The Tale of Genji

源氏物語

[Genji Monogatari]


Murasaki Shikibu

Translated by Edward G. Seidensticker

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Table of Contents

  1. The Paulownia Court
  2. The Broom Tree
  3. The Shell of the Locust
  4. Evening Faces
  5. Lavender
  6. The Safflower
  7. An Autumn Exersion
  8. The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms
  9. Heartvine
  10. The Sacred Tree
  11. The Orange Blossoms
  12. Suma
  13. Akashi
  14. Channel Buoys
  15. The Wormwood Patch
  16. The Gatehouse
  17. A Picture Contest
  18. The Wind in the Pines
  19. A Rack of Cloud
  20. The Morning Glory
  21. The Maiden
  22. The Jeweled Chaplet
  23. The First Warbler
  24. Butterflies
  25. Fireflies
  26. Wild Carnations
  27. Flares
  28. The Typhoon
  29. The Royal Outing
  30. Purple Trousers
  31. The Cypress Pillar
  32. A Branch of Plum
  33. Wisteria Leaves
  34. New Herbs
  35. New Herbs
  36. The Oak Tree
  37. The Flute
  38. The Bell Cricket
  39. Evening Mist
  40. The Rites
  41. The Wizard
  42. His Perfumed Highness
  43. The Rose Plum
  44. Bamboo River
  45. The Lady at the Bridge
  46. Beneath the Oak
  47. Trefoil Knots
  48. Early Ferns
  49. The Ivy
  50. The Eastern Cottage
  51. A Boat upon the Waters
  52. The Drake Fly
  53. The Writing Practice
  54. The Floating Bridge of Dreams

frontispiece
Murasaki Shikibu at Ishiyama-dera.
Suzuki Harunobu, 1767.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Chapter 1

The Paulownia Court

In a certain reign there was a lady not of the first rank whom the emperor loved more than any of the others. The grand ladies with high ambitions thought her a presumptuous upstart, and lesser ladies were still more resentful. Everything she did offended someone. Probably aware of what was happening, she fell seriously ill and came to spend more time at home than at court. The emperor’s pity and affection quite passed bounds. No longer caring what his ladies and courtiers might say, he behaved as if intent upon stirring gossip.

His court looked with very great misgiving upon what seemed a reckless infatuation. In China just such an unreasoning passion had been the undoing of an emperor and had spread turmoil through the land. As the resentment grew, the example of Yang Kuei-fei was the one most frequently cited against the lady.

She survived despite her troubles, with the help of an unprecedented bounty of love. Her father, a grand councillor, was no longer living. Her mother, an old-fashioned lady of good lineage, was determined that matters be no different for her than for ladies who with paternal support were making careers at court. The mother was attentive to the smallest detail of etiquette and deportment. Yet there was a limit to what she could do. The sad fact was that the girl was without strong backing, and each time a new incident arose she was next to defenseless.

It may have been because of a bond in a former life that she bore the emperor a beautiful son, a jewel beyond compare. The emperor was in a fever of impatience to see the child, still with the mother’s family; and when, on the earliest day possible, he was brought to court, he did indeed prove to be a most marvelous babe. The emperor’s eldest son was the grandson of the Minister of the Right. The world assumed that with this powerful support he would one day be named crown prince; but the new child was far more beautiful. On public occasions the emperor continued to favor his eldest son. The new child was a private treasure, so to speak, on which to lavish uninhibited affection.

The mother was not of such a low rank as to attend upon the emperor’s personal needs. In the general view she belonged to the upper classes. He insisted on having her always beside him, however, and on nights when there was music or other entertainment he would require that she be present. Sometimes the two of them would sleep late, and even after they had risen he would not let her go. Because of his unreasonable demands she was widely held to have fallen into immoderate habits out of keeping with her rank.

With the birth of the son, it became yet clearer that she was the emperor’s favorite. The mother of the eldest son began to feel uneasy. If she did not manage carefully, she might see the new son designated crown prince. She had come to court before the emperor’s other ladies, she had once been favored over the others, and she had borne several of his children. However much her complaining might trouble and annoy him, she was one lady whom he could not ignore.

Though the mother of the new son had the emperor’s love, her detractors were numerous and alert to the slightest inadvertency. She was in continuous torment, feeling that she had nowhere to turn. She lived in the paulownia Court. The emperor had to pass the apartments of other ladies to reach hers, and it must be admitted that their resentment at his constant comings and goings was not unreasonable. Her visits to the royal chambers were equally frequent. The robes of her women were in a scandalous state from trash strewn along bridges and galleries. Once some women conspired to have both doors of a gallery she must pass bolted shut, and so she found herself unable to advance or retreat. Her anguish over the mounting list of insults was presently more than the emperor could bear. He moved a lady out of rooms adjacent to his own and assigned them to the lady of the paulownia Court and so, of course, aroused new resentment.

When the young prince reached the age of three, the resources of the treasury and the stewards’ offices were exhausted to make the ceremonial bestowing of trousers as elaborate as that for the eldest son. Once more there was malicious talk; but the prince himself, as he grew up, was so superior of mien and disposition that few could find it in themselves to dislike him. Among the more discriminating, indeed, were some who marveled that such a paragon had been born into this world.

In the summer the boy’s mother, feeling vaguely unwell, asked that she be allowed to go home. The emperor would not hear of it. Since they were by now used to these indispositions, he begged her to stay and see what course her health would take. It was steadily worse, and then, suddenly, everyone could see that she was failing. Her mother came pleading that he let her go home. At length he agreed.

Fearing that even now she might be the victim of a gratuitous insult, she chose to go off without ceremony, leaving the boy behind. Everything must have an end, and the emperor could no longer detain her. It saddened him inexpressibly that he was not even permitted to see her off. A lady of great charm and beauty, she was sadly emaciated. She was sunk in melancholy thoughts, but when she tried to put them into words her voice was almost inaudible. The emperor was quite beside himself, his mind a confusion of things that had been and things that were to come. He wept and vowed undying love, over and over again. The lady was unable to reply. She seemed listless and drained of strength, as if she scarcely knew what was happening. Wanting somehow to help, the emperor ordered that she be given the honor of a hand-drawn carriage. He returned to her apartments and still could not bring himself to the final parting.

“We vowed that we would go together down the road we all must go. You must not leave me behind.”

She looked sadly up at him. “If I had suspected that it would be so —” She was gasping for breath.

“I leave you, to go the road we all must go.

The road I would choose, if only I could, is the other.”

It was evident that she would have liked to say more; but she was so weak that it had been a struggle to say even this much.

The emperor was wondering again if he might not keep her with him and have her with him to the end.

But a message came from her mother, asking that she hurry. “We have obtained the agreement of eminent ascetics to conduct the necessary services, and I fear that they are to begin this evening.”

So, in desolation, he let her go. He passed a sleepless night.

He sent off a messenger and was beside himself with impatience and apprehension even before there had been time for the man to reach the lady’s house and return. The man arrived to find the house echoing with laments. She had died at shortly past midnight. He returned sadly to the palace. The emperor closed himself up in his private apartments.

He would have liked at least to keep the boy with him, but no precedent could be found for having him away from his mother’s house through the mourning. The boy looked in bewilderment at the weeping courtiers, at his father too, the tears streaming over his face. The death of a parent is sad under any circumstances, and this one was indescribably sad.

But there must be an end to weeping, and orders were given for the funeral. If only she could rise to the heavens with the smoke from the pyre, said the mother between her sobs. She rode in the hearse with several attendants, and what must her feelings have been when they reached Mount Otaki? It was there that the services were conducted with the utmost solemnity and dignity.

She looked down at the body. “With her before me, I cannot persuade myself that she is dead. At the sight of her ashes I can perhaps accept what has happened.”

The words were rational enough, but she was so distraught that she seemed about to fall from the carriage. The women had known that it would be so and did what they could for her.

A messenger came from the palace with the news that the lady had been raised to the Third Rank, and presently a nunciary arrived to read the official order. For the emperor, the regret was scarcely bearable that he had not had the courage of his resolve to appoint her an imperial consort, and he wished to make amends by promoting her one rank. There were many who resented even this favor. Others, however, of a more sensitive nature, saw more than ever what a dear lady she had been, simple and gentle and difficult to find fault with. It was because she had been excessively favored by the emperor that she had been the victim of such malice. The grand ladies were now reminded of how sympathetic and unassuming she had been. It was for just such an occasion, they remarked to one another, that the phrase “how well one knows” had been invented.

The days went dully by. The emperor was careful to send offerings for the weekly memorial services. His grief was unabated and he spent his nights in tears, refusing to summon his other ladies. His serving women were plunged into dew-drenched autumn.

There was one lady, however, who refused to be placated. “How ridiculous,” said the lady of the Kokiden pavilion, mother of his eldest son, “that the infatuation should continue even now.”

The emperor’s thoughts were on his youngest son even when he was with his eldest. He sent off intelligent nurses and serving women to the house of the boy’s grandmother, where he was still in residence, and made constant inquiry after him.

The autumn tempests blew and suddenly the evenings were chilly. Lost in his grief, the emperor sent off a note to the grandmother. His messenger was a woman of middle rank called Myōbu, whose father was a guards officer. It was on a beautiful moonlit night that he dispatched her, a night that brought memories. On such nights he and the dead lady had played the koto for each other. Her koto had somehow had overtones lacking in other instruments, and when she would interrupt the music to speak, the words too carried echoes of their own. Her face, her manner — they seemed to cling to him, but with “no more substance than the lucent dream.”

Myōbu reached the grandmother’s house. Her carriage was drawn through the gate — and what a lonely place it was! The old lady had of course lived in widowed retirement, but, not wishing to distress her only daughter, she had managed to keep the place in repair. Now all was plunged into darkness. The weeds grew ever higher and the autumn winds tore threateningly at the garden. Only the rays of the moon managed to make their way through the tangles.

The carriage was pulled up and Myōbu alighted.

The grandmother was at first unable to speak. “It has been a trial for me to go on living, and now to have one such as you come through the dews of this wild garden — I cannot tell you how much it shames me.”

“A lady who visited your house the other day told us that she had to see with her own eyes before she could really understand your loneliness and sorrow. I am not at all a sensitive person, and yet I am unable to control these tears.”

After a pause she delivered a message from the emperor. “He has said that for a time it all seemed as if he were wandering in a nightmare, and then when his agitation subsided he came to see that the nightmare would not end. If only he had a companion in his grief, he thought — and it occurred to him that you, my lady, might be persuaded to come unobtrusively to court. He cannot bear to think of the child languishing in this house of tears, and hopes that you will come quickly and bring him with you. He was more than once interrupted by sobs as he spoke, and It was apparent to all of us that he feared having us think him inexcusably weak. I came away without hearing him to the end.” “I cannot see for tears,” said the old lady. “Let these sublime words bring me light.”

This was the emperor’s letter: “It seems impossibly cruel that although I had hoped for comfort with the passage of time my grief should only be worse. I am particularly grieved that I do not have the boy with me, to watch him grow and mature. Will you not bring him to me? We shall think of him as a memento.”

There could be no doubting the sincerity of the royal petition. A poem was appended to the letter, but when she had come to it the old lady was no longer able to see through her tears:

“At the sound of the wind, bringing dews to Miyagi plain,

I think of the tender hagi upon the moor.”

“Tell His Majesty,” said the grandmother after a time, “that it has been a great trial for me to live so long.‘Ashamed before the Takasago pines I think that it is not for me to be seen at court. Even if the august invitation is repeated, I shall not find it possible to accept. As for the boy, I do not know what his wishes are. The indications are that he is eager to go. It is sad for me, but as it should be. please tell His Majesty of these thoughts, secret until now. I fear that I bear a curse from a previous existence and that it would be wrong and even terrible to keep the child with me.”

“It would have given me great pleasure to look in upon him,” said Myōbu, getting up to leave. The child was asleep. “I should have liked to report to his royal father. But he will be waiting up for me, and it must be very late.”

“May I not ask you to come in private from time to time? The heart of a bereaved parent may not be darkness, perhaps, but a quiet talk from time to time would do much to bring light. You have done honor to this house on so many happy occasions, and now circumstances have required that you come with a sad message. The fates have not been kind. All of our hopes were on the girl, I must say again, from the day she was born, and until he died her father did not let me forget that she must go to court, that his own death, if it came early, should not deter me. I knew that another sort of life would be happier for a girl without strong backing, but I could not forget his wishes and sent her to court as I had promised. Blessed with favors beyond her station, she was the object of insults such as no one can be asked to endure. Yet endure them she did until finally the strain and the resentment were too much for her. And so, as I look back upon them, I know that those favors should never have been. Well, put these down, if you will, as the mad wanderings of a heart that is darkness.” She was unable to go on.

It was late.

“His Majesty says much the same thing,” replied Myōbu. “it was, he says, an intensity of passion such as to startle the world, and perhaps for that very reason it was fated to be brief. He cannot think of anything he has done to arouse such resentment, he says, and so he must live with resentment which seems without proper cause. Alone and utterly desolate, he finds it impossible to face the world. He fears that he must seem dreadfully eccentric. How very great — he has said it over and over again — how very great his burden of guilt must be. One scarcely ever sees him that he is not weeping.” Myōbu too was in tears. “It is very late. I must get back before the night is quite over and tell him what I have seen.”

The moon was sinking over the hills, the air was crystal clear, the wind was cool, and the songs of the insects among the autumn grasses would by themselves have brought tears. It was a scene from which Myōbu could not easily pull herself.

“The autumn night is too short to contain my tears

Though songs of bell cricket weary, fall into silence.”

This was her farewell poem. Still she hesitated, on the point of getting into her carriage.

The old lady sent a reply:

“Sad are the insect songs among the reeds.

More sadly yet falls the dew from above the clouds.

“I seem to be in a complaining mood.”

Though gifts would have been out of place, she sent as a trifling memento of her daughter a set of robes, left for just such an occasion, and with them an assortment of bodkins and combs.

The young women who had come from court with the little prince still mourned their lady, but those of them who had acquired a taste for court life yearned to be back. The memory of the emperor made them join their own to the royal petitions.

But no — a crone like herself would repel all the fine ladies and gentlemen, said the grandmother, while on the other hand she could not bear the thought of having the child out of her sight for even a moment.

Myōbu was much moved to find the emperor waiting up for her. Making it seem that his attention was on the small and beautifully plant garden before him, now in full autumn bloom, he was talking quietly with four or five women, among the most sensitive of his attendants. He had become addicted to illustrations by the emperor Uda for “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” and to poems by Ise and Tsurayuki on that subject, and to Chinese poems as well. He listened attentively as Myōbu described the scene she had found so affecting. He took up the letter she had brought from the grandmother.

“I am so awed by this august message that I would run away and hide; and so violent are the emotions it gives rise to that I scarcely know what to say.

“The tree that gave them shelter has withered and died.

One fears for the plight of the hagi shoots beneath.”

A strange way to put the matter, thought the emperor; but the lady must still be dazed with grief. He chose to overlook the suggestion that he himself could not help the child.

He sought to hide his sorrow, not wanting these women to see him in such poor control of himself. But it was no use. He reviewed his memo- ries over and over again, from his very earliest days with the dead lady. He had scarcely been able to bear a moment away from her while she lived. How strange that he had been able to survive the days and months since on memories alone. He had hoped to reward the grandmother’s sturdy devotion, and his hopes had come to nothing.

“Well,” he sighed, “she may look forward to having her day, if she will only live to see the boy grow up.”

Looking at the keepsakes Myōbu had brought back, he thought what a comfort it would be if some wizard were to bring him, like that Chinese emperor, a comb from the world where his lost love was dwelling. He whispered:

“And will no wizard search her out for me,

That even he may tell me where she is?”

There are limits to the powers of the most gifted artist. The Chinese lady in the paintings did not have the luster of life. Yang Kuei-fei was said to have resembled the lotus of the Sublime Pond, the willows of the Timeless Hall. No doubt she was very beautiful in her Chinese finery. When he tried to remember the quiet charm of his lost lady, he found that there was no color of flower, no song of bird, to summon her up. Morning and night, over and over again, they had repeated to each other the lines from “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow”:

“In the sky, as birds that share a wing.

On earth, as trees that share a branch.”

It had been their vow, and the shortness of her life had made it an empty dream.

Everything, the moaning of the wind, the humming of autumn insects, added to the sadness. But in the apartments of the Kokiden lady matters were different. It had been some time since she had last waited upon the emperor. The moonlight being so beautiful, she saw no reason not to have music deep into the night. The emperor muttered something about the bad taste of such a performance at such a time, and those who saw his distress agreed that it was an unnecessary injury. Kokiden was of an arrogant and intractable nature and her behavior suggested that to her the emperor’s grief was of no importance.

The moon set. The wicks in the lamps had been trimmed more than once and presently the oil was gone. Still he showed no sign of retiring. His mind on the boy and the old lady, he jotted down a verse:

“Tears dim the moon, even here above the clouds.

Dim must it be in that lodging among the reeds.”

Calls outside told him that the guard was being changed. It would be one or two in the morning. people would think his behavior strange in deed. He at length withdrew to his bedchamber. He was awake the whole night through, and in dark morning, his thoughts on the blinds that would not open, he was unable to interest himself in business of state. He scarcely touched his breakfast, and lunch seemed so remote from his inclinations that his attendants exchanged looks and whispers of alarm.

Not all voices were sympathetic. perhaps, some said, it had all been foreordained, but he had dismissed the talk and ignored the resentment and let the affair quite pass the bounds of reason; and now to neglect his duties so — it was altogether too much. Some even cited the example of the Chinese emperor who had brought ruin upon himself and his country.

The months passed and the young prince returned to the palace. He had grown into a lad of such beauty that he hardly seemed meant for this world — and indeed one almost feared that he might only briefly be a part of it. When, the following spring, it came time to name a crown prince, the emperor wanted very much to pass over his first son in favor of the younger, who, however, had no influential maternal relatives. It did not seem likely that the designation would pass unchallenged. The boy might, like his mother, be destroyed by immoderate favors. The emperor told no one of his wishes. There did after all seem to be a limit to his affections, people said; and Kokiden regained her confidence.

The boy’s grandmother was inconsolable. Finally, because her prayer to be with her daughter had been answered, perhaps, she breathed her last. Once more the emperor was desolate. The boy, now six, was old enough to know grief himself. His grandmother, who had been so good to him over the years, had more than once told him what pain it would cause her, when the time came, to leave him behind.

He now lived at court. When he was seven he went through the ceremonial reading of the Chinese classics, and never before had there been so fine a performance. Again a tremor of apprehension passed over the emperor — might it be that such a prodigy was not to be long for this world?

“No one need be angry with him now that his mother is gone.” He took the boy to visit the Kokiden Pavilion. “And now most especially I hope you will be kind to him.”

Admitting the boy to her inner chambers, even Kokiden was pleased. Not the sternest of warriors or the most unbending of enemies could have held back a smile. Kokiden was reluctant to let him go. She had two daughters, but neither could compare with him in beauty. The lesser ladies crowded about, not in the least ashamed to show their faces, all eager to amuse him, though aware that he set them off to disadvantage. I need not speak of his accomplishments in the compulsory subjects, the classics and the like. When it came to music his flute and koto made the heavens echo — but to recount all his virtues would, I fear, give rise to a suspicion that I distort the truth.

An embassy came from Korea. Hearing that among the emissaries was a skilled physiognomist, the emperor would have liked to summon him for consultation. He decided, however, that he must defer to the emperor Uda’s injunction against receiving foreigners, and instead sent this favored son to the Kōro mansion, where the party was lodged. The boy was disguised as the son of the grand moderator, his guardian at court. The wise Korean cocked his head in astonishment.

“It is the face of one who should ascend to the highest place and be father to the nation,” he said quietly, as if to himself. “But to take it for such would no doubt be to predict trouble. Yet it is not the face of the minister, the deputy, who sets about ordering public affairs.”

The moderator was a man of considerable learning. There was much of interest in his exchanges with the Korean. There were also exchanges of Chinese poetry, and in one of his poems the Korean succeeded most skillfully in conveying his joy at having been able to observe such a countenance on this the eve of his return to his own land, and sorrow that the parting must come so soon. The boy offered a verse that was received with high praise. The most splendid of gifts were bestowed upon him. The wise man was in return showered with gifts from the palace.

Somehow news of the sage’s remarks leaked out, though the emperor himself was careful to say nothing. The Minister of the Right, grandfather of the crown prince and father of the Kokiden lady, was quick to hear, and again his suspicions were aroused. In the wisdom of his heart, the emperor had already analyzed the boy’s physiognomy after the japanese fashion and had formed tentative plans. He had thus far refrained from bestowing imperial rank on his son, and was delighted that the Korean view should so accord with his own. Lacking the support of maternal relatives, the boy would be most insecure as a prince without court rank, and the emperor could not be sure how long his own reign would last. As a commoner he could be of great service. The emperor therefore encouraged the boy in his studies, at which he was so proficient that it seemed a waste to reduce him to common rank. And yet — as a prince he would arouse the hostility of those who had cause to fear his becoming emperor. Summoning an astrologer of the Indian school, the emperor was pleased to learn that the Indian view coincided with the japanese and the Korean; and so he concluded that the boy should become a commoner with the name Minamoto or Genji.

The months and the years passed and still the emperor could not forget his lost love. He summoned various women who might console him, but apparently it was too much to ask in this world for one who even resembled her. He remained sunk in memories, unable to interest himself in anything. Then he was told of the Fourth Princess, daughter of a former emperor, a lady famous for her beauty and reared with the greatest care by her mother, the empress. A woman now in attendance upon the emperor had in the days of his predecessor been most friendly with the princess, then but a child, and even now saw her from time to time.

“I have been at court through three reigns now,” she said, “and never had I seen anyone who genuinely resembled my lady. But now the daughter of the empress dowager is growing up, and the resemblance is most astonishing. One would be hard put to find her equal.”

Hoping that she might just possibly be right, the emperor asked most courteously to have the princess sent to court. Her mother was reluctant and even fearful, however. One must remember, she said, that the mother of the crown prince was a most willful lady who had subjected the lady of the paulownia Court to open insults and presently sent her into a fatal decline. Before she had made up her mind she followed her husband in death, and the daughter was alone. The emperor renewed his petition. He said that he would treat the girl as one of his own daughters.

Her attendants and her maternal relatives and her older brother, Prince Hyōbu, consulted together and concluded that rather than languish at home she might seek consolation at court; and so she was sent off. She was called Fujitsubo. The resemblance to the dead lady was indeed astonishing. Because she was of such high birth (it may have been that people were imagining things) she seemed even more graceful and delicate than the other. No one could despise her for inferior rank, and the emperor need not feel shy about showing his love for her. The other lady had not particularly encouraged his attentions and had been the victim of a love too intense; and now, though it would be wrong to say that he had quite forgotten her, he found his affections shifting to the new lady, who was a source of boundless comfort. So it is with the affairs of this world.

Since Genji never left his father’s side, it was not easy for this new lady, the recipient of so many visits, to hide herself from him. The other ladies were disinclined to think themselves her inferior, and indeed each of them had her own merits. They were all rather past their prime, however. Fujitsubo’s beauty was of a younger and fresher sort. Though in her childlike shyness she made an especial effort not to be seen, Genji occasionally caught a glimpse of her face. He could not remember his own mother and it moved him deeply to learn, from the lady who had first told the emperor of Fujitsubo, that the resemblance was striking. He wanted to be near her always.

“Do not be unfriendly,” said the emperor to Fujitsubo. “Sometimes it almost seems to me too that you are his mother. Do not think him forward, be kind to him. Your eyes, your expression: you are really so uncommonly like her that you could pass for his mother.”

Genji’s affection for the new lady grew, and the most ordinary flower or tinted leaf became the occasion for expressing it. Kokiden was not pleased. She was not on good terms with Fujitsubo, and all her old resentment at Genji came back. He was handsomer than the crown prince, her chief treasure in the world, well thought of by the whole court. People began calling Genji “the shining one.” Fujitsubo, ranked beside him in the emperor’s affections, became “the lady of the radiant sun.”

It seemed a pity that the boy must one day leave behind his boyish attire; but when he reached the age of twelve he went through his initiation ceremonies and received the cap of an adult. Determined that the ceremony should be in no way inferior to the crown prince’s, which had been held some years earlier in the Grand Hall, the emperor himself bustled about adding new details to the established forms. As for the banquet after the ceremony, he did not wish the custodians of the storehouses and granaries to treat it as an ordinary public occasion.

The throne faced east on the east porch, and before it were Genji’s seat and that of the minister who was to bestow the official cap. At the appointed hour in midafternoon Genji appeared. The freshness of his face and his boyish coiffure were again such as to make the emperor regret that the change must take place. The ritual cutting of the boy’s hair was performed by the secretary of the treasury. As the beautiful locks fell the emperor was seized with a hopeless longing for his dead lady. Repeatedly he found himself struggling to keep his composure. The ceremony over, the boy withdrew to change to adult trousers and descended into the courtyard for ceremonial thanksgiving. There was not a person in the assembly who did not feel his eyes misting over. The emperor was stirred by the deepest of emotions. He had on brief occasions been able to forget the past, and now it all came back again. Vaguely apprehensive lest the initiation of so young a boy bring a sudden aging, he was astonished to see that his son delighted him even more.

The Minister of the Left, who bestowed the official cap, had only one daughter, his chief joy in life. Her mother, the minister’s first wife, was a princess of the blood. The crown prince had sought the girl’s hand, but the minister thought rather of giving her to Genji. He had heard that the emperor had similar thoughts. When the emperor suggested that the boy was without adequate sponsors for his initiation and that the support of relatives by marriage might be called for, the minister quite agreed.

The company withdrew to outer rooms and Genji took his place below the princes of the blood. The minister hinted at what was on his mind, but Genji, still very young, did not quite know what to say. There came a message through a chamberlain that the minister was expected in the royal chambers. A lady-in-waiting brought the customary gifts for his services, a woman’s cloak, white and of grand proportions, and a set of robes as well. As he poured wine for his minister, the emperor recited a poem which was in fact a deeply felt admonition:

“The boyish locks are now bound up, a man’s.

And do we tie a lasting bond for his future?”

This was the minister’s reply:

“Fast the knot which the honest heart has tied.

May lavender, the hue of the troth, be as fast.”

The minister descended from a long garden bridge to give formal thanks. He received a horse from the imperial stables and a falcon from the secretariat. In the courtyard below the emperor, princes and high courtiers received gifts in keeping with their stations. The moderator, Genji’s guardian, had upon royal command prepared the trays and baskets now set out in the royal presence. As for Chinese chests of food and gifts, they overflowed the premises, in even larger numbers than for the crown prince’s initiation. It was the most splendid and dignified of ceremonies.

Genji went home that evening with the Minister of the Left. The nuptial observances were conducted with great solemnity. The groom seemed to the minister and his family quite charming in his boyishness. The bride was older, and somewhat ill at ease with such a young husband.

The minister had the emperor’s complete confidence, and his principal wife, the girl’s mother, was the emperor’s sister. Both parents were therefore of the highest standing. And now they had Genji for a son-in-law. The Minister of the Right, who as grandfather of the crown prince should have been without rivals, was somehow eclipsed. The Minister of the Left had numerous children by several ladies. One of the sons, a very handsome lad by his principal wife, was already a guards lieutenant. Relations between the two ministers were not good; but the Minister of the Right found it difficult to ignore such a talented youth, to whom he offered the hand of his fourth and favorite daughter. His esteem for his new son-in-law rivaled the other minister’s esteem for Genji. To both houses the new arrangements seemed ideal.

Constantly at his father’s side, Genji spent little time at the Sanjō mansion of his bride. Fujitsubo was for him a vision of sublime beauty. If he could have someone like her — but in fact there was no one really like her. His bride too was beautiful, and she had had the advantage of every luxury; but he was not at all sure that they were meant for each other. The yearning in his young heart for the other lady was agony. Now that he had come of age, he no longer had his father’s permission to go behind her curtains. On evenings when there was music, he would play the flute to her koto and so communicate something of his longing, and take some comfort from her voice, soft through the curtains. Life at court was for him much preferable to life at Sanjō. Two or three days at Sanjō would be followed by five or six days at court. For the minister, youth seemed sufficient excuse for this neglect. He continued to be delighted with his son-in-law

The minister selected the handsomest and most accomplished of ladies to wait upon the young pair and planned the sort of diversions that were most likely to interest Genji. At the palace the emperor assigned him the apartments that had been his mother’s and took care that her retinue was not dispersed. Orders were handed down to the offices of repairs and fittings to remodel the house that had belonged to the lady’s family. The results were magnificent. The plantings and the artificial hills had always been remarkably tasteful, and the grounds now swarmed with workmen widening the lake. If only, thought Genji, he could have with him the lady he yearned for.

The sobriquet “the shining Genji,” one hears, was bestowed upon him by the Korean.

Chapter 2

The Broom Tree

“The shining Genji”: it was almost too grand a name. Yet he did not escape criticism for numerous little adventures. It seemed indeed that his indiscretions might give him a name for frivolity, and he did what he could to hide them. But his most secret affairs (such is the malicious work of the gossips) became common talk. If, on the other hand, he were to go through life concerned only for his name and avoid all these interesting and amusing little affairs, then he would be laughed to shame by the likes of the lieutenant of Katano.

Still a guards captain, Genji spent most of his time at the palace, going infrequently to the Sanjō mansion of his father-in-law. The people there feared that he might have been stained by the lavender of Kasugano Though in fact he had an instinctive dislike for the promiscuity he saw all around him, he had a way of sometimes turning against his own better inclinations and causing unhappiness.

The summer rains came, the court was in retreat, and an even longer interval than usual had passed since his last visit to Sanjō. Though the minister and his family were much put out, they spared no effort to make him feel welcome. The minister’s sons were more attentive than to the emperor himself. Genji was on particularly good terms with Tō no Chūjō. They enjoyed music together and more frivolous diversions as well. Tō no Chūjō was of an amorous nature and not at all comfortable in the apartments which his father-in-law, the Minister of the Right, had at great expense provided for him. At Sanjō with his own family, on the other hand, he took very good care of his rooms, and when Genji came and went the two of them were always together. They were a good match for each other in study and at play. Reserve quite disappeared between them.

It had been raining all day. There were fewer courtiers than usual in the royal presence. Back in his own palace quarters, also unusually quiet, Genji pulled a lamp near and sought to while away the time with his books. He had Tō no Chūjō with him. Numerous pieces of colored paper, obviously letters, lay on a shelf. Tō no Chūjō made no attempt to hide his curiosity.

“Well,” said Genji, “there are some I might let you see. But there are some I think it better not to.”

“You miss the point. The ones I want to see are precisely the ones you want to hide. The ordinary ones — I’m not much of a hand at the game, you know, but even I am up to the ordinary give and take. But the ones from ladies who think you are not doing right by them, who sit alone through an evening and wait for you to come — those are the ones I want to see.”

It was not likely that really delicate letters would be left scattered on a shelf, and it may be assumed that the papers treated so carelessly were the less important ones.

“You do have a variety of them,” said Tō no Chūjō, reading the correspondence through piece by piece. This will be from her, and this will be from her, he would say. Sometimes he guessed correctly and sometimes he was far afield, to Genji’s great amusement. Genji was brief with his replies and let out no secrets.

“It is I who should be asking to see your collection. No doubt it is huge. When I have seen it I shall be happy to throw my files open to you.”

“I fear there is nothing that would interest you.” Tō no Chūjō was in a contemplative mood. “It is with women as it is with everything else: the flawless ones are very few indeed. This is a sad fact which I have learned over the years. All manner of women seem presentable enough at first. Little notes, replies to this and that, they all suggest sensibility and cultivation. But when you begin sorting out the really superior ones you find that there are not many who have to be on your list. Each has her little tricks and she makes the most of them, getting in her slights at rivals, so broad sometimes that you almost have to blush. Hidden away by loving parents who build brilliant futures for them, they let word get out of this little talent and that little accomplishment and you are all in a stir. They are young and pretty and amiable and carefree, and in their boredom they begin to pick up a little from their elders, and in the natural course of things they begin to concentrate on one particular hobby and make something of it. A woman tells you all about it and hides the weak points and brings out the strong ones as if they were everything, and you can’t very well call her a liar. So you begin keeping company, and it is always the same. The fact is not up to the advance notices.”

Tō no Chūjō sighed,a sigh clearly based on experience. Some of what he had said, though not all, accorded with Genji’s own experience. “And have you come upon any,” said Genji, smiling, “who would seem to have nothing at all to recommend them?”

“Who would be fool enough to notice such a woman? And in any case, I should imagine that women with no merits are as rare as women with no faults. If a woman is of good family and well taken care of, then the things she is less than proud of are hidden and she gets by well enough. When you come to the middle ranks, each woman has her own little inclinations and there are thousands of ways to separate one from another. And when you come to the lowest — well, who really pays much attention?”

He appeared to know everything. Genji was by now deeply interested.

“You speak of three ranks,” he said, “but is it so easy to make the division? There are well-born ladies who fall in the world and there are people of no background who rise to the higher ranks and build themselves fine houses as if intended for them all along. How would you fit such people into your system?”

At this point two young courtiers, a guards officer and a functionary in the ministry of rites, appeared on the scene, to attend the emperor in his retreat. Both were devotees of the way of love and both were good talkers. Tō no Chūjō, as if he had been waiting for them, invited their views on the question that had just been asked. The discussion progressed, and included a number of rather unconvincing points.

“Those who have just arrived at high position,” said one of the newcomers, “do not attract the same sort of notice as those who were born to it. And those who were born to the highest rank but somehow do not have the right backing — in spirit they may be as proud and noble as ever, but they cannot hide their deficiencies. And so I think that they should both be put in your middle rank.

“There are those whose families are not quite of the highest rank but who go off and work hard in the provinces. They have their place in the world, though there are all sorts of little differences among them. Some of them would belong on anyone’s list. So it is these days. Myself, I would take a woman from a middling family over one who has rank and nothing else. Let us say someone whose father is almost but not quite a councillor. Someone who has a decent enough reputation and comes from a decent enough family and can live in some luxury. Such people can be very pleasant. There is nothing wrong with the household arrangements, and indeed a daughter can sometimes be set out in a way that dazzles you. I can think of several such women it would be hard to find fault with. When they go into court service, they are the ones the unexpected favors have a way of falling on. I have seen cases enough of it, I can tell you.’

Genji smiled. “And so a person should limit himself to girls with money?”

“That does not sound like you,” said Tō no Chūjō.

“When a woman has the highest rank and a spotless reputation,” continued the other, “but something has gone wrong with her upbringing, something is wrong in the way she puts herself forward, you wonder how it can possibly have been allowed to happen. But when all the conditions are right and the girl herself is pretty enough, she is taken for granted. There is no cause for the least surprise. Such ladies are beyond the likes of me, and so I leave them where they are, the highest of the high. There are surprisingly pretty ladies wasting away behind tangles of weeds, and hardly anyone even knows of their existence. The first surprise is hard to forget. There she is, a girl with a fat, sloppy old father and boorish brothers and a house that seems common at best. Off in the women’s rooms is a proud lady who has acquired bits and snatches of this and that. You get wind of them, however small the accomplishments may be, and they take hold of your imagination. She is not the equal of the one who has everything, of course, but she has her charm. She is not easy to pass by.”

He looked at his companion, the young man from the ministry of rites. The latter was silent, wondering if the reference might be to his sisters, just then coming into their own as subjects for conversation. Genji, it would seem, was thinking that on the highest levels there were sadly few ladies to bestow much thought upon. He was wearing several soft white singlets with an informal court robe thrown loosely over them. As he sat in the lamplight leaning against an armrest, his companions almost wished that he were a woman. Even the “highest of the high” might seem an inadequate match for him.

They talked on, of the varieties of women.

“A man sees women, all manner of them, who seem beyond reproach,” said the guards officer, “but when it comes to picking the wife who must be everything, matters are not simple. The emperor has trouble, after all, finding the minister who has all the qualifications. A man may be very wise, but no man can govern by himself. Superior is helped by subordinate, subordinate defers to superior, and so affairs proceed by agreement and concession. But when it comes to choosing the woman who is to be in charge of your house, the qualifications are altogether too many. A merit is balanced by a defect, there is this good point and that bad point, and even women who though not perfect can be made to do are not easy to find. I would not like to have you think me a profligate who has to try them all. But it is a question of the woman who must be everything, and it seems best, other things being equal, to find someone who does not require shaping and training, someone who has most of the qualifications from the start. The man who begins his search with all this in mind must be reconciled to searching for a very long time.

“He comes upon a woman not completely and in every way to his liking but he makes certain promises and finds her hard to give up. The world praises him for his honest heart and begins to note good points in the woman too; and why not? But I have seen them all, and I doubt that there are any genuinely superior specimens among them. What about you gentlemen so far above us? How is it with you when you set out to choose your ladies?

“There are those who are young enough and pretty enough and who take care of themselves as if no particle of dust were allowed to fall upon them. When they write letters they choose the most inoffensive words, and the ink is so faint a man can scarcely read them. He goes to visit, hoping for a real answer. She keeps him waiting and finally lets him have a word or two in an almost inaudible whisper. They are clever, I can tell you, at hiding their defects.

“The soft, feminine ones are likely to assume a great deal. The man seeks to please, and the result is that the woman is presently looking elsewhere. That is the first difficulty in a woman.

“In the most important matter, the matter of running his household, a man can find that his wife has too much sensibility, an elegant word and device for every occasion. But what of the too domestic sort, the wife who bustles around the house the whole day long, her hair tucked up behind her ears, no attention to her appearance, making sure that everything is in order? There are things on his mind, things he has seen and heard in his comings and goings, the private and public demeanor of his colleagues, happy things and sad things. Is he to talk of them to an outsider? Of course not. He would much prefer someone near at hand, someone who will immediately understand. A smile passes over his face, tears well up. Or some event at court has angered him, things are too much for him. What good is it to talk to such a woman? He turns his back on her, and smiles, and sighs, and murmurs something to himself.‘I beg your pardon?’ she says, finally noticing. Her blank expression is hardly what he is looking for.

“When a man picks a gentle, childlike wife, he of course must see to training her and making up for her inadequacies. Even if at times she seems a bit unsteady, he may feel that his efforts have not been wasted. When she is there beside him her gentle charm makes him forget her defects. But when he is away and sends asking her to perform various services, it becomes clear, however small the service, that she has no thoughts of her own in the matter. Her uselessness can be trying.

“I wonder if a woman who is a bit chilly and unfeeling cannot at times seem preferable.”

His manner said that he had known them all; and he sighed at his inability to hand down a firm decision.

“No, let us not worry too much about rank and beauty. Let us be satisfied if a woman is not too demanding and eccentric. It is best to settle on a quiet, steady girl. If she proves to have unusual talent and discrimination — well, count them an unexpected premium. Do not, on the other hand, worry too much about remedying her defects. If she seems steady and not given to tantrums, then the charms will emerge of their own accord.

“There are those who display a womanly reticence to the world, as if they had never heard of complaining. They seem utterly calm. And then when their thoughts are too much for them they leave behind the most horrendous notes, the most flamboyant poems, the sort of keepsakes certain to call up dreadful memories, and off they go into the mountains or to some remote seashore. When I was a child I would hear the women reading romantic stories, and I would join them in their sniffling and think it all very sad, all very profound and moving. Now I am afraid that it suggests certain pretenses.

“It is very stupid, really, to run off and leave a perfectly kind and sympathetic man. He may have been guilty of some minor dereliction, but to run off with no understanding at all of his true feelings, with no purpose other than to attract attention and hope to upset him — it is an unpleasant sort of memory to have to live with. She gets drunk with admiration for herself and there she is, a nun. When she enters her convent she is sure that she has found enlightenment and has no regrets for the vulgar world.

“Her women come to see her.‘How very touching,’ they say.‘How brave of you.’

“But she no longer feels quite as pleased with herself. The man, who has not lost his affection for her, hears of what has happened and weeps, and certain of her old attendants pass this intelligence on to her.‘He is a man of great feeling, you see. What a pity that it should have come to this.’ The woman can only brush aside her newly cropped hair to reveal a face on the edge of tears. She tries to hold them back and cannot, such are her regrets for the life she has left behind; and the Buddha is not likely to think her one who has cleansed her heart of passion. probably she is in more danger of brimstone now in this fragile vocation than if she had stayed with us in our sullied world.

“The bond between husband and wife is a strong one. Suppose the man had hunted her out and brought her back. The memory of her acts would still be there, and inevitably, sooner or later, it would be cause for rancor. When there are crises, incidents, a woman should try to overlook them, for better or for worse, and make the bond into something durable. The wounds will remain, with the woman and with the man, when there are crises such as I have described. It is very foolish for a woman to let a little dalliance upset her so much that she shows her resentment openly. He has his adventures — but if he has fond memories of their early days together, his and hers, she may be sure that she matters. A commotion means the end of everything. She should be quiet and generous, and when something comes up that quite properly arouses her resentment she should make it known by delicate hints. The man will feel guilty and with tactful guidance he will mend his ways. Too much lenience can make a woman seem charmingly docile and trusting, but it can also make her seem somewhat wanting in substance. We have had instances enough of boats abandoned to the winds and waves. Do you not agree?”

Tō no Chūjō nodded. “It may be difficult when someone you are especially fond of, someone beautiful and charming, has been guilty of an indiscretion, but magnanimity produces wonders. They may not always work, but generosity and reasonableness and patience do on the whole seem best.”

His own sister was a case in point, he was thinking, and he was somewhat annoyed to note that Genji was silent because he had fallen asleep. Meanwhile the young guards officer talked on, a dedicated student of his subject. Tō no Chūjō was determined to hear him out.

“Let us make some comparisons,” said the guardsman. “Let us think of the cabinetmaker. He shapes pieces as he feels like shaping them. They may be only playthings, with no real plan or pattern. They may all the same have a certain style for what they are — they may take on a certain novelty as times change and be very interesting. But when it comes to the genuine object, something of such undeniable value that a man wants to have it always with him — the perfection of the form announces that it is from the hand of a master.

“Or let us look at painting. There are any number of masters in the academy. It is not easy to separate the good from the bad among those who work on the basic sketches. But let color be added. The painter of things no one ever sees, of paradises, of fish in angry seas, raging beasts in foreign lands, devils and demons — the painter abandons himself to his fancies and paints to terrify and astonish. What does it matter if the results seem somewhat remote from real life? It is not so with the things we know, mountains, streams, houses near and like our own. The soft, unspoiled, wooded hills must be painted layer on layer, the details added gently, quietly, to give a sense of affectionate familiarity. And the foreground too, the garden inside the walls, the arrangement of the stones and grasses and waters. It is here that the master has his own power. There are details a lesser painter cannot imitate.

“Or let us look at calligraphy. A man without any great skill can stretch out this line and that in the cursive style and give an appearance of boldness and distinction. The man who has mastered the principles and writes with concentration may, on the other hand, have none of the eye-catching tricks; but when you take the trouble to compare the two the real thing is the real thing.

“So it is with trivialities like painting and calligraphy. How much more so with matters of the heart! I put no trust in the showy sort of affection that is quick to come forth when a suitable occasion presents itself. Let me tell you of something that happened to me a long time ago. You may find the story a touch wanton, but hear me through all the same.”

He drew close to Genji, who awoke from his slumber. Tō no Chūjō, chin in hand, sat opposite, listening with the greatest admiration and attention. There was in the young man’s manner something slightly comical, as if he were a sage expostulating upon the deepest truths of the universe, but at such times a young man is not inclined to conceal his most intimate secrets.

“It happened when I was very young, hardly more than a page. I was attracted to a woman. She was of a sort I have mentioned before, not the most beautiful in the world. In my youthful frivolity, I did not at first think of making her my wife. She was someone to visit, not someone who deserved my full attention. Other places interested me more. She was violently jealous. If only she could be a little more understanding, I thought, wanting to be away from the interminable quarreling. And on the other hand it sometimes struck me as a little sad that she should be so worried about a man of so little account as myself. In the course of time I began to mend my ways.

“For my sake, she would try to do things for which her talent and nature did not suit her, and she was determined not to seem inferior even in matters for which she had no great aptitude. She served me diligently in everything. She did not want to be guilty of the smallest thing that might go against my wishes. I had at first thought her rather strong-willed, but she proved to be docile and pliant. She thought constantly about hiding her less favorable qualities, afraid that they might put me off, and she did what she could to avoid displaying herself and causing me embarrassment. She was a model of devotion. In a word, there was nothing wrong with her — save the one thing I found so trying.

“I told myself that she was devoted to the point of fear, and that if I led her to think I might be giving her up she might be a little less suspicious and given to nagging. I had had almost all I could stand. If she really wanted to be with me and I suggested that a break was near, then she might reform. I behaved with studied coldness, and when, as always, her resentment exploded, I said to her:‘Not even the strongest bond between husband and wife can stand an unlimited amount of this sort of thing. It will eventually break, and he will not see her again. If you want to bring matters to such a pass, then go on doubting me as you have. If you would like to be with me for the years that lie ahead of us, then bear the trials as they come, difficult though they may be, and think them the way of the world. If you manage to overcome your jealousy, my affection is certain to grow. It seems likely that I will move ahead into an office of some distinction, and you will go with me and have no one you need think of as a rival.’ I was very pleased with myself. I had performed brilliantly as a preceptor.

“But she only smiled.‘Oh, it won’t be all that much trouble to put up with your want of consequence and wait till you are important. It will be much harder to pass the months and the years in the barely discernible hope that you will settle down and mend your fickle ways. Maybe you are right. Maybe this is the time to part.’

“I was furious, and I said so, and she answered in kind. Then, suddenly, she took my hand and bit my finger.

“I reproved her somewhat extravagantly.‘You insult me, and now you have wounded me. Do you think I can go to court like this? I am, as you say, a person of no consequence, and now, mutilated as I am, what is to help me get ahead in the world? There is nothing left for me but to become a monk.’ That meeting must be our last, I said, and departed, flexing my wounded finger.

“‘I count them over, the many things between us.

One finger does not, alas, count the sum of your failures.

“I left the verse behind, adding that now she had nothing to complain about.

“She had a verse of her own. There were tears in her eyes.

“‘I have counted them up myself, be assured, my failures.

For one bitten finger must all be bitten away?’

“I did not really mean to leave her, but my days were occupied in wanderings here and there, and I sent her no message. Then, late one evening toward the end of the year — it was an evening of rehearsals for the Kamo festival — a sleet was falling as we all started for home. Home. It came to me that I really had nowhere to go but her house. It would be no pleasure to sleep alone at the palace, and if I visited a woman of sensibility I would be kept freezing while she admired the snow. I would go look in upon her, and see what sort of mood she might be in. And so, brushing away the sleet, I made my way to her house. I felt just a little shy, but told myself that the sleet melting from my coat should melt her resentment. There was a dim light turned toward the wall, and a comfortable old robe of thick silk lay spread out to warm. The curtains were raised, everything suggested that she was waiting for me. I felt that I had done rather well.

“But she was nowhere in sight. She had gone that evening to stay with her parents, said the women who had been left behind. I had been feeling somewhat unhappy that she had maintained such a chilly silence, sending no amorous poems or queries. I wondered, though not very seriously, whether her shrillness and her jealousy might not have been intended for the precise purpose of disposing of me; but now I found clothes laid out with more attention to color and pattern than usual, exactly as she knew I liked them. She was seeing to my needs even now that I had apparently discarded her.

“And so, despite this strange state of affairs, I was convinced that she did not mean to do without me. I continued to send messages, and she neither protested nor gave an impression of wanting to annoy me by staying out of sight, and in her answers she was always careful not to anger or hurt me. Yet she went on saying that she could not forgive the behavior I had been guilty of in the past. If I would settle down she would be very happy to keep company with me. Sure that we would not part, I thought I would give her another lesson or two. I told her I had no intention of reforming, and made a great show of independence. She was sad, I gathered, and then without warning she died. And the game I had been playing to seem rather inappropriate.

“She was a woman of such accomplishments that I could leave everything to her. I continue to regret what I had done. I could discuss trivial things with her and important things. For her skills in dyeing she might have been compared to Princess Tatsuta and the comparison would not have seemed ridiculous, and in sewing she could have held her own with princess Tanabata.”

The young man sighed and sighed again.

Tō no Chūjō nodded. “Leaving her accomplishments as a seamstress aside, I should imagine you were looking for someone as faithful as Princess Tanabata. And if she could embroider like princess Tatsuta, well, it does not seem likely that you will come on her equal again. When the colors of a robe do not match the seasons, the flowers of spring and the autumn tints, when they are somehow vague and muddy, then the whole effort is as futile as the dew. So it is with women. It is not easy in this world to find a perfect wife. We are all pursuing the ideal and failing to find it.”

The guards officer talked on. “There was another one. I was seeing her at about the same time. She was more amiable than the one I have just described to you. Everything about her told of refinement. Her poems, her handwriting when she dashed off a letter, the koto she plucked a note on — everything seemed right. She was clever with her hands and clever with words. And her looks were adequate. The jealous woman’s house had come to seem the place I could really call mine, and I went in secret to the other woman from time to time and became very fond of her. The jealous one died, I wondered what to do next. I was sad, of course, but a man cannot go on being sad forever. I visited the other more often. But there was something a little too aggressive, a little too sensuous about her. As I came to know her well and to think her a not very dependable sort, I called less often. And I learned that I was not her only secret visitor.

“One bright moonlit autumn night I chanced to leave court with a friend. He got in with me as I started for my father’s. He was much concerned, he said, about a house where he was sure someone would be waiting. It happened to be on my way.

“Through gaps in a neglected wall I could see the moon shining on a pond. It seemed a pity not to linger a moment at a spot where the moon seemed so much at home, and so I climbed out after my friend. It would appear that this was not his first visit. He proceeded briskly to the veranda and took a seat near the gate and looked up at the moon for a time. The chrysanthemums were at their best, very slightly touched by the frost, and the red leaves were beautiful in the autumn wind. He took out a flute and played a tune on it, and sang’The Well of Asuka’ and several other songs. Blending nicely with the flute came the mellow tones of a japanese koto. It had been tuned in advance, apparently, and was waiting. The ritsu scale had a pleasant modern sound to it, right for a soft, womanly touch from behind blinds, and right for the clear moonlight too. I can assure you that the effect was not at all unpleasant.

“Delighted, my friend went up to the blinds.

“‘I see that no one has yet broken a path through your fallen leaves,’ he said, somewhat sarcastically. He broke off a chrysanthemum and pushed it under the blinds.

“‘Uncommonly fine this house, for moon, for koto.

Does it bring to itself indifferent callers as well?

“‘Excuse me for asking. You must not be parsimonious with your music. You have a by no means indifferent listener.’

“He was very playful indeed. The woman’s voice, when she offered a verse of her own, was suggestive and equally playful.

“‘No match the leaves for the angry winter winds.

Am I to detain the flute that joins those winds?’

“Naturally unaware of resentment so near at hand, she changed to a Chinese koto in an elegant banjiki. Though I had to admit that she had talent, I was very annoyed. It is amusing enough, if you let things go no further, to exchange jokes from time to time with fickle and frivolous ladies; but as a place to take seriously, even for an occasional visit, matters here seemed to have gone too far. I made the events of that evening my excuse for leaving her.

“I see, as I look back on the two affairs, that young though I was the second of the two women did not seem the kind to put my trust in. I have no doubt that the wariness will grow as the years go by. The dear, uncertain ones — the dew that will fall when the hagi branch is bent, the speck of frost that will melt when it is lifted from the bamboo leaf — no doubt they can be interesting for a time. You have seven years to go before you are my age,” he said to Genji. “Just wait and you will understand. perhaps you can take the advice of a person of no importance, and avoid the uncertain ones. They stumble sooner or later, and do a man’s name no good when they do.”

Tō no Chūjō nodded,as always. Genji, though he only smiled, seemed to agree.

“Neither of the tales you have given us has been a very happy one,” he said.

“Let me tell you a story about a foolish woman I once knew,” said Tō no Chūjō.” I was seeing her in secret, and I did not think that the affair was likely to last very long. But she was very beautiful, and as time passed I came to think that I must go on seeing her, if only infrequently. I sensed that she had come to depend on me. I expected signs of jealousy. There were none. She did not seem to feel the resentment a man expects from a woman he visits so seldom. She waited quietly, morning and night. My affection grew, and I let it be known that she did indeed have a man she could depend on. There was something very appealing about her (she was an orphan), letting me know that I was all she had.

“She seemed content. Untroubled, I stayed away for rather a long time. Then — I heard of it only later — my wife found a roundabout way to be objectionable. I did not know that I had become a cause of pain. I had desperately lonely and worried for the child she had borne. One day she sent me a letter attached to a wild carnation.” His voice trembled.

“And what did it say?” Genji urged him on.

“Nothing very remarkable. I do remember her poem, though:

“‘The fence of the mountain rustic may fall to the ground.

Rest gently, O dew, upon the wild carnation.’

“I went to see her again. The talk was open and easy, as always, but she seemed pensive as she looked out at the dewy garden from the neglected house. She seemed to be weeping, joining her laments to the songs of the autumn insects. It could have been a scene from an old romance. I whispered a verse:

“‘No bloom in this wild array would I wish to slight.

But dearest of all to me is the wild carnation.’

“Her carnation had been the child. I made it clear that my own was the lady herself, the wild carnation no dust falls upon.

“She answered:

“‘Dew wets the sleeve that brushes the wild carnation.

The tempest rages. Now comes autumn too.’

“She spoke quietly all the same, and she did not seem really angry. She did shed a tear from time to time, but she seemed ashamed of herself, and anxious to avoid difficult moments. I went away feeling much relieved. It was clear that she did not want to show any sign of anger at my neglect. And so once more I stayed away for rather a long time.

“And when I looked in on her again she had disappeared.

“If she is still living, it must be in very unhappy circumstances. She need not have suffered so if she had asserted herself a little more in the days when we were together. She need not have put up with my absences, and I would have seen to her needs over the years. The child was a very pretty little girl. I was fond of her, and I have not been able to find any trace of her.

“She must be listed among your reticent ones, I suppose? She let me have no hint of jealousy. Unaware of what was going on, I had no intention of giving her up. But the result was hopeless yearning, quite as if I had given her up. I am beginning to forget; and how is it with her? She must remember me sometimes, I should think, with regret, because she must remember too that it was not I who abandoned her. She was, I fear, not the sort of woman one finds it possible to keep for very long.

“Your jealous woman must be interesting enough to remember, but she must have been a bit wearying. And the other one, all her skill on the koto cannot have been much compensation for the undependability. And the one I have described to you — her very lack of jealousy might have brought a suspicion that there was another man in her life. Well, such is the way with the world — you cannot give your unqualified approval to any of them. Where are you to go for the woman who has no defects and who combines the virtues of all three? You might choose Our Lady of Felicity — and find yourself married to unspeakable holiness.”

The others laughed.

Tō no Chūjō turned to the young man from the ministry of rites. “You must have interesting stories too.”

“Oh, please. How could the lowest of the low hope to hold your attention?”

“You must not keep us waiting.”

“Let me think a minute.” He seemed to be sorting out memories.

“When I was still a student I knew a remarkably wise woman. She was the sort worth consulting about public affairs, and she had a good mind too for the little tangles that come into your private life. Her erudition would have put any ordinary sage to shame. In a word, I was awed into silence.

“I was studying under a learned scholar. I had heard that he had many daughters, and on some occasion or other I had made the acquaintance of this one. The father learned of the affair. Taking out wedding cups, he made reference, among other things, to a Chinese poem about the merits of an impoverished wife. Although not exactly enamored of the woman, I had developed a certain fondness for her, and felt somewhat deferential toward the father. She was most attentive to my needs. I learned many estimable things from her, to add to my store of erudition and help me with my work. Her letters were lucidity itself, in the purest Chinese. None of this japanese nonsense for her. I found it hard to think of giving her up, and under her tutelage I managed to turn out a few things in passable Chinese myself. And yet — though I would not wish to seem wanting in gratitude, it is undeniable that a man of no learning is somewhat daunted at the thought of being forever his wife’s inferior. So it is in any case with an ignorant one like me; and what possible use could you gentlemen have for so formidable a wife? A stupid, senseless affair, a man tells himself, and yet he is dragged on against his will, as if there might have been a bond in some other life.”

“She seems a most unusual woman.” Genji and Tō no Chūjō were eager to hear more.

Quite aware that the great gentlemen were amusing themselves at his expense, he smiled somewhat impishly. “One day when I had not seen her for rather a long time I had some reason or other for calling. She was not in the room where we had been in the habit of meeting. She insisted on talking to me through a very obtrusive screen. I thought she might be sulking, and it all seemed very silly. And then again — if she was going to be so petty, I might have my excuse for leaving her. But no. She was not a person to let her jealousy show. She knew too much of the world. Her explanation of what was happening poured forth at great length, all of it very well reasoned.

“‘I have been indisposed with a malady known as coryza. Discommoded to an uncommon degree, I have been imbibing of a steeped potion made from bulbaceous herbs. Because of the noisome odor, I will not find it possible to admit of greater propinquity. If you have certain random matters for my attention, perhaps you can deposit the relevant materials where you are.’

“‘Is that so?’ I said. I could think of nothing else to say.

“I started to leave. perhaps feeling a little lonely, she called after me, somewhat shrilly.‘When I have disencumbered myself of this aroma, we can meet once more.

“It seemed cruel to rush off, but the time was not right for a quiet visit. And it was as she said: her odor was rather high. Again I started out, pausing long enough to compose a verse:

“‘The spider must have told you I would come.

Then why am I asked to keep company with garlic?’

“I did not take time to accuse her of deliberately putting me off.

“She was quicker than I. She chased after me with an answer.

“‘Were we two who kept company every night,

What would be wrong with garlic in the daytime?’

“You must admit she was quick with her answers.” He had quietly finished his story.

The two gentlemen, Genji and his friend, would have none of it. “A complete fabrication, from start to finish. Where could you find such a woman? Better to have a quiet evening with a witch.” They thought it an outrageous story, and asked if he could come up with nothing more acceptable.

“Surely you would not wish for a more unusual sort of story?”

The guards officer took up again. “In women as in men, there is no one worse than the one who tries to display her scanty knowledge in full. It is among the least endearing of accomplishments for a woman to have delved into the Three Histories and the Five Classics; and who, on the other hand, can go through life without absorbing something of public affairs and private? A reasonably alert woman does not need to be a scholar to see and hear a great many things. The very worst are the ones who scribble off Chinese characters at such a rate that they fill a good half of letters where they are most out of place, letters to other women.‘What a bore,’ you say. ‘If only she had mastered a few of the feminine things.’ She cannot of course intend it to be so, but the words read aloud seem muscular and unyielding, and in the end hopelessly mannered. I fear that even our highest of the high are too often guilty of the fault.

“Then there is the one who fancies herself a poetess. She immerses herself in the anthologies, and brings antique references into her very first line, interesting enough in themselves but inappropriate. A man has had enough with that first line, but he is called heartless if he does not answer, and cannot claim the honors if he does not answer in a similar vein. On the Day of the Iris he is frantic to get off to court and has no eye for irises, and there she is with subtle references to iris roots. On the Day of the Chrysanthemum, his mind has no room for anything but the Chinese poem he must come up with in the course of the day, and there she is with something about the dew upon the chrysanthemum. A poem that might have been amusing and even moving on a less frantic day has been badly timed and must therefore be rejected. A woman who dashes off a poem at an unpoetic moment cannot be called a woman of taste.

“For someone who is not alive to the particular quality of each moment and each occasion, it is safer not to make a great show of taste and elegance; and from someone who is alive to it all, a man wants restraint. She should feign a certain ignorance, she should keep back a little of what she is prepared to say.”

Through all the talk Genji’s thoughts were on a single lady. His heart was filled with her. She answered every requirement, he thought. She had none of the defects, was guilty of none of the excesses, that had emerged from the discussion.

The talk went on and came to no conclusion, and as the rainy night gave way to dawn the stories became more and more improbable.

It appeared that the weather would be fine. Fearing that his father-in-law might resent his secluding himself in the palace, Genji set off for Sanjō. The mansion itself, his wife — every detail was admirable and in the best of taste. Nowhere did he find a trace of disorder. Here was a lady whom his friends must count among the truly dependable ones, the indispensable ones. And yet — she was too finished in her perfection, she was so cool and self-possessed that she made him uncomfortable. He turned to playful conversation with Chūnagon and Nakatsukasa and other pretty young women among her attendants. Because it was very warm, he loosened his dress, and they thought him even handsomer.

The minister came to pay his respects. Seeing Genji thus in dishabille, he made his greetings from behind a conveniently placed curtain. Though somewhat annoyed at having to receive such a distinguished visitor on such a warm day, Genji made it clear to the women that they were not to smile at his discomfort. He was a very calm, self-possessed young gentleman.

As evening approached, the women reminded him that his route from the palace had transgressed upon the domain of the Lord of the Center. He must not spend the night here.

“To be sure. But my own house lies in the same direction. And I am very tired.” He lay down as if he meant in spite of everything to stay the night.

“It simply will not do, my lord.”

“The governor of Kii here,” said one of Genji’s men, pointing to another. “He has dammed the Inner River and brought it into his garden, and the waters are very cool, very pleasant.”

“An excellent idea. I really am very tired, and perhaps we can send ahead to see whether we might drive into the garden.”

There were no doubt all sorts of secret places to which he could have gone to avoid the taboo. He had come to Sanjō, and after a considerable absence. The minister might suspect that he had purposely chosen a night on which he must leave early.

The governor of Kii was cordial enough with his invitation, but when he withdrew he mentioned certain misgivings to Genji’s men. Ritual purifi- cation, he said, had required all the women to be away from his father’s house, and unfortunately they were all crowded into his own, a cramped enough place at best. He feared that Genji would be inconvenienced.

“Nothing of the sort,” said Genji, who had overheard. “It is good to have people around. There is nothing worse than a night away from home with no ladies about. just let me have a little comer behind their curtains.”

“If that is what you want,” said his men, “then the governor’s place should be perfect.”

And so they sent runners ahead. Genji set off immediately, though in secret, thinking that no great ceremony was called for. He did not tell the minister where he was going, and took only his nearest retainers. The governor grumbled that they were in rather too much of a hurry. No one listened.

The east rooms of the main hall had been cleaned and made presentable. The waters were as they had been described, a most pleasing arrangement. A fence of wattles, of a deliberately rustic appearance, enclosed the garden, and much care had gone into the plantings. The wind was cool. Insects were humming, one scarcely knew where, fireflies drew innumerable lines of light, and all in all the time and the place could not have been more to his liking. His men were already tippling, out where they could admire a brook flowing under a gallery. The governor seemed to have “hurried off for viands.” Gazing calmly about him, Genji concluded that the house would be of the young guardsman’s favored inbetween category. Having heard that his host’s stepmother, who would be in residence, was a high-spirited lady, he listened for signs of her presence. There were signs of someone’s presence immediately to the west. He heard a swishing of silk and young voices that were not at all displeasing. Young ladies seemed to be giggling self-consciously and trying to contain themselves. The shutters were raised, it seemed, but upon a word from the governor they were lowered. There was a faint light over the sliding doors. Genji went for a look, but could find no opening large enough to see through. Listening for a time, he concluded that the women had gathered in the main room, next to his.

The whispered discussion seemed to be about Genji himself.

“He is dreadfully serious, they say, and has made a fine match for himself. And still so young. Don’t you imagine he might be a little lonely? But they say he finds time for a quiet little adventure now and then.”

Genji was startled. There was but one lady on his mind, day after day. So this was what the gossips were saying; and what if, in it all, there was evidence that rumors of his real love had spread abroad? But the talk seemed harmless enough, and after a time he wearied of it. Someone misquoted a poem he had sent to his cousin Asagao, attached to a morning glory. Their standards seemed not of the most rigorous. A misquoted poem for every occasion. He feared he might be disappointed when he saw the woman.

The governor had more lights set out at the eaves, and turned up those in the room. He had refreshments brought.

“And are the curtains all hung?” asked Genji. “You hardly qualify as a host if they are not.”

“And what will you feast upon?” rejoined the governor, somewhat stiffly. “Nothing so very elaborate, I fear.”

Genji found a cool place out near the veranda and lay down. His men were quiet. Several young boys were present, all very sprucely dressed, sons of the host and of his father, the governor of Iyo. There was one particularly attractive lad of perhaps twelve or thirteen. Asking who were the sons of whom, Genji learned that the boy was the younger brother of the host’s stepmother, son of a guards officer no longer living. His father had had great hopes for the boy and had died while he was still very young. He had come to this house upon his sister’s marriage to the governor of Iyo. He seemed to have some aptitude for the classics, said the host, and was of a quiet, pleasant disposition; but he was young and without backing, and his prospects at court were not good.

“A pity. The sister, then, is your stepmother?”

“Yes.”

“A very young stepmother. My father had thought of inviting her to court. He was asking just the other day what might have happened to her. Life,” he added with a solemnity rather beyond his years, “is uncertain.”

“It happened almost by accident. Yes, you are right: it is a very uncertain world, and it always has been, particularly for women. They are like bits of driftwood.”

“Your father is no doubt very alert to her needs. perhaps, indeed, one has trouble knowing who is the master?”

“He quite worships her. The rest of us are not entirely happy with the arrangements he has made.”

“But you cannot expect him to let you young gallants have everything. He has a name in that regard himself, you know. And where might the lady be?”

“They have all been told to spend the night in the porter’s lodge, but they don’t seem in a hurry to go.”

The wine was having its effect, and his men were falling asleep on the veranda.

Genji lay wide awake, not pleased at the prospect of sleeping alone. He sensed that there was someone in the room to the north. It would be the lady of whom they had spoken. Holding his breath, he went to the door and listened.

“Where are you?” The pleasantly husky voice was that of the boy who had caught his eye.

“Over here.” It would be the sister. The two voices, very sleepy, resembled each other. “And where is our guest? I had thought he might be somewhere near, but he seems to have gone away.”

“He’s in the east room.” The boy’s voice was low. “ I saw him. He is every bit as handsome as everyone says.”

“If it were daylight I might have a look at him myself.” The sister yawned, and seemed to draw the bedclothes over her face.

Genji was a little annoyed. She might have questioned her brother more energetically.

“I’ll sleep out toward the veranda. But we should have more light.” The boy turned up the lamp. The lady apparently lay at a diagonal remove from Genji. “And where is Chūjō? I don’t like being left alone.”

“She went to have a bath. She said she’d be right back.” He spoke from out near the veranda.

All was quiet again. Genji slipped the latch open and tried the doors. They had not been bolted. A curtain had been set up just inside, and in the dim light he could make out Chinese chests and other furniture scattered in some disorder. He made his way through to her side. She lay by herself, a slight little figure. Though vaguely annoyed at being disturbed, she evidently took him for the woman Chūjō until he pulled back the covers.

“I heard you summoning a captain,” he said, “and I thought my prayers over the months had been answered.

She gave a little gasp. It was muffled by the bedclothes and no one else heard.

“You are perfectly correct if you think me unable to control myself. But I wish you to know that I have been thinking of you for a very long time. And the fact that I have finally found my opportunity and am taking advantage of it should show that my feelings are by no means shallow.”

His manner was so gently persuasive that devils and demons could not have gainsaid him. The lady would have liked to announce to the world that a strange man had invaded her boudoir.

“I think you have mistaken me for someone else,” she said, outraged, though the remark was under her breath.

The little figure, pathetically fragile and as if on the point of expiring from the shock, seemed to him very beautiful.

“I am driven by thoughts so powerful that a mistake is completely out of the question. It is cruel of you to pretend otherwise. I promise you that I will do nothing unseemly. I must ask you to listen to a little of what is on my mind.”

She was so small that he lifted her easily. As he passed through the doors to his own room, he came upon the Chūjō who had been summoned earlier. He called out in surprise. Surprised in turn, Chūjō peered into the darkness. The perfume that came from his robes like a cloud of smoke told her who he was. She stood in confusion, unable to speak. Had he been a more ordinary intruder she might have ripped her mistress away by main force. But she would not have wished to raise an alarm all through the house.

She followed after, but Genji was quite unmoved by her pleas.

“Come for her in the morning,” he said, sliding the doors closed.

The lady was bathed in perspiration and quite beside herself at the thought of what Chūjō, and the others too, would be thinking. Genji had to feel sorry for her. Yet the sweet words poured forth, the whole gamut of pretty devices for making a woman surrender.

She was not to be placated. “Can it be true? Can I be asked to believe that you are not making fun of me? Women of low estate should have husbands of low estate.”

He was sorry for her and somewhat ashamed of himself, but his answer was careful and sober. “You take me for one of the young profligates you see around? I must protest. I am very young and know nothing of the estates which concern you so. You have heard of me, surely, and you must know that I do not go in for adventures. I must ask what unhappy entanglement imposes this upon me. You are making a fool of me, and nothing should surprise me, not even the tumultuous emotions that do in fact surprise me.”

But now his very splendor made her resist. He might think her obstinate and insensitive, but her unfriendliness must make him dismiss her from further consideration. Naturally soft and pliant, she was suddenly firm. It was as with the young bamboo: she bent but was not to be broken. She was weeping. He had his hands full but would not for the world have missed the experience.

“Why must you so dislike me?” he asked with a sigh, unable to stop the weeping. “Don’t you know that the unexpected encounters are the ones we were fated for? Really, my dear, you do seem to know altogether too little of the world.”

“If I had met you before I came to this,” she replied, and he had to admit the truth of it, “then I might have consoled myself with the thought — it might have been no more than self-deception, of course — that you would someday come to think fondly of me. But this is hopeless, worse than I can tell you. Well, it has happened. Say no to those who ask if you have seen me.”

One may imagine that he found many kind promises with which to comfort her.

The first cock was crowing and Genji’s men were awake.

“Did you sleep well? I certainly did.”

“Let’s get the carriage ready.”

Some of the women were heard asking whether people who were avoiding taboos were expected to leave again in the middle of the night.

Genji was very unhappy. He feared he could not find an excuse for another meeting. He did not see how he could visit her, and he did not see how they could write. Chūjō came out, also very unhappy. He let the lady go and then took her back again.

“How shall I write to you? Your feelings and my own — they are not shallow, and we may expect deep memories. Has anything ever been so strange?” He was in tears, which made him yet handsomer. The cocks were now crowing insistently. He was feeling somewhat harried as he composed his farewell verse:

“Why must they startle with their dawn alarums

When hours are yet required to thaw the ice?”

The lady was ashamed of herself that she had caught the eye of a man so far above her. His kind words had little effect. She was thinking of her husband, whom for the most part she considered a clown and a dolt. She trembled to think that a dream might have told him of the night’s happenings.

This was the verse with which she replied:

“Day has broken without an end to my tears.

To my cries of sorrow are added the calls of the cocks.”

It was lighter by the moment. He saw her to her door, for the house was coming to life. A barrier had fallen between them. In casual court dress, he leaned for a time against the south railing and looked out at the garden. Shutters were being raised along the west side of the house. Women seemed to be looking out at him, beyond a low screen at the veranda. He no doubt brought shivers of delight. The moon still bright in the dawn sky added to the beauty of the morning. The sky, without heart itself, can at these times be friendly or sad, as the beholder sees it. Genji was in anguish. He knew that there would be no way even to exchange notes. He cast many a glance backward as he left.

At Sanjō once more, he was unable to sleep. If the thought that they would not meet again so pained him, what must it do to the lady? She was no beauty, but she had seemed pretty and cultivated. Of the middling rank, he said to himself. The guards officer who had seen them all knew what he was talking about.

Spending most of his time now at Sanjō, he thought sadly of the unapproachable lady. At last he summoned her stepson, the governor of Kii.

“The boy I saw the other night, your foster uncle. He seemed a promising lad. I think I might have a place for him. I might even introduce him to my father.”

“Your gracious words quite overpower me. Perhaps I should take the matter up with his sister.”

Genji’s heart leaped at the mention of the lady. “Does she have children?”

“No. She and my father have been married for two years now, but I gather that she is not happy. Her father meant to send her to court.”

“How sad for her. Rumor has it that she is a beauty. Might rumor be correct?”

“Mistaken, I fear. But of course stepsons do not see a great deal of stepmothers.”

Several days later he brought the boy to Genji. Examined in detail the boy was not perfect, but he had considerable charm and grace. Genji addressed him in a most friendly manner, which both confused and pleased him. Questioning him about his sister, Genji did not learn a great deal. The answers were ready enough while they were on safe ground, but the boy’s self-possession was a little disconcerting. Genji hinted rather broadly at what had taken place. The boy was startled. He guessed the truth but was not old enough to pursue the matter.

Genji gave him a letter for his sister. Tears came to her eyes. How much had her brother been told? she wondered, spreading the letter to hide her flushed cheeks.

It was very long, and concluded with a poem:

“I yearn to dream again the dream of that night.

The nights go by in lonely wakefulness.

“There are no nights of sleep.”

The hand was splendid, but she could only weep at the yet stranger turn her life had taken.

The next day Genji sent for the boy.

Where was her answer? the boy asked his sister.

“Tell him you found no one to give his letter to.”

“Oh, please.” The boy smiled knowingly. “How can I tell him that? I have learned enough to be sure there is no mistake.”

She was horrified. It was clear that Genji had told everything.

“I don’t know why you must always be so clever. Perhaps it would be better if you didn’t go at all.”

“But he sent for me.” And the boy departed.

The governor of Kii was beginning to take an interest in his pretty young stepmother, and paying insistent court. His attention turned to the brother, who became his frequent companion.

“I waited for you all day yesterday,” said Genji. “Clearly I am not as much on your mind as you are on mine.”

The boy flushed.

“Where is her answer?” And when the boy told him: “A fine messenger. I had hoped for something better.”

There were other letters.

“But didn’t you know?” he said to the boy. “I knew her before that old man she married. She thought me feeble and useless, it seems, and looked for a stouter support. Well, she may spurn me, but you needn’t. You will be my son. The gentleman you are looking to for help won’t be with us long.”

The boy seemed to be thinking what a nuisance his sister’s husband was. Genji was amused.

He treated the boy like a son, making him a constant companion, giving him clothes from his own wardrobe, taking him to court. He continued to write to the lady. She feared that with so inexperienced a messenger the secret might leak out and add suspicions of promiscuity to her other worries. These were very grand messages, but something more in keeping with her station seemed called for. Her answers were stiff and formal when she answered at all. She could not forget his extraordinary good looks and elegance, so dimly seen that night. But she belonged to another, and nothing was to be gained by trying to interest him. His longing was undiminished. He could not forget how touchingly fragile and confused she had seemed. With so many people around, another invasion of her boudoir was not likely to go unnoticed, and the results would be sad.

One evening after he had been at court for some days he found an excuse: his mansion again lay in a forbidden direction. Pretending to set off for Sanjō, he went instead to the house of the governor of Kii. The governor was delighted, thinking that those well-designed brooks and lakes had made an impression. Genji had consulted with the boy, always in earnest attendance. The lady had been informed of the visit. She must admit that they seemed powerful, the urges that forced him to such machinations. But if she were to receive him and display herself openly, what could she expect save the anguish of the other night, a repetition of that nightmare? No, the shame would be too much.

The brother having gone off upon a summons from Genji, she called several of her women. “I think it might be in bad taste to stay too near. I am not feeling at all well, and perhaps a massage might help, somewhere far enough away that we won’t disturb him.”

The woman Chūjō had rooms on a secluded gallery. They would be her refuge.

It was as she had feared. Genji sent his men to bed early and dispatched his messenger. The boy could not find her. He looked everywhere and finally, at the end of his wits, came upon her in the gallery.

He was almost in tears. “But he will think me completely useless.”

“And what do you propose to be doing? You are a child, and it is quite improper for you to be carrying such messages. Tell him I have not been feeling well and have kept some of my women to massage me. You should not be here. They will think it very odd.”

She spoke with great firmness, but her thoughts were far from as firm. How happy she might have been if she had not made this unfortunate marriage, and were still in the house filled with memories of her dead parents. Then she could have awaited his visits, however infrequent. And the coldness she must force herself to display — he must think her quite unaware of her place in the world. She had done what she thought best, and she was in anguish. Well, it all was hard fact, about which she had no choice. She must continue to play the cold and insensitive woman.

Genji lay wondering what blandishments the boy might be using. He was not sanguine, for the boy was very young. Presently he came back to report his mission a failure. What an uncommonly strong woman! Genji feared he must seem a bit feckless beside her. He heaved a deep sigh. This evidence of despondency had the boy on the point of tears.

Genji sent the lady a poem:

“I wander lost in the Sonohara moorlands,

For I did not know the deceiving ways of the broom tree.

“How am I to describe my sorrow?”

She too lay sleepless. This was her answer:

“Here and not here, I lie in my shabby hut.

Would that I might like the broom tree vanish away.”

The boy traveled back and forth with messages, a wish to be helpful driving sleep from his thoughts. His sister beseeched him to consider what the others might think.

Genji’s men were snoring away. He lay alone with his discontent. This unique stubbornness was no broom tree. It refused to vanish away. The stubbornness was what interested him. But he had had enough. Let her do as she wished. And yet — not even this simple decision was easy.

“At least take me to her.”

“She is shut up in a very dirty room and there are all sorts of women with her. I do not think it would be wise.” The boy would have liked to be more helpful.

“Well, you at least must not abandon me.” Genji pulled the boy down beside him.

The boy was delighted, such were Genji’s youthful charms. Genji, for his part, or so one is informed, found the boy more attractive than his chilly sister.

Chapter 3

The Shell of the Locust

Genji lay sleepless.

“I am not used to such treatment. Tonight I have for the first time seen how a woman can treat a man. The shock and the shame are such that I do not know how I can go on living.”

The boy was in tears, which made him even more charming. The slight form, the not too long hair — was it Genji’s imagination that he was much like his sister? The resemblance was very affecting, even if imagined. It would be undignified to make an issue of the matter and seek the woman out, and so Genji passed the night in puzzled resentment. The boy found him less friendly than usual.

Genji left before daylight. Very sad, thought the boy, lonely without him.

The lady too passed a difficult night. There was no further word from Genji. It seemed that he had had enough of her. She would not be happy if he had in fact given her up, but with half her mind she dreaded another visit. It would be as well to have an end of the affair. Yet she went on grieving.

For Genji there was gnawing dissatisfaction. He could not forget her, and he feared he was making a fool of himself.

“I am in a sad state,” he said to the boy. “I try to forget her, and I cannot. Do you suppose you might contrive another meeting?”

It would be difficult, but the boy was delighted even at this sort of attention. With childish eagerness he watched for an opportunity. Pres- ently the governor of Kii had to go off to his province. The lady had nothing to do through the long twilight hours. Under cover of darkness, the boy took Genji to the governor’s mansion in his own carriage. Genji had certain misgivings. His guide was after all a mere child. But this was no time for hesitation. Dressed inconspicuously, he urged the boy on, lest they arrive after the gates were barred. The carriage was brought in through a back gate and Genji dismounted.

So young a boy attracted little attention and indeed little deference from the guards. He left Genji at an east door to the main hall. He pounded on the south shutters and went inside.

“Shut it, shut it!” shrieked the women. “The whole world can see us.”

“But why do you have them closed on such a warm evening?”

“The lady from the west wing has been here since noon. They have been at Go.”

Hoping to see them at the Go board, Genji slipped from his hiding place and made his way through the door and the blinds. The shutter through which the boy had gone was still raised. Genji could see through to the west. One panel of a screen just inside had been folded back, and the curtains, which should have shielded off the space beyond, had been thrown over their frames, perhaps because of the heat. The view was unobstructed.

There was a lamp near the women. The one in silhouette with her back against a pillar — would she be the one on whom his heart was set? He looked first at her. She seemed to have on a purple singlet with a woven pattern, and over it a cloak of which the color and material were not easy to determine. She was a small, rather ordinary lady with delicate features. She evidently wanted to conceal her face even from the girl opposite, and she kept her thin little hands tucked in her sleeves. Her opponent was facing east, and Genji had a full view of her face. Over a singlet of white gossamer she had thrown a purplish cloak, and both garments were somewhat carelessly open all the way to the band of the red trousers. She was very handsome, tall and plump and of a fair complexion, and the lines of her head and forehead were strong and pleasing. It was a sunny face, with a beguiling cheerfulness about the eyes and mouth. Though not particularly long, the hair was rich and thick, and very beautiful where it fell about the shoulders. He could detect no marked flaws, and saw why her father, the governor of Iyo, so cherished her. It might help, to be sure, if she were just a little quieter. Yet she did not seem to be merely silly. She brimmed with good spirits as she placed a stone upon a dead spot to signal the end of the game.

“Just a minute, if you please,” said the other very calmly. “It is not quite over. You will see that we have a kō to get out of the way first.”

“I’ve lost, I’ve lost. Let’s just see what I have in the corners.” She counted up on her fingers. “Ten, twenty, thirty, forty.” She would have had no trouble, he thought, taking the full count of the baths of Iyo — though her manner might have been just a touch inelegant.

The other woman, a model of demureness, kept her face hidden. Gazing at her, Genji was able to make out the details of the profile. The eyelids seemed a trifle swollen, the lines of the nose were somewhat erratic, and there was a weariness, a want of luster, about the face. It was, one had to admit, a little on the plain side. Yet she clearly paid attention to her appearance, and there were details likely to draw the eye to a subtler sensibility than was evident in her lively companion. The latter, very engaging indeed, laughed ever more happily. There was no denying the bright gaiety, and in her way she was interesting enough. A shallow, superficial thing, no doubt, but to his less than pure heart she seemed a prize not to be flung away. All the ladies he knew were so prim and proper. This was the first time he had seen one so completely at her ease. He felt a little guilty, but not so guilty that he would have turned away had he not heard the boy coming back. He slipped outside.

Apologetic that his master should still be at the beginning, the boy said that the unexpected guest had interfered with his plans.

“You mean to send me off frustrated once more? It is really too much.”

“No, sir. But I must ask you to wait until the other lady has gone. I’ll arrange everything then, I promise you.”

Things seemed to be arranging themselves. The boy was very young, but he was calmly self-possessed and had a good eye for the significant things.

The game of Go was apparently over. There was a stir inside, and a sound as of withdrawing.

“Where will that boy have gone?” Now there was a banging of shutters. “Let’s get the place closed up.”

“No one seems to be stirring,” said Genji after a time. “Go and do your best.”

The boy knew well enough that it was not his sister’s nature to encourage frivolity. He must admit Genji when there was almost no one with her.

“Is the guest still here?” asked Genji. “I would like a glimpse of her.”

“Quite impossible. There are curtains inside the shutters.”

Genji was amused, but thought it would be bad manners to let the boy know that he had already seen the lady. “How slowly time does go by.”

This time the boy knocked on the corner door and was admitted.

“I’ll just make myself comfortable here,” he said, spreading bed-clothes where one or two of the sliding doors had been left open. “Come in, breezes.”

Numbers of older women seemed to be sleeping out near the veranda. The girl who had opened the door seemed to have joined them. The boy feigned sleep for a time. Then, spreading a screen to block the light, he motioned Genji inside.

Genji was suddenly shy, fearing he would be defeated once more. He followed the boy all the same. Raising a curtain, he slipped into the main room. It was very quiet, and his robes rustled alarmingly.

With one part of her mind the woman was pleased that he had not given up. But the nightmare of the earlier evening had not left her. Brooding days, sleepless nights — it was summer, and yet it was “budless spring.”

Her companion at Go, meanwhile, was as cheerful as could be. “I shall stay with you tonight,” she announced. It was not likely that she would have trouble sleeping.

The lady herself sensed that something was amiss. Detecting an unusual perfume, she raised her head. It was dark where the curtain had been thrown over the frame, but she could see a form creeping toward her. In a panic, she got up. Pulling a singlet of raw silk over her shoulders, she slipped from the room.

Genji was delighted to see that there was only one lady asleep behind the curtains. There seemed to be two people asleep out toward the veranda. As he pulled aside the bedclothes it seemed to him that the lady was somewhat larger than he would have expected. He became aware of one odd detail after another in the sleeping figure, and guessed what had happened. How very stupid! And how ridiculous he would seem if the sleeper were to awaken and see that she was the victim of a silly mistake. It would be equally silly to pursue the lady he had come for, now that she had made her feelings so clear. A new thought came to him: might this be the girl who had so interested him in the lamplight? If so, what had he to lose? It will be observed that a certain fickleness was at work.

The girl was now awake, and very surprised. Genji felt a little sorry for her. But though inexperienced in the ways of love, she was bright and modern, and she had not entirely lost her composure. He was at first reluctant to identify himself. She would presently guess, however, and what did it matter if she did? As for the unfriendly one who had ned him and who was so concerned about appearances — he did have to think of her reputation, and so he said to the girl that he had taken advantage of directional taboos to visit her. A more experienced lady would have had no trouble guessing the truth, but this one did not sense that his explanation was a little forced. He was not displeased with her, nor was he strongly drawn to her. His heart was resentfully on the other. No doubt she would be off in some hidden chamber gloating over her victory. She had shown a most extraordinary firmness of purpose. In a curious way, her hostility made her memorable. The girl beside him had a certain young charm of her own, and presently he was deep in vows of love.

“The ancients used to say that a secret love runs deeper than an open one.” He was most persuasive. “Think well of me. I must worry about appearances, and it is not as if I could go where my desires take me. And you: there are people who would not at all approve. That is sad. But you must not forget me.”

“I’m afraid.” Clearly she was afraid. “I won’t be able to write to you.”

“You are right that we would not want people to know. But there is the little man I brought with me tonight. We can exchange notes through him. Meanwhile you must behave as if nothing had happened.” He took as a keepsake a summer robe the other lady seemed to have thrown off.

The boy was sleeping nearby. The adventure was on his mind, however, and Genji had no trouble arousing him. As he opened the door an elderly serving woman called out in surprise.

Who’s there?

“Just me,” replied the boy in some confusion.

“Wherever are you going at this time of the night?” The woman came out, wishing to be helpful.

“Nowhere,” said the boy gruffly. “Nowhere at all.”

He pushed Genji through the door. Dawn was approaching. The woman caught sight of another figure in the moonlight.

“And who is with you? Oh, Mimbu, of course. Only Mimbu reaches such splendid heights.” Mimbu was a lady who was the victim of much humor because of her unusual stature. So he was out walking with Mimbu, muttered the old woman. “One of these days you’ll be as tall as Mimbu yourself.” Chattering away, she followed after them. Genji was horrified, but could not very well shove her inside. He pulled back into the darkness of a gallery.

Still she followed. “You’ve been with our lady, have you? I’ve been having a bad time with my stomach these last few days and I’ve kept to my room. But she called me last night and said she wanted more people around. I’m still having a terrible time. Terrible,” she muttered again, getting no answer. “Well, goodbye, then.”

She moved on, and Genji made his escape. He saw more than ever how dangerous these adventures can be.

The boy went with him to Nijō. Genji recounted the happenings of the night. The boy had not done very well, he said, shrugging his shoulders in annoyance at the thought of the woman’s coldness. The boy could find no answer.

“I am rejected, and there is nothing to be done for me. But why could s e not have sent a pleasant answer? I’m no match for that husband of hers. That’s where the trouble lies.” But when he went to bed he had her cloak beneath his own. He kept the boy beside him, audience for his laments.

“It’s not that you aren’t a nice enough boy, and it’s not that I’m not fond of you. But because of your family I must have doubts about the durability of our relationship.”

A remark which plunged the boy into the darkest melancholy.

Genji was still unable to sleep. He said that he required an inkstone. On a fold of paper he jotted down a verse as if for practice:

“Beneath a tree, a locust’s empty shell.

Sadly I muse upon the shell of a lady.”

He wondered what the other one, the stepdaughter, would be thinking of him; but though he felt rather sorry for her and though he turned the matter over in his mind, he sent no message. The lady’s fragrance lingered in the robe he had taken. He kept it with him, gazing fondly at it.

The boy, when he went to his sister’s house, was crushed by the scolding he received. “This is the sort of thing a person cannot be expected to put up with. I may try to explain what has happened, but can you imagine that people will not come to their own conclusions? Does it not occur to you that even your good master might wish to see an end to this childishness?”

Badgered from the left and badgered from the right, the poor boy did not know where to turn. He took out Genji’s letter. In spite of herself his sister opened and read it. That reference to the shell of the locust: he had taken her robe, then. How very embarrassing. A sodden rag, like the one discarded by the fisherman of Ise.

The other lady, her stepdaughter, returned in some disorder to her own west wing. She had her sad thoughts all to herself, for no one knew what had happened. She watched the boy’s comings and goings, thinking that there might be some word; but in the end there was none. She did not have the imagination to guess that she had been a victim of mistaken identity. She was a lighthearted and inattentive creature, but now she was lost in sad thoughts.

The lady in the main hall kept herself under tight control. She could see that his feelings were not to be described as shallow, and she longed for what would not return, her maiden days. Besides his poem she jotted down a poem by Lady Ise:

The dew upon the fragile locust wing

Is lost among the leaves. Lost are my tears.

Chapter 4

Evening Faces

On his way from court to pay one of his calls at Rokujō, Genji stopped to inquire after his old nurse, Koremitsu’s mother, at her house in Gojō. Gravely ill, she had become a nun. The carriage entrance was closed. He sent for Koremitsu and while he was waiting looked up and down the dirty, cluttered street. Beside the nurse’s house was a new fence of plaited cypress. The four or five narrow shutters above had been raised, and new blinds, white and clean, hung in the apertures. He caught outlines of pretty foreheads beyond. He would have judged, as they moved about, that they belonged to rather tall women. What sort of women might they be? His carriage was simple and unadorned and he had no outrunners. Quite certain that he would not be recognized, he leaned out for a closer look. The hanging gate, of something like trelliswork, was propped on a pole, and he could see that the house was tiny and flimsy. He felt a little sorry for the occupants of such a place — and then asked himself who in this world had more than a temporary shelter. A hut, a jeweled pavilion, they were the same. A pleasantly green vine was climbing a board wall. The white flowers, he thought, had a rather self-satisfied look about them.

“‘I needs must ask the lady far off yonder,’” he said, as if to himself.

An attendant came up, bowing deeply. “The white flowers far off yonder are known as ‘evening faces,’” he said.” A very human Sort of name — and what a shabby place they have picked to bloom in.”

It was as the man said. The neighborhood was a poor one, chiefly of small houses. Some were leaning precariously, and there were “evening faces” at the sagging eaves.

“A hapless sort of flower. Pick one off for me, would you?”

The man went inside the raised gate and broke off a flower. A pretty little girl in long, unlined yellow trousers of raw silk came out through a sliding door that seemed too good for the surroundings. Beckoning to the man, she handed him a heavily scented white fan.

“Put it on this. It isn’t much of a fan, but then it isn’t much of a flower either.”

Koremitsu, coming out of the gate, passed it on to Genji.

“They lost the key, and I have had to keep you waiting. You aren’t likely to be recognized in such a neighborhood, but it’s not a very nice neighborhood to keep you waiting in.”

Genji’s carriage was pulled in and he dismounted. Besides Koremitsu, a son and a daughter, the former an eminent cleric, and the daughter’s husband, the governor of Mikawa, were in attendance upon the old woman. They thanked him profusely for his visit.

The old woman got up to receive him. “I did not at all mind leaving the world, except for the thought that I would no longer be able to see you as I am seeing you now. My vows seem to have given me a new lease on life, and this visit makes me certain that I shall receive the radiance of Lord Amitābha with a serene and tranquil heart.” And she collapsed in tears.

Genji was near tears himself. “It has worried me enormously that you should be taking so long to recover, and I was very sad to learn that you have withdrawn from the world. You must live a long life and see the career I make for myself. I am sure that if you do you will be reborn upon the highest summits of the Pure Land. I am told that it is important to rid oneself of the smallest regret for this world.”

Fond of the child she has reared, a nurse tends to look upon him as a paragon even if he is a half-wit. How much prouder was the old woman, who somehow gained stature, who thought of herself as eminent in her own right for having been permitted to serve him. The tears flowed on.

Her children were ashamed for her. They exchanged glances. It would not do to have these contortions taken as signs of a lingering affection for the world.

Genji was deeply touched. “The people who were fond of me left me when I was very young. Others have come along, it is true, to take care of me, but you are the only one I am really attached to. In recent years there have been restrictions upon my movements, and I have not been able to look in upon you morning and evening as I would have wished, or indeed to have a good visit with you. Yet I become very depressed when the days go by and I do not see you.‘Would that there were on this earth no final partings.’” He spoke with great solemnity, and the scent of his sleeve, as he brushed away a tear, quite flooded the room.

Yes, thought the children, who had been silently reproaching their mother for her want of control, the fates had been kind to her. They too were now in tears.

Genji left orders that prayers and services be resumed. As he went out he asked for a torch, and in its light examined the fan on which the “evening face” had rested. It was permeated with a lady’s perfume, elegant and alluring. On it was a poem in a disguised cursive hand that suggested breeding and taste. He was interested.

“I think I need not ask whose face it is,

So bright, this evening face, in the shining dew.”

“Who is living in the house to the west?” he asked Koremitsu. “Have you perhaps had occasion to inquire?”

At it again, thought Koremitsu. He spoke somewhat tartly. “I must confess that these last few days I have been too busy with my mother to think about her neighbors.”

“You are annoyed with me. But this fan has the appearance of something it might be interesting to look into. Make inquiries, if you will, please, of someone who knows the neighborhood.”

Koremitsu went in to ask his mother’s steward, and emerged with the information that the house belonged to a certain honorary vice-governor. “The husband is away in the country, and the wife seems to be a young woman of taste. Her sisters are out in service here and there. They often come visiting. I suspect the fellow is too poorly placed to know the details.”

His poetess would be one of the sisters, thought Genji. A rather practiced and forward young person, and, were he to meet her, perhaps vulgar as well — but the easy familiarity of the poem had not been at all unpleasant, not something to be pushed away in disdain. His amative propensities, it will be seen, were having their way once more.

