Miss Xin Fourteen: A Tale of Love, Tragedy, and Redemption

Explore the captivating story of Miss Xin Fourteen, a tale of love, adversity, and an unexpected celestial intervention.

In Guangping County, there lived a man named Feng Sheng during the reign of Emperor Zhengde in the Ming Dynasty. In his youth, he was known for his frivolous behavior and excessive drinking. One day, at dawn, while he was out by chance, he encountered a young girl. She was dressed in a red shawl, possessed a charming and graceful appearance, and was accompanied by a little maid. They were walking along the dewy road, their shoes and socks soaked through. Feng Sheng secretly fell in love with this young girl.

In the dim twilight, Feng Sheng returned home drunk. Along the road, there was an abandoned temple that had been deserted for a long time. A woman emerged from it, and to his surprise, it was the same beautiful woman he had encountered earlier. When she saw Feng Sheng approaching, she quickly turned and entered the temple. Feng Sheng wondered why this beautiful woman was living in a temple, so he tied his donkey at the entrance and decided to investigate. Inside, he saw crumbling walls, a dilapidated state, and overgrown grass on the steps, resembling a carpet. As Feng Sheng hesitated, an elderly man with gray hair and neat clothing came out and asked, “Where are you from, sir?” Feng Sheng replied, “I happened to pass by this ancient temple and wanted to take a look. Why are you here, sir?” The old man said, “I am a wanderer with no place to stay, so I temporarily settled my family here. Since you’ve come, please have a cup of mountain tea, which will serve as our drink.” He welcomed the guest into the temple. Feng Sheng noticed a courtyard behind the main hall with a smooth stone path, free from weeds. Inside the room, there were curtains, bed canopies, and a delightful fragrance in the air. After taking a seat, the old man introduced himself as Mr. Xin.

In the midst of his drunkenness, Feng Sheng suddenly asked Mr. Xin, “I’ve heard that you have a daughter who hasn’t found a suitable spouse. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I’m willing to propose marriage.” Mr. Xin smiled and said, “Let me discuss it with my wife.” Feng Sheng immediately asked for a pen and wrote a poem: “A thousand gold to find a jade pestle, diligently grinding it myself. If Yunying has any interest, let’s personally pound the frost.” Mr. Xin laughed and handed it to someone beside him. After a while, a maid whispered something to Mr. Xin. He stood up and asked Feng Sheng to be patient and wait for a while, then went inside the inner room. Feng Sheng thought there must be good news, but Mr. Xin sat down and engaged him in casual conversation, avoiding the topic. Unable to bear it, Feng Sheng asked, “I’m not sure what you mean, and I hope you can dispel my doubts.” Mr. Xin said, “You are an outstanding individual, and I have long admired your charisma. However, I have some personal matters that are not easy to discuss.” Feng Sheng urged him to speak, and Mr. Xin said, “I have nineteen daughters, and twelve of them are already married. The matter of marrying off my daughters is handled by my wife, and I am not involved.” Feng Sheng said, “I am only interested in the young lady who was walking with a little maid early this morning.” Mr. Xin remained silent, and both of them sat there in silence. At that moment, Feng Sheng heard the soft, intimate conversation coming from inside the room. Driven by his drunkenness, he pulled aside the curtain and said, “Since we cannot be husband and wife, we should at least see each other’s faces to alleviate my regret.” Everyone in the room turned and looked at Feng Sheng in astonishment. Among them was indeed a young woman in a red dress, shaking her sleeves and bowing her head, standing gracefully and lightly fiddling with her clothes. When she saw Feng Sheng entering, the entire room was filled with panic. Mr. Xin became furious and had a few men drag Feng Sheng out. Feng Sheng, now even more intoxicated, fell into a clump of weeds. Tiles and stones rained down like bullets, but fortunately, none hit him.

After lying down for a while, Feng Sheng heard his donkey still grazing by the roadside. He got up, mounted the donkey unsteadily, and continued on his way. The night was hazy, and he mistakenly entered a creek valley where wolves were running, and owls were hooting. This frightened him, causing his hair to stand on end, and he shivered all over. Hesitating and bewildered, he looked around, not knowing where he was. In the distance, he saw lights hidden amidst a vast forest, which he assumed to be a village, so he hurriedly made his way there to find shelter.

