There was no use pursuing this further, so I left it at that. Several days later, the old woman greeted me with a big smile as I returned home from the school. "It's here at last, finally. Take your time and enjoy," she said as she handed me a letter and then withdrew. I picked it up and saw that it was from Kiyo. There were forwarding tags attached, and on inspection they showed that it had come by way of Yamashiroya and then the Ikagin residence. They'd held it for a week at Yamashiroya. Being an inn, they must like to host things, even letters, for an extended stay. On opening it, I found she had written at length. "I intended to reply immediately after receiving your letter, but unfortunately I was in bed for a week with a cold. Please pardon the delay. Also, I'm not skilled in reading and writing like today's young ladies, so it's cost me considerable effort to put down even these awkward words. I thought of asking my nephew to take dictation, but I was reluctant to send you anything less than the effort of my own hand. I wrote out a rough draft first and then copied it over to a clean draft. I finished the copy work in two days, but it took me four days before that to compose the draft. It may be hard to read, but I've made my best effort, so please do read to the end." The introduction touched on this and that, covering more than a meter of scroll paper.
It was, in fact, hard to read. Not only were the characters malformed, but it was written for the most part in hiragana, so I struggled to find where one word ended and the next began. I'm impatient by nature, and ordinarily you couldn't pay me to read a letter so long and so difficult. But just this once, I forced myself to concentrate and read through from beginning to end. I read it through, but I struggled such that I couldn't follow the flow, so I started again from the beginning. The room had grown dim, and it was becoming harder to see, so I moved myself out to the edge of the veranda and continued carefully. An early autumn breeze stirred the plantain leaves, blew cool across my exposed skin, and then rustled the end of the scroll that hung loose toward the garden. If I'd let go, the letter would have flown over to the opposing hedge, but my attention was firmly fixed. "Your nature is straight as split bamboo, but your volatile temperament worries me -- Be careful in assigning nicknames to others, as they may resent it. If you must do so, share them privately with me in your correspondence -- They say that country folk are devious, so take care to keep yourself out of harm's way -- The weather there must certainly be more changeable than in Tōkyō, so avoid the night chill and don't catch cold. Your letter was so short that I don't know much of your situation. Please make your next one at least half as long as mine -- It's okay to leave a five yen tip at the inn, but are you sure you won't regret it? Out there in the country, your money is all you can depend on. Be as frugal as possible to prepare against any contingency -- You may not have enough pocket money, so I'm sending you ten yen by money order -- I put the fifty yen you gave me into a postal savings account. I'm saving it for your return to Tōkyō, to help establish your household. There's still forty yen after withdrawing this ten." Women truly are fastidious creatures.