A Legend of Kwannon
About the hermit’s hut there fluttered dragon-flies and butterflies innumerable, which are the souls of the happy dead. In the far valleys the peasant people were comforted in their toil, whether they planted out the green young rice, or gathered in the ears. The sun and the wind were tempered, and the rain fell softly upon their faces. Ever and again they climbed the steep hillside to kneel at the shrine of Kwannon the Merciful, and to speak with the holy man, whose wooden bowl they would fill with rice or millet, or barley-meal or beans. Sometimes he came down and went through the villages, where he soothed the sick and touched the little children. Folks said that his very garments shone.
Now in that country there came a winter season the like of which there had not been within the memory of man. First came the wind blowing wildly from the north, and then came the snow in great flakes which never ceased to fall for the period of nine days. All the folk of the valleys kept within doors as warm as might be, and those that had their winter stores fared none so ill. But, ah me, for the bitter cold upon the heights of Nariai-San! At the Lone Pine, and about the hermit’s hut, the snow was piled and drifted. The shrine of Kwannon the Merciful could no more be seen. Saion Zenji, the holy man, lived for some time upon the food that was in his wooden bowl. Then he drew about him the warm garment of thought, and passed many days in meditation, which was meat and drink and sleep to him. Howbeit, even his clear spirit could not utterly dispel the clouds of illusion. At length it came to earth and all the man trembled with bodily weakness.
“Forgive me, O Kwannon the Merciful,” said Saion Zenji; “but verily it seems to me that if I have no food I die.”
Slowly he rose, and painfully he pushed open the door of his hut. The snow had ceased; it was clear and cold. White were the branches of the Lone Pine, and all white the Floating Bridge.
“Forgive me, O Kwannon the Merciful,” said Saion Zenji; “I know not the reason, but I am loath to depart and be with the Shades of Yomi.