BOTCHAN (MASTER DARLING)
By The Late Mr. Kin-nosuke Natsume
TRANSLATED By Yasotaro Morri
Revised by J. R. KENNEDY
A NOTE BY THE TRANSLATOR
No translation can expect to equal, much less to excel, the original. The excellence of a translation can only be judged by noting how far it has succeeded in reproducing the original tone, colors, style, the delicacy of sentiment, the force of inert strength, the peculiar expressions native to the language with which the original is written, or whatever is its marked characteristic. The ablest can do no more, and to want more than this will be demanding something impossible. Strictly speaking, the only way one can derive full benefit or enjoyment from a foreign work is to read the original, for any intelligence at second-hand never gives the kind of satisfaction which is possible only through the direct touch with the original. Even in the best translated work is probably wanted the subtle vitality natural to the original language, for it defies an attempt, however elaborate, to transmit all there is in the original. Correctness of diction may be there, but spontaneity is gone; it cannot be helped.
The task of the translator becomes doubly hazardous in case of translating a European language into Japanese, or vice versa. Between any of the European languages and Japanese there is no visible kinship in word-form, significance, grammatical system, rhetorical arrangements. It may be said that the inspiration of the two languages is totally different. A want of similarity of customs, habits, traditions, national sentiments and traits makes the work of translation all the more difficult. A novel written in Japanese which had attained national popularity might, when rendered into English, lose its captivating vividness, alluring interest and lasting appeal to the reader.
These remarks are made not in way of excuse for any faulty dictions that may be found in the following pages. Neither are they made out of personal modesty nor of a desire to add undue weight to the present work. They are made in the hope that whoever is good enough to go through the present translation will remember, before he may venture to make criticisms, the kind and extent of difficulties besetting him in his attempts so as not to judge the merit of the original by this translation. Nothing would afford the translator a greater pain than any unfavorable comment on the original based upon this translation. If there be any deserving merits in the following pages the credit is due to the original. Any fault found in its interpretation or in the English version, the whole responsibility is on the translator.
For the benefit of those who may not know the original, it must be stated that "Botchan" by the late Mr. K. Natsume was an epoch-making piece of work. On its first appearance, Mr. Natsume's place and name as the foremost in the new literary school were firmly established. He had written many other novels of more serious intent, of heavier thoughts and of more enduring merits, but it was this "Botchan" that secured him the lasting fame. Its quaint style, dash and vigor in its narration appealed to the public who had become somewhat tired of the stereotyped sort of manner with which all stories had come to be handled.
In its simplest understanding, "Botchan" may be taken as an episode in the life of a son born in Tokyo, hot-blooded, simple-hearted, pure as crystal and sturdy as a towering rock, honest and straight to a fault, intolerant of the least injustice and a volunteer ever ready to champion what he considers right and good. Children may read it as a "story of man who tried to be honest." It is a light, amusing and, at the name time, instructive story, with no tangle of love affairs, no scheme of blood-curdling scenes or nothing startling or sensational in the plot or characters. The story, however, may be regarded as a biting sarcasm on a hypocritical society in which a gang of instructors of dark character at a middle school in a backwoods town plays a prominent part. The hero of the story is made a victim of their annoying intrigues, but finally comes out triumphant by smashing the petty red tapism, knocking down the sham pretentions and by actual use of the fist on the Head Instructor and his henchman.
The story will be found equally entertaining as a means of studying the peculiar traits of the native of Tokyo which are characterised by their quick temper, dashing spirit, generosity and by their readiness to resist even the lordly personage if convinced of their own justness, or to kneel down even to a child if they acknowledge their own wrong. Incidently the touching devotion of the old maid servant Kiyo to the hero will prove a standing reproach to the inconstant, unfaithful servants of which the number is ever increasing these days in Tokyo. The story becomes doubly interesting by the fact that Mr. K. Natsume, when quite young, held a position of teacher of English at a middle school somewhere about the same part of the country described in the story, while he himself was born and brought up in Tokyo.
It may be added that the original is written in an autobiographical style. It is profusely interladed with spicy, catchy colloquials patent to the people of Tokyo for the equals of which we may look to the rattling speeches of notorious Chuck Conners of the Bowery of New York. It should be frankly stated that much difficulty was experienced in getting the corresponding terms in English for those catchy expressions. Strictly speaking, some of them have no English equivalents. Care has been exercised to select what has been thought most appropriate in the judgment or the translator in converting those expressions into English but some of them might provoke disapproval from those of the "cultured" class with "refined" ears. The slangs in English in this translation were taken from an American magazine of world-wide reputation editor of which was not afraid to print of "damn" when necessary, by scorning the timid, conventional way of putting it as "d—n." If the propriety of printing such short ugly words be questioned, the translator is sorry to say that no means now exists of directly bringing him to account for he met untimely death on board the Lusitania when it was sunk by the German submarine.
Thanks are due to Mr. J. R. Kennedy, General Manager, and Mr. Henry Satoh, Editor-in-Chief, both of the Kokusai Tsushin-sha (the International News Agency) of Tokyo and a host of personal friends of the translator whose untiring assistance and kind suggestions have made the present translation possible. Without their sympathetic interests, this translation may not have seen the daylight.
Tokyo, September, 1918.
BOTCHAN (MASTER DARLING)
Because of an hereditary recklessness, I have been playing always a losing game since my childhood. During my grammar school days, I was once laid up for about a week by jumping from the second story of the school building. Some may ask why I committed such a rash act. There was no particular reason for doing such a thing except I happened to be looking out into the yard from the second floor of the newly-built school house, when one of my classmates, joking, shouted at me; "Say, you big bluff, I'll bet you can't jump down from there! O, you chicken-heart, ha, ha!" So I jumped down. The janitor of the school had to carry me home on his back, and when my father saw me, he yelled derisively, "What a fellow you are to go and get your bones dislocated by jumping only from a second story!"
"I'll see I don't get dislocated next time," I answered.
One of my relatives once presented me with a pen-knife. I was showing it to my friends, reflecting its pretty blades against the rays of the sun, when one of them chimed in that the blades gleamed all right, but seemed rather dull for cutting with.
"Rather dull? See if they don't cut!" I retorted.
"Cut your finger, then," he challenged. And with "Finger nothing! Here goes!" I cut my thumb slant-wise. Fortunately the knife was small and the bone of the thumb hard enough, so the thumb is still there, but the scar will be there until my death.
About twenty steps to the east edge of our garden, there was a moderate-sized vegetable yard, rising toward the south, and in the centre of which stood a chestnut tree which was dearer to me than life. In the season when the chestnuts were ripe, I used to slip out of the house from the back door early in the morning to pick up the chestnuts which had fallen during the night, and eat them at the school. On the west side of the vegetable yard was the adjoining garden of a pawn shop called Yamashiro-ya. This shopkeeper's son was a boy about 13 or 14 years old named Kantaro. Kantaro was, it happens, a mollycoddle. Nevertheless he had the temerity to come over the fence to our yard and steal my chestnuts.
One certain evening I hid myself behind a folding-gate of the fence and caught him in the act. Having his retreat cut off he grappled with me in desperation. He was about two years older than I, and, though weak-kneed, was physically the stronger. While I wallopped him, he pushed his head against my breast and by chance it slipped inside my sleeve. As this hindered the free action of my arm, I tried to shake him loose, though, his head dangled the further inside, and being no longer able to stand the stifling combat, he bit my bare arm. It was painful. I held him fast against the fence, and by a dexterous foot twist sent him down flat on his back. Kantaro broke the fence and as the ground belonging to Yamashiro-ya was about six feet lower than the vegetable yard, he fell headlong to his own territory with a thud. As he rolled off he tore away the sleeve in which his head had been enwrapped, and my arm recovered a sudden freedom of movement. That night when my mother went to Yamashiro-ya to apologize, she brought back that sleeve.
Besides the above, I did many other mischiefs. With Kaneko of a carpenter shop and Kaku of a fishmarket, I once ruined a carrot patch of one Mosaku. The sprouts were just shooting out and the patch was covered with straws to ensure their even healthy growth. Upon this straw-covered patch, we three wrestled for fully half a day, and consequently thoroughly smashed all the sprouts. Also I once filled up a well which watered some rice fields owned by one Furukawa, and he followed me with kicks. The well was so devised that from a large bamboo pole, sunk deep into the ground, the water issued and irrigated the rice fields. Ignorant of the mechanical side of this irrigating method at that time, I stuffed the bamboo pole with stones and sticks, and satisfied that no more water came up, I returned home and was eating supper when Furukawa, fiery red with anger, burst into our house with howling protests. I believe the affair was settled on our paying for the damage.
Father did not like me in the least, and mother always sided with my big brother. This brother's face was palish white, and he had a fondness for taking the part of an actress at the theatre.
"This fellow will never amount to much," father used to remark when he saw me.
"He's so reckless that I worry about his future," I often heard mother say of me. Exactly; I have never amounted to much. I am just as you see me; no wonder my future used to cause anxiety to my mother. I am living without becoming but a jailbird.
