The Hu Family: A Tale of Friendship, Marriage, and Fox Soldiers

Explore the story of the Hu family's enduring friendship, a unique marriage arrangement, and their encounters with mysterious fox soldiers in this intriguing tale.

In Zhili, there was a wealthy family who wanted to hire a scholar. One day, a talented scholar unexpectedly came to offer his services. The host welcomed him into the house, and the scholar was eloquent and pleasant to converse with. The scholar introduced himself as Mr. Hu, and the host hired him as their teacher. Mr. Hu was diligent in teaching, well-versed in knowledge, and not an ordinary scholar.

However, Mr. Hu often went out for excursions and would return late at night. Even though the door was securely closed, no knocking was heard when he entered the room. The host was astonished and suspected it might be a fox. Yet, since Mr. Hu showed no ill intentions, the host continued to treat him generously without letting his peculiar behavior affect their courtesy.

Mr. Hu knew that the host had a daughter and secretly sought her hand in marriage, hinting at it several times. The host pretended not to understand. One day, Mr. Hu asked for leave and departed. The next day, a guest came to visit and tied a black donkey at the door. The host invited the guest inside. This guest was in his fifties, well-dressed, and displayed a very dignified and elegant demeanor. After he took his seat, he explained his purpose for the visit, revealing that he had come as a matchmaker for Mr. Hu. The host remained silent for a long time before saying, “Mr. Hu and I are already close friends; why insist on a marriage proposal? Besides, my daughter is already promised to someone else. Please convey my apologies to Mr. Hu.” The guest said, “I’m fully aware of Miss Ling’s current situation. Why do you persistently refuse?” He pleaded repeatedly, but the host refused to agree. The guest felt embarrassed and asked, “Is Mr. Hu’s background not as noble as yours, even though he comes from a respected family?” The host then bluntly stated, “It’s not that, I just dislike that he is not human.” The guest, upon hearing this, became furious, and an argument ensued, escalating further. The guest tried to grab the host, while the host ordered his servants to drive him away with sticks. The guest fled, leaving the donkey behind. Upon closer inspection, the donkey was covered in black fur, had pointed ears, a long tail, and was a colossal creature. However, it wouldn’t move when pulled and easily toppled over when pushed, turning into a chirping grasshopper.

Upon hearing the angry words from the guest, the host knew that they would come for revenge, so he instructed his servants to strengthen their defenses. Indeed, the next day, a large force of fox soldiers poured in, including cavalry, infantry, some wielding spears, and others with bows. They shouted and neighed with a fierce demeanor. The host was too frightened to leave his house. The fox soldiers threatened to set the house on fire, further terrifying the host.

One brave servant led a group of household members to shout and charge out, throwing stones and shooting arrows. Both sides engaged in a heated battle, causing casualties on both sides. The fox soldiers gradually couldn’t withstand the fight and retreated. A shiny sword was left on the ground, resembling frost and snow. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be sorghum leaves. The people laughed and said, “Is this all they’re capable of?” However, they remained vigilant, fearing that the fox soldiers might return.

The next day, as people were gathered together talking, suddenly a giant descended from the sky, over ten feet tall and several feet wide, wielding a colossal sword-like door panel, chasing and attacking people. The household members threw stones and shot arrows randomly at him, and the giant fell dead. It turned out to be a straw man used for funerals. People felt that defeating the fox soldiers was quite easy.

Three days passed without any sign of the fox soldiers, and the vigilance of the household members relaxed slightly. On that day, the host happened to be using the restroom when he saw the fox soldiers approaching, bows drawn and arrows aimed. They fired, and the arrows struck the host’s buttocks. He was greatly frightened and hastily called the household members to defend. Only then did the fox soldiers retreat. Upon pulling out the arrows from his buttocks, they turned out to be stems of wormwood grass.

In this manner, both sides confronted each other for over a month. The fox soldiers came and went unpredictably. Although they did not inflict significant harm, the constant state of alertness caused great distress to the host.

One day, Mr. Hu led his fox soldiers to the host’s residence. The host personally went out to confront them, and when Mr. Hu saw him, he concealed himself among the fox soldiers. The host called for him to come forward, and reluctantly, he stepped out. The host said, “I believe I haven’t done anything to offend you, Mr. Hu. Why should we resort to violence?” The fox soldiers were about to shoot the host, but Mr. Hu stopped them. The host approached, shook Mr. Hu’s hand, and invited him to the original study, where he arranged food and drinks to entertain him.

The host spoke calmly, saying, “Mr. Hu, you are a reasonable person, and I’m sure you can understand me. Considering our deep friendship, how can we not be willing to join our families in marriage? However, your lifestyle, residence, and habits differ significantly from those of humans. It’s not suitable for my daughter to follow you, as you must already know. Moreover, there’s a saying, ‘A forced melon is not sweet.’ Why are you doing this?” Mr. Hu felt extremely ashamed.

The host reassured him, saying, “It’s alright; our previous relationship remains intact. If you don’t mind us, the worldly and mundane people, I have a young son who is fifteen years old this year and willing to become a groom in your household. Do you have a young lady of similar age and appearance for a suitable match?” Mr. Hu happily replied, “I have a younger sister who is one year younger than your son, and she is of good character and appearance. How about her serving as your young master’s wife?”

