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The trader's son.

 IN the province of Hunan there dwelt a man who was engaged in trading abroad; and his wife, who lived alone, dreamt one night that some one was in her room. Waking up, she looked about, and discovered a small creature which on examination she knew to be a fox; but in a moment the thing had disappeared, although the door had not been opened. The next evening she asked the cook-maid to come and keep her company; as also her own son, a boy of ten, who was accustomed to sleep elsewhere. Towards the middle of the night, when the cook and the boy were fast asleep, back came the fox; and the cook was waked up by hearing her mistress muttering something as if she had nightmare. The former then called out, and the fox ran away; but from that moment the trader's wife was not quite herself. When night came she dared not blow out the candle, and bade her son be sure and not sleep too soundly. Later on, her son and the old woman having taken a nap as they leant against the wall, suddenly waked up and found her gone. They waited some time, but she did not return, and the cook was too frightened to go and look after her; so her son took a light, and at length found her fast asleep in another room. She didn't seem aware that anything particular had happened, but she became queerer and queerer every day, and wouldn't have either her son or the cook to keep her company any more. Her son, however, made a point of running at once into his mother's room if he heard any unusual sounds; and though his mother always abused him for his pains, he paid no attention to what she said. At the same time, the more people urged him on to keep a sharp look-out, the more eccentric were his mother's ways. One day she played at being a mason, and piled up stones upon the window-sill, in spite of all that was said to her; and if anyone took away a stone, she threw herself on the ground, and cried like a child, so that nobody dare go near her. In a few days she had got both windows blocked up and the light excluded; and then she set to filling up the chinks with mud. She worked hard all day without minding the trouble, and when it was finished she smoothed it off with the kitchen chopper. Everyone who saw her was disgusted with such antics, and would take no notice of her. At night her son darkened his lamp, and, with a knife concealed on his person, sat waiting for his mother to mutter. As soon as she began he uncovered his light, and, blocking up the doorway, shouted out at the top of his voice. Nothing, however, happened, and he moved from the door a little way, when suddenly out rushed something like a fox, which was disappearing through the door, when he made a quick movement and cut off about two inches of its tail, from which the warm blood was still dripping as he brought the light to bear upon it. His mother hereupon cursed and reviled him, but he pretended not to hear her, regretting only as he went to bed that he hadn't hit the brute fair. But he consoled himself by thinking that although he hadn't killed it outright, he had done enough to prevent it coming again. On the morrow he followed the tracks of blood over the wall and into the garden of a family named Ho; and that night, to his great joy, the fox did not reappear. His mother was meanwhile prostrate, with hardly any life in her, and in the midst of it all his father came home. The boy told him what had happened, at which he was much alarmed, and sent for a doctor to attend his wife; but she only threw the medicine away, and cursed and swore horribly. So they secretly mixed the medicine with her tea and soup, and in a few days she began to get better, to the inexpressible delight of both her husband and son. One night, however, her husband woke up and found her gone; and after searching for her with the aid of his son, they discovered her sleeping in another room. From that time she became more eccentric than ever, and was always being found in strange places, cursing those who tried to remove her. Her husband was at his wits' end. It was no use keeping the door locked, for it opened of itself at her approach and he had called in any number of magicians to exorcise the fox, but without obtaining the slightest result. One evening her son concealed himself in the Ho family garden, and lay down in the long grass with a view to detecting the fox's retreat. As the moon rose he heard the sound of voices, and, pushing aside the grass, saw two people drinking, with a long-bearded servant pouring out their wine, dressed in an old dark-brown coat. They were whispering together, and he could not make out what they said; but by-and-by he heard one of them remark, "Get some white wine for tomorrow," and then they went away, leaving the long-bearded servant alone. The latter then threw off his coat, and lay down to sleep on the stones; whereupon the trader's son eyed him carefully, and saw that he was like a man in every respect except that he had a tail. The boy would then have gone home; but he was afraid the fox might hear him, and accordingly