The Favor of Hachiman

IT was the eve of the annual Feast of the Dead,2 and O Kami San had just finished the construction and decoration of the “Spirit Altar.” She had set the posts and hung the rice-straw rope, and swung from it the fringe of vermicelli, green chestnut sprays, white paper, and dried fruits and vegetables. She had shaped with her own hands, from cucumbers and egg-fruits, the rude representations of cattle and horses, and had set them, together with fresh food and wine, before the quaint shrine that stood now. completed, in the place of honor in the little house. And all the time as she worked she had been thinking of Taro, and the tears came to her tired old eyes, and dropped sometimes upon her work, as she thought of how, only three months before, he had gone to the war, and then of how soon came back to his old father and mother the word of his death, fighting the hairy Russians in Manchuria.

And so to-day, as she prepared to do honor to the visiting spirits, it was of Taro that she thought more than of the ancestral ghosts for whom she had kept the feast so many years. Taro, her brave, strong Taro, who should have lived to make his daily and yearly offerings at his parents’ shrine, was coming to them tonight, a spirit, to receive from them the comfort and love that was all the happiness earth could offer him now! As she worked through the hot August morning, her heart was sore and sad, and there seemed no hope ahead for her and Gunkichi, her old husband. Lonely they must live on until death came, and lonely must their spirits be forever, for no descendants would offer to them the affection and the daily gifts that disembodied spirits crave.

She stood now on the edge of her little piazza, and looked down the length of the village street. A small white flag, in its centre a blood-red sun, drooped idly from its slender bamboo staff before the house. A great gray monkey, chained to a tree across the road, woke from his noonday doze to blink at her sleepily, then closed his eyes and humped himself once more into a fluffy ball. The heated air wavered above the dusty road until the shops and hotels on each side of it seemed to shimmer and shake like the background of a moving picture. And — slill like a moving picture — there came directly toward her the figure of a woman, wavering, almost staggering, under the heat of the August sun and the weight of a heavy baby tied to her back. The village lay quiet, asleep or preoccupied with its own discomfort, while the woman toiled on toward O Kimi San’s little rest - house. It was a tiny, thatched, open-fronted cottage, just beyond the village, and almost overhanging the mountain gorge along which the road was built. It was cool and fresh with the foam of the torrent far below, and in the shadow of a wooded rocky peak that towered above.

O Kimi San shaded her eyes with her hand as she looked into the shimmering glare at the small burdened figure. Her kindly old face, seamed and crisscrossed with the wrinkles of a hard life, grew sympathetic. The traveler, as she came into the shade of the Tengu Rock, breathed a deep sigh, and with a hitch of her shoulders tilted the baby into a more comfortable position. O Kimi, from the little matted platform that was the floor of her house, called out hospitably to the newcomer, —

“ It is very hot! Come in and rest a little, you must be tired.”

The mother looked up doubtfully and shook her head. “Thank you,” she said, “it is hot, but I must go on. I must reach Shio no Yu to-night;” and she struggled forward.

But O Kimi’s kindly soul was not content with such refusal. She slipped from the platform into her sandals lying ready on the earth below, and followed the traveler.

“Come in,” she said, “please come, for the baby’s sake if not for your own. You cannot see how red and hot he is. He will be sick if you carry him farther in this heat. Wait here with me until it’s cooler. You can get to Shio no Yu if you start by four o’clock. The moon is full, and you can walk late.” O Kimi fairly dragged the little woman back with her to the house, her tired visitor demurring faintly. “Now sit down here and untie the baby, and I will take him. Then you can rest your poor tired feet with some of that hot water over there; ” and O Kimi pointed to a steaming, dripping bamboo pipe creeping along the perpendicular upper edge of the road,3 under which tubs were set to catch the leakage.

The tired little mother, in a paroxysm of thanks and expostulations, gave herself up to the kindly solicitude of her hostess. She sat obediently down on the tiny, polished piazza and untied the band which held the heavy baby to her. O Kimi took him in her arms, hugged him for a moment to her wrinkled breast, then laid him down and watched him with greedy eyes while his mother was washing her face and arms and blistered feet in the steaming hot water across the way.