Feng Sheng looked up and saw a grand entrance to a household, so he used his whip to knock on the door. Someone from inside asked, “Who are you, arriving here in the middle of the night?” Feng Sheng explained that he had lost his way. The person inside said, “Wait, let me inform the master.” Feng Sheng cautiously stood there, eagerly awaiting a response. Suddenly, he heard the sound of unlocking and the door opening, and a sturdy servant came out to lead his donkey. Once inside, Feng Sheng observed that the house was very luxurious, with lights lit in the main hall. After sitting for a while, a woman came out and asked for the guest’s name, to which Feng Sheng promptly replied.

After some time, several maids helped an elderly lady out and said, “The County Lady has arrived.” Feng Sheng stood up and prepared to bow respectfully, but the elderly lady quickly stopped him and asked him to sit down. She then said, “You must be the grandson of Feng Yunzi, aren’t you?” Feng Sheng confirmed, saying, “Yes, I am.” The elderly lady continued, “You must be my distant relative. Throughout my life, we have rarely met among our kin.” Feng Sheng replied, “I lost my father at a young age, and out of my grandfather’s ten companions, I recognize none of them. I have never had the opportunity to pay my respects. Please guide me.” The elderly lady said, “You will come to understand it yourself.”

Feng Sheng dared not ask any further questions and sat across, pondering the situation. The elderly lady inquired, “Grandson, why have you come here so late at night?” Feng Sheng, always boasting of his courage, narrated the events he had encountered one by one. The elderly lady smiled and said, “This is a great thing. Moreover, you are a scholar, and you haven’t tainted any marriage bonds. How can a cunning fox spirit force herself upon someone as distinguished as you? Don’t worry; I can help you make this match.” Feng Sheng repeatedly expressed his gratitude.

The elderly lady looked at those around her and said, “I didn’t expect the daughters of the Xin family to be so beautiful.” A maid chimed in, “They have nineteen daughters, all elegant and charming. I wonder which one the young master wishes to marry?” Feng Sheng replied, “The one who is around fifteen years old.” The maid said, “That’s Fourteenth Miss. She came with her mother to offer birthday wishes to the County Lady in March. How could you forget?” The elderly lady laughed and said, “Is it the one who wears shoes with lotus petal patterns carved on the wooden soles, filled with fragrant powder, and walks with a veil?” The maid confirmed, “Yes.” The elderly lady continued, “This girl is particularly creative, coquettish, and clever. But indeed, she is charming and graceful. My grandson has a good eye.” She then instructed the maid, “You can send Little Fox to call her.” The maid agreed and went to fetch her.

After a while, the maid returned and reported, “Miss Xin Fourteenth has been summoned.” Soon, a young woman in a red dress bowed to the elderly lady. The elderly lady pulled her up and said, “From now on, you are my grandson’s wife. No need for maid’s courtesy.” Xin Fourteenth stood up, gracefully and elegantly, with her red sleeves hanging low. The elderly lady adjusted her hair and touched her earrings, asking, “What have you been doing at home recently?” Xin Fourteenth, blushing and shy, replied with her head down, “Just embroidery during my free time.” When she looked at Feng Sheng, she became even more bashful. The elderly lady said, “This is my grandson. He is eager to marry you. Why did you let him get lost and wander in the valley all night?” Xin Fourteenth remained silent. The elderly lady said, “I called you here for one reason: I want to act as a matchmaker for my grandson.” Xin Fourteenth still remained silent.

The elderly lady instructed to prepare the bed, blankets, and consummate the marriage immediately. Xin Fourteenth timidly said, “I want to go back and inform my parents.” The elderly lady said, “I’m acting as a matchmaker for you; can I be wrong?” Xin Fourteenth said, “Even if I were to die, I wouldn’t dare to obey this command.” The elderly lady smiled and said, “This young girl has unyielding spirit. She is truly my granddaughter-in-law!” She then plucked a golden flower from Xin Fourteenth’s hair and handed it to Feng Sheng, instructing him to go home and consult the almanac to find an auspicious date for the wedding. She immediately sent a maid to escort Xin Fourteenth back.

At this moment, they heard the distant crowing of a rooster, signaling the break of dawn. The elderly lady sent someone to lead Feng Sheng out while riding his donkey. Just a few steps outside the door, Feng Sheng suddenly turned back to look. The village houses had already vanished, replaced by dark pine and cypress trees, and the land was covered with thorns and weeds, except for a single grave. It took Feng Sheng some time to recollect that this was the tomb of Minister Xue. Minister Xue was the younger brother of Feng Sheng’s deceased grandmother, which is why the elderly lady had referred to him as her grandson. Feng Sheng realized that he had encountered a ghost, but he still didn’t know who Xin Fourteenth Miss was.

