Mother Earth

Volume 4: The Light of the First Day of Spring

Chapter 9: A Room for Confinement

      At midnight on April 19, 1893 (Meiji 26), the house of Morizo Mori, a timber dealer in Senda-cho burst into flames. The origin of the fire had not been determined. The name of Senda-cho did not appear on the map because people gave the name of Tamachi to the area of the alley to the east before a stone bridge over a small ditch on the border with Nishi-Honmachi.

      Since the New Year of this year, fires frequently broke out. The origin of each fire was unclear and there prevailed a profound suspicion of the incendiary fire, but the incendiary was not arrested. The twonspeople was striken by a serious panic because the ominous fires ran rampant, and became excited.

      Whenever they saw one another, they discussed the fire. The fire of the Mori family fortunately did not spread next door, but the police office was criticized by the villagers for its inefficiency, and their anxieties were increased by the lack of fire fighting facilities.

      At that time, there were very inferior facilities for fire fighting in Ayabe. For example, there were only three reservoirs for fire prevention, two places in Seifukuinmae and one place in Hongu, a few stagnant pools in Uemachi, Nanseimachi and Hirokoji-kado, and a stream from Tamachi. There was no nongovernmental organization of fire fighting in the town yet.

      When a fire broke out in their own house, people only moved about in confusion. They ran, taking a wooden bucket full of water, and threw it on the flames and drew more water out of a well. Even a breath of wind blew the sparks on the straw-thatched roof and changed the fire easily. Ten or twenty houses were often destroyed by fire because of such inferior methods of fire fighting.

      In the next year of 1894 (Meiji 27), the first fire fighting team was organized in Honmachi, but it was just the same situation as in the Edo era. The equipment of the team included only a pump, a fireman's standard, two paper lanterns on a pole, two fire ladders, a hemp rope with a hook on a chain, twenty fireman's axes, ten wooden buckets, two wooden buckets for carrying on the shoulder. But, while sending the pump for repairs, the substitute for the old style pump called Ryudosui (a pump which was set in a large wooden box and was pushed up and down by a crosstree to drain the water filling the box off).

      The police inquired eagerly the whereabouts of the criminal. What I want to say is, the police had to save their honor because the new large police station was soon completed on May of that year. This building located in 2-banchi, Hongu, included seven houses, the total floor area was 712.8 square meters. Till then, the police station rented office space in a villager's house in Hirokoji with a total floor area of 650.1 square meters.

      The night after the house of the Mori family burnt down, the members of the Kinsuke Ando spoke repeatedly of the same subject as the world goes.

      "How do we behave under such a situation? Why have such fires occurred? These are arsons, I hear. What can the police officers have been about to let these affairs leave? I would allow them to give themselves airs after they arrested the arsonist."

      O-Hatsu said, pouting, stopping handloom-weaving, "It is true what you said. What troubled times we live in!"

      Kinsuke said as if agreeing with his wife perfectly, "Yah, very troubled!"

      "That old woman opposite would commit terrible acts. Can't anything be done with it? It is too much for us."

      "Well, that certainly is a mad woman." When Kinsuke said so and threw a piece of raw sugar into his mouth wigh agility, his hands pausing in producing zoris (Japanese sandals), Nao's scream attacked them as if responding to them.

      Kinsuke's mother who had trouble in the eye, but bit by bit burnt a branch of the fat pine tree in the hearth, rose deliberately to her feet and yawned with a toothless mouth.

      Their mother said, "Oh, it is time that O-Nao-han begins to scream. Now, much later. Don't strain your nerves, let's take a rest."

      O-Hatsu said leaving off her work, "Take care not to allow a fire to be started by a person possessed by a fox or a raccoon dog. Their pleasure is in the arson, I hear."

      Nao's loud voice reached their ears through the door.

      "When various strange occurrences' appeared in the world, you should think it the bridge which the god, Konjin would cross. You can understand the god's schedule and reform yourself truly. And, you would be awakened to the alarm by the god. If you don't reform yourself recognizing the situation of the world, I wonder where flames would leap, you know."

      Hearing flying sparks, Kinsuke's mother pressed her lips with her fingers as if shushing them. Kinsuke and O-Hatsu also tried not to lose a word of Nao with baited breath stopping their hands from their work.

      Nao's voice continued to echo.

      "This sacred delivered repeatedly solely by dint of reforming yourselves. It is a pity that the person cannot understand what this sacred said and turned on this sacred. Mr. Mori in Senda-cho, serves as a warning to you, you know."

      Struck with terror, they looked at each other, O-Hatsu and Kinsuke nodded to each other and went out from the back entrance, and ran by night to the house of Gennosuke Shikata, the chief of the town-block association named Kumi.

      On the morning of April 21, a detective, Kunitani, sipped a drop of tepid coarse tea, and went around the new police station smelling of wood, throwing out his chest and echoing with the sound of his footsteps. The police station began to move into the new building and the staff carried the documents and other thing with zeal into the new office rooms. The Imperial crest of the chrysanthemum was majestically mounted in the upper part of the police station. The detective, Kunitani was amply satisfied with it.

      He came back to the room and smoked a cigarette. It is natural that he felt he was becoming somebody in such a magnificent building. He thought that he was going to grow a mustache. But, it was bit of an impropriety for him because the marshal, Shinzo Fukai of the police inspectors, always shaved his sparse heard as smoothly as a boiled egg.

      A fledgeling policeman turned up and announced a visitor.

      Kunitani who sat serenely in a chair nodded openly to him. But, the instant Gennosuke Shikata entered the room, feeling small, he stood up quickly and invited this noted person.

      After Kunitani heard what Shikata said and respectfully sent him off, he went out of the police station in high spirits. He went ahead to the south and turned to the west at the second corner and arrived at the first crossing in the same village. It is not far from the police station. The Indian red laid on the latticeworks and the wood siding wall of the house, had fallen off in spots and looked light the face of a nightwalker just waking up.

      Opening the door which was not sliding, he found, as expected, Nao who sat straight on the wooden floor.

      Kunitani said with a humble bow, "O-Nao-han, excuse my abrupt question but, you believe in t he god, Konjin, I hear."

