The Story of Princess Hase (end)
(see previous page for audio)Prince Toyonari, after some weeks, came home and was told by his wife that his daughter Hime had done something wrong and had run away for fear of being punished. He was nearly ill with anxiety. Everyone in the house told the same story — that Hase-Hime had suddenly disappeared, none of them knew why or whither. For fear of scandal, he kept the matter quite and searched everywhere he could think of, but all to no purpose.
One day, trying to forget his terrible worry, he called all his men together and told them to make ready for a several days' hunt in the mountains. They were soon ready and mounted, waiting at the gate for their lord. He rode hard and fast to the district of the Hibari Mountains, a great company following him. He was soon far ahead of everyone, and at last found himself in a narrow picturesque valley.
Looking round and admiring the scenery, he noticed a tiny house on one of the hills quite near, and then he distinctly heard a beautiful clear voice reading aloud. Seized with curiosity as to who could be studying so diligently in such a lonely spot, he dismounted and, leaving his horse to his groom, he walked up the hillside and approached the cottage. As he drew nearer, his surprise increased, for he could see that the reader was a beautiful girl. The cottage was wide open, and she was sitting facing the view. Listening attentively, he heard her reading the Buddhist scriptures with great devotion. More and more curious, he hurried on to the tiny gate and entered the little garden and, looking up, beheld his lost daughter Hase-Hime. She was so intent on what she was saying that she neither heard nor saw her father till he spoke.
"Hase-Hime!" he cried. "It is you. My Hase-Hime!"
Taken by surprise, she could hardly realize that it was her own dear father who was calling her, and for a moment she was utterly bereft of the power to speak or move.
Her father stroked her dark hair, asking her gently to tell him all that had happened, but she only wept on, and he wondered if he were not really dreaming.
Then the faithful old servant Katoda came out and, bowing himself to the ground before his master, poured out the long tale of wrong, telling him all that had happened and how it was that he found his daughter in such a wild and desolate spot with only two old servants to take care of her.
The Prince's astonishment and indignation knew no bounds. He gave up the hunt at once and hurried home with his daughter. One of the company galloped ahead to inform the household of the glad news, and the stepmother, hearing what had happened and fearful of meeting her husband now that her wickedness was discovered, fled from the house and returned in disgrace to her father's roof, and nothing more was heard of her.
The old servant Katoda was rewarded with the highest promotion in his master's service and lived happily to the end of his days, devoted to the little Princess, who never forgot that she owed her life to this faithful retainer. She was no longer troubled by an unkind stepmother, and her days passed happily and quietly with her father.
As Prince Toyonari had no son, he adopted a younger son of one of the Court nobles to be his heir and to marry his daughter Hase-Hime, and in a few years the marriage took place. Hase-Hime lived to a good old age, and all said that she was the wisest, most devout, and most beautiful mistress that had ever reigned in Prince Toyonari's ancient house. She had the joy of presenting her son, the future lord of the family, to her father just before he retired from active life.
To this day there is preserved a piece of needlework in one of the Buddhist temples of Kioto. It is a beautiful piece of tapestry, with the figure of Buddha embroidered in the silky threads drawn from the stem of the lotus. This is said to have been the work of the hands of the good Princess Hase.