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Chou K‘o-ch‘ang And His Ghost.

AT Huaishang there lived a graduate named Chou T‘ien-i, who, though fifty years of age, had but one son, called K‘och‘ang, whom he loved very dearly. This boy, when about thirteen or fourteen, was a handsome, well-favoured fellow, strangely averse to study, and often playing truant from school, sometimes for the whole day, without any remonstrance on the part of his father. One day he went away and did not come back in the evening; neither, after a diligent search, could any traces of him be discovered. His father and mother were in despair, and hardly cared to live; but after a year and more had passed away, lo and behold! K‘och‘ang returned, saying that he had been beguiled away by a Taoist priest, who, however, had not done him any harm, and that he had seized a moment while the priest was absent to escape and find his way home again. His father was delighted, and asked him no more questions, but set to work to give him an education; and K‘och‘ang was so much cleverer and more intelligent than he had been before, that by the following year he had taken his bachelor’s degree and had made quite a name for himself. Immediately all the good families of the neighbourhood wanted to secure him as a son-in-law. Among others proposed there was an extremely nice girl, the daughter of a gentleman named Chao, who had taken his doctor’s degree, and K‘och‘ang’s father was very anxious that he should marry the young lady. The youth himself would not hear of it, but stuck to his books and took his master’s degree, quite refusing to entertain any thought of marriage; and this so exasperated his mother that one day the good lady began to rate him soundly. K‘och‘ang got up in a great rage and cried out, “I have long been wanting to get away, and have only remained for your sakes. I shall now say farewell, and leave Miss Chao for any one that likes to marry her.” At this his mother tried to detain him, but in a moment he had fallen forwards on the ground, and there was nothing left of him but his hat and clothes. They were all dreadfully frightened, thinking that it must have been K‘och‘ang’s ghost who had been with them, and gave themselves up to weeping and lamentation; however, the very next day K‘och‘ang arrived, accompanied by a retinue of horses and servants, his story being that he had formerly been kidnapped and sold to a wealthy trader, who, being then childless, had adopted him, but who, when he subsequently had a son born to him by his own wife, sent K‘och‘ang back to his old home. And as soon as his father began to question him as to his studies, his utter dulness and want of knowledge soon made it clear that he was the real K‘och‘ang of old; but he was already known as a man who had got his master’s degree, (that is, the ghost of him had got it,) so it was determined in the family to keep the whole affair secret. This K‘och‘ang was only too ready to espouse Miss Chao; and before a year had passed over their heads his wife had presented the old people with the much longed-for grandson.

周克昌

淮上貢士周天儀,年五旬,止一子,名克昌,愛暱之。至十三四歲,丰姿益秀;而性不喜讀,輒逃塾,從群兒戲,恆終日不返。周亦聽之。一日,既暮不歸,始尋之,殊竟烏有。夫妻號咷,幾不欲生。年餘,昌忽自至。言:「為道士迷去,幸不見害。值其他出,得逃而歸。」周喜極,亦不追問。及教以讀,慧悟倍於疇曩。踰年,文思大進,既入郡庠試,遂知名。世族爭婚,昌頗不願。趙進士女有姿,周強為娶之。既入門,夫妻調笑甚懽;而昌恆獨宿,若無所私。逾年,秋戰而捷。周益慰。然年漸暮,日望抱孫,故嘗隱諷昌。昌漠若不解。母不能忍,朝夕多絮語。昌變色,出曰:「我久欲亡去,所不遽捨者,顧復之情耳。實不能探討房帷,以慰所望。請仍去,彼順志者且復來矣。」媼追曳之,已踣,衣冠如蛻。大駭,疑昌已死,是必其鬼也。悲嘆而已。次日,昌忽僕馬而至,舉家惶駭。近詰之,亦言:為惡人略賣於富商之家;商無子,子焉。得昌後,忽生一子。昌思家,遂送之歸。問所學,則頑鈍如昔。乃知此為昌;其入泮鄉捷者,鬼之假也。然竊喜其事未泄,即使襲孝廉之名。入房,婦甚狎熟;而昌靦然有愧色,似新婚者。甫周年,生子矣。
  異史氏曰:「古言庸福人,必鼻口眉目間具有少庸,而後福隨之;其精光陸離者,鬼所棄也。庸之所在,桂籍可以不入闈而通,佳麗可以不親迎而致;而況少有憑藉,益之以鑽窺者乎!」

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