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I Am a Cat

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Too funny! Don't pass this up! =^-.-^=
28 March 2017 (05:04) 

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				Published by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. Originally published in three volumes by Tuttle Publishing in 1972 (Vol. I), 1979 (Vol. II), and 1986 (Vol. III). Volume I was originally published in Japan by the Asahi Shimbun Publishing Company in the Japan Quarterly, Vol. XVII, No. 4, and Vol. XVIII, Nos. 1 and 2. Chapter I of Volume II was originally published in Japan by the Asahi Shimbun Publishing Company in the Japan Quarterly, Vol. XII, No. 4.

				Copyright © 1972, 1979, 1986, 2002 (compilation) by Aiko Ito and Graeme Wilson

				All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher.

				Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002100535

				ISBN 978-1-4629-0175-3

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						 							 								Volume One

							 	; 						 								1

						 							 								Chapter I


						 							 								Chapter II


						 							 								Chapter III


						 							 								Volume Two


						 							 								Chapter I


						 							 								Chapter II


						 							 								Chapter III


						 							 								Chapter IV


						 							 								Volume Three


						 							 								Chapter I


						 							 								Chapter II


						 							 								Chapter III


						 							 								Chapter IV



				SŌSEKI NATSUME is the pen name of Kin’nosuke Natsume (1867- 1916), the eighth and youngest son of a family of minor town-gentry. The family’s hereditary occupation as ward-chiefs in Tokyo under the Tokugawa shogunate disappeared with the Meiji Restoration of 1868, and thus they fell upon hard times, yet Sōseki received the compulsory modern education, both primary and at middle school level, which had been introduced in 1872.

				In his mid-teens he switched to a private school for Chinese studies and, though upper-class tradition regarded literature as no more than a civilized diversion, he began to toy with the idea of adopting it as a working profession. However, extensively educated in both the Chinese and the Japanese literary traditions, Sōseki recognized early on the importance of English to any senior career under the westernizing influence of the restored regime and, specifically, to the entry requirements of Tokyo Imperial University-then the only university in the capital. Hoping to become an architect, he entered that university’s Department of Engineering in 1881, but he soon transferred to the Department of Literature that same year. In September 1890, Sōseki joined the Department of English Literature as a loan-scholarship student of the Ministry of Education.

				The English department, founded in 1888, had produced only one previous graduate, a student of the first year who became a customs inspector in Shanghai. Sōseki graduated in July 1893 and then briefly enrolled as a postgraduate student. He applied unsuccessfully for a post as a journalist with the English-language Japan Mail in Yokohama and taught for a time at Tokyo Normal College. ln 1895 he suddenly left Tokyo to become a provincial teacher- first in Shikoku (where his university friend, the haiku poet Masaoka Shiki, resided) and later, in 1896, at Kumamoto in Kyushu. There, by formal arrangement, he married Nakane Kyoko, the eldest daughter of the chief secretary of the House of Peers. In 1900 the Ministry of Education sent him on a miserable scholarship to London University. For two unhappy years in London, he seems to have done nothing but read an almost incredible number of books on every conceivable subject and, at the same time, make himself an authority on eighteenth-century literature. His only social contacts with the British appear to have been a weekly private English lesson with W J. Craig-subsequently the editor of the Arden Shakespeare--and a single tea party given in Dulwich by the wife of a missionary whom he had met on the ship bringing him to England. It is, therefore, perhaps not surprising that Sōseki formed a poor opinion of English social life and that back in japan he was widely rumored to have gone mad.

				In 1903 he returned to Tokyo and, shortly thereafter, in fulfillment of the terms of his London scholarship, served four years as a lecturer in English literature at Tokyo Imperial University. During this period he began writing. He had formed various useful literary friendships while he was a student at the university, and, though his close friend Shiki had died in 1902, the editorial board of the influential literary magazine Hototogisu (Cuckoo), which Shiki had founded, still included many men who were Sōseki’s personal friends.

				Takahama Kyoshi--one of the editors of Hototogisu, but not a close friend of Sōseki-allegedly asked Soseki to write something for the magazine. Accordingly, during 1904, Sōseki produced his first short story, which he called I Am a Cat. Takahama read it, told Sōseki that it was no good, and, when Sōseki asked for an explanation, provided comment in considerable detail. Today it seems ludicrous that one of the three or four best novelists ever to write in japanese should have been glad to receive guidance from such a relatively insignificant figure asTakahama. However, we must remember that, at that time, Takahama was a wellknown, well-established, and very influential editor (a man with the sensitivity to divine Sōseki’s promise and the kindness to give him guidance), while Sōseki was a virtually unknown young man who had just produced his first, and really rather odd, short story. In any event, Sōseki appears to have accepted the advice (though he later stated that he could not remember what that advice had been) and rewrote the story. Takahama liked the second version and published it in the January 1905 issue of Hototogisu.

				Sōseki had not intended to write more than that single short story, which is now the first chapter of a very long book, but Takahama was so pleased with its immediate success that he persuaded Sōseki to write further installments. The subsequent ten chapters that make up I Am a Cat were thus successively published in Hototogisu’s issues for February, April, June, July, and October 1905 and for January, March, April, and August 1906. The seventh and eighth chapters appeared together in the issue for January 1906. This somewhat curious account of the origin and development of Sōseki’s famous novel rests primarily upon Takahama’s testimony in his later book Soseki and I, but there is no reason to doubt that it is substantially correct. The actual book of I Am a Cat was first published in three-volume form, the volumes appearing in October 1905, November 1906, and May 1907. The first single-volume edition was published in 1911.

				Takahama’s account of how this story came to be a novel explains the unevenness, even jerkiness, of the early parts of the book. Indeed, though the first chapter is adequately articulated into the total work, it is as clear from that chapter’s ending as from Sōseki’s own later remarks- “When the first chapter appeared in Hototogisu, it was my intention to stop there” -that he originally meant to write no more. There are, moreover, one or two minor points in that first chapter that an ungenerous critic might highlight as inconsistent with subsequent portions of the book. The second chapter, nearly the longest of them all, shows Sōseki still feeling his way towards the right chapter length. He did not really hit his stride until the third chapter, which finally established the tone, length, and character of the remaining eight.

				The circumstances of the book’s construction no doubt largely account for its rambling structure and discursive content; however, Sōseki must very quickly have realized that the technique used by Laurence Sterne for the construction of The Life and Opinions if Tristram Shandy would very neatly solve his own problems. Though Sōseki’s total book is held together by the continuing theme of a nameless eat’s observations on upper-middle-class Japanese society of the Meiji period, the essence of the book resides in the humor and the sardonic truth of those various observations, not in the development of the story. The eat’s eventual drunken death in a water-butt comes without any particular reason or structural build-up, and one is forced to the conclusion that Sōseki simply drowned his hero because he had run out of sufficiently humorous observations to offer on Meiji society. Consequently, it is possible to take almost any single chapter of the book as an isolated short story.

				It is also worth stressing the apparent oddity of choosing for the main character in one’s first published writing a stray kitten, and a stray kit ten world-weary from the moment of its birth. However, much of the charm of I Am a Cat resides in its diverting presentation of a eat’s view of mankind. The satire is of man in general but the associated case for the superiority of cats, however entertainingly and persuasively put, is not inexhaustible; so that the unique cat-ness of the opening chapters simply could not be maintained in its original and beguiling purity throughout the further chapters demanded by a happily insulted public. Sōseki himself was clearly alive to these considerations, for as early as the opening paragraph of the third chapter the cat apologizes to readers for his growing resemblance to a human being and for his consequent new tendency to criticize humanity as though he, too, were human. Thus the satire beginning in Chapter 3 is less specifically feline. In yet later chapters the eat’s viewpoint becomes almost totally human, while the object of satire narrows from mankind in general (albeit as exemplified in Meiji, middle-class society) to a concentrated satirization of the particularities of that particular society. By· a combination of sheer literary skill and a seemingly endless inventiveness, Sōseki contrived to maintain the vitality of his book throughout eleven chapters and some quarter million words: but one understands why, eventually, he had no choice but to drown his hero. It would, however, be unreasonable to denigrate the first-rate satire of the later parts of I Am a Cat simply because they lack the full felinity, the quite exceptional beguilement, of the earlier parts of the book. Moreover, one has only to read Sōseki’s other comic novel Botchan (The Young Master), of 1906, with its entirely human style of human satire, to realize that, however much humanity seeps in to soften the later portions of I Am a Cat, even their most uncatlike passages contain that glint, that claw-flash under velvet, which stamp them ultimately aluroid. In addition, choosing a kitten for the main character has a two-fold meaning as Soseki was, in fact, himself a stray kitten. As soon as he was born, Sōseki’s parents had put him out to nurse. In his first year he was adopted by the Shiobara family. He only rejoined his own family when the Shiobaras were divorced some eight years later. And even then he only learned that his parents were his parents from the whisperings of servants. Sōseki lived his life as do all those who feel themselves born middle-aged.

				While at the university Sōseki wrote several other books, notably Botchan (a satire reflecting his teaching experience at Shikoku), but he disliked university life and, rightly, considered himself very poorly paid. He accordingly resigned as soon as he could (1907) and became the literary editor of the Asahi Shimbun. He continued in that journal’s employment, publishing several novels as serials in its pages, until his death in 1916 from complications arising from the stomach troubles that plagued the last ten years of his life.

				* * *

				Sōseki Natsume is generally recognized in Japan as the best writer of prose to have emerged during the century since contact was re-established with the outside world in 1868. Despite the lateness of his development as a novelist (he was only just short of forty when his first book was published), Sōseki rapidly achieved, and has since maintained, widespread recognition as the best of modern Japanese novelists. His literary reputation reflects not only the variety, quality, and modernity of his novels, but the high regard still paid to his works of scholarly criticism, to his enchanting essays, and, especially, to his poetry. His haiku, strongly influenced by his personal friend Masaoka Shiki, were once considered outstanding but, though they continue to be included in anthologies of modern haiku, their diminutive form was not the natural mode for the expression of his genius. His poems in English, poor imitations of the poorest style of Edwardian poetry, are appalling. But his many excellent poems in Chinese, some written even in the month before his death, are the last (or, rather, the most recent) flowering of a formidable tradition of such writing by Japanese poets which, unbroken, extends right back to the Kaifūsō of 751. Sōseki’s deep scholarship, both in Chinese and in English literature, eminently qualified him for that marrying of Eastern and Western traditions, which was the declared objective of Meiji policy-makers. Unlike the majority of his contemporaries who had learned their English in mission schools, Sōseki approached Western literature with the wary sensitivity of a man deeply versed in the Chinese tradition.

