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Eldritch Press >> Natsume Soseki >> Kokoro >> Part 2



by Natsume Soseki

Translated by Edwin McClellan, 1957

Part 2: My Parents and I


WHAT surprised me when I got home was that my father's health seemed not to have changed much during the months I had been away.

"So you are back," he said. "I'm glad that you were able to graduate. Wait a minute, I'll go and wash my face."

I had found him in the garden. He was wearing an old straw hat, with a slightly soiled handkerchief attached to the back to shield his neck from the sun. The handkerchief swayed in the breeze as he walked towards the well behind the house.

I had come to regard a university education as common-place, and I was touched by my father's unexpected pleasure at my graduation.

"I am glad that you were able to graduate," he said repeatedly. Inwardly, I compared my father's unaffected pleasure with the way Sensei had congratulated me that night at the dinner table. And I had greater admiration for Sensei with his secret contempt for such things as university degrees than I had for my father, who seemed to me to value them more than they were worth. I began at last to dislike my father's naïve provincialism.

"You shouldn't get so excited over such a trifling thing as a university degree," I blurted out. "After all, several hundred students graduate every year." My father looked at me strangely.

"It isn't simply your graduation that I am happy about, you know. Of course, I am glad that you graduated. But you don't know all the reasons why I say I am glad. If you could only understand..."

I asked him what he meant. He seemed reluctant to tell me, but finally he said:

"You see, I am glad for my own sake. As you know, I am a sick man. When you were home last winter, I was convinced that I had no more than three or four months left to live. Providentially, I am still alive, and am able to potter about comfortably. And now, you have graduated. I am happy because you, who have worked so hard at your studies, managed to graduate before I died, and while I was in good health. Surely, I, as your father, have reason to be happy. Of course, you have bigger ideas than I, and it must annoy you to see me fuss over such an insignificant thing as your graduation. But try to look at it from my point of view. I am glad, not so much for your sake, as for my own. Do you understand?"

I said nothing. No word of apology would have expressed how I felt. I hung my head in deep shame. Calmly, he had been waiting for his death, believing that he would die before my graduation. And I had been too stupid to realize how much it meant to my father to be alive when I graduated. I brought out my diploma from my bag, and carefully showed it to my father and mother. I had not packed it well, and it was badly creased.

"You should have rolled it, and carried it in your hand," said my father.

"You should have protected it with something stiff," added my mother from his side.

My father looked at it for a while, then got up and went to the ornamental alcove of the room, and placed it where everyone could see it. Ordinarily, I would have said something, but at that moment I was not my usual self. I had no desire to argue with my parents. I kept quiet and let my father do as he wished. The diploma was made of stiff paper, and, having become misshapen in the packing, it refused to stay still and collapsed each time my father tried to stand it up.


I drew my mother aside and asked her about my father's illness.

"Is it all right for my father to be so active? Going out into the garden, for instance ..."

"There seems to be nothing the matter with him now. He has probably recovered."

My mother was surprisingly optimistic and unconcerned. As is commonly the case with women who live among woods and fields far from cities, my mother was quite ignorant about such matters. I remembered, a little uneasily, how surprised and frightened she had been when my father had fainted.

"But the doctor warned us then that father's illness was serious."  

"That's why I think there is nothing stranger than the human body. Look at him now--so healthy, in spite of the doctor's anxiety. At first, I was worried, and tried to keep him still. But you know how he is. He does try to be careful, of course. But he is so stubborn. He has decided he is well, and won't listen to whatever I may have to say."

I remembered how, the last time I had come home, my father had insisted on leaving his bed. "I am all right now," he had said, after a shave. "Your mother fusses too much." And remembering that occasion, I thought that my mother was not entirely to blame. I had been on the verge of saying, "But you should take his illness more seriously, even if he doesn't," but decided to say nothing after all. It would be unjust, I thought, to chide her. Instead, I told her all I knew about my father's disease. Of course, I knew little more than what Sensei and his wife had told me. My mother seemed not particularly impressed or interested. She made only such remarks as: "Is that so? The lady died of the same disease? That's too bad. And how old was she, when she died?"

I gave up trying to convince my mother of the seriousness of my father's illness, and decided to speak to my father. He listened to me more attentively than my mother had done.

"Of course, you are right," he said. "But after all, my body is my own, and I know what's good for it and what is not. From experience alone, I should know how to look after it better than anyone else." My mother, when I told her what he had said, smiled wryly and said: "See? What did I tell you?"

"But," I said to her, "in spite of what he says, he is preparing to die, you know. That is why he was so glad when I came back with the diploma from the university. He himself was saying to me how fortunate he was that I should have graduated while he was still healthy, and not after his death as he had feared."

"What he says and what he thinks are quite different things," my mother said. "Secretly, he thinks that he has recovered."

"I wonder if you are right," I said.

"Why, he intends to live another ten or twenty years. True, he sometimes says depressing things to me too. Only the other day, he said tome: 'It doesn't look as if I'm going to live much longer. What will you do when I'm dead? Do you intend to live all alone in this house?'"

I pictured to myself the large, old country house without my father, and with only my mother living in it. Could the house be kept up without him? What would my mother do? What would my mother say? Would I be able to leave home, and live without worry in Tokyo? And as I sat there, facing my mother, I began to think of Sensei's advice that I should try to get my share of the family fortune while my father was still alive.

Then my mother said: "There's no need to worry. When did anyone die who kept on saying that he was going to die? Despite the fact that your father says he expects to die soon, he will probably be living many years from now. Rather, it is we, who are so certain of our good health, that are in real danger."

Wondering whether she thought her ideas to be logically irrefutable or statistically demonstrable, I listened to my mother's platitudes in silence.


My parents began to discuss plans for a dinner party in my honor. Ever since my return, I had been secretly fearing that such a notion might enter their heads. I immediately objected.

"Don't do anything so elaborate for my sake, please," I said.

I hated the kind of guests that came to a country dinner party. They came with one end in view, which was to eat and drink, and they were the sort of people that waited eagerly for any event which might provide a break in the monotony of their lives. Since childhood, I had hated to see them at our house and to have to behave respectfully towards them. That they were now to be invited to dinner for my sake made me feel even less friendly towards them. But I could hardly say to my parents, "Don't invite those rowdy boors here." I pretended, then, that it was the elaborateness of such a party that I disliked. "Elaborate? Certainly not!" said my mother. "Such an occasion as this comes but once in a lifetime. It is only natural that we should have guests to celebrate. Don't be so retiring."

My mother seemed to attach about as much importance to my graduation as she would have done to my marriage.

"We don't have to invite them, of course," said my father, "but if we don't, there will be talk."

He was afraid of gossip. I was certain that our neighbors were hoping to be asked, and that if they were disappointed, they would indeed start gossiping.

