Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
The beauteous Yûgao of Genji was lost, but memory of her never vanished from his mind. Her attractive nature, thoughtfulness, and patient manner had seemed to him surpassingly charming. At last he began to think of seeking for some other maiden who might resemble her in these qualities. True, his thoughts had often reverted to Cicada, and to her young friend; but it was now of little use thinking of them, for one had gone to the country, and the other was married.
Now, Genji had another nurse, next in degree to Daini. The daughter of this nurse, Tayû-no-Miôbu, was in Court service. She was still young, and full of mirth and life. Genji was wont to make her useful when in the palace. Her father, who had been remotely connected with the Royal blood, was an official in the War Department. Her mother, however, had been married again to the Governor of the province of Chikzen, and had gone there with her husband; so Tayû made her father's house her home, and went from there backwards and forwards to the palace. She was an intimate acquaintance of a young Princess, the daughter of the late Lord-Lieutenant of Hitachi, and she had been the child of his old age, and was at this time his survivor. The life that she passed was somewhat lonely, and her circumstances miserable. Tayû mentioned this young lady to Genji, who exclaimed:—
"How sad! Tell me all about her."
"I cannot say that I know so much about her," replied Tayû. "She leads a very retired life, and is seldom seen in society. Perhaps, some favorable evening, you might see her from a hiding-place. The koto is her favorite instrument, and the favorite amusement of her solitude."
"Ah!" said Genji, " I see, one of the three friends (as the Chinese poets call them)—Music, Poetry, and Wine; but, of the
other two, one is not always a good friend." And he added, "Well, you may manage some time to let me hear her koto. The Prince, her father, had great taste and reputation in such arts; so, I believe, she is no ordinary performer."
"But, perhaps, after all, not so good as you imagine," replied Tayû, disingenuously.
"Oh! that remains to be discovered," cried Genji, nibbling at the bait. "One of these evenings I will come, and you had better be there also."
Now, the home of Tayû's father was at some distance from the Princess's mansion; but Tayû used to spend her time very often with the Princess, when she had leave of absence from the Court, chiefly because she did not like being at home with her stepmother. For this reason Tayû had plenty of chances for gratifying the wish of Genji to see the Princess; so a certain evening was appointed.
It was a sweet balmy day in spring, and the grounds of the palace were full of silence and repose. Tayû left the palace, and proceeded to the mansion of the Princess, attracted more by the beauty of the evening than by the appointment made. Genji also appeared on the scene, with the newly risen moon, and was soon prattling with Tayû.
"You have not come at a very favorable time," said she. "This is not the sort of evening when the koto sounds sweetest."
"But take me somewhere, so that I may hear her voice. I cannot go away without hearing that."
Tayû then led him into a private room, where she made him sit down, and left him, saying, as she went away, "I am sorry to make you wait, but you must have a little patience." She proceeded to another part of the palace occupied by the Princess, whom she found sitting pensively near an open casement, inhaling the rich perfume of the plum blossoms.
"A good opportunity," thought Tayû; and, advancing to the Princess, said: "What a lovely evening! How sweet at such an hour is the music of the koto! My official going to and fro to the palace prevents me from having the pleasure of hearing it often; so do now, if you please, play me a tune."
"You appreciate music," said the Princess; but I am afraid that mine is not good enough to charm the ear of courtiers; but, if you wish it, I will play one tune." And she ordered the koto to be brought, and began to strike it. Her skill was certainly
not super-excellent; but she had been well instructed, and the effect was by no means displeasing to the ear.
Tayû, however, it must be remembered, was rather a sharp girl. She did not like Genji to hear too much, so as to criticise; and, therefore, said to the Princess, casting a glance upwards, "How changed and dull the sky has become. A friend of mine is waiting; and is, perhaps, impatient. I must have more of this pleasure some other time; at present I must go and see him." Thus she caused the Princess to cease playing, and went to Genji, who exclaimed, when she returned, "Her music seems pretty good; but I had better not have heard it at all. How can we judge by so little? If you are willing to oblige me at all, let me hear and see more closely than this." Tayû made a difficulty. "She is so retiring," she said, "and always keeps herself in the strictest privacy. Were you to intrude upon her, it would not be acting rightly."
"Truly so," replied Genji; "her position insures her from intrusion. Let us, then, seek for some better opportunity." And then he prepared to take leave, as if he had some other affairs on his hands. Tayû observed, with a knowing smile, "The Emperor, your father, always thinks of you as quite guileless, and actually says so. When I hear these remarks I often laugh in my sleeve. Were his Majesty to see you in these disguises, what would he then think?"
Genji answered, with a slight laugh: "Nonsense! If these trifling amusements were thought so improper, how cheerless the life of woman would be!"
Tayû made no remark in reply; so Genji then left the house, and took a stroll round the garden, intending to reach that part of the mansion where the Princess had her apartments. As he sauntered along, he came to a thick hedge, in which there was a dark bower, and here wished to stop awhile. He stepped cautiously into it, when he suddenly perceived a tall man concealed there. "Who can this be?" thought Genji, as he withdrew to a corner where the moonlight did not reach. This was Tô-no-Chiûjiô, and the reason of his being there was this:
He had left the Palace that evening in company with Genji, who did not go to his house in Nijiô, nor to his bride, but separated from him on the road. Tô-no-Chiûjiô was very anxious to find out where Genji was going. He therefore followed him unperceived. When he saw Genji enter the mansion of the
[paragraph continues] Princess, he wished to see how the business would end; so he waited in the garden, in order that he might witness Genji's departure, listening, at the same time, to the koto of the Princess. Genji did not know who the man was, nor did he wish to be recognized. He therefore began to retreat slowly on tip-toe, when Tô-no-Chiûjiô came up to him from behind, and addressed him: "You slighted me, but I have come to watch over you:—
Genji at once recognized his companion; and, being somewhat amused at his pertinacity, exclaimed: "What an unexpected surprise!
Hereupon Tô-no-Chiûjiô gave him a taunt: "What would you do," said he, "if I were to follow you very often? Were you to maintain true propriety in your position, you ought always to have trustworthy attendants; and I am sure, by so doing, you will meet with better fortune. I cannot say that it is very decorous of you to go wandering about in such a fashion. It is too frivolous!"
"How very tiresome!" mentally exclaimed Genji; "but he little knows about his Nadeshiko (little darling). I have him there!"
Neither of them ventured to go to any other rendezvous that night; but, with many mutual home-thrusts, they got into a carriage together, and proceeded home, amusing themselves all the way with a duet on their flutes. Entering the mansion, they went to a small apartment, where they changed their dresses, and commenced playing the flutes in such a manner as if they had come from the Palace. The Sadaijin, hearing this music, could not forbear joining them, and blew skilfully a Corean flute in concert with theirs. Lady Aoi, also, in her room, catching the impulse, ordered some practised players on the koto to perform.
Meantime, both Genji and Tô-no-Chiûjiô, in their secret minds, were thinking of the notes of the koto heard before on that evening, and of the bare and pitiable condition of the residence of the Princess whom they had left—a great contrast to the luxury of their present quarters. Tô-no-Chiûjiô's idea about her took something of this shape: "If girls who, from a modest propriety, keep themselves aloof for years from our society, were at last to be subdued by our attentions, our affection for them would become irresistible, even braving whatever remarks popular scandal might pass upon us. She may be like one of these. The Prince Genji seems to have made her the object of some attentions. He is not one to waste his time without reason. He knows what he is doing."
As these thoughts arose in his mind, a slight feeling of jealousy disturbed him, and made him ready to dare a little rivalry in that quarter; for, it would appear, that after this day amatory letters were often sent both by him and Genji to the Princess, who, however, returned no answer to either.
This silence on her part made Tô-no-Chiûjiô, more especially, think thus: "A strange rejection; and from one, too, who possesses such a secluded life. True, her birth is high; but that cannot be the only reason which makes her bury herself in retirement. There must be some stronger reason, I presume."
As we have before mentioned, Genji and Tô-no-Chiûjiô were so intimate that all ceremony was dispensed with between them, and they could ask each other any question without reserve. From this circumstance Tô-no-Chiûjiô one day boldly inquired of Genji: "I dare say you have received some replies from the Princess. Have you not? I for my part have thrown out some hints in that quarter by way of experiment, but I gave up in disappointment."
"Ah, then, he too has been trying there," thought Genji, smiling slightly, and he replied very vaguely, "I am not particularly concerned whether I get an answer or not, therefore I cannot tell you whether I have received any."
"I understand that," thought Tô-no-Chiûjiô; "perhaps he has got one; I suspect so."
To state the truth, Genji was not very deeply smitten by the Princess, and he was but little concerned at her sending no reply to his letter; but when he heard the confession of his brother-in-law's attempts in the same quarter, the spirit of
rivalry stirred him once more. "A girl," thought he, "will yield to him who pays her the most attentions. I must not allow him to excel me in that." And Genji determined to achieve what he intended to do, and with this object still enlisted the aid of Tayû. He told her that the Princess's treating his letter with such indifference was an act of great cruelty. "Perhaps she does this," said he, "because she suspects I am changeable. I am not, however, such a one as that. It is often only the fault of ladies themselves that causes men to appear so; besides a lady, like the Princess, who has neither parent nor brother to interfere with her, is a most desirable acquaintance, as we can maintain our friendship far better than we could otherwise do."
"Yes! what you say is all very well," replied Tayû, "but the Princess is not exactly so placed that any one can make himself quite at ease with her. As I told you before she is very bashful and reserved; but yet is perhaps more desirable for this very reason," and she detailed many more particulars about her. This enabled Genji to fully picture the general bearing of the Princess's character; and he thought, "Perhaps her mind is not one of brilliant activity, but she may be modest, and of a quiet nature, worthy of attention." And so he kept the recollection of her alive in his mind. Before, however, he met her, many events had taken place. He had been attacked by the ague, which led to his journey to the mountain and his discovery of Violet, and his secret affection for a certain one in the palace.
His mind being thus otherwise occupied, the spring and summer passed away without anything further transpiring about the Princess. As the autumn advanced his thoughts recurred to past times, and even the sound of the fuller's hammer, which he had listened to in the home of Yûgao, came back to his mental ear; and these reveries again brought him to the recollection of the Princess Hitachi, and now once more he began to urge Tayû to contrive a meeting.
It would seem that there was no difficulty for Tayû to bring the matter about, but at the same time no one knew better than herself that the natural gifts and culture of the Princess were far from coming up to Genji's standard. She thought, however, that it would matter very little if he did not care for her, but if, on the other hand, he did so, he was quite free to come
and see her without any interference. For this reason she at last made up her mind to bring them together, and she gave several hints to the Princess.
Now it so happened towards the end of August that Tayû was on one occasion engaged in conversing with the Princess. The evening was as yet moonless, the stars alone twinkled in the heavens, and the gentle winds blew plaintively over the tall trees around the mansion. The conversation gradually led to times gone by, and the Princess was rendered sad by the contrast of her present circumstances with those of her father's time. "This is a good opportunity," thought Tayû, and she sent, it seems, a message to Genji, who soon hastened to the mansion with his usual alacrity. At the moment when he arrived on the scene the long-looked-for moon had just made her appearance over the tops of a distant mountain, and as he looked along the wildly growing hedges around the residence, he heard the sound of the koto, which was being played by the Princess at Tayû's request. It sounded a little too old-fashioned, but that was of no consequence to the eager ears of the Prince. He soon made his way to the entrance, and requested a domestic to announce him to Tayû.
When the latter heard of this she affected great surprise, and said to the Princess, "The Prince has come. How annoying! He has often been displeased because I have not yet introduced him to you. I have often told him that you do not particularly like it, and therefore I cannot think what makes him come here. I had better see him and send him away, but what shall I say. We cannot treat him like an ordinary person. I am really puzzled what to do. Will you not let me ask you if you will see him for a few minutes, then all matters will end satisfactorily?"
