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The virtuous daughter-in-law.

AN TA-CH'ENG was a Chung-ch'ing man. His father, who had gained the master's degree, died early; and his brother Erh-ch'eng was a mere boy. He himself had married a wife from the Ch'en family, whose name was Shan-hu; and this young lady had much to put up with from the violent and malicious disposition of her husband's mother. However, she never complained; and every morning dressed herself up smart, and went in to pay her respects to the old lady. Once when Ta-ch'eng was ill, his mother abused Shan-hu for dressing so nicely; whereupon Shan-hu went back and changed her clothes; but even then Mrs. An was not satisfied, and began to tear her own hair with rage. Ta-ch'eng, who was a very filial son, at once gave his wife a beating, and this put an end to the scene. From that moment his mother hated her more than ever, and although she was everything that a daughter-in-law could be, would never exchange a word with her. Ta-ch'eng then treated her in much the same way, that his mother might see he would have nothing to do with her; still the old lady wasn't pleased, and was always blaming Shan-hu for every trifle that occurred. "A wife," cried Ta-ch'eng " is taken to wait upon her mother-in-law. This state of things hardly looks like the wife doing her duty." So he bade Shan-hu begone, and sent an old maid-servant to see her home: but when Shan-hu got outside the village-gate, she burst into tears, and said, "How can a girl who has failed in her duties as a wife ever dare to look her parents in the face? I had better die." Thereupon she drew a pair of scissors and stabbed herself in the throat, covering herself immediately with blood. The servant prevented any further mischief, and supported her to the house of her husband's aunt, who was a widow living by herself, and who made Shan-hu stay with her. The servant went back and told Ta-ch'eng, and he bade her say nothing to any one, for fear his mother should hear of it. In a few days Shan-hu's wound was healed, and Ta-ch'eng went off to ask his aunt to send her away. His aunt invited him in, "but he declined, demanding loudly that Shan-hu should be turned out; and in a few moments Shan-hu herself came forth, and inquired what she had done. Ta-ch'eng said she had failed in her duty to-wards his mother; whereupon Shan-hu hung her head and made no answer, while tears of blood trickled from her eyes and stained her dress all over. Ta-ch'eng was much touched by this spectacle, and went away without saying any more; but before long his mother heard all about it, and, hurrying off to the aunt's, began abusing her roundly. This the aunt would not stand, and said it was all the fault of her own bad temper, adding, "The girl has already left you, and has nothing more to do with the family. Miss Ch'en is staying with me, not your daughter-in-law; so you had better mind your own business." This made Mrs. An furious; but she was at a loss for an answer, and, seeing that the aunt was firm, she went off home abashed and in tears. Shan-hu herself was very much upset, and determined to seek shelter elsewhere, finally taking up her abode with Mrs. An's elder sister, a lady of sixty odd years of age, whose son had died, leaving his wife and child to his mother's care. This Mrs. Yu was extremely fond of Shan-hu; and when she heard the facts of the case, said it was all her sister's horrid disposition, and proposed to send Shan-hu back. The latter, however, would not hear of this, and they continued to live together like mother and daughter; neither would Shan-hu accept the invitation of her two brothers to return home and marry some one else, but remained there with Mrs. Yu, earning enough to live upon by spinning and such work.

