“Who is the luckier man: He who rides in a fine palanquin, or he who carries the rider?”
All across the grassy grounds of Soganji Temple, the faces of eager listeners shone in the afternoon sun, and they answered readily as if in a single voice. “He who rides!”
At this the distinguished merchant Manzo smiled knowingly. He was a little man with a long mustache, the ends of which dangled well below his chin. He presided upon the speaking stump, having been invited by Sir Hideyoshi to address the pupils of the temple school.
“Many years ago when I rode such a fine palanquin,” Manzo began, “I thought as you do. I believed luck belonged to he who is served. But after luxury had coddled my mind and softened my hands, I learned a greater truth: Good luck arises from serving others.”
The humid summer air had thickened with the rising of the afternoon sun. Manzo waved a fan in one hand, and the ends of his thin mustache swayed like the fronds of a willow. On the fan’s gold-speckled paper his listeners could see an exquisitely wrought Chinese maxim, inscribed with the red seal of the calligrapher.
“Sir Manzo,” said a thin charcoal maker who had risen near the back, his weathered face stained by the black lines of his trade, “this morning we learned to attract luck by developing our talent and accepting opportunity. Now you say it is as servants that we will become lucky. Won’t you reveal your meaning?”
“Indeed I will,” replied Manzo. “Listen closely today, and my story will illustrate an ancient principle whose mysterious power no human mind can fully fathom. Yet its truth is as constant and unchanging as the sun.”
The assembly rustled with anticipation as the venerable merchant settled back onto the stump to begin his tale.
“As a boy I always wore the finest garments, ate the finest foods, and took my leisure at the finest entertainments. Everything I wanted came to me without a minute of effort on my part. My father was a peasant, but in the chaotic aftermath of the Onin War he became a merchant and adopted the surname Kato. In his success he grew to be widely respected, treated much like a nobleman. As do many parents who come late to distinction, Father wished to spare his son the bitter hardships of his own youth. So I grew up as spoiled as a prince—a beloved only child who never longed for anything. But in truth I was deprived of something precious: the lessons of struggle, which reveal a man to himself.
“One day I was passing with my father’s procession through Okazaki in Mikawa Province. I rode in a palanquin, customary for a pampered fifteen-year-old whose silken sandals rarely touched rough earth.
“As we crossed a bridge in the early hours, our procession halted and a commotion awoke me . . .
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