Two or three days previous to my mother's death, I took it into my head to turn a somersault in the kitchen, and painfully hit my ribs against the corner of the stove. Mother was very angry at this and told me not to show my face again, so I went to a relative to stay with. While there, I received the news that my mother's illness had become very serious, and that after all efforts for her recovery, she was dead. I came home thinking that I should have behaved better if I had known the conditions were so serious as that. Then that big brother of mine denounced me as wanting in filial piety, and that I had caused her untimely death. Mortified at this, I slapped his face, and thereupon received a sound scolding from father.
After the death of mother, I lived with father and brother. Father did nothing, and always said "You're no good" to my face. What he meant by "no good" I am yet to understand. A funny dad he was. My brother was to be seen studying English hard, saying that he was going to be a businessman. He was like a girl by nature, and so "sassy" that we two were never on good terms, and had to fight it out about once every ten days. When we played a chess game one day, he placed a chessman as a "waiter,"—a cowardly tactic this,—and had hearty laugh on me by seeing me in a fix. His manner was so trying that time that I banged a chessman on his forehead which was injured a little bit and bled. He told all about this to father, who said he would disinherit me.
Then I gave up myself for lost, and expected to be really disinherited. But our maid Kiyo, who had been with us for ten years or so, interceded on my behalf, and tearfully apologized for me, and by her appeal my father's wrath was softened. I did not regard him, however, as one to be afraid of in any way, but rather felt sorry for our Kiyo. I had heard that Kiyo was of a decent, well-to-do family, but being driven to poverty at the time of the Restoration, had to work as a servant. So she was an old woman by this time. This old woman,—by what affinity, as the Buddhists say, I don't know,—loved me a great deal. Strange, indeed! She was almost blindly fond of me,—me, whom mother, became thoroughly disgusted with three days before her death; whom father considered a most aggravating proposition all the year round, and whom the neighbors cordially hated as the local bully among the youngsters. I had long reconciled myself to the fact that my nature was far from being attractive to others, and so didn't mind if I were treated as a piece of wood; so I thought it uncommon that Kiyo should pet me like that. Sometimes in the kitchen, when there was nobody around, she would praise me saying that I was straightforward and of a good disposition. What she meant by that exactly, was not clear to me, however. If I were of so good a nature as she said, I imagined those other than Kiyo should accord me a better treatment. So whenever Kiyo said to me anything of the kind, I used to answer that I did not like passing compliments. Then she would remark; "That's the very reason I say you are of a good disposition," and would gaze at me with absorbing tenderness. She seemed to recreate me by her own imagination, and was proud of the fact. I felt even chilled through my marrow at her constant attention to me.
After my mother was dead, Kiyo loved me still more. In my simple reasoning, I wondered why she had taken such a fancy to me. Sometimes I thought it quite futile on her part, that she had better quit that sort of thing, which was bad for her. But she loved me just the same. Once in, a while she would buy, out of her own pocket, some cakes or sweetmeats for me. When the night was cold, she would secretly buy some noodle powder, and bring all unawares hot noodle gruel to my bed; or sometimes she would even buy a bowl of steaming noodles from the peddler. Not only with edibles, but she was generous alike with socks, pencils, note books, etc. And she even furnished me,—this happened some time later,—with about three yen, I did not ask her for the money; she offered it from her own good will by bringing it to my room, saying that I might be in need of some cash. This, of course, embarrassed me, but as she was so insistent I consented to borrow it. I confess I was really glad of the money. I put it in a bag, and carried it in my pocket. While about the house, I happened to drop the bag into a cesspool. Helpless, I told Kiyo how I had lost the money, and at once she fetched a bamboo stick, and said she will get it for me. After a while I heard a splashing sound of water about our family well, and going there, saw Kiyo washing the bag strung on the end of the stick. I opened the bag and found the edict of the three one-yen bills turned to faint yellow and designs fading. Kiyo dried them at an open fire and handed them over to me, asking if they were all right. I smelled them and said; "They stink yet."
"Give them to me; I'll get them changed." She took those three bills, and,—I do not know how she went about it,—brought three yen in silver. I forget now upon what I spent the three yen. "I'll pay you back soon," I said at the time, but didn't. I could not now pay it back even if I wished to do so with ten times the amount.
When Kiyo gave me anything she did so always when both father and brother were out. Many things I do not like, but what I most detest is the monopolizing of favors behind some one else's back. Bad as my relations were with my brother, still I did not feel justified in accepting candies or color-pencils from Kiyo without my brother's knowledge. "Why do you give those things only to me and not to my brother also?" I asked her once, and she answered quite unconcernedly that my brother may be left to himself as his father bought him everything. That was partiality; father was obstinate, but I am sure he was not a man who would indulge in favoritism. To Kiyo, however, he might have looked that way. There is no doubt that Kiyo was blind to the extent of her undue indulgence with me. She was said to have come from a well-to-do family, but the poor soul was uneducated, and it could not be helped. All the same, you cannot tell how prejudice will drive one to the extremes. Kiyo seemed quite sure that some day I would achieve high position in society and become famous. Equally she was sure that my brother, who was spending his hours studiously, was only good for his white skin, and would stand no show in the future. Nothing can beat an old woman for this sort of thing, I tell you. She firmly believed that whoever she liked would become famous, while whoever she hated would not. I did not have at that time any particular object in my life. But the persistency with which Kiyo declared that I would be a great man some day, made me speculate myself that after all I might become one. How absurd it seems to me now when I recall those days. I asked her once what kind of a man I should be, but she seemed to have formed no concrete idea as to that; only she said that I was sure to live in a house with grand entrance hall, and ride in a private rikisha.
And Kiyo seemed to have decided for herself to live with me when I became independent and occupy my own house. "Please let me live with you,"—she repeatedly asked of me. Feeling somewhat that I should eventually be able to own a house, I answered her "Yes," as far as such an answer went. This woman, by the way, was strongly imaginative. She questioned me what place I liked,—Kojimachi-ku or Azabu-ku?—and suggested that I should have a swing in our garden, that one room be enough for European style, etc., planning everything to suit her own fancy. I did not then care a straw for anything like a house; so neither Japanese nor European style was much of use to me, and I told her to that effect. Then she would praise me as uncovetous and clean of heart. Whatever I said, she had praise for me.
I lived, after the death of mother, in this fashion for five or six years. I had kicks from father, had rows with brother, and had candies and praise from Kiyo. I cared for nothing more; I thought this was enough. I imagined all other boys were leading about the same kind of life. As Kiyo frequently told me, however, that I was to be pitied, and was unfortunate, I imagined that that might be so. There was nothing that particularly worried me except that father was too tight with my pocket money, and this was rather hard on me.
In January of the 6th year after mother's death, father died of apoplexy. In April of the same year, I graduated from a middle school, and two months later, my brother graduated from a business college. Soon he obtained a job in the Kyushu branch of a certain firm and had to go there, while I had to remain in Tokyo and continue my study. He proposed the sale of our house and the realization of our property, to which I answered "Just as you like it." I had no intention of depending upon him anyway. Even were he to look after me, I was sure of his starting something which would eventually end in a smash-up as we were prone to quarrel on the least pretext. It was because in order to receive his protection that I should have to bow before such a fellow, that I resolved that I would live by myself even if I had to do milk delivery. Shortly afterwards he sent for a second-hand dealer and sold for a song all the bric-a-bric which had been handed down from ages ago in our family. Our house and lot were sold, through the efforts of a middleman to a wealthy person. This transaction seemed to have netted a goodly sum to him, but I know nothing as to the detail.
For one month previous to this, I had been rooming in a boarding house in Kanda-ku, pending a decision as to my future course. Kiyo was greatly grieved to see the house in which she had lived so many years change ownership, but she was helpless in the matter.
"If you were a little older, you might have inherited this house," she once remarked in earnest.
If I could have inherited the house through being a little older, I ought to have been able to inherit the house right then. She knew nothing, and believed the lack of age only prevented my coming into the possession of the house.
Thus I parted from my brother, but the disposal of Kiyo was a difficult proposition. My brother was, of course, unable to take her along, nor was there any danger of her following him so far away as Kyushu, while I was in a small room of a boarding house, and might have to clear out anytime at that. There was no way out, so I asked her if she intended to work somewhere else. Finally she answered me definitely that she would go to her nephew's and wait until I started my own house and get married. This nephew was a clerk in the Court of Justice, and being fairly well off, had invited Kiyo before more than once to come and live with him, but Kiyo preferred to stay with us, even as a servant, since she had become well used to our family. But now I think she thought it better to go over to her nephew than to start a new life as servant in a strange house. Be that as it may, she advised me to have my own household soon, or get married, so she would come and help me in housekeeping. I believe she liked me more than she did her own kin.
My brother came to me, two days previous to his departure for Kyushu, and giving me 600 yen, said that I might begin a business with it, or go ahead with my study, or spend it in any way I liked, but that that would be the last he could spare. It was a commendable act for my brother. What! about only 600 yen! I could get along without it, I thought, but as this unusually simple manner appealed to me, I accepted the offer with thanks. Then he produced 50 yen, requesting me to give it to Kiyo next time I saw her, which I readily complied with. Two days after, I saw him off at the Shimbashi Station, and have not set my eyes on him ever since.
