Pretty Girl and Lonely Soul
Ning Caichen of Zhejiang Province was straightforward and well-behaved. He often said to others, “I’ll never have a second woman in my whole life.”
One day, going to Jinhua City, he had a rest in a temple in the northern suburb. The buildings were grand but the wormwood rose up to one’s head. The place seemed desolate and uninhabited. But when drawing near, he found two monk’s houses, one in east side, the other west side, the doors closed but unlocked. And still there was another one in south side, though small, yet the door latch was strong as a new one. Looking at the eastern corner to the main building, Ning found, at the foot of the steps, some bamboo and a large pond with wild lotus in flower.
Ning was quite satisfied with the tranquility. Moreover the rental in downtown was much higher than ever before because the term examination was drawing near. The relative officials and many scholars had already come and the houses in town thus became more insufficient than usual. After having considered all these, he decided to stay here and had a walk in the courtyard waiting for the monk to come back.
At dusk a scholar came and opened the door of the house in south side. Ning stepped up politely and told his intention to the man.
“No landlord here. I stay here just temporarily too,” said the scholar. “If you don’t care about the desolation, just stay here. It’s my honor to be your neighbor and maybe I will turn to you for help.”
Ning was very happy and used wormwood in place of a bed and put up a board as a table. By doing so, he decided to stay long.
A bright moon in the night sky with the silver light as clear as water, the two men exchanged names while having a hear-to-heart talk in the veranda.
“My family name is Yan, another name is Chixia,” said the scholar.
Ning doubted that he was maybe a candidate who was to go and sit in the examination. Judging from his accent, Ning felt that he seemed to come far away.
“I’m not a local resident.” What Yan said was quite sincere and honest. Yet with every minute passing so rapidly, they could only looked at each other and found no more to say, so they bid farewell in a respectful manner and went to bed respectively..
Staying in a new place, Ning could not fall asleep until very late. Hearing some people whisper in north of the house, he thought there should be a family. He got up and went to the northern wall bending over the stone window and peeping through. Outside the short wall there existed a little compound in which there were two ladies. One was over forty; the other was very old and in a faded red silk blouse and with a large silver comb in her hair. Hunchbacked she was old and shaky and spoke accidentally under the moon.
“Why was Xiaoqian so late?” said the middle-aged woman.
“She will come whenever she is ready,” said the old lady.
“Did she complaint to you?” asked the middle-aged.
“I’ve never heard, but she seems to be gloomy all the time.”
“That kind of girls! It’s quite enough just to be acquainted with them but not advisable to be good to them.” Said the middle aged.
An extremely beautiful girl of seventeen or eighteen arrived before their conversation had finished.
“Backbite is no good,” said the old lady smilingly. “We’re just talking about you, and you girl are coming quietly without any sound. As luck would have it, we didn’t say anything unpleasant about you.” She said continuously, “You pretty girl is really a beauty in painting. Even I myself would be infatuated with you if I were a man.”
“Without your praise, grandmother, who would speak well of me?” said the girl.
There was then a conversation between the middle-aged and the young girl, but the meaning was not understandable. Considering it was just a conversation among his neighbors, Ning went back to go to sleep without listening anymore.
At the beginning it was quiet without any sound. Yet he felt someone had come in just at the moment when he nearly felt asleep. Getting up hurriedly and scrutinizing, he found that it was just the girl of the northern courtyard. Taken by surprise he asked the reason of her arrival.
“I can’t fall asleep in this moon night,” said the girl. “I come to tell you that I’d like to marry you.”
“You should take precautions against backbite of others. And gossip is horrible to me,” said Ning earnestly. “Just one single false step may cause demoralization and beget an eternal sorrow.”
“No one knows at night,” the girl said.
Ning rebuked her again. Showing embarrassment, she seemed to have something more to say.
“Leave right away!” Upbraided he. “Or I’ll call the man in the southern house.”
Much scared, the girl left. Yet she came back again from outside and left a lump of gold on his bed.
Picking up the gold and throwing it onto the outside step, Ning said, “Ill-gotten wealth will dirty my moneybag!”
Quite shamed, the girl went out and picked up the gold, muttering to herself, “This man is really hardhearted.”
