A Chinese Story
translated by George
In the town of Sou-tcheou a young
man lived called Lake-of-the-Immortals;
he was wise and generous. His
business consisted in going to fetch goods
from neighbouring towns, which he afterwards
brought back to his native city. He
was thus obliged to be absent for lengthy
periods, during which he left his house to
the care of an elder brother, a celebrated
scholar, who was married, and whom he
Once he had been by the Grand Canal
as far as Chen-kiang; the goods he was
going to take not being ready, he waited,
and to while away the time he visited the
Golden Island, whose temples with yellow-tiled
roofs show in the verdure above the
yellow water of the river, nearly opposite
to the town; he passed the night there, as
visitors did usually.
When he had just fallen asleep, he saw in
a dream a young girl, fourteen or fifteen
years old, her visage regular and pure.
On the second night he had the same
dream. Surprised, he awoke; it was no
dream; the young girl was there, near to
him. At a glance he saw she was no human
being; he hastened to get up and, saluting,
to ask her the ordinary questions.
"My name is Autumn-moon," she replied.
"My father was a celebrated magician.
When I died, he worked out my
future destiny and wrote it down with
powerful incantations; this charm has been
put into my coffin, so that the inferior
authorities should not make any mistake.
It was written that, thirty years after my
death, I should be called again to life and
marry Lake-of-the-Immortals. There you
are, and I have come to know my husband."
As she said the last words she slowly
vanished in the night. The next day, as
the young man, disturbed and preoccupied
by this strange adventure, was sitting in
his room, thinking of her, she appeared
suddenly before his eyes and said:
"Come quickly! something important
for you is going to happen at the prefect's
palace. We have not a minute to lose."
Lake-of-the-Immortals questioned her,
but she would not answer. Then they both
crossed the river and walked as fast as they
could up to the yamen.
As they arrived at the gate, four soldiers,
dragging a prisoner, were on the point of
entering. Lake-of-the-Immortals recognised
his elder brother in the person of the prisoner;
he drew near, threw himself on his neck, and
pressed him to his heart.
"How is it that you are here? why this
arrest? And you, soldiers, where do you
"We have orders: what means this interference?"
And they pushed the young
man aside. Lake-of-the-Immortals was of a
violent temper and had a strong affection for
his brother; he could not let him go, and
answered to the brutality of the soldiers by
such a tempest of thumping and kicking
that these honest but prudent soldiers asked
no more and fled.
"What have you done?" said Autumn-moon.
"Hitting soldiers is serious; we
And all three, running, arrived at the
beach, jumped into a small boat, and rowed
with all their strength.
When day appeared, they were safely
lodged in a small inn, several lis from Chen-kiang.
went to sleep immediately. When he awoke,
his two companions had disappeared. He
asked the innkeeper; nobody had seen them
Distressed and sad, the young man did
not dare to show himself outside. He
remained solitary in his room. When twilight
came, his door opened and a woman
"I bring you a message from Autumn-moon;
she has been arrested. If you wish
to see her, you must follow me; I will
show you the way."
"And my brother? do you know anything?"
"Your brother is safe in Sou-tcheou now.
But come and follow me."
They started and soon arrived before a
wall, which they got over by helping one
another. Through a window giving on the
yard they fell in, the lover perceived
Autumn-moon on a bed. Two soldiers
were trying to tease her, saying:
"What is the use of resisting us, as you
will be executed to-morrow morning?"
Lake-of-the-Immortals did not hear any
more; he rushed into the room, threw
himself on the soldiers, tore a sword from
them, and laid them on the ground. Before
the wretched men had time to make a
gesture of defence, he carried away the girl
At this moment he started violently, and
found himself in his same room in the
Golden Island. A servant entered, bringing
the breakfast he had ordered when arriving
for the first time, the night before, on the
As he was asking himself the meaning of
such a vivid dream, he heard a noise in
the courtyard. Going out, he saw several
men surrounding the body of a girl stretched
before his door.
"Where does she come from?" asked
"We have never seen her!" said another.
Lake-of-the-Immortals came nearer; it was
the body, seemingly senseless, of Autumn-moon.
He had her brought immediately
into his room. A doctor who had been
called declared she was still alive, but
needed very careful nursing.
When she awoke at last she smiled feebly
to the young man.
"No, it is no dream," she replied to his
questions. "Your brother was called before
the King of Hells; you saved him. You
have saved me also from eternal disappearance,
and I am called again to life; the
prediction of my father was true."
A fortnight later she was able to get up;
they started together and arrived safely
at Sou-tcheou. When they got to his
brother's house, his sister-in-law told them
there had been illness in the house; her
husband had been in grave danger of
death; he was quite well now.
When they were all together, Lake-of-the-Immortals
told what he had seen and done.
They all listened to him in silence. The
family henceforth lived united and happy.