"But I am not used to receive people," said the Princess, blushing. "How simple minded!" rejoined Tayû, coaxingly, "I am sorry for that, for the bashfulness of young ladies who are under the care of their parents may sometimes be even desirable, but how then is that parallel with your case? Besides, I do not see any good in a friendless maiden refusing the offer of a good acquaintance."
"Well, if you really insist upon it," said the Princess, "perhaps I will; but don't expose me too much to the gaze of a stranger."
Having thus cunningly persuaded the Princess, Tayû set the
reception-room in order, into which Genji was soon shown. The Princess was all the while experiencing much nervousness, and as she did not know exactly how to manage, she left everything to Tayû, and was led by her to the room to receive her visitor. The room was arranged in such a way that the Princess had her back to the light so that her face and emotions could be obscured.
The perfume which she used was rich, still preserving the trait of high birth, but her demeanor was timid, and her deportment awkward.
Genji at once noticed this. "Just as I imagined. She is so simple," thought he, and then he commenced to talk with her, and to explain how passionately he had desired to see her. She, however, listened to him almost in silence, and gave no plain answer. Genji was disconcerted, and at last said,
The governess of the Princess, Kojijiû by name, who was present, was a sagacious woman, and noticing the embarrassment of the lady, she advanced to her side, and made the following reply in such a well-timed manner that her real object, which was to conceal the deficiencies of her mistress, did not betray itself—
"Your eloquence has so struck me that my mouth is almost closed," said Genji, smiling—
He then tried to speak of this thing and that indifferently, but all hopes of agreeable responsiveness on the lady's part being vain, he coolly took his leave, and left the mansion, much disappointed.
This evening he slept in his mansion at Nijiô. The next morning Tô-no-Chiûjiô appeared before he had risen.
"How late, how late!" he cried, in a peculiar tone. "Were you fatigued last night, eh?"
Genji rose and presently came out, saying, "I have overslept myself, that is all; nothing to disturb me. But have you come from the palace? Was it your official watch-night?" 1
"Yes," replied Tô-no-Chiûjiô, "and I must inform you that the dancers and musicians for the fête in Suzak-in are to be nominated to-day. I came from the palace to report this to my father, so I must now go home, but I will soon return to you."
"I will go with you," said Genji, "but let us breakfast before we start."
Breakfast was accordingly brought, of which they partook. Two carriages, Genji's and Tô-no-Chiûjiô's, were driven to the door, but Tô-no-Chiûjiô invited the Prince to take a seat with him. Genji complied, and they drove off. Going along Tô-no-Chiûjiô observed with an envious tone in his voice, "You look very sleepy;" to which Genji returned an indifferent reply. From the house of Sadaijin they proceeded to the Imperial Palace to attend the selection of the dancers and musicians. Thence Genji drove with his father-in-law to the mansion of the latter.
Here in the excitement of the coming fête were assembled several young nobles, in addition to Genji himself. Some practised dancing, others music, the sound of which echoed everywhere around. A large hichiriki and a sakuhachi (two kinds of flute) were blown with the utmost vigor. Even large drums were rolled upon a balcony and beaten with a will.
During the following days, therefore, Genji was so busily engaged that no thought came across his mind of revisiting the Princess Hitachi. Tayû certainly came now and then, and strove to induce him to pay the Princess another visit, but he made an excuse on the pretext of being so much occupied.
It was not until the fête was over that one evening he resolved to pay a visit there. He did not, however, announce his intention openly, but went there in strict secrecy, making his way to the house unobserved, as there was no one about.
On his arrival he went up to the latticed window and peeped through. The curtains were old and half worn out, yet were still left to hang in the once pretty and decorated chamber. There were a few domestic maidens there partaking of supper. The table and service seemed to be old Chinese, but everything else betrayed a scantiness of furniture.
In the further room where the mistress was probably dining, an old waitress was passing in and out, wearing a peculiar white dress rather faded in appearance, and an awkward-looking comb in her hair, after the old-fashioned style of those formerly in the service of the aristocratic class, of whom a few might still be retained in a family.
"Ah," thought Genji, smiling, "we might see this kind of thing in the college of ceremonies." One of the maids happened to say, "This poor cold place! when one's life is too long, such fate comes to us." Another answered her, "How was it we did not like the mansion when the late Prince was living?"
Thus they talked about one thing or another connected with their mistress's want of means.
Genji did not like that they should know that he had seen and heard all this, so he slyly withdrew some distance, and then advancing with a firm step, approached the door and knocked.
"Some one is come," cried a servant, who then brought a light, opened the door, and showed him into a room where he was soon joined by the Princess, neither Tayû nor Kojijiû being there on this occasion. The latter was acquainted with the Saiin (the sacred virgin at the Temple of Kamo), 2 and often spent some time with her. On this occasion she happened to be visiting her, a circumstance which was not very convenient for the Princess. The dilapidated state of the mansion was just as novel to Genji as that which he had seen in the lodge of Yûgao, but the great drawback consisted in the Princess's want of responsiveness. He spoke much, she but little. Outside, in the meantime, the weather had become boisterous and snow fell thickly, while within in the room where they sat the lamp burned dimly, no one waiting there even to trim the light.
Some hours were spent between them, and then Genji rose, and throwing up the shutter in the same way as he did in the lodge of Yûgao, looked upon the snow which had fallen in the garden. The ground was covered with a sheet of pure whiteness; no footstep had left its trace, betraying the fact that few persons came to the mansion. He was about to take his departure, but some vague impulse arrested him. Turning to the Princess, he asked her to come near him, and to look out on the scene, and she somewhat unreadily complied.
The evening was far advanced, but the reflection of the snow threw a faint light over all. Now, for the first time, he discovered the imperfections of the personal attractions of the Princess. First, her stature was very tall, the upper part of her figure being out of proportion to the lower, then one thing which startled him most was her nose. It reminded him of the elephant of Fugen. It was high and long; while its peak, a little drooping, was tinged with pink. To the refined eyes of Genji this was a sad defect. Moreover, she was thin, too thin; and her shoulders drooped too much, as if the dress was too heavy for them.
"Why am I so anxious to examine and criticise?" thought Genji, but his curiosity impelled him to continue his examination. Her hair and the shape of her head were good, in no way inferior to those of others he liked so well. Her complexion was fair, and her forehead well developed. The train of her dress, which hung down gracefully, seemed about a foot too long. If I described everything which she wore I should become loquacious, but in old stories the dress of the personages is very often more minutely described than anything else; so I must, I suppose, do the same. Her vest and skirt dress were double, and were of light green silk, a little worn, over which was a robe of dark color. Over all this she wore a mantle of sable of good quality, only a little too antique in fashion. To all these things, therefore, he felt no strong objection; but the two things he could not pass unnoticed were her nose, and her style of movement. She moved in a stiff and constrained manner, like a master of the ceremonies in some Court procession, spreading out his arms and looking important. This afforded him amusement, but still he felt for her. "If I say too much, pardon me," said Genji, "but you seem apparently friendless. I should advise you to take interest in one with
whom you have made acquaintance. He will sympathize with you. You are much too reserved. Why are you so?
A smile passed over the lips of the Princess, but they seemed too stiff to reply in a similar strain. She said nothing.
The time had now cone for Genji to depart. His carriage was drawn up to the middle gate, which, like everything else that belonged to the mansion, was in a state of dilapidation. "The spot overgrown with wild vegetation, spoken of by Sama-no-Kami might be such as this," he thought. "If one can find a real beauty of elevated character and obtain her, how delightful would it not be! The spot answers the description, but the girl does not quite equal the idea; however, I really pity her, and will look after her. She is a fortunate girl, for if I were not such a one as I am, I should have little sympathy for the unfortunate and unfavored. But this is not what I shall do."
He saw an orange tree in the garden covered with snow. He bade his servant shake it free. A pine tree which stood close by suddenly jerked its branches as if in emulation of its neighbor, and threw off its load of snow like a wave. The gate through which he had to drive out was not yet opened. The gatekeeper was summoned to open it. Thereupon an aged man came forth from his lodge. A miserable-looking girl with a pinched countenance stood by, his daughter or his granddaughter, whose dress looked poorer from the whiteness of the surrounding snow. She had something containing lighted charcoal which she held to her breast for warmth.
When she observed that her aged parent could scarcely push back the gate, she came forward and helped him. And the scene was quite droll. Genji's servant also approached them, and the gates were thrown open.
Again Genji hummed:—
"The one who on the time-bent head of age,
Beholds the gathered snow,
Nor less his tears of grief may shed,
For griefs that youth can only know."
and added, "Youth with its body uncovered." 3 Then the pitiable image of one with a tinged flower 4 on her face presented itself once more to his thoughts and made him smile.
"If Tô-no-Chiûjiô observed this, what would he not have to say?" thought he, as he drove back slowly to his mansion.
After this time communications were frequently sent from Genji to the Princess. This he did because he pitied the helpless condition and circumstances he had witnessed more than for any other reason. He also sent her rolls of silk, which might replace the old-fashioned sable-skins, some damask, calico and the like. Indeed, presents were made even to her aged servants and to the gatekeeper.
In ordinary circumstances with women, particular attention such as this might make a blush, but the Princess did not take it in such a serious light, nor did Genji do this from any other motive than kindness.
The year approached its end! He was in his apartment in the Imperial Palace, when one morning Tayû came in. She was very useful to him in small services, such as hairdressing, so she had easy access to him, and thus she came to him this morning.
"I have something strange to tell you, but it is somewhat trying for me to do so," she said, half smiling.
"What can it be? There can be nothing to conceal from me!"
"But I have some reason for my hesitation to reveal it," replied Tayû.
"You make a difficulty, as usual," rejoined Genji.
"This is from the Princess," she said, taking a letter from her pocket and presenting it.
"Is this a thing of all others that you ought to conceal," cried Genji, taking the letter and opening it. It was written on thick and coarse paper of Michinok manufacture. The verse it contained ran as follows:—
These words puzzled Genji. Inclining his head in a contemplative way, he glanced from the paper to Tayû, and from
[paragraph continues] Tayû to the paper. Then she drew forth a substantial case of antique pattern, saying, "I cannot produce such a thing without shame, but the Princess expressly sent this for your New Year. I could not return it to her nor keep it myself; I hope you will just look at it."
"Oh, certainly," replied Genji. "It is very kind of her," at the same time thinking, "What a pitiful verse! This may really be her own composition. No doubt Kojijiû has been absent, besides she seems to have had no master to improve her penmanship. This must have been written with great effort. We ought to be grateful for it, as they say." Here a smile rose on Genji's cheeks, and a blush upon Tayû's. The case was opened, and a Naoshi (a kind of gown), of scarlet, shabby and old-fashioned, of the same color on both sides, was found inside. The sight was almost too much for Genji from its very absurdity. He stretched out the paper on which the verse had been written, and began to write on one side, as if he was merely playing with the pen. Tayû, glancing slyly, found that he had written:—
He then erased what he had written, but Tayû quickly understood what he really meant by "saffron flower," referring to the pinkness of its flower, so she remarked:—
[paragraph continues] While they were thus prattling on the matter, people were entering the room to see him, so Genji hastily put the things aside, and Tayû retired.
A few days after, Genji one morning looked into the Daihansho (large parlor), where he found Tayû, and threw a letter to her, saying, "Tayû, here is the answer. It has cost me some pains," and then passed through, humming as he went, with a peculiar smile,
None but Tayû understood the real allusion. One of the women observed, "The weather is too frosty, perhaps he has seen some one reddened by the frost." Another said, "What an absurdity! There is no one among us of that hue, but perhaps Sakon or Unemé may be like this," and thus they chattered on till the matter dropped.
The letter was soon sent by Tayû to the Princess, who assembled all her attendants round her, and they all read it together, when the following was found in it:—
On the last day of the year he made the following presents to the Princess, sending them in the same case as the Naoshi had been sent to him: stuff for a complete dress, which had originally been presented to himself; also rolls of silk, one of the color of the purple grape, another of the Kerria japonica color, and others. All these were handed to the Princess by Tayû. It should be observed that these presents were made by Genji to the Princess chiefly on account of her reduced circumstances. Her attendants, however, who wished to flatter their mistress, exclaimed, "Our scarlet dress was very good, too. Scarlet is a color which never fades. The lines we sent were also excellent. Those of the Prince are, no doubt, a little amusing, but nothing more."