				Sōseki was, of course, also well-versed in Japanese literature. However, oddly enough for a man of gentle birth, the main Japanese influences upon his writing are found in the rakugo---comic recitations by professional storytellers-to which his childhood circle had been addicted. The rakugo techniques are especially noticeable in his masterly use of dialogue. It is also worth stressing that, though Sōseki’s Chinese studies resulted in a style as concise as the language traditionally used in the composition of tanka and haiku, much of the vitality of his prose writing comes from his skilled exploitation of colloquial Japanese speech (kogotai).

				Sōseki’s writing represents a continuation into modern times of the city-culture which first flowered in the late seventeenth century when the wealth of the towns prospering under the Pax Tokugawa provided the economic base for an urban and specifically non-aristocratic literature. Sōseki’s writing contains an untraditional independence of thought and attitude- a rationalist and (in the best sense) liberal outlook-which is often contrasted with the very rigid samurai attitude that was also prevalent during Sōseki’s time.

				Sōseki’s longer novels reflect his assiduous study of the construction and mechanisms of the English novel and, in particular, his liking for the works of Laurence Sterne, Jonathan Swift, and Jane Austen. He shared their sly, ironic turn of mind, and their influence’on his work was more deep and lasting than that of George Meredith, as so frequently cited by contemporary critics.

				There is an understandable tendency for critics of any literature to emphasize the dependence of a writer on his predecessors, but the “game of influences” is all too frequently played with all enthusiasm that leads to an unfair disregard of the writer’s real originality;’ So far as Japan is concerned, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Sōseki’s originality was a main factor in his popular success-but he also has genuine claims to originality in world literature. World literature has, of course, a long tradition of animal-fables, animal myths, and major groupings of stories around such figures as Renard the Fox and even Brer Rabbit. But Sōseki’s device of dealing with a human world through animal eyes appears to be entirely original.

				Sōseki’s modernity is even more strikingly illustrated by the fact that sixty years ago the characters in I Am a Cat (notably “the aesthete”) were all fully engaged in those comic ploys and counter-ploys of gamesmanship, lifemanship, and one upmanship that are now usually associated with the comparatively recent work of Stephen Potter. The passages in the first chapter of I Am a Cat about Gibbon’s History of the French Revolution and Harrison’s Theophano are both extremely fine examples of what Potter has called “rilking.” Similarly, the description of the visit to a restaurant in the second chapter is a particularly well-developed example of Potter’s comic techniques.

				Perhaps the most significant aspect of Sōseki’s work is that, while deeply conversant with Western literature and while sharply and persistently critical of Japanese society, he remained unswamped (even, perhaps, unimpressed) by Western enlightenment. Throughout his career he remained essentially and uncompromisingly Japanese; his deadly serious attitude is, typically, revealed in that comic, even coarse, account in Koto no Sorane (1905) of the protest by Japanese badgers against contemporary Japanese infatuation with routine badger-tricks (such as the “hypnotic method”) whose sole novelty is that their names have been exported to Japan by “badgers in the West.” Probably for this reason Sōseki’s writings have retained their popularity and, perhaps, even extended their influence. In a public opinion survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun among students and professors at four universities which still produce the social and intellectual elite of Japan, Sōseki‘s Kokoro (The Heart of Things) of 1914 was second only to Dostoievski’s Crime and Punishment in the list of books which had most influenced the thinking of the interviewees. Yukiguni (Snow Country) by Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasunari was seventeenth.

				* * *

				Sōseki‘s brilliant and extremely concise use of the Japanese language makes all his writings difficult to translate. In the case of this particular book, difficulty arises with the very first word of its title, Wagahai wa Neko de Aru. There being no English equivalent for the Japanese word Wagahai, the main significance of that title, the comic incongruity of a mere cat, a mere stray mewling kitten, referring to itself in so lordly a manner, cannot be conveyed to the English reader. An additional difficulty that faces any translator of Sōseki’s work is his individual literary style: its reflection of his deep scholarship in Chinese, Japanese, and English literature, its consequent exploitation of a singularly wide range of reference and its unique combination of classical and colloquial language. Such problems usually lead translators to beg the indulgence of their readers: but forgive them not, for they know what they do.



				I AM A CAT. As yet I have no name. I’ve no idea where I was born. All I remember is that I was miaowing in a dampish dark place when, for the first time, I saw a human being. This human being, I heard afterwards, was a member of the most ferocious human species; a shosei, one of those students who, in return for board and lodging, perform small chores about the house. I hear that, on occasion, this species catches, boils, and eats us. However as at that time I lacked all knowledge of such creatures, I did not feel particularly frightened. I simply felt myself floating in the air as I was lifted up lightly on his palm. When I accustomed myself to that position, I looked at his face. This must have been the very first time that ever I set eyes on a human being. The impression of oddity, which I then received, still remains today. First of all, the face that should be decorated with hair is as bald as a kettle. Since that day I have met many a cat but never have I come across such deformity. The center of the face protrudes excessively and sometimes, from the holes in that protuberance, smoke comes out in little puffs. I was originally somewhat troubled by such exhalations for they made me choke, but I learnt only recently that it was the smoke of burnt tobacco which humans like to breathe.

				For a little while I sat comfortably in that creature’s palm, but things soon developed at a tremendous speed. I could not tell whether the shosei was in movement or whether it was only I that moved; but anyway I began to grow quite giddy, to feel sick. And just as I was thinking that the giddiness would kill me, I heard a thud and saw a million stars. Thus far I can remember but, however hard I try, I cannot recollect anything thereafter.

				When I came to myself, the creature had gone. I had at one time had a basketful of brothers, but now not one could be seen. Even my precious mother had disappeared. Moreover I now found myself in a painfully bright place most unlike that nook where once I’d sheltered. It was in fact so bright that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Sure that there was something wrong, I began to crawl about. Which proved painful. I had been snatched away from softest straw only to be pitched with violence into a prickly clump of bamboo grass.

				After a struggle, I managed to scramble clear of the clump and emerged to find a wide pond stretching beyond it. I sat at the edge of the pond and wondered what to do. No helpful thought occurred. After a while it struck me that, if I cried, perhaps the shosei might come back to fetch me. I tried some feeble mewing, but no one came. Soon a light wind blew across the pond and it began to grow dark. I felt extremely hungry. I wanted to cry, but I was too weak to do so. There was nothing to be done. However, having decided that I simply must find food, I turned, very, very slowly, left around the pond. It was extremely painful going. Nevertheless, I persevered and crawled on somehow until at long last I reached a place where my nose picked up some trace of human presence. I slipped into a property through a gap in a broken bamboo fence, thinking that something might turn up once I got inside. It was sheer chance; if the bamboo fence had not been broken just at that point, I might have starved to death at the roadside. I realize now how true the adage is that what is to be will be. To this very day that gap has served as my shortcut to the neighbor’s tortoiseshell.

				Well, though I had managed to creep into the property, I had no idea what to do next. Soon it got really dark. I was hungry, it was cold and rain began to fall. I could not afford to lose any more time. I had no choice but to struggle toward a place which seemed, since brighter, warmer. I did not know it then, but I was in fact already inside the house where I now had a chance to observe further specimens of humankind. The first one that I met was O-san, the servant-woman, one of a species yet more savage than the shosei. No sooner had she seen me than she grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and flung me out of the house. Accepting that I had no hope, I lay stone-still, my eyes shut tight and trusting to Providence. But the hunger and the cold were more than I could bear. Seizing a moment when O-san had relaxed her watch, I crawled up once again to flop into the kitchen. I was soon flung out again. I crawled up yet again, only to be flung out yet again. I remember that the process was several times repeated. Ever since that time, I have been utterly disgusted with this O-san person. The other day I managed at long last to rid myself of my sense of grievance, for I squared accounts by stealing her dinner of mackerel-pike. As I was about to be flung out for the last time, the master of the house appeared, complaining of the noise and demanding an explanation. The servant lifted me up, turned my face to the master and said, “This little stray kitten is being a nuisance. I keep putting it out and it keeps crawling back into the kitchen.” The master briefly studied my face, twisting the black hairs under his nostrils. Then, “In that case, let it stay,” he said; and turned and went inside. The master seemed to be a person of few words. The servant resentfully threw me down in the kitchen. And it was thus that I came to make this house my dwelling.

				My master seldom comes face-to-face with me. I hear he is a schoolteacher. As soon as he comes home from school, he shuts himself up in the study for the rest of the day; and he seldom emerges. The others in the house think that he is terribly hard-working. He himself pretends to be hard-working. But actually he works less hard than any of them think. Sometimes I tiptoe to his study for a peep and find him taking a snooze. Occasionally his mouth is drooling onto some book he has begun to read. He has a weak stomach and his skin is of a pale yellowish color, inelastic and lacking in vitality. Nevertheless he is an enormous gormandiser. After eating a great deal, he takes some taka-diastase for his stomach and, after that, he opens a book. When he has read a few pages, he becomes sleepy. He drools onto the book. This is the routine religiously observed each evening. There are times when even I, a mere cat, can put two thoughts together. “Teachers have it easy. If you are born a human, it’s best to become a teacher. For if it’s possible to sleep this much and still to be a teacher, why, even a cat could teach.” However, according to the master, there’s nothing harder than a teacher’s life and every time his friends come round to see him, he grumbles on and on.

