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In The Infernal Regions.

HSI FANGP‘ING was a native of Tungan. His father’s name was Hsi Lien—a hasty tempered man, who had quarrelled with a neighbour named Yang. By-and-by Yang died: and some years afterwards when Lien was on his deathbed, he cried out that Yang was bribing the devils in hell to torture him. His body then swelled up and turned red, and in a few moments he had breathed his last. His son wept bitterly, and refused all food, saying, “Alas! my poor father is now being maltreated by cruel devils; I must go down and help to redress his wrongs.” Thereupon he ceased speaking, and sat for a long time like one dazed, his soul having already quitted its tenement of clay. To himself he appeared to be outside the house, not knowing in what direction to go, so he inquired from one of the passers-by which was the way to the district city. Before long he found himself there, and, directing his steps towards the prison, found his father lying outside in a very shocking state. When the latter beheld his son, he burst into tears, and declared that the gaolers had been bribed to beat him, which they did both day and night, until they had reduced him to his present sorry plight. Then Fangp‘ing turned round in a great rage, and began to curse the gaolers. “Out upon you!” cried he; “if my father is guilty he should be punished according to law, and not at the will of a set of scoundrels like you.” Thereupon he hurried away, and prepared a petition, which he took with him to present at the morning session of the City God; but his enemy, Yang, had meanwhile set to work, and bribed so effectually, that the City God dismissed his petition for want of corroborative evidence. Fangp‘ing was furious, but could do nothing; so he started at once for the prefectural city, where he managed to get his plaint received, though it was nearly a month before it came on for hearing, and then all he got was a reference back to the district city, where he was severely tortured, and escorted back to the door of his own home, for fear he should give further trouble. However, he did not go in, but stole away and proceeded to lay his complaint before one of the ten Judges of Purgatory; whereupon the two mandarins who had previously ill-used him, came forward and secretly offered him a thousand ounces of silver if he would withdraw the charge. This he positively refused to do; and some days subsequently the landlord of the inn, where he was staying, told him he had been a fool for his pains, and that he would now get neither money nor justice, the Judge himself having already been tampered with. Fangp‘ing thought this was mere gossip, and would not believe it; but, when his case was called, the Judge utterly refused to hear the charge, and ordered him twenty blows with the bamboo, which were administered in spite of all his protestations. He then cried out, “Ah! it’s all because I have no money to give you;” which so incensed the Judge, that he told the lictors to throw Fangp‘ing on the fire bed. This was a great iron couch, with a roaring fire underneath, which made it red-hot; and upon that the devils cast Fangp‘ing, having first stripped off his clothes, pressing him down on it, until the fire ate into his very bones, though in spite of that he could not die. After a while the devils said he had had enough, and made him get off the iron bed, and put his clothes on again. He was just able to walk, and when he went back into court, the Judge asked him if he wanted to make any further complaints. “Alas!” cried he, “my wrongs are still unredressed, and I should only be lying were I to say I would complain no more.” The Judge then inquired what he had to complain of; to which Fangp‘ing replied that it was of the injustice of his recent punishment. This enraged the Judge so much that he ordered his attendants to saw Fangp‘ing in two. He was then led away by devils, to a place where he was thrust in between a couple of wooden boards, the ground on all sides being wet and sticky with blood. Just at that moment he was summoned to return before the Judge, who asked him if he was still of the same mind; and, on his replying in the affirmative, he was taken back again, and bound between the two boards. The saw was then applied, and as it went through his brain he experienced the most cruel agonies, which, however, he managed to endure without uttering a cry. “He’s a tough customer,” said one of the devils, as the saw made its way gradually through his chest; to which the other replied, “Truly, this is filial piety; and, as the poor fellow has done nothing, let us turn the saw a little out of the direct line, so as to avoid injuring his heart.” Fangp‘ing then felt the saw make a curve inside him, which caused him even more pain than before; and, in a few moments, he was cut through right down to