Long enough ago there dwelt within a day’s journey of the city of Kioto a gentleman of simple mind and manners, but good estate. His wife, rest her soul, had been dead these many years, and the good man lived in great peace and quiet with his only son. They kept clear of women-kind, and knew nothing at all either of their winning or their bothering ways. They had good steady men-servants in their house, and never set eyes on a pair of long sleeves or a scarlet obi from morning till night.
The truth is that they were as happy as the day is long. Sometimes they laboured in the rice-fields. Other days they went a-fishing. In the spring, forth they went to admire the cherry flower or the plum, and later they set out to view the iris or the peony or the lotus, as the case might be. At these times they would drink a little saké, and twist their blue and white tenegui about their heads and be as jolly as you please, for there was no one to say them nay. Often enough they came home by lantern light. They wore their oldest clothes, and were mighty irregular at their meals.
But the pleasures of life are fleeting—more’s the pity!—and presently the father felt old age creeping upon him.
One night, as he sat smoking and warming his hands over the charcoal, “Boy,” says he, “it’s high time you got married.”
“Now the gods forbid!” cries the young man. “Father, what makes you say such terrible things? Or are you joking? You must be joking,” he says.
“I’m not joking at all,” says the father; “I never spoke a truer word, and that you’ll know soon enough.”
“But, father, I am mortally afraid of women.”
“And am I not the same?” says the father. “I’m sorry for you, my boy.”
“Then what for must I marry?” says the son.
“In the way of nature I shall die before long, and you’ll need a wife to take care of you.”
Now the tears stood in the young man’s eyes when he heard this, for he was tender-hearted; but all he said was, “I can take care of myself very well.”
“That’s the very thing you cannot,” says his father.