remained where he was till near dawn, when he saw the other two come back, one at a time, and then they all disappeared among the bushes. On reaching home his father asked him where he had been, and he replied that he had stopped the night with the Ho family. He then accompanied his father to the town, where he saw hanging up at a hat-shop a fox's tail, and finally, after much coaxing, succeeded in mak-ing his father buy it for him. While the latter was engaged in a shop, his son, who was playing about beside him, availed himself of a moment when his father was not looking and stole some money from him, and went off and bought a quantity of white wine, which he left in charge of the wine-merchant Now an uncle of his, who was a sportsman by trade, lived in the city, and thither he next betook himself. His uncle was out, but his aunt was there, and inquired after the health of his mother. "She has been better the last few days," replied he; "but she is now very much upset by a rat having gnawed a dress of hers, and has sent me to ask for some poison." His aunt opened the cupboard and gave him about the tenth of an ounce in a piece of paper, which he thought was very little; so, when his aunt had gone to get him something to eat, he took the opportunity of being alone, opened the packet, and abstracted a large handful. Hiding this in his coat, he ran to tell his aunt that she needn't prepare anything for him, as his father was waiting in the market, and he couldn't stop to eat it. He then went off; and having quietly dropped the poison into the wine he had bought, went sauntering about the town. At nightfall he returned home, and told his father that he had been at his uncle's. This he continued to do for some time, until one day he saw amongst the crowd his long-bearded friend. Marking him closely, he followed him, and at length entered into conversation, asking him where he lived. "I live at Pei-ts'un," said he; "where do you live?" "I," replied the trader's son, falsely, "live in a hole on the hill-side." The long-bearded man was considerably startled at his answer, but much more so when he added, "We've lived there for generations: haven't you?" The other then asked his name, to which the boy replied, "My name is Hu. I saw you with two gentlemen in the Ho family garden, and haven't forgotten you." Questioning him more fully, the long-bearded man was still in a half-and-half state of belief and doubt, when the trader's son opened his coat a little bit, and showed him the end of the tail he had bought, saying, "The like of us can mix with ordinary people, but unfortunately we can never get rid of this." The long-bearded man then asked him what he was doing there, to which he answered that his father had sent him to buy wine; whereupon the former remarked that that was exactly what he had come for, and the boy then inquired if he had bought it yet or not. "We are poor," replied the stranger, "and as a rule I prefer to steal it." "A difficult and dangerous job," observed the boy. "I have my master's instructions to get some," said the other, "and what am I to do?" The boy then asked him who his masters were, to which he replied that they were the two brothers the boy had seen that night. "One of them has bewitched a lady named Wang; and the other, the wife of a trader who lives near. The son of the last-mentioned lady is a violent fellow, and cut off my master's tail, so that he was laid up for ten days. But he is putting her under spells again now." He was then going away, saying he should never get his wine; but the boy said to him, "It's much easier to buy than steal. I have some at the wine-shop there which I will give to you. My purse isn't empty, and I can buy some more." The long-bearded man hardly knew how to thank him; but the boy said, "We're all one family. Don't mention such a trifle. When I have time I'll come and take a drink with you." So they went off together to the wine-shop, where the boy gave him the wine and they then separated. That night his mother slept quietly and had no fits, and the boy knew that something must have happened. He then told his father, and they went to see if there were any results; when lo! they found both foxes stretched out dead in the arbour. One of the foxes was lying on the grass, and out of its mouth blood was still trickling. The wine-bottle was there; and on shaking it they heard that some was left. Then his father asked him why he had kept it all so secret; to which the boy replied that foxes were very sagacious, and would have been sure to scent the plot. Thereupon his father was mightily pleased, and said he was a perfect Ulysses for cunning. They then carried the foxes home, and saw on the tail of one of them the scar of a knife-wound. From that time they were left in peace; but the trader's wife became very thin, and though her reason returned, she shortly after-wards died of consumption. The other lady, Mrs. Wang, began to get better as soon as the foxes had been killed; and as to the boy, he was taught riding and archery by his proud parent, and subsequently rose to high rank in the army.

