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The Princess Of The Tung-t‘ing Lake.

CH‘ÊN PICHIAO was a Pekingese; and being a poor man he attached himself as secretary to the suite of a high military official named Chia. On one occasion, while anchored on the Tungt‘ing lake, they saw a dolphin floating on the surface of the water; and General Chia took his bow and shot at it, wounding the creature in the back. A fish was hanging on to its tail, and would not let go; so both were pulled out of the water together, and attached to the mast. There they lay gasping, the dolphin opening its mouth as if pleading for life, until at length young Ch‘ên begged the General to let them go again; and then he himself half-jokingly put a piece of plaster upon the dolphin’s wound, and had the two thrown back into the water, where they were seen for some time afterwards diving and rising again to the surface. About a year afterwards, Ch‘ên was once more crossing the Tungt‘ing lake on his way home, when the boat was upset in a squall, and he himself only saved by clinging to a bamboo crate, which finally, after floating about all night, caught in the overhanging branch of a tree, and thus enabled him to scramble on shore. By-and-by, another body floated in, and this turned out to be his servant; but on dragging him out, he found life was already extinct. In great distress, he sat himself down to rest, and saw beautiful green hills and waving willows, but not a single human being of whom he could ask the way. From early dawn till the morning was far advanced he remained in that state; and then, thinking he saw his servant’s body move, he stretched out his hand to feel it, and before long the man threw up several quarts of water and recovered his consciousness. They now dried their clothes in the sun, and by noon these were fit to put on; at which period the pangs of hunger began to assail them, and accordingly they started over the hills in the hope of coming upon some habitation of man. As they were walking along, an arrow whizzed past, and the next moment two young ladies dashed by on handsome palfreys. Each had a scarlet band round her head, with a bunch of pheasant’s feathers stuck in her hair, and wore a purple riding jacket with small sleeves, confined by a green embroidered girdle round the waist. One of them carried a crossbow for shooting bullets, and the other had on her arm a dark coloured bow-and-arrow case. Reaching the brow of the hill, Ch‘ên beheld a number of riders engaged in beating the surrounding cover, all of whom were beautiful girls and dressed exactly alike. Afraid to advance any further, he inquired of a youth who appeared to be in attendance, and the latter told him that it was a hunting party from the palace; and then, having supplied him with food from his wallet, he bade him retire quickly, adding that if he fell in with them he would assuredly be put to death. Thereupon Ch‘ên hurried away; and descending the hill, turned into a copse where there was a building which he thought would in all probability be a monastery. On getting nearer, he saw that the place was surrounded by a wall, and between him and a half open red door was a brook spanned by a stone bridge leading up to it. Pulling back the door, he beheld within a number of ornamental buildings circling in the air like so many clouds, and for all the world resembling the Imperial pleasure grounds; and thinking it must be the park of some official personage, he walked quietly in, enjoying the delicious fragrance of the flowers as he pushed aside the thick vegetation which obstructed his way. After traversing a winding path fenced in by balustrades, Ch‘ên reached a second enclosure, wherein were a quantity of tall willow trees which swept the red eaves of the buildings with their branches. The note of some bird would set the petals of the flowers fluttering in the air, and the least wind would bring the seed vessels down from the elm trees above; and the effect upon the eye and heart of the beholder was something quite unknown in the world of mortals. Passing through a small kiosque, Ch‘ên and his servant came upon a swing which seemed as though suspended from the clouds, while the ropes hung idly down in the utter stillness that prevailed. Thinking by this that they were approaching the ladies’ apartments, Ch‘ên would have turned back, but at that moment he heard sounds of horses’ feet at the door, and what seemed to be the laughter of a bevy of girls. So he and his servant hid themselves in a bush; and by-and-by, as the sounds came nearer, he heard one of the young ladies say, “We’ve had but poor sport today;” whereupon another cried out, “If the princess hadn’t shot that wild goose, we should have taken all this trouble for nothing.” Shortly after this, a number of girls dressed in red came in escorting a young lady, who went and sat down under the kiosque. She wore a hunting costume with tight sleeves, and was about fourteen or fifteen years old. Her hair looked like a cloud of mist at the back of her head, and her waist seemed as though a breath of wind might snap it—incomparable for beauty, even among the celebrities of old. Just then the attendants handed her some exquisitely fragrant tea, and stood glittering round her like a bank of beautiful embroidery. In a few moments the young lady arose and descended the kiosque; at which one of her attendants cried out, “Is your Highness too fatigued by riding to take a turn in the swing?” The princess replied that she was not; and immediately some supported her under the shoulders, while others seized her arms, and others again arranged her petticoats, and brought her the proper shoes. Thus they helped her into the swing, she herself stretching out her shining arms, and putting her feet into a suitable pair of slippers; and then—away she went, light as a flying swallow, far up into the fleecy clouds. As soon as she had had enough, the attendants helped her out, and one of them exclaimed, “Truly, your Highness is a perfect angel!” At this the young lady laughed, and walked away, Ch‘ên gazing after her in a state of semi-consciousness, until, at length, the voices died away, and he and his servant crept forth. Walking up and down near the swing, he suddenly espied a red handkerchief near the paling, which he knew had been dropped by one of the young ladies; and, thrusting it joyfully into his sleeve, he walked up and entered the kiosque. There, upon a table, lay writing materials, and taking out the handkerchief he indited upon it the following lines:—

“What form divine was just now sporting nigh?—
’Twas she, I trow of ‘golden lily’ fame;
Her charms the moon’s fair denizens might shame,
