Grudge and Obligation


Grudge and Obligation

Grateful Crane

Long long ago, a rich merchant was walking alone along the street.
On the way he saw an old man whose hands were tied behind his back and was being taken by public officials.

He asked the officials,

“Why on earth has he been arrested?”

“He has killed his master he had been serving for,”
one of them answered.

“Well, he has committed a serious offence, hasn’t he?”
saying so he glanced at the man scornfully.

A few minutes later, the merchant saw a young man, with his hands bound behind his back, being taken by the other public officials.

He asked the officials,

“Why on earth has he been arrested?”

“He has been arrested on a theft.”
One of them said.
The merchant looked at the young man.

As he had met him before, he thought what he had done should be excused as simply a passing whim.
He said to the officials, handing them a koban, an oval Japanese gold coin,

“Would you please let him go for this money?
He must have done it as simply a passing whim.”

They unbound the criminal, who bowed deeply to the merchant, and said,

“I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.”
Soon he left there.

The merchant was a kind-hearted man that always wanted to help people in need.
He wanted to help the old criminal too if possible, but his crime was so serious that he gave up.

A few months later, because of a blessing event in the Court, a big amnesty was announced.
A number of criminals were freed from prison.
That old man was also released.

On a summer night, when the merchant sat alone looking up at the moon on his veranda, he noticed that something black jumped over the fence.

“What is it?”
he wondered.

Then some suspicious looking men appeared, pinioned him, and carried him out of the house to the street.

“Take him to our place,”
said their leader.

The merchant had his hands and feet bound and was carried deep into the mountain.

“Make him sit on the firewood.
I’ll burn him to death, he who speaks ill of others as if he were a sage.”

“Have I done anything wrong to you?”
the merchant asked.

“Don’t you remember me?”
the leader took off his hood and showed him his face.

“At that time, you gave me a scornful look with a remark.
What shame I felt!
So I had a determination to get revenge you by burning you to death.”

He lit the firewood he was sitting on.

Feeling hot on his feet, he had a fear of death.
He closed his eyes.

Then arrows poured down on the bandits’ heads like rain.
Some were shot to death and others ran away like rabbits.

Another group of bandits appeared around the merchant and extinguished the fire with thick branches they had.

The leader of the second group unbound the merchant and said,

“You’ve had a dreadful experience, haven’t you?
Do you remember me?
I am the young man you saved when I was arrested by public officials.
I’ve wanted to repay the obligation.
I heard a rumor that a group of bandits led by an old leader were gunning for you because of the leader’s grudge.
So we were guarding you against their attack.
But today when we happened to lower our guard, you were kidnapped.
We immediately followed them to their nest and shot arrows to rescue you from the danger.”

The merchant nodded deeply. He thought, “Least said, soonest mended.”

The end