Friday, November 6, 2009

A Chinese Fairy Tale

Because Jackie feels so strongly about sharing Chinese culture I thought I would share some stories I have been reading lately.

Just in case any one has thoughts about copyright - these are public domain.


In one of the central provinces of this long-lived Empire of China,
there lived in very early times a man of the name of Chan. He was a
person of a bright, active nature which made him enjoy life, and caused
him to be popular amongst his companions and a favourite with every one
who knew him. But he was also a scholar, well-versed in the literature
of his country, and he spent every moment that he could spare in the
study of the great writings of the famous men of former days.

In order that he might be interrupted as little as possible in his
pursuit of learning, he engaged a room in a famous monastery some miles
away from his own home. The only inhabitants of this monastery were a
dozen or so of Buddhist priests, who, except when they were engaged in
the daily services of the temple, lived a quiet, humdrum, lazy kind of
existence which harmonized well with the solitude and the majestic
stillness of the mountain scenery by which they were surrounded.

This monastery was indeed one of the most beautiful in China. It was
situated on the slope of a hill, looking down upon a lovely valley,
where the natural solitude was as complete as the most devoted hermit
could desire. The only means of getting to it were the narrow hill
footpaths along which the worshippers from the great city and the
scattered villages wound in and out on festal days, when they came
trooping to the temple to make their offerings to the famous God
enshrined within.

Chan was a diligent student, and rarely indulged in recreation of any
kind. Occasionally, when his mind became oppressed with excessive
study he would go for a quiet walk along the hillside; but these
occasions were few and far between, for he made up for every hour he
spent away from his beloved books by still closer application to them
in the hours that followed.

One day he was strolling in an aimless kind of way on the hillside,
when suddenly a party of hunters from the neighbouring city of Eternal
Spring came dashing into view. They were a merry group and full of
excitement, for they had just sighted a fox which Chan had seen a
moment before flying away at its highest speed in mortal dread of its

Prominent amongst the hunters was a young girl, who was mounted on a
fiery little steed, so full of spirit and so eager to follow in the mad
chase after the prey, that its rider seemed to have some difficulty in
restraining it. The girl herself was a perfect picture. Her face was
the loveliest that Chan had ever looked upon, and her figure, which her
trim hunting dress showed off to the utmost advantage, was graceful in
the extreme. As she swept by him with her face flushed with excitement
and her features all aglow with health, Chan felt at once that he had
lost his heart and that he was deeply and profoundly in love with her.

On making enquiries, he found that she was named Willow, that she was
the daughter of the chief mandarin of the town in which she lived, and
that she was intensely fond of the chase and delighted in galloping
over the hills and valleys in the pursuit of the wild animals to be
found there. So powerfully had Chan's mind been affected by what he
had seen of Willow, that he had already begun to entertain serious
thoughts of making her his wife; but while his mind was full of this
delightful prospect he was plunged into the deepest grief by hearing
that she had suddenly died. For some days he was so stricken with
sorrow that he lost all interest in life, and could do nothing but
dwell on the memory of her whom he had come to love with all the
devotion of his heart.

A few weeks after the news of her death, the quiet of the retreat was
one day broken by a huge procession which wound its way along the
mountain path leading to the monastery doors. On looking out, Chan saw
that many of the men in this procession were dressed in sackcloth, and
that in front of it was a band of musicians producing weird, shrill
notes on their various instruments.

By these signs Chan knew that what he saw was a funeral, and he
expected to see the long line of mourners pass on to some spot on the
hillside where the dead would be buried. Instead of that, however,
they entered through the great gates of the monastery, and the coffin,
the red pall of which told him that it contained the body of a woman,
was carried into an inner room of the building and laid on trestles
that had been made ready for it.

After the mourners had dispersed, Chan asked one of the priests the
name of the woman who had died, and how it was that the coffin was laid
within the precincts of the temple instead of in the house of the
deceased, where it could be looked after by her relatives and where the
customary sacrifices to the spirit of the dead could be offered more
conveniently than in the monastery.

The bonze replied that this was a peculiar case, calling for special

"The father of the poor young girl who died so suddenly," he said, "was
the mandarin of the neighbouring city of Eternal Spring. Just after
the death of his daughter an order came from the Emperor transferring
him to another district, a thousand miles from here.

