Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, tr. Suematsu Kencho, , at sacred-texts.com
When Genji was an exile on the sea-coast, many people had been longing for his return. Among these was the Princess Hitachi. She was, as we have seen, the survivor of his Royal father, and the kindness which she had received from Genji was to her like the reflection of the broad star-lit sky in a basin of water. After Genji left the capital, however, no correspondence ever passed between them. Several of her servants left her, and her residence became more lonely than ever. A fox might have found a covert in the overgrown shrubbery, and the cry of the owl might have been heard among the thick branches. One might imagine some mysterious "tree-spirit" to reign there. Nevertheless, such grounds as these, surrounded with lofty trees, are more tempting to those who desire to have a stylish dwelling. Hence there were several Duriôs (local governors) who had become rich, and having returned from different provinces, sounded the Princess to see if she were inclined to part with her residence; but this she always refused to do, saying that, however unfortunate she might be, she was not able to give up a mansion inherited from her parents.
The mansion contained also a store of rare and antique articles. Several fashionable persons endeavored to induce the Princess to part with them; but such people appeared only contemptible to her, as she looked upon them as proposing such a thing solely because they knew she was poor. Her attendants sometimes suggested to her that it was by no means an uncommon occurrence for one to dispose of such articles when destiny necessitated the sacrifice; but her reply was that these things had been handed down to her only that she might make use of them, and that she would be violating the wishes
of the dead if she consented to part with them, allowing them to become the ornament of the dwellings of some lowborn upstarts.
Scarcely anyone paid a visit to her dwelling, her only occasional visitor being her brother, a priest, who came to see her when he came to the capital, but he was a man of eccentric character, and was not very flourishing in his circumstances.
Such being the state of affairs with the Princess Hitachi, the grounds of her mansion became more and more desolate and wild, the mugwort growing so tall that it reached the veranda. The surrounding walls of massive earth broke down here and there and crumbled away, being trampled over by wandering cattle. In spring and summer boys would sometimes play there. In the autumn a gale blew down a corridor, and carried away part of the shingle roof. Only one blessing remained there—no thief intruded into the enclosure, as no temptation was offered to them for their attack.
But never did the Princess lose her accustomed reserve, which her parents had instilled into her mind. Society for her had no attractions. She solaced the hours of her loneliness by looking over ancient story-books and poems, which were stored in the old bookshelves, such as the Karamori, Hakoyano-toji, or Kakya-hime. These, with their illustrations, were her chief resources.
Now a sister of the Princess's mother had married a Duriô, and had already borne him a daughter. This marriage had been considered an unequal match by the father of the Princess, and for this reason she was not very friendly with the family. Jijiû, however, who was a daughter of the Princess's nurse, and who still remained with the Princess, used to go to her. This aunt was influenced by a secret feeling of spite, and when Jijiû visited her she often whispered to her many things which did not become her as a lady. It seems to me that where a lady of ordinary degree is elevated to a higher position, she often acquires a refinement like one originally belonging to it; but there are other women, who when degraded from their rank spoil their taste and habits just like the lady in question. She fondly hoped to revenge herself for having been formerly looked down upon, by showing an apparent kindness to the Princess Hitachi, and by wishing to take her into her home, and make her wait upon her daughters. With this view she
told Jijiû to tell her mistress to come to her, and Jijiû did so; but the Princess did not comply with this request.
In the meantime the lady's husband was appointed Daini (Senior Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant), and they were to go down to Tzkushi (modern Kiûsiû). She wished to take the Princess with her, and told her that she felt sorry to go to such a far-off locality, leaving her in her present circumstances; but the latter still unhesitatingly replied in the negative, and declined the offer; whereupon her aunt tauntingly remarked that she was too proud, and that, however exalted she might think herself, no one, not even Genji, would show her any further attention.
About this time Genji returned, but for some while she heard nothing from him, and only the public rejoicing of many people, and the news about him from the outside world reached her ears. This gave her aunt a further opportunity of repeating the same taunts. She said, "See now who cares for you in your present circumstances. It is not praiseworthy to display such self-importance as you did in the lifetime of your father." And again she pressed her to go with her, but the Princess still clung to the hope that the time would come when Genji would remember her and renew his kindness.
Winter came! One day, quite unexpectedly, the aunt arrived at the mansion, bringing as a present a dress for the Princess. Her carriage dashed into the garden in a most pompous style, and drove right up to the southern front of the building. Jijiû went to meet her, and conducted her into the Princess's apartment.
"I must soon be leaving the capital," said the visitor. "It is not my wish to leave you behind, but you would not listen to me, and now there is no help. But this one, this Jijiû at least, I wish to take with me. I have come to-day to fetch her. I cannot understand how you can be content with your present condition."
Here she manifested a certain sadness, but her delight at her husband's promotion was unmistakable, and she continued:—
"When your father was alive, I was looked down upon by him, which caused a coolness between us. But nevertheless I at no time entertained any ill-will towards you, only you were much favored by Prince Genji, as I heard, which made me abstain
from visiting you often; but fortune is fickle, for those in a humble position often enjoy comfort, and those that are higher in station are not quite so well circumstanced. I do really feel sorry to leave you behind."
