THE GHOST IN LOVE
A Chinese Story
translated by George
On the 15th day of the First Moon, in the
second year of the period of "Renewed
Principles," the streets of the town
of the Eastern Lake were thronged with
people who were strolling about.
At the setting of the sun every shop was
brightly lit up; processions of people moved
hither and thither; strings of boys were
carrying lanterns of every form and colour;
whole families passed, every member of
whom, young or old, small or big, was
holding at the end of a thin bamboo the
lighted image of a bird, an animal, or a
Richer ones, several together, were carrying
enormous dragons whose luminous wings
waved at every motion and whose glaring
eyes rolled from right to left. It was the
Fête of the Lanterns.
A young man, clothed in a long pale green
dress, allowed himself to be pushed about by
the crowd; the passers-by bowed to him:
"How is my Lord Li The-peaceful?"
"The humble student thanks you; and
you, how are you?"
"Very well, thanks to your happy influence."
"Does the precious student soon pass his
second literary examination?"
"In two months; ignorant that I am.
I am idling instead of working."
The fête was drawing to a close when The-peaceful
quitted the main street, and went
towards the East Gate, where the house was
to be found in which he lived alone.
He went farther and farther: the moving
lights were rarer; ere long he only saw before
him the fire of a white lantern decorated
with two red peonies. The paper globe
was swinging to the steps of a tiny girl
clothed in the blue linen that only slaves
wore. The light, behind, showed the elegant
silhouette of another woman, this one
covered with a long jacket made in a rich pink
silk edged with purple.
As the student drew nearer, the belated
walker turned round, showing an oval
face and big long eyes, wherein shone a
bright speck, cruel and mysterious.
Li The-peaceful slackened his pace,
following the two strangers, whose small
feet glided silently on the shining flagstones
of the street.
He was asking himself how he could
begin a conversation, when the mistress
turned round again, softly smiled, and in a
low, rich voice, said to him:
"Is it not strange that in the advancing
night we are following the same road?"
"I owe it to the favour of Heaven," he
at once replied; "for I am returning to
the East Gate; otherwise I should never
have dared to follow you."
The conversation, once begun, continued
as they walked side by side. The student
learned that the pretty walker was called
"Double-peony," that she was the daughter
of Judge Siu, that she lived out of the city
in a garden planted with big trees, on the
road to the lake.
On arriving at his house The-peaceful
insisted that his new friend should enter
and take a cup of tea. She hesitated; then
the two young people pushed the door,
crossed the small yard bordered right and
left with walls covered with tiles, and disappeared
in the house....
The servant remained under the portal.
Daylight was breaking when the young
girl came out again, calling the servant,
who was asleep. The next evening she
came again, always accompanied by the
slave bearing the white lantern with two
red peonies. It was the same each day
A neighbour who had watched these
nocturnal visits was inquisitive enough to
climb the wall which separated his yard
from that of the lovers, and to wait,
hidden in the shade of the house.
At the accustomed hour the street-door,
left ajar, opened to let in the visitors.
Once in the courtyard, they were suddenly
transformed, their eyes became flaming
and red; their faces grew pale; their
teeth seemed to lengthen; an icy mist
escaped from their lips.
The neighbour did not see any more:
terrified, he let himself slide to the ground
and ran to his inner room.
The next morning he went to the student
and told him what he had seen. The lover
was paralysed with fear: in order to reassure
himself he resolved to find out everything
he could about his mistress.
He at once went outside the ramparts,
on the road to the lake, hoping to find the
house of Judge Siu. But at the place
he had been told of there was no habitation;
on the left, a fallow plain, sown
with tombs, went up to the hills; on the
right, cultivated fields extended as far as
However, a small temple was hidden
there under big trees. The student had
given up all hope; he entered, notwithstanding,
into the sacred enclosure, knowing
that travellers stayed there sometimes
for several weeks.
In the first yard a bonze was passing
in his red dress and shaven head; he stopped
"Do you know Judge Siu? He has a
"Judge Siu's daughter?" asked the
priest, astonished. "Well—yes—but wait,
I will show her to you."
The-peaceful felt his heart overflowing
with joy; his beloved one was living; he
was going to see her by the light of day.
He quickly followed his companion.
Passing the first court, they crossed a
threshold and found themselves in a yard
planted with high pine-trees and bordered by
a low pavilion. The bonze, passing in first,
pushed a door, and, turning round, said:
"Here is Judge Siu's daughter!"
The other stopped, terrified; on a trestle
a heavy black lacquered coffin bore this
inscription in golden letters: "Coffin of
Double-peony, Judge Siu's daughter."
On the wall was an unfolded painting
representing the little maid; a white
lantern decorated with two red peonies was
hung over it.
"Yes, she has been there for the last
two years; her parents, according to the
rite, are waiting for a favourable day to
The student silently turned on his heel
and went back, not deigning to reply to
the mocking bow of the priest.
Evening arrived; he locked himself in,
and, covering his head with his blankets, he
waited; sleep came to him only at daybreak.
But he could not cease to think of her
whom he no longer saw; his heart beat as
if to burst, when in the street he perceived
the silhouette of a woman which reminded
him of his friend.
At last he was incapable of containing
himself any longer; one evening he stationed
himself behind the door. After a
few minutes there was a knock; he opened
the door; it was only the little maid:
"My mistress is in tears; why do you
never open the door? I come every evening.
If you will follow me, perhaps she
will forgive you."
The-peaceful, blinded by love, started at
once, walking by the light of the white
The next day the neighbours, seeing
that the student's door was open, and
that his house was empty, made a declaration
to the governor of the town.
The police made an inquest; they collected
the evidence of several people who
had been watching the nightly visitors
the student had received. The bonze of
the temple outside the city walls came to
say what he knew. The chief of the police
went to the road leading to the lake; he
crossed the threshold of the little edifice,
passed the first yard and at last opened the
door of the pavilion.
Everything was in order, but under the
lid of the heavy coffin one could see the
corner of the long green dress of the student.
In order to do away with evil influences
there was a solemn funeral.
Ever since this time, on light clear nights,
the passers-by often meet the two lovers
entwined together, slowly walking on the
road which leads to the lake.