There is probably not a single person who knows of Nenomoto's past.
       If you yourself were to go to his home town, you might find two or three people who remember him as a youth. But his parents are no longer living; and he had no brothers or sisters. Neither has he been back to his birthplace these past thirty years, nor kept any contacts with it. So you can see that even those who might have cause to remember him as a boy would have little reason to recall him today.
         One would not be mistaken to say that it is impossible to find anyone who could speak to you of his past. And one may add that no one exists who might describe his present mode of life.
           'An odd person,' his neighbors always said.
             He lived alone in one of those apartment blocks they call 'mansions' built seven, maybe eight years ago. Yet in character and appearance he contradicted these surroundings.
               Attired in casual kimono most of the time, he drew raised eye-brows if ever he went out in Western dress. Faint smiles of amusement came not only from the fact that his suit was ten years old, but more from the evidence that Western clothes simply did not become him.
                 One might understand this phenomenon were we still in the era of Meiji or Taisho: but these days, it is an unusual thing to discover a man whom Western clothes do not suit.
                   Perhaps it was his build-short, thin, somewhat stooped. A physique which made him look sixty in the eyes of some―but which added at least seven or eight years to his age.
                     Now, Nenomoto's mansion stood six stories high, and Nenomoto lived on the fifth floor. Neither down payment nor deposit had been cheap: and even the rent was equal to the monthly wages of a man of thirty. For reason of this, the mansion occupants―those to the left and right of his room―were a peculiar lot.
                       The mistress of some corporation director-slender, elegant. A film director of considerable sense. (He'd been an actor till two or three years before: but no one remembered him anymore.) There was a girl of twenty-six-maybe seven who worked in a fashionable bar in Ginza. She was attractive. But all this is not to say that there were not ordinarily respectable people living here too.
                         A manager from one of the larger firms―and his childless wife. They were fortyish, he was in trade, and they'd come back from South America some years back.
                           All these neighbors led diverse lives: but they held one ground in common. They all tried to maintain an atmosphere of gaiety.
                             This mutual pleasantness caused Nenomoto, alone, to figure strangely in their eyes.
                               "Extraordinary. How that old man man­ages to live on his own in a place like this."
                                 "Probably stuffed his cash box full of bank notes."
                                   "Right. How could he manage otherwise?"
                                     In a way, the conjectural gossip of neigh­boring ladies was correct. But that is not to say there was any hard cash in Nenomoto's place.
                                       Several years had passed since a certain Sumiko Morii had been coming to his apartment as housekeeper. This woman was renting a second floor room over a greengrocer's, and found herself situated in the back streets a hundred meters or more from the mansion. Sumiko was thirty―six, widowed, with one daughter of fourteen.
                                         Sumiko used to arrive at Nenomoto's mansion every morning come nine o'clock. She'd operate the elevator by herself and go straight up to Floor 5. If ever she met anyone, she gave the barest nod of acknowledgement: but never did she smile.
                                           When she knocked at Nenomoto's flat, the door was already opened―from the inside.
                                             "Good morning."
                                                 And she got on with the house work.
                                                   Yago Nenomoto's apartment consisted of a livingroom, and a bedroom. The livingroom stood ten tatami mats in size, and the bedroom, four. A kitchen and bathroom were quasi―western―style. And the livingroom tatami―floor was thickly carpeted, a desk―low enough for working―in the center, and the bedroom had a bed.
                                                     Sumiko didn’t quite know her way around the first week or two, and she sometimes asked Yago questions. After a month, she was familiar enough and rarely bothered him anymore. With ever the same humorless face, she set about doing the cooking, cleaning and carefeul caring of Yogo.
                                                       “You are a rare woman,” Yago volunteered one day. “You do not gossip, and you like cleaness.”
                                                         Sumiko was poor.
                                                           Her husband died ten years ago, and she’d worked at a factory in the town where he lay hurried.
                                                             She tried working in the restaurant as well―but neither job seemed to fit her.
                                                               Sumiko's clothes were shabby, and this shamed her in front of her fellow workers. She got taunted by the proprietress of the restaurant and left the place after three days.
                                                                 Even after coming to Tokyo―with all the difficulties that city life entails―she had no intention of working like that again. Bar-work was even less acceptable to her.
