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The Weich‘i Chess Devil.

A CERTAIN general, who had resigned his command, and had retired to his own home, was very fond of roaming about and amusing himself with wine and weich‘i. One day—it was the 9th of the 9th moon, when everybody goes up high—as he was playing with some friends, a stranger walked up, and watched the game intently for some time without going away. He was a miserable looking creature, with a very ragged coat, but nevertheless possessed of a refined and courteous air. The general begged him to be seated, an offer which he accepted, being all the time extremely deferential in his manner. “I suppose you are pretty good at this,” said the general, pointing to the board; “try a bout with one of my friends here.” The stranger made a great many apologies in reply, but finally accepted, and played a game in which, apparently to his great disappointment, he was beaten. He played another with the same result; and now, refusing all offers of wine, he seemed to think of nothing but how to get some one to play with him. Thus he went on until the afternoon was well advanced; when suddenly, just as he was in the middle of a most exciting game, which depended on a single place, he rushed forward, and throwing himself at the feet of the general, loudly implored his protection. The general did not know what to make of this; however, he raised him up, and said, “It’s only a game: why get so excited?” To this the stranger replied by begging the general not to let his gardener seize him; and when the general asked what gardener he meant, he said the man’s name was Mach‘êng. Now this Mach‘êng was often employed as a lictor by the Ruler of Purgatory, and would sometimes remain away as much as ten days, serving the warrants of death; accordingly, the general sent off to inquire about him, and found that he had been in a trance for two days. His master cried out that he had better not behave rudely to his guest, but at that very moment the stranger sunk down to the ground, and was gone. The general was lost in astonishment; however, he now knew that the man was a disembodied spirit, and on the next day, when Mach‘êng came round, he asked him for full particulars. “The gentleman was a native of Huhsiang,” replied the gardener, “who was passionately addicted to weich‘i, and had lost a great deal of money by it. His father, being much grieved at his behaviour, confined him to the house; but he was always getting out, and indulging the fatal passion, and at last his father died of a broken heart. In consequence of this, the Ruler of Purgatory curtailed his term of life, and condemned him to become a hungry devil, in which state he has already passed seven years. And now that the Phœnix Tower is completed, an order has been issued for the literati to present themselves, and compose an inscription to be cut on stone, as a memorial thereof, by which means they would secure their own salvation as a reward. Many of the shades failing to arrive at the appointed time, God was very angry with the Ruler of Purgatory, and the latter sent off me, and others who are employed in the same way, to hunt up the defaulters. But as you, Sir, bade me treat the gentleman with respect, I did not venture to bind him.” The general inquired what had become of the stranger; to which the gardener replied, “He is now a mere menial in Purgatory, and can never be born again.” “Alas!” cried his master, “thus it is that men are ruined by any inordinate passion.”

棋鬼

揚州督同將軍梁公,解組鄉居,日攜棋酒,游林丘間。會九日登高與客弈,忽有一人來,逡巡局側,耽玩不去。視之,目面寒儉,懸鶉結焉,然意態溫雅,有文士風。公禮之,乃坐。亦殊撝謙。分指棋謂曰:「先生當必善此,何不與客對壘?」其人遜謝移時,始即局。局終而負,神情懊熱,若不自己。又著又負,益憤慚。酌之以酒,亦不飲,惟曳客弈。自晨至于日昃,不遑溲溺。方以一子爭路,兩互喋聒,忽書生離席悚立,神色慘阻。少間,屈膝向公座,敗顙乞救,公駭疑,起扶之曰:「戲耳,何至是?」書生曰:「乞囑付圉人,勿縛小生頸。」公又異之,問:「圉人誰?」曰:「馬成。」
  先是,公圉役馬成者,走無常,十數日一入幽冥,攝牒作勾役。公以書生言異,遂使人往視成,則已僵臥三日矣。公乃叱成不得無禮,瞥見書生即地而滅,公嘆咤良久,乃悟其鬼。越日馬成寤,公召詰之。成曰:「渠湖襄人,癖嗜弈,產蕩盡。父憂之,閉置齋中。輒逾垣出,竊引空處,與弈者狎。父聞詬詈,終不可制止,父赍恨死。閻王以書生不德,促其年壽,罰入餓鬼獄,于今七年矣。會東岳鳳樓成,下牒諸府,征文人作碑記。王出之獄中,使應召自贖。不意中道遷延,大愆限期。岳帝使直曹問罪于王。王怒,使小人輩羅搜之。前承主人命,故未敢以縲紲系之。」公問:「今日作何狀?」曰:「仍付獄吏,永無生期矣。」公嘆曰:「癖之誤人也如是夫!」異史氏曰:「見弈遂忘其死;及其死也,見弈又忘其生。非其所欲有甚于生者哉?然癖嗜如此,尚未獲一高著,徒令九泉下,有長死不生之弈鬼也。哀哉!」

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