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A MIKADO AND A GEISHA
She toddles by on cloven-stockinged feet;
A white plum-blossom in her raven hair,
Combed in large, lustrous coils with endless care,
Framing the ivory oval of her sweet
And placid face, where slanted eyebrows meet,
Like tiny bridges on her forehead fair,
O’er eyes, whose tranquil depths so debonair
Know naught of struggle, triumph, or defeat.
As with a childlike smile, a glance demure
And flutter of her dainty painted fan
And swish of silk-embroidered robe, she seems
A winged elfling from a land of dreams,
A floating lotus-blossom, frail and pure,
This little, laughing maid, O Ume San.
UME SAN (Plum Blossom) was the fairest Geisha in the kingdom.
From Nikko to Nagasaki none could whirl the broidered draperies with such seductive grace, nor touch the plaintive samisen with more entrancing art.
In all Nara there was not a finer foot or whiter hand and her eyes— “twin jets in a lake of milk!”
And so it befell that when the heaven-descended Prince Yorimito espied her in the sacred rice-field, where he kept vigil upon the night before his coronation, he was beside himself with wonder and delight.
Vague and mystical she loomed in the silver moonbeams, her black hair streaming in lustrous waves about her pallid face.
“Princess, if mortal thou mayst be,” spake the Mikado, “deign to tell me who thou art, for ne’er have I beheld a maid so fair.”
“In sooth I am but a simple Geisha, called O Ume San,” she answered timidly.
The Prince smiled approval.
“Good my Lord, grant me pardon that, over-bold, I have disturbed thy holy vigil.” The voice was that of a child, wondrous sweet, thrilling him to the very soul.
“Well content am I, sweet maiden, that thou hast sought me thus,” he replied, “but what mission, I pray, bringeth thee hither in the dead of night?”
Tremblingly Plum Blossom peered into the shadows. “August Sovereign,” she faltered, “thy very life is in peril, the Fujiwara doth plot to poison thee!”
Yorimito caught his breath suddenly. “Poison,” he mused dazedly. “Why doth he seek my death?”
Sipping sweet sake from quaint potteries”
Permission Armand Dayot, Paris
wicked light gleamed in the eyes of Fujiwara”
“Then a noisome bed beneath the lotus!”
Permission Armand Dayot
“A living death hath he in store,” replied the Geisha. “How thinketh he to compass this?” the Prince demanded.
“Through me. He doth command by secret drugs to sap thy strength until thy soul shall rot. Beloved Sovereign, I implore thee, set not foot within his trap. Beware the Fujiwara, beware of me!”
With a rustling of silken robes O Ume San vanished in the shadows. A cock crew. A stroke of green, glowing slowly to gold, was drawn by a mighty brush across the canvas of the sky.
The sacred vigil had ended; Yorimito was Emperor of Japan.
Through the solemn coronation ceremonies a vision flitted ever before his eyes—the spirit-maiden of the rice-fields.
“Beware of me!” she had commanded; but by the eight hundred myriad deities he would not heed her warning!
The lichen-lacquered lanterns gleaming bright
Loom in long lines between tall camphor trees,
Guarding the dusky shrine where, in the breeze,
Flutter frail gonfalons of gold and white.
Like silken sails of Dawn’s wan silver light
Against the wine-dark murk of sunless seas,
They rise and float their dragon draperies
Upon the sea of ebon-plumèd night.
Spirits of ancestors, dead samurai,
Teem in the sacred wood and hover near;
Daemons and Devas with the evil eye
Inhabit the lithe herd of dappled deer
That browse within the forest’s pleachèd shade;
Each sloe-eyed doe, erstwhile a gentle maid.
Shrined in roseate cherry-bloom, mid dusky groves of sandal and camphor, smiles the imperial park of Kasuga.
Along the shadowy avenue thousands of ancestral lanterns loom like samurai in review. Mild-eyed gazelles browse in verdant glades. Glittering goldfish glide in the dusky lotus pools. Cloud-white wistaria droop pendant clusters from the lichened trees.
Within this paradise nestled a pleasure-pavilion wherein lurked a deadly serpent — the Fujiwara, Kambaku, plotting the ruin of his sovereign.
“O Ume San,” he whispered, as he furtively mingled seeds of the slumbrous poppy with the gloom-dispelling sake in a brew of deadly potency, “to thee I confide a most delicate task. Ply the Mikado with this potion until it doth lull his senses to sodden sleep. Then filch from him the signet, with which he is wont to seal his imperial mandates, and fetch to me this talisman of power.”
Plum Blossom tossed her glorious tresses. “And if I refuse?”
“Then a noisome bed beneath the lotus! But verily thou wilt not refuse. Thine ambition is one with mine. When thou hast won the Mikado thou shalt bend him to my will.”
O Ume San laughed mockingly. “When I have wedded my lord I shall bend him to my will.”
“Wed the Mikado!” he sneered. “Art so simple as to deem thyself worthy—thou, a Geisha?”
The eyes of Plum Blossom flashed flame as she cried, “Ay, that I am, were he a thousand times an Emperor!”
Amazed by her audacity, Kambaku assented: “Well might it be, wert thou of other birth.”
“Tell me, I implore thee, the secret of my parentage,” pleaded the Geisha.
“Seek not to know, for on that day the Emperor will cast thee forth. Be content with love, nor hope to be his wife!”
A scarlet flame swept her cheek as she abased herself in simulated submission.
“Nay, Kambaku,” she smiled within herself, “still shall I save him from thee!”
The Garden of the Geisha
Singing, like shrill cicadas in the trees,
Strumming on samisen with fingers fleet,
To plaintive flute and rhythmic tambour beat,
They fill the night with elfin revelries.
A wicked light gleamed in the eyes of the Fujiwara.
Sipping sweet sake from quaint potteries
And dancing on deft silken sandalled feet,
Swift speed the hours within this blithe retreat,
As whirl the Geisha their bright draperies.
Like golden moths they hover, glide, and flit
Within the shadows of the garden cool
Or silent and impassive cross-legged sit,
Like brazen Buddhas, round the lotus-pool,
While over all the samisen intones
Its poignant music, like a dove’s low moans.
Lights glittered in the geisha-garden and amorous strains floated from secluded balconies. Within the pavilion, fireflies gleaming in their dusky hair, graceful Geisha flitted before the youthful monarch in a bewildering measure of butterflies and flowers.
Yorimito thrust his untouched sake-cup aside and scanned in vain each passing face.
With glare of lightning and thunder of drums, whirling their flaming raiment in tempestuous flight, the furies of the Storm God Futen flashed swiftly before him.
Despite their blithe allurements Yorimito wearied of the deft-footed Geisha, and joyless and distraught strode forth into the garden.
Through the moon-silvered dusk he wandered, seeking ever the one he loved. Fair flower-maidens lured and caressed him with rose-red lips smiling for his delight; but ever the disappointed lover flung them off, crying:
“Thou art not she I fain would find.”
Of a sudden the pine-boughs parted, and, gleaming in the moonlight like a silvery lotus, stood O Ume San.
Clasping her to his breast Yorimito whispered:
“Flower of my heart, I hunger for thy love!”
For a moment she lay unresisting in his arms, then, as his hot breath fanned her cheek, struggled free.
“Forgive me,” he pleaded, “I meant thee no dishonour. Till death shall I worship thee.”
“Thus is my love for thee,” murmured Plum Blossom; “thee, and thee only, so long as my soul hath being!”
There was silence betwixt them for a space, then, taking the golden chain, from which depended the imperial signet, he laid it upon her shoulders, saying:
“Thus I make thee captive, chained with bonds of love!”
The Geisha’s eyes grew wide with fear:
“Tis the same the Fujiwara bade me steal!” Then unloosing the chain with trembling fingers she gave back the precious signet.
“My Lord,” she cried, “for thy life renounce not to Kambaku this talisman of power!”
Kambaku grovelled upon the ground before the Emperor:
“What is thine august pleasure?” he fawned.
“Trusted Servitor,” replied Yorimito, “thou hast among thy Geisha a certain singing-maid, O Ume San, whom I fain would purchase. Tell me, I pray, if thou wouldst part with her and for what price.”
With folded arms the Fujiwara pondered, scanning furtively the Emperor’s face.
“What is her value in thy sight, most august Sovereign?”
“She is indeed a pearl beyond all price. Were I to measure her worth in gold ‘twould beggar my treasury.”
Kambaku smiled assent: “Even so, Lord, hold I her in priceless estimation. She hath not her like in the kingdom; and for all thy wealth I would not barter her.”
“Stay, be not so hasty. I will yield thee of new-coined pieces her weight in gold. Hath ever man paid greater price?”
The light of avarice gleamed momently in the eyes of Kambaku, then he shook his head.
“A greater guerdon would I fain request, a goodlier boon, though but an idle honour thou couldst not gainsay,” he purred with simulated humility. “Do me but the favour to requite my trifling act by elevating thy servant to the post of Keeper of the Seal. So shall the girl be thine.”
“Yorimito stammered: ‘Twas but a bauble of carven jade”
“O Ume San uttered a stifled sob”
(Colour print, Toyokuni)
“Plum Blossom smiled: ‘The Queen is little worth,’ she said, ‘so that my King is free!’”
From “Old-World Japan” by T. H. Robinson
Permission of the Macmillan Co.
Yorimito frowned. That would be to confer upon the Fujiwara absolute power of life and death, he reflected, when his reverie was broken by the voice of O Ume San singing behind the lattice:
“Life held no joys and death no fears
Ere first I met with thee.
But now, howe’er so long my years,
Too brief they seem to me.”
“The seal is thine,” cried the Emperor. “Hadst thou demanded the very throne the price were not too great!”
As smoothly as a wavelet laps the strand
She melts from pose to pose with fluent grace,
Long swirling curves her broidered garments trace,
A flickering flame to lambent motion fanned
By pliant wrist and slender rhythmic hand;
While from the ivory oval of her face
Asia’s slant eyes, through lids of filmy lace
Smile sadly forth with gaze serene and bland.
To strumming samisen and droning drum
She postures slowly with consummate art,
Her lips, as those of some pale priestess, dumb,
Wreathed in a smile of elfin mystery,
Her eyes demure as childhood, and her heart
Unfathomed as the deep’s infinity.
Trancéd days sped by, wherein Yorimito found ever in his betrothed some new revelation of infinite variety.
“Soon, Beloved One, shall we drink the nuptial sake,” he exclaimed joyously.
Plum Blossom smiled. “Lord, my cup of happiness were overflowing, shouldst thou but grant me one little boon.”
“Thou knowest, dearling, there is naught I may deny thee.”
Trembling the Geisha drew from her girdle a silken purse.
“Lo, here are a score of silver pieces I have hoarded from my paltry earnings. Do thou, august Master, take them to Kambaku and buy my freedom.”
Yorimito smiled indulgently, thinking what great price he had paid:
“Thou art free, little Blossom, free as the air thou breathest. Even now did I redeem thee from the Fujiwara for my very own.”
“Yet am I still a slave, though bound in bonds of willing love. Suffer me Lord, to ransom myself of thee.”
“Wherefore wouldst thou seek freedom?” he demanded in sudden alarm.
“That I may give myself back to thee,” she laughed, nestling coyly in his arms.
“Tell me, Master mine, what sum did that usurer extort, ere he yielded thy worthless slave?”
Yorimito stammered. “Twas but a trifle, a bauble of carven jade.”
O Ume San uttered a stifled sob:
“Beloved,” she cried reproachfully, “thou didst not heed my warning! The Fujiwara will make of thee a powerless Puppet-Emperor, the whiles he ruleth tyrant in thy stead!”
“Nay, his presumption shall not go unpunished,” cried the Mikado.
Then suddenly bethinking himself: “Alas, no longer may I mete justice upon him! He alone wields power of life and death. He hath the Seal!”
A vague sense of impending doom clouded the present joys of O Ume San, a dread she could not banish of the certain vengeance of the Fujiwara.
Amidst her forebodings she strove to find distraction in divers pastimes. Of these the one in which she took most delight was the game of chess. Beneath a bower of oleanders, she played one summer’s day with a sister Geisha, Jasmine.
Of a sudden her opponent clapped her hands: “I have won!” she laughed.
“Tis true,” assented Plum Blossom moodily; “but hadst thou known the stake thou wouldst have yielded me the game.”
“What secret gage didst thou venture?” demanded the other.
“My life against the Fujiwara,” sighed Plum Blossom.
“Daikoku aid us, that we devise some stratagem by which thou yet mayst win.”
“First must I save my Queen, whom the Black Knight threatens,” cried Plum Blossom.
“Then wilt thou lose thy King,” warned Jasmine. “Thou must sacrifice the Queen; there is no other way. Then shall the Black Knight be taken, and thy King be saved.”
Plum Blossom smiled. “The Queen is little worth,” she said, “so that my King go free!”
A shadow fell across the board. Glancing upward O Ume San beheld a samurai standing over her.
Bowing courteously he extended to her a sealed missive.
Breaking the silken thread Plum Blossom read with beating heart:
I have been grievously wounded, and lie at the monastery of Yakushiji. Come to me in all haste.
Thy Yorimito, to whom death may be very near.
A palanquin waited at the postern, and O Ume San, reeking naught but the peril of her lover, entered unquestioning. Neither did she note that the bearers wore the Fujiwara crest, nor suspect aught until something tapped lightly against the lacquered panels. Peering forth Plum Blossom beheld, drawn closely about her, the meshes of a net.
Naught availed that she shrieked and beat upon the door. Bystanders merely raised their eyebrows and, muttering: “Tis some drunken Geisha,” passed heedless on their way.
Hours passed. Peering from the shutters Plum Blossom perceived that it was night. A tang of brine struck her nostrils. A roar of breakers boomed in her ears. They were skirting the marge of a cliff, beneath which, her sails billowing in the breeze, rocked a high-prowed sampan.
Suddenly she heard a thud of galloping hoofs.
“Help!” she screamed, “in the name of the Emperor!” The yellow hawk’s eyes of Kambaku stabbed at her through the dusk.
“Hold thy tongue, wanton,” he hissed, prodding the bearers angrily with his spear.
An answering cry rang out from the pursuers, as they gained inch by inch upon their quarry.
In vain did the Fujiwara strive with threats and imprecations to goad his samurai to swifter flight. Yorimito with relentless wrath charged furiously upon them.
The rear-guard faltered under the sudden onslaught of the imperial swordsmen. With desperate fury they struck out terrific blows that ripped open bodies and crashed through helmet and skull to the very jaw.
Over severed heads and mangled bodies they leapt, their flashing blades cleaving lacquered mail, and biting deep into sinew and bone.
Decimated by pitiless slaughter the hirelings of the shogun gave way and paralysed with terror sought safety in flight.
Meanwhile, beset by a band of ruffians, the Emperor with a lightning stroke felled his foremost assailant and sent a second reeling to earth, when suddenly from behind him rang a woman’s cries.
“Ware thee, Yorimito!”
Wheeling he parried a treacherous side slash from a stealthy samurai, and slicing the war-mask from his assailant’s helmet revealed the blood-mad visage of Kambaku!
Like two lithe leopards they glared at each other, on the brink of the beetling cliff.
Blade clashed against blade in furious slash and wary feint, till, with a sudden stroke, Yorimito sent his opponent’s sword flying from his hand.
Scorning to take advantage of an unarmed antagonist the Mikado sheathed his blade.
Bowing, as in surrender, Kambaku rushed upon him like a maddened bull.
Breast to breast they grappled, writhing back and forth on the slippery sod, each striving to thrust his opponent over the marge.
“Weary and spent the Mikado and the Geisha sought shelter from the driving snow”
Permission Armand Dayot
“A servitor threw wide the fusuma. Tokiwa and Iki entered”
Permission Armand Dayot
Kambaku gripped the Mikado’s throat, tightening his merciless fingers as the other rained upon him murderous blows of his mailed fists. The relentless talons bit deeper and deeper into the tender flesh. Ever nearer the fearful brink they strained and struggled, each alternately uppermost.
Of a sudden Yorimito saw red. His eyeballs started from their sockets, and a bloody froth oozed from his lips.
A despairing wail: “Namu Amida, butsu,” sounded faintly in his ears.
Summoning one supreme effort, Yorimito tore off the strangling fingers and thrust his adversary to the brink.
Digging his feet into a crevice Kambaku strove to rise. The rock crumbled. He tottered backward, dangling over the abyss. Thus he hung clutching the feet of the Mikado, striving to drag his enemy to death.
The sword of Yorimito flashed pitilessly above him.
“One word, ere thou slayest me!” besought the Fujiwara.
“Speak!” commanded the Emperor.
“Thy betrothed is a vile and accursed Eta!”
“Thou liest!” flashed Yorimito. The avenging blade descended. The clutching fingers relaxed. From ledge to ledge the body rebounded and splashed into the sea. Then all was silent save the lapping of the waves.
With a swift slash Yorimito severed the net, and clasped O Ume San to his heart.
“Grieve not, Beloved, ‘twas but a fearsome dream. Thou shalt awake to joy!”
‘Tis night! without, the tempest waileth,
Mingled with sleet swift falls the driving snow.
So cold am I my very blood congealeth,
I munch my smoked salt fish in utter woe!
I cough and sneeze, and, ‘twixt the trembling wheezes,
I sip of sake dregs a potion cold,
I hug my bed and shiver with the breezes,
And heap upon me all the cloaks I hold.
But, as I shudder thus for hours together,
I strive to think of others still more poor,
Who, starving, shelterless in wind and weather,
Must beg their daily crust from door to door!
Unhappy ones, than me more sunk in sorrow,
Lost souls, how pass ye then your days?
(Voice of the Wind:)
“Wide are the earth and heavens, but for me narrow,
Bright are the sun and moon, but not for me!
From my bent frame, chilled to the very marrow,
A seaweed cloak falls tattered to my knee.
“For on the hearth no embers bright are burning.
Within the pot the spiders spin their lace.
And now the village head-man is returning—
To drive me homeless from this squalid place.”
Weary and spent the Mikado and the Geisha sought shelter from a sudden tempest in a roadside hovel.
Huddled beneath a heap of rags upon the earthen floor lay an aged man.
“Come not near me,” he muttered. “Touch me not for I am an accursed Eta.”1
1 The Etas were a caste whose occupations—necessitating the handling of dead bodies—caused them to be looked upon with horror and disdain.
A paroxysm of coughing shook the sufferer. O Ume San ran to his side and drew the ragged coverlet about him.
“I had a daughter once,” he said, his eyes lingering upon Plum Blossom, as she heaped the hearth with faggots. “When she was but a child I sold her to a teacher of Geisha, who swore never to reveal her parentage.”
“Didst give her no birthright token?” asked O Ume San, placing a pot of rice upon the fire.
“Verily, a sure token, the mirror of her mother, a daughter of a samurai, who left home and kindred to share my shame. Soon she faded, a pale plum-blossom drooping neath the sun.”
“Father!” cried O Ume San, clasping his trembling hands, “dost thou not know me?”
“Nay,” protested the Eta, “never daughter of mine, so wondrous fair thou art!”
“Behold the token!” she laughed, drawing from her girdle a silver mirror: “Thou didst give it me saying:
‘The mirror is the soul of a woman, even as the sword is the soul of a samurai. Behold thy mother’s face.’ Oft would I caress it, deeming the face I beheld therein my mother’s.”
Tears coursed down the father’s cheeks: “Thou art indeed my child!
“Ne’er shall summer skies
Dry the ceaseless dew
From my aged eyes,
Wept for loss of you.
Long I have known not
Where thine home might be
Nor what pain thy lot.
Thus I grieved for thee.”1
1Murasake no Shikibu
Turning to the Emperor he cried: “She is thy love. Thou wilt not cast her forth!”
Yorimito fell upon his knees: “Naught save death shall part us, Father,” he murmured reverently.
A wondrous smile lighted the careworn face. A terrific paroxysm rent the dying Eta. Piteously he strove to speak, but his lips refused utterance.
“Come back to me, Father!” cried Plum Blossom, then fell sobbing upon his breast.
“He bideth with Buddha,” whispered Yorimito. “Behold the smile of ineffable peace!”
Never the shrill cicada’s cry
Giveth a sign from flower or tree,
How soon, alas! ‘twill surely die.
Nor know we more our destiny.
One evening as the shadows deepened a frighted gazelle leaped through the shoji and fell trembling at the feet of O Ume San.
“Little Coward!” she smiled, “what fearest thou? Naught of evil lurketh here.”
Through the shattered shutters she peeped forth into the forest where two burning coals gleamed in the dusk. A panther sprang from an overhanging bough and vanished in the night.
“This bodeth some hidden evil,” she shuddered. “I will seek Yorimito, and he will laugh away my fears.”
Threading the bosky labyrinth leading to the imperial palace a shadow sprang from the thicket.
“Kambaku!” she cried, “hath thy dæmon come back to earth?”
The Fujiwara smiled significantly. “I thought not to find thee here,” he growled, gripping her by the throat. “Be silent, and thou shalt go free.”
“Unhand me then, and let me pass,” she commanded imperiously. “Thou shalt answer to the Mikado for this assault upon his bride!”
Kambaku laughed. “His bride forsooth, “ he mocked.
“When the Emperor knoweth thy parentage he will cast thee off.”
The Geisha’s eyes flashed triumph: “Yorimito knoweth all, yet am I his betrothed!”
“Hast thou so little love that thou wouldst smirch him with thy shame?” demanded Kambaku.
“The Emperor is above all soilure of mine or thine,” Plum Blossom murmured.
“Nay,” retorted the Fujiwara, “thy very touch is pollution. Thou art an Eta!”
O Ume San fell quivering upon the ground and buried her face in her hands.
“Nor may he wed thee if he would,” resumed Kambaku pitilessly, “save by relinquishing the throne and becoming an outcast. Shall he thus abase himself for thee?”
“Never,” sobbed Plum Blossom, vanquished. “Better ‘twere that I should perish.”
“Listen, little Spring Flower,” he pleaded, his voice assuming a gentler tone, “thy wilfulness hath wrought thy ruin. Hadst thou bent Yorimito to my will ye might have dwelt in happiness. But thou didst play against me, to win the Mikado. Little deemed I, when the game began, that thou wouldst win me too. Nathless hast thou triumphed, and I am thine, body and soul.”
“Sooner death!” she flashed defiantly.
“Death for the Emperor,” threatened Kambaku, “so thou yield not to my desire.”
“In the name of Buddha, spare him, good my Lord,” implored Plum Blossom, “and upon the morrow shall I grant thee thy will,” she temporized guilefully.
“This very night,” cried Kambaku, his eyes aflame with desire.
“Grant me then a trifling boon,” besought the Geisha.
“Whate’er thou wilt, Little Blossom.”
“Give me, as troth plight, this bauble seal,” she smiled with coy solicitude.
“Little Devil, I can deny thee nothing,” he shrugged, placing the seal within her palm.
“Come when I quench the light,” she whispered. “It shall be a sign that the Emperor sleepeth.”
“When he sleepeth,” echoed the Fujiwara, then laughed sardonically: “This night, in sooth, shall he slumber deep!”
DUSK AT NARA
The pliant, wind-swept oleanders veer,
Etching vague, velvet shadows on the sand;
And camphor trees, a venerable band,
Stretch out gnarled, sinuous branches gaunt and sere.
Innumerable lanterns, tier on tier,
With visored helmets, looming on each hand
In long defile, like silent sentries stand,
While in the meadows browse the dappled deer.
Forgotten figures haunt these gardens cool;
Contorted trunks of the wistaria fair
Seem feudal warriors in the ghostly gloom.
The Fujiwara, stealing from his tomb
To slay the young Mikado, waiting there
For the fair Geisha by the lotus pool.
Within the pavilion O Ume San knelt in prayer before her mother’s mirror. She had heard the muttered threat and knew that no power of earth or heaven would let the Fujiwara from his revenge.
Dry-eyed and calm she rose, her resolution fixed. Never, for love of her, should the Emperor relinquish his high destiny.
Then wrapping the seal within a scroll she wrote thereon: “Beloved, I pay thee back my too great price.
“As the swift stream is rent in twain
By boulders in its flow,
Yet, speeding on, unites again;
So may our souls though parted now
Unite in death anew.”
Placing the missive upon the tokonoma she took from an armour-chest a samurai’s helmet and cloak.
Tiring herself therein she stood before the lamp, throwing her shadow upon the translucent shoji, well knowing that Kambaku would mistake it for the Emperor.
After a moment she extinguished the light, and, creeping beneath her quilt, prayed for the happiness of her lord.
Ghostly moonbeams pencilled upon the floor frail fluttering clusters of wistaria. Suddenly the silver luminance was shrouded by a creeping shadow.
Plum Blossom shrank deeper within the covering, her heart scarce beating.
Little by little the shadow slowly lengthened. She heard a stealthy tread upon the floor. The loosened planks uttered shrill creaks like cries of a wounded bird. Softly, very softly, the shoji were slipped aside.
A sudden flash as of lightning. Then all was night. No more she knew of earthly pain or bliss of mortal love. Plum Blossom’s butterfly spirit had fluttered upward through the night.
Kambaku lifted the severed head and leered upon its blood-bespattered loveliness, his eyes wide with horror.
As he glared thus, gibbering impotently, a shout rang through the night. He wheeled abruptly about, then reeled to earth, his heart transfixed by the sword of the Emperor.
Oft in the misty spring
The vapours roll o’er Mount Mikasa’s crest
While, pausing not to rest,
The birds each morn with plaintive note do sing.
Like to the mists of spring
My heart is rent; for, like the song of birds,
Still all unanswered ring
The tender accents of my passionate words.
I call her every day
Till daylight fades away;
I call her every night
Till dawn restores the light;
But my fond prayers are all too weak to bring
My darling back to sight.1
1 Translated from Akahito (in The Myriad
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