"There's his 'like yourself' again. Irksome fellow!" the master muses.
"At this juncture, those of us endowned with knowledge of the Occident must reach back into its ancient lore in search of lost secrets. The merits of introducing these secrets into Meiji society, I believe, are twofold. Not only will they stave off calamitous ends, but they'll free us in turn to pursue unabated our daily pleasures. ..."
"Seems somehow odd ..." The master shakes his head.
"Accordingly, I've immersed myself of late in the writings of authors like Gibbon, Mommsen, and Smith. Much to my chagrin, though, I've yet to unearth any answers. However, as you're well aware, once I set my mind to something I persevere, undeterred, until success is mine. I believe, therefore, that it won't be long before I've discovered and revived the lost art of purging. Please rest assured in the knowledge that when I do you'll be first to know. Such being the case, I propose we defer the aforementioned feast of tochimenbō or peacock tongue until after such discovery. This deferral suits my needs, and I believe it's also to your advantage, as you already suffer so from dyspepsia. Much more to write, but I must stop here for now."
"So it seems I've been taken again. Drawn in by his weighty prose, I read to the end in earnest. The new year's just begun and he's already up to his tricks. Far too much time on his hands," the master remarks with a chuckle.
Four or five days passed without incident. The daffodil withered in its white porcelain, and the plum branch, though set in an earthenware pot, slowly began to blossom. Unsatisfied with just marking the passage of time, I tried on several occasions, unsuccessfully, to call on Mikeko. On the first occasion, I presumed she must be away, but on the second occasion I learned she was unwell and resting. Concealing myself by the wash basin, in the shadows of an aspidistra plant, I overheard, from inside the shōji, the following exchange between the teacher and her maidservant.