As she enters through the torii gate, an owl always hoots from the top of a cedar. Her worn sandals slap against the stones. The sound of the sandals ends at the shrine, where she rings the bell and kneels down, clapping her hands together in prayer. At this point, the owl on most nights falls silent. The mother prays with all her heart for the safety of her husband. Her husband is a samurai, and she believes passionately that Hachiman, the god of archery and war, must certainly be moved by her worthy petition.
The child often wakes at the sounding of the bell, sees the surrounding darkness, and starts to cry. The mother, who is whispering a prayer, sways her back gently to pacify the child. Sometimes she succeeds, and the crying stops. Sometimes the crying only intensifies. In either case, the mother continues her prayer.
After praying for her husband's welfare, the mother loosens the narrow strap and lets the child slip from her back. As the child slips down, she pulls it around to her front and embraces it with both arms. She climbs the steps to the shrine, where she brushes her own cheek against the child's and says, "You're a good child. Wait here for a while." She unwinds the strap, ties one end to the child, and fastens the other end to the balustrade of the shrine. Then she descends the steps to pace a hundred times over the paving stones, offering up a prayer with each round.
The child, fastened to the shrine, crawls about the wide veranda in darkness, as far as the strap allows. These are the times when the mother's task is easiest. If the child cries, though, she feels anxious. She quickens her gait until she's short of breath. If she has to, she breaks off her pacing and ascends the steps to comfort the child. Then she begins anew her hundred rounds.
The father, for whom the mother prays anxiously through many such sleepless nights, has died long ago at the hand of a rōnin.
This sorrowful tale was told to me in a dream by my mother.