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The Faithless Widow.

MR. NIU was a Kiangsi man who traded in piece goods. He married a wife from the Chêng family, by whom he had two children, a boy and a girl. When thirty-three years of age he fell ill and died, his son Chung being then only twelve and his little girl eight or nine. His wife did not remain faithful to his memory, but, selling off all the property, pocketed the proceeds and married another man, leaving her two children almost in a state of destitution with their aunt, Niu’s sister-in-law, an old lady of sixty, who had lived with them previously, and had now nowhere to seek a shelter. A few years later this aunt died, and the family fortunes began to sink even lower than before; Chung, however, was now grown up, and determined to carry on his father’s trade, only he had no capital to start with. His sister marrying a rich trader named Mao, she begged her husband to lend Chung ten ounces of silver, which he did, and Chung immediately started for Nanking. On the road he fell in with some bandits, who robbed him of all he had, and consequently he was unable to return; but one day when he was at a pawnshop he noticed that the master of the shop was wonderfully like his late father, and on going out and making inquiries he found that this pawnbroker bore precisely the same names. In great astonishment, he forthwith proceeded to frequent the place with no other object than to watch this man, who, on the other hand, took no notice of Chung; and by the end of three days, having satisfied himself that he really saw his own father, and yet not daring to disclose his own identity, he made application through one of the assistants, on the score of being himself a Kiangsi man, to be employed in the shop. Accordingly, an indenture was drawn up; and when the master noticed Chung’s name and place of residence he started, and asked him whence he came. With tears in his eyes Chung addressed him by his father’s name, and then the pawnbroker became lost in a deep reverie, byandby asking Chung how his mother was. Now Chung did not like to allude to his father’s death, and turned the question by saying, “My father went away on business six years ago, and never came back; my mother married again and left us, and had it not been for my aunt our corpses would long ago have been cast out in the kennel.” Then the pawnbroker was much moved, and cried out, “I am your father!” seizing his son’s hand and leading him within to see his stepmother. This lady was about twentytwo, and, having no children of her own, was delighted with Chung, and prepared a banquet for him in the inner apartments. Mr. Niu himself was, however, somewhat melancholy, and wished to return to his old home; but his wife, fearing that there would be no one to manage the business, persuaded him to remain; so he taught his son the trade, and in three months was able to leave it all to him. He then prepared for his journey, whereupon Chung informed his stepmother that his father was really dead, to which she replied in great consternation that she knew him only as a trader to the place, and that six years previously he had married her, which proved conclusively that he couldn’t be dead. He then recounted the whole story, which was a perfect mystery to both of them; and twentyfour hours afterwards in walked his father, leading a woman whose hair was all dishevelled. Chung looked at her and saw that she was his own mother; and Niu took her by the ear and began to revile her, saying, “Why did you desert my children?” to which the wretched woman made no reply. He then bit her across the neck, at which she screamed to Chung for assistance, and he, not being able to bear the sight, stepped in between them. His father was more than ever enraged at this, when, lo! Chung’s mother had disappeared. While they were still lost in astonishment at this strange scene, Mr. Niu’s colour changed; in another moment his empty clothes had dropped upon the ground, and he himself became a black vapour and also vanished from their sight. The stepmother and son were much overcome; they took Niu’s clothes and buried them, and after that Chung continued his father’s business and soon amassed great wealth. On returning to his native place he found that his mother had actually died on the very day of the above occurrence, and that his father had been seen by the whole family.

牛成章

牛成章,江西之布商也。娶鄭氏,生子女各一。牛三十三歲病死。子名忠,時方十二;女八九歲而已。母不能貞,貨產入囊,改醮而去。遺兩孤,難以存濟。有牛從嫂,年已六袠,貧寡無歸,送與居處。數年,嫗死,家益替。而忠漸長,思繼父業而苦無貲。妹適毛姓,毛富賈也。女哀婿假數十金付兄。兄從人適金陵,途中遇寇,資斧盡喪,飄蕩不能歸。偶趨典肆,見主肆者絕類其父;出而潛察之,姓字皆符。駭異不諭其故。惟日流連其傍,以窺意旨,而其人亦略不顧問。如此三日,覘其言笑舉止,真父無訛。即又不敢拜識;乃自陳於群小,求以同鄉之故,進身為傭。立券已,主人視其里居、姓氏,似有所動,問所從來。忠泣訴父名,主人悵然若失。久之,問:「而母無恙乎?」忠又不敢謂父死,婉應曰:「我父六年前,經商不返,母醮而去。幸有伯母撫育,不然,葬溝瀆久矣。」主人慘然曰:「我即是汝父也。」於是握手悲哀。又導入參其後母。後母姬,年三十餘,無出,得忠喜,設宴寢門。牛終欷歔不樂,即欲一歸故里。妻慮肆中乏人,故止之。牛乃率子紀理肆務;居之三月,乃以諸籍委子,取裝西歸。既別,忠實以父死告母。姬乃大驚,言:「彼負販於此,曩所與交好者,留作當商;娶我已六年矣。何言死耶?」忠又細述之。相與疑念,不喻其由。踰一晝夜,而牛已返。攜一婦人,頭如蓬葆。忠視之,則其所生母也。牛摘耳頓罵:「何棄吾兒!」婦懾伏不敢少動。牛以口齕其項。婦呼忠曰:「兒救吾!兒救吾!」忠大不忍,橫身蔽鬲其間。牛猶忿怒,婦已不見。眾大驚,相譁以鬼。旋視牛,顏色慘變,委衣於地,化為黑氣,亦尋滅矣。母子駭歎,舉衣冠而瘞之。忠席父業,富有萬金。後歸家問之,則嫁母於是日死,一家皆見牛成章云。

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