Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
THE BROOM-LIKE TREE
Hikal Genji—the name is singularly well known, and is the subject of innumerable remarks and censures. Indeed, he had many intrigues in his lifetime, and most of them are vividly preserved in our memories. He had always striven to keep all these intrigues in the utmost secrecy, and had to appear constantly virtuous. This caution was observed to such an extent that he scarcely accomplished anything really romantic, a fact which Katano-no-Shiôshiô 1 would have ridiculed.
Even with such jealous watchfulness, secrets easily transpire from one to another; so loquacious is man! Moreover, he had unfortunately from nature a disposition of not appreciating anything within easy reach, but of directing his thought in undesirable quarters, hence sundry improprieties in his career.
Now, it was the season of continuous rain (namely, the month of May), and the Court was keeping a strict Monoimi 2 Genji, who had now been made a Chiûjiô, 3 and who was still continuing his residence in the Imperial Palace, was also confined to his apartments for a considerable length of time. His father-in-law naturally felt for him, and his sons were sent to bear him company. Among these, Kurand Shiôshiô, who was now elevated to the post of Tô-no-Chiûjiô, proved to be the most intimate and interesting companion. He was married to the fourth daughter of the Udaijin, but being a man of lively disposition, he, too, like Genji, did not often resort to the mansion of the bride. When Genji went to the Sadaijin's he was always his favorite associate; they were together in
their studies and in their sports, and accompanied each other everywhere. And so all stiffness and formality were dispensed with, and they did not scruple to reveal their secrets to each other.
It was on an evening in the above-mentioned season. Rain was falling drearily. The inhabitants of the Palace had almost all retired, and the apartment of Genji was more than usually still. He was engaged in reading near a lamp, but at length mechanically put his book aside, and began to take out some letters and writings from a bureau which stood on one side of the room. Tô-no-Chiûjiô happened to be present, and Genji soon gathered from his countenance that he was anxious to look over them.
"Yes," said Genji; "some you may see, but there may be others!"
"Those others," retorted Tô-no-Chiûjiô, "are precisely those which I wish to see; ordinary ones, even your humble servant may have received. I only long to look upon those which may have been written by fair hands, when the tender writer had something to complain of, or when in twilight hour she was outpouring all her yearning!"
Being so pressed, Genji allowed his brother-in-law to see them all. It is, however, highly probable that any very sacred letters would not have been loosely deposited in an ordinary bureau; and these would therefore seem, after all, to have been of second-rate importance.
"What a variety," said Tô-no-Chiûjiô, as he turned them over, and he asked several questions guessingly about this or that. About some he guessed correctly, about others he was puzzled and suspicious. 4 Genji smiled and spoke little, only making some obscure remark, and continuing as he took the letters: "but you, surely, must have collected many. Will not you show me some? And then my bureau also may open more easily."
"You do not suppose that I have any worth reading, do you?" replied Tô-no-Chiûjiô. "I have only just now discovered," continued he, "how difficult it is to meet with a fair creature, of whom one can say, ‘This is, indeed, the one; here is, at last, perfection.’ There are, indeed, many who fascinate; many who are ready with their pens, and who, when occasion
may require, are quick at repartee. But how often such girls as these are conceited about their own accomplishments, and endeavor unduly to disparage those of others! There are again some who are special pets of their parents, and most jealously watched over at home. Often, no doubt, they are pretty, often graceful; and frequently they will apply themselves with effect to music and to poetry, in which they may even attain to special excellence. But then, their friends will keep their drawbacks in the dark, and eulogize their merits to the utmost. If we were to give full credence to this exaggerated praise, we could not but fail in every single instance to be more or less disappointed."
So saying Tô-no-Chiûjiô paused, and appeared as if he were ashamed of having such an experience, when Genji smilingly remarked, "Can any one of them, however, exist without at least one good point?"
"Nay, were there any so little favored as that, no one would ever be misled at all!" replied Tô-no-Chiûjiô, and he continued, "In my opinion, the most and the least favored are in the same proportion. I mean, they are both not many. Their birth, also, divides them into three classes. Those, however, who are especially well born, are often too jealously guarded, and are, for the most part, kept secluded from the outside gaze, which frequently tends to make their deportment shy and timid. It is those of the middle class, who are much more frequently seen by us, who afford us most chance of studying their character. As for the lower class, it would be almost useless to trouble ourselves with them."
Thus Tô-no-Chiûjiô appeared to be thoroughly at home in his description of the merits of the fair sex, which made Genji amused, and he said: "But how do you define the classes you have referred to, and classify them into three? Those who are of high birth sink sometimes in the social scale until the distinction of their rank is forgotten in the abjectness of their present position. Others, again, of low origin, rise to a high position, and, with self-important faces and in ostentatious residences, regard themselves as inferior to none. Into what class will you allot these?"
Just at this moment the Sama-no-Kami 5 and Tô Shikib-no-Jiô 6 joined the party. They came to pay their respects to
[paragraph continues] Genji, and both of them were gay and light-hearted talkers. So Tô-no-Chiûjiô now made over the discussion to them, and it was carried to rather questionable lengths.
"However exalted a lady's position may be," said Samano-Kami, "if her origin is an unenviable one, the estimation of the public for her would be widely different from that which it shows to those who are naturally entitled to it. If, again, adverse fortune assails one whose birth is high, so that she becomes friendless and helpless, degradation here will meet our eyes, though her heart may still remain as noble as ever. Examples of both of these are very common. After much reflection, I can only come to the conclusion that both of them should be included in the middle class. In this class, too, must be included many daughters of the Duriô, 7 who occupy themselves with local administration. These ladies are often very attractive, and are not seldom introduced at Court and enjoy high favor."
"And successes depend pretty much upon the state of one's fortune, I fancy," interrupted Genji, with a placid smile.
"That is a remark very unlikely to fall from the lips of a champion of romance," chimed in Tô-no-Chiûjiô.
"There may be some," resumed Sama-no-Kami, "who are of high birth, and to whom public respect is duly paid, yet whose domestic education has been much neglected. Of a lady such as this we may simply remark, "Why, and how, is it that she is so brought up?" and she would only cause discredit to her class. There are, of course, some who combine in themselves every perfection befitting their position. These best of the best are, however, not within every one's reach. But, listen! Within an old dilapidated gateway, almost unknown to the world, and overgrown with wild vegetation, perchance we might find, shut up, a maiden charming beyond imagination. Her father might be an aged man, corpulent in person, and stern in mien, and her brothers of repulsive countenance; but there, in an uninviting room, she lives, full of delicacy and sentiment, and fairly skilled in the arts of poetry or music, which she may have acquired by her own exertions alone, unaided, If there were such a case, surely she
deserves our attention, save that of those of us who themselves are highly exalted in position."
So saying, Sama-no-Kami winked slyly at Shikib-no-Jiô. The latter was silent: perhaps he fancied that Sama-no-Kami was speaking in the above strain, with a hidden reference to his (Shikib's) sisters, who, he imagined, answered the description.
Meantime, Genji may have thought, "If it is so difficult to choose one even from the best class, how can—Ah!" and he began to close his eyes and doze. His dress was of soft white silk, partly covered by the naoshi, 8 worn carelessly, with its cord left loose and untied. His appearance and bearing formed quite a picture.
Meanwhile, the conversation went on about different persons and characters, and Sama-no-Kami proceeded: "It is unquestionable that though at first glance many women appear to be without defects, yet when we come to the actual selection of any one of them, we should seriously hesitate in our choice.