Carefully disguising his hand, he jotted down a reply on a piece of notepaper and sent it in by the attendant who had earlier been of service.

“Come a bit nearer, please. Then might you know

Whose was the evening face so dim in the twilight.”

Thinking it a familiar profile, the lady had not lost the opportunity to surprise him with a letter, and when time passed and there was no answer she was left feeling somewhat embarrassed and disconsolate. Now came a poem by special messenger. Her women became quite giddy as they turned their minds to the problem of replying. Rather bored with it all, the messenger returned empty-handed. Genji made a quiet departure, lighted by very few torches. The shutters next door had been lowered. There was something sad about the light, dimmer than fireflies, that came through the cracks.

At the Rokujō house, the trees and the plantings had a quiet dignity. The lady herself was strangely cold and withdrawn. Thoughts of the “evening faces” quite left him. He overslept, and the sun was rising when he took his leave. He presented such a fine figure in the morning light that the women of the place understood well enough why he should be so universally admired. On his way he again passed those shutters, as he had no doubt done many times before. Because of that small incident he now looked at the house carefully, wondering who might be within.

“My mother is not doing at all well, and I have been with her,” said Koremitsu some days later. And, coming nearer: “Because you seemed so interested, I called someone who knows about the house next door and had him questioned. His story was not completely clear. He said that in the Fifth Month or so someone came very quietly to live in the house, but that not even the domestics had been told who she might be. I have looked through the fence from time to time myself and had glimpses through blinds of several young women. Something about their dress suggests that they are in the service of someone of higher rank. Yesterday, when the evening light was coming directly through, I saw the lady herself writing a letter. She is very beautiful. She seemed lost in thought, and the women around her were weeping.”

Genji had suspected something of the sort. He must find out more.

Koremitsu’s view was that while Genji was undeniably someone the whole world took seriously, his youth and the fact that women found him attractive meant that to refrain from these little affairs would be less than human. It was not realistic to hold that certain people were beyond temptation.

“Looking for a chance to do a bit of exploring, I found a small pretext for writing to her. She answered immediately, in a good, practiced hand. Some of her women do not seem at all beneath contempt.”

“Explore very thoroughly, if you will. I will not be satisfied until you do.”

The house was what the guardsman would have described as the lowest of the low, but Genji was interested. What hidden charms might he not come upon!

He had thought the coldness of the governor’s wife, the lady of “the locust shell,” quite unique. Yet if she had proved amenable to his persuasions the affair would no doubt have been dropped as a sad mistake after that one encounter. As matters were, the resentment and the distinct possibility of final defeat never left his mind. The discussion that rainy night would seem to have made him curious about the several ranks. There had been a time when such a lady would not have been worth his notice. Yes, it had been broadening, that discussion! He had not found the willing and available one, the governor of Iyo’s daughter, entirely uninteresting, but the thought that the stepmother must have been listening coolly to the interview was excruciating. He must await some sign of her real intentions.

The governor of iyo returned to the city. He came immediately to Genji’s mansion. Somewhat sunburned, his travel robes rumpled from the sea voyage, he was a rather heavy and displeasing sort of person. He was of good lineage, however, and, though aging, he still had good manners. As they spoke of his province, Genji wanted to ask the full count of those hot springs, but he was somewhat confused to find memories chasing one another through his head. How foolish that he should be so uncomfortable before the honest old man! He remembered the guardsman’s warning that such affairs are unwise, and he felt sorry for the governor. Though he resented the wife’s coldness, he could see that from the husband’s point of view it was admirable. He was upset to learn that the governor meant to find a suitable husband for his daughter and take his wife to the provinces. He consulted the lady’s young brother upon the possibility of another meeting. It would have been difficult even with the lady’s cooperation, however, and she was of the view that to receive a gentleman so far above her would be extremely unwise.

Yet she did not want him to forget her entirely. Her answers to his notes on this and that occasion were pleasant enough, and contained casual little touches that made him pause in admiration. He resented her chilliness, but she interested him. As for the stepdaughter, he was certain that she would receive him hospitably enough however formidable a husband she might acquire. Reports upon her arrangements disturbed him not at all.

Autumn came. He was kept busy and unhappy by affairs of his own making, and he visited Sanjō infrequently. There was resentment.

As for the affair at Rokujō, he had overcome the lady’s resistance and had his way, and, alas, he had cooled toward her. People thought it worthy of comment that his passions should seem so much more governable than before he had made her his. She was subject to fits of despondency, more intense on sleepless nights when she awaited him in vain. She feared that if rumors were to spread the gossips would make much of the difference in their ages.

On a morning of heavy mists, insistently roused by the lady, who was determined that he be on his way, Genji emerged yawning and sighing and looking very sleepy. Chūjō, one of her women, raised a shutter and pulled a curtain aside as if urging her lady to come forward and see him off. The lady lifted her head from her pillow. He was an incomparably handsome figure as he paused to admire the profusion of flowers below the veranda. Chūjō followed him down a gallery. In an aster robe that matched the season pleasantly and a gossamer train worn with clean elegance, she was a pretty, graceful woman. Glancing back, he asked her to sit with him for a time at the corner railing. The ceremonious precision of the seated figure and the hair flowing over her robes were very fine.

He took her hand.

“Though loath to be taxed with seeking fresher blooms,

I feel impelled to pluck this morning glory.

“Why should it be?”

She answered with practiced alacrity, making it seem that she was speaking not for herself but for her lady:

‘In haste to plunge into the morning mists,

to have no heart for the blossoms here.”

A pretty little page boy, especially decked out for the occasion, it would seem, walked out among the flowers. His trousers wet with dew, he broke off a morning glory for Genji. He made a picture that called out to be painted.

Even persons to whom Genji was nothing were drawn to him. No doubt even rough mountain men wanted to pause for a time in the shade of the flowering tree, and those who had basked even briefly in his radiance had thoughts, each in accordance with his rank, of a daughter who might be taken into his service, a not ill-formed sister who might perform some humble service for him. One need not be surprised, then, that people with a measure of sensibility among those who had on some occasion received a little poem from him or been treated to some little kindness found him much on their minds. No doubt it distressed them not to be always with him.

I had forgotten: Koremitsu gave a good account of the fence peeping to which he had been assigned. “I am unable to identify her. She seems determined to hide herself from the world. In their boredom her women and girls go out to the long gallery at the street, the one with the shutters, and watch for carriages. Sometimes the lady who seems to be their mistress comes quietly out to join them. I’ve not had a good look at her, but she seems very pretty indeed. One day a carriage with outrunners went by. The little girls shouted to a person named Ukon that she must come in a hurry. The captain was going by, they said. An older woman came out and motioned to them to be quiet. How did they know? she asked, coming out toward the gallery. The passage from the main house is by a sort of makeshift bridge. She was hurrying and her skirt caught on something, and she stumbled and almost fell off.‘The sort of thing the god of Katsuragi might do,’ she said, and seems to have lost interest in sightseeing. They told her that the man in the carriage was wearing casual court dress and that he had a retinue. They mentioned several names, and all of them were undeniably Lord Tō no Chūjō‘s guards and pages.”

“I wish you had made positive identification.” Might she be the lady of whom Tō no Chūjō had spoken so regretfully that rainy night?

Koremitsu went on, smiling at this open curiosity. “I have as a matter of fact made the proper overtures and learned all about the place. I come and go as if I did not know that they are not all equals. They think they are hiding the truth and try to insist that there is no one there but themselves when one of the little girls makes a slip.”

“Let me have a peep for myself when I call on your mother.”

Even if she was only in temporary lodgings, the woman would seem to be of the lower class for which his friend had indicated such contempt that rainy evening. Yet something might come of it all. Determined not to go against his master’s wishes in the smallest detail and himself driven by very considerable excitement, Koremitsu searched diligently for a chance to let Genji into the house. But the details are tiresome, and I shall not go into them.

Genji did not know who the lady was and he did not want her to know who he was. In very shabby disguise, he set out to visit her on foot. He must be taking her very seriously, thought Koremitsu, who offered his horse and himself went on foot.

“Though I do not think that our gentleman will look very good with tramps for servants.”

To make quite certain that the expedition remained secret, Genji took with him only the man who had been his intermediary in the matter of the “evening faces” and a page whom no one was likely to recognize. Lest he be found out even so, he did not stop to see his nurse.

The lady had his messengers followed to see how he made his way home and tried by every means to learn where he lived; but her efforts came to nothing. For all his secretiveness, Genji had grown fond of her and felt that he must go on seeing her. They were of such different ranks, he tried to tell himself, and it was altogether too frivolous. Yet his visits were frequent. In affairs of this sort, which can muddle the senses of the most serious and honest of men, he had always kept himself under tight control and avoided any occasion for censure. Now, to a most astonishing degree, he would be asking himself as he returned in the morning from a visit how he could wait through the day for the next. And then he would rebuke himself. It was madness, it was not an affair he should let disturb him. She was of an extraordinarily gentle and quiet nature. Though there was a certain vagueness about her, and indeed an almost childlike quality, it was clear that she knew something about men. She did not appear to be of very good family. What was there about her, he asked himself over and over again, that so drew him to her?

He took great pains to hide his rank and always wore travel dress, and he did not allow her to see his face. He came late at night when everyone was asleep. She was frightened, as if he were an apparition from an old story. She did not need to see his face to know that he was a fine gentleman. But who might he be? Her suspicions turned to Koremitsu. It was that young gallant, surely, who had brought the strange visitor. But Koremitsu pursued his own little affairs unremittingly, careful to feign indifference to and ignorance of this other affair. What could it all mean? The lady was lost in unfamiliar speculations.

Genji had his own worries. If, having lowered his guard with an appearance of complete unreserve, she were to slip away and hide, where would he seek her? This seemed to be but a temporary residence, and he could not be sure when she would choose to change it, and for what other. He hoped that he might reconcile himself to what must be and forget the affair as just another dalliance; but he was not confident.

On days when, to avoid attracting notice, he refrained from visiting her, his fretfulness came near anguish. Suppose he were to move her in secret to Nijō. If troublesome rumors were to arise, well, he could say that they had been fated from the start. He wondered what bond in a former life might have produced an infatuation such as he had not known before.

“Let’s have a good talk,” he said to her, “where we can be quite at our ease.

“It’s all so strange. What you say is reasonable enough, but what you do is so strange. And rather frightening.”

Yes, she might well be frightened. Something childlike in her fright brought a smile to his lips. “Which of us is the mischievous fox spirit? I wonder. Just be quiet and give yourself up to its persuasions.”

Won over by his gentle warmth, she was indeed inclined to let him have his way. She seemed such a pliant little creature, likely to submit absolutely to the most outrageous demands. He thought again of Tō no Chūjō‘s “wild carnation,” of the equable nature his friend had described that rainy night. Fearing that it would be useless, he did not try very hard to question her. She did not seem likely to indulge in dramatics and suddenly run off and hide herself, and so the fault must have been Tō no Chūjō‘s. Genji himself would not be guilty of such negligence — though it did occur to him that a bit of infidelity might make her more interesting.

The bright full moon of the Eighth Month came flooding in through chinks in the roof. It was not the sort of dwelling he was used to, and he was fascinated. Toward dawn he was awakened by plebeian voices in the shabby houses down the street.

“Freezing, that’s what it is, freezing. There’s not much business this year, and when you can’t get out into the country you feel like giving up. Do you hear me, neighbor?”

He could make out every word. It embarrassed the woman that, so near at hand, there should be this clamor of preparation as people set forth on their sad little enterprises. Had she been one of the stylish ladies of the world, she would have wanted to shrivel up and disappear. She was a placid sort, however, and she seemed to take nothing, painful or embarrassing or unpleasant, too seriously. Her manner elegant and yet girlish, she did not seem to know what the rather awful clamor up and down the street might mean. He much preferred this easygoing bewilderment to a show of consternation, a face scarlet with embarrassment. As if at his very pillow, there came the booming of a foot pestle, more fearsome than the stamping of the thunder god, genuinely earsplitting. He did not know what device the sound came from, but he did know that it was enough to awaken the dead. From this direction and that there came the faint thump of fulling hammers against coarse cloth; and mingled with it — these were sounds to call forth the deepest emotions — were the calls of geese flying overhead. He slid a door open and they looked out. They had been lying near the veranda. There were tasteful clumps of black bamboo just outside and the dew shone as in more familiar places. Autumn insects sang busily, as if only inches from an ear used to wall crickets at considerable distances. It was all very clamorous, and also rather wonderful. Countless details could be overlooked in the singleness of his affection for the girl. She was pretty and fragile in a soft, modest cloak of lavender and a lined white robe. She had no single feature that struck him as especially beautiful, and yet, slender and fragile, she seemed so delicately beautiful that he was almost afraid to hear her voice. He might have wished her to be a little more assertive, but he wanted only to be near her, and yet nearer.

“Let’s go off somewhere and enjoy the rest of the night. This is too much.”

“But how is that possible?” She spoke very quietly. “You keep taking me by surprise.”

There was a newly confiding response to his offer of his services as guardian in this world and the next. She was a strange little thing. He found it hard to believe that she had had much experience of men. He no longer cared what people might think. He asked Ukon to summon his man, who got the carriage ready. The women of the house, though uneasy, sensed the depth of his feelings and were inclined to put their trust in him.

Dawn approached. No cocks were crowing. There was only the voice of an old man making deep obeisance to a Buddha, in preparation, it would seem, for a pilgrimage to Mitake. He seemed to be prostrating himself repeatedly and with much difficulty. All very sad. In a life itself like the morning dew, what could he desire so earnestly?

“Praise to the Messiah to come,” intoned the voice.

“Listen,” said Genji. “He is thinking of another world.

“This pious one shall lead us on our way

As we plight our troth for all the lives to come.”

The vow exchanged by the Chinese emperor and Yang Kuei-fei seemed to bode ill, and so he preferred to invoke Lord Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future; but such promises are rash.

“So heavy the burden I bring with me from the past,

I doubt that I should make these vows for the future.”

It was a reply that suggested doubts about his “lives to come.”

The moon was low over the western hills. She was reluctant to go with him. As he sought to persuade her, the moon suddenly disappeared behind clouds in a lovely dawn sky. Always in a hurry to be off before daylight exposed him, he lifted her easily into his carriage and took her to a nearby villa. Ukon was with them. Waiting for the caretaker to be summoned, Genji looked up at the rotting gate and the ferns that trailed thickly down over it. The groves beyond were still dark, and the mist and the dews were heavy. Genji’s sleeve was soaking, for he had raised the blinds of the carriage.

“This is a novel adventure, and I must say that it seems like a lot of trouble.

“And did it confuse them too, the men of old,

This road through the dawn, for me so new and strange?

“How does it seem to you?”

She turned shyly away.

“And is the moon, unsure of the hills it approaches,

Foredoomed to lose its way in the empty skies?

“I am afraid.”

She did seem frightened, and bewildered. She was so used to all those swarms of people, he thought with a smile.

The carriage was brought in and its traces propped against the veranda while a room was made ready in the west wing. Much excited, Ukon was thinking about earlier adventures. The furious energy with which the caretaker saw to preparations made her suspect who Genji was. It was almost daylight when they alighted from the carriage. The room was clean and pleasant, for all the haste with which it had been readied.

“There are unfortunately no women here to wait upon His Lordship.” The man, who addressed him through Ukon, was a lesser steward who had served in the Sanjō mansion of Genji’s father-in-law. “Shall I send for someone?”

“The last thing I want. I came here because I wanted to be in complete solitude, away from all possible visitors. You are not to tell a soul.”

The man put together a hurried breakfast, but he was, as he had said, without serving women to help him.

Genji told the girl that he meant to show her a love as dependable as “the patient river of the loons.” He could do little else in these strange lodgings.

The sun was high when he arose. He opened the shutters. All through the badly neglected grounds not a person was to be seen. The groves were rank and overgrown. The flowers and grasses in the foreground were a drab monotone, an autumn moor. The pond was choked with weeds, and all in all it was a forbidding place. An outbuilding seemed to be fitted with rooms for the caretaker, but it was some distance away.

“It is a forbidding place,” said Genji. “But I am sure that whatever devils emerge will pass me by.”

He was still in disguise. She thought it unkind of him to be so secretive, and he had to agree that their relationship had gone beyond such furtiveness.

“Because of one chance meeting by the wayside

The flower now opens in the evening dew.

“And how does it look to you?”

“The face seemed quite to shine in the evening dew,

But I was dazzled by the evening light.”

Her eyes turned away. She spoke in a whisper.

To him it may have seemed an interesting poem.

As a matter of fact, she found him handsomer than her poem suggested, indeed frighteningly handsome, given the setting.

“I hid my name from you because I thought it altogether too unkind of you to be keeping your name from me. Do please tell me now. This silence makes me feel that something awful might be coming.”

“Call me the fisherman’s daughter.” Still hiding her name, she was like a little child.

“I see. I brought it all on myself? A case of warekara?”

And so, sometimes affectionately, sometimes reproachfully, they talked the hours away.

Koremitsu had found them out and brought provisions. Feeling a little guilty about the way he had treated Ukon, he did not come near. He thought it amusing that Genji should thus be wandering the streets, and concluded that the girl must provide sufficient cause. And he could have had her himself, had he not been so generous.

Genji and the girl looked out at an evening sky of the utmost calm. Because she found the darkness in the recesses of the house frightening, he raised the blinds at the veranda and they lay side by side. As they gazed at each other in the gathering dusk, it all seemed very strange to her, unbelievably strange. Memories of past wrongs quite left her. She was more at ease with him now, and he thought her charming. Beside him all through the day, starting up in fright at each little noise, she seemed delightfully childlike. He lowered the shutters earl y and had lights brought.

“You seem comfortable enough with me, and yet you raise difficulties.”

At court everyone would be frantic. Where would the search be directed? He thought what a strange love it was, and he thought of the turmoil the Rokujō lady was certain to be in. She had every right to be resentful, and yet her jealous ways were not pleasant. It was that sad lady to whom his thoughts first turned. Here was the girl beside him, so simple and undemanding; and the other was so impossibly forceful in her de mands. How he wished he might in some measure have his freedom.

It was past midnight. He had been asleep for a time when an exceedingly beautiful woman appeared by his pillow.

“You do not even think of visiting me, when you are so much on my mind. Instead you go running off with someone who has nothing to recommend her, and raise a great stir over her. It is cruel, intolerable.” She seemed about to shake the girl from her sleep. He awoke, feeling as if he were in the power of some malign being. The light had gone out. In great alarm, he pulled his sword to his pillow and awakened Ukon. She too seemed frightened.

“Go out to the gallery and wake the guard. Have him bring a light.”

“It’s much too dark.”

He forced a smile. “You’re behaving like a child.”

He clapped his hands and a hollow echo answered. No one seemed to hear. The girl was trembling violently. She was bathed in sweat and as if in a trance, quite bereft of her senses.

“She is such a timid little thing,” said Ukon, “frightened when there is nothing at all to be frightened of. This must be dreadful for her.”

Yes, poor thing, thought Genji. She did seem so fragile, and she had spent the whole day gazing up at the sky.

“I’ll go get someone. What a frightful echo. You stay here with her.” He pulled Ukon to the girl’s side.

The lights in the west gallery had gone out. There was a gentle wind. He had few people with him, and they were asleep. They were three in number: a young man who was one of his intimates and who was the son of the steward here, a court page, and the man who had been his intermediary in the matter of the “evening faces.” He called out. Someone answered and came up to him.

“Bring a light. Wake the other, and shout and twang your bowstrings. What do you mean, going to sleep in a deserted house? I believe Lord Koremitsu was here.”

“He was. But he said he had no orders and would come again at dawn.”

An elite guardsman, the man was very adept at bow twanging. He went off with a shouting as of a fire watch. At court, thought Genji, the courtiers on night duty would have announced themselves, and the guard would be changing. It was not so very late.

He felt his way back inside. The girl was as before, and Ukon lay face down at her side.

“What is this? You’re a fool to let yourself be so frightened. Are you worried about the fox spirits that come out and play tricks in deserted houses? But you needn’t worry. They won’t come near me.” He pulled her to her knees.

“I’m not feeling at all well. That’s why I was lying down. My poor lady must be terrified.”

“She is indeed. And I can’t think why.”

He reached for the girl. She was not breathing. He lifted her and she was limp in his arms. There was no sign of life. She had seemed as defenseless as a child, and no doubt some evil power had taken possession of her. He could think of nothing to do. A man came with a torch. Ukon was not prepared to move, and Genji himself pulled up curtain frames to hide the girl.

“Bring the light closer.”

It was most a unusual order. Not ordinarily permitted at Genji’s side, the man hesitated to cross the threshold.

“Come, come, bring it here! There is a time and place for ceremony.”

In the torchlight he had a fleeting glimpse of a figure by the girl’s pillow. It was the woman in his dream. It faded away like an apparition in an old romance. In all the fright and honor, his confused thoughts centered upon the girl. There was no room for thoughts of himself.

He knelt over her and called out to her, but she was cold and had stopped breathing. It was too horrible. He had no confidant to whom he could turn for advice. It was the clergy one thought of first on such occasions. He had been so brave and confident, but he was young, and this was too much for him. He clung to the lifeless body.

“Come back, my dear, my dear. Don’t do this awful thing to me.” But she was cold and no longer seemed human.

The first paralyzing terror had left Ukon. Now she was writhing and wailing. Genji remembered a devil a certain minister had encountered in the Grand Hall.

“She can’t possibly be dead.” He found the strength to speak sharply. “All this noise in the middle of the night — you must try to be a little quieter.” But it had been too sudden.

He turned again to the torchbearer. “There is someone here who seems to have had a very strange seizure. Tell your friend to find out where Lord Koremitsu is spending the night and have him come immediately. If the holy man is still at his mother’s house, give him word, very quietly, that he is to come too. His mother and the people with her are not to hear. She does not approve of this sort of adventure.”

He spoke calmly enough, but his mind was in a turmoil. Added to grief at the loss of the girl was horror, quite beyond describing, at this desolate place. It would be past midnight. The wind was higher and whistled more dolefully in the pines. There came a strange, hollow call of a bird. Might it be an owl? All was silence, terrifying solitude. He should not have chosen such a place — but it was too late now. Trembling violently, Ukon clung to him. He held her in his arms, wondering if she might be about to follow her lady. He was the only rational one present, and he could think of nothing to do. The flickering light wandered here and there. The upper parts of the screens behind them were in darkness, the lower parts fitfully in the light. There was a persistent creaking, as of someone coming up behind them. If only Koremitsu would come. But Koremitsu was a nocturnal wanderer without a fixed abode, and the man had to search for him in numerous places. The wait for dawn was like the passage of a thousand nights. Finally he heard a distant crowing. What legacy from a former life could have brought him to this mortal peril? He was being punished for a guilty love, his fault and no one else’s, and his story would be remembered in infamy through all the ages to come. There were no secrets, strive though one might to have them. Soon everyone would know, from his royal father down, and the lowest court pages would be talking; and he would gain immortality as the model of the complete fool.

Finally Lord Koremitsu came. He was the perfect servant who did not go against his master’s wishes in anything at any time; and Genji was angry that on this night of all nights he should have been away, and slow in answering the summons. Calling him inside even so, he could not immediately find the strength to say what must be said. Ukon burst into tears, the full honor of it all coming back to her at the sight of Koremitsu. Genji too lost control of himself. The only sane and rational one present, he had held Ukon in his arms, but now he gave himself up to his grief.

“Something very strange has happened,” he said after a time. “Strange —‘unbelievable’ would not be too strong a word. I wanted a priest — one does when these things happen — and asked your reverend brother to come.”

“He went back up the mountain yesterday. Yes, it is very strange indeed. Had there been anything wrong with her?”

“Nothing.”

He was so handsome in his grief that Koremitsu wanted to weep. An older man who has had everything happen to him and knows what to expect can be depended upon in a crisis; but they were both young, and neither had anything to suggest.

Koremitsu finally spoke. “We must not let the caretaker know. He may be dependable enough himself, but he is sure to have relatives who will talk. We must get away from this place.”

“You aren’t suggesting that we could find a place where we would be less likely to be seen?”

“No, I suppose not. And the women at her house will scream and wail when they hear about it, and they live in a crowded neighborhood, and all the mob around will hear, and that will be that. But mountain temples are used to this sort of thing. There would not be much danger of attracting attention.” He reflected on the problem for a time. “There is a woman I used to know. She has gone into a nunnery up in the eastern hills. She is very old, my father’s nurse, as a matter of fact. The district seems to be rather heavily populated, but the nunnery is off by itself.”

It was not yet full daylight. Koremitsu had the carriage brought up. Since Genji seemed incapable of the task, he wrapped the body in a covering and lifted it into the carriage. It was very tiny and very pretty, and not at all repellent. The wrapping was loose and the hair streamed forth, as if to darken the world before Genji’s eyes.

He wanted to see the last rites through to the end, but Koremitsu would not hear of it. “Take my horse and go back to Nijō, now while the streets are still quiet.”

He helped Ukon into the carriage and himself proceeded on foot, the skirts of his robe hitched up. It was a strange, bedraggled sort of funeral procession, he thought, but in the face of such anguish he was prepared to risk his life. Barely conscious, Genji made his way back to Nijo-.

“Where have you been?” asked the women. “You are not looking at all well.”

He did not answer. Alone in his room, he pressed a hand to his heart. Why had he not gone with the others? What would she think if she were to come back to life? She would think that he had abandoned her. Self-reproach filled his heart to breaking. He had a headache and feared he had a fever. Might he too be dying? The sun was high and still he did not emerge. Thinking it all very strange, the women pressed breakfast upon him. He could not eat. A messenger reported that the emperor had been troubled by his failure to appear the day before.

His brothers-in-law came calling.

“Come in, please, just for a moment.” He received only Tō no Chūjō and kept a blind between them. “My old nurse fell seriously ill and took her vows in the Fifth Month or so. perhaps because of them, she seemed to recover. But recently she had a relapse. Someone came to ask if I would not call on her at least once more. I thought I really must go and see an old and dear servant who was on her deathbed, and so I went. One of her servants was ailing, and quite suddenly, before he had time to leave, he died. Out of deference to me they waited until night to take the body away. All this I learned later. It would be very improper of me to go to court with all these festivities coming up, I thought, and so I stayed away. I have had a headache since early this morning — perhaps I have caught cold. I must apologize.”

“I see. I shall so inform your father. He sent out a search party during the concert last night, and really seemed very upset.” Tō no Chūjō turned to go, and abruptly turned back. “Come now. What sort of brush did you really have? I don’t believe a word of it.”

Genji was startled, but managed a show of nonchalance. “You needn’t go into the details. Just say that I suffered an unexpected defilement. Very unexpected, really.”

Despite his cool manner, he was not up to facing people. He asked a younger brother-in-law to explain in detail his reasons for not going to court. He got off a note to Sanjō with a similar explanation.

Koremitsu came in the evening. Having announced that he had suffered a defilement, Genji had callers remain outside, and there were few people in the house. He received Koremitsu immediately.

“Are you sure she is dead?” He pressed a sleeve to his eyes.

Koremitsu too was in tears. “Yes, I fear she is most certainly dead. I could not stay shut up in a temple indefinitely, and so I have made arrangements with a venerable priest whom I happen to know rather well. Tomorrow is a good day for funerals.”

“And the other woman?”

“She has seemed on the point of death herself. She does not want to be left behind by her lady. I was afraid this morning that she might throw herself over a cliff. She wanted to tell the people at Gojō, but I persuaded her to let us have a little more time.”

“I am feeling rather awful myself and almost fear the worst.”

“Come, now. There is nothing to be done and no point in torturing yourself. You must tell yourself that what must be must be. I shall let absolutely no one know, and I am personally taking care of everything.”

“Yes, to be sure. Everything is fated. So I tell myself. But it is terrible to think that I have sent a lady to her death. You are not to tell your sister, and you must be very sure that your mother does not hear. I would not survive the scolding I would get from her.”

“And the priests too: I have told them a plausible story.” Koremitsu exuded confidence.

The women had caught a hint of what was going on and were more puzzled than ever. He had said that he had suffered a defilement, and he was staying away from court; but why these muffled lamentations?

Genji gave instructions for the funeral. “You must make sure that nothing goes wrong.”

“Of course. No great ceremony seems called for.”

Koremitsu turned to leave.

“I know you won’t approve,” said Genji, a fresh wave of grief sweeping over him, “but I will regret it forever if I don’t see her again. I’ll go on horseback.”

“Very well, if you must.” In fact Koremitsu thought the proposal very ill advised. “Go immediately and be back while it is still early.”

Genji set out in the travel robes he had kept ready for his recent amorous excursions. He was in the bleakest despair. He was on a strange mission and the terrors of the night before made him consider turning back. Grief urged him on. If he did not see her once more, when, in another world, might he hope to see her as she had been? He had with him only Koremitsu and the attendant of that first encounter. The road seemed a long one.

The moon came out, two nights past full. They reached the river. In the dim torchlight, the darkness off towards Mount Toribe was ominous and forbidding; but Genji was too dazed with grief to be frightened. And so they reached the temple.

It was a harsh, unfriendly region at best. The board hut and chapel where the nun pursued her austerities were lonely beyond description. The light at the altar came dimly through cracks. Inside the hut a woman was weeping. In the outer chamber two or three priests were conversing and invoking the holy name in low voices. Vespers seemed to have ended in several temples nearby. Everything was quiet. There were lights and there seemed to be clusters of people in the direction of Kiyomizu. The grand tones in which the worthy monk, the son of the nun, was reading a sutra brought on what Genji thought must be the full flood tide of his tears.

He went inside. The light was turned away from the corpse. Ukon lay behind a screen. It must be very terrible for her, thought Genji. The girl’s face was unchanged and very pretty.

“Won’t you let me hear your voice again?” He took her hand. “What was it that made me give you all my love, for so short a time, and then made you leave me to this misery?” He was weeping uncontrollably.

The priests did not know who he was. They sensed something remarkable, however, and felt their eyes mist over.

“Come with me to Nijō,” he said to Ukon.

“We have been together since I was very young. I never left her side, not for a single moment. Where am I to go now? I will have to tell the others what has happened. As if this weren’t enough, I will have to put up with their accusations.” She was sobbing. “I want to go with her.”

“That is only natural. But it is the way of the world. Parting is always sad. Our lives must end, early or late. Try to put your trust in me.” He comforted her with the usual homilies, but presently his real feelings came out. “put your trust in me — when I fear I have not long to live myself.” He did not after all seem likely to be much help.

“It will soon be light,” said Koremitsu. “We must be on our way.”

Looking back and looking back again, his heart near breaking, Genji went out. The way was heavy with dew and the morning mists were thick. He scarcely knew where he was. The girl was exactly as she had been that night. They had exchanged robes and she had on a red singlet of his. What might it have been in other lives that had brought them together? He managed only with great difficulty to stay in his saddle. Koremitsu was at the reins. As they came to the river Genji fell from his horse and was unable to remount.

“So I am to die by the wayside? I doubt that I can go on.”

Koremitsu was in a panic. He should not have permitted this expedition, however strong Genji’s wishes. Dipping his hands in the river, he turned and made supplication to Kiyomizu. Genji somehow pulled himself together. Silently invoking the holy name, he was seen back to Nijō.

The women were much upset by these untimely wanderings. “Very bad, very bad. He has been so restless lately. And why should he have gone out again when he was not feeling well?”

Now genuinely ill, he took to his bed. Two or three days passed and he was visibly thinner. The emperor heard of the illness and was much alarmed. Continuous prayers were ordered in this shrine and that temple. The varied rites, Shinto and Confucian and Buddhist, were beyond counting. Genji’s good looks had been such as to arouse forebodings. All through the court it was feared that he would not live much longer. Despite his illness, he summoned Ukon to Nijō and assigned her rooms near his own. Koremitsu composed himself sufficiently to be of service to her, for he could see that she had no one else to turn to. Choosing times when he was feeling better, Genji would summon her for a talk, and she soon was accustomed to life at Nijō. Dressed in deep mourning, she was a somewhat stern and forbidding young woman, but not without her good points.

“It lasted such a very little while. I fear that I will be taken too. It must be dreadful for you, losing your only support. I had thought that as long as I lived I would see to all your needs, and it seems sad and ironical that I should be on the point of following her.” He spoke softly and there were tears in his eyes. For Ukon the old grief had been hard enough to bear, and now she feared that a new grief might be added to it.

All through the Nijō mansion there was a sense of helplessness. Emissaries from court were thicker than raindrops. Not wanting to worry his father, Genji fought to control himself. His father-in-law was extremely solicitous and came to Nijō every day. perhaps because of all the prayers and rites the crisis passed — it had lasted some twenty days — and left no ill effects. Genji’s full recovery coincided with the final cleansing of the defilement. With the unhappiness he had caused his father much on his mind, he set off for his apartments at court. For a time he felt out of things, as if he had come back to a strange new world.

By the end of the Ninth Month he was his old self once more. He had lost weight, but emaciation only made him handsomer. He spent a great deal of time gazing into space, and sometimes he would weep aloud. He must be in the clutches of some malign spirit, thought the women. It was all most peculiar.

He would summon Ukon on quiet evenings. “I don’t understand it at all. Why did she so insist on keeping her name from me? Even if she was a fisherman’s daughter it was cruel of her to be so uncommunicative. It was as if she did not know how much I loved her.”

“There was no reason for keeping it secret. But why should she tell you about her insignificant self? Your attitude seemed so strange from the beginning. She used to say that she hardly knew whether she was waking or dreaming. Your refusal to identify yourself, you know, helped her guess who you were. It hurt her that you should belittle her by keeping your name from her.”

“An unfortunate contest of wills. I did not want anything to stand between us; but I must always be worrying about what people will say. I must refrain from things my father and all the rest of them might take me to task for. I am not permitted the smallest indiscretion. Everything is exaggerated so. The little incident of the ‘evening faces’ affected me strangely and I went to very great trouble to see her. There must have been a bond between us. A love doomed from the start to be fleeting — why should it have taken such complete possession of me and made me find her so precious? You must tell me everything. What point is there in keeping secrets now? I mean to make offerings every week, and I want to know in whose name I am making them.”

“Yes, of course — why have secrets now? It is only that I do not want to slight what she made so much of. Her parents are dead. Her father was a guards captain. She was his special pet, but his career did not go well and his life came to an early and disappointing end. She somehow got to know Lord Tō no Chūjō— it was when he was still a lieutenant. He was very attentive for three years or so, and then about last autumn there was a rather awful threat from his father-in-law’s house. She was ridiculously timid and it frightened her beyond all reason. She ran off and hid herself at her nurse’s in the western part of the city. It was a wretched little hovel of a place. She wanted to go off into the hills, but the direction she had in mind has been taboo since New Year’s. So she moved to the odd place where she was so upset to have you find her. She was more reserved and withdrawn than most people, and I fear that her unwillingness to show her emotions may have seemed cold.”

So it was true. Affection and pity welled up yet more strongly.

“He once told me of a lost child. Was there such a one?”

“Yes, a very pretty little girl, born two years ago last spring.”

“Where is she? Bring her to me without letting anyone know. It would be such a comfort. I should tell my friend Tō no Chūjō, I suppose, but why invite criticism? I doubt that anyone could reprove me for taking in the child. You must think up a way to get around the nurse.”

“It would make me very happy if you were to take the child. I would hate to have her left where she is. She is there because we had no competent nurses in the house where you found us.”

The evening sky was serenely beautiful. The flowers below the veranda were withered, the songs of the insects were dying too, and autumn tints were coming over the maples. Looking out upon the scene, which might have been a painting, Ukon thought what a lovely asylum she had found herself. She wanted to avert her eyes at the thought of the house of the “evening faces.” A pigeon called, somewhat discordantly, from a bamboo thicket. Remembering how the same call had frightened the girl in that deserted villa, Genji could see the little figure as if an apparition were there before him.

“How old was she? She seemed so delicate, because she was not long for this world, I suppose.”

“Nineteen, perhaps? My mother, who was her nurse, died and left me behind. Her father took a fancy to me, and so we grew up together, and I never once left her side. I wonder how I can go on without her. I am almost sorry that we were so close. She seemed so weak, but I can see now that she was a source of strength.”

“The weak ones do have a power over us. The clear, forceful ones I can do without. I am weak and indecisive by nature myself, and a woman who is quiet and withdrawn and follows the wishes of a man even to the point of letting herself be used has much the greater appeal. A man can shape and mold her as he wishes, and becomes fonder of her all the while.”

“She was exactly what you would have wished, sir.” Ukon was in tears. “That thought makes the loss seem greater.”

The sky had clouded over and a chilly wind had come up. Gazing off into the distance, Genji said softly:

“One sees the clouds as smoke that rose from the pyre,

And suddenly the evening sky seems nearer.”

Ukon was unable to answer. If only her lady were here! For Genji even the memory of those fulling blocks was sweet.

“In the Eighth Month, the Ninth Month, the nights are long,” he whispered, and lay down.

The young page, brother of the lady of the locust shell, came to Nijō from time to time, but Genji no longer sent messages for his sister. She was sorry that he seemed angry with her and sorry to hear of his illness. The prospect of accompanying her husband to his distant province was a dreary one. She sent off a note to see whether Genji had forgotten her.

“They tell me you have not been well.

“Time goes by, you ask not why I ask not.

Think if you will how lonely a life is mine.

“I might make reference to Masuda Pond.”

This was a surprise; and indeed he had not forgotten her. The uncertain hand in which he set down his reply had its own beauty.

“Who, I wonder, lives the more aimless life.

“Hollow though it was, the shell of the locust

Gave me strength to face a gloomy world.

“But only precariously.”

So he still remembered “the shell of the locust.” She was sad and at the same time amused. It was good that they could correspond without rancor. She wished no further intimacy, and she did not want him to despise her.

As for the other, her stepdaughter, Genji heard that she had married a guards lieutenant. He thought it a strange marriage and he felt a certain pity for the lieutenant. Curious to know something of her feelings, he sent a note by his young messenger.

“Did you know that thoughts of you had brought me to the point of expiring?

“I bound them loosely, the reeds beneath the eaves,

And reprove them now for having come undone.”

He attached it to a long reed.

The boy was to deliver it in secret, he said. But he thought that the lieutenant would be forgiving if he were to see it, for he would guess who the sender was. One may detect here a note of self-satisfaction.

Her husband was away. She was confused, but delighted that he should have remembered her. She sent off in reply a poem the only excuse for which was the alacrity with which it was composed:

“The wind brings words, all softly, to the reed,

And the under leaves are nipped again by the frost.”

It might have been cleverer and in better taste not to have disguised the clumsy handwriting. He thought of the face he had seen by lamplight. He could forget neither of them, the governor’s wife, seated so primly before him, or the younger woman, chattering on so contentedly, without the smallest suggestion of reserve. The stirrings of a susceptible heart suggested that he still had important lessons to learn.

Quietly, forty-ninth-day services were held for the dead lady in the Lotus Hall on Mount Hiei. There was careful attention to all the details, the priestly robes and the scrolls and the altar decorations. Koremitsu’s older brother was a priest of considerable renown, and his conduct of the services was beyond reproach. Genji summoned a doctor of letters with whom he was friendly and who was his tutor in Chinese poetry and asked him to prepare a final version of the memorial petition. Genji had prepared a draft. In moving language he committed the one he had loved and lost, though he did not mention her name, to the mercy of Amitābha.

“It is perfect, just as it is. Not a word needs to be changed.” Noting the tears that refused to be held back, the doctor wondered who might be the subject of these prayers. That Genji should not reveal the name, and that he should be in such open grief — someone, no doubt, who had brought a very large bounty of grace from earlier lives.

Genji attached a poem to a pair of lady’s trousers which were among his secret offerings:

“I weep and weep as today I tie this cord.

It will be untied in an unknown world to come.”

He invoked the holy name with great feeling. Her spirit had wandered uncertainly these last weeks. Today it would set off down one of the ways of the future.

His heart raced each time he saw Tō no Chūjō. He longed to tell his friend that “the wild carnation” was alive and well; but there was no point in calling forth reproaches.

In the house of the “evening faces,” the women were at a loss to know what had happened to their lady. They had no way of inquiring. And Ukon too had disappeared. They whispered among themselves that they had been right about that gentleman, and they hinted at their suspicions to Koremitsu. He feigned complete ignorance, however, and continued to pursue his little affairs. For the poor women it was all like a nightmare. perhaps the wanton son of some governor, fearing Tō no Chūjō, had spirited her off to the country? The owner of the house was her nurse’s daughter. She was one of three children and related to Ukon. She could only long for her lady and lament that Ukon had not chosen to enlighten them. Ukon for her part was loath to raise a stir, and Genji did not want gossip at this late date. Ukon could not even inquire after the child. And so the days went by bringing no light on the terrible mystery.

Genji longed for a glimpse of the dead girl, if only in a dream. On the day after the services he did have a fleeting dream of the woman who had appeared that fatal night. He concluded, and the thought filled him with horror, that he had attracted the attention of an evil spirit haunting the neglected villa.

Early in the Tenth Month the governor of iyo left for his post, taking the lady of the locust shell with him. Genji chose his farewell presents with great care. For the lady there were numerous fans, and combs of beautiful workmanship, and pieces of cloth (she could see that he had had them dyed specially) for the wayside gods. He also returned her robe, “the shell of the locust.”

“A keepsake till we meet again, I had hoped,

And see, my tears have rotted the sleeves away.”

There were other things too, but it would be tedious to describe them. His messenger returned empty-handed. It was through her brother that she answered his poem.

“Autumn comes, the wings of the locust are shed.

A summer robe returns, and I weep aloud.”

She had remarkable singleness of purpose, whatever else she might have. It was the first day of winter. There were chilly showers, as if to mark the occasion and the skies were dark. He spent the day lost in thought.

“The one has gone, to the other I say farewell.

They go their unknown ways. The end of autumn.”

He knew how painful a secret love can be.

I had hoped, out of deference to him, to conceal these difficult matters; but I have been accused of romancing, of pretending that because he was the son of an emperor he had no faults. Now, perhaps, I shall be accused of having revealed too much.

Chapter 5

Lavender

Ch5_wakamurasaki

Traditionally credited to Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691).

Part of the Burke Albums, property of Mary Griggs Burke

Genji was suffering from repeated attacks of malaria. All manner of religious services were commissioned, but they did no good.

In a certain temple in the northern hills, someone reported, there lived a sage who was a most accomplished worker of cures. “During the epidemic last summer all sorts of people went to him. He was able to cure them immediately when all other treatment had failed. You must not let it have its way. You must summon him at once.”

Genji sent off a messenger, but the sage replied that he was old and bent and unable to leave his cave.

There was no help for it, thought Genji: he must quietly visit the man. He set out before dawn, taking four or five trusted attendants with him.

The temple was fairly deep in the northern hills. Though the cherry blossoms had already fallen in the city, it being late in the Third Month, the mountain cherries were at their best. The deepening mist as the party entered the hills delighted him. He did not often go on such expeditions, for he was of such rank that freedom of movement was not permitted him.

The temple itself was a sad place. The old man’s cave was surrounded by rocks, high in the hills behind. Making his way up to it, Genji did not at first reveal his identity. He was in rough disguise, but the holy man immediately saw that he was someone of importance.

“This is a very great honor. You will be the gentleman who sent for me? My mind has left the world, and I have so neglected the ritual that it has quite gone out of my head. I fear that your journey has been in vain.” Yet he got busily to work, and he smiled his pleasure at the visit.

He prepared medicines and had Genji drink them, and as he went through his spells and incantations the sun rose higher. Genji walked a fewsteps from the cave and surveyed the scene. The temple was on a height with other temples spread out below it. Down a winding path he saw a wattled fence of better workmanship than similar fences nearby. The halls and galleries within were nicely disposed and there were fine trees in the garden.

“Whose house might that be?”

“A certain bishop, I am told, has been living there in seclusion for the last two years or so.”

“Someone who calls for ceremony — and ceremony is hardly possible in these clothes. He must not know that I am here.”

Several pretty little girls had come out to draw water and cut flowers for the altar.

“And I have been told that a lady is in residence too. The bishop can hardly be keeping a mistress. I wonder who she might be.”

Several of his men went down to investigate, and reported upon what they had seen. “Some very pretty young ladies and some older women too, and some little girls.”

Despite the sage’s ministrations, which still continued, Genji feared a new seizure as the sun rose higher.

“It is too much on your mind,” said the sage. “You must try to think of something else.”

Genji climbed the hill behind the temple and looked off toward the city. The forests receded into a spring haze.

“Like a painting,” he said. “People who live in such a place can hardly want to be anywhere else.”

“Oh, these are not mountains at all,” said one of his men. “The mountains and seas off in the far provinces, now — they would make a real picture. Fuji and those other mountains.”

Another of his men set about diverting him with a description of the mountains and shores of the West Country. “In the nearer provinces the Akashi coast in Harima is the most beautiful. There is nothing especially grand about it, but the view out over the sea has a quiet all its own. The house of the former governor — he took his vows not long ago, and he worries a great deal about his only daughter — the house is rather splendid. He is the son or grandson of a minister and should have made his mark in the world, but he is an odd sort of man who does not get along well with people. He resigned his guards commission and asked for the Harima post. But unfortunately the people of the province do not seem to have taken him quite seriously. Not wanting to go back to the city a failure, he became a monk. You may ask why he should have chosen then to live by the sea and not in a mountain temple. The provinces are full of quiet retreats, but the mountains are really too remote, and the isolation would have been difficult for his wife and young daughter. He seems to have concluded that life by the sea might help him to forget his frustrations.

“I was in the province not long ago and I looked in on him. He may not have done well in the city, but he could hardly have done better in Akashi. The grounds and the buildings are really very splendid. He was, after all, the governor, and he did what he could to make sure that his last years would be comfortable. He does not neglect his prayers, and they would seem to have given him a certain mellowness.”

“And the daughter?” asked Genji.

“Pretty and pleasant enough. Each successive governor has asked for her hand but the old man has turned them all away. He may have ended up an insignificant provincial governor himself, he says, but he has other plans for her. He is always giving her list instructions. If he dies with his grand ambitions unrealized she is to leap into the sea.”

Genji smiled.

“A cloistered maiden, reserved for the king of the sea,” laughed one of his men. “A very extravagant ambition.”

The man who had told the story was the son of the present governor of Harima. He had this year been raised to the Fifth Rank for his services in the imperial secretariat.

“I know why you lurk around the premises,” said another. “You’re a lady’s man, and you want to spoil the old governor’s plans.”

And another: “You haven’t convinced me. She’s a plain country girl, no more. She’s lived in the country most of her life with an old father who knows nothing of the times and the fashions.”

“The mother is the one. She has used her connections in the city to find girls and women from the best families and bring them to Akashi. It makes your head spin to watch her.”

“If the wrong sort of governor were to take over, the old man would have his worries.”

Genji was amused. “Ambition wide ad deep as the sea. But alas, we would not see her for the seaweed.”

Knowing his fondness for oddities, his men had hoped that the story would interest him.

“It is rather late, sir, and seeing as you have not had another attack, suppose we start for home.”

But the sage objected. “He has been possessed by a hostile power. We must continue our services quietly through the night.”

Genji’s men were persuaded, and for Genji it was a novel and amusing excursion.

“We will start back at daybreak.”

The evening was long. He took advantage of a dense haze to have a look at the house behind the wattled fence. Sending back everyone except Koremitsu, he took up a position at the fence. In the west room sat a nun who had a holy image before her. The blinds were slightly raised and she seemed to be offering flowers. She was leaning against a pillar and had a text spread out on an armrest. The effort to read seemed to take all her strength. perhaps in her forties, she had a fair, delicate skin and a pleasantly full face, though the effects of illness were apparent. The features suggested breeding and cultivation. Cut cleanly at the shoulders, her hair seemed to him far more pleasing than if it had been permitted to trail the usual length. Beside her were two attractive women, and little girls scampered in and out. Much the prettiest was a girl of perhaps ten in a soft white singlet and a russet robe. She would one day be a real beauty. Rich hair spread over her shoulders like a fan. Her face was flushed from weeping.

“What is it?” The nun looked up. “Another fight?” He thought he saw a resemblance. Perhaps they were mother and daughter.

“Inuki let my baby sparrows loose.” The child was very angry. “I had them in a basket.”

“That stupid child,” said a rather handsome woman with rich hair who seemed to be called Shōnagon and was apparently the girl’s nurse. “She always manages to do the wrong thing, and we are forever scolding her. Where will they have flown off to? They were getting to be such sweet little things too! How awful if the crows find them.” She went out.

“What a silly child you are, really too silly,” said the nun. “I can’t be sure I will last out the day, and here you are worrying about sparrows. I’ve told you so many times that it’s a sin to put birds in a cage. Come here.”

The child knelt down beside her. She was charming, with rich, unplucked eyebrows and hair pushed childishly back from the forehead. How he would like to see her in a few years! And a sudden realization brought him close to tears: the resemblance to Fujitsubo, for whom he so yearned, was astonishing.

The nun stroked the girl’s hair. “You will not comb it and still it’s so pretty. I worry about you, you do seem so very young. Others are much more grown up at your age. Your poor dead mother: she was only ten when her father died, and she understood everything. What will become of you when I am gone?”

She was weeping, and a vague sadness had come over Genji too. The girl gazed attentively at her and then looked down. The hair that fel over her forehead was thick and lustrous. “Are these tender grasses to grow without the dew

Which holds itself back from the heavens that would receive it?”

There were tears in the nun’s voice, and the other woman seemed also to be speaking through tears:

“It cannot be that the dew will vanish away

Ere summer comes to these early grasses of spring.”

The bishop came in. “What is this? Your blinds up? And today of all days you are out at the veranda? I have just been told that General Genji is up at the hermitage being treated for malaria. He came in disguise and I was not told in time to pay a call.”

“And what a sight we are. You don’t suppose he saw us?” She lowered the blinds.

“The shining one of whom the whole world talks. Wouldn’t you like to see him? Enough to make a saint throw off the last traces of the vulgar world, they say, and feel as if new years had been added to his life. I will get off a note.”

He hurried away, and Genji too withdrew. What a discovery! It was for such unforeseen rewards that his amorous followers were so constantly on the prowl. Such a rare outing for him, and it had brought such a find! She was a perfectly beautiful child. Who might she be? He was beginning to make plans: the child must stand in the place of the one whom she so resembled.

As he lay down to sleep, an acolyte came asking for Koremitsu. The cell was a narrow one and Genji could hear everything that was said.

“Though somewhat startled to learn that your lord had passed us by, we should have come immediately. The fact is that his secrecy rather upset us. We might, you know, have been able to offer shabby accommodations.”

Genji sent back that he had been suffering from malaria since about the middle of the month and had been persuaded to seek the services of the sage, of whom he had only recently heard. “Such is his reputation that I hated to risk marring it by failing to recover. That is the reason for my secrecy. We shall come down immediately.”

The bishop himself appeared. He was a man of the cloth, to be sure, but an unusual one, of great courtliness and considerable fame. Genji was ashamed of his own rough disguise.

The bishop spoke of his secluded life in the hills. Again and again he urged Genji to honor his house. “It is a log hut, no better than this, but you may find the stream cool and pleasant.”

Genji went with him, though somewhat embarrassed at the extravagant terms in which he had been described to women who had not seen him. He wanted to know more about the little girl. The flowers and grasses in the bishop’s garden, though of the familiar varieties, had a charm all their own. The night being dark, flares had been set out along the brook, and there re lanterns at the eaves. A delicate fragrance drifted through the air, mixing with the stronger incense from the altar and the very special scent which had been burnt into Genji’s robes. The ladies within must have found the blend unsettling.

The bishop talked of this ephemeral world and of the world to come. His own burden of sin was heavy, thought Genji, that he had been lured into an illicit and profitless affair. He would regret it all his life and suffer even more terribly in the life to come. What joy to withdraw to such a place as this! But with the thought came thoughts of the young face he had seen earlier in the evening.

“Do you have someone with you here? I had a dream that suddenly begins to make sense.”

“How quick you are with your dreams, sir! I fear my answer will disappoint you. It has been a very long time since the Lord Inspector died. I don’t suppose you will even have heard of him. He was my brother-in-law. His widow turned her back on the world and recently she has been ill, and since I do not go down to the city she has come to stay with me here. It was her thought that I might be able to help her.”

“I have heard that your sister had a daughter. I ask from no more than idle curiosity, you must believe me.”

“There was an only daughter. She too has been dead these ten years and wore. He took very great pains with her education and hoped to send her to court; but he died before that ambition could be realized, and the nun, my sister, was left to look after her. I do not know through whose offices it was that prince Hyōbu began visiting the daughter in secret. His wife is from a very proud family, you know, sir, and there were unpleasant incidents, which finally drove the poor thing into a fatal decline. I saw before my own eyes how worry can destroy a person.”

So the child he had seen would be the daughter of prince Hyōbu and the unfortunate lady; and it was Fujitsubo, the prince’s sister, whom she so resembled. He wanted more than ever to meet her. She was an elegant child, and she did not seem at all spoiled. What a delight if he could take her into his house and make her his ideal!

“A very sad story.” He wished to be completely sure. “Did she leave no one behind?”

“She had a child just before she died, a girl, a great source of worry for my poor sister in her declining years.”

There could be no further doubt. “What I am about to say will, I fear, startle you — but might I have charge of the child? I have rather good reasons, for all the suddenness of my proposal. If you are telling yourself that she is too young — well, sir, you are doing me an injustice. Other men may have improper motives, but I do not.”

“Your words quite fill me with delight. But she is indeed young, so very young that we could not possibly think even in jest of asking you to take responsibility for her. Only the man who is presently to be her husband can take that responsibility. In a matter of such import I am not competent to give an answer. I must discuss the matter with my sister.” He was suddenly remote and chilly.

Genji had spoken with youthful impulsiveness and could not think what to do next.

“It is my practice to conduct services in the chapel of Lord Amitābha.” The bishop got up to leave. “I have not yet said vespers. I shall come again when they are over.”

Genji was not feeling well. A shower passed on a chilly mountain wind, and the sound of the waterfall was higher. Intermittently came a rather sleepy voice, solemn and somehow ominous, reading a sacred text. The most insensitive of men would have been aroused by the scene. Genji was unable to sleep. The vespers were very long and it was growing late. There was evidence that the women in the inner rooms were still up. They were being quiet, but he heard a rosary brush against an armrest and, to give him a sense of elegant companionship, a faint rustling of silk. Screens lined the inside wall, very near at hand. He pushed one of the center panels some inches aside and rustled his fan. Though they must have thought it odd, the women could not ignore it. One of them came forward, then retreated a step or two.

“This is very strange indeed. Is there some mistake?”

“The guiding hand of the Blessed One makes no mistakes on the darkest nights.” His was an aristocratic young voice.

“And in what direction does it lead?” the woman replied hesitantly. “This is most confusing.”

“Very sudden and confusing, I am sure.

“Since first the wanderer glimpsed the fresh young grasses

His sleeves have known no respite from the dew.

“Might I ask you to pass my words on to your lady?”

“There is no one in this house to whom such a message can possibly seem appropriate.”

“I have my reasons. You must believe me.”

The woman withdrew to the rear of the house.

The nun was of course rather startled. “How very forward of him. He must think the child older than she is. And he must have heard our poems about the grasses. What can they have meant to him?” She hesitated for rather a long time. persuaded that too long a delay would be rude, she finally sent back:

“The dew of a night of travel — do not compare it

With the dew that soaks the sleeves of the mountain dweller. It is this last that refuses to dry.”

“I am not used to communicating through messengers. I wish to speak to you directly and in all seriousness.”

Again the old nun hesitated. “There has been a misunderstanding, surely. I can hardly be expected to converse with such a fine young gentleman.”

But the women insisted that it would be rude and unfeeling not to reply.

“I suppose you are right. Young gentlemen are easily upset. I am humbled by such earnestness.” And she came forward.

“You will think me headstrong and frivolous for having addressed you without warning, but the Blessed One knows that my intent is not frivolous at all.” He found the nun’s quiet dignity somewhat daunting.

“We must have made a compact in another life, that we should be in such unexpected conversation.”

“I have heard the sad story, and wonder if I might offer myself as a substitute for your late daughter. I was very young when I lost the one who was dearest to me, and all through the years since I have had strange feelings of aimlessness and futility. We share the same fate, and I wonder if I might not ask that we be companions in it. The opportunity is not likely to come again. I have spoken, I am sure you see, quite without reserve.”

“What you say would delight me did I not fear a mistake. It is true that there is someone here who is under my inadequate protection; but she is very young, and you could not possibly be asked to accept her deficiencies. I must decline your very kind proposal.”

“I repeat that I have heard the whole story. Your admirable reticence does not permit you to understand that my feelings are of no ordinary sort.”

But to her they seemed, though she did not say so, quite outrageous.

The bishop came out.

“Very well, then. I have made a beginning, and it has given me strength.” And Genji pushed the screen back in place.

In the Lotus Hall, voices raised in an act of contrition mingled solemnly with the roar of the waterfall and the wind that came down from the mountain.

This was Genji’s poem, addressed to the bishop:

“A wind strays down from the hills to end my dream,

And tears well forth at these voices upon the waters.”

And this the bishops reply:

“These waters wet your sleeves. Our own are dry,

And tranquil our hearts, washedd lean by mountain waters.

“Such is the effect of familiarity with these scenes.”

There were heavy mists in the dawn sky, and bird songs came from Genji knew not where. Flowering trees and grasses which he could not identify spread like a tapestry before him. The deer that now paused to feed by the house and now wandered on were for him a strange and wonderful sight. He quite forgot his illness. Though it was not easy for the sage to leave his retreat, he made his way down for final services. His husky voice, emerging uncertainly from a toothless mouth, had behind it long years of discipline, and the mystic incantations suggested deep and awesome powers.

An escort arrived from the city, delighted to see Genji so improved, and a message was delivered from his father. The bishop had a breakfast of unfamiliar fruits and berries brought from far down in the valley.

“I have vowed to stay in these mountains until the end of the year, and cannot see you home.” He pressed wine upon Genji. “And so a holy vow has the perverse effect of inspiring regrets.”

“I hate to leave your mountains and streams, but my father seems worried and I must obey his summons. I shall come again before the cherry blossoms have fallen.

“I shall say to my city friends:‘Make haste to see

Those mountain blossoms. The winds may see them first.’”

His manner and voice were beautiful beyond description.

The bishop replied:

“In thirty hundreds of years it blooms but once.

My eyes have seen it, and spurn these mountain cherries.”

“A very great rarity indeed,” Genji said, smiling, “a blossom with so long and short a span.”

The sage offered a verse of thanks as Genji filled his cup:

“My mountain door of pine has opened briefly

To see a radiant flower not seen before.”

There were tears in his eyes. His farewell present was a sacred mace which had special protective powers. The bishop too gave farewell presents: a rosary of carved ebony which Prince Shōtoku had obtained in Korea, still in the original Chinese box, wrapped in a netting and attached to a branch of cinquefoil pine; several medicine bottles of indigo decorated with sprays of cherry and wisteria and the like; and other gifts as well, all of them appropriate to the mountain setting. Genji’s escort had brought gifts for the priests who had helped with the services, the sage himself and the rest, and for all the mountain rustics too. And so Genji started out.

The bishop went to the inner apartments to tell his sister of Genji’s proposal.

“It is very premature. If in four or five years he has not changed his mind we can perhaps give it some thought.”

The bishop agreed, and passed her words on without comment.

Much disappointed, Genji sent in a poem through an acolyte:

“Having come upon an evening blossom,

The mist is loath to go with the morning sun.”

She sent back:

“Can we believe the mist to be so reluctant?

We shall watch the morning sky for signs of truth.”

It was in a casual, cursive style, but the hand was a distinguished one.

He was about to get into his carriage when a large party arrived from the house of his father-in-law, protesting the skill with which he had eluded them. Several of his brothers-in-law, including the oldest, Tō no Chūjō, were among them.

“You know very well that this is the sort of expedition we like best. You could at least have told us. Well, here we are, and we shall stay and enjoy the cherries you have discovered.”

They took seats on the moss below the rocks and wine was brought out.1t was a pleasant spot, beside cascading waters. Tō no Chūjō took out a flute, and one of his brothers, marking time with a fan, sang “To the West of the Toyora Temple.” They were handsome young men, all of them, but it was the ailing Genji whom everyone was looking at, so handsome a figure as he leaned against a rock that he brought a shudder of apprehension. Always in such a company there is an adept at the flageolet, and a fancier of the shō pipes as well.

The bishop brought out a seven-stringed Chinese koto and pressed Genji to play it. “Just one tune, to give our mountain birds a pleasant surprise.”

Genji protested that he was altogether too unwell, but he played a passable tune all the same. And so they set forth. The nameless priests and acolytes shed tears of regret, and the aged nuns within, who had never before seen such a fine gentleman, asked whether he might not be a visitor from another world.

“How can it be,” said the bishop, brushing away a tear, “that such a one has been born into the confusion and corruption in which we live?”

The little girl too thought him very grand. “Even handsomer than Father,” she said.

“So why don’t you be his little girl?”

She nodded, accepting the offer; and her favorite doll, the one with the finest wardrobe, and the handsomest gentleman in her pictures too were thereupon named “Genji.”

Back in the city, Genji first reported to his father upon his excursion. The emperor had never before seen him in such coarse dress.

He asked about the qualifications of the sage, and Genji replied in great detail.

“I must see that he is promoted. Such a remarkable record and I had not even heard of him.”

Genji’s father-in-law, the Minister of the Left, chanced to be in attendance. “I thought of going for you, but you did after all go off in secret. Suppose you have a few days’ rest at Sanjō. I will go with you, immediately.”

Genji was not enthusiastic, but he left with his father-in-law all the same. The minister had his own carriage brought up and insisted that Genji get in first. This solicitude rather embarrassed him.

At the minister’s Sanjō mansion everything was in readiness. It had been polished and refitted until it was a jeweled pavilion, perfect to the last detail. As always, Genji’s wife secluded herself in her private apartments, and it was only at her father’s urging that she came forth; and so Genji had her before him, immobile, like a princess in an illustration for a romance. It would have been a great pleasure, he was sure, to have her comment even tartly upon his account of the mountain journey. She seemed the stiffest, remotest person in the world. How odd that the aloofness seemed only to grow as time went by.

“It would be nice, I sometimes think, if you could be a little more wifely. I have been very ill, and I am hurt, but not really surprised, that you have not inquired after my health.”

“Like the pain, perhaps, of awaiting a visitor who does not come?”

She cast a sidelong glance at him as she spoke, and her cold beauty was very intimidating indeed.

“You so rarely speak to me, and when you do you say such unpleasant things. ‘A visitor who does not come’— that is hardly an appropriate way to describe a husband, and indeed it is hardly civil. I try this approach and I try that, hoping to break through, but you seem intent on defending all the approaches. Well, one of these years, perhaps, if I live long enough.”

He withdrew to the bedchamber. She did not follow. Though there were things he would have liked to say, he lay down with a sigh. He closed his eyes, but there was too much on his mind to permit sleep.

He thought of the little girl and how he would like to see her grown into a woman. Her grandmother was of course right when she said that the girl was still too young for him. He must not seem insistent. And yet — was there not some way to bring her quietly to Nijō and have her beside him, a comfort and a companion? prince Hyōbu was a dashing and stylish man, but no one could have called him remarkably handsome. Why did the girl so take after her aunt? perhaps because aunt and father were children of the same empress. These thoughts seemed to bring the girl closer, and he longed to have her for his own.

The next day he wrote to the nun. He would also seem to have communicated his thoughts in a casual way to the bishop. To the nun he said:

“I fear that, taken somewhat aback by your sternness, I did not express myself very well. I find strength in the hope that something of the resolve demanded of me to write this letter will have conveyed itself to you.”

With it was a tightly folded note for the girl:

“The mountain blossoms are here beside me still.

All of myself I left behind with them.

“I am fearful of what the night winds might have done.”

The writing, of course, and even the informal elegance of the folding, quite dazzled the superannuated woman who received the letter. Somewhat overpowering, thought the grandmother.

She finally sent back: “I did not take your farewell remarks seriously; and now so soon to have a letter from you — I scarcely know how to reply. She cannot even write’Naniwa’ properly, and how are we to expect that she give you a proper answer?

“Brief as the time till the autumn tempests come

To scatter the flowers — so brief your thoughts of her.

“I am deeply troubled.”

The bishop’s answer was in the same vein. Two or three days later Genji sent Koremitsu off to the northern hills.

“There is her nurse, the woman called Shōnagon. Have a good talk with her.”

How very farsighted, thought Koremitsu, smiling at the thought of the girl they had seen that evening.

The bishop said that he was much honored to be in correspondence with Genji. Koremitsu was received by Shōnagon, and described Genji’s apparent state of mind in great detail. He was a persuasive young man and he made a convincing case, but to the nun and the others this suit for the hand of a mere child continued to seem merely capricious. Genji’s letter was warm and earnest. There was a note too for the girl:

“Let me see your first exercises at the brush.

“No Shallow Spring, this heart of mine, believe me.

And why must the mountain spring then seem so distant?”

This was the nun’s reply:

“You drink at the mountain stream, your thoughts turn elsewhere.

Do you hope to see the image you thus disturb?”

Koremitsu’s report was no more encouraging. Shōnagon had said that they would be returning to the city when the nun was a little stronger and would answer him then.

Fujitsubo was ill and had gone home to her family. Genji managed a sympathetic thought or two for his lonely father, but his thoughts were chiefly on the possibility of seeing Fujitsubo. He quite halted his visits to other ladies. All through the day, at home and at court, he sat gazing off into space, and in the evening he would press Omyōbu to be his intermediary. How she did it I do not know; but she contrived a meeting. It is sad to have to say that his earlier attentions, so unwelcome, no longer seemed real, and the mere thought that they had been successful was for Fujitsubo a torment. Determined that there would not be another meeting, she was shocked to find him in her presence again. She did not seek to hide her distress, and her efforts to turn him away delighted him even as they put him to shame. There was no one else quite like her. In that fact was his undoing: he would be less a prey to longing if he could find in her even a trace of the ordinary. And the tumult of thoughts and feelings that now assailed him — he would have liked to consign it to the Mountain of Obscurity. It might have been better, he sighed, so short was the night, if he had not come at all.

“So few and scattered the nights, so few the dreams.

Would that the dream tonight might take me with it.”

He was in tears, and she did, after all, have to feel sorry for him.

“Were I to disappear in the last of dreams

Would yet my name live on in infamy?”

She had every right to be unhappy, and he was sad for her. Omyōbu gathered his clothes and brought them out to him.

Back at Nijō he spent a tearful day in bed. He had word from Omyōbu that her lady had not read his letter. So it always was, and yet he was hurt. He remained in distraught seclusion for several days. The thought that his father might be wondering about his absence filled him with terror.

Lamenting the burden of sin that seemed to be hers, Fujitsubo was more and more unwell, and could not bestir herself, despite repeated messages summoning her back to court. She was not at all her usual self — and what was to become of her? She took to her bed as the weather turned warmer. Three months had now passed and her condition was clear; and the burden of sin now seemed to have made it necessary that she submit to curious and reproving stares. Her women thought her behavior very curious indeed. Why had she let so much time pass without informing the emperor? There was of course a crucial matter of which she spoke to no one. Ben, the daughter of her old nurse, and Omyōbu, both of whom were very close to her and attended her in the bath, had ample opportunity to observe her condition. Omyōbu was aghast. Her lady had been trapped by the harshest of fates. The emperor would seem to have been informed that a malign spirit had possession of her, and to have believed the story, as did the court in general. He sent a constant stream of messengers, which terrified her and allowed no pause in her sufferings.

Genji had a strange, rather awful dream. He consulted a soothsayer, who said that it portended events so extraordinary as to be almost unthinkable.

“It contains bad omens as well. You must be careful.”

“It was not my own dream but a friend’s. We will see whether it comes true, and in the meantime you must keep it to yourself.”

What could it mean? He heard of Fujitsubo’s condition, thought of their night together, and wondered whether the two might be related. He exhausted his stock of pleas for another meeting. Horrified that matters were so out of hand, Omyōbu could do nothing for him. He had on rare occasions had a brief note, no more than a line or two; but now even these messages ceased coming.

Fujitsubo returned to court in the Seventh Month. The emperor’s affection for her had only grown in her absence. Her condition was now apparent to everyone. A slight emaciation made her beauty seem if anything nearer perfection, and the emperor kept her always at his side. The skies as autumn approached called more insistently for music. Keeping Genji too beside him, the emperor had him try his hand at this and that instrument. Genji struggled to control himself, but now and then a sign of his scarcely bearable feelings did show through, to remind the lady of what she wanted more than anything to forget.

Somewhat improved, the nun had returned to the city. Genji had someone make inquiry about her residence and wrote from time to time. It was natural that her replies should show no lessening of her opposition, but it did not worry Genji as it once had. He had more considerable worries. His gloom was deeper as autumn came to a close. One beautiful moonlit night he collected himself for a visit to a place he had been visiting in secret. A cold, wintry shower passed. The address was in Rokujō, near the eastern limits of the city, and since he had set out from the palace the way seemed a long one. He passed a badly neglected house, the garden dark with ancient trees.

“The inspector’s house,” said Koremitsu, who was always with him. “I called there with a message not long ago. The old lady has declined so shockingly that they can’t think what to do for her.”

“You should have told me. I should have looked in on her. Ask, please, if she will see me.”

Koremitsu sent a man in with the message.

The women had not been expecting a caller, least of all such a grand one. For some days the old lady had seemed beyond helping, and they feared that she would be unable to receive him. But they could hardly turn such a gentleman away — and so a cushion was put out for him in the south room.

“My lady says that she fears you will find it cluttered and dirty, but she is determined at least to thank you for coming. You must find the darkness and gloom unlike anything you have known.”

And indeed he could not have denied that he was used to something rather different.

“You have been constantly on my mind, but your reserve has it difficult for me to call. I am sorry that I did not know sooner of illness.”

“I have been ill for a very long time, but in this last extremity — it was good of him to come.” He caught the sad, faltering tones as she gave the message to one of her women. “I am sorry that I cannot receive him properly. As for the matter he has raised, I hope that he will still count the child among those important to him when she is no longer a child. The thought of leaving her uncared for must, I fear, create obstacles along the road I yearn to travel. But tell him, please, how good it was of him. I wish the child were old enough to thank him too.”

“Can you believe,” he sent back, “that I would put myself in this embarrassing position if I were less than serious? There must be a bond between us, that I should have been so drawn to her since I first heard of her. It all seems so strange. The beginnings of it must have been in a different world. I will feel that I have come in vain if I cannot hear the sound of her young voice.”

“She is asleep. She did not of course know that you were coming.”

But just then someone came scampering into the room. “Grandmother, they say the gentleman we saw at the temple is here. Why don’t you go out and talk to him?”

The women tried to silence her.

“But why? She said the very sight of him made her feel better. I heard

Though much amused, Genji pretended not to hear. After proper statements of sympathy he made his departure. Yes, she did seem little more than an infant. He would be her teacher.

The next day he sent a letter inquiring after the old lady, and with it a tightly folded note for the girl:

“Seeking to follow the call of the nestling crane

The open boat is lost among the reeds.

“And comes again and again to you?”

He wrote it in a childish hand, which delighted the women. The child was to model her own hand upon it, no detail changed, they said.

Shōnagon sent a very sad answer: “It seems doubtful that my lady, after whom you were so kind as to inquire, will last the day. We are on the point of sending her off to the mountains once more. I know that she will thank you from another world.”

In the autumn evening, his thoughts on his unattainable love, he longed more than ever, unnatural though the wish may have seemed, for the company of the little girl who sprang from the same roots. The thought of the evening when the old nun had described herself as dew holding back from the heavens made him even more impatient — and at the same time he feared that if he were to bring the girl to Nijō he would be disappointed in her.

“I long to have it, to bring it in from the moor,

The lavender that shares its roots with another.”

In the Tenth Month the emperor was to visit the Suzaku palace. -->From all the great families and the middle and upper courtly ranks the most accomplished musicians and dancers were selected to go with him, and grandees and princes of the blood were busy at the practice that best suited their talents. Caught up in the excitement, Genji was somewhat remiss in inquiring after the nun.

When, finally, he sent off a messenger to the northern hills, a sad reply came from the bishop: “We lost her toward the end of last month. It is the way of the world, I know, and yet I am sad.”

If the news shocked even him into a new awareness of evanescence, thought Genji, how must it be for the little girl who had so occupied the nun’s thoughts? Young though she was, she must feel utterly lost. He remembered, though dimly how it had been when his mother died, and he sent off an earnest letter of sympathy. Shōnagon’s answer seemed rather warmer. He went calling on an evening when he had nothing else to occupy him, some days after he learned that the girl had come out of mourning and returned to the city. The house was badly kept and almost deserted. The poor child must be terrified, he thought. He was shown to the same room as before. Sobbing, Shōnagon told him of the old lady’s last days. Genji too was in tears.

“My young lady’s father would seem to have indicated a willingness to take her in, but she is at such an uncomfortable age, not quite a child and still without the discernment of an adult; and the thought of having her in the custody of the lady who was so cruel to her mother is too awful. Her sisters will persecute her dreadfully, I know. The fear of it never left my lady’s mind, and we have had too much evidence that the fear was not groundless. We have been grateful for your expressions of interest, though we have hesitated to take them seriously. I must emphasize that my young lady is not at all what you must think her to be. I fear that we have done badly by her, and that our methods have left her childish even for her years.”

“Must you continue to be so reticent and apologetic? I have made my own feelings clear, over and over again. It is precisely the childlike quality that delights me most and makes me think I must have her for my own. You may think me complacent and self-satisfied for saying so, but I feel sure that we were joined in a former life. Let me speak to her, please.

“Rushes hide the sea grass at Wakanoura.

Must the waves that seek it out turn back to sea?

“That would be too much to ask of them.”

“The grass at Wakanoura were rash indeed

To follow waves that go it knows not whither.

“It would be far, far too much to ask.”

The easy skill with which she turned her poem made it possible for him to forgive its less than encouraging significance. “After so many years,” he whispered, “the gate still holds me back.”

The girl lay weeping for her grandmother. Her playmates came to tell her that a gentleman in court dress was with Shōnagon. perhaps it would be her father?

She came running in. “Where is the gentleman, Shōnagon? Is Father here?”

What a sweet voice she had!

“I’m not your father, but I’m someone just as important. Come here.”

She saw that it was the other gentleman, and child though she was, she flushed at having spoken out of turn. “Let’s go.” She tugged at Shōnagon’s sleeve. “Let’s go. I’m sleepy.”

“Do you have to keep hiding yourself from me? Come here. You can sleep on my knee.”

“She is really very young, sir.” But Shōnagon urged the child forward, and she knelt obediently just inside the blinds.

He ran his hand over a soft, rumpled robe, and, a delight to the touch, hair full and rich to its farthest ends. He took her hand. She pulled away — for he was, after all, a stranger.

“I said I’m sleepy.” She went back to Shōnagon.

He slipped in after her. “I am the one you must look to now. You must not be shy with me.”

“Please, sir. You forget yourself. You forget yourself completely. She is simply not old enough to understand what you have in mind.”

“It is you who do not understand. I see how young she is, and I have nothing of the sort in mind. I must again ask you to be witness to the depth and purity of my feelings.”

It was a stormy night. Sleet was pounding against the roof.

“How can she bear to live in such a lonely place? It must be awful for her.” Tears came to his eyes. He could not leave her. “I will be your watchman. You need one on a night like this. Come close to me, all of you.

Quite as if he belonged there, he slipped into the girl’s bedroom. The women were astounded, Shōnagon more than the rest. He must be mad! But she was in no position to protest. Genji pulled a singlet over the girl, who was trembling like a leaf. Yes, he had to admit that his behavior must seem odd; but, trying very hard not to frighten her, he talked of things he thought would interest her.

“You must come to my house. I have all sorts of pictures, and there are dolls for you to play with.”

She was less frightened than at first, but she still could not sleep. The storm blew all through the night, and Shōnagon quite refused to budge from their side. They would surely have perished of fright, whispered the women, if they had not had him with them. What a pity their lady was not a little older!

It was still dark when the wind began to subside and he made his departure, and all the appearances were as of an amorous expedition. “What I have seen makes me very sad and convinces me that she must not be out of my sight. She must come and live with me and share my lonely days. This place is quite impossible. You must be in constant tenor.”

“Her father has said that he will come for her. I believe it is to be after the memorial services.”

“Yes, we must think of him. But they have lived apart, and he must be as much of a stranger as I am. I really do believe that in this very short time my feelings for her are stronger than his.” He patted the girl on the head and looked back smiling as he left.

There was a heavy mist and the ground was white. Had he been on his way from a visit to a woman, he would have found the scene very affecting; but as it was he was vaguely depressed. Passing the house of a woman he had been seeing in secret, he had someone knock on the gate. There was no answer, and so he had someone else from his retinue, a man of very good voice, chant this poem twice in tones that could not fail to attract attention:

“Lost though I seem to be in the mists of dawn,

I see your gate, and cannot pass it by.”

She sent out an ordinary maid who seemed, however, to be a woman of some sensibility:

“So difficult to pass? Then do come in.

No obstacle at all, this gate of grass.”

Something more was needed to end the night, but dawn was approaching. Back at Nijō, he lay smiling at the memory of the girl. The sun was high when he arose and set about composing a letter. A rather special sort of poem seemed called for, but he laid his brush aside and deliberated for a time, and presently sent some pictures.

Looking in on his daughter that same day, prince Hyōbu found the house vaster and more cavernous than he had remembered it, and the decay astonishingly advanced since the grandmother’s death.

“How can you bear it for even a moment? You must come and live with me. I have plenty of room. And Nurse here can have a room of her own. There are other little girls, and I am sure you will get on beautifully together.” Genji’s perfume had been transferred to the child. “What a beautiful smell. But see how rumpled and ragged you are. I did not like the idea of having you with an ailing lady and wanted you to come and live with me. But you held back so, and I have to admit that the lady who is to be your mother has not been happy at the idea herself. It seems very sad that we should have waited for this to happen.”

“Please, my lord. We may be lonely, but it will be better for us to remain as we are at least for a time. It will be better for us to wait until she is a little older and understands things better. She grieves for her grandmother and quite refuses to eat.”

She was indeed thinner, but more graceful and elegant.

“Why must she go on grieving? Her grandmother is gone, and that is that. She still has me.” It was growing dark. The girl wept to see him go, and he too was in tears. “You mustn’t be sad. Please. You mustn’t be sad. I will send for you tomorrow at the very latest.”

She was inconsolable when he had gone, and beyond thinking about her own future. She was old enough to know what it meant, that the lady who had never left her was now gone. Her playmates no longer interested her. She somehow got through the daylight hours, but in the evening she gave herself up to tears, and Shōnagon and the others wept at their inability to comfort her. How, they asked one another, could they possibly go on?

Genji sent Koremitsu to make excuses. He wanted very much to call, but he had received an ill-timed summons from the palace.

“Has he quite forgotten his manners?” said Shōnagon. “I know very well that this is not as serious an affair for him as for us, but a man is expected to call regularly at the beginning of any affair. Her father, if he hears of it, will think that we have managed very badly indeed. You are young, my lady, but you must not speak of it to anyone.” But the girl was not listening as attentively as Shōnagon would have wished.

Koremitsu was permitted a hint or two of their worries. “Perhaps when the time comes we will be able to tell ourselves that what must be must be, but at the moment the incompatibility overshadows everything. And your lord says and does such extraordinary things. Her father came today and did not improve matters by telling us that nothing must be permitted to happen. What could be worse than your lord’s way of doing things?” She was keeping her objections to a minimum, however, for she did not want Koremitsu to think that anything of real importance had occurred.

Puzzled, Koremitsu returned to Nijō and reported upon what he had seen and heard. Genji was touched, though not moved to pay a visit. He was worried about rumors and the imputation of recklessness and frivolity that was certain to go with them. He must bring the girl to Nijō.

He sent several notes, and in the evening dispatched Koremitsu, his most faithful and reliable messenger. Certain obstacles prevented Genji’s calling in person, said Koremitsu, but they must not be taken to suggest a want of seriousness.

“Her royal father has said that he will come for her tomorrow. We are feeling rather pressed. It is sad, after all, to leave a familiar place, however shabby and weedy it may be. You must forgive us. We are not entirely ourselves.”

She gave him short shrift. He could see that they were busy at needle-work and other preparations.

Genji was at his father-in-law’s house in Sanjō. His wife was as always slow to receive him. In his boredom and annoyance he took out a Japanese koto and pleasantly hummed “The Field in Hitachi.” Then came Koremitsu’s unsettling report. He must act. If he were to take her from her father’s house, he would be called a lecher and a child thief. He must swear the women to secrecy and bring her to Nijō immediately.

“I will go early in the morning. Have my carriage left as it is, and order a guard, no more than a man or two.”

Koremitsu went to see that these instructions were carried out. Genji knew that he was taking risks. People would say that his appetites were altogether too varied. If the girl were a little older he would be credited with having made a conquest, and that would be that. Though Prince Hyōbu would be very upset indeed, Genji knew that he must not let the child go. It was still dark when he set out. His wife had no more than usual to say to him.

“I have just remembered some business at Nijō that absolutely has to be taken care of. I should not be long.”

Her women did not even know that he had gone. He went to his own rooms and changed to informal court dress. Koremitsu alone was on horseback.

When they reached their destination one of his men pounded on the gate. Ignorant of what was afoot, the porter allowed Genji’s carriage to be pulled inside. Koremitsu went to a corner door and coughed. Shōnagon came out.

“My lord is here.”

“And my lady is asleep. You pick strange hours for your visits.” Shōnagon suspected that he was on his way home from an amorous adventure.

Genji had joined Koremitsu.

“There is something I must say to her before she goes to her father’s.”

Shōnagon smiled. “And no doubt she will have many interesting things to say in reply.”

He pushed his way inside.

“Please, sir. We were not expecting anyone. The old women are a dreadful sight.”

“I will go wake her. The morning mist is too beautiful for sleep.”

He went into her bedroom, where the women were too surprised to cry out. He took her in his arms and smoothed her hair. Her father had come for her, she thought, only half awake.

“Let’s go. I have come from your father’s.” She was terrified when she saw that it was not after all her father. “You are not being nice. I have told you that you must think of me as your father.” And he carried her out.

A chorus of protests now came from Shōnagon and the others.

“I have explained things quite well enough. I have told you how difficult it is for me to visit her and how I want to have her in a more comfortable and accessible spot; and your way of making things easier is to send her off to her father. One of you may come along, if you wish.”

“Please, sir.” Shōnagon was wringing her hands. “You could not have chosen a worse time. What are we to say when her father comes? If it is her fate to be your lady, then perhaps something can be done when the time comes. This is too sudden, and you put us in an extremely difficult position.”

“You can come later if you wish.”

His carriage had been brought up. The women were fluttering about helplessly and the child was sobbing. Seeing at last that there was nothing else to be done, Shōnagon took up several of the robes they had been at work on the night before, changed to presentable clothes of her own, and got into the carriage.

It was still dark when they reached Nijō, only a short distance away. Genji ordered the carriage brought up to the west wing and took the girl inside.

“It is like a nightmare,” said Shōnagon. “What am I to do?”

“Whatever you like. I can have someone see you home if you wish.”

Weeping helplessly, poor Shōnagon got out of the carriage. What would her lady’s father think when he came for her? And what did they now have to look forward to? The saddest thing was to be left behind by one’s protectors. But tears did not augur well for the new life. With an effort she pulled herself together.

Since no one was living in this west wing, there was no curtained bedchamber. Genji had Koremitsu put up screens and curtains, sent someone else to the east wing for bedding, and lay down. Though trembling violently, the girl managed to keep from sobbing aloud.

“I always sleep with Shōnagon,” she said softly in childish accents.

“Imagine a big girl like you still sleeping with her nurse.”

Weeping quietly, the girl lay down.

Shōnagon sat up beside them, looking out over the garden as dawn came on. The buildings and grounds were magnificent, and the sand in the garden was like jewels. Not used to such affluence, she was glad there were no other women in this west wing. It was here that Genji received occasional callers. A few guards beyond the blinds were the only attendants.

They were speculating on the identity of the lady he had brought with him. “Someone worth looking at, you can bet.”

Water pitchers and breakfast were brought in. The sun was high when Genji arose. “You will need someone to take care of you. Suppose you send this evening for the ones you like best.” He asked that children be sent from the east wing to play with her. “Pretty little girls, please.” Four little girls came in, very pretty indeed.

The new girl, his Murasaki, still lay huddled under the singlet he had thrown over her.

“You are not to sulk, now, and make me unhappy. Would I have done all this for you if I were not a nice man? Young ladies should do as they are told.” And so the lessons began.

She seemed even prettier here beside him than from afar. His manner warm and fatherly, he sought to amuse her with pictures and toys he had sent for from the east wing. Finally she came over to him. Her dark mourning robes were soft and unstarched, and when she smiled, innocently and unprotestingly, he had to smile back. She went out to look at the trees and pond after he had departed for the east wing. The flowers in the foreground, delicately touched by frost, were like a picture. Streams of courtiers, of the medium ranks and new to her experience, passed back and forth. Yes, it was an interesting place. She looked at the pictures on screens and elsewhere and (so it is with a child) soon forgot her troubles.

Staying away from court for several days, Genji worked hard to make her feel at home. He wrote down all manner of poems for her to copy, and drew all manner of pictures, some of them very good. “I sigh, though I have not seen Musashi,” he wrote on a bit of lavender paper. She took it up, and thought the hand marvelous. In a tiny hand he wrote beside it:

“Thick are the dewy grasses of Musashi,

Near this grass to the grass I cannot have.”

“Now you must write something.”

“But I can’t.” She looked up at him, so completely without affectation that he had to smile.

“You can’t write as well as you would like to, perhaps, but it would be wrong of you not to write at all. You must think of me as your teacher.”

It was strange that even her awkward, childish way of holding the brush should so delight him. Afraid she had made a mistake, she sought to conceal what she had written. He took it from her.

“I do not know what it is that makes you sigh.

And whatever grass can it be I am so near to?”

The hand was very immature indeed, and yet it had strength, and character. It was very much like her grandmother’s. A touch of the modern and it would not be at all unacceptable. He ordered dollhouses and as the two of them played together he found himself for the first time neglecting his sorrows.

Prince Hyōbu went for his daughter on schedule. The women were acutely embarrassed, for there was next to nothing they could say to him. Genji wished to keep the girl’s presence at Nijō secret, and Shōnagon had enjoined the strictest silence. They could only say that Shōnagon had spirited the girl away, they did not know where.

He was aghast. “Her grandmother did not want me to have her, and so I suppose Shōnagon took it upon herself, somewhat sneakily I must say, to hide her away rather than give her to me.” In tears, he added: “Let me know if you hear anything.”

Which request only intensified their confusion.

The prince inquired of the bishop in the northern hills and came away no better informed. By now he was beginning to feel some sense of loss (such a pretty child); and his wife had overcome her bitterness and, happy at the thought of a little girl to do with as she pleased, was similarly regretful.

Presently Murasaki had all her women with her. She was a bright, lively child, and the boys and girls who were to be her playmates felt quite at home with her. Sometimes on lonely nights when Genji was away she would weep for her grandmother. She thought little of her father. They had lived apart and she scarcely knew him. She was by now extremely fond of her new father. She would be the first to run out and greet him when he came home, and she would climb on his lap, and they would talk happily together, without the least constraint or embarrassment. He was delighted with her. A clever and watchful woman can create all manner of difficulties. A man must be always on his guard, and jealousy can have the most unwelcome consequences. Murasaki was the perfect companion, a toy for him to play with. He could not have been so free and uninhibited with a daughter of his own. There are restraints upon paternal intimacy. Yes, he had come upon a remarkable little treasure.

Chapter 6

The Safflower

Though the years might forget “the evening face” that had been with him such a short time and vanished like the dew, Genji could not. His other ladies were proud and aloof, and her pretty charms were unlike any others he had known. Forgetting that the affair had ended in disaster, he would ask himself if he might not find another girl, pretty and of not too high a place in the world, with whom he might be as happy. He missed no rumor, however obscure, of a well-favored lady, and (for he had not changed) he felt confident in each instance that a brief note from him would not be ignored. The cold and unrelenting ones seemed to have too grand a notion of their place in the world, and when their proud ambition began to fail it failed completely and in the end they made very undistinguished marriages for themselves. His inquiries usually ended after a note or two.

He continued to have bitter thoughts about the governor’s wife, the lady of “the locust shell.” As for her stepdaughter, he favored her with notes, it would seem, when suitable occasions arose. He would have liked to see her again as he had seen her then, in dishabille by lamplight. He was a man whose nature made it impossible for him to forget a woman.

One of his old nurses, of whom he was only less fond than of Koremitsu’s mother, had a daughter named Tayū, a very susceptible young lady who was in court service and from time to time did favors for Genji. Her father belonged to a cadet branch of the royal family. Because her mother had gone off to the provinces with her present husband, the governor of Chikuzen, Tayū lived in her father’s house and went each day to court. She chanced to tell Genji that the late prince Hitachi had fathered a daughter in his old age. The princess had enjoyed every comfort while she had had him to dote upon her, but now she was living a sad, straitened life. Genji was much touched by the story and inquired further.

“I am not well informed, I fear, about her appearance and disposition. She lives by herself and does not see many people. On evenings when I think I might not be intruding, I sometimes have a talk with her through curtains and we play duets together. We have the koto as a mutual friend, you might say.”

“That one of the poet’s three friends is permitted to a lady, but not the next. You must let me hear her play sometime. Her father was very good at the koto. It does not seem likely that she would be less than remarkable herself.”

“I doubt, sir, that she could please so demanding an ear.”

“That was arch of you. We will pick a misty moonlit night and go pay a visit. You can manage a night off from your duties.”

Though she feared it would not be easy, they made their plans, choosing a quiet spring evening when little was happening at court. Tayū went on ahead to prince Hitachi’s mansion. Her father lived elsewhere and visited from time to time. Not being on very good terms with her step-mother, she preferred the Hitachi mansion, and she and the princess had become good friends.

Genji arrived as planned. The moon was beautiful, just past full.

“It seems a great pity,” said Tayū, “that this should not be the sort of night when a koto sounds best.”

“Do go over and urge her to play something, anything. Otherwise I will have come in vain.”

She showed him into her own rather cluttered room. She thought the whole adventure beneath his dignity, but went to the main hall even so. With the shutters still raised, a delicate fragrance of plum blossoms was wafted in.

She saw her chance. “On beautiful nights like this I think of your koto and wish we might become better acquainted. It seems a pity that I always have to rush off.”

“I fear that you have heard too much really fine playing. My own can hardly seem passable to someone who frequents the palace.”

Yet she reached for her koto. Tayū was very nervous, wondering what marks Genji would give the concert. She played a soft strain which in fact he found very pleasing. Her touch was not particularly distinguished, but the instrument was by no means ordinary, and he could see that she had inherited something of her father’s talent. She had been reared in old-fashioned dignity by a gentleman of the finest breeding, and now, in this lonely, neglected place, scarcely anything of the old life remained. She must have known all the varieties of melancholy. It was just such a spot that the old romancers chose for their most moving scenes. He would have liked to let her know of his presence, but did not want to seem forward.

A clever person, Tayū thought it would be best not to let Genji hear too much. “It seems to have clouded over,” she said. “I am expecting a caller and would not wish him to think I am avoiding him. I will come again and hope for the pleasure of hearing you at more considerable length.” And on this not very encouraging note she returned to her room.

“She stopped just too soon,” said Genji. “I was not able to tell how good she might be.” He was interested. “Perhaps if it is all the same you can arrange for me to listen from a little nearer at hand.”

Tayū thought it would be better to leave him as he was, in a state of suspense. “I fear not, sir. She is a lonely, helpless person, quite lost in her own thoughts. It is all very sad, and I would certainly not want to do anything that might distress her.”

She was right. He Must defer to the lady’s position. There were ranks and there were ranks, and it was in the lower of them that ladies did not always turn away sudden visitors.

“But do please give her some hint of my feelings.” He had another engagement and went quietly out.

“It amuses me sometimes to think that your royal father believes you to be excessively serious. I doubt that he ever sees you dressed for these expeditions.”

He smiled over his shoulder. “You do not seem in a very good position to criticize. If this sort of thing requires comment, then what are we to say of the behavior of certain ladies I know?”

She did not answer. Her somewhat indiscriminate ways invited such remarks.

Wondering if he might come upon something of interest in the main hall, he took cover behind a moldering, leaning section of bamboo fence. Someone had arrived there before him. Who might it be? A young gallant who had come courting the lady, no doubt. He fell back into the shadows.

In fact, it was his friend Tō no Chūjō. They had left the palace together that evening. Genji, having abruptly said goodbye, had gone neither to his father-in-law’s Sanjō mansion nor to his own at Nijō. Tō no Chūjō followed him, though he had an engagement of his own. Genji was in disguise and mounted on a very unprepossessing horse and, to puzzle his friend further, made his way to this unlikely place. As Tō no Chūjō debated the meaning of these strange circumstances there came the sound of a koto. He waited, thinking that Genji would appear shortly. Genji tried to slip away, for he still did not recognize his friend, and did not want to be recognized himself.

Tō no Chūjō came forward. “I was not happy to have you shake me off, and so I came to see you on your way.

This moon of the sixteenth night has secret ways.”

Genji was annoyed and at the same time amused. “This is a surprise.

“It sheds its rays impartially here and there,

And who should care what mountain it sets behind?”

“So here we are. And what do we do now? The important thing when you set out on this sort of escapade is to have a proper guard. Do not, please, leave me behind next time. You have no idea what awful things can happen when you go off by yourself in disguise.” And so he made it seem that he was the one privileged to administer reproofs.

It was the usual thing: Tō no Chūjō was always spying out his secrets. Genji thought it a splendid coup on his part to have learned and concealed from his friend the whereabouts of “the wild carnation.”

