"Thank you for securing the fort," Sensei said to me with a grin. "I take it the burglar didn't show? I hope you weren't disappointed."
As I prepared to depart, Sensei's wife thanked me for my trouble. More than the trouble of an evening away from my studies, she seemed to refer, half-jokingly, to the trouble of staking out a burglar in vain. As she spoke, she pressed a paper-wrapped package into my hands. It was the remainder of the sweets she'd served me earlier. I dropped it into my sleeve pocket and stepped out into the evening chill. Winding my way through the empty side streets, I hurried on toward the lights of the town.
I've related in detail all that I remember of that evening. I've related it because it bears relating. The truth, however, is that the conversation of that night, as I made my way home with my package of sweets, did not strike me as all that important. The following day, I came home from school for lunch and found the package of sweets on my desk, where I'd set it the night before. I immediately unwrapped it, picked out a reddish brown piece of castella spread with chocolate, and bit off a large piece. As I savored the cake, I thought of the couple from whom I'd received it, a happy pair together against the world.
Autumn gave way uneventfully to winter. I continued my visits to Sensei's home. When I was there, I sometimes asked his wife for help in washing and mending my clothes. I'd never worn undergarments, but I began at this time to sport a black collared garment over my undershirt. Sensei's wife, who had no children to mind, was happy to assist me. It kept her busy, she said, and the physical work did her good.
"This is hand woven. I've never sewn such fine fabric. It's not easy, though, to put a needle through it. I've broken two already."
Even when she voiced such objections, her expression assured me that she was not in the least put out.