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The Donkey’s Revenge.

CHUNG CH‘INGYÜ was a scholar of some reputation, who lived in Manchuria. When he went up for his master’s degree, he heard that there was a Taoist priest at the capital who would tell people’s fortunes, and was very anxious to see him; and at the conclusion of the second part of the examination, he accidentally met him at Pao-t‘u-ch‘üan. The priest was over sixty years of age, and had the usual white beard, flowing down over his breast. Around him stood a perfect wall of people inquiring their future fortunes, and to each the old man made a brief reply: but when he saw Chung among the crowd, he was overjoyed, and, seizing him by the hand, said, “Sir, your virtuous intentions command my esteem.” He then led him up behind a screen, and asked if he did not wish to know what was to come; and when Chung replied in the affirmative, the priest informed him that his prospects were bad. “You may succeed in passing this examination,” continued he, “but on returning covered with honour to your home, I fear that your mother will be no longer there.” Now Chung was a very filial son; and as soon as he heard these words, his tears began to flow, and he declared that he would go back without competing any further. The priest observed that if he let this chance slip, he could never hope for success; to which Chung replied that, on the other hand, if his mother were to die he could never hope to have her back again, and that even the rank of Viceroy would not repay him for her loss. “Well,” said the priest, “you and I were connected in a former existence, and I must do my best to help you now.” So he took out a pill which he gave to Chung, and told him that if he sent it post-haste by some one to his mother, it would prolong her life for seven days, and thus he would be able to see her once again after the examination was over. Chung took the pill, and went off in very low spirits; but he soon reflected that the span of human life is a matter of destiny, and that every day he could spend at home would be one more day devoted to the service of his mother. Accordingly, he got ready to start at once, and, hiring a donkey, actually set out on his way back. When he had gone about half-a-mile, the donkey turned round and ran home; and when he used his whip, the animal threw itself down on the ground. Chung got into a great perspiration, and his servant recommended him to remain where he was; but this he would not hear of, and hired another donkey, which served him exactly the same trick as the other one. The sun was now sinking behind the hills, and his servant advised his master to stay and finish his examination while he himself went back home before him. Chung had no alternative but to assent, and the next day he hurried through with his papers, starting immediately afterwards, and not stopping at all on the way either to eat or to sleep. All night long he went on, and arrived to find his mother in a very critical state; however, when he gave her the pill she so far recovered that he was able to go in and see her. Grasping his hand, she begged him not to weep, telling him that she had just dreamt she had been down to the Infernal Regions, where the King of Hell had informed her with a gracious smile that her record was fairly clean, and that in view of the filial piety of her son she was to have twelve years more of life. Chung was rejoiced at this, and his mother was soon restored to her former health.
Before long the news arrived that Chung had passed his examination; upon which he bade adieu to his mother, and went off to the capital, where he bribed the eunuchs of the palace to communicate with his friend the Taoist priest. The latter was very much pleased, and came out to see him, whereupon Chung prostrated himself at his feet. “Ah,” said the priest, “this success of yours, and the prolongation of your good mother’s life, is all a reward for your virtuous conduct. What have I done in the matter?” Chung was very much astonished that the priest should already know what had happened; however, he now inquired as to his own future. “You will never rise to high rank,” replied the priest, “but you will attain the years of an octogenarian. In a former state of existence you and I were once travelling together, when you threw a stone at a dog, and accidentally killed a frog. Now that frog has reappeared in life as a donkey, and according to all principles of destiny you ought to suffer for what you did; but your filial piety has touched the Gods, a protecting star-influence has passed into your nativity sheet, and you will come to no harm. On the other hand, there is your wife; in her former state she was not as virtuous as she might have been, and her punishment in this life was to be widowed quite young; you, however, have secured the prolongation of your own term of years, and therefore I fear that before long your wife will pay the penalty of death.” Chung was much grieved at hearing this; but after a while he asked the priest where his second wife to be was living. “At Chungchou,” replied the latter; “she is now fourteen years old.” The priest then bade him adieu, telling him that if any mischance should befall him he was to hurry off towards the southeast. About a year after this, Chung’s wife did die; and his mother then desiring him to go and visit his uncle, who was a magistrate in Kiangsi, on which journey he would have to pass through Chungchou, it seemed like a fulfilment of the old priest’s prophecy. As he went along, he came to a village on the banks of a river, where a large crowd of people was gathered together round a theatrical performance which was going on there. Chung would have passed quietly by, had not a stray donkey followed so close behind him that he turned round and hit it over the ears. This startled the donkey so much that it ran off full