Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

literal "flying visit on craneback, with the inevitable scroll in hand, to their brother sennin's (sennin is the name this happy race goes by) grotto in a neighboring hill or dale.

Our party of wanderers thanked the kind but dignified old man on their hands and knees and raised their heads, when he seemed to dissolve away from view in a most singular manner. This opportune guide, according to my garrulous lady, is a messenger sent by her thousand-armed Goddess to their help; in fine, not a thing occurs but is ordained by Kwannon the Merciful. The story of the adventure was wound up with the safe arrival in the Kwannon temple, and fervent piety kindled at the altar.

[ocr errors]


I AM afraid I have told a long prosaic story in the previous chapter, and betrayed a school-boylike delight for the bombastic in the description of the sunset, etc. No one detests more than I any thing that smacks of the young misses' poetry. Come, let us inquire, more relevantly to our purpose, what constituted my childish happiness, sorrow, fear and other kindred feelings in Japan.

The greatest fear I can yet recall was the ordeal of the yaito. This is a Japanese domestic art of healing and averting diseases, especially those of children. The moxa, being made into numerous tiny cones and placed on certain spots on the back, is lighted with the senko already described. Imagine how you feel when the flesh is being burnt; I used to hold out stoutly against the cruel operation-would you not sympathize with me? If I had any presentiment of it, I would slip away and keep from home till I became desirous of dinner. No sooner had I crossed the paternal threshold than I was made a prisoner; and ailment or no ailment, my severe father and mother insisted upon my having the yaito once in so often. Great was my demonstration of agony when father held me still and mother proceeded to burn my bare back; a

promise of bonbons, which reconciled me to almost anything ordinarily, did not work in this one instance; I cried myself hoarse (keeping it up even while there was no pain) and kicked frantically. "The storm is over," mother used to say with considerable relief, when the trial drew to a close; she hated the torture as much as anybody, but she had the welfare of her child at heart. Ah, gentle mother, if I had only understood you then as I do now I should certainly not have snapped so terribly. I remember, after twenty-four to forty-eight hours the blisters began to swell and chafed painfully against the clothing, and had to be punctured to let out the serum. As a matter of fact, the yaito did cure slight general and local ailments: once I had a blood-shot eye, and mother sent me to a worthy old woman in town who knew how to cure it by means of yaito. After much pressing with fingers, she hit at the vital point in the back and marked it with a generous dip of india ink. Upon returning home, it was burnt deeply with moxa; and miraculously enough the eye got well immediately. I am inclined to think the cautery acts through the nerves. Now for years have I been exempt from the operation, yet to this day on my back are symmetrically branded the star-like memorials of my mother's love.

Speaking of the old woman I am reminded of another whom I was in the habit of looking upon as a sort of witch. Her eye, with the crow's foot at the outer corner and,. I fancied, with the pupil in a longitudinal slit like that of grimalkin, the creature nearest to witches and warlocks; her fetich, the

image of a human monkey, to whom she was a sort of vestal virgin; her place of abode remote from town and isolated from other farm-houses, presenting a queer combination of a rustic home and a sacred shrine; these made my childish imagination invest her with an air of mystery. She was wont to come to town in trim, made-over clothes re-dyed and starched, with the slant overlapping Japanese collars adjusted nicely; in the setta (slipper-sandals, much liked by aged people for their ease and safety compared with the high clogs); with her gray-streaked black hair combed tightly up, glossy with a superabundance of pomatum and done up in a coiffure bespeaking her age; walking firmly, with a small portable shrine on her back wrapt in the furoshiki (wide cloth for carrying things about) and tied around her shoulders. People sent for her to exorcise their houses, particularly when there happened to be sick persons in them, consulted her in selecting the site for a new building and in sinking the well, in order not to draw upon their heads the vengeance of a displeased spirit. On some occasions our household required her assistance; I went the long distance through the open fields to her residence; and when she came she let down the shrine from her back, placed it against the wall in our sitting-room and, opening reverentially the hinge-doors, proceeded to pray. What for, I don't remember, I was too intent upon her manners to inquire into her purpose.

Of quite another stamp was Aunt Otsuné (so everybody called her), housekeeper to the prosperous candy dealer just opposite us on Main street.

Ready with tears for any sad news; sympathetic in the extreme; beaming, radiant, full of happy smiles in beholding her friends-methinks I see her snatch me from my nurse's arms, fondle me to her bosom and press her withered cheek against my fat one, uttering some such very encouraging ejaculation as "My precious dear!" She did not kiss me, I am very certain, for we don't have kissing. And she must have many a time dropped her work to admire my holiday garment; I know I toddled some of my early experimental steps in journeys to Aunty, trailing behind me the free ends of my sash; and as I became confident of myself, I became ambitious and dragged my father's or brother's clogs, a world too big for my feet. O how good Aunty was! She would fill both my hands with the candies that were being prepared in the back of the store near the kitchen and bid me run home and show them to mamma. The best thing she was in the habit of bestowing upon me was -I don't know what to call it; it was the burnt bottom portion of the rice she had cooked for all hands of the store in a prodigious vessel, loosened in broad pieces and folded about the an. The an is (this necessity of definition upon definition cautions me against touching on many a thing peculiarly Japanese) the an is a red bean deprived of its skin and mashed with sugar; it forms the core of various comfits. O how I relished this Aunty's homely, warm, sweet concoction! It was not intended for sale, therefore we cared little about its appearance, were it only good to taste. She made it so large sometimes that I had to hold it with both my small

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »