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The Story Of Hok Lee And The Dwarfs

from The Green Fairy Book





There once lived in a small town in China a man named Hok Lee. He
was a steady industrious man, who not only worked hard at his
trade, but did all his own house-work as well, for he had no wife
to do it for him. 'What an excellent industrious man is this Hok
Lee!' said his neighbours; 'how hard he works: he never leaves his
house to amuse himself or to take a holiday as others do!'

But Hok Lee was by no means the virtuous person his neighbours
thought him. True, he worked hard enough by day, but at night,
when all respectable folk were fast asleep, he used to steal out
and join a dangerous band of robbers, who broke into rich people's
houses and carried off all they could lay hands on.

This state of things went on for some time, and, though a thief
was caught now and then and punished, no suspicion ever fell on
Hok Lee, he was such a very respectable, hard-working man.

Hok Lee had already amassed a good store of money as his share of
the proceeds of these robberies when it happened one morning on
going to market that a neighbour said to him:

'Why, Hok Lee, what is the matter with your face? One side of it
is all swelled up.'

True enough, Hok Lee's right cheek was twice the size of his left,
and it soon began to feel very uncomfortable.

'I will bind up my face,' said Hok Lee; 'doubtless the warmth will
cure the swelling.' But no such thing. Next day it was worse, and
day by day it grew bigger and bigger till it was nearly as large
as his head and became very painful.

Hok Lee was at his wits' ends what to do. Not only was his cheek
unsightly and painful, but his neighbours began to jeer and make
fun of him, which hurt his feelings very much indeed.

One day, as luck would have it, a travelling doctor came to the
town. He sold not only all kinds of medicine, but also dealt in
many strange charms against witches and evil spirits.

Hok Lee determined to consult him, and asked him into his house.

After the doctor had examined him carefully, he spoke thus: 'This,
O Hok Lee, is no ordinary swelled face. I strongly suspect you
have been doing some wrong deed which has called down the anger of
the spirits on you. None of my drugs will avail to cure you, but,
if you are willing to pay me handsomely, I can tell you how you
may be cured.'

Then Hok Lee and the doctor began to bargain together, and it was
a long time before they could come to terms. However, the doctor
got the better of it in the end, for he was determined not to part
with his secret under a certain price, and Hok Lee had no mind to
carry his huge cheek about with him to the end of his days. So he
was obliged to part with the greater portion of his ill-gotten
gains.

When the Doctor had pocketed the money, he told Hok Lee to go on
the first night of the full moon to a certain wood and there to
watch by a particular tree. After a time he would see the dwarfs
and little sprites who live underground come out to dance. When
they saw him they would be sure to make him dance too. 'And mind
you dance your very best,' added the doctor. 'If you dance well
and please them they will grant you a petition and you can then
beg to be cured; but if you dance badly they will most likely do
you some mischief out of spite.' With that he took leave and
departed.

Happily the first night of the full moon was near, and at the
proper time Hok Lee set out for the wood. With a little trouble he
found the tree the doctor had described, and, feeling nervous, he
climbed up into it.

He had hardly settled himself on a branch when he saw the little
dwarfs assembling in the moonlight. They came from all sides, till
at length there appeared to be hundreds of them. They seemed in
high glee, and danced and skipped and capered about, whilst Hok
Lee grew so eager watching them that he crept further and further
along his branch till at length it gave a loud crack. All the
dwarfs stood still, and Hok Lee felt as if his heart stood still
also.

Then one of the dwarfs called out, 'Someone is up in that tree.
Come down at once, whoever you are, or we must come and fetch
you.'

In great terror, Hok Lee proceeded to come down; but he was so
nervous that he tripped near the ground and came rolling down in
the most absurd manner. When he had picked himself up, he came
forward with a low bow, and the dwarf who had first spoken and who
appeared to be the leader, said, 'Now, then, who art thou, and
what brings thee here?'