Her fairy footsteps bear her to the sky.”

Humming this stanza to himself, Ch‘ên walked along seeking for the path by which he had entered; but every door was securely barred, and he knew not what to do. So he went back to the kiosque, when suddenly one of the young ladies appeared, and asked him in astonishment what he did there. “I have lost my way,” replied Ch‘ên; “I pray you lend me your assistance.” “Do you happen to have found a red handkerchief?” said the girl. “I have, indeed,” answered Ch‘ên, “but I fear I have made it somewhat dirty;” and, suiting the action to the word, he drew it forth, and handed it to her. “Wretched man!” cried the young lady, “you are undone. This is a handkerchief the princess is constantly using, and you have gone and scribbled all over it; what will become of you now?” Ch‘ên was in a great fright, and begged the young lady to intercede for him; to which she replied, “It was bad enough that you should come here and spy about; however, being a scholar, and a man of refinement, I would have done my best for you; but after this, how am I to help you?” Off she then ran with the handkerchief, while Ch‘ên remained behind in an agony of suspense, and longing for the wings of a bird to bear him away from his fate. By-and-by, the young lady returned and congratulated him, saying, “There is some hope for you. The Princess read your verses several times over, and was not at all angry. You will probably be released; but, meanwhile, wait here, and don’t climb the trees, or try to get through the walls, or you may not escape after all.” Evening was now drawing on, and Ch‘ên knew not, for certain, what was about to happen; at the same time he was very empty, and, what with hunger and anxiety, death would have been almost a happy release. Before long, the young lady returned with a lamp in her hand, and followed by a slave girl bearing wine and food, which she forthwith presented to Ch‘ên. The latter asked if there was any news about himself; to which the young lady replied that she had just mentioned his case to the Princess who, not knowing what to do with him at that hour of the night, had given orders that he should at once be provided with food, “which, at any rate,” added she, “is not bad news.” The whole night long Ch‘ên walked up and down unable to take rest; and it was not till late in the morning that the young lady appeared with more food for him. Imploring her once more to intercede on his behalf, she told him that the Princess had not instructed them either to kill or to release him, and that it would not be fitting for such as herself to be bothering the Princess with suggestions. So there Ch‘ên still remained until another day had almost gone, hoping for the welcome moment; and then the young lady rushed hurriedly in, saying, “You are lost! Some one has told the Queen, and she, in a fit of anger, threw the handkerchief on the ground, and made use of very violent language. Oh dear! oh dear! I’m sure something dreadful will happen.” Ch‘ên threw himself on his knees, his face as pale as ashes, and begged to know what he should do; but at that moment sounds were heard outside, and the young lady waved her hand to him, and ran away. Immediately a crowd came pouring in through the door, with ropes ready to secure the object of their search; and among them was a slave