Lying in my bed, I meditated on the best way to spend that 600 yen. A business is fraught with too much trouble, and besides it was not my calling. Moreover with only 600 yen no one could open a business worth the name. Were I even able to do it, I was far from being educated, and after all, would lose it. Better let investments alone, but study more with the money. Dividing the 600 yen into three, and by spending 200 yen a year, I could study for three years. If I kept at one study with bull-dog tenacity for three years, I should be able to learn something. Then the selection of a school was the next problem. By nature, there is no branch of study whatever which appeals to my taste. Nix on languages or literature! The new poetry was all Greek to me; I could not make out one single line of twenty. Since I detested every kind of study, any kind of study should have been the same to me. Thinking thus, I happened to pass front of a school of physics, and seeing a sign posted for the admittance of more students, I thought this might be a kind of "affinity," and having asked for the prospectus, at once filed my application for entrance. When I think of it now, it was a blunder due to my hereditary recklessness.
For three years I studied about as diligently as ordinary fellows, but not being of a particularly brilliant quality, my standing in the class was easier to find by looking up from the bottom. Strange, isn't it, that when three years were over, I graduated? I had to laugh at myself, but there being no reason for complaint, I passed out.
Eight days after my graduation, the principal of the school asked me to come over and see him. I wondered what he wanted, and went. A middle school in Shikoku was in need of a teacher of mathematics for forty yen a month, and he sounded me to see if I would take it. I had studied for three years, but to tell the truth, I had no intention of either teaching or going to the country. Having nothing in sight, however, except teaching, I readily accepted the offer. This too was a blunder due to hereditary recklessness.
I accepted the position, and so must go there. The three years of my school life I had seen confined in a small room, but with no kick coming or having no rough house. It was a comparatively easy going period in my life. But now I had to pack up. Once I went to Kamakura on a picnic with my classmates while I was in the grammar school, and that was the first and last, so far, that I stepped outside of Tokyo since I could remember. This time I must go darn far away, that it beats Kamakura by a mile. The prospective town is situated on the coast, and looked the size of a needle-point on the map. It would not be much to look at anyway. I knew nothing about the place or the people there. It did not worry me or cause any anxiety. I had simply to travel there and that was the annoying part.
Once in a while, since our house was no more, I went to Kiyo's nephew's to see her. Her nephew was unusually good-natured, and whenever I called upon her, he treated me well if he happened to be at home. Kiyo would boost me sky-high to her nephew right to my face. She went so far once as to say that when I had graduated from school, I would purchase a house somewhere in Kojimachi-ku and get a position in a government office. She decided everything in her own way, and talked of it aloud, and I was made an unwilling and bashful listener. I do not know how her nephew weighed her tales of self-indulgence on me. Kiyo was a woman of the old type, and seemed, as if it was still the days of Feudal Lords, to regard her nephew equally under obligation to me even as she was herself.
After settling about my new position, I called upon her three days previous to my departure. She was sick abed in a small room, but, on seeing me she got up and immediately inquired;
"Master Darling, when do you begin housekeeping?"
She evidently thought as soon as a fellow finishes school, money comes to his pocket by itself. But then how absurd to call such a "great man" "Darling." I told her simply that I should let the house proposition go for some time, as I had to go to the country. She looked greatly disappointed, and blankly smoothed her gray-haired sidelocks. I felt sorry for her, and said comfortingly; "I am going away but will come back soon. I'll return in the vacation next summer, sure." Still as she appeared not fully satisfied, I added;
"Will bring you back a surprise. What do you like?"
She wished to eat "sasa-ame" of Echigo province. I had never heard of "sasa-ame" of Echigo. To begin with, the location is entirely different.
[Footnote 1: Sasa-ame is a kind of rice-jelly wrapped with sasa, or the bamboo leaves, well-known as a product of Echigo province.]
"There seems to be no 'sasa-ame' in the country where I'm going," I explained, and she rejoined; "Then, in what direction?" I answered "westward" and she came back with "Is it on the other side of Hakone?" This give-and-take conversation proved too much for me.
On the day of my departure, she came to my room early in the morning and helped me to pack up. She put into my carpet-bag tooth powder, tooth-brush and towels which she said she had bought at a dry goods store on her way. I protested that I did not want them, but she was insistent.[A] We rode in rikishas to the station. Coming up the platform, she gazed at me from outside the car, and said in a low voice;
"This may be our last good-by. Take care of yourself."
Her eyes were full of tears. I did not cry, but was almost going to. After the train had run some distance, thinking it would be all right now, I poked my head out of the window and looked back. She was still there. She looked very small.
With a long, sonorous whistle the steamer which I was aboard came to a standstill, and a boat was seen making toward us from the shore. The man rowing the boat was stark naked, except for a piece of red cloth girt round his loins. A barbarous place, this! though he may have been excused for it in such hot weather as it was. The sun's rays were strong and the water glimmered in such strange colors as to dazzle one's sight if gazed at it for long. I had been told by a clerk of the ship that I was to get off here. The place looked like a fishing village about the size of Omori. Great Scott! I wouldn't stay in such a hole, I thought, but I had to get out. So, down I jumped first into the boat, and I think five or six others followed me. After loading about four large boxes besides, the red-cloth rowed us ashore. When the boat struck the sand, I was again the first to jump out, and right away I accosted a skinny urchin standing nearby, asking him where the middle school was. The kid answered blankly that he did not know. Confound the dull-head! Not to know where the middle school was, living in such a tiny bit of a town. Then a man wearing a rig with short, queer shaped sleeves approached me and bade me follow. I walked after him and was taken to an inn called Minato-ya. The maids of the inn, who gave me a disagreeable impression, chorused at sight of me; "Please step inside." This discouraged me in proceeding further, and I asked them, standing at the door-way, to show me the middle school. On being told that the middle school was about four miles away by rail, I became still more discouraged at putting up there. I snatched my two valises from the man with queer-shaped [B] sleeves who had guided me so far, and strode away. The people of the inn looked after me with a dazed expression.
The station was easily found, and a ticket bought without any fuss. The coach I got in was about as dignified as a match-box. The train rambled on for about five minutes, and then I had to get off. No wonder the fare was cheap; it cost only three sen. I then hired a rikisha and arrived at the middle school, but school was already over and nobody was there. The teacher on night-duty was out just for a while, said the janitor,—the night-watch was taking life easy, sure. I thought of visiting the principal, but being tired, ordered the rikishaman to take me to a hotel. He did this with much alacrity and led me to a hotel called Yamashiro-ya. I felt it rather amusing to find the name Yamashiro-ya the same as that of Kantaro's house.
They ushered me to a dark room below the stairway. No one could stay in such a hot place! I said I did not like such a warm room, but the maid dumped my valises on the floor and left me, mumbling that all the other rooms were occupied. So I took the room though it took some resolution to stand the weltering heat. After a while the maid said the bath was ready, and I took one: On my way back from the bathroom, I peeped about, and found many rooms, which looked much cooler than mine, vacant. Sunnovagun! They had lied. By'm-by, she fetched my supper. Although the room was hot, the meal was a deal better than the kind I used to have in my boarding house. While waiting on me, she questioned me where I was from, and I said, "from Tokyo." Then she asked; "Isn't Tokyo a nice place?" and I shot back, "Bet 'tis." About the time the maid had reached the kitchen, loud laughs were heard. There was nothing doing, so I went to bed, but could not sleep. Not only was it hot, but noisy,—about five times noisier than my boarding house. While snoozing, I dreamed of Kiyo. She was eating "sasa-ame" of Echigo province without taking off the wrapper of bamboo leaves. I tried to stop her, saying bamboo leaves may do her harm, but she replied, "O, no, these leaves are very helpful for the health," and ate them with much relish. Astounded, I laughed "Ha, ha, ha!"—and so awoke. The maid was opening the outside shutters. The weather was just as clear as the previous day.
I had heard once before that when travelling, one should give "tea money" to the hotel or inn where he stops; that unless this "tea money" is given, the hostelry would accord him rather rough treatment. It must have been on account of my being slow in the fork over of this "tea money" that they had huddled me into such a narrow, dark room. Likewise my shabby clothes and the carpet bags and satin umbrella must have been accountable for it. Took me for a piker, eh? those hayseeds! I would give them a knocker with "tea money." I left Tokyo with about 30 yen in my pocket, which remained from my school expenses. Taking off the railway and steamship fare, and other incidental expenses, I had still about 14 yen in my pocket. I could give them all I had;—what did I care, I was going to get a salary now. All country folk are tight-wads, and one 5-yen bill would hit them square. Now watch and see. Having washed myself, I returned to my room and waited, and the maid of the night before brought in my breakfast. Waiting on me with a tray, she looked at me with a sort of sulphuric smile. Rude! Is any parade marching on my face? I should say. Even my face is far better than that of the maid. I intended of giving "tea money" after breakfast, but I became disgusted, and taking out one 5-yen bill told her to take it to the office later. The face of the maid became then shy and awkward. After the meal, I left for the school. The maid did not have my shoes polished.
