In the village of Kusatsu, beyond the Karuizawa mountains, there is a natural hot spring, whose waters are beneficial for the alleviation of the disease. In this place there is a settlement of well-to-do lepers. Thither it was decided to banish poor Takeshi. His wife, Matsuko, naturally was expected to accompany him, to nurse him and to make life as comfortable for him as she could. Her eventual doom was almost certain. But there was no question, no choice, no hesitation and no praise. Every Japanese wife is obliged to become an Alcestis, if her husband’s well-being demand it. The children were sent to the ancestral village of Akabo.
O-bune no Hatsuru-tomari no Tayutai ni Mono-omoi-yase-nu Hito no ko yuye ni.
With a rocking
(As) of great ships
Riding at anchor
I have at last become worn out with love,
Because of a child of a man.
When the Fujinami returned to Tokyo, the wing of the house in which the unfortunate son had lived, had been demolished. An ugly scar remained, a slab of charred concrete strewn with ashes and burned beams. Saddest sight of all was the twisted iron work of Takeshi’s foreign bedstead, once the symbol of progress and of the haikara spirit. The fire was supposed to have been accidental; but the ravages had been carefully limited to the offending wing.
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, disgusted at this unsightly wreckage wished to rebuild at once. But the old grandfather had objected that this spot of misfortune was situated in the northeast corner of the mansion, a quarter notoriously exposed to the attacks of oni (evil spirits). He was in favor of total demolishment.
This was only one of the differences of opinion between the two seniors of the house of Fujinami, which became more frequent as the clouds of disaster gathered over the home in Akasaka. A far more thorny problem was the question of the succession.
With the living death of Takeshi, there was no male heir. Several family councils were held in the presence of the two Mr. Fujinami generally in the lower-house, at which six or seven members of the collateral branches were also present. Grandfather Gennosuke, who despised Takeshi as a waster, would not listen to any plea on behalf of his children.
“To a bad father a bad child,” he enunciated, his restless jaw masticating more ferociously than ever.
He was strongly of opinion that it was the curse of Asako’s father which had brought this sorrow upon his family. Katsundo and Asako were representatives of the elder branch. Himself, Gentaro and Takeshi were mere usurpers. Restore the elder branch to its rights, and the indignant ghost would cease to plague them all.
Such was the argument of grandfather Gennosuke.
Fujinami Gentaro naturally supported the claims of his own progeny. If Takeshi’s children must be disinherited because of the leprous strain, then, at least, Sadako remained. She was a well-educated and serious girl. She knew foreign languages. She could make a brilliant marriage. Her husband would be adopted as heir. Perhaps the Governor of Osaka?