Mother Earth

Volume 3: The Caldron of Hell

Chapter 8: The Birth of Sumi

      In 1876 (Meiji 9), Tsubouchi and Shingu Villages were amalgamated as Hongu Village. The view of the area where the house of the Deguchi family had been located before, was very changed because eighteen houses had been destroyed by fire the year after the Deguchi family sold off their house and moved out. Masagoro decided to build a small house because forty-eight tsubo (a tsubo equals about 0.3 m2) were left in this place. He noticed the loss of renting a house. His plan encouraged his family. They would be able to have their own house after a lapse of four years.

      Masagoro and his wife brought down timber out of the mountain and heaped up the stones from near the Yura river beside the well sunk in the east side of the house. Also the eldest son, Takezo, thirteen years old, with pleasure helped his parents to work and even Hisa, nine years old, tried to help do something with all a child's might.

      It was not long before they had built a small house. Stepping up to the edge of the entrance from the earth floor, you see a two-jo (mat) board floor, beside it, a six-mat room, and an eight-mat room provided with a small alcove at the back of the house. There is a scroll described as "Tenshokotaijin (the Sun-Goddess), Hachimandaibosatsu (the Japanese Mars). Kasugadaimyojin (a grand gracious deity named Kasuga)" hung on the wall of the alcove and beside that something for worshipping Buddha and something worshipped as a symbol of the spirit of the dead. The small shrine which was for Takakuramyojin (a gracious deity named Takakura) was near. It was very showy to see the thatched roof of the house with lattice windows and outside board well colored within indian red by his own hands. Nao couldn't help feeling ashamed.

      Building an Inari (the fox deity) temple colored indian red
      Though the ring but fulfills sounding gara gara (gara gara means empty)

      Masagoro wrote the triumphant kyoka (the comic tanka) and had a tranquil face as usual. Nao began to manage the bun shop in earnest, though it was so small that there was only an earth floor at the entrance. She only put out a few rough boxes in which the buns were displayed. The infant, Hisa peddled them door-to-door.

      Nao's elder daughter, Yone, married Yoki who managed a wheat flour shop in Hirokoji in the spring of 1875 (Meiji 8). But, she ran away with her lover, Shikazo Otsuki, who was a gangster. They hid themselves from ayabe for a while and came back to Ayabe after cooling down. Shikazo was a shrewd merchant and opened the first beef shop named Imamoriya (it means "now prosperous shop") and a sukiyaki restaurant in Kitanishi-cho. And Yone who was deft opened a hairdresser's shop in her house. They had a prosperous trade.

      At the time, about a year after eloping, Yone had a lady visitor to the storefront. This time, Shikazo was absent.

      She went out of store unintentionally and stared in wonder. The man stood before her screening his face with a sedge hat in his traveling kit. The man was...why!...her former lover, Miyaginu, whom she had thought not to meet again. His cheeks which had been chubby before were very sunken, and narrowed eyes were flashing strangely.

      Miyaginu was shocked and gasped painfully to see the figure of Yone changed after a two-year-interval.

      Miyaginu said, "I ask your forgiveness. O-Yone-han. I was weak-kneed at everything. You should be quite disgusted at my cowardice." She muttered, "It is an affair of a bygone age." "I'm determined to marry you this time. Please flee with me." Yone was instantly moved by her first lover, Miyaginu, whom she pardened nodded to him as if being absorbed in his body. Yone was sweet-tempered by nature.

      She said, "Please go ahead along the Ayabe Highway and wait for me on the roadside in the vicinity of Teramura Village. I'll run after you immediately."

      Yone made him set out before and got ready for a journey by gathering money as quickly as possible. She went out of the house in a casual manner, leaving the employee a message that she would come back soon.

      She met Miyaginu at the verge of the town, Teramura, and both went up to Kyoto as if pursued. As the starting time was around noon, they reached Sannomiya, Funai County near a limestone cave after sunset. Miyaginu decided to stay there for Yone was an inexperienced traveler.

      Both were shown a room upstairs. A couple of swallows were sleeping in a nest built in the eaves. Miyaginu focused on her face with stretching eyes, and said, "I became a coward after retiring from sumo. At the evening of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) festival, I was going to battle, being ready to risk my life. I had confidence in myself to protect you from harm as many as came even if in the sumo ring. But the moment I looked at the shining daggers, I suddenly couldn't stand, losing my knees and feeling my spine go back and goose-pimply. I had believed myself a strong man till then, but,...that night for the first time, unfortunately, before my lovely you, it came home to me that I was only a coward."

      Yone was in silence hearing his story.

      He continued to tell her, "I was so angry with myself that I know I deserve your scorn. Hearing of your marriage, I at one time determined not to see you again. In spite of my humiliation, I could not bear not to come here after hearing that Shikazo took you by force. That guy overrode my and your fortune. I have a right to recapture you from him who trampled upon my right. I love only you, O-Yone-han. I cannot live without you." His head sank forward on his breast after snapping out his smoldering humiliating sentences.

      In only a distance of 4 ri (16 kilometers), Yone was charmed with Miyaginu. Yone spoke to him like a mother trying to please the baby, holding him in her arms, "Let's forget the hatred. Anyhow, it is what is done. Come now, cheer up."

      Yone behaved as a wife older than her husband asking a maid for supper with a choshi (a little holder) of sake. She took a sake-cup and filled it smiling charmingly. "I think that we should perform the ceremony of the three-times-three exchange of nuptial cups," she said. Miyaginu drained the cup and was looking at the small china cup with deep emotion being moved to tears. He soon raised his sharp face, showed a bold frontt to her with a sunny face with the expression that he monopolized all happiness in the world, "I will become a strong man. I will never deliver you to Shikazo even if I am chopped up."

      At this time, a few footsteps came up the stairs and the fusuma (sliding door) of the room was suddenly opened. The rough fellows of Shikazo rushed into the room. Miyaginu shouted to them. "Hey! O-Yone-han is mine. From the first, I'm her owner." Miyaginu, standing up holding her in his arms with a maniacal expression of rage, was stirred up just as stamping on the ring. The fellows spread out flinching from the force of the Ozeki (a sumo wrestler of the second highest rank). One fellow first drew a dagger and the other fellows also drew them.

      Yone laid her face down on his muscular breast ignoring the daggers which were gradually drawing closer. She trusted him with all things and was intoxicated from ecstacy just feeling numbness. "I'd like to be killed with him now."

      The fellows shouted, growing excited, "Hey, Miyaginu, let go your hold of the boss's wife." "If you leave, we will spare your life. If you refuse, we four will tear you up and finish you. That is the boss's order." Miyaginu gave a cry, "I refuse. Don't deliver my love to that fellow, Shikazo."

      Miyaginu moved backward near the wall, holding her in his arms. The daggers came near them. At this time, the body of Miyaginu developed a hard cramp. "My knees...knees. Oh, no. I can't stand." He groaned in bitter grief and sank weakly to the tatami.

      She broke promptly from his grip and stood up. Deep grief pressed her hand. She said to the fellows, "Don't start a quarrel with him. I'll come back and put the daggers away." The fellows looked at each other and withdrew the daggers. Miyaginu made a face like crumpling paper and said gaspingly, "Don't leave, O-Yone-han...."

      Yone muttered, "I am infested with ticks. Give me up and marry a good female to live happily." She went out of the hotel ahead of the fellows. Miyaginu cried, "Kill me... Kill me for my love of you." Yone closed her ears and went ahead shaking off Miyaginu.

      Shikazo who was drinking sake serving himself, smiled wryly at Yone who was sitting around sulking, thinking she was foolish. But, he didn't scold her at all. He treated his wife, who was eighteen years younger than him as her father. Yone returned slipperily to life with Shikazo with no chance to apologize to him.

      About the time when Yone's grief related to running away with Miyaginu cooled down, a familiar face of a pupil of Miyagawa visited Yone's restaurant. He whispered hurriedly in her ear seizing an occasion, "Miyaginu-han fell into a dangerous condition." "What?" "Since failing to run away with you, he was cast down without appetite or words. He talked in delirium calling your name and was unable to take the medicine given by a physician. His parents wanted their son to have a chance of meeting you before he died feeling pity for him who burned with passion for you." She said, "I will visit him. Please take me at once out the back entrance."

      Yone went toward Fukuchiyama leaving everything. She had a dislike for herself. She felt heartless in comparison with Miyaginu who continued to love her with a whole heart.

      Yone arrived at the parents' house of Miyaginu and burst into a hysterical fit of tears before the sick-abed, Miyaginu. He had become emaciated and revealed eyes strangely larger than usual.

      Miyaginu made a long arm for Yone just as to confirm her existance and talked to her in a faint voice, "Haven't you been treated cruelly by your husband because of running away with me? I've been anxious about it...."

      "How gentle he is to love me in his dangerous condition!"

      She pressed her cheek against his bony hands as in a delirrium. He said, "Now...nobody can disturb our pleasures."

      Miyaginu smiled with much joy. He said nothing more. His old mother was crying over her son's body which was cooling with leaving the smile. A small sake holder was left in his futon. No one understood why it was in the futon, but Yone knew well the meaning. It is used at the time that they performed the ceremony of three-times-three exchange of nuptial cups in that hotel.

      Yone felt a pain twitching in her left upper arm on the night Miyaginu died. She felt a stiff ball just size of a finger tip in the arm. Yone wondered and stroked the stiffness. The hard lump was swollen under the thin skin and moved. Yone called to it, "Oh, yes, you are the appearance of the spirit of Miyaginu-han." The ball of the hard lump rolled joyfully about upper arm just as a puppy was playing with the owner. Here and there in the white arm swelled according to movement. She felt no pain. Yone believed it to be the appearance of Miyaginu's love.

      Nao gave birth to the third son, Denkichi, on March 11, 1877 (Meiji 10). Hearing the news, Yone visited Hongu Village to see Denkichi. She prowled about her parents' house holding the baby's hand sewn underwear, but she couldn't visit her mother and came back dejectedly.

      Autumn had come. It is about the time when Denkichi was old enough to sit up. It had been over two years since Yone had cut off relations with her father. She thought that her father would reluctantly allow her to enter their house if she apologized to her father. Expecting to integrate herself into the family circle of her sweet old home. Yone entered into the garden of Deguchi family's house from the back gate.

      A dragonfly which settled on the edge of the veranda rose quietly in the air. Yone stole near the back of the house and reached out her hand for the shoji (the paper screen) which was bathed in the autumn sun and opened it in a halting way. She looked at father's large shoulder and gray-white-hair and mother over the table. Mother spooned up gruel for breakfast holding Denkichi on her lap. And her brothers and sister, Takezo, Hisashi, Seikichi...her heart throbbed with nostalgic sweetness. She shouted in a suppressed voice, "Mother!"

      Seikichi spoke in a wild voice, "Hey, who?" He craned his neck to look at the shadow of shoji and indicated it. Mother began to waver and said, "O-Yone, is it you?" "What? Yone?" Her father, Masagoro's face was flushed with morning sake when he turned his back. His eyes, in a moment, flashed with anger. He opened roughly the shoji all at once and stood with his legs wide apart before her.

      He shouted, "Why do you come? Hey, you! Shame upon you! You ran away with a gambler left your husband, foolish. Dirty, dirty, you. I cut off relationship with such a daughter three years ago, I did. I strictly forbid you to enter this house again."

      The roasted Japanese chestnuts she brought as a gift dropped out of her hand. Shaking her shoulders, she wept as bitterly as an infant.