      "Yes, I worship the god, Ushitora-no-Konjin because the sacred is the true god." "Such a great god can achieve everything, you think so." "Yes." "Well then, there is a serious case. Please come with me for a short time and ask your Konjin to heal the patient."

      "I am unwilling to do so. I have no mind to do so."

      "The god's role is to help human beings, I think so. Don't say such cruel words and come with me."

      "I am going no anywhere. I don't cross this threshold. If your friend asks for me, you should come with him. I am going to ask the god about the world."

      "Well, I will come with him. Wait for us here, okay?"

      The detective, Kunitani, recognized that he couldn't do more above, and he hurried back to the police station to ask for aid. And at once, he came back to Nao with two police officers. Kunitani roughly caught Nao's wrist, "Well, old one, come on."

      He pulled her, but he couldn't move her a bit as if rooted on the wooden floor though she was reduced to a skeleton.

      "Come, stand up, obstinate old woman!"

      Against Kunitani speaking in disgust the intense voice sprank back.

      "I ask you whether I visit the police station of my own will or according to our request?"

      "Well, it is convenient for me to investigate you. Obey my order meekly."

      "If so, from the beginning, say it in earnest. I would be going to the police station on my business using my legs. But you request me to do so. If you carry me at any cost you should reasonably bring me by yourself. I am going to let you keep your own opinion. The place where I am going is my house."

      "You should obey official orders, you say."

      "Yes.... But, I wonder that my flesh would be more heavy because I am united with the god."

      "Well, good behavior!"

      Kunitani attempted to lift her with the other policemen's help, but they couldn't do it because without knowing why, her flesh was too heavy.

      Kunitani said, "Despite growing slim, this old woman is very heavy. Hey, somebody, borrow a straw basket somewhere!"

      A policeman brought a straw basket from a neighbor and the three policemen together transferred Nao with very great difficulty into it. Nao took pleasure in looking at the situation.

      They tried to carry Nao in the straw basket on a pole between them. They became as red as lobsters walking zigzag as if helpless with drink because Nao's flesh was as heavy a leaden ingot. Such a situation would ruin the authority of the police. Kunitani supported them from the side. Nao went totteringly by palanquin. When Nao's legs appeared out of the straw basket, she shouted, "Take care of my sacred legs. Get ready for anything, please. The birds would start out as your feet. You wouldn't know what is going to happen under your eyes. Only the power of the money would be unable to invite tranquility in the world."

      Gathering neighbors watched this strange party in disgust. Three policemen walked as if drawing the straw basket. When they came in sight of the roof of the new police station, Kunitani couldn't help it and shouted, "Hoy! Someone, come to my assistance."

      But, no one seemed to hear his shout and appeared. They were wet with perspiration from carrying her into the police station.

      Nao thanked them, smiling calmly, for their trouble.

      "I thank you for your kind labor."

      A policeman went to call the marshal. The police inspector, Matsui, soon came and sank into the chair before the large desk. Matsui threw Nao a searching glance. Nearly all suspects would shrink at his behavior.

      "Your name, Nao Deguchi?" "Yes. It is far from you. I'll go near you."

      Nao pushed her chair before him. This moment, the marshal felt something powerful come near him and unconsciously bent himself backward. The marshal, Matsui, barely maintained his dignity and began to interrogate her.

      "You are the arsonist who burned the house of Morizo Mori in Senda-cho, aren't you?"

      "This god, Konjin, would not do such a bad thing. Understand the sacred."

      "There is an clear accuser. It is no use for you to feign ignorance, okay? Have you something burning in your heart against Mr. Mori for some time past, hey you!"

      "I have nothing against Mr. Mori. Besides the god, Konjin, there are evil gods in the world. I believe these evil gods would do bad, and I would inquire into the evil gods closely."

      "Shut up! You make light of me, don't you?"

      The marshal attempted to threaten her by beating the desk, but Nao was looking around curiously with a nonchalant air. Since then, she answered nothing at all. The marshal, Matsui, finally ordered Kunitani.

      "What nerve the old one's got! Tommorrow, come clean. Anyhow, tonight, keep the old one in custody."

      Nao was in a very good humor entering the empty police cell with the new tatami which no one entered.

      "I am grateful to you for this room. You say this room is the police cell, but I think this room is the sacred corner of this police station."

      She smiled and closed her eyes leaning against the wall. She felt rested.

      Nao was unaware of the pasage of time. One moment she saw outside the police cell her third son, Denkichi Otsuki, who came shyly to see the run of events.

      "My flesh is a shrine. I would not drink with such a dirty teacup."

      "Mother, you are in the police station, okay?"

      Denkichi soothed her vexation.

      The policemen found fault with what she said and made fun of her.

      "Well, well, you are extravagant in social standing. Then, yes, I should bring a snowy teacup at once!"

      Nao drank water from the white teacup which Denkichi especially borrowed.

      Gennosuke Shikata sent in the supper for Nao that evening. Ryo, the fourth daughter of Nao, being in service to the Shikata family, carried it to the police station.

      "O-Ryo, with me?" The eldest daughter of Gennosuke, Fumi came round to the back entrance and quietly followed her.

      Late in life, Fumi said the following.

      "Anyhow, as it occurred eighty years ago, I have almost forgotten, but, still, lingering before my eyes is only the design of the pattern of carrying Nao's meal to the police station. It was a cheap china plate drawn with the floral pattern of the chrysanthemum of blue color. Three triangle rice balls on which sesami was sprinkled, were put on the plate. I remember it clearly."

      Nao fell into a deep sleep for nearly half an hour tucking herself up in the thin futon and then woke up. In the night watchman's room, two police officers were amusing themselves by discussing the gossip and drinking unglazed teacups full of sake.

      Suddenly, a large voice was heard.

      The teacups slipped out of their frightened hands, and were crushed to pieces on the floor.

      "What? What is that voice?"

      The voice echoed as if shouting near their ears.

      "The watchman of the people cannot play their role while drinking teacups of sake. They are dirty teacups, I told you before. Do you enjoy your sake, collecting taxes from the poor who eked out a bare existence from day to day and who are punished even more with a three-sen fine for nonpayment? In this world, the more persons who stood in authority, the more persons are dirty, you know."