"The command was very urgent that he should proceed without delay to
take up his post in the far-off province, and that he was to allow
nothing to hinder him from doing so. He could not carry his daughter's
body with him on so long a journey, and no time was permitted him to
take the coffin to his home, where she might be buried amongst her own
kindred. It was equally impossible to deposit the coffin in the yamen
he was about to leave, for the new mandarin who was soon to arrive
would certainly object to have the body of a stranger in such close
proximity to his family. It might bring him bad luck, and his career
as an official might end in disaster.

"Permission was therefore asked from our abbot to allow the coffin to
be placed in one of our vacant rooms, until the father some day in the
future can come and bear the body of his beloved daughter to the home
of his ancestors, there to be laid at rest amongst his own people.

"This request was readily granted, for whilst he was in office the
mandarin showed us many favours, and his daughter was a beautiful girl
who was beloved by everyone; and so we were only too glad to do
anything in our power to help in this unhappy matter."

Chan was profoundly moved when he realized that the woman whom he had
loved as his own life lay dead within a chamber only a few steps away
from his own. His passion, instead of being crushed out of his heart
by the thought that she was utterly beyond his reach, and by no
possibility could ever be more to him than a memory, seemed to grow in
intensity as he became conscious that it was an absolutely hopeless one.

On that very same evening, about midnight, when silence rested on the
monastery, and the priests were all wrapped in slumber, Chan, with a
lighted taper in his hand, stole with noiseless footsteps along the
dark passages into the chamber of death where his beloved lay.
Kneeling beside the coffin with a heart full of emotion, in trembling
accents he called upon Willow to listen to the story of his passion.

He spoke to her just as though she were standing face to face with him,
and he told her how he had fallen in love with her on the day on which
he had caught a glimpse of her as she galloped in pursuit of the fox
that had fled through the valley from the hunters. He had planned, he
told her, to make her his wife, and he described, in tones through
which the tears could be heard to run, how heart-broken he was when he
heard of her death.

"I want to see you," he continued, "for I feel that I cannot live
without you. You are near to me, and yet oh! how far away. Can you
not come from the Land of Shadows, where you are now, and comfort me by
one vision of your fair face, and one sound of the voice that would
fill my soul with the sweetest music?"

For many months the comfort of Chan's life was this nightly visit to
the chamber where his dead love lay. Not a single night passed without
his going to tell her of the unalterable and undying affection that
filled his heart; and whilst the temple lay shrouded in darkness, and
the only sounds that broke the stillness were those inexplicable ones
in which nature seems to indulge when man is removed by sleep from the
scene, Chan was uttering those love notes which had lain deeply hidden
within his soul, but which now in the utter desolation of his heart
burst forth to ease his pain by their mere expression.

One night as he was sitting poring over his books, he happened to turn
round, and was startled to see the figure of a young girl standing just
inside the door of his room. It seemed perfectly human, and yet it was
so ethereal that it had the appearance of a spirit of the other world.
As he looked at the girl with a wondering gaze, a smile lit up her
beautiful features, and he then discovered to his great joy that she
was none other than Willow, his lost love whom he had despaired of ever
seeing again.

With her face wreathed in smiles, she sat down beside him and said in a
timid, modest way:--"I am here to-night in response to the great love
which has never faltered since the day I died. That is the magnet
which has had the power of drawing me from the Land of Shadows. I felt
it there, and many speak about it in that sunless country. Even
Yam-lo, the lord of the spirits of that dreary world, has been moved by
your unchanging devotion; so much so that he has given me permission to
come and see you, in order that I might tell you how deeply my heart is
moved by the profound affection that you have exhibited for me all
these months during which you never had any expectation of its being

For many months this sweet intercourse between Chan and his beloved
Willow was carried on, and no one in the whole monastery knew anything
of it. The interviews always took place about midnight, and Willow,
who seemed to pass with freedom through closed doors or the stoutest
walls, invariably vanished during the small hours of the morning.

One evening whilst they were conversing on topics agreeable to them
both, Willow unburdened her heart to Chan, and told him how unhappy she
was in the world of spirits.

"You know," she said, "that before I died I was not married, and so I
am only a wandering spirit with no place where I can rest, and no
friends to whom I can betake myself. I travel here and there and
everywhere, feeling that no one cares for me, and that there are no
ties to bind me to any particular place or thing. For a young girl
like me, this is a very sad and sorrowful state of things.

