Someone, or something, makes two light taps on the kitchen shutter. Who would be calling at this hour? Probably the mice. Catching mice, I've decided, is not my thing. Let them scurry about as they please. -- Two more taps. Perhaps it's not the mice. For the mice it's much too guarded. The master's mice, just like the students at the master's school, are a rambunctious lot. It's their divine mission, they believe, to tear about at all hours of the day and night, leaving the poor man hardly a moment's peace. They've never been known to exercise any restraint. This can't be the mice. Just the other day, one of them stole into the master's bedroom, nibbled at the tip of his flat nose, pranced triumphantly, and retreated. Why should they be timid now? It can't be the mice. Next there's a scraping sound. The shutter's been raised, and at the same time the paneled shōji's been gently slid in its track. Absolutely not the mice. Someone's come. Neither Meitei nor Suzuki would call this late hour without notice. Nor would they breach a locked door to gain entry. Could it be the cat burglar, that master of stealth who's said to be making the rounds? If it is the burglar, then I'm eager to see his face. It seems he's planted his muddy feet on the kitchen floor and proceeded two steps forward. In lieu of a third step, he stumbles over a loose floorboard and kicks up a din that resounds through the dark. I feel as though someone took a shoeshine brush and rubbed it the wrong way up my back. For a while, there are no further steps. I look at the wife. Her mouth is still open, and she's dreaming away as she breathes in and expels air. The master's thumb is still wedged in his red book, and he seems to be off in la-la land. Finally, I hear the sound of a match struck in the kitchen. Even a burglar, it seems, can't see in the dark like I can. That must be a terrible handicap.
All the while I crouch and think. Will the burglar head from the kitchen into the living room, I wonder, or will he take a left, cutting through the entryway, and enter the study? -- The footsteps, accompanied by the sliding of the fusuma, make their way to the veranda. He's gone into the study. No further sounds reach my ears.