      "That's the old woman! Tut, she has the impudence to say foolish things, looking at nothing." "It is better that the old mad woman, shouting such a thing, is released from here as quickly as possible. It would cause a serious trouble if her shouting reached his ears, you think so."

      As if being in sympathy with their whispering, the loud voice, which numbed their heads, roared.

      "Reform yourselves. When you are unable to do what this sacred said, this flesh would not move one millimeter here even if the marshal asks me to go out as quickly as possible, you know!"

      They shrugged their shoulders.

      "That is the very strange old woman. I wonder if she can hear our voices far from her place." "I don't know whether the watchman is."

      Nao screamed, "This sacred can hear sounds voices even as far as a thousand ri, and see everything even as far as a ri!"

      The night watchmen who became perfectly sober, began to shift pieces of broken teacup of the floor with spoiled faces. At dawn, after the god left her, Nao recollected the occurrence of year before last.

      One day, an old man named Hirawa who was in charge of payment to the government in the town office, came to Nao to press her for payment of a tax. At the time, all officials of the town office weren't in European clothes, but in kimono and hakama (a divided skirt for man's formal wear).

      It was hardly possible that Nao paid the tax because of living precariously from day to day. After considering various things, she went to the back room of the house and searched something valuable in the closet, but didn't find anything to convert into money, wanting to pay the tax somehow or other for the use of the country.

      Nao said abjectly in a faint voice to Hirawa bowing with her hands on the tatami.

      "Now, I cannot pay. The instant I make money, I will pay for today, please bear with me."

      After using vile language to her, Hirawa went back to the town office. Nao remembers clearly that Sumi glared at him, standing with her legs wide apart as if covering her mother with her own body.

      Ayabe town assembly established the town expenses' regulation at that time in 1889 (Meiji 22) which Ayabe organized the village as a town. According to this regulation the demand for tax collection was described as follows; "Within five days of the date of tax payment the town office must demand payment from delinquent taxpayers. In the case that more than five days passed after the demand, the town office must demand payment from the person again. When the delinquent taxpayer doesn't pay the whole amount, the town office must collect one sen for one demand, and two sen more in case of two demands, totaling three sen, based on the law of the tax arrears disposal from the delinquent taxpayer."

      It was about this law that Nao shouted "telling us tax arrears, they ask us to pay three sen...."

      In those days, Nao went past the officials who often got drunk in the street, always casting down her eyes. She was ashamed of herself because she couldn't even pay the tax regularly.

      After two years, Nao came to recognize that the citizens hackles were rising. How much did she change? Nao thought deeply that she was surprised at herself unconsciously melting into and uniting with the god, though consciously disobeying.

      As noticing that there was a sprinkling of the members of the police station she was again moved by the sacred's emotion and began to shout in the police cell:

      "Fortunes and misfortunes are confused in this world. The god cannot bear to see it and I am going to reform myself to create a good world. The world would be changed and exchanged down to up. Current people almost cannot see and hear the truth. The god would be anxious about people who are very dangerous as if china teacups on the edge of a well. The god would pay hard attention to you, you know."

      They can shut up a normal person and even beat her, but they couldn't do it to a mad woman. The marshal, Matsui, and Kunitani who attended the office just then, looked at each other. "What does the old one say? We took an awful woman into the station." Matsui only sighed.

      Nao tirelessly continued to shout.

      "The birds would fly off. You would not know what is going to happen under your eyes."

      Nearly noon, Kunitani hurriedly came back and whispered to the marshal, Matsui. "Hmm, maybe, what you said is right. Thereupon, the old woman...?"

      Kunitani looked embarrassed, "Yes, I think that the old one is innocent and should be acquitted."

      Kunitani reported that the arsonist was a carpenter, Kohichi, in Tamachi. He was arrested in the actual spot setting a fire and confessed his guilt.

      The police are interested in only one suspected person, and at once decided to release this bother. But it is necessary for such a rough woman to obtain a protector. The police called to the police station Shikazo Otsuki in Kitanishi-cho as the representative of the relatives.

      "Hey, you. Take back this old woman and help her somehow."

      The marshal so ordered him.

      Hearing the marshal's order, Shikazo cast an upward glance and altered his attitude, showing himself as one called quarrelling Shika at his best.

      "You say such a very strange thing to me. Well, okay, you said only a word concerning this old woman, didn't you. Do you recognize that the three of you brought her innocent her to this place?"

      "What's the story? It is unnecessary to announce to you everytime we bring in a suspected person."

      "Oh, yes, I understand what you say. Please release her freely. But, this old woman was possessed by a great evil spirit. I don't know about her if she begins to behave violently."

      The marshal said, "Don't stubbornly resist me. Please take this old woman." "Okay. Can you rent me handcuffs and fetters for her?" "How can I handcuff an innocent woman?" "Tell me how I can deal with her." "You cannot choose but confine her in a room." "Oh, a room for confinement. Of course, the police are going to fit up the room?"

      The marshal rubbed his slippery chin.

      "You must be reasonable. We cannot do such a thing at public expense. But, if it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of the public, well, you can consult with Shikata-han."

      Shikazo gave the marshal a broad grin. "I heard that an ancestor of the town association, Kumi, had her enter into the police cell. And Kumi had such responsibility. When the room for confinement is built, will you call me? I'm going to come here to accept her."

      Shikazo chuckled to himself over this thought which he obtained an amount of money to build the room for confinement and went back to his house in Kitanishi-cho.

      Receiving the request from the police, Gennosuke Shikata called the main members of the town and consulted with them about the trouble of Nao. Since around this time, the neighbors seemed to begin to fear Nao, and every carpenter avoided fitting up the room for confinement. Hearing this rumor, a cooper in Honmiya took the work. The members of the Kumi (the town association) volunteered to help him and quickly fitted up the room for confinement of the space of about 3.3 square meters at the corner of Ushitora (northeast) in the house of the Deguchi family.

      On that evening, Shikazo Otsuki and Yoshitayu Yamada visited the police station to receive Nao.