girl, who looked fixedly at our hero, and cried out, “Why, surely you are Mr. Ch‘ên, aren’t you?” at the same time stopping the others from binding him until she should have reported to the Queen. In a few minutes she came back, and said the Queen requested him to walk in; and in he went, through a number of doors, trembling all the time with fear, until he reached a hall, the screen before which was ornamented with green jade and silver. A beautiful girl drew aside the bamboo curtain at the door, and announced, “Mr. Ch‘ên;” and he himself advanced, and fell down before a lady, who was sitting upon a dais at the other end, knocking his head upon the ground, and crying out, “Thy servant is from a far-off country; spare, oh! spare his life.” “Sir!” replied the Queen, rising hastily from her seat, and extending a hand to Ch‘ên, “but for you, I should not be here today. Pray excuse the rudeness of my maids.” Thereupon a splendid repast was served, and wine was poured out in chased goblets, to the no small astonishment of Ch‘ên, who could not understand why he was treated thus. “Your kindness,” observed the Queen, “in restoring me to life, I am quite unable to repay; however, as you have made my daughter the subject of your verse, the match is clearly ordained by fate, and I shall send her along to be your handmaid.” Ch‘ên hardly knew what to make of this extraordinary accomplishment of his wishes, but the marriage was solemnized there and then; bands of music struck up wedding airs, beautiful mats were laid down for them to walk upon, and the whole place was brilliantly lighted with a profusion of coloured lamps. Then Ch‘ên said to the Princess, “That a stray and unknown traveller like myself, guilty of spoiling your Highness’s handkerchief, should have escaped the fate he deserved, was already more than could be expected; but now to receive you in marriage—this, indeed, far surpasses my wildest expectations.” “My mother,” replied the Princess, “is married to the King of this lake, and is herself a daughter of the River Prince. Last year, when on her way to visit her parents, she happened to cross the lake, and was wounded by an arrow; but you saved her life, and gave her plaster for the wound. Our family, therefore, is grateful to you, and can never forget your good act. And do not regard me as of another species than yourself; the Dragon King has bestowed upon me the elixir of immortality, and this I will gladly share with you.” Then Ch‘ên knew that his wife was a spirit, and by-and-by he asked her how the slave girl had recognised him; to which she replied, that the girl was the small fish which had been found hanging to the dolphin’s tail. He then inquired why, as they didn’t intend to kill him, he had been kept so long a prisoner. “I was charmed with your literary talent,” answered the Princess, “but I did not venture to take the responsibility upon myself; and no one saw how I tossed and turned the livelong night.” “Dear friend,” said Ch‘ên; “but, come, tell me who was it that brought my food.” “A trusty waiting maid of mine,” replied the Princess; “her name is Anien.” Ch‘ên then asked how he could ever repay her, and the Princess told him there would be plenty of time to think of that; and when he inquired where the king, her father, was, she said he had gone off with the God of War to fight against