The Princess, flattered by the remarks, wrote down her verse in her album, as if worthy of preservation.
The New Year began with the morrow; and it was announced that the Otoko-dôka (gentlemen's singing dances) would soon take place in which Genji would take part. Hence he was busy in going backwards and forwards, to practise, but the lonely residence of the saffron flower began to draw his thoughts in that direction. So after the ceremony of the State Festival, on the seventh day, he betook himself there in the evening, after he had left the Emperor's presence, having made a pretence of retiring to his own private apartments. On this occasion the appearance of the lady happened to be a little more attractive, and Genji was pleased, thinking there might be a time when she would improve still more. When the sun
shone forth he rose to leave. He opened the casement on the western side of the mansion, and, looking at the corridor, perceived that its roof was broken. Through it the sunshine peeped, and shone upon the slight cover of snow scattered in the crevices. The scene, as we have before said, betrayed everywhere dilapidation and decay.
The mirror-stand, combs, and dressing-case were brought in by an attendant. They were all of an extremely antique pattern. He drew an "arm-stool" near him, and resting himself upon it began combing his hair. He was amused at the sight of these articles, which were doubtless a legacy from her parents. The dress of the Princess was in every way nicer. It had been made out of the silk of Genji's present. He recognized it by the tasteful pattern. Turning to her he said, "This year you might become a little more genial, the only thing I wait for above all is a change in your demeanor." To which she, with some awkwardness, said,
Such poetic responses were a great delight to Genji, who thought they were the silent touches of time, and that she had made some improvement. He then left and returned to his mansion in Nijiô, where he saw the young Violet innocently amusing herself. She wore with grace a long close-fitting cherry-colored dress of plain silk. She had not yet blackened her teeth, 5 but he now made her do so, which gave a pleasant contrast to her eyebrows. He played at their usual games at toys with her, trying in every way to please her. She drew pictures and painted them, so did he also. He drew the likeness of a lady with long hair, and painted her nose with pink. Even in caricature it was odd to see. He turned his head to a mirror in which he saw his own image reflected in great serenity. He then took the brush and painted his own nose pink. Violet, on seeing this, screamed.
"When I become ornamented in this way what shall I be like?" inquired Genji.
"That would be a great pity. Do wipe it off, it might stain," she replied.
Genji partly wiped it off, saying, " Need I wipe it off any more? Suppose I go with this to the Palace?"
On this Violet approached and carefully wiped it for him. "Don't put any more color," cried Genji, "and play upon me as Heijiû." 6
The mild sun of spring descended in the west, and darkness slowly gathered over the forest tops, obscuring all but the lovely white plum blossoms which were still visible amidst the gloom. At the front of the porch, also, a red plum blossom, which usually opens very early, was deeply tinged with glowing hues. Genji murmured:—
What will become of all these personages!
125:1 Young nobles spent a night in the palace in turns, to attend to any unexpected official business.
126:2 When a new emperor succeeded, two virgins, chosen from the royal princesses, were sent—one to the Shinto temple at Ise, the other to the same temple at Kamo—to become vestals, and superintend the services.
129:3 From a Chinese poem about poor people "night advancing, snow and hail fly white around. Youth with its body uncovered, and the aged with chilly pain, grief and cold come together, and make them both sob."
129:4 A play upon the word "hana," which means a nose, as well as a flower.
132:5 An old custom in Japan for girls when married, or even betrothed, is to blacken their teeth. This custom, how. ever, is rapidly disappearing.
133:6 I an old tale it is stated that this man had a sweetheart. He often pretended to be weeping, and made his eyes moist by using the water which he kept in his bottle for mixing ink, in order to deceive her. She discovered this ruse; so one day she put ink into it secretly. He damped his eyes as usual, when, giving him a hand mirror, she hummed, "You may show me your tears, but don't show your blackened face to strangers."