The flower nymphs (2)
Huang again tried to question her, but she would tell him
no- thing; and by-and-by she rose and took her leave. This
seemed very strange; however, next day a visitor came, who,
after wandering round the garden, was much taken with a white peony,
which he dug up and carried away with him. Huang now awaked
to the fact that Hsiang-yu was a flower nymph, and became very
disconsolate in consequence of what had happened; but when he
subsequently heard that the peony only lived a few days after
being taken away, he wept bitterly, and composed an elegy in
fifty stanzas, besides going daily to the hole from which it had
been taken, and watering the ground with his tears.
One day, as he was returning thence, he espied the young
lady of the red clothes also wiping away her tears alongside
the hole, and immediately walked back gently towards her.
She did not run away, and Huang, grasping her sleeve, joined
with her in her lamentations. When these were concluded he
invited her to his house, and then she burst out with a
sigh, saying, "Alas! that the sister of my early years
should be thus suddenly taken from me. Hearing you, Sir,
mourn as you did, I have also been moved to tears. Those you
shed have sunk down deep to the realms below, and may
perhaps succeed in restoring her to us; but the sympathies of the dead are destroyed for ever, and how then can she
laugh and talk with us again?"
"My luck is bad," said Huang, "that I should injure those I
love, neither can I have the good fortune to draw towards me
another such a beauty. But tell me, when I often sent messages by Hsiang-yu to you, why did you not come?"
"I knew," replied she, "what nine young fellows out of ten
are; but I did not know what you were." She then took leave,
Huang telling her how dull he felt without Hsiang-yu, and begging her to come again.
For some days she did not appear; and Huang remained in a
state of great melancholy, tossing and turning on his bed and
wetting the pillow with his tears, until one night he got up, put on
his clothes, and trimmed the lamp; and having called for pen and
ink, he composed the following lines: -
On my cottage roof the evening rain-drops beat;
I draw the blind and near the window take my seat.
To my longing gaze no loved one appears;
Drip, drip, drip, drip: fast flow my tears.
This he read aloud; and when he had finished, a voice outside
said, "You want some one to cap your verses there!" Listening
attentively, he knew it was Chiang-hsueh; and opening the door
he let her in. She looked at his stanza, and added impromptu -
She is no longer in the room;
A single lamp relieves the gloom;
One solitary man is there;
He and his shadow make a pair.
As Huang read these words his tears fell fast; and then, turning
to Chiang-hsueh, he upbraided her for not having been to see
him. "I can't come so often as Hsiang-yu did," replied she, "but
only now and then when you are very dull."
After this she used to drop in occasionally, and Huang said Hsiang-yu was his beloved wife, and she his dear friend, always
trying to find out every time she came which flower in the garden
she was, that he might bring her home with him, and save her
from the fate of Hsiang-yu. "The old earth should not be disturbed," said she, "and it would not do any good to tell you. If
you couldn't keep your wife always with you, how will you be
sure of keeping a friend?" Huang, however, paid no heed to this,
and seizing her arm, led her out into the garden, where he stopped
at every peony and asked if this was the one; to which Chiang-hsueh made no reply, but only put her hand to her mouth and
At New Year's time Huang went home, and a couple of months
afterwards he dreamt that Chiang-hsueh came to tell him she was
in great trouble, begging him to hurry off as soon as possible to
her rescue. When he woke up, he thought his dream a very strange
one; and ordering his servant and horses to be ready, started at
once for the hills. There he found that the priests were about to
build a new room; and finding a camellia in the way, the con-
tractor had given orders that it should be cut down. Huang now
understood his dream, and immediately took steps to prevent the
destruction of the flower.
That night, Chiang-hsueh came to thank him, and Huang
laughed and said, "It serves you right for not telling me which
you were. Now I know you, and if you don't come and see me,
I'll get a firebrand and make it hot for you."