Determined Knife

I
One morning O-aki, out sweeping the sidewalk, went on to sweep the Stolz sidewalk too. It was little enough to repay them for sweeping the Makioka sidewalk so often, she thought. Unfortunately Mrs. Stolz saw her, and scolded the maids fiercely: what was this, letting someone else do the work they should be doing? The maids fought back. They were not avoiding work, and they had not asked O-aki to sweep the sidewalk. She had done it out of kindness and only the one morning. They would see that she did not do it again. Possibly because Mrs. Stolz did not understand what they were trying to say, she was not prepared to forgive them.
II
It had struck Teinosuke as odd that a Chinese room seemed to be ready for them. If the boy had misunderstood Mrs. Jimba, Teinosuke could hardly hold her responsible; but even so, he had to conclude that, since there surely should have been a way to make the point clear even to an unreliable Chinese boy, Mrs. Jimba was showing a certain lack of consideration.
III
Though she gave Teinosuke a general account of what had happened, Sachiko did not go into all the unpleasant details. The thought of living them again was too much for her. The man was certain to refuse, said Teinosuke, and they might take the initiative and refuse first, before they were made fools of. But that was only talk. They had to think of their relations with Mrs Sugano and the main house; and in secret Sachiko held out a hope that somehow, perhaps . . .
IV
Then, from a trivial incident, she came to see that he had been quite brazenly lying to her. In addition to that geisha in the Soemon Quarter, he had a dancer, and she had had a child. When the secret was discovered, Okubata offered a model apology: the affair with the dancer had taken place long before; the child having only been foisted on him — it was quite impossible to know who the father was — he had been relieved of his paternal responsibilities too. As for the geisha, he had no apology to offer, he could only vow that he would not see her again. But Taeko sensed from his flippant manner that he thought it a matter of little concern to have lied to her.
V
December was nearly over. It was the twenty-second when Teinosuke set out on a business trip to Tokyo. Having made inquiries about Mimaki’s character and behavior, and his relations with the Viscount and his half brothers, Teinosuke was by now sure that Mitsuyo had not lied to him, but on the problem of Mimaki’s livelihood, not even the visit to Kunishima resulted in what he could call concrete guarantees.
VI
Sachiko, with her particular fondness for sea bream, soon became a regular customer, and Yukiko was as fond of this sushi as she. With a little exaggeration, one might say that it was one of the pulls that brought Yukiko back from Tokyo. She thought of the house in Sahiya when she became homesick, but somewhere in the corner of her mind there was also a picture of this restaurant, and the old man, and glistening bream and prawns under his determined knife.
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