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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "Flower of the Peony"

Flower of the Peony

She sat with the seamstress of the castle and fingered the soft stuffs of her fine new robes. For the rest, she played with her maidens the live-long day, or took her broidery frame, plying the needle and long silken thread. It was the month of May, and very often they took the air in a garden gallery, where Aya and her maids laughed together, and sometimes they spoke of the young Lord of Ako and how brave and beautiful he was, how skilful in art and in war, and how rich. When evening came they slipped down the gallery steps and into the garden, where they went hither and thither, hand in hand, to enjoy the cool air and the sweet scent of the flowers.

One night the Lady Aya walked in the garden according to her wont. The moon rose, round and silver.

“Ah me,” sighed one of the maidens, “the moon is a love-lorn lady. Look how pale and wan she goes, and even now she will hide her eyes with her long sleeve of cloud.”

“You speak sooth,” returned Aya, “the moon is a love-lorn lady; but have you seen her faint sister who is sadder and fairer than she?”

“Who, then, is the moon’s sister?” asked all the maidens at once.

Aya said, “Come and see—come.”

With that she drew them along the paths of the garden to the still pond, where were the dancing fireflies and the frogs that sang musically. Holding each other’s hands, the maidens looked down into the water, and one and all they beheld the moon’s sister, and they laughed softly together. While they played by the water’s brim, the Lady Aya’s foot slipped upon a smooth stone, and most assuredly she would have fallen into the pond. But all of a sudden a youth leapt forward out of the sweet secrecy of the night, and caught her in his arms. For a moment all the maidens beheld the glimmer of his garments. Then he was gone. Aya stood alone, trembling. Down gazed the moon, wide-eyed and sorrowful; and still more sorrowful and sweet, upwards gazed the moon’s pale sister. They saw a band of silent maidens who stood in a wilderness of blossoming peony flowers, that grew to the water’s edge.

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