“When he wakes he shall have a bath too,” said the old woman, when the mother, refreshed, came and took her seat on the soft mats of the little house, “but now you must have some tea and a fan, and then, when you are rested, tell me something about yourself, and why you are traveling all alone this way with your baby.”

O Kimi bustled off to her little kitchen, and soon came back with tea and cake. Then she disappeared again, and after a longer time brought in a second tray with rice-bowl, pickles, fish, and iced vermicelli, all as daintily served as the Empress herself could have wished. “It is a poor meal,” she said, with formal self-depreciation. “My husband caught the trout in the river this morning, and the vermicelli is but the O Bon fare. I am sorry that I have nothing better to offer you,” and she bowed low as she set the tray before her guest.

But, though the food was dainty, though O Kimi San offered new helpings of rice from the brass-bound wooden bucket with insistent hospitality, the traveler was too tired to eat. She played with her chopsticks and commented with enthusiastic politeness on the delicacies set before her, but could hardly choke down the last of the rice in her bowl, — an act which etiquette and religion both required of her, — and the fish and vermicelli were left almost untouched, her face was pale, and under her eyes were blue rings. Every movement of the visitor showed that she needed rest more than food. O Kimi’s sympathetic heart went out to the poor stranger.

“Here,” she said, “lie down beside your baby, and I will hang my large mosquito-net, and you can sleep awhile before you go on. You are too tired to move yet.” With gentle insistence she gained her point. The mother lay down on the mat beside her sleeping baby, and the great green linen mosquito-netting, hung from the four corners of the room, shut out the hard things of life for a space, leaving the wanderers to the ministration of the green coolness, the soft air, the murmur and rush of the torrent far below them.

O Kimi San continued with her household tasks. She carried out her dishes and trays and rice-bucket to the kitchen, she swept the road in front of the house, and watered it with a dipper from a wooden pail. She filled the kettle with fresh spring water, and arranged the bits of charcoal in the fire so that they should concentrate their heat at the precise centre of the kettle’s bottom. Then she went back to her guests under the mosquito-net just as the baby opened his eyes and began to whimper. O Kimi went down on her knees and gathered him to her longing heart. “Botchan,” 4 she whispered,and cuddled him and talked to him in the soft baby language until his little hand stole into her bosom, and he began to chatter in reply like a sparrow, looking up into her eyes and laughing with quaint baby humor. He was a fat, sturdy, red-cheeked boy of three, who trotted about the matted floor on chubby brown feet, and laughed and danced when O Kimi brought him a bowl of rice. She fed him with chopsticks, he sitting on his heels facing her solemnly with open mouth like a young bird, and closing mouth and eyes ecstatically when the chopsticks, like the old bird’s beak, dropped the food between his lips.

When the tired mother waked at last, O Kimi and the boy were great friends. She had brought a tub of hot water from the pipe across the road, and was taking off his scanty clothing in preparation for the promised bath. He wore only a little cotton kimono, with a diamond-shaped apron of many-colored to chirimen, or woolen crape, underneath. Undressing was a small affair, and soon Botchan was sitting in the wooden tub, splashing and chattering like a young duck.

“Such a boy!” said O Kimi San to the mother, who was sitting up now, watching the operations of her hostess. “ He is so like my son. It makes me happy to have him near me.”

“And your son — where is he ;” asked the visitor,

O Kimi San looked straight ahead of her and spoke very softly; “My son has had the great honor to give himself to the Emperor. Alas! we must light the O Bon lanterns for him to-night” — Her voice broke, and she hid her face behind her sleeve.

The visitor bowed low, “ It is sad, and my heart is grieved for you,” she said. “To my husband, too, has come such honor. He went down in the Sakura Maru at Port Arthur, and even his body was not found. His spirit, they say, is in the Shokonsha,5 but” —

The elder woman bowed in her turn in the presence of a grief so like her own, and there was silence for a space. At last she said softly, “ How is my heart grieved with your sorrow;” then, her eye resting on Botchan, who was squatting now beside his mother, looking with wondering eyes at his elders, she added comfortingly, “ But your boy will grow up to care for you, and to preserve his father’s memory.”

The visitor bowed again, “True, he will care for me when he is grown, but how shall I care for him until he is grown ? I am going now to my husband’s brother in Shio no Yu, but he is poor, and has many boys of his own, and I do not know whether he will receive me.” The woman’s voice trembled, and she stopped for a moment, then went on in the curious, even tone which in a Japanese woman betrays deep emotion. “ When my husband went, he said to me, ‘Suzu, I shall probably die for my country. You must not mourn, you must be glad, and must teach the boy to be glad that his father had so great honor.’ And when I said, ‘Oh, Yofu, how can I be glad ? How can I live ? I must kill myself if you are killed,’ he answered, ‘To kill yourself would not be brave or wise, if by so doing you should leave our boy to starve. If I die, you must live and make a brave man of him.’ So I have lived, but it is hard for me. And Botchan is a brave boy, — so brave and so strong. All this morning as we came up from Nishi Nasuno, he walked by my side, his little hand in mine. Sometimes he would stumble and almost fall, and I would say, ‘Botchan is tired, let mamma carry him,’ but it was always, ‘Botchan is very strong. Mamma is tired.’ At noon we stopped to eat our lunch, and when I looked at his feet they were all blistered.

I washed them in cold water as we sat beside the road, but when we started out again he could not walk. That is why I carried him. Yes, Botchan is a soldier’s son, and he will be a brave man.”

Suzu hugged the stolid, chubby baby sitting so solemnly beside her, until he giggled and shouted with delight. “And now, if indeed it must be, we will go, for I must reach Shio no Yu to-night,” and Suzu bowed her farewell to O Kimi with many expressions of gratitude for her kindness, while Botchan gravely imitated her prostrations.

“Can’t you stay here with me tonight?” protested O Kimi. “There is a storm coming. You should not try to brave a storm with that baby.” But Suzu was set on her plan, and with a final hug of Botchan as she tied him to his mother’s back, O Kimi set them forth upon the road.

“ Cross the river about a mile above here where you see a little bridge, then follow the road to the left, and Shio no Yu is about four miles away.”

Suzu bowed and smiled, and O Kimi went back to her little house, lonelier than ever for the baby’s visit.

There was a muttering of thunder from the hills above, a darkness and stifling stillness in the air. O Kimi looked out uneasily. “It is time Gunkichi was back,” she said. “ He has been gone all day. If he gets caught across the river, and the storm comes, how wall he get home?” But as she was bringing her vague fears to a point by speech, there was a light pat-pat of sandals along the road, and Gunkichi, wrinkled and smiling, with a great bundle of sprawling, straggling roots upon his back, hailed his old wife with a cheerful greeting.

“It’s very hot,” he said, as he dipped his towel into the hot water and washed the streaming perspiration from his face and arms and bare brown legs and feet, “but we are going to have a great storm, and then it will be cool.” He laughed and chattered, partly to himself, partly to his wife, and partly to the great gray monkey perched on the tree above him. “Heh! Mr. Monkey,” he said, “you are so lazy this hot weather that you don’t care for anything. Heh! Mr. Monkey, wake up! ” He poked at the humpy fur ball until it turned its red face, grown redder with rage,toward him, and chattered viciously. “Now you are awake at last, and I will give you something. Here, mother, will you hand me a cracker for Mr.Monkey ?”

O Kimi laughed, and brought him a toasted rice cracker. “Gunkichi,” she said, “I believe you try to be a boy just to comfort me; ” and she looked at him affectionately, but with tears in her eyes.

Gunkichi said nothing. He was apparently absorbed in watching the monkey, who was meditatively crunching the cracker. When he turned again he cleared his throat a little before he went on to tell O Kimi of his day’s successes.

Such a day as it had been! He had climbed the Tengu Rock and worshiped at the little shrine of Hachiman, the wargod, on its top, and seen the great black snake who lies always coiled up within the shrine except when the god sends him forth with his messages. Then he had set out in search of roots suitable for his use. For Gunkichi was an artist in roots. His little shop beside O Kind’s kitchen was filled with strange productions of his fancy. By smoothing here and hollowing there, by cunningly reinforcing and adding in another place, by a spot of red or black or white paint judiciously applied, Gunkichi would evolve from the most hopeless-looking roots and snags griffins, tenqus, devils, monsters of all sorts, which found a ready sale among the summer visitors at the hot baths in the village. As he opened his bundle and drew out his new-found treasures one by one, he discoursed eloquently on the wonderful things that they would become in his hands.

