Okusan, indeed, was away from the house. She had left with the maidservant. Consequently, K and the daughter were there on their own. This baffled me to no end. I'd been there a long time, and never once had Okusan gone out and left me alone with her daughter. I asked the daughter if something urgent had arisen. She merely laughed. I had a great dislike for women who laughed so in such situations. It may be a common fault among all young ladies, but this young lady seemed prone to find humor in every petty matter. One look at my face, however, was enough to bring her back to herself. It was nothing urgent, she told me sincerely, but a small errand had necessitated Okusan's absence. As a lodger, it was not my place to press any further. I held my silence.
I changed my clothes and had only just sat down when Okusan and the maidservant returned. After a bit, it was time to gather for dinner. When I'd first come in as a lodger, they'd treated me as a guest, with the maidservant bringing me my meals. At some point, they'd dispensed with formality and started calling me to join them. When K had moved in as a new lodger, I'd made a point of insisting that they treat him no differently. In exchange, I'd had a lightweight folding table made and presented it to Okusan. These are commonplace nowadays, but in those times it was unusual for family members to eat together around a table. I'd had to go all the way to a furniture maker in Ochanomizu, where I'd had it specially built to order.
At the table, Okusan explained that the fish vendor had not shown that day, and she'd had to go to town for our dinner. As I took this in and acknowledged it, the daughter looked at my face and again started laughing. Her laughter, however, was immediately shut down with a scolding from Okusan.