I had had vague idea of the direction of the school as I rode to it the previous day, so turning two or three corners, I came to the front gate. From the gate to the entrance the walk was paved with granite. When I had passed to the entrance in the rikisha, this walk made so outlandishly a loud noise that I had felt coy. On my way to the school, I met a number of the students in uniforms of cotton drill and they all entered this gate. Some of them were taller than I and looked much stronger. When I thought of teaching fellows of this ilk, I was impressed with a queer sort of uneasiness. My card was taken to the principal, to whose room I was ushered at once. With scant mustache, dark-skinned and big-eyed, the principal was a man who looked like a badger. He studiously assumed an air of superiority, and saying he would like to see me do my best, handed the note of appointment, stamped big, in a solemn manner. This note I threw away into the sea on my way back to Tokyo. He said he would introduce me to all my fellow teachers, and I was to show to each one of them the note of appointment. What a bother! It would be far better to stick this note up in the teachers' room for three days instead of going through such a monkey process.
The teachers would not be all in the room until the bugle for the first hour was sounded. There was plenty of time. The principal took out his watch, and saying that he would acquaint me particularly with the school by-and-bye, he would only furnish me now with general matters, and started a long lecture on the spirit of education. For a while I listened to him with my mind half away somewhere else, but about half way through his lecture, I began to realize that I should soon be in a bad fix. I could not do, by any means, all he expected of me. He expected that I should make myself an example to the students, should become an object of admiration for the whole school or should exert my moral influence, besides teaching technical knowledge in order to become a real educator, or something ridiculously high-sounding. No man with such admirable qualities would come so far away for only 40 yen a month! Men are generally alike. If one gets excited, one is liable to fight, I thought, but if things are to be kept on in the way the principal says, I could hardly open my mouth to utter anything, nor take a stroll around the place. If they wanted me to fill such an onerous post, they should have told all that before. I hate to tell a lie; I would give it up as having been cheated, and get out of this mess like a man there and then. I had only about 9 yen left in my pocket after tipping the hotel 5 yen. Nine yen would not take me back to Tokyo. I had better not have tipped the hotel; what a pity! However, I would be able to manage it somehow. I considered it better to run short in my return expenses than to tell a lie.
"I cannot do it the way you want me to. I return this appointment."
I shoved back the note. The principal winked his badger-like eyes and gazed at me. Then he said;
"What I have said just now is what I desire of you. I know well that you cannot do all I want, So don't worry."
And he laughed. If he knew it so well already, what on earth did he scare me for?
Meanwhile the bugle sounded, being followed by bustling noises in the direction of the class rooms. All the teachers would be now ready, I was told, and I followed the principal to the teachers' room. In a spacious rectangular room, they sat each before a table lined along the walls. When I entered the room, they all glanced at me as if by previous agreement. Did they think my face was for a show? Then, as per instructions, I introduced myself and showed the note to each one of them. Most of them left their chairs and made a slight bow of acknowledgment. But some of the more painfully polite took the note and read it and respectfully returned it to me, just like the cheap performances at a rural show! When I came to the fifteenth, who was the teacher of physical training, I became impatient at repeating the same old thing so often. The other side had to do it only once, but my side had to do it fifteen times. They ought to have had some sympathy.
Among those I met in the room there was Mr. Blank who was head teacher. Said he was a Bachelor of Arts. I suppose he was a great man since he was a graduate from Imperial University and had such a title. He talked in a strangely effeminate voice like a woman. But what surprised me most was that he wore a flannel shirt. However thin it might be, flannel is flannel and must have been pretty warm at that time of the year. What painstaking dress is required which will be becoming to a B.A.! And it was a red shirt; wouldn't that kill you! I heard afterwards that he wears a red shirt all the year round. What a strange affliction! According to his own explanation, he has his shirts made to order for the sake of his health as the red color is beneficial to the physical condition. Unnecessary worry, this, for that being the case, he should have had his coat and hakama also in red. And there was one Mr. Koga, teacher of English, whose complexion was very pale. Pale-faced people are usually thin, but this man was pale and fat. When I was attending grammar school, there was one Tami Asai in our class, and his father was just as pale as this Koga. Asai was a farmer, and I asked Kiyo if one's face would become pale if he took up farming. Kiyo said it was not so; Asai ate always Hubbard squash of "uranari"  and that was the reason. Thereafter when I saw any man pale and fat, I took it for granted that it was the result of his having eaten too much of squash of "uranari." This English teacher was surely subsisting upon squash. However, what the meaning of "uranari" is, I do not know. I asked Kiyo once, but she only laughed. Probably she did not know. Among the teachers of mathematics, there was one named Hotta. This was a fellow of massive body, with hair closely cropped. He looked like one of the old-time devilish priests who made the Eizan temple famous. I showed him the note politely, but he did not even look at it, and blurted out;
"You're the man newly appointed, eh? Come and see me sometime, ha, ha, ha!"
[Footnote 2: Means the last crop.]
Devil take his "Ha, ha, ha!" Who would go to see a fellow so void of the sense of common decency! I gave this priest from this time the nickname of Porcupine.
The Confucian teacher was strict in his manner as becoming to his profession. "Arrived yesterday? You must be tired. Start teaching already? Working hard, indeed!"—and so on. He was an old man, quite sociable and talkative.
The teacher of drawing was altogether like a cheap actor. He wore a thin, flappy haori of sukiya, and, toying with a fan, he giggled; "Where from? eh? Tokyo? Glad to hear that. You make another of our group. I'm a Tokyo kid myself."
If such a fellow prided himself on being a Tokyo kid, I wished I had never been born in Tokyo. I might go on writing about each one of them, for there are many, but I stop here otherwise there will be no end to it.
When my formal introduction was over, the principal said that I might go for the day, but I should make arrangements as to the class hours, etc., with the head teacher of mathematics and begin teaching from the day after the morrow. Asked who was the head teacher of mathematics, I found that he was no other than that Porcupine. Holy smokes! was I to serve under him? I was disappointed.
"Say, where are you stopping? Yamashiro-ya? Well, I'll come and talk it over."
So saying, Porcupine, chalk in hand, left the room to his class. That was rather humiliating for a head-teacher to come over and see his subordinate, but it was better than to call me over to him.
After leaving the school, I thought of returning straight to the hotel, but as there was nothing to do, I decided to take in a little of the town, and started walking about following my nose. I saw prefectural building; it was an old structure of the last century. Also I saw the barracks; they were less imposing than those of the Azabu Regiment, Tokyo. I passed through the main street. The width of the street is about one half that of Kagurazaka, and its aspect is inferior. What about a castle-town of 250,000-koku Lord! Pity the fellows who get swell-headed in such a place as a castle-town!
While I walked about musing like this, I found myself in front of Yamashiro-ya. The town was much narrower than I had been led to believe.
"I think I have seen nearly all. Guess I'll return and eat." And I entered the gate. The mistress of the hotel who was sitting at the counter, jumped out of her place at my appearance and with "Are you back, Sire!" scraped the floor with her forehead. When I took my shoes off and stepped inside, the maid took me to an upstairs room that had became vacant. It was a front room of 15 mats (about 90 square feet). I had never before lived in so splendid a room as this. As it was quite uncertain when I should again be able to occupy such a room in future, I took off my European dress, and with only a single Japanese summer coat on, sprawled in the centre of the room in the shape of the Japanese letter "big" (arms stretched out and legs spread wide[D]). I found it very refreshing.
After luncheon I at once wrote a letter to Kiyo. I hate most to write letters because I am poor at sentence-making and also poor in my stock of words. Neither did I have any place to which to address my letters. However, Kiyo might be getting anxious. It would not do to let her worry lest she think the steamer which I boarded had been wrecked and I was drowned,—so I braced up and wrote a long one. The body of the letter was as follows:
"Arrived yesterday. A dull place. Am sleeping in a room of 15 mats. Tipped the hotel five yen as tea money. The house-wife of the hotel scraped the floor with her forehead. Couldn't sleep last night. Dreamed Kiyo eat sasa-ame together with the bamboo-leaf wrappers. Will return next summer. Went to the school to-day, and nicknamed all the fellows. 'Badger' for the principal, 'Red Shirt' for the head-teacher, 'Hubbard Squash' for the teacher of English, 'Porcupine' the teacher of mathematics and 'Clown' for that of drawing. Will write you many other things soon. Good bye."
When I finished writing the letter, I felt better and sleepy. So I slept in the centre of the room, as I had done before, in the letter "big" shape ([D]). No dream this time, and I had a sound sleep.
"Is this the room?"—a loud voice was heard,—a voice which woke me up, and Porcupine entered.
"How do you do? What you have to do in the school——" he began talking shop as soon as I got up and rattled me much. On learning my duties in the school, there seemed to be no difficulty, and I decided to accept. If only such were what was expected of me, I would not be surprised were I told to start not only two days hence but even from the following day. The talk on business over, Porcupine said that he did not think it was my intention to stay in such a hotel all the time, that he would find a room for me in a good boarding house, and that I should move.
"They wouldn't take in another from anybody else but I can do it right away. The sooner the better. Go and look at the room to-day, move tomorrow and start teaching from the next day. That'll be all nice and settled."