				During my early days in the house, I was terribly unpopular with everyone except the master. Everywhere I was unwelcome, and no one would have anything to do with me. The fact that nobody, even to this day, has given me a name indicates quite clearly how very little they have thought about me. Resigned, I try to spend as much of my time as possible with the master, the man who had taken me in. In the morning, while he reads the newspaper, I jump to curl up on his knees. Throughout his afternoon siesta, I sit upon his back. This is not because I have any particular fondness for the master, but because I have no other choice; no one else to turn to. Additionally, and in the light of other experiments, I have decided to sleep on the boiled-rice container, which stays warm through the morning, on the quilted foot-warmer during the evening, and out on the veranda when it is fine. But what I find especially agreeable is to creep into the children’s bed and snuggle down between them. There are two children, one of five and one of three: they sleep in their own room, sharing a bed. I can always find a space between their bodies, and I manage somehow to squeeze myself quietly in. But if, by great ill-luck, one of the children wakes, then I am in trouble. For the children have nasty natures, especially the younger one. They start to cry out noisily, regardless of the time, even in the middle of the night, shouting, “Here’s the cat!”Then invariably the neurotic dyspeptic in the next room wakes and comes rushing in. Why, only the other day, my master beat my backside black and blue with a wooden ruler.

				Living as I do with human beings, the more that I observe them, the more I am forced to conclude that they are selfish. Especially those children. I find my bedmates utterly unspeakable. When the fancy takes them, they hang me upside-down, they stuff my face into a paper-bag, they fling me about, they ram me into the kitchen range. Furthermore, if I do commit so much as the smallest mischief, the entire household unites to chase me around and persecute me. The other day when I happened to be sharpening my claws on some straw floor-matting, the mistress of the house became so unreasonably incensed that now it is only with the greatest reluctance that she’ll even let me enter a matted room. Though I’m shivering on the wooden floor in the kitchen, heartlessly she remains indifferent. Miss Blanche, the white cat who lives opposite and whom I much admire, tells me whenever I see her that there is no living creature quite so heartless as a human. The other day, she gave birth to four beautiful kittens. But three days later, the shosei of her house removed all four and tossed them away into the backyard pond. Miss Blanche, having given through her tears a complete account of this event, assured me that, to maintain our own parental love and to enjoy our beautiful family life, we, the cat-race, must engage in total war upon all humans. We have no choice but to exterminate them. I think it is a very reasonable proposition. And the three-colored tomcat living next door is especially indignant that human beings do not understand the nature of proprietary rights. Among our kind it is taken for granted that he who first finds something, be it the head of a dried sardine or a gray mullet’s navel, acquires thereby the right to eat it. And if this rule be flouted, one may well resort to violence. But human beings do not seem to understand the rights of property. Every time we come on something good to eat, invariably they descend and take it from us. Relying on their naked strength, they coolly rob us of things which are rightly ours to eat. Miss Blanche lives in the house of a military man, and the tomcat’s master is a lawyer. But since I live in a teacher’s house, I take matters of this sort rather more lightly than they. I feel that life is not unreasonable so long as one can scrape along from day to day. For surely even human beings will not flourish forever. I think it best to wait in patience for the Day of the Cats.

				Talking of selfishness reminds me that my master once made a fool of himself by reason of this failing. I’ll tell you all about it. First you must understand that this master of mine lacks the talent to be more than average at anything at all; but nonetheless he can’t refrain from trying his hand at everything and anything. He’s always writing haiku and submitting them to Cuckoo; he sends off new-style poetry to Morning Star; he has a shot at English prose peppered with gross mistakes; he develops a passion for archery; he takes lessons in chanting No play-texts; and sometimes he devotes himself to making hideous noises with a violin. But I am sorry to say that none of these activities has led to anything whatsoever. Yet, though he is dyspeptic, he gets terribly keen once he has embarked upon a project. He once got himself nicknamed “The Maestro of the Water-closet” through chanting in the lavatory, but he remains entirely unconcerned and can still be heard there chanting “I am Taira-no-Munemori.” We all say, “There goes Munemori,” and titter at his antics. I do not know why it happened, but one fine day (a payday roughly four weeks after I’d taken up residence) this master of mine came hurrying home with a large parcel under his arm. I wondered what he’d bought. It turned out that he’d purchased watercolor paints, brushes, and some special “Whatman” paper. It looked to me as if haiku-writing, and mediaeval chanting were going to be abandoned in favor of watercolor painting. Sure enough, from the next day on and every day for some long time, he did nothing but paint pictures in his study. He even went without his afternoon siestas. However, no one could tell what he had painted by looking at the result. Possibly he himself thought little of his work; for, one day when his friend who specializes in matters of aesthetics came to visit him, I heard the following conversation.

				“Do you know it’s quite difficult? When one sees someone else painting, it looks easy enough; but not till one takes a brush oneself, does one realize just how difficult it is.” So said my noble master, and it was true enough.

				His friend, looking at my master over his gold-rimmed spectacles, observed, “It’s only natural that one cannot paint particularly well the moment one starts. Besides, one cannot paint a picture indoors by force of the imagination only. The Italian Master, Andrea del Sarto, remarked that if you want to paint a picture, always depict nature as she is. In the sky, there are stars. On earth, there are sparkling dews. Birds are flying. Animals are running. In a pond there are goldfish. On an old tree one sees winter crows. Nature herself is one vast living picture. D’you understand? If you want to paint a picturesque picture, why not try some preliminary sketching?”

				“Oh, so Andrea del Sarto said that? I didn’t know that at all. Come to think of it, it’s quite true. Indeed, it’s very true.”The master was unduly impressed. I saw a mocking smile behind the gold-rimmed glasses.

				The next day when, as always, I was having a pleasant nap on the veranda, the master emerged from his study (an act unusual in itself) and began behind my back to busy himself with something. At this point I happened to wake up and, wondering what he was up to, opened my eyes just one slit the tenth of an inch. And there he was, fairly killing himself at being Andrea del Sarto. I could not help but laugh. He’s starting to sketch me just because he’s had his leg pulled by a friend. I have already slept enough, and I’m itching to yawn. But seeing my master sketching away so earnestly, I hadn’t the heart to move: so I bore it all with resignation. Having drawn my outline, he’s started painting the face. I confess that, considering cats as works of art, I’m far from being a collector’s piece. I certainly do not think that my figure, my fur, or my features are superior to those of other cats. But however ugly I may be, there’s no conceivable resemblance between myself and that queer thing which my master is creating. First of all, the coloring is wrong. My fur, like that of a Persian, bears tortoiseshell markings on a ground of a yellowish pale grey. It is a fact beyond all argument. Yet the color which my master has employed is neither yellow nor black; neither grey nor brown; nor is it any mixture of those four distinctive colors. All one can say is that the color used is a sort of color. Furthermore, and very oddly, my face lacks eyes. The lack might be excused on the grounds that the sketch is a sketch of a sleeping cat; but, all the same, since one cannot find even a hint of an eye’s location, it is not all clear whether the sketch is of a sleeping cat or of a blind cat. Secretly I thought to myself that this would never do, even for Andrea del Sarto. However, I could not help being struck with admiration for my master’s grim determination. Had it been solely up to me, I would gladly have maintained my pose for him, but Nature has now been calling for some time. The muscles in my body are getting pins and needles. When the tingling reached a point where I couldn’t stand it another minute, I was obliged to claim my liberty. I stretched my front paws far out in front of me, pushed my neck out low and yawned cavernously. Having done all that, there’s no further point in trying to stay still. My master’s sketch is spoilt anyway, so I might as well pad round to the backyard and do my business. Moved by these thoughts, I start to crawl sluggishly away. Immediately, “You fool” came shouted in my master’s voice, a mixture of wrath and disappointment, out of the inner room. He has a fixed habit of saying, “You fool” whenever he curses anyone. He cannot help it since he knows no other swear words. But I thought it rather impertinent of him thus unjustifiably to call me “a fool.” After all, I had been very patient up to this point. Of course, had it been his custom to show even the smallest pleasure whenever I jump on his back, I would have tamely endured his imprecations: but it is a bit thick to be called “a fool” by someone who has never once with good grace done me a kindness just because I get up to go and urinate. The prime fact is that all humans are puffed up by their extreme self-satisfaction with their own brute power. Unless some creatures more powerful than humans arrive on earth to bully them, there’s just no knowing to what dire lengths their fool presumptuousness will eventually carry them.

				One could put up with this degree of selfishness, but I once heard a report concerning the unworthiness of humans, which is several times more ugly and deplorable.

				At the back of my house there is a small tea-plantation, perhaps some six yards square. Though certainly not large, it is a neat and pleasantly sunny spot. It is my custom to go there whenever my morale needs strengthening; when, for instance, the children are making so much noise that I cannot doze in peace, or when boredom has disrupted my digestion. One day, a day of Indian summer, at about two o’clock in the afternoon, I woke from a pleasant after-luncheon nap and strolled out to this tea-plantation by way of taking exercise. Sniffing, one after another, at the roots of the tea plants, I came to the cypress fence at the western end; and there I saw an enormous cat fast asleep on a bed of withered chrysanthemums, which his weight had flattened down. He did not seem to notice my approach. Perhaps he noticed but did not care. Anyway, there he was, stretched out at full length and snoring loudly. I was amazed at the daring courage that permitted him, a trespasser, to sleep so unconcernedly in someone else’s garden. He was a pure black cat. The sun of earliest afternoon was pouring its most brilliant rays upon him, and it seemed as if invisible flames were blazing out from his glossy fur. He had a magnificent physique; the physique, one might say, of the Emperor of Catdom. He was easily twice my size. Filled with admiration and curiosity, I quite forgot myself. I stood stock-still, entranced, all eyes in front of him. The quiet zephyrs of that Indian summer set gently nodding a branch of Sultan’s Parasol, which showed above the cypress fence, and a few leaves pattered down upon the couch of crushed chrysanthemums. The Emperor suddenly opened his huge round eyes. I remember that moment to this day. His eyes gleamed far more beautifully than that dull amber stuff which humans so inordinately value. He lay dead still. Focussing the piercing light that shone from his eyes’ interior upon my dwarfish forehead, he remarked, “And who the hell are you?”

				I thought his turn of phrase a shade inelegant for an Emperor, but because the voice was deep and filled with a power that could suppress a bulldog. I remained dumb-struck with pure awe. Reflecting, however, that I might get into trouble if I failed to exchange civilities, I answered frigidly, with a false sang froid as cold as I could make it, “I, sir, am a cat. I have as yet no name.” My heart at that moment was beating a great deal faster than usual.

				In a tone of enormous scorn, the Emperor observed, “You. . . a cat? Well, I’m damned. Anyway, where the devil do you hang out?” I thought this cat excessively blunt-spoken.

				“I live here, in the teacher’s house.”