The Princess said very little, but her answer was, "I really thank you for your kind attention, but I do not think I am now fit to move about in the world. I shall be quite happy to bury myself under this roof."
"Well, you may think so, but it is simply foolish to abandon one's self, and to bury one's life under such a mass of dilapidation. Had Prince Genji been kind enough to repair the place, it might have become transformed into a golden palace, and how joyous would it not be? but this you cannot expect. As far as I am informed the daughter of Prince Hiôb-Kiô is the only favorite of the Prince, and no one else shares his attention, all his old favorites being now abandoned. How, then, can you expect him to say that, because you have been faithful to him, he will therefore come to you again?"
These words touched the Princess, but she gave no vent to her feelings. The visitor, therefore, hurried Jijiû to get ready, saying that they must leave before the dusk.
"When I hear what the lady says," said Jijiû, "it sounds to me very reasonable; but when I see how anxious the Princess is, that also seems natural. Thus I am puzzled between the two. Let me, however, say this, I will only see the lady off to-day."
Nevertheless, the Princess foresaw that Jijiû was going to leave her, and she thought of giving her some souvenir. Her own dress was not to be thought of, as it was too old; fortunately she had a long tress of false hair, about nine feet long, made of the hair which had fallen from her own head. This she put into an old casket, and gave it to Jijiû, with a jar of rare perfume.
Jijiû had been an attendant on the Princess for a very long time, besides, her mother (the nurse), before she died, told the Princess and her daughter that she hoped they might be long together; so the parting with Jijiû was very trying to the Princess who said to her that though she could not blame her for leaving, she still felt sorry to lose her. To this Jijiû replied, that she never forgot the wishes of her mother, and was only too happy to share joy and sorrow with the Princess; yet she
was sorry to say that circumstances obliged her to leave her for some time; but before she could say much, she was hurried away by the visitor.
It was one evening in April of the following year that Genji happened to be going to the villa of "the falling flowers," and passed by the mansion of the Princess. There was in the garden a large pine-tree, from whose branches the beautiful clusters of a wistaria hung in rich profusion. A sigh of the evening breeze shook them as they hung in the silver moonlight, and scattered their rich fragrance towards the wayfarer. There was also a weeping willow close by, whose pensile tresses of new verdure touched the half-broken walls of earth underneath.
When Genji beheld this beautiful scene from his carriage, he at once remembered it was a place he had seen before. He stopped his carriage, and said to Koremitz, who was with him as usual—
"Is this not the mansion of the Princess Hitachi?"
"Yes, it is," replied Koremitz.
"Do ask if she is still here," said Genji; "this is a good chance; I will see her if she is at home—ask!"
Koremitz entered, and proceeding to the door, called out. An old woman from the inside demanded to know who he was. Koremitz announced himself, and asked if Jijiû was within. The old women replied that she was not, but that she herself was the same as Jijiû.
Koremitz recognized her as an aunt of the latter. He then asked her about the Princess, and told her of Genji's intention. To his inquiries he soon obtained a satisfactory answer, and duly reported it to Genji, who now felt a pang of remorse for his long negligence of one so badly circumstanced. He descended from his carriage, but the pathway was all but overgrown with tall mugwort, which was wet with a passing shower; so Koremitz whisked them with his whip, and led him in.
Inside, meanwhile, the Princess, though she felt very pleased, experienced a feeling of shyness. Her aunt, it will be remembered, had presented her with a suitable dress, which she had hitherto had no pleasure in wearing, and had kept it in a box which had originally contained perfume. She now took this out and put it on. Genji was presently shown into the room.
"It is a long time since I saw you last," said Genji, " but still I have never forgotten you, only I heard nothing from you; so I waited till now, and here I find myself once more."
The Princess, as usual, said very little, only thanking him for his visit. He then addressed her in many kind and affectionate words, many of which he might not really have meant, and after a considerable stay he at last took his departure.
This was about the time of the feast in the Temple of Kamo, and Genji received several presents under various pretexts. He distributed these presents among his friends, such as those in the villa of "the falling flowers," and to the Princess. He also sent his servant to the mansion of the latter to cut down the rampant mugwort, and he restored the grounds to proper order. Moreover, he had a wooden enclosure placed all round the garden.
So far as the world hitherto knew about Genji, he was supposed only to cast his eyes on extraordinary and pre-eminent beauties; but we see in him a very different character in the present instance. He showed so much kindness to the Princess Hitachi, who was by no means distinguished for her beauty, and who still bore a mark on her nose which might remind one of a well-ripened fruit carried by mountaineers. How was this? it might have been preordained to be so.
The Princess continued to live in the mansion for two years, and then she removed to a part of a newly built "eastern mansion" belonging to Genji, where she lived happily under the kind care of the Prince, though he had much difficulty in coming often to see her. I would fain describe the astonishment of her aunt when she returned from the Western Island and saw the Princess's happy condition, and how Jijiû regretted having left her too hastily; but my head is aching and my fingers are tired, so I shall wait for some future opportunity when I may again take up the thread of my story.