Puslapio vaizdai

Presently the two who served in the sacred place fell into discourse. Nor did this disturb the devotions of the girl. This, too, is Japanese in the temple: what ought not to be heard is not.

"Since you are honorably young," the happy bonze whispered, "perhaps you do not augustly know this Jodin-Sama."

"No," admitted the acolyte. "But you, august Father, who know all the eight hundred myriads, will tell me."

"This Jodin heals," nodded the priest, "if one who is well will sit on the spot where sat one who is ill, and pray, always pray, as she is doing. But," the bonze went on pityingly, "he who is well takes the illness of him who is to be healed. And, son, to teach you how few there be who are willing to do this, observe that the lacquer before Jodin is unworn, and that his features have not been obliterated by caresses. One might call Jodin the unknown god."

"And," whispered the student, in wonder, "she prays for some one she does not know! I listen, Father, and I hear no name."

"It is a young man," answered the old priest. "For many days he has come, carried by samurai bearers in a kago, and sat, and prayed to Jodin. But he is no better. Jodin does not help in that way. Some one else must take the illness from the spot on which he sits. And this he knows, and his retainers. Yet no one!" The keeper touched the young girl gently. She sat up.

"Daughter," admonished the bonze, "you are honorably young-and," as he put on his thick spectacles, "beautiful. Before you are many years of God's earth-many reincarnations before you reach Nirvana. Do you understand how Jodin heals?"

"Yes, Father," nodded the girl. "Then why-"


HE student slept through the night, but the bonze slept and woke all the night. Troubled in spirit was the good old priest. When he woke he could hear the murmur of that prayer; when he slept he dreamed. And the dreams also were troubled: once

[blocks in formation]

"Pray," said the bonze. "The western door will be left open to-night."

"Father, I shall pray all night, and all the nights and days till he is well and in the emperor's guard."

"Child," said the priest, "next to the great god Shaka stands the emperor. But -who are your parents?"

"I forget," laughed the girl, truthfully. "I have in my souls but this one thing." And the priest, sorely puzzled, said:

"I know not whether this be good or ill. Gods! to forget one's parents! Girl," he ended with sudden savagery, "if this is an affection greater than for parents-"

"That I do not know," answered the girl, innocently.

"It is sin," declared the priest. "The emperor," reminded the girl. Whereat they all put their foreheads to the floor. And when they sat up again, the girl smiled happily into the face of the priest, and then bowed her head. "Pray," nodded the




And as he and the student continued to shuffle their rounds, they could hear those words:

"Namu amida, Jodin . . legs-"

the golden dolphin from the castle-top of Nagoya had come down, and was pursuing him at prodigious speed through the water; again he was only a paper carp filled with wind at the top of a bamboo pole on the Boys' Festival day, and always only the sport of unalterable fate. At


last he dreamed that Jodin stood before him with the sick young man at his side; but now the young man was in the uniform of the Imperial Guards, and his breast was covered with medals. Besides, it was the Feast of Lanterns, as any one could see who dreamed such a dream; for earth and sea and sky were filled with them in his dream. And they were votives to the dead, which is of good fortuneGod's blessed dead.

So when the young man came the next day the priest said:

"You will be honorably well in eight weeks. Last night Jodin spoke to me in my sleep. It was the Feast of Lanterns, and you were in the uniform of the Imperial Guards. There were many medals on your breast. So you are to fight. You are to be brave. You are to be promoted by the emperor. Accept this."

The priest gave him a brocade cushion upon which to sit. It was an heirloom of the temple, filled with herbs of healing, granted only to princely persons; for it had been the gift of Hideyoshi a thousand years before, so it was said.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"Not these," said the priest. "See how they quail. And Jodin requires that he who does must be happy in the doing. Be at peace. Buddha will find the sacrifice. But look at the place where you sit to pray." The young man understood.

"It is as new as when the layer of lacquer was put down, perhaps-"

"Three hundred years ago," nodded the priest.

"So that in all that time but few have been found who were willing to take the illness of another!"

"Aye," said the priest. "The human monster is a strange being. Will he die for another? Oh, yes, the great red death of the sword or the gun. He who can feel his death-wound spurting in his face dies happily. But, to take that creeping thing called illness, which ever and ever gnaws til it reaches the heart, mayhap after years of torture of the waiting mindwell, you have seen the floor, and the tale of them is told. Me? I have been a priest of this temple since my youth, and the fingers of one hand would count those who have taken the illness of another. And nearly all have been mothers. So-"

"When may I know who blesses me thus?" interrupted the young man.

"The secrets of the temple are sacred," said the priest.

"But I shall know!" cried the young man. "Be content," urged the priest. "If, because none other can do it, the Lord of Life provides a sacrifice for you, it is certain he needs you elsewhere, perhaps in

the emperor's armies. If it is his will that you know, then it will be revealed unto you. If not-"

"But I shall know!" he cried again. "One thing I would know, if it please you," said the priest, courteously-"one thing not impious. You come in a kago. Even your bearers are samurai and wear two swords. Then it must be that you are above the samurai, perhaps a young daimio, perhaps even a kuge?"

"Secret for secret!" laughed

the young man. "Who gives his health for mine?"