"We are not in Tokyo, you know," said my father. "Country people are rather fussy and resentful."

"You must consider your father's reputation too," said my mother.  

I could not go on being stubborn. I began to think that it would be better to let my parents do as they pleased.

"I was merely saying that you need not do it for my sake. But if you are afraid of gossip, then of course it's a different matter. Who am I to insist on something that may do you harm?"

"You embarrass me with your argumentative talk," said my father sourly.

"It isn't that your father is saying that we are not having a party for your sake," said my mother. "But even you must be aware of one's duty to one's neighbors."

My mother, like all women, was inclined, at times, to make incoherent remarks. In loquacity, however, she was more than a match for my father and me even when we sided together against her.

"The trouble with education," said my father, "is that it makes a man argumentative."

He said no more then. But in that simple remark, I saw clearly the character of his resentment towards me, which I had sensed before. Not realizing that I myself was being rather difficult, I felt strongly the injustice of my father's reproach.

That evening there was a change in my father's mood. He asked me when it would be convenient to hold the dinner party. He knew perfectly well that I was then spending my time in complete idleness. His asking the question was therefore his way of trying to bring about a reconciliation. I could not but be touched by my father's gentleness, and I became more obedient. After a short discussion, we agreed upon the date.  

Before the day of the dinner party arrived, however, an important event took place. Emperor Meiji was taken ill. This news, which was spread throughout the nation by the newspapers, reached us like a gust of wind, blowing away the plans for a graduation party which had been tentatively made, not without difficulty, in an insignificant country house.

"I think that we had better cancel the dinner," said my father when he read the news, looking at me over the top of his spectacles. He then became silent, and it seemed to me that he was thinking of his own illness. I sat quietly too, thinking of the Emperor who had so recently attended the graduation ceremony at the university, as he was wont to do every year.


I brought out the books from my suitcase, and in the silent, old house, too large for the three of us, I began to read them. For some reason, I could not settle down. It had been easier to study in the middle of bustling Tokyo. In the small room on the second floor of the boarding house, where I could hear the distant sound of running trams, I had found no difficulty in concentrating on whatever I was reading.

Often, I found myself dozing over my books, and sometimes I went as far as to bring out my pillow and take a nap in earnest. I would wake to the cry of the cicadas, which at first would seem to have been a part of my dreams, and then, suddenly, I would be fully awake and find the harsh cry almost unbearable. Sometimes, I would lie still and listen to it for a moment or two, and my heart would fill with sadness.  

I wrote to various friends. Sometimes, I sent short notes written on postcards, and sometimes, long letters. Some of my friends were still in Tokyo, and some had gone home to distant provinces. Some wrote back, and some did not. I did not, of course, forget Sensei. I wrote him a long letter, covering three double pages of foolscap paper with small hand-writing, and told him all that had happened to me since my return. As I sealed the envelope, I wondered if Sensei would still be in Tokyo. It was the custom, whenever Sensei and his wife went away, for a lady of about fifty, with her hair cut and let down in the style affected by gentlewomen of her age, to come and look after the house. Once, when I asked Sensei who the lady was, he asked me in turn, "Who do you think she is?" When I said that I took her for some relation of his, he replied, "But I have no relations?' Indeed, Sensei had come to ignore completely the existence of his family in his home province. The lady, it turned out, was related to Sensei's wife. I thought of this lady, then, as I went out to post my letter, and I wondered whether she would have the sense and the kindness to forward it, should Sensei and his wife have left by the time it reached Tokyo. I knew, of course, that I had said nothing of importance in the letter. It was simply that I was lonely. I hoped for a reply from him, but it never came. My father did not show as much interest in chess as he had done the previous winter. The chessboard lay in the corner of the ornamental alcove, covered with dust. He seemed more quiet than ever since the Emperor's illness. Every day, he would wait for the newspaper to arrive, and when it came, he would read it first. Then he would bring it to me, and say:

"Look, there's more news of His Majesty today."

He always referred to the Emperor as "His Majesty." "I don't wish to seem irreverent," he once said, "but it does look as if His Majesty's illness is not unlike mine."

I could see deep anxiety on his face as he said this, and I thought to myself, "How long will it be before he faints again?"

"But I am sure His Majesty will be all right," my father said. "Why, if a worthless fellow like me can be up and about like this..."

Despite his attempts at being optimistic, however, I suspected that he feared the worst for himself.

"Father is really worried about his illness, you know," I said to my mother. "It doesn't look as if he expects to live another ten or twenty years, as you seem to think he did."

My mother appeared to be perplexed by my words.

"Why don't you persuade him to play chess with you," she said.

I brought out the chessboard and dusted it.


My father's health grew steadily worse. The old straw hat with the handkerchief attached to it, which had so amazed me when I first saw it on my father, now was laid aside. And every time I saw it lying on the smoke-blackened shelf, I felt pity for him. Before, when he had been active, I had wished that he would not move about so much. But I hated to see him lose his old vigor and to find him sitting about the house so quietly. My mother and I talked often of my father's health.

"It's just his mood," she once said. "He is depressed." She seemed to think that my father was depressed because of the Emperor's illness. I could not agree with her.  

"I don't think that it is simply his mood," I said. "I think that he is feeling really ill."

I began then to consider seriously calling in a good specialist once more and have him examine my father.

"You can't be enjoying yourself very much this summer," my mother said. "We haven't even celebrated your graduation. Your father hasn't been well, and now, His Majesty ... We should have had a dinner party immediately after your return."

I had come home on the fifth or sixth of July, and it was about a week after that that my parents had started discussing plans for the dinner. They had then decided to hold it the following week. One might say that due to the easygoing ways of my parents who, like all country people, could do nothing in a hurry, I had been spared an unpleasant social obligation. But my mother, who did not understand me, could not see this.

When the newspaper announcing the Emperor's death arrived, my father said: "Oh! Oh!" And then "Oh, His Majesty is gone at last. It...." My father then fell silent.

I went to town to buy some black crepe. We wrapped a piece of it around the golden ball at the end of the flag pole. From another piece of crepe, we made a ribbon about three inches wide, and hung it from the pole near the top. The pole was then attached slantwise to one of the gate posts. The air was very still, and both the flag and the black ribbon hung limply. The old gate of our house had a thatched roof over it. The thatch had acquired a grey ashlike hue from years of exposure to wind and rain. One could see that, in places, it had become very uneven. I went out alone into the road and looked at the white muslin flag with the red rising sun in the center. The flag and the black ribbon dangling by its side stood out in relief against the dirty grey of the thatch. A question that Sensei had once asked me suddenly came to my mind. "What is your house like?" he had asked. "I wonder if the style of architecture in your part of the country is different from that in mine?" I wanted Sensei to see the old house where I was born. But, at the same time, I felt a little ashamed of it.