      Nao gently went out of the police station and followed them. In front of the house of the Deguchi family while the evening haze lay, people gathered. Oki Umehara wanly viewed Nao taking Umeko by the hand.

      They went round to the back door passing the alley and found a hurriedly construted shanty which had a side of fixed bars, and a padlock with dim glitter to the entrance. Nao was shocked by the scene of a chamber pot with bedclothes.

      "Hey, Mother, enter here."

      Shikazo indicated the entrance of the prison with his chin.

      Nao from whom the sacred emotion left, got nervious being ashamed to move herself.

      "Shikazo, it is too cruel of you to do such a thing. I cannot enter such a place."

      "Why, nothing is easier only for a few days. You must enter this place, however only to play a prisoner because I promised the police to confine you in the room to receive you from the police, okay?"

      "Yah, it is true what Shikazo-han said. If you cannot keep quiet, you have to go to the police station."

      As Yoshitayu agreed, Nao was resigned to enter the room. The locking sound echoed.

      Umeko clung to the room's bars, raising a queer voice, but, moved backward when Shikazo thrust her aside.

      Shikazo said to the neighbor's children as if threatening them.

      "Don't come near here. I don't know but terrible evil spirit might take possession of your back when you come near. You certainly remember what I said, okay?"

      Thus, Nao was confined in the room. Every morning her meal which was half a wooden bowl of thin rice gruel was brought by Denkichi Otsuki. There was no lunch or supper for her.

      ___How the house of Otsuki family is in straightened circumstances supporting me and my mad daughter, Yone.

      Nao raised the rice gruel of one wooden bowl reverently to her head thinking to barely keep herself alive. Even Nao who had eaten a small amount of food from some time past, had rarely felt unbearably hungry in the night.

      And, the god spoke to Nao, "Nao..., lick the palm of your hand. While licking your hand, you can gather strength."

      She touched her lips on the palm of her hand, and faintly scented a sweet smell. She unconsciously licked it. Mysteriously, she gradually forgot her hunger, and energy came to spring in her mind.

      In addition to Denkichi, Iwanosuke Morishita visited her every morning. Iwanosuke was part of a company of rags buyer. He was once a large landowner in Kawaai, but drank himself out of his estate, and now became a rags buyer to earn drinking money.

      His behavior was very strange while visiting her. Before starting on the business, he wandered about the alley in front of the room of confinement. He put on a show of consideration, standing beside the small window of the room and raised his voice, "Well, er-", folding his arm and looking up to heaven.

      And, back came Nao's voice, though her figure was unseen.

      "Hey, Iwa-san? Today, go to the north. You will earn much money."

      Iwanosuke said emphatically as if not to allow a mistake, "Is it true?"

      "Certainly, it is true."

      Iwanosuke, grinning at her, lifted his right shoulder and turned to the northern direction. One day, he tried to go to the opposite direction, but had a hard time of it. Nao's advice was the key of his prosperous business.

      Gennosuke Shikata walked into the room for confinement sometimes as if on duty.

      Nao began to shout whenever she looked at his face.

      "Mr. Shikata! This sacred would build the shrine of the god of the earth, Konjin, in this place, Hongu, you understand. This sacred would like to rebuild the original form of the god's palace. You! Sell your house. Evacuate this place taking your house, this sacred delivered to you."

      "No, she stays yet in madness."

      Gennosuke went back making a wry face. But, even lonely Nao had a pleasure. After the sacred left her flesh, she strained her ears to hear the steps coming and going on the way. She listened for Ryo's pattering of small feet, turning the corner of the alley and quietly coming near.

      Since Nao entered the room for confinement, the Otsuki family received Ryo from the Shikata family. Denkichi was busy pedding beef, and Shikazo was shorthanded caring for Yone and Nao. His reason was natural. Despite this reason, Shikazo didn't allow Ryo to see Nao at all. Even if Ryo could do it, she would do it one time a day, and as much as possible, in secret.

      "Mother, I'm going to run here when brother went out for a short time. You might feel hungry. I will make a rice ball." "Good...." Nao said in a tearful voice gripping her small hand holding the rice ball wrapped in bamboo sheath.

      "Mother, good taste of the salt?"

      Ryo stared at her mother who crammed her mouth with the rice ball, pressing her face on the bars of the room.

      "Good taste?" "Yah, very good."

      "It is better to add a pickled ume for rice ball, but I haven't got a long reach to take it from high shelf. I'd like to do everything which you want. You are not free at all.... Well, I brought hot water from the house of O-Ume-han. You should dry your face and neck."

      Ryo went back with springy steps.

      Nao already accepted the sixth day since Shikazo promised her to let her out from the room. She was waiting to be set free expecting every moment to hear the footstep, but that day was over.

      ____Shikazo didn't show even his face only one time. Keeping me in the room, he forgot his promise, didn't he?

      Nao felt forlorn. When she recovered her senses after the sacred left her flesh, she felt in solitude as if left alone in the world.

      It was pitch-dark in the room for confinement after the sunset glow vanished because the firestone and the paper-covered lamp stand were taken from her.

      Nao could not bear the solitude and asked the god.

      "My god, when would you release me from this place?"

      And, the god's voice tenderly returned.

      "My Nao, wait for this sacred till the full-moon night."

      The full-moon night would be two days later.

      Nao looked up at the night sky between the bars of the room making her heart flutter.

      The moon was not obstructed yet being hidden by the roof of neighboring house.

      Suddenly, there was heard a pattering of feet as if someone running breathlessly into the place.

      "Mother, this...." Ryo thrust her hand in the dark. Nao received a small covered thing by paper, including about a handful of parched beans.

      "When I was making a rice ball for you brother-in-law found me out." "Were you solded?" "No, but you would satisfy your appetite to eat only such a thing." "How to obtain these parched beans?" "I bought them."

      Ryo spoke the detail of her life falteringly and shyly.

      At every spare moment, she endeavored to glean the bamboo sheath in near bamboo thicket, and washed them cleanly and tied them up in a bundle after drying them in the shade to sell to the shops.

      "I cannot obtain a small amount of money even if I sell a mountain of the bamboo sheaths. Please allow me not to support you and more," said Ryo.

