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Once upon a time! not your time, nor my time, but one time.


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            The Enchanted Waterfall

Once upon a time, there lived alone with his father and mother a simple young wood-cutter. He worked all day on the lonely hillside, or among the shady trees of the forest. But, work as hard as he might, he was still very poor, and could bring home but little money to his old father and mother. This grieved him very much, for he was an affectionate and dutiful son.

For himself he had but few wants and was easily pleased. His mother, too, was always cheerful and contented. The old father, however, was of a selfish disposition, and often grumbled at the poor supper of rice, washed down with weak tea, or, if times were very bad, with a cup of hot water.

"If we had but a little saké, now," he would say, "it would warm one up, and do one's heart good." And then he would reproach the simple young fellow, vowing that in his young days he had always been able to afford a cup of saké for himself and his friends.

Grieved at heart, the young man would work harder than ever and think to himself: "How shall I earn some more money? How shall I get a little saké for my poor father, who really needs it in his weakness and old age?"

He was thinking in this way to himself one day as he was at work on the wooded hills, when the sound of rushing water caught his ear. He had often worked in the same spot before, and could not remember that there was any torrent or waterfall near. So, feeling rather surprised, he followed the sound, which got louder and louder until at last he came upon a beautiful little cascade.

The water looked so clear and cool that he stooped down where it was flowing away in a quiet stream, and, using his hand[300] as a cup, drank a little of it. What was his amazement to find that instead of water it was the most excellent saké!

Overjoyed at this discovery, he quickly filled the gourd which was hanging at his girdle, and made the best of his way home, rejoicing that now at last he had something good to bring back to his poor old father. The old man was so delighted with the saké that he drank cup after cup. A neighbour happened to drop in, the story was told to him, and a cup of saké offered and drunk with many words of astonishment and gratitude.

Soon the news spread through the village, and before night there was hardly a man in the place who had not paid his visit of curiosity, been told the tale of the magic fountain, and smelt the gourd, which, alas! was now empty.

Next morning the young wood-cutter set off to work earlier even than usual, not forgetting to carry with him a large gourd, for of course the enchanted waterfall was to be visited again.

What was the surprise of the young man when he came to the spot, to find several of his neighbours already there, and all armed with buckets, jars, pitchers, anything that would carry a good supply of the coveted saké. Each man had come secretly, believing that he alone had found his way to the magic waterfall.

The young wood-cutter was amused to see the looks of disappointment and anger upon the faces of those who already stood near the water, as they saw fresh arrivals every moment. Each one looked abashed and uncomfortable in the presence of his neighbours; but, at last, one bolder than the others broke the grim silence with a laugh, which soon the others were fain to join in.

"Here we are," said he, "all bent on the same errand. Let us fill our jars and gourds and go home. But first—just one taste of the magic saké." He stooped down and, filling his gourd, put it to his lips. Once and yet again did he drink, with a face of astonishment which soon gave place to anger.[301]

"Water!" he shouted in a rage; "nothing but cold water! We have been tricked and deceived by a parcel of made-up stories—where is that young fellow? Let us duck him in his fine waterfall!"

But the young man had been wise enough to slip behind a big rock when he saw the turn things were taking, and was nowhere to be found.

First one and then another tasted of the stream. It was but too true; no saké, but clear, cold water was there. Crestfallen and out of temper, the covetous band returned to their homes.

When they were fairly gone the good young wood-cutter crept from his hiding-place. "Could this be true," he thought, "or was it all a dream? At any rate," said he, "I must taste once more for myself." He filled the gourd and drank. Sure enough, there was the same fine-flavoured saké he had tasted yesterday. And so it remained. To the good, dutiful son the cascade flowed with the finest saké, while to all others it yielded only cold water.

The emperor, hearing this wonderful story, sent for the good young wood-cutter, rewarded him for his kindness to his father, and even changed the name of the year in his honour as an encouragement to children in all future time to honour and obey their parents.