He seemed satisfied by arranging all by himself. Indeed, I should not be able to occupy such a room for long. I might have to blow in all of my salary for the hotel bill and yet be short of squaring it. It was pity to leave the hotel so soon after I had just shone with a 5-yen tip. However, it being decidedly convenient to move and get settled early if I had to move at all, I asked Porcupine to get that room for me. He told me then to come over with him and see the house at any rate, and I did. The house was situated mid-way up a hill at the end of the town, and was a quiet. The boss was said to be a dealer in antique curios, called Ikagin, and his wife was about four years his senior. I learned the English word "witch" when I was in middle school, and this woman looked exactly like one. But as she was another man's wife, what did I care if she was a witch. Finally I decided to live in the house from the next day. On our way back Porcupine treated me to a cup of ice-water. When I first met him in the school, I thought him a disgustingly overbearing fellow, but judging by the way he had looked after me so far, he appeared not so bad after all. Only he seemed, like me, impatient by nature and of quick-temper. I heard afterward that he was liked most by all the students in the school.
My teaching began at last. When I entered the class-room and stepped upon the platform for the first time, I felt somewhat strange. While lecturing, I wondered if a fellow like me could keep up the profession of public instructor. The students were noisy. Once in a while, they would holler "Teacher!" "Teacher,"—it was "going some." I had been calling others "teacher" every day so far, in the school of physics, but in calling others "teacher" and being called one, there is a wide gap of difference. It made me feel as if some one was tickling my soles. I am not a sneakish fellow, nor a coward; only—it's a pity—I lack audacity. If one calls me "teacher" aloud, it gives me a shock similar to that of hearing the noon-gun in Marunouchi when I was hungry. The first hour passed away in a dashing manner. And it passed away without encountering any knotty questions. As I returned to the teachers' room, Porcupine asked me how it was. I simply answered "well," and he seemed satisfied.
When I left the teachers' room, chalk in hand, for the second hour class, I felt as if I was invading the enemy's territory. On entering the room, I found the students for this hour were all big fellows. I am a Tokyo kid, delicately built and small, and did not appear very impressive even in my elevated position. If it comes to a scraping, I can hold my own even with wrestlers, but I had no means of appearing awe-inspiring[E], merely by the aid of my tongue, to so many as forty such big chaps before me. Believing, however, that it would set a bad precedent to show these country fellows any weakness, I lectured rather loudly and in brusque tone. During the first part the students were taken aback and listened literally with their mouths open. "That's one on you!" I thought. Elated by my success, I kept on in this tone, when one who looked the strongest, sitting in the middle of the front row, stood up suddenly, and called "Teacher!" There it goes!—I thought, and asked him what it was.
"A-ah sa-ay, you talk too quick. A-ah ca-an't you make it a leetle slow? A-ah?" "A-ah ca-an't you?" "A-ah?" was altogether dull.
"If I talk too fast, I'll make it slow, but I'm a Tokyo fellow, and can't talk the way you do. If you don't understand it, better wait until you do."
So I answered him. In this way the second hour was closed better than I had expected. Only, as I was about to leave the class, one of the students asked me, "A-ah say, won't you please do them for me?" and showed me some problems in geometry which I was sure I could not solve. This proved to be somewhat a damper on me. But, helpless, I told him I could not make them out, and telling him that I would show him how next time, hastily got out of the room. And all of them raised "Whee—ee!" Some of them were heard saying "He doesn't know much." Don't take a teacher for an encyclopaedia! If I could work out such hard questions as these easily, I would not be in such a backwoods town for forty yen a month. I returned to the teachers' room.
"How was it this time?" asked Porcupine. I said "Umh." But not satisfied with "Umh" only, I added that all the students in this school were boneheads. He put up a whimsical face.
The third and the fourth hour and the first hour in the afternoon were more or less the same. In all the classes I attended, I made some kind of blunder. I realised that the profession of teaching not quite so easy a calling as might have appeared. My teaching for the day was finished but I could not get away. I had to wait alone until three o'clock. I understood that at three o'clock the students of my classes would finish cleaning up the rooms and report to me, whereupon I would go over the rooms. Then I would run through the students' roll, and then be free to go home. Outrageous, indeed, to keep on chained to the school, staring at the empty space when he had nothing more to do, even though he was "bought" by a salary! Other fellow teachers, however, meekly submitted to the regulation, and believing it not well for me,—a new comer—to fuss about it, I stood it. On my way home, I appealed to Porcupine as to the absurdity of keeping me there till three o'clock regardless of my having nothing to do in the school. He said "Yes" and laughed. But he became serious and in an advisory manner told me not to make many complaints about the school.
"Talk to me only, if you want to. There are some queer guys around."
As we parted at the next corner, I did not have time to hear more from him.
On reaching my room, the boss of the house came to me saying, "Let me serve you tea." I expected he was going to treat me to some good tea since he said "Let me serve you," but he simply made himself at home and drank my own tea. Judging by this, I thought he might be practising "Let me serve you" during my absence. The boss said that he was fond of antique drawings and curios and finally had decided to start in that business.
"You look like one quite taken about art. Suppose you begin patronizing my business just for fun as er—connoisseur of art?"
It was the least expected kind of solicitation. Two years ago, I went to the Imperial Hotel (Tokyo) on an errand, and I was taken for a locksmith. When I went to see the Daibutsu at Kamakura, haying wrapped up myself from head to toe with a blanket, a rikisha man addressed me as "Gov'ner." I have been mistaken on many occasions for as many things, but none so far has counted on me as a probable connoisseur of art. One should know better by my appearance. Any one who aspires to be a patron of art is usually pictured,—you may see in any drawing,—with either a hood on his head, or carrying a tanzaku in his hand. The fellow who calls me a connoisseur of art and pretends to mean it, may be surely as crooked as a dog's hind legs. I told him I did not like such art-stuff, which is usually favored by retired people. He laughed, and remarking that that nobody liked it at first, but once in it, will find it so fascinating that he will hardly get over it, served tea for himself and drank it in a grotesque manner. I may say that I had asked him the night before to buy some tea for me, but I did not like such a bitter, heavy kind. One swallow seemed to act right on my stomach. I told him to buy a kind not so bitter as that, and he answered "All right, Sir," and drank another cup. The fellow seemed never to know of having enough of anything so long as it was another man's. After he left the room, I prepared for the morrow and went to bed.
[Footnote 3: A tanzaku is a long, narrow strip of stiff paper on which a Japanese poem is written.]
Everyday thereafter I attended at the school and worked as per regulations. Every day on my return, the boss came to my room with the same old "Let me serve you tea." In about a week I understood the school in a general way, and had my own idea as to the personality of the boss and his wife. I heard from one of my fellow teachers that the first week to one month after the receipt of the appointment worried them most as to whether they had been favorably received among the students. I never felt anything on that score. Blunders in the class room once in a while caused me chagrin, but in about half an hour everything would clear out of my head. I am a fellow who, by nature, can't be worrying long about[F] anything even if I try to. I was absolutely indifferent as how my blunders in the class room affected the students, or how much further they affected the principal or the head-teacher. As I mentioned before, I am not a fellow of much audacity to speak of, but I am quick to give up anything when I see its finish.
I had resolved to go elsewhere at once if the school did not suit me. In consequence, neither Badger nor Red Shirt wielded any influence over me. And still less did I feel like coaxing or coddling the youngsters in the class room.
So far it was O.K. with the school, but not so easy as that at my boarding house. I could have stood it if it had been only the boss coming to my room after my tea. But he would fetch many things to my room. First time he brought in seals. He displayed about ten of them before me and persuaded me to buy them for three yen, which was very cheap, he said. Did he take me for a third rate painter making a round of the country? I told him I did not want them. Next time he brought in a panel picture of flowers and birds, drawn by one Kazan or somebody. He hung it against the wall of the alcove and asked me if it was not well done, and I echoed it looked well done. Then he started lecturing about Kazan, that there are two Kazans, one is Kazan something and the other is Kazan anything, and that this picture was the work of that Kazan something. After this nonsensical lecture, he insisted that he would make it fifteen yen for me to buy it. I declined the offer saying that I was shy of the money.
[Footnote 4: Artists have several seals of stone with which to stamp on the picture they draw as a guarantee of their personal work or for identification. The shape and kind of seals are quite a hobby among artists, and sales or exchange are of common occurrence.]
"You can pay any time." He was insistent. I settled him by telling him of my having no intention of purchasing it even if I had the necessary money. Again next time, he yanked in a big writing stone slab about the size of a ridge-tile.
"This is a tankei," he said. As he "tankeied" two or three times, I asked for fun what was a tankei. Right away he commenced lecturing on the subject. "There are the upper, the middle and the lower stratum in tankei," he said. "Most of tankei slabs to-day are made from the upper stratum," he continued, "but this one is surely from the middle stratum. Look at this 'gan.' 'Tis certainly rare to have three 'gans' like this. The ink-cake grates smoothly on it. Try it, sir,"—and he pushed it towards me. I asked him how much, and he answered that on account of its owner having brought it from China and wishing to sell if as soon as possible, he would make it very cheap, that I could have it for thirty yen. I was sure he was a fool. I seemed to be able to get through the school somehow, but I would soon give out if this "curio siege" kept on long.
[Footnote 5: Tankei is the name of a place in China where a certain kind of stone suitable for writing purposes was produced.]
[Footnote 6: "Gan" may be understood as a kind of natural mark on the stone peculiar to the stone from Tankei.]
Shortly afterwards, I began to get sick of the school. One certain night, while I was strolling about a street named Omachi, I happened to notice a sign of noodles below of which was annotated "Tokyo" in the house next to the post office. I am very fond of noodles. While I was in Tokyo, if I passed by a noodle house and smelled the seasoning spices, I felt uncontrollable temptation to go inside at any cost. Up to this time I had forgotten the noodle on account of mathematics and antique curios, but since I had seen thus the sign of noodles, I could hardly pass it by unnoticed. So availing myself of this opportunity, I went in. It was not quite up to what I had judged by the sign. Since it claimed to follow the Tokyo style, they should have tidied up a little bit about the room. They did not either know Tokyo or have the means,—I did not know which, but the room was miserably dirty. The floor-mats had all seen better days and felt shaggy with sandy dust. The sootcovered walls defied the blackest black. The ceiling was not only smoked by the lamp black, but was so low as to force one involuntarily bend down his neck. Only the price-list, on which was glaringly written "Noodles" and which was pasted on the wall, was entirely new. I was certain that they bought an old house and opened the business just two or three days before. At the head of the price-list appeared "tempura" (noodles served with shrimp fried in batter).
"Say, fetch me some tempura," I ordered in a loud voice. Then three fellows who had been making a chewing noise together in a corner, looked in my direction. As the room was dark I did not notice them at first. But when we looked at each other, I found them all to be boys in our school. They "how d'ye do'd" me and I acknowledged it. That night, having come across the noodle after so long a time, it tasted so fine that I ate four bowls.
The next day as I entered the class room quite unconcernedly, I saw on the black board written in letters so large as to take up the whole space; "Professor Tempura." The boys all glanced at my face and made merry hee-haws at my cost. It was so absurd that I asked them if it was in any way funny for me to eat tempura noodle. Thereupon one of them said,—"But four bowls is too much." What did they care if I ate four bowls or five as long as I paid it with my own money,—and speedily finishing up my class, I returned to the teachers' room. After ten minutes' recess, I went to the next class, and there on the black board was newly written quite as large as before; "Four bowls of tempura noodles, but don't laugh."
The first one did not arouse any ill-temper in me, but this time it made me feel irritating mad. A joke carried too far becomes mischievous. It is like the undue jealousy of some women who, like coal, look black and suggest flames. Nobody likes it. These country simpletons, unable to differentiate upon so delicate a boundary, would seem to be bent on pushing everything to the limit. As they lived in such a narrow town where one has no more to see if he goes on strolling about for one hour, and as they were capable of doing nothing better, they were trumpeting aloud this tempura incident in quite as serious a manner as the Russo-Japanese war. What a bunch of miserable pups! It is because they are raised in this fashion from their boyhood that there are many punies who, like the dwarf maple tree in the flower pot, mature gnarled and twisted. I have no objection to laugh myself with others over innocent jokes. But how's this? Boys as they are, they showed a "poisonous temper." Silently erasing off "tempura" from the board, I questioned them if they thought such mischief interesting, that this was a cowardly joke and if they knew the meaning of "cowardice." Some of them answered that to get angry on being laughed at over one's own doing, was cowardice. What made them so disgusting as this? I pitied myself for coming from far off Tokyo to teach such a lot.
"Keep your mouth shut, and study hard," I snapped, and started the class. In the next class again there was written: "When one eats tempura noodles it makes him drawl nonsense." There seemed no end to it. I was thoroughly aroused with anger, and declaring that I would not teach such sassies, went home straight. The boys were glad of having an unexpected holiday, so I heard. When things had come to this pass, the antique curious seemed far more preferable to the school.
My return home and sleep over night greatly rounded off my rugged temper over the tempura affair. I went to the school, and they were there also. I could not tell what was what. The three days thereafter were pacific, and on the night of the fourth day, I went to a suburb called Sumida and ate "dango" (small balls made of glutinous rice, dressed with sugar-paste). Sumida is a town where there are restaurants, hot-springs bath houses and a park, and in addition, the "tenderloin." The dango shop where I went was near the entrance to the tenderloin, and as the dango served there was widely known for its nice taste, I dropped in on my way back from my bath. As I did not meet any students this time, I thought nobody knew of it, but when I entered the first hour class next day, I found written on the black board; "Two dishes of dango—7 sen." It is true that I ate two dishes and paid seven sen. Troublesome kids! I declare. I expected with certainty that there would be something at the second hour, and there it was; "The dango in the tenderloin taste fine." Stupid wretches!
No sooner I thought, the dango incident closed than the red towel became the topic for widespread gossip. Inquiry as to the story revealed it to be something unusually absurd. Since, my arrival here, I had made it a part of my routine to take in the hot springs bath every day. While there was nothing in this town which compared favorably with Tokyo, the hot springs were worthy of praise. So long as I was in the town, I decided that I would have a dip every day, and went there walking, partly for physical exercise, before my supper. And whenever I went there I used to carry a large-size European towel dangling from my hand. Added to somewhat reddish color the towel had acquired by its having been soaked in the hot-springs, the red color on its border, which was not fast enough, streaked about so that the towel now looked as if it were dyed red. This towel hung down from my hand on both ways whether afoot or riding in the train. For this reason, the students nicknamed me Red Towel. Honest, it is exasperating to live in a little town.
There is some more. The bath house I patronized was a newly built three-story house, and for the patrons of the first class the house provided a bath-robe, in addition to an attendant, and the cost was only eight sen. On top of that, a maid would serve tea in a regular polite fashion. I always paid the first class. Then those gossipy spotters started saying that for one who made only forty yen a month to take a first class bath every day was extravagant. Why the devil should they care? It was none of their business.
There is still some more. The bath-tub,—or the tank in this case,—was built of granite, and measured about thirty square feet. Usually there were thirteen or fourteen people in the tank, but sometimes there was none. As the water came up clear to the breast, I enjoyed, for athletic purposes, swimming in the tank. I delighted in swimming in this 30-square feet tank, taking chances of the total absence of other people. Once, going downstairs from the third story with a light heart, and peeping through the entrance of the tank to see if I should be able to swim, I noticed a sign put up in which was boldly written: "No swimming allowed in the tank." As there may not have been many who swam in the tank, this notice was probably put up particularly for my sake. After that I gave up swimming. But although I gave up swimming, I was surprised, when I went to the school, to see on the board, as usual, written: "No swimming allowed in the tank." It seemed as if all the students united in tracking me everywhere. They made me sick. I was not a fellow to stop doing whatever I had started upon no matter what students might say, but I became thoroughly disgusted when I meditated on why I had come to such a narrow, suffocating place. And, then, when I returned home, the "antique curio siege" was still going on.
For us teachers there was a duty of night watch in the school, and we had to do it in turn. But Badger and Red Shirt were not in it. On asking why these two were exempt from this duty, I was told that they were accorded by the government treatment similar to officials of "Sonin" rank. Oh, fudge! They were paid more, worked less, and were then excused from this night watch. It was not fair. They made regulations to suit their convenience and seemed to regard all this as a matter of course. How could they be so brazen faced as this! I was greatly dissatisfied relative to this question, but according to the opinion of Porcupine, protests by a single person, with what insistency they may be made, will not be heard. They ought to be heard whether they are made by one person or by two if they are just. Porcupine remonstrated with me by quoting "Might is right" in English. I did not catch his point, so I asked him again, and he told me that it meant the right of the stronger. If it was the right of the stronger I had known it for long, and did not require Porcupine explain that to me at this time. The right of the stronger was a question different from that of the night watch. Who would agree that Badger and Red Shirt were the stronger? But argument or no argument, the turn of this night watch at last fell upon me. Being quite fastidious, I never enjoyed sound sleep unless I slept comfortably in my own bedding. From my childhood, I never stayed out overnight. When I did not find sleeping under the roof of my friends inviting, night watch in the school, you may be sure, was still worse. However repulsive, if this was a part of the forty yen a month, there was no alternative. I had to do it.
To remain alone in the school after the faculty and students had gone home, was something particularly awkward. The room for the night watch was in the rear of the school building at the west end of the dormitory. I stepped inside to see how it was, and finding it squarely facing the setting sun, I thought I would melt. In spite of autumn having already set in, the hot spell still lingered, quite in keeping with the dilly-dally atmosphere of the country. I ordered the same kind of meal as served for the students, and finished my supper. The meal was unspeakably poor. It was a wonder they could subsist on such miserable stuff and keep on "roughing it" in that lively fashion. Not only that, they were always hungry for supper, finishing it at 4.30 in the afternoon. They must be heroes in a sense. I had thus my supper, but the sun being still high, could not go to bed yet. I felt like going to the hot-springs. I did not know the wrong or right of night watch going out, but it was oppressively trying to stand a life akin to heavy imprisonment. When I called at the school the first time and inquired about night watch, I was told by the janitor that he had just gone out and I thought it strange. But now by taking the turn of night watch myself, I could fathom the situation; it was right for any night watch to go out. I told the janitor that I was going out for a minute. He asked me "on business?" and I answered "No," but to take a bath at the hot springs, and went out straight. It was too bad that I had left my red towel at home, but I would borrow one over there for to-day.
