Xi Shan, a native of Gao Mi County, Shandong, often travels between Mengyin and Yishui as a merchant.

One day, he encountered heavy rain on the way, and by the time he arrived at the place where he often stayed, it was already late at night. He knocked on the door of the inn, but no one answered. He had no choice but to wander under the eaves of a house. Suddenly, two doors opened and an old man came out and invited him in. Xi Shan happily followed him inside. After tying up the donkey, they entered the main hall. There were no beds or tables in the room. The old man said, 'I feel sorry for you not having a place to stay, so I invited you in. Actually, my family doesn't run a restaurant or an inn. There are no extra hands in the house, only my old wife and weak daughter, who are already asleep. Although there is some leftover food from last night, we lack cooking utensils to heat it up. Please don't mind eating cold food.' After saying that, he went inside. After a while, he brought out a low stool and placed it on the ground, urging the guest to sit down. He then brought out a short-legged tea table. He ran back and forth, busy and tired. Xi Shan stood up and sat down, feeling uneasy in his heart, so he held the old man back and asked him to rest. After a while, a girl came out and poured wine for them. The old man said, 'My daughter A Xian is awake.' Xi Shan looked at the girl, who was about sixteen or seventeen years old, slender, beautiful, and graceful. Xi Shan had a younger brother who was not yet married, and he secretly took a liking to this girl, so he asked the old man about his origin and family background. The old man replied, 'My surname is Gu, and my name is Shi Xu. My son and grandson died early, leaving only this daughter. She was awakened by her mother just now, as I didn't have the heart to disturb her sleep.' Xi Shan asked, 'Who is she betrothed to?' The old man replied, 'She hasn't been engaged to anyone yet.' Xi Shan was secretly delighted. Various dishes were then served, as if they had been prepared in advance. After Xi Shan finished eating, he thanked them respectfully and said, 'As a stranger who met you by chance, I will never forget your warm reception. It is because you are a person of great virtue that I dare to be so presumptuous as to bring up a matter. I have a younger brother named San Lang, who is seventeen years old and currently studying. He is not considered foolish or stubborn. I would like to propose a marriage alliance with you, but I hope you won't despise my humble family!' The old man happily said, 'I am just a lodger here. If we can rely on a family like yours, please lend me a room. Our whole family will move there to avoid any worries.' Xi Shan agreed and stood up to express his gratitude. The old man arranged for him to stay and then left. When the rooster crowed, the old man had already come out and invited Xi Shan to wash up. After Xi Shan packed his belongings, he took out money for the meal and offered it to the old man, but the old man firmly declined, saying, 'It's not right to charge a guest for a meal. Besides, we have become relatives through you.'

After parting ways, Xi Shan stayed away from home for over a month, returning only after conducting business as a traveling merchant. About a mile away from the village, he encountered an old lady leading a girl, both dressed in white. As he approached, he took a closer look and felt that the girl resembled A Xian. The girl also turned her head to look at him and tugged at the old lady's sleeve, whispering something in her ear. The old lady stopped and asked Xi Shan, 'Is your surname Xi?' Xi Shan replied, 'Yes.' The old lady said sadly, 'My old man was unfortunately crushed to death by a collapsed wall. We are going to the grave now, and there is no one left in the house. Please wait by the roadside for a while, we will be back soon.' Then they went into the woods. After a while, they returned. By this time, it was already getting dark, so they walked together. The old lady told Xi Shan about their hardships as widows and orphans, and unknowingly, they both became sad and teary. The old lady said, 'The people in this place are not kind-hearted. We widows and orphans have a hard time. Now that A Xian is already your daughter-in-law, if we miss this opportunity, it will probably be delayed for many days. It's better for us to go back together tonight.' Xi Shan agreed.

After returning home, the old lady lit a lamp and served the guest. After finishing the meal, she said to Xi Shan, 'We estimated that you would be back soon, so we sold all the grain we had stored. There were more than twenty stones, but we haven't delivered them yet because the journey was far. About four or five miles to the north, at the first door in the village, there is a man named Tan Erquan who is our buyer. Don't worry about the hard work, just use your donkey to transport a bag there. Knock on the door and tell him that the old lady from the southern village has some grain she wants to sell as travel expenses. Please ask him to hurry and bring his livestock to transport it.' She handed a bag of grain to Xi Shan. Xi Shan went there with his donkey, knocked on the door, and a fat man came out. Xi Shan explained the situation to him and left the grain before returning. After a while, two servants arrived with five mules. The old lady led Xi Shan to the place where the grain was stored, which turned out to be in a cellar. Xi Shan went down to fill the grain with a scoop, while the old lady distributed it above, and A Xian checked and signed for it. In a short time, they finished loading and sent them off. It took four trips back and forth to transport all the grain, and then Xi Shan handed over the money to the old lady. The old lady left him with one person and two mules, and they packed up and set off eastward.

After traveling twenty miles, it was dawn. They arrived at a market town and rented livestock near the market. Tan's servants then returned. After returning home, Xi Shan told his parents about what had happened. Both sides were very happy. Xi's family prepared another house for the old lady to live in, and they chose an auspicious day for San Lang's wedding. The old lady provided a complete dowry for her daughter.

