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   Chapter 3 A GOOD LIE

The Way of the Gods By John Luther Long Characters: 6303

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Said Namishima, Arisuga's uncle from Kobé, to Kiomidzu, his uncle from Osaka:-

"The flying of the august carp has been honorably auspicious and doubtless the gods now design to make him, in spirit, unlike his regretted father."

"It was the gods' punishment upon him for fighting against his emperor-that his son should miserably be an onna-jin," whispered Kiomidzu.

"Nevertheless the honorable picture has aided greatly in making him adore the emperor," protested Namishima.

"Yes, the money for its painting was augustly well spent," agreed Kiomidzu, wisely shaking his head.

"Some day he will know, notwithstanding, that his father was a rebel. Others know. It cannot unhappily be kept from him always."

"No."

"Perhaps then we shall be augustly dead-"

Both bowed and murmured again.

"And beyond his most excellent vengeance."

"Nevertheless," said Namishima, finally, "the august conscience within informs me that we have brought him up honorably well!"

"There is excellently no doubt of it!" agreed Kiomidzu.

They bowed to each other.

For a while there was silence and the tapping of the pipes. Then they spoke of a new and weightier matter.

Said Namishima-and here the little boy's eyes bulged:-

"If the soul of our brother continues to wander in the Meido, it will not be chargeable, now, in the heavens, to us, but to him. We have kept the lamps alight. We have taught him honor."

"We are too aged, also," agreed Kiomidzu, "to redeem him forth unto the way to the heavens by dying in his stead the great death. It is for his son!"

"In us, besides," Namishima went on, "the gods could not be augustly deceived. But the child has his name."

"Therefore, should he die the great death, the merciful gods may be deceived by the name into thinking it he who died at Jokoji. In that case he would not only be redeemed to the way to the heavens, but on this earth his name would be graciously added to honor."

So said he from Kobé. And he from Osaka:-

"For the gods are merciful!"

"So merciful, I sometimes abjectly think, that they desire to be deceived, for our peace of mind."

"Or, at least," mended Kiomidzu, to whom this was a trifle too much, "they will close their eyes while we augustly do it."

Namishima disliked a trifle the correction of his brother:-

"Do not the gods so act upon the minds of their creatures that they remember or forget? Well, then! It is true that now others know that our brother died on the rebel side at Jokoji. But do we not know that, in the course of much time, the gods can make this to be forgotten, and make to be remembered that he died on the emperor's side?"

"Yea, if his son should die for the emperor."

"Yea! For the name is the same!"

"And I have had a sign in a dream," said Kiomidzu, lowering his voice a little more. "Before me stood a tall god-"

They both bowed and rubbed their hands.

"-I knew neither his august name nor his presence. But his face shone as the sun, so that it is certain he was a god who can see the end from the beginning, and all between. And thus he spake: 'Rise and light the lamps and burn the s

weet and bitter incense. For Shijiro Arisuga, he who died at Jokoji, shall have a crimson death-name.'"

"How shall that come to pass, augustness?" I asked upon my face.

"'Through his son,'" said the god. "'The names are the same. Arise and light the lamps and burn the bitter incense.'"

"And the augustness only vanished with the light of the new lamps I lighted before Shijiro's tablet."

"Yet," doubted Namishima, though a deity had spoken, "the vengeance of the gods must also first be accomplished-yea, satisfied full! And until he is redeemed by this unhappy onna-jin, must our brother wander in the dark Meido-so think I! The new lamps will be sacrilege."

"Nevertheless, one cannot honorably tell," argued the milder uncle from Osaka, himself not convinced by his vision. "His father was no taller nor of a greater spirit than he. He may not always be an onna-jin. And, also, any day the vengeance of the gods may be satisfied and they will permit him to redeem both his own and the spirit of his father. For I believe it true that he was not beheaded by the victors at Jokoji, and cast into the ditch as dogs are cast, but committed the honorable seppuku upon himself. That he would do."

"Let it be hoped so. This is our one blot wherefore we cannot speak of our ancestors."

And they chafed a prayer from between their hands that it might all be so.

The little boy parted the fusuma yet more and looked. He had been taught that his face must always be as expressionless as if it were always under observation. And these old uncles had, more than others, taught him so. Yet now they were not observing their own precepts. Their faces were unmasked, and showed terror and anxiety. And this communicated itself to the boy as he looked.

"Does it matter to the gods," asked Kiomidzu, "how fealty to the heaven-born-one is augustly inculcated?"

"'The way does not matter when one is arrived!'" said Namishima.

"And 'a lie which doeth good,'" quoted Kiomidzu, "'is, manifestly, a good lie.'"

"Happy is he," said Namishima, "who, being a liar for the truth, is willing, like us, to abide by its consequences from the unenlightened, to whom there is but one office in a lie-evil!"

"Nembutsu!" agreed the brother of Namishima, his hard hands rasping with his prayer as do the soles of worn sandals.

And then they went on, to the end of the story of this picture of "The Great Death," which had been painted and hung at the tokonoma when Arisuga was a child to deceive him into thinking that his father had honorably fought and died for his emperor instead of against him, that his soul was probably in Buddha's bosom instead of wandering in the alien dark Meido, unredeemed, that his body had been burned on a pyre instead of left to rot in that great ditch in Jokoji. This these old imperialists fancied their duty. The little boy sobbed there behind the shoji.

"Sh!" whispered the uncle from Osaka.

"Sh!" echoed the uncle from Kobé. "He wakes. If he should hear, all would be of no avail."

They covered the fire of the hibachi and caused a darkness in which they stole away.

YET-A LIE LOOSENS FEALTY

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