| The Story Of The Old Man Who Made Withered Trees To Flower |
T WAS LATE in autumn and all the trees had shed their leaves, but no sooner did the ashes touch their branches than the cherry trees, the plum trees, and all other blossoming shrubs burst into bloom, so that the old man's garden was suddenly transformed into a beautiful picture of spring. The old man's delight knew no bounds, and he carefully preserved the remaining ashes.
The story of the old man's garden spread far and wide, and people from far and near came to see the wonderful sight.
One day, soon after this, the old man heard some one knocking at his door, and going to the porch to see who it was he was surprised to see a Knight standing there. This Knight told him that he was a retainer of a great Daimio (Earl); that one of the favorite cherry trees in this nobleman's garden had withered, and that though every one in his service had tried all manner of means to revive it, none took effect. The Knight was sore perplexed when he saw what great displeasure the loss of his favorite cherry tree caused the Daimio. At this point, fortunately, they had heard that there was a wonderful old man who could make withered trees to blossom, and that his Lord had sent him to ask the old man to come to him.
"And," added the Knight, "I shall be very much obliged if you will come at once."
The good old man was greatly surprised at what he heard, but respectfully followed the Knight to the nobleman's Palace.
The Daimio, who had been impatiently awaiting the old man's coming, as soon as he saw him asked him at once:
"Are you the old man who can make withered trees flower even out of season?"
The old man made an obeisance, and replied:
"I am that old man!"
Then the Daimio said:
"You must make that dead cherry tree in my garden blossom again by means of your famous ashes. I shall look on."
Then they all went into the garden--the Daimio and his retainers and the ladies-in waiting, who carried the Daimio's sword.
The old man now tucked up his kimono and made ready to climb the tree. Saying "Excuse me," he took the pot of ashes which he had brought with him, and began to climb the tree, every one watching his movements with great interest.
At last he climbed to the spot where the tree divided into two great branches, and taking up his position here, the old man sat down and scattered the ashes right and left all over the branches and twigs.
Wonderful, indeed, was the result! The withered tree at once burst into full bloom! The Daimio was so transported with joy that he looked as if he would go mad. He rose to his feet and spread out his fan, calling the old man down from the tree. He himself gave the old man a wine cup filled with the best SAKE, and rewarded him with much silver and gold and many other precious things. The Daimio ordered that henceforth the old man should call himself by the name of Hana- Saka-Jijii, or "The Old Man who makes the Trees to Blossom," and that henceforth all were to recognize him by this name, and he sent him home with great honor.
The wicked neighbor, as before, heard of the good old man's fortune, and of all that had so auspiciously befallen him, and he could not suppress all the envy and jealousy that filled his heart. He called to mind how he had failed in his attempt to find the gold coins, and then in making the magic cakes; this time surely he must succeed if he imitated the old man, who made withered trees to flower simply by sprinkling ashes on them. This would be the simplest task of all.
So he set to work and gathered together all the ashes which remained in the fire-place from the burning of the wonderful mortar. Then he set out in the hope of finding some great man to employ him, calling out loudly as he went along:
"Here comes the wonderful man who can make withered trees blossom! Here comes the old man who can make dead trees blossom!"
The Daimio in his Palace heard this cry, and said:
"That must be the Hana-Saka-Jijii passing. I have nothing to do to- day. Let him try his art again; it will amuse me to look on."
So the retainers went out and brought in the impostor before their Lord. The satisfaction of false old man can now be imagined.
But the Daimio looking at him, thought it strange that he was not at all like the old man he had seen before, so he asked him:
"Are you the man whom I named Hana-Saka-Jijii?"
And the envious neighbor answered with a lie:
"Yes, my Lord!"
"That is strange!" said the Daimio. "I thought there was only one Hana-Saka-Jijii in the world! Has he now some disciples?"
"I am the true Hana-Saka-Jijii. The one who came to you before was only my disciple!" replied the old man again.
"Then you must be more skillful than the other. Try what you can do and let me see!"
The envious neighbor, with the Daimio and his Court following, then went into the garden, and approaching a dead tree, took out a handful of the ashes which he carried with him, and scattered them over the tree.
But not only did the tree not burst into flower, but not even a bud came forth. Thinking that he had not used enough ashes, the old man took handfuls and again sprinkled them over the withered tree. But all to no effect. After trying several times, the ashes were blown into the Daimio's eyes. This made him very angry, and he ordered his retainers to arrest the false Hana-Saka-Jijii at once and put him in prison for an impostor. From this imprisonment the wicked old man was never freed. Thus did he meet with punishment at last for all his evil doings.
The good old man, however, with the treasure of gold coins which Shiro had found for him, and with all the gold and the silver which the Daimio had showered on him, became a rich and prosperous man in his old age, and lived a long and happy life, beloved and respected by all.