      Tears ran down Nao's cheeks. This daughter worried herself about her mother though Nao could not help Ryo as her mother. Impressed by the emotion to embrace her closely in her arms, Nao tried but could not do it, obstructed by the thick bars of the room.

      "Why have you suffered from such troubles?" "I seem to commit many sins against the god." "When will brother(in-law) let Mother out?" "A little while ago, the god taught me the date of the full-moon-night on which I will be out. You cannot view the moon yet?"

      Ryo left the bars, drawing back, and looked up to the eastern sky.

      "Mother, look at the moon above the top of a willow over there..., it is a well rounded moon. You will soon view it in your place." "It is a moon thirteen days old." "Very good, it is the day after tomorrow that you will be out. Mother, I am going to go back. If Brother finds me, he will scold me."

      "Well, go back carefully."

      After two days, Nao will be able to embrace her daughter. Her heart leaped up with expectation.

      On April 30, which Nao awaited impatiently, the pale moonlight of the full-moon hanging in the middle of the sky, streamed through the bars of the room for confinement. Nao sat up straight and strained her ears to hear the sound of footsteps, awaiting someone who would release her.

      But, footsteps receded and everyone disappeared at last. The sound of O-Hatsu's handloom-weaving which echoed faintly from the house opposite stopped, and she felt the cold night dew on her neck. It was not long before she heard the faint sound of footsteps.

      Ryo called out to Nao becoming short-breathed, "Mother, you cannot get out yet?" "Tonight, the good moon appears, and I will be let out from the room within this night." "I'm waiting with you till it's time." "No, I am anxious about you getting cold." "No, I'm waiting."

      Ryo didn't listen to her and sat down on the earth gripping the bars of the room. As it was the end of April, it was pretty cold.

      "O-Ryo, go home now."

      Nao repeated, reaching through the bars, but, Ryo who sat down, adjusting the neckband of her kimono under the moonlight, didn't move and just thought hard. Thinking that Nao must be let out of the room as quickly as possible for this pathetic daughter, she prayed hard to the god. But, the god kept silent without her knowing why.

      "Mother!" "O-Ryo, it is dawning." "The god lied."

      Nao looked troubled like a stray child.

      "Now, I think you feel sleepy. Go home quickly without being discovered by Brother."

      Nao let go of the cold finger of her nodding daughter.

      When reaching near Kitanishi-cho, Ryo saw a faint streak of whiteness in the eastern sky. The cold bottom of her kimono, exposed to the night dew, coiled round her calf. Suddenly, the neighbor's dog barked at her. Being anxious about Shikazo's waking, Ryo felt like closing the dog's mouth to stop the barking.

      Ryo quietly opened the grated back door and was startled at a person's figure. Shikazo unexpectedly stood up in his night clothes.

      "Brother...." Ryo was prepared to get away. Shikazo grasped her by her slim wrist and drew her to him hard.

      "You! Tell me you went to the old woman again." The instant he shouted, he gave her cheek a slap, and next struck hard on her other cheek, and sent her reeling with his fist, and then he kicked out at her.

      Shikazo shouted, "You've stolen out of the house after all my warning! What nerve this woman has got!"

      Ryo cried, rolling on the earth.

      ____Elder sister, Yone, is a mad woman and Mother is still in the room for confinement though I believed that she would be able to get out. Mother and I were taken in. We were fairly taken in by the god. It is necessary for me to live more, being watched by Shikazo who constantly strikes and kicks me as the demon despite having no one to depend upon and believe in.

      ____I would rather die.

      Ryo turned about and quickly dashed to the well. But, the instant she got her foot on the well curb, his strong power took her by the scruff of her neck and pulled her back, and thrust her away.

      Shikazo spoke angrily backin on the well.

      "If you wish it, you would die. I don't stop you. If you die, your mother would be worse. Maybe your Mother would go more mad, and be unable to get out from the room for confinement till her death. Tut! All without exception, go mad and go to hell and die freely. It is better for the world to perfectly ruin your mad family."

      So saying over his shoulder, he entered the house and banged the door closed. The sound echoed tearing up her heart.

      Ryo went round to the back door and cried loudly standing beside the grape arbor. She could die being anxious about her mother.

      ____I must live for Mother, however hard I may suffer from everything of the pain.

      Telling herself, tears rolled down her cheeks in rapid succession. Looking up at small flower's spikes of light green hanging full under the grape arbor, Ryo counted the numbers of the grape flowers. She repeatedly counted them, only meaningless counting.

      "My O-Ryo." The warm hand touched Ryo's shoulder. It was elder sister, Yone. She seemed to be out the room for confinement in good situation. Her voice was calm and tender like a usual woman.

      "You shouldn't bear a grudge against Brother. I have been ill for a long time and Mother has also become insane. Moreover, you receive assistance from him. I think he is in a miserable condition. His business doesn't prosper, and the troubles occurred one after another. He is excited at us. When you go to the room of confinement, Mother wants all the more to go out of the room. If Mother breaks the room to get out, Mother would give him much trouble. I want onl to recover consciousness as quickly as possible, and wouldn't give you such a bitter experience."

      Yone also had a tear-stained face. she was dazzlingly beautiful in the faint light of dawn. Ryo clung to Yone and cried loudly. After a while, Ryo gradually calmed down as if her emotional entanglement was appeased.

      Two, and three days passed. Since then, Ryo didn't visit Nao. Though she asked Denkichi bringing the rice gruel about Ryo, he said only that she was in good health and went back hurriedly as if escaping. Believing the god's word, "await the sacred till the full-moon night," Nao and Ryo waited for a good occurrence all the night through and were taken in. Who is able to criticize her daughter who wouldn't believe the god and her mother? Nay, Nao was her serlf crushed with grief rather than Ryo. Furthermore, although she closed her eyes, calming down her very anxious mind like a choppy sea and concalled repeatedly to the god, she found in the god nothing responsive to her earnest prayer. Nao once hated the evil spirit that took possession of her. But, how forlorn she felt, missing the god.

      Nao crouched leaning against the bars of the room for confinement. She felt too lazy and empty to do anything.

