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KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Lafcadio Hearn) online
THE STORY OF O-TEI
A long time ago, in the town of Niigata, in the province of Echizen, there lived a man called Nagao Chosei.
Nagao was the son of a physician, and was educated for his father's profession. At an early age he had been betrothed to a girl called O-Tei, the daughter of one of his father's friends; and both families had agreed that the wedding should take place as soon as Nagao had finished his studies. But the health of O-Tei proved to be weak; and in her fifteenth year she was attacked by a fatal consumption. When she became aware that she must die, she sent for Nagao to bid him farewell.
As he knelt at her bedside, she said to him:--
"Nagao-Sama, (1) my betrothed, we were promised to each other from the time of our childhood; and we were to have been married at the end of this year. But now I am goingto die; -- the gods know what is best for us. If I were able to live for some years longer, I could only continue to be a cause of trouble and grief for others. With this frail body, I could not be a good wife; and therefore even to wish to live, for your sake, would be a very selfish wish. I am quite resigned to die; and I want you to promise that you will not grieve... Besides, I want to tell you that I think we shall meet again."...
"Indeed we shall meet again," Nagao answered earnestly. "And in that Pure Land (2) there will be no pain of separation."
"Nay, nay!" she responded softly, "I meant not the Pure Land. I believe that we are destined to meet again in this world,-- although I shall be buried to-morrow."
Nagao looked at her wonderingly, and saw her smile at his wonder. She continued, in her gentle, dreamy voice,--
"Yes, I mean in this world,-- in your own present life, Nagao-Sama... Providing, indeed, that you wish it. Only, for this thing to happen, I must again be born a girl, and grow up to womanhood. So you would have to wait. Fifteen -- sixteen years: that is a long time... But, my promised husband, you are now only nineteen years old."...
Eager to soothe her dying moments, he answered tenderly:--
"To wait for you, my betrothed, were no less a joy than a duty. We are pledged to each other for the time of seven existences."
"But you doubt?" she questioned, watching his face.
"My dear one," he answered, "I doubt whether I should be able to know you in another body, under another name,-- unless you can tell me of a sign or token."
"That I cannot do," she said. "Only the Gods and the Buddhas know how and where we shall meet. But I am sure -- very, very sure -- that, if you be not unwilling to receive me, I shall be able to come back to you... Remember these words of mine."...
She ceased to speak; and her eyes closed. She was dead.
* * *
Nagao had been sincerely attached to O-Tei; and his grief was deep. He had a mortuary tablet made, inscribed with her zokumyo;  and he placed the tablet in his butsudan,  and every day set offerings before it. He thought a great deal about the strange things that O-Tei had said to him just before her death; and, in the hope of pleasing her spirit, he wrote a solemn promise to wed her if she could ever return to him in another body. This written promise he sealed with his seal, and placed in the butsudan beside the mortuary tablet of O-Tei.