Next morning, there came a scholar from Blue Brook accompanied by a servant to wait for the imperial examination. He stayed in the eastern house but died suddenly at the very first night..
A small prick was found in each of his two foot arches with blood trickling out, which was seemed to be made with an awl. No one knew the reason. Worse than all, on the second night the servant died too in the same way.
Scholar Yan came at dusk. Ning inquired him about this strange matter. Yan thought it was a demon that played a deep game. As an honest man, Ning did not care in the least.
At night the girl came again.
“I’ve been looking into so many people but no one is as honest as you. You are really a saint and I don’t dare to cheat,” said she. “My name’s Nie Xiaoqian . I died at eighteen and was buried by the side of the temple. The demons often forced me to do something evil. I feel shy with strangers and really don’t want to do. Tonight there is no one in the temple to kill people for them and I am afraid they’ll send Monster Yecha to come here.”
Greatly terrified, Ning asked her for help.
“Just stay in the same room with Scholar Yan and then you can avert any disasters,” said the girl.
“Then why don’t you fool Scholar Yan?” he asked.
“He is a queer fellow. I don’t dare to draw close to him.”
“How do you fool people?”
“If someone behaves badly and seduces me, I’ll stealthily prick his feet with an awl and he’ll fall into a stupor. And then I’ll draw blood for the demons to drink.” She said. “I can also use gold to fool people. In fact that’s not gold but the bone of demons. The bone can take the heart and liver from whoever takes it. The purpose of either of these two ways is to cater to people’s fancies.”
Ning felt very much grateful and asked her about the date to be on the alert. She told him it was on the next day.
At parting, the girl wept and said, “I fell into the abyss of misery and can’t extricate myself. You are high-spirited and vigorous and so you must be able to save me. If you are willing to wrap my bones and rebury them into a quiet grave, I would tremendously appreciate your kindness. ”
Ning resolutely made a promise of help and asked where her bones were buried.
“Please remember that on my grave there is a poplar with a crow nest.”
After saying this the girl went outside and vanished into the void.
Next day, afraid that Yan might go on a journey, Ning got up early and invited him to have dinner with him. It was just after early morning that Ning began to prepare wine and dinner with his eyes widely open to observe Yan’s move. At night, Ning asked to sleep in his room. Yan refused on the pretext that he had a fondness for quiet. Not listening to him, Ning persisted in coming with bedding. Yan had no choice but move his bed to accept him.
“I know you are a true man and deeply admire you. But I have something secret which I can’t explain in a hurry. Anyhow I’d like to give you a sincerely advice to follow,” said Yan. “Please don’t open my little box and take a peep at it. Otherwise it is no good for both of us.”
Ning readily accepted his advice. They went to bed right away. Having put a box on the windowsill, Yan took his pillow and fell asleep rapidly with thundering snores. But Ning could not get to sleep at all.
Nearly at the first watch of the night, outside the window, there was a person’s shadow which was indistinctly visible. After a moment, that one stepped up and peeped through the window with his eyes flashing. Greatly frightened, Ning was going to call Yan. Yet just at that moment, something as bright as silk opened the little box, broke a stone window grille, flew out and made a shooting, and finally turned back into the box again just like a lightning flash.
Having realized this, Yan got up and Ning pretended to be asleep but in fact was stealthily looking at him. Yan took the box from the windowsill and had an examination. Taking out something, he smelt it and then looked at it under the bright moon. Two inches in length and one Chinese leek leaf’s width in breadth, it had crystalline white light. Yan rapidly wrapped it layer after layer and then put it still into the broken box.
“You dirty old demon. How dare you break my box!” murmuring to himself, he went to sleep again.
Greatly surprised, Ning got up asking and telling Yan all about what he had seen.
“It’s very kind of you to treat me so cordially. How dare I conceal the truth from you! ”said he. “I’m actually a swordsman. Were it not for the stone window grilles, the demon would have died at once. Yet he is badly wounded.”
“What did you seal up?” Ning asked.
“Sword. I took a smell of it just now and there was a smell of monster,” said Yan.
Ning wanted to have a look. Yan showed it to him generously. It was a little dazzling sword. And therefore Yan stood in Ning’s esteem much higher than ever before.