      Near noon, someone reached the room with stealthy steps. It was Oki Umehara. "O-Nao-han!" The instant Oki shouted, she looked at Nao full in the face. Nao who became timid looked downward unconsciously avoiding Oki's eye.

      Oki reached her face on the bars of the room and whispered in a halting way.

      "About the son of the cooper in Hongu, he died yesterday, I hear. O-Nao-han, do you remember truly the son...?"

      "What? That son...? He served the shop of the Ouchi-ya in Tamachi, I hear...."

      Nao recollected him who had been the king of the kids of the neighborhood at his childhood and often had verbal dispute with her child, Sumi.

      Oki told loudly as if rebuking Nao.

      "He fell getting on a swing and his testicles were knocked to death, I hear. It is said that he was surprised at loud voice behind him and jumped off the swing. The cooper asked for a prayer to hear the sacred's word and it was delivered that it was under the direct influence of Ushitora-no-Konjin. All rumored it was usual rason because the cooper made the room of the confinement."

      Nao kept in silence.

      "There is an other rumor about you. Next door, O-Hatsu was nervous from last night telling that the grippe was killing her. It is said that she incurred punishment because she accused you of being an arsonist to the police."

      Nao turned pale and sidled up to Oki.

      "Ushitora-no-Konjin is not such an evil god. This sacred is not a small spirit which gives a penalty to each act. You usually worked yourself up at Ushitora to imagining the evil god and the "demon's gate", and you would attribute the disaster to the god, Konjin."

      Receiving a serious look in Nao's eyes, Oki nodded to her as though being overpowered.

      "I think it would be true. O-Nao couldn't bear a grudge against others. Your friend, I most understand your mind. Of course, I and O-Ume didn't commit a sin to you, and don't give the punishment to us without knowing."

      Oki told her emphatically and left her with stealthy steps.

      Left alone, Nao stared fixedly at the air. Even Oki who was an old friend, understanding each other, was in doubt and afraid of her. How can she blame Oki? Even Nao was hard afraid of her own self having terrible doubts.

      The cooper's son and even O-Hatsu opposite the house...a series of mysterious events concerning Nao.

      As a sequence to the event, O-Hatsu, being ill in bed, died after three years. According to the family register, her death date was November 16, 1896 (Meiji 29). She died at fifty.

      Nao continued to consider, writhing in agony.

      ____Is it true that the sacred would re-erect and reshuffle the universe? How can the sacred move the universe because the sacred was unable to execute the advance notice which the sacred released her from the room for confinement at full-moon night.

      ____After all, the evil spirit that takes possession of me is a kind of possession by a fox and raccoon dog and imposes on me as an extraordinary braggart who brings evil upon the bores and kills them, isn't it?

      ____In my generation, I injured and dirtied the honored Deguchi family's name. I dare not to show myself in public. I cannot bear to live in disgrace any more.

      ____How does my being rest heavily on my children's spirits? Hereafter, I would become only a drag upon them. If I die they will be sad at first, but will soon abide by the inevitable.

      Nao continued considering suicide for days.

      The neighbor's children came to Nao with bated breath and looked into her face with flashing eyes out of curiosity and fear, and scampered off giving a shout "Gee!" the moment their eyes met. But, she didn't grieve about such a game.

      It is said that the affair occurred on May 22 and 23.

      It continued raining in the night. Nao confirmed to herself that she was calmly prepared for death, and unsewed the neckband of the summer kimono and threw it over the beam, and said good-by to heaven. She ket a tranquil mind.

      Just then, she felt in her own abdomen something responsive coming back. She felt her abdomen become hard heating heavily, and her whole flesh was brimful of vigor.

      "My Nao, you would die now, but it means that you would be in the room of confinement. You have examined all the sins in the world for your empty mind to become full of the sacred air. If you don't hear what this sacred said, your soul will suffer more from the sin. Now, you must scrape off the scorched part of boiled rice on the bottom of the pot in which to boil rice in hell. Instead of your hard suffering, a juni-hitoe (a ceremonial robe of a court lady) and the red hakama (pleated skirt), and the flowers which open above heaven, are arranged for you. Though bearing the hard suffering, this sacred would exhibit you the finest possible flower. After achieving this sacred schedule, your husband's name and your ancestors' name would be exhibited honorably in the world."

      "I cannot believe the god's word more over. Please, don't deceive me further," shouted Nao.

      "Nao, it is natural you suspect this sacred, but, this sacred wouldn't miss. Only rely on this sacred."

      "Despite your word, I ask you about the full-moon night."

      The god smiled.

      "The god's words are all true. It is true that you would put out from the room of confinement at full-moon night, because after self-discipline of half a month, certainly the wan morning moon."

      "The wan morning moon? How do I understand what you are to do for me?"

      The god suddenly stopped speaking and Nao moved her hands as if searching the god. Just at that moment she caught the faint sound of small steps walking in the pool of water, she reached the bars of the room, making her heart flutter.


      "Mother...." The wet hands searched for Mother. In the dark without moon and stars, they couldn't look at each other.

      "Mother, break the room by this and run away." Ryo quickly said and pressed a solid thing into Nao's hand. It was a hook of which the crescent-shaped edge was twisted tightly with a straw rope.

      Nao's eyes flashed. It is certainly true response which the god exhibited.

      "O-Ryo, thanks,...the full-moon night, next full-moon!"

      Ryo nodded clearly and ran away quickly in the rain.

      From this night Nao began to break the door of the room for confinement. She secretly cut the thick bars which nailed the hinge from the inside. The work was progressing at a snail's pace, but, she was no more in a hurry. She gave up all hope except waiting for the next full-moon night.

      Dark clouds left. With the understanding that the god would protect Nao and Ryo's soul, Nao felt open as if looking at a cloudless sky. Nao talked through the night with the god in her.

      The waxing moon increased the light in the midair. Awaking from her sleep for a short time, Nao looked up at white brilliancy. The date of breaking out of the room for confinement came near and the cutting scar on the door became fairly deeper.

      But, before some time, Nao couldn't help being worried about something. She was determined to complain of her anxiety to the god.

      "The god, I will be out this room. If you have me warn people through my mouth as you have been, they will treat me as only a mad woman and confine me again in this room. If so, I will be unable to serve you and it is too bad for my children. I am going to do everything according to your will, except roaring."

      "Nao, well. Take a fude (a writing brush)."

      "Fude...? You say..., I write?"

      Nao cowered and blushed.

      "I cannot do it. I know no words."

      "Not by yourself, this sacred has you write moving your hand."

      "There is not a fude or a piece of paper."

      "Look around."

      The half moon threw down the faint white light to Nao's knees, but it was dark around her. Nao felt on the floor in the dark, and touched something with her finger. Exposing it under the moon light, it was an old nail. Why is there a nail in this place?

      Nao stood up like a bird flying. The moment she stretched her right hand getting a nail to a pillar, her hand moved automatically and cut something like letters. She couldn't judge it whether letters or not letters, but her hand continued moving of its own accord as if living.

      Nao looked up the moon of the twelfth night. After the third full..., thinking such a thing, she had not waited for the full moon from now. At this time, she suddenly became very sleepy which she could not bear, and her soul came near to be sucked up into the moon.

      The dim shadow gradually formed clearly and the solemn figure of the god appeared in the majestic air.

      "...It is said that now a kitchen knife is more important than the old katana. Before long the hour will strike for using a katana. Purify the world with the katana. Mow off the evil gods."

      Coming to her senses in surprise, she found the sacred katana which was given by the god in the dream was on her knees. It is with no sheath and the edge of the blade was 22.7 centimeters long. Nao raised it reverently to her head, and exposed her breast and put it in her bosom.

      At midnight of May 30, the bars which she continued to cut finally snapped, and the side door had got unhinged with a clatter. This date was the fortieth day since she was confined in the police cell.

      ____The earth, this the earth. Nao stood firmly barefoot on the earth which was wet with the cool of the night. She fell on her knees and rubbed the earth with both hands, and dipped up soil. She was supremely full of love for a pebble and grass which she touched with her fingers.

      Looking upward the full moon like sweet-smelling appeared. Ecstacy sprang hard in her breasts.

      "Mother!" Ryo, coming here unnoticed, came to spring at her gray-haired old mother squating and weeping.

      "Look at the full moon, O-Ryo!"

      Both firmly embraced each other. Neither noticed that at this time, Kinsuke Ando witnessed this sight and announced it confusedly to the Shikata family.

      "Hurry up and run away as quickly as possible. With me, now." "Where will we run away? Whether to Yagi or Oji?" "To Yagi, we are able to meet O-Sumi."

      But, Nao shook her head in denial.

      "It is very difficult for us to walk as far as Yagi, I think so. As I continued to be confined in the room for confinement for forty days, my legs weakened and I am very tired only to stand up."

      "I am going to lead you by the hand and let's run away as far as possible."

      The moment they went out of the room entangled, the came face to face with Gennosuke Shikata who was announced by Kinsuke and hurried to the room for confinement.

      Gennosuke slipped on a haori (a Japanese coat) over his nightclothes. It was guessed that Kinsuke next ran at once to the house of the Otsuki family.

      Gennosuke quietly spoke to them, who wore petrified smiles.

      "You have calmed down from this morning, I think. Well, you are already out."

      "Yes, I am perfectly quiet, thank you."

      "It is very good."

      "Thank you for your kind help while I was in the room of confinement. I'm sorry, after you visited me to inquire after my health, the god was excited and freely told you to sell the house and evacuate the town."

      "Well, I understand what you said. You are certainly in your right mind. I don't care a bit about your story. Now, where are you heading for in the middle of the night?"

      "Yah, we are going to my daughter's house in Yagi."

      "But, your body was enfeebled by confinement, and you will travel with difficulty in a shabby dress. It will soon be dawn. Set out a little later. I'd like to consult you with your lives from now."

      Gennosuke was going to play for time till Shikazo came. While endevoring to speak for more long time in a round about way, the light of a paper lantern came near in a twinkling, Shikazo ran to the place in great haste with Kinsuke.

      Delivering the paper lantern to Kinsuke, Shikazo glared at Nao like a gesture of a tamer of wild beasts urging forward a fierce animal and with his right hand up getting a straw rope.

      "Hey, return quickly to the room for confinement. If you refuse my order, I will give you gyp."

      Ryo confronted Shikazo covering her mother with her own body. Shikazo dragged Ryo from Nao by the hair of her head.

      "Hey, you. How dare you steal out of the house after all my warnings? You completely think of my opponent. You shall have some trouble as a result of breaking the room for confinement to let out your mother, aren't you? Okay?"

      He flipped her cheek which he lifted as if making fun of her, screwing up his thin lips.

      "And, what did you see? What kind of tool did you use to break the room for confinement? Hey?"

      But, Ryo kept silent.

      Looking at a rebellious look in Ryo's eyes, usually those of a tender girl, his veins stood out at the temples. The instant Shikazo threw the strength into his arms, her small body bent backward as if it was creaking.

      "Stop, Shikazo!"

      Nao shouted with a sensation of excruciating pain.

      "O-Ryo was not concerned with me at all. I broke the room of my free will...I return to the room and leave O-Ryo."

      As Shikazo drew slowly away from the hair of Ryo, she lurched at Nao's feet and cried and sobbed in a suppressed tone of voice.

      "Hum, you're foolish anyhow. Hey, old woman! Are you going to run away wherever you like after breaking this room? Moreover, you would bother neighbors by shouting and causing anxiety. Wouldn't you?"

      Shikazo fixed his blood-shot eyes on Nao trembling with unrestrainable anger. Nao drew back inch by inch and to enter the room finally.

      Shikazo firmly fastened the bars to the door by the straw rope. Seeing a chance, Ryo quickly got a hook concealed under the floor and tried to edge up to the back of Shikazo.

      Shikazo, feeling bloodthirstiness looked over his shoulder.

      "Damn you! Will you kill me?"

      He jumped up at Ryo to wrest the hook from her grasp. His face strangely was swelled up with a maniacal expression of rage under the light of the paper lantern and looked like the face which was reflected in a convex mirror. Ryo frantically stood face to face with him brandishing the hook over her head.

