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The magnanimous girl

AT Chin-ling there lived a young man named Ku, who had considerable ability but was very poor; and having an old mother, he was very loth to leave home. So he employed himself in writing or painting for people, and gave his mother the proceeds, going on thus till he was twenty-five years of age without taking a wife. Opposite to their house was another building, which had long been untenanted; and one day an old woman and a young girl came to occupy it, but there being no gentleman with them young Ku did not make any inquiries as to who they were or whence they hailed. Shortly afterwards it chanced that just as Ku was entering the house he observed a young lady come out of his mother's door. She was about eighteen or nineteen, very clever and refined looking, and altogether such a girl as one rarely sets eyes on; and when she noticed Mr. Ku, she did not run away, but seemed quite self-possessed. "It was the young lady over the way; she came to borrow my scissors and measure," said his mother, "and she told me that there was only her mother and herself. They don't seem to belong to the lower classes. I asked her why she didn't get married, to which she replied that her mother was old. I must go and call on her tomorrow, and find out how the land lies. If she doesn't expect too much, you could take care of her mother for her." So next day Ku's mother went, and found that the girl's mother was deaf, and that they were evidently poor, apparently not having a day's food in the house. Ku's mother asked what their employment was, and the old lady said they trusted for food to her daughter's ten fingers. She then threw out some hints about uniting the two families, to which the old lady seemed to agree; but, on consultation with her daughter, the latter would not consent. Mrs. Ku returned home and told her son, saying, "Perhaps she thinks we are too poor. She doesn't speak or laugh, is very nice-looking, and as pure as snow; truly no ordinary girl." There ended that; until one day, as Ku was sitting in his study, up came a very agreeable young fellow, who said he was from a neighbouring village, and engaged Ku to draw a picture for him. The two youths soon struck up a firm friendship and met constantly, when it happened that the stranger chanced to see the young lady of over the way. "Who is that?" said he, following her with his eyes. Ku told him, and then he said, "She is certainly pretty, but rather stern in her appearance." By-and-by Ku went in, and his mother told him the girl had come to beg a little rice, as they had had nothing to eat all day. "She's a good daughter," said his mother, "and I'm very sorry for her. We must try and help them a little." Ku thereupon shouldered a peck of rice, and, knocking at their door, presented it with his mother's compliments. The young lady received the rice but said nothing; and then she got into the habit of coming over and helping Ku's mother with her work and household affairs, almost as if she had been her daughter-in-law, for which Ku was very grateful to her, and whenever he had anything nice he always sent some of it in to her mother, though the young lady herself never once took the trouble to thank him. So things went on until Ku's mother got an abscess on her leg, and lay writhing in agony day and night. Then the young lady devoted herself to the invalid, waiting on her and giving her medicine with such care and attention that at last the sick woman cried out, "Oh, that I could secure such a daughter-in-law as you, to see this old body into its grave!" The young lady soothed her, and replied, "Your son is a hundred times more filial than I, a poor widow's only daughter." "But even a filial son makes a bad nurse," answered the patient; "besides, I am now drawing towards the evening of my life, when my body will be exposed to the mists and the dews, and I am vexed in spirit about our ancestral worship and the continuance of our line." As she was speaking Ku walked in; and his mother, weeping, said, "I am deeply indebted to this young lady; do not forget to repay her goodness." Ku made a low bow, but the young lady said, "Sir, when you were kind to my mother, I did not thank you; why, then, thank me?" Ku thereupon became more than ever attached to her; but could never get her to depart in the slightest degree from her cold demeanour towards himself. One day, however, he managed to squeeze her hand, upon which she told him never to do so again; and then for some time he neither saw nor heard anything of her. She had conceived a violent dislike to the young stranger above-mentioned; and one evening when he was sitting talking with Ku, the young lady reappeared. After a while she got angry at something he said, and drew from her robe a glittering knife about a foot long. The young man, seeing her do this, ran out in a fright and she after him, only to find that he had vanished. She then threw her dagger up into the air, and whish! a streak of light like a rainbow, and something came tumbling down with a flop. Ku got a light, and ran to see what it was; and lo! there lay a white fox, head in one place and body in another. "There is your friend" cried the girl; "I knew he would cause me to destroy him sooner or later." Ku dragged it into the house, and said, "Let us wait till tomorrow to talk it over; we shall then be more calm." Next day the young lady arrived, and Ku inquired about her knowledge of the black art; but she told Ku not to trouble himself about such affairs, and to keep it secret or it might be prejudicial to his happiness. Ku then entreated her to consent to their union, to which she replied that she had already been as it were a daughter-in-law to his mother, and there was no need to push the thing further. "Is it because I am poor?" asked Ku. "Well, I am not rich," answered she, "but the fact is I had rather not." She then took her leave, and the next evening when Ku went across to their house to try once more to persuade her, the young lady had disappeared, and was never seen again.