He returned home, absentmindedly picked an auspicious date, and waited for that day to come. However, he couldn’t shake off the fear that his marriage cont

On the day of the wedding, Feng Sheng cleaned the house and the path, and his servants took turns waiting for the arrival of the beautiful lady. However, even until midnight, there was no sign or sound of her, and Feng Sheng began to lose hope. Suddenly, there was a commotion outside the door. Feng Sheng hastily put on his shoes and went outside, only to see a bridal sedan chair parked in the courtyard. A maid had assisted Xin Fourteenth Miss to sit in the green pavilion. There was minimal dowry, only a large jar-shaped money jar that two burly servants had carried and placed in a corner of the hall.

Feng Sheng was delighted to have such a beautiful bride and had no suspicion that Xin Fourteenth Miss might not be human. He asked her, “Why is your family so accommodating to a deceased spirit?” Xin Fourteenth Miss replied, “Minister Xue is currently the Fifth Imperial Inspector in charge of hunting ghosts and spirits within a few hundred miles. So, it’s rare for ghosts and foxes to return to their graves regularly.” Feng Sheng didn’t forget his matchmaker, and the next day, he went to pay respects at Minister Xue’s tomb. When he returned home, he saw two maids bringing a precious embroidered silk as a congratulatory gift and placing it on a table. Feng Sheng informed Xin Fourteenth Miss, and she recognized it, saying, “This belongs to the County Lord’s family.”

In this county, there was a son of the Assistant Minister named Chu, who had been a childhood classmate of Feng Sheng, and they had a close relationship. Young Master Chu heard the rumors that Feng Sheng had married a fox spirit, and three days after the wedding, he sent food and wine as gifts, followed by a visit to Feng’s home to offer congratulations. A few days later, Young Master Chu sent a letter inviting Feng Sheng for a drink. Upon hearing this, Xin Fourteenth Miss warned Feng Sheng, saying, “When Young Master Chu visited a few days ago, I peeked through a crack in the wall and saw that he had monkey-like eyes and a hawk-like nose. It’s best not to have too much contact with him.” Feng Sheng agreed not to go.

The next day, Young Master Chu came to reproach Feng Sheng for not keeping the appointment and brought a new composition as a gift. Feng Sheng’s comments in response contained mockery, and Young Master Chu felt greatly ashamed. They parted ways on bad terms. Feng Sheng returned to his room and chuckled as he recounted the incident. Xin Fourteenth Miss wore a sorrowful expression and said, “Young Master Chu is as ruthless as a jackal and should not be approached. If you don’t heed my advice, disaster will befall you!” Feng Sheng just smiled and expressed his gratitude. Later on, Feng Sheng noticed that Young Master Chu was always complimenting him and making jokes, gradually mending their previous rift.

At the time, the Superintendent of Education was overseeing an examination, and Young Master Chu ranked first, while Feng Sheng came in second. Young Master Chu was quite pleased with himself and sent someone to invite Feng Sheng for a drink. Feng Sheng initially declined but eventually accepted after being invited multiple times. Upon arrival, he realized it was Young Master Chu’s birthday, and the banquet was lavish with a full house of guests.

Young Master Chu proudly displayed the examination papers to Feng Sheng, and friends and family crowded around, admiring and praising them. After several rounds of drinks, music played in the hall, with lively and wild melodies that delighted both guests and hosts. Suddenly, Young Master Chu turned to Feng Sheng and said, “There’s a saying, ‘In the examination hall, don’t discuss poetry.’ Now I know this saying is utterly wrong. The reason I ranked ahead of you is because the opening lines of my essay were slightly better.” After Young Master Chu spoke, the guests at the table praised him with admiration.

Feng Sheng, unable to contain himself in his drunken state, burst into laughter and said, “Do you still think it was your essay that got you first place?” After Feng Sheng’s remark, the faces of the guests at the table changed, and Young Master Chu was left embarrassed and speechless, seething with anger. As the guests gradually dispersed, Feng Sheng made a hasty exit as well.

After sobering up, Feng Sheng deeply regretted his words and confessed the incident to Xin Fourteenth Miss. Xin Fourteenth Miss expressed her displeasure, saying, “You are truly an ignorant and frivolous country youth! Treating a gentleman with such levity will lead to a loss of virtue. Using such an attitude towards a villain will bring calamity upon yourself. You are not far from disaster! I can’t bear to watch you fall into ruin. Please allow me to bid farewell to you now.” Feng Sheng was filled with fear, tears streaming down his face, and he shared his remorse with Xin Fourteenth Miss.