They were too fond of each other to say goodbye on the spot. Getting into the same carriage, they played on their flutes as they made their way under a pleasantly misted moon to the Sanjō mansion. Having no outrunners, they were able to pull in at a secluded gallery without attracting attention. There they sent for court dress. Taking up their flutes again, they proceeded to the main hall as if they had just come from court. The minister, eager as always for a concert, joined in with a Korean flute. He was a fine musician, and soon the more accomplished of the ladies within the blinds had joined them on lutes. There was a most accomplished lady named Nakatsukasa. Tō no Chūjō had designs upon her, but she had turned him away. Genji, who so rarely came to the house, had quite won her affections. News of the infatuation had reached the ears of princess Omiya, Tō no Chūjō‘s mother, who strongly disapproved of it. Poor Naka- tsukasa was thus left with her own sad thoughts, and tonight she sat forlornly apart from the others, leaning on an armrest. She had considered seeking a position elsewhere, but she was reluctant to take a step that would prevent her from seeing Genji again.

The two young men were both thinking of that koto earlier in the evening, and of that strange, sad house. Tō no Chūjō was lost in a most unlikely reverie: suppose some very charming lady lived there and, with patience, he were to make her his, and to find her charming and sad beyond description — he would no doubt be swept away by very confused emotions. Genji’s new adventure was certain to come to something.

Both seem to have written to the Hitachi princess. There were no answers. Tō no Chūjō thought this silence deplorable and incomprehensible. What a man wanted was a woman who though impoverished had a keen and ready sensibility and let him guess her feelings by little notes and poems as the clouds passed and the grasses and blossoms came and went. The princess had been reared in seclusion, to be sure, but such extreme reticence was simply in bad taste. Of the two he was the more upset.

A candid and open sort, he said to Genji: “Have you had any answers from the Hitachi lady? I let a drop a hint or two myself, and I have not had a word in reply.”

So it had happened. Genji smiled. “I have had none myself, perhaps because I have done nothing to deserve any.”

It was an ambiguous answer which left his friend more restless than ever. He feared that the princess was playing favorites.

Genji was not in fact very interested in her, though he too found her silence annoying. He persisted in his efforts all the same. Tō no Chūjō was an eloquent and persuasive young man, and Genji would not want to be rejected when he himself had made the first advances. He summoned Tayū for solemn

“It bothers me a great deal that she should be so unresponsive. Perhaps she judges me to be among the frivolous and inconstant ones. She is wrong. My feelings are unshakable. It is true that when a lady makes it known that she does not trust me I sometimes go a little astray. A lady who does trust me and who does not have a meddling family, a lady with whom I can be really comfortable, is the sort I find most pleasant.”

“I fear, sir, that she is not your ‘tree in the rain.’ She is not, I fear, what you are looking for. You do not often these days find such reserve. And she told him a little more about the princess.

“From what you say, she would not appear to be a lady with a very sand manner or very grand accomplishments. But the quiet, naïve ones have a charm of their own.” He was thinking of “the evening face.”

He had come down with malaria, and it was for him a time of secret longing; and so spring and summer passed.

Sunk in quiet thoughts as autumn came on, he even thought fondly of those fullers’ blocks and of the foot pestle that had so disturbed his sleep. He sent frequent notes to the Hitachi princess, but there were still no answers. In his annoyance he almost felt that his honor was at stake. He must not be outdone.

He protested to Tayū. “What can this mean? I have never known anything like it.”

She was sympathetic. “But you are not to hold me responsible, sir. I have not said anything to turn her against you. She is impossibly shy, and I can do nothing with her.”

“Outrageously shy — that is what I am saying. When a lady has not reached the age of discretion or when she is not in a position to make decisions for herself, such shyness is not unreasonable. I am bored and lonely for no very good reason, and if she were to let me know that she shared my melancholy I would feel that I had not approached her in vain. If I might stand on that rather precarious veranda of hers, quite without a wish to go further, I would be satisfied. You must try to understand my feelings, though they may seem very odd to you, and take me to her even without her permission. I promise to do nothing that will upset either of you.”

He seemed to take no great interest generally in the rumors he collected, thought Tayū, and yet he seemed to be taking very great interest indeed in at least one of them. She had first mentioned the Hitachi princess only to keep the conversation from lagging.

These repeated queries, so earnest and purposeful, had become a little tiresome. The lady was of no very great charm or talent, and did not seem right for him. If she, Tayū, were to give in and become his intermediary, she might be an agent of great unhappiness for the poor lady, and if she refused she would seem unfeeling.

The house had been forgotten by the world even before Prince Hitachi died. Now there was no one at all to part the undergrowth. And suddenly light had come filtering in from a quite unexpected source, to delight the princess’s lowborn women. She must definitely answer him, they said. But she was so maddeningly shy that she refused even to look at his notes.

Tayū made up her mind. She would find a suitable occasion to bring Genji to the princess’s curtains, and if he did not care for her, that would be that. If by chance they were to strike up a brief friendship, no one could possibly reprove Tayū herself. She was a rather impulsive and headstrong young woman, and she does not seem to have told even her father.

It was an evening toward the end of the Eighth Month when the moon was late in rising. The stars were bright and the wind sighed through the pine trees. The princess was talking sadly of old times. Tayū had judged the occasion a likely one and Genji had come in the usual secrecy. The princess gazed uneasily at the decaying fence as the moon came up. Tayū persuaded her to play a soft strain on her koto, which was not at all displeasing. If only she could make the princess over even a little more into the hospitable modern sort, thought Tayū, herself so willing in these matters. There was no one to challenge Genji as he made his way inside. He summoned Tayū.

“A fine thing,” said Tayū, feigning great surprise. “Genji has come. He is always complaining about what a bad correspondent you are, and I have had to say that there is little I can do. And so he said that he would come himself and give you a lesson in manners. And how am I to answer him now? These expeditions are not easy for him and it would be cruel to send him away. Suppose you speak to him — through your curtains, of course.”

The princess stammered that she would not know what to say and withdrew to an inner room. Tayū thought her childish.

“You are very inexperienced, my lady,” she said with a smile. “It is all right for people in your august position to make a show of innocence when they have parents and relatives to look after them, but your rather sad circumstances make this reserve seem somehow out of place.”

The princess was not, after all, one to resist very stoutly. “If I need not speak to him but only listen, and if you will lower the shutters, I shall receive him.”

“And leave him out on the veranda? That would not do at all. He is not a man, I assure you, to do anything improper.” Tayū spoke with great firmness. She barred the doors, having put out a cushion for Genji in the next room.

The lady was very shy indeed. Not having the faintest notion how to address such a fine gentleman, she put herself in Tayū‘s hands. She sighed and told herself that Tayū must have her reasons.

Her old nurse had gone off to have a nap. The two or three young women who were still with the princess were in a fever to see this gentleman of whom the whole world was talking. Since the princess did not seem prepared to do anything for herself, Tayū changed her into presentable clothes and otherwise got her ready. Genji had dressed himself carefully though modestly and presented a very handsome figure indeed. How she would have liked to show him to someone capable of appreciating him, thought Tayū. Here his charms were wasted. But there was one thing she need not fear: an appearance of forwardness or impertinence on the part of the princess. Yet she was troubled, for she did fear that even as she was acquitted of the delinquency with which Genji was always charging her, she might be doing injury to the princess.

Genji was certain that he need not fear being dazzled — indeed the certainty was what had drawn him to her. He caught a faint, pleasing scent, and a soft rustling as her women urged her forward. They suggested serenity and repose such as to convince him that his attentions were not misplaced. Most eloquently, he told her how much she had been in his thoughts over the months. The muteness seemed if anything more unsettling from near at hand than from afar.

“Countless times your silence has silenced me.

My hope is that you hope for something better.

“Why do you not tell me clearly that you dislike me?‘Uncertainty weaves a sadly tangled web.’”

Her nurse’s daughter, a clever young woman, finding the silence unbearable, came to the princess’s side and offered a reply:

“I cannot ring a bell enjoining silence.

Silence, strangely, is my only answer.”

The young voice had a touch of something like garrulity in it. Unaware that it was not the princess’s, Genji thought it oddly unrestrained and, given her rank, even somewhat coquettish.

“I am quite speechless myself.

“Silence, I know, is finer by far than words.

Its sister, dumbness, at times is rather painful.”

He talked on, now joking and now earnestly entreating, but there was no further response. It was all very strange — her mind did not seem to work as others did. Finally losing patience, he slid the door open. Tayū was aghast — he had assured her that he would behave himself. Though concerned for the poor princess, she slipped off to her own room as if nothing had happened. The princess’s young women were less disturbed. Such misdemeanors were easy to forgive when the culprit was so uniquely handsome. Their reproaches were not very loud, though they could see that their lady was in a state of shock, so swiftly had it happened. She was incapable now of anything but dazed silence. It was strange and wonderful, thought Genji, that the world still contained such a lady. A measure of eccentricity could be excused in a lady who had lived so sheltered a life. He was both puzzled and sympathetic.

But how, given her limited resources, was the lady to win his affection? It was with much disappointment that he departed late in the night. Though Tayū had been listening carefully, she pretended that she did not know of his departure and did not come out to see him off. He would have had nothing to say to her.

Back at Nijō he lay down to rest, with many a sigh that the world failed to present him with his ideal lady. And it would not be easy to treat the princess as if nothing had happened, for she was after all a princess.

Tō no Chūjō interrupted unhappy thoughts. “What an uncommonly late sleeper you are. There must be reasons.”

“I was allowing myself a good rest in my lonely bed. Have you come from the palace?”

“I just left. I was told last night that the musicians and dancers for His Majesty’s outing had to be decided on today and was on my way to report to my father. I will be going straight back.” He seemed in a great hurry.

“Suppose I go with you.”

Breakfast was brought in. Though there were two carriages, they chose to ride together. Genji still seemed very sleepy, said his friend, and very secretive too. With many details of the royal outing still to be arranged, Genji was at the palace through the day.

He felt somewhat guilty about not getting off a note to the princess, but it was evening when he dispatched his messenger. Though it had begun to rain, he apparently had little inclination to seek again that shelter from the rain. Tayū felt very sorry for the princess as the conventional hour for a note came and went. Though embarrassed, the princess was not one to complain. Evening came, and still there was only silence.

This is what his messenger finally brought:

“The gloomy evening mists have not yet cleared,

And now comes rain, to bring still darker gloom.

“You may imagine my restlessness, waiting for the skies to clear.”

Though surprised at this indication that he did not intend to visit, her women pressed her to answer. More and more confused, however, she was not capable of putting together the most ordinary note. Agreeing with her nurse’s daughter that it was growing very late, she finally sent this:

“My village awaits the moon on a cloudy night.

You may imagine the gloom, though you do not share it.”

She set it down on paper so old that the purple had faded to an alkaline gray. The hand was a strong one all the same, in an old-fashioned style, the lines straight and prim. Genji scarcely looked at it. He wondered what sort of expectations he had aroused. No doubt he was having what people call second thoughts. Well, there was no alternative. He must look after her to the end. At the princess’s house, where of course these good intentions were not known, despondency prevailed.

In the evening he was taken off to Sanjō by his father-in-law. Everyone was caught up in preparations for the outing. Young men gathered to discuss them and their time was passed in practice at dance and music. Indeed the house quite rang with music, and flute and flageolet sounded proud and high as seldom before. Sometimes one of them would even bring a drum up from the garden and pound at it on the veranda. With all these exciting matters to occupy him, Genji had time for only the most necessary visits; and so autumn came to a close. The princess’s hopes seemed, as the weeks went by, to have come to nothing.

The outing approached. In the midst of the final rehearsals Tayū came to Genji’s rooms in the palace

“How is everything?” he asked, somewhat guiltily.

She told him. “You have so neglected her that you have made things difficult for us who must be with her.” She seemed ready to weep.

She had hoped, Genji surmised, to make the princess seem remote and alluring, and he had spoiled her plans. She must think him very unfeeling. And the princess, brooding her days away, must be very sad indeed. But there was nothing to be done. He simply did not have the time.

“I had thought to help her grow up,” he said, smiling.

Tayū had to smile too. He was so young and handsome, and at an age when it was natural that he should have women angry at him. It was natural too that he should be somewhat selfish.

When he had a little more time to himself he occasionally called on the princess. But he had found the little girl, his Murasaki, and she had made him her captive. He neglected even the lady at Rokujō, and was of course still less inclined to visit this new lady, much though he felt for her. Her excessive shyness made him suspect that she would not delight the eye in any great measure. Yet he might be pleasantly surprised. It had been a dark night, and perhaps it was the darkness that had made her seem so odd. He must have a look at her face — and at the same time he rather dreaded trimming the lamp.

One evening when the princess was passing the time with her women he stole up to the main hall, opened a door slightly, and looked inside. He did not think it likely that he would see the princess herself. Several ancient and battered curtain frames had apparently been standing in the same places for years. It was not a very promising scene. Four or five women, at a polite distance from their lady, were having their dinner, so unappetizing and scanty that he wanted to look away, though served on what seemed to be imported celadon. Others sat shivering in a corner, their once white robes now a dirty gray, the strings of their badly stained aprons in clumsy knots. Yet they respected the forms: they had combs in their hair, which were ready, he feared, to fall out at any moment. There were just such old women guarding the treasures in the palace sanctuary, but it had not occurred to him that a princess would choose to have them in her retinue.

“What a cold winter it has been. You have to go through this sort of thing if you live too long.”

“How can we possibly have thought we had troubles when your royal father was still alive? At least we had him to take care of us.” The woman was shivering so violently that it almost seemed as if she might fling herself into the air.

It was not right to listen to complaints not meant for his ears. He slipped away and tapped on a shutter as if he had just come up.

One of the women brought a light, raised the shutter, and admitted him.

The nurse’s young daughter was now in the service of the high priestess of Kamo. The women who remained with the princess tended to be gawky, untrained rustics, not at all the sort of servants Genji was used to. The winter they had complained of was being very cruel. Snow was piling in drifts, the skies were dark, and the wind raged. When the lamp went out there was no one to relight it. He thought of his last night with the lady of “the evening faces.” This house was no less ruinous, but there was some comfort in the fact that it was smaller and not so lonely. It was a far from cozy place all the same, and he did not sleep well. Yet it was interesting in its way. The lady, however, was not. Again he found her altogether too remote and withdrawn.

Finally daylight came. Himself raising a shutter, he looked out at the garden and the fields beyond. The scene was a lonely one, trackless snow stretching on and on.

It would be uncivil to go off without a word.

“Do come and look at this beautiful sky. You are really too timid.”

He seemed even younger and handsomer in the morning twilight reflected from the snow. The old women were all smiles.

“Do go out to him. Ladies should do as they are told.”

The princess was not one to resist. Putting herself into some sort of order, she went out. Though his face was politely averted, Genji contrived to look obliquely at her. He was hoping that a really good look might show her to be less than irredeemable.

That was not very kind or very realistic of him. It was his first impression that the figure kneeling beside him was most uncommonly long and attenuated. Not at all promising — and the nose! That nose now dominated the scene. It was like that of the beast on which Samantabhadra rides, long, pendulous, and red. A frightful nose. The skin was whiter than the snow, a touch bluish even. The forehead bulged and the line over the cheeks suggested that the full face would be very long indeed. She was pitifully thin. He could see through her robes how narrow her shoulders were. It now seemed ridiculous that he had worked so hard to see her; and yet the visage was such an extraordinary one that he could not immediately take his eyes away. The shape of the head and the now of the hair were very good, little inferior, he thought, to those of ladies whom he had held to be great beauties. The hair fanned out over the hem of her robes with perhaps a foot to spare. Though it may not seem in very good taste to dwell upon her dress, it is dress that is always described first in the old romances. Over a sadly faded singlet she wore a robe discolored with age to a murky drab and a rather splendid sable jacket, richly perfumed, such as a stylish lady might have worn a generation or two before. It was entirely wrong for a young princess, but he feared that she needed it to keep off the winter cold. He was as mute as she had always been; but presently he recovered sufficiently to have yet another try at shaking her from her muteness. He spoke of this and that, and the gesture as she raised a sleeve to her mouth was somehow stiff and antiquated. He thought of a master of court rituals taking up his position akimbo. She managed a smile for him, which did not seem to go with the rest of her. It was too awful. He hurried to get his things together.

“I fear that you have no one else to look to. I would hope that you might be persuaded to be a little more friendly to someone who, as you see, is beginning to pay some attention to you. You are most unkind.” Her shyness became his excuse.

“In the morning sun, the icicles melt at the eaves.

Why must the ice below refuse to melt?”

She giggled. Thinking that it would be perverse of him to test this dumbness further, he went out.

The gate at the forward gallery, to which his carriage was brought, was leaning dangerously. He had seen something of the place on his nocturnal visits, but of course a great deal had remained concealed. It was a lonely, desolate sight that spread before him, like a village deep in the mountains. Only the snow piled on the pine trees seemed warm. The weed-choked gate of which his friend had spoken that rainy night would be such a gate as this. How charming to have a pretty lady in residence and to think compassionate thoughts and to long each day to see her! He might even be able to forget his impossible, forbidden love. But the princess was completely wrong for such a romantic house. What other man, he asked himself, could be persuaded to bear with her as he had? The thought came to him that the spirit of the departed prince, worried about the daughter he had left behind, had brought him to her.

He had one of his men brush the snow from an orange tree. The cascade of snow as a pine tree righted itself, as if in envy, made him think of the wave passing over “famous Sué, the Mount of the Pines.” He longed for someone with whom he might have a quiet, comforting talk, if not an especially intimate or fascinating one. The gate was not yet open. He sent someone for the gatekeeper, who proved to be a very old man. A girl of an age such that she could be either his daughter or his granddaughter, her dirty robes an unfortunate contrast with the snow, came up hugging in her arms a strange utensil which contained the merest suggestion of embers. Seeing the struggle the old man was having with the gate, she tried to help. They were a very forlorn and ineffectual pair. One of Genji’s men finally pushed the gate open.

“My sleeves are no less wet in the morning snow

Than the sleeves of this man who wears a crown of snow.”

And he added softly: “The young are naked, the aged are cold.”

He thought of a very cold lady with a very warmly colored nose, and he smiled. Were he to show that nose to Tō no Chūjō, what would his friend liken it to? And a troubling thought came to him: since Tō no Chūjō was always spying on him, he would most probably learn of the visit. Had she been an ordinary sort of lady, he might have given her up on the spot; but any such thoughts were erased by the look he had had at her. He was extremely sorry for her, and wrote to her regularly if noncommittally. He sent damasks and cottons and unfigured silks, some of them suited for old women, with which to replace those sables, and was careful that the needs of everyone, high and low, even that aged gatekeeper, were seen to. The fact that no expressions of love accompanied these gifts did not seem to bother the princess and so matters were easier for him. He resolved that he must be her support, in this not very intimate fashion. He even tended to matters which tact would ordinarily have persuaded him to leave private. The profile of the governors wife as he had seen her over the Go board had not been beautiful, but she had been notably successful at hiding her defects. This lady was certainly not of lower birth. It was as his friend had said that rainy night: birth did not make the crucial difference. He often thought of the governor’s wife. She had had considerable charms, of a quiet sort, and he had lost her.

The end of the year approached. Tayū came to see him in his palace apartments. He was on easy terms with her, since he did not take her very seriously, and they would joke with each other as she performed such services as trimming his hair. She would visit him without summons when there was something she wished to say.

“It is so very odd that I have been wondering what to do.” She was smiling.

“What is odd? You must not keep secrets from me.”

“The last thing I would do. You must sometimes think I forget myself, pouring out all my woes. But this is rather difficult.” Her manner suggested that it was very difficult indeed.

“You are always so shy.”

“A letter has come from the Hitachi princess.” She took it out.

“The last thing you should keep from me.”

She was fidgeting. The letter was on thick Michinoku paper and nothing about it suggested feminine elegance except the scent that had been heavily burned into it. But the hand was very good.

“Always, always my sleeve is wet like these.

Wet because you are so very cold.”

He was puzzled. “Wet like what?”

Tayū was pushing a clumsy old hamper toward him. The cloth in which it had come was spread beneath it.

“I simply couldn’t show it to you. But she sent it especially for you to wear on New Year’s Day, and I couldn’t bring myself to send it back, she would have been so hurt. I could have kept it to myself, I suppose, but that didn’t seem right either, when she sent it especially for you. So I thought maybe after I had shown it to you —”

“I would have been very sorry if you had not. It is the perfect gift for someone like me, with ‘no one to help me dry my tear-drenched pillow.’”

He said no more.

It was a remarkable effort at poetry. She would have worked and slaved over it, with no one to help her. The nurse’s daughter would no doubt, had she been present, have suggested revisions. The princess did not have the advice of a learned poetry master. Silence, alas, might have been more successful. He smiled at the thought of the princess at work on her poem, putting all of herself into it. This too, he concluded, must be held to fall within the bounds of the admirable. Tayū was crimson.

In the hamper were a pink singlet, of an old-fashioned cut and remarkably lusterless, and an informal court robe of a deep red lined with the same color. Every stitch and line seemed to insist on a peculiar lack of distinction. Alas once more — he could not possibly wear them. As if to amuse himself he jotted down something beside the princess’s poem. Tayū read over his shoulder:

“Red is not, I fear, my favorite color.

Then why did I let the safflower stain my sleeve?

A blossom of the deepest hue, and yet —”

The safflower must signify something, thought Tayū— and she thought of a profile she had from time to time seen in the moonlight. How very wicked of him, and how sad for the princess!

“This robe of pink, but new to the dyer’s hand:

Do not soil it, please, beyond redemption.

That would be very sad.”

She turned such verses easily, as if speaking to herself. There was nothing especially distinguished about them. Yet it would help, he thought again and again, if the princess were capable of even such an ordinary exchange. He did not wish at all to defame a princess.

Several women came in.

“Suppose we get this out of the way,” he said. “It is not the sort of thing just anyone would give.”

Why had she shown it to him? Tayū asked herself, withdrawing in great embarrassment. He must think her as inept as the princess.

In the palace the next day Genji looked in upon Tayū, who had been with the emperor.

“Here. My answer to the note yesterday. It has taken a great deal out of me.”

The other women looked on with curiosity.

“I give up the red maid of Mikasa,” he hummed as he went out, “even as the plum its color.”

Tayū was much amused.

“Why was he smiling all to himself?” asked one of her fellows.

“It was nothing,” she replied. “I rather think he saw a nose which on frosty mornings shows a fondness for red. Those bits of verse were, well, unkind.”

“But we have not one red nose among us. It might be different if Sakon or Higo were here.” Still uncomprehending, they discussed the various possibilities.

His note was delivered to the safflower princess, whose women gathered to admire it.

“Layer on layer, the nights when I do not see you.

And now these garments — layers yet thicker between us?”

It was the more pleasing for being in a casual hand on plain white paper.

On New Year’s Eve, Tayū returned the hamper filled with clothes which someone had readied for Genji himself, among them singlets of delicately figured lavender and a sort of saffron. It did not occur to the old women that Genji might not have found the princess’s gift to his taste. Such a rich red, that one court robe, not at all inferior to these, fine though they might be.

“And the poems: our lady’s was honest and to the point. His is merely clever.”

Since her poem had been the result of such intense labor, the princess copied it out and put it away in a drawer.

The first days of the New Year were busy ones. Music sounded through all the galleries of the palace, for the carolers were going their rounds this year. The lonely Hitachi house continued to be in Genji’s thoughts. One evening — it was after the royal inspection of the white horses — he made he made his excuses with his father and withdrew as if he meant to spend the night in his own rooms. Instead he paid a late call upon the princess.

The house seemed a little more lively and in communication with the world than before, and the princess just a little less stiff. He continued to hope that he might in some degree make her over and looked forward with pleasure to the results. The sun was coming up when, with a great show of reluctance, he departed. The east doors were open. Made brighter by the reflection from a light fall of snow, the sun streamed in unobstructed, the roof of the gallery beyond having collapsed. The princess came forward from the recesses of the room and sat turned aside as Genji changed to court dress. The hair that fell over her shoulders was splendid. If only she, like the year, might begin anew, he thought as he raised a shutter. Remembering the sight that had so taken him aback that other morning, he raised it only partway and rested it on a stool. Then he turned to his toilet. A woman brought a battered minor, a Chinese comb box, and a man’s toilet stand. He thought it very fine that the house should contain masculine accessories. The lady was rather more modish, for she had on all the clothes from that hamper. His eye did not quite take them all in, but he did think he remembered the cloak, a bright and intricate damask.

“Perhaps this year I will be privileged to have words from you. More than the new warbler, we await the new you.”

“With the spring come the calls —” she replied, in a tense, faltering voice.

“There, now. That’s the style. You have indeed turned over a new leaf.” He went out smiling and softly intoning Narihira’s poem about the dream and the snows.

She was leaning on an armrest. The bright safflower emerged in profile from over the sleeve with which she covered her mouth. It was not a pretty sight.

Back at Nijō, his Murasaki, now on the eve of womanhood, was very pretty indeed. So red could after all be a pleasing color, he thought. She was delightful, at artless play in a soft cloak of white lined with red. Because of her grandmother’s conservative preferences, her teeth had not yet been blackened or her eyebrows plucked. Genji had put one of the women to blackening her eyebrows, which drew fresh, graceful arcs. Why, he continued asking himself, should he go seeking trouble outside the house when he had a treasure at home? He helped arrange her dollhouses. She drew amusing little sketches, coloring them as the fancy took her. He drew a lady with very long hair and gave her a very red nose, and though it was only a picture it produced a shudder. He looked at his own handsome face in a mirror and daubed his nose red, and even he was immediately grotesque. The girl laughed happily.

“And if I were to be permanently disfigured?”

“I wouldn’t like that at all.” She seemed genuinely worried.

He pretended to wipe vigorously at his nose. “Dear me. I fear it will not be white again. I have played a very stupid trick upon myself. And what,” he said with great solemnity, “will my august father say when he sees it?”

Looking anxiously up at him, Murasaki too commenced rubbing at his nose.

“Don’t, if you please, paint me a Heichū black. I think I can endure the red.” They were a charming pair.

The sun was warm and spring-like, to make one impatient for blossoms on branches now shrouded in a spring haze. The swelling of the plum buds was far enough advanced that the rose plum beside the roofed stairs, the earliest to bloom, was already showing traces of color.

“The red of the florid nose fails somehow to please,

Though one longs for red on these soaring branches of plum.

“A pity that it should be so.”

And what might have happened thereafter to our friends?

Chapter 7

An Autumn Exersion

The royal excursion to the Suzaku palace took place toward the middle of the Tenth Month. The emperor’s ladies lamented that they would not be present at what was certain to be a most remarkable concert. Distressed especially at the thought that Fujitsubo should be deprived of the pleasure, the emperor ordered a full rehearsal at the main palace. Genji and Tō no Chūjō danced “Waves of the Blue Ocean.” Tō no Chūjō was a handsome youth who carried himself well, but beside Genji he was like a nondescript mountain shrub beside a blossoming cherry. In the bright evening light the music echoed yet more grandly through the palace and the excitement grew; and though the dance was a familiar one, Genji scarcely seemed of this world. As he intoned the lyrics his auditors could have believed they were listening to the Kalavinka bird of paradise. The emperor brushed away tears of delight, and there were tears in the eyes of all the princes and high courtiers as well. As Genji rearranged his dress at the end of his song and the orchestra took up again, he seemed to shine with an ever brighter light.

“Surely the gods above are struck dumb with admiration,” Lady Kokiden, the mother of the crown prince, was heard to observe. “One is overpowered by such company.”

Some of the young women thought her rather horrid.

To Fujitsubo it was all like a dream. How she wished that those unspeakable occurrences had not taken place. Then she might be as happy as the others.

She spent the night with the emperor.

“There was only one thing worth seeing,” he said.’” Waves of the Blue Ocean.’ Do you not agree?

“Nor is Tō no Chūjō a mean dancer. There is something about the smallest gesture that tells of breeding. The professionals are very good in their way — one would certainly not wish to suggest otherwise — but they somehow lack freshness and spontaneity. When the rehearsals have been so fine one fears that the excursion itself will be a disappointment. But I would not for anything have wished you to miss it.”

The next morning she had a letter from Genji. “And how did it all seem to you? I was in indescribable confusion. You will not welcome the question, I fear, but

“Through the waving, dancing sleeves could you see a heart

So stormy that it wished but to be still?”

The image of the dancer was so vivid, it would seem, that she could not refuse to answer.

“Of waving Chinese sleeves I cannot speak.

Each step, each motion, touched me to the heart.

“You may be sure that my thoughts were far from ordinary.”

A rare treasure indeed. He smiled. With her knowledge of music and the dance and even it would seem things Chinese she already spoke like an empress. He kept the letter spread before him as if it were a favorite sutra.

On the day of the excursion the emperor was attended by his whole court, the princes and the rest. The crown prince too was present. Music came from boats rowed out over the lake, and there was an infinite variety of Chinese and Korean dancing. Reed and string and drum echoed through the grounds. Because Genji’s good looks had on the evening of the rehearsal filled him with foreboding, the emperor ordered sutras read in several temples. Most of the court understood and sympathized, but Kokiden thought it all rather ridiculous. The most renowned virtuosos from the high and middle court ranks were chosen for the flutists’ circle. The director of the Chinese dances and the director of the Korean dances were both guards officers who held seats on the council of state. The dancers had for weeks been in monastic seclusion studying each motion under the direction of the most revered masters of the art.

The forty men in the flutists’ circle played most marvelously. The sound of their flutes, mingled with the sighing of the pines, was like a wind coming down from deep mountains. “Waves of the Blue Ocean,” among falling leaves of countless hues, had about it an almost frightening beauty. The maple branch in Genji’s cap was somewhat bare and forlorn, most of the leaves having fallen, and seemed at odds with his handsome face. The General of the Left replaced it with several chrysanthemums which he brought from below the royal seat. The sun was about to set and a suspicion of an autumn shower rustled past as if the skies too were moved to tears. The chrysanthemums in Genji’s cap, delicately touched by the frosts, gave new beauty to his form and his motions, no less remarkable today than on the day of the rehearsal. Then his dance was over, and a chill as if from another world passed over the assembly. Even unlettered menials, lost among deep branches and rocks, or those of them, in any event, who had some feeling for such things, were moved to tears. The Fourth Prince, still a child, son of Lady Shōkyōden, danced “Autumn Winds,” after “Waves of the Blue Ocean” the most interesting of the dances. All the others went almost unnoticed. Indeed complaints were heard that they marred what would otherwise have been a perfect day. Genji was that evening promoted to the First Order of the Third Rank, and Tō no Chūjō to the Second Order of the Fourth Rank, and other deserving courtiers were similarly rewarded, pulled upwards, it might be said, by Genji. He brought pleasure to the eye and serenity to the heart, and made people wonder what bounty of grace might be his from former lives.

Fujitsubo had gone home to her family. Looking restlessly, as always, for a chance to see her, Genji was much criticized by his father-in-law’s people at Sanjō. And rumors of the young Murasaki were out. Certain of the women at Sanjō let it be known that a new lady had been taken in at Nijō. Genji’s wife was intensely displeased. It was most natural that she should be, for she did not of course know that the “lady” was a mere child. If she had complained to him openly, as most women would have done, he might have told her everything, and no doubt eased her jealousy. It was her arbitrary judgments that sent him wandering. She had no specific faults, no vices or blemishes, which he could point to. She had been the first lady in his life, and in an abstract way he admired and treasured her. Her feelings would change, he felt sure, once she was more familiar with his own. She was a perceptive woman, and the change was certain to come. She still occupied first place among his ladies.

Murasaki was by now thoroughly comfortable with him. She was maturing in appearance and manner, and yet there was artlessness in her way of clinging to him. Thinking it too early to let the people in the main hall know who she was, he kept her in one of the outer wings, which he had had fitted to perfection. He was constantly with her, tutoring her in the polite accomplishments and especially calligraphy. It was as if he had brought home a daughter who had spent her early years in another house. He had studied the qualifications of her stewards and assured himself that she would have everything she needed. Everyone in the house, save only Koremitsu, was consumed with curiosity. Her father still did not know of her whereabouts. Sometimes she would weep for her grandmother. Her mind was full of other things when Genji was with her, and often he stayed the night; but he had numerous other places to look in upon, and he was quite charmed by the wistfulness with which she would see him off in the evening. Sometimes he would spend two and three days at the palace and go from there to Sanjō. Finding a pensive Murasaki upon his return, he would feel as if he had taken in a little orphan. He no longer looked forward to his nocturnal wanderings with the same eagerness. Her granduncle the bishop kept himself informed of her affairs, and was pleased and puzzled. Genji sent most lavish offerings for memorial services.

Longing for news of Fujitsubo, still with her family, he paid a visit. Omyōbu, Chūnagon, Nakatsukasa, and others of her women received him, but the lady whom he really wanted to see kept him at a distance. He forced himself to make conversation. Prince Hyōbu, her brother and Murasaki’s father, came in, having heard that Genji was on the premises. He was a man of great and gentle elegance, someone, thought Genji, who would interest him enormously were they of opposite sexes. Genji felt very near this prince so near the two ladies, and to the prince their conversation seemed friendly and somehow significant as earlier conversations had not. How very handsome Genji was! Not dreaming that it was a prospective son-in-law he was addressing, he too was thinking how susceptible (for he was a susceptible man) he would be to Genji’s charms if they were not of the same sex.

When, at dusk, the prince withdrew behind the blinds, Genji felt pangs of jealousy. In the old years he had followed his father behind those same blinds, and there addressed the lady. Now she was far away — though of course no one had wronged him, and he had no right to complain.

“I have not been good about visiting you,” he said stiffly as he got up to leave. “Having no business with you, I have not wished to seem forward. It would give me great pleasure if you would let me know of any services I might perform for you.”

Omyōbu could do nothing for him. Fujitsubo seemed to find his presence even more of a trial than before, and showed no sign of relenting. Sadly and uselessly the days went by. What a frail, fleeting union theirs had been!

Shōnagon, Murasaki’s nurse, continued to marvel at the strange course their lives had taken. perhaps some benign power had arranged it, the old nun having mentioned Murasaki in all her prayers. Not that everything was perfect. Genji’s wife at Sanjō was a lady of the highest station, and other affairs, indeed too many of them, occupied him as well. Might not the girl face difficult times as she grew into womanhood? Yet he did seem fond of her as of none of the others, and her future seemed secure. The period of mourning for a maternal grandmother being set at three months, it was on New Year’s Eve that Murasaki took off her mourning weeds. The old lady had been for her both mother and grandmother, however, and so she chose to limit herself to pale, unfigured pinks and lavenders and yellows, pale colors seemed to suit her even better than rich ones.

“And do you feel all grown up, now that a new year has come?” Smiling, radiating youthful charm, Genji looked in upon her. He was on his way to the morning festivities at court.

She had already taken out her dolls and was busy seeing to their needs. All manner of furnishings and accessories were laid out on a yard-high shelf. Dollhouses threatened to overflow the room.

“Inuki knocked everything over chasing out devils last night and broke this.” It was a serious matter. “I’m gluing it.”

“Yes, she really is very clumsy, that Inuki. We’ll ask someone to repair it for you. But today you must not cry. Crying is the worst way to begin a new year.”

And he went out, his retinue so grand that it overflowed the wide grounds. The women watched from the veranda, the girl with them. She set out a Genji among her dolls and saw him off to court.

“This year you must try to be just a little more grown up,” said Shōnagon. “Ten years old, no, even more, and still you play with dolls. It will not do. You have a nice husband, and you must try to calm down and be a little more wifely. Why, you fly into a tantrum even when we try to brush your hair.” A proper shaming was among Shōnagon’s methods.

So she had herself a nice husband, thought Murasaki. The husbands of these women were none of them handsome men, and hers was so very young and handsome. The thought came to her now for the first time, evidence that, for all this play with dolls, she was growing up. It sometimes puzzled her women that she should still be such a child. It did not occur to them that she was in fact not yet a wife.

From the palace Genji went to Sanjō. His wife, as always, showed no suggestion of warmth or affection; and as always he was uncomfortable.

“How pleasant if this year you could manage to be a little friendlier.”

But since she had heard of his new lady she had become more distant than ever. She was convinced that the other was now first among his ladies, and no doubt she was as uncomfortable as he. But when he jokingly sought to make it seem that nothing was amiss, she had to answer, if reluctantly. Everything she said was uniquely, indefinably elegant. She was four years his senior and made him feel like a stripling. Where, he asked, was he to find a flaw in this perfection? Yet he seemed determined to anger her with his other affairs. She was a proud lady, the single and treasured daughter, by a princess, of a minister who overshadowed the other grandees, and she was not prepared to tolerate the smallest discourtesy. And here he was behaving as if these proud ways were his to make over. They were completely at cross purposes, he and she.

Though her father too resented Genji’s other affairs, he forgot his annoyance when Genji was here beside him, and no service seemed too great or too small. As Genji prepared to leave for court the next day, the minister looked in upon him, bringing a famous belt for him to wear with his court dress, straightening his train, as much as helping him into his shoes. One almost felt something pathetic in this eagerness.

“I’ll wear it to His Majesty’s family dinner later in the month,” said Genji.

“There are other belts that would do far more honor to such an occasion.” The minister insisted that he wear it. “It is a little unusual, thatis all.”

Sometimes it was as if being of service to Genji were his whole life. There could be no greater pleasure than having such a son and brother, little though the Sanjō family saw of him.

Genji did not pay many New Year calls. He called upon his father, the crown prince, the old emperor, and, finally, Fujitsubo, still with her family. Her women thought him handsomer than ever. Yes, each year, as he matured, his good looks produced a stronger shudder of delight and foreboding. Fujitsubo was assailed by innumerable conflicting thoughts.

The Twelfth Month, when she was to have been delivered of her child, had passed uneventfully. Surely it would be this month, said her women, and at court everything was in readiness; but the First Month too passed without event. She was greatly troubled by rumors that she had fallen under a malign influence. Her worries had made her physically ill and she began to wonder if the end was in sight. More and more certain as time passed that the child was his, Genji quietly commissioned services in various temples. More keenly aware than most of the evanescence of things, he now found added to his worries a fear that he would not see her again. Finally toward the end of the Second Month she bore a prince, and the jubilation was unbounded at court and at her family palace. She had not joined the emperor in praying that she be granted a long life, and yet she did not want to please Kokiden, an echo of whose curses had reached her. The will to live returned, and little by little she recovered.

The emperor wanted to see his little son the earliest day possible. Genji, filled with his own secret paternal solicitude, visited Fujitsubo at a time when he judged she would not have other visitors.

“Father is extremely anxious to see the child. perhaps I might have a look at him first and present a report.”

She refused his request, as of course she had every right to do. “He is still very shriveled and ugly.”

There was no doubt that the child bore a marked, indeed a rather wonderful, resemblance to Genji. Fujitsubo was tormented by feelings of guilt and apprehension. Surely everyone who saw the child would guess the awful truth and damn her for it. People were always happy to seek out the smallest and most trivial of misdeeds. Hers had not been trivial, and dreadful rumors must surely be going the rounds. Had ever a woman been more sorely tried?

Genji occasionally saw Omyōbu and pleaded that she intercede for him; but there was nothing she could do.

“This insistence, my lord, is very trying,” she said, at his constant and passionate pleas to see the child. “You will have chances enough later.” Yet secretly she was as unhappy as he was.

“In what world, I wonder, will I again be allowed to see her?” The heart of the matter was too delicate to touch upon.

“What legacy do we bring from former lives

That loneliness should be our lot in this one?

“I do not understand. I do not understand at all.”

His tears brought her to the point of tears herself. Knowing how unhappy her lady was, she could not bring herself to turn him brusquely away.

“Sad at seeing the child, sad at not seeing.

The heart of the father, the mother, lost in darkness.”

And she added softly: “There seems to be no lessening of the pain for either of you.”

She saw him off, quite unable to help him. Her lady had said that because of the danger of gossip she could not receive him again, and she no longer behaved toward Omyōbu with the old affection. She behaved correctly, it was true, and did nothing that might attract attention, but Omyōbu had done things to displease her. Omyōbu was very sorry for them.

In the Fourth Month the little prince was brought to the palace. Advanced for his age both mentally and physically, he was already able to sit up and to right himself when he rolled over. He was strikingly like Genji. Unaware of the truth, the emperor would say to himself that people of remarkable good looks did have a way of looking alike. He doted upon the child. He had similarly doted upon Genji, but, because of strong opposition — and how deeply he regretted the fact — had been unable to make him crown prince. The regret increased as Genji, now a commoner, improved in looks and in accomplishments. And now a lady of the highest birth had borne the emperor another radiant son. The infant was for him an unflawed jewel, for Fujitsubo a source of boundless guilt and foreboding.

One day, as he often did, Genji was enjoying music in Fujitsubo’s apartments. The emperor came out with the little boy in his arms.

“I have had many sons, but you were the only one I paid a great deal of attention to when you were this small. perhaps it is the memory of those days that makes me think he looks like you. Is it that all children look alike when they are very young?” He made no attempt to hide his pleasure in the child.

Genji felt himself flushing crimson. He was frightened and awed and pleased and touched, all at the same time, and there were tears in his eyes. Laughing and babbling, the child was so beautiful as to arouse fears that he would not be long in this world. If indeed he resembled the child, thought Genji, then he must be very handsome. He must take better care of himself. (He seemed a little self-satisfied at times.) Fujitsubo was in such acute discomfort that she felt herself breaking into a cold sweat. Eager though he had been to see the child, Genji left in great agitation.

He returned to Nijō, thinking that when the agitation had subsided he would proceed to Sanjō and pay his wife a visit. In near the verandas the garden was a rich green, dotted with wild carnations. He broke a few off and sent them to Omyōbu, and it would seem that he also sent a long and detailed letter, including this message for her lady:

“It resembles you, I think, this wild carnation,

Weighted with my tears as with the dew.

“‘I know that when it blossoms at my hedge’ — but could any two be as much and as little to each other as we have been?”

perhaps because the occasion seemed right, Omyōbu showed the letter to her lady.

“Do please answer him,” she said, “if with something of no more weight than the dust on these petals.”

Herself prey to violent emotions, Fujitsubo did send back an answer, a brief and fragmentary one, in a very faint hand:

“It serves you ill, the Japanese carnation,

To make you weep. Yet I shall not forsake it.”

pleased with her success, Omyōbu delivered the note. Genji was looking forlornly out at the garden, certain that as always there would be silence. His heart jumped at the sight of Omyōbu and there were tears of joy in his eyes.

This moping, he decided, did no good. He went to the west wing in search of company. Rumpled and wild-haired, he played a soft strain on a flute as he came into Murasaki’s room. She was leaning against an armrest, demure and pretty, like a wild carnation, he thought, with the dew fresh upon it. She was charming.

Annoyed that he had not come immediately, she turned away.

“Come here,” he said, kneeling at the veranda.

She did not stir.”‘Like the grasses at full tide,’” she said softly, her sleeve over her mouth.

“That was unkind. So you have already learned to complain? I would not wish you to tire of me, you see, as they say the fishermen tire of the sea grasses at Ise.”

He had someone bring a thirteen-stringed koto.

“You must be careful. The second string breaks easily and we would not want to have to change it.” And he lowered it to the hyōō mode.

After plucking a few notes to see that it was in tune, he pushed it toward her. No longer able to be angry, she played for him, briefly and very competently. He thought her delightful as she leaned forward to press a string with her left hand. He took out a flute and she had a music lesson. Very quick, she could repeat a difficult melody after but a single hearing. Yes, he thought, she was bright and amiable, everything he could have wished for. “Hosoroguseri” made a pretty duet, despite its outlandish name. She was very young but she had a fine sense for music. Lamps were brought and they looked at pictures together. Since he had said that he would be going out, his men coughed nervously, to warn him of the time. If he did not hurry it would be raining, one of them said. Murasaki was suddenly a forlorn little figure. She put aside the pictures and lay with her face hidden in a pillow.

“Do you miss me when I am away?” He stroked the hair that fell luxuriantly over her shoulders.

She nodded a quick, emphatic nod.

“And I miss you. I can hardly bear to be away from you for a single day. But we must not make too much of these things. You are still a child, and there is a jealous and difficult lady whom I would rather not offend. I must go on visiting her, but when you are grown up I will not leave you ever. It is because I am thinking of all the years we will be together that I want to be on good terms with her.”

His solemn manner dispelled her gloom but made her rather uncomfortable. She did not answer. Her head pillowed on his knee, she was presently asleep.

He told the women that he would not after all be going out. His retinue having departed, he ordered dinner and roused the girl.

“I am not going,” he said.

She sat down beside him, happy again. She ate very little.

“Suppose we go to bed, then, if you aren’t going out.” She was still afraid he might leave her.

He already knew how difficult it would be when the time came for the final parting.

Everyone of course knew how many nights he was now spending at home. The intelligence reached his father-in-law’s house at Sanjō.

“How very odd. Who might she be?” said the women. “We have not been able to find out. No one of very good breeding, you may be sure, to judge from the way she clings to him and presumes upon his affection. Probably someone he ran into at court and lost his senses over, and now he has hidden her away because he is ashamed to have people see her. But the oddest thing is that she’s still a child.”

“I am sorry to learn that the Minister of the Left is unhappy with you,” the emperor said to Genji. “You cannot be so young and innocent as to be unaware of all he has done for you since you were a very small boy. He has been completely devoted to you. Must you repay him by insulting him?”

It was an august reproach which Genji was unable to answer.

The emperor was suddenly sorry for him. It was clear that he was not happy with his wife. “I have heard no rumors, it is true, that you are promiscuous, that you have scattered your affections too liberally here at court and elsewhere. He must have stumbled upon some secret.”

The emperor still enjoyed the company of pretty women. He preferred the pretty ones even among chambermaids and seamstresses, and all the ranks of his court were filled with the best-favored women to be found. Genji would joke with one and another of them, and few were of a mind to keep him at a distance. Someone among them would remark coyly that perhaps he did not like women; but, no doubt because she offered no novelty, he would answer so as not to give offense and refuse to be tempted. To some this moderation did not seem a virtue.

There was a lady of rather advanced years called Naishi. She was wellborn, talented, cultivated, and widely respected; but in matters of the heart she was not very discriminating. Genji had struck up relations, interested that her wanton ways should be so perdurable, and was taken somewhat aback at the warm welcome he received. He continued to be interested all the same and had arranged a rendezvous. Not wanting the world to see him as the boy lover of an aged lady, he had turned away further invitations. She was of course resentful.

One morning when she had finished dressing the emperor’s hair and the emperor had withdrawn to change clothes, she found herself alone with Genji. She was bedecked and painted to allure, every detail urging him forward. Genji was dubious of this superannuated coquetry, but curious to see what she would do next. He tugged at her apron. She turned around, a gaudy fan hiding her face, a sidelong glance — alas, the eyelids were dark and muddy — emerging from above it. Her hair, which of course the fan could not hide, was rough and stringy. A very poorly chosen fan for an old lady, he thought, giving her his and taking it from her. So bright a red that his own face, he was sure, must be red from the reflection, it was decorated with a gold painting of a tall grove. In a corner, in a hand that was old-fashioned but not displeasingly so, was a line of poetry: “Withered is the grass of Oaraki.” Of all the poems she could have chosen!

“What you mean, I am sure, is that your grove is summer lodging for the cuckoo.”

They talked for a time. Genji was nervous lest they be seen, but Naishi was unperturbed.

“Sere and withered though these grasses be,

They are ready for your pony, should you come.”

She was really too aggressive.

“Were mine to part the low bamboo at your grove,

It would fear to be driven away by other ponies.

“And that would not do at all.”

He started to leave, but she caught at his sleeve. “No one has ever been so rude to me, no one. At my age I might expect a little courtesy.”

These angry tears, he might have said, did not become an old lady.

“I will write. You have been on my mind a great deal.” He tried to shake her off but she followed after.

“‘As the pillar of the bridge —’” she said reproachfully.

Having finished dressing, the emperor looked in from the next room. He was amused. They were a most improbable couple.

“People complain that you show too little interest in romantic things,” he laughed, “but I see that you have your ways.”

Naishi, though much discommoded, did not protest with great vehemence. There are those who do not dislike wrong rumors if they are about the right men.

The ladies of the palace were beginning to talk of the affair, a most surprising one, they said. Tō no Chūjō heard of it. He had thought his own affairs varied, but the possibility of a liaison with an old woman had not occurred to him. An inexhaustibly amorous old woman might be rather fun. He arranged his own rendezvous. He too was very handsome, and Naishi thought him not at all poor consolation for the loss of Genji. Yet (one finds it hard to condone such greed) Genji was the one she really wanted.

Since Tō no Chūjō was secretive, Genji did not know that he had been replaced. Whenever Naishi caught sight of him she showered him with reproaches. He pitied her in her declining years and would have liked to do something for her, but was not inclined to trouble himself greatly.

One evening in the cool after a shower he was strolling past the Ummeiden Pavilion. Naishi was playing on her lute, most appealingly. She was a unique mistress of the instrument, invited sometimes to join men in concerts before the emperor. Unrequited love gave her playing tonight an especial poignancy.

“Shall I marry the melon farmer?” she was singing, in very good voice.

Though not happy at the thought of having a melon farmer supplant him, he stopped to listen. Might the song of the maiden of E-chou, long ago, have had the same plaintive appeal? Naishi seemed to have fallen into a meditative silence. Humming “The Eastern Cottage,” he came up to her door. She joined in as he sang: “Open my door and come in.” Few women would have been so bold.

“No one waits in the rain at my eastern cottage.

Wet are the sleeves of the one who waits within.”

It did not seem right, he thought, that he should be the victim of such reproaches. Had she not yet, after all these years, learned patience?

“On closer terms with the eaves of your eastern cottage

I would not be, for someone is there before me.”

He would have preferred to move on, but, remembering his manners, decided to accept her invitation. For a time they exchanged pleasant banter. All very novel, thought Genji.

Tō no Chūjō had long resented Genji’s self-righteous way of chiding him for his own adventures. The proper face Genji showed the world seemed to hide rather a lot. Tō no Chūjō had been on the watch for an opportunity to give his friend a little of what he deserved. Now it had come. The sanctimonious one would now be taught a lesson.

It was late, and a chilly wind had come up. Genji had dozed off, it seemed. Tō no Chūjō slipped into the room. Too nervous to have more than dozed off, Genji heard him, but did not suspect who it would be. The superintendent of palace repairs, he guessed, was still visiting her. Not for the world would he have had the old man catch him in the company of the old woman.

“This is a fine thing. I’m going. The spider surely told you to expect him, and you didn’t tell me.”

He hastily gathered his clothes and hid behind a screen. Fighting back laughter, Tō no Chūjō gave the screen an unnecessarily loud thump and folded it back. Naishi had indulged her amorous ways over long years and had had similarly disconcerting experiences often enough before. What did this person have in mind? What did he mean to do to her Genji? She fluttered about seeking to restrain the intruder. Still ignorant of the latter’s identity, Genji thought of headlong flight; but then he thought of his own retreating figure, robes in disorder, cap all askew. Silently and wrathfully, Tō no Chūjō was brandishing a long sword.

“Please, sir, please.”

Naishi knelt before him wringing her hands. He could hardly control the urge to laugh. Her youthful smartness had taken a great deal of contriving, but she was after all nearly sixty. She was ridiculous, hopping back and forth between two handsome young men. Tō no Chūjō was playing his role too energetically. Genji guessed who he was. He guessed too that this fury had to do with the fact that he was himself known. It all seemed very stupid and very funny. He gave the arm wielding the sword a stout pinch and Tō no Chūjō finally surrendered to laughter.

“You are insane,” said Genji. “And these jokes of yours are dangerous. Let me have my clothes, if you will.”

But Tō no Chūjō refused to surrender them.

“Well, then, let’s be undressed together.” Genji undid his friend’s belt and sought to pull off his clothes, and as they disputed the matter Genji burst a seam in an underrobe.

“Your fickle name so wants to be known to the world

That it bursts its way through this warmly disputed garment.

“It is not your wish, I am sure, that all the world should notice.”

Genji replied: “You taunt me, sir, with being a spectacle When you know full well that your own summer robes are showy.”

Somewhat rumpled, they went off together, the best of friends. But as Genji went to bed he felt that he had been the loser, caught in such a very compromising position.

An outraged Naishi came the next morning to return a belt and a pair of trousers. She handed Genji a note:

“I need not comment now upon my feelings.

The waves that came in together went out together, leaving a dry river bed.”

It was an inappropriate reproof after the predicament in which she had placed him, thought Genji, and yet he could imagine how upset she must be. This was his reply:

“I shall not complain of the wave that came raging in,

But of the welcoming strand I must complain.”

The belt was Tō no Chūjō‘s of a color too dark to go with Genji’s robe. He saw that he had lost a length of sleeve. A most unseemly performance. People who wandered the way of love found themselves in mad situations. With that thought he quelled his ardor.

On duty in the palace, Tō no Chūjō had the missing length of sleeve wrapped and returned, with the suggestion that it be restored to its proper place. Genji would have liked to know when he had succeeded in tearing it off. It was some comfort that he had the belt.

He returned it, wrapped in matching paper, with this poem:

“Not to be charged with having taken your take,

I return this belt of indigo undamaged.”

An answer came immediately:

“I doubted not that you took my indigo belt,

And charge you now with taking the lady too.

You will pay for it, sir, one day.”

Both were at court that afternoon. Tō no Chūjō had to smile at Genji’s cool aloofness as he sorted out petitions and orders, and his own business-like efficiency was as amusing to Genji. They exchanged frequent smiles.

Tō no Chūjō came up to Genji when no one else was near. “You have had enough, I hope,” he said, with a fierce sidelong glance, “of these clandestine adventures?”

“Why, pray, should I? The chief hurt was to you who were not invited — and it matters a great deal, since you do so love each other.” And they made a bond of silence, a vow that they would behave like the Know–Nothing River.

Tō no Chūjō lost no opportunity to remind Genji of the incident. And it had all been because of that troublesome old woman, thought Genji. He would not again make such a mistake. It was a trial to him that she continued, all girlishly, to make known her resentment. Tō no Chūjō did not tell his sister, Genji’s wife, of the affair, but he did want to keep it in reserve. Because he was his father’s favorite, Genji was treated respectfully even by princes whose mothers were of the highest rank, and only Tō no Chūjō refused to be awed by him. Indeed he was prepared to contest every small point. He and his sister, alone among the minister’s children, had the emperor’s sister for their mother. Genji belonged, it was true, to the royal family, but the son of the emperor’s sister and of his favorite minister did not feel that he had to defer to anyone; and it was impossible to deny that he was a very splendid young gentleman. The rivalry between the two produced other amusing stories, I am sure, but it would be tedious to collect and recount them.

In the Seventh Month, Fujitsubo was made empress. Genji was given a seat on the council of state. Making plans for his abdication, the emperor wanted to name Fujitsubo’s son crown prince. The child had no strong backing, however. His uncles were all princes of the blood, and it was not for them to take command of public affairs. The emperor therefore wanted Fujitsubo in an unassailable position from which to promote her son’s career.

Kokiden’s anger, most naturally, reached new peaks of intensity.

“You needn’t be in such a stir,” said the emperor. “Our son’s day is coming, and no one will be in a position to challenge you.”

As always, people talked. It was not an easy thing, in naming an empress, to pass over a lady who had for more than twenty years been the mother of the crown prince. Genji was in attendance the night Fujitsubo made her formal appearance as empress. Among His Majesty’s ladies she alone was the daughter of an empress, and she was herself a flawless jewel; but for one man, at least, it was not an occasion for gladness. With anguish he thought of the lady inside the ceremonial palanquin. She would now be quite beyond his reach.

“I see her disappear behind the clouds

And am left to grope my way through deepest darkness.”

The days and months passed, and the little prince was becoming the mirror image of Genji. Though Fujitsubo was in constant tenor, it appeared that no one had guessed the truth. How, people asked, could someone who was not Genji yet be as handsome as Genji? They were, Genji and the little prince, like the sun and moon side by side in the heavens.

Chapter 8

The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms

Towards the end of the Second Month, the festival of the cherry blossoms took place in the Grand Hall. The empress and the crown prince were seated to the left and right of the throne. This arrangement of course displeased Kokiden, but she put in an appearance all the same, unable to let such an occasion pass. It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear, birds were singing. Adepts at Chinese poetry, princes and high courtiers and others, drew lots to fix the rhyme schemes for their poems.

“I have drawn ‘spring,’” said Genji, his voice finely resonant in even so brief a statement.

Tō no Chūjō might have been disconcerted at something in the eyes of the assembly as they turned from Genji to him, but he was calm and poised, and his voice as he announced his rhyme was almost as distinguished as Genji’s. Several of the high courtiers seemed reluctant to follow the two, and the lesser courtiers were more reluctant still. They came stiffly out into the radiant garden, awed by the company in which they found themselves — for both the emperor and the crown prince were connoisseurs of poetry, and it was a time when superior poets were numerous. To produce a Chinese poem is never an easy task, but for them it seemed positive torture. Then there were the great professors who took such occasions in their stride, though their court dress may have been a little shabby. It was pleasant to observe the emperor’s interest in all these varied sorts of people.

The emperor had of course ordered the concert to be planned with the greatest care. “Spring Warbler,” which came as the sun was setting, was uncommonly fine. Remembering how Genji had danced at the autumn excursion, the crown prince himself presented a sprig of blossoms for his cap and pressed him so hard to dance that he could not refuse. Though he danced only a very brief passage, the quiet waving of his sleeves as he came to the climax was incomparable. The Minister of the Left forgot his anger at his negligent son-in-law. There were tears in his eyes.

“Where is Tō no Chūjō?” asked the emperor. “Have him come immediately.”

Tō no Chūjō, whose dance was “Garden of Willows and Flowers,” danced with more careful and deliberate art than had Genji, perhaps because he had been prepared for the royal summons. It was so interesting a performance that the emperor presented him with a robe — a most gratifying sign of royal approval, everyone agreed.

Other high courtiers danced, in no fixed order, but as it was growing dark one could not easily tell who were the better dancers. The poems were read. Genji’s was so remarkable that the reader paused to comment upon each line. The professors were deeply moved. Since Genji was for the emperor a shining light, the poem could not fail to move him too. As for the empress, she wondered how Kokiden could so hate the youth — and reflected on her own misfortune in being so strangely drawn to him.

“Could I see the blossom as other blossoms,

Then would there be no dew to cloud my heart.”

She recited it silently to herself. How then did it go the rounds and presently reach me?

The festivities ended late in the night.

The courtiers went their ways, the empress and the crown prince departed, all was quiet. The moon came out more brightly. It wanted proper appreciation, thought Genji. The ladies in night attendance upon the emperor would be asleep. Expecting no visitors, his own lady might have left a door open a crack. He went quietly up to her apartments, but the door of the one whom he might ask to show him in was tightly closed. He sighed. Still not ready to give up, he made his way to the gallery by Kokiden’s pavilion. The third door from the north was open. Kokiden herself was with the emperor, and her rooms were almost deserted. The hinged door at the far corner was open too. All was silent. It was thus, he thought, that a lady invited her downfall. He slipped across the gallery and up to the door of the main room and looked inside. Everyone seemed to be asleep.

“‘What can compare with a misty moon of spring?’” It was a sweet young voice, so delicate that its owner could be no ordinary serving woman.

She came (could he believe it?) to the door. Delighted, he caught at her sleeve.

“Who are you?” She was frightened.

“There is nothing to be afraid of.

“Late in the night we enjoy a Misty moon.

There is nothing misty about the bond between us.”

Quickly and lightly he lifted her down to the gallery and slid the door closed. Her surprise pleased him enormously.

Trembling, she called for help.

“It will do you no good. I am always allowed my way. Just be quiet, if you will, please.”

She recognized his voice and was somewhat reassured. Though of course upset, she evidently did not wish him to think her wanting in good manners. It may have been because he was still a little drunk that he could not admit the possibility of letting her go; and she, young and irresolute, did not know how to send him on his way. He was delighted with her, but also very nervous, for dawn was approaching. She was in an agony of apprehension lest they be seen.

“You must tell me who you are,” he said. “How can I write to you if you do not? You surely don’t think I mean to let matters stand as they are?”

“Were the lonely one to vanish quite away,

Would you go to the grassy moors to ask her name?”

Her voice had a softly plaintive quality.

“I did not express myself well.

“I wish to know whose dewy lodge it is

Ere winds blow past the bamboo-tangled moor.

“Only one thing, a cold welcome, could destroy my eagerness to visit. Do you perhaps have some diversionary tactic in mind?”

They exchanged fans and he was on his way. Even as he spoke a stream of women was moving in and out of Kokiden’s rooms. There were women in his own rooms too, some of them still awake. Pretending to be asleep, they poked one another and exchanged whispered remarks about the diligence with which he pursued these night adventures.

He was unable to sleep. What a beautiful girl! One of Kokiden’s younger sisters, no doubt. Perhaps the fifth or sixth daughter of the family, since she had seemed to know so little about men? He had heard that both thy fourth daughter, to whom Tō no Chūjō was uncomfortably married, and Prince Hotaru’s wife were great beauties, and thought that the encounter might have been more interesting had the lady been one of the older sisters. He rather hoped she was not the sixth daughter, whom the minister had thoughts of marrying to the crown prince. The trouble was that he had no way of being sure. It had not seemed that she wanted the affair to end with but the one meeting. Why then had she not told him how he might write to her? These thoughts and others suggest that he was much interested. He thought too of Fujitsubo’s pavilion, and how much more mysterious and inaccessible it was, indeed how uniquely so.

He had a lesser spring banquet with which to amuse himself that day. He played the thirteen-stringed koto, his performance if anything subtler and richer than that of the day before. Fujitsubo went to the emperor’s apartments at dawn.

Genji was on tenterhooks, wondering whether the lady he had seen in the dawn moonlight would be leaving the palace. He sent Yoshikiyo and Koremitsu, who let nothing escape them, to keep watch; and when, as he was leaving the royal presence, he had their report, his agitation increased.

“Some carriages that had been kept out of sight left just now by the north gate. Two of Kokiden’s brothers and several other members of the family saw them off; so we gathered that the ladies must be part of the family too. They were ladies of some importance, in any case — that much was clear. There were three carriages in all.”

How might he learn which of the sisters he had become friends with? Supposing her father were to learn of the affair and welcome him gladly into the family — he had not seen enough of the lady to be sure that the prospect delighted him. Yet he did want very much to know who she was. He sat looking out at the garden.

Murasaki would be gloomy and bored, he feared, for he had not visited her in some days. He looked at the fan he had received in the dawn moonlight. It was a “three-ply cherry.” The painting on the more richly colored side, a misty moon reflected on water, was not remarkable, but the fan, well used, was a memento to stir longing. He remembered with especial tenderness the poem about the grassy moors.

He jotted down a poem beside the misty moon:

“I had not known the sudden loneliness

Of having it vanish, the moon in the sky of dawn.”

He had been neglecting the Sanjō mansion of his father-in-law for rather a long time, but Murasaki was more on his mind. He must go comfort her. She pleased him more, she seemed prettier and cleverer and more amiable, each time he saw her. He was congratulating himself that his hopes of shaping her into his ideal might not prove entirely unrealistic. Yet he had misgivings — very unsettling ones, it must be said — lest by training her himself he put her too much at ease with men. He told her the latest court gossip and they had a music lesson. So he was going out again — she was sorry, as always, to see him go, but she no longer clung to him as she once had.

At Sanjō it was the usual thing: his wife kept him waiting. In his boredom he thought of this and that. pulling a koto to him, he casually plucked out a tune. “No nights of soft sleep,” he sang, to his own accompaniment.

The minister came for a talk about the recent pleasurable events.

“I am very old, and I have served through four illustrious reigns, but never have I known an occasion that has added so many years to my life. Such clever, witty poems, such fine music and dancing — you are on good terms with the great performers who so abound in our day, and you arrange things with such marvelous skill. Even we aged ones felt like cutting a caper or two.”

“The marvelous skill of which you speak, sir, amounts to nothing at all, only a word here and there. It is a matter of knowing where to ask. ‘Garden of Willows and Flowers’ was much the best thing, I thought, a performance to go down as a model for all the ages. And what a memorable day it would have been, what an honor for our age, if in the advancing spring of your life you had followed your impulse and danced for us.”

Soon Tō no Chūjō and his brothers, leaning casually against the veranda railings, were in fine concert on their favorite instruments.

The lady of that dawn encounter, remembering the evanescent dream, was sunk in sad thoughts. Her father’s plans to give her to the crown prince in the Fourth Month were a source of great distress. As for Genji, he was not without devices for searching her out, but he did not know which of Kokiden’s sisters she was, and he did not wish to become involved with that unfriendly family.

Late in the Fourth Month the princes and high courtiers gathered at the mansion of the Minister of the Right, Kokiden’s father, for an archery meet. It was as followed immediately by a wisteria banquet. Though the cherry blossoms had for the most part fallen, two trees, perhaps having learned that mountain cherries do well to bloom 1ate, were at their belated best. The minister’s mansion had been rebuilt and beautifully refurnished for the initiation ceremonies of the princesses his granddaughters. It was in the ornate style its owner preferred, everything in the latest fashion.

Seeing Genji in the palace one day, the minister had invited him to the festivities. Genji would have preferred to stay away, but the affair seemed certain to languish without him. The minister sent one of his sons, a guards officer, with a message:

“If these blossoms of mine were of the common sort,

Would I press you so to come and look upon them?”

Genji showed the poem to his father.

“He seems very pleased with his flowers,” laughed the emperor. “But you must go immediately. He has, after all, sent a special invitation. It is use that the princesses your sisters are being reared. You are scarcely a stranger.”

Genji dressed with great care. It was almost dark when he finally presented himself. He wore a robe of a thin white Chinese damask with a red lining and under it a very long train of magenta. Altogether the dashing young prince, he added something new to the assembly that so cordially received him, for the other guests were more formally clad. He quite overwhelmed the blossoms, in a sense spoiling the party, and played beautifully on several instruments. Late in the evening he got up, pretending to be drunk. The first and third princesses were living in the main hall. He went to the east veranda and leaned against a door. The shutters were raised and women were gathered at the southwest corner, where the wisteria was in bloom. Their sleeves were pushed somewhat ostentatiously out from under blinds, as at a New Year’s poetry assembly. All rather overdone, he thought, and he could not help thinking too of Fujitsubo’s reticence.

“I was not feeling well in the first place, and they plied me with drink. I know I shouldn’t, but might I ask you to hide me?” He raised the blind at the corner door.

“Please, dear sir, this will not do. It is for us beggars to ask such favors of you fine gentlemen.” Though of no overwhelming dignity, the women were most certainly not common.

Incense hung heavily in the air and the rustling of silk was bright and lively. Because the princesses seemed to prefer modern things, the scene may perhaps have been wanting in mysterious shadows.

The time and place were hardly appropriate for a flirtation, and yet his interest was aroused. Which would be the lady of the misty moon?

“A most awful thing has happened,” he said playfully. “Someone has stolen my fan.” He sat leaning against a pillar.

“What curious things that Korean does do.” The lady who thus deftly returned his allusion did not seem to know about the exchange of fans.

Catching a sigh from another lady, he leaned forward and took her hand.

“I wander lost on Arrow Mount and ask:

May I not see the moon I saw so briefly?

“Or must I continue to wander?”

It seemed that she could not remain silent:

“Only the flighty, the less than serious ones,

Are left in the skies when the longbow moon is gone.”

It was the same voice. He was delighted. And yet —

Chapter 9

Heartvine

With the new reign Genji’s career languished, and since he must be the more discreet about his romantic adventures as he rose in rank, he had less to amuse him. Everywhere there were complaints about his aloofness.

As if to punish him, there was one lady who continued to cause him pain with her own aloofness. Fujitsubo saw more of the old emperor, now abdicated, than ever. She was always at his side, almost as if she were a common housewife. Annoyed at this state of affairs, Kokiden did not follow the old emperor when he left the main palace. Fujitsubo was happy and secure. The concerts in the old emperor’s palace attracted the attention of the whole court, and altogether life was happier for the two of them than while he had reigned. Only one thing was lacking: he greatly missed the crown prince, Fujitsubo’s son, and worried that he had no strong backers. Genji, he said, must be the boy’s adviser and guardian. Genji was both pleased and embarrassed.

And there was the matter of the lady at Rokujō. With the change of reigns, her daughter, who was also the daughter of the late crown prince, had been appointed high priestess of the Ise Shrine. No longer trusting Genji’s affections, the Rokujō lady had been thinking that, making the girl’s youth her excuse, she too would go to Ise.

The old emperor heard of her plans. “The crown prince was so very fond of her,” he said to Genji, in open displeasure. “It is sad that you should have made light of her, as if she were any ordinary woman. I think of the high priestess as one of my own children, and you should be good to her mother, for my sake and for the sake of the dead prince. It does you no good to abandon yourself to these affairs quite as the impulse takes you.

It was perfectly true, thought Genji. He waited in silence.

“You should treat any woman with tact and courtesy, and be sure that you cause her no embarrassment. You should never have a woman angry with you.”

What would his father think if he were to learn of Genji’s worst indiscretion? The thought made Genji shudder. He bowed and withdrew.

The matter his father had thus reproved him for did no good for either of them, the woman or Genji himself. It was a scandal, and very sad for her. She continued to be very much on his mind, and yet he had no thought of making her his wife. She had grown cool toward him, worried about the difference in their ages. He made it seem that it was because of her wishes that he stayed away. Now that the old emperor knew of the affair the whole court knew of it. In spite of everything, the lady went on grieving that he had not loved her better.

There was another lady, his cousin Princess Asagao. Determined that she would not share the plight of the Rokujō lady, she refused even the briefest answer to his notes. Still, and he thought her most civil for it, she was careful to avoid giving open offense.

At Sanjō, his wife and her family were even unhappier about his infidelities, but, perhaps because he did not lie to them, they for the most part kept their displeasure to themselves. His wife was with child and in considerable distress mentally and physically. For Genji it was a strange and moving time. Everyone was delighted and at the same time filled with apprehension, and all manner of retreats and abstinences were prescribed for the lady. Genji had little time to himself. While he had no particular wish to avoid the Rokujō lady and the others, he rarely visited them.

At about this time the high priestess of Kamo resigned. She was replaced by the old emperor’s third daughter, whose mother was Kokiden. The new priestess was a favorite of both her brother, the new emperor, and her mother, and it seemed a great pity that she should be shut off from court life; but no other princess was qualified for the position. The installation ceremonies, in the austere Shinto tradition, were of great dignity and solemnity. Many novel details were added to the Kamo festival in the Fourth Month, so that it was certain to be the finest of the season. Though the number of high courtiers attending the princess at the lustration was limited by precedent, great care was taken to choose handsome men of good repute. Similar care was given to their uniforms and to the uniform trappings of their horses. Genji was among the attendants, by special command of the new emperor. Courtiers and ladies had readied their carriages far in advance, and Ichijō was a frightening crush, without space for another vehicle. The stands along the way had been appointed most elaborately. The sleeves that showed beneath the curtains fulfilled in their brightness and variety all the festive promise.

Genji’s wife seldom went forth on sightseeing expeditions and her pregnancy was another reason for staying at home.

But her young women protested. “Really, my lady, it won’t be much fun sneaking off by ourselves. Why, even complete strangers — why, all the country folk have come in to see our lord! They’ve brought their wives and families from the farthest provinces. It will be too much if you make us stay away.”

Her mother, Princess Omiya, agreed. “You seem to be feeling well enough, my dear, and they will be very disappointed if you don’t take them.”

And so carriages were hastily and unostentatiously decked out, and the sun was already high when they set forth. The waysides were by now too crowded to admit the elegant Sanjō procession. Coming upon several fine carriages not attended by grooms and footmen, the Sanjō men commenced clearing a space. Two palm-frond carriages remained, not new ones, obviously belonging to someone who did not wish to attract attention. The curtains and the sleeves and aprons to be glimpsed beneath them, some in the gay colors little girls wear, were in very good taste.

The men in attendance sought to defend their places against the Sanjō invaders. “We aren’t the sort of people you push around.”

There had been too much drink in both parties, and the drunken ones were not responsive to the efforts of their more mature and collected seniors to restrain them.

The palm-frond carriages were from the Rokujō house of the high priestess of Ise. The Rokujō lady had come quietly to see the procession, hoping that it might make her briefly forget her unhappiness. The men from Sanjō had recognized her, but preferred to make it seem otherwise.

“They can’t tell us who to push and not to push,” said the more intemperate ones to their fellows. “They have General Genji to make them feel important.”

Among the newcomers were some of Genji’s men. They recognized and felt a little sorry for the Rokujō lady, but, not wishing to become involved, they looked the other way. presently all the Sanjō carriages were in place. The Rokujō lady, behind the lesser ones, could see almost nothing. Quite aside from her natural distress at the insult, she was filled with the bitterest chagrin that, having refrained from display, she had been recognized. The stools for her carriage shafts had been broken and the shafts propped on the hubs of perfectly strange carriages, a most undignified sight. It was no good asking herself why she had come. She thought of going home without seeing the procession, but there was no room for her to pass; and then came word that the procession was approaching, and she must, after all, see the man who had caused her such unhappiness. How weak is the heart of a woman! perhaps because this was not “the bamboo by the river Hinokuma,” he passed without stopping his horse or looking her way; and the unhappiness was greater than if she had stayed at home.

Genji seemed indifferent to all the grandly decorated carriages and all the gay sleeves, such a flood of them that it was as if ladies were stacked in layers behind the carriage curtains. Now and again, however, he would have a smile and a glance for a carriage he recognized. His face was solemn and respectful as he passed his wife’s carriage. His men bowed deeply, and the Rokujō lady was in misery. She had been utterly defeated.

She whispered to herself:

“A distant glimpse of the River of Lustration.

His coldness is the measure of my sorrow.”

She was ashamed of her tears. Yet she thought how sorry she would have been if she had not seen that handsome figure set off to such advantage by the crowds.

The high courtiers were, after their several ranks, impeccably dressed and caparisoned and many of them were very handsome; but Genji’s radiance dimmed the strongest lights. Among his special attendants was a guards officer of the Sixth Rank, though attendants of such standing were usually reserved for the most splendid royal processions. His retinue made such a fine procession itself that every tree and blade of grass along the way seemed to bend forward in admiration.

It is not on the whole considered good form for veiled ladies of no mean rank and even nuns who have withdrawn from the world to be jostling and shoving one another in the struggle to see, but today no one thought it out of place. Hollow-mouthed women of the lower classes, their hair tucked under their robes, their hands brought respectfully to their foreheads, were hopping about in hopes of catching a glimpse. plebeian faces were wreathed in smiles which their owners might not have enjoyed seeing in mirrors, and daughters of petty provincial officers of whose existence Genji would scarcely have been aware had set forth in carriages decked out with the most exhaustive care and taken up posts which seemed to offer a chance of seeing him. There were almost as many things by the wayside as in the procession to attract one’s attention.

And there were many ladies whom he had seen in secret and who now sighed more than ever that their station was so out of keeping with his. Prince Shikibu viewed the procession from a stand. Genji had matured and did indeed quite dazzle the eye, and the prince thought with foreboding that some god might have noticed, and was making plans to spirit the young man away. His daughter, Princess Asagao, having over the years found Genji a faithful correspondent, knew how remarkably steady his feelings were. She was aware that attentions moved ladies even when the donor was a most ordinary man; yet she had no wish for further intimacy. As for her women, their sighs of admiration were almost deafening.

No carriages set out from the Sanjō mansion on the day of the festival proper.

Genji presently heard the story of the competing carriages. He was sorry for the Rokujō lady and angry at his wife. It was a sad fact that, so deliberate and fastidious, she lacked ordinary compassion. There was indeed a tart, forbidding quality about her. She refused to see, though it was probably an unconscious refusal, that ladies who were to each other as she was to the Rokujō lady should behave with charity and forbearance. It was under her influence that the men in her service flung themselves so violently about. Genji sometimes felt uncomfortable before the proud dignity of the Rokujō lady, and he could imagine her rage and humiliation now.

He called upon her. The high priestess, her daughter, was still with her, however, and, making reverence for the sacred sakaki tree her excuse, she declined to receive him.

She was right, of course. Yet he muttered to himself: “Why must it be so? Why cannot the two of them be a little less prickly?”

It was from his Nijō mansion, away from all this trouble, that he set forth to view the festival proper. Going over to Murasaki’s rooms in the west wing, he gave Koremitsu instructions for the carriages.

“And are all our little ladies going too?” he asked. He smiled with pleasure at Murasaki, lovely in her festive dress. “We will watch it together.” He stroked her hair, which seemed more lustrous than ever. “It hasn’t been trimmed in a very long time. I wonder if today would be a good day for it.” He summoned a soothsayer and while the man was investigating told the “little ladies” to go on ahead. They too were a delight, bright and fresh, their hair all sprucely trimmed and flowing over embroidered trousers.

He would trim Murasaki’s hair himself, he said. “But see how thick it is. The scissors get all tangled up in it. Think how it will be when you grow up. Even ladies with very long hair usually cut it here at the forehead, and you’ve not a single lock of short hair. A person might even call it untidy.”

The joy was more than a body deserved, said Shōnagon, her nurse.

“May it grow to a thousand fathoms,” said Genji.

“Mine it shall be, rich as the grasses beneath

The fathomless sea, the thousand-fathomed sea.”

Murasaki took out brush and paper and set down her answer:

“It may indeed be a thousand fathoms deep.

How can I know, when it restlessly comes and goes?”

She wrote well, but a pleasant girlishness remained.

Again the streets were lined in solid ranks. Genji’s party pulled up near the cavalry grounds, unable to find a place.

“Very difficult,” said Genji. “Too many of the great ones hereabouts.”

A fan was thrust from beneath the blinds of an elegant ladies’ carriage that was filled to overflowing.

“Suppose you pull in here,” said a lady. “I would be happy to relinquish my place.”

What sort of adventuress might she be? The place was indeed a good one. He had his carriage pulled in.

“How did you find it? I am consumed with envy.”

She wrote her reply on a rib of a tastefully decorated fan:

“Ah, the fickleness! It summoned me

To a meeting, the heartvine now worn by another.

“The gods themselves seemed to summon me, though of course I am not admitted to the sacred precincts.”

He recognized the hand: that of old Naishi, still youthfully resisting the years.

Frowning, he sent back:

“Yes, fickleness, this vine of the day of meeting,

Available to all the eighty clans.”

It was her turn to reply, this time in much chagrin:

“Vine of meeting indeed! A useless weed,

A mouthing, its name, of empty promises.”

Many ladies along the way bemoaned the fact that, apparently in feminine company, he did not even raise the blinds of his carriage. Such a stately figure on the day of the lustration — today it should have been his duty to show himself at his ease. The lady with him must surely be a beauty.

A tasteless exchange, thought Genji. A more proper lady would have kept the strictest silence, out of deference to the lady with him.

For the Rokujō lady the pain was unrelieved. She knew that she could expect no lessening of his coldness, and yet to steel herself and go off to Ise with her daughter — she would be lonely, she knew, and people would laugh at her. They would laugh just as heartily if she stayed in the city. Her thoughts were as the fisherman’s bob at 1se. Her very soul seemed to jump wildly about, and at last she fell physically ill.

Genji discounted the possibility of her going to Ise. “It is natural that you should have little use for a reprobate like myself and think of discarding me. But to stay with me would be to show admirable depths of feeling.”

These remarks did not seem very helpful. Her anger and sorrow increased. A hope of relief from this agony of indecision had sent her to the river of lustration, and there she had been subjected to violence.

At Sanjō, Genji’s wife seemed to be in the grip of a malign spirit. It was no time for nocturnal wanderings. Genji paid only an occasional visit to his own Nijō mansion. His marriage had not been happy, but his wife was important to him and now she was carrying his child. He had prayers read in his Sanjō rooms. Several malign spirits were transferred to the medium and identified themselves, but there was one which quite refused to move. Though it did not cause great pain, it refused to leave her for so much as an instant There was something very sinister about a spirit that eluded the powers of the most skilled exorcists The Sanjō people went over the list of Genji’s ladies one by one. Among them all, it came to be whispered, only the Rokujō lady and the lady at Nijō seemed to have been singled out for special attentions, and no doubt they were jealous. The exorcists were asked about the possibility, but they gave no very informative answers. Of the spirits that did announce themselves, none seemed to feel any deep enmity toward the lady. Their behavior seemed random and purposeless. There was the spirit of her dead nurse, for instance, and there were spirits that had been with the family for generations and had taken advantage of her weakness.

The confusion and worry continued. The lady would sometimes weep in loud wailing sobs, and sometimes be tormented by nausea and shortness of breath.

The old emperor sent repeated inquiries and ordered religious services. That the lady should be worthy of these august attentions made the possibility of her death seem even more lamentable. Reports that they quite monopolized the attention of court reached the Rokujō mansion, to further embitter its lady. No one can have guessed that the trivial incident of the carriages had so angered a lady whose sense of rivalry had not until then been strong.

Not at all herself, she left her house to her daughter and moved to one where Buddhist rites would not be out of p1ace. Sorry to hear of the move, Genji bestirred himself to call on her. The neighborhood was a strange one and he was in careful disguise. He explained his negligence in terms likely to make it seem involuntary and to bring her forgiveness, and he told her of Aoi’s illness and the worry it was causing him.

“I have not been so very worried myself, but her parents are beside themselves. It has seemed best to stay with her. It would relieve me enormously if I thought you might take a generous view of it all.” He knew why she was unwell, and pitied her.

They passed a tense night. As she saw him off in the dawn she found that her plans for quitting the city were not as firm as on the day before. Her rival was of the highest rank and there was this important new consid- eration; no doubt his affections would finally settle on her. She herself would be left in solitude, wondering when he might call. The visit had only made her unhappier. In upon her gloom, in the evening, came a letter.

“Though she had seemed to be improving, she has taken a sudden and drastic turn for the worse. I cannot leave her.”

The usual excuses, she thought. Yet she answered:

“I go down the way of love and dampen my sleeves,

And go yet further, into the muddy fields.

A pity the well is so shallow.”

The hand was the very best he knew. It was a difficult world, which refused to give satisfaction. Among his ladies there was none who could be dismissed as completely beneath consideration and none to whom he could give his whole love.

Despite the lateness of the hour, he got off an answer: “You only wet your sleeves — what can this mean? That your feelings are not of the deepest, I should think.

“You only dip into the shallow waters,

And I quite disappear into the slough?

“Do you think I would answer by letter and not in person if she were merely indisposed?”

The malign spirit was more insistent, and Aoi was in great distress. Unpleasant rumors reached the Rokujō lady, to the effect that it might be her spirit or that of her father, the late minister. Though she had felt sorry enough for herself, she had not wished ill to anyone; and might it be that the soul of one so lost in sad thoughts went wandering off by itself? She had, over the years, known the full range of sorrows, but never before had she felt so utterly miserable. There had been no release from the anger since the other lady had so insulted her, indeed behaved as if she did not exist. More than once she had the same dream: in the beautifully appointed apartments of a lady who seemed to be a rival she would push and shake the lady, and flail at her blindly and savagely. It was too terrible. Sometimes in a daze she would ask herself if her soul had indeed gone wandering off. The world was not given to speaking well of people whose transgressions had been far slighter. She would be notorious. It was common enough for the spirits of the angry dead to linger on in this world. She had thought them hateful, and it was her own lot to set a hateful example while she still lived. She must think no more about the man who had been so cruel to her. But so to think was, after all, to think.

The high priestess, her daughter, was to have been presented at court the year before, but complications had required postponement. It was finally decided that in the Ninth Month she would go from court to her temporary shrine. The Rokujō house was thus busy preparing for two lustrations, but its lady, lost in thought, seemed strangely indifferent. A most serious state of affairs — the priestess’s attendants ordered prayers. There were no really alarming symptoms. She was vaguely unwell, no more. The days passed. Genji sent repeated inquiries, but there was no relief from his worries about another invalid, a more important one.

It was still too early for Aoi to be delivered of her child. Her women were less than fully alert; and then, suddenly, she was seized with labor pains. More priests were put to more strenuous prayers. The malign spirit refused to move. The most eminent of exorcists found this stubbornness extraordinary, and could not think what to do. Then, after renewed efforts at exorcism, more intense than before, it commenced sobbing as if in pain.

“Stop for a moment, please. I want to speak to General Genji.”

It was as they had thought. The women showed Genji to a place at Aoi’s curtains. Thinking — for she did seem on the point of death — that Aoi had last words for Genji, her parents withdrew. The effect was grandly solemn as priests read from the Lotus Sutra in hushed voices. Genji drew the curtains back and looked down at his wife. She was heavy with child, and very beautiful. Even a man who was nothing to her would have been saddened to look at her. Long, heavy hair, bound at one side, was set off by white robes, and he thought her lovelier than when she was most carefully dressed and groomed.

He took her hand. “How awful. How awful for you.” He could say no more.

Usually so haughty and forbidding, she now gazed up at him with languid eyes that were presently filled with tears. How could he fail to be moved? This violent weeping, he thought, would be for her parents, soon to be left behind, and perhaps, at this last leave-taking, for him too.

“You mustn’t fret so. It can’t be as bad as you think. And even if the worst comes, we will meet again. And your good mother and father: the bond between parents and children lasts through many lives. You must tell yourself that you will see them again.”

“No, no. I was hurting so, I asked them to stop for a while. I had not dreamed that I would come to you like this. It is true: a troubled soul will sometimes go wandering off.” The voice was gentle and affectionate.

“Bind the hem of my robe, to keep it within,

The grieving soul that has wandered through the skies.”

It was not Aoi’s voice, nor was the manner hers. Extraordinary — and then he knew that it was the voice of the Rokujō lady. He was aghast. He had dismissed the talk as vulgar and ignorant fabrication, and here before his eyes he had proof that such things did actually happen. He was horrified and repelled.

“You may say so. But I don’t know who you are. Identify yourself.”

It was indeed she. “Aghast” — is there no stronger word? He waved the women back

Thinking that these calmer tones meant a respite from pain, her mother came with medicine; and even as she drank it down she gave birth to a baby boy. Everyone was delighted, save the spirits that had been transferred to mediums. Chagrined at their failure, they were raising a great stir, and all in all it was a noisy and untidy scene. There was still the afterbirth to worry about. Then, perhaps because of all the prayers, it too was delivered. The grand abbot of Hiei and all the other eminent clerics departed, looking rather pleased with themselves as they mopped their foreheads. Sure that the worst was past after all the anxious days, the women allowed themselves a rest.

The prayers went on as noisily as ever, but the house was now caught up in the happy business of ministering to a pretty baby. It hummed with excitement on each of the festive nights. Fine and unusual gifts came from the old emperor and from all the princes and high courtiers. Ceremonies honoring a boy baby are always interesting.

The Rokujō lady received the news with mixed feelings. She had heard that her rival was critically ill, and now the crisis had passed. She was not herself. The strangest thing was that her robes were permeated with the scent of the poppy seeds burned at exorcisms. She changed clothes repeatedly and even washed her hair, but the odor persisted. She was overcome with self-loathing. And what would others be thinking? It was a matter she could discuss with no one. She could only suffer in distraught silence.

Somewhat calmer, Genji was still horrified at the unsolicited remarks he had had from the possessive spirit. He really must get off a note to the Rokujō lady. Or should he have a talk with her? He would find it hard to be civil, and he did not wish to hurt her. In the end he made do with a note.

Aoi’s illness had been critical, and the strictest vigil must be continued. Genji had been persuaded to stop his nocturnal wanderings. He still had not really talked to his wife, for she was still far from normal. The child was so beautiful as to arouse forebodings, and preparations were already under way for a most careful and elaborate education. The minister was pleased with everything save the fact that his daughter had still not recovered. But he told himself that he need not worry. A slow convalescence was to be expected after so serious an illness.

Especially around the eyes, the baby bore a strong resemblance to the crown prince, whom Genji suddenly felt an intense longing to see. He could not sit still. He had to be off to court.

“I have been neglecting my duties,” he said to the women, “and am feeling rather guilty. I think today I will venture out. It would be good if I might see her before I go. I am not a stranger, you know.”

“Quite true, sir. You of all people should be allowed near. She is badly emaciated, I fear, but that is scarcely a reason for her to hide herself from you.”

And so a place was set out for him at her bedside. She answered from time to time, but in a very weak voice. Even so little, from a lady who had been given up for dead, was like a dream. He told her of those terrible days. Then he remembered how, as if pulling back from a brink, she had begun talking to him so volubly and so eagerly. A shudder of revulsion passed over him.

“There are many things I would like to say to you, but you still seem very tired.”

He even prepared medicine for her. The women were filled with admiration. When had he learned to be so useful?

She was sadly worn and lay as if on the border of death, pathetic and still lovely. There was not a tangle in her lustrous hair. The thick tresses that poured over her pillows seemed to him quite beyond compare. He gazed down at her, thinking it odd that he should have felt so dissatisfied with her over the years.

“I must see my father, but I am sure I will not be needed long. How nice if we could always be like this. But your mother is with you so much, I have not wanted to seem insistent. You must get back your strength and move back to your own rooms. Your mother pampers you too much. That may be one reason why you are so slow getting well.”

As he withdrew in grand court dress she lay looking after him as she had not been in the habit of doing.

There was to be a conference on promotions and appointments. The minister too set off for court, in procession with all his sons, each of them with a case to plead and determined not to leave his side.

The Sanjō mansion was almost deserted. Aoi was again seized with a strangling shortness of breath; and very soon after a messenger had been sent to court she was dead. Genji and the others left court, scarcely aware of where their feet were taking them. Appointments and promotions no longer concerned them. Since the crisis had come at about midnight there was no possibility of summoning the grand abbot and his suffragans. Everyone had thought that the worst was over, and now of course everyone was stunned, dazed, wandering aimlessly from room to room, hardly knowing a door from a wall. Messengers crowded in with condolences, but the house was in such confusion that there was no one to receive them. The intensity of the grief was almost frightening. Since malign spirits had more than once attacked the lady, her father ordered the body left as it was for two or three days in hopes that she might revive. The signs of death were more and more pronounced, however, and, in great anguish, the family at length accepted the truth. Genji, who had private distress to add to the general grief, thought he knew as well as anyone ever would what unhappiness love can bring. Condolences even from the people most important to him brought no comfort. The old emperor, himself much grieved, sent a personal message; and so for the minister there was new honor, happiness to temper the sorrow. Yet there was no relief from tears.

Every reasonable suggestion was accepted toward reviving the lady, but, the ravages of death being ever more apparent, there was finally no recourse but to see her to Toribe Moor. There were many heartrending scenes along the way. The crowds of mourners and priests invoking the holy name quite overflowed the wide moor. Messages continued to pour in, from the old emperor, of course, and from the empress and crown prince and the great houses as well.

The minister was desolate. “Now in my last years to be left behind could see him without sharing his sorrow.

Grandly the services went on through the night, and as dawn came over the sky the mourners turned back to the city, taking with them only a handful of ashes. Funerals are common enough, but Genji, who had not been present at many, was shaken as never before. Since it was late in the Eighth Month a quarter moon still hung in a sky that would have brought melancholy thoughts in any case; and the figure of his father-in-law, as if groping in pitch darkness, seemed proper to the occasion and at the same time indescribably sad.

A poem came to his lips as he gazed up into the morning sky:

“Might these clouds be the smoke that mounts from her pyre?

They fill my heart with feelings too deep for words.”

Back at Sanjō, he was unable to sleep. He thought over their years together. Why had he so carelessly told himself that she would one day understand? Why had he allowed himself silly flirtations, the smallest of them sure to anger her? He had let her carry her hostility to the grave. The regrets were strong, but useless.

It was as if in a trance that he put on the dull gray mourning robes. Had she outlived him, it occurred to him, hers would have been darker gray.

“Weeds obey rules. Mine are the shallower hue.

But tears plunge my sleeves into the deepest wells.”

He closed his eyes in prayer, a handsomer man in sorrow than in happiness. He intoned softly: “Hail, Samantabhadra, in whose serene thoughts all is contained.” The invocation seemed more powerful than from the mouth of the most reverend priest.

There were tears in his eyes as he took the little boy up in his arms. “What would we have to remember her by?” he whispered to himself. The sorrow would be worse if he did not have this child.

Princess Omiya took to her bed in such a sad state that services were now commenced for her. The preparations for memorial rites were the sadder for the fact that there had been so little warning. Parents grieve at the loss of the most ill-favored child, and the intensity of the grief in this case was not to be wondered at. The family had no other daughters. It was as if — it was worse than if the jewels upon the silken sleeve had been shattered to bits.

Genji did not venture forth even to Nijō. He passed his days in tears and in earnest prayer. He did, it is true, send off a few notes. The high priestess of Ise had moved to a temporary shrine in the guards’ quarters of the palace. Making the girl’s ritual purity her excuse, the Rokujō lady refused to answer. The world had not been kind to him, and now, gloomier than ever, he thought that if he had not had this new bond with the world he would have liked to follow what had for so long been his deepest inclinations and leave it entirely behind. But then he would think of the girl Murasaki at Nijō. He slept alone. Women were on duty nearby, but still he was lonely. Unable to sleep, he would say to himself: “In autumn, of all the seasons.” Summoning priests of good voice, he would have them chant the holy name; and the dawn sky would be almost more than he could bear.

In one of those late-autumn dawns when the very sound of the wind seems to sink to one’s bones, he arose from a lonely, sleepless bed to see the garden enshrouded in mist. A letter was brought in, on dark blue-gray paper attached to a half-opened bud of chrysanthemum. In the best of taste, he thought. The hand was that of the Rokujō lady.

“Do you know why I have been so negligent?

“I too am in tears, at the thought of her sad, short life.

Moist the sleeves of you whom she left behind.

“These autumn skies make it impossible for me to be silent.”