      Masagoro shouted, "Go away. Wretch! I'm going to punish you." He suddenly got a hoe which stood against the veranda and held it aloft. Yone fled quickly to the garden wicket and cried, "Father, I...I cannot help it. Please pardon me!" Nao rushed out into the garden with bare feet and clung frantically to Masagoro's hands. "Pardon her, please. Pardon Yone. She is ill bred by me."

      Neighbors sprang out into the street noticing this noise, and barely managed to hold Masagoro who rushed about in a frenzy. Yone ran weeping bitterly in the town, and was beating at her father for making his family sip gruel and drank morning sake and got drunk, "An ogre, an ogre...."

      Masagoro soon pardoned Yone when her condition took a turn for the worse and she came close to death because of pneumonia caused by the hard cold. Neighbors visited the house of Deguchi and asked her father to pardon her saying "Would you please pardon her at least within her life?" Nao first hastened to the house of the Otsuki and sat up with Yone for a few days.

      Yone took a turn for the better speedily, I suppose it was the effect of the tenderness of Nao. One day, Nao whispered to her with much pleasure, "Father is very funny. Hearing of your illness, he was surely flustered and hurried to me saying, 'As I got angry with Yone last time, I did my duty suitably in public. And go quickly to her.' When I come back, he asks anxiously about your condition." Yone said, "Mother, you accepted father's words." "What?" Yone snapped at her, "How good-natured you are. Then, when father held aloft the hoe and berated me, he pretended to do it, you say. Oh, foolish. Father spoke words to me as a speech of some drama. It is too late that father and daughter hold each other and are choked with tears of joy, I say." "Hey, O-Yone. What a distorted mind you have!" Yone turned her pale face from Nao and said vexatiously, "I became distorted a little because of being cut off by father. I want to be accepted by father."

      Yone's earnest affection to be reconciled with her parents cooled her down and she treated with her mother talking shamelessly of the situation of her father.

      "Father spoke ill of me as the disgrace of the Deguchi family. But it is father, not I, to be lost to shame because he made over a good house roofed with tiles and played about. He has done what he likes."

      "Moreover, mother is also bad. She has allowed him to drink morning sake and carried a needy domestic establishment making her children sip gruel. How hungry the growing children have felt in her ignorance of the acts of father."

      "Even if I accumulate great wealth I will not support the family of Deguchi. Let them sink and sink without limit doing as they please."

      Yone cooled down to a wonder.

      At the t ime of silkworms, in the summer, 1878 (Meiji 11), Nao worked away from home to obtain raw silk from silkworms to Kurisu Village, committing Denkichi, just over one year old, to her daughter, Hisa, eleven years old. Seikichi, seven years old, followed her gripping her sleeve as far as Teramura Village.

      Nao said, patting him on the head, "I will buy some presents for you. Be a good child until I come back. Listen to what elder brother, Takezo, and elder sister, Hisa, say." Seikichi nodded to her with eyes filled with tears.

      Nao worked hard thinking that she was not allowed to waste even a moment of her time, leaving her husband and four children. She worked for sixty days, a few days longer than normal and obtained a sizable sum of money. Nao tightly wrapped the money in the kerchif and went toward Ayabe. After walking for a few cho (a cho equals about 110 meters), she remembered an article left behind. There was a house which was leaning to one side. A sunburned woman in her fifties was weaving a straw matting with a tool in the small garden of the house. Nao impatiently begged to leave her baggage on the edge of veranda of the house. She came back to the thread-and-yarn store.

      She turned to the house at once and accepted her baggage and thanked her sincerely. Nao hurried on her way cheering up at the thought of giving presents to her children.

      At noon, she sat down on a stump to take lunch and shout "Oh!", when opening the baggage.

      "Nothing!" All money which she obtained for sixty days with sweat was lost.

      Nao was petrified with despair turning deadly pale. She was going to apply that money to the payment of debts which had run up to a large sum, and for payment of rice miso and shoyu (soy). The matter must not be left as it is. How does she make the apology to her family with no money. Anyhow, Nao returned at once to the house which she deposited money. The moment the woman who wove the straw matting saw Nao far from the garden, she hurriedly entered her house.

      Standing in front of the house, Nao found the windows and shoji of the house closed in spite of the warm day just as if refusing her. There is no clear evidence she stole Nao's money. If she said that Nao was going to put something over on her, that would be that. Nao got near the edge of the veranda of the house praying to God. She heard sickly coughing through the broken Shoji (a paper-sliding door), and next, a hysteric scolding voice of a woman and a scream of child.

      Nao moved backward.

      "The family of this house also live in poverty that made them fumble in my baggage. It is fault of mine that I carelessly deposited important baggage with valuable money and excited her curiosity to steal money in a moment of aberration. I am going to give the money up for lost. It is of some service to have worked for sixty days for me because the family of this house is able to tide over their difficulty...."

      Thinking so, she sobbed. But, she persuaded herself with her teeth firmly set.

      "I will become a rich person in mind, trancending poverty."

      On her way home, Nao asked to work for a farmer weeding a field for ten days at Tomobuchi Village (currently Tomobuchi Sanwa-cho, Kyoto Prefecture) and was able to obtain a small sum of money to take home. At no time was she so miserable as when she looked at her family.

      Nao exhausted all her energies to feed her increasing number of children, she was also watchful to teach manners to her children.

      The family hadn't yet sat down to dinner. The gruel was becoming cool and the table was covered with a white cloth. The sound of the rolling stone mill echoed all over the house. Nao, as usual, began to grind four sho (about 2.2 liters) rice into flour for tomorrow's bun shop. The simple sound naturally put children to sleep.

      Seikichi sighed watching the flame of the andon (a paper-covered lamp stand), "Er...when does father come back?" After father comes back, the children would be allowed to take a dinner and go to bed. The eldest son, Takezo who was an apprentice of father as a carpenter said sadly, "Don't expect your father. Baby, he is drinking sake now at Toraya. How discouraging!" Hisa also grumbled, "Surely, I'm hungry and sleepy...."