Ch‘ih-yu, and had not returned. A few days passed, and Ch‘ên began to think his people at home would be anxious about him; so he sent off his servant with a letter to tell them he was safe and sound, at which they were all overjoyed, believing him to have been lost in the wreck of the boat, of which event news had already reached them. However, they were unable to send him any reply, and were considerably distressed as to how he would find his way home again. Six months afterwards Ch‘ên himself appeared, dressed in fine clothes, and riding on a splendid horse, with plenty of money, and valuable jewels in his pocket—evidently a man of wealth. From that time forth he kept up a magnificent establishment; and in seven or eight years had become the father of five children. Every day he kept open house, and if any one asked him about his adventures, he would readily tell them without reservation. Now a friend of his, named Liang, whom he had known since they were boys together, and who, after holding an appointment for some years in Nanfu, was crossing the Tungt‘ing Lake, on his way home, suddenly beheld an ornamental barge, with carved woodwork and red windows, passing over the foamy waves to the sound of music and singing from within. Just then a beautiful young lady leant out of one of the windows, which she had pushed open, and by her side Liang saw a young man sitting, in a negligée attitude, while two nice-looking girls stood by and shampooed him. Liang, at first, thought it must be the party of some high official, and wondered at the scarcity of attendants; but, on looking more closely at the young man, he saw it was no other than his old friend Ch‘ên. Thereupon he began almost involuntarily to shout out to him; and when Ch‘ên heard his own name, he stopped the rowers, and walked out towards the figurehead, beckoning Liang to cross over into his boat, where the remains of their feast was quickly cleared away, and fresh supplies of wine, and tea, and all kinds of costly foods spread out by handsome slave girls. “It’s ten years since we met,” said Liang, “and what a rich man you have become in the meantime.” “Well,” replied Ch‘ên, “do you think that so very extraordinary for a poor fellow like me?” Liang then asked him who was the lady with whom he was taking wine, and Ch‘ên said she was his wife, which very much astonished Liang, who further inquired whither they were going. “Westwards,” answered Ch‘ên, and prevented any further questions by giving a signal for the music, which effectually put a stop to all further conversation. By-and-by, Liang found the wine getting into his head, and seized the opportunity to ask Ch‘ên to make him a present of one of his beautiful slave girls. “You are drunk, my friend,” replied Ch‘ên; “however, I will give you the price of one as a pledge of our old friendship.” And, turning to a servant, he bade him present Liang with a splendid pearl, saying, “Now you can buy a Green Pearl; you see I am not stingy;” adding forthwith, “but I am pressed for time, and can stay no longer with my old friend.” So he escorted Liang back to his boat, and, having let go the rope, proceeded on his way. Now, when Liang reached home, and called at Ch‘ên’s house, whom should he see but Ch‘ên himself drinking with a party of friends. “Why, I saw you only yesterday,” cried Liang, “upon the Tungt‘ing. How quickly you have got back!” Ch‘ên denied this, and then Liang repeated the whole story, at the conclusion of which, Ch‘ên laughed, and said, “You must be mistaken. Do you imagine I can be in two places at once?” The company were all much astonished, and knew not what to make of it; and subsequently when Ch‘ên, who died at the age of eighty, was being carried to his grave, the bearers thought the coffin seemed remarkably light, and on opening it to see, found that the body had disappeared.

