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The Two Brides

NOW Chishêng, or Wang Sun, was one of the cleverest young fellows in the district; and his father and mother, who had foreseen his ability from the time when, as a baby in long clothes, he distinguished them from other people, loved him very dearly. He grew up into a handsome lad; at eight or nine he could compose elegantly, and by fourteen he had already entered his name as a candidate for the first degree, after which his marriage became a question for consideration. Now his father’s younger sister, Erhniang, had married a gentleman named Chêng Tzŭch‘iao, and they had a daughter called Kueihsiu, who was extremely pretty, and with whom Chishêng fell deeply in love, being soon unable either to eat or to sleep. His parents became extremely uneasy about him, and inquired what it was that ailed him; and when he told them, they at once sent off a matchmaker to Mr. Chêng. The latter, however, was rather a stickler for the proprieties, and replied that the near relationship precluded him from accepting the offer. Thereupon Chishêng became dangerously ill, and his mother, not knowing what to do, secretly tried to persuade Erhniang to let her daughter come over to their house; but Mr. Chêng heard of it, and was so angry that Chishêng’s father and mother gave up all hope of arranging the match.

At that time there was a gentleman named Chang living near by, who had five daughters, all very pretty, but the youngest, called Wuk‘o, was singularly beautiful, far surpassing her four sisters. She was not betrothed to any one, when one day, as she was on her way to worship at the family tombs, she chanced to see Chishêng, and at her return home spoke about him to her mother. Her mother guessed what her meaning was, and arranged with a matchmaker, named Mrs. Yü, to call upon Chishêng’s parents. This she did precisely at the time when Chishêng was so ill, and forthwith told his mother that her son’s complaint was one she, Mrs. Yü, was quite competent to cure; going on to tell her about Miss Wuk‘o and the proposed marriage, at which the good lady was delighted, and sent her in to talk about it to Chishêng himself. “Alas!” cried he, when he had heard Mrs. Yü’s story, “you are bringing me the wrong medicine for my complaint.” “All depends upon the efficacy of the medicine,” replied Mrs. Yü; “if the medicine is good, it matters not what is the name of the doctor who administers the draught; while to set your heart on a particular person, and to lie there and die because that person doesn’t come, is surely foolish in the extreme.” “Ah,” rejoined Chishêng, “there’s no medicine under heaven that will do me any good.” Mrs. Yü told him his experience was limited, and proceeded to expatiate by speaking and gesticulating on the beauty and liveliness of Wuk‘o. But all Chishêng said was that she was not what he wanted, and, turning round his face to the wall, would listen to no more about her. So Mrs. Yü was obliged to go away, and Chishêng became worse and worse every day, until suddenly one of the maids came in and informed him that the young lady herself was at the door. Immediately he jumped up and ran out, and lo! there before him stood a beautiful girl, whom, however he soon discovered not to be Kueihsiu. She wore a light yellow robe with a fine silk jacket and an embroidered petticoat, from beneath which her two little feet peeped out; and altogether she more resembled a fairy than anything else. Chishêng inquired her name; to which she replied that it was Wuk‘o, adding that she couldn’t understand his devoted attachment to Kueihsiu, as if there was nobody else in the world. Chishêng apologized, saying that he had never before seen any one so beautiful as Kueihsiu, but that he was now aware of his mistake. He then swore everlasting fidelity to her, and was just grasping her hand, when he awoke and found his mother rubbing him. It was a dream, but so accurately defined in all its details that he began to think if Wuk‘o was really such as he had seen her, there would be no further need to try for his impracticable cousin. So he communicated his dream to his mother; and she, only too delighted to notice this change of feeling, offered to go to Wuk‘o’s house herself; but Chishêng would not hear of this, and arranged with an old woman who knew the family to find some pretext for going there, and to report to him what Wuk‘o was like. When she arrived Wuk‘o was ill in bed, and lay with her head propped up by pillows, looking very pretty indeed. The old woman approached the couch and asked what was the matter; to which Wuk‘o made no reply, her fingers fidgetting all the time with her waistband. “She’s been behaving badly to her father and mother,” cried the latter, who was in the room; “there’s many a one has offered to marry her, but she says she’ll have none but Chishêng: and then when I scold her a bit, she takes on and won’t touch her food for days.” “Madam,” said the old woman, “if you could get that young man for your daughter they would make a truly pretty pair; and as for him, if he could only see Miss Wuk‘o, I’m afraid it would be too much for him. What do you think of my going there and getting them to make proposals?” “No, thank you,” replied