A String of Chinese Peach Stones

The Hermit and the Pine Tree Spirit.

Once an old hermit on a certain hill, who, on being asked who was his best friend, used to point to an old pine hard by, and say, ‘That faithful old man.’

There were no pine trees on this hill. The hermit was once deep in his meditations, when he saw a form standing before him, who introduced himself as the spirit of the hills, and said he had come for instruction in doctrine. Having received it, he asked what recompense he could give. The hermit answered, ‘ The hill where I generally meditate has no pines; could you move these thither for me? ‘ ‘ Your humble servant,’ replied the spirit; ‘ never fear.’ And he bowed exit. That night there was a great thunderstorm, and the morning saw all the pines transplanted around the dwelling of the hermit.

Many years later, the hermit died, but the pine spirit stays. One day, a countryman met a traveller dressed in strange clothing, leading a white dog. On asking where he lived, the traveller replied by pointing to a neighbouring hill. The countryman followed him as far as an old pine tree, where both man and dog disappeared. Then the countryman knew, this strange traveller was the spirit of the pine, and the dog was that of the fungus around its root!

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