I took plenty of time in dipping in the bath and as it became dark at last, I came to the Furumachi Station on a train. It was only about four blocks to the school; I could cover it in no time. When I started walking schoolwards, Badger was seen coming from the opposite direction. Badger, I presumed, was going to the hot springs by this train. He came with brisk steps, and as we passed by, I nodded my courtesy. Then Badger, with a studiously owlish countenance, asked:
"Am I wrong to understand that you are night watch?"
Chuck that "Am-I-wrong-to-understand"! Two hours ago, did he not say to me "You're on first night watch to-night. Now, take care of yourself?" What makes one use such a roundabout, twisted way of saying anything when he becomes a principal? I was far from smiling.
"Yes, Sir," I said, "I'm night watch to-night, and as I am night watch I will return to the school and stay there overnight, sure." With this parting shot, I left him where we met. Coming then to the cross-streets of Katamachi, I met Porcupine. This is a narrow place, I tell you. Whenever one ventures out, he is sure to come across some familiar face.
"Say, aren't you night watch?" he hallooed, and I said "Yes, I am." "Tis wrong for night watch to leave his post at his pleasure," he added, and to this I blurted out with a bold front; "Nothing wrong at all. It is wrong not to go out."
"Say, old man, your slap-dash is going to the limit. Wouldn't look well for the principal or the head teacher to see you out like this."
The submissive tone of his remark was contrary to Porcupine as I had known him so far, so I cut him short by saying:
"I have met the principal just now. Why, he approved my taking a stroll about the town. Said it would be hard on night watch unless he took a walk when it is hot." Then I made a bee-line for the school.
Soon it was night. I called the janitor to my room and had a chat for about two hours. I grew tired of this, and thought I would get into bed anyway, even if I could not sleep. I put on my night shirt, lifted the mosquito-net, rolled off the red blanket and fell down flat on my back with a bang. The making of this bumping noise when I go to bed is my habit from my boyhood. "It is a bad habit," once declared a student of a law school who lived on the ground floor, and I on the second, when I was in the boarding house at Ogawa-machi, Kanda-ku, and who brought complaints to my room in person. Students of law schools, weaklings as they are, have double the ability of ordinary persons when it comes to talking. As this student of law dwelt long on absurd accusations, I downed him by answering that the noise made when I went to bed was not the fault of my hip, but that of the house which was not built on a solid base, and that if he had any fuss to make, make it to the house, not to me. This room for night watch was not on the second floor, so nobody cared how much I banged. I do not feel well-rested unless I go to bed with the loudest bang I can make.
"This is bully!" and I straightened out my feet, when something jumped and clung to them. They felt coarse, and seemed not to be fleas. I was a bit surprised, and shook my feet inside the blanket two or three times. Instantly the blamed thing increased,—five or six of them on my legs, two or three on the thighs, one crushed beneath my hip and another clear up to my belly. The shock became greater. Up I jumped, took off the blanket, and about fifty to sixty grasshoppers flew out. I was more or less uneasy until I found out what they were, but now I saw they were grasshoppers, they set me on the war path. "You insignificant grasshoppers, startling a man! See what's coming to you!" With this I slapped them with my pillow twice or thrice, but the objects being so small, the effect was out of proportion to the force with which the blows were administered. I adopted a different plan. In the manner of beating floor-mats with rolled matting at house-cleaning, I sat up in bed and began beating them with the pillow. Many of them flew up by the force of the pillow; some desperately clung on or shot against my nose or head. I could not very well hit those on my head with the pillow; I grabbed such, and dashed them on the floor. What was more provoking was that no matter how hard I dashed them, they landed on the mosquito-net where they made a fluffy jerk and remained, far from being dead. At last, in about half an hour the slaughter of the grasshoppers was ended. I fetched a broom and swept them out. The janitor came along and asked what was the matter.
"Damn the matter! Where in thunder are the fools who keep grasshoppers in bed! You pumpkinhead!"
The janitor answered by explaining that he did not know anything about it. "You can't get away with Did-not-know," and I followed this thundering by throwing away the broom. The awe-struck janitor shouldered the broom and faded away.
At once I summoned three of the students to my room as the "representatives," and six of them reported. Six or ten made no difference; I rolled up the sleeves of my night-shirt and fired away.
"What do you mean by putting grasshoppers in my bed!"
"Grasshoppers? What are they?" said one in front, in a tone disgustingly quiet. In this school, not only the principal, but the students as well, were addicted to using twisted-round expressions.
"Don't know grasshoppers! You shall see!" To my chagrin, there was none; I had swept them all out. I called the janitor again and told him to fetch those grasshoppers he had taken away. The janitor said he had thrown them into the garbage box, but that he would pick them out again. "Yes, hurry up," I said, and he sped away. After a while he brought back about ten grasshoppers on a white paper, remarking:
"I'm sorry, Sir. It's dark outside and I can't find out more. I'll find some tomorrow." All fools here, down to the janitor. I showed one grasshopper to the students.
"This is a grasshopper. What's the matter for as big idiots as you not to know a grasshopper." Then the one with a round face sitting on the left saucily shot back:
"A-ah say, that's a locust, a-ah——."
"Shut up. They're the same thing. In the first place, what do you mean by answering your teacher 'A-ah say'? Ah-Say or Ah-Sing is a Chink's name!"
For this counter-shot, he answered:
"A-ah say and Ah-Sing is different,—A-ah say." They never got rid of "A-ah say."
"Grasshoppers or locusts, why did you put them into my bed? When I asked you to?"
"Nobody put them in."
"If not, how could they get into the bed?"
"Locusts are fond of warm places and probably they got in there respectfully by themselves."
"You fools! Grasshoppers getting into bed respectfully! I should smile at them getting in there respectfully! Now, what's the reason for doing this mischief? Speak out."
"But there is no way to explain it because we didn't do it."
Shrimps! If they were afraid of making a clean breast of their own deed, they should not have done it at all. They looked defiant, and appeared to insist on their innocence as long as no evidence was brought up. I myself did some mischief while in the middle school, but when the culprit was sought after, I was never so cowardly, not even once, to back out. What one has done, has been done; what he has not, has not been,—that's the black and white of it. I, for one have been game and square, no matter how much mischief I might have done. If I wished to dodge the punishment, I would not start it. Mischief and punishment are bound to go together. We can enjoy mischief-making with some show of spirit because it is accompanied by certain consequences. Where does one expect to see the dastardly spirit which hungers for mischief-making without punishment, in vogue? The fellows who like to borrow money but not pay it back, are surely such as these students here after they are graduated. What did these fellows come to this middle school for, anyway? They enter a school, tattle round lies, play silly jokes behind some one by sneaking and cheating and get wrongly swell-headed when they finish the school thinking they have received an education. A common lot of jackasses they are.
My hatred of talking with these scamps became intense, so I dismissed them by saying:
"If you fellows have nothing to say, let it go at that. You deserve pity for not knowing the decent from the vulgar after coming to a middle school."
I am not very decent in my own language or manner, but am sure that my moral standard is far more decent than that of these gangs. Those six boys filed out leisurely. Outwardly they appeared more dignified than I their teacher, it was the more repulsive for their calm behavior. I have no temerity equal to theirs. Then I went to bed again, and found the inside of the net full of merry crowds of mosquitoes. I could not bother myself to burn one by one with a candle flame. So I took the net off the hooks, folded it the lengthwise, and shook it crossways, up and down the room. One of the rings of the net, flying round, accidentally hit the back of my hand, the effect of which I did not soon forget. When I went to bed for the third time, I cooled off a little, but could not sleep easily. My watch showed it was half past ten. Well, as I thought it over, I realized myself as having come to a dirty pit. If all teachers of middle schools everywhere have to handle fellows like these in this school, those teachers have my sympathy. It is wonderful that teachers never run short. I believe there are many boneheads of extraordinary patience; but me for something else. In this respect, Kiyo is worthy of admiration. She is an old woman, with neither education nor social position, but as a human, she does more to command our respect. Until now, I have been a trouble to her without appreciating her goodness, but having come alone to such a far-off country, I now appreciated, for the first time, her kindness. If she is fond of sasa-ame of Echigo province, and if I go to Echigo for the purpose of buying that sweetmeat to let her eat it, she is fully worth that trouble. Kiyo has been praising me as unselfish and straight, but she is a person of sterling qualities far more than I whom she praises. I began to feel like meeting her.
While I was thus meditating about Kiyo, all of a sudden, on the floor above my head, about thirty to forty people, if I guess by the number, started stamping the floor with bang, bang, bang that well threatened to bang down the floor. This was followed by proportionately loud whoops. The noise surprised me, and I popped up. The moment I got up I became aware that the students were starting a rough house to get even with me. What wrong one has committed, he has to confess, or his offence is never atoned for. They are just to ask for themselves what crimes they have done. It should be proper that they repent their folly after going to bed and to come and beg me pardon the next morning. Even if they could not go so far as to apologize they should have kept quiet. Then what does this racket mean? Where we keeping hogs in our dormitory?
