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KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Lafcadio Hearn) online
THE STORY OF MIMI-NASHI-HOICHI
"Hoichi San! -- Hoichi San!" the servants cried,-- "you are bewitched!... Hoichi San!"
But the blind man did not seem to hear. Strenuously he made his biwa to rattle and ring and clang; -- more and more wildly he chanted the chant of the battle of Dan-no-ura. They caught hold of him; -- they shouted into his ear,--
"Hoichi San! -- Hoichi San! -- come home with us at once!"
Reprovingly he spoke to them:--
"To interrupt me in such a manner, before this august assembly, will not be tolerated."
Whereat, in spite of the weirdness of the thing, the servants could not help laughing. Sure that he had been bewitched, they now seized him, and pulled him up on his feet, and by main force hurried him back to the temple,-- where he was immediately relieved of his wet clothes, by order of the priest. Then the priest insisted upon a full explanation of his friend's astonishing behavior.
Hoichi long hesitated to speak. But at last, finding that his conduct had really alarmed and angered the good priest, he decided to abandon his reserve; and he related everything that had happened from the time of first visit of the samurai.
The priest said:--
"Hoichi, my poor friend, you are now in great danger! How unfortunate that you did not tell me all this before! Your wonderful skill in music has indeed brought you into strange trouble. By this time you must be aware that you have not been visiting any house whatever, but have been passing your nights in the cemetery, among the tombs of the Heike; -- and it was before the memorial-tomb of Antoku Tenno that our people to-night found you, sitting in the rain. All that you have been imagining was illusion -- except the calling of the dead. By once obeying them, you have put yourself in their power. If you obey them again, after what has already occurred, they will tear you in pieces. But they would have destroyed you, sooner or later, in any event... Now I shall not be able to remain with you to-night: I am called away to perform another service. But, before I go, it will be necessary to protect your body by writing holy texts upon it."
Before sundown the priest and his acolyte stripped Hoichi: then, with their writing-brushes, they traced upon his breast and back, head and face and neck, limbs and hands and feet,-- even upon the soles of his feet, and upon all parts of his body,-- the text of the holy sutra called Hannya-Shin-Kyo.  When this had been done, the priest instructed Hoichi, saying:--
"To-night, as soon as I go away, you must seat yourself on the verandah, and wait. You will be called. But, whatever may happen, do not answer, and do not move. Say nothing and sit still -- as if meditating. If you stir, or make any noise, you will be torn asunder. Do not get frightened; and do not think of calling for help -- because no help could save you. If you do exactly as I tell you, the danger will pass, and you will have nothing more to fear."
After dark the priest and the acolyte went away; and Hoichi seated himself on the verandah, according to the instructions given him. He laid his biwa on the planking beside him, and, assuming the attitude of meditation, remained quite still,-- taking care not to cough, or to breathe audibly. For hours he stayed thus.
Then, from the roadway, he heard the steps coming. They passed the gate, crossed the garden, approached the verandah, stopped -- directly in front of him.