                                                                   Poverty from childhood took deep roots within her, leaving her incapable of fitting into gay surroundings.
                                                                     So she helped out at the greengrocer's, took odd jobs doing temporary help, and then someone told her about Yago Nenomoto and his open offer for a housekeeper.
                                                                       "At last I feel relieved," Sumiko told him. "For the first time. Now that I have been able to work here." Her gratitude to Yago was deeper than her few words.
                                                                         "If this is so," he answered, "Then I wish to have you come always. Once I've gotten used to someone such as yourself, I would probably be at quite a loss if suddenly you decided to leave. . . ."
                                                                           Yago meant what he said.
                                                                             "A man may marry whenever he wishes. But why. . . ." Why did not Yago marry, she asked.
                                                                               "Oh, I have been married. But I have had enough now."
                                                                                 Yago meant what he said.
                                                                                   The fact was, Yago had been married several times. Every marriage had failed. In all probability, this was due to his stinginess.
                                                                                     Always, there would be some mishap, and the girl would leave.
                                                                                       One girl took a lover and left.
                                                                                         Once, he himself had given up his home and wife and gone into seclusion.
                                                                                           And the last time, his wife had stolen a million yen from him and disappeared.
                                                                                             Just like a roach scurries into a muddy field, he thought.
                                                                                               It is not really true to say that Yago trusted his last wife. For placing confidence in anyone, putting trust in anyone―this was not common practise for Yago.
                                                                                                 Ever since he had run away from home at twenty, the people he'd come across were, without exception, strangers. He was on guard from the start. He'd find himself―at times―cheating people from start to finish. And there was that period when his code consisted merely of 'Deceive or be deceived'.
                                                                                                   But it may be accurate to say that Sachiko had taken him off guard.
                                                                                                     He was speculating in real estate at the time.
                                                                                                       In his earlier days, he'd been a stock­broker's apprentice. He'd worked in public relations for a readymade clothes manufacturer. He'd assisted at the shop of an antique dealer, and he'd tried watchman-ing at a small company warehouse.
                                                                                                         He was eagerly efficient with any work people asked him to do. Because he wanted to hoard money.
                                                                                                           But Yago feared working long at any single place, because he hated getting used to surroundings. Once that happened, he accepted the low wages. And once that took place, he felt he'd come to a dead end.
                                                                                                             More money. He had to make more money. The thought monopolized his mind, and he would move on to another job. This single characteristic contributed to his success. He was his own whip-man.
                                                                                                               But one day, when he was forty-five, he went out alone one evening. He met some people, talked business, and then returned home late.
                                                                                                                 The front door was locked. He wondered where Sachiko could have gotten to at such an hour.
                                                                                                                   He went around to the next door neighbor's and found she'd left his front door key there.
                                                                                                                     He unlocked the door and went into his tiny house. It couldn't have been over seven meters square. They had no children, but even so they felt cramped in the place. Now, as he went from hall to living room, a strange dust-odour choked him. A chill wind blew through. Something wrong.
                                                                                                                       The chest drawer was open. 'Burglar?' he wondered. But back door, windows, garden‐doors all were securely bolted. No sign of anybody having broken in.
                                                                                                                         Back in the living room, he pulled aside the cupboard door. He took the little cash box out and flipped open the lid.
                                                                                                                           The bundle of bank notes he'd stored before he went out . . . it was gone.
                                                                                                                             He'd received this money as partial payment on a house he'd sold during the day.
                                                                                                                               He knew he should have drawn a cheque on a bank. He always had unpleasant premonitions carrying large amounts of money. But he'd returned home instantly instead―telling himself it would be disastrous if the money were lost. Telling himself it would be safe enough until he could get to the bank the following morning.
                                                                                                                                 Damn it. They were gone. He should never have confided in that woman.
                                                                                                                                   He rushed over to the home of the person who had introduced Sachiko to him. No avail.
                                                                                                                                     He got in touch with her brothers and sisters. They couldn't help him.
                                                                                                                                       He would have gone to the police: but he couldn't. You cannot report theft if the thief happens to be your wife.