西湖主

陳生弼教,字明允,燕人也。家貧,從副將軍賈綰作記室。泊舟洞庭。適豬婆龍浮水面,賈射之中背。有魚啣龍尾不去,並獲之。鎖置桅間,奄存氣息;而龍吻張翕,似求援拯。生惻然心動,請於賈而釋之。攜有金創藥,戲敷患處,縱之水中,浮沉踰刻而沒。後年餘,生北歸,復經洞庭,大風覆舟。幸扳一竹簏,漂泊終夜,絓木而止。援岸方升,有浮尸繼至,則其僮僕。力引出之,已就斃矣。慘怛無聊,坐對憩息。但見小山聳翠,細柳搖青,行人絕少,無可問途。自遲明以及辰後,悵悵靡之。忽僮僕肢體微動,喜而捫之。無何,嘔水數斗,醒然頓蘇。相與曝衣石上,近午始燥可著。而枵腸轆轆,飢不可堪。於是越山疾行,冀有村落。纔至半山,聞鳴鏑聲。方疑聽所,有二女郎乘駿馬來,騁如撒菽。各以紅綃抹額,髻插雉尾;著小袖紫衣,腰束綠錦;一挾彈,一臂青鞲。度過嶺頭,則數十騎獵於榛莽,並皆姝麗,裝束若一。生不敢前。有男子步馳,似是馭卒,因就問之。答曰:「此西湖主獵首山也。」生述所來,且告之餒。馭卒解裹糧授之。囑云:「宜即遠避,犯駕當死!」生懼,疾趨下山。茂林中隱有殿閣,謂是蘭若。近臨之,粉垣圍沓,溪水橫流;朱門半啟,石橋通焉。攀扉一望,則臺榭環雲,擬於上苑,又疑是貴家園亭。逡巡而入,橫藤礙路,香花撲人。過數折曲欄,又是別一院宇,垂楊數十株,高拂朱簷。山鳥一鳴,則花片齊飛;深苑微風,則榆錢自落。怡目快心,殆非人世。穿過小亭,有鞦韆一架,上與雲齊;而罥索沉沉,杳無人蹟。因疑地近閨閣,恇怯未敢深入。俄聞馬騰於門,似有女子笑語。生與僮潛伏叢花中。未幾,笑聲漸近。聞一女子曰:「今日獵興不佳,獲禽絕少。」又一女曰:「非是公主射得雁落,幾空勞僕馬也。」無何,紅裝數輩,擁一女郎至亭上坐。禿袖戎裝,年可十四五。鬟多斂霧,腰細驚風,玉蕊瓊英未足方喻。諸女子獻茗熏香,燦如堆錦。移時,女起,歷階而下。一女曰:「公主鞍馬勞頓,尚能鞦韆否?」公主笑諾。遂有駕肩者,捉臂者,褰裙者,持履者,挽扶而上。公主舒皓腕,躡利屣,輕如飛燕,蹴入雲霄。已而扶下。群曰:「公主真仙人也!」嘻笑而去。生睨良久,神志飛揚。迨人聲既寂,出詣鞦韆下,徘徊凝想。見籬下有紅巾,知為群美所遺,喜內袖中。登其亭,見案上設有文具,遂題巾曰:「雅戲何人擬半仙?分明瓊女散金蓮。廣寒隊裏應相妒,莫信凌波上九天。」題已,吟誦而出。復尋故徑,則重門扃錮矣。踟躕罔計,返而樓閣亭臺,涉歷幾盡。一女掩入,驚問:「何得來此?」生揖之曰:「失路之人,幸能垂救。」女問:「拾得紅巾否?」生曰:「有之。然已玷染,如何?」因出之。女大驚曰:「汝死無所矣!此公主所常御,塗鴉若此,何能為地?」生失色,哀求脫免。女曰:「竊窺宮儀,罪已不赦。念汝儒冠蘊藉,欲以私意相全;今孽乃自作,將何為計!」遂皇皇持巾去。生心悸肌慄,恨無翅翎,惟延頸俟死。
  迂久,女復來,潛賀曰:「子有生望矣!公主看巾三四遍,囅然無怒容,或當放君去。宜姑耐守,勿得攀樹鑽垣,發覺不宥矣。」日已投暮,凶祥不能自必;而餓燄中燒,憂煎欲死。無何,女子挑燈至。一婢提壺榼,出酒食餉生。生急問消息。女云:「適我乘間言:『園中秀才,可恕則放之;不然,餓且死。』公主沉思云:『深夜教渠何之?』遂命餽君食。此非惡耗也。」生徊徨終夜,危不自安。辰刻向盡,女子又餉之。生哀求緩頰。女曰:「公主不言殺,亦不言放。我輩下人,何敢屑屑瀆告?」既而斜日西轉,眺望方殷,女子坌息急奔而入,曰:「殆矣!多言者洩其事於王妃;妃展巾抵地,大罵狂傖,禍不遠矣!」生大驚,面如灰土,長跽請教。忽聞人語紛挐,女搖手避去。數人持索,洶洶入戶。內一婢熟視曰:「將謂何人,陳郎耶?」遂止持索者,曰:「且勿且勿,待白王妃來。」返身急去。少間來,曰:「王妃請陳郎入。」生戰惕從之。經數十門戶,至一宮殿,碧箔銀鉤。即有美姬揭簾,唱:「陳郎至。」上一麗者,袍服炫冶。生伏地稽首,曰:「萬里孤臣,幸恕生命。」妃急起,自曳之曰:「我非君子,無以有今日。婢輩無知,致迕佳客,罪何可贖!」即設華筵,酌以鏤杯。生茫然不解其故。妃曰:「再造之恩,恨無所報。息女蒙題巾之愛,當是天緣,今夕即遣奉侍。」生意出非望,神惝恍而無著。日方暮,一婢前曰:「公主已嚴妝訖。」遂引生就帳。忽而笙管敖曹;階上悉踐花罽;門堂藩溷,處處皆籠燭。數十妖姬,扶公主交拜。麝蘭之氣,充溢殿庭。既而相將入幃,兩相傾愛。生曰:「羈旅之臣,生平不省拜侍。點污芳巾,得免斧鑕,幸矣;反賜姻好,實非所望。」公主曰:「妾母,湖君妃子,乃揚江王女。舊歲歸寧,偶游湖上,為流矢所中。蒙君脫免,又賜刀圭之藥,一門戴佩,常不去心。郎勿以非類見疑。妾從龍君得長生訣,願與郎共之。」生乃悟為神人。因問:「婢子何以相識?」曰:「爾日洞庭舟上,曾有小魚啣尾,即此婢也。」又問:「既不見誅,何遲遲不賜縱脫?」笑曰:「實憐君才,但不自主。顛倒終夜,他人不及知也。」生歎曰:「卿,我鮑叔也。餽食者誰?」曰:「阿念,亦妾腹心。」生曰:「何以報德?」笑曰:「侍君有日,徐圖塞責未晚耳。」問:「大王何在?」曰:「從關聖征蚩尤未歸。」居數日,生慮家中無耗,懸念綦切,乃先以平安書遣僕歸。家中聞洞庭舟覆,妻子縗絰已年餘矣。僕歸,始知不死;而音問梗塞,終恐漂泊難返。又半載,生忽至,裘馬甚都,囊中寶玉充盈。由此富有巨萬,聲色豪奢,世家所不能及。七八年間,生子五人。日日宴集賓客,宮室飲饌之奉,窮極豐盛。或問所遇,言之無少諱。有童稚之交梁子俊者,宦游南服十餘年。歸過洞庭,見一畫舫,雕檻朱窗,笙歌幽細,緩蕩煙波。時有美人推窗凭跳。梁目注舫中,見一少年丈夫,科頭疊股其上;傍有二八姝麗,挼莎交摩。念必楚襄貴官,而騶從殊少。凝眸審諦,則陳明允也。不覺憑欄酣叫。生聞呼罷棹,出臨鷁首,邀梁過舟。見殘肴滿案,酒霧猶濃。生立命撤去。頃之,美婢三五,進酒烹茗,山海珍錯,目所未睹。梁驚曰:「十年不見,何富貴一至於此!」笑曰:「君小覷窮措大不能發跡耶?」問:「適共飲何人?」曰:「山荊耳。」梁又異之。問:「攜家何往?」答:「將西渡。」梁欲再詰,生遽命歌以侑酒。一言甫畢,旱雷聒耳,肉竹嘈雜,不復可聞言笑。梁見佳麗滿前,乘醉大言曰:「明允公,能令我真箇銷魂否?」生笑云:「足下醉矣!然有一美妾之貲,可贈故人。」遂命侍兒進明珠一顆,曰:「綠珠不難購,明我非吝惜。」乃趣別曰:「小事忙迫,不及與故人久聚。」送梁歸舟,開纜逕去。梁歸,探諸其家,則生方與客飲,益疑。因問:「昨在洞庭,何歸之速?」答曰:「無之。」梁乃追述所見,一座盡駭。生笑曰:「君誤矣,僕豈有分身術耶?」眾異之,而究莫解其故。後八十一歲而終。迨殯,訝其棺輕;開之,則空棺耳。
  異史氏曰:「竹簏不沉,紅巾題句,此其中具有鬼神;而要皆惻隱之一念所通也。迨宮室妻妾,一身而兩享其奉,即又不可解矣。昔有願嬌妻美妾,貴子賢孫,而兼長生不死者,僅得其半耳。豈仙人中亦有汾陽、季倫耶?」

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