"There is another thing that adds to my sorrow in the Land of Shadows,"
she went on to say, with a mournful look on her lovely countenance. "I
was very fond of hunting when I was in my father's home, and many a
wild animal was slain in the hunting expeditions in which I took an
active part. This has all told against me in the world in which I am
now living, and for the share I took in destroying life I have to
suffer by many pains and penalties which are hard for me to endure.

"My sin has been great," she said, "and so I wish to make special
offerings in this temple to the Goddess of Mercy and implore her to
send down to the other world a good report of me to Yam-lo, and
intercede with him to forgive the sins of which I have been guilty. If
you will do this for me, I promise that after I have been born again
into the world I will never forget you, and if you like to wait for me
I shall willingly become your wife and serve you with the deepest
devotion of which my heart is capable, as long as Heaven will permit
you and me to live together as husband and wife."

From this time, much to the astonishment of the priests in the
monastery, Chan began to show unwonted enthusiasm for the service of
the Goddess, and would sometimes spend hours before her image and
repeat long prayers to her. This was all the more remarkable, as the
scholar had rarely if ever shown any desire to have anything to do with
the numerous gods which were enshrined in various parts of the temple.

After some months of this daily appeal to the Goddess of Mercy, Willow
informed him that his prayers had been so far successful that the
misery of her lot in the Land of Shadows had been greatly mitigated.
The pleadings of the Goddess with Yam-lo had so influenced his heart
towards Willow that she believed her great sin in the destruction of
animal life had been forgiven, and there were signs that the dread
ruler of the Underworld was looking upon her with kindness.

Chan was delighted with this news, and his prayers and offerings became
still more frequent and more fervent. He little dreamed that his
devotion to the Goddess would be the means of his speedy separation
from Willow, but so it was. One evening she came as usual to see him,
but instead of entering with smiling face and laughter in her eyes, she
was weeping bitterly as though she were in the direst sorrow.

Chan was in the greatest distress when he saw this and asked her to
explain the reason for her grief. "The reason for my tears," she said,
"is because after this evening I shall not see you again. Your
petitions to the Goddess have had such a powerful effect upon her mind
that she has used all her influence with Yam-lo to induce him to set me
free from the misery of the Land of Shadows, and so I am to leave that
sunless country and to be born again into life in this upper world."

As she uttered these words her tears began to flow once more and her
whole frame was convulsed with sobbing.

"I am glad," she said, "that I am to be born once more and live amongst
men, but I cannot bear the thought of having to be separated for so
long from you. Let us not grieve too much, however. It is our fate,
and we may not rebel against it. Yam-lo has been kinder to me than he
has ever been to any one in the past, for he has revealed to me the
family into which I am to be born and the place where they live, so if
you come to me in eighteen years you will find me waiting for you.
Your love has been so great that it has entered into my very soul, and
there is nothing that can ever efface it from my heart. A thousand
re-births may take place, but never shall I love any one as I love you."

Chan professed that he was greatly comforted by this confession of her
love, but all the same he felt in despair when he thought of the future.

"When next I shall see you," he said with a sigh, "I shall be getting
so old that you, a young girl in the first flush of womanhood, will not
care to look at me. My hair will have turned grey and my face will be
marked with wrinkles, and in the re-birth you will have forgotten all
that took place in the Land of Shadows, and the memory of me will have
vanished from your heart for ever."

Willow looked with loving but sorrowful eyes upon her lover as he was
expressing his concern about the future, but quickly assured him that
nothing in the world would ever cause her to cease to remember him with
the tenderest affection.

"In order to comfort you," she said, "let me tell you of two things
that the dread Yam-lo, out of consideration for your love for me, has
granted me--two things which he has never bestowed upon any other
mortal who has come within the region of his rule. The first is, he
has allowed me to inspect the book of Life and Death, in which is
recorded the history of every human being, with the times of their
re-births and the places in which they are to be born. I want you this
very minute to write down the secret which has been revealed to me as
to my new name and family and the place where I shall reside, so that
you will have no difficulty in finding me, when eighteen years hence
you shall come to claim me as your wife.

"The next is a gift so precious that I have no words in which to
express my gratitude for its having been bestowed upon me. It is this.
I am given the privilege of not forgetting what has taken place during
my stay in the Land of Shadows, and so when I am re-born into another
part of China, with a new father and mother, I shall hold within my
memory my recollection of you. The years will pass quickly, for I
shall be looking for you, and this day eighteen years hence will be the
happiest in my life, for it will bring you to me never more to be
separated from me.