gallop, and knocked a rich gentleman’s child, who was sitting with its nurse on the bank, right into the water, before any one of the servants could lend a hand to save it. Immediately there was a great outcry against Chung, who gave his mule the rein and dashed away, mindful of the priest’s warning, towards the southeast. After riding about seven miles, he reached a mountain village, where he saw an old man standing at the door of a house, and, jumping off his mule, made him a low bow. The old man asked him in, and inquired his name and whence he came; to which Chung replied by telling him the whole adventure. “Never fear,” said the old man; “you can stay here, while I send out to learn the position of affairs.” By the evening his messenger had returned, and then they knew for the first time that the child belonged to a wealthy family. The old man looked grave and said, “Had it been anybody else’s child, I might have helped you; as it is I can do nothing.” Chung was greatly alarmed at this; however, the old man told him to remain quietly there for the night, and see what turn matters might take. Chung was overwhelmed with anxiety, and did not sleep a wink; and next morning he heard that the constables were after him, and that it was death to any one who should conceal him. The old man changed countenance at this, and went inside, leaving Chung to his own reflections; but towards the middle of the night he came and knocked at Chung’s door, and, sitting down, began to ask how old his wife was. Chung replied that he was a widower; at which the old man seemed rather pleased, and declared that in such case help would be forthcoming; “for,” said he, “my sister’s husband has taken the vows and become a priest, and my sister herself has died, leaving an orphan girl who has now no home; and if you would only marry her....” Chung was delighted, more especially as this would be both the fulfilment of the Taoist priest’s prophecy, and a means of extricating himself from his present difficulty; at the same time, he declared he should be sorry to implicate his future father-in-law. “Never fear about that,” replied the old man; “my sister’s husband is pretty skilful in the black art. He has not mixed much with the world of late; but when you are married, you can discuss the matter with my niece.” So Chung married the young lady, who was sixteen years of age, and very beautiful; but whenever he looked at her he took occasion to sigh. At last she said, “I may be ugly; but you needn’t be in such a hurry to let me know it;” whereupon Chung begged her pardon, and said he felt himself only too lucky to have met with such a divine creature; adding that he sighed because he feared some misfortune was coming on them which would separate them for ever. He then told her his story, and the young lady was very angry that she should have been drawn into such a difficulty without a word of warning. Chung fell on his knees, and said he had already consulted with her uncle, who was unable himself to do anything, much as he wished it. He continued that he was aware of her power; and then, pointing out that his alliance was not altogether beneath her, made all kinds of promises if she would only help him out of this trouble. The young lady was no longer able to refuse, but informed him that to apply to her father would entail certain disagreeable consequences, as he had retired from the world, and did not any more recognise her as his daughter. That night they did not attempt to sleep, spending the interval in padding their knees with thick felt concealed beneath their clothes; and then they got into chairs and were carried off to the hills. After journeying some distance, they were compelled by the nature of the road to alight and walk; and it was only by a great effort that Chung succeeded at last in getting his wife to the top. At the door of the temple they sat down to rest, the powder and paint on the young lady’s face having all mixed with the perspiration trickling down; but when Chung began to apologize for bringing her to this pass, she replied that it was a mere trifle compared with what was to come. By-and-by, they went inside; and threading their way to the wall beyond, found the young lady’s father sitting in contemplation, his eyes closed, and a servant boy standing by with a chowry. Everything was beautifully clean and nice, but before the dais were sharp stones scattered about as thick as the stars in the sky. The young lady did not venture to select a favourable spot; she fell on her knees at once, and Chung did likewise behind her. Then her father opened his eyes, shutting them again almost instantaneously; whereupon the young lady said, “For a long time I have not paid my respects to you. I am now married, and I have brought my husband to see you.” A long time passed away, and then her father opened his eyes and said, “You’re giving a great deal of trouble,” immediately relapsing into silence again. There the husband and wife remained until the stones seemed to pierce into their very bones; but after a while the father cried out, “Have you brought the donkey?” His daughter replied that they had not; whereupon they were told to go and fetch it at once, which they did, not knowing what the meaning of this order was. After a few more days’ kneeling, they suddenly heard that the murderer of the child had been caught and beheaded, and were just congratulating each other on the success of their scheme, when a servant came in with a stick in his hand, the top of which had been chopped off. “This stick,” said the servant, “died instead of you. Bury it reverently, that the wrong done to the tree may be somewhat atoned for.” Then Chung saw that at the place where the top of the stick had been chopped off there were traces of blood; he therefore buried it with the usual ceremony, and immediately set off with his wife, and returned to his own home.

