A Scene From “The Tale of Genji”

It is a hot evening. Even though the windows and doors are all wide open, I still feel it is hard to breathe. Therefore, I decide to move my futon to the porch after dinner.

The sun has completely snuck away but no star can be seen. The sky is covered with dark, heavy clouds. The floor of the porch had been newly washed, so I sit leisurely on the futon and watch my servants’ work with great interest: Some are spraying water on the plants, some are lighting mosquito incense, some are preparing my wine from an ice bucket. To avoid hot flames, candles and lanterns are prohibited. Instead, I ask my servants to set a bonfire at a corner of the garden—I do not intend to read, so that distant fire will be enough for me to see my surroundings, as well as adding some melancholy to this midsummer evening. 

The wine is served. I take a big swallow. The cold wine runs down from my mouth to my stomach and cools my body instantly. What a pleasant chill! My bowl is refilled; I take another sip. I am not sure if because of this icy cold wine, or it actually happened, but I feel some breeze sweeping over my body. I loosen my kimono and lie down. It doesn’t feel as hot as before. in a very comfortable tipsy mood, I tell my servants don’t wake me up if I fall asleep.

What a lovely night! No dream, no star, I devote myself thoroughly to my sleep. When I finally wake up, it is before dawn. A little bit of rain has dropped during the night. I can see the ground  of the garden is slightly wet. Now the air is fresh and sweet--I take a deep breath. I find I am wrapped in a silk blanket; it is just ok, not too heavy, nor too thin. I lay there comfortably and look around without being noticed: Two young maids are standing beside a jasmine tree: One is trying to pin some jasmine flowers on another’s hair. Then an elder man shows up; he urges them to stop playing and finish their sweeping quickly. He threatens “Our master will beat you two to death if he finds you don’t do the work properly!” 

“Seriously? Have I ever beaten anyone, especially like such pretty girls?” I smile secretly and hide my face behind the blanket. Does a boss have to scary people to get work done?



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