I went back to the house. I sat at my desk and, as I read the newspaper, I thought of far-off Tokyo. I imagined this city, the greatest in all Japan, immersed in gloom, yet bustling with activity despite the darkness. There was but one light shining, and that came from Sensei's house. I could not know then that this light too would be swallowed up by the silent whirlpool. I could not know that very soon, this light would be snuffed out, and that I would be left in a world of total darkness.

Thinking that I would write to Sensei about the death of the Emperor, I picked up my pen. After I had written ten lines or so, I decided not to write the letter after all. I tore up the paper and threw the bits into the wastepaper basket. (I thought that it would be senseless to write to him about such a matter. Besides, I had little hope of getting a reply from him.) If only he would write to me, I thought, knowing that I had begun the letter simply out of loneliness.


Some time towards the middle of August, I received a letter from a friend of mine, asking me if I would be interested in a post in a certain provincial secondary school. This friend, through economic necessity, had been spending a great deal of his time looking for such posts for himself. The post had been offered to him, but, since he had already accepted an offer from a school in a better district, he had been considerate enough to inform me of the opening. I wrote back immediately, saying that I was not interested, and suggesting that he write to a mutual friend of ours who, I knew, was desperately wanting a teaching post.

After I had posted the letter, I told my parents of the opening. They showed no displeasure when they heard that I had decided not to consider it.

"Surely, there is no need for you to go to such a place," they said. "You will get a better offer."

I began to suspect then that my parents had rather high hopes for my future. And it soon became clear that, in their ignorance, they were expecting their university-educated son to find an important position with a huge salary.

"You must realize," I said, "that good jobs are extremely hard to come by these days. Please remember that my field of specialization is quite different from my elder brother's. Things have changed too since his day. You mustn't think that I am in the same happy situation as he was when he graduated."

"But you are a university graduate all the same," said my father a little sullenly. "You mustn't blame us if we now expect you to be financially independent. It's rather embarrassing, you know, not to have an answer when I am asked, 'Now that your younger son has graduated, what is he going to do?'"

The little community, of which my father had been a part for so many years, was his world, and he could not think beyond it. What he wanted me to do was find a position worthy of my qualifications, so that his reputation in the community would not be harmed. He did not wish to be embarrassed when his neighbors asked him: "I suppose your son will be earning a lot of money now that he has graduated from the university?" or "He will be earning about a hundred yen a month, perhaps?" To my parents, I, who was inclined to regard the great metropolis as my base of operations, must have seemed as weird as a creature that walked with its feet up in the air. Indeed, I myself sometimes felt as alien to my surroundings as such a being would have done. I decided to say nothing, rather than try to explain to them clearly what my feelings were. The gulf between us was too great.

"This is the sort of occasion when one tries to make use of one's contacts," said my mother. "Now, what about this man Sensei that you are constantly talking about?"

That was the extent of her understanding of my friendship with Sensei. She could not be expected to see that though Sensei might advise me to make sure of my inheritance before my father died, he was not the sort of person that would go out of his way to help me find a position.

"And what does this Sensei do?" asked my father.

"He does nothing," I replied.

It was my impression that I had already told both my father and my mother that Sensei did nothing; and if I was not mistaken in thinking so, then my father should have remembered this.

"Tell me," said my father, not without sarcasm, "why is it that he does nothing? One would think that such a man as he, whom you seem to respect so highly, would find some kind of employment."

What he really meant to say, it seemed to me, was that any man worth his salt would find some useful occupation, and that only a ne'er-do-well would be content to live in idleness.

"True, I don't earn a regular salary," my father continued. "But you must admit that even a simple fellow like me finds something to do. No one can say that I do nothing."

I still remained silent.

"If this man is as clever as you say he is," said my mother, "then I'm sure he will find you a job. Have you asked him?"

"No," I said.

"Well now, that won't do, will it?" said my mother. "Why don't you ask him? Write him a letter."

"Yes," I said half-heartedly, and left the room.


It was obvious that my father was afraid of his illness. But he tried to keep his fears to himself, and whenever the doctor came, he did not bother him with senseless questions. The doctor, in his turn, remained discreetly silent.

My father seemed to be thinking about what would happen after his death. It was apparent at least that he often tried to picture to himself life in the house with him gone.

"You know," he once said to me, "There are advantages and disadvantages in having one's children educated. You take the trouble to give them an education and, when they are through with their studies, they go away and never come home. Why, you can almost say that education is a means of separating children from their parents."

Indeed, it was because my elder brother had received a university education that he had gone away to a distant province. I too, because of my education, had resolved to live in Tokyo. It was not unreasonable, then, that my father should complain about his children. No doubt, it was very sad for him to imagine my mother left all alone in the country house where he had lived for so many years.

For him, the house was the family home, and he would never have contemplated living anywhere else. He took it for granted, too, that my mother would remain there until she died. The thought, therefore, of my mother living in solitude in the big house gave him considerable anxiety. That he should, at the same time, insist on my going to Tokyo to find a decent position struck me as being inconsistent. This inconsistency on his part amused me. Also, I welcomed it, since I could go to Tokyo with his full approval.

I dared not allow my father and mother to think that I was not trying hard to find a post. I wrote to Sensei and explained the situation at home. I said that I was willing to do any kind of work so long as I was qualified for it, and asked him to help me find an opening somewhere. I wrote the letter believing that Sensei would take no notice of my request. Besides, I thought to myself, even if he wished to help me, he could do very little, since he led such a secluded life. I was certain, however, that he would answer my letter.

Before I sealed the letter, I went up to my mother and said:

"See, I've written a letter to Sensei as you suggested. Won't you read it?"

As I had expected, my mother did not read the letter.

"Is that so?" she said. "In that case, you had better post it at once. You should have written it much sooner. One shouldn't have to be prodded to do these things."

My mother still treated me like a child. To be truthful, I did feel rather childish then.  

"I should warn you, however," I said, "that merely writing a letter won't be enough. I must go up to Tokyo--perhaps in September."

"That may be so, but it never does any harm to write to one's friends first. How do you know that they won't suddenly find something for you?"

"Yes, of course. Well, let us talk about it again when I get a letter from Sensei. He is sure to write to me."

I believed that, in such a matter, Sensei would be quite conscientious. I waited confidently, therefore, to hear from him. But I was disappointed. A whole week passed, and there was no letter.

"He has probably gone away on holiday," I said to my mother, feeling that I should offer some sort of excuse for Sensei's silence. It was not only my mother, but myself also, that I was trying to convince. For my own peace of mind, I had to explain to myself that Sensei would not have ignored my request without good reason.

