A String of Chinese Peach Stones

The Spirit of the Willow Tree.

A scholar, who was afterwards famous, was walking under an old willow tree, when he heard sounds as of a harpsichord. On asking who the minstrel was, a voice replied, I am the spirit of the willow’; and the spirit sprinkled the garments of the inquirer with willow sap, saying, ‘ You will, without fail, gain the highest degree of the Empire. But you must come afterwards and make me offerings of date-cake.’ The scholar promised he would, and sure enough got the foretold degree.”

The scholar has in his house a picture of a very lovely maiden. The scholar’s eyes used to wander up from his orthodox task to the picture; he spent many a moment trying to discover what was the secret of its wondrous fascination. The lines were well drawn, and the colour well applied, but there was something Eh! the eyes blinked! No, he was dreaming. He rose and gazed once more. There it was again!

‘Speak! ‘ he cried, ‘ if you can.’

The picture smiled. In process of time the lips moved as if to speak.

‘Little sister,’ he said, ‘ you love me.’

The picture reddened, and said, ‘I do.’

‘How can I possess you?’

‘ I am the spirit of the willow tree yonder. Once you sat under the tree, and I promised you the highest degree in the Empire. Now if you get me suitable garments, and I will enter them.’

‘And will you be my wife? ‘

‘Yes, after proper betrothal and the marriage ceremony.’ These, with the compliance of his mother, being fulfilled, they were married and lived as happily afterwards.

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