鐘生

鐘慶餘,遼東名士。應濟南鄉試。聞藩邸有道士,知人休咎,心向往之。二場後,至趵突泉,適相值。年六十餘,鬚長過胸,一皤然道人也。集問災祥者如堵,道士悉以微詞授之。於眾中見生,忻然握手,曰:「君心術德行,可敬也!」挽登閣上,屏人語,因問:「莫欲知將來否?」曰:「然。」曰:「子福命至薄,然今科鄉舉可望。但榮歸後,恐不復見尊堂矣。」生至孝,聞之泣下,遂欲不試而歸。道士曰:「若過此已往,一榜亦不可得矣。」生云:「母死不見,且不可復為人,貴為卿相,何加焉?」道士曰:「某夙世與君有緣,今日必合盡力。」乃以一丸授之曰:「可遣人夙夜將去,服之可延七日。場畢而行,母子猶及見也。」生藏之,匆匆而出,神志喪失。因計終天有期,早歸一日,則多得一日之奉養,攜僕貰驢,即刻東邁。驅里許,驢忽返奔,下之不馴,控之則蹶。生無計,躁汗如雨。僕勸止之,生不聽。又貰他驢,亦如之。日已啣山,莫知為計。僕又勸曰:「明日即完場矣,何爭此一朝夕乎?請即先主而行,計亦良得。」不得已,從之。次日,草草竣事,立時遂發,不遑啜息,星馳而歸。則母病綿惙,下丹藥,漸就痊可。入視之,就榻泫泣。母搖首止之,執手喜曰:「適夢之陰司,見王者顏色和霽。謂稽爾生平,無大罪惡;今念汝子純孝,賜壽一紀。」生亦喜。歷數日,果平健如故。未幾,聞捷,辭母如濟。因賂內監,致意道士。道士欣然出,生便伏謁。道士曰:「君既高捷,太夫人又增壽數,此皆盛德所致。道人何力焉!」生又訝其先知,因而拜問終身。道士云:「君無大貴,但得耄耋足矣。君前身與我為僧侶,以石投犬,誤斃一蛙,今已投生為驢。論前定數,君當橫折;今孝德感神,已有解星入命,固當無恙。但夫人前世為婦不貞,數應少寡。今君以德延壽,非其所耦,恐歲後瑤臺傾也。」生惻然良久,問繼室所在。曰:「在中州,今十四歲矣。」臨別囑曰:「倘遇危急,宜奔東南。」後年餘,妻病果死。鐘舅令於西江,母遣往省,以便途過中州,將應繼室之讖。偶適一村。值臨河優戲,士女甚雜。方欲整轡趨過,有一失勒牡驢,隨之而行,致騾蹄趹。生回首,以鞭擊驢耳;驢驚,大奔。時有王世子方六七歲,乳媼抱坐隄上;驢沖過,扈從皆不及防,擠墮河中。眾大譁,欲執之。生縱騾絕馳。頓憶道士言,極力趨東南。約二十餘里,入一山村,有叟在門,下騎揖之。叟邀入,自言「方姓」,便詰所來。生叩伏在地,具以情告,叟言:「不妨。請即寄居此間,當使徼者去。」至晚得耗,始知為世子,叟大駭曰:「他家可以為力,此真愛莫能助矣!」生哀不已。叟籌思曰:「不可為也。請過一宵,聽其緩急,倘可再謀。」生愁怖,終夜不枕。次日偵聽,則已行牒譏察,收藏者棄市。叟有難色,無言而入。生疑懼,無以自安。中夜,叟來,入坐,便問:「夫人年幾何矣?」生以鰥對。叟喜曰:「吾謀濟矣。」問之,答云:「余姊夫慕道,挂錫南山;姊又謝世。遺有孤女,從僕鞠養,亦頗慧。以奉箕帚如何?」生喜符道士之言,而又冀親戚密邇,可以得其周謀,曰:「小生誠幸矣。但遠方罪人,深恐貽累丈人。」叟曰:「此為君謀也。姊夫道術頗神,但久不與人事矣。合巹後,自與甥女籌之,必合有計。」生喜極,贅焉。女十六歲,豔絕無雙。生每對之欷歔。女云:「妾即陋,何遂遽見嫌惡?」生謝曰:「娘子仙人,相耦為幸。但有禍患,恐致乖違。」因以實告。女怨曰:「舅乃非人!此彌天之禍,不可為謀,乃不明言,而陷我於坎窞!」生長跪曰:「是小生以死命哀舅,舅慈悲而窮於術,知卿能生死人而肉白骨也。某誠不足稱好逑,然家門幸不辱寞。倘得再生,香花供養有日耳。」女歎曰:「事已至此,夫復何辭?然父自削髮招提,兒女之愛已絕。無已,同往哀之,恐擔挫辱不淺也。」乃一夜不寐,以氈綿厚作蔽膝,各以隱著衣底;然後喚肩輿,入南山十餘里。山徑拗折絕險,不復可乘。下輿,女跬步甚艱,生挽臂拽扶之,竭蹶始得上達。不遠,即見山門,共坐少憩。女喘汗淫淫,粉黛交下。生見之,情不可忍,曰:「為某故,遂使卿罹此苦!」女愀然曰:「恐此尚未是苦!」困少蘇,相將入蘭若,禮佛而進。曲折入禪堂,見老僧趺坐,目若瞑,一僮執拂侍之。方丈中,掃除光潔;而坐前悉布沙礫,密如星宿。女不敢擇,入跪其上;生亦從諸其後。僧開目一瞻,即復合去。女參曰:「久不定省,今女已嫁,故偕婿來。」僧久之,啟視曰:「妮子大累人!」即不復言。夫妻跪良久,筋力俱殆,沙石將壓入骨,痛不可支。又移時,乃言曰:「將騾來未?」女答曰:「未。」曰:「夫妻即去,可速將來。」二人拜而起,狼狽而行。既歸,如命,不解其意,但伏聽之。過數日,相傳罪人已得,伏誅訖。夫妻相慶。無何,山中遣僮來,以斷杖付生云:「代死者,此君也。」便囑瘞葬致祭,以解竹木之冤。生視之,斷處有血痕焉。乃祝而葬之。夫妻不敢久居,星夜歸遼陽。

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