrong I have done to this gentleman, I would bury my head in the ground. How should I look the world in the face?" Lien-hsiang here opened a bag and drew forth some drugs, saying, "I have been looking forward to this day. When I left this gentleman I proceeded to gather my simples, as it would take three months for the medicine to be got ready; but then, should the poison have brought anyone even to death's door, this medicine is able to call him back. The only condition is that it be administered by the very hand which wrought the ill." Miss Li did as she was told and put the pills Lien-hsiang gave her one after another into Bang's mouth. They burnt his inside like fire; but soon vitality began to return, and Lien-hsiang cried out, "He is cured!" Just at this moment Miss Li heard the cock crow and vanished, 7 Lien-hsiang remaining behind in attendance on the invalid, who was unable to feed himself. She bolted the outside door and pretended that Sang had returned to his native place, so as to prevent visitors from calling. Day and night she took care of him, and every evening Miss Li came in to render assistance, regarding Lien-hsiang as an elder sister, and being treated by her with great consideration and kindness. Three months afterwards Sang was as strong and well as ever he had been, and then for several evenings Miss Li ceased to visit them, only staying a few moments when she did come, and seeming very uneasy in her mind. One evening Sang ran after her and carried her back in his arms, finding her no heavier than so much straw; and then, being obliged to stay, she curled herself up and lay down, to all appearance in a state of unconsciousness, and by-and-by she was gone. For many days they heard nothing of her, and Sang was so anxious that she should come back that he often took out her slipper and shook it. "I don't wonder at your missing her," said Lien-hsiang, "I do myself very much indeed." "Formerly," observed Sang, "when I shook the slipper she invariably came. I thought it very strange, but I never suspected her of being a devil. And now, alas! all I can do is to sit and think about her with this slipper in my hand." He then burst into a flood of tears.
Now a young lady named Yen-erh, belonging to the wealthy Chang family, and about fifteen years of age, had died suddenly, without any apparent cause, and had come to life again in the night, when she got up and wished to go out. They barred the door and would not hear of her doing so; upon which she said, "I am the spirit daughter of a petty magistrate. A Mr. Sang has been very kind to me, and I have left my slipper at his house. I am really a spirit; what is the use of keeping me in?" There being some reason for what she said, they asked her why she had come there; but she only looked up and down without being able to give any explanation. Some one here observed, that Mr. Sang had already gone home, but the young lady utterly refused to believe them. The family was much disturbed at all this; and when Sang's neighbour heard the story, he jumped over the wall, and peeping through beheld Sang sitting there chatting with a pretty-looking girl. As he went in, there was some commotion, during which Sang's visitor had disappeared, and when his neighbour asked the meaning of it all, Sang replied, laughing, "Why, I told you if any ladies came I should ask them in." His friend then repeated what Miss Yen-erh had said; and Sang, unbolting his door, was about to go and have a peep at her, but unfortunately had no means of so doing. Meanwhile Mrs. Chang, hearing that he had not gone away, was more lost in astonishment than ever, and sent an old woman-servant to get back the slipper. Sang immediately gave it to her, and Miss Yen-erh was delighted to recover it, though when she came to try it on it was too small for her by a good inch. In considerable alarm, she seized a mirror to look at herself; and suddenly became aware that she had come to life again in some one else's body. She therefore told all to her mother, and finally succeeded in convincing her, crying all the time because she was so changed for the worse as regarded personal appearance from what she had been before. And whenever she happened to see Lien-hsiang, she was very much disconcerted, de-claring that she had been much better off as a devil than now as a human being. She would sit and weep over the slipper, no one being able to comfort her; and finally, covering herself up with bed-clothes, she lay all stark and stiff, positively refusing to take any nourishment. Her body swelled up, and for seven days she refused all food, but did not die; and then the swelling began to subside, and an intense hunger to come upon her which made her once more think about eating. Then she was troubled with a severe irritation, and her skin peeled entirely away; and when she got up in the morning, she found that the shoes had fallen off. On trying to put them on again, she discovered that they did not fit her any longer; and then she went back to her former pair which were now exactly of the right size and shape. In an ecstasy of joy, she grasped her mirror, and saw that her features had also changed back to what they had formerly been; so she washed and dressed herself and went in to visit her mother. Every one who met her was much astonished; and when Lien-hsiang heard the strange story, she tried to persuade Mr. Sang to make her an offer of marriage. But the young lady was rich and Sang was poor, and he did not see his way clearly. However, on Mrs. Chang's birthday, when she completed her cycle of sixty-one years, Sang went along with the others to wish her many happy returns of the day; and when the old lady knew who was coming, she bade Yen-erh take a peep at him from behind the curtain. Sang arrived last of all; and immediately out rushed Miss Yen-Erh and seized his sleeve, and said she would go back with him. Her mother scolded her well for this, and she ran in abashed; but Sang, who had looked at her closely, began to weep, and threw himself at the feet of Mrs. Chang who raised him up without saying anything unkind. Sang then took his leave, and got his uncle to act as medium between them; the result being that an auspicious day was fixed upon for the wedding. At the appointed time Sang proceeded to the house to fetch her; and when he returned he found that, instead of his former poor-looking furniture, beautiful carpets were laid down from the very door, and thousands of coloured lanterns were hung about in elegant designs. Lien-hsiang assisted the bride to enter, and took off her veil, finding her the same bright girl as ever. She also joined them while drinking the wedding cup, and inquired of her friend as to her recent transmigration; and Yen-erh related as follows: "Overwhelmed with grief, I began to shrink from myself as some unclean thing; and, after separating from you that day, I would not return any more to my grave. So I wandered about at random, and whenever I saw a living being, I envied its happy state. By day I remained among trees and shrubs, but at night I used to roam about anywhere. And once I came to the house of the Chang family, where, seeing a young girl lying upon the bed, I took possession of her mortal coil, unknowing that she would be restored to life again." When Lien-hsiang heard this she was for some time lost in thought; and a month or two after-wards became very ill. She refused all medical aid and gradually got worse and worse, to the great grief of Mr. Sang and his wife, who stood weeping at her bed-side. Suddenly she opened her eyes, and said, "You wish to live; I am willing to die. If fate so ordains it, we shall meet again ten years hence." As she uttered these words, her spirit passed away, and all that remained was the dead body of a fox. Sang, however, insisted on burying it with all the proper ceremonies.
Now his wife had no children; but one day a servant came in and said, "There is an old woman outside who has got a little girl for sale." Sang's wife gave orders that she should be shown in; and no sooner had she set eyes on the girl than she cried out, "Why, she's the image of Lien-hsiang!" Sang then looked at her, and found to his astonishment that she was really very like his old friend. The old woman said she was fourteen years old; and when asked what her price was, declared that her only wish was to get the girl comfortably settled, and enough to keep herself alive, and ensure not being thrown out into the kennel at death. So Sang gave a good price for her; and his wife, taking the girl's hand, led her into a room by themselves. Then, chucking her under the chin, she asked her, smiling, "Do you know me?" The girl said she did not; after which she told Mrs. Sang that her name was Wei, and that her father, who had been a pickle-merchant at Hsu-ch'eng, had died three years before. Mrs. Sang then calculated that Lien-hsiang had been dead just ten years; and, looking at the girl, who resembled her so exactly in every trait, at length patted her on the head, saying, "Ah, my sister, you promised to visit us again in ten years, and you have not played us false." The girl here seemed to wake up as if from a dream, and, uttering an exclamation of surprise, fixed a steady gaze upon Sang's wife. Sang himself laughed, and said, "Just like the return of an old familiar swallow." "Now I understand," cried the girl, in tears; "I recollect my mother saying that when I was born I was able to speak; and that, thinking it an inauspicious manifestation, they gave me dog's blood to drink, so that I should forget all about my previous state of existence. Is it all a dream, or are you not the Miss Li who was so ashamed of being a devil?" Thus they chatted of their existence in a former life, with alternate tears and smiles; but when it came to the day for worshipping at the tombs, Yen-erh explained that she and her husband were in the habit of annually visiting and mourning over her grave. The girl replied that she would accompany them; and when they got there they found the whole place in disorder, and the coffin wood all warped. "Lien-hsiang and I," said Yen-erh to her husband, "have been attached to each other in two states of existence. Let us not be separated, but bury my bones here with hers." Sang consented, and opening Miss Li's tomb, took out the bones and buried them with those of Lien-hsiang, while friends and relatives, who had heard the strange story, gathered round the grave in gala dress to the number of many hundreds.

