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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Passing through a small kiosque

of the flowers as he pushed

aside the thick vegetation which obstructed his way. After traversing a winding path fenced in by balustrades, Ch'en reached a second enclosure, wherein were a quantity of tall willow-trees which swept the red eaves of the buildings with their branches. The note of some bird would set the petals of the flowers fluttering in the air, and the least wind would bring the seed-vessels down from the elm-trees above; and the effect upon the eye and heart of the beholder was something quite unknown in the world of mortals. Passing through a small kiosque, Ch'en and his servant came upon a swing which seemed as though suspended from the clouds, while the ropes hung idly down in the utter stillness that prevailed.[32] Thinking by this that they were approaching the ladies' apartments,[33] Ch'en would have turned back, but at that moment he heard sounds of horses' feet at the door, and what seemed to be the laughter of a bevy of girls. So he and his servant hid themselves in a bush; and by-and-by, as the sounds came nearer, he heard one of the young ladies say, "We've had but poor sport to-day;" whereupon another cried out, "If the princess hadn't shot that wild goose, we should have taken all this trouble for nothing." Shortly after this, a number of girls dressed in red came in escorting a young lady, who went and sat down under the kiosque. She wore a hunting costume with tight[34] sleeves, and was about fourteen or fifteen years old. Her hair looked like a cloud of mist at the back of
her head, and her waist seemed as though a breath of wind might snap it[35]--incomparable for beauty, even among the celebrities of old. Just then the attendants handed her some exquisitely fragrant tea, and stood glittering round her like a bank of beautiful embroidery. In a few moments the young lady arose and descended the kiosque; at which one of her attendants cried out, "Is your Highness too fatigued by riding to take a turn in the swing?" The princess replied that she was not; and immediately some supported her under the shoulders, while others seized her arms, and others again arranged her petticoats, and brought her the proper shoes.[36] Thus they helped her into the swing, she herself stretching out her shining arms, and putting her feet into a suitable pair of slippers; and then--away she went, light as a flying-swallow, far up into the fleecy clouds. As soon as she had had enough, the attendants helped her out, and one of them exclaimed, "Truly, your Highness is a perfect angel!" At this the young lady laughed, and walked away, Ch'en gazing after her in a state of semi-consciousness, until, at length, the voices died away, and he and his servant crept forth. Walking up and down near the swing, he suddenly espied a red handkerchief near the paling, which he knew had been dropped by one of the young ladies; and, thrusting it joyfully into his sleeve, he walked up and entered the kiosque. There, upon a table, lay writing materials, and taking out the handkerchief he indited upon it the following lines:--

"What form divine was just now sporting nigh?-- 'Twas she, I trow of 'golden lily' fame; Her charms the moon's fair denizens might shame, Her fairy footsteps bear her to the sky."

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