OW, when Akimo knew that the young man was coming, he hid the girl in the pedestal of Jodin, behind the fretwork. When he had gone, she flew forth to pray: "Namu amida, Jodin-" The priest interrupted her:

"Jodin can wait," he smiled, "and also the young man. You heard what I saideight weeks? To the Feast of Lanterns?" The girl nodded.

"What is your name?"


"Hasu-San." She smiled, and the priest knew it was not her name; but he nodded. Hasu-no-Hana," he replied, "the Lotus-Blossom. But you are not a geisha; that is a geisha name. Are we to know neither you nor him?"

"Some day I will dance for you. Then you will know whether I am a geisha. You will wish me for a temple-dancer, to please your gods. Ah!"

For the wise priest had shaken his head. "Some day! In the eight weeks to the Feast of the Blessed Dead, which Jodin has fixed for the healing of the youth, there will be no dancing-no more than he could dance now who sat here. You are to take the youth's illness. And ever after-no dancing." "Well," sighed the girl, "he will be in the guards; I shall have sent him there. He will be my soldier-mine. Think of that! Was ever a girl in Japan so very useful. before, so happy?"

"Not often," agreed the

"To-morrow," bowed the priest, gently, "when the sun is here on the dial, come. Not before, not after. Pray. The gods will heal you."


And you may call meToya," laughed the young man. "The Lord Toya," agreed the priest.


Then the priest went his way, and the lordly bearers carried the young man to his kago, singing a strange song.


[blocks in formation]

"And to-morrow, when the sun is at the red stroke on the dial, may I hide again beneath Jodin?"

"It is sin," said the priest, "to use a god to gratify a woman's curiosity." "Curiosity?" questioned the girl. "Curiosity," denounced the priest. "No," said the girl at last, "it is not curiosity. It is something which makes my heart beat twice where it should beat but once. I have been curious before, oh, yes,-I am a woman,-but it never made my heart to beat twice where it should beat but once."

"It is this I have feared," said the priest, ominously.

"Therefore," begged the girl, "when he comes tomorrow" She pointed to her hiding-place under Jodin. "To-morrow," said the



That night the acolyte set food beside Hasu-San, and other food before the god. And he also made a light before the god that would not die till the Feast of Lanterns that he might be kind.



FTER that, every day when the sun was precisely at the red mark Akimo had made on the lacquer, Toya was taken from his kago by the bearers and put on the brocade cushion before the god. And so it went on till the bearers came no more into the temple, but waited outside while their young lord entered alone, and sat on the cushion; until one day there were longer kago or bearers. Instead, there stalked into the temple a tall young man in the uniform of the Imperial Guards, with a sword on his thigh!

And each of these days a small face, growing paler and paler, was pressed to the fretwork in the base of Jodin, and a small heart beat two to one until he had gone. After that, her heart would beat only one where it should have beaten two. And on the last day the beleaguered little organ stopped entirely; for now he would go away, and she


FTER he was gone, they found the Lotus-Blossom in the pedestal, quite dead, it seemed.


But no; she lived there in the temple ever after, though more like a broken-stemmed lily than any lotus.

For as Toya got well, Hasu truly became ill.


"But you cannot !"

And what they meant was:
"But you shall not!"

For Hasu was now so much a part of them that, to go away

"She would die," said the priest to the acolyte.

"So should we," laughed the acolyte, who had rapidly grown to be a young


But she was very happy, and, strangely enough, the face which had been beautiful before, with the oval Yamato beauty of the princesses of old, became almost divine.

The acolyte had been a worker in bamboo before entering the priesthood, and he now wove for Hasu a wonderful chair, with soft bamboo wheels, in which they would push her about the pleasant gardens of the temple.

Said she to Akimo and the acolyte one day:

would never see him again. Indeed, there was a moment in which she almost begged Shaka not to make him quite well, so that he would come to the temple now and then, no matter how few his visits. But she was in time to recall that wish before it could possibly have reached the ears of Buddha.

"Me? I should go away. I have done what I came for. Why do you not send me away? y?"

And both cried out at once:

"Tell him," cried Toya, laughing, to the bent old priest on that last day, "who gave his legs for mine that I am taking them to Port Arthur to serve the emperor. When that is over, I will bring them back to him. And that he may know that a soldier pays his debts, take the ring my father wore, and his, and his unto antiquity. And he shall fetch it to me and claim his legs, or anything my purse, my heart, my unborn souls can give him."

"The secrets of God are sacred in the temple," warned the priest.

But they saw that the ring was engraved with the Tokugawa crest.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Well, would you have run away from that had you been Hasu-San?

In fact, it was as sleepless for her as those days leading to the Feast of Lanterns, and she trembled more now than she did then. However, it must be confessed that she also laughed more. But that inconstant heart! It would beat two to one, and then reverse itself and beat one to two, which phenomenon, as any one with the least therapeutic intelligence knows, must be stopped, if one is to live on.

And what of her going? "I cannot go now unless you take me," sighed the girl.

Now, who would willingly be attainted of impoliteness-in Japan?

"Then," murmured the girl, "you command that I remain-perhaps even to see this great soldier, with the glory of war for the emperor fresh upon him—perhaps to speak to him-face to face?"

"Yes!" said the priest, terribly.


"You cannot go unless we take you," repeated the acolyte, with evidences of the greatest satisfaction in her infirmity.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »