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KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Lafcadio Hearn) online
THE STORY OF MIMI-NASHI-HOICHI
"Hoichi!" the deep voice called. But the blind man held his breath, and sat motionless.
"Hoichi!" grimly called the voice a second time. Then a third time -- savagely:--
Hoichi remained as still as a stone,-- and the voice grumbled:--
"No answer! -- that won't do!... Must see where the fellow is."...
There was a noise of heavy feet mounting upon the verandah. The feet approached deliberately,-- halted beside him. Then, for long minutes,-- during which Hoichi felt his whole body shake to the beating of his heart,-- there was dead silence.
At last the gruff voice muttered close to him:--
"Here is the biwa; but of the biwa-player I see -- only two ears!... So that explains why he did not answer: he had no mouth to answer with -- there is nothing left of him but his ears... Now to my lord those ears I will take -- in proof that the august commands have been obeyed, so far as was possible"...
At that instant Hoichi felt his ears gripped by fingers of iron, and torn off! Great as the pain was, he gave no cry. The heavy footfalls receded along the verandah,-- descended into the garden,-- passed out to the roadway,-- ceased. From either side of his head, the blind man felt a thick warm trickling; but he dared not lift his hands...
Before sunrise the priest came back. He hastened at once to the verandah in the rear, stepped and slipped upon something clammy, and uttered a cry of horror; -- for he say, by the light of his lantern, that the clamminess was blood. But he perceived Hoichi sitting there, in the attitude of meditation -- with the blood still oozing from his wounds.
"My poor Hoichi!" cried the startled priest,-- "what is this?... You have been hurt?
At the sound of his friend's voice, the blind man felt safe. He burst out sobbing, and tearfully told his adventure of the night.
"Poor, poor Hoichi!" the priest exclaimed,-- "all my fault! -- my very grievous fault!... Everywhere upon your body the holy texts had been written -- except upon your ears! I trusted my acolyte to do that part of the work; and it was very, very wrong of me not to have made sure that he had done it!... Well, the matter cannot now be helped; -- we can only try to heal your hurts as soon as possible... Cheer up, friend! -- the danger is now well over. You will never again be troubled by those visitors."
With the aid of a good doctor, Hoichi soon recovered from his injuries. The story of his strange adventure spread far and wide, and soon made him famous. Many noble persons went to Akamagaseki to hear him recite; and large presents of money were given to him,-- so that he became a wealthy man... But from the time of his adventure, he was known only by the appellation of Mimi-nashi-Hoichi: "Hoichi-the-Earless."