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The Marriage Lottery.

A CERTAIN labourer’s son, named Ma T‘ien-jung, lost his wife when he was only about twenty years of age, and was too poor to take another. One day when out hoeing in the fields, he beheld a nice-looking young lady leave the path and come tripping across the furrows towards him. Her face was well painted, and she had altogether such a refined look that Ma concluded she must have lost her way, and began to make some playful remarks in consequence. “You go along home,” cried the young lady, “and I’ll be with you by-and-by.” Ma doubted this rather extraordinary promise, but she vowed and declared she would not break her word; and then Ma went off, telling her that his front door faced the north, etc., etc. In the evening the young lady arrived, and then Ma saw that her hands and face were covered with fine hair, which made him suspect at once she was a fox. She did not deny the accusation; and accordingly Ma said to her, “If you really are one of those wonderful creatures you will be able to get me anything I want; and I should be much obliged if you would begin by giving me some money to relieve my poverty.” The young lady said she would; and next evening when she came again, Ma asked her where the money was. “Dear me!” replied she, “I quite forgot it.” When she was going away, Ma reminded her of what he wanted, but on the following evening she made precisely the same excuse, promising to bring it another day. A few nights afterwards Ma asked her once more for the money, and then she drew from her sleeve two pieces of silver, each weighing about five or six ounces. They were both of fine quality, with turned-up edges, and Ma was very pleased and stored them away in a cupboard. Some months after this, he happened to require some money for use, and took out these pieces; but the person to whom he showed them said they were only pewter, and easily bit off a portion of one of them with his teeth. Ma was much alarmed, and put the pieces away directly; taking the opportunity when evening came of abusing the young lady roundly. “It’s all your bad luck,” retorted she; “real gold would be too much for your inferior destiny.” There was an end of that; but Ma went on to say, “I always heard that fox-girls were of surpassing beauty; how is it you are not?” “Oh,” replied the young lady, “we always adapt ourselves to our company. Now you haven’t the luck of an ounce of silver to call your own; and what would you do, for instance, with a beautiful princess? My beauty may not be good enough for the aristocracy; but among your big-footed, burden-carrying rustics, why it may safely be called ‘surpassing.’”

A few months passed away, and then one day the young lady came and gave Ma three ounces of silver, saying, “You have often asked me for money, but in consequence of your weak luck I have always refrained from giving you any. Now, however, your marriage is at hand, and I here give you the cost of a wife, which you may also regard as a parting gift from me.” Ma replied that he wasn’t engaged, to which the young lady answered that in a few days a go-between would visit him to arrange the affair. “And what will she be like?” asked Ma. “Why, as your aspirations are for ‘surpassing’ beauty,” replied the young lady, “of course she will be possessed of surpassing beauty.” “I hardly expect that,” said Ma; “at any rate three ounces of silver will not be enough to get a wife.” “Marriages,” explained the young lady, “are made in the moon; mortals have nothing to do with them.” “And why must you be going away like this?” inquired Ma. “Because,” answered she, “we go on shilly-shallying from day to day, and month to month, and nothing ever comes of it. I had better get you another wife and have done with you.” Then when morning came, she departed, giving Ma a pinch of yellow powder, saying, “In case you are ill after we are separated, this will cure you.” Next day, sure enough, a go-between did come, and Ma at once asked what the proposed bride was like; to which the former replied that she was very passable-looking. Four or five ounces of silver was fixed as the marriage present, Ma making no difficulty on that score, but declaring he must have a peep at the young lady. The go-between said she was a respectable girl, and would never allow herself to be seen; however it was arranged that they should go to the house together, and await a good opportunity. So off they went, Ma remaining outside while the go-between went in, returning in a little while to tell him it was all right. “A relative of mine lives in the same court, and just now I saw the young lady sitting in the hall. We have only got to pretend we are going to see my relative, and you will be able to get a glimpse of her.” Ma consented, and they accordingly passed through the hall, where he saw the young lady sitting down with her head bent forward while someone was scratching her back. She seemed to be all that the go-between had said; but when they came to discuss the money, it appeared the young lady only wanted one or two ounces of silver, just to buy herself a few clothes, etc., at which Ma was delighted, and gave the go-between a present for her trouble, which just finished up the three ounces his fox-friend had provided. An auspicious day was chosen, and the young lady came over to his house; when lo! she was hump-backed and pigeon-breasted, with a short neck like a tortoise, and boat-shaped feet, full ten inches long. The meaning of his fox-friend’s remarks then flashed upon him.