      The hand of Gennosuke which was stretched from the flank, wrested the hook from her grasp and said pacifyingly covering her with his own body.

      "O-Nao got too excited and ran mad. She has calmed down. Stop such violent acts before her to keep her mind in calm. It is a pity that she had been confined in this room for such a long time. Would you consider her at this time?"

      Shikazo was a lesser person than Gennosuke in this village. He, being persuaded quietly by him, looked aside sullenly, but, couldn't reject his demand flatly and said reluctantly.

      "Well, I consider it for the honor of you."

      After taking a short rest, Shikazo filmed his eyes seeming to rack his brains about something.

      "However, I agree to it only on one condition," said Shikazo peering into the room for confinement.

      "Yah, yah, if I can be let out, everything, okay!"

      Nao told him emphatically once more as if taking a kind out of stiffened lips. "Please everything."

      Shikazo glanced at Gennosuke and Kinsuke and was in doubt as to what he had to say. They would interfere in this affair, but were also witnesses. It was his most important purpose that Nao did exactly as he said.

      Shikazo began to persuade them.

      "Well, I will consider your treatment according to your reply. Anyhow, I cannot imagine how to eke out a hood at all, holding your mad parent and child, being soon incurable. My shop is not a paying business. I'm getting deeper in debt for you with no earnings. I don't know how much money I threw away for your mad acts. And I want to sell this old house to make up for my loss. I never think it possible to be refused by you. Okay?"

      All sank into silence.

      "It is not troublesome at all. Only affix a stamp easily to the contract document to sell your house. I'm going to help you concerning the formalities."

      Nao was going to gradually catch the swing of affairs. But, even Nao couldn't give a ready answer. Nao brought down timber out of the mountain and stone from the river with her late husband, Masagoro to build this house. In this house, her children, Denkichi, Ryo, and Sumi were born and Masagoro departed from life. Even only a pillar of this house, and even one of its cracks kept a record of the history of the family and their attachments.

      Ryo jumped at the bars of the room for confinement and screamed shaking the bars as if forgetting fear.

      "Well, O-Sumi and I cannot go home when we lose this house. Mother, don't be deceived. When elder brothers, Seikichi and Take come back, they would not find their beds. Don't give this house to anyone."

      Gennosuke and Kinsuke exchanged glances and looked gloomy across their chest. Gennosuke said, "O-Tsuki-han, you must be reasonable. It means certainly that you would perfectly uproot the Deguchi family, doesn't it?"

      "Oh...." Shikazo studiedly raised his voice, and directed his aim of attack, making the usual false charges.

      "Then, you tell me how to do it, won't you? Are you going to take care of Yone, this old woman, Sumi and Ryo together with the members of the kumi (a small unit of the town-block association)?"

      Hearing their words, Nao became wonderfully quiet. She felt tenacity, which she had thought of continuously for a long time, to keep this house as if holding a fort.

      Nao quietly bowed her head to Gennosuke and told him.

      "I am glad to receive your anxiety, but, I have already made up my mind. Please let Shikazo have his own way. I want only to get out from this place...."

      Suddenly, the voice of Shikazo was softened and cheered up.

      "Well, well, certainly? My daughter and I would look after Mother, and moreover, Mother doesn't want such a house, I guess so. Then it's a go. I must break the room for confinement at once. Oh, it's too cold. Now, the day breaks. Mother, first, get out of such a depressing place and go with me to my house so as not to catch a cold."

      Shikazo spoke in a soft coaxing voice as if forgetting entirely his attitude a little while ago. He cut the straw rope tied to the bars of the room to open the door and drew her hand.

      The first cockcrow echoed. Kinsuke blew down the paper lantern with a satisfied look. The full moon was dimly left over the edge of the mountain. It was the wan morning moon.

      The next day, Shikazo gave notice to break the room for confinement to the police, and next day, he gathered a lot of the used article dealers to sell her house by auction. This house which she parted with has been called the former house.

      Her house and lot went for forty-eight yen to Kakuzo Shikata. Shikazo sold off not only the fixed property but all household effects as well, without the knowledge of Nao. There were left only a stone mill with which Nao ground four sho (volume unit, about 7.2 liters) of rice every night beside her sleeping children and three sets of sake cups with the stand, I hear.

      Gennosuke regained a part of the money of the auction from Shikazo mediating between Nao and Shikazo, and paid the debt of the bank which increased at the time Masagoro lived and fell heavily on Nao.

      Instead of losing everything, Nao who was freed from all debt, felt refreshed as if starting her life afresh taking a load off her mind. It is a wonder that the god continued to wait for this time. It is all divine providence that Nao was detained in the police cell and was confined in the room for confinement, isn't it? Her flesh eternally weakened, but freshness gushed up from the bottom of her body as if overflowing.

      Nao muttered to herself, "I wonder that my sin was taken away a little through Shikazo's effort."

      While staying at the house of the Otsuki family, Nao swept the garden and boiled water for tea, and worked for the others. But, the instant Yone looked at Nao, she got excited and Shikazo treated her as a nuisance as to say, "Be finished with her after selling her house."

      Nao thought that she was going to Yagi. She said that to Shikazo.

      He was in a good humor and said attentively, "Well, okay. Go soon with O-Ryo. Don't get homesick as it is not your house which you would come back to and enter." On the early morning of June 2, Nao dropped in the house of Gennosuke Shikata who tenderly looked after her with a farewell.

      He said, "It is pity that Mother and two children give the family in Yagi trouble, and O-Ryo stays in my house. Just, I am going to want a baby tender."

      His wife, Mitsue went out the door of the house and suggested her to do so, and Nao deferred their goodwill.

      Their faint daughter, Fumi smiled to Ryo and toddling son, Gentaro played with her.

      Going out of the house of the Shikata family, she noticed Denkichi running after her in his traveling kit.

      "I asked my uncle to go to Yagi with Mother. As O-Ryo cannot go with you and it is just in good time. You are going to walk with difficulty with your feet yet."

      Denkichi said as if enjoying the journey with Mother. Being sent off by Ryo, being moved to tears, Nao started the journey.

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