Xin Fourteenth Miss said, “If you want me to stay, we must make an agreement. Starting from today, you must stay indoors and cut off all social interactions. You are not allowed to drink casually.” Feng Sheng complied with her conditions. Xin Fourteenth Miss managed the household diligently, handled matters efficiently, and spent her days spinning and weaving. She occasionally visited her parents but never stayed overnight. She also frequently took out money and fabric to sustain their livelihood. Any surplus money from the day was deposited into a large money jar. She kept the doors closed throughout the day and instructed servants to turn away any visitors.

One day, Young Master Chu sent a messenger with a letter, but Xin Fourteenth Miss burned the letter without informing Feng Sheng. The following day, when Feng Sheng went out to the city to pay his respects to a deceased person, he encountered Young Master Chu at the home of the deceased. Young Master Chu grabbed his arm and persistently invited him. Feng Sheng made excuses, but Young Master Chu had a servant fetch his horse and surrounded him. Upon arriving at the Chu residence, Young Master Chu immediately ordered a lavish feast. Feng Sheng again expressed his desire to return home early.

Young Master Chu continued to persuade him and even had a female musician come out to play the zither. Feng Sheng, who had been confined at home and felt quite bored, suddenly found an opportunity to indulge in drinking. He became merry and disregarded Xin Fourteenth Miss’s instructions. Consequently, he drank heavily and eventually collapsed at the table.

Young Master Chu’s wife, Lady Ruan, was known for her jealousy and cruelty. None of the maids or concubines in the house dared to groom or adorn themselves. On the previous day, one of the maids entered the study, and Lady Ruan caught her and beat her with a wooden staff, causing her to die instantly. Young Master Chu had been nursing a grudge against Feng Sheng due to his mockery and insults. He harbored a desire for revenge and hatched a plan to get Feng Sheng drunk and frame him.

Taking advantage of Feng Sheng’s drunken, deep sleep, Young Master Chu placed the maid’s corpse on the bed, locked the door, and left. Around dawn, Feng Sheng woke up from his stupor and realized he was lying on a table. When he got up to look for his bed and pillow, he felt something soft under his feet. Upon touching it, he discovered it was a person. He initially thought it was a young servant sent by the host to keep him company. He attempted to kick the person, but the individual remained motionless, already stiff.

Filled with fear, Feng Sheng rushed out of the room, shouting in panic. All the servants gathered, and when they lit a fire and saw the corpse, they immediately seized Feng Sheng and angrily accused him. Young Master Chu came to examine the body and falsely accused Feng Sheng of raping and murdering the maid. Feng Sheng was subsequently arrested and taken to Guangping County.

After a day had passed, Xin Fourteenth Miss received the news. Tearfully, she said, “I knew this day would come!” She sent some money to Feng Sheng according to the date. When Feng Sheng faced the magistrate, there was no room for argument. He endured torture morning and night, suffering severe injuries.

Xin Fourteenth Miss personally visited him, but when they met, the weight of his unjust predicament left him too melancholic to speak. Xin Fourteenth Miss realized that the trap had been set too deep and advised Feng Sheng to falsely confess to the crime to avoid further punishment. With tears in his eyes, Feng Sheng agreed to follow her advice.

Xin Fourteenth Miss moved between her home and the prison, remaining hidden from view even when people were nearby. Upon returning home, she sighed and regretted her actions. She hastily dismissed her maidservant, living alone for several days.

Then, she sought the services of a matchmaker and purchased a decent woman named Lu’er, who had reached marriageable age and possessed a fair appearance. She shared her bed and meals with Lu’er, displaying more affection and care than she had shown to any other servant.

Feng Sheng admitted to the accidental killing of the maidservant while under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced to execution. His servants returned with the news, weeping as they spoke. Xin Fourteenth Miss appeared calm and unaffected, as if she were indifferent to the news.

As the day of the autumn execution approached, Xin Fourteenth Miss became increasingly anxious and restless. She paced day and night, weeping bitterly whenever she found herself alone, leading to a significant loss of sleep and appetite. One afternoon, around the time of the Shen hour, the fox-woman maidservant she had initially sent out suddenly returned.

Xin Fourteenth Miss immediately stood up, ushered her into an empty room for a private conversation, and emerged from the room with a smile on her face, going about her household duties as usual.

The following day, Feng Sheng sent a message through his servant requesting Xin Fourteenth Miss’s final farewell visit. When the servant returned with the message, Xin Fourteenth Miss responded indifferently and placed it aside. The family members secretly discussed her heartlessness.