				“Huh, I thought as much. ’Orrible scrawny aren’t you.” Like a true Emperor, he spoke with great vehemence.

				Judged by his manner of speech, he could not be a cat of respectable background. On the other hand, he seemed well fed and positively prosperous, almost obese, in his oily glossiness. I had to ask him “And you, who on earth are you?”

				“Me? I’m Rickshaw Blacky.” He gave his answer with spirit and some pride: for Rickshaw Blacky is well-known in the neighborhood as a real rough customer. As one would expect of those brought up in a rickshaw-garage, he’s tough but quite uneducated. Hence very few of us mix with him, and it is our common policy to “keep him at a respectful distance.” Consequently when I heard his name, I felt a trifle jittery and uneasy but at the same time a little disdainful of him. Accordingly, and in order to establish just how illiterate he was, I pursued the conversation by enquiring, “Which do you think is superior, a rickshaw-owner or a teacher?”

				“Why, a rickshaw-owner, of course. He’s the stronger. Just look at your master, almost skin and bones.”

				“You, being the cat of a rickshaw-owner, naturally look very tough. I can see that one eats well at your establishment.”

				“Ah well, as far as I’m concerned, I never want for decent grub wherever I go. You too, instead of creeping around in a tea-plantation, why not follow along with me? Within a month, you’d get so fat nobody’d recognize you.”

				“In due course I might come and ask to join you. But it seems that the teacher’s house is larger than your boss’s.”

				“You dimwit! A house, however big it is, won’t help fill an empty belly.” He looked quite huffed. Savagely twitching his ears, ears as sharp as slant-sliced stems of the solid bamboo, he took off rowdily.

				This was how I first made the acquaintance of Rickshaw Blacky, and since that day I’ve run across him many times. Whenever we meet he talks big, as might be expected from a rickshaw-owner’s cat; but that deplorable incident which I mentioned earlier was a tale he told me.

				One day Blacky and I were lying as usual, sunning ourselves in the tea-garden. We were chatting about this and that when, having made his usual boasts as if they were all brandnew, he asked me, “How many rats have you caught so far?”

				While I flatter myself that my general knowledge is wider and deeper than Blacky’s, I readily admit that my physical strength and courage are nothing compared with his. All the same, his point-blank question naturally left me feeling a bit confused. Nevertheless, a fact’s a fact, and one should face the truth. So I answered “Actually, though I’m always thinking of catching one, I’ve never yet caught any.”

				Blacky laughed immoderately, quivering the long whiskers, which stuck out stiffly round his muzzle. Blacky, like all true braggarts, is somewhat weak in the head. As long as you purr and listen attentively, pretending to be impressed by his rhodomontade, he is a more or less manageable cat. Soon after getting to know him, I learnt this way to handle him. Consequently on this particular occasion I also thought it would be unwise to further weaken my position by trying to defend myself, and that it would be more prudent to dodge the issue by inducing him to brag about his own successes. So without making a fuss, I sought to lead him on by saying, “You, judging by your age, must have caught a notable number of rats?” Sure enough, he swallowed the bait with gusto.

				“Well, not too many, but I must’ve caught thirty or forty,” was his triumphant answer. “I can cope,” he went on, “with a hundred or two hundred rats, any time and by myself. But a weasel, no. That I just can’t take. Once I had a hellish time with a weasel.”

				“Did you really?” I innocently offered. Blacky blinked his saucer eyes but did not discontinue.

				“It was last year, the day for the general housecleaning. As my master was crawling in under the floorboards with a bag of lime, suddenly a great, dirty weasel came whizzing out.”

				“Really?” I make myself look impressed.

				“I say to myself, ‘So what’s a weasel? Only a wee bit bigger than a rat.’ So I chase after it, feeling quite excited and finally I got it cornered in a ditch.”

				“That was well done,” I applaud him.

				“Not in the least. As a last resort it upped its tail and blew a filthy fart. Ugh! The smell of it! Since that time, whenever I see a weasel, I feel poorly.” At this point, he raised a front paw and stroked his muzzle two or three times as if he were still suffering from last year’s stench.

				I felt rather sorry for him and, in an effort to cheer him up, said, “But when it comes to rats, I expect you just pin them down with one hypnotic glare. And I suppose that it’s because you’re such a marvelous ratter, a cat well nourished by plenty of rats, that you are so splendidly fat and have such a good complexion.” Though this speech was meant to flatter Blacky, strangely enough it had precisely the opposite effect. He looked distinctly cast down and replied with a heavy sigh.

				“It’s depressing,” he said, “when you come to think of it. However hard one slaves at catching rats. . . In the whole wide world there’s no creature more brazen-faced than a human being. Every rat I catch they confiscate, and they tote them off to the nearest police-box. Since the copper can’t tell who caught the rats, he just pays up a penny a tail to anyone that brings them in. My master, for instance, has already earned about half a crown purely through my efforts, but he’s never yet stood me a decent meal. The plain fact is that humans, one and all, are merely thieves at heart.”

				Though Blacky’s far from bright, one cannot fault him in this conclusion. He begins to look extremely angry and the fur on his back stands up in bristles. Somewhat disturbed by Blacky’s story and reactions, I made some vague excuse and went off home. But ever since then I’ve been determined never to catch a rat. However, I did not take up Blacky’s invitation to become his associate in prowling after dainties other than rodents. I prefer the cozy life, and it’s certainly easier to sleep than to hunt for titbits. Living in a teacher’s house, it seems that even a cat acquires the character of teachers. I’d best watch out lest, one of these days, I, too, become dyspeptic.

				Talking of teachers reminds me that my master seems to have recently realized his total incapacity as a painter of watercolors; for under the date of December 1st his diary contains the following passage: At today’s gathering I met for the first time a man who shall be nameless. He is said to have led a fast life. Indeed he looks very much a man of the world. Since women like this type of person, it might be more appropriate to say that he has been forced to lead, rather than that he has led, a fast life. I hear his wife was originally a geisha. He is to be envied. For the most part, those who carp at rakes are those incapable of debauchery. Further, many of those who fancy themselves as rakehells are equally incapable of debauchery. Such folk are under no obligation to live fast lives, but do so of their own volition. So I in the matter of watercolors. Neither of us will ever make the grade. And yet this type of debauchee is calmly certain that only he is truly a man of the world. If it is to be accepted that a man can become a man of the world by drinking saké in restaurants, or by frequenting houses of assignation, then it would seem to follow that I could acquire a name as a painter of watercolors. The notion that my watercolor pictures will be better if I don’t actually paint them leads me to conclude that a boorish country-bumpkin is in fact far superior to such foolish men of the world.

				His observations about men of the world strike me as somewhat unconvincing. In particular his confession of envy in respect of that wife who’d worked as a geisha is positively imbecile and unworthy of a teacher. Nevertheless his assessment of the value of his own watercolor painting is certainly just. Indeed my master is a very good judge of his own character but still manages to retain his vanity. Three days later, on December 4th, he wrote in his diary:

				Last night I dreamt that someone picked up one of my watercolor paintings which I, thinking it worthless, had tossed aside. This person in my dream put the painting in a splendid frame and hung it up on a transom. Staring at my work thus framed, I realized that I have suddenly become a true artist. I feel exceedingly pleased. I spend whole days just staring at my handiwork, happy in the conviction that the picture is a masterpiece. Dawn broke and I woke up, and in the morning sunlight it was obvious that the picture was still as pitiful an object as when I painted it.

				The master, even in his dreams, seems burdened with regrets about his watercolors. And men who accept the burdens of regret, whether in respect of watercolors or of anything else, are not the stuff that men of the world are made of.

				The day after my master dreamt about the picture, the aesthete in the gold-rimmed spectacles paid a call upon him. He had not visited for some long time. As soon as he was seated he inquired, “And how is the painting coming along?”

				My master assumed a nonchalant air and answered, “Well, I took your advice and I am now busily engaged in sketching. And I must say that when one sketches one seems to apprehend those shapes of things, those delicate changes of color, which hitherto had gone unnoticed. I take it that sketching has developed in the West to its present remarkable condition solely as the result of the emphasis which, historically, has always there been placed upon the essentiality thereof. Precisely as Andrea del Sarto once observed.” Without even so much as alluding to the passage in his diary, he speaks approvingly of Andrea del Sarto.

				The aesthete scratched his head, and remarked with a laugh, “Well actually that bit about del Sarto was my own invention.”

				“What was?” My master still fails to grasp that he’s been tricked into making a fool of himself.

				“Why, all that stuff about Andrea del Sarto whom you so particularly admire, I made it all up. I never thought you’d take it seriously.” He laughed and laughed, enraptured with the situation.

				I overheard their conversation from my place on the veranda and I could not help wondering what sort of entry would appear in the diary for today. This aesthete is the sort of man whose sole pleasure lies in bamboozling people by conversation consisting entirely of humbug. He seems not to have thought of the effect his twaddle about Andrea del Sarto must have on my master’s feelings, for he rattled on proudly, “Sometimes I cook up a little nonsense and people take it seriously, which generates an aesthetic sensation of extreme comicality which I find interesting. The other day, I told a certain undergraduate that Nicholas Nickleby had advised Gibbon to cease using French for the writing of his masterpiece, The History of the French Revolution, and had indeed persuaded Gibbon to publish it in English. Now this undergraduate was a man of almost eidetic memory, and it was especially amusing to hear him repeating what I told him, word for word and in all seriousness, to a debating session of the Japan Literary Society. And d’you know, there were nearly a hundred in his audience, and all of them sat listening to his drivel with the greatest enthusiasm! In fact, I’ve another, even better, story. The other day, when I was in the company of some men of letters, one of them happened to mention Theofano, Ainsworth’s historical novel of the Crusades. I took the occasion to remark that it was a quite outstanding romantic monograph and added the comment that the account of the heroine’s death was the epitome of the spectral. The man sitting opposite to me, one who has never uttered the three words ‘I don’t know,’ promptly responded that those particular paragraphs were indeed especially fine writing. From which observation I became aware that he, no more than I, had ever read the book.”

				Wide-eyed, my poor dyspeptic master asked him, “Fair enough, but what would you do if the other party had in fact read the book?” It appears that my master is not worried about the dishonesty of the deception, merely about the possible embarrassment of being caught out in a lie. The question leaves the aesthete utterly unfazed.