Wuk‘o; “I would rather not risk his refusal;” upon which the old woman declared she would succeed, and hurried off to tell Chishêng, who was delighted to find from her report that Wuk‘o was exactly as he had seen her in his dream, though he didn’t trust implicitly in all the old woman said. Byandby, when he began to get a little better, he consulted with the old woman as to how he could see Wuk‘o with his own eyes; and, after some little difficulty, it was arranged that Chishêng should hide himself in a room from which he would be able to see her as she crossed the yard supported by a maid, which she did every day at a certain hour. This Chishêng proceeded to do, and in a little while out she came, accompanied by the old woman as well, who instantly drew her attention either to the clouds or the trees, in order that she should walk more leisurely. Thus Chishêng had a good look at her, and saw that she was truly the young lady of his dream. He could hardly contain himself for joy; and when the old woman arrived and asked if she would do instead of Kueihsiu, he thanked her very warmly and returned to his own home. There he told his father and mother, who sent off a matchmaker to arrange the preliminaries; but the latter came back and told them that Wuk‘o was already betrothed. This was a terrible blow for Chishêng, who was soon as ill as ever, and offered no reply to his father and mother when they charged him with having made a mistake. For several months he ate nothing but a bowl of rice gruel a day, and he became as emaciated as a fowl, when all of a sudden the old woman walked in and asked him what was the matter. “Foolish boy,” said she, when he had told her all; “before you wouldn’t have her, and do you imagine she is bound to have you now? But I’ll see if I can’t help you; for were she the Emperor’s own daughter, I should still find some way of getting her.” Chishêng asked what he should do, and she then told him to send a servant with a letter next day to Wuk‘o’s house, to which his father at first objected for fear of another repulse; but the old woman assured him that Wuk‘o’s parents had since repented, besides which no written contract had as yet been made; “and you know the proverb,” added she, “that those who are first at the fire will get their dinner first.” So Chishêng’s father agreed, and two servants were accordingly sent, their mission proving a complete success. Chishêng now rapidly recovered his health, and thought no more of Kueihsiu, who, when she heard of the intended match, became in her turn very seriously ill, to the great anger of her father, who said she might die for all he cared, but to the great sorrow of her mother, who was extremely fond of her daughter. The latter even went so far as to propose to Mr. Chang that Kueihsiu should go as second wife, at which he was so enraged that he declared he would wash his hands of the girl altogether. The mother then found out when Chishêng’s wedding was to take place; and, borrowing a chair and attendants from her brother under pretence of going to visit him, put Kueihsiu inside and sent her off to her uncle’s house. As she arrived at the door, the servants spread a carpet for her to walk on, and the band struck up the wedding march. Chishêng went out to see what it was all about, and there met a young lady in a bridal veil, from whom he would have escaped had not her servants surrounded them, and, before he knew what he was doing, he was making her the usual salutation of a bridegroom. They then went in together, and, to his further astonishment, he found that the young lady was Kueihsiu; and, being now unable to go and meet Wuk‘o, a message was sent to her father, telling him what had occurred. He, too, got into a great rage, and vowed he would break off the match; but Wuk‘o herself said she would go all the same, her rival having only got the start of her in point of time. And go she did; and the two wives, instead of quarrelling, as was expected, lived very happily together like sisters, and wore each other’s clothes and shoes without distinction, Kueihsiu taking the place of an elder sister as being somewhat older than Wuk‘o. One day, after these events, Chishêng asked Wuk‘o why she had refused his offer; to which she replied that it was merely to pay him out for having previously refused her father’s proposal. “Before you had seen me, your head was full of Kueihsiu; but after you had seen me, your thoughts were somewhat divided; and I wanted to know how I compared with her, and whether you would fall ill on my account as you had on hers, that we mightn’t quarrel about our looks.” “It was a cruel revenge,” said Chishêng; “but how should I ever have got a sight of you had it not been for the old woman?” “What had she to do with it?” replied Wuk‘o; “I knew you were behind the door all the time. When I was ill I dreamt that I went to your house and saw you, but I looked upon it only as a dream until I heard that you had dreamt that I had actually been there, and then I knew that my spirit must have been with you.” Chishêng now related to her the particulars of his vision, which coincided exactly with her own; and thus, strangely enough, had the matrimonial alliances of both father and son been brought about by dreams.