After hearing this, the host stood up and thanked Mr. Hu, and Mr. Hu also expressed his gratitude. They continued to drink and converse, dispelling their previous misunderstandings. The host then ordered a banquet to be prepared to treat Mr. Hu’s subordinates, and everyone enjoyed themselves. The host intended to inquire about Mr. Hu’s address in detail to arrange the marriage, but Mr. Hu did not reveal it. As the evening grew late, they lit a lamp and continued drinking until they were both thoroughly intoxicated. Only then did Mr. Hu take his leave. From that day on, there were no more conflicts, and they lived in peace.

Over a year passed, and Mr. Hu did not return. Some people suspected that Mr. Hu’s promised marriage was a falsehood, but the host insisted on waiting for him. Another six months went by, and suddenly Mr. Hu returned. After exchanging pleasantries, he said, “My younger sister has grown into adulthood. Please choose an auspicious day to send her over to serve her in-laws.” The host was delighted, and after setting the wedding date with Mr. Hu, they bid farewell.

That evening, a bridal sedan indeed arrived with the new bride, accompanied by a generous dowry that nearly filled the new house. The new bride paid her respects to her in-laws and appeared exceedingly beautiful and gentle, which pleased the host greatly. Mr. Hu and his younger brother came to escort the new bride. Both brothers were eloquent and skilled in drinking, and they didn’t leave until dawn. The new bride also had the ability to predict the yearly harvests, so the household relied on her advice for managing their livelihood.

Subsequently, Mr. Hu and his brother, along with their mother, frequently visited her, and everyone in the family had the chance to meet them.

《胡氏》

直隶有巨家,欲延师。忽一秀才,踵门自荐。主人延入,词语开爽,遂相知悦。秀才自言胡氏,遂纳贽馆之。胡课业良勤,淹洽非下士等。然时出游,辄昏夜始归,扃闭俨然,不闻款叩而已在室中矣。遂相惊以狐。然察胡意固不恶,优重之,不以怪异废礼。

胡知主人有女,求为姻好,屡示意,主人伪不解。一日,胡假而去。次日,有客来谒,絷黑卫于门。主人逆而入。年五十馀,衣履鲜洁,意甚恬雅。既坐,自达,始知为胡氏作冰。主人默然,良久曰:“仆与胡先生,交已莫逆,何必婚姻?且息女已许字矣。烦代谢先生。”客曰:“确知令爱待聘,何拒之深?”再三言之,而主人不可。客有惭色,曰:“胡亦世族,何遽不如先生?”主人直告曰:“实无他意,但恶非其类耳。”客闻之怒,主人亦怒,相侵益亟。客起抓主人,主人命家人杖逐之,客乃遁,遗其驴。视之,毛黑色,批耳修尾,大物也。牵之不动,驱之则随手而蹶,喓喓然草虫耳。

主人以其言忿,知必相仇,戒备之。次日,果有狐兵大至,或骑或步,或戈或弩,马嘶人沸,声势汹汹。主人不敢出。狐声言火屋,主人益惧。有健者,率家人噪出,飞石施箭,两相冲击,互有夷伤。狐渐靡,纷纷引去。遗刀地上,亮如霜雪,近拾之,则高粱叶也。众笑曰:“技止此耳!”然恐其复至,益备之。明日,众方聚语,忽一巨人,自天而降,高丈馀,身横数尺,挥大刀如门,逐人而杀。群操矢石乱击之,颠踣而毙,则刍灵耳。众益易之。狐三日不复来,众亦少懈。主人适登厕,俄见狐兵,张弓挟矢而至,乱射之,集矢于臀。大惧,急喊众奔斗,狐方去。拔矢视之,皆蒿梗。如此月馀,去来不常,虽不甚害,而日日戒严,主人患苦之。

一日,胡生率众至。主人身出,胡望见,避于众中。主人呼之,不得已,乃出。主人曰:“仆自谓无失礼于先生,何故兴戎?”群狐欲射,胡止之。主人近握其手,邀入故斋,置酒相款。从容曰:“先生达人,当相见谅。以我情好,宁不乐附婚姻?但先生车马、宫室,多不与人同,弱女相从,即先生当知其不可。且谚云:‘瓜果之生摘者,不适于口。’先生何取焉?”胡大惭。主人曰:“无伤,旧好故在。如不以尘浊见弃,在门墙之幼子,年十五矣,愿得坦腹床下。不知有相若者否?”胡喜曰:“仆有弱妹,少公子一岁,颇不陋劣。以奉箕帚,如何?”主人起拜,胡答拜。于是酬酢甚欢,前隙俱忘。命罗酒浆,遍犒从者,上下欢慰。乃详问里居,将以奠雁,胡辞之。日暮继烛,醺醉乃去。由是遂安。

年馀,胡不至。或疑其约妄,而主人坚待之。又半年,胡忽至。既道温凉已,乃曰:“妹子长成矣。请卜良辰,遣事翁姑。”主人喜,即同定期而去。至夜,果有舆马送新妇至,奁妆丰盛,设室中几满。新妇见姑嫜,温丽异常,主人大喜。胡生与一弟来送女,谈吐俱风雅,又善饮,天明乃去。新妇且能预知年岁丰凶,故谋生之计,皆取则焉。胡生兄弟,以及胡媪,时来望女,人人皆见之。

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