Herbal Healing

Once there was a sister and brother whose mama was very sick. The poor children couldn't sleep for worry, until a Chinese doctor told them about some medicinal herbs that may help her get better. "They grow on a mountainside near a smuggler's cave on Cheung Chau," he said.

1. Herbal HealingWhen the children set out on the ferry, the rain was pouring cats and dogs. The ferry ride was rollercoaster rocky. But the children found the cave. Herb bushes blossomed around its mouth.

They stuffed their rucksacks with sweet green stalks and turned to go, when – snatch! – something grabbed them from behind by the scruff of their necks and pulled them into the cave.

The eyes of a hairy monster and the flames of a fire glinted in the darkness. A half-eaten dog was turning on a spit and the air was thick with smoke. The monster sniffed the herbs and sliced them with his steel-sharp claws. "You'll taste even juicier sprinkled with these," he said.

"But we must go home. Our mama is sick," pleaded the boy.

The monster rubbed his lumpy belly and burped.

The girl stood up on her tippy toes, making herself as large as she could be. "And who are you to eat us? I don't think it was you who caught us," she said.

"Then I'll prove it," roared the monster, startling the bats hanging above. Flapping what looked like a dirty bed sheet, he hid his ugly face behind it.

Oddly, both the monster's face and the sheet disappeared.

"Show us one more time!" said the girl.

The moment the monster hid again, the children tugged the sheet out of his grasp and ran away underneath it.

The herbal soup made their mama feel much better.

This story is a Hong Kong version of a Chinese folk tale called Winter Rose, which was published in the collection 明清童話明清童話by 北新書局北新书in 1933.

Illustrated by Bianca Lesaca

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