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His Father’s Ghost

A MAN named T‘ien Tzŭch‘êng, of Chiangning, was crossing the Tungt‘ing lake, when the boat was capsized, and he was drowned. His son, Liangssŭ, who, towards the close of the Ming dynasty, took the highest degree, was then a baby in arms; and his wife, hearing the bad news, swallowed poison forthwith, and left the child to the care of his grandmother. When Liangssŭ grew up, he was appointed magistrate in Hupei, where he remained about a year. He was then transferred to Hunan, on military service; but, on reaching the Tungt‘ing lake, his feelings overpowered him, and he returned to plead inability as an excuse for not taking up his post. Accordingly, he was degraded to the rank of Assistant Magistrate, which he at first declined, but was finally compelled to accept; and thenceforward gave himself up to roaming about on the lakes and streams of the surrounding country, without paying much attention to his official duties.

One night he had anchored his boat alongside the bank of a river, when suddenly the cadence of a sweetly played flageolet broke upon his ear; so he strolled along by the light of the moon in the direction of the music, until, after a few minutes’ walking, he reached a cottage standing by itself, with a few citron trees round it, and brilliantly lighted inside. Approaching a window, he peeped in, and saw three persons sitting at a table, engaged in drinking. In the place of honour was a graduate of about thirty years of age; an old man played the host, and at the side sat a much younger man playing on the flageolet. When he had finished, the old man clapped his hands in admiration; but the graduate turned away with a sigh, as if he had not heard a note. “Come now, Mr. Lu,” cried the old man, addressing the latter, “kindly favour us with one of your songs, which, I know, must be worth hearing.” The graduate then began to sing as follows:—

“Over the river the wind blows cold on lonely me:
Each flow’ret trampled under foot, all verdure gone.
At home a thousand li away, I cannot be;
So towards the Bridge my spirit nightly wanders on.”

The above was given in such melancholy tones that the old man smiled and said, “Mr. Lu, these must be experiences of your own,” and, immediately filling a goblet, added, “I can do nothing like that; but if you will let me, I will give you a song to help us on with our wine.” He then sung a verse from “Li T‘aipoh,” and put them all in a lively humour again; after which the young man said he would just go outside and see how high the moon was, which he did, and observing Liangssŭ outside, clapped his hands, and cried out to his companions, “There is a man at the window, who has seen all we have been doing.” He then led Liangssŭ in; whereupon the other two rose, and begged him to be seated, and to join them in their wine. The wine, however, was cold, and he therefore declined; but the young man at once perceived his reason, and proceeded to warm some for him. Liangssŭ now ordered his servant to go and buy some more, but this his host would not permit him to do. They next inquired Liangssŭ’s name, and whence he came, and then the old man said, “Why, then, you are the father and mother of the district in which I live. My name is River: I am an old resident here. This young man is a Mr. Tu, of Kiangsi; and this gentleman,” added he, pointing to the graduate, “is Mr. Rushten, a fellow provincial of yours.” Mr. Rushten looked at Liangssŭ in rather a contemptuous way, and without taking much notice of him; whereupon Liangssŭ asked him whereabouts he lived in Chiangning, observing that it was strange he himself should never have heard of such an accomplished gentleman. “Alas!” replied Rushten, “it is many a long day since I left my home, and I know nothing even of my own family. Alas, indeed!” These words were uttered in so mournful a tone of voice that the old man broke in with, “Come, come, now! talking like this, instead of drinking when we’re all so jolly together; this will never do.” He then drained a bumper himself, and said, “I propose a game of forfeits. We’ll throw with three dice; and whoever throws so that the spots on one die equal those on the other two shall give us a verse with a corresponding classical allusion in it.” He then threw himself, and turned up an ace, a two, and a three; whereupon he sang the following lines:—

“An ace and a deuce on one side, just equal a three on the other:
For Fan a chicken was boiled, though three years had passed, by Chang’s mother.
Thus friends love to meet!”
Then the young musician threw, and turned up two twos and a four; whereupon he exclaimed, “Don’t laugh at the feeble allusion of an unlearned fellow like me:—
‘Two deuces are equal to a four:
Four men united their valour in the old city.
Thus brothers love to meet!’”
Mr. Rushten followed with two aces and a two, and recited these lines:—
“Two aces are equal to a two:
Luhsiang stretched out his two arms and embraced his father.
Thus father and son love to meet!”
Liang then threw, and turned up the same as Mr. Rushten; whereupon he said:—
“Two aces are equal to a two:
Maojung regaled Lintsung with two baskets.
Thus host and guest love to meet!”