"But I must hasten on," she hurriedly exclaimed, "for the footsteps of
fate are moving steadily towards me. In a few minutes the gates of
Hades will have closed against me, and Willow will have vanished, and I
shall be a babe once more with my new life before me. See, but a
minute more is left me, and I seem to have so much to say. Farewell!
Never forget me! I shall ever remember you, but my time is come!"

As she uttered these words, a smile of ineffable sweetness flashed
across, her beautiful face, and she was gone.

Chan was inexpressibly sad at the loss he had sustained by the re-birth
of Willow, and in order to drive away his sorrow he threw his heart and
soul into his studies. His books became his constant companions, and
he tried to find in them a solace for the loneliness which had come
upon him since the visits of Willow had ceased. He also became a
diligent worshipper of the idols, and especially of the Goddess of
Mercy, who had played such an important part in the history of his
beloved Willow.

The years went slowly by, and Chan began to feel that he was growing
old. His hair became dashed with silver threads, and wrinkles appeared
in his forehead and under his eyes. The strain of waiting for the one
woman who had taken complete possession of his heart had been too much
for him. As the time drew near, too, when he should go to meet her, a
great and nervous dread began to fill him with anxiety. Would she
recognize him? And would she, a young girl of eighteen, be content to
accept as a husband a man so advanced in years as he now was? These
questions were constantly flashing through his brain.

At last only a few months remained before he was to set out on his
journey to the distant province where Yam-lo had decided that Willow
was to begin her new life on earth.

He was sitting one evening in his study, brooding over the great
problem that would be solved before long, when a man dressed in black
silently entered the room. Looking on Chan with a kindly smile which
seemed to find its way instantly to his heart, he informed him that he
was a fairy from the Western Heaven and that he had been specially
deputed by the rulers there to render him all the assistance in his
power at this particular crisis, when they knew his heart was so full
of anxiety.

"We have all heard in that far-off fairyland," he continued, "of the
devotion you have shown to Willow, and how during all the years which
have intervened since you saw her last you have never faltered in your
love for her. Such affection is rare among mortals, and the dwellers
in fairyland would like to help in bringing together two such loving
hearts; for let me assure you that however strong your feeling for the
one whom you are so anxious to see again, she on her part is just as
deeply in love with you, and is now counting the days until she will be
able to see you and until you need never again be parted from each
other. In order to assist in this happy consummation, I want you to
take a short trip with me. It will only take a few hours, and you will
then find that something has happened to remove all your fears as to
how you will be received by Willow."

The fairy man then led Chan to the door, and gave a wave of his hand in
the direction of the sky. Instantly the sound of the fluttering and
swish of wings was heard, and in a moment a splendid eagle landed
gracefully at their feet. Taking their seats upon its back, they found
themselves flashing at lightning speed away through the darkness of the
night. Higher and higher they rose, till they had pierced the heavy
masses of clouds which hung hovering in the sky. Swift as an arrow the
eagle still cleft its way upward until the clouds had vanished to an
infinite distance below them; and still onward they were borne in the
mighty stillness of an expanse where no human being had ever travelled

Chan felt his heart throb with a nervousness which he could not
control. What if the bird should tire, he thought, and he should be
dropped into the fathomless abyss below? Life's journey would then
come to a tragic end. Where, too, was he being carried and how should
he be ever able to return to his far-off home on the earth? He was
becoming more and more agitated, when the fairy took hold of his hand
and in a voice which at once stilled his fears, assured him that there
was not the least danger in this journey through the air.

"We are as safe here," he assured him, "as though we were standing upon
a mountain whose roots lie miles below the surface of the earth. And
see," he continued, pointing to something in the distance, "we shall
arrive at our destination in the course of a few seconds."

True enough, he had hardly finished speaking when a land, fairer than
Chan had ever seen on earth or pictured in imagination, loomed up
suddenly in front of them; and before he could gather together his
astonished thoughts, the eagle had landed them on its shores, and with
outspread wings was soaring into the mystery of the unknown beyond.

The fairy now led Chan along a road surrounded by the most bewildering
beauty. Rare flowers, graceful trees, and birds which made the groves
resound with the sweetest music, were objects that kept his mind in one
continual state of delight. Before long they arrived in front of a
magnificent palace, so grand and vast that Chan felt afraid to enter
within its portals, or even tread the avenue leading up to it.

