"Aside from yourself, who were the readers?" "Various folk. K-kun, who hold a law degree, played the courtesan. He sports a mustache, so it was a little odd when he read those feminine lines. There's also a part where the courtesan is seized with convulsions ..." "Does the reader have to act out convulsions?" the master asked with an air of concern. "Yes. Expression is paramount." Tōfū, at heart, was the true artist. "Did he carry off his convulsing?" the master inquired wryly. "It's not so easy to convulse on one's first try," Tōfū supplied a wry response. "What role did you play, then?" the master asked. "I was the boatman." "Oh you were?" The master's tone, expressing too much surprise, all but stated that if Tōfū were the boatman then he himself could as well play the call-office clerk. "How did you manage as the boatman?" he then asked rather bluntly. Tōfū showed no signs of offense and answered in a composed manner. "The whole event, which we'd worked so to orchestrate, and which had started so well, went out with a wimper on the boatman's watch. There were four or five schoolgirls, you see, who board in the building next door. I don't know how, but they caught wind of what we were doing. On the day of our gathering, they were eavesdropping outside the window. I was voicing the boatman, finally feeling in form and thinking I had it down ... perhaps I went too far with my gestures. In any case the girls, who had held themselves in stealthy check, suddenly lost it and burst out laughing. I was caught off guard, became self-conscious, and couldn't resume, so we had to leave it there and adjourn." So this was his idea of a successful first outing. I tried to imagine, then, what might constutue a failure, and I couldn't suppress a smirk. Unconsciously, my throat set to rumbling. The master continued caressing my head. To bask in affection while laughing at the plight of others, though a touch incongruous, is not at all bad.