Sometimes I would forget my father's illness and toy with the idea of leaving immediately for Tokyo. My father too seemed occasionally to forget that he was ill and, though he was not unaware of the need to set his affairs in order before his death, he did nothing about it. No opportunity ever arose for me to approach him about my share of the estate as Sensei had advised.


Finally, at the beginning of September, I decided to go to Tokyo. I asked my father if he would continue sending me the allowance that I had received when I was at the university.  

"I must go," I said, "if I am to find the kind of job that you have in mind for me."

I made it seem as though I wished to go to Tokyo merely to realize my father's hopes for me.

"Of course, I want the allowance only until I find a job." Secretly, I felt that there was little chance of my finding a decent position. But my father, who was somewhat removed from the realities of the world outside, firmly believed otherwise.

"All right," he said. "Since it will only be for a short time, I'll see to it that you get your allowance. But only for a short time, mind. You must become independent as soon as you find employment. It really isn't right that one should, immediately after graduating, live on others. It would seem that the younger generation today knows only how to spend money. It doesn't seem to occur to them that money has to be made too."

He said other things in his lecture to me, among them being: "In my day, parents were supported by their children. Today, the children are supported forever by their parents." I listened quietly.

At last, the lecture seemed to be over, and I was about to get up when my father asked me when I intended to leave. I said that I should go as soon as possible.

"Ask your mother to choose a propitious day for your departure, then," said my father.

"Yes, I'll do that," I said.

I was being unusually obedient. I did not want to anger my father before leaving home. His last words to me, before I left the room, were: "With you gone, this house will seem lonely again. There will be no one but your mother and myself. I wish my health were better. As it is, one can't tell what will happen."

I comforted my father as well as I could and then went back to my desk. I sat down amongst my books, which were scattered all over the floor, and for a long time I thought about my father's plaintive words and the sadness in his eyes as he said them. I could hear the cicadas singing outside. These were different from those that I had heard in the early part of the summer. These were the little ones, the tsuku-tsuku-boshi. [note 1]Every summer, when I was home for the holidays, I would often sit and listen to the piercing song of the cicadas and find myself falling into a strangely sorrowful mood. It was as if sorrow crept into my heart with the cry of these insects. And I would stay absolutely still, thinking of my own loneliness.

But that summer, the nature of my melancholy seemed gradually to change. I thought often of the fate of those that I knew, and sometimes I wondered whether it was not like that of the large cicadas of early summer, which had so soon been replaced by the tsuku-tsuku-boshi. I thought of my sorrowing father, and then of Sensei, who had not yet answered my letter. It was natural that I should associate the two in my thoughts. The contrast between them was so sharp that I could not think of one without thinking of the other.

There was little that I did not know about my father. The regret I would feel if we were parted would be no more than that of any son who was fond of his father. On the other hand, there was much that I did not know about Sensei. He had not yet told me about his past, as he had promised. In short, Sensei still remained for me a figure half-hidden in the shadows. I could not be content until he was fully revealed to me. I could not bear the thought of being parted from him before then.

My mother consulted the calendar, and we decided on a propitious day for my departure.


It was, I think, two days before I was due to leave that my father fainted once more. It was evening, and I had just finished roping up my trunk which was filled with books and clothing. My father had gone to take his bath. My mother, who had followed him to scrub his back, suddenly called to me in a loud voice. I found my father lying in my mother's arms. But as soon as he was back in his room he said, "I'm all right now." I sat down by his bed, however, and cooled his forehead with a wet cloth. It was nine o'clock before I was able to have a light snack, in lieu of the dinner I had missed.

The next day he seemed better than we had expected. Taking no notice of our remonstrances, he walked to the bath-room alone.

"I'm all right now," he would repeatedly say to me, as he had done the previous winter. Then, he had been more or less all right as he had claimed. I thought hopefully that he might be proved right once more. Despite persistent questioning, however, the doctor would tell me nothing, except that constant care was necessary. The day which had been fixed for my departure arrived, but through anxiety for my father, I decided to postpone my trip to Tokyo.

"I think I'll stay until things are more certain," I said to my mother.  

"Yes, please do," she said imploringly.

When my father had shown himself well enough to wander about the garden or the backyard, my mother had been unduly optimistic. But now, she was more worried and nervous than I thought necessary.

"Were you not going to Tokyo today?" asked my father later that day.

"Yes, but I've decided to stay a little longer."

"Because of me?" he asked.

I hesitated for a moment. If I said yes, I would be admitting that I thought his condition serious. I wanted to spare his feelings if could. But he seemed to read my thoughts.

"I am sorry," he said, and turned towards the garden.

I went back to my room and stared at the trunk lying on the floor. It was tightly bound, all ready for my journey. I stood before it for a while, wondering vaguely if I should start unpacking.

Three or four days went by. I was in such an unsettled frame of mind that I felt rather like a man who was neither sitting down nor standing up. My father then fainted again. This time the doctor ordered absolute quiet.

"What are we going to do?" said my mother in almost a whisper, so that my father would not hear. She looked rather frightened and helpless. I was prepared to send telegrams to my elder brother and younger sister. But my father, who was now confined to his bed, seemed hardly to be suffering at all. To look at him and to hear him chatting, one would have said that he had nothing more serious than a cold. Moreover, his appetite was even better than usual. He would not listen to us whenever we warned him against overeating.

"I am going to die anyway," he once said. "I may as well eat all the delicacies while I can."  

My father's idea of a "delicacy" struck me as being at once comic and pathetic. He was not a townsman, and so did not know what real delicacies were. Often, late at night, he would ask my mother for grilled rice cake, and eat it with gusto.

"I wonder why he is always so parched?" my mother said. "It may very well be that there is still some strength left in him."

My poor mother had chosen the gravest of symptoms on which to pin her hopes. She had however said parched, [note 2] a word which in the old days meant hungry as well as thirsty, but only when applied to sick people.

When my uncle called, my father would not let him go. He wished him to stay mostly because he was lonely, of course, but I suspected also that he wanted someone to complain to about our reluctance to give him the kind of food he craved.


My father's condition remained the same for a week or so. During that time, I wrote a long letter to my brother in Kyushu. I had my mother write to my sister. I thought that this would probably be the last time we would be writing them about my father's health. For this reason, I saw to it that they were warned that the next time they received any communication from us, it would be in the form of a telegram asking them to come home.

My brother was a busy man. My sister was with child. We could therefore not expect them to come home unless my father's condition became really serious. On the other hand, we did not want them to go to all the trouble of coming to see him only to find that they were too late. No one knew how much I worried over tile problem of when to send the telegrams.

"I can't tell you precisely when the crisis will come," said the doctor whom we had brought in from the nearest big town. "All I can say is that it may come any time."