Suddenly, there was a widespread rumor in the streets that Chu, the Assistant Minister of Rites, had been dismissed, and the Inspector of Pingyang was specially appointed to handle Feng Sheng’s case. The servants were overjoyed and informed Xin Fourteenth Miss. She too was delighted and immediately sent someone to the yamen to check on Feng Sheng, who had already been released from prison. They reunited in a mixture of sorrow and joy.

Soon after, the authorities apprehended Young Master Chu and, upon interrogation, the full truth of the matter was revealed. Feng Sheng was promptly released and returned home.

When Feng Sheng returned home and saw Xin Fourteenth Miss, he cried tears of sorrow, and Xin Fourteenth Miss, facing him, also displayed a pained expression. After the initial sadness, happiness returned. However, Feng Sheng remained unaware of how his case had come to the Emperor’s attention. Xin Fourteenth Miss smiled and pointed to the maidservant, saying, “This is your savior.” Feng Sheng asked in amazement for the reasons behind this.

Before this, Xin Fourteenth Miss had dispatched the maidservant to travel to Yanjing, aiming to reach the Imperial Palace and plead for Feng Sheng’s case. However, upon arrival, the maidservant found the palace guarded by divine forces, making it impossible to enter. Fearing further complications, she was about to return for further deliberation when she heard that the current Emperor was planning to visit Datong. So, the maidservant hastened to Datong in advance, disguised as a destitute courtesan.

When the Emperor arrived at the brothel, he favored the maidservant greatly. Suspecting that she was not a common woman, he inquired when she lowered her head in tears. He asked, “Do you suffer from some grievance?” The maidservant replied, “I originally belonged to Guangping County and am the daughter of a scholar named Feng. Due to an unjust case, my father was sentenced to death, and I was sold into this brothel.” The Emperor’s expression turned sorrowful, and he rewarded her with a hundred taels of gold.

Before leaving, the Emperor meticulously inquired about the details of the case, recorded names on paper, and expressed a desire to share wealth and prosperity with the maidservant. She replied, “I only wish for a reunion with my father; I do not desire fine clothes and exquisite meals.” The Emperor nodded in agreement, and the maidservant departed. She shared these circumstances with Feng Sheng, who immediately knelt down, tears glistening in his eyes.

Not long after, Xin Fourteenth Miss suddenly said to Feng Sheng, “If it weren’t for the ties of destiny, I wouldn’t have encountered these troubles. When you were arrested, I went around among relatives, but no one helped me find a solution. The sour and bitter feelings I had back then had nowhere to be expressed. Now, I find myself increasingly weary of the worldly suffering. I have already arranged a suitable partner for you, and we can part ways from here.”

Upon hearing this, Feng Sheng wept uncontrollably, falling to the ground. Xin Fourteenth Miss did not leave at that moment. That night, she sent Lu Er to accompany Feng Sheng to sleep, but he refused. The following morning, Feng Sheng noticed that Xin Fourteenth Miss’s appearance had suddenly diminished. Over the course of a month, she gradually showed signs of aging, and six months later, her complexion darkened, resembling a rural elderly woman. However, Feng Sheng continued to hold her in high regard and never wavered in his affection.

At this point, she suddenly bid farewell once more, saying, “You have a contented companion, so why should you still have this old and ugly wife?” Feng Sheng, heartbroken, continued to treat her with the same affection as before. After another month, Xin Fourteenth Miss fell seriously ill, refusing food and drink, lying weakly in her room. Feng Sheng attended to her, caring for her like one would for their parents. However, neither magic nor medicine proved effective, and Xin Fourteenth Miss eventually passed away. Feng Sheng, overwhelmed with grief, used the money given by the Emperor to the maidservant to arrange her funeral.

A few days later, the fox-like maidservant also left, and Feng Sheng then took Lu Er as his wife.

A year later, they had a son. However, due to consecutive crop failures, their financial situation deteriorated, and the couple found themselves in constant worry. They suddenly remembered the large money jar in the corner of the hall. They used to see Xin Fourteenth Miss putting money into it, but they weren’t sure if it was still there. Upon closer inspection, they found it filled with soy sauce jars and salt containers. They removed these items one by one and tried to insert chopsticks into the money jar, but it was so tightly packed that they couldn’t. They broke it open, and coins scattered all over the place, making them instantly wealthy.