      Nao stopped moving the stone mill and turned round toward her children, and said, "You are very sleepy and want to eat. But bear a little. You must keep manners to greet father saying, 'Welcome home.' This is harmony of the family."

      Hearing mother's gentle voice, the children didn't refuse.

      But, Nao said again. "It is true that it is a pity for you. Well, I will announce your father's return the moment I hear father's walking sound. And you wake up and tell him 'Welcome home.' You will take dinner with father and go to bed after thanking the gods and the souls of ancestors. Okay?"

      It is unnecessary to wake us because we will be surely awakened by the singing voice of father from one-cho (about 110 meters) away," said Seikichi forwardly calling forth Takezo's and Hisa's laugh.

      When Masagoro returned home at midnight, he was perfectly ignorant of Nao's care at his being beastly drunk. It was the usual situation that he rolled in futon with his clothes on saying, "No thank you for my dinner. Hate even to look at it," and immediately snored loudly before the bleary eyed sleepy.

      The children listened to their mother's suggestion but came gradually to criticize the attitude of their father.

      One day, Masagoro came home under a high sun and said loudly, "O-Na, you heard the sound of the drum on Yotsuo Mountain. When the sound began to echo, I wanted very much to visit Yotsuo Mountain and came back leaving my business." Nao said joyously, "Well, very good. It is better to come back because it is very dangerous to miss your footing on a high scaffolding while working involuntarily. Okay, I'd like to boil rice mixed with fish and vegetables in a hurry."

      Nao had Hisa, her third daughter, take potato, a turnip and kidney beans in the back field and hurriedly boiled rice, mixed them. Furthermore, she made Hisa go buy sake at Yamazakiya shop in Uemachi.

      Hisa went toward Yamazakiya shop carrying a gourd, thinking the following.

      "I envy father his rich life that he goes to the theater with lunch and sake. In comparison with him, I'm unable to take a dinner until father comes back in spite of selling buns all the daylight hours. I'm only a loser. I ought to have father bring me to the theater just today."

      Hisa insistently asked her mother to go to the theater with father.

      Nao admonished her calmly, "Oh, O-Hisa, I can't allow you to do it. Maybe, you can't understand the theater but the gaily dressed beautiful actors. Wait until you can understand the content of the play. Enjoy your life in future as you are young. But, your father is old. It is filial piety to grant the request of father" Hisa didn't know how to say to mother, but muttered silently, "Why hasn't father brought you to the theater?"

      In 1879 (Meiji 12), the full-scale movement of democratic rights began and large and small political organizations were organized around the country. In spite of Nao's hard work, the family of Deguchi eked out a bare existence from day to day. The eldest son, Takezo who became sixteen years old, was a good-natured person but weak. Masagoro was going to make Takezo succeed to his carpenter's business in the future and endeavored to teach its skills, but Takezo was not interested in the carpenter's work in the least. The second apprentice of Masagoro, Kichizo in Okimura Village said to Masagoro, "I will attempt to bring up your son, Takezo-han to be a good carpenter." Masagoro was very pleased and made Takezo serve Kichizo. But, Takezo ran back from Kichizo in less than a month.

      Takezo was going to cry and said, "I have eaten plain food. I can't keep myself in good health." He refused to go to Kichizo's house pretending to be ill. Masagoro and Nao drew a long breath and abandoned Kichizo's kindness.

      In these circumstances, there is nothing for it but to decrease the number of the family. And Masagoro put out Hisa, twelve years old, to service to his eldest brother of parents' house in Okamura Village, the family of Chihei Shikata. In place of Hisa, Seikichi, eight years old, peddled buns.

      On October 9, Matsunosuke, the eldest son of Chihei Shikata, visited the house of Deguchi to receive Hisa. Chihei's wife gave birth to her second son, Shotaro while Matsunosuke visited the family of Deguchi. Hisa was going to work hard at mowing, farm work, herding cows and looking after Shotaro and the baby, Juntaro, two years old.

      The day after, Hisa came to the house of Shikata, she was ordered to announce the birth of Shotaro to relatives of Shikata. There are two ri (one ri equals 4.4 kilometers) from Oka Village to Kamiyasuba among the mountains. Hisa didn't even know the way.

      Matsunosuke taught her the way to Kamiyasuba, "Going up the slope, you will find the way at the foot of the mountain. You go ahead along the mountain and reach a small village. You can see a pass over there. Crossing the pass, there is a village named Yasuba and one more big pass called Kayanoki-toge (about 115 meters above the sea). Crossing this pass, you will reach a place named Fujitani which is very lonely. You will feel forlorn. Well, it is better for you to strap Juntaro to your back to divert your mind from loneliness."

      Matsunosuke made her strap Juntaro to her small back under the mask of kindness.

      Hisa barely managed to cross the pass of Kayanoki and came to the gorge commonly called Fujitani. At one side of the narrow pass, there was a dense forest of the steep mountain and at other side, a mountain stream echoed hard in the deep vally. Looking up at the dark sky, she had an illusion a grand snake would swallow her. Hisa told Juntaro being cross on her back thinking of his ignorance, "My baby! Don't fear because I will defend you."

      She passed through Fujitani and reached a fresh green pond where mandarin ducks were floating freely. While she watched its scene for some time, she was filled with grief. "Even those birds are playing freely on the surface of the water's home, with their parents, but I am walking alone with a baby strapped to my back in the deep mountains."

      Looking at a large overhanging rock beside the way, she found an old man, about seventy years old, standing on t he rock with a long priest's staff. She unconsciously bobbed her head to the old man without feeling strange because she had seen God in the precincts of the shrine called Gongen-san (the incarnation of Buddha). She was rather cheered up by the appearance of the old man than surprised at him somehow and began to walk.