"Let me illustrate my meaning by reference to the numerous public men who may be aspiring to fulfil the duties of several important posts. You will at once recognize the great difficulty there would be in fixing upon the individual statesman under whose guardianship the empire could best repose. And supposing that, if at last, by good fortune, the most able man were designated, even then we must bear in mind that it is not in the power of one or two individuals, however gifted they may be, to carry on the whole administration of the kingdom alone. Public business can only be tranquilly conducted when the superior receives the assistance of subordinates, and when the subordinate yields a becoming respect and loyalty to his superior, and affairs are thus conducted in a spirit of mutual conciliation. So, too, it is in the narrow range of the domestic circle. To make a good mistress of that circle, one must possess, if our ideal is to be fully realized, many important qualifications. Were we to be constantly indulging in the severity of criticism, always objecting to this or that, a perfect character would be almost unattainable. Men should therefore bear with patience any trifling dissatisfaction which they
may feel, and strive constantly to keep alive, to augment, and to cherish, the warmth of their early love. Only such a man as this can be called faithful, and the partner of such a man alone can enjoy the real happiness of affection. How unsatisfactory to us, however, seems the actual world if we look round upon it. Still more difficult must it be to satisfy such as you who seek your companions but from among the best!
"How varied are the characters and the dispositions of women! Some who are youthful and favored by Nature strive almost selfishly to keep themselves with the utmost reserve. If they write, they write harmlessly and innocently; yet, at the same time, they are choice in their expressions, which have delicate touches of bewitching sentiment. This might possibly make us entertain a suddenly conceived fancy for them; yet they would give us but slight encouragement. They may allow us just to hear their voices, but when we approach them they will speak with subdued breath, and almost inaudibly. Beware, however, lest among these you chance to encounter some astute artiste, who, under a surface that is smooth, conceals a current that is deep. This sort of lady, it is true, generally appears quite modest; but often proves, when we come closer, to be of a very different temperament from what we anticipated. Here is one drawback to be guarded against.
"Among characters differing from the above, some are too full of sentimental sweetness—whenever occasion offers them romance they become spoilt. Such would be decidedly better if they had less sentiment, and more sense.
"Others, again, are singularly earnest—too earnest, indeed—in the performance of their domestic duty; and such, with their hair pushed back, 9 devote themselves like household drudges to household affairs. Man, whose duties generally call him from home all the day, naturally hears and sees the social movements both of public and private life, and notices different things, both good and bad. Of such things he would not like to talk freely with strangers, but only with some one closely allied to him. Indeed, a man may have many things in his mind which cause him to smile or to grieve. Occasionally something of a political nature may irritate him beyond endurance. These matters he would like to talk over with his
fair companion, that she might soothe him, and sympathize with him. But a woman as above described is often unable to understand him, or does not endeavor to do so; and this only makes him more miserable. At another time he may brood over his hopes and aspirations; but he has no hope of solace. She is not only incapable of sharing these with him, but might carelessly remark, "What ails you?" How severely would this try the temper of a man!
"If, then, we clearly see all these, the only suggestion I can make is that the best thing to do is to choose one who is gentle and modest, and strive to guide and educate her according to the best ideal we may think of. This is the best plan; and why should we not do so? Our efforts would not be surely all in vain. But no! A girl whom we thus educate, and who proves to be competent to bear us company, often disappoints us when she is left alone. She may then show her incapability, and her occasional actions may be done in such an unbecoming manner that both good and bad are equally displeasing. Are not all these against us men?—Remember, however, that there are some who may not be very agreeable at ordinary times, yet who flash occasionally upon us with a potent and almost irresistible charm."
Thus Sama-no-Kami, though eloquent, not having come to one point or another, remained thoughtful for some minutes, and again resumed:—
"After all, as I have once observed, I can only make this suggestion: That we should not too much consider either birth or beauty, but select one who is gentle and tranquil, and consider her to be best suited for our last haven of rest. If, in addition, she is of fair position, and is blessed with sweetness of temper, we should be delighted with her, and not trouble ourselves to search or notice any trifling deficiency. And the more so as, if her conscience is clear and pure, calmness and serenity of features can naturally be looked for.
"There are women who are too diffident, and too reserved, and carry their generosity to such an extent as to pretend not to be aware even of such anoyances as afford them just grounds of complaint. A time arrives when their sorrows and anxieties become greater than they can bear. Even then, however, they cannot resort to plain speaking, and complain. But, instead thereof, they will fly away to some remote retreat among the
mountain hamlets, or to some secluded spot by the seaside, leaving behind them some painful letter or despairing verses, and making themselves mere sad memories of the past. Often when a boy I heard such stories read by ladies, and the sad pathos of them even caused my tears to flow; but now I can only declare such deeds to be acts of mere folly. For what does it all amount to? Simply to this: That the woman, in spite of the pain which it causes her, and discarding a heart which may be still lingering towards her, takes to flight, regardless of the feelings of others—of the anguish, and of the anxiety, which those who are dearest to her suffer with her. Nay, this act of folly may even be committed simply to test the sincerity of her lover's affection for her. What pitiable subtlety!
"Worse than this, the woman thus led astray, perhaps by ill advice, may even be beguiled into more serious errors. In the depth of her despairing melancholy she will become a nun. Her conscience, when she takes the fatal vow, may be pure and unsullied, and nothing may seem able to call her back again to the world which she forsook. But, as time rolls on, some household servant or aged nurse brings her tidings of the lover who has been unable to cast her out of his heart, and whose tears drop silently when he hears aught about her. Then, when she hears of his affections still living, and his heart still yearning, and thinks of the uselessness of the sacrifice she has made voluntarily, she touches the hair 10 on her forehead, and she becomes regretful. She may, indeed, do her best to persevere in her resolve, but if one single tear bedews her cheek, she is no longer strong in the sanctity of her vow. Weakness of this kind would be in the eyes of Buddha more sinful than those offences which are committed by those who never leave the lay circle at all, and she would eventually wander about in the "wrong passage." 11
"But there are also women, who are too self-confident and obtrusive. These, if they discover some slight inconsistency in men, fiercely betray their indignation and behave with arrogance. A man may show a little inconsistency occasionally, but yet his affection may remain; then matters will in time become
right again, and they will pass their lives happily together. If, therefore, the woman cannot show a tolerable amount of patience, this will but add to her unhappiness. She should, above all things, strive not to give way to excitement; and when she experiences any unpleasantness, she should speak of it frankly but with moderation. And if there should be anything worse than unpleasantness she should even then complain of it in such a way as not to irritate the men. If she guides her conduct on principles such as these, even her very words, her very demeanor, may in all probability increase his sympathy and consideration for her. One's self-denial and the restraint which one imposes upon one's self, often depend on the way in which another behaves to us. The woman who is too indifferent and too forgiving is also inconsiderate. Remember "the unmoored boat floats about." Is it not so? "
Tô-no-Chiûjiô quickly nodded assent, as he said, "Quite true! A woman who has no strength of emotion, no passion of sorrow or of joy, can never be holders of us. Nay even jealousy, if not carried to the extent of undue suspicion, is not undesirable. If we ourselves are not in fault, and leave the matter alone, such jealousy may easily be kept within due bounds. But stop"—added he suddenly—"Some women have to bear, and do bear, every grief that they may encounter with unmurmuring and suffering patience."
So said Tô-no-Chiûjiô, who implied by this allusion that his sister was a woman so circumstanced. But Genji was still dozing, and no remark came from his lips.
Sama-no-Kami had been recently made a doctor of literature, and (like a bird) was inflating his feathers, so Tô-no-Chiûjiô, willing to draw him out as much as possible, gave him every encouragement to proceed with his discourse.