                                                                                                                                         Since Sachiko, Yago never kept anything either precious or important at home.
                                                                                                                                           And never feeling completely at ease, he moved into the 'mansion'.
                                                                                                                                             Since his apartment was on the fifth floor, Yago had no worry of intrusion from outside. As for inside, he told himself it would be all right as long as there were no wife. At any rate, he stored all his valuables in a private safe at the bank.
                                                                                                                                               As a last protection, Yago had given up any intention of taking a wife after Sachiko ran away. And anyway, his desires in that direction had dulled. What remaining interest he had he funneled into other things.
                                                                                                                                                   Until Sachiko, Yago had been buying and selling houses. He had even tried to save money. And, in doing so, he purchased a certain amount of jewelry as part of his fortune. But Yago in no way bought these jewels for personal uses.
                                                                                                                                                     With knowledge of gems he had acquired in the antique shop, Yago in fact had been buying jewels on and off for years. But he gave none of it to his wives. He believed the gems would accrue value if kept for months, even years. And, of course, somewhere hidden in his subconscious, was the reliance he put on the gems were he, someday, to suffer failure in one transaction or another. As a last resort, he could play the hand his small fortune in precious stones provided him.
                                                                                                                                                       Diamonds. Rubies. Jades. Emeralds. Turquoises. In his possession, some very precious items. But then again, some commonplace stones and settings any office girl would be likely to buy.
                                                                                                                                                         This is not to give the impression that he had jewels in quantity. They didn't take up that much space in his storage cupboard. Though they were deeply set within.
                                                                                                                                                           He often wondered why Sachiko hadn't bothered with the jewels. Perhaps she thought them of no particular value. Then again, she was probably so taken up with running off with a million yen that jewelry never entered her mind.
                                                                                                                                                             In all events, after Sachiko left, he went to the bank where he always transacted business, and he arranged to borrow a private safe.
                                                                                                                                                               The safes were in the second basement. And the bank itself was in a beautiful new building. He took the elevator down.
                                                                                                                                                                 Every time he went down, he found himself behind that thick wall of glass. And behind it, sitting at a desk, a guard. The guard always took his seal, examined it behind his tiny window, check if it matched with the registered original. And only then would he open the door.
                                                                                                                                                                   The circular door, two meters in diameter, cut from marble, stood at the far end of the guard's cubicle. The big circle opened precisely at nine in the morning and closed promptly at five in the evening. It moved open and closed in silence at the press of one button. And Yago could barely suppress his smiling sense of satisfaction when he saw it do so.
                                                                                                                                                                     Within the marble entrance was yet another gate of iron. And the area beyond the gate stood twenty tsubo in size. Thousands of lockers, rowed on top of each other, filled the walls opposite the gate, and along both sides.
                                                                                                                                                                       Nenomoto's locker was 4040. 4040 was fourth from the bottom in the middle part of the left hand wall.
                                                                                                                                                                         The first time Yago used his 4040, he had placed all his gem boxes into a single cardboard carton, and he'd wrapped the package into a furoshiki scarf of cotton, and he'd taken a taxi to the bank, hoard in hand.
                                                                                                                                                                           Down within the private safe vault, you found five cubicles which reminded Yago of telephone booths. They were situated in the center of the vault. Inside, each booth had desk and telephone.
                                                                                                                                                                             First, Yago brought his safe-drawer into one of the cubicles. He removed the gems from their containers, checking them one by one. Then he put them back inside their casings and placed the whole lot into the drawer and into the safe. The procedure lasted half an hour. And during the time, many other depositors had come, opened their safes to posit or remove documents.
                                                                                                                                                                               Yago caught glimpses of these people through the small window in the cubicle door. People in a hurry spent less than three minutes in the vault. But Yago, even after he had placed all his jewelry into the locker drawer, did not leave his cubicle.
                                                                                                                                                                                 He felt safe and at rest for the first time in his life.
                                                                                                                                                                                   Ever since Sachiko had run away with his cash, he had been literally unable to sleep at night. And while he thought of it, he recalled that there had never really been any time―with Sachiko or any of his wives―when he could go out and trust that the house would be watched with care. True, in the early days, his fortune had been small, and there was even the period when he felt the pinch of poverty: but he still remembered feeling uneasy whenever he was away from home. There was someone other than himself in the house.
                                                                                                                                                                                     Yago pondered. He had never felt as safe and sound as he felt then in that cubicle. He must put all his valuables into this safe: he couldn't just use it for jewels. So, the next day, he brought his important documents; the day following, his savings book and seal. And then, even at home, he was fond of reliving the moments of absolute security he felt in his private safe.
                                                                                                                                                                                       He received such pleasure by dwelling on these thoughts. And he would find again some excuse to visit his safe.
                                                                                                                                                                                         Down he would go, with a cubicle reserved, and over he would go inspecting the contents of his drawer.
                                                                                                                                                                                           On each occasion, no matter what pretense drew him there, he would inspect his jewels individually. And if he caught sight of even the smallest speck of dust, he would polish the afflicted gem industriously with the inner sleeve of his kimono.
                                                                                                                                                                                             By and by, within the atmosphere of security, and with the constant attention he gave to the stones, a change fermented within him.    He began to consider the jewels as objects of beauty.
                                                                                                                                                                                               Now, Yago had certainly cultivated the practise of identifying good gems from bad. In the antique shop, sales prattle would pour from his lips.
                                                                                                                                                                                                 "Ah, one rarely finds a jewel as beautiful as this, Madam. It offers exquisite enhancement of your hand."
                                                                                                                                                                                                   But despite his ability to spot flaws and scratches, despite his eloquent recommendations, it is doubtful whether Yago himself ever found even one jewel beautiful.
                                                                                                                                                                                                     And then, one day, after he had been visiting his safe for more than a year, he was sitting in his cubicle as usual. He was examining the star―ruby ring.
                                                                                                                                                                                                       From the center of this wine―colored stone, from the very center of its smooth―shaped hill, radiated six beams like the fingers of a starfish.
                                                                                                                                                                                                         Yago tilted the stone. And the rays of light sank soundlessly into the polished depths. Strange light. The wine-red was rich, even dark: but the shooting flames which pierced it were bright as rainbows.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           "It's beautiful."
                                                                                                                                                                                                             And he looked up, his eyes drawn involuntarily to stare at the fluorescent lamp on the wall.
                                                                                                                                                                                                               Stones looked very different under flourescent light. The greens in Mexican opals grew strong, the vermillion faded.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Yet the wine-colored ruby was deep in tone and changed little. If anything, the ruby seemed to harden in the light.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "I never realized how beautiful jewels are till now."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Constant, were they not more beautiful than woman? But Yago had never thought women that lovely anyway. Short and shabby, Yago kept company with women who were short and shabby too. No, it was not that Yago did not ever keep company with better―looking women, but simply that they took no notice of him.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "I can always keep hold of jewels. Jewels do not leave for other men." He was thinking of his first wife.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "Gems in hand need no more money spent."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           He laid diamonds, opals, jades onto the palm of his hand. He stared at them as if seeing them for the first time. Then he noticed his palms and fingers. They were soiled.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Yes, he was getting old.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                               He had spent an hour over his jewels that day. And once out in the open, out of the bank and basement, he was aware that a slight fatigue had fallen over him.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 From that time on, Yago began working less and less. He backed out quietly from the real estate business. After gazing at his gems, he really found it pointless anymore to work so feverishly. By all accounts, he did not intend to marry again. And he wondered just how much money he would need to go on living alone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The life of this short, thin and stooped man―when he pondered the years to go, the hours he'd worked―seemed wasted.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Sitting erect on a Japanese cushion, in the midst of his carpeted room, he held his abacus and calculated. Thirty thousand yen monthly, rent. Several thousand for this. Ten odd thousand for that. Food, clothing, lighting, transport. No, his yearly output didn't really come to that much.