The hand was more beautiful than ever. He wanted to fling the note away from him, but could not. It seemed to him altogether too disingenuous. Yet he could not bring himself to sever relations. Poor woman, she seemed marked for notoriety. No doubt Aoi had been fated to die. But anger rose again. Why had he seen and heard it all so clearly, why had it been paraded before him? Try though he might, he could not put his feelings toward the woman in order. He debated at great length, remembering too that perhaps he should hold his tongue out of respect for the high priestess.

But he finally decided that the last thing he wanted was to seem cold and insensitive. His answer was on soft, quiet purple. “You for your part will understand, I am sure, the reasons for this inexcusably long silence. You have been much on my mind, but I have thought it best to keep my distance.

“We go, we stay, alike of this world of dew.

We should not let it have such a hold upon us.

“You too should try to shake loose. I shall be brief, for perhaps you will not welcome a letter from a house of mourning.”

Now back at Rokujō, she waited until she was alone to read the letter. Her conscience told her his meaning all too clearly. So he knew. It was too awful. Surely no one had been more cruelly treated by fate than herself. What would the old emperor be thinking? He and her late husband, the crown prince, were brothers by the same mother, and they had been very close. The prince had asked his protection for their daughter, and he had replied that he would look upon the girl as taking the place of her father. He had repeatedly invited the lady and her daughter to go on living in the palace, but she held to a demanding view of the proprieties. And so she had found herself in this childish entanglement, and had succeeded in making a very bad name for herself. She was still not feeling well.

In fact, the name she had made for herself was rather different. She had long been famous for her subtlety and refinement, and when her daughter moved to another temporary shrine, this one to the west of the city, all the details were tasteful and in the latest fashion. Genji was not surprised to hear that the more cultivated of the courtiers were making it their main business to part the dew-drenched grasses before the shrine. She was a lady of almost too good taste. If, wanting no more of love, she were to go with her daughter to Ise, he would, after all, miss her.

The memorial services were over, but Genji remained in seclusion for seven weeks. Pitying him in the unaccustomed tedium, Tō no Chūjō would come and divert him with the latest talk, serious and trivial; and it seems likely that old Naishi was cause for a good laugh now and then.

“You mustn’t make fun of dear old Granny,” said Genji; but he found stories of the old lady unfailingly amusing.

They would go over the list of their little adventures, on the night of a misty autumn moon, just past full, and others; and their talk would come around to the evanescence of things and they would shed a few tears.

On an evening of chilly autumn rains, Tō no Chūjō again came calling. He had changed to lighter mourning and presented a fine, manly figure indeed, enough to put most men to shame. Genji was at the railing of the west veranda, looking out over the frostbitten garden. The wind was high and it was as if his tears sought to compete with the driven rain.

“Is she the rain, is she the clouds? Alas, I cannot say.”

He sat chin in hand. Were he himself the dead lady, thought Tō no Chūjō, his soul would certainly remain bound to this world. He came up to his friend. Genji, who had not expected callers, quietly smoothed his robes, a finely glossed red singlet under a robe of a deeper gray than Tō no Chūjō‘s. It was the modest, conservative sort of dress that never seems merely dull.

Tō no Chūjō too looked up at the sky.

“Is she the rain? Where in these stormy skies,

To which of these brooding clouds may I look to find her?

Neither can I say,” he added, as if to himself.

“It is a time of storms when even the clouds

To which my lady has risen are blotted away.”

Genji’s grief was clearly unfeigned. Very odd, thought Tō no Chūjō. Genji had so often been reproved by his father for not being a better husband, and the attentions of his father-in-law had made him very uncomfortable. There were circumstances, having largely to do with his nearness to Princess Omiya, which kept him from leaving Aoi completely; and so he had continued to wait upon her, making little attempt to hide his dissatisfaction. Tō no Chūjō had more than once been moved to pity him in this unhappy predicament. And now it seemed that she had after all had a place in his affections, that he had loved and honored her. Tō no Chūjō’s own sorrow was more intense for the knowledge. It was as if a light had gone out.

Gentians and wild carnations peeped from the frosty tangles. After Tō no Chūjō had left, Genji sent a small bouquet by the little boy’s nurse, Saishō, to Princess Omiya, with this message:

“Carnations at the wintry hedge remind me

Of an autumn which we leave too far behind.

Do you not think them a lovely color?”

Yes, the smiling little “wild carnation” he now had with him was a treasure.

The princess, less resistant to tears than the autumn leaves to the winds, had to have someone read Genji’s note to her.

She sent this answer:

“I see them, and my sleeves are drenched afresh,

The wild carnations at the wasted hedge.”

It was a dull time. He was sure that his cousin Princess Asagao, despite her past coolness, would understand his feelings on such an evening. He had not written in a long time, but their letters had always been irregularly spaced. His note was on azure Chinese paper.

“Many a desolate autumn have I known,

But never have my tears flowed as tonight.

Each year brings rains of autumn.”

His writing was more beautiful all the time, said her women, and see what pains he had taken. She must not leave the note unanswered.

She agreed. “I knew how things must be on Mount Ouchi, but what was I to say?

“I knew that the autumn mists had faded away,

And looked for you in the stormy autumn skies.”

That was all. It was in a faint hand which seemed to him — his imagination, perhaps — to suggest deep, mysterious things. We do not often find in this world that the actuality is better than the anticipation, but it was Genji’s nature to be drawn to retiring women. A woman might be icy cold, he thought, but her affections, once awakened, were likely to be strengthened by the memory of the occasions that had called for reluctant sympathy. The affected, overrefined sort of woman might draw attention to herself, but it had a way of revealing flaws she was herself unaware of. He did not wish to rear his Murasaki after such a model. He had not forgotten to ask himself whether she would be bored and lonely without him, but he thought of her as an orphan he had taken in and did not worry himself greatly about what she might be thinking or doing, or whether she might be resentful of his outside activities.

Ordering a lamp, he summoned several of the worthier women to keep him company. He had for some time had his eye on one Chūnagon, but for the period of mourning had put away amorous thoughts. It seemed most civilized of him.

He addressed them affectionately, though with careful politeness. “I have felt closer to you through these sad days. If I had not had you with me I would have been lonelier than I can think. We need not brood over what is finished, but I fear that difficult problems lie ahead of us.”

They were in tears. “It has left us in the blackest darkness, “ said one of them, “and the thought of how things will be when you are gone is almost too much to bear.” She could say no more.

Deeply touched, Genji looked from one to another. “When I am gone — how can that be? You must think me heartless. Be patient, and you will see that you are wrong. Though of course life is very uncertain.” Tears came to his eyes as he looked into the lamplight. They made him if anything handsomer, thought the women.

Among them was a little girl, an orphan, of whom Aoi had been especially fond. He quite understood why the child should now be sadder than any of the others. “You must let me take care of you, Ateki.” She broke into a violent sobbing. In her tiny singlet, a very dark gray, and her black cloak and straw-colored trousers, she was a very pretty little thing indeed.

Over and over again he asked the women to be patient. “Those of you who have not forgotten — you must bear the loneliness and do what you can for the boy. I would find it difficult to come visiting if you were all to run off.”

They had their doubts. His visits, they feared, would be few and far between. Life would indeed be lonely.

Avoiding ostentation, the minister distributed certain of Aoi’s belongings to her women, after their several ranks: little baubles and trinkets, and more considerable mementos as well.

Genji could not remain forever in seclusion. He went first to his father’s palace. His carriage was brought up, and as his retinue gathered an autumn shower swept past, as if it knew its time, and the wind that summons the leaves blew a great confusion of them to the ground; and for the sorrowing women the sleeves that had barely had time to dry were damp all over again. Genji would go that night from his father’s palace to Nijō. Thinking to await him there, his aides and equerries went off one by one. Though this would not of course be his last visit, the gloom was intense.

For the minister and Princess Omiya, all the old sorrow came back. Genji left a note for the princess: “My father has asked to see me, and I shall call upon him today. When I so much as set foot outside this house, I feel new pangs of grief, and I ask myself how I have survived so long. I should come in person to take my leave, I know, but I fear that I would quite lose control of myself. I must be satisfied with this note.”

Blinded with tears, the princess did not answer.

The minister came immediately. He dabbed at his eyes, and the women were weeping too. There seemed nothing in the least false about Genji’s own tears, which gave an added elegance and fineness of feature.

At length controlling himself, the minister said: “An old man’s tears have a way of gushing forth at the smallest provocation, and I am unable to stanch the flow. Sure that I must seem hopelessly senile and incontinent, I have been reluctant to visit your royal father. If the subject arises, perhaps you can explain to him how matters are. It is painful, at the end of your life, to be left behind by a child.” He spoke with great difficulty.

Genji was weeping only less openly. “We all of course know the way of the world, that we cannot be sure who will go first and who will remain behind, but the shock of the specific instance is all the same hard to bear. I am sure that my father will understand.”

“Well, then, perhaps you should go before it is too dark. There seems to be no letting up of the rain.”

Genji looked around at the rooms he was about to leave. Behind curtains, through open doors, he could see some thirty women in various shades of gray, all weeping piteously.

“I have consoled myself,” said the minister, “with the thought that you are leaving someone behind in this house whom you cannot abandon, and that you will therefore find occasion to visit in spite of what has happened; but these not very imaginative women are morbid in their insistence that you are leaving your old home for good. It is natural that they should grieve for the passing of the years when they have seen you on such intimate and congenial terms, indeed that they should grieve more than for the loss of their lady. You were never really happy with her, but I was sure that things would one day improve, and asked them to hope for the not perhaps very hopeful. This is a sad evening.”

“You have chosen inadequate grounds for lamenting, sir. I may once have neglected you and your good lady, in the days when I too thought that a not very happy situation would improve. What could persuade me to neglect you now? You will see presently that I am telling you the truth.”

He left. The minister came back into the house. All the furnishings and decorations were as they had been, and yet everything seemed lifeless and empty. At the bed curtains were an inkstone which Genji had left behind and some bits of paper on which he had practiced his calligraphy. Struggling to hold back the tears, the minister looked at them. There were, it seemed, some among the younger women who were smiling through their tears. Genji had copied and thrown away highly charged passages from old poems, Chinese and Japanese, in both formal and cursive scripts. Magnificent writing, thought the minister, looking off into space. It was cruel that Genji should now be a stranger.

“The old pillow, the old bed: with whom shall I share them now?” It was a verse from Po Chü-i. Below it Genji had written a verse of his own:

“Weeping beside the pillow of one who is gone,

I may not go, so strong the ties, myself.”

“The flower is white with frost.” It was another phrase from the same poem, and Genji had set down another of his own:

“The dust piles on the now abandoned bed.

How many dew-drenched nights have I slept alone!”

With these jottings were several withered carnations, probably from the day he had sent flowers to Princess Omiya.

The minister took them to her. “The terrible fact, of course, is that she is gone, but I tell myself that sad stories are far from unheard of in this world. The bond between us held for such a short time that I find myself thinking of the destinies we bring with us into this world. Hers was to stay a short time and to cause great sorrow. I have somehow taken comfort in the thought. But I have missed her more each day, and now the thought that he will be no more than a stranger is almost too much to bear. A day or two without him was too much, and now he has left us for good. How am I to go on?”

He could not control the quaver in his voice. The older of the women had broken into unrestrained sobbing. It was in more ways than one a cold evening.

The younger women were gathered in clusters, talking of things which had somehow moved them. No doubt, they said, Genji was right in seeking to persuade them of the comfort they would find in looking after the boy. What a very fragile little keepsake he was, all the same. Some said they would go home for just a few days and come again, and there were many emotional scenes as they said goodbye.

Genji called upon his father, the old emperor.

“You have lost a great deal of weight,” said the emperor, with a look of deep concern. “Because you have been fasting, I should imagine.” He pressed food on Genji and otherwise tried to be of service. Genji was much moved by these august ministrations.

He then called upon the empress, to the great excitement of her women.

“There are so many things about it that still make me weep,” she sent out through Omyōbu. “I can only imagine how sad a time it has been for you.”

“One knows, of course,” he sent back, “that life is uncertain; but one does not really know until the fact is present and clear. Your several messages have given me strength.” He seemed in great anguish, the sorrow of bereavement compounded by the sorrow he always felt in her presence. His dress, an unpatterned robe and a gray singlet, the ribbons of his cap tied up in mourning, seemed more elegant for its want of color.

He had been neglecting the crown prince. Sending in apologies, he made his departure late in the night.

The Nijō mansion had been cleaned and polished for his return. The whole household assembled to receive him. The higher-ranking ladies had sought to outdo one another in dress and grooming. The sight of them made him think of the sadly dejected ladies at Sanjō. Changing to less doleful clothes, he went to the west wing. The fittings, changed to welcome the autumn, were fresh and bright, and the young women and little girls were all very pretty in autumn dress. Shōnagon had taken care of everything.

Murasaki too was dressed to perfection. “You have grown,” he said, lifting a low curtain back over its frame.

She looked shyly aside. Her hair and profile seemed in the lamplight even more like those of the lady he so longed for.

He had worried about her, he said, coming nearer. “I would like to tell you everything, but it is not a very lucky sort of story. Maybe I should rest awhile in the other wing. I won’t be long. From now on you will never be rid of me. I am sure you will get very bored with me.”

Shōnagon was pleased but not confident. He had so many wellborn ladies, another demanding one was certain to take the place of the one who was gone. She was a dry, unsentimental sort.

Genji returned to his room. Asking Chūjō to massage his legs, he lay down to rest. The next morning he sent off a note for his baby son. He gazed on and on at the answer, from one of the women, and all the old sadness came back.

It was a tedious time. He no longer had any enthusiasm for the careless night wanderings that had once kept him busy. Murasaki was much on his mind. She seemed peerless, the nearest he could imagine to his ideal. Thinking that she was no longer too young for marriage, he had occasionally made amorous overtures; but she had not seemed to understand. They had passed their time in games of Go and hentsugi. She was clever and she had many delicate ways of pleasing him in the most trivial diversions. He had not seriously thought of her as a wife. Now he could not restrain himself. It would be a shock, of course.

What had happened? Her women had no way of knowing when the line had been crossed. One morning Genji was up early and Murasaki stayed on and on in bed. It was not at all like her to sleep so late. Might she be unwell? As he left for his own rooms, Genji pushed an inkstone inside her bed curtains.

At length, when no one else was near, she raised herself from her pillow and saw beside it a tightly folded bit of paper. Listlessly she opened it. There was only this verse, in a casual hand:

“Many have been the nights we have spent together

Purposelessly, these coverlets between us.”

She had not dreamed he had anything of the sort on his mind. What a fool she had been, to repose her whole confidence in so gross and unscrupulous a man.

It was almost noon when Genji returned. “They say you’re not feeling well. What can be the trouble? I was hoping for a game of Go.”

She pulled the covers over her head. Her women discreetly withdrew. He came up beside her.

“What a way to behave, what a very unpleasant way to behave. Try to imagine, please, what these women are thinking.”

He drew back the covers. She was bathed in perspiration and the hair at her forehead was matted from weeping.

“Dear me. This does not augur well at all.” He tried in every way he could think of to comfort her, but she seemed genuinely upset and did not offer so much as a word in reply.

“Very well. You will see no more of me. I do have my pride.”

He opened her writing box but found no note inside. Very childish of her — and he had to smile at the childishness. He stayed with her the whole day, and he thought the stubbornness with which she refused to be comforted most charming.

Boar-day sweets were served in the evening. Since he was still in mourning, no great ceremony attended upon the observance. Glancing over the varied and tastefully arranged foods that had been brought in cypress boxes to Murasaki’s rooms only, Genji went out to the south veranda and called Koremitsu.

“We will have more of the same tomorrow night,” he said, smiling “though not in quite such mountains. This is not the most propitious day.”

Koremitsu had a quick mind. “Yes, we must be careful to choose lucky days for our beginnings.” And, solemnly and deliberately: “How many rat-day sweets am I asked to provide?”

“Oh, I should think one for every three that we have here.”

Koremitsu went off with an air of having informed himself adequately. A clever and practical young fellow, thought Genji.

Koremitsu had the nuptial sweets prepared at his own house. He told no one what they signified.

Genji felt like a child thief. The role amused him and the affection he now felt for the girl seemed to reduce his earlier affection to the tiniest mote. A man’s heart is a very strange amalgam indeed! He now thought that he could not bear to be away from her for a single night.

The sweets he had ordered were delivered stealthily, very late in the night. A man of tact, Koremitsu saw that Shōnagon, an older woman, might make Murasaki uncomfortable, and so he called her daughter.

“Slip this inside her curtains, if you will,” he said, handing her an incense box. “You must see that it gets to her and to no one else. A solemn celebration. No carelessness permitted.”

She thought it odd. “Carelessness? Of that quality I have had no experience.”

“The very word demands care. Use it sparingly.”

Young and somewhat puzzled, she did as she was told. It would seem that Genji had explained the significance of the incense box to Murasaki.

The women had no warning. When the box emerged from the curtains the next morning, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. Such numbers of dishes — when might they have been assembled? — and stands with festooned legs, bearing sweets of a most especial sort. All in all, a splendid array. How very nice that he had gone to such pains, thought Shōnagon. He had overlooked nothing. She wept tears of pleasure and gratitude.

“But he really could have let us in on the secret,” the women whispered to one another. “What can the gentleman who brought them have thought?”

When he paid the most fleeting call on his father or put in a brief appearance at court, he would be impossibly restless, overcome with longing for the girl. Even to Genji himself it seemed excessive. He had resentful letters from women with whom he had been friendly. He was sorry, but he did not wish to be separated from his bride for even a night. He had no wish to be with these others and let it seem that he was indisposed.

“I shall hope to see you when this very difficult time has passed.”

Kokiden took note of the fact that her sister Oborozukiyo, the lady of the misty Moon, seemed to have fond thoughts of Genji.

“Well, after all,” said her father, the Minister of the Right, “he has lost the lady most important to him. If what you suggest with such displeasure comes to pass, I for one will not be desolate.”

“She must go to court,” thought Kokiden. “If she works hard, she can make a life for herself there.”

Genji had reciprocated the fond thoughts and was sorry to hear that she might be going to court; but he no longer had any wish to divide his affections. Life was short, he would settle them upon one lady. He had aroused quite enough resentment in his time.

As for the Rokujō lady, he pitied her, but she would not make a satisfactory wife. And yet, after all, he did not wish a final break. He told himself that if she could put up with him as he had been over the years, they might be of comfort to each other.

No one even knew who Murasaki was. It was as if she were without place or identity. He must inform her father, he told himself. Though avoiding display, he took great pains with her initiation ceremonies. She found this solicitude, though remarkable, very distasteful. She had trusted him, she had quite entwined herself about him. It had been inexcusably careless of her. She now refused to look at him, and his jokes only sent her into a more sullen silence. She was not the old Murasaki. He found the change both sad and interesting.

“My efforts over the years seem to have been wasted. I had hoped that familiarity would bring greater affection, and I was wrong.”

On New Year’s Day he visited his father and the crown prince. He went from the palace to the Sanjō mansion. His father-in-law, for whom the New Year had not brought a renewal of spirits, had been talking sadly of things gone by. He did not want this kind and rare visit to be marred by tears, but he was perilously near weeping. Perhaps because he was now a year older, Genji seemed more dignified and mature, and handsomer as well. In Aoi’s rooms the unexpected visit reduced her women to tears. The little boy had grown. He sat babbling and laughing happily, the resemblance to the crown prince especially strong around the eyes and mouth. All the old fears came back which his own resemblance to the crown prince had occasioned. Nothing in the rooms had been changed. On a clothes rack, as always, robes were laid out for Genji; but there were none for Aoi.

A note came from Princess Omiya. “I had become rather better at controlling my tears, but this visit has quite unsettled me. Here are your New Year robes. I have been so blinded with tears these last months that I fear the colors will not please you. Do, today at least, put them on, inadequate though they may be.”

Yet others were brought in. A good deal of care had clearly gone into the weaving and dyeing of the singlets which she wished him to wear today. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, he changed into them. He feared that she would have been very disappointed if he had not come.

“I am here,” he sent back, “that you may see for yourself whether or not spring has come. I find myself reduced to silence by all the memories.

“Yet once again I put on robes for the new,

And tears are falling for all that went with the old.

I cannot contain them.”

She sent back:

“The New Year brings renewal, I know, and yet

The same old tears still now from the same old woman.”

The grief was still intense for both of them.

Chapter 10

The Sacred Tree

The Rokujō lady was more and more despondent as the time neared for her daughter’s departure. Since the death of Aoi, who had caused her such pain, Genji’s visits, never frequent, had stopped altogether. They had aroused great excitement among her women and now the change seemed too sudden. Genji must have very specific reasons for having turned against her — there was no explaining his extreme coldness otherwise. She would think no more about him. She would go with her daughter. There were no precedents for a mother’s accompanying a high priestess to Ise, but she had as her excuse that her daughter would be helpless without her. The real reason, of course, was that she wanted to flee these painful associations.

In spite of everything, Genji was sorry when he heard of her decision. He now wrote often and almost pleadingly, but she thought a meeting out of the question at this late date. She would risk disappointing him rather thin have it all begin again.

She occasionally went from the priestess’s temporary shrine to her Rokujō house, but so briefly and in such secrecy that Genji did not hear of the visits. The temporary shrine did not, he thought, invite casual visits. Although she was much on his mind, he let the days and months go by. His father, the old emperor, had begun to suffer from recurrent aches and cramps, and Genji had little time for himself. Yet he did not want the lady to go off to Ise thinking him completely heartless, nor did he wish to have a name at court for insensitivity. He gathered his resolve and set off for the shrine.

It was on about the seventh of the Ninth Month. The lady was under great tension, for their departure was imminent, possibly only a day or two away. He had several times asked for a word with her. He need not go inside, he said, but could wait on the veranda. She was in a torment of uncertainty but at length reached a secret decision: she did not want to seem like a complete recluse and so she would receive him through curtains.

It was over a reed plain of melancholy beauty that he made his way to the shrine. The autumn flowers were gone and insects hummed in the wintry tangles. A wind whistling through the pines brought snatches of music to most wonderful effect, though so distant that he could not tell what was being played. Not wishing to attract attention, he had only ten outrunners, men who had long been in his service, and his guards were in subdued livery. He had dressed with great care. His more perceptive men saw how beautifully the melancholy scene set him off, and he was having regrets that he had not made the journey often. A low wattle fence, scarcely more than a suggestion of an enclosure, surrounded a complex of board-roofed buildings, as rough and insubstantial as temporary shelters.

The shrine gates, of unfinished logs, had a grand and awesome dignity for all their simplicity, and the somewhat forbidding austerity of the place was accentuated by clusters of priests talking among themselves and coughing and clearing their throats as if in warning. It was a scene quite unlike any Genji had seen before. The fire lodge glowed faintly. It was all in all a lonely, quiet place, and here away from the world a lady already deep in sorrow had passed these weeks and months. Concealing himself outside the north wing, he sent in word of his arrival. The music abruptly stopped and the silence was broken only by a rustling of silken robes.

Though several messages were passed back and forth, the lady herself did not come out.

“You surely know that these expeditions are frowned upon. I find it very curious that I should be required to wait outside the sacred paling. I want to tell you everything, all my sorrows and worries.”

He was right, said the women. It was more than a person could bear, seeing him out there without even a place to sit down. What was she to do? thought the lady. There were all these people about, and her daughter would expect more mature and sober conduct. No, to receive him at this late date would be altogether too undignified. Yet she could not bring herself to send him briskly on his way. She sighed and hesitated and hesitated again, and it was with great excitement that he finally heard her come forward.

“May I at least come up to the veranda?” he asked, starting up the stairs.

The evening moon burst forth and the figure she saw in its light was handsome beyond describing.

Not wishing to apologize for all the weeks of neglect, he pushed a branch of the sacred tree in under the blinds.

“With heart unchanging as this evergreen,

This sacred tree, I enter the sacred gate.”

She replied:

“You err with your sacred tree and sacred gate.

No beckoning cedars stand before my house.”

And he:

“Thinking to find you here with the holy maidens,

I followed the scent of the leaf of the sacred tree.”

Though the scene did not encourage familiarity, he made bold to lean inside the blinds.

He had complacently wasted the days when he could have visited her and perhaps made her happy. He had begun to have misgivings about her, his ardor had cooled, and they had become the near strangers they were now. But she was here before him, and memories flooded back. He thought of what had been and what was to be, and he was weeping like a child.

She did not wish him to see her following his example. He felt even sadder for her as she fought to control herself, and it would seem that even now he urged her to change her plans. Gazing up into a sky even more beautiful now that the moon was setting, he poured forth all his pleas and complaints, and no doubt they were enough to erase the accumulated bitterness. She had resigned herself to what must be, and it was as she had feared. Now that she was with him again she found her resolve wavering.

Groups of young courtiers came up. It was a garden which aroused romantic urges and which a young man was reluctant to leave.

Their feelings for each other, Genji’s and the lady’s, had run the whole range of sorrows and irritations, and no words could suffice for all they wanted to say to each other. The dawn sky was as if made for the occasion. Not wanting to go quite yet, Genji took her hand, very gently.

“A dawn farewell is always drenched in dew,

But sad is the autumn sky as never before.”

A cold wind was blowing, and a pine cricket seemed to recognize the occasion. It was a serenade to which a happy lover would not have been deaf. Perhaps because their feelings were in such tumult, they found that the poems they might have exchanged were eluding them.

At length the lady replied:

“An autumn farewell needs nothing to make it sadder.

Enough of your songs, O crickets on the moors!”

It would do no good to pour forth all the regrets again. He made his departure, not wanting to be seen in the broadening daylight. His sleeves were made wet along the way with dew and with tears.

The lady, not as strong as she would have wished, was sunk in a sad reverie. The shadowy figure in the moonlight and the perfume he left behind had the younger women in a state only just short of swooning.

“What kind of journey could be important enough, I ask you,” said one of them, choking with tears, “to make her leave such a man?”

His letter the next day was so warm and tender that again she was tempted to reconsider. But it was too late: a return to the old indecision would accomplish nothing. Genji could be very persuasive even when he did not care a great deal for a woman, and this was no ordinary parting. He sent the finest travel robes and supplies, for the lady and for her women as well. They were no longer enough to move her. It was as if the thought had only now come to her of the ugly name she seemed fated to leave behind.

The high priestess was delighted that a date had finally been set. The novel fact that she was taking her mother with her gave rise to talk, some sympathetic and some hostile. Happy are they whose place in the world puts them beneath such notice! The great ones of the world live sadly constricted lives.

On the sixteenth there was a lustration at the Katsura River, splendid as never before. Perhaps because the old emperor was so fond of the high priestess, the present emperor appointed a retinue of unusually grand rank and good repute to escort her to Ise. There were many things Genji would have liked to say as the procession left the temporary shrine, but he sent only a note tied with a ritual cord. “To her whom it would be blasphemy to address in person,” he wrote on the envelope.

“I would have thought not even the heavenly thunderer strong

enough.

“If my lady the priestess, surveying her manifold realms,

Has feelings for those below, let her feel for me.

“I tell myself that it must be, but remain unconvinced.”

There was an answer despite the confusion, in the hand of the priestess’s lady of honor:

“If a lord of the land is watching from above,

This pretense of sorrow will not have escaped his notice.”

Genji would have liked to be present at the final audience with the emperor, but did not relish the role of rejected suitor. He spent the day in gloomy seclusion. He had to smile, however, at the priestess’s rather knowing poem. She was clever for her age, and she interested him. Difficult and unconventional relationships always interested him. He could have done a great deal for her in earlier years and he was sorry now that he had not. But perhaps they would meet again — one never knew in this world.

A great many carriages had gathered, for an entourage presided over by ladies of such taste was sure to be worth seeing. It entered the palace in midafternoon. As the priestess’s mother got into her state palanquin, she thought of her late father, who had had ambitious plans for her and prepared her with the greatest care for the position that was to be hers; and things could not have gone more disastrously wrong. Now, after all these years, she came to the palace again. She had entered the late crown prince’s household at sixteen and at twenty he had left her behind; and now, at thirty, she saw the palace once more.

“The things of the past are always of the past.

I would not think of them. Yet sad is my heart.”

The priestess was a charming, delicate girl of fourteen, dressed by her mother with very great care. She was so compelling a little figure, indeed, that one wondered if she could be long for this world. The emperor was near tears as he put the farewell comb in her hair.

The carriages of their ladies were lined up before the eight ministries to await their withdrawal from the royal presence. The sleeves that flowed from beneath the blinds were of many and marvelous hues, and no doubt there were courtiers who were making their own silent, regretful farewells.

The procession left the palace in the evening. It was before Genji’s mansion as it turned south from Nijō to Dōin. Unable to let it pass without a word, Genji sent out a poem attached to a sacred branch:

“You throw me off; but will they not wet your sleeves,

The eighty waves of the river Suzuka?”

It was dark and there was great confusion, and her answer, brief and to the point, came the next morning from beyond Osaka Gate.

“And who will watch us all the way to Ise,

To see if those eighty waves have done their work?”

Her hand had lost none of its elegance, though it was a rather cold and austere elegance.

The morning was an unusually sad one of heavy mists. Absently he whispered to himself:

“I see her on her way. Do not, O mists,

This autumn close off the Gate of the Hill of Meeting.”

He spent the day alone, sunk in a sad reverie entirely of his own making, not even visiting Murasaki. And how much sadder must have been the thoughts of the lady on the road!

From the Tenth Month alarm for the old emperor spread through the whole court. The new emperor called to inquire after him. Weak though he was, the old emperor asked over and over again that his son be good to the crown prince. And he spoke too of Genji:

“Look to him for advice in large things and in small, just as you have until now. He is young but quite capable of ordering the most complicated public affairs. There is no office of which he need feel unworthy and no task in all the land that is beyond his powers. I reduced him to common rank so that you might make full use of his services. Do not, I beg of you, ignore my last wishes.”

He made many other moving requests, but it is not a woman’s place to report upon them. Indeed I feel rather apologetic for having set down these fragments.

Deeply moved, the emperor assured his father over and over again that all of his wishes would be respected. The old emperor was pleased to see that he had matured into a man of such regal dignity. The interview was necessarily a short one, and the old emperor was if anything sadder than had it not taken place.

The crown prince had wanted to come too, but had been persuaded that unnecessary excitement was to be avoided and had chosen another day. He was a handsome boy, advanced for his years. He had longed to see his father, and now that they were together there were no bounds to his boyish delight. Countless emotions assailed the old emperor as he saw the tears in Fujitsubo’s eyes. He had many things to say, but the boy seemed so very young and helpless. Over and over again he told Genji what he must do, and the well-being of the crown prince dominated his remarks. It was late in the night when the crown prince made his departure. With virtually the whole court in attendance, the ceremony was only a little less grand than for the emperor’s visit. The old emperor looked sadly after the departing procession. The visit had been too short.

Kokiden too wanted to see him, but she did not want to see Fujitsubo. She hesitated, and then, peacefully, he died. The court was caught quite by surprise. He had, it was true, left the throne, but his influence had remained considerable. The emperor was young and his maternal grandfather, the Minister of the Right, was an impulsive, vindictive sort of man. What would the world be like, asked courtiers high and low, with such a man in control?

For Genji and Fujitsubo, the question was even crueler. At the funeral no one thought it odd that Genji should stand out among the old emperor’s sons, and somehow people felt sadder for him than for his brothers. The dull mourning robes became him and seemed to make him more deserving of sympathy than the others. Two bereavements in successive years had informed him of the futility of human affairs. He thought once more of leaving the world. Alas, too many bonds still tied him to it.

The old emperor’s ladies remained in his palace until the forty-ninth-day services were over. Then they went their several ways. It was the twentieth of the Twelfth Month, and skies which would in any case have seemed to mark the end of things were for Fujitsubo without a ray of sunlight. She was quite aware of Kokiden’s feelings and knew that a world at the service of the other lady would be difficult to live in. But her thoughts were less of the future than of the past. Memories of her years with the old emperor never left her. His palace was no longer a home for his ladies, however, and presently all were gone.

Fujitsubo returned to her family palace in Sanjō. Her brother, Prince Hyōbu, came for her. There were flurries of snow, driven by a sharp wind. The old emperor’s palace was almost deserted. Genji came to see them off and they talked of old times. The branches of the pine in the garden were brown and weighed down by snow.

The prince’s poem was not an especially good one, but it suited the occasion and brought tears to Genji’s eyes:

“Withered the pine whose branches gave us shelter?

Now at the end of the year its needles fall.”

The pond was frozen over. Genji’s poem was impromptu and not, perhaps, among his best:

“Clear as a mirror, these frozen winter waters.

The figure they once reflected is no more.”

This was Omyōbu’s poem:

“At the end of the year the springs are silenced by ice.

And gone are they whom we saw among the rocks.”

There were other poems, but I see no point in setting them down.

The procession was as grand as in other years. Perhaps it was only in the imagination that there was something forlorn and dejected about it. Fujitsubo’s own Sanjō palace now seemed like a wayside inn. Her thoughts were on the years she had spent away from it.

The New Year came, bringing no renewal. Life was sad and subdued. Sadder than all the others, Genji was in seclusion. During his father’s reign, of course, and no less during the years since, the New Year apPointments had brought such streams of horses and carriages to his gates that there had been room for no more. Now they were deserted. Only a few listless guards and secretaries occupied the offices. His favorite retainers did come calling, but it was as if they had time on their hands. So, he thought, life was to be.

In the Second Month, Kokiden’s sister Oborozukiyo, she of the misty moon, was appointed wardress of the ladies’ apartments, replacing a lady who in grief at the old emperor’s death had become a nun. The new wardress was amiable and cultivated, and the emperor was very fond of her.

Kokiden now spent most of her time with her own family. When she was at court she occupied the Plum Pavilion. She had turned her old Kokiden Pavilion over to Oborozukiyo, who found it a happy change from her rather gloomy and secluded rooms to the north. Indeed it quite swarmed with ladies-in-waiting. Yet she coul snot forget that strange encounter with Genji, and it was on her initiative that they still kept up a secret correspondence. He was very nervous about it, but excited (for such was his nature) by the challenge which her new position seemed to offer.

Kokiden had bided her time while the old emperor lived, but she was a willful, headstrong woman, and now it seemed that she meant to have her revenge. Genji’s life became a series of defeats and annoyances. He was not surprised, and yet, accustomed to being the darling of the court, he found the new chilliness painful and preferred to stay at home. The Minister of the Left, his father-in-law, was also unhappy with the new reign and seldom went to court. Kokiden remembered all too well how he had refused his daughter to the then crown prince and offered her to Genji instead. The two ministers had never been on good terms. The Minister of the Left had had his way while the old emperor lived, and he was of course unhappy now that the Minister of the Right was in control. Genji still visited Sanjō and was more civil and attentive than ever to the women there, and more attentive to the details of his son’s education. He went far beyond the call of ordinary duty and courtesy, thought the minister, to whom he was as important as ever. His father’s favorite son, he had had little time to himself while his father lived; but it was now that he began neglecting ladies with whom he had been friendly. These flirtations no longer interested him. He was soberer and quieter, altogether a model young man.

The good fortune of the new lady at Nijō was by now at court. Her nurse and others of her women attributed it to of the old nun, her grandmother. Her father now correspond as he wished. He had had high hopes for his daughters by his principal wife, and they were not doing well, to the considerable chagrin and envy, it seems, of the wife. It was a situation made to order for the romancers.

In mourning for her father, the old emperor, the high priestess of Kamo resigned and Princess Asagao took her place. It was not usual for the granddaughter rather than the daughter of an emperor to hold the position, but it would seem that there were no completely suitable candidates for the position. The princess had continued over the years to interest Genji, who now regretted that she should be leaving his world. He still saw Chūjō, her woman, and he still wrote to the princess. Not letting his changed circumstances worry him unnecessarily, he sought to beguile the tedium by sending off notes here and there.

The emperor would have liked to follow his father’s last injunctions and look to Genji for support, but he was young and docile and unable to impose his will. His mother and grandfather had their way, and it was not at all to his liking.

For Genji one distasteful incident followed another. Oborozukiyo relieved the gloom by letting him know that she was still fond of him. Though fraught with danger, a meeting was not difficult to arrange. Hom- age to the Five Lords was to begin and the emperor would be in retreat. Genji paid his visit, which was like a dream. Chūnagon contrived to admit him to the gallery of the earlier meeting. There were many people about and the fact that he was nearer the veranda than usual was unfortunate. Since women who saw him morning and night never tired of him, how could it be an ordinary meeting for one who had seen so little of him? Oborozukiyo was at her youthful best. It may be that she was not as calm and dignified as she might have been, but her young charms were enough to please him all the same.

It was near dawn. Almost at Genji’s elbow a guardsman announced himself in loud, vibrant tones. Another guardsman had apparently slipped in with one of the ladies hereabouts and this one had been dispatched to surprise him. Genji was both amused and annoyed. “The first hour of the tiger!” There were calls here and there as guardsmen flushed out intruders.

The lady was sad, and more beautiful for the sadness, as she recited a poem:

“They say that it is dawn, that you grow weary.

I weep, my sorrows wrought by myself alone.”

He answered:

“You tell me that these sorrows must not cease?

My sorrows, my love will neither have an ending.”

He made his stealthy way out. The moon was cold in the faint beginnings of dawn, softened by delicate tracings of mist. Though in rough disguise, he was far too handsome not to attract attention. A guards officer, brother of Lady Shōkyōden, had emerged from the Wisteria Court and was standing in the shadow of a latticed fence. If Genji failed to notice him, it was unfortunate.

Always when he had been with another lady he would think of the lady who was so cold to him. Though her aloofness was in its way admirable, he could not help resenting it. Visits to court being painful, Fujitsubo had to worry from afar about her son the crown prince. Though she had no one to turn to except Genji, whom she depended on for everything, she was tormented by evidence that his unwelcome affections were unchanged. Even the thought that the old emperor had died without suspecting the truth filled her with terror, which was intensified by the thought that if rumors were to get abroad, the results, quite aside from what they might mean for Fujitsubo herself, would be very unhappy for the crown prince. She even commissioned religious services in hopes of freeing herself from Genji’s attentions and she exhausted every device to avoid him. She was appalled, then, when one day he found a way to approach her. He had made his plans carefully and no one in her household was aware of them. The result was for her an unrelieved nightmare.

The words with which he sought to comfort her were so subtle and clever that I am unable to transcribe them, but she was unmoved. After a time she was seized with sharp chest pains. Omyōbu and Ben hurried to her side. Genji was reeling from the grim determination with which she had repulsed him. Everything, past and future, seemed to fall away into darkness. Scarcely aware of what he was doing, he stayed on in her apartments even though day was breaking. Several other women, alerted to the crisis, were now up and about. Omyōbu and Ben bundled a half-conscious Genji into a closet. They were beside themselves as they pushed his clothes in after him. Fujitsubo was now taken with fainting spells. Prince Hyōbu and her chamberlain were sent for. A dazed Genji listened to the excitement from his closet.

Towards evening Fujitsubo began to feel rather more herself again. She had not the smallest suspicion that Genji was still in the house, her women having thought it best to keep the information from her. She came out to her sitting room. Much relieved, Prince Hyōbu departed. The room was almost empty. There were not many women whom she liked to have in her immediate presence and the others kept out of sight. Omyōbu and Ben were wondering how they might contrive to spirit Genji away. He must not be allowed to bring on another attack.

The closet door being open a few inches, he slipped out and made his way between a screen and the wall. He looked with wonder at the lady and tears came to his eyes. Still in some pain, she was gazing out at the garden. Might it be the end? she was asking herself. Her profile was lovely beyond description. The women sought to tempt her with sweets, which were indeed most temptingly laid out on the lid of a decorative box, but she did not look at them. To Genji she was a complete delight as she sat in silence, lost in deeply troubled meditations. Her hair as it cascaded over her shoulders, the lines of her head and face, the glow of her skin, were to Genji irresistibly beautiful. They were very much like each other, she and Murasaki. Memories had dimmed over the years, but now the astonishing resemblance did a little to dispel his gloom. The dignity that quite put one to shame also reminded him of Murasaki. He could hardly think of them as two persons, and yet, perhaps because Fujitsubo had been so much in his thoughts over the years, there did after all seem to be a difference. Fujitsubo’s was the calmer and more mature dignity. No longer in control of himself, he slipped inside her curtains and pulled at her sleeve. So distinctive was the fragrance that she recognized him immediately. In sheer tenor she sank to the floor.

If she would only look at him! He pulled her towards him. She turned to flee, but her hair became entangled in her cloak as she tried to slip out of it. It seemed to be her fate that everything should go against her!

Deliriously, Genji poured forth all the resentment he had kept to himself; but it only revolted her.

“I am not feeling well. Perhaps on another occasion I will be better able to receive you.”

Yet he talked on. Mixed in with the flow were details which did, after all, seem to move her. This was not of course their first meeting, but she had been determined that there would not be another. Though avoiding explicit rejoinder, she held him off until morning. He could not force himself upon her. In her quiet dignity, she left him feeling very much ashamed of himself.

“If I may see you from time to time and so drive away a little of the gloom, I promise you that I shall do nothing to offend you.”

The most ordinary things have a way of moving people who are as they were to each other, and this was no ordinary meeting. It was daylight. Omyōbu and Ben were insistent and Fujitsubo seemed barely conscious.

“I think I must die, “ he said in a final burst of passion.” I cannot bear the thought of having you know that I still exist. And if I die my love for you will be an obstacle on my way to salvation.

“If other days must be as this has been,

I still shall be weeping two and three lives hence.

And the sin will be yours as well.”

She sighed.

“Remember that the cause is in yourself

Of a sin which you say I must bear through lives to come.”

She managed an appearance of resignation which tore at his heart. It was no good trying her patience further. Half distraught, he departed.

He would only invite another defeat if he tried to see her again. She must be made to feel sorry for him. He would not even write to her. He remained shut up at Nijō, seeing neither the emperor nor the crown prince, his gloom spreading discomfort through the house and making it almost seem that he had lost the will to live. “I am in this world but to see my woes increase.” He must leave it behind — but there was the dear girl who so needed him. He could not abandon her.

Fujitsubo had been left a near invalid by the encounter. Omyōbu and Ben were saddened at Genji’s withdrawal and refusal to write. Fujitsubo too was disturbed: it would serve the drown prince badly if Genji were to turn against her, and it would be a disaster if, having had enough of the world, he were to take holy orders. A repetition of the recent incident would certainly give rise to rumors which would make visits to the palace even more distasteful. She was becoming convinced that she must relinquish the title that had aroused the implacable hostility of Kokiden. She remembered the detailed and emphatic instructions which the old emperor had left behind. Everything was changed, no shadow remained of the past. She might not suffer quite as cruel a fate as Lady Ch’i, but she must doubtless look forward to contempt and derision. She resolved to become a nun. But she must see the crown prince again before she did. Quietly, she paid him a visit.

Though Genji had seen to all her needs in much more complicated matters than this one, he pleaded illness and did not accompany her to court. He still made routine inquiries as civility demanded. The women who shared his secret knew that he was very unhappy, and pitied him.

Her little son was even prettier than when she had last seen him. He clung to her, his pleasure in her company so touching that she knew how difficult it would be to carry through her resolve. But this glimpse of court life told her more clearly than ever that it was no place for her, that the things she had known had vanished utterly away. She must always worry about Kokiden, and these visits would be increasingly uncomfortable; and in sum everything caused her pain. She feared for her son’s future if she continued to let herself be called empress.

“What will you think of me if I do not see you for a very long time and become very unpleasant to look at?”

He gazed up at her. “Like Shikibu?” He laughed. “But why should you ever look like her?”

She wanted to weep. “Ah, but Shikibu is old and wrinkled. That is not what I had in mind. I meant that my hair would be shorter and I would wear black clothes and look like one of the priests that say prayers at night. And I would see you much less often.”

“I would miss you,” he said solemnly, turning away to hide his tears. The hair that fell over his shoulders was wonderfully lustrous and the glow in his eyes, warmer as he grew up, was almost enough to make one think he had taken Genji’s face for a mask. Because his teeth were slightly decayed, his mouth was charmingly dark when he smiled. One almost wished that he had been born a girl. But the resemblance to Genji was for her like the flaw in the gem. All the old fears came back.

Genji too wanted to see the crown prince, but he wanted also to make Fujitsubo aware of her cruelty. He kept to himself at Nijō. Fearing that his indolence would be talked about and thinking that the autumn leaves would be at their best, he went off to the Ujii Temple, to the north of the city, over which an older brother of his late mother presided. Borrowing the uncle’s cell for fasting and meditation, he stayed for several days.

The fields, splashed with autumn color, were enough to make him forget the city. He gathered erudite monks and listened attentively to their discussions of the scriptures. Though he would pass the night in the thoughts of the evanescence of things to which the setting was so conducive, he would still, in the dawn moonlight, remember the lady who was being so cruel to him. There would be a clattering as the priests put new flowers before the images, and the chrysanthemums and the falling leaves of varied tints, though the scene was in no way dramatic, seemed to offer asylum in this life and hope for the life to come. And what a purposeless life was his!

“All who invoke the holy name shall be taken unto Lord Amitābha and none shall be abandoned,” proclaimed Genji’s uncle in grand, lingering tones, and Genji was filled with envy. Why did he not embrace the religious life? He knew (for the workings of his heart were complex) that the chief reason was the girl at Nijō.

He had been away from her now for an unusually long time. She was much on his mind and he wrote frequently. “I have come here,” he said in one of his letters, “to see whether I am capable of leaving the world. The serenity I had hoped for eludes me and my loneliness only grows. There are things I have yet to learn. And have you missed me? “ It was on heavy Michinoku paper. The hand, though casual, was strong and distinguished.

“In lodgings frail as the dew upon the reeds

I left you, and the four winds tear at me.”

It brought tears to her eyes. Her answer was a verse on a bit of white paper:

“Weak as the spider’s thread upon the reeds,

The dew-drenched reeds of autumn, I blow with the winds.”

He smiled. Her writing had improved. It had come to resemble his, though it was gentler and more ladylike. He congratulated himself on having such a perfect subject for his pedagogical endeavors.

The Kamo Shrines were not far away. He got off a letter to Princess Asagao, the high priestess. He sent it through Chūjō, with this message for Chūjō herself: “A traveler, I feel my heart traveling yet further afield; but your lady will not have taken note of it, I suppose.”

This was his message for the princess herself:

“The gods will not wish me to speak of them, perhaps,

But I think of sacred cords of another autumn.

‘Is there no way to make the past the present?’”

He wrote as if their relations might permit of a certain intimacy. His note was on azure Chinese paper attached most solemnly to a sacred branch from which streamed ritual cords.

Chūjō‘s answer was courteous and leisurely.” We live a quiet life here, and I have time for many stray thoughts, among them thoughts of you and my lady.”

There was a note from the princess herself, tied with a ritual cord:

“Another autumn — what can this refer to?

A secret hoard of thoughts of sacred cords?

And in more recent times?”

The hand was not perhaps the subtlest he had seen, but it showed an admirable mastery of the cursive style, and interested him. His heart leaped (most blasphemously) at the thought of a beauty of feature that would doubtless have outstripped the beauty of her handwriting.

He remembered that just a year had passed since that memorable night at the temporary shrine of the other high priestess, and (blasphemously again) he found himself berating the gods, that the fates of his two cousins should have been so strangely similar. He had had a chance of successfully wooing at least one of the ladies who were the subjects of these improper thoughts, and he had procrastinated; and it was odd that he should now have these regrets. When, occasionally, Princess Asagao answered, her tone was not at all unfriendly, though one might have taxed her with a certain inconsistency.

He read the sixty Tendai fascicles and asked the priests for explanations of difficult passages. Their prayers had brought this wondrous radiance upon their monastery, said even the lowliest of them, and indeed Genji’s presence seemed to bring honor to the Blessed One himself. Though he quietly thought over the affairs of the world and was reluctant to return to it, thoughts of the lady at Nijō interfered with his meditations and made it seem useless to stay longer. His gifts were lavish to all the several ranks in the monastery and to the mountain people as well; and so, having exhausted the possibilities of pious works, he made his departure. The woodcutters came down from the hills and knelt by the road to see him off. Still in mourning, his carriage draped in black, he was not easy to pick out, but from the glimpses they had they thought him a fine figure of a man indeed.

Even after this short absence Murasaki was more beautiful and more sedately mature. She seemed to be thinking about the future and what they would be to each other. Perhaps it was because she knew all about his errant ways that she had written of the “reeds of autumn.” She pleased him more and more and it was with deeper affection than ever that he greeted her.

He had brought back autumn leaves more deeply tinted by the dews than the leaves in his garden. Fearing that people might be remarking upon his neglect of Fujitsubo, he sent a few branches as a routine gift, and with them a message for Omyōbu:

“The news, which I received with some wonder, of your lady’s visit to the palace had the effect of making me want to be in retreat for a time. I have rather neglected you, I fear. Having made my plans, I did not think it proper to change them. I must share my harvest with you. A sheaf of autumn leaves admired in solitude is like ‘damasks worn in the darkness of the night.’ Show them to your lady, please, when an occasion presents itself.”

They were magnificent. Looking more closely, Fujitsubo saw hidden in them a tightly folded bit of paper. She flushed, for her women were watching. The same thing all over again! So much more prudent and careful now, he was still capable of unpleasant surprises. Her women would think it most peculiar. She Wad One of them put the leaves in a vase out near the veranda.

Genji was her support in private matters and in the far more important matter of the crown prince’s well-being. Her clipped, businesslike notes left him filled with bitter admiration at the watchfulness with which she eluded his advances. People would notice if he were suddenly to terminate his services, and so he went to the palace on the day she was to return to her family.

He first called on the emperor, whom he found free from court business and happy to talk about recent and ancient events. He bore a strong resemblance to their father, though he was perhaps handsomer, and there was a gentler, more amiable cast to his features. The two brothers exchanged fond glances from time to time. The emperor had heard, and himself had had reason to suspect, that Genji and Oborozukiyo were still seeing each other. He told himself, however, that the matter would have been worth thinking about if it had only now burst upon the world, but that it was not at all strange or improper that old friends should be interested in each other. He saw no reason to caution Genji. He asked Genji’s opinion about certain puzzling Chinese texts, and as the talk naturally turned to little poems they had sent and received he remarked on the departure of the high priestess for Ise. How pretty she had been that day! Genji told of the dawn meeting at the temporary shrine.

It was a beautiful time, late in the month. A quarter moon hung in the sky. One wanted music on nights like this, said the emperor.

“Her Majesty is leaving the palace this evening,” said Genji, “and I was thinking of calling on her. Father left such detailed instructions and there is no one to look after her. And then of course there is the crown prince.”

“Yes, Father did worry a great deal about the crown prince. Indeed one of his last requests was that I adopt him as my own son. He is, I assure you, much on my mind, but one must worry about seeming partial and setting a precedent. He writes remarkably well for his age, making up for my own awkward scrawl and general incompetence.”

“He is a clever child, clever beyond his years. But he is very young.”

As he withdrew, a nephew of Kokiden happened to be on his way to visit a younger sister. He was on the winning side and saw no reason to hide his light. He stopped to watch Genji’s modest retinue go by.

“A white rainbow crosses the sun,” he grandly intoned. “The crown prince trembles.”

Genji was startled but let the matter pass. He was aware that Kokiden’s hostility had if anything increased, and her relatives had their ways of making it known. It was unpleasant, but one was wise to look the other way.

“It is very late, I fear,” he sent in to Fujitsubo. “I have been with the emperor.

On such nights his father’s palace would have been filled with music. The setting was the same, but there was very little left by which to remember the old reign.

Omyōbu brought a poem from Fujitsubo:

“Ninefold mists have risen and come between us.

I am left to imagine the moon beyond the clouds.”

She was so near that he could feel her presence. His bitterness quite left him and he was in tears as he replied:

“The autumn moon is the autumn moon of old.

How cruel the mists that will not let me see it.

The poet has told us that mists are as unkind as people, and so I suppose that I am not the first one so troubled.”

She had numerous instructions for her son with which to delay her farewell. He was boo young to pay a great deal of attention, however, and she drew little comfort from this last interview. Though he usually went to bed very early, tonight he seemed determined to stay up for her departure. He longed to go with her, but of course it was impossible.

That objectionable nephew of Kokiden’s had made Genji wonder what people really thought of him. Life at court was more and more trying. Days went by and he did not get off a note to Oborozukiyo. The late-autumn skies warned of the approach of winter rains. A note came from her, whatever she may have meant by thus taking the initiative:

“Anxious, restless days. A gust of wind,

And yet another, bringing no word from you.”

It was a melancholy season. He was touched that she should have ventured to write. Asking the messenger to wait, he selected a particularly fine bit of paper from a supply he kept in a cabinet and then turned to selecting brush and ink. All very suggestive, thought the women. Who might the lady be?

“I had grown thoroughly weary of a one-sided correspondence, and now —‘So long it has been that you have been waiting too?’

“Deceive yourself not into thinking them autumn showers,

The tears I weep in hopeless longing to see you.

“Let our thoughts of each other drive the dismal rains from our minds.”

One may imagine that she was not the only lady who tried to move him, but his answers to the others were polite and perfunctory.

Fujitsubo was making preparations for a solemn reading of the Lotus Sutra, to follow memorial services on the anniversary of the old emperor’s death. There was a heavy snowfall on the anniversary, early in the Eleventh Month.

This poem came from Genji:

“We greet once more the day of the last farewell,

And when, in what snows, may we hope for a day of meeting?”

It was a sad day for everyone.

This was her reply:

“To live these months without him has been sorrow.

But today seems to bring a return of the days of old.”

The hand was a casual one, and yet — perhaps he wished it so — he thought it uniquely graceful and dignified. Though he could not expect from her the bright, Modern sort of elegance, he thought that there were few who could be called her rivals. But today, with its snow and its memories, he could not think of her. He lost himself in prayer.

The reading took place toward the middle of the Twelfth Month. All the details were perfection, the scrolls to be dedicated on each of the several days, the jade spindles, the mountings of delicate silk, the brocade covers. No one was surprised, for she was a lady who on far less important occasions thought no detail too trivial for her attention. The wreaths and flowers, the cloths for the gracefully carved lecterns — they could not have been outdone in paradise itself. The reading on the first day was dedicated to her father, the late emperor, on the second to her mother, the empress, and on the third to her husband. The third day brought the reading of the climactic fifth scroll. High courtiers gathered in large numbers, though aware that the dominant faction at court would not approve. The reader had been chosen with particular care, and though the words themselves, about firewood and the like, were familiar, they seemed grander and more awesome than ever before. The princes made offerings and Genji seemed far handsomer than any of his brothers. It may be that I remark too frequently upon the fact, but what am I to do when it strikes me afresh each time I see him?

On the last day, Fujitsubo offered prayers and vows of her own. In the course of them she announced her intention of becoming a nun. The assembly was incredulous. Prince Hyōbu and Genji were visibly shaken. The prince went into his sister’s room even before the services were over. She made it very clear, however, that her decision was final. In the quiet at the end of the reading she summoned the grand abbot of Hiei and asked that he administer the vows. As her uncle, the bishop of Yokawa, approached to trim her hair, a stir spread through the hall, and there were unpropitious sounds of weeping. It is strangely sad even when old and unremarkable people leave the world, and how much sadder the sudden departure of a lady so young and beautiful. Her brother was sobbing openly. Saddened and awed by what had just taken place, the assembly dispersed.

The old emperor’s sons, remembering what Fujitsubo had been to their father, offered words of sympathy as they left. For Genji it was as if darkness had settled over the land. Still in his place, he could think of nothing to say. He struggled to control himself, for an excess of sorrow was certain to arouse curiosity. When Prince Hyōbu had left he went in to speak to Fujitsubo. The turmoil was subsiding and the women, in little clusters, were sniffling and dabbing at their eyes. The light from a cloudless moon flooded in, silver from the snow in the garden.

Genji somehow managed to fight back the tears that welled up at the memories the scene brought back. “What are you thinking of, taking us so by surprise?”

She replied, as always, through Omyōbu: “It is something on which I deliberated for a very long time. I did not want to attract attention. It might have weakened my resolve.”

From her retreat came poignant evidence of sorrow. There was a soft rustling of silk as her women moved diffidently about. The wind had risen. The mysterious scent of “dark incense” drifted through the blinds, to mingle with the fainter incense from the altars and Genji’s own perfume and bring thoughts of the Western Paradise.

A messenger came from the crown prince. At the memory of their last interview her carefully maintained composure quite left her, and she was unable to answer. Genji set down an answer in her place. It was a difficult time, and he was afraid that he did not express himself well.

“My heart is with her in the moonlight above the clouds,

And yet it stays with you in this darker world.

“I am making excuses. Such resolve leaves me infinitely dissatisfied with myself. ”

That was all. There were people about, and he could not even begin to describe his turbulent thoughts.

Fujitsubo sent out a note:

“Though I leave behind a world I cannot endure,

My heart remains with him, still of that world.

And will be muddied by it.”

It would seem to have been largely the work of her sensitive women. Numb with sorrow, Genji made his way out.

Back at Nijō he withdrew to his own rooms, where he spent a sleepless night. In a world that had become in every way distasteful, he too still thought of the crown prince. The old emperor had hoped that at least the boy’s mother would stay with him, and now, driven away, she would probably feel constrained to relinquish her title as well. What if Genji were to abandon the boy? All night the question chased itself through his mind.

He turned to the work of fitting out the nunnery and hurried to have everything ready by the end of the year. Omyōbu had followed her lady in taking vows. To her too, most feelingly, he sent gifts and assurances of his continuing esteem.

A complete description of such an event has a way of seeming over-done, and much has no doubt been left out; which is a pity, since many fine poems are sure to be exchanged at such times.

He felt more at liberty now to call on her, and sometimes she would come out and receive him herself. The old passions were not dead, but there was little that could be done to satisfy them now.

The New Year came. The court was busy with festive observances, the emperor’s poetry banquet and the caro1s. Fujitsubo devoted herself to her beads and prayers and tried to ignore the echoes that reached her. Thoughts of the life to come were her strength. She put aside all the old comforts and sorrows. Leaving her old chapel as it was, she built a new one some distance to the south of the west wing, and there she took up residence, and lost herself in prayer and meditation.

Genji came calling and saw little sign that the New Year had brought new life. Her palace was silent and almost deserted. Only her nearest confidantes were still with her, and even they (or perhaps it was his imagination) seemed downcast and subdued. The white horses, which her entire household came out to see, brought a brief flurry of the old excitement. High courtiers had once gathered in such numbers that there had seemed room for no more, and it was sad though understandable that today they gathered instead at the mansion of the Minister of the Right, across the street. Genji was as kind and attentive as ever, and to the women, shedding unnoticed tears, he seemed worth a thousand of the others.

Looking about him at these melancholy precincts, Genji was at first unable to speak. They had become in every way a nunnery: the blinds and curtains, all a drab gray-green, glimpses of gray and yellow sleeves — melancholy and at the same time quietly, mysteriously beautiful. He looked out into the garden. The ice was melting from the brook and pond, and the willow on the bank, as if it alone were advancing boldly into spring, had already sent out shoots. “Uncommonly elegant fisherfolk,” he whispered, himself an uncommonly handsome figure.

“Briny my sleeves at the pines of Urashima

As those of the fisherfolk who take the sea grass.”

Her reply was faint and low, from very near at hand, for the chapel was small and crowded with holy objects:

“How strange that waves yet come to Urashima,

When all the things of old have gone their way.”

He tried not to weep. He would have preferred not to show his tears to nuns who had awakened to the folly of human affairs. He said little more.

“What a splendid gentleman he has become,” sobbed one of the old women. “Back in the days when everything was going his way, when the whole world seemed to be his, we used to hope that something would come along to jar him just a little from his smugness. But now look at him, so calm and sober and collected. There is something about him when he does the smallest little thing that tugs at a person’s heart. It’s all too sad.”

Fujitsubo too thought a great deal about the old days.

The spring promotions were announced, and they brought no happiness to Fujitsubo’s household. Promotions that should have come in the natural order of things or because of her position were withheld. It was unreasonable to argue that because she had become a nun she was no longer entitled to the old emoluments; but that was the argument all the same. For her people, the world was a changed place. Though there were times when she still had regrets, not for herself but for those who depended upon her, she turned ever more fervently to her prayers, telling herself that the security of her son was the important thing. Her secret worries sometimes approached real terror. She would pray that by way of recompense for her own sufferings his burden of guilt be lightened, and in the prayer she would find comfort.

Genji understood and sympathized. The spring lists had been no more satisfying for his people than for hers. He remained in seclusion at Nijō.

And it was a difficult time for the Minister of the Left. Everything was changed, private and public. He handed in his resignation, but the emperor, remembering how his father had looked to the minister as one of the men on whom the stability of the reign depended and how just before his death he had asked especially that the minister’s services be retained, said that he could not dispense with such estimable services. He declined to accept the resignation, though it was tendered more than once. Finally the minister withdrew to the seclusion of his Sanjō mansion, and the Minister of the Right was more powerful and prosperous every day. With the retirement of a man who should have been a source of strength, the emperor was helpless. People of feeling all through the court joined him in his laments.

Genji’s brothers-in-law, the sons of the Minister of the Left, were all personable and popular young men, and life had been pleasant for them. Now they too were in eclipse. On Tō no Chūjō‘s rare visits to his wife, the fourth daughter of the Minister of the Right, he was made to feel all too clearly that she was less than delighted with him and that he was not the minister’s favorite son-in-law. As if to emphasize the point, he too was omitted from the spring lists. But he was not one to fret over the injustice. Genji’s setbacks seemed to him evidence enough that public life was insecure, and he was philosophic about his own career. He and Genji were constant companions in their studies and in such diversions as music. Now and then something of their madcap boyhood rivalry seemed almost to come back.

Genji paid more attention than in other years to the semiannual readings of holy scriptures and commissioned several unscheduled readings as well. He would summon learned professors who did not have much else to do and beguile the tedium of his days composing Chinese poetry and joining in contests of rhyme guessing and the like. He seldom went to court. This indolent life seems to have aroused a certain amount of criticism.

On an evening of quiet summer rain when the boredom was very great, Tō no Chūjō came calling and brought with him several of the better collections of Chinese poetry. Going into his library, Genji opened cases he had not looked into before and chose several unusual and venerable collections. Quietly he sent out invitations to connoisseurs of Chinese poetry at court and in the university. Dividing them into teams of the right and of the left, he set them to a rhyme-guessing contest. The prizes were lavish. As the rhymes became more difficult even the erudite professors were sometimes at a loss, and Genji would dazzle the assembly by coming up with a solution which had eluded them. The meeting of so many talents in one person — it was the wonder of the day, and it told of great merits accumulated in previous lives.

Two days later Tō no Chūjō gave a banquet for the victors. Though it was a quiet, unostentatious affair, the food was beautifully arranged in cypress boxes. There were numerous gifts and there were the usual diversions, Chinese poetry and the like. Here and there below the veranda a solitary rose was coming into bloom, more effective, in a quiet way, than the full bloom of spring or autumn. Several of the guests presently took up instruments and began an impromptu concert. One of Tō no Chūjō‘s little sons, a boy of eight or nine who had just this year been admitted to the royal presence, sang for them in fine voice and played on the shō pipes. A favorite of Genji, who often joined him in a duet, the boy was Tō no Chūjō‘s second son and a grandson of the Minister of the Right. He was gifted and intelligent and very handsome as well, and great care had gone into his education. As the proceedings grew noisier he sang “Takasago” in a high, clear voice. Delighted, Genji took off a singlet and presented it to him. A slight flush from drink made Genji even handsomer than usual. His skin glowed through his light summer robes. The learned guests looked up at him from the lower tables with eyes that had misted over. “I might have met the first lily of spring” — the boy had come to the end of his song. Tō no Chūjō offered Genji a cup of wine and with it a verse:

“I might have met the first lily of spring, he says.

I look upon a flower no less pleasing.”

Smiling, Genji took the cup:

“The plant of which you speak bloomed very briefly.

It opened at dawn to wilt in the summer rains,

and is not what it used to be.”

Though Tō no Chūjō did not entirely approve of this garrulity, he continued to press wine upon his guest.

There seem to have been numerous other poems; but Tsurayuki has warned that it is in bad taste to compose under the influence of alcohol and that the results are not likely to have much merit, and so I did not trouble myself to write them down. All the poems, Chinese and Japanese alike, were in praise of Genji. In fine form, he said as if to himself: “I am the son of King Wen, the brother of King Wu.” It was magnificent. And what might he have meant to add about King Ch’eng? At that point, it seems, he thought it better to hold his tongue. Prince Sochi, who could always be counted upon to enliven these gatherings, was an accomplished musician and a witty and good-humored adversary for Genji.

Oborozukiyo was spending some time with her family. She had had several attacks of malaria and hoped that rest and the services of priests might be beneficial. Everyone was pleased that this treatment did indeed prove effective. It was a rare opportunity. She made certain arrangements with Genji and, though they were complicated, saw him almost every night. She was a bright, cheerful girl, at her youthful best, and a small loss of weight had made her very beautiful indeed. Because her sister, Kokiden, also happened to be at home, Genji was in great apprehension lest his presence be detected. It was his nature to be quickened by danger, how- ever, and with elaborate stealth he continued his visits. Although it would seem that, as the number increased, several women of the house began to suspect what was happening, they were reluctant to play informer to the august lady. The minister had no suspicions.

Then one night toward dawn there came a furious thunderstorm. The minister’s sons and Kokiden’s women were rushing about in confusion. Several women gathered trembling near Oborozukiyo’s bed curtains. Genji was almost as frightened, for other reasons, and unable to escape. Daylight came. He was in a fever, for a crowd of women had by now gathered outside the curtains. The two women who were privy to the secret could think of nothing to do.

The thunder stopped, the rain quieted to showers. The minister went first to Kokiden’s wing and then, his approach undetected because of the rain on the roof, to Oborozukiyo’s. He marched jauntily up the gallery and lifted a blind.

“How did you come through it all? I was worried about you and meant to look in on you. Have the lieutenant and Her Majesty’s vice-chamberlain been here?”

A cascade of words poured forth. Despite the precariousness of his situation, Genji could not help smiling at the difference between the two ministers. The man could at least have come inside before he commenced his speech.

Flushed and trembling, Oborozukiyo slipped through the bed curtains. The minister feared that she had had a relapse.

“My, but you do look strange. It’s not just malaria, it’s some sort of evil spirit, I’m sure of it, a very stubborn one. We should have kept those priests at it.”

He caught sight of a pale magenta sash entwined in her skirts. And something beside the curtain too, a wadded bit of paper on which he could see traces of writing.

“What might this be?” he asked in very great surprise. “Not at all something that I would have expected to find here. Let me have it. Give it to me, now. Let me see what it is.”

The lady glanced over her shoulder and saw the incriminating objects. And now what was she to do? One might have expected a little more tact and forbearance from a man of parts. It was an exceedingly difficult moment, even if she was his own daughter. But he was a headstrong and not very thoughtful man, and all sense of proportion deserted him. Snatching at the paper, he lifted the bed curtains. A gentleman was lying there in dishabille. He hid his face and sought to pull his clothes together. Though dizzy with anger, the minister pulled back from a direct confrontation. He took the bit of paper off to the main hall.

Oborozukiyo was afraid she would faint and wished she might expire on the spot. Genji was of course upset too. He had gone on permitting himself these heedless diversions and now he faced a proper scandal. But the immediate business was to comfort the lady.

It had always been the minister’s way to keep nothing to himself, and now the crotchetiness of old age had been added in ample measure to this effusiveness. Why should he hold back? He poured out for Kokiden the full list of his complaints.

“It is Genji’s handwriting,” he said, after describing what he had just seen. I was careless and I let it all get started several years ago. But Genji is Genji, and I forgave everything and even hoped I might have him as a son-in-law. I was not happy of course that he did not seem to take her very seriously, and sometimes he did things that seemed completely outrageous; but I told myself that these things happen. I was sure that His Majesty would overlook a little blemish or two and take her in, and so I went back to my original plan and sent her off to court. I wasn’t happy — who would have been? — that the affair had made him feel a little odd about her and kept her from being one of his favorites. And now I really do think I’ve been misused. Boys will do this sort of thing, I know, but it’s really too much. They say he’s still after the high priestess of Kamo and gets off secret letters to her, and something must be going on there too. He is a disgrace to his brother’s reign and a disgrace in general, to himself and everyone else too. But I would have expected him to be cleverer about it. One of the brighter and more talented people of our day, everyone says. I simply would not have expected it of him.”

Of an even more choleric nature, Kokiden spoke in even stronger terms. “My son is emperor, to be sure, but no one has ever taken him seriously. The old Minister of the Left refused to let him have that prize daughter of his and then gave her to a brother who was hardly out of swaddling clothes and wasn’t even a prince any more. And my sister: we had thought of letting His Majesty have her, and did anyone say anything at all to Genji when he had everyone laughing at the poor thing? Oh, no — he was to be just everyone’s son-in-law, it seemed. Well, we had to make do and found a place for her. I was sorry, of course, but I hoped she might work hard and still make a decent career, and someday teach that awful boy a lesson. And now see what she has done. She has let him get the better of her. I think it very likely indeed that something is going on between him and the high priestess. The sum and substance of it all is that we must be careful. He is waiting very eagerly for the next reign to come.”

The minister was beginning to feel a little sorry for Genji and to regret that he had come to her with his story. “Well, be that as it may, I mean to speak to no one else of what has happened. You would be wise not to tell His Majesty. I imagine she is presuming on his kindness and is sure he will forgive even this. Tell her to be more careful, and if she isn’t, well, I suppose I’ll have to take responsibility.”

But it did not seem that he had quieted her anger. “That awful boy” had come into a house where she and her sister were living side by side. It was a deliberate insult. She was angrier and angrier. It would seem that the time had come for her to lay certain plans.

Chapter 11

The Orange Blossoms

Genji’s troubles, which he had brought upon himself, were nothing new. There was already gloom enough in his public and private life, and more seemed to be added each day. Yet there were affairs from which he could not withdraw. Among the old emperor’s ladies had been one Reikeiden. She had no children, and after his death her life was sadly straitened. It would seem that only Genji remembered her. A chance encounter at court, for such was his nature, had left him with persistent thoughts of her younger sister. He paid no great attention to her, however, and it would seem that life was as difficult for her as for her sister. Now, in his own despondency, his thoughts turned more fondly to the girl, a victim if ever there was one of evanescence and hostile change. Taking advantage of a rare break in the early-summer rains, he went to call on her.

He had no outrunners and his carriage and livery were unobtrusive. As he crossed the Inner River and left the city he passed a small house with tasteful plantings. Inside someone was playing a lively strain on a Japanese koto accompanied by a thirteen-stringed Chinese koto of good quality. The house being just inside the gate he leaned from his carriage to survey the scene. The fragrance that came on the breeze from a great laurel tree made him think of the Kamo festival. It was a pleasant scene. And yes — he had seen it once before, a very long time ago. Would he be remembered? Just then a cuckoo called from a nearby tree, as if to urge him on. He had the carriage turned so that he might alight. Koremitsu, as always, was his messenger.

“Back at the fence where once it sang so briefly,

The cuckoo is impelled to sing again.”

The women seemed to be near the west veranda of the main building. Having heard the same voices on that earlier occasion, Koremitsu coughed to attract attention and handed in his message. There seemed to be numbers of young women inside and they at first seemed puzzled to know who the sender might be.

This was the answer:

“It seems to be a cuckoo we knew long ago.

But alas, under rainy skies we cannot be sure.”

Koremitsu saw that the bewilderment was only pretended.” Very well. The wrong trees, the wrong fence.” And he went out.

And so the women were left to nurse their regrets. It would not have been proper to pursue the matter, and that was the end of it. Among women of their station in life, he thought first of the Gosechi dancer, a charming girl, daughter of the assistant viceroy of Kyushu. He went on thinking about whatever woman he encountered. A perverse concomitant was that the women he went on thinking about went on thinking about him.

The house of the lady he had set out to visit was, as he had expected, lonely and quiet. He first went to Reikeiden’s apartments and they talked far into the night. The tall trees in the garden were a dark wall in the light of the quarter moon. The scent of orange blossoms drifted in, to call back the past. Though no longer young, Reikeiden was a sensitive, accomplished lady. The old emperor had not, it is true, included her among his particular favorites, but he had found her gentle and sympathetic. Memory following memory, Genji was in tears. There came the call of a cuckoo — might it have been the same one? A pleasant thought, that it had come following him. “How did it know?” he whispered to himself.

“It catches the scent of memory, and favors

The village where the orange blossoms fall.

“I should come to you often, when I am unable to forget those years. You are a very great comfort, and at the same time I feel a new sadness coming over me. People change with the times. There are not many with whom I can exchange memories, and I should imagine that for you there are even fewer.”

He knew how useless it was to complain about the times, but perhaps he found something in her, an awareness and a sensitivity, that set off a chain of responses in himself.

“The orange blossoms at the eaves have brought you

To a dwelling quite forgotten by the world.”

She may not have been one of his father’s great loves, but there was no doubt that she was different from the others.

Quietly he went to the west front and looked in on the younger sister. He was a rare visitor and one of unsurpassed good looks, and it would seem that such resentment as had been hers quite faded away. His manner as always gentle and persuasive, it is doubtful that he said anything he did not mean. There were no ordinary, common women among those with whom he had had even fleeting affairs, nor were there any among them in whom he could find no merit; and so it was, perhaps, that an easy, casual relationship often proved durable. There were some who changed their minds and went on to other things, but he saw no point in lamenting what was after all the way of the world. The lady behind that earlier fence would seem to have been among the changeable ones.

Chapter 12

Suma

For Genji life had become an unbroken succession of reverses and afflictions. He must consider what to do next. If he went on pretending that nothing was amiss, then even worse things might lie ahead. He thought of the Suma coast. People of worth had once lived there, he was told, but now it was deserted save for the huts of fishermen, and even they were few. The alternative was worse, to go on living this public life, so to speak, with people streaming in and out of his house. Yet he would hate to leave, and affairs at court would continue to be much on his mind if he did leave. This irresolution was making life difficult for his people.

Unsettling thoughts of the past and the future chased one another through his mind. The thought of leaving the city aroused a train of regrets, led by the image of a grieving Murasaki. It was very well to tell himself that somehow, someday, by some route they would come together again. Even when they were separated for a day or two Genji was beside himself with worry and Murasaki’s gloom was beyond describing. It was not as if they would be parting for a fixed span of years; and if they had only the possibility of a reunion on some unnamed day with which to comfort themselves, well, life is uncertain, and they might be parting forever. He thought of consulting no one and taking her with him, but the inappropriateness of subjecting such a fragile lady to the rigors of life on that harsh coast, where the only callers would be the wind and the waves, was too obvious. Having her with him would only add to his worries. She guessed his thoughts and was unhappy. She let it be known that she did not want to be left behind, however forbidding the journey and life at the end of it.

Then there was the lady of the orange blossoms. He did not visit her often, it is true, but he was her only support and comfort, and she would have every right to feel lonely and insecure. And there were women who, after the most fleeting affairs with him, went on nursing their various secret sorrows.

Fujitsubo, though always worried about rumors, wrote frequently. It struck him as bitterly ironical that she had not returned his affection earlier, but he told himself that a fate which they had shared from other lives must require that they know the full range of sorrows.

He left the city late in the Third Month. He made no announcement of his departure, which was very inconspicuous, and had only seven or eight trusted retainers with him. He did write to certain people who should know of the event. I have no doubt that there were many fine passages in the letters with which he saddened the lives of his many ladies, but, grief-stricken myself, I did not listen as carefully as I might have.

Two or three days before his departure he visited his father-in-law. It was sad, indeed rather eerie, to see the care he took not to attract notice. His carriage, a humble one covered with cypress basketwork, might have been mistaken for a woman’s. The apartments of his late wife wore a lonely, neglected aspect. At the arrival of this wondrous and unexpected guest, the little boy’s nurse and all the other women who had not taken positions elsewhere gathered for a last look. Even the shallowest of the younger women were moved to tears at the awareness he brought of transience and mutability. Yūgiri, the little boy, was very pretty indeed, and indefatigably noisy.

“It has been so long. I am touched that he has not forgotten me.” He took the boy on his knee and seemed about to weep.

The minister, his father-in-law, came in. “I know that you are shut up at home with little to occupy you, and I had been thinking I would like to call on you and have a good talk. I talk on and on when once I let myself get started. But I have told them I am ill and have been staying away from court, and I have even resigned my offices; and I know what they would say if I were to stretch my twisted old legs for my own pleasure. I hardly need to worry about such things any more, of course, but I am still capable of being upset by false accusations. When I see how things are with you, I know all too painfully what a sad day I have come on at the end of too long a life. I would have expected the world to end before this was allowed to happen, and I see hot a ray of light in it all.”

“Dear sir, we must accept the disabilities we bring from other lilies. Everything that has happened to me is a result of my own inadequacy. I have heard that in other lands as well as our own an offense which does not, like mine, call for dismissal from office is thought to become far graver if the culprit goes on happily living his old life. And when exile is considered, as I believe it is in my case, the offense must have been thought more serious. Though I know I am innocent, I know too what insults I may look forward to if I stay, and so I think that I will forestall them by leaving.”

Brushing away tears, the minister talked of old times, of Genji’s father, and all he had said and thought. Genji too was weeping. The little boy scrambled and rolled about the room, now pouncing upon his father and now making demands upon his grandfather.

“I have gone on grieving for my daughter. And then I think what agony all this would have been to her, and am grateful that she lived such a short life and was spared the nightmare. So I try to tell myself, in any event. My chief sorrows and worries are for our little man here. He must grow up among us dotards, and the days and months will go by without the advantage of your company. It used to be that even people who were guilty of serious crimes escaped this sort of punishment; and I suppose we must call it fate, in our land and other lands too, that punishment should come all the same. But one does want to know what the charges are. In your case they quite defy the imagination.”

Tō no Chūjō came in. They drank until very late, and Genji was induced to stay the night. He summoned Aoi’s various women. Chūnagon was the one whom he had most admired, albeit in secret. He went on talking to her after everything was quiet, and it would seem to have been because of her that he was prevailed upon to spend the night. Dawn was at hand when he got up to leave. The moon in the first suggestions of daylight was very beautiful. The cherry blossoms were past their prime, and the light through the few that remained flooded the garden silver. Everything faded together into a gentle mist, sadder and more moving than on a night in autumn. He sat for a time leaning against the railing at a corner of the veranda. Chūnagon was waiting at the door as if to see him off.

“I wonder when we will be permitted to meet again.” He paused, choking with tears. “Never did I dream that this would happen, and I neglected you in the days when it would have been so easy to see you.”

Saishō, Yūgiri’s nurse, came with a message from Princess Omiya. “I would have liked to say goodbye in person, but I have waited in hope that the turmoil of my thoughts might quiet a little. And now I hear that you are leaving, and it is still so early. Everything seems changed, completely wrong. It is a pity that you cannot at least wait until our little sleepyhead is up and about.”

Weeping softly, Genji whispered to himself, not precisely by way of reply:

“There on the shore, the salt burners’ fires await me.

Will their smoke be as the smoke over Toribe Moor?

Is this the parting at dawn we are always hearing of? No doubt there are those who know.”

“I have always hated the word ‘farewell,’” said Saishō, whose grief seemed quite unfeigned.” And our farewells today are unlike any others.”

“Over and over again, “he sent back to Princess Omiya, “I have thought of all the things I would have liked to say to you; and I hope you will understand and forgive my muteness. As for our little sleepyhead, I fear that if I were to see him I would wish to stay on even in this hostile city, and so I shall collect myself and be on my way.”

All the women were there to see him go. He looked more elegant and handsome than ever in the light of the setting moon, and his dejection would have reduced tigers and wolves to tears. These were women who had served him since he was very young. It was a sad day for them.

There was a poem from Princess Omiya:

“Farther retreats the day when we bade her goodbye,

For now you depart the skies that received the smoke.”

Sorrow was added to sorrow, and the tears almost seemed to invite further misfortunes.

He returned to Nijō. The women, awake the whole night through, it seemed, were gathered in sad clusters. There was no one in the guardroom. The men closest to him, reconciled to going with him, were making their own personal farewells. As for other court functionaries, there had been ominous hints of sanctions were they to come calling, and so the grounds, once crowded with horses and carriages, were empty and silent. He knew again what a hostile world it had become. There was dust on the tables, cushions had been put away. And what would be the extremes of waste and the neglect when he was gone?

He went to Murasaki’s wing of the house. She had been up all night, not even lowering the shutters. Out near the verandas little girls were noisily bestirring themselves. They were so pretty in their night dress — and presently, no doubt, they would find the loneliness too much, and go their various ways. Such thoughts had not before been a part of his life.

He told Murasaki what had kept him at Sanjō. “And I suppose you are filled with the usual odd suspicions. I have wanted to be with you every moment I am still in the city, but there are things that force me to go out. Life is uncertain enough at best, and I would not want to seem cold and unfeeling.”

“And what should be’odd’ now except that you are going away?”

That she should feel these sad events more cruelly than any of the others was not surprising. From her childhood she had been closer to Genji than to her own father, who now bowed to public opinion and had not offered a word of sympathy. His coldness had caused talk among her women. She was beginning to wish that they had kept him in ignorance of her whereabouts.

Someone reported what her stepmother was saying: “She had a sudden stroke of good luck, and now just as suddenly everything goes wrong. It makes a person shiver. One after another, each in his own way, they all run out on her.”

This was too much. There was nothing more she wished to say to them. Henceforth she would have only Genji.

“If the years go by and I am still an outcast,” he continued, “I will come for you and bring you to my’cave among the rocks.’ But we must not be hasty. A man who is out of favor at court is not permitted the light of the sun and the moon, and it is thought a great crime, I am told, for him to go on being happy. The cause of it all is a great mystery to me, but I must accept it as fate. There seems to be no precedent for sharing exile with a lady, and I am sure that to suggest it would be to invite worse insanity from an insane world.”

He slept until almost noon.

Tō no Chūjō and Genji’s brother, Prince Hotaru, came calling. Since he was now without rank and office, he changed to informal dress of unfigured silk, more elegant, and even somehow grand, for its simplicity. As he combed his hair he could not help noticing that loss of weight had made him even handsomer.

“I am skin and bones,” he said to Murasaki, who sat gazing at him, tears in her eyes. “Can I really be as emaciated as this mirror makes me? I am a little sorry for myself.

“I now must go into exile. In this mirror

An image of me will yet remain beside you.”

Huddling against a pillar to hide her tears, she replied as if to herself:

“If when we part an image yet remains,

Then will I find some comfort in my sorrow.”

Yes, she was unique — a new awareness of that fact stabbed at his heart.

Prince Hotaru kept him affectionate company through the day and left in the evening.

It was not hard to imagine the loneliness that brought frequent notes from the house of the falling orange blossoms. Fearing that he would seem unkind if he did not visit the ladies again, he resigned himself to spending yet another night away from home. It was very late before he gathered himself for the effort.

“We are honored that you should consider us worth a visit,” said Lady Reikeiden — and it would be difficult to record the rest of the interview.

They lived precarious lives, completely dependent on Genji. So lonely indeed was their mansion that he could imagine the desolation awaiting it once he himself was gone; and the heavily wooded hill rising dimly beyond the wide pond in misty moonlight made him wonder whether the “cave among the rocks” at Suma would be such a place.

He went to the younger sister’s room, at the west side of the house. She had been in deep despondency, almost certain that he would not find time for a visit. Then, in the soft, sad light of the moon, his robes giving off an indescribable fragrance, he made his way in. She came to the veranda and looked up at the moon. They talked until dawn.

“What a short night it has been. I think how difficult it will be for us to meet again, and I am filled with regrets for the days I wasted. I fear I worried too much about the precedents I might be setting.”

A cock was crowing busily as he talked on about the past. He made a hasty departure, fearful of attracting notice. The setting moon is always sad, and he was prompted to think its situation rather like his own. Catching the deep purple of the lady’s robe, the moon itself seemed to be weeping.

“Narrow these sleeves, now lodging for the moonlight.

Would they might keep a light which I do not tire of.”

Sad himself, Genji sought to comfort her.

“The moon will shine upon this house once more.

Do not look at the clouds which now conceal it.

“I wish I were really sure it is so, and find the unknown future clouding my heart.”

He left as dawn was coming over the sky.

His affairs were in order. He assigned all the greater and lesser affairs of the Nijō mansion to trusted retainers who had not been swept up in the currents of the times, and he selected others to go with him to Suma. He would take only the simplest essentials for a rustic life, among them a book chest, selected writings of Po Chü-i and other poets, and a seven-stringed Chinese koto. He carefully refrained from anything which in its ostentation might not become a nameless rustic.

Assigning all the women to Murasaki’s west wing, he left behind deeds to pastures and manors and the like and made provision for all his various warehouses and storerooms. Confident of Shōnagon’s perspicacity, he gave her careful instructions and put stewards at her disposal. He had been somewhat brisk and businesslike toward his own serving women, but they had had security — and now what was to become of them?

“I shall be back, I know, if I live long enough. Do what you can in the west wing, please, those of you who are prepared to wait.”

And so they all began a new life.

To Yūgiri’s nurse and maids and to the lady of the orange blossoms he sent elegant parting gifts and plain, useful everyday provisions as well.

He even wrote to Oborozukiyo. “I know that I have no right to expect a letter from you; but I am not up to describing the gloom and the bitterness of leaving this life behind.

“Snagged upon the shoals of this river of tears,

I cannot see you. Deeper waters await me.

“Remembering is the crime to which I cannot plead innocent.”

He wrote nothing more, for there was a danger that his letter would be intercepted.

Though she fought to maintain her composure, there was nothing she could do about the tears that wet her sleeves.

“The foam on the river of tears will disappear

Short of the shoals of meeting that wait downstream.”

There was something very fine about the hand disordered by grief.

He longed to see her again, but she had too many relatives who wished him ill. Discretion forbade further correspondence.

On the night before his departure he visited his father’s grave in the northern hills. Since the moon would be coming up shortly before dawn, he went first to take leave of Fujitsubo. Receiving him in person, she spoke of her worries for the crown prince. It cannot have been, so complicated were matters between them, a less than deeply felt interview. Her dignity and beauty were as always. He would have liked to hint at old resentments; but why, at this late date, invite further unpleasantness, and risk adding to his own agitation?

He only said, and it was reasonable enough: “I can think of a single offense for which I must undergo this strange, sad punishment, and because of it I tremble before the heavens. Though I would not care in the least if my own unworthy self were to vanish away, I only hope that the crown prince’s reign is without unhappy event.”

She knew too well what he meant, and was unable to reply. He was almost too handsome as at last he succumbed to tears.

“I am going to pay my respects at His Majesty’s grave. Do you have a message?”

She was silent for a time, seeking to control herself.

“The one whom I served is gone, the other must go.

Farewell to the world was no farewell to its sorrows. But for both of them the sorrow was beyond words. He replied:

“The worst of grief for him should long have passed. And now I must leave the world where dwells the child.” The moon had risen and he set out. He was on horseback and had only five or six attendants, all of them trusted friends. I need scarcely say that it was a far different procession from those of old. Among his men was that guards officer who had been his special attendant at the Kamo lustration services. The promotion he might have expected had long since passed him by, and now his right of access to the royal presence and his offices had been taken away. Remembering that day as they came in sight of the Lower Kamo Shrine, he dismounted and took Genji’s bridle.

“There was heartvine in our caps. I led your horse.

And now at this jeweled fence I berate the gods.”

Yes, the memory must be painful, for the young man had been the most resplendent in Genji’s retinue. Dismounting, Genji bowed toward the shrine and said as if by way of farewell:

“I leave this world of gloom. I leave my name

To the offices of the god who rectifies.”

The guards officer, an impressionable young man, gazed at him in wonder and admiration.

Coming to the grave, Genji almost thought he could see his father before him. Power and position were nothing once a man was gone. He wept and silently told his story, but there came no answer, no judgment upon it. And all those careful instructions and admonitions had served no purpose at all?

Grasses overgrew the path to the grave, the dew seemed to gather weight as he made his way through. The moon had gone behind a cloud and the groves were dark and somehow terrible. It was as if he might lose his way upon turning back. As he bowed in farewell, a chill came over him, for he seemed to see his father as he once had been.

“And how does he look upon me? I raise my eyes,

And the moon now vanishes behind the clouds.”

Back at Nijō at daybreak, he sent a last message to the crown prince. Tying it to a cherry branch from which the blossoms had fallen, he addressed it to Omyōbu, whom Fujitsubo had put in charge of her son’s affairs. “Today I must leave. I regret more than anything that I cannot see you again. Imagine my feelings, if you will, and pass them on to the prince.

“When shall I, a ragged, rustic outcast,

See again the blossoms of the city?”

She explained everything to the crown prince. He gazed at her solemnly.

“How shall I answer?” Omyōbu asked.

“I am sad when he is away for a little, and he is going so far, and how — tell him that, please.”

A sad little answer, thought Omyōbu.

All the details of that unhappy love came back to her. The two of them should have led placid, tranquil lives, and she felt as if she and she alone had been the cause of all the troubles.

“I can think of nothing to say.” It was clear to him that her answer had indeed been composed with great difficulty. “I passed your message on to the prince, and was sadder than ever to see how sad it made him.

“Quickly the blossoms fall. Though spring departs,

You will come again, I know, to a city of flowers.”

There was sad talk all through the crown prince’s apartments in the wake of the letter, and there were sounds of weeping. Even people who scarcely knew him were caught up in the sorrow. As for people in his regular service, even scullery maids of whose existence he can hardly have been aware were sad at the thought that they must for a time do without his presence.

So it was all through the court. Deep sorrow prevailed. He had been with his father day and night from his seventh year, and, since nothing he had said to his father had failed to have an effect, almost everyone was in his debt. A cheerful sense of gratitude should have been common in the upper ranks of the court and the ministries, and omnipresent in the lower ranks. It was there, no doubt; but the world had become a place of quick punishments. A pity, people said, silently reproving the great ones whose power was now absolute; but what was to be accomplished by playing the martyr? Not that everyone was satisfied with passive acceptance. If he had not known before, Genji knew now that the human race is not perfect.

He spent a quiet day with Murasaki and late in the night set out in rough travel dress.

“The moon is coming up. Do please come out and see me off. I know that later I will think of any number of things I wanted to say to you. My gloom strikes me as ridiculous when I am away from you for even a day or two.”

He raised the blinds and urged her to come forward. Trying not to weep, she at length obeyed. She was very beautiful in the moonlight. What sort of home would this unkind, inconstant city be for her now? But she was sad enough already, and these thoughts were best kept to himself.

He said with forced lightness:

“At least for this life we might make our vows, we thought.

And so we vowed that nothing would ever part us. How silly we were!”

This was her answer:

“I would give a life for which I have no regrets

If it might postpone for a little the time of parting.”

They were not empty words, he knew; but he must be off, for he did not want the city to see him in broad daylight.

Her face was with him the whole of the journey. In great sorrow he boarded the boat that would take him to Suma. It was a long spring day and there was a tail wind, and by late afternoon he had reached the strand where he was to live. He had never before been on such a journey, however short. All the sad, exotic things along the way were new to him. The Oe station was in ruins, with only a grove of pines to show where it had stood.

“More remote, I fear, my place of exile

Than storied ones in lands beyond the seas.”

The surf came in and went out again. “I envy the waves,” he whispered to himself. It was a familiar poem, but it seemed new to those who heard him, and sad as never before. Looking back toward the city, he saw that the mountains were enshrouded in mist. It was as though he had indeed come “three thousand leagues.” The spray from the oars brought thoughts scarcely to be borne.

“Mountain mists cut off that ancient village.

Is the sky I see the sky that shelters it?”

Not far away Yukihira had lived in exile, “dripping brine from the sea grass.” Genji’s new house was some distance from the coast, in mountains utterly lonely and desolate. The fences and everything within were new and strange. The grass-roofed cottages, the reed-roofed galleries — or so they seemed — were interesting enough in their way. It was a dwelling proper to a remote littoral, and different from any he had known. Having once had a taste for out-of-the-way places, he might have enjoyed this Suma had the occasion been different.

Yoshikiyo had appointed himself a sort of confidential steward. He summoned the overseers of Genji’s several manors in the region and assigned them to necessary tasks. Genji watched admiringly. In very quick order he had a rather charming new house. A deep brook flowed through the garden with a pleasing murmur, new plantings were set out; and when finally he was beginning to feel a little at home he could scarcely believe that it all was real. The governor of the province, an old retainer, discreetly performed numerous services. All in all it was a brighter and livelier place than he had a right to expect, although the fact that there was no one whom he could really talk to kept him from forgetting that it was a house of exile, strange and alien. How was he to get through the months and years ahead?

The rainy season came. His thoughts traveled back to the distant city. There were people whom he longed to see, chief among them the lady at Nijō, whose forlorn figure was still before him. He thought too of the crown prince, and of little Yūgiri, running so happily, that last day, from father to grandfather and back again. He sent off letters to the city. Some of them, especially those to Murasaki and to Fujitsubo, took a great deal of time, for his eyes clouded over repeatedly.

This is what he wrote to Fujitsubo:

“Briny our sleeves on the Suma strand; and yours

In the fisher cots of thatch at Matsushima?

“My eyes are dark as I think of what is gone and what is to come, and ‘the waters rise.’”

His letter to Oborozukiyo he sent as always to Chūnagon, as if it were a private matter between the two of them.” With nothing else to occupy me, I find memories of the past coming back.

“At Suma, unchastened, one longs for the deep-lying sea pine.

And she, the fisher lady burning salt?”

I shall leave the others, among them letters to his father-in-law and Yūgiri’s nurse, to the reader’s imagination. They reached their several destinations and gave rise to many sad and troubled thoughts.

Murasaki had taken to her bed Her women, doing everything they could think of to comfort her, feared that in her grief and longing she might fall into a fatal decline. Brooding over the familiar things he had left behind, the koto, the perfumed robes, she almost seemed on the point of departing the world. Her women were beside themselves. Shōnagon sent asking that the bishop, her uncle, pray for her. He did so, and to double purpose, that she be relieved of her present sorrows and that she one day be permitted a tranquil life with Genji.