      Going a little way, she found on the left of a shrine of the village named Mitegura-san (it means a pendant paper strips in a Shinto shrine). Its true name is Ikuno Shrine dedicated to the goddess, Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto). As she visited the shrine she saw a beautiful goddess enshrined in the hall of worship. She was encouraged by the goddess.

      Hisa reached Oka Village uneventfully. She felt honorable important message to arrive at this place because she hadn't visited other place beyond Ayabe. She saw the southeast direct to the sky to Ayabe. The figure of sleeping goddess suddenly appeared in the sky above the mountain in the gloaming.

      The wife of Matsunosuke was of a frugal mind. Her family, in a day, ate three meals of rice mixed with a Japanese radish in spite of keeping a lot of miso and rice in the warehouse. His wife put a handful rice in the pot and a lot of Japanese radish. After eating rice including eighty percent of the radish, they became hungry. Before her house, there is a mulberry field where the Japanese radishes were planted between the mulberry trees. They had an abundant supply of Japanese radishes.

      This wife had particular afternoon tea. Hisa experienced the strange manner of the wife, the first day she visited her house. The wife grasped broad beans piled up in a porcelain bowl before Hisa and Juntaro. Only three beans bulged out of her hand. She said gently, "Hey, offer your hands to me." And she also said to her children, "Eat over there without quarreling." Hisa offered her hands but only three beans dropped in her hands. Hisa dropped her head in silence looking at Juntaro grasping it with his small hand. Everything is done in the same way. And yet, the wife worked Hisa, hard calling in a soft coaxing voice, "O-Hisa, hey, O-Hisa."

      On April 12, 1880 (Meiji 13), Nao gave birth to the fourth daughter, Ryo who was the tenth of her children. At the same time, Shikazo Otsuki and Yone decided to adopt a child as their son from the family of Deguchi which had many children because they had no child for five years since they united. Shikazo earnestly requested Masagoro to adopt his third son, Denkichi, as his son. Masagoro's eldest daughter, Yone, was twenty years older than her younger brother, Denkichi. Such a family relationship would make the adoption very natural.

      Masagoro gave a willing consent to Shikazo and told his wife in childbed. She turned pale but was unable to refuse beside a newborn baby. Only four years old, Denkichi was put beside the way once as an abandoned child. After this custom of the Ayabe district, Shikazo and Yone picked him up to bring him to their home.

      Early in the New Year, 1881 (Meiji 14), there was a rumor concerning a dark occurrence abroad. A former Ayabe clansman, Moriharu Arashima, who lived near the house of Denkichi at Honmiya-cho, made his daughter absent from school. He shut himself up in his godown with his daughter and first pierced her heart witha hereditary dagger and committed hara-kiri at once. He was forty-six years old.

      At that time, the newspaper reported the following about the poverty of the jobless former clansman.

      "The former clansman, Arashima successively held posts of the President of the Bureau of Military Affairs and more high posts, as magistrate in Ayabe clan and took office the highest ranking posts, Gon-daisanji at the Meiji Restoration. After the adoption of clans according to the policy of Meiji government, he lost his employment. He endeavored to support his old parents, wife and daughter on his small profits obtained with photography which he learned in a hurry. But, as this time, there were few guests for his photography in this village. There was so talk 'If you have a photograph taken one time, you will grow weak. If two times, you will die.' He became more and more poor. He parted unavoidably from his wife in the past year, but fell into debt. It was a suicide from being sick of life while being hounded by his creditors.

      "But the true cause of his suicide was that he was pressed by his own honorable will as a samurai which ran foul of the real situation of a jobless laborer."

      A farmer, near the house of Arashima, dried adzuki beans. But these beans receded before the farmer knew. One evening, the infant daughter of Arashima joyfully said that she ate red rice. A family of the farmer heard the story of the daughter and the rumor that Arashima stole adzuki beans was quickly abroad. Next morning, Arashima heard the rumor and was going to prove his innocence by the way of cutting up her breast and spreading her stomach from only a strong will of samurai in spite of having thrown out his katana (sword) and cutting off his topknot, the hair style of samurai.

      "The police found the kaoliang in his daughter's stomach. It was said that the daughter ate with joy thin red kaoliang rice in full belief that she ate rice boiled together with red beans because she had never eaten it."

      Nao was not familiar with Arashima, but couldn't hear the occurrence without tears deeply sympathizing with him. She got angry at the matter thinking why the poor had to persecute the poor.

      Hearing this news with tears, she was worried about the trouble which overhung her now. Her second daughter, Koto who went to service to Nao's elder brother, Seibei Kirimura in Fukuchiyama ran away from Kirimura's home and was lost depositing her baggage secretly in the house of Otsuki in which Nao's eldest daughter lived. There was nothing but to bear the grief like pain of a hole being bored through her heart in living precariously from day to day holding the infants. She only threw herself on charity of gods and Buddha.

      Masagoro was partial to Koto since her childhood and still called her O-Mito. He looked to be charmed by her perverseness which was different from the characters of her brothers and sisters. He always chaffed her. Since Koto was eleven years old, she had gone to service to the lacquer shop managed by her uncle, Seibei Kirimura, Nao's elder brother in Fukuchiyama until this year. The perverse character of Koto hadn't been changed through her apprenticeship. She was twenty years old, growing up a charming daughter who was unyielding and had corn-colored.

      Yone reported to her mother, Nao, Koto's disappearance from the home of Kirimura and said gloatingly, "O-Koto came to hate the country life of Fukuchiyama. She is too young to live in the country yearning for the exciting air of the city. But, it is not true what I said, being better to say that Koto was going to run away any far from poor family of Deguchi living precariously from day to day. My husband, Shikazo, perfectly agreed with Koto and gave a parting gift to her, he did."

      The wooden theater with the tiled roof was made over to Baba on March, 1881 (Meiji 14). The theater was in some degree of good order and was going to play one or two times a month. It can be said that Masagoro was in seventh heaven because of the board-walled-theater with the roof.

      At about this time after about a year, Koto came back Ayabe with a man. Koto told the family of Deguchi proudly that she had married the man in October and introduced her husband, Shozaburo Kuriyama. Shozaburo was a son of a good family in Oji Village near Kameoka. He had a fair oval and smooth expressions face and seemed to be a good-natured man. Nao heaved a sigh to relief to think that the man was fitting for spirited Koto and entertained the son-in-law warmly.

      Next spring, in Meiji 15, Takezo, who had hated to succeed his father's carpentry, finally determined to inherit his father's business and again became a pupil of Kichizo in Oki Village. He was already nineteen years old. Takezo seemed to get along somehow. Nao prayed Takezo would grow up a man muddling on every day not to be too ambitious.

      On February 3, 1883 (Meiji 16), the day before the beginning of spring, it was snowing heavily at Ayabe. The bud of the ume tree was yet tough-skinned.

      After Nao put Seikichi and Ryo to sleep in the early evening, she was lying with her baby coming into the world this evening at the room of eight jo-ma (eight tatamis space) of the room. It was the time ordinarily she was grinding about four sho (a sho equals about 1.8 liters) of rice into flour with a stone mill with Ryo, four years old, strapped to her back. She boiled azuki bean and covered them with kneaded rice-flour. It was the morning arrangement to sell the buns after steaming at the shop of her house and have Seikichi peddle them. After this work, she had to darn the clothes of her husband and children and always went to bed at midnight.

      But, it was impossible to move the heavy stone mill for her who had given birth just a short time before. She felt a hard pain cramp in the abdomen.

      Last night, she had felt a premonition. She sewed the baby's diaper utilizing an old yukata (an informal kimono for summer) though she didn't expect her baby for three months. She awoke suddenly in the night, and she found white snow which lay one sun (a sun equals about 3 cm) shifted through the crevices of a broken wall at the corner of the room.

      Masagoro yet hadn't come back from Fukuchiyama where he had been at the theater since the previous morning. This was not a rare case for him. But, she could not get to sleep being anxious about her husband in the heavy snowfall. She adjusted her nightgown and sat down in front of the household altar. A profound silence reigned within the house and she felt cold. She felt a faint pain in her abdomen but was far from suffering. But the pain came near tand then went away. It was repeated, and the interval between pains were gradually shortened. She muttered to herself, "It is too soon...." Though denying it, she had had the same experience.

      Nao put the seasoned pined needles on the kitchen range made of the soil and the stone and boiled water. She woke Seikichi up and made him run to call a maternity nurse in the heavy snowstorm.

      The first cock crowed. The old maternity nurse said, "The baby is seven months'. It is said that a seven month baby can live, but you have to take care of the baby attentively. But I'm certainly surprised at your pregnancy."

      What she said was true. Nao hadn't announced to the neighborhood her pregnancy. No one noticed her big abdomen at a glance because she tightened an obstetrical binder. She was too shy to talk about it. She gave birth to a child, the eleventh, at the age of forthy-seven, adn her husband at the age of fifty-five years.

      Nao's second daughter, Koto, visited her after a long time. Koto married a man in Oji Village and gave birth to a baby, but soon lost the baby because of illness. Nao spoke falteringly, "I'm ashamed that I ought to have told of my delivery. I wanted to replace you..." Koto said in disgust, "Oh, mother!" And she held her sides with laughing screwing her body. It's too difficult for Nao to tell of her childbirth to the neighborhood as she was laughed at by her daughter, thinking that Koto always irritated others.

      Nao had lived for a great portion of her married life conceiving children and making the nursing baby cling to her breast and strapping the baby to her back. And now, the eleventh was born.

      Nao was amazed at herself and smiled wryly. "It is said that a poor man has many children. Truly, I bore a large family."

      Three children were killed by disease and she brought up eight children. She had given birth one by one desppite having no great means of living. She apologized to her children in her mind for the poverty, but it can't be helped that she was pregnant.

      A female advised her to have an abortion, but she paid no heed. Nao remembered with a sense of sin her mother who was wounded attempting the abortion of Nao. Nao deeply believed that the child was blessed by gods and it was terrible sin to dispose of it at one's convenience. And, the baby born, was especially lovely.

      Nao finished changing the baby's diaper raising both legs. "It is too good for me to stay in bed." She got into a habit of muttering to myself and stood up with difficulty laying her hand on a knob of the old chest of drawers. She washed her hands and mouth at the well side, and offered pure hot water and a light to the sacred hanging scroll, the Buddhist image and the spirit of the dead. This is the time that she was able to be in a spiritual state of selflessness perfectly driving away her distracting ideas.

      She clasped her hands in prayer of thanks for a new baby and recited, "Tenshokotaijin-sama, Nitten-sama, Getten-sama, Ureshi-Gongen-sama, Nanayashiro-Daimyojin-sama, all gods in Japan, my respected whole family...." The cold wind blew against her back.

      Nao felt her body loosening which had been full of strain, noticing her husband's return home. Her heart was pierced with loneliness this evening that she gave a birth to a baby.

      Masagoro threw out the present of a sheaf of persimmons dried on skewers to Nao who looked over her shoulder, "Hey, O-Nao, accpet it." "Thank you...." But, she wanted to exchange this for oil for the paper-covered lamp stand because she used all oil at her childbirth. Nao threw a couple of pine branches on the fire in the kitchen range to put the earthen teapot on the fire, and blew a blast on a bamboo blower. The pine resin caught fire and suddenly threw a light upon the earthen floor.

      Masagoro ladled water and rinsed out his mouth loudly. He pulled up the edge of the loincloth and passed it over his face while stooping. The gray hair was conspicuous in the side lock over the ear.

