Hell Screen by Ryunosuke Akutagawa & Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Hell Screen by Ryunosuke Akutagawa & Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

Author:Ryunosuke Akutagawa & Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780141968506
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Published: 2010-12-13T16:00:00+00:00


For that reason, I have little to tell you about that period. The only unusual thing I can think of is that the hardheaded old codger suddenly turned weepy; people would often see him shedding tears when he was alone. An apprentice told me that one day he walked into the garden and saw the master standing on the veranda, gazing blankly at the sky with its promise of spring, his eyes full of tears. Embarrassed for the old man, the apprentice says, he silently withdrew. Don’t you find it odd that this arrogant man, who went so far as to sketch a corpse on the roadside for his Five Levels of Rebirth, would cry like an infant just because the painting of the screen wasn’t going as well as he wanted it to?

In any case, while Yoshihide was madly absorbed in his work on the screen, his daughter began to show increasing signs of melancholy, until the rest of us could see that she was often fighting back her tears. A pale, reserved, sad-faced girl to begin with, she took on a genuinely mournful aspect as her lashes grew heavy and shadows began to form around her eyes. This gave rise to all sorts of speculation – that she was worried about her father, or that she was suffering the pangs of love – but soon people were saying that it was all because His Lordship was trying to bend her to his will. Then the gossiping ground to a halt, as though everyone had suddenly forgotten about her.

A certain event occurred at that time. Well after the first watch of the night, I was walking down an outdoor corridor when the monkey Yoshihide came flying at me from out of nowhere and started tugging at my trouser skirts. As I recall it, this was one of those warm early spring nights when you expect at any time now to be catching the romantic fragrance of plum blossoms in the pale moonlight. But what did I see in the moon’s faint glow? It was the monkey baring its white fangs, wrinkling up its nose, and shrieking with almost manic intensity. An eerie chill was only three parts of what I felt: the other seven parts were anger at having my new trousers yanked at like that, and I considered kicking the beast aside and continuing on my way. I quickly changed my mind, however, recalling the case of the samurai who had earned the Young Master’s displeasure by tormenting the monkey. And besides, the way the monkey was behaving, there was obviously something wrong. I therefore gave up trying to resist and allowed myself to be pulled several paces farther.

Where the corridor turned a corner, the pale surface of His Lordship’s pond could be seen stretching off through the darkness beyond a gently drooping pine. When the animal led me to that point, my ears were assaulted by the frantic yet strangely muffled sounds of what I took to be a struggle in a nearby room.


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