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       If he lived on his own, he saw that he had enough money to support himself for the next ten to twenty years: even if prices, and his budget, went up considerably. Yago did not feel like living longer than twenty years: and he told himself his body wouldn't last much longer than that either.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         And what if, when he died, he left a fortune? There was no one he wanted to give it to. And this being the case, he reasoned, why go on working so hard?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           He got into the habit of watching television in the morning. Afternoons might find him in bookstores . . . where he stood reading to pass time. Books on exploration into unknown lands. Volumes on discoveries of precious stones. And then, as afternoon began to grow, he would tell Sumiko Mori that he was going for a walk.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             And he would catch a taxi and speed to his bank.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               One delirious hour with his jewels. And when the precise 60 minutes had passed, he replaced his drawer and passed out through the marble circle. It was closing shortly.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Now, there were three other persons who came to the bank to put things in and out of their private safes―every day roundabout the same time. As the times they met increased, they came to greet each other silently.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   One respectable gentleman figured around sixty in Yago's mind. Another woman in her forties was, by all appearances, proprietress of a tea-house. And then there was a tall young man around thirty.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     It happened that one day Yago's departure for home coincided exactly with that of this young man. Since they took the same elevator to the ground floor, and since they walked side by side from corridor to street, they found themselves conversing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "I believe we have met quite often. You are here on office business, perhaps."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         There were many concerns in this city which rented small one room offices in fireproof mortar buildings. But there was no place to put a strong safe. So it was that every day, towards evening, one of the staff would be obliged to collect his company's documents and bring them down to one of the private bank safes. Yago assumed the young man was from one such enterprise.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "No. Private matters . . . this safe is for my own personal use."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             "Really," Yago said, taking another good look at the young man.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Yago knew that certain requirements had to be met in order to borrow a safe. An individual usually had to have a million-yen­or-more deposit in the bank. Did this fellow have an account of a million yen, too?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 "If a young person such as yourself uses a safe for private purposes then. . . ."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "No . . . I am ashamed to tell you," the young man replied. "There is nothing of value inside my safe. Just letters from a certain girl, and her photograph."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Yago mused. The boy had borrowed his safe to prevent his own wife from seeing these letters and picture.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Late autumn sun shot between the city buildings at brilliant angles. They burst upon the young man's face as he emerged into the street. His face reflected golden light. No trace of red from the sun. The boy's youth shone. A brightness, Yago saw, different from that of his diamonds and rubies. Here was a man with a wife and another woman as well.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         When he thought of this thing―the total absorption in a woman―a strange feeling came over him. Surely, he told himself, if the fellow were only a bit less engrossed, he would have no need to worry about a wife's prying eyes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Yago looked back on his own youth.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Brought up in a small central town in the countryside. Experience with women from an early age. But women who had to be bought.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               But here this young man was. He did not pay for his girl, but he paid for a locker in the bank. Yago could not quite put into thoughts what made the two things so different. But the youthful face, illuminated by setting sun, left deep impressions on him.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Surely the emotion of that moment left a trace on his own face. When he returned, Sumiko asked him if anything was the matter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   From the apartment windows, Yago saw evening. The sun―disc was caught on pinnacles of distant buildings. But the window of his own room had fallen in shadows already.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Sumiko's face was full of sympathy, and it made her look younger. She used only the faintest make-up-a brush of lipstick, perhaps. And this was strange: Yago noticed, for the first time,that color on her lips. And then another strange event occurred.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "Sumiko," he said, "Don't you intend to marry again?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "Why such a question―and suddenly like this?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Her face, thrown into unconscious confusion, was blushing warmly. Yago could feel it in the chill of the evening room. Yet still, Sumiko did not smile. How strange for a Japanese. She would not smile.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Till now, Yago had never been drawn to a somber face. But the soft blush which now arose aroused his gentler passions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               "Sumi, come over here. . . ."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 As they went into the bedroom, Sumiko's face went whiter. But when he put his arms around her shoulders, and drew her close, she did not resist. She turned her face eaway momentarily. But Yago did not take it to mean she disliked him. And he was correct. That she did not dislike him was established some few minutes afterwards.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Yago was intrigued. The dormant coquettishness of a woman untouched by a man for ten years―and the peculiar confusion which accompanied it. These things caught his thoughts.