Later, an old servant went to Mount Taihua and saw Xin Fourteenth Miss riding a green ox with the maidservant on a donkey following behind. Xin Fourteenth Miss asked, “How is Feng Lang doing?” and said, “Please tell your master that I have been recognized as an immortal now.” After saying this, she disappeared from sight.

Yi Shi said: Frivolous words often come from scholars, which is a cause for deep concern among gentlemen. I, too, once bore the accusation of speaking frivolously, finding my own self-pity overly conservative. Nevertheless, I have never ceased my diligent self-improvement, aiming to elevate myself to the ranks of gentlemen. As for whether this is a curse or a blessing, I no longer concern myself with it. People like Feng Sheng, who uttered words without caution, almost brought calamity upon themselves. If it weren’t for his celestial wife, how could he have escaped from prison and survived in this world? It’s truly frightening!

《辛十四娘》

广平冯生,正德间人,少轻脱,纵酒。昧爽偶行,遇一少女,着红帔,容色娟好,从小奚奴,蹑露奔波,履袜沾濡。心窃好之。

薄暮醉归,道侧故有兰若,久芜废,有女子自内出,则向丽人也。忽见生来,即转身入。阴念:丽者何得在禅院中?絷驴于门,往觇其异。入则断垣零落,阶上细草如毯。彷徨间,一斑白叟出,衣帽整洁,问:“客何来?”生曰:“偶过古刹,欲一瞻仰。翁何至此?”叟曰:“老夫流寓无所,暂借此安顿细小。既承宠降,有山茶可以当酒。”乃肃宾入。见殿后一院,石路光明,无复蓁莽。入其室,则帘幌床幕,香雾喷人。坐展姓字,云:“蒙叟姓辛。”生乘醉遽问曰:“闻有女公子,未遭良匹。窃不自揣,愿以镜台自献。”辛笑曰:“容谋之荆人。”生即索笔为诗曰:“千金觅玉杵,殷勤手自将。云英如有意,亲为捣元霜。”主人笑付左右。少间,有婢与辛耳语,辛起慰客耐坐,牵幕入。隐约三数语,即趋出。生意必有佳报,而辛乃坐与嗢噱,不复有他言。生不能忍,问曰:“未审意旨,幸释疑抱。”辛曰:“君卓荦士,倾风已久。但有私衷,所不敢言耳。”生固请之,辛曰:“弱息十九人,嫁者十有二。醮命任之荆人,老夫不与焉。”生曰:“小生只要得今朝领小奚奴带露行者。”辛不应,相对默然。闻房内嘤嘤腻语,生乘醉搴帘曰:“伉俪既不可得,当一见颜色,以消吾憾。”内闻钩动,群立愕顾。果有红衣人,振袖倾鬟,亭亭拈带。望见生入,遍室张皇。辛怒,命数人摔生出。酒愈涌上,倒蓁芜中。瓦石乱落如雨,幸不着体。

卧移时,听驴子犹龁草路侧,乃起跨驴,踉蹡而行。夜色迷闷,误入涧谷,狼奔鸱叫,竖毛寒心。踟蹰四顾,并不知其何所。遥望苍林中,灯火明灭,疑必村落,竟驰投之。仰见高闳,以策挝门。内有问者曰:“何处郎君,半夜来此?”生以失路告。问者曰:“待达主人。”生累足鹄俟。忽闻振管辟扉,一健仆出,代客捉驴。生入,见室甚华好,堂上张灯火。少坐,有妇人出,问客姓字,生以告。逾刻,青衣数人,扶一老妪出,曰:“郡君至。”生起立,肃身欲拜。妪止之坐,谓生曰:“尔非冯云子之孙耶?”曰:“然。”妪曰:“子当是我弥甥。老身钟漏并歇,残年向尽,骨肉之间,殊所乖阔。”生曰:“儿少失怙,与我祖父处者,十不识一焉。素未拜省,乞便指示。”妪曰:“子自知之。”

