Woman of the mirror


Woman of the mirror

Grateful Crane

Long long ago, there lived an old man deep in a mountain.
His wife had died several years before.
So he lived with his son, working everyday in the fields, sometimes going fishing in the river, and drinking a little sake every night.

One day the old man said to his son,
“It’s about time you got married and had a family of your own.”
“But why must I get married, Father?
I’m happy now living with you.
Besides I don’t have any chance to meet young women.
If I had a chance, I wouldn’t know how to speak to them,”
said his son.

Having lived in a remote area, he seldom saw a young woman.
“Listen, son.
I’ll die before long and you’ll be left alone.
I’m worried about you.
You’ll need your wife to take care of you.”

A neighbor arranged a meeting between the son and a woman living in the next village.
After the first meeting, the son decided to marry the woman.
She was young and so beautiful that he was attracted to her at first sight.
Performing the ceremony of the three-times-three exchange of nuptial cups, they tied the knot.

On their wedding night, sitting in front of the bride, the bridegroom said nothing to her for a while.
Actually, he didn’t know how to start the conversation between them.
The bride waited patiently for his heart-warming words.
But he didn’t seem to open his mouth.
At last, the young woman burst into tears.
“You don’t like me, do you?
You don’t think I’m pretty, do you?”
she started sobbing.

“You are much prettier than I expected.
In fact, you are as pretty as the lilies in the fields.
I’m happy to have you as my wife.
I’ll make you happy. I promise.”

Her tears loosened his tongue.
Soon she stopped sobbing,
“I’m happy to hear it,”
she said with a smile.

It seemed like it was the beginning of their happy life.
It was not so long before the old man died.
The young man was crushed with grief.
He became more depressed day by day.
His wife tried to console him, but she didn’t know what to say.
Several days passed.
A good idea suddenly occurred to her.
She said,
“My dear, your father left some money for you.
Why don’t you go to Kyoto for a change for a few days with the money?
I hear there are some temples and shrines.
You can pray there for your father.”

A few days later, he said to his wife,
“You are right.
I’m going to visit temples in Kyoto, and pray for my father.
He used to tell me that those who loved their country should have seen Kyoto once in their lives.
But he didn’t have any chance to go there.
I’ll go and see things there instead, and report to him in front of his grave.”

“Oh, that’s a good idea!”
She worked diligently on preparations for his journey; a traveling outfit, some rice balls for lunch, and so on.
The young man set out for Kyoto the next morning.
A few days later he got to Kyoto; he visited temples and shrines, saw famous castles and gardens.
He prayed for his father everywhere he visited.
He felt much better as he believed his father was pleased with what he had been doing.
He knew the time to return home was coming.
He dropped by at a shop to buy a souvenir.
He chose a beautiful comb for his wife.
At the same shop, he happened to see a mirror made of metal arranged on the shelf.

“What a pretty silver moon it is!” he cried.
To tell you the truth, he’d never seen a mirror in his life.
“May I help you?” said the shop owner.
“I’m just looking,” he replied.
“Please feel free to pick it up.”
As soon as he picked up the mirror and looked into it, he was shocked and cried at it,

“Father, why are you in here?
You passed away, didn’t you?
But you are alive, looking so nice.
Oh, how young you look!
Your lips are moving, but I can’t hear you.
Won’t you come home with me?”

“Do you like it? It’s a wonderful mirror, isn’t it?”
the shop owner said.
“Is it for sale?”
He was worried that his father would be taken by a stranger.
He took out all the money that he had from his wallet, and said,
“I’ll take it. This is all the money that I have. Is it enough?”
The shop owner packed the mirror in a box and tied it with string.

When the man returned home, his wife was very pleased since he looked well and was in a good mood.
The husband gave her the beautiful comb he bought in Kyoto.
She appreciated his thoughtfulness and wore it with joy.
Then he went to the barn with the box in his hands.
She wondered what he had in the box.
But she didn’t ask him.

From then onwards, the man started behaving mysteriously.
Every morning and evening, he went to the barn and stayed there for a while.
The wife heard his voice from the barn.
It sounded like someone was in it with him.
Before long the young wife was overwhelmed with anxiety about it.

“Why does he go to the barn so often?”
she said to herself.

At last she sneaked into the barn while he was away.
She decided to search the barn to find a clue to his mysterious conduct.
Soon she found a metal mirror in the corner of the barn.
She looked into the mirror and saw a woman in it.
She was shocked.
The figure in it almost took her breath away.
Soon tears began to fall from her eyes.

“A woman, a woman is in here!
I found his secret.
He has kept this woman in the barn.
She is very young and pretty.
She must be a dancing-girl or something from Kyoto.
Her cheeks are pink and her lips red.
How attractive she is!
Oh, she frowns.
I’m nobody but a miserable wife.”

She left the barn and impatiently waited for her husband’s return.

The moment the husband entered the house, he found his wife sitting and sobbing in the kitchen.

“Why are you sobbing? What’s wrong with you?”

“I found… found your secret.
Why didn’t you tell me?
Why have you kept that woman secretly in the barn?
She is wearing the same comb I have.
Maybe you gave the same one to her too.
Such a young and pretty woman…”

“A woman? How ridiculous! It’s my old father!”
She jumped to her feet and exclaimed,
“Your father?
You’re kidding.
I saw the woman with my own eyes.
You’ve kept the woman in the barn who wears the same comb as I have.”

“No, it’s my old father.
I bought it in Kyoto for all the money that I had.”

“You should be honest!”
They kept quarreling until their neighbors overheard it.
The neighbors tried to settle it.
But nobody was willing to look into the mirror which was the cause of the fight.
It was said that those who looked into the mirror would be cursed.
Everyone at that time believed those superstitions.
The battle seemed to continue till doomsday.
Then one of the neighbors said,
“Why don’t you ask the nun in the temple?
She is the wisest woman in this community.”

The next day early in the morning, the couple visited the nun at the temple with the mirror in the box and talked about the whole story.

The nun opened the box and held the mirror in her hands and looked into it for a long time.
At last she said,
“It is no doubt that a woman is in here.
This poor woman has troubled looks and a shaved head.
Maybe the uncertainties of life made her take vows, and became a holy nun.
She is now sitting in a quiet room.
I’ll keep this mirror and give lessons to her on sutras and meditations.
You two, should return home, and make up.”
On their way home, the wife said,
“You see, I’m the one who saw the right thing in the mirror.”
“Yes, you are right.
I wonder why my old father got acquainted with the holy nun.
As far as I know, he had never believed in Buddhism in his life,”
said the other.
The nun kept the mirror as one of her treasures forever.

The end