A Xian was quiet and gentle, rarely speaking. When someone spoke to her, she just smiled and spent her days spinning and weaving, never stopping. Because of this, the whole family loved and cherished her. A Xian instructed San Lang, 'When you pass by from the west again, don't mention our mother and daughter to outsiders.' After three or four years, Xi's family became increasingly prosperous, and San Lang also entered the county school. One day, Xi Shan stayed at the house of the old neighbors of the Gu family, and by chance, he mentioned the time when he had no place to stay and sought shelter at the house of the old couple next door. The host said, 'Sir, you must be mistaken. My eastern neighbor is my uncle's villa. Three years ago, people who lived here often saw strange things, so it has been abandoned for a long time. How could there be an old couple who let you stay?' Xi Shan was surprised but did not delve further. The host continued, 'This house has been empty for a long time, about ten years. No one dares to live in it. One day, the back wall collapsed. My uncle went to check and saw a big rat trapped under the stones, as big as a cat, with its tail wagging outside. My uncle hurried back and called a group of people to come, but the rat was already gone. After more than ten days, they went in to investigate again, and it was quiet, with nothing there. It was over a year later before someone lived there again.' Xi Shan became even more puzzled. When he returned home, he privately discussed the matter with his family, and they all suspected that the new daughter-in-law was not human. They secretly worried about San Lang, but San Lang and A Xian remained loving as usual. As time went by, the family members began to discuss and speculate about this matter, and A Xian began to sense it. In the middle of the night, she said to San Lang, 'I have been married to you for several years, and I have never behaved in a way that questions my character as a wife. But now, I am being treated as if I am not human. Please give me a divorce letter and let my husband choose a good wife for himself.' As she spoke, tears streamed down her face. San Lang said, 'You should already know my intentions. Since you entered my home, our family has become increasingly prosperous, and everyone believes that this good fortune is thanks to you. How could there be any bad rumors?' A Xian said, 'My husband, you have no ulterior motives, and I know that. But with everyone talking and speculating, it is difficult to avoid being abandoned, just like a fan being discarded in autumn.' San Lang repeatedly comforted and explained, and A Xian no longer mentioned divorce.

Xi Shan could not let go of this matter in his heart, so he searched for a cat that was good at catching mice every day to observe A Xian's attitude. Although A Xian was not afraid, she always had a worried expression. One night, she told San Lang that her mother was a little sick and said goodbye to him to visit her mother. After daybreak, San Lang went to inquire about her, but the house was already empty. San Lang was frightened and sent people to search for their whereabouts, but there was no news. San Lang felt heartbroken and couldn't eat or sleep. His father and brother, on the other hand, felt relieved and took turns comforting and persuading him, planning to arrange a remarriage for him. But San Lang's mood was very depressed and unhappy. After waiting for over a year with no news, his father and brother often mocked and blamed him. San Lang had no choice but to spend a large sum of money to buy a concubine, but his longing for A Xian remained unchanged. After several more years, Xi's family became increasingly impoverished, and they all began to miss A Xian.

San Lang had a cousin named A Lan, who went to Jiaozhou for some business and took a detour to visit his cousin Lu Sheng, staying at his house. One night, A Lan heard someone crying in the neighboring house, but he didn't have time to ask about it. After finishing his business in Jiaozhou and returning to Lu Sheng's house, he heard the crying again, so he asked the host about it. The host replied, 'A few years ago, there was a widow and her daughter living here as tenants. The old lady passed away last month, and the girl has been living alone without any relatives, so she is very sad.' A Lan asked, 'What is her surname?' The host said, 'Her surname is Gu. Her family often keeps to themselves and doesn't interact with the neighbors, so we don't know much about her background.' A Lan exclaimed, 'She is my sister-in-law!' He then went to knock on the door. Someone came out crying and answered through the door, 'Who are you? There has never been a man in my house.' A Lan peered through the crack in the door and took a careful look. It was indeed his sister-in-law, so he said, 'Sister-in-law, open the door. I am A Lan from your uncle's family.' A Xian heard this and unlocked the door to let him in. She told A Lan about their hardships and her sorrowful state. A Lan said, 'My third brother is suffering greatly from missing you. Even if there are some disagreements between husband and wife, why run away so far?' A Xian hesitated and said, 'Because I am not treated as a human being by others, my mother and I hid here together. Now if I go back on my own and rely on others, who won't look down on me? If you want me to go back, you must live separately from your older brother, otherwise, I will take poison and seek death!'

After A Lan returned, he told San Lang about the situation. San Lang immediately went to find her. When the husband and wife saw each other, they were both heartbroken and in tears. The next day, they told the landlord about it. The landlord, Mr. Xie, had long been secretly planning to take A Xian as a concubine, so he hadn't collected rent from her family for many years. He had also hinted to A Xian's mother in various ways, but the old lady had always refused him. When the old lady passed away, Mr. Xie secretly rejoiced that he could finally have her, but then San Lang suddenly appeared. So he calculated all the years of rent together to make things difficult for them. Xi's family was not wealthy to begin with, and hearing that they needed so much money, they showed a worried expression. A Xian said, 'It's okay.' She led San Lang to see the granary, which was filled with about thirty stones of grain, more than enough to pay the rent. San Lang was overjoyed and went to tell Mr. Xie. Mr. Xie didn't want the grain, intentionally only asking for money. A Xian sighed and said, 'All this trouble is because of me!' So she told San Lang about Mr. Xie's plan to take her as a concubine. San Lang became furious and wanted to report him to the county. Lu Sheng stopped him and settled the rent, then used a cart to send them back home. San Lang truthfully told his parents about the situation and decided to live separately from his brother.

A Xian used her own money to build a warehouse for several days, but there was not even one stone of grain in the house, which puzzled everyone. After more than a year, when they went to check again, they saw that the warehouse was already full of grain. After a few more years, Xi's family became very wealthy, while the Xi Shan family became very poor. A Xian took in her in-laws and regularly provided them with money and grain to help her older brother, gradually becoming accustomed to it. San Lang happily said, 'You truly do not hold onto past grievances.' A Xian said, 'He is also doing it out of love for his younger brother. If it weren't for him, how could I have had the opportunity to meet San Lang?' After that, no strange things happened anymore.

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