|Japanese fairy tales
THE MOUNTAIN ROSE
Ota Dakwan was a noble daimio. His castle was filled with retainers who
waited upon him, at his least word flying to obey his commands. Men
vied with each other to do him honor, bowing low before him as he
passed and saying "Behold Ota Dakwan, the Daimio!"
Young maidens blushed at his name and when the moon shone through the
lattice, sighed to the nightingale to sing the praises of this splendid
Honors crowded thick upon him, but of it all he wearied and often
sought the forest, there to hunt in solitude. Where the great trees
spread their branches and the bamboos and the pines talked together he
spent many hours, returning to his castle at night, weary, but with his
game bag full.
Often people said to him, "What do you find so wonderful in the forests of the hill country?"
"Sunlight and shade," he answered, "everglade and waterfall, game to
hunt and no one to say me nay; above all, the mighty mountain, cool and
aloof as is the spirit of the great;" and at his answer men wondered.
One day Ota Dakwan hunted long upon the mountain-side, so long that he
wandered far from home and a great storm of rain came upon him, from
which there was no shelter. He was glad, therefore, when in a lonely
spot he saw a tiny cottage beside a grove of great bamboos, and he ran
to it for shelter.
Within was a young maiden who smiled upon him, but spoke not. She was
beautiful as a dream though poorly clad, and he said to her, "Will you
lend me a straw rain coat? for every tree in the forest sends down her
showers and I shall be drenched before I can reach my home."
The maiden blushed deeply and without a word hastily left the room. In
a moment she returned, her delicate cheeks flushed pink, carrying a
yamabuki1 blossom which she placed in his hand, still with no word,
only a sigh and a blush.
"What means this?" he asked, much puzzled. "I ask protection from the
rain and you give me a flower. Were you not as fair as the first cherry
blooms of spring, I could find it in my heart to be angry with you.
Speak!" But she only shook her head and sighed, and, angry at last, he
turned on his heel and left her, going forth into the rain, the flower
still in his hand.
He, the adored of all Yeddo, to be laughed at by a mere country maiden
who would not even speak to him! At this thought his heart rose within
him, but remembering how sweetly she smiled and how like a rose she
blushed, his anger melted away.
"She was as the flower she gave me, a mountain rose," he thought to
himself. Then he raised the delicate blossom to his face and its sweet
scent was as the breath of morning, fresh and kind. The rain ceased,
and hurrying homeward he was met by his head man who greeted him
anxiously. To him he told his strange adventure, and the head man said,
"The poet says 'the mountain rose has many petals but it has no seed.''
The maiden meant to tell you in poetic vein that she possessed no rain
coat. She is the fair, dumb daughter of your lordship's keeper, and
they are very poor."
"They shall be so no longer," said the daimio. "For one with so fair a
soul should have fairer surroundings, and one upon whom the gods have
laid a finger should have kindness from those of this world."
Then he showed much kindness to her father, and to the maiden, sending
to them gifts of rice and tea and rich garments. And oftentimes, when
tired with his morning's hunt, he would rest within the little lonely
hut, and Yamabuki would serve him a cup of tea with a shy grace.
Whenever he spoke to her it was with kindness and she would smile and
blush and sigh a little, while he murmured to himself, "The god of
silence laid his finger upon your lips, Yamabuki, little silent one."