A Chinese Story
translated by George
In the time when the Shining Dynasty
had just conquered the throne, the
eastern coasts of the Empire were ravaged
by the rapid junks commanded by the
cruel inhabitants of the Japanese islands,
the irresistible Wo tsz.
Now, it happened that the Wo tsz Emperor
lost his first wife; knowing the beauty of
Chinese women, he charged one of his
officers to bring back some of them.
The officer, at the head of a numerous
troop, landed not far from the town of
The-Smoky-wall. No resistance was possible;
the population was given the example
of flight by the functionaries, at least it
was thus said in the Annals of the prefecture.
The country being far from the big centres,
the women were not great coquettes; only
one, named Peaceful-light, had always
been careful, since childhood, not to allow
her feet to become naturally large; they
were constantly bound up, so much so that
she could hardly walk.
Her large soft eyes were shaded with
heavy eyelashes; one of the literati of
the place took delight in quoting the poets
of antiquity on them:
Under the willow of her eyelashes
The tranquil river of her eyes shines forth.
I bend and see my image reflected in them.
Could she be deceitful like the deep water?
When the pirates were coming, she
begged her family to leave her, and to fly
without the risk of being delayed by
"It is the just punishment for my coquetry,"
she told them. "Fear nothing for
me, however. I am going to take a strong
dose of the paste extracted from the flowers
of Nao-yang which makes one sleep. The
pirates will think I am dead, and will leave
The family allowed themselves to be
persuaded, and departed. As to Peaceful-light,
she was asleep almost directly after
taking the drug, and she remained motionless
on her bed.
The pirates, entering everywhere, at
last arrived in the house and remained
struck with admiration by her beauty. The
officer who was called, at first thought
her dead and was much grieved, but,
touching her hand and finding it warm
and limp, he resolved to carry her away.
When the ravishers were re-embarked,
the strong sea-air and the motion of the
boat revived the young girl; she awoke, and
was horrified to find herself surrounded
by strangers. The one who seemed the
chief spoke to her in Chinese language
in order to reassure her:
"Fear nothing. No harm will come to
you. On the contrary, the highest destiny
awaits you; my Lord The Emperor designs
you to the honour of his couch."
Seeing that no one troubled her, Peaceful-light
was reassured; she resolved to wait,
confident in her destiny, and knowing that
she had still, ready in her sleeve, in case
of necessity, a narcotic dose strong enough
to kill her.
As soon as she landed, she was taken in
great haste to the Palace. The Emperor,
greatly satisfied with her beauty, conferred
on her at once the rank of first favourite.
But all the luxury and love which surrounded
her could not make her forget
her family and her country; she resolved
to run away.
In order to manage it, she complained
to her master how sad it was for her never
to be able to speak her own language with
companions from her country. The Emperor,
happy to be able to please her, gave
orders to fit out a sea-junk, in order to go
to the Chinese coast.
The day when all was ready the young
girl found means of pouring into her master's
drink a dose of her narcotic. Then, when
he was asleep, she took his private seal and,
going out of the room, she called the intendant
of the Palace and said to him:
"The Emperor has ordered me to go to
China to fetch a magician, a member of
my family, who has great power on water
and wind. Here is the seal, proof of my
mission. The ship must be almost ready."
The intendant knew that a junk had
been specially prepared to go to China; he
saw the seal; what suspicion could he
have? He had a palanquin brought as
quickly as possible; two hours after, the
wood of the junk groaned under the blows
of the unfurling waves.
Arriving in sight of the coast, on the
pretext of not frightening the population,
the young girl begged the officer who accompanied
her to send a messenger to the
prefect of the town, bearing a letter that
she had prepared. The officer, without
distrust, sent one of his men.
The letter of Peaceful-light showed a
whole scheme to which the prefect could
but give his consent. The messenger returned,
bringing to the officer and to the
men an invitation to take part in the
feast that was being prepared for them,
their intentions not being bad.
Peaceful-light retired into her family,
who welcomed her with a thousand demonstrations
In the wine that was freely poured out
for the strangers they had dissolved the
flowers of Nao-yang. The effects were not
long in being felt; a torpor that they
attributed to the table excesses seized
them one after another. They were soon
all sleeping deeply. Men arrived with
swords, glided near them, and, a signal
being given, cut off their heads.
While these events were passing in China,
others still more serious were happening
in Japan. Soon after the departure of
Peaceful-light, the Emperor's brother penetrated
into the room where the sovereign
was left sleeping. This brother was ambitious;
he profited by the occasion,
killed the unhappy Mikado, took possession
of the seals of the State, and, calling
his partisans in haste, proclaimed himself
Chief of the State. Only a part of the
princes followed him; the others, filled with
indignation by the crime that had been
accomplished, united their troops to crush
the usurper; civil war tore the whole of
Japan to pieces.
As to Peaceful-light, by order of the
authorities she received public congratulations
and gifts of land which allowed her
to marry and be happy, as she merited.