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The Hidden Treasure.

LI YÜEHSHÊNG was the second son of a rich old man who used to bury his money, and who was known to his fellow townsmen as “Old Crocks.” One day the father fell sick, and summoned his sons to divide the property between them. He gave four fifths to the elder and only one fifth to the younger, saying to the latter, “It is not that I love your brother more than I love you: I have other money stored away, and when you are alone I will hand that over to you.” A few days afterwards the old man grew worse, and Yüehshêng, afraid that his father might die at any moment, seized an opportunity of seeing him alone to ask about the money that he himself was to receive. “Ah,” replied the dying man, “the sum of our joys and of our sorrows is determined by fate. You are now happy in the possession of a virtuous wife, and have no right to an increase of wealth.” For, as a matter of fact, this second son was married to a lady from the Ch‘ê family whose virtue equalled that of any of the heroines of history: hence his father’s remark. Yüehshêng, however, was not satisfied, and implored to be allowed to have the money; and at length the old man got angry and said, “You are only just turned twenty; you have known none of the trials of life, and were I to give a thousand ounces of gold, it would soon be all spent. Go! and, until you have drunk the cup of bitterness to its dregs, expect no money from me.” Now Yüehshêng was a filial son, and when his father spoke thus he did not venture to say any more, and hoped for his speedy recovery that he might have a chance of coaxing him to comply with his request. But the old man got worse and worse, and at length died; whereupon the elder brother took no trouble about the funeral ceremonies, leaving it all to the younger, who, being an openhanded fellow, made no difficulties about the expense. The latter was also fond of seeing a great deal of company at his house, and his wife often had to get three or four meals a day ready for guests; and, as her husband did very little towards looking after his affairs, and was further sponged upon by all the needy ones of the neighbourhood, they were soon reduced to a state of poverty. The elder brother helped them to keep body and soul together, but he died shortly afterwards, and this resource was cut off from them. Then, by dint of borrowing in the spring and repaying in the autumn, they still managed to exist, until at last it came to parting with their land, and they were left actually destitute. At that juncture their eldest son died, followed soon after by his mother; and Yüehshêng was left almost by himself in the world. He now married the widow of a sheep dealer, who had a little capital; and she was very strict with him, and wouldn’t let him waste time and money with his friends. One night his father appeared to him and said, “My son, you have drained your cup of bitterness to the dregs. You shall now have the money. I will bring it to you.” When Yüehshêng woke up, he thought it was merely a poor man’s dream; but the next day, while laying the foundations of a wall, he did come upon a quantity of gold. And then he knew what his father had meant by “when you are alone;” for of those about him at that time, more than half were gone.

李八缸

太學李月生,升宇翁之次子也。翁最富,以缸貯金,里人稱之「八缸」。翁寢疾,呼子分金:兄八之,弟二之。月生觖望。翁曰:「我非偏有愛憎,藏有窖鏹,必待無多人時,方以畀汝,勿急也。」過數日,翁益彌留。月生慮一旦不虞,覷無人,即床頭祕訊之。翁曰:「人生苦樂,皆有定數。汝方享妻賢之福,故不宜再助多金,以增汝過。」蓋月生妻車氏,最賢,有桓、孟之德,故云。月生固哀之。怒曰:「汝尚有二十餘年坎壈未歷,即予千金,亦立盡耳。苟不至山窮水盡時,勿望給與也!」月生孝友敦篤,亦即不敢復言。無何,翁大漸,尋卒。幸兄賢,齋葬之謀,勿與校計。月生又天真爛漫,不較錙銖,且好客善飲,炊黍治具,日促妻三四作,不甚理家人生產。里中無賴窺其懦,輒魚肉之。踰數年,家漸落。窘急時,賴兄小周給,不至大困。無何,兄以老病卒,益失所助,至絕糧食。春貸秋償,田所出,登場輒盡。乃割畝為活,業益消減。又數年,妻及長子相繼殂謝,無聊益甚。尋買販羊者之妻徐,翼得其小阜;而徐性剛烈,日凌藉之,至不敢與親朋通弔慶禮。忽一夜夢父曰:「今汝所遭,可謂山窮水盡矣。嘗許汝窖金,今其可矣。」問:「何在?」曰:「明日畀汝。」醒而異之,猶謂是貧中之積想也。次日,發土葺墉,掘得巨金,始悟向言「無多人」,乃死亡將半也。
  異史氏曰:「月生,余杵臼交,為人樸誠無偽。余兄弟與交,哀樂輒相共。數年來,村隔十餘里,老死竟不相聞。余偶過其居里,因亦不敢過問之。則月生之苦況,蓋有不可明言者矣。忽聞暴得千金,不覺為之鼓舞。嗚呼!翁臨終之治命,昔習聞之,而不意其言皆讖也。抑何其神哉!」

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