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     And not this alone. For after Sumiko had straightened her clothes and hair and left the bedroom, her face showed no trace of what had occurred moments before. She seemed to have forgotten.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ''Sir, your supper is ready."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         As usual she had worked to prepare his meal, and she served unflustered. She went home saying she would come again in the morning. And Yago got the distinct feeling that what had happened barely an hour before was as short―lived as a dream.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "What did happen?" he wondered.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             At nine o'clock the following day, Sumiko knocked and entered as usual. He stood, opened the door for her, and looked into her eyes. They were exactly as they had been the previous morning. Nothing had changed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               He took deliberate notice and saw her lips pale red. But they had been just as red as this till yesterday: and he had not observed. Her face―still unpowdered. Her hair combed but this was her custom. Ah: drops of water on her hair.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "Rain . . . but when I left my house, it hadn't yet begun."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Yago looked: drops clung to the window­ glass. But he could not see the rain falling. A distant building appeared through slight mist.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       In the afternoon, Sumiko asked if he were going out. Well, it was raining, he observed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         He sat there at the square Chinese quince desk in his carpeted Western room, and he read his book on exploration, and he watched television much longer than usual.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sumiko finished her daily routine and went home. The night was long, cold after her departure. Yago regretted anew not having gone to see his jewels that day.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             A few days passed. And Yago asked Sumiko. "Will it be convenient if you stay late today?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               "Yes, it will be all right."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Her daughter was used to being on her own. She lived upstairs at the greengrocer's―so there was nothing to fear. She could always go downstairs and watch television if she got bored. She could keep company with the greengrocer's daughter, they were the same age and got on well together.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Together, Yago and Sumiko had supper for the first time.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Formerly, they had agreed to having lunch together: but her working hours were until six and they'd never spoken of suppertime till now.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       When they had finished eating, Yago stooped and stiff though his face appeared managed to take her into the bedroom. She stood without a smile by the bedroom wall, he pulled her into embrace.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         That moment was the real threshold of their love.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sumiko was thirty―six: and her skin was moist and had a faint bouquet.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             That evening they remained in the bedroom, in the dark bed, for nearly an hour. Yago could catch the brilliance of Mexican opals in her skin. With ever so slight a tilt, he saw reds, blues, greens―the colors of an alpine butterfly―glistening on her cheeks. These changing gem―colors seemed to emerge from within her very flesh.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               But when she left the bed, her skin―tone seemed no more than rather blunt and frosted glass.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 "What sort of man was your husband, Sumi?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   She did not answer. She frowned a bit. He saw her face by the light of raindrops on the window pane. And Yago did not pursue the question further.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Yago did not really care what kind of per­ son her dead husband had been. She didn't know anything about his past: and he didn't need to know hers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       At the end of the month, he put more than usual in her wage envelope.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Until that time, she received eight thousand yen a month and the promise of biannual raise. But this month, he suddenly slipped an extra twenty―thousand yen into the packet.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sumiko took the envelope in silence. She made a slight bow of acknowledgement. And she put it into the breast pocket of her blouse without examining the contents.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Yago wondered what she would say the next day. But Sumiko said nothing special. That she said nothing did not annoy Yago at all. She is satisfied, he thought to himself.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Something new started sweeping over Yago Nenomoto's life. He brought this wave of feeling on by himself. And it swelled within him. Nothing special pressed upon him from without. Sumiko gave herself whenever she was desired. When she gave, she gave devotedly. But if 'devotedly' includes any sense of spontaneity from within, or initiation―then Sumiko's devotion was of a different order.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 For whenever Yago took her, she herself became turbulent.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   She herself may very well have been unaware of it: for after the gale had passed, neither wound nor fatigue was felt.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     As their trysting increased, Yago's bewilderment increased. Before, when he had slept alone, he would dwell in the night on the jewels within his private safe. How they slept, in one of many quiet lockers, behind that heavy marble disc of a door.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       What might the locker next to his jewels contain? A will perhaps. Documents detailing divisions of a fortune.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         And next to that, what? A sleeping heap of cash. A stolen, sleeping seal. Or tax accounts. Or secret manuscripts.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           One could never be sure if there were not answers to crimes lying silent in those safes. No matter, it was night. And every content slept in peace.