Togawa spoke with his back arched, both hands held over the brazier for warmth.
“Well, there is no doubt for most people a celibate life is a difficult thing to maintain without any problems. I had a classmate, a man named Miyazawa. His first appointment after graduating was in Shibata. You know the kind of place it is, I’m sure. He rented a place near the courthouse and hired a maid. His coworkers recommended he take a wife, but despite their urging he simply wouldn’t. ‘Why, why?’ they wondered, and in the same breath concluded that he was a miser, as his story goes. Now I’ve known him since our days as houseboys to support our education, and Miyazawa is no miser. He isn’t the kind of man to greedily hoard his money. He probably thought very simply that he wouldn’t be able to support a wife and children on a probationary judge’s salary. Now he was in this lonely town, and it was day after day of snowy nights just like this one. Miyazawa reads a book alone in his room. The maid does some sewing in the neighboring room, only a single wall separating them. Miyazawa yawns. The maid stifles a yawn. As he tells me, that’s how they spent most of their time. Before long the snow turns into a blizzard one evening—the wind howls outside, and the bamboo planted in the garden brushes against the door like a great broom. Around ten o’clock the maid makes tea and brings it to Miyazawa’s room saying something like ‘what a terrible evening it is,’ and then just stands there a while fidgeting nervously. Miyazawa, himself feeling unbearably lonely, thinks that the maid must be lonely too, and says ‘why don’t you bring your needlework over here? I don’t mind.’ And so, quite pleased to hear this, she brings her work from the other room, makes herself quite small in a corner of Miyazawa’s room, and begins sewing. From then on, she would often come to Miyazawa’s room after a certain hour, saying ‘I don’t think there will be any more guests today.’”
Tomita burst into laughter. “Togawa, you’re quite the novelist, aren’t you. You really can tell a story.”
Togawa scratched his head, also laughing. “No, it’s just that Miyazawa regretted what happened so much he told me about it in excruciating detail, so I guess my telling has also gotten rather long-winded. I’ll cut out the details for the rest of the story. But I have one more thing I want to tell in full. That is, one evening, the maid said good night and returned to her room, but Miyazawa, being unable to sleep, heard her sighing and tossing in bed through the wall that separated them. As he listened, the sighs became moans, as if she were in pain. And so without thinking Miyazawa called to her, ‘is something the matter?’ That’s all. The rest I’ll cut short.”
Tomita raised his voice. “Now wait right there. Don’t just cut it short in the middle. It’s really getting interesting.” He raised his voice even more. “Hey, Take. It’d be wise to listen well.”
The master grimaced, breaking the smile he had maintained up until this point.
Togawa continued. “How am I supposed to tell the story when you keep interrupting to make fun? At any rate, from then on the maid was no longer a maid. Miyazawa soon regretted this. It would be a grave problem should this state of affairs be discovered at his workplace—even I can understand that. But the maid, who had been very modest and reserved until then, began wearing make-up and dressing up in flashy kimono. It was bound to catch people’s attention, so Miyazawa was very uneasy. Finally he set out for the girl’s parents’ home, leaving her there with a month’s salary, all under the pretense he would make her his wife soon. While she was at her parents’ he thought he’d be able to sort the whole affair out, but the parents were very serious about the proposal, and so there was nothing he could do. Miyazawa was truly at his wit’s end, and even offered his savings as a consolation for breaking the engagement. But the parents refused to accept any more than the money they had already received for the engagement. They truly had no desire for the money, and so it was all quite hopeless. In the end he married her, and they remain married to this day. They are in Tokyo now and get on just fine, but since she has no education, she’s quite useless outside of everyday household work.”
Tomita, taking greedy swigs of his sake, teased on. “That’s it? How anticlimactic. If that’s the end, I’m sorry I praised you before.”