生不敢复问,坐对悬想。妪曰:“甥深夜何得来此?”生以胆力自矜诩,遂一一历陈所遇。妪笑曰:“此大好事。况甥名士,殊不玷于姻娅,野狐精何得强自高?甥勿虑,我能为若致之。”生称谢唯唯。妪顾左右曰:“我不知辛家女儿遂如此端好。”青衣人曰:“渠有十九女,都翩翩有风格。不知官人所聘行几?”生曰:“年约十五馀矣。”青衣曰:“此是十四娘。三月间,曾从阿母寿郡君,何忘却?”妪笑曰:“是非刻莲瓣为高履,实以香屑,蒙纱而步者乎?”青衣曰:“是也。”妪曰:“此婢大会作意,弄媚巧。然果窕窈,阿甥赏鉴不谬。”即谓青衣曰:“可遣小狸奴唤之来。”青衣应诺去。移时,入白:“呼得辛家十四娘至矣。”旋见红衣女子,望妪俯拜。妪曳之曰:“后为我家甥妇,勿得修婢子礼。”女子起,娉娉而立,红袖低垂。妪理其鬓发,捻其耳环,曰:“十四娘近在闺中作么生?”女低应曰:“闲来只挑绣。”回首见生,羞缩不安。妪曰:“此吾甥也。盛意与儿作姻好,何便教迷途,终夜窜溪谷?”女俯首无语。妪曰:“我唤汝,非他,欲为阿甥作伐耳。”女默默而已。妪命扫榻展裀褥,即为合卺。女觍然曰:“还以告之父母。”妪曰:“我为汝作冰,有何舛谬?”女曰:“郡君之命,父母当不敢违。然如此草草,婢子即死,不敢奉命!”妪笑曰:“小女子志不可夺,真吾甥妇也!”乃拔女头上金花一朵,付生收之,命归家检历,以良辰为定。乃使青衣送女去。

听远鸡已唱,遣人持驴送生出。数步外,欻一回顾,则村舍已失,但见松楸浓黑,蓬颗蔽冢而已。定想移时,乃悟其处为薛尚书墓。薛故生祖母弟,故相呼以甥。心知遇鬼,然亦不知十四娘何人。咨嗟而归,漫检历以待之,而心恐鬼约难恃。再往兰若,则殿宇荒凉。问之居人,则寺中往往见狐狸云。阴念:“若得丽人,狐亦自佳。”

至日,除舍扫途,更仆眺望,夜半犹寂,生已无望。顷之,门外哗然。躧屣出窥,则绣幰已驻于庭,双鬟扶女坐青庐中。妆奁亦无长物,惟两长鬣奴扛一扑满,大如瓮,息肩置堂隅。生喜得丽偶,并不疑其异类。问女曰:“一死鬼,卿家何帖服之甚?”女曰:“薛尚书,今作五都巡环使,数百里鬼狐皆备扈从,故归墓时常少。”生不忘蹇修,翼日,往祭其墓。归见二青衣,持贝锦为贺,竟委几上而去。生以告女,女视之,曰:“此郡君物也。”

邑有楚银台之公子,少与生共笔砚,相狎。闻生得狐妇,馈遗为餪,即登堂称觞。越数日,又折简来招饮。女闻,谓生曰:“曩公子来,我穴壁窥之,其人猿睛而鹰准,不可与久居也。宜勿往。”生诺之。翼日,公子造门,问负约之罪,且献新什。生评涉嘲笑,公子大惭,不欢而散。生归,笑述于房。女惨然曰:“公子豺狼,不可狎也!子不听吾言,将及于难!”生笑谢之。后与公子辄相谀噱,前隙渐释。

会提学试,公子第一,生第二。公子沾沾自喜,走伻来邀生饮。生辞,频招乃往。至则知为公子初度,客从满堂,列筵甚盛。公子出试卷示生,亲友叠肩叹赏。酒数行,乐奏作于堂,鼓吹伧佇,宾主甚乐。公子忽谓生曰:“谚云:‘场中莫论文。’此言今知其谬。小生所以忝出君上者,以起处数语,略高一筹耳。”公子言已,一座尽赞。生醉不能忍,大笑曰:“君到于今,尚以为文章至是耶?”生言已,一座失色,公子惭忿气结。客渐去,生亦遁。

醒而悔之,因以告女。女不乐曰:“君诚乡曲之儇子也!轻薄之态,施之君子,则丧吾德;施之小人,则杀吾身。君祸不远矣!我不忍见君流落,请从此辞。”生惧而涕,且告之悔。女曰:“如欲我留,与君约:从今闭户绝交游,勿浪饮。”生谨受教。十四娘为人勤俭洒脱,日以纴织为事。时自归宁,未尝逾夜。又时出金帛作生计,日有赢馀,辄投扑满。日杜门户,有造访者,辄嘱苍头谢去。