I learnt the above when travelling through I-chou, where I was detained at an inn by rain, and read a biography of Mr. Sang written by a comrade of his named Wang Tzu-chang. It was lent me by a Mr. Liu Tzu-ching, a relative of Sang's, and was quite a long account. This is merely an outline of it.

蓮香

桑生,名曉,字子明,沂州人。少孤,館于紅花埠。桑為人靜穆自喜,日再出,就食東鄰,余時堅坐而已。東鄰生偶至,戲曰:「君獨居不畏鬼狐耶?」笑答曰:「丈夫何畏鬼狐?雄來吾有利劍,雌者尚當開門納之。」鄰生歸,與友謀,梯妓于垣而過之,彈指叩扉。生窺問其誰,妓自言為鬼。生大懼,齒震震有聲。妓逡巡自去。鄰生早至生齋,生述所見,且告將歸。鄰生鼓掌曰:「何不開門納之?」生頓悟其假,遂安居如初。
積半年,一女子夜來叩齋。生意友人之復戲也,啟門延入,則傾國之姝。驚問所來,曰:「妾蓮香,西家妓女。」埠上青樓故多,信之。息燭登床,綢繆甚至。自此三五宿輒一至。
一夕,獨坐凝思,一女子翩然入。生意其蓮,承逆與語。覿面殊非:年僅十五六,享單袖垂髫,風流秀曼,行步之間,若還若往。大愕,疑為狐。女曰:「妾,良家女,姓李氏。慕君高雅,幸能垂盼。」生喜。握其手,冷如冰,問:「何涼也?」曰:「幼質單寒,夜蒙霜露,那得不爾!」既而羅襦衿解,儼然處子。女曰:「妾為情緣,葳蕤之質,一朝失守。不嫌鄙陋,願常侍枕蓆。房中得無有人否?」生曰:「無他,止一鄰娼,顧亦不常。」女曰:「當謹避之。妾不與院中人等。君秘勿泄,彼來我往,彼往我來可耳。」
雞鳴欲去,贈繡履一鉤,曰:「此妾下體所著,弄之足寄思慕。然有人慎勿弄也!」受而視之,翹翹如解結錐。心甚愛悅。越夕無人,便出審玩。女飄然忽至,遂相款昵。自此每出履,則女必應念而至。異而詰之,笑曰:「適當其時耳。」
一夜蓮來,驚曰:「郎何神氣蕭索?」生言:「不自覺。」蓮便告別,相約十日。去後,李來恆無虛夕。問:「君情人何久不至?」因以相約告。李笑曰:「君視妾何如蓮香美?」曰:「可稱兩絕。但蓮卿肌膚溫和。」李變色曰:「君謂雙美,對妾云爾。渠必月殿仙人,妾定不及。」因而不歡。乃屈指計,十日之期已滿,囑勿漏,將竊窺之。
次夜,蓮香果至,笑語甚。及寢,大駭曰:「殆矣!十日不見,何益憊損?保無有他遇否?」生詢期故。曰:「妾以神氣驗之,脈析析如亂絲,鬼症也。」次夜,李來,生問:「窺蓮香何似?」曰:「美矣。妾固謂世間無此佳人,果狐也。去,吾尾之,南山而穴居。」生疑其妒,漫應之。