Ever since Shan-hu had been sent away, Ta-ch'eng's mother had been endeavouring to get him another wife; but the fame of her temper had spread far and wide, and no one would entertain her proposals. In three or four years Erh-ch'eng had grown up, and he was married first to a young lady named Tsang-ku, whose temper turned out to be something fearful, and far more ungovernable even than her mother-in-law's. When the latter only looked angry, Tsang-ku was already at the shrieking stage; and Erh-ch'eng, being of a very meek disposition, dared not side with either. Thus it came about that Mrs. An began to be in mortal fear of Tsang-ku; and whenever her daughter-in-law was in a rage she would try and turn off her anger with a smile. She seemed never to be able to please Tsang-ku, who in her turn worked her mother-in-law like a slave, Ta-ch'eng himself not venturing to interfere, but only assisting his mother in washing the dishes and sweeping the floor. Mother and son would often go to some secluded spot, and there in secret tell their griefs to one another; but before long Mrs. An was stretched upon a sick bed with nobody to attend to her except Ta-ch'eng. He watched her day and night without sleeping, until both eyes were red and inflamed; and then when he went to summon the younger son to take his place, Tsang-ku told him to leave the house. Ta-ch'eng now went off to inform Mrs. Yu, hoping that she would come and assist; and he had hardly finished his tale of woe before Shan-hu walked in. In great confusion at seeing her, he would have left immediately had not Shan held out her arms across the door; whereupon he bolted underneath them and escaped. He did not dare tell his mother, and shortly afterwards Mrs. Yu arrived, to the great joy of Ta-ch'eng's mother, who made her stay in the house. Every day something nice was sent for Mrs. Yu, and even when she told the servants that there was no occasion for it, she having all she wanted at her sister's, the things still came as usual. However, she kept none of them for herself, but gave what came to the invalid, who gradually began to improve. Mrs. Yu's grandson also used to come by his mother's orders, and inquire after the sick lady's health, besides bringing a packet of cakes and so on for her. "Ah, me!" cried Mrs. An, "what a good daughter-in-law you have got, to be sure. What have you done to her?" "What sort of a person was the one you sent away?" asked her sister in reply. "She wasn't as bad as some one I know of," said Mrs. An, "though not so good as yours." "When she was here you had but little to do," replied Mrs Yu; "and when you were angry she took no notice of it. How was she not as good?" Mrs. An then burst into tears, and saying how sorry she was, asked if Shan-hu had married again; to which Mrs. Yu replied that she did not know, but would make inquiries. In a few more days the patient was quite well, and Mrs. Yu proposed to return; her sister, however, begged her to stay, and declared she should die if she didn't. Mrs. Yu then advised that Erh-ch'eng and his wife should live in a separate house, and Erh-ch'eng spoke about it to his wife; but she would not agree, and abused both Ta-ch'eng and his mother alike. It ended by Ta-ch'eng giving up a large share of the property, and ultimately Tsang-ku consented, and a deed of separation was drawn up. Mrs. Yu then went away, returning next day with a sedan-chair to carry her sister back; and no sooner had the latter put her foot inside Mrs. Yu's door, than she asked to see the daughter-in-law, whom she immediately began to praise very highly. "Ah," said Mrs. Yu, "she's a good girl, with her little faults like the rest of us; but your daughter-in-law is just as good, though you are not aware of it." "Alas!" replied her sister, "I must have been as senseless as a statue not to have seen what she was." "I wonder what Shan-hu, whom you turned out of doors, says of you," rejoined Mrs. Yu. "Why, swears at me, of course," answered Mrs. An. "If you examine yourself honestly and find nothing which should make people swear at you, is it at all likely you would be sworn at?" asked Mrs. Yu. "Well, all people are fallible," replied the other, "and as I know she is not perfect, I conclude she would naturally swear at me." "If a person has just cause for resentment, and yet does not indulge that resentment, such behaviour should meet with a grateful acknowledgement; or if any one has just cause for leaving another and yet does not do so, such behaviour should entitle them to kind treatment. Now, all the things that were sent when you were ill, and all the various little attentions, did not come from my daughter-in-law but from yours." Mrs. An was amazed at hearing this, and asked for some explanation; whereupon Mrs. Yu continued, "Shan-hu