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Even pilfered pistols might be sleeping. For who could know? Not even bank clerks had the right to open them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Then, in his mind's eye, Yago would see inside the safe which he possessed. His sparkling array would wake and watch within their black box. He saw them sitting, in their distinct cases, unlit, yet glittering, shining of their own volition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 He saw the blue―white phosphorescence. The vehemence of ruby pomegranates. Even the yellow―dull of ordinary light. Whatever the gleam and hue, they would wake and watch. One night, indeed, their gaze and glow and glare pierced the distance dark between him and the bank, spanned the void, and kept him from sleeping.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Only recently had he made an extra ordinary discovery. Nowadays when he would face the gems inside the vault, he saw in them the body of Sumiko.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     A different curve, a different hollow, a different part of herself would appear in one or another of his beautiful little stones.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Where did she hide these endlessly diverse qualities? She was a woman who maintained rigidity of face. She never laughed. Like stone. . . . And when these thoughts crowded into his cubicle, Yago would be seized with the desire to rush out of the vault and return at once to his mansion.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         It was a spring day.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Ten minutes after he had entered, he was rushing out of the vault.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             As he attempted to leave, he ran into the young man. The youth who kept the letters and pictures of his lover in a locker. They bowed, and Yago caught sight of a girl behind him. She was young, in her teens.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               This girl?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Yago felt perplexed. "This girl is your mistress?"―he almost blurted out. But he was too dumbfounded to speak.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   What kind of letter could she be writing at her age? What kind of photograph could she have given her young man?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     She wore a gathered navy―colored skirt. A plain white blouse. Plaited hair down to her shoulders. Eyes of a child lured to a frightening place. Grave pallor. No sign of smile. Gotesque images churned in Yago's head. The young man was trying to lock the girl into his safe. He would hide his little love for ever and ever away from his wife's prying eyes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "Hello, we cross paths again today, don't we?" Where had Yago's cheerful greeting come from?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "Oh I am glad we are in time. This child . . ." as he spoke, the young man glanced back at the girl, "She wants to see you."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "See me?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             What was it all about? Why should this young man's mistress want to meet him?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               "She came here looking for you, but she couldn't get inside―so she called me."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 So this isn't his girlfriend. Yago paled. Which of the women he had been with had a daughter this age? Perhaps some girl had had this child without his knowing it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   But it was Suzuko, Sumiko's daughter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     If true, he was bewildered anew. Sumiko. The housekeeper. Her daughter. Yes. There was a resemblance. How many clays, how many months had passed since he learned of this child's existence? Sumiko had never brought her daughter to his flat. So Yago had never seen her until this moment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       She is a pretty girl: the whiteness of her blouse reflected in her face. But pitiful somehow. Center of attention of two strange men in a strange building basement.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "It's cold," she whispered. Very likely―she is all tensed up, Yago observed. It is spring, yes, the heating is off―but the temperature was not unseasonably low. Nevertheless. . . .
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           He turned his head and looked back from doorway to vault. Four walls beyond the marble door stood lined in steel lockers. Straight hard lines contrasted against the mighty circle of the door. No wonder she felt chilly.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             "What have you come here for?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               "I want to see the jewels."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The way Suzuko spoke betrayed her age. But Yago didn't notice that. How did she know about the jewels?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "How do you know. . . . ?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     "Mother told me about them."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Yago had never spoken to Sumiko about his gems. He told her he kept valuables in the safe―but her words about the jewels must have been no more than surmise. She must have told Suzuko that Yago probably had some jewels.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The jewels were Yago's only secret. No one was supposed to know. It was only natural that he grew agitated.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "Right. You can see them."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             He looked over at the young man and laughed. He took Suzuko by the hand and re-entered the vault. Her fingers felt frozen.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               "It's cold," she said again.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The bank clerk stood with a key. This key and the one he brought along―you had to use both to open the locker.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Drawer unlocked, now into the small telephone booth cubicle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     "What kind of jewels would you like to see?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       "All the jewels."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "All of them?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "Yes," she replied distinctly. "I like jewelry."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             She may have liked it, but how much did she know about it? Sumiko had never worn so much as a gold ring.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Yago opened every case, at the urging of this child. One by one he laid them out on the top of the cubicle desk.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Most of the stones were in rings, a couple in pendants, and some were unfixed stones.