After talking it over with my mother, I decided to ask the doctor to send us a reliable nurse from the town hospital. The nurse arrived, dressed in her white uniform and, when she presented herself to my father, he looked at her rather strangely.

My father had known for some time that his disease was fatal. But when at last death was very close, he seemed unable to recognize it.

"When I am better," he said, "I must go to Tokyo once more, and enjoy myself. Who knows when any of us will die? We should do all the things we want to do while we can." There was nothing that my mother could say, except:

"When you go, please take me with you."

But sometimes, my father would become very sad, and say:

"When I die, please look after your mother."

I was then reminded of that evening at Sensei's house, just after I had graduated, when Sensei had repeatedly used the phrase "when I die" in his wife's presence. And I remembered the smile on Sensei's face as he said it, and how his wife had refused to listen any more, saying, "Please don't say it again. It's so unlucky." Then, death had been simply a matter for speculation. But now, it was something that might soon become a reality. I could not very well imitate Sensei's wife. But I had to say something to divert my father's mind from the thought of death.

"Please don't talk like that. Remember, you are coming to Tokyo to enjoy yourself when you are better. And mother is coming with you. You will really be amazed to see how much Tokyo has changed since your last visit. For example, the tram lines have become numerous, and you know how they affect the appearance of streets. There's been a rearrangement of the boroughs too. Why, one can say that in Tokyo today, there's not a moment of quiet, day or night."

Perhaps, in my anxiety to please my father, I chattered more than I should. He seemed to enjoy listening to me, however.

Owing to his illness, the number of visitors to our house increased. Our relations living nearby came to see him frequently, perhaps at the rate of one every two days. Even those relations who lived far away, and who had become estranged from us, were among the visitors.

"Why," said one of them, after he had seen my father, "he is much better than I thought. I am sure he will be all right. He has no trouble talking, and his face isn't any thinner." Besides him, there were others who felt the same way about my father's condition.

Our household, which on my return had struck me as being almost too quiet, now became disturbingly busy. And my father, the only immobile figure in the growing commotion, became steadily worse. After consulting my mother and my uncle, I decided to send the telegrams. A reply came from my brother, saying that he would leave for home at once. There was a telegram from my brother-in-law, saying that he would be coming. My sister had had a miscarriage in her previous pregnancy, and he had sworn that, the next time, he would do everything possible to help prevent another such occurrence. We had thought it probable, therefore, that he would come alone.


Despite the unsettling circumstances, however, I was able to enjoy moments of privacy. Sometimes, I had even time enough to read ten pages of a book without interruption. The trunk, once so carefully packed, was now lying open on the floor. Every so often, I would go to it and pull out a book that I happened to want. Looking back on the daily schedule for the summer that I had set myself before leaving Tokyo, I decided that I had been able to complete only about one third of the work that I should have done by then. The unpleasant feeling that I had not worked hard enough was one that I had often experienced before, though only very rarely had I ever accomplished so little as I had that summer. I was weighed down by the depressing thought that such perhaps was the normal state of things in every man's life.

Sitting thus unhappily, I thought again about my father's illness. I wondered how things would be after he was dead. And once more, side by side with the image of my father, there appeared in my thoughts the image of Sensei. With my mind's eye I gazed upon these two figures, so different from each other in position, in education, and in character.

My mother looked in around the door of my room and found me sitting amongst my scattered books with my arms folded. I had not long before left my father's bedside.

"Why don't you take a nap?" she said. "You must be tired." She could not see that I was not suffering from physical fatigue. But I was not such a child as to expect my mother to guess my mood. I thanked her simply. My mother still stood in the doorway.

"How is father?" I asked.

"He is sleeping quite soundly at the moment," she said.

Suddenly, she walked into the room and sat down by me.

"Haven't you heard from Sensei yet?" she asked.

Before sending my letter to Sensei, I had assured her that he would definitely write back, and she had believed me. But even then, I did not think that Sensei would write the kind of reply that my father and mother were expecting. In effect, I had knowingly lied to them.

"Why don't you write to him again?" she said.

I was not the sort to begrudge my mother the little comfort that the writing of useless letters, no matter how many, might give her. It was nevertheless painful for me to write to Sensei about such a matter. I feared Sensei's contempt far more than my father's anger or my mother's displeasure. I was indeed inclined to suspect that Sensei's silence was due to his contempt for my request.

"It's easy enough to write letters," I said, "but really, one can't arrange such things by mail. I must go to Tokyo and look around for myself."

"But with your father the way he is, there's no knowing when you will be able to go to Tokyo."

"I do not intend to go to Tokyo. I intend to stay here, until we know what will become of him."

"I should say so! Who would ever think of going to Tokyo at a time like this, when he is so critically ill!"

At first, I felt sorry for my mother who understood so little. And then, I began to wonder why it was that she had chosen such a time to reopen the question of my future. I had myself been able to forget my father's illness for a moment or two, and read and think in the privacy of my room. But did my mother, I wondered, have the same capacity to detach her thoughts from the invalid for a brief while and worry about other things? My mother began to speak again: "As a matter of fact..."

"As a matter of fact, I can't help thinking how much of a comfort it would be to your father if you could find a job. Of course, it may be too late now. But as you can see, he can still talk without any trouble, and his mind is perfectly clear. Won't you be a good son, [note 3] and try to make him happy before he gets any worse?"

But the pity of it was that I could not be the good son my mother wished me to be. I did not write so much as a line to Sensei.


My father was reading the newspaper in bed when my elder brother arrived. It had always been my father's custom never to let anything prevent him from at least glancing through the newspaper. But boredom, resulting from his confinement to bed, had made him more attached to it than ever. Neither my mother nor I had objected too strongly, thinking it best to leave him with his favorite pastime.

"I am glad to see you looking so well," said my brother to my father. "I came here thinking that you must be really ill, but you look very well indeed."

My brother seemed to me too cheerful, and his bright tone a little out of place. But later, when he had left my father and was alone with me, he seemed more depressed.

"He shouldn't be reading the paper like that, should he?" he said.

"No, I don't think he should either, but what can I do? He insists on being allowed to see it"

My brother listened to my excuses in silence. Then he said:

"I wonder if he understands what he is reading?" He seemed to have decided that my father's mind had been considerably dulled by his illness.

"Certainly," I said. "He understands perfectly well. Why, only a short time ago, I talked to him about all sorts of things for about twenty minutes, and it was obvious then that he was in full possession of his faculties. At this rate, it is possible that he will be with us for quite a while yet"

My brother-in-law, who had arrived at about the same time as my brother, was more optimistic than any of us. My father asked him many questions about my sister, and then said:

"In her condition, it is wise to avoid such discomforts as a train journey. I would have been worried, rather than pleased, had she gone to the trouble of coming to see me." He then added: "After all, I can always visit her myself, when I am better, and have a good look at the baby."

