The Vengeance of the Goddess
by J. Macgowan
In a certain temple in the northern part of the Empire, there once
lived a famous priest named Hien-Chung, whose reputation had spread far
and wide, not merely for the sanctity of his life, but also for the
supernatural powers which he was known to possess, and which he had
exhibited on several remarkable occasions. Men would have marvelled
less about him had they known that the man dressed in the long
slate-coloured robe, with shaven head, and saintly-looking face, over
which no one had ever seen a smile flicker, was in reality a pilgrim on
his way to the Western Heaven, which he hoped to reach in time, and to
become a fairy there.
One night Hien-Chung lay asleep in a room opening out of the main hall
in which the great image of the Goddess of Mercy, with her benevolent,
gracious face, sat enshrined amidst the darkness that lay thickly over
the temple. All at once, there stood before him a most striking and
stately-looking figure. The man had a royal look about him, as though
he had been accustomed to rule. On his head there was a crown, and his
dress was such as no mere subject would ever be allowed to wear.
Hien-Chung gazed at him in wonder, and was at first inclined to believe
that he was some evil spirit who had assumed this clever disguise in
order to deceive him. As this thought flashed through his mind, the
man began to weep. It was pitiable indeed to see this kingly person
affected with such oppressive grief that the tears streamed down his
cheeks, and with the tenderness that was distinctive of him Hien-Chung
expressed his deep sympathy for a sorrow so profound.
"Three years ago," said his visitor, "I was the ruler of this 'Kingdom
of the Black Flower.' I was indeed the founder of my dynasty, for I
carved my own fortune with my sword, and made this little state into a
kingdom. For a long time I was very happy, and my people were most
devoted in their allegiance to me. I little dreamed of the sorrows
that were coming on me, and the disasters which awaited me in the near
"Five years ago my kingdom was visited with a very severe drought. The
rains ceased to fall; the streams which used to fall down the
mountain-sides and irrigate the plains dried up; and the wells lost the
fountains which used to fill them with water. Everywhere the crops
failed, and the green herbage on which the cattle browsed was slowly
blasted by the burning rays of the sun.
"The common people suffered in their homes from want of food, and many
of the very poorest actually died of starvation. This was a source of
great sorrow to me, and every day my prayers went up to Heaven, that it
would send down rain upon the dried-up land and so deliver my people
from death. I knew that this calamity had fallen on my kingdom because
of some wrong that I had done, and so my heart was torn with remorse.
"One day while my mind was full of anxiety, a man suddenly appeared at
my palace and begged my ministers to be allowed to have an audience
with me. He said that it was of the utmost importance that he should
see me, for he had come to propose a plan for the deliverance of my
"I gave orders that he should instantly be brought into my presence,
when I asked him if he had the power to cause the rain to descend upon
the parched land.
"'Yes,' he replied, 'I have, and if you will step with me now to the
front of your palace I will prove to you that I have the ability to do
this, and even more.'
"Striding out to a balcony which overlooked the capital, and from which
one could catch a view of the hills in the distance, the stranger
lifted up his right hand towards the heavens and uttered certain words
which I was unable to understand.
"Instantly, and as if by magic, a subtle change crept through the
atmosphere. The sky became darkened, and dense masses of clouds rolled
up and blotted out the sun. The thunder began to mutter, and vivid
flashes of lightning darted from one end of the heavens to the other,
and before an hour had elapsed the rain was descending in torrents all
over the land, and the great drought was at an end.
"My gratitude to this mysterious stranger for the great deliverance he
had wrought for my kingdom was so great that there was no favour which
I was not willing to bestow upon him. I gave him rooms in the palace,
and treated him as though he were my equal. I had the truest and the
tenderest affection for him, and he seemed to be equally devoted to me.