逾夕,戲蓮香曰:「余固不信,或謂卿狐者。」蓮亟問:「是誰所云?」笑曰:「我自戲卿。」蓮曰:「狐何異于人?」曰:「惑之者病,甚則死,是以可懼。」蓮香曰:「不然,如君之年,房後三日,精氣可復,縱狐何害?設旦旦而伐之,人有甚于狐者矣。天下癆尸瘵鬼,寧皆狐蠱死耶?雖然,必有議我者。」生力白其無,蓮詰益力。生不得已,泄之。蓮曰:「我固怪君憊也。然何遽至此?得勿非人乎?君勿言,明宵,當如渠窺妾者。」是夜李至,裁三數語,聞窗外嗽聲,急亡去。蓮入曰:「君殆矣!是真鬼物!昵其美而不速絕,冥路近矣!」生意其妒,默不語。蓮曰:「固知君不忘情,然不忍視君死。明日,當攜藥餌,為君以除陰毒。幸病蒂尤淺,十日恙當已。請同榻以視痊可。」次夜,果出刀圭藥啖生。頃刻,洞下三兩行,覺臟腑清虛,精神頓爽。心雖德之,然終不信為鬼。
蓮香夜夜同衾偎生,生欲與合,輒止之。數日後,膚革充盈。欲別,殷殷囑絕李。生謬應之。及閉戶挑燈,輒捉履傾想。李忽至。數日隔絕,頗有怨色。生曰:「彼連宵為我作巫醫,請勿為懟。情好在我。」李稍懌。生枕上私語曰:「我愛卿甚,乃有謂卿鬼者。」李結舌良久,罵曰:「必淫狐之惑君聽也!若不絕之,妾不來矣!」遂嗚嗚飲泣。生百詞慰解,乃罷。隔宿,蓮香至,知李復來,怒曰:「君必欲死耶!」生笑曰:「卿何相妒之深?」蓮益怒曰:「君種死根,妾為若除之,不妒者將復何如?」生託詞以戲曰:「彼雲前日之病,為狐祟耳。」蓮乃嘆曰:「誠如君言,君迷不悟,萬一不虞,妾百口何以自解?請從此辭。百日後,當視君于臥榻中。」留之不可。怫然徑去。由是于李夙夜必偕。約兩月余,覺大睏頓。初猶自寬解;日漸羸瘠,惟飲饘粥一甌。欲歸就奉養,尚戀戀不忍遽去。因循數日,沉綿不可復起。鄰生見其病憊,日遣館僮饋給食飲。生至是疑李,因謂李曰:「吾悔不聽蓮香之言,以至於此!」言訖而瞑。移時復甦,張目四顧,則李已去,自是遂絕。
生羸臥空齋,思蓮香如望歲。一日,方凝想間,忽有搴帘入者,則蓮香也。臨榻哂曰:「田舍郎,我豈妄哉!」生哽咽良久,自言知罪,但求拯救。蓮曰:「病入膏肓,實無救法。姑來永訣,以明非妒。」生大悲曰:「枕底一物,煩代碎之。」蓮搜得履,持就燈前,反復展玩。李女欻入,卒見蓮香,返身欲遁。蓮以身蔽門,李窘急不知所出。生責數之,李不能答。蓮笑曰:「妾今始得與阿姨面相質。昔謂郎君舊疾,未必非妾致,今竟何如?」李府首謝過。蓮曰:「佳麗如此,乃以愛結仇耶?」李即投地隕泣,乞垂憐救。蓮遂扶起,細詰生平。曰:「妾,李通判女,早夭,瘞于牆外,已死春蠶,遺絲未盡。與郎偕好,妾之願也;致郎于死,良非素心。」蓮曰:「聞鬼利人死,以死後可常聚,然否?」曰:「不然,兩鬼相逢,並無樂處,如樂也,泉下少年郎豈少哉!」蓮曰:「痴哉!