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The Clay Image.

ON the river I there lived a man named Ma, who married a wife from the Wang family, with whom he was very happy in his domestic life. Ma, however, died young; and his wife’s parents were unwilling that their daughter should remain a widow, but she resisted all their importunities, and declared firmly she would never marry again. “It is a noble resolve of yours, I allow,” argued her mother; “but you are still a mere girl, and you have no children. Besides, I notice that people who start with such rigid determinations always end by doing something discreditable, and therefore you had better get married as soon as you can, which is no more than is done every day.” The girl swore she would rather die than consent, and accordingly her mother had no alternative but to let her alone. She then ordered a clay image to be made, exactly resembling her late husband; and whenever she took her own meals, she would set meat and wine before it, precisely as if her husband had been there. One night she was on the point of retiring to rest, when suddenly she saw the clay image stretch itself and step down from the table, increasing all the while in height, until it was as tall as a man, and neither more nor less than her own husband. In great alarm she called out to her mother, but the image stopped her, saying, “Don’t do that! I am but shewing my gratitude for your affectionate care of me, and it is chill and uncomfortable in the realms below. Such devotion as yours casts its light back on generations gone by; and now I, who was cut off in my prime because my father did evil, and was condemned to be without an heir, have been permitted, in consequence of your virtuous conduct, to visit you once again, that our ancestral line may yet remain unbroken.” Every morning at cockcrow her husband resumed his usual form and size as the clay image; and after a time he told her that their hour of separation had come, upon which husband and wife bade each other an eternal farewell. By-and-by the widow, to the great astonishment of her mother, bore a son, which caused no small amusement among the neighbours who heard the story; and, as the girl herself had no proof of what she stated to be the case, a certain beadle of the place, who had an old grudge against her husband, went off and informed the magistrate of what had occurred. After some investigation, the magistrate exclaimed, “I have heard that the children of disembodied spirits have no shadow; and that those who have shadows are not genuine.” Thereupon they took Ma’s child into the sunshine, and lo! there was but a very faint shadow, like a thin vapour. The magistrate then drew blood from the child, and smeared it on the clay image; upon which the blood at once soaked in and left no stain. Another clay image being produced and the same experiment tried, the blood remained on the surface so that it could be wiped away. The girl’s story was thus acknowledged to be true; and when the child grew up, and in every feature was the counterpart of Ma, there was no longer any room for suspicion.

土偶

沂水馬姓者,娶妻王氏,琴瑟甚敦。馬早逝。王父母欲奪其志,王矢不他。姑憐其少,亦勸之,王不聽。母曰:「汝志良佳;然齒太幼,兒又無出。每見有勉強於初,而貽羞於後者,固不如早嫁,猶恆情也。」王正容,以死自誓,母乃任之。女命塑工肖夫像,每食,酹獻如生時。一夕,將寢,忽見土偶人欠伸而下。駭心愕顧,即已暴長如人,真其夫也。女懼,呼母。鬼止之曰:「勿爾。感卿情好,幽壤酸辛。一門有忠貞,數世祖宗,皆有光榮。吾父生有損德,應無嗣,遂至促我茂齡;冥司念爾苦節,故令我歸,與汝生一子承祧緒。」女亦沾衿。遂燕好如平生。雞鳴,即下榻去。如此月餘,覺腹微動。鬼乃泣曰:「限期已滿,從此永訣矣!」遂絕。女初不言;即而腹漸大,不能隱,陰以告母。母疑涉妄;然窺女無他,大惑不解。十月,果舉一男。向人言之,聞者罔不匿笑;女亦無以自伸。有里正故與馬有郤,告諸邑令。今拘訊鄰人,並無異言。今曰:「聞鬼子無影,有影者偽也。」抱兒日中,影淡淡如輕煙然。又刺兒指血傅土偶上,立入無痕;取他偶塗之,一拭便去。以此信之。長數歲,口鼻言動,無一不肖馬者。群疑始解。

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