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   Chapter 34 AFTERWARD

The Way of the Gods By John Luther Long Characters: 4000

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Afterward there was a great funeral. The hillside was a temple. The summer blue was its roof. The jagged mountains were its eaves. Evergreen trees were its walls. A torii made of firs was its gate. Blossoming trees held the gohei strips which pledged purity to the august shades which waited near. The altar was of rifles and a soldier's blanket. The offerings were the vapors of the simple grains and flowers, of the country.

Beyond it was the great pyre-not grim, as death is, but more beautiful than that on which Dido perished, adorned, perfumed, with aromatic spring firs and blossoming trees. In the temple, first, the shades of those who had fought with them were worshipped and exalted by the brocaded priests. Then fealty was sworn to those who had just died, and whose shades yet lingered by their greatest incarnation.

Last, Nisshi read the names of those who had died with glory. And first among them was that of Shijiro Arisuga. Then with others they put the blackened, riven little body they had found, upon the pyre, and, lighting it, gave Hoshiko's ashes to the earth, her spirit to oblivion, and Arisuga's name to honor.

It began the next day. Shijiro Arisuga was in the Tokyo newspapers, upon the dead walls, and in the hoarse voices of the people. It was a story like the terrible courage of their old warriors, and they loved it. His medal was hung in a temple. And to-day there is a record of his heroism, on the brass where it can never fade-though Shijiro Arisuga lies dead, unknown, in America.

And that was the fifth time that Shijiro Arisuga must have thought the happiest moment of his life had come.

And now we may speculate a little, before we forget, upon this last of the five occasions. For there may be those who think that Shijiro could not have been happy in seeing what he saw that day. But we are to remember that, then, he had knowledge of many things which he had not on earth. And among these was a more intimate knowing of the heart of Hoshiko.

And in that, it seems to me, he ought to have been happiest of all. Yet-who knows?

Perhaps, too, the merciful gods permitted themselves to be deceived into thinking that the Shijiro Arisuga who died at Hamatan is, indeed, the one who died at Jokoji. For the life name is the same. Or perhaps they are only complaisant, and, in the passing years, will permit the people to think that this is so. Who knows?

At all events, Shijiro Arisuga, father and son, will take their way hand in hand from the dark Meido to the heavens.

And for these some one will reverently write a splendid death name upon a golden tablet at a beautiful shrine. And before it will burn always the lights and the incense. Perhaps this happiness will be for gentle Yoné. Perhaps the spirit of her who died at Hamatan, in its boundless compassion, will also come and touch the little Yoné on the arm as she wanders, lonely, by the tomb of Lord Esas, so that she, too, may have her heart's desire, and only one, she who bought her happiness with an eternity of obliteration, have nothing. For, who knows?

And one wishes it were possible for Shijiro to have defied O-Emma of the hells and to have taken Hoshiko straight from the great red death, past all the lesser heavens, to be forever lost in the bosom of the Lord Buddha in the lotus fields-if the souls of mortals ever fly straight from earth to the last white heaven. But this could not be. There was that eternal penance for over-joy to accomplish.

For Hoshiko there never can be again, in the heavens above or on the earth beneath or the hells below, a being. All her existences-all her thousands of years of life-whether of the earths or the heavens or the hells, were given for Shijiro Arisuga, whom she loved-and who once, for a little while, loved her. Shijiro Arisuga lives, and the father in the son will live on the brass forever.

The Dream-of-a-Star is forever vanished, save for the moment I write here-save for the moment you read here.

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