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The Pious

A CERTAIN veterinary surgeon, named Hou, was carrying food to his field labourers, when suddenly a whirlwind arose in his path. Hou seized a spoon and poured out a libation of gruel, whereupon the wind immediately dropped. On another occasion, he was wandering about the municipal temple when he noticed an image of Liu Ch‘üan presenting the melon, in whose eye was a great splotch of dirt. “Dear me, Sir Liu!” cried Hou, “who has been ill-using you like this?” He then scraped away the dirt with his fingernail, and passed on. Some years afterwards, as he was lying down very ill, two lictors walked in and carried him off to a yamên, where they insisted on his bribing them heavily. Hou was at his wits’ end what to do; but just at that moment a personage dressed in green robes came forth, who was greatly astonished at seeing him there, and asked what it all meant. Our hero at once explained; whereupon the man in green turned upon the lictors and abused them for not shewing proper respect to Mr. Hou. Meanwhile a drum sounded like the roll of thunder, and the man in green told Hou that it was for the morning session, and that he would have to attend. Leading Hou within he put him in his proper place, and, promising to inquire into the charge against him, went forward and whispered a few words to one of the clerks. “Oh,” said the latter, advancing and making a bow to the veterinary surgeon, “yours is a trifling matter. We shall merely have to confront you with a horse, and then you can go home again.” Shortly afterwards, Hou’s case was called; upon which he went forward and knelt down, as did also a horse which was prosecuting him. The judge now informed Hou that he was accused by the horse of having caused its death by medicines, and asked him if he pleaded guilty or not guilty. “My lord,” replied Hou, “the prosecutor was attacked by the cattle plague, for which I treated him accordingly; and he actually recovered from the disease, though he died on the following day. Am I to be held responsible for that?” The horse now proceeded to tell his story; and after the usual cross-examination and cries for justice, the judge gave orders to look up the horse’s term of life in the Book of Fate. Therein it appeared that the animal’s destiny had doomed it to death on the very day on which it had died; whereupon the judge cried out, “Your term of years had already expired; why bring this false charge? Away with you!” and turning to Hou, the judge added, “You are a worthy man, and may be permitted to live.” The lictors were accordingly instructed to escort him back, and with them went out both the clerk and the man in green clothes, who bade the lictors take every possible care of Hou by the way. “You gentlemen are very kind,” said Hou, “but I haven’t the honour of your acquaintance, and should be glad to know to whom I am so much indebted.” “Three years ago,” replied the man in green, “I was travelling in your neighbourhood, and was suffering very much from thirst, which you relieved for me by a few spoonfuls of gruel. I have not forgotten that act.” “And my name,” observed the other, “is Liu Ch‘üan. You once took a splotch of dirt out of my eye that was troubling me very much. I am only sorry that the wine and food we have down here is unsuitable to offer you. Farewell.” Hou now understood all that had happened, and went off home with the two lictors where he would have regaled them with some refreshment, but they refused to take even a cup of tea. He then waked up and found that he had been dead for two days. From this time forth he led a more virtuous life than ever, always pouring out libations to Liu Ch‘üan at all the festivals of the year. Thus he reached the age of eighty, a hale and hearty man, still able to sit in the saddle; until one day he met Liu Ch‘üan riding on horseback, as if about to make a long journey. After a little friendly conversation, the latter said to him, “Your time is up, and the warrant for your arrest is already issued; but I have ordered the constables to delay awhile, and you can now spend three days in preparing for death, at the expiration of which I will come and fetch you. I have purchased a small appointment for you in the realms below, by which you will be more comfortable.” So Hou went home and told his wife and children; and after collecting his friends and relatives, and making all necessary preparations, on the evening of the fourth day he cried out, “Liu Ch‘üan has come!” and, getting into his coffin, lay down and died.
  鄒平牛醫侯某,荷飯餉耕者。至野,有風旋其前,侯即以杓掬漿祝奠之。盡數杓,風始去。一日適城隍廟,閒步廊下,見內塑劉全獻瓜 像,被鳥雀遺糞,糊蔽目睛。侯曰:「劉大哥何遂受此玷污!」因以爪甲為除去之。後數年,病臥,被二皂攝去。至官衙前,逼索財賄甚苦。侯方無所為計,忽自內一綠衣人出,見之訝曰:「侯翁何來?」侯便告訴。綠衣人責二皂曰:「此汝侯大爺,何得無禮!」二皂喏喏,遜謝不知。俄聞鼓聲如雷。綠衣人曰:「早衙矣。」遂與俱入,令立墀下,曰:「姑立此,我為汝問之。」遂上堂點手,招一吏人下,略道數語。吏人見侯拱手曰:「侯大哥來耶?汝亦無甚大事,有一馬相訟,一質便可復返。」遂別而去。少間,堂上呼侯名,侯上跪,一馬亦跪。官問侯:「馬言被汝藥死,有諸?」侯曰:「彼得瘟症,某以瘟方治之。既藥不瘳,隔日而死,與某何涉?」馬作人言,兩相苦。官命稽籍,籍註馬壽若干,應死於某年月日,數確符。因訶曰:「此汝天數已盡,何得妄控!」叱之而去。因謂侯曰:「汝存心方便,可以不死。」仍命二皂送回。前二人亦與俱出,又囑途中善相視。侯曰:「今日雖蒙覆庇,生平實未識荊。乞示姓字,以圖啣報。」綠衣人曰:「三年前,僕從泰山來,焦渴欲死。經君村外,蒙以杓漿見飲,至今不忘。」吏人曰:「某即劉全。曩被雀糞之污,悶不可耐,君手為滌除,是以耿耿。奈冥間酒饌,不可以奉賓客,請即別矣。」侯始悟,乃歸。既至家,款留二皂。皂並不敢飲其杯水。侯甦,蓋死已踰兩日矣。從此益修善。每逢節序,必以漿酒酧劉全。年八旬,尚強健,能超乘馳走。一日,途間見劉全騎馬來,若將遠行。拱手道溫涼畢,劉曰:「君數已盡,勾牒出矣。勾役欲相招,我禁使弗須。君可歸治後事,三日後,我來同君行。地下代買小缺,亦無苦也。」遂去。侯歸告妻子,招別戚友,棺衾俱備。第四日日暮,對眾曰:「劉大哥來矣。」入棺遂歿。


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