“Look, mother, this will make a grand dragon!” He pulled a long, twisted root with many branches from the heap in front of him. “ Here is his head now, with horns and wide-open mouth. I will paint his mouth red, and give him two great white eyes. Then when I have soaked his long body in the hot water, and coiled it about, these branches will make his legs, and this long slender one his tail. Perhaps some of the Tokyo people will buy it. I wish the Emperor could see it! I’d give it to him if I could.”

He stopped, abashed by the temerity into which his enthusiasm had led him, and added humbly, “But of course it would not be worthy,” and bowed low at the name that he had invoked.

“Father, you have given to the Emperor the only thing you had to give.” There was a pride, carefully veiled, in O Kimi’s voice. Gunkichi, who had by this time slipped out of his sandals and seated himself on the mats, turned his head aside and vigorously rubbed his face with his blue-and-white towel.

Just then the storm broke. With vivid lightning, a crash of thunder, and the roaring as of a waterspout, it rushed down the mountain gorge. O Kimi San drew the outer rain-doors of the house, sliding them along their grooves on a full run. The monkey, a moment before a motionless ball of gray fur, on the top of his perch, scuttled down, with much angry chattering and rattling of his chain, into his little house. They were none too soon, for the rain, like a solid column of water, was rushing and swirling about them, the river foaming and roaring beneath, almost before O Kimi and Gunkichi could fasten the house securely. Then O Kimi stirred about the kitchen preparing supper, while Gunkichi smoked thoughtfully in the shuttered twilight of the little guestroom.

As O Kimi brought in the tray and the rice-bucket, she suddenly bethought herself of her visitor.

“Ma!” she exclaimed. “Poor Suzu! I wonder where she is now!”

“What Suzu?” asked Gunkichi.

Then Kimi told him all the story of her afternoon, and of how Suzu had left the house only just before he came home.

“ If she got across the bridge before the storm came she will be safe,” said Gunkichi, “but if she tries to cross it in the storm she may be carried away with it.”

There was nothing to be done. Supper cleared away, the old couple sat and talked. Once or twice O Kimi tried to light the O Bon lanterns, but with a swirl and a rush the wind blowing through the funnel-like gorge extinguished them each time. She was perturbed, and a look of fear came into her eyes, a wail into her voice, “It will be dark for him, and he will think we have forgotten him! Gunkichi, what shall we do?”

Gunkiehi answered her gently, “Our Taro knows we would not forget him. He knows that we would light the lanterns for him if we could, but the wind-gods will not let us. You have set the food and trimmed the light before the spirit altar, He has been away so short a time, he cannot lose his way home, even if there is no light outside.”

“If I could only open the amado a crack so that he could come through,” O Kimi moaned, and pushed the shutter aside a little. But the howling wind filled the house, and shook the flimsy structure as a terrier shakes a rat. Both tugged together to close the door again, and then sat down in the darkness, for the wind had put out their light. Only the tiny lamp before the altar continued to burn. It flickered in the searching wind, and threw strange creeping shadows on the walls.

And then there came a cry, a wail of terror from the stream below. Gunkichi started up. “ What’s that ? Some one is in trouble in the river!” He threw open the amado, and the wind and rain nearly took his breath away. He felt the road with his bare foot. It was a running torrent, but he stepped in, and out from the shelter of the roof. The wind took him and pinned him fast against a rock, while the pouring rain nearly drowned him. He could see the river by the pale light of the full moon behind the clouds. It was boiling white among the great black rocks far below, and he knew that to reach its level in the wind and rain would be useless. Spent and water-soaked, he crawled back at last to the house.

All night the wind blew, the thunder roared, and the rain fell in torrents, but when morning came the clouds cleared away, the wind blew fair, the sun shone, and every rock and leaf and twig seemed new-created after the storm.

