Lonely Fox(The Former Part)
This is a story I heard from an old man in a village called Mohei.
He said there had been a small castle at Nakayama near his village. The lord called Nakayama had lived there.
A little far from Nakayama, a lonely little fox called Gon dag a hole in a ferny wood to live. The fox went out to the village nearby day and night, and was up to some mischief: digging up and scattering potatoes, burning dried rape plants, and tearing off dried red pepper plants which were hung up at the back of farmers' houses ...
In an autumn days, it had been raining for three days. During the days, Gon couldn't go out, just crouching at its hole. As soon as it let up, Gon came crawling out of its hole with relief.
It was fair weather, and a butcherbird was chirping a lot. Gon got to the bank of the river in the village. Dewdrops were still sparkled on ears of the pampas grass around there. The river was usually a small stream, but the three consecutive rainy days made the water swollen. The yellowish muddy water knocked over the pampas grass and bush clovers growing on the riverside. Gon slogged through the mud along the downstream, and happened to spot a man in the river. Without a sound, hiding itself among the grass, Gon stared at the man.
"Hyo-Ju, isn't he?" the fox thought.
Hyo-Ju, with a headband around his head, rolled up his ragged dark clothes, and soaked himself up to his waist in the water. He was shaking his fishing net called harikiri. Gon saw a mole on his face, but soon noticed it wasn't a mole, but a bush clover leaf stuck on his cheek.
After a while, Hyo-Ju grabbed the end of the bag-like-net and lifted it out of the water. There were grass-roots, leaves, and small rotten wood. Yet, something shiny white was in the net. Those were bellies of thick eels, and a big Japanese whiting, or an edible white meat fish with slender body. Hyo-Ju put those fish into his creel with the rubbish, and again bound the end of the net to throw it into the water. Then he got out of the river with the creel, and left it on the bank, and ran upstream to find something.
As soon as Hyo-Ju was gone, Gon jumped out of the grass and rushed to Hyo-Ju's creel. Gon wanted to play a trick on it; grabbing the fish out of the creel and throwing them all back into the river. All the fish splashed into the muddy water. Lastly, Gon tried to catch the thick eel with its forepaws, but the eel was too slimy and slippery to catch it. The fox was so irritated that it stuck its head into the creel and took the eel's head between its teeth, then the eel wound itself around the fox's neck. At that moment, Hyo-Ju realized and cried from the distance,
¡ÆYou, thief! Fox!¡Ç
Gon was startled, jumped up aside and was about to run away from the man, but the eel was still winding around the fox's neck. With the eel on its neck, Gon rushed out and ran away for its life. When the fox reached near its hole under a Japanese alder tree, it turned back to see Hyo-Ju, and found the man didn't chase the fox any more.
Gon was relieved and crunched the eel's head to take it off. The fox put the victim's head on the grass outside of its hole.
Ten days had passed. When Gon happened to pass by the back of a farmer Yasuke's house, under a fig tree, the fox saw the farmer's wife, applying tooth black to her teeth. The fox also passed by the back of a blacksmith Shinbei's house, his wife was combing her hair.
¡ÆI see, there will be something delightful in their village,¡Ç the fox said to itself, ¡Æbut I wonder what will be held. Autumnal Festival? If it's the festival, why can't I hear the sounds of drums and flutes? First of all, flags must be hoisted outside the shrine.¡Ç
Thinking this and that, Gon, without notice, got to Hyo-Ju's house, which had a red well outside of his house. There were many people gathering in Hyo-Ju's small, half-broken house. Women in holiday clothes, with a towel hanged on their waist, were building fire in a kitchen stove; something was simmering in a big pot on the stove.
¡ÆIt must be a funeral,¡Ç the fox thought, ¡Æone of Hyo-Ju's family members must have died.¡Ç
Early afternoon, Gon hid himself behind six-stone-statues of Jizo, or the Guardian Deity of Travelers and Children, in the graveyard in the village. It was a fine day and the roofs of the tiles on the castle were shining. Red spider lilies were coming out in the graveyard. The flowers were like a big piece of red cloth.
Then the fox heard the temple's bell ringing. It was a sign the funeral was going to start. Soon the fox saw a funeral procession with many people in white. Their voice talking with each other came closer and closer. They entered the graveyard. The spider lilies were trampled down after the procession had gone.
Gon stretched up on tiptoe to see them. Hyo-Ju in white was lifting Buddhist memorial tablet up in both hands. His face, which had been usually plump like a red sweet potato, looked dispirited.
¡ÆAhh, the funeral is for his mother,¡Ç thinking so, the fox pulled in its head.
That night, he thought about all the things in its hole.
¡ÆHis mother in bed must have said that she wanted to eat an eel. That's why Hyo-Ju carried the net out. But I played a trick on him and got his eels out, so he couldn't give eels to his mother. She must have died, thinking about eating eels she hadn't been eaten. Darn it! I shouldn't have played such a trick on him.'
Hyo-Ju was washing wheat near the red well. He used to live a poor life with his mother, but now he was alone because his mother had died.
'He is also alone like me.¡Ç Gon, who was looking at Hyo-Ju from behind a barn, said to itself. The fox was about to leave the barn to go toward the opposite side, when a sardine seller came and cried
¡ÈBargain sale for sardine! Fresh sardine!"
Gon ran toward the vigorous selling voice, when Yasuke's wife said from the back door,
¡ÈI want some sardine.¡É
The sardine seller stopped his cart on the roadside, grabbed some sardine from the basket on the cart, and entered Yasuke's house. While the seller was away, Gon grabbed some sardine out of the basket and ran toward where he had come. Gon threw the sardine into Hyo-Ju's house from the back door and dashed back to its hole. When he turned back to the way on the slope, he saw Hyo-Ju far away still washing wheat. Gon thought that he made up for the eel.
The next day, Gon picked up a lot of chestnuts in the mountain, holding them under his arm, and went to Hyo-Ju's house. When Gon was peeping in at the Hyo-Ju's back door, Hyo-Ju stopped eating lunch with his rice bowl in his hand, and was absent-mindedly thinking something. Strange to say, he had a scratch on his cheek.
¡ÆWhat happened to him?¡Ç Gon thought.
Hyo-Ju was mumbling to himself,
¡ÈWho on earth threw those sardine into my house? Due to it, I was mistaken for a thief and severely condemned by the fish peddler.¡É
'Damn. Poor Hyo-Ju! He had been struck by the fish peddler, and to receive such a wound.¡Ç
Thinking so, Gon went around to the barn and put the chestnuts in front of its entrance.
The next day and the day after next, Gon picked up chestnuts and brought them to Hyo-Ju's house. Three days later, he brought him a few matsutake mushrooms as well as chestnuts.(2014/11/1 WithItaya)Original by Nankichi Niimi*Image¡§Masako Yamamoto
Lonely Fox(The Latter Part)