“I’ll shave him at once, before your eyes,” answered the priest, who immediately caused the cords which bound Tokutaro to be untied, and, putting on his priest’s scarf, made him join his hands together in a posture of prayer. Then the reverend man stood up behind him, razor in hand, and, intoning a hymn, gave two or three strokes of the razor, which he then handed to his acolyte, who made a clean shave of Tokutaro’s hair. When the latter had finished his obeisance to the priest, and the ceremony was over, there was a loud burst of laughter; and at the same moment the day broke, and Tokutaro found himself alone, in the middle of a large moor. At first, in his surprise, he thought that it was all a dream, and was much annoyed at having been tricked by the foxes. He then passed his hand over his head, and found that he was shaved quite bald. There was nothing for it but to get up, wrap a handkerchief round his head, and go back to the place where his friends were assembled.
“Hallo, Tokutaro! so you’ve come back. Well, how about the foxes?”
“Really, gentlemen,” replied he, bowing, “I am quite ashamed to appear before you.”
Then he told them the whole story, and, when he had finished, pulled off the kerchief, and showed his bald pate.
“What a capital joke!” shouted his listeners, and amid roars of laughter, claimed the bet of fish, and wine. It was duly paid; but Tokutaro never allowed his hair to grow again, and renounced the world, and became a priest under the name of Sainen.
There are a great many stories told of men being shaved by the foxes; but this story came under the personal observation of Mr. Shominsai, a teacher of the city of Yedo, during a holiday trip which he took to the country where the event occurred; and I have recorded it in the very selfsame words in which he told it to me.
[Footnote 77: The author of the “Kanzen-Yawa,” the book from which the story is taken.]
THE GRATEFUL FOXES
One fine spring day, two friends went out to a moor to gather fern, attended by a boy with a bottle of wine and a box of provisions. As they were straying about, they saw at the foot of a hill a fox that had brought out its cub to play; and whilst they looked on, struck by the strangeness of the sight, three children came up from a neighbouring village with baskets in their hands, on the same errand as themselves. As soon as the children saw the foxes, they picked up a bamboo stick and took the creatures stealthily in the rear; and when the old foxes took to flight, they surrounded them and beat them with the stick, so that they ran away as fast as their legs could carry them; but two of the boys held down the cub, and, seizing it by the scruff of the neck, went off in high glee.
The two friends were looking on all the while, and one of them, raising his voice, shouted out, “Hallo! you boys! what are you doing with that fox?”