So Hok Lee told him the sad story of his swelled cheek, and how he
had been advised to come to the forest and beg the dwarfs to cure
him.

'It is well,' replied the dwarf. 'We will see about that. First,
however, thou must dance before us. Should thy dancing please us,
perhaps we may be able to do something; but shouldst thou dance
badly, we shall assuredly punish thee, so now take warning and
dance away.'

With that, he and all the other dwarfs sat down in a large ring,
leaving Hok Lee to dance alone in the middle. He felt half
frightened to death, and besides was a good deal shaken by his
fall from the tree and did not feel at all inclined to dance. But
the dwarfs were not to be trifled with.

'Begin!' cried their leader, and 'Begin!' shouted the rest in
chorus.

So in despair Hok Lee began. First he hopped on one foot and then
on the other, but he was so stiff and so nervous that he made but
a poor attempt, and after a time sank down on the ground and vowed
he could dance no more.

The dwarfs were very angry. They crowded round Hok Lee and abused
him. 'Thou to come here to be cured, indeed!' they cried, 'thou
hast brought one big cheek with thee, but thou shalt take away
two.' And with that they ran off and disappeared, leaving Hok Lee
to find his way home as best he might.

He hobbled away, weary and depressed, and not a little anxious on
account of the dwarfs' threat.

Nor were his fears unfounded, for when he rose next morning his
left cheek was swelled up as big as his right, and he could hardly
see out of his eyes. Hok Lee felt in despair, and his neighbours
jeered at him more than ever. The doctor, too, had disappeared, so
there was nothing for it but to try the dwarfs once more.

He waited a month till the first night of the full moon came round
again, and then he trudged back to the forest, and sat down under
the tree from which he had fallen. He had not long to wait. Ere
long the dwarfs came trooping out till all were assembled.

'I don't feel quite easy,' said one; 'I feel as if some horrid
human being were near us.'

When Hok Lee heard this he came forward and bent down to the
ground before the dwarfs, who came crowding round, and laughed
heartily at his comical appearance with his two big cheeks.

'What dost thou want?' they asked; and Hok Lee proceeded to tell
them of his fresh misfortunes, and begged so hard to be allowed
one more trial at dancing that the dwarfs consented, for there is
nothing they love so much as being amused.

Now, Hok Lee knew how much depended on his dancing well, so he
plucked up a good spirit and began, first quite slowly, and faster
by degrees, and he danced so well and gracefully, and made such
new and wonderful steps, that the dwarfs were quite delighted with
him.

They clapped their tiny hands, and shouted, 'Well done, Hok Lee,
well done, go on, dance more, for we are pleased.'

And Hok Lee danced on and on, till he really could dance no more,
and was obliged to stop.

Then the leader of the dwarfs said, 'We are well pleased, Hok Lee,
and as a recompense for thy dancing thy face shall be cured.
Farewell.'

With these words he and the other dwarfs vanished, and Hok Lee,
putting his hands to his face, found to his great joy that his
cheeks were reduced to their natural size. The way home seemed
short and easy to him, and he went to bed happy, and resolved
never to go out robbing again.

Next day the whole town was full of the news of Hok's sudden cure.
His neighbours questioned him, but could get nothing from him,
except the fact that he had discovered a wonderful cure for all
kinds of diseases.

After a time a rich neighbour, who had been ill for some years,
came, and offered to give Hok Lee a large sum of money if he would
tell him how he might get cured. Hok Lee consented on condition
that he swore to keep the secret. He did so, and Hok Lee told him
of the dwarfs and their dances.

The neighbour went off, carefully obeyed Hok Lee's directions, and
was duly cured by the dwarfs. Then another and another came to Hok
Lee to beg his secret, and from each he extracted a vow of secrecy
and a large sum of money. This went on for some years, so that at
length Hok Lee became a very wealthy man, and ended his days in
peace and prosperity.





Next: The Story Of The Three Bears

Previous: Puddocky



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