We were dancing to the song of the frogs on the breath of the still pond when Lady Aya came out into the garden with her maidens.
The moon had risen, round and silver.
Lady Aya said, “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.
“Look down,” said Lady Aya.
Holding each other’s hands, the maidens looked down into the water and saw the pale reflection of the moon. The maidens stepped to the water’s edge amid the peonies that the Lady herself had planted.
Just then, Lady Aya’s foot slipped on a smooth stone. She would have have fallen into the pond, but a young man leapt forward out of the sweet secrecy of the night. He caught her in his arms. We saw a glimmer of his garments, and then he was gone. His robe seemed to have been made by the peonies.
Lady Aya stood alone, trembling. Down gazed the moon, wide-eyed and sorrowful, and up gazed the moon’s pale sister. The frogs had stopped singing and we hovered in the sweet breath of the night. The maidens stood in a wilderness of blossoming peony flowers and did not say a word.
Then Lady Aya turned and left the garden, her face as pale as the moon.
Firefly in the Peony Pond, Flower of the Peony, Japanese Fairy Tales. Art by Ohara Koson