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The rat wife (3)

San-lang was greatly alarmed, and sent out to look for them in every direction. No traces of the fugitives could be discovered, and San-lang was overwhelmed with grief, unable either to eat or to sleep. His father and brother thought it was a lucky thing for him, and advised him to console himself with another wife. This, however, he refused to do; until, a year afterwards, nothing more having been heard of A-chien, he could not resist their importunities any longer, and bought himself a concubine. But he never ceased to think of A-chien; and some years later, when the prosperity of the family was on the wane, they all began to regret her loss.

Now San-lang had a stepbrother, named Lan, who, when traveling to Chiao-chou on business, passed a night at the house of a relative named Lu. He noticed that during the night sounds of weeping and lamentation proceeded from their next-door neighbors, but he did not inquire the reason for it. However, on his way back he heard the same sounds, and then asked what was the cause of such demonstrations. Mr. Lu told him that a few years ago an old widow and her daughter had come there to live, and that the mother had died about a month previously, leaving her child quite alone in the world. Lan inquired what her name was, and Mr. Lu said it was Ku; "But," added he, "the door is closely barred, and as they never had any communication with the village, I know nothing of their antecedents."

"It's my sister-in-law," cried Lan, in amazement, and at once proceeded to knock at the door of the house. Someone came to the front door, and said, in a voice that betokened recent weeping, "Who's there ? There are no men in this house."' Lan looked through a crack, and saw that the young lady really was his sister-in-law; so he called out, "Sister, open the door. I am your step-brother A-sui." A-chien immediately opened the door and asked him in, and recounted to him the whole story of her troubles. "Your husband," said Lan, "is always thinking of you. For a trifling difference you need hardly have run away so far from him." He then proposed to hire a vehicle and take her home; but A-chien replied, "I came hither with my mother to hide because I was not regarded as a human being, and should make myself ridiculous by now returning thus. If I am to go back, my elder brother Hsi Shan must no longer live with us; otherwise, I will immediately poison myself."

Lan then went home and told San-lang, who set off and traveled all night until he reached the place where A-chien was. Husband and wife were overjoyed to meet again, and the following day San-lang notified the landlord of the house where A-chien had been living. Now this landlord had long desired to secure A-chien as a concubine for himself; and, after making no claim for rent for several years, he began to hint as much to her mother. The old lady, however, refused flatly; but shortly afterwards she died, and then the landlord thought that he might be able to succeed. At this juncture San-lang arrived, and the landlord sought to hamper him by putting in his claim for rent; and, as San-lang was anything but well off at the moment, it really did annoy him very much. A-chien here came to the rescue, showing San-lang a large quantity of grain she had in the house, and bidding him use it to settle accounts with the landlord. The latter declared he could not accept grain, but must be paid in silver; whereupon A-chien sighed and said it was all her unfortunate self that had brought this upon them, at the same time telling San-lang of the landlord's former proposition. San-lang was very angry, and was about to take out a summons against him, when Mr. Lu interposed, and, by selling the grain in the neighborhood, managed to collect sufficient money to pay off the rent.

San-lang and his wife then returned home; and the former, having explained the circumstances to his parents, separated his household from that of his brother. A-chien now proceeded to build, with her own money, a granary, which was a matter of some astonishment to the family, there not being a hundred- weight of grain in the place. But in about a year the granary was full, and before very long San-lang was a rich man, Hsi Shan remaining as poor as before. Accordingly, A-chien persuaded her husband's parents to come and live with them, and made frequent presents of money to the elder brother; so that her husband said, "Well at any rate, you bear no malice."

"Your brother's behavior," replied she, "was from his regard for you. Had it not been for him, you and I would never have met." After this there were no more supernatural manifestations.

End

 

   
 
 

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