THE WOMAN IN GREEN

A Chinese Story

translated by George Souliť

 

At this time, in the Pavilion-of-the-guests, in the Monastery-of-the-healing-springs, the most celebrated of the Fo-kien province, lived a young scholar whose name was Little-cypress.

As soon as the sun rose he was at his work, seated near the trellised window. When night fell, his lamp still lit the outline of the wooden trellis.

One morning a shadow darkened his book; he raised his eyes: a young woman with a long green skirt, her face of matchless beauty, was standing outside the window and was looking at him.

"You are then always working, Lord Little-cypress?" she said.

She was so bewitching that he knew her immediately for a goddess; but all the same he asked her where she lived and what was her name.

"Your lordship has looked on his humble wife; he has known her as a goddess. What is the use of so many questions?"

Little-cypress, satisfied with this reply, invited her to enter the house. She came in; her waist was so small, one would almost have thought that her body was divided in two.

He invited her to sit down; they talked and laughed together a long time.

He asked her to sing, and, with a low voice, which filled her friend with rapture, she sang:

"On the trees the bird pursues his companion; Oppressed slaves free themselves with love. How has my Lord lived alone, Without enjoying all the pleasures of married life?"

The sound vibrated like a thread of silk; it penetrated the ear and troubled the heart. As she finished, she suddenly arose.

"A man is standing near the window, he is listening to us ... he is going round ... he is trying to see."

"Since when does a goddess fear a man?" replied Little-cypress, laughing.

"I am troubled without knowing why; my heart beats. I wish to go."

She went to open the door, but abruptly shut it.

"I do not know why I am thus upset. Will you accompany me as far as the entrance gate?"

Little-cypress held her up till they got to the gate; he had just left her and turned his head, when he heard her call for help in a voice full of anguish. He hurriedly turned round; no one was to be seen.

As he was looking for her with stupefaction his eyes fell on a big cobweb, stretched in the corner of the wall. The ugly and gigantic insect held in its claws a dragon-fly who was struggling and dolefully crying. Affected by this sight, he hastened to deliver it.

The pretty insect immediately flew in the direction of the Pavilion-of-the-guests. Little-cypress saw it go in at the window and alight on the stone for grinding the ink.

Then it arose again and alighted on the paper which was placed on the table; there it oddly crawled, retracing its steps, returning, advancing, and stopping. After a moment it took its flight and disappeared in the sky.

Little-cypress, much puzzled, approached and looked; on the paper was written in big strokes the word "Thanks."