In a certain reign there was a lady not of the first rank whom the emperor loved more than any of the others. The grand ladies with high ambitions thought her a presumptuous upstart, and lesser ladies were still more resentful.
Once more there was malicious talk; but the prince himself, as he grew up, was so superior of mien and disposition that few could find it in themselves to dislike him.
Because she was of such high birth (it may have been that people were imagining things) she seemed even more graceful and delicate than the other. No one could despise her for her inferior rank, and the emperor need not feel shy about showing his love for her.
Fond of the child she has reared, a nurse tends to look upon him as a paragon even if he is a half-wit. How much prouder was the old woman, who somehow gained stature, who thought of herself as eminent in her own right for having been permitted to serve him.
She was of an extraordinarily gentle and quiet nature. Though there was a certain vagueness about her, and indeed an almost childlike quality, it was clear that she knew something about men. She did not appear to be of very good family. What was there about her, he asked himself over and over again, that so drew him to her?
The priests did not know who he was. They sensed something remarkable, however, and felt their eyes mist over.
The weak ones do have a power over us. The clear, forceful ones I can do without. I am weak and indecisive by nature myself, and a woman who is quiet and withdrawn and follows the wishes of a man even to the point of letting herself be used has much the greater appeal. A man can shape and mold her as he wishes, and becomes fonder of her all the while.
"It would be nice, I sometimes think, if you could be a little more wifely. I have been very ill, and I am hurt, but not really surprised, that you have not inquired after my health."
"Like the pain, perhaps, of awaiting a visitor who does not come?"
She did not seek to hide her distress, and her efforts to turn him away delighted him even as they put him to shame. There was no one else quite like her. In that fact was his undoing: he would be less a prey to longing if he could find in her even a trace of the ordinary.
The hand was very immature indeed, and yet it had strength, and character. It was very much like her grandmother's. A touch of the modern and it would not be at all unacceptable.
Murasaki was the perfect companion, a toy for him to play with. He could not have been so free and uninhibited with a daughter of his own. There are restraints upon paternal intimacy.
To no Chujo was a handsome youth who carried himself well, but beside Genji he was like a nondescript mountain shrub beside a blossoming cherry.
Fujitsubo was tormented by feelings of guilt and apprehension. Surely everyone who saw the child would guess the awful truth and damn her for it. People were always happy to seek out the smallest and most trivial of misdeeds.
Naishi, though much discommoded, did not protest with great vehemence. There are those who do not dislike wrong rumors if they are about the right men.
In the Seventh Month, Fujitsubo was made empress [...] Making plans for his abdication, the emperor wanted to name Fujitsubo's son crown prince. The child had no strong backing, however [...] The emperor therefore wanted Fujitsubo in an unassailable position from which to promote her son's career.
"It will do you no good. I am always allowed my way. Just be quiet, if you will, please." [...] Though of course upset, she evidently did not wish him to think her wanting in good manners.
Genji felt like a child thief. The role amused him and the affection he now felt for the girl seemed to reduce his earlier affection to the tiniest mote. A man's heart is a very strange amalgam indeed!
Though avoiding display, he took great pains with her initiation ceremonies. She found the solicitude, though remarkable, very distasteful. She had trusted him, she had quite entwined herself about him. It had been inexcusably careless of her.
Memories had dimmed over the years, but now the astonishing resemblance did a little dispel his gloom. The dignity that quite put one to shame also reminded him of Murasaki. He could hardly think of them as two persons, and yet, perhaps because Fujitsubo had been so much in his thoughts over the years, there did after all seem to be a difference.
They lived precarious lives, completely dependent on Genji. So lonely indeed was their mansion that he could imagine the desolation awaiting it once he himself was gone...
He thought that he could hardly be expected to visit her. She had her own ideas. She knew that rustic maidens should come running at a word from a city gentleman who happened to be briefly in the vicinity. No, she did not belong to his world, and she would only be inviting grief if she pretended that she did.
Though she saw little of him, the lady was completely dependent on him; but she was not of the modern sort, given to outpourings of resentment. He knew that she would not make him uncomfortable. Long neglected, her house now wore a weirdly ruinous aspect.
Her soft voice, trailing off into silence, was very pleasing. He sighed, almost wishing it were not the case that each of his ladies had something to recommend her. It made for a most complicated life.