She sent bedding and other supplies to Suma. The robes and trousers of stiff, unfigured white silk brought new pangs of sorrow, for they were unlike anything he had worn before. She kept always with her the mirror to which he had addressed his farewell poem, though it was not acquitting itself of the duty he had assigned to it. The door through which he had come and gone, the cypress pillar at his favorite seat — everything brought sad memories. So it is even for people hardened and seasoned by trials, and how much more for her, to whom he had been father and mother! “Grasses of forgetfulness” might have sprung up had he quite vanished from the earth; but he was at Suma, not so very far away, she had heard. She could not know when he would return.

For Fujitsubo, sorrow was added to uncertainty about her son. And how, at the thought of the fate that had joined them, could her feelings for Genji be of a bland and ordinary kind? Fearful of gossips, she had coldly turned away each small show of affection, she had become more and more cautious and secretive, and she had given him little sign that she sensed the depth of his affection. He had been uncommonly careful himself Gossips are cruelly attentive people (it was a fact she knew too well), but they seemed to have caught no suspicion of the affair. He had kept himself under tight control and preserved the most careful appearances. How then could she not, in this extremity, have fond thoughts for him?

Her reply was more affectionate than usual.

“The nun of Matsushima burns the brine

And fuels the fires with the logs of her lamenting,

now more than ever.”

Enclosed with Chūnagon’s letter was a brief reply from Oborozukiyo:

“The fisherwife burns salt and hides her fires

And strangles, for the smoke has no escape.

“I shall not write of things which at this late date need no saying.”

Chūnagon wrote in detail of her lady’s sorrows. There were tears in his eyes as he read her letter.

And Murasaki’s reply was of course deeply moving. There was this poem:

“Taking brine on that strand, let him compare

His dripping sleeves with these night sleeves of mine.”

The robes that came with it were beautifully dyed and tailored. She did everything so well. At Suma there were no silly and frivolous distractions, and it seemed a pity that they could not enjoy the quiet life together. Thoughts of her, day and night, became next to unbearable. Should he send for her in secret? But no: his task in this gloomy situation must be to make amends for past misdoings. He began a fast and spent his days in prayer and meditation.

There were also messages about his little boy, Yūgiri. They of course filled him with longing; but he would see the boy again one day, and in the meantime he was in good hands. Yet a father must, however he tries, “wander lost in thoughts upon his child.”

In the confusion I had forgotten: he had sent off a message to the Rokujō lady, and she on her own initiative had sent a messenger to seek out his place of exile. Her letter was replete with statements of the deepest affection. The style and the calligraphy, superior to those of anyone else he knew, showed unique breeding and cultivation.

”Having been told of the unthinkable place in which you find yourself, I feel as if I were wandering in an endless nightmare. I should imagine that you will be returning to the city before long, but it will be a very long time before I, so lost in sin, will be permitted to see you. ”Imagine, at Suma of the dripping brine,

The woman of Ise, gathering briny sea grass.

And what is to become of one, in a world where everything conspires to bring new sorrow?” It was a long letter.

”The tide recedes along the coast of Ise.

No hope, no promise in the empty shells.”

Laying down her brush as emotion overcame her and then beginning again, she finally sent off some four or five sheets of white Chinese paper. The gradations of ink were marvelous. He had been fond of her, and it had been wrong to make so much of that one incident. She had turned against him and presently left him. It all seemed such a waste. The letter itself and the occasion for it so moved him that he even felt a certain affection for the messenger, an intelligent young man in her daughter’s service. Detaining him for several days, he heard about life at Ise. The house being rather small, the messenger was able to observe Genji at close range. He was moved to tears of admiration by what he saw. The reader may be left to imagine Genji’s reply. He said among other things: “Had I known I was destined to leave the city, it would have been better, I tell myself in the tedium and loneliness here, to go off with you to Ise.

“With the lady of Ise I might have ridden small boats

That row the waves, and avoided dark sea tangles.

“How long, dripping brine on driftwood logs,

On logs of lament, must I gaze at this Suma coast?

“I cannot know when I will see you again.”

But at least his letters brought the comfort of knowing that he was well.

There came letters, sad and yet comforting, from the lady of the orange blossoms and her sister.

“Ferns of remembrance weigh our eaves ever more,

And heavily falls the dew upon our sleeves.”

There was no one, he feared, whom they might now ask to clear away the rank growth. Hearing that the long rains had damaged their garden walls, he sent off orders to the city that people from nearby manors see to repairs.

Oborozukiyo had delighted the scandalmongers, and she was now in very deep gloom. Her father, the minister, for she was his favorite daughter, sought to intercede on her behalf with the emperor and Kokiden. The emperor was moved to forgive her. She had been severely punished, it was true, for her grave offense, but not as severely as if she had been one of the companions of the royal bedchamber. In the Seventh Month she was permitted to return to court. She continued to long for Genji. Much of the emperor’s old love remained, and he chose to ignore criticism and keep her near him, now berating her and now making impassioned vows. He was a handsome man and he groomed himself well, and it was something of an affront that old memories should be so much with her.

“Things do not seem right now that he is gone,” he said one evening when they were at music together. “I am sure that there are many who feel the loss even more strongly than I do. I cannot put away the fear that I have gone against Father’s last wishes and that it is a dereliction for which I must one day suffer.” There were tears in his eyes and she too was weeping. “I have awakened to the stupidity of the world and I do not feel that I wish to remain in it much longer. And how would you feel if I were to die? I hate to think that you would grieve less for me gone forever than for him gone so briefly such a short distance away. The poet who said that we love while we live did not know a great deal about love.” Tears were streaming from Oborozukiyo’s eyes. “And whom might you be weeping for? It is sad that we have no children. I would like to follow Father’s instructions and adopt the crown prince, but people Will raise innumerable objections. It all seems very sad.”

There were some whose ideas of government did not accord with his own, but he was too young to impose his will. He Passed his days in helpless anger and sorrow.

At Suma, melancholy autumn winds were blowing. Genji’s house was some distance from the sea, but at night the wind that blew over the barriers, now as in Yukihira’s day, seemed to bring the surf to his bedside. Autumn was hushed and lonely at a place of exile. He had few companions. One night when they were all asleep be raised his head from his pillow and listened to the roar of the wind and of the waves, as if at his ear. Though he was unaware that he wept, his tears were enough to set his pillow afloat. He plucked a few notes on his koto, but the sound only made him sadder. “The waves on the strand, like moans of helpless longing.

The winds — like messengers from those who grieve?”

He had awakened the others. They sat up, and one by one they were in tears.

This would not do. Because of him they had been swept into exile, leaving families from whom they had never before been parted. It must be very difficult for them, and his own gloom could scarcely be making things easier. So he set about cheering them. During the day he would invent games and make jokes, and set down this and that poem on multicolored patchwork, and paint pictures on fine specimens of figured Chinese silk. Some of his larger paintings were masterpieces. He had long ago been told of this Suma coast and these hills and had formed a picture of them in his mind, and he found now that his imagination had fallen short of the actuality. What a pity, said his men, that they could not summon Tsunenori and Chieda and other famous painters of the day to add colors to Genji’s monochromes. This resolute cheerfulness had the proper effect. His men, four or five of whom were always with him, would not have dreamed of leaving him. There was a profusion of flowers in the garden. Genji came out, when the evening colors were at their best, to a gallery from which he had a good view of the coast. His men felt chills of apprehension as they watched him, for the loneliness of the setting made him seem like a visitor from another world. In a dark robe tied loosely over singlets of figured white and aster-colored trousers, he announced himself as “a disciple of the Buddha” and slowly intoned a sutra, and his men thought that they had never heard a finer voice. From offshore came the voices of fishermen raised in song. The barely visible boats were like little seafowl on an utterly lonely sea, and as he brushed away a tear induced by the splashing of oars and the calls of wild geese overhead, the white of his hand against the jet black of his rosary was enough to bring comfort to men who had left their families behind.

“Might they be companions of those I long for?

Their cries ring sadly through the sky of their journey.”

This was Yoshikiyo’s reply:

“I know not why they bring these thoughts of old,

These wandering geese. They were not then my comrades.”

And Koremitsu’s:

“No colleagues of mine, these geese beyond the clouds.

They chose to leave their homes, and I did dot.”

And that of the guards officer who had cut such a proud figure on the day of the Kamo lustration:

“Sad are their cries as they wing their way from home.

They still find solace, for they still have comrades.

It is cruel to lose one’s comrades.”

His father had been posted to Hitachi, but he himself had come with Genji. He contrived, for all that must have been on his mind, to seem cheerful.

A radiant moon had come out. They were reminded that it was the harvest full moon. Genji could not take his. eyes from it. On other such nights there had been concerts at court, and perhaps they of whom he was thinking would be gazing at this same moon and thinking of him.

“My thoughts are of you, old friend,” he sang, “two thousand leagues away.” His men were in tears.

His longing was intense at the memory of Fujitsubo’s farewell poem, and as other memories came back, one after another, he had to turn away to hide his tears. It was very late, said his men, but still he did not come inside.

“So long as I look upon it I find comfort,

The moon which comes again to the distant city.”

He thought of the emperor and how much he had resembled their father, that last night when they had talked so fondly of old times. “I still have with me the robe which my lord gave me,” he whispered, going inside. He did in fact have a robe that was a gift from the emperor, and he kept it always beside him.

“Not bitter thoughts alone does this singlet bring.

Its sleeves are damp with tears of affection too.”

The assistant viceroy of Kyushu was returning to the capital. He had a large family and was especially well provided with daughters, and since progress by land would have been difficult he had sent his wife and the daughters by boat. They proceeded by easy stages, putting in here and there along the coast. The scenery at Suma was especially pleasing, and the news that Genji was in residence produced blushes and sighs far out at sea. The Gosechi dancer would have liked to cut the tow rope and drift ashore. The sound of a koto came faint from the distance, the sadness of it joined to a sad setting and sad memories. The more sensitive members of the party were in tears.

The assistant viceroy sent a message. “I had hoped to call on you immediately upon returning to the city from my distant post, and when, to my surprise, I found myself passing your house, I was filled with the most intense feelings of sorrow and regret. Various acquaintances who might have been expected to come from the city have done so, and our party has become so numerous that it would be out of the question to call on you. I shall hope to do so soon.”

His son, the governor of Chikuzen, brought the message. Genji had taken notice of the youth and obtained an appointment for him in the imperial secretariat. He was sad to see his patron in such straits, but people were watching and had a way of talking, and he stayed only briefly.

“It was kind of you to come,” said Genji. “I do not often see old friends these days.”

His reply to the assistant viceroy was in a similar vein. Everyone in the Kyushu party and in the party newly arrived from the city as well was deeply moved by the governor’s description of what he had seen. The tears of sympathy almost seemed to invite worse misfortunes.

The Gosechi dancer contrived to send him a note.

“Now taut, now slack, like my unruly heart,

The tow rope is suddenly still at the sound of a koto.

“Scolding will not improve me.”

He smiled, so handsome a smile that his men felt rather inadequate.

“Why, if indeed your heart is like the tow rope,

Unheeding must you pass this strand of Suma?

“I had not expected to leave you for these wilds.”

There once was a man who, passing Akashi on his way into exile, brought pleasure into an innkeeper’s life with an impromptu Chinese poem. For the Gosechi dancer the pleasure was such that she would have liked to make Suma her home.

As time passed, the people back in the city, and even the emperor himself, found that Genji was more and more in their thoughts. The crown prince was the saddest of all. His nurse and Omyōbu would find him weeping in a corner and search helplessly for ways to comfort him. Once so fearful of rumors and their possible effect on this child of hers and Genji’s, Fujitsubo now grieved that Genji must be away.

In the early days of his exile he corresponded with his brothers and with important friends at court. Some of his Chinese poems were widely praised.

Kokiden flew into a rage. “A man out of favor with His Majesty is expected to have trouble feeding himself. And here he is living in a fine stylish house and saying awful things about all of us. No doubt the grovelers around him are assuring him that a deer is a horse.

And so writing to Genji came to be rather too much to ask of people, and letters stopped coming.

The months went by, and Murasaki was never really happy. All the women from the other wings of the house were now in her service. They had been of the view that she was beneath their notice, but as they came to observe her gentleness, her magnanimity in household matters, her thoughtfulness, they changed their minds, and not one of them departed her service. Among them were women of good family. A glimpse of her was enough to make them admit that she deserved Genji’s altogether remarkable affection.

And as time went by at Suma, Genji began to feel that he could bear to be away from her no longer. But he dismissed the thought of sending for her: this cruel punishment was for himself alone. He was seeing a little of plebeian life, and he thought it very odd and, he must say, rather dirty. The smoke near at hand would, he supposed, be the smoke of the salt burners’ fires. In fact, someone was trying to light wet kindling just behind the house.

“Over and over the rural ones light fires.

Not so unflagging the urban ones with their visits.”

It was winter, and the snowy skies were wild. He beguiled the tedium with music, playing the koto himself and setting Koremitsu to the flute, with Yoshikiyo to sing for them. When he lost himself in a particularly moving strain the others would fall silent, tears in their eyes.

He thought of the lady the Chinese emperor sent off to the Huns. How must the emperor have felt, how would Genji himself feel, in so disposing of a beautiful lady? He shuddered, as if some such task might be approaching, “at the end of a frosty night’s dream.”

A bright moon flooded in, lighting the shallow-eaved cottage to the farthest corners. He was able to imitate the poet’s feat of looking up at the night sky without going to the veranda. There was a weird sadness in the setting moon. “The moon goes always to the west,” he whispered.

“All aimless is my journey through the clouds.

It shames me that the unswerving moon should see me.”

He recited it silently to himself. Sleepless as always, he heard the sad calls of the plovers in the dawn and (the others were not yet awake) repeated several times to himself:

“Cries of plovers in the dawn bring comfort

To one who awakens in a lonely bed.”

His practice of going through his prayers and ablutions in the deep of night seemed strange and wonderful to his men. Far from being tempted to leave him, they did not return even for brief visits to their families.

The Akashi coast was a very short distance away. Yoshikiyo remembered the daughter of the former governor, now a monk, and wrote to her. She did not answer.

“I would like to see you for a few moments sometime at your convenience,” came a note from her father. “There is something I want to ask you.

Yoshikiyo was not encouraged. He would look very silly if he went to Akashi only to be turned away. He did not go.

The former governor was an extremely proud and intractable man. The incumbent governor was all-powerful in the province, but the eccentric old man had no wish to marry his daughter to such an upstart. He learned of Genji’s presence at Suma.

“I hear that the shining Genji is out of favor,” he said to his wife, “and that he has come to Suma. What a rare stroke of luck — the chance we have been waiting for. We must offer our girl.”

“Completely out of the question. People from the city tell me that he has any number of fine ladies of his own and that he has reached out for one of the emperor’s. That is why the scandal. What interest can he possibly take in a country lump like her?”

“You don’t understand the first thing about it. My own views couldn’t be more different. We must make our plans. We must watch for a chance to bring him here.” His mind was quite made up, and he had the look of someone whose plans were not easily changed. The finery which he had lavished upon house and daughter quite dazzled the eye.

“He may be ever so grand a grand gentleman,” persisted the mother, “but it hardly seems the right and sensible thing to choose of all people a man who has been sent into exile for a serious crime. It might just possibly be different if he were likely to look at her — but no. You must be joking.”

“A serious crime! Why in China too exactly this sort of thing happens to every single person who has remarkable talents and stands out from the crowd. And who do you think he is? His late mother was the daughter of my uncle, the Lord Inspector. She had talent and made a name for herself, and when there wasn’t enough of the royal love to go around, the others were jealous, and finally they killed her. But she left behind a son who was a royal joy and comfort. Ladies should have pride and high ambitions. I may be a bumpkin myself, but I doubt that he will think her entirely beneath contempt.”

Though the girl was no great beauty, she was intelligent and sensitive and had a gentle grace of which someone of far higher rank would have been proud. She was reconciled to her sad lot. No one among the great persons of the land was likely to think her worth a glance. The prospect of marrying someone nearer her station in life revolted her. If she was left behind by those on whom she depended, she would become a nun, or perhaps throw herself into the sea.

Her father had done everything for her. He sent her twice a gear to the Sumiyoshi Shrine, hoping that the god might be persuaded to notice her.

The New Year came to Suma, the days were longer, and time went by slowly. The sapling cherry Genji had planted the year before sent out a scattering of blossoms, the air was soft and warm, and memories flooded back, bringing him often to tears. He thought longingly of the ladies for whom he had wept when, toward the end of the Second Month the year before, he had prepared to depart the city. The cherries would now be in bloom before the Grand Hall. He thought of that memorable cherry-blossom festival, and his father, and the extraordinarily handsome figure his brother, now the emperor, had presented, and he remembered how his brother had favored him by reciting his Chinese poem.

A Japanese poem formed in his mind:

“Fond thoughts I have of the noble ones on high,

And the day of the flowered caps has come again.”

Tō no Chūjō was now a councillor. He was a man of such fine charac- ter that everyone wished him well, but he was not happy. Everything made him think of Genji. Finally he decided that he did not care what rumors might arise and what misdeeds he might be accused of and hurried off to Suma. The sight of Genji brought tears of joy and sadness. Genji’s house seemed very strange and exotic. The surroundings were such that he would have liked to paint them. The fence was of plaited bamboo and the pillars were of pine and the stairs of stone. It was a rustic, provincial sort of dwelling, and very interesting.

Genji’s dress too was somewhat rustic. Over a singlet dyed lightly in a yellowish color denoting no rank or office he wore a hunting robe and trousers of greenish gray. It was plain garb and intentionally countrified, but it so became the wearer as to bring an immediate smile of pleasure to his friend’s lips. Genji’s personal utensils and accessories were of a make-shift nature, and his room was open to anyone who wished to look in. The gaming boards and stones were also of rustic make. The religious objects that lay about told of earnest devotion. The food was very palatable and very much in the local taste. For his friend’s amusement, Genji had fishermen bring fish and shells. Tō no Chūjō had them questioned about their maritime life, and learned of perils and tribulations. Their speech was as incomprehensible as the chirping of birds, but no doubt their feelings were like his own. He brightened their lives with clothes and other gifts. The stables being nearby, fodder was brought from a granary or something of the sort beyond, and the feeding process was as novel and interesting as everything else. Tō no Chūjō hummed the passage from “The Well of Asuka” about the well-fed horses.

Weeping and laughing, they talked of all that had happened over the months.

“Yūgiri quite rips the house to pieces, and Father worries and worries about him.”

Genji was of course sorry to hear it; but since I am not capable of recording the whole of the long conversation, I should perhaps refrain from recording any part of it. They composed Chinese poetry all through the night. Tō no Chūjō had come in defiance of the gossips and slanderers, but they intimidated him all the same. His stay was a brief one.

Wine was brought in, and their toast was from Po Chü-i:

“Sad topers we. Our springtime cups flow with tears.”

The tears were general, for it had been too brief a meeting.

A line of geese flew over in the dawn sky.

“In what spring tide will I see again my old village?

I envy the geese, returning whence they came.”

Sorrier than ever that he must go, Tō no Chūjō replied:

“Sad are the geese to leave their winter’s lodging.

Dark my way of return to the flowery city.”

He had brought gifts from the city, both elegant and practical. Genji gave him in return a black pony, a proper gift for a traveler.

“Considering its origins, you may fear that it will bring bad luck; but you will find that it neighs into the northern winds.”

It was a fine beast.

“To remember me by,” said Tō no Chūjō, giving in return what was recognized to be a very fine flute. The situation demanded a certain reticence in the giving of gifts.

The sun was high, and Tō no Chūjō‘s men were becoming restive. He looked back and looked back, and Genji almost felt that no visit at all would have been better than such a brief one.

“And when will we meet again? It is impossible to believe that you will be here forever.”

“Look down upon me, cranes who skim the clouds,

And see me unsullied as this cloudless day.

“Yes, I do hope to go back, someday. But when I think how difficult it has been for even the most remarkable men to pick up their old lives, I am no longer sure that I want to see the city again.”

“Lonely the voice of the crane among the clouds.

Gone the comrade that once flew at its side.

“I have been closer to you than ever I have deserved. My regrets for what has happened are bitter.”

They scarcely felt that they had had time to renew their friendship. For Genji the loneliness was unrelieved after his friend’s departure.

It was the day of the serpent, the first such day in the Third Month.

“The day when a man who has worries goes down and washes them away,” said one of his men, admirably informed, it would seem, in all the annual observances.

Wishing to have a look at the seashore, Genji set forth. Plain, rough curtains were strung up among the trees, and a soothsayer who was doing the circuit of the province was summoned to perform the lustration.

Genji thought he could see something of himself in the rather large doll being cast off to sea, bearing away sins and tribulations.

“Cast away to drift on an alien vastness,

I grieve for more than a doll cast out to sea.”

The bright, open seashore showed him to wonderful advantage. The sea stretched placid into measureless distances. He thought of all that had happened to him, and all that was still to come.

“You eight hundred myriad gods must surely help me,

For well you know that blameless I stand before you.”

Suddenly a wind came up and even before the services were finished the sky was black. Genji’s men rushed about in confusion. Rain came pouring down, completely without warning. Though the obvious course would have been to return straightway to the house, there had been no time to send for umbrellas. The wind was now a howling tempest, everything that had not been tied down was scuttling off across the beach. The surf was biting at their feet. The sea was white, as if spread over with white linen. Fearful every moment of being struck down, they finally made their way back to the house.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, “ said one of the men. “Winds do come up from time to time, but not without warning. It is all very strange and very terrible.”

The lightning and thunder seemed to announce the end of the world, and the rain to beat its way into the ground; and Genji sat calmly reading a sutra. The thunder subsided in the evening, but the wind went on through the night.

“Our prayers seem to have been answered. A little more and we would have been carried off. I’ve heard that tidal waves do carry people off before they know what is happening to them, but I’ve not seen anything like this.”

Towards dawn sleep was at length possible. A man whom he did not recognize came to Genji in a dream.

“The court summons you.” He seemed to be reaching for Genji. “Why do you not go?”

It would be the king of the sea, who was known to have a partiality for handsome men. Genji decided that he could stay no longer at Suma.

Chapter 13

Akashi

The days went by and the thunder and rain continued. What was Genji to do? People would laugh if, in this extremity, out of favor at court, he were to return to the city. Should he then seek a mountain retreat? But if it were to be noised about that a storm had driven him away, then he would cut a ridiculous figure in history.

His dreams were haunted by that same apparition. Messages from the city almost entirely ceased coming as the days went by without a break in the storms. Might he end his days at Suma? No one was likely to come calling in these tempests.

A messenger did come from Murasaki, a sad, sodden creature. Had they passed in the street, Genji would scarcely have known whether he was man or beast, and of course would not have thought of inviting him to come near. Now the man brought a surge of pleasure and affection — though Genji could not help asking himself whether the storm had weakened his moorings.

Murasaki’s letter, long and melancholy, said in part: “The terrifying deluge goes on without a break, day after day. Even the skies are closed off, and I am denied the comfort of gazing in your direction.

“What do they work, the sea winds down at Suma?

At home, my sleeves are assaulted by wave after wave.”

Tears so darkened Iris eyes that it was as if they were inviting the waters to rise higher.

The man said that the storms had been fierce in the city too, and that a special reading of the Prajñāpāramitā Sutra had been ordered. “The streets are all closed and the great gentlemen can’t get to court, and everything has closed down.”

The man spoke clumsily and haltingly, but he did bring news. Genji summoned him near and had him questioned.

“It’s not the way it usually is. You don’t usually have rain going on for days without a break and the wind howling on and on. Everyone is terrified. But it’s worse here. They haven’t had this hail beating right through the ground and thunder going on and on and not letting a body think.” The terror written so plainly on his face did nothing to improve the spirits of the people at Suma.

Might it be the end of the world? From dawn the next day the wind was so fierce and the tide so high and the surf so loud that it was as if the crags and the mountains must fall. The horror of the thunder and lightning was beyond description. Panic spread at each new flash. For what sins, Genji’s men asked, were they being punished? Were they to perish without another glimpse of their mothers and fathers, their dear wives and children?

Genji tried to tell himself that he had been guilty of no misdeed for which he must perish here on the seashore. Such were the panic and confusion around him, however, that he bolstered his confidence with special offerings to the god of Sumiyoshi.

“O you of Sumiyoshi who protect the lands about: if indeed you are an avatar of the Blessed One, then you must save us.”

His men were of course fearful for their lives; but the thought that so fine a gentleman (and in these deplorable circumstances) might be swept beneath the waters seemed altogether too tragic. The less distraught among them prayed in loud voices to this and that favored deity, Buddhist and Shinto, that their own lives be taken if it meant that his might be spared.

They faced Sumiyoshi and prayed and made vows: “Our lord was reared deep in the fastnesses of the palace, and all blessings were his. You who, in the abundance of your mercy, have brought strength through these lands to all who have sunk beneath the weight of their troubles: in punishment for what crimes do you call forth these howling waves? Judge his case if you will, you gods of heaven and earth. Guiltless, he is accused of a crime, stripped of his offices, driven from his house and city, left as you see him with no relief from the torture and the lamentation. And now these horrors, and even his life seems threatened. Why? we must ask. Because of sins in some other life, because of crimes in this one? If your vision is clear, O you gods, then take all this away.”

Genji offered prayers to the king of the sea and countless other gods as well. The thunder was increasingly more terrible, and finally the gallery adjoining his rooms was struck by lightning. Flames sprang up and the gallery was destroyed. The confusion was immense; the whole world seemed to have gone mad. Genji was moved to a building out in back, a kitchen or something of the sort it seemed to be. It was crowded with people of every station and rank. The clamor was almost enough to drown out the lightning and thunder. Night descended over a sky already as black as ink.

Presently the wind and rain subsided and stars began to come out. The kitchen being altogether too mean a place, a move back to the main hall was suggested. The charred remains of the gallery were an ugly sight, however, and the hall had been badly muddied and all the blinds and

curtains blown away. Perhaps, Genji’s men suggested somewhat tentatively, it might be better to wait until dawn. Genji sought to concentrate upon the holy name, but his agitation continued to be very great.

He opened a wattled door and looked out. The moon had come up. The line left by the waves was white and dangerously near, and the surf was still high. There was no one here whom he could turn to, no student of the deeper truths who could discourse upon past and present and perhaps explain these wild events. All the fisherfolk had gathered at what they had heard was the house of a great gentleman from the city. They were as noisy and impossible to communicate with as a flock of birds, but no one thought of telling them to leave.

“If the wind had kept up just a little longer,” someone said, “abso- lutely everything would have been swept under. The gods did well by us.”

There are no words — “lonely” and “forlorn” seem much too weak — to describe his feelings. “Without the staying hand of the king of the sea

The roar of the eight hundred waves would have taken us under.”

Genji was as exhausted as if all the buffets and fires of the tempest had been aimed at him personally. He dozed off, his head against some nondescript piece of furniture.

The old emperor came to him, quite as when he had lived. “And why are you in this wretched place?” He took Genji’s hand and pulled him to his feet. “You must do as the god of Sumiyoshi tells you. You must put out to sea immediately. You must leave this shore behind.”

“Since I last saw you, sir,” said Genji, overjoyed, “I have suffered an unbroken series of misfortunes. I had thought of throwing myself into the sea.”

“That you must not do. You are undergoing brief punishment for certain sins. I myself did not commit any conscious crimes while I reigned, but a person is guilty of transgressions and oversights without his being aware of them. I am doing penance and have no time to look back towards this world. But an echo of your troubles came to me and I could not stand idle. I fought my way through the sea and up to this shore and I am very tired; but now that I am here I must see to a matter in the city.” And he disappeared.

Genji called after him, begging to be taken along. He looked around him. There was only the bright face of the moon. His father’s presence had been too real for a dream, so real that he must still be here. Clouds traced sad lines across the sky. It had been clear and palpable, the figure he had so longed to see even in a dream, so clear that he could almost catch an afterimage. His father had come through the skies to help him in what had seemed the last extremity of his sufferings. He was deeply grateful, even to the tempests; and in the aftermath of the dream he was happy.

Quite different emotions now ruffled his serenity. He forgot his immediate troubles and only regretted that his father had not stayed longer. Perhaps he would come again. Genji would have liked to go back to sleep, but he lay wakeful until daylight.

A little boat had pulled in at the shore and two or three men came up.

“The revered monk who was once governor of Harima has come from Akashi. If the former Minamoto councillor, Lord Yoshikiyo, is here, we wonder if we might trouble him to come down and hear the details of our mission.”

Yoshikiyo pretended to be surprised and puzzled. “He was once among my closer acquaintances here in Harima, but we had a falling out and it has been same time since we last exchanged letters. What can have brought him through such seas in that little boat?”

Genji’s dream had given intimations. He sent Yoshikiyo down to the boat immediately. Yoshikiyo marveled that it could even have been launched upon such a sea.

These were the details of the mission, from the mouth of the old governor: “Early this month a strange figure came to me in a dream. I listened, though somewhat incredulously, and was told that on the thirteenth there would be a clear and present sign. I was to ready a boat and make for this shore when the waves subsided. I did ready a boat, and then came this savage wind and lightning. I thought of numerous foreign sovereigns who have received instructions in dreams on how to save their lands, and I concluded that even at the risk of incurring his ridicule I must on the day appointed inform your lord of the import of the dream. And so I did indeed put out to sea. A strange jet blew all the way and brought us to this shore. I cannot think of it except as divine intervention. And might I ask whether there have been corresponding manifestations here? I do hate to trouble you, but might I ask you to communicate all of this to your lord?”

Yoshikiyo quietly relayed the message, which brought new considerations. There had been these various unsettling signs conveyed to Genji dreaming and waking. The possibility of being laughed at for having departed these shores under threat now seemed the lesser risk. To turn his back on what might be a real offer of help from the gods would be to ask for still worse misfortunes. It was not easy to reject ordinary advice, and personal reservations counted for little when the advice came from great eminences. “Defer to them; they will cause you no reproaches,” a wise man of old once said. He could scarcely face worse misfortunes by deferring than by not deferring, and he did not seem likely to gain great merit and profit by hesitating out of Concern for his brave name. Had not his own father come to him? What room was there for doubts?

He sent back his answer: “I have been through a great deal in this strange place, and I hear nothing at all from the city. I but gaze upon a sun and moon going I know not where as comrades from my old home; and now comes this angler’s boat, happy tidings on an angry wind. Might there be a place along your Akashi coast where I can hide myself?”

The old man was delighted. Genji’s men pressed him to set out even before sunrise. Taking along only four or five of his closest attendants, he boarded the boat. That strange wind came up again and they were at Akashi as if they had flown. It was very near, within crawling distance, so to speak; but still the workings of the wind were strange and marvelous.

The Akashi coast was every bit as beautiful as he had been told it was. He would have preferred fewer people, but on the whole he was pleased. Along the coast and in the hills the old monk had put up numerous buildings with which to take advantage of the four seasons: a reed-roofed beach cottage with fine seasonal vistas; beside a mountain stream a chapel of some grandeur and dignity, suitable for rites and meditation and invocation of the holy name; and rows of storehouses where the harvest was put away and a bountiful life assured for the years that remained. Fearful of the high tides, the old monk had sent his daughter and her women off to the hills. The house on the beach was at Genji’s disposal.

The sun was rising as Genji left the boat and got into a carriage. This first look by daylight at his new guest brought a happy smile to the old man’s lips. He felt as if the accumulated years were falling away and as if new years had been granted him. He gave silent thanks to the god of Sumiyoshi. He might have seemed ridiculous as he bustled around seeing to Genji’s needs, as if the radiance of the sun and the moon had become his private property; but no one laughed at him.

I need not describe the beauty of the Akashi coast. The careful attention that had gone into the house and the rocks and plantings of the garden, the graceful line of the coast — it was infinitely pleasanter than Suma, and one would not have wished to ask a less than profoundly sensitive painter to paint it. The house was in quiet good taste. The old man’s way of life was as Genji had heard it described, hardly more rustic than that of the grandees at court. In sheer luxury, indeed, he rather outdid them.

When Genji had rested for a time he got off messages to the city. He summoned Murasaki’s messenger, who was still at Suma recovering from the horrors of his journey. Loaded with rewards for his services, he now set out again for the city. It would seem that Genji sent off a description of his perils to priests and others of whose services he regularly made use, but he told only Fujitsubo how narrow his escape had in fact been. He repeatedly laid down his brush as he sought to answer that very affectionate letter from Murasaki.

“I feel that I have run the whole gamut of horrors and then run it again, and more than ever I would like to renounce the world; but though everything else has fled away, the image which you entrusted to the mirror has not for an instant left me. I think that I might not see you again.

“Yet farther away, upon the beach at Akashi,

My thoughts of a distant city, and of you.

“I am still half dazed, which fact will I fear be too apparent in the confusion and disorder of this letter.”

Though it was true that his letter was somewhat disordered, his men thought it splendid. How very fond he must be of their lady! It would seem that they sent off descriptions of their own perils.

The apparently interminable rains had at last stopped and the sky was bright far into the distance. The fishermen radiated good spirits. Suma had been a lonely place with only a few huts scattered among the rocks. It was true that the crowds here at Akashi were not entirely to Genji’s liking, but it was a pleasant spot with much to interest him and take his mind from his troubles.

The old man’s devotion to the religious life was rather wonderful. Only one matter interfered with it: worry about his daughter. He told Genji a little of his concern for the girl. Genji was sympathetic. He had heard that she was very handsome and wondered if there might not be some bond between them, that he should have come upon her in this

strange place. But no; here he was in the remote provinces, and he must think of nothing but his own prayers. He would be unable to face Murasaki if he were to depart from the promises he had made her. Yet he continued to be interested in the girl. Everything suggested that her nature and appearance were very far from ordinary.

Reluctant to intrude himself, the old man had moved to an outbuilding. He was restless and unhappy when away from Genji, however, and he prayed more fervently than ever to the gods and Buddhas that his unlikely hope might be realized. Though in his sixties he had taken good care of himself and was young for his age. The religious life and the fact that he was of proud lineage may have had something to do with the matter. He was stubborn and intractable, as old people often are, but he was well versed in antiquities and not without a certain subtlety. His stories of old times did a great deal to dispel Genji’s boredom. Genji had been too busy himself for the sort of erudition, the lore about customs and precedents, which he now had in bits and installments, and he told himself that it would have been a great loss if he had not known Akashi and its venerable master.

In a sense they were friends, but Genji rather overawed the old man. Though he had seemed so confident when he told his wife of his hopes, he hesitated, unable to broach the matter, now that the time for action had come, and seemed capable only of bemoaning his weakness and inadequacy. As for the daughter, she rarely saw a passable man here in the country among people of her own rank; and now she had had a glimpse of a man the like of whom she had not suspected to exist. She was a shy, modest girl, and she thought him quite beyond her reach. She had had hints of her father’s ambitions and thought them wildly inappropriate, and her discomfort was greater for having Genji near.

It was the Fourth Month. The old man had all the curtains and fixtures of Genji’s rooms changed for fresh summery ones. Genji was touched and a little embarrassed, feeling that the old man’s attentions were perhaps a bit overdone; but he would not have wished for the world to offend so proud a nature.

A great many messages now came from the city inquiring after his safety. On a quiet moonlit night when the sea stretched off into the distance under a cloudless sky, he almost felt that he was looking at the familiar waters of his own garden. Overcome with longing, he was like a solitary, nameless wanderer. “Awaji, distant foam,” he whispered to himself.

“Awaji: in your name is all my sadness,

And clear you stand in the light of the moon tonight.”

He took out the seven-stringed koto, long neglected, which he had brought from the city and sPread a train of sad thoughts through the house as he plucked out a few tentative notes. He exhausted all his skills on “The Wide Barrow,” and the sound reached the house in the hills on a sighing of wind and waves. Sensitive young ladies heard it and were moved. Lowly rustics, though they could not have identified the music, were lured out into the sea winds, there to catch cold.

The old man could not sit still. Casting aside his beads, he came running over to the main house.

“I feel as if a world I had thrown away were coming back,” he said, breathless and tearful. “It is a night such as to make one feel that the blessed world for which one longs must be even so.”

Genji played on in a reverie, a flood of memories of concerts over the years, of this gentleman and that lady on flute and koto, of voices raised in song, of times when he and they had been the center of attention, recipients of praise and favors from the emperor himself. Sending to the house on the hill for a lute and a thirteen-stringed koto, the old man now seemed to change roles and become one of these priestly mendicants who make their living by the lute. He played a most interesting and affecting strain. Genji played a few notes on the thirteen-stringed koto which the old man pressed on him and was thought an uncommonly impressive performer on both sorts of koto. Even the most ordinary music can seem remarkable if the time and place are right; and here on the wide seacoast, open far into the distance, the groves seemed to come alive in colors richer than the bloom of spring or the change of autumn, and the calls of the water rails were as if they were pounding on the door and demanding to be admitted.

The old man had a delicate style to which the instruments were beautifully suited and which delighted Genji. “One likes to see a gentle lady quite at her ease with a koto,” said Genji, as if with nothing specific in mind.

The old man smiled. “And where, sir, is one likely to find a gentler, more refined musician than yourself? On the koto I am in the third generation from the emperor Daigo. I have left the great world for the rustic surroundings in which you have found me, and sometimes when I have been more gloomy than usual I have taken out a koto and picked away at it; and, curiously, there has been someone who has imitated me. Her playing has come quite naturally to resemble my master’s. Or perhaps it has only seemed so to the degenerate ear of the mountain monk who has only the pine winds for company. I wonder if it might be possible to let you hear a strain, in the greatest secrecy of course.” He brushed away a tear.

“I have been rash and impertinent. My playing must have sounded like no playing at all.” Genji turned away from the koto. “I do not know why, but it has always been the case that ladies have taken especially well to the koto. One hears that with her father to teach her the fifth daughter of the emperor Saga was a great master of the instrument, but it would seem that she had no successors. The people who set themselves up as masters these days are quite ordinary performers with no real grounding at all. How fascinating that someone who still holds to the grand style should be hidden away on this coast. Do let me hear her.”

“No difficulty at all, if that is what you wish. If you really wish it, I can summon her. There was once a poet, you will remember, who was much pleased at the lute of a tradesman’s wife. While we are on the subject of lutes, there were not many even in the old days who could bring out the best in the instrument. Yet it would seem that the person of whom I speak plays with a certain sureness and manages to affect a rather pleasing delicacy. I have no idea where she might have acquired these skills. It seems wrong that she should be asked to compete with the wild waves, but sometimes in my gloom I do have her strike up a tune.”

He spoke with such spirit that Genji, much interested, pushed the lute toward him.

He did indeed play beautifully, adding decorations that have gone out of fashion. There was a Chinese elegance in his touch, and he was able to induce a particularly solemn tremolo from the instrument. Though it might have been argued that the setting was wrong, an adept among his retainers was persuaded to sing for them about the clean shore of Ise. Tapping out the rhythm, Genji would join in from time to time, and the old man would pause to offer a word of praise. Refreshments were brought in, very prettily arranged. The old man was most assiduous in seeing that the cups were kept full, and it became the sort of evening when troubles are forgotten.

Late in the night the sea breezes were cool and the moon seemed brighter and clearer as it sank towards the west. All was quiet. In pieces and fragments the old man told about himself, from his feelings upon taking up residence on this Akashi coast to his hopes for the future life and the prospects which his devotions seemed to be opening. He added, unsolicited, an account of his daughter. Genji listened with interest and sympathy.

“It is not easy for me to say it, sir, but the fact that you are here even briefly in what must be for you strange and quite unexpected surroundings, and the fact that you are being asked to undergo trials new to your experience — I wonder if it Might not be that the powers to whom an aged monk has so fervently prayed for so many years have taken pity on him. It is now eighteen years since I first prayed and made vows to the god of Sumiyoshi. I have had certain hopes for my daughter since she was very young, and every spring and autumn I have taken her to Sumiyoshi. At each of my six daily services, three of them in the daytime and three at night, I have put aside my own wishes for salvation and ventured a suggestion that my hopes for the girl be noticed. I have sunk to this provincial obscurity because I brought an unhappy destiny with me into this life. My father was a minister, and you see what I have become. If my family is to follow the same road in the future, I ask myself, then where will it end? But I have had high hopes for her since she was born. I have been determined that she go to some noble gentleman in the city. I have been accused of arrogance and unworthy ambitions and subjected to some rather unpleasant treatment. I have not let it worry me. I have said to her that while I live I will do what I can for her, limited though my resources may be; and that if I die before my hopes are realized she is to throw herself into the sea.” He was weeping. It had taken great resolve for him to speak so openly.

Genji wept easily these days. “I had been feeling put upon, bundled off to this strange place because of crimes I was not aware of having committed. Your story makes me feel that there is a bond between us. Why did you not tell me earlier? Nothing has seemed quite real since I came here, and I have given myself up to prayers to the exclusion of everything else, and so I fear that I will have struck you as spiritless. Though reports had reached me of the lady of whom you have spoken, I had feared that she would want to have nothing to do with an outcast like myself. You will be my guide and intermediary? May I look forward to company these lonely evenings?”

The old man was thoroughly delighted.

“Do you too know the sadness of the nights

On the shore of Akashi with only thoughts for companions?

“Imagine, if you will, how it has been for us through the long months and years.” He faltered, though with no loss of dignity, and his voice was trembling.

“But you, sir, are used to this seacoast.

“The traveler passes fretful nights at Akashi.

The grass which he reaps for his pillow reaps no dreams.”

His openness delighted the old man, who talked on and on — and became rather tiresome, I fear. In my impatience I may have allowed inaccuracies to creep in, and exaggerated his eccentricities.

In any event, he felt a clean happiness sweep over him. A beginning had been made.

At about noon the next day Genji got off a note to the house on the hill. A real treasure might lie buried in this unlikely spot. He took a great deal of trouble with his note, which was on a fine saffron-colored Korean paper.

“Do I catch, as I gaze into unresponsive skies,

A glimpse of a grove of which I have had certain tidings?

“My resolve has been quite dissipated.”

And was that all? one wonders.

The old man had been waiting. Genji’s messenger came staggering back down the hill, for he had been hospitably received.

But the girl was taking time with her reply. The old man rushed to her rooms and urged haste, but to no avail. She thought her hand q unequal to the task, and awareness of the difference in their station dismayed her. She was not feeling well, she said, and lay down.

Though he would certainly have wished it otherwise, the old man finally answered in her place. “Her rustic sleeves are too narrow to encompass such awesome tidings, it would seem, and indeed she seems to have found herself incapable of even reading your letter.

“She gazes into the skies into which you gaze.

May they bring your thoughts and hers into some accord.

“But I fear that I will seem impertinent and forward.”

It was in a most uncompromisingly old-fashioned hand, on sturdy Michinoku paper; but there was something spruce and dashing about it too. Yes, “forward” was the proper word. Indeed, Genji was rather startled. He gave the messenger a “bejeweled apron,” an appropriate gift, he thought, from a beach cottage.

He got off another message the next day, beautifully written on soft, delicate paper. “I am not accustomed to receiving letters from ladies’ secretaries.

“Unwillingly reticent about my sorrows

I still must be — for no one makes inquiry.

“Though it is difficult to say just what I mean.”

There would have been something unnatural about a girl who refused to be interested in such a letter. She thought it splendid, but she also thought it impossibly out of her reach. Notice from such supreme heights had the perverse effect of reducing her to tears and inaction.

She was finally badgered into setting something down. She chose delicately perfumed lavender paper and took great care with the gradations of her ink.

“Unwillingly reticent — how can it be so?

How can you sorrow for someone you have not met?”

The diction and the handwriting would have done credit to any of the fine ladies at court. He fell into a deep reverie, for he was reminded of days back in the city. But he did not want to attract attention, and presently shook it off.

Every other day or so, choosing times when he was not likely to be noticed, and when he imagined that her thoughts might be similar to his — a quiet, uneventful evening, a lonely dawn — he would get off a note to her. There was a proud reserve in her answers which made him want more than ever to meet her. But there was Yoshikiyo to think of. He had spoken of the lady as if he thought her his property, and Genji did not wish to contravene these long-standing claims. If her parents persisted in offering her to him, he would make that fact his excuse, and seek to pursue the affair as quietly as possible. Not that she was making things easy for him. She seemed prouder and more aloof than the proudest lady at court; and so the days went by in a contest of wills.

The city was more than ever on his mind now that he had moved beyond the Suma barrier. He feared that not even in jest could he do without Murasaki. Again he was asking himself if he might not bring her quietly to Akashi, and he was on the point of doing just that. But he did not expect to be here very much longer, and nothing was to be gained by inviting criticism at this late date.

In the city it had been a year of omens and disturbances. On the thirteenth day of the Third Month, as the thunder and winds mounted to new fury, the emperor had a dream. His father stood glowering at the stairs to the royal bedchamber and had a great deal to say, all of it, apparently, about Genji. Deeply troubled, the emperor described the dream to his mother.

“On stormy nights a person has a way of dreaming about the things that are on his mind, “ she said.” If I were you I would not give it a second thought.”

Perhaps because his eyes had met the angry eyes of his father, he came down with a very painful eye ailment. Retreat and fasting were ordered for the whole court, even Kokiden’s household. Then the minister, her father, died. He was of such years that his death need have surprised no one, but Kokiden too was unwell, and worse as the days went by; and the emperor had a great deal to worry about. So long as an innocent Genji was off in the wilderness, he feared, he must suffer. He ventured from time to time a suggestion that Genji be restored to his old rank and offices.

His mother sternly advised against it. “People will tax you with shallowness and indecision. Can you really think of having a man go into exile and then bringing him back before the minimum three years have gone by?”

And so he hesitated, and he and his mother were in increasingly poor health.

At Akashi it was the season when cold winds blow from the sea to make a lonely bed even lonelier.

Genji sometimes spoke to the old man. “If you were perhaps to bring her here when no one is looking?”

He thought that he could hardly be expected to visit her. She had her own ideas. She knew that rustic maidens should come running at a word from a city gentleman who happened to be briefly in the vicinity. No, she did not belong to his world, and she would only be inviting grief if she pretended that she did. Her parents had impossible hopes, it seemed, and were asking the unthinkable and building a future on nothing. What they were really doing was inviting endless trouble. It was good fortune enough to exchange notes with him for so long as he stayed on this shore. Her own prayers had been modest: that she be permitted a glimpse of the gentleman of whom she had heard so much. She had had her glimpse, from a distance, to be sure, and, brought in on the wind, she had also caught hints of his unmatched skill (of this too she had heard) on the koto. She had learned rather a great deal about him these past days, and she was satisfied. Indeed a nameless woman lost among the fishermen’s huts had no right to expect even this. She was acutely embarrassed at any suggestion that he be invited nearer.

Her father too was uneasy. Now that his prayers were being answered he began to have thoughts of failure. It would be very sad for the girl, offered heedlessly to Genji, to learn that he did not want her. Rejection was painful at the hands of the finest gentleman. His unquestioning faith in all the invisible gods had perhaps led him to overlook human inclinations and probabilities.

“How pleasant,” Genji kept saying, “if I could hear that koto to the singing of the waves. It is the season for such things. We should not let it pass.”

Dismissing his wife’s reservations and saying nothing to his disciples, the old man selected an auspicious day. He bustled around making preparations, the results of which were dazzling. The moon was near full. He sent off a note which said only: “This night that should not be wasted.” It seemed a bit arch, but Genji changed to informal court dress and set forth late in the night. He had a carriage decked out most resplendently, and then, deciding that it might seem ostentatious, went on horseback instead. The lady’s house was some distance back in the hills. The coast lay in full view below, the bay silver in the moonlight. He would have liked to show it to Murasaki. The temptation was strong to turn his horse’s head and gallop on to the city.

“Race on through the moonlit sky, O roan-colored horse,

And let me be briefly with her for whom I long.”

The house was a fine one, set in a grove of trees. Careful attention had gone into all the details. In contrast to the solid dignity of the house on the beach, this house in the hills had a certain fragility about it, and he could imagine the melancholy thoughts that must come to one who lived here. There was sadness in the sound of the temple bells borne in on pine breezes from a hall of meditation nearby. Even the pines seemed to be asking for something as they sent their roots out over the crags. All manner of autumn insects were singing in the garden. He looked about him and saw a pavilion finer than the others. The cypress door upon which the moonlight seemed to focus was slightly open.

He hesitated and then spoke. There was no answer. She had resolved to admit him no nearer. All very aristocratic, thought Genji. Even ladies so wellborn that they were sheltered from sudden visitors usually tried to make conversation when the visitor was Genji. Perhaps she was letting him know that he was under a cloud. He was annoyed and thought of leaving. It would run against the mood of things to force himself upon her, and on the other hand he would look rather silly if it were to seem that she had bested him at this contest of wills. One would indeed have wished to show him, the picture of dejection, “to someone who knows.”

A curtain string brushed against a koto, to tell him that she had been passing a quiet evening at her music.

“And will you not play for me on the koto of which I have heard so much?

“Would there were someone with whom I might share my thoughts

And so dispel some part of these sad dreams.”

“You speak to one for whom the night has no end.

How can she tell the dreaming from the waking?”

The almost inaudible whisper reminded him strongly of the Rokujō lady.

This lady had not been prepared for an incursion and could not cope with it. She fled to an inner room. How she could have contrived to bar it he could not tell, but it was very firmly barred indeed. Though he did not exactly force his way through, it is not to be imagined that he left matters as they were. Delicate, slender — she was almost too beautiful. Pleasure was mingled with pity at the thought that he was imposing himself upon her. She was even more pleasing than reports from afar had had her. The autumn night, usually so long, was over in a trice. Not wishing to be seen, he hurried out, leaving affectionate assurances behind.

He got off an unobtrusive note later in the morning. Perhaps he was feeling twinges of conscience. The old monk was equally intent upon secrecy, and sorry that he was impelled to treat the messenger rather coolly.

Genji called in secret from time to time. The two houses being some distance apart, he feared being seen by fishermen, who were known to relish a good rumor, and sometimes several days would elapse between his visits. Exactly as she had expected, thought the girl. Her father, forgetting that enlightenment was his goal, quite gave his prayers over to silent queries as to when Genji might be expected to come again; and so (and it seems a pity) a tranquillity very laboriously attained was disturbed at a very late date.

Genji dreaded having Murasaki learn of the affair. He still loved her more than anyone, and he did not want her to make even joking reference to it. She was a quiet, docile lady, but she had more than once been unhappy with him. Why, for the sake of brief pleasure, had he caused her pain? He wished it were all his to do over again. The sight of the Akashi lady only brought new longing for the other lady.

He got off a more earnest and affectionate letter than usual, at the end of which he said: “I am in anguish at the thought that, because of foolish occurrences for which I have been responsible but have had little heart, I might appear in a guise distasteful to you. There has been a strange, fleeting encounter. That I should volunteer this story will make you see, I hope, how little I wish to have secrets from you. Let the gods be my judges.

“It was but the fisherman’s brush with the salty sea pine

Followed by a tide of tears of longing.”

Her reply was gentle and unreproachful, and at the end of it she said: “That you should have deigned to tell me a dreamlike story which you could not keep to yourself calls to mind numbers of earlier instances.

“Naïve of me, perhaps; yet we did make our vows.

And now see the waves that wash the Mountain of Waiting!”

It was the one note of reproach in a quiet, undemanding letter. He found it hard to put down, and for some nights he stayed away from the house in the hills.

The Akashi lady was convinced once more that her fears had become actuality. Now seemed the time to throw herself into the sea. She had only her parents to turn to and they were very old. She had had no ambitions for herself, no thought of making a respectable marriage. Yet the years had gone by happily enough, without storms or tears. Now she saw that the world can be very cruel. She managed to conceal her worries, however, and to do nothing that might annoy Genji. He was more and more pleased with her as time went by.

But there was the other, the lady in the city, waiting and waiting for his return. He did not want to do anything that would make her unhappy, and he spent his nights alone. He sent sketchbooks off to her, adding poems calculated to provoke replies. No doubt her women were delighted with them; and when the sorrow was too much for her (and as if by thought transference) she too would make sketches and set down notes which came to resemble a journal.

And what did the future have in store for the two of them?

The New Year came, the emperor was ill, and a pall settled over Court life. There was a son, by Lady Shōkyōden, daughter of the Minister of the Right, but the child was only two, far too young for the throne. The obvious course was to abdicate in favor of the crown prince. As the emperor turned over in his mind the problem of advice and counsel for his successor, he thought it more than ever a pity that Genji should be off in the provinces. Finally he went against Kokiden’s injunctions and issued an amnesty. Kokiden had been ill from the previous year, the victim of a malign spirit, it seemed, and numerous other dire omens had disturbed the court. Though the emperor’s eye ailment had for a time improved, perhaps because of strict fasting, it was worse again. Late in the Seventh Month, in deep despondency, he issued a second order, summoning Genji back to the city.

Genji had been sure that a pardon would presently come, but he also knew that life is uncertain. That it should come so soon was of course pleasing. At the same time the thought of leaving this Akashi coast filled him with regret. The old monk, though granting that it was most proper and just, was upset at the news. He managed all the same to tell himself that Genji’s prosperity was in his own best interest. Genji visited the lady every night and sought to console her. From about the Sixth Month she had shown symptoms such as to make their relations more complex. A sad, ironical affair seemed at the same time to come to a climax and to disintegrate. He wondered at the perverseness of fates that seemed always to be bringing new surprises. The lady, and one could scarcely have blamed her, was sunk in the deepest gloom. Genji had set forth on a strange, dark journey with a comforting certainty that he would one day return to the city; and he now lamented that he would not see this Akashi again.

His men, in their several ways, were delighted. An escort came from the city, there was a joyous stir of preparation, and the master of the house was lost in tears. So the month came to an end. It was a season for sadness in any case, and sad thoughts accosted Genji. Why, now and long ago, had he abandoned himself, heedlessly but of his own accord, to random, profitless affairs of the heart?

“What a great deal of trouble he does cause,” said those who knew the secret. “The same thing all over again. For almost a year he didn’t tell anyone and he didn’t seem to care the first thing about her. And now just when he ought to be letting well enough alone he makes things worse.”

Yoshikiyo was the uncomfortable one. He knew what his fellows were saying: that he had talked too much and started it all.

Two days before his departure Genji visited his lady, setting out earlier than usual. This first really careful look at her revealed an astonishingly proud beauty. He comforted her with promises that he would choose an opportune time to bring her to the city. I shall not comment again upon his own good looks. He was thinner from fasting, and emaciation seemed to add the final touches to the picture. He made tearful vows. The lady replied in her heart that this small measure of affection was all she wanted and deserved, and that his radiance only emphasized her own dullness. The waves moaned in the autumn winds, the smoke from the salt burners’ fires drew faint lines across the sky, and all the symbols of loneliness seemed to gather together.

“Even though we now must part for a time,

The smoke from these briny fires will follow me.”

“Smoldering thoughts like the sea grass burned on these shores.

And what good now to ask for anything more?”

She fell silent, weeping softly, and a rather conventional poem seemed to say a great deal.

She had not, through it all, played for him on the koto of which he had heard so much.

“Do let me hear it. Let it be a memento.”

Sending for the seven-stringed koto he had brought from the city, he played an unusual strain, quiet but wonderfully clear on the midnight air. Unable to restrain himself, the old man pushed a thirteen-stringed koto toward his daughter. She was apparently in a mood for music. Softly she tuned the instrument, and her touch suggested very great polish and elegance. He had thought Fujitsubo’s playing quite incomparable. It was in the modern style, and enough to bring cries of wonder from anyone who knew a little about music. For him it was like Fujitsubo herself, the essence of all her delicate awareness. The koto of the lady before him was quiet and calm, and so rich in overtones as almost to arouse envy. She left off playing just as the connoisseur who was her listener had passed the first stages of surprise and become eager attention. Disappointment and regret succeeded pleasure. He had been here for nearly a year. Why had he not insisted that she play for him, time after time? All he could do now was repeat the old vows.

“Take this koto,” he said, “to remember me by. Someday we will play together.”

Her reply was soft and almost casual:

“One heedless word, one koto, to set me at rest.

In the sound of it the sound of my weeping, forever.”

He could not let it pass.

“Do not change the middle string of this koto.

Unchanging I shall be till we meet again.

“And we will meet again before it has slipped out of tune.”

Yet it was not unnatural that the parting should seem more real than the reunion.

On the last morning Genji was up and ready before daybreak. Though he had little time to himself in all the stir, he contrived to write to her:

“Sad the retreating waves at leaving this shore.

Sad I am for you, remaining after.”

“You leave, my reed-roofed hut will fall to ruin.

Would that I might go out with these waves.”

It was an honest poem, and in spite of himself he was weeping. One could, after all, become fond of a hostile place, said those who did not know the secret. Those who did, Yoshikiyo and others, were a little jealous, concluding that it must have been a rather successful affair.

There were tears, for all the joy; but I shall not dwell upon them.

The old man had arranged the grandest of farewell ceremonies. He had splendid travel robes for everyone, even the lowliest footmen. One marveled that he had found time to collect them all. The gifts for Genji himself were of course the finest, chests and chests of them, borne by a retinue which he attached to Genji’s. Some of them would make very suitable gifts in the city. He had overlooked nothing.

The lady had pinned a poem to a travel robe:

“I made it for you, but the surging brine has wet it.

And might you find it unpleasant and cast it off?”

Despite the confusion, he sent one of his own robes in return, and with it a note:

“It was very thoughtful of you.

“Take it, this middle robe, let it be the symbol

Of days uncounted but few between now and then.”

Something else, no doubt, to put in her chest of memories. It was a fine robe and it bore a most remarkable fragrance. How could it fail to move her?

The old monk, his face like one of the twisted shells on the beach, was meanwhile making some of the younger people smile. “I have quite renounced the world,” he said, “but the thought that I may not see you back to the city —

“Though weary of life, seasoned by salty winds,

I am not able to leave this shore behind,

and I wander lost in thoughts upon my child. Do let me see you at least as far as the border. It may seem forward of me, but if something should from time to time call up thoughts of her, do please let her hear from you.”

“It is an impossibility, sir, for very particular reasons, that I can ever forget her. You will very quickly be made to see my real intentions. If I seem dispirited, it is only because I am sad to leave all this behind.

“I wept upon leaving the city in the spring.

I weep in the autumn on leaving this home by the sea.

“What else can I do?” And he brushed away a tear.

The old man seemed on the point of expiring.

The lady did not want anyone to guess the intensity of her grief, but it was there, and with it sorrow at the lowly rank (she knew that she could not complain) that had made this parting inevitable. His image remained before her, and she seemed capable only of weeping.

Her mother tried everything to console her. “What could we have been thinking of? You have such odd ideas,” she said to her husband, “and I should have been more careful.”

“Enough, enough. There are reasons why he cannot abandon her. I have no doubt that he has already made his plans. Stop worrying, mix yourself a dose of something or other. This wailing will do no good.” But he was sitting disconsolate in a corner.

The women of the house, the mother and the nurse and the rest, went on charging him with unreasonable methods. “We had hoped and prayed over the years that she might have the sort of life any girl wants, and things finally seemed to be going well — and now see what has happened.”

It was true. Old age suddenly advanced and subdued him, and he spent his days in bed. But when night came he was up and alert.

“What can have happened to my beads?”

Unable to find them, he brought empty hands together in supplication. His disciples giggled. They giggled again when he set forth on a moonlight peregrination and managed to fall into the brook and bruise his hip on one of the garden stones he had chosen so carefully. For a time pain drove away, or at least obscured, his worries.

Genji went through lustration ceremonies at Naniwa and sent a messenger to Sumiyoshi with thanks that he had come thus far and a promise to visit at a later date in fulfillment of his vows. His retinue had grown to an army and did not permit side excursions. He made his way directly back to the city. At Nijō the reunion was like a dream. Tears of joy flowed so freely as almost to seem inauspicious. Murasaki, for whom life had come to seem of as little value as her farewell poem had suggested it to be, shared in the joy. She had matured and was more beautiful than ever. Her hair had been almost too rich and thick. Worry and sorrow had thinned it somewhat and thereby improved it. And now, thought Genji, a deep peace coming over him, they would be together. And in that instant there came to him the image of the one whom he had not been ready to leave. It seemed that his life must go on being complicated.

He told Murasaki about the other lady. A pensive, dreamy look passed over his face, and she whispered, as if to dismiss the matter: “For myself I do not worry.”

He smiled. It was a charmingly gentle reproof. Unable to take his eyes from her now that he had her before him, he could not think how he had survived so many months and years without her. All the old bitterness came back. He was restored to his former rank and made a supernumerary councillor. All his followers were similarly rehabilitated. It was as if spring had come to a withered tree.

The emperor summoned him and as they made their formal greetings thought how exile had improved him. Courtiers looked on with curiosity, wondering what the years in the provinces would have done to him. For the elderly women who had been in service since the reign of his late father, regret gave way to noisy rejoicing. The emperor had felt rather shy at the prospect of receiving Genji and had taken great pains with his dress. He seemed pale and sickly, though he had felt somewhat better these last few days. They talked fondly of this and that, and presently it was night. A full moon flooded the tranquil scene. There were tears in the emperor’s eyes.

“We have not had music here of late,” he said, “and it has been a very long time since I last heard any of the old songs.”

Genji replied:

“Cast out upon the sea, I passed the years

As useless as the leech child of the gods.”

The emperor was touched and embarrassed.

“The leech child’s parents met beyond the pillar.

We meet again to forget the spring of parting.”

He was a man of delicate grace and charm.

Genji’s first task was to commission a grand reading of the Lotus Sutra in his father’s memory. He called on the crown prince, who had grown in his absence, and was touched that the boy should be so pleased to see him. He had done so well with his studies that there need be no misgivings about his competence to rule. It would seem that Genji also called on Fujitsubo, and managed to control himself sufficiently for a quiet and affectionate conversation.

I had forgotten: he sent a note with the retinue which, like a returning wave, returned to Akashi. Very tender, it had been composed when no one was watching.

“And how is it with you these nights when the waves roll in?

“I wonder, do the morning mists yet rise,

There at Akashi of the lonely nights?”

The Kyushu Gosechi dancer had had fond thoughts of the exiled Genji, and she was vaguely disappointed to learn that he was back in the city and once more in the emperor’s good graces. She sent a note, with instructions that the messenger was to say nothing of its origin:

“There once came tidings from a boat at Suma,

From one who now might show you sodden sleeves.”

Her hand had improved, though not enough to keep him from guessing whose it was.

“It is I, not you, from whom the complaints should come.

My sleeves have refused to dry since last you wrote.”

He had not seen enough of her, and her letter brought fond memories. But he was not going to embark upon new adventures.

To the lady of the orange blossoms he sent only a note, cause more for disappointment than for pleasure.

Chapter 14

Channel Buoys

Unable to forget that almost too vivid dream of his father and wanting somehow to lighten the penance, Genji immediately set about plans for a reading of the Lotus Sutra. It was to be in the Tenth Month. Everyone at court helped with the arrangements. The spirit of cooperation was as before Genji fell into disfavor.

Though seriously ill, Kokiden was still an enemy, angry that she had not succeeded in crushing him completely. The emperor had been convinced that he must pay the penalty for having gone against his father’s wishes. Now that he had had Genji recalled, he was in greatly improved spirits, and the eye ailment that had so troubled him had quite gone away. Melancholy forebodings continued to be with him, however. He frequently sent for Genji, who was now in his complete confidence. Everyone thought it splendid that he was at last having his way.

The day appointed for his abdication drew near. It grieved him to think of the precarious position in which it would leave Oborozukiyo.

“Your father is dead,” he said to her, “and my mother is in worse health all the time. I doubt that I have much longer to live and fear that everything will change once I am gone. I know that there is someone you have long preferred to me; but it has been a way of mine to concentrate upon one object, and I have thought only of you. Even if the man whom you prefer does as you wish him to, I doubt that his affection can match my own. The thought is too much for me.” He was in tears.

She flushed and turned away. An irresistible charm seemed to flow from her, to make him forget his grievances.

“And why have you not had a child? It seems such a pity. No doubt you will shortly have one by the man with whom you seem to have the stronger bond, and that will scarcely be to my taste. He is a commoner, you know, and I suppose the child must be reared as a commoner.”

These remarks about the past and about the future so shamed her that she could not bring herself to look at him. He was a handsome, civil man, and his behavior over the years had told of a deepening affection; and so she had come to understand, as she had become more alive to these subtleties, that Genji, for all his good looks and gallantry, had been less than ideally devoted to her. Why had she surrendered to childish impulses and permitted a scandal which had seriously damaged her name and done no good for his? These reminders of the past brought her untold pain.

In the Second Month of the following year initiation ceremonies were held for the crown prince. He was eleven, tall and mature for his age, and the very image of Genji. The world marveled at the almost blinding radiance, but it was a source of great trepidation for Fujitsubo. Very pleased with his successor, the emperor in a most gentle and friendly way discussed plans for his own abdication.

He abdicated that same month, so suddenly that Kokiden was taken by surprise.

“I know that it will be as a person of no importance,” he said, seeking to calm her, “but I hope that I will see you rather more frequently and at my leisure.”

His son by Lady Shōkyōden was made crown prince. Everything had changed overnight, causes for rejoicing were innumerable. Genji was made a minister. As the number of ministers is limited by the legal codes and there were at the time no vacancies, a supernumerary position was created for him. It was assumed that his would be the strongest hand in the direction of public affairs.

“I am not up to it,” he said, deferring to his father-in-law, who was persuaded to come out of retirement and accept appointment as regent.

“I resigned because of poor health,” protested the old man, “and now I am older and even more useless.”

It was pointed out, however, that in foreign countries statesmen who in rime of civil disorder have withdrawn to deep mountain retreats have thought it no shame, despite their white beards, to be of service once peace has been restored. Indeed they have been revered as the true saints and sages. The court and the world at large agreed that there need be no obstacle whatever to resuming upon recovery offices resigned because of illness. Unable to persist in his refusal, he was appointed chancellor. He was sixty-three. His retirement had been occasioned in part by the fact that affairs of state were not going as he wished, but now all was in order. His sons, whose careers had been in eclipse, were also brought back. Most striking was the case of Tō no Chūjō, who was made a supernumerary councillor. He had been especially careful about the training of his daughter, now twelve, by Kokiden’s sister, and was hoping to send her to court. The boy who had sung “Takasago” so nicely had come of age and was the sort of son every father wished for. Indeed Tō no Chūjō had a troop of sons by his various ladies which quite filled Genji with envy.

Genji’s own Yūgiri was as handsome a boy as any of them. He served as page for both the emperor and the crown prince. His grandparents, Princess Omiya and the chancellor, continued to grieve for their daughter. But she was gone, and they had Genji’s prosperity to take their minds from their sorrow; and it seemed that the gloomy years of Genji’s exile had vanished without a trace. Genji’s devotion to the family of his late wife was as it had always been. He overlooked no occasion that seemed to call for a visit, or for gifts to the nurse and the others who had remained faithful through the bad years. One may be sure that there were many happy women among them.

At Nijō too there were women who had awaited his return. He wished to do everything possible to make up for the sorrows that must have been theirs, and upon such women as Chūjō and Nakatsukasa, appropriately to their station in life, he bestowed a share of his affection. This left him no time for women outside the house. He had most splendidly remodeled the lodge to the east of his mansion. He had inherited it from his father, and his plan was that it be home for the lady of the orange blossoms and other neglected favorites.

I have said nothing about the Akashi lady, whom he had left in such uncertainty. Busy with public and private affairs, he had not been able to inquire after her as he would have wished. From about the beginning of the Third Month, though he told no one, she was much on his mind, for her time must be approaching. He sent off a messenger, who very soon returned.

“A girl was safely delivered on the sixteenth.”

It was his first daughter. He was delighted — but why had he not brought the lady to have her child in the capital?

“You will have three children,” a fortuneteller had once told him. “Two of them are certain to become emperor and empress. The least of the three will become chancellor, the most powerful man in the land.” The whole of the oracle seemed by way of coming true.

He had consulted physiognomists in large numbers and they had been unanimous in telling him that he would rise to grand heights and have the world to do with as he wished; but through the unhappy days he had dismissed them from his thoughts. With the commencement of the new reign it seemed that his most extravagant hopes were being realized. The throne itself lay beyond his reach. He had been his father’s favorite over his many brothers, but his father had determined to reduce him to common status, and that fact made it apparent that the throne must not be among his ambitions. Although the reasons were of course secret, the accession of the new emperor seemed evidence enough that the fortuneteller had not deceived him. As for future prospects, he thought that he could see the god of Sumiyoshi at work. Had it been foreordained that someone from Akashi was meant for remarkable things, and was it for that reason that her eccentric father had had what had seemed preposterous plans? Genji had done badly in letting his daughter be born in a comer of the provinces. He must send for mother and daughter as soon as the proprieties allowed, and he gave orders that the remodeling of the east lodge be hurried.

Capable nurses would be difficult to find, he was afraid, in Akashi. He remembered having heard the sad story of a woman whose mother had been among the old emperor’s private secretaries and whose father had been a chamberlain and councillor. The parents both dead and the lady herself in straitened circumstances, she had struck up an unworthy liaison and had a child as a result. She was young and her prospects were poor, and she did not hesitate at the invitation to quit a deserted and ruinous mansion, and so the contract was made. By way of some errand or other, in the greatest secrecy, Genji visited her. Though she had made the commitment, she had been having second thoughts. The honor of the visit quite removed her doubts.

“I shall do entirely as you wish.”

Since it was a propitious day, he sent her off immediately.

“You will think it selfish and unfeeling of me, I am sure; but I have rather special plans. Tell yourself that there is a precedent for being sent off to a hard life in a strange land, and put up with it for a time.” And he told her in detail of her duties.

Since she had been at court, he had occasionally had a glimpse of her. She was thinner now. Her once fine mansion was sadly neglected, and the plantings in the garden were rank and overgrown. How, he wondered, had she endured such a life?

“Suppose we call it off,” he said jokingly, “and keep you here.” She was such a pretty young woman that he could not take his eyes from her.

She could not help thinking that, if it was all the same, she would prefer serving him from somewhat nearer at hand.

“I have not, it is true, been so fortunate as to know you,

But sad it is to end the briefest friendship.

“And so perhaps I should go with you.”

She smiled.

“I do not trust regrets at so quick a farewell.

The truth has to do with someone you wish to visit.”

It was nicely done.

She left the city by carriage. He assigned as escort men whom he trusted implicitly and enjoined them to the strictest secrecy. He sent with her a sword for the little girl and other appropriate gifts and provisions, in such quantities that the procession was in danger of falling behind schedule. His attentions to the newly appointed nurse could not have been more elaborate.

He smiled to think what this first grandchild would mean to the old man, how busy and self-important he would be. No doubt it told of events in a former life (and the thought brought twinges of conscience), that she meant so much to Genji himself. Over and over again he told the nurse that he would not be quick to forgive lapses and oversights.

“One day this sleeve of mine shall be her shelter

Whose years shall be as the years of the angel’s rock.”

They hurried to the Harima border by boat and thence by horse. The old man was overjoyed and there was no end to his awed gratitude. He made obeisance in the direction of the capital. At this evidence that the little girl was important to Genji he began to feel rather in awe of her too. She had an unearthly, almost ominous sort of beauty, to make the nurse see that the fuss and bother had not after all been overdone. There had been something horrible about this sudden removal to the countryside, but now it was as if she were awakening from a nightmare into broad sunlight. She already adored the little girl.

The Akashi lady had been in despair. She had decided as the months went by that life was without meaning. This evidence of Genji’s good intentions was comforting. She bestirred herself to make the guests from the city feel welcome.

The escort was in a hurry to return. She set down something of her feelings in a letter to Genji, to which she added this poem:

“These sleeves are much too narrow to offer protection.

The blossom awaits those all-encompassing ones.”

Genji was astonished at himself, that his daughter should be so much on his mind and that he should so long to see her.

He had said little to Murasaki of the events at Akashi, but he feared that she might have the story from someone else. “And that would seem to be the situation,” he said, concluding his account. “Somehow everything has gone wrong. I don’t have children where I really want them, and now there is a child in a very unlikely place. And it is a girl. I could of course simply disown her, but that is the sort of thing I do not seem capable of. I will bring her here one of these days and let you have a look at her. You are not to be jealous, now.”

Murasaki flushed. “How strange you are. You make me dislike myself, constantly assigning traits which are not mine at all. When and by whom, I wonder, shall I begin to have lessons in jealousy?”

Genji smiled, and tears came to his eyes. “When indeed, pray. You are very odd, my dear. Things come into your mind that would not occur to anyone else.”

She thought of their longing for each other through the years apart, of letters back and forth, and his delinquencies and her resentment seemed like a silly joke.

“There are very special reasons for it all,” he continued, “that she should be so much on my mind, and that I should be so diligent in my inquiries. But I fear that it is too soon to tell you of them. You would not understand. I think that the setting may have been partly responsible.”

He had told of her of the lines of smoke across the Akashi sky that last evening, and, though with some understatement, perhaps, of the lady’s appearance and of her skill on the koto. And so while she herself had been lost in infinite sadness, thought Murasaki, he had managed to keep himself entertained. It did not seem right that he should have allowed himself even a playful glance at another woman.

If he had his ways, she would have hers. She looked aside, whispering as if to herself: “There was a time when we seemed rather a nicely matched couple.

“I think I shall be the first to rise as smoke,

And it may not go the direction of that other.”

“What a very unpleasant thing to say.

“For whom, in mountains, upon unfriendly seas,

Has the flow of my tears been such as to sweep me under?

“I wish you could understand me, but of course it is not the way of this world that we are ever completely understood. I would not care or complain except for the fact that I do so love you.”

He took out a koto and tuned it and pushed it towards her; but, perhaps somewhat displeased at his account of the other lady’s talents, she refused to touch it. She was a calmly, delightfully gentle lady, and these small outbursts of jealousy were interesting, these occasional shows of anger charming. Yes, he thought, she was someone he could be with always.

His daughter would be fifty days old on the fifth of the Fifth Month. He longed more than ever to see her. What a splendid affair the fiftieth-day celebrations would be if they might take place in the city! Why had he allowed the child to be born in so unseemly a place? If it had been a boy he would not have been so concerned, but for a girl it was a very great disability not to be born in the city. And she seemed especially important because his unhappiness had had so much to do with her destinies.

He sent off messengers with the strictest orders to arrive on that day and no other. They took with them all the gifts which the most fertile imagination could have thought of for such an occasion, and practical everyday supplies as well.

This was Genji’s note:

“The sea grass, hidden among the rocks, unchanging,

Competes this day for attention with the iris.

“I am quite consumed with longing. You must be prepared to leave Akashi. It cannot be otherwise. I promise you that you have not the smallest thing to worry about.”

The old man’s face was a twisted shell once more, this time, most properly, with joy. Very elaborate preparations had been made for the fiftieth-day ceremonies, but had these envoys not come from Genji they would have been like brocades worn in the night.

The nurse had found the Akashi lady to her liking, a pleasant companion in a gloomy world. Among the women whom the lady’s parents, through family connections, had brought from the city were several of no lower standing than the nurse; but they were all aged, tottering people who could no longer be used at court and who had in effect chanced upon Akashi in their search for a retreat among the crags. The nurse was at her elegant best. She gave this and that account, as her feminine sensibilities led her, of the great world, and she spoke too of Genji and how everyone admired him. The Akashi lady began to think herself important for having had something to do with the little memento he had left behind. The nurse saw Genji’s letter. What extraordinary good fortune the lady did have, she Mad been thinking, and how unlucky she had been herself; and Genji’s inquiries made her feel important too.

The lady’s reply was honest and unaffected.

“The crane is lost on an insignificant isle.

Not even today do you come to seek it out.

“I cannot be sure how long a life darkened by lonely reveries and brightened by occasional messages from outside can be expected to continue, and must beg of you that the child be freed of uncertainty the earliest day possible.”

Genji read the letter over and over again, and sighed.

“The distant boat more distant.” Murasaki looked away as she spoke, as if to herself, and said no more.

“You do make a large thing of it. Myself’ I make no more of it than this: sometimes a picture of that seacoast comes into my mind, and memories come back, and I sigh. You are very attentive, not to miss the sigh.”

He let her see only the address. The hand would have done honor to the proudest lady at court. She could see why the Akashi lady had done so well.

It was sad that his preoccupation with Murasaki had left him no time for the lady of the orange blossoms. There were public affairs as well, and he was now too important to wander about as he would wish. It seemed that all was quiet in that sector, and so he gave little thought to it. Then came the long rains of early summer to lay a pall over things and bring a respite from his duties. He roused himself for a visit.

Though she saw little of him, the lady was completely dependent on him; but she was not of the modern sort, given to outpourings of resent- ment. He knew that she would not make him uncomfortable. Long neglected, her house now wore a weirdly ruinous aspect. As usual, he first looked in on her sister, and late in the night moved on to the lady’s own rooms. He was himself weirdly beautiful in the misty moonlight. She felt very inadequate, but she was waiting for him out near the veranda, in meditative contemplation of the night. Her refusal to let anything upset her was remarkable.

From nearby there came the metallic cry of a water rail.

“Did not this bird come knocking at my door,

What pretext would I find to admit the moon?”

Her soft voice, trailing off into silence, was very pleasing. He sighed, almost wishing it were not the case that each of his ladies had something to recommend her. It made for a most complicated life.

“You respond to the call of every water rail?

You must find yourself admitting peculiar moons.

“I am worried.”

Not of course that he really suspected her of indiscretion. She had waited for him and she was very dear to him.

She reminded him of his farewell admonition not to look at the cloudy moon. “And why,” she said, gently as always, “should I have thought then that I was unhappy? It is no better now.”

He made the usual points (one wondered that they came so effortlessly) as he sought to comfort her.

He had not forgotten the Kyushu Gosechi dancer. He would have liked to see her again, but a clandestine meeting was altogether too difficult to arrange. He dominated her thoughts, so much so that she had turned away all the prospective bridegrooms who interested her father and had decided that she would not marry. Genji’s plans were that once his east lodge had been redone, all cheerfully and pleasantly, he would gather just such ladies there, and, should a child be born who required careful upbringing, ask them to take charge of it. The new house compared very well indeed with the old, for he had assigned officials of intelligence and good taste to the work of remodeling.

He had not forgotten Oborozukiyo. He let her know that that unfortunate event had not stilled his ardor. She had learned her lesson, however, and so for Genji an affair that had never been really successful had become a complete failure.

Life was pleasant for the retired emperor, who had taken up residence in the Suzaku Palace. He had parties and concerts as the seasons went by and was in generally good spirits. Various ladies were still with him. The mother of the crown prince was the exception. Not especially conspicuous among them, she had been no match for Oborozukiyo. Now she had come into her own. She left the emperor’s side to manage the crown prince’s affairs. Genji now occupied his mother’s rooms at the palace. The crown prince was in the Pear Pavilion, which adjoined them, and Genji was his companion and servant.

Though Fujitsubo could not resume her former titles, she was given the emoluments of a retired emperor. She maintained a full household and pursued her religious vocation with solemn grandeur. Factional politics had in recent years made it difficult for her to visit the palace, and she had grieved at not being able to see her son. Now everything was as she would have wished it, and the time had come for Kokiden to be unhappy with the world. Genji was scrupulously attentive to Kokiden’s needs. This fact did nothing to change her feelings towards him, which were the subject of unfriendly criticism.

Prince Hyōbu, Murasaki’s father, had sought during the bad years to please the dominant faction. Genji had not forgotten. Genji’s conduct was on the whole not vengeful, but he was sometimes openly unfriendly to the prince. Fujitsubo saw and was unhappy.

The conduct of public affairs was now divided between Genji and his father-in-law, to pursue as they wished. The ceremonies when Tō no Chūjō‘s daughter entered court in the Eighth Month were magnificent, under the energetic direction of the chancellor himself. It was known that Prince Hyōbu had been putting all his time and wealth into preparing his second daughter for court service. Genji made it clear that the girl was not to be so honored, and what was the prince to do?

In the autumn Genji made a pilgrimage to Sumiyoshi. It was a brilliant progress, in thanks for the granting of his prayers. By the merest chance, it came on the day the Akashi lady had chosen for her own pilgrimage, a semiannual observance which this time had a special purpose, to apologize for her not having been able to present herself the year before or earlier this year. She came by ship. As the ship pulled in, a gorgeous array of offerings was being laid out on the beach. The shrine precincts rang with the shouts of bearers and there were uniformed dancers, all very good-looking.

“And whose party might it be?” asked one of her men.

The very inferior footman to whom the query was made laughed heartily. “You mean there is someone who does not know that the Genji minister has come because of his vows?”

The lady was stunned. To have chosen this day of all days, to be among the distant onlookers — her own inferiority could not have been emphasized more painfully. She was, in spite of it, tied to him by some bond or other, and here were these underlings, completely pleased with themselves, reflecting his glory. Why, because of what crimes and sins, should she, who never ceased thinking of him, have made this journey to Sumiyoshi on this day without catching an echo of it all? She could only turn away and try to hide her sorrow.

Genji’s attendants were numberless, their robes of deep hues and brilliant hues like maple leaves and cherry blossoms against the deep green of the pine groves. Among the courtiers of the Sixth Rank, the yellow-green of the imperial secretariat stood out. The man who had on an earlier day had bitter words for the sacred fence of Kamo was among them. Also holding a guards commission, he had an imposing retinue of his own. Yoshikiyo too was a guards officer. He seemed especially proud of himself, and indeed his scarlet robe was very grand. All the men she had known at Akashi were scattered among the crowds, almost unrecognizable in their finery, the picture of prosperity. The young courtiers had even sought to outdo one another in caparisoning their horses, and for the rustics from Akashi it was a very fine show.

For the lady it was torment to see all the splendor and not to see Genji himself. Like the Kawara minister, he had been granted a special honor guard of page boys, ten of them, all very pretty, of uniform height, and resplendently decked out, the cords that bound up their hair in the page-boy style a most elegant blending from white to deep purple. Yūgiri, whom Genji denied nothing, had put even his stableboys into livery.

The Akashi lady felt as if she were gazing at a realm beyond the clouds. Her own child seemed so utterly insignificant. She bowed to the shrine and prayed more fervently.

The governor of the province came to greet Genji, and no doubt the repast he had made ready was finer than for most ministers.

The lady could bear no more. “If I were to go up with my miserable little offerings, the god would scarcely notice, and would not think I had done much by way of keeping my promises. But the whole trip would be pointless if we were to turn and go home.” She suggested that they put in at Naniwa and there commission lustration ceremonies.

Not dreaming what had happened, Genji passed the night in entertainments sure to please the god. He went beyond all his promises in the novelty and ingenuity of the dances. His nearest retainers, men like Koremitsu, knew how much the god had done for them. As Genji came unannounced from the shrine, Koremitsu handed him a poem:

“These pines of Sumiyoshi make me think

Of days when we were neighbors to this god.”

Very apt, thought Genji.

“Remembering those fearful winds and waves,

Am I to forget the god of Sumiyoshi?

“Yes, it has without question been through his intervention.” There was solemn gratitude in the words.

Genji was greatly upset when Koremitsu told him that a boat had come from Akashi and been turned away by the crowds on the beach. Again the god of Sumiyoshi seemed to be at work. The lady would surely regret having chosen this day. He must at least get off a note. Leaving Sumiyoshi, he made excursions to other famous places in the region and had grand and solemn lustrations performed on the seven strands of Naniwa. “The waves of Naniwa,” he said to himself (though with no real thought, one may imagine, of throwing himself in ) as he looked out over the buoys that marked the Horie channel.

Koremitsu, who was among his mounted attendants, overheard. Always prepared for such an exigency, he took out a short writing brush and handed it to Genji.

A most estimable servant, thought Genji, jotting down a poem on a sheet of paper he had at hand.

“Firm the bond that brings us to Naniwa,

Whose channel buoys invite me to throw myself in.”

Koremitsu sent it to the lady by a messenger who was familiar with the events at Akashi. She wept tears of joy at even so small a favor. A line of horsemen was just then passing by.

This was her reply, to which she tied sacred cords for the lustration at Tamino:

“A lowly one whose place is not to demand,

To what purpose, at Naniwa, should I cast myself in?”

It was evening, and the scene was a lovely one, with the tide flooding in and cranes calling ceaselessly from the shallows. He longed to see her, whatever these crowds might think.

“My sleeves are wet as when I wandered these shores.

The Isle of the Raincoat does not fend off the dews.”

To joyous music, he continued his round of the famous places, but his thoughts were with the Akashi lady.

Women of pleasure were in evidence. It would seem that there were susceptible young men even among the highest ranks. Genji looked resolutely away. It was his view that one should be moved only by adequate forces, and that frivolous claims were to be rejected even in the most ordinary affairs. Their most seductive and studied poses had no effect upon him.

His party moved on. The next day being a propitious one, the Akashi lady made offerings at Sumiyoshi, and so, in keeping with her more modest station, acquitted herself of her vows. The incident had only served to intensify her gloom. A messenger came from Genji even before he could have returned to the city. He meant very shortly to send for her, he said. She was glad, and yet she hesitated, fearing the uncertainties of sailing off beyond the islands to a place she could not call home. Her father too was uneasy. But life in Akashi would be even more difficult than in earlier years. Her reply was obedient but indecisive.

I had forgotten: a new high priestess had been appointed for the Ise Shrine, and the Rokujō lady had returned to the city with her daughter. Genji’s attentions, his inquiries as to her needs, were as always very thorough, but she remembered his coldness in other years and had no wish to call back the old sorrow and regret. She would treat him as a distant friend, no more. For his part, he made no special effort to see her. The truth was that he could not be sure of his own feelings, and his station in life was now such that he could not pursue sundry love affairs as he once had. He had no heart for importuning the lady. He would have liked all the same to see what the years had done to her daughter, the high priestess. The Rokujō house had been kept in good repair. As always, she selected only ladies of the finest taste and endowments to be with her, and the house was once more a literary and artistic salon. Though her life was in many ways lonely, there were ample pleasures and distractions.

Suddenly she fell ill. Troubled by feelings of guilt that she had spent those years in Ise, so remote from the Good Law, she became a nun.

Genji canceled all his appointments and rushed to her side. The old passion had departed, but she had been important to him. His commiserations were endless. She had had a place set out for him near her pillows. Raising herself to an armrest, she essayed her own answers. She seemed very weak, and he wept to think that she might die before he was able to let her know how fond he had been of her. It moved her deeply to think that now, when everything else seemed to be going, he should still care.

She spoke to him of her daughter. “She will have no one to turn to when I am gone. Please do count her among those who are important to you. She has been the unluckiest of girls, poor dear. I am a useless person and I have done her no good, but I tell myself that if my health will only hold out a little longer I may look after her until she is better able to look after herself.” She was weeping, and life did indeed seem to be leaving her.

“You speak as if we might become strangers. It could not have happened, it would have been quite impossible, even if you had not said this to me. I mean to do everything I can for her. You must not worry.”

“It is all so difficult. Even when a girl has a father to whom she can look with complete confidence, the worst thing is to lose her mother. Life can be dreadfully complicated when her guardian is found to have thoughts not becoming a parent. Unfortunate suspicions are sure to arise, and other women will see their chance to be ugly. These are distasteful forebodings, I know. But please do not let anything of the sort come into your relations with her. My life has been an object lesson in uncertainty, and my only hope now is that she be spared it all.”

She need not be quite so outspoken, thought Genji; but he replied calmly enough. “I am a steadier and soberer person than I used to be, and it astonishes me that you still think me a trifler. One of these days the true state of affairs will be apparent even to you.”

It was dark outside her curtains, through which came suggestions of lamplight. Was it just possible? He slid forward and looked through an opening in the curtains. He saw her dimly, leaning against an armrest, so beauriful with her hair cut short that he wished he might ask someone to do her likeness. And the one beyond, to the east of the bed curtains, would be the priestess. Her curtain frames had been pushed casually to one side. She sat chin in hand, in an attitude of utter despondency. Though he could not see her well, she seemed very beautiful. There was great dignity in the flow of her hair down over her shoulders and in the shape of her head, and he could see that, for all the nobility, it was also a winsome and delicate sort of beauty. He felt certain stirrings of the heart, and remembered her mother’s worries.

“I am feeling much worse,” said the lady, “and fear I may be guilty of rudeness if you stay longer.” A woman helped her into bed.

“How happy I would be if this visit might bring some sign of improvement. What exactly is the nature of the illness?”

She had sensed that she was being seen. “I must look like a witch. There is a very strong bond between us — it must be so — that you should have come to me now. I have been able to tell you a little of what has been on my mind, and I am no longer afraid to die.”

“It moves me deeply that you should have thought me worthy. I have many brothers, but I have never felt close to them. My father looked upon the high priestess as one of his daughters, and to me she shall be a sister. I have no daughters of my own. She will fill an emptiness in my life.”

His inquiries were warm and frequent, but a week or so later she died. Aware all over again of the uncertainty of life, Genji gave orders for the funeral and went into retreat. The priestess’s stewards could have seen to them after a fashion, but he was her chief support.

He paid a visit. She replied, through her lady of honor, that she was feeling utterly lost and helpless.

“Your mother spoke about you, and left instructions, and it would be a great satisfaction if I might have your complete confidence.”

Her women found him such a source of strength and comfort that they thought he could be forgiven earlier derelictions.

The services were very grand, with numerous people from Genji’s house to help.

Still in retreat, he sent frequently to inquire after her. When presently she had regained a measure of composure, she sent her own replies. She was far from easy about being in correspondence with him, but her nurse and others insisted that it would be rude to use an intermediary.

It was a day of high winds and driving snow and sleet. He thought how much More miserable the weather must seem to her.

“I can imagine,” he wrote, “what these hostile skies must do to you, and yet —

“From skies of wild, unceasing snow and sleet

Her spirit watches over a house of sorrow.”

He had chosen paper of a cloudy azure, and taken pains with all the details which he thought might interest a young girl.

She was hard put to reply, but her women again insisted that secretaries should have no part in these matters. She finally set down a poem on a richly perfumed gray paper, relying on the somber texture to modulate the shadings of her ink.

“I wish to go, but, blind with tears, am helpless

As snows which were not asked where they would fall.”

It was a calm, reserved hand, not remarkably skilled, but with a pleasantly youthful quality about it and much that told of good breeding. She had had a particular place in his thoughts ever since her departure for Ise, and now of course nothing stood in his way. But, as before, he reconsidered. Her mother had had good reason for her fears, which worried him less, it must be added, than the rumors that were even now going the rounds. He would behave in quite the opposite manner. He would be a model of propriety and parental solicitude, and when the emperor was a little older and better equipped to understand, he would bring her to court. With no daughters on hand to make life interesting, he would look after her as if she were his daughter. He was most attentive to her needs and, choosing his occasions well, sometimes visited her.

“You will think it forward of me to say so, but I would like nothing better than to be thought a substitute for your mother. Every sign that you trust me will please me enormously.”

She was of a very shy and introspective nature, reluctant even to let him hear her voice. Her women were helpless to overcome this extreme reticence. She had in her service several minor princesses whose breeding and taste were such, he was sure, that she need not feel at all uncomfortable or awkward at court. He wanted very much to have a look at her and see whether his plans were well grounded — evidence, perhaps, that his fatherly impulses were not unmixed. He could not himself be sure when his feelings would change, and he let fall no hint of his plans. The princess’s household felt greatly in his debt for his careful attention to the funeral and memorial services.

The days went by in dark procession. Her retainers began to take their leave. Her house, near the lower eastern limits of the city, was in a lonely district of fields and temples where the vesper bells often rang an accompaniment to her sobs. She and her mother had been close as parent and child seldom are. They had not been separated even briefly, and it had been without precedent for a mother to accompany a high priestess to Ise. She would have begged to be taken on this last journey as well, had it been possible.

There were men of various ranks who sought to pay court through her women. Quite as if he were her father, Genji told the women that none of them, not even the nurse, should presume to take matters into her own hands. They were very careful, for they would not want damaging reports to reach the ears of so grand a gentleman.

The Suzaku emperor still had vivid memories of the rites in the Grand Hall upon her departure for Ise, and of a beauty that had seemed almost frightening.

“Have her come to me,” he had said to her mother. “She shall live exactly as my sisters, the high priestess of Kamo and the others.”

But the Rokujō lady had misgivings and managed to evade the august invitation. The Suzaku emperor already had several wellborn consorts, and her daughter would be without strong backing. He was not in good health, moreover, and she feared that to her own misfortune might be added her daughter’s. With the Rokujō lady gone, the priestess’s women were more acutely aware than ever of the need for strong backing. The Suzaku emperor repeated his invitation.

Genji learned of his brother’s hopes. It would be altogether too high-handed to spirit the princess away, and on the other hand Genji would have strong regrets at letting such a beautiful lady go. He decided that he must consult Fujitsubo, the mother of the new emperor.

He told her of all that was troubling him. “Her mother was a careful, thoughtful lady. My loose ways were responsible for all the trouble. I cannot tell you how it hurts me to think that she came to hate me. She died hating me; but as she lay dying she spoke to me about her daughter. Enough had been said about me, I gather, to convince her that I was the one to turn to, and so she controlled her anger and confided in me. The thought of it makes me want to start weeping again. I would find it difficult to ignore such a sad case even if it were not my personal concern, and I want to do all I can to put the poor lady’s soul at rest and persuade her to forgive me. His Majesty is mature for his age, but he is still very young, and I often think how good it would be if he had someone with him who knew a little about the world. But of course the decision must be yours.”

“This is very thoughtful and understanding of you. One does not wish to be unkind to the Suzaku emperor, of course, but perhaps, taking advantage of the Rokujō lady’s instructions, you could pretend to be unaware of his wishes. He seems in any case to have given himself over to his prayers, and such concerns can scarcely matter very much any more. I am sure that you explain the situation to him he will not harbor any deep resentment.”

