The Adventures of Kintaro (cont. again)
(see previous page for audio)"There," said Kintaro, "what do you think of my bridge? It is quite safe, so follow me," and he stepped across first. The four animals followed. Never had they seen any one so strong before, and they all exclaimed: "How strong he is! how strong he is!"
While all this was going on by the river, a woodcutter, who happened to be standing on a rock overlooking the stream, had seen all that passed beneath him. He watched with great surprise Kintaro and his animal companions. He rubbed his eyes to be sure that he was not dreaming when he saw this boy pull over a tree by the roots and throw it across the stream to form a bridge.
The woodcutter, for such he seemed to be by his dress, marveled at all he saw, and said to himself: "This is no ordinary child. Whose son can he be? I will find out before this day is done."
He hastened after the strange party and crossed the bridge behind them. Kintaro knew nothing of all this, and little guessed that he was being followed.
On reaching the other side of the river, he and the animals separated — they to their lairs in the woods and he to his mother, who was waiting for him.
As soon as he entered the cottage, which stood like a matchbox in the heart of the pine-woods, he went to greet his mother, saying: "Okkasan (mother), here I am!"
"O, Kimbo!" said his mother with a bright smile, glad to see her boy home safe after the long day. "How late you are today. I feared that something had happened to you. Where have you been all the time?"
"I took my four friends — the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare — up into the hills, and there I made them try a wrestling match to see which was the strongest. We all enjoyed the sport and are going to the same place tomorrow to have another match."
"Now tell me who is the strongest of all?" asked his mother, pretending not to know.
"Oh, mother," said Kintaro, "don't you know that I am the strongest? There was no need for me to wrestle with any of them."
"But next to you then, who is the strongest?"
"The bear comes next to me in strength," answered Kintaro.
"And after the bear?" asked his mother again.
"Next to the bear it is not easy to say which is the strongest, for the deer, the monkey, and the hare all seem to be as strong as each other," said Kintaro.
Suddenly Kintaro and his mother were startled by a voice from outside. "Listen to me, little boy! Next time you go, take this old man with you to the wrestling match. He would like to join the sport too!"
It was the old woodcutter who had followed Kintaro from the river. He slipped off his clogs and entered the cottage. Yama-uba and her son were both taken by surprise. They looked at the intruder wonderingly and saw that he was some one they had never seen before.
Then the woodcutter laughed and said: "It does not matter who I am yet, but let us see who has the strongest arm-this boy or myself?"
Then Kintaro, who had lived all his life in the forest, answered the old man without any ceremony, saying: "We will have a try if you wish it, but you must not be angry whoever is beaten."
Then Kintaro and the woodcutter both put out their right arms and grasped each other's hands. For a long time Kintaro and the old man wrestled together in this way, each trying to bend the other's arm, but the old man was very strong, and the strange pair were evenly matched.
At last the old man desisted, declaring it a drawn game.