賈兒
  楚某翁,賈於外。婦獨居,夢與人交;醒而捫之,小丈夫也。察其情,與人異,知為狐。未幾,下床去,門未開而已逝矣。入暮,邀庖媼伴焉。有子十歲,素別榻臥,亦招與俱。夜既深,媼兒皆寐,狐復來。婦喃喃如夢語。媼覺,呼之,狐遂去。自是,身忽忽若有亡。至夜,不敢息燭,戒子睡勿熟。夜闌,兒及媼倚壁少寐。既醒,失婦,意其出遺;久待不至,始疑。媼懼,不敢往覓。兒執火遍燭之,至他室,則母裸臥其中;近扶之,亦不羞縮。自是遂狂,歌哭叫詈,日萬狀。夜厭與人居,別榻寢兒,媼亦遣去。兒每聞母笑語,輒起火之。母反怒訶兒,兒亦不為意,因共壯兒膽。然嬉戲無節,日效木虧者,以磚石疊窗上,止之不聽。或去其一石,則滾地作嬌啼,人無敢氣觸之。過數日,兩窗盡塞,無少明。已乃合泥涂壁孔,終日營營,不憚其勞。涂已,無所作,遂把廚刀霍霍磨之。見者皆憎其頑,不以人齒。
  兒宵分隱刀于懷,以瓢覆燈。伺母囈語,急啟燈,杜門聲喊。久之無異,乃離門揚言,詐作欲搜狀。歘有一物,如狸,突奔門隙。急擊之,僅斷其尾,約二寸許,濕血猶滴。初,挑燈起,母便詬罵,兒若弗聞。擊之不中,懊恨而寢。自念雖不即戮,可以幸其不來。及明,視血跡逾垣而去。跡之,入何氏園中。至夜果絕,兒竊喜。但母痴臥如死。未幾,賈人歸,就榻問訊。婦女曼罵,視若仇。兒以狀對。翁驚,延醫藥之。婦瀉藥詬罵。潛以藥入湯水雜飲之,數日漸安。父子俱喜。一夜睡醒,失婦所在;父子又覓得于別室。由是復顛,不欲與夫同室處。向夕,竟奔他室,挽之,罵益甚。翁無策,盡扃他扉。婦奔去,則門自闢。翁患之,驅禳備至,殊無少驗。
  兒薄暮潛入何氏園,伏莽中,將以探狐所在。月初昇,乍聞人語。暗撥蓬科,見二人來飲,一長鬣奴捧壺,衣老棕色。語俱細隱,不甚可辨。移時,聞一人曰:「明日可取白酒一希瓦來。」頃之,俱去,惟長鬣獨留,脫衣臥庭石上。審顧之,四肢皆如人,但尾垂後部。兒欲歸,恐狐覺,遂終夜伏。未明,又聞二人以次復來,噥噥入竹叢中。兒乃歸。翁問所往,答:「宿阿伯家。」適從父入市,見帽肆掛狐尾,乞翁市之。翁不顧。兒牽父衣,嬌聒之。翁不忍過拂,市焉。父貿易廛中,兒戲弄其側,乘父他顧,盜錢去,沽白酒,寄肆廊。有舅氏城居,素業獵。兒奔其家。舅他出。妗詰母疾,答云:「連朝稍可,又以耗子嚙衣,怒涕不解,故遣我乞獵藥耳。」妗撿櫝,出錢許,裹付兒。兒少之。妗欲作湯餅啖兒。兒覷室無人,自發藥裹,竊盈掬而懷之。乃趨告妗,俾勿舉火,「父待市中,不遑食也」。遂徑出,隱以藥置酒中。遨游市上,抵暮方歸。父問所在,托在舅家。兒自是日游廛肆間。
  一日,見長鬣人亦雜儔中。兒審之確,陰綴系之。漸與語,詰其居里。答言:「北村。」亦詢兒,兒偽云:「山洞。」長鬣怪其洞居。兒笑曰:「我世居洞府,君固否耶?」其人益驚,便詰姓氏。兒曰:「我胡氏子。曾在何處,見君從兩郎,顧忘之耶?」其人熟審之,若信若疑。兒微啟下裳,少少露其假尾,曰:「我輩混跡人中,但此物猶存,為可恨耳。」其人問:「在市欲何作?」兒曰:「父遣我沽。」其人亦以沽告。兒問:「沽未?」曰:「吾儕多貧,故常竊時多。」兒曰:「此役亦良苦,耽驚懮。」其人曰:「受主人遣,不得不爾。」因問:「主人伊誰?」曰:「即曩所見兩郎兄弟也。一私北郭王氏婦,一宿東村某翁家。翁家兒大惡,被斷尾,十日始瘥,今復往矣。」言已,欲別,曰:「勿誤我事。」兒曰:「竊之難,不若沽之易。我先沽寄廊下,敬以相贈。我囊中尚有餘錢,不愁沽也。」其人愧無以報。兒曰:「我本同類,何靳些須?暇時,尚當與君痛飲耳。」遂與俱去,取酒授之,乃歸。
  至夜,母竟安寢,不復奔。心知有異,告父同往驗之,則兩狐斃于亭上,一狐死于草中,喙津津尚有血出。酒瓶猶在,持而搖之,未盡也。父驚問:「何不早告?」曰:「此物最靈,一泄,則彼知之。」翁喜曰:「我兒,討狐之陳平也。」於是父子荷狐歸。見一狐禿尾,刀痕儼然。自是遂安。而婦瘠殊甚,心漸明瞭,但益之嗽,嘔痰輒數升,尋愈。北郭王氏婦,向祟于狐;至是問之,則狐絕而病亦愈。翁由此奇兒,教之騎射。後貴至總戎。

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