				“Well, if that should happen, I’d say I’d mistaken the title or something like that,” and again, quite unconcerned, he gave himself to laughter.

				Though nattily tricked out in gold-rimmed spectacles, his nature is uncommonly akin to that of Rickshaw Blacky. My master said nothing, but blew out smoke rings as if in confession of his own lack of such audacity. The aesthete (the glitter of whose eyes seemed to be answering, “and no wonder; you, being you, could not even cope with watercolors”) went on aloud. “But, joking apart, painting a picture’s a difficult thing. Leonardo da Vinci is supposed to have once told his pupils to make drawings of a stain on the Cathedral wall. The words of a great teacher. In a lavatory for instance, if absorbedly one studies the pattern of the rain leaks on the wall, a staggering design, a natural creation, invariably emerges. You should keep your eyes open and try drawing from nature. I’m sure you could make something interesting.”

				“Is this another of your tricks?”

				“No; this one, I promise, is seriously meant. Indeed, I think that that image of the lavatory wall is really rather witty, don’t you? Quite the sort of thing da Vinci would have said.”

				“Yes, it’s certainly witty,” my master somewhat reluctantly conceded. But I do not think he has so far made a drawing in a lavatory.

				Rickshaw Blacky has recently gone lame. His glossy fur has thinned and gradually grown dull. His eyes, which I once praised as more beautiful than amber, are now bleared with mucus. What I notice most is his loss of all vitality and his sheer physical deterioration. When last I saw him in the tea garden and asked him how he was, the answer was depressingly precise: “I’ve had enough of being farted at by weasels and crippled with side-swipes from the fishmonger’s pole.”

				The autumn leaves, arranged in two or three scarlet terraces among the pine trees, have fallen like ancient dreams. The red and white sasan-quas near the garden’s ornamental basin, dropping their petals, now a white and now a red one, are finally left bare. The wintry sun along the ten-foot length of the southwards-facing veranda goes down daily earlier than yesterday. Seldom a day goes by but a cold wind blows. So my snoozes have been painfully curtailed.

				The master goes to school every day and, as soon as he returns, shuts himself up in the study. He tells all visitors that he’s tired of being a teacher. He seldom paints. He’s stopped taking his taka-diastase, saying it does no good. The children, dear little things, now trot off, day after day, to kindergarten: but on their return, they sing songs, bounce balls and sometimes hang me up by the tail.

				Since I do not receive any particularly nourishing food, I have not grown particularly fat; but I struggle on from day to day keeping myself more or less fit and, so far, without getting crippled. I catch no rats. I still detest that O-san. No one has yet named me but, since it’s no use crying for the moon, I have resolved to remain for the rest of my life a nameless cat in the house of this teacher.


				SINCE New Year’s Day I have acquired a certain modest celebrity: so that, though only a cat, I am feeling quietly proud of myself. Which is not unpleasing.

				On the morning of New Year’s Day, my master received a picture-postcard, a card of New Year greetings from a certain painter-friend of his. The upper part was painted red, the lower deep green; and right in the center was a crouching animal painted in pastel. The master, sitting in his study, looked at this picture first one way up and then the other. “What fine coloring!” he observed. Having thus expressed his admiration, I thought he had finished with the matter. But no, he continued studying it, first sideways and then longways. In order to examine the object he twists his body, then stretches out his arms like an ancient studying the Book of Divinations and then, turning to face the window, he brings it in to the tip of his nose. I wish he would soon terminate this curious performance, for the action sets his knees asway and I find it hard to keep my balance. When at long last the wobbling began to diminish, I heard him mutter in a tiny voice, “I wonder what it is.” Though full of admiration for the colors on the picture-postcard, he couldn’t identify the animal painted in its center. Which explained his extraordinary antics. Could it perhaps really be a picture more difficult to interpret than my own first glance had suggested? I half-opened my eyes and looked at the painting with an imperturbable calmness. There could be no shadow of a doubt: it was a portrait of myself. I do not suppose that the painter considered himself an Andrea del Sarto, as did my master; but, being a painter, what he had painted, both in respect of form and of color, was perfectly harmonious. Any fool could see it was a cat. And so skillfully painted that anyone with eyes in his head and the mangiest scrap of discernment would immediately recognize that it was a picture of no other cat but me. To think that anyone should need to go to such painful lengths over such a blatantly simple matter. . . I felt a little sorry for the human race. I would have liked to have let him know that the picture is of me. Even if it were too difficult for him to grasp that particularity, I would still have liked to help him see that the painting is of a cat. But since heaven has not seen fit to dower the human animal with an ability to understand cat language, I regret to say that I let the matter be.

				Incidentally, I would like to take the occasion of this incident to advise my readers that the human habit of referring to me in a scornful tone of voice as some mere trifling “cat” is an extremely bad one. Humans appear to think that cows and horses are constructed from rejected human material, and that cats are constructed from cow pats and horse dung. Such thoughts, objectively regarded, are in very poor taste though they are no doubt not uncommon among teachers who, ignorant even of their ignorance, remain self-satisfied with their quaint puffed-up ideas of their own unreal importance. Even cats must not be treated roughly or taken for granted. To the casual observer it may appear that all cats are the same, facsimiles in form and substance, as indistinguishable as peas in a pod; and that no cat can lay claim to individuality. But once admitted to feline society, that casual observer would very quickly realize that things are not so simple, and that the human saying that “people are freaks” is equally true in the world of cats. Our eyes, noses, fur, paws—all of them differ. From the tilt of one’s whiskers to the set of one’s ears, down to the very hang of one’s tail, we cats are sharply differentiated. In our good looks and our poor looks, in our likes and dislikes, in our refinement and our coarsenesses, one may fairly say that cats occur in infinite variety. Despite the fact of such obvious differentiation, humans, their eyes turned up to heaven by reason of the elevation of their minds or some such other rubbish, fail to notice even obvious differences in our external features, that our characters might be characteristic is beyond their comprehension. Which is to be pitied. I understand and endorse the thought behind such sayings as, the cobbler should stick to his last, that birds of a feather flock together, that rice-cakes are for rice-cake makers. For cats, indeed, are for cats. And should you wish to learn about cats, only a cat can tell you. Humans, however advanced, can tell you nothing on this subject. And inasmuch as humans are, in fact, far less advanced than they fancy themselves, they will find it difficult even to start learning about cats. And for an unsympathetic man like my master there’s really no hope at all. He does not even understand that love can never grow unless there is at least a complete and mutual understanding. Like an ill-natured oyster, he secretes himself in his study and has never once opened his mouth to the outside world. And to see him there, looking as though he alone has truly attained enlightenment, is enough to make a cat laugh. The proof that he has not attained enlightenment is that, although he has my portrait under his nose, he shows no sign of comprehension but coolly offers such crazy comment as, “perhaps, this being the second year of the war against the Russians, it is a painting of a bear.”

				As, with my eyes closed, I sat thinking these thoughts on my master’s knees, the servant-woman brought in a second picture-postcard. It is a printed picture of a line of four or five European cats all engaged in study, holding pens or reading books. One has broken away from the line to perform a simple Western dance at the corner of their common desk. Above this picture “I am a cat” is written thickly in Japanese black ink. And down the right-hand side there is even a haiku stating that “on spring days cats read books or dance.”The card is from one of the master’s old pupils and its meaning should be obvious to anyone. However my dimwitted master seems not to understand, for he looked puzzled and said to himself, “Can this be a Year of the Cat?” He just doesn’t seem to have grasped that these postcards are manifestations of my growing fame.

				At that moment the servant brought in yet a third postcard. This time the postcard has no picture, but alongside the characters wishing my master a happy New Year, the correspondent has added those for, “Please be so kind as to give my best regards to the cat.” Bone-headed though he is, my master does appear to get the message when it’s written out thus unequivocally: for he glanced down at my face and, as if he really had at last comprehended the situation, said, “hmm.” And his glance, unlike his usual ones, did seem to contain a new modicum of respect. Which was quite right and proper considering the fact that it is entirely due to me that my master, hitherto a nobody, has suddenly begun to get a name and to attract attention.

				Just then the gate-bell sounded: tinkle-tinkle, possibly even ting-ting. Probably a visitor. If so, the servant will answer. Since I never go out of my way to investigate callers, except the fishmonger’s errand-boy, I remained quietly on my master’s knees. The master, however, peered worriedly toward the entrance as if duns were at the door. I deduce that he just doesn’t like receiving New Year’s callers and sharing a convivial tot. What a marvellous way to be. How much further can pure bigotry go? If he doesn’t like visitors, he should have gone out himself, but he lacks even that much enterprise. The inaudacity of his clam-like character grows daily more apparent. A few moments later the servant comes in to say that Mr. Coldmoon has called. I understand that this Coldmoon person was also once a pupil of my master’s and that, after leaving school, he so rose in the world to be far better known than his teacher. I don’t know why, but this fellow often comes round for a chat. On every such visit he babbles on, with a dreadful sort of coquettishness, about being in love or not in love with somebody or other; about how much he enjoys life or how desperately he is tired of it. And then he leaves. It is quaint enough that to discuss such matters he should seek the company of a withered old nut like my master, but it’s quainter still to see my mollusk opening up to comment, now and again, on Coldmoon’s mawkish maunderings.

				“I’m afraid I haven’t been round for quite some time. Actually, I’ve been as busy as, busy since the end of last year, and, though I’ve thought of going out often enough, somehow shanks’ pony has just not headed here.” Thus, twisting and untwisting the fastening-strings of his short surcoat, Coldmoon babbled on.

				“Where then did shanks’ pony go?” my master enquired with a serious look as he tugged at the cuffs of his worn, black, crested surcoat. It is a cotton garment unduly short in the sleeves, and some of its nonde-script, thin, silk lining sticks out about a half an inch at the cuffs.

				“As it were in various directions,” Coldmoon answered, and then laughed. I notice that one of his front teeth is missing.

				“What’s happened to your teeth?” asks my master, changing the subject.

				“Well, actually, at a certain place I ate mushrooms.”

				“What did you say you ate?”

				“A bit of mushroom. As I tried to bite off a mushroom’s umbrella with my front teeth, a tooth just broke off.”

				“Breaking teeth on a mushroom sounds somewhat senile. An image possibly appropriate to a haiku but scarcely appropriate to the pursuit of love,” remarked my master as he tapped lightly on my head with the palm of his hand.