夜夜為人,人且不堪,而況于鬼!」李問:「狐能死人,何術獨否?」蓮曰:「是採補者流,妾非其類。故世有不害人之狐,斷無不害人之鬼,以陰氣盛也。」生聞其語,始知狐鬼皆真。幸習常見慣,頗不為駭。但念殘息如絲,不覺失聲大痛。蓮顧問:「何以處郎君者?」李赧然遜謝。蓮笑曰:「恐郎強健,醋娘子要食楊梅也。」李斂衽曰:「如有醫國手,使妾得無負郎君,便當埋首地下,敢復面見然于人世耶!」蓮解囊出藥,曰:「妾早知有今,別後採藥三山,凡三閱月,物料始備,瘵蠱至死,投之無不蘇者。然症何由得,仍以何引,不得不轉求效力。」問:「何需?」曰:「櫻口中一點香唾耳。我一丸進,煩接口而唾之。」李暈生頤頰,俯首轉側而視其履。蓮戲曰:「妹所得意惟履耳。」李益慚,俯仰若無所容。蓮曰:「此平時熟技,今何吝焉?」遂以丸納生物,轉促逼之。李不得已,唾之。蓮曰:「再!」又唾之。凡三四唾,丸已下咽。少間,腹殷然如雷鳴。復納一丸,自乃接脣而布以氣。生覺丹田火熱,精神煥發。蓮曰:「愈矣!」李聽雞鳴,彷徨別去。蓮以新瘥,尚須調攝,就食非計;因將戶外反關,偽示生歸,以絕交往,日夜守護之。李亦每夕必至,給奉慇懃,事蓮猶姊。蓮亦深憐愛之。居三月,生健如初。李遂數夕不至;偶至,一望即去。相對時,亦挹挹不樂。蓮常留與共寢,必不肯。生追出,提抱以歸,身輕若芻靈。女不得遁,遂著衣偃臥,足卷其體不盈二尺。蓮益憐之,陰使生狎抱之,而撼搖亦不得醒。生睡去,覺而索之,已杳。後十餘日,更不復至。生懷思殊切,恆出履共弄。蓮曰:「窈娜如此,妾見猶憐,何況男子。」生曰:「昔日弄履則至,心固疑之,然終不料其鬼。今對履思容,實所愴惻。」因而泣下。
先是,富室張姓有女字燕兒,年十五,不汗而死。終夜復甦,起顧欲奔。張扃戶,不得出。女自言:「我通判女魂,感桑郎睠注,遺舄猶存彼處。我真鬼耳,錮我何益?」以其言有因,詰其至此之由。女低徊反顧,茫不自解。或有言桑生病歸者,女執辨其誣,家人大疑。東鄰生聞之,逾垣往窺,見生方與美人對語;掩入逼之,張皇間已失所在。鄰生駭詰。生笑曰:「向固與君言,雌者則納之耳。」鄰生述燕兒之言。生乃啟關,將往偵探,苦無由。張母聞生果未歸,益奇之。故使佣媼索履,生遂出以授。燕兒得之喜。試著之,鞋小於足者盈寸,大駭。攬鏡自照,忽恍然悟己之借軀以生也者,因陳所由。母始信之。女鏡面大哭曰:「當日形貌,頗堪自信,每見蓮姊,猶增慚怍。今反若此,人也不如其鬼也!」把履號咷,勸之不解。蒙衾僵臥。食之,亦不食,體膚盡腫;凡七日不食, 卒不死,而腫漸消;覺飢不可忍,乃復食。數日,遍體瘙癢,皮盡脫。晨起,睡舄遺墮,索著之,則碩大無朋矣。因試前履,肥瘦吻合,乃喜。復自鏡,則眉目頤頰,宛肖生平,益喜。盥櫛見母,見者盡眙。蓮香聞其異,勸生媒通之;而以貧富懸邈,不敢遽進。會媼初度,因從其子婿行,往為壽。媼睹生名,故使燕兒窺帘識客。生最後至,女驟出,捉袂,欲從與俱歸。母訶譙之,始慚而入。生審視宛然,不覺零涕,因拜伏不起。媼扶之,不以為侮。生出,浼女舅執柯。媼議擇吉贅生。