"One morning we were walking hand in hand in the royal gardens. The
peach blossoms were just out, and we were enjoying their perfume and
wandering up and down amongst the trees which sent forth such exquisite
"As we sauntered on, we came by-and-by upon a well which was hidden
from sight by a cluster of oleander trees. We stayed for a moment to
peer down its depths and to catch a sight of the dark waters lying deep
within it. Whilst I was gazing down, my friend gave me a sudden push
and I was precipitated head first into the water at the bottom. The
moment I disappeared, he took a broad slab of stone and completely
covered the mouth of the well. Over it he spread a thick layer of
earth, and in this he planted a banana root, which, under the influence
of the magic powers he possessed, in the course of a few hours had
developed into a full-grown tree. I have lain dead in the well now for
three years, and during all that time no one has arisen to avenge my
wrong or to bring me deliverance."
"But have your ministers of State made no efforts during all these
three years to discover their lost king?" asked Hien-Chung. "And what
about your wife and family? Have they tamely submitted to have you
disappear without raising an outcry that would resound throughout the
whole kingdom? It seems to me inexplicable that a king should vanish
from his palace and that no hue and cry should be raised throughout the
length and breadth of the land until the mystery should be solved and
his cruel murder fully avenged."
"It is here," replied the spirit of the dead king, "that my enemy has
shown his greatest cunning. The reason why men never suspect that any
treason has been committed is because by his enchantments he has
transformed his own appearance so as to become the exact counterpart of
myself. The man who called down the rain and saved my country from
drought and famine has simply disappeared, so men think, and I the King
still rule as of old in my kingdom. Not the slightest suspicion as to
the true state of things has ever entered the brain of anyone in the
nation, and so the usurper is absolutely safe in the position he
"But have you never appealed to Yam-lo, the ruler of the Land of
Shadows?", asked Hien-Chung. "He is the great redresser of the wrongs
and crimes of earth, and now that you are a spirit and immediately
within his jurisdiction, you should lay your complaint before him and
pray him to avenge the sufferings you have been called upon to endure."
"You do not understand," the spirit hastily replied. "The one who has
wrought such ruin in my life is an evil spirit. He has nothing in
common with men, but has been let loose from the region where evil
spirits are confined to punish me for some wrong that I have committed
in the past. He therefore knows the ways of the infernal regions, and
is hand in glove with the rulers there, and even with Yam-lo himself.
He is, moreover, on the most friendly terms with the tutelary God of my
capital, and so no complaint of mine would ever be listened to for a
moment by any of the powers who rule in the land of the dead.
"There is another very strong reason, too, why any appeal that I might
make for justice would be disregarded. My soul has not yet been loosed
from my body, but is still confined within it in the well. The courts
of the Underworld would never recognize me, because I still belong to
this life, over which they have no control.
"Only to-day," he continued, "a friendly spirit whispered in my ear
that my confinement in the well was drawing to a close, and that the
three years I had been adjudged to stay there would soon be up. He
strongly advised me to apply to you, for you are endowed, he said, with
powers superior to those possessed by my enemy, and if you are only
pleased to exercise them I shall speedily be delivered from his evil
Now the Goddess of Mercy had sent Hien-Chung a number of familiar
spirits to be a protection to him in time of need. Next morning,
accordingly, he summoned the cleverest of these, whose name was Hing,
in order to consult with him as to how the king might be delivered from
the bondage in which he had been held for the three years.
"The first thing we have to do," said Hing, "is to get the heir to the
Throne on our side. He has often been suspicious at certain things in
the conduct of his supposed father, one of which is that for three
years he has never been allowed to see his mother. All that is needed
now is to get some tangible evidence to convince him that there is some
mystery in the palace, and we shall gain him as our ally.
"I have been fortunate," he continued, "in obtaining one thing which we
shall find very useful in inducing the Prince to listen to what we have
to say to him about his father. You may not know it, but about the
time when the King was thrown into the well, the seal of the kingdom
mysteriously disappeared and a new one had to be cut.