				“Ah! Is that the cat? But he’s quite plump! Sturdy as that, not even Rickshaw Blacky could beat him up. He certainly is a most splendid beast.” Coldmoon offers me his homage.

				“He’s grown quite big lately,” responds my master, and proudly smacks me twice upon the head. I am flattered by the compliment but my head feels slightly sore.

				“The night before last, what’s more, we had a little concert,” said Coldmoon going back to his story.


				“Surely you don’t have to know where. But it was quite interesting, three violins to a piano accompaniment. However unskilled, when there are three of them, violins sound fairly good. Two of them were women and I managed to place myself between them. And I myself, I thought, played rather well.”

				“Ah, and who were the women?” enviously my master asks. At first glance my master usually looks cold and hard; but, to tell the truth, he is by no means indifferent to women. He once read in a Western novel of a man who invariably fell partially in love with practically every woman that he met. Another character in the book somewhat sarcastically observed that, as a rough calculation, that fellow fell in love with just under seven-tenths of the women he passed in the street. On reading this, my master was struck by its essential truth and remained deeply impressed. Why should a man so impressionable lead such an oysterish existence? A mere cat such as I cannot possibly understand it. Some say it is the result of a love affair that went wrong; some say it is due to his weak stomach; while others simply state that it’s because he lacks both money and audacity. Whatever the truth, it doesn’t much matter since he’s a person of insufficient importance to affect the history of his period. What is certain is that he did enquire enviously about Coldmoon’s female fiddlers. Coldmoon, looking amused, picked up a sliver of boiled fishpaste in his chopsticks and nipped at it with his remaining front teeth. I was worried lest another should fall out. But this time it was all right.

				“Well, both of them are daughters of good families. You don’t know them,” Coldmoon coldly answered.

				The master drawled “Is—th-a-t—,” but omitted the final “so” which he’d intended.

				Coldmoon probably considered it was about time to be off, for he said, “What marvellous weather. If you’ve nothing better to do, shall we go out for a walk? As a result of the fall of Port Arthur,” he added encouragingly, “the town’s unusually lively.”

				My master, looking as though he would sooner discuss the identity of the female fiddlers than the fall of Port Arthur, hesitated for a moment’s thought. But he seemed finally to reach a decision, for he stood up resolutely and said, “All right, let’s go out.” He continues to wear his black cotton crested surcoat and, thereunder, a quilted kimono of hand-woven silk which, supposedly a keep-sake of his elder brother, he has worn continuously for twenty years. Even the most strongly woven silk, cannot survive such unremitting, such preternaturally, perennial wear. The material has been worn so thin that, held against the light, one can see the patches sewn on here and there from the inner side. My master wears the same clothes throughout December and January, not bothering to observe the traditional New Year change. He makes, indeed, no distinction between workaday and Sunday clothes. When he leaves the house he saunters out in whatever dress he happens to have on. I do not know whether this is because he has no other clothes to wear or whether, having such clothes, he finds it too much of a bore to change into them. Whatever the case, I can’t conceive that these uncouth habits are in any way connected with disappointment in love.

				After the two men left, I took the liberty of eating such of the boiled fishpaste as Coldmoon had not already devoured. I am, these days, no longer just a common, old cat. I consider myself at least as good as those celebrated in the tales of Momokawa Joen or as that cat of Thomas Gray’s, which trawled for goldfish. Brawlers such as Rickshaw Blacky are now beneath my notice. I don’t suppose anyone will make a fuss if I sneak a bit of fishpaste. Besides, this habit of taking secret snacks between meals is by no means a purely feline custom. O-san, for instance, is always pinching cakes and things, which she gobbles down whenever the mistress leaves the house. Nor is O-san the only offender: even the children, of whose refined upbringing the mistress is continually bragging, display the selfsame tendency. Only a few days ago that precious pair woke at some ungodly hour, and, though their parents were still sound asleep, took it upon themselves to sit down, face-to-face, at the dining-table. Now it is my master’s habit every morning to consume most of a loaf of bread, and to give the children scraps thereof which they eat with a dusting of sugar. It so happened that on this day the sugar basin was already on the table, even a spoon stuck in it. Since there was no one there to dole them out their sugar, the elder child scooped up a spoonful and dumped it on her plate. The younger followed her elder’s fine example and spooned an equal pile of sugar onto another plate. For a brief while these charming creatures just sat and glared at each other. Then the elder girl scooped a second spoonful onto her plate, and the younger one proceeded to equalize the position. The elder sister took a third spoonful and the younger, in a splendid spirit of rivalry, followed suit. And so it went on until both plates were piled high with sugar and not one single grain remained in the basin. My master thereupon emerged from his bedroom rubbing half-sleepy eyes and proceeded to return the sugar, so laboriously extracted by his daughters, back into the sugar-basin. This incident suggests that, though egotistical egalitarianism may be more highly developed among humans than among cats, cats are the wiser creatures. My advice to the children would have been to lick the sugar up quickly before it became massed into such senseless pyramids, but, because they cannot understand what I say, I merely watched them in silence from my warm, morning place on top of the container for boiled rice.

				My master came home late last night from his expedition with Coldmoon. God knows where he went, but it was already past nine before he sat down at the breakfast table. From my same old place I watched his morose consumption of a typical New Year’s breakfast of rice-cakes boiled with vegetables, all served up in soup. He takes endless helpings. Though the rice-cakes are admittedly small, he must have eaten some six or seven before leaving the last one floating in the bowl. “I’ll stop now,” he remarked and laid his chopsticks down. Should anyone else behave in such a spoilt manner, he could be relied upon to put his foot down: but, vain in the exercise of his petty authority as master of the house, he seems quite unconcerned by the sight of the corpse of a scorched rice-cake drowning in turbid soup. When his wife took taka-diastase from the back of a small cupboard and put it on the table, my master said, “I won’t take it, it does me no good.”

				“But they say it’s very good after eating starchy things. I think you should take some.” His wife wants him to take it.

				“Starchy or not, the stuff’s no good.” He remains stubborn.

				“Really, you are a most capricious man,” the mistress mutters as though to herself.

				“I’m not capricious, the medicine doesn’t work.”

				“But until the other day you used to say it worked very well and you used to take it every day, didn’t you?”

				“Yes, it did work until that other day, but it hasn’t worked since then,” an antithetical answer.

				“If you continue in these inconsistencies, taking it one day and stopping it the next, however efficacious the medicine may be, it will never do you any good. Unless you try to be a little more patient, dyspepsia, unlike other illnesses, won’t get cured, will it?” and she turns to O-san who was serving at the table.

				“Quite so, madam. Unless one takes it regularly, one cannot find out whether a medicine is a good one or a bad one.” O-san readily sides with the mistress.

				“I don’t care. I don’t take it because I don’t take it. How can a mere woman understand such things? Keep quiet.”

				“All right. I’m merely a woman,” she says pushing the taka-diastase toward him, quite determined to make him see he is beaten. My master stands up without saying a word and goes off into his study. His wife and servant exchange looks and giggle. If on such occasions I follow him and jump up onto his knees, experience tells me that I shall pay dearly for my folly. Accordingly, I go quietly round through the garden and hop up onto the veranda outside his study. I peeped through the slit between the paper sliding doors and found my master examining a book by somebody called Epictetus. If he could actually understand what he’s reading, then he would indeed be worthy of praise. But within five or six minutes he slams the book down on the table, which is just what I’d suspected. As I sat there watching him, he took out his diary and made the following entry.

				Took a stroll with Coldmoon round Nezu, Ueno, Ikenohata and Kanda. At Ikenohata, geishas in formal spring kimono were playing battledore and shuttlecock in front of a house of assignation. Their clothes beautiful, but their faces extremely plain. It occurs to me that they resemble the cat at home.

				I don’t see why he should single me out as an example of plain features. If I went to a barber and had my face shaved, I wouldn’t look much different from a human. But, there you are, humans are conceited and that’s the trouble with them.

				As we turned at Hotan’s corner another geisha appeared. She was slim, well-shaped and her shoulders were most beautifully sloped. The way she wore her mauve kimono gave her a genuine elegance. “Sorry about last night, Gen-chan—I was so busy. . .” She laughed and one glimpsed white teeth. Her voice was so harsh, as harsh as that of a roving crow, that her otherwise fine appearance diminished in enchantment. So much so that I didn’t even bother to turn around to see what sort of person this Gen-chan was, but sauntered on toward Onarimachi with my hands tucked inside the breast-fold of my kimono. Coldmoon, however, seemed to have become a trifle fidgety.

				There is nothing more difficult than understanding human mentality. My master’s present mental state is very far from clear; is he feeling angry or lighthearted, or simply seeking solace in the scribblings of some dead philosopher? One just can’t tell whether he’s mocking the world or yearning to be accepted into its frivolous company; whether he is getting furious over some piddling little matter or holding himself aloof from worldly things. Compared with such complexities, cats are truly simple. If we want to eat, we eat; if we want to sleep, we sleep; when we are angry, we are angry utterly; when we cry, we cry with all the desperation of extreme commitment to our grief. Thus we never keep things like diaries. For what would be the point? No doubt human beings like my two-faced master find it necessary to keep diaries in order to display in a darkened room that true character so assiduously hidden from the world. But among cats both our four main occupations (walking, standing, sitting, and lying down) and such incidental activities as excreting waste are pursued quite openly. We live our diaries, and consequently have no need to keep a daily record as a means of maintaining our real characters. Had I the time to keep a diary, I’d use that time to better effect; sleeping on the veranda.

				We dined somewhere in Kanda. Because I allowed myself one or two cups of saké (which I had not tasted for quite a time), my stomach this morning feels extremely well. I conclude that the best remedy for a stomach ailment is saké at suppertime. Taka-diastase just won’t do. Whatever claims are made for it, it’s just no good. That which lacks effect will continue to lack effect.

				Thus with his brush he smears the good name of taka-diastase. It is as though he quarreled with himself, and in this entry one can see a last flash of this morning’s ugly mood. Such entries are perhaps most characteristic of human mores.