Once more his companion relieved Chan's anxiety by assuring him that he
was an expected guest, and that the Queen of this fairy country had
sent him to earth specially to invite him to come and visit her, in
order that she might bestow upon him a blessing which would enrich the
whole of his life and would enable him to spend many happy years with
her whom he had loved with such devotion.

Chan was ushered into a large reception hall, where he was met by a
very stately lady, with a face full of benevolence, whom he at once
recognized, from the images he had often worshipped, as the Goddess of
Mercy. He was startled when he discovered in what august presence he
was standing, and began to tremble with excitement as he realized that
here in actual life was the famous personage whose image was worshipped
by the millions of China, and whose influence spread even into the Land
of Shadows.

Seeing Chan's humility and evident terror of her, the Goddess spoke to
him in a gentle, loving voice, and told him to have no fear, for she
had summoned him to her presence not to rebuke but to comfort him.

"I know your story," she said, "and I think it is a beautiful one.
Before I was raised to the high position I now occupy I was at one time
a woman like Willow, and I can sympathize with her in her devotion to
you because of the wonderful love you have shown her from the first
moment that you saw her.

"I know, too, your anxiety about your age, and your fear lest when
Willow sees you with the marks of advancing years upon you, her love
may die out and you will be left with your heart broken and in despair.
I have foreseen this difficulty, and I am going to have it removed.

"The fairy who brought you here," she continued, "will now take you
round the palace grounds, and if you will carry out my wishes, the
fears which have been troubling you for years shall entirely vanish.
You will then meet Willow with a heart as light as that of any man in
the flush of youth, who awaits the coming of the bridal chair which
bears his future wife to his home."

Chan at once, without any hesitation, followed his guide through the
spacious grounds which surrounded the palace, and was finally led to
the edge of a beautiful little lake embowered amongst trees and ferns,
and rare and fragrant flowers. It was the most exquisite scene on
which his vision had ever rested.

With a kindly look at his companion, the fairy said, "This beautiful
piece of water goes by the name of the 'Fountain of Eternal Youth,' and
it is the Queen's express desire that you should bathe in it."

Quickly undressing, Chan plunged into the pool and for a moment sank
beneath the surface of the waters. Emerging quickly from them, a
delightful feeling of new-born strength seemed to be creeping in at
every pore of his body. The sense of advancing age passed away, and
the years of youth appeared to come back to him again. He felt as
though he were a young man once more; for the weary doubts, which for
some years past had made his footsteps lag, had gone with his first
plunge into those fragrant waters.

By-and-by he came out of this "Fountain of Eternal Youth" with the
visions and ambitions of his young manhood rushing through his brain.
His powers, which seemed of late to have become dull and sluggish, had
recovered the impetus which in earlier years had carried him so
successfully through many a severe examination. His thoughts, too,
about Willow had so completely changed that instead of dreading the day
when he should stand before her, his one passionate desire now was to
start upon his journey to keep his appointment with her.

Chan and the fairy then proceeded to the edge of the vast and boundless
expanse which bordered the palace of the Goddess, and found a
magnificent dragon waiting to convey them back to earth. No sooner had
they taken their seats on its back than it fled with the swiftness of
the wind through the untrodden spaces of the air, until at length the
mountains came looming out of the dim and shadowy distance, and with a
rush Chan found himself safely landed at the door of the temple from
which he had taken his departure for his amazing journey to the Western

Whilst these wonderful things were taking place, Willow--or rather
Precious Pearl, as she had been named by her new parents, who of course
had no knowledge of her previous history--had grown up to be a most
beautiful and fascinating woman.

During all these years she had never ceased to look forward with an
anxious heart to the day when she would once more meet the man to whom
she had betrothed herself eighteen years ago. Latterly she had begun
to count the days that must still elapse before she could see him
again. She never forgot the night in the temple when she bade him
"Good-bye" just before she was reborn into this world. The day and the
hour had been stamped upon her memory, and since then the years had
seemed to travel with halting, leaden feet, as though they were loth to
move on. But now only a few months remained, and no doubt ever entered
her brain that Chan would fail her.

Just about this time her mother had an offer of marriage for her from a
very wealthy and distinguished family, and contrary to the usual custom
of mothers in China she asked her daughter what she thought of the
proposal. Pearl was distressed beyond measure, and prayed and
entreated her mother on no account to broach the subject to her again,
as she could never entertain any proposition of the kind.