俠女

顧生,金陵人。博于材藝,而家綦貧。又以母老,不忍離膝下,惟日為人書畫,受贄以自給。行年二十有五,伉儷猶虛。對戶舊有空第,一老嫗及少女稅居其中。以其家無男子,故未問其誰何。一日,偶自外入,見女郎自母房中出,年約十八九,秀曼都雅,世罕其匹,見生甚避,而意凜如也。生入問母。母曰:「是對戶女郎,就吾乞刀尺。適言其家亦止一母。此女不似貧家產。問其何為不字,則以母老為辭。明日當往拜其母,便風以意;倘所望不奢,兒可代養其母。」明日造其室,其母一聾媼耳。視其室,並無隔宿糧。問所業,則仰女十指。徐以同食之謀試之,媼意似納,而轉商其女;女默然,意殊不樂。母乃歸。詳其狀而疑之曰:「女子得非嫌吾貧乎?為人不言亦不笑,艷如桃李,而冷如霜雪,奇人也!」母子猜嘆而罷。

一日,生坐齋頭,有少年來求畫。姿容甚美,意頗儇佻。詰所自,以「鄰村」對。嗣後三兩日輒一至,稍稍稔熟,漸以嘲謔;生狎抱之,亦不甚拒,遂私焉。由此往來昵甚。會女郎過,少年目送之,問為誰。對以「鄰女」。少年曰:「艷麗如此,神情何可畏?」少間,生入內。母曰:「適女子來乞米,雲不舉火者經日矣。此女至孝,貧極可憫,宜少周恤之。」生從母言,負斗米款門,達母意。女受之,亦不申謝。日嘗至生家,見母作衣履,便代縫紉;出入堂中,操作如婦。生益德之。每獲饋餌,必分給其母,女亦略不置齒頰。母適疽生隱處,宵旦號咷。女時就榻省視,為之洗創敷藥,日三四作。母意甚不自安,而女不厭其穢。母曰:「唉!安得新婦如兒,而奉老身以死也!」言訖,悲哽。女慰之曰:「郎子大孝,勝我寡母孤女什百矣。」母曰:「床頭蹀躞之役,豈孝子所能為者?且身已向暮,旦夕犯霧露,深以祧續為懮耳。」言間,生入。母泣曰:「虧娘子良多,汝無忘報德。」生伏拜之。女曰:「君敬我母,我勿谢也,君何谢焉?”于是益敬爱之。然其举止生硬,毫不可干。
一日女出门,生目注之,女忽回首,嫣然而笑。生喜出意外,趋而从诸其家,挑之亦不拒,欣然交欢。已,戒生曰:“事可一而不可再。”生不应而归。明日又约之,女厉色不顾而去。日频来,时相遇,并不假以词色。少游戏之,则冷语冰人。忽于空处问生:“日来少年谁也?”生告之。女曰:“彼举止态状,无礼于妾频矣。以君之狎昵,故置之。请更寄语:再复尔,是不欲生也已!”生至夕,以告少年,且曰:“子必慎之,是不可犯!”少年 曰:“既不可犯,君何私犯之?”生白其无。曰:“如其无。则猥亵之语,何以达君听哉?”生不能答。少年曰:“亦烦寄告:假惺惺勿作态;不然,我将遍播扬。”生甚怒之,情见于色,少年乃去。一夕方独坐,女忽至,笑曰:“我与君情缘未断,宁非天数。”生狂喜而抱于怀,欻闻履声籍籍,两人惊起,则少年推扉入矣。生惊问:“子胡为者?”笑曰:“我来观贞洁人耳。”顾女曰:“今日不怪人耶?”女眉竖颊红,默不一语,急翻上衣,露 一革囊,应手而出,而尺许晶莹匕首也。少年见之,骇而却走。追出户外,四顾渺然。女以匕首望空抛掷,戛然有声,灿若长虹,俄一物堕地作响。生急烛之,则一白狐身首异处矣。大骇。女曰:“此君之娈童也。我固恕之,奈渠定不欲生何!”收刃入囊。生曳令入,曰:“适妖物败意,请俟来宵。”出门径去。次夕女果至,遂共绸缪。诘其术,女曰:“此非君所知。宜须慎秘,泄恐不为君福”又订以嫁娶,曰:“枕席焉,提汲焉,非妇伊何也?业夫 妇矣,何必复言嫁娶乎?”生曰:“将勿憎吾贫耶?”曰:“君固贫,妾富耶?今宵之聚,正以怜君贫耳。”临别嘱曰:“苟且之行,不可以屡。当来我自来,不当来相强无益。”后相值,每欲引与私语,女辄走避。然衣绽炊薪,悉为纪理,不啻妇也。

积数月,其母死,生竭力葬之。女由是独居。生意孤寝可乱,逾垣入,隔窗频呼,迄不应。视其门,则空室扁焉。窃疑女有他约。夜复往,亦如之。遂留佩玉于窗间而去之。越日,相遇于母所。既出,而女尾其后曰:“君疑妾耶?人各有心,不可以告人。今欲使君无疑,乌得可?然一事烦急为谋。”问之,曰:“妾体孕已八月矣,恐旦晚临盆。‘妾身未分明’,能为君生之,不能为君育之。可密告母觅乳媪,伪为讨螟蛉者,勿言妾也。”生诺, 以告母。母笑曰:“异哉此女!聘之不可,而顾私于我儿。”喜从其谋以待之。又月余,女数日不至,母疑之,往探其门,萧萧闭寂。叩良久,女始蓬头垢面自内出。启而入之,则复阖之。入其室,则呱呱者在床上矣。母惊问:“诞几时矣?”答云:“三日。”捉绷席而视之,则男也,且丰颐而广额。喜曰:“儿已为老身育孙子,伶仃一身,将焉所托?”女曰:“区区隐衷,不敢掬示老母。俟夜无人,可即抱儿去。”母归与子言,窃共异之。夜往抱子归。

更数夕,夜将半,女忽款门入,手提革囊,笑曰:“我大事已了,请从此别。”急询其故,曰:“养母之德,刻刻不去诸怀。向云‘可一而不可再’者,以相报不在床第也。为君贫不能婚,将为君延一线之续。本期一索而得,不意信水复来,遂至破戒而再。今君德既酬,妾志亦遂,无憾矣。”问:“囊中何物?”曰:“仇人头耳。”检而窥之,须发交而血模糊。骇绝,复致研诘。曰:“向不与君言者,以机事不密,惧有宣泄。今事已成,不妨相 告:妾浙人。父官司马,陷于仇,彼籍吾家。妾负老母出,隐姓名,埋头项,已三年矣。所以不即报者,徒以有母在;母去,又一块肉累腹中,因而迟之又久。曩夜出非他,道路门户未稔,恐有讹误耳。”言已出门,又嘱曰:“所生儿,善视之。君福薄无寿,此儿可光门闾。夜深不得惊老母,我去矣!”方凄然欲询所之,女一闪如电,瞥尔间遂不复见。生叹惋木立,若丧魂魄。明以告母,相为叹异而已。后三年生果卒。子十八举进士,犹奉祖母以终 老云。

异史氏曰:“人必室有侠女,而后可以畜娈童也。不然,尔爱其艾豭,彼爱尔娄猪矣!”

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