"Knowing that you were going to summon me to discuss this case, I went
down into the well at dawn this morning, and found the missing seal on
the body of the King. Here it is, and now we must lay our plans to
work on the mind of the son for the deliverance of the father.
To-morrow I hear that the Prince is going out hunting on the
neighbouring hills. In one of the valleys there is a temple to the
Goddess of Mercy, and if you will take this seal and await his coming
there, I promise you that I will find means to entice him to the
Next morning the heir to the Throne of the "Kingdom of the Black
Flower" set out with a noisy retinue to have a day's hunting on the
well-wooded hills overlooking the capital. They had scarcely reached
the hunting grounds when great excitement was caused by the sudden
appearance of a remarkable-looking hare. It was decidedly larger than
an ordinary hare, but the curious feature about it was its colour,
which was as white as the driven snow.
No sooner had the hounds caught sight of it, than with loud barkings
and bayings they dashed madly in pursuit. The hare, however, did not
seem to show any terror, but with graceful bounds that carried it
rapidly over the ground, it easily out-distanced the fleetest of its
pursuers. It appeared, indeed, as though it were thoroughly enjoying
the facility with which it could outrun the dogs, while the latter grew
more and more excited as they always saw the quarry before them and yet
could never get near enough to lay hold upon it.
Another extraordinary thing was that this hare did not seem anxious to
escape. It took no advantage of undergrowth or of clumps of trees to
hide the direction in which it was going. It managed also to keep
constantly in view of the whole field; and when it had to make sudden
turns in the natural windings of the road which led to a valley in the
distance, where there stood a famous temple, it hesitated for a moment
and allowed the baying hounds to come perilously near, before it darted
off with the speed of lightning and left the dogs far behind it.
Little did the hunters dream that the beautiful animal which was giving
them such an exciting chase was none other than the fairy Hing, who had
assumed this disguise in order to bring the Prince to the lonely temple
in the secluded valley, where, beyond the possibility of being spied
upon by his father's murderer, the story of treachery could be told,
and means be devised for his restoration to the throne.
Having arrived close to the temple, the mysterious hare vanished as
suddenly as it had appeared, and not a trace was left to enable the
dogs, which careered wildly round and round, to pick up the scent.
The Prince, who was a devoted disciple of the Goddess of Mercy, now
dismounted and entered the temple, where he proceeded to burn incense
before her shrine and in muttered tones to beseech her to send down
blessings upon him.
After a time, he became considerably surprised to find that the
presiding priest of the temple, instead of coming forward to attend
upon him and to show him the courtesies due to his high position,
remained standing in a corner where the shadows were darkest, his eyes
cast upon the ground and with a most serious look overspreading his
Accordingly, when he had finished his devotions to the Goddess, the
Prince approached the priest, and asked him in a kindly manner if
anything was distressing him.
"Yes," replied Hien-Chung, "there is, and it is a subject which
materially affects your Royal Highness. If you will step for a moment
into my private room, I shall endeavour to explain to you the matter
which has filled my mind with the greatest possible anxiety."
When they entered the abbot's room, Hien-Chung handed the Prince a
small box and asked him to open it and examine the article it contained.
Great was the Prince's amazement when he took it out and cast a hurried
glance over it. A look of excitement passed over his face and he cried
out, "Why, this is the great seal of the kingdom which was lost three
years ago, and of which no trace could ever be found! May I ask how it
came into your possession and what reason you can give for not having
restored it to the King, who has long wished to discover it?"
"The answer to that is a long one, your Highness, and to satisfy you, I
must go somewhat into detail."
Hien-Chung then told the Prince of the midnight visit his father had
made him, and the tragic story of his murder by the man who was now
posing as the King, and of his appeal to deliver him from the sorrows
of the well in which he had been confined for three years.
"With regard to the finding of the seal," he continued, "my servant
Hing, who is present, will describe how by the supernatural powers with
which he is endowed, he descended the well only this very morning and
discovered it on the body of your father."
