The Espousal of the Rat's Daughter
Mr. Nedzumi, the Rat, was an important personage in the hamlet where he lived—at least he was so in his own and his wife’s estimation. This was in part, of course, due to the long line of ancestors from whom he was descended, and to their intimate association with the gods of Good Fortune. For, be it remembered, his ancestry went back into a remote past, in fact as far as time itself; for had not one of his race been selected as the first animal in the cycle of the hours, precedence being even given him over the dragon, the tiger, and the horse? As to his intimacy with the gods, had not one of his forebears been the chosen companion of the great Daikoku, the most revered and the most beneficent of the gods of Good Fortune?
Mr. Rat was well-to-do in life. His home had for generations been established in a snug, warm and cosy bank, hard by one of the most fertile rice-fields on the country-side, where crops never failed, and where in spring he could nibble his fill of the young green shoots, and in autumn gather into his storerooms supplies of the ripened grain sufficient for all his wants during the coming winter.
For his needs were not great. Entertainment cost him but little, and, unlike his fellows, he had the smallest of families, in fact a family of one only.
But, as regards that one, quality more than compensated for quantity, for it consisted of a daughter, of a beauty unsurpassed in the whole province. He himself had been the object of envy in his married life, for he had had the good fortune to marry into a family of a very select piebald breed, which seldom condescended to mix its blood with the ordinary self-coloured tribe, and now his daughter had been born a peerless white, and had received the name of Yuki, owing to her resemblance to pure snow.
It is little wonder, then, that as she grew up beautiful in form and feature, her father’s ambitions were fired, and that he aspired to marry her to the highest in the land.
As it happened, the hamlet where he lived was not very far removed from a celebrated temple, and Mr.