Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
Genji was still sleepless! "Never have I been so badly treated. I have now discovered what the disappointment of the world means," he murmured, while the boy Kokimi lay down beside him fast asleep. The smallness of his stature, and the graceful waving of his short hair, could not but recall to Genji the beautiful tresses of his sister, and bring her image vividly before him; and, long before the daylight appeared, he rose up, and returned to his residence with all speed. For some time after this no communication took place between the lady and himself. He could not, however, banish her from his thoughts, and he said to Kokimi that "he felt his former experience too painful, and that he strove to drive away his care; yet in vain; his thoughts would not obey his wish, and he begged him, therefore, to seek some favorable opportunity for him to see her." Kokimi, though he did not quite like the task, felt proud of being made his confidant, and thenceforward looked incessantly, with keen boyish eyes, for a chance of obliging him.
Now, it happened that Ki-no-Kami went down to his official residence in his province, and only the female members of his family were left at home. "This is the time," said Kokimi to himself, and went to Genji, and persuaded him to come with him. "What can the boy do?" thought Genji; "I fear not very much, but I must not expect too much"; and they started at once, in Kokimi's carriage, so as to arrive in good time.
The evening was darkening round them, and they drew up on one side of the house, where few persons were likely to observe them. As it happened to be Kokimi who had come, no fuss was made about his arrival, nor any notice taken of it. He entered the house; and, leaving the Prince in the Eastern Hall, proceeded first into the inner room. The casement was closed.
"How is it the casement is closed?" he demanded of the servants. They told him "That the Lady of the West (Ki-no-Kami's sister, so called by the domestics from her living to the westward of the house) was there on a visit since noon, and was playing Go with his sister." The door by which the boy had entered the room was not entirely closed. Genji softly came up to it, and the whole interior of the apartment was visible. He stood facing the west. On one side of the room was a folding screen, one end of which was pushed back, and there was nothing besides to obstruct his view. His first glance fell on the fair figure of her of whom he had so fondly dreamt, sitting by a lamp near a central pillar. She wore a dress of dark purple, and a kind of scarf thrown over her shoulders; her figure was slight and delicate, and her face was partly turned aside, as if she did not like to expose it even to her companions. Her hands were prettily shaped and tiny, and she used them with a gentle reserve, half covering them. Another lady, younger than herself, sat facing the east—that is, just opposite Genji—and was, therefore, entirely visible to him. She was dressed in a thin white silk, with a Ko-uchiki (outer vestment), worked with red and blue flowers, thrown loosely over it, and a crimson sash round her waist. Her bosom was partly revealed; her complexion very fair; her figure rather stout and tall; the head and neck in good proportions, and the lips and eyelids lovely. The hair was not very long, but reached in wavy lines to her shoulders.
"If a man had such a daughter, he might be satisfied," thought Genji. "But perhaps she may be a little deficient in quietness. No matter how this may be, she has sufficient attractions."
The game was drawing to a close, and they paid very little attention to Kokimi on his entrance. The principal interest in it was over; they were hurrying to finish it. One was looking quietly at the board, and said, "Let me see, that point must be Ji. Let me play the Kôh 1 of this spot." The other saying, "I am beaten; let me calculate," began to count on her fingers the number of spaces at each corner, at the same time saying "Ten! twenty! thirty! forty!" When Genji came in this way to see them together, he perceived that his idol, in the matter of personal beauty, was somewhat inferior to her friend. He
was not, indeed, able to behold the full face of the former; yet, when he shifted his position, and fixed his gaze steadfastly upon her, the profile became distinct. He observed that her eyelids were a little swollen, and the line of the nose was not very delicate. He still admired her, and said to himself, "But perhaps she is more sweet-tempered than the others"; but when he again turned his eyes to the younger one, strange to say the calm and cheerful smile which occasionally beamed in her face touched the heart of Genji; moreover, his usual interviews with ladies generally took place in full ceremony. He had never seen them in so familiar an attitude before, without restraint or reserve, as on the present occasion, which made him quite enjoy the scene. Kokimi now came out, and Genji retired stealthily to one side of the door along the corridor. The former, who saw him there, and supposed he had remained waiting in the place he had left him all the while, apologized for keeping him so long, and said: "A certain young lady is now staying here; I am sorry, but I did not dare mention your visit."
"Do you mean to send me away again disappointed? How inglorious it is," replied Genji.
"No; why so? The lady may leave shortly. I will then announce you."
Genji said no more. The ladies had by this time concluded their game, and the servants, who were about to retire to their own apartments, cried out, "Where is our young master? we must close this door."
"Now is the time; pray take me there; don't be too late. Go and ask," said Genji.
Kokimi knew very well how hard was his task to persuade his sister to see the Prince, and was meditating taking him into her room, without her permission, when she was alone. So he said, hesitatingly, "Please wait a little longer, till the other lady, Ki-no-Kami's sister, goes away."
"Is Ki-no's sister here? So much the better. Please introduce me to her before she leaves," said Genji.
"But what? Do you mean that she is not worth seeing?" retorted Genji; and would fain have told the boy that he had already seen her, but thought it better not to do so, and continued: "Were we to wait for her to retire, it would become too late; we should have no chance."
