|Japanese fairy tales
THE KNIGHTLY WASTE-PAPER MAN
There was once a young noble who was very poor. He was a Samurai who
had offended his lord and so was obliged to leave his own province and
travel in search of employment. It was very hard for him to find
anything to do, for neither he nor his fair young wife had been taught
"Alas! my bride! White as the lily art thou and tender as the
carnation,—to what has thy love for me brought thee!" he cried.
But Tsuiu caressed him sweetly and said, "I am happy since my lord has
taken me with him. The good-luck god will surely hear our prayers and
we shall find a fortunate issue."
Then was the soul of Shindo lightened and he strode along the highway
gladly, and Tsuiu walked beside him, and the breath of the morning
was sweet and kind. They walked for many hours and found no rest; but
the music of the grass-larks was sweet and the sun was bright.
But when the shadows began to fall, and the fireflies to flit among the
tall grasses, and the moon to creep slowly above the crest of the
mountains, the little wife drew closer to Shindo San; for in her terror
she saw robbers in every tree and bush.
"Be not afraid, my beloved," he said, as he drew her within his
sheltering arms. "See! here is'a pleasant knoll beneath this sendai
tree. Wrap yourself in my mantle. Pillow your head upon my arm. Then
may the god of dreams send you a good-luck dream and may your slumber
be sweet. I will watch!"
"I will obey, my lord," said Tsuiu. She closed her eyes, and, holding
the left sleeve of her kimono across her face, she was soon fast asleep.
Shindo watched and waited, his hand upon his sword; but he too was
weary, and soon his eyes closed and his head drooped. He slept and
dreamed that two huge dragons came out of the West and sought to devour
them; and lo! as he cried aloud in terror for the safety of Tsuiu San,
a greater Dragon came out of the East and devoured the first two, and
he and his bride escaped.
Then he awoke suddenly and sprang to his feet, putting O Tsuiu San
behind him, for robbers were upon him, and there were two. He drew his
sword and fought fiercely, but they well-nigh overpowered him. He felt
his strength fail. The blood was gushing from a wound in his arm.
Suddenly there appeared upon the scene a ronin who quickly put to
flight the robbers and saved the life of Shindo.
Then he and O Tsuiu San thanked the ronin very heartily, and finding
the morning dawn at hand, and hearing the morning bell from a distant
temple, they started on their way.
"Tell me first, whence you come and whither you go," said the ronin.
"For I well see that you are of better times, and that misfortune has
brought you here."
"We are in dire distress," said the Samurai, "and I have scarce a yen
to buy rice for the breakfast of my wife." Then he told all their story
to the ronin, who, being of a good heart, was grieved at their sorrows.
"It is little that I can do for you myself," he said, "since I am but a
wanderer with nothing in my sleeves. But come with me and I will set
you in the way of making a good but simple friend. Yonder are the
towers and temples of Yedo," and he pointed to the roofs of a city
gleaming gold in the morning sun. "In a certain street lives a
tradesman, a poor fellow, yet of a good heart. He bears the name of
Chohachi. Seek him and tell him I commend you to his kindness. My road
Bidding good-by to the ronin, the two hurried on and finding Chohachi,
he took them in and made them welcome. There they remained several days
until O Tsuiu San recovered from her fatigue, and Shindo from his
wound. Then Chohachi spoke.
"Honored One," he said, "very welcome are you and yours to the shelter
of our roof tree, but the rice pot holds not enough for four. Is there
any way in which you are able to make the pot boil?"
"Good friend," replied Shindo, "in the house of my fathers the rice pot ever boiled without assistance from me. I know no way."
Chohachi knit his brows.
"Can the Honorable One teach the young men to fence?"
"Alas," cried Shindo. "I have little skill as a swordsman. I fear I know not enough to teach fencing."
"Can the Honorable One teach writing?" demanded Chohachi.
"Of that I know even less," replied his guest, so mournfully that
Chohachi hastened to reassure him. "Some way shall be found to boil the
pot even if we have to hunt the magic paddle of the Oni."
So the tradesman thought and thought.
"What can this dear fellow do?" he asked himself.
"It must be something of the easiest for he seems not to have much
thought for trading. I have it! He shall be a waste-paper man! A boy or
a simpleton could do that!"
So he purchased a light pole of bamboo with two baskets at the end, and
a pair of bamboo sticks. He called the Samurai "Chobei," for Shindo was
too fine a name for a waste-paper man, and the Samurai was started in
The first day Chobei lost himself, and had to pay a man to guide him
home. He had bought no waste paper and Chohachi laughed at him, and
scolded, too, saying,
"Call out! No one will know what you want if you walk about the streets in silence like a monk!"
Chobei was anxious to do all things right, for it pained him to be
depending upon the good trader, and it hurt him still more to think of
little O Tsuiu San sitting all day over her embroidery, trying to earn
a few coins with which to boil the pot.
So, in order to grow used to the sound of his own voice, he went to an
open lot, where there was not a house in sight, and shouted, "Waste
paper! waste paper!" all day until he was hoarse. The street boys
thought he was mad, and they laughed at him and threw stones. Then he
went home more discouraged than ever, and Chohachi, choked with
laughter, explained again patiently,
"See, good Samurai, go into the back streets; rich people do not sell
waste papers. Talk with the women, engage them with pleasant words and
flattery, and then say, 'Perhaps you have some waste paper to sell.'"
So Chobei went forth to try again, and this time he sought in the
poorer streets. There young women were washing upon the steps, children
were playing upon the pavement, old women were talking in the doorways,
and to them all Chobei smiled and bowed, "May the sun goddess smile
upon you, honorable august Madame," he would say with his most courtly
air. "That you and your honorable family are in good health is my wish.
It gives me pleasure to meet you. I am from a far street and I ask the
honor of your acquaintance. Have you any waste paper to sell?"
Although the good women understood, he might have left unsaid all his
remarks except the last. But they were pleased with his air, and they
ransacked their houses for waste paper. They called him the "Knightly
Waste-paper Man," and soon he had a very good trade and earned many
yen, which Chohachi helped him carefully to spend. Then O Tsuiu San and
the little daughter whom the gods sent to them, were well cared for. II
One day the Knightly Waste-paper Man was crying his wares through the
streets when he saw a crowd about a man who had fallen by the way.
"'Tis but a starving beggar," said one. But Chobei had learned much in
the days when he had walked the streets without a sen 1 in his sleeves,
and his heart was tender. He hurried to the beggar's aid and to his
surprise found that he was no other than Bun-yemon, the ronin who had
helped him to escape from his home, when his lord was angry so long
ago. He caused him to be taken up and carried home.
That night Chobei talked long with Tsuiu.
"Gratitude is a sacred duty," he said. "But for this ronin perhaps we
should have been murdered, and now that he has reached this low estate,
it is our place to help him, but how?" O Tsuiu San sighed.
"In all these years, my lord," she said, "we have lived by the favor of
the gods, but we have saved nothing. How much should we give Bun-yemon?"
"Not less than twenty-five gold To," said Chobei. "It is a fortune!
There is but one way in which we might obtain it. We might sell Iroka."
"Sell my daughter!" cried Tsuiu. "My lord, my lord!" and she wept bitterly. Chobei wept also, but at last he said,
"It is terrible for me as well as for you, but do you not see that there is no other way?"
"There is no other way," said Tsuiu, to whom the will of her lord was law. *
Then they told Iroka all the story and she said,
"Honorable parents, there is no other way. Permit me to be sold, for it
is an honor for me to become a geisha for the debt of my parents."
Therefore, with many tears, they sold Iroka and, as she was very
pretty, they obtained for her the sum of five and twenty gold rio.
This Chobei bore to Bun-yemon who refused to take it; but Chobei,
pretending to restore it to his own pocket, slipped it into a lacquered
box and departed. After he was gone, the wife of Bun-yemon found the
money, and her husband was very angry with her, that she had not
watched more carefully.
"This good fellow should never have given me the money," he said. "He
is poor—only a waste-paper man. I will not take it for anything.
You must carry it back."
"But I know not where he lives," said the wife. "And since you have the
money, let me go to the pawnshop and redeem your jeweled sword, that we
may sell the sword for a larger sum. Then we can pay back Chobei and
still have something for ourselves."
After much coaxing Bun-yemon at last consented to do this and redeemed
the sword. But the pawnbroker's clerk was angry, for he had expected to
own the sword for the small sum which had been lent Bun-yemon. So he
accused Bun-yemon of stealing the money and officers came and carried
him to prison, setting a watch upon his wife.
She, however, determined to free her husband. The Machi-Bugyo of Yedo
was the most righteous of judges and she went straight to him, escaping
from the watchful eye of the officers when there was a fire in the
neighborhood and every one was much excited. She found the Machi-Bugyo,
as he was riding to inspect the firemen, and she knelt in the dust,
catching hold of his bridle rein.
"Most noble Machi-Bugyo," she cried. "Honorably deign to listen. They
have taken my husband from me, and they accuse him unjustly. You, who
are the friend of the poor, save him!"
The Lord of the city listened, and, being of a good heart, he had
compassion upon the wife of Bun-yemon. He ordered the clerk of the
pawnbroker to appear before him, and also Bun-yemon. And Chobei,
hearing of the trouble, appeared and told that he had given the
twenty-five gold rio. Bun-yemon was therefore cleared from the charge
"Go in peace," said the Machi-Bugyo to him. "The master of the evil
clerk shall pay a fine of one hundred gold rio, because a master should
have only honest servants. The wicked clerk shall be put to death, for
he witnessed falsely against an innocent man. The gold shall be given
to Bun-yemon who must, with twenty-five rio, redeem the daughter of
"As for you, Chobei, you have done well in paying your debt of
gratitude at so great a cost to yourself; and your daughter is to be
commended for her obedience. Take this reward for you both," and he
gave him a hundred yen. "Be dismissed, for I have spoken."
Then were all happy, for Iroka was returned to her parents and Chobei's
friend, Chohachi, was rewarded for his kindness of heart.
The whole matter soon coming to the ears of the Shogun, he commanded
the old lord of Chobei to forgive him and restore him to his home. Then
was Chobei, whom men again called Shindo, very happy, and he no longer
cried "Waste Paper!" through the back streets of Yedo. But there he is
not forgotten, for when the women gather to gossip they speak of him
with smiles, saying ever of him, "Isuzure wo kite mo kokoro wa nishike
(coat of rags, heart of brocade)."