				The other day, Mr. X claimed that going without one’s breakfast helped the stomach. So I took no breakfast for two or three days but the only effect was to make my stomach grumble. Mr. Y strongly advised me to refrain from eating pickles. According to him, all disorders of the stomach originate in pickles. His thesis was that abstinence from pickles so dessicates the sources of all stomach trouble, that a complete cure must follow. For at least a week no pickle crossed my lips, but, since that banishment produced no noticeable effect, I have resumed consuming them. According to Mr. Z, the one true remedy is ventral massage. But no ordinary massage of the stomach would suffice. It must be massage in accordance with the old-world methods of the Minagawa School. Massaged thus once, or at most twice, the stomach would be rid of every ill. The wisest scholars, such as Yasui Sokuken, and the most resourceful heroes, such as Sakamoto Ryoma, all relied upon this treatment. So off I went to Kaminegishi for an immediate massage. But the methods used were of inordinate cruelty. They told me, for instance, that no good could be hoped for unless one’s bones were massaged; that it would be difficult properly to eradicate my troubles unless, at least once, my viscera were totally inverted. At all events, a single session reduced my body to the condition of cotton-wool and I felt as though I had become a lifelong sufferer from sleeping sickness. I never went there again. Once was more than enough. Then Mr. A assured me that one shouldn’t eat solids. So I spent a whole day drinking nothing but milk. My bowels gave forth heavy plopping noises as though they had been swamped, and I could not sleep all night. Mr. B states that exercising one’s intestines by diaphragmic breathing produces a naturally healthy stomach and he counsels me to follow his advice. And I did try. For a time. But it proved no good for it made my bowels queasy. Besides, though every now and again I strive with all my heart and soul to control my breathing with the diaphragm, in five or six minutes I forget to discipline my muscles. And if I concentrate on maintaining that discipline I get so midriff-minded that I can neither read nor write. Waverhouse, my aesthete friend, once found me thus breathing in pursuit of a naturally healthy stomach and, rather unkindly, urged me, as a man, to terminate my labor-pangs. So diaphragmic breathing is now also a thing of the past. Dr. C recommends a diet of buckwheat noodles. So buckwheat noodles it was, alternately in soup and served cold after boiling. It did nothing, except loosen my bowels. I have tried every possible means to cure my ancient ailment, but all of them are useless. But those three cups of saké which I drank last night with Coldmoon have certainly done some good. From now on, I will drink two or three cups each evening.

				I doubt whether this saké treatment will be kept up very long. My master’s mind exhibits the same incessant changeability as can be seen in the eyes of cats. He has no sense of perseverance. It is, moreover, idiotic that, while he fills his diary with lamentation over his stomach troubles, he does his best to present a brave face to the world; to grin and bear it.

				The other day his scholar friend, Professor Whatnot, paid a visit and advanced the theory that it was at least arguable that every illness is the direct result of both ancestral and personal malefaction. He seemed to have studied the matter pretty deeply for the sequence of his logic was clear, consistent, and orderly. Altogether it was a fine theory. I am sorry to say that my master has neither the brain nor the erudition to rebut such theories. However, perhaps because he himself was actually suffering from stomach trouble, he felt obliged to make all sorts of face-saving excuses. He irrelevantly retorted, “Your theory is interesting, but are you aware that Carlyle was dyspeptic?” as if claiming that because Carlyle was dyspeptic his own dyspepsia was an intellectual honor. His friend replied,

				“It does not follow that because Carlyle was a dyspeptic, all dyspeptics are Carlyles.” My master, reprimanded, held his tongue, but the incident revealed his curious vanity. It’s all the more amusing when one recalls that he would probably prefer not to be dyspeptic, for just this morning he recorded in his diary an intention to take treatment by saké as from tonight. Now that I’ve come to think of it, his inordinate consumption of rice-cakes this morning must have been the effect of last night’s saké session with Coldmoon. I could have eaten those cakes myself.

				Though I am a cat, I eat practically anything. Unlike Rickshaw Blacky, I lack the energy to go off raiding fishshops up distant alleys. Further, my social status is such that I cannot expect the luxury enjoyed by Tortoiseshell whose mistress teaches the idle rich to play on the two-stringed harp. Therefore I don’t, as others can, indulge myself in likes and dislikes. I eat small bits of bread left over by the children, and I lick the jam from bean-jam cakes. Pickles taste awful, but to broaden my experience I once tried a couple of slices of pickled radish. It’s a strange thing but once I’ve tried it, almost anything turns out edible. To say, “I don’t like that” or “I don’t like this” is mere extravagant willfulness, and a cat that lives in a teacher’s house should eschew such foolish remarks.

				According to my master, there was once a novelist whose name was Balzac and he lived in France. He was an extremely extravagant man. I do not mean an extravagant eater but that, being a novelist, he was extravagant in his writing. One day he was trying to find a suitable name for a character in the novel he was writing, but, for whatever reason, could not think of a name that pleased him. Just then one of his friends called by, and Balzac suggested they should go out for a walk. This friend had, of course, no idea why, still less that Balzac was determined to find the name he needed. Out on the streets, Balzac did nothing but stare at shop signboards, but still he couldn’t find a suitable name. He marched on endlessly, while his puzzled friend, still ignorant of the object of the expedition, tagged along behind him. Having fruitlessly explored Paris from morning till evening, they were on their way home when Balzac happened to notice a tailor’s signboard bearing the name “Marcus.” He clapped his hands. “This is it,” he shouted. “It just has to be this. Marcus is a good name, but with a Z in front of Marcus it becomes a perfect name. It has to be a Z. Z. Marcus is remarkably good. Names that I invent are never good. They sound unnatural however cleverly constructed. But now, at long, long last, I’ve got the name I like.” Balzac, extremely pleased with himself, was totally oblivious to the inconvenience he had caused his friend. It would seem unduly troublesome that one should have to spend a whole day trudging around Paris merely to find a name for a character in a novel. Extravagance of such enormity acquires a certain splendor, but folk like me, a cat kept by a clam-like introvert, cannot even envisage such inordinate behavior. That I should not much care what, so long as it’s edible, I eat is probably an inevitable result of my circumstances. Thus it was in no way as an expression of extravagance that I expressed just now my feeling of wishing to eat a rice-cake. I simply thought that I’d better eat while the chance offered, and I then remembered that the piece of rice-cake which my master had left in his breakfast bowl was possibly still in the kitchen. So round to the kitchen I went.

				The rice-cake was stuck, just as I saw it this morning, at the bottom of the bowl and its color was still as I remembered it. I must confess that I’ve never previously tasted rice-cake. Yet, though I felt a shade uncertain, it looks quite good to eat. With a tentative front paw I rake at the green vegetables adhering to the rice-cake. My claws, having touched the outer part of the rice-cake, become sticky. I sniff at them and recognize the smell that can be smelt when rice stuck at the bottom of a cooking-pot is transferred into the boiled-rice container. I look around, wondering, “Shall I eat it, shall I not?” Fortunately, or unfortunately, there’s nobody about. O-san, with a face that shows no change between year end and the spring, is playing battledore and shuttlecock. The children in the inner room are singing something about a rabbit and a tortoise. If I am to eat this New Year speciality, now’s the moment. If I miss this chance I shall have to spend a whole, long year not knowing how a rice-cake tastes. At this point, though a mere cat, I perceived a truth: that golden opportunity makes all animals venture to do even those things they do not want to do. To tell the truth, I do not particularly want to eat the rice-cake. In fact the more I examined the thing at the bottom of the bowl the more nervous I became and the more keenly disinclined to eat it. If only O-san would open the kitchen door, or if I could hear the children’s footsteps coming toward me, I would unhesitatingly abandon the bowl; not only that, I would have put away all thought of rice-cakes for another year. But no one comes. I’ve hesitated long enough. Still no one comes. I feel as if someone were hotly urging me on, someone whispering, “Eat it, quickly!” I looked into the bowl and prayed that someone would appear. But no one did. I shall have to eat the rice-cake after all. In the end, lowering the entire weight of my body into the bottom of the bowl, I bit about an inch deep into a corner of the rice-cake.

				Most things that I bite that hard come clean off in my mouth. But what a surprise! For I found when I tried to reopen my jaw that it would not budge. I try once again to bite my way free, but find I’m stuck. Too late I realize that the rice-cake is a fiend. When a man who has fallen into a marsh struggles to escape, the more he thrashes about trying to extract his legs, the deeper in he sinks. Just so, the harder I clamp my jaws, the more my mouth grows heavy and my teeth immobilized. I can feel the resistance to my teeth, but that’s all. I cannot dispose of it. Waverhouse, the aesthete, once described my master as an aliquant man and I must say it’s rather a good description. This rice-cake too, like my master, is aliquant. It looked to me that, however much I continued biting, nothing could ever result: the process could go on and on eternally like the division of ten by three. In the middle of this anguish I found my second truth: that all animals can tell by instinct what is or is not good for them. Although I have now discovered two great truths, I remain unhappy by reason of the adherent rice-cake. My teeth are being sucked into its body, and are becoming excruciatingly painful. Unless I can complete my bite and run away quickly, O-san will be on me. The children seem to have stopped singing, and I’m sure they’ll soon come running into the kitchen. In an extremity of anguish, I lashed about with my tail, but to no effect. I made my ears stand up and then lie flat, but this didn’t help either. Come to think of it, my ears and tail have nothing to do with the rice-cake. In short, I had indulged in a waste of wagging, a waste of ear-erection, and a waste of ear-flattening. So I stopped.

				At long last it dawned on me that the best thing to do is to force the rice-cake down by using my two front paws. First I raised my right paw and stroked it around my mouth. Naturally, this mere stroking brought no relief whatsoever. Next, I stretched out my left paw and with it scraped quick circles around my mouth. These ineffectual passes failed to exorcize the fiend in the rice-cake. Realizing that it was essential to proceed with patience, I scraped alternatively with my right and left paws, but my teeth stayed stuck in the rice-cake. Growing impatient, I now used both front paws simultaneously. Then, only then, I found to my amazement that I could actually stand up on my hind legs. Somehow I feel un-catlike. But not caring whether I am a cat or not, I scratch away like mad at my whole face in frenzied determination to keep on scratching until the fiend in the rice-cake has been driven out. Since the movements of my front paws are so vigorous I am in danger of losing my balance and falling down. To keep my equilibrium I find myself marking time with my hind legs. I begin to tittup from one spot to another, and I finish up prancing madly all over the kitchen. It gives me great pride to realize that I can so dextrously maintain an upright position, and the revelation of a third great truth is thus vouchsafed me: that in conditions of exceptional danger one can surpass one’s normal level of achievement. This is the real meaning of Special Providence.

				Sustained by Special Providence, I am fighting for dear life against that demonic rice-cake when I hear footsteps. Someone seems to be approaching. Thinking it would be fatal to be caught in this predicament, I redouble my efforts and am positively running around the kitchen. The footsteps come closer and closer. Alas, that Special Providence seems not to last forever. In the end I am discovered by the children who loudly shout, “Why look! The cat’s been eating rice-cakes and is dancing.” The first to hear their announcement was that O-san person. Abandoning her shuttlecock and battledore, she flew in through the kitchen door crying, “Gracious me!” Then the mistress, sedate in her formal silk kimono, deigns to remark, “What a naughty cat.” And my master, drawn from his study by the general hubbub, shouts, “You fool!” The children find me funniest, but by general agreement the whole household is having a good old laugh. It is annoying, it is painful, it is impossible to stop dancing. Hell and damnation! When at long last the laughter began to die down, the dear, little five-year-old piped up with an, “Oh what a comical cat,” which had the effect of renewing the tide of their ebbing laughter. They fairly split their sides. I have already heard and seen quite a lot of heartless human behavior, but never before have I felt so bitterly critical of their conduct. Special Providence having vanished into thin air, I was back in my customary position on all fours, finally at my wit’s end, and, by reason of giddiness, cutting a quite ridiculous figure. My master seems to have felt it would be perhaps a pity to let me die before his very eyes, for he said to O-san, “Help him get rid of that rice-cake.” O-san looks at the mistress as if to say, “Why not make him go on dancing?” The mistress would gladly see my minuet continued, but, since she would not go so far as wanting me to dance myself to death, says nothing. My master turned somewhat sharply to the servant and ordered, “Hurry it up, if you don’t help quickly the cat will be dead.” O-san, with a vacant look on her face, as though she had been roughly wakened from some peculiarly delicious dream, took a firm grip on the rice-cake and yanked it out of my mouth. I am not quite as feeble-fanged as Coldmoon, but I really did think my entire front toothwork was about to break off. The pain was indescribable. The teeth embedded in the rice-cake are being pitilessly wrenched. You can’t imagine what it was like. It was then that the fourth enlightenment burst upon me: that all comfort is achieved through hardship. When at last I came to myself and looked around at a world restored to normality, all the members of the household had disappeared into the inner room.

				Having made such a fool of myself, I feel quite unable to face such hostile critics as O-san. It would, I think, unhinge my mind. To restore my mental tranquillity, I decided to visit Tortoiseshell, so I left the kitchen and set off through the backyard to the house of the two-stringed harp. Tortoiseshell is a celebrated beauty in our district. Though I am undoubtedly a cat, I possess a wide general knowledge of the nature of compassion and am deeply sensitive to affection, kind-heartedness, tenderness, and love. Merely to observe the bitterness in my master’s face, just to be snubbed by O-san, leaves me out of sorts. At such times I visit this fair, lady friend of mine and our conversation ranges over many things. Then, before I am aware of it, I find myself refreshed. I forget my worries, hardships, everything. I feel as if reborn. Female influence is indeed a most potent thing. Through a gap in the cedar-hedge, I peer to see if she is anywhere about. Tortoiseshell, wearing a smart new collar in celebration of the season, is sitting very neatly on her veranda. The rondure of her back is indescribably beautiful. It is the most beautiful of all curved lines. The way her tail curves, the way she folds her legs, the charmingly lazy shake of her ears—all these are quite beyond description. She looks so warm sitting there so gracefully in the very sunniest spot. Her body holds an attitude of utter stillness and correctness. And her fur, glossy as velvet that reflects the rays of spring, seems suddenly to quiver although the air is still. For a while I stood, completely enraptured, gazing at her. Then as I came to myself, I softly called, “Miss Tortoiseshell, Miss Tortoiseshell,” and beckoned with my paw.

				“Why, Professor,” she greeted me as she stepped down from the veranda. A tiny bell attached to her scarlet collar made little tinkling sounds. I say to myself, “Ah, it’s for the New Year that she’s wearing a bell,” and, while I am still admiring its lively tinkle, find she has arrived beside me. “A happy NewYear, Professor,” and she waves her tail to the left; for when cats exchange greetings one first holds one’s tail upright like a pole, then twists it round to the left. In our neighborhood it is only Tortoiseshell who calls me Professor. Now, I have already mentioned that I have, as yet, no name; it is Tortoiseshell, and she alone, who pays me the respect due to one that lives in a teacher’s house. Indeed, I am not altogether displeased to be addressed as a Professor, and respond willingly to her apostrophe.

				“And a happy New Year to you,” I say. “How beautifully you’re done up!”

				“Yes, the mistress bought it for me at the end of last year. Isn’t it nice?” and she makes it tinkle for me.

				“Yes indeed, it has a lovely sound. I’ve never seen such a wonderful thing in my life.”

				“No! Everyone’s using them,” and she tinkle-tinkles. “But isn’t it a lovely sound? I’m so happy.” She tinkle-tinkle-tinkles continuously.

				“I can see your mistress loves you very dearly.” Comparing my lot with hers, I hinted at my envy of a pampered life.

				Tortoiseshell is a simple creature. “Yes,” she says, “that’s true; she treats me as if I were her own child.” And she laughs innocently. It is not true that cats never laugh. Human beings are mistaken in their belief that only they are capable of laughter. When I laugh my nostrils grow triangular and my Adam’s apple trembles. No wonder human beings fail to understand it.

				“What is your master really like?”

				“My master? That sounds strange. Mine is a mistress. A mistress of the two stringed harp.”

				“I know that. But what is her background? I imagine she’s a person of high birth?”

				“Ah, yes.”

				A small Princess-pine

				While waiting for you. . .

				Beyond the sliding paper-door the mistress begins to play on her two-stringed harp.

				“Isn’t that a splendid voice?” Tortoiseshell is proud of it.

				“It seems extremely good, but I don’t understand what she’s singing. What’s the name of the piece?”

				“That? Oh, it’s called something or other. The mistress is especially fond of it. D’you know, she’s actually sixty-two? But in excellent condition, don’t you think?”

				I suppose one has to admit that she’s in excellent condition if she’s still alive at sixty-two. So I answered, “Yes.” I thought to myself that I’d given a silly answer, but I could do no other since I couldn’t think of anything brighter to say.

				“You may not think so, but she used to be a person of high standing.

				She always tells me so.”

				“What was she originally?”

				“I understand that she’s the thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife’s private-secretary’s younger sister’s husband’s mother’s nephew’s daughter.”


				“The thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife’s private-secretary’s younger sister’s. . .”

				“Ah! But, please, not quite so fast. The thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife’s younger sister’s private-secretary’s . . .”

				“No, no, no. The thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife’s private-secretary’s younger sister’s. . .”

				“The thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife’s. . .”


				“Private-secretary’s. Right?”


				“Husband’s. . .”

				“No, younger sister’s husband’s.”

				“Of course. How could I? Younger sister’s husband’s. . .”

				“Mother’s nephew’s daughter. There you are.”

				“Mother’s nephew’s daughter?”

				“Yes, you’ve got it.”

				“Not really. It’s so terribly involved that I still can’t get the hang of it.

				What exactly is her relation to the thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife?”

				“Oh, but you are so stupid! I’ve just been telling you what she is.

				She’s the thirteenth Shogun’s widowed wife’s private-secretary’s younger sister’s husband’s mother’s. . .”

				“That much I’ve followed, but. . .”

				“Then, you’ve got it, haven’t you?”

				“Yes.” I had to give in. There are times for little white lies.

				Beyond the sliding paper-door the sound of the two-stringed harp came to a sudden stop and the mistress’ voice called, “Tortoiseshell, Tortoiseshell, your lunch is ready.” Tortoiseshell looked happy and remarked, “There, she’s calling, so I must go home. I hope you’ll forgive me?” What would be the good of my saying that I mind? “Come and see me again,” she said; and she ran off through the garden tinkling her bell. But suddenly she turned and came back to ask me anxiously, “You’re looking far from well. Is anything wrong?” I couldn’t very well tell her that I’d eaten a rice-cake and gone dancing; so, “No,” I said, “nothing in particular. I did some weighty thinking, which brought on something of a headache. Indeed I called today because I fancied that just to talk with you would help me to feel better.”

				“Really? Well, take good care of yourself. Good-bye now.” She seemed a tiny bit sorry to leave me, which has completely restored me to the liveliness I’d felt before the rice-cake bit me. I now felt wonderful and decided to go home through that tea-plantation where one could have the pleasure of treading down lumps of half-melted frost. I put my face through the broken bamboo hedge, and there was Rickshaw Blacky, back again on the dry chrysanthemums, yawning his spine into a high, black arch. Nowadays I’m no longer scared of Blacky, but, since any conversation with him involves the risk of trouble, I endeavor to pass, cutting him off. But it’s not in Blacky’s nature to contain his feelings if he believes himself looked down upon. “Hey you, Mr. No-name. You’re very stuck-up these days, now aren’t you? You may be living in a teacher’s house, but don’t go giving yourself such airs. And stop, I warn you, trying to make a fool of me.” Blacky doesn’t seem to know that I am now a celebrity. I wish I could explain the situation to him, but, since he’s not the kind who can understand such things, I decide simply to offer him the briefest of greetings and then to take my leave as soon as I decently can.

				“A happy New Year, Mr. Blacky. You do look well, as usual.” And I lift up my tail and twist it to the left. Blacky, keeping his tail straight up, refused to return my salutation.

				“What! Happy? If the New Year’s happy, then you should be out of your tiny mind the whole year round. Now push off sharp, you back-end of a bellows.”

				That turn of phrase about the back-end of a bellows sounds distinctly derogatory, but its semantic content happened to escape me. “What,” I enquired, “do you mean by the back-end of a bellows?”

				“You’re being sworn at and you stand there asking its meaning. I give up! I really do! You really are a New Year’s nit.”

				A New Year’s nit sounds somewhat poetic, but its meaning is even more