My father was the first to see the news of General Nogi's death [note 4] in the paper.

"What a terrible thing!" he said. "What a terrible thing!" We, who had not yet read the news, were startled by these exclamations.

"I really did think he had finally gone mad," said my brother later.  

"I must say I was surprised too;" agreed my brother-in-law. About that time, the papers were so full of unusual news that we in the country waited impatiently for their arrival. I would read the news by my father's bedside, taking care not to disturb him, or, if I could not do this, I would quietly retire into my own room, and there read the paper from beginning to end. For a long time, the image of General Nogi in his uniform, and that of his wife dressed like a court lady, stayed with me.

The tragic news touched us like the bitter wind which awakens the trees and the grass sleeping in the remotest corners of the countryside. The incident was still fresh in our minds when, to my surprise, a telegram arrived from Sensei. In a place where dogs barked at the sight of a Western-style suit, the arrival of a telegram was a great event. My mother, to whom the telegram had been given, seemed to think it necessary to call me to a deserted part of the house before handing it to me. Needless to say, she looked quite startled.

"What is it?" she said, standing by while I opened it.

It was a simple message, saying that he would like to see me if possible, and would I come up? I cocked my head in puzzlement. My mother offered an explanation. "I am sure he wants to see you about a job," she said.

I thought that perhaps my mother was right. On the other hand, I could not quite believe that Sensei wanted to see me for that reason. At any rate, I, who had sent for my brother and brother-in-law, could hardly abandon my sick father and go to Tokyo. My mother and I decided that I should send Sensei a telegram saying that I could not come. I explained as briefly as possible that my father's condition was becoming more and more critical. I felt, however, that I owed him a fuller explanation. That same day, I wrote him a letter giving him the details. My mother, who was firmly convinced that Sensei had some post in mind for me, said in a tone filled with regret, "What a pity that this should have happened at such a time."


The letter that I wrote was quite a long one. Both my mother and I thought that, this time, Sensei would write in reply. Then two days after I had posted my letter, another telegram arrived for me. It said that I need not come, and no more. I showed it to my mother.

"I think that he will soon be writing to you about it," she said. It never occurred to her that Sensei might have had something other than my future livelihood in mind when he sent me his first telegram. And though I thought that my mother might possibly be right, I could not but feel that it was not like Sensei to go to the trouble of finding me a job.

"Of course," I said, pointing to the second telegram, "Sensei cannot have received my letter yet. So he sent this without having read the letter."

My mother listened in all seriousness as I stated this obvious fact. "Yes, that is so," she said, after some careful thought. Needless to say, the fact that Sensei had not yet received my letter when he sent his second telegram was no indication as to why he had sent the telegrams at all.

We spoke no more about Sensei and his telegrams that day, since we were expecting our regular doctor to come with the chief physician of the town hospital. I remember that the two doctors, after examining my father, decided that he should be given an enema.

For the first few days after the doctor had ordered him to stay in bed, my father had found it particularly galling not to be able to go to the bathroom. But, gradually, he seemed to lose his habitual sense of propriety. As his condition grew worse, he became more uninhibited. At times, it seemed that he had lost all sense of shame in the matter of bodily functions.

His appetite slowly decreased. Even when he desired food, he found that he could only swallow a small amount. His strength went too, and he could no longer hold the newspaper that he loved so much. His spectacles, which still lay beside his pillow, now remained always in their black case. When a childhood friend of his whom we all called Saku-san, and who lived about three miles away from us, came to see him, he turned his lackluster eyes towards his friend and said, "Oh, it is you, Saku-san."

"It was good of you to come, Saku-san. I envy you your good health. I am finished."

"Come now, you must not say such things. You may be suffering from a slight illness, it is true, but what have you really to complain about? You have two sons with university degrees, haven't you? Look at me. My wife is dead, and I have no children. I am leading a meaningless existence. I may be healthy, but what have I to look forward to?"

It was two or three days after Saku-san's visit that my father was given the enema. He was very pleased, saying that, thanks to the doctors, he felt comfortable once more. He became more cheerful, as though he had regained confidence in his power to recover. Whether my mother was deceived into thinking that he was indeed getting better, or whether she was merely trying to encourage him, I do not know; but at any rate she told him about the telegrams from Sensei and talked as though a post had been found for me in Tokyo as he had hoped. I was sitting beside my mother then, and though I felt uneasy I could not very well interrupt her, and so I listened to her in silence. My father looked pleased.

"That's very good," said my brother-in-law.

"But don't you know yet what sort of a job it is?" asked my brother.

It was too late to tell the truth. I lacked the courage. I made a vague remark, so vague that I myself did not know its meaning, and abruptly left the room.


My father's illness advanced to the point where death was but another step away, and there it seemed to linger awhile. Every night, we went to bed thinking, "Will death wait another day, or is it to be tonight?"

He was not in great pain, and we were thus spared the strain of having to watch him suffer. From this point of view, nursing him was a relatively easy task. True, each one of us in turn stayed up at night to keep watch over him, but the rest of us were free to go to bed at a reasonable hour. One night, it so happened that I found difficulty in going to sleep. As I lay in my bed, I thought that I heard the faint sound of my father groaning. To make sure that there was nothing amiss, I got up and went to his room. It was my mother's turn to stay up that night. I found her asleep on the floor by his bedside, with her head resting on her bent arm. My father was absolutely still, as though someone had gently lowered him into a world of deep sleep. Softly, I went back to my bed.

My brother and I slept under the same mosquito net. But my brother-in-law, perhaps because he was regarded as a guest, slept alone in a separate room.  

"It's rather hard on poor Seki-san," said my brother. "He has been kept away from home for days now." "Seki" was the surname of our brother-in-law.

"But he isn't a very busy man," I said. "That's probably why he's been good enough to remain here. Surely it must be far more inconvenient for you than it is for him. You can't have expected to stay so long."

"True, but there's nothing one can do about it. At a time like this, one can't start worrying about one's own affairs."

Lying in bed, we would talk thus before going to sleep. We both thought that there was no hope for our father. And sometimes the thought would enter our minds that since he was doomed, it would be better if the end came quickly. In a manner of speaking, the two sons were waiting for their parent to die. But we, as sons, could not in all decency openly express our thoughts, though each of us knew fully well what the other was thinking.

"It would seem that father intends to get better," said my brother to me.

My brother's opinion was not entirely unfounded. Whenever a neighbor came to our house, my father would invariably insist on seeing him. And then he would be sure to express his regret to the visitor that he had been unable to hold the graduation party in my honor as planned. Sometimes, he would add that when he got better, the visitor would certainly receive another invitation from him.