一日,楚公子驰函来,女焚爇不以闻。翼日,出吊于城,遇公子于丧者之家,捉臂苦邀。生辞以故,公子使圉人挽辔,拥之以行。至家,立命洗腆。继辞夙退。公子要遮无已,出家姬弹筝为乐。生素不羁,向闭置庭中,颇觉闷损,忽逢剧饮,兴顿豪,无复萦念。因而酣醉,颓卧席间。公子妻阮氏,最悍妒,婢妾不敢施脂泽。日前,婢入斋中,为阮掩执,以杖击首,脑裂立毙。公子以生嘲慢故,衔生,日思所报,遂谋醉以酒而诬之。乘生醉寐,扛尸床间,合扉径去。生五更酲解,始觉身卧几上。起寻枕榻,则有物腻然,绁绊步履,摸之,人也,意主人遣僮伴睡。又蹴之,不动而僵。大骇,出门怪呼。厮役尽起,爇之,见尸,执生怒闹。公子出验之,诬生逼奸杀婢,执送广平。

隔日,十四娘始知,潸然曰:“早知今日矣!”因按日以金钱遗生。生见府尹,无理可伸,朝夕搒掠,皮肉尽脱。女自诣问,生见之,悲气塞心,不能言说。女知陷阱已深,劝令诬服,以免刑宪。生泣听命。女还往之间,人咫尺不相窥。归家咨惋,遽遣婢子去。独居数日,又托媒媪购良家女,名禄儿,年已及笄,容华颇丽。与同寝食,抚爱异于群小。生认误杀拟绞,苍头得信归,恸述不成声。女闻,坦然若不介意。既而秋决有日,女始皇皇躁动,昼去夕来,无停履,每于寂所,於邑悲哀,至损眠食。一日,日晡,狐婢忽来。女顿起,相引屏语,出则笑色满容,料理门户如平时。翼日,苍头至狱,生寄语娘子一往永诀。苍头复命,女漫应之,亦不怆恻,殊落落置之。家人窃议其忍。忽道路沸传,楚银台革爵,平阳观察奉特旨治冯生案。苍头闻之喜,告主母。女亦喜,即遣入府探视,则生已出狱,相见悲喜。俄捕公子至,一鞫尽得其情。生立释宁家。

归见闱中人,泫然流涕,女亦相对怆楚,悲已而喜。然终不知何以得达上听。女笑指婢曰:“此君之功臣也。”生愕问故。先是,女遣婢赴燕都,欲达宫闱,为生陈冤。婢至,则宫中有神守护,徘徊御沟间,数月不得入。婢惧误事,方欲归谋,忽闻今上将幸大同,婢乃预往,伪作流妓。上至勾阑,极蒙宠眷。疑婢不似风尘人,婢乃垂泣。上问:“有何冤苦?”婢对:“妾原籍隶广平,生员冯某之女。父以冤狱将死,遂鬻妾勾阑中。”上惨然,赐金百两。临行,细问颠末,以纸笔记姓名,且言欲与共富贵。婢言:“但得父子团聚,不愿华膴也。”上颔之,乃去。婢以此情告生,生急拜,泪眦双荧。

居无几何,女忽谓生曰:“妾不为情缘,何处得烦恼?君被逮时,妾奔走戚眷间,并无一人代一谋者。尔时酸衷,诚不可以告愬。今视尘俗益厌苦。我已为君畜良偶,可从此别。”生闻,泣伏不起,女乃止。夜遣禄儿侍生寝,生拒不纳。朝视十四娘,容光顿减。又月馀,渐以衰老,半载,黯黑如村妪,生敬之终不替。女忽复言别,且曰:“君自有佳侣,安用此鸠盘为?”生哀泣如前日。又逾月,女暴疾,绝食饮,羸卧闺闼。生侍汤药,如奉父母。巫医无灵,竟以溘逝,生悲怛欲绝,即以婢赐金,为营斋葬。数日,婢亦去,遂以禄儿为室。

逾年举一子。然比岁不登,家益落,夫妻无计,对影长愁。忽忆堂陬扑满,常见十四娘投钱于中,不知尚在否。近临之,则豉具盐盎,罗列殆满。头头置去,箸探其中,坚不可入。扑而碎之,金钱溢出,由此顿大充裕。后苍头至太华,遇十四娘,乘青骡,婢子跨蹇以从,问:“冯郎安否?”且言:“致意主人,我已名列仙籍矣。”言讫不见。

异史氏曰:轻薄之词,多出于士类,此君子所悼惜也。余尝冒不韪之名,言冤则已迂,然未尝不刻苦自励,以勉附于君子之林,而祸福之说不与焉。若冯生者,一言之微,几至杀身,苟非室有仙人,亦何能解脱囹圄,以再生于当世耶?可惧哉!

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