The young man, Ito Tatewaki, was returning homeward after a journey which he had taken to the city of Kioto. He made his way alone and on foot, and he went with his eyes bent upon the ground, for cares weighed him down and his mind was full of the business which had taken him to Kioto. Night found him upon a lonely road leading across a wild moor. Upon the moor were rocks and stones, with an abundance of flowers, for it was summer time, and here and there grew a dark pine tree, with gnarled trunk and crooked boughs.
Tatewaki looked up and beheld the figure of a woman before him in the way. It was a slender girl dressed in a simple gown of blue cotton. Lightly she went along the lonely road in the deepening twilight.
“I should say she was the serving-maid of some gentle lady,” Tatewaki said to himself. “The way is solitary and the time is dreary for such a child as she.”
So the young man quickened his pace and came up with the maiden. “Child,” he said very gently, “since we tread the same lonely road let us be fellow-travellers, for now the twilight passes and it will soon be dark.”
The pretty maiden turned to him with bright eyes and smiling lips.
“Sir,” she said, “my mistress will be glad indeed.”
“Your mistress?” said Tatewaki.
“Why, sir, of a surety she will be glad because you are come.”
“Because I am come?”
“Indeed, and indeed the time has been long,” said the serving-maid; “but now she will think no more of that.”
“Will she not?” said Tatewaki. And on he went by the maiden’s side, walking as one in a dream.
Presently the two of them came to a little house, not far from the roadside. Before the house was a small fair garden, with a stream running through it and a stone bridge. About the house and the garden there was a bamboo fence, and in the fence a wicket-gate.
“Here dwells my mistress,” said the serving-maid. And they went into the garden through the wicket-gate.
Now Tatewaki came to the threshold of the house. He saw a lady standing upon the threshold waiting.