The Peony Lantern
At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane, without the garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. They grew slow and stopped.
“What means this, O’Yoné, O’Yoné? ” said a piteous voice. “The house is asleep, and I do not see my lord.”
“Come home, sweet lady, Hagiwara’s heart is changed.”
“That I will not, O’Yoné, O’Yoné… you must find a way to bring me to my lord.”
“Lady, we cannot enter here. See the Holy Writing over every door and window-place… we may not enter here.”
There was a sound of bitter weeping and a long wail.
“Lord, I have loved thee through the space of ten existences.” Then the footsteps retreated and their echo died away.
The next night it was quite the same. Hagiwara slept in his weakness; his servant watched; the wraiths came and departed in sobbing despair.
The third day, when Hagiwara went to the bath, a thief stole the emblem, the golden emblem of the Tathagata, from his girdle. Hagiwara did not mark it. But that night he lay awake. It was his servant that slept, worn out with watching. Presently a great rain fell and Hagiwara, waking, heard the sound of it upon the roof. The heavens were opened and for hours the rain fell. And it tore the holy text from over the round window in Hagiwara’s chamber.
At the hour of the Ox there was heard the sound of footsteps in the lane without the garden hedge. Nearer and nearer they came. They grew slow and stopped.
“This is the last time, O’Yoné, O’Yoné, therefore bring me to my lord. Think of the love of ten existences. Great is the power of Karma. There must be a way…”
“Come, my beloved,” called Hagiwara with a great voice.
“Open, lord.. open and I come.”
But Hagiwara could not move from his couch.
“Come, my beloved,” he called for the second time.
“I cannot come, though the separation wounds me like a sharp sword. Thus we suffer for the sins of a former life.” So the lady spoke and moaned like the lost soul that she was. But O’Yoné took her hand.
“See the round window,” she said.
Hand in hand the two rose lightly from the earth. Like vapour they passed through the unguarded window. The samurai called, “Come to me, beloved,” for the third time.
He was answered, “Lord, I come.”
In the grey morning Hagiwara’s servant found his master cold and dead. At his feet stood the peony lantern burning with a weird yellow flame. The servant shivered, took up the lantern and blew out the light; for “I cannot bear it,” he said.
From Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales by Grace James.London: Macmillan and Co., 1910.