Gunkichi started out early, to go up the river and see what had happened in the night. “If I can get across, I will go to Shio no Yu and see if Suzu reached there safely,” he said, as he tied on his sandals.

O Kimi set about her household tasks. She was thinking a great deal about her own Taro, and then, again, of Suzu and her little Botchan. Her heart ached to hold the chubby baby form close to her breast, to put food between the soft baby lips, to hear the cooing baby voice; and somehow Taro and Botchan seemed to mingle in her mind until she felt that yesterday she had held her own boy in her arms, and then had sent him away into the storm with an unknown woman.

She was sitting at her sewing, looking from time to time out into the road, her eyes dim and misty, and with an occasional tear dropping upon the blue cotton of Gunkichi’s new blouse. Did she see aright, or was that mist before her eyes deceiving her ? There was a great black snake gliding down the road! She rubbed her eyes and looked. Never had she seen such a snake. He was eight feet long or more, and of ample girth, and his black, scaly body glistened in the sunshine. He came on to the little rest-house, and paused before it, lifted his head, and waved it back and forth, raising it higher and higher until his gleaming eyes looked over the edge of the piazza right at O Kimi San.

“It is the messenger of Hachiman,” whispered O Kimi, and prostrated herself in reverence, face down upon the mats. She raised her head, the snake was still looking at her. Again she bowed, and when she looked up there was still that shining waving head and the glittering eyes fixed full upon her. Once more O Kimi bowed low, and in her heart was a prayer to Uachiman that he would call his dread messenger back to his shrine. When she lifted her head, no snake was there, but there was a slight rustle on the side of the Tengu Rock, and O Kimi knew that her petition had been answered.

“Did he send a message to me?” she thought. And then, in spite of her grief and perturbation, she laughed at the audacity of her question. “Of course he had no message for me. I am too low a person to have a message from a god.”She went back to her sewing, her hand shaking a little, and her eyes dimmer than ever. Presently she looked up, brushing her hand across her eyes as she did so. Would wonders never cease ? What was coming along the road now ?

He looked very small, and very fat, and very bullet-headed, as he walked nonchalantly along against a background of towering cliffs, waving trees, and blue, white-flecked sky. He was dressed in a small diamond of bright-colored cloth tied over his fat stomach, and he carried in one hand a stick, while the other was crumpled tightly about a struggling, gauzy insect. When he saw the rest-house standing by the road he crowed merrily, and hastened his steps. O Kimi could hardly believe her eyes. It was Suzu’s Botchan coming back to her! All the love and longing of her bereaved soul went out to the brave baby marching serenely toward her.

“O kaeri!” 6 she called out,afraid that he might go by and out of her life again. The baby stopped at the familiar voice, stood motionless a moment regarding her, then bowed solemnly, and nearly double.

“Tadaima,”7 he responded gravely, then toddled toward her holding out his doubled fist, in which was firmly clenched a dragon fly. “My horse,” he explained cheerfully. “ If I had a long thread I would harness him.” He caracoled ponderously on his small chubby feet. “ I am a soldier just come home from the war!”

“Mamma’s soldier boy!” said O Kimi in a rapture. “Come in, and we will tie up the horse and give the soldier some rice.” She seized him in her arms and hugged him, carried him across the way to the hot water pipe where she washed the mud from his little bare feet, then set him down in her guest-room. He pointed with delight to the rude semblances of animals before the spirit altar. “Taro’s horses,” he shouted, and clapped his chubby hands.

O Kimi looked at him with a curious awe. How could he know that those things were set out for her Taro’s spirit ? He was such a baby, he could not have listened to their talk of yesterday. She questioned him, “Where did you come from, Botchan ? Where is mamma ?”

He looked at her, puzzled, “You are mamma,” he said. “Taro come home from war.”

She spoke very gently, half afraid at his strangeness, “But, Botchan, don’t you remember mamma who brought you here yesterday ? Where is she ?”

His baby face quivered, and he looked woebegone at her obtuseness. “Taro can’t remember yesterday,” he whimpered. “Taro come home to mamma.”

O Kimi hugged him close. “Never mind, Botchan, sit here a minute, and grandma will get you some breakfast.”

“Not grandma, mamma,” insisted Botchan, his round mouth puckering.

“Kimi! Kimi!” sounded Gunkichi’s voice up the road. O Kimi slipped into her sandals, and ran to him as he came toward her on a trot. He was breathless with excitement: “O Suzu San’s body is on the rocks, way down below the bridge! She must have tried to cross after the storm broke!”

“Poor thing! Poor thing!” wailed O Kimi, “I should never have let her go! And now Botchan” —

“Botchan must have been drowned too,” interrupted Gunkichi, anxious to tell all he knew. “His dress was still tied fast to his mother’s back; so he fell and went down with her, that is certain. Then he was washed down by the current. Poor baby! They will find his body farther down the stream.”

“Father,” said O Kimi in an awestricken voice, “the baby is in our house. I was getting him some rice when you called me.”

“Impossible, Kimi, If he went down with his mother, he must surely have been drowned. Why, she was held fast, head downward against a rock, and both must have been drowned as they fell.”

‘Gunkichi,” — O Kami’s voice was low and solemn,— “there is something very strange that I must tell you before we go back and look at the baby. Sit down here and cool yourself, and listen.”

They sat down at the edge of the road, out of sight of the little house, while O Kimi told her story. She told of Hachiman ’s messenger, and of how he stopped and looked at her. “I think, Gunkichi, that he really brought a message, and that Hachiman was pleased with your visit yesterday to his shrine. For then the baby came, and what do you think he had in his hand ? A dragon fly! and he said it was his horse ! ”

Gunkichi sat up, excited. “I have heard that dragon flies are horses’ spirits!” he said.

“That is one of the strange things,” answered O Kimi; “and then he told me he was a soldier just come home from the war. I thought he was playing, and played with him, but when I brought him into the house, he went right to the spirit altar, and when he saw the animals he clapped his hands and said, ‘ Taro’s horses! ’ Then I began to wonder. How did he know about Taro? How did he know those things were set out for him? So then I questioned him about his mother, and he said I was his mother. He could n’t remember yesterday, only that he was a soldier just come back from the war. He nearly cried when I called myself grandma; ‘Not grandma, mamma,’ he insisted. Gunkichi, what does it all mean ? You say that the child was surely drowned, but he is here, or rather, his body is here, but his spirit is changed. Hachiman has sent us back our Taro. He gave his body in the war, and now Hachiman has let him enter a new body so that he could comfort us.”

Gunkichi was doubtful. He had heard that such things used to happen, but every instance that he had ever heard of was at least a hundred years old. Things were different in those days. This was Meiji, the era of enlightenment, and though strange things were still happening daily, they were not of just this kind. There were two persons who must be consulted before they could be quite sure what to do. One was the policeman at the far end of the village, the other was the parish priest.

He explained this to O Kimi, in whose mind no shadow of doubt now existed, and while she hastened home to feed and fondle her baby, he walked along to the police station. There, after bowing low and offering many polite excuses for troubling his excellency, he told the whole story to the dignified little man in his white, new-style uniform. The policeman listened with interest, making notes the while in his little book. Then he sallied forth, taking with him Gunkichi and a number of the villagers, to study the situation. Poor Suzu’s body was first recovered, and the opinion of the villagers, endorsed by the policeman, was that the baby must have fallen with his mother, and been washed out of his lashings and his kimono in the boiling current. How he could have lived through it no one could understand,

“And may we keep the baby, your honor?” said Gunkichi appealingly.

“If, when I have investigated, I find that the brother at Shio no Yu does not want him, I think you can keep him,” was the guarded reply.

With many bows of deep respect, and effusive thanks for the hope held forth, Gunkichi parted from the officer, and took his way toward the village temple.

It was a great, old, shabby sanctuary, with wide-eaved curving roof of blackened thatch, and two stone statues of Jizo, buried almost to the eyes in pebbles, sitting in mild serenity outside the gate. Gunkichi stooped and threw a stone to each as he passed in, murmuring a prayer to the gentle guardian of the children’s ghosts, and thinking the while of the poor baby’s spirit, wandering beside the river of death. He stood beside the veranda of the priest’s house that adjoined the temple, and lifted up his voice in the polite “Excuse me for troubling you,” that announces the presence of a guest. The old priest came himself to greet him and bid him come in. Gunkichi bowed and bowed, but remained humbly without, and told once more his story. It was spiritual enlightenment that he wanted. Might he and O Kimi believe that their Taro’s spirit, coming that first night of the Feast of the Dead to visit his parents, had found the baby’s body lying where the river had tossed it, and entered in, through the favor of Hachiman ? He gave all the quaint bits of evidence, the coming of the messenger, the dragon fly in the baby’s hand (“ You know our Taro and his horse were found shot down together,” explained Gunkichi with some pride), the child’s use of the name Taro, his reiteration of the fact that he was a soldier, his insistence that O Kimi was his mother.

The priest listened with reverent interest. “My son,” he said, “it is plain that you and O Kimi San have been blessed by a miracle. The gods have seen your kindness to the poor traveler, your worship of the great Hachiman, your patience under your loss, and they have vouchsafed to you this wonderful thing. Without doubt the spirit of your own Taro has come back to you clothed in the body of poor Suzu’s baby. Give thanks to Hachiman, whose messenger brought you your son again.”

Gunkichi fell on hands and knees upon the pebbled walk, and laid his forehead to the ground. “Reverend priest,” he said, “since the gods have indeed condescended to grant so great a gift to our unworthiness, we would show our gratitude by some offering. What humble thing may we do ?”

And the priest made answer, “Upon the river bank, close to the spot where Suzu’s body was found, build ye a shrine to the memory of her and of her child. And at the full moon carry thither, you and Kimi and Taro, offerings of food and wine to their spirits. And each year, when the O Bon feast comes around, hang there a lantern and erect a spirit altar, so that when they return they may not be lonely, but may join in the good cheer of the festival. And teach Taro, and bid him teach his children, and his children’s children, that the shrine is holy, and that they must continue throughout their generations the monthly and yearly offerings. For by the death of Suzu and her baby your family is continued, and your spirits shall be loved and tended. Therefore, so long as your generations continue must they love and tend the spirits of Suzu and her son.”

Gunkichi lifted his forehead from the earth. “Surely,” he said, “we and our children and our children’s children will pay honor to the spirits of the mother and her child.” Then with grateful words of farewell he went back, subdued and thoughtful, to his home.

Up and down the road in the bright sunshine galloped little Taro, driving his great dragon fly attached by a thread to a long bamboo stick. “O uma!” (horse!), he shouted gleefully when he saw Gunkichi, “O Totchan! O uma!” (Papa, horse!) O Kimi had hunted out from her iron-bound chest of drawers a tiny blueand-white kimono in which she had enveloped his chubby body, and she sat, the picture of cheer and happiness, watching his play, and working, when she could take her greedy eyes away from him, upon another small garment ready cut upon her lap. When she saw Gunkichi she called out, “ Father, his excellency has been here again, and he says we may keep the baby. The man at Shio no Yu does n’t want him. His honor said for you to come and register at the police station. Please go quickly.”

Gunkichi pattered eagerly away; Taro played on in the sunny road; O Kimi San sat and crooned a nursery song as she worked on the little garment; and in the shrine of Hachiman, on the top of the Tengu Rock, a great black snake, coiled in the damp coolness, awaited another message from the god.

  1. Hachiman, the deified spirit of the Emperor Ojin, son of the warrior Empress Jingo. He is now worshiped as the God of War in many shrines and temples throughout Japan.
  2. The annual Feast of the Dead, or O Bon Matsuri, is celebrated at the August full moon. At this time for three days the spirits of the dead are believed to revisit their old homes, and special measures are taken for their reception and entertainment.
  3. The pipe led the water from hot springs to the baths in the village.
  4. Literally, “ Little Mr. Priest,” the universal title of the small boy, probably on account of his shaven head.
  5. Literally, “ Spirit-Invoking Temple ” at Tokyo, whither the spirits of soldiers who die in battle return, and where they live and receive the honor and offerings of their grateful compatriots.
  6. “ Honorable return,” the greeting to a returning member of the household.
  7. “ Just now,” the conventional reply to the greeting.