When the partie was over Liangssŭ rose to go, but Mr. Rushten said, “Dear me! why are you in such a hurry; we haven’t had a moment to speak of the old place. Please stay: I was just going to ask you a few questions.” So Liangssŭ sat down again, and Mr. Rushten proceeded. “I had an old friend,” said he, “who was drowned in the Tungt‘ing lake. He bore the same name as yourself; was he a relative?” “He was my father,” replied Liangssŭ; “how did you know him?” “We were friends as boys together; and when he was drowned, I recovered and buried his body by the riverside.” Liangssŭ here burst into tears, and thanked Mr. Rushten very warmly, begging him to point out his father’s grave. “Come again tomorrow,” said Mr. Rushten, “and I will shew it to you. You could easily find it yourself. It is close by here, and has ten stalks of water rush growing on it.” Liangssŭ now took his leave, and went back to his boat, but he could not sleep for thinking of what Mr. Rushten had told him; and at length, without waiting for the dawn, he set out to look for the grave. To his great astonishment, the house where he had spent the previous evening had disappeared; but hunting about in the direction indicated by Mr. Rushten, he found a grave with ten water rushes growing on it, precisely as Mr. Rushten had described. It then flashed across him that Mr. Rushten’s name had a special meaning, and that he had been holding converse with none other than the disembodied spirit of his own father. And, on inquiring of the people of the place, he learnt that twenty years before a benevolent old gentleman, named Kao, had been in the habit of collecting the bodies of persons found drowned, and burying them in that spot. Liang then opened the grave, and carried off his father’s remains to his own home, where his grandmother, to whom he described Mr. Rushten’s appearance, confirmed the suspicion he himself had formed. It also turned out that the young musician was a cousin of his, who had been drowned when nineteen years of age; and then he recollected that the boy’s father had subsequently gone to Kiangsi, and that his mother had died there, and had been buried at the Bamboo Bridge, to which Mr. Rushten had alluded in his song. But he did not know who the old man was.

田子成

江寧田子成,過洞庭,舟覆而沒。子良耜,明季進士,時在抱中。妻杜氏,聞訃,仰藥而死。良耜受庶祖母撫養成立,筮仕湖北。年餘,奉憲命營務湖南。至洞庭,痛哭而返。自告才力不及,降縣丞,隸漢陽,辭不就。院司強督促之乃就。輒放蕩江湖間,不以官職自守。一夕,艤舟江岸,聞洞簫聲,抑揚可聽。乘月步去,約半里許,見曠野中,茅屋數椽,熒熒燈火;近窗窺之,有三人對酌其中。上座一秀才,年三十許;下座一叟;側座吹簫者,年最少。吹竟,叟擊節贊佳。秀才面壁吟思,若罔聞。叟曰:「盧十兄必有佳作,請長吟,俾得共賞之。」秀才乃吟曰:「滿江風月冷淒淒,瘦草零花化作泥。千里雲山飛不到,夢魂夜夜竹橋西。」吟聲愴惻。叟笑曰:「盧十兄故態作矣!」因酌以巨觥,曰:「老夫不能屬和,請歌以侑酒。」乃歌「蘭陵美酒」之什。歌已,一座解頤。少年起曰:「我視月斜何度矣。」突出見客,拍手曰:「窗外有人,我等狂態盡露也!」遂挽客入,共一舉手。叟使與少年相對坐。試其杯皆冷酒,辭不飲。少年起以葦炬燎壺而進之。良耜亦命從者出錢行沽,叟固止之。因訊邦族,良耜具道生平。叟致敬曰:「吾鄉父母也。少君姓江,此間土著。」指少年曰:「此江西杜野侯。」又指秀才:「此盧十兄,與公同鄉。」盧自見良耜,殊偃蹇不甚為禮。良耜因問:「家居何里?如此清才,殊早不聞。」答曰:「流寓已久,親族恆不相識,可歎人也!」言之哀楚。叟搖手亂之曰:「好客相逢,不理觴政,聒絮如此,厭人聽聞!」遂把杯自飲,曰:「一令請共行之,不能者罰。每擲三色,以相逢為率,須一古典相合。」乃擲得么二三,唱曰:「三加么二點相同,雞黍三年約范公:朋友喜相逢。」次少年,擲得雙二單四,曰:「不讀書人,但見俚典,勿以為笑。四加雙二點相同,四人聚義古城中:兄弟喜相逢。」盧得雙么單二,曰:「二加雙么點相同,呂向兩手抱老翁:父子喜相逢。」良耜擲,復與盧同,曰:「二加雙么點相同,茅容二簋款林宗:主客喜相逢。」令畢,良耜興辭。盧始起曰:「故鄉之誼,未遑傾吐,何別之遽?將有所問,願少留也。」良耜復坐,問:「何言?」曰:「僕有老友某,沒於洞庭,與君同族否?」良耜曰:「是先君也,何以相識?」曰:「少時相善。沒日,惟僕見之,因收其骨,葬江邊耳。」良耜出涕下拜,求指墓所。盧曰:「明日來此,當指示之。要亦易辨,去此數武,但見墳上有叢蘆十莖者是也。」良耜灑涕,與眾拱別。至舟,終夜不寢,念盧情詞似皆有因。昧爽而往,則舍宇全無,益駭。因遵所指處尋墓,果得之。叢蘆其上,數之,適符其數。恍然悟盧十兄之稱,皆其寓言;所遇,乃其父之鬼也。細問土人,則二十年前,有高翁富而好善,溺水者皆拯其尸而埋之,故有數墳在焉。遂發冢負骨,棄官而返。歸告祖母,質其狀貌皆確。江西杜野侯,乃其表兄,年十九,溺於江;後其父流寓江西。又悟杜夫人歿後,葬竹橋之西,故詩中憶之也。但不知叟何人耳。

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