      Nao cleared the pure hot water in the sacred corner of the room and stood out of the house in silence. Icicles were hanging from the eaves just as trees. There was a lot of snow on both sides of the road and only narrow path in which to walk with difficulty. Her husband's footprints roughly printed off in the snow.

      She muttered to herself, "Hey, hungry ghosts. I'd like to give you this pure hot water. Please drink this fully."

      She slowly poured water on the brook. It was a habit she continued without missing even one time.

      Nao chuckled to herself, "He hasn't yet noticed his baby."

      The snow which lay on the top of the old pine tree like the shape of the bottom of a wooden bowl fell on her shoulder from a gust of wind. There was a faint smell of sweet in the air. Nao opened her eyes wide to find only a white ume flower on the top of a young and small branch which seemed to offer calmly hands.

      "How beautiful in the snow!"

      She was impressed by that scene. A fairland covered her for a while. It was her childhood memory that she spoke of something with small birds and the muttering of trees and plants in the mountain.

      The ume flower was seen to be transparent shining white and gradually superimposed over the figure of her infant. The premature newborn in the middle of the hardships of poverty, and a white ume flower first opening in the intense cold.

      She couldn't help feeling the ties of a sacred situation beyond all description.

      She suddenly heard somebody's voice, "Good evening." It was Tobei Tsujimura. She stiffened her face. He indicated with his thumb, "Is he at home?" Looking at Nao's nodding, he opened vigorously the door of her house and knocked the snow off his shoes on the threshold. She heard cheerful voice of her husband out of the house, "Yah, Tobei-han, welcome. Is it cold out of door? Hurry into the house."

      "Foolish! He was treated so cruelly by him, but with pleasure accepted him."

      Nao was disgusted with him over again. When she thought of it, the family of Deguchi had a long acquaintance with the family of Tsujimura. But, she recollected they continued to suffer from a collection of debts by their father and son, though Toemon became a matchmaker of her marriage.

      After a few days, since she looked at Masagoro and Toemon talking in whispers, the fields of the Deguchi family surely passed into another's possession. Toemon abdicated the headship of the family and Tobei became the head of the family in 1869 (Meiji 2). The son was no less grasping than his father. She recollected that he visited her house to collect debt on the first day of the year. She shed tears in her mortification at that time.

      The retired master, Toemon, was seventy-nine years old and unable to retain his bodily discharges. The present head of the family. Tobei, was forty-three years old, and his wife, Yuka, thirty-seven years old. Yuka was born in Ohara Village, Amata County, and was good-looking. Concerning her, it was said that people sang the following.

There is a most beautiful wife at the foot of a slope in Ohara Village, unable to see such a good-looking in Kyoto and Osaka.

      Yuka had five sons and one daughter. The eldest son, Umanosuke, seventeen years old, was a handsome man who took after his mother and was also a playboy. People often rumored that Umanosuke would dissipate the fortune of the family of Tsujimura which had been salted away over two generations of making persons cry in the collection of debts.

      Masagoro and Tobei were talking, putting a small hibachi (a hand-warmer) between them when Nao entered the earthen floor of the house.

      Masagoro was very hospitable to him, "I didn't see your retired master. Has he been healthy?" Toemon who was a perfect counterpart of his father, looked to be at a loss, "Thank you. He has great difficulty in being alive." Masagoro said, "Well, I'd like to hear his hated voice because I felt lonely not hearing his voice for a long time. You are no less calculating than your father, aren't you?" Toemon said, "Surely, you remembered the date at which you promised to reply your debts, this day." Masagoro said, "I don't know whether it is true or not. Well, it's a matter of no consequence. I'm very interested in the theater at Fukuchi (Fukuchiyama). The actor, Inosuke, played the role of the wife of Imoseyama...."

      Tobei said, "Don't play a trick upon me. I'd like to hear the story of the theater after the repayment of your debt. I'm going to hear it enough. I haven't gone to the theater because it is wasteful. But, I'm very interested in the theater story of Masagoro-han. I have enough time to hear it later at tea, but now put it aside. Hey, repay your debt. I visited you to request repayment at any cost in this heavy snow, you know."

      Masagoro said, "I didn't make the snow fall. Be the matter as it may, you are doing a fine job! It is pity I have no money. Come here three days later."

      "He is the same as always." Nao felt sad. He had a bad habit that he promised to pay a loan despite having nothing to turn to for the repayment. One day, a saw seller visited him to ask to pay for the article. Masagoro easily told him to come here three days later. Nao who was very earnest, felt very sorry that her husband would make him go on a bootless errand, and ran after him and said, "My husband told you such a story, but he will be unable to pay you the charge yet. Please put off your demand for payment till the end of the month." The saw seller was inflamed with rage to hear her words.

      He said, "I guess that you contradict his promise at your convenience. You are ill-natured." But, Masagoro was truly not going to tell a lie. "Three days later" to Masagoro had the same meaning as three hours later, "three years later," and "thirteen years later." It means, namely, that he had no money to repay his debt. He was free with his money.

      Tobei played his trump card with a pipe in his mouth, "Well, Masa-han, I'd like to obtain it soon since I took security for the loan." Masagoro said, "The idea of saying as much. You are very similar to your father concerning strict collection of debt, but an unskilled carpenter, hey ou!" Tobei said, "That is none of your business. Hey, hurry up!" Masagoro grinned, "Don't make a sulky face. Do you want me to sing from door to door holding a samisen in my hand with poor family, leading my children by the hand in Ayabe. In act one of the drama the family of Masagoro, called a saint of a man, was robbed of all he had by the cruel father and son, Toemon and Tobei called demons. Echoing of the sound of samisen, tochiri shan, tote chinchin.... I look funny, I think." Masagoro was as free from care as if enjoying having repayment demanded. Tobei knitted his brows a little and raised the pipe in his hand.

