translated by George Souliť
In the City-between-the-rivers lived a
young student named Lan. He had
just passed successfully his second literary
examination, and, walking in the Street-of-the-precious-stones,
asked himself what
he would now do in life.
While he was going, looking vacantly
at the passers-by, he saw an old friend of
his father, and hastened to join his closed
fists and to salute him very low, as politeness
"My best congratulations!" answered
the old man. "What are you doing in this
"Nothing at all; I was asking myself
what profession I am now to pursue."
"What profession? Which one would
be more honourable than that of teacher?
It is the only one an 'elevated man'
Kiu-jen of the second degree, can pursue.
By the by, would you honour my house
with your presence? My son is nearly
eighteen. He is not half as learned as he
should be, and, besides, he has a very bad
temper. I feel very old; if I knew you
would consent to give him the right direction
and be a second father to him, I would
not dread so much to die and leave him
Lan bowed and said:
"I am much honoured by your proposition,
and I accept it readily. I will go to-morrow
to your palace."
Two hours after, a messenger brought
to the young man a packet containing one
hundred ounces of silver, with a note stating
that this comparatively great sum represented
his first year's salary.
In the evening he knocked at his pupil's
door and was ushered into the sitting-room.
The old man introduced him to the whole
family: first his son, a lad with a decided
look boding no good; then a young and
beautiful girl of seventeen, his daughter,
called Love's-slave. Lan was struck by
the sweet and refined appearance of his
"The sight of her will greatly help me to
stay here," thought he.
The next morning, when his first lesson
was ended, he strolled out into the garden,
admiring here a flower and there an artificial
little waterfall among diminutive
mountain-rocks. Behind a bamboo-bush
he suddenly saw Love's-slave and was discreetly
turning back, when she stopped him
by a few words of greeting.
Every day they thus met in the solitude
of the flowers and trees and grew to love
each other. Lan's task with his pupil
was greater and harder than he had supposed;
but for Love's-slave's sake, he
would never have remained in the house.
After three months the old man fell
ill; the doctors were unable to cure him;
he died, and was buried in the family ground,
behind the house.
When Lan, after the funeral, told his
pupil to resume his lessons, he met with such
a reception that he went immediately to his
room and packed his belongings. Love's-slave,
hearing from a servant what had
happened, went straight to her lover's
room and tried to induce him to stay.
"How can you ask that from me?"
said he. "After such an insult, I would
consider myself as the basest of men if I
stayed. I have 'lost face'; I must go."
The girl, seeing that nothing could prevail
upon his resolution, went out of the
room, but silently closed and locked the
Lan left on a table what remained of the
silver given him by the old man, and wrote
a note to inform his pupil of his departure.
When he tried the gate and found it
locked, he did not know at first what to
do. Then he remembered a place where he
could easily climb over the enclosure,
went there, threw his luggage over the wall,
and let himself out in this somewhat undignified
Before going back to his house, he went
round to the tomb of the old man and
burnt some sticks of perfume. Kneeling
down, he explained respectfully to the dead
what had happened and excused himself for
having left unfinished the task he had undertaken.
Rising at last, he went away.
The next morning Love's-slave, pleased
with her little trick, came to the student's
room and looked for him; he was nowhere
to be found. She saw the silver on the
table, and, reading the note he had left, she
understood that he would never come back.
Her grief stifled her; heavy tears at
last began running down her rosy cheeks.
She took the silver, went straight to her
father's tomb, fastened the heavy metal to
her feet, and unrolled a sash from her
waist. Then, making a knot with the sash
round her neck, she climbed up the lower
branches of a big fir-tree, fastened the other
end of the coloured silk as high as she
could and threw herself down. A few
minutes afterwards she was dead. She
was discovered by a member of the family,
and quietly buried in the same enclosure.
Lan, who did not know anything, came
back two or three days after to see her.
The servants told him the truth. Silently
and sullenly, he went to the tomb, and long
remained absorbed in his thoughts; dusk
was gathering; the first star shone in the
sky. All of a sudden, hearing a sound as
of somebody laughing, he turned round.
Love's-slave was before his eyes.
"I was waiting for you, my love," she
said in a strange and muffled voice. "Why
are you coming so late?"
As he wanted to kiss her, she stopped
"Oh dear! I am dead. But it is decreed
that I will come again to life if a magician
performs the ceremony prescribed in the
Immaterial like an evening fog, she
disappeared in the growing darkness.
Lan returned immediately to the town,
and, entering the first Taoist temple he saw,
he explained to the priest what he wanted.
"If she has said it is decreed she should
come back to life, we have only to go and
open her tomb, while here my disciples
will sing the proper chapters of the Book.
Let us go now."
Giving some directions to his companions,
he took a spade and started with
Lan. The moon was shining, so that
without any lantern they were able to perform
their gloomy task.
Once the heavy lid of the coffin was unscrewed
and taken off, the body of the
young girl appeared as fresh as if she had
When the cold night-air bathed her face,
she raised her head, sneezed, and sat up;
looking at Lan, she said in a low voice:
"At last, you have come! I am recalled
to life by your love. But now I
am feeble; don't speak harshly to me; I
could not bear it."
Lan, kissing her lovingly, took her in
his arms and brought her to his house.
After some days she was able to walk and
live like ordinary people do.
They married and lived happily together
for a year. Then, one day, Lan, having
come back half-drunk from a friend's
house, was rebuked by her, and, incensed,
pushed her back. She did not say a word
but, fainting, she fell down. Blood ran
from her nostrils and mouth; nothing could
recall her departing spirit.