Chapter 6 of The Tale of Genji
The Saffron Flower
Genji's 18th year, beginning to end.
The events in this chapter occur concurrently with those in chapter 5.
One day Tayu tells Genji of an orphaned princess who has a reputation as an outstanding koto player. Genji's predisposition to women of high birth and unfortunate circumstances naturally arouses his curiosity and sympathy. He decides to visit her to hear her play, but To-No-Chujo follows so they decide to be friendly rivals. At first they are both unsuccessful although Genji insinuates that his is not. Genji tries to persuade Tayu, who has become the go-between that he is serious, however it is clear that he is not.
Tayu eventually organizes a secret meeting with the Saffron princess (as she comes to be known, for reasons that will become clear later) but she is so flustered to have such a distinguished guest that she doesn't know how to act. She stammers excuses for not receiving him and withdraws to another room.
Tayu, her long suffering maid, thinking her childish admonishes her;
"You are very inexperienced, my lady. It is all right for people in your august
position to make a show of innocence when they have parents and relatives to look after them, but your rather sad circumstances make this reserve seem somehow out of place."
She is so nervous and shy that she is unable to decide anything, much less reply to Genji's conversational gambits. The daughter of her nurse eventually answers for her unbeknownst to Genji. He finally draws back her blinds and catches a glimpse of her and is quite unimpressed. He returns home rather disillusioned.
Poems are exchanged the next day as is the custom and Tayu pleads Genji to visit her lady once again. He agrees to out of pity and this time he gets an even better look at her and discovers that she has a big, red-tipped nose that he cruelly likens to an icicle in a parting poem. The color of her nose is said to be the bright red of the saffron flower.
Out of a sense of pity he sends her gifts. She also sends gifts, a poorly made jacket and a poem she has written obviously without any help. He is struck by her poor behavior for someone of her station.
At his mansion he gazes upon the rapidly maturing Murasaki and wonders why he goes looking for trouble outside when he has such a perfect treasure at home.