毛狐

農子馬天榮,年二十餘。喪偶,貧不能娶。偶芸田間,見少婦盛妝,踐禾越陌而過,貌赤色,致亦風流。馬疑其迷途,顧四野無人,戲挑之。婦亦微納。欲與野合。笑曰:「青天白日,寧宜為此?子歸,掩門相候,昏夜我當至。」馬不信,婦矢子。馬乃以門戶嚮背具告之,婦乃去。夜分,果至,遂相悅愛。覺其膚肌嫩甚;火之,膚赤薄如嬰兒,細毛遍體,異之。又疑其蹤跡無據,自念得非狐耶?遂戲相詰。婦亦自認不諱。馬曰:「既為仙人,自當無求不得。既蒙繾綣,寧不以數金濟我貧?」婦諾之。次夜來,馬索金。婦故愕曰:「適忘之。」將去,馬又囑。至夜,問:「所乞或勿忘耶?」婦笑,請以異日。逾數日,馬復索。婦笑向袖中出白金二鋌,約五六金,翹邊細紋,雅可愛玩。馬喜,深藏于櫝。積半歲,偶需金,因持示人。人曰:「是錫也。」以齒龁之,應口而落。馬大駭,收藏而歸。至夜,婦至,憤致誚讓。婦笑曰:「子命薄,真金不能任也。」一笑而罷。

馬曰:「聞狐仙皆國色,殊亦不然。」婦曰:「吾等皆隨人現化。子且無一金之福,落雁沉魚,何能消受?以我蠢陋,固不足以奉上流;然較之大足駝背者,即為國色。」過數月,忽以三金贈馬,曰:「子屢相索,我以子命不應有藏金。今媒聘有期,請以一婦之資相饋,亦借以贈別。」馬自白無聘婦之說。婦曰:「一二日自當有媒來。」馬問:「所言姿貌如何?」曰:「子思國色,自當是國色。」馬曰:「此即不敢望。但三金何能買婦?」婦曰:「此月老註定,非人力也。」馬問:「何遽言別?」曰:「戴月披星,終非了局。『使君自有婦』,搪塞何為?」天明 而去,授黃末一刀圭,曰:「別後恐病,服此可療。」

次日,果有媒來。先詰女貌,答:「在妍媸之間。」「聘金幾何?」「約四五數。」馬不難其價,而必欲一親見其人。媒恐良家子不肯炫露。既而約與俱去,相機因便。既至其村,媒先往,使馬待諸村外。久之,來曰:「諧矣。余表親與同院居,適往,見女坐室中。請即偽為謁表親者而過之,咫尺可相窺也。」馬從之。果見女子坐堂中,伏體于床,倩人爬背。馬趨過,掠之以目,貌誠如媒言。及議聘,並不爭直,但求得一二金,裝女出閣。馬益廉之,乃納金;並酬媒氏及書券者,計三兩已盡,亦未多費一文。擇吉迎女歸,入門,則胸背皆駝,項縮如龜,下視裙底 ,蓮舡盈尺。乃悟狐言之有因也。

異史氏曰:「隨人現化,或狐女之自為解嘲;然其言福澤,良可深信。余每謂:非祖宗數世之修行,不可以博高官;非本身數世之修行,不可以得佳人。信因果者,必不以我言為河漢也。」

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