Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Silent Lover

A long time ago, when the world was young, there lived a very bashful
young man. Not far from his house there lived the most beautiful young
woman in the world. The young woman had many suitors but rejected all,
wishing only for the love of the bashful young man. He in his turn
was accustomed to follow her about, longing for courage to declare his
love, but bashfulness always sealed his lips. At last, despairing of
ever making his unruly tongue tell of his passion, he took a dagger
and, following her to the bathing place on the river bank, he cut
out his own heart, cast it at her feet, and fell down lifeless. The
girl fled, terrified, and a crow pounced upon the heart, and carried
it to a hollow dao-tree, when it fell from his beak into the hollow
and there remained. But the love for the girl was so strong in the
heart that it became reanimated and clothed again with humanity in the
form of a little child. A hunter, pursuing the wild boar with dogs,
found the child crying from hunger at the foot of the dao-tree and,
being childless, took it home, and he and his old wife cared for it
as their own. The young woman, knowing now the love of the young man,
lived for his memory's sake, a widow, rejecting all suitors.

But from the child was never absent the image of his loved one, and at
last his love so wrought on his weak frame that he sickened. Knowing
that his end was near, he begged of his foster mother that, after his
death, she should leave him, and not be surprised if she could not
find him on her return. He also asked that on the third day she should
take whatever she should find in a certain compartment of the great
chest and give it to the girl without price. All this she promised,
realizing fully that this was not a natural child.

At last he died, and when his foster mother left the body, his great
love reanimated the body and it crept into the chest, becoming there
transformed into a beautifully carved casket of fragrant wood.

Obedient to his wishes, on the third day the old woman carried the
casket to the girl, giving it to her without price.

When the girl took the casket into her hands, its charm fascinated
her, and she clasped it tight and covered it with kisses. At last the
spell was broken by the magic of her kisses, and the casket whispered
softly to her, "I am thy true love. I was the heart of him who killed
himself for love of thee, and I was the youth who died for love of
thee, but at last I am contented. In life and death we shall never
more be separated." And it was so, for the woman lived to a great
age, carrying the casket always with her, inhaling its fragrance [17]
with her kisses, and when she died it was buried with her.

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