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Miss quarta hu

MR. SHANG was a native of T'ai-shan, and lived quietly with his books alone. One autumn night when the Silver River was unusually distinct and the moon shining brightly in the sky, he was walking up and down under the shade, with his thoughts wandering somewhat at random, when lo! a young girl leaped over the wall, and, smiling, asked him, "What are you thinking about, Sir, all so deeply?" Shang looked at her, and seeing that she had a pretty face, asked her to walk in. She then told him her name was Hu, and that she was called Tertia; but when he wanted to know where she lived, she laughed and would not say. So he did not inquire any further; and by degrees they struck up a friendship, and Miss Tertia used to come and chat with him every evening. He was so smitten that he could hardly take his eyes off her, and at last she said to him, "What are you looking at?" "At you," cried he, "my lovely rose, my beautiful peach. I could gaze at you all night long." "If you think so much of poor me," answered she, "I don't know where your wits would be if you saw my sister Quarta." Mr. Shang said he was sorry he didn't know her, and begged that he might be introduced; so next night Miss Tertia brought her sister, who turned out to be a young damsel of about fifteen, with a face delicately powdered and resembling the lily, or like an apricot-flower seen through mist; and altogether as pretty a girl as he had ever seen. Mr. Shang was charmed with her, and inviting them in, began to laugh and talk with the elder, while Miss Quarta sat playing with her girdle, and keeping her eyes on the ground. By-and-by Miss Tertia got up and said she was going, whereupon her sister rose to take leave also; but Mr. Shang asked her not to be in a hurry, and requested the elder to assist in persuading her. "You needn't hurry," said she to Miss Quarta; and accordingly the latter remained chatting with Mr. Shang without reserve, and finally told him she was a fox. However, Mr. Shang was so occupied with her beauty, that he didn't pay any heed to that; but she added, "And my sister is very dangerous; she has already killed three people. Any one bewitched by her has no chance of escape. Happily, you have bestowed your affections on me, and I shall not allow you to be destroyed. You must break off your acquaintance with her at once." Mr. Shang was very frightened, and implored her to help him; to which she replied, "Although a fox, I am skilled in the arts of the Immortals; I will write out a charm for you which you must paste on the door, and thus you will keep her away." So she wrote down the charm, and in the morning when her sister came and saw it, she fell back, crying out, "Ungrateful minx! you've thrown me up for him, have you? You two being destined for each other, what have I done that you should treat me thus?" She then went away; and a few days afterwards Miss Quarta said she too would have to be absent for a day, so Shang went out for a walk by himself, and suddenly beheld a very nice-looking young lady emerge from the shade of an old oak that was growing on the hill-side. "Why so dreadfully pensive?" said she to him; "those Hu girls can never bring you a single cent." She then presented Shang with some money, and bade him go on ahead and buy some good wine, adding, "I'll bring something to eat with me, and we'll have a jolly time of it." Shang took the money and went home, doing as the young lady had told him; and by-and-by in she herself came, and threw on the table a roast chicken and a shoulder of salt pork, which she at once proceeded to cut up. They now set to work to enjoy themselves, and had hardly finished when they heard some one coming in, and the next minute in walked Miss Tertia and her sister. The strange young lady didn't know where to hide, and managed to lose her shoes; but the other two began to revile her, saying, "Out upon you, base fox; what are you doing here?" They then chased her away after some trouble, and Shang began to excuse himself to them, until at last they all became friends again as before.

One day, however, a Shensi man arrived, riding on a donkey, and coming to the door said, "I have long been in search of these evil spirits: now I have got them." Shang's father thought the man's remark rather strange, and asked him whence he had come. "Across much land and sea," replied he; "for eight or nine months out of every year I am absent from my native place. These devils killed my brother with their poison, alas! alas! and I have sworn to exterminate them; but I have travelled many miles without being able to find them. They are now in your house, and if you do not cut them off, you will die even as my brother." Now Shang and the young ladies had kept their acquaintanceship very dark; but his father and mother had guessed that something was up, and, much alarmed, bade the Shensi man walk in and perform his exorcisms. The latter then produced two bottles which he placed upon the ground, and proceeded to mutter a number of charms and cabalistic formulae; whereupon four wreaths of smoke passed two by two into each bottle. "I have the whole family," cried he, in an ecstasy of delight; as he proceeded to tie down the mouths of the bottles with pig's bladder, sealing them with the utmost care. Shang's father was likewise very pleased, and kept his guest to dinner; but the young man himself was sadly dejected, and approaching the bottles unperceived, bent his ear to listen. "Ungrateful man," said Quarta from within, "to sit there and make no effort to save me." This was more than Shang could stand he immediately broke the seal, but found that couldn't untie the knot. "Not so," cried Miss Quarta merely lay down the flag that now stands on the altar, and with a pin prick the bladder, and I get out." Shang did as she bade him, and in a moment a thin streak of white smoke issued forth from the hole and disappeared in the clouds. When the Shensi man came out, and saw the flag lying on the ground, he started violently, and cried out, "Escaped! This must be your doing, young Sir." He then shook the bottle and listened, finally exclaiming,. "Luckily only one has got away. She was fated not to die, and may therefore be pardoned." Thereupon he took the bottles and went his way.

Some years afterwards Shang was one day superintending his reapers cutting the corn, when he descried Miss Quarta at a distance, sitting under a tree. He approached, and she took his hand, saying, "Ten years have rolled away since last we met. Since then I have gained the prize of immortality; but I thought that perhaps you had not quite forgotten me, and so I came to see you once more." Shang wished her to return home with him; to which she replied, "I am no longer what I was that I should mingle in the affairs of mortals. We shall meet again." And as she said this, she disappeared; but twenty years later, when Shang was one day alone, Miss Quarta walked in. Shang was overjoyed, and began to address her; but she answered him, saying, "My name is already enrolled in the Register of the Immortals, and I have no right to return to earth. However, out of gratitude to you I determined to announce to you the date of your dissolution that you might put your affairs in order. Fear nothing; I will see you safely through to the happy land. She then departed, and on the day named Shang actually died. A relative of a friend of mine, Mr. Li Wen-Yu, frequently met the above-mentioned Mr. Shang.

胡四姐


尚生,太山人。獨居清齋。會值秋夜,銀河高耿,明月在天,徘徊花陰,頗存遐想。忽一女子逾垣來,笑曰:「秀才何思之深?」生就視,容華若仙。驚喜擁入,窮極狎昵。自言:「胡氏,名三姐。」問其居第,但笑不言。生亦不復置問,惟相期永好而已。自此,臨無虛夕。

一夜,與生促膝燈幕,生愛之,矚盼轉。女笑曰:「眈眈視妾何為?」曰:「我視卿如紅藥碧桃,即竟夜視,不為厭也。」三姐曰:「妾陋質,遂蒙青盼如此;若見吾家四妹,不知如何顛倒。」生益傾動,恨不一見顏色,長跽哀請。逾夕,果偕四姐來,年方及笄,荷粉露垂,杏花煙潤,嫣然含笑,媚麗欲絕。生狂喜,引坐。三姐與生同笑語,四姐惟手引繡帶,俯首而已。未幾,三姐起別,妹欲從行,生曳之不釋,顧三姐曰:「卿卿煩一致聲。」三姐乃笑曰:「狂郎情急矣!妹子一為少留。」四姐無語,姊遂去。二人備盡歡好,既而引臂替枕,傾吐生平,無復隱諱。四姐自言為狐。生依戀其美,亦不之怪。四姐因言:「阿姊狠毒,業殺三人矣。惑之,罔不斃者。妾幸承溺愛,不忍見滅亡,當早絕之。」生懼,求所以處。四姐曰:「妾雖狐,得仙人正法,當書一符粘寢門,可以卻之。」遂書之。既曉,三姐來,見符卻退,曰:「婢子負心,傾意新郎,不憶引線人矣。汝兩人合有夙分,余亦不相仇,但何必爾?」乃徑去。

數日,四姐他適,約以隔夜。是日,生偶出門眺望,山下故有槲林,蒼莽中,出一少婦,亦頗風韻。近謂生曰:「秀才何必日沾沾變胡家姊妹?渠又不能以一錢相贈。」即以一貫授生,曰:「先持歸,貫良醞,我即攜小餚饌來,與君為歡。」生懷錢歸,果如所教。少間,婦果至,置幾上燔雞﹑咸彘肩各一,即抽刀子縷切為臠;釃酒調謔,歡洽異常。繼而滅燭登床,狎情蕩甚。既曙始起。方坐床頭,捉足易舄,忽聞人聲;傾聽,已入幃幕,則胡姊妹也。婦乍睹,倉惶而遁,遺舄于床。二女遂叱曰:「騷狐!何敢與人同寢處!」追去,移時始反。四姐怨生曰:「君不長進,與騷狐相匹偶,不可復近!」遂悻悻欲去。生惶恐自投,情詞哀懇。三姊從旁解免。四姐怒稍釋,由此相好如初。

一日,有陝人騎驢造門曰:「吾尋妖物,匪伊朝夕,乃今始得之。」生父以其言異,訊所由來。曰:「小人日泛煙波,游四方,終歲十餘月,常八九離桑梓,被妖物蠱殺吾弟。歸甚悼恨,誓必尋而殄滅之。奔波數千里,殊無跡兆。今在君家,不剪,當有繼吾弟而亡者。」時生與女密邇,父母微察之,聞客言,大懼,延入,令作法。出二瓶,列地上,符咒良久。有黑霧四團,分投瓶中。客喜曰:「全家都到矣。」遂以豬脬裹瓶口,緘封甚固。生父亦喜,堅留客飲。生心惻然,近瓶竊視,聞四姐在瓶中言曰:「坐視不救,君何負心?」生益感動。急啟所封,而結不可解。四姐又曰:「勿須爾,但放倒壇上旗,以針刺脬作空,予即出矣。」生如其請。果見白氣一絲,自孔中出,凌霄而去。客出,見旗橫地,大驚曰:「遁矣!此必公子所為。」搖瓶俯聽,曰:「幸止亡其一。此物合不死,猶可赦。」乃攜瓶別去。

後生在野,督佣刈麥,遙見四姐坐樹下。生近就之,執手慰問。且曰:「別後十易春秋,今大丹已成。但思君之念未忘,故復一拜問。」生欲與偕歸,女曰:「妾今非昔比,不可以塵情染,後當復見耳。」言已,不知所。又二十年余,生適獨居,見四姐自外至。生喜與語。女曰:「我今名列仙籍,本不應再履塵世。但感君情,敬報撤瑟之期。可早處分後事;亦勿悲懮,妾當度君為鬼仙,亦無苦也。」乃別而去。至日,生果卒。尚生乃友人李文玉之戚好,嘗親見之。


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