Amazed at such a statement, her mother begged her to explain her reason
for such strange views. "Girls at your age," she said, "are usually
betrothed and are thinking of having homes of their own. This is the
universal custom throughout the Empire, and therefore there must be
some serious reason why you will not allow me to make arrangements for
your being allied to some respectable family."

Pearl had been feeling that the time was drawing near when she would
have to divulge the secret of her love affair, and she considered that
now was the best opportunity for doing so. To the astonishment
therefore of her mother, who believed that she was romancing, she told
her the whole story of the past; how Chan had fallen in love with her,
and how after she had died and had come under the control of Yam-lo in
the Land of Shadows, that dread lord had permitted her spirit to visit
her lover in the temple where her body had been laid until a lucky
resting-place could be found for it on the hillside. She also
explained how it had been agreed between them that she was to wait for
him until after the lapse of eighteen years, when she would be old
enough to become his wife. "In a few months the time will be up," she
concluded, "and so I beseech you not to speak of my being betrothed to
any one else, for I feel that if I am compelled to marry any other than
Chan I shall die."

The mother was thunderstruck at this wonderful story which her daughter
told her. She could only imagine that Pearl had in some way or another
been bewitched, and was under a fatal delusion that she was in love
with some hero of romance, to whom she believed she was betrothed.
Still, her daughter had always been most loving and devoted to her, and
had shown more brightness and ability than Chinese girls of her age
usually possessed. Her mother did not like, therefore, to reprove her
for what she considered her ridiculous ideas, so she determined to try
another plan to cure her of her folly.

"What age was this man Chan," she asked, "when you entered into this
engagement with him?"

"He was just thirty," Pearl replied. "He was of very good family and a
scholar, and had distinguished himself for his proficiency in the
ancient literature of China."

"Oh! then he must be nearly fifty now. A fine mate he would make for
you, a young girl of only eighteen! But who knows how he may have
changed since last you saw him? His hair must be turning grey, and his
teeth may have fallen out; and for anything you know he may have been
dead and buried so long ago that by this time they have taken up his
bones, and nothing is left of him but what the funeral urn may contain
of his ashes."

"Oh! I do pray that nothing of that kind has happened to him," cried
Pearl, in a tone of voice which showed the anguish she was suffering.
"Let us leave the question for a few months, and then when he comes for
me, as I know he will, you will find by personal knowledge what a
splendid man he is, and how entirely worthy he is of being your

On the day which had been appointed under such romantic circumstances
eighteen years before, Chan arrived in the town, and after taking a
room in an inn and making certain enquiries, he made his way to the
home where he believed that Willow resided. On his arrival, however,
he was roughly told by the servant that no such person as Willow lived
there, and that they did not like strangers coming about the house.
Indeed he was given plainly to understand that the sooner he left, the
better everyone would be pleased. This treatment was of course part of
a scheme devised by Pearl's parents to frustrate any plans that Chan
might have formed for seeing her. They were determined not to give
their daughter to a man so old as he must be, and therefore they
decided that an interview between the two must be prevented at all

Chan was greatly distressed at the rebuff which he had received. Had
Willow after all made a mistake eighteen years ago when she gave him
the name of this town as the place where her new home was to be? He
had carefully written it down at her dictation, and it had been burned
into his brain all the years since. No, there could be no mistake on
that point. If there were any, then it was one that had been made
purposely by Yam-lo in order to deceive them both. That idea, however,
was unthinkable, and so there must be something else to account for his
not finding Willow as he had expected. He at once made enquiries at
the inn at which he was staying, and found that there was a daughter at
the very house to which he had gone, and that in almost every
particular the description he was given of her corresponded with his
beloved Willow.

In the meantime, poor Pearl was in a state of the greatest anxiety.
The eventful day on which she was to meet her lover had opened for her
with keen expectation of meeting him after their long and romantic
separation. She had never for one moment doubted that he would keep
his engagement with her. An instinct which she could not explain made
her feel certain that he was still alive, and that nothing in the world
would prevent him from meeting her, as had been agreed upon between
them at that eventful parting in the temple eighteen years before.

As the day wore on, however, and there were no signs of Chan, Pearl's
distress became exceedingly pitiful; and when night came and her mother
declared that nothing had been seen of him, she was so stricken with
despair that she lost all consciousness, and had to be carried to bed,
where she lay in a kind of trance from which, for some time, it seemed
impossible to arouse her.

