Page:Kwaidan; Stories and Studies of Strange Things - Hearn - 1904.djvu/42

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the blind man held his breath, and sat motionless.

“Hōïchi!” grimly called the voice a second time. Then a third time—savagely:—

“Hōïchi!”

Hoichi remained as still as a stone,—and the voice grumbled:—

“No answer!—that won’t do! . . . Must see where the fellow is.” . . .

There was a noise of heavy feet mounting upon the verandah. The feet approached deliberately,—halted beside him. Then, for long minutes,—during which Hoichi felt his whole body shake to the beating of his heart,—there was dead silence.

At last the gruff voice muttered close to him:—

“Here is the biwa; but of the biwaplayer I see — only two ears! . . . So that explains why he did not answer: he had no mouth to answer with — there is nothing left of him but his ears. . . . Now to my lord those ears I will take — in proof that the august commands have been obeyed, so far as was possible" . . .

At that instant Hoichi felt his ears gripped by fingers of iron, and torn off! Great as the pain was, he gave no cry. The heavy footfalls receded along the verandah,—de-

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