Again, therefore, he took up the conversation, and said, "Call to your mind affairs in general, and judge of them. Is it not always true that reality and sincerity are to be preferred to merely artificial excellence? Artisans, for instance, make different sorts of articles, as their talents serve them. Some of them are keen and expert, and cleverly manufacture objects of temporary fashion, which have no fixed or traditional style, and which are only intended to strike the momentary fancy. These, however, are not the true artisans. The real excellence of the true artisan is tested by those who make, without defects
or sensational peculiarities, articles to decorate, we will say, some particular building, in conformity with correct taste and high æsthetic principles. Look for another instance at the eminence which has been attained by several of the artists of the Imperial College of Painting. Take the case of draughtsmen in black ink. Pictures, indeed, such as those of Mount Horai, 12 which has never been beheld by mortal eye, or of some raging monstrous fish in a rough sea, or of a wild animal of some far-off country, or of the imaginary face of the demon, are often drawn with such striking vividness that people are startled at the sight of them. These pictures, however, are neither real nor true. On the other hand, ordinary scenery, of familiar mountains, of calm streams of water, and of dwellings just before our eyes, may be sketched with an irregularity so charming, and with such excellent skill, as almost to rival Nature. In pictures such as these, the perspective of gentle mountain slopes, and sequestered nooks surrounded by leafy trees, are drawn with such admirable fidelity to Nature that they carry the spectator in imagination to something beyond them. These are the pictures in which is mostly evinced the spirit and effectiveness of the superior hand of a master; and in these an inferior artist would only show dulness and inefficiency.
"Similar observations are applicable to handwriting. 13 Some people boldly dash away with great freedom and endless flourishes, and appear at the first glance to be elegant and skilful. But that which is written with scrupulous neatness, in accordance with the true rules of penmanship, constitutes a very different handwriting from the above. If perchance the upstrokes and downstrokes do not, at first sight, appear to be fully formed, yet when we take it up and critically compare it with writing in which dashes and flourishes predominate, we shall at once see how much more of real and sterling merit it possesses.
"Such then is the nature of the case in painting, in penmanship, and in the arts generally. And how much more then are those women undeserving of our admiration, who though they are rich in outward and in fashionable display, attempting to
dazzle our eyes, are yet lacking in the solid foundations of reality, fidelity, and truth! Do not, my friends, consider me going too far, but let me proceed to illustrate these observations by my own experience."
So saying, Sama-no-Kami advanced his seat, and Genji awoke. Tô-no-Chiûjiô was quite interested in the conversation, and was keeping his eye upon the speaker, leaning his cheek upon his hand. This long discourse of Sama-no-Kami reminds us of the preacher's sermon, and amuses us. And it seems that, on occasions like these, one may easily be carried away by circumstances, until he is willing to communicate even his own private affairs.
"It was at a time," continued Sama-no-Kami, "when I was in a still more humble position, that there was a girl to whom I had taken a fancy. She was like one of those whom I described in the process of my discourse; not a regular beauty. Although for this reason my youthful vanity did not allow me to pledge myself to her forever, I still considered her a pleasant companion. Nevertheless, from occasional fits of restlessness, I roamed often here and there. This she always resented fiercely, and with so much indignation that I sighed for a sweeter temper and more moderation. Indeed, there were times when her suspicion and spitefulness were more than I could endure. But my irritation was generally calmed down, and I even felt sorry myself, when I reflected how strong and devoted her affection for me was, in spite of the mean state of my circumstances. As to her general character, her only endeavor seemed to be to do everything for my sake, even what was beyond her powers, while she struggled to perfect herself in anything in which she might be deficient, and took the most faithful care of all my interests, striving constantly and earnestly to please me. She appeared at first even too zealous, but in time became more moderate. She seemed as if she felt uneasy lest her plain face should cause me displeasure, and she even denied herself the sight of other people, in order to avoid unbecoming comment.
"As time went by, the more I became accustomed to observe how really simple-hearted she was, the more I sympathized with her. The one thing that I could not bear, however, was that jealousy of hers. Sincere and devoted as she is, thought I, is there no means of ridding her of this jealous weakness?
[paragraph continues] Could I but do that, it would not matter even if I were to alarm her a little. And I also thought that since she was devoted to me, if I showed any symptoms of getting tired of her, she would, in all probability, be warned by it. Therefore, I purposely behaved to her with great coolness and heartlessness. This she resented as usual. I then said to her, that though our affection had been of old date, I should not see her again; "if you wish to sever from me you may suspect me as much as you like. If you prefer to enjoy long happiness with me in future, be modest and patient in trifling matters. If you can only be so, how can I do otherwise than love you? My position also may in time be improved, and then we may enjoy greater happiness!'
"In saying this, I thought I had managed matters very ingeniously. Without meaning it, however, I had in fact spoken a little too harshly. She replied, with a bitter smile, that "to put up with a life of undistinguished condition, even though with faint hopes of future promotion, was not a thing about which we ought to trouble ourselves, but that it was indeed a hard task to pass long wearisome days in waiting until a man's mind should be restored to a sense of propriety. And that for this reason we had, perhaps, better separate at once.'
"This she said with such sarcastic bitterness that I was irritated and stung to the quick, and overwhelmed her with a fresh torrent of reproaches. At this juncture she gave way to an uncontrollable fit of passion, and snatching up my hand, she thrust my little finger into her mouth and bit off the end of it. Then, notwithstanding my pain, I became quite cool and collected, and calmly said, "insulted and maimed as I have now been, it is most fitting that I should absent myself for the future from polite society. Office and title would ill become me now. Your spite has now left me without spirit to face the world in which I should be ridiculed, and has left me no alternative but to withdraw my maimed person from the public gaze!" After I had alarmed her by speaking in this exalted strain, I added, "to-day we meet for the last time" and bending these fingers (pointing to them as she spoke) I made the farewell remark:—
[paragraph continues] You are now quits with me." At the instant I said so, she burst into tears and without premeditation, poured forth the following:—
"To speak the truth, I had no real intention of separating from her altogether. For some time, however, I sent her no communication, and was passing rather an unsettled life. Well! I was once returning from the palace late one evening in November, after an experimental practice of music for a special festival in the Temple of Kamo. Sleet was falling heavily. The wind blew cold, and my road was dark and muddy. There was no house near where I could make myself at home. To return and spend a lonely night in the palace was not to be thought of. At this moment a reflection flashed across my mind. "How cold must she feel whom I have treated so coldly," thought I, and suddenly became very anxious to know what she felt and what she was about. This made me turn my steps towards her dwelling, and brushing away the snow that had gathered on my shoulders I trudged on: at one moment shyly biting my nails, at another thinking that on such a night at least all her enmity towards me might be all melted away. I approached the house. The curtains were not drawn, and I saw the dim light of a lamp reflected on the windows. It was even perceivable that a soft quilt was being warmed and thrown over the large couch. The scene was such as to give you the notion that she was really anticipating that I might come at least on such an evening. This gave me encouragement, but alas! she whom I hoped to see was not at home. I was told she had gone to her parents that very evening. Previous to that time, she had sent me no sad verses, no conciliatory letter, and this had already given birth to unpleasant feelings on my part. And at this moment, when I was told that she had gone away, all these things seemed to have been done almost purposely, and I involuntarily began to suspect that her very jealousy had only been assumed by her on purpose to cause me to become tired of her.
"As I reflected what our future might be after such an estrangement as this, I was truly depressed. I did not, however,
give up all hope, thinking that she would not be so determined as to abandon me forever. I had even carefully selected some stuff for a dress for her. Some time, however, passed away without anything particularly occurring. She neither accepted nor refused the offers of reconciliation which I made to her. She did not, it is true, hide herself away like any of those of whom I have spoken before. But, nevertheless, she did not evince the slightest symptom of regret for her previous conduct.
"At last, after a considerable interval, she intimated to me that her final resolve was not to forgive me any more if I intended in future to behave as I had done before; but that, on the other hand, she should be glad to see me again if I would thoroughly change my habits, and treat her with the kindness which was her due. From this I became more convinced that she still entertained longings for me. Hence, with the hope of warning her a little more, I made no expressions of any intention to make a change in my habits, and I tried to find out which of us had the most patience.
"While matters were in this state, she, to my great surprise, suddenly died, perhaps broken-hearted.
"I must now frankly confess that she certainly was a woman in whom a man might place his confidence. Often, too, I had talked with her on music and on poetry, as well as on the more important business of life, and I found her to be by no means wanting in intellect and capability. She had too the clever hands of Tatyta-himè 14 and Tanabata. 15
"When I recall these pleasant memories my heart still clings to her endearingly."
"Clever in weaving, she may have been like Tanabata, that is but a small matter," interposed Tô-no-Chiûjiô, "we should have preferred to have seen your love as enduring as Tanabata's. 16 Nothing is so beautiful as the brilliant dyes spread over the face of Nature, yet the red tints of autumn are often not dyed to a color so deep as we desire, because of the early drying of the dew, so we say, "such is the uncertain fate of this
world," and so saying, he made a sign to Sama-no-Kami to go on with his story. He went on accordingly.
"About that time I knew another lady. She was on the whole a superior kind of person. A fair poetess, a good musician, and a fluent speaker, with good enunciation, and graceful in her movements. All these admirable qualities I noticed myself, and heard them spoken of by others. As my acquaintance with her commenced at the time when I was not on the best of terms with my former companion, I was glad to enjoy her society. The more I associated with her the more fascinating she became.
"Meanwhile my first friend died, at which I felt truly sorry, still I could not help it, and I therefore paid frequent visits to this one. In the course of my attentions to her, however, I discovered many unpleasant traits. She was not very modest, and did not appear to be one whom a man could trust. On this account, I became somewhat disappointed, and visited her less often. While matters were on this footing I accidentally found out that she had another lover to whom she gave a share of her heart.
"It happened that one inviting moonlight evening in October, I was driving out from home on my way to a certain Dainagon. On the road I met with a young noble who was going in the same direction. We therefore drove together, and as we were journeying on, he told me that "some one might be waiting for him, and he was anxious to see her"; well! by and by we arrived at the house of my lady-love. The bright reflection of the waters of an ornamental lake was seen through crevices in the walls; and the pale moon, as she shed her full radiance over the shimmering waves, seemed to be charmed with the beauty of the scene. It would have been heartless to pass by with indifference, and we both descended from the carriage, without knowing each other's intention.
"This youth seems to have been "the other one"; he was rather shy. He sat down on a mat of reeds that was spread beside a corridor near the gateway; and, gazing up at the sky, meditated for some moments in silence. The chrysanthemums in the gardens were in full bloom, whose sweet perfume soothed us with its gentle influence; and round about us the scarlet leaves of the maple were falling, as ever and anon they were shaken by the breeze. The scene was altogether romantic.
"Presently, he took a flute out of his bosom and played. He then whispered, "Its shade is refreshing."
"In a few minutes the fair one struck up responsively on a sweet-toned wagon (a species of koto).
"The melody was soft and exquisite, in charming strains of modern music, and admirably adapted to the lovely evening. No wonder that he was fascinated; he advanced towards the casement from which the sounds proceeded, and glancing at the leaves scattered on the ground, whispered in invidious tones, "Sure no strange footsteps would ever dare to press these leaves." He then culled a chrysanthemum, humming, as he did so:—
"Wretched!" he exclaimed, alluding to his poetry; and then added, "One tune more! Stay not your hand when one is near, who so ardently longs to hear you." Thus he began to flatter the lady, who, having heard his whispers, replied thus, in a tender, hesitating voice:—
"Ah! she little thought I was a silent and vexed spectator of all this flirtation. She then took up a soh (another kind of koto with thirteen strings) and tuned it to a Banjiki key (a winter tune), and played on it still more excellently. Though an admirer of music, I cannot say that these bewitching melodies gave me any pleasure under the peculiar circumstances I stood in.
"Now, romantic interludes, such as this, might be pleasant enough in the case of maidens who are kept strictly in Court service, and whom we have very little opportunity of meeting with, but even there we should hesitate to make such a one our life companion. How much less could one ever entertain such an idea in a case like my own? Making, therefore, that evening's experience a ground of dissatisfaction I never saw her more.
"Now, gentlemen, let us take into consideration these two instances which have occurred to myself and see how equally unsatisfactory they are. The one too jealous, the other too forward. Thus, early in life, I found out how little reliance was to be placed on such characters. And now I think so still more; and this opinion applies more especially to the latter of the two. Dewdrops on the "Hagi flower" of beauty so delicate that they disappear as soon as we touch them—hailstones on the bamboo grass that melt in our hand as soon as we prick them—appear at a distance extremely tempting and attractive. Take my humble advice, however, and go not near them. If you do not appreciate this advice now, the lapse of another seven years will render you well able to understand that such adventures will only bring a tarnished fame."
Thus Sama-no-Kami admonished them, and Tô-no-Chiûjiô nodded as usual. Genji slightly smiled; perhaps he thought it was all very true, and he said, "Your twofold experience was indeed disastrous and irritating!"
"Now," said Tô-no-Chiûjiô, "I will tell you a story concerning myself. It was the evil fortune of Sama-no-Kami to meet with too much jealousy in one of the ladies to whom he might otherwise have given his heart; while he could feel no confidence in another owing to flirtations. It was my hard lot to encounter an instance of excessive diffidence. I once knew a girl whose person was altogether pleasing, and although I, too, had no intention, as Sama-no-Kami said, of forming an everlasting connection with her, I nevertheless took a great fancy to her. As our acquaintance was prolonged, our mutual affection grew warmer. My thoughts were always of her, and she placed entire confidence in me. Now, when complete confidence is placed by one person in another, does not Nature teach us to expect resentment when that confidence is abused? No such resentment, however, seemed under any circumstances to trouble her. When I very seldom visited her, she showed no excitement or indignation, but behaved and looked as if we had never been separated from each other. This patient silence was more trying to me than reproaches. She was parentless and friendless. For this reason responsibility weighed more heavily on me. Abusing her gentle nature, however, I frequently neglected her. About this time, moreover, a certain person who lived near her, discovered our friendship, and
frightened her by sending, through some channel, mischief-making messages to her. This I did not become aware of till afterwards, and, it seems, she was quite cast down and helpless. She had a little one for whose sake, it appears, she was additionally sad. One day I unexpectedly received a bunch of Nadeshiko 17 flowers. They were from her."
At this point Tô-no-Chiûjiô became gloomy.
"And what," inquired Genji, "were the words of her message?"
"Sir! nothing but the verse,
"No sooner had I read this than I went to her at once. She was gentle and sedate as usual, but evidently absent and preoccupied. Her eyes rested on the dew lying on the grass in the garden, and her ears were intent upon the melancholy singing of the autumn insects. It was as if we were in a real romance. I said to her:—
[paragraph continues] And avoiding all allusion to the Nadeshiko flowers, I repeatedly endeavored to comfort the mother's heart. She murmured in reply:—
[paragraph continues] Thus she spoke sadly. But she reproached me no further. The tears came involuntarily into her eyes. She was, however, apparently sorry for this, and tried to conceal them. On the whole she behaved as if she meant to show that she was quite accustomed to such sorrows. I certainly deeply sympathized with her yet still further abusing her Patience. I did not visit
her again for some time; but I was punished. When I did so she had flown, leaving no traces behind her. If she is still living she must needs be passing a miserable existence.
"Now, if she had been free from this excessive diffidence, this apathy of calmness, if she had complained when it was necessary, with becoming warmth and spirit, she need never have been a wanderer, and I would never have abused her confidence. But, as I said before, a woman who has no strength of emotion, no passionate bursts of sorrow or of joy, can never retain a dominion over us.
"I loved this woman without understanding her nature; and I am constantly, but in vain, trying to find her and her little darling, who was also very lovely; and often I think with grief and pain that, though I may succeed in forgetting her, she may possibly not be able to forget me, and, surely, there must be many an evening when she is disquieted by sad memories of the past.
"Let us now sum up our experiences, and reflect on the lessons which they teach us. One who bites your finger will easily estrange your affection by her violence. Falseness and forwardness will be the reproach of some other, in spite of her melodious music and the sweetness of her songs. A third, too self-contained and too gentle, is open to the charge of a cold silence, which oppresses one, and cannot be understood.
"Whom, then, are we to choose? All this variety, and this perplexing difficulty of choice, seems to be the common lot of humanity. Where, again, I say, are we to go to find the one who will realize our desires? Shall we fix our aspirations on the beautiful goddess, the heavenly Kichijiô? 19 Ah! this would be but superstitious and impracticable."
So mournfully finished Tô-no-Chiûjiô; and all his companions, who had been attentively listening, burst simultaneously into laughter at his last allusion.
"And now, Shikib, it is your turn. Tell us your story," exclaimed Tô-no-Chiûjiô, turning to him.
"What worth hearing can your humble servant tell you?"
"Go on; be quick; don't be shy; let us hear!" Shikib-no-Jiô, after a little meditation, thus began:—
"When I was a student at the University, I met there with a woman of very unusual intelligence. She was in every respect
one with whom, as Sama-no-Kami has said, you could discuss affairs, both public and private. Her dashing genius and eloquence were such that all ordinary scholars would find themselves unable to cope with her, and would be at once reduced to silence. Now, my story is as follows:—
"I was taking lessons from a certain professor, who had several daughters, and she was one of them. It happened by some chance or other I fell much into her society. The professor, who noticed this, once took up a wine-cup in his hand, and said to me, "Hear what I sing about two choices." 20
"This was a plain offer put before me, and thenceforward I endeavored, for the sake of his tuition, to make myself as agreeable as possible to his daughter. I tell you frankly, however, that I had no particular affection for her, though she seemed already to regard me as her victim. She seized every opportunity of pointing out to me the way in which we should have to steer, both in public and private life. When she wrote to me she never employed the effeminate style of the Kana, 21 but wrote, oh! so magnificently! The great interest which she took in me induced me to pay frequent visits to her; and, by making her my tutor, I learned how to compose ordinary Chinese poems. However, though I do not forget all these benefits, and though it is no doubt true that our wife or daughter should not lack intelligence, yet, for the life of me, I cannot bring myself to approve of a woman like this. And still less likely is it that such could be of any use to the wives of high personages like yourselves. Give me a lovable nature in lieu of sharpness! I quite agree with Sama-no-Kami on this point."
"What an interesting woman she must have been," exclaimed Tô-no-Chiûjiô, with the intention of making Shikib go on with his story.
This he fully understood, and, making a grimace, he thus proceeded:—
"Once when I went to her after a long absence—a way we all have, you know—she did not receive me openly as usual. but
spoke to me from behind a screen. I surmised that this arose from chagrin at my negligence, and I intended to avail myself of this opportunity to break with her. But the sagacious woman was a woman of the world, and not like those who easily lose their temper or keep silence about their grief. She was quite as open and frank as Sama-no-Kami would approve of. She told me, in a low clear voice, "I am suffering from heartburn, and I cannot, therefore, see you face to face; yet, if you have anything important to say to me, I will listen to you." This was, no doubt, a plain truth; but what answer could I give to such a terribly frank avowal? "Thank you," said I, simply; and I was just on the point of leaving, when, relenting, perhaps, a little, she said aloud, "Come again soon, and I shall be all right." To pass this unnoticed would have been impolite; yet I did not like to remain there any longer, especially under such circumstances: so, looking askance, I said
[paragraph continues] No sooner had I said this than she dashed out as follows with a brilliancy of repartee which became a woman of her genius:—
"Nonsense, nonsense!" cried Genji and the others, who either were, or pretended to be, quite shocked. "Where can there be such a woman as that? She must have been a devil! Fearful! fearful!" And, snapping their fingers with disapproving glances, they said, "Do tell us something better—do give us a better story than that."
Shikib-no-Jiô, however, quietly remarked: "I have nothing else to relate," and remained silent.
Hereupon a conversation took place to the following effect:—
"It is a characteristic of thoughtless people—and that, without distinction of sex—that they try to show off their small accomplishments. This is, in the highest degree, unpleasant. As for ladies, it may not, indeed, be necessary to be thorough master of the three great histories, and the five classical texts; yet they ought not to be destitute of some knowledge of both
public and private affairs, and this knowledge can be imperceptibly acquired without any regular study of them, which, though superficial, will yet be amply sufficient to enable them to talk pleasantly about them with their friends. But how contemptible they would seem if this made them vain of it! The Manna 22 style and pedantic phrases were not meant for them; and, if they use them, the public will only say, "would that they would remember that they are women and not men," and they would only incur the reproach of being pedants, as many ladies, especially among the aristocracy, do. Again, while they should not be altogether unversed in poetical compositions, they should never be slaves to them, or allow themselves to be betrayed into using strange quotations, the only consequence of which would be that they would appear to be bold when they ought to be reserved, and abstracted when very likely they have practical duties to attend to. How utterly inappropriate, for instance, it would be on the May festival 23 if, while the attention of all present was concentrated on the solemnity of the occasion, the thoughts of these ladies were wandering on their own poetical imaginations about "sweet flags"; or if, again, on the Ninth-day festiva1, 24 when all the nobles present were exercising their inventive faculties on the subject of Chinese poems, they were to volunteer to pour forth their grand ideas on the dew-laid flowers of the chrysanthemum, thus endeavoring to rival their opponents of the stronger sex. There is a time for everything; and all people, but more especially women, should be constantly careful to watch circumstances, and not to air their accomplishments at a time when nobody cares for them. They should practise a sparing economy in displaying their learning and eloquence, and should even, if circumstances require, plead ignorance on subjects with which they are familiar."
As to Genji, even these last observations seemed only to encourage his reverie still to run upon a certain one, whom he considered to be the happy medium between the too much and
the too little: and, no definite conclusion having been arrived at through the conversation, the evening passed away.
The long-continued rainy weather had now cleared up bright and fine, and the Prince Genji proceeded to the mansion of his father-in-law, where Lady Aoi, his bride, still resided with him. She was in her private suite of apartments, and he soon joined her there. She was dignified and stately, both in manners and demeanor, and everything about her bore traces of scrupulous neatness.
"Such may be one of those described by Sama-no-Kami, in whom we may place confidence," he thought, as he approached her. At the same time, her lofty queenliness caused him to feel a momentary embarrassment, which he at once tried to hide by chatting with the attendant maid. The air was close and heavy, and he was somewhat oppressed by it. His father-in-law happened to pass by the apartment. He stopped and uttered a few words from behind the curtain which overhung the door. "In this hot weather," said Genji, in a low tone, "what makes him come here?" and did not give the slightest encouragement to induce his father-in-law to enter the room; so he passed along. All present smiled significantly, and tittered. "How indiscreet!" exclaimed Genji, glancing at them reprovingly, and throwing himself back on a kiô-sok (arm-stool), where he remained calm and silent.
It was, by no means, becoming behavior on the part of the Prince.
The day was drawing to an end when it was announced that the mansion was closed in the certain celestial direction of the Naka-gami (central God). 25 His own mansion in Nijiô (the one mentioned as being repaired in a previous chapter) was also in the same line of direction.
"Where shall I go then? " said Genji, and without troubling himself any further, went off into a doze. All present expressed in different words their surprise at his unusual apathy. Thereupon some one reported that the residence of Ki-no-Kami, who was in waiting on the Prince, on the banks of the middle river (the River Kiôgok) had lately been irrigated by bringing the stream into its gardens, making them cool and refreshing.
"That's very good, especially on such a close evening," exclaimed
[paragraph continues] Genji, rousing himself, and he at once intimated to Ki-no-Kami his desire of visiting his house. To which the latter answered simply, "Yes." He did not, however, really like the Prince's visit, and was reluctantly telling his fellow attendants that, owing to a certain circumstance which had taken place at Iyo-no-Kami's 26 residence, his wife (Ki-no-Kami's step-mother) had taken up her abode with him that very evening, and that the rooms were all in confusion.
Genji heard all this distinctly, but he would not change his mind, and said, "That is all the better! I don't care to stay in a place where no fair statue dwells; it is slow work."
Being thus pressed, no alternative remained for the Ki-no-Kami, and a messenger was despatched to order the preparation of apartments for the Prince. Not long after this messenger had gone, Genji started on his way to the house of Ki-no-Kami, whose mild objections against this quick proceeding were not listened to.
He left the mansion as quietly as possible, even without taking formal leave of its master, and his escort consisted of a few favorite attendants.
The "eastern front room" in the "dwelling quarters" was wide open, and a temporary arrangement was made for the reception of the Prince, who arrived there very quickly. The scene of the garden struck him before anything else. The surface of the lake sparkled with its glittering waters. The hedges surrounded it in rustic beauty, and luxuriant shrubs grew in pleasing order. Over all the fair scene the breeze of evening swept softly, summer insects sang distinctly here and there, and the fireflies hovered about in mazy dances.
The escort took up its quarters in a position which overlooked the stream of water which ran beneath the corridor, and here began to take cups of saké. The host hastened to order also some refreshment to be prepared for Genji.
The latter was meanwhile gazing abstractedly about him, thinking such a place might belong to the class which Sama-no-Kami fairly placed in the middle category. He knew that the lady who was under the same roof was a young beauty of whom he had heard something before, and he was looking forward to a chance of seeing her.
He then noticed the rustling of a silken dress escaping from a small boudoir to the right, and some youthful voices, not without charm, were also heard, mingled with occasional sounds of suppressed laughter. The casement of the boudoir had been, until a short time before, open, but was pulled down by order of Ki-no-Kami, who, perhaps, doubted the propriety of its being as it was, and now only allowed a struggling light to issue through the paper of the "sliding screen!" He proceeded to one side of his room that he might see what could be seen, but there was no chance. He still stood there that he might be able, at least, to catch some part of the conversation. It seems that this boudoir adjoined the general family room of the female inmates, and his ears were greeted by some faint talking. He inclined his head attentively, and heard them whispering probably about himself.
"Is it not a pity that the fate of so fine a prince should be already fixed?" said one voice.
"Yet he loses no opportunity of availing himself of the favors of fortune," added another.
These remarks may have been made with no serious intention, but as to Genji, he, even in hearing them, could not help thinking of a certain fair image of which he so fondly dreamt. At the same time feeling a thrill on reflecting that, if this kind of secret were to be discovered and discussed in such a manner, what could be done.
He then heard an observation in delicate allusion to his verse which he had presented to the Princess Momo-zono (peach-gardens) with the flowers of Asagao (morning-glory, or convolvulus).
"What cautious beauties they are to talk in that way! But I wonder if their forms when seen will answer to the pictures of my fancy," thought Genji, as he retired to his original position, for he could hear nothing more interesting.
Ki-no-Kami presently entered the room, brought in some fruits, trimmed the lamp, and the visitor and host now began to enjoy a pleasant leisure.
"What has become of the ladies? Without some of them no society is cheerful," observed Genji.
"Who can there be to meet such wishes?" said the Ki-no-Kami to himself, but took no notice of Genji's remark. There were several boys in the house who had followed Ki- no-Kami
into the room. They were the sons and brothers of Ki-no-Kami. Among them there was one about twelve or thirteen, who was nicer-looking than the others. Genji, of course, did not know who they all were, and accordingly made inquiries. When he came to the last-mentioned boy, Ki-no-Kami replied:—
"He is the youngest son of the late Lord Yemon, now an orphan, and, from his sister's connections, he is now staying here. He is shrewd and unlike ordinary boys. His desire is to take Court service, but he has as yet no patron."
"What a pity! Is, then, the sister you mentioned your stepmother?"
"Yes, sir, it is so."
"What a good mother you have got. I once overheard the Emperor, to whom, I believe, a private application had been some time made in her behalf, referring to her, said, "What has become of her?" Is she here now?" said Genji; and lowering his voice, added, "How changeable are the fortunes of the world!"
"It is her present state, sir. But, as you may perceive, it differs from her original expectation. Changeable indeed are the fortunes of this world, especially so the fortunes of women!"
"Does Iyo respect her? Perhaps he idolizes her, as his master."
"That is a question, perhaps, as a private master. I am the foremost to disapprove of this infatuation on his part."
"Are you? Nevertheless he trusts her to such a one as you. He is a kind father! But where are they all?"
"All in their private apartments."
Genji by this time apparently desired to be alone, and Ki-no-Kami now retired with the boys. All the escort were already slumbering comfortably, each on his own cool rush mat, under the pleasant persuasion of saké.
Genji was now alone. He tried to doze, but could not. It was late in the evening, and all was still around. His sharpened senses made him aware that the room next but one to his own was occupied, which led him to imagine that the lady of whom he had been speaking might be there. He rose softly, and once more proceeded to the other side of the room to listen to what he might overhear. He heard a tender voice, probably that of
Kokimi, the boy spoken of before, who appeared to have just entered the room, saying:—
"Are you here?"
To which a female voice replied, "Yes, dear, but has the visitor yet retired?" And the same voice added—
"Ah! so near, and yet so far!"
"Yes, I should think so, he is so nice-looking, as they say."
"Were it daytime I would see him, too," said the lady in a drowsy voice.
"I shall go to bed, too! But what a bad light," said the boy, and Genji conjectured that he had been trimming the lamp.
The lady presently clapped her hands for a servant, and said, "Where is Chiûjiô, I feel lonely, I wish to see her."
"Madam, she is in the bath now, she will be here soon," replied the servant.
"Suppose I pay my visit to her, too? What harm! no harm, perhaps," said Genji to himself. He withdrew the fastening of the intervening door, on the other side there was none, and it opened. The entrance to the room where the lady was sitting was only screened by a curtain, with a glimmering light inside. By the reflection of this light he saw travelling trunks and bags all scattered about; through these he groped his way and approached the curtain. He saw, leaning on a cushion, the small and pretty figure of a lady, who did not seem to notice his approach, probably thinking it was Chiûjiô, for whom she had sent. Genji felt nervous, but struggling against the feeling, startled the lady by saying:—
"Chiûjiô was called for, I thought it might mean myself, and I come to offer you my devoted services."