"We have this absolute proof," he said, "that the vision I saw only two
nights ago was not some imagination of the brain, but that it was
really the King who appealed to me to deliver him from the power of an
enemy who seems bent upon his destruction.
"We must act, and act promptly," he went on, "for the man who is
pretending to be the ruler of your kingdom is a person of unlimited
ability, and as soon as he gets to know that his secret has been
divulged, he will put into operation every art he possesses to
frustrate our purpose.
"What I propose is that your Highness should send back the greater part
of your retinue to the palace, with an intimation to the effect that
you are going to spend the night here in a special service to the
Goddess, whose birthday it fortunately happens to be to-day. After
night has fallen upon the city, Hing shall descend into the well and
bring the body of your father here. You will then have all the proof
you need of the truth of the matter, and we can devise plans as to our
A little after midnight, Hing having faithfully carried out the
commission entrusted to him by Hien-Chung, arrived with the body of the
King, which was laid with due ceremony and respect in one of the inner
rooms of the temple. With his marvellous wonder-working powers and
with the aid of invisible forces which he had been able to summon to
his assistance, he had succeeded in transporting it from the wretched
place where it had lain so long to the friendly temple of the Goddess
The Prince was deeply moved by the sight of his father's body.
Fortunately it had suffered no change since the day when it was thrown
to the bottom of the well. Not a sign of decay could be seen upon the
King's noble features. It seemed as though he had but fallen asleep,
and presently would wake up and talk to them as he used to do. The
fact that in some mysterious way the soul had not been separated from
the body accounted for its remarkable preservation. Nevertheless to
all appearance the King was dead, and the great question now was how he
could be brought back to life, so that he might be restored to his
family and his kingdom.
"The time has come," said Hien-Chung, "when heroic measures will have
to be used if the King is ever to live again. Two nights ago he made a
passionate and urgent request to me to save him, for one of the gods
informed him that I was the only man who could do so. So far, we have
got him out of the grip of the demon that compassed his death, and now
it lies with me to provide some antidote which shall bring back the
vital forces and make him a living man once more.
"I have never had to do with such a serious case as this before, but I
have obtained from the Patriarch of the Taoist Church a small vial of
the Elixir of Life, which has the marvellous property of prolonging the
existence of whoever drinks it. We shall try it on the King and, as
there is no sign of vital decay, let us hope that it will be effective
in restoring him to life."
Turning to a desk that was kept locked, he brought out a small black
earthenware bottle, from which he dropped a single drop of liquid on to
the lips of the prostrate figure. In a few seconds a kind of rosy
flush spread over the King's features. Another drop, and a look of
life flashed over the pallid face. Still another, and after a short
interval the eyes opened and looked with intelligence upon the group
surrounding his couch. Still one more, and the King arose and asked
how long he had been asleep, and how it came about that he was in this
small room instead of being in his own palace.
He was soon restored to his family and to his position in the State,
for the usurper after one or two feeble attempts to retain his power
ignominiously fled from the country.
A short time after, Hien-Chung had a private interview with the King.
"I am anxious," he said, "that your Majesty should understand the
reason why such a calamity came into your life.
"Some years ago without any just reason you put to death a Buddhist
priest. You never showed any repentance for the great wrong you had
done, and so the Goddess sent a severe drought upon your Kingdom. You
still remained unrepentant, and then she sent one of her Ministers to
afflict you, depriving you of your home and your royal power. The man
who pushed you down the well was but carrying out the instructions he
had received from the Goddess. Your stay down the well for three years
was part of the punishment she had decreed for your offence, and when
the time was up, I was given the authority to release you.
"Kings as well as their subjects are under the great law of
righteousness, and if they violate it they must suffer like other men.
I would warn your Majesty that unless you show some evidence that you
have repented for taking away a man's life unjustly, other sorrows will
most certainly fall upon you in the future."