On the next day Ning looked out of the window and found some bloodstains. He went out of the temple and saw heaps of graves in the wild fields. Ning found that among these deserted graves there really existed the one having a poplar with a crow nest atop.
After having everything ready, Ning was going home. With a deep affection, putting up a tent and offering sacrifices to the road god, Yan bid farewell to Ning and then presented him a broken leather bag.
“It’s a sword bag,” said Yan. “Keep it and you can make yourself faraway from demons.”
Ning wanted to follow what Yan taught him.
“That’ll do if you can be firm and straightforward,” said Yan. “Yet you are one of the riches and honors but not among the people of my kind.”
On hearing this, Ning gave him a false pretext that his deceased sister was buried here and he was going to excavate her bones. Having dressed the girl’s bones and laid them in a coffin, he rented a boat and took the coffin back to his native place.
宁采臣的书斋面对田野，他就在那外面建了一座坟莹。他将灵柩下葬之后，就地追悼，诵读祭文：“怜卿孤魂，葬近蜗居，歌哭相闻，庶不见陵于雄鬼。一瓯浆水饮，殊不清旨，幸不为嫌！” 祭文的意思是：“可怜你的孤魂，把你埋葬在我家附近，以便互通悲欢，彼此关照，不至于使你受恶鬼凌辱。请饮我清水一盅，味道虽不甘美，切勿嫌弃！ ” 追思祭奠结束，采臣准备起身回家。可就在此时，他听到背后有人在说话：“请留步。我想和你一起走。” 转身一看，他才发现原来是聂小倩！他的心上人已经起死回生。 “你真坚守信义，我就是死十回也难报答你的恩情。”她说。“我愿意和你一起走，好去见一见我的公婆呀。我就是被当作奴仆对待也丝毫不后悔。” 他仔细审视，发现小倩在阳光之下容光焕发。她皮肤佼好如霞，一双美足宛如小巧玲珑的竹笋。小倩跟着采臣进入书斋。他让她在此稍候，而他自己则连忙向母亲通报她的到来。闻听此事，他母亲感到十分惊诧，嘱咐他什么也不要说，以免吓坏久病缠身的妻子。 母子俩话音刚落，小倩便翩然而至，随即拜伏在老夫人的脚下。 “她就是小倩，”采臣说。老太太望着她，只是感到吃惊，并不感到害怕。 “长期以来，我一直远离父母兄弟。”她说。“没有您儿子的帮助，就不会有我这条命。我甘愿作您的奴仆，以报答他的恩情。”看到她美丽的容貌和高雅的气质之后，老太太才敢开口说话。 “你这么高看我的儿子，实在难得。我真的很开心。”宁老夫人说。“不过我就只有这么一个儿子传宗接代，所以不敢让他娶个鬼媳妇。” “我确实没有什么恶意。”小倩说。“作为一个阴间的女鬼，我既然有幸得到您的信任，那就让我试着把您儿子当成我亲兄弟对待，让我从早到晚地服侍您。您的意下如何？”为她的诚恳所动，老夫人同意了。小倩想看一看嫂子，也就是采臣的媳妇。但是被老太太以儿媳生病为借口谢绝了。姑娘也只好打消这个念头。小倩走进厨房，替老太太点火做饭。她进进出出，忙里忙外，动作娴熟，手艺高强，每件事都料理得井井有条，真像在这里长期居住过一样。 夜幕降临，老太太胆战心惊，让小倩停下手里的一切，催她赶紧去睡觉，但是却不给她床和被褥。她明白老太太的心意，于是就立刻离开了。走过书斋的时候，她想进去，但又退出来，在外面徘徊不定，似乎有所畏惧。采臣叫住了她。 “屋里有剑的气味。我很害怕。”姑娘说。“所以那天在回家的路上，我没要你把剑拿给我看。” 采臣意识到她指的就是那只皮袋，于是他就把它挂在另外的房间里。姑娘这才走进来，坐在烛光下，可一时间没有吱声。随着时间的推移，她才终于开口讲话。“请问你夜间读什么东西吗？”姑娘问。“我小时候曾经诵读过<<楞严经>>。不过现在已忘掉大半了。请给我抄写一份，以便夜间有空时和兄长你在一起读一读。” 采臣欣然应允。不过她依然默默地坐在那里。二更天都已经过了，她还不说走。于是他就催她离开。 “作为阴间的一个孤魂，我特别害怕孤坟野冢。”姑娘神色黯然地说。 “可是书斋里只有一张床呀，”采臣说。“再说，兄妹之间也应该尽量避免嫌疑。” 姑娘起身，双眉紧锁，似乎要哭。她不愿意离开，但是别无选择。一出门，她便立即在阶前消失了。出于怜悯，采臣本想留她住在另外一个房间，但又怕母亲怪罪。每天一大早，姑娘就来。她首先向老夫人请安，然后就整天为家务忙得不可开交。迫使自己对老太太有求必应。天一擦黑，她就离开。每次走过采臣的书斋，她都要进去，就着烛光诵读佛经。什么时候一感觉到采臣想睡觉，她就郁郁寡欢地离开。
Ning built a grave just outside his study which was facing the field. Burying the coffin, he held a memorial service with a funeral oration saying, “I take pity on your lonely soul and buried you near my study. W can hear each other’s singing and crying, so that you can free yourself from being bullied by the violent demons. Do accept my clear water and have a drink, please. Don’t detest and reject it. ”
The memorial service was finished and he was ready to go back. Just at this instant he heard someone behind him saying, “A moment please. I’d like to go with you.”
Turning back, he found it was Xiaoqian Nie ! His beloved had already been restored to life.
