I arrived in the early evening, just as lights were coming on in the houses. Sensei, who was by nature a punctual man, was already gone.
"He left just a moment ago," Sensei's wife explained. "He didn't want to risk being late." She guided me to Sensei's study.
Aside from a desk and chair, there were numerous books arranged in cabinets. Their handsome bindings were illuminated by the electric light that shone through the glass. Sensei's wife directed me to a seating cushion that she'd set out before the brazier. She told me to help myself to Sensei's books, and then she took her leave. I felt a bit awkward, like a guest waiting for the master of the house to return. I remained where I was, rooted to my cushion, and had a smoke. I could hear voices from the hearth room. Sensei's wife was explaining something to the maidservant. To get to the study, one could follow the hearth room veranda to its end and turn the corner. From a floor plan perspective, it was off in its own corner, quieter yet than the parlor. After a while, the conversation in the hearth room ceased, and the house fell silent. I imagined myself lying in wait for a burglar. I kept still and maintained my vigilance.
Thirty minutes passed. Sensei's wife appeared at the study entrance and looked at me with mild surprise. I was still formally seated, like a guest in waiting.
"You should make yourself comfortable."
"I'm comfortable like this."
"You're not bored?"
"Not at all. Not with the thought of a burglar about."
She stood there smiling, a tea cup in her hand.
"Perhaps," I added, "this corner of the house is not so ideal for keeping watch."
"Might I suggest that you relocate closer to the center? I thought you might be bored here and made you a cup of tea. If you don't mind moving, I'll serve you in the hearth room."