A Chinese Story
translated by George
Lost in the heart of Peking, in one
of the most peaceful neighbourhoods
of the Yellow City, the street of Glowing-happiness
was sleeping in the silence and
in the light.
On the right and left of the dusty road
was some waste ground, where several red
mangy, and surly dogs were sleeping. Five
or six low houses, their white walls forming
a line not well defined, whose low roofs
were covered with grey tiles, bordered the
In the first year of the Glorious-Strength,
four hundred years ago, a young man with
long hair tied together under the black
gauze cap of the scholars, clothed in a pink
dress with purple flowers, was walking in
the setting sun, stepping cautiously in
order not to cover with dust his shoes with
thick felt soles.
When the first stars began to shine in
the darkening sky, he entered one of the
houses. A wick in a saucer, soaking in
oil, burning and smoking, vaguely lighted
an open book on the table: one could
only guess, in the shadow, the form of a
chair, a bed in a corner, and a few
inscriptions hanging on the whitewashed
The scholar seated himself before his
table and resumed, as he did every evening,
his reading of the Classics, of which
he sought to penetrate the entire meaning.
Late passers-by in this lonely thoroughfare
still saw his lamp shining across the trellises
of the windows far into the night.
Golden-dragon lived alone. Now, on that
evening an inexplicable languor made him
dreamy; his eyes followed in vain the text;
his rebellious thoughts were scattered.
Impatiently at last he was just going
to put out his lamp and go to bed, when he
heard some one knocking at the door.
"Come in!" he cried.
The door grinding on its hinges, a young
woman appeared clothed in a long gown
of bright green silk, gracefully lifting her
foot to cross the threshold, and bowing with
her two hands united. Golden-dragon, hurriedly
rising to reply, waved in his turn his
fists joined together at the same height
as his visage and said, according to the
ritual: "Be kind enough to be seated!
What is your noble name?" The visitor
did not pronounce a word; her large black
eyes, shadowed by long eyelashes, were
fixed on the face of her host, while she
tried to regain her panting breath.
As she advanced, Golden-dragon felt a
strange feeling of admiration and love.
He did not think such a perfect beauty
could exist. As he remained speechless,
she smiled, and her smile had on him the
effect of a strong drink on a hungry man;
troubled and dazed, he lost the conscience
of his personality and his acts.
The next morning the sun was shining
when he awoke, asking himself if he had
not been dreaming. He thought all day
long of his strange visitor, making thousands
Evening coming on, she suddenly entered,
and it was as it had been the night before.
Two months passed; then the young
girl's visits abruptly ceased. The night
covered everything with its black veil, but
nobody appeared at the door. Golden-dragon
the first night, waited for her till
the hour of the Rat; at last he went to his
couch and fell asleep. Almost immediately
he saw her carried away by two horny yecha;
she was calling him:
"My beloved, I am drawn away towards
the inferior regions. I shall never be able
to get away if prayers are not said for
me. My body lies in the next house."
He started out of sleep in the efforts he
made to fly to her, and could not rest
again in his impatience to assert what she
As soon as the sun was up, he ran towards
the only house that was next to his. He
knocked; no one replied. Pushing the
door, he entered. The house seemed to be
recently abandoned, the rooms were empty,
but in a side hall a black lacquered coffin
rested on trestles; on a table the "Book
of Liberation" was open at the chapter
of "The great recall."
Golden-dragon doubted no longer; he
sang in a high voice the entire chapter, shut
the book, and returned home full of a strange
Every evening from that time, at the
hour when she had appeared to him, he
lit a lantern, went to the house next door
and read a chapter of the holy text.
Years passed by; he got beyond his
fiftieth year, grew bent, and walked with
difficulty, but he never missed performing
the duty he had imposed on himself for
his unknown friend.
The house where the coffin was placed
had successively been let to several families;
but he had arranged that the funereal room
should never be touched. The lodgers
bowed to the scholar when he came, and
talked to him; the whole town was entertained
with this touching example of such
"So much constancy and such fidelity
cannot remain without reward," they
But time slipped by and nothing came
to change the regular life of the old man.
On his seventieth birthday, as he went
to his neighbours, he remarked a violent
"My wife has just had a child," said the
chief of the family, going to meet him.
"Come and wish her happiness; she does
not cease to ask for you."
"Is it a boy?"
"No, unhappily, a girl, but such a pretty
Followed by the happy father, the scholar
with white hair penetrated into the room;
the mother smiled, holding out the baby
to him. Golden-dragon suddenly started;
the child held out her arms to him and on
her little lips, hardly formed, hovered the
shadow of a disappeared smile, the smile
of the unknown woman.
And as he looked an extraordinary
sensation troubled him; he felt he was
growing younger, more vigorous. Soon,
in the midst of the cries of admiration of
the whole family, the bent old man grew
straight again; his grey hair turned
black, and the change continued; he became
a young man, a boy, and soon a child.
When the Bell of the great Tower struck
the hour of the Rat, he was a fat pink baby
playing and laughing with the little girl.
The governor of the town, being informed,
personally directed an inquiry. It was
discovered that the coffin had disappeared
at the same hour when the transformation
The Emperor, on the report of the governor,
ordered the two children to receive
a handsome dowry.
As to them, they grew up, loved each
other, and lived happy and well as far as
the limits of human longevity.