essential truth and remained deeply impressed. Why should a man so impressionable lead such an oysterish existence? A mere cat such as I cannot possibly understand it. Some say it is the result of a love affair that went wrong; some say it is due to his weak stomach; while others simply state that it’s because he lacks both money and audacity. Whatever the truth, it doesn’t much matter since he’s a person of insufficient importance to affect the history of his period. What is certain is that he did enquire enviously about Coldmoon’s female fiddlers. Coldmoon, looking amused, picked up a sliver of boiled fishpaste in his chopsticks and nipped at it with his remaining front teeth. I was worried lest another should fall out. But this time it was all right.
“Well, both of them are daughters of good families. You don’t know them,” Coldmoon coldly answered.
The master drawled “Is—th-a-t—,” but omitted the final “so” which he’d intended.
Coldmoon probably considered it was about time to be off, for he said, “What marvellous weather. If you’ve nothing better to do, shall we go out for a walk? As a result of the fall of Port Arthur,” he added encouragingly, “the town’s unusually lively.”
My master, looking as though he would sooner discuss the identity of the female fiddlers than the fall of Port Arthur, hesitated for a moment’s thought. But he seemed finally to reach a decision, for he stood up resolutely and said, “All right, let’s go out.” He continues to wear his black cotton crested surcoat and, thereunder, a quilted kimono of hand-woven silk which, supposedly a keep-sake of his elder brother, he has worn continuously for twenty years. Even the most strongly woven silk, cannot survive such unremitting, such preternaturally, perennial wear. The material has been worn so thin that, held against the light, one can see the patches sewn on here and there from the inner side. My master wears the same clothes throughout December and January, not bothering to observe the traditional New Year change. He makes, indeed, no distinction between workaday and Sunday clothes. When he leaves the house he saunters out in whatever dress he happens to have on. I do not know whether this is because he has no other clothes to wear or whether, having such clothes, he finds it too much of a bore to change into them. Whatever the case, I can’t conceive that these uncouth habits are in any way connected with disappointment in love.
After the two men left, I took the liberty of eating such of the boiled fishpaste as Coldmoon had not already devoured. I am, these days, no longer just a common, old cat. I consider myself at least as good as those celebrated in the