"It's just as well that the party was cancelled," said my brother, reminding me of his own unfortunate experience. "You're a very lucky fellow. As for me, I had a terrible time of it." I smiled sourly to myself as I remembered how disorderly and drunken the evening had been. And I remembered, with bitterness, how my father had gone around forcing food and drink on his guests.

There had never been much brotherly love between us. We had fought a great deal when we were children, and I, being the younger, had invariably left the fight in tears. Again, the fact that we had studied different subjects at the university was an indication of the difference in our characters. When I was at the university, and especially after my meeting with Sensei, I used to regard my brother from afar and pronounce him a kind of animal. He was then living far away from me, and we had not seen each other for some years. We had become alienated by both distance and time. Nevertheless, when we met again after so long a separation, we found ourselves being drawn together by a gentle, brotherly feeling which seemed to come naturally from I know not where. No doubt, the circumstances of our reunion had much to do with it. We had, so to speak, clasped each other by the hand over the dying body of one who was father to us both.

"What are your plans for the future?" asked my brother. I answered him with a question of my own:

"I wonder what has been decided about the family property?"

"I have no idea. Father has so far said nothing about it. In terms of cash, I don't suppose our property is worth very much."

As for my mother, she waited anxiously for the arrival of Sensei's reply.

"Haven't you heard from him yet?" she would say reproachfully.


"Who is this 'Sensei,' that I keep hearing about?" asked my brother.

"Why, I told you about him only the other day," I said. I was annoyed at him for so quickly forgetting what he had been told in answer to his own questions.

"You did tell me, it's true, but..."

What he meant to say of course was that Sensei was still a mystery to him. It should have mattered very little to me whether he understood Sensei or not. I was nevertheless angry, and began to think that my brother, after all, had not changed very much.

To his way of thinking, this man that I so admiringly referred to as "Sensei" must necessarily be a man of some importance and reputation. He was inclined to imagine that Sensei was at the very least a university lecturer. In this, he was no different from my father. He found it impossible to believe, and so did my father, that a man who was not known and did nothing could amount to very much. But while my father was quick to assume that only those with no ability at all would live in idleness, my brother seemed to think that men who refused to make use of their talents were worthless characters.

"That's the trouble with egoists, [note 5]" he said. "They are brazen enough to think they have the right to live idly. It's a crime not to make the best use of whatever ability one has."

I was tempted to ask my brother if he knew what he was talking about when he used the word "egoist."

"But one mustn't grumble," he went on to say. "Fortunately, it seems that he has found a job for you. Father is very pleased about that."  

Without definite word from Sensei, I could hardly share my brother's optimism regarding my future. But I had not the courage to say what I really thought. My mother had indeed been very rash when she announced that Sensei was willing to help me, but it was now too late for me to say so. I was as eager as my mother was to hear from Sensei. And I prayed that the letter, when it came, would live up to my family's expectations. I thought of my father, who was so close to dying; of my mother, who so desperately wanted to give him as much comfort as she could; of my brother, who seemed to think that not to work for one's living was hardly human; and of my brother-in-law, my uncle, my aunt-and I asked myself, "What will they all think of me if Sensei has done nothing?" What was of itself quite unimportant to me, began to worry me terribly.

When my father vomited some strange, yellow matter, I remembered Sensei's and his wife's warnings. "He has been lying in his bed for so long, no wonder his stomach is upset," said my mother. I could not help the tears in my eyes as I looked at her. She understood so little.

My brother and I met in the morning room. "Did you hear?" he said. He was asking whether I had heard what the doctor said to him before leaving. There was no need for my brother to say more, for I knew.

"Do you think you can settle down here, and take over the house?" he said. I said nothing. My brother continued:

"Mother can hardly manage things by herself, can she?" The prospect of my slowly crumbling away with the odor of earth clinging to me bothered him very little. "If all you want to do is read books, then you can do that well enough here. Besides, you won't have to do any work. I should think the life would suit you very well."

"It would be more proper if you, being the elder brother, came home," I said.

"How can I do a thing like that?" he said crossly. My ambitious brother, I knew, was quite convinced that his promising career had just begun.

"Well, if you don't want to, I suppose we can always ask our uncle to manage our affairs for us. But even so, someone will have to look after mother. She will have to live with either you or me."

"That's the problem," I said. "Will she ever agree to leave this house?"

And so, while their father was still alive, the two brothers talked of what they would do after his death.


My father began to talk deliriously.

"Will General Nogi ever forgive me?" he would say. "How can I ever face him without shame? Yes, General, I will be with you very soon."

When he said such things, my mother would become a little frightened, and would ask us to gather around the bed. My father too, when he came out of his delirium, seemed to want everybody by his side so as not to feel lonely. He would want my mother most of all. He would look around the room and, if she was not there, he would be sure to ask, "Where is Omitsu?" Even when he did not say so, his eyes would ask the question. Often, I had to get up and find her. She would then leave her work, and enter the sickroom saying, "Is there anything you wish?" There were times when he would say nothing, and simply look at her. There were also times when he would say something quite unexpectedly gentle, such as: "I've given you a lot of trouble, haven't I, Omitsu?" And my mother's eyes would suddenly fill with tears. Afterwards, she would remember how different he used to be in the old days, and say, "Of course, he sounds rather helpless now, but he used to be quite frightening, I can tell you."

Among the tales she was fond of telling was the one about the time he had beaten her back with a broomstick. We had often heard the tale before, but now we listened more carefully, as though the tale was a keepsake to be treasured.

Even when death was casting its dark-grey shadow over my father's eyes, he said nothing about a will.

"Don't you think we should speak to him about it before it's too late?" said my brother.

"Well, I don't know," I said. I was not so sure that to force my father to consider such a matter at this stage would be right. Finally, we went to our uncle for advice. He was also hesitant.

"Of course, if he did have anything on his mind, it would be a pity to let him die without telling us about it. On the other hand, perhaps it would be wrong of us to bring up the subject."

Before we could reach a decision, my father fell into a coma. My mother, in her usual way, failed to see what had really happened. She was indeed very pleased, thinking that my father was sleeping peacefully. "Thank goodness he is still able to sleep like that," she said. "We can now relax."  

My father would open his eyes from time to time, and would suddenly ask what had happened to so-and-so, referring always to someone who had been by his bedside in his last lucid period. It seemed that my father's understanding, like a white thread running through black material, was continuous though broken at intervals by patches of total darkness. It was not surprising that my mother should mistake his coma for natural sleep.

My father began to lose his power of speech. Often, his sentences would trail off into incoherent mumbling and we would fail completely to understand what he was trying to say. However, he would start each sentence in a voice stronger than one would have believed possible in one so ill. Also, he could no longer hear very well, and we were obliged to speak loudly into his ear.