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   "Well, how are they?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     "It is as though a magician has used his magic to show them all to me."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Her voice trembled. But her face, full of looking, was not chilly anymore. It was flushed. Her eyes were radiant, shining, and moist.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "I wish I could have one."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "Which one shall I give you?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             As he spoke, he felt as if he had in actuality become a magician. Had he heard his own words? Yes―but he was not surprised.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               It may have been that he was willing to sacrifice one stone in order to prevent the secret from spreading further. Then again he may also have had a sense of sin ―against the child―for no other reason than that he had a fortune in jewels and she was dirt poor. Or else it may have been that Sumiko and the stones had become synonymous, their simultaneous image mocking his niggardliness.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Or he may have divined, when first he saw Suzuko, that his relationship with her mother was, in a way, profanation of the child. Judging from Yago's history, this was, by all accounts, a far―fetched possibility. But the inescapable fact remained that he had said yes to this child.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Till now, had there ever really been a time when he did not believe that he should deceive others?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     "I am so happy." Suzuko exclaimed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Out stretched her hand and noiselessly wrapped around the Mexican opal, fingers covering, as they folded over, the radiating filaments of five colors in the milky stone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         "It's so beautiful. It is like a rainbow."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "So this is the one you wish?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Suzuko looked back over her shoulder, black eyes glistening. "But perhaps I shouldn't."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 "No. You should. It's all right."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   A fresh, sweet fragrance arose from the girl's body.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     It filled in moments the tiny cubicle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Yago had purchased this opal for hundreds of thousand of yen from a man returned from Mexico. It would fetch a million today. The heavy oval stone would be too big even for Sumiko's fingers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         For no reason, Yago felt the shadow of death. He had never given anything to anyone with such generosity.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           He had never made a present as valuable as this. This single stone could guarantee his life for two years. But was not the truth that his life itself had already been diminished by the same amount of time? This so, he had no need for the opal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             He was finding it difficult to breathe.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Whatever had burst into flame within the child had created the stifling atmosphere within the cubicle as well.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 He tried to stand and open the door.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Everything began to dance before his eyes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     He grasped the desk and sat down again.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       From that time on, Yago did not go often to inspect his private safe. He visited the bank only when he needed money or when he wanted to use his seal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         But his eyes followed Sumiko more tenaciously than ever.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The day after he gave Suzuko the opal, Sumiko thanked him. But it seemed she did not realize that it was a genuine Mexican opal. Or else she knew no more of opals than the cheap, chalky ones of costume jewelry.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             A few days later, as he held Sumiko in his arms and glanced at her face, he nearly said, "Take good care of that stone." But he could not. Though Suzuko might find the stone a trinket, and even lose it, neither mother nor daughter would grieve over it in a home where they remained unaware of its worth. Sumiko surely had never imagined it could be of such value.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               After Yago parted with the opal, he felt in certainty his life-span begin to shrink. But the arms which embraced Sumiko grew in strength. And even as his years shrank and strength grew, the hold Yago and Sumiko had on each other got weaker and weaker.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Which of them was, in fact, in even more painful isolation now?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                “Misanthrope” (Kokyaku) first appeared in the June 1964 issue of “Nippon” magazine, and was later included in his anthology “The Chair on the Summit” (Sancho no Isu) published by Shincho-sha in 1967. It is an episode of a man entering old age who has lost interest in work and the opposite sex and is fascinated only by the glitter of expensive jewelry. The author depicts the human misery of latter days affected by the narrowing of the mind in old age. Misanthrope(Kokyaku)was translated into English and published by The Japan P.E.N. Club in October 1970.(From The Japan P.E.N.News No 23. 1970 )

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  SAWANO Hisao
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This page was created on 2016/09/01

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Background Color

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Font Style

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Default
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • For Weak-Eyed

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  SAWANO Hisao

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Novelist. December 30, 1912 – December 17, 1992. Born in Saitama Prefecture. Started his creative activity while working as a reporter in the Arts and Cultural Department at Asahi Newspaper, and devoted himself to his writing after his retirement in 1959. A four-time nominee for the Akutagawa Award, though never a recipient. He created a unique world of novels in a psychological and lyrical style, extracted from his resilient sensibility and sharp insight about the times he lived through.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Other Works