Chinese Fairy Tales (H. Giles, 1920)/11

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Chinese Fairy Tales  (1920)  translated by Herbert Allen Giles
The Flower Fairies

THE FLOWER FAIRIES

High up on a mountain there was a place where many beautiful flowers grew, mostly peonies and camellias, often to a height of ten or twenty feet. A young man named Hwang, who wanted to study, built himself a little house near by; and one day he noticed from his window a young lady dressed in white, wandering about amongst the flowers. When he went out to see who she was, she ran behind a white peony and disappeared. After this, he began to watch for her; and before very long, he saw her come back again bringing with her another young lady dressed in red. But when he got near to them, the young lady in red gave a scream, and away they went in a fright with their skirts and long sleeves fluttering in the wind, and scenting all the air around. Hwang dashed after them, but they soon ran behind some flowers and vanished completely. That evening, as he was sitting over his books, he was astonished to see the white girl walk in, and with tears in her eyes implore him to help her. Hwang asked what was the matter, and tried to comfort her; but she did not seem able to tell him exactly what the danger was, and by and by she got up and wished him good night. This appeared to Hwang as 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. Hwang now knew that the white girl was a flower spirit, and became very sad in consequence of what had happened. Later on, he heard that the peony had only lived a few days after being taken away, at which he wept bitterly; and going to the hole from which it had been dug up, he watered the ground with his tears. While he was weeping over this loss he suddenly saw the young lady of the red clothes standing beside him, and wiping away her tears. "Alas!" she said, "that my dear sister should be thus torn away from me; but the tears, sir, which you have shed may perhaps be the means of restoring her to us." That night he dreamt that the red girl came to him again and said that she also was in trouble, begging him to try to rescue her. In the morning he found that a new house was to be built close by, and that the builder, finding a beautiful red camellia in his way, had given orders that it should be cut down. Hwang managed to prevent the destruction of the flower; and the same evening the red girl came to thank him, this time accompanied by her white sister. The red girl explained that the Flower-God, touched by Hwang's tears, had allowed the white girl to come back to life. At this, Hwang greatly rejoiced, but when he grasped the white girl's hand, his fingers seemed to go right through it, and to close only on themselves, not as in the days gone by. The white girl said to him, "When I was a flower spirit, I had a body; but now I am no longer a real person, only a kind of ghost as seen in a dream, though I still have my home in the white peony, beside the red camellia, my sister." Hwang, however, was so grieved at the loss of the white girl, that soon after he fell ill and died. He was buried by his own wish alongside of the white peony, and before very long another white peony grew up, straight out of Hwang's grave.