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Collecting Subscriptions.

THE Frog God frequently employs a magician to deliver its oracles to those who have faith. Should the magician declare that the God is pleased, happiness is sure to follow; but if he says the God is angry, women and children sit sorrowfully about, and neglect even their meals. Such is the customary belief, and it is probably not altogether devoid of foundation.
There was a certain wealthy merchant, named Chou, who was a very stingy man. Once, when some repairs were necessary to the temple of the God of War, and rich and poor were subscribing as much as each could afford, he alone gave nothing. By-and-by the works were stopped for want of funds, and the committee of management were at a loss what to do next. It happened that just then there was a festival in honour of the Frog God, at which the magician suddenly cried out, “General Chou has given orders for a further subscription. Bring forth the books.” The people all shouting assent to this, the magician went on to say, “Those who have already subscribed will not be compelled to do so again; those who have not subscribed must give according to their means.” Thereupon various persons began to put down their names, and when this was finished, the magician examined the books. He then asked if Mr. Chou was present; and the latter, who was skulking behind, in dread lest he should be detected by the God, had no alternative but to come to the front. “Put yourself down for one hundred taels,” said the magician to him; and when Chou hesitated, he cried out to him in anger, “You could give two hundred for your own bad purposes: how much more should you do so in a good cause?” alluding to a scandalous intrigue of Chou’s, the consequences of which he had averted by payment of the sum mentioned. This put our friend to the blush, and he was obliged to enter his name for one hundred taels, at which his wife was very angry, and said the magician was a rogue, and whenever he came to collect the money he was put off with some excuse.
Shortly afterwards, Chou was one day going to sleep, when he heard a noise outside his house, like the blowing of an ox, and beheld a huge frog walking leisurely through the front door, which was just big enough to let it pass. Once inside, the creature laid itself down to sleep, with its head on the threshold, to the great horror of all the inmates; upon which Chou observed that it had probably come to collect his subscription, and burning some incense, he vowed that he would pay down thirty taels on the spot, and send the balance later on. The frog, however, did not move, so Chou promised fifty, and then there was a slight decrease in the frog’s size. Another twenty brought it down to the size of a peck measure; and when Chou said the full amount should be paid on the spot, the frog became suddenly no larger than one’s fist, and disappeared through a hole in the wall. Chou immediately sent off fifty taels, at which all the other subscribers were much astonished, not knowing what had taken place. A few days afterwards the magician said Chou still owed fifty taels, and that he had better send it in soon; so Chou forwarded ten more, hoping now to have done with the matter. However, as he and his wife were one day sitting down to dinner, the frog reappeared, and glaring with anger, took up a position on the bed, which creaked under it, as though unable to bear the weight. Putting its head on the pillow, the frog went off to sleep, its body gradually swelling up until it was as big as a buffalo, and nearly filled the room, causing Chou to send off the balance of his subscription without a moment’s delay. There was now no diminution in the size of the frog’s body; and by-and-by crowds of small frogs came hopping in, boring through the walls, jumping on the bed, catching flies on the cooking stove, and dying in the saucepans, until the place was quite unbearable. Three days passed thus, and then Chou sought out the magician, and asked him what was to be done. The latter said he could manage it, and began by vowing on behalf of Chou twenty more taels’ subscription. At this the frog raised its head, and a further increase caused it to move one foot; and by the time a hundred taels was reached, the frog was walking out of the door. At the door, however, it stopped, and lay down once more, which the magician explained by saying, that immediate payment was required; so Chou handed over the amount at once, and the frog, shrinking down to its usual size, mingled with its companions, and departed with them.
The repairs to the temple were accordingly completed, but for “lighting the eyes,” and the attendant festivities, some further subscriptions were wanted. Suddenly, the magician, pointing at the managers, cried out, “There is money short; of fifteen men, two of you are defaulters.” At this, all declared they had given what they could afford; but the magician went on to say, “It is not a question of what you can afford; you have misappropriated the funds that should not have been touched, and misfortune would come upon you, but that, in return for your exertions, I shall endeavour to avert it from you. The magician himself is not without taint. Let him set you a good example.” Thereupon, the magician rushed into his house, and brought out all the money he had, saying, “I stole eight taels myself, which I will now refund.” He then weighed what silver he had, and finding that it only amounted to a little over six taels, he made one of the bystanders take a note of the difference. Then the others came forward and paid up, each what he had misappropriated from the public fund. All this time the magician had been in a divine ecstasy, not knowing what he was saying; and when he came round, and was told what had happened, his shame knew no bounds, so he pawned some of his clothes, and paid in the balance of his own debt. As to the two defaulters who did not pay, one of them was ill for a month and more; while the other had a bad attack of boils.

青蛙神

江漢之間,俗事蛙神最虔。祠中蛙不知幾百千萬,有大如籠者。或犯神怒,家中輒有異兆:蛙游几榻,甚或攀緣滑壁不得墮,其狀不一,此家當凶。人則大恐,斬牲禳禱之,神喜則已。楚有薛昆生者,幼惠,美姿容。六七歲時,有青衣媼至其家,自稱神使,坐致神意,願以女下嫁崑生。薛翁性朴拙,雅不欲,辭以兒幼。雖故卻之,而亦未敢議婚他姓。遲數年,崑生漸長,委禽於姜氏。神告姜曰:「薛崑生,吾婿也,何得近禁臠 !」姜懼,反其儀。薛翁憂之,潔牲往禱,自言:「不敢與神相匹偶。」祝已,見肴酒中皆有巨蛆浮出,蠢然擾動;傾棄,謝罪而歸。心益懼,亦姑聽之。一日,崑生在途,有使者迎宣神命,苦邀移趾。不得已,從與俱往。入一朱門,樓閣華好。有叟坐堂上,類七八十歲人。崑生伏謁,叟命曳起之,賜坐案旁。少間,婢媼集視,紛紜滿側。叟顧曰:「人言薛郎至矣。」數婢奔去。移時,一媼率女郎出,年十六七,麗絕無儔。叟指曰:「此小女十娘,自謂與君可稱佳偶;君家尊乃以異類見拒。此自百年事,父母止主其半,是在君耳。」崑生目注十娘,心愛好之,默然不言。媼曰:「我固知郎意良佳。請先歸,當即送十娘往也。」崑生曰:「諾。」趨歸告翁。翁倉遽無所為計,乃授之詞,使返謝之,崑生不肯行。方消讓間,輿已在門,青衣成群,而十娘入矣。上堂朝拜,翁姑見之皆喜。即夕合巹,琴瑟甚諧。由此神翁神媼,時降其家。視其衣,赤為喜,白為財,必見,以故家日興。自婚於神,門堂藩溷皆蛙,人無敢詬蹴之。惟崑生少年任性,喜則忌,怒則踐斃,不甚愛惜。十娘雖謙馴,但善怒,頗不善崑生所為;而崑生不以十娘故斂抑之。十娘語侵崑生。崑生怒曰:「豈以汝家翁媼能禍人耶?丈夫何畏蛙也!」十娘甚諱言「蛙」,聞之恚甚,曰:「自妾入門,為汝家田增粟、賈益價,亦復不少。今老幼皆已溫飽,遂如鴞鳥生翼,欲啄母睛耶!」崑生益憤曰:「吾正嫌所增污穢,不堪貽子孫。請不如早別。」遂逐十娘。翁媼既聞之,十娘已去。呵崑生,使急往追復之。崑生盛氣不屈。至夜,母子俱病,鬱冒不食。翁懼,負荊於祠,詞義殷切。過三日,病尋愈。十娘亦自至,夫妻懽好如初。十娘日輒凝妝坐,不操女紅,崑生衣履,一委諸母。母一日忿曰:「兒既娶,仍累媼!人家婦事姑,吾家姑事婦!」十娘適聞之,負氣登堂曰:「兒婦朝侍食,暮問寢,事姑者,其道如何?所短者,不能吝傭錢,自作苦耳。」母無言,慚沮自哭。崑生入,見母涕痕,詰得故,怒責十娘。十娘執辨不相屈。崑生曰:「娶妻不能承歡,不如勿有!便觸老蛙怒,不過橫災死耳!」復出十娘。十娘亦怒,出門逕去。次日,居舍災,延燒數屋,几案床榻,悉為煨燼。崑生怒,詣祠責數曰:「養女不能奉翁姑,略無庭訓,而曲護其短!神者至公,有教人畏婦者耶!且盎盂相敲,皆臣所為,無所涉於父母。刀鋸斧鉞,即加臣身;如其不然,我亦焚汝居室,聊以相報。」言已,負薪殿下,爇火欲舉。居人集而哀之,始憤而歸。父母聞之,大懼失色。至夜,神示夢於近村,使為婿家營宅。及明,齎材鳩工,共為崑生建造,辭之不此;日數百人相屬於道,不數日,第舍一新,床幕器具悉備焉。修除甫竟,十娘已至,登堂謝過,言詞溫婉。轉身向崑生展笑,舉家變怨為喜。自此十娘性益和,居二年,無間言。十娘最惡蛇,崑生戲函小蛇,紿使啟之。十娘變色,詬崑生。崑生亦轉笑生嗔,惡相抵。十娘曰:「今番不待相迫逐,請從此絕!」遂出門去。薛翁大恐,杖崑生,請罪於神。幸不禍之,亦寂無音。積有年餘,崑生懷念十娘,頗自悔,竊詣神所哀十娘,迄無聲應。未幾,聞神以十娘字袁氏,中心失望,因亦求婚他族;而歷相數家,並無如十娘者,於是益思十娘。往探袁氏,則已堊壁滌庭,候魚軒 矣。心愧憤不能自已,廢食成疾。父母憂皇,不知所處。忽昏憒中有人撫之曰:「大丈夫頻欲斷絕,又作此態!」