A Chinese Story
translated by George
In the Great Highway of Eternal
Fixity, Mong Flowing-spring and his
friend Choo Little-lotus were slowly walking,
clothed in the long light green dress of
They had both just passed with success
their third literary examination, and were
enjoying the pleasures of the capital before
returning to their distant province.
As they were both of small means, they
were looking now (and at the same time
filling their eyes with the movement of the
street) for a lodging less expensive than the
inn where they had put up on arriving at
Leaving the Great Highway, they strolled
far into a labyrinth of lanes more and
more silent. They soon lost themselves.
Undecided, they had stopped, when they
spied out the red lacquered portal of a
temple of the Mysterious-way.
Pushing the heavy sides of the door,
they entered; an old man with his hair
tightly drawn together in a black cap,
majestic in his grey dress, stood behind the
door and appeared to be waiting for them.
"Your coming lightens my humble dwelling,"
he said in bowing. "I beg you will
"I do not dare! I do not dare!" murmured
the two students, bowing in their
They nevertheless entered, crossing the
yard on which the portal opened, which
was closed, at the end, by the little
temple in open woodwork close under the
mass of roofs of green tiles.
They went up three steps, then, pushing
a narrow and straight door, they entered.
In the half-shadow they distinguished on
the white altar a statue of Tche Kong The-Supreme-Lord,
with a golden face and
griffins' feet like the claws of an eagle.
The walls on each side of the altar were
painted in frescoes; on the wall on the
right you saw goddesses in the midst of
flowers. One of these young girls, with a
low chignon, was gathering a peony and
was slightly smiling. Her mouth, like a
cherry, seemed as if it were really opening;
one would have sworn that her eyelids
Mong Flowing-spring, his eyes fixed on
the painting, remained a long time without
moving, absorbed in his admiration of the
work of art, and disturbed beyond expression
by the beauty of the goddess with
the low chignon.
"Why is she not living?" said he. "I
would willingly give my life for a moment
of her love!"
Suddenly he started; the young goddess
raised herself upright, bursting with laughter,
and got down from the wall. She crossed the
door, went down the staircase, stepped over
the yard and left the place.
Flowing-spring followed her without reflecting.
He saw her going away with a
light step, and turn down the first lane;
the young student ran behind her.
As he turned the corner, he saw her
stop at the entrance of a small house.
She was gracefully waving her hand, and,
with sly glances, made him signs to come.
He hastened forward and entered in his
turn. In the silent house there was nobody,
no one but the goddess standing in
her long mauve dress and nibbling the
flower that she had picked and that she
still held in her hand.
"I bow down," said the student, who
knelt to salute her.
"Rise! you exceed the rites prescribed,"
"I bend my head, not being able to bear
the splendour of your beauty."
As she did not seem to be discontented
he continued telling her his admiration
and his desire. He approached, touched
her hand; she started, but did not draw
back. He then took her in his arms; she
did not make much resistance.
The moments passed rapidly. They spoke
to each other in a low voice, when, suddenly
in the street, a noise of heavy boots resounded;
steps stopped before the door;
the lock was shaken; oaths were heard.
The young girl grew pale; she told
Flowing-spring to hide himself under the
bed. The student felt his heart become
quite small; he crouched down in the
shadow, not even being able to breathe.
From the depth of his hiding-place, he
saw an officer enter, his face in black lacquer,
covered with a golden cuirass and surrounded
by a troop of young girls in long dresses of
"I smell an odour of human flesh!"
grumbled the officer, walking heavily and
going round the room.
"Hide yourself well!" the goddess
murmured to her lover, raising herself
from the bed and white with terror. "If
you can escape from him, wait till we have
left, and open the little door at the end of
the garden; then run away quickly!"
"There is a man here! I smell him!
He must be delivered to me! If not, I
shall punish the person who has hidden
"We know nothing!" all the young
women said together.
"Very well! Let us go out."
Then, following the gracious troop which
the goddess had joined, he crossed the
Flowing-spring, hidden under the bed,
waited till the noise of the boots had gone
away. Then he glided with caution from
Half bent, listening with anxiety in fear
of being surprised, he flew from the room
and crossed the garden.
During this time Choo Little-lotus,
having remained in the temple, had not
remarked the departure of his friend.
But, turning round and not any longer
seeing him, he questioned the old magician.
"Your friend is not far off," he replied.
Then, showing him the wall, he said:
"Look! here he is!"
And, indeed, in the centre of the fresco,
the image of Flowing-spring was painted;
he was crouched in among the flowers,
straining his ear. The image moved, and,
suddenly, the student separated himself
from the wall and advanced, looking sad
Choo Little-lotus, terrified, was looking
at him. The other told him his adventure.
As he spoke a terrible clap of thunder was
heard. The two friends instinctively shut
their eyes; when they opened them, their
glance fell on the fresco: the goddesses
had taken their places there again, in
the midst of the flowers; but the young
girl with the low chignon was no longer
The magician smiled at Flowing-spring:
"Love has touched her. She has become
a woman and is waiting for you in your