the ground, and the two halves of his body fell apart, along with the boards to which they were tied, one on either side. The devils went back to report progress, and were then ordered to join Fangp‘ing together again, and bring him in. This they accordingly did,—the cut all down Fangp‘ing’s body hurting him dreadfully, and feeling as if it would reopen every minute. But, as Fangp‘ing was unable to walk, one of the devils took out a cord and tied it round his waist, as a reward, he said, for his filial piety. The pain immediately ceased, and Fangp‘ing appeared once more before the Judge, this time promising that he would make no more complaints. The Judge now gave orders that he should be sent up to earth, and the devils, escorting him out of the north gate of the city, shewed him his way home, and went away. Fangp‘ing now saw that there was even less chance of securing justice in the Infernal Regions than upon the earth above; and, having no means of getting at the Great King to plead his case, he bethought himself of a certain upright and benevolent God, called Erh Lang, who was a relative of the Great King’s, and him he determined to seek. So he turned about and took his way southwards, but was immediately seized by some devils, sent out by the Judge to watch that he really went back to his home. These devils hurried him again into the Judge’s presence, where he was received, contrary to his expectation, with great affability; the Judge himself praising his filial piety, but declaring that he need trouble no further in the matter, as his father had already been born again in a wealthy and illustrious family. “And upon you,” added the Judge, “I now bestow a present of one thousand ounces of silver to take home with you, as well as the old age of a centenarian, with which I hope you will be satisfied.” He then shewed Fangp‘ing the stamped record of this, and sent him away in charge of the devils. The latter now began to abuse him for giving them so much trouble, but Fangp‘ing turned sharply upon them, and threatened to take them back before the Judge. They were then silent, and marched along for about half a day, until at length they reached a village, where the devils invited Fangp‘ing into a house, the door of which was standing half open. Fangp‘ing was just going in, when suddenly the devils gave him a shove from behind, and ... there he was, born again on earth as a little girl. For three days he pined and cried, without taking any food, and then he died. But his spirit did not forget Erh Lang, and set out at once in search of that God. He had not gone far when he fell in with the retinue of some high personage, and one of the attendants seized him for getting in the way, and hurried him before his master. He was taken to a chariot, where he saw a handsome young man, sitting in great state; and thinking that now was his chance, he told the young man, who he imagined to be a high mandarin, all his sad story from beginning to end. His bonds were then loosed, and he went along with the young man until they reached a place where several officials came out to receive them; and to one of these he confided Fangp‘ing, who now learnt that the young man was no other than God himself, the officials being the nine princes of heaven, and the one to whose care he was entrusted no other than Erh Lang. This last was very tall, and had a long white beard, not at all like the popular representation of a God; and when the other princes had gone, he took Fangp‘ing into a courtroom, where he saw his father and their old enemy, Yang, besides all the lictors and others who had been mixed up in the case. By-and-by, some criminals were brought in in cages, and these turned out to be the Judge, Prefect, and Magistrate. The trial was then commenced, the three wicked officers trembling and shaking in their shoes; and when he had heard the evidence, Erh Lang proceeded to pass sentence upon the prisoners, each of whom he sentenced, after enlarging upon the enormity of their several crimes, to be roasted, boiled, and otherwise put to most excruciating tortures. As for Fangp‘ing, he accorded him three extra decades of life, as a reward for his filial piety, and a copy of the sentence was put in his pocket. Father and son journeyed along together, and at length reached their home; that is to say, Fangp‘ing was the first to recover consciousness, and then bade the servants open his father’s coffin, which they immediately did, and the old man at once came back to life. But when Fangp‘ing looked for his copy of the sentence, lo! it had disappeared. As for the Yang family, poverty soon overtook them, and all their lands passed into Fangp‘ing’s hands; for as sure as any one else bought them, they became sterile forthwith, and would produce nothing; but Fangp‘ing and his father lived on happily, both reaching the age of ninety and odd years.

席方平

席方平,東安人。其父名廉,性戇拙。因與里中富室羊姓有郤,羊先死;數年,廉病垂危,謂人曰:「羊某今賄囑冥使搒我矣。」俄而身赤腫,號呼遂死,席慘怛不食,曰:「我父樸訥,今見陵於強鬼;我將赴地下,代伸冤氣耳。」自此不復言,時坐時立,狀類癡,蓋魂已離舍矣。
  席覺初出門,莫知所往,但見路有行人,便問城邑。少選,入城。其父已收獄中。至獄門,遙見父臥簷下,似甚狼狽;舉目見子,潸然涕流。便謂:「獄吏悉受賕囑,日夜搒掠,脛股摧殘甚矣!」席怒,大罵獄吏:「父如有罪,自有王章,豈汝等死魅所能操耶!」遂出,抽筆為詞。值城隍早衙,喊冤以投。羊懼,內外賄通,始出質理。城隍以所告無據,頗不直席。席忿氣無所復伸,冥行百餘里,至郡,以官役私狀,告之郡司。遲之半月,始得質理。郡司扑席,仍批城隍覆案。席至邑,備受械梏,慘冤不能自舒。城隍恐其再訟,遣役押送歸家。役至門辭去。席不肯入,遁赴冥府,訴郡邑之酷貪。冥王立拘質對。二官密遣腹心,與席關說,許以千金。席不聽。過數日,逆旅主人告曰:「君負氣已甚,官府求和而執不從,今聞於王前各有函進,恐事殆矣。」席以道路之口,猶未深信。俄有皂衣人喚入。升堂,見冥王有怒色,不容置詞,命笞二十。席厲聲問:「小人何罪?」冥王漠若不聞。席受笞,喊曰:「受笞允當,誰教我無錢耶!」冥王益怒,命置火床。兩鬼捽席下,見東墀有鐵床,熾火其下,床面通赤。鬼脫席衣,掬置其上,反復揉捺之。痛極,骨肉焦黑,苦不得死。約一時許,鬼曰:「可矣。」遂扶起,促使下床著衣,猶幸跛而能行。復至堂上,冥王問:「敢再訟乎?」席曰:「大冤未伸,寸心不死,若言不訟,是欺王也。必訟!」又問:「訟何詞?」席曰:「身所受者,皆言之耳。」冥王又怒,命以鋸解其體。二鬼拉去,見立木,高八九尺許,有木板二,仰置其上,上下凝血模糊。方將就縛,忽堂上大呼「席某」,二鬼即復押回。冥王又問:「尚敢訟否?」答云:「必訟!」冥王命捉去速解。既下,鬼乃以二板夾席,縛木上。鋸方下,覺頂腦漸闢,痛不可禁,顧亦忍而不號。聞鬼曰:「壯哉此漢!」鋸隆隆然尋至胸下。又聞一鬼云:「此人大孝無辜,鋸令稍偏,勿損其心。」遂覺鋸鋒曲折而下,其痛倍苦。俄頃,半身闢矣。板解,兩身俱仆。鬼上堂大聲以報。堂上傳呼,令合身來見。二鬼即推令復合,曳使行。席覺鋸縫一道,痛欲復裂,半步而踣。一鬼於腰間出絲帶一條授之,曰:「贈此以報汝孝。」受而束之,一身頓健,殊無少苦。遂升堂而伏。冥王復問如前;席恐再罹酷毒,便答:「不訟矣。」冥王立命送還陽界。隸率出北門,指示歸途,反身遂去。
  席念陰曹之暗昧尤甚於陽間,奈無路可達帝聽。世傳灌口二郎為帝勳戚,其神聰明正直,訴之當有靈異。竊喜兩隸已去,遂轉身南向。奔馳間,有二人追至,曰:「王疑汝不歸,今果然矣。」捽回復見冥王。竊意冥王益怒,禍必更慘;而王殊無厲容,謂席曰:「汝志誠孝。但汝父冤,我已為若雪之矣。今已往生富貴家,何用汝鳴呼為。今送汝歸,予以千金之產、期頤之壽,於願足乎?」乃註籍中,嵌以巨印,使親視之。席謝而下。鬼與俱出,至途,驅而罵曰:「奸猾賊!頻頻翻覆,使人奔波欲死!再犯,當捉入大磨中,細細研之!」席張目叱曰:「鬼子胡為者!我性耐刀鋸,不耐撻楚。請反見王,王如令我自歸,亦復何勞相送。」乃返奔。二鬼懼,溫語勸回。席故蹇緩,行數步,輒憩路側。鬼含怒不敢復言。約半日,至一村,一門半闢,鬼引與共坐;席便據門閾。二鬼乘其不備,推入門中。
  驚定自視,身已生為嬰兒。憤啼不乳,三日遂殤。魂搖搖不忘灌口,約奔數十里,忽見羽葆來,旛戟橫路。越道避之,因犯鹵簿,為前馬所執,縶送車前。仰見車中一少年,丰儀瑰瑋。問席:「何人?」席冤憤正無所出,且意是必巨官,或當能作威福,因緬訴毒痛。車中人命釋其縛,使隨車行。俄至一處,官府十餘員,迎謁道左,車中人各有問訊。已而指席謂一官曰:「此下方人,正欲往愬,宜即為之剖決。」席詢之從者,始知車中即上帝殿下九王,所囑即二郎也。席視二郎,修軀多髯,不類世間所傳。九王既去,席從二郎至一官廨,則其父與羊姓並衙隸俱在。少頃,檻車中有囚人出,則冥王及郡司、城隍也。當堂對勘,席所言皆不妄。三官戰慄,狀若伏鼠。二郎援筆立判;頃之,傳下判語,令案中人共視之。判云:「勘得冥王者:職膺王爵,身受帝恩。自應貞潔以率臣僚,不當貪墨以速官謗。而乃繁纓棨戟,徒誇品秩之尊;羊狠狼貪,竟玷人臣之節。斧敲斲,斲入木,婦子之皮骨皆空;鯨吞魚,魚食蝦,螻蟻之微生可憫。當掬西江之水,為爾湔腸;即燒東壁之床,請君入甕。城隍、郡司,為小民父母之官,司上帝牛羊之牧。雖則職居下列,而盡瘁者不辭折腰;即或勢逼大僚,而有志者亦應強項。乃上下其鷹鷙之手,既罔念夫民貧;且飛揚其狙獪之奸,更不嫌乎鬼瘦。惟受贓而枉法,真人面而獸心!是宜剔髓伐毛,暫罰冥死;所當脫皮換革,仍令胎生。隸役者:既在鬼曹,便非人類。祇宜公門修行,庶還落蓐之身;何得苦海生波,益造彌天之孽?飛揚跋扈,狗臉生六月之霜;隳突叫號,虎威斷九衢之路。肆淫威於冥界,咸知獄吏為尊;助酷虐於昏官,共以屠伯是懼。當於法場之內,剁其四肢;更向湯鑊之中,撈其筋骨。羊某:富而不仁,狡而多詐。金光蓋地,因使閻摩殿上,盡是陰霾;銅臭熏天,遂教枉死城中,全無日月。餘腥猶能役鬼,大力直可通神。宜籍羊氏之家,以賞席生之孝。即押赴東岳施行。」
  又謂席廉:「念汝子孝義,汝性良懦,可再賜陽壽三紀。」因使兩人送之歸里。席乃抄其判詞,途中父子共讀之。既至家,席先蘇;令家人啟棺視父,僵尸猶冰,俟之終日,漸溫而活。及索抄詞,則已無矣。自此,家日益豐;三年間,良沃遍野;而羊氏子孫微矣,樓閣田產,盡為席有。里人或有買其田者,夜夢神人叱之曰:「此席家物,汝烏得有之!」初未深信;既而種作,則終年升斗無所獲,於是復鬻歸席。席父九十餘歲而卒。
  異史氏曰:「人人言凈土,而不知生死隔世,意念都迷,且不知其所以來,又烏知其所以去;而況死而又死,生而復生者乎?忠孝志定,萬劫不移,異哉席生,何其偉也!」

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