"This crazy thing got to stop. See what you get!"
I ran out of the room in my night shirt, and flew upstairs in three and half steps. Then, strange to say, thunderous rumbling, of which I was sure of hearing in the act, was hushed. Not only a whisper but even footsteps were not heard. This was funny. The lamp was already blown out and although I could not see what was what in the dark, nevertheless could tell by instinct whether there was somebody around or not. In the long corridor running from the east to the west, there was not hiding even a mouse. From other end of the corridor the moonlight flooded in and about there it was particularly light. The scene was somewhat uncanny. I have had the habit from my boyhood of frequently dreaming and of flying out of bed and of muttering things which nobody understood, affording everybody a hearty laugh. One night, when I was sixteen or seventeen, I dreamed that I picked up a diamond, and getting up, demanded of my brother who was sleeping close to me what he had done with that diamond. The demand was made with such force that for about three days all in the house chaffed me about the fatal loss of precious stone, much to my humiliation. Maybe this noise which I heard was but a dream, although I was sure it was real. I was wondering thus in the middle of the corridor, when at the further end where it was moonlit, a roar was raised, coming from about thirty or forty throats, "One, two, three,—Whee-ee!" The roar had hardly subsided, when, as before, the stamping of the floor commenced with furious rhythm. Ah, it was not a dream, but a real thing!
"Quit making the noise! 'Tis midnight!"
I shouted to beat the band, and started in their direction. My passage was dark; the moonlight yonder was only my guide. About twelve feet past, I stumbled squarely against some hard object; ere the "Ouch!" has passed clear up to my head, I was thrown down. I called all kinds of gods, but could not run. My mind urged me on to hurry up, but my leg would not obey the command. Growing impatient, I hobbled on one foot, and found both voice and stamping already ceased and perfectly quiet. Men can be cowards but I never expected them capable of becoming such dastardly cowards as this. They challenged hogs.
Now the situation having developed to this pretty mess, I would not give it up until I had dragged them out from hiding and forced them to apologize. With this determination, I tried to open one of the doors and examine inside, but it would not open. It was locked or held fast with a pile of tables or something; to my persistent efforts the door stood unyielding. Then I tried one across the corridor on the northside, but it was also locked. While this irritating attempt at door-opening was going on, again on the east end of the corridor the whooping roar and rhythmic stamping of feet were heard. The fools at both ends were bent on making a goose of me. I realized this, but then I was at a loss what to do. I frankly confess that I have not quite as much tact as dashing spirit. In such a case I am wholly at the mercy of swaying circumstances without my own way of getting through it. Nevertheless, I do not expect to play the part of underdog. If I dropped the affair then and there, it would reflect upon my dignity. It would be mortifying to have them think that they had one on the Tokyo-kid and that Tokyo-kid was wanting in tenacity. To have it on record that I had been guyed by these insignificant spawn when on night watch, and had to give in to their impudence because I could not handle them,—this would be an indelible disgrace on my life. Mark ye,—I am descendant of a samurai of the "hatamato" class. The blood of the "hatamoto" samurai could be traced to Mitsunaka Tada, who in turn could claim still a nobler ancestor. I am different from, and nobler than, these manure-smelling louts. The only pity is that I am rather short of tact; that I do not know what to do in such a case. That is the trouble. But I would not throw up the sponge; not on your life! I only do not know how because I am honest. Just think,—if the honest does not win, what else is there in this world that will win? If I cannot beat them to-night, I will tomorrow; if not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. If not the day after tomorrow, I will sit down right here, get my meals from my home until I beat them.
Thus resolved, I squatted in the middle of the corridor and waited for the dawn. Myriads of mosquitoes swarmed about me, but I did not mind them. I felt my leg where I hit it a while ago; it seemed bespattered with something greasy. I thought it was bleeding. Let it bleed all it cares! Meanwhile, exhausted by these unwonted affairs, I fell asleep. When I awoke, up I jumped with a curse. The door on my right was half opened, and two students were standing in front of me. The moment I recovered my senses from the drowsy lull, I grabbed a leg of one of them nearest to me, and yanked it with all my might. He fell down prone. Look at what you're getting now! I flew at the other fellow, who was much confused; gave him vigorous shaking twice or thrice, and he only kept open his bewildering eyes.
"Come up to my room." Evidently they were mollycoddles, for they obeyed my command without a murmur. The day had become already clear.
I began questioning those two in my room, but,—you cannot pound out the leopard's spots no matter how you may try,—they seemed determined to push it through by an insistent declaration of "not guilty," that they would not confess. While this questioning was going on, the students upstairs came down, one by one, and began congregating in my room. I noticed all their eyes were swollen from want of sleep.
"Blooming nice faces you got for not sleeping only one night. And you call yourselves men! Go, wash your face and come back to hear what I've got to tell you."
I hurled this shot at them, but none of them went to wash his face. For about one hour, I had been talking and back-talking with about fifty students when suddenly Badger put in his appearance. I heard afterward that the janitor ran to Badger for the purpose of reporting to him that there was a trouble in the school. What a weak-knee of the janitor to fetch the principal for so trifling an affair as this! No wonder he cannot see better times than a janitor.
The principal listened to my explanation, and also to brief remarks from the students. "Attend school as usual till further notice. Hurry up with washing your face and breakfast; there isn't much time left." So the principal let go all the students. Decidedly slow way of handling, this. If I were the principal, I would expel them right away. It is because the school accords them such luke-warm treatment that they get "fresh" and start "guying" the night watch.
He said to me that it must have been trying on my nerves, and that I might be tired, and also that I need not teach that day. To this I replied:
"No, Sir, no worrying at all. Such things may happen every night, but it would not disturb me in the least as long as I breathe. I will do the teaching. If I were not able to teach on account of lack of sleep for only one single night, I would make a rebate of my salary to the school."
I do not know how this impressed him, but he gazed at me for a while, and called my attention to the fact that my face was rather swollen. Indeed, I felt it heavy. Besides, it itched all over. I was sure the mosquitoes must have stung me there to their hearts' content. I further added:
"My face may be swollen, but I can talk all right; so I will teach;" thus scratching my face with some warmth. The principal smiled and remarked, "Well, you have the strength." To tell the truth, he did not intend remark to be a compliment, but, I think, a sneer.
"Won't you go fishing?" asked Red Shirt He talks in a strangely womanish voice. One would not be able to tell whether he was a man or a woman. As a man he should talk like one. Is he not a college graduate? I can talk man-like enough, and am a graduate from a school of physics at that. It is a shame for a B.A. to have such a squeak.
I answered with the smallest enthusiasm, whereupon he further asked me an impolite question if I ever did fishing. I told him not much, that I once caught three gibels when I was a boy, at a fishing game pond at Koume, and that I also caught a carp about eight inches long, at a similar game at the festival of Bishamon at Kagurazaka;—the carp, just as I was coaxing it out of the water, splashed back into it, and when I think of the incident I feel mortified at the loss even now. Red Shirt stuck out his chin and laughed "ho, ho." Why could he not laugh just like an ordinary person? "Then you are not well acquainted with the spirit of the game," he cried. "I'll show you if you like." He seemed highly elated.
Not for me! I take it this way that generally those who are fond of fishing or shooting have cruel hearts. Otherwise, there is no reason why they could derive pleasure in murdering innocent creatures. Surely, fish and birds would prefer living to getting killed. Except those who make fishing or shooting their calling, it is nonsense for those who are well off to say that they cannot sleep well unless they seek the lives of fish or birds. This was the way I looked at the question, but as he was a B. A. and would have a better command of language when it came to talking, I kept mum, knowing he would beat me in argument. Red Shirt mistook my silence for my surrender, and began to induce me to join him right away, saying he would show me some fish and I should come with him if I was not busy, because he and Mr. Yoshikawa were lonesome when alone. Mr. Yoshikawa is the teacher of drawing whom I had nicknamed Clown. I don't know what's in the mind of this Clown, but he was a constant visitor at the house of Red Shirt, and wherever he went, Clown was sure to be trailing after him. They appeared more like master and servant than two fellow teachers. As Clown used to follow Red Shirt like a shadow, it would be natural to see them go off together now, but when those two alone would have been well off, why should they invite me,—this brusque, unaesthetic fellow,—was hard to understand. Probably, vain of his fishing ability, he desired to show his skill, but he aimed at the wrong mark, if that was his intention, as nothing of the kind would touch me. I would not be chagrined if he fishes out two or three tunnies. I am a man myself and poor though I may be in the art, I would hook something if I dropped a line. If I declined his invitation, Red Shirt would suspect that I refused not because of my lack of interest in the game but because of my want of skill of fishing. I weighed the matter thus, and accepted his invitation. After the school, I returned home and got ready, and having joined Red Shirt and Clown at the station, we three started to the shore. There was only one boatman to row; the boat was long and narrow, a kind we do not have in Tokyo. I looked for fishing rods but could find none.