開目,則十娘也。喜極,躍起曰:「卿何來?」十娘曰:「以輕薄人相待之禮,止宜從父命,另醮而去。固久受袁家采幣,妾千思萬思而不忍也。卜吉已在今夕,父又無顏反璧,妾親攜而置之矣。適出門,父走送曰:『癡婢!不聽吾言,後受薛家凌虐,縱死亦勿歸也!』」崑生感其義,為之流涕。家人皆喜,奔告翁媼。媼聞之,不待往朝,奔入子舍,執手嗚泣。由此崑生亦老成,不作惡謔,於是情好益篤。十娘曰:「妾向以君儇薄,未必遂能相白首,故不敢留孽根於人世;今已靡他,妾將生子。」居無何,神翁神媼著朱袍,降臨其家。次日,十娘臨蓐,一舉兩男。由此往來無間。居民或犯神怒,輒先求崑生;乃使婦女輩盛妝入閨,朝拜十娘,十娘笑則解。薛氏苗裔甚繁,人名之「薛蛙子家」。近人不敢呼,遠人呼之。
  青蛙神,往往託諸巫以為言。巫能察神嗔喜:告諸信士曰「喜矣」,神則至;「怒矣」,婦子坐愁歎,有廢餐者。流俗然哉?抑神實靈,非盡妄也?有富賈周某,性吝嗇。會居人斂金修關聖祠,貧富皆與有力;獨周一毛所不肯拔。久之,工不就,首事者無所為謀。適眾賽蛙神,巫忽言:「周將軍倉命小神司募政,其取簿籍來。」眾從之。巫曰:「已捐者,不復強;未捐者,量力自註。」眾唯唯敬聽,各註已。巫視曰:「周某在此否?」周方混蹟其後,惟恐神知,聞之失色,次且而前。巫指籍曰:「註金百。」周益窘。巫怒曰:「淫債尚酬二百,況好事耶!」蓋周私一婦,為夫掩執,以金二百自贖,故訐之也。周益慚懼,不得已,如命註之。既歸,告妻。妻曰:「此巫之詐耳。」巫屢索,卒不與。一日,方晝寢,忽聞門外如牛喘。視之,則一巨蛙,室門僅容其身,步履蹇緩,塞兩扉而入。既入,轉身臥,以閾承頷,舉家盡驚。周曰:「必討募金也。」焚香而祝,願先納三十,其餘以次齎送,蛙不動;請納五十,身忽一縮,小尺許;又加二十,益縮如斗;請全納,縮如拳,從容出,入牆罅而去。周急以五十金送監造所,人皆異之,周亦不言其故。積數日,巫又言:「周某欠金五十,何不催併?」周聞之,懼,又送十金,意將以此完結。一日,夫婦方食,蛙又至,如前狀,目作怒。少間,登其床,床搖撼欲傾;加喙於枕而眠,腹隆起如臥牛,四隅皆滿。周懼,即完百數與之。驗之,仍不少動。半日間,小蛙漸集,次日益多,穴倉登榻,無處不至;大於椀者,升灶啜蠅,糜爛釜中,以致穢不可食;至三日,庭中蠢蠢,更無隙處。一家皇駭,不知計之所出。不得已,請教於巫。巫曰:「此必少之也。」遂祝之,益以廿金,首始舉;又益之,起一足;直至百金,四足盡起,下床出門,狼犺數步,復返身臥門內。周懼,問巫。巫揣其意,欲周即解囊。周無奈何,如數付巫,蛙乃行,數步外,身暴縮,雜眾蛙中,不可辨認,紛紛然亦漸散矣。祠既成,開光祭賽,更有所需。巫忽指首事者曰:「某宜出如干數。」共十五人,止遺二人。眾祝曰:「吾等與某某,已同捐過。」巫曰:「我不以貧富為有無,但以汝等所侵漁之數為多寡。此等金錢,不可自肥,恐有橫災飛禍。念汝等首事勤勞,故代汝消之也。除某某廉正無所苟且外,即我家巫,我亦不少私之,便令先出,以為眾倡。」即奔入家,搜括箱櫝。妻問之,亦不答,盡卷囊蓄而出。告眾曰:「某私剋銀八兩,今使傾橐。」與眾共衡之,秤得六兩餘,使人誌其欠數。眾愕然,不敢置辯,悉如數納入。巫過此茫不自知;或告之,大慙,質衣以盈之。惟二人虧其數,事既畢,一人病月餘,一人患疔瘇,醫藥之費,浮於所欠,人以為私剋之報云。
  異史氏曰:「老蛙司募,無不可與為善之人,其勝刺釘拖索者,不既多乎?又發監守之盜,而消其災,則其現威猛,正其行慈悲也。」

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