He spoke in a low tone.
“My daughter seemed to have a weak heart since her childhood. Sometimes she would have seizures, so I was always assailed by the anxiety of whether a frightening emergency would suddenly happen to her in due time.
However, one day she took a stroll in the garden. After she tripped over an ornamental garden stone, my daughter stopped breathing. The doctor naturally told me that she had died. There was no difference even though she had truly died. I held a wake for one day and two nights without leaving my daughter’s side, and I personally lowered my daughter into the coffin. Then I took her to the graveyard, and buried her in the ancestral family grave. That graveyard was in the countryside – We are people of Suzhou though – in the middle of a desolate field.
At the time of laying her in the coffin, I made my daughter wear her beloved snow-white evening dress. When I was in London, I had that dress made at great expenses for the sake of sending my daughter into high society for the first time. After that I put on various jewels, necklaces, bracelets, and rings on each of my daughter’s fingers, and buried her. I did a truly foolish thing as a parent, didn’t I?”
The father looked at me with a somewhat deplorable face, and stopped talking. While pointing out his daughter with my eyes, I asked:
“Is that person this young lady’s older sister?”
“Now, now, please listen until the end. — Do you know what kind of feelings I had at that time, having returned home after the burial? My wife passed away when my daughter was small. I raised my daughter with affection on her mother’s behalf as well. And my motherless daughter relied on me alone, and I did not have any relations other than her. That’s why I think that I sympathized plenty with the disposition of treasuring my daughter more than my own life. How deeply saddening it would be that a single parent and a single daughter had to live in separate worlds; I thought, shall I go into a coffin together with my daughter as well? No, I lamented that I had wanted to die and let my daughter live. I truly had become alone. I had half gone mad. Exhausted, I returned to my home.
Even after I collapsed in my armchair, I had neither the strength to think, the strength to move, nor the strength to see. As if I had turned into a vessel of my former self. It was still there when the coffin was there. Because my daughter was sleeping inside of it. However, now that coffin wasn’t there. It seemed as if the human presence inside the house had abruptly disappeared.
At that time my butler Kouryuu entered without making a sound. One way or another he had assisted me faithfully to dedicate my daughter to the coffin and adorn her in her final sleep.
‘Master, would you like to have something to eat?’
I did not answer. This was not the occasion to have a meal. I silently showed the shake of my head.
‘Master, that won’t do. It will be harmful to your body, so shall I place it on the floor? Then how about a short break?’
I acknowledged Kou’s tender care, however, because he was persistent it gave some rise to my temper, so I said with a loud voice:
‘Leave me alone. Just let me stay like this!’
I closed my eyes. Nevertheless, the devoted Kou was concerned for me, and remained as he hesitated without retreating at all, but I didn’t want anything to do with him and abruptly looked away. Thereupon Kou left my room reluctantly as well.
I do not know how much time had elapsed. Well, what a night it was. Although it was a very cold evening, the fire of the stove had vanished entirely. The frosty wind of the winter which seemed to have brought ice, unpleasantly struck against the window.
I did not sleep. I was completely exhausted from disappointment and discouragement, and I only had my eyes open. But my nerves were paralyzed, and my legs remained stretched out languidly, and I was not conscious of time elapsing.
Suddenly, the bell noisily rang. It reverberated throughout the inside of the empty house, lonely like a graveyard. It surprised me. When I looked up at the clock it was precisely 2 o’clock in the morning. — I thought, ‘Who could possibly have come at this hour of the night?’ and slowly arose.”
When he spoke until that point, the young lady next to him whispered something into her father’s ear with a frail voice.
“Huh? You want to return to our room?”
He tilted his head as he said that to the young lady. Now he looked in my direction and made an excuse:
“Her body turned damp due to the sea air. She told me that she wants to go to her room already, so -”
The story had finally reached the point where it got interesting. It was regrettable that it was to end, but even though it started to feel good to be by the young lady’s side at last, I was a person who says inconsiderate things. If they return to their room, we would part here as the ship arrives at the harbour tomorrow morning. Even though I knew there would be no chance to meet once again, I became a little sentimental; I had the difficult feeling of having a lonely separation. While flustered to keep my mind in restraint, somehow or other, I suddenly uttered something awkward.
“Are you taking a rest? It’s already quite late.”
I had knocked myself down. What am I saying? It’s like I’m saying the opposite thing from my mind. I’m a fool! Isn’t that already the end if I am told that she is taking a rest because it’s late? I probably said something very idiotic and foolish. As I bit my lower lip while I lamenting in my mind because I said such an arbitrary thing during a talk with my companions; I offended them, but they seemed to misunderstand it.
“No, she is not resting. My daughter simply has a fear of the night air. Her body is very frail, so she cannot help but be prone to saying one obstinate thing after another. Why don’t you come and visit our room, and continue our talk there?”
I did not know where their room was, but it was near mine. Therefore, I tried inviting them to come to my room instead.
“If you are not impeded, why don’t you come to my place? If you descend from these stairs, my room is directly in the right corner.”
At first, the young lady declined and seemed not to come, but because I eagerly encouraged her, the pair came against their better judgement.
I suggested the soft sofa to the young lady and sat down in the chair opposite of her. I thought of treating them with something, but when I looked at the clock it had already passed 12 o’clock. It was too late to call a porter, and it was shameful to have a lady visitor at this hour even though I was not alone with her. The father who seemed to have sensed my mind when I was thinking ‘what should I do?’. He left the room in a hurry, but immediately returned holding a bottle of whiskey and a box of chocolates in his hands.
After the young lady poured whiskey into a cup, and let her father foretaste it, she also poured one for me.
“Well now, please let me hear the continuation of your story of just now,” I said while tasting the cup of whiskey.
“How about one?” The young lady said as she held out the box of chocolates.
I took one within reach and put it in my mouth.