“You’re really honest. I couldn’t repay you for your obligation even if I die ten times,” said she. “I’m willing to go with you in order to get acquainted with my parents-in-law. I wouldn’t have any regrets at all even if I should be treated as a servant.”
Scrutinizing, he found that Xiaoqian was extremely gorgeous in broad daylight with her skin as beautiful as morning glow and her feet as elegant as little bamboo shoots.
Xiaoqian followed Ning. Entering his study, he asked her to wait there temporarily and he himself went to notify his mother of her arrival.
Hearing this, his mother was astonished and told him to say nothing about this so as not to scare his wife who had been ill for a long time.
Immediately after their conversation was finished, Xiaoqian trippingly came in and prostrated herself at the feet of his mother.
“She’s Xiaoqian,” said Ning.
Looking at her, the mother felt surprised but not panic.
“I’m alone all by myself and far away from my parents and bothers,” said she. “But for your son’s help I would not have had this life. I’m willing to be your servant in order to reciprocate his kindness.”
It’s only after seeing her beautiful appearance and elegant manner did the old lady dare to speak.
“It’s very kind of you to think highly of my son. I’m really happy,” said Ning’s mother. “But I only have this son to go down to the future generation, so I don’t dare to let him have a ghost wife.”
“I really don’t have any bad intentions,” said Xiaoqian. “As a girl of the nether world, now that I can’t enjoy your trust, let me try to treat your son as my brother and attend you from morning till night. How about it?”
Moved by her sincerity, the mother agreed. Xiaoqian wanted to see her sister-in-law, namely, Ning’s wife. Yet being refused by the old lady on the excuse of the disease of Ning’s wife, the girl dismissed her idea.
Xiaoqian entered the kitchen and did the cooking in the old lady’s stead. Getting in and out, she did everything skillfully as if she had been living here for a long time.
The curtain of night fell. Being frightened, the old lady stopped the girl from doing anything and asked her to go to sleep but gave her neither a bed nor sheets. Knowing what the old lady was up to, she left immediately.
While passing by the study, the girl wanted to enter but shrank back and wandered outside as if she was afraid of something. Ning called her.
“There’s a sword smell in the room. It scares me,” said the girl. “That’s why I didn’t dare to ask you to show me the sword that day on the way back home.”
Ning realized what she meant was the leather bag so he hang it in the other room. And then the girl came in and sat by the candle without saying a word for a moment. As time went on, she opened her mouth at last.
“Do you read anything at night?” asked the girl. “When I was a child, I once recited the Buddhist Scriptures 《Leng Yan Buddhist Scriptures》. But I’ve forgotten more than half. Would you please give me a copy so as I can read it with your help whenever I’m free at night. ”
Ning agreed. But she still sat there silently. It was already over the second watch of the night, but she still didn’t say a word about leaving. He urged her to go.
“As a lonely soul of the nether world, I’m particularly afraid of the deserted graves.” The girl said plaintively.
“But there was no other bed in my study,” said Ning. “Besides, a brother and a sister should try to avoid being suspected.”
The girl stood up with knitted brows and seemed to cry. She did not like to leave but had no other way out. Walking out, she vanished on the steps.
Taking pity upon her, Ning wanted to let her stay in another room but was afraid of being blamed by his mother.
Early in the morning the girl came to greeted the old lady first and then kept busy with every kind of household duties all day long. She forced herself to cater to all the needs of the old lady without any exception. At dusk she retreated. Whenever passing by Ning’s study she would go in and read the Buddhist Scriptures with the help of a candle. She would start to leave depressingly whenever she felt that Ning wanted to go to sleep.
已经忘记这姑娘是鬼。最后，老太太终于不忍心在夜间赶她走，而是让她留宿。起初姑娘什么也不吃。半年之后，她才开始吃点东西。出与疼爱，母子俩都忌讳说她是鬼。而别人也认不出这个鬼姑娘的庐山真面目。不久，采臣的妻子不幸离开人世。老夫人有意收留这姑娘，但又怕对儿子不利。注意到这一点之后，小倩就找机会说服老夫人。 “我在这里已经住了一年多。您应该知道我是怎样的人。”姑娘说。“就是因为不想伤害无辜的人，我才跟着您的儿子，我实在没有任何恶意。我想和他在一起过上几年。万一他能封个一官半职，我也好跟着沾点光。就是这样。”虽然知道姑娘并无恶意，但老太太依然怕她不能生育，以至使她断后。 “有没有儿女，这都是天意。”姑娘说。“您儿子托老天的福，注定会有三个儿子为您继承烟火。老天不会因为您儿子有个鬼媳妇就把他的儿子收回去。”老夫人相信了她，就和儿子商量。采臣喜出望外，设宴款待亲朋好友。无论是谁想见一见新娘的面，小倩都是浓妆艳抹，盛装丽服，大方地出头露面。所有的人都会惊艳不已，可就是没人会想到她居然是鬼。不过许多人都怀疑她是仙女下凡。五服内众多的亲族随后都带着贺礼，源源不断地蜂拥而至，拜见这对新人。新娘擅长丹青笔墨，尤其以画兰梅见长，于是她亲手绘制以作回赠之礼。人们都以能获赠她的画作而感到荣幸。
Previously, the old lady was dead tired everyday because of her daughter-in-law’s serious illness, but felt quite easy ever since Xiaoqian’s coming. And the ghost girl had become a lovable one in the old lady’s eyes. Gradually, these two became more and more familiar with each other. The old lady even forgot the girl was a ghost and treated her as if she was her own daughter. At the end, the old one could not had the heart to ask her to leave at night but let her stay with herself.
At the beginning, the girl did not eat anything. Half year later, she started to take some food. Greatly doting on her, either the mother or the son refrained from saying she was a ghost. And other people could not recognized this ghost girl.
Not long after, Ning’s wife died. The old lady was going to adopt the girl but was afraid it might be harmful to his son. Noticing this, Xiaoqian took the opportunity to speak to the old lady.
“I’ve been living here more than one year. You should know what kind of people I am.” Said the girl. “Only for the purpose not to do any harm to the innocent people did I follow your son really without any evil intent. I know your son is a good man and will surely have a bright future. Maybe he’ll be offered with some high posts and favors. I want to be with him for several years so as to share his honor. That’s all.”
Knowing the girl had no bad intent, yet the old lady worried she might be sterile and cut off her offspring.
“Children are given by Heaven.” The girl said. “Your son is the blessed and he is doom to have three sons to continue the offspring for you. Heaven doesn’t take back offspring from your son just because he has a ghost wife.”
The mother believed and had a discussion with the son. Quite happy, Ning prepared a banquet and invited many relatives and friends. No matter whoever wanted to look at the bride, she, gorgeously dressed, would come out graciously. All the people were much surprised but no one thought that she was a ghost. Yet many of them suspected that she was a fairy.