“If you agree, then, and are kind enough to number her among the acceptable candidates, I shall say a word to her of your decision. I have thought a great deal about her interests and have at length come to the conclusion I have just described to you. The gossips do upset me, of course.”

He would do as she suggested. Pretending to be unaware of the Suzaku emperor’s hopes, he would take the girl into the Nijō mansion.

He told Murasaki of this decision. “And,” he added, “she is just the right age to be a good companion.”

She was delighted. He pushed ahead with his plans.

Fujitsubo was concerned about her brother, Prince Hyōbu, who was in a fever, it seemed, to have his own daughter received at court. He and Genji were not on good terms. What did Genji propose to do in the matter?

Tō no Chūjō‘s daughter, now a royal consort, occupied the Kokiden apartments, and made a good playmate for the emperor. She had been adopted by her grandfather, the chancellor, who denied her nothing. Prince Hyōbu’s daughter was about the same age as the emperor, and Fujitsubo feared that they would make a rather ridiculous couple, as if they were playing house together. She was delighted at the prospect of having an older lady with him, and she said as much. Genji was untiring in his services, advising him in public matters, of course, to the great satisfaction of Fujitsubo, and managing his private life as well. Fujitsubo was ill much of the time. Even when she was at the palace she found it difficult to be with her son as much as she wished. It was quite imperative that he have an older lady to look after him.

Chapter 15

The Wormwood Patch

Genji_emaki_Yomogiu
A scene from the Genji Monogatari Emaki, ca.1130, in the Tokugawa Museum, Nagoya, Japan.

In those days of sea grass steeped in brine, many ladies had lamented Genji’s absence and hoped he would soon be back in the city. For ladies like Murasaki, whose place in his life was secure, there were at least letters (though of course they did not completely deaden the pain) to inform them that he was well. Though he wore the plainer clothes of exile, Murasaki found comfort, in a gloomy world, in making sure that they followed the seasons. There were less fortunate ones whom he had not openly recognized and who, not having seen his departure into exile, could only imagine how it must have been.

The safflower princess had lived a very straitened life after the death of her father, Prince Hitachi. Then had come that windfall. For Genji it had been the merest trifle, but for her, whose sleeves were so pitifully narrow, it was as if all the stars had suddenly fallen into her bowl. And then had come the days when the whole world had seemed to turn against him. Genji did not have time for everyone, and after his removal to distant Suma he did not or could not take the trouble to write. The Princess wept for a time, and lived a loveless and threadbare existence after the tears had dried.

“Some people seem to have done all the wrong things in their other lives,” grumbled one of her old women. “As if he had not been unkind enough already, the Blessed One all of a sudden brings a bit of pleasure — rather more than a bit, actually — and then takes it away again. How nice it was! The way of the world, you might say, that it should all disappear — and a body is expected to go on living.”

Yes, it had been very perverse of the Blessed One. A lady grows used to hunger and deprivation, but when they have been absent for a time they no longer seem like proper and usual conditions. Women who could be useful to her had somehow of their own accord come into her ken, and one by one they went away again; and so, as the months passed, her house was lonelier and lonelier.

Her gardens, never well tended, now offered ample cover for foxes and other sinister creatures, and owls hooted in unpruned groves morning and night. Tree spirits are shy of crowds, but when people go away they come forward as if claiming sovereignty. Frightening apparitions were numberless.

“Really, my lady, we cannot go on this way,” said one of the few women who still remained with her. “There are governors of this and that province who have a taste for old parks and who have set their eyes on these woods and grounds and asked through neighbors if you might not be persuaded to let them go. Please, my lady, do consider selling. Do let us move to a place where we need not be constantly looking over our shoulders. We have stayed with you, but we cannot be sure how much longer we will be able to.”

“You must not say such things. What will people think? Can you really believe that I would sell Father’s house? I agree with you that we have not kept it up very well, and sometimes I find myself looking over my shoulder too. But it is home for me and it was home for Father and I somehow feel that he is still here.” She wept and refused to listen.

The furnishings were old but of the finest workmanship, exactly the sort that collectors like best. Word got out that this and that piece was by this and that master, and the collectors were sure that the impoverished Hitachi house would be an easy target.

“But, my lady, everyone does it. Why should we pretend to be different?” When their lady was not looking, they sought to make their own accommodations.

She was very angry when she detected what was happening. “Father had them made for us and no one else. How can you dream of having those awful people paw at them? It would kill me to think he might be watching.”

There was no one now to whom she might turn for help. It is true that her older brother, a monk, would stop by when he chanced to be in the city; but he had no part in practical or elegant affairs. Even among his colleagues he had a name for saintly unworldliness. He did not seem to notice that the wormwood was asking to be cut back. The rushes were so thick that one could not be sure whether they grew from land or water. Wormwood touched the eaves, bindweed had firmly barred the gates. This last fact would perhaps have given comfortable feelings of security had it not been for the fact that horses and cattle had knocked over the fences and worn paths inside. Still more impolite were the boys who in spring and summer deliberately drove their herds through. In the Eighth Month one year a particularly savage typhoon blew down all the galleries and stripped the servants’ quarters to bare frames, and so the servants left. No smoke rose from the kitchen. Things had, in a word, come to a sorry pass. A glance at the brambles convinced robbers that the place was not worth looking into. But the furnishings and decorations in the main hall were as they had always been. There was no one to clean and polish them, of course; but if the lady lived among mountains of dust it was elegant and orderly dust.

She might have beguiled the loneliness of her days with old songs and poems, but she really did not have much feeling for such things. It is usual for young ladies who, though not remarkably subtle, have time on their hands to find amusement through the passing seasons in exchanging little notes and poems with kindred spirits; but, faithful to the principles by which her father had reared her, she did not welcome familiarity, and remained aloof even from people who might have enjoyed an occasional note. Sometimes she would open a scarred bookcase and take out an illustrated copy of The Bat, The Lady Recluse, or The Bamboo Cutter.

Old poems bring pleasure when they are selected with taste and discrimination, with fine attention to author and occasion and import; but there can be little to interest anyone in random, hackneyed poems set down on yellowing business paper or portentously furrowed Michinoku. Yet it was just such collections that she would browse through when the loneliness and the gloom were too much for her. The sacred texts and rites to which most recluses turn intimidated her, and as for rosaries, she would not have wished, had there been anyone to see, to be seen with one. It was a very undecorated life she lived.

Only Jijū, her old nurse’s daughter, was unable to leave. The high priestess of Kamo, whose house she had frequented, was no longer living, and life was very difficult and uncertain.

There was a lady, the princess’s maternal aunt, who had fallen in the world and married a provincial governor. She was devoted to her daughters, into whose service she had brought numbers of not at all contemptible women. Jijū occasionally went to visit, for after all a house so close to her family was more inviting than a house of strangers.

The princess, of an extremely shy and retiring nature, had never warmed to her aunt, and there had been some petulance on the part of the latter.

“I know that my sister thought me a disgrace to the family,” she would say; “and that is why, though I feel very sorry indeed for your lady, I am able to offer neither help nor sympathy.”

She did, however, write from time to rime.

The sons and daughters of provincial governors are sometimes nobler than the high nobility, as they imitate their betters; and a child of the high nobility can sometimes sink to a lamentable commonness. So it was with the aunt, a drab, vulgar sort of person. She herself had come to be looked down upon, and now that her sister’s house was in ruins she would have loved to hire her niece as governess. The princess was rather old-fashioned, it was true, but she could be depended upon.

“Do come and see us occasionally,” wrote the aunt. “There are several people here who long to hear your koto.”

Jijū kept at her lady to accept the invitarion; but, less from any wish to resist than from extreme and incurable shyness, the princess remained aloof, and the aunt’s resentment unalloyed.

Her husband was presently appointed assistant viceroy of Kyushu. Making suitable arrangements for her daughters, she set off with him for his new post.

She was eager to take her niece along. “I will be very far away,” she would say, always plausibly. “I have not inquired after you as frequently as I would have wished, but I have had the comfort of knowing you are near, and I do hate to leave you behind.”

She was noisily angry when the princess refused again. “A most unpleasant person. She has made up her mind that she is better than the rest of us. Well, I doubt that the Genji general will come courring the princess of the wormwood patch.”

And then the court was astir with the news that Genji would return to the city. The competition was intense, in high places and low, to demonstrate complete and unswerving loyalty. Genji learned a great deal about human nature. In these busy, unsettled times he apparently did not think of the safflower princess. It was the end of all hope, she thought. She had grieved for him in his misfortune and prayed that happy spring would come. Now all the clods in the land were rejoicing, and she heard of all the joy from afar, as if he were a stranger. She had asked herself, in the worst days, whether some change had perhaps been wrought by herself upon the world. It had all been to no purpose. Sometimes, when she was alone, she wept aloud.

The aunt thought her a proper fool. It was just as she had said it would be. Could anyone possibly pay court to a person who lived such a beggarly existence, indeed such a ridiculous existence? It is said that the Blessed One bestows his benign grace upon those who are without sin — and here the princess was, quite unapologetic, pretending that matters were as they had been while her royal father and her good mother lived. It was rather sad, really.

The aunt sent another plausible note. “Please do make up your mind and come with us. The poet said that in bad times a person wants a trip to the mountains. Nothing very dreadful is going to happen to you if you come with us.”

The princess was the despair of her women. “Why will she not listen? She doesn’t know which way to turn, and yet she manages to go on being stubborn. How can you account for it?”

Jijū had been successfully wooed by a nephew, perhaps it was, of the new assistant viceroy. Her bridegroom would not dream of leaving her, and so, reluctantly, she determined to go. She pleaded with her lady to go too. It would be a terrible worry, she said, if her lady were to stay behind all alone. But the princess still put her faith in Genji, who had neglected her for so long. The years might pass, she told herself, but the day would come when he would remember her. He had made such affectionate, earnest promises, and though it now seemed her fate to have been forgotten, it would not always be so. He would one day have, upon some wind, tidings of her, and when he did he would come to her. So she had made her way through the weeks and months. Though her mansion fell into deeper ruin, she resolutely clung to her treasures, and insisted on living as she always had. The world seemed darker and darker, and she wept and wept, and her nose was as if someone had affixed a bright berry to it. As for her profile, only someone with more than ordinary affection for her could have borne to look at it. But I shall not go into the details. I am a charitable person, and would not wish for the world to seem malicious.

Winter came and the days passed in forlorn procession. The lady had literally nothing to cling to. Genji commissioned a reading of the Lotus Sutra which was the talk of the court. Making it known that he would have no ordinary clerics among the officiants, he summoned venerable and erudite sages who could be counted on to know what to do. Among them was the brother of the safflower princess.

On his return to the monastery he came by to see his sister. “It was all very grand, so lavish and in such impeccable taste that it made one think that the Pure Land had come down to this world. Genji must be an incarnation of a Blessed One or perhaps a messiah even. How can such a man have been born into this world of sin and corruption?” And he was on his way.

They were an unusually taciturn brother and sister, unable to exchange the most idle remarks. Yet his words had made an impression. A Blessed One, a messiah, indeed! A fine messiah, taking no notice at all of her misery and peril. She understood at last. She would never see him again.

The aunt came busily in upon the worst of the gloom. Although she had not been close to the princess, she came laden with gifts, hoping that even now she might lure the princess off to the provinces. Her carriage a grand one, she came quite without forewarning, obviously satisfied with the course her career was taking. She was shocked at the desolation that lay before her. The gates were coming unhinged and leaning precariously, and resisted all the grunting efforts to open them. Even the “three paths” had disappeared in the undergrowth. The carriage forced its way to a raised shutter at the south front. The princess, though offended, had Jijū receive the visitor from behind yellowing curtains. The years were catching up with Jijū. She was thin and dispirited. She still retained enough of her old elegance, however, that the aunt, inappropriate though it would of course have been to say so, would have preferred having her for a niece.

“So I am off, and I must leave you to this. I have come for Jijū. I know that you dislike me and would not consider making a trip around the corner with me, but perhaps you might at least permit me to have Jijū. You poor thing, how can you stand it?” She was trying very hard to weep, but the triumphant smile of the assistant viceroy’s wife was not very well hidden.” To the end of his days your royal father looked upon me as a disgrace to the family. But I do not hold grudges, and so here I am. Thanks to Genji there was a time when you might have hoped to go on living like a princess. I would not have dreamed of trying to insinuate my way into your royal presence. But these things pass. Sometimes the underdog wins. The mighty sometimes fall, and a person does after all have to feel sorry for them. I have not been very diligent about keeping in touch, I know, but I have had the comforting knowledge that you are near. Now I am going off to the provinces. I can hardly bear to think of leaving you all alone.”

The princess offered a few stiff words in reply.” It is kind of you to have invited me. I fear that I would not be good company. I shall stay where I am, thank you very much, and that will be that.”

“No doubt. I do have to admire you. Not everyone would have the courage. I am sure Genji could make this place over into a gleaming palace in a minute if he chose to. But they tell me he finds time these days for Prince Hyōbu’s daughter and no one else. He has always had an eye for the ladies, I’m told, but they come and they go, and the ones that used to please him don’t any more. Do you think he will be grateful to you for watching over the wormwood?”

The princess was in tears. Though the aunt was right, of course, she spent a whole day in futile argument. “Well, let me have Jijū then.” It was evening, and she was in a hurry to be off.

Forced at last to take a stand, Jijū was weeping copiously. “I will just see your aunt on her way, then, my lady, as she has urged me to. I think that what she says is quite true,” she added in a whisper, “and at the same time I think it quite understandable that you cannot find it in yourself to agree. I am put in a very difficult position.”

So Jijū too was leaving. The princess could only weep. The everyday robes she might have offered as farewell presents were yellow and stained. And what else was there, what token of her gratitude for long years of service? She remembered that she had collected her own hair as it had fallen, rather wonderful, ten feet or so long. She now put it into a beautifully fabricated box, and with it a jar of old incense.

“I had counted upon them not to slacken or give,

These jeweled strands — and far off now they are borne.

“I am a useless person, I know, but there were your mama’s last instructions, and I had thought you would stay with me.” She was weeping bitterly. “You must go, of course. And what am I to do without you?”

Jijū could scarcely reply. “Yes, of course, there was Mama. Don’t, please, remind me of her, my lady. We have been through a great deal together, and I am not asking them to take me away from you. “The jeweled strands may snap, but I swear by the gods,

The gods of the road, that I will not cast them off. Though I cannot of course be sure how long I shall live.”

Meanwhile the aunt was grumbling. “Can’t you hurry just a little? It’s getting dark.”

In a daze, Jijū was urged into the carriage. She looked back and looked back again as it pulled away.

The princess was lonelier than ever. She had said goodbye to the last of them. Jijū had not left her side through all the difficult years.

“She was quite right to go. How could she have stayed? It is getting to be more than we ourselves can stand.” Even old women whose remaining task was to die were looking for better positions.

The princess only hoped that no one heard their complaining.

There was a great deal of snow and sleet as winter came. In other gardens it melted, but in hers there were weeds to Protect it, until presently one was reminded of White Mountain in Etchū. The princess gazed out at a garden without gardeners. The last friend with whom she could exchange an occasional pleasantry had left her. She passed lonely days and nights in a dusty boudoir.

Genji, having been away for so long, was completely occupied at Nijō. He had no time to visit ladies of lesser importance. He did from time to time think of the safflower princess and wonder whether she would still be among the living. He had no great wish to seek her out, however; and so the year came to an end.

In the Fourth Month he thought of the lady of the orange blossoms. Telling Murasaki that he had an errand to do, he slipped out of the Nijō house. A light rain was falling, the end of several days’ rain. The moon came out just as the clouds were breaking. He was sunk in thoughts of other secret expeditions as he made his way through the soft evening moonlight. He passed a house so utterly ruinous, a garden so rank, that he almost wondered whether human beings had ever broken the wild forest. Wisteria blossoms, trailing from a giant pine, waved gently in the moon-light. The breeze brought in a vague, nostalgic perfume, similar to but somehow different from orange blossoms. He leaned from his carriage. Without support from the crumbling earthen wall, the branches of a willow dropped to the ground in great disorder. He had been here before. Yes — Prince Hitachi’s mansion. He had his carriage stopped, and inquired of Koremitsu, who was always with him on these expeditions, whether it was indeed Prince Hitachi’s.

“It is, my lord.”

“What an awful time the poor princess was having. I wonder if she still lives here. I had been thinking about her, but you know what people would say if I tried to see her. An opportunity it would be wrong to let pass. Go inside, please, and ask. But be very sure of yourself before you do. We would look very silly if we found ourselves with the wrong person.”

Though he did not know it, he had chosen a moment of heightened feeling. She had been napping and she had dreamed of her father. Afterwards, as if on his order, she set someone to mopping the rainwater that had leaked into a penthouse, and someone else to rearranging cushions, and in general it seemed as if she had resumed housekeeping.

“My sleeves still wet from tears for him who died

Are wetter yet from rain through ruined eaves.”

It was just at this moment. Koremitsu was wandering about seeking traces of human occupancy. He found none. He had passed the house on earlier occasions and looked in. It had seemed quite deserted. The moon burst forth brightly as he turned to leave. He saw that a pair of shutters was raised and a blind was moving slightly. Though this first sign of life was a little frightening, he approached and cleared his throat to announce his presence.

After a cough, a fearfully aged voice replied: “Who is that out there? Who are you?”

Koremitsu identified himself. “I would like to speak to Jijū, please, if I may.

“Jijū‘s gone away and left us. But there’s someone here you might call just the same as Jijū.” The voice was a very, very ancient one. He thought he had heard it before.

Suddenly, without warning, from nowhere, a gentleman in travel dress, to all appearances courteous and civil. No longer accustomed to receiving visitors, the old woman wondered if it might be a fox or some equally perverse and mischievous creature.

He came nearer. “I must beg to be told exactly how things are with you. If your lady has not changed, then my lord’s wishes to call upon her have not changed either. He found that he could not pass you by, and had his carriage stopped outside. What shall I tell him? You have nothing to be afraid of.”

There was uncertain laughter, and a woman answered haltingly: “Do you think that if she had changed she would not have moved away from this jungle? Please imagine for yourself, sir, the situation of which you inquire, and report it to your lord. We who should be used to it by now think it most extraordinary. We ask ourselves how many other examples there can possibly be in the whole world.”

“I see. I will tell him.” Fearing he might have a longer answer than he wished, Koremitsu returned to Genji’s carriage.

“You took your time,” said Genji. “And what did you find? You must have had to cut away a great deal of underbrush to find anything.”

Koremitsu described the search that had taken him so long. “I spoke to Jijū‘s aunt, the old lady called Shōshō. I would have recognized her voiceanywhere.”

“What a way to live.” Genji was sorry he had so neglected his safflower. “What shall I do? It has been a very long time. These secret travels are not easy for me, and if I let this opportunity pass there is not likely to be another. If she hasn’t changed-?”

It seemed rather inelegant just to walk in. He would have liked to send in a clever note. But he remembered how slow she was with her answers. Unless she had gained momentum Koremitsu might expect to be kept waiting all night.

“It is very wet, sir. Suppose you wait until I have shaken a little of it away.”

“Myself will I break a path through towering weeds

And ask: does a constant spirit dwell within?”

Genji spoke as if to himself, and despite Koremitsu’s warnings got from his carriage.

Koremitsu beat at the grass with a horsewhip. The drops from the trees were like a chilly autumn shower.

“I have an umbrella,” said Koremitsu. “Tbese groves shed the most fearful torrents.”

Genji’s feet and ankles were soaking. Even in the old days the passage through the south gallery had been more obstacle than passage. Now the gallery had caved in, and Genji’s entry was a most ungraceful one. He was glad there were no witnesses.

Having waited so long, clinging to the hope that he would come someday, the princess was of course delighted. Yet she regretted that he must see her in these circumstances. The various robes that were gifts from the assistant viceroy’s wife had been put aside, for she did not like the giver. The old women had put them in a scented Chinese chest. Now they came out again, pleasantly scented. The princess let herself be dressed and received Genji from behind the yellow curtains of the last interview with her aunt.

“Although we have seen so little of each other,” said Genji, “I have not ceased to think of you all this time. I have waited impatiently for some sign that you too still care. Although I did not detect any welcoming cedars this evening, I did somehow feel these groves pulling at me. And so you have won the game.”

He pushed the curtain slightly aside. She was as shy and withdrawn as ever, he could see, and she was not immediately able to answer. Finally, impressed that he should have made his way through the undergrowth, she gathered courage for a few tentative syllables.

“I can imagine that it has been uncommonly difficult for you these last few years,” said Genji. “I myself seem incapable of changing and forgetting, and it would interest me to know how it strikes you that I should have come swimming through these grasses, with no idea at all whether you yourself might have changed. Perhaps I may ask you to forgive the neglect. I have neglected everyone, not only you. I shall consider myself guilty of breach of promise if I ever again do anything to displease you.”

The warmly affectionate utterances came forth in far larger numbers than he had any real feeling for. Everything urged against spending the night here. Having made excuses, he was about to leave. The pine tree was not one which he himself had planted, but someone had planted it, many years ago — years that seemed like a dream.

“I obey the waving summons of wisteria

Because it flows, at your gate, from the waiting tree.

“Yes, it has been many years. Things have changed, not always for the better. Someday I must tell you of my struggles with the fisherman’s net and the angler’s line. Another thing that seems strange, now that I think of it, is my complete confidence that you would refuse to tell anyone else the story of your unhappy springs and autumns.”

“I have waited and waited, to no avail, it seems.

Wisteria, not the waiting pine, has brought you.”

The faint stirring behind the curtains, the faint perfume that came to him from her sleeves, made him feel that she had perhaps improved a little with age. The setting moon streamed unobstructed through the open doors, both the gallery and the eaves having collapsed. He could see to the farthest corners of the room. The furnishings which she kept as they had always been made it seem a much finer house than the roof sagging under the weight of ferns would have led him to imagine. She was very unlike — and the contrast was touching — the princess in the old romance who destroyed the tower. Her stoicism in the face of poverty gave her a certain dignity. It had made her worth remembering. He hated to think of his own selfishness through the years.

Nor could the lady of the orange blossoms have been described as a bright, lively, modern sort. The difference between the two ladies, indeed, as he saw them in quick succession, did not seem very great; and the safflower princess’s defects were minimized.

Gifts always poured in as the Kamo festival approached. He dis tributed them among his several ladies as seemed appropriate, taking care this time that Prince Hitachi’s mansion was not slighted. He set stewards and artisans who had his confidence to replacing the decayed earthen walls with a sturdy wooden fence. Genji himself stayed away, fearing derisive rumors about his diligence in having searched her out. He sent many an earnest and affectionate note, however. He was remodeling a house very near his own Nijō mansion, he said, and he thought she might wish to move into it. Perhaps she could be thinking about presentable maids and footmen and the like. The wormwood patch now seemed to choke with gratitude. Looking off in Genji’s direction, the Hitachi household offered thanks.

People had always said that Genji chose superior women to spend even a single night with. It was very odd: everything suggested that the Hitachi princess in no respect even rose to mediocrity. What could explain it? A bond tied in a former life, no doubt.

Most of the princess’s women, whatever their stations in life, had dismissed her as beyond redemption and scrambled over one another in search of better places. Now the direction of the scramble was reversed. The princess, gentle and retiring to a fault, had spoiled them. Life in the service of provincial governors was unpleasantly different from what she had accustomed them to. A certain crassness was apparent in the haste with which they returned.

Ever more prosperous and powerful, Genji was more thoughtful as well. His instructions had been very detailed, and the princess’s mansion came back to life. People were seen at the gates and in the garden, the brook was cleared, the wormwood was cut away so that breezes passed once more. Among Genji’s lesser stewards were men who had not yet succeeded in catching his eye. He seemed to care about the Hitachi place. It offered the opportunity they had been looking for.

The princess stayed there for two years, after which he moved her to the east lodge at Nijō. Now he could visit her in the course of ordinary business. It could no longer be said that he treated her badly.

Though no one has asked me to do so, I should like to describe the surprise of the assistant viceroy’s wife at this turn of events, and Jijū‘s pleasure and guilt. But it would be a bother and my head is aching; and perhaps — these things do happen, they say — something will someday remind me to continue the story.

Chapter 16

The Gatehouse

Genji_emaki_sekiya
A scene from the Genji Monogatari Emaki, ca.1130, in the Tokugawa Museum, Nagoya, Japan.

The vice-governor of Iyo had the year after the death of Genji’s father become vice-governor of Hitachi. His wife, the lady of the locust she11, had gone with him to his post. In that distant part of the realm she heard of Genji’s exile. One is not to imagine that she was unconcerned, but she had no way of writing to him. The winds blowing down over Tsukuba were not to be trusted, it seemed, and reports from the city were few; and so the months and years went by. Although the period of his exile had not been fixed, he did finally return to the city. A year later the vice-governor of Hitachi also returned to the city.

It happened that on the day the Hitachi party came to Osaka barrier, Genji had set off on a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Ishiyama. The former governor of Kii and others had come from the city to meet the Hitachi party. They brought news of Genji’s excursion. Thinking how enormous the confusion was likely to be if the two parties met, the vice-governor set out at dawn. The women’s carriages moved slowly, however, and soon the sun was high. As they reached Uchidenohama, on the coast of Lake Biwa, Genji’s outrunners were already clearing the road. He himself was just entering the hills east of the city, they said. The vice-governor pulled his carriages in under the cedars at the top of the barrier rise. Unhitching the oxen, the coachmen knelt respectfully for Genji to pass. Though spaced at intervals along the road, the Hitachi procession was impressive. The ladies, sleeves and skirts protruding gaily from the blinds of perhaps ten of the carriages seemed not at all frowsy or countrified. Genji thought of the carriages awaiting the high priestess’s departure for Ise. In wave upon wave, his attendants turned to admire the sleeves and skirts.

It being the end of the Ninth Month, the autumn leaves, some crimson and some but gently tinted, and the grasses and flowers touched lightly by the frost were very beautiful indeed; and Genji’s men, pouring past the gatehouse in travel livery, damasks and dappled prints, added yet more color His blinds lowered, Genji sent for Kogimi, the lady’s brother, now a guards officer.

“See, I have come all the way to the barrier. Should this not tell her something?”

Affectionate memories came flooding back, but he had to make do with this most ordinary of greetings.

The lady too was assailed by memories, of events which she had kept to herself all these years.

“It flowed as I went, it flows as I return,

The steady crystal spring at the barrier rise.”

There was no point in trying to explain what she meant.

Kogimi went out to meet Genji on the return from Ishiyama and to apologize for not having stayed with him that earlier day. He had been a favorite with Genji, whose patronage had seen him as far as the Fifth Rank. Fearing at the time of Genji’s exile that the association would be damaging, he had gone off to Hitachi with his sister and brother-in-law. If, in the years since, Genji had been somewhat less fond of him, there was no sign of that fact in his behavior now. Though things could not be quite the same again, of course, Genji still thought the youth rather promising. The governor of Kii had since become governor of Kawachi. His younger brother, a guards officer, had been stripped of his commission and had gone into exile with Genji, and now he was being richly rewarded. Regret was usual among those who in those difficult days had given way to the pressures of the times.

Genji gave Kogimi a message for his sister. How very attentive he was to these details, thought Kogimi, when no one need have been surprised if he had forgotten everything.

“I wonder if it occurred to you the other day,” said Genji’s note, “how strong a bond there must be between us.

“By chance we met, beside the gate of meeting.

A pity its fresh waters should be so sterile.

“How I envy the occupant of the gatehouse. It all comes back, after years of silence. I have a way of looking back upon things of long ago as if they were of this very moment. Will you once again accuse me of promiscuity?”

The youth respectfully undertook to deliver it. “I do think you should let him have an answer,” he said to his sister. “I would not have been surprised if he had shown a certain hostility, but he was as civil and polite as ever. I could not have been more grateful. It does a man no good to be an intermediary in these matters, but I could not say no to him. You are a woman, and no one will reprove you, I think, if you concede a point and answer him.”

The lady had become more reticent with the years, but she was unable to ignore so remarkable a message.

“The gate of meeting, atop the barrier rise,

Is shaded by impassable wailing groves.

“It is all like a dream.”

Touching things, annoying things, Genji could forget none of them. From time to time he got off notes to the lady which he hoped would interest and excite her.

Now an old man, her husband was ill much of the time. He talked of her to his sons.

“Please, I beseech you, do not refuse her anything. Treat her exactly as if I were still alive.” No hour of the day passed without his renewing the plea.

She had not been lucky, thought the lady, and if now she were left a widow, what sort of ruin might lie ahead? He knew what she was thinking; but life is not ours to cling to as we will, however strong the determination. If only he could send an angel down to watch over her! They were his sons, but his confidence in them was far from complete. He continued to hand down injunctions and to worry; and then, for all his will to live, he was dead.

For a time the sons seemed to honor his last wishes. The appearance of affection and concern was superficial, however, a fact which circumstances were quick enough to establish. It was the way of the world, and though she lamented her misfortune she did not complain. The governor of Kawachi, always an amorous sort, showed an extra measure of solicitude.

“Father spoke of you so constantly,” he would say. “You must not feel shy about asking me for things. Ask me for anything, useless though you may find me.”

His intentions were apparent, and shocking to so proper a lady. She could not think, were she to go on as she was, what tangles she might find herself enmeshed in. Her mind was made up. Consulting no one, she became a nun.

Her women were of course upset, and the governor was somewhat disappointed, and discommoded that she should have found him so little to her liking. He wondered how she meant to make her way through the long years ahead.

Not that the problem was his to worry about.

Chapter 17

a Picture Contest

Fujitsubo was most eager that Akikonomu, the former high priestess of Ise, be received at court. Genji knew that Akikonomu had no strong and reliable backer but, not wanting to alienate the Suzaku emperor, had decided not to bring her to Nijō. Making every effort to appear withdrawn and impartial, he took general responsibility for the proceedings and stood in the place of the girl’s father.

The Suzaku emperor knew of course that it would not do to write to her of his disappointment. On the day of her presentation at court he sent magnificent robes and other gifts as well, wonderfully wrought cases and vanity chests and incense coffers, and incomparable incenses and sachets, so remarkable that they could be detected even beyond the legendary hundred paces. It may have been that the very special attention he gave to his gifts had to do with the fact that Genji would see them.

Akikonomu’s lady of honor showed them to Genji. He took up a comb box of the most remarkable workmanship, endlessly fascinating in its detail. Among the rosettes on the box of decorative combs was a poem in the Suzaku emperor’s own hand:

“I gave you combs and sent you far away.

The god now sends me far away from you?”

Genji almost felt as if he were guilty of sacrilege and blasphemy. From his own way of letting his emotions run wild, he could imagine Suzaku’s feelings when the priestess had departed for Ise, and his disappointment when, after years of waiting, she had returned to the city and everything had seemed in order, and this new obstacle had intervened. Would bitterness and resentment mar the serenity of his retirement? Genji knew that he himself would have been very much upset indeed. And it was he who had brought Akikonomu to the new emperor at the cost of hurting the retired emperor. There had been a time, of course, when he had felt bitter and angry at Suzaku; but he had known through it all that his brother was of a gentle, sensitive nature. He sat lost in thought.

“And how does she mean to answer? Have there been other letters? What have they said?”

But the lady of honor showed no disposition to let him see them.

Akikonomu was not feeling well and would have preferred not to answer.

“But you must, my lady.” Genji could hear the discussion through blinds and curtains. “You know that you owe him a little respect.”

“They are quite right,” said Genji. “It will not do at all. You must let him have something, if only a line or two.”

Though the inclination not to answer was very strong, Akikonomu remembered her departure for Ise. Gently, softly handsome, the emperor had wept that she must leave. Though only a child, she had been deeply touched. And she remembered her dead mother, then and on other occasions. This (and only this?) was the poem which she nally set down:

“Long ago, one word you said: Away!

Sorry now am I that I paid no heed.”

She rewarded Suzaku’s messenger lavishly. Genji would have liked to see her reply, but could hardly say so. He was genuinely troubled. Suzaku was so handsome a man that one could imagine falling in love with him were he a woman, and Akikonomu was by no means an ill match for him. Indeed they would have been a perfect couple. And the present emperor was still a boy. Genji wondered whether Akikonomu herself might not feel uneasy at so incongruous a match. But it was too late now to halt the proceedings.

He gave careful instructions to the superintendent of palace repairs. Not wishing the Suzaku emperor to think that he was managing the girl’s affairs, he paid only a brief courtesy call upon her arrival at court. She had always been surrounded by gifted and accomplished women, and now that the ones who had gone home were back with her she had easily the finest retinue at court. Genji thought of the Rokujō lady, her dead mother. With what feelings of pride would she now be overseeing her daughter’s affairs! He would have thought her death a great loss even if he had not loved her. She had had few rivals. Her tastes had been genuinely superior, and she was much in his thoughts these days.

Fujitsubo was also at court. The emperor had heard that a fine new lady had arrived, and his eagerness was most charming.

“Yes, she is splendid,” said his mother. “You must be on your best behavior when you meet her.”

He feared that a lady of such advanced years might not be easy to talk to. It was late in the night when she made her appearance. She was small and delicately molded, and she seemed quiet and very much in control of herself, and in general made a very good impression on the emperor. His favorite companion was Tō no Chūjō‘s little daughter, who occupied the Kokiden apartments. The new arrival, so calm and self-possessed, did make him feel on the defensive, and then Genji behaved towards her with such solemnity that the emperor was lured into rather solemn devoirs. Though he distributed his nights impartially between the two ladies, he preferred the Kokiden apartments for diurnal amusements. Tō no Chūjō had ambitious plans for his daughter and was worried about this new competitor.

The Suzaku emperor had difficulty resigning himself to what had happened. Genji came calling one day and they had a long and affectionate talk. The Suzaku emperor, who had more than once spoken to Genji of the priestess’s departure for Ise, mentioned it again, though somewhat circum- spectly. Genji gave no open indication that he knew what had happened, but he did discuss it in a manner which he hoped would elicit further remarks from his brother. It was clear that the Suzaku emperor had not ceased to love the girl, and Genji was very sorry for him indeed. He knew and regretted that he could not see for himself the beauty which seemed to have such a powerful effect upon everyone who did see it. Akikonomu permitted not the briefest glimpse. And so of course he was fascinated. He saw enough to convince him that she must be very near perfection.

The emperor had two ladies and there was no room for a third. Prince Hyōbu’s plans for sending his daughter to court had foundered. He could only hope that as the emperor grew older he would be in a more receptive mood.

The emperor loved art more than anything else. He loved to look at paintings and he painted beautifully. Akikonomu was also an accomplished artist. He went more and more frequently to her apartments, where the two of them would paint for each other. His favorites among the young courtiers were painters and students of painting. It delighted him to watch this new lady, so beautiful and so elegant, casually sketching a scene, now and again pulling back to think the matter over. He liked her much better now.

Tō no Chūjō kept himself well informed. A man of affairs who had strong competitive instincts, he was determined not to lose this competition. He assembled master painters and he told them exactly what he wanted, and gave them the best materials to work with. Of the opinion that illustrations for the works of established authors could always be counted on, he chose his favorites and set his painters to illustrating them. He also commissioned paintings of the seasons and showed considerable flair with the captions. The emperor liked them all and wanted to share his pleasure with Akikonomu; but Tō no Chūjō objected. The paintings were not to leave the Kokiden apartments.

Genji smiled. “He was that way when he was a boy, and in many ways he still is a boy. I do not think it a very deft way to manage His Majesty. I’ll send off my whole collection and let him do with it as he pleases.”

All the chests and bookcases at Nijō were ransacked for old paintings and new, and Genji and Murasaki sorted out the ones that best suited current fancies. There were interesting and moving pictures of those sad Chinese ladies Yang Kuei-fei and Wang Chao-chün. Genji feared, however, that the subjects were inauspicious.

Thinking this a good occasion to show them to Murasaki, he took out the sketchbooks and journals of his exile. Any moderately sensitive lady would have found tears coming to her eyes. For Murasaki those days had been unrelieved pain, not easily forgotten. Why, she asked, had he not let her see them before?

“Better to see these strands where the fishermen dwell

Than far away to weep, all, all alone.

“I think the uncertainty might have been less cruel.”

It was true.

“Now more than in those painful days I weep

As tracings of them bring them back to me.”

He must let Fujitsubo see them. Choosing the more presentable scrolls, the ones in which life upon those shores came forward most vividly, he could almost feel that he was back at Akashi once more.

Hearing of Genji’s activities, Tō no Chūjō redoubled his own efforts. He quite outdid himself with all the accessories, spindles and mountings and cords and the like. It was now the middle of the Third Month, a time of soft, delicious air, when everyone somehow seemed happy and at peace. It was also a quiet time at court, when people had leisure for these avocations. Tō no Chūjō saw a chance to bring the young emperor to new raptures. He would offer his collection for the royal review.

Both in the Kokiden apartments and in Akikonomu’s Plum Pavilion there were paintings in endless variety. Illustrations for old romances seemed to interest both painter and viewer. Akikonomu rather preferred secure and established classics, while the Kokiden girl chose the romances that were the rage of the day. To the casual observer it might have seemed perhaps that her collection was the brighter and the more stylish. Connoisseurs among the court ladies had made the appraisal of art their principal work.

Fujitsubo was among them. She had had no trouble giving up most pleasures, but a fondness for art had refused to be shaken off. Listening to the aesthetic debates, she hit upon an idea: the ladies must divide into two sides.

On the left was the Plum Pavilion or Akikonomu faction, led by Heinaishinosuke, Jijū no Naishi, and Shōshō no Myōbu; and in the right or Kokiden faction, Daini no Naishinosuke, Chūjō no Myōbu, and Hyōe no Myōbu. Fujitsubo listened with great interest as each gave forth with her opinions.

The first match was between an illustration for The Bamboo Cutter, the ancestor of all romances, and a scene centering upon Toshikage from The Tale of the Hollow Tree.

From the left came this view: “The story has been with us for a very long time, as familiar as the bamboo growing before us, joint upon joint. There is not much in it that is likely to take us by surprise. Yet the moon princess did avoid sullying herself with the affairs of this world, and her proud fate took her back to the far heavens; and so perhaps we must accept something august and godly in it, far beyond the reach of silly, superficial women.”

And this from the right: “It may be as you say, that she returned to a realm beyond our sight and so beyond our understanding. But this too must be said: that in our world she lived in a stalk of bamboo, which fact suggests rather dubious lineage. She exuded a radiance, we are told, which flooded her stepfather’s house with light; but what is that to the light which suffuses these many-fenced halls and pavilions? Lord Abe threw away a thousand pieces of gold and another thousand in a desperate at mpt to purchase the fire rat’s skin, and in an instant it was up in flames — a rather disappointing conclusion. Nor is it very edifying, really, that Prince Kuramochi, who should have known how well informed the princess was in these matters, should have forged a jeweled branch and so made of himself a forgery too.”

The Bamboo Cutter illustration, by Kose no Omi with a caption by Ki no Tsurayuki, was mounted on cerise and had a spindle of sandalwood — rather uninteresring, ill in all.

“Now let us look at the other. Toshikage was battered by tempests and waves and swept off to foreign parts, but he finally came home, whence his musical activities sent his fame back across the waters and down through the centuries. This painting successfully blends the Chinese and the Japanese and the new and the old, and I say that it is without rival.”

On stiff white paper with a blue mounting and a spindle of yellow jade, it was the work of Tsunenori and bore a caption by Michikaze. The effect was dazzlingly modern. The left had to admit defeat.

The Tales of Ise was pitted against The Tale of Jōsammi. No decision was forthcoming. The picture offered by the right was again a bright, lively painting of contemporary life with much, including details of the palace itself, to recommend it.

“Shall we forget how deep is the sea of Ise

Because the waves have washed away old tracks?”

It was Heinaishinosuke, pleading the cause of the left, though without great fire or eloquence. “Are the grand accomplishments of Lord Narihira to be dwarfed by a little love story done with a certain cleverness and plausibility?”

“To this Jōsammi, high above august clouds,

The thousand-fathomed sea seems very shallow.”

It was Daini, speaking for the right.

Fujitsubo offered an opinion. “However one may admire the proud spirit of Lady Hyōe, one certainly would not wish to malign Lord Narihira.

“At first the strands of sea grass may seem old,

But the fisherfolk of Ise are with us yet.”

And so poem answered poem in an endless feminine dispute. The younger and less practiced women hung upon the debate as if for their very lives; but security precautions had been elaborate, and they were permitted to see only the smallest part of the riches.

Genji stopped by and was much diverted. If it was all the same, he said, why not make the final judgments in the emperor’s presence? He had had a royal inspection in mind from the start, and so had taken very great pains with his selections, which included a scroll of his own Suma and of his Akashi paintings. Nor was Tō no Chūjō to be given low marks for effort. The thief business at court these days had become the collecting of evocative paintings.

“I think it spoils the fun to have them painted specially,” said Genji. “I think we should limit ourselves to the ones we have had all along.”

He was of course referring to Tō no Chūjō and his secret studio.

The Suzaku emperor heard of the stir and gave Akikonomu paintings of his own, among them representations of court festivals for which the emperor Daigo had done the captions; and on a scroll depicting events from his own reign was the scene, for him unforgettable, of Akikonomu’s departure for Ise. He himself had carefully gone over the sketches, and the finished painting, by Kose no Kimmochi, quite lived up to his hopes. It was in a box, completely modern, of pierced aloeswood with rosettes that quietly enhanced its beauty. He sent a verbal message through a guards captain on special assignment to Suzaku, setting down only this verse, beside a painting of the solemn arrival at the Grand Hall:

“Though now I dwell beyond the sacred confines,

My heart is there committing you to the gods.”

It required an answer. Bending a corner of one of the sacred combs, she tied a poem to it and wrapped it in azure Chinese paper:

“Within these sacred precincts all has changed.

Fondly I think of the days when I served the gods.”

She rewarded the messenger very elegantly.

The Suzaku emperor was deeply moved and longed to return to his days on the throne. He was annoyed at Genji, and perhaps was now having a gentle sort of revenge. It would seem that he sent large numbers of pictures through his mother to the Kokiden lady. Oborozukiyo, another fancier of painting, had also put together a distinguished collection.

The day was appointed. The careful casualness of all the details would have done justice to far more leisurely preparations. The royal seat was put out in the ladies’ withdrawing rooms, and the ladies were ranged to the north and south. The seats of the courtiers faced them on the west. The paintings of the left were in boxes of red sandalwood on sappanwood stands with flaring legs. Purple Chinese brocades were spread under the stands, which were covered with delicate lavender Chinese embroidery. Six little girls sat behind them, their robes of red and their jackets of white lined with red, from under which peeped red and lavender. As for the right or Kokiden side, the boxes were of heavy aloes and the stands of lighter aloes. Green Korean brocades covered the stands, and the streamers and the flaring legs were all in the latest style. The little page girls wore green robes and over them white jackets with green linings, and their singlets were of a grayish green lined with yellow. Most solemnly they lined up their treasures. The emperor’s own women were in the uniforms of the two sides.

Genji and Tō no Chūjō were present, upon royal invitation. Prince Hotaru, a man of taste and cultivation and especially a connoisseur of painting, had taken an inconspicuous place among the courtiers. Perhaps Genji had suggested inviting him. It was the emperor’s wish that he act as umpire. He found it almost impossible to hand down decisions. Old masters had painted cycles of the four seasons with uncommon power, fluency, and grace, and a rather wonderful sense of unity; but they sometimes seemed to run out of space, so that the observer was left to imagine the grandeur of nature for himself. Some of the more superficial pictures of our own day, their telling points in the dexterity and ingenuity of the strokes and in a certain impressionism, did not seem markedly their inferior, and sometimes indeed seemed ahead of them in brightness and good spirits. Several interesting points were made in favor of both.

The doors to the breakfast suite, north of the ladies’ withdrawing rooms, had been slid open so that Fujitsubo might observe the proceedings. Having long admired her taste in painting, Genji was hoping that she might be persuaded to give her views. When, though infrequently, he was not entirely satisfied with something Prince Hotaru said and offered an opinion of his own, he had a way of sweeping everything before him.

Evening came, and still Prince Hotaru had not reached a final decision. As its very last offering Akikonomu’s side brought out a scroll depicting life at Suma. Tō no Chūjō was startled. Knowing that the final inning had come, the Kokiden faction too brought out a very remarkable scroll, but there was no describing the sure delicacy with which Genji had quietly set down the moods of those years. The assembly, Prince Hotaru and the rest, fell silent, trying to hold back tears. They had pitied him and thought of themselves as suffering with him; and now they saw how it had really been. They had before their eyes the bleakness of those nameless strands and inlets. Here and there, not so much open description as poetic impressions, were captions in cursive Chinese and Japanese. There was no point now in turning to the painting offered by the right. The Suma scroll had blocked everything else from view. The triumph of the left was complete.

Dawn approached and Genji was vaguely melancholy. As the wine flagons went the rounds he fell into reminiscence.

“I worked very hard at my Chinese studies when I was a boy, so hard that Father seemed to fear I might become a scholar. He thought it might be because scholarship seldom attracts wide acclaim, he said, that he had rarely seen it succeed in combining happiness with long life. In any event, he thought it rather pointless in my case, because people would notice me whether I knew anything or not. He himself undertook to tutor me in pursuits not related to the classics. I don’t suppose I would have been called remarkably inept in any of them, but I did not really excel in any of them either. But there was painting. I was the merest dabbler, and yet there were times when I felt a strange urge to do something really good. Then came my years in the provinces and leisure to examine that remarkable seacoast. All that was wanting was the power to express what I saw and felt, and that is why I have kept my inadequate efforts from you until now. I wonder,” he said, turning to Prince Hotaru, “if my presuming to bring them out might set some sort of precedent for impertinence and conceit.”

“It is true of every art,” said the prince, “that real mastery requires concentrated effort, and it is true too that in every art worth mastering (though of course that word ‘mastering’ contains all manner of degrees and stages) the evidences of effort are apparent in the results. There are two mysterious exceptions, painting and the game of Go, in which natural ability seems to be the only thing that really counts. Modest ability can of course be put to modest use. A rather ordinary person who has neither worked nor studied so very hard can paint a decent picture or play a decent game of Go. Sometimes the best families will suddenly produce someone who seems to do everything well.” He was now speaking to Genji. “Father was tutor for all of us, but I thought he took himself seriously only when you were his pupil. There was poetry, of course, and there was music, the flute and the koto. Painting seemed less study than play, something you let your brush have its way with when poetry had worn you out. And now see the results. See all of our professionals running off and hiding their faces.”

The prince may have been in his cups. In any event, the thought of the old emperor brought a new flood of tears.

A quarter moon having risen, the western sky was silver. Musical instruments were ordered from the royal collection. Tō no Chūjō chose a Japanese koto. Genji was generally thought the finest musician in court, but Tō no Chūjō was well above the ordinary. Genji chose a Chinese koto, as did Prince Hotaru, and Shōshō no Myōbu took up a lute Courtiers with a good sense of rhythm were set to marking time, and all in all it was a very good concert indeed. Faces and flowers emerged dimly in the morning twilight, and birds were singing in a clear sky. Gifts were brought from Fujitsubo’s apartments. The emperor himself bestowed a robe on Prince Hotaru.

Examination and criticism of Genji’s journals had become the main business of the court. He asked that his paintings of the seacoast be given to Fujitsubo. She longed to see what went before and came after, but he said only that he would in due course show her everything. The pleasure which he had given the emperor was pleasure for Genji himself. It worried Tō no Chūjō that Genji should so favor Akikonomu. Was her triumph to be complete? He comforted himself with the thought that the emperor would not have forgotten his own early partiality for the Kokiden girl. Surely she would not be cast aside.

Genji had a strong sense of history and wanted this to be one of the ages when things begin. Very great care therefore went into all the fetes and observances. It was an exciting time.

But he was also obsessed with evanescence. He was determined to withdraw from public affairs when the emperor was a little older. Every precedent told him that men who rise to rank and power beyond their years cannot expect long lives. Now, in this benign reign, perhaps by way of compensation for the years of sorrow and disgrace, Genji had an abun- dance, indeed a plethora, of rank and honor. Further glory could only bring uncertainty. He wanted to withdraw quietly and make preparations for the next life, and so add to his years in this one. He had purchased a quiet tract off in a mountain village and was putting up a chapel and collecting images and scriptures. But first he must see that no mistake was made in educating his children. So it was that his intentions remained in some doubt.

Chapter 18

The Wind in the Pines

The east lodge at Nijō was finished, and the lady of the orange blossoms moved in. Genji turned the west wing and adjacent galleries into offices and reserved the east wing for the Akashi lady. The north wing was both spacious and ingeniously partitioned, so that he might assign its various rooms to lesser ladies who were dependent on him, and so make them happy too. He reserved the main hall for his own occasional use.

He wrote regularly to Akashi. The time had come, he said firmly, for the lady’s removal to the city. She was painfully aware of her humble station, however, and she had heard that he made even ladies of the highest rank more unhappy by his way of behaving coolly but correctly than if he had simply dismissed them. She feared that she could expect little attention from him. Her rank could not be hidden, of course, and her daughter would suffer for it. And how painful it would be, and what an object of derision she herself would be, if she had to sit waiting for brief and stealthy visits. But there was the other side of the matter: it would not do for her daughter to grow up in the remote countryside, a child of the shadows. So she could not tell Genji that he had behaved badly and be finished with him. Her parents understood, and could only add their worries to hers. The summons from their noble visitor only made them unhappier.

The old man remembered that his wife’s grandfather, Prince Nakatsukasa, had had a villa on the river Oi to the west of the city. There had been no one to take charge after his death and it had been sadly neglected. He summoned the head of the family that had assumed custody.

“I had quite given up my ambitions and fallen quietly into country life, and now in my declining years something rather unexpected has come up. I must have a residence in the city once more. It would be too much of a change to move back into the great world immediately. The noise and the bustle would be very upsetting for a rustic like me. I need a sort of way station, a familiar place that has been in the family. Might you see to repairs and make the place reasonably livable? I will of course take care of all the expenses.”

“It has been deserted for so long that it is the worst tangle you can imagine. I myself patched up one of the outbuildings to live in. Since this spring there has been a real commotion, you never saw the likes of it. The Genji minister has been putting up a temple, several very big halls, and the place is swarming with carpenters. If it’s quiet you’re looking for, then I’m afraid this is not what you want.”

“It makes no difference at all. As a matter of fact, I’m rather counting on the minister for certain favors. I’ll of course take care of all the expenses, the fittings and decorations and all. Just make it your business, please, to have it ready for occupancy as soon as you possibly can.”

“It’s true that I’ve never had clear title, but there wasn’t really anyone else to take over. We’ve just been following our quiet country ways over the years. The fields and the rest were going to waste, absolutely to ruin. So I paid the late Mimbu no Tayū what seemed like a reasonable amount and got his permission, and I’ve been working the fields ever since.” He was obviously worried about his crops. His nose and then the whole of his wary, bewhiskered face was crimson, and his mouth was twisted as if in a growl.

“It is not your fields I am concerned with. You can go on working them as you always have. I have a great many deeds and titles and the like, but I’ve rather lost track of them these last years. I’ll look into them.”

The hint that Genji was an indirect party to the negotiations warned the man that he might be inviting trouble. The recompense being ample, he made haste to get the house in order.

Genji had been puzzled and upset by the lady’s reluctance to move. He did not want people to associate his daughter with Akashi. Presently the Oi house was ready and he learned of it. Now he understood: the lady had been frightened at the thought of the great city. These precautions had been reasonable and indeed laudable.

He sent off Lord Koremitsu, his usual adviser and agent in confidential matters, to scout the grounds and see if further preparations were necessary.

“The setting is very good,” said Koremitsu. “I was reminded a little of Akashi.”

Nothing could be better. The temple which Genji was putting up was to the south of the Daikakuji, by a mountain cascade which rivaled that of the Daikakuji itself. The main hall of the Oi villa was simple and unpretentious, almost like a farmhouse, in a grove of magnificent pines beside the river. Genji himself saw to all the furnishings. Very quietly, he sent off trusted retainers to be the lady’s escort.

So there was no avoiding it. The time had come to leave the familiar coast. She wept for her father and the loneliness he must face, and for every small detail of her old home. She had known all the sorrows, and would far rather that this manna had never fallen.

The hope that had been with the old man, waking and sleeping, for all these years was now to be realized, but the sadness was more than he would have thought possible now that the time had come. He would not see his little granddaughter again. He sat absently turning the same thought over and over again in his mind.

His wife was as sad. She had lived more with her daughter than her husband, and she would go with her daughter. One becomes fond, after a time, of sea and strand, and of the chance acquaintance. Her husband was a strange man, not always, she had thought, the firmest support, but the bond between them had held. She had been his wife, and Akashi had become for her the place to live and to die. The break was too sudden and final.

The young women were happy enough to be finished with country life, which had been mostly loneliness and boredom, but this coast did after all have a hold on them. With each advancing wave they wept that it would return, but they would not.

It was autumn, always the melancholy season. The autumn wind was chilly and the autumn insects sang busily as the day of the departure dawned. The Akashi lady sat looking out over the sea. Her father, always up for dawn services, had arisen deep in the night, much earlier than usual. He was weeping as he turned to his prayers. Tears were not proper or auspicious on such an occasion, but this morning they were general. The little girl was a delight, like the jade one hears of which shines in darkness. He had not once let her out of his sight, and here she was again, scrambling all over him, so very fond of him. He had great contempt for people who renounce the world and then appear not to have done so after all. But she was leaving him.

“The old weep easily, and I am weeping

As I pray that for her the happy years stretch on.

“I am very much ashamed of myself.” He drew a sleeve over his eyes.

No one could have thought it odd that his wife too was weeping.

“Together we left the city. Alone I return,

To wander lost over hill and over moor?”

The reasons did not seem adequate that she should be leaving him after they had been together so long.

The lady was begging her father to go with them as far as Oi, if only by way of escort.

“When do you say that we shall meet again,

Trusting a life that is not ours to trust?”

He counted over once more his reasons for refusing, but he seemed very apprehensive. “When I gave up the world and settled into this life, it was my chief hope that I might see to your needs as you deserved. Aware that I had not been born under the best of stars, I knew that going back to the city as another defeated provincial governor I would not have the means to put my hut in order and clear the weeds from my garden. I knew that in my private life and my public life I would give them all ample excuse to laugh, and that I would be a disgrace to my dead parents; and so I decided from the outset, and it seemed to be generally understood, that when I left the city I was leaving all that behind. And indeed I did rather effectively leave the world in the sense of giving up worldly ambitions. But then you grew up and began to see what was going on around you, and in the darkness that is the father’s heart I was not for one moment free from a painful question: why was I hiding my most precious brocade in a wild corner of the provinces? I kept my lonely hopes and prayed to the god and the blessed ones that it not be your fate, because of an unworthy father, to spend your life among these rustics. Then came that happy and unexpected event, which had the perverse effect of emphasizing our low place in life. Determined to believe in the bond of which our little one here is evidence, I could see too well what a waste it would be to have you spend your days on this seacoast. The fact that she seems meant for remarkable things makes all the more painful the need to send her away. No, enough, I have left it all. You are the ones whose light will bathe the world. You have brought pleasure to us country people. We are told in the scriptures of times when celestial beings descend to ugly worlds. The time is past, and we must part.

“Do not worry about services when word reaches you that I have died. Do not trouble yourself over what cannot be avoided.” He seemed to have finished his farewells. Then, his face twisted with sorrow, he added: “Thoughts of our little one will continue to bring regrets until the evening when I too rise as smoke.”

A single progress by land, the escort said, would be unmanageable, and a succession of convoys would only invite trouble. So it had been decided that so far as possible the journey would be an unobtrusive one by boat. The party set sail at perhaps seven or eight in the morning.

The lady’s boat disappeared among the mists that had so saddened the poet. The old man feared that his enlightened serenity had left him forever. As if in a trance, he gazed off into the mists.

The old woman’s thoughts upon leaving home were in sad confusion.

“I want to be a fisherwife upon

A far, clean shore, and now my boat turns back.”

Her daughter replied:

“How many autumns now upon this strand?

So many, why should this flotsam now return?”

A steady seasonal wind was blowing and they reached Oi on schedule, very careful not to attract attention on the land portion of the journey. They found the Oi villa very much to their taste, so like Akashi, indeed, that it soothed the homesickness, though not, of course, dispelling it completely. Thoughts of the Akashi years did after all come back. The new galleries were in very good taste, and the garden waters pleasant and interesting. Though the repairs and fittings were not yet complete, the house was eminently livable.

The steward, one of Genji’s more trusted retainers, did everything to make them feel at home. The days passed as Genji cast about for an excuse to visit. For the Akashi lady the sorrow was yet more insistent. With little to occupy her, she found her thoughts running back to Akashi. Taking out the seven-stringed Chinese koto which Genji had left with her, she played a brief strain as fancy took her. It was the season for sadness, and she need not fear that she was being heard; and the wind in the pines struck up an accompaniment.

Her mother had been resting.

“I have returned alone, a nun, to a mountain village,

And hear the wind in the pines of long ago.”

The daughter replied:

“I long for those who know the country sounds,

And listen to my koto, and understand.”

Uneasy days went by. More restless than when she had been far away, Genji could contain himself no longer. He did not care what people would think. He did not tell Murasaki all the details, but he did send her a note. Once again he feared that reports would reach her from elsewhere.

“I have business at Katsura which a vague apprehension tells me I have neglected too long. Someone to whom I have made certain commitments is waiting there. And my chapel too, and those statues, sitting undecorated. It is quite time I did something about them. I will be away perhaps two or three days.”

This sudden urge to visit Katsura and put his chapel in order made her suspect his actual motives. She was not happy. Those two or three days were likely to become days enough to rot the handle of the woodcutter’s ax.

“I see you are being difficult again.” He laughed. “You are in a small minority, my dear, for the whole world agrees that I have mended my ways.”

The sun was high when he finally set out.

He had with him a very few men who were familiar with the situation at Oi. Darkness was falling when he arrived. The lady had thought him quite beyond compare in the rough dress of an exile, and now she saw him in court finery chosen with very great care. Her gloom quite left her.

And the daughter whom he was meeting for the first time — how could she fail to be a treasure among treasures? He was angry at each of the days and months that had kept them apart. People said that his son, the chancellor’s grandson, was a well-favored lad, but no doubt an element of sycophancy entered into the view. Nothing of the sort need obscure his view of the bud before him now. The child was a laughing, sparkling delight.

Her nurse was much handsomer than when she had left for Akashi. She told Genji all about her months on the seashore. Genji felt somewhat apologetic. It had been because of him that she had had to live among the salt burners’ huts.

“You are still too far away,” he said to the lady, “and it will not be easy for me to see you. I have a place in mind for you.”

“When I am a little more used to it all.” Which was not unreasonable of her.

They passed the night in plans and promises.

Genji gave orders for finishing the house. Since word had been sent that he would be at his Katsura villa, people had gathered from all his nearby manors, and presently sought him out at Oi. He set them to clearing the garden.

“What a jumble. It could be a rather distinguished garden — but why take the trouble? It is not as if you meant to spend the rest of your life here, and you know better than most what a mistake it is to get too attached to a place.”

He was so open, so sure of himself. She was more in love with him than ever.

The old nun grinned upon them. All her worries had departed. Personally supervising the work of clearing the brook that ran from under the east gallery, Genji had thrown off his cloak. The old lady thought him charming in his undersleeves. The holy vessels reminded him that she too had come. He was being rude. He sent immediately for his cloak.

“I am sure it is your prayers that have made our little girl into such perfection,” he said, coming up to her curtains. “I am very grateful. And I must thank you too, most sincerely, that you have left peace and serenity for what must be the ugliest sort of confusion. You left your saintly husband behind, all by himself, with nothing to occupy him but thoughts of you. It must have been very difficult.”

“Yes, I thought I had given all this up, and it was a little confusing. But your kindness and understanding make me feel that I am being rewarded for having lived so long.” There were tears in her voice. “I worried about the seedling pine on those unfriendly coasts. Its prospects have improved enormously, and yet I am afraid. Its roots are so very shallow.” She spoke in soft, courtly tones.

He asked her about the villa as it had been in Prince Nakatsukasa’s day. The brook, now cleared of weeds and litter, seemed to have found the moment to announce itself.

“The mistress, long gone, is lost upon her return

To find that the brook has quite usurped her claims.”

A voice can seem affected as it trails off at the end of a poem, but the old nun’s was genteel and courtly.

“Clean waters, bringing back the distant past

To one who comes to them in somber habit.”

As he stood gazing meditatively out over the scene, he seemed to the old nun the ultimate in noble dignity.

Going on to his chapel, he ordered bimonthly services in honor of Amitābha, Sākyamuni, and Samantabhadra, and interim services as well, and gave instructions for decorating the chapel and the images. He returned to Oi by moonlight.

Memories of similar nights in Akashi must not go unaccompanied. The lady brought out the Chinese koto he had given her. He plucked out a strain as he gave himself up to the memories. The tuning, as when he had given it to her, took him back to those days and to Akashi.

“Unchanged it is when now we meet again.

And do you not see changelessness in me?”

“Your promise not to change was my companion.

I added my sighs to those of the wind in the pines.”

She held her own very well in these exchanges, evidence, he thought, that she had been meant for unusual things. She had improved in looks and in bearing since last he had seen her. He could not take his eyes from the child. And what now? The mother was of inferior birth, and the disability must not be passed on to the daughter. It could be overcome if he were to take her to Nijō and see to her needs as he wished. Yet there were the feelings of the mother to be considered and of them he was uncertain. Choking with tears, he tried to bring the matter up.

The little girl, no more than a baby, was shy at first, but soon they were friends, and she was gurgling more happily and prettily all the time. Her mother meanwhile sat in mute gratitude. The future seemed to open limitlessly.

He overslept the next morning, when he was to return to the city. He had meant to go directly back, but great crowds had gathered at the Katsura villa, and several men from the city had even made their way to Oi.

“How very inconvenient and embarrassing,” he muttered as he dressed. “I had meant it to be rather more of a retreat.”

He had no choice but to go off with them. He stood in the doorway fondling the little girl, who was in her nurse’s arms.

“It is very selfish of me, but I can see that I won’t be able to let her out of my sight. What am I to do? Must you be so far away?”

“Yes,” said the nurse, “the fact that you are nearer only makes things worse.”

In her arms, the child was straining towards him.

“There seems to be no end to my troubles. I hate the thought of being away from you for even a minute, my sweet. But just look at this. You are sorry to see me go, but your mother does not seem to be. She could comfort me a little, if she chose.”

The nurse smiled and transmitted the message.

The lady hung back. This morning’s farewell seemed more difficult than all the years away from him. There was just a little too much of the grand lady in this behavior, thought Genji. Her women, urging her on, had to agree. Finally she came forward. Her profile, half hidden by the curtain, was wonderfully soft and gentle. She might have been a princess. He pulled the curtain back and offered some last affectionate words of farewell. His men were in a great hurry to be off, and he was about to follow. He looked back again. Though she was remarkably good at hiding her emotions, she was gazing at him now with open regret. He seemed even handsomer than at Akashi. Then he hadoueemed a little slender for his height. He had filled out, and no one could have found fault with his proportions or his manner, the essence of mature dignity. Perfection from head to foot, she thought — though she may have been a prejudiced observer.

The young guards officer whose fortunes had sunk and risen with Genji’s — he who had had reproachful words for the god of Kamo — now wore the cap of the Fifth Rank, and was in his glory. Waiting to take Genji’s sword, he spied a woman inside the blinds.

“It may seem that I have forgotten the old days,” he said, rather self-importantly, one may have thought, “but that is because I have been on good behavior. The breezes that awoke me this morning seemed very much like the sea breezes at Akashi. I looked in vain for a way to tell you so.

“This mountain village, garlanded in eightfold mists, is not inferior, we have found, to that where the boat disappears among the island mists. All that had seemed wanting was that the pines were not the pines of old. It is a comfort to find that there is one who has not forgotten.”

Scarcely what he had hoped for — and he had been fond of her. “I will see you again,” he said, and returned to Genji’s side.

Genji walked off to his carriage amid the shouts of his outrunners. He invited Tō no Chūjō and Hyōe no Kami to ride with him.

“You cannot know what a disappointment it is,” he said, in genuine annoyance, “to have people pour in on what you had hoped would be a hideaway.”

“Nor can you know our disappointment, my lord, at not being permitted to share the moon with you last night. That is why we fought our way through the autumn mists. Though the journey did have its pleasures. The autumn leaves are not quite at their best, perhaps, but the autumn flowers were very beautiful.” He went on to describe a falconing expedition that was keeping certain of his friends longer than they had planned.

“And so we must go to Katsura, I suppose,” said Genji, to the modest consternation of the stewards, who now had to put together an impromptu banquet.

The calls of the cormorant fishermen made him think of the fishermen at Akashi, their speech as incomprehensible as the chirping of birds. Back from their night upon the moors, the young falconers offered a sampling of their take, tied to autumn reeds. The flagons went the rounds so frequently that a river crossing seemed out of the question, and so of course a day of roistering must be passed at Katsura. Chinese poems were tossed back and forth. As moonlight flooded the scene the music was more bois- terous, dominated by the flute, there being several fine flutists in the company. The stringed instruments were quieter, only the Japanese koto and the lute. The flute is an autumn instrument, at its best in the autumn breezes. Every detail of the riverbank rose clear and high and clean in the moonlight. A new party arrived from the palace, from the royal presence itself, indeed. The emperor had been much disappointed that Genji had not called at the end of the week-long retreat from which the court had just emerged. There was music once more, and surely, thought the emperor, Genji would appear. This was the emperor’s personal message, delivered by a secretary after Genji had offered suitable excuses:

“Cleaner, more stately the progress of the moon

Through regions beyond the river Katsura.

“I am envious.”

Genji repeated his apologies, most elaborately. But this somehow seemed a better place for music than even the palace. They abandoned themselves to music and to wine.

The Katsura villa being inadequately supplied, Genji sent to Oi to see if there might not be quietly elegant cloths and garments with which to reward the messengers. Two chests came back from the Oi closets. There was a set of women’s robes for the royal envoy, who returned immediately to the city.

Genji’s reply to the emperor was an oblique hint that a royal visit would be welcomed:

It is not true to its name, this Katsura.

There is not moon enough to dispel the mists.”

“Katsura, at the heart of the eternal moon,” he added softly; and he thought too of Mitsune’s “Awaji in the moonlight.”

“So near and clear tonight, is it the moon

Of far Awaji? We both have come back.”

This was the reply.:

“All should now be peace. Then lost in clouds

The moon sends forth again its radiance.”

Sadaiben, an older official who had been in close attendance upon Genji’s father, also had a poem:

“The midnight moon should still be in the heavens.

Gone is its radiance — hidden in what valley?”

There would seem to have been poems and poems, but I did not have the patience to set them all down. I could have enjoyed a millennium of Genji’s company, however, so serene and sure did he seem.

Today they must definitely go back, said Genji, and soon. No rotting ax handles, please.

Gifts were distributed as became the several ranks, and the waves of courtiers, coming and going, disappearing and reappearing in the morning mists, were like banks of autumn flowers. Some of the warrant officers were good poets and singers. Rather bored with elegance, they had moved on to ribaldry. Someone sang “Oh My Pony,” so successfully that courtier after courtier was seen stripping off robes and pressing them upon him. It was as if the wind had spread a brocade of autumn leaves over the garden. Echoes of this noisy departure reached Oi, and a sad lady. Genji was sorry that he had not been able to get off a letter.

Back at Nijō, he rested for a time and went to tell Murasaki of the excursion.

“I must apologize for having stayed away longer than I had planned. They hunted me down and dragged me off with them. I am exhausted.” He tried to be casual about what was too obvious, that she was not happy. “You have a way, my dear, of comparing yourself with people who simply are not in your class. Give yourself your just due, if you will.”

About to leave for court that evening, he turned his attention from her to his writing desk. She knew which lady demanded being written to, and could see that the letter was full of warm avowals.

He returned to Nijō late that night. Usually he would have spent the night at court, but he was worried about Murasaki. An answer had come from Oi which he could not hide from her. Fortunately it was a decorous one.

“Tear it up and throw it away if you will, please,” he said, leaning against an armrest. “I am too old to leave this sort of thing scattered around the house.” He gazed into the lamplight and his thoughts were in Oi.

Though he had spread the letter before her, Murasaki did not look at it.

He smiled. “You are very funny when you are pretending not to want to see.” He came nearer, quite exuding charm.” As a matter of fact, the child is a very pretty little girl, if you wish to know. I cannot help feeling that there is a legacy of some sort from another life, and that it is not to be dismissed. But I am worried. She has so much against her. Put yourself in my place, if you will, and make the decision for me. What do you think? Will you perhaps take her in? She has reached the years of the leech chi1d, but I cannot quite bring myself to behave as the leech child’s parents did. She is still in diapers, one might say, and if they do not repel you, might I perhaps ask you to see to pinning them up?”

“If I sometimes sulk, it is because you ask me to, and I would not think of refusing.” She was smiling now. “I will love her, I am sure I will. Just at the dearest age.” She did love children, and longed even now to have the girl in her arms.

Genji was still worried. Should he bring her to Nijō? It was not easy for him to visit Oi. His chapel would offer the occasion for no more than two visits a month. Though better off, perhaps, than Princess Tanabata, the Akashi lady was certain to be unhappy.

Chapter 19

a Rack of Cloud

Life was sadder on the banks of the Oi as winter came on.

“This cannot continue,” said Genji. “You must move nearer.”

But the Akashi lady did not want to observe at close hand the coldness of which she had heard from afar. It would be the end of everything.

“I must make arrangements for the child, then. I have plans for her, and they would come to nothing if I were to leave her here. I have discussed the matter with the lady in the west wing at Nijō, who is most anxious to see her.” Murasaki might be asked, he said, to arrange unostentatiously for the ritual bestowing of trousers.

The Akashi lady had long known that something of the sort was on his mind. This declaration brought matters to a climax, while adding greatly to the uncertainty. “I have no doubt that you mean to treat her as if her mother were the noblest of your ladies, but of course people are sure to know who she really is, and behave accordingly.”

“You need not have the slightest fear that she will be mistreated. It is a matter of very great unhappiness for the lady at Nijō that after all these years she has no children of her own. The former high priestess of Ise is already a grown lady, and yet the Nijō lady insists on treating her like a child. She is sure to adore your little girl. That is her way.” He perhaps exaggerated Murasaki’s maternal tendencies a little.

Rumors of his amorous adventuring had reached Akashi, where there had been speculation upon the sort of grand love affair that might finally bring it to an end. Now it did seem to have vanished without a trace. The bond from an earlier life must be a very strong one, and the lady herself a paragon. She would think it most impertinent of the Akashi lady to come forward. Well, thought the latter, she must drive her own affairs from her mind, and think only of the child, whose future lay before her. In that Murasaki was best qualified to advise. Genji had said that the humane thing would be to take the child away while she was still an infant, and no doubt he was right. Yet she would worry, she knew, and what would she now have to relieve the tedium of her days? What reason Would Genji have to pay her the briefest and rarest visit? The only thing which seemed certain in this web of uncertainty was that she had been born under unhappy stars.

She consulted her mother, a very wise old lady.

“You fret over things that are so simple. It will not be easy to live without her, I know, but it is her interest we must consider, and it is her interest, I have no doubt at all, that His Lordship is most concerned about. You must put your trust in him and let her go. Even when a child has the emperor himself for its father, the mother’s station in life makes all the difference. Look at the case of His Lordship. He was the handsomest and the most gifted of them all, and still he was made a commoner. His maternal grandfather was just not important enough, and his mother was one of the lesser ladies at court. And if there are these distinctions among princes, think how much more extreme they are among us commoners. Even the daughter of a prince or a minister is at a great disadvantage if her mother’s family does not have influence. Her father cannot do the things that one might expect from his rank. Your own little girl can look forward to only one thing if a daughter is born to one of the grand ladies: she will be forgotten. The ones with a chance in the world are the ones whose parents give them that chance. I don’t care how much we spend on her, no one is going to pay the slightest attention off here in the hills. No, you must turn her over to His Lordship and see what he means to do for her.”

Through well-placed friends she consulted renowned fortunetellers and it was their uniform opinion, to her considerable distress, that the child should be put in Murasaki’s charge. Genji had of course long been of that opinion, but had not wished to seem unreasonable or importunate.

What did she propose, asked Genji, in the matter of the bestowing of trousers?

“It is of course as you say. It would be quite unfair to leave the child with a useless person like myself. And yet I fear for her. Might they not make fun of her if you were to take her away with you?”

He felt very sorry for her indeed.

He had a propitious day selected and quietly saw to arrangements for the move. The thought of giving up the child was almost more than the lady could bear, but she held herself under tight control, trying to keep everything from her mind but the future that was spreading before the child.

“And so you must leave?” she said to the nurse. “You have been my comfort through the loneliness and boredom. I shall be quite lost without you.”

The nurse too was in tears. “We must reconcile ourselves, my lady, to what must be. I shall not forget your unfailing kindness since we came together so unexpectedly, and I know that we shall continue to think of each other. I refuse to accept it as a final parting. The prospect of going out among strangers is very frightening, and my comfort will be the thought that we will soon be near each other again.”

The Twelfth Month came.

There were snow and sleet to add to the gloom. What sort of legacy was hers from other lives, asked the lady, that she must put up with so much in this one? She spent more time than ever with the little girl, combing her hair, changing her clothes. On a dark morning of drifting snows she went to the veranda and gazed out at the ice on the river, and thought of what was past and what was to come. It was not like her to expose herself so. She preferred the inner rooms of the house. Warmed by several soft white robes, she sat lost in thought; and the molding of her head and the flow of her hair and robes made her women feel sure that the noblest lady in the land could not be lovelier.

She brushed away a tear and said to the nurse: “This sort of weather will be even more trying now.

“These mountain paths will be closed by snow and clouds.

Do not, I pray you, let your tracks be lost.”

The nurse replied:

“And were you to move to deepest Yoshino,

I still would find you, through unceasing snow.”

The snow had melted a little when Genji paid his next visit. She would have been delighted except for the fact that she knew its purpose. Well, she had brought it on herself. The decision had been hers to make. Had she refused he would not have forced her to give up the child. She had made a mistake, but would not risk seeming mercurial and erratic by trying to rectify it at this late date.

The child was sitting before her, pretty as a doll. Yes, she was meant for unusual things, one could not deny it. Since spring her hair had been allowed to grow, and now, thick and flowing, it had reached the length that would be usual for a nun. I shall say nothing of the bright eyes and the glowing, delicately carved features. Genji could imagine the lady’s anguish at sending her child off to a distant foster mother. Over and over again he Sought to persuade her that it was the only thing to do.

“Please, you needn’t. I will be happy if you see that she becomes something more than I have been myself.” But for all her valiant efforts at composure she was in tears.

The little girl jumped innocently into the waiting carriage, the lady having brought her as far as the veranda to which it had been drawn up. She tugged at her mother’s sleeves and in charming baby talk urged her to climb in too.

“It is taken away, the seedling pine, so young.

When shall I see it grandly shading the earth?”

Her voice broke before she had come to the end.

She had every right to weep, thought Genji.

“A seedling, yes, but with the roots to give

The thousand years of the pines of Takekuma.

“You must be patient.”

He was right, of course. She resumed the struggle, which was not entirely successful, to control herself.

Only the nurse and a very personable young woman called Shōshō got into the little girl’s carriage, taking with them the sword which Genji had sent to Akashi and a sacred guardian doll. In a second carriage were several other handsome women and some little page girls. And so the Akashi lady saw them off.

Knowing how lonely she would be, Genji asked himself whether he was committing a crime for which he would one day be summoned to do penance. It was dark when they reached Nijō. He had feared that the suddenly lavish surroundings would intimidate these provincial women, but Murasaki had gone to a great deal of trouble. The west room of her west wing had been fitted most charmingly to resemble a doll’s house. She assigned the nurse a room on the north side of the adjoining gallery.

The girl had slept most of the way. She did not weep as she was taken from the carriage. When sweets had been set before her, she looked around and saw that her mother was not with her. The puckered little face was very pretty. Her nurse sought to comfort her.

Genji’s thoughts were on that mountain dwelling, where the gloom and tedium must be next to unbearable. But he had the child’s education to think about. A little jewel, quite flawless — and why had such a child not been born at Nijō?

She wept and hunted for her mother; but she was of a docile, affectionate nature, and soon she had quite taken to Murasaki. For Murasaki it was as if her last wish had been granted. She was always taking the child in her arms, and soon she and the nurse were very close friends. A second nurse, a woman of good family, had by now joined the household.

Though no very lavish preparations were made for bestowing the trousers, the ceremony became of its own accord something rather special. The appurtenances and decorations were as if for the finest doll’s house in the world. The stream of congratulatory visitors made no distinction between day and night — though one might not have found it remarkably different from the stream that was always pouring in and out of the Nijō mansion. The trousers cord, everyone said, was the most charming little detail of all.

The Akashi lady went on thinking that she had brought gratuitous sorrow upon herself. Her mother had been so brave and confident; but old people weep easily, and she was weeping, though pleased at news that the child was the center of such attention. What could they send by way of congratulation? They contented themselves with robes for the nurse and the other women, hoping that the colors gave them a certain distinction.

Oi continued to be much on Genji’s mind. It was just as she had thought it would be, the lady was no doubt saying to herself; and so he paid a quiet visit late in the year. Oi was a lonely place at best, and she had lost her dearest treasure. He wrote constantly. Murasaki’s old bitterness had left her. She had the child, and the account was settled.

The New Year came. The skies were soft and pleasant and nothing seemed wanting at the Nijō mansion, which had been refurbished for the holidays. On the seventh day there was a continious stream of venerable and eminent callers, and younger people too, all the picture of prosperity. No doubt there were dissatisfactions beneath the surface, but it was a surface of contentment and pleasure.

The lady of the orange blossoms was very happy indeed in the east lodge. Her retinue was efficient and well mannered and the mere fact of being near Genji had changed her life enormously. Sometimes when he had nothing else to do he would look in on her, though never with the intention of staying the night. She was an undemanding creature, and she asked nothing more. Her life was quiet, remarkably free of unsettling events, and as the seasonal observances came and went she had no reason to think that she was being slighted. In point of smooth and efficient service, indeed, she perhaps had the better of it over Murasaki.

He continued to worry about Oi and his inability to visit. Choosing a time when little was happening at court and taking more than usual care with his dress, he set off. His underrobes were beautifully dyed and scented, and over them he had thrown an informal court robe of white lined with red. Looking after him as he came to say goodbye, his radiance competing with the evening sunlight, Murasaki felt vaguely apprehensive.

The little girl clung to his trousers and seemed prepared to go with him.

“I’ve a twenty-acre field,” he sang, looking fondly down at her, “and I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Chujō was waiting in the gallery with a poem from her mistress:

“We shall see if you are back tomorrow,

If no one there essays to take your boat.”

Chūjō’s elocution was beautiful. He smiled appreciatively.

“I go but for a while, and shall return

Though she may wish I had not come at all.”

Murasaki no longer really thought a great deal about her rival. The little girl, scampering and tumbling about, quite filled her thoughts. Yet she did feel for the Akashi lady, knowing how desperate her own loneliness would be in such circumstances. Taking the little girl in her arms, she playfully offered one of her own small breasts. It was a charming scene. What had gone wrong? asked her women. Why was Genji’s daughter not hers? But such was the way of the world.

Life at Oi was quiet and dignified. The house was pleasing as country houses can be, and each time he saw the lady Genji thought how little there was to distinguish her from ladies of the highest rank. Judged by themselves her appearance and manner were beyond reproach. By herself she could compete — such things did happen — with the best of them, even though she had that very odd father. He wished he might find time someday for a really satisfying visit. “A bridge that floats across dreams?” he whispered, reaching for a koto. Always at such times their last night at Akashi came back to him. Diffidently she took up the lute which he pushed towards her, and they played a brief duet. He marveled again that her accomplishments should be so varied. He told her all about the little girl. Sometimes, though a great deal argued against it, he would take a light supper and stay the night. Katsura and his chapel provided the excuse. His manner toward the lady was not, it is true, his most gallant, but neither was it chilly or uncivil. One might have classed it as rather above the ordinary in warmth and tenderness. She understood and was content, and was careful to seem neither forward nor obsequiously deferential. She wanted to be what he wanted her to be, and she succeeded. Rumor had told her that he was stiffer and more formal with most women, and the wiser course seemed to be to keep her distance. If she were nearer she would be vulnerable, too easy a target for the other ladies. She would count it her good fortune that he troubled himself to visit her occasionally, and ask no more.

Her father had told her that last day that he was no longer a part of her life. Yet he worried, and from time to time he would send off a retainer to make quiet inquiry about Genji’s behavior. Some of the reports disturbed him, some pleased him.

At about this time Aoi’s father died. He had been a loyal and useful public servant, and the emperor was deeply grieved. He had been much missed when he retired from court even briefly, and now he was gone forever. Genji was sadder than anyone. He had had time for himself because he had shared the business of government with his father-in-law. Now it would all be his.

The emperor was mature for his age and his judgment was to be trusted. Yet he did need support and advice. To whom was he to look besides Genji? Sadly, Genji concluded that his plans for a life of quiet meditation would have to be deferred. He was even more attentive than the chancellor’s sons to the details of the funeral and memorial services.

It was a time of bad omens, erratic movements of the celestial bodies and unsettling cloud formations. The geomancers and soothsayers issued portentous announcements. Genji had his own very private reasons for disquiet.

Fujitsubo had been ill from early in the year, and from the Third Month her condition was grave. Her son, the emperor, called upon her. He had been very young when his father died and had understood little of what was happening. Now his sorrow made his mother grieve as if it were for someone else.

“I had been sure,” she said, her voice very weak, “that this would be a bad year for me. I did not feel so very ill at first, and did not wish to be one of those for whom the end always seems to be in sight. I asked for no prayers or services besides the usual ones. I must call on you, I kept telling Myself, and have a good talk about the old days. But it has been so seldom these last weeks that I have really felt myself. And so here we are.”

She seemed much younger than her thirty-seven years. It was even sadder, because she was so youthful, that she might be dying. As she had said, it was a dangerous year. She had been aware for some weeks of not being well but she had contented herself with the usual penances and retreats. Apologizing for His negligence, the emperor ordered numerous services.

Genji was suddenly very worried. She had always been sickly, and he had thought it just another of her indispositions.

Protocol required that the emperor’s visit be a short one. He returned to the palace in great anguish. His mother had been able to speak to him only with very great difficulty. She had received the highest honors which this world can bestow, and her sorrows and worries too had been greater than most. That the emperor must remain ignorant of them added to the pain. He could not have dreamed of the truth, and so the truth must be the tie with this world which would keep her from repose in the other.

Genji shared in the public concern at this succession of misfortunes in high places, and of course his private feelings were deep and complex. He overlooked nothing by way of prayer and petition. He must speak to her once again of what had been given up so long before. Coming near her curtains, he asked how she was feeling. In tears, one of her women gave an account.

“All through her illness she has not for a moment neglected her prayers. They have only seemed to make her worse. She will not touch the tiniest morsel of food, not the tiniest bit of fruit. We are afraid that there is no hope.”

“I have been very grateful,” she said to Genji, “for all the help you have been to the emperor. You have done exactly as your father asked you to do. I have waited for an opportunity to thank you. My gratitude is far beyond the ordinary, and now I fear it is too late.”

He could barely catch the words and was too choked with tears to answer. He would have preferred not to exhibit his tears to her women. The loss would have been a grievous one even if she had been, all these years, no more than a friend. But life is beyond our control, and there was nothing he could do to keep her back, and no point in trying to describe his sorrow.

“I have not been a very effective man, I fear, but I have tried, when I have seen a need, to be of use to him. The chancellor’s death is a great blow, and now this — it is more than I can bear. I doubt that I shall be in this world much longer myself.”

And as he spoke she died, like a dying flame. I shall say no more of his grief.

Among persons of the highest birth whose charity and benevolence seem limitless there have been some who, sheltered by power and position, have been unwitting agents of unhappiness. Nothing of the sort was to be detected in the comportment of the dead lady. When someone had been of service to her she went to no end of trouble to avoid the sort of recompense that might indirectly have unfortunate consequences. Again, there have since the day of the sages been people who have been misled into extravagant and wasteful attentions to the powers above. Here too matters were quite different with the dead lady. Her faith and devotion complete, she offered only what was in her heart to offer, always within her means. The most ignorant and insensitive of mendicant mountain priests regretted her passing.

Her funeral became the only business of court, where grief was universal. The colors of late spring gave way to unrelieved gray and black. Gazing out at his Nijō garden, Genji thought of the festivities that spring a dozen years before. “ This year alone, “ he whispered. Not wanting to be seen weeping, he withdrew to the chapel, and there spent the day in tears. The trees at the crest of the ridge stood clear in the evening light. Wisps of cloud trailed below, a dull gray. It was a time when the want of striking color had its own beauty.

“A rack of cloud across the light of evening

As if they too, these hills, wore mourning weeds.”

There was no one to hear.

The memorial rites were over, and the emperor still grieved. There was an old bishop who had had the confidence of successive empresses since Fujitsubo’s mother. Fujitsubo herself had been very close to him and valued his services highly, and he had been the emperor’s intermediary in solemn vows and offerings. A saintly man, he was now seventy. He had been in seclusion, making his own final preparations for the next life, but he had come down from the mountains to be at Fujitsubo’s side. The emperor had kept him on at the palace.

Genji too had pressed him to stay with the emperor through the difficult time and see to his needs as in the old days. Though he feared, replied the bishop, that he was no longer capable of night attendance, he was most honored by the invitation and most grateful that he had been permitted to serve royal ladies for so long.

One night, in the quiet before dawn, between shifts of courtiers on night duty, the bishop, coughing as old people will, was talking with the emperor about matters of no great importance.

“There is one subject which I find it very difficult to broach, Your Majesty. There are times when to speak the truth is a sin, and I have held my tongue. But it is a dilemma, since your august ignorance of a certain matter might lead to unknowing wrong. What good would I do for anyone if I were to die in terror at meeting the eye of heaven? Would it have for me the scorn which it has for the groveling dissembler?”

What might he be referring to? Some bitterness, some grudge, which he had not been able to throw off? It was unpleasant to think that the most saintly of hearts can be poisoned by envy.

“I have kept nothing from you since I learned to talk,” said the emperor, “and I shall not forgive easily if now you are keeping something from me.”

“It is wrong, I know, Your Majesty. You must forgive me. You have been permitted to see into depths which are guarded by the Blessed One, and why should I presume to keep anything from you? The matter is one which can project its unhappy influence into the future. Silence is damaging for everyone concerned. I have reference to the late emperor, to your late mother, and to the Genji minister.

“I am old and of no account, and shall have no regrets if I am punished for the revelation.

“I humbly reveal to you what was first revealed to me through the Blessed One himself. There were matters that deeply upset your mother when she was carrying you within her. The details were rather beyond the grasp of a simple priest like myself. There was that unexpected crisis when the Genji minister was charged with a crime he had not committed. Your royal mother was even more deeply troubled, and I undertook yet more varied and elaborate services. The minister heard of them and on his own initiative commissioned the rites which I undertook upon Your Majesty’s accession.” And he described them in detail.

It was a most astounding revelation. The terror and the sorrow were beyond describing. The emperor was silent for a time. Fearing that he had given offense, the old man started from the room.

“No, Your Reverence. My only complaint is that you should have concealed the matter for so long. Had I gone to my grave ignorant of it, I would have had it with me in my next life. And is there anyone else who is aware of these facts?”

“There are, I most solemnly assure you, two people and two people only who have ever known of them, Omyōbu and myself. The fear and the awe have been all the worse for that fact. Now you will understand, perhaps, the continuing portents which have had everyone in such a state of disquiet. The powers above held themselves in abeyance while Your Majesty was still a boy, but now that you have so perfectly reached the age of discretion they are making their displeasure known. It all goes back to your parents. I had been in awful fear of keeping the secret. “The old man was weeping. “I have forced myself to speak of what I would much prefer to have forgotten.”

It was full daylight when the bishop left.

The emperor’s mind was in turmoil. It was all like a terrible dream. His reputed father, the old emperor, had been badly served, and the emperor was serving his real father badly by letting him toil as a common minister. He lay in bed with his solitary anguish until the sun was high. A worried Genji came making inquiries. His arrival only added to the confusion in the emperor’s mind. He was in tears. More tears for his mother, surmised Genji, it being a time when there was no respite from tears. He must regretfully inform the emperor that Prince Shikibu had just died. Another bit of the pattern, thought the emperor. Genji stayed with him all that day.

“I have the feeling,” said the emperor, in the course of quiet, intimate talk, “that I am not destined to live a long life. I have a feeling too which I cannot really define that things are wrong, out of joint. There is a spirit of unrest abroad. I had not wished to upset my mother by subjecting her and all of you to radical change, but I really do think I would prefer a quieter sort of life.”

“It is out of the question. There is no necessary relationship between public order and the personal character of a ruler. In ages past we have seen the most deplorable occurrences in the most exemplary reigns. In China there have been violent upheavals during the reigns of sage emperors. Similar things have happened here. People whose time has come have died, and that is all. You are worrying yourself about nothing.”

He described many precedents which it would not be proper for me to describe in my turn.

In austere weeds of mourning, so much more subdued than ordinary court dress, the emperor looked extraordinarily like Genji. He had long been aware of the resemblance, but his attention was called to it more forcibly by the story he had just heard. He wanted somehow to hint of it to Genji. He was still very young, however, and rather awed by Genji and fearful of embarrassing or displeasing him. Though it turned on matters far less important, their conversation was unusually warm and affectionate.

Genji was too astute not to notice and be puzzled by the change. He did not suspect, however, that the emperor knew the whole truth.

The emperor would have liked to question Omyōbu; but somehow to bring her into this newest secret seemed a disservice to his mother and the secret she had guarded so long and so well. He thought of asking Genji, as if by way of nothing at all, whether his broad knowledge of history included similar examples, but somehow the occasion did not present itself. He pursued his own studies more diligently, going through voluminous Chinese and Japanese chronicles. He found great numbers of such irregularities in Chinese history, some of which had come to the public notice and some of which had not. He could find none at all in Japanese history — but then perhaps they had been secrets as well guarded as this one. He found numerous examples of royal princes who had been reduced to common status and given the name of Genji and who, having become councillors and ministers, had been returned to royal status and indeed named as successors to the throne. Might not Genji’s universally recognized abilities be sufficient reason for relinquishing the throne to him? The emperor turned the matter over and over in his mind, endlessly.

He had reached one decision, consulting no one: that Genji’s appointment as chancellor would be on the autumn lists. He told Genji of his secret thoughts about the succession.

So astonished that he could scarcely raise his eyes, Genji offered the most emphatic opposition. “Father, whatever may have been his reasons, favored me above all his other sons, but never did he consider relinquishing the throne to me. What possible reason would I now have for going against his noble intentions and taking for myself a position I have never coveted? I would much prefer to follow his clear wishes and be a loyal minister, and when you are a little older, perhaps, retire to the quiet pursuits I really wish for.”

To the emperor’s very great disappointment, he was adamant in his refusal.

Then came the emperor’s wish to appoint him chancellor. Genji had reasons for wishing to remain for a time a minister, however, and the emperor had to be content with raising him one rank and granting him the special honor of bringing his carriage in through the Great South Gate. The emperor would have liked to go a little further and restore him to royal status, but Genji’s inclinations were against that honor as well. As a prince he would not have the freedom he now had in advising the emperor, and who besides him was to perform that service? Tō no Chūjō was a general and councillor. When he had advanced a step or two Genji might safely turn everything over him to him and, for better or worse, withdraw from public life.

But there was something very odd about the emperor’s behavior. Suspicions crossed Genji’s mind. If they were valid, then they had sad implications for the memory of Fujitsubo, and they suggested secret anguish on the part of the emperor. Genji was overwhelmed by feelings of awed guilt. Who could have let the secret out?

Having become mistress of the wardrobe, Omyōbu was now living in the palace. He went to see her.

Had Fujitsubo, on any occasion, allowed so much as a fragment of the secret to slip out in the emperor’s presence?

“Never, my lord, never. She lived in constant tenor that he might hear of it from someone else, and in terror of the secret itself, which might bring upon him the disfavor of the powers above.”

Genji’s longing for the dead lady came back anew.

Meanwhile Akikonomu’s performance at court was above reproach. She served the emperor well and he was fond of her. She could be given perfect marks for her sensitivity and diligence, which to Genji were beyond pricing. In the autumn she came to Nijō for a time. Genji had had the main hall polished and refitted until it quite glittered. He now stood unapologetically in the place of her father.

A gentle autumn rain was falling. The flower beds near the veranda were a riot of color, softened by the rain. Genji was in a reminiscent mood and his eyes were moist. He went to her apartments, a figure of wonderful courtliness and dignity in his dark mourning robes. The recent unsettling events had sent him into retreat. Though making no great show of it, he had a rosary in his hand. He addressed her through only a curtain.

“And so here are the autumn flowers again with their ribbons all undone. It has been a rather dreadful year, and it is somehow a comfort that they should come back, not one of them forgetting its proper time.”

Leaning against a pillar, he was very handsome in the evening light. “When I think of her” — was the princess too thinking of her mother? He told her of the memories that had been so much with him these last days, and especially of how reluctant he had been to leave the temporary shrine that morning shortly before their departure for Ise. He heard, and scarcely heard at all, a soft movement behind the curtains, and guessed that she was weeping. There was a touching delicacy in it. Once more he regretted that he was not permitted to look at her. (It is not entirely admirable, this sort of regret.)

“All my life I have made trouble for myself which I could have avoided, and gone on worrying about ladies I have been fond of. Among all the affairs in which, I fear, my impulsiveness has brought pain to others, two have continued to trouble me and refused to go away.

“One was the case of your late mother. To the end she seems to have thought my behavior outrageous, and I have always known that to the end I shall be sorry. I had hoped that my being of service to you and enjoying your confidence as I hope I do might have comforted her. But it would seem that in spite of everything the smoke refused to clear, and I must continue to live with it.”

Two affairs, he had said; but he did not elaborate upon the second.

“There were those years when I was lost to the world. Most of the unfinished business which I took with me has since been put in order, after a fashion. There is the lady in the east lodge, for instance: she has been rescued from her poverty and is living in peace and security. Her amiable ways are well known to everyone, most certainly to me, and I should say that in that quarter mutual understanding prevails. That I am back in the city and able to be of some service to His Majesty is not, for me, a matter that calls for very loud congratulation. I am still unable to fight back the unfortunate tendencies of my earlier years as I would have wished. Are you aware, I wonder, that my services to you, such as they have been, have required no little self-control? I should be very disappointed indeed if you were to leave me with the impression that you have not guessed.”

A heavy silence succeeded these remarks.

“You must forgive me.” And he changed the subject. “How I wish that, for the remaining years that have been granted me, I might shut myself up in some retreat and lose myself in quiet preparations for the next world. My great regret would be that I would leave so little behind me. There is, as you may know, a girl, of such mean birth that the world cannot be expected to notice her. I wait with great impatience for her to grow up. I fear that it will seem inappropriate of me to say so, but it would give me much comfort to hope that you might number the prosperity of this house among your august concerns, and her, after I am gone, among the people who matter to you.”

Her answer was but a word, so soft and hesitant that he barely caught it. He would have liked to take her in his arms. He stayed on, talking affectionately until it was quite dark.

“But aside from house and family, it is nature that gives me the most pleasure, the changes through the seasons, the blossoms and leaves of autumn and spring, the shifting patterns of the skies. People have always debated the relative merits of the groves of spring and the fields of autumn, and had trouble coming to a conclusion. I have been told that in China nothing is held to surpass the brocades of spring, but in the poetry of our own country the preference would seem to be for the wistful notes of autumn. I watch them come and go and must allow each its points, and in the end am unable to decide between song of bird and hue of flower. I go further: within the limits allowed by my narrow gardens, I have sought to bring in what I can of the seasons, the flowering trees of spring and the flowering grasses of autumn, and the humming of insects that would go unnoticed in the wilds. This is what I offer for your pleasure. Which of the two, autumn or spring, is your own favorite?”

He had chosen another subject which produced hesitation, but one on which silence would seem merely rude.

“If Your Lordship finds it difficult to hand down a decision, how much more do I. It is as you say: some are of the one opinion and some of the other. Yet for me the autumn wind which poets have found so strange and compelling — in the dews I sense a fleeting link with my mother.”

He found the very muteness and want of logic deeply touching.

“Then we two feel alike. You know my secret:

For me it is the autumn winds that pierce.

“There are times when I find them almost more than I can bear.”

How was she to answer? She made it seem that she had not understood. Somehow he was in a complaining mood this evening. He caught himself just short of further indiscretion. She had every right to be unhappy with him, for he was behaving like a silly stripling. He sighed a heavy sigh, and even that rather put her off with its intrusive elegance. She seemed to be inching away from him.

“I have displeased you, and am sorry — though I doubt that most people of feeling would have been quite as displeased. Well, do not let the displeasure last. It could be very trying.”

He went out. Even the perfume that lingered on upset her.

“What a scent he did leave on these cushions — just have a whiff. I can’t find words to describe it.” Her women were lowering the shutters. “He brings everything all together in himself, like a willow that is all of a sudden blooming like a cherry. It sets a person to shivering.”

He went to Murasaki’s wing of the house. He did not go inside immediately, but, choosing a place on the veranda as far as possible from the lamps, lay for a time in thought. He exchanged desultory talk with several of her women. He was thinking of love. Had those wild impulses still not left him? He was too old for them, and angry with himself for the answer which the question demanded. He had misbehaved grievously, but he had been young and unthinking, and was sure that he would by now have been forgiven. So he sought to comfort himself; and there was genuine comfort in the thought that he was at least more aware of the dangers than he once had been.

Akikonomu was sorry that she had said as much as she had. Her remarks about the autumn must have sounded very poetic, and she should have held her tongue. She was so unhappy with herself that she was feeling rather tired. Genji’s robustness had not seemed to allow for fatigue. He was behaving more all the time as if he were her father.

He told Murasaki of this newly discovered preference for the autumn. “Certainly I can appreciate it. With you it is the early spring morning, and that too I understand. We must put together a really proper entertainment sometime to go with the blossoms and the autumn leaves. But I have been so busy. Well, it will not always be so. I will have what I want most, the life of the recluse. And will you be lonely, my dear? The possibility that you might is what really holds me back.”

He still thought a great deal about the Akashi lady, but his life was so constricted that he could not easily visit her. She seemed to have concluded that the bond between them meant nothing. By what right? Her refusal to leave the hills for a more conventional abode seemed to him a touch haughty. Yet he pitied her, and took every opportunity to attend services in his new chapel. Oi only seemed sadder as she came to know it better, the sort of place that must have a melancholy effect on even the chance visitor. Genji’s visits brought contradictory feelings: the bond between them was a powerful one, obviously, and it had meant unhappiness. She might have been better off without it. These are the sad thoughts which most resist consolation.

The torches of the cormorant fishermen through the dark groves were like fireflies on a garden stream.

“For someone not used to living beside the water,” said Genji, “I think it must be wonderfully strange and different.”

“The torches bobbing with the fisher boats

Upon those waves have followed me to Oi.

“The torches and my thoughts are now as they were then.”

And he answered:

“Only one who does not know deep waters

Can still be bobbing, dancing on those waves.

“Who, I ask you, has made whom unhappy?” So he turned her gentle complaint against her.

It was a rime of relative leisure when Genji could turn his thoughts to his devotions. Because his visits were longer, the Akashi lady (or so one hears) was feeling somewhat happier with her lot.

Chapter 20

The Morning Glory

Ch20_asago

Traditionally credited to Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691).

Part of the Burke Albums, property of Mary Griggs Burke

The high priestess of Kamo, Princess Asagao, resigned her position upon the death of her father. Never able to forget ladies who had interested him, Genji had sent frequent inquiries after her health. Her answers were always very stiff and formal. She was determined never again to be the subject of rumors. He was of course not happy.

He learned that she had returned to her father’s Momozono Palace in the Ninth Month. The Fifth Princess, younger sister of the old emperor and aunt of Asagao and of Genji as well, was also in residence at Momozono. Genji paid a visit, making the Fifth Princess his excuse. The old emperor had been very fond of his sister and niece, and Genji could say that he had inherited a responsibility. They occupied the east and west wings of the palace, which already showed signs of neglect and wore a most melancholy aspect

The Fifth Princess received him. She seemed to have aged and she coughed incessantly. Princess Omiya, the mother of Genji’s dead wife, was her older sister, but the two were very different. Princess Omiya had retained her good looks to the end. A husky-voiced, rather gawky person, the Fifth Princess had somehow never come into her own.

“The world has seemed such a sad place since your father died. I spend my old age sniffling and sobbing. And now Prince Shikibu has left me too. I was sure that no one in the world would even remember me, and here you are. Your kind visit has done a great deal to dispel the gloom.”

Yes, she had aged. He addressed her most courteously. “Everything seemed to change when Father died. There were those years when with no warning and for no reason that I could see I languished in the provinces. Then when my good brother saw fit to call me back and I was honored with official position once more, I found that I ad little time of my own, and I fear that I have neglected you inexcusably. I have so often thought that I would like to call and have a good talk about old times.”

“As you say, it has been a very uncertain and disorderly world. Everywhere I look I see something more to upset me. And I have lived through it all quite as if I were no part of it. No one should be asked to live so long — but now that I see you back where you should be, I remember how I hated the thought of dying while you were still away.” Her voice cracked and wavered. “Just see what a handsome gentleman you have become. You were so pretty when you were little that it was hard to believe you were really meant for this world, and each time since I have had the same thought, that you might have been meant for somewhere else. They say that His Majesty looks just like you, but I don’t believe it. There can’t be two such handsome men.”

He smiled. She might have waited until he was out of earshot. “You praise me too highly. I neglected myself when I was in the provinces and I fear I have not shaken off the countrified look. As for His Majesty, there has been no one, past or present, to rival him in good looks. You are quite right when you say that there cannot be two such handsome men.”

“I think I may expect to live awhile longer if I may be honored from time to time with a visit like this. It is as if both years and sorrows were leaving me.” There was a pause for tears. “I was, I must admit it, envious of Princess Omiya that she had succeeded in establishing such close relations with you. There was evidence that Prince Shikibu was envious too.”

The conversation had taken an interesting turn. “A bond with Prince Shikibu’s house,” he said somewhat sardonically, “would have been an honor and a pleasure. But I fear that I was not made to feel exactly wanted.”

His eye had been wandering in the direction of the other wing. The Withered garden had a monochrome beauty all its own. He was restless. What would this quiet seclusion have done to Asagao?

“I think I will just look in at the other wing. She would think it rude of me not to.”

He passed through a gallery. In the gathering darkness he could still see somber curtains of mourning beyond blinds trimmed in dark gray. A wonderfully delicate incense came drifting towards him.

He was invited into the south room, for it would not do to leave him on the veranda. Asagao’s lady of honor came with a message.

“So you still treat me as if I were a headstrong boy. I have waited so long that I have come to think myself rather venerable, and would have expected the privilege of the inner rooms.”

“I feel as if I were awakening from a long dream,” the princess sent back, “and I must ask time to deliberate the patience of which you speak.”

Yes, thought Genji, the world was an uncertain, dreamlike place.

“One does indeed wait long and cheerless months

In hopes the gods will someday give their blessing.

“And what divine command do you propose to invoke this time? I have thought and felt a great deal, and would take comfort from sharing even a small part of it with you?”

The princess sensed cool purpose in the old urgency and impetuosity. He had matured. Yet he still seemed much too young for the high office he held.

“The gods will tell me I have broken my vows

For having had the briefest talk with You.”

“What a pity. I would have thought them prepared to let the gentle winds take these things away.”

There really was no one else like him. But she was in grim earnest, refusing to be amused when her lady of honor suggested that the god of Kamo was likely to take her no more seriously than he had taken Narihira. The years only seemed to have made her less disposed to welcome gallantry. Her women were much distressed by her coldness.

“You have given the interview quite the wrong turn.” Genuinely annoyed, he got up to leave. “We seem to grow older for purposes of suffering more massive indignities. Is it your purpose to reduce me to the ultimate in abjection?”

The praise was thunderous (it always had been) when he was gone. It was a time when the skies would have brought poignant thoughts in any case, and a falling leaf could take one back to things of long ago. The women exchanged memories of his attentions in matters sad and joyous.

He lay awake with his disappointment. He had the shutters raised early and stood looking out at the morning mist. Trailing over the withered flowers was a morning glory that still had one or two sad, frostbitten little blooms. He broke it off and sent it to Asagao.

“You turned me away in shame and humiliation, and the thought of how the rout must have pleased you is not comfortable.

“I do not forget the morning glory I saw.

Will the years, I wonder, have taken it past its bloom?

“I go on, in spite of everything, hoping that you pity me for the sad thoughts of so many years.”

It was a civil sort of letter which it would be wrong to ignore, said her women, pressing an inkstone upon her.

“The morning glory, wholly changed by autumn,

Is lost in the tangle of the dew-drenched hedge.

“Your most apt simile brings tears.”

It could not have been called a very interesting or encouraging reply, but he was unable to put it down. Perhaps it was the elegance of the handwriting, on soft gray-green paper, that so held him.

Sometimes, in an exchange of this sort, one is deluded by rank or an elegant hand into thinking that everything is right, and afterwards, in attempting to describe it, made to feel that it was not so at all. It may be that I have written confidently and not very accurately.

Not wishing to seem impulsive, he was reluctant to reply; but the thought of all the months and years through which she had managed to be cold and yet keep him interested brought some of his youthful ardor back. He wrote a most earnest letter, having summoned her messenger to the east wing, where they would not be observed. Her women tended to be of an easygoing sort, less than firm even towards lesser men, and their noisy praise had put her on her guard. She herself had always been uncompromising, and now she thought that they were too old and too conspicuous, he and she, for such flirtations. The most routine and perfunctory exchange having to do with the flowers and grasses of the seasons seemed likely to invite criticism. The years had not changed her. In annoyance and admiration, he had to admit that she was unusual.

Word that he had seen her got abroad in spite of everything. It was said that he was sending her very warm letters. The Fifth Princess, among others, was pleased. They did seem such a remarkably well-matched pair. The rumor presently reached Murasaki, who at first told herself that he would not dream of keeping such a secret from her. Then, watching him closely, she could not dismiss the evidences which she found of restlessness. So he was serious about something which he had treated as a joke. She and Asagao were both granddaughters of emperors, but somehow the other lady had cut the grander figure. If Genji’s intentions proved serious Murasaki would be in a very unhappy position indeed. Perhaps, too confident that she had no rivals, she had presumed too much upon his affections. It did not seem likely that he would discard her, at least in the immediate future, but it was quite possible that they had been together too long and that he was taking her for granted. Though in matters of no importance she could scold him most charmingly, she gave no hint of her concern when she was really upset. He spent much of his time these days gazing into the garden. He would spend several nights at court and on his return busy himself with what he called official correspondence, and she would conclude that the rumors were true. Why didihe not say something? He seemed like a stranger.

There were no festivals this year. Bored and fidgety, he set off for Momozono again one evening. He had taken the whole day with his toilet, choosThere were no festivals this year. Bored and fidgety, he set off for ing pleasantly soft robes and making sure that they were well perfumed. The weaker sort of woman would have had even fewer defenses against his charms than usual.

He did, after all, think it necessary to tell Murasaki. “The Fifth Princess is not well. I must look in upon her.”

He waited for a reply, but she was busying herself with the little girl. Her profile told him that all was not well.

“You seem so touchy these days. I cannot think why. I have not wanted to be taken for granted, like a familiar and rumpled old robe, and so I have been staying away a little more than I used to. What suspicions are you cherishing this time?”

“Yes, it is true. One does not enjoy being wearied of.” She turned away and lay down.

He did not want to leave her, but he had told the Fifth Princess that he would call, and really must be on his way.

So this, thought Murasaki, was marriage. She had been too confident.

Mourning robes have their own beauty, and his were especially beautiful in the light reflected from the snow. She could not bear to think that he might one day be leaving her for good.

He took only a very few intimate retainers with him. “I have reached an age,” he said, very plausibly, “when I do not want to go much of anywhere except to the palace. But they are having a rather sad time of it at Momozono. They had Prince Shikibu to look after them, and now it seems very natural, and very sad too, that they should turn to me.”

Murasaki’s women were not convinced. “It continues to be his great defect that his attention wanders. We only hope that no unhappiness comes of it.”

At Momozono the traffic seemed to be through the north gate. It would have been undignified for Genji to join the stream, and so he sent one of his men in through the great west gate. The Fifth Princess, who had not expected him so late on a snowy evening, made haste to order the gate opened. A chilly-looking porter rushed out. He was having trouble and there was no one to help him.

“All rusty,” he muttered. Genji felt rather sorry for him.

And so thirty years had gone by, like yesterday and today. It was a fleeting, insubstantial world, and yet the temporary lodgings which It offered were not easy to give up. The grasses and flowers of the passing seasons continued to pull at him.

“And when did wormwood overwhelm this gate,

This hedge, now under snow, so go to ruin?’,

Finally the gate was opened and he made his way in.

The Fifth Princess commenced talking, as always, of old times. She talked on and on, and Genji was drowsy. She too began to yawn.

“I get sleepy of an evening. I’m afraid I’m not the talker I used to be.”

The sounds which then began to emerge from her may have been snores, but they were unlike any he had heard before.

Delighted at this release, he started off. But another woman had taken over, coughing a very aged cough. “I had ventured to hope that you might remember me, but I see that you no longer count me among the living. Your late father used to call me Granny and have a good laugh over me.”

She identified herself and he remembered. It was old Naishi. He had heard that she had become a nun and that she and the old princess kept religious company, but it astonished him to learn that she was still alive.

“It seems a very long time since my father died. Even to think of those days somehow makes me sad. What a pleasure it is to hear your voice. You must be kind to me, as you would be kind to a fatherless wanderer.”

Evidence that he had settled down again and that she had his attention seems to have swept her back to the old years, and all the old coquettishness came forth anew. It was too evident, from the imperfect articulation, that the playful words came from a toothless old mouth. “Even as I spoke,” she said, and it seemed rather too much. He was both amused and saddened at the suggestion that old age had come upon her suddenly and undetected.

Of the ladies who had competed for the old emperor’s affections when Naishi was in her prime, some were long dead, and no doubt others had come upon sad days at the end of long lives. What a short life Fujitsubo had lived! A world which had already seemed uncertain enough was making another display of cruel uncertainty. Here serenely pursuing her devotions was a woman who had seemed ready for death even then and who had never had a great deal to recommend her.

Pleased that she had had an effect upon him, she moved on to other playful endeavors.

“I do not forget that bond, though years have passed,

For did you not choose to call me Mother’s mother?”

It was a bit extreme.

“Suppose we wait for another world to tell us

Of instances of a child’s forgetting a parent.

“Yes, it does seem a most durable bond. We must have a good talk about it sometime.”

And he left.

A few shutters were still open along the west wing, as if the princess did not want to make him feel completely unwelcome. The moon had come out and was shining upon the snow to turn the evening into a suddenly beautiful one. Such encounters as the one from which he had just emerged were held by the world to be inept examples of something or other.

His manner was very sober and proper this evening. “If I could have a single word directly from you expressing your dislike for me, then I might resign myself to what must be.”

But she was disinclined to grant him even this. Young indiscretion can be forgiven, and she had sensed that her late father was not ill disposed toward him; but she had rejected him, and that was that. At their age it was all most unseemly. The prospect of the single word he asked for left her in acute embarrassment. He thought her a very cold lady indeed, and she for her part wished he would give her credit for trying, through her intermediary, not to seem inhospitable. It was late and the wind was high and cold.

Though feeling very sorry for himself, he managed a certain elegance as he brushed away a tear.

“Long years of coldness have not chastened me,

And now I add resentment to resentment.

Though of course it is true that I came asking for it.”

He spoke as if to himself, and once again her women were noisy in agreeing that he was not being treated well.

She sent out an answer:

“I could not change if I wished at this late date.

I know that others do, but I cannot.

I leave things exactly as I find them.”

He did not wish to go storming out like an angry boy. “This must be kept secret,” he said in the course of whispered consultation with the woman who brought her messages. “I would not want to set a ridiculous example. It is of course not you but your lady — you must think it rather coy of me — to whom I should be commending the river Isara as a model.”

Her women were agreed that he had not been treated well. “Such a fine gentleman. Why must she be so stubborn? He seems incapable of the tiniest rudeness or recklessness.”

She knew well enough that he was a most admirable and interesting man, but she wanted no remark from her to join the anthems she heard all about her. He was certain to conclude that she too had succumbed —

was so shamelessly handsome. No, an appearance of warmth and friendliness would not serve her purposes. Always addressing him through an intermediary, she expressed herself carefully and at careful intervals, just short of what he might take for final silence. She wanted to lose herself in her devotions and make amends for her years away from the Good Law, but she did not want the dramatics of a final break. They too would amuse the gossips. Not trusting even her own women, she withdrew gradually into hed prayers. Prince Shikibu had had numerous children, her mother only one. She was not close to her half brothers and sisters. The Momozono Palace was neglected and her retinue was small. Now came this fine gentleman with his impassioned suit, in which everyone in sight seemed to be joining.

It is not to be imagined that Genji had quite lost his heart to the princess. It was rather that her coldness put him on his mettle. He did not wish to admit defeat. He was extremely careful these days about his behavior, which left no room for criticism. He knew how happy people were to pass judgment in such matters and he was no longer the Genji of the youthful indiscretions. He was not at this late date going to admit scandal into his life. Yet rejected suitors did look rather ridiculous.

His nights away from Nijō were more frequent. “I wonder if even in jest,” said Murasaki to herself. The tears would come, however she tried to hold them back.

“You are not looking well,” he said, stroking her hair. “What can be the trouble?” He gazed affectionately at her, and they seemed such a perfect pair that one would have wished to do a likeness of them. “The emperor has been very despondent since his mother’s death, and now that the chancellor is gone there is no one but me who can really make decisions. I have been terribly busy. You are not used to having me away so much, and it is very natural that you should be unhappy; but you have nothing at all to worry about. You are no longer a girl, and this refusal to understand is rather funny.” He smoothed the hair at her forehead, matted with tears. She looked away. “Who can have been responsible for your education, that you refuse to grow up?”

It was an uncertain and capricious world, and he grieved that anything at all should come between them. “I wonder if you might possibly have misconstrued the little notes I have sent to the high priestess of Kamo. If so, then you are very far from the mark. You will see for yourself one of these days. She has always been such a cold one. I have sought to intimidate her with what might be taken for love notes. Life is dull for her, it would seem, and sometimes she has answered. Why should I come crying to you with the answers when they mean so little to me? I must assure you once more that you have nothing to worry about.” He spent the whole day in her rooms.

There was a heavy fall of snow. In the evening there were new flurries. The contrast between the snow on the bamboo and the snow on the pines was very beautiful. Genji’s good looks seemed to shine more brightly in the evening light.

“People make a great deal of the flowers of spring and the leaves of autumn, but for me a night like this, with a clear moon shining on snow, is the best — and there is not a trace of color in it. I cannot describe the effect it has on me, weird and unearthly somehow. I do not understand people who find a winter evening forbidding.” He had the blinds raised.

The moon turned the deepest recesses of the garden a gleaming white. The flower beds were wasted, the brook seemed to send up a strangled cry, and the lake was frozen and somehow terrible. Into this austere scene he sent little maidservants, telling them that they must make snowmen. Their dress was bright and their hair shone in the moonlight. The older ones were especially pretty, their jackets and trousers and ribbons trailing off in many colors, and the fresh sheen of their hair black against the snow. The smaller ones quite lost themselves in the sport. They let their fans fall most immodestly from their faces. It was all very charming. Rather outdoing themselves, several of them found that they had a snowball which they could not budge. Some of their fellows jeered at them from the east veranda.

“I remember a winter when they made a snow mountain for your aunt, the late empress. There was nothing remarkable about it, but she had a way of making the smallest things seem remarkable. Everything reminds me of her. I was kept at a distance, of course, and did not have the good fortune to observe her closely, but during her years at court she was good enough to take me into her confidence. In my turn I looked to her for advice. She was always very quiet and unassertive, but I always came away feeling that I had been right to ask her. I think I never came away without some small thing that seemed very precious. I doubt that we will see anyone quite like her again. She was a gentle lady and even a little shy, and at the same time she had a wonderful way of seeing to the heart of things. You of course wear the same co1ors, but I do sometimes find that I must tax you with a certain willfulness.

“The Kamo priestess is another matter. With time on our hands and no real business, we have exchanged notes. I should say that she is the one who puts me to the test these days.”

“But the most elegant and accomplished one of them all, I should think, is Lady Oborozukiyo. She seemed like caution incarnate and yet those strange things did happen.”

“If you are naming the beautiful and interesting ones, she must be among them. It does seem a pity that there should have been that incident. A wild youth is not an easy thing to have on one’s conscience — and mine was so much tamer than most.” The thought of Oborozukiyo brought a sigh. “Then there is the lady off in the hills of whom you have such a low opinion. She is more sensitive and accomplished than one might expect from her rank. She demands rather special treatment and so I have chosen to overlook a tendency not to be as aware as she might of her place in the world. I have never taken charge of a lady who has had nothing at all to recommend her. Yet the really outstanding ones are rare indeed. The lady in the east lodge here is an example of complete devotion and dependability. I undertook to look after her when I saw her finer qualities, and I have found absolutely nothing in her behavior which I might call forward or demanding. We have become very fond of each other, and would both, I think, be sad at the thought of parting.” So they passed the night.

The moon was yet brighter, the scene utterly quiet.

“The water is stilled among the frozen rocks.

A clear moon moves into the western sky.”

Bending forward to look out at the garden, she was incomparably lovely. Her hair and profile called up most wonderfully the image of Fujitsubo, and his love was once again whole and undivided.

There was the call of a waterfowl.

“A night of drifting snow and memories

Is broken by another note of sadness.”

He lay down, still thinking of Fujitsubo. He had a fleeting dream of her. She seemed angry.

“You said that you would keep our secret, and it is out. I am unable to face the world for the pain and the shame.”

He was about to answer, as if defending himself against a sudden, fierce attack.

“What is the matter?”

It was Murasaki’s voice. His longing for the dead lady was indescribable. His heart was racing and in spite of himself he was weeping. Murasaki gazed at him, fear in her eyes. She lay quite still.

“A winter’s night, I awaken from troubled sleep.

And what a brief and fleeting dream it was?”

Arising early, sadder than if he had not slept at all, he commissioned services, though without explaining his reasons. No doubt she did blame him for her sufferings. She had tried very hard, it seemed, to do penance for her sins, but perhaps the gravest of them had remained with her. The thought that there are laws in these matters filled him with a sadness almost unbearable. He longed, by some means, to visit her where she wandered alone, a stranger, and to take her sins for his own. He feared that if he made too much of the services he would arouse suspicions. Afraid that a suspicion of the truth might even now be disturbing the emperor, he gave himself over to invoking the holy name.

If only they might share the same lotus in another world.

“I fear, in my longing, to go in search of her

And find not her shade on the banks of the River of Death.”

These are the thoughts, one is told, with which he tormented himself.

Chapter 21

The Maiden

The New Year came, and the end of mourning for Fujitsubo. Mourning robes were changed for the bright robes of ordinary times. It was as if the warm, soft skies of the Fourth Month and the Kamo festival had everywhere brought renewal. For Asagao, however, life was sad and dull. The wind rustling the laurels made her think of the festival and brought countless memories to her young women as well.

On the day of the Kamo lustration a note came from Genji. It was on lavender paper folded with formal precision and attached to a spray of wisteria. “I can imagine the quiet memories with which you are passing this day.

“I did not think that when the waters returned

It would be to take away the weeds of mourning.”

It was a time of memories. She sent off an answer:

“How quick the change. Deep mourning yesterday,

Today the shallow waters of lustration.

“Everything seems fleeting and insubstantial”

Brief and noncommittal though it was, Genji could not put it down.

His gifts, addressed to her lady of honor, quite overflowed her wing of the Momozono Palace. She hated to have it seem that he was treating her as one of his ladies. If she had been able to detect anything which struck her as in the least improper she could have sent them back; but she had had gifts from him before, on suitable occasions, and his letter was most staid and proper. She could not think how to answer.

He was also very particular on such occasions about writing to the Fifth Princess.

“It seems like only yesterday that he was a little boy, and here he is so gallant and polite. He is the handsomest man I have ever seen, and so good-natured too, much nicer than any other young gentleman I know.” The young women were much amused.

Asagao was always the recipient of an outmoded description of things when she saw her aunt. “Such lovely notes as the Genji minister is always writing. No, please, now — whatever you say you can’t pretend that he’s only just now come courting. I remember how disappointed your father was when he married the other lady and we did not have the pleasure of welcoming him here. All your fault, your father was always saying. Your unreasonable ways lost us our chance. While his wife was still alive, I was not able to support my brother in his hopes, because after all she was my niece too. Well, she had him and now she’s gone. What possible reason can there be for not doing as your father wanted you to do? Here he is courting you again as if nothing ever happened. I think it must be your fate to marry him.”

I seemed stubborn while Father was alive. How would I seem now if I were suddenly to accede to your wishes?”

The subject was obviously one which distressed her, and the old lady pursued it no further.

Poor Asagao lived in constant trepidation, for not only her aunt but everyone in the Momozono Palace seemed to be on his side. Genji, however, having made the sincerity of his affections clear, seemed prepared to wait for a conciliatory move on her part. He was not going to demand a confrontation.

Though it would have been more convenient to have Yūgiri’s initiation ceremonies at Nijō, the boy’s grandmother, Princess Omiya, naturally wanted to see them. So it was decided that they would take place at Sanjō. His maternal uncles, Tō no Chūjō and the rest, were now all very well placed and in the emperor’s confidence. They vied with one another in being of service to Genji and his son. Indeed the whole court, including people whose concern it need not have been, had made the ceremony its chief business.

Everyone expected that Yūgiri would be promoted to the Fourth Rank. Genji deliberated the possibility and decided that rapid promotions when everyone knew they could be as rapid as desired had a way of seeming vulgar. Yūgiri looked so forlorn in his blue robes that Princess Omiya was angry for him. She demanded an explanation of Genji.

“We need not force him into adult company. I have certain thoughts in the matter. I think he should go to the university, and so we may think of the next few years as time out, a vacation from all these promotions. When he is old enough to be of real service at court it will be soon enough. I myself grew up at court, always at Father’s side. I did not know what the larger world was like and I learned next to nothing about the classics. Father himself was my teacher, but there was something inadequate about my education. What I did learn of the classics and of music and the like did not have a broad grounding.

“We do not hear in our world of sons who excel inadequate fathers, and over the generations the prospect becomes one of sad decline. I have made my decision. A boy of good family moves ahead in rank and office and basks in the honors they bring. Why, he asks, should he trouble himself to learn anything? He has his fun, he has his music and other pleasures, and rank and position seem to come of their own accord. The underlings of the world praise him to his face and laugh at him behind his back. This is very well while it lasts — he is the grand gentleman. But changes come, forces shift. Those who can help themselves do so, and he is left behind. His affairs fall into a decline and presently nothing is left.

“No, the safe thing is to give him a good, solid fund of knowledge. It is when there is a fund of Chinese learning that the Japanese spirit is respected by the world. He may feel dissatisfied for a time, but if we give him the proper education for a minister of state, then I need not worry about what will happen after I am gone. He may not be able to spread his wings for a time, but I doubt that, given the house he comes from, people will sneer at him as a threadbare clerk.”

The princess sighed. “Yes, I suppose you are right. I hadn’t thought things through quite so far. My sons have said that you are being very strict with him, and he did seem so very forlorn when all the cousins he has looked down on have moved from blue to brighter colors. I had to feel sorry for him.”

Genji smiled. “He is very grown-up for his age.” In fact, he thought Yūgiri’s behavior rather endearing. “But he’ll get over it when they’ve put a little learning into his head.”

The matriculation ceremonies were held in the east lodge at Nijō, the east wing of which was fitted out for the occasion. It was a rare event. Courtiers crowded round to see what a matriculation might be like. The professors must have been somewhat astonished.

“You are to treat him exactly as the rules demand,” said Genji. “Make no exceptions.”

The academic assembly was a strange one, solemn of countenance, badly fitted in borrowed clothes, utterly humorless of word and manner, yet given to jostling for place. Some of the younger courtiers were laughing. Fearing that that would be the case, Genji had insisted that the profes- sorial cups be kept full by older and better-controlled men. Even so, Tō no Chūjō and Prince Mimbu were reprimanded by the learned gentlemen.

“Most inadequate, these libation pourers. Do they propose to conduct the affairs of the land without the advice of the sages? Most inadequate indeed.”

There came gusts of laughter.

“Silence, if you please. Silence is called for Such improprieties are unheard of. We must ask your withdrawal.”

Everyone thought the professors rather fun. For courtiers who had themselves been to the university the affair was most satisfying. It was very fine indeed that Genji should see fit to give his son a university education. The professors put down merriment with a heavy hand and made unfavorable note of other departures from strict decorum. Yet as the night wore on, the lamps revealed something a little different, a little clownish, perhaps, or forlorn, under the austere professorial masks. It was indeed an unusual assembly.

“I am afraid, sirs, that I am the oaf you should be scolding,” said Genji, withdrawing behind a blind. “I am quite overcome.”

Learning that there had not been places enough for all the scholars, he had a special banquet laid out in the angling pavilion.

He invited the professors and several courtiers of a literary bent to stay behind and compose Chinese poems. The professors were assigned stanzas of four couplets, and the amateurs, Genji among them, were allowed to make do with two. The professors assigned titles. Dawn was coming on when the reading took place, with Sachūben the reader. He was a man of imposing manner and fine looks, and his voice as he read took on an almost awesome grandeur. Great things were to be expected from him, everyone said. The poems, all of them interesting, brought in numerous old precedents by way of celebrating so laudable an event, that a young man born to luxury and glory should choose to make the light of the firefly his companion, the reflection from the snow his friend. One would have liked to send them for the delectation of the land across the sea. They were the talk of the court.

Genji’s poem was particularly fine. His paternal affection showed through and brought tears from the company. But it would not be seemly for a woman to speak in detail of these scholarly happenings, and I shall say no more.

Then came the formal commencement of studies. Genji assigned rooms in the east lodge, where learned tutors were put at Yūgiri’s disposal. Immersed in his studies, he rarely went to call on his grandmother. He had been with her since infancy, and Genji feared that she would go on pampering him. Quiet rooms near at hand seemed appropriate. He was permitted to visit Sanjō some three times a month.

Shut up with musty books, he did think his father severe. His friends, subjected to no such trials, were moving happily from rank to rank. He was a serious lad, however, not given to frivolity, and soon he had resolved that he would make quick work of the classics and then have his career. Within a few months he had finished The Grand History. Genji conducted mock examinations with the usual people in attendance, Tō no Chūjō, Sadaiben, Shikibu no Tayū, Sachūben, and the rest. The boy’s chief tutor was invited as well. Yūgiri was asked to read passages from The Grand History on which he was likely to be challenged. He did so without hesitation, offering all the variant theories as to the meaning, and leaving no smudgy question marks behind. Everyone was delighted, and indeed tears of delight might have been observed. It had been an outstanding performance, though not at all unexpected. How he wished, said Tō no Chūjō, that the old chancellor could have been present.

Genji was not completely successful at hiding his pride. “There is a sad thing that I have more than once witnessed, a father who grows stupider as his son grows wiser. So here it is happening to me, and I am not so very old. It is the way of the world.” His pleasure and pride were a rich reward for the tutor.

The drinks which Tō no Chūjō pressed on this gentleman seemed to make him ever leaner. He was an odd man whose scholarly attainments had not been put to proper use, and life had not been good to him. Sensing something unusual in him, Genji had put him in charge of Yūgiri’s studies. These rather overwhelming attentions made him feel that life had begun again, and no doubt a limitless future seemed to open for him.

On the day of the examination the university gates were jammed with fine carriages. It was natural that no one, not even people who had no real part in the proceedings, should wish to be left out. The young candidate himself, very carefully dressed and surrounded by solicitous retainers, was so handsome a figure that people were inclined to ask again what he was doing here. If he looked a little self-conscious taking the lowest seat as the company assembled, that too was natural. Again stern calls to proper deportment emerged from the professors, but he read without misstep to the end.

It was a day to make one think of the university in its finest age. People high and low now competed to pursue the way of learning, and the level of official competence rose. Yūgiri got through his other examinations, the literary examination and the rest, with no trouble. He quite immersed himself in his studies, spurring his tutors to new endeavors. Genji arranged composition meets at Nijō from time to time, to the great satisfaction of the scholars and poets. It was a day when their abilities were recognized.

The time had come to name an empress. Genji urged the case of Akikonomu, reminding everyone of Fujitsubo’s wishes for her son. It would mean another Genji empress, and to that there was opposition. And Tō no Chūjō‘s daughter had been the first of the emperor’s ladies to come to court. The outcome of the debate remained in doubt.

Murasaki’s father, Prince Hyōbu, was now a man of importance, the maternal uncle of the emperor. He had long wanted to send a daughter to court and at length he had succeeded, and so two of the principal contenders were royal granddaughters. If the choice was to be between them, people said, then surely the emperor would feel more comfortable with his mother’s niece. He could think of her as a substitute for his mother. But in the end Akikonomu’s candidacy prevailed. There were many remarks upon the contrast between her fortunes and those of her late mother.

There were promotions, Genji to chancellor and Tō no Chūjō to Minister of the Center. Genji left the everyday conduct of government to his friend, a most honest and straightforward man who had also a bright side to his nature. He was very intelligent and he had studied hard. Though he could not hold his own with Genji in rhyme-guessing contests, he was a gifted administrator. He had more than a half score of sons by several ladies, all of them growing or grown and making names for themselves. It was a good day for his house. He had only one daughter, Kumoinokari, besides the lady who had gone to court. It could not have been said, since her mother came from the royal family, that she was the lesser of the two daughters, but the mother had since married the Lord Inspector and had a large family of her own. Not wishing to leave the girl with her stepfather, Tō no Chūjō had brought her to Sanjō and there put her in Princess Omiya’s custody. Though he paid a good deal more attention to the other daughter, Kumoinokari wag a pretty and amiable child. She and Yūgiri grew up like brother and sister in Princess Omiya’s apartments. Tō no Chūjō separated them when they reached the age of ten or so. He knew that they were fond of each other, he said, but the girl was now too old to have male playmates. Yūgiri continued to think of her, in his boyish way, and he was careful to notice her when the flowers and grasses of the passing seasons presented occasions, or when he came upon something for her dollhouses. She was not at all shy in his presence. They were so young, said her nurses, and they had been together so long. Why must the minister tear them apart? Yet one had to grant him a point in suspecting that, despite appearances, they might no longer be children.

In any event the separation upset them. Their letters, childish but showing great promise, were always falling into the wrong hands, for they were as yet not very skilled managers. But if some of her women knew what was going on, they saw no need to tell tales.

The round of congratulatory banquets was over. In the quiet that followed, Tō no Chūjō came visiting his mother. It was an evening of chilly showers and the wind sent a sad rustling through the reeds. He summoned Kumoinokari for a lesson on the koto. Princess Omiya, a fine musician, was the girl’s teacher.

“A lady is not perhaps seen at her most graceful when she is playing the lute, but the sound is rather wonderful. You do not often hear a good lute these days. Let me see now.” And he named this prince and that commoner who were good lutists. “I have heard from the chancellor that the lady he has out in the country is a very good hand at it. She comes from a line of musicians, but the family is not what it once was, and she has been away for a very long time. It is surprising that she should be so good. He does seem to have a high regard for her, to judge from the way he is always talking about her. Music is not like other things. It requires company and concerts and a familiarity with all the styles. You do not often hear of a self-taught musician.” He urged a lute upon his mother.

“I don’t even know where to put the bridge any more. “ Yet she took the instrument and played very commendably indeed.” The lady you mention would seem to have a great deal to distinguish her besides her good luck. She gave him the daughter he has always wanted. He was afraid the daughter would be handicapped by a rustic mother, they tell me, and gave her to a lady of quite unassailable position. I hear that she is a little jewel.” She had put the instrument down.

“Yes, you are right, of course. It was more than luck that got her where she is. But sometimes things don’t seem entirely fair. I cannot think of any respect in which the girl I sent to court is inferior to her rivals, and I gave her every skill she could possibly need to hold her own. And all of a sudden someone emerges from an unexpected quarter and overtakes her. I hope that nothing of the sort happens to this other one. The crown prince will soon be coming of age and I have plans. But do I once again see unexpected competition?” He sighed. “Once the daughter of this most fortunate Akashi lady is at court she seems even more likely than the empress to have everything her way.”

The old lady was angry with Genji for what had happened. “Your father was all wrapped up in his plans to send your little girl to court, and he thought it extremely unlikely that an empress would be named from any house but ours. It is an injustice which would not have been permitted if he had lived.”

Tōno ChūJjō gazed proudly at Kumoinokari, who was indeed a pretty little thing, in a still childish way. As she leaned over her koto the hair at her forehead and the thick hair flowing over her shoulders seemed to him very lovely. She turned shyly from his gaze, and in profile was every bit as charming. As she pushed at the strings with her left hand, she was like a delicately fashioned doll. The princess too was delighted. Gently tuning the koto, the girl pushed it away.

Tō no Chūjō took out a Japanese koto and tuned it to a minor key, and so put an old-fashioned instrument to modern uses. It was very pleasing indeed, the sight of a grand gentleman at home with his music. All eager to see, the old women were crowding and jostling one another behind screens.

“‘The leaves await the breeze to scatter them,’” he sang.”‘It is a gentle breeze.’ My koto does not, I am sure, have the effect of that Chinese koto, but it is a strangely beautiful evening. Would you let us have another?”

The girl played “Autumn Winds,” with her father, in fine voice, singing the lyrics. The old lady looked affectionately from the one to the other.

Yūgiri came in, as if to add to the joy.

“How very nice,” said Tō no Chūjō, motioning him to a place at the girl’s curtains. “We do not see as much of you these days as we would like. You are so fearfully deep in your studies. Your father knows as well as I do that too much learning is not always a good thing, but I suppose he has his reasons. Still it seems a pity that you should be in solitary confinement. You should allow yourself diversions from time to time. Music too has a proper and venerable tradition, you know.” He offered Yūgiri a flute.

There was a bright, youthful quality about the boy’s playing. Tō no Chūjō put his koto aside and quietly beat time with a fan. “My sleeves were stained from the hagi,” he hummed.

“Your father so loves music. He has abandoned dull affairs of state. Life is a gloomy enough business at best, and I would like to follow his lead and do nothing that I do not want to.”

He ordered wine. Presently it was dark. Lamps were lighted and dinner was brought.

He sent Kumoinokari off to her rooms. Yūgiri had not even been permitted to hear her koto. No good would come of these stern measures, the old women whispered.

Pretending to leave, Tō no Chūjō went to call on a lady to whom he was paying court. When, somewhat later, he made his stealthy way out, he heard whispering. He stopped to listen. He himself proved to be the subject.

“He thinks he is so clever, but he is just like any other father. Unhappiness will come of it all, you can be very sure. The ancients did not know what they were talking about when they said that a father knows best.”

They were nudging one another to emphasize their points.

Well, now. Most interesting. He had not been without suspicions, but he had not been enough on his guard. He had said that they were still children. It was a complicated world indeed. He slipped out, giving no hint of what he had heard and surmised.

The women were startled by the shouts of outrunners. “Just leaving? Where can he have been hiding himself? A little old for such things, I would have thought.”

The whisperers were rather upset. “There was that lovely perfume?” said one of them, “but we thought it would be the young gentleman. How awful. You don’t suppose he heard? He can be difficult.”

Tō no Chūjō deliberated the problem as he rode home. A marriage between cousins was not wholly unacceptable, of course, but people would think it at best uninteresting. It had not been pleasant to have his other daughter so unconditionally defeated by Genji’s favorite, and he had been telling himself that this one must be a winner. Though he and Genji were and had long been good friends, echoes of their old rivalry persisted. He spent a sleepless night. His mother no doubt knew what was going on and had let her darlings have their way. He had overheard enough to be angry. He had a straightforward masculinity about him and the anger was not easy to control.

Two days later he called on his mother. Delighted to be seeing so much of him, she had someone touch up her nun’s coiffure and chose her cloak with great care. He was such a handsome man that he made her feel a little fidgety, even though he was her own son, and she let him see her only in profile.

He was very much out of sorts. “I know what your women are saying and I do not feel at all comfortable about visiting you. I am not a man of very great talent, I know, but I had thought that as long as I lived I would do what I could for you. I had thought that we would always be close and that I would always keep watch over your health and comfort.” He brushed away a tear. “Now it has become necessary for me to speak about a matter that greatly upsets me. I would much prefer to keep it to myself.”

Omiya gazed at him in astonishment. Under her powder she changed color. “Whatever can it be? Whatever can I have done in my old age to make you so angry?”

He felt a little less angry but went on all the same. “I have grievously neglected her ever since she was a tiny child. I have thought that I could leave everything to you. I have been worried about the not entirely happy situation of the girl in the palace and have busied myself doing what I can for her, confident that I could leave the other to you. And now something very surprising and regrettable has come to my attention. He may be a talented and erudite young man who knows more about history than anyone else at court, but even the lower classes think it a rather dull and common thing for cousins to marry. It will do him no more good than her. He would do far better to find a rich and stylish bride a little farther afield. I am sure that Genji will be no more pleased than I am. In any event, I would have been grateful if you had kept me informed. Do please try a little harder to keep us from looking ridiculous. I must emphasize my astonishment that you have been so careless about letting them keep company.”

This was news to Omiya. “You are right to be annoyed. I had not suspected anything, and I am sure that I have a right to feel even more put upon than you do. But I do not think you should accuse me of collusion. I have been very fond of the children ever since you left them with me, and I have worked very hard to bring out fine points that you yourself might not be entirely aware of. They are children, and I have not, I must assure you, been blinded by affection into wanting to rush them into each other’s arms. But be that as it may, who can have told you such awful things? I do not find it entirely admirable of you to gather common gossip and make a huge issue of it. Nothing so very serious has happened, of that I am sure, and you are doing harm to the girl’s good name.”

“Not quite nothing. All of your women are laughing at us, and I do not find it pleasant.” And he left.

The better-informed women were very sorry for the young people. The whisperers were of course the most upset of all.

Tō no Chūjō looked in on his daughter, whom he found at play with her dolls, so pretty that he could not bring himself to scold her. “Yes,” he said to her woman,” she is still very young and innocent; but I fear that in my own innocence, making my own plans for her, I failed to recognize the degree of her innocence.”

They defended themselves, somewhat uncertainly. “In the old romances even the emperor’s daughter will sometimes make a mistake. There always seems to be a lady-in-waiting who knows all the secrets and finds ways to bring the young people together. Our case is quite different. Our lady has been with the two of them morning and night over all these years, and it would not be proper for us to intrude ourselves and try to separate them more sternly than she has seen fit to, and so we did not worry. About two years ago she does seem to have changed to a policy of keeping them apart. There are young gentlemen who take advantage of the fact that people still think them boys and do odd and mischievous things. But not the young master. There has not been the slightest suggestion of anything improper in his behavior. What you say comes as a surprise to us.”

“Well, what is done is done. The important thing now is to see that the secret does not get out. These things are never possible to keep completely secret, I suppose, but you must pretend that it is a matter of no importance and that the gossips do not know what they are talking about. I will take the child home with me. My mother is the one I am angry with. I do not imagine that any of you wanted things to turn out as they have.”

It was sad for the girl, thought the women, but it could have been worse. “Oh, yes, sir, you may be sure that you can trust us to keep the secret. What if the Lord Inspector were to hear? The young master is a very fine boy, but it is not after all as if he were a prince.”

The girl still seemed very young indeed. However many stem injunctions he might hand down, it did not seem likely that she would see their real import. The problem was to protect her. He discussed it with her women, and his anger continued to be at his mother.

Princess Omiya was fond of both her grandchildren, but it seems likely that the boy was her favorite. She had thought his attentions toward his cousin altogether charming, and here Tō no Chūjō was talking as if they were a crime and a scandal. He understood nothing, nothing at all. He had paid very little attention to the girl and it was only after Omiya herself had done so much that he had commenced having grand ideas about making her crown princess. If his plans went astray and the girl was after all to marry a commoner, where was she likely to find a better one? Where indeed, all through the court, was his equal in intelligence and looks? No, the case was the reverse of what her good son took it to be: the boy was the one who, if he chose, could marry into the royal family. Wounded affection now impelled her to return her son’s anger ih good measure. He would no doubt have been even angrier if he had known what she was thinking.

Ignorant of this commotion, Yūgiri came calling. He chose evening for his visit. There had been such a crowd that earlier evening that he had been unable to exchange words with Kumoinokari, and so his longing was stronger.

His grandmother was usually all smiles when she received him, but this evening she was stern. “I have been put in a difficult position because your uncle is displeased with you,” she said, after solemn prefatory remarks. “You have brought trouble because it seems you have ambitions which it would not do for people to hear about. I would have preferred not to bring the matter up, but it seems necessary to ask whether you have anything on your conscience.”

He flushed scarlet, knowing at once what she was referring to. “What could it be? I wonder. I have been shut up with my books and I have seen no one. I cannot think of anything that Might have upset him.”

He was unable to look at her. She thought his confusion both sad and endearing. “Very well. But do be careful, please.” And she moved on to other matters.

He saw that it would be difficult even to exchange notes with his cousin. Dinner was brought but he had no appetite. He lay down in his grandmother’s room, unable to sleep. When all was quiet he tried the door to the girl’s room. Unlocked most nights, it was tightly locked tonight. No one seemed astir. He leaned against the door, feeling very lonely. She too was awake, it seemed. The wind rustled sadly through the bamboo thickets and from far away came the call of a wild goose.

“The wild goose in the clouds — as sad as I am?” Her voice, soft and girlish, spoke of young longing.

“Open up, please. Is Kojijū there?” Kojijū was her nurse’s daughter.

She had hidden her face under a quilt, embarrassed that she had been overheard. But love, relentless pursuer, would be after her however she might try to hide. With her women beside her she was afraid to make the slightest motion.

“The midnight call to its fellows in the clouds

Comes in upon the wind that rustles the reeds, and sinks to one’s very bones.”

Sighing, he went back and lay down beside his grandmother. He tried not to move lest he awaken her.

Not up to conversation, he slipped back to his own room very early the next morning. He wrote a letter to the girl but was unable to find Kojijū and have it delivered, and of course he was unable to visit the girl’s room.

Though vaguely aware of the reasons for the whole stir, the girl was not greatly disturbed about her future or about the gossip. Pretty as ever, she could not bring herself to do what seemed to be asked of her and dislike her cousin. She did not herself think that she had behaved so dreadfully, but with these women so intent on exaggerating everything she could not write. An older boy would have found devices, but he was even younger than she, and could only nurse his wounds in solitude.

There had been no more visits from the minister, who was still very displeased with his mother. He said nothing to his wife. Looking vaguely worried, he did speak to her of his other daughter.

“I am very sad for her indeed. She must feel uncertain and very much out of things, what with all these preparations to proclaim the new empress. I think I will ask if we may bring her home for a while. She is with the emperor constantly in spite of everything, and some of her women have told me what a strain it is on all of them.” And very abruptly she was brought home.

The emperor was reluctant to let her go, but Tō no Chūjō insisted.

“I fear you will be bored,” he said to her. “Suppose we ask your sister to come and keep you company. I know that her grandmother is taking fine care of her, but there is that boy, growing up too fast for his own good. They are at a dangerous age.” And with equal abruptness he sent for Kumoinokari.

Omiya was naturally upset. “I did not know what to do with myself when your sister died, and I couldn’t have been happier when you let me have the girl. I thought that I would always have her with me, a comfort in my declining years. I would not have thought you capable of such cruelty.”

He answered most politely. “I have informed you of certain matters that have been troubling me. I do not think I have done anything that might be described as cruel. The other girl is understandably upset at what is happening at court and so she came home a few days ago. And now that she is there I am afraid she finds precious little to keep her entertained. I thought the two of them might think of things, music and the like. That is all. I mean to have her with me for only a very short time. I certainly do not wish to minimize your services in taking care of her all these years and making her into the fine young lady she is.”

Seeing that his mind was made up and that nothing she said was likely to change it, she shed tears of sorrow and chagrin. “People can be cruel. In this way and that the young people have not been good to me. But one expects such things of the young. You ought to be more understanding, but you go blaming me for everything, and now you are taking her away from me. Well, we will see whether she is safer under your watchful eye.”

Yūgiri picked this unfortunate time to come calling. He called frequently these days, hoping for a few words with Kumoinokari. He saw Tō no Chūjō‘s carriage and slipped guiltily off to his own room.

Tō no Chūjō had several of his sons with him, but they were not permitted access to the women’s quarters. The late chancellor’s sons by other ladies continued to be attentive, and various grandsons were also frequent callers. None of them rivaled Yūgiri in looks. He was her favorite grandchild. Now that he had been taken away Kumoinokari was the one she kept beside her. And Kumoinokari too was being taken away. The loneliness would be too much.

“I must look in at the palace,” said Tō no Chūjō. “I will come for her in the evening.”

He was beginning to think that he must act with forbearance and presently let the two have their way. But he was angry. When the boy had advanced somewhat in rank and presented a somewhat more imposing figure, he might see whether they were still as fond of each other. Then, if he chose to give his permission, he would arrange a proper wedding. In the meantime he could not be sure — for children were not to be trusted — that his orders would be obeyed, and he had no confidence in his mother. So, with the other daughter his main material, he put together a case which he argued before his wife and his mother, and brought Kumoinokari home.

Omiya sent a note to her granddaughter: “Your father may be angry with me, but you will understand my feelings. Do let me have another look at you.”

Beautifully dressed, she came to her grandmother’s apartments. She was fourteen, still a child but already endowed with a most pleasing calm and poise.

“You have been my little plaything all these mornings and nights. I have scarcely let you out of my sight. I Will be very lonely without you.” She was weeping. “I have thought a great deal about what is to come and who will see you through it all. I am sorry for you. Who will you have now that they are taking you away?”

Also in tears and much embarrassed, the girl was unable to look at her grandmother.

Saishō, the boy’s nurse, came in. “I had thought of myself as serving both of you,” she said softly. “I am very sorry indeed that you are leaving. Whatever plans your esteemed father may have for marrying you to someone else, do not let him have his way.”

Yet more acutely embarrassed, Kumoinokari looked at the floor.

“We must not speak of such difficult things,” said Omiya. “Life is uncertain for all of us.”

“That is not the point, my lady,” replied Saishō indignantly. “His Lordship dismisses the young master as beneath his contempt. Well, let him go asking whether anyone is thought better.”

Yūgiri was observing what he could from behind curtains. Usually he would have been afraid of being apprehended, but today sorrow had overcome caution. He dabbed at his eyes.

It was all too sad, thought Saishō. With Omiya’s connivance, she took advantage of the evening confusion to arrange one last meeting.

They sat for a time in silent tears, suddenly shy before each other.

“Your father is being very strict. I will do as he wishes. But I know I will be lonely without you. Why did you not let me see more of you when it was possible?”

“I only wish I had.”

“Will you think of me?” There was an engaging boyishness in the gently bowed figure.

Lamps were lighted. A great shouting in the distance proclaimed that the minister was on his way back from court. Women darted here and there preparing to receive him. The girl was trembling.

If they wanted to be so noisy, thought the boy, let them; but he would defend her.

Her nurse found him in this defiant attitude. Outrageous — and Princess Omiya had without a doubt known of it.

“It will not do, my lady,” she said firmly. “Your father will be furious. Your young friend here may have many excellent qualities. Of them I do not know. I do know that you were meant for someone better than a page boy dressed in blue.”

A page boy in blue! Anger drove away a part of the sorrow.

“You heard that?

“These sleeves are crimson, dyed with tears of blood.

How can she say that they are lowly blue?

It was very unkind.”

“My life is dyed with sorrows of several hues.

Pray tell me which is the hue of the part we share.”

She had scarcely finished when her father came to take her away.

Yūgiri was very angry and very unhappy. He went to his own room and lay down. Three carriages hurried off into the distance, the shouting somewhat more deferential than before. He was unable to sleep, but when his grandmother sent for him he sent back that he had retired for the night.

It was a tearful night. Early in the morning, while the ground was still white with frost, he hurried back to Nijō. He did not want anyone to see his red eyes, and he was sure that his grandmother would be after him again. He wanted to be alone. All the way home his thoughts were of the troubles he had brought upon himself. It was not yet full daylight. The sky had clouded over.

“It is a world made grim by frost and ice,

And now come tears to darken darkened skies.”

Genji was this year to provide a dancer for the Gosechi dances. It was a task of no very great magnitude, but as the day approached, his women were busy with robes for the little flower girls and the like. The women in the east lodge were making clothes for the presentation at court. More general preparations were left to the main house, and the empress was very kind in seeing to the needs of the retinue. Indeed it seemed, so lavish were the preparations, that Genji might be trying to make up for the fact that there had been no dances the year before. The patrons of the dancers, among them a brother of Tō no Chūjō, the Lord Inspector, and, on a somewhat less exalted level, Yoshikiyo, now governor of Omi and a Moderator of the Left, so vied with one another that their endeavors were the talk of the whole court. The emperor had deigned to give orders that the dancers this year be taken into the court service. As his own dancer Genji had chosen one of Koremitsu’s daughters, said to be among the prettiest and most talented girls in the city. Koremitsu, now governor of Settsu and of the western ward of the city as well, was somewhat abashed at the proposal, but people pointed out that the Lord Inspector was offering a daughter by an unimportant wife and so there was no need at all to feel reticent. Meaning to send the girl to court in any case, he concluded that she might as well make her debut through the Gosechi dances. She practiced diligently at home, her retinue was chosen with great care, and on the appointed day he escorted her to Nijō.

The retinue came from the households of Genji’s various ladies, and to be selected was thought a considerable honor. Genji ordered a final rehearsal for the presentation at court. He said he could not possibly rank them one against the others, they were all so pretty and so well dressed. The pity was, he laughed, that he did not have more than one dancer to patronize. Gentleness of nature and delicacy of manner had had a part in the selection.

Yūgiri had quite lost his appetite. He lay brooding in his room and the classics were neglected. Wanting a change of air, he slipped out and wandered quietly through the house. He was well dressed and very good-looking, and calm and self-possessed for his age. The young women who saw him were entranced. He went to Murasaki’s wing of the house but was not permitted near her blinds. Remembering his own past behavior, Genji was taking precautions. Yūgiri lived in the east lodge and was not on intimate terms with Murasaki’s women; but today he took advantage of the excitement to slip into her part of the house, where he stood watching from behind a screen or blind of some sort.

The Gosechi dancer was helped from her carriage to an enclosure of screens that had been put up near the veranda. Yūgiri made his way behind a screen. Apparently tired, she was leaning against an armrest. She was about the same height as Kumoinokari, or perhaps just a little taller. She may have been just a little prettier. He could not say, for the light was not good; but she did so remind him of his love that, though it would have been an exaggeration to say that he transferred his affections on the spot, he found himself strongly drawn to her. He reached forward and tugged at a sleeve. She was startled, by the tugging and by the poem which followed:

“The lady who serves Toyooka in the heavens

Is not to forget that someone thinks of her here.

“I have long been looking through the sacred fence.”

It was a pleasant young voice, but she could not identify it. She was frightened. just then her women came in to retouch her face, and he reluctantly withdrew.

Ashamed of his blue robes and in general feeling rather out of things, he had been staying away from court. For the festivities, however, regulations assigning colors to ranks had been relaxed. He was mature for his years, and as he strolled around the palace in his bright robes he was perhaps the most remarked-upon lad present. Even the emperor noticed him.

The dancers were at their best for the formal presentation, but everyone said that Genji’s dancer and the Lord Inspector’s were the prettiest and the best dressed. It was very difficult to choose between the two of them, though perhaps a certain dignity gave the nod to Koremitsu’s daughter. She was so lavishly and stylishly dressed that one would have been hard put to guess her origins. The dancers being older than in most years, the festival seemed somehow grander.

Genji remembered a Gosechi dancer to whom he had once been attracted. After the dances he got off a note to her. The reader will perhaps guess its contents, which included this poem:

“What will the years have done to the maiden, when he

Who saw her heavenly sleeves is so much older?”

It was a passing thought as he counted over the years, but she was touched that he should have felt constrained to write.

This was her reply:

“Garlands in my hair, warm sun to melt the frost,

So very long ago. It seems like yesterday.”

The blue paper was the blue of the dancers’ dress, and the hand, subtly shaded in a cursive style to conceal the identity of the writer, was better than one would have expected from so modest a rank.

That glimpse of Koremitsu’s daughter had excited Yūgiri. He wandered about with certain thoughts in his mind, but was not permitted near. Still too young to devise stratagems for breaching the blockade, he felt very sorry for himself. She was pretty indeed and could be a consolation for the loss of Kumoinokari.

It has already been said that the dancers were to stay on in court service. Today, however, they went back to their families. In the recessional the competition was also intense. Yoshikiyo’s daughter went off to Karasaki for her lustration, Koremitsu’s to Naniwa. The inspector had already arranged for his daughter’s return to court. People criticized Tō no Chūjō‘s brother for having offered a daughter unworthy of the occasion, but she was received into court service with the others.

There being a vacancy on the empress’s staff, Koremitsu asked Genji whether his daughter might not be favored with appointment. Genji said that he would see what could be done. This was disappointing news for Yūgiri. She was being taken beyond his reach. Though the disappointment was not of a really devastating sort, new sorrow was added to old.

The girl had a brother who was a court page. Yūgiri had occasionally made use of his services.

One day Yūgiri addressed him in a friendlier manner than usual.” And when may we hope to see your sister at court?”

“By the end of the year, I am told.”

“I thought her very pretty. I envy you, able to see her whenever you want to. Do you suppose I might ask you to let me see her myself sometime?”

“I am afraid it would be very difficult. I am her brother and even I am kept at a distance. I am afraid it would be very difficult indeed.”

“At least give her this letter.”

The boy had long been under very stern instructions to have no part in such maneuvers, but Yūgiri was insistent.

The Gosechi dancer, perhaps a little precocious, was delighted with the letter, which was on delicate blue paper very tastefully folded with papers of several colors. The hand, though young, showed great promise.

“Were you aware of it as you danced in the sunlight,

The heart that was pinned upon the heavenly sleeves?”

Koremitsu came in as they were admiring it.

“What’s this? Who’s it from?” They flushed. There had been no time to hide it. “You know very well that I do not permit this sort of thing.”

He blocked the boy’s escape.

“The chancellor’s son asked me to deliver it.”

“Well, now. What an amusing little prank. You are the same age, and I only wish you had a few of his talents.” His anger having quite left him, he went off to show the letter to his wife. “If he is still interested when he is a little older, she would be better off in his hands than at court. I kno His Lordship well. Once a woman has attracted his attention he never forgets her. This could be a very good thing. Look at the Akashi lady.”

But they could think of little these days except preparations for sending the girl to court.

Yūgiri was filled with thoughts of the far better placed young lady to whom he could not write. His longing grew. Would he ever see her again? He no longer enjoyed visiting his grandmother and kept to himself at Nijō. He remembered the room that had been his for so long, the room where they had played so happily together. The very thought of the Sanjō house became oppressive.

Genji asked the lady of the orange blossoms to look after the boy. “His grandmother does not have a great many years ahead of her. The two of you have known each other so long — might I ask you to take over?”

It was her way to do everything Genji asked of her. Gently but with complete dedication she put herself into the work of keeping house for Yūgiri.

He would sometimes catch a glimpse of her. She was not at all beautiful, and yet his father had been faithful to her. Was it merely silly, his own inability to forget the beauty of a girl who was being unkind to him? He should look for someone of a similarly compliant nature. Not, however, someone who was positively repulsive. Though Genji had kept the lady of the orange blossoms with him all these years, he seemed quite aware of her defects. When he visited her he was always careful to see that she was as fully ensheathed as an amaryllis bud, and that he was spared the need to look upon her. Yūgiri understood. He had an eye for these things that would have put the adult eye to shame. His grandmother was still very beautiful even now that she had become a nun. Surrounded from infancy by beautiful women, he naturally took adverse notice of a lady who, not remarkably well favored from the start, was past her prime, a bit peaked and thin of hair.

The end of the year approached. Omiya occupied herself with his New Year robes to the exclusion of everything else. They were very splendid and very numerous, but they only added to his gloom.

“I don’t see why you’re going to so much trouble. I’m not at all sure that I will even go to court.”

“Whatever are you talking about? You are behaving like a defeated old man.”

“I may not be old,” he said to himself, brushing away a tear, “but I certainly am defeated.”

His grandmother wanted to weep with him. She knew too well what was troubling him.

“They say that a man is only as low as his thoughts. You must pull yourself out of it. All this mooning, I can’t think what good it will ever do you.”

“You needn’t worry. But I know that people are calling me the unpromoted marvel, and I don’t enjoy going to court. If Grandfather were still alive they wouldn’t be laughing at me. Father is Father, I know, and I know I should be going to him with my problems. But he is so stiff and remote and he doesn’t come to the east lodge all that often. The lady there is very good to me, but I do wish sometimes that I had a mother of my own.”

He was trying to hide his tears, and she was now weeping openly. “It is sad for anyone, I don’t care who, to lose his mother, but people do grow up and follow their own destinies, and these little stings and smarts go away. You must not take them so seriously. I agree that it would have been nice if your grandfather had lived a little longer. Your father should be doing just as much for you, but in some ways he does rather leave something to be desired. People say what a fine figure of a man your uncle, the minister, is, but I only think myself that he is less and less like the boy I used to know. When I see you so unhappy, and your whole future ahead of you, I wonder if I haven’t lived too long. You are letting yourself get worked up over nothing at all, I know, but I do get angry for you.”

His presence not being required at court, Genji spent a pleasant New Year at home. He followed the precedent of Chancellor Yoshifusa and reviewed the white horses on his own Nijō grounds, where the observances were no less grand than at court. Some of the details even went beyond what precedent required.

Late in the Second Month the emperor paid a visit to the Suzaku Palace of the retired emperor. The full bloom of the cherries would have coincided with the anniversary of Fujitsubo’s death, but the early blossoms were very beautiful. The Suzaku Palace had been carefully repaired and redecorated. The court, even princes of the blood, wore uniform dress, green over white lined with red. The emperor wore red, as did Genji, present by royal summons. People seemed to carry themselves with greater dignity than on most occasions. The two of them, emperor and chancellor, looked so radiantly alike that they could almost have been mistaken for each other. The Suzaku emperor had improved with age. He had a soft, gentle sort of grace that was all his own.

Though no professed men of letters had been invited, ten and more university scholars were present, young men who were already making their marks as poets. The emperor assigned subjects from the official examinations. It was a mock examination for the benefit of the chancellor’s son, people suspected. Fidgeting nervously, the scholars were sent off to deliberate on their topics, each in a separate boat on the lake. They seemed to be having trouble. Musicians were rowed out on the lake as the sun was setting. A sudden wind came down from the hills to enliven the tuning of the instruments. Yūgiri was angry with the world. Only he was forbidden to sing and to joke.

“Spring Warbler” brought back memories of a spring festival many years before.

“I wonder if we will ever again see such an affair,” said the Suzaku emperor.

Genji was lost in memories of his father’s reign. When the dance was over he offered a cup to the Suzaku emperor, and with it a verse:

“The warblers are today as long ago,

But we in the shade of the blossoms are utterly changed.”

The Suzaku emperor replied:

“Though kept by mists from the ninefold-garlanded court,

I yet have warblers to tell me spring has come.”

Prince Hotaru filled the emperor’s cup and offered this poem:

“The tone of the flute is as it always has been,

Nor do I detect a change in the song of the warbler.”

It was very thoughtful and tactful of him to suggest that not all was decline.

With awesome dignity, the emperor replied:

“The warbler laments as it flies from tree to tree —

For blossoms whose hue is paler than once it was?”

And that I have no more poems to set down — is it because, the occasion being a formal one, the flagons did not make the complete rounds? Or is it that our scrivener overlooked some of them?

The concert being at such a distance that the emperor could not hear very well, instruments were brought into the royal presence: a lute for Prince Hotaru, a Japanese koto for Tō no Chūjō, for the retired emperor a thirteen-stringed Chinese koto, and for Genji, as always, a seven-stringed Chinese koto. They must all play for him, said the emperor. They were accomplished musicians and they outdid themselves, and the concert could not have been finer. Numerous courriers were happy to sing the lyrics, “How Grand the Day” and “Cherry–Blossom Girl” and the rest. A misty moon came up, flares were set out on the island, and the festivities came to an end.

Though it was very late, the emperor thought it would be rude to ignore Lady Kokiden, the Suzaku emperor’s mother. He looked in on her as he started back for the palace. Genji was with him. An old lady now, she was very pleased. Genji thought of Fujitsubo. It seemed wrong that of his father’s ladies the one should be living so long and the other should have died so soon.

“I am old and forgetful,” said Kokiden, weeping, “but your kind visit brings everything back.”

“Having lost the ones whom I so depended upon,” the emperor replied, “I have scarcely been able to detect the arrival of spring, but this interview quite restores my serenity. I shall call upon you from time to time, if I may.”

Genji too said that he would call again. Kokiden was disconcerted by the grandeur of the procession as they made a somewhat hasty departure. What sort of memories would Genji have of her and her better days? She was sorry now for what she had done. It had been his destiny to rule, and she had been able to change nothing. Her sister Oborozukiyo, with little else to occupy her thoughts, found them turning to the past, in which there was much to muse upon and be moved by. It would seem that she still contrived, on this occasion and that, to get off a note to Genji. Kokiden was always finding fault with the management of her stipends and allowances, and grumbling about her misfortune in having lived on into so inferior a reign. She complained so much, indeed, that not even her son could bear her company.

Yūgiri’s graduation poem was proclaimed a masterpiece and he received his degree. Only the most advanced and promising scholars were permitted to take the examinations and only three of them passed. At the autumn levy he was promoted to the Fifth Rank and made a chamberlain. Kumoinokari was never out of his thoughts, but he was not prepared to take the extreme measures that would be necessary to elude her watchful father. He was unhappy, of course, and so was she.

Genji had been thinking that he needed more room for the leisurely life which was now his. He wanted to have everyone near him, including the people who were still off in the country. He had bought four parks in Rokujō, near the eastern limits of the city and including the lands of the Rokujō lady.

Prince Hyōbu, Murasaki’s father, would be fifty next year. She busied herself with preparations for the event. Genji had concluded that further aloofness would be mean-spirited. He gave orders that his new Rokujō place be finished in time for the celebrations.

With the New Year they occupied still more of Murasaki’s time. There was a division of effort, Genji troubling himself with dancing and music for the banquet after the religious services and Murasaki concentrating on the services themselves, the decorations for the scriptures and images, the robes, the offerings, and the like. The lady of the orange blossoms was a great help to her. On better terms than ever, they kept up a lively and elegant correspondence.

Prince Hyōbu presently heard of these preparations, of which everyone was talking. Though Genji was generally thought to be a kind and thoughtful man, his kindness had thus far not reached the prince. Indeed, Genji seemed almost to devise occasions for humiliating him and his family. Unpleasantness followed unpleasantness until the prince had to conclude that Genji harbored singularly durable grudges. It was good all the same that Murasaki should be his favorite. Not much of the glory brushed off on the prince, but still she was his daughter. And now all this, the whole world was talking. It was an unexpected honor in his declining years.

His wife was not so easily pleased. Indeed, she was more resentful than ever. Her own daughter had gone to court, and what had Genji done for her?

The new Rokujō mansion was finished in the Eighth Month and people began moving in. The southwest quarter, including her mother’s lands, was assigned to Akikonomu as her home away from the palace. The northeast quarter wag assigned to the lady of the orange blossoms, who had occupied the east lodge at Nijō, and the northwest quarter to the lady from Akashi. The wishes of the ladies themselves were consulted in designing the new gardens, a most pleasant arrangement of lakes and hills.

The hills were high in the southeast quarter, where spring-blossoming trees and bushes were planted in large numbers. The lake was most ingeniously designed. Among the plantings in the forward parts of the garden were cinquefoil pines, maples, cherries, wisteria, yamabuki, and rock azalea, most of them trees and shrubs whose season was spring. Touches of autumn too were scattered through the groves.

In Akikonomu’s garden the plantings, on hills left from the old garden, were chosen for rich autumn colors. Clear spring water went singing off into the distance, over rocks designed to enhance the music. There was a waterfall, and the whole expanse was like an autumn moor. Since it was now autumn, the garden was a wild profusion of autumn flowers and leaves, such as to shame the hills of Oi.

In the northeast quarter there was a cool natural spring and the plans had the summer sun in mind. In the forward parts of the garden the wind through thickets of Chinese bamboo would be cool in the summer, and the trees were deep and mysterious as mountain groves. There was a hedge of mayflower, and there were oranges to remind the lady of days long gone. There were wild carnations and roses and gentians and a few spring and autumn flowers as well. A part of the quarter was fenced off for equestrian grounds. Since the Fifth Month would be its liveliest time, there were irises along the lake. On the far side were stables where the finest of horses would be kept.

And finally the northwest quarter: beyond artificial hillocks to the north were rows of warehouses, screened off by pines which would be beautiful in new falls of snow. The chrysanthemum hedge would bloom in the morning frosts of early winter, when also a grove of “mother oaks” would display its best hues. And in among the deep groves were mountain trees which one would have been hard put to identify.

The move was made at about the time of the equinox. The plan was that everyone would move together, but Akikonomu was loath to make such an occasion of it and chose to come a few days later. The lady of the orange blossoms, docile and unassertive as ever, moved on the same evening as Murasaki.

Murasaki’s spring garden was out of its season but very beautiful all the same. There were fifteen women’s carriages in her procession. The attendants, in modest numbers, were of the Fourth and Fifth ranks and less prominently of the Sixth Rank, all of them men who had long been close to Genji and his house. Genji did not want to be criticized for extravagance or ostentation, and the arrangements were generally austere. The two ladies were given virtually the same treatment, with Yūgiri seeing to the needs of the lady of the orange blossoms. Everyone thought this most proper.

The women’s rooms were apPointed with great care, down to the smallest details. How nice everything was, they said, and their own arrangements were the nicest of all.

Akikonomu moved into her new lodgings five or six days later. Though she had specified that the arrangements be simple, they were in fact rather grand. She had of course been singled out for remarkable honors, but she was of a calm and retiring nature, much esteemed by the whole court.

There were elaborate walls and galleries with numerous passageways this way and that among the several quarters, so that the ladies could live apart and still be friendly.

The Ninth Month came and Akikonomu’s garden was resplendent with autumn colors. On an evening when a gentle wind was blowing she arranged leaves and flowers on the lid of an ornamental box and sent them over to Murasaki. Her messenger was a rather tall girl in a singlet of deep purple, a robe of lilac lined with blue, and a gossamer cloak of saffron. She made her practiced way along galleries and verandas and over the soaring bridges that joined them, with the dignity that became her estate, and yet so pretty that the eyes of the whole house were upon her. Everything about her announced that she had been trained to the highest service.

This was Akikonomu’s poem, presented with the gift:

“Your garden quietly awaits the spring.

Permit the winds to bring a touch of autumn.”

The praise which Murasaki’s women showered on the messenger did not at all displease her. Murasaki sent back an arrangement of moss on the same box, with a cinquefoil pine against stones suggesting cliffs. A poem was tied to a branch of the pine:

“Fleeting, your leaves that scatter in the wind.

The pine at the cliffs is forever green with the spring.”

One had to look carefully to see that the pine was a clever fabrication. Akikonomu was much impressed that so ingenious a response should have come so quickly. Her women were speechless.

“I think you were unnecessarily tart,” said Genji to Murasaki. “You should wait until your spring trees are in bloom. What will the goddess of Tatsuta think when she hears you belittling the best of autumn colors? Reply from strength, when you have the force of your spring blossoms to support you.” He was looking wonderfully young and handsome.

There were more such exchanges, in this most tasteful of houses.

The Akashi lady thought that she should wait until the grand ladies had moved and then make her own quiet move. She did so in the Tenth Month. With an eye on his daughter’s future, Genji took great care that nothing about her retinue or the appointments of her rooms suggest inferiority.

Chapter 22

The Jeweled Chaplet

The years passed, and Genji had not forgotten the dew upon the evening faces he had seen so briefly. As he came to know a variety of ladies, he only regretted the more strongly that the lady of the evening faces had not lived.

Ukon, her woman, was not of very distinguished lineage, but Genji was fond of her, and thought of her as a memento of her dead lady. She was now one of the older women in his household. He had transferred everyone to Murasaki’s wing of the Nijō house when he left for Suma, and there she had stayed. Murasaki valued her as a quiet, good-natured servant. Ukon could only think with regret that if her own lady had lived she would now be honored with treatment similar at least to that accorded the Akashi lady. Genji was a generous man and he did not abandon women to whom he had been even slightly drawn; and the lady of the evening faces, if not perhaps one of the really important ones, would surely have been in the company that recently moved to Rokujō.

Ukon had not made her whereabouts known to the little girl, the lady’s daughter, left with her nurse in the western part of the city. Genji had told her that she must keep the affair to herself and that nothing was to be gained by letting his part in it be known at so late a date. She had made no attempt to find the nurse. Presently the nurse’s husband had been appointed deputy viceroy of Kyushu and the family had gone off with him to his post. The girl was four at the time. They had prayed for information of any sort about the mother. Day and night, always in tears, they had looked for her where they thought she might possibly be. The nurse finally decided that she would keep the child to remember the mother by. Yet it was sad to think of taking her on a hard voyage to a remote part of the land. They debated seeking out her father, Tō no Chūjō, and telling him of her whereabouts When no good entree presented itself, they gathered in family council: it would be difficult to tell him, since they did not know what had happened to the mother; life would be hard for the girl, introduced so young to a father who was a complete stranger; and if he knew that she was his daughter he was unlikely to let her go. She was a pretty child, already showing signs of distinction, and it was very sad indeed to take her off in a shabby boat.

“Are we going to Mother’s?” she asked from time to time.

The nurse and her daughters wept tears of nostalgia and regret. But they must control themselves. Tears did not bode well for the journey.

The scenery along the way brought memories. “She was so young and so alive to things — how she would have loved it all if she could have come with us. But of course if she were alive we would still be in the city ourselves.”

They were envious of the waves, returning whence they had come.

“Sadly, sadly we have journeyed this distance,” came the rough voices of the sailors.

The nurse’s daughters looked at each other and wept.

“To whom might it be that the thoughts of these sailors turn,

Sadly singing off the Oshima strand?”

“Here on the sea, we know not whence or whither,

Or where to look in search of our lost lady.

“I had not expected to leave her for these wilds.”

“We will not forget” was the refrain when the ship had passed Cape Kane; and when they had made land, tears welled up again, in the awareness of how very far they had come.

They looked upon the child as their lady. Sometimes, rarely, one of them would dream of the dead mother. She would have with her a woman who might have been her twin, and afterwards the dreamer would fall ill. They had to conclude that she was no longer living.

Years passed, and the deputy viceroy’s term of service was over. He thought of returning to the city, but hesitated, for he was a man of no great influence even off in that remote land. He was still hesitating when he fell seriously ill. On the point of death, he looked up at the girl, now ten, and so beautiful that he feared for her.

“What difficult times you will face if I leave you! I have thought it a shameful waste that you should grow up so far from everything, and I have wanted to get you back to the city as soon as I possibly can. I have wanted to present you to the right people and leave you to whatever destinies may be yours, and I have been making my preparations. The capital is a large place and you would be safe there. And now it seems that I must end my days here.”

He had three sons. “You must give first priority to taking her back. You need not worry about my funeral.

No one outside of his immediate family knew who the girl was. He had let it be known that she was a grandchild whom, for certain reasons, it had fallen his lot to rear, and he had let no one see her. He had done what he could, and now, suddenly, he was dying. The family went ahead with preparations for the return, There were many in the region who had not been on good terms with the deputy viceroy, and life was full of perils. The girl was even prettier than her mother, perhaps because her father’s blood also flowed in her veins. Delicate and graceful, she had a quiet, serene disposition. One would have had to look far to find her equal.

The young gallants of the region heard about her and letters came pouring in. They produced only grim and irritable silence.

“You wouldn’t call her repulsive, exactly,” the nurse said to people, “but she has a most unfortunate defect that makes it impossible for her to marry. She is to become a nun and stay with me as along as I live.”

“A sad case,” they all said, in hushed tones as of something dark and ominous. “Did you hear? The old deputy’s granddaughter is a freak.”

His sons were determined to take the girl back to her father. He had seemed so fond of her when she was little. It was most unlikely that he would disown her now. They prayed to all the various native and foreign gods.

But presently they and their sisters married into provincial families, and the return to the city, once so devoutly longed for, receded into the distance. Life was difficult for the girl as she came to understand her situation a little better. She made her retreats three times a year. Now she was twenty, and she had attained to a perfection wasted in these harsh regions.

The family lived in the province of Hizen. The local gentry continued to hear rumors and to pay court. The nurse only wished they would go away.

There was an official of the Fifth Rank who had been on the viceroy’s staff and who was a member of a large clan scattered over the province of Higo. He was something of a local eminence, a warrior of very considerable power and influence. Though of an untamed nature, he did have a taste for the finer things, and among his avocations was the collecting of elegant ladies.

He heard of the girl. “I don’t care if she is the worst sort of freak. I’ll just shut my eyes.” His suit was earnest and a little threatening too.

“It is quite impossible,” the nurse sent back. “Tell him that she is to become a nun.”

The man came storming into Hizen and summoned the nurse’s sons for conference. If they did what he wanted, they would be his allies. He could do a great deal for them. The two young sons were inclined to accede.

“It is true that we did not want her to marry beneath her. But he will be a strong ally, and if we make an enemy of him we will have to pack up and leave. Yes, she is very wellborn. That we do not deny — but what good does it do when her father doesn’t recognize her and no one even knows she exists? She is lucky he wants her. She is probably here because she was meant all along to marry someone like him. There’s no point in trying to hide. He is a determined and ruthless man, and he will do anything if he is crossed.”

But the oldest brother, who was vice-governor of Bungo, disagreed. “It is out of the question. Have you forgotten Father’s instructions? I must get her back to the capital.”

Tearfully, the daughters supported him. The girl’s mother had wandered off and they had quite lost track of her, but they would think themselves sufficiently repaid for their worries if they could make a decent life for the girl. They most certainly did not want to see her marry the Higo man.

Confident of his name and standing and unaware of this disagreement, the man showered her with letters, all of them on good Chinese paper, richly colored and heavily perfumed. He wrote a not at all contemptible hand, but his notion of the courtly was very provincial. Having made an ally of the second son, he came calling. He was about thirty, tall and powerfully built, not unpleasant to look at. Perhaps it was only in the imagination that his vigorous manner was a little intimidating. He glowed with health and had a deep, rough voice and a heavy regional accent that made his speech seem as alien as bird language. Lovers are called “night crawlers,” one hears, but he was different. He came of a spring evening, victim, it would seem, of the urgings which the poet felt more strongly on autumn evenings.

Not wishing to offend him, the “grandmother” came out.

“The late deputy was a great man and he understood things. I wanted to be friends with him and i’m sorry he died. Now I want to make up for it. I got my courage up and came to see the little lady. She’s too good for me, but that’s all right. I’ll look up to her and be her servant. I hear Your Grace doesn’t want me to have her. Maybe because of all my other women? Don’t worry. She won’t be one of them. She’ll be the queen.” It was a very forceful statement.

“Thank you very much. It is gratifying to hear of your interest. But she has been unlucky. To our great regret we must keep her out of sight and do not find it possible to let her marry. It is all very sad.”

“Oh, come on. I don’t care if she’s blind and has a club foot. I swear it by all the gods.”

He asked that a day be named when he might come for her. The nurse offered the argument often heard in the region that the end of the season was a bad time to marry.

He seemed to think that a farewell poem was called for. He deliberated for rather a long time.

“I vow to the Mirror God of Matsura:

If I break it he can do what he wants with me.

“Pretty good” He smiled.

Poetry was not perhaps what he had had most experience with.

The nurse was by this time too nervous to answer, and her daughters protested that they were in an even worse state. Time ran on. Finally she sent back the first verse that came into her head.

“It will be for us to reproach the Mirror God

If our prayers of so many years remain unanswered.”

Her voice trembled.

“What’s that? How’s that?”

He seemed about to attack them frontally. The nurse blanched.

Despite her agitation, one of the daughters managed a brave laugh. “Our niece is not normal. That is I’m sure what she meant to say, and we would be very unhappy if she had bad luck in the matter of your kind proposal. Poor Mother. She is very old, and she is always saying unfortunate things about her gods.”

“I see, I see.” He nodded. “A very good poem. You may look down on us country people, but what’s so great about city people? Anyone can come up with a poem. Don’t think I can’t do as well as the next one.”

He seemed to think demonstration called for, but it refused to take shape. He left.

With her second son gone over to the enemy, the old woman was terrified. She urged her oldest son to action.

“But what can I do? There is no one I can go to for help. I don’t have all that many brothers, and they have turned against me. Life will be impossible if we make an enemy of the man, and if I try something bold I will only make things worse.”

But he agreed that death would be better for the girl than marriage to such a man. He gathered his courage and they set sail. His sisters left their husbands. The one who had as a child been called Ateki was now called Hyōbu She slipped off in the night and boarded ship with her lady.

The man had gone home to Higo, to return on the day appointed, late in the Fourth Month. The older of the nurse’s daughters had a large family of her own and was unable to join them. The farewells were tearful, for it seemed unlikely that the family would ever be united again. They had no very great love for Hizen, in which they had lived for so long, but the departing party did look back in sorrow at the shrine of Matsura. They were leaving dear ones in its charge.

“Shores of trial, now gloomy Ukishima.

On we sail. Where next will be our lodging?”

“We sail vast seas and know not where we go,

Floating ones, abandoned to the winds.”

The girl sat weeping, the picture of the sad uncertainty which her poem suggested.

If news that they had left reached the Higo man, he was certain to come in pursuit. They had provided themselves with a fast boat and the winds did good service, and their speed was almost frightening. They passed Echo Bay in Harima.

“See the little boat back there, almost flying at us. A pirate, maybe?”

The brother thought he would Prefer the cruelest pirate to the Higo man. There was nothing to be done, of course, but sail on.

“The echoes of Echo Bay are slight and empty

Beside the tumult I hear within myself.”

Then they were told that the mouth of the river Yodo lay just ahead. It was as if they had returned from the land of the dead.

“Past Karadomari we row, past Kawajiri.” It was a rough song, but pleasing. The vice-governor hummed with special feeling the passage about dear wives and children left behind. Yes, it had been a step, leaving them all behind. What disasters would now be overtaking them? He had brought with him everyone in the province who might have been thought an ally, and what sort of revenge would the Higo person be taking? It had been reckless, after all these years. In the calm following the crisis he began to think once more of his own affairs, and everything now seemed rash and precipitate. He collapsed in weak tears. “We have left our wives and children in alien lands,” he intoned softly.

His sister Hyōbu heard. She now feared that she had behaved very strangely, turning against her husband of so many years and flying off in the night. What would he be thinking?

They had no house and no friends in the city. Because of the girl, they had left behind a province which over the years had become home and put themselves at the mercy of wind and waves. They could not think what to do next, nor had they any clear notion of what was to be done for the girl. But there was no point in hesitating. They hurried on to the city.

The vice-governor searched out an old acquaintance who was still living at Kujō. It was to be sure within the city limits, but not a place where gentlemen lived; a gloomy place, rather, of tradesmen and peddlers. Autumn came, amid thoughts of what had been and what was to be. The vice-governor was like a seabird cast ashore. He was without employment in a strange new world and unable to return to the old. The whole party was now having regrets. Some left to take positions sought out through this and that acquaintance, others to return to Kyushu.

The old nurse wept at this inability to find a new foothold.

Her son, the vice-governor, did what he could to comfort her. “I am not in the least worried I have been prepared to risk everything for our lady and what does it matter that I am not doing so very well at the moment? What comfort would wealth and security have been if they had meant marrying her to that man? Our prayers will be answered and she will be put back in her rightful place someday, you may be sure of it. Hachiman, now, just over there. Our lady prayed to Hachiman at Matsura and Hakozaki just before we left. Now that you are safely back, my lady, you must go and thank him.” And he sent the girl off to the Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine.

He had learned that an eminent cleric whom his father had known was among the Buddhist priests in service at the shrine. The man undertook to be her guide.

“And then,” said the vice-governor, “there is Hatsuse. It is known even in China as the japanese temple among them all that gets things done. It can’t help doing something for a poor lady back after all those years so far away.” And this time he sent her to Hatsuse.

The pilgrimage was to be on foot. Though not used to walking, the girl did as she was told. What sort of crimes had she been guilty of, she was asking, that she must be subjected to such trials? She prayed that the powers above, if they pitied her, take her to whatever world her mother might be in. If her mother was living, please, then, just a glimpse of her. The girl could not remember her mother. She had thought how happy she would be if only she had a mother. Now the problem was a much more immediate one. Late on the morning of the fourth day, barely alive, they arrived at Tsubaichi, just below Hatsuse.

Though they had come very slowly, the girl was so footsore when they reached Tsubaichi that they feared she could not go on. Led by the former vice-governor, the party included two bowmen, three or four grooms and pages, three women, heavily veiled, and a pair of ancient scullery women. Every effort had been made not to attract attention. Darkness came on as they were replenishing their stock of candles and the like.

The monk who kept the way station was very uncivil, grumbling about arrangements that had been made without consulting him. “Who are these people? We have some others coming. Stupid women, they’ve botched it again.”

A second party did just then come up, also on foot, including two women who seemed to be of considerable standing and a number of attendants, men and women. four or five of the men were on horseback. Though display was obviously being avoided, the horses were nicely caparisoned. The monk paced the floor and scratched his head and generally made himself objectionable. He was determined to accommodate the second party. Well, he would not insist that the others move on, but he would put the menials out in back and divide the room with curtains.

Though respectable, the second party did not seem to be of the most awesome rank. Both parties were polite and deferential, and all was presently quiet.

In fact, the principal pilgrim in the second party was that Ukon who had never ceased weeping for the lady of the evening faces. In all the uncertainties of her life, she had long been in the habit of making pilgrimages to Hatsuse. She was used to travel, but the walk was exhausting even so. She was resting when the vice-governor came up to the curtains, evidently with food for his lady.

“Give this to her, if you will, please. I know of course that she is not used to such rough service.”

Obviously a lady of higher rank than the others, thought Ukon, going over to look through an opening in the curtains. She had seen the man before, she was sure, but could not think where. Someone she had known when he was young, and much less stout and sunburned, and much better dressed. Who might he be?

“Sanjō. Our lady wants you.”

She knew the woman who came forward at this summons: a lesser attendant upon the lady of the evening faces, with them in the days of hiding. It was like a dream. Ukon longed to see the lady they were in attendance upon, but she remained out of sight. Now Ukon thought she knew the man too. Yes, without question, the one they had called Hyōt-ōda. Perhaps the girl would be with them. Unable to sit still, she went again to the curtain and called to Sanjō, who was just inside. Sanjō was not easily torn from her meal. It was a little arbitrary of Ukon, perhaps, to think this an impertinence.

At length Sanjō presented herself. “It can’t be me you want. I’m a poor woman who’s been off in Kyushu these twenty years and more, and I doubt there would be anyone here who would know me. It must be a mistake.” She had on a somewhat rustic robe of fulled silk and an unlined jacket, and she had put on a great deal of weight.

“Look at me,” said Ukon, hating to think how she herself must have changed. “Don’t you recognize me?”

Sanjō clapped her hands. “It’s you! It’s you! Where did you come from? Is our lady with you?” And she was weeping convulsively.

Ukon too was in tears. She had known this woman as a girl. So many months and years had passed!

“And is my lady’s nurse with you? And what has happened to the little girl? And Ateki?” She said nothing for her part about the lady of the evening faces.

“They are here. The little girl is a fine young lady. I must go tell Nurse.” And she withdrew to the back of the room.

“It is like a dream,” said the nurse. “Ukon, you say? We have every right to be furious with Ukon.” But she went up to the curtains.

She was at first too moved to speak.

“And what has happened to my lady?” she asked finally. “I have prayed and prayed for so many years that I might be taken wherever she is. I have wanted to go to her, even if it be in a dream. And then I had to suffer in a place so far away that not even the winds brought word of her. I have lived too long. But thoughts of the little girl have kept me tied to this world and made it difficult for me to go on to the next one. And so, as you see, I have come limping along.’,

Ukon almost wished she were back in the days when she had not been permitted to speak. “There is no point in talking of our lady. She died long ago.”

And the three of them gave themselves up to tears.

It was now quite dark. Ready for the walk up to the temple, the men were urging them on. The farewells were confused. Ukon suggested that they go together, but the sudden friendship might seem odd. It had not been possible to take even the former vice-governor into their confidence. Quietly the two parties set forth. Ukon saw ahead of her a beautiful and heavily veiled figure. The hair under what would appear to be an early-summer singlet was so rich that it seemed out of place. A flood of affection and pity swept over Ukon.

Used to walking, she reached the temple first. The nurse’s party, coaxing and helping the girl on, arrived in time for the evening services. The temple swarmed with pilgrims. A place had been set out for Ukon almost under the right hand of the Buddha. Perhaps because their guide was not well known at Hatsuse, the Kyushu party had been assigned a place to the west, behind the Buddha and some distance away. Ukon sent for them. They must not be shy, she said. Leaving the other men and telling the vice-governor what had happened, they accepted the invitation.

“I am not one who matters,” said Ukon, “but I work in the Genji chancellor’s house. Even when I come with the few attendants you see, I can be sure that nothing will happen to me. You can never be sure what country people will do, and I would hate to have anything unpleasant happen to our lady.”

She would have liked to continue, but the noise was overwhelming. She turned to her prayers. What she had prayed longest for had been granted. She had sensed that Genji too continued to think about the girl, and her prayer now was that, informed of her whereabouts, he would make her happiness his concern.

Among the pilgrims, from all over the land, was the wife of the governor of the province.

Sanjō was dazzled and envious. She brought her hands to her forehead. “O Lord of Great Mercy,” she proclaimed, “I have no prayer but this, that if my lady cannot be the wife of the assistant viceroy you let her many the greatest one in this province. My name is Sanjō. If you find decent places for us, then I will come and thank you. I promise I will.”

Ukon would have hoped that Sanjō might aim a little higher. “You have a great deal to learn. But you must know, and you must have known in the old days, that Lord Tō no Chūjō was meant for great things. He is a grand minister now and he has everything his way. Our lady comes from the finest family, and here you are talking about marrying her off to a governor.”

“Oh, hush. You and your ministers and lordships. You just ought to see the lady from the assistant viceroy’s house when she goes off to Kiyomizu. Why, the emperor himself couldn’t put on a better show. So just hush, please.” And she continued her peroration, hands pressed always to forehead.

The Kyushu party planned to stay three days. Ukon had not thought of staying so long, but this seemed the opportunity for a good talk. She informed one of the higher priests of a sudden wish to go into retreat. He knew what she would need, votive lights and petitions and the like. She described her reasons.

“I have come as usual in behalf of Lady Tamakazura of the Fujiwara. Pray well for her, if you will. I have recently been informed of her whereabouts, and I wish to offer thanks.”

“Excellent. Our prayers over the years have been heard.”

Services went on through the night, very noisily indeed.

In the morning they all went to the cell of Ukon’s eminent acquaintance. The talk was quite uninhibited. The lady was very beautiful, and rather shy in her rough travel dress.

“I have been privileged to know ladies so grand that few people ever see them. In the ordinary course of events they would have been kept out of my sight. I have thought for a very long time that Lady Murasaki, the chancellor’s lady, couldn’t possibly have a rival. But then someone came along who could almost compete with her. It needn’t have surprised anyone, of course. The chancellor’s daughter is growing up into a very beautiful lady indeed. He has done everything for her. And just see what we have here, so quiet and unassuming. She’s every bit as pretty.

“The chancellor has seen them all, ever since the reign of his late father, all the consorts and the other royal ladies. I once heard him say to Lady Murasaki that the word’beautiful’ must have been invented for the late empress and his own daughter. I never saw the late empress and so I cannot say, and the other is still a child, and a person can only imagine how beautiful she will be someday. But Lady Murasaki herself: really she doesn’t have a rival even now. I’m sure he just didn’t want to speak of her own beauty right there in front of her. He most certainly is aware of it. I once heard him say — he was joking, of course — that she should know better than to take her place beside a handsome man like him. You should see the two of them! The sight of them makes you think years have been added to your life, and you wonder if anywhere else in the world there is anything like it. But just see what we have here, just look at this lady. She could hold her own with no trouble. You don’t go looking for a halo with even the most raving beauty, but if you want the next-best thing-?”

She smiled at Tamakazura, and the old nurse was grinning back. “Just a little longer and she would have been wasted on Kyushu. I couldn’t stand the idea, and so I threw away pots and pans and children and came running back to the city. It might as Well have been the capital of a foreign country. Take her to something better, please, as soon as you possibly can. You are in one of the great houses and you know everyone. Do please think of some way to tell her father. Make him count her among his children.”

The girl looked away in embarrassment.

“No, it is true. I don’t amount to anything, but His Lordship has seen fit to call me into his presence from time to time, and once when I said I wondered what had happened to the child he said that he wondered too and I must let him know if I heard anything.”

“Yes, of course, he is a very fine gentleman. But he already has all those other fine ladies. I would feel a little more comfortable, I think, if you were to inform her father.”

Ukon told her about the lady of the evening faces. “His Lordship took it very hard. He said he wanted the little girl to remember her by. He said then and he went on saying that he had so few children of his own, he could tell people he had found a lost daughter. I was young and inexperienced and unsure of myself, and I was afraid to go looking for her. I recognized the name of your good husband when he was appointed deputy viceroy. I even caught a glimpse of him when he came to say goodbye to His Lordship. I thought you might have left the child behind at the house where I last saw you. Suppose she had spent the rest of her life in Kyushu — the very thought of it makes me shiver.”

They looked down upon streams of pilgrims. The river before them was the Hatsuse.

“Had I not come to the place of cedars twain,

How should I have met you here beside the old river?”

said Ukon. “I am very happy.”

Tamakazura replied:

“I know little, I fear, about the swift old river,

But I know the flow of tears of happiness.”

She was indeed weeping, and very beautiful.

Astonishingly so — a jewel quite unblemished by rough provincial life. The old nurse had worked wonders, and Ukon was deeply grateful. The girl’s mother had been such a quiet little child of a thing, completely gentle and unresisting. The girl herself seemed proud and aloof by comparison; and there was something else, something quietly mysterious about her, suggestive of great depths. Kyushu must be a remarkable place — and yet look at these others, very countrified indeed.

In the evening they all went up to the main hall, and the next day was a quiet one of prayers and rites.

The autumn wind blowing up from the valley was cold, but they did not let it trouble them. They had other concerns. For the Kyushu people despair had suddenly given way to talk of Tō no Chūjō and the careers he had made for the least likely of his children by his several ladies. It seemed possible that the sunlight would reach even to this undermost leaf. Fearing that they might once more lose track of each other, Ukon and the nurse exchanged addresses before they left the temple. Ukon’s family lived not far from the Rokujō mansion, a fact that gave a comforting sense of nearness and accessibility.

When she was next on duty at Rokujō, Ukon looked for a chance to tell Genji a little of what had happened. As her carriage was pulled inside the gate she had a sudden feeling of vast spaces, and all the grand carriages coming and going made her marvel that she too was in attendance at the jeweled pavilion. No occasion presented itself that evening. She went restlessly to bed with her problem. The next day he summoned her by name. It was a great honor, for numbers of women, old and important and young and obscure, had the evening before come back from vacation.

“And why did you stay so long? But you have changed. The old stiffness has given way to a more yielding quality, might we say? Something interesting has surely happened.”

“I was gone for about a week, just wasting my time. But I did come on someone rather interesting off in the hills.”

“Yes?”

She preferred that Murasaki hear, lest she later be taxed with secretiveness.

Other women came up. Lamps were lighted, and Genji and Murasaki were pleasing indeed as they settled down for a quiet evening. Now in her late twenties, Murasaki was at her best. It seemed to Ukon that even in the brief time she had been away her lady had improved. And Tamakazura was almost as beautiful — and perhaps it was only Ukon’s imagination that there was a small difference to be observed between the more and the less fortunate.

Ukon was summoned to massage Genji’s legs.

“The young ones hate to do it,” he laughed. “We oldsters get on best.”

“Really, sir, who would hate to do anything for you?” said one of the younger women. “You do make the worst jokes.”

“Even we oldsters must be careful. There is jealousy abroad. We are in danger.” He could be very amusing.

Having relieved himself of the heavier business of government, he was able to relax with the women. Even an aging woman like Ukon was not ignored.

“Now, then, who is this interesting person in the hills? A well-endowed hermit you have come to an understanding with?”

“Please, sir, someone might hear you. I have found a lady who is not unrelated to those evening faces. Do you remember? The ones that faded so quickly.”

“Ah, yes, memories do come back. Where has she been all this time?”

Ukon did not know how to begin. “She has been very far away. Some of the people who were with her then are still with her. We talked about the old days. It was so sad.”

“Do remember, please, that we have an uninformed audience.”

“You needn’t worry,” said Murasaki, covering her ears. “Your audience is too sleepy to care in the least.”

“Is she as pretty as her mother?”

“I wouldn’t have thought she could possibly be, but she has grown into a very beautiful young lady indeed.”

“How interesting. Would you compare her with our lady here?”

“Oh, sir, hardly.”

“But you d em confident enough. Does she look like me? If so, then I can be confident too.”

He was already talking as if he were her father.

He called Ukon off by herself. “You must bring her here. I have thought of her so often. I am delighted at this news and sorry that we lost her for so long. She must not be kept away any longer. Why should we tell her father? His house swarms with children. I am afraid the poor little thing would be overwhelmed. And I have so few myself — we can say that I have come upon a daugh r in a most unexpected place. She will be our treasure. We will have all the young gallants eager to meet her.

“I leave everything to your judgment, sir. If her father is to know, then you must be the one to tell him. I am sure that any little gesture in memory of the lady we lost will lighten the burden of sin.”

“The burden is mine, you are saying? “ He smiled, but he was near tears. “I have thought so often what a sad, brief affair it was. I have all the ladies you see here, and I doubt that I have ever felt toward any of them quite that intensity of affection. Most of them have lived long enough to see that I am after all a steady sort, and she vanished so quickly, and I have had only you to remember her by. I have not forgotten her. It would be as if all my prayers had been answered if you were to bring the girl here.”

He got off a letter. Yet he was a little worried, remembering the safflower princess. Ladies were not always what one hoped they would be, and this was a lady who had had a hard life.

His letter was most decorous. At the end of it he said: “And as to my reasons for writing,

“You may not know, but presently Fou will,

Where leads the line of rushes at Mishimae.”

Ukon delivered it and gave an account of their conversation. She brought all manner of garments for the lady herself and for the others. Genji had told Murasaki the whole story and gone through his warehouses for the best of everything, and very different it all was from what they had been used to in Kyushu.

Tamakazura suggested that the delight would be more considerable if there were word from her father. She saw no reason to go and live with a stranger.

Ukon set about making her think otherwise. “Your father is sure to hear of you once you are set up in a decent sort of life. The bond between parent and child is not so easily broken. I am nobody, and I found you because of my prayers. There can be no other explanation. These things happen if we live long enough. You must get off an answer.”

The girl was timid, sure that any answer from her would seem hopelessly countrified. She chose richly perfumed Chinese paper and wrote only this, in a faint, delicate hand:

“You speak of lines and rushes — and by what line

Has this poor rush taken root in this sad world?”

The hand was immature, but it showed character and breeding. Genji was more confident.

The problem now was where to put her. There was no room in the several wings of Murasaki’s southeast quarter. It was the grandest part of the house and all its apartments were in use, and it was so much frequented that a new presence would very probably be noticed. Akikonomu’s south-west quarter was quiet and in many ways suitable, but Genji would not have wished Tamakazura to be taken for one of the empress’s attendants. Though a little gloomy and remote, there was the west wing of the northeast quarter, now being used as a library. Genji ordered the books and papers moved. The lady of the orange blossoms had already been assigned the northeast quarter, but she was a gentle, amiable person who would be good company for the new lady.

He had told Murasaki the whole ancient story. She chided him for having kept it so long a secret.

“Please, my dear — why should I have offered it to you all gratuitously? I would have been reluctant to tell such a story even if it had been about someone you know. I am telling you now because you mean so very much to me.” He was in a reminiscent mood. “I have seen and heard of so many cases in which I have not myself been involved. I have seen and heard how strong a woman’s feelings can be in the most casual affair, and I have not wanted that sort of thing in my own life. But one’s wishes are not always consulted in these matters. I have had numbers of affairs that might be called illicit, but I doubt that any of them has had quite that gentle sort of pull on me. I think that if she were still living I would be doing at least as much for her as for the lady in the northwest quarter. No one in this world is quite like anyone else. She may not have been the most intelligent and accomplished person, but she did have a way about her, and she was pretty.”

“I doubt very much indeed that she would be a rival of the lady in the northwest quarter.” Evidently there was still resentment.

But here was the little Akashi girl, listening to the conversation with such charming unconcern. Murasaki thought she could see why he had a high regard for the mother.

It was the Ninth Month. Tamakazura’s move was no routine affair. Superior women must be found to wait on her. Through various offices a retinue of women who had drifted down from the capital had been put together in Kyushu, but the suddenness of the departure had made it impossible to bring them along. The city was a vast place. Tradeswomen could be helpful in these matters. Quietly, not letting the girl’s identity be known, the Kyushu people moved in with Ukon’s family. Finally everything was ready. In the Tenth Month they moved to Rokujō.

Genji had taken the lady of the orange blossoms into his confidence. “Someone I was once fond of was having a difficult time and ran off into the mountains. I hunted and hunted, but I did not find the daughter until she was quite grown-up. Even then it was only by accident that I learned a little about her. I do not think it is too late. Might I bring her here? The mother is no longer living. I think I might without imposing too dreadfully ask you to do for her as you have done for Yūgiri. She grew up in the country, and no doubt you will find a great deal that does not entirely please you. Do give her the benefit of your advice.” He was very polite and attentive to detail.

She agreed most generously. “I had not dreamed of such a thing. How very nice for you. You have been lonely with just the one little girl.”

“Her mother was a gentle, amiable young lady. It has all worked out so nicely. You are such an amiable lady yourself.” r “I shall be delighted. I have so little to do.”

He had only a few words for the other women.

“And what will he have come up with this time? Such a bothersome collector as he is?”

There were three carriages for the move. Ukon managed to cover the more obvious appearances of rusticity. Genji sent a large supply of damasks and other figured cloths. Promptly that evening he paid a visit. The Kyushu women had long known of “the shining Genji,” but his radiance had come to seem very far off. And here it was, dimming the lamplight through openings in curtains, almost frightening.

Ukon went to admit him. “One comes through this door,” he said, laughing, “with wildly palpitating heart.” He took a seat in an outer room. “A very soft and suggestive sort of light. I was told that you wished to see your father’s face. Is that not the case?” He pushed the curtain aside.

She looked away, but he had seen enough to be very pleased.

“Can’t we have a little more light? This is really too suggestive.”

Ukon trimmed a lamp and brought it near.

“Now we are being bold.”

Yes, she was very beautiful, and she reminded him of her mother.

“There was no time through all those years when you were out of my thoughts, and now that we are together it is all like a dream.” His manner was intimate, as if he were her father. “I am overwhelmed and reduced to silence.” He was in fact deeply moved, and he brushed away a tear as he counted up the years. “How very sad it has been. I doubt that many fathers and daughters are kept apart for so long. But come: you are too old for this d shfulness, and there are so many things we must talk about. You must not treat me like a stranger.”

She could not look at him. Finally she replied in a voice which he could barely hear but which, as it trailed off into silence, reminded him very much of her mother. “I was like the leech child when they took me away. I could not stand up. Afterwards I was hardly sure whether it was happening to me or not.”

He smiled. It was a most acceptable answer. “And now who besides me is to pity you for all the wasted years?”

He gave Ukon various instructions and left.

Pleased that she had passed the test so nicely, he went to tell Murasaki. “I had felt for her, in a lofty, abstract sort of way; and now I find her so much in control of herself that she almost makes me uncomfortable. I must let everyone know that I have taken her in, and we shall watch the pulses rise as Prince Hotaru and the rest come peeking through my fences. We have seen composed and sedate countenances all around us, and tha has been because we have not had the means for creating disturbances. Now we shall improve our service and see who among them is the most unsettled.”

“What a very odd sort of father, thinking first how to lead them all into temptation.”

“If I had been sufficiently alive to these things,” he said, “I might have been similarly thoroughgoing in my management of your affairs. I did not consider all the possibilities.”

She flushed, as young and beautiful as ever.

He reached for an inkstone and jotted down a verse:

“With unabated longing I sought the other.

What lines have drawn me to the jeweled chaplet?

“It is all so very affecting,” he added, as if to himself.

Yes, thought Murasaki, he would seem to have found a memento of someone very important to him.

He told Yūgiri that he must be good to the girl.

“Not that I could have done very much,” Yūgiri said to her solemnly, “but I am the one you should have come to. I must apologize for not having been present to receive you.”

The situation was somewhat embarrassing to those who shared the secret.

The house in Kyushu had seemed the ultimate in luxury and elegance, but now she could see that it had been hopelessly provincial. Here every detail was in the latest fashion, and every member of the family (she was received as one of the family) was very prepossessing indeed. The woman Sanjō was now able to put the assistant viceroy in his place, and as for the hot-blooded person from Higo, the very thought of him repelled her. Tamakazura and Ukon knew how much they owed the nurse’s son, the former vice-governor of Bungo. Genji chose Tamakazura’s stewards with the greatest care, for he wanted no laxness in the management of her household. The nurse’s son was among them. He would not in ordinary circumstances have had entree to so grand a mansion, and the change after all those years in the provinces was almost too sudden. Here he was among the great ones, coming and going, morning and night. It was a singular honor. Genji was almost too attentive to all the housekeeping details.

With the approach of the New Year he turned his attention to festive dress and appurtenances, determined that nothing suggest less than the highest rank. Though the girl had been a pleasant surprise thus far, he made allowances for rustic tastes. He himself reviewed all the colors and cuts upon which the finest craftsmen had concentrated their skills.

“Vast numbers of things,” he said to Murasaki. “We must see that they are divided so that no one has a right to feel slighted.”

He had everything spread before him, the products of the offices and of Murasaki’s personal endeavors as well. Such sheens and hues as she had wrought, displaying yet another of her talents! He would compare what the fullers had done to this purple and that red, and distribute them among chests and wardrobes, with women of experience to help him reach his decisions.

Murasaki too was with him. “A very hard choice indeed. You must always have the wearer in mind. The worst thing is when the clothes do not suit the lady.”

Genji smiled. “So it is a matter of cool calculation? And what might my lady’s choices be for herself?”

“My lady is not confident,” she replied, shyly after all, “that the mirror can give her an answer.”

For Murasaki he selected a lavender robe with a clear, clean pattern of rose-plum blossoms and a singlet of a fashionable lavender. For his little daughter there was a white robe lined with red and a singlet beaten to a fine glow. For the lady of the orange blossoms, a robe of azure with a pattern of seashells beautifully woven in quiet colors, and a crimson singlet, also fulled to a high sheen. For the new lady, a cloak of bright red and a robe of russet lined with yellow. Though pretending not to be much interested, Murasaki was wondering what sort of lady would go with these last garments. She must resemble her father, a man of fine and striking looks somewhat lacking in the gentler qualities. It was clear to Genji that despite her composure she was uneasy.

“But it is not fair to compare them by their clothes,” he said. “There is a limit to what clothes can do, and the plainest lady has something of her own.”

He chose for the safflower princess a white robe lined with green and decorated profusely with Chinese vignettes. He could not help smiling at its vivacity. And there were garments too for the Akashi lady: a cloak of Chinese white with birds and butterflies flitting among plum branches and a robe of a rich, deep, glossy purple. Its proud elegance immediately caught the eye — and seemed to Murasaki somewhat overdone. For the lady of the locust shell, now a nun, he selected a most dignified habit of a deep blue-gray, a yellow singlet of his own, and a lavender jacket. He sent around messages that everyone was to be in full dress. He wanted to see how well, following Murasaki’s principle, he had matched apparel and wearer.

All the ladies took great pains with their answers and with gifts for the messengers. The safflower lady, left behind in the east lodge at Nijō, might have had certain feelings of deprivation, but she was not one to neglect ceremony. She gave the messenger a yellow lady’s robe rather discolored at the sleeves — a hollow locust shell, so to speak. Her note was on official stationery, heavily scented and yellow with age.

“Your gifts bring boundless sorrow.

“Tearfully I don this Chinese robe,

And having dampened its sleeves, I now return it.”

The hand was very old-fashioned. Smiling, he read and reread the poem. Murasaki wondered what had so taken his fancy.

The messenger slipped away, fearing that Genji might be amused as well at the bounty he had received. The women were all whispering and laughing. The safflower princess, so inflexibly conservative in her ways, could be discommodingly polite.

“A most courtly and elegant lady,” said Genji. “Her conservative style is unable to rid itself of Chinese robes and wet sleeves. I am a rather conservative person myself, and must somewhat grudgingly admire this tenacious fidelity. Hers is a style which considers it mandatory to mention ‘august company’ whenever royalty is in the vicinity, and when the exchange is of a romantic nature a reference to fickleness can always be counted on to get one over the caesura.” He was still smiling. “One reads all the handbooks and memorizes all the gazetteers, and chooses an item from this and an item from that, and what is wanting is originality. She once showed me her father’s handbooks. You can’t imagine all the poetic marrow and poetic ills I found in them. Somewhat intimidated by these rigorous standards, I gave them back. But this does seem a rather wispy product from so much study and erudition.”

He was a little too amused, thought Murasaki, who answered most solemnly: “And why did you send them back? We could have made copies and given them to the little girl. I used to own some handbooks too, but I’m afraid I let the worms have them. I’m not the student of poetry some people are.”

“I doubt that they would have contributed to the girl’s education. Girls should not be too intense. Ignorance is not to be recommended, of course, but a certain tact in the management of learning is.”

He did not seem disposed to answer the safflower princess.

“She speaks of returning your gifts. You must let her have something in return for her poem.”

Essentially a kind man, Genji agreed. He dashed off an answer. This would seem to be what he sent:

“‘Return,’ you say — ah, ‘turn,’ I set you mean,

Your Chinese robe, prepared for lonely slumber.

“I understand completely.”

Chapter 23

The First Warbler

New Year’s Day was cloudless. There is joy inside the humblest of hedges as the grass begins to come green among patches of snow and there is a mist of green on the trees while the mists in the air tell of the advent of spring. There was great joy in the jeweled precincts of Genji’s Rokujō mansion, where every detail of the gardens was a pleasure and the ladies’ apartments were perfection.

The garden of Murasaki’s southeast quarter was now the most beautiful. The scent of plum blossoms, wafting in on the breeze and blending with the perfumes inside, made one think that paradise had come down to earth. Murasaki may have had her small worries, but she lived in peace and security. She had assigned the prettier of her young women to the service of Genji’s little daughter, and kept in her own service older women whose beauty was in fact of a statelier sort and who were extremely particular about their dress and grooming. They were gathered in little groups, helping the New Year with its “teething,” taking New Year’s cakes, and otherwise welcoming another year of the thousand which they laughingly appropriated for themselves. Genji came in. They had been caught with their ribbons undone, so to speak, and they quickly brought themselves to order.

“And are all these congratulations for me?” He smiled. “But you must have little wishes of your own. Tell me what they are, and I will then think of some that you forgot.” He seemed the very incarnation of New Year gladness.

Chūjō thought herself privileged to speak. “Assured by the mirror cake that ten centuries are in store for your august lordship, how should I think of anything for myself?”

All morning, callers streamed in and out of the Rokujō mansion. Genji dressed with great care for a round of calls upon his ladies. One would not have easily wearied of looking at him when his preparations were finished. “Your women were having such a good time that they made me envious?” he said to Murasaki. “Let us now have a congratulatory note for ourselves.

“The mirror of this lake, now freed from ice,

Offers an image of utter peace and calm.”

And indeed it did reflect an image of very great beauty and felicity.

“Upon the cloudless mirror of this lake,

Clear is the image, for ten thousand years.”

Everything about the scene seemed to make manifest a bond that was meant to last a thousand years — and New Year’s Day this year fell on the Day of the Rat.

He went to his daughter’s rooms. Her page girls and young serving women were out on the hill busying themselves with seedling pines, too intoxicated with the occasion, it would seem, to stay inside. The Akashi lady — it was clear that she had gone to enormous trouble — had sent over New Year delicacies in “bearded baskets” and with them a warbler on a very cleverly fabricated pine branch:

“The old one’s gaze rests long on the seedling pine,

Waiting to hear the song of the first warbler, in a village where it does not sing.”

Yes, thought Genji, it was a lonely time for her. One should not weep on New Year’s Day, but he was very close to tears.

“You must answer her yourself,” he said to his daughter. “You are surely not the sort to begrudge her that first song.” He brought ink and brush.

She was so pretty that even those who were with her day and night had to smile. Genji was feeling guilty for the years he had kept mother and daughter apart.

Cheerfully, she jotted down the first poem that came to her:

“The warbler left its nest long years ago,

But cannot forget the roots of the waiting pine.”

He went to the summer quarter of the lady of the orange blossoms. There was nothing in her summer gardens to catch the eye, nothing that was having its moment, and yet everything was quietly elegant. They were as close as ever, she and Genji, despite the passage of the years. It was an easy sort of intimacy which he would not have wished to change. They had their talks, pleasant and easy as talks between husband and wife seldom are. He pushed the curtain between them slightly aside. She made no effort to hide herself. Her azure robe was as quietly becoming as he had hoped it would be. Her hair had thinned sadly. He rather wished she might be persuaded to use a switch, though not so considerable a one as to attract notice. He knew that no other man was likely to have been as good to her, and in the knowledge was one of his private pleasures. What misfortunes might she not have brought upon herself had she been a less constant sort! Always when he was with her he thought first of his own dependability and her undemanding ways. They were a remarkable pair. They talked quietly of the year that had passed, and he went on to see Tamakazura.

She was not yet really at home, but her rooms were in very good taste. She had a large retinue of women and pretty little girls. Though much still needed to be done by way of furnishing and decorating, the rooms already wore an air of clean dignity. Even more striking was the elegance of their occupant. She seemed to enhance the glow of her yellow dress and send it into the deepest corners of the room, taking away the last gloomy shadow. It was a scene, he thought, which could never seem merely ordinary Perhaps because of her trials, her hair was just a little sparse at the edges. The casual flow drew wonderfully clean lines down over her skirts. And what might have happened to her if he had not brought her here? (The question may have suggested that he was already thinking of certain changes.) There was no barrier between them, though she was very much on her guard. It was a strange situation with a certain dreamlike quality about it that both interested and amused him.

“I feel as if you had been with us for years. Everything seems so cozy. I could not wish for more. I hope that by now you are feeling quite at home. Today you might just possibly want to go over to the southeast quarter, where you will find a young lady at her New Year’s music lesson. You need not have the slightest fear that anyone will say anything unpleasant about you.”

“I shall do exactly as you wish me to.”

In the circumstances, a most acceptable answer.

He went in the evening to the northwest quarter and called on the Akashi lady. He was greeted by the perfume from within her blinds, a delicate mixture that told of the most refined tastes. And where was the lady herself? He saw notebooks and the like disposed around an inkstone. He took one up, and another. A beautifully made koto lay against the elaborate fringe of a cushion of white Loyang damask, and in a brazier of equally fine make she had been burning courtly incenses, which mingled with the perfume burnt into all the furnishings to most wonderful effect. Little practice notes lay scattered about. The hand was a superior and most individual one, in an easy cursive style that allowed no suggestion of pretense or imposture. Pleased at having heard from her daughter, it would seem, she had been amusing herself with jottings from the anthologies.

And there was a poem of her own:

“Such happiness! The warbler among the blossoms

Calls across the glen to its old nest.”

“I had waited so long,” she had added; and, to comfort herself:”‘I dwell upon a hill of blossoming plums.’”

He smiled one of his most radiant smiles.

He had just taken up a brush when the lady came in. Luxury had not made her any less modest or retiring. Yes, she was different. Her dark tresses gleamed against the white of her robe, not so thick that they might have seemed assertive. He decided to spend the night with her, though sorry indeed if in other quarters the New Year must begin with spasms of jealousy. She was dear to him in a very special way, he thought somewhat uneasily. In Murasaki’s quarter he may have been the object of sterner reproaches than he had for himself.

It was not yet full daylight when he left. He might, thought the Akashi lady, have awaited a more seemly hour. In the southeast quarter he sensed that the welcome was mixed.

“I dozed off, and there I was sleeping like a baby, and no one woke me.” He was charmingly ingenuous, but Murasaki pretended to be asleep.

He lay down beside her. The sun was high when he arose.

New Year’s callers kept him busy that day and were his excuse for avoiding a confrontation. The whole court came. There was music and there were lavish gifts. Each of the guests was determined to cut the finest figure, though in fact (I say it regretfully) no one could challenge the host. By themselves they were strong enough lights, but Genji dimmed them all. The lowliest among them made sure that he was looking his best when he came to Rokujō, and the highest seemed to have something new and original on his mind. A quiet breeze coaxed perfume from the flowers and especially from the plums just coming into bloom at the veranda. “How grand this house:” the festivities were at a climax, and came to an end with “the three-branched sakigusa.” Genji himself helped with the concluding passages. Restrained though his part might be, it always seemed to make a very great difference.

In all the other quarters, there were only distant echoes of horse and carriage, to make the ladies feel that they were living in an outer circle of paradise where the lotuses were slow to open. The east lodge at Nijō was of course even farther away. Life may have been a little uneventful for the ladies there, but they were spared the more bitter trials of the world, and would have thought it out of place to complain. Neglected they unquestionably were, and they might have wished for something different; but their lives were calm and comfortable and secure. The nun could pursue her prayers and the connoisseur her poetry texts and neither need fear distraction.

When the busy days were over he went calling, with careful ceremony, for the safflower princess was after all a princess. Her hair had been her principal and indeed her only charm when she was young, but now the flow was a White trickle, and her profile was better not seen. He looked tactfully away. The white robe which he had sent had, he feared, been rather better by itself. She seemed quite congealed in a frosting of white over something of a dark, dull gray so stiff that it rustled dryly. And was there nothing else, no underclothing to keep her warm? The safflower nose was aglow all the same, bright through the densest mists. He sighed and rearranged her curtains, and she seemed not to guess why. He could not help being touched at the pleasure which the visit, evidence that he still thought of her, so obviously gave. Poor, lonely thing, he must do something for her from time to rime. She too was rather special — leastways one did not often see her like. Her voice too seemed congealed.

He was concerned. “Who is in charge of your wardrobe? You live a rather informal life here, and I should think that informal dress might be called for. Quilted garments, for instance, have much to recommend them. You worry too much about appearances.”

She managed a short laugh. “I have my brother to look after, the priest at Daigo, and I have no time to think about my own clothes. I do get a little chilly. I let him have my sable.”

Yes, she had a sable. And a brother, also the possessor of a safflower nose. She was an honest lady but not a very practical one. He felt very honest himself when he was with her, away from the niceties and deceptions of the elegant life.

“I think you did well to let him have your sable. It rains a great deal off in the mountains, and I am sure he needs a raincoat. But what of yourself? You need some underclothing, really you do. Pile it on, seven and eight layers of it. I am sometimes forgetful in these matters, and you must keep reminding me. You must not put up with my obtuseness.”

He sent to the Nijō warehouses for plain and figured silks. The Nijō mansion could not have been called neglected or run-down, but a silence had settled over it with his removal to Rokujō. Yet the plantings were fine. It seemed a pity that there was no one to appreciate the rose plum, just coming into bloom.

“I stop to look at the groves of my old village,

And the blossom I see reminds me of a safflower.”

He spoke very softly. It is unlikely that the princess caught the full implications.

He next looked in upon the lady of the locust shell. She was living very modestly, the larger part of her rooms given over to sacred images. He found the evidences of the religious life very moving. The scrolls and the decorations and utensils down to the least of the fonts showed very good taste indeed. She was a refined and cultivated lady. Only her sleeves showed modest and ladylike through the ingenious arrangement of gray curtains behind which she had hidden herself.

“I should perhaps have been satisfied,” he said, almost in tears, “with seeing Urashima from a distance. Things have never been easy between us, and I should hope that we might go on having as much as we have now.”

She too seemed deeply moved. “It can have been no weak bond that has made me put my trust in you.”

“Considerable wrongs, I should think, call for considerable acts of contrition. Am I not right? Perhaps you see now that not everyone would have been as honest with you as I have been.”

She could not look at him. He was obviously referring to her stepson’s lamentable behavior. “My contrition is in showing myself to you as I am, and in having you see me thus to the end.”

She seemed ever calmer and more serene, and the fact that she had become a nun made him feel more strongly that he must keep her with him. But it was not the time to say so. The talk might be of the present or of the past, but it must be in generalities. How good, he thought, glancing in the direction of the safflower princess’s rooms, to be with someone who could talk at all.

He was seeing to the needs of others in this same matter-of-fact way. He looked in on all of them.

“I may seem negligent at times, but I have not forgotten. Nor will I forget, though life is uncertain, and final goodbyes must presently come.”

He addressed each of them most gently and courteously, and indeed he was fond of them all, after their several stations. They could not have complained whatever he chose to do with them, but he was moderation itself, allowing no suggestion of the haughty or arbitrary. His attentions were for them the chief comfort in life.

The carolers were out this year. They went from the main palace to the Suzaku Palace of the retired emperor and thence to Rokujō. The way being a long one, it was dawn when they arrived. A moon hung in a cloudless sky and a light fall of snow set the garden off to weirdly delicate effect. Everyone wanted to be his best when he came to Rokujō. It was an age well provided with fine musicians, and the sound of flute rang high through the grounds. Genji had invited all his ladies to watch, and there they all were along the east and west wings and galleries. Tamakazura had been invited to the south front of the main hall, where she was introduced to Genji’s daughter. Murasaki watched from behind a curtain.

Dawn was already coming on as the carolers did honor to Kokiden, the mother of the Suzaku emperor. There should have been only light refreshments at Rokujō, but Genji had in fact had an elaborate banquet set out. The moon was almost too bright in the dawn sky and there were snow flurries. A wind came down through the tall pines. The soft yellow-greens and whites of the carolers did nothing to break the cold, white calm, and the cloth posies in their caps, far from seeming to intrude with too much color, moved over the scene with a light grace such as to make the onlookers feel that years were being added to their lives. Yūgiri and Tō no Chūjō‘s sons were the handsomest and proudest of the carolers. Day broke amid new flurries of snow, “Bamboo River” fell on freezing air, and the dancing and the singing — I longed to paint the scene, though certain that my efforts must fall short of the actuality.

The sleeves emerging from the blinds as each of the ladies sought to outdo all the others made one think of a tapestry spread out in a spring haze. It was all quite magical, if in a very slightly unsettling way, the high caps so far from the ordinary and the noisy congratulations and all the trappings and appurtenances. The carolers went off in full daylight, bearing as always the evidences of Genji’s munificence. The ladies dispersed. Genji lay down to rest, and arose when the sun was high.

“Yūgiri may have sung a little less well than Kōbai,” he said to Murasaki, “but only a very little. Ours is a good day for music. The ancients may have been better at scholarship and learning, but I think we more than hold our own in the gentler pursuits. I wanted to make a sober public servant of him and to keep him from wasting his time on the frivolities that took up so much of my own. But it is right that he should find time for them too. Unrelieved sobriety is itself an excess.”

In obvious pleasure at his son’s performance, he interrupted himself to hum “The Delight of Ten Thousand Springs.”

“We must arrange a day of music for ourselves. Our own private recessional.”

He carefully undid the fine cloths in which the instruments had been stored away, and dusted and tuned them; and it would seem that the ladies were already hard at practice.

Chapter 24

Butterflies

It was late in the Third Month. Murasaki’s spring garden was coming ever more to life with blossoms and singing birds. Elsewhere spring had departed, said the other ladies, and why did it remain here? Genji thought it a pity that the young women should have only distant glimpses of the moss on the island, a deeper green each day. He had carpenters at work on Chinese pleasure boats, and on the day they were launched he summoned palace musicians for water music. Princes and high courtiers came crowding to hear.

Akikonomu was in residence at Rokujō. Now was the time, thought Murasaki, for a proper answer to the poem about the garden that “awaits the spring.” Genji agreed. It would have been good to show these spring blossoms to the empress herself, but casual visits were out of the question for one in her position. Numbers of her young women who were thought likely to enjoy such an outing were therefore rowed out over the south lake, which ran from her southwest quarter to Murasaki’s southeast, with a hillock separating the two. The boats left from the hillock. Murasaki’s women were stationed in the angling pavilion at the boundary between the two quarters.

The dragon and phoenix boats were brilliantly decorated in the Chinese fashion. The little pages and helmsmen, their hair still bound up in the page-boy manner, wore lively Chinese dress, and everything about the arrangements was deliciously exotic, to add to the novelty, for the empress’s women, of this southeast quarter. The boats pulled up below a cliff at an island cove, where the smallest of the hanging rocks was like a detail of a painting. The branches caught in mists from either side were like a tapestry, and far away in Murasaki’s private gardens a willow trailed its branches in a deepening green and the cherry blossoms were rich and sensuous. In other places they had fallen, but here they were still at their smiling best, and along the galleries wisteria was beginning to send forth its lavender. Yellow yamabuki reflected on the lake as if about to join its own image. Waterfowl swam past in amiable pairs, and flew in and out with twigs in their bills, and one longed to paint the mandarin ducks as they coursed about on the water. Had that Chinese woodcutter been present, he might well have gazed on until his ax handle rotted away. Presently it was evening.

“The breezes blow, the wave flowers brightly blossom.

Will it be the Cape of Yamabuki?”

“Is this the lake where flows the River of Ide,

That yamabuki should plunge into its depths?”

“There is no need to visit Turtle Mountain.

‘Ageless’ shall be the name of our pleasure boats.”

“Our boats row out into the bright spring sun,

And water drops from the oars like scattering petals.”

Poem followed poem. The young women seemed to forget that the day must end and they must go home.

In the gathering twilight, to the sonorous strains of “The Royal Deer,” the boats were pulled up once more at the angling pavilion and the women reluctantly disembarked. It was a building of simple but very great elegance. The lengths to which the competitive young women had gone with their dress and grooming made one think of a tapestry upon which blossoms had fallen. The music, all very novel, went on and on, for Genji had chosen musicians whose repertory did not permit of monotony.

It was night, and they seemed indefatigable. Flares having been put out in the garden, they were invited to the moss carpet below the verandas, and the princes and high courtiers had places above with the kotos and flutes in which they took such pride. The most accomplished of the professional flutists struck up a melody in the sōjō mode, in which the courtiers joined most brilliantly with their kotos, and as they moved on to “How Grand the Day” even the most ignorant of the footmen off among the horses and carriages seemed to respond. The sky and the music, the spring modes and echoes, all seemed better here — no one could fail to see the difference. The night was passed in music. With “Joy of Spring” the mode shifted to an intimate minor. Prince Hotaru twice sang “Green Willow,” in very good voice. Genji occasionally

Morning came. From behind her fences Akikonomu listened to the morning birds and feared that her autumn garden had lost the contest.

Though a perpetual spring radiance seemed to hang over this Rokujō mansion, there were those who had complained of a want of interesting young ladies. Now the rumors were of a new lady in the northeast quarter, and how pretty she was and how attentive Genji seemed to be. The anticipated stream of letters had commenced. Several of those whose sta- tion in life made them confident that their candidacy was acceptable already had their intermediaries at work. Others seemed to be keeping their ardor rather more to themselves. It is to be imagined that several of the suitors, Tō no Chūjō‘s son, for instance, would have dropped their suits if they had known who she really was.

Prince Hotaru, Genji’s brother, had lost his wife of some years and for three years had been living a lonely bachelor’s life. He was now quite open with his suit. Pretending to be hopelessly drunk, he was very amusing indeed as he gamboled about all willow-like with a spray of wisteria in his cap. Quite as expected, thought Genji, though he gave no sign that he noticed.

The wine flagon came around once more and the prince pretended to be in great discomfort. “If there were not something rather special to keep me here, I think I would be trying to escape. It is too much, oh, really too much.” He refused to drink any more.

“Lavender holds me and puts me in mind of things.

I mean, let them say what they will, to throw myself in.”

He generously divided his wisteria and put a sprig in Genji’s cap.

Genji smiled broadly.

“Please hold yourself in abeyance beneath these flowers,

To judge if the plunge would have the proper effect.”

The prince accepted this suggestion, it seemed, and stayed on. The morning concert was if anything livelier than the evening concert had been.

Today there was to be a reading of the Prajnapāramitā Sutra commissioned by Empress Akikonomu. Many of the guests had been given rooms in which to change to formal dress. Though some had previous engagements and excused themselves, Genji’s prestige had removed any doubt that it would be a grand and solemn occasion. He led the assembly to Akikonomu’s quarter at noon.

Murasaki had prepared the floral offerings. She chose eight of her prettiest little girls to deliver them, dressing four as birds and four as butterflies. The birds brought cherry blossoms in silver vases, the butterflies yamabuki in gold vases. In wonderfully rich and full bloom, they completed a perfect picture. As the party rowed out from the hillock to Akikonomu’s end of the lake, a breeze came up to scatter a few cherry petals. The skies were clear and happy, and the little girls were charming in the delicate spring haze. Akikonomu had declined Murasaki’s offer of awnings and had instead put out seats for the orchestra in one of the galleries adjoining her main hall. The little girls came to the stairs with their flowers. Incense bearers received them and set them out before the holy images.

Yūgiri delivered this poem from Murasaki:

“Low in your grasses the cricket awaits the autumn

And views with scorn these silly butterflies.”

Akikonomu smiled, recognizing an answer to her poem about the autumn leaves.

“No, Your Majesty, nothing surpasses that garden,” said one of the women, still drunk with the joys of the day before.

The music for the dance of the Kalavinka bird rang forth to the singing of warblers, to which the waterfowl on the lake added their clucks and chirps, and it was with very great regret that the audience saw the dance come to an end. The butterflies seemed to fly higher than the birds as they disappeared behind a low fence over which poured a cascade of yamabuki. Akikonomu’s assistant chamberlain asked that courtiers of appropriate rank distribute gifts: to the birds, white robes lined with red, and to the butterflies robes of pale russet lined with yellow. It would seem that Akikonomu had made careful preparations. Then came gifts for the musicians, white singlets and bolts of cloth. Yūgiri received a lady’s ensemble, most conspicuously a lavender robe lined with blue.

This was Akikonomu’s reply:

“I weep in my longing to follow your butterflies.

You put up fences of yamabuki between us.”

Are the grand ones of the realm consistently good at poetry? One is sometimes disappointed.

I had forgotten: Murasaki had had lavish gifts for her guests too. But I fear that the details would be tiresome. In any event, there were tasteful diversions morning and night to keep the least of the serving women happy, and there were these poetic exchanges.

Murasaki and Tamakazura sometimes wrote to each other, now that they had been introduced. It was too early perhaps to know whether Tamakazura was a comrade to turn to for help, but she did seem to be quietly good-natured and not the sort to cause trouble. People were on the whole favorably disposed towards her. She had many suitors by now, but it did not seem that Genji was ready for a decision. Perhaps not quite sure, indeed, that he wished to be consistent in the role of the good parent, he considered telling her father everything.

Yūgiri was permitted to approach her curtains and she favored him with direct replies. She was uncomfortable at the need to do so, but her Women quite approved. He was always very solemn and proper. Tō no Chūjō’s sons, who were his constant companions, were seen sighing and mooning about the house, and now and again they dropped hints of their interest. She was much disturbed, not because she disliked them but because they were victims of false appearances. It was not a matter she could discuss openly with Genji, however. He was charmed at the evidences, shy and girlish, that she considered him her guardian. He could not have said that she looked very much like her mother, but there was an indefinable resemblance in tone and manner. She was clearly the more intelligent of the two

The Fourth Month came, and the change to bright summer clothes. Even the skies seemed to favor the occasion. Genji passed his spare time, of which he had a great deal, in music and the like. It was as he had expected: the flood of love letters was rising. Looking them over as he visited her apartments, he encouraged her to answer the more likely ones. These promptings had the effect of putting her on guard.

Prince Hotaru was already describing the torments of unrequited love.

Genji smiled. “He was my favorite brother when we were boys. We kept nothing from each other. Or rather he kept one thing from me, his romantic life. He was very secretive about that. It is interesting and at the same time a little sad that he should still burn with such a youthful flame. You must answer. When a lady really matters to him, there is no one quite like him, I often think, for letting her know it. And he is most amusing company.”

He made his brother seem very attractive, but she looked away in embarrassment.

General Higekuro was on the whole a very earnest and serious man, but he seemed bent on illustrating the truth that even the most superior of men, even Confucius himself, can stumble as he makes his way through the wilderness of love. Yet his letters were interesting.

Genji’s attention was caught by a bit of azure Chinese paper gently but richly perfumed and folded into a tiny knot.

“You haven’t even opened it,” he said, undoing the knot himself. The hand was a strong one in the modern style. This was the poem:

“You cannot know how deep my feelings are.

Their colors are hidden, like waters among the rocks.”

“And whose feelings might they be?” he asked. Her answer was evasive.

He summoned Ukon. “You must rate them carefully and have her answer the ones that seem deserving. The dissolute gallants of our day are capable of anything, but sometimes they are not wholly to blame. My own experience has been that a lady can at the outset seem cold and unfeeling and unaware of the gentler things, and if she is of no importance I can call her impertinent and forget about her. Yet in idle exchanges about birds and flowers the lady who teases with silence can seem very interesting. If the man does forget, then of course part of the responsibility is hers; but a lady is not well advised to answer by return messenger a note that has not meant a great deal to the man who sent it, and profuse answers all saturated with sensibility can come to seem very tiresome. But Prince Hotaru and General Higekuro are grown men who know what they are doing.

Your lady should not risk giving them the impression that she is unfeeling and unsympathetic. When it comes to lesser people, you must judge each on his own merits. Some may be serious and some may not. The genuine should be recognized.”

Tamakazura was very beautiful as she listened with averted gaze to this long discourse. Her dress was dignified and fashionable, a robe of pink lined with blue and a singlet that caught the colors of the season. She had had a certain air of rustic stolidity, but, though traces remained, it was rapidly giving way to a subtler, more delicate sort of calm. No one could have found fault with her dress, and her beauty seemed to glow ever more brightly. Genji was beginning to think that she was too good to let go.

Ukon looked smilingly from the one to the other. He was much too youthful for the role of father. They were far more like husband and wife.

“I have not delivered letters from anyone else,” said Ukon. “I did accept the few which you have seen. It seemed altogether too rude to turn them back. My lady has answered only the ones which you have specifically told her to answer, and those very reluctantly.”

“And whose is the one in the boyish little knot?” He was smiling. “The hand is very good.”

“He was very insistent indeed. Captain Kashiwagi, the minister’s son. He has known our Miruko for a rather long time and is making use of her services. I gather that there is no one else he can ask.”

“Charming. He may not be very important yet, but he is not to be dismissed. In some ways he is as highly thought of as the best of them, and he is a good deal more dependable than his brothers. He will eventually learn the truth, but for the moment it seems best to keep him in ignorance. Yes, he does write a very good hand.” He examined it admiringly. “You may think it strange of me,” he said to Tamakazura, “but I think you would have a difficult time if you were dropped down in that enormous family of your father’s, all of them as good as strangers. The time will come, when you have found a place for yourself. Prince Hotaru is a bachelor at the moment, but he is, I fear, a promiscuous sort, and the gossips associate him with innumerable women, some of whom are called ladies-in-waiting and others of whom go by less dignified names. A lady of tolerance and very great skill might possibly steer her way through, but the first sign of jealousy would be fatal. It is all in all a situation calling for tact and caution.

“There is General Higekuro. He has been married for some years but it appears that he is not at all happy with his wife, and so he has turned to you. There are people who do not look favorably upon his suit. I can quite see the arguments, and am reluctant to hand down an opinion. You might not find it easy to tell your own father how you feel, but you are no longer a child and I see no reason why you should not presently come to your own conclusions. Perhaps you can think of me as a sort of substitute for your mother and we can tell ourselves that we have gone back to the old days. The last thing I would wish is to make you unhappy.” He looked at her solemnly.

She was extremely uncomfortable and would have preferred not to answer; but she was, as he said, no longer a child. “I have been an orphan ever since I can remember,” she said quietly, “ and I fear that I have no thoughts in the matter.”

He could see her point. “Well, as they say, a foster parent sometimes does better than a real parent. You will find me an unusually devoted foster parent.” He preferred not to say what he was really thinking. Though he had dropped a hint or two, she had pretended not to notice. He sighed and went out.

He paused to admire a luxuriant new growth of Chinese bamboo swaying in the breeze.

“The bamboo so firmly rooted within our hedges

Will send out distant shoots to please its convenience?”

He raised the blind. She slipped away, but not before she had given him an answer:

“Why should the young bamboo at this late date

Go forth in search of roots it has left behind, and make trouble for itself?”

He had to feel sorry for her.

She was by no means as much at home as her poem suggested. She longed to announce herself to her father. Yet she knew, from what she had read and seen, and she was seeing more, that the father from whom she had been separated from infancy was not likely to be as thoughtful as Genji had been. She held her tongue, increasingly aware of how difficult it would be to do otherwise.

She pleased him more and more “There is something singularly appealing about her,” he said to Murasaki. “Her mother was a little too solemn and humorless. She is very quick and bright, and somehow a Person immediately wants to be friends with her. I am very sure now that she will not be an embarrassment.”

Familiar with his inability to let well enough alone, she had guessed what was happening. “It must be rather difficult for her not to have any secrets and to be so completely dependent on you.”

“And why should she not be dependent on me?”

She smiled. “Can you think that I have forgotten all the sighs and pains your way of doing things produced in my own younger years?”

How quick she was! “You find very odd and foolish things to worry about. Do you think she would permit anything of the sort?” He changed the subject; but she had surveyed the scene and come to her conclusions, and he had to admit that there were matters on his conscience.

He thought a great deal about Tamakazura. He often visited her and he was of service to her in many ways. One quiet evening after a rainfall, when the green of the maples and oaks was clean and rich, he looked up into a singularly affecting twilight sky and intoned a phrase from Po Chü-i: “It is gentle, it is fresh.” At such times it was more than anything the fresh glow of the new lady that he was thinking of. He slipped quietly away to her apartments. At her writing desk, she bowed courteously and turned shyly away, very beautiful indeed. Suddenly, gently, she was exactly like her mother. He wanted to weep.

“You must forgive me, but I cannot help it. When I first saw you I did not think you looked so very much like her, and yet there have been times when I could have mistaken you for her. Yūgiri is not in the least like me and so I had come to think that children do not on the whole resemble parents. And then I come on an instance like this.”

There was an orange in the fruit basket before her.

“Scented by orange blossoms long ago,

The sleeve she wore is surely the sleeve you wear.

“So many years have gone by, and through them all I have been unable to forget. Sometimes I feel as if I might be dreaming — and as if the dream were too much for me. You must not dismiss me for my rudeness.”

And he took her hand.

Nothing like this had happened to her before. But she must not lose her composure.

“The sleeve bears the scent of that blossom long ago.

Then might not the fruit as quickly vanish away?”

He found this quiet confusion delightful. She sat with bowed head, unable to think what to make of his behavior and what to do next. The hand in his was soft, her skin smooth and delicate. He had made his confession because beauty and pain had suddenly come to seem very much alike. She was trembling.

“Am I so objectionable, then? I have worked hard to keep our secret, and you must help me. You have always been important to me. Now you are important in a new way. I wonder if there has ever been anything quite like it. I can think of no reason that you should prefer those others to me. I cannot imagine feelings deeper than my own, and I cannot bear the thought of passing you on to them and their frivolity.”

It all seemed rather beyond the call of paternal duty.

The night was a lovely one. The breeze was rustling the bamboo, the wind had stopped, and a bright moon had come out. Her women had tactfully withdrawn. Though he saw a great deal of her, a better opportunity did not seem likely to present itself. From the momentum, perhaps, which his avowal had given him, he threw off his robe with practiced skill — it was a soft one that made no sound — and pulled her down beside him.

She was stunned. What would her women think? She was sobbing helplessly. Her father might treat her coldly, but at least he would protect her from such outrages.

Yes, of course: she had a right to weep. He turned to the work of calming her. “So you reject me. I am shattered. Ladies must often depend on men who are nothing to them — it is the way of the world — and I should have thought that I was rather a lot to you, at least in terms of what I have done for you. This unfriendliness is not at all easy to accept. But enough. It will not happen again. My comfort will be in heaping restraint upon virtuous restraint.”

She was so like her mother that the resemblance was scarcely to be borne. He knew that this impetuous behavior did not become his age and eminence. Collecting himself, he withdrew before the lateness of the hour brought her women to mistaken conclusions.

“It will not be easy to forget that I have caused such revulsion. You may be very sure that you will not succeed in driving anyone else quite so thoroughly mad, and that my limitless, bottomless feelings for you will keep me from doing anything unseemly in the future. A quiet talk for old times’ sake is all I ask. Can you not be persuaded to grant me that much?”

She was unable to reply.

“Such coldness, I would not have thought you capable of it. You do seem to hate me most extravagantly.” He sighed. “We must let no one guess what has happened.” And he left.

She was no child, but among ladies her age she was remarkable in not having had the company of anyone of even modest experience. She could not imagine a worse outrage, or a stranger fate than hers had been. Her women thought she must be ill and could not think what to suggest.

“His Lordship has done so much for us,” whispered Hyōbu. “Really more than we deserve. I doubt that even your honorable father could be kinder and more considerate.”

She wanted to reply that his kindness had taken a curious turn. Her lot was a very strange one!

A letter came from him early in the morning. She was still in bed and said that she was not feeling well; but with her women pressing ink and brush on her she reluctantly looked at it. Though it seemed very prim on white paper, the contents were rather different.

“You have cut so deeply that I shall never be whole again. And what, I wonder, will they all be thinking?

“Although I scarcely saw the tender grasses,

They look as if I had tied them all in knots.

“Which seems silly of them.”

Even here he somehow managed a suggestion of the avuncular. He was impossible! But her women would think it odd if she did not answer. She finally wrote this and no more on a sheet of thick, businesslike Michinoku paper:

“I have noted the contents of your letter, and must apologize for being too unwell to reply.”

He smiled. She had a certain flair.

One might have hoped that he would pursue the matter no further; but he had made his confession and was not “the pine of Ota” he once had been. He quite overwhelmed her with letters. She felt as if the trap were closing and closing, and finally she took to her bed, physically ill. There were very few who knew the truth, and outsiders as well as people who might have been called part of the family seemed to think him a model father. How they would all laugh when they learned the truth! And her real father, to whom she was nothing, would doubtless laugh more derisively than the rest. She had nowhere to turn.

Hotaru and Higekuro had sensed that Genji considered them acceptable candidates and were energetically pleading their cases; and one hears that the water among the rocks, similarly if obliquely encouraged, and still ignorant of the true state of affairs, was complaining at great length and very nervously.

Chapter 25

Fireflies

Genji was famous and life was secure and peaceful. His ladies had in their several ways made their own lives and were happy. There was an exception, Tamakazura, who faced a new crisis and was wondering what to do next. She was not as genuinely frightened of him, of course, as she had been of the Higo man; but since few people could possibly know what had happened, she must keep her disquiet to herself, and her growing sense of isolation. Old enough to know a little of the world, she saw more than ever what a handicap it was not to have a mother.

Genji had made his confession. The result was that his longing increased. Fearful of being overheard, however, he found the subject a difficult one to approach, even gingerly. His visits were very frequent. Choosing times when she was likely to have few people with her, he would hint at his feelings, and she would be in an agony of embarrassment. Since she was not in a position to turn him away, she could only pretend that she did not know what was happening.

She was of a cheerful, affectionate disposition. Though she was also of a cautious and conservative nature, the chief impression she gave was of a delicate, winsome girlishness.

Prince Hotaru continued to pay energetic court. His labors had not yet gone on for very long when he had the early-summer rains to be resentful of.

“Admit me a little nearer, please,” he wrote. “I will feel better if I can unburden myself of even part of what is in my heart.”

Genji saw the letter. “Princes,” he said, “should be listened to. Aloofness is not permitted. You must let him have an occasional answer.” He even told her what to say.

But he only made things worse. She said that she was not feeling well and did not answer.

There were few really highborn women in her household. She did have a cousin called Saishō, daughter of a maternal uncle who had held a seat on the council. Genji had heard that she had been having a difficult time since her father’s death, and had put her in Tamakazura’s service. She wrote a passable hand and seemed generally capable and well informed. He assigned her the task of composing replies to gentlemen who deserved them. It was she whom he summoned today. One may imagine that he was curious to see all of his brother’s letters. Tamakazura herself had been reading them with more interest since that shocking evening. It must not be thought that she had fallen in love with Hotaru, but he did seem to offer a way of evading Genji. She was learning rapidly.

Unaware that Genji himself was eagerly awaiting him, Hotaru was delighted at what seemed a positive invitation and quietly came calling. A seat was put out for him near the corner doors, where she received him with only a curtain between them. Genji had given close attention to the incense, which was mysterious and seductive — rather more attention, indeed, than a guardian might have felt that his duty demanded. One had to admire the results, whatever the motive. Saishō was at a loss to reply to Hotaru’s overtures. Genji pinched her gently to remind her that her mistress must not behave like an unfeeling lump, and only added to her discomfiture. The dark nights of the new moon were over and there was a bland quarter-moon in the cloudy sky. Calm and dignified, the prince was very handsome indeed. Genji’s own very special perfume mixed with the incense that drifted through the room as people moved about. More interesting than he would have expected, thought the prince. In calm control of himself all the while (and in pleasant contrast to certain other people), he made his avowals.

Tamakazura withdrew to the east penthouse and lay down. Genji followed Saishō as she brought a new message from the prince.

“You are not being kind,” he said to Tamakazura. “A person should behave as the occasion demands. You are unnecessarily coy. You should not be sending a messenger back and forth over such distances. If you do not wish him to hear your voice, very well, but at least you should move a little nearer.”

She was in despair. She suspected that his real motive was to impose himself upon her, and each course open to her seemed worse than all the others. She slipped away and lay down at a curtain between the penthouse and the main hall.

She was sunk in thought, unable to answer the prince’s outpourings. Genji came up beside her and lifted the curtain back over its frame. There was a flash of light. She looked up startled. Had someone lighted a torch? No — Genji had earlier in the evening put a large number of fireflies in a cloth bag. Now, letting no one guess what he was about, he released them. Tamakazura brought a fan to her face. Her profile was very beautiful.

Genji had worked everything out very carefully. Prince Hotaru was certain to look in her direction. He was making a show of passion, Genji suspected, because he thought her Genji’s daughter, and not because he had guessed what a beauty she was. Now he would see, and be genuinely excited. Genji would not have gone to such trouble if she had in fact been his daughter. It all seems rather perverse of him.

He slipped out through another door and returned to his part of the house.

The prince had guessed where the lady would be. Now he sensed that she was perhaps a little nearer. His heart racing, he looked through an opening in the rich gossamer curtains. Suddenly, some six or seven feet away, there was a flash of light — and such beauty as was revealed in it! Darkness was quickly restored, but the brief glimpse he had had was the sort of thing that makes for romance. The figure at the curtains may have been indistinct but it most certainly was slim and tall and graceful. Genji would not have been disappointed at the interest it had inspired.

“You put out this silent fire to no avail.

Can you extinguish the fire in the human heart?

“I hope I make myself understood.”

Speed was the important thing in answering such a poem.

“The firefly but burns and makes no comment.

Silence sometimes tells of deeper thoughts.”

It was a brisk sort of reply, and having made it, she was gone. His lament about this chilly treatment was rather wordy, but he would not have wished to overdo it by staying the night. It was late when he braved the dripping eaves (and tears as well) and went out. I have no doubt that a cuckoo sent him on his way, but did not trouble myself to learn all the detd ls.

So handsome, so poised, said the women — so very much like Genji. Not knowing their lady’s secret, they were filled with gratitude for Genji’s attentions. Why, not even her mother could have done more for her.

Unwelcome attentions, the lady was thinking. If she had been recognized by her father and her situation were nearer the ordinary, then they need not be entirely unwelcome. She had had wretched luck, and she lived in dread of rumors.

Genji too was determined to avoid rumors. Yet he continued to have his ways. Can one really be sure, for instance, that he no longer had designs upon Akikonomu? There was something different about his manner When he was with her, something especially charming and seductive. But she was beyond the reach of direct overtures. Tamakazura was a modern sort of girl, and approachable. Sometimes dangerously near losing control of himself, he would do things which, had they been noticed, might have aroused suspicions. It was a difficult and complicated relationship indeed, and he must be given credit for the fact that he held back from the final line.

On the fifth day of the Fifth Month, the Day of the Iris, he stopped by her apartments on his way to the equestrian grounds.

“What happened? Did he stay late? You must be careful with him. He is not to be trusted — not that there are very many men these days a girl really can trust.”

He praised his brother and blamed him. He seemed very young and was very handsome as he offered this word of caution. As for his clothes, the singlets and the robe thrown casually over them glowed in such rich and pleasing colors that they seemed to brim over and seek more space. One wondered whether a supernatural hand might not have had some part in the dyeing. The colors themselves were familiar enough, but the woven patterns were as if everything had pointed to this day of flowers. The lady was sure she would have been quite intoxicated with the perfumes burned into them had she not had these worries.

A letter came from Prince Hotaru, on white tissue paper in a fine, aristocratic hand. At first sight the contents seemed very interesting, but somehow they became ordinary upon repeating.

“Even today the iris is neglected.

Its roots, my cries, are lost among the waters.”

It was attached to an iris root certain to be much talked of.

“You must get off an answer,” said Genji, preparing to leave.

Her women argued that she had no choice.

Whatever she may have meant to suggest by it, this was her answer, a simple one set down in a faint, delicate hand:

“It might have flourished better in concealment,

The iris root washed purposelessly away.

“Exposure seems rather unwise.”

A connoisseur, the prince thought that the hand could just possibly be improved.

Gifts of medicinal herbs in decorative packets came from this and that well-wisher. The festive brightness did much to make her forget earlier unhappiness and hope that she might come uninjured through this new trial.

Genji also called on the lady of the orange blossoms, in the east wing of the same northeast quarter.

“Yūgiri is to bring some friends around after the archery meet. I should imagine it will still be daylight. I have never understood why our efforts to avoid attention always end in failure. The princes and the rest of them hear that something is up and come around to see, and so we have a much noisier party than we had planned on. We must in any event be ready.”

The equestrian stands were very near the galleries of the northeast quarter.

“Come, girls,” he said. “Open all the doors and enjoy yourselves. Have a look at all the handsome officers. The ones in the Left Guards are especially handsome, several cuts above the common run at court.”

They had a delightful time. Tamakazura joined them. There were fresh green blinds all along the galleries, and new curtains too, the rich colors at the hems fading, as is the fashion these days, to white above. Women and little girls clustered at all the doors. The girls in green robes and trains of purple gossamer seemed to be from Tamakazura’s wing. There were four of them, all very pretty and well behaved. Her women too were in festive dress, trains blending from lavender at the waist down to deeper purple and formal jackets the color of carnation shoots.

The lady of the orange blossoms had her little girls in very dignified dress, singlets of deep pink and trains of red lined with green It was very amusing to see all the women striking new poses as they draped their finery about them. The young courtiers noticed and seemed to be striking poses of their own.

Genji went out to the stands toward midafternoon. All the princes were there, as he had predicted. The equestrian archery was freer and more varied than at the palace. The officers of the guard joined in, and everyone sat entranced through the afternoon. The women may not have understood all the finer points, but the uniforms of even the common guardsmen were magnificent and the horsemanship was complicated and exciting. The grounds were very wide, fronting also on Murasaki’s southeast quarter, where young women were watching. There was music and dancing, Chinese polo music and the Korean dragon dance. As night came on, the triumphal music rang out high and wild. The guardsmen were richly rewarded according to their several ranks. It was very late when the assembly dispersed.

Genji spent the night with the lady of the orange blossoms.li “Prince Hotaru is a man of parts,” he said. “He may not be the handsomest man in the world, but everything about him tells of breeding and cultivation, and he is excellent company. Did you chance to catch a glimpse of him? He has many good points, as I have said, but it may be that in the final analysis there is something just a bit lacking in him.”

“He is younger than you but I thought he looked older. I have heard that he never misses a chance to come calling. I saw him once long ago at court ans had not really seen him again until today. He has improved. Prince Sochi is a very fine gentleman too, but somehow he does not quite look like royalty.”

Genji smiled. Her judgment was quick and sure. But he kept his own counsel. This sort of open appraisal of people still living was not to his taste. He could not understand why the world had such a high opinion of Higekuro and would not have been pleased to receive him into the family, but these views too he kept to himself.

They were good friends, he and she, and no more, and they went to separate beds. Genji wondered when they had begun to drift apart. She never let fall the tiniest hint of jealousy. It had been the usual thing over the years for reports of such festivities to come to her through others. The events of the day seemed to bring new recognition to her and her household.

She said softly:

“You honor the iris on the bank to which

No pony comes to taste of withered grasses?”

One could scarcely have called it a masterpiece, but he was touched.

“This pony, like the love grebe, wants a comrade.

Shall it forget the iris on the bank?”

Nor was his a very exciting poem.

“I do not see as much of you as I would wish, but I do enjoy you.” There was a certain irony in the words, from his bed to hers, but also affection. She was a dear, gentle lady. She had let him have her bed and spread quilts for herself outside the curtains. She had in the course of time come to accept such arrangements as proper, and he did not suggest changing them.

The rains of earlyd ummer continued without a break, even gloomier than in most years. The ladies at Rokujō amused themselves with illustrated romances. The Akashi lady, a talented painter, sent pictures to her daughter.

Tamakazura was the most avid reader of all. She quite lost herself in pictures and stories and would spend whole days with them. Several of her young women were well informed in literary matters. She came upon all sorts of interesting and shocking incidents (she could not be sure whether they were true or not), but she found little that resembled her own unfortunate career. There was The Tale of Sumiyoshi, popular in its day, of course, and still well thought of. She compared the plight of the heroine, within a hairbreadth of being taken by the chief accountant, with her own escape from the Higo person.

Genji could not help noticing the clutter of pictures and manuscripts. “What a nuisance this all is,” he said one day. “Women seem to have been born to be cheerfully deceived. They know perfectly well that in all these old stories there is scarcely a shred of truth, and yet they are captured and made sport of by the whole range of trivialities and go on scribbling them down, quite unaware that in these warm rains their hair is all dank and knotted.”

He smiled. “What would we do if there were not these old romances to relieve our boredom? But amid all the fabrication I must admit that I do find real emotions and plausible chains of events. We can be quite aware of the frivolity and the idleness and still be moved. We have to feel a little sorry for a charming princess in the depths of gloom. Sometimes a series of absurd and grotesque incidents which we know to be quite improbable holds our interest, and afterwards we must blush that it was so. Yet even then we can see what it was that held us. Sometimes I stand and listen to the stories they read to my daughter, and I think to myself that there certainly are good talkers in the world. I think that these yarns must come from people much practiced in lying. But perhaps that is not the whole of the story?”

She pushed away her inkstone. “I can see that that would be the view of someone much given to lying himself. For my part, I am convinced of their truthfulness.”

He laughed. “I have been rude and unfair to your romances, haven’t I. They have set down and preserved happenings from the age of the gods to our own. The Chronicles of Japan and the rest are a mere fragment of the whole truth. It is your romances that fill in the details.

“We are not told of things that happened to specific people exactly as they happened; but the beginning is when there are good things and bad things, things that happen in this life which one never tires of seeing and hearing about, things which one cannot bear not to tell of and must pass on for all generations. If the storyteller wishes to speak well, then he chooses the good things; and if he wishes to hold the reader’s attention he chooses bad things, extraordinarily bad things. Good things and bad things alike, they are things of this world and no other.

“Writers in other countries approach the matter differently. Old stories in our own are different from new. There are differences in the degree of seriousness. But to dismiss them as lies is itself to depart from the truth. Even in the writ which the Buddha drew from his noble heart are parables, devices for pointing obliquely at the truth. To the ignorant they may seem to operate at cross purposes. The Greater Vehicle is full of them, but the general burden is always the same. The difference between enlightenment and confusion is of about the same order as the difference between the good and the bad in a romance. If one takes the generous view, then nothing is empty and useless.”

He now seemed bent on establishing the uses of fiction.

“But tell me: is there in any of your old stories a proper, upright fool like myself?” He came closer. “I doubt that even among the most unworldly of your heroines there is one who manages to be as distant and unnoticing as you are. Suppose the two of us set down our story and give the world a really interesting one.”

“I think it very likely that the world will take notice of our curious story even if we do not go to the trouble.” She hid her face in her sleeves.

“Our curious story? Yes, incomparably curious, I should think.” Smiling and playful, he pressed nearer.

“Beside myself, I search through all the books,

And come upon no daughter so unfilial.

“You are breaking one of the commandments.”

He stroked her hair as he spoke, but she refused to look up. Presently, however, she managed a reply:

“So too it is with me. I too have searched,

And found no cases quite so unparental.”

Somewhat chastened, he pursued the matter no further. Yet one worried. What was to become of her?

Murasaki too had become addicted to romances. Her excuse was that Genji’s little daughter insisted on being read to.

“Just see what a fine one this is,” she said, showing Genji an illustration for The Tale of Kumano. The young girl in tranquil and confident slumber made her think of her own younger self. “How precocious even very little children seem to have been. I suppose I might have set myself up as a specimen of the slow, plodding variety. I would have won that competition easily.”

Genji might have been the hero of some rather more eccentric stories.

“You must not read love stories to her. I doubt that clandestine affairs would arouse her unduly, but we would not want her to think them commonplace.”

What would Tamakazura have made of the difference between his remarks to her and these remarks to Murasaki?

“I would not of course offer the wanton ones as a model,” replied Murasaki, “but I would have doubts too about the other sort. Lady Ate- miya in The Tale of the Hollow Tree, for Instance. She is always very brisk and efficient and in control of things, and she never makes mistakes; but there is something unwomanly about her cool manner and clipped speech.”

“I should imagine that it is in real life as in fiction. We are all human and we all have our ways. It is not easy to be unerringly right. Proper, well-educated parents go to great trouble over a daughter’s education and tell themselves that they have done well if something quiet and demure emerges. It seems a pity when defects come to light one after another and people start asking what her good parents can possibly have been up to. Yet the rewards are very great when a girl’s manner and behavior seem just right for her station. Even then empty praise is not satisfying. One knows that the girl is not perfect and looks at her more critically than before. I would not wish my own daughter to be praised by people who have no standards.”

He was genuinely concerned that she acquit herself well in the tests that lay before her.

Wicked stepmothers are of course standard fare for the romancers, and he did not want them poisoning relations between Murasaki and the child. He spent a great deal of time selecting romances he thought suitable, and ordered them copied and illustrated.

He kept Yūgiri from Murasaki but encouraged him to be friends with the girl. While he himself was alive it might not matter a great deal one way or the other, but if they were good friends now their affection was likely to deepen after he was dead. He permitted Yūgiri inside the front room, though the inner rooms were forbidden. Having so few children, he had ample time for Yūgiri, who was a sober lad and seemed completely dependable. The girl was still devoted to her dolls. They made Yūgiri think of his own childhood games with Kumoinokari. Sometimes as he waited in earnest attendance upon a doll princess, tears would come to his eyes. He sometimes joked with ladies of a certain standing, but he was careful not to lead them too far. Even those who might have expected more had to make do with a joke. The thing that really concerned him and never left his mind was getting back at the nurse who had sneered at his blue sleeves. He was fairly sure that he could better Tō no Chūjō at a contest of wills, but sometimes the old anger and chagrin came back and he wanted more. He wanted to make Tō no Chūjō genuinely regretful for what he had done. He revealed these feelings only to Kumoinokari. Before everyone else he was a model of cool composure.

Her brothers sometimes thought him rather conceited. Kashiwagi, the oldest, was greatly interested these days in Tamakazura. Lacking a better intermediary, he came sighing to Yūgiri. The friendship of the first generation was being repeated in the second.

“One does not undertake to plead another’s case,” replied Yūgiri quietly.

Tō no Chūjō was a very important man, and his many sons were embarked upon promising careers, as became their several pedigrees and inclinations. He had only two daughters. The one who had gone to court had been a disappointment. The prospect of having the other do poorly did not of course please him. He had not forgotten the lady of the evening faces. He often spoke of her, and he went on wondering what had happened to the child. The lady had put him off guard with her gentleness and appearance of helplessness, and so he had lost a daughter. A man must not under any circumstances let a woman out of his sight. Suppose the girl were to turn up now in some outlandish guise and stridently announce herself as his daughter — well, he would take her in.

“Do not dismiss anyone who says she is my daughter,” he told his sons. In my younger days I did many things I ought not to have done. There was a lady of not entirely contemptible birth who lost patience with me over some triviality or other, and so I lost a daughter, and I have so few.”

There had been a time when he had almost forgotten the lady. Then he began to see what great things his friends were doing for their daughters, and to feel resentful that he had been granted so few.

One night he had a dream. He called in a famous seer and asked for an interpretation.

“Might it be that you will hear of a long-lost child who has been taken in by someone else?”

This was very puzzling. He could think of no daughters whom he had put out for adoption. He began to wonder about Tamakazura.

Chapter 26

Wild Carnations

It was a very hot day. Genji was cooling himself in the angling pavilion of the southeast quarter. Yūgiri and numerous friends of the middle court ranks were with him. They had offered to roast trout which had been brought from the Katsura and goby from nearer streams. Several of Tō no Chūjō‘s sons, his constant companions, were among them.

“You came at a very good time,” said Genji. “I was feeling bored and sleepy.” Wine and ice water and other refreshments were brought, and it had become a very lively picnic. Though a pleasant wind was blowing, the air was heavy and the sun seemed to move more slowly than usual through a cloudless sky. The shrilling of cicadas was intense, almost oppressive. “It does not do us much good to be on top of the water. I am going to be rude.” He lay down. “Not even music helps in weather like this, and yet it is not very satisfying to go through a whole day doing nothing at all. You youngsters must have a hard time of it in your offices. Here at least you can undo yourselves and relax and bring me up on all the amusing gossip. I am old and out of things, and I must look to you to keep me informed and drive away the yawns.”

It seemed a heavy responsibility. Most of them had withdrawn to the verandas, where it was cooler.

He turned to Kōbai, Tō no Chūjō‘s second son. “Where did I hear — I can’t think — that your father had found a stray daughter and is all in a ferment over her? Is it true?”

“Oh, I don’t think it’s a very interesting piece of news, really. There was a woman, it is true, who got wind of a dream Father had this spring and made it known that she had certain relevant matters to bring to his attention. My brother Kashiwagi went to see her and asked what evidence she had to support her claims. I am afraid I have not kept myself very well informed of all the details, though it does seem to be true, as you suggest, sir, that rather a big thing is made of it all. I do not think myself that it brings great honor to Father or to the family.”

So it was true. “Very greedy of him, going out after stray geese when the flock is so large already. My own is so small that I would be delighted to learn of strays. Perhaps my humble status discourages people from coming to me with similar claims. I have detected none, in any event. But isn’t it like your father?” He smiled. “He has stirred the waters rather a lot in his time, and one expects to find a muddy moon reflected from them.”

Yūgiri, who had heard the whole story, was smiling. Tō no Chūjō‘s sons seemed to be in some discomfort..

“How about it, my young lord?” said Genji to Yūgiri. “Suppose you go pick up this fallen leaf. It would be better to have something in your bonnet than to be known as a complete failure. After all, she is one of us.”

Genji and Tō no Chūjō had always maintained an appearance of close friendship, but their differences were of long standing. Genji did not at all like the way Yūgiri had been treated, and would have been pleased to have Kōbai take home reports which would annoy his father. Genji was sure that Tamakazura would be received courteously and properly honored if Tō no Chūjō were to learn of her presence. He was a strong, decisive man, very definite in his opinions and inclined to be more emphatic than most in praising good and castigating evil. He would be severe in his judgment of Genji, but he would not turn away the daughter who suddenly presented herself to him. He was certain to treat her with the most scrupulous ceremony.

A cool breeze informed them that evening was finally at hand. The young men were reluctant to leave.

“Well, let us all have a good time. I am at an age when I fear I am not welcome in such company.” Genji started for Tamakazura’s northeast quarter.

They all followed, dressed very much alike and almost indistinguishable one from another in the twilight.

“Suppose you come out toward the veranda just a little,” he said, going in and addressing her in intimate tones not likely to be overheard. “Kōbai and several of his brothers have come with me. They are all mad for introductions, and our staid and opprobrious Yūgiri does nothing at all for them. Even a very undistinguished young lady, you know, can expect suitors while she is still under her father’s wing. Somehow everything in this house gets wildly blown up and exaggerated. We have not had young ladies to arouse their interest, and in my boredom I have thought it might be fun to see you at work on them. You have not disappointed me.”

He had avoided showy plantings in this northeast quarter, but the choicest of wild carnations caught the evening light beneath low, elegant Chinese and Japanese fences. The young men seemed very eager to step down and pluck them (and the flower within as well).

“They are knowledgeable, well-bred young men, all of them. They of course have their various ways. That is as it should be, and I find nothing to take serious exception to. Kashiwagi is perhaps the most serious of them. Indeed he sometimes makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Has he written to you? You must not be unkind to him.”

Yūgiri stood out even in so fine an assembly.

“I cannot think why my friend the minister dislikes him. Does he have such a high regard for his own proud name that he looks down on us offshoots of the royal family?”

“‘Come and be my bridegroom,’ everyone is saying. Or so I am told.”

“I do not ask that he be invited in for a banquet, only that he be admitted inside. A clean and innocent attachment is being frustrated, and that I do not like. Is it that the boy does not yet amount to much? That is a problem which he can safely leave to me.”

These matters seemed to complicate the girl’s life yet further. When, she wondered, would she be permitted to meet her own father?

There was no moon. Lamps were brought in.

“Not so close, please. Why don’t we have flares down in the garden?”

Taking out a Japanese koto and finding it satisfactorily tuned, he plucked out a few notes. The tone was splendid.

“If you have disappointed me at all, it has been because you have shown so little interest in music. Might I recommend the Japanese koto, for instance? It is a surprisingly bright and up-to-date sort of instrument when you play it with no nonsense and let it join the crickets in the cool moonlight of an autumn evening. For some reason it does not always seem entirely at home in a formal concert, but it goes very well with other instruments even so. A crude domestic product if you will — but just see how cleverly it is put together. It is for ladies who do not set much stock by foreign things. I warmly recommend it if you think you might want to begin taking music lessons. You must always look for new ways to make it go with other instruments. The basic techniques may seem simple, and indeed they are; but to put them to really good use is another matter. There is no better hand in the whole court than your father, the minister. He has only to give it the slightest muted pluck and there they all are, the grand, high tones of all the imported kotos.”

Already somewhat familiar with the instrument, she was eager to hear more. “Do you suppose we might have a concert here sometime and ask him to join us? It is the instrument all the country people play, and I had thought that there was not a great deal to it.” She did seem to be most eager. “You are right, of course. It is very different in the hands of someone who knows what he is doing.”

“It is also called the eastern koto, you know, and that brings up thoughts of the wild frontier. But when there is a concert at the palace the Japanese koto is always the first instrument His Majesty sends for. I do not know much about other countries, but in our own it must be called the grandfather of all the instruments, and you could not possibly find a better teacher than the minister. We see him here from time to time, but the trouble is that he is rather shy about playing. The really good ones always are. But you will have your chance to hear him one of these days.”

He played a few strains, the tone richer and cleaner than anything she had heard before. She wondered how her father could possibly be a better musician, and she longed more than ever to meet him, and to see him thus at home with his koto.

“Soft as the reed pillow,” he sang, very gently, “the waves of the river Nuki.” He smiled as he came to the passage about the uncooperative parent. There was wonderful delicacy in the muted chord with which he brought it to a conclusion.

“Now we must hear from you. In artistic matters modesty is not a virtue. I have, it is true, heard of ladies who keep ‘I Long for Him’ to themselves, but in other matters openness never seems brazen.”

But she had had lessons in the remote countryside from an old woman who said, though she gave no details, that she had been born in the capital and had royal blood in her veins. Such credentials did not inspire confidence, and the girl refused to touch the instrument.

“No, let me hear just a little more, and perhaps I will be clever enough to imitate it.” And so the japanese koto brought her close to him when other devices had failed. “Is it the wind that accounts for that extraordinary tone?” He thought her quite ravishing as she sat in the dim torchlight as if seeking an answer to her question.

“An extraordinary wind,” he said, smiling, “demonstrating that you are not after all deaf.”

He pushed the koto towards her, but he had given her reason to be out of sorts; and besides, her women were listening.

“And what of our young men? They did not pay proper attention to our wild carnations.” He was in a meditative mood. “I really must show this garden to my friend the minister sometime. Life is uncertain, of course. We are gone tomorrow. And yet all those years since he and I talked of your mother, and you yourself were our wild carnation — somehow an eternity can seem like nothing at all.

“Were he to see its gentle hues unchanging,

Would he not come to the hedge of the wild carnation?

“And that would complicate matters, and so I have kept you in a cocoon. I fear you have found it constraining.”

Brushing away a tear, she replied:

“Who would come to seek the wild carnation

That grew at such a rough and rustic hedge?”

The note of self-effacement made her seem very young and gentle.

“If he does not come,” whispered Genji, by no means sure how much longer he could control himself.

Uncomfortable about the frequency of his visits, he took to writing letters, which came in a steady stream. She was never out of his thoughts. Why, he asked himself, did he become so engrossed in matters which should not have concerned him? He knew that to let his feelings have their way would be to give himself a name for utter frivolity, and of course to do the girl great harm. He knew further that though he loved her very much she would never be Murasaki’s rival. What sort of life would she have as one of the lesser ladies? He might be the grandest statesman in the land, but a lesser lady was still a lesser lady. She would be better off as the principal wife of some middling councillor. Should he then let Hotaru or Higekuro have her? He might succeed in resigning himself to such an arrangement. He would not be happy, but — or so he sometimes thought — it might perhaps after all be best. And then he would see her, and change his mind.

He still visited her frequently. The Japanese koto was his excuse. Embarrassed at first to find herself his pupil, she presently began to feel that he did not mean to take advantage of her, and came to accept the visits as normal and proper. Rather prim and very careful to avoid any suggestion of coquetry, she pleased him more and more. Matters could not be left as they were.

Suppose then that he were to find her a bridegroom but keep her here at Rokujō, where he could continue to see her, clandestinely, of course. She knew nothing of men, and his overtures disturbed her. He had to feel sorry for her; but once she was better informed he would make his way past the most unblinking of gatekeepers and have his way with her. These thoughts may not seem entirely praiseworthy. The longing and fretfulness increased and invited trouble — it was a very difficult relationship indeed.

Tō no Chūjō had learned that his new daughter had not really been accepted as one of the family and that people thought her rather funny. Kōbai remarked in the course of a conversation that Genji had inquired about her.

“I have indeed brought home a daughter whom I allowed to grow up in the hills. I am not surprised that Genji asked about her. He seldom has a bad word for anyone, but for me and my family he has a few bad words on every occasion. We are much honored.”

“He has a new lady at Rokujō, you know, and everything suggests that she is a beauty, the next thing to perfection. Prince Hotaru seems very much interested in her. The gossip suggests that he has every right to be.”

“Oh, yes, I am sure everyone is interested in her. But that is only because she is Genji’s daughter. So it goes. I doubt that she is so very special, really. If she were he would have found her long before this. Yes, the great Genji, not a fleck of dust on his name and fame, much too good, everyone says, for our degenerate age. It seems a pity that his favorite lady, a perfect jewel, has no children. He must feel rather badly served. He seems to have ambitious plans for the little Akashi girl, even though her mother leaves something to be desired. Well, what will be will be. As for the new lady, a suspicious and cynical person might wonder whether she is in fact his daughter. He is a fine man but he has his little eccentricities, and it might all be sham and playacting.

“I wonder what plans he has for the new lady, and how Prince Hotaru might figure in them. They have been the closest of brothers, and I should think they would get on very well as father and son.”

Tō no Chūjō continued to be unhappy with Kumoinokari. He would have liked to make her the belle of the day, the rage of the court. Infatuated with a minor courtier like Yūgiri, she was not being cooperative. Perhaps if Genji were to step in with repeated and earnest supplications Tō no Chūjō could graciously give his consent. Yūgiri’s coolness and imperturbability did not help matters.

Tō no Chūjō went unannounced to Kumoinokari’s rooms. She was napping, very small and pretty, and managing to look cool in spite of the heat. Her skin was a soft glow through a gossamer singlet. One hand still held a fan most prettily, and her head was cradled on an arm. The hair that flowed behind her in natural tresses was neither too long nor troublesomely thick, and beautifully combed. Her women too were asleep, behind blinds and screens. They were not easily awakened. She looked innocently up at him as he tapped with his fan, her eyes round and startled, and the flush that came over her face delighted him.

“So here you are sleeping, and I have told you I can’t think how many times that constant vigilance is one of the marks of a lady. There is not a vigilant eye in this room. You are all looking very abandoned indeed. Not of course that I would want you to storm and glower. Vigilance is not to be recommended when it merely puts people off.

“They tell me that Genji is going to enormous trouble with the girl he means to send to court. He seems to have embarked upon a liberal and expansive program, giving her something of everything and not letting her specialize, seeing that she is ignorant of nothing and not asking that she be an expert. A very liberal sort of education. Yet we do all have our preferences, and no doubt hers will emerge as she gets older. I am eagerly awaiting the day when she appears at court.

“You have not made things easy for me, my dear, but do at least try to keep people from laughing at us. I have given very careful attention to reports about a number of young gentlemen. It is still too early for you to accept the tender pleas of any one of them. You must leave that to me.”

All the while he was lecturing he was thinking how pretty she was.

She was very sorry for the trouble she had caused, and would not for the world have wanted to seem unapologetic. She could not look at him. Her grandmother, Princess Omiya, complained of neglect, but it was just such paternal reproaches as these that made it difficult for her to visit the old lady.

Tō no Chūjō had been very happy at finding a daughter off in Omi, and he would not seem his usual sensible self if now that she had become a public joke he were to send her back again. Nor was the alternative very pleasing, to keep her here and make it seem that he had serious plans for her. Perhaps his daughter at court could use her, and everyone could have a good laugh over her. She was not so impossibly ill favored that she must be kept out of sight.

“I will make you a gift of her,” he said to the other daughter. “If she seems too completely silly, you can tell your older women that they have someone to educate, and maybe you can keep the younger ones from laughing unmercifully. I must admit that she does at times seem a little flight?”

“Oh, surely she is not as bad as all that. Kashiwagi led us to have high hopes for her, and it may be that she has not entirely lived up to them.” She was rather splendid. “Don’t you suppose it embarrasses the poor thing to be the center of so much attention?”

Though not the reigning beauty of the day, this other daughter had elegance and dignity and a pleasantly gentle manner. She was like a plum blossom opening at dawn. Her father loved the way she had of making it seem that a great deal was being left unsaid.

“Kashiwagi is young and naïve, and he halted his investigations before he had come upon the obvious.” He was not being very kind to his new daughter.

He thought he would look in on her, since her room was not far away. He found her, blinds raised high, at a contest of backgammon.

Her hands at her forehead in earnest supplication, she was rattling off her prayer at a most wondrous speed. “Give her a deuce, give her a deuce.” Over and over again. “Give her a deuce, give her a deuce.”

This really was rather dreadful. Motioning his attendants to silence, he slipped behind a hinged door from which the view was unobstructed through sliding doors beyond.

“Revenge, revenge,” shrieked Gosechi, the clever young woman who was her opponent. Gosechi was not to be outdone in earnestness or shrillness. She shook and shook the dicebox and was not quick to make her throw.

If either of them had anything at all in her empty mind she was not showing it. The Omi daughter was small and pretty and had beautiful hair, and could by no means have been described as an unrelieved scandal — though a narrow forehead and a too exuberant and indeed a torrential way of speaking canceled out her good points. No beauty, certainly, and yet it was impossible not to recognize immediately whose daughter she was. It made Tō no Chūjō uncomfortable to realize that he might have been looking at his own mirror image.

“Are you feeling quite at home?” he presently asked. “Are they being good to you? I am very busy, I fear, and do not see you as often as I would wish.”

“Just being here is enough. No complaints, not a one.” The speed was undiminished. “All those years I just wanted to see your face. That’s all I wanted, all those years. But I still get the bad throws. I don’t get to look at you very much.”

“I am genuinely sorry. I rather keep to myself, and I had hoped that we would have a great deal of time for each other. But things have not so arranged themselves. You will have seen that ordinary ladies rather tend to get lost in the crowd, and it does not matter very much how they behave. That is very nice for them. But it sometimes happens that a lady comes from such a good family that people are always pointing her out, and it sometimes happens that she does not do full honor to the family name, and-?”

The full significance of the final conjunction was lost upon the lady. “Oh no oh no. I don’t care if I don’t stand out in a crowd. I just tell myself family makes trouble and keep out of sight. Give me the chamber pot to empty and I’ll do it.”

A guffaw emerged from the minister. “Oh, that won’t be necessary, I think. But if you do wish to demonstrate your keen sense of duty, then see if you can’t manage to let your words have a little more room. Space them a little more generously. Let them be drawn out a little more and I will feel that the years of my life are being drawn out with them.” He smiled at his little joke.

“I’ve always had the fastest tongue. Mother scolded me for it, way back when I was a baby. The steward of the Myōhōji Temple, she said, it was all his fault. He was there when I was born way out in Omi, and he had the fastest tongue too, and that was where I got it. I’ll see what I can do about it.” She said it most solemnly, as if prepared to sacrifice anything in the cause of filial duty.

He was touched. “He did you a disservice, the good steward, in presiding at your birth. He sounds like someone who has much to atone for. The Lotus Sutra tells us that dumbness and stammering are punishment for blasphemy.”

He was in some awe of his daughter at court, and was having second thoughts about letting her see this new sister. The mistake had been Kashiwagi’s, in bringing the strange creature home before he knew what she was. People were laughing, and there was nothing to be done.

“Your sister is with us at the moment. Watch her carefully, and see how she behaves. Good manners have a way of spreading out from the center. Think of it that way, and see what she has to teach you.”

“I’d be delighted. Morning and night it’s the thing I asked for, just to be one of them and make them take me as one of them. Morning and night and months and years it’s what I’ve wanted. just tell her to make them make me one of them and I’ll do anything she tells me. I’ll bring in the water. I’ll bring it in on my head.” She had gathered such momentum that she was next to incomprehensible and somewhat intimidating.

“Oh, I doubt that she will ask you to cut the kindling. What will be asked of you is that you rid yourself of the good steward and find yourself a new model.”

She was not as alive as she might have been to irony, nor did she seem aware what a great man she was addressing. She did not share in the general awe.

“So when shall I go see her?”

“Suppose we pick a lucky day. No, we needn’t make such a thing of it. Just drop in on her when you feel like it, today if you wish.” And he went out.

Just see what a father she had found for herself. An ordinary turn around the house, and just look at all the Fourth Rankers and Fifth Rankers he had with him. “And I’m his own little girl. Why did I have to grow up in Omi?”

“Too fine a papa, really,” said Gosechi. “Don’t you think you might have been better off with an ordinary one who cared a little about you?”

“There you go. You always make everything turn out wrong. Well, just you remember something. You’re with your betters, and don’t you forget it. I’ve got big things ahead of me.”

One could not be angry with her. Commonness and honest, sturdy indignation could be charming. The trouble was with her speech. She had grown up among country people, and it was very inelegant. Pure, precise speech can give a certain distinction to rather ordinary remarks. An impromptu poem, for instance, if it is spoken musically, with an air at the beginning and end as of something unsaid, can seem to convey worlds of meaning, even if upon mature reflection it does not seem to have said much of anything at all. Torrential remarks have the opposite effect: the distinguished seems flat and vulgar. The overemphatic Omi speech patterns made everything seem less than serious. She had acquired them at her nurse’s breast and was not shy about using them; and they were all wrong. Yet she did have her little accomplishments. She could without warning rattle off poem after poem of approximately the right length, and if the top half did not seem to go with the bottom half, that was all right too.

“Father says I must go see Sister, and so that’s just what I’ll do. Wouldn’t want to disappoint him. Maybe I’ll go right away. No, maybe I’ll wait till dark. I’m Father’s own little pet, but that won’t do me much good if we’re not chums, me and all the rest of them.”

The rest of them did not seem to be so eager.

She immediately set about composing a letter to her sister.

“Though here beside your fence of rushes, the fact I have not had the happiness of stepping on your shadow might be from a gate which says ‘Come not my way.’ It may be rude to mention Musashi when we haven’t been introduced yet but forgive me.” This last was followed by several ditto marks, and there were underlinings. Then there was a “please turn over,” and: “Yes, I forgot. I may come see you this evening because unfriendliness intensifies my longing. I’m all in a dither and writing poorly, very poorly. It must be I am like the Minase.” And there was a poem, and one final remark:

“Cape How of the grassy pastures of Hitachi

Says how can the waves of Farmer Beach come see you.

“And the waves of the river broad.”

It was on a single sheet of green paper in a somewhat impatient style, the style of what master one could not easily have said. Given to wanderings and extensions, it seemed in spite of everything much pleased with itself, though asking for a larger piece of paper. She smiled at her composition and, folding it into a demure little knot, fastened it to a wild carnation. For her messenger she chose a little scullery maid, pretty and confident though new to the service.

“This is for her,” said the messenger, marching in upon the ladies-in-waiting.

“A letter has come from the north wing.” The woman who took it recognized her and opened the letter.

Another woman, called Chūnagon, glanced curiously at the minister’s daughter, who smiled as she put it down. “It looks like a most stylish sort of letter.”

“I do not seem to be very good at the cursive style,” said the lady, handing it to her. “I can’t somehow quite get the thread of it. But she will look down upon me if I do not answer in a similarly sophisticated and literary vein. Work up a draft for me, if you will, please.”

The younger women were giggling.

“It was not easy,” said Chūnagon, presenting her draft, “to maintain the graceful, poetic tone. And we would not wish to insult her with anything from the hand of a scrivener.”

She had made it seem that the answer had come from the hand of the lady herself:

“It does indeed seem cruel that I should not have the pleasure of your company when you are so near.

“You waves of the Suma coast of Suruga–Hitachi, the pine of Hakosaki waits.”

“Oh, no! Everyone will think I wrote it.

“Few will make that mistake, my lady.”

And so it was put in an envelope and sent off.

“What a nice poem,” said the Omi lady. “What a nice poem. And she’s waiting for me, she says.”

She scented and rescented her robes, though the first scenting made them insistent, and put on crimson rouge and brushed furiously at her hair. Her completed toilet was very gay and rather charming.

No doubt there was a certain boldness too in her address.

Chapter 27

Flares

Everyone was talking about the minister’s new daughter from Omi, and most of the talk was not kind.

“I do not like it,” said Genji. “She should have been kept out of sight, and here for no reason at all he brings her grandly into his house and lets the whole world laugh at her. He has always been quick to take a stand, and he probably sent for her without finding out much of anything about her, and when he saw that she was not what he wanted he did what he has done. These things should be managed quietly.”

Tamakazura could see now that she had after all been lucky. Tō no Chūjō was her father, to be sure, but if she had gone to him as a stranger, quite ignorant of his thoughts and feelings over the years, she might have been subjected to similar humiliations. Ukon was of the same view, and said so. Genji did, it was true, show regrettable tendencies, but he kept himself under control and seemed to have become genuinely fond of Tamakazura. Her fright had left her and she had settled happily into life at Rokujō.

It was autumn. The first touch of the autumn breezes brought vague feelings of loneliness. Genji was always going off to Tamakazura’s northeast quarter and spending whole days there, large parts of them in music lessons.

The new moon was quick to set. The sky had clouded delicately over and the murmur of the rushes was sadder. They lay down side by side with their heads pillowed against the koto. He stayed very late, sighing and asking whether anywhere else in the world there were attachments quite like this one. Reluctantly, fearful of gossip, he was about to leave. Noticing that the flares in the garden were low, he sent a guards officer to stir and refuel them.

They had been set out, not too brightly, under a spindle tree that arched gracefully over the cool waters of the brook, far enough from the house so that they too seemed cool and gentle. In the soft light the lady was more beautiful than ever. The touch of her hair was coolly elegant, and a certain shyness and diffidence added to her charm. He did not want to leave.

“You should always have flare