When the Festival of Bon arrived, the time of returning souls, the good folk of Yedo took lanterns and visited the graves of their loved ones. They would bring us food and flowers to care for us.
On the night of the thirteenth day of the seventh month, my beloved Hagiwara the samurai went out into his garden. It was a cool, windless night. A cicala hidden in the heart of a pomegranate flower sang shrilly now and again. A carp leaped in the round pond. For the rest it was still, and never a leaf stirred.
At the hour of the Ox, I came down the lane with my servant O’Yoné. I carried a lantern with a bunch of peony flowers tied to the handle. It swung as we walked, casting an uncertain light. When the samurai saw us, he let out a great cry.
“Come in, come in, O’Yoné,” he said to my servant. “Is it indeed your mistress that you hold by the hand? Can it be my lady?… Lady of the Morning Dew? Oh, my love!”
I held up my sleeve to hide my face as we came in through the garden gate. I did not have the beauty I once had.
“How was it I lost you?”
I did not reply.
“How was it I lost you, O’Yoné?”
“Lord,” she said, “we have moved to a little house, a very little house, in the quarter of the city which is called the Green Hill. We suffered to take nothing with us there, and we have grown very poor. With grief and want my mistress has become pale.”
Then Hagiwara took my sleeve to draw it gently from my face.
“Lord,” I sobbed, “you will not love me, I am not fair.”
But when he looked upon me, he flamed up with a consuming fire that I had known for ten lifetimes.
“Lord,” I murmured, “shall I go or stay?”
And he said, “Stay.”
Lady of the Morning Dew. The Peony Lantern, Japanese Fairy Tales. Illustration by Warwick Goble.