In epochs of deep peace
When days are lengthening,
The flute sounds and songs are heard
Among the drunken villages.
The Phoenix Car is said to be approaching
With the Emperor,
And each one turns his eye
To the splendor of that procession.
In the reign of Hui Tsung of the Sung dynasty, near the capital of the East, on the borders of the Lake of Clearness of Gold, a new wine pavilion had just been opened, under the sign of The Quick Hedge. Fan, the landlord, and his brother Erh-lang, were the proprietors. Neither of them was married; and their business prospered.
It was the week when Spring melts into Summer, and men walk abroad in number to enjoy the freshness and beauty of nature.
One day Erh-lang roamed the lakeside, delighting in the soft air, and saw, in front of a teahouse, a ravishing girl of about eighteen, in whose face, which was as dreamful as the Night Star, flowered all the blossoms of the time. He stopped, fixed to the ground with admiration and already riotous with love. He could not take his eyes from the rose radiance of this face, peach blossom against flawless jade; from this slender body, from the rare golden lotus of these delicate feet. A scarlet hibiscus in flower framed this phoenix against stirring landscape of the great lake.
Alas! our emotions do not depend upon our will. The young girl felt herself looked upon, and raised her eyes; her soul was at once troubled, her child’s heart secretly rejoiced. She thought:
“If I could marry this beautiful man, I should know many happy moments. But, though he is there now, where will he be tomorrow? How can I tell him how to find me again?”
Just then a seller of refreshments came by with his small vessels on his shoulder. She called him:
“Have you a little honey-water?”
The merchant set down a bronze vase on the ground to serve her; but she, with pretended clumsiness, upset the vase, and said to him: “Never mind! Come to my house and I will pay for all. I will give you my name and address.”
Erh-lang pricked his ears, as she continued: “I am the daughter of Lord Chou, who lives near the Ts’ao Gate. My little name is Victorious-Immortal. And I pray you do not charge too much, for I am not yet betrothed or married.”
The young lover trembled with joy, saying to himself:
“These words are meant for me, I am sure of that.”
The merchant was meanwhile protesting, and the young girl added:
“My father is not at home just now. But he is terrible, and you will undoubtedly be prosecuted if you try to rob us.”
Erh-lang earnestly desired to make himself known in his turn, and being unable to think of any other expedient, he did as the girl had done: asked for a bowl of cool water, and pretended clumsily to upset the full jar. He then said: “Aya! Here is another misfortune! But it does not matter. Come to my house, and you shall be well recompensed. I am Erh-lang, brother of Fan. We are proprietors of the pavilion of the quick Hedge. I am nineteen, and no one has yet cheated me in my business, I can draw a bow, and am not yet betrothed.”