Hereupon Kokimi determined to risk a little, and went back to his sister's room, rolling up a curtain which hung in his way. "It is too warm—let the air in!" he cried, as he passed through. After a few minutes he returned, and led Genji to the apartment on his own responsibility. The lady with the scarf (his sister), who had been for some time fondly supposing that Genji had given up thinking about her, appeared startled and embarrassed when she saw him; but, as a matter of course, the usual courtesies were paid. The younger lady, however (who was free from all such thoughts), was rather pleased at his appearance. It happened that, when the eyes of the younger were turned in another direction, Genji ventured to touch slightly the shoulder of his favorite, who, startled at the action rose suddenly and left the room, on pretence of seeking something she required, dropping her scarf in her haste, as a cicada casts off its tender wingy shell, and leaving her friend to converse with the Prince. He was chagrined, but did not betray his vexation either by words or looks, and now began to carry on a conversation with the lady who remained, whom he had already admired. Here his usual bold flirtation followed. The young lady, who was at first disturbed at his assurance, betrayed her youthful inexperience in such matters; yet for an innocent maiden, she was rather coquettish, and he went on flirting with her.
"Chance meetings like this," said he, "often arise from deeper causes than those which take place in the usual routine of things, so at least say the ancients. If I say I love you, you might not believe me; and yet, indeed, it is so. Do think of me! True, we are not yet quite free, and perhaps I might not be able to see you so often as I wish; but I hope you will wait with patience, and not forget me."
"Truly, I also fear what people might suspect; and, therefore, I may not be able to communicate with you at all," said she, innocently.
"Perhaps it might not be desirable to employ any other hand," he rejoined. "If you only send your message, say through Kokimi, there would not be any harm."
Genji now rose to depart, and slyly possessed himself of the scarf which had been dropped by the other lady. Kokimi, who had been dozing all the time, started up suddenly when Genji roused him. He then led the latter to the door. At
this moment, the tremulous voice of an aged female domestic, who appeared quite unexpectedly, exclaimed—
"Who is there?"
To which Kokimi immediately replied, "It is I!"
"What brings you here so late?" asked the old woman, in a querulous tone.
"How inquisitive! I am now going out. What harm?" retorted the boy, rather scornfully; and, stepping up to the threshold, gave Genji a push over it, when all at once the shadow of his tall figure was projected on the moonlit floor.
"Who's that?" cried the old woman sharply, and in alarm; but the next moment, without waiting for any reply, mumbled on: " Ah, ah! ’tis Miss Mimb, no wonder so tall."
This remark seemed to allude to one of her fellow-servants, who must have been a stalwart maiden, and the subject of remarks among her companions. The old woman, quite satisfied in thinking that it was she who was with Kokimi, added: "You, my young master, will soon be as tall as she is; I will come out this way, too," and approached the door. Genji could do nothing but stand silent and motionless. When she came nearer she said, addressing the supposed Mimb, "Have you been waiting on the young mistress this evening? I have been ill since the day before yesterday, and kept myself to my room, but was sent for this evening because my services were required. I cannot stand it." So saying, and without waiting for any reply, she passed on, muttering as she went, "Oh! my pain! my pain!" Genji and the boy now went forth, and they drove back to the mansion in Nijiô. Talking over the events of the evening, Genji ironically said to his companion, "Ah! you are a nice boy!" and snapped his fingers with chagrin at the escape of his favorite and her indifference. Kokimi said nothing. Genji then murmured, "I was clearly slighted. Oh wretched me! I cannot rival the happy Iyo!" Shortly after, he retired to rest, taking with him, almost unconsciously, the scarf he had carried off, and again making Kokimi share his apartment, for company's sake. He had still some hope that the latter might be useful to him; and, with the intention of stirring up his energies, observed, "You are a nice boy; but I am afraid the coldness shown to me by your sister may at last weaken the friendship between you and me."
Kokimi still made no reply. Genji closed his eyes but
could not sleep, so he started up and, taking writing materials, began to write, apparently without any fixed purpose, and indited the following distich:—
[paragraph continues] Casting away the piece of paper on which these words were written—purposely or not, who knows?—he again leaned his head on his hand. Kokimi slyly stretching out his hand, picked up the paper from the floor, and hid it quickly in his dress. Genji soon fell into profound slumber, in which he was speedily joined by Kokimi.
Some days passed away and Kokimi returned to his sister, who, on seeing him, chided him severely, saying:—
"Though I managed with some difficulty, we must not forget what people might say of us, your officiousness is most unpardonable. Do you know what the Prince himself will think of your childish trick?"
Thus was poor Kokimi, on the one hand, reproached by Genji for not doing enough, and on the other by his sister for being too officious! was he not in a very happy position! Yet, notwithstanding her words, he ventured to draw from his dress the paper he had picked up in Genji's apartment, and offered it to her. The lady hesitated a moment, though somewhat inclined to read it, holding it in her hand for some little time, undecided. At length she ventured to throw her eyes over its contents. At once the loss of her scarf floated upon her mind as she read, and, taking up her pen, wrote on part of the paper where Genji had written his verses, the words of a song:—
63:1 Ji and Kôh are the names of certain positions in the game of "Go."