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KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Lafcadio Hearn) online

Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan


Hana ka tote koso,
Hi wo kurase,
Akenu ni otoru
Akane sasuran?"

["Being on my way to pay a visit, I found that which I took to be a flower: therefore here I spend the day... Why, in the time before dawn, the dawn-blush tint should glow -- that, indeed, I know not."] [2]

Without a moment's hesitation, she answered him in these verses:--

"Izuru hi no
Honomeku iro wo
Waga sode ni
Tsutsumaba asu mo
Kimiya tomaran."

[If with my sleeve I hid the faint fair color of the dawning sun,-- then, perhaps, in the morning my lord will remain."] [3]

Then Tomotada knew that she accepted his admiration; and he was scarcely less surprised by the art with which she had uttered her feelings in verse, than delighted by the assurance which the verses conveyed. He was now certain that in all this world he could not hope to meet, much less to win, a girl more beautiful and witty than this rustic maid before him; and a voice in his heart seemed to cry out urgently, "Take the luck that the gods have put in your way!" In short he was bewitched -- bewitched to such a degree that, without further preliminary, he asked the old people to give him their daughter in marriage,-- telling them, at the same time, his name and lineage, and his rank in the train of the Lord of Noto.

They bowed down before him, with many exclamations of grateful astonishment. But, after some moments of apparent hesitation, the father replied:--

"Honored master, you are a person of high position, and likely to rise to still higher things. Too great is the favor that you deign to offer us;-- indeed, the depth of our gratitude therefor is not to be spoken or measured. But this girl of ours, being a stupid country-girl of vulgar birth, with no training or teaching of any sort, it would be improper to let her become the wife of a noble samurai. Even to speak of such a matter is not right... But, since you find the girl to your liking, and have condescended to pardon her peasant-manners and to overlook her great rudeness, we do gladly present her to you, for an humble handmaid. Deign, therefore, to act hereafter in her regard according to your august pleasure."

Ere morning the storm had passed; and day broke through a cloudless east. Even if the sleeve of Aoyagi hid from her lover's eyes the rose-blush of that dawn, he could no longer tarry. But neither could he resign himself to part with the girl; and, when everything had been prepared for his journey, he thus addressed her parents:--

"Though it may seem thankless to ask for more than I have already received, I must again beg you to give me your daughter for wife. It would be difficult for me to separate from her now; and as she is willing to accompany me, if you permit, I can take her with me as she is. If you will give her to me, I shall ever cherish you as parents... And, in the meantime, please to accept this poor acknowledgment of your kindest hospitality."

So saying, he placed before his humble host a purse of gold ryo. But the old man, after many prostrations, gently pushed back the gift, and said:--

"Kind master, the gold would be of no use to us; and you will probably have need of it during your long, cold journey. Here we buy nothing; and we could not spend so much money upon ourselves, even if we wished... As for the girl, we have already bestowed her as a free gift;-- she belongs to you: therefore it is not necessary to ask our leave to take her away. Already she has told us that she hopes to accompany you, and to remain your servant for as long as you may be willing to endure her presence. We are only too happy to know that you deign to accept her; and we pray that you will not trouble yourself on our account. In this place we could not provide her with proper clothing,-- much less with a dowry. Moreover, being old, we should in any event have to separate from her before long. Therefore it is very fortunate that you should be willing to take her with you now."

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