When at last she did regain consciousness, her mother tried to comfort
her by saying that perhaps Chan was dead, or that he had forgotten her
in the long course of years, and that therefore she must not grieve too
much. "You are a young girl," she said, "and you have a long life
before you. Chan is an old man by this time; no doubt he has long ago
married, and the home ties which he has formed have caused him to
forget you. But you need not be broken-hearted on that account. There
are many other men who will be more suitable for you than he could
possibly be. By-and-by we shall arrange a marriage for you, and then
life will appear to you very different from what it does now."

Instead of being comforted, however, Pearl was only the more distressed
by her mother's words. Her love, which had begun in the Land of
Shadows, and which had been growing in her heart for the last eighteen
years, was not one to be easily put aside by such plausible arguments
as those she had just listened to. The result was that she had a
relapse, and for several days her life was in great danger.

The father and mother, fearing now that their daughter would die,
determined, as there seemed no other remedy, to bring Chan to their
home, and see whether his presence would not deliver Pearl from the
danger in which the doctor declared she undoubtedly was.

The father accordingly went to the inn where he knew Chan was staying,
and to his immense surprise he found him to be a young man of about
twenty-five, highly polished in manner, and possessed of unusual
intelligence. For some time he utterly refused to believe that this
handsome young fellow was really the man with whom Pearl was so deeply
in love, and it was not until Chan had told him the romantic story of
his life that he could at all believe that he was not being imposed
upon. Eventually, however, he was so taken with Chan that he became
determined to do all in his power to bring about his marriage with his

"Come with me at once," he said, "and see if your presence will not do
more than the cleverest doctors in the town have been able to
accomplish. Pearl has been so distressed at not seeing you that she is
now seriously ill, and we have been afraid that she would die of a
broken heart."

When they arrived at the house Chan was taken into the sick-room, and
the girl gazed into his face with a look of wonderment. "I do not seem
to recognize you," she said in a feeble voice. "You are much younger
than Chan, and although there is something about you that reminds me of
him, I cannot realize that you are the same person with whom my spirit
eighteen years ago held fellowship in the monastery where my body lay

Chan proceeded to explain the mystery. "For years," he said, "my mind
was troubled about the difference between our ages. I was afraid that
when you saw me with grey hairs and with wrinkles on my face, your love
would receive a shock, and you might regret that you had ever pledged
yourself to me. Although you had vanished from my sight, my prayers
still continued to be offered to the Goddess of Mercy. She had heard
them for you, you remember, when you were in the Land of Shadows, and
through her intercession Yam-lo had forgiven your sins, and had made
life easier for you in that gloomy country.

"I still continued to pray to her, hoping in some vague way that she
would intervene to bring about the desire of my heart, and that when in
due time I should meet you again, every obstacle to our mutual love
would be for ever removed.

"One day a fairy came into the very room where your spirit had often
conversed with me. He carried me away with him to the Western Heaven
and brought me into the very presence of the Goddess of Mercy. She
gave directions for me to bathe in the 'Fountain of Eternal Youth,' and
I became young again. That is why you see me now with a young face and
a young nature, but my heart in its love for you has never changed, and
never will as long as life lasts."

As he was telling this entrancing story, a look of devoted love spread
over the beautiful countenance of Pearl. She gradually became instinct
with life, and before he had finished speaking, the lassitude and
exhaustion which had seemed to threaten her very life entirely
disappeared. A rosy look came over her face, and her coal-black eyes
flashed with hidden fires.

"Now I know," she cried, "that you are Chan. You are so changed that
when I first caught sight of you my heart sank within me, for I had
pictured an older man, and I could not at once realize that you were
the same Chan who showed such unbounded love for me in the years gone

"It was not that I should have loved you less even though you had
really been older. My heart would never have changed. It was only my
doubt as to your reality that made me hesitate, but now my happiness is
indeed great; for since through the goodness of the Goddess you have
recovered your youth, I need not fear that the difference between our
years may in the near future bring to us an eternal separation."

In a few days Pearl was once more herself again. Her parents,
delighted with the romantic turn that things had taken and highly
pleased with Chan himself, arranged for the betrothal of their daughter
to him; and in the course of a few months, the loving couple were
united in marriage. And so, after years of waiting, the happy
consummation was accomplished, which Heaven and the Goddess of Mercy
and even the dread Ruler of the Land of Shadows had each taken a share
in bringing about; and for many and many a long year the story of Chan
and his wife was spread abroad throughout the region in which they


Post a Comment


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.