Flower of the Peony
Aya, sweet maid, was the only child of a daimyo of the Province of Omi. Mother had she none, and her father was a noble lord and a warrior. He was at the Court of the Shogun, or he had weighty affairs at the capital, or he went here and there with armies and overcame his enemies. Aya saw little of him.
Long years she dwelt with her nurse and her maidens within the walls of her father’s castle. High walls were they and well-guarded, and at their foot was a deep moat which was rosy with lotus flowers all the seventh month.
When the Lady Aya was some sixteen years old her father the daimyo came home victorious from a foray, and she went with her maidens to meet him in the gate. She was dressed in her bravest, and as became her rank.
“My lord and father,” she said, “sweet is your honourable return.”
“Child, how you have grown!” her father said, astonished. “How old are you, Aya?”
“Sixteen years old, lord,” she said.
“By all the gods, you are become a little great young lady, and I thought you were a baby and brought you home a doll for a home-coming gift.”
He laughed, but presently afterwards grew grave, and in deep thought he went into the castle.
Soon after this he began to look about him, to find a fitting husband for his daughter.
“Best it should be done now,” he said, “for a wonder has come to pass, and I am at peace with every daimyo in the land—and it will not last.”
The Lord of Ako, in Harima, had three tall sons, fine young men and warriors all.
“The eldest is over old,” said the Lord of Omi. “The youngest is a boy—but what of the middle brother? It seems to me that the middle brother should do well. They say that second thoughts are best,” said the Lord of Omi.
So after messengers had come and gone, the Lady Aya was betrothed to the young Lord of Ako, and there was great rejoicing in all the country-side, for all the man and the maiden had never set eyes on one another.
The Lady Aya was very glad when she saw the presents that came from her bridegroom’s house.