"Would you like me to cool your head?"


With the help of the nurse, I renewed the water in the rubber pillow, and placed a bag of newly crushed ice on his forehead. I placed it gently, so that the sharp points of the ice would not hurt him. At that moment, my brother came into the room from the corridor and, without saying a word, handed me a letter. Much intrigued, I took the letter with my free hand.

It was very heavy, and too bulky to fit into an ordinary envelope. It was wrapped in a sheet of strong writing-paper, which had been carefully folded and sealed. I noticed at once that it was a registered letter. When I turned it over, I saw Sensei's name written in a restrained hand. I was too busy to open the letter just then, and so put it into my pocket.  


That day, my father's condition seemed to be very much worse. I left his bedside to go to the bathroom, and on my way there I met my brother in the corridor. "Where are you going?" he said, sounding rather like a sentry on duty. "He looks very bad, you know. You must try to stay with him as much as possible."

My brother was quite right. Leaving the letter unopened in my pocket, I went back to the sickroom. My father opened his eyes and asked my mother for the names of all those sitting around him. At the mention of each name, my father nodded, and when he seemed not to hear, my mother repeated the name loudly, saying, "Did you hear?"

My father said, "You have all been very kind. Thank you very much." Then again he fell into a coma. In silence, the people sitting around the dying man watched him for awhile. Then one of the group got up and went into the adjoining room. Shortly after, another got up and left. The third to go was myself. I went back to my room with the intention of opening the letter there. No doubt, I could quite easily have done so while sitting with my father. But the letter, judging by its weight, was obviously very long, and I could not have read it through in the sickroom without interruption. I had been waiting for such an opportunity as this to read it undisturbed in my own room.

Almost violently, I tore open the tough paper which contained the letter. The letter had the appearance of a manuscript, with the characters neatly written between vertically ruled lines. I smoothed out the sheets which had been folded over twice for easier handling in the post.  

I could not but wonder what it was that Sensei had written at such great length. I was, however, too much on edge to read the whole letter properly. My mind kept wandering back to the sickroom. I had the feeling that something would happen to my father before I could finish reading the letter. At least, I was sure that I would soon he called away by my brother, or my mother, or my uncle. In this unsettled state, I read the first page.

"You asked me once to tell you of my past. I did not have the courage then to do so. But now, I believe I am free of the bonds that prevented me from telling you the truth about myself. The freedom that I now have, however, is no more thin an earthly, physical kind of freedom, which will not last forever. Unless I take advantage of it while I can, I shall never again have the opportunity of passing on to you what I have learned from my own experience, and my promise to you will have been broken. Circumstances having prevented me from telling you my story in person, I have decided to write it out for you."

I read thus far, and realized why it was that the letter was so long. That Sensei would not bother to write me about my future career, I had more or less known from the very beginning. What really worried me was that Sensei, who hated to write at all, had taken the trouble to write such a long epistle. Why had he not waited, I asked myself, until I was once more in Tokyo?

I said to myself repeatedly, "He is free now, but he will never be free again," and tried desperately to understand what the words meant; then all of a sudden I became uneasy. I tried to read on further but, before I could do so, I heard my brother's voice calling me from the sickroom. Frightened, I stood up, and hurried along the corridor to where the others were gathered. I was prepared to learn that the end had come for my father.


During my absence from the room, the doctor had arrived. In an attempt to make my father more comfortable, he was about to give him an enema. The nurse, tired from the previous night's vigil, had gone to the next room to sleep. My brother, who was not used to helping on such occasions, seemed at a loss. When he saw me enter, he said, "Here, give us a hand," and promptly sat down. I took his place and helped the doctor.

My father's condition seemed to improve a little. The doctor remained for another half-hour or so, then, satisfied as to the results of the enema, he stood up to go. He was careful to tell us before leaving that, if anything did happen, we should not hesitate to call him.

Once more I left the room with its atmosphere of approaching death, and returned to my own. There I tried again to read the letter. But I was too nervous. No sooner had I sat down at my desk than I was overcome by fear lest I should hear my brother's loud voice summoning me to the sickroom, perhaps for the last time. I turned the pages over mechanically, not taking in the meaning of the characters so neatly written along the ruled lines. I could not even grasp the gist of the letter. Finally I reached the last page, and was about to fold up the letter again and put it on the desk when suddenly a sentence near the end caught my eye.

"By the time this letter reaches you, I shall probably have left this world--I shall in all likelihood be dead."  

I was stunned. My heart, which had till then been so restless, seemed suddenly to freeze. Hurriedly, I began to turn the pages over backwards, reading a sentence here and there. I tried desperately to pin down the words which seemed to dance before my eyes. All I wanted to know at that moment was that Sensei was still alive. Sensei's past, his dark past that he had promised to tell me about, held no interest for me then. But I could not find what I was seeking, and I refolded the letter in exasperation.

I returned to the doorway of my father's room to see how he was doing. The room was surprisingly quiet. There was only my mother sitting by the bedside, looking tired and forlorn. I beckoned her and, when she came to me, I asked, "How is he?" She said, "He seems to be holding out." I went up to my father, and putting my face close to his, I said, "How do you feel? Has the enema made you more comfortable?" He nodded, and then said quite distinctly, "Thank you." His mind seemed unexpectedly clear.

Once more, I returned to my room. I looked at my watch, and began to examine the railway timetable. I then stood up, rearranged my dress, and putting Sensei's letter in my pocket, went out through the back door. As though in a nightmare, I ran to the doctor's house. I wanted to ask the doctor whether my father would last another two or three days. I wanted to beg him to keep my father alive for a few days more, by injection or any other means in his power. The doctor was unfortunately out. I had not the time to wait for him. In any case, I was too agitated to stay still. I jumped into a rickshaw and urged the man to hurry to the station.

At the station, I scribbled a hurried note to my mother and brother, and asked the rickshaw man to take it quickly to the house. I thought that it would he better to write even such a note than to leave without any word at all. Thus, in a desperate desire to act, I boarded the Tokyo-bound train. The noise of the engine filled my ears as I sat down in a third-class carriage. At last, I was able to read Sensei's letter from beginning to end.


Translator's notes:

[note 1]: This name is supposed to resemble their song.

[note 2]: The Japanese word here is kawaku, which today means "to be thirsty," and not "to be hungry."

[note 3]: The word in the Japanese text is oya-koko, which means filial piety.

[note 4]: See translator's Foreword.

[note 5]: He uses the English word, and pronounces it igoisto.


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Soseki, Natsume. &lt;cite&gt;Kokoro&lt;/cite&gt; <br />
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1957. 21 Jan. 2000. <br />
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Soseki, Natsume. Kokoro (Part 2)

     Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1957. 21 Jan. 2000.


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