      Nao offered Tobei a tray holding dried beans in a dish and a cup of a sweet drink made from fermented rice and said, "Help yourself to the trifles, please." She had fixed these for her husband.

      "Well, this is the evening of the close of the winter according to the old calendar. If you had scattered the beans a little sooner, the demon, Tobei-han wouldn't have entered the house...." Masagoro said, throwing beans into his mouth and crunched them comfortably.

      Tobei didn't deal with Masagoro, cracked a joke and blew into his cup of hot sweet drink made from fermented rice as thin as hot water. Toemon was often treated to sake by Masagoro in his youth. He was impressed by the recollection. But, he couldn't come back with empty hands out of respect to his father and wife.

      Nao, not being able to bear it, put in a word, "Tsujimura-han, please wait for three months or so, because I gave birth to a baby this morning and I had various unexpected expenses to meet...." Masagoro focused on her, "What? What was born?"

      He screeched, "Oh, truly your belly became flat." Tobei also looked at her in surprise. She looked worn out. Tobei was ill-fitted for her sincerity, somehow thinking it foolish for her to have done all she can for Masagoro good-for-nothing at all.

      "Passing your fifty-year milestone, you are very healthy to have given birth to a child." Clicking his tongue regretfully, Tobei gave up collecting money and stood up, "I'll visit you soon. Make arrangements for repayment, okay?" "Oh, would you leave now?" Stay longer." Masagoro said easily, seeking someone to talk to.

      Nao packed up quickly the buns with a bean-jam filling of her stock in trade and let him have it.

      After closing the door of the house, Nao squatted down awhile, being dizzy. She felt herself losing blood quickly in the belly.

      Nao went back to her room with great difficulty. Masagoro pulled along the futon of the baby from the back of the room and looked into his baby's face in the light of the kitchen range, crunching the beans lying on his belly. He said, "You are a very little baby, lying in my palm of the hand." She said, "Yah, the baby is an immature infant of seven months." He said, "You acted rashly. Why did you arrive hurriedly three months earlier?" "I heard the first cry of this newborn baby only one time. This baby couldn't cry more over half of a day. I'm anxious about the baby whether it will grow or not." It remained with her as a sad memory that she lost three children at an early age after the birth of Yone.

      "Well, I trust to chance." Masagoro replied so without responsibility, and turned over on his back. He looked at blankly the leaking of the thawing snow through the broken roof, locking his fingers of hands together under his head. Dropping water echoed deeply in a tub accepting the leak.

      Nao helped him into his thin futon. He said in wet, "I have done nothing but foolishness in my life, but had many children. If I was a studhorse, I would be happy. But, I gave myself airs because I was unable to make enough for them to eat. I am passing my life hoping to come into luck someday with ease. It is a treasure for a man to expect success in time. I can't bear the oppression of recognizing the end even a little."

      Nao recollected somehow her first lover, Rinsuke, while hearing husband's story. When calling him to her mind, she always felt pain somewhere deeply in her mind.

      She heard a rumor that Rinsuke married a woman and succeeded the family's name, Giemon Oshima according to heredity in Hazumaki, Nakamura Village, but had no children just after Nao's marriage. If she had married Rinsuke, she wouldn't have gone through hardships of life, but with no love of children through life. The family of Deguchi had not been blessed with children at each generation. At any rate, Nao gave birth to eight children in the Deguchi family.

      Nao thought, "Even though the family is unable to be prosperous at Masagoro's generation, some of the children will restore this family to prosperity. It's very good."

      Masagoro began to speak something unexpected, "I'm going to abdicate the headship of the family and make Takezo inherit my estate. If he becomes to be the head of the family of Deguchi, he will require more character."

      Masagoro was a master carpenter. Takezo had no will to study high skill from his father being satisfied with subordinate work at the builder's yard. Masagoro deposited with Takezo to his friend, Kichizo in Okimura Village, but was anxious about him.

      Nao said just as putting by his story, "Well, it is." And, she said unconcernedly, "Come, give a good name to the baby." "Yah, Masakichi.... How to feel Masakichi?" You! the baby is a girl." "What did you say? This baby isn't a gun (a boy) but a katana's wound (a girl). Did you give birth again to a girl? Okay.... I name her Sumi." Nao replied, "Sumi.... It's good name, praying to clear the body and mind of this baby...." "Yah, it is. On the other hand, she is the end of our children. It is a joke." Masagoro laughed vacantly, and said, "I'd like to drink a toast to Sumi. Hey, bring sake." Nao shook her head with a painful air. It was a more important problem that she had no supply of rice. Only a few potatoes were left. She was going to make an arrangement for the breakfast with it tomorrow. Nao had to get rice for rice flour to make the buns with bean-jam filling for her shop.

      She decided to eat food for the milk of the baby, Sumi and work more to help support her family. Lying faint, she closed her eyes praying to the gods and Buddha to recover from fatigue overnight. She clearly saw an ume blossom in the snow before she saw in closed her eyelids.

      The baby, Sumi born an immature infant of seven months, didn't cry for three days since the first cry and made Nao anxious. Nao didn't have plenty of milk because of the weariness of childbirth near fifty years old and through lack of nourishment. The first apprentice of Masagoro, Yasubei Shikata became a master of the carpenter called Toryo and his wife, Yasu recently had a stillbirth. Nao visited the family of Shikata in Okamura Village to have Sumi sucked by Yasu. Nao was able to catch a glimpse of the figure of the third daughter, Hisa, who served at the house of her husband's parents, Masagoro, the family of Chihei Shikata near the house of Yasubei Shikata. Adding it, she gave Sume vegetable juice and kneaded rice-flour, but the weight of Sumi made little increase over one year.

      On March 8, shortly after Sum was born, Masagoro abdicated the headship of the family and transferred the headship of the family to the eldest son, Takezo.

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