寄生

寄生字王孫,郡中名士。父母以其襁褓認父,謂有夙惠,鍾愛之。長益秀美,八九歲能文,十四入郡庠。每自擇偶。父桂菴有妹二娘,適鄭秀才子僑,生女閨秀,慧豔絕倫。王孫見之,心切愛慕。積久,寢食俱廢。父母大憂,苦研詰之,遂以實告。父遣冰於鄭;鄭性方謹,以中表為嫌,卻之。王孫愈病。母計無所出,陰婉致二娘,但求閨秀一臨存之。鄭聞,益怒,出惡聲焉。父母既絕望,聽之而已。郡有大姓張氏,五女皆美;幼者名五可,尤冠諸姊,擇婿未字。一日,上墓,途遇王孫,自輿中窺見,歸以白母。母沈知其意,見媒媼于氏,微示之。媼遂詣王所。時王孫方病,訊知,笑曰:「此病老身能醫之。」芸娘問故。媼述張氏意,極道五可之美。芸娘喜,使媼往候王孫。媼入,撫王孫而告之。王孫搖首曰:「醫不對症,奈何!」媼笑曰:「但問醫良否耳:其良也,召和而緩至,可矣;執其人以求之,守死而待之,不亦癡乎?」王孫欷歔曰:「但天下之醫,無愈和者。」媼曰:「何見之不廣也?」遂以五可之容顏髮膚,神情態度,口寫而手狀之。王孫又搖首曰:「媼休矣!此餘願所不及也。」反身向壁,不復聽矣。媼見其志不移,遂去。一日,王孫沉痼中,忽一婢入曰:「所思之人至矣!」喜極,躍然而起。急出舍,則麗人已在庭中。細認之,卻非閨秀,著松花色細褶繡裙,雙鉤微露,神仙不啻也。拜問姓名,答曰:「妾,五可也。君深於情者,而獨鍾閨秀,使人不平。」王孫謝曰:「生平未見顏色,故目中止一閨秀。今知罪矣!」遂與要誓。方握手殷殷,適母來撫摩,蘧然而覺,則一夢也。回思聲容笑貌,宛在目中。陰念:五可果如所夢,何必求所難遘。因而以夢告母。母喜其念少奪,急欲媒之。王孫恐夢見不的,託鄰嫗素識張氏者,偽以他故詣之,囑其潛相五可。嫗至其家,五可方病,靠枕支頤,婀娜之態,傾絕一世。近問:「何恙?」女默然弄帶,不作一語。母代答曰:「非病也。連日與爹娘負氣耳!」嫗問故。曰:「諸家問名,皆不願,必如王家寄生者方嫁。是為母者勸之急,遂作意不食數日矣。」嫗笑曰:「娘子若配王郎,真是玉人成雙也。渠若見五娘,恐又憔悴死矣!我歸,即令倩冰,如何?」五可止之曰:「姥勿爾!恐其不諧,益增笑耳!」嫗銳然以必成自任,五可方微笑。嫗歸,復命,一如媒媼言。王孫詳問衣履,亦與夢合,大悅。意雖稍舒,然終不以人言為信。過數日,漸瘳,祕招于媼來,謀以親見五可。媼難之,姑應而去。久之,不至。方欲覓問,媼忽忻然來曰:「機幸可圖。五娘向有小恙,日令婢輩將扶,移過對院。公子往伏伺之,五娘行緩澀,委曲可以盡睹矣。」王孫喜,明日,命駕早往,媼先在焉。即令縶馬村樹,引入臨路舍,設座掩扉而去。少間,五可果扶婢出。王孫自門隟目注之。女從門外過,媼故指揮雲樹以遲纖步,王孫窺覘盡悉,意顫不能自持。未幾,媼至,曰:「可以代閨秀否?」王孫申謝而返,始告父母,遣媒要盟。及妁往,則五可已別字矣。王孫失意,悔悶欲死,即刻復病。父母憂甚,責其自誤。王孫無詞,惟日飲米汁一合。積數日,雞骨支床,較前尤甚。媼忽至,驚曰:「何憊之甚?」王孫涕下,以情告。媼笑曰:「癡公子!前日人趁汝來,而故卻之;今日汝求人,而能必遂耶?雖然,尚可為力。早與老身謀,即許京都皇子,能奪還也。」王孫大悅,求策。媼命函啟遣伻,約次日候於張所。桂菴恐以唐突見拒。媼曰:「前與張公業有成言,延數日而遽悔之;且彼字他家,尚無函信。諺云:『先炊者先餐。』何疑也!」桂菴從之。次日,二僕往,並無異詞,厚犒而歸。王孫病頓起。由此閨秀之想遂絕。初,鄭子僑卻聘,閨秀頗不懌;及聞張氏婚成,心愈抑鬱,遂病,日就支離。父母詰之,不肯言。婢窺其意,隱以告母。鄭聞之,怒不醫,以聽其死。二娘懟曰:「吾姪亦殊不惡,何守頭巾戒,殺吾嬌女!」鄭恚曰:「若所生女,不如早亡,免貽笑柄!」以此夫妻反目。二娘故與女言,將使仍歸王孫,若為媵。女俛首不言,意若甚願。二娘商鄭,鄭更怒,一付二娘,置女度外,不復預聞。二娘愛女切,欲實其言。女乃喜,病漸瘥。竊探王孫,親迎有日矣。及期,以姪完婚,偽欲歸寧,昧旦,使人求僕輿於兄。兄最友愛,又以居村鄰近,遂以所備親迎車馬,先迎二娘。既至,則妝女入車,使兩僕兩媼護送之。到門,以氈貼地而入。時鼓樂已集,從僕叱令吹擂,一時人聲沸聒。王孫奔視,則女子以紅帕蒙首,駭極,欲奔;鄭僕夾扶,便令交拜。王孫不知何由,即便拜訖。二媼扶女,逕坐青廬,始知其閨秀也。舉家皇亂,莫知所為。時漸瀕暮,王孫不復敢行親迎之禮。桂菴遣僕以情告張;張怒,遂欲斷絕。五可不肯,曰:「彼雖先至,未受雁采;不如仍使親迎。」父納其言,以對來使。使歸,桂菴終不敢從。相對籌思,喜怒俱無所施。張待之既久,知其不行,遂亦以輿馬送五可至,因另設青帳於別室。而王孫周旋兩間,蹀踱無以自處。母乃調停於中,使序行以齒,二女皆諾。及五可聞閨秀差長,稱「姊」有難色。母甚慮之。比三朝公會,五可見閨秀風致宜人,不覺右之,自是始定。然父母恐其積久不相能,而二女卻無間言,衣履易著,相愛如姊妹焉。王孫始問五可卻媒之故。笑曰:「無他,聊報君之卻于媼耳。尚未見妾,意中止有閨秀;即見妾,亦略靳之,以覘君之視妾,較閨秀何如也。使君為伊病,而不為妾病,則亦不必強求容矣。」王孫笑曰:「報亦慘矣!然非于媼,何得一覲芳容。」五可曰:「是妾自欲見君,媼何能為。過舍門時,豈不知眈眈者在內耶。夢中業相要,何尚未知信耶?」王孫驚問:「何知?」曰:「妾病中夢至君家,以為妄;後聞君亦夢,妾乃知魂魄真到此也。」王孫異之,遂述所夢,時日悉符。父子之良緣,皆以夢成,亦奇情也。故並誌之。
  異史氏曰:「父癡於情,子遂幾為情死。所謂情種,其王孫之謂與?不有善夢之父,何生離魂之子哉!」

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