The other members of the council shook their heads, and breathed deeply. Were there no Fujinami left of the collateral branches? Why adopt a tanin (outside person)? So spoke the M.P., the man with a wen, who had an axe of his own to grind.
It was decided to choose the son-in-law candidate first of all; and, afterwards, to decide which of the girls he was to marry. Perhaps it would be as well to consult the fortune tellers. At any rate, a list of suitable applicants would be prepared for the next meeting.
“When men speak of the future,” said grandfather Gennosuke, “the rats in the ceiling laugh.”
So the conference broke up.
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro had no sooner returned to the academic calm of his chaste reading room, than Mr. Ito appeared on the threshold.
The oily face was more moist than usual, the buffalo-horn moustache more truculent; and though the autumn day was cool, Ito was agitating a fan. He was evidently nervous. Before approaching the sanctum, he had blown his nose into a small square piece of soft paper, which is the Japanese apology for a handkerchief. He had looked around for some place where to cast the offence; but finding none along the trim garden border, he had slipped it into his wide kimono sleeve.
Mr. Fujinami frowned. He was tired of business matters, and the worry of other people’s affairs. He longed for peace.
“Indeed, the weather becomes perceptibly cooler,” said Mr. Ito, with a low prostration.
“If there is business,” his patron replied crisply, “please step up into the room.”
Mr. Ito slipped off his geta, and ascended from the garden path. When he had settled himself in the correct attitude with legs crossed and folded, Mr. Fujinami pushed over towards him a packet of cigarettes, adding;
“Please, without embarrassment, speak quickly what you have to say.”
Mr. Ito chose a cigarette, and slowly pinched together the cardboard holder, which formed its lower half.
“Indeed, sensei, it is a difficult matter,” he began. “It is a matter which should be handled by an intermediary. If I speak face to face like a foreigner the master will excuse my rudeness.”
“Please, speak clearly.”
“I owe my advancement in life entirely to the master. I was the son of poor parents. I was an emigrant and a vagabond over three thousand worlds. The master gave me a home and lucrative employment. I have served the master for many years; with my poor effort the fortunes of the family have perhaps increased. I have become as it were a son to the Fujinami.”
He paused at the word “son.” His employer had caught his meaning, and was frowning more than ever. At last he answered:
“To expect too much is a dangerous thing. To choose a yoshi (adopted son) is a difficult question. I myself cannot decide such grave matters. There must be consultation with the rest of the Fujinami family. You yourself have suggested that Governor Sugiwara might perhaps be a suitable person.”