Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/21

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

though still distant. Was it the distant moan of some far-away tempest among the mountain peaks? Was it merely the night wind sighing through the lofty pines overhead? Or could it be the plaintive, liquid melody from the harp of the lost one? Checking his panting, foaming steed, Nakakuni listened intently, and while listening his heart began to beat wildly, for he now recognized the music of an old love song, and the magic touch of Kogo's fingers on the koto strings. Led by the guiding music, he soon reached a miserable-looking hut, whence the sounds proceeded. Dismounting at the door of the hut, he proclaimed himself a royal messenger and demanded admittance.

A voice from within answered that no dweller in so humble a hut was worthy of being the recipient of a message from the emperor, and that surely he had made some mistake. Not to be put off, however, Nakakuni declared that he had recognized Kogo's music, and that it was for Kogo that he was seeking. Then, indeed, he was made welcome to the humble abode; but, after delivering the emperor's message, the fair Kogo announced her determination to forsake the world forever and live the holy life of a recluse, and begged that Nakakuni would secure the emperor's pardon for her enforced disobedience to his commands. In vain did the faithful messenger endeavor to alter this determination, and presently the two fell to talking of the happy past at the palace. The koto was brought forth, and Kogo once more sang those well-known love songs, and the harp strings rang again with melody. The moments rolled into hours, and the day was breaking when Nakakuni took leave of the weeping and disconsolate maiden and rode slowly back to the palace alone.

· · · · ·

Sometimes the story is ended here with the conclusion that Kogo became a Buddhist nun and spent her life in ministering to others, self-abnegation, and prayer; but the history of the romance, as set forth in the utai, is kindlier, for the emperor again sent for the sweet musician, who was finally prevailed upon to return to the palace, where she was restored to her former honorable position in the imperial household.

In rendering the above in English I have endeavored to retain, as far as possible, the quaintness of the original with which almost every Japanese is familiar. Regarding the purely legendary lore of Japan, this is as a rule most weird and mystical. The large variety of supernatural beings, for the most part of a purely psychical origin, is truly startling; indeed, it would be difficult to imagine or invent any grewsome form for an apparition that is not already an old inhabitant of Japanese "ghostdom."

But for "fireside" stories it is, after all, the recital of the uncanny and magical deeds of foxes and badgers that awakens the