Carrying congratulatory gifts, the kinsfolk came in a continuous stream to make respectful calls on this new couple. Good at painting orchids and plum blossom, the bride usually returned them some pictures drawn with her own hands. They all took pride in getting her paintings.
一天，小倩神色忧伤地坐在窗前，低着头，一言不发。很久之后，她才突然开口讲话。 “那个皮袋在哪儿？”她问。 “想到你很怕它，我就把它藏在别处了。”采臣说。 “我一直和生人在一起过了这么长时间，应该是不再怕它了。你最好还是把它拿来挂在你的床头。”她说。采臣惑然不解，询问其中原因。 “三天来，我一直忧心忡忡。我逃得这么远，想必那金华妖怪一定对我恨之入骨。也
许一两天之内他就会来找我算帐。”闻听此言，采臣立即把皮袋拿回来。她仔仔细细，翻来复去地审视着。 “这袋子是仙人用来装人头用的。谁知道它已经装过多少人头。”她说。“现在一看到它，我还吓得直哆嗦呢。”起初采臣只是把它挂在床头。第二天，她又叫他把它挂在窗户上方。夜间，她面对烛光，坐在那里，不叫丈夫睡觉。片刻之后，有个象大鸟一样的东西突然掉下来。她惊恐万状的迅速躲藏在帘幕后面。定睛一看，采臣发现那怪物有两只闪电般的眼睛，和一只血淋淋的舌头。怪物迅速地向前冲，而后停在门口，徘徊良久，最后才继续往前走。它逐渐靠近皮袋，用爪子把它扯下来，似乎要打开。就在这个节骨眼儿上，随着一种震耳欲聋的声音，皮袋迅速膨胀，最后变得和衣箱那么大。紧接着，有个怪物似的东西从里面冒出来，露出半截身子，顺手抓住妖精，把它重新放入袋内。随后，一切归于平静。而就在这鸦雀无声之际，那袋子突然之间又缩回到原来那样大小。采臣吓得魂飞魄散，而他的新娘这才走出来。 “平安无事啦！”她兴高采烈地说。往袋子一看，他们才发现里面只是清水一汪。数年之后，宁采臣果然荣登进士。爱妻也为他生一娇儿。纳妾之后，两房太太又各添一丁。三名小辈，日后为官都享有盛誉。
One day, lowering her head with a sad look, Xiaoqian sat at the window without speaking. Long after, she suddenly opened her mouth.
“Where is the leather bag?” asked she.
“Considering you’re afraid of it, I sealed it in other place.” She was told.
“I’ve been living together with strangers so long a time and should not be afraid of it anymore. It’s proper for you to take it back and hang it at the bed,” said the young lady.
Without understanding, Ning asked why.
“I’ve been distracted with anxiety for three days. I thought the demon in Jinhua must hate me to the bone because of my long distance escape. Maybe within one or two days, he’ll come here to search me.”
On hearing this, Ning took back the leather bag immediately. She examined it carefully and repeatedly.
“This sword bag belongs to supernatural beings. It’s a tool to contain people’s heads. Who knows how many heads it has ever contained up to now,” said she. “Looking at it now, I still shiver with fright.”
At first he hung it above the bed. And the next day, she asked Ning to hang it above the window. At night, facing the candle, she sat there and asked her husband not to sleep.
A moment later, something like a large flying bird suddenly fell down. Alarmed and panicky, she promptly hid herself behind the curtain. Taking a look, Ning found the demon with lightning eyes and bloody tongue.
The demon rapidly rushed forward and stopped at the door. Shilly-shally for a long while, the demon stepped up at last, gradually drew close to the leather bag, took it down with its paw and seemly wanted to tear it open. Just at that moment, with a deafening cracking sound, the bag quickly enlarged as big as a suitcase. And then, something like a monster came out revealing only half of its body, and grasped the demon and put him into the bag again. After all these, everything became soundless and in a sudden, the bag shrank into the original size.
Ning was terribly frightened and his new wife came out.
“Everything is all right!” she said, extremely happy.
Looked into the bag, they found only some clear water in it.
Several years later, as expected, Ning Caichen successfully passed an imperial examination while the lady gave birth to a boy. After taking a concubine, Ning got two more boys, one from Xiaoqian, one from the concubine. And moreover, all these boys enjoyed a very high reputation in official circles.