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CHAPTER XVII A SINGULAR ENCOUNTER
When he began dancing around again I caught him by the leg and held him still.

“Explain yourself,” I commanded.

“Put me astride your collar, and I will tell you.”

“All right; now talk.”

“Do you remember I told you Prince Funato died an old man? And every year at the anniversary of the battle where I had protected him by my branches”—(here Fiam gave two of those sighs of his that sounded like whistles, and observed sadly, “What a [132] beautiful willow I was then!”) “he came to find me?”

“Indeed, I remember perfectly.”

“Very well; his spirit has entered into one of his descendants.”

“That is only a Japanese superstition.”

“So you foreigners say; you also think that the Haji is an old Japanese superstition. You have told me so, and yet you see that I really exist.”

“That is true. I beg your pardon.”

“There is no harm done. Now I have met the man who has the spirit of Prince Funato.”

“And who is it?”

“The general.”

“Not really.”

“It is he who is the descendant of the prince.”

“How did you find it out?”

“I am a Haji, and can see things that men can’t.”

“And does the general know it?”

“No; the spirit never remembers its former life.”

“Oh,” I smiled.

“Don’t be so sceptical. You ought to have more faith in me. I can tell you something else.”

[133]

“Go on, tell it.”

“Did you see that tall, serious, gray-haired colonel, with a beautiful beard, seated at the right of the general?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Colonel of the big thunderbolt?”

“The artillery——”

“If you like. Well, he is the old warrior that climbed up the mountain alone the last time to greet me. He trembled all over from age. I remember he leaned up against me and said:

“‘Honorable Willow, we shall never meet again.’” Another little whistle showed me that Fiam was much moved by his recollections.

By this time ............
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