This was really an unexpected surprise, and the lady was at a loss.
"It is, of course, natural," he said, "you should be astonished at my boldness, but pray excuse me. It is solely from my earnest desire to show at such an opportunity the great respect for you which I have felt for a very long time."
He was clever enough to know how to speak, and what to say, under all circumstances, and made the above speech in such an extremely humble and insinuating manner that the demon himself could not have taken offence, so she forbore to show any sudden resentment. She had, however, grave doubts as to the propriety of his conduct, and felt somewhat uncomfortable, saying shyly, "Perhaps you have made a mistake!"
"No, certainly not," he replied. "What mistake can I have made? On the other hand, I have no wish to offend you. The evening, however, is very irksome, and I should feel obliged if you would permit me to converse with you." Then gently taking her hand he pressed her to return with him to his lonely apartment.
She was still young and weak, and did not know what was most proper to do under these circumstances, so half yielding, half reluctantly was induced to be led there by him.
At this juncture Chiûjiô, for whom she had sent previously, entered the room. Upon which Genji exclaimed "Ha!"
Chiûjiô stared with astonishment at him, whom she at once recognized as the Prince, by the rich perfume which he carried about him.
"What does this mean?" thought Chiûjiô. She could still do nothing. Had he been an ordinary personage she would have immediately seized him. Even in that case, however, there was enough room to doubt whether it would not have been better to avoid any violent steps lest it might have given rise to a disagreeable family scandal, hence Chiûjiô was completely perplexed and mechanically followed them.
Genji was too bold to fear bystanders, a common fault with high personages, and coolly closed the door upon her saving, "She will soon return to you."
The lady being placed in such an awkward position, and not knowing what Chiûjiô might imagine, became, as it were, bewildered. Genji was, however, as artful and insinuating as might be expected in consoling her, though we do not know where he had learnt his eloquence. This was really trying for her, and she said, "Your condescension is beyond my merit. I cannot disregard it. It is, however, absolutely necessary to know "Who is who."
"But such ignorance," he a little abashed, rejoined "as not to know "Who is who," is the very proof of my inexperience. Were I supposed to understand too well, I should indeed be sorry. You have very likely heard how little I mix in the world. This perhaps is the very reason why you distrust me. The excess of the blindness of my mind seems strange even to myself."
He spoke thus insinuatingly. She, on her part, feared that if his fascinating address should assume a warmer tone it would
be still more trying for her and more difficult to withstand, so she determined, however hard she might appear, not to give any encouragement to his feelings, and showed therefore a coolness of manner. To her meek character there was thus added a firm resolution, and it seemed like a young bamboo reed with its strength and tenderness combined, difficult to bend! Still she felt the struggle very keenly, and tears moistened her eyes.
Genji could not help feeling touched. Not knowing exactly how to soothe her, he exclaimed, "What makes you treat me so coolly? It is true we are not old acquaintances, but it does not follow that this should prevent us from becoming good friends. Please don't discompose yourself like one who does not know the world at all: it pierces my heart."
This speech touched her, and her firmness began to waver.
"Were my position what it once was," said she, "and I received such attention, I might, however unworthy, have been moved by your affection, but as my position in life is now changed, its unsatisfactory condition often makes me dream of a happiness I cannot hope to enjoy." Hereupon she remained silent for some moments, and looked as if she meant to say that she could no longer help thinking of the line:—
[paragraph continues] But these few moments of silence agitated the pure waters of her virtuous mind, and the sudden recollection of her aged husband, whom she did not generally think much about, occurred tenderly to her memory. She shuddered at the idea of his seeing her in such a dilemma as this, even in a dream, and without a word fled back to her apartment, and Genji was once more alone.
Now the chanticleer began to proclaim the coming day, and the attendants rose from their couches, some exclaiming "How soundly we have slept," others, "Let us get the carriage ready."
Ki-no-Kami also came out saying, "Why so early, no need of such hurry for the Prince."
Genji also arose, and putting on his naoshi, went out on a balcony on the southern side of the house, where he leaned upon the wooden balustrade and meditated as he looked round him.
It appears that people were peeping out of the casement on the western side, probably being anxious to catch a glimpse of the Prince, whose figure was indistinctly to be seen by them
from the top of a short screen standing within the trellis. Among these spectators there was one who perhaps might have felt a thrill run through her frame as she beheld him. It was the very moment when the sky was being tinted by the glowing streaks of morn, and the moon's pale light was still lingering in the far distance. The aspect of the passionless heavens becomes radiant or gloomy in response to the heart of him who looks upon it. And to Genji, whose thoughts were secretly occupied with the events of the evening, the scene could only have given rise to sorrowful emotions.
Reflecting how he might on some future occasion convey a message to the lady, and looking back several times, he presently quitted the house and returned to the mansion of his father-in-law.
During some days succeeding the above events, he was staying at the mansion with his bride. His thoughts, however, were now constantly turning to the lady on the bank of the middle river. He therefore summoned Ki-no-Kami before him, and thus addressed him:—
"Cannot you let me have the boy, the son of the late Chiûnagon 27 whom I saw the other day? He is a nice lad, and I wish to have him near at hand. I will also introduce him to the Emperor."
"I receive your commands. I will talk with his sister, and see if she consents to it," replied Ki-no-Kami with a bow.
These last words alluding to the object which occupied his thoughts caused Genji to start, but he said with apparent calmness—
"Has the lady presented you yet with a brother or a sister?"
"No, sir, not yet; she has been married now these two years, but it seems she is always thinking she is not settled in the way her parents desired, and is not quite contented with her position."
"What a pity! I heard, however, she was a very good lady. Is it so?"
"Yes, I quite believe so; but hitherto we have lived separately, and were not very cordial, which, as all the world knows, is usual in such relationship."
After the lapse of five or six days the boy Kokimi was
brought to him. He was not tall or handsome but very intelligent, and in manners perfectly well-bred. Genji treated him with the greatest kindness, at which, in his boyish mind, he was highly delighted. Genji now asked him many questions about his sister, to which he gave such answers as he could, but often with shyness and diffidence. Hence Genji was unable to take him into his confidence, but by skilfully coaxing and pleasing him, he ventured to hand him a letter to be taken to his sister. The boy, though he possibly guessed at its meaning, did not trouble himself much, but taking it, duly delivered it to his sister. She became confused and thoughtful as she took it, and fearing what the boy might think, opened the letter and held it before her face as she read, in order to conceal the expression of her countenance.
It was a long one, and among other things contained the following lines:—
[paragraph continues] It was beautifully written, and as her eyes fell upon the passionate words, a mist gathered over them, and a momentary thought of her own life and position once more flashed over her mind, and without a word of comment to the boy, she retired to rest.
A few days afterwards Kokimi was again invited to join the Prince. Thereupon he asked his sister to give him an answer to the Prince's letter.
"Tell the Prince," she said, "there is no one here who reads such letters."
"But," said the boy, "he does not expect such an answer as this! How can I tell him so?"
At first, she half-resolved to explain everything to Kokimi, and to make him thoroughly understand why she ought not to receive such letters, but the effort was too painful, so she simply said, "It is all the better for you not to talk in that way. If you think it so serious why should you go to him at all?"
"Yet, how can I disobey his commands to go back?" exclaimed the boy, and so he returned to Genji without any written answer to him.
"I was weary of waiting for you. Perhaps you, too, had forgotten me," said Genji, when he saw the boy, who was, however, silent and blushed. "And what answer have you brought me?" continued Genji, and then the boy replied in the exact words which his sister had used.
"What?" cried Genji: and continued, "Perhaps you may not know, so I will tell you. I knew your sister before she knew Iyo. But she likes to treat me so because she thinks she has got a very good friend in Iyo; but do you be like a brother to me. The days of Iyo will be probably fewer than mine."
He now returned to the Palace taking Komini with him, and, going to his dressing-room, attired him nicely in the Court style; in a word, he treated him as a parent would do.
By the boy's assistance several more letters were conveyed to his sister. Her resolution, however, remained unshaken. "If one's heart were once to deviate from the path," she reflected, "the only end we could expect would be a damaged reputation and misery for life: the good and the bad result from one's self!"
Thus thinking, she resolved to return no answer. She might, indeed, have admired the person of Genji, and probably did so, yet, whenever such feelings came into her mind, the next thought that suggested itself was, "What is the use of such idle admiration?"
Meanwhile, Genji was often thinking of paying a visit to the house where she was staying, but he did not consider it becoming to do so, without some reasonable pretext, more especially as he would have been sorry, and for her sake more than his own, to draw a suspicion upon her.
It happened, however, after a prolonged residence at the Court, that another occasion of closing the Palace in the certain celestial line of direction arrived. Catching at this opportunity he left the Palace, and suddenly turning out of his road, went straight to Ki-no-Kami's residence, with the excuse that he had just discovered the above fact on his way. Ki-no-Kami surprised at this unexpected visit, had only to bow before him, and acknowledge the honor of his presence. The boy, Kokimi, was already there before him, having been secretly informed of his intention beforehand, and he attended on him as usual in his apartment on his arrival.
The lady, who had been told by her brother that the Prince
earnestly desired to see her, knew well how dangerous it was to approach an inviting flower growing on the edge of a precipice. She was not, of course, insensible to his coming in such a manner, with an excuse for the sake of seeing her, but she did not wish to increase her dream-like inquietude by seeing him. And again, if he ventured to visit her apartment, as he did before, it might be a serious compromise for her.
For these reasons she retired while her brother was with Genji, to a private chamber of Chiûjiô, her companion, in the rear of the main building, under the pretence that her own room was too near that of the Prince, besides she was indisposed and required "Tataki," 28 which she desired to have done in a retired part of the house.
Genji sent his attendants very early to their own quarters, and then, through Kokimi, requested an interview with the lady. Kokimi at first was unable to find her, till after searching everywhere, he, at last, came to the apartment of Chiûjiô, and with great earnestness endeavored to persuade her to see Genji, in an anxious and half trembling voice, while she replied in a tone slightly angry, "What makes you so busy? Why do you trouble yourself? Boys carrying such messages are highly blamable."
After thus daunting him, she added, more mildly, "Tell the Prince I am somewhat indisposed, and also that some friends are with me, and I cannot well leave them now." And she again cautioned the boy not to be too officious, and sent him away from her at once.
Yet, at the bottom of her heart, different feelings might have been struggling from those which her words seemed to express, and some such thoughts as these shaped themselves to her mind: "Were I still a maiden in the home of my beloved parents, and occasionally received his visits there, how happy might I not be? How trying to act as if no romantic sentiment belonged to my heart!"
Genji, who was anxiously waiting to know how the boy would succeed in persuading his sister, was soon told that all his efforts were in vain. Upon hearing this he remained for some moments silent, and then relieved his feelings with a long-drawn sigh, and hummed:—
The lady was unable to sleep, and her thoughts also took the following poetic shape:—
All the other inmates of the house were now in a sound slumber, but sleep came not to Genji's eyes. He did, indeed, admire her immovable and chaste nature, but this only drew his heart more towards her. He was agitated. At one moment he cried, "Well, then!" at another, "However!" "Still!" At last, turning to the boy, he passionately exclaimed, "Lead me to her at once!"
Kokimi calmly replied, "It is impossible, too many eyes are around us!"
Genji with a sigh then threw himself back on the cushion, saying to Kokimi, "You, at least, will be my friend, and shall share my apartment!"
28:1 A hero of an older fiction, who is represented as the perfect ideal of a gallant.
28:2 A fast observed when some remarkable or supernatural event took place, or on the anniversary of days of domestic misfortune.
28:3 A general of the Imperial Guards.
29:4 Love letters generally are not signed or are signed with a fancy name.
30:5 Left Master of the Horse.
30:6 Secretary to the Master of Ceremonies.
31:7 Deputy-governors of provinces. In those days these functionaries were greatly looked down upon by the Court nobles, and this became one of the causes of the feudal system.
32:8 The naoshi is an outer attire. It formed part of a loose and unceremonious Court dress.
33:9 This alludes to a common habit of women, who push back their hair before commencing any task.
35:10 Some kinds of nuns did not shave their heads, and this remark seems to allude to the common practice of women who often involuntarily smooth their hair before they see people, which practice comes, no doubt, from the idea that the beauty of women often depends on the tidiness of their hair.
35:11 This means that her soul, which was sinful, would not go at once to its final resting-place, but wander about in unknown paths.
37:12 A mountain spoken of in Chinese literature. It was said to be in the Eastern Ocean, and people of extraordinary long lives, called Sennin, were supposed to dwell there.
37:13 In China and Japan handwriting is considered no less an art than painting.
41:14 An ideal woman patroness of the art of dyeing.
41:15 The weaver, or star Vega. In the Chinese legend she is personified as a woman always engaged in weaving.
41:16 In the same legend, it is said that this weaver, who dwells on one side of the Milky Way in the heavens, meets her lover—another star called Hikoboshi, or the bull-driver—once every year, on the evening of the seventh day of the seventh month. He dwelt on the other side of the Milky Way, and their meeting took place on a bridge, made by birds (jays), by the intertwining of their wings. It was this which gave rise to the popular festival, which takes place on this day, both in China and Japan.
45:17 Little darlings—a kind of pink.
45:18 The Tokonatz (everlasting summer) is another name for the pink, and it is poetically applied to the lady whom we love.
46:19 A female divinity in Indian mythology.
47:20 From the Chinese poet Hak-rak-ten, who was mentioned before. He says in one of his poems: "Once upon a time a certain host invited to his abode a clever match-maker. When the guests were assembled he poured forth wine into a beautiful jar and said to all present, "drink not for a moment, but hear what I say about the two choices, daughters of the rich get married soon, hurt snub their husbands, daughters of the poor get married with difficulty but dearly love their mothers-in-law."
47:21 A soft style of Japanese writing commonly used by ladies.
49:22 A stiff and formal style of Japanese writing.
49:23 The fifth of May is one of the five important national festivals. A solemn celebration of this fête used to be performed at Court. It is sometimes called the festival of the "Sweet Flags,"—calami aromatici—because it was held at the season when those beautiful water-plants were in the height of perfection.
49:24 Another of the five above-mentioned. It was held on the ninth of September, and it was customary on the occasion for rhymes to be given out to those present, wherewith to compose Chinese poems. It was sometimes called the "Chrysanthemum Festival," for the same reason that the celebration of the fifth of May was termed the "Sweet Flag Festival."
50:25 This is an astrological superstition. It is said that when this God is in any part of the compass, at the time being, it is most unlucky to proceed towards it, and to remain in the same line of its direction.
51:26 The deputy governor of the province Iyo; he is supposed to be in the province at this time, leaving his young wife and family behind.
57:27 The father of Kokimi seems to have been holding the office Yemon-no-Kami as well as Chiûnagon.
60:28 Tataki, or Amma, a sort of shampooing, a very common medical treatment in Japan.
61:29 Hahaki-gi, the broom-like tree, is said to have been a certain tree growing in the plain of Sonohara, so called from its shape, which, at a distance, looked like a spreading broom, but when one comes near, its appearance was totally changed.