生歸告蓮香,且商所處。蓮悵然良久,便欲別去。生大駭泣下。蓮曰:「君行花燭于人家,妾從而往,亦何形顏?」生謀先與旋裡,而後迎燕,蓮乃從之。生以情白張。張聞其有室。怒加誚讓,燕兒力白之,乃如所請。至日,生往親迎。家中備具,頗甚草草;及歸,則自門達堂,悉以罽毯貼地,百千籠燭,燦列如錦。蓮香扶新婦入青廬,搭面既揭,歡若生平。蓮陪巹飲,因細詰還魂之異。燕曰:「爾日抑郁無聊,徒以身為異物,自覺形穢。別後憤不歸墓,隨風漾泊。每見生則羨之。晝憑草木,夜則信足浮沉。偶至張家,見少女臥床上,近附之,未知遂能活也。」蓮聞之,默默若有所思。逾兩月,蓮舉一子。產後暴病,日就沉綿。捉燕臂曰:「敢以孽種相累,我兒即若兒。」燕泣下,姑慰藉之。為召巫醫,輒卻之。沉痼彌留,氣如懸絲。生及燕兒皆哭。忽張目曰:「勿爾!子樂生,我樂生。如有緣,十年後可復得見。」言訖而卒。啟衾將斂,尸化為狐。生不忍異視,厚葬之。子名狐兒,燕撫如己出。每清明,必抱兒哭諸其墓。
後生舉于鄉,家漸裕。而燕苦不育。狐兒頗慧,然單弱多疾。燕每欲生置媵。一日,婢忽曰:「門外一嫗,攜女求售。」燕呼入。卒見,大驚曰:「蓮姊復出耶!」生視之,真似,亦駭。問:「年幾何?」答雲:「十四。」「聘金幾何?」曰:「老身止此一塊肉,但俾得所,妾亦得啖飯處,後日老骨不至委溝壑,足矣。」生優價而留之。燕握女手,入密室,撮其頷而笑曰:「汝識我否?」答言:「不識。」詰其姓氏,曰:「妾韋姓。父徐城賣漿者,死三年矣。」燕屈指停思,蓮死恰十有四載。又審視女,儀容態度,無一不神肖者。乃拍其頂而呼曰:「蓮姊,蓮姊!十年相見之約,當不欺吾!」女忽如夢醒,豁然曰:「咦!」熟視燕兒。生笑曰:「此「似曾相識燕歸來」也。」女泫然曰:「是矣。聞母言,妾生時便能言,以為不祥,犬血飲之,遂昧宿因。今日始如夢寤。娘子其恥于為鬼之李妹耶?」共話前生,悲喜交至。
一日,寒食,燕曰:「此每歲妾與郎君哭姊日也。」遂與親登其墓,荒草離離,木已拱矣。女亦太息。燕謂生曰:「妾與蓮姊,兩世情好,不忍相離,宜令白骨同穴。」生從其言,啟李塚得骸,舁歸而合葬之。親朋聞其異,吉服臨穴,不期而會者數百人。余庚戌南游至沂,阻雨,休于旅舍。有劉生子敬,其中表親,出同社王子章所撰桑生傳,約萬余言,得卒讀。此其崖略耳。
異史氏曰:「嗟乎!死者而求其生,生者又求其死,天下所難得者,非人身哉?奈何具此身者,往往而置之,遂至覥然而生不如狐,泯然而死不如鬼。」

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