has been living here for a long time. Everything she sent to you was bought with money earned by her spinning, and that, too, continued late into the night." Mrs. An here burst into tears, and begged to be allowed to see Shan-hu, who came in at Mrs. Yu's summons, and threw herself on the ground at her mother-in-law's feet. Mrs. An was much abashed, and beat her head with shame; but Mrs. Yu made it all up between them, and they became mother and daughter as at first. In about ten days they went home, and, as their property was not enough to support them, Ta-ch'eng had to work with his pen while his wife did the same with her needle. Erh-ch'eng was quite well off, but his brother would not apply to him, neither did he himself offer to help them. Tsang-ku, too, would have nothing to do with her sister-in-law, because she had been divorced; and Shan-hu in her turn, knowing what Tsang-ku's temper was, made no great efforts to be friendly. So the two brothers lived apart; and when Tsang-ku was in one of her outrageous moods, all the others would stop their ears, till at length there was only her husband and the servants upon whom to vent her spleen. One day a maid-servant of hers committed suicide, and the father of the girl brought an action against Tsang-ku for having caused her death. Erh-ch'eng went off to the mandarin's to take her place as defendant, but only got a good beating for his pains, as the magistrate insisted that Tsang-ku herself should appear, and answer to the charge, in spite of all her friends could do. The consequence was she had her fingers squeezed until the flesh was entirely taken off; and the magistrate, being a grasping man, a very severe fine was inflicted as well. Erh-ch'eng had now to mortgage his property before he could raise enough money to get Tsang-ku released; but before long the mortgagee threatened to foreclose, and he was obliged to enter into negotiations for the sale of it to an old gentleman of the village named Jen. Now Mr. Jen, knowing that half the property had belonged to Ta-ch'eng, said the deed of sale must be signed by the elder brother as well; however, when Ta-ch'eng reached his house, the old man cried out, "I am Mr. An, M.A., who is this Jen that he should buy my property?" Then, looking at Ta-ch'eng, he added, "The filial piety of you and your wife has obtained for me in the realms below this interview;" upon which Ta-ch'eng said, "O father, since you have this power, help my younger brother." "The unfilial son and the vixenish daughter-in-law," said the old man, "deserve no pity. Go home and quickly buy back our ancestral property." "We have barely enough to live upon," replied Ta-ch'eng; "where, then, shall we find the necessary money?" "Beneath the crape myrtle-tree,"  answered his father, "you will find a store of silver, which you may take and use for this purpose." Ta-ch'eng would have questioned him further, but the old gentleman said no more, recovering consciousness shortly afterwards with-out knowing a word of what had happened. Ta-ch'eng went back and told his brother, who did not altogether believe the story; Tsang-ku, however, hurried off with a number of men, and had soon dug a hole four or five feet deep, at the bottom of which they found a quantity of bricks and stones, but no gold. She then gave up the idea and returned home, Ta-ch'eng having mean-while warned his mother and wife not to go near the place while she was digging. When Tsang-ku left, Mrs. An went herself to have a look, and seeing only bricks and earth mingled together, she, too, retraced her steps. Shan-hu was the next to go, and she found the hole full of silver bullion; and then Ta-ch'eng repaired to the spot and saw that there was no mistake about it. Not thinking it right to apply this heir-loom to his own private use, he now summoned Erh-ch'eng to share it; and having obtained twice as much as was necessary to redeem the estate, the brothers returned to their homes. Erh-ch'eng and Tsang-ku opened their half together, when lo! the bag was full of tiles and rubbish. They at once suspected Ta-ch'eng of deceiving them, and Erh-ch'eng ran off to see how things were going at his brother's. He arrived just as Ta-ch'eng was spreading the silver on the table, and with his mother and wife rejoicing over their acquisition; and when he had told them what had occurred, Ta-ch'eng expressed much sympathy for him, and at once presented him with his own half of the treasure. Erh-ch'eng was delighted, and paid off the mortgage on the land, feeling very grateful to his brother for such kindness. Tsang-ku, however, declared it was a proof that Ta-ch'eng had been cheating him; "for how, otherwise," argued she, "can you understand a man sharing anything with another, and then resigning his own half?"

Erh-ch'eng himself did not know what to think of it; but next day the mortgagee sent to say that the money paid in was all imitation silver, and that he was about to lay the case before the authorities. Husband and wife were greatly alarmed at this, and Tsang-ku exclaimed, "Well, I never thought your brother was as bad as this. He's simply trying to take your life." Erh-ch'eng himself was in a terrible fright, and hurried off to the mortgagee to entreat for mercy; but as the latter was extremely angry and would hear of no compromise, Erh-ch'eng was obliged to make over the property to him to dispose of himself. The money was then returned, and when he got home he found that two lumps had been cut through, shewing merely an outside layer of silver, about as thick as an onion-leaf, covering nothing but copper within. Tsang-ku and Erh-ch'eng then agreed to keep the broken pieces themselves, but send the rest back to Ta-ch'eng, with a message, saying that they were deeply indebted to him for all his kindness, and that they had ventured to retain two of the lumps of silver out of compliment to the giver; also that Ta-ch'eng might consider himself the owner of the mortgaged land, which he could redeem or not as he pleased. Ta-ch'eng, who did not perceive the intention in all this, refused to accept the land; however, Erh-ch'eng entreated him to do so, and at last he consented. When he came to weigh the money, he found it was five ounces short, and therefore bade Shan-hu pawn something from her jewel-box to make up the amount, with which he proceeded to pay off the mortgage. The mortgagee, suspecting it was the same money that had been offered him by Erh-ch'eng, cut the pieces in halves, and saw that it was all silver of the purest quality. Accordingly he accepted it in liquidation of his claim, and handed the mortgage back to Ta-ch'eng. Meanwhile, Ehr-ch'eng had been expecting some catastrophe; but when he found that the mortgaged land had been redeemed, he did not know what to make of it. Tsang-ku thought that at the time of the digging Ta-ch'eng had concealed the genuine silver, and immediately rushed off to his house, and began to revile them all round. Ta-ch'eng now understood why they had sent him back the money; and Shan-hu laughed and said, "The property is safe; why, then, this anger?" Thereupon she made Ta-ch'eng hand over the deeds to Tsang-ku.

One night after this Erh-ch'eng's father appeared to him in a dream, and reproached him, saying, "Unfilial son, unfraternal brother, your hour is at hand. Wherefore usurp rights that do not belong to you?" In the morning Erh-ch'eng told Tsang-ku of his dream, and proposed to return the property to his brother; but she only laughed at him for a fool. Just then the eldest of his two sons, a boy of seven, died of small-pox, and this frightened Tsang-ku so that she agreed to restore the deeds. Ta-ch'eng would not accept them; and now the second child, a boy of three, died also; where-upon Tsang-ku seized the deeds, and threw them into her brother-in-law's house, Spring was over, but the land was in a terribly neglected state; so Ta-ch'eng set to work and put it in order again. From this moment Tsang-ku was a changed woman towards her mother-and sister-in-law; and when, six months later, Mrs. An died, she was so grieved that she refused to take any nourishment. "Alas!" cried she, "that my mother-in-law has died thus early, and prevented me from waiting upon her. Heaven will not allow me to retrieve my past errors." Tsang-ku had thirteen children, but as none of them lived, they were obliged to adopt one of Ta-ch'eng's, who, with his wife, lived to a good old age, and had three sons, two of whom took their doctor's degree. People said this was a reward for filial piety and brotherly love.

珊瑚

安生大成,重慶人。父孝廉,早卒。弟二成,幼。生娶陳氏,小字珊瑚,性嫻淑。而生母沈,悍謬不仁,遇之虐,珊瑚無怨色。每早旦,靚妝往朝。值生疾,母謂其誨淫,詬責之。珊瑚退,毀妝以進。母益怒,投顙自撾。生素孝,鞭婦,母始少解。自此益憎婦。婦雖奉事惟謹,終不與交一語。生知母怒,亦寄宿他所,示與婦絕。久之,母終不快,觸物類而罵之,意怭在珊瑚。生曰:「娶妻以奉姑嫜,今若此,何以妻為!」遂出珊瑚,使老嫗送諸其家。方出里門,珊瑚泣曰:「為女子不能作婦,歸何以見雙親?不如死!」袖中出翦刀刺喉。急救之,血溢沾衿。扶歸生族嬸家。嬸王氏,寡居無耦,遂止焉。媼歸,生囑隱其情,而心竊恐母知。過數日,探知珊瑚創漸平,登王氏門,使勿留珊瑚。王召之入;不入,但盛氣逐珊瑚。無何,王率珊瑚出,見生,便問:「珊瑚何罪?」生責其不能事母。珊瑚脈脈不作一言,惟俯首嗚泣,淚皆赤,素衫盡染,生慘惻不能盡詞而退。又數日,母已聞之,怒詣王,惡言誚讓。王傲不相下,反數其惡;且言:「婦已出,尚屬安家何人?我自留陳氏女,非留安氏婦也,何煩強與他家事!」母怒甚而窮於詞,又見意氣謑詾詾,慚沮大哭而返。珊瑚意不自安,思他適。先是,生有母姨于媼,即沈姊也。年六十餘,子死,止一幼孫及寡媳;又嘗善視珊瑚。遂辭王往投媼。媼詰得故,極道妹子昏暴,即欲送之還。珊瑚力言其不可,兼囑勿言,於是與于媼居,類姑婦焉。珊瑚有兩兄,聞而憐之,欲移之歸而嫁之。珊瑚執不肯,惟從于媼紡績以自度。生自出婦,母多方為子謀婚,而悍聲流播,遠近無與為耦。積三四年,二成漸長,遂先為畢姻。二成妻臧姑,驕悍戾沓,尤倍於母。母或怒以色,則臧姑怒以聲。二成又懦,不敢為左右袒。於是母威頓減,莫敢攖,反望色笑而承迎之,猶不能得臧姑懽。臧姑役母若婢;生不敢言,惟身代母操作,滌器灑汛掃之事皆與焉。母子恆於無人處,相對飲泣。無何,母以鬱積病,委頓在床,便溺轉側皆須生;生晝夜不得寐,兩目盡赤。呼弟代役,甫入門,臧姑輒喚去之。生於是奔告于媼,冀媼臨存。入門,泣且訴。訴未畢,珊瑚自幃中出。生大慚,禁聲欲出。珊瑚以兩手叉扉。生窘急,自肘下沖出而歸,亦不敢以告母。無何,于媼至,母喜止之。由此媼家無日不以人來,來輒以甘旨餉媼。媼寄語寡媳:「此處不餓,後勿復爾。」而家中餽遺,卒無少間。媼不肯少嘗食,緘留以進病者。母病亦漸瘥。媼幼孫又以母命將佳餌來問疾。沈嘆曰:「賢哉婦乎!姊何修者!」媼曰:「妹以去婦何如人?」曰:「嘻!誠不至夫己氏之甚也!然烏如甥婦賢!」媼曰:「婦在,汝不知勞;汝怒,婦不知怨:惡乎弗如?」沈乃泣下,且告之悔,曰:「珊瑚嫁也未者?」答云:「不知,請訪之。」又數日,病良已。媼欲別。沈泣曰:「恐姊去,我仍死耳!」媼乃與生謀,析二成居。二成告臧姑。臧姑不樂,語侵兄,兼及媼。生願以良田悉歸二成,臧姑乃喜。立析產書已,媼始去。明日,以車乘來迎沈。沈至其家,先求見甥婦,極道甥婦德。媼曰:「小女子百善,何遂無一疵?余固能容之。子即有婦如吾婦,恐亦不能享也。」沈曰:「鳴呼冤哉!謂我木石鹿豕耶!具有口鼻,豈有觸香臭而不知者?」媼曰:「被出如珊瑚,不知念子作何語?」曰:「罵之耳。」媼曰:「誠反躬無可罵,亦惡乎而罵之?」曰:「瑕疵人所時有,惟其不能賢,是以知其罵也。」媼曰:「當怨者不怨,則德焉者可知;當去者不去,則撫焉者可知。向之所餽遺而奉事者,固非予婦也,而婦也。」沈驚曰:「如何?」曰:「珊瑚寄此久矣。向之所供,皆渠夜績之所貽也。」沈聞之,泣數行下,曰:「我何以見吾婦矣!」媼乃呼珊瑚。瑚瑚含涕而出,伏地下。母慚痛自撾,媼力勸始止,遂為姑媳如初。十餘日偕歸,家中薄田數畝,不足自給,惟恃生以筆耕,婦以針耨。二成稱饒足,然兄不之求,弟亦不之顧也。臧姑以嫂之出也鄙之;嫂亦惡其悍,置不齒。兄弟隔院居。臧姑時有凌虐,一家盡掩其耳。臧姑無所用虐,虐夫及婢。婢一日自經死。婢父訟臧姑,二成代婦質理,大受扑責,仍坐拘臧姑。生上下為之營脫,卒不免。臧姑械十指,肉盡脫。官貪暴,索望良奢。二成質田貸貲,如數納入,始釋歸。而債家責負日亟,不得已,悉以良田鬻於村中任翁。翁以田半屬大成所讓,要生署券。生往,翁忽自言:「我安孝廉也。任某何人,敢市吾業!」又顧生曰:「冥間感汝夫妻孝,故使我暫歸一面。」生出涕曰:「父有靈,急救吾弟!」曰:「逆子悍婦,不足惜也!歸家速辦金,贖吾血產。」生曰:「母子僅自存活,安得多金?」曰:「紫薇樹下有藏金,可以取用。」欲再問之,翁已不語;少時而醒,茫不自知。生歸告母,亦未深信。臧姑已率數人往發窖,坎地四五尺,止見磚石,並無所謂金者,失意而去。生聞其掘藏,戒母及妻勿往視。後知其無所獲,母竊往窺之,見磚石雜土中,遂返。珊瑚繼至,則見土內悉白鏹;呼生往驗之,果然。生以先人所遺,不忍私,召二成均分之。數適得揭取之二,各囊之而歸。二成與臧姑共驗之,啟囊則瓦礫滿中,大駭。疑二成為兄所愚,使二成往窺兄,兄方陳金几上,與母相慶。因實告兄,生亦駭,而心甚憐之,舉金而並賜之。二成乃喜,往酬債訖,甚德兄。臧姑曰:「即此益知兄詐。若非自愧於心,誰肯以瓜分者復讓人乎?」二成疑信半之。次日,債主遣僕來,言所償皆偽金,將執以首官。夫妻皆失色。臧姑曰:「如何哉!我固謂兄賢不至於此,是將以殺汝也!」二成懼,往哀債主,主怒不釋。二成乃券田於主,聽其自售,始得原金而歸。細視之,見斷金二鋌,僅裹真金一韭葉許,中盡銅耳。臧姑因與二成謀:留其斷者,餘仍返諸兄以覘之。且教之言曰:「屢承讓德,實所不忍。薄留二鋌,以見推施之義。所存物產,尚與兄等。余無庸多田也,業已棄之,贖否在兄。」生不知其意,固讓之。二成辭甚決,生乃受。稱之,少五兩餘。命珊瑚質匳妝以滿其數,攜付債主。主疑似舊金,以翦刀斷驗之,紋色俱足,無少差謬,遂收金,與生易券。二成還金後,意其必有參差;既聞舊業已贖,大奇之。臧姑疑發掘時,兄先隱其真金,忿詣兄所,責數詬厲。生乃悟返金之故。珊瑚逆而笑曰:「產固在耳,何怒為?」使生出券付之。二成一夜夢父責之曰:「汝不孝不弟,冥限已迫,寸土皆非己有,占賴將以奚為!」醒告臧姑,欲以田歸兄。臧姑嗤其愚。是時二成有兩男,長七歲,次三歲。無何,長男病痘死。臧姑始懼,使二成退券於兄,言之再三,生不受。未幾,次男又死。臧姑益懼,自以券置嫂所。春將盡,田蕪穢不耕,生不得已,種治之。臧姑自此改行,定省如孝子,敬嫂亦至。未半年而母病卒。臧姑哭之慟,至勺飲不入口。向人曰:「姑早死,使我不得事,是天不許我自贖也!」產十胎皆不育,遂以兄子為子。夫妻皆壽終。生三子,皆舉進士。人以為孝友之報云。
  異史氏曰:「不遭跋扈之惡,不知靖獻之忠,家與國有同情哉。逆婦化而母死,蓋一堂孝順,無德以戡之也。臧姑自克,謂天不